31 Oct 2012

Everything Etsy #3

I had so many things that I thought I'd be able to share with you by now, but it has just been one of those weeks.  You know, the weeks where everything that seems simple turns into a total gong show (or a gong show and a half in my case)?  I started a little magnet project for Fin more than 2 weeks ago (sneak peek here).  It was supposed to take an hour.  Well, 2 weeks later and I STILL don't have anything done.  I also started working on the octagon end tables that I picked up an estate sale a few weeks ago.  I figured a couple coats of paint and they'd be done.  Nope.  I made things more difficult than they needed to be, and a week later I am still slapping paint on them.  I seriously hope they turn out in the end or they are just going to the dump.  Add on the fact that Season 4 of Sons of Anarchy was released on Netflix this week, and I'm pretty much a gonner.  Sorry, but Jax Teller wins against octagon end tables every time.  Anyhow, enough about my sad story.  Let's look at some pretty stuff that other people made, shall we?  Click on the photo to visit the seller's site.

You know I'm a sucker for cute art, right?  Well these guys from Barbara Szepusu Szucs Illustrations take the cake.  
I think they'd look so cute framed and hanging up for Christmas.  Christmasy, but not too Christmasy. Know what I mean?

We joke around our house about Fin being a Ninja all the time.  I think she needs some Ninja felted soap as part of her nightly bath time routine.  

This little felted soap mini Ninja from Sapling Naturals is only $7.50, and would make a great stocking stuffer too!

From felted Ninjas to pretty gold jewellery.  I wish I had a better segue, but I just don't.

I'm totally in love with this Forget Me Knot ring from White Fly.  So simple and delicate.  I'm all about simple jewellery, so it's a win in my books. 

Do you have a man in your life who likes offbeat t-shirts? (or maybe you are a man? Do any men actually read this blog?  Speak up if you do...)  I do, and I think he'd love this otter t-shirt from Zen Threads.  

An otter in glasses, a tie and a hat....can't beat it.  

While we are on the topic of ties...I found this tie from Handmade by Emy that I just love. 

Mr. Swell hates ties and only wears them when he absolutely has to.  But maybe for that once a year occasion than he has to don one, I can suggest this one.  I love that it can tie in so many colours (pun totally intended).  

And lastly, I'll leave you with another awesome piece of art. 

I don't know what it is, but something about doors just makes me so happy.  When I went to Ireland a few years ago I was most excited to see all the coloured doors.  I had seen them in posters and couldn't wait to see all the cute houses with bright doors. Am I alone in my door fascination? Or are there other door loves out there?  In any case, I think this door photo from bialaKura Photography is pretty swell.

Hope you are having a great week!  Is your house inundated with Halloween candy?  Fin looked so cute in her costume.  Once I get organized I'll be sure to post some pictures.

30 Oct 2012

DIY Yoga Mat Strap

Erin over at His and Hers is hosting a little contest called Random Acts of Craftiness.  The goal is to create something that is completely and utterly from your very own head.  We are talking about something that's not ripped off of Pinterest, or Googled, or found in a fancy magazine.  Think on my own? Ack!!!  Here's the problem with the crazy internet.....even if you do think of it entirely on your own and you think you are brilliant and are going to make millions of dollars, once you search it out on Pinterest there's a good chance that someone else has already been there, done that and probably DIYed a matching t-shirt.

So, here's my disclaimer.  The 'craft' below was entirely pulled out my very own head.  I have no idea if anyone else has done it in the past.....I resisted the urge to check on Mr. Google.  And one more disclaimer....I bought everything I needed for this project at the Home Depot.  Yoga and Home Depot are apparently a match made in heaven (at least in my head!).

In an attempt to centre myself (which is almost next to impossible), I try and do yoga at least once a week.  Although I am sure the meditative and inner-reflection part of it is very good for me, it's the work out that I am really after.  I get pretty bored of being on that treadmill and bike day after day, so it's nice to break up the week with a couple hours of vinyasa.  It's also an awesome excuse to buy lots of fun Lululemon stuff.  Man, I love that store.  I have a whole drawer in my dresser just dedicated to lulu.  One of my favorite items of late is my new yoga mat.  It's called The Mat, and is the best mat I have ever used.   It's basically slip proof, which is awesome because falling flat on my nose during downward dog really interrupts my chi.  The only problem with my new mat though is that it doesn't fit in my old mat bag.  For a couple of months I have been carrying it around without a bag, which means that it's constantly spewed across the back seat of the car, and that I look like a fool walking into the yoga studio with my mat usually half unrolled and half slung over my shoulder. * disclaimer: Lululemon has no idea who I am, I just really love their stuff!!!

Since I am not particularly fond of looking like a fool, I set out on a mission to MacGyver something to keep my mat rolled up.

While wandering the aisles of the Home Depot one afternoon (Fin likes to just ride around in the car carts, so we often just stroll the aisles), I spotted some hot pink neon cord.  I am sure it's supposed to be used for some sort of construction related task, but I figured it would work for yoga mat wrangling.  Would a man ever wililngly choose hot pink cord anyway? I am guessing that is why the neon yellow was sold out, but there was lots of pink left in the bin.  I also picked up an assortment of bulk washers.  I didn't know what I was going to need, so I just picked a bunch of sizes.  Buying washers bulk is so much more exciting than buying rice or peanuts bulk.  I think the men in the aisle were impressed with my washer picking skills (i.e. pretend to know exactly what a 5/8" washer is used for in real life).

While Fin was napping one day, I set out on a mission to construct the mat strap.  The cord and washer idea seemed brilliant in Home Depot, but once I was sitting on my living room floor, I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to make this thing work.  I became very un-zen about the whole thing (very anti-yoga).  After a bit of stomping around the house and a second cup of coffee, inspiration finally hit.

I cut a piece of cord 86" long.  (I actually just cut a length that looked good, and measured after...for your sake...).  I then hot glued the loose ends together.

I laid the whole big loop out and then brought the bottom middle up to meet the hot glued ends.  Think bunny ears.

The bunny ears were a good start, but I needed the washers to form the little loop where the mat would sit.  I pinched the end of the bunny ears and then inserted the folded end through a stack of washers.

I ended up using 9 washers on each side.  I had intended to use 10, but I must have been too busy stopping my toddler from shoving bulk washers in her mouth to actually count correctly.  

Once the washers were on, I then simply tied a knot in the folded end of each bunny ear.

The last step was to make the hot glued loose ends look presentable.  To do this I used another peice of cord and simply wrapped it around the doubled up strings at the top.  This was a two person job - to ensure the wrapping stays tight (my husband was SUPER excited to wrap neon pink cord....).  

You can see where it's a little bumpy - that's where it's covering the hot glued loose ends.  To finish off the twisting, I hot glued the ends and tried to shove them underneath the wrapped cord as much as possible.

The wrapping hides the ugly loose ends, but it also beefs up the cord a bit so that it doesn't dig into my shoulder while I am carrying my mat.

That's it.  The last step was to insert my mat.

Once the mat is in the little loops, all I have to do is push down on the washers and it tightens up.  

I ended up using only one of the packages of cord that I bought, and only the little washers.  This whole project cost less than $10.  I even had a $10 Home Depot gift card from ebates, so it was FREE! Free stuff is good for my zen and my chi.  

Also linking to: House of Hepworths

26 Oct 2012

Pinterest + Dinner = New Recipes in the Rotation

I've mentioned here before that we struggle with dinners.  Honestly, I can say that I find it to be the most challenging part of the day.  I almost dread it.  But, I refuse to just give up and eat out all the time.  First, we don't have the money to eat restaurant food for days on end, and second, I get tired of eating 'healthy' fast food (i.e. Subway).  So, we've set out on a mission to try and eat real dinners (not eggs or oatmeal) for dinner at least 4 nights a week (Mon-Thurs).  That means that we have to be org-org-organized.

Pinterest has become my new best friend in Project: Dinner Organization.  If you follow me on Pinterest, you'll see me pinning recipe after recipe.  Many of them are crock pot recipes, and others are ones that I can either do super quick or that I can have all ready and freeze ahead of time.  Pinterest can be a bit of hit and miss though.  We've tried many recipes that are total flops, or are just so-so...nothing to write home about, or to blog about for that matter.  But then there are others that are total winners.  Some of the Pinterest recipes are super delicious and have made it into our regular rotation.


Through all of our trial and error, I have kept a board on Pinterest entitled Recipes We Have Tried and Love.  Since we love them, I thought I'd share the board with you....in case you also find dinner on week nights next to impossible.  I don't just post anything on the board, I can assure you that we have actually made and eaten the recipe.  I also add my little notes to the pin with any changes that we have made or modifications that could make it healthier, etc.  And since it's my blog, I guess it's ok to play favourites.....the Singapore Street Noodles and the Cauliflower Chocolate Cake are our current faves.

Do you have a pin board with your favourite recipes?  Leave me your link in the comments, as I'd love to follow you and find new recipes.  It's just a lot of recipe love around here today.

On a totally unrelated side note, I wanted to just make a couple of quick comments about advertising.  You may have noticed that over the past few weeks I have integrated some advertising onto the blog.  I struggled with the decision to start adding ads to the blog, as I want to maintain the integrity of my posts.  But, blogging isn't entirely free, and although the costs are small, they are still there (domain name, blog design, etc).  I love writing and sharing, but if I can recoup some of my out of pocket costs, I will.  And to be honest, having a few extra dollars doesn't hurt :)

I only show display ads that I think fit with what I have going on around here.  They are stores that I enjoy, and that you may too.  The little section on the right hand side titled "Swell Goods I am Loving Right Now" contains affiliate links.  If you click on one of the items from this blog and then purchase it, the store sends me a small percentage of your purchase.  It's like a little bonus for me scoping out cool things.  You may also see sponsored posts every once and a while.  These are posts that I have been paid to write on behalf of a company.  The words are all mine, and I only write about things that I believe in or use myself.  I've passed up quite a few sponsored posts that I just don't think are the right fit (like white bread and car insurance....).  I know most of you won't care too much about any of this, but it's important for me to be honest with you.  I often get question on how you can make money blogging, so hopefully this will answer some of them.  And just to prove that blogging isn't a good way to get rich, I have made a total of $19.84 since I started blogging almost 9 months ago.  I think I'll use it to buy lotto tickets.

Have a great weekend!  Any big plans?  We have Halloween craziness this weekend.  Can't wait!

25 Oct 2012

Aviva Community Fund

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Aviva Community Fund. All opinions are 100% mine.

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.
- Anne Frank

Isn't it true? It's all in us. If we feel passionate enough about it, we can make a change. 

In our world of electronic communication and busy, busy lives, it's often so easy to just become solitary beings. I can honestly say that some days when I am at home with Fin, I barely engage with anyone else other than her (which often consists of making animal sounds for her hours on end....).  I email people, and smile at cashiers, but there are days that go by with very little connection.  But then, thankfully, there are other days that I get together with a group of wonderful women.  We are able to laugh with each other, share our experiences, support each other, but mostly we are able to just connect (and have adult conversations that don't involve animal sounds!).  After Fin was born, Mr. Swell encouraged me to join a local new Mom group.  I sort of shrugged it off at first, but he kept pushing.  He knew that I would need to connect with other mothers who were going through the same things that I was (sometimes he's better at knowing what I need than I am!).  Thank goodness he pushed, because it has truly been one of the best experiences. My new Mom group has made me feel like part of this community.  I am such an advocate for these groups now.  I have encouraged my friends to join groups in their own community, because it can make you feel like you again (especially after a few glasses of wine sans baby!). 

Where am I going with this you ask?  Well, I know that a new Moms group isn't everyone's cup of tea, but there are a tonne of other Canadian organizations out there that are helping their own communities and need support. This is where the Aviva Community Fund comes in. Aviva Insurance has created the Aviva Community Fund to help influence positive change in local communities.  The Aviva Community Fund encourages passionate people across Canada to make a difference in their own communities with the cause that is closest to their own heart.  

Groups across Canada have entered their special projects in the hopes of receiving funds from the Aviva Community Fund, which will make their projects a reality.  Here's where you come in.  Canadian residents are able to vote for their favorite projects by simply visiting the Aviva Community Fund.  Yes, you get to help decide which project receives funding!  

Aviva 2

Voting is easy peasy.  Anyone in Canada who is registered on the Aviva Community Fund website can vote for ideas during the Idea Entry and Semi-Final phases of the competition.  Just head on over to the Aviva Community Fund website to register.  Once you're registered and signed into the site, all you need to do is click on the "Vote Now" button on any idea.  Or, if you registered using Facebook Connect, you can vote directly through the Facebook voting app, which you can find on the Facebook page of most of the ideas or here.  You can vote during each of the Qualifying Rounds and the Semi-Final phases of the competition.  You can cast 15 votes during each of the three initial rounds and another fifteen votes during the Semi-Finals at any time within each round, but you can only vote for each idea once a day.  Here's the best part....if you are indecisive like I am, you are in luck, because you can support as many ideas as you'd like with your votes. 

 Want to connect with Aviva Community Fund?  You can Like Aviva Community Fund on Facebook and Follow @Aviva on Twitter.

 Aviva 1

I'm off to cast my votes....

Visit Sponsor's Site

23 Oct 2012

My Fur Baby is 3!

It's official.  I've gone off the deep end. Loco.  

I've become one of those crazy dog people - the ones who pretend that their dog is their kid, and treat them like a kid (sorry, if you are one of those people...at least we are in this together!).  

Let me attempt to explain.....

Diefenbaker goes to doggie daycare a couple of days a week.  He goes on days that nobody is home, so that he can run and play and just have all around doggie fun.  He LOVES it.  He gets so excited when we pull up that he just about knocks us all out with his tail.  At daycare they celebrate birthdays. When it's a dog's birthday, the owner often brings in treats for all the other dogs.  (yes, it seems a little in reverse to be giving the gifts on your birthday....but whatever, that's just what they do there).  For the last 2 years I have been a bad human and haven't done anything for Diefenbaker's birthday.  He often comes home with treat bags from other dogs, and the guilt finally started to get the better of me.  

Our fur baby is 3 on Friday!  How time flies....

In order for Diefenbaker to keep hanging with the cool peeps at daycare, I figured I'd better get on the train this year.  I baked up a batch of natural doggie cookies for all of the pups.  Now Diefenbaker can bask in all the attention he'll receive from his minions buds at daycare tomorrow.  

In case you are interested, I used the following recipe:
3 C flour
1 C quick oats
2 C natural peanut butter
2 Tbsp baking powder
2 C milk (I used soy milk because it's what we had. Don't worry, I googled first to make sure it was ok for dogs.).

Mix everything together and chill for a few hours.  Then roll the dough out nice and thin and cut however you'd like.  Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.  Yields 50 cookies.

Linking to: House of Hepworths

20 Oct 2012

Random To-Dos

I'm warning you now, this post is filled with a bunch of randomness.  It snowed here this weekend, so I guess the outdoor projects are done for the year and it's time to think of all the stuff that I can do inside. I have started making a list of all of the house projects that we have to do this winter and it's so long that  I just stopped writing.  It's mostly nit-picky stuff that we've put off all summer.  If I can get my act together I'll try and share it here - mostly so you can feel better about your own situation. :)  There are a bunch of other things I have to get to though that are slightly more fun. 

I have Fin's halloween costume done, but after seeing it finished I decided that she needed a matching trick or treating bag.  

Needless to say, I have a lot of cutting and hot gluing in my future for the next couple of days.  I can't wait to show you her all decked out.  It's totally adorable, if I do say so myself!

We went to an estate sale this morning.  Since it was freezing cold and snowing, I think the guy was really eager to get rid of his stuff!  I picked up these 2 end tables for $10 each.

Mr. Swell was commenting about how he had ones just like it growing up.  I think it's hilarious that we are busy buying things back that we were all too eager to give up a few years ago! I plan to flip these guys.  I also think that I am finally going to splurge on some Annie Sloan Chalk Paint for them because I think they'd look great with just a bit of distressing.  I am stuck between white or something really bright like teal.  What do you think?  

I also bought this owl and bull at the estate sale.

Yes, they are both pretty ugly right now, but I know they will look great once they are painted a nice bright white!  I have a small obsession with owls, so I just couldn't pass him up.

The last thing I bought at the estate sale was this old sewing kit.

It's a little lopsided now, but it did come with the other 2 legs - I just have to reattach them.  Once I get the legs fixed up, I'll figure out if I am going to re-stain it or maybe paint it....

I think it will look great upstairs beside our old Singer.  

The best part is that it's chalk full of stuff!!

There was a good pair of scissors, tons of buttons and enough shoe laces to lace up a soccer team.  In total I paid $10 for the bull, owl and sewing kit, so I think I did pretty good.

In other news.....we are working on a play kitchen for Fin for Christmas.  I bought this desk at a garage sale in the summer, and we are going to attempt to make it look less desk like and more kitchen like over the next few months.

The cabinet and drawer on the end just screamed fridge and freezer to me, so I couldn't pass it up.  You can see that we've started to mock up where the oven is going to go.  I'm eager to get going on it.

I picked up this vase at the Salvation Army a few weeks ago for $2.99.

I also think it needs a few coats of white spray paint and it will look super cute holding some fresh flowers in the spring.  See how excited I am for winter? I am already thinking spring!

And lastly....I found this lamp at the Home Depot on clearance for $3.

We had actually been at the ReStore earlier that morning and saw the exact same lamp there for $10.  I liked it there, but was too cheap to buy it.  A few hours later when we were at Home Depot, I figured I could splurge for the $3!  Goes to show you that there are some good deals at used stores, but not everything is a steal.  Anyhow, the lamp shade colour is atrocious, so I am going to recover it.  I do love the dimpled glass base though. My plan is to put it in the guest room.

So, I think all of that is going to keep me busy for a while.  I also have a few other projects that are in various stages of completion, along with Diefenbaker's birthday and a few halloween parties over the next couple weeks.  Should keep me out of trouble at least!

How about you?  What are your winter plans?  Any exciting things in the works?

18 Oct 2012

Halloween Porch

Once October 15th hit, I figured it was ok for me to really start decorating for Halloween.  I don't like putting holiday decorations out too early or I just get totally sick of them before the holiday is even here (which is why you won't see any Christmas around here until at least December 1).  I showed you my new skeleton door hanging last week.  I was digging the skeletons, so I decided to just go with it for the rest of the porch.  Almost everything is from the dollar store, and excluding the pumpkins, cost less than $15.

Please promise me that there will be no judging the state that the stairs are in.  They so desperately need a new coat of paint, but it just didn't happen over the summer.  That's life, right?

Because of the size of our porch, I can't go too crazy.  We still have to be able to all stand up there, Great Dane included, and prefer to not trip over things. 

It's too early yet to carve pumpkins, so instead I drew some skulls on the biggest pumpkins that I could find at the grocery store.

I printed out some clip-art, cut it out and then traced it onto the pumpkin using a Sharpie.  I then just sort of freehanded the rest and filled in with Sharpie.  You can tell my art skills are that of about a 3 year old.....something went askew with his jaw.  Oh well, he's a skeleton, maybe it's wired shut?  That's sort of what it looks like....

The little green pumpkin is from my friend Kendra.  She grew it in her garden, which amazes me (since we only grew weeds this year).  I think it's so cute.  The skull needed some cuteness to balance its scariness (ha!), so this totally fit the bill.

I love the yellow caution tape that's wrapped around the column and tied onto the plant hook.  I've used it every year we've been in this house.  You can't beat the $1 price tag for it. 

I also quite enjoy the crazy hair on the skull.  Do skulls even have hair?  On second thought, I'm not sure if I want to know that answer.

There's also a small infestation of rats in one corner.  Of course they like hanging out with a random appendage.

True fact:  Alberta is rat free.  We have a rat patrol.  No jokes.  A few month ago there were rats that made it across the border from Saskatchewan and it actually made the news!  It was a big deal.  We have mice, just no rats.  Hopefully the rat patrol won't show up at our house.  

Hands down, the mail box is my favorite part of this Halloween porch.

It took me about 2 seconds to do, but I just LOVE the blood coming out of it.  I know this is fake jelly sticky blood, so that's why I love it.   Real blood coming out of a mail box would definitely give me nightmares for years.  I debated putting a fake foot in it for the paper boy, but figured he already has to deal with Diefenbaker giving him the stare down every day, so he didn't deserve any more punishment.

By the way, the wind was blowing like crazy while I was taking these photos, so the porch light is just blowing around - it's not crooked like that all the time.  Crooked all the time would drive me nuts.

So there you have it.  We are officially ready for trick or treaters.  I just put the finishing touches on Fin's Halloween costume.  I am so excited for her to go trick or treating this year (to about 3 houses before she gets too cold...and the novelty wears off).

How about you?  Are you done decorating for Halloween?  Any good rat stories for me?  I can honestly say I have never even seen a rat!

15 Oct 2012

A Shabby Happy Desk

After my blue sideboard sold (which I really DID want to keep, but practiced a lot of self restraint!), I figured I'd give it a go again.  I didn't even have to hunt Kijiji very long before I found this awesome desk.

I emailed the lady right away and told her that I really, really wanted it.  The next day Fin and I took a little drive out to her house to pick it up.  While we were walking down to their basement, Fin spotted a humungous doll house.  We are talking massive.  It was a replica of their house, with real cedar shingles and all.  I didn't think I'd ever get Fin away from it so that we could actually get the desk out of the house.  It was a good sign. I love buying stuff from good people.  

I sanded the whole thing down using the palm sander and then got to work.  I gave everything but the work surface and the top of the stool 2 coats of primer and then 2 coats of latex paint in Sherwin William's Midday (the yellow we had left over from our ill fated half wall).  I then distressed it heavily and did a coat of poly on the whole thing.  After the work surface and the top of the stool were really sanded down, I gave them both a couple coats of Minwax Polyshades in American Chestnut.

I brought it into the house to take pictures.....but it just wasn't sitting right with me.  It was too bright, and the paint really didn't react well around the distressing - it was splotchy from the sander.  I couldn't see it in the terrible garage lighting, but once it was in the house I just knew it needed to be fixed.  I honestly didn't have the patience or the time to sand it all down again and start from scratch.  Instead, I decided to give it a white wash of sorts.  I mixed some high gloss white paint (our baseboard paint) with glaze and then rubbed it on using an old cloth.  It worked.  Phew.  The white blended the dark and light patches and gave it a much more 'used' look.  I also picked up new knobs at Home Depot (that I paid WAY too much for, but totally fell in love with).

After ALL of that, here's how she looked.

Isn't the little stool just the cutest?  I posted her up on Kijiji on Friday night and she was gone by Saturday afternoon.  Love that! I'm learning a tonne as I redo more and more furniture.  My goal is to always at least double my money, which I did with this piece.  Now I am back on the hunt.....

TDC Before and After
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