Inspiration

November 12, 2013

Christmas Tree Alternatives - why go traditional when your tree can scream quirkiness?

Things change in an average life and for some of us, that means hanging on to time-honoured traditions, like our Christmas tree style, with renewed tenacity. For others, it means jettisoning the familiar in an effort to redefine ourselves and acknowledge change.  For the latter group, here are a few suggestions for kicking up the festive while maximizing the restive. 

A driftwood Christmas tree...

 

Driftwood tree
http://www.etsy.com/ca/listing/111943107/tree-decoration-driftwood?ref=sr_gallery_10&ga_search_query=christmas+tree&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_ship_to=US&ga_search_type=all&ga_facet=christmas+tree


 

A homemade scrapwood Christmas tree...

 

Scrapwood tree
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/woodwoolstool/5279640941/


 

A wall Christmas tree made from treasured ornaments...

 

Ornament wall tree
Source: http://nicety.livejournal.com/1013907.html


 

Another wall tree...

 

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Source: http://weheartit.com/entry/37853446

 

A cardboard Christmas tree...

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And of course, you can always create a DIY tree with used spindles, although one of my readers complained last year that it was god-awful and 'what was I thinking?'.  Of course, if you're a died-in-the-wool non-traditionalist, you're used to hearing that.  

What about you?  Any searingly unique tree installations to share?

October 16, 2013

Lowe's Family Fun Projects - Tween Projects

Tweens are hugely creative and we've been having a blast shooting new episodes featuring their designs - here are a few:

Zoe (12) and her swinging treehouse lounger

Lowe's Family Fun Projects - treehouse swinging bed

Ella (9) and her climbing net

Lowe's Family Fun Projects - climbing net

Lucas and Kevin (11) with the chalkboard desk they built (steel pipe base)

Lowe's Family Fun Projects - chalkboard desk with steel base

We'll be posting tween episodes on Lowe's Canada in time for the Christmas break - check out our other kids' projects (ages 3+) if you ever find yourself stuck indoors with rowdy kids!   

February 01, 2013

Got the winter blues? Let your fingers do the therapy!

 

the plight of un-busy hands
Photo credit: chris@APL via Flickr

 

If this crisp cold snap is making you frantic and testy, your hands can calm you down and put you in The Zone where time ceases to exist, all problems turn to vapor, and Winter is just a word that applies to some other part of the world. Here's my curated list of places to find craft instruction online.

Now, if you want a truly in-depth course from a world-class instructor at a fraction of the cost ($20-$40) you'd pay to take the course in person, here's a closer look at my favourite online learning resource, Craftsy.com: (Correction to article: Craftsy won't be offering 'food tech' in 2013, but they will be offering food and cooking courses)

Craftsy offers fantastic classes that show you in REAL time (not fast-forward-big-reveal TV style) how to actually DO something.  Grab a cup of coffee and peruse your options for learning how to quilt, weave, sew, crochet, knit, decorate cakes, cook, garden, and even re-finish furniture. TIP: When you're scrolling through Craftsy's Featured Classes, you can click on any of the Free Mini-Classes for a taste of the instructor's style and content.  

If you don't have a local independent yarn store or craft retailer that offers classes, Craftsy.com is an amazing virtual resource.  You can study anytime, 24/7, talk to the instructor and/or fellow class-mates while the lesson is in progress, record personal notes onscreen, and instantly repeat the last 30 seconds of video if you missed something.  

Have fun!

P.S. I'm enrolled in two courses (so far) if you want to join me - Scrap Quilting and From Drab to Fab (upcycling furniture).  

Here are some of my classmates' furniture projects from our Drab to Fab course...cool eh?

Projects from learners

 

 

 

December 03, 2012

Moving video about kids and power tools

This really touched me.  What a great way to connect kids to their inner brilliance.  

 

September 21, 2012

Today is National Tradesperson's Day - thank someone handy!

 

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Two young tradespeople in training - Photo by Photo Dudes on Flickr


 

Irwin Tools has declared that today is National Tradesperson Day in the U.S. and Canada.  I'm heading out to join CHCH's Bob Cowan to celebrate this morning.  Please tune in to CHCH at 9:15 if you get the channel where you live.  

When I get back from Hamilton I'm going to publish thank you notes from approximately 200 readers who sent me details about their favourite tradespeople.  

In the meantime, show some appreciation today for the people who keep our world humming - carpenters, plumbers, electricians, auto mechanics, welders, machinists, ship builders - by buying them a cup of coffee, calling up to say 'thanks for all you do', dropping off cookies at a local job site, or hugging a tradesman in line at Tim Horton's.  

For more info, visit Irwin's salute to tradespeople everywhere.  If you're a young person with a great 3D aptitude, visit Skills Canada to explore careers that'll let you use it!

 

 

September 18, 2012

Just got my 'nails' done for @HabitatToronto and @HomeShowsTO's #UpcycleChalllenge

ToolGirl Mag Ruffman's #UpcycleChallenge welded garden art
2,498 masonry nails, 3 wrenches, and 3 handsaw blades plus 11 pounds of MIG wire and 50 hours of welding!

The lovely folks at Habitat for Humanity Toronto and Toronto's Fall Home Show have come up with the most fantastic contest this year.  They asked 13 designer/DIYer/blogger types to go shopping at one of Toronto's 5 Habitat for Humanity ReStores (where they sell amazing building supplies and archtectural salvage for 50-80% less than retail).
We were each allowed to spend up to $100 to get something to repurpose into a household item.  The entries are fantastically creative. (You can vote for the project that you like best, or better yet, go to the Fall Home Show or place an online bid for your favourite piece.  All proceeds go to Habitat for Humanity to build more great homes for great families.)
Re: the sculpture above:
The first panel (far left) is a plain rectangle and is the first geometric thing I've made since my math debacle in Grade 10 (I got 11 out of 100 on my geometry final).  So I've officially made peace with geometry.  
The middle panel strays into a more organic shape, and the third panel is full-on entropy in the shape of a female form (or two lovebirds according to my Facebook friend Moe).  
 
P.S. Here's the 'Before' shot!
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I seriously love welding.  I bought a Hobart Handler 125 for about $300 a few years ago and it's become my favourite weapon of mass construction.  
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Last week I taught Oli, my niece-in-law, to weld.
Mag Ruffman and her niece Oli; welding lessons
Welding, the most popular activity at Ruffman reunions (besides eating)
I also gave my sister a few lessons last week and she went straight home and bought her own welder - a classy Lincoln package that included a helmet emblazoned with red flames!  She's making sculptures out of farm implements. 
Gillian on her first day with her new Lincoln MIG welder
A metal artist at work


 

August 10, 2012

National Tradesperson Day is coming September 21!

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Photo by keltickelton via flickr.com

This just in from Irwin, makers of some of my favourite hand tools.  (I've upgraded the term 'Tradesmen' to Tradespeople in a few places and like it better!)

The second annual National Tradesmen Day will be held on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012, and IRWIN® Tools encourages all Canadians to make plans to recognize Canada’s tradespeople – the men and women who are the backbone of our nation. The country’s skilled craftsmen should be proud of their incredible skills and talents.  And they deserve to be recognized for their hard work, which is often performed in difficult environments under stressful conditions. 

National Tradesmen Day, held each year on the third Friday in September, is a day when the nation pauses to thank skilled workers like auto mechanics, roofers, bricklayers, plumbers, woodworkers, electricians, carpenters, and others who help keep Canada running. During last year’s inaugural National Tradesmen Day festivities, many people found ways to show appreciation and gratitude for tradespeople by holding celebrations, recognition events and activities throughout the country. 

It’s vitally important that we say thanks and find ways to encourage skilled trades as valuable career choices for young people. Without these hard working men and women, Canada’s infrastructure and our way of life would come to a screeching halt. Despite the fact that these jobs are so important there is a looming skills shortage in Canada.  The Construction Sector Council projects that over the next 8 years there will be a shortfall of 156,000 skilled workers across the country.  This shortfall is driven primarily by expected retirements.  Between 2012 and 2020 there are 219,000 workers expected to retire and not all of these jobs will be filled through expected workforce growth.  The projected gap of 156,000 workers is a serious issue that could create project and service delays in many important areas of the economy.  

This year, IRWIN is coordinating multiple activities throughout the nation and is partnering with retailers and community groups for National Tradesmen Day celebrations. IRWIN offers some ideas Canadians can use to show their appreciation of skilled tradesmen:

  • Call your favorite handyperson and simply say “thanks for all you do.” 
  • Send this Video Link to tradespeople you know and say thanks.
  • Stop by a local jobsite where tradespeople are working and leave a box of donuts or cookies. 
  • Buy a tradesperson a cup of coffee.  
  • If your friend, husband, wife, daughter, or son is a tradesperson, make September 21 an extra special day for him/her. 
  • Support trade schools that train future trades workers, and urge governments to adopt workforce development policies for skilled trades. 
  • Talk with your children about the endless career opportunities in skilled trades, and visit Skills Canada (http://www.skillscanada.com) to learn more about a national organization serving teachers, high school and college students preparing for careers in technical, skilled and service occupations. 

For more information visit www.nationaltradesmenday.com or http://www.facebook.com/nationaltradesmenday.

 

Mindblowing projects to make by melting old LP records

 

If you have an oven and a collection of old LPs, you can have as much fun as possible with your clothes on.  

The PVC vinyl that old records are made from becomes pliable at extremely low temperatures.  Here are some creations you can try.  For complete instructions, see my weekly column.

Note: The vinyl melts in just a few minutes and is warm to the touch when you pull it from the 200-degree oven (don't use a hotter oven or the vinyl will start releasing toxins).  You can form it by hand immediately, but use leather gloves if you're nervous.  

P1080841

All beginners in Record Upcycling should try a bowl.  

Pressing the vinyl between two bowls will give you a more predictable outcome:

P1080839

 

But why be all conventional with your bowls?  Squeeze the vinyl for a more extreme effect.

P1080825

Or cinch it down into a desk accessory:

P1080836

Cut the vinyl into strips and form the strips into napkin rings that suit your musical friends/family:

P1080850

Or form the strips into hooks for towels or jewelry:

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While it's warm, cut a record in half, then reheat it and form it into a sconce:

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Here's how to fasten the sconce to a wood base; first, use a regular drill bit inserted through the record's hole to drill through the two layers of vinyl that form the back of the sconce.  

IMG_3173

Next, use a screwdriver to drive a short screw into the wooden base:

IMG_3177

You can form the vinyl into a cylindrical sleeve to slip over a bud vase.  (Wrap it around a rolling pin or a piece of hardwood dowel)

P1080831

I'm experimenting with painting the vinyl in case you don't have a penchant for shiny Seventies-looking vinyl accessories.  Whatever the case, isn't it fun to know how to upcycle your vinyl records into a funky personal statement?




 

July 03, 2012

Proof that little kids should be allowed to use power tools

In case there's any doubt in your mind about whether someone as young as 4 years old can use a drill or a saw, just watch these faces...

(See 15 easy building projects for kids 3-9)

 

March 12, 2012

The (Kreg) Jig is Up! How you can start building furniture now, even if you're a noob.

One Jig to Rule Them All

Hot tool helps newbies build fantastic furniture  

Photo

Stephanie Reavis' beautiful cabinet constructed with a Kreg Jig

 

As spring sneaks in, it’s fun to go through each room in your house and create a punch list of things you’d like to change, add or replace.  The list can hold all of the items that bug you, from minor to major, not including relatives.  

Don’t hold back; put everything down on that list, from faucet repairs to paint jobs to pictures that no longer give you a happy feeling.  If there’s anything you see that messes with your well being - ping! (magic wand sound effect) - it goes on the list.  

If your list reveals lots of holes in the furnishings department, don't be bummed.  It’s never been easier to build stuff.  And try not to feel overwhelmed if you've got a long list; here are a few of my must-builds for comparison:  

  • pine recycling center for the kitchen
  • wainscoting in basement
  • big framed whiteboard for the home office
  • computer hutch for the kitchen
  • matching nightstands for the master bedroom
  • built-in cabinets and shelves for the master bedroom
  • floor-to-ceiling bookshelves for the den
  • window bench in the guest room
  • bed frame and headboard for the guest room
  • storage benches in the mudroom 
  • storage shelves for dumbbells in the workout room
  • built-in storage for the laundry room
  • tool storage shelves and boxes in the workshop

So, what are the chances of any of these projects actually getting built, whether in your house or mine? 

Pretty darn good.  Even if your desire level is way higher than your budget.  

Continue reading "The (Kreg) Jig is Up! How you can start building furniture now, even if you're a noob." »

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Mag's Books

  • : We're All In This Together

    We're All In This Together
    Based on four years of interviews with Steve Smith, Mag's unconventional biography reveals the personal stories, sorrows and joys that continue to inspire the man behind the Red Green legacy.

  • : How Hard Can It Be?

    How Hard Can It Be?
    Mag's quirky and entertaining book of home improvement projects for beginners.

Nota Bene

  • It’s never too late to be who you might have been. - George Eliot (1819-1880)
  • Simplicity of character is the natural result of profound thought. - My fortune cookie