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

November 25, 2013

Parkas Designed to Fit Pear Shaped Women

Moving back to Northwestern Ontario sees us contemplating a long "to-do" list.  Among the many unchecked items is getting prepared (again) for harsh winters.  In the years since we've been gone from the region Hubby and I have lightened our winter attire.  We're pretty glib about Ottawa winters and have spent the last four winters in fall-weight coats and uninsulated boots.  I actually get cold easily, but it's been a weird (and stupid) source of pride for me to say, "Oh, this is my winter jacket.  I don't need a hat.  I'm from Thunder Bay".

I don't know why I'm a jerk sometimes.  And about the weirdest things.

Maybe the truth is we hate shopping for outerwear because in addition to being skimpy, our "winter" clothes were falling apart at the seams.  Begrudgingly, we recently schlepped from store to store and each bought a seriously toasty winter coat and a pair of winter boots.  Hubby had it much easier: walk into store, try on three coats and pick one.  Done.  Walk into another store, try on two pairs of boots and pick one.  And he looks as handsome as ever in his new gear.  I, on the other hand, had a ridiculous time finding a winter coat that would actually zip over my hips and not be uncomfortably over-sized on the top.  Desperately I Googled "warm winter coats for big hips and smaller chests" with no luck.  Instead, I tried on what feels like a hundred different coats until my hair became pure static.  Honestly, it also made me feel like crap about my body.  When I finally found a good short list of coats that fit trimly through the torso with a little wiggle room in the hips, I decided I'd post my own list for anyone who might be having the same struggle.

One caveat: none of these are cheap coats, but I needed to find a seriously warm coat.  Thunder Bay has had winter weather as cold −36 °C, with a wind speed of 54 km/h for a wind chill temperature that dipped to −58 °C.  Unfortunately, Szuka has her own, naturally toasty fur coat and loves the snow - she will not accept a cold, blizzardy day Robert Munsch would write about as reason enough not to go for a walk.  

Stylish Parkas for Wider Hips

The first contender was the Columbia Madraune, a 80% duck down/20% feather parka (in black or a mushroom-y greige hue).  It has Columbia's "omni-heat" reflective lining that apparently reflects body heat back toward the wearer.  It's soft and warm, but nipped in at the waist so it doesn't feel bulky.  I found it was cut generously through the hips.  I liked it (it was also the cheapest: just over $200 in-store), but was told by the store staff that while it is certainly a good parka for chilly winters, it won't do for epic cold.
My favorite was this teal North Face Metropolis parka and I think you know why!!  I tried this on a million times and each time I lovingly admired the colour.  It was cut boxier than the Columbia parka, but still wasn't bulky on top, even though it zipped easily over my derriere.  It was also a lighter weight coat, but I read some reviews on Amazon and gals in the UK have gone gaga for it - so I think it can handle pretty chilly weather.  The only drawback was that not all of it was lined, and Hubby convinced me the wind would whip off the lake and tear right through the seams of unlined quilted areas.  I think he's right, but the colour!!  There were actually a few styles of North Face parkas that fit me comfortably, and dozens more online that looked like they would also fit wider hips.  They have a lot of stylish and colourful options and I think it's worth taking a look.

I actually found quite a few listings on Amazon for this coat, if you can't find it locally.  This seller has a bunch of sizes and colors.

I actually bought and returned this Lole Andorra jacket.  Again, the salespeople just shook their heads when I told them where I was moving and asked whether this would be warm enough.  I found one review online that indicated that while the body was warm, the sleeves of the coat weren't insulated enough for extremely cold temperatures.  It felt super cozy to me and the green was really pretty (it comes in grey too).  I especially loved the clean lines of this coat.  The problem I had with it was that it was a smidge snug on the hips.  With pants it was fine, but I wanted the option to sneak some snowpants underneath for longer walks and general country-bumpkining.  For a town coat, though, this would have worked perfectly.   

The Patera Parka by Arc'Teryx is the coat I decided on because salespeople (and online reviews) were unanimous that this coat is WARM.  It has European goose down, so it's cozy, but also has a durable Goretex exterior that can stand up to wear.  It's simple enough that I can pair it with snow pants and frolic, but also wear it with regular clothes for my day-to-day comings and goings.  I almost fainted when I saw the price, but I've pledged to wear this, and only this, for many, many winters to come.  I already went for a long walk in it and I did stay really toasty, but the best part is this coat isn't bulky or cumbersome. 

I found it incredibly frustrating to try on coat after coat obviously not designed for my body type, and if there's anyone else with a pear-ish shape I hope this helps a little.  At least know I'm frustrated along with you - but there are a few good options out there, I promise!  But I'm happy now:


November 20, 2013

Let's Talk Trim

One day, when we re-do the floors (whether it's some or all), I'm going to replace our trim with something thick and substantial, but with a clean and simple profile.  I've started noticing trim in every picture I see.

If the trim we currently have hadn't been skinny, dated oak that matched our floors in no way whatsoever, I might have kept it as-is because wood trim can look lovely, especially against white walls:

Via Dust Jacket
Via Dust Jacket
For now, painting out the trim was an inexpensive, if somewhat labour-intensive, option to modernize the lakehouse.  Soon I'll post a full how-to, but for now I wanted to talk about why I left the wood on the window frames that open, even if I painted the fixed windows and all casings white.

For reference, here's a glimpse of these three spaces (living room, master bedroom, and bathroom) before:

At first I thought I might want to stain or paint the window frames black, while painting the trim white, but I quickly decided against it because it would break up the views too much.

Even though I decided early-on to go all-white, by the time I got to the lakehouse to work it was too cold!!  I barely had time to get paint on the door, and I needed a space heater to ensure the paint cured.  I decided to just tape off the areas of the windows that I couldn't paint without removing hardware and opening them, and resolved to tackle them next spring when it's warm enough.  For now, the bulk of the woody-goodness has been axed, and I'm thinking a little strip of wood isn't a crime, even in a space I'm trying to modernize.

Design Shimmer
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November 18, 2013

Audrey + Gem Prints

You might have noticed Dans le Townhouse has a new sponsor: Audrey & Gem.  Longtime readers will know Gemma: we did a my take/her take DIY project together and have even shared our thrifting adventures (I found my seagull when we were thrifting together).  Some of you even won her beautiful prints in a giveaway we did!  Since then, Gemma has added some gorgeous new designs to her Etsy shop:

But don't worry, Gemma still offers her signature vibrant watercolour prints too:

Isn't she talented?  I especially appreciate how affordable her prints are ($16) and that she welcomes the chance to personalize prints for people, to commemorate an event or celebrate a place.  If you or someone you love needs a dose of something pretty and uplifting, take a peek at her Etsy shop here

If you're curious, you can also see some of her art in her own home on her blog, The Sweetest Digs.  For Ottawa folks, Gemma has a second business too (she's one busy Mama!), renting vintage finds for weddings and events.  Check out her Pieces of Love shop here.

Speaking of advertisements, you might have noticed I've scaled back on my sidebar ads.  Although I certainly appreciate the perk of being compensated for the time I spend writing, editing photos and dreaming up cute projects, I just didn't feel good about promoting companies I knew little about.  Now I'm trying to reserve sidebar ads for companies I personally know are completely awesome and have switched gears to do more product reviews so I can actually see and use the products from companies that support my writing. 
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November 13, 2013

How to Replace Damaged Hardwood Floorboards

Handy Hubby is taking over today!  He deserves a round of applause for the crummy, frustrating job that was replacing some of the floorboards in our closet (which you saw on Monday had been installed around the closet organizer).  Here's his explanation of how he did it:

how to replace damaged floorboards

We lucked out because the previous owner had left a box of flooring from the original job.  This saved us having to colour match or try to track down the original brand.  We brought it in the house the day before to acclimatize. More time is usually better though.  Some companies will stipulate a week for the best results.  This ensures the boards don't gap the day after installation.

I first removed the closet baseboard with a flat pry bar. Some of the paper from the drywall stuck to it from being painted, so it's a good idea to cut the edge with a knife first.  I was not too worried about keeping the baseboard, as we knew we could replace it with new stuff.  However, if you go slowly you can usually get it off with minimal damage.

After I got the baseboard off I noticed a roadblock.  The hardwood was installed right to the drywall, actually pushing it in slightly.  For those of you that don't know, wood expands and contracts across its grain as humidity levels change.  For this reason, hardwood floors should be installed with a gap around the sides.  This gap is covered by the baseboard (attached to the wall) and quarter round (attached to the floor).

How to replace hardwood boards
As can be seen from the photos, there is a square of flooring that was located under the old closet fitting.  This was relatively easy to pry up, as it was not pressed into the wall very much and I could pry from each end.  It was also nailed down with smaller nails, as a flooring nailer probably would not fit under the closet fitting.

The rest was a bit harder.  This floor had no gap around the walls, defeating my plan of inserting a pry bar into the wall gap to lift the first board.  I tried for awhile, but began to destroy the drywall.  I was actually carving out the drywall in order to raise the board closest to the wall.  This was not going to work.  There was no room for the board to rise vertically.

On to plan B, which is the way I have typically seen it done.  This can also be used for removing boards in the middle of a floor.  I took a circular saw (also referred to as a Skil saw) and set the blade depth to 3/4", the thickness of the floor board.  I then ran the saw along the length of all the boards, as close to the wall as I could, next to the seam on the board.  This basically created a 1/8" gap and cut the tongue off so the boards were not connected.

Once this was done I was able to start to pry the board from the exposed end where the square was.  Because the board was no longer attached to the one next to it, it was much easier.  I used a flat pry bar and a hammer.

how to replace damaged floorboards
Once the first row, next to the wall, was out, the remainder was much easier.  Unfortunately I was not able to save all the boards, but I was not counting on it.  This is where making sure I had enough to do the whole closet beforehand adds to the peace of mind.

how to replace damaged floorboards
Once all the board rows were out I swept the sub floor and removed any nails so the surface was clean.  Using a rubber mallet (to snug the boards into place) and a 12 gauge air nailer I installed the new boards to complete the floor.  I made sure to leave about a 1/4" - 3/8" gap between the floor boards and the wall to account for swelling, and the next person who wants to take up the floor.  We found nearly identical baseboard, painted it orange, cut it, and installed it once the walls were painted.

bright orange closet interior

Isn't Hubby handy?!? 

The discovery about the flooring being installed improperly by the former owner, who wedged them tight against the walls, has me worried that we could see problems down the road.  It has me thinking that, in a few years time, when we totally gut the kitchen and re-do the floors in there (and the adjacent laundry room and half bath), maybe we should just install new flooring everywhere in the house so it's all uniform (save for the entryway and main bathroom, where I'd love a dark grey slate tile).  I'd love to go with something light, maybe a pale grey-tinged bleached oak, with wide planks.  The idea has me lingering in the flooring section of the hardware stores these days.

mint front door and white floors
white wood floors
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November 11, 2013

A Closet Makeover

I have to show you what our master bedroom closet looks like right now, because it totally makes me smile:

Bright Closet Interior

It's a sneaky place to add colour, and I'm loving it.  Originally I was going to leave the bedroom closet completely untouched until we saved up a little cash for new doors and a new closet organizer, but when we took possession of the lakehouse I noticed the mirrored sliding door was cracked - something I'm not sure was cracked during home inspection.

Before: Mirrored Closet Doors

We removed the doors right away because I was paranoid about the crack expanding, shattering and showering me with shards of glass while I slept.  Unrealistic?  Likely.  But enough for me to break out the tools and banish the doors.  But then I was left looking at this:

Before: Cheap Closet Organizer

We figured we might as well go ahead and replace the closet organizer and paint, even if we haven't even begun to look at new doors yet.  But it wasn't as simple as that, because when we removed the shelving system our worst fears were confirmed: the hardwood flooring had been installed around them.  This was already pretty evident, but a small part of me hoped I was just looking at it wrong.  I think I just couldn't wrap my brain around it, because it took more work to do the fitment fussing than it would have to just remove the closet organizer (which was half hanging out of the wall anyway), install the floors properly and hang the shelves back up. 

Luckily, the previous owner left a box of unused hardwood flooring in the garage, so Handy Hubby pried out the offending boards and installed new pieces - see this post for his tutorial on that

For all his efforts, the closet colour choice was his: Fiesta Orange, by Glidden

I rolled on three coats of CIL paint and primer in one and, because the trim has all been painted out white to match the walls, I thought it would be fun to paint the closet trim orange to match the walls as well, instead of having a skinny white border running above the floor.

I'd like to hang my vintage Hungarian posters in the bedroom, and I think the orange Hubby picked is an exact match to one.  Fun!  Now I'm shopping for a closet organizer.  And then new closet doors.  Oh, and a light fixture for inside the closet because blech:

Szuka is team-orange too, seeing as her favorite toy is the same hue.

Komondor puppy running
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November 7, 2013

September + October are Done! Did We Have Fun?

I skipped September's round-up of posts so I thought it best to highlight September and October's posts together - and right away - before I blink and it's December.  Scary thought!

Of course my favorite post from the last two months was introducing Szuka.  We had a free coupon for a puppy bath and nail trim at a pet store.  They brushed out her wavy hair and she turned out so poofy.  It didn't last, she's back to her scruffy self, but I had to share the adorable photo I snapped.  After steadily taking allergy pills, I'm happy to report I'm no longer bothered by allergies and I've even switched to a cheaper, Costco-brand allergy pill. 

Szuka has yet to meet our neighborhood foxes, who are no longer comfortable just walking in.

I think my second favorite post from the fall was the reveal of the teal velvet chair, still lovingly referred to as "the garbage chair".  I've since sold a lot of our furniture: the tweed upholstered chair in the living room, some teak side tables, the maple armoire (finally!), and we will soon be selling the teak kitchen table, dining room hutch, Hubby's DIY desk and more.  Moving into the lakehouse will be a chance to start fresh, but it has been weird to see some of our furniture go.  This chair will be a nice bridge, and a happy reminder of Ottawa.

Even though it's furniture-less right now, I've been pretty excited about the progress made on the lakehouse.  I've been able to make a couple trips there to work on it, bouncing between Ottawa and Thunder Bay.  After rounding up some inspiration, I took the plunge and painted the fireplace a deep grey.  I'm loving the boldness (see how I painted the doors here and how I painted the faux stone here).

The fireplace is still un-accessorized, but a quick makeover of a fire poker set left with house added at least something useful!

Paint has definitely been my biggest ally.  Painting the walls, trim, patio doors, and even the wood beam white has made the rather small house seems large and airy.  It's starting to take shape!

But not everything is white!  We started work on the turquoise kitchen, trying out a new paint sprayer on the doors.

I even painted over the bathroom tile, using a kit from Rustoleum.

We've only made a few non-paint changes so far, lighting being the biggest.   By swapping out dated light fixtures - even the ceiling fan - the space is starting to looking much more modern.

Even though we're making big changes at the lakehouse, there's still so much to do.  It was fun to take a break and ogle my good friend Erica's completed den.  I'm still enamored with the transformation!

Work-wise, I met my deadline for submitting my PhD!  Although it met with a couple of tough reviews (but two great ones!) I am set to defend at the end of this month . . . 
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