Front Deck: Part Deux

Well, we didn’t quite start on completing our new deck at 8am like my son wanted Yesterday. We began around 10am instead. I’m happy to report- we got it done! And most of the clean up is done as well.

I’m also happy that I was able to scrounge up some old cedar slats to make a porch swing to complete the look. I also dig out three pieces of cut wood that my father-in-law left behind. These were originally for a step stool/ mini bench. But the shape lead to a perfect angle for the base of the swing. I also used the other part as the armrests. Hooray for up cycling!

Now our home really feels like we are country living. Got the front porch and porch swing all completed in a couple of days. Now to add some planters and relax as the world passes by.

Natural Decorating

I love decorating our home for Christmas. One of my favorite styles is keeping it “Country Living”. I utilize nature as much as possible.

In the past I have used fallen branches as a part of our decor. Hanging them from under the skylight or adorning our main entryway. Using natural branches also means that every year the decorating changes.

I have even made tealight holders from the thicker branches. I finished them off with some red burlap string and modpodge glue in order to keep their sheen.

This year my wife suggested we use some holly branches. She loves the look of the red holly berries against the vibrant greenery. Holly, just like pine trees, keep their colours for quite some time. But once the season is over- they become brittle and dry.

I’m loving that each year we modify our decorating just a little bit and that I use nature to do it.

What do you make at Christmas?

My Son is A Ghostbuster In The Making

I finished making my Halloween costume last week: Building My 2019 Costume. I’m really happy with how that one turned out. I guess it inspired my son to do his own build (With my help). After numerous costume ideas thrown around, he decided he wanted to be a Ghostbuster. Retro at it’s finest. Time to get going on it!

Of course we hit up Spirit Halloween to see what was out there. I love my son and I love Halloween… but forking over the kind of money this store is asking just for one night is kind of crazy. I did buy one piece to add to his costume. But the rest we decided to make together.

The Wand

This isn’t screen accurate at all. But it looks pretty awesome. It’s also the design my son wanted. A few years ago I had picked up two garden lights that had blue lightning effects. But because they used 8 “AA” batteries, I never used them in the yard. One of them I made into a “Steampunk Lightning Catcher that my daughter has used as part of her steampunk outfit for conventions. The other is now for my son to use as his Proton Pack Wand. I modified this one with a new rocker switch to turn it on, a metal grate and some “exposed” wires.

Proton Pack

The Proton Pack has been the most fun to assemble. Much like my Skesis head, I used pink foam insulation as the base. I cut the bottom of an ice cream tub for the “Cyclotron”. The top is from an old pressure washer handle and the rest is odds and ends from an old VCR and arcade parts I had laying around. A coat of black paint and some fairy lights hide most of the obviousness of what the items once were.

Ghost Trap

This is the piece we bought. As awesome as the Ghost Trap from Spirit Halloween is- I ended up using paints in order to weathering it. The result makes it seem more believable. So I used some techniques I’ve learned over the years. I think it looks good. But now I have to “age” the Proton Pack and the Wand in order to keep the aesthetics similar.

All that remains is the flightsuit and adding straps to the Proton Pack so our son can walk around. Not too bad for using stuff we already owned that was just gathering dust. Plus I enjoyed working with my son to build his props. I hope to do more like this with him in the future.

How are your costumes coming along? Do you love Halloween as much as I do?

Let me know in the comments!

Making of My 2019 Costume: A Skesis

During my life I have always loved costumes, Halloween and cosplay. The biggest attraction for me is making the costumes myself. For about a decade we were attending a variety of Comic Cons where we were able to have fun and showcase some costumes. I have written about costuming a few times including a couple of weeks ago where I shared photos of previous outfits: Get Those Costumes Ready

I also hinted at how I was going to push myself and this year’s outfit. Here is my work for this year. I spent about twenty hours building it. After this Halloween, I’ll probably use it as a prop for decorations in the future.

I present to you, my Skesis build. MmmMMMmmm

It started years ago when I wanted to build a Skesis outfit for Calgary Expo. The only downside was we didn’t have room in our vehicle to transport such a large piece from provincial to province. With five of us in the SUV and a metric ton of hats to sell at the show (My wife is still making hats, but we aren’t traveling any more for it. You can still buy online at Ningen Headwear FYI) we didn’t have room for extravagant outfits. My love of The Dark Crystal returned this year when Netflix did a prequel series. It was time to make this costume.

Research became a quick obsession. Viewing others who had made this costume, searching images, watching behind the scenes footage- you name it and I looked for it. I had to settle on what was going to be feasible in my spare time and what I could afford- my budget ended up being $30. Seriously. I had a lot of the materials readily available from previous Cosplay, thank goodness.

It started with some designs and foam. Foam insulation boards glued together and a roll of foam floor mat. My artistic ability is mediocre at best. My hope was that doing some of it and taking a break periodically would inspire me. Advice from my family was also key.

Making the inner framework was a challenge. I needed it to be sturdy and light weight and fit me inside. PVC tubing and a couple of straps are the basic inner workings. I used a heat gun to mold and form the “outer shell”. I also suffered numerous hot glue gun burns to my fingers throughout the entire process.

Once the foam for the head was dry, it was time to cut out the shape of the head. I mostly used an exacto blade and craved off laters if foam. I used a Dremel to smooth out the edges and add some facial features. The head still seemed blocky at this point. Adding teeth and ping pong ball eyes helped a bit.

To get the features more realistic, I formed a thin layer of sculpting clay around the head. Once it was dry, I used acrylic paints to get a good base coat of colour onto it. The features were beginning to POP but it was looking far too cartoon like.

Getting advice from my daughter, I added some dull fading to it and was throughly pleases with the results.

After spray painting the back shell with black and red, I hot glued it to my fingers the frame and began to add fabrics. Old bedsheets, curtains and sheer material have given this guy some life. I’m happy with the results so far. All that’s left is to try walking around in it. I should be able to see through the black sheer, but this thing might weigh more than I’m expecting.

I enjoyed the process along the way. I know some things I’d do differently if I were to make this again. I also know that it can look pretty good as a stationary piece later on.

Hopefully this Halloween, I can get some candy for all my hard work!

We Have a Set Of Doors!

Last week I had a hole in the wall leading to the outdoors. Read about it: Oh No! This week, the doors are up and I finished the staining to match the rest of the wood throughout our home.

And the doors look amazing!

*Pats self on back*

I’m also happy with the hardware on the doors and how they will protect our home. I put locking pins in the doors that go directly into the steel beam along the door frame. Because the doors swung outwards- the hinges are secured and not able to be knocked out. To complete the doors- all I have left to do is paint the frame and add weather stripping. That’ll be tomorrow morning once the stain sets.

Yay! I love completing home renovations. There’s a sense of accomplishment that comes with a job well done.

Oh No. I Made A Big Hole In My House

You read that right. I made a seven foot high by twelve foot wide hole in my living room. And it needed to be closed off…

There used to be a sliding glass door. My two youngest helped me move it out (after I figured out how to get it out.) As my daughter said, “It’s now open concept like they say on HGTV.”

So I put her to more work for the snide remarks. I hit Home Depot early this morning and picked up four door slabs. I got lucky since barn doors are all the rage and I was able to get them at seven feet tall- fitting my opening perfectly.

After a bit of trimming and cutting out placements for the hinges- the doors are now installed. Now my daughter is quoting more HGTV saying, “It’s rustic farmhouse chic.” Which will ring true once our new doors are finished.

Tomorrow is installation of the doorknobs and adding the finishing trim around the doors. On Saturday (or more likely next week) I will stain the doors to match the wood finish in our home. My brother-in-law stopped by earlier and is impressed that I was able to keep with the look of the home.

I appreciated the help that both my kids gave me today. And it took all day. I hope they learned some DIY and door installation.

What Have I Done?

I love DIY and working on Home Improvements. Over the years I have realized that most of my projects hit a small roadblock or unforeseen circumstances. Last year I had a vision to Build A Door to replace a busted sliding glass door. But my ambition faltered and diminished rather quickly and the project went by the wayside. Over the past few days, my desire to do complete (or at the very least start) the project has returned.

My wife is out of town for a few days at the moment for a work function. Whenever she leaves me for more than a couple of days- I take on a project and usually get it 85-95% done. I figured this should be no different. So I have begun.

As with most projects- I guesstimate how long it will take and double that time. This project I figure will take me a day and a half- not including painting or staining the doors. But an hour in, and only the door half of the old sliding door out, and I’ve got a literal brick wall. I’ve had to pause to re-evaluate what to do. The sliding door is somehow attached to the brick wall. But I cannot find screws or flanges. Ugh.

I can’t put the old door back, and I don’t know how to move to the next part of the removal. It also brought up some concerns of how to install the new door frame. I’m going to finish this break and start some clean up as I process my dilemma.

Wish me luck. Or I’ll take any advice short of selling the house!

Roof Racks

Today was a day of roof racks. How exciting! One was for my Nissan Rogue. The other was for our Honda Element.

The Rogue was super easy, but super expensive. I shopped around to find crossbars, however it seems that Nissan Dealers all charge the same. $350 after taxes and five minutes of my labor and the Rogue is ready to start transporting stuff. It does look pretty slick mind you.

The Element was more challenging. Since the vehicle was discontinued a few years ago, accessories aren’t readily available from dealerships or online. So it was time to improvise and see what other people have done. After a couple of YouTube videos and a sense of, “That looks easy.” I took on the challenge.

We had an old display shelf that was the perfect length and the bars are durable. The Element is already boxy, so the square metal tube from the shelf fits in nicely. I hit the hardware section of a few stores to find a metal corner edge, bolts and some pins. I measured out the bracket sizes and cut four pieces with my hacksaw. After filing the edges, I bolted them into the roof. (The Element had bolt holes hidden in the top side panels making it easy to attach these brackets.) I used an angle grinder to slice out the perfect slit in the rails. Then I drilled holes that lined up with the brackets and tested my pins. Everything fit perfectly. Lastly was to remove everything once more and give it the first coat of black paint.

All that’s left is to figure out how to add crossbars in order to retain the durability. So far the roof rack for our Element has cost about $20, some recycled materials, a few fantastic YouTube lessons and a couple of hours of labor. Not too shabby I guess. Plus I really enjoyed working with my hands creating something useful for our car. I can’t wait to see the finished product and go camping!

Modifying Our Honda Element

Last year I made a quick bed and storage space for our Honda Element. Read about it here: Camperizing Our Honda Element. I did this design to maximize our storage inside the Element for our camping trips.

Last month I installed a Keyless entry: Keyless Entry Install. At that time I also replaced the tail light super quick since it was cracked.

I want to do more to the car now. I was hoping to add a roof rack. But our local Honda Parts dealer doesn’t carry the crossbars since the vehicle has been discontinued. My next step was to watch videos of people who made their own roof racks and bars. It doesn’t look too difficult, just time consuming to find the parts and put it together. Once done- I’ll be able to put a carrier basket on top or use our car topper again.

To get to the top of the car, I am wanting to add a ladder from Gobi Racks. It is a bit pricey, but fits perfectly on the back of the Element. It will add to the ruggedness look of the car. And add ease to climb up.

Our oldest daughter who will be driving the vehicle the most doesn’t seem impressed with my plans. She thinks it’ll turn into a “Hippy Van”. I’m wanting to keep the car for many years after she is done driving it. Plus, technically it is my wife and I who own it- we will modify it to our choosing. Perhaps some daisy decals and peace signs stickers?

I’m looking forward to camping this summer. I am picking up crossbars for my Nissan Rogue with a hope to purchase a kayak or two in the future. There’s something about living in BC that makes me want to be more outdoorsy. Having roof racks on vehicles makes it easier to transport stuff as well.

Some Assembly Required

I finally bought us some classic style wooden chairs for our yard. The kind that suits our country living lifestyle. My wife always Adirondack chairs. However, I convinced her that we should by Muskoka chairs instead.

What’s the difference between the two styles you may ask. (If you didn’t ask, I’m going to tell you anyway.) Adirondack chairs are both 2 inches higher from the ground and 2 inches wider between the arm rests. Also, the Adirondack chair is built with a flat back for the seat. The Muskoka chair is built with curved back.

That’s it. The two styles are very similar in every other aspect. When we were purchasing the chairs we wanted natural wood, not plastic. Oh, and the Muskoka chair was cheaper by $20 And came with a foot rest.

I took the chairs home and needed to assemble them. Before I did that, I lay out every piece and gave a light cherry stain to seal the wood. I figure if they’re going to weather outside in our rain forest of a yard, it’d be best to try and get a few years out of them. After a couple of hours of preparing the wood and staining it, I had to leave the first chair over night to dry before assembling it.

This morning I woke up and put the first Muskoka chair and ottoman together. I’m really happy with how it looks. Just a hint of red on the wood from the stain. I’m also happy with the comfort level of the chair. The curve of the yoke feels more inviting than the flat back of an Adirondack chair. Chances are we’ll be spending hours relaxing in our yard on these chairs.

I can’t wait for summer to kick in.

Honda Element Keyless Entry Install

We’ve had our Honda Element since 2003 when the first model came out. We picked up a mid price range Element EX in five speed manual transmission. A fantastic crossover suv with hardly any issues. The only thing that became bothersome over the years was the door locks.

Having the key stop working to unlock the doors began within the first couple years. Twice the dealership repaired the locks at no charge. I guess it’s a known issue for Hondas. Eventually we just became accustomed to not locking the car or restoring to crawling in through the trunk. I’m too old for that. Time to see about a keyless entry for the vehicle.

Last week I went to one of those car audio places to see about getting a keyless entry installed. Cheapest unit and time was going to cost me $500. Ugh. Time to search the interwebs. I found a couple of videos on YouTube of people who had figured out how to install the keyless entry. I picked up a genuine Honda part on Amazon and had it arrive at my home two days later.

I came home from work yesterday and picked up the mail to discover the package. Alright, Amazon is pretty awesome. After watching videos of other people installing this part, I figured I could hammer it out before dinner.

Reading online and watching videos saying that it can be installed in five minutes meant the challenge was on. I hit my stopwatch from the moment I opened the car door to the time it took to install the part and put everything back.

2 Minutes 23 Seconds.

We can now lock and unlock our door. Best $140 I have spent in a long time. The part had a spot all ready for it. Now I see why people love owning Hondas. Our Element is essentially the same as a CRV with many of the same parts interchangeable. Keeping costs way down on repairs.

I’m happy again with the car. Now to possibly upgrade the stereo!

Check out last year’s Camperizing a Honda Element or a couple of years ago where we couldn’t decide if we should Repair it or Replace it.

Blue Monday

Yesterday was Blue Monday. The most depressing day of the year.

I have not had a string of good luck lately. From nearly Losing a dog the other day to having a Washing Machine Die– even one of our stovetop burners burned out. My days have been rather crap-tastic. Why would Blue Monday be any better?

Because it wasn’t.

My day started like any other day. I was having a shower at 4:30am when the water just stopped. I jumped out of the shower and rushed downstairs to hear our water pump still going. Not a good sign. So I shut off the breaker to the pump.

Underneath our home was flooded. Turns out our well water corroded the shut off and snapped the pipe. I called into work to say I’d be late and contemplated my options. Get a plumber or try and deal with this myself? After dropping a few hundred dollars on a new Washing Machine, I knew the answer. I got my tools, checked the part I needed, then drove off and waited for Home Depot to open… at 7am.

I was in and out of Home Depot within ten minutes. Kind of a record for me. When I got home, I began my repair.

Low and behold!!!— I broke another part of the pipe. Just like when I was repairing the line to our Pressure tank in November.

It was now closer to 8am, so I drove up to the much closer Co-Op store to see if they had the part. While there, I ran into our neighbor from across the street (who is always there for breakfast) and a friend of ours. But I had no time to chit-chat. I had a mission.

I found the parts I needed. Spending close to twice the amount I would have had I gone to Home Depot again… I finished the repair properly, cleaned up and headed into work.

I do enjoy DIY. But not in emergency situations. Those suck. Some of my coworkers are surprised that I can do plumbing. Others are of the same mindset as me- why pay someone when I am completely capable of doing it myself?

Blue Monday got me all depressed about being a home owner in an older house. Times like yesterday make me want to throw the house on the market and run away. But I love this home. And I’m not sure when we will move. Maybe when the pipes burst….again.

Repair Man Joe

Our washing machine made a fun noise last week followed by a terrible smell. Not a dirt clothes smell, but rather a burning rubber smell. So I investigated.

Turns out the “boot” on our front loader got torn. To the Internet I went to scour for a part and instructions. Successful was I! And thus a new part was ordered.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve had to dismantle our washing machine. A few years ago it was leaking from the soap dispenser. That part was not available anywhere online. So I had to get creative using glue and plumbing tape. That fix worked 100%.

My research online explained that it would take one hour to replace the boot. It took me an hour and twenty minutes. Afterwards we ran a load of wash. No leaks! My repeat was successful.

But then the sound and smell happened again. The new boot was ruined. Online I went to find out why. Perhaps I should’ve looked deeper into why the first boot got wrecked. Turns out the gear holding the drum is worn. I am not in the mood to replace that gear or the drum. The cost and time is too high. So now we are off to buy a new washing machine.

So much for an inexpensive repair of the front rubber part. But at least I can say that I know how to do it. I think we are getting a top loader now.

Hmmph.

Update the Kitchen- Budget Friendly

About a month ago I mentioned that we are thinking of Moving. But the home we are in is still a perfect size for our family at the moment. We’d only be moving for a short time, then have to downsize again later as it is once the kids move out. They do move out, right?

So my wife and I made a list of all the things we want done to finalize our home. That way we can spend the next while enjoying the house before selling. The number one thing was our kitchen. But our budget is really low. Like really, really, really low.

We couldn’t afford a total gut job of $25,000, so I called Home Depot about getting just the cabinet doors replaced. $6500 to start. Ouch. Next option? Paint. That’s more in our budget. And I found a product that does it for a fraction of the cost.

We bought Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations Kit from Home Depot instead (as well as some new hardware for the drawer pulls). A little bit of hard work and preparation is required in order to change our cupboards into some much nicer. Out with the orange oak and into an elegant whitewashed antique style.

The process is time consuming to be honest. We have 20+ doors to redo. First is a deep scrub followed by two coats of white chalk like paint. Then a brown stain is applied and wiped off. Once dry a finishing coat is added. Simple, easy, and I have been truly enjoying it.

Over the course of three days, I have completed about 1/3 of the kitchen. My wife and I are loving the final results. It’s updated the kitchen on a budget spending less than $400 on paint, supplies and hardware. The only downside is the time it is taking me to complete the project. Our kitchen is in some disarray but I’ll get it done in a few more days.

If you’re a DIYer like myself, this product is fantastic. I’ll gladly recommend this to anyone who wants an updated kitchen at a low cost. I can’t wait to show off the final result to our friends at our next dinner party!

Ever Build a Door?

The back patio door of our theater room is in need of replacing. Unfortunately, it’s a 12 foot long sliding glass door from the 1970’s. They don’t generally make these anymore without a huge cost.

Before I began redoing the deck, the outside pane of the middle sliding door itself shattered. It happened to be from a pebble that got fired at it from my weed wacker. This was in 2011, the night the Canucks lost and the riots began (today is the anniversary of that day). I remember it clearly because we had been watching the game through the window while doing yard work. Plus riots aren’t cool.

In 2015, another panel blew out. This time on the inside. No one was in the room at the time. It just shattered. We could hear it throughout the house like a gunshot.

It’s taken me about 5 years now, but I have come to a conclusion about the glass door. We generally keep the blackout curtains drawn, and with our poor luck of the glass, it’s time to build my own door. Only no glass.

The door leading into the theater room from our foyer is a solid wood pocket door. It is rather heavy and made from tongue and groove wood that matches the ceiling inside the room.

I figure I could create 4 door panels like this that lock in place with decorative hinges to make it feel like a carriage barn door from the outside. That way I could open it in the summer and we could watch movies from our deck at night.

I have ten days off starting next week. We shall see how close I get done with this new project. I am hoping to enlist the help of my father-in-law who built the majority of this home. With his help and my knowledge from working the windows and doors section at Home Depot years ago, I hope to pull this off.

Quick Kitchen Makeover

Our kitchen is stuck in the early 90’s. It needs a revitalization. Badly. But we can’t afford it.

It has oak cabinets and white appliances. All still very functional. So forking over a few thousand to upgrade isn’t in the budge at this point in time. I painted the handles on the cupboards black a few years ago. So there’s that.

About 8 years ago, I had inserted new pot lights into the drop down ceiling. I am also really into steampunk, so I spray painted our ceiling tiles copper with black trim. It looked cool, but the kitchen was so dark even with new lights we had to do something about it. I tried adding more lights, but that didn’t help.

Over the course of the past couple days, I have been pulling off the ceiling tiles and painting them white. Suddenly our kitchen is brighter and looks bigger. All it cost me was a can of paint and a few hours labor. I’m happy with the results.

It’ll keep me from spending a few thousand dollars for at least another 5 years.

I’m a Bad Husband

The title of today’s blog could be considered a lie. I’m usually a great husband (tooting my own horn). But I decided to do something all wives hate right before Christmas- Home renovations.

Yes. I have become that man. The one who is using his time off to redo our 1/2 bath. One week before Christmas.

It’s not all my fault. Really.

I was supposed to have some vacation time back in November, when I had this project planned out. But things changed. And my time off moved. Which I was totally okay with. I don’t think I’ve ever had December vacation before.

So now I’m tiling a cramped 3 foot by 6 foot room. They always tell you to add 10% for waste. But I can’t figure out the formula for how long a project takes. I’m already 12 hours into it and don’t see an end in sight. I’m regretting starting this project ten years ago……. but it has to get done. There was never going to be a good time to do it. I’m sure I could’ve hired someone, but I like doing this sort of thing on my own.

The hardest part is knowing how much there is still left to do. New toilets and vanity to install after the tiles are all done. And the tiles are at least two more days of work. Mostly because I am a perfectionist, every row needs to be level and precise. No cutting corners!

I’m content to be doing stuff like this during my time off from work. Sure, travel would be nice as well. But knowing that I will have a nice looking bathroom once it’s all said and done, is a great sense of accomplishment.

So, even though I may be a bad husband for doing a home renovation project right before Christmas- it’ll be a nice gift once it’s all completed. I’ll be back in the good books then.

Can I finish this time?

The other day, I decided to start painting the doors to our bedroom closet and ensuite bathroom.  Not a big deal, right?  We don’t exactly have a large bedroom.

Almost 9 years ago, we began to renovate our master bedroom.  Doing a little bit at a time.  Ripping out the shag carpet (that went into the bathroom as well.  Um, gross) and tearing down the plastic beige blinds.  Years later, we removed the closet that ran the length of the wall and moved out bed to that location instead.  I then began building a closet beside the ensuite bathroom on the wall opposite our bed.  That way, our tv and my wife’s dresser would have a place to go.

Three years ago, my wife left for a Convention in Edmonton, so I told her I was going to install the flooring that we had purchased years prior while she was away.  She was gone for four days, so I chose to paint our room as well and finish her closet.  I was hoping to complete the bathroom, but I was pushing myself too much and became sick with a cold.  So I had to call it quits sooner than I wanted.  That’s where it remained.  

Next week my wife leaves for the same Convention in Edmonton with our daughter.  I am hoping to finish the bathroom and the baseboards in our bedroom.  Last night I decided to take the unfinished doors off and paint them.  I also cut out the spot for the handles.  My ambition is strong.  My drive is there.  My wife hates leaving the house to me because she returns and I have managed to change something without her knowledge or input.  She knows that I am finishing the ensuite this time around and nothing should surprise her.

This may be the first home renovation that gets completed 100%.  That is my goal.  I don’t want to go an entire decade trying to compete it.  Time and money have been major factors in the incompletion.  This month, neither of those should affect me.  All I need is the drive and the passion to get the job done.


Why do I keep old paint cans?