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

collage

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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