Friday, April 27, 2012


Sorry I've been a MIA this week! Things have been a little busy and hectic around here and I haven't really had the chance to work on anything creative.

But I did get the opportunity to help mom clean out her garage, so we finally went through boxes we packed (not kidding) about 10 years ago. It was like discovering treasure! Here're some of the things I came home with:

A couple antique pictures. My favourite is the one with the dogs. I find it so interesting that they used this "new" technology just to take a picture of their dogs.

Personal pics of our cows -- I miss them so much sometimes! They all had their own unique personalities -- and one of my gram on a motorcycle. I need to get that one framed.

Brass hand clip

Chicken salt and pepper shakers

The flying dutchman! Another weird and wonderful lamp

I realized that I had accumulated more chicken bones and stock in my freezer than actual meat, so I've taken to having soup for breakfast every other day (which works out pretty well since it's still snowing and it's almost May), so I was pretty happy to find this cute soup cup. Cups are my preferred soup container.

This is 6 feet of crocheted shelf edging. I was SO excited to find this! I've been lamenting about how we used to have it and wouldn't it be nice to find it again so I could put it here:

See that middle board? It was accidentally nailed in wrong.

But now with crocheted shelf edging, no one knows and it looks extra pretty!

This is a brass wall sculpture... brass art piece?... brass thing you hang on the wall. I think I should spray paint it. Or should I? Maybe gold or silver? I haven't decided yet.

I've also purchased this year's tomato plants. I'm kind of excited about them because Walmart had purple tomatoes available so I can't wait to see how they turn out. And I bought a ton of seeds! As soon as the weather straightens out, we're going to be designing our backyard garden and planting like crazy people.

And I'm babysitting these huge goldfish. They're in my garage and I'm freaking out about how they're doing! I would be so sick if anything happened to them. The water's cold and it's cold out there so they've just been laying on the bottom of the tank since they got here which is pretty typical for the temperature. Still, I worry-check them three times a day.

How's your week been?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

dream decorating project

I don't know if I've ever mentioned it before, but my ultimate decorating fantasy (well, at the moment, anyway) is to redo Idle Husband's apartment in Athens.

There's nothing inherently wrong with the apartment or the furnishings. It would be perfectly acceptable if one person stayed there but now that I'm around, that apartment has become the most uncomfortable place ever in the history of ever.

I'll start in the bedroom which has really good bones, i.e. a built in closet. The furnishings include:
  • 1 hard-as-rock twin bed
  • 1 pretty useless desk covered in stuff
  • 1 pretty useless shelf with doors also full of stuff no one's using (duh useless!)

The living room/kitchen/dining room, again, has pretty good bones, i.e. the kitchen cabinets are nice and all along one wall. The furnishings include:
  • 1 probably too large tv stand and 1 older model tv
  • 1 six-seater dining room table
  • 4 extra large dining room chairs
  • 1 three seat sofa that (get this) converts into a twin bunk bed (a twin set of bunk beds! I discovered this after I insisted I had to know what it converted into after one particularly sleepless night)
  • there might be a couple side tables doing nothing but taking up space, too, I just can't seem to focus on the little details anymore

In theory, that doesn't sound so dismal, right? But when I tell you this apartment is 388 square feet and this stuff is literally squished into it, do you understand now?

Let me describe to you a typical stay there. Since the bedroom is pretty much useless to us (twin bed and all), we leave our suitcases in there and live out of them. I know, I said there's a super nice built-in closet? Well, there's stuff in there or no hangers... or some reason why we never use it.

Therefore, we find ourselves pulling out the sofa "mattresses" that are really just foam pads that are a part of the twin bunk bed shenanigans. They don't really function as a double mattress but, pushed together, they kind of work (except they always slide apart mid-night). There are no sheets, no comforters, no suitable pillows for some reason, just blankets, and the mattresses go straight on the floor in the kitchen (my layouts are not to scale, so, to answer your thought, no we can't put the mattress on the bedroom floor. There's not enough space). To give you an idea of space in the living area, once the mattresses are on the floor, in front of the sofa frame, the bottom of the mattress (i.e. where our feet are) wedges right up against the kitchen counters. That's the width of the whole living area.

Now we're wedged on the floor and we have to get up off the floor, go around the dining room chairs -- let's hope we remembered to push them in the night before so no one stubs their toe -- and each other (sad is the person close to the window wall), to access the bathroom (and as much as I don't want to admit it, the older you get, the harder it is to get up off the floor in the middle of the night).

Furthermore, the tv is on the other side of the dining room table, so we can either sit in upright dining room chairs to watch shows at night or we can lay on the floor and angle ourselves so we can watch tv through the dining room chair legs from our makeshift bed (since the couch is unusable with all of its cushions on the floor for sleeping -- not like it was usable for tv viewing before since it's not even facing in the direction of the tv -- it's too wide to be placed that way).

Sounds like a relaxing vacation, right? And the jet lag going to Greece is absolute murder (coming back is much easier on the system). We're usually so tired from the trip itself that all we want to do for the first day is sleep and these are the accommodations we're arriving to. It's better than the chairs at the airport but not by much.

So I have suggested many times that the most awesome gift Idle Husband's parents could ever give us would be to empty the apartment of all the furniture and stuff. They don't have to do anything else to it. Just empty it (cuz for the life of me I have no idea how they got that stuff in there in the first place).

Then I could do something like this:

With this stuff:

Everything is from IKEA since they make a lot of cheap furniture (this is definitely a project for a small budget) designed for small spaces like this (and it would be easy to get most of it up the spiral staircase or the tiny elevator).

I might go with a different sofa once at the store but I actually had this one when I lived in the NAIT apartment and I like that it's small and can convert into a small double bed (good for anyone else -- especially with kids -- who happens to stay at the apartment when we're not there) and it's relatively comfortable (couple of throw pillows would round it out). The splurge is really the dining room set. I could be talked into another, cheaper version, but I've always liked the look of that particular set plus I love that the chairs slide under the table like pieces of a puzzle which makes the whole set only as large as the table itself. I also chose a small laptop desk that would double as a side console and a room divider when placed behind the sofa. We'd be able to use it as a table for drinks etc. when sitting on the sofa, a sideboard for dining, and we could swing a chair over from the dining room set and use it as a desk as well (multi-functional!).

The final total doesn't include the price of a double mattress (and I would definitely agree to a cheaper IKEA mattress, too. Any actual mattress will do!), and the price of the curtains are included, but they're probably not necessary since I think the existing curtains were just fine -- I just wanted to add some nice cheery colour to my layout.

I would also use existing lighting and accessories, I just can't really remember what they were. If anything, these are the things that should be collected over time, here and there, so that's why I haven't included them. I would definitely use this as an excuse to drag Idle Husband to the Monastiraki flea market again! And despite my usual disgust with fake plants, I think some of the fakes IKEA offers would be really perfect for the place since they'd provide that necessary green life without having to worry about keeping them alive while no one is there (shown: house bamboo, succulent, maidenhair tree -- nothing with flowers because I find fake plants with flowers look... faker than a leafy plant. It's not about the design of the flowers, but the fact that your plant seems to always be flowering and that's not natural).

One final thing, the tiles in the apartment are amazing! They're a coppery browny orange and shiny like glass, so I think blues and greys would work the best in the space because of them. And I'm envisioning a blue-grey tone for the walls. Perhaps a feature wall in the living area to make the space appear wider and then carrying that tone into the bedroom as well.

Pretend decorating can be so much fun. Do you have any dream decorating projects that you'd love to make a reality some day?

Monday, April 16, 2012

diy: pixel art

When I suggested space invaders, I didn't really think things would get so out of hand. It started as a suggestion for a painted bathroom wall decal which then turned into possible bathroom art which eventually turned into office art because I actually managed to make the darn thing too large. Finally, I think I am going to look into a professional, artistic space invaders poster for the future. There are a few really nice ones on Etsy that I've got my eye on.

In the meantime, this project didn't turn out half bad. I really like this little character looking at us from the one previously blank wall in the office. So I suppose the purpose of this endeavor was still maintained because now the office feels a little more finished.

Anyway pixel art is probably the most simple art you could ever create. Being artistically inclined is not necessary at all.

The size of your picture will depend greatly on the size of your "pixels" or in this case, square pieces of paper. At first, I was using 2" squares, but finally reduced them to 1 1/2" squares since the finished invader was too big at that size and I thought the 1/2" square was a little too small (though, it probably would have worked out all right in hindsight).

Depending on what pixel creature you're creating, cut out a bazillion squares accordingly. I searched for space invaders online and found a picture that already had the pixels well mapped out, but it's not really that difficult to figure it out on your own. The space invader as seen above required 46 squares.

If you want a less formal design, may I suggest post-it notes? I'm sure you've seen the elaborate pixel creations made using individual post-its around the web. They're cute and fun when stuck onto windows and walls.

Then I loosely arranged them into my invader starting with the longest row in the middle and building out from there. That way I could adjust where I wanted him on the poster paper.

I marked out where I wanted him to start and end and drew really faint lines for each line of pixels so I'd have some sort of guideline towards keeping the squares straight. That's probably the most frustrating part of the whole thing. Keeping them straight (and some of them just won't be straight. Let yourself relax on account of human error).

Finally, glue the whole mess down. Naturally, this was exactly the moment I ran out of glue, so I had to use mod podge which worked just as well.

Hang away!

Friday, April 13, 2012

friday fixation: tsoureki

I know it's strange, but this week is Greek Easter so on Monday we promptly (I have no idea how she manages to time the mail so well!) received our Greek Easter gifts. Among the treats, was a loaf of tsoureki (pronounced choo-wreck-ee). I'd never had it before and it fascinated me so much, I had to try some while Idle Husband was at work. He insisted he didn't like it and wouldn't even have a slice (while I insisted it was delicious and had a big pocket of chocolate inside), so (shamefully) I've been eating it all week long. There are a lot of recipes for the bread online, but it wouldn't surprise me if you found a loaf at the Italian market or Hellas Foods.

Now that he's seen the pictures, Idle Husband is really sad he missed out. I told him it was full of chocolate!!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

leftover easter

We never decorate eggs for Easter. Mostly because I feel like there's really no point to it. This year, however, I kinda wanted a little colour in my fridge so I coloured up the rest of our eggs old school. (You're not going to find any fancy tie-dyes or leaf prints around here.)

All you need is some hot water, food colouring, and a teaspoon of vinegar per colour.

The floral printed cups are what my Gram used to use for dying eggs. Some of them still have faint rings of green and blue on the inside.

I spotted this idea for using push pins as a drying rack this year so I attempted that. For the most part, it works, but the pins have to be very close together.

I think the best colour was brown.

Every time I open the fridge now, I get a little burst of colour.

Did you have a colourful Easter?

Friday, April 6, 2012

friday fixations

{michelle tanner} She's so right.

{aziz ansari's 50 cent grapefruit story} Surprisingly, this doesn't surprise me at all.

{flower beds without removing grass} This problem was on the back of my mind until I learned of a friend's disheartening struggle to install flower beds in her backyard (also a newer build with about a foot of topsoil, the rest solid clay). I thought, "okay we'll just build some planter boxes and dump dirt in those, that'd be cool." And then I thought, "where the hell am I gonna put a bunch of planter boxes?" And then mom emailed me this link which kinda makes sense, looks pretty doable and like it would probably work. So now I'm thinking, "I need to find a bunch of newspapers."

{embroidered screen door} I had/have a hankering to put a screen door on our back door. One of those cutesy wooden ones with scrolls. I'd paint it bright yellow and now I'd embroider some Xs and Os in the screen to welcome my sweetheart home.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

one summer, I painted everything we owned

I love painting! Maybe not every day as, like, a job or something, but I really do feel this weird craving, this need to paint something at least once a year.

I'm kind of weird in that I really enjoy that manual labour stuff. Manual labour and repetitive assembly line work. Yup. I could do that stuff all day every day and I'd enjoy the hell out of every minute.

Painting's one of those things where I can just start and be alone in my little painting world. Zone out, listen to some music (or not), just myself and my brush. It's calming. Almost zen like.

Recently, I decided that the beige was making me sad. I mean, not in a woe-is-me kind of way, it was just bumming me out. So I've now decided it's time for a house makeover. Or not really a makeover (the house is brand new afterall), but more like a house personalization. I'm pretty happy with the colours chosen, but in every. single. room?! That's too much for me to handle.

I started in the master bedroom so the major comforting and relaxing room was finished first. That makes sense right? If any part of the house should come under disarray at any time in the future (and it will) at least we can retreat to bed and sleep in a nicely decorated, painted, and pretty room, right?

While doing it, I thought I'd share some of my painting tips I just kinda thought about while in the process. They're not professional tips (as in I'm not a professional), and maybe some of them aren't even really that handy, but I think they'd help anyone who's never painted anything ever. And you really should paint something at some point in your life. It's fun and it's a pretty easy and cheap way to instantly transform a room. And besides, it's just good house maintenance. You know how you have to clean out your gutters? Think about painting the walls the same way. Things just get grungy over time and (I think) it's just careless not to freshen it up (even if it's the same colour of paint) at least every five years.

{don't bother prepping too much} I have this weird thing where I just want to start my project already and I'll work over and around stuff until it pisses me off so much, I stop halfway through and actually prep. This is true for painting, cooking, crafting... all manners of work I get myself involved in. For instance, I never tape off mouldings -- I'm good at painting around trim. So in the master, I didn't bother until I started cutting in around the baseboards and realized I just couldn't do it cleanly enough. There I was, halfway through, going around taping off the baseboards. But now I know, right? I can cut in like a pro around doors and windows, but these particular baseboards are tricky, so I'll tape them off right away for future projects. The tiny area I screwed up, I went back with my trim paint and cleaned it up after. No biggie. Naturally, I do prep things such as removing pictures and switch plates, patching holes, and moving out little pieces of furniture and scooting larger pieces to the middle of the room and covering with a sheet. I'm not that unpreppy.

{it's cool to just have one small drop cloth} In the old house, I had all the old curtains that I used for drop cloths when painting. When we moved, I only kept a couple of the smaller ones just in case. So now, I don't have enough material to actually cover the whole floor so I move those two half curtains all the way around the room with me as I go. It's more of a hassle on carpeting. And for the love of all things, don't use a plastic drop sheet. It blows up and rustles around and static clings to everything. It'll end up in your paint more than it actually keeps paint off your floor.

{bottom to top} So I don't tire myself out too quickly, I start cutting in around the baseboards so I can sit and scoot my way around the room. Then I do all the cutting in for anything I can reach at standing height. Then I do all the cutting in around the ceiling on a ladder. It just kinda sucks to me to squat then stand then go up a ladder every few feet and I don't think it takes any more or less time either way.

{you dripped? so what} I keep a wet cloth with me at all times. If you drip, you can catch it right away with your cloth. If you didn't catch it, most paint can be scratched right off hard surfaces with your fingernail or a razor blade (especially if you leave it as a drip and don't smoosh it). I'm more wary of drips from too much paint on the wall than I am with getting it on the floor. The floor is easy, but if you let a drip dry on the wall, we're talking sandpaper and repainting to get rid of it, so be mindful of those.

Source: Uploaded by user via Cindy on Pinterest

{a lesson on trays} I have a lot of paint trays, but for some reason, I never ever bother to clean them after a paint job. After cutting in around the main floor living room, I realized I'd have to find a paint tray and clean it out (another example of my preparedness) so I spent about 10 minutes or more chipping the flaking paint out of a tray so I could use it. You'd think I'd have learned that lesson by now, wouldn't you? But the trays are definitely worth keeping around even if they are a pain to clean. You can buy tray liners or you can try the above idea if you're more prepared for it than I was. My foil didn't fit the tray completely (you gotta get those extra long boxes), and the foil kept lifting up with every roll (maybe if you could somehow stick it to the plastic tray it would work better).

{$5 paint brush = $25 paint brush} Yes, the more expensive paint brush is probably better, but I'm not a professional painter. I'm painting a couple times and then I'm probably not gonna paint for another five years so do I really feel the need to invest in a great paint brush? No. I buy those five packs of brushes for $10. You can find them anywhere. Same goes for rollers. I do wash my brushes out (especially the one angled brush I have that I particularly like for cutting in) but if I don't feel like it, I don't feel a tremendous amount of guilt for tossing them either. Once in a while, a cheap brush will screw me over by throwing out a stray bristle or mucking up a clean line, but those are easily pulled off (before they dry) or touched up.

{befriend the paint guy} Find a paint place you like and trust and always use them. I think that every paint store has the ability to match paint now, so you really don't have to get the paint where you found the colour. I like Cloverdale Paint. They deal with all the professional painters so they are mixing serious amounts of paint all day long. They also have a wide range of colours and paint to choose from plus they keep your mixes on file so if you go back to them for more, you don't have to bring a chip with you if they've already mixed it. Plus they know paint, so if you have any questions about what type to use, they'll be able to answer intelligently.

{the actual painting} I have mixed feelings on priming a room now. Definitely prime if it's older, maybe grungier paint you're painting over or if you're painting a light colour over a dark colour. You maybe don't need to bother if it's newer paint (like in my situation) or if the colours are pretty close in tone. I have had problems with using primer and having a darker colour over top because, when nailing a picture in later, the new paint chipped and I could see a startling white spot sticking out from under the darker colour. So if you really have to prime, take some of your new colour and mix it into the primer to avoid that annoying problem.

Generally I have a less is more idea to how much paint should be on the brush, but I also want my second coat of paint to just finish the job and I want my first coat to do most of the work. Do not dry brush or roll. You'll know because the brush will leave streaks and you'll find yourself pushing down on the roller to get more paint out. Always go back for more paint more often than you think you should.

For tight corners, I make sure there's a heavier blob of paint on my brush (not dripping, but not swiped on the side of the can either) and I use the brush to push the paint into the corner. The brush itself doesn't go into the corner (thereby mucking up the ceiling or wherever your corner happens to be), just the blob of paint. Once you know how to push paint where you want it (without getting the brush too involved), cutting in will go that much easier as this is the method I use the most around the ceiling (where taping isn't an option). For corners, blob, then push until covered. For lines, blob, push, then pull the paint blob straight across. It's probably best to practice it under window trim or over the door trim until you get the hang of it.

I would say to roll top to bottom or bottom to top or in big Ws, but I really don't think any of that matters as long as you have sufficient paint on the roller. If you've got enough paint, you shouldn't see lines, just make sure to always overlap where you last rolled. And finally, always use a broom handle or extender for rolling unless there's absolutely no room for it. My hand always cramps up and gets tired faster if I don't have a longer handle attached to the roller handle and there's no sense in tiring yourself out faster than you need to.

I don't think a paint job has ever taken me more than one day to complete, so I hope these pointers help make painting a less daunting task. The most challenging part of it should be picking your paint colour!