23 March 2012

Blog on the Move

Thanks for stopping by.  This Gong Show We Call Life has a new name and a new home.    You will be redirected shortly to A Swell Place to Dwell. The same content is on the new blog.


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20 March 2012

Some Swell Stuff

NOTE: I have changed my blog name and address. You will be redirected to A Swell Place to Dwell in a few moments.  If you would like to go sooner please click here.

Sometimes I stumble across things that are so fabulous that I wonder how I ever lived without them.  Have I been living under a rock and am the last person to discover such wonderfulness, or are there others out there who are also unaware?  I can't be the only one in the dark.  Many of my friends have little munchkins so the days of leisurely strolling the aisles of Home Depot looking at new and pretty things are done - now it's in and out as fast as humanly possible and hopefully without a meltdown.

So with that said, here are a few of my recent favorites - I hope they can be of some use.

1. 3M Command Picture Hanging Strips

I was well aware of Command hooks, but these are so much better. You use two velcro strips - one part sticks to the back of your picture and the other part to the wall. All you have to do is stick the strips together and your picture is hung. No nail required! They are great because you can re-position your picture as much as you need to in order to get it straight (which in our house is a lot because it's usually too much work to get the level out). Then when you have changed your mind and want to move the picture (like I often do - much to Justin's chagrin) you just pull the tab and it comes off the wall without wrecking the paint.


In our basement we have metal studs that we don't feel too confident in so these have been a life saver.  We hung these pictures last week with only one strip each.  They are still hanging!

On a side note - that lovely ceiling is one of our next projects. About a bizzillion ceiling tiles are sitting in our entryway right now just waiting for us. How fun....

Since my initial discovery I have seen the picture hanging strips in Home Depot, Zellers, Rona and Staples.

2. Nutella

Yes, yes, I know you have heard of Nutella.  And no, I don't have some brand new fancy type of Nutella to share with you. Just gold ol' classic Nutella, but I've included it here becuase it's been a recent re-discovery for me. We didn't have Nutella in my house growing up, which I actually think is a good thing becuase it feels like such a special treat for me now.  I am loving Nutella on apples and bananas these days.  If I get to dip my fruit in chocolate it makes me feel like I am at some fancy restaurant with a chocolate fountain, and not actually just sitting on my couch in PJs watching HGTV surrounded by baby toys.  

But here's my beef with Nutella (and I know I am not alone!!!)....why is it so much more accessible in Europe than it is here in North America?

They have Nutella Stores:


and small little Nutella packages that you can take with you.

and we don't get any of the love. I have yet to find tiny little Nutella packs anywhere in Canada. If you know where I can find them please let me know (seriously, please, please, please).

3. Google Reader

So, we've already established that I have a complete obsession with blogs.  Google Reader is to blogs like Nutella is to apples - just makes everything better! In Google Reader you can subscribe to blog feeds and when new posts are published they automatically appear in your reader. No saving a million links in your favorites, no clogging up your inbox, just new content waiting there for you whenever you are ready.  It even tracks what you have read and haven't read, which is great for a spaz like me. You can check it out here.  And once you are there you can add this little blog (yup, it's a totally shameless plug....just asking ya to help a girl out).

Leave me a note if you have tried any of these and are as equally in love, or if you have any other swell things that I should know of.  I love an excuse to go get something new!


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18 March 2012

DIY Brass Book Ends

NOTE: I have changed my blog name and address. You will be redirected to A Swell Place to Dwell in a few moments.  If you would like to go sooner please click here

Check these babies out. They are pretty cute hey?

Would you believe that they only cost me $2? It's true!

Brass bookends seem to be everywhere these days. I peruse Etsy far more than I'd like to admit and I am starting to see them pop up in quite a few shops. If in your head right now you are asking me what the heck Etsy is, please just go and check it out. I am sure you won't regret it.

These circus seals are adorable, but are selling for $62. I don't have books that are that important.


At Chapters the other day I ran across these gold Llama bookends. 

Who wouldn't want some blingy llamas in their house? I would! Only problem was that they were $40 - too much for my taste.

I have seen some DIY bookends on Pinterest over the past few weeks so I took some inspiration and decided to put my own spin on them and give them a go.

I found these plastic toy elephants in the dollar bin at Michael's (yup, $2 total).  

They really did look like they were made in China, so they definitely needed some sprucing up.  That's an easy fix. The real problem though is that they were hollow, which is not good for holding up books.  I could have glued them to a brick or added some wood supports but I really wanted the trunks to hold the books up, so they needed to sit right on the table. We had some cement left over from a basement project that was hiding in the depths of the crawl space.  It was free so it was my kind of solution. Getting a 50lb bag of cement out from a small crawl space resulted in quite a bit of swearing and head bumping, but I eventually won the battle. 

I wanted to drill a hole through one of the feet and pour the cement in that way, but the feet were just too small (imagine - elephant feet being too small).  I decided that I could make a hole in the tummy and once they were upright you wouldn't even see it.  

Some belly button surgery was required.  On a side note, do elephants even have belly buttons? Anyhow, I took my trusty X-Acto knife and went to work (not very gingerly as you can see...).

I then mixed the cement quite thin and used a funnel to pour it in.

Since the cement was runny and it wasn't exposed to air it took a LONG time to dry. I am not totally convinced that the middle of the elephant will ever dry but once the hole was cemented closed they were good to go to the paint shop.  I used 2 coats of gold spray paint.

I was so excited that I totally forgot to take a picture of the freshly painted elephants. Just imagine 2  gleaming gold elephants sitting  on the garage floor freezing their heineys off and you'll get the picture. 

They have now officially taken up residence on our new credenza

I think they look pretty cute and they are small enough that you can't even see the belly buttons.

If you are needing some bookends you should definitely give these a go.  It's really hard to go wrong for $2! I think they'd look great done in bright colors for a kids room. 


I'll be showing off this project in the Show Me What Ya Got link party on Not Just a Housewife and the Spring Craft Link Part on Centsational Girl.

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16 March 2012

End Table Redo

NOTE: I have changed my blog name and address. You will be redirected to A Swell Place to Dwell in a few moments.  If you would like to go sooner please click here

A quick little spruce-me-up project to share today.  

In the fall we were helping Justin's parents clean out their garage and came across this beauty:

They didn't want it any longer so we snatched it up and brought it home knowing we would find a place for it one day.  It sat in the garage until last week when I finally decided that it would work in our living room.  I think in its past life it was a night stand but I am repurposing  it as an end table.  

After I begged and pleaded for a few days Justin finally gave in was happy to sand it down for me. I have a thing with sanding - meaning that I absolutely hate it. Even just touching the teeny tiniest corner of sand paper  (or evening thinking about it now) turns all my skin into goosebumps. It's worse than nails on a chalkboard to me. Thank goodness Justin doesn't mind it at all or we wouldn't get much refinishing done.

Here's how she looked after a run in with the palm sander:

I wanted a chippy well used look for this piece so before painting I took my tube of Vaseline and applied it in random spots.  The Vaseline doesn't allow the paint to stick in the areas you apply it to and it bubbles after painting so you can easily see where you applied it. 

In one of my brilliant moments of wisdom I decided that I would use spray paint for this project.  The only problem is that it was way too cold to paint outside.  No problem, I would do it in the basement - where our baby plays. Seriously, it was not one of my shining moments.  I started spray painting and before I knew it the whole can was gone. I looked down the hallway to the couch and could barely make out Justin through the cloud of spray paint.  It wasn't good.  I am sure the dog's olfactory senses must have been burning. Either that or he was completely doggy high. He sure had a weird expression on his face that was a mix of total confusion and anger towards his human mother for disrupting his nap.  At least Justin had the sense to turn the furnace off before the fumes were carried up through the rest of the house.  Yup - learned my lesson there.  

The real kicker though is that the spray paint just didn't cover as well as I had wanted.  I decided to paint the whole thing again but this time with a brush and foam roller. I used Benjamin Moore's Advance paint in Ballet White. Advance is great because it performs like an oil paint but cleans up with water.  Luckily we had a small can of Ballet White around so it didn't even cost me a dime. This is the color we are thinking of painting our cabinets so I figure the more I can paint with it, the easier it will be for me to decide if it's right for our kitchen or not. 

Here's how she looked after another coat of paint:

I called my lovely husband in again to sand some more and give her some character.  The spots with the Vaseline just need a good rub and the paint chips right off. 

I decided since there were quite a few chippy areas, and because it was going to have hot mugs on it that I would Poly the whole piece just to give it some extra durability.  I used Minwax Polycrylic.

After inserting the drawer and screwing the knobs back on she was ready to take a place of prominence in our living room.  

The knobs were old and awesome so I decided not to mess with them.

I have 2 more refinishing projects on the go for the living room and am hoping they will be done soon so that I can finally have a cohesive living room.  Stay tuned.....


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14 March 2012

Rainbow Cake FAIL

NOTE: I have changed my blog name and address. You will be redirected to A Swell Place to Dwell in a few moments.  If you would like to go sooner please click here

I am always up for a challenge and a Pinterest challenge is even better! When Katie at Bower Power recently announced the winter edition of the Pinterest Challenge I knew I was up for the task.  The general idea is to find something that you love on Pinterest and attempt to make it yourself – then send it out into the world and get huge adoration (see below to find out how it is NOT going to happen in my case!).

I have been oohing and ahhing over this for quite a while:

I am sure if I made this I would win Mother of the Year award and Fin would babble away to all her baby friends on what a fantastic Mom she has and how her play kitchen is the best on the block.  The fact that she can’t stand up by herself yet and that to her pots and pans are only musical instruments is totally beside the point. But back to reality – I have about 8 seconds a day to do a project, so there was NO WAY that I was going to ever get this done in the week time frame for the Pinterest Challenge.

I started searching for something else that was equally as exciting and stumbled upon this fabulous cake.

leprechaun trap rainbow cake

We are having a St. Patty’s Day shindig at work on Friday so I figured it would be perfect for the occasion.  And seriously, a rainbow in a cake - how hard could that be? Easy peasy.  I decided that we needed to do a test cake before the party just to make sure it would work, and also so that we could have a cake to eat at home.  I convinced Justin that this would be fun to do one night after Fin went to bed and thank God he was gung ho.

We started with good ol’ Betty Crocker:

Once the cake mix was all combined we then separated it out into 8 different bowls and colored them each a different color of the rainbow.  It wasn’t good from the start. Apparently Wilton food coloring (the fancy ones in the jars) don’t actually last 5+ years once they have been opened. We tried to dig out the food coloring paste with toothpicks but it was so dried up that the toothpicks kept breaking (that should have been our first indication to just stop right there).  Thank goodness my brilliant husband came to the rescue and suggested adding super hot water to the little jars. It worked! 

This is sort of off topic, but am I the only one who knows about a great guy named ROY G BIV? One of my elementary school teachers taught us to use ROY G BIV to remember the colors of the rainbow. Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Indigo Violet.  It works – I never forget the colors.  Justin, of course, had never heard of this and thought I had lost it completely.  Apparently in Manitoba they don’t teach handy little acronyms.

Anyhow, after all of the batter was colored it was time to start pouring it into the pan (via Ziploc bags).  This really shouldn't be that hard of a task but by this time it felt like it was midnight and it was taking all the concentration I had to pour in an even line.  I think the batter looked exactly like it was supposed to and I was still hopeful that this would work.

I very gingerly put the cake into the oven being careful to not jostle the rings, set the timer and went downstairs to watch the finale of Top Chef.  We figured watching Top Chef would help send good cooking vibes up to our kitchen.

After 40 minutes the cake was cooked and looked pretty good.

We waited very patiently for it to cool.  To waste time Justin started making the icing.

Once it was cooled I cut around the bottom of the pan to release it and tried to take it off the mold. This is where it all went awry.  The cake didn't just slide right off the pan, oh no, it fell off and broke apart in big chunks all over the top of our stove.  Not only was it broken, but the supposed rainbow looked like a tie die project gone bad.

I gathered a few of the pieces up and attempted to make them still look presentable.  Maybe once we iced them it would be ok???


This thing was seriously ugly.  Now it really was just about midnight so we sat down with two forks to share a piece of ugly cake and then went to bed.  Needless to say this is not being repeated to bring to the work party. I’ll just be the loser who has to sneak in on Friday because I didn’t bring anything to the party but still want to sample everyone else’s concoctions!


P.S. I'll also be linking up to the co-host's sites for the Pinterest Challenge.
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