November 19, 2014

Salamander? Check.

Hubby and I tend to drag our heels a bit when it comes to projects around the house that lack a certain panache.  But we are motivated by saving money, so when our municipality offered a free landfill day, well, that lit a fire under our bums to get some things done (normally a truckload is $25).  It started with cleaning out the garage and tidying up around the property so we could take the opportunity to throw out/recycle all of the debris, but once we were in the zone there was no stopping us.  We replaced/added about half a dozen motion lights (now a squirrel can't even cross our property without being lit up like an opera singer), and put up driveway markers in the hopes that this winter I won't ditch the truck (again).  We gleefully stashed the lawnmower, but sadly serviced the snowblower, plus I got a refresher course in operating it (I do 50% of the snow removal, yay).  We were busy bees!  Shortly before free dump day we realized that we had a bit of room left in the truck, so we decided to remove the busted stairs leading up to the garage.  Hubby had acccidentally put his foot through a rotten step in the summer - it was in terrible shape and totally pointless. 

He tackled Project Stair Removal while I was giving our headboard a refresh.  We allotted ourselves a half hour to complete our respective tasks.  While it took me closer to an hour to spray paint the headboard and nightstands, Hubby realized he could just flip up and remove the entire set of stairs in minutes, instead of taking it apart piece by piece as he had planned.

He spent the rest of his half hour examining the salamander he found:

Once the salamander was thoroughly examined, we tackled a few more projects - propelled by the victorious feeling that accompanies a problem-free project.  Our gutters had been leaking all summer, so I asked my friends at Rustoleum if I could try some Leak Seal:

I tried to demonstrate the leaking in a manner that didn't involve me standing outside in the pouring rain (I think Hubby longs for the pre-blog DIY days when we didn't have to document everything):  

Happily, the Leak Seal - a flexible rubber sealant - seemed to work perfectly and it took barely any time at all to seal up the cracks.  Eagle-eyed Hubby had been keeping tabs on the gutters during rainy days and already knew exactly which spots needed sealing.  Next spring we want to add gutter guards because they get filled with leaves and cleaning the gutters is a weekly job, but at least they're no longer holey.

We were on fire, right?  I even started doubling up on jobs.

While we were splitting and stacking firewood at my father-in-law's, I absconded into his awesome spray painting booth and knocked out a few fun projects (photos soon!).  I also tackled one boring one: our doorbell cover was beige and stood out against our white walls.  A blast of Rust-Oleum's Universal Paint + Primer solved that problem!  I obviously love that this paint is formulated for plastic

I really wish I had painted to doorbell cover in the townhouse.  It always bothered me but I just never got around to it, not because I didn't have the time, but because it seemed like a totally boring project and so I avoided it.  It truly was a boring project, and I doubt you even spotted the difference in my most recent hallway post compared to the original reveal, but every day I notice the difference.  I'm so happy I took the five minutes to paint it.

Our to-list is far from complete, and now that we've discovered that all 202 episodes of The X Files are on Netflix I suspect our productivity will decline, but I'm thrilled that we tackled so many projects this fall that normally get eclipsed by more fun and rewarding projects, like making frames for paintings and rub 'n buffing hardware

A huge thanks to Rust-Oleum for providing the Leak Seal and Universal Paint + Primer (and thereby also providing that extra dose of motivation to get stuff done!)

November 17, 2014

New Art + a DIY Float Frame

When I was approached by Artsheaven to choose a piece from their selection of oil painting reproductions, or have one of my own photos turned into a painting, my thoughts turned dark.  Part of me was really tempted to order a copy of some truly famous painting, then convince my wee niece and nephew that I was an art thief and had stolen the original, and what people were seeing in the Louvre was actually a copy.  I'd feed dinner guests who had imbibed a little too much the same tall tale.  In the end, though, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to have one of my favorite photos turned into a painting.  It took me all of five minutes to decide which photo (you might remember it from this post):

This photo from Hungary is one of my favorites.  It's a drugstore around the corner from the apartment I lived in while doing research in Budapest.  The building still has the original red lettering from when it had been a home decor store.  I frequented this particular drugstore often, for soap and toothpaste (and chocolate, I'm not going to lie), so the familiarity of it is comforting, but the real showstopper in the photo is the orange moped  parked in front.  I love this photo and I knew that Hubby - with his lust for motorcycles (close enough) and penchant for orange - would appreciate this hanging on our walls (plus he spent some time in Budapest with me, and recognizes the place too!).   

I sent in the photo and asked for these changes:
  • Remove the old dudes who were staring at me.
  • Make the aqua window trim more saturated - I didn't specify how much more vivid
  • Turn the little red car lime green.  This is an homage to my beloved Charlie (but I also thought the red competed with the orange bike).
Here's the result:

I didn't know what to expect and I was pleasantly surprised.  I'm currently thinking about putting it in one of two very prominent spots in the lakehouse (which is a testament to how much I like it, because some of my favorites - like my framed agate slices - have yet to find a spot).  Right now I like it in the hallway:

It picks up some of the orange and green from my DIY triptych:

I hadn't even thought to ask how my new painting would be shipped and was a little disappointed when it arrived un-stretched.  It makes total sense, though, because it's a safe and cost-effective way to ship a painting.  However, even though I've stretched many of my own canvases for my DIY paintings, they've always been gessoed after.  I have always thought that stretching canvas that's already painted looks like a huge pain.  What if the paint cracks? What if I wreck the painting?  How do I get it taught enough when it's so stiff? We Googled and then dove right in:  Hubby and I bought canvas stretcher bars from Michael's but because they were out of the size we needed we bought a size larger and instead of clicking them together with the pre-cut slats, just cut the edges and made mitered corners.  In hindsight, because we could have customized the size, we should have made it a smidge smaller than the painting, which would have made stretching it a snap.  As it was, the task was a little tricky because there was very little wiggle room for getting the painting positioned evenly and squarely.  It took a few tries, and a lot of staple removal, but we eventually got it centred and it really wasn't as bad as I thought it would be - it's a lot like upholstering a chair seat!  The paint cracked a smidge on the corners but it's not seen from the front.  We were able to get it fairly taught, even without canvas pliers.

Our hands were full so it was tricky to take photos, but there are a lot of great tutorials with step-by-step photos and diagrams.   I recommend this this wiki article for its really clear diagrams, but this article also has a video if that's more helpful to you.

For the corners, we looked at various tutorials and found many different ways to do it.  In the end, this is what we were able to do, given the thickness and stiffness of the canvas:

Here's the back when it's all finished:

It was hard to get the corners to be really smooth and flat, but for our first try I think they turned out okay.

Once the painting was stretched (arg), a float frame was a snap.  A Beautiful Mess has an excellent post with tutorials for three different frame styles.  I like the look of a float frame, so we picked up eight pieces of pre-planed wood from the molding section of Home Depot - they were .5" x 1.5".  All we did was glue them together into an L-shape:

We used a miter joint to be put them together, with wood glue and small finishing nails.  We used an air nailer, but the ABM tutorial shows how to do this with no power tools required.  The frame is ever so slightly bigger than the canvas - we left a 3/16 gap between the canvas and the inside of the frame.

Once assembled, I lightly sanded the edges and sanded the surface smooth before applying multiple light coats of Rust-Oleum Universal primer + paint, in Satin White.

After the paint was dry, we attached the frame to the canvas stretchers from the back, just screwing the back of the "L" to the canvas stretcher bars.  We used cardboard shims to make sure that it was centred in the frame while the frame was being attached to the painting.  The finished piece is hung with screw eyes and picture hanging wire.  This was a different approach than the last frame we made, and it seemed just as easy.  We could have painted/stained the back of the "L" to create some depth/interest but I liked the white on white look.  Plus, because the edges of the painting are white, the unpainted edges disappear in the white float frame.  The cost for the frame was about $20 and the stretchers cost roughly $25 (they could have been cheaper because the size we actually needed was less expensive).

Szuka doesn't give a hoot and just wants me to stop fussing with this painting and go outside and play with her.  Did she not see the ice?  Brrr.  Next spring, sweetie, next spring.

Artsheaven provided this custom painting, but I was not otherwise compensated for this post or encouraged to provide a positive review.  Special thanks also to Rust-Oleum for providing the paint for this framing project.  And thank you, Szuka, for trying to get into every single picture.  You're a cutie and with photos of you included, I know I can just type total jibberish and no one will notice.

November 14, 2014

The Videos + Behind the Scenes

This is day!  This week and last, I shared the holiday-themed projects I created for Canadian Tire.  The opportunity was perfect for me: free rein to create a bushel of neat projects, with the added bonus of revealing to you my super high-pitched voice, which is not unlike that of a 13-year-old girl. 

As I type this, I'm torn between the "publish" and "delete post" buttons.  Maybe you've forgotten that I ever uttered a word about videos?  I'm trying to be a good feminist and not fixate on my appearance but it's so hard not to nitpick!  When I run out of steam, I start to nitpick the projects, the house.  If only I had just smoothed a ribbon here, fixed a bow there...oh, and washed the house exterior. 

Curious about what went on behind the scenes? Okay, good, let me chat about that a bit.  Let me work up to the videos.  Filming these three, one-minute videos was actually really labor-intensive!  There were many email and phone chats, plus a walk-though, before shooting even began.  I didn't get to choose which projects were highlighted and even after decisions were made, some extra bits were filmed the day of, which had me hopping.  We worked from 9:00am-6:00pm and it was a fast-paced and slightly exhausting day!  I consider myself a pretty peppy person: I laugh a lot, make a few inappropriate jokes, and just generally have fun.  But for these videos I had to be even peppier - real life peppiness was not peppy enough on film.  My cheeks hurt from smiling and when everyone left for the airport (I don't envy their schedule, it was nuttiness!), Hubs and I collapsed on the sofa.  I don't think the raging inferno in the fireplace, lit for ambiance, helped because we were all sweltering. 

The whole experience was a little bit nerve-wracking, but also really fun.  Having seven (!) people with cameras and equipment made the lakehouse feel very tiny, but everyone was so careful with the house, making sure not to break anything or cause any damage.  Someone even swept the floors before they left.  Seriously, they tidied.  A very awesome group of people, indeed.  Perhaps my assessment is skewed, though, because everyone was so complimentary about the house, which of course I always find endearing.  Also, everyone loved Szuka, and that little gal's my weakness.  

It was really eye-opening to see how professionals film a video like this - I was in serious awe!  This team sifted through hours of footage to create what you'll see.  It's just mind-boggling to have seen what was filmed and then see the result in its tidy little package.  Self-deprecating critiques aside, I love how the videos turned out.  And given how huge Canadian Tire is for us Canucks, and how I've frequented their stores since I was a kid (tagging along with my Dad), it's still very surreal that all of this happened.

You'll notice I'm a "blogger and design enthusiast".  They wanted to call me an "expert" and I vehemently refused!  It was the only creative difference we had, but I was adamant that I'm enthusiastic about DIY and home decor, but at the end of the day I'm no pro.  I think they thought I was totally weird.  Especially because I typically only use my first name for blog-related things, like Madonna.  Or Cher.  Total divas...

Okay, let's just do this:


 If for some reason the embedded videos don't work, you can find them on youtube, using the links below:  

Did you spot Szuka's cameo?  I totally forgot about her being filmed and it was such a fun surprise to see her and her adorableness pop up on screen!  

Create Your Own Wreath

I seriously want to make a million wreaths now.  Filming the front door was an impromptu decision and I wish my new door had arrived.  Between you and me, I still think this is the easiest DIY ever and maybe the construction didn't need a video...but I love the idea of hanging wreaths in less expected places - this isn't even necessarily a "Christmas" idea.

I love those rolling shots - especially the one up the ladder!  This might be my favorite video just because the framed ornaments and rustic ladder look SO good.

Two of the video are available in French, too (they dubbed over my yammering): 
Décorez l’espace déjeuner avec style: Conseils de décoration pour les Fêtes de Canadian Tire
Décoration pas ordinaire: Conseils de décoration pour les Fêtes de Canadian Tire
As you saw in the first video, my final project with Canadian Tire was to create a tablescape.  Well, I'm not one for tablescapes.  I have a small dining room with a small table and once there are people seated and food in front of us, there isn't much room for condiments, let alone flowers and decorative objects d'art!  But the creative team really wanted one, so we came up with "a simple holiday brunch for two" at our lovely kitchen counter.  All I did was top a DIY napkin (made from my favorite Marimekko fabric - here's the tutorial) with a CANVAS ornament that coordinated spookily well with it, and fill a cake stand and platter with ornaments.  Done.  Everything else on the counter was edible or served a purpose.  This part looked a little different for the video but the sentiment was the same: do very little, add a smidge of sparkle, and then just enjoy the meal.      

That's the wreath my grandma made!!

That wraps up my holiday-themed projects!  It was my decision to space them out this way (I could have lumped them into one colossal post), but I worked so hard on these projects and photos that I didn't want to rush through.  If you missed any posts or projects, here they all are:

Scandinavian-Inspired Plywood "Tree"
Easy Holiday Wreath Cheat + Red & Aqua
Festive Rustic Ladder Ornament Display
Framed Ornaments
Window Curtain of Ornaments
LED Holiday Sign

I'll be back to my regularly scheduled programming next week ;)  Thanks for letting me indulge in a little merriment this season.  It brought back a lot of childhood memories.  Have a great weekend!!
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