Let the planning begin!

The countdown is on… T-minus 13 sleeps until we get the keys to our house! If you haven’t heard about our exciting news, you can read all about it here.

We did our final walk-through the other night and it was so exciting to look around and know that it is OURS to do whatever we want with. After years of living in apartments where we are limited by someone else’s choices, we can finally make all the decisions. Because it’s an older home that needs a lot of work, we are basically starting from scratch and we can choose all of the colours and finishes… actually it’s a little overwhelming, but in a good way. It’s funny, because I’ve been whining for years about the white walls in our current apartment and how I can’t wait to have another colour on the walls, but now that I’m actually choosing paint colours, the ones that I’m drawn to are all of the white and off-white collections! If there was one thing I didn’t like about the house, it’s that it doesn’t have the best natural light, and I think choosing a lighter colour will really brighten it up. Of course, taking down the old window treatments and ripping up the dark green carpet will go a long way to bring more light in, too!

So far my favourite paint shades are Statuesque by Behr Marquee and Sandstone Cove by Behr- friends of ours have most of their house painted in the latter, and I find it’s a great neutral that works well with my go-to colours of blue and grey. I’m going to use those two shades as my starting points and get some sample pots up on the walls before I make a decision.

Sandstone Cove by Behr – from Houzz

Our plan of attack when we get the keys is to clean everything, remove all the trim, prime everything, paint everything, paint the trim, rip up the old carpet, refinish the hardwood floors, and re-install the trim. No big deal, right?

Oh, and in addition to a fresh coat of paint on all the walls and trim, we are hoping to get a good chunk of the bathroom renovated. It doesn’t have to be finished or pretty, but we need a functional bathroom when we move in and can do the cosmetic stuff later. If you follow me on Instagram @cathyatdeardiy, you will have seen this basket weave tile that I am crushing on.

basket weave tile

Bianco Polished Basketweave Mosaics from Home Depot

It may be a little retro or trendy but I just love how it looks with the carrera marble subway tile that I am also in love with- and pairing it with a black vanity and mirror makes for a really stunning look.

carrera marble subway tile bathroom

Carrera marble subway tile and basket weave tile – from Houzz

Probably a little too fancy for a bathroom that will eventually (God willing) have a couple of kids using it, and the cost of the basket weave tile is also prohibitive- $14.99/square foot is not in my husband’s budget! I managed to find a similar tile on Amazon for $9.59/square foot so we may go that route, or we could even hop across the border to NY if we can’t find what we want for a reasonable price in Ottawa. To further reduce our costs, we are considering using plain white subway tile for most of the bathroom and then adding the more expensive tile in as more of an accent.

Carrera marble floor tile and white subway tile – from Houzz

We have one month of overlap between getting the keys and moving out of our apartment, so hopefully we have enough time to do all of this! My parents are coming to help us for a few days and we have some friends we can bribe with pizza and beer in exchange for manual labour. Other than a weekend camping trip, all we have planned for the rest of the summer is working on the house and moving. I am preparing myself for a schedule of work, paint, eat, sleep, repeat.

Am I crazy for thinking we can get all of this done in time for Sept 1? Have any recommendations for me, ie. reducing our chore list or painting the trim after re-installing it to hide the nails? I’d love to hear it!

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Organza and Satin Ribbon Bridal Sash

My super crafty and creative friend recently got married and although making a bridal sash is totally something she would nail, her to-do list for the wedding was pretty long… like, clear a patch of land in the woods for the ceremony, cut down trees to make the benches, and break her arm in the process long. So she asked me if I would look after it, and I gladly obliged!

You may remember that I made my own sash(es) for my wedding out of rolled dupioni silk roses and pearl beads. My friend wanted me to “copy” one from the bridal shop where she tried on her dress, which had a large silk flower along with feathers and other pretty bits. While I was doing some research on DIY silk flowers, I stumbled on this great blog post from Reese Dixon that describes how to make flowers out of organza.

Reese Dixon Organza flowers

www.reesedixon.com

Aren’t they gorgeous? After a few quick stops to Fabricland and Michael’s I had everything I needed.

First, I made a large white flower out of some beautiful shimmery organza and 2 small rolled satin ribbon roses using the same tutorial I used for my dupioni silk flower wedding sash, except with 2″ ribbon instead of silk. I am happy to report that although I started off making rolled flowers with hot glue because I was too scared to hand-stitch, after all the practice I got for the whale and fish baby mobiles I made, I can (semi) confidently hand-stitch without (much) tangling/swearing! I made a good chunk of this sash with needle and thread, instead of relying on the all-too-easy-and-sometimes-disastrous hot glue.

organza flower_watermarked satin ribbon roses_watermarked

Once the flowers were done, I figured out how I wanted to have them arranged on the ribbon, and set to work making the backing.

flowers and ribbon layout_watermarked

For the backing, I cut an oval of felt to size and cut circles out of tulle. I pinched the tulle circles in the middle and rolled/tucked until they looked pretty, then tied the ends off.

tulle and felt_watermarked

The next steps I didn’t take photos of because I was too focused on getting it to look right! Once I knew where the flowers were going, I filled in the gaps between them with the folded bits of tulle by hand-stitching them to the felt at the knotted end. Then I added feathers pointing in all directions behind and between where the flowers would go by hand-stitching them 2-3 at a time (they came stuck to a fabric circle that I cut them off of in groupings, then sewed on to the felt). I made sure to attach more feathers than I thought I would want, because it’s hard to get them to lie right- that way, I could cut off any ones that looked odd. Having a bit extra also helped when I accidentally dripped hot glue on part of it and had to cut some of it away…

Once I was happy with the placement of the tulle and the feathers, it was time to attach the flowers. I relied on hot glue for this part since the flowers would have been pretty thick to sew through. The roses were pretty straight forward, I just hot glued them to the felt. But I had to be careful with the organza flower; hot glue pretty much melts anything it comes in contact with, and I was pretty sure the organza was not heat resistant. To make sure the hot glue wouldn’t melt right through it,  I sewed a circle of felt on to the back of the organza flower by stitching through all except the topmost layers (to hide the stitches),  then glued the circle to the felt backing. I forgot to take a picture of sewing the pearl beads to the organza flower, which I did before attaching the felt circle.

sash finished_watermarked

I left the tails of the ribbon pretty long so my friend could just tie it on to her dress, but the back of her dress had really pretty button detailing that she didn’t want to hide. I needed to find a way to join the two ends so that they would meet in the middle of her back like a belt. I could have used a button or a set of hooks and eyes, but then I had a brain wave: I bought a bra extender clip from Fabricland and hot glued the ends of the ribbon to either side of the clip so it was exactly the width of her waist. I managed to hide the clip with a fold of ribbon so you could only see two edges of ribbon meeting.

Want to see it in action? Sure you do!

bridal sash with lace dress_watermarked derick and danielle_watermarked

Beautiful! Congrats to our lovely friends D&D, it was such a great day and so special to be a part of.

This could have easily been made entirely with hot glue, but I am pretty proud of myself for growing in my craft skill set and improving my hand stitching skills, and I think the end result is a lot nicer than it would have been otherwise! How about you, have you tried your luck at a handmade bridal sash or put on your big girl pants and exchanged the hot glue for a needle and thread?

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The 7 Year Dresser Project

dresser before and after restaining and painting with chalk paint

I’ve been threatening to share this for weeks now, figured it was finally time I got around to posting my restained and painted dresser, complete with sexy new hardware! Ok, it didn’t really take me 7 years to finish it (thank God), but it took about that long for me to get sick enough of the yellowed finish to give it a makeover. The time came a few weeks ago when my husband was working a Saturday shift and I was bored, so I headed on over to see Katrina at Malenka Originals, my local Annie Sloan Chalk Paint stockist and furniture refinishing guru. I changed my mind about how to refinish it- originally I was just going to paint the whole thing, but a few people suggested the white paint/walnut stain combo that I finally settled on. I was also interested to see how the veneer surface of the drawer fronts would take to being restained, and if it didn’t work I could just stick with the original plan of painting it.

Katrina was as helpful as ever and recommended Finico environmentally friendly gel paint stripper for the drawer fronts that I was going to restain. This stuff worked really well, but it was on the pricey side. I needed more than the one jar to do all the drawers so I made my first rookie mistake: I tried to stretch it and applied the stripper too thin. Guys… don’t do that. It dried out, so not only did it not remove the old finish but it made even more crap for me to scrape off the drawers.

For my second paint stripping attempt, I used another eco-friendly brand called Smart Strip from Home Depot, which also worked well. It goes on kind of like frosting and you want a good thick layer so it doesn’t dry out. The guy at Home Depot (and my husband) thought I was nuts for wasting my time on an eco-friendly stripper when I could have saved myself time and money by using normal paint stripper (read: pretty nasty chemicals, lots of protective equipment required, messier and more hazardous waste) but I still stand by my decision. Plus I was working in our yard that is shared by our neighbor, his kids, and their dog, so I think they appreciated that. I will say though that using a water soluble paint stripper might not be the best move for veneer surface (like mine)- the veneer started to lift in places, but I fixed that with a bit of wood glue.

To make extra-sure that the stripper doesn’t dry out on you, cover the surface with plastic to prevent evaporation. Second rookie mistake: if you use grocery bags cut into strips for this, don’t put them on logo side in… or else the dye will bleed into the wood and stain it. Unless you want a nice “Loblaws” stamp on your wood, then go for it!

Here is a blow-by-blow account of all the steps involved. Once again I am rocking the iPhone camera so not the best image quality… another great thing about our new house is I will have a dedicated sewing room/workshop and will be able to take better photos! I might redo this post later with better photos of the finished product, I think my husband would have asked for the D word if I made him help me bring it back outside where the light is better.

restaining and repainting a veneer dresser with chalk paint

Before

restaining and repainting a veneer dresser with chalk paint

Materials required and close-up of the damaged finish

restaining and repainting a veneer dresser with chalk paint

Drawers removed, time to pain the frame.

restaining and repainting a veneer dresser with chalk paint

One coat of ASCP in Pure White. I applied 2 more coats and then applied AS Soft Wax.

restaining and repainting a veneer dresser with chalk paint

Paint stripper time! First coat was Finico Environmentally Friendly Gel Paint Stripper. Worked well but I didn’t buy enough. 2 jars and 2 THICK coats probably would have done it.

restaining and repainting a veneer dresser with chalk paint

After the Finico paint stripper. Look how sad the drawers that didn’t get a thick coat look :(

restaining and repainting a veneer dresser with chalk paint

Applying paint stripper #2- Smart Strip by Dumond. Should have bought the big bucket, I needed 2 coats. If I’d only applied a thicker coat of the Finico stripper!  

restaining and repainting a veneer dresser with chalk paint

Lining the stripper with plastic bags- see warning above, make sure the logo faces out!

restaining and repainting a veneer dresser with chalk paint

Using a putty scraper to scrape off the stripper + old finish. I let it sit for ~4 hours before scraping.

restaining and repainting a veneer dresser with chalk paint

After scraping off the stripper, I wiped down the drawers with a damp cloth to get the residue off. Then I cleaned with mineral spirits.

restaining and repainting a veneer dresser with chalk paint

Next I sanded the drawers with fine grit sandpaper.

restaining and repainting a veneer dresser with chalk paint

Almost ready for stain… cleaning again with mineral spirits.

restaining and repainting a veneer dresser with chalk paint

First coat of stain: Minwax Special Walnut.

restaining and repainting a veneer dresser with chalk paint

After applying the second coat of stain, we let it sit for a few minutes to darken before wiping it off.

restaining and repainting a veneer dresser with chalk paint

Getting excited, it’s going to look so good! Don’t mind my glue stain.

restaining and repainting a veneer dresser with chalk paint

Waxing the drawers with AS Soft Wax. I was going to use polyurethane, but my husband suggested the wax. It has a more “matte” and weathered look than poly and I’m glad I went with it!

restaining and repainting a veneer dresser with chalk paint

Using a slide rule to figure out where the new drill holes needed to go to cover the old ones.

restaining and repainting a veneer dresser with chalk paint

Bam!

Let me know what you think! It definitely took ages and was a lot of work, but I’m really happy with how it turned out. Worth the 7 year wait!

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Why I’ve Been Quiet Lately

You may have been wondering where I’ve been hiding lately. The last few weeks have been bananas busy (say that 5 times fast)- helping friends prep for a wedding, refinishing a dresser, dealing with the most stressful work week of my life, and then buying a house. Wait, what?!

I’ll give you a moment for that to sink in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yeah. We bought a freaking house. If you know me at all you’ll know this is something I’ve wanted for a while. All of my creative urges have been getting pretty stifled in our apartment; my Ikea craft cart is bursting at the seams, and our workshop is actually just a fire escape. I’m sure our neighbors are also getting tired of walking around the various pieces of furniture refinishing projects I’ve been working on in our parking spot.

We’ve been looking for about a year for the right house, but life kept throwing curve balls at us. One failed home inspection (broken septic system, no thank you very much) and one career change later, we finally found it! It is a 1960s era Boyd Block bungalow in a small town about 20 min from Ottawa, and we are super excited to make it ours. Here are some pictures from the real estate listing for your Throwback Thursday perusing pleasure:

exterior front 2 kitchen 2 bedroom 1 bathroom 1 bedroom 2 backyard 1 sun porch 1 dining room 1 exterior back 1

Olive green carpet and gold painted bathroom tiles, anyone? How about a creepy cat statue or old lady chandelier? I hear avocado bathroom fixtures are coming back into style. But seriously, it has so much potential. Even if all we do for the first little bit is paint and rip up the carpet to reveal the hardwood underneath. The whole house actually reminds me a lot of the “before” pictures from the house I grew up in.

Can’t wait for this new chapter in our lives to begin, not to mention all the awesome material for blog posts it will bring! Hope you’ll join in the fun.

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Free Summer/Beach Printable!

The winner of my custom print giveaway chose a quote that is very appropriate for this time of year: “My sense of direction leads me one way: to the beach.” She also asked me to include a little wave clipart with it somehow. I had a fun time designing it! It was a  challenge to make someone else’s idea come to life, but I’m really happy with the result:

my sense of direction leads me one way: to the beach

I thought I’d share it as a downloadable graphic so you can try your hand at using the iron-on or acetone transfer methods that I’ve posted about (the one I made used the acetone method, so you can see it has that faded, vintage look- very beachy!). I’ve made it available in two formats: .pdf and .png. The .pdf ones should print to fit inside a 5×7 photo frame, and the .png files can be resized to whatever size you like! If you want to use one of the transfer methods, you’ll want to use the mirror-image files, but I’ve included the “true” orientation too if you want to just print it out and frame it on paper. Let me know if you have any issues with the download because I’ve never used Dropbox to share a link before. See below for terms of use.

Click here to download!

[Terms: Free for personal use. Not to be used for distribution or business use. Thanks!]

Enjoy! I’m glad I had something to share other than my sad dresser makeover story. I know it’s going to look great in the end but it’s taking a lot more time/work than I was expecting… the weather forecast has not been cooperating, so I keep having to schlep it back inside every time it threatens to rain. Oh and paint stripper? Someone’s idea of a cruel joke.

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Thrift Store Chairs with Milk Paint Reveal

thrift store chairs before and after milk paint

My husband and I often check out our local Value Village for deals, and the last time we went there we found a pair of tired chairs. With a bit of paint and some new fabric and padding, they had the potential to be really cute. Someone had thought they made better foot stools than chairs I guess?

thrift store chair for milk paint makeover

To fix them up, I chose Miss Mustard Seed’s (MMS) Milk Paint in Lucketts Green. Ever since I first tried Chalk Paint and read about the differences between Chalk Paint and Milk Paint, I had been wanting to try it. The main difference between Chalk Paint and Milk Paint is that Milk Paint comes as a powder, and you have to mix it freshly before applying it by diluting it 1:1 with water. One of the things I noticed when I was using it was that some of the pigments separate a bit while painting. This means that if you’re not careful to stir it before dipping your brush in periodically, you may get tiny streaks of the pigments that make up the colour. I kind of dug this look to be honest, because it gave it a really cool multidimensional quality. If you don’t want this to happen, just stir like a madman as you paint.

Since I had two matching chairs, I thought it would be neat to try out the paint with and without MMS bonding agent. The paint will adhere differently to areas of previously stained or painted wood, and the finish can be famously variable. This is part of the charm of MMS Milk Paint, because you end up getting a true vintage/worn look where the paint will flake and chip off. To avoid any chipping or flaking, you can add a bonding agent in equal parts to the powder and the water (1:1:1, or 1:2 of prepared paint). So I opted to add the bonding agent to the first chair and left it out for the second. And here they are!

chairs painted with milk paint luckett's green

Much improved, n’est-ce pas? I like the mentality that MMS has about painting furniture, where you just go with it and don’t stress too much about how the paint will take to a given piece. If it ends up flaking too much and you don’t like the “chippy” look, then you can always apply the second coat with the bonding agent. I had to embrace this mentality on the second chair that I did without bonding agent, when something terrible/wonderful happened: I didn’t add enough water when I prepared the paint for the first coat, and when it dried it had a chunky finish with bits of undissolved powder visible. I freaked out a bit and thought I’d ruined it, but after minimal sanding, the raised bits of powder disappeared into the paint and it gained a really neat texture! That just goes to show how forgiving the paint can be, so don’t be scared to jump in and try it.

The lighting inside our apartment is crappy (obviously) so I took them outside for a photo shoot. Here you can see the two different finishes side by side, with bonding agent on the left and without on the right:

thrifted chairs painted with milk paint

See how there are areas where the paint has flaked off on the chair without bonding agent (right)? This is known as the “chippy” look. If you look closely, the other chair does have a bit of wood showing through in places, but this was from light distressing with sand paper. If I hadn’t touched it, the finish would not have worn off. Here’s a close-up of the chair I did with bonding agent:

thrifted chairs painted with milk paint

Compare that to the chair without bonding agent. In order to get the “chippy” look, I just looked where the paint was starting to resist on the chair and gently rubbed or sanded it. Once I had the amount of chippyness I was going for, I applied the wax to seal it.

thrifted chairs painted with milk paint

thrifted chairs painted with milk paint

I didn’t notice it when I bought them, but one of the chairs also had some pretty gnarly bite marks (?) on the legs. Just adds to the vintage charm, right?

chair without bonding agent 3_watermarked

Love them! Have you tried or are you thinking about trying Milk Paint? Let me know how it goes!

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Big, Bad Slipcover Project

 

Slipcover made out of bleached canvas

The time has come for me to share with you a story of personal growth and accomplishment.

When my husband and I moved into our current apartment, we were escaping kind of a bad situation. We had been so excited to move into our first place together and start to build our life as a couple. However, sometimes life hands you lemons…. and sometimes those lemons are actually blood sucking parasites that live inside your bed. Yup, our lovely new home had a bad case of bedbugs.

To make a long story slightly shorter, we got the H out of there and found a new apartment (our landlord wouldn’t treat the problem and didn’t believe that it was preexisting, so we had to abandon ship). In the process we lost a whole lot of our furniture and pretty much anything we owned that wasn’t a necessity or wasn’t something we loved enough to pay for it to be professionally heat-treated. So when my in-laws offered us their old sectional sofa to replace the futon we threw out, we happily accepted!

Now, I love my in-laws. They are very sweet, warm, lovely people (hi S&L, if you’re reading!). But the sectional had been purchased possibly before my husband was born, and was starting to show its age. But you know what they say about beggars and choosers, so we decided to attempt to recover it. We put A LOT of time, thought, and energy into picking out the right fabric and approach. At first we thought we would reupholster it in a dark grey fabric with a houndstooth print. But when we priced that out, and remembered that a) I am clumsy and b) my husband usually has newsprint/jam/peanut butter/spaghetti sauce somewhere on his hands and c) we have a cat who sheds a lot, we figured it would be easier and more economical to sew a washable slipcover instead.

After much Googling and reading about Miss Mustard Seed‘s and Honey Bear Lane‘s slipcovers, I decided to use white canvas. Stay with me, I will make you see why this was a good idea. The great thing about a white slipcover is that it is super bright and fresh, and if you do happen to mess something on it, you can spot clean and wash with bleach once the stains accumulate! I have had the slipcover for about a year and a half, and it still looks great. In that time I have washed it 2-3 times I think, which is pretty good considering we eat dinner on it every night. And did I mention we’re clumsy? Canvas is really durable too, and it has worn really well under near constant use (and near constant cat-claw sharpening).

But I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that sewing this SOB was easy. I had a few breakdowns and there were definitely some tears shed. Sometimes my husband would have to give me a pep talk after I unpicked my umpteenth stitch, or sewed a zipper on backwards, or broke another needle. I kept going though, and eventually got it done in the end. I think my mom felt bad for me because she ended up coming to visit for a weekend and helped me slam out the last of it when I was running out of steam. Moms are great, eh? Although it was hard work, it was totally worth it in the end. The white cover really freshened it up and helped make it feel like ours, instead of a hand-me-down. Plus it gave me the opportunity to brighten up our living room with a punchy lime/turquoise/grey colour scheme, instead of the blah beige and browns I’d had for years.

Here are some photos of the process- apologies for the quality, they were mostly taken with my iPhone with no natural light to speak of!

This is the best “before” pic I have… the white is the new part and the old cover is the green velour.

slipcover 1_watermarked

It took about 20 m of canvas to cover the entire sofa. 20 Goddamn metres. Half of the battle was bleaching and ironing all of the fabric, which I did in batches to preserve my sanity.

slipcover2_watermarked

In addition to all that canvas, I also used a few metres of zipper, a whole lot of piping, and a couple rolls of upholstery thread. Oh and the needles for my machine… I burned through several heavy duty denim needles.

slipcover3_watermarked

The one saving grace about our sofa was that it was pretty square, so we mostly had to cut out squares or rectangles that were the right size. We measured each cushion and cut the fabric out to size, and for the irregular pieces draped, cut, and pinned the fabric until it was the right shape. Once we had the pieces cut out, we labeled them with masking tape so that we didn’t get mixed up.

slipcover4_watermarked

I was pretty nervous about doing piping for the first time, but once I figured it out it wasn’t so bad. This post from Honeybear Lane really helped me out. Piping made it look a little more finished and a little less like I’d just draped a sheet over it and called it a slipcover. Here is a cushion cover in pieces: front, back, and the middle piece with the zipper.

slipcover5_watermarked

Once I had the cushion cover technique down, I just modified it for the different cushion sizes and shapes. To make the covers for the frame, we draped large pieces of canvas and pinned/cut to size. Did I mention how awesome my mom was? She was a ton of help with this step.

slipcover6_watermarked

Here it is finished, before I redecorated… the pieces on the frames were bleached after they were sewn, which is why they look like a different colour from the cushion covers in this photo.

slipcover7_watermarked

And this is what it looks like these days. I love the pop of blue and green against the crisp white with the grey throw. There is a lot of white in this room because we couldn’t be bothered to paint the walls and have to paint them white again for new tenants once we move out. So any bit of colour helps!

slipcover8_watermarked

Shoutout to my hometown of Sudbury, ON with that water tower photo that my Dad snapped. I had a hard time taking a good photo of it from that angle, so I ended up rearranging our living room- it’s much more open now!

slipcover9_watermarked

Here’s a view of the sofa sans my awesome coffee table (see how I fixed that up in this post!)

slipcover10_watermarked

And just to prove that the whole thing is not, in fact, covered in food stains:

slipcover11_watermarked

When you add up the cost of the canvas (about $5.50/metre with my Fabricland member discount!) as well as all the other supplies, I figured I spent about $180 on this. Much cheaper than a new sectional!

I hope this inspires someone else to try a slipcover project… it seems scary at first but it’s so worth it in the end! I’d love to answer any questions you might have, or hear from anyone else who has tried to make one.

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Custom Print Giveaway

Remember the monogram “Marriage Established” sign I made to cheer myself up about changing my last name? How about the acetone transfer tutorial I wrote? Well, I have lots of leftover supplies to make both iron-on and acetone transfer prints but I’m running short on ideas. I’ve already made a few for myself and my family, and I don’t want to be that weird girl who makes her friends random craft projects that they secretly hate but feel obliged to display when she comes over. “Fusilli Jerry” comes to mind.

I’ve also been trying to figure out ways to engage more with readers. I can tell from my site statistics that people are reading my posts, but are too shy to comment. Can you see how these two thoughts might be connected? I think that a giveaway is the answer!

The prize: a 4×4, 4×6, or 5×7 custom-made design, printed on canvas using either the iron-on or acetone transfer methods that I’ve posted about. The design will be black only, and I will email the winner with the design to make sure it’s what you want. Once you’re happy, I will mail it to you! For the sake of simplicity, a frame will not be included.

Here’s an example of what it could look like:

transfer 6_watermarked

Want in? Just comment on this post with what you would like your print to say! Sneaky, eh? I’m also going to put this on my Facebook page so you can like/comment there too if you are wary of commenting on my blog (but I promise it’s safe and I will not share your email address with third parties).

Your design doesn’t have to be a monogram/marriage sign like the ones above. How about a favourite poem, saying, or quotation?

shel silverstein poem

This would also make a nice “Welcome” sign for your front door. Or even  a “GO AWAY” sign, I won’t judge (true story: my parents have one). The possibilities are endless!

Contest closes on Saturday, May 31st at 12 AM EST. Good luck!

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Value Village Chairs

Hi friends! I’ve been posting less frequently lately, in case you haven’t noticed… I got some advice about blogging that I really like, which basically says “Run your blog, don’t let your blog run you.” I definitely notice on some of the blogs that I follow when a blogger is just trying to come up with stuff to post about, as opposed to blogging only when they are really interested in or passionate about something- so I’m going to try not to do that, and post only when I have some (hopefully) great content to share. Quality over quantity, and all that!

If you follow me on Instagram (and if you don’t, I’m @cathyatdeardiy) you may remember seeing this picture of a recent Value Village find:

2014-04-23 20.29.53

I’ve been hemming and hawing about what to do with them- yes, there’s two!- and I think I finally came to a decision: milk paint! You may have heard of milk paint on Pinterest or from one of the people bringing it back from antiquity, Miss Mustard Seed. Milk paint is actually made from casein, a milk protein, and is one of the oldest kinds of paints there is. There are a variety of great posts that talk about milk paint and it’s various uses and finishes, like this one, so I won’t go into that here. But suffice it to say that since getting on the furniture painting train with Chalk Paint, I have been itching to try it!

Specifically, I’m thinking of going with Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint in Lucketts Green. I’ve never seen this colour in person so maybe I’ll end up hating it, but since I don’t even have a place to put these chairs right now anyway, I’m hoping it will work out! Usually I’m a blue or a grey girl, so green will be a nice change for me, too. Here are a few shots from MMS herself to give you an idea of the colour.

lucketts green lucketts green2

I’m going to reupholster the bases because they are pretty worn and not very comfy at the moment, and choose some fun new fabric for the seat. I had in my head a sort of linen-y or beige-y graphic print, but when I looked on fabric.com I found some other great options. I’m not sure if the green will be more on the yellow or the blue side, so I’ll have to wait until the paint dries! Which do you like? The top of the chair has a semi chevron-ish effect so I don’t want to go too over the top with a chevron pattern, but something with a similar geometric or other bold print might be nice. The middle one on the first row below is actually a text print… it’s too small for you to see it properly but I kind of dig it. I have ordered online from fabric.com before and had a good experience, and I really like the design boards you can create to see how different patterns coordinate!

fabric
So that’s my exciting plan for the long weekend. That and doing some good ol’ Spring cleaning. I was looking back on my “boo-hoo Winter won’t end” posts and I can’t believe how much has changed in just one month! In Ottawa there are leaves on the trees and my tulips are up. It always seems like Spring will never come, but it eventually does!

Oh, and obviously I will be toasting to Queen Victoria with a nice cold bevvie. Cheers!

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Mmm… Macarons

Lately my Pinterest feed has been full of macarons, and they look so pretty I thought it was time I tried these notoriously difficult meringue cookies! My nephew’s 1st birthday party was a great excuse to troubleshoot different recipes and flavour combinations.

If you don’t know what a macaron is, no I am not misspelling macaroon. Macarons are made up of almond meringue cookies (“shells”) with a buttercream or ganache filling, and they come in a myriad of colours and flavours. They are delicate and dainty and very pretty to look at, with a crunchy exterior and a soft, slightly chewy centre.

I wanted the macarons to match the invitations that I made, so I picked flavours that would work with the colour scheme I had: white, brown, yellow, blue, and green. I used washi tape to make the tags with toothpicks and polymer clay, and displayed them on a large square platter. They looked great and tasted great too!

pistachio, coconut, macadamia nut macarons with buttercream and ganache filling

macarons close up_watermarked

Now, I love to bake and I was pretty confident before attempting these, even though I had heard from others that macarons are hard to make. They seem like they should be easy, because there are only 4 ingredients in standard macarons. How hard could they be, right? But I was punished for my hubris when only 1 of my first 4 trays turned out! The tops would pop off, and the bottoms would stick to the pan or wouldn’t cook at all. Through trial and error (and consulting with my sister-in-law, who has worked as a pastry chef and went to Cordon Bleu) I figured out how to consistently get the macaron shells to turn out in my temperamental oven.

Here are my tips:

  1. If you’re using a Kitchen Aid, you might need to occasionally tip the bowl and whip the egg whites by hand. I found mine would only whip the top portion of the egg whites that the whisk was touching.
  2. A sieve is your friend. You will need a sieve, a food processor, and sometimes both. The ground almonds/nuts I found were not as fine as they should be, so I would end up with bits that wouldn’t pass through the sieve. I pulsed these in my food processor until most of them passed through the sieve- I liked a bit of crunch so I forgave some larger pieces (not technically allowed for the purist).
  3. Less is more when you fold in the the dry ingredients with the egg whites. A good estimate was about 20 strokes to fold the batter together. I’ve read in a few places that it is supposed to have a “lava” like consistency once mixed. If you drop some of the batter back into the mixture, it should hold for a few seconds and then smooth out.
  4. If you’re using food colouring, add it to the egg whites after they are mostly whipped, then whip until the colour is uniform. Then add the dry ingredients to the coloured egg whites. I used gel colouring so I’m not sure how standard food colouring would work, you need to be careful not to thin out the egg whites too much.
  5. Don’t use too large of a circle template, or the centres won’t cook. The perfect size for me was about the size of a toonie (if you’re not Canadian, that’s about 1 1/4 inches). To make the template, I just traced toonies on parchment paper with a sharpie and then flipped the parchment paper over so you could see the template but the marker wouldn’t transfer. Also, don’t get cocky and think you don’t need a template- the ones I tried to eyeball were horridly uneven, no matter how careful I thought I was being!
  6. When you’re ready to pipe the batter, hold your piping bag vertically over the centre of each template, almost touching the parchment paper. Pipe a drop of batter until the edge of the dollop fills the circle template (do not use a spiralling motion). Then firmly draw the piping tip to the side to finish. Although I didn’t use this recipe, the video shows the piping technique. Once the tray is full, pick up the tray and tapped it firmly on the counter 2-3 times. This is supposed to get excess air out.
  7. I found I had to bake one tray at a time, because my oven is crap. I also couldn’t open the oven to rotate the pan or else they would collapse, so I just had to accept the fact that a few macarons on each tray would break due to uneven cooking. My coworkers didn’t mind eating the broken shells! For the sake of efficiency, I would pipe out the first tray and then wait about 15 minutes before piping out the next tray, so that once the first tray was done baking the next tray was ready to go in.
  8. Speaking of trays, the batch that I tried to be all fancy with and use my new insulated flat cookie sheet with a silicone baking mat turned out terribly for me. The way to go was good old parchment paper on a large baking (jelly roll) tray. I have heard from a few people that the insulated pans don’t get to the right temperature fast enough for macarons.
  9. I got the best results when I made the shells the day before I made the fillings. Make sure they are cool and dry before throwing them all into a ziplock bag or tupperware, or you will have a mini break down when they all stick together!
  10. You can make them ahead of time and freeze them after assembling. Keep them frozen until you want to serve them, and do not let them come to room temperature in sealed containers or they will sweat.

Alright, if you can keep all of that straight in your head and still want to try making macarons, here are some recipes! If you’re having trouble picking just one, pistachio was the biggest hit at the party.

*Note that meringue is pretty sensitive to humidity and I live somewhere pretty humid… so you may want to play around with the recipe bit if you live somewhere really dry. I have seen recipes with different egg white/almond flour proportions, so if they don’t work out for you then don’t give up!

Macaron Shells (Unflavoured/Almond)

Ingredients
  • 200 g icing sugar
  • 125 g ground almonds
  • 112 g egg whites
  • 50 g white sugar
Instructions
  1. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and trace circles about 1 1/4 inches in diameter (a toonie works great) about 1 inch apart on the parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. Sift ground almonds and icing sugar together into a bowl. Set aside.
  3. Whip egg whites until foamy, then slowly add white sugar. Whip until egg whites hold stiff peaks.
  4. Fold icing sugar/almond mixture into egg whites. Mix until just combined.
  5. Fill a piping bag with the batter and pipe onto the prepared trays.
  6. Allow each tray to sit for 30-60 min before baking, until a “skin” forms (when you poke it with your finger tip, it is dry to the touch).
  7. Bake at 300F for 12-14 minutes, until the tops are slightly puffed and “feet” (bubbles) form below.
  8. Carefully remove the parchment paper and macaron shells from the hot pan and set on the counter until completely cool.
  9. Remove from parchment paper and store in an airtight container until ready to add filling.
  10. Prepare desired filling and spread between 2 macaron shells. Twist shells (like you would an Oreo) so that the filling slightly oozes out the sides. Yum!

Hazelnut variation:

Follow steps above but reduce almonds to 62.5 g and add 62.5 g ground hazelnuts. Add brown food colouring to egg whites before folding in almonds/icing sugar.

Pistachio variation:

Follow steps above but reduce almonds to 95 g and add 30 g ground pistachios (roasted unsalted, shells and skin removed). Add green food colouring to egg whites before folding in almonds/icing sugar.

Macadamia nut variation:

Follow steps above but reduce almonds to 75 g and add 50 g ground macadamia nuts (raw). Add yellow food colouring to egg whites before folding in almonds/icing sugar.

Coconut variation:

Follow steps above but reduce almonds to 100 g and add 25 g ground coconut (unsweetened). Add blue food colouring to egg whites before folding in almonds/icing sugar.

Dulce de Leche Cream Cheese Buttercream

Ingredients
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup dulce de leche
  • 2-3 cups icing sugar
Instructions
  1. Using an electric mixer, mix the cream cheese and the butter together until fluffy.
  2. Add dulce de leche and mix until combined.
  3. Slowly add in the icing sugar, about a half cup at a time.
  4. Spread or pipe onto macarons, sandwiching two together.

Pistachio Buttercream

Ingredients
  • 4 tbsp butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cup icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped pistachios
  • green food colouring
Instructions
  1. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter until soft and fluffy. Add in vanilla and mix.
  2. Slowly add in the icing sugar, about a half cup at a time.
  3. Add in pistachios and food colouring and mix to combine.
  4. Spread or pipe onto macarons, sandwiching two together.

Coconut Buttercream

Same as above, except use 1/2 tsp coconut extract instead of vanilla,  1 tbsp dried unsweetened coconut instead of pistachios, and blue food colouring instead of green.

Chocolate Buttercream

Ingredients
  • 6 tbsp butter, softened
  • 3 1/4 cup icing sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Milk
Instructions
  1. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter until soft and fluffy. Add in vanilla and mix.
  2. Slowly add in the icing sugar and the cocoa, mixing after each addition.
  3. Add milk to thin out if necessary. You can adjust the icing sugar amount if you want a thicker/thinner consistency.
  4. Spread or pipe on to macarons, sandwiching two together.

Passion Fruit & Mango White Chocolate Ganache

Ingredients
  • 1 large mango
  • 1 passion fruit
  • 150 g white chocolate, chopped
Instructions
  1. Cut the flesh from the mango and scoop out the pulp from the passion fruit. Pass the passion fruit pulp through a sieve to get rid of the seeds.
  2. Combine mango and passion fruit in a blender and pulse until smooth.
  3. Slowly melt the white chocolate in a small pan over a pot of boiling water, or use a double boiler.
  4. Remove from heat and add the mango/passion fruit purée, stirring until smooth.
  5. Spread or pipe on to macarons, sandwiching two together.

Some of the filling recipes above will make more than you need, but you can freeze the unused portion for next time! Enjoy and let me know how they turn out.

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