back in action/back inaction

Last fall (on Gwen’s birthday actually) I got up bright and early and went over to the hospital to have an MRI to try and discover the cause of my chronic and persistent back pain. This was right around the time when our family doctor was moving to a new office, and I guess in the confusion the staff at the old clinic missed calling me about the results. I finally saw my doctor yesterday morning and it turns out I have degenerative disc disease.

This is actually a really common ailment that a lot of people have, especially older people, but it’s something I’ve actually been dealing with since I injured my back at 18, over two decades ago. Since then I’m been living with pain that has continued to worsen, and is now at the point where it’s negatively affecting almost every aspect of my life (for example, I can’t lean forward far enough over the sink to properly brush my teeth so I had TWO cavities at my last dentist appointment!). At the time when I originally hurt my back the doctor I saw was INCREDIBLY dismissive of me and since then I’ve been anxious about seeking help and reluctant to do so. Like I’ve tried things to get some relief, but I never knew the cause or the name of what was hurting me.

Now that I have a diagnosis and a treatment plan I actually feel really positively about it, and hopeful that I can finally a start living more normally & comfortably in my own body. It’s a relief just knowing, you know? Although it is becoming a little frustrating having all these unrelated health problems that each on their own would be manageable, but combined tend to ruin my life. Anyway, I’ve started medication for the pain and my doctor is referring me to both the spine clinic and a pain management specialist, so things are already looking up.

pink nails

Now that she has quit sucking her thumb (thanks to Dr Thumb) Gwen can have her fingernails painted. For her first manicure she chose this bright purpley-pink with pink and purple glitter. Sounds about right.

Pannuts (Pancake Donuts)

Pancakes x mini donuts: I’ve had this idea in my head for about a million years, and tbh I don’t know why I didn’t try it out sooner! It’s so easy, all you need is boxed pancake mix and a waffle iron-style mini donut maker and you, too, can make delicious, bite-sized pannuts! My whole family loved these, the little kids especially. The basic “recipe” and instructions are below, with copious notes as well.

Pannuts (Pancake Donuts)
yield: 30 mini pannuts

– complete extra fluffy pancake mix
– water
– vegetable oil or non-stick cooking spray
– powdered sugar, maple syrup, fruit, chocolate, etc for serving

1. Mix your pancake batter according to the package directions (typically 1 cup of batter and 2/3 to 3/4 cups water). Using a whisk, stir until it is almost completely lump-free, then allow it to rest for five minutes while your mini donut machine heats up.

2. Oil the cavities of your donut machine. Pour approximately 1 tablespoon of batter into each cavity, filling to the top, and cook for 3-4 minutes.

3. Using a small wooden or silicone spoon remove pannuts from the machine, and repeat steps 2-3 until all your batter is used up. Serve each batch immediately with powdered sugar, maple syrup, fruit or chocolate.

Notes on Batter
You want a batter that produces a thick, fluffy pancake; if you use a flatter batter (ha ha) it won’t rise enough inside the machine and the top of your pannuts won’t touch the upper cooking surface to get that nice golden colour. I didn’t want to waste “real” ingredients on this experiment so rather than make a batter from scratch I used a boxed “extra fluffy” buttermilk pancake mix that I knew from experience would rise enough, but if you have a go-to recipe for fluffy pancakes feel free to use that.

Notes on Mini Donut Makers
The one I have is a six-cavity donut maker made by SmartPlanet (similar to this) but there are lots of different brands/models available with four, six, seven or even twelve cavities! I don’t have personal experience with any of these other models but I feel like they probably all work the same.

Notes on Oil
Some people don’t like to use non-stick spray on these machines because it is messy and hard to clean up. I am of the opinion that it is easier to use the spray, but vegetable oil wiped on with a paper towel works just as well. Use whichever product/method you prefer.

Notes on Cooking Time & Quantity
I first did a single test donut with 3 minutes cook time, which came out slightly underdone. I increased the time to 4 minutes and that was perfect with my machine and batter combination. I encourage you to test with your machine and batter as the time required may be different. It’s also a good idea to test how much batter you need to fill the donut cavities; a different machine might have larger or smaller cavities that require more or less batter. Depending on this your final pannut yield may vary.

play kitchen remodel reveal

please ignore the two-tone paint job on the walls, I haven’t finished repainting the playroom yet! The space behind the kitchen on the right is where the minicribs for the daycare kids will be stored when not in use.

Last spring when we were doing a big apartment purge in preparation for having new floors installed, one of the things I got rid of was my old blue retro-style play kitchen from KidKraft. Long time readers will know I’d had that thing forever, and it was pretty much the last one they made before they redesigned the door hinges- mine were always falling off. It was definitely time to replace it, but I wanted something different so it took some time.

clear plastic bins from InterDesign; play food & dishes mostly Ikea, Melissa & Doug, and Green Toys

I decided that a corner kitchen would be a better fit; since I rearranged the apartment I have a large playroom space and a bigger kitchen would accommodate more children, as well as provide plenty of storage for all the play food and dishes. I also wanted it to look nice, and so I spent a lot of time browsing blogger playroom tours, haha! I really fell in love with the white corner kitchen I saw here on Hello Baby Brown but unfortunately that colourway was discontinued (I emailed KidKraft to ask) and the other one available for that model was a dark black-brown colour that wasn’t what I wanted.

Early on in my search I added this white & pink corner kitchen to my wishlist, even though I hated the pink, because if push came to shove I thought I could do some light play kitchen remodelling. Then on Black Friday it went deeply on sale and push really did come to shove! I had to wait until I had some time off work to get started so this was my big project over winter break.

photo from KidKraft

This is not quite a Do-It-Yourself, more like a I-Did-This-And-You-Could-Too. I would have liked to show everything step by step but most of the work was done in the evenings when it was too dark to take decent pictures (I could barely take them even now!), however it’s all fairly straightforward. I basically only changed four things:

– the pink and white backsplash
– the pink, white and silver doors and front panels
– the pink and silver hardware
– the pink and white curtains

This may seem like quite a lot but the entire frame of the kitchen was plain white so what I changed was mostly just the details.

The Backsplash

The utensil holder is really a toothbrush cup I picked up at Homesense.

This was the first thing I tackled and was probably also the easiest and fastest to do. I used the same peel & stick subway tiles I put up in my real kitchen. I’d hoped there were enough pieces leftover to complete this project but most of what I had was fairly small scraps so I ended up ordering three more tiles, which turned out to be more than enough. I just measured carefully, cut the tiles to size and stuck them in place.

As luck would have it they were just one dollar each from Home Depot with free shipping so this was also very cost-effective!

The Doors

It took me a while to decide which of these doors to paint. The fridge & freezer were white, the microwave and washer were pink and the oven was silver. Only the pink was truly yuck to me, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to easily match the silver or white finish with paint so in the end I went with a medium grey (quelle surprise) for all the doors, the panels adjacent to the oven and microwave, and the two arched pieces that go over the counter (these were also pink).

The pink pieces I painted both sides, but the white and silver I only painted the front to save myself a little time. I removed as much of the hardware as I could, including the clear plastic windows in the microwave and oven doors, and taped around those pieces I couldn’t remove. The paint I used was BeautiTone Cabinet and Furniture Paint in Metropolis Mood. The owner of my local hardware store recommended this paint and OH MY GOD I LOVE IT. It went on beautifully and smoothly with a mini foam roller and dried to such a nice finish that I’m starting to believe I could use it on my real kitchen cabinets (the refinishing of which I know would be an act of pure hubris).

So far it’s proven very durable even with how rough toddlers play; there’s one small scratch in one of the arches but I think that happened when I was moving the pieces around before they were fully cured, and it will be easy to touch up. I myself accidentally slammed the wooden edge of a WheelyBug ride-on toy into the front of the oven and the grey paint wasn’t damaged at all while the original white finish on the frame chipped! You can see it in the pic above. I definitely recommend this paint.

The Hardware

The wooden crates the dishes are stored in were the packaging from the musical instruments I bought last month.

The hardware included the door handles, the frame on the chalkboard, the oven knobs, the sink, faucet and stovetop burners, a holder for the included toy phone and the round door of the washer. Now, most of these pieces were silver, which I had no problem with, BUT the handle and knobs for the oven, as well as the chalkboard frame were pink (the toy phone that came with this kitchen is also pink, but I left it as is and gave it to Gwen to cover in Peppa Pig stickers).

I’d planned to spray paint all of these, but I realized the the moving parts on the faucet and the opening mechanism for the washer door would make that impractical. So I decided to leave the silver pieces as they were and spray only the pink pieces, but my friend Lillian clued me in to a product called RUB N BUFF.

This is basically a kind of wax with metallic pigment in it that you rub on with your fingers and then buff with a cloth. After a short search I found some locally at an art supply store for about $8 and picked up a tube in my chosen colour, Gold Leaf) and got to rubbin and buffin. I wore latex gloves for the rubbing and used some unused, leftover stain-application cloths for the buffing. The pieces had different finishes so I had some mixed results (the knobs for the stovetop in particular turned out quite patchy), but overall I’m very happy with it, especially as I got the best coverage on the pink pieces which were the main problem for me.

There were a few pieces of hardware I didn’t want gold: the phone holder, the sink, and the inner ring of the washer door I wanted to be a gloss white and the stove burners a gloss black. These I decided to spray paint and BOY HOWDY WAS IT A MESS. I don’t know why I always think spraypainting things will go well for me but it’s honestly always a disaster. I don’t know of the problem this time was the paint I chose (Krylon Fusion for Plastic) or the finish on the pieces, but the paint pooled weirdly and left clustery round patches uncovered. I had to do about a billion coats to get full coverage, which took days. In the end the result was just okay; the pieces have a bit of a weird texture to them, but it’s not very noticeable except for on the burners, and metal burners for a real gas stove have a bit of texture anyway so I think it’s fine..

The Curtains

Last but not least. These were easy, I used a scrap I had leftover from hemming some Ikea curtains (unfortunately discontinued but similar here) for the hallway closets. Using the original pink & white curtains as a rough pattern I cut two pieces of fabric in the size I needed. Since two sides of each piece were already hemmed, I just hemmed the other two sides, forming a channel for the curtain rod at the tops, using stitch witchery iron-on hemming tape.

The washer makes excellent bouncy ball storage.

So there you have it! The only part that’s technically not done is replacing the painted-over pretend buttons & displays for the appliances. The stove top still has on/off displays next to the knobs (with a little rogue pink even!) but everything else is gone. I scanned the pieces with the controls before I painted them so I could redesign them the way I want. I’ll get around to that eventually, but in the meantime the blank panels don’t seem to be detracting from the enjoyment the kids are getting from the new kitchen!

when it rains

Taylor and I bought a new dishwasher in mid-December but when the technician came (not until last week) to install it he found MOLD inside. This is not something you can fix (the mold is apparently deep, deep in the machine where you can’t see the majority of it or more importantly, clean it out) so now we’re trying to have the dang thing picked up and get refunded the not-insigificant amount of money we spent. It’s been frustrating and disappointing, as we’ve needed a new dishwasher for a long time and spent over a year researching before deciding on one what almost every review site has declared the best brand. When I found the exact model I wanted on sale $500 off it seemed too good to be true and GUESS WHAT, IT WAS. It’s been nothing but an expensive, time-wasting hassle and if I could I’d say FORGET IT to the dishwasher and put in a wine fridge instead.

Then in the middle of dealing with this I found out that Nicky’s SkipHop Tuo high chair (which I already have problems with) was recalled! So now I have to scramble to find a temporary high chair to use while I wait for my replacement to arrive. (I’ve updated my review post with regards to the recall so click here to find out if you have a Tuo that needs replacing).

In addition to this, I’ve been dealing with this frustrating tax problem for close to a year now that is honestly driving me crazy. It was my fault in the first place, like I messed up, but I’ve done everything I can to try to resolve it and it’s just dragging on forever! Plus every time a new person becomes involved it’s like they start the whole process from the beginning again and I get scary letters threatening legal action if I don’t immediately pay $30,000 (which I swear I don’t actually owe) which is… not ideal.

These things on top of our regular busy life and my tedious health woes are really overwhelming, but I’m honestly trying to stay positive and optimistic about them all. I’ve done my part (by which I mean MADE SO MANY PHONE CALLS), now it’s time for the world to do its!