Monthly Archives: January 2012

Swaaag!

(Yesterday, my bathroom was featured on Curbly next to 9 other gorgeous small bathrooms. So honoured! Check the post out here!)

Why, yes, I did mention a swag bag! Amazing sponsors meant an amazing swag bag. This thing was full of so many goodies.

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There were the green goodies from Aya Kitchens and Bath: the swag bag itself, a beautiful green travel mug, and a design book, full of custom-kitchen eye candy.

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The little pile from IKEA included a super deep muffin tin, cupcake liners, and a blanket, which I unrolled and snuggled under all Sunday afternoon.

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From Cottonelle, there was the adorable toilet paper container with a roll of Cottonelle toilet paper. The Jonathan Adler book is also from them, considering their designs for the containers came from him.

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There’s a copy of House and Home magazine. Can you believe that I don’t have a single subscription to any magazine or newspaper? I was kind of excited to get this, and definitely wish I’d won the subscription itself.

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There was an assortment of coupons and postcards from the meetup’s various other sponsors such as Kravat, Gluckstein Home, and CB2.

(Hilarious moment: Andrea from Ikea won the throw pillow from CB2 in the giveaway! And such a cute pillow it was, too!)

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The husband’s favourite item from the swag bag? The paint chips from CIL and Gluckstein Home/Benjamin Moore. I’ve already started planning what colour to paint our living room, now that I can do it all from the comfort of my own home.

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Sometimes, I’m still a little blown away by how seriously brands take bloggers. A huge thank you to all the sponsors and, of course, the organizers of the even, Vie and Daniella!

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Filed under blogging, Canadian Design Blogger Meetup 2012, swag

Canadian Design Bloggers Meetup

Saturday afternoon, I sat on the 510 King street car feeling a little bit like I was going to puke. I was headed here:

For this:

And I was terrified.

I had never been to a blogging event. And, while you might not know it if you met me, I’m not the most naturally outgoing person in the world. I have a history of forcing myself into the middle of a group of strangers (just ask my husband about that one), but while I think meeting new people is important, I don’t find it easy.

The meetup wasn’t easy.

But it was wonderful.

After I collected my name tag and dropped a scrap of paper with my name on it into the draw basket (yup, I was one of those without a business card. Definitely something to remedy for the next one!) I bee-lined it to the bar and grabbed a glass of wine. Just something to keep my hands busy. To calm my nerves. To give me purpose. I stepped away from the bar and made my way through the crowd of women, the crowd that was chattering so happily away, so easily, so naturally. For a moment, I stood by myself on the edge of the crowd and breathed.

This is crazy. I can’t do this. 


But I can’t just stand here either. That’s even worse. 


So, I stepped forward, wiggled my way into the nearest group, introduced myself, asked questions, met a new blogger or two, gathered a business card or two, drank a glass of wine or two (or three), ate a mini burger and an oyster or two, had a fudge stick thing, listened to some speakers or four, waited for my name to be drawn for a prize (it wasn’t), shifted from foot to foot in my brand new super-high heels, forced myself to step into a circle or two, introduced myself to some of my favourite fellow Canadian bloggers, met some superbly talented women (and a few men), grabbed a swag bag and left feeling much more relaxed, much more confident.

With Amanda and Justyna from Aya Kitchens and Kim from Restoration House

Did I enjoy it?

That’s a hard question to answer. It’s like asking me if I enjoy going to the gym that first time after not being to the gym in 6 months. It’s hard. But I know that, while I’m there, I’ll remember or learn why I enjoy it and I know that every time I go to another event, it will get easier as I get to know more and more of my blogging friends. I love that I got to meet each of the bloggers I came across there. I love the new conversations that the face-to-face nature of the meetup allowed us to start.

I’ll certainly be at the next one with a little more confidence and the perfect business card.

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Filed under blogging, Canadian Design Blogger Meetup 2012

Taking Care of Me

This morning, I thought I must be nuts.

The alarm went off at 5:45. I fumbled for my glasses, hit the clock a couple times until it fell silent and flopped back onto the bed. Mocha snuggled up against my legs.

This is the fifth morning of this early wake-up call. Believe it or not, it doesn’t get any easier. But, by the time I leave the gym an hour later, I’ve decided it’s worth it.

Moving my workout time from the evening to the morning was supposed to mean more time to work on projects. It was supposed to mean that maybe I would get another piece of fabric on my reupholstery project. It was supposed to mean actually folding the clean laundry instead of just hiding it in the closet. It was supposed to mean making the bed and taking the dog for proper walks.

None of that has happened.

So, what has happened? Fresh soup every night has happened. Lingering over our bowls at the kitchen table and chattering incessantly about our days has happened. Making cookies has happened. Snuggling into a movie with a crochet hook has happened. Cuddling the puppy and the kitty, occassionally both at the same time has happened. Making more dreams and more plans has happened. Being together has happened.

Thank goodness for the Husband beside me, to nudge me out of bed on the mornings I don’t think I can make it.

Hopefully, Monday will come with renewed energy and enthusiasm. And, perhaps, a little house progress?

Have a grand weekend, friends. I’ll be headed to the Canadian Design Blogger Meetup Saturday evening. I’m so excited to meet some of you and, perhaps, more than a little nervous!

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Filed under gym

Chicken Noodle Soup

True to my word from a couple weeks ago, I’ve been making a lot of soup.

False to my word, I have yet to make another soup from the Joy of Cooking. Part of the problem with following a recipe is that a recipe assumes a specific set of ingredients. When I haven’t been grocery shopping for nearly 3 weeks, assuming that those ingredients will be found in my cupboard is a recipe for take-out. I flipped through the soup section more than once, trying to find one that fit my pantry.

I psyched myself out.

So, on Sunday, I made my go-to soup instead!

Soup is a huge part of my heritage. All four of my grandparents moved here from the Netherlands after World War II. My parents, 1st generation Dutch immigrants, found each other in a profession of faith class when they went off to university. My husband and I, both 2nd generation Dutch immigrants found each other at a still-predominantly-Dutch church in the city in which we went to university.

Guess what the Dutch like?

Soup and sandwiches!

Especially op Sondag – on Sunday.

And this soup? Sure, it’s close to the chicken noodle soup found in the Joy of Cooking. But it’s also close to the soup you’ll find at any church potluck or simmering on the wood stove in the old farmhouse.

Chicken Noodle Soup
From my head.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 or 2 cloves garlic
2 ribs celery, chopped into bite sized pieces
2 or 3 carrots, chopped into bite sized pieces
Whatever chicken you have, cooked and chopped into bite sized pieces. I used 3 thighs. You could use 2 breasts. *
Approximately 4 cups water
1 package Knorr vegetable soup mix, or other instant stock mix/bouillon
Whatever spices you wish. I generally use some combination of basil, oregano, parsley, bay, rosemary, and/or thyme.
A handful of dry spaghetti, spaghettini, vermicelli, or other noodle of your choice, broken in pieces if long.

* When my mom made these soups, she would use whatever meat she had on hand, more often ground beef or stewing meat than chicken. She would cook her meat in the Dutch oven or soup pot with half an inch or so of water in the bottom of the pot, and then build the soup over top. It’s easy, and cuts down on dishes.

In a Dutch oven, combine your olive oil and veggies. Allow to cook until the onion is soft. Add the chicken (though, of course, if you’ve used my method in the parathesis above, you’ve already done this.) and pour the water over the whole thing. Mix in the soup mix or bouillon and all the spices. Allow to simmer for at least 20 minutes to half an hour, or longer for even better flavour. Add more water as necessary – it will steam away – and taste on a regular basis to ensure there’s enough flavour. If not, add a little more stock mix or salt and pepper.

About 10 minutes before serving, add the broken up spaghetti. When it’s cooked, the soup is done!

Eat with plenty of bread or, if you’re trying to be really Dutch, a bun with egg salad or tuna or a bit of butter and roast beef (and call it a sandwich).

Mmm… bread.

I’m sure soup is part of most traditions. What’s your go-to soup? Have you had any foods handed down to you through generations?

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Filed under food, soup

It’s Chair Booty Time!

This post is, in a way, a huge thank you.

A few days ago, I posted about our search for a specific style of stool. So many of you had such good suggestions as to where to look. And, thanks to your suggestions, we are now no longer stool-less!

Oh, happy day.

The day after I wrote the post last week, and as all your suggestions were coming in, the Canadian Tire flyer landed on our front porch. Usually, I leave it there. If you leave one sitting on your front porch, they won’t add to the pile next week. I’ll admit it: I hate flyers. They come in, we might read them, might not, and then they just hang around.

I’d rather they hang around on the front porch.

On Friday, they made it inside. The husband flipped through, pointed out the item of interest and, on Sunday, we stopped by Canadian Tire and picked up three of these ‘shinto’ stools in espresso.

I ate breakfast sitting on one this morning. 
It was divine.
At least, as divine sitting on a stool can possible be.
I may yet paint them, or refinish them in some way, but I’m very pleased with how dark they are. They match the floor nearly perfectly and don’t seem out of place or in any way imperfect. 
The sweetest part of all this? We won the budget game! Remember, we were willing to spend around $50, and that seemed to be the lowest going rate per chair for this style of stool. These stools? $29.99 before tax each! We walked out of Canadian Tire with 3 stools (and a little tupperware bin) for just over $100.
Thank you to everyone for your suggestions on where to find these for cheap! Your helpfulness and feedback is exactly why I love to blog. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
(Yup, I know, I have one more set of booties to make! For now, we don’t sit on that middle chair… in fact, it’s sitting on the rug right now. I don’t trust it’s sharp edges anywhere near our already-scuffed bamboo floor!)

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Filed under bar stools, kitchen

The Psalm Project

Have you ever heard of the Genevan Psalms? They’re an ancient part of my denominational tradition, a part that is slowly being left behind as the church changes and music styles modernize. But, this weekend, I sat in the sanctuary of one of those too-huge-for-comfort churches and found a new appreciation for old music. 

The Psalm Project is a group of musicians from the Netherlands who are rearranging the old Genevan tunes to find a place for them in the 21st century. My church’s worship director met the whole group last year at the Worship Symposium and, over the past six months or so, has been working with them to arrange a Toronto leg of their tour. Saturday, the Husband and I picked up one lone interested kid from the youth group and headed to Mississauga for the show. 
And were promptly blown away. 
I’ve known about the project for a while, and have been listening to their CD for a number of months now, but even so, I don’t think I was prepared for the strength of the music. It was so intricate, so full, so peaceful, so simple and melodic. 
  
If you’re in around the Ancaster, London, Grand Rapids, or Chicago areas, I would definitely recommend checking these guys out when they come ’round to your city. There’s no prerequisite of belief or denomination: we can all enjoy beautiful music, right? The show is free (though they do request a free-will offering – the 9 musicians do have to eat, after all!) and it’s an hour and half of pure, musical bliss.
(No one has paid me to promote this group and my opinion is my own, but I will admit that I am on the committee that organized the Toronto/Mississauga part of their tour. Not that I did much. Or anything for that matter. Or even met them after the shows. Yes, shows! After the Saturday show, they came to our church to help lead worship. I’ve been overloaded with beautiful music this weekend.)
Mmm… good weekend.

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Filed under church, Music

A Sentimental Friday

I grew up on a dairy farm.

I’m sure I’ve idealized it, but the home in which I grew up was the most beautiful home I’ve ever seen.

Of course, this photo was taken at least 30 (50? 70?) years before my parents ever laid eyes on the place. By the time we lived there, the large tree on the left was gone and the pear tree on the right was huge. Both ornate front porches had rotted away. Halfway through my childhood, my parents replaced the porch off the kitchen on the left and, 5 years or so before we sold the farm, my dad began the laborious project of restoring the original front porch. Since we’ve left, the new owners have made their own changes. (But we don’t even like to drive past to see them.)

Sometimes, I still miss this house with its wide hallways, thick, dark banister and warm honey blond, original, uneven hardwood floors.

Happy weekend!

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The Perfect Bar Stool

The other day, in a brief hour-long visit to the house to let Mocha and the cat out for a bit before I joined the Husband and some friends for a movie night, I grabbed a fork from the drawer and popped the lid off the Husband’s birthday cake. I opened up my Kobo on the counter and settled in comfortably… leaning against the bar.

I only got down two bites of the tasty cake before I gave up and moved into the living room. And not just because there were cookies in there.

(Yes, I have a sweet tooth and a lack of self-control. There’s a reason we don’t buy sweet things often.)

It’s not the first time we’ve noticed the clear lack of bar stools.

Sure, we’ve got a beautiful table. But sometimes, you don’t want to go through the formality of pulling out a chair, moving your food or your flyer or your book or your laptop to the table, and sitting down. Sometimes, you just want to slide effortlessly onto a stool.

One like this:

House in the Hamptons traditional kitchen
(I know, it’s a beautiful kitchen. But look at the stools!)
The problem? This is a popular style, but it’s surprisingly difficult to find. Kijiji and Craigslist have failed me. (Doesn’t anyone actually in the city ever sell their bar stools?) We found a tolerable version at Home Sense, but they were bar height and their legs seemed a little thin to the Husband. We found another on sale at Canadian Tire, but the leather top threw us off. We don’t want a leather seat. We tried Sears. We tried the Brick. American Walmarts carry them. Canadian ones? Not according to their website. We can get them from Home Depot… online. Which is fine, I suppose. But I’m an immediate gratification kind of person – if I think I can get them in stores, I will. 
So, help? Where can we find this style of bar stool for a reasonable amount, say $50 a stool?
And if we spend $150 on 3 stools, is it crazy to then paint them?

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Filed under bar stools, kitchen

Censoring the Internet

Is there any part of the world’s population that’s on board with this?

Next week, the government of our neighbours to the south will be voting on two acts. It is my understanding that PIPA and SOPA are great in theory – protect copyright, yay! – but restrictive and crippling in practice. There’s plenty to learn about it here. I encourage you to read up on it a bit. Part of protest is spreading awareness, right?

What do you guys think of this bill? In order to support the protest of Wikipedia, WordPress, etc., in lieu of a post about bar stools, I’d love to get a conversation going about it for greater understanding of the issues, the consequences, the positives, the negatives.

Should we, as bloggers, even care?

(WordPress thinks so.)

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Filed under censorship, Internet, PIPA, politics, SOPA

It’s a closet!

Our house had one closet in it when we bought it. That it even had one is a lucky surprise: most old homes were built without. From a design perspective, I can understand how this makes sense. No closets allows the owner of the space to get creative with a gorgeous armoire and heavily detailed dressers. No closets, however, limits organization. 

When you live in a small space, organization is absolutely crucial. 
So, our house had one closet in it. This is what it looked like:
I know. Awkward.
This closet is in our back entryway. If you were to really stretch the definition, you could almost call this a ‘walk-in’ closet. It consisted of one rod, running from back to front with a shelf above it that turns to run along the back wall over some hooks. Because the stairs for the basement run beneath it, the floor is only flat for about 3/4 of a foot and then angles up at the same pitch of the stairs.
Did I mention awkward?
Also, did I mention the mess? Or, can you see that?
At my request, the Husband and a friend made the whole thing over. 
They ripped out the awkward wall that held the rod up and installed a row of shelves instead. Since we lost the rod, they re-attached the hooks to the wall. Eventually, they’ll patch the hole from the old light switch and paint the shelves. 
But for now, I’m enjoying some semblance of organization, even if it’s not yet complete.
It’s a mudroom closet. It doesn’t have to be pretty, right?

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Filed under closets, mudroom, organizing