February 22, 2011

Want to learn new skills? Help us build a house this summer for @HabitatToronto!

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Tomorrow night is our kick-off party for the Habitat for Humanity 2011 WomenBuild!  Please join me, Jennifer Valentyne and Monika Schnarre Wednesday February 23rd at 5:00 if you're available and want to help create a hand-built house for a family in need.

Quick factoids:

  • The Women Build will be held for 4 days, May 5th to 8th ending on Mother’s Day
  • This is the 2nd Women Build event in Toronto
  • Women Builds are held in over 30 countries around the world
  • We expect over 400 women to build with us during the 4-day build
  • The build site is at 4572 Kingston Road, a 29 townhome development
  • We hope to dedicate 2 blocks of homes (12 townhomes) on May 8th immediately after the build (key presenting ceremony to the families)
  • No build experience is necessary to build with us!  Volunteers will be led by experienced crew leaders who will provide instruction and guidance.  Hard hats, boots, tools etc will be provided on-site.
  • Women must be 16 years of age or older to participate in the build
  • The Women Build is a fundraising event where each participant is asked to raise a minimum of $500 pp to build during the Women Build.  Fundraising goal including sponsorships = $400,000

Really hope to see you at the kick-off party and on the build!

November 15, 2010

ToolGirl Segments on REAL LIFE - 11/15 - 11/26 2010

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Real Life airs on CTS in Canada every day at 3:30 pm.  Here are the upcoming 'ToolGirl Bytes' segments for those who've been asking...


Week of November 15, 2010

Wednesday, November 17  - 'Pest in Peace' - Critter-proofing your dryer vent

Thursday, November 18  - 'The Eyes Have It' - The latest in safety gear

Friday, November 19  - 'Froth with Difficulty' - Heating and frothing milk without the mess


Week of November 22, 2010

Monday, November 22 - 'Cuppy Love' - Eco-friendly coffee-makers

Tuesday, November 23 - 'Glassy Move'  - Washing windows like a pro

Friday, November 26 - 'Bagging Rights' - Soft-sided toolbags


November 07, 2010

Of Wood and Dinner


Great conversation and laughs at dinner last night with the boys from The Woodworking Tools and Renovations Show at the best Mexican restaurant in Canada - Las Palapas in Saskatoon.  That's Ryan Shervill on the far left, then Gord Graff, me and Daniel, and Michael Kampen.  Truly great guys.  Next stop, Winnipeg. 

October 26, 2010

Tanner, Who Wishes


In December I'm going to Kamloops, B.C., to help renovate the home of a boy I've never met. 

I found out about this boy through his aunt, Catherine Connors, who has been raising money to help her nephew, Tanner. 

Tanner has Duchenne's muscular dystrophy*, which makes his muscles weaker and weaker as he grows older. 

He's only 10, but he knows that kids with this genetic condition don't live very long.  There is no treatment for Duchenne's muscular dystrophy and it is 100% fatal.

So Tanner made a life list of his most important wishes - boy things, like riding on a train or being a cowboy for a day - but his biggest wish is to die at home instead of in a hospital.

Surely, that wish is possible.

Tanner needs round-the-clock care and most of that responsibility rides on the slender shoulders of his mother.  His needs require a ton of energy and focus and at this point, Tanner's mum, Chrissie, is running on little more than adrenaline and love. 

If we can convert Tanner's unfinished basement into a space suitable for a live-in caregiver, who can help monitor Tanner's condition (and relieve his mother's 24-hour vigilance), then Tanner's wish is very fulfillable.

It means we need to ask for donations - lumber, tools, air transport and hotel for family and volunteer crew members, storage bins, furniture, finishes, bathroom fixtures, flooring. 

Daniel and I have offered to help with construction and to teach inexperienced volunteers how to use power tools, frame walls and hang sheetrock.  And I also offered to pull together donations of supplies and equipment (yes I did - even though I've always been freakishly nervous about asking for anything; I'm over that).

So while we were out west last week, Daniel and I drove to Kamloops to meet Tanner and make plans with Catherine and Chrissie.   

Tanner wasn't there.  He'd been admitted to hospital that morning with signs of an infection. And although Chrissie and Catherine were making the best of Tanner's sudden hospitalization, their anxiety was palpable. 

We cranked into planning mode, as humans do when they're holding the unknown at bay.  We made lists. Daniel took pictures of the basement for reference and planning. 


I also found out from Catherine and Chrissie that several wish-building heroes have already stepped forward, notably Naomi, the mother of one of Tanner's classmates, who offered to measure and draft the proposed changes to the basement using her computer design  skills.  And Naomi's family, who owns the truss-building company in Kamloops that will donate our lumber.

Stanley, Black and Decker and DeWALT have already offered to contribute the construction tools we'll need.  I think every supplier I'm going to ask will want to participate.  I'll find out when I start making phone calls this week for all of the stuff we need. 

If you have contacts at a company that may want to contribute any of the following materials, please contact me directly:  mag at toolgirldotcom ---

  • Drywall
  • Paint
  • Trim
  • Laminate flooring
  • Insulation
  • Bathtub, toilet and sink
  • Lighting
  • Plumbing fixtures
  • Queen-sized bed frame
  • Queen mattress
  • Toaster oven
  • Coffee maker

I'll post weekly updates on the companies and people who are helping make Tanner's biggest wish come true. Although I haven't met him yet, I have a feeling about Tanner.  I think he's a huge and unforgettable soul with a great deal to teach in the time he has left.

*Tanner's muscular dystrophy is caused by a problem with the gene that makes a protein called dystrophin. This protein helps muscle cells keep their shape and strength. Without it, muscles break down and a person gradually becomes weaker. DMD affects boys. Symptoms usually start between ages 2 and 6. By age 10 or 12, kids with DMD often need to use a wheelchair. The heart may also be affected, and people with DMD need to be followed closely by a lung and heart specialist. Over time, even the muscles that control breathing get weaker, and a person might need a ventilator to breathe. People with DMD usually do not survive beyond their late teens or early adulthood.

October 25, 2010

Mag's Segments on REAL LIFE This Week

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Mag's fun stuff coming up on Real Life At Home this week!

Monday: Conjoined Tin - Adding a quick tin backsplash to your kitchen: This is so easy you'll be done by noon (step-by-step instructions here)

Wednesday: Slide Remarks – Moving heavy objects by sliding them on high-tech polyethylene strips: The wheelbarrow and handcart have a new cousin who's smarter and has a slimmer figure

Friday: Glitz 'n Hammer - How to choose a hammer:  One of the questions beginners often have about hand tools is what type of hammer to buy, so this covers new developments in hammer evolution.

But wait, there's more!

More great stuff on Real Life this week with expert guests and your congenial hosts, Sharon Caddy and Tanya Prokomenko...

  • How to Allergy-Proof Your Home
  • Secrets to Getting the Right Shapewear (I don't even know what shapewear is but I think I must get some)
  • Gadgets for Your Home Office
  • Changing Your Tire at Roadside


October 04, 2010

The Woodworking Tools & Renovations show


I'm starting to pack my tools for 5 Ladies' Nights across Canada starting Friday October 15th in Surrey, B.C. - Maybe you can come out (you don't have to be a lady - I hardly ever am); Plus I'm giving away tons of free gifts to attendees because I want to be Canada's Ellen. You could go home with free silk bedding from SmartSilk, free household products from Planet People, or free tools from Ryobi and Ridgid

August 12, 2010

First Day of Shooting with the 'Real Life' Crew


We're halfway through our first shoot day for Real Life with Sharon Caddy.  As you can see, we're out standing in our field. 

This shot is an intro to a segment called 'Reserved Sparking', a beginner's guide to changing a lawnmower spark plug.

The weather's great and the crew (Greg and David) are way more efficient than me but I'm trying to lower their standards. 

March 04, 2010

Canadian Home Workshop Show is This Weekend!

It's my favourite time of year.  I'm building stuff, experimenting with finishes, learning to weld, turning utensils into coat racks, sketching outlandish projects that take way too long to make but I do it anyway.  Because it's fun.  When's the last time you built something just for the heck of it?  It just doesn't get better, does it?

If you can make it to the show I'm there Friday and Sunday at 12:30 and 3:00 on the DIY stage. 

Here's a sneak peek at some of my projects for beginners:

A key rack and cellphone dock made from Montana Ghostwood (lumber harvested from trees killed by beetles and forest fires)...


A lampshade made from used plastic bags...


A coat rack made from pre-finished wainscoting that's chip-carved and forked up with my new micro-forging process...


And lots more fun stuff including USB flash drives made from lilac twigs, rustic shutters, a kick-butt lap desk, and staining wood with all-natural dyes (including tea, vinegar and tobacco).

Hope to see you there! 

January 04, 2010

So Many Questions

I've been answering lots of questions over the years but only one person benefits at a time. 

So I'm trying out this new service that lets me answer any question so everyone can see it.  Whether you're asking about Avonlea, woodworking, tools or my biography of Red Green, let 'er rip.  You have to type your question into the box below to enable me to answer it at FormSpring.  Thanks.

You can see all of the questions and answers at this location:

December 05, 2009

ToolGirl in the News Thanks to Journalist Alex Newman


Such a nice article in The Star today.  Thanks to Alex Newman for pulling so many crazy details together and making me sound like I have a coherent plan in life!


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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