Wednesday, February 29, 2012

February Pin Inspiration

1. Schuyler Samperton via Desire to Inspire, 2. Moth-Design, 3. Decor Pad, 4. Est Magazine via Decor8

Where did my eye wander in February? Well, there are a couple of things I was thinking about - first up, books! I don't have any bookcases on our main floor or our bedroom. We have our bookcases in the basement and I miss looking at our books. I am thinking about adding a small bookcase next to our fireplace with our chair next to it. It would add a surface for a reading light, it would make the corner more distinct and add some visual interest. I'm liking the chunky floating style in the images above.

5. Martha Stewart Weddings, 6. Tom Walker Photography via Design Love Fest, 7 Twirling Betty via Babyology, 8. Love and Olive Oil

Birthday celebrations were also on my mind. I gathered ideas on my pinterest board and went about implementing variations of things I liked. See how I made little balloons for his cake? and added balloons as our main decoration?

9. Remodelista, 10. via Four Walls and a Roof via Marion House Book

I don't know if I will ever be able to implement this in my current house, but I LOVE cement tiles! I think they make a beautiful statement and create this unexpected floor. Maybe one day I'll get some for a bathroom, or a back splash or a beach house in the far away future? I can dream, right?

On a different note: Fishly News was added to Apartment Therapy 2012 Homies nominations! We can be found in the Home Design Blog category, Best Family Blog and Best Food Photography. If you like my blog and want to vote for me in one or all the categories - voting is open until tomorrow at midnight. For those that have already - thank you!!! You'll have to go looking for me wayyyyyy down on the list ;), lots of serious competition out there! I am flattered though and I love the list of blogs, many of them I would never have found. Check out the list and you'll find some great new reads.

Monday, February 27, 2012

And 3 it is.

On Saturday D had some friends over and we celebrated his third birthday. I don't have any pictures of the kids running around as I don't want to post pictures of other peoples children, but they played hot-wheels, drew, used stamps and we had a fun pop the balloon activity - the house was filled with boys, and D had a great time.

The cake was my fail safe Martha Stewart chocolate cake. For some reason the recipe always gives me enough batter for an impressively high 3-layer cake.

I fringed a couple of streamers and hung them on the window and each gift bag had a balloon strung to it. You can see in the background that we had a real winter wonderland out there.

The party was held in the afternoon, so we just had a couple of veggies, hummus, cheese and drinks before we served cake.

The balloons were a big hit. We blew up about 80 of them the night before and for some reason the helium was not holding up as well as it should. Balloons kept floating down, which at first irked me a little, but the kids loved that and went on kicking and bouncing balloons around the house. Fun had by all - even his great-grandfather was bouncing balloons!

PS: D was wearing a different shirt when the party started, but by the time the cake came out he had made a mess of himself and decided to change into his spiderman shirt!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday Food Files

Simple eggs on a Sunday, the same ones my friend Suzy and I made way back in university when we were planning to go to the gym and ended up eating eggs instead. The key to this flavour combo is spreading cream cheese on your bread - trust me, the tangy flavour of cream cheese works wonderfully with a fried egg. I like my eggs runny, but if you like it more cooked, just flip it in the pan to cook the yolk as well. We added thyme this time, but you could add any herbs you like or just go with salt and pepper. Maybe I should call these 'Suzy eggs'?

The how to:
  • Toast bread - crusty bread will be the best
  • Heat pan with a smidgen of butter
  • Once pan is very hot add egg
  • Fry egg to texture you like - I don't cover my pan with a lid as I find it makes the egg rubbery
  • Season with salt, pepper and your choice of herbs
  • Spread toast with generous amount of cream cheese
  • Top with egg

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

We are celebrating!

D is turning three today - can you believe it? Seems like yesterday that we celebrated his second birthday. 

We sent out his party invite a while back and he's having a couple of friends over on Saturday. This week is all about preparing little details for the party.

Gift bags are stamped with names and filled with a stamp, stamp pad, wind-up toy, markers and some candy. All bags are ready to go.

I also made 3 little balloons out of craft paper and jewellery wire - they'll be floating on his chocolate cake that I'll probably make Friday night.

I used the same paper to punch out large confetti that will be spread across the table.

I checked on our cups, plates, napkins and straws and found everything in the right colour combination, so it's all set to go.

I'll be working on an activity for the kids that's related to image below and we'll be adding balloons to decorate our house. Do you see a theme? Dots - Balloons - Blue & Green? Nothing fancy, but I'm sure it will be fun.

Invites and straws are from my shop and balloon photo is found here.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Welcome to our kitchen

Welcome to the next room in our house tour - the kitchen. Above kitchen was completed by a previous owner, most likely a year or so before we bought the house. It's a very well made kitchen with quality cabinets and tons of storage.

There are a few things we had to change once we moved in:

  • Remove the little fluffy curtains.
  • We needed a new stove and new dishwasher. We wondered why such an extensive renovation was done, but the appliances were not changed. The fridge was replaced by the previous owner, because it was stainless, we matched the stove and dishwasher.
  • Added a gas line for the stove. We were moving from oil to gas heating anyway, so adding a line to the kitchen was only a small expense.
  • We changed the overhead lights from 'boob lights' to school house pendants.
  • After a few months we changed the faucet to a gooseneck one.

I marked the kitchen as 'in progress', because I have some smaller changes I want to make and some larger ones:

  • Remove valance above sink - it blocks light and makes the kitchen look top heavy.
  • After removing the valance I want to replace the existing light above the sink with 2-3 pot lights.
  • Paint walls a brighter colour - the kitchen can be dark at times, even with the large window.
  • Change range hood to something that works and isn't as loud as a landing plane.
  • The granite has two chips around the sink and I'm thinking of replacing the sink with a white farmhouse sink, which would then remove the chipped section of the countertop and brighten up the dark colour.
  • Change backsplash tile from muddy green glass tile that's badly installed at places to something brighter.
  • Change old and drafty door with full glass door leading to deck.
  • And here's the big one that has some people loving it and others hating the idea: painting the cabinets a light grey, the same as the corner bench below. I am not a fan of wood kitchens and I think the wood cabinets along with the dark counter and dark floors make this room darker than it has to be. I know this would be a big undertaking so it won't happen tomorrow and I know I'd have to defend my decision to people that love the wood.

Looking at the picture below you can see that there were bi-fold doors leading into the kitchen. We removed those the first week we were in the house. You'll also notice the chair to the left - that left hand corner up to the pantry was empty and wasted space.

We were thinking about taking down the wall between the dining room and the kitchen and adding a bar or something, but then decided on using the space most efficiently with a corner bench that hubby built. This added tons of storage, seating, an additional table for prep work or homework. The bench holds our paper recycling, our table linens and kitchen gadgets such as slow cooker and raclette machine.
Hubby also built the table which is made of white oak and only treated with oil, which makes it perfect for food prep.

There you have it - our kitchen. A nice big room that gets used very well on a daily basis.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday Food Files

Hubby had a craving for meatballs, so the whole family made meatballs for dinner and enough to freeze. It was a great activity on a very cold day and this recipe always gives you meatballs that are tender and moist.

Meatballs (adapted from Rachel Ray Veal Polpette - 4 servings)

  • 1 pound ground meat (we use 1/2 beef and 1/2 pork - recipe calls for veal)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cups of bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Generous drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup small raisins

  • Preheat oven to 400F.
  • Mix meat with garlic, egg, bread crumbs, cheese, nutmeg, salt, pepper and generous drizzle of olive oil
  • Roll small meatballs with a pine nut and raisin in the centre of each, and arrange them on a rimmed non-stick cookie sheet. 
  • Bake the meatballs for 10 minutes or until cooked through.

Serve with pasta and a tomato basil sauce.

The pine nut gives a nice crunchy surprise and the raisin keeps the meatballs moist. Using good quality cheese will make all the difference.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Collectible Colours - February

This month's collectible colour isn't pink or red to celebrate Valentine, but I chose silver instead. Don't you find you have a ton of silver coloured items hanging around the house? Well, when you start looking, a lot of them are big and bulky and are not easy to photograph.

See how this project started here.

Linked to This or That Thursday

Monday, February 13, 2012

Sweet Valentine

It's that time of year - sugar and candy, hearts and flowers and the big question as to what to do with your kids to take to school on Valentine's day. M has seventeen classmates, so I had a look through the Martha Stewart Holiday Craft book and stumbled upon these. There would be a lot of cutting, but no paint or other messy things to contend with.

We did these in two stages - one evening of tracing and cutting, another afternoon of glueing and assembling. Now she just needs to write her name on every flower and she is set to go.

Materials needed:

  • Coloured craft paper (you can use plain if you wish)
  • Pen
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Hole punch
  • Round wrapped lollipops


  1. Cut out a template for half a heart (you want to do this so all your hearts are the same size)
  2. Fold paper to accommodate template
  3. Trace as many hearts as you can fit
  4. Cut doubled up paper into full hearts
  5. Gather four hearts and punch hole about half inch from bottom
  6. Glue one petal on top of each other making sure the holes line up and the petals form a flower
  7. Once dry add a lollipop to each hole
  8. Mark with child's name if you wish

If your child likes to use scissors this is a really good craft - depending on their age you might have to help glue them to ensure even distribution of hearts. For little D we just used one heart, added two holes and put through a lollipop - easier and less work for him.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday Food Files

Having a food related project when you are sick and feeling queasy isn't that great. So rather than figuring out what to feature this week and then cooking or preparing something I'd photograph, I decided to post this little sinful pleasure I indulged in not long ago.

I never get doughnuts, they never seem worth it in the end - but maybe once a year I have this craving for vanilla glazed something - so off I went and actually succumbed to vanilla glaze and multi-coloured sprinkles. Was it worth it? Not sure - but at least I got a fun photo out of it, right?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Some sun, some sugar and lots of ice

The whole family caught the stomach flu last week and we were all miserable - one after another knocked out by a vicious bug. So while I was still feeling a little queasy, we decided to enjoy the sunny weather and take it outside. It was Winterlude after all, the one winter tourist attraction that brings people to Ottawa from all over the place.

Why would anyone go to Ottawa when it can be -25C at this time of the year? Well, we have the largest skating rink in the world! Yes, we do! The 7.8 km long Rideau Canal Skateway is a site to see in winter, especially during Winterlude. While we normally go to the quieter Dow's lake side of the action, we decided  this year to embrace the crowds and join the activities held downtown.

We watched the drummer bands and line dancers, ate sugary BeaverTails and drank hot chocolate. We admired the ice sculptures and then ventured down to the canal. A wonderful mix of people out and about...wobbly skaters, expert skaters, walkers, joggers...everybody enjoying a sunny and not too cold day on a frozen canal. While we did not cover the full length, we did get a healthy dose of vitamin D and fresh air to blow out some of those sickly cob webs.

Any cold weather activities where you are? Or did you stay home with winter colds?

Monday, February 6, 2012

The bath

Tataaaa! I finally have pictures of our completed bathroom makeover. It took longer than expected and we hit a few snags, but here we are - done for now.

A small recap on the project:
We have a family bathroom (no ensuite) on the upper level. The bathroom was functioning fine and had everything we really needed, so there was no justification for a renovation. However, we were never really pleased with the vanity added by a previous owner. It was too large and bulky and didn't have well functioning storage. So we decided to invest in a new vanity. Once we decided that, we thought we could add a bit of lipstick and mascara to brighten the place up a little - not much,  just enough to make it feel like a new and fresh space.

Things we decided to work on:
  • New vanity
  • New mirror
  • New light
  • New paint colour
  • Take out old rad
  • Replace shower curtain rod and toilet paper holder
  • Move towel rack
This is how it looked once the vanity and rad were removed.

And this is how it looks like today:
  • New vanity. This vanity is shallower than the previous one but has more efficient storage. Those four drawers hold most of our things. The glossy white brightens up the space and the extra 3 inches of space make the room feel much bigger.
  • New mirror. We were initially thinking of two square mirrors, but once I measured, they were each 70 cm wide and the vanity is 140 cm wide - no point having two mirrors if they have to be hung without a space between them. So we hacked this IKEA mirror by trimming back the depth of the wood frame, sanding it and staining it dark (note: staining pine is not ideal, it doesn't usually take stain easily, but we were lucky and are pleased with the final result).
  • New light. Initially I was looking at a more classic light, but I changed my mind, returned it to the store and opted for this streamlined version.
  • New paint. We brightened up the space with stripes. We used Benjamin Moore 'cloud white' and Martha Stewart 'sparkling brook'. Note: Benjamin Moore makes an Aura Bathroom/Kitchen paint that can be used in flat - no need for semigloss, even in a humid room.
  • Shower curtain rod was replaced with a steel one and old toilet paper holder was replaced with a new model. Nothing fancy, just more polished and permanent.
  • Walls were patched, plumbing was adjusted, trim was painted and tub was caulked.

With the new colour scheme I also needed different art. I opted to hang the ceramic 'shalom' piece that I used to have in my room when I was a kid. I liked the pop of turquoise, the ceramic works well in a bathroom and the frame worked with the warm wood tones.

I also purchased a quarter yard of fabric and framed it. Fabric works well in a bathroom environment as it can't be damaged by humidity. I chose a pattern that offered bright pops of colour that link to the colours found on our shower curtain (see reflection in mirror in first pic). When framing fabric, make sure to line up the pattern so it doesn't look lost in the mat, then tape it down on each side, stretching it, but without overstretching and distorting the pattern.

This was by no means a renovation, we kept the tub, the floors, the toilet, layout, etc., but even small updates in a bathroom can be costly (those fixtures and vanities don't come cheap) and time consuming. As per usual we underestimated the time we'd need to complete this project, but now we are really happy with the results.

A few more things planned down the road. See the reflection of that closet in the mirror? Now that we have excellent vanity storage I am rethinking that closet. First step was removing the door, next steps will be paint and floating shelf - but only in a bit of time, no point in rushing. And we are boxing in the bottom of the vanity (related to encountered snag) with the matching high-gloss cabinetry - is a room ever really finished?

Linked to Beach Cottage linky party

Friday, February 3, 2012

Friday Food Files

My daughter loves hot chocolate. She usually has it for breakfast, especially on the cold mornings we've been having. Our hot chocolate has to be made with milk - I've never been a fan of water based hot chocolate.

Our stand-by easy version is to heat up our milk and add a heaping tea-spoon of Suchard Express (imported from Switzerland, but not at that price!) and mix for a nice frothy hot chocolate.

If you don't have Suchard Express, try the following recipe for one cup:

  • 1 cup of hot frothy milk
  • 1 teaspoon of bakers cocoa (the best quality you can afford)
  • 1-2 teaspoons of sugar (depending on how sweet you like it)
  • 1 dash of vanilla extract
  • sprinkle with salt
Sometimes we'll add mini marshmallows as an afternoon treat, but usually a hot-chocolate is just a simple beverage that warms the soul on a cold winters day.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

January Pin Inspiration

Clockwise from top left: 1. Stacey Brandford via Desire to Inspire, 2.Gregory Mellor via Desire to Inspire, 3.Gregory Mellor via Desire to Inspire , 4. Better Homes and Gardens via You paid more than me

Like many of you I spend quite a bit of time on Pinterest, particularly if I sit down with my kids to watch an episode of Jake and the Neverland Pirates. I thought I'd share each month where my eye has been leading me. I noticed that every couple of weeks, depending what on I'm doing at home,or when we talk about future plans, my focus of pins change.

This month I was looking at clean, white interior spaces that use pattern and texture to warm up the simple colour palette. I find all of the spaces above fresh, inviting and oh so different than the dreary weather outside.

5. SToto 98 on Flickr via aVolar, 6. Piccsy, 7. Cape Cod Collegiate via Pinterest

As per usual in January (or any month for that matter) I am drawn to the ocean, the blue, the exotic - right now I'd go to Morocco or Florida, just give me crashing waves, salt in the air and above zero temperatures.

And look, although risotto is a hearty meal, adding seafood to it just makes it so much more summery, no? How about a blueberry cupcake to finish that off?

If you look at your inspiration photos - do you focus on different things depending on your mood, state of a renovation, travel plans?

8. photo by Aran Goyoaga, 9. Annie's Eats