June 15, 2011

How does your garden grow?

So I am not a gardener, but I do like flowers.  I'm sure a lot of you can relate to that, but if you are a garden pro, I'd love some tips!

We have an ugly and giant cedar tree growing in our front yard, I wanted to cut it down, but it is big and old and does give some privacy to the front of the house.  Plus it's a great landmark for when people, come over, "we're on the right, the house with the giant cedar".

So since cutting it down was off the table I decided to try to beautify it a little.  First I trimmed off some of the lower branches to make it look more like a tree i.e. show more of the trunk.  Next I planted a ton of tulips (my favourite flower) around the base as well as a hosta and juniper, which were both donation plants from friends.

Everything was planted in the fall and then I waited patiently until Spring hoping that something would happen.  And then it did.  Green stems came up from the ground, it was like magic, I felt so excited I was like a kid again.
Look at them all!  And the best part is that the pink tulip was the first to bloom... amazing!

 We also did some planting along the front path, which was just all grass before.  It's so much more welcoming now.  I love the little boxwoods and there's more little bulbs that are just starting to come up.  We planted some decorative grasses from our old house, I hope that they survive the move.  Of course Teddy wouldn't get out of my shot... sorry about the furry backside.

We have heavy clay soil here so the digging was hard work, but I think it looks so much better.  I'm excited to see the garden fill out and learn more as I go along.  Who knows... maybe I'll grow a green thumb afterall.

So, do you garden?  Any tips for me?  We'd love to plant some bushes/trees around the perimeter of the backyard... any suggestions?

June 6, 2011

Why I am the Queen of Caulk

So I mastered the caulk gun.  Thank goodness since I already bragged to you about how I was going to be "so good at it".  Famous last words, but thankfully I was (and modest too!).

This tool, which looks like something found at your doctors office (enough said) is amazingly easy to use.  Here are my tips to a perfect application.  Oh and if you still doubt me, hubby said I did a better job than he did.  Bam!  Stamp of approval.

First you grab a tube of caulk.  We used this one because it is paintable and it cleans up with just soap and water.

Then you cut the tip off on an angle (you want the hole to be fairly small). 
These two details are important to getting a manageable amount of product coming out so that its not flowing everywhere.

Once the tip is removed you can load the caulk into the gun.  To do this, pull the trigger all the way back and load the caulk tube bottom first.  The top should slide in perfectly.  If it doesn't fit, you didn't pull the trigger all the way back.  It should look like this now.

Then you pump the trigger (this is starting to sound vulgar) to get the flow started.  Make sure you are set up when you do this because once it starts, it tends to keep flowing and you could end up with a big mess.

If you need to stop, or you start to panic, just hit the "escape hatch" button (above).  This will release the tension on the tube and stop the flow.  This was my best friend as I tended to panic a bit until I got the hang of it.  Once you get the general operation down you're going to apply it to the wall like so.  Hold on an angle and pull the gun towards (not away from) your body.

 Next take a damp rag and wipe your new caulk line (while its still wet) to remove the excess.  If you cut your hole too big you will have a lot of excess.

When the excess has been removed you can wipe it gently with your finger to smooth the line.

If you have not used the entire tube and you want to save it for future use you can put the cap on the caulk gun (you have to buy these separately) to keep it from drying out.

Voila!  Perfect every time. 

I promise that if I can do this, you can too.  Promise.  Cross my heart.

June 4, 2011

How to Make an Old Mirror New

So you probably guessed that this post refers to the magic of spray paint, and although this is not a new idea, the outcome is still pretty great.

We were given an old mirror from my hubby's nana which used to hang over the fireplace in her old house.  This mirror is solid wood and HEAVY.  It was also painted with a gold finish.  Not really our style, but the mirror has an interesting shape and some beautiful detail.

I painted it using Gloss Dark Espresso which gave it a beautiful dark gloss finish and definitely made it look more modern.

I think every time I spray paint something I have a "wow moment" where I can't believe that it worked again.  Spray paint is magical and if you haven't tried it yet, you must.

Now I just have to convince hubby to help me hang it.  The thing weighs a ton! I think I'm going to get to use the stud finder.  I love that thing.  I have a weird thing for tools.  Maybe I'll make some cookies... that ought to do the trick.

June 3, 2011

Its Curtains for the Dining Room

Don't worry, no one dies at the end of this movie, just beautiful curtains are hung (pun intended).

You may have noticed in the last post that we trimmed the window to match the door frames with wood trim.  This was a free project since we took the baseboards (yes, they used the same trim for baseboards and door trim!) that we ripped out of the hallway and cut them to fit around the window.  I also stained the wood around the window to match the trim, you can see in the picture below that its a bit orangey.
And now, a perfect match.

The curtains are up and they look great.  It's really starting to come together now.

Just a few more finishing touches and we'll be ready for the big reveal (although the above picture gives more than a hint at what it will look like).  Of course Teddy is front and center, he loves to be featured on here.

June 2, 2011

Dining Room Molding version 2.0

More molding is up!  It's time to show it off.

The room looks much more complete now and we are super happy with how it all turned out.  I have to take a minute to highlight hubby's pride and joy. 

This was his idea to wrap the box around the bump-out and it looks fab.  Great job honey!  Oh and I should mention that he also mitred EVERY corner of every piece of molding in the room.  Amazing.  I was planning to help, but I am not trusted to use the saw yet.  I did however get to use the nail gun.  I was pro.  I'll do a how-to on that soon.  For now, I'm just enjoying the view.

June 1, 2011

Dining Room Molding

We planned the molding carefully.  Usually we discuss and try out a few patterns with painter's tape like this.
And then stand back and see if we like it...
But this time something went wrong with the planning...

Someone (me) miscalculated the amount of molding that we needed by about half.  This of course mean that I also miscalculated the budget for this room by about half.  Don't you hate it when that happens?  Did I mention that I majored in Math?  How embarassing!

So since there's almost nothing I hate more than being over budget except rude people and Stephen Harper's hair (Canadian humour), we're taking a short break from the molding to regroup and save up for the bug finish.
Become a fan of the Stephen Harper Hair Cut
The room looks great, and we thought about just doing the two walls with molding since the other two will be covered partially with furniture, but I think it looks unfinished.  We're not planning to put any molding on either side of the window since that part of the wall will be entirely covered by the curtain panels.

Still in progress, but coming along nicely.  What do you think?

May 24, 2011

Carrot Birthday Cake

Happy Tuesday everyone!  We had a lovely long weekend, and of course I have lots of progress to show you on the dining room, which is nearing completion... yay!

However, lately I feel like I'm just giving you the news; what we've finished, what we're working on, etc.  So today I'm going to add a little life and give you a fab recipe.  I love to bake, when I was in university I used to bake to relieve stress so around exam time there would be cookies flying out of the oven.  Our house was very popular for studying as you might imagine.  I joke that my husband (who I met in university) married me for my chocolate chip cookies.

This cake recipe has become one of my signature go-to things to make for a party, plus its hubby's favourite, so that doesn't hurt either.

Remember when I mentioned about hubby's birthday party a couple of weeks ago?  Well for his birthday he said that all he wanted was a carrot cake, so that's what I made! Of course I also threw him a party and made lots of other food and maybe I also got him a gift too... can't help it!  I LOVE birthdays.

So without further ado here is how you can make a fabulous carrot cake of your own.  Oh and did I mention that it's also low in fat!  Could it get any better? 

Carrot Cake (adapted from "Must Bake Carrot Cake" from Janet & Greta Podleski "Crazy Plates" book)
2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour (usually I use 2 cups white and 1/2 cup whole wheat)
2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp EACH baking soda and baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups of brown sugar
1 small can of crushed pineapple drained of all juice (do not include the juice)
3 eggs
3/4 cup plain yogurt (not sweetened)
1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla
3 cups grated carrots
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1/2 cup raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F.  Spray 2x8" round baking pans with non-stick spray (I also add parchment paper to the bottom of the pans for easier removal).

Combine first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together brown sugar, pineapple, eggs,
yogurt, applesauce, oil and vanilla.  Stir in grated carrots.  Add flour
mixture to carrot mixture and stir until well blended.  Stir in walnuts and raisins.

Pour batter into prepared pans.  Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a
toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean.  Set pan on a wire
rack and cool cake completely.

Remove cake from pans and frost as desired (I like cream cheese frosting).

If your cake looks like this and is surrounded by empty plates you know it was good.

I'm linking this up to Rhoda's Recipe Party

May 20, 2011

Beautiful Window Glass Makeover on a Budget

So I was at HD shopping for wooden blinds and I was like "They cost HOW MUCH?!".  Man, that is not happening ($400-$800 in case you were wondering).  I'm not putting ugly aluminum blinds in my pretty dining room, which is about all I can afford ($200).  I also like the bamboo shades, which are pretty affordable, but not formal enough for the look I want.

Then I saw it.  It was like some enchanted evening and I spotted it across the crowded room (name that movie/play).  It was perfect!  A beautiful glass pained window.  Are you ready?

Amazing!  I know, the perfect amount of elegance, privacy and very clean and crisp.  How did I afford to change out the glass of the windows when I couldn't afford blinds?  Its not new glass!  It is a film that is applied to the windows.

Here's the low down.  For $60 ($30 for each 2'x3' film) I transformed the window with just water and about 5 minutes of my time.

Sorry I don't have an pictures of the process, honestly, it took like 5 minutes or less and was SUPER easy.  It comes with really good instructions.
Here's the low down on how you do it:
First you remove the film from the package and trim to fit your window, you can cut it easily with regular scissors or a utility knife (I used scissors).
Next you spray the window with water (hint: I found that the more water the better because then I could slide it around to get it perfectly into place).
Then you take the backing off the film and position it on the window.
Using the squeegee (fun word!) that is included with the film you smooth it out and remove any bubbles (you may want a towel here to absorb the water that will squish out, I just squished it all out and then wiped it up afterwards).
Voila!  Brand new window, easy as pie.

The best part is that the film is removeable.  If you put it on crooked (which may or may not have happened on my first attempt) you can simply remove the film and try again, or slide it into the right position if you've put enough water underneath it.  This of course means that you can remove the film at any time and reuse it somewhere else.  It's not sticky like a sticker, just clingy like plastic wrap, except plastic wrap hates me and always sticks to everything, and the window film is awesome and made my day.

It looks so real that you can't even tell until you actually touch the window.  We've already fooled a bunch of people into thinking that it is real leaded glass.  Amazing!

If you decide to check it out for yourself the brand I used is called "Light Effects" and the pattern is called "Vienna".  They have lots of options including some funky coloured stained glass ones for if you wanted even more privacy or to conceal an ugly exterior view, like if your window looked out into an alley or a brick wall. 

Window before beautification
And now

May 19, 2011

Dining Room Painting

Progress has been made!  It looks soooo good.  We've been painting machines, which is nothing new since we've already survived a painting marathon.  However, I think hubby has banned me from using two paint colours in anymore rooms.  It takes twice as long to paint it since you can only do one colour at a time.  We'll see.  For now I am celebrating that I can finally put away the paint cans (at least until I have to touch up all the molding... boo).

Anywhoo... Check it out, I can't wait to see it all come together.  What do you think so far?



May 18, 2011

Dining Room - The Plan Part 2

Since I already showed you my curtains and the rug for this room, I'm guessing you have a pretty good idea where the colour direction is going.  Blue and brown and cream.  Very neutral compared to the front hall, but I'm hoping also very sophisticated.

The molding that we've planned for the dining room walls is also a lot more complex than the front hall molding and will require a lot more math, a lot more cutting, a lot more nail-hole-filling and caulking (boo) and obviously a lot more time.  I'm going to use the caulking gun this time so watch out for my how-to on that, once I master it of course.

For the trim we're going to keep the wood for now, maybe forever.  We love the look of it and the glass doors are so beautiful... I can't bear to change them.  In the future if we open up the kitchen/dining rooms that may be a different story.

For the upper part of the wall we're going with Prelude a nice blue-gray from Behr.

For the lower part of the wall and the molding/baseboard we're going with Ocean Pearl (also Behr).
We still have some outstanding things to decide.  We need a privacy idea for the windows, I was hoping for something other than sheers since I want a cleaner look.  All the furniture is wood and pretty traditional so we'll have to find some ways to inject some more contemporary items.  I don't want it to come out looking "old-persony".  No offense intended to actual "old people".
We need to decide if we are keeping the light fixture.  I already bought a replacement, but I'm not sure... what do you think of the current one?

We need something for the wall opposite the "balcony" and I'm thinking a mirror, but maybe something that we diy.  It will need to be pretty wide and not very tall to fit nicely above the chair rail.

Whew!  So that's the plan for the dining room almost complete.  Time to quit yapping about it and get down to business.

May 17, 2011

Dining Room - The Plan Part 1

Since there are SO many elements in my dining room plan, I decided to divide and conquer here.  In this post I'm going to talk about the existing elements in the room and existing furniture, etc that we will be using.  In the next post we'll talk colours and go over some other exciting goodies.

The dining room looked like this when we bought the house (not our furniture, etc).

The plan is to remove the wallpaper and add molding to the walls (more on that later).  We're going to change the layout and move the buffet to the other side of the room, I think this will really improve the flow.  We have a buffet and china cabinet (wedding gifts) which will be going in here and we also have a hand-me-down table and 4 chairs that will be staying for now.  Here's a preview.  Can you see now why we needed new curtains?

The rug (pictured rolled up above) was a clearance purchase from Ikea and is one of my favourite items in the room and was the second inspiration item that I alluded to before.  It's got a kind of oriental style pattern and is lovely soft wool.  You can also see the inspiration curtains folded on the buffet (above).
I think its going to be beautiful!  What do you think?

May 16, 2011

Free Monogram Art

I love monograms.  My new (married) initial is H and it makes a great monogram, either lovely and scrolly or strong and straight.  Love it.

You may have noticed the blank wall space in the front hallway from the after photos (on the far side of the mirror beside the front door).
A bet you were wondering what I was going to put there.  Or if you weren't before, hopefully you are now.  I decided to use one of my pretty empty thrift store frames to create some custom monogram art for $0.  That's right free.

Using this "junk"

 I created this beautiful artwork. 
This is something that anyone can do.  All you really need is scissors, some paper and some paint.

Here's how I did it.

First you need to find a monogram that you like and print it out.  I used a custom font that I found online, but you could use anything from Word or even draw it yourself.

Next you glue the print-out to the side of a cereal box (or some other stiff paper)
You want to put the glue on the "good" side and stick it to the colourful side of the box.  This will make more sense in a second, basically you don't want to get glue on the "front" of the letter (which is the inside of the box).

Next you're going to cut out the letter. 

This is more difficult the more swirly the letter, also my dollar store glue didn't stick that well and I had a bit of sliding around.but eventually you'll get something like this.  Notice that I have separated the template from the cut-out letter ("cut-out").  If your glue is not too sticky like mine this is easy, if you have good glue you can just print 2 templates or photocopy a duplicate.  You'll need this for the next step.
Now you'll need to cut out the loops.  You can use an exacto knife and cut them out of the "cut-out", but its easier to cut them separately and gives a nice 3D effect at the end.  When you're done you should have pieces like this.
Next we're going to cut out the background.  I used a cardboard box and cut it to fit inside the frame so that it looked like this.

Now we're going to paint everything.  I applied primer to all of the pieces.
And it got a bit messy.

Especially after I accidentally put my hand on the primer can lid while standing up... sigh.

Once everything is primed you can paint the pieces in whatever colours you like.  I used the front hall wall colour for the background, trim white for the frame, white gloss for the "mat" and the "loops" and oil rubbed bronze for the "H".  All colours I already had on hand.  Once everything is painted you just have to assemble it.  I used a glue gun for this for better hold.  If any of your pieces curve a bit from the paint you can flatten them out with some heavy books (or have your husband/child/friend sit on them and then they can say that they helped!).

 Once you get all the pieces together you'll have a lovely custom monogram to hang proudly in your house.

 Easy as pie.

Linking up