Thursday, May 22, 2014

DIY Bunny Pen

We own a lovely angora rabbit. His name is Peter.

He has an outdoor hutch that is roomy and wonderful. He is allowed to go outside to eat the dandelions on nice days.

When he is indoors and we are around, he is allowed to freely roam around our living room and kitchen. He is litter trained, and he uses it well.

However, when he is not supervised indoors, Peter needs a safe place to stay. Rabbits chew, and like most rabbits, Peter has a fondness for chewing through cords and pulling apart furniture.

Peter is a big boy, although most of what you see of him is fluff. The commercial indoor cages are entirely too small, and the large outdoor hutches are a bit too much for inside.

What to do.. what to do?

I did what I always do when I can't find exactly what I'm looking for - I made my own! And now I'm blogging about how I made this indoor rabbit enclosure so you can make your own, too (and at a fraction of the cost of a large commercial cage to boot).

DIY Rabbit Cage

Now before you get all peta on me, let me reiterate that this cage is only for when Peter is unsupervised. It would be sad to leave him in a pen all of the time. He is allowed out for regular exercise, play, and dandelion munching.

I had not yet started this blog when I made the pen, so I will have to explain what I did without photos. I apologize about that. However, I promise that this pen was very easy to make, so I'm sure you will be able to make it without detailed pictures. :)

Here's what you need:
  • Plastic self-standing baby gate
  • Duct tape
  • Outdoor vinyl mesh fabric
  • Staple gun and staples
  • Scissors
  • Chair mat
  • A partner
  • Rabbit
  • Rabbit accessories
To make this pen, I used four panels of a plastic six paneled self-standing baby gate that I already had on hand from my kids. If you don't own one, I recommend the Northstate Superyard Playgate, available here from

Each panel is approximately 3 feet across, so you will want to get enough of the mesh fabric to cover the top (at least 1 1/2 yards). I used an outdoor vinyl coated mesh fabric (the kind you would find on a pop-up screen house) that I purchased from JoAnn's.  Really, any kind of sturdy mesh will do. Here are some examples.

The Duct Tape I used was denim. I wanted to have it look more fabricy than regular duct tape. 

The chair mat is available from any office supply store. It should be big enough for the entire pen to fit on top with some room to spare. If you want, you can cut off the "lip" so that it is a perfect square, but I didn't. In my case, the lip is under the curtain in the background.

Assembly instructions:
  1. Pop four panels of the plastic baby gate in place. The panels "snap" together.
  2. Cut the mesh fabric so that it lays at least from outer edge to outer edge across the entire top of the enclosure. It can be hanging over the edge a little for this part - you can always trim it later. It needs to lay fully flat to each outer edge so that the staples can get a good grip.
  3. Using the staple gun, staple one side fully down along the top edge of the gate. Staple from the top down along the entire edge. I found it best to make the staples go perpendicular (crosswise) to the edge I was working on. Some pieces of the gate may chip off during the stapling. No big deal. You will cover this with duct tape later.
  4. Once the first edge is secure with staples, have your partner gently pull on the fabric to keep it taut while you work on the adjacent two sides. Again, staple perpendicular to the edge you are working on.
  5. Staple the remaining edge the same way.
  6. Using the scissors, trim any excess fabric overlap so that the edge of the fabric is flush with the edge of the pen. For the corners, cut diagonally to allow the circular joints to poke through.
  7. You will probably notice that all of the sharp staples are poking through the side of the pen. Ouch! You will cover the exterior edges of the staples with duct tape to protect everyone's fingers. You will use two layers of duct tape on each side. 
  8. Starting with the first side, find the bottom lip of the bar that you just stapled through. Tuck the edge of the duct tape under this lip as you tape across the length of the side. The top edge of the tape should just touch the top of the bar. This layer of tape will prevent anyone from accidentally touching the exposed staple prongs.
  9. After the exposed prongs are covered, use another layer of duct tape to cover the top edge of the pen. This will hide the tops of the staples to make the pen look more polished, and the overlap will reinforce the tape hiding the exposed prongs. Line up this edge of the duct tape with the inner edge of the pen. Overlap the previous layer with the outer edge of this layer.
  10. Continue applying duct tape around all four sides. Don't worry about the corners. If the top is taut, the space in the corners won't be big enough for your bun to escape.
That's it! And do you know what's the best thing about the mesh? It's strong enough for my 12 pound cat to use as a hammock. :)

To clean:

The best part of this pen is the ease of cleaning it! Sometimes Peter makes a mess of his food or misses his litter box. I have a special broom and dustpan that is only used to sweep up his messes. I lift up the pen, sweep up the mess, wipe down the chair mat with paper towel and natural cleaner, and he's good to go!


Here are some sites that I used for inspiration. Perhaps they can inspire you, too!

Rabbit accessories:

The most annoying thing I found about this enclosure was allowing access to fresh hay, since you can't really attach a good hay hopper to it well. I just put the hay in a cardboard box within the enclosure. I really like Farmer Dave's timothy hay cubes because they cut down on the dust and pieces of hay that escape the pen. Plus they're hard, so Peter is able to grind down his teeth as he gnaws them.

For a hideaway, I use the Ware Rabbit Den. Peter is a bigger boy, and he needs the space.

That's it! If you have any questions, please post in the comments below.

Monday, May 19, 2014

{Worship: You're Doing It Wrong}

Ah, the Worship Wars.

If you've been a Christian for any length of time, you've probably noticed there are many styles of "worship" in church services here in North America. Some churches offer a conservative call and response format, interspersed with hymns and accompanied by the organ. Tradition is important here. On the other end of the spectrum, you have the ramped-up rock n' roll churches with electric guitars, drum sets, light shows, and fog machines. Loud is good in these churches.

I've attended many styles of churches over the years, and because of this, I've heard many, many comments and opinions about how worship should be done in all Christian churches, everywhere. Here are some paraphrased examples:

"Every church should get rid of the organ. Who listens to organ music outside of the church anymore? Get rid of it. It's not culturally relevant and makes visitors feel like they have to appreciate organ music in order to worship God."

"The organ is God's holy instrument. Every Christian church should have the organ playing at least part of the time during the worship service."

"Drums are from the devil. If the contemporary service insists on using drums, at least cover up the drum set during the traditional service. I don't even want to see the drums onstage. They're too distracting."

"I can't worship in a church that has a light show. Churches with light shows are more about performance than about worship."

"Wow, cool light show! Is this really church? It's not nearly as boring as I thought it would be!"

"Interpretive dance? Really? Since when are we doing this?"

"I can tell that your church is more about performance than worship by looking at your congregation. If the majority of people are watching instead of singing, then they're watching a show, not worshipping God."

{Honestly, I have heard every single one of these opinions expressed by people I personally know.}

In my discussions with people about worship, I've stumbled across seven recurring themes. These themes have helped me understand why we Christians need a more inclusive and accepting view of God-centered worship in our own churches and each other's church services.

1. Most often, a judgmental attitude comes from someone who is not on the worship team.

Many times the worship team in a church will try a new song, introduce a new instrument, or try something like interpretive dance to break the monotony and encourage people to think more deeply about what they are doing and Who they are worshipping. However, this can sometimes backfire if the congregation is not receptive. For me, it's easy to judge the worship team's efforts to lead us into worship. Unfortunately, this is when the worship service becomes a performance; not because the worship team has a narcissistic attitude - but because I do. Is this new endeavor helping me worship? Is it adequate to meet my needs? By sitting comfortably in my pew, judging the worship team's latest effort, I have turned the worship experience into a performance to be evaluated. Gone is my communion with God, not because of something the worship team is doing, but because of the attitude of my heart.

2. Is your "godly" opinion one that you would openly express to the members of the worship team?

If drums are from Satan, would you be comfortable in accusing the percussionist playing them of devil worship? If the organ has no place in the church, would you be comfortable telling the organist that her service is no longer welcome here? If these questions give you pause, perhaps you should reevaluate your opinion. How did you arrive at your worship preference? Is it something that you grew up with? What does Scripture say about it? Could others have a preference that does not contradict Scripture, yet is different than your own? Can you make room in your schema of worship to accept their differing style preferences without judging their attitudes and motivations?

3. Is singing is the only sure sign of worship? What if the congregation isn't singing? Doesn't that indicate that it's a performance?

How do we know when someone is worshipping God or just going through the motions? Is the congregation actually worshipping or just parroting back words on a screen? Or are they just standing still, watching a performance? Are they understanding the meaning of the lyrics in the hymnal? Does lip syncing count as worship? Is singing the only way to worship? How do we know if the people are worshipping?

We don't.

We can't because we're not God and we cannot see inside people's hearts.

I can sing my heart out, meaning every word. I can sing my heart out to show off to the people around me. I can stand silently, not singing, because I am praying or thinking about the lyrics to the worship song. I can stand silently because I am not engaged in the worship and am thinking about what I need to do after church. I can sing a worship song that I can relate to. I can sing one that I can't relate to. I can be a parrot. I can be a fully engaged human.

And you most likely won't be able to tell just by looking at me.

4. How weak is your relationship with God? Do you require a specific style of worship music to get you in the "mood" to worship?

I simply hate it when a Christian implies that one style of worship music is more conductive to entering God's presence than another for all people, everywhere. If this is you, let me challenge you with a few questions. Does your faith need coddling in order to coax out your reluctant praises? If the music isn't to your liking, do you automatically shift into Judgmental Christian Mode (see point #1) and therefore turn the worship into a performance with the attitudes of your own heart?

5. Would you act this way in another culture?

Imagine that you are on a mission trip, visiting another culture in another country. What if the Christians in this culture used drums, or dancing, or a didgeridoo to worship God? Would you be offended and judge their ways of worship because it is not the way you prefer to worship?


Then why do we do this to other Christians within our own culture?

Think about it. We laugh at each others' services and efforts of praising God. "I can't worship there - they have an organ. Ugh. Who does that anymore?"

"I can't worship there, they they have a fog machine. They're so over-the-top. I mean, they had a flamethrower last Christmas."

"Seriously? They're singing that song again? It must be one of the three they know."

"I simply cannot worship with that tribe. They're dancing and playing drums. I don't care if it makes me look bad as a Christian on this mission trip and is just plain rude. I'm not going to participate."

See how silly that sounds? So don't do it to others - even within in your own culture.

6. I can judge the light show or be thankful for the people who made it. 

Is the organ distracting you from worshipping because it's not your thing? Does the acoustic guitar version of the song rub you the wrong way? Try entering God's presence by praising Him for the people who are giving up their time and talents to help you seek Him. Somebody put together that light show with the hopes that it would help you worship God. Praise Him for that person. Somebody else selected that piece of music to fit the pastor's message. Praise Him for that person. And another person took guitar lessons to be able to lead the congregation in worship. Thank Jesus for that person! Oh look. You've stopped judging and started worshipping. :)

7. If I want to be distracted during worship, I will be distracted - regardless of the environment.

If I want to be distracted during worship, (usually because I have unconfessed sin that I haven't dealt with) I will find a way, regardless of the presence of an organ or a light show. Believe me, I am capable of being distracted by something as mundane as my left shoe if my heart doesn't want to worship.

Thankfully, the reverse is also true.

If my heart wants to worship my Creator and my Savior, there is no organ or light show on the planet that can stop me.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Snowy Day Beef Stew

Snowy Day Beef Stew? Uh, Julie, don't you know it's May?

Well, I don't know where you live, but here in Wisconsin, it has been absolutely frigid out there this spring. I made this stew a couple of weeks ago, and I will make it again next week if it doesn't warm up.

There's something about a wet, slightly-above-freezing cold that just chills me to the bone. I would rather deal with a well-below freezing cold than the damp, clingy cold that just settles into your muscles. I know that I sound like I'm 90. I'm not. I'm 37.

But I digress.

This hearty beef stew is perfect for warming up everyone's insides. It requires a bit of prep work (cutting and dicing and all), but it freezes well and doesn't require any extra sides (although I do like to pair it with a freshly-baked pumpkin yeast bread, which I will share another day on my blog).

So, may I present to you my version of the Snowy Day Beef Stew?

1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 lb. red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into quarters
2 to 2.25 lbs. lean boneless beef round, trimmed of fat and cut into cubes
2 tsp. dry thyme
1/4 cup beef broth
2 medium carrots cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
1/4 cup flour
1 (14.5 oz.) can of stewed tomatoes
1 (10 oz.) package frozen peas, thawed
Lawry's Seasoned Salt

Combine onion, carrots, and potatoes in slow cooker. 
Coat beef cubes with four. An easy way to do this is to pour the flour into a gallon Ziploc bag, add the beef cubes, seal it, and carefully shake it until all the cubes are coated.
Add the flour-coated cubes to the slow cooker and sprinkle with thyme.
Add tomatoes and broth to the slow cooker. 
Cover and cook at low until beef is very tender (8-10 hrs.). 
Stir in peas. Increase heat to high. Cover and cook 10-15 minutes until peas are heated.
Season with Lawry's Seasoned Salt to taste.

Serves 6-8

So how is my version different than all the other versions online? First of all, I omit the mushrooms. We have allergies in our family, so mushrooms are a no-go. Second, I find that Lawry's gives it a little extra kick rather than using regular salt. So there you go. The next time you find yourself chilled through and through, consider making this dinner to warm yourself up. You'll be glad you did.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Antique Piano Lamp {Makeover Edition}

I love old things. I love their history, their character, their uniqueness. However, I don't always love their appearances. I often buy a piece because it has "good bones" and transform it into something beautiful. Today I present to you one of my favorite transformations - and all it took was a little paint and sealant.

Today's Offering:

Antique Lamp Makeover

I found this lovely antique piano lamp on ebay for under $20. Needless to say, I bought it.

Antique lamp makeover

The structure, the lines of the lamp were gorgeous! From the detailed foot base, to the gracefully curved crossing goosenecks, to the fine herringbone ribbed tulip glass shades, it was beautiful.

I was in love.

It was just as pretty in person. But something wasn't quite right. Actually, make that two somethings.

First of all, the brass was very brassy. It was a shiny gold-tone with built up dust in-between the detailing. Cleaning it only made it worse. It became an even brighter brassy color.

Also, the fine detailing on the lamp shades was difficult to see unless you got up close to the lamp, and how many people go around examining other people's lamps? Unless you're an appraiser, you probably would miss this subtle feature.

So as always, I took matters into my own hands with my paintbrush. I used this wonderful paint to tone down the brass and give the metal more of a champagne tint.
DecoArt Elegant Finish Metallic Paint in Champagne Gold

I love this paint. It is so easy to work with, and I've used it very successfully when painting a variety of surfaces including metal, wood, and glass. I applied it pretty liberally to the metal parts of the lamp, allowed it to set, and sealed it with a sealant.

The result was much more subdued, which was exactly as I had hoped. However, the shades still looked less than spectacular. They had a pretty shape, but in my mind's eye, I could tell that an opalescent sheen would really make the detailing pop. Since I had my DecoArt metallic paint already out, I thought I'd just try it.

I applied a thin layer of the paint to the outside of the shades, and while they were still wet, I carefully wiped any excess out of the grooves with a lint free rag. The result was stunning!

The lamp now sits proudly in my family room near the fireplace. It fills the entire room with a warm glow when lit.

The herringbone petals are finally noticeable from a distance.

And the shades sparkle and shine when the sunlight dances upon them!

The entire transformation was done with one simple paint job with DecoArt Elegant Finish Metallic Paint in Champagne Gold. It's available here.