Tag Archives: diy

Data Nerd: Mysa Smart Thermostats

With BC Hydro currently offering big rebates for smart thermostats, and winter on the way, I thought it would be a good time to upgrade our retro thermostats.

Mysa (a Canadian company based in Newfoundland) creates the world’s best smart thermostats for electric baseboard heating. I ordered 5 of them online and got to work installing them.

Mysa Installation

I wish I could say it was easy to install them. It almost was. But I ran into problems trying to figure out how to wire the ones on the main floor which had an extra wire connecting to the next unit. It was a lot of trial-and-error connecting wires and then running upstairs to turn back on the breaker. Luckily the units are well constructed and even though I kept hooking up the wrong wires, they never exploded on me.

Old Thermostat

Before: Our old school thermostats.

Mysa Happy

After: Our happy, internet-enabled thermostats.

Now I have a lot more data to nerd over, more control over our heating schedule, and the ability to control the temperature remotely from my phone. I love it.

Mysa App Mysa Energy Monitoring Mysa Sensor Data

I still have some scheduling optimization to do, but the biggest take away so far is that our humidity levels are way too high. I might have to find a smart dehumidifier next…

Adams Peanut Butter Shelves

Thanks to a healthy peanut butter addiction (I go through a kilogram every 2 weeks), I’ve been steadily acquiring large Adams peanut butter jars that are perfect for storing staples like beans, nuts, and flour. The only problem is our small kitchen doesn’t have enough storage space to fit them all.

Like her father

I’ve looked for shelving units online that would fit our jars but have never found any. Luckily my father is a talented carpenter (you can see his other work here) and I sent him the dimensions for the shelves I wanted – wide enough for 8 jars with a 1/2 inch lip around the edge to make sure the jars stay on.

New Shelves New Shelves New Shelves

Now we have extra space for 32 easily-accessible jars. They’re perfect for refilling at Nada, our local zero-waste grocery store.

New Shelves

Merry Christmas 2016

Astrid's 1st Christmas Photo Shoot

Merry Christmas to everyone, from our family to yours. We’re looking forward to spending a quiet Christmas morning with our darling daughter, eating latkes, and opening a few presents. No big showing from Santa here.

Christmas Ornaments

Our family stopped giving presents a few years ago, and I’m grateful for that. Only the kids get something small. The adults in my mother’s extended family do a homemade gift exchange – this year the theme was painting or drawing. Emily and I painted ornaments, and liked them so much we made a few extra for our own tree.

Christmas with Vancouver Family Ukrainian Christmas Eve Dinner

We had our Vancouver family over for a Ukrainian Christmas Eve feast – complete with kutya, borscht, perogies, vegan sour cream, cabbage rolls, beans, mushroom gravy, creamed kale, bread, pickles, and a fruitcake for dessert. Almost all of the food was home-made and vegan (except the perogies which we bought at the farmer’s market and the kutya which has honey), and it all tasted delicious. Ariella even braided a fabulous challah that was glazed with maple syrup and coconut oil. Astrid got to try her first spoonful of borscht and eat some of the sweet potato perogy filling, and I think she liked it.

It wasn’t a purely traditional Ukrainian meal, more of a fusion of cultures to match our family. We started eating at 3:30 instead of waiting for the first star, so the little ones could get to bed. And we lit a menorah to celebrate the start of Hanukkah.

Astrid's 1st Christmas Photo Shoot

Homemade Christmas Gifts 2013

Our homemade gifts for friends and family this Christmas.
DIY Garden Fork Labels
Forked Herb Garden Labels – really easy to make and they look cool. The hardest part was finding enough corks and writing the labels (I hope they don’t smudge in the rain).

Making Body Butter Whipping the Body Butter DIY Organic Body Butter
Organic Body Butter – There’s a store in Vancouver, The Soap Dispensary, that sells bulk oils and butters. I roughly followed the recipe here, using some different ingredients but keeping a 3-1 solid to liquid ratio.

DIY Duct Tape Wallet DIY Duct Tape Bows
Duct Tape Wallet and Bows – Emily made these for my cousin and his family.

Snow Globe Diorama DIY Soap Snow Globe DIY Painting
Soap Snow Globe – Another Emily creation. She turned a jar into a snow globe with soap, glitter, and plastic figurines. She also made a geometric painting.

Blender + Mason Jar = Magic Bullet

Vintage Osterizer DIY Magic Bullet

You can turn a blender into a DIY magic bullet with only a Mason jar. Who knew and why didn’t they tell me sooner? This simple hack blew my mind! It’s perfect for smoothies.

My vintage Osterizer was already my most prized possession. I inherited it from my grandmother and it’s taken it’s share of abuse, but it still works great even though it’s probably close to 50 years old. Now it’s even more awesome.

Homemade Energy Gel

Homemade Energy Gel
I’m experimenting with making my own energy gel as part of my marathon training. I need something to prevent me from hitting the wall (aka bonking) on my long runs. The commercial gels contain maltodextrin, fructose, and a bunch of chemicals that are hard to pronounce. I wanted something healthier that doesn’t make me want to gag.

I’m taking inspiration from the Thrive Diet and trying to make my own. I found a few recipes online (here and here), but I’ve been creating my own version.

Here’s V2 of my recipe.


  • 5 medjool dates
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup dulse
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp agave
  • 1 tsp molasses
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 2 tbsp papaya
  • 1 tsp maca powder


  1. Soak the dates in water for a few hours.
  2. Mix the soaked dates with the other ingredients in a food processor until smooth.
  3. Add the energy gel into two large (3 oz) GoToobs.
  4. Consume the gels on your workout. 6 oz was more than enough for a 3 hour run.

Soaking Dates Energy Gel in GoToobs


  • The dates, honey, agave, molasses, and fruit provide clean burning carbohydrates with varying glycemic index (GI) values between 15 and 62.
  • The dulse provides sodium and the banana provides potassium, to replace the electrolytes I sweat out. The papaya is there to aid digestion.
  • The lemon juice is mostly for flavour, but it also helps to clear out lactic acid.
  • The maca gives an additional energy boost.
  • The coconut oil is for taste and energy.

The coconut oil is the most confusing ingredient. I put 1/4 cup in my first batch and only 1 tbsp in my second. I added it because Brendan Brazier uses it in his energy gels, but I couldn’t figure out why. The fat you burn running is already stored in your body, not recently consumed. Then I read this on the Thrive Staple Foods List:

Medium-chain triglycerides in coconut burn like a carbohydrate, offering immediate energy.

Making Sauerkraut

Homemade SauerkrautSauerkraut is all the rage with nutritionists these days for its probiotic characteristics that aid in digestion. Emily was at a workshop on “Optimizing Your Plant-Based Diet” last week where, among other things, they encouraged people to eat homemade sauerkraut. It sounded like a fun experiment, so we gave it a go. We’ve made pickled vegetables before (cucumbers, beets, etc.) but never fermented anything.

It was really easy. We followed the instructions my Baba gave me and combined with ones I found on the internet.

  1. Shred cabbage thinly.
  2. Layer in a bowl.
  3. As you add each layer, add salt and knead the cabbage together. This will compresses it and release water.
  4. Mix in other veggies. We added carrots and garlic. The carrots were good and the garlic added flavour but didn’t soften enough to eat on its own. Baba suggested onion and pickling spices in a cheesecloth.
  5. When you’re done kneading the cabbage, you should have a good amount of water in the bowl. If not, keep kneading.
  6. Put a plate over the ‘kraut’ and place something heavy on top of it (we used a case of cat food). The water level should rise above the plate.
  7. Set it aside to ferment for a few days. We left ours on the counter, which gave off a nice, eastern European aroma. You can put it in the fridge. The temperature it ferments at will affect the taste (sweetness vs sourness).
  8. After 4 days ours was ready to eat. We packed it into jars and put it in the fridge.

Compressing the KrautThe end product tastes pretty good. Sweeter than the sauerkraut you buy in stores and with more texture.

Homemade Christmas Gifts

My homemade gift exchange presents turned out well this year.

Finished Advent Calendar
I made a wooden advent calendar that doubles as a picture frame for my friend Christina. I found an image online for inspiration, and then figured out how to make it myself. I borrowed a mitre saw from the Vancouver Tool Library and it made quick work of the cutting, but I still hand to nail all the little pieces together by hand. There was probably an easier way. I also made all the boxes (with Emily’s help) by cutting and folding pieces of paper. More tedious work, but it looked sharp when done.

Battering Ram Bike Dining Room Work Bench Power Tools Assembling the Advent Calendar Advent Calendar Frame Advent Calendar with Boxes

For my cousin, I made a camping stool following the instructions on Design Sponge. It was relatively easy and quick to make. The first time I sat on it the wood and bolts creaked so loudly that I was sure it would snap, but it did hold my weight. Emily made a combination apron/tool belt for my Home Maker father with a matching bandana for Hanna – a creative and handy gift.
DIY Camping Stool Homemaker Apron/Tool Belt

Mini Maker Faire Vancouver 2011

Mondo SpirePimped Out BikeBook ArtFreaking Huge Tricycle Burning Man StickersCrafting
Spider BikeFlowery PinOld Apple ComputersTrying to UnicycleFlaming TruckDaughter of Tron

Some really interesting projects at the Mini Maker Faire this weekend. There were lots of hands on exhibits and more kids then I expected. The highlights:

  • giant robotic creations
  • art cars from Burning Man
  • unicycles
  • steam punk
  • DIY robotic kits
  • crafts
  • street food vendors (the maturing of Vancouver’s street food scene is starting to show at festivals)

Home-made Christmas Gifts

Home-made gifts are becoming a common Christmas tradition for me – my family, my friends, and Emily’s family have all independently decided to replace ‘gift giving’ with ‘gift making’. I think it’s a positive change. I really don’t like giving and receiving more ‘stuff’, but unfortunately home-made gifts expose my limited craftiness and imagination.

This year I managed to find a few projects that even I could handle. I’m happy with how all of them turned out, but in every case there were lessons I learned and things I would change if I had to make them again.

Giant Jenga
You Take a Board from the Middle Giant Jenga
I’ve seen people playing Giant Jenga at Kits Beach, and thought it would be a fun game to make. I couldn’t find any instructions online, so I had to make it up myself. After I created a design, it was a pretty easy project to do. I just cut a lot of wood (I borrowed a circular saw) and then sanded down all the edges – time consuming, but easy.

The design I chose was using 2×3’s cut long enough so that 4-wide they formed a square (I cut each piece 265mm long). It looks good, but it’s too stable. With 4 pieces per level, you only ever remove one or two, so there are always at least 2 blocks keeping it steady – it would have been better with 3 per level. I would also cut down on the the total number of pieces. My Giant Jenga had 72 pieces over 18 levels, which means the starting tower was 3 feet tall. It looks impressive, but becomes almost dangerous as it grows (and with a stable 4-piece base it really grows). It is also really heavy and hard to transport.

If I had to do it again, I would use 2×4’s and put 3 blocks per level (with each piece 275mm long), and made it shorter. With six 8-foot 2×4’s you could cut 48 blocks, enough for a tower 16 rows high.

Bottle Lights
Bottle Lights Bottle Drilling
I stole this idea from Christina, and used the directions on this site. Following Christina’s advice, I made sure I bought LED lights that wouldn’t get hot. I chose a green Perrier bottle that had a nice shape to it, and then used a glass bit to drill a hole in the corner, then stuffed my lights in. The end result was an impressive looking Christmas ornament, with minimal craftiness required.

If I had to do it again, I would use multi-coloured lights. I chose white LEDs because I thought the dark green glass would obscure any colours, but the LEDs really shone through. I would also make the hole a little bit bigger. You need space to jam a light bulb, plus 6 wires (3 heading in each direction). I had a tough time jamming all the lights in.

Chocolate Covered Fruit
Chocolate Covered Dried Fruit Gift of Chocolate Covered Fruit
I stole this idea from Taryn. I dipped different dried fruits into chocolate, and then cooled them in the freezer. They were surprisingly tasty. Dried mango, apple, pineapple, apricots, bananas, and candied ginger really worked well.

The only mistake I made was to use unsweetened, 100% cacao baking chocolate. It was too bitter and I needed to add sugar. Next time I would use a bitter-sweet chocolate.

West-Coast Hippie Granola
West Coast Hippie Granola
When you’re scrambling for ideas, nothing is more effective then food. I’ve made this granola recipe (from Momentum magazine) before, and really liked it.

Infused Oils
Infused Oils
Emily had the idea of infusing oils for some of our friends. We found some nice jars and infused canola oil with chipotle peppers, ancho chillies, and rosemary. The pepper ones turned out well, but the rosemary started to mold after a few weeks. Luckily we hadn’t given it away as a gift yet.