Friday, February 22, 2013

I Love Lamp.

Last Spring, while still envisioning what our new home would be like, I picked up a pair of these petite brass lamps at the local hospital auxiliary thrift store for $4 each.  Now that I'm looking at the before photo, the brass is kind of growing on me.  Too late now!

After removing the shades, taping off the electrical connections and the power cords, I spray painted the  lamp bases in glossy white.  I think I was going through a bit of a "spray paint fixes everything" phase, as you can see by my collection of soon to be sprayed items on my table.  

The spray painting was easy enough aside from the blowing cottonwood outside getting stuck in the wet paint.  The paint wrinkled in a few places, but, overall, I was pleased with the results.  I took off the pleated beige fabric from the shades, which caused the plastic part of one of the shades to completely crackle apart.  To my chagrin, I realized that the plastic was holding the metal rings of the shades together, so I was left with the bare bones of a shade to work with.  At that point, the project became annoying to me and sat on the shelf for months.  I toyed with the idea of just buying some cute drum barrel shades, but my thrifty instincts told me there must be a way to figure it out.  Plastic mesh to the rescue...

A few sheets of plastic embroidery mesh later, and my little shade was back in business.  I used the remaining original shade to serve as a template/mold for recreating the other shade, stitching the edges around the metal ring, and joining the pieces of mesh together.  

My favourite DIY lampshade was this chunky crocheted shade, but after several attempts, I threw in the crochet hook and went in a different direction.  The pattern was designed for a more subtly angled lampshade, and the holes between the stitches would have revealed my not-so-classy plastic mesh shade.  

My next piece of inspiration was the yellow scalloped design shade here.  I decided to use felt instead of regular fabric, since felt doesn't unravel.  I used a roll of duct tape as a circle template, then traced and cut out a jillion circles.  Actually, I think it was around 100 circles for each shade.  My trusty glue gun helped me to affix the circles to the shades and I finished off the edges with a crocheted chain in matching grey yarn.  It was kind of a consolation for not having a completely crocheted shade, but a piece of binding would have probably given in a cleaner, less "I made it myself" look.    


I didn't realize how much the light would actually shine through the felt, which gives it a geometric effect very similar to the picture on the wall above the couch.  It irks me a little bit that the circles aren't lined up quite perfectly but I'll pretend it doesn't.  

The finished product!  I had decided to keep the little brass owl away from my spray painting frenzy, but I cleaned it with the wrong thing and ruined the finish.  Alas, he became a white owl in the end.  I think I wanted to keep the brass look solely because I heard somebody make reference to a "lovely patina" on an aged brass something, I don't even remember what that was, and I kind of fell in love with the word patina.  It has a nice ring to it, n'est-ce pas?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Loving Valentine's Day Again.

Valentines Day is one of those holidays, I'm discovering, that is exponentially more fun when you are a kid, and when you have your own kids.  Actually, it's probably just more fun when you let go of people's expectations and enjoy it the way kids do.

I certainly don't miss the Valentine's Days of my middle school and high school years, when we had non-uniform days and dressed up "fancy" and sat through the seemingly endless presentation of candy grams, rose-grams, poetry-grams in homeroom.  Of course, they all went to two or three people in each class.  I think I secretly wished to hear my name called out for a delivery from a secret admirer, but I was probably more petrified about being the center of attention for two minutes if that actually happened.  I wonder if I was the only one who dreaded non-uniform days.  It was kind of like condensing all the self-consciousness teenagers have about their clothes and appearance into three or four school days a year.  I still remember the crushing blow of a certain boy saying "You always wear that shirt on non-uniform days" in reference to my grey gorilla Body Shop tee shirt.  I don't think I ever wore that shirt in public again.  Oh, the imagined humiliation of teen years!

In my dating and early married years, Valentine's Day was fun, but we usually kept it very low-key.  I always kind of resented the social pressure the next day to produce a good date story or a fantastic gift from my Valentine's date.  My husband posted his status of Facebook before leaving work on Valentine's Day: "Anyone know where to buy cheap flowers in [our town]?"  In the split second before I realized he was joking, I tried to telepathically tell him "Nowhere!  Flowers are too expensive today!  And they'll just wilt in a few days!"  I'm so cheap practical.  Luckily, he gets me!  

I was planning on going to the potluck party at Strong Start with the kids this Valentine's Day until I realized that my endodontist appointment was going to interfere, so I ended up with a boatload of cakes and cupcakes in the house.  I used beet puree to colour the cake and the icing, and even the kids' morning porridge.  Strangely, the bright pink colour of the cake faded during baking.  The cupcakes in the rear of the photo were as bright as the cake batter in the white dish before baking.  

The amateur heart shape is actually pretty easy with two different coloured batters.  You just pour one colour in the pan first, pour the next colour right in the middle on top, and shape it into a heart by running a toothpick or spoon down the middle.
Beet-coloured vegan "cream-cheese" icing.  Actually quite yummy and so much healthier without chemical colours.

Beet-coloured oatmeal with strawberry hearts.

Valentine's Soup: heart shaped carrots, beets, and red peppers.  Tutorial for heart carrots here.

Love buns.

Brotherly tough love: I found O giving T a time out and had to snap a picture before explaining that it's not his job!
Happy belated love day.  I hope you all celebrated the loves in your life in your own way.

Sunday, February 3, 2013


 My oldest baby is officially registered in French immersion kindergarten for September!  In what feels like a lifetime ago, I could converse fairly comfortably in French.  I'm certain that my English accent and occasional flubs (i.e. asking for pop in a canoe when I intended to say can) triggered people to speak on a more elementary level to me, but I managed well enough to function.  That lifetime ago was actually almost thirteen years ago, when I participated in a French immersion program at the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi.  I learned more conversational French during my six weeks there than I had learned in eight years of elementary and high school, and two years of university.  Part of the reason that I want my kids to go to French immersion school is because of the fantastic experience I had in Quebec, and the opportunities that mastering a second language can afford.  The singular fact that knowing a second language allows you the opportunity to know a vastly larger number of people in this world is enough of a reason for me to want to know a second language.  As far as languages are concerned, there are probably other languages that will be more useful than French when my kids are grown, but it has many benefits as one of the official languages of our country.  Also, it helps you to decipher the menu at a fancy restaurant.  One day, there will probably be an app to instantly translate your speech into another language, but...that might be kind of weird.
La Croix de Ste. Anne in Chicoutimi where I spent some warm summer evenings.  (image from Wikipedia)
The view of Chicoutimi-Nord from the Cross.  The home I stayed in was on the other side of the Cathedral, where I attended a service or two.  (Image from Wikipedia)
Last week, I took the boys to the equivalent of Strong Start at the local francophone school.  I felt like I had just arrived in Chicoutimi again, able to conjugate verbs in my sleep, but not knowing whether the teacher asked us to take off our shoes or if we would like to eat some cauliflower soup.  Perhaps it wasn't that dire, but I realized very quickly that my French skills might no longer be categorized as skills.  The teacher introduced me to another mother, and I was sure that she indicated that this woman was expecting another baby.  Using my rusty French and a variety of spastic hand gestures to my own stomach, I asked her if she was having a girl or a boy.  She proceeded to tell me about her two children, and didn't mention anything about a child in utero.  Can you say "faux pas"?
The experience reminded me what it feels like to be at a disadvantage in terms of communication, and how challenging life may be for those have immigrated to our country and don't speak the language.  It must be tempting to retreat, and surround yourself only with those who can speak your language.  I forgot how exhausting learning another language is, and how self-conscious you feel with unfamiliar sounds coming out of your mouth.  By the end of my three hours there, my brain was so fatigued that I wasn't totally sure if I was understanding the teacher when she spoke English to me.  Seriously.
We will attempt to go again, and I'm hopeful that my French will improve as the kids gain exposure to another language.  The awesome thing is that O thinks that I'm fluent.  This was his unprompted comment to me in the car as we were driving yesterday:

"Mom, you're so special.  Jesus is the most special, but you're special because you speak French.  Daddy doesn't speak French, but he's still special."

Whew, good thing I have French to make me special!  I hope he doesn't find out it's closer to Franglais!

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