7.21.2014

My week in Boston

Last week I attended a two-day conference in Boston for work, so of course I tacked a few extra days onto my trip to visit with friends and family.

run along the Charles River / Boston Common / fresh pedicure / sushi in Beacon Hill / my room at the Buckminster Hotel

My friend and former roommate, Molly, lives in Beacon Hill. The area is full of seriously gorgeous townhouses, so I had to snap a few pictures of their amazing lacquered doors.



A couple of my very sweet college friends met us for pedicures, dinner (Ristorante Fiore in the North End) and drinks (Tip Tap Room in Beacon Hill). It was a pretty different pace from my day-to-day, so I was in heaven.

the amazing salad bar at Whole Foods / Fenway Park was around the corner from my hotel / walking around the Christian Science Plaza / sushi with my cousin at Lowell's Blue Taleh

I also spent a couple of days at my aunt and uncle's house outside of Lowell. Lowell was the first large-scale factory town in America and it's filled with beautiful old mills and other historic buildings. As a kid, I thought of it as a run-down and somewhat scary place, but the change in the downtown over the past 15 years has been incredible. Now it has plenty of great restaurants, cool second-hand shops and a growing arts scene.

my old apartment in Brookline / drinks at the Liberty Hotel / so happy to have my Dunkin's iced coffee again

Even eight years later, some days I still miss living in Boston. It's a great city - not too big, not too small - and I always feel at home there. Also, the sushi. Did you sense a theme? In my defense, Adam isn't much of a sushi fan, so I may have gone a little overboard in his absence (I regret nothing).

my $10 bento box in Brookline / my aunt and uncle's backyard, moments before a sudden afternoon thunder shower / another inspiring doorway in Beacon Hill

It was a really quick trip (two days were taken up with the conference, after all), and as nice as it was to get away (so nice!), I also missed having Adam and Hannah with me. We're planning another family road trip in the near future so we can fit in even more friends, more family and even meet some new babies, too.

7.16.2014

Stone spray painted planters


Now that our patio has furniture and a fence, it was time to do something about the empty planters littering our back steps. Actually, they were full of dirt, leaves and the sad remains of plants past.


While I'd love to replace those cheap plastic pots with stone or concrete planters, it's hard to justify buying something new when our current planters do the job well enough. Also, we just built a fence and installed new floors, so my unnecessary planter budget is around zero dollars. Instead, I bought a can of Rust-Oleum's stone spray paint and hoped for the best.


In terms of application, it's really no different than regular spray paint, except that it's even more important to err on the side of multiple light coats. I went a little rogue, and since each coat needs to be somewhat tacky for the next coat to adhere properly, I mostly ended up wasting a bunch of paint. So, don't do that.


In the end, I think they turned out pretty well; the notched bottom is the only thing that really gives them away. I spray painted a third planter black and I like how they all look together. The plants are New Guinea impatiens and coleus (and that little guy is called a chocolate chip bugleweed...who knew?). Our patio is shaded by trees for most of the day, which is lovely, but a bit of a challenge when it comes to choosing plants. I had a lot of success with impatiens last year and coleus was recommended to me (by the Internet) as a shade-loving plant.



You may have also noticed that I painted the section of foundation behind our patio. Just kidding. Even Adam didn't notice, and he lives here.


It was a pretty quick and easy transformation, and it looks so much better than the before. Ignore the algae. Our entire exterior is due for a good cleaning.


Back to the planters. I love this little corner of our patio now, and it should only get better when the impatiens start blooming.

7.14.2014

Blueberry cornmeal cobbler



This month, Canadian Living asked its blogger network to try making blueberry cornmeal cobbler. Fresh blueberries are one of my favourite summer treats, so I was all over this dessert.


As far as desserts go, it was easy to make and you probably have most of the ingredients on hand already. It's also a great dessert to serve guests. I made mine in the afternoon, then popped it in the oven when we sat down to eat. Forty minutes or so later, it was ready to serve.


I served it with a dollop of greek yogurt, but of course ice cream would be delicious too. I really like that the blueberry filling isn't too sweet and the biscuit topping was delicious (I think that was Hannah's favourite part). Oh, and make sure you serve it warm - yum!



Check out how other bloggers in the Canadian Living blogger network made this month's recipe here.

This post was sponsored by Canadian Living. All thoughts and opinions are my own

7.10.2014

15 signs ELLE DECOR thinks you're failing at life

Why, WHY do magazines insist on publishing lists of random, age-related design "rules"? I saw this tweet from ELLE DECOR last night, and of course I clicked over. I mean, they said it was a must-read!


The article is entitled, 15 Things You Should Never Ever Have in Your Home After 30, which was a pretty good sign that it was going to be terrible, but I read on.

(The rest of this post will make a lot more sense if you've read the Elle Decor article, so click on over and then come back and laugh with me.)

As the lead texts explains, "You're an adult now and it's time to decorate like one." Later in the same paragraph the author uses double exclamation marks. Because how else does a mature adult add emphasis!!

Anyway, you probably just want to know if you're FAILING AT LIFE or not, so let's review the list:

1. A futon.

Jonathan Adler thinks they're "le worst". I have absolutely nothing against Jonathan Adler, but I'm pretty sure using the expression "le worst" disqualifies you from telling anyone what they should never ever do because they're an adult. Like, totes disqualifies you.

2. Temporary furniture.

Because apparently we're calling buying expensive furniture "living intentionally" now.

3. TV stands.

I really like this one because it contains the classic advice, "It's time to do something a little less functional and a little more decorative."

4. Art or posters taped to the wall without frames.

They recommend investing in custom framing. Guys, by 30 you should totally be spending lots of money on things.

5. Florescent floor lamps.

Did you know that soft lighting floor lamps are "easier on the eyes, prettier in the space and do wonders for your complexion"? Also, you're totally getting old and hard to look at.

6. Bare wood floors and postage stamp size area rugs.

I'll admit that when my dog repeatedly peed on the large area rug in our living room, I was totally "reaching for the quickest solution" when I removed the rug. Also, I felt like the daily cleaning of urine stains was interfering with my ability to live intentionally.

7. Cheap bedding.

Listen, I love my fancy sheets (wedding present), but only buying what you can afford seems like a pretty good reason to have cheap bedding, whatever your age. Also, can we please stop equating buying expensive stuff with treating yourself well?


8. An unmade bed.

Seriously? Never ever? These people do not have small children.

9. Plastic dishware and serving pieces.

Because if your two year-old smashes her dinner plate every night you can just buy more!

10. Kitchey picture frames.

I've personally never liked those "Best Friends" picture frames, which I now realize proves how sophisticated I am!!

11. Accent walls.

This one is so random to me. I mean, is it me, or do they just really hate accent walls?

12. That collection of shot glasses from your college spring break adventures on display.

Does anyone actually have one of these? Seriously?

13. An empty fireplace mantel or bookshelf.

You're over 30. WHY DON'T YOU HAVE YOUR PRIORITIES STRAIGHT?

14. Fake plants or trees.

Age 30. The tipping point when fake plants "just aren't necessary" anymore.

15. The pillows sold with the sofa.

Especially not if they came with the sofa you bought on sale when you were just filling up space with random crap, you unintentional jerk.

Update: A big thanks to everyone who's taken the time to leave a comment! It's nice to know that I'm not the only one with plastic dishes and an unmade bed :)

7.09.2014

How to install floating cork floors

 

Now that our new floors are in, I want to share some more detail on the installation process, just in case you're considering a similar project in your own home.

We ordered our flooring from this BC-based company and I was really impressed with their customer service and quality of product (this isn't a sponsored post, by the way). Even with the cost of shipping and the pricey sealer we chose, it was still cheaper than going to a big box store, and their selection was bigger, too. We ordered LOTS of samples - for free - so we knew exactly what we were getting in terms of colour and pattern. I also worked closely with their sales manager to determine what type of flooring we wanted (floating? glue down?), how much we should order and how to time delivery so the flooring would have enough time to acclimate without us having to store it for too long (small house problems!). She was great at answering all of my questions and even walked me through the installation process over the phone.

So, with our flooring in hand, here's how installation went down! 

Thursday p.m.: In a burst of energy, I removed all of the laminate flooring on Thursday evening after work. I went to bed exhausted, but happy for the head start.

Friday a.m.: Adam and Hannah dropped me off at work and drove to Adam's parents' house (his parents volunteered to watch Hannah for the weekend while we installed the floors). When Adam got home that afternoon, he pulled up two layers of linoleum and one layer of plywood in the kitchen to make that floor level with the living and dining room floor. I had assumed this would take forever and probably lead to some kind of disaster that required ripping up the entire subfloor, right down to the joists (with a few DIY projects under my belt, I now hope for the best and mentally prepare for the worst). It took around an hour and the subfloor underneath was in perfect condition. So yeah, I was totally kicking myself for removing all that laminate solo.


Friday p.m.: The floating cork floor we chose didn't require underlayment, but we decided to keep the existing foam underlayment in place. If anything it would add some extra insulation and cushion, right? We moved every last piece of furniture into either the garage or one of the upstairs bedrooms, and used cardboard to drag our fridge into the entry (we moved the stove with a borrowed dolly). And yet somehow we had enough energy to start installing the floor that night.

To lay the first row, we measured the distance between the longest uninterrupted wall and the chimney that divides the entire space, then used our table saw to rip the first row of planks to avoid a super narrow strip of flooring in the most visible part of the room. After that, it was just a matter of locking our planks together and knocking them into place. It takes a bit of finesse, but once you find your rhythm it moves along pretty quickly. I found it hard to get new planks in tight without accidentally knocking out the rest of the row, but strategically placed boxes of flooring worked wonders.


Saturday: We worked like dogs on Saturday to install as much flooring as possible. There were some tricky cuts (I'm a big fan of making paper templates to mark tricky cuts), but also plenty of open stretches where we could make up time. Still, it was tiring work and I admit to wanting to call it quits at least twice. Both times I tried to convince Adam (we have all day tomorrow, I just don't think I can do anymore) he was determined to keep going alone and I'm pretty competitive, so...

We also needed to add an extra layer of plywood to the area in front of the stairs to level the subfloor. We were able to use a piece we already owned, that Adam's band had apparently used as a screen printing test at some point. I like that we have an actual, hidden stamp on this house now :)


Sunday a.m.: We installed everything save two tiny rows the day before, so Adam finished installing the flooring while I packed our overnight bags and cleared the room. I even taped a few cords to the wall to get everything off the floor. When Adam was done, I swept and lightly mopped the entire floor. On Cancork's recommendation, we sealed the floor with Loba 2K Supra AT in a satin finish. It's a water based polyurethane designed for high-traffic commercial spaces, and it's supposed to be extremely scratch resistant. It was expensive, but we have a dog and a toddler, and we figured this wasn't the place to skimp on materials.

I was nervous about applying it, but the process is actually quite simple. You give the hardener a good shake before pouring it into the container of polyurethane, and shake again. Once it's combined, you have about two hours to roll it onto the floor before it hardens into plastic. Because it dries quickly, the sales manager recommended applying it in a typewriter motion: roll out one row, then immediately return to the start of your row and roll out the next.


Again on Cancork's recommendation, we let the sealer cure for three days before returning home. I didn't notice any fumes while applying it, so this was really just to let it cure completely. Adam's parents and my mom kindly put us up during that time - pets included. It helped that we installed the floor over a four-day weekend (Canada Day + 1 vacation day), so I only had to get ready for work at someone else's house once. The finished product has a slight sheen to it and it feels really durable. So far it's held up great to the dog's nails and Hannah's furniture pushing habit (the kid thinks everything's a stroller).


We had four boxes of flooring leftover, which is basically the amount of overage we ordered. Unlike the hardwood we installed upstairs, the colour and pattern variation was pretty minimal, so there was maybe only one unusable plank in the bunch. And we got lucky and ended up being able to use many of our 'scrap' pieces for other cuts, so there was very little waste overall. I'd rather be safe than sorry, especially since it's not like we could just run out to the store for more, and hopefully we'll be able to make a little money back by selling the leftovers. In fact, compared to the hardwood installation, the floating floor was significantly less time-consuming and less error-prone (but I guess our hardwood-laying experience helped).

So that's what worked for us and hopefully this helps if you're considering a similar project. We're really happy with the look and feel of the floor, and of course I'll let you know how it holds up over time.

7.07.2014

Our night at the Train Station Inn


Hannah loves trains, so we thought it would be fun to take her to the Train Station Inn in Tatamagouche. The train station was built in 1887 and opened as an inn in 1989. Several cabooses were added over the years, all of them converted into accommodations that sit on a track next to the station.

We stopped for lunch at the Shillelagh House Restaurant in Truro on our way. The restaurant isn't much to look at, but the fish and chips are delicious. 


The inn has a dining car with a great reputation, but it didn't seem like the kind of place you bring a two year-old, so we opted for a family restaurant nearby. The food there was so-so, but Hannah could whine and accidentally drop rice everywhere, and still everyone was as nice as could be.

We spent the night in Boxcar "Jimmie", one of the first all steel boxcars built by the Canadian National Railway in 1937. Our room had a really cool mini-loft with a mattress - too high for Hannah, who slept in her pack and play, but perfect for an older kid.


I was worried about what Tropical Storm Arthur might mean for the weather, but it was sunny and so, so hot when we arrived. There's a really nice rail trail behind the inn, and Hannah and I may have walked around in the Waugh River for a bit to cool off.



Ice cream was also a must, although Hannah quickly abandoned her cup in favour of my cone.



We also picked up a couple growlers at the Tatamagouche Brewing Company so we could hang out drinking beer after Hannah went to sleep. There was a little sitting area right outside our door that we enjoyed until the mosquitoes got too bad.


We brought a bottle of pale ale back for my mom as a "thank you" for looking after our dog. They also brew a red - Butcher Block Red - and both are delicious.

It was really nice to get away for a night, and travelling locally is great when you have young kids (young kids being kind of a hassle to travel with). Can't wait to do it again when we head to Cape Breton later this month!

7.03.2014

Get to know your style

PlaidFox - a Vancouver-based, online retailer of competitively-priced, designer home furnishings - reached out to me recently to see if I'd be interested in taking their style test. The test is pretty simple: 15 questions that ask you to choose your favourites from a selection of inspiring rooms, places and pieces. Of course I was game, and here's my result: 


I think this style describes me well, or at least what I aspire to (um, a bigger travel budget would help!). Once you know your style, PlaidFox allows you to filter their products so you can quickly find your favourites. The site just launched and more products are being added every day, so I think this feature will become even more useful as their selection grows.

I'm in love with the room above, so I thought it would be fun to pick a few items from PlaidFox that could be used to create a similar look in your own home.

1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8

OK, now go take the style test for yourself and let me know what you get.

This post was sponsored by PlaidFox. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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