Monday, January 30, 2012

Take a tour

It looks like our mudroom got pinned to Pinterest and I've been getting a couple questions about the bench and the paint colour we used. So I thought I'd finally buckle down and get a house tour started. I'll post before and after pictures of each room and will then store them in a tab at the top of the blog for future reference.

First up, the mudroom that gets a lot of questions:
We never took a picture of this room when we did the walk-through, but imagine a utility sink and very large washer and dryer where the red bench now lives. The floor was covered in stick on vinyl tiles and the walls were covered in tartan wallpaper. Nice, right?

Before we even moved in, we moved the washer and dryer to the basement because walking past them from the garage was annoyingly narrow and we wanted to use the space more efficiently. I also like having my laundry in the basement, there is less pressure in getting rid of the piles on the floor and getting things put away.

We pulled out the utility sink, plumbing, radiator, vinyl floor tiles and wall paper. Then we added floor heating (there is no basement below this area) and porcelain tile.

We painted the walls Benjamin Moore Blue Echo (AF 505), a pretty bold and saturated blue that works well in this really bright room.  Because the walls were quite damaged due to the plumbing, radiator and dryer exhaust we decided to add panelling. I like the fresh white, the texture and how it complements the dark wall colour.

The bench is made from a LACK shelf we bought at IKEA (I think it's discontinued).  We decided on red for a pop of complementary colour. We got castors at Home Depot and added five - one in each corner and one in the middle/back to add additional support. The baskets we use we've had for a while and I think they are all from IKEA.

I made the cushions, and the window treatment is a tension rod set with a panel of fabric. It's so sunny in that room that even that curtain doesn't block light.

We kept the original closet door and painted it with chalkboard paint. Because it's right next to the playroom the kids get to doodle and I hang our family activity calendar there as well. The cute red message board is from Paris and usually houses birthday party invites. I liked how the red popped against the blue wall.

The other end of the mudroom houses what used to be a cold-room. We had to run heat in there because the electrical panel sits in there and code does not allow for an unheated room with an electrical panel. We use this generous room for handbags, skates and other sports equipment, cat food and the litter box. To use the space most efficiently we added a cat door for easy access and a no mess solution.

This space was tricky to work with because we have one window, five doors and an opening into the playroom. We are really happy how it functions and adds a cheery extension to the playroom.

Note: We also had to drop the ceiling in this room to accommodate new heating/cooling ducts. This allowed for pot lights and speakers.

Linked to Beach Cottage Linky Party

Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday Food Files

This dreary weather is making me crave southern citrus, sunshine and warmth. I use a lot of lemon and lime in our cooking and added this wonderful grapefruit the other day for breakfast and my snack. It seems that my body is wanting that extra amount of vitamin C, while my eyes are craving pops of bright colour.

Linked to 3boybarians Sweet Shot Tuesday

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

To link or not to link

My blog is a small blog, one that captures things that we do as a family, travels we go on, projects we tackle and inspiration that's connected to our everyday. I have a full-time job and don't blog to make money. However, for most of us it would be nice to have a little extra cash lying around to treat ourselves - maybe a new outfit or accessory that we can't necessarily justify in our budget. Especially when you are working on renovations in your house you would love to spend  some extra cash on a special light fixture or faucet.

So when your blog gets the attention of marketing agencies and they've done a little research in knowing what you are writing about, and they want to help you out with a bit of extra cash, you might be interested, no? I was, until I dug for a bit more information. When you are expected to link back to a product/company with random words within your blog, to a brand you've never used and you get paid to that, it just didn't sit right. You know how your mind says...but you'd be clear about it being a sponsored post, and you could use a bit of spending money...but your gut is going...yeah, but why would my readers want to link to this random site that FishlyNews never even used....

You see, there is a big difference (see related article tweeted by Andrea ) if I had received the product or service from that company to try out. I could have blogged about it openly and given my honest opinion. Or, if I collaborated with a company to furnish a bedroom or to host a give-away. That would be up-front, honest and related to an actual experience I had, right? Or if they wanted to buy advertisement, why not? But this trend of 'secret' embedded links to increase their traffic is a 'cheap' and back-handed way of promotion. Why not pay a blogger proper money for proper endorsement on something they truly value? This just seems like a cheap PR agency move to get unique hits for a super low price.

So, here I am, still not buying that rug I really want, but still feeling good as my stomach isn't lurching. What do you think? Is it just me?

Monday, January 23, 2012

From jpg to print - another year in review

In 2011 we took 9,311 photos.

They are happily living in our filing system, some have been made public on the blog or sent by email,but what happens to the rest of them?

I used to have photo albums where I stuck my prints and had a great book to look back at. Since 2005 I do the same, but instead of printing and sticking, I use photo books. I narrow down my photos to capture moments special in a specific year. After trying a couple layouts, I keep reusing the simple iPhoto template called photobook. That particular layout allows for a simple design and a generous amount of photos per page if needed. My books are now at the 100 page maximum and this year it includes 200 photos that summarize 2011. I could use other providers that I believe offer bigger books, but I like the constraint of 100 pages - it makes me focus.

I used to transfer my favourite photos from Aperture (our choice for filing/editing) every couple of months into an iPhoto folder. Then in January I'd go through them, create the layout and have the book printed first thing in January. This year I'm a little behind because I didn't sort photos throughout the year - so it took me about four hours spread over 2 days to get the book assembled.

You'll see a few sample pages below. It's really great to go through previous years - even without captions those collections trigger many memories and it's the best way to share photos with visitors or your children. While we live in a digital world, getting those jpg's onto paper is really worth it to me.

Do you make photo books or albums? Do you print hardcopies to enjoy?

Below are a couple of my past photo books. I was not paid by Apple to promote iPhoto - I just like the tool and the printing results, the colours are vivid and the paper quality is great.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday Food Files

Oh my, oh my. This recipe for Apple Sharlotka from Smitten Kitchen is amazing! and simple! and I' m saying it again, amazing! I ate this for dessert, then snack, then in the morning, then another snack until the whole thing was gone! Thank goodness I made it for company so I didn't gobble it up all on my own.

Apple Sharlotka (from Smitten Kitchen)
  • Butter or nonstick spray, for greasing pan
  • 6 large, tart apples, such as Granny Smiths
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
  • Ground cinnamon, to finish
  • Powdered sugar,  to finish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper. Butter the paper and the sides of the pan. Peel, halve and core your apples, then chop them into medium-sized chunks. (The nicer you cut the pieces the nicer the slices will look.) Pile the cut apples directly in the prepared pan.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, using an electric mixer or whisk, beat eggs with sugar until thick and ribbons form on the surface of the beaten eggs. Beat in vanilla, then stir in flour with a spoon until just combined. The batter will be very thick.

Pour over apples in pan, using a spoon or spatula to spread the batter so that it covers all exposed apples. Bake in preheated oven for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a tester comes out free of batter. Cool in pan for 10 minutes on rack, then flip out onto another rack, peel off the parchment paper, and flip it back onto a serving platter. Dust lightly with ground cinnamon.

Serve warm or cooled, dusted with powdered sugar.

** I made this cake for company, so it was dark when the cake was finished. I took this picture with a bounce flash so the quality isn't top marks. The shot above was taken the next morning before I had cake for breakfast. Same spot on the table, but this time all natural light.

Linked to This or That Thursday

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Painting perfect stripes

I'll be revealing our 'new' bathroom very soon. I promise. We're almost there, just finalizing mirror choice, painting trim and maybe boxing in the vanity. That toilet leak threw us for a loop, and once that was fixed and we were back to working toilets and a working sink, we took a break...just a little one to keep our sanity.

Today though, I wanted to share with you how we painted our stripes and how a few extra steps can give you great results. 

Base colour. Paint your base colour and let it dry (cure) for at least 24 hours or read instructions on your paint can. Letting the base colour dry properly will allow you to use tape without damaging  that first colour.  

Measure. Decide on the thickness of your stripes and mark them with chalk or very faint pencil mark. You can measure each line, but we used a laser level which makes the job faster and more precise (amazing how that thing marks around corners!) 

Tape. Use the best quality painters tape you can get and tape the outside of the lines. This looks like it's giving you uneven stripes, but remember you want to colour the full width you measured, so you need to tape the OUTSIDE of the area you want to paint the stripe on. 

Lock your tape. Press down your tape really, really well and 'lock' your paint with the wall colour you used as the base colour. See below how we used a paintbrush and ran white paint all along the inside of the stripes that will be blue. This step is essential in getting perfect lines because the white paint blocks the blue paint from 'bleeding' under the tape.

Paint colour. Once that 'lock' paint is dry, start painting your colour. Make sure you get good coverage, especially along the tape line and in corners. Use a brush and a roller.

Remove tape. Once you are happy with your coverage - carefully take off your tape while the paint is WET! Taking off the tape while the paint is wet will avoid dry paint sticking to your tape and tearing off the wall, which would leave you with broken lines. This way you will have perfect lines. (watch out with that paint covered tape, don't get it on your walls.)

Our stripes are pretty simple, but if you are planning on multi-coloured patterns you'll have to repeat above steps for each colour. Remember to be patient and let each colour cure - patients will give you better results.

Anything that works best for you when you are painting?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Collectible colours - January

Last year I did a couple colour collection photos and had a lot of fun. This year I decided to do these on a more regular basis, probably once a month. I'll choose a specific colour and collect things in my house to arrange and photograph. I can't go out and buy anything to match the colour scheme though, I have to own it  - I find this a great exercise to focus on day-to-day objects and to see if they fit.

I'm kicking off this series with orange. This bright colour should cheer up a dreary winter day, Tangerine  Tango is the 2012 colour and I found it particularly challenging to scavenge for orange as don't really incorporate it into my things - but look, there's more than you'd think.

See here for my red collection, my white collection and a mood board that started this whole thing.

Linked to Beach Cottage Good Life Wednesday and this and that Thursday

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday Food Files

This past weekend we had friends over for dinner. We served raclette, something I really enjoy during the cold winter months. Nothing like boiled potatoes served with pungent melted cheese and a fresh green salad that complements in taste and lightness.

**I am quite happy with the lighting of this photo, none of the shadows are too strong. I like how the pink of the potatoes picks up the pink rim on the bowl and I also like the deep purple of the salad. I think the pickles could be a bit sharper and I'm not liking the reflection of the bowl on the knife - I should have rearranged things to avoid that.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Shed a little light

With all the blogging about the holidays and our bathroom(s), I never posted about our small fix that makes a big impact. It's that little light.

We have our sectional set right against the wall for two reasons:
  1. I don't have enough wall space to move it over and have enough space for a side table. Just shifting it over a little bit looked odd.  
  2. I have kids and having it against the wall helps things and kids from falling off.

    Having the sectional in the corner though created a problem for lighting. It was a dark corner and not suited for reading in the evening. I waffled between an arc light coming from the back corner or sconces next to our art? But I didn't have the floor space for an arc light, I found it interfered with the sight line of the wall and would inevitably get knocked around by the kids. The sconces would create a lot of work because of the electrical and our plaster walls.

    I've been seeing a lot of swagged or loosely hung bulbs in the past few months, but most of those are too industrial looking for my taste. So our solution was an easy plug in light fixture that was swagged to line up with our picture ledges. Because of the shade it's less industrial looking and I hid the back cord with a cable track. The shade can easily be switched when we want a different colour and this was a low cost investment that finally allows for some light! I'm not sure if this is my forever solution, but right now I'm good with it.

    Do you have any lighting dilemmas?  Should I be creating a knot above for a more casual look and having it look less 'safe'? Any suggestions?

    Linked to Beach Cottage Good Life Wednesday

    Tuesday, January 10, 2012

    I wish for an ocean breeze...

    I don't often post inspirational photos that don't link to us directly. But when I stopped by Desire to Inspire and saw this amazing photo, I was blown away! It's taken by Petrina Tinslay, Australian photographer, who takes amazing interior shots, but also award winning food photography, something of great interest to me.

    Why this photo? Well, I have this dream of living by the ocean. I love the colour blue, I love a lot of natural light and amazing views. This shot captures a dream...

    Monday, January 9, 2012

    Of copper and plumbing and unplanned renos

    You remember how I told you that our toilet was leaking and dripping into the downstairs powder room?
    Remember how we were in the midsts of a main bath makeover? Well, we figured out the leak and hubby fixed the leak.

    Once he opened up the ceiling and we almost shed a tear because we had to destroy something we had just finished a year ago, we saw the obvious problem. It wasn't just the wax ring that had dried up, but rather the copper drain that had a split (see photo above). Our plumbing is 50+ years old, so things can start to go wrong.

    We learned that because of the horizontal nature of that section, water rests there continuously. Water has acidity in it and cleaners add to that acidity. Over many years (in our case 50+) this sitting water can start to erode the copper. There might also have been a manufacturing problem, because looking at the pipe there is an obvious seam which by chance was facing down, so more chance of that happening. Today's plumbing is made of ABS and erosion like that is no longer an issue. Once that was figured out we needed to know how to fix this?

    Well, last week we had 3 plumbers come in to look at this and hubby spoke to one on the phone. Two options were presented - cut out the affected section and the elbow and replace with ABS up to the upstairs toilet and then clamp to the existing copper before the T-junction (see right of above picture). This fix was quoted at 600 dollars. Option #2 - open the upstairs bathroom walls, the powder room wall along with the ceiling, maybe the basement wall and take out ALL the plumbing in that section and replace with ABS.This option was quoted at about 15 hundred dollars with us fixing all the damaged walls and ceiling. (Note: Our water supply plumbing etc. is still in good condition and the larger fix would only address the toilet plumbing)

    After all these conversations and encouragement by one particular plumber, we decided on option 1.  However, we didn't use any of the plumbers - hubby got instructions, went to Home Depot with the cut piece of plumbing, matched the clamp and ABS and did it himself. Plumber had confirmed that this was code and legal to do. I helped a little to line up the upstairs with the downstairs when we needed to cement the pieces together. It wasn't easy to manoeuvre in that tight space, to get the right pieces out and jiggled back in tightly.

    Good news - it worked! No more leaks, it fits and we have our second toilet back! Yayyyy! We spent $46 at Home Depot and 2 x $40 for quotes - that's $126. We can recoup some of that money with the copper we pulled out of the ceiling - copper pays a lot at the scrap metal place.

    It's obviously very frustrating when unplanned renos have to happen that destroy work done previously, it's just boring, ugly and frustrating stuff that needs to get done. We are glad though, that the upstairs bath makeover did not cause this leak, it was just incidental that it happened at the same time. An old house will have things go wrong and that's part of the maintenance cost - we were lucky that hubby was able to fix it himself. Now we'll leave the ceiling open for a little while and work on the finishing touches for the upstairs bath.

    Photos 1&2: Bruno Doyle

    Friday, January 6, 2012

    Friday Food Files

    This year we celebrated the New Year with a little treat and candles. Strawberry and white chocolate mousse to be precise. The kids love to sing happy birthday and blow out the candles, so last year we started to give ourselves a little sweet treat on New Year's eve. Naturally a little bubbly went well with all the celebration and I blew up a couple of pink balloons for the kids.

    Wednesday, January 4, 2012

    New photo feature for 2012

    Last week I posted my last photo in my 'one photo a week' challenge. It was a great exercise to stop and decide what would best capture a week in my life. Some shots were thought out and prepared with some detail, others were last minute. It wasn't always easy and sometimes I lacked motivation, but I'm glad I completed the full series and looking at the collection it brings back a lot of memories. I like how the photos cover family, events, weather, plants, food and randomness - a great collection for 2011.

    Recently I was thinking about what project I'll tackle next. I've known all along that I can't possibly fit in a 365 day photo series - capturing a photo every day would be too forced for me. I really enjoyed Emma's 52 Objects and thought about tackling that, but then I didn't just want to imitate something that was done already.

    So, as part of my 2012 goals, I decided on a new feature called 'Friday Food Files'*.  My Friday Food Files will focus on food and drink photographed in a styled setting. It will force me to work on my technical skills (uggh!), my styling skills as well as my goal of trying new recipes. The Friday Food Files will capture anything food or drink related - a cooked meal, a raw fruit or vegetable, an herb, mixed drink - whatever I want to tackle that week. I hope that by the end of 2012 I'll be able to see improvement in my technique and hopefully I've tried a couple new things from the market.

    I'm also changing my posting schedule in order to allow enough time to work on these photos. Going forward I'll be posting Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I hope you'll enjoy this new feature and wish me luck in having the patience to tackle the technical side of photography!

    *I might be imitating this feature as well, but I'm not aware of any specific one. Foodie blogs will obviously give me some inspiration, but if you are aware of a feature like this, let me know and post the link in the comments. Thanks!

    Tuesday, January 3, 2012

    Two steps forward - five steps back...

    Well, progress in the bathroom makeover is coming along - slowly but surely things are being completed. The rad was removed, walls patched, baseboards added and painted, walls painted and vanity added. We slowed things down because of the holidays and us spending time with our kids and family.

    Then things started to go bad - suddenly water was dripping from the air exchange vent in the bathroom below. We couldn't figure out where it was coming from. We opened the wall in the closet behind the bath and all the pipes and drains were dry. We thought it was the overflow or the drain - but it wouldn't drip after we had a shower.  We confirmed that it wasn't the plumbing linked to the sinks, so we went ahead and installed the vanity...but not knowing where water is coming from is bad.

    Hubby opened up the ceiling in the powder room (finished renovating last year) and the drips were clearly coming from the ceiling. The more he opened the more it dripped. Then the toilet was flushed above and more water came down...yuckkkkyyyyy! So we think we found the culprit and hope that it's just the wax ring that needs to be replaced. It might have been slightly moved when hubby was taking out the rad in the corner. Wax rings can dry up with age and create problems, so we hope that's what it is. Do you see the caulking around the base of the toilet? According to Mike Holmes you should never do that, because if there is a toilet leak you want it to leak on your tile floor and not get pushed down. So, we hope we can fix this and repair the damage we had to do to investigate (which will be the full ceiling!).

    After we put in the vanity though I came upon another issue. See that great original tile floor I kept? See that white stuff under the vanity? The last vanity visually covered that area of non-tile - this new one does not. I considered this when deciding on the vanity, but thought we wouldn't see the plywood. I am crouching down for the photo, when standing you can't see the heating pipe, but you can clearly see the plywood.

    What to do now? It doesn't look great does it? We are contemplating options for this tricky area that also accommodates the heating pipe. I'm thinking boxing in, source the same tile (near impossible?) or stencil pattern? Any ideas you might have to solve this problem?

    Looking on the bright side though - we have water connected to both sinks now and isn't the paint great?

    Linked to Beach Cottage Linky Party

    Monday, January 2, 2012

    Sunday, January 1, 2012

    Happy New Year and My 20 for 2012

    Now that Christmas is over, the presents are opened and we slid merrily into 2012, we are ready to start the year with renewed energy and good intentions. I was never one to commit to big New Year resolutions that usually end two months into the year. However, looking back at 2011 I've seen a few things that changed for me. My kids are slowly growing into their own little person, I've been trying new things and sticking with things, my hubby is still the best guy in the world, professionally I took a small leap and changed jobs...things are good and good means happy.

    So for 2012, I decided to put together a list of things I want to accomplish - some are small and trivial, others are bigger and will require some commitment. None of them will change the world but I hope they'll push me a bit, make me work on myself a bit, treat myself and let me be creative and have a great year. If they don't happen, so be it - nothing to loose. Here's to a great 2012!

    1. Take a big trip with the whole family
    2. Develop my food photography and food styling skills
    3. Work on my swimming and take part in the Bring on the Bay 3km swim
    4. Try to create my own e-mag (just for myself and my bloggy readers)
    5. Try 12 new recipes
    6. Get my hair cut six times
    7. Have at least two overnight dates away from the kids
    8. Re-read two books I loved 12 years ago
    9. Host a party
    10. Construct a raised veggie bed
    11. Visit NYC or Chicago in the Spring or Fall
    12. See Demolition Derby with the kids
    13. Keep on blogging
    14. Wear a dress to work at least six times
    15. Get at least three pedicures in the summer
    16. Tackle the living room fireplace
    17. Have a painting commissioned that includes all family members
    18. Wear my hair pulled back to work at least six times
    19. Make a fairy garden for the kids
    20. Paint all the trim and ceilings in our house