Friday, June 29, 2012

My Tips: Hey, Sugar Sugar!

I am a big baker. I love to make cookies and cupcakes and brownies and all that deliciousness. I am always stocked on the baking essentials (except chocolate chips because I can't be trusted around those!). Sometimes I get a hankering for a cookie and I whip up an entire batch (and bring 95% to work). Except now I work in a small office of 3 people and I end up eating 90% of the cookies in the end. haha

I showed you my baking cupboard here:

 One of the worst issues for a baker is to pull out your supplies and find your brown sugar is hard as rock. Since baking has a lot to do with whether brown sugar is loose or packed, you cannot cook with hard brown sugar! But today I am going to share some techniques to prevent this issue, and how to fix it if it gets too late.

1. Store in a sealed, airtight container: Throw out the bag it comes in and use a container like I do! My brown sugar stays fresh WAY longer now that I keep it in Tupperware.

2. Wet a clay disc, dry it off, and toss it in the brown sugar. This works amazing. It is magic! My brown sugar feels like new! I have this cute little owl one I got for a few dollars at a baking store.

3. A lot of other items will work, like apple slices, marshmallows, and even a slice of bread! I am not sure how well those work, so you may want to research first.

Now, if you already have hard brown sugar- there is a super easy fix. Fill a bowl with a bit of water and fill a bowl with your brown sugar (not the same bowl!). Then stick in the microwave for 30 seconds. Bada-bing bada-boom: soft brown sugar!

What is your trick for fresh brown sugar every time?

Have a great long weekend, my fellow Canadians!!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Operation GLO

I am not an organized person. I may be more organized than the regular person, but I am a label maker short of calling myself a truly organized person. I think a lot of us are like that, we are organized in some ways, but in other parts of our lives we let things slide. Maybe you have a million social engagements, or you are doing some giant renovation and your home in shambles, or maybe your desk is so covered in paperwork that you lost your phone.

Back in my university days, I was generally on top of my school work, but once and awhile I would just feel the weight of the 16 chapters I needed to read in history class, and how I was 2 sections behind my statistics class and the big test was coming up! So I invented a simple technique I dubbed "GLO". And no, that doesn't mean Gym, Laundry, Organization, but it definitely can incorporate that!! It stands for Get Life in Order. I would tell my roommates I needed to "GLO" and I would shut my door or head to the library and work diligently for hours on end until I was caught up or even ahead!

When I started working, I found sometimes that I was drowning in paperwork, especially because we were sometimes short staffed. Once and while I would stay late and just power through so that I could sleep easy and relax the next day.

It sounds like such a simple concept, but how often do you write out a to-do list an sit your butt down and just get 'er done? In our day-to-day life we often mix chores with pleasure, but this concept is taking a whole day (or a large chunk of time) and just do chores. The point is just to get done all that stuff you have been putting off because you are lazy or don't enjoy it.

The thing is- it feels amazing when you are done. We all know that feeling of having NOTHING to do because you have worked your little butt off and it feels great. You suddenly can drop the guilt and just enjoy relaxing or spending time with family and friends. This will just make you a better person- you will be more outgoing and fun with no weight on your shoulders.

We have a long weekend coming up, and due to an appointment on Tuesday, I actually have a four day weekend. So I have decided that I am going to GLO this weekend. Friday-Sunday I will be at my brother's new house watching my favourite niece while they move. However, once I am home I am going to just get down to work and start the summer off right.

And to ensure I don't cheat, I am writing this on the blog!
To Do:
- Clean bathroom, including scrubbing the darn tub
- Micro clean all floors in the condo
- Go to Fabricland and fight off old ladies for the best fabrics before they go out of business
- Call all the companies to which I pay money every month and get on pre-authorized credit card payments. I don't know why I am paying each bill manually. It's silliness
- Get some stuff up for sale on Kijiji and Craigslist that has been sitting in the locker
- Clean out front hall closet because stuff has been creeping back in there
- Get some blog projects and posts done
- Brainstorm new projects
- Buy groceries and try some new recipes

I can do that all this weekend, can't I?? Anyone else need to GLO?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Mirror, Mirror, on the wall

I have had a couple of comments from friends (yes, YOU Miss Sarah) that my living room needs a mirror. Now, I do have a mirror in the bathroom, the front hall, and a full length mirror in the front hall closet- so it isn't that I am mirrorless. But those mirrors are utilitarian in that they serve a function. What my friends are talking about is a decorative mirror. Decorative mirrors are different because they are not designed to see yourself in, but to reflect light and make a place look brighter and larger.

And you know what, girls? I totally agree- I need a mirror! I don't know if it would reflect much light, but I think it would be a great touch that would pick up on the cool grey and silver tones I have going on.

Positioning of a decorative mirror is very important, because whatever it reflects becomes the art on the mirror wall too! Therefore if you are hanging a mirror, have it point towards something nice, like a window or a piece of art. Otherwise it will come off as more of a functional mirror, and if your mirror is not designed to reflect people (perhaps it is not at eye level or many small mirrors grouped together) then it will always seem "off". A mirror is not a decorative tool in and of itself, it builds upon the current decorative elements in a room through reflection.

Therefore, I decided that over my couch is the best spot. It will reflect my artwork over the TV, and hopefully will pick up some of the sunlight from the angled windows and help with lighting issues in the living room/kitchen space.

Now, I am a little stumped about the style of mirror that I want. I am also cheap, so none of these particular mirrors are actually what I will buy, I just thought I would photoshop some styles of mirror-decoration and see what I like.

Option A: Large Mirror
Option B: Smaller mirrors, in a grouping
Source: 1, 2, 3
Option C: Ornate Mirror
Option D: Starburst Mirror
I am kinda thinking Option D, looking at these photos. It seems like it will fit into the style of my place more. But what do you guys think?

Also, I am really glad I spent all that money on photography and photoshop classes. My skills astound me. hahaha.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Now here was a bright idea...

So after THREE, count them: THREE, months of having a patio that looks like this:
See here for explanation
I decided enough was enough and I packed up those lights (as best as I could) and took them back to Canadian Tire. Did you know they have a 90 day return policy?? Anyway, they wouldn't give me a refund, but I did get store credit!! And I am sure to use it so I didn't mind in the least!

However, I didn't like any of their lanterns so I was stuck all lantern-less (couldn't really tell in the dark anyways) for a couple of weeks. Then last weekend my friend Sarah and I made a trek out to the west end of the city to go to some big box stores, and we went to Walmart and I found a new lantern!

They only had one tabletop lantern (there is TOTALLY an opportunity in the market here), but it looked nice enough! So I picked it up and brought it home and prayed it worked.

It was really weird- it isn't even a brand!

And on the instructions, it said if you have any questions or concerns, email David. AND IT HAD A PERSONAL EMAIL ADDRESS. I think I will email David and tell him I am enjoying his lamp. hahaha. Do you think David is some sort of lamp-god, and he left this here for me to find? Cause it was all by itself on the shelf and everything.

Anyway, I set up my lamp and I found out I love it more than my old ones!

1. Its nice and tall and has a HUGE solar panel on top for gathering the suns

2. The on/off switch is just under the lip! No screwing off the top like my old ones. It also has two brightness levels!
I really like the french translation for Position 1 and 2. Very handy



In other balcony news, I got this sweet plant at Walmart for $5. I don't even know what type of plant it is, so I will most likely kill it.

And lastly, it has been sooooo insanely hot in Toronto! like 35 degrees Celsius PLUS humidity, so it was more like 45 degrees! That's like 113 degrees Fahrenheit, for those Americans out there. In-sane.

It was so hot my candle melted

See that wet spot at the bottom? That's wax. There is green wax all over the white table (where it was sitting). The thing is like 2 inches shorter now. hahaha. Luckily now it is a more reasonable 25 degrees and breezy, so hopefully this candle will last the summer.

Did anyone else melt in the heat this week?

Monday, June 25, 2012


My couch is here!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I know I said end of July, but then Arrow Furniture called last week and said it was in and they were ready to deliver! It showed up on Saturday morning and it was a bit of an adventure. Because of all the packaging, it didn't want to get through the door. But the building's superintendent was helping and he got it through!

The super also fixed the loose lock on my front door while he was here- that man is awesome!

So it finally arrived, but because I am cheap and didn't pay for the assembly it was left to me like this:

When I got my old couch from Urban Brick they stripped it and attached the legs for no extra cost. But oh well. Overall I have been very happy with Arrow Furniture. The couch came in perfect condition, on the stated date and time, AND was obviously a whole month early! They offered to hold onto it until July if I wanted to wait.

Obviously the next thing I had to do was strip this puppy down and set up my new couch! It was difficult- that plastic was thick- but I ended up like this:

My poor condo!! haha. I did break down the cardboard to bring down to the recycling room. I used my exacto-knife, which made quick work of it, and I took the room from that above, to this:

So much better! I didn't have any twine, so I just taped with my painter's tape. I was able to take it all down in one trip, which I didn't expect I would be able to do!

But I know you don't care- you want to see the couch!!

Yay!! I LOVE it. It is a little stiff, but I know it will soften when broken in because the store model was nice and cushy. And you know what else? It came with a bonus!

Pillows! I didn't even realize the pillows in the store came WITH the couch! That was a nice bonus! I like them too- I may recover them with something more colourful down the line, but for now they really work with the space. Don't mind that white poking out from under the seat- it is the tag and I didn't notice when  was taking the photo.

There is only one glaring problem now.

I have to sell my old couch! Yikes! haha I actually have had it up on craiglist and kijiji for over a week now. I have had a couple of emails, but no follow-through yet. Hopefully it'll be gone soon!!

I did re organize so that my table could be set up again, so now the living room looks like this:

The new couch got moved to the end of the bed because it is not as wide as the old one. It doesn't looks too bad in the photo, but it is ridiculously cramped in real life. haha. I need to sell that couch!! However, I think I should have a party first because I will never have this much seating in the condo again!

In the corner there you can see my spare chair for my table- it doesn't fit for now. Did I ever mention that these are FOLDING CHAIRS? They are so cool! But one (the one in the corner) does NOT like to unfold and I folded them up to make room for the couch coming in- and now it is stuck again. I was way too tired from unpacking/moving couches to fight it at the time.

So I broke in the new couch in the most appropriate way: a nap

Haha just kidding! But I am glad the new couch fits the nappable criterion as well! That wasn't something I was going to try out in the store. It was very comfy!

Overall, I give my new couch an A+++++++++ :)

Friday, June 22, 2012

My Tips: How to knot thread

It is the summer and I honestly don't feel like being inside and working on projects. Nope- I need to find me a patio and enjoy the sunshine. So I decided that on Fridays I will just share a quick tip on all sorts of household things that people tend to struggle with.

I might not always have the best solution, but it is what works for me!!

Today I thought I would go through how to get a knot at the end of your thread. When you are doing any sort of hand-sewing project, it is hard enough to master threading a needle- but then you have to tie a knot in the end of the thread- and it needs to be big enough to not pass through your fabric!

Here is a quick and easy tip on that, courtesy of my Grandma.

1. Wrap the thread around your index finger so that the strings cross and hold it taunt

2. Using your thumb, roll the thread off your finger so that the thread gets all twisty

3. Hold the knot between your thumb and index finger and pull it down along the thread (hold the long loose end with your other hand)

4. Go get manicure when you realize how bad your nails look up close.

Ta-da! Quick and easy knot that will be large enough to hold its place! Now come join me for some beers and sunshine :)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Life in a Condo

Last night I went to my first Annual General Meeting for my building. Even though I have lived here through two other meetings, I never made the effort to go. My building's board does maintain an excellent Facebook forum for bringing up issues, but I was interested in going to the meeting and hopefully finding out more about this home of my- after all, it is the largest investment I have ever made!

The meeting got off to a bad start. Not because of the people or location, but because it was at 6:30pm and I got home at 5:45. I had to wolf down dinner- and you don't want to get between me and food!! However, I decided to let it slide ;) haha

It started off very boring. I'm sorry, I know I should be enthralled with reviewing last year's meeting notes and the financials, but I got the package from management and I already perused it on my own time. Oh, and for the record, the building is doing very well financially. That is good!

We also voted for new board members, and we got into an interesting debate over whether non-residents should be allowed to be on the board. I kind of agree with the majority of people there that the board is best served by owner/residents because they are LIVING the issues that are going on. But I guess I can also see how an owner with tenants in his/her unit might have some insight on dealing with tenants. Also, did you know you don't have to live in or OWN unit in a condo building to run for the board? A lot of condo corporations don't specify that! However, you are unlikely to get voted in.

I learned that my building has a tenant problem. We have 75% of units rented. THAT IS INSANE! I was not surprised that it is high, however, because we have a large amount of bachelor units and I think most were bought as investment property and are rented to students. Not too many people bought units like mine and thought "Hey, I should live here and blog about decorating it". Their loss, cause I have you guys and all they have is rent money. Oh wait...

So I was very interested to learn that people have had issues with loud neighbouring units. I have NEVER heard my neighbours and I always thought that the building was well made with soundproof walls. But apparently I am just blessed to have great neighbours!! I hope that stays the same- the unit on one side of me is for sure a rental, so who knows who may come in.

They then opened the floor to questions and concerns and started from the back row and moved forward. Everyone was asking such intelligent and relevant questions and all I could think of to ask is "Are we getting patio furniture on the pool deck?" However, when it came to me I was intelligent enough to ask if there had been any update on the empty retail unit on the 1st floor. Alas, it is still for lease. Anyone want to open a coffee shop in my condo??

There were also a lot of scary reports- someone mentioned a guy with what looked like (not confirmed) a GUN in our pool area (talking on the emergency phone for personal reasons, not shooting up the place or anything). Another person talked about how there were always people hanging around the pool and she didn't think they even lived here. Did I mention the pool is on the 9th floor and you need to get through the locked front doors, a concierge, and a second locked door to get to the pool?? Weird.

I actually think my building is great for security. We have 24 hr concierge and double security on weekends and holidays. They do make rounds, but there are 32 floors and it isn't reasonable to expect them to catch everything. We also have security cameras in a lot of key areas (like the pool and gym) so I think if people make a formal complaint, these people would be caught!!

Anyway, I am not trying to dissuade anyone from buying a condo. I happen to love my home and I feel very safe here. We even made quorum on our meeting (25% of units have to vote either in person for by proxy), and I think that shows that owners do care about the building, even if they don't live here. In regards to the scary complaints: having amenities, like a gym, pool, rooftop patio, billiards room, party room, etc, does mean that you will run into people more and there is more enticement for "hoodlums" to sneak in. But overall I really don't think it is a common issue and there has been no reports of violence in the building that I have ever heard of.

So I am going to present here a few tips if you are considering condo living and if it is right for you:
1. Check out the neighbourhood- is it safe?
2. What security does your building have- concierge, cameras, FOB system for the door?
3. Can you live with a noisy neighbour? Are YOU the noisy neighbour? It might be worthwhile to knock on the neighbours door and introduce yourself before issues arise. You can even scope them out before buying/renting the unit.
4. Keep you doors locked at all time! It goes without saying in a house, but I think people are negligent in their condos, thinking they are safe in the building. People can easily get through behind someone else at the entrance. I actually never answer my door either. hahahaha
5. What amenities does the building have and are you comfortable sharing them with strangers?
6. Does the building appear well kept?
7. What is the ratio of tenants to owners in your building? A building with more owners tends to be quieter and better kept because people take pride in their home and investment
8. Check out the other people in the building, are they young, old, families? That can help you get a vibe for the type of people you will be living with

Overall, I still love condo living, even if my answers to these questions aren't all positive. There are some things (beyond square footage!) that you have to give up to live in a great location. However, your home is your sanctuary and if condo living sounds like a huge turn off, I wouldn't waste your money.

Do you have any condo/apartment horror stories to share? Maybe from your dorm days?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Bling Bling!

I decided that I was sick of pawing through a pile of jewellery (that's jewelry for my American friends) every morning trying to find a pair of earrings and I was sick of trying to pluck a necklace without another one falling into the trash, which results in me digging through my trashbin at 6:30am.

So, to begin with, my storage technique wasn't too bad. I hung necklaces from pins in the wall and I used a pretty copper container for rings and earrings.

But I really needed to pare down and sort through everything. So I laid out all my earrings and rings. Everything that didn't have a match, or was looking shabby, was thrown out.

Can you tell I like pearls?
Next I sorted them into everyday favourites, and special occasion and "specific outfit" earrings. The latter two categories will be stored elsewhere so I can easily find earrings for day-to-day.

I often take off my earrings at my computer when I get home, so i decided to make a little spot on the table to corral them. I used a soy sauce container from when I had sushi delivered!! If I ever find some cheap ceramic containers, I will upgrade, but these are the perfect size for what I needed.

Then I used another soy sauce container for bobby pins and elastics. I rarely do anything to my hair, so I don't have a lot of hair do-dads. Just these and the headbands you can see in the top photo that I hung with Command Hooks from the medicine cabinet.

I even used a soy sauce container for rings!! See why I may upgrade to a cute ceramic? Take out containers are gonna start taking over the condo! I don't often wear rings (I'm a fidgetter, so they annoy me) but I find rings SO cute and pretty and I wanted to keep them out in the open.

I also decided to put away a lot of necklaces that I am not quite ready to part with, but that don't often make it into rotation. I put the necklaces and the non-essential earrings in this pretty pink tin that was from a Christmas soap set. I hung the bigger earrings from the edges to help keep things neat and tidy. This tin will be stored in the medicine cabinet so I can easily access it if I need it.

Then I was ready to put everything back! I used a few more push pins in the wall so my delicate necklaces could have their own pins and not get tangled. I really love having them all on display- it is so pretty and feminine. The ones on the front wall get worn the most!

Then I put back my earring tray and placed the bobby pins and rings on the counter as well. It it probably the safest place so they won't accidentally get knocked over and onto the floor or- gasp- down the sink!!

It'll be so fast tomorrow when I need to find some earrings! Oh wait, I will probably just wear pearls again...but you get what I mean ;)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Some cush for my tush

Back to the patio we go! I am loving these summer days- it will never end, right? I just can't imagine winter coming back. I live in the wrong climate. This girl needs sun and warmth. That is why this fall and I am shirking those first cold days and going to MEXICO!! Yup, I just booked my annual vacation and a friend and I are packing up some emergency maple syrup and flying to Mexico to visit a friend there. So excited!!

But back to the patio. I needed to spruce up the cushion on my folding chair. When I original got my patio furniture at Ikea, my chairs were bright red and fun.

However, by the time two years of sun exposure had done it's work, it looked like this:

I lost one chair in an unfortunate body-slamming incident (or so I imagine, I was down in a guest suite with some friends when it happened. I picture it went down with honour). Therefore I had only one ugly, faded cushion to deal with. I had looked at Ikea and other places for a new cushion but they either cost too much or were not the right "look".

So I did what I am always doing lately, and I trekked to Fabricland and then busted out my sewing machine. I decided to up my game this time and do some piping on the edge of the pillow. I find that gives a pillow a very "profesh" look and I was excited to try it out (I had sewn piping once before in high school).

I started out by measuring my pillow. It was about 16" by 16", in case you are looking for a chair cushion size for your own project. You can really see in this photo how faded the pillow was. Yuck

Then I cut out two pieces of my material leaving a 1/2 inch allowance for the seam. I loved this fabric! It is from the "outdoor" section so the pillow will be all good on rainy days (but I expect it still will fade. That is just life). It was super easy to cut straight by just following the straight lines in the pattern.

Next, I placed the two pieces right side together and laid my piping in, while pinning in place. You want to place the "bump" of the piping in towards the middle, so that when you flip the pillow case right-side-out, the piping will show along the seam. I pinned it all close to the edge because I only had 1/2" seams here. After it was all pinned I made sure it was still 16" from piping bump to piping bump.

Now we are already onto sewing! When sewing on piping, you want the bump just to the left of the foot and you want to make sure you sew in nice and close, but not OVER the bump, because you want it to stick out of the edge of the pillow (but you don't want the flat part picking out too- so go slow and steady). Sew around 3 edges

Then shove your pillow in! I was planning on not making this cover removable and sewing all the way around, but you can always sew a zipper in.

Now you have to pin the last side to the piping, with the pillow inside. I wanted to sew this last seam on the machine, but it would NOT fit with the darn pillow in. Too close of a fit. So I just sewed it by hand. It aint pretty, but it does the job and I was way too lazy to try and attempt a hidden stitch!

Finally, toss it outside and enjoy the new pretty chair!!

Monday, June 18, 2012

How to wrap awesomely

Back in April, I did a post on wrapping paper, and I want to continue that post and show you all how I like to wrap presents. Oh yes, I have a well-known technique. I had to wait this long because I had no gift giving opportunities up until now- all birthdays and special occasions have been free from physical gift-giving. But Father's Day came along and my dad mentioned that he would like a Blu-Ray player for his boat, and therefore I had an excuse to wrap. By the way- has anyone else noticed how much these players have come down in price? I am shocked and I might by myself a new one because mine is evil.

So, without further ado, I bring you the how-to in wrapping presents like a boss.

1. Cut out a long piece of piece of paper to fit your gift on.

Then, fold in the long piece like you are going to wrap like normal. Once over the seam of the other side, bend it backwards, so the white side is up again. What you want to do is make accordion pieces, so it ends up like this:

However, the "fold" you have made should be shorter than the end of the package. It is hard to see that in this photo. Keep folding the long piece of paper back and forth, leaving as much as a gap between the fold before it as you wish. I usually go for about an inch.

Next, to seal off the end, you want to fold the end piece under a bit, so that the edge is smooth. I use double sided tape to hold down each fold, and hold down the last fold without tape showing on the gift.

All you have to do now is secure the ends like normal! Sometimes I cut a bit out the folds out from the side, as it can add a lot of bulk and make taping the sides down difficult!

You can also experiment with folding your paper to make different designs, like one fold that goes down the centre of the gift- like this:

The most important step when wrapping a Casey-style gift is to use COPIOUS amounts of curly ribbon. This ensures the recipient will take the longest to open your gift and will just increase the anticipation of the awesome gift :)

Happy Father's Day, Dad! I hope you enjoy your new Blu-Ray player and movies!!
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