Planning the Workshop – Part 1: The Journey

Planning the Workshop - Part 1: The Journey

What makes the perfect workshop? Is it a fully stocked dedicated work area with all the name brand tools? Is it a toolbox with the basics that you take out on the kitchen table on occasion? Or is it the knowledge and assorted tools acquired over many years?

Growing up, I was always around tools of some sort in what I would call “makeshift” workshops. Whether it was in my family’s garage which my dad had all the essentials (and then some) or in my Pépère’s garage which had just that much more. We made do with what we had and that is where we learned how to be resourceful, create, tinker and fix things.

Building a Knowledge Foundation – Learning from my Dad

For as long as I can remember my dad was always fixing something rather then discarding it for something new and shiny. I would say that this was possible due to the work space he created in our double car garage (and yes, it did house our family vehicles) and the resourcefulness he learned through his rural upbringing.

I can safely say that my ability to work with devices and learn how to use them is based on the foundation that I learned from my dad from an early age and will be forever thankful for that.

Building the Tool Chest – The Basics

When Christine and I got married, all we had were what I would call the basics:

Screwdrivers, Pliers, Socket Set and Hammer

  • Toolbox
  • Hammer
  • Screw Drivers
  • Socket Set
  • Pliers
  • Measuring Tape
  • A few other odds and ends.

These apparatuses serviced us well for the first few years of marriage. We could easily store them in our condos and they provided us with the ability to assemble furniture easily, hang picture frames and do the odd necessary repairs.

Expanding the Tool Chest

Once we moved into our house in Calgary, we quickly realized that we were going to need more “whatchamacallits” to help service this new-to-us home. We had so many projects on our list, each requiring one or more new tools we didn’t have to complete them. Now we had the space to store more and a reason to expand our collection, but where to start?

An endless budget wasn’t in the cards, so we needed to be careful what we bought. Decisions to buy tools that would serve us not just for the current project but also future projects were made a priority. We also waited for them to go on sale rather then paying full price when buying new and borrowed from family when possible. If renting was an option for specialty tools and more cost effective then buying, we rented.

Toolsets for painting, demolition and woodworking were needed to complete our projects. Here’s a list of a few we acquired at this stage of our journey:

Chisel Set

Pry Bar Set

  • Hand Saw
  • Circular Saw
  • Corded and Cordless Power Drill
  • Angle Drill Adapter
  • Pry Bar
  • Wrecking Bar
  • Orbital Sander
  • Level and Speed Square
  • Earth Tamper
  • Drill Bits and Auger Bits
  • Various Shovels and Yard tools
Applying Knowledge – Learning by Trying and Doing

Trained as a Mechanical Engineer, I love to learn new things and the art of solving problems. That is what makes me tick. So, when it came time to find a solution for fitting three children in two bedrooms my problem-solving skills kicked into high gear. Will the two older kids share a bed, will they have each a single bed or should it be bunk beds? When looking at the room size, bunk beds were the right solution for us. Our research was getting us nowhere for the budget we had set aside and the quality we wanted, especially considering our children’s safety.

Solution: I decided to design them myself with a lot of research. I made up hand drawn plans so I could show Christine what they would look like before going too far. Once we had the general direction agreed upon, I proceeded with cost estimates, cut lists and hardware and material selection. The build process was a huge learning experience, especially when it came to following my own designs (which I did change throughout the build), making effective use of the workshop I had setup and utilizing the tools I had.

Looking back at this project, here is what I’ve learned:

  • Gather your research information and determine which is accurate (not all sources are to be trusted) and apply it to your design and/or build process.
  • Determine what tools you have and compare to what tools will be required to complete the project. (I ended up buying a router and chisels for this project… The router being less useful once I got into the build process.)
  • Determine the logistics of the build. (I had to constantly adjust my workspace as I had to share it with our vehicle.)
  • Determine whether you can build the project in your workshop and move it or will you need to reassemble it elsewhere. (I needed to build the bunk beds in the garage, disassemble them and reassemble in the upstairs bedroom. This required the ability to disassemble the beds.)

Single Twin Top Bunk with Double Bottom Bunk - In ProgressBunk Beds Complete with Staircase and Additional PlatformToddler Demonstrating Safe use of Staircase and Handrail

Expanding Knowledge – YouTube, Google, Blogs, Etc.

Throughout my journey I’ve used different ways to expand my knowledge. I’ve asked my dad for advice on what worked for him and I’ve used online resources and platforms like YouTube and Blogs. You may choose to find a mentor and learn from them or you may simply want to learn from books (yes, they still exist!). Below is a list of the YouTube Channels (all active at the time of writing this post) that I’ve found very helpful, knowledgeable and entertaining in helping get to the next level of my woodworking hobby/future business.

To Summarize

Bunk Beds second edition with Two Twin Top and One Double BottomThere is nothing more satisfying then encountering a problem, researching solutions to the problem and then solving it without having to hire someone to do it for you. Gaining a good solid foundation on how to work with tools and within a workspace is essential. In my case, this was learning from my dad but in your case, it can be anyone. Acquiring or having access to a basic tool set is also critical in starting to apply what you’ve learned. The best way of solidifying what you’ve learned is by trying and doing. Then, as with anything, continuous knowledge growth will help you get better and try more complex projects.


Check back for weekly posts on a wide variety of topics, including country living, gardening, sustainability, homesteading, family, recipes, and more. We can’t wait to share our lives with you, hear your stories, and gain friends along the way.

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Easter Get-Together (with Tips on How to Keep Your Sanity During the Holidays)

Easter Get-Together

Holidays seem to get a bad reputation as a time of stress and anxiety, especially if you’re the one hosting the gathering. It could be because we try to hold on to old traditions or that we feel that everything needs to be perfect. But holidays don’t have to be stressful if you keep the focus on what they should be about, celebrating and spending time with family and friends. Stay tuned at the end of the blog for some tips and tricks I use to stay sane when having people over for a large get together.

Growing Up

Both Gaby and I are extremely lucky to have close-knit families, making holidays like Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving special. We don’t often get to see everyone in a big group setting, so when we do, we like to make the most of it, with lots of food, drink, and frivolities. 

Pain a GraisseWhen it comes to Easter, Gaby and I grew up with similar religious backgrounds, but with different traditions. Gaby grew up Catholic, so Easter weekend for him meant multiple church services and a somber Good Friday abstaining from meat. The customary Tetrault Good Friday supper consisted of homemade baked beans, macaroni casserole, and “pain à graisse”, a delicious deep fried dough, smothered in butter. (Being our first Good Friday back in Manitoba, we were very sad to have missed out on this traditional meal!)

Though I grew up in a Christian background (my mom was Mennonite and my dad, Catholic), my family didn’t start attending church regularly until I was in my late teens. This meant that for us, Easter was celebrated in a more contemporary manner. My mom loved to orchestrate a large treasure hunt, with plenty of chocolate and a few small trinkets to find. By far, though, the best part of Easter when we were young was going to Memere and Pepere’s (for him), or Grandma’s (for me) to play with all our cousins and see our aunts and uncles.

New Family, New Traditions

This Easter was the first we could spend with my family since my dad’s remarriage last May. This melding of two families meant that Gaby and I, along with my sister, Lee Ann and her husband, Tom had a whole new clan to make merry with – my stepmom, Sheryl, my new grandma, Bonny, and a new sibling, my stepbrother David and his beautiful wife Devon. (My brother, Nick and his girlfriend, Tash were unable to make it due to prior commitments.) 

Opening TreasuresIt was a fantastic day, and the weather could not have been more perfect. The kids got to hunt for treasures in the backyard, and the afternoon was spent eating nibbly-bits, sitting outside, and visiting while the kids played. Supper was a feast, with everyone bringing a little something to share. The turkey that Gaby prepared the day before was put in the oven in the early afternoon to slowly roast, and was cooked to perfection by dinner time. (Check out photos of the big bird on our social media sites by clicking the links on the right.) We visited late into the evening and were sorry when it was time for everyone to leave (especially the kids, as that meant it was bedtime for them!). We’re already looking forward to the next get together, and hoping we won’t have to wait until Thanksgiving to see them all again.

We hope that you all had a wonderful Easter weekend, whether it was spent in multiple church services, in a get together with family or friends, hunting for treasures with your kids, or celebrating with other traditions. 


Christine’s Tips for Keeping Your Sanity During the Holidays

1. Don’t stress about how clean the house is. Honestly, no one is going to notice the dust bunnies under the couch. If you’re a bit of a clean freak like I am, you can make sure everything is picked up for your own sake, but don’t worry about deep cleaning before everyone arrives. Most everyone who comes over is coming to enjoy family time with you and your kin.

Buffet Dinner2. Keep chocolate to a minimum for the kiddos. It’s a lot easier to keep your sanity if your kids aren’t bouncing off the walls with sugar induced hyperactivity. We prefer to give small trinkets for our kids to play with (books, Lego, etc.) as opposed to enormous amounts of empty calories.

3. Things will never be as perfect as you see on Pinterest. Seriously, those photos of impeccable decorations, amazing crafts, and intricate desserts took hours to create, and a lot of Photoshopping to perfect. Don’t worry about everything being flawless, just make the time together memorable.

4. Old traditions or new? Hanging on to old traditions is a great way to keep memories alive, but if arguments over which traditions to keep and which to disregard make life stressful, let go of the old traditions and make new ones together.

5. Prepare what you can ahead of time. I can’t stress this one enough. Doing what you can a day or two before the big event will make your time together so much more relaxed, as you won’t be thinking about what you should be doing, instead of sitting and visiting with someone you haven’t seen in months. 

Easter Dinner6. Plan a potluck. If everyone who’s coming plans to bring something to share at the meal, it will negate you working in the kitchen for the entire gathering (and it will also lighten the load on the pocket book, especially if your family gathering is a large one!).

7. Make your own family. Some people don’t have the luxury of a large family, one that they’re close with, or even live nearby. If you’re unable to be with yours on holidays, make your own gathering by inviting over friends and neighbors to celebrate with you.


Check back for weekly posts on a wide variety of topics, including country living, gardening, sustainability, homesteading, family, recipes, and more. We can’t wait to share our lives with you, hear your stories, and gain friends along the way.

Like what you’ve read? Subscribe to our blog by adding your email address to the form on the right. You’ll be the first to hear about weekly updates! Have questions or comments? Leave us a message in the comments section, and we’ll be sure to get back to you. We can’t wait to hear what you think! And as always, you can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram by clicking the links on the right.