Category Archives: The living room

New life, new desk!

Hi there! It’s been a while…

I’m at a turning point in my life. I just got back from a two month trip in South America (Chile, Argentina and Uruguay) and I’ve now officially started my life as a full time freelance writer and translator. Exciting stuff!

In order to get a nice start on this new life, I decided to build myself a standing desk. Of course, being broke and lacking the skills to build a piece of furniture, I decided to take the easier road: an IKEA hack.

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We just decided to get rid of our TV. The poor thing wasn’t getting the love it deserved. It hadn’t been turned on in over a year and was just sitting there gathering dust. Finally, we put an ad up on Kijiji and within hours, some happy couple came to get it.

Underneath the TV, there was a nice TV stand, still in great condition. I didn’t want to throw it out so I went to the hardware store and bought some wood, wood glue and 2 shelves. That’s it. I glued the pieces of wood onto the existing legs and let it dry for 1 day. Afterwards, I built the shelves and put everything up together. The last step was to paint the legs a nice shade of turquoise green. Done! A new desk! (If you’re wondering, yes, it’s very solid)

In life, turning points are always a bit scary but building this desk and having a designated work spot has made it a bit easier to face new challenges!

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Five bands to discover: March 2013 edition

I’ve decided to write a post to share the music I’ve been listening to in these past few weeks. I’ll try to make it a monthly feature on this blog as of now.

Most people love music. I’d consider my feelings for music as a bit superior to love (yup, quite a big deal). One of my great regrets so far is that I haven’t learned an instrument yet. I intend to change that as soon as possible (right now I’ve got a few other things to work on, like learning Spanish, writing and getting to know my new camera).

This means that for the moment, I just enjoy listening to others playing it.

I’m not so trendy and am often a bit late on the new good bands to discover, but I’m curious and I like to dig around so I often end up finding some interesting stuff that isn’t popping up in the mainstream. The musical styles I listen to go all over the place and I’m sure everyone will find something they enjoy!

Here are a few bands that I’m liking right now (the quasi total female domination is purely coincidental):

Les Hay babies, a folk trio that hails from Eastern Canada. They sing pretty prose (in French and English) over sweet/sad banjo and guitar melodies.

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Furniture makeover: the dresser

These last few weeks I’ve been busy working on my home’s decor. I have been gluing, stapling, painting and mod-podging almost non-stop. I’ll be sharing the results of these makeovers with you, because many of these are drastic and I’m quite proud of how they came out.

Let’s start with this dresser.
Dresser before white

It was given to me by a former work colleague who was moving back to France. Even though it looked quite worn out, I immediately saw it’s potential. Besides, who says no to free furniture ?

For months, I left it as is (it was a neutral brown shade). Then I put a few coats of white, thinking it would fit nicely into my decor. Alas, I was still not satisfied, finding that it lacked character and looked unfinished.

After weeks of searching for inspiration, I was just about to give up when I saw a photo of a room with a color scheme not unlike that of my living room, in which one of the pieces of furniture had been painted a pretty shade of light blue.

I haven’t been a fan of baby blue since I passed the age of 12 and stopped liking boy bands and Kangol hats, so I was quite surprised that I liked it in this context. Figuring that I had nothing to lose that another coat of paint couldn’t fix, I went out to buy a few bottles of acrylic paint, along with some easy to install handles.

Here’s the dresser in mid-makeover process:

During makeover dresser

And here’s the final result:

Dresser makeover blue

I’m really happy with how it looks. Oddly enough, I think that if I saw this dresser in a store, I’d find it too classical, but in my decor, it really fits.

The process itself was easy but I’ll recap it for you if you want to do it yourself:

– I started with a coat of white primer. Let it dry (in my case, for many weeks)

– Chose a shade of blue (I used Americana acrylic paint in Baby blue DAO42). I used 4 bottles.

– Got 3 handles at the hardware store. Installed them.

That’s it! No sanding or varnishing was required but it may be in your case depending on the texture and use you will make of the furniture. I’ll let you be the judge on that!

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.

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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?

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?