Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Spoon Carving: New Canadian Winter Sport?

the end is dipped in latex paint and the rest is coated with food safe oil
Not too long ago, I opened and rubbed my eyes on an early Sunday morning, looked outside at the snowy winter weather and focused on a mission that I was not mentally prepared for – I was going to carve my own wooden spoon! Trust me, for someone with no previous experience using very sharp tools to shape and sculpt anything, this was a scary proposition – but I was determined.

Luckily, I would be guided in this mission by the friendly folks from the Ontario Wood Carver’s Association ( and accompanied by Karen who, with her previous sculpture experience and all around natural artistic ability, promised not to make fun of me (her fingers must have been crossed :) ).
The Ontario Wood Carver’s Association was founded in 1978 to connect the woodcarving community in Ontario. The group also promotes carving as a hobby and a profession throughout the province. They have many outreach programs to youth and those generally interested in giving carving a shot. We had the pleasure of attending a workshop at the Toronto Tool Library ( at the Danforth location.

We were greeted by Alyssa and Bill of the OWCA and met our fellow intrepid wood carving amateurs. After some instruction from Bill (which felt like taking instruction from the Wayne Gretzky of woodcarving), we were given our tools and free reign to start carving away.
the various stages of the spoon with different options for handles
There are some basic steps involved in carving a wooden soon. After the type of wood is selected, you need to select and trace a pattern. Do you want a long handle? Or a deep bowl? Then you have to cut out the pattern before you start your carving. This means cutting away all the excess wood from your slab, creating a ‘spoon blank’ to be shaped and crafted. Luckily for us, the good folks at the OWCA had some pre-prepared blanks for us and we were able to start carving right away. I was particularly happy as I didn’t have to potentially sacrifice any appendages using power tools.
starting to carve out the bowl
Our first step was to carve out the bowl, which was a perfect place to start as it basically involved just scooping and was easy to master. Karen was a natural and got through this piece of work pretty quickly. I was slower, but eventually got the hang of it. My confidence was high and I didn’t want to move on to the next step, but my bowl was very close to becoming a hole.
bowl rugged but carved out
With some trepidation, I grabbed my sharper tools and started to hack away at the sides and back to start shaping the spoon and creating the stem. Alyssa and Bill were great instructors. They moved from person to person to make sure everyone was comfortable and provided great advice, including the very humorous (and serious) instruction “don’t bleed on the wood.”

Luckily, there weren’t any serious injuries and everyone enjoyed a very peaceful, meditative day. New friends were made and everyone walked out with their own hand crafted creation.
turn it to the other side and round out the rest
In the end spoon, my spoon wasn’t quite finished, but I felt a great sense of accomplishment. Karen’s spoon was amazing. She was so good and fast that she was able to move on to other carving projects with Alyssa and Bill’s guidance.
Karen finished early so she got to get her hands on another project!!
The folks from the Toronto Tool Library were also amazing hosts and it is definitely a place and organization worth checking out. The Toronto Tool Library is the first large scale project of The Institute for a Resource Based Economy (IRBE). Tools libraries loan specialized tools for both experienced and inexperienced community members who are interested in repair, maintenance and building projects. Members of the Toronto Tool Library can signout tools for their home and community initiatives from the two locations in Parkdale and on the Danforth.

The event cost $25.00 and you are provided with all the tools you need (plus tasty treats). Everyone can, and should carve a wooden spoon and it’s a great thing to share in a group activity. It is also the perfect first thing to try and carve since there is very clear direction and definite steps that must be taken, but there is room for some creativity as well.


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Into the Home: Mari

Mari, our customer ,who also lives in the neighbourhood came in a few days before Christmas looking for gifts for her friends and family but, as we discovered later, also for herself. She mentioned how she loved the store and the comfy cozy feeling of it and how she would love to replicate it in her home and asked for assistance in helping her create that same vibe. We told her when she was ready we were 100% on board.


A few days later, Mari came back determined to take home items that would help her transform her already beautiful house into a space that her family will find playful and inviting. She came in on the day Karen was in and the two of them made a nice selection of things to help her start the process.



Next thing we knew, there were initial pictures of Mari's home transformation in our inbox. There were mirrors, chalkboards and frames on the walls. She even painted a shelf to store her kids' shoes and helmets a bright yellow to match the mirror she got in our store. We loved the direction she was going in and helped her out with some more suggestions.

One day later a new batch of pictures arrived with the prooof of Mari's hard work. We were thoroughly impressed. Within 24 hours Mari turned her blank walls into colorful display of art.
And here is the proof.....


colourful stairway to heaven!
bright happy groupings! 
A friendly welcome in, check your lipstick, and put away your outside gear!
House entrance with nice large practical hooks for all the kids coats, plants, ingoing and outgoing mail,
with yellow door!
Love this shot! It shows art work and an up cycled shelf from Freedom as well as
Mari's embroidery hoop display in the dining room and sweet birdcage incorporation.
soft tonal hues in the dinning room via her embroidery hoop display
inspired by a wall area we have at the store Mari recreated her own version
Mari was sweet enough to let me roam around her beautifully curated house and I could not help but take as many pics as possible. She told me wonderful stories about all the different pieces she's collected over the years. From a laborious quilt she made while pregnant to her grandfathers paper cranes that are each imbued with a personal wish or prayer.

Mari is clearly a lover of animals as you can see they are scattered throughout her house
via pillow or statue, print or drawing  
Mari went wonderfully overboard over chalkboards that she painted
one whole wall in the kitchen with chalkboard paint! Yay!
Lulu showing us how to get on the bunk bed in Oli's room
just stunning!
A little girl's dream bedroom - LOOK at that storage wall!
Her grandpa sent her cranes each year which are incorporated into these charming mobiles
 and scattered throughout the house.
Even her craft and sewing table is sweet and friendly!
Lulu and Pepper followed me around making sure I gave them pets every few seconds and here they are chilling out while I take pics of the bedroom. Nothing makes a space a home like sweet loveable pet companions!
We want to give a BIG thank you to Mari for letting us into and sharing stories of her stunning home! What an inspiration.

If you have a similar dilemma and would like us to share our two cents with you, we are here to listen.
a happy warm home :)

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Condo Transformation Ongoing ...

Got the keys to a recently built condo with NO furnishing or decor to speak of- FUN!
One of many inspiration pictures
4 different chairs were bought/found, striped, and sanded
and painted this awesome turquoise

one seriously ugly hutch is waiting for makeover
inside hutch drawers need to have felt removed and paper applied!
Wall Knobbies to hold hanging plants along the window along with lots of other goodies
Follow our
Pinterest Boardfor more inspiration !

Sunday, December 29, 2013

New Mini Cute Projects DIY

beginning of up cycled embroidery hoops series - "blue cat"
upcycled trey and mini frame 
"hot air ballon"
"triangle abstraction"

Monday, November 4, 2013

Saturday night with ol' money bags

I moved to a new flat on Halloween. All the hard work was done by Friday, and I then moved on to the decorating; turning a house into a home is my superpower. I gravitate toward projects that are quick and impactful. Re-covering chair seats is among those.

I discovered these Royal Canadian Mint sacs at Rose's Furniture & Auction Rooms in Saskatoon. I didn't initially have a vision for them, but thought they were ripe with potential. But first, I needed to absolve them of the kajillions of dollars worth of money dirt and stink. Remarkably, the canvas freshened up after two soaking days and three washes.

I cut the bags into squares slightly bigger than the seats, and let my inner markswoman take over the staple gun.

Twenty minutes and a few rounds later... ol' money bags had a permanent seat at my table.

Want to join me for Sunday brunch?
- Amy Jill Snook