In honour of Canada Day, I am revealing our Canadian themed spare room mini-makeover. Everything in this room had been given to us and didn’t really jive together. Ahead of hosting some American friends, we spruced the space up a bit with some coordinating bed linen and patriotic accessories.
The biggest project in the room was making the DIY canvas art to fill the wall above the single bed. I had the canvas wasting away in the storage room, painted with a past -failed- expression of my artistic ability. Inspired by Katie at bowerpowerblog.com, I slapped on some spackle and paint and turned out a pretty decent abstract textured piece that cost next to nothing.
Also adorning the walls are pictures from the Mr. and my engagement photo shoot. The large frame used to hold a mass-produced print of a lily, I ordered a poster-sized photo from VistaPrint for $30 to replace it. A smaller print is displayed in a $7 Ikea HAVERDAL frame. We did our e-session at my family’s cottage on White Lake Ontario and nothing is more Canadian than cottage and canoes.
The bedside table got dressed up with a maple-scented candle, a $6 DEKAD alarm clock, and a $10 ceramic carafe with a cute moose imprint which was an unexpected Wal-Mart find. When planning the makeover, I knew I needed to have some rendition of the Canadian flag in the room. This flag tray was only $3 from my local Ikea. It also adds a nice hit of colour.
On the solid pine dresser I centered a cottagey rope-handle tray displaying a few Canadian tchotchkes. I love trays for grouping small items together while also being functional as catchalls for stuff like guest keys, phones, etc. The branches and Umbra vase I’ve had for years in another room, but they work in here with the outdoorsy feel.
Not the most dramatic makeover … my little brother says the Before&Afters look like Spot-the-Difference puzzles … but still an improvement. It’s nice to have a touch of patriotism in the house, today and everyday. Happy Canada Day et Joyeuse Fête du Canada!
Liam and my first wedding anniversary is drawing near and I cannot believe how fast this first year of marriage has gone, or that I have posted so little about the wedding! Our destination nuptials in Portugal were fantastic, but we wanted to celebrate with our more extended friends and family in Ottawa too. So, early last September, we held a cocktail reception to do just that. Here are the details:
We wanted a venue that reflected our personality as a couple. Liam and I enjoy the finer things in life but tend to gravitate towards a more casual and relaxed atmosphere. Especially after having such an elegant wedding, we really wanted a fun, comfortable place to continue the celebration. Sidedoor, with its ideal Byward Market location, historic stone walls, and funky wine glass chandeliers fit us perfectly. A big bonus were the flat screen TVs all around the space that had our wedding video playing on a loop.
Having a beautiful venue meant we did not need to do much … but in the age of Pinterest, no wedding is complete without a few DIY details. At least if you love DIY details like I do. This hand-made rustic wood sign was the first thing to greet guests at the entrance to the courtyard.
Playing up the wine theme, I made a dozen chalkboard-look wine bottles with funny little sayings about wine. These were grouped on tables and served as lighthearted centerpieces as well as fantastic conversation starters.
In addition to petals scattered everywhere, a few small flower arrangements adorned the cocktail tables and bar. These were in soft pinks and vibrant blushes that contrasted nicely with the stone and dark decor of the restaurant. Even a few flowers were enough to make the party really feel like a wedding. The Food
Passed canapés kept guests nibbling all night on the Asian-fusion fare the venue is known for. There was also a [very Canadian] poutine bar that came out later, as well as a cupcake tower for some traditional sugary wedding fun.
We would have loved to have treated our guests to an open bar, but that was just not in the budget. We did the best we could by offering everyone a glass of white or red wine as they arrived. On the stem of each glass was ticket for a second drink at the bar. The Guest Book
It took months of wine drinking (yay!) and help from our boozy friends to collect hundreds of red wine corks for our shadowbox guestbook. Etched on the glass of the frame is our last initial, first names, and wedding date. Guests signed and wrote little notes on the corks and dropped them in the box which is now displayed in our home.
Friends and family got to take home a waiter’s knife corkscrew printed with our names and wedding date. Each were tied with purple ribbon around gold heart “thank you” charms and displayed on actual wooden grape crates.
Local Ottawa cover band One Vision rocked all night long with pumped-up renditions of pop/rock classics. Their energy was infections and kept guests moving on the dance floor. Purple glow-sticks added a playful element and were a throwback to Liam and my “rave days”.
We also (apparently) made a speech, which neither of us can much remember. We probably only intended to thank everyone for coming, but the pictures make it look like we are a comedy duo … who are really in love. At least we thought we were funny.
We obviously enjoyed ourselves. I lost my voice and both my big toe nails (sorry, over-share) that night but it was totally worth it. Planning a big event can be a lot of fun when the pressure is off. Everything had been set up before hand, the wedding was said and done, we were three weeks married and just ready to party with pretty much everyone we knew. And party we did.
We are preparing for visitors! Three men from Boston whom we have never met, staying with us for three days at the end of June.
No, we have not listed our home on Airbnb (although that is an intriguing idea …), the Boston Boys are groomsmen in my friend’s wedding, and I am a bridesmaid. These guys are traveling all the way from Boston to attend the wedding and spend a few days exploring Canada’s Capital. Rather than stay in some overpriced fancy hotel, they are bunking with us in my convenient three bed spare room.
All the furniture and linens were given to us (lucky us) so we have never paid any attention to decorating this room … the cat seems to like it nonetheless. In honour of our American guests, I’m freshening up the bunk room with a Canadian theme.
With only a busy few weeks between now and the wedding, changes have to be kept minimal. Sadly, there is no time for painting, or changing of electrical outlets or door hardware. Still, there is a lot I could do to make this room more welcoming and put-together. Here’s the plan:
The plaid comforters on the bunk beds fit in really well with the pine wood furniture, but the purple on the single bed clashes horribly. I’ll cover it with the KUSTRUTA duvet cover set from Ikea. So that we aren’t overwhelmed by plaid, I’ll also pick up two grey GURLU cushion covers. I’m in love with the Canadian flag pillow above (from Urban Barn) but $42 seems a little steep. I may cave and get it if I can’t find something similar. I must have some form of Canada flag in the room.
The small lamp on the dresser doesn’t do much to light the space, so I’m adding a HEKTAR wall/clip lamp over the single bed to brighten up the corner. I’d like to tablescape the dresser with random little pieces of Candiana like maple scented candles and a mini Inukshuk. No guest room is complete without an alarm clock (is it my job to make sure the Boston Boys get to the wedding on time?) and the DEKAD fits right in with the heritage feel.
The room is in desperate need of stuff on the walls. Framed pictures from our Engagement Session, shot on an Ontario lake, should work nicely. I’m also toying with the idea of framing some iconic Canadian wildlife images, but am worried they will come off too kitsch. To fill the giant wall space over the single bed, I’d love to accomplish a project I’ve been planning for a while now; textured art inspired by bowerpowerblog.com.
I always knew I wanted an outdoor ceremony, but in Ottawa there is just no safe time of year that guarantees a perfect day. Sure, we have beautiful stretches of Canadian summer, but rain is always a possibility and stifling humidity isn’t much better … not to mention the mosquitoes!
Rather than take chances, I planned my wedding in one of the sunniest places on Earth: Estoril. Known as the Portuguese Riviera, the coastal area of Casscias and Estoril gets an average of only 10 days with rainfall in June, July, and August, as compared to 34 days in Ottawa. Even if it does rain in sunny Estoril, it will probably be a light refreshing sprinkle followed by a beautiful burst of sunshine. The average amount of rain that falls during that period is 27 mm as compared to a staggering 247 mm in Ottawa!
Portugal enjoys one of the most stable climates in the world with a moderate kind weather influenced by the sea. My wedding was at the end of August, but in Portugal, your chances for a warm bright day are high no matter what the time of year. * Statistics according to WeatherWorldOnline.
Face it. Down-south all-inclusives have been done.
Sure they’re fun, easy, and have great weather, but do you really want to invite your guests to another resort wedding? Chances are they have attended, or at least been invited to, a few already and may not be all that interested in taking the same type of vacation again. No matter where you go in the Caribbean, your wedding runs the risk of looking like every other resort wedding out there. … which is fine for some, but not for me.
While Portugal has all the ease and beauty of the Caribbean, it is an exotic unique choice that will intrigue and entice your guests.
There are some seriously beautiful venues.
Our wedding was held in at the Villa São Paulo, a palace built in 1911 by a Mrs. Benedita Alves de Mello – A Portuguese millionairess who made her fortunes in the coffee plantations of Brazil. This little piece of history has been completely updated for a comfortable modern stay. TV, A/C, Wifi, what other acronyms could you need?
The Villa is positioned on a cliff directly facing the Atlantic Ocean, fifty private steps down to world-famous beaches. With 14 air-conditioned bedrooms, two fully equipped kitchens, a pool, and direct access to the beach, the Villa SP is a fantastic base for a Lisbon Coast vacation and an incredibly stunning location for a wedding.
And I chose one of many many options. There are historic palaces, monasteries, luxury hotels, countryside mansions -many of which are UNESCO World Heritage sites. Absolutely breathtakingly beautiful venues that are the stuff of fairy-tale princess bride dreams.
Everyone speaks your language.
Okay, maybe not every single person, but the vast majority of Lisboetas speak more than enough English to point out a metro station or direct you to a landmark. Portuguese people are notoriously warm and friendly and -I may have a slight bias here- are the nicest and most interesting people on the planet.
So not only do you have fascinating conversations with locals to look forward to, but also detailed discussions with wedding vendors regarding your decor ambitions, hair, makeup, floral preferences, et cetera.
We’ve all had wedding food:. chicken/fish/beef, fingerling potatoes, with steamed seasonal vegetables. Yummy
Cocktail Hour Beef Croquetes
Pastelinhas de Bacalhau (codfish fritters)
Rissoes de Camarao (shrimp dumplings)
Linguiça grelhada em tacinhas (grilled sausage)
Prosciuto wrapped pineapple
Shrimp stuffed papaya with cream sauce
Seabass and clams in a bed of vegetables
Roast lamb, vegetables, and potatoes
Chocolate and passion fruit mousse
Red Velvet wedding cake with raspberry filling
Not to mention all the champagne, wine, beer, and cocktails 35 people could possibly consume in one evening. No one saw the bottom of a glass, ever.
And yes, I know that there are actually fantastic caterers in this wonderful Northern country that I live in who could absolutely compete with my menu, but they are certainly not the standard! You’d have to find them out, go for tastings, work with them on the menu, and pay them your first born child. In Portugal the standard for good food and fine entertaining is much higher. Everyone eats well all the time, so at weddings the fare is expected to be fabulous.
My menu was part of a package offered by The Villa São Paulo. It was Menu C and I didn’t taste a bite of it until we took our seats at our reception. But more importantly, I didn’t worry about it. Not once. Ever. I knew with absolute certainty that in Portugal, I would be feeding my guests far better than I could ever have hoped to back home.
Easy to get there and around.
We had a few first-time travelers on our guest-list who were nervous about making their first jump across the Atlantic to this mysterious little sliver of Europe. But the direct Air Canada fights out of Toronto and Montreal made it a breeze for everyone, and the Lisbon airport is a seriously well-laid out facility. English signage is everywhere at airport and tourist areas, so being lost is always temporary.
Our guests arrived to us at the Villa São Paulo in several ways. Seasoned travel veterans rented cars at the airport and hopped on the highway out to Estoril. The adventurous crowd used the metro and train station, finding it all extremely cheap and easy. And for the group of 12 that were flying out together, consisting of my 80 year old grandma and some virgin-travelers, I arranged a private van transfer that was perfectly prompt and professional.
We were also constantly taking cabs to and from the centers of Casscias and Estoril. Both a beautiful sea-side walk away, but it was sometimes more pleasant to take a 7€ cab ride after a day of shopping or evening of eating.
Euro goes a little bit further.
You can spend as much or as little on a wedding as you want. Weather you hire a white elephant to whisk you away, or if you walk to a bar after a ceremony at City Hall, it will still be your wedding and will be romantic and memorable. Me, I wanted everything short of a white elephant, and in Portugal I got what I wanted.
I’m not saying that it was cheap!
We still spent a tone of money on our wedding, like a tone. But we certainly got a lot more bang for our canuck bucks. As already mentioned, the quality and style of catering far surpasses the North American standard for about the same cost, and alcohol was far cheaper. Videography was also a great deal. The video that would have cost us thousands here at home was an add-on to our photography package for mere hundreds (I’ll post the video soon I promise!). Hair & makeup and flowers & decor were right on par with Canadian prices. And other vendors like the officiant, security, DJ and musicians came up to a bit under what I would expect to pay here.
A lot of this assembling of fantastic services had to do with my wedding planner Claudia. She has a circle of top-notch wedding professionals around her that she brings with her own expertise and attention to every wedding held at the Villa a São Paulo. I would not have had my dream wedding without her.
It’s a built-in Honeymoon.
Trust me, you wont want to leave. After your dream wedding, you can head to the Algarve for much needed time doing nothing but relaxing on the beach. Need a little more adventure? Well the waves around Sintra are some of the best in the world for surfing. Scuba diving, sea kayaking, fishing, and dolphin watching are also all on offer all along the coast. Not into water sports? Head into the cities to explore centuries of history and culture. Take in a Fado show for some chillingly beautiful Portuguese language ballads, or bob your head as you watch folkloric dancers perform in traditional village garb.
If you do want to branch out and see more of the world, Portugal is an excellent jumping off point to a host of other destinations. We had an opportunity to travel with family through Morocco and our flight to Casablanca out of Lisbon only cost us about $200. Many of our guests also took advantage of being in Europe and tagged on France, Italy, Spain, and the rest of the Meditarian onto attending our destination wedding.
We’ve cleaned out the cobwebs, removed the wallpaper (and put some up!), ripped out the carpet, and made multiple trips to Ikea. We’ve painted, cut, screwed, scraped, stretched, hammered, and stapled … and now it’s done. An entire floor of our house has been renovated and it looks awesome!
We mostly stuck to The Plan, but a few things changed along the way. The wood paneling ended up getting painted grey instead of white in order to tone down the blue which looked much bluer than anticipated. I actually love how it turned out … a bit of a twist on the traditional colour pairing. As always, the paint is from Dulux; Clear Sailing and Frost Grey.
The floor was a great deal from Lowes; a Special Buy 12 mm click-laminate by Mohawk Floors that cost us 99¢ /sq foot. I originally wanted a much lighter grey-wash, but the hubby talked me into this more natural looking one with just an hint of grey. Given what we ended up painting the walls, I’m very happy I listened to him. The floor went down fairly easily, thanks to help from my mom & dad, and was a hugely rewarding 1 day DIY project.
The bar was a point of contention for a while. We first painted the paneling grey just like the walls and Liam thought it looked good enough. I felt that it was awkwardly blending into the background and wanted to add tiles or stone veneer. We compromised on a wallpaper option from Bouclair. The irony of first taking down wallpaper from the walls to just put some up on the bar was not lost on us, but I’m happy in the end. Sure, we aren’t fooling anyone with stone wall paper, but the image of piled slate brings all the colours of the room together and the darkness of the stained “classic black” wood creates a grounding focal point to the space.
We actually already had the bar stools, shelves, and glasses for this area, all hand-me-downs (like everything else we own). But it all looks so much better in a space that has been dressed up to match it! Who knows, we might even hang out down here now.
Not wanting to deal with installing laminate flooring on the stairs, we lucked out that this Ikea runner was EXACTLY the same width as our staircase. Leaving the foam and tack strips from the old carpet, we stapled in the runners, making sure the connections happened under the stair nosing. The result is wall-to-wall carpeting in an indoor/outdoor material that should wear really well and didn’t break the bank.
We did end up going with the Ikea Borgsjo system; two shelf units with doors and one TV bench. It makes more sense to have a media center in the basement rather than a set of wardrobes, and gives me enough storage for extra kitcheny stuff.
The fireplace was a great Costco grab. Not only does it look down right cool with its colour changing LED back-lights and crystal flames, but it also puts out a decent amount of heat in a chilly basement.
I accessorized the room as planned; with pictures from our trip to Cape Cod, and small objects we brought back from there. My favourites are the old glass fishing-net floats on the window; they are so pretty when they catch the light. The drift wood is actually from the lake at our cottage … I’ll keep my eyes out this summer for a second piece for the other unit.
With two sitting rooms upstairs, we have no need to furnish the basement any more than it is. At least now its a welcoming part of the house, ready for use when needed. Maybe for at-home yoga sessions, a game room for hubby’s poker nights, a play room when the nieces & nephews visit, or just straight-up overflow room during parties.
Although all the work we did down here was “easy” (wall paper removal, painting, laying floor, etc.), scale-wise it was by far the largest project we have yet tackled. It was a tremendous amount of work sacrificing many evenings and weekends, but we have a huge sense of accomplishment now that and entire floor of our house is completely done …which is good, because we still haven’t finished with the kitchen!
So there haven’t been many posts lately … okay none at all. But we’ve been busy! Busy fixing up our drab, dusty, cobwebby basement. It was always a project we wanted to get around to, but a leaky frozen pipe, a nasty water stain, and the fear of mold meant we had to get a move on. Here is the plan: Seriously who needs TWO wardrobes in a basement? How much clothes did the previous owners have? These are all warped and wobbly but I count on them as extra household storage. I’m sure there’s a better, more attractive option. Something like:
Ooo, or better yet:
And although we don’t use the basement all that much -and are not planning on buying furniture for it- I do want it to be a finished part of the house. Something on the walls and a few decor items will go a long way. I’m going for a beachy feel with the basement. Not an original theme, but one that can really take a dark underground space and bring it out into the light and fresh air. I’m thinking some personal beach flotsam in shadow boxes, a casual poofy valence, and a mixture of natural materials in the form of baskets and carpet with something stone to ground it all.
There are a few DIY gifts I’m working on, and a couple hard-to shop-for names still on the list. I have back-up ideas for those people in case I don’t think of something absolutely perfect for them soon. These things need to percolate.
Wrapping: 20% to go
Everything I have is wrapped and out of the cats’ reach.
Holiday cooking prep: done
And the appetizers came in handy for a last minute Holiday Potluck we went to on Friday.
Christmas Cards: done
Ready for the post-office.
Outside decorating: done
Although its all kind of sad without snow on the ground, but I’m not complaining.
Inside decorating: done
Just have the tree left but its more fun to make a night of it.
Holiday Party Outfits: done
We bought a few pieces that should suffice, although I’ll keep my eye out for a new festive tie for the Mr.
All in all we have done very well and are looking forward to a relaxed and fun December.