Budget Farmhouse Bathroom

If you like farmhouse style, you’ll understand my joy of this simple bathroom redo. This tiny pic (left) is the only ‘before’ I have. Note the sharply angular faucet and glass counter. This modern, chrome, black, glass, angular esthetic was absolutely nothing like me and it evoked the strangest feeling. . . like I was in someone else’s house.

Loved the sink though. The only thing I wanted to keep. But how I hated the floor tiles on the tub surround, extending 16″ beyond the tub and halfway past the toilet, blocking the addition of shelves or art above. The counter was clear glass on a black and chrome vanity with space below showing pipes and offering zero storage. Cold. Black. Metallic. Glass. Did I mention cold?

Here’s the new white vanity I bought at Lowes for $150, waiting for the install. With a jigsaw I cut out the back to accommodate the plumbing. Behind, note the previous mirror/shelf on its side. SO not me. Happy to donate to the Habitat For Humanity ReStore!

From IKEA I picked up a cash-and-carry butcher block counter, 25″x 7′ for less than $200. Now to learn more about how to use my circular saw. I learned to tighten the bolt that holds the blade in place. I learned that butcher block is very dense, and one must not ‘push’ the saw while cutting. A couple of my first cuts left burn marks on the edges! I learned that the correct way is to let the saw ‘do the work’. We’re here to hold and guide, but not push. From that great IKEA butcher block purchase I got a counter, 3 thick shelves, and a long rack for towel hooks. Plus a nice remnant cutting board!

Much needed storage shelves can finally go up! The studs above the toilet have an 18″ spacing so for the best shelf install, I lined up the left brackets into the studs, and the right brackets into drywall anchors. This step is when I learned that butcher block is not only challenging to cut, but is also very difficult to drill through. I needed to pre-drill every hole with a larger bit than usual, using the exact same size as the screws. Let me repeat: butcher block is very dense and solid! It’s not really easy to work with, but in my opinion, it’s worth every extra step needed. I love it!

Keeping costs down, I did a lot of the work myself. The biggest cost ($1500) was the labor for the removal and re-tiling of the tub surround with the tiles I’d purchased on sale at Lowes. Shower fixtures on sale at Home Depot (plumber was $800 for shower & vanity sink install). The mirror was purchased first, months before the reno even began. It was at Home Depot marked down to $60 and I loved it. I knew I could some day have the farmhouse-style bathroom I really wanted. Now I do!

As soon as this small yet wonderfully effective renovation was completed, I finally felt like I was at home. At last. This is indeed my very own home. Where I can relax, soak in a bath, and just be myself.

Feeding and Watering the Birds

Art by Dean Crouser
Art by Dean Crouser

Winter around my part of the prairies is bitterly cold. Lately the daily high has only reached around -25C/-13F.
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Therefore, to look out my frosty kitchen window and see birds busily grooming, drinking water from our de-iced bird bath, and pecking at seeds is quite astonishing. How they manage such cold is impressive. I feel like the least we can do is offer them some food and water!
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The old lilac outside my kitchen window shelters a handmade bird feeding house (made by my eldest son when he was 12, with his dad). Up in the branches hang an old seed ball (too messy…) and a suet feeder (love these!). The daily entertainment and satisfaction my family gets from viewing the variety of local birds that come to feed and drink here is worth every penny.


ground-flicker-and-jayOffering a few peanuts is all it takes to get Blue Jays and Northern Flickers to visit my yard. Buying nuts in bulk helps keep costs down. After we get the huge bags home, we cut them open and pour into airtight (and rodent-proof) plastic bins and store them in the garage. I transfer a manageable supply to a couple of ‘upcycled’ yogurt containers to keep outdoors near the feeder.
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water-de-icerThe de-icer was bought at a local wild bird store but I’ve seen them at Amazon and elsewhere. A Google search should bring up local sources for you. They range from $50-$100 but if you enjoy watching wildlife, it’s worth it. The water is more popular than the food! Finding an unfrozen source of drinking water is challenging for birds in this winter weather.

Staying Warm During A Winter Outage

Art by Vincent Alexander Booth
No Further by Vincent Alexander Booth

During winter, the thought of a power outage or the furnace breaking is enough to send a chill down my spine (pun intended)! The daughter of a friend had this happen recently. Their furnace quit on, as Murphy’s Law would have it, a very cold Sunday night. Eventually they got through to those who could help and it was all okay, but it got me thinking.

I’ve decided to post some ideas I’ve gathered about ways to stay warm for a day or so in your home when the temps are plunging and the furnace isn’t running.

Maintain The Furnace

Let’s begin with a very old adage: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Get the furnace checked! My friend’s daughter had recently moved into a rental and hadn’t thought about the furnace, or asking the landlord when it had last been inspected. These things happen. But even as renters I suggest all of us to call the local gas company for a free inspection. In most cities the gas company offers an annual visit to make sure the furnace is running fine. If needed they’ll clean the area around the pilot light and adjust it if needed. Hopefully we’ll get the all clear… and most of the time we will. But if something is wrong let’s find out and get it fixed.

Warm Clothing

Your clothing IS your first shelter. Pile on the layers. Think like you’re going skating, skiing, or winter hiking. Avoiding cotton, start with light layers and add long underwear, thick pants, wool socks and heavy sweaters. Complete the winter ensemble as if you’re really outdoors! Hat, scarf, gloves and boots (which have been wiped clean on the bottom). It might go without saying this is only needed if it’s really cold out, but where I live it does get really cold so this is how I prepare.

Gas Appliances

Of course if you’re one of the lucky ones with a wood burning stove or fireplace and wood to burn you’re set. But as more homes are built without these gems, more of us are being left, literally, in the cold. Some of us have gas fireplaces and gas stoves however, and we can use these appliances without power. Crack open a window.

“If you have a gas fireplace or stove with a standing pilot, it will light during a power outage since it doesn’t require electricity to activate the pilot flame… Many models are outfitted with systems which have battery backup that can be used to light the pilot during a power outage… If you have a wireless remote control, or a wall switch with a display, find the control box in the lower controls of the fireplace or behind the stove. There will be a switch that slides between ‘ON’, ‘OFF’ and ‘REMOTE’ – slide this to ‘ON’ for the appliance to operate with the power off. If you have questions, consult your owner’s manual or local dealer.” [source]
“On most gas cooking stoves, the top burners can be lit with a match if the electric power fails and the electronic burner ignition goes out. To light a top burner with a match, hold a lighted match to the burner and turn the burner control knob to the low-flame position. Turn the burner full on once it ignites.” [source]

Gather in One Room

Regardless of having a fireplace or not, everyone in the household needs to gather together in a (preferably small) central room. Close off the outer rooms and keep those doors closed. A developed basement can work well for this, or of course wherever’s close to the fireplace if you have one! Focus whatever heat can be generated into as small a space as can be comfortable. This is where we bring all the bedding and blankets, and people and pets.

Set up a Tent

warm-tent-indoorsSet up a tent in this central area. Yes this is easy enough for us campers, but even for those of you who are not fans of tenting, I encourage everyone to buy one. They take up hardly any storage space and you can often get a decent tent during end-of-season sales. If you’re not a camper consider setting it up in the backyard or livingroom when you get it home so you’ll know how it goes together in an emergency. Keep it with extra blankets for emergencies, and set it all up in the central room. Pile in the blankets, pillows and go ahead and crawl inside. Tents are amazing at keeping heat in! Tarps can be used instead if you don’t have a tent. Call on your inner child and make the best blanket fort you can (well, tarp fort).

Be Careful with Candles

What’s my opinion on all the tealight-flowerpot heaters on YouTube? Rather skeptical actually but candles can be comforting. Use good quality beeswax or soy (no paraffin please!) and ensure you place them in a secure container for safety. I use a couple of mason jars with one tealight in each. A problem has surfaced from people putting many tealights clustered together, and then tucked under a clay pot or crockpot. The wax liquefies and the heat occasionally can break those tiny aluminum cups and now you’ve got hot flammable liquid seeping out. Do be careful. When we hear ‘never leave a candle unattended’ let’s pay attention to this advice. It’s often repeated because it is so important. Candles can tip or leak or be to close to anything flammable like wood, paper, curtains, or other fabric. Let’s not have a broken furnace situation escalate into something much worse like a burn, or a fire.

Stay Cozy

Ending on a cozy note, let’s wrap up in those blankets and cuddle in the tent or tarp-fort. A great time for games, reading, or just good old conversation. Some of my fondest memories when my kids were young are from power outages when we’d play silly board or drawing games. Even charades. Such laughter. Almost makes one want to go flick the breaker just to have some quality time with each other! But not if it’s a howling blizzard outside. We’ll wait for warmer weather to sneakily trip the switch to play board games by flashlight.