Monday, November 28, 2011

Advent Calendar

This year I tackled a simple advent calendar for the the kids. My main challenge was to find time when the kids were sleeping to number, fill and hang the bags.

I used paper lunch bags found at the dollarstore. I chose them over other craft paper bags because they are cheaper, large and quite pliable - this made it great to have two gifts per bag, some of them small, others larger and odd in size.

I numbered them with number stickers in black, added a circle in silver paint pen and some other drawn squiggles to fancy them up a bit. Your options here are endless - you could use a stamp set, add craft paper, make number tags, stencils, etc. I wanted an approach that wasn't too time consuming as these bags won't be used again next year.

To hang I put four nails in my window frame where holes already existed. I added red gift string and tied it across the window - two rows.

My initial thought was to hang the bags with clothes pins, but some gifts were quite heavy and the clothes pins couldn't take the weight. So I opted for office file clips (the black and silver matched) - this turned more industrial looking than I first envisioned. The key to the heavier bags staying put is to drape the top of the bags over the string and then clip them together.

The gifts in bag 1 were too heavy even for that, so I placed it on the window sill and set a companion next to it.

Gifts in the bags:

  • Miniature books
  • Soaps
  • Erasers
  • Stickers
  • Card games
  • Hot wheels
  • Princess figurines
  • Farm animals
  • Chocolate, etc.

All things were found at the dollar store, Michaels or the office supply store and cost around $1 each.

Linked to Beach Cottage Linky Party

Sunday, November 27, 2011

One photo a week - 48/52

Ottawa had a very mild fall and I really enjoyed that. However, that all came to end this week as we got our first snowfall - a substantial amount that made the drive to work a little slower and the evening fun for the kids...let winter begin!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Maps & Scraps

D's room doesn't have curtain panels, just a white black-out blind. He has the tiniest room and the way it's set up right now, curtains would get in the way. We do have big plans for his room that we'll tackle next year, but right now I was looking to add a little colour and whimsy around his window.

I cut circles (about 1.5 inch) out of leftover craft paper that match his name art and took an old European map and cut circles out that as well. Then I ran the paper through the sewing machine and ended up with two sets of bunting. I draped those around the window out of reach. This won't be a permanent feature, but I like how it adds a little colour and I've always liked the look of maps in home decor.

Cost: $0.- and 15 minutes of work.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Standing tall

I think most families use a doorway or some type of area to capture the growth of their kids. I've been marking the door jamb between the dining room and the kitchen for the past two years. I must admit that it looked a little messy and when I saw several measuring stick ideas on the web I decided to tackle this super easy DIY.

First I bought a piece of cedar fence board at $4.-. The size fits my kitchen/dining room doorway perfectly. You could choose any wood you want here. I took it home and sanded it with a palm sander - both surfaces and all the sides, giving it a nice smooth finish. I then used a measuring tape and marked all the centimetre marks, making longer lines in 10 cm intervals (this project is easier for people using inches)

Next I chose a simple font and printed out large numbers (these ones are set at 200%, but you could go bigger if you wanted). I cut them out and made my stencil, tracing all the lines with a pencil.

I used paint I had in the house (Martha Stewart Seal and Martha Stewart Sunken Pool, both colour matched to BM Aura paint) and marked each line freehand. You could go out and buy paint pens that will give you a more exact look, but I didn't want to spend more money on this project and moved ahead with what I had.

I finished everything off with a coat of semi-gloss polyurethane which we also had - this protects the surface and gave more colour depth to the wood.

The final photo is taken in my living room, not where it will actually live - that corner is too dark for a good photo so I thought I'd show it to you before I hung it. Now - off to transcribe existing numbers!

PS: Here some examples of other measuring sticks available on etsy and one DIY that used a Sharpie pen.

Linked to Beach Cottage Linky Party

Sunday, November 20, 2011

One photo a week - 47/52

I don't hang Christmas lights or other decorations before December 1st, but I'm planning on making an Advent calendar for each one of my kids and a new wreath for the front door. Today I gathered the supplies and started some work so I'll be ready on time.

My usual holiday colours are silver and ice blue - this year I'm switching it up and using red instead of the blue...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Getting cozy

This weekend we got out our blankets and IKEA sheep skin which will cozy up the couch for colder evenings. I also switched my ice blue cushions and white bird cushion for these Kilim pillows. These old carpet pillows hold up well to kids and give a more rustic feel to the house - perfect for winter.

I'd love to switch out my curtain panels for dark velvet ones, but I haven't seen anything at a reasonable price yet. I'm also still looking for the perfect living room rug to warm up the space.

Do you switch things around for the winter time?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Visiting Janice (virtually)


Last week Janice from 'Life begins at thirty, right?' was debating how to brighten up her dining room. I had a chance to gather a couple of ideas in a guest post for her. Have a look at the suggestions and make sure to check out her amazing bathroom renovation!

Thanks Janice for letting me stop by.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Craft inspiration

I don't normally review books on this blog, but this Martha Stewart, Handmade Holiday Crafts has been a great inspiration. The book is a collection of 225 crafts, covering all the major holidays, but versatile enough to  tackle some of them just for fun. I've seen a couple of these crafts in her magazine, the website and the special edition magazine, but it's great to have them all together in one nicely bound book.

I did the following Easter display for the past 2 years - I wasn't aware that I had seen it in Martha Stewart Living, but I probably did. And I'm always very impressed with her Halloween pumpkin ideas.

I always love Martha's party decor, it's usually simple to make and very  impactful. The colours throughout this book are lovely and fun. If you are looking for a great collection of good crafting ideas this would be a go-to source. No need to troll the internet.

PS: I am in no way paid for this review and have not received this book for free. The link to Amazon is NOT an affiliated link and I am not being paid for it.  I just thought I'd pass along something inspiring for those that like to craft.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

One photo a week - 46/52

This fall has been incredibly mild - I think we dipped below freezing only a couple of nights in the past few weeks. Most leaves are off the trees and shrubs now, but my dogwood is still hanging on to some bright read foliage - I really like the depth of red, some purple and delicate underside of the leaves.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


I received this watercolour last Christmas from my grandmother. It's a French Landscape done by an artist friend of hers in 1999. The artist and my grandmother never had time to switch the makeshift frame. Almost a year it's been hanging in the little dull and dingy frame until I finally went out and got a black one. I think this small detail makes a huge difference - now the black ink details in the painting really come to life and the whole piece is properly framed on my wall.

I might get my friend to come over and open the mat a little (she has a proper mat cutter) and I'm still looking at either painting our old chair dark or getting a Wishbone chair as our extra dining seating.

But right now I'm happy that a little change made a big difference.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Please advise...

Long post alert...

I need your help! My fireplace has been driving me crazy since we moved in two years ago. The previous owner, who only lived there a year, took the white brick wood fireplace and put in a wood burning insert. Although that insert is not pretty and not one I would have chosen it works and won't be replaced. First step would be to get BBQ paint and paint the brass trim black.

While putting in the insert he also decided to tile the fireplace rather than keeping the original white brick, and for some reason chose hideous floor tiles. Not only did he choose ugly tiles that I need to look at every day - he also did a horrible job installing them - mortar is crumbling and baseboards were cut with a handsaw and nailed in with 2 inch nails!

For several reasons I've not done anything about this yet - priority being one of them. The fireplace works and we've been working on a million other things in the house. Money is the second reason - doing something properly is going to cost some money - even by not replacing the insert any material chosen has a price tag to it. Third and probably my biggest reason is my indecision. I'm hoping this is where you can help?

Option 1:
White brick. Take down the tile and go back to the original. This will take extensive amount of dirty/dusty work as I think all the mortar would be stuck on the original brick. I'd then tile the ledge with brick or with some type of stone - maybe Limestone? Remove dark black fireplace skirt and replace with smaller more discreet one. This option would be most original to the house and could look something like this...

Option 2
Cement Tile. I love cement tile or cuban tile - the moorish patterns are great, they are eclectic, different and very durable. They are also heavy and cost quite a bit of money. I'd go for a subtle pattern all the way to the ceiling. However, we could go subtle or bold with this option. Again, I'd reduce the black skirt.

Option 3
Wood. Dark walnut coloured wood panels on a horizontal up to the coved ceiling. This would bring the warm floor colour up the walls - it would be a nod to the mid century architecture of the house. The ledge would have to be clad in metal or stone and the skirt could be removed. This photo actually has a lot of metal, but I'd see it more like below picture with wood closer and some added stone.

Photo: Style at Home, Nov 2011

What do you think? Anything you like better? Other ideas?
Note that there is a window right next to the fireplace to the right. The curtain panel there will be replaced with a plain white roller blind to keep lines cleaner and the area less cluttered.

Linked to Beach Cottage Good Life Wednesday

Sunday, November 6, 2011

One photo a week - 45/52

On a whim this weekend we purchased a betta fish...I never had fish before, but supposedly these are loners and are super easy to care for, therefore perfect for little kids. We got a small tank, the gravel and fake plants and the kiddos have been excited in making our new pet comfortable. He now lives in our family room.

He'll only need his tank cleaned once a month and needs 2-3 pellets of food a day...if we do that he should last 2-3 years.  Wonder how our cat will take to Tom?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Miniature Apple Blueberry Pies

Oh my...these were so simple and so good! I could have eaten all of them myself...

I had some apples that were ok, but probably better if they were used for baking. I also had some puff pastry in the fridge and blueberries. I decided to switch it up and make bite size pies with my muffin tin. They turned out perfect - sweet, sticky, juicy - good on their own or with some vanilla ice cream.

How to:

  • Peel 3 medium sized apples and cut into pieces
  • Toss apple pieces and blueberries with 1/3 cup of sugar, some cinnamon and a splash of lemon juice
  • Cut defrosted puff pastry into circles that will fit your muffin tin (I used a drinking glass as template)
  • Grease muffin tin and place pastry in each hole, making sure the pastry reaches above the edge of each hole
  • Fill each hole with the apple/berry mixture
  • Bake at 375 F for 20 minutes on the middle rack

makes 10-12

Note: Some of them were a little sticky to get out, make sure to grease the pan properly. They taste great warm or room temperature.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween creepyness

Once again we had fun decorating our lawn with all the creepy tombstones, lanterns, pumpkins and a flying ghost. Monday night we lit the large carved pumpkins and distributed our luminaries among the tombstones. Being on the corner our house gets a lot of attention, so decorating is really fun and I think the flickering candles make all the difference. Our kids loved the decorations and really got into the trick or treating - they came home with buckets of candy!

Inside I kept the decorations to a minimum as we didn't have a Halloween party like last year. We did add the mouse silhouettes to the staircase and baseboards again and had bat silhouettes in our lampshades.

I'll add a photo of the kids costumes later today - they were the cutest Witch and British Royal Guard. Edit: Added photo below.
Did you eat a lot of candy? Did you decorate your house? This evening I'll be busy removing all the sticky spiderwebs from our house...

Linked to Beach Cottage Good Life Wednesday