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

March 29, 2013

Giveaway: laKattun Hand-printed Basket


Happy Easter, to those who celebrate.  I have something sugar-free (and bunny-free) to sweeten your day!  Remember the beautiful, graphic tea towel I received from Berlin-based shop laKattun?  You're in for a treat because laKattun shop owner and designer Eva is offering a special giveaway item for Dans le Townhouse readers!

You could win this beautiful orange-printed Oval Fabric Basket.  The design is called Seegras (meaning "seagrass" in English).  Eva hand printed and sewed it, using organic cotton canvas, and eco-friendly solvent-free water-based textile ink.  I think this would be a beautiful and casual way to store so many things.

Make it Yours:

Please leave a separate comment for each entry.  No registration or account required!  Anonymous comments, or a name without a profile, are always welcome, but please remember to include your email address so we can reach you!  I'm blocking spammers by approving every comment, so don't worry if your comment doesn't appear right away.

Required Entry:

To enter, head over to Eva's Etsy shop, laKattun, and select your favorite pattern or item (the link will open in a new window).  Then leave us a comment here to let us know what it is!

Contest is open to anyone.  Contest ends Thursday, April 4th 12 midnight EST.  Winner will be announced Friday, April 5th so check back!

Bonus Entries:

Remember, a separate comment for each please!

Stay in the loop about new designs and follow Eva's Etsy shop
Like laKattun on Facebook
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Use your own twitter, Facebook, or blog to let friends and family know about this giveaway (they're welcome to enter!)

Get to know Eva!

What I love about Etsy is that often you really connect with the person behind the designs.  Getting to know Eva has been so interesting.  She's originally from Vienna but has been based in Berlin for 10 years.  She definitely makes me want to travel to Germany, because she says Berlin is a vibrant city with creative people and the city nurtures small businesses!  Although she has a background in Geography, her mother taught her to sew and she taught herself to print fabrics using stamping, block and screen printing.  Isn't that amazing?  I'm so inspired by people who are self-taught, and by people who have such diverse interests and skills.

Eva draws each design by hand, first, then makes a stamp of the design to test how it will look as a repeat pattern.  She says everything inspires her, from architecture to flora, even music.  She uses organic cottons and eco-friendly, water-based inks so customers can enjoy the feel of her products as well as the design.  She sells her hand printed fabrics by the meter and also as hand sewn products in her Etsy shop.  She currently shares a studio space with three other women, which I can only imagine must be so fabulous for generating creativity.

I have to say, I am still absolutely in love with the quality and aesthetic of my Zebraria tea towel and am more than a little jealous of this sweet prize.  Lucky you.  Have a great long weekend!


March 28, 2013

Money Talks: Tricking Ourselves into Saving Money

Next month I'm going to talk about our budget: how we made one and how we use one (I've learned something awesome, and so simple, when it comes to using budgets correctly) and you're going to notice something odd about it: where my income goes.

When Handy Hubs and I first moved in together, although we pooled everything, our respective incomes had respective jobs.  Specifically: (the amount equal to) Hubby's pay went to rent and student loans while everything else we bought (car insurance, tenant insurance, groceries, entertainment, gas, etc) had to be less than my pay as a teaching assistant.  The car payment was made from both our wages, largely from extra money I made tutoring and selling spiders.  We tried but we didn't really save a lot of money.  Every penny had a job and if we were short a penny, we felt it because things we pretty tight (granted, we were doubling up on student loan payments). 

As Hubby & I made more money, we were able to start saving more, and breathe a little, but I was worried that we would swallow up the increased pay with luxuries like brand name dish soap.  I started shuffling some of my pay cheques into our joint savings account every pay day, before we could even get used to the money in our hands.  Eventually, as Hubby's wage increased, I had my whole pay cheque deposited directly into a savings account that only permits two withdrawals a month (and makes us a little extra interest).

Retro Piggy Bank for Sale Here

For us, a lot of financial security has come from tricking ourselves, first by boosting our student loan payment right away so we got accustomed to paying a higher amount and kept our spending in check accordingly, then by automatically depositing my pay into our savings so we don't even think of it as our money to spend.  For us, once money is in the "savings" account, we see it differently.  It becomes special and untouchable.  We only dip in when it's essential (like when our fridge died peacefully in its sleep) and routinely squirrel the money away into even more untouchable places, like investments.

This is one way we have been able to successfully save and although not everyone can do this exactly, having money automatically moved each month from a chequing account to a savings account (most banks offer this) is the same principle and a highly effective tool.  This is actually our next step!  While I'm jazzed our savings account grows each month without us noticing, thanks to my stealthy pay cheque, to meet our goals (like this one) we need to save more!  I'll be setting up a monthly chequing-savings transfer so a chunk of Hubby's pay cheque is also squirreled away before we even think about the lovely things it could buy (special hand moisturizing dish soap).

Le Rage Comics

Now that you know our little secret, in upcoming posts I'll be sharing tips on how to save money on things we buy, from mortgages to home decor, groceries and utilities!  What are your tips for seeing as much money move from your chequing account to your savings account?
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March 27, 2013

DIY Bullet Shell Casing Necklace

I finally made the DIY shell casing necklace that I've been wanting to make for months.  I'm pretty excited because it looks just as fabulous as I hoped it would (a successful DIY project is always cause for celebration). 

I love the combination of the rugged shell casing (which has been fired), with the sparkly quartz.  Want one?


How to make a shell case necklace:

Clean the shell casing:

I collected a wide selection of fired shell casings on our last trip to the firing range.  I cleaned all the casings in the same vinegar bath & baking soda scrub I used to clean my penny for my penny ring project.  Although the gunk came off, the casings kept a nice patina which I was happy about.  Be sure to thoroughly rinse all vinegar and baking soda. 

How to clean brass shell casings
Spent brass shell casings
Projects using shell casings

Find the right size crystal spike:

Finding the right size crystals was tricky.  I brought one of each size shell casing to craft stores in search of the right stones.  I finally found a strand of crystal points at a local bead shop in Thunder Bay.  I'm happy I brought the casings because these stones are naturally irregular and only four or five fit well.  I suggest checking out your local shops first.

If ordering online, pay particular attention to the size of the beads.  Specifically ask the seller if the stones will fit in a tube the diameter of your casing. 

Crystal point stick beads for shell casing necklaces
Rock Crystal Rough Point Stick Beads from Etsy
Drill a hole in the casing:

With the crystals purchased and the shell casings cleaned, Hubby and I headed to the garage where he drilled a hole into the top of each casing (wearing eye protection, of course!).

How to drill a hole in a shell casing

Saw the end off a rifle casing:

The handgun casings were ready to use, but the rifle casings needed to be sawed off.  A pipe cutter worked really well but if you don't have one, a jeweller's saw or a plain old saw will work.  If using a saw, wrap a piece of paper towel around the casing so your vice grips, etc., don't mar the surface (see third photo).

How to cut a shell casing shorter
How to make a shell casing necklace
How to saw off a shell casing

One thing to note: although more uniform, the pipe cutter slightly curves the end of the casing inward.

Using a pipe cutter to trim shell casing
Saw vs pipe cutter

File the edges of the casing:

We used a metal file to gently file the metal at the cut edges and also where the holes were drilled.  Work on a piece of paper towel to catch the filings and I recommend wearing gloves - the little metal bits are itchy as hell if they work their way into your skin.  Trust me.

File a cut shell casing
Hole drilled through shell casing
Making jewelry from shell casings

Wire wrap the crystal spike:

I grabbed one of my crystal spike points and strung about five inches of the wire through the bead.  I worked with one end, wrapping the wire tightly against itself.

Wire wrap a crystal point stick bead

Then I threaded the end of the wire up through the drilled hole.

Bullet jewellery tutorial

Using a pen, I wrapped the wire into a circle (the pen helped me keep the shape, but you can freehand it) and then wrapped the wire tightly around the base of the loop.

Making jewelry from spent shell casings
DIY shell casing pendant

Add chain!

Finally, I added chain from the craft store.  I made mine long enough to slip over my head, like with my DIY agate necklace, to avoid a clasp.  I simply opened one loop, attached it to the other end and, voila, a fun new shell casing and crystal necklace!

How to make a shell casing necklace
DIY crystal and shell casing pendantsHow to make a shell casing necklace
diy bullet necklace
unique DIY jewelry ideas
Make your own shell casing jewelry


Alternatively, you can also drill two holes in the side of the casings (use a nail to make a dent first, so your drill bit doesn't slip off) and run the chain through the casing.  With this method, you can even use a hunk of rock glued into the casing, instead of a proper bead, and string the chain through the holes.

Drill a hole in a bullet casing

Here's an example of how that would look, from etsy seller Changes Jewelry:

As another variation, instead of drilling the top you can push the primer out, but then the hole is inset.  We used a nail set to push it out (which may not be the best tool for the job, but it worked).

Push the primer out of shell casing
Use shell casings for crafts
shell casing jewelry
How to drill a small hole in shell casing

Let me know if you have any questions about how to make your own shell casing and crystal spike necklace!

DIY shell casing and crysal necklace / Great step-by-step tutorial and this blog has lots of other DIY jewelry projects too!
Read more »

March 26, 2013

I Need Your Thoughts: Black or Silver Kitchen Faucet?

Although we replaced the countertop in the kitchen and re-did the back splash a couple of years ago, we kept the original faucet because it was in okay condition and, frankly, we were desperate to save cash wherever we could.  We're of the "don't replace things that work fine" mentality.  Unfortunately, now the faucet is getting corroded and worn out, but it looks like I will have the opportunity to review a Pfister product, so an update is in our future!  We'd like to keep the pull out or pull down feature (ours pulls out), but the Hubs and I are divided on whether to get a stainless steel finish (to complement our silver light fixture and cabinet pulls) or black (like our main floor bathroom faucet).  Help us?

My case first: I like the black because our sink is brushed inside and stainless on the edge and I'm worried a chrome faucet will be like our current chrome faucet and not match exactly.  Plus the cabinet pulls and light are a brushed silver and that adds up to just a boatload of different silvers.  I think the black would be graphic and fun, and look great with the black accents in the kitchen and adjacent rooms.  I found two pretty and practical styles: the Cagney pull down faucet (left) and Shelton pull out faucet (right), both from Pfister.

Because it's a more unusual choice and you might not have seen one in action yet, here are a few beautiful kitchens sporting sharp black faucets.

Sk├Âna Hem; Flea Market Trixie; The Blade

Hubby's case:  I think Hubby prefers the stainless steel and chrome finishes because they pair more subtly with the existing finishes, plus it's a more traditional choice.  Our kitchen is not super modern, so I think he wants to make sure the faucet suits the look of our kitchen.  He's also not convinced a stainless sink and black faucet work together.  He pointed out that two of the sinks in my inspiration shots are white.  He's sharper with this whole decorating thing than I thought!  He likes the Lita pull-down model . . .

. . . but honestly, right now we have quite a few more silver faucets short listed than black, making it tricky to decide!

Selia; Avanti; Mystique; Pasadena

As a refresher, here's a quick recap of the kitchen, including the newest additions.  But please don't look too closely at the first photo - the sink is not clean!

Help us decide and cast your vote in the comments!  Black or silver?  And, which style?  Anonymous comments always welcome :)

P.S. I haven't been asked (or paid or perked) to write this post.  I just need a little help making this decision before selecting a faucet to review.  Thanks so much for your input!
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