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

April 30, 2013

Marimekko Oven Mitts

I'm learning how to successfully balance my my recent focus on saving, my dislike of clutter, and my absolute penchant for pretty things, colourful things, and/or sparkly things.  It's not easy.  One trick:  as they need replacing, I'm choosing pretty substitutions for the things I use every day.  I recently tossed my dollar store oven mitts (that were too thin, riddled with burn holes and made my hands smell weird and chemically) in favor of something 100% more chic and functional, plus better quality: Marimekko Peini Uniko oven mitts from EQ3
I love Marimekko (you've seen my pretty pink throw & our shower curtain in the townhouse tour, plus I have a Marimekko dress, which I scored on sale).  I'm trying to incorporate more Marimekko textiles in the townhouse, even after a rocky fabric fiascoHungarian art and accessories are overwhelming the townhouse, and my Finnish ancestry demands I represent.

If you're familiar with EQ3 or Marimekko, it should come as no surprise that the quality of these oven mitts far exceed that of my previous set!  They are durable and extra padded, with a sewn in loop for easy storage.  I held a piping hot pan of mac and cheese (straight out of the oven) for waaay too many photos and I didn't feel any heat!  As an added bonus: I'm not a huge fan of cooking (Hubs and I just do it to save moolah), but there's something extra fun about putting on these happy mitts before pulling something delicious out of the oven.  I think I'm just one matching apron away from actually enjoying cooking!  And possibly pretending I'm on a cooking show while I do it.

EQ3 generously provided the Marimekko oven mitts to review, but they were an item I specifically requested.  I wanted to townhouse-test a pretty, but practical item!  I was not encouraged, prompted, paid or asked to write a positive review.  These thoughts are all my own!  As is the mac and cheese.  Which was delicious.

April 26, 2013

Giveaway Winner + News!

Congrats to Melissa Dalgleish (of Heart & Salt), the winner of the jewellery giveaway with ILIOS!  I'll put you in touch with Kat soon to make your jewellery selection - you'll have to let us know what you picked.

In other news, I'm running a spring sale in our Etsy store, Minden Shop.  Everything is 20% off (coupon code SPRING20).  Some of my favorite items have sold . . .

. . . but there is still a bevy of gorgeous finds that we love, plus almost a hundred (!) more to be listed in upcoming weeks and months.  A little secret: my Mom actually snagged the little turquoise sugar shaker (made in West Germany) right out of the shop!  We still have a healthy variety of pretties, though, from the rare Sotka patterned Arabia cups and saucers to funky turquoise Fire King mugs.  We also have a cool mid-century purse made in Canada, three different sets of vintage Coca Cola & Sprite glasses (from a collector who worked for Coke!), a few pieces of Pyrex (of course), a sweet and petite yellow West German vase, Baltic amber earrings, mod pale pink salt & pepper shakers, and more! We try to have things in every price point, in many different styles (although that's going to happen anyway, with three generations of us finding inventory!).

For a little braggy blog news, my tile trivet project was featured at!  It's always so fabulous when a publication or magazine you read features your work.  Click here to read the whole article, which rounds up the 10 easiest DIY ideas of all time.

My felted wool billy buttons also got a little love from  I love the idea of brides making these as favors, centre pieces, or boutonnieres - so sweet!

Finally, Knock Off Decor featured my recent DIY agate art!  

Well, I'm primed for a good weekend and I hope you have a good one too!
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April 25, 2013

Mint Table

Hubs and I have a table in the basement that, for some unknown reason, I thought was super attractive in 2007.  It weighs a TON (The Beast), so I thought it would be the perfect item to buy in Thunder Bay and then immediately move 1600km across the province.  It was our dining table in our first apartment together.  Awww.  The size was awesome and made for fun, no-elbows-in-your-ribs dinner parties.  But I'm the first to admit it's uuuuugly.  Why did no one stop me?

As we planned our move from Kingston to Ottawa, I bought another table just weeks before the move (why is this my thing?): our sweet mid-century teak number in the dining room

The Beast then took up residence in our just-cram-crap-in-there kitchen:

Once in Ottawa, we found another little round retro teak table for the kitchen and the big, burly beast of a table was - with much groaning and back spraining - moved downstairs.  It's solid wood!

Although it never miraculously became more attractive, it is a fabulous work table because it's huge and can support a lot of weight.

When I first bought it, I wanted to paint it white but when the primer went on it looked horrible, like a big slab of dated melamine.  I panicked.  I rushed out to buy chemical paint stripper and, at midnight, in my parent's backyard, with giant work lamps set up so it looked bright as day (but creepier - you're welcome neighbours), my Dad, Grandpa and I stripped it.  My Grandpa found it way more amusing than he should have.  Oh, did I mention we did this right before moving?  A few days before a big move is always a good time for a table re-finish.  Once we stripped the primer, we sanded and clear varnished The Beast.

Now I'd like to paint it again.  Hear that?  That's my Grandpa, laughing at me.  Or is he crying?  Nope.  Laughing.  He'll say I'm a dummy and I'll end up elbows deep in chemical stripper in the middle of the night again.  But I have got too. much. wood in this house!  Too much!!  The floors, the kitchen, the teak tables.  Down in the pit of despair, we need a little colour, a little fun, a little mint.

In fact, we need more touches of colour, period.  So my mid-century metal table in the guest room is also going mint!  It needs a good refinish to deal with some rust anyway and after getting my Mummu's (my Grandma) stamp of approval - it was her wedding present after all - I'm trying mint.  We both reckon it's a vintagey colour so it suits this retro little table just fine.  If I hate it, all I need is a can of Rustoleum matte black!

I rounded up a few gorgeous mint and turquoise tables to give me some steam on these makeovers!

Just a note: if you search "mint table" on Pinterest, sometimes the images found are very literal . . .

Les Petite Merveilles
Flickr; Kotipalapeli; Etsy
Urban Outfitters; via Creamy Life; Etsy
Decor and the Dog
Drool.  I'm convinced.  I even bought some (hopefully pretty) mint spray paint.  It's hard to track down a good mint spray paint - so many err on the side of sage.  Nobody jinx it, but look: here's the week's weather forecast!  Sunday and Monday (marked by an accurate representation of how I feel) are primed for spray painting (haha) because even the expected low isn't too cold.  Thursday and Friday, with their chilly lows, could mess with my paint and Saturday is just bad painting mo-jo because rain=humidity.  But Sunday I'm going to spend a little time getting reacquainted with my old pal, spray paint.  She's a fair weather friend ;) 

P.S. Last day to win something beautiful from ILIOS jewelleryMy mint + brass earrings are still making me just as smiley as Sunday and Monday's weather prediction and if you love mint you could win a pair of mint + brass earrings too!
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April 24, 2013

Money Talks: We are Bad

I have some lofty goals for my Money Talks series (that I've been keeping up with on a monthly basis):
    1. Talk about money!!
    2. Share some of our money struggles.
    3. Share some of the ways we overcame (or are overcoming) our money problems.
    4. Share some tips.
    5. Get your advice!
    I started off the series by sharing a struggle of my own (frittering my money) and a tactic I'm using to keep looking at the big picture instead.  Then we shared our tips for paying off student debt faster and saving money without realizing it.  So you know we're student-loan free and save (some of) our cash.  Brag, brag, brag.  I think it's about time to share more pitfalls, no?  The overarching point of this series is for us to give each other our tips and tricks, but also to realize we're all human.  We make mistakes, we have weaknesses, but can still get ahead financially.

    Here are some current money weaknesses, and what we're doing/not doing about them.

    Charlie, the money-suck.
    I am sentimentally attached to a two-thousand pound heap of metal, my first car.  I was thisclose to donating him to charity, but then we went to get him from winter storage.  I took one look at his plucky green face and panicked.  Hubby and I have good memories in this car: I picked him up for our first date in Charlie, Hubs and I painted Charlie ourselves, and we had even planned to fix him up and race him (before we learned how much damn work that is).  Although we keep him in the summer, to use our single garage for our daily driver we store him in a facility for the winter, ranging from $60-$170 a month.  I know.

    Nope.  No solution.  To save that cash, we had planned to let him go.  BUT I CAN'T!!  Instead, we're going to look for a cheaper facility next winter and think about it for another year.  I could keep him in the garage and park our actually usable car in the driveway but having to scrape off the windshield in the winter makes me thunderously grumpy.  If all of our friends knew about this (especially when we say, "can we go to a less expensive restaurant, we're budgeting?" they'd think we're crazy but I figure it's better to blow this money than to ditch him and always regret it.  Right?  Argh.  This love affair is my biggest weakness.

    But I "need" it.
    I thought I was getting better at distinguishing "needs" and "wants," budget-wise.  Yes, I can put off buying luxuries until I've saved up and, yes, I (think I) know what we truly "need" (and it's not much) but I still can't wipe the word from my vocabulary.  I find myself telling Hubby "I need spray paint to paint the bar cart, "or "we need to replace the ugly light switches".  I need to eradicate that word from my vocabulary entirely because I think, in my heart of hearts, I am still having trouble distinguishing between need and want.

    No easy way and I'm sill struggling, seeing paint as a "need" when, truly, it isn't.  I'm just trying to catch it and correct myself.  Instead I try to say to Hubby, "hole in the head!" (as in, I need it like a) when I spot something I love, but don't need.  I'm also spacing these not-a-need purchases out, and planning projects - capitalizing on coupons, sales and using up all of my supplies instead of buying something new each time.

    House stuff.
    Truth be told, there are few things we need (aha - there's that word!) to buy for the townhouse.  There are some important projects left that will help resale, but we're really at the icing part.  Although I try to create affordable projects (like my recent framed agates), I need most of these things like a hole in the head (see?  I'm learning). 

    This is a toughie, especially because I work from home and log a lot of hours in the townhouse.  I like the space to look good, plus I constantly have ideas.  Creativity is my chill time, what keeps me sane.  So I'm trying to sell things to make extra money for superfluous projects.  Even though it took weeks (and so many "are they still available?" kijiji replies that went nowhere), I actually sold the two old white ceiling fans for $30 (sweet), so that $30 offset the cost of the new agate art!  Also, although it seems contradictory, I'm trying not to get lured into super cheap projects that end up disappointing me and just wasting supplies.  I'm trying to find a balance between affordability and looking-awesome-ness.  Plus I'm looking to supplies I have on hand, to see what I can make with them!

    Wasting Groceries.
    I don't think we're terrible about this but about once a week I toss the remnants of an expired yoghurt or a too-bad-for-banana-bread banana.  Something goes uneaten.  Every time I toss it, I see that food item as money and feel guilty.  But then I also feel terribly guilty because I know there are people in this world hungry enough to eat a black banana.

    My solution:
    I have a new trick I'm testing out: staying away from the grocery store until I'm out of a category entirely.  I used to buy grapes when I had perfectly good apples at home.  Before I'd find a recipe that required spinach when I had lovely carrots withering in the crisper.  Now I look in the fridge first and make something from what's in there.  Or I find a series of recipes using similar ingredients to make sure those loose ends get eaten!  Until the last, sad peach is eaten - no grocery store fruit runs!  When we're out, we go buy a variety produce and eat it until it's gone, so I'm not devoid of nutrients, no worries.  I've also turned to frozen veggies and fruits, so in a pinch I can add some peas to a dish or make a fruit smoothie (don't want scurvy just to save a buck or two), seeing as I'm employing a just-in-time grocery shopping method for perishables.  In other words, I'm meal planning more effectively and learning to go without, eating what we have (a crapload of apples) instead of what I want (blueberries on my cereal!).  Now I really want some blueberries.

    We have more money failings than these, but these are at the forefront of my thoughts right now.  How about you?  What do your struggle with?  Do you have any fabulous tips for our problems? 

    P.S. Speaking of money, how's about a little treat, for free?  Only a couple of days left in my ILIOS jewellery giveaway.  You could win something pretty for yourself, no laborious entry process required: just tell us your favorite piece of jewellery from the shop!
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    April 22, 2013

    DIY Agate Art - Framed Blue Agate Slices

    I am so excited about the DIY agate project I'm sharing today: easy DIY agate art.  This framed agate is so easy to make - it's almost as easy as my last agate craft project:  the super simple DIY agate slice pendants I made.

    You already know I loooove rocks:  I have one of many childhood rock collections on display (okay, technically two) and I'm always looking for ways to add rocks, gems, minerals - anything glittering, really - to my home decor.  I recently mooned over some ridiculously expensive framed agate art but it was far beyond the reach of my home decor budget, so I patiently waited for the right agate slices to cross my path so I could make my own budget-friendly DIY agate art - for a fraction of the price!  Recently I was shopping for a friend's bedroom makeover and I spotted a gorgeous set of large agate coasters, dyed teal and trimmed in gold, at HomeSense.  The price?  Only $19.99 for the four!  I really regret not buying the second set of agate slice coasters HomeSense had (a moody grey with gold trim), but I was trying to be budget-conscious and thrifty... 

    At least I scooped up the teal agate slice coasters, because $20 is such a bargain!

    With my supplies in had, it only took a few simple steps to whip up this easy DIY agate art - bumping the agate slice pendants out of top spot for my favorite DIY agate slice craft project!

    DIY Agate Art

    This DIY agate is really a super simple art project, but the secret is in the supplies.

    DIY Agate Art Supply List:

    Nice quality square white frames
    Pottery Barn Wood Gallery Single Opening Frames, 5 x 5”, Modern White - $25 each

    I'm a huge fan of LePage Gel Epoxy and have used it for a whole host of projects, including my DIY agate pendant necklaces and my DIY tile trivets.  This time we bought the epoxy formula specifically designed for glass, ceramic and stone.  Ask the folks at your local hardware store for their recommendation for the best epoxy or glue to affix agate slices, if you can't find this:

    LePage 2 Part Epoxy

    The How to Make DIY Agate Art:

    First I created a backing for the agate by gluing two sheets of white cardstock paper together and then to the cardboard backing that came with the frames.  I liked how sturdy the cardboard was, but I wanted the backing to be white.  I kept the glue to the area behind the matting, in case it crinkled or stained the paper.  I added some packing tape to be doubly sure, but I think this was a touch neurotic.  It's tricky to photograph, but you can see the backing here:

    Agate slice project

    You could also just use something like foam core, and skip this step!

    Next I held up the agate slices to a light source to figure out where to apply the epoxy.  Although it dries clear, I wanted to be sure no gobs of glue would be seen through the less opaque sections of the agate.

    Teal agate slice

    I mixed together the two-part epoxy and applied it with a wooden skewer (a toothpick works too) to the most opaque sections of the agate slice, keeping away from the edge to avoid squishing epoxy out the sides.

    How to glue an agate slice to anything

    I eyeballed the center of each matting and gently pressed the agate in place, wiggling it a little.

    Frame agate slices

    I very patiently waited a whole 48 hours before hanging my new DIY agate art over the new dining room cabinet

    Framed agate slice

    I want to keep the surface of the cabinet clear, for use during dinner, but it needed...something.  The quirky placement of the agate art below the pass through, and at eye level when folks are sitting, means they can be admired during dinner and they also add some character (and purpose) to the new furniture, creating a sweet little vignette and making the dining room decor seem more thoughtful and intentional. 

    Easy agate art
    DIY simple agate slice art

    Doesn't my new DIY agate art look perfect in this quirky spot?  

    Four framed agates // How to decorate around pass through
    DIY framed agate slice art
    DIY framed agate
    DIY agate art
    How to make agate art
    How to frame agate slice
    Framed agate slice

    The frames from Pottery Barn are really good quality - the corners are perfect, unlike some inexpensive white frames I've picked up from a certain Swedish big box.  These frames really fool people into believing I bought these agates framed - and didn't make this myself!

    I absolutely low how the framed agate art turned out - and the deep teal and swirling design reminds me of Lake Superior.  Over the years, with the addition of the new dining room painting, framed enamel art, mid-century cabinet, Shane Norrie pottery and now the framed agate slices, the dining room has become such a fun and lively space, with lots of character and personal touches.

    Love the look?  These agate slices from Amazon look very similar to the ones I used, but I also rounded up some other sources below.  I personally purchased from the Hollow Geode, linked below, for another DIY agate craft (my DIY agate wreath) and I highly recommend the shop!

    DIY Agate Wreath:

    DIY Agate Pendant Necklace:

    Agate Coasters from Uncommon Goods

    Disclosure. The four frames for this DIY agate project are courtesy of Pottery Barn, but I wasn't asked or encouraged to write a favorable review.  I'm actually thinking of ordering another set of four white gallery frames to replace my framed enamel artwork and elevate that sentimental art with better quality frames. 
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