DIY cardboard monsters

Now that Hannah is two, the holidays are that much more fun. We usually keep our Halloween decorations pretty simple (think: jack o'lanterns), but this idea was too good to resist. I drew the monsters freehand onto two large pieces of cardboard (leftover from our cork flooring project) and cut them out with a pair of scissors. Two coats of black paint, and some tissue paper for the eyes, and they were window-ready. 

I love them. But the best part was Hannah's response: "Wowwww, monsters!"

Just wait until we carve pumpkins :)


Slow and steady de-cluttering

The guest room is sporting some new wall hooks! The entry to our guest room is long and narrow, so, you know, lots of awkward, empty wall space. And since the large wall mirror is the star of the room (my opinion), I didn't want to add anything - like art - that might compete. Oh, and the closet is stuffed full of fabric, extra pillows, gift wrap and a few other odds and ends, so our guests needed a place to hang their stuff.

The hooks were left behind by the previous owners. They were cute enough, so I held onto them and eventually spray painted them black. I used wall anchors and screws to secure them, so they'll hold more than a cute, empty backpack, just saying :)

The guest room is officially more functional and I have one less item in my "I can probably use this someday" storage pile. In fact, lately I've been making some slow, but steady progress on the de-cluttering front. We took another car-full of "stuff" to Value Village (Hannah has been talking about their giant, inflatable Mummy ever since) and we finally re-installed our back door's trim (it had been sitting in the garage since we installed our new floors). 

We're hoping to insulate the garage in the next couple of weeks, which means it's time to pick up the de-cluttering pace!


Maximizing storage in a tiny kitchen

Our kitchen is tiny. Like, teeny tiny, tiny. Over the past 3+ years, we've pared down our "stuff" and figured out some storage solutions, and our teeny tiny kitchen works pretty well for us now (there are a few more things on the list, but we're getting there).

Only, I never managed to find room for my collection of tablecloths, cloth napkins and place mats. Instead, I stuffed them into a bag in the garage and we pretty much figured out how to eat without napkins (it's possible, just not preferable).

And then. I saw this post on the merrythought and thought: why are we letting Hannah use our kitchen cart as a jungle gym when we could be using it for storage and eating with napkins like a normal family? And how it possible that it took an entire year for this to occur to me?

So yes, this is an entire blog post devoted to a relatively small basket filled with napkins. Just in case someone else is struggling to find extra storage, consider taking one more look around your room for that unused spot you might just be missing.


How to make your best cup of tea

Are you a tea lover? I started drinking tea when I lived in the UK for a year (it's true what they say about the Brits and their tea), and while I'd never give up my morning coffee, nothing beats a hot cup of tea on a cold afternoon.

Despite loving tea, I actually had no idea how to properly brew a cup to bring out its full depth of flavour. For example, did you know that tea leaves should be brewed with hot, but never boiling, water? Or that loose tea leaves provide a much fuller, richer flavour than tea bags from your grocery store?

My in-laws gifted me this little red tea pot years ago. It has a metal strainer that rests inside the top - perfect for brewing loose tea leaves. 

How to make your best cup of tea

  1. Add your favourite tea leaves to your pot and fill one-third of the way with hot water (if you're a real keener, the ideal water temperature is between 60 and 80 degrees Celsuis).
  2. Wait 5 minutes before filling your tea pot the rest of the way.
  3. Wait 10 minutes and serve. If you want to sweeten the flavour, try adding honey instead of sugar.

So there you go. A little patience goes a long way! Now go brew a cup and tell me if you notice anything different :)

This post is sponsored by tea-and-coffee.com. As a wholesale tea supplier based in the UK, The Kent & Sussex Tea & Coffee Co. offers a variety of fair trade teas from around the world.


Before and after: painted dining room chairs

Remember the free dining room chairs we scored a while back? I finally got around to painting them!

I used Rustoleum's Ultra Coverage spray paint in a semi-gloss finish. The finish on a few of my spray painted pieces has rubbed off in places, presumably from use, so I decided to take the extra step of priming the chairs (with Rustoleum's Ultra Coverage primer). I also lightly sanded the spots that I thought would get the most use, like the seats and the top of each chair's back. We'll see if it makes any difference in the long run.

Now that the chairs are black, I really want to strip and stain our dining room table (!). I've always loved the combination of painted black chairs with a natural wood table, but I had a picture of a farmhouse table so firmly in mind that it didn't occur to me to just go for it with our current table. I'm planning to use the same stain as Hannah's toy box, and maybe I'll beat it up a bit, too. I'm feeling the need for furniture that can be banged on, painted on, etc. Here's a little inspiration:




Now to find the time to actually get it done...


How to: free landscaping

One of the items on my fall 'to do' list was to add some plants along the base of our new fence. We wanted something low maintenance and shade tolerant, so we decided to go with a mix of hostas and ferns. Adam's mom kindly dug up and delivered some ferns a couple of weeks ago (they're hard to spot between the hostas, but they're there!) and I planted the hostas over the weekend. The ferns in my front planter really exploded in size over the summer, so I'm hopeful these tiny ferns will do the same thing next year.

All eight hostas actually came from one plant in our yard - yes, it was huge! The plantings look a little limp from the move right now, but next spring they'll be just as pretty and perky as before (I hope).

According to the Internet, the best time to divide hostas is in either early fall or spring, but in my limited experience, mature hostas are virtually indestructible (so I wouldn't worry about the timing too much). I worked around the base of my plant with a shovel, getting under the roots and gently lifting until I could pull the whole thing out of the ground. With the plant on its side, I used a kitchen knife to cut through the roots, trying to avoid cutting through any shoots. Just make sure to plant your divisions at the same depth as before and give them a good watering once they're in the ground.

My camera's battery was dead, so I quickly snapped these photos with Adam's phone when I was done. While it doesn't look like much right now, this little row of greenery is going to be so lovely next year.

{my inspiration. photo spotted here.}
It's really time to put the patio furniture away, but I'm so happy with all the progress we've made out here this year. This once awkward patch of lawn is finally turning into the little oasis I've been dreaming of!


A weekend in Montreal

Adam's band played POP Montreal last weekend, which was the perfect excuse to bring the whole family and visit two of our oldest friends. They just so happen to have a daughter around Hannah's age and a two-month old son we couldn't wait to meet.

We made the 13-hour drive from Halifax to Montreal on Friday. I decided to bring Hannah's tambourine and drum sticks at the last minute - thank goodness! - and they kept her entertained for most of the trip (toys and stickers from Target's dollar bins, her growing collection of Caillou books and a new etch-a-sketch helped, too). Adam's band played on Saturday night and we spent the rest of the weekend just hanging out (did I mention that our friends are great cooks?).

It was so much fun to see the girls together - they had a blast! I love watching their friendship develop with each visit and I know it will just get better as they get older.

Oh, and that scone covered in the most delicious homemade strawberry jam is from Ma Douce Moiti√©. We had lunch there on Sunday and the food was SO good (I stuffed myself with cr√™pes and had to bring the scone home). I'm used to carrying around crayons, small toys and a sippy cup of water "just in case", but this restaurant had toys and a chalkboard wall, and brought the girls water and banana slices in kid-friendly dishes as soon as we sat down. Awesome.

Our friends live in Verdun, less than a five-minute walk from a series of great parks and walking trails along the St. Lawrence river. Hannah constantly asks to go to "the park" (whether we've already been that day or not), so she had a great time, of course. And look how long her hair is (finally) getting!

We also made sure to load up on St. Viateur bagels for the trip home, and stopped by Mont Royal for Hannah's first visit. I wanted to snap a cute photo of Hannah with the city in the background, but she would not sit still. I guess she figures yelling, "Cheese!" mid-run is good enough :)

A huge thanks to our friends for such a fantastic visit - we can't wait to see you again!
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