I Don’t Know What “Home” Means…But I Think it Involves Dollar Store Tinsel

One of my friends/readers tweeted me some really great blog requests for December:


Her bonus points didn’t last long. The suggestions were rad, of course, but I soon realized that she had spelled #shaunanagins wrong. And that I had spelled #shaunanagins wrong. I’m not going to even point out the irony in that.

The reason these were really great requests, besides that they fit into the student-sized Homestyle portion of this blog, is because I totally know this stuff. I love this stuff. I’m all over the gift-giving and decorations, especially in the homemade/reasonably priced department. This is something my requesting friend knows well. It’s something that You probably know well, too, if You’ve been reading the blog for awhile.

Okay, that’s nice and all, but…WHY? Why am I so into this stuff? Am I  really a future Pinterest mom?  I crash on couches!  I take the bus!  I crave chicken wings! I wear my scarves as shirts! I’m wearing mismatched Green Bay Packers socks RIGHT NOW, and the classiest thing I’ve done all month is *try* to walk in stilettos.

This is what the kids call “swag,” right?

All that may be true. But it’s also true that I love red lipstick and wedding shows and lingerie. I make a mean homemade lasagna.  I wear my scarves as shirts (yes, this fits into both categories). I have personally hosted a fondue party. And, of course, I have a blog that shares recipes and decoration tips on a weekly basis.

I have no kids to keep alive. Does this mean I have time to make soap?

I actually relate to both of the women on this meme.  There probably will be a day where my mismatched NFL socks and I will attempt to make soap.  It will probably be very messy. Reindeer-shaped treats are on the December agenda, but this will DEFINITELY be messy. And, no surprise, my friend/reader wants me to blog about homemade gifts and decor. Messy or not, she knows exactly how down Shaunanagins is for that kind of content.

But WHY?

I think I need to address why decorating and getting into the season is so important. I know that it can be regarded as materialistic, or frivolous–after all, having “stuff” that you don’t technically need to survive is involved, which at least makes it a luxury. I get that. But despite my many, many flaws (recall: *trying* to walk in stilettos), I do not think my desire to decorate is one of them. It’s not a bad thing. Or even a frivolous thing, really.  It’s creative and it brings people together–if it’s done right, at least.

Decoration isn’t a status symbol. It’s not a red, green, and gold announcement that I shopped at The Bay last boxing day.  It’s not even a red, green, and gold announcement that I got a little crazy at the dollar store.  It’s a red, green, and gold announcement that my house is a home, and that You’re invited to take part in whatever that means for this time of year. It’s the homemaking equivalent of making eye contact and smiling at people as you walk down the street. Some of my inherited decorations are painfully gaudy, cheesy, or just plain unnecessary. But I’ve made memories with them, and I want to continue making memories with them.

At age six, I met a girl whose family, following her father’s job, had moved to Canada for a few months. Because they were only here for a short time, they had very little with them from England. Upon hearing about the temporary bareness of their home and unfamiliarity with Canadian Christmas, my parents immediately set their hospitality into overdrive. My new friend’s family came with us to see the lights at Waterloo Park. They joined our family tradition of skating at City Hall. And, most importantly, my parents showed up at their door in December with a box of spare decorations to fill some of the otherwise empty space.

I didn’t know this story until a couple years ago. I’ve remained close with that girl–we never lost contact, and her family moved back to Canada a few years later.  When her mother recounted the story to me over a decade later, she still had the most amazingly touched look in her eyes.  My neighbors overheard us talking about my parents’ decoration donation and quickly joined the conversation.  They recalled their first Christmas in the neighborhood, far from their extended family and without traditions to stand on. They, too, were incredibly touched by the holiday season they were always invited to next door.  I don’t mean we had a cool one-night Christmas party–I don’t remember us ever having a “Christmas party.” But we had a decorated house, a full fridge, a schedule of the TV Christmas specials, and an open door policy.

A decorated home with an open door policy is the best. It’s amazing to live in. It’s amazing fill with people. And, now that I’m a big kid, it’s amazing for me to be able to make one for myself. A couple years ago, my parents’ box of spare decorations ended up on another bare doorstep: mine. The box was filled with tacky, cheap, memory-filled Christmas stuff.  Just stuff, really. But I fully teared up with joy while putting everything up.  My roommate and I spent hours with eggnog and a weird Christmas trivia book found in the box. It made a difference. There’s no doubt about it.

Last year, I ended up hosting my three brothers and parents in Ottawa for Christmas.  I knew what to do. I had learned from the best. We didn’t need decorations to have a good Christmas, but it sure helped make the place feel like…well, like “home.” I don’t know exactly what “home” is, but I think that (for me, at least) there’s a month a year where it involves tinsel.

When I post about homemade gifts and ornaments and silly-looking wreaths and warm recipes…I guess someone could be cynical and see it as a cutesy, first-world-esque response to a commercialized holiday. But I want You to know it’s coming from a very real place: A place that has brought a lot of people together.  A place that, during some of the harder years, has helped keep me together. And a place that, because I’m the coolest kid in town, got me procrastinating by making these the other day:

It’s also possible that I just really like stickers.

…okay, now I’m just showing off my cut & paste skillz. But that’s for another post.

Let the games begin!

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Fall Tea Time, Two Ways.

I have an antique side table which has recently become the household “tea centre.” This isn’t because the people in my home are adorable and quaint, though Miranda sips tea frequently enough to  probably qualify.  The “tea centre,” rather, is purely functional.  Whenever we would plug the water boiler into a kitchen outlet, it would blow a fuse. It was irritating that this little water boiler was stressing out the outlets, of course, but eventually we stopped fighting it and moved the boiler has across the room.  The tea, coffee, and mugs followed suit.

This became an impromptu “tea centre.” One which needed to get its seasonal-ism on.

There are two ways that I have been able to set up the Fall “tea centre,” and I think they’re both pretty adorable and fun. Right now the more “halloween”-esque design is on display. Turns out that spiderwebs and a “Troy and Abed in the Morning!” mug are the very best combination.

Fall Tea Time: Phase 1

Multipurpose centerpiece, Fall-themed ribbon, a cute towel…and my favourite two mugs, of course!

You could easily replace the big ol’ glass martini glass here with a big ol’ glass anything. Even a bowl would do the trick, though you would have to rearrange. You could always store/display the tea in extra mugs while using a vase with some autumn flowers as a centerpiece instead.

Coffee and tea, anyone?

That was the “tea centre” for Autumn Apartment phase 1, but of course things had to get just a bit creepier when October entered the scene.

Fall Tea Time: Phase 2

I LOVE these spider web racks and containers. Super affordable, adorable, and available in several different designs at Homesense.

Same items, different presentation, but equally fitting for this time of year. Don’t worry, I haven’t given up my love for cheapy/seasonal dollar store ribbon. I just relocated it to the PM drink centre…

Thirsty?

That’s the one! Essentially, whatever your drink of choice, I’m that hoping my October apartment will have you covered.  Now all I need to do is grab some spiced pumpkin tea…mmmm. Anyone know a good brand?

Happy Halloween season, everyone!

Chalking It Up, Part 2: Halloween Time

It’s October now.

I’m probably just tripping on pumpkin spice lattes, but I could swear to you that the  ’10’ on the calendar is literally staring me down.  Time is moving. Life is getting busy. And that ’10’ means that, in spite of all that, I have only one glorious month to satisfy all my spooky-cum-tacky impulses. I have one month where rubber spiders and ghost paraphernalia and zombie references are completely socially acceptable.

Yes, I have midterms and papers and the Haunted Walk Halloween tour season and football on the teevee but, I’m sorry, last night pumpkins took priority.  “Autumn Apartment Phase 2”  is a go.

The inside of my apartment got its Halloween flavour from a combination of Homesense, the Dollar Store, and hand-me-down deco. Miranda smiled as I pulled out the spider web wine glasses, festive ribbon and creepy spiders.  My favourite touch this year are a couple of green light bulbs, one for the laundry room and one for the front porch light, which make the spaces super creepy/nuclear.

So what does this have to do with chalking it up?  Well, I’m counting down 31-ish days to max out the spookiness and tackiness, and I want my pumpkins to know it.

So, this happened:

Pumpkin meets blackboard paint.

Cool, eh?  Currently, the blackboard paint pumpkin sits on my front porch with a countdown of “Days Until Halloween!”

Awesome. I will definitely post more pictures as the week goes on!

Chalking It Up, Part 1: The Blackboard Wall

I want my home to be fun.

What a crowd-pleaser statement, I know. Of course I want my home to be fun. Of course you want your home to be fun. I also want my home to be cosy  and open and bright and quirky and welcoming and [insert unarguable “home” attribute here], but that’s besides the point.

“Fun” was front and centre in my mind when I reorganized the apartment this summer.  I was set on having a specified area in the open concept living space that was fun–specifically, fun in a music-y way.  Music has always been important to me, and I knew my roommate-to-be was no different, so the apartment had to encourage tunes.  I wanted the keyboard to get played. I wanted our CD collections to get played. Basically, I wanted a space where we could “play,” period.  That space, naturally, needed to be as open to creativity as possible.

The blackboard wall was inspired by a suggestion from good ol’ Josh, and solidified thanks to some fond childhood memories (growing up, our playroom in the basement had featured some cute little blackboards…these were mainly used to to torture my younger brothers with endless games of “school”; I know I had a good time).

All it took was two coats of blackboard paint, purchased at the local Canadian Tire, to turn my previously-dull keyboard corner into a canvas.  I have never seen anything so effective in making a home more fun.

Here’s a picture from the “cloffice” post last week. You’ll see the blackboard wall in the background:

Disclaimer: If you venture to read the wall, I would like to note that Jesus/Jagger/Gambino may not have used those EXACT words. Paraphrasing.

It’s super helpful for making notes to self/one another, as well as for writing down ideas, encouragement, Pokemon doodles…the usual. I would like to note, however, that the wall was visited last weekend by two monumental artists.  This was a gamechanger.

Pictured above: The game being changed.

I rest my case. Actually, I should probably rest my case with a picture of the wall in its current state. If this isn’t fun, I don’t know what is!

I personally love the “surf borad” which defies all laws of physics, courtesy of my two favourite artistic geniuses.

Since the wall has become such a hit, I decided it would be worth it to take this chalk action to the next level in a couple subtle/clever ways around the apartment.  It’s happening. It’s happening as you read this, in fact.  Lloyd’s response earlier today as I set to work on this latest project: “You said you were going to do it, and now you’re doing it. I don’t know why I’m still surprised anymore.”

Translation: Autumn apartment part two and Chalking it up part two are very ready to make their relationship official. Can’t wait for what next Friday has in store!

Autumn Apartment: Phase One

Autumn apartment phase one is actually a very simple concept. Basically, watching the days slowly shorten and the rusted leaves fall to the ground can either feel depressing (shiiiit, summer’s over…) or awesome (‘sup, prettiest season?).

I’m aiming for awesome.

I have two roommates, Miranda and Lloyd. When I told her that I like to seasonal-ize my surroundings, Miranda thought the whole thing made perfect sense. Lloyd, on the other hand, could not have been more confused. YES, I explained, it was/is important to match the energy outside to the energy inside. And, yes, the colours and the smell and the feeling of fall are all way too beautiful to just ignore.  Lloyd gave me a raised eyebrow, but told me to go for it, “I guess.”

There are two phases to fall décor, in my (crazy, according to Lloyd) opinion.  The first major one is in mid-September, and it errs on the Thanksgiving side of things—warm smells with subtle reds, oranges, and browns. The second phase happens when Halloween enters the scene in October.  I try very hard to avoid being tacky in both phases, but by nature autumn is bound to be a little corny.

That was a really bad joke, I’m sorry. Moving on…

Some of my decorations were a small investment, but almost everything was done on a student budget. Here are a couple of my favourite ways to subtly welcome in September:

  • Soap. Smell matters, probably more than anything. The easiest and most effective way to bring a season inside is to keep its best smells around.  I try to buy soaps when they’re on post-season sale, which is pretty much the ideal way to go about everything décor-wise.  Even at regular price, though, soap has to be one of the least expensive and most effective ways to bring about autumn apartment phase one.  I use: Roman Apple scented liquid soap.  It came from the grocery store at some point throughout the year, and I just stored it away until it made sense for my hands to smell like apples.ImageOther favourites: You can’t go wrong with Bath & Body Works this year.  They have 35 Fall-themed scents in adorable soap dispensers, priced at a totally reasonable $5.50 each (or $15 for 4, if you’re in the market for some early stocking stuffers or want to pack up fruitier scents for Spring/Summer).  Their line of fall products even goes insofar as lotions and shower gels, so if you want your whole body to smell like the season they’ve got you covered.  (Also, there’s always the grocery store. Also, Shoppers Drug Mart.)
  • Candles. Candles are the main reason that I was able to finally get Lloyd to mutter some approval in the form of “Well, it does definitely smell good in here.”  I  love candles, but have trouble justifying dropping too much money on something with the sole intention of setting it on fire. It’s best to just go with the most inexpensive option, usually scented tea lights, and find a way to make those tea lights look good. The way to get cheap candles to look good, as always, is to let them shine through the right container. Like this:
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    See, easy right? Martini glasses are the best for holding tea lights because their small bases make for the perfect resting spot.
    The centrepiece my candle cups are sitting on is awesome.  Miranda REALLY likes it.  My roommates last year really liked it, too.  It was somewhere between $20 and $30 at Homesense, but has already been well worth it–especially since I will be able to use it for years to come.
  • Tablecloths & Linens.  Tinted trees are one of the best things about the season, so what could make more sense than tinted tables? Colour can create and instant and radical change to the energy of a place. Throwing a gold cloth on our kitchen table and a thin red sheet on the coffee table was probably the easiest and most dramatic fall-ification I was able to bring to the space. (Coming in a close second: The regular use of words like “fall-ification.”)
    ImageGold and red are both good calls because a) they pop, and b) they can be easily used for Christmas, too. In my case, tablecloths also serve the very important purpose of hiding any evidence that I found both of these tables discarded on peoples’ driveways. Side of the road furniture can be sexy too? Maybe?
  • Little Things. As time goes on and you navigate post-season sales, dollar stores, garage sales, and so on, keep your eyes open for accents. I’ll be honest, most of mine came from Homesense.

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Homesense is awesome. Though I should warn you, I have still been unable to find my favourite fall accessory there…

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Yup, that’s the one.

Happy September everybody!

Home-slices…and some other slices, too

Student life is pretty crazy.  Ideally, we can make it equal parts “pretty” and “crazy.” At least, that’s what I’m trying to do.

Currently, I am surrounded by Chatelaines and scissors, but also by books and brainwaves. My goal? To inject a little bit of beauty and a whole lot of crazy into everything around me. “Everything around me” also happens to be awesome, since I’m living in Ottawa.

I’m kind of obsessed with this city. Also with my home. Also with life.

So let’s chat about those things, shall we?

Every Friday, I will be posting something in the “Homestyle” category.  The weird look I got from my roommate yesterday when I told him it was time for “Autumn Apartment Phase 1” says it all, my friends.

Every Tuesday, I will be posting something in the “Lifestyle & Brainwaves” category. This will mostly be about student living in Ottawa because, well, that’s kinda what I’m doing!

Cheers!