My awesome air plants

I was lucky enough to win an Etsy Gift Card in a giveaway at the sweetest digs recently (thanks Gemma!).  This air plant pod was at the top of my holiday wish list, so I was pretty excited to find the creator, Denver-based clay artist, Michael McDowell, on Etsy (his shop's name is mudpuppy if you're interested).

I ordered a large and a small pod, both in grey. Aren't they striking? While purchasing the pods was easy, finding air plants proved more difficult. After some Internet searching, I stumbled across someone local who once sold air plants on Etsy. I contacted her, and she very kindly offered to help me out.

I took my pods to her house for a "fitting" and bombarded her with questions about how to care for air plants (she was seriously so sweet). Letting them get too moist is apparently the worst thing you can do, so I submerged them in water for a couple of hours when I got home and waited until they were completely dry before putting them in the pods. That was about a week ago and they're just starting to look thirsty.

I hung them in our kitchen window, where I'm hoping they'll get enough - but not too much - sunlight. So far, so good (fingers crossed of course)!

P.S. You can learn more about air plants (also known as tillandsia) here.


Making the most of odd spaces: Part 1

We celebrated Adam's birthday with his family last weekend, and his parents kindly offered to keep Hannah for a couple of nights. With the toddler out of the house, I was able to tackle a couple of projects on my 'to do' list, including this:

You see, this side of our kitchen used to look like this:

And when we moved in it looked like this:

(Unfortunately I don't have a 'before' shot of the other opening. It was basically a big hole.)

Adam moved the outlet to the back of the opening for me, and I built a new box to frame the bump out in the brick. I painted it white to blend in with the brick as much as possible. The top is made of three pine boards that I cut to size, stained, sealed and screwed into the existing wood frame.

I left the brick inside the opening as-is for now. The plan is to add a second shelf down the road (that step requires renting a hammer drill) and I think the natural brick could look good, especially with some green things (plants) in the mix. That said, the first picture in this post makes me think I should paint at least the sides white (the two sides in the opening with the microwave were mostly cinder block, so I painted those white).

The opening with the microwave will get a shelf too (and maybe a small piece of trim to hide that chipped brick). This is such a weird area that our plans for it are constantly evolving. The good news is that it looks better than it ever has and I'm pretty proud that I (mostly) knocked this project out myself (including all the cutting).


A new, old dining table

Remember when I talked about stripping and staining our dining room table, and a few of you were like, "Awesome! Only, won't that be a lot of work?"

Yeah. I started the project, abandoned the project, then convinced Adam that we should probably invest in a new table. Luckily, I found this beautiful old table for sale on Kijiji; it had been lovingly rescued from an old church that was being torn down.

Since our dining room table is also a desk, craft table and occasional sewing table, I love that this table is big enough to do it all (our round table worked well in the space, but it never felt big enough). I also like that there's nothing precious about this table: the more we beat it up, the more it adds to the table's character.

Now I really can't wait to add built-in shelves around the dining room window (something like this or this). I think shelves will help balance the size of the table (plus, we could use the extra storage space). The chairs likely aren't permanent, but they're easy to clean (as much as I like my black Windsor chairs, it turns out it's a real pain to clean food and other Hannah messes off all those spindles) and the arms help keep Hannah in her seat during mealtimes (although she's already learning how to wriggle her way through the hole in the back). 

We've had the table for several days now, and I think we'd all agree that it suits our lifestyle much better than the old one. While I've resolved to spend money on experiences instead of things in 2015, anything we do buy should help our lives function better or simplify them in some way. This table? It does both. 


Kicking off the New Year

Happy New Year everyone! We celebrated at home with Adam's brother and his wife, which is perhaps my favourite way to ring in the New Year (good friends, good food and plenty of champagne). Our spread included rosemary-sesame pecans and cauliflower buffalo wings - two first-time recipes for me. Both treats were a hit, but the cauliflower buffalo wings were especially awesome and come highly recommended from all of us (I think).

Anyway, the first project I'm hoping to finish in the New Year is this rarely-photographed area of our kitchen. I've (mostly) finished painting the brick, which instantly made the kitchen feel brighter. Next, we're going to tackle those openings. That rogue outlet needs to be moved and both openings will get shelves. It's hard to explain what I'm envisioning (or at least I'm too lazy to try), but I'm excited! This area has been an eyesore for years, so I can't wait to finally do something about it. I've got a few other plans in the works, so lots to share soon!


Buy less, do more

When you blog about your house and read a lot of blogs about other people's houses, it sometimes feels like you're on a treadmill, always running towards the next big project or purchase: new finishes, better furniture, the latest must-have accessory.

There's plenty of research showing that experiences bring us more pleasure than things. I've been thinking about this a lot lately, so much so that I've set a goal to buy less and do more in 2015. I love to travel, but doing more can be as simple as going for a walk or taking advantage of what's already going on in your town or city (like checking out a new restaurant or taking in some live music). This year, I want to start asking myself: do I really want this new pillow/chair/tchotchke, or would the money be better spent saving for a vacation or taking a day trip somewhere new?

Here are several of my favourite experiences from 2014:

In April, Hannah and I spent a relaxing week in Florida visiting my brother and his family. We swam in the pool, took a trip to Sea World, and even got in on an Easter egg hunt. It was Hannah's first time on a plane and my first time travelling with her alone, but thanks to your great advice, we survived the trip just fine :)

We kicked off the summer by spending a night in Tatamagouche's Train Station Inn. Hannah - who loves all things train-related - had a great time and I think we'd all like to make the trip again, maybe next time with a beach day thrown in.

In July, I flew to Boston for a conference and tacked a few extra days onto my trip to visit with friends and family. It was awesome.

We threw an impromptu party to celebrate Hannah's second birthday on our DIY patio (and I got to decorate our brand new fence)...

 And we took a mini-vacation right here at home with a trip to Cape Breton and Guysborough County.

But the highlight of my summer (year?) was the week Adam and I spent in Cologne, Germany...

...which included a spectacular day cruise through the Upper Middle Rhine Valley and our first airbnb experience (we totally hit the jackpot).

We managed to squeeze in one last beach day before the weather turned cooler...

And we capped off September with a weekend trip to Montreal (that's Hannah running around atop Mont Royal).

Yes, we really love the beach around here, even in November.

And now for the best part: planning our adventures in 2015!


House Projects: My top 5 in 2014

It feels like we achieved a better house-life balance in 2014, even though we checked some big projects off our 'must do' list. We're finally approaching a place where we can spend more time enjoying our house than working on it (fingers crossed, knock on wood), and it feels gooood. Are there still plenty of projects to tackle in 2015? Oh yes, but the list is shorter than it's ever been!

So, before we talk about what's next, let's take a quick look back at five of my favourite DIY projects from 2014...

ONE. One of the year's biggest accomplishments (house-wise) has to be the before and after in our hallway/stairs. Following last year's major reno, we painted the hallway and ceiling, installed new hardwood flooring and baseboards, purchased that beautiful runner, and painted, stained and installed new treads and risers on the stairs. I was surprisingly thrilled to install transitions between the bedrooms and the hallway, and I even hung some art.

TWO. We made some big improvements to our DIY patio this year, most notably the addition of a brand new privacy fence. We also bought some new furniture, added a painted outdoor rugmoved a few plants around and spruced up some Dollar Store planters with stone spray paint.

THREE. Even though tiling the counters was on my 'must do' list, I bought myself some more time by painting them instead. I'm still thrilled with the transformation, even if it's not a permanent solution (regular re-waxing is the best way to avoid touch-ups, but occasional touch-ups are still required).

FOUR. I installed this tile-look laminate flooring in our entry all by myself and I'm pretty proud of it. Our entry has come a long way this year - all it needs now is new baseboards (just like the rest of the main floor, ahem).

FIVE. Our biggest project of the year has to be the new cork floors we installed throughout the main level. So big, apparently, that we still haven't found the energy to install new baseboards (2015 will be the year of baseboards, I swear). I can't say enough about how much I love the new floors: they look great, they feel great underfoot and they're so much warmer (our main floor sits on an insulated, but unheated, crawl space). If you're thinking about cork, do it! You can read more about how we installed the floors here and why we chose cork here.


Happy Holidays!

I was sick with strep throat for the entire week leading up to Christmas. I've never had strep throat before and I hope I never have it again. It was pretty awful. Luckily, I recovered just in time for the Big Day and we enjoyed a quiet Christmas at home. Hannah's big gift was a play kitchen, and her aunts, uncles and grandparents made sure there was plenty of play food and dishes to go with it.

I'm lucky enough to have the weekend to relax, then it's back to work for me. I may even pick up some supplies to finish one of the half-finished projects around here. Happy Holidays!

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