September 1, 2015

Better Blog Photos, Coming Soon!

I finally did it: I splurged on a new camera - my first DSLR!  I actually purchased it way back in May but, as you know, a family emergency took precedence and learning to use my new camera definitely slid down my list of priorities.

Canon Rebel T5i
Canon Rebel T5i

On the advice of a photographer friend, Melissa Oivanki, I bought a modest Canon Rebel T5i and a Canon wide angle lens.  I also purchased a simple light kit (something like this).  Melissa gave me excellent advice, explaining that it's the lenses that really make the difference.  I'm already saving up for better lenses!

Because I often talk about money, I decided to be honest about this purchase and admit that I really struggled with spending the money!  It took me a year to finally go for it.  I questioned whether it was worth it to make this investment, but I really enjoy taking photos.  With my new camera, I'm thinking that I might even take some photography courses.  My old Panasonic Lumix  DMC-FZ28 (discontinued, but this is similar) was a wedding present Hubs and I bought ourselves in 2008 and it served us well, documenting international adventures in Greece, France, Portugal, and Hungary - plus many trips to the States - and all of our memories at home.  Ultimately I decided that it's worth it to not only support a creative endeavor (it's good for the brain!), but also capture fun memories.     

Unfortunately, my old Lumix was slowly failing. The biggest issue was the colour sensor - it stopped reading aqua properly!  Aquas came out looking like a flat blue and pictures started turning out grainy and dull.  It's been difficult to set my old Lumix aside and reach for my new Canon, but already I can see a major difference in photos - look at the velvet chair below! 

Teal velvet MCM chair
New Camera
Aqua velvet mid-century modern chair
New Camera
New Camera
I've never been able to show you how vivid it is, and how much green is in the hue - it always photographed like a flat blue microsuede, not the luscious velvet it is:

Old Camera
I'm so excited to be able to photograph the lakehouse more accurately, without everything looking yellower, bluer, paler, brighter, darker, grainier, or more washed out in photos.  Hopefully I can depict things more true to life, like our DIY solid maple counters, which are quite pale in real life but always photographed with a yellowy tinge.  With my new Canon, I'm capturing them a bit better already:

New Camera
My old camera still photographed close up details fairly well...

Old Camera
But I love how crisp close up photos are with my new camera, even with my having no clue what I'm doing:

Purple and pink orchid
New Camera
New Camera
Some days, though, I feel a little overwhelmed and frustrated.  Although I've always enjoyed taking photos, the technical side has never thrilled me as much as compositions.  Frankly, some of my photos are ending up worse than with my old camera, but I'm trying not to get discouraged and just focus on the joy of learning something new.

I'm especially having trouble focusing when I take photos of rooms and I have to be careful with the wide angle lens that I don't end up with weirdly stretched out real estate listing-style photos!

New Camera
I'm slowly phasing out my Lumix, so you'll see a mix of photos for the next few months.  Once I get the hang of it, I'll be taking new photos of the lakehouse so you can finally get a better feel for the space (and maybe even a video tour...).

While I try to figure this out, if you've come across a great tutorial - especially for shooting interiors - I'd love to know about it!  Also, if you happen to stumble across an aqua camera case, I'd love to know about that too ;)

August 31, 2015

A New Mid-Century Modern Inspired Exterior Door

Last year I asked you to weigh in on my door dilemma: paint the existing door (which Hubs and I didn't love), save up for an expensive, mid-century style door that we did love, or buy an affordable replacement that was better, but not perfect.

White builder's basic exterior door

At the time, I had a voting widget embedded in the post and 75% of you thought I should just paint the existing door, while 20% said keep questing (although some of you cheated and said paint the door and keep questing).  There were some great comments too, with some excellent ideas, and I am so thankful for the sound advice.

In the end, I took your advice and painted our existing door aqua, using Beauti-Tone's Cyan Sky (C13-3-0681-4). 

Paint a boring front door aqua

Paint was a fabulous, budget-friendly way to spruce up the old door.  In a bright and cheery shade of aqua, it already made me smile, but I have to admit that we still didn't love it.  As luck would have it, I recently had the opportunity to partner with a Canadian home improvement store to help our little lake house make a better first impression.

Although we lived with the aqua-painted original door for about a year, these days we're greeted by this beauty:

The Linea by Standard Doors

You'll never guess where it's from...  

Home Hardware!  Canadians, are you a little surprised?  I kept ogling Crestview Doors, thinking that was the only option for an exterior door with mid-century style.  I was so wrong!  The floor models at our local Home Hardware store are very traditional, but once we started to peruse catalogs for special order doors, we found a bevy of modern exterior doors, including the door we ordered - the Linea, by Standard Doors.  (It's from the Sophistica Collection).

The Linea by Standard Doors

The Linea has the mid-century feel we wanted, plus it lets a lot of light into our formerly dark and windowless hallway.  The glass is deceptive because it actually provides a lot of privacy by completely blurring any shapes more that a foot or so away from the door.  It actually rates a 9/10 for privacy in the brochure.  So although you can tell from outside if someone is standing right in front of the door, you can't see what (or who) is inside the house from outside.

Exterior door with windows and privacy glass

It was professionally painted, courtesy of Home Hardware, using Beauti-Tone's Cyan Sky.  I liked the original shade of aqua from Beauti-Tone so much that I wanted to use it again for this door.  It was painted with an alkyd (oil) primer, followed up with a trim and door topcoat, from Home Hardware.

Where to find a new exterior door with mid-century modern look?
Mid-century modern inspired exterior door
Mid-century modern inspired exterior door

We had already replaced the old door hardware with a nice brushed silver knob and lock set, so we just moved that over to the new door.

Aqua door

The hallway has seen a lot of changes: we've painted the walls and trim white, updated the light fixtures, thermostat and smoke detectors, and also the door hardware.  It's a much brighter, happier space now!  Some more changed might be on the horizon, though, because we've considered replacing the linoleum floor in the entry (and kitchen, laundry room, and powder room).  We originally thought we'd put it off until we renovate those spaces and we invest in something like tile or concrete, but it's been driving me nuts so we've been looking at affordable options for the interim. 

Modern exterior door with three glass panels

What a difference a door makes!

Thanks to Home Hardware for providing the Linea door and the Beauti-Tone paint.  I really shouldn't be surprised that I found something so stylish at Home Hardware because that's also where we purchased the fabulous green glass vessel sink in the townhouse - we were so smitten with it, we drove to a neighboring town to purchase it!  As always, I wasn't paid or prompted to provide a positive review - it's pretty much a given that an aqua door with a mid-century feel will get my approval :)

August 25, 2015

DIY Round Polka Dot Pot Holder with Heat Shield

DIY heat shield trivet

My Mom and I have been collecting vintage Pyrex together for years, but we never saw eye to eye on the clear Pyrex flameware: clear glass pots, double boilers, coffee makers, tea kettles, etc.  I thought they were boring, but my Mom discovered that they work really well with glass top stoves because their bottoms are really flat.  When my Mom got her glass top stove, I was moving out so she gave me some of her wibbly wobbly pots and pans and started collecting flameware.  Fast forward three ovens, and many years later, and now I have a glass top stove too!  I curse her hand-me-down pots every time I use one - and now I see the appeal of Pyrex flameware.

(The photos below are from Pyrex: The Unauthorized Collector's Guide, by Barbara Mauzy).

Pyrex: The Unauthorized Collector's Guide, by Barbara Mauzy
Pyrex: The Unauthorized Collector's Guide, by Barbara Mauzy

So far, the only flameware I actually have is the tea pot/kettle, which is genius!

Old Pyrex Ad
Turquoise Kitchen with Aqua Pyrex Collection

Boil the water and steep the tea in the same beautiful vessel - perfect for a small kitchen like mine because I no longer need a separate tea pot.  Plus the glass pot looks so pretty sitting on the stove.

The only downside is that the glass lid gets really hot, so I wanted a little aqua pot holder to use with my tea pot.  My Mom and I whipped one up, using leftover fabric from the polka dot laundry room curtains.

How to sew your own trivet

Isn't it adorable?  I wanted a round shape to complement the polka dot fabric, and a small loop so I could hang it up beside the stove.

It was a breeze to make and required only a few supplies:

  • Cotton fabric (this one is kind of similar)
  • Thread
  • Sewing machine
  • Ribbon or twill tape for loop
  • Heat shield fabric (also called heat reflective fabric or poly-therm fleece)
  • Scissors
  • Paper for circle templace
  • Round object to trace (like a plate)


First we used a round plate - slightly larger than the size I wanted the finished pot holder to be - and traced it onto graph paper to use as a template.

How to sew your own heat shield pot holder
How to sew your own heat shield pot holder

We pinned our template onto the fabric and cut out three pieces: two circles from the polka dot fabric, and one circle from the heat shield fabric.

How to sew your own heat shield pot holder

With the circles cut, we cut out a piece of twill tape for the loop.

Cream twill tape

Then we pinned the three circles together.  Because the fabric is reversible - and I wanted one side cream on aqua and the other side aqua on cream - we pinned them together so the "right" sides were facing each other, and the heat shield fabric was on the bottom.  Here's a peek at the order:

How to sew your own heat shield pot holder

We tucked the loop between the two fabric circles, facing away from the edge.  We sewed the edges with the machine, leaving an opening to turn everything right side out.

How to sew your own heat shield pot holder

To make the curved shape easier to flip, we cut little notches around the circumference.

How to sew your own heat shield pot holder

We turned it right side out and then sewed shut the small opening.

How to sew your own heat shield pot holder

And, voila, a perfectly-sized pot holder to solve my oddly specific kitchen dilemma:
How to sew your own heat shield pot holder
Aqua polka dot fabric
How to sew your own heat shield pot holder

(I've been itching to make one of these since we made those adorable, child-sized pot holders and itty bitty tea towels for the play kitchen we made.)  
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