The easiest way to custom-frame art

Adam bought me this Rothko print when he was in London with his band last May.  It sat in the guest room for a few months while I lazily put off having it plaque mounted, until I remembered the massive Ikea frames I scored on Kijiji.

...and then the print sat in the guest room for another month while I put off painting the frame :)

As it turns out, my tendency to procrastinate actually came in handy for once; I decided to keep the frame's original wood finish and paint the mat instead. The result is a much warmer look than the white-on-white I was planning, and I think it's more interesting, too.  

The "mat" is actually the frame's original art, flipped over and painted with two coats of CIL's Seashell Pink (you might recognize the colour from my IKEA step stool makeover and Hannah's wooden toy chest before and after). Then it was just a matter of placing the new art on top and putting it all back together.

The painted mat is a little more interesting than plain white, but still neutral enough that it doesn't compete with the beautiful art. It compliments my lovely runner, too.

There really isn't an easier way to custom-frame your art - and the colour options are endless!


One week in Cologne

I was lucky enough to study abroad in the UK during my junior year of college. I was also lucky enough to do some travelling around Europe with friends. As spoiled as it sounds, Germany wasn't high on my list of places to visit (Paris! Rome! Greece!). Luckily my friends were smarter than I was, and I got to visit Munich and Berlin as a result. Both trips were awesome, and I can't believe I almost missed out because Germany didn't seem "exciting" enough (I was 20, in my defense). So when Adam's band was invited to play the c/o pop festival in Cologne, I jumped at the chance to come along. Oh, and our amazing families volunteered to look after Hannah so I could go.

To sum up our week: I love Germany. The people are so nice. The food is so good (even if you don't eat meat). The buildings are so beautiful. The transit system is so punctual. And the beer, the beer is so good.

Sorry for the truncated post, but I had so many pictures to share. Click through to see them and to hear more about our trip!


Whitewashed beach chairs

Last year, right around this time, we bought a sad-looking pair of beach chairs at a yard sale for $5. It took me an entire year to get around to refinishing them, but hey, they're done! And by some awesome stroke of luck, Friday turned out to be a gorgeous beach day. Probably one of the summer's last. I arrived home from a work trip mid-afternoon, and we headed to the beach to end the day.

To refinish the chairs, I first had to remove a million rusty staples and the old, moldy fabric from the frames. I used a hammer and a small chisel to carefully pry the back support off each frame. Then I sanded the frames.

I decide to whitewash the wood instead of staining and I really like how it turned out. I loosely followed these instructions, using leftover white exterior paint, a paint brush instead of a roller, and a clean rag instead of a sponge. I also decided to forgo the plastic painter's suit :) I didn't give my paint mixture much time to dry before wiping it off with my rag, because I wanted the wood to look more sun-bleached than whitewashed, and I only did one coat. When the whitewash was dry, I sealed the frames with two coats of clear water sealer and left them to dry for a few days.

I was too lazy to break out my sewing machine for a $5 pair of chairs, so after I measured and cut my fabric to size, I hemmed the edges using iron-on hem tape. Then it was just stapling the fabric to the frames and re-attaching the back supports.

The fabric is P. Kaufmann's 'Cool Stripe' in sorbet, purchased from Tonic Living. I love the bright, happy colours, and beach chairs need stripes, I think. The chairs are really comfortable (Adam only wishes that the backs were higher so he could rest his head) and I like that they come apart (the seat slides into the back) so they can easily be tossed in the trunk.

Who knows, maybe we'll even get another beach day in?


Our trip to the Middle Rhine

Near the end of our week in Cologne, Germany, Adam and I took a day trip to the Upper Middle Rhine Valley. The UNESCO World Heritage site is known for its castles, vineyards and historic towns, and it seemed like a great way to belatedly celebrate our third wedding anniversary. We caught the train near our apartment in Cologne and traveled to the picturesque town of Rüdesheim. The train follows the river, so we enjoyed some pretty spectacular views during our ride.

After lunch, we picked up a few bottles of Reisling - a regional specialty and one of my favourite white wines - to take home and boarded our KD cruise up the Rhine.

The views from the ship were incredible, despite some clouds and drizzle. There was lots of room on deck, so we set up our chairs and enjoyed a beer while taking in the sights. Just after we passed Loreley Rock, we ended our cruise in the tiny town of St. Goar.

We stopped for coffee and pastries, and made the trek up the hill to Rheinfels castle. Turns out admission was cash-only and we were about four euros short. We didn't have enough time to make the trip down the hill to a bank machine and back before last admission, so we took in the view and headed to dinner before catching our train back to Cologne (oh, and dinner was also cash-only, but at least the ATM was nearby). 

It was a long day of travel, but absolutely worth it. I would definitely recommend a visit if you have the chance. My only regret is that we didn't buy more wine :)


Behind the Blog

Vanessa from The Shimmer recently invited me to participate in a Tour Through Blogland, which takes a behind-the-scenes look at the act of blogging. It sounded like fun, so here we go!

What are you working on right now?

Hmm...define "working on". I have a ridiculous number of projects on my 'to do' list right now, but what feels like not enough time or energy to actually work on them. There's the routine maintenance stuff (pressure washing the house), the nagging tasks (our main floor has no baseboards or floor registers and the same pile of dirt has been killing a large section of our lawn for the past two months), the fun new stuff (future basement playroom, I'm looking at you) and a bunch of half-finished furniture makeovers (and yes, some are only half-finished in my mind). I'm trying to prioritize the projects that need to happen before the weather changes (spray painting, pressure washing), but the resident toddler is pretty distracting.

How does your work differ from those in our genre?

Uh, see above? I'm not an interior designer or decorator or stay-at-home mom. I have a full-time job that I mostly love and a family that I really love, and my blog is like a weird hobby that kind of embarrasses me but obviously not enough to stop doing it. My tastes usually exceed my budget, and not in a 'I bought a $5,000 couch when I really wanted a $10,000 couch' kind of way (I bought my couch for $300 on Kijiji and my cat is slowly tearing it to shreds). There's so much inspiration to be found on blogs, online magazines and Pinterest, but I still prefer reading about what real people are doing with their homes, even more so when we share similar tastes, budgets or lifestyles (pets, kids and messy husbands all pose unique decorating challenges, ha!).

Why do you write and create what you do?

I've always loved writing, although it took me a while to figure that out. I'm fortunate that writing and editing is a big part of my day job, but I also like having a space that's just mine to fill as I please (grammatical rules be damned!). I love interiors, but I'm also disgusted at times by the culture around interior design and decorating, especially the pressure to all like the same things and the unspoken implication that having more and spending more somehow makes us better people.

Anyone with a West Elm catalog and a credit card can have a beautiful room; I'm inspired by people who use their creativity and skills to create unique spaces that reflect their personalities and needs. I like the challenge that comes with DIY projects and the satisfaction of creating something with my hands. I wish I could paint beautiful pictures or write great music, but my blog is my way of expressing myself, as silly as it may be. In terms of my home, I'm always trying to find the balance between spending and not spending, between getting what I want and making the best of what I have. I'm still figuring it out, but I hope others will identify with what I'm doing and maybe find some inspiration here.

How does your writing and creative process work?

I'm pretty unsophisticated when it comes to blogging. I don't have an editorial calendar. I aim to post 2-3 times a week, less if I don't feel like I have something worth sharing. I keep a running list of all my home improvement projects in an Excel spreadsheet, and we tackle them as time and budget allows. I also spend a ridiculous amount of time exploring the internet, so I'm frequently distracted by random projects and cool DIYs I want to try.

Before Hannah, I was more prolific and usually had the energy to zoom through projects at night after work. Now I spend my evenings dreaming up projects, and pick away at them on weekends, either when Hannah's napping or with the help of family watching her. Adam frequently gets asked to watch Hannah for "10 minutes" so I can snap photos of our latest project. I usually edit photos in the evening (nothing fancy, just cropping and a little brightening) and start writing after that. It doesn't take me long to write a post, but I'm a finicky editor and that can eat up time quickly.

So that's me! Here's hoping that I'll have time this weekend to make some progress on a project or two :)

Vanessa also nominated Allison from Love Nest Design and Jane from Modern Jane Design, so make sure you visit them too!


Our apartment in Cologne, Germany

Surprise! Adam and I just got back from an incredible, week-long trip to Cologne, Germany. I'll share all the details from our vacation soon (we were there with his band as part of a music festival), but I wanted to dedicate an entire post to our fantastic accommodations. We rented a rooftop apartment in Cologne's Kwartier Latäng neighbourhood through airbnb. It was my first airbnb experience and I don't think it could have worked out any better: the location was awesome, our host was amazingly sweet and the apartment was gorgeous.

Yes, we had to trek up and down several flights of (steep) stairs each day, but the apartment was so worth it (also, I didn't have to feel so guilty about all the food + beer + wine I was enjoying). It was bright, clean and beautifully decorated, and our sweet host left us a detailed list of the best restaurants, cafes, bars and other sights to check out.

Unlike most of the rooms in the apartment, the bathroom felt huge. I especially loved the large, rectangular shower tiles and that cool, Moroccan-inspired light fixture. There was also a combination washer/dryer in the room that we couldn't exactly figure out (hey, the instructions were in German), but it struck me as a great space-saving idea.

There were two bedrooms, including this gorgeous upstairs loft. I think the pictures speak for themselves (and I'm no photographer).

The kitchen was tiny, but it worked for us (we cooked breakfast here a few times, but ate most dinners and lunches out) and it provided some great small space inspiration. Like, I need that fridge. I especially loved the clever light fixture/wine glass holder. Brilliant! (also, clearly the owner has her priorities straight ;)

We also got to enjoy this awesome outdoor patio. The weather in Cologne was on the cooler side during our stay, so we didn't spend as much time out here as I would've liked, but I think we all got to nap on the couch at least once :)

I'm sure we lucked out (the cost was $1,200 CAD for seven nights, including all fees), but the apartment also had 37 great reviews on airbnb and I did some research beforehand to figure out which neighbourhood we wanted to be in. Would I do it again? Yes, definitely.


A mini-vacation in Nova Scotia

A few weeks ago, we drove to Cape Breton and Guysborough County for a mini-vacation. When we arrived in Cape Breton, I realized that I forgot my camera's memory card, so my apologies in advance for the crappy cell phone photos. Just know that all of these scenes are at least 100 times more beautiful in person. Especially the ones with me in them ;)

My mom and a friend rented a tiny cottage in the village of Gabarus (pronounced Gab-roose) and kindly invited us to stay with them for a couple of days. The weather was foggy, but warm, for most of our visit, although the sun was shining on the day we left (of course).

ABOVE: We drove to Big Spruce Brewing in Nyanza and stopped for lunch at the Herring Choker Cafe. The food was delicious, even if it was a little overpriced.

That evening, Adam and I drove to Sydney to visit with friends and check out their beautiful new home (no pictures, sorry!). They took us out for a delicious dinner at Flavor, where we sat directly behind the Big Fiddle.

The next day we spent some time at the beach in Gabarus before heading to Two Rivers Wildlife Park. Hannah had a blast with all the animals, but she especially loved the wild bunnies we spotted all over the park. They even inspired her to sample some grass (spoiler alert: she didn't like it).

ABOVE: drinking "tea" at the cottage; calmly checking out the bears at the wildlife park (ha!); lining up Little People during a sink bath; enjoying a drink on the cottage's tiny deck; chasing ducks at the wildlife park

After another beach visit - this time with sunshine! - we drove to Guysborough County to visit with my dad and his wife, who just purchased a retirement home there. It was my first time in the area, and it was beautiful. Probably exactly what you picture when you think of Nova Scotia (small fishing villages and gorgeous coastlines, right?).

We spent some time at Tor Bay Beach (that's Hannah playing Godzilla with my sandcastle), went for ice cream and chatted with my dad and his wife about their plans for a full reno.

We also sat around the campfire drinking beers, roasting marshmallows and trying our hand at fire-roasted grilled cheese sandwiches. Oh, and Hannah tried cheesies for the first time (that's her happy face).

It was a great break from the everyday and a nice reminder that there's plenty to see and do right here in our own province!
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