Creating a Happy, Colorful, Handmade Home & life on the shores of lake superior

December 30, 2011

Rambling Renovators' Great Reads

Wow, what a huge honour!  Jennifer, over at Rambling Renovators, hosts a fabulous annual blog party, featuring her favorite blogs, called Great Reads.  She asks her favorite bloggers to briefly describe their blogs then pick a favorite post and I was invited to partake this year!!!  There aren't enough exclamation marks to accurately capture how flattered I am by the invitation.

Head on over to Rambling Renovators to check out today's list of Great Reads but be sure to check out Vol. 1, Vol. 2, Vol. 3, and Vol. 4, too!

P.S. As you know from my previous late night post (created from a Jeep parked outside a motel with unsecured wireless), the historic home I'm vacationing in is internet-less.  Well, it was until we figured out we can access another unsecured network from the walk-in closet off the master bedroom.  Mwahaha.  But my laptop is uncooperative (it seems to have a strong ethical code when it comes to stolen internet) so I snagged Hubby's.  When I took a look at my blog in Mozilla Firefox (his preference) I learned that Firefox makes the photos line up weird.  So if you want to see my blog looking it's best, check it out using Internet Explorer.

December 29, 2011

Historic Haunted House Holiday

My parents, Hubby & I typically vacation this time of year but don’t tend to stray too far from home (although for our December honeymoon in 2008, Hubby & I travelled to Greece by our lonesome).  The last few years have been spent in a gorgeous townhouse equipped with the comforts of home (but better) and placed on Lake Superior.  Perfection.  But this year we rented an historic lakefront mansion (that’s what any home larger than 1400 square feet is to us) in Duluth, MN.  The experience has been . . . different.

(Here is the map Hubby made for us to find the house):

This home was once glorious: three bedrooms, 2.5 baths (not including the maid’s bedroom, with full en suite bathroom), a living room the size of our townhome’s main floor, a spacious light-filled sun room and a dining room that can easily seat more people than we know.  It is hard not to put an exclamation mark after every feature.  Hardwood floors, floor to ceiling windows and a sprawling yard (with a tennis court!) have us green with envy.  But the home has fallen into disrepair and the current owners, who do not live here but keep this home as a vacation rental, have done little to maintain it. 

Here are a few glimpses but please, please note that I have not touched any of these rooms for the photos.  You have no idea how much I want to stage, clean, de-clutter and otherwise organize.

Living room


Dining room

3rd bedroom (the two in use by us are now too messy to document)

Vintage pink and green bathroom

Blue bathroom with amazing built in vanity facing the lake

What would have been the maid's room (by the kitchen)

The maid's bathroom (which I kinda heart)

Here's the odd part:

The former owner, an elegant woman named Florence (who had three husbands and a degree in interior design) lived a fantastic life here, a life we have weirdly experienced via personal artifacts left abandoned in the home.  Photo albums, letters, cards, clothing, scrapbooks, home décor items, kitchen wares, books, etc., all tell an interesting story and shed light on life in the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s.  But rifling through them feels so indescribably strange. 
Staying here is akin to squatting in the once glamorous home of some famous heroine from a classic novel.  Working on my computer from my lakeview perch on an antique sofa, I feel like I should be writing a novel instead.  To be here for any other reason seems wrong.  (Indeed, fittingly there is no internet and my blogging has been done outside a motel with unsecured wireless, late at night). 
My favorite room

I love the living room because this is the view:

Living room view

Lake Superior

P.S.  Florence’s second husband died unexpectedly in the house in 1965.
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December 22, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Even though we don't celebrate the upcoming holidays by doing anything other than putting our feet up, I want to wish all of my lovely readers a happy holiday!  No matter what you are (or aren't) celebrating, I wish you and your family a safe, happy and tasty holiday.  I hope everyone gets a little well-deserved R&R and maybe a little time to DIY . . .

My internet access will be a wee bit irregular, but I plan to blog sporadically through the next week (including about where I am and what I'm doing . . . that's right: we're not dans le townhouse)

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December 21, 2011

So Fancy

Our anniversary was nice and low key.  We don't even exchange gifts!  But if we did, I'd want one of these rings.  You know how much I love uncut diamonds.  And these are sheer perfection:

From Hilary Ann's Lumafina Shop

From Hilary Ann's Lumafina Shop

From Hilary Ann's Lumafina Shop

The mix of sleek metal with a raw, natural herkimer diamond is so unusual.  These rings are even customizable! I love when things are customizable. 

The other day I was explaining to someone that not only do we not celebrate Christmas, Hubby & I don't exchange gifts.  Ever.  It just doesn't make sense to us because we collapsed our finances years ago.  Instead, we buy things together - often when we travel.  I'll buy a piece of jewellery, he'll buy a watch or t-shirt, or we'll pick out a piece of art.  That way we remember the trip, not a birthday or anniversary (which we think we can remember all on our own).  But the woman I was talking to asked me this, "if you don't exchange gifts, how do you know he loves you?"
. . .
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December 20, 2011

Why I'm a Bad Wife

I look shifty because I'd been pestering him before and after this shot was taken.
What was I doing?  Taking thousands of close-up photos of the sun shining through his beard. 
Apparently that is annoying.

Today Hubby & I celebrate our three year wedding anniversary!  In honour of that, here are some of the reasons I'm a bad wife:

1. Even though I'm a feminist, I vehemently argue that jobs like "figure out where the dead animal smell is coming from" is a "man's job".

2. I re-organize the cabinets and closets when he's gone but pretend I didn't.

Nope, always been there honey!

3. I leave dangerous obstacles in the shower.  I take baths so these so-called "obstacles" pose no threat to me, but apparently Hubby knocks things like this over while hurling himself in and out of the shower and rustling the shower curtain to and fro.

Hey, I'm trying to be thrifty and get the last little bit of conditioner out of the bottle.

4. I also deem centipede squishing "man's work".  All I can do is deafen them with my shrill screams.

5. I like throw pillows.  I like throw pillows that have a "right" way to being put back after someone has flung them from the sofa (zippers facing down, please) and I routinely police the putting back of pillows.

6. I introduced him to cashmere.  That was mean.  He hates spending money on clothes but once you wear cashmere you can't go back to itchy (more affordable) merino wool that easily.  Mwahahaha.

But it wants you to want its wool.

7. Changing the sheets is also a "man's job" (my arms aren't long enough).

8. I shout lengthy, "genius" ideas for him to write down while I'm in the bathroom.  The best ideas come to me when I'm in the bathtub but I forget them by the time I get out.  Keeping paper in the bathroom yielded soggy, unimpressive results. 

9. I learn the lyrics to songs that annoy him (but not on purpose).  But then I sing them all the time and off-key, kinda on purpose.

10. I'm not always looking out for him.  In my defense, in this case I was so focused on taking a good shot I didn't see the giant wave about to soak him.  P.S. Those are my flip flops he's holding.

At least he kept my flip flops dry.

Thanks for loving me anyway Hubby. 

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December 19, 2011

DIY Room Refresher

This is when you learn how obsessive I can be.  This DIY project has a story that unfolded over the course of three months and served to terrorize my husband as I narrated every obsessive thought in my head while striving to make my (our) whole world smell like vanilla and orange.

It started with my obsession with John Masters blood orange and vanilla body milk.  The smell is intoxicating but the price scared me away until a disastrously bad week had me searching for a pick-me-up.  So I splurged and, wonder of all wonders, actually moisturize now (something I previously avoided).

This body milk made an appearance in my post
about the sugar bowl soap dish

But the smell is maddeningly addictive so I went in search of a compatible perfume, which was torture because 95% of fragrances set off my allergies.  I found two I liked (Hugo Boss Sunset & Escada Taj Sunset) and with Hubby chiming in - he does, after all, get closest to me - I settled on the Escada fragrance.  I love it's mostly orange with hint of vanilla scent so much I wear it at home.

Speaking of home, once my hands and person smelled like lovely orange and vanilla, I wanted the house to smell like it too.  So I grabbed a bottle of orange home essential oil I received as a gift (and had not used after an embarrassingly sting-y incident of trying to wear it.  Hey - it was from the Body Shop, what was I supposed to think?) 

I added one or two drops of it plus one or two drops of Kirkland vanilla extract (mmm Costco) to a small spray bottle, filled the small bottle with water and shook.  Then sprayed.  YUM.  Smells delicious and, after a couple weeks of spraying like mad (I wanted to test before blogging), I am happy to report it doesn't stain surfaces or create the sticky residue I found Febreeze created on my wood floors.  I made a similar version with a different essential oil & water a year ago and it still works fantastically.  No troubles, no evaporating, just goodness.

P.S. My uncle, currently house shopping, is trying to find a house with a guest half bath far from the living areas to offer guests who need to go number two some privacy (he has weird priorities).  I prefer to shame them:

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December 16, 2011

Our Dirty Little Secret

I'm so glad everyone found yesterday's post funny.  At least once a week I giggle about how our all-white walls really look like the product of Mr. Bean's method and I figured it was time to let you all in on my joke.  And yes, I am definitely planning to paint the basement a colour soon.  Want a sneak peak?  Oh boy, I hate disappointing my lovely readers like this . . . I haven't actually picked the exact colour yet (I've wallpapered the basement in swatches) but this outdoor space from Prudent Baby is my basement inspiration:

Prudent Baby

Prudent Baby

Prudent Baby

Prudent Baby

Oh yeah.  I'm going taupe.  Anyone feel let down?  Come on, I promise it will be goooood.

I love everything about the space above: the taupe-y walls, the faded black & white textile, the weathered wood, plus the hits of icy turquoise and pink.  While a beige-y/taupe-y/grey colour isn't my first choice (it's white!) I think it's necessary because our basement has a beige carpet that I want to downplay.  I tried other swatches (pale turquoise, creamy yellow, dark grey, chocolate brown, vanilla ice cream white, etc.) but those colours either made the basement look dark (it has but one window) or made the carpet pop in a weird way.  White walls made the carpet look dirty.  Darn.  I think a nice taupe/beige will make the area seem cozy and inviting without being too much of a departure from the crispness of the rest of the townhouse.

Now for our dirty secret.  Our basement is hideous.  It's sad, tired, worn-out & ugly (we blame the former homeowners) but it's also cluttered and messy (that's all on us).  I don't want to show you . . . but I will:

Here's my inspiration for the laundry room which, I'm not gonna lie, might get a coat of white (yay!) or maybe a really saturated turquoise on the walls or painted floor.  It could be a place to really go wild and distract potential home buyers from the aged washing machine.

via Design&Sponge
Except my laundry room boasts a washer & dryer older than me

Our laundry room (it's amazing anything comes out of here cleaner):

Gosh, revealing that was terrifying.  But I think we can make it better (can we make it worse?!?) 

Here is our to-do list to make the basement presentable:

Main Area:
  • Buy a vacuum (we were using the one the previous homeowners' left in the garbage until it blew up.  I think I know why they didn't take it with them)
  • Clean (it's been hard to do, without a vacuum.  Man, I hate carpet)
  • De-clutter
  • Re-drywall areas
  • Paint walls, ceiling, trim, heaters, door
  • Make lighting less crappy
  • Sew curtain for lone window
  • Decorate!
Laundry Room:
  • Rip up carpet
  • Remove weird, falling down accordion door (not pictured)
  • Insulate
  • Install drywall and ceiling
  • Install baseboards and trim
  • Paint walls
  • Paint floors
  • Make lighting less crappy
  • Sew curtain to hide stuff
  • Install storage
  • Make a wall-mounted dry rack
  • Hang some art (art makes everything better)

We want to do this inexpensively because our basement is nothing special - not worth anything fancy pants, but it does need our patented spit & polish.  We're going to begin tackling this in January (and probably February, March and April) but I promise to keep you posted!  Now - go look at the townhouse tour so you remember we aren't messy slobs.
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December 15, 2011

How We Paint - Giggle a Little

You know how much I love white spaces.  I've blogged about bright, white airy spaces a hundred times and now I'm pinning them like crazy.  At least I'm living the dream.

In every room except the half bath on the main floor, we painted all the walls, trim, doors, ceiling, etc., the same shade of white.  Although the paint department was aggravated we didn't opt for at least a glossy trim (wanted it all the same) we did go with appropriate ceiling paint.  The all white look, in addition to allowing artwork to pop, makes our small home look larger, helps it look brighter (townhouse = limited windows), really makes the uninspiring 70s trim blend in (the upstairs has new baseboard, so it's not 100% identical either), and also draws attention away from our popcorn ceilings.

Although I am actually painting the basement a colour in the new year (more info on our basement plans soon) I am very committed to white.  To give everyone a little giggle here's a great video.

This is pretty much how we achieved the "gallery-white" look I was after (minus the teddy):

I needed this giggle too, because I am looking at a mountain of exams to mark.  It's a good thing I buy red pens in bulk.

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December 14, 2011

My Paper Mache AND Holiday Wrapping Fails

Can't win 'em all. 

First of all, thank you for being such lovely and supportive readers. I look forward to each and every comment and email. In light of all the positive feedback about things like my hodge:podge interview and Artful Ikea Expedit Hack (featured on Design*Sponge and Ikea Hacker), I thought I'd post two fails from this week to show you that I have DIY flops, too.

1. Paper Maché Fail

I was going for something like these:

Etsy - etco

Etsy - One Click Gallery

Etsy - Maus Home and Vintage

But here's mine:

The bigger ones split when I tried to take them off the mold.  Boo.  Two delightful evenings spent elbow deep in paste, wasted.

2. Artful Wrapping Fail

Undeterred by my flop, I used the rest of the newspaper I accumulated to wrap a gift for my wee little cousins.  I don't celebrate Christmas, but I can't not give a gift to a child who does.  That's like kicking a kitten.  But I refuse to splurge on holiday wrap so, on a "creative" roll, I did this:

I was going for shabby chic.  Apparently I don't do that look very well.  Even the ribbon can't hide the fact it looks like a toddler wrapped this.

Shameful, when I could have easily done something pretty, like this:

Mini Eco

Meh.  Someone, if not my family (it's unlikely they will find this funny) then their mail carrier, will get a giggle from this.
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