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

December 15, 2017

An EPIC Gift for My Mummu | Nora Mattress Review

I am really, really excited to share today's post!  I know that this time of year you're inundated with gift guides and sponsored posts so you probably tune out a ton of them - but this one makes me SO happy!!!

I've nudged readers toward some practical gifts and that's from the heart because I had been saving up to purchase something big - and practical - for my Mummu.  My Mom, Mummu, and I had been playing Scrabble one night in the fall and our games always take so long because we talk and talk and talk.  Mummu casually mentioned that her decades old mattress had been really causing her some sleepless nights as well as aches and pains.  I'm not sure exactly how old that mattress is, but it's way older than me and that's old enough, so after that conversation I decided that I would surprise her with a new mattress.  After getting a foam mattress ourselves, I was thinking about getting her a foam mattress too because I thought it would be a crazy good surprise to have it shipped to her door!  The only problem was I wasn't sure if she would find ours soft enough, so I was going to do some comparison shopping online before committing. 

In a funny coincidence, Wayfair, a longtime collaborator, reached out to me about reviewing the Nora mattress!  I promptly ordered a double mattress for Mummu but I couldn't even wait for the package-on-the-doorstep surprise idea (I never could keep a secret) and immediately phoned her to spill the beans.

Her new Nora mattress arrived and my Mummu is SO thrilled!  Granted, her old mattress was terrible to sleep on so it probably isn't a fair comparison, but she is seriously smiling ear to ear.

We both tested it out and it's really cushy.  It's firm and offers great support, but you definitely sink into it a little, which feels amazing. 

The one thing Mummu noticed right away is that it's cool to the touch, thanks to a 3" thermo-regulating layer of gel-infused cooling foam.  There's also a 2" gel-infused memory foam (which gives it that cushy feel), plus two 3.5" layers of high density support foam (which keeps it from getting too cushy).  It really does feel quite different from our mattress, especially the cooling sensation and that memory foam - even the mattress cover is unique, crafted from a material derived from jade (!) which enhances the cooling effect.

I think my Mummu will enjoy the cooling properties because, being Finnish, she never seems cold.  Sure, she'll put on a cardigan but all summer long she keeps her house cool as an icebox and I have never, ever seen her don a hat in the winter - even if the rest of us are in toques and snow pants.  I wish I had inherited that gene because I am always cold.    

The Nora mattress is a really competitive price too.  Currently it's on sale and this size mattress is only $500 - with free shipping and a 100-day return guarantee.  The king size is on sale right now too and it's half the price of our mattress (ringing in around $750).  There are nearly 500 reviews on Wayfair and the rating is almost 5 stars and because of that amazing return policy, it's a pretty safe bet!

There are a few small drawbacks though, which are worth mentioning.

1. For some reason, even though the mattress was allowed to relax for the 12 hours it requires after unrolling it (and then another 24 hours before I snapped the final photos) the mattress cover seems too large and that creates a sort of wrinkled effect.  But really, it's going to be covered with sheets anyway but I wanted to point it out, because it gives the illusion of the mattress not having expanded enough in the photos.

2. Like our foam mattress, the edges collapse when you sit on the edge of the bed.  The same thing happens with our mattress, but I honestly don't notice it anymore.  Even though this doesn't bother her, I did caution my Mummu to be careful when she sits on the edge of the bed.  If you're buying this for someone who isn't very mobile, or prone to falls, it might not be the right choice.

3. I didn't realize until we were ready to unroll it in a dramatic unveiling that the company doesn't recommend a typical boxspring for underneath, because it can cause the mattress to sag.  Oops!  That was definitely an oversight on my part.  Hubby and I will have to hack her bed to create a base that's suitable but that's okay - and it makes total sense, so that's not even a drawback, just a head's up.

Those are really my only concerns and they're so minor.  Otherwise we loved the convenience of having it shipped to the house - what a fun way to surprise someone, right?! (if you don't already spill the beans) - and it was a snap to unroll.  Once it puffed up, it was ready to sleep on and I didn't notice any off-gassing like with other brands, which was really nice.  I would have felt really terrible if the mattress had smelled bizarre, even if it was only for a few days.  Unlike ours, this mattress feels more plush and you sink into it more, without giving up support, so if you like a softer mattress that hugs you, this one might be a great fit.  And if you are someone who gets sweaty at night - or you sleep beside someone who does - the incredible cooling properties of the memory foam might be perfect for you.

After getting our foam mattress, I really thought all of these roll-up-and-ship mattresses would be the same but this one feels so different.  If you've been considering one, it will definitely help to comb through some reviews and find the one with features that suit your needs.

I was provided this Nora mattress through Wayfair but all words, thoughts, and opinions are my own.  A HUGE thanks to my friends at Wayfair for letting me give my Mummu this amazing gift, especially at this time of year.  She is such an important person in my life and my connection to my Finnish roots, so I cherish the time we spend together.  Once a year , I sleep over and we have a gals weekend but I always sleep on a pullout sofa (that's also older than me), so I think that might be the next thing I'll need to replace...

December 14, 2017

DIY Holiday Tea Towel with Reindeer Embroidery Trim

DIY Holiday Tea Towel with Reindeer Embroidery Trim

My Mummu loves a good yard sale.  She loves going to them, she loves having them - she's even convinced my Mom and I to help schlep boxes of stuff to indoor community sales in the off season.  At our last yard sale, I noticed my Mummu was downsizing some craft supplies and I scooped up a ton of cute stuff: some beautiful lace appliques, a vintage clutch I have a plan for, and this gold embroidered reindeer trim, which I used to embellish a DIY linen tea towel for the holidays.

Reindeer Embroidery Trim


Because our local Fabricland was moving, they had some great deals on fabric and I bought some pale turquoise linen for 50% off.  Using our own tutorial for how to sew a mitered corner, my Mom and I quickly hemmed a simple rectangle tea towel - but you can always buy a plain tea towel to embellish.

I didn't want to fuss with sewing on the embroidered reindeer, so I decided to try Liquid Stitch instead.  

Liquid stitch

I had already washed and dried my linen, prior to sewing, so I was able to quickly get to the fun (and scary) part: gluing on the embroidery!  I hand-stitched the two lengths of embellishment together so they would line up and be easier to manage, then I placed my linen on a flat surface.  I put a plastic cutting board underneath, to protect my kitchen counter from any glue, but this adhesive is water soluble until dry so any drips washed off easily.

Following the directions, I shook the tub of Liquid Stitch well.  I spread the glue on the back of the embellishment, being careful not to bring it too close to the edges because I didn't want it to squish out.  Once I had glued everything, I went over all of the edges and anywhere it didn't seem stuck, I added a smidge more (that's the technical term) glue using a toothpick to carefully apply it.  I quickly pressed the reindeer down with my fingers and let it dry, undisturbed, for 30 minutes.  You can launder this fabric after 24 hours.  I will keep you posted on how well the glue holds over time - I am very curious about this Liquid Stitch.

DIY Holiday Tea Towel

I love how this turned DIY tea towel out! 

DIY Linen Tea Towel

You know I'm not super festive over here, favoring "wintry" to "Christmassy" decor, but I do love the look of this glitzy tea towel in my turquoise kitchen.

How to Sew a Teak Towel

Turquoise Linen Tea Towel

If this seems like a heck of a lot of work (I hear ya), here are some cute BIY (buy-it-yourself) holiday tea towels that caught my eye: Black + White Deer Tea Towel | Gin Christmas Teal Towel | Illustrated Holiday Teal Towel  

I actually bought enough linen to make two tea towels - any ideas for the second one?
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December 12, 2017

DIY Utility Sink Skirt | New Sink + Faucet for the Fish Room!

Modern Utility Sink

The Fish Room is done!  I'm working on the full "before" and "after" post, but it's really difficult to photograph this space, especially now that the skies have turned dreary, snowy, and grey.  While I wait for the perfect sunny day, I wanted to start sharing some of the changes we made in this odd little room.

The last time you saw the Fish Room, it was just a sea of brand new DIY plywood floors (although I did give you a pretty big sneak peek in this post).  Now the room has furniture, shelving, storage - even a new sink and faucet!  The sink and faucet is what I want to talk about today, because I am so smitten with the faucet we found.  It was such a challenge to find the right size faucet to fit the sink we bought, which is really only designed to fit the ubiquitous chrome utility sink faucet.  I had my eye on a few different designs (like this beautiful kitchen faucet), but they wouldn't fit!  Lucky for me, Delta came to the rescue with this classic single handle bar/prep faucet that's sleek and gorgeous - and just happens to be the perfect size for this utility sink!

Delta Bar Prep Faucet

The Fish Room originally had a pretty dreadful sink, in a janky old cabinet, but even once we removed the rest of the cabinetry, I actually contemplated keeping the sink and just painting the cabinet because a new sink (even a cheap new sink) was more than my tiny budget could handle.  But at the last minute I decided to rip it out - and I'm so glad I did!

Seriously, what was I thinking trying to work with that?  Now that same angle looks like this:

Craft Room Makeover

After impulsively ripping out the old sink and cabinet, I contemplated one of those fancy laundry tubs built into a sleek cabinet but those rang in at around $200-300.  I couldn't justify that price tag because when we eventually renovate this space we won't need a laundry tub (we're getting a dog washing station that doubles as a sink), so it seemed wasteful to buy that kind of cabinet now.  Plus, who knows what kind of mess I'll end up making in here - it is a craft room after all.  In the end, we found a really nice utility sink for super cheap in a local big box store, and something about it feels more modern than the typical laundry tub (see the old townhouse laundry room sink for a comparison so you can see what I mean).  The only problem was those ugly legs!  Yikes.  I stash paint under there too, so I wanted to cover it somehow.

We contemplated building some kind of encasement with the leftover watercolor stained plywood pieces but we both agreed that's too much of a good thing.  With the budget in mind, I re-purposed the fabric from my failed shower curtain hack (in the link, it's the ruched monstrosity we tried before my Mom and I sewed the simple tweed-look curtain) and we sewed a simple skirt for the sink.  I had seen some very traditional, fluffy looking utility sink skirts, but I wanted something more sleek and modern.

DIY Laundry Tub Sink Skirt

Making this DIY laundry tub skirt was so easy but it really helps the space feel more polished.

Sewing Velcro on Fabric

Because of the location of the plumbing, the sink is right up against the wall so the sink skirt only needed to cover two sides, but we made it long enough to wrap around a little bit so it looks like it covers all four sides.  It's basically just a rectangle with hemmed edges and to make it look a little fuller, but we also sewed a small pleat into the corners to give it some oomph.

(Don't mind out rough hemming job - no one will see it but blog readers, haha).

Sewing Velcro

Then, using a zipper foot, we sewed on the velcro - the other side was backed with peel and stick tape and easily affixed under the lip of the sink.

DIY Laundry Tub Sink Skirt
DIY Utility Sink Skirt
DIY Utility Sink Skirt

I love the pale blue/grey hue of this linen because it's quiet and simple.  Plus it always feels good to use up something instead of buying new - not that it isn't nice to replace something broken and ugly with something shiny and new once in awhile! 

Along with the gorgeous faucet they sent me, Delta also provided the Compel towel ring (I hadn't even thought of where I'd hang a hand towel) and three of the Trinsic robe hooks (which come in lots of finishes, including this gorgeous champagne bronze).  Because this room isn't accessible from inside the house, I usually don a coat or jacket to run over here, so it's nice to have a place to hang my coat, keys, scarf, dog leashes - whatever.  The Trinsic collection also has really beautiful faucets, like this modern wall mount bathroom faucet and this matte black tub faucet combo kit.

Modern Utility Sink Faucet
DIY Utility Sink Skirt | New Sink + Faucet for the Fish Room!

You know my penchant for simple fixtures in matching brushed nickel.  Even though this room isn't accessible from inside, I still like that the faucet and accessories have the same modern feel and similar shape as the hardware and faucets inside.  It makes the space feel less like an afterthought and more cohesive.  Plus, when we do renovate out here, it will be easy to transition these pieces to somewhere else in the house because although the utility sink likely won't find a new home, the faucet and accessories definitely can!  Knowing this makeover is temporary, I've been trying to make my design decisions strategically, with re-purposing in mind.

I can't wait to show you the rest of the room, along with some more before and afters!

Sources: Bar/Prep Faucet | Trinsic Robe Hooks | Compel Towel Ring | Hand Towel (similar) | Utility Sink (similar) | Grey Linen Fabric (similar) | Velcro Tape | Fabric Storage Bins (similar)

P.S. Be careful online shopping because when a deal seems too good to be true, it might be a miniature that you almost mistakenly order, lol.
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December 5, 2017

DIY Mini Potted Plant Holiday Ornament

DIY Mini Potted Plant Holiday Ornament

Even though I don't put up a Christmas tree, I am smitten with Anthropologie's ornaments this year - like this one that looks like my puppers and this very beachy jellyfish ornament.  One in particular caught my eye and even inspired a knock-off DIY: this little potted plant ornament.

Isn't it the cutest gift for someone with a green thumb?  Years ago I thrifted four mini terracotta planters for an abandoned dollhouse project, so I decided to make a set of little potted plant ornaments of my own!

Potted Plant Holiday Ornament
DIY Mini Potted Plant Holiday Ornament

It took a little bit of trial and error - and in the process I accidentally smashed my fourth potted plant (another leafy one, in an unpainted terracotta planter).  But they turned out so cute, it was definitely worth the effort!

Homemade Ornament Idea - Potted Plant

Here's What I Needed:

How to Make a Faux Mini Potted Plant:

The first step was easy: I decided to paint two of my terracotta pots with some pale blue chalk paint.

The next step was to try and replicate the look of soil.  I made a lot of failed attempts here, but I'll tell you what worked.  I had a massive bag of black glitter from when I painted my vinyl flooring because I ended up skipping the glittery topcoat I had schemed, so I was looking for an excuse to make a dent in my epic glitter stash and glitter really replicated soil so well.

To contain the glitter, I glued a small circle of cardboard inside my planter to block the hole and keep glitter from escaping.  For the painted planters, I added a dab of paint to hide the cardboard, but that's optional because no one will see the bottom.

Next, I filled the pot with black glitter.

I would have liked to have used resin to secure the glitter and "plants," but it is so expensive!  Instead, I found a two-part epoxy at the dollar store.  It works and smells like the brand name epoxy we often use for projects, but a lot less expensive.  With my pots filled with glitter, I poured the epoxy on top and stirred it around using a toothpick.  While the epoxy was setting, I inserted some small stems clipped from some faux plants my Mummu had in her craft supply.  It required some patience to hold the stems upright while the epoxy dried but eventually the epoxy had thickened enough to keep the  plants upright.  With the epoxy still tacky, I sprinkled on another layer of glitter and set it aside to cure overnight.  In the morning, I poured off the excess glitter and was thrilled with the result!

DIY Gifts for Green Thumbs
DIY Potted Plant Ornament
Anthro Holiday Ornament Knock Off

Another idea could be to stuff the planter with a cork, or really anything you can firmly glue in there, and then just brush on some mod podge or exoxy and dust with black or brown glitter - or maybe stuff it with some air dry clay and paint it black.  There are lots of options but I used what I had on hand to save some $$$.  Plus I love the glitter, especially the way it settled just a bit with the epoxy the way soil does after you water a plant the first time after potting it.       

To hang the plants, I used a hot glue gun to secure some thin ribbon and make little slings.  If I was more patient, I might have made mini knotted macrame plant hangers - that would be really, really adorable.

DIY Mini Potted Plant Holiday Ornament

And that's it!  There are lots of ways to personalize this DIY tree ornament, from painting a design on the pots, to making pots out of found objects.  It's the perfect project for using up craft scraps!

P.S. If you're looking for another easy DIY Christmas Tree ornament idea, take a look at my glittery spider ornaments and read the legend to find out why every tree needs a spider...
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December 1, 2017

See What Real Renovations Really Cost - and How to Avoid Contractor Horror Stories

Today I'm collaborating with a Canadian company that offers services which anyone planning to renovate will find incredibly useful!

From creating solid maple counters from scratch to tiling a kitchen backsplash to building our own bed, Hubby and I have tried a lot of projects ourselves, but we definitely turn to the pros for certain jobs.  Sometimes it's for jobs we hate and other times it's because we know our limitations.  Even though we've tiled, we HATE it, so we hired out the tiling in both of the bathroom renovations we've tackled, and then handled other parts of the project ourselves.  As much as we love DIY, sometimes it just saves a lot of time and money to hand over certain tasks to experienced tradespeople, but the problem is that Hubby and I have had both good and bad experiences.  The folks we hired in Ottawa were great but, if you remember, we had some issues with the tiling company we hired in our current city.

Sadly, that one bad experience actually made up scared to hire out jobs again! 

My unfortunate experience is why I was so interested in Reno-Assistance, because they help connect you to contractors who won't waste your time and money - or bungle up the project!  The company's president founded Reno-Assistance because of his own unpleasant experiences (like stolen deposits and terrible work), something his impartial contractor referral service can help his customers avoid.

It's a really unique business model which offers lots of free resources to homeowners - even useful information for anyone not in a city currently served by the company.

The most unique aspect is that Renovation Advisers work with you to discuss your project, review your options, and send up to three verified contractors to provide a quote.  It's such a fabulous service for first time homeowners, for whom the whole experience can be really overwhelming.  With Reno-Assistance, you get a real life person walking you through the process, which can help prevent costly mistakes.  Plus, the service is free - it's the contractors who pay, which means that you're getting quotes from serious contractors who really want your business and want to make sure they keep you happy to ensure that Reno-Assistance keeps sending clients their way.  

Reno-Assistance will set up appointments for you and even send you a report about each contractor, so you know what to expect.  And after you receive your quotes, a representative will help decipher what they mean and help you choose the right contractor.  If, for some reason, you're unhappy with the work or the contractor, there's even a process to help come to a resolution.

There are also checklists and tips for every kind of project, from who you might need to hire to what steps you should take to ensure the project progresses smoothly.  There is a growing library of articles weighing the pros and cons of certain materials and things to think about before starting a renovation.  You'll find lots of great bathroom and kitchen ideas, but there are tons of resources for every kind of renovation.

Perhaps the most interesting part is that you can see real renovations and what they actually cost.  Although I love blogs for design inspiration, with brand collaborations the real cost of a renovation to a blogger is blurred.  With Reno-Assistance, you can see real renovations done in real homes - paid for with real money!  I have been obsessively scrolling through pages and pages of beautiful room makeovers - I just LOVE seeing what people really paid, especially the bathroom renovations because I've got three of those under my belt.  It's strangely refreshing to see a renovation where nothing was perked or comped.  

Frankly, I cannot wait for them to expand because I desperately need something like this in my small city!  We are currently getting quotes for a new roof and it is agony to get anyone to commit to coming out here.  So many roofers have flaked or complained that they're booked solid - plus I have heard horror stories about bad roofing jobs.  I've been Googling "DIY Metal Roofing" because we might have to install our own if no one will even come out for a quote.  I would love a service that books these quotes for me and only sends pros who have been vetted and want my business.

I'd love to hear what you think of this service - and feel free to share your WORST - or best! - experience with a contractor... Anonymous comments are always welcome.

This post was sponsored by Reno-Assistance, but all opinions and words are my own.  I genuinely think this is an exciting service - especially for first time homeowners/renovators.  However, I fully admit that I may be totally biased because they recommended teal as a kitchen trend for 2018...
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