28 Nov 2012

Doe, A Deer

Back around Halloween I promised you that you wouldn't see any Christmas around these parts until at least December 1.  Well, I have to eat my words.  It's 3 days before December 1 and here's a Christmasy type post for you.  But....if you really want to, you can think of these little deer as totally non-Christmas decor.  Your prerogative really. 

Way back in the middle of the summer (summer...it's hard to believe we even had summer with how much snow we have now!!), I hit up a garage sale that was selling Christmas stuff.  It wasn't intentional, we were just driving around and then BLAM Christmas in August. After we started chatting up the ladies holding the sale, they told us that they were trying to liquidate a gift store.  All proceeds were going to one of their grandsons who was trying to save up to buy a quad (are they called quads in the US too?).  Anyhow, it was pretty funny....this 10 year old kid was hocking old lady Christmas stuff to buy something totally manly.  

I spotted these 2 little deer buried in the middle of ribbons and bows.  They were marked $6 for the pair, but I managed to wrangle the kid down to $4.  Clearly he wanted that quad because he was a hard negotiator.

The gold would have been ok if it was nice gold/brass...but it wasn't.  It was cheap looking.  You know me, I couldn't just leave them as is.  Nope.

I had some Antibes Green chalk paint left over from my little sewing kit and figured I'd give it a go on these.  I didn't do any prep.  I just grabbed my paint brush and started painting.  3 coats later they looked like this.

A little too green, right?  Mr. Swell started calling them atomic deer so I knew I had do something.  I had planned on distressing them, but they needed more than just that.  

Thank goodness I have about a million gallons of paint to work with in a situation like this.  I mixed some dark brown with glaze, brushed it on and then wiped it off in some areas.   It still wasn't dark enough for what I envisioned, so I then added a bit of black stain in some areas. 

After much rubbing and dabbing, they looked much less atomic and more patina.

The best part was that to distress I didn't even need to go out to the garage to get my sandpaper.  I used my fingers and rubbed quite hard, and the paint rubbed off.  Since these guys aren't going to get handled a lot I wasn't too worried that that paint didn't really stick to the fake brass very well.

Instead of reattaching the red ribbon and jingle bell, I kept them a little more woodsy and tied on a piece of twine.

Plopped in a couple dollar store candles and these happy little deer were complete.  They've taken up residence in our basement on the mantel (of the totally faux electric fireplace, with my DIY painting). 

I'm kind of digging that it's Christmasy, but not over the top.   I think the little reindeer on the right is looking at them with a bit of envy....

And just to keep with the deer theme, they are right next to my stencilled stag head

Since I've already lied to you about not posting anything Christmas before December 1, do you want in on a secret?  

Ya, the ceiling is totally not done!  It's on our winter to-do list.  Half of the basement is done, but we stopped once the weather turned nice....and now we have to get back at it!

Check out what else is on the to-do list for the next few months.

Envious? Ya, I bet!

How about you?  Any good winter projects lined up?

More Christmas posts coming up....but at least it'll actually be December!

26 Nov 2012

Instagram Magnets

After I posted my failed attempt at animal magnets a few weeks back, my friend Cara sent me a message with an idea.  She said that she had created magnets for her son by printing out some family pictures and then sticking them to a full sheet magnet.  Brilliant, right?  I thought so.  (Thanks Cara for totally letting me copy your idea!!).  

Fin has some laminated photos on a key ring that my Mom made for her and she just loves them.  We flip through them over and over naming the people in the photos.  Since she loves those photos so much, and magnets are her obsession du-jour, I figured she'd be over the moon for some photo magnets. 

I found some Avery printable magnet sheets at Staples.  Who knew such a thing existed?  Not I! I picked up a package and figured I'd give them a shot.  

I thought this little project would be perfect for my Instagram photos.  I have tonnes of cute photos that I've taken with Instagram, but then I don't tend to do anything with them.  The square size is a little awkward for framing, but is perfect for some little magnets.  

I imported the pictures into Word and then resized them so that I could fit 12 on a page (they ended up each being 6 cm square).  Once I had them all lined up, it was as easy as hitting print.  The magnet sheet fed through my inkjet printer no problem (thank goodness, because I was NOT looking forward to unjamming magnetic pieces).  

The sheets are actually quite thin, so it was really easy to cut through.  I used a sharp knife and a ruler to cut out each of the squares.

The problem with the sheets though, is that they were so thin I knew Fin would have a hard time getting them off of the fridge.  At that point I really wished we had another magnetic board around the house....but we didn't.  Well, use what your mama gave you, right?  Muffin tins (which my Mom actually DID give me...haha). 

I flipped the muffin tin over and stuck on 6 of the magnets.  It worked perfect.  Fin's little fingers could grab them and move them around.  She sat in my lap for quite a while and we worked on finding the people (and dog) and sticking the magnets onto the empty spaces.  

The only downside to these magnets is because the sheets are thin, they aren't very strong magnets.  They can't hold a piece of paper up on the fridge, but they do stick on themselves.  The picture is also just printed on paper, so if sticky little toddler fingers (who happened to just be eating beets) touches them, they are pretty much toast.  Since these are so easy to create though, and I only used 1 out of the 5 sheets in the package, it's easy enough to just print some new magnets with more recent photos. 

Hurray for friends with brilliant ideas and for toddler activities that last more than 10 minutes.

Linking to: House of Hepworths

22 Nov 2012

{How You Doin'?} Orchid Gone, Twigs In

It's time for another instalment of How you Doin'?

 Remember the orchid we had sitting on our refinished credenza in the living room (you might have to think way, way, way back... or see it here)?  I have to admit that I didn't have much faith in it when we first bought it.  I don't have a reputation of keeping living things living for too long (although Fergus is still alive and well). Surprisingly enough, the orchid actually lasted for a good 6 months. Then, over the course of a few weeks blooms fell off one by one until it completely bit the dust.  Now, I know I could have done the whole orchid whisperer thing to try and get it to bloom again, but honestly....I just don't have patience for it.

We lived with the credenza like this for a while.....

But the empty space above the red vase kept bothering me.

I was tempted to buy another orchid, but spending $30 every couple of months just isn't in the budget.  So, instead I 'liberated' a few dead twigs from a fallen tree during a Diefenbaker walk.  I brought the twigs back to the garage and used a knife to remove any loose and peeling bark.  Once they were fairly smooth, I then gave them a coat of Valpsar metallic gold spray paint (are you getting sick of seeing gold spray paint yet?? I feel like every other project is gold...but it's my favorite right now!).  

Added bonus is that the twigs match my DIY brass elephant book ends.

And there you go.  5 minute, free filler for our awkward space.  I have been contemplating hot gluing some fake blooms onto the branches (sort of randomly). What do you think?  Leave them as is? Or jazz them up a bit more?

Since this little series is inspired by Joey from Friends, I'll leave you with one of my favourite Friends clips of all time.  I think it's fitting since it is American Thanksgiving this week.  Anyone have some yummy trifle for Thanksgiving?


19 Nov 2012

Milk Paint Dressing Table

I think I need to start giving my furniture names.  This little dressing table has some serious personality now so I feel that it deserves a name.  How about Gertrude?  She's a little bit old fashioned, but still has some spunk, especially when she goes by Trudi (plus I love Trudi on Mad Men and all her spunk).  She's traditional, and it takes a little effort to reveal her layers.  (Any Gertrudes out there who fit this description???).

If you follow me on Facebook you've seen this gal take a journey.  I found her on Kijiji a few weeks ago and jumped on it so fast that the poor lady selling it didn't know what had happened.  Before the end of the day Mr. Swell had  picked her up (such a great guy....he drives all over town to pick up my finds) and she was sitting in our living room.

She was pretty good to start with, but there were a few places that needed some help, so I figured this was the perfect piece to finally try milk paint.  My original plan was to sand down the top and drawers and restain them, then paint the rest of the piece.  

I did all the sanding and staining, but it just wasn't looking good.  The first problem was that it was really cold out, and I was doing the staining in the garage.  I don't like to expose Fin to any sort of fumes, so I try and do as much as I can in the garage.  As much as I had the heater on, I still don't think the stain dried correctly and I had some weird cloudiness happening.  After doing 3 coats of stain it was still blotchy and wasn't up to my standards.  So, on to plan B.  Gertrude was going to get painted from head to toe.

Milk paint is different than latex paint in that it comes as a powder.

I chose to go with Miss Mustard Seed's Milk Paint in Ironstone, which is a slightly creamy white.  I mixed up the powder with some warm water in a plastic cup.  I was expecting it to mix well, but it really didn't.  It was lumpy and still sort of separated even after 5 minutes of stirring (summoning the patience to stir for 5 straight minutes was a challenge!).  I decided to just sort of go with it.  Not much to loose.  I figured if it didn't work I would just sand it off.  

Milk paint doesn't require any prepping, which is awesome.  No sanding or priming is required.  Just wipe of the dust and get painting.  Here's the thing though....milk paint has a personality all its own.  You can choose to add a bonding agent, but if you don't then it will chip and peel all on its own.  You have no idea when you start if your piece is going to completely cover, or if it's all going to all chip off.  Talk about a challenge for this Type A girl.  A lesson in going with the flow for sure!  I decided not to use the bonding agent and just see how things went (while holding my breath the whole time!!).

I propped Gertrude up on some paint cans in our front entry and got painting (this paint is non-toxic, so it's fine to paint inside).  The milk paint was actually very milk like.  It had the consistently of milk (i.e. very drippy), and I quickly learned that not having much paint on the brush was the way to go.  Here is how she looked after 1 coat.

I have to be honest, at this pont I was a little worried.  It looked very streaky.

Some areas started peeling right away.  

I carefully brushed off any really loose chips before I brushed on the second coat.  

I ended up doing 3 coats to get the coverage that I wanted.  Thankfully the paint completely dries in about an hour, so I was able to finish all of the coats over the course of one evening.  Here's how it looked after the 3 coats.

The places that you can see are chipped did so all on their own - no encouraging except to remove the peeling paint. 

After I did 2 coats on the middle drawer, I noticed after about an hour that it was bubbling like crazy. 

After I brushed away all the paint chips I hardly had any painted surface left.  I used a sanding block to scuff it up and painted it with another coat.  Thankfully that coat stuck.  It actually provided a really unique look of layer upon layer.

The next morning I used a sanding block and lightly went over the whole table.  More paint chipped off.  Strangely enough, the top of the table had absolutely no chipping.  I am guessing that is probably because it was fresh stain and I had sanded it a bit before painting.  To give it a bit of a weathered look I used the sanding block to scuff it up.  One thing that nobody told me is that the milk paint dust actually smells like sour milk.  It was a very odd smell to have wafting through the house, and made me not want to drink milk for a while! Non-toxic at least.  So consider yourself warned....if you you don't like milk, then milk paint might not be for you.

Once everything was sanded and then wiped down again I waxed it all using Minwax Finishing Paste Wax. 

The hardware was my next challenge.  I had filled the holes in the drawers and had fully intended to find some nice new knobs.  After all of the painting though, you could still see where I had filled the holes.  Because the milk paint isn't totally opaque, it covered different over the wood filler than over the veneer.  So, knobs were out because you would have still been able to see the filled holes.  I decided to work with the handles that came with it.  The lady we bought it from told me they were brand new. 

I sprayed them with a couple coats of Painter's Touch Apple Red, and then used a sanding block again to distress them just enough so some gold showed through.

Ready to see Gertrude now?

I really love how she turned out.  The way the paint chipped just makes her look so authentically old.  See the two bottom panels on each side.  They are identical, but on one side it chipped a tonne, and on the other side there is hardly any chipping.  Talk about milk paint having a personality all it's own.

How about a few more chippy photos?

I should mention that the finishing wax made the whole thing completely smooth.  So although it looks like it's rough and will continue to chip, it's actually completely smooth and just slightly glossy.

As per usual, I am tempted to keep Trudi.  If only we had a bigger house!  She's up for sale now.  If you are in or around Edmonton and are interested in having Gertrude in your life please drop me a line.

I have promised Mr. Swell that this is my last furniture project before Christmas.  Our weekends for the next little while are jam packed, so I am going to try really hard to stick to my promise.  I might have to block Kijiji from my computer for a while.

18 Nov 2012

Click Click

Since I started this blog 9 months ago (holy moly, has it been 9 months???), one of my biggest frustrations has been the photography.  Prior to blogging, I honestly didn't put too much thought into photos.  I took them (randomly and not very consistently), and then sometimes printed them.  Done.  I never stopped mid project to take step by step photos, or even really cared about the lighting or the composition.  Once I started sharing projects though, I started to get really perturbed that I put so much into a project and the photos just weren't doing it justice.  I also never thought we lived in a total cave until I tried to start taking decent photos of our rooms.  Yes, apparently we live in a super dark house, where decent pictures are nearly impossible.

I was using a Canon Powershot until a couple of months ago.  It was a mid-level point and shoot, and while it did take great pictures outside, it just didn't do well inside without a flash.  I do still intend to use this camera every once and a while, when I want more than my phone but don't have the room (or extra hands) to carry around the DSLR.

Since I started blogging, I have tried really hard to not spend much money on the blog.  I make pennies (if I am lucky) from this blog, so to spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars in the beginning just didn't make sense.  I love doing it as a hobby, but it's not a good hobby if it starts costing me money.  But, with that said, the one thing that I did think would make a huge difference around here were some better pictures.  The camera I had just wasn't cutting it.  I also justified that a new camera was more than a blog purchase.  After I finished Fin's Year 1 photo book, I took a look at it and just wished that we had nicer, brighter photos of her. So, I took the plunge.

I did my research on DSLR cameras and decided that I would start with something entry level.  I read a lot between the difference between Canon and Nikon, but to be honest it was all sort of greek to me. Then one day while Fin and I were reading flyers (she LOVES 'reading' flyers), I saw that Wal-mart was having a huge anniversary sale.  The Nikon D3000 was $100 off, making it just under $300.  Considering the same model is going on Amazon for around $450, $300 was my kind of price!  I went the next day and picked one up (after going to 3 Wal-marts...apparently other people wanted one too!).   The only thing that the D3000 doesn't have, that I did sort of want, is the ability to shoot video.  I figured that I have an iPad and an iPhone that can shoot video though, so that's good enough for now.  It did come as a kit with the 18-55mm lens.

Before I even took the camera out of the box, I decided that I wanted to learn it the right way.  I wanted to learn how to shoot in manual mode before I even had the chance to get used to automatic mode.  That way I wouldn't be tempted to give up learning and just fall back on auto.

I signed up the Photography 101 course through Shoot Fly Shoot (while they were having a 30% off sale - yay!) and watched all of the videos over the weekend.  The course was awesome.  I highly recommend it if you are wanting to stop using auto mode.  It wasn't greek, which made me happy.

Shoot Fly Shoot

I can't say that it's been all rainbows and gum drops.  I am really loving all of the learning and the cool things that I can do with the new Nikon, but I do get quite frustrated sometimes when I still can't get the lighting how I want, or I miss something funny that Fin is doing because I am too slow with the settings (or maybe she's too fast - that girl never stops!).  But, I can say that I am so much happier with the quality of the photos for the blog.  I still have so far to go, but at least now I have the equipment that can help me get there (and once I get a tripod and a 50mm lens I'll really have the equipment ).

Want a little example?  Photographing the dip dyed stool I made in the summer was a big challenge for me.  The gold dipped legs kept blending with the carpet, and the room was so dark that everything looked grainy.  I thought it might be fun to do a little comparison show and tell.  Here's almost the same shot with the old camera and the new camera (forgive me that I didn't haul out the knick knacks to style the chair again).

Here's the picture that I took with my point and shoot.

And here's the new camera on auto.

And the new camera on manual mode.

And the last picture edited.

Pretty big difference, right?  I am tempted to re-photograph rooms that I've already shown you and switch out the pictures, but that would be a little too anal, so I will resist.

I also should note that I do edit almost every photo that gets posted here.  I've tried a few editing programs over the past few months, including PicMonkey, Pixlr, Picnic (when it existed) and Picasa.  The easiest program that I find to use though (and the most convenient) is the editor that's built in iPhoto.  It allows me to adjust levels and colours, but isn't too complicated.  I also export my photos out of iPhoto so that they batch watermark, instead of me having to watermark each one individually (like in PicMonkey).  A version of Photoshop is on my wishlist for the future, but right now I am sticking to just learning the camera and not getting too involved in editing (my Mom brain can only handle one thing at a time).

I'll leave you with my favourite picture of Fin that I've captured with the new camera.  It truly captures her. She is contstantly exploring and gets so excited with the small things (like the paint peeling off the deck).  A good reminder to all of us to still get excited about the small things.

14 Nov 2012

A Moment in Time

Before Fin arrived we decided that we were going to spend some money and have professional newborn photos taken.  I am so glad that we took the plunge and did it.  We had our photo shoot 5 days after Fin was born, and to be honest, I don't remember much of it.  What I do remember was trying to figure out how I was going to do my hair, feed my kid (multiple times) and apply eye shadow to my very tired eyes, all before we had to get in front of the camera for pictures that we would stare at for years to come.  (Has anyone else had newborn photos done and felt this way too???).  

Somehow I managed to stay awake for 2 hours to get photos taken, and I am so happy that I did.  We have some fantastic images from that day and I love looking at my little 5 day old baby on our gallery wall as I go up the stairs 100 times a day.  It's so hard to believe that she used to be that small.  She now climbs right up into that rocking chair all by herself and rocks like crazy.

Since Fin has been in our lives I feel like time has sped up about 100 fold.  I honestly have no idea what has happened to 2012 and how it is just about gone.  So, to try and capture a few precious images of our family before our baby is all grown up, we splurged again on some professional photos.  You know I am always money conscious, but these photos to me are worth every penny.  It was a challenge to wrangle Fin throughout the photo shoot, but somehow Alisa makes us look very serene (which we are SO not).  Love it.  

One of my favorites has made it onto our little white end table in the living room (in my favorite dollar store frame - $1 can you believe it???).

I have plans to get a few more up on the wall still....just have to wait for a good frame sale!

Thanks for letting me share.  Thought it might be to take a break from all the DIY and show you who's actually behind the camera.

If you live in the Edmonton area I can't recommend Alisa enough.  You can check out her blog here.

P.S.  Our house tour page is now live! If you are reading this on my site, it's the tab on the top menu titled "Where we Dwell".  If you are reading in email or a reader you will need to click through.  I'll do my best to keep it updated as we check off rooms as complete.

11 Nov 2012

Vintage Sewing Kit Makeover

After the ill fated animal magnets, I think I just might have redeemed myself with this project.  I haven't been so happy with a makeover in quite a while.  I just love this one.  It makes me happy every time I see it.

Remember the little lopsided sewing kit that I bought at an estate sale last month?  

I bundled it with a few other things for $10, so I would say I paid less than $5 for it.

I loved the design of it, but didn't like all the wood - it's not really my thing.  It needed some colour.  Since my DIY chalk paint attempt on the hexagon end tables only went so-so, I really wanted to  try some Annie Sloan Chalk Paint.  So far I've been too cheap to splurge on the $50/pint price tag.  Since this was a small project, I figured it would be just right to try out a test pot of paint.  Luckily we have a shop within 15 minutes that sells the paint.  I chose Antibes Green, which is a really nice bright Kelly green (fitting, right?).  Even just the tiny test post was $15, so I was sure hoping it was going to be worth it.

I started out thinking that I wanted to keep the handle natural for some contrast.  Then I also decided that keeping the little diagonal pieces natural would be nice too.  You know what that meant?  Ya, a heck of a lot of unscrewing.  The screws were teeny tiny, so I had to use my little screwdriver that I use for glasses.  It took a really long time, but I eventually had everything apart.

The nice thing about chalk paint is that there is no prep required.  No sanding, which I LOVE.  I did 2 coats of paint on all of the compartments and legs.  The paint dries super quick, so I managed to do both coats in the span of a TV show (Navy Seals training that Mr. Swell was watching....in case you were interested....and I now know there is no way I would ever pass that training!!!).

Here's how things looked after the 2 coats.

I left it overnight, and then I distressed the edges and a few of the flat areas using a fine sanding block (my new best friend these days).

I then applied 2 coats of Minwax Paste Wax, and left them over night in the garage to de-stink.

The next night I set out to reassemble.  I quickly realized that this was a 2 person job.  I had labelled which boxes went on which side, but apparently I hadn't labelled enough.  It was a complete jigsaw puzzle trying to reasemble it so that all the holes lined up and fit the little wood slats.  Luckily Mr. Swell is very good at this kind of stuff.

I was so frustrated that I had to step away from it all.  He calmly worked his way through all of the screws.

Check out the stamp I found on the bottom.

I love that it doesn't say made in China on it.  Let me tell you, the Polish must have had some kind of patience to put these suckers together.

Ready to see the final product?  I love it so much!

The chalk paint distressed so well.  Although expensive, I have decided that buying the real thing is worth it for certain projects.  This was one of them.  The paint finishes super smooth and the distressing didn't change the colour of the paint at all, which is one thing that drives me nuts with latex paint.

This is such a little thing, but I just love how it distressed on this leg.  There was a little drip of varathane that was left from whomever finished it last, and it just left such a cute squiggle on the leg.  I know, who have I become that I get excited about leg squiggles?

It has taken residence in our upstairs hallway beside our antique Singer.

This was totally unplanned, but the wood tones are almost an exact match!  It's sewing kit fate.

I don't have it all filled yet (with the 3 needles and 4 buttons that I own), but here's how it looks open.  My trusty assistant will demo how easy it is to operate.

This guy is definitely no longer sad and lopsided!  He's now very happy to be part of a non-sewer's life.

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