Monday, January 30, 2012

diy: window film pattern

Problem: Our neighbours have highly functioning, industrial strength, two-pronged, motion-detecting spotlights at the door to their garage. Or, in other words, they have two high-beam, vehicle-sized headlights attached to their garage that turn on whenever we leave our backdoor or a moth flitters by. This spotlight is in a direct line that goes through our backdoor window, to the kitchen and hits me directly in the eyes. Amazingly, it's been installed at the most perfect in-my-kitchen, through-my-door eyeline. Wonderful.

We don't really need privacy on our backdoor window. No one enters there except us and it's pretty near impossible to see through it from the alley or another yard. The doors aren't metal -- there goes my magnetic curtain rod idea -- but there's really not enough room for swishy curtains anyway (if the closet door is open -- which it almost always is -- the door bumps into it. It's a poorly designed entry. I'll be fixing that). So I thought I should put some window film up. I had some oddly sized leftover pieces from the old house that were just too damn pretty to throw away (i.e. it's my favourite window film pattern to date and I almost always hate throwing bits and pieces away if I think they could be used somehow). The floral pattern is not exactly an easy pattern to piece together, though, so if I tried to make the larger pieces work, it just would have looked like I was... trying to make the larger pieces work. And that wouldn't have worked at all.

What I did:

- printed out a simple hexagon after drawing it in photoshop -- i.e. clicking the shape tool, and dragging out the shape until it was approximately the size I thought looked good.

- cut out said hexagon for a template.

- tediously traced and cut out about ten hexagons (to start) from the scraps of window film I had. (I still have a scab on my thumb from using scissors all day.)

- found the exact middle of the window, and placed my first hexagon dead centre of that. I used a wet piece of paper towel to wet the window for each hexagon, then smoothed out the bubbles as best I could (I should restick some of the top ones to get the bubbles out, but bubbles are more visible from the outside, so it's not a humongous deal).

- eyeballed the distances between each subsequent hexagon thereafter. (Once wet, the film is really easy to move around and reposition.) I would have made another template that could have acted as a marker between the hexagons so I'd get the perfect distance each time, but I didn't want to get OCD about it.

- since I was working with limited window film, I made sure to do the important side of the window first (the right side) and I stopped cutting whole hexagons rather frequently to cut out edge and corner pieces so I was sure I'd have enough.

- to cut edge and corner pieces, I took the discarded backing from previously cut hexagons and put them on the window where I needed them, then folded them and cut them to fit. Essentially making new templates for the half and quarter hexagons.

And then I ran out of window film. But no matter. The left side isn't the offensive side. It's the right. And now that it's covered up, the eye-blasting spotlights create a soft, flowery glow seen from the kitchen which is a whole lot prettier and (come to think of it) safer. Especially when trying to use a sharp knife after being eye assaulted by burning harsh yellow high-beams. Check out the night shot. Now imagine a world without pretty window film.

If I actually look into the original source for this film, I might be able to get more and I'll do the window up properly (and the window in the stairs because I'd much rather look at this than poop brown siding). Until then, the hexagon look is really fun and interesting. I'd definitely make my own pattern using shapes again (I'm imagining triangles now!) particularly if my only option was plain, rice paper style window film -- which is seriously the best looking option at Home Depot. (Hello, grape-vine window film. I'm talking to you.)

Friday, January 27, 2012

friday fixations

{sh*t liz lemon says}

{my tripod} I've been taking pictures without it lately and it shows. I took my camera off it so I could take pictures outside of the house and then it was -40 and I still haven't really gone anywhere photo worthy. Now I'm too lazy to 1) get it when I need it; and 2) screw my camera back onto it. I just deleted about 20 slightly blurry pictures off my computer from last week, so I had better get that tripod back in action or you're never going to see another picture again.

{big knickers} There's just something about this high-waisted underwear that I find really appealing. I want all of them (especially the florals).

{the tiny chopped salad} I read about chopping salads to absolute bits and decided it might be a nice change instead of my usual ribbon-sized slices. My last salad consisted of cabbage, spinach, carrots, purple onion, and mushrooms chopped into little bits (I put the carrots through my mandolin on the julienne setting and then cut them into bits cross-wise) and served it plain so we could add our own dressings. I thought it was the best salad yet. I could actually take a forkful of salad and lock it on with some meat for an even more complete bite (which is how I like to eat salads anyway) and chopping everything just made for a better mouth-feel and taste (if that makes any sense). I'm definitely a chopped salads fan now. (I had pictures of this one.)

{colourful books} Mom got me this one for Christmas (because of my insatiable love for pink) and now I want more from the series (for a whole matching shelf, natch). (And yes, despite having an iPod, I'm still 100% for real books. You know why? When you buy an e-book, you can't loan it out and you can't sell it or give it away [to those in need or otherwise] when you're finished with it. So e-books are sold at practically the same price as a real book with none of the benefits that go along with having a real book. Therefore, I see no benefit to supporting that industry from a customer view-point. [I get it from a seller view-point. Oh yes. That one's obvious].)

{jill bliss} Have I ever mentioned how much I love the art of Jill Bliss? Well I love it. So. Much. I want it in wallpaper. Or these frilly leaf garlands which I have no actual use for or place to put them, but I just want them all the same.

{this crazy cartoon} Boy, if only I ate cookies by the sleeve... I mean, if only I ate store-bought cookies. I definitely have the ability to eat cookies by the sleeve.

{heart pillow embroidery} I should really learn how to do this. It's awesome.

{pink} aka poink if my dumb typing fingers have anything to say about it. I've mentioned this before. Sorry. I just can't stop thinking about it. And I can't stop thinking about it because it feels wrong to think about. Especially for my living room. Especially for a grown-up living room having nothing to do with baby girls or teen princesses. I keep thinking that possibly pink could be grown-up, it's all about the shade of pink and possibly the amount. But I have no idea and, frankly, I'm rather scared to try. I've found some inspirational colour mixes in a variety of places all of which look mighty fine for grown-up versions of pink. There's raspberry, cotton candy, and putty beige (which looks more like a peachy-pink to me). Possibly pink looks more adultish when paired with mustard, sea foam green, or orange. And almost as if confirming my choice, these shades of pink look really good with colours that are pretty darn close to our existing paint and trim. What do you think?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

pasta cooked in sauce

I've decided I'm not going to give you a recipe for spaghetti and meat sauce. Aren't you already overwhelmed with a hundredity-billion different pasta sauce recipes already? I kinda think so. And besides, anyone who's ever cooked anything already has a pasta sauce recipe tucked away in their brain. You don't need someone on the internet giving you another one (we both know you'd adjust it for what you have on hand anyway).

This is just a little suggestion for the pasta portion of spaghetti and meat sauce. I just tried it and it kinda worked pretty fantastically and I was so surprised it worked, that I had to share it with you.

Have you ever considered cooking the pasta directly in the sauce?

Probably not and neither had I, but then I read it (on the internet, of course. It's where all my crazy ideas come from) and I thought that maybe it was possible.

After our pork and noodle dinner for Chinese new year, in which we seemed to both be scrambling to get the most noodles, I thought it was due time I made spaghetti. We don't have it very often so it usually really pains me to run all of that water for one tiny pot of pasta. Especially since I carefully measure the spaghetti portion to ensure we don't overeat and with that, it just seems like a whole lot of wasted water (and time waiting for it to boil) for a smaller portion of spaghetti in a huge pot.

I started making my sauce last night and I agonized over whether I should just try cooking the pasta in it. So what if it didn't cook? I could fish it out of the sauce and start again. It wouldn't be a big deal. I could just dump (almost) a full can of chopped tomatoes and their juices in and keep a couple cups of water handy just in case. And these types of things always stay on my mind until I do them and when's the next time we'd be having spaghetti, anyway?

Once the sauce was at the simmering stage (with all its lovely juices bubbling), I stuck a tiny wad of noodles into the middle of the pan and pushed them into the sauces so they were barely covered. Then I got braver and put another tiny wad, this time snapped in half, to each side (because only so much full-length spaghetti can fit in my frying pan) and pushed them down. Then I got about two cups of water and poured a little of that in to start so the noodles were just covered. Then I waited.

Overall, the entire cooking process took around 10 minutes which is almost exactly the same time it would take for noodles to boil conventionally. The only difference was that I had to keep checking on the noodles to see how done they were getting, to try and stir them up (to keep them from sticking), and to make sure they were still covered with liquid. I only added water when the spaghetti looked less covered with liquid and I ended up using about three cups of water (along with the tomato juices) in order to cook the spaghetti completely.

It worked so well and the pasta tasted... richer? More tomato-y? More one with the sauce, I guess. The sauce itself had thickened up a lot, too, by the addition of the pasta's starches. Overall, I'd call it a success which makes me wonder why we've all come to believe that pasta needs so much water to cook. All of it seems really wasteful now.

If you're adventurous (or eat a lot of pasta), this might be something you'd like to try. I don't think it would work with creamy sauces (mac and cheese... mmmm... probably not), but if you're making a tomato-based sauce already, this might be a nice option.

Monday, January 23, 2012

the dragon age

Yay! I'm excited about this year! Probably because it's the year of the dragon and I've always had a real love for dragons. My family used to celebrate each Chinese new year with some homemade (or take-out) Chinese food, but we haven't done it for years. So this year I'm doing a little pulled pork dinner (maybe with some noodles -- the longer the better -- for long life). Do you ever do anything special for Chinese new year?

I found some interesting links for new year traditions (I always love reading my horoscope):

And some super cute stuff related to dragons!

Gong Hai Fat Choy!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

DIY: recovering a chair seat

It is -44 -42 C today, so to decrease my stir-crazies (because I have barely breathed in any fresh air this week), I finally recovered 

this chair

which had a huge rip in the corner of the fabric

but I really loved the fabric because I thought it was original and I just couldn't part with it.

But I had to part with it because this chair is hard as a rock. It was time to put some padding on it. And hell. It's -42. I opened the curtains at 10 to keep the window-cold out just a little bit longer. What else am I supposed to do? Vacuum or something? Pssh. (yeah ok, I vacuumed a bit.)

So get on your full body long johns, brew some tea, and read what I did:

First, I had to rip off that SOB fabric. It was a nightmare. So, like, I start pondering, "Am I so desperate for stuff to do that I really need to fix this chair right now?" I made some tea. I came back ready for round 2 of swearing.

Then I marked out the size of the seat on a new piece of foam. I randomly found this brand new piece at the thrift store for $1.99 (it was still in the plastic bag). I'm sure you can find this stuff at any fabric store, though. This is also proof that I've been meaning to get on this task for quite a while now.

I traced it. Boom. Chair seat outline. If your foam has a definite top and bottom, make sure you've lined up the seat so the foam sits on it properly, but like, don't stress about it. I wish I hadn't stressed about this so much (you'll see why later). Then I used plain ol' scissors to cut it, but a sharp serrated knife would have worked just as well, too.

I added some batting to soften out the foam (mine has that egg carton look on top -- foreshadowing. I'm doing it) and because what the hell, I've got some. Then I figured out (read: eyeballed) how much vinyl I'd need. It's like wrapping a present (which I'm not really that great at anyway). Or half wrapping a present as you're not going to cover the bottom of the seat with fabric.

I started by stapling the large edges by pulling the fabric as tight as I could and stapling it down. I really wanted to have a nice neat line of staples along the edge, but the wood was like cement over there and no amount of pushing and hammering (or constant swearing) could get a staple into it. Oh well. Put them in further. No big whoop. No one's going to see it.

To get a nice corner, I trimmed some of the extra fabric (not too much! I just cut enough to help with folding. Always opt for too little than too much). Then I pulled the middle corner tab up towards the centre, pulled it tight, and stapled it in. After the middle point is stapled in place, the corners are really easy to fold neatly in so you can staple the whole mess down (one corner at a time, please). There are a lot of ways to do chair corners, so if this isn't working for you, just do it the best you can so it looks neat from the top. Now trim off the rest of the excess fabric.

 This seat just sits on top of the frame (no screws required -- shouldn't they be required?), so all I had to do was place the seat back on the chair frame, and voila! It's like getting a brand new chair! Pretty easy, right?

Now here's the part I kind of regret. Since the foam had texture, for some reason I can't explain, I figured it should face up. But despite the batting, I can still see the bumpy egg carton texture. So if I were going to do this again (and I'll be doing it again for the chair I'm sitting on right now -- but that's for some other -42 day), I would make sure that bumpy foam was facing down so the top was smooth. Not that it's a big deal, mind you. It's not terrible (especially since this chair lives in my craft room), but I would prefer it to be smooth. It's just something to think about if you're using egg carton foam, too. Anyway thanks to that egg carton foam, the chair is super squishy and soft now so I can finally do proper crafts in comfort.

Way back when I got this chair, mom spent forever and a half stripping it down to its natural colour which is why I haven't painted it. Now I'm wondering if I should or is that just the sitr-crazies talking. Thoughts?

Monday, January 16, 2012

getting back

I'm finding it incredibly hard to get back into blogging. I don't know why I'm feeling this way, but I'm finding it really hard to feel any excitement or desire to write a post. It's not that I'm not working on projects and stuff that would be great for the blog (or that I'm not taking pictures with the intention of using them for posts). It's just that every time I sit down to actually blog it out, I find myself writing and deleting and rewriting and deleting again and then I load pictures only to delete them and then I try putting them into a different format and then I delete them yet again. So, needless to say, this last week has been incredibly frustrating for me. Maybe what I need to do is just post something -- anything -- and it'll help me move back into things.

Let's try that, then, by posting a few of the pictures I took with my good camera before and during Christmas (which was a terribly sad amount -- or a large amount of the same picture at different angles so... pretty blah anyway).

These are the bird ornaments (well, two of them) that I made for the ornament swap I involved myself in this year. They're made from air drying clay with a little swirly dip-dye technique. I might make more birds or other clay items, because I really loved working with that medium and the outcome was pretty great. If I do, I'll maybe do a tutorial for you.

As a finale to Idle Husband's advent calendar, I walked over to Tim Horton's for some of their Christmas themed goodies. They ran out of the gingerbread doughnuts (sad), so I got the gingersnap cookie along with the chocolate candy cane doughnut and candy cane white hot chocolates. Everything was very good, though I thought the cookie was a little under-cooked towards the middle. I think I was a little tougher on them just because I was bummed about buying this cookie when I can easily make gingersnaps myself (and I'll never in a million years make my own doughnuts).

I was really sad not to see any Christmas flowers on my cactus this year, so I moved her to an even cooler room and almost two weeks later, she started putting out buds and then, boom! Flowers. She obviously likes her new spot (the craft room) a lot better. Despite what you'd initially think, a cooler room makes cacti (and succulents) so much happier!

Have any of you fellow bloggers ever felt this way? How did you break out of your blogging funk?

Friday, January 6, 2012

friday fixations

{demetri martin} We saw his show last night and it was awesome! And then it got awesomer with an encore. Demetri Martin rocks forever.

{netflix} For the past three days, I've been watching random netflix tv shows (did I mention Idle Husband's still on vacay? No? Well, it should be noted, then, that I'm still on vacay). Here are the ones (in no particular order) that have succeeded in capturing my attention past one show: The IT Crowd, The Big C, Breaking Bad, Sherlock, Life Unexpected, and Community (please tell me it gets better. We're at the point where we ditched it the first time we tried watching it). We also watched and really enjoyed Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog (not really a tv show, more like a shortish movie). We tried watching that one before but didn't like the singing, though I think we just hated it cuz we had to sit in front of YouTube to see it. I don't know about you, but any time shows are on the computer, I lose all interest. For some reason, in my mind, shows on the computer should be less than a minute long. Also why isn't Portlandia on netflix Canada! Argh! And we found volume 6 of Futurama and bought season 1 of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia on Apple tv so we're getting our (no repeats!) fix of those great shows, too.

{sewing} I'm really thinking hard about taking a sewing class this year. If only to learn how to make a proper pair of curtains and an infinite amount of skirts. And maybe how to add zippers. And maybe how to make bags or pillows. Or a shower curtain (we still don't have proper shower curtains. Just those $1.99 liners).

{today's levitation} This makes me so sad! but it's such a great picture, I just keep staring at it.

{creature comfort's free printable calendar page} Last year, I put together little paper craft calendars for the office each month. This year, the paper crafts are still coming but I really hated January's design so instead of making it, I decided to convert this calendar into a miniature. I reduced the size by half, printed it and cut it out so I could fold it into a little stand . I think it looks super cute and it's much prettier and easier than the paper craft one(s) (if they design a good one for February, I might flip-flop between these two. We'll see how motivated I'm feeling). (And yes, that is a lava lamp on our desk.)

Monday, January 2, 2012

recap and resolutions

most popular posts of the year

{how to idly clean jewelry} This is one of those tips/tricks that's handy at any time of year so it's no wonder people visited it the most often.

{diy wrapped feather gel pens} Initially, I didn't think this was a really awesome DIY, but then I noticed it getting a lot of exposure on a number of different platforms, so its popularity really surprised me in the end. I did enjoy putting together a bird-themed package (which these were a part of) for my cousin, but (sadly) I think the whole thing has since been lost in the mail.

{peanut butter s'mores bars} This is kind of a no brainer. Chocolate, peanut butter, marshmallows, graham cracker -- I mean, who can argue with that? (I could really go for a piece of the original butterscotch type, though.)

{blog update} Wow. I had no clue this managed to sneak into the top five most popular posts. I thank you all for your support regarding my endeavors and I'm (really!) planning on doing more in-real-life stuff regarding this in the new year.

{earring storage ideas} This post was popular because of the title, I think. Those are strong google search terms. BUT I did have those little jewelry frames hanging up for a whole year so it was definitely a popular post for me, too.

my favourite posts

{blog update} Obviously, this one's pretty important to me. I was so nervous? scared? anxious? about the reaction to this, but I was pleasantly pleased with the overall result. It made (makes) me feel like I could do it for real.

{tzatziki} Getting the parent's proper recipe was the best thing that ever happened. I am literally making this at least once a week as we can't sit down to a single meal without it and I always bring a tub when visiting mom (she says she'd like to "take a bath in it"). I've since revised the process to be super fast. I use the food processor for the grating and found this amazing technique for peeling multiple cloves of garlic (and yes, it really does work! I use two smaller bowls -- easier clean-up -- and you must shake for longer than 2 seconds).

{alberta aviation museum vs weed bouquets} Speaking of Greek stuff, these two posts remind me of Idle Husband's parents' visit, so they're both really important to me. I miss having little weed arrangements in the house a lot and the pictures I got from the aviation museum are some of my favourites from this year.

{early morning storm} I can't believe how lucky I was to wake up to this storm. It was so exciting and looking back at all my photographs, it still blows my mind that they're real.

{abraham lake} I loved this trip. It's a place I frequented growing up, so it holds a lot of meaning for me. It was really great sharing it with Idle Husband and I hope we go back again this summer.


I don't like to make a big deal out of resolutions only because they can end up making you feel worse than you did before if you realize you haven't accomplished a single goal. That being said, there are a few things I'd like to try to work on:

{take more pictures} Since moving, I haven't felt the desire to take my camera out. Actually, since getting my new camera, I haven't felt the desire to take pictures outside of the house. Why? Well, it's more expensive, has a larger LCD screen, and it's bigger and heavier than my old one. I guess I just didn't want to risk it getting hurt and I felt self-conscious about what other people would think if I were to pull out such a camera to photograph seemingly random things. But that's a terrible way to live, right? Cameras should be used and I shouldn't let what I think other people think determine my actions. Besides, since getting two photographs blown up into posters, I've had a real desire to see more of my art in our house.

{step outside my comfort zone at least once a month} I really love habit. Like, really really love habit. I get so comfortable in routine that the minute it's thrown off even if just for a week, I get really frazzled and stressed out (like, crying into a burger in public stressed out). But the only way to grow and evolve as a person is to try new things. Take different steps. Go in the opposite direction as normal. When I think back to how I got to where I am now, everything that lead me on this path was from a direct and deliberate change in pattern and routine. Those changes didn't kill me, they made my life better, and it's time to start doing more of that now.

{eat in season} Sometimes, I have this dumb thought that even if it's January and I want a tomato in my salad, I should be able to have a damn tomato in my salad, it's 2012. I never really stop to think about how tomatoes are even available in January (because they shouldn't be sitting in our grocery stores at all at this time of year). So while this past year I made a conscious effort to purchase more Canadian produce (I'm so glad they've started putting the origin of food items on the tags), I think I could do even more by eating what's in season. I love to have my salads with every meal, but that doesn't meant they can't be made with shaved brussel sprouts or cabbage and carrots instead of (small but expensive) lettuce and (not-so-tasty/rotting in two days and expensive) tomatoes. This sort of thing is a little tougher in a winter climate (i.e. everything is out of season after October), but I found this chart that'll at least help me find the cheaper, better tasting produce throughout the year (also: canned stuff).

{rethink eating habits} While we're on the subject, I need to stop worrying so much about feeding us. Isn't that a weird thing to say? I've just been in wife mode for so long that the desire to feed has turned into more of an emotional thing than a sustenance thing. In other words, I don't feel like I'm pulling my weight around here if I'm not baking or cooking something at every meal juncture. So if I can't decide what to make or I don't feel like making anything one day, I feel very much like a failure and I get really frustrated, annoyed, and upset about it. I think it would help if I concentrated more on feeding us when we're actually hungry. The benefit to being just the two of us is that we don't need to have a set schedule for when to eat. What we really should be doing is eating when we're actually hungry not just because, "oh hey! it's 5 I have to make dinner" when we're not at all hungry in the slightest and would be just fine with a light snack closer to 7. This is an issue that's plagued me my whole life (I'm a giver and this is one of the best ways I know how to give) so it's definitely something I have to work hard at.

I feel like 2012 is going to be an exciting year full of good changes! What about you? Do you make resolutions?