Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Immy turns four with a knights and princesses party

This little princess turned four on Sunday! And it's the last year I get away with immy having a family-only party because she has little friends from preschool now (it's so cute to see these little friendships bloom). I asked what she wanted to do for her birthday kind of hoping she would just talk about cake but she wanted a princess party. "A dress-up princess party" to be exact. I may have swore on the inside, but on the outside I of course smiled and said "of course! What about a Knights and princesses party?" thinking we'd do cool jousting on pretend horses and make flower crowns and dance around a maypole. And then as usual I realised I just didn't have the energy to go overboard so I asked her what games she wanted (pass the parcel, piñata, cookie decorating) and we went with that in a princessesy way - crown piñata, star glow wands in pass the parcel, glittery  sugary pink sprinkles and mash mallows for the cupcake decorating (we ended up with cupcakes instead of cookies after I forgot to make the dough in time). And then of course there was cake - a castle as the princess demanded and I have to say it was one of the easiest cakes I've ever decorated!! No cutting involved! My only "effort" was making a some little puppet theatres for the kids to decorate and a brown-paper castle that I taped SO neatly and effectively (!!) to one of those pop-up shelters we had. In my head the castle looked so good and worked perfectly. In reality it didn't want to stay upright, tore easily and had packaging tape all over it. The kids thought it was cool though and honestly that is all that matters right! Imogen had several costume changes throughout the day - her birthday outfit she opened that morning (pictured above), then she quickly changed into an Anna dress when it was gifted to her and again into Elsa - another gift. Then at the end I made her get back into her birthday dress for these pictures and after they were done she was Anna again. Phew!  

I may or may not have stolen roses from the next door neighbour's rose bush that is so tall it towers over the fence and so was teasing me with its perfectly rosy petals calling to be torn up and thrown on the ground - a fitting ground cover for princesses.... 

My sister made these awesome costumes for my nephews - how cute are they?! Zak told me every day for two weeks he didn't want to dress up; he didn't want a costume. The day of the party? "I want to be a knight". Cue much frustrated yelling. I told him to make a sword. He needed my help. I spared him about five minutes to glue it together. He wore a Socceroos champions jersey and carried his sword for exactly 35 seconds. Glad I didn't make that costume!

Perhaps not so princessesy was the whacking of a piñata - I've decided it's easier to just cover the sides of piñatas with paper or thin cardboard rather than painstakingly fringe up tissue paper!!! They still get cracked open just fine and you can go into more detail with the design (if you really wanted). This time I covered the sides with white paper then cut out the silver crown, glued it on and had the girls glue the cut-outs and sprinkle glitter on. It was s little messy when it was hit but I didn't hear anyone complain of glitter in the eye! We did have an egg on the head though when my 2-year-old nephew walked up as Zak leant back to whack it and instead whacked Ben in the head. Eek. Bad timing - and amazingly, our first piñata accident (there have been A LOT of pinatas in the eight years I've been throwing kids parties).

THE CAKE! Sponge cake (two layers from Woollies) with jam rolls for the turrets slathered in vanilla buttercream and topped with mini waffle cones also covered in buttercream and sprinkled with pink sugar glitter (no idea what it's called). The bamboo skewers through the tops of the cones keep it altogether and are topped off with a little tape cut into the shape of a flag. Mini marshmallows on the edges create a kind of "stone edge" effect and the parapet (YES I googled castle parts to work out what it's called). And a squirt of chocolate-fudge-in-a-tube made a wonky door. She loved it. 

In our very authentic medieval castle - with parapets - we played pass the parcel, musical chairs and decorated and played with mini puppet theatres I made out of toilet rolls.

They were pretty easy - cut a little window using a scalpel and hot-glue-gun on a little hat for the Rapunzel tower. Cut a parapet around the top of the toilet roll and a drawbridge at the bottom for the castle. Draw up a little knight and/or princess on cardboard, cut and stick to a bamboo skewer and have the kids decorate them. The just stuck on some little flowers and drew on vines and bricks or just coloured in. They can then use them as a puppet and theatre in one.

Cupcake decorating is messy but a good one for kids to do. It keeps them busy and helps you out! You don't need to worry about how they look! One less job! Here is Layla's efforts. Yes, a lot of sugar was consumed...

What is a party without balloons? I made a simple balloon garland for the inside decorations which at the end of the day became the number-one-thing-to-play-with despite all her presents. She grabbed the garland, knotted it up and ran around the yard again, again and again. Good way to wear her out!

Her request for the morning was animal balloons like I did for Layla last year. But I had to change it up a bit so made her a princess, a heart and a number 4. She was thrilled.

And so another party done! Another child is another year older. And I have yet another one growing swiftly and celebrating her birthday next week - Annika is turning ONE! Already! It's really starting to freak me out how quickly birthdays roll around in this place! 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

A real, hopefully helpful, honest guide to renovating your bathroom

Renovating and decorating is so personal. One person's penchant for trends is another's personal time-warpy nightmare back to when they lived with it the first time (kind of like the '80s fashion that keeps coming back!). Regardless of what you choose to outfit your bathroom, the process of renovating it can be pretty overwhelming. I thought I'd outline some of the things I considered, some problems that appeared, some tips and tricks I learnt along the way. I've now renovated two bathrooms (our current house / our old house) and one laundry/WC and am by no means an expert by any stretch of the imagination. But I do think I have some tips to share. And I like to share; I have a blog, don't I?! I also spoke to Dana of House*Tweaking who recently revealed her bathroom renovation and has some good advice too, because it's nice to hear from others who've been through the same thing. This is by no means all the information ever on renovating a bathroom, but it might help in some small way - even if it's tip on taking a million photos so you have some back-up for tradies who might have lost all their important notes written on the wall to an over-zealous plasterer...

Finding your tradies
Ask anyone - ANYONE - who has ever used a tradesman for anything ever and they will say "oh so-and-so came out to give me a quote and I never heard from them again." I have no answer for this annoying trait, but maybe it's in their manual... So yes, you will likely get someone who will waste your time, but you need to find one first, right? Here are a few tips.

Ask around and get recommendations. We knew no one when we renovated our first house - not a soul - so we asked the local hardware store and they gave us the name of a carpenter who ended up doing our whole house. The smaller local hardwares are best - they know their stuff and they work closely with regular, local tradespeople who aren't just after the cheapest price for materials.

You don't need to use a dedicated bathroom place. I don't know much about them but I would hazard a guess that they know what they're doing BUT you'll pay for it.

A good carpenter/builder will know good plumbers, electricians, tilers, plasters - anyone else you'll need for the job. So one recommendation will usually result in a whole team. Same goes the opposite way - if you've ever used a plumber or electrician for another job, they may know a good builder for the job too. These types of tradies are usually contracted by various builders so they get to know them well - who pays them well, treats them well, is organised, who produces good work. They're one of the best sources of recommendations.

Try to have a good idea of what you want before you get someone out. We never got anyone out for any work until we knew exactly what we wanted. But we welcomed their advice and suggestions and even made some of their changes.

The right person for the job is not just the best price. You want someone who is willing to work with you to get you what YOU want - not what THEY want (and there will be some who only want to do what they want. We had a tiler who didn't want to do a feature cause it was in the too-hard basket; another builder didn't like our layout and wanted to change it to something that was less work for him!). We chose our carpenter for our first house because he tried his best to bring our plans to life, even when others had dismissed them (We wanted a certain layout with a door in the middle of a wall. Two builders looked at my sketch and said it couldn't be done. The carpenter actually measured the space and suggested we use a narrower-than-normal door. He got the job.)

Coming up with a layout
This may be dependent on budget, but if you have the luxury to have the space redesigned, here are some things to think about while playing interior designer...

Invest in grid paper and make each square equal 50cm in real life. That's what I do with everything! Draw up your space and measure your existing shower/bath/vanity/toilet space as a guide so you know what you're playing with.

Think about moving utilities to make the best layout for you. A narrow bathroom works well with the bath or shower at the far end.

Consider moving the wet spaces furthest from the door - I don't know about you, but my kids make a huge wet mess every time they have a bath. Toilet trips and teeth brushing meant wet feet right before bed in our old bathroom because they had to pass the bath to get to the sink and their socks (in winter) would get all wet. Or they'd slip over. Now, the vanity is right at the door and the bath/shower beyond it. It hasn't stopped the problem completely, but it's much, much better.

Don't let windows throw you. We have twice now kept the window in the shower/bath - tilers can waterproof and tile around them and with semi-opaque glass or window adhesive, there is no problem with privacy!

Think about moving the door. A door in the centre of a wall gives you another option for a small bathroom - you can place the toilet on one side and the vanity on the other of the same wall with the door in the middle. Open the door so it opens to the side with the toilet. We did this in our first bathroom renovation, pictured above. My bathroom MO hasn't changed much, has it?!

Consider gaps between things like vanities and baths or the wall. You don't want any gaps that you can't get your hand/arm into to clean. Trust me, it's gross. Either leave enough space to get in there or have no gap. There are all sorts of nasties lurking in those hard-to-reach places.

Make sure you really have space for everything - seriously, write a list of all that you require to be in your bathroom that will take up floorspace: laundry basket, bin, toilet brush, toilet paper holder, a stool for the kids... and then make sure you have enough room for it all!

Give yourself enough room on either side of the toilet - I'd allocate a minimum of 80cm to a toilet, with it centred in that space. It's best to place it in a corner so it's close to a wall so the toilet-roll holder is in line with your arm while you're, um, sitting on the throne, rather than having to bend around and do gymnastics to the wall behind you. We have 40cm from the edge of the toilet to the wall on one side and 70cm from the other edge of the toilet to the bath on the other. The smaller space allows a spot for a bin and toilet brush while the bigger space has a tree trunk (temporarily - when I get my butt into gear and go to Ikea, it will house a step stool for the kids.)

Give yourself plenty of space in front of the toilet too - our vanity is 60cm away from it, allowing a thoroughfare for little people to wander in (!), but I wouldn't want to go any closer to it.

Give careful thought to which end you want your showerscreen/taps - you want to make sure you have enough clearance to get in and out of the shower - especially if there is a vanity nearby. You also need to be careful your screen won't smash into anything if you're going to have it swivel, like ours does. Ours opens onto the wall, which is ideal.

Consider a recessed sliding door into the room if space is tight - no door swing might allow you a bigger vanity or more toilet room. You can also request a narrower door or have it slightly shaved if need be. Sometimes a few millimetres can make a huge difference to something fitting perfectly or your layout changing completely!

Don't waste your chance to squeeze in extra storage - recessed wall cabinets might be your thing, try built-in shelving like we did for towels and toilet paper or, if you only have space for a small vanity, think about building in a small ledge above the vanity for toiletries you use everyday but have no space on the sink for.

Making it pretty and practical
You've pinned and stalked Instagram for snippets of bathroom styles you love. Now for a reality check: don't be blinded by the prettiness of some pictures - magazines or styled images always remove signs of life (shampoo/soap/toilet roll stash/scales/toilet brushes etc) so what you're seeing is not necessarily how your space will look should you replicate it. Instead, take note of the things you find repeating themselves in your fave pictures (colour, natural materials, a particular tile) and see if you can work that into your space. Practical AND pretty is what you want. Not just pretty. Here are a few ways you may be able to get it.

Think of different places for your electrical outlets. We placed ours behind the door - it's close enough to the vanity but out of reach of children and water and can't be seen day-to-day. If you rarely use electronics in the bathroom, this might be ideal - or perhaps in a wall cabinet.

Really think about the colour of the grout - especially on the floor. White tiles with white grout on the floor is just asking for trouble. You might as well just choose grey grout because it will inevitably turn grey anyway! My personal preference is a darker floor with lighter walls. If you like the look of darker bathrooms (and we're gearing towards the dark side for our ensuite), I'd still make the floor darker than the walls. I just think they look top-heavy if the walls are darker and it feels off balance. Again, personal opinion but one to consider.

Test your floor tiles at the store - natural stones with a bit of texture are less slippery than smooth tiles. Take a bottle of water with you and wipe a bit of water onto the tile and see how slippery they are. It's a small, not-perfect test but you'd be surprised how slippery they can be. And NEVER use wall tiles on the floor. You might read this with a crinkled-up "well DER" face but in our last rental, they had used the wall tiles all over the bathroom - including the floor. And we hit the deck more times than I'd like to remember. Plus they had cracked in several places on the floor - I'm only assuming here, but I wondered if wall tiles are thinner than floor tiles and this was the reason? Either way, I cursed that bathroom every time I used it!

Consider your showerscreen options Fixed, frameless shower screens are quite lovely to look at, but if you have a shower over your bath or have little kids, a showerscreen that swivels is a great idea. It still can be frameless for the invisible look, but the hinged style of it allows easy access to taps, bathing little ones and cleaning (you can rinse off the outside of it in the shower!

Avoid bath "shelves" When tiling around a bath, depending on the style, you might have the bath sit into a frame which could leave a little tiled "shelf" along the edge (see my picture at the top of the post for detail). This all sounds well and good in theory, but the water pools here like nothing else and the grout stains so easily. I'd ask your builder for other options.

Think about how the floor will match the floor in the rest of your home We chose a grey floor tile that worked well with our whitewashed floors. We're actually planning to resand the floors and stain them when we extend. I'll be choosing a cooler, grey-based stain to match for flow. Orangey pine floors might clash with cool-coloured tiles. Bring a sample tile home and check it in natural light and at night to see if it works. It's not one that can be easily fixed!

Think about what kind of sink you want and who is using it - I always wanted an above-counter sink. To me, it acts like a wall for items on the benchtop - handy when you have young children who are awesome at moving things around randomly and knocking things into the sink. So many times our toothbrush holder was knocked in - along with anything else sitting on the benchtop. It's seems a small annoyance, but appears to be big enough to warrant a change.

Mixers vs individual taps Mixer taps are pretty popular, but I don't like them in a bathroom. In the bath, they are so easy for kids to bump or play with, potentially causing burns. Steve's story about his childhood friend whose skin was burnt from a bathtub has haunted me, so they were out. I considered using one on the vanity but I wanted the same style tap throughout the bathroom.

The range of ready-made vanities might be limited depending on the style of taps you want. I wanted wall-hung taps to show off the cross style I chose with an above-counter basin. Could I easily find a vanity that had no holes in it for the taps? Nope! It was a challenge - most have one hole for a mixer tap or three for your standard-style taps. I was trying to get a good deal on eBay or a hardware store but was limited. In the end, I found BTH, which has a good range.

Tiling around a window ledge, but will cost you a fair bit more than standard tiling. This is due to them having to grind angles on each tile for the corners. Just so you know!

The smaller the tile, the higher the price! Not necessarily the tiles themselves, but apparently all tilers have a hatred for mosaic tiles, so they charge you for them! I was told the rule of thumb was: the smaller the tile, the higher the price to lay them per square metre. My subway tiles cost a fair bit more than regular square tiles would have; mosaics or smaller squares would have cost even more. Next time I think I'll choose gigantic tiles!

Tiling is surprisingly expensive. I'm not sure why this surprises me, but it does. Aside from the carpenter's bill, the tiler was the next expensive. His fee came in at around $2000. To cut costs, we only tiled to the ceiling around the shower area. The walls away from the wet area we did just above the tap line for the vanity. Then for the built-in shelving we just did a border tile near the floor. The bonus thing about doing a half wall of tiles in areas that don't need it is if you install a towel rail or hooks, you're not drilling through tile so they can be moved if you realise you need something different or in a different spot. It happens.

The bigger tile you use on the floor, the smaller amount of grout you need to clean! I'd balance out the large-style floor tiles with a smaller wall tile...

Heat lamps might not be the prettiest thing ever but if you decide against underfloor heating, they are so good. I won't shower without the heat on in winter - it really does make a difference. And you don't look up so no worries!

Discuss with the plumber where the showerhead will sit to ensure it's the right height for everyone. If someone in the family is above-average height (like Steve!), it might need to be installed higher than normal - especially if it's in a bath, which is always slightly higher than the floor level. You might also need a longer arm from the wall if it's a large-circumference showerhead (like our rainfall one) to ensure the right amout of clearance from the wall and so you don't need to angle the showerhead everytime you take a shower.

A few more top tips...
Some miscellaneous things I thought might also be of interest. Warning: poo talk is involved.

Water-saving bits can be removed I do my bit to help the environment but I REFUSE to have a terrible-flowing shower. We bought a rainfall showerhead and were so excited and then the first few showers were pathetic. And the bath took 24 years to run. I asked the plumber what could be done and he just said "I'll just remove the water-saving device in them." Five minutes later we had a fast-running bath and a heavenly rainfall showerhead. They are the only two taps I've removed them from, but a little luxury is good for the soul.

Take photographs of each stage of the renovation From demolition, to re-studding, to the plumbing bits fitted, images of the various stages can really help when small hiccups occur. It's amazing how often the photographs of the studs came in handy. When the time came to install the hooks, the builder's notification to themselves of where their stud was had been plastered over. And when the builders forgot to cut a hole for their electrican's cables for our oven in the kitchen, my photos helped the electrician work out where it was so the damage was minimal.

Plan ahead If you're going to install a towel rail or hooks for towels on a wall, have the builders put a stud or noggin in place where they'll go so it's not just screwed into the plasterboard.

Look at your toilet. Really look at it. I made the mistake of just buying the narrowest toilet I could find that didn't have plastic parts (I didn't want a plastic seat). But once it was all in and our bathroom was in working order we quickly discovered annoyances that has Steve and I hanging for a pristinely perfect toilet in our ensuite! Inspect the inside of it - you don't want an opening that is too small that waste will not be flushed out properly. I'd also avoid toilets with a bit of a "shelf" on the inside. Excuse my potty talk, but when you have small children who tend to do their business close to the front of the toilet, there are issues with their, um, "presents" collecting on the little shelf and not flushing properly, leaving lovely artwork-style marks and generally stinking up the place. It's like the toilets I came across a lot while in Germany. I hated those things! The best styles are bowl-style with a large opening at the base. And that's the end of the poo talk!

Baths - especially bath/shower combinations - will move over time. So keep in mind the grout might crack slightly after a bit of use and you may need to redo the grout and the silicone around the edges too. Mine needs to be done, I'm still working on finding some time to do that! 

Have the tiler look at the toilet base before he begins tiling - some require the tiles to be cut perfectly around the base as the plumbing IS the base, while other toilet's have a base that fits over the plumbing and therefore will cover the tiles.

Strange smells will be temporary Oh wait, I lied. A little more poo talk: you might discover a delightful (!!) sewerage smell while your bathroom is being renovated. This will disapper once the toilet is fitted with S-bends so just bear with it for a little while. (It's still gross).

This is another one of those things people will debate about. MY opinion is this...
Taps: All have water-saving devices these days and need to be made to meet a certain standard, so they're all going to be pretty similar. I bought our taps from Bunnings and they were the higher end of their range but still a lot more affordable than at a bathroom store.
Tiles: Tiles have a huge range of prices for the same kind of thing. I bought all my tiles from Bunnings and even the tilers suggested I get them there as they were a great price and a good tile. IF you want a particular tile or a feature wall of amazingness, then this would move into the splurge section. In my bathroom, we used simple styles so no need to pay through the teeth for them.
Toilets: Again, they need to meet standards and have water-ratings. I'd just avoid anything with a plastic seat/cistern.
Hardware: Towel rails, toilet-roll holder and hooks - I just can't justify spending a lot of these items. As long as the quality is good - they seem sturdy and look nice, does it really matter if they're bargain-priced?

Vanity: This is your one real piece of furniture in the room, you want it to be a bit of a focus and nice looking so I'd buy a nice one. Ensure it's not going to blow out if it gets water-damage, so badly-sealed laminates (on edges) are not a great idea.
Custom fittings: Built-in shelves, recessed shelving or door changes can be huge game-changers to a space so are worth spending on.
Tiling: You might not have a choice! They're expensive! But we're glad we upped the budget to allow for the half walls of tiles on the vanity and toilet walls rather than just a floor border. It was worth it to us (plus - happier there are tiles behind a toilet rather than just a wall!)

I spoke to the lovely Dana from House*Tweaking - owner of this pretty space, below - for her top tips for renovating a bathroom. Here's someone else's perspective:

If possible, work with the current layout to keep costs down In a perfect world, I would have moved the tub / shower plumbing to the opposite wall but we saved $$ by keeping it in the original location.

Choose classic finishes for longevity Bathroom materials aren't the easiest to switch out (as opposed to, say, a pillow on a sofa). Subway tile, hexagon tile and/or penny rounds in neutral colours are good go-tos.

Take a risk! I had my heart set on a vintage cast iron tub set in a wood saddle base, but had no tutorial to follow and many people tried to talk us out of it. We made it up as we went along and somehow pulled it off (above). It's one of my favorite projects to date.

Choose your grout colour wisely Light grey or sandy-coloured floor grout is super family-friendly!

Information overload? You could play a drinking game for the number of times I said "consider" or "think"!! I do hope some of it's helpful. And I'm sure there are a million more tips and tricks to renovating and decorating a bathroom space effectively, but you'll come across some of them as you tackle it. And if you've already learnt some, feel free to share them in the comments section for those who are gathering as much information as they possibly can! If you're after more tips about renovating in general, try this post for some things I've learnt along the way.

{Top images by Belinda Graham for The Happy Home; bottom image by Dana Miller for House*Tweaking}

Friday, February 27, 2015

Sneak peek at my kitchen + a little interview

THIS IS MY KITCHEN! It's almost finished! Well it is finished aside from a little painting and kickboard installation. We finally - after a whole year - had a tiler come and do the splashback. I don't know why I waited so long! I had debated for a long time about doing it myself like last time but there were a few too many tricky cuts around the rangehood and the windowsill and it was all just a bit in the too-hard basket... So last week they came and made it all pretty and now it just feels so complete. And this is Annika and I in it, celebrating this fact. Well not really, but we do look happy, don't we? She wasn't at all happy for me to take this picture though, hence her being in it - she was very grizzly and in no mood to be put down. So rather than listen to all the screaming while I attempted to play model AND photographer, she joined in. It turned out rather blurry but I'm cool with that. 

I'll show you more of this space later, but the reason for the picture was for a little interview I thought I'd share with you. My good friend Natalie has a relatively newish blog called The Indigo Crew where she writes about life with her three kids - crafts, adventures, books, brands and more. She has so many great ideas and a beautiful aesthetic - you should go and check it out and be inspired. Nat has recently started a couple of new series on her blog, chatting to fellow mothers and creatives she's discovered on Instagram and beyond. She kicked the series off with Courtney Adamo from Babyccino Kids and I was happy to follow (though what an act to follow!) - answering 10 questions covering my childhood, my present and the future. I talk about my teenage self's career plans to something I've learnt to something I thought I'd never do (oh that would be yelling at my kids! Eek!). You can have a little read here and be sure to check back Tuesdays to see who else she has in store - I know she has a few good ones up her sleeve! She's also started to chat to the creatives behind great brands, such as Dee Purdy behind gorgeous clothing label Une Belle Epoque - their gorgeous linen Can Can tops get a workout at our place by Imogen and Annika! I was surprised and impressed to discover the label is her side project and she has a busy career in finance - learning things like that make me want to light a fire under my butt and get myself inspired to make my dreams come true (though pinning the actual dream down is kind of difficult at the moment!). Read more about Dee and her lovely label here

And just for fun, here are a couple more (blurry!) shots from that day... The sun was streaming through the back doors, which was lovely, but it wreaked havoc on the image of the stool legs (they're actually back!) Have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

DIY rustic floating shelves from repurposed tap parts and a table top

After cleaning up after the big, messy bathroom renovation, I came across some tap parts that I thought looked kind of cool. I squirrelled them away thinking I might come up with some use for them and promptly forgot about them. Then about six months ago (I know. I am so slow with everything these days) Steve and I decided to turn an old tabletop we found into some floating shelves for the open part of our hallway that faces the kitchen. Our front door opens straight into the living room - and will do so even when we renovate the front - so we have no entryway as such for bags/keys/sunglasses etc. So the hallway had sort of become it - but all we had was a small table (actually Steve's grandmother's old vintage sewing machine table) and it looked a bit sad all lonesome. Some shelves were in order. But we didn't want anything too modern and we didn't want them to disappear into the wall. We thought we could make a feature out of the shelves by using some reclaimed timber and placing them off centre to each other on the wall. So we made these! I found a tutorial online from Vintage Revivals for floating shelves and showed Steve who took one brief look, ignored it and winged it. A couple of attempts later, he had built some shadow box shelves. Here they are just missing their tops. 

I compared our shelves to Mandi's and realised they were close enough (high five Steve!) and that's when I noticed the bolt features at the ends of her shelves. I remembered our tap parts and suggested we drill a hole in each end and just fill it with silicone before slipping them in. They were the perfect finishing touch - has timber and brass ever been a bad combination? Here is the unstained shelf with our tap parts, below. The tap handles screw onto the long skinny part (I think).

I'd have happily have left them the raw grey colour of the tabletop, but because we had to cut up the panels, we had new-looking timber and old, so we stained to get a more even colour. I used a walnut stain - I painted it on, left for about half a minute then rubbed off with newspaper. 

I was happy with the colour and happy with the shelves themselves. We ended up nailing them with gigantic nails into the studs and they seem to be doing ok (screws would most likely be best, but I can't remember why we didn't use them). I don't have a tutorial for you - go forth and adapt Mandi's if you like. Or wing it like we did, but here is the end result! 

The wall is open to the kitchen (to the left a little hallway takes you to the bathroom and a bedroom; to the right is a longer hallway and the other two bedrooms) so there is plenty of room to walk around and luckily no heads have hit them because of this! We hung our fishbowl there and placed a few fave pieces on the shelves themselves including vintage books my Mum handed down to me that were hers as a child, Steve's cricket trophy mug from his time playing in Wales, a bowl of nature finds, a vintage clock that belonged to Steve's grandparents and a Garfish skull the kids found a few weeks ago in a tree! The table houses my daily essentials and underneath is home to the market basket I take everywhere and a hat basket. 

I'd like to create some kind of proper entryway area with room for hats, bags, umbrellas etc once our home is extended and renovated, but for our tiny space now, this seems to work. And I do love the look of them. Especially when filled with some fave things...

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Crafting: stencilled gold leaf and glitter balloons

Erm, Happy New Year! It's probably time I got Christmas crafts off the front page, right? So lets decorate balloons! Valentine's Day has passed, but these are an any-occasion craft and seeing as we're entering one of my family's major party seasons (March to July we pretty much have a birthday a week), I thought these gold-leaf pretties might work well at my two littlest girls birthday parties - one of whom is four in a few weeks and the other who will be celebrating her very first birthday at the end of March! Already! 

Customise as you see fit - a number or initial for the birthday girl or boy, spots, stripes or other patterns for other occasions. Knock yourself out! We chose hearts for Valentine's Day, because what else would you do on a holiday of the heart?! Here's how to DIY...

Your toolkit:
Balloons - we chose a few colours and had the helium added at the party shop. In my head the purple was navy but they didn't have any (how dare they ruin my plans).
Contact paper - the thinner the better. We used clear
Gold Leaf
Sizing (glue for gold leaf. I've used regular glue with gold leaf before and it's worked fine, but I'm not sure how it would go on the balloon.)

How to:
1. Cut the stencil out of the contact paper - I cut a large heart for the clear balloon and lots of smaller hearts for the white one. Cut around the shape so you don't have a lot of excess trim - the less sticking to the balloon, the better.

2. For the glitter hearts, remove the backing and stick randomly over the balloon. For the larger heart, it's a bit trickier as the balloon is round so the contact paper won't mould to it. So, start at the bottom point and gently stick it to the balloon from the bottom up. Try and move your way up evenly on both sides. As you get to the top, you'll realise you have too much contact paper and it will bubble, so keep smoothing it out and push the "bubble" towards the middle and then pinch it at the top and centre of the heart (see second image below). It will create an even heart but slightly narrower than what you cut.

3. Paint on your sizing, being careful not to go beyond your contact paper stencil's border - just a light coat is all you need. If you're using glitter, you can sprinkle on immediately while the glue is wet. If you're using gold leaf, wait a few minutes until it is tacky before applying. Too wet and the gold leaf will just slip off the balloon. Once tacky, gently smooth over your gold leaf. You may need more than one sheet, just apply all over - it will only stick to the sizing. Smooth out any bumps and leave to dry for a few minutes.

4. Once dry, use your finger or a soft brush to brush away any excess gold leaf. I just rubbed the gold leaf all over - especially around the edge of the stencil - with my fingers. Do it bit by bit - don't rush the stencil removal as you can pop the balloon! Do it slowly and pull away from the gold leaf, not into it as it may remove some of the leaf from the heart. You can also remove the stencil before you apply the gold leaf - I tried both and they both worked. For the glitter hearts, blow or shake off excess glitter and remove the stencils, again going slowly!

5. All done! If you want a simple balloon topper too, we did this for Steve's birthday balloons: cut three different sized hearts from glitter paper and cut two slits in each heart. Then simply slide them over the string and up to the balloon - biggest to littlest.

Immy and I made up a bunch of these balloons on Valentine's Day and she decided to part with one for her little friend Kai. So we got in the car with matching blue (for him) and clear (for her) heart balloons and POP! Kai's busted. So she grabbed another one and off we went (below). When she finally got to hand it over, I was just about to say "you might want to tie it to your wrist" and .... he let it go! And boy, did it go! It was halfway to heaven in .45 seconds. That helium is fast-flying stuff! He didn't mean to and was sad to watch it fly away, but it was a sweet moment nonetheless! 

And Valentine's Day or not, those girls of mine were totally obsessed with their balloons - from painting the glue and sprinkling the glitter to tying them to anything and everything and pretending to float away with them, they utilised a good majority of the 24 hours or so the helium lasted!

PS: The purple balloon was just randomly painted with sizing at the base of the balloon and then the gold leaf applied to the brushstroke, which gives it that nice painted effect.