Sunday, July 29, 2012

Better In An Hour: Easy upholstery

Behold, our ugly red vinyl footstool. (Forgot to take a
photo rightside-up.)


It's been a while since we did a DIY crafty post, but don't fret: since we're getting the keys to our new house on Tuesday. Here's a small project that saved a little footstool from the trash:

Behold, my ugly footstool. Find your own similarly-shaped piece of furniture--a footstool, a padded stool, or something else entirely. This style of upholstering won't work as well on, say, a stuffed couch; look for something smaller, with a wood base to receive the staples.

-an old piece of furniture (ie footstool)
-a staple gun and staples
-a piece of fabric
-foam, yoga mat, or other padding

First, we cut the yoga mat up. We used an old, thin, unappealing yoga mat to add padding to the stool, as the original padding was worn down to nothing. We cut three ovals of yoga mat out with a pair of scissors after tracing the footstool onto it. This step took 5 minutes.

Next, we stacked those onto the stool; we then took our piece of fabric and put it on top. Then we flipped the stool over, and began stapling the fabric to the bottom of the stool. This step took 15 minutes.

You'll likely need to keep adjusting your foam/yoga mat pieces to make sure they haven't shifted out of position. There's a knack to going around turns or corners, too: create tiny, intentional folds, and staple them down. On the straightaways, you can just go straight and tight.

Lots of staples for a secure attachment!

Cut off any excess, add any staples you need to, and hammer in any staples that didn't quite jab all the way into the wood. This step took 5 minutes.

And there you have it! A much more attractive footstool than the one you started out with!   And, in total, this entire project took 25 minutes. Now, at some point we will be painting the legs, which I estimate will take another 30 minutes to properly sand, prime, and paint.

Not bad, eh!

Simple, easy, and good for us lazy people. Just my kind of DIY makeover.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Fridays with Bri - cleaning roller skate bearings

My hot wife and derby veteran!


Jordan and I have been planning for a long time to clean the bearings in our roller skates; we used to love skating together, but this season has just been too busy. It may seem like a big job and it can be intimidating, but it turned out to take only a half-hour. Now we both feel silly for waiting. If you use roller skates, roller blades, or a skateboard, this maintenance is important, so be sure to keep reading! Here is the step by step on how we did ours. There are many different opinions on what works best, but we were really happy with our results.

Firstly, we did check for videos on the internet and we found this one by SkateboardTech to be the best so we followed his video; however we mentally changed the skateboard wheels to roller skate wheels (which are almost the same). The bearings we have are Bones Reds, which can be opened and actually taken apart into its smallest components. We chose to only take off the red rubber seals, though. You can go further if you have the time.

First you will need:

A skate tool
Cleaner--an alcohol-based solvent is best, though the video recommends orange cleaner. But if you use an alcohol-based cleaner, you can skip the rinsing step.
Cleaner bottle--buy one from a skate shop, or make one like the video shows.
Lubrication oil--sewing machine oil will do the trick!
Paper towel
A paper clip
Bearings (we used bones reds)
Roller Skates, a skateboard, or roller blades

Step 1

Remove the  bearings from the wheels, and wipe off the dirt. Place the bearings on a paper towel

Step 2

Remove the cover/seal; the bones reds have a rubber cover. Stick the paper clip beside the inner circle and pop out the seal. Other beings may have a metal covering where you have to pop a metal retaining clip.

Step 3

Attach the bearings to the cleaning bottle peg and pour the cleaner into the bottle; about 1/3 of the way full.

Step 4

Shake away! Shake shake shake! Shake shake shake!

Step 5

Remove the bearings and dry them. We used an alcohol based cleaner, which evaporates quickly. If you use a citrus biased cleaner be sure to dry them thoroughly and you may need to rinse away a residue. You can use a lot of things as solvents, including methyl hydrate (we used this and it was great), isopropyl alcohol with a HIGH volume (ie. 70% or more), even rubbing alcohol. We've even heard of people just using the lemon juice you buy in a lemon-shaped bottle in the grocery store. Remember to read precautions, and wear protection if you're handling anything poisonous.

Bearings and their seals removed.
Step 6

Add the lubricant: we used Bones Speed Cream, however you can also use sewing machine oil or any lubricant intended for small machinery. Do not use motor oil, grease or WD40 as they become thick and sticky and are meant for large moving parts.


Replace the shield. With ours, we just pushed them back on. 
Step 8

Reinstall the bearings into your wheels and put back on the skates.

Step 9

Roll around on your freshly cleaned bearings.

Disclaimer: I am not a mechanic or am I trained to clean bearings. This is just a list of steps I took to clean my own bearings. Be sure to research your particular type of bearings, and experiment until you find what works for you!

There's nothing worse than feeling held back from a beloved activity because your equipment is in disrepair. A quiet half-hour spent together, cleaning our bearings, just gave us another great cheap date activity! What have you been putting off? Time to get out there and make it happen!

Yours truly, back in my roller derby reffing days!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Short Story: Missing MJ

Just a short post today, to tide you over...

I'm missing my bestie, MJ, today. I have a doctor's appointment and she's always my rock for these things. I found myself scrolling through my Evernote files for something interesting today, and found a few MJ quotes that I'd written down before she moved to Toronto, so that I'd have a couple little snippets of her with me all the time. Here's a couple examples of why I miss this girl so much:

JORDAN: I don't understand how dogs panting cools them.

MJ: It's their way of sweating.

JORDAN: Yeah, but when a person sweats, the wind dries the sweat and that's what cools them.

MJ: So maybe the wind is cooling his tongue.

JORDAN: Well then why not just hang it out? Why all the panting?

MJ: Cuz it's hard work.


I would buy the cow. Even if I got the milk for free.


Why is no one buying my stuff? People always say how cool my stuff is when they come over. [SHOUTING TO ALL]: Well, now you can own a piece of the legacy! 


For everyone out there missing a sister, best friend, companion, etc., I feel for you. We should make a group. It would be depressing, but I'd bring brownies.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Friday's with Bri - Ford Focus Review

 The car we named Sharona (m-m-my Sharona!)


This trip to Nova Scotia which you have all heard a lot about was incredible and I have to say that Ford made it an easy trip. They lent us a Focus for the trip and I am super impressed. we even named it Sharona.

Here is a quick video review of the 2012 Ford Focus.

PS. A huge Thank you to Jordan for holding the camera while I drove. It made it nice that I could pay attention to the drive and give a proper review of the car.

This Focus got us to some amazing places, pretty much eveywhere east of Ottawa! We saw the world's longest covered bridge, the oldest light house in PEI, the Jost Winery, Hopewell Rocks, and 4 provinces. It helped us create some great memories in the process; Thank you, Ford Canada, for the gracious loan of the car for our trip; it made the whole journey a lot more fun...especially showing off the Active Park Assist! Sharona drove us the full 3000km for the trip and we were able to pack our entire trip with ease. 

The car got great mileage; we spent well under our alloted budget of 500.00 on gas for the entire trip. It's a very peppy car, which took Jordan a while to get used to, since our current car is lightyears less responsive. The built-in navigational system was fanastic, and it's the only reason why all six of us survived the trip without driving into a lake or murdering each other; we actually used the Focus's GPS to get us around Nova Scotia and guide the other cars in our convoy because people's cell phone navigation systems kept losing their signals.

Dual climate control made Jordan's trip perfect. She is always cold, and I am always hot, so this feature helped bring peace and happiness to the drive. There wasn't a single argument over the A/C settings on either 14-hour drive, nor any of the drives we took during the week. Amazing!

The Focus offered great fuel economy, comfortable handling, and helpful features like GPS and an alarm to tell you if you've left the parking break on. When we got home and piled into our own ancient clunker, both of us really missed Sharona pretty badly.

Oh, and space! The Focus managed to surprise everyone with how it handled the insane over-packing that Jordan threw at it:

We fit: 

4 Suit cases of different sizes
2 Acoustic guitars
1 Semi-hollow-body jazz guitar
1 cooler 
5 fabric shopping bags
1 set of juggling clubs
1 remote controlled miniature helicopter
1 back pack
2 purses
2 driftwood sticks
4 grape vine seedlings
3 yoga mats
1 car safety kit
1 case of water
1 coffee mug
2 water bottles
2 people

 My amazing driving partner

At the Jost winery
Now some great pictures of the memories the car had:

Chase's Lobster pound

Parked in front of Murphy's fish and chips

Oldest light house in PEI

Monday, July 16, 2012

The NEST in NS: Where Jordan becomes a legendary stripper.


On our last day in Nova Scotia, we went to Heather Beach, near Pugwash, to meet my extended family. I find these types of reunions to be stressful: there's a lot of expectation that you're going to get along really well simply because you're related. There's also the strange awkwardness that comes when someone says, "I met you when you were knee-high to a grasshopper!" but all you remember from that trip was that someone gave you a Carebear.

My worries were for nothing, however. We arrived, were introduced to everyone, and then my second-cousin Rob took us all for a walk on the beach. Heather Beach (and the surrounding beach coastline) is called a sandbar beach--when the tide is low, it stretches endlessly out in either direction, and the water is shallow and warm. We had a great walk, even spying some hermit crabs and starfish. Finally on a beach with temperate waters and no jellyfish, I waded out and enjoyed standing in my beloved ocean. 


We headed back to my great-aunt's cottage, where the family shared stories from fifty years past. I couldn't believe the types of tiny details people remembered: my grandfather cheating at cards, my Uncle Larry hitchhiking from Ottawa about forty years back, and even the type of icebox my great-grandma had in her cottage. Tucked away here at the end of the country was all my family's history, preserved better than any history book or photo album could ever do. 


We chatted through dinner and into the evening, and at one point my BFF, MJ, sent me a text checking in. I wrote back that, despite my sometimes crippling social anxiety, I was managing to converse with ease, and everything had gone splendidly. My worries had been for nothing: I had lots to talk about with my second-cousin, and everyone else was chatting, too. Even my concerns about cultural differences (my dad is a conservative, for example, while my cousin Rob works in addictions...a minefield there for sure) turned out to be for nothing. As we prepared to leave for the ride back home, I breathed a sigh of relief: the evening had gone off without a hitch.

A few minutes later, someone hollered out that they'd found a cell phone on a table, and I recognized it as Brian's. I claimed it, and loudly proclaimed that anything else found lying about was likely Brian's, too...

...and that's when I looked down, and discovered that my skirt was on the floor. 

My artist's representation...just a quick one on
my iPad.
The zipper must have come undone, and because I was wearing tights, I didn't even feel the breeze on my backside. I had stood up, walked a couple steps, and only because other people were staring with open mouths at my feet did I, too, look down. 

"Well," I said, "Anything lying around is Brian's, except  my skirt," Everyone laughed goodnaturedly, and even I had a chuckle, though there was a voice in my head screaming that this would never be forgotten. At the same  moment I told my brain that wouldn't happen, my great-aunt said between guffaws, "This will be the new Kent family story!" 

So my official entry into the indelible memories of the family history keepers is that I stood up,  proclaimed my husband's ownership of everything on the floor, then dropped my skirt. Wonderful.

It was a lovely day, and a great way to spend our last day in Nova Scotia. And I certainly left with a perfectly Jordan-esque 'bang'. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The NEST in NS: Hopewell Rocks, NB


Technically, this post is about New Brunswick; but we first got the idea to visit Hopewell Rocks when Brian and I were watching a show called Departures; two young Canadian guys started a world tour, and began at this incredible place. When we saw the show, we  knew we had to see it ourselves.

Hopewell Rocks is a place along the Bay of Fundy where the tides are the highest in all the world. Apparently, they're also pretty violent, because they've been wearing away at the rocks there, creating stunning, gravity-defying rock formations that have been the subject of the area's Aboriginal lore for generations.

The drive to get to the rocks was three hours long. It was worth every minute. I don't actually know what else I can say...I think I'll let the photos do the talking. (Many of these were taken by my dad, Bill Kent--always wise to bring a professional photographer on any trip!)

Baby falcon!

Brian and Mike

Jordan and brother Mike.

The original Kents.

The NEST in NS: Prince Edward Island Hijinx


Wednesday morning found us heading out crackin' early to hit Prince Edward Island. My mom had spent her summers there as a child and wanted us to see the island. My brother-in-law, Jed, was hopeful to see some nautical tourist sites, and I wanted a white sand beach so I could pretend we'd actually gone somewhere tropical for vacation. Luckily, PEI promised both things. Funny how things can look so optimistic at the start...

The ferry over to the island was pretty neat; this large white ship pulled up to the pier, and the nose of the ship lifted open like the mouth of a shark. We drove in, parked, and headed above deck to see the sea. Brian had a full farmer's breakfast in the on-board cafeteria while I whale watched with my brother--and we actually saw a whale! 


We got off the ferry and began our drive; our first stop was supposed to be a small town renown for its artisans. When we couldn't find the town, we pulled over and asked for directions, only to discover we were in the small town. Unable to figure out where these artisans were supposed to be hiding (unless they were in the gas station where we'd asked for directions), we gave up and headed instead for PEI's oldest lighthouse.


The Prim Point lighthouse was really very cool. For those of us who watched Road to Avonlea and remember Gus Pike, hotty that he was, living in the lighthouse, this was quite a thrill. I enjoyed the tour and everything about the stop, but I've learned a valuable lesson: never wear a tight skirt to a lighthouse. The entire four storeys were only reachable via a steep ladder-like staircase, and I basically had to give up all propriety and just hike my skirt up to my groin so I could manage the steps. 

We then drove to Cavendish Beach, on the north side of the island. Seeing as we entered from the south, this was a very, very long drive for a day trip. PEI is beautiful, but I must admit: after the first half-hour of well-manicured potato farms, everyone in the car except Brian fell asleep--because he was driving. But hey, if you are into long drives through vast beautiful expanses of farmland, PEI is THE place to go. For us, it was with a giant sigh of relief that we finally reached Cavendish.


There was a bit of a ruckus when we first arrived and were sent to the wrong entrance of the national park where the beach is. Empty stomachs and low blood sugar meant that everyone was snippy, so as we stopped for better directions I fed everyone handfuls of trail mix until they all calmed down. A good thing, too, as we managed to get lost a second time--this time, by accidentally driving down a bike path in the middle of the woods--but everyone was able to laugh it off. Thank heavens we had the GPS on the Focus, because I'm certain we would have run out of gas in the middle of nowhere and been forced to eat each other. We arrived at Cavendish Beach at last, with nobody cannibalized, ready for a swim in the Atlantic ocean.

Brian got this shot of a jellyfish.
Several times on our way across PEI, I thought that some of the little glitches happening were almost too coincidental; I had started to wonder if perhaps Fate was trying to keep us away from the beach this day, though I couldn't imagine why. But it was as we stood on the white sandy beach, staring out at a sea literally teeming with red stinging jellyfish, that I knew we were not meant to swim today. The waves were spotted with the personal-pizza-sized devils. Kids were picking up the dead ones and rapidly dropping the occasional live one as it stung their hands. Bravely, my brother attempted a quick swim and ended up with a sting across his foot for the effort.

Brian and I lay on the beach rather than plunge in with the jellyfish. I found myself wondering if this was my new 'thing'; you see, when we were last in the Caribbean, a school of white jellyfish had ambushed my snorkeling group. Perhaps these are my oceanic foe, as the crocodile was to Captain Hook. I shook my head in frustration, but nothing was going to entice me into those waters. 


We had plans to travel to several other places around the island, including a number of craft shops; but with all the long-distance driving and getting lost, we pretty much ran out of time. We'd book ourselves for a return ferry trip at 6pm, and at 4pm we realized we had a long drive back to the pier. The next two hours were like The Amazing Race, complete with detours, speeding, and a total breakdown of previously healthy relationships. It's a blur of driving, yelling, and sweating; and as the family borke down into savage chaos, with yelling and cursing over the walkie talkies, Frank Sinatra came onto the radio and sang a dissonant tune about the joys of travelling.It was a surreal moment.

We would have made it back to the ferry in time, had it not been for the car accident just off the bridge by Charlottetown. A 45 minute traffic jam meant that, according to our GPS, we were going to miss the ferry by 20 minutes. Eager to get back to Nova Scotia, I confess to you now: we all drove at high speed to get there. The once-quaint fields of perfect potato crops were now a nightmare of endless green, mocking us as we raced to beat the clock. 

Dad, with his babies.
About 5:50pm, my mother radioed us from the other car and said she was changing the ferry reservation to 8pm. We all sighed in resignation; this solution meant no lobster from the pound tonight. Most of us thought we'd slow down our pace at this point, and maybe find a dinner stop on the way, but Brian continued to take us on a high-speed race back to the pier. With clever driving and a great deal of alacrity, we drove the width of PEI...and managed to miss the ferry by 7 minutes. 


Dejectedly, frustrated now with our entire PEI adventure, we headed over to an information centre, where we were informed that the closest restaurant would have us too far away to catch the next ferry; but, the girl said, there was a lovely little diner right here on the info centre's property. Fancy that. We walked over to the diner, afraid of what we'd find, but we were utterly surprised and delighted in the end. The staff were incredibly friendly, the food was homemade and delicious, and even the mayo in my chicken salad sandwich was from scratch. In fact, the next day while eating at a restaurant three times as pricey, we found ourselves wistfully reminiscing about the diner at the info centre. I have no idea what this place was called, but if you find yourself near the ferry pier at Woods Islands on the PEI side, go and get yourself a bowl of homemade soup, a lobster roll, or a chicken sandwich. You won't regret it.


Sunset on the ferry.
So our trip to PEI involved a panicked drive, way too many miles of nothingness, a lack of crafty towns, and a jellyfish invasion. But it also contained one whale sighting, one cool lighthouse, and one kick-ass diner. Oh, and just before getting stuck in the traffic jam by Charlottetown, we did indeed stop at a potter's shop, where we bought some pottery and, at her urging, pet her angora rabbits. My only real regret: I didn't get a Cows waffle cone on the morning ferry, and there was none available on the evening ferry. I made up for it with butterscotch pie, but it just wasn't quite the same.

PEI: a beautiful place, and highly recommended for people who like to drive through farmland. Maybe I'll appreciate it more when I'm older.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The NEST in NS: Hitting the vacation 'wall'.


There comes a point in every trip a traveller makes where the glamour wears off and you just want to go home. Marathon runners call this ‘the wall’: the point where your physical self says ‘No’, while your brain has to persevere and say, ‘Yes’. I hit my wall on Tuesday on this trip, and I suspect you’ll quite easily see why.


First brick in the wall was the mosquito bites. I don’t know what kind of German-swim-team steroids it is that Nova Scotia is feeding to their mosquitos, but these suckers swarm like plagues of locusts, and can apparently eat you through your clothes. After Monday night’s bonfire, where I sat for several hours perched on the bare metal frame of a patio chair, I had 28 mosquito bites on my backside. Despite my jeans, those suckers had managed to pierce my skin over two-dozen times on my ass and upper thighs. I showed Brian, and even Mr Unshakable bellowed out a curse. He hadn’t even yet noticed the grape-sized bites on my jugular, temples, and knees. I thought about my friend Graham, who is a tree planter in British Columbia and who is routinely savaged by bat-sized bugs…and I determined that my mosquito trauma is worse, because Graham is at least dressed for battle, whereas I brought cute little sundresses.

Swollen foot. Sad!


The second brick was the deer fly bite. Deer flies, for those who haven’t experienced these devils, are giant flies that actually bite a piece of you off; they make mosquitos look like benevolent pixies and mosquito bites look like freckles. I used to get bitten by these monsters all the time as a kid at our campground, but I haven’t had a run-in in many years; turns out, my body has developed some sort of hate-on for the suckers. I learned this when I swatted one, mid-bite, off the top of my foot, then watched in horror as my foot swelled up enormously until I couldn’t wiggle my toes. Aside from the pain, which was akin to the feeling of a black eye except in my foot, there was also this terrible tingling as my body fought the anti-coagulant chemical that the fly had spat into the wound. I hobbled around for the next two days, and here on day three, it’s now half as swollen but ten times as itchy.


The boys, heckling and totally NOT exercising.
These discomforts drove me to seek out a pleasant afternoon activity, so I changed into workout clothes, grabbed my yoga mat, and went out into the field behind the cottage for a good round of yoga. This, my friends, was the final brick in that wall of mine. As I began my asanas, my brother, brother-in-law, Brian, and the foreign exchange student all sat on lawn chairs drinking beer and watching me. After a while, my mother came to sit, as well. I kept my focus as best I could, until Dad came out with the dogs. Two of the pups became wildly alarmed by my poses and began circling me and barking. I stopped my routine and calmed them down, and returned to my mat just in time to see my dad coming up to me with my other yoga mat. He laid it down and we all stared in shock as we thought he was about to join me…when he pulled out his remote-controlled helicopter, and began using my mat as a helipad.

You want to test your ability to stay focused in a yoga routine? Try to bend yourself into a downward-facing dog while hearing the angry whirring of chopper blades as they slice the air just a few feet away from you.

The kite, mocking me.
At this point, the rest of the family became inspired to start an activity as well. I watched in dumbfounded awe as my brother picked up a boomerang and began learning how to use it just a few meters away from where I was. Brian and Jed grabbed—I kid you not—a croquet set, and designed a route that encircled my yoga area. Yeah, because there’s nothing as relaxing as trying to do a pigeon pose while rock-hard balls ricochet across the lawn around you. Then somebody unfurled a hideous yellow kite sporting a grin and a pair of sunglasses, and that mocked me from the sky as I performed my warrior poses.

Within ten minutes of me beginning my yoga, my entire family had armed themselves with clubs, balls, canines, motorized blade-wielding toys, and a kite string to finish me off like a garrotte, if all else failed. I lay on my back in resting pose and stared up into the mocking face of the yellow kite, and fumed a bit.

Eventually, I found my calm place and finished my routine. It was surreal to be deep-breathing and performing these slow, smooth motions in the midst of utter anarchy. Once I got my second wind, much like the marathon runner, I felt better and moved past my vacation 'wall'. I rolled up my mat and added to the familial cacophony by pulling out my guitar and trying to learn a new song. Because if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. 


I survived demon mosquitos, an anaphylactic foot caused by deer fly, and my family. I had pushed past my ‘wall’, and was ready for more vacation. Of course, I didn’t know what PEI had in store for us the next day…