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

January 31, 2012

BlogPodium: Blogs + Media (Plus Swag)

Friday I attended the first BlogPodium, a quarterly conference series in Toronto, ON.  The inaugural session was a conversation on blogs and media.  That it was a first of this series was perfect for me, because this conference also marked the first blogging event I attended.

Organized by Jennifer, Shannon and Lindsay, BlogPodium was a fabulous morning of learning, laughing and being a little starstruck.  Margot Austin, Kimberley Seldon, Kate Moore, Jennifer Flores and Leigh-Ann Allaire Perrault sat in front of a room full of beaming bloggers and happily, and frankly, gave us advice to blog better and successfully connect with media.  The conference was top-notch: well organized, fun and informative (click here for photos).

With a geeky, fabric-covered notebook in hand I took pages of notes but a few suggestions really stood out:
  • Post your own photos (Kate Moore)
  •  Edit your blog and focus on your brand & identity as a blogger (Kimberley Seldon)
  • Add your own opinions/ideas/comments/thoughts to recycled photos, if you don't post your own (Kimberley Seldon & Margot Austin)
  • Have a fresh, original voice (the entire panel agreed) & be fun (Kate Moore)
  • Network with other bloggers and always put your best foot forward (Jennifer Flores)
  • Make your pitches to media clear, concise and demonstrate your talent, but also your fun side (Kate Moore)
  • Pitch to the medium (Kimberley Seldon) & study the magazine/website you are pitching to (Margot Austin)
For other recaps of the talk, take a look at Jen's summary on Rambling Renovators or read what Britt had to say on My Daily Randomness  And, for any bloggers reading, be sure to keep your schedule clear May, 2012 for the next installment of BlogPodium.

If the fabulous information doesn't lure you, maybe the fun swag will:

There is swag in this bag!


Sponsors included: Delta Faucets, OlioBoard, Home Depot Canada, Chapters/Indigo Books, CB2, Pure Green Magazine, House and Home Magazine, Benjamin Moore Paints, The Penny Paper Co., and Butter Avenue.  But our swag bags (I keep wanting to call them goodie bags, but isn't that what kids get at B-day parties?) had goodies from other folks as well, including Beatrice (who included a gift card for a free print from her shop) and Milk & Cookies, a Toronto-based shop that offered a sweet coupon.

We also received a copy of the gorgeous, print-edition of Pure Green Magazine, volume one.  I actually met Celine, founder and editor-in-chief of the magazine, at BlogPodium.  She is amazing: so down to earth, approachable and really interesting - having met her made it even more enjoyable to flip through the magazine.


January 30, 2012

The DIY Showoff Featured My Houndstooth Upholstered Chairs

I'm back from BlodPodium, the Canadian Design Bloggers Meetup & the Interior Design Show.  What a fun weekend!  I can't wait to share with you who I met, what I learned and what I won.  But first, some news:

I enjoyed an internet-free weekend because I forced myself to spend any computer time on the first chapter of my dissertation - due tomorrow.  Eegads.  So you can imagine my surprise when, upon returning to the world of internet and popping in on a few blogs before bedtime, I spotted my very own DIY project on The DIY Showoff.  Roeshel previously featured my DIY Framed Bakelite Brooches and over the weekend featured the houndstooth upholstered kitchen chairs Hubby & I just completed.  I love Roeshel's blog and am so flattered she has found my projects DIY Showoff worthy.  If you've seen her recent stairway transformation, you'll see why I consider kind words from her about my DIY prowess a high compliment. 

These chairs got some love from The DIY Showoff.

These framed brooches got some love, too.

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January 26, 2012

Will I See You in Toronto?!?

I am headed out the door, off to work, but then I’m immediately hitting the snowy trail for a road trip to BlogPodium & the Canadian Design Bloggers Meetup (plus the Interior Design Show, of course). 

Packing was a bit excruciating.  As a PhD candidate, 100% of the conferences I typically attend are attended by other academics and, not to be rude, I’ve grown accustomed to being the best-dressed.  Ironing my clothes has been the secret to my success.  But I have a feeling the other bloggers I’ll meet this weekend will be fancier than me.  You’ve seen my closet - you know I don’t have a lot of clothing (I don't even own a dresser).  Plus, I work from home most days so my closet is chock full of yoga pants and cozy hoodies.  This is my uniform:

Yes, Uggs are Ugly but SO warm. 

But I struggled through and picked some outfits – you’ll see photos soon enough!  I even fixed my DIY-destroyed manicure.

If you’re heading to the IDS or BlogPodium or Canadian Design Bloggers Meetup, please come and say “hi” to me!  These are my first blogging events and I will know no one from the real world, while other bloggers might already have bosom blog buddies.  Here’s me:

Well, I’m off!  I found some old CDs for my road trip, so if you hear this song blasting from a black Nissan Versa, that’s me (apologies for cutting you off):

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January 25, 2012

DIY Houndstooth Upholstered Vintage Teak Chairs


You have seen our houndstooth upholstered vintage teak chairs before, but have you ever wondered why there are only ever two visible?

We actually have a set of four, but the other two have been languishing in the basement, un-upholstered, since we wrapped up the first two chairs in 2009.  Embarrassing?  A little.  But I think we should applaud this procrastination because 2009 was pre-blog, so without the procrastination there would be no tutorial of how Hubby & I upholstered these chairs and did our part to keep the staple folks in business.  You'll see what I mean because we finally tackled the other two and can now show you the how-to.

Hubby & I have our own way of doing this that guarantees a smooth and secure finished product.  However, it also makes it miserable for whoever tries to undo your lovely work, because we use way too many staples.  Ha ha.

  • Quilter's batting (we used three layers - how much you need will depend on the size and number of your chairs)
  • Upholstery grade fabric (again, dependent on size and number of your chairs - I also bought extra in case some genius spills tomato juice on one)
  • Staple gun
  • 8mm staples (many)
  • Pliers
  • Screw driver (to remove seat)
  • Patient set of second hands

Get Upholstering:

Remove the chair seat:

Save the screws some place you will find them, just in case it takes you three years to wrap up this project:

These screws have literally been in this bowl since 2009

Remove the staples, using pliers.  I really got attached to the tool pictured below because, although it is meant for cutting, it has such a fabulous grip.  I used it for pulling 2.6 billion staples from the sub-floor after ripping up carpet for hardwood floors.  But pliers are what most folks use.

Throw out the old foam - especially if it is a vintage/used piece.  Blech.  I've seen people keep the grossest foam that is starting to disintegrate.  Trace and cut out three layers of quilter's batting (it is a cheap, cushy alternative to foam), or foam if you prefer, using sharp scissors because dull scissors will only make your life harder:

This is where we deviate a bit from other tutorials (you can skip this step if you'd prefer).  Once cut out, we affix the batting to the chair seat with a few staples so we're not wrestling with it and the fabric simultaneously.  I don't see a lot of people do this, but it makes life so much easier.  After affixing, trim some of the excess batting for less bulk in the finished product.

Throughout the whole process, stop periodically and check fitment.  You don't want bunches of fabric on the underside of the seat where it will be affixed to the chair frame. 

With the batting wrangled into submission, trace and cut out the fabric (making sure the pattern is "facing" the same way on each chair).  You can use the old fabric as a template.

Begin upholstering by pulling the fabric tautly and stapling in a few staples on one side, then the opposite side, checking the alignment and also the tension. These first few staples really anchor your fabric, so take your time.  It helps to have a second set of hands so one person can hold the fabric and the other can staple.

Keep working your way around the seat, pulling the fabric tight and stapling.  Pull corners especially smooth, even if that means you have a bunch of excess fabric a few inches from the edge.

For corners, we pull tightly and keep checking the make sure it looks sharp from the top.  To tackle the bunching, we make slits in the excess fabric once it's stapled in place.  This allows us to overlap the fabric and really staple it down smoothly.  It is hard to take a photo of that because this print is so busy when zoomed in on.

We go a little staple crazy, I know this.  We even add a second "ring" of staples so everything is smooth.

When you're done, you can add a cut-to-size piece of no-fray, very thin material to make the work look a bit tidier (for anyone who happens to be hanging out under your chair, I guess).  This involves more staples.

And that's it!  Reaffix the seat to your chair and host a dinner party.

Now we have a full set of four.

We like to leave a little love for future DIY-ers.  Anyone who is ambitious enough to remove the staple overkill happening here (gosh, I hope it's not future-me) will be affronted by this message:

P.S. Am I the only DIY'er whose nails get totally wrecked?!?  They looked so pretty in my latte post but now the deep plum shade that previously looked so chic is all chipped and worn, making me look like a disgruntled teen.

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January 24, 2012

Recipe for Peanut Butter Cookies Sealed With a Kiss

Okay . . . don't laugh.

This recipe might seem a little counter-productive given yesterday's lengthy post about how I gained weight, bought a treadmill, nearly killed myself & my Hubby hauling the 200lb. treadmill upstairs, and then completely reorganized a closet (including un-installing and then re-installing the closet fittings) to hide said treadmill when it's not in use.

I figure as long as I consume these yummy morsels of deliciousness in moderation (maybe while on the treadmill?) I'll be okay.  Plus, peanut butter is health food, right?  Right?

Recipe for peanut butter cookies sealed with a kiss
Peanut butter cookies recipe

Here's how to make this yummy classic, peanut butter cookies sealed with a kiss!


1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup peanut butter (I used smooth)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 + 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (additional) granulated sugar
3 dozen chocolate kisses (unwrapped)

Steps to Deliciousness:
  1. Beat shortening, peanut butter, 1/2 cup granulated sugar & brown sugar with an electric mixer until creamy
  2. Beat in egg and vanilla
  3. In another bowl, mix flour and baking soda
  4. Gradually add flour mixture to peanut butter mixture and blend thoroughly
  5. Roll dough into 1 inch balls, then roll in the remaining sugar to coat (I poured the sugar onto a plate and rolled the dough balls in it)
  6. Place cookies 2 inches a part on a greased cookie sheet (I used a parchment lined baking sheet instead)
  7. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes, then remove cookie sheet to quickly press a kiss into each cookie, return to the oven for 3-5 minutes more
  8. Bake until lightly browned
  9. Transfer to cooling racks
Easy cookie ideas for bake sales

This recipe yields:

More than I should eat.  Should be about 3 dozen but I was left with about 5 or 6 additional ones, which was unfortunate because I'd been eating chocolate kisses while I baked and ended up short by a few...

Glass cake stand full of cookies
How many calories for all 40?
Here's my hot tip:

Eat/serve these within a couple hours or so of baking.  The chocolate kiss is still a bit soft but the cookies are cool enough to eat.  Pop one in your mouth and it will melt.  Heaven.  The next day they are still just as yummy but slightly pointier.  Eating them whole is not recommended the next day.  Ow.

P.S. Try these with a yummy London Fog (latte).
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January 23, 2012

Closet Make-under PLUS Hiding a Treadmill

Remember when I gleefully revealed that I lost 10 lbs. in Hungary last August?  Some of the sneaky buggers found me.  They were especially adept at finding me over the holidays.

I FEEL the difference - my "comfy" pants now hurt me because they are so tight.

That's why recent blog photos of me have been kind of stealthily shot.  Exhibit A (a different version was used in this post & this post):

It might not seem like a huge change, but I feel it.  And someone else might feel it too if a button rockets from my too-tight pants and knocks out an eye.

Solution?  Like many others, I decided to get my fitness on.  I have a really bad track record when it comes to fitness plans, including unused gym memberships - plural, I didn't learn the first time - and dust-collecting fitness equipment.  But I love to walk so when Canadian Tire had a good quality, foldable treadmill on sale for $549.99 (more than 65% off) I decided to spring for it. 

But where to put this beastly treadmill? 

Not the main floor (too "in your face") and not the basement (too gloomy).  I chose the guest bedroom, a sunny and convenient space.  If I have to walk by this baby every day, I figure I'll be motivated to use it.  But I don't ordinarily spend a lot of time in there so it doesn't feel like it's totally cramping my style.  I'm actually excited to use this room which was exclusively set up for guests to sleep and read.  Now I get to actually make use of the space myself (and Hubby's been walking, too).

But where to put this beastly treadmill when we have guests?

The new treadmill folds up and just fits into the mini walk-in closet (the dimensions of the treadmill are: 44" x 35" x 61").  But we had to switch around the closet fittings first.  I lost some closet space so the weekend was spent condensing, sorting, tidying and saying good-bye to things we store but never need/want/look at (I posted some ads on kijiji over the weekend but also donated many items).  The closet needed a good tidy anyway:

So shameful.

After we emptied the contents into the room (which was exceptionally awkward because I hadn't unpacked yet), we moved the closet shelving from the side to the back:

(We plan to switch the closet back when we go to sell the house, so ignore the holes and lack of trim)

We added a shortened bar and shelf for the teeniest bit of hanging storage, moved the ironing board holster to a different wall and got our "go-bags" off the floor by hanging two very high, sturdy hooks.  Additional hooks tucked to the right of the shoe rack added purse storage.

With shelf (to left of shelving unit) added:

How I made the most of the space to accommodate the treadmill:
  • I de-cluttered, selling and donating what we have moved from home to home only to store
  • I sorted & condensed what I kept, labeling boxes and bins so I know what's where
  • I made use of vertical space, prioritizing shelving over hanging space & adding lots of hooks
  • I hung the ironing board & iron (something I did before, too)
  • I made use of nooks I hadn't thought to use before (like to the right of the shoes - perfect for more purses!)

And now the treadmill can fit into the closet.  It's not something we could do every day (it's mildly dangerous) but here's Hubby valiantly putting the treadmill into the closet to demonstrate.  It needs to be tilted to rock onto it's wheels and then awkwardly rolled into place, with Hubby balancing the weight.  It's especially hard to set it down because it wants to just thunk down (on our DIY hardwood floors - yikes).  But, it's doable.  They sure do gloss over this bit in the video for this treadmill though.

Check out the magic show: 

Best part:

And no guest will know it's in there, unless they go snooping.

It sure is a beast, though.  It weighs 200 lbs. and I thought we were going to die bringing it up the stairs.  How many calories did I burn hauling it up the stairs with Hubby, I wonder?

Do you have any fitness plans for 2012?  What are your tricks for getting your fitness plan to fit your life and your home?
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