Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Backyard Overhaul {Deck Progress!}

So, it is official. The kids are back getting in the groove of school, our University town is buzzing with excitement, the Canadian temperature has quickly dropped (to colder than I would like) and our deck did NOT get finished this summer

So basically, all is right with the world.

You know, how long our projects take by now, right???

In our defense, it isnt like we were just sitting around all summer either. I didn't get any tan lines this summer and we totally blame the awful "summer weather" on why the deck didn't get finished in record speed.

If you are from around our parts, in Southern Ontario, then you know all too well that we had way more rain filled days then beach days this summer.  Which meant, staring longingly, with our greasy-grubby-faces against our rain streaked windows staring at our drowned deck holes.

When we first bought our home three years ago, I was excited that we would inherit what seemed to be a big new-ish deck!

But after some further investigation we realized that our deck, though new-ish was not built to last.

 We quickly referred to our "new-ish" deck as being our "old deck", and to be frank, it just wasnt cutting it for us any more.
Not only was it void of all personality.

But it was a giant B-O-X, right off of our main level, which meant we lost out on a lot of our ground level backyard space.

Which would have been fine in theory, but our new-ish deck, kind of shook back and forth. 

And by "kind of" I mean that if you moved on it too much you felt like there were earth quakes happening.

I love a good rock on a boat or a sway in a hammock, but from my limited deck building experience, structures should not shake.

...and stairs should not be lopsided.

...and lets not even get to the part about children not being aloud to play under said rocking, swaying, lopsided deck.


 And, to top it off, this sad dilapidated deck was covering a very important window.

So, with our "con list" growing, we decided, mid-summer, that we were going to change our backyard from the place where toys and tools went to die, into a relaxing private retreat.

We also put on the list that it had to be a solid non-rocking, non-swaying, non-lopsided retreat.

We dug some holes.

Made a feeble attempt at creating some foliage/privacy against our back fence.

And got to work putting our footers into our yard.

As things go around here, we usually don't start with a drawn out plan. We usually, just jump into a project with both feet first.

In this case, my more methodical man went to Home Depot and had them design us a handy little approximate blueprint of the deck we had discussed: two tier, smallish, discreet, and it had to fit into our modest budget. That, by the way, is great to have as a starting point.

We tweaked as we went.


 ...and then, with dreams in our head and power tools in our hands, in about five minutes, we tore the sucker down.

Don't try this at home kids.

Our deck furniture took it easy this summer and basically sun tanned on our lawn for three months.

Our methodical man did not.

(The kids always end up choosing the best seats in the house.)

Slowly but surely, this guy of mine, clocked in after work hours, weekend hours, late night hours and more.

Sorry for the scary jarring saw noises neighbours!!!

Once the decks railings were removed, we installed the huge heavy posts that would eventually give us some privacy.

You should have seen my hubs biceps popping as he held these huge wooden babies up and I easily screwed them in underneath.


 The kids were impressed. Which says a lot.

One time, they didnt blink an eye when a guy tiperope walked across Niagara Falls.

Meanwhile, I was peeing my pants and blaming the mist.

  I remember the kids marveling that neither of us got killed in the process of installing those heavy puppies, and they were right to be astounded.

I am still sore.

Because I enjoy continuous momentum when it comes to projects, I encouraged my brother and dad to show up and offer some man power to my main man. The only problem is, when you don't have a plan, extra help wont really make a difference.

Thanks Dad and Matt for coming over and watching us argue "ho and hum" about what steps to take next! Those four boards we got up in two hours are soooo level and straight, AND AWESOME, and I will carve your name in them one day in memory of the amazing teamwork you all displayed.


We attached a piece of wood on the inside railing of our deck walls and then framed in the upper deck sections with slanted boards for a prettier visual effect. 

Since we live in a 15 year suburban development, mature trees are at a premium. We knew we wanted shade but also knew that we didn't have the patience, the green thumb, or the budget to bring in mature trees into our yard.

Instead we installed a beautiful custom wooden system that would give us the privacy and shade that we craved. 

We made our upper deck out of five sections and added these wooden "blinds" totally around it, so that we can be out there in our pajamas with a morning coffee in hand and the neighbors wont have any idea that my favorite pair of pajama bottoms are actually my husbands thread-bare-ones and that they are covered in obnoxious happy faces which will never match my own morning face.

This whole process took a lot of days after work to complete.

We made it up as we went and there were more than a few times where my husband couldn't continue building because I had to scour Pinterest to decide what I wanted for our dream, budget friendly, deck.

Lucky for me he is patient.

I never did find something that would work for our yard from Pinterest, but  I guess this labor of love will be unique to us in the end...

Though our yard is totally copying the amazon jungle right now.

We finished the upper deck a few weeks ago and have been busy tearing down the other side of the old upper deck that we have no use for anymore. With the cooler weather moving in we have also been steadily moving forward on the new bottom deck.

My fingers and toes, and hairs, and feet, and legs and arms, are crossed tightly and hoping that in a few weeks I will be ready to show you the whole reveal with proper pictures and a source list. 

Until then, you will find me hiding out on that upper deck in my pajamas, with a morning caffeine fix in hand, covered in heaps of blankets to ward off the cold Fall air.

PS: fingers crossed the Canadian snow holds off till next month too! ;0

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Mother's Musings {Birthday addition}

This weekend was a whirlwind. 

I was happily anticipating attending Blog Podium in Toronto on Saturday, but was also a bit apprehensive to miss a sweet little boy, on what would be his eighth birthday. 

Luckily, we are quite literal around here, so it made sense that since our son wasn't technically born until 8pm, that I would actually be home in time to officially celebrate with him -- for one entire day.

This little predicament, as it was, taught me so much about our oldest boy.

As I make sure to do with every birthday, I spent the night before his birthday, setting up a little birthday party on our kitchen island for the birthday boy and his siblings. There was balloons, a carefully wrapped gift, a birthday sign, little party plates, napkins, kinder eggs on three place settings, special touches of little blackboards saying "Eight and Great!" and a little card, hand written, for my first baby. 

There was a cake too. 

A surprise cake on a pretty little white cake stand. A cake that had been gawked at for weeks through the glass of a bakery. A cake that was talked about and wondered over and one that a growing eight year old boy once exclaimed that he "could eat in one minute, cause it looks soooo good!" 

 I knew when I tiptoed around the night before, that the cake would be, in fact, "the icing on the cake". 

I pictured him waking up, under his Grandpa's lenient watch, and him immediately devouring the fluffy white layers in a single big bite. I could almost see the aftermath, as I pictured a messy, goofy, birthday boy grin, outlined in vanilla icing and a big ole happy beautiful mess for me to clean up when I came home later that day.

But that wasn't what happened.

After being happily reunited (12 hours is a long time for children to be away from their mothers and an extra long time for mothers who have undeniable "Mamma-guilt"). We met with "I missed yous" while big hugs were given and received. I looked at his face a dozen times and exclaimed aloud at how old he looked now. Together, as a family crammed around a restaurant table, we counted down till it was 8:00pm and we all sung happy birthday together in the middle of a restaurant -- not caring who was looking.

Much to my surprise, when we came home, into our still and darkened house, the light switched on revealing that a present had not been opened, a cake had not been pummeled and imagined sticky, icing, hand prints had not been left all over my house. 


There was nothing that had changed about the little-kitchen-island-birthday-party, but a sweet, little, proud, patient boy with a clean smile and a heart full of selflessness standing in front of balloons and a bag full of stiff, untouched tissue paper.

He smiled big, with those over sized teeth filling out his mouth and making me see glimpses of the man he will become. He threw his arms around me in a big ole bear hug with his eyes full of love as he continued to explain that he wouldn't want to celebrate with a long awaited cake without the whole family being there.  

His undeniable selflessness dripped off every word his equally squeaky and husky voice uttered.

"I love you guys and want to make memories as a whole family."

His big-toothed-gap-filled-smile grew.

At that moment, with him on one side, and that pretty little cake, untouched, on the other side, I knew we were right to think that our blessings increase with every year we get to live with this little boy.

He is selfless, loving, giving and caring, with a large dash of enthusiasm, creativity, and drive. He is the first to offer a hand, to help his sister, to carry his brother, to encourage, to help out and to show care. 

I'm proud every day to have become a mother 8 years ago, but this weekend I have a new gratitude for the children I have been given. I didn't know this love I have for them could grow and expand as often as it does, but this weekend I am reminded, once again, of how amazing motherhood is. 

A mother is blessed enough to literally grow the friendships she will cherish and rely on for her entire life.

That, right there, is amazing to me.

Tonight I am thanking God for the gift of life that is my sweet, first baby, turned rough-and-tumble boy. 

Tonight my heart is bursting with a kind of love I want to write down and remember always.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Where. When. How. {A master bedroom breakdown.)

A few weeks ago I showed you a glimpse into a few rooms over here at This Little Estate when I joined forces with other Canadian bloggers. Together, we shared glimpses into our home with a virtual picture-filled home tour.

It was such fun, and the home tour generated many pondering questions from readers, and I have felt like a big meany every since, for not responding right away.

My favorite questions went like this:  

"Bethany, I wish I could have a pretty bedroom like yours, but I don't have the budget to make the room that I want. What are some tips you can give me? Where do you find all your stuff?" 

"Where did you get that wallpaper from!? Want!"

"What colour is your bedroom, I cant find it on your blog..."

"That dresser in your master was soooo ugly, I have passed so many of those up in the before, but now I cant wait to find an ugly dresser of my own now to makeover like yours!"

Well, sweet reader, let me start by saying thank you for the questions and for not sending me messages that stated you noticed the dust bunnies in the corners of all these pictures. ;) 

You guys are swell and need glasses.

So first things first, friends you do not need a big budget to pull a room together. 

I don't claim to be a design expert, but I do claim to be a major bargain hunter, red sticker lover, avid junk store searcher and thrifting enthusiast. I have also been known, on occasion, to drag something home from your curb into my home and then re purpose it for free.

Here is a great example, and break down of doing just that.

If you are like us then it is quite possible that you would rather buy your sweet babies the best crib on the market, tuck that sweet baby into 40,000 thread count sheets and then collapse on to your own sheet less mattress -- on the floor. 

We can relate. 

A few years ago we opted to graduate ourselves to a king sized bed seeing as our baby ninjas would often climb out from their silk sheets and onto our double bed. 

It was getting tight. 

Along with a new bigger and better grown-up bed came the desire to have a pretty headboard and a completed master bedroom. But, as every young family knows, when you have little children, your design budget is better spent on hockey, gymnastics, swimming lessons, soccer and on a prayer that those activities will wear them out enough to sleep in their OWN bed.

You know, you KNOW.

I like silk sheets like the next toddler, but sometimes, being a grown up means being a little selfless.
That meant cutting down costs on our own bedroom and getting creative. 

Thankfully, something I love to do.
So here is the break down:
Our headboard was found thrifting for $5 and got a little makeover, I talked about that HERE.

Our room got a budget-friendly-bang-for-your-buck-feature-wall, by adding a stencil to one of our main walls. It was $75 (at the time with a coupon) and was birthday money well spent.  It can be found at Royal Design Studios and is called the large damask stencil. I used a semi gloss bright white paint to give it a bit of interest against our tan walls. (Behre Paint & Primer: Messa Taupe)

Our lamp was a curbside treasure updated with a new shade and some white spray paint.

Our round mirror was purchased thrifting for $5 and is a vintage replica.  I loved that it matched the round mirror I had already painted and loved how it would add some symmetry to our room.


(I'm still pondering painting both round mirrors to match, and/or change both of their colours entirely.)

Thoughts welcome in the comment section at the end of this post! 

Our pillows I hand stitched with my limited sewing abilities. (Thanks for teaching me how to make scrunchies Mom! Thanks Dad for buying me that sewing machine for my sweet sixteen birthday even if that DID mean I could make myself mini skirts that you disapproved of!)

Our version of the Rast hack was pretty straight forward. You can read the post HERE for more details. I horded paint from my local recycling centre for FREE.  

Yes, FREEEEEE, people!

 Check out your local dump and recycling center to see if you too are missing out on a plethora of paint in every finish and colour!


Our curtains and bed skirt were purchased from a little consignment shop and both felt extremely luxurious. A good wash in hot water and a good steam later they have added the perfect amount of softness to our room for under $20!
Our side table accessories were all found treasures.

And the best treasure of all are the twelve sparkliest drawer pulls I ever did see. Finding them was literally an-unusual-extreme-thrifting-miracle-sent-from-heaven-into-my-cart kind of deal.

I love how our Rast Hack turned out, so I redid another long dresser for our itty-bitty-master, to help with the lack of storage in our itty-bitty-his-and-her-closets.

The hubby would like to interject that our closets aren't small at all and actually, I am just a clothing hoarder. But, you women KNOW we can never have enough closet space, so I know you don't believe him.

I scored this solid oak dresser for $25. I redid it with recycled paint and some inexpensive pulls from home depot (Buy the prepackaged pulls in bulk (usually 12 in a pack) and you will save bundles. This dresser redo is still my most viewed POST after two plus years. You can check it out HERE.

The accessories we have gracing the dresser's top are sometimes buried under heaps of folded laundry, but that's cool, because nothing is too precious around here.

I love how mirrors can be used as trays. But I DO also love a mirror hanging in its rightful spot, front and center on a wall.

The giant vintage mirror that hangs above our dresser was an absolute "start the car" kind of deal. 

I went to my local Re Store (Habitat for Humanity) and fell in love with it. The only problem was it was being sold as a pair with a heck-of-an-ugly dresser. 

TIP: I have learned, over the years, that if you share your friendly attitude with the lovely volunteers that help out at your local thrift stores, not only do you build a nice relationship, but they become more than willing to share the friendliness back. At times, at very good times, it is returned to you in one big-heap-of-a-deal and you run away with a giant mirror stuffed into your vehicle and your children with cranked necks beneath it. ;)

On to a tale about another mirror:

I'm slightly obsessed with rethinking items in stores and the ones I have had kicking around our home forever. It comes like second nature to me and I'm sure was annoying to my parents (Sorry about that desk I cut up that one time with a hand saw! I totally didn't know it was a wedding present!)

But I mean, how could I not see the potential in this mirror I have had since I was a teenager. 

With a few cuts of wood and some FREE paint, I made myself a new-to-me selfie mirror and now I no longer leave the house with my skirt tucked into my nylons or walk out the door rocking see through dresses anymore.


So, you can see, through this thorough master bedroom breakdown, that any room can be completed with some ingenuity, creativity, some shopping around, some thrifting, some diy-ing and some love for the journey of making a room feel like home.

Hopefully I have answered all your questions on where things are from and how things are done. 

I guess this now means that I will see you in the paint recycling center and scouring my favorite thrift stores. ;)  

When you spot me yelling "Start the car!!" help a girl out, K??  I promise I will treat you to a hot drink and something sweet. 





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