April 15, 2015

Wallpaper Craft Fail

My Mom had been bugging me to get my hands on some wallpaper for a project she had in mind, so when I acquired a roll of a mid-century inspired pattern, I handed it over to her!

Photo Source
When she saw the wallpaper, my Mom wanted more - to wallpaper her kitchen!  But we had already dropped $30 on a super-sized tub of Mod Podge, so we stayed the course.  Her plan was to recover a bunch of hat boxes she bought at HomeSense years ago.  She no longer loved the floral pattern and after we snapped some "before" photos, she realized she had about seven in total.  She hoped to recover them all. 

We plotted our moves, deciding how to position the pattern of the wallpaper on the boxes.  We snipped the edges so we could fold them over neatly underneath the box.  We were on a roll!

Hey, did you know that Mod Podging is really flipping difficult?!?

Neither of us had ever used Mod Podge, but hours of gluey sticky smudgey mess later, we determined that the Hat Box Recovering Project was not going our way.  The wallpaper is THICK and did not want to be wrapped around a round box.  Truthfully, our beginner Mod Podge skills were the bigger issue.  The paper ended up bunchy and severely wrinkled in a couple of places.

We added some black ribbon to the lid, which looks cute, but I think this qualifies as a #craftfail.  We're actually too intimidated to even tackle the other six hat boxes...

Have any of you used Mod Podge?  Any tips/tricks for using thicker paper?  Any Mod Podge fails of your own?  This is a really humbling moment for an avid DIYer like myself ;) But, you win some, you lose some. 

April 14, 2015

A Lifetime of Art in the Canadian Bush

I have some really fun news.  One of the most commonly asked questions I field is about the art in our home - specifically, the paintings by Hubby's Grandpa, Bert Weir, a professional artist who is now in his 90th year.  I've chatted about the pieces we have (in this post and this post), but it has largely remained inaccessible to readers because Bert resides outside of Parry Sound, so to see or purchase his work has meant a trek to McKellar, Ontario.  BUT, until the end of September, his work can be viewed at Evergreen Brickworks Centre for Green Cities in Toronto (which is a little more accessible).  I know some of you live in, or visit, Toronto, so here is all of the info about Brickworks. 

For those who can't make the journey, Bert also has a book of his artwork available for purchase.  We have a copy and I find it inspiring to thumb through because he uses such vibrant and invigorating colours.

I might have some other ways for you to get your hands on some of Bert's art, but first let's take a tour around the Brickworks exhibit.  I tried my best to capture the beautiful paintings on display, but the lighting is a bit dim (and a bit fluorescent) there, so it was tricky.  You can also see his work on his website.

The showstopper is this 32 foot (!!!) painting, called Transitions, painted in 1978.  Hubby's standing in front, for scale.  Incredible, right?

Transitions, 1978

In the same space as Transitions are these four pieces:

I surprised myself by favoring not the blue painting, Winter Balsam (second from the left above)...

Winter Balsam, mid 1970s
Instead, I was mesmerized by a painting with lots of purple (!) - purple isn't really in my roster of favorite colours but this painting, October Red, pulled me in (of course, it doesn't hurt that there's a little aqua layered in there). 

October Red, 1977

This is why I advocate buying a piece of art you love, and pulling colours from it to decorate a room.  Artists just get colour - they have an innate sense of what colours look good together.  Design a room around the painting above and it will look stunning.

Brickworks is a great space and it was such a change to see Bert's art against brick walls with history, but his paintings really belong in the space.

After the Red, 2012
I love this peek of Full Summer as you walk down a set of stairs.

Full Summer, 2012
Unfortunately, two of the my favorites, part of the Wave Series, were moved to a meeting room that doesn't have a lot of character.  The series, which is comprised of twelve large diptychs, was inspired by Bert's burgeoning passion for sailing.  The way in which the wind and water interact is brought to life in these incredible paintings, painted in the late 1980s.

When we went to Brickworks, Hubby and I were told that the conference room which houses the Wave Series was booked, so we weren't allowed entry.  There was no way Hubby and I were going to drive more than 3000km and not see these paintings.  Hubby didn't want to interrupt (he's so polite!), so I steeled myself, prepared for a bit of confrontation and barged right in but, to my surprise, the room was empty.  We were able to take in these paintings in peace and quiet, which was lovely.  Can you imagine having something so beautiful to look at during your next meeting?  Lucky ducks.

Wave Series # 7, 1989
I love how softly Bert layered the colours in #4 of this series.  I took dozens of close up photos and I've been studying them (plus I shared some on Instagram).

Wave Series #4, 1988

I can only imagine how disappointing it will be for everyone who uses this space when Bert's work is removed at the end of September.  Having such beauty in the workplace must make it so much more enjoyable - I imagine it would spark a lot of creativity, too!  Just look at this hallway:

If I remember correctly, The Purples of Fall is down the corridor pictured above.  It's another painting with purple that caught my eye... Hmmm. 

The Purples of Fall, 2010

At the end of the hall is another one of my favorites, New Growth, from the Bush Wall Series.

New Growth, 2010
I thought that our painting in the dining room is from the same series, but it's actually from the Summer Landscape and Summer Grasses Series.  It brings Hubby immense and immeasurable joy to have his Grandfather's art in our home.  For me, it's more about the aesthetics and the energy, but Hubby enjoys a sense of closeness to his Grandpa because our home is filled with his art.  He picked out the piece in the dining room, and we appreciate it for different reasons.  I love how it makes us feel totally ensconced in nature; with huge windows across from it, it feels like another portal into the wilderness, but for Hubby it means something more.  Hubby rarely chimes in about decorating, but much of the art has been chosen by him.  It makes our home feel comfortable and familiar for him because he grew up surrounded by Bert's art!  We're so thankful that Bert has been so generous and has given us so many treasured pieces.

There are many more paintings at Brickworks, so if you have a chance stop by.  If you happen to share a photo on Instagram or Twitter, I'd love if you'd use #BertWeir and tag me so I can see!  I'd be happy to pass on your thoughts and experiences to Bert.

For those of you who are as smitten with Bert Weir's art as we are, you can always contact him directly (a studio tour can be arranged by appointment), but Hubby's Mom chatted with me recently about the possibility of selling signed, limited edition prints of his work ($100-200 range) or smaller original paintings.  Because I know that many of you, like me, are on a tight budget, there's also the possibility of notecards with images of his work...the sky is really the limit because Bert's wife is a talented photographer and she has cataloged and documented his extensive body of work.  For anyone who has ever asked about Bert's art, what would interest you?  Prints?  Smaller original paintings?  Notecards?  Something else?  What would be your budget?  Let me know what you think.

April 9, 2015

Money Talks: Those Darn Joneses

Anytime I indulge in a little magazine devouring, Pinterest trolling, or blog reading, I see folks undertaking expensive renos, splashing out on pricey furniture, and/or shop-shop-shopping for lots of gorgeous accessories (or craft supplies, to make gorgeous home accessories) - and rarely, if ever, with the accompanying hand-wringing and stress I feel when spending money.

Renovating and decorating (or even crafting) can be frustrating because it seems like I never have enough money (or time).  I try not to compare my life or spending to someone else's, but although budgeting and planning may be done in the logical part of my brain, the feelings about money do not originate from the same part.  I remind myself that choices Hubby and I have made (that bring us so much joy), like buying a more expensive house so we can live lakeside, or paying cash for our truck, changed the game for us.  If we had bought a small home somewhere else, kept our affordable car, didn't have our lovable Szuka (vet bills! food!), things could be different - but I wouldn't want to trade any part of my life.  A part of my brain gets this.  But the pang of, "oh hey, I want that," the whiny little voice complaining, "it looks so easy for them," or the creeping feeling of doubt: "am I doing something wrong if I can't afford this bath reno and a holiday?" aren't always easy to shake. 

I figured that I can't be alone, so I wanted to be open and honest about how stressed I am about renovating the bathroom, and spending money on the house in general.  I want to paint a more realistic picture of what's going on behind the scenes and just admit: sometimes I can't afford to do, buy or even make the things I want.  Plain and simple - no shame

This isn't a pity party for me at all, because I think that being able to chat about any of this - renovating, decorating, even budgeting - is a luxury, when many people are barely scraping by, or worse. 

But you should know that embarking on this bath reno has definitely made me nervous, especially because the estimates we calculated were a little optimistic...

So, we're in a mini spending lock-down until the dust settles.  We're scrimping and saving to top up our "bath reno fund" - now, instead of a Mustang in my wallet, I've got the photo above.  We've already made a few larger purchases from our savings, like closet doors for the bedroom and some fabric for drapes, but it looks like other changes will have to be put on hold until we come out the other side of the bath reno.  Meanwhile, I'm trimming our grocery budget a bit.  I'm trying to avoid the Siren Song of the thrift stores.  I'm finishing up neglected projects - and using supplies we have on hand.  And, other than a quick trip to visit family, vacationing is out of the question for now. 

Truthfully, it isn't just the bathroom reno that has me nervous about spending money.  I started thinking about money differently, and re-prioritizing a bit, after the loss my family experienced.  The funeral home created a photo slideshow for us, which had us pouring over dozens of photo albums.  It made me think about my own life, and finding the right balance of fun and responsibility - especially when it comes to money.  As we flipped through photo albums, no one said, "he had such a great home with a beautifully renovated bathroom," but instead they said, "man, he sure loved to be outside".  Meanwhile, Hubs and I had a truckload full of cabinet samples for our impending bathroom renovation.

I panicked.  

After the funeral, we returned the cabinet samples.  Staring glumly at a stack of wood doors, I turned to Hubby and said, "I don't care about a bathroom reno.  Let's use the money to travel instead.  Let's do stuff".  That night I got stuck inside our space portal shower, which is starting to fall apart and smells like a monkey's butt, no matter how thoroughly and vigorously I scrub it.  Hubby freed me and, naked and freezing, I relented, "okay, maybe a renovation isn't such a stupid idea".

Hubby and I feel very privileged.   Not only do we benefit from certain unearned societal privileges, we have a roof over our heads, warm stew in our bellies at night, our health, and the complete luxury of choosing how to spend our savings.  Should we save the money instead?  Should we blow it on a huge trip?  Retire earlier?  How much interest could we earn?  Mortgage balloon payment?  What if we die tomorrow?  What will be important?  What if we live to be 100?  Man, I'll really hate our current bathroom by then... Should we spend more and get quality?  Why do laminate counters get the cold shoulder? 


ALL decadent choices.  Still, I find it very stressful to think about spending a good chunk of change on our home, and yet I wish we had more to spend.  I have a laundry list of things I'd like to change, update, switch up, and improve.  I just have to be patient, and understand that while in some cases we have to wait, we might never have the money for certain things.  That's just life.  And it's a good life!  What we have is enough, everything else is just icing.

I've been getting into the habit of taking some time each day to really appreciate my life, and my loved ones, and to just be grateful.  Truly, I'm so grateful.  And, to be honest, I feel it immediately when I just disconnect a bit: tear my eyes away from Instagram, power down the computer, and close the magazines - when I get away from the daily deluge of inspiring room makeovers, crafty projects, and the endless lists of things bloggers and magazines think we should buy.  Right away I feel my priorities, and my brain relaxes.

I always think of that saying, "yesterday I didn't know it existed, today I can't live without it".

This post in my (very infrequent) Money Talks series is noticeably devoid of any meaningful money-saving tips or tricks but, with this reno looming, and talk of fancy walnut cabinets and quartzite counters, I just didn't want to contribute to any illusion that spending this money on renovations is easy (or necessary). 
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