The breadbox project

I grew up in the ’80s, and when I was a kid we always had a breadbox on our countertop. It provided a nice, dark space to store baked goods (and kept them fresher for longer) plus helped to keep the counter clutter-free. As an adult, I could never find a box that suited my tastes (thanks to the ’80s orange and green theme from my childhood), but I loathed the fact that I stored all of my baked goodies in an upper cabinet by the stove. Enter my penchant for yard sales and DIY projects :).

Last weekend I scored a sweet (albeit, uninspired) oak breadbox at a neighbourhood yard sale for a measly $2. I had visions of making it fit with my grey, black and white backsplash and black appliances, and thought a quick update would fit the bill. I picked up some glossy black craft paint at my local dollar-esque store for $2.50 (not everything is a dollar in dollar-esque ville) and found brushed nickel cabinet pulls that matched my existing ones for only $4.99 at the hardware store. So for less than $10, I give you the great breadbox project!

The original oak breadbox.

The original oak breadbox.

Tools of the trade.

Tools of the trade.

After one coat of glossy paint, it still needed some work.

After one coat of glossy paint, it still needed some work.

The finished product!

The finished product!

Creamy Ham & Potato Soup

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Out of all my easy-to-make recipes, this one has to be my favourite. It’s a hearty and delicious soup that tastes like you spent all day slaving over a hot stove to make it, but it really only takes about an hour, tops (maybe less if you’re better at chopping veggies than I am!). Special thanks to my mom, who gave me this recipe years ago. It makes me look like a culinary genius and I’m grateful :).

Suffice to say, it’s easier to make this if you have some leftover ham from a previous meal. I’ve used both toupie style and non-toupie style hams and really have no preference. If you’re short on time or leftovers, you can absolutely buy a pre-cooked toupie style (or even canned ham) to use here (no judgement!). Trust me, you’re still going to look like a cooking superstar no matter if you cook your own ham or not.

Ingredients:

  • 1+1/2 lbs Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1 rib of celery, diced
  • 1-2 cups of ham, diced
  • 3 tbsps butter or margarine
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 4 cups broth (veggie or chicken)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup cream or milk (the thicker, the better – but you decide based on what you prefer)
  • Salt & pepper to taste ( I like about 1/2 tsp of pepper and minimal salt)

Method:

  • Melt butter / margarine in a stock pot over medium heat.
  • Stir in carrot, celery, onion, garlic, salt & pepper. Cook about 5 minutes, until onions are translucent.
  • Add ham and mix.
  • Stir in flour to coat all ingredients.
  • Stir in broth and water.
  • Heat on high until boiling, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pot for any yummy goodness that stuck there.
  • Once boiling, reduce heat to medium and simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Stir in potatoes and continue to simmer for another 20 minutes.
  • Mash lightly with a masher to break down the potatoes, leaving some chunks. Don’t over mash – just enough to make it creamy.
  • Add in cream or milk and stir well.
  • Let simmer for another 5 minutes, just to heat the milk and thicken the soup.
  • Serve with biscuits (I use bisquick mix and it takes 10 minutes. And people think I’m chef).
  • Revel in the adoration of your family and guests.

I hope you enjoy this one as much as my guests do!

Cheers!

The cheap & cheerful paper project

I have a confession to make. I love paper. Wrapping paper, stationary paper, sticky note paper, even plain brown Kraft paper. I see infinite possibilities with paper, and I don’t even make origami. So it stands to reason that I love the Dollarama and all the paper it has to offer. I also love a few boutique places in Toronto – including The Paper Place on Queen West. It’s like paper-heaven on earth. And since they have small samples and left-overs at discounted prices, I never break the bank feeding my paper addiction.

Now, what to do with all that gorgeous, colourful paper is sometimes a challenge. But I’ve found a cheap and cheerful project for mine. I frame it, like the artwork it is. It’s a fantastic way to create inexpensive (and beautiful) décor pieces for any room, plus it makes the most of some fabulous paper designs.

As for the framing itself, I don’t blow the budget. The examples I’ve used below are all from my local Dollarama, where I paid $2 each. Some of the paper I used is from there, too. So let your creative juices flow, my fellow DIYers…the sky’s the limit!

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A weekend wallpaper caper

I have to admit, I haven’t been much of a wallpaper lover in recent years. I got caught up in the ease and convenience of painting (who doesn’t love to change the entire look of a room in a couple hours?), and looked down my paint-splattered nose at the work wallpapering takes! But I recently became enthralled with wallpaper I found online from a UK retailer and knew that a weekend of paste, sweat and tears was coming my way.

I have to preface this post with huge thank you to my brother-in-law, Richard, who was really the hero behind this little powder room makeover. He’s an experienced wallpaper guru, and definitely proved his prowess last weekend, particularly with a birch tree motif that was not a beginner-level matching job! And so, Sir Richard…I am eternally grateful :).

Without further ado, I give you my ethereal birch tree powder room – a thing of wood nymphs, forest fairies and nature at its best.

I like using rustic elements like wire baskets to keep things organized in the space.

I like using rustic elements like wire baskets to keep things organized in the space.

I continued the rustic theme with a hook and shelf combo that holds extra towels and some decorative plants in galvanized planters.

I continued the rustic theme with a hook and shelf combo that holds extra towels and some decorative plants in galvanized planters.

A lucky find! Birch bark candle by Homesense.

A lucky find! Birch bark candle by Homesense.

I opted for basic black and white prints for artwork, mounted in white, matted frames. Nature prints fit the space.

I opted for basic black and white prints for artwork, mounted in white, matted frames. Nature prints fit the space.

Another small DIY project - Dollarstore frame and printed-at-home b&w flower prints.

Another small DIY project – Dollarstore frame and printed-at-home black & white flower prints.

Affordable, durable & stylish – my weekend DIY project

This past weekend, my hubby and I tackled a rather unexpected DIY project. We recently (ok, a month ago!) moved into our new house and have been discussing affordable solutions to our ho-hum, builders’ beige finishes. We really weren’t planning on installing a new countertop to replace the current laminate one for a while (that would just be wasteful), but I was disturbed that my Julia Childs impersonations in the kitchen were leaving stains on the painted wall behind the stove. Knowing we will eventually rip out the countertop made us reluctant to install a sparkling new tile backsplash.

Enter the delightful blog advice from Rhiannon’s Interiors last Friday, where contact paper and peel-and-stick tiles were discussed as affordable alternatives. DING! Made total sense to me. So off to the home improvement store I went, and came home with SmartTiles in Keystone Mosaic. They are gel-based (and very convincing-looking) peel-and-stick tiles that can be removed without damage by heating them up with a hair dryer. Genius, I say.

Here are a few pictures of the project.

Tools of the trade. The Exacto-knife was handy to cut the larger 10 x 10 sheets into smaller strips when needed.

Tools of the trade. The Exacto-knife was handy to cut the larger 10 x 10 sheets into smaller strips when needed.

The tile sheets were remarkably easy to stick onto the clean wall.

The tile sheets were remarkably easy to stick onto the clean wall.

My grease-splattered nemesis...the wall behind the stovetop! But no more - the tiles are easy to clean with a damp cloth.

My grease-splattered nemesis…the wall behind the stovetop! But no more – the tiles are easy to clean with a damp cloth.

The finished product! Convincing and very stylish...all for about $250 and 6 hours of our time.

The finished product! Convincing and very stylish…all for about $250 and 6 hours of our time.

Mirror, mirror…

I would say ‘on the wall’ but these days mirrors are everywhere BUT on the wall. And for good reason. Reflective surfaces, whether on furniture or accessories, can be sleek and modern or charming and feminine, depending on how they are displayed. I’ve been adding them into my own decor sparingly, and I’m pleased with how they play off my existing dark wood pieces. They seem to add light and sparkle wherever they live. Here are some inspiration pieces (plus a few of my own new additions!) to give you some food for design thought.

This mirrored chest would look equally chic as a sideboard in a dining room or a dresser in a bedroom.

This mirrored chest would look equally chic as a sideboard in a dining room or a dresser in a bedroom.

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I just love this feminine side table! Imagine it in a pretty bedroom or bath, or as the stylish piece next to the sofa to tone down a masculine room.

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A mirrored jewellery box, patterned in a lovely lavender damask, makes a great addition to my bedroom! It holds loads of baubles, plus radiates light when the morning sun hits it. Homesense has a delightful selection of them at reasonable prices.

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This was a surprising find for me! Meant to be a bathroom canister, this delicate glass piece with aluminum lid is a perfect hiding spot for my favourite bracelets. And for $7.99 at Homesense, it didn’t break the bank!

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I couldn’t resist this adorable companion to the lavender damask piece – its perfect proportions and velvet lining are useful for storing everything from jewellery to pocket change. And at only $4.99, why not?

Cherished items that make you smile

I’ve never been one for theme rooms. There’s always been something a little too contrived about making everything match. But I can say without a doubt that I often gravitate towards fun décor items that remind me of my two favourite things – my two dachshund babies, Oscar & Bodhi.

Now, I’m no crazy-dog-lady (ok, that’s been disputed, but with no concrete conclusion), but I see no harm in having dear and delightful doxie reminders in my everyday life when my pooches aren’t around. A theme? Not really. I scatter them throughout my spaces (my home office, bedroom, purse – you get the idea), and I’m thrilled when I catch a glimpse of one unexpectedly, and it makes me smile.

And so, I’ve compiled a few pictures of my favourite doxie-themed decor pieces that make my day! I hope they make you smile, too.

My favourite doxie pen acts as a cute reminder of my darling lovelies.

My favourite doxie pen acts as a cute reminder of my darling lovelies.

Just love this cute & compact dachshund bookend in lacquered white.

Just love this cute & compact dachshund bookend in lacquered white.

This colourful cutie was a fundraising item at a local retailer and all proceeds from the sales went to an animal rescue - that's what I call a win-win situation!

This colourful cutie was a fundraising item at a local retailer and all proceeds from the sales went to an animal rescue – that’s what I call a win-win situation!

And of course, the real deal :). Bodhi & Oscar, my teeny-weenie babies ;).

And of course, the real deal. Bodhi & Oscar, my teeny-weenie babies ;).

And you? Care to share what themed items you display to remind you of cherished people, places or (doggie) babies?

Birch tree wallpaper – beauty from nature

Beautiful birch trees provide a graphic and striking backdrop.

Beautiful birch trees provide a graphic and striking backdrop.

There’s nothing I love more than bringing the outdoors in. With wallpapers and other wall coverings making a comeback, my vote is for this graphic birch tree print with a subtle metallic background. It will be gracing the walls of my new powder room soon! While Cole & Son offers a similar print in their luxury line (3 rolls for $950), I found my rolls at a UK retailer on eBay (3 rolls plus shipping for $94.00).