Saturday, May 26, 2012

Cedar Cottage from Costco, a full review.

For our daughters 5th birthday, grandpa wanted to buy her an outdoor playhouse.  After much shopping around the internet (and unhappy surprises about cost of decent playhouses, and the abundance of cheap plastic ones), we checked out Costco, and saw they had for sale a very nice looking wooden playhouse called the Cedar Cottage, by Backyard Discovery.

However, I was only able to find one review on this product online, another blog written in 2011 with a youtube video.  Their cottage looked almost the same, but the 2012 model had some differences, mostly in window placement.

That one review had a postive outcome, though some minor criticisms along the way, so we decided to make the purchase, and also to write our own very thorough review to help others who might be looking to buy this item.

So here is a quick rundown of how we rate the Cedar Cottage (on a 5 star basis), followed by a detailed review of each rating .

Price: 5 stars
Material quality/durability: 4.5 stars
Instructions and labeling: 3 stars
Ease of Construction: 1 stars
Quality of finished product: 4.5

Overall Rating: 4 stars

The unbeatable price and the wonderful finished product make all the crappy instructions and difficult construction mostly worth it. :D  It has a very high ceiling! A 5'7" person can stand inside it without quite touching the ceiling. The floor space is also generous, at just over 4'x4' interior. You can fit a few kids in there, even tall ones, no problem. The door is very small though.

The price is hard to beat at $269.99. You can hardly get a cheapo plastic playhouse half this size for that price, and we found NO other wooden playhouses in this price range.  What can I say, for this item, the price just cannot be beat.

So we get the box home and open it up and take out all the parts.  My husband spends about half an hour or so going through the parts list and making sure everything is there, and organizing it all.  Here is our dining area (my sewing area was completely unreachable!!  lol) with all the parts:

As for the materials, the cedar wood is wonderful, and we give it a full 5 stars.  The white painted wood, however, was warped in some places, chipped easily, and had some paint peeling off a few spots right out of the box, so the materials get little a markdown from this.  There isn't too much of the white wood, it is mostly just a few areas of trim. The hardware is all good quality.

Instructions and labeling:
The labeling of the pieces was not very good, many of the stamps on the boards were almost unreadable. The instructions were pretty bad.  We suggest you take some time to watch the construction demo videos provided on the company website. Even with experience (and both of us have real field construction experience), the diagrams and instructions were sometimes difficult to follow.  Take the time to sort through all the pieces first, and make sure you have all the parts, and get things organized before you ever pick up a screwdriver.

Ease of construction:
This got our lowest mark and you may wonder why.
The cottage comes partially constructed, and we do mean partially. The 2 large roof pieces, the front door, and the shuttered windows are the most complete, almost everything else must be built from scratch.  We suggest that you have some construction experience under your belt (pun intended!), or at least the help of someone with building knowledge before you tackle this project.  It certainly can be done, but this is not a project for a beginner, or for a single person.  At some points, 2 people are really necessary!  Total construction time was around 10 hours for my husband (pretty experienced), and he needed my help for about 2 hours of that.

The instruction book calls for:
Power Drill
Power Screwdriver
Rubber Mallet
My husband put about 3/4 of the house together without the power screwdriver (it was charging), but really, they aren't kidding.  We estimate around 500 screws are included with this, so either have a power tool or a very strong arm....
If you don't have the rubber mallet, wrap some cloth padding around a regular hammer or the end of a large, heavy flashlight (really, this worked for us!), and you can get the pieces in without any splintering.

The first day, James managed to get all the walls up without any help from me. It took about 4 hours to get to this point. It was raining outside, which didn't help.

The second day, James pushed himself hard and finished the entire project.  Getting the roof on required 2 people.  The windows are inserted after building the walls, hence the need for a rubber mallet (to gently pound them into a very fitted space).

Quality of finished product:
We admit, it has a lot of wonderful details, and is very sturdy and roomy!  The chimney, the many windows (shuttered, bay, dormers, and a serving window with a bench outside!), the flower boxes, toy phone, stove, and removable sink with faucet are all great features. My daughter loves the removable sink, as she can put real water in it, pretend wash dishes or cook with it, then dump out the water and repeat. She also just loves being able to wash her hands outside after playing with the bugs. :)
The serving window tray area is wide enough to actually place a small plate on, so our daughter is eating lunch out there almost every afternoon now.  The bench is very sturdy, and holds my 170lb husband without wobbling (though he won't make a habit of sitting on it, just in case).

Serving window and bench

Bay windows

Shuttered window

What is really wonderful is the room to add your own touches.  We had a plastic kitchen from Step 2 (with oodles of toy food), as well as a seperate tea/picnic set that our daughter used quite a lot, but we figured would get more use placed in here.  My husband removed the top half of the kittchen toy, and put the bottom under the toy stove portion of the counter inside. We also cut an old berber rug to fit inside, so it is now "carpeted".

We also added an inexpensive clock above the shutters, and a pretty woven doormat.
A day or so later, we made it to the local craft shop and purchased some fabric flowers (and a hummingbird, and some bees, lol).
The flower boxes have drainage holes, so they can be used for real flowers, but we wanted something that would look nice for her year round.

Lastly, I purchased some swivel end style curtain rods, and am currently making curtains for the front door window and for the serving window.  Since we live in western Oregon, we do get frequent rain, and I think some curtains over the largest windows will make it usable even in the rain.  I will add a picture of the curtains when I get them done!

In the end, our daughter loves it, and it was really worth all the work and headaches.  She is spending hours a day playing in it, and we would highly recommend it to anyone who feels they can handle the construction portion of this project.

Note:  It does come with a ridiculously heavy metal self advertising plaque meant to be mounted on the front....  Yeah, we left that off. :D

Snow Liz and her many birthday presents.

This picture of Liz reminds me so much of Snow White, when she is singing to the birds right outside the seven dwarfs cottage.  Ok, her hair and clothes aren't the right colors, but the feeling is there. :)

So I finished Liz's birthday dress just in time for her to put it on and go and discover her BIG birthday present, her new outdoor wooden playhouse!  James spent two days constructing it, and it is just adorable!  She played in it all day yesterday, and today.  I think she just wants to move out there, lol.  I can stand up inside it comfortably, it is quite roomy.

For anyone interested, we have written a review on the Cedar Cottage set we purchase at Costco, with lots of photos, both during construction, and of the completed project (we added flowers and curtains and such).  I was only able to find one review of it when we were considering buying it, so I wanted to make our own to help out others considering this purchase.

Anyway, back to the dress for a moment.  Liz picked out this ruffly knit fabric at Joanns.  I told her I wanted to make her a practical knit shirt for summer, but oh no, she wanted another dress, so what's a mom to do?  That's right, give right in and make her a dress, lol.   Anyway, she loves the dress, and wore it all day yesterday while it was warm.   It's cooler today, but I imagine she'll get lots of wear out of it.  It is 100% machine washable (amazing, I never would have guessed that ruffly stuff could be tossed in a machine, but it can), so it has the charm of something dressier, and the ease of something more casual.

We are taking her to the Enchanted Forest on Monday to celebrate her birthday.  The weather isn't going to be great (mid 60's and possible rain), but hey, as Oregonians, no big deal. :)  Anyway, we already have plans for the grandparents to come, and can't change the date now.   I will post pictures and a blog of our trip after we get home!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Where am I going to wear this?

This is McCall's 6078, I lengthened it into a dress...of sorts.  I used the entire 36" length of a single yard of 59" wide fabric.  Since I am so very short (just over 5'), I barely got away with it.  I haven't worn a dress this short in years!  But I feel I got good use out of a single yard, and went ahead and entered it in the PR One Yard Challenge.
Now I just need someone to take me on a tropical cruise, so I have a suitable place to wear it!  lol.
Seriously though, I think I could wear it out to a nice lunch (or dinner), in summer.  I really hope I'll get more than one chance to wear it this summer.  It is certainly going to be hot already is!

I have never worn a cowl/drape neck item, wasn't sure I'd like it, but I think this one is so perfect!  The pleats at the shoulders make a great drape, and it doesn't look silly on me, as I had feared.  Now, the length or the print looking silly...that part is more debatable. :D

I got this crazy fabric on a good sale, though it is a very bright bold print and is sparkly to boot, I can't help but like it.  I'm usually not one for florals and pastels, but this piece just said "buy me"!   Oh, and I think it looks good from the back!

Sadly, it emphasizes my lack of  waist definition.  I have a curves up top, but am a rectangle from my ribcage down. :/  Ah well, maybe I could add some sort of belt (because you know, this outfit needs more!  lol)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Very red tunic!

I don't usually wear red, espwcially bright fire engine red, but I got this jersey at Jo-ann's last winter at a great price, and I paired it up with Simplicity 2369, a Best Pattern of the Year from 2010.  It's well deserved, a great pattern, and I love the final look!

My daughter took my picture for this, and keep in mind she turns 5 this month, so I think she did great. She was pretty funny, clicking that camera about 50 times a minute though....though for some reason I wasn't smiling in many.  I look all serious....:/  lol.

As a side note, you can see a bit of our tiny garden.  Liz and I have been growing a few things from seeds (beans, herbs, morning glory), and a few flowers we got as seedlings.  Also, some lettuce and cherry tomatoes, yum!  It's pretty small, but we are having fun with our handful of plants. :D

Best of Patterns
So I went ahead and entered this into the best contest pattern, not that I could win against so many fabulous entires. Also, I think this particular pattern has been entered more than any other...kind of funny. :D

Looks like I'm about to fall asleep.  Maybe I am....zzzzzz

I don't know why I couldn't get a very good front shot, I just had a sleepy or bored look on  my face in every one.  Awww well. :/