Pine cones. Yes, pine cones!

I have pine cones on the brain.

Over Labour Day weekend, with the help of my three-year-old niece, I gathered a whole sack full of those babies. I  had recently come into contact with a budled set of 24 issues of Martha Stewart Living magazine. And my cottage is pine cone paradise. I couldn't NOT gather them.

And now I've got to think of something to do with them. I know it's a little early for this for many of you, but here in Canada, we're less than two weeks away from Thanksgiving. Then it will be Halloween. Then Christmas. You know how it is. This time of year always tends to fly by. So I've got to get on this!

I've thought of several ideas, but no matter what I come up with, I know the results are going to be crafty and twee. I'd like to bring a little sophistication to whatever I decide to do.

Have any of you done interesting things with pine cones before? Got any words of wisdom to offer?

In the meantime, here are some of the pincone projects I've found to be most inspiring as of late.
 Pine cone garland by Twig & Thistle:
Adorable animals like these cardinals, from MS Living:
Pine cone light decoration by Creative Jewish Mom:
Seriously, blog-friends. I could use some help.

Doing something chic and simple, like the hanging decoration shown last (by Sweet Paul) would make sense, but I have a HUGE bag full of cones. Even if I used ever colour ribbon I have (including the ones emblazoned with the names of stores and charities), I'd still have pine cones left over.

And I want to make more than one thing.

And I'd like it to be creative.

Help me if you can, interwebs. You know how I love your input.

Remember awhile back when I posted about my guest room? (Actually, it was a very long while back now. You know how it is. Decorating never comes first.)

Anyway, I posted about not knowing what to do with my guest room/office/storage space. Mostly, I focused on the beds. The great twin throw down, I called it. Should I put in two twin beds or one double?

Well, I decided on the twins, and finally, FINALLY, the room is getting close to complete.

Here it is soon after I started working on it:
And here it is today:
It's not finished yet, but I'd say we've come a long way.

DIY stuff and expenditures to note:

The beds were very inexpensive. They are for occasional guests (or nights when one of us is too angry or too sick to snuggle) so they didn't need to be super high quality. At the same time, I've tried them both and they're comfy.

The metal bed frames were new and cost me $50 each. (You can't see them in the shot. They are simple framework dealies.) The mattresses and box springs were second hand (and closely inspected and smelled before purchase). All four pieces 0 from Value Village and Craigslist, respectively, ended up costing about $150 total.

The white bedding is from Beddingtons in Toronto. Each duvet cover set was $30.

The green plaid bits were a DIY project. Nathan had an old duvet cover from his days as a bachelor. I separated it into two pieces (just by tearing the cotton in a straight line -- no hemming -- and laid the pieces under the mattresses to make simple bedskirts. I kept the associated pillowcases in their original role, so that each bed had more than one hint of plaid.
This second image shows the ceiling light fixture. It's an outdoor, gatehouse-style fixture that cost about $15 at Rona. I'm pretty happy with it.

I owe the desk area to IKEA. The white desk top and four Vika Fintorp legs cost me less than $100. (The legs were $10 each). And the desk lamp is the Antifoni work lamp ($34.99) that I featured in this post a few months ago. The globe was a Port Rowan garage sale find that rang it at a whopping $0.50. And the desk chair was a curbside find. (That's right. I garbage picked it. True story.)

The matchstick bamboo blinds are from Zellers (about $35 on sale) and the white drapes are from IKEA (but I can't remember how much they were because they are transplants from my old apartment).
Finally, we have the biggest single expenditure in the room: the $149 Tarnby rug, also from IKEA. It's jute, I think. I've wanted it for a long time.

The basket in the foreground was found at Goodwill and it's contents (two beautiful woven blankets and couple of throw pillows) came from Value Village.

As the room gets more finished, I'll post more about it, but in the meantime, what do you think? Was I right to go with two twin beds instead of one double? Remember, this room is primarily an office... (and Nathan uses it mostly for reading, which he does in his horrible barcalounger -- NOT shown, for obvious reasons).

Anyway, as always, I'd love your feedback.
Chalkboard paint is totally cliched. I know, okay? Don't get your knickers in a twist. I ALREADY KNOW.

But so what? Forget style. Forget fashion. I like a chalkboard for the pure practically of it. So much more appealing than a whiteboard, so much more retro than a message centre. A chalkboard reminds me of my childhood. It fills space. It's dark and moody (if you choose it to be). It's Martha approved.

Here are the two chalkboard pics I found most inspiring in the last six months or so:
The old fridge (source unknown - if you know who I should credit this to, or if you own this photo, please email me).  I know a lot of design bloggers hated this, but I thought it was inspired.
The pantry door, Martha's way (from MS Living magazine). Trust Martha to take things up a notch. This photo almost made me take up baking.

I didn't. Instead, I took up chalkboard making.

I made a big, fat, honking chalkboard out of a door.

Am I happy with the result? I'm not sure. Nathan and I have been writing cutesy notes on it so far. Other than that, it hasn't got much use. I'm also not sure I love it in the living room. But it's so big, I'm not sure where I could put it instead. Another problem is that nothing I write seems good enough for such a major display. I know it's supposed to be fun (and it is), but I'm a bit OCD and seeing my own writing all blown up and magnified and in my face is difficult for me.

I'm sure I'll get used to it. What do you think?
P.S. Sorry about the bad lighting. It's fall here. It's been dreary outside.
Decoupage has recently become one of my favourite DIY crafts. It's super simple and the results are pretty impressive.The only downside is that I tend to find the images I want to use in books, and cutting up books is sort of soul destroying.

I was an English major. It just feels wrong.
Anyway. Before I tell you about my latest project, I should explain that when I decoupage, I cheat. Rather than putting on layer after thin layer of varnish and sanding between each coat, I glob on a lot of varnish, use a hair dryer to speed the drying process, and only sand a little bit. The result is an imperfect finish. If you're a perfectionist (unlike me), you should NOT speed through the process in this manner. Really. You'll be sorry if you do.

Consider yourselves warned and informed.

Now, onto the project. I primed the top of my stool and then painted it matte black. I cut out and glued down some images of the undersides of some Canadian hawks in flight. Then I varnished and sealed my little heart out.
As mentioned, as a result of my impatience, I ended up with some bubbles and imperfections, but I wanted this to be a hard wearing little stool and I didn't want to be precious about it, so I tried not to let that bother me.

Here's a close up of the top:
Despite its flaws, I'm happy with it. I use it as a side table for when I'm lounging on the sofa and the coffee table seems just a little too far away. (Also, because the coffee table is a rosewood antique, inherited from my grandmother, and I'm afraid to ruin it.)

Here's a picture of it in my space. The room's a bit cluttered and messy at the moment. Don't judge me. (At least, don't judge me for that.) But do let me know what you think.
Oh, and if you're looking for better decoupage instructions see this previous post.
If you read the site regularly, you've probably noticed my bed/bedroom obsession.

Last October, I made my first duvet cover, and attempted to mix and match patterns. This summer, I made an attempt to brighten the room by switching out my throw and flipping my pillows.

I wasn't always like this.

I used to be a hardcore advocate of white, white, and more white. Now, all I want is colour. And the colour I like best changes all the time.

It's a bit of a problem.

Anyway, this weekend, I made an attempt to autumn-ize my bedding with yet another injection of colour (to go along with the butterflies I told you about on Monday). What do you think? I even sewed new throw pillow colours (by hand, thankyouverymuch). Though, to be fair, my hand-sewing isn't really impressive since  the only reason I sew by hand is the fact that I don't own a sewing machine. And actually, even if I did, I wouldn't know how to use it, because in Grade 7 and 8 Home Economics class I got a boy named Filippo to do my sewing for me and I didn't learn a thing.  But anyway.
The whole thing came together quickly. After sewing up the pillows, I just added a burgundy sheet set (which you can see only a bit of on the back pillow cases). Then, I threw on a satin throw (which is actually a vintage bedspread from Value Village).

Like? No like? I'm into it. I think it's one of those small change, big impact kind of things.
Usually, butterflies aren't really my thing. They're a little too cutesy wootsy. They don't have the beaky, creepiness that draws me to birds. Nonetheless, a few years ago, I saw an installation of butterflies in the window of a gallery on Queen St. West in Toronto. (I wish I could remember which one.) A little Googling has revealed a NY artist - Paul Villinski - who did a series of "beer can butterflies," but I have no idea if the work I saw was his.

Nathan was engrossed in college football on Saturday, so I finally got around to doing some butterflies of my own. I know that what I've done isn't art. What Paul Villinski does is art. What I've done is just a bit of DIY decor. Nonetheless, it's a fun project. You should try it.

Here are the results of my attempt:

Like it? I do! And it was really easy. I used pretty handmade paper, but I laid the pretty sides down. I spray painted the backs gold for the effect seen here. It creates a nice little surprise when the paper flutters and you catch sight of the patterned undersides.

I adhered each fly with a bit of pre-fab, sticky-back velcro, which allowed me to reposition. (Important if you don't want to plan a layout in advance.) Finally, I folded the wings away from the wall to give each butterfly dimension. (If they lie flat, the effect is completely different.) Villinski actually adheres his on posts or pins (see photo of the orange butterflies, below). They cast shadows, which is nice.
Anyway, like I said, it was an easy project. That said, I did learn some things along the way. To avoid my mistakes, here's what you should know before getting started:

1. You need a lot of butterflies to make this work. If you make too few, your installation will look banal... like something pre-fab or purchased. I have just under 30 in my display and I feel that's the bare minimum.

2. Small butterflies work much better than large ones. The large ones I made almost ruined my display. Aim for butterflies with a wingspans ranging between 2 and 4.5 inches. Also, remember that bigger butterflies weigh more.  I used a light weight paper for mine and the big ones droop. The little ones don't.

3. Sharply cut shapes are much more striking than the blobby, amorphous butterflies I made. I was lazy. Go the extra mile and make sharp cuts. Think points. Plenty of wing points.

4. A heavier material, like cardboard, will work better than paper. I actually like the way my butterflies flutter and droop, but I know they'd be more durable and easier to work with if I'd used something tougher.

5. Placement is difficult. You want the display to look natural and appealing. At the same time, you want it to look random, but to imply movement and direction. Play around until you find a configuration that appeals, and be patient. The trial and error placement method could take a while. (Tip: try to put each bug at a different angle, like they're headed in slightly different directions, and don't space them evenly. Crowd some, put others at a distance.)

For more inspiration check out Paul Villinski's site or this Apartment Therapy post. (Or, just peep the final photo of one of Villinski's installations, below.)

Love, love, love.
* European Peacock butterfly image (top) by Holger Handstein from Stock Xchng.
So earlier in the week I promised a post about the spoils of my small town weekend. Here it is! Small towns are the best for garage sale thrifting. In addition to a few years worth of Martha Stewart Living magazines ($4, thankyouverymuch) I got my grubby paws on all of the following:
These porcelain heads cost me $5 for the pair. I know they're a little weird, but I think they're going to be great on my bookshelves.
This pretty olive-green pedestal dish (it's sort of a compote) only cost me $1.
With the help of my three-year-old niece, I gathered about 100 pine cones. Cost? $0. As for what I'll do with them... I have no idea. I'll have to consult Martha. (Note: pine cone gathering - or rock/acorn/whatever gathering - is a really good way to occupy a preschooler.
Fell in love with this brown, floral apron. It's got a William Morris vibe about it. Only $0.50.
Vintage apron number two. Not exactly my style, but folksy and funny. Also $0.50.
Any globe that features the USSR is alright by me. $0.50.

Total thrift expenditure? $7.50. I used the change from my tenner to buy myself an ice cream cone. There are worse ways to spend a Labour Day.

Farewell, summer of 2010. Thanks for the memories.
Spent four days in small town Ontario this weekend. My family cottage is on Long Point -- a beautiful Lake Erie peninsula. On Labour Day weekend, the beach-adjacent town of Port Rowan holds their annual Bay Fest extravaganza. It used to be called Tomato Fest. Alas, the local tomato fields and cannery are gone now and with them, a lot of the festival magic. Nonetheless, it was a nice time. The weather was chilly and windy and bright. It felt like fall. Nate and I thrifted, rode the Ferris wheel (shown in the distance in the first shot), ate fudge, watched the hoola-hoop competition and the frog toss, and generally had a lovely time. The spoils of our thrifting will likely be shown later in the week, but for now, in honour of wordless Wednesday (which I'm terrible at... hence this block of text), here are some of the sights:
The Bay Fest midway (in the distance) on a bright and chilly Saturday.
Port Rowan boat houses.
Corn and soy, divided.
The town ice cream parlor.
A pumpkin patch. Apparently, many Ontario crops have been early this year and our local gourds are already ripe for the picking.

* Port Rowan - Lake Erie Bay photo by Jen Selk.
* Port Rowan Boat Houses photo by Pearly85 from Flickr.
* Farm photo by Rene Cerney from Stock Xchng.
* Twins Ice Cream photo by mcthebest from Flickr.
* Pumpkin Time photo by Betty George from Stock Xchng.
all photos have cc licenses and are attributed as indicated
Awhile back I was talking about displaying the things you love most. Hanging stuff. Keeping the stuff that means something to you out and visible. I definitely live this way. And it being a Wednesday (a very busy day in the blogosphere), I thought it might be a good day do an image-heavy (rather than text-heavy) post on the subject. Here, some of my own best and most-loved objects:
Plaster hands I made in high school hang on my mantle, right next to the guitar I bought from a pawn shop when I was 15.
A Venetian-style mask I made in university for a drama class called Mask & Mime.
A post card of the painting Honeymoon Nude by John Currin. I saw it at the Tate Modern when I traveled in Europe in my early 20s and fell in love.
Jewelry. It's always a problem. I'm sentimentally attached to it even though I hardly ever wear any. This is my latest attempt at storage, but it's not really working. I'll soon change it again. (The statue was a gift from my then-boyfriend for my 17th birthday.)
Hand-carved wooden animal march loud and proud across my bookshelves.

Anyway. I know none of these items are particularly beautiful. In many cases, they detract from, rather than contributing to my decor. They throw things off balance, and often ruin the synergy I wish I could achieve, but they make me happy. So there.