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

August 30, 2012

Another Surprise and a Sand-bagger

Is a "sand-bagger" also something dirty?  It sounds dirty.

You might have noticed I scaled back blogging just a bit recently, from five posts per week to three or four.  I wanted to spend more time with Hubs, before we say good-bye for four months.  We logged some patio time, just relaxing.  Occasionally with a book, drink or bowl of ice cream.  Oh my gosh, too much ice cream.

We also watched movies, went for bikes rides and spent a few glorious days at Sandbanks Provincial Park, sunning and swimming at the Dunes.  I wish life was always this chill . . .

Photo Via
We also worked on a few DIY projects I'm sandbagging so you (and I) will still get little tastes of the townhouse while I'm away.  In fact, I have a pretty fun project post planned for next week!  And the week after.  And the week after that!  Plus I have a new series or two in the works.  Lots of goodies.  I'm full of surprises.

Here's another surprise: I'm not going to be alone in Hungary the whole time!  Sure, I made friends there, plus a colleague who has completed her PhD will be there at the same time, so we'll be working on a project together.  But someone else has been rooked into coming with me: my Mom!  She's arriving in Ottawa today (we fly out together Saturday) so I tidied up the guest room.  The treadmill is tucked away and my suitcase and its contents are no longer taking over the space:

I also added a few doses of pretty: a spontaneous white glass collection (the painted wine bottles moved downstairs) plus a gorgeous vase I bought for the shop but could not part with.

The vase (called a "window vase," I've read) was a sweet find.  It is designed by Howard Pierce, who created a lot of adorable pottery.  There are a few variations of this vase, but they are somewhat rare I've learned.  It lingered at a Value Village because of it's high (for VV) price.  I loved the figurine within the vase and knew it was c. 1950s so I took a chance and splurged.  It was a good investment, because vases like these sell for $150-200!!  Even with Hubby chanting "sell it, sell it," I just couldn't.  Maybe some day.  But it's just so fun.  And looks great with the whimsical artwork in the guest room (by Hubby's grandpa, Bert Weir).

On the other end of the price spectrum, I accidentally started collecting these milk glass vases because I was finding so many of them at yard sales this summer for 50 cents . . . 25 cents (!) . . . $1.  I just couldn't pass by such sweet prices.  So I started buying one or two and then boom: collection.  I want to make the collection HUGE and eventually build a coloured display cabinet so they really pop.

Now that the guest room is in order and slightly more adorned, I'm off for the much less glamorous task of bathroom cleaning!  Actually, I'm off to try and fob that off on the Hubs . . .

August 29, 2012

Treasure Hunting Report: Vintage Jewellery

I think I was a bit of a gloomy-Gus yesterday.  Prepping for my research trip keeps reminding me how behind I am.  Especially as I keep unearthing (and returning) unread library book after unread library book.  But I'm in high spirits today because I am almost 100% done preparing for the trip - and that includes packing!  So far, I'm (just barely) meeting my goal of one suitcase + carry-on.  I plan to share all the details about what I packed and how it works out.  But for now, I'm trying to pick a few, small, accessories to add.  Given that I have jewellery on the brain today, I thought it would be a good time to share some recent pirate-worthy treasures from my treasure hunting exploits - jewellery! 

This adorable acorn-themed sterling silver brooch was claimed by you-know-who (*cough*Mom*cough) before I could even try it on.  She pinned it on a chic t-shirt, so the curve of the brooch followed the curve of the crew neck and it looked amazing.  She deserves it for her ingenuity.

I have a modest collection of vintage rhinestone jewellery, even some Sherman stunners, but they are sooo dressy I find it hard to wear them regularly.  When I spotted this cheery yellow brooch with the tiniest sprinkle of green/grey rhinestones, I knew it would be much more wearable.  Picture it on a grey cardigan for fall . . . 

I bought this one for the same reason: a little sparkle, but not too much.

I've been on a brooch kick, I guess, because I also found two pairs of these Lucite bird pins, signed Buch and Deichmann, for $5.00 per pin.  It was perfect because Mom loves the warm brown pair and I heart the cranberry hued ones.  I already have a large, red parrot brooch (like this one) by the same Danish company, so I sense a collection forming.   

If I'm being honest, I actually didn't realize they were birds until Mom pointed it out.  I thought they were abstract-y swirly things and had planned on wearing them like this:

What a maroon.  But I'm now wearing them the right way:

Last but not least, a couple of shop-bound items for when we re-open.  We only sold one piece of jewellery (!) in our few weeks - none of the amber ended up selling.  But I think the timing needs to be different - maybe around the holidays might be a good time for jewellery sales.  I know once we're open permanently, we'll be able to sell more jewellery so I haven't been deterred from buying jewellery for the shop.  These two gorgeous, rhinestone necklaces would be perfect for weddings.  The second one is something old and something blue. 

Does anyone else find looking at sparkly/shiny things very relaxing? I think the calming effect explains my lifelong fascination with rocks and jewellery.  Looking at things that sparkle is my yoga.
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August 28, 2012

Reader Project: An Expedit Hack Twist

Sometimes I feel really guilty about the oodles of time I devote to blogging.  A nagging voice, in the darkest corner of my mind, tells me I should do something more "important" or "meaningful" with that time.  I'm not sure what I think more important or meaningful things would look like, but I think they might have to do with being a better researcher, getting published more, and contributing more original research.  I often feel pretty deficient as an academic and I sometimes blame my blogging time for this.  Compounding these anxieties, sometimes I start to think maybe it's really selfish that I blog.  Some comments replying to this Apartment Therapy post suggested bloggers blog as a way of saying, "Hey, look how awesome I am.  Validate me!"  I've always thought I blog because I don't have DIY-savvy folks in my non-blog world, but am I really just an approval-junkie, devoting hours of my time in exchange for virtual pats on the back?  But, really, isn't either reason for blogging pretty self-serving?

Sometimes I need a blog friend to pull me out of this negative tail spin.  When Jenna emailed me photos of her gorgeous version of my Artful Expedit Hack, I was reminded that in addition to making DIY friends and getting virtual pats on the back, I might also be helping to make someone's home a little lovelier.  I'm not just taking from these blogging relationships - I'm giving something back, too.  Even if I'm giving the tiniest thing back (like a tutorial so readers can make pretty little billy buttons) that's definitely not un-important. 

So huge thanks to Jenna, for emailing me recently about how she took my Expedit Hack idea and made it hers!  Here's the email that totally made my day:

Thank you for your IKEA Expedit hack!  It was exactly what I was looking for.  It looks so much better with the canvases on!  I used your tutorial for attaching the canvases to the Expedit.  I couldn't find matching hooks and eyes, so I went with the white hooks to match the Expedit and silver eyes.  I knew I didn't want to paint them, but couldn't decide what I wanted to do with them so I left them for a few weeks.  I ended up using burlap to cover the canvases and love them!  Masking tape was used to secure the burlap to the canvases so I can change it out if I decide later on I want something different. 
Thank you so much for all of your tutorials and writing your blog in general.  You are one of my favorite blogs!  Good luck in Hungary!

She started with a white Expedit.  I'm jealous.  I wish I'd gone for white.

And here is her Expedit with her burlap covered canvases.  Aren't they perfect?  I love the pattern she installed them in - so graphic and cool.  Her whole Expedit looks perfectly styled and un-cluttered.  I just love it!  She pinned it to Pinterest (along with her fabulous etched baking pans).

If you've tried a project of mine (even if it turned out totally different), I'd love to see and feature it on Dans le Townhouse.  Feel free to email me: 
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August 23, 2012

How to Easily Remove Wallpaper

We were so lucky that the townhouse didn't have much wallpaper.  One half bath was papered, which we had intended to leave until other renovations were done.  At some point in the middle of other renovations, though, I couldn't take it anymore and that's why any photos of me removing the wallpaper capture the gusto with which I ripped it off.  I was a little crazy-eyed.

Our basement has wood paneling that, in some spots, was painstakingly filled, primed and then wallpapered.  Ugh, wallpaper again.  Why would you wallpaper paneling?  The wallpaper had become frayed in areas and had majorly stalled progress in the basement as I tried to figure out what to do.  Just ripping everything out and dry-walling was an idea bandied about, but that would have just led to us replacing everything: carpet, ceiling, doors, etc.  And we just don't have the money for a full reno.  If we did, the kitchen would get an overhaul first.  Plus, I'd already painted a chunk of the basement.  But the wallpaper walls looked rough around the edges.  In an effort to do a quick spit and polish, I planned to paint over the wallpaper.  Remember how they often did that on Trading Spaces?   I removed loose bits but, even with first filling, sanding and priming rough areas, the paint (I tested it to the left) didn't cover the texture of seams. 

So, I bought paint with a subtle texture in the hopes of disguising the wallpaper texture and seams, but the minute I rolled it on, the wallpaper started getting soggy and drooping.  Enter crazy-eyed Tanya and her last minute wallpaper ripping decisions.  I used my same trick from last time, so I thought I'd share.  Now, this may not work for all wall papered walls, but it doesn't hurt to try!

What I did: I peeled off the durable top layer (with the design).  Once the porous bottom layer was exposed, I sprayed it with warm water and, with the tiniest bit of coaxing, it came off like butter.  Last time around, I had splurged on the wallpaper scoring device and the special headache-inducing spray.  In the end, this method was easier, faster, and less expensive!

How to Easily Remove Wallpaper
How to Easily Remove Wallpaper
How to Easily Remove Wallpaper
How to Easily Remove Wallpaper

Now I have a patchy ugly wall.  I'm thinking paint and a gallery wall full of art will disguise this perfectly!

Do you have any wallpaper removal tips, tricks or horror stories?
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August 22, 2012

Orange is Dangerous, Turquoise is Better

After a brief love affair with orange, I'm ready to re-commit to turquoise.  I met with my thesis supervisor the other day, wearing my orange dress, and she was wearing a richly coloured turquoise silk blouse with stunningly glittery turquoise jewellery.  I was so jealous!  She complimented my dress and I her blouse.  Then I told her turquoise is my favorite colour.  I think I might have drooled a little as I said it.  Guess what her favorite colour is?  ORANGE.  We should have swapped ensembles, because on the walk back to my car I had more than one older gentleman (of the non-bathing variety) tell me I look "good in orange, sweetie".  Then, a police offer meant to be directing traffic sauntered over to chat with me while I waited for my turn to cross the street.  Later, at a mall, some random fella urgently had to tell me my dress was pretty as I went up the escalator and he went down on the other side.  All complimentors were odd-ish, and almost feverish in the way they had to tell me how great the dress is.  The dress is like weirdo catnip.  Either that, or it was tucked into my underpants all day.

In any case, orange and I are over.  I'm back on the turquoise train.  People leave me alone when I wear turquoise.  While I rustle up something turquoise to wear, I'm thinking about turquoise non-wearables too:
  Style Me Pretty; Etsy; House of Turquoise; Etsy;

My bike (which I've been riding again with Hubby, after a five year hiatus) is a gold-y orange colour.  Hmmm, I should probably play it safe and get some turquoise tires.  I love these turquoise tires.

I definitely don't waste precious research time pouring over US Magazine

Although I love turquoise, I don't have a lot of it in the townhouse.  I've sprinkled some turquoise around via accessories, the art, one chair. . . but they are little sprinklings.  Because our plan has been to live in the townhouse for such a short period (we sell as soon as I am done my PhD), I've tried really hard to keep things neutral because buyers can be distracted even by a homeowner's personal items.  Silly, but true.  For our next place, though, I have big turquoise plans: 

I love the idea of painting just some cabinets turquoise.  I'd paint the rest a creamy white or soft grey, although the wood looks nice too - very vintage inspired.


Of course this is up my alley: a bright white space with a few key elements in saturated hues.  I was way too scared to pick a statement-making chandelier for fear of turning off prospective buyers, when the time comes.  But in our next place I want to go bold on some of the more permanent fixtures, like lighting.

Style at Home

I have a long list of things I'd love in turquoise, including turquoise stairs . . .


A turquoise sofa . . .

Via Urban Comfort

Turquoise walls . . .

Creative Flats via Decor8
Turquoise lust.
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August 21, 2012

DIY White Felted Flowers

Sometimes I feel like I'm a one trick pony.  Or at least a pony with very few tricks.  I create something I like and then re-create it.  Sometimes with a twist.  A subtle, subtle twist. 

Once upon a time, there was a felted wool necklace.  The necklace prompted the creation of the famed felted wool billy buttons.  This weekend I spent some time not-packing and felted instead, creating some white felted . . . dandelions.  Let's call them dandelions.   

Why the heck was I felting wool, when I should be preparing for my trip???  I had bought a little vase, ages ago, just because it's Hungarian.  But it is so wee.  And, all of a sudden, it's wee-ness became too distracting. 

That's where the felted wool flowers come in.  They give it a bit of oomph:

Ahhh, much better.  I used the same tutorial as my billy buttons (don't forget I wrote a follow-up trouble shooting post).

Since the artful hack, the Expedit has had a little more tweaking.  I stare at it from my desk and I needed more colour, so I went hog wild with the turquoise accents, devoting a whole shelf to my new - and growing - turquoise glass vase collection.  

I also added a piece of Strawberry Hill Pottery.  My grandma once lived in the house that eventually became the studio.  It has since stopped production, so the pieces are becoming more valuable (at least to Thunder Bay folks).  I just love this adorable face staring at me while I work.

P.S. I don't think I ever showed a true "before" of the Expedit, before I started figuring out how to style it (and back before we had installed baseboards):

I'm happy I didn't give up and kept tweaking to make it something I enjoy looking at.  And, yes, fiddling about with felted wool may be a bit of an avoidance tactic so leaving the townhouse for four months feels less real for the time being.
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August 17, 2012

(Tips for Packing Light) Pack it up, Pack it in

. . . Let me begin.

Four months.  One checked suitcase.  One carry-on.  Three Seasons.  Lots of vocal naysayers.
One determined traveler.

photo via

I don't need to be told I can do something, but it definitely irks me when I'm told I can't.  When working on my Master's, I set a ridiculous deadline for myself (in hindsight) but, wouldn't you know, I did it!  I was the first to finish in my cohort and, it turned out, one of the fastest to ever complete the program.  With NO revisions to my thesis after defense!  My supervisor later told me she hadn't thought it would be possible, but hadn't wanted to deflate me by telling me.  But she never felt the need to be my cheerleader, either.  She just pushed me along, never wasting time sugar coating things.  She understood me.

Everyone keeps telling me to splurge on the $100 (each way) second checked suitcase fee, because I won't be able to fit what I need into one.  But a second suitcase, aside from being highway robbery, also means major hassle getting to and from the airport in teeny little European cars.  Plus, I already stress about losing my suitcase, misreading the allowed dimensions, having something stolen from it by security staff (it happened!).  I don't need to double that stress!  So I am determined to keep it to one checked suitcase.

I've been searching for some packing tips to help me pack the most suitable wardrobe to carry me from the lingering summer weather to winter. 

I found great wardrobe advice (neutral, versatile and layered) from Travelista:

Then I spotted a slightly funkier version, with a splash of colour thrown in, by a Pair and a Spare (I shall be skipping the stilettos & hot pink bikini though!):

Although it was a summer vacation, Julie from Peanut Butter Fingers shared some photos from a trip to demonstrate how light layering changed the look of basic pieces to create more outfits.  I think it'd be easier if I only needed to pack summery pieces, but I still love her tips and the neutral palette of her wardrobe. 

The Best Packing Advice:

The advice is pretty consistent: neutrals + light layers + tiny splash of colour + accessories to change the look seems to be the most common theme.  Although, I'd caution that too many accessories can add weight to an already stuffed bag.  A few scarves, in different weights, will add some colour to my limited wardrobe but will be more practical in changing seasons than heavy necklaces.

I make my own packing lists when I travel, but I found a nifty print + check template that has been helpful for reminding me to add things to my own list of non-clothing items.

Once I figure out what exactly to pack, the question remains: how to pack?  I'm a folder - a maximize-space-by-layering-folder.  But there is an intense rolling vs. folding debate on travel websites.  One flight attendant advocates rolling and showed photos of the dramatic difference between rolling and folding for getting everything to fit.  Are you a roller or folder?  So many say rolling works.  She did get all this into that little carry on . . .

Some friends have recommended packing cubes (I'd pick teal, naturally!).  I can see them being especially satisfying for packing an orderly suitcase, but I'm not sure if they save space.  But these traveling envelopes are great.  I use freebie make up cases from Lancome and Clinique to stash power cables, makeup, jewellery - I like keeping all of the little bits contained and organized, especially because the last time my suitcase was searched, they made a mess of everything and I lost some smaller items in the shuffle.  I'm going to invest in a super lightweight suitcase - as big as I can get - so I'm not wasting weight.

A luggage strap is a must (ORB makes pretty, eye-catching ones that will help me easily spot my bag) and so is a small luggage scale, to make sure my bag isn't too heavy on the return trip.  I need these like a hole in the head, but I am very tempted by this mint passport cover and matching luggage tagsSo cute.

Wish me luck!  And please share your own packing tips.
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August 16, 2012

Treasure Hunting Report: Her Finds/My Finds

Gemma (from the sweetest digs) and I like to DIY in tandem, so is it any surprise we thrift together too?  She was my good luck charm when we hit the thrift shops recently, because look at the goodies I scored!  (Of course, Hubby might call her an enabler, but I think "good luck charm" has a nicer ring to it).

The brush strokes on this hand painted planter from Japan remind me of Jen's paintings, especially this one.  The soft pink and brushed-on bronze/gold is so stunning.  This is definitely shop-bound when we re-open.  (I've kept the shop open a few more days because a couple items have just sold or are on hold for folks).

Pink and gold succulent planter

It isn't vintage, but this sweet lime green, cream and grey planter - with it's pretty little drips and "made in Germany" stamp - is sure to tickle my Mom's fancy.  Neither of us are big into plants (we murder them), but this would be perfect with a big, wide candle for her patio table.

Green and grey German planter

I can't believe I even hesitated!  Thanks to Gemma for encouraging me to get these amber-coloured highball glasses.  Yesterday they were sitting on the dining room table, waiting to be photographed, and just glowing.  There were only seven (boo), but my Mom has one we thrifted earlier in the summer (yay) so now we'll have a set of 8 to list.

Amber glass high balls

I love melamine trays.  We have a pair that we keep in the living room, that fit perfectly onto shelves in our wall unit, to make our ottoman more coffee table-esque when we need it (without losing the squishy comfort).  Now I have a spare one for bringing drinks to the patio, or when the living room ones get full of my books.  And you know I love mint (how original).

Mint melamine tray

My Mom has a collection of these little dessert dishes and the matching glasses as well.  But someone else will get to enjoy these shop-bound gems.

Vintage glass dishes

I also found a super sweet red fondue pot with a pretty white design.  This looks like it was never used!  I'm sure someone will love this for their next party, or even just as a fun kitchen accessory.  Anyone know how an alcohol burner works?

UPDATE: My blog friend from Planet Powers let me know she had one of these that worked on gel fuel that is much easier to find these days!  Excellent to know!

Red and white fondue pot

This copper tray was a "maybe" until I saw it paired with the mint tray and then I was sold.  This would look gorgeous paired with mint or pale aqua glassware.

Quilted look copper tray
Mint and copper

But it doesn't look too shabby with the amber glasses, either - they have the same quilted look.

I rarely find Pyrex (and am so jealous of folks who do), so when I spotted this pretty opal ware casserole, I didn't even care that it lacked a lid.  The turquoise wheat sheaf is simple and perfect.

Turquoise wheat sheaf

This cute little jar (what the heck is it for? Salad oils?) came home with me because it's got a turquoise spout/lid and was made in West Germany.  I'm snobby about things being made in Europe.

UPDATE: Thanks to Brigitte, of The Baker's Daughter, I now know this is a sugar dispenser common in Germany.  Apparently many restaurants have them!  Thanks, Brigitte!

Aqua sugar dispenser

On a jar kick, I also bought these vintage spice jars with ochre & tomato (plus one cream) coloured lids.

Vintage spice jars

My Mom has a bountiful collection of these chrome and bakelite trays by Glo-Hill Canada, which produced elegant serving ware from the 1930s-1970s, and now she will have one more.  Some pieces have glass inserts (like this version I found yard saling in TBay) but I'm not sure if this may have had one . . .

Glo-Hill Canada Bakelite Chromeware

Just for kicks, I bought this martini shaker.  It isn't vintage but I've been worried about the lead content on some vintage martini shakers with metal strainer parts.  I bought a vintage one before and the metal started peeling, which gave me the heebie-jeebies.  Is that highly neurotic?  This one is 100% safe plus it has a sweet combo of colours.  Can't wait to mix a drink with Hubby.

Martini shaker

I'm saving the best for last.  I found an amazing carving set, still in the original box (with original price tag).  I'm a sucker for bakelite and was totally sold by the drool-worthy bakelite handles.  They look like giant chunks of butter amber!

Bakelite carving set

Seriously, did you check out the handles?  Here's a closer shot:

Amber bakelite

I don't think you'll truly appreciate my weird obsession with this set until you picture me crouching down with the camera, getting a photo from every angle . . . take one last look at how pretty they are.

They don't match, but happen to look nice with a few pieces, also with bakelite handles, that I bought at a yard sale in Thunder Bay.  The difference is the yard sale pieces were $1.00 each.  The carving set, from Value Village, was $19.99!  Ouch.  But it obviously brings me too much joy to have passed on.

Bakelite serving pieces

That wraps up my sweet finds.  The only trouble with thrifting with someone who has great taste, is you might end up seeing them buy something you would have loved to have spotted first.  Check out Gemma's blog today to see her finds from the same thrifting adventure and try to guess which item I am pining for. 
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