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

December 24, 2015

Happy Holidays!

Wishing you all peace and joy, today and always.  Happy Holidays!

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December 21, 2015

How to Re-String (or Make) a Necklace

A few summers ago, I found this coral necklace at a yard sale for a buck!  I loved the length, but hated that the coral was strung on a ratty cord that ended in a knot.

How to Re-String a Necklace
Coral Beads

It didn't look polished and even though I gave it a good wash, I totally grossed myself out thinking about how much neck sweat was trapped in that cord, so I never wore it.  I finally decided to re-string it and add a clasp.

Here's how to re-string a necklace (it's super easy!):

Supplies:
How to Make a Necklace
Beading Supplies
Crimp Pliers

Steps:

String a crimp bead onto the coated wire and then add one end of the clasp.  Thread the wire back through the crimp.  Using the small indentation in the crimp pliers, bend the crimp into a "C" shape.  If you don't have crimp pliers, you can buy a small crimp and just squash it flat with needle nosed pliers, but using the crimp pliers creates a tidier, more secure closure.  Occasionally, a squashed crimp would fail, which is why I finally invested in this tool. 

How to Use Crimp Pliers

Using the larger indentation of the crimp pliers, fold the "C" shaped crimp bead onto itself, clamping it tightly.

How to Use Crimp Beads
How to Attach a Clasp to a Necklace

Then, simply string on your beads, burying the end of the bead wire in the necklace.

Bead Stringing Tutorial

When you get to the end, thread on a crimp bead and the other half of the clasp.  Pull the coated wire through a few beads and pull tightly.  Trim the end of the wire and bury the tail in the necklace.

DIY Beaded Necklace Tutorial

Repeat the process for securing the crimp bead, and you're done!

DIY Beaded Necklace
Vintage Coral Necklace
DIY Necklace Tutorial

With this simple technique, you can make striking necklaces and bracelets from scratch, or re-work pieces you own, in minutes! 


A note about coral: Coral is a marine invertebrate that lives in colonies.  These colonies form a hard skeleton and the skeleton of this sea creature is what is used for coral jewellery.  Coral is important to marine life but is being harvested indiscriminately, which is a serious problem and could lead to depletion.  This is why coral jewellery can be unethical to wear and I was conflicted about purchasing this piece.  Truthfully, I'm not sure if my necklace is real or faux, but it seems a waste not to enjoy it.  I bring this up because the use of coral is problematic, so to ignore this issue would be irresponsible on my part.  If you're interested, you can read more about coral here.   
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December 18, 2015

Our DIY Painted Bowls + A Gift Idea for a Kid Who Has Everything

Aqua and white pottery bowl

My city is currently renovating the marina and, while the reactions to the development are mixed, I really like the Arts Centre building that was built there.  It's housed in a renovated, historic freight shed and overlooks Lake Superior. 

Historic buildings, renovated
Lake Superior Marina

They offer various classes and last month Hubs and I took our niece to a "paint a pot" workshop.  We were provided handmade bowls, glazes, brushes, etc., and given two hours to work our magic.  The centre has amazing light and we spent a blissfully peaceful afternoon painting.

Paint a pot workshop

Want to see the fruits of our labour?

This one is, quite obviously, my bowl.  I set myself up to fail by choosing an aqua glaze that happened to dry super quickly and I overworked it, so that's why it's weirdly patchy.  I haven't done anything pottery related since I was a kid myself!

Gift Ideas for Crafty Kids
Activities for Kids
Aqua Flower Pottery Bowl

You might not be able to tell, but I actually glazed the entire outside of the bowl with white because the natural colour was sort of ecru.

White Pottery Glaze

Handy Hubby made an adorable bowl.  He struggled with the glazes too, because some went on smoothly but some were chunky and uncooperative.  I had joked before the class that if his bowl didn't look good it would be a "work bowl" for him to use at the office.  With each defeated brush stroke, he'd mutter dejectedly, "yeah, this isn't working, this is going to be my work bowl".

Weekend Activities for Kids
Polka Dot Pottery Bowl
Paint Your Own Pottery Bowl

When we were driving to the waterfront to attend the class, I kept teasing our niece about what we were doing because we'd kept it a secret.  Among my tall tales, one really resonated: I told her we were going to shovel grain (our waterfront has a lot of grain elevators) and this bizarrely piqued her interest, so I explained how we'd get paid $5.00 an hour to shovel dusty grain all day, with no breaks to use the bathroom.  I described in great detail what dusty, terrible work it would be and she believed every fib.  When we arrived at the paint a pot class, I said, "Surprise! We're painting pottery bowls!!! (insert jazz hands here).  Well, the tall tales blew up in my face because at first she was totally bummed that we weren't going to be shoveling grain.  After a few minutes she got more interested in the pottery and was eventually totally engrossed - although still deeply disappointed to miss out on $5.00 an hour doing manual labour.  I was so impressed with her focus; I think she could have worked on her bowl all day.

Unique Gift Ideas for Kids
Purple and Pink Pottery Glaze
Holiday Activities with Kids

Our bowls were fired and ready to be picked up about a week or so later.  Although mine turned out a little wonkier than I hoped, Hubby's is cute enough to be a home bowl and our niece was thrilled with hers.  I'd definitely go to another class with a kiddo and I decided to share our experience in case anyone is struggling to find a gift for a kid who has every toy under the sun.  A gift certificate for something like this - a one day, crafty class - would be so much fun for kids.  It cost $75 for the three of us to attend this class, but it was better than buying a toy, I think, because we spent an afternoon together, making memories.

Next time I have a much cheaper outing in mind: shoveling grain it is!
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December 17, 2015

Wintry Tablescape + DIY Dyed Doily

Wintry teal and white tablescape
Table setting with vintage doilies and Iittala

Although I love my framed Hungarian embroidery, I can't say I'm a huge doily fan.  I never thought they'd pique my interest until one day my Mom mused, "I wonder how easily we could dye doilies..."  Excuse me, did someone say teal?  I'd never thought about dyeing doilies!!  Lucky for me, my Mummu had a stash of about 100 - every size and shade you could imagine - so I tried a little doily dyeing experiment.

Projects with vintage doilies

I earmarked five doilies for dyeing and dyed them along with some napkins in my washing machine.  It was so easy!

How to dye doilies

Supplies:

Choosing Doilies to Dye in the Machine:

If you're machine dyeing, as opposed to hand dyeing, there's a risk that the doilies could become a bit stretched or mangled in the machine.  My machine is fairly gentle, but I've used washers that really whip the clothes around - even on a gentle cycle.  Choose doilies with a more dense, less frilly pattern, because they will hold up to washing better.  If you have a sentimental doily, use a hand dyeing method, just in case.  Cotton will take the dye better than synthetic doilies.

How to Machine Wash Doilies:
  
Set the machine to a small load and fill with hot water.  Add the cup of salt and dissolve.  While the machine is filling, soak the doilies in hot water and set aside.  When the washing machine is full, add 1 bottle of Rit Dye, close the lid, and let it agitate for a minute.  Then toss in the wet doilies, making sure they aren't folded or bunched - I also added some napkins.  In total, the weight of my fabric was a pound, so a half bottle of dye would be sufficient, but for bright/dark colours, doubling the dye is recommended.

I let the machine agitate for seven minutes, then removed a doily, rinsed it with cold water until the water ran clear, and then hung it up to dry.  I re-set the machine and again, after seven minutes, removed another doily and repeated the rinsing process.  I wanted subtle colour differences, but you could leave them all in there for the duration of the dye bath.  I kept re-setting the machine so the dye bath was always agitating and in total, it took about  30-45 minutes.  I then let the machine finish the cycle and hung up the doilies and napkins to dry.  Then I ran an empty load through the machine with bleach to clean it out.

Can you dye a vintage doily in the machine? Yes!

After dyeing, the doilies felt a bitter stiffer but I was surprised how well they held up in the machine!  Either the agitation or the very hot water caused some to pucker ever so slightly, but that was easily remedied by misting the doilies with water and then steaming them flat with my iron.  No dye was released during this process and by coaxing them back into shape, they once again returned to their normal, flat selves - and they softened too.  Here's a look at the same doily pictured on the left, above, once it was ironed:

Teal and white modern vintage tablescape
How to decorate with vintage doilies
DIY Teal Doily

I layered the teal doilies on my teak dining table, along with a collection of white ones - I chose patterns that reminded me of snowflakes.  If you're really committed to a doily runner, you could easily stitch them together, or sew them on to a contrasting table cloth.  I just laid them down on top of each other - so simple!

I added some vintage plates, my matching napkins, a part of my Iittala Festivo candle holder collection, Iittala Kastehelmi mulled wine cups, my glittering Christmas balls, and - to warm up this wintry palette - my vintage bronze flatware.  Now I'm totally smitten with doilies and want to try dyeing a batch a brighter aqua or maybe mint or coral...

Iittala festivo collection
Teal and white holiday table
How to style a dining table for Christmas
Decorating the table for the holidays
Teal and white table setting for the holidays
DIY Doily table runner
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December 16, 2015

#HolidayCents Giveaway: Win a $200 Prepaid VISA Card

RetailMeNot.ca recently reached out to me with a challenge (and a chance for you to win $200), and I'm excited to spill the beans because I love talking about money.  RetailMeNot.ca wanted to know how much money I could save on purchases made this time of year: home decor, home goods, entertaining, salon visits, travel, etc., by using the RetailMeNot.ca website.  I perused the website and looked at some of the discounts and coupon codes; it was easy to browse by retailer or category, and soon I stumbled across a fabulous coupon code for Lord & Taylor.


Every winter, I try to treat myself to a cashmere sweater.  It's a weird little tradition of mine.  I don't buy a lot of clothes and by caring for my cashmere at home, I'm able to make these sweaters last a long time so I justify the splurge.  Last year I didn't find one though, so I was really on the hunt this year.  I finally found the perfect Lord & Taylor sweater at The Bay, only to discover they were completely sold out of my size.  After some sleuthing, I found the sweater, on sale, on the Lord & Taylor website, and using a coupon code from RetailMeNot.ca, I saved an additional $66.28.  I guess you can call this my holiday sweater because I'll be wearing it with skinny jeans and glam jewelry for a party in my neck of the woods (it's casual here!), but it's cozy enough that I'll pair this with pj's while I enjoy a little R&R.


Since buying a new camera this year, I haven't had time to find a camera case so I haven't been able to bring it anywhere.  RetailMeNot.ca had a bunch of coupons and sale alerts for Amazon, so I hopped over to take a look and found the perfect camera bag insert (the Timbuk2 Snoop) for a steal!  It slips into any bag or purse and was on sale, saving me almost $14.00.  It seems a shame to have bought a fancy new camera and not take it for a spin to capture some memories this year.
This time of year, we inevitably have more folks coming to our place.  Because we live in the country, there are no street lamps and nighttime can be really dark around here - which is dangerous when it gets icy.  To help our guests find their way to the door, we've installed yard lights, motion lights, and we even have car port lights.  Unfortunately, the crazy winds set them off all night long and many of our light bulbs were burned out.  I used some of my budget to buy new LED light bulbs that will last 45,000 hours (!) and keep our property welcoming and inviting during the long winter nights.  Not the sexiest purchase, to be sure, but it's so important this time of year to stay safe!
Our bathroom is not yet guest-ready because the new cabinet doors that were installed to replace the flawed ones were also damaged!  Plus the counter top folks haven't scheduled an install date, so we wait.  We might be stuck in limbo, but that hasn't stopped me from buying bathroom accessories.  Boxes full of towels, a shower curtain, hampers, soap dishes, etc., arrived at my door, but there was a missing piece.  I had been lusting after the Ashton Sutton Sharp SPC1100 Atomic Wall Clock because it's aqua and shows the weather (!) but I couldn't justify the $125.  I almost bought it so many times but chickened out right before clicking "confirm purchase".  Thanks to RetailMeNot.ca, I caught it on sale and saved a ridiculous $129.92!

So here's a look at what I bought (and saved, thanks to coupon codes and sale alerts):
Cashmere Sweater
Original Price = $368.22 CAD
Price After Sale + Additional Coupon Code = $154.65 CAD ($112.56 USD)
Savings Thanks to RetailMeNot.ca = $66.28 CAD!
Camera Case
Original Price = $53.77 USD
Price on Sale = $39.97 CAD ($28.99 USD) + Free Shipping
Savings Thanks to RetailMeNot.ca =  $13.80 + shipping cost
LED Light Bulbs
Original Price = 89.33 (64.80 USD)
Price on Sale = $75.55 (54.80 USD) + Free Shipping
Savings Thanks to RetailMeNot.ca = $13.78 + shipping cost
Fancy Pants Clock
Original Price = $172.33 ($125 USD)
Price on Sale = $44.41 (32.21 USD) + Free Shipping   
Savings Thanks to RetailMeNot.ca = $129.92+ shipping cost

I went over my $250 budget, but I got a little carried away because I saved a lot on items that were on my "wish I could buy/really need to buy" list.  So for the purposes of this challenge, let's pretend I didn't buy the LED lights, which brings my total to $239.03, with a savings of $210 (plus whatever I saved on shipping)!

Now my bathroom looks a little more guest-ready, the exterior is a lot safer (and more welcoming), I'm ready for parties (and way more huggable) with my lovely new cashmere sweater, and I can safely take my camera to capture some memories. 

I have to admit that I hadn't used Retailmenot.ca before to find coupons, but I did hunt for them online.  I'd usually Google and inevitably end up with expired ones and waste time trying coupon after coupon.  RetailMeNot.ca does the Googling for us and organizes the coupon codes plus in-store and online sale alerts so we can shop by brand or category.  My success rate with Retailmenot was good - plus folks can give a coupon code the thumbs up or down, so I could see at a glance the success rate of the coupons.  It's a free service and a great way to save some cash.


Now that I've bragged about the sweet deals I scored, it would seem cruel to leave you hanging.  Instead, I partnered with RetailMeNot.ca to hook one of you up with a $200 prepair VISA card.  You'll be able to use your card anywhere - for anything - online or in-store.  There are only two simple steps to enter:  sign up for the RetailMeNot.ca newsletter and then enter your name and email address in the form below.  I won't sell your information, nor will it become public.  It's just so I can keep track of entries and reach out to the winner!

Unfortunately, this contest is only open to Canadian readers (excluding Quebec).



RetailMeNot.ca's weekly and holiday emails feature only the best deals.  By entering your email, you consent to receive emails from RetailMeNot, Inc. You Can Opt Out at Any Time.  Your consent is sought by RetailMeNot, Inc., 301 Congress Ave., Ste 700, Austin TX 78701 U.S.A.  http://www.retailmenot.ca/static/privacy/ 
I am participating in the #HolidayCents campaign with RetailMeNot.ca and have received special perks.  Any onions expressed in this post are my own. 
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December 15, 2015

Easy Cranberry + "Snow" Centerpiece

While I was in Ottawa, Ashley plied me with spiked eggnog and mulled wine and that's why I very willingly helped her decorate her whole house for the holidays.  You already saw the the birch slice ornaments we made one night.  She also whipped up some gorgeous outdoor decorations and put together really simple and festive evergreen sprays for her stairwell.  Then we tackled the tree, the mantle, and set up the ornament stands I made with Handy Hubby.  Finally, we put together a simple centerpiece for her dining room table:

Epson salt crafts

When we were done, Ashley's friend Amy admiringly commented that, "it looks like Pinterest in here".  Ashley is a huge fan of Pinterest and that's where she spotted cranberry, cedar and Epson salt centerpieces by Madigan Made (with the mason jar twist by Yellow Bliss Road).  Ashley had a basement full of glass jars and we stumbled across a huge jug of Epson salt - and a giant bag of fresh cranberries - at Costco one night, so this super easy DIY had to happen. 

Mason jar crafts

There was such a nice ambiance when the votives were lit:

Inexpensive holiday center piece

Making these was so simple:  we added some Epson salt to half the jars, inserted some cedar boughs into the center, and then filled up the rest of the jar with fresh cranberries.  We filled the other half of the jars with only Epson salt and added a candle (we substituted a tea light because it's tidier than a votive).  So easy!

Cranberry, Cedar, Epson Salt + Mason Jar Center Piece

Here's a shopping list to make things even easier:

Supplies:
  • Epson salt (we bought a giant jug at Costco)
  • Fresh cranberries (we found a giant bag at Costco)
  • Mason jars (we used two sizes but you can use whatever you have)
  • Tea lights
  • Fresh cedar boughs (we pruned her brother-in-law's cedar hedges - aren't we kind?)
  • Funnel (optional)

There's just one thing to note:  once the tea lights had burned, we noticed that the texture of the salt changed.  It started off like normal salt crystals:

Crafts with cranberries

But in the shorter mason jars, the heat from the candle turned the salt a different texture - kind of like clumpy icing sugar.  The "glitter" was lost, but it still looked like snow.


They still looked gorgeous!

Easy center piece idea

I love this idea for an easy, last minute holiday centerpiece.


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