Ch-ch-changes (big and small)

The first few weeks we had the house were spent frantically getting it ready to move in: painting every surface (ceilings, trim, walls, and all the required mudding and caulking) and ripping up the carpet.  Having a hard deadline for when we needed to be out of the apartment really helped us be productive and work towards meeting our goal, and then we were really busy moving and unpacking all the essentials at the house.

I can’t say we have been as efficient since moving in, and I’m trying to be ok with it. I find it really annoying having mess/tools/half finished jobs everywhere I look, and I have a hard time sitting and relaxing when I know there is so much to do, so I tend to burn myself out until I physically can’t do anymore. I’m trying to force myself to just accept that it takes time, and everything I want to accomplish can’t get done right away. We both have full time jobs and not much vacation time, as well as the usual obligations to friends and family that everyone has- and I don’t want to feel like our home is one giant chore, I want to enjoy it! So I’m giving myself permission to relax and take things one step at a time, and if we have friends over and we need to move the sander off the coffee table and drop cloths off the couch before they can sit down, who cares?


I don’t have any of the high-impact big reveals to share, but these are some small things we’ve done that have made a big difference:

  1. Changed out most of the outlets and light switches for new ones; DSC_1651_
  2. Finished painting the bodies of the kitchen cabinets, removed the old scalloped border above the sink (which necessitated a very time consuming patch job), and installed a new light above the sink;kitchen progress(Side note- the cabinet doors don’t close perfectly since painting/re-installing them, and we are still trying to decide on a paint colour as indicated by the paint swatches everywhere, but still, progress!!)
  3. Put up a mostly decorative mailbox (all our mail goes to the local Canada Post, but maybe a kind neighbor will slip a note in there asking us to mow our lawn more often?); DSC_1642_
  4. Bought some new light fixtures for the hall, dining room, and foyer, as well as a floor lamp from HomeSense for our living room;DSC_1588_
  5. Installed most of the doors that we painted white, and upgraded the hinges and hardware;IMG_2625This picture also shows off one of our new light fixtures! What’s that? You want to see what it looked like before we painted, removed the carpet, and replaced the light fixture? OK!
  6. AND perhaps most exciting of all, we have finally upgraded to a queen sized bed, and moved our old double into the guest room! We also bought these cool reading lights that we mounted to the guest bed headboard, and hung green curtains that look great with the quilt. So far the cat has pretty much claimed this space, which is great news for our friends with allergies. Guess we’ll just keep some Aerius on the nightstand.


DSC_1599_Up next: more painting, more light fixture replacement and installing curtains in our bedroom so no one charges my husband with public indecency. Hooray!

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Lighting Woes

There are some really great things about living in Canada, like hockey, super nice people, poutine, freedom of speech/belief/wearing plaid whenever you want without fearing persecution, but one of those things is not good prices on home décor goods from American stores online.

I am majorly envious of all the DIY bloggers I follow who post stuff about the deals they get on really cool stuff places like and West Elm. It just doesn’t happen for us north of the border and it makes me sad. Factoring in the cost of shipping -when most places offer free shipping within the continental U.S.- not to mention the cost of duty, which can vary wildly, erases whatever good bargain you think you’ve found.

Case in point: lighting.

As you know, our house was originally built in the 1960s and the former owners took the charming stance that if it functioned properly, they were not changing it. The few ceiling lights we have (most rooms don’t have a ceiling light wired in) are an ugly trifecta of whorled brass, gold, and fake crystal. Near the top of our to-do list has been finding new light fixtures, but all the ones I liked were so damn expensive (#firstworldproblems). The main fixtures we wanted to replace were the hall light, the back foyer light, and the dining room light.

For the hall I wanted something square, with frosted glass and black or oil rubbed bronze trim, and my first pick was this one from Shades of Light.

shades of light square flush mount bronze and frosted glass

But when I went to check out, United States was the only option for delivery and on their Shipping Information page, they say to “call for a quote” for shipping costs to Canada or Mexico. I interpreted this as meaning I wouldn’t want to pay what they charged. Sad face.

I was also eyeing this fixture from Ballard Designs for the dining room- I love the look of a lantern pendant above a table!

Ballard Designs Delaney pendant lantern oil rubbed bronze

Although they ship to Canada, the light was already more than I wanted to pay and I hadn’t even factored in the shipping costs, so I decided to forget about it and try to find some cheaper options elsewhere.

On a trip to Home Depot, I found a square flush mount that I liked for the hall, but it had a faux cherry wood finish that was too red when I got it home. A can of spray paint fixed that for $6, and I was very chuffed with myself. I had the look I wanted for $56, fist pump! But when Al went to hardwire and install it, it had non-standard parts and was was really flimsy. Then I was underneath it putting some sheets away in our linen cupboard and it came crashing down almost on my head! Naturally we couldn’t return it after the spray paint, so we chalked it up to a lesson learnt that you get what you pay for.

I put the hall light on hold and focused on finding a lantern-style pendant light for the dining room, and found this one from for a better price than the Shades of Light one. I was even more excited about it when I got a 10% coupon emailed! Ashley 4 light bronze pendant lantern

But when I got to the checkout I didn’t notice anywhere I could order my coupon code, and when I dug deeper on their shipping policies I discovered they don’t allow coupons on “International” orders. Come on! International? I could practically spit and land on U.S. soil. Aren’t we each other’s biggest trade partners or something? You know, we give them maple syrup and back bacon, they give us pork rinds and spray cheese in a can? Why can’t we extend this friendly mercantile relationship to include stuff I actually want to buy?


When I was complaining about this to friends of ours, they told us about, a site that has pretty reasonable prices without any duty, taxes, or shipping costs to Canada. Their selection is not as great as some of the other sites I’ve found, but I found a few similar lights to what I was looking for at a much better price, like these ones.


Tech Lighting TL 90 - Two Light Square Large Flush Mount - Frost Glass

Progress Piedmont - Four Light Foyer - Antique Bronze Finish with Antique Stone-Etched Glass

Satisfied that I had found lights I liked at a price I could stomach, I placed the order. But I still couldn’t get the lantern from out of my head. I was worried that every time I looked up at the ceiling, I’d be wishing I’d spent a little more and bought the other one, y’know? The dining room and living room are basically one big L shaped room where we spend a lot of time, and the more I thought about it the more I wanted the one, despite the larger price tag. So in a moment of weakness I decided to buy it too. The light I bought from will work in the back foyer luckily, so it wasn’t a waste.

I’m trying not to think about how the price increased by $90 when I put in my postal code (duty+shipping) and focus instead on how good it’s going to look, because even with the final inflated price it’s still the one I liked best for the lowest price (compared to the Shades of Light one, which was the same price before shipping).

overstock checkout2 overstock coupon2

Ok, I’m still mad.

Am I missing something? Have you found any great bargains despite shipping to Canada? I know I could just drive over the border to Ogdensburg and get a deal for the price of a tank of gas, but that is assuming that they have what I want in stores. One day we will probably do that for flooring/tiles, and I will feel a little guilty for taking my CAD dollars south instead of boosting our own economy, but I’ll just pick up a can of spray cheese to remind myself what’s so great about shopping in the U.S.!

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No more avocado toilet!

Since moving in we’ve made a few changes in the bathroom, and one thing in particular was pretty crappy: putting in a new toilet! See what I did there? If you follow me on Instagram @cathyatdeardiy, this will be old news to you, but I still wanted to share how we did it for those who might be intimidated by replacing a toilet.

Getting this done wasn’t really at the top of our priority list but I am coming to realize that our priorities need to be flexible. These days I find myself repeating “Well, we weren’t planning on doing that yet, but…” since there have been some unexpected things that crop up that we need to deal with before we were intending to. Like replacing the toilet.

avocado toilet with wood seat

Isn’t it lovely, in all its Avocado and wooden seat glory? The look wasn’t bothering us too much, because there is so much ugly in the bathroom it all just kind of blends together: white and gold glazed tile, green fixtures, floral wallpaper, starburst chrome towel holders, and pendant globe light fixtures on thick brass chains that were collectively the height of home decor fashion in 1960. But the constant running of the water in the toilet tank and its tendency to spontaneously clog was definitely a pain, seeing as it is our only toilet!

So we picked up a Flushometer 4000 (actually an American Standard dual flush something or other) and set to work. My husband was the one doing the real dirty work but I had the important jobs of wrapping and taping garbage bags around the old toilet so we didn’t leak poo water all over the house, and scrubbing the grime off the floor once the toilet was removed. I’m telling myself that it was grime at least, it was very cringeworthy. And now we have this to look at instead:

new American Standard toilet after replacement

I won’t go into detail on how to replace a toilet, there are excellent videos on YouTube that my husband watched to prepare (sorry, plumbers of the world). It looked pretty straightforward to me. I will tell you about some of the snags we hit along the way that may save you some trouble:

  • The original toilet rough-in was not the standard 12″ from the wall but it was close enough to make it work. If yours is off by too much, you may need to install an offset flange or, worst-case scenario, an entirely new rough-in.
  • We didn’t realize that we needed to exchange the original bolts for the bolts included with the toilet. The old ones were not high enough to secure the toilet, so we ended up ruining the first wax gasket and having to run to Home Hardware for another one. This meant we had to scrape all the wax from the first gasket off so we could start over and put the new bolts in. Not the end of the world, just annoying… but it might be a good idea to tackle this kind of project during normal working hours of your local home improvement store, just in case you need to pick up something that you weren’t expecting and don’t have a second bathroom!
  • The length of the piping that runs water up into the toilet’s tank did not fit on the new toilet, so that was another trip to Home Hardware. The original one was 8″ but the tank of the new toilet was higher and needed a 12″ one, so it’s a good idea to measure the old and the new toilet for this!

If you plan on replacing a toilet, just make sure you have a couple of buckets handy that you don’t mind disposing of afterwards or can bleach the hell out of. Rubber gloves and a few sponges are also necessary, as well as a putty knife or something to scrape off wax/brown-stuff-you-hope-is-wax off the floor.

Happy Flushing!

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Ripping up carpet and next steps

Well, we are officially out of our apartment and in the house permanently! The big jobs that we wanted to get done before moving in (ie. painting the walls and ripping up the carpet) got done just in the nick of time. I was hoping to do a lot of purging before we moved but there just wasn’t time with all the stuff we were trying to finish at the house, so a lot of boxes went into the basement for Future Cathy and Future Allan to deal with (suckers!).

It’s funny because I have discovered that there are jobs that are time consuming and don’t have much payoff, like painting trim, and then there are jobs that take no time at all and make a huge difference, like ripping up carpet. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent prepping and painting trim- and sure, it freshens things up and makes a difference to the final look once the walls are painted- but until you get to that point you don’t feel like you’re making any progress. But the satisfaction of spending a few hours cutting and rolling carpet to reveal the hardwood underneath made up for it.

If you follow me on Instagram @cathyatdeardiy, you will know how disappointed we were when we discovered that the hardwood ended before the hallway. We were hoping that it extended at least to the threshold of the bedrooms, which we discovered after the home inspection had vinyl tile under the carpet.

2014-08-05 21.35.44

Ah well. After we got over it, we set to work. We had to be careful when removing the carpet in the living room and dining room, so we folded it over a 2-3 foot section and then cut along the folded edge to protect the wood.

2014-08-17 22.27.52

2014-08-18 19.14.54

Then we rolled up each strip and bundled it with twine so that the lovely waste management workers of Ottawa would take them along with the trash.

2014-08-18 19.12.51

You can see that carpet removal is fueled by beer and cider.

2014-08-18 19.00.35

This is what it looked like before we patched and primed the hell out of the space above the fireplace, because the previous owners had never painted the drywall where the large mirror had hung. No stud finders needed here!

2014-08-07 14.06.59

The new colour (Dove by Behr) is not that different from the original paint, which was a blessing because it went on in 1 coat! But it freshens it up and having a grey beige as opposed to a yellowy beige really modernizes it.

We lucked out in that the carpet underlay was in really good condition, I’ve heard horror stories about it disintegrating into dust but ours came up in one piece. There was also hardly any dirt underneath, which speaks to how clean the previous owners must have kept it. Now we will be spending a lot of quality time with our friends Messrs. Hammer, Pliers, and Cat’s Paw to rip up all the nails, staples, and carpet tack.

2014-08-19 22.38.15

Seeing the mountain of rolled up carpet was also very satisfying, and it will probably only take a few months of our biweekly garbage collection for them to take it all…

2014-08-30 08.59.45

Seriously though, how gorgeous is that hardwood? It’s a bit on the orangey side but it’s in really great shape. We think it’s red oak but I’d love to hear if someone knows for sure. Now we just need to figure out what to do next… start the bathroom reno? Paint the kitchen? Refinish the original hardwood or install new hardwood first? Stay tuned to find out!

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Progress, slowly but surely

We have had our house now for a week and a half and I am exhausted but happy. I ended up taking last week off work to try to get as much as I could done, and my mom came and stayed in Ottawa to help us out. This whole experience has definitely made me feel very blessed- we’ve had so much help from our families and friends. When you have a few people who will donate an hour or two of their time, it makes such a difference to the amount of work you can accomplish! It’s also so much more motivating working with someone else, when I was by myself I definitely wasted time just staring at everything and wondering what to do next, because everywhere you look there is something to do. Our biggest accomplishments so far have been finishing the master bedroom

Master before and after2
and painting the kitchen cabinets.

kitchen cabinets before and after

Here’s what else we have ticked off the list:

  • Painting ceilings in all the rooms, except for the kitchen
  • Painting trim in the guest room
  • Removing quarter round from all the baseboards to prep for ripping up the carpet
  • Scraping and sanding the baseboards to get rid of the ridge left from the quarter round
  • Prepping walls by filling holes and sanding
  • Filling cracks in the trim with paintable caulking and wood filler
  • Cleaning up the various messes as we make them

So that’s why I’m exhausted. We thought we would be further along by now but we weren’t factoring in how time consuming all the prep work before you can even paint is. Also, painting the kitchen cabinets was not at the top of our priority list, but my parents had experience refinishing their kitchen cabinets and offered to help us with that. I must say they look fantastic, it really makes a huge difference to brightening the place up and taking it out of the 1960s.

People tried to warn me about how much work there is to do when you buy a house, and they were not exaggerating. I have made so many trips to Home Depot, only to get home and find out I’m missing one thing so I have to turn around and go back.

I will try to post updates when I can but the next few weeks will be crazy while we try to get as much done as we can before we move in. If you want updates in real time (ish), you can follow me on Facebook (Dear DIY) and Instagram (@cathyatdeardiy)!

Thanks for following along!
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The Take-Out Avoidance Challenge

Friends of the Internet! I need your help. As you probably know, we get the keys to our house in 2 days. While we are STOKED, I am also getting nervous about how we are going to manage to go to work during the day and spend our evenings and weekends fixing up the house without getting scurvy. Anyone who knows me well can tell you that while I love to bake, sew, and clean, my one domestic skill that is lacking is cooking. The entire process has always felt like such a chore to me- deciding what to make for dinner, grocery shopping while hungry, and spending the time to actually prepare it, only to have it not turn out the way I was expecting or taste half as good as some online reviewer made it sound. Our worst-ever home cooked recipe was something called a Tex Mex Skillet that my husband found online, and every time we make something that isn’t super tasty we’re always like “at least it tastes better than the Tex Mex Skillet.”

We have tried to get into the habit of meal planning so that we know in advance what is for supper on most nights of the week, but that assumes that we have the time/energy on the weekends to spend a few hours planning and then grocery shopping, which we often don’t. The summer has been a pretty busy one so far, and too often we take the easy route of fast food or take out. With the coming challenges of the next 2 months, where we will be trying to get the house ready before we have to move out of our apartment, I am worried that we will be visiting Chez MacDonalds, Harvey’s and Wendy’s more than I would like to admit out loud.

So I am hoping that some of you have ideas or suggestions for quick, easy and tasty summertime meals that don’t take a lot of advance planning or strange ingredients that you only buy once and then never use again. I know we have our favourite recipes that we bring out time and time again because they are delicious and easy, but a little variety would be great. I’ll share first!

Here are my go-to quick and easy weeknight meals for the summer:

1)  Grocery store rotisserie chicken: Ok, this is an obvious one, but there are literally tons of things you can do with these, and our local grocery store has them on special on Monday nights- so I know what we’re eating one night of the week, at least! All you need is fresh bread and a side salad, or you can cut it up to use with any recipe that needs cooked chicken.

2) Southwest salad: I discovered this by accident once when I was really craving a buffalo chicken wrap, and noticed that we usually have most of the ingredients (sans wraps) on hand. All you do is cook frozen breaded chicken breast strips, chop them into bite sized pieces, toss with Frank’s Red Hot Sauce, and combine with lettuce, tomatoes, whatever other veggies you want, sour cream, grated cheddar cheese and salsa. Ta da! Southwest Salad. Bonus points if you have fresh corn on the cob on hand- slice the kernels off the cob for some added sweetness.

3) Cobb salad: This one does require some advance prep/chopping but the end result is so tasty and worth it, and because it’s chock-full of veggies I tell myself that it’s healthy. Different people have different interpretations of what makes a great Cobb salad, but what we put in ours is: grilled chicken breast, hard-boiled eggs, bacon, avocado, tomatoes, green peppers, cucumbers, grated cheddar cheese, romaine lettuce, and croutons, topped with Ranch dressing (sorry to the purists out there, neither of us like the blue cheese dressing that is traditionally used).

4) Philly Cheese Steak: totally cheating because I have yet to make this, but friends of ours made it for us for dinner one night and it was so tasty. Grilled steak, grilled onions and peppers, fresh rolls, and au jus sauce for dipping. Yum.

Ok, now I’m hungry. More importantly, I feel motivated to get shopping and cooking and do my best to avoid take out! Do you have a favourite 15 min meal or slow cooker recipe to share? Alternatively, if you want to share what your Tex Mex Skillet equivalent is, then I’ll know what to avoid!

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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

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


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


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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