Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Door knobs - From brass to black

While the movie scene was buzzing with the Oscar ceremony I was happily replacing our door knobs.  I wasn’t even thinking that I was missing out on anything. It occurred to me that I might be a bit renovation obsessed. When I asked Misha what he thought, he said “no, you are just passionate”. I love how supportive he is.

This is what our original door knobs looked like. They must have been as old as our house.  They were worn, tarnished and ready to be replaced.

BEFORE - Our old door knobs
We considered all options for the new knobs; brass, antique brass, silver, black, crystal, ceramic and oil-rubbed bronze. We landed on a black finish given that our kitchen cabinet handles are black and it would work well for our space. We decided to splurge a bit and picked up the pricier Weiser Troy door knobs with iron black finish from Lowe’s. They had more detail than other less expensive knobs and we liked their more delicate look.

The new door knobs came with detailed instructions and the installation went smoothly other than a couple small challenges.  A few of our knobs had hidden screws and we had to research online how to remove them. We also had to run to Lowe’s to pick up a door installation kit as some of our door knob holes were too small and we had to enlarge them. This was the end result.

AFTER - Our new Weiser Troy door knobs

This was one of the most fun projects we did. It was quick, easy and came with a great pay off. Our doors got instantly transformed from an outdated 60s look to a modern-country feel. We love how a simple thing like a door knob just finishes off the whole look and feel of our house.


Wednesday, 20 February 2013

The toilet hunt

I never realized how complicated buying a toilet could be and how quickly modesty is flushed down it.  I often do my best thinking on the toilet and these display models allowed me to do that and do some field testing.

Toilet researching

When looking at toilets we had to consider a lot of factors that we had never really thought about; MAPs, shapes, height, water usage...phew. This sign at one of the stores was helpful in getting us started.

Toilet ratings

We started with looking at the height of various toilets. You can go as high as 17 inches.  We found out that the higher toilets are for taller people (duh!), and for the elderly as it is easier to sit down and get up from.  The 16 inch felt good to me but we don't want to leave any of our guests with their legs swinging in the wind when they sit down so we will probably go with the 15 inch.

The next factor we considered was the amount of water used per flush.  The standard these days is 6.0 l per flush but you can get a toilet that uses as little as 4.8 l per flush.  We considered dual flush toilets but were told there is just more to go wrong on it so we will likely settle with the standard single flush.  We also adhere to the "if it's yellow let it mellow ..." protocol which saves us more water than flushing a dual flush every time.

So many choices; how to decide?
Another monumental decision is whether to get a round bowl or an elongated bowl.  Since we have a small bathroom we are considering the round bowl which will extend 2 inches less from the wall than an elongated bowl.  We found out from a helpful sales person that the elongated bowl is designed to be more comfortable for males to allow more room for their monuments when sitting on the toilet and reduce the chances of bowl contact. Hmmm, we may have to reconsider this.

Now it's time to get down and dirty and talk MAP (aka Maximum Performance Testing).  We had a delicate and mildly awkward conversation with a salesperson about this issue where the words "solid waste" and "number 2" were substituted for the more colloquial poop, crap and shit. Discussing the mass of a bowel movement was a bit unfamiliar and odd but we needed to sort this out if we were going to choose the right toilet for us. So here is the skinny (or the fat) on poop.  Most piles are less than 350g and this is the minimum mass that must go down in one flush to be MAP approved.  The best toilets are rated 1000 MAP which means they will flush 1000g (2 lbs.) of solid waste in one flush.  This is much more than most humans produce even considering toilet paper.  To be on the safe side we will likely go with a 1000 MAP toilet to avoid the water waste of double flushing.

So far, Kohler's Cimarron and American Standard Cadet 3 are at top of our list but we have more research to do.

Kohler Cimarron vs. American Standard Cadet 3

Do you have a favourite toilet you can recommend?


Monday, 18 February 2013

Bathroom renovation - The beginning

Our kitchen is done and the next project on our list is renovating our bathroom. Our bathroom dates back to the 60s, with a particle board vanity made by the previous owner and 2 layers of linoleum flooring. When we moved in two years ago, we stripped off the wallpaper, repainted the walls and removed some cabinetry. It wasn't a top priority at the time but now we feel it's time for a new look. The bathtub faucets are also not working well and we are concerned about the water wastage due to the leaking taps.

The space is tiny and we discovered that the 60" x 27" tub we have is not in production anymore and we can only get a 60" x 30" tub. The new tub will take up more room in our small bathroom so we will really have to be creative in fitting everything in and still making it look good. We are up for the challenge, though. Wish us luck!


Saturday, 9 February 2013

Dried beans

Beans are one of Mia's favourite foods from the garden. They are easy to grow, don't require much care and are easy to store once dried. She practically lives on beans the whole winter so each year we expand our bean growing operation to accommodate our growing appetite for them. 

This year when we harvested our  fresh beans we left some on the vine to dry. Later in the fall when the seed pods turned brown and the beans rattled inside they were ready to hull and store. 

We hulled most of our beans in the fall but didn't get to the Scarlet Runner beans until now. They had been sitting in the mud room then on our kitchen counter for a few months.  I finally finished them today standing in our new kitchen with sunlight streaming in through the windows.  I find hulling them relaxing.  I love the sound of the pod cracking open and the beans dropping into the bowl. 

We have a variety of dried beans this year. The Italian Borlottis beans are delicious in soups and grown only as dried beans.  The Scarlet Runner, green and yellow beans are often eaten fresh when young but can also be harvested as dried beans.

Our bean harvest

We will definitely experiment with growing some new bean varieties like white Lima beans and Pinto beans this year. Our ultimate goal is to grow enough beans as to last us throughout the winter and spring.


.s,  as they jynfkm,☻22222222222222222222227444++781e such a versatile, nutritious and easy to use

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Valentine Seed Hearts

I learned about seed bombs on David Suzuki's Queen of Green site. They are little seed balls made from clay, compost and seeds that can be tossed anywhere you would like flowers to blossom. There is no need to plant or water. They contain everything inside the ball to give them life as soon as rain and sunlight reach them. 

The Valentine version of them looked so appealing that I had to give them a try. We picked up Air-Dry Clay, compost and a heart shaped cookie cutter. Misha got the wild flower seeds and the beets for the red colouring.

Seed Heart ingredients

We mixed the seeds with the compost.

We added the soil/seed mixture to the clay mix at 5:2:1 (clay/soil/seed) ratio. Misha mashed it by hand until it was an even consistency.

We flattened the clay out on a wax paper just like you would when making a thick pizza crust.

We cut the hearts out with the cookie cutter.

The most fun part was glazing the hearts with the beat juice. We simmered two chopped up beats until we got a beautiful deep red coloured liquid. The glazing was the perfect topping for the hearts. Once glazed we just let them sit for 48 hours to air dry.

Here they are, our Valentine Seed Hearts. They are ready to be given away and blossom into beautiful wild flowers in the spring.

Valentine Seed Hearts

The best part is that you can give them away for any occasion, at any time of the year. As soon as the weather permits, they can be tossed in the garden and watch for flowers to grow. We will keep one for our garden just to see how they turn out.


Sunday, 3 February 2013

Backyard Bird Feeder

We get really excited about birds in our backyard. We started feeding them in the fall and winter to supplement their diet. It took a few months for them to find the bird feeder but when they did we were rewarded with more visitors than we could have imagined.  We love watching them and hearing their songs and calls.

The daily visits of the birds are usually initiated by the sparrows. They often sit and watch in the nearby apple tree or forsythia to check out if the coast is clear before heading for the feeders.

Solitary Sparrow

Then they happily flock to the feeder....

Soaring Sparrow

... and often have to jockey for position on the perch.

Do you have a reservation?

After the sparrows the male Northern Cardinal usually arrives. His beautiful, bright red feathers seem so exotic; like something that should be in a tropical rain forest.

Male Northern Cardinal

The female is never far behind and although not as colourful, she is exotic in her own way.  A pair has been making a nest in this apple tree the last two summers.

Cardinals usually bond for several years or for life. We have seen as many as 5 pairs in the backyard at the same time.

The Dark-eyed Junco is an infrequent visitor but one of my favourites.  Here's the male...

Male Dark-eyed Junco
... and the female.  They seem to bond in pairs as well.

While our neighbour keeps hobby pigeons in his backyard, we are regularly visited by their relatives, the Morning Doves.  They don't come often but when they do they make sure we hear them. Their cooing is soothing and relaxing and we can hear them from inside the house.

Morning Dove

Mia's favourite is the tiny Red-Breasted Nuthatch. She loves how delicate it is. She had a hard time getting a picture of them as they move incredibly fast, never resting in one spot long.

Red-breasted Nuthatch

The friendly chickadees visit daily in a small flock but don't stay at the feeder long. They pick up a seed and take it to a nearby tree to crack and eat it; then they return for another one.  We love their chick-a-dee-dee-dee, song!


Surprisingly, we have only seen this one European Starling at the feeders. We did see a flock at the local big box mall hanging around the restaurants.  Perhaps they offer a more sophisticated menu than we do.

European Starling

We weren't sure if the woodpecker feeder would attract any customers but this female Downy Woodpecker found it the first day it was up.

Female Downy Woodpecker

The Blue Jay only visited twice when we were around and this is the closest he came to the feeder when we had the camera.  It's incredible how big Blue Jays are; 2 - 3 times the size of the cardinals.

And last, but not least we spotted this beautiful Cooper's Hawk; twice. The first time I ran to get my camera and in the meantime it had swooped down, picked up a mouse and flew off. I missed the action but Mia saw the whole thing from the bathroom window.  I had to endure the whole "you don't have to photograph everything and sometimes you just have to enjoy the moment live" lecture.  When it showed up the second time we got the shot and Mia had to endure my surfer philosophy sermon, "there is always another wave". 

Cooper's Hawk

We hope that some of these birds will hang around to eat garden pests in the spring and summer. To encourage year round bird visitors creating habitat for them in addition to supplementing their food source is important.

We were lucky to start with a row of white cedars, some deciduous trees, a big forsythia bush and a couple of apple trees.  We added a twig wall, more cedars, wildflower gardens and a native plant garden in the front. The only thing we don't have yet is an open water source but I'm still working on Mia to let me build a small pond at the back. We'll see how that goes.  I may have to settle for a bird bath.