Category Archives: Objects

Easy crafts for lazy people: Marimekko inspired plant pots

It’s been a while since I’ve shared a DIY project! My latest adventures with a paintbrush resulted in some cute clay plant pots with a design inspired by Finnish textile company Marimekko.

If you’re new to this site, I’ve been doing this series called Easy crafts for lazy people. It’s all about the fact that I’m really into doing creative stuff, yet incredibly impatient about getting to the end result. Sometimes I’m willing to sacrifice a spotless end result, just to get there faster. However, in the hands of someone capable of more diligence, these ideas could give even better results!

Here’s another one of these projects. We just recently decided to green up our place (finally!). Being the novices we are to the world of plants, we started out with some species that are easy to care for: ferns, herbs and succulents. I couldn’t help myself. Instead of getting the 4$ pre-enameled pot covers, I had to get the plain ones, knowing that their blandness wouldn’t last for long.

This is the type of pot we had to start for:

plain clay pot

This is what the end result looks like:

Continue reading

Advertisements

Cheap art: 9 tips on how to decorate without breaking the bank

Everyone wants to have pretty things on their walls but most people don’t have the money to buy expensive works of art. This lack of funds does not have to mean that you can’t own nice, original art to display in your house.

Here are 9 tips that I live by in order to decorate without breaking the bank.

1. Buy drawings instead of paintings

Drawings are much cheaper to produce then paintings, so the price tag goes accordingly. Some artists specialize in drawing, while others will sell sketches and preparation studies that were done for future artworks.

Where to find some on the Internet: numerous Etsy shops like Old Passion, Amelia Herbertson and Teva Gallery. The Untapped Cities Shop on Society 6.

Where to find some in person: Decorating stores, Art Galleries (In Montreal: Galleries at the Belgo Building)

Etsy drawing poster

Continue reading

The ingredients of a perfect day: simple things that make me happy

After two heavy, rather personal posts (on traveling and death), I decided that this week’s piece would cover a lighter subject: everyday moments of joy.

Louise Hung wrote a fun piece for xojane.com, titled Is happy really that simple? 10 tiny things that make me ecstatic.

This inspired me to make my own list of simple things that I like to do and that are, to me, among the necessary elements of having a great day.
Like most people, I’m at my workplace 40 hours per week. My schedule is tightly packed with long work days from Wednesday to Saturday and although I love my job, I cherish my days off. When I’m not blogging for this site or for Untapped Cities, I love to fill them with the many activities that make life enjoyable: long walks to discover the city, meals at yummy restaurants, going to the movies, getting together with friends, painting and crafting…

Sunday is the day where I best like to indulge. Usually, I’m in no shape to be productive in any manner since I’m coming off of having been through 3 consecutive 11.5 hour shifts (with minimal sleep between), so here’s what I like to do:

Sleep in:
A classic way to enjoy your day off is to sleep a little later than usual. Of course, when your weekday alarm sets off at 5h30AM, sleeping in means a rising time of 8h30AM at the very latest. Still, it feels so nice to rise after the sun has.

Sleeping in

Eat pastries for breakfast:
During the week, my first meal regularly consists of a dry bagel, orange juice and some Sesame snaps later on in the morning (I know, I know, this bad habit shall be changed soon). Come Sunday, I’m craving a good pancake or a gooey chocolate croissant. We are lucky to have a great bakery (Nigelle Café)at less than 3 minutes walk from our place and the walk to get there mostly takes us through alleyways. This means that we can walk to and from the place without changing out of our wrinkled sweats!

pastry

Paint my nails properly:
This is what my fingers look like during the week:

Ugly fingernails

Now here is what they look like after a good moisturizing treatment and some pretty polish. A simple, superficial but pleasant thing to do!

CUte nail art

Chill with my cats:
I do this because I love them and because if I don’t give them a bit of attention at least once a week, they’ll come to think of me only as that strange lady who serves the food (some particularly busy weeks I think my boyfriend sees me that way too).

Jack the cat

Experiment with fun hairstyles:
For the last year and a half, I’ve been dying my hair. The new shade I’m trying out is hot pink. I also need some new dos that are cute but practical for workdays. When I get up to go to work, I don’t have time to think about pins, barrettes and elastics. I want to be able to do my hair with my eyes half open and a toothbrush hanging loosely off my lip.
Sunday is the day where I take care of my hair, make it nice and learn how to do those cute fishtail braids or those 40 ways to wear a headscarf, so that when I’m getting ready on Wednesday at dawn, the fingers will do all the work and the brains can stay asleep a bit longer.

Pink hair blue flower

Watch some corny TV.
Ah, the couch. Such a warm, lovely place to spend a few hours. What better a thing to do on this comfy piece of furniture, than to sit, cover yourself in a warm blanket and enjoy the pleasures of turning off your brain for 21 minutes. I’m a sucker for cheesy sitcoms and lately I’ve been watching Will and Grace (I got the box set for Christmas). Friends, Modern Family, 30 rock… Watching hilarious (and often witty) TV shows, is one of my favorite ways to relax.

Cook a nice meal:
I’ve said it before here, I like to cook. For the new year, we are trying to reduce the number of pre-prepared meals we eat, so I try to fit cooking into my busy schedule.

2008_0224straotherandmontreal0165

Discover some new music:
I’ve been working on learning Spanish lately (Fluenz software is the best!) and I like to get lost in the deepest realms of Youtube, trying to find some good music en español that does not sound like this (no offense to the fans). I know it’s out there and I’m very open-minded about music (I like electic things ranging from Britney to Buena Vista Social Club or the Black Keys, yes that was me lazily going through the Bs on Itunes).

Here’s one gem that I discovered last week: Los Super elegantes.

As for music in English, I learned about the band Temples last week, through NME music magazine’s 2013 watch list.

Read, read, read and read some more:
I’ve always been a big reader. When I was young, it was babysitter’s club books. Then I developed an obsession for magazines of all kinds and never went back. I rarely read books but I read dozens of articles every day. I guess I prefer the shorter format of storytelling.
I often go to the same websites everyday, as they always release new content, but I still love to find new sites (using Stumble Upon is a great way).
Here’s a list of great websites I discovered lately:

Daily Nibbles

The Jealous curator

Stars for streetlights

This isn’t happiness

Seven spoons

Elise Blaha

Sincerely Kinsey

Poppy talk

comfy clothes leggings and a wool shirt

So that’s it, a list of simple pleasures that make life good on a regular basis. It may be nothing compared to visiting the Louvre, tasting a new dish on a side street of Sapporo or watching your favorite band live but as banal as these small things seem, they are just as important as the bigger, more extraordinary moments.

What are the little things in life that make you happy?

Things that remind me of him: dealing with loss

For my latest post, I’ve decided to write about something very personal and important for me that I had yet to share on here.

A few days ago marked the one year anniversary since my father passed away, after a long bought with cancer. I won’t get into details about how it’s affected me because grief is complex and it is a long process, but I thought that as a tribute and a way to meditate on the past year and the time we had together, I’d share a list of common everyday things that remind me of my dad, along with memories to go with them. Many of these are silly but that’s what life is. It’s often the most mundane things that will get you reminiscing, making you smile or starting the waterworks.

coffee in a bowl

The taste of coffee. My father loved coffee. He loved it even more than most regular coffee aficionados do. He abhorred Nabob and Nespresso, preferring strong Colombian or Ethiopian brews. Every morning he’d have a cup, or two, or three. When I turned 12, he started to make a cup for me before school. That new habit didn’t last for long because we learned that coffee gives me terrible heartburn and palpitations. I was sad, as I loved the moment we shared each morning. Eventually, I began preparing his coffee. It was a simple gesture but I was glad to make it for him because I new how much he loved it and that it was an important part of his morning schedule.

funky fabric

Funky clothing patterns. His wardrobe was filled with many tee-shirts and blouses with patterns each more colorful than the other. When I was a young kid in elementary school, I’d get really embarrassed at his taste in clothing. One childhood memory that I particularly recall is the time when my father came to a school assembly and went up to the front of the group to receive a gift in return for driving us to a book conference. I was super happy for my dad, but he was wearing a bright pink shirt so I cringed badly and actually felt a bit angry. Later in life, I came to love his kooky clothes and I’ve now adopted some of the patterns myself. I recently bought one pair of pants (seen on the right) and every time I wear it, I get lots of comments and I tell people that I was inspired by my father.

nutritional yeast

The smell of Nutritional yeast. My dad would probably be saying: ‘Yeast, really, that’s what reminds you of me?’ (followed by a laugh). I hadn’t seen this pungent yellow, unfortunately named powder in years but a week after my dad died, during dinner at a friend’s house, someone prepared salad dressing with it. Upon tasting and smelling it, I immediately imagined my dad. I didn’t know why but the strong, very particular odor and taste brought me back to my childhood. Weeks later I told my mom and she said that it was because my dad used to put some in his popcorn.

In October, I started working at a grocery store with a large bulk section, and among the various and spices and flours, I found the yeast. Right away, I bought a bag. Now, every time I open the bag, just to smell or to grab a bit to sprinkle on my salad, I remember us turning on the popcorn machine and putting in an old Chaplin film in the VCR. It reminds me of fun times.

mad magazine monty python giles

Dry humor.  My father had a great sense of humor, for years treating us to his bad joke of the day (he was only aloud to tell one). His type of comedy was a sort of cross between satire, sarcasm and wordplay. Like many other boys of his generation, he grew up reading MAD magazine so I believe this had quite an effect on shaping his view of the world. He also developed a fascination with comedy from Britain,  especially when he spent some time living in London. Because of that, my brother and I grew up reading Giles and Doonesbury cartoon books and watching Monty Python films.

Cesaria Evora. Her soft voice cradled my childhood. My father was always humming and often times, he’d be singing the melody of one of her songs. The Barefoot diva was one of his favorite singers. None of us had any idea what she was singing about (in Portuguese creole), so to make us laugh,  my dad would change the lyrics to some of her songs so that they were talking about us kids (Léa is too tired, Manu is too excited). 

He was an avid music fan with a vast collection of CDs ranging all genres. At any time of day, our 5-CD player would be turned on, skipping seamlessly from the crooning saxophone of Louis Armstrong to the playful guitar of Georges Brassens.

Most nights, when we were all going to bed, he or his girlfriend would choose 5 albums to create a beautiful soundtrack to play along while we all fell asleep. The song that I most loved hearing was Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence by Ryuichi Sakamoto. Nowadays, I can’t hear this beautiful, haunting melody without getting a bit misty.

Posters and paintings. On the one year anniversary of his passing, my aunt wrote that his gentle spirit was still with us. Even though I’m not a spiritual person in general, I do feel him still being there in many ways. He’s constantly in my thoughts, in my memories and in my heart. He’s also on my walls! Despite the fact that he never made a career out of it, my dad was very creatively inclined and he explored a few artistic practices, namely photography. I inherited this beautiful photograph that he took on the Champs Élysées in Paris. He’s right there, standing on the left, wearing his big beard, curly head of hair and over-sized glasses.

Paul in Paris

He was also very much attracted by creative people, with many of his friends being artists of some kind. His girlfriend of the last decade masters the paint brush very well and she made this funky family portrait (seen below) as a gift for my 20th birthday.

Paul in new york Paul in New York detail

After he died, she spent months painting portraits of him, including this one which captures the deep bond between a father and his daughter.

Father and daughter painting

I love this photo and have it up on my refrigerator. It is comforting to see the calm, loving energy he had, which shines right through his big brown eyes.

Father and daughter

Loss is hard, without a doubt, but my father had an extremely positive and easygoing outlook on life and this optimism has stayed and blossomed in me. I’m thankful to have had such a wonderful father and to have had the chance to spend 24 years with such an incredible human being (who’s been called an angel on earth by atheists and believers alike!).

I love you Paul!

Christmas at home: last minute hosting and decorating ideas

Christmas came so fast and it’s already over.

I learned less than two weeks ago that I’d be having 10 people for lunch on Christmas eve, a challenge that I gladly accepted. It was the first time that I was the one hosting Christmas for my family.

I was psyched, but had a lot of work to do since there were no decorations installed and I needed to prepare a menu. Generally, I do pretty well with last-minute decorating and cooking so the event was very successful and everyone enjoyed themselves.

Here are a few snapshots from that day, along with tips:

Funky paper christmas tree

Funky christmas tree

I have to be honest, Christmas wasn’t really on my mind this year for various reasons that I won’t get into. That’s why we hadn’t decorated at all before December 23rd. I didn’t have the time or money to go out looking for a tree so I decided to get creative with some funky paper that I had in my craft drawer. Does the job pretty well doesn’t it?

Vase with christmas ornements inside

Mason jar christmas decorations

In 2010, I worked for 6 months at a year-round Christmas store. A year-round what????? you ask.

Yep, a store that sells Christmas ornaments and other holiday related items, 365 days a year. It was fun! Amazingly, I never got annoyed about the constantly playing holiday music, or the fact that I was being called an elf. We, Santa’s helper’s, spent our days decorating trees, drawing on glass balls and setting up  Christmas villages worth thousands of dollars.

In those short six months, many funny things happened, like the time when I had to run after Denise Richards into the street when she left half her things on our store counter, or the other time when I recognized and caught a frequent robber (at one of my former jobs) trying to steal a 50$ Stanley cup shaped ornament. Just another day at the Christmas store!

Needless to say, that is where I stocked up on my own (small) collection of Christmas things. I have a few pieces, most of which are actually too fragile to set out because of my cats. Putting a couple of them inside mason jars makes for a nice and safe display!

funky gift wrapping

Tree design wrapping paper

The pretty blue and red wrapping papers were created by graduating design students at Concordia University. They were picked up at a vintage event. For the other gifts I covered them in silver tissue paper, then used pictures that I had cropped out of a local theater venue’s brochure.

Sprout salad Purple dinner table

The food we prepared was about as far away as you can get from tradition. My mom and I forgot to consult each other before we prepared our dishes, so we ended up making something incredibly similar, but everything was good nonetheless. Everyone seemed happy with the food, including my stepbrother, a chef, so YAY!

The menu:

Butternut squash purée

Quinoa with lime and cilantro

Beet salad with tomatoes, lentils and goat cheese

Beet salad with mackerel

Spreads on crackers: Olive tapenade, creamy salmon

Jalapeno poppers (stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped in bacon)

Sprout salad

Dessert:

Pear tiramisu (the ladyfinger cookies where covered in apricot/apple jam and apple cider)

Baklavas

What did you guys eat for Christmas? Any tips for last minute decorating?