Thursday, April 24, 2014

Pop-Up Cards - Paris, Amsterdam, and London

Kate is away this term studying in Bath, UK.  She left at the beginning of January and won't be home again until the beginning of June.  In the middle of it all falls Easter and, more importantly, her birthday.  I know how expensive it can be to mail gifts overseas and, truth be told, what Kate really wants is money so she can travel.  I simply had to send her something, though, so I decided to make some interesting cards to mail to her.

Before she started her coursework, Kate spent some time in Paris, Amsterdam, and London so I decided to try and make three pop-up cards - one for each city.  I collected ideas of different kinds of pop-up cards, scenes from these three cities, and other mailable gifts on a Pinterest board (here).  And then I had to think what I wanted to highlight in each city and what was feasible to make ... and then I got to work.

I think the Paris card was the most difficult because I had three different parts that projected out and needed to accommodate them across the width of the card.  I also thought it looked a bit blah when it was done as it was all blues and browns so I added the red awning, red umbrella, and red balloon.

The Amsterdam card came together the easiest.  I like the bright front doors and the rope railing with the bicycle on it.  I struggled to think what to do with the water to make it interesting, but it all came together when I put ripples of different shades of blue on it.

The London one was the trickiest to draw because of all the symmetrical buildings in the blue and white silhouettes.  I had always intended to include the double-decker bus, but when I was finished I felt it needed a few more spots of red so I added the mailbox and the flags.

I used washi tape on the front covers and wrote HAPPY BIRTHDAY KATE on them.

Kate has already opened them and loves them!

Do you want to see three of my favourite photos Kate took on her adventures in January?  This is one my favourite ones from Paris - a view from the Georges Pompidou Centre looking over to Montmartre.  Gorgeous sky, isn't it?

And this one is one of my favourites from Amsterdam - taken at the perfect blue twilight moment to capture the twinkly lights and reflections on the canal.

And this one of Rupert Grint cracks me up.  Kate and her friend (and some others) went to the stage door in London to try and catch a glimpse of Rupert  They were rewarded when he snuck out for a smoke break about an hour before the show was to begin.  Kate said Rupert was so nice and posed for photos and didn't appear to mind even though he would probably rather have been alone preparing himself for his role in the play.

Have you ever made pop-up cards?  Mine are pretty simple, but boy are some of them masterpieces of engineering.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Early Spring in Cottage Country

On the weekend we went to the cottage for a few days.  While it has warmed up and the snow and ice are gone in the Toronto area, it is still pretty wintery up in cottage country.  

This has been a record cold winter for all of Canada (thanks polar vortex) and the ice is late leaving the lake this year.  It was still frozen right to the shore all around the lake and the ice was over a foot thick.  Across the lake we could even see a few people out ice fishing (I have no idea why people think ice fishing is fun, but they sure spend a lot of time doing it).

There was snow all through the bush, but it was melting rapidly and forming little streams and icy puddles.

The most exciting thing, though, was to see the crocuses blooming only feet from mounds of snow.  

The road was too soft to drive on so we walked in from the main road carrying everything we needed.  We each got a book read and had lots of time to relax.  I love weekends like that. 

How was your Easter?  Was it the busy-busy-busy-with-family type or was it the low-key relaxing type?  

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Easter Eggs

Happy Easter my friends.  I hope all is well.  

It's finally spring around here.  Although it did snow a couple of centimetres on Tuesday which didn't melt until Wednesday and was kind of a bummer.  I heard the best tweet on CBC Radio regarding the snow though (made me laugh all day whenever I thought about it):
"I'm dreaming of a white Easter" said nobody, ever!!!

We've had rabbits galore - all over our backyard.  I hope that means we will see little bunnies soon because we sure won't be seeing much in the way of flowers or bushes.

I finally got the Easter eggs out and arranged them on the table.  I got a new table runner from IKEA, but I'll let you in on a secret ... it's really a rug for the floor that cost me $2.99.  It looked so pretty that I bought it and put it on the table and bought some pink tulips to match.  Best.  Deal.  Ever!!!


I wanted to introduce you to the Pysanky that I made this year in art class.

 I really went modern and appear to have been inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright and Polkaroo (anyone remember him from TVO kids - no idea if he is still around).

I hope you have a great Easter weekend.  It's a long weekend here so there will be much relaxing and enjoying of chocolate.  What are your plans?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

A few moths ago I posted this tried-and true recipe when I was guest posting, but I wanted to make sure I don't lose track of it and the safest way to do that is to post it on my blog.  Do you use the search button on your blog to find some of the great recipes you have made in the past?  I love that about blogging.  

So if any of you missed this recipe for Pumpkin Bread Pudding, here it is.   It is a great combination of healthy because of all the pumpkin in it and practical because it uses up all your leftover crusts.  Or is that just me who has leftover crusts?


I love this bread pudding recipe.  I have tweaked and perfected it by reducing the sugar, eliminating the butter, and using skim milk instead of cream to make it healthier than the original.  I have made it with raisins or dried cranberries and they both are great.  I use any kind of bread/bun/crust that is in my freezer and needing to be eaten.  You should see how nice and neat my freezer looks now.  Just kidding - it's still a mess.  But I'm not kidding about how great this bread pudding is!

8 cups bread, cubed
1 cup dried cranberries or raisins
3 cups milk (I used skim milk)
5 eggs
1/2 can (796 ml or 28 fl oz) pumpkin puree
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla


1.  In a large bowl, cover the bread and cranberries/raisins with the milk and set aside.
2.  In another bowl, combine the eggs, pumpkin, sugar, vanilla, and spices.
3.  Add to the bread mixture and stir to blend
4.  Put bread mixture into a greased 9 x 13 or large casserole dish 
5.  Bake uncovered at 350F for 45-60 minutes or until the centre has set (test with a knife)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Blue is the New Black

I'm embracing the new blue trend.  

Last summer I painted our banker's chair in the family room a light navy shade (see photo below).  I love the colour and decided to paint the dining room chairs in it as well since they are in an adjoining room.

The blue is a bit lighter than a navy and not exactly royal blue.  It is sort of a marine blue.  And sort of like the centre of a blueberry. It's a really livable shade of blue - not too dark or light or bright.

We usually use a mix of chairs around the table which I wanted to unify by painting them a single colour.  Also our dining room chairs get heavy use so they were chipped around the edges and in need of a new paint.  The black of the IKEA chairs looked a bit dark with all the greens and blues and grays in the rest of the kitchen-dining-family room so I thought it would be nice to introduce the blue to the dining end of the room. 

I painted some of the IKEA chairs and one other blond wood chair in the navy.  Although I liked the light wood, we didn't have any other wood that colour and the chair had paint splotches and signs of wear on it.  So paint it, I did.  I love its lines and love how it looks in blue.

How do you feel about the blue trend?  Navy especially is all over the place these days - everything from clothes to interiors. I have always loved blue so this is a trend I love!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Alice's First Apartment

My friend's daughter, Alice, also happens to be my daughter's friend.  Don't you love when things like that happen.  The four of us share an interest in decorating and interior design. Back before our daughters went off to university we would go and visit Designer Showhomes together.  It was always fun to see who liked which rooms best and what features appealed to each of us.  Now that my daughter is studying in Halifax on the east coast and her daughter is studying in Vancouver on the west coast we can no longer go on outings like these, ... sigh ... but we still indulge our hobby in different ways.  

Alice recently sent me some photos of her first apartment which she has been decorating and I loved them so much I wanted to share them with you.  She lives in a little bachelor apartment in a building that is almost 100 years old so it is an apartment with lots of character and charm.  Alice is still in university so decorating her flat is a work in progress and everything so far has been a combination of DIY, Craiglist, thrifting, and bartering, which, frankly, makes me love it all the more.

So let's have a tour, shall we.

The kitchen is simple with white cabinets and pale blue walls, but Alice injected her own personality by adding touches of red in the art, tea towels, accessories, and mismatched door knobs which she is replacing one-by-one as she finds pretty red ones on sale.

The tall skinny area by the wall in the photo below was really an unused cupboard because of the awkward shape.  Alice removed the door and added shelves so that it could be used to display cookbooks and bring in a few touches of red.

The bird silhouettes are wall decals that have been on Alice's walls in different bedrooms and apartments for years.  She carefully applies them and then removes them again when she moves so she can add them to the next house.

The built-in bookshelves between the kitchen and the rest of the flat are the perfect place to display favourite items like skull vases and candles and lollipops - all necessary items for a university student.

Since it is a bachelor apartment the space had to be used very efficiently.  The area that was originally designed to be the eating area was better suited to being a study area given that Alice is a student.  

The living room has an L-shaped sectional that Alice got by trading a chair for it with a friend.  All I can say is that she is a mean barterer. The sofa makes into a bed so it is good for when she has guests. Two IKEA bookshelves - one placed vertically and one horizontally - are the perfect place to store books, the stereo, and the TV.

Alice and her family have traveled extensively and little touches of her interests and travels are found around the apartment.  The brass tray in the living room was Alice's grandmother's and she uses it to display meaningful items, like a rock from the base camp at Mount Everest (dark gray rock in the centre), the key to her flat in Switzerland when she went to school there, a sand dollar from Vancouver Island, a camel bone box from Qatar, a camel from Oman, a gun shaped piece of coral from Curacao, and a silver acorn from her father.

The living room has a fireplace which, although it doesn't work, provides a wonderful focal point and is used for displaying more treasures - the most important being her two black goldfish!

Alice's bed is right beside the fireplace so she uses a stack of large-sized books as a bedside table.  She covered the bed in a black duvet so that it won't show the dirt if anyone sits on it.  Alice's mother is the friend I went to Bangladesh and India with and I remember buying the embroidered cloth Alice has on her wall when we were in Dhaka.  The cloth helps make the bed appear more couch-like, but also helps conceal an unused door.

You have to walk through Alice's closet to get to the bathroom so she has worked to make it not only functional, but attractive as well.  Alice added a row of hooks to hang her extensive scarf collection on, which adds a nice rainbow effect along the wall.  

The dress, in the photo below, was hung on hooks from the closet doors to decorate the hallway.  The dress was given to Alice and doesn't actually fit her, but she liked the design of dancing girls so hung it in her hallway.  Note the shoes along the top of the cupboard to make good use of the space and add a little interest. 

And finally, the round chalkboard was one that we brought back from Bangladesh.  It originally had a mirror in it, but when the mirror broke my friend painted the back with chalkboard paint and it is now part of Alice's closet surrounded by mini mirrors from Bangladesh.  That wall is the perfect place for the most frequently worn shoes and boots - I love how they are all black and grow in size from one end to the other.

And finally, the shower curtain in the bathroom was fabric bought from a vendor on a popular beach in Vancouver and Alice turned it into a shower curtain.

I love all the personal touches and the can-do attitude that has gone into decorating Alice's apartment.  Way to go girl!  

Do you remember decorating your first apartment?  I don't think it was as easy to find good second-hand deals back in the day because thrift stores weren't as popular and it was long before Craigslist and Kijiji.  What do you think?