Jan 30, 2013

Cuba January 2013

Hola! We had an awesome time in Cuba. AGAIN. This is the third time we've been in 3 years. Previous to our first trip I was never very interested in vacationing there. But I've been won over. Probably because of the laid back attitude (once you're out of the airport - man, they are serious!) and the gorgeous beaches.

We arrived at the hotel in the early afternoon, which worked out perfectly. There was only a 20 minute wait for our room to be ready, the buffet was still open for lunch, and it was still sunny and hot. We changed our clothes, grabbed a drink, and found a couple of poolside loungers to relax in.

When we got to our room we were shocked to find out that we'd been upgraded to a VIP room. Hammock on the balcony, baby! And a free bottle of rum to take home. All I had mentioned to the girl at reception was that we were return guests and could we have a second floor room - I didn't expect that at all.

Since this was our second trip to the same place we didn't have any plans to go on excursions off the resort. The week was all about relaxing. Usually I over-plan our days so I only get around to reading maybe half a book, but this week I read the two books I brought with me and started re-reading another one that I'd brought specifically to leave behind. We brought about 10 paperbacks with us that we didn't want anymore, to leave on the bookshelf in the lobby. It was hilarious to spot our books later in the week being read by other guests.

We spent our mornings hanging out on the beach, and our afternoons by the pool. We also walked down the beach several times to another hotel to exchange money at the bank. The rate was much better than at hotel reception and we needed the exercise anyway. The buildings at the other hotel were prettier than ours, but their beach wasn't much to speak of, so I'm glad we chose the one we did.

While at the other hotel we wandered through the marketplace and Tom was fixated on buying one of these wooden scorpions.

I think they're disgusting. Lovely workmanship, but the subject? Yuck. He settled on buying a wooden crab instead and plans to hide it in his co-worker's drawer to scare him. Boys!

Part of the fun of vacation is having your room straightened for you each day and trying to guess what towel animal will be waiting for you when you come back from the beach. Our housekeeper favoured swans, but she found a different way to display them every day.

(Side note: on a cruise a few years ago our cabin steward left a towel dog one day and then a towel monkey suspended from a hanger the next. Tom thought it was the dog again and said, "What kind of sick person would hang a dog by its paws?!" It still makes me laugh.)

We managed to go horseback riding twice during the week - once for an hour with a couple who had never ridden before, and then again on our last day for a longer two-hour ride. We rode along the road, down some trails, and then along the beach. I think Tom got the same horse both days because he (the horse) would just suddenly wander off the path and start eating leaves. And each time he would get scolded by the trail guide, but I swear that horse had a smirk afterwards.

On the first ride, after stripping off the leaves, he even carried the branch with him for the rest of the ride - like a proud puppy. And my horse kept walking along leaning his head on Tom's leg - because he would scratch behind the horse's ears. I think we need to get horses!

The nightly entertainment didn't start until 9:45 each evening and we were only able to stay awake a couple of times. Such oldsters. One of the best nights was "Cuban night" when they told the history of Cuban art through dance. The dancers were so good! And the costumes were gorgeous. Tom decided he needs one of those flamenco jackets.

We did get to Playa Pilar, the star of the area, but it was an overcast and windy day so we only stayed for a couple of hours. The highlight was our taxi ride back to the hotel - check out this 1957 Oldsmobile. And the proud owner. He kept petting the dashboard every time he talked about it. Since Tom is a mechanic he really wanted to discuss it more, but alas, our Spanish isn't strong enough (yet).  New Year's Resolution - practice more often!

It was so great to re-unite with staff from last year, and to make new friends - Hi, Maria! - that we can't wait to go back again. Is it bad that I'm already checking out prices?


Jan 28, 2013

Back to the Grind

We are back from vacation! Had a fantastic time, read a lot, ate too much, and took about 900 pictures. (Seriously. Nine hundred.)

Of course real life is getting in the way of my crafting and DIYing - don't you hate having to pay the mortgage?

Thank you all for sticking with me, and I'll try very, very hard to have a Cuba recap post for you by the middle of the week.

My Saturday:

My Sunday:

Stay warm!

Jan 23, 2013

Raise the Curtain

I made a little change to our living room just before Christmas. I got rid of the too-dark navy curtains and replaced them with some lighter, texture-filled ones. (Excuse the wrinkles, they haven't been steamed yet.)

The navy ones were just too much for the room. Even though the detail in them matched the paint colour (BM Ranchwood), they just weren't right. At the time I thought I wanted dramatic curtains, but they weighed down the room - made it seem dark and dreary. Too bad it took me nearly a year to figure it out!

These new ones are from Ikea, but I can't find them on line so they must be discontinued. They are a heathered taupe colour, and I'm in love with the large weave. They look and feel like cozy blankets you'd want to wrap yourself up in. And it doesn't hurt that they were less than half the price of the navy ones.

Now that we have more neutral curtains, I'm able to bring in the navy I want with little touches here and there. While at Ikea I bought these navy, tan, and white pillows. Combine them with the tan couch and the navy pillows I already had and you'd think I knew what I was doing. I love that they are removable (button closure) for washing because the dogs like them as much as I do. I always find Chloe with her paws wrapped around one, hugging it like a stuffed animal.

Other touches are the sea glass and starfish bowl, and the funky glass vase that I filled with a fake plant (or should I say faux greenery?) I think it looks like a little garden.

The room is by no means completed, in fact it looks quite sparse with all of the Christmas decorations put away. But I've been told that I need to focus on the kitchen cabinets before starting any other major project (I'm thinking a sideboard of some kind to go under the frames of the gallery wall).

Have you ever made a big purchase (it was big to me) and then regretted it later? Did you just live with it or did you keep looking until you found something you liked more? I guess I'll have to chalk this one up to experience.

Jan 21, 2013

Another Pina Colada?

We're in Cuba this week. The temperature is supposed to be in the high twenties (that's around 80 degrees for you farenheit folks). I can hardly wait. Especially since they say it's going to be far below freezing in Ontario all next week.

We're going back to the Sol Cayo Guillermo again - the same resort we stayed at last year. We've never stayed at the same place twice, but this one was pretty nice. Definitely worth a second trip. The resort is laid out in one and two storey buildings with every room facing the ocean, so everyone has a great view.

The plan this time is to just hang out on the beach or by the pool, and to do some horseback riding. The trail leads along a lazy creek and then down past the other hotels in the area. It's such a relaxing and beautiful ride. I've ridden in other places where they're on a tight schedule and make you keep the horses trotting, but not here - this is all about taking your time and letting the horse lead you.

And to top it off we'll be going to the most gorgeous beach in Cuba - Playa Pilar. Miles of sand. And can you believe the colour of the water?

The water is fairly shallow so it's a comfortable swimming area - no big waves - we even did some snorkeling last time. I think I saw a fish but Tom doesn't believe me.

Hope you're having a great time wherever you are, and we'll see you in a week!

Jan 16, 2013

Stenciled Dog Bowls (Silhouette)

In my last post I mentioned that Tom gave me a Silhouette Cameo for Christmas. On the weekend he asked me how I liked it. Umm, it's great. So far I've...installed the software on my computer. He was off to his parents' house for a visit and told me he expected something stencilled when he got back, young lady!

So I gave it a go. My first project? Stenciling the dogs' names onto their food bowls. Now I didn't really intend to stencil them, I actually was planning on using vinyl letters, but that comes later in the story.

Do you have a Cameo? I've been wanting one forever. I've done some stenciling by hand in the past year and I can tell you, cutting out those letters or images by hand is just no fun. And the Cameo lets you do more than make stencils of course - you can cut out paper, fabric, vinyl, even temporary tattoos.

Glamour shot:

And so I got started. Now keep in mind that this was the first time I've ever used a Silhouette machine so I wasn't going for anything complicated. Also keep in mind that I didn't get around to starting until 5pm on Sunday night. Am I a procrastinator? I'll let you know. ;-)

My machine came with sheets of different coloured plastic - what I thought was vinyl. Why else would they be different colours? I planned to cut out the letters of the dogs' names and stick them on to the sides of their bowls. I opened up the program and got to work deciding on the size and font. I even put the names really close to each other so that I wouldn't waste any material.

I fed the yellow plastic into the machine and pressed start. Oh my gosh, so exciting. I actually videotaped it cutting the letters. Is that too nerdy? When it was done I peeled off the first letter and that's when I realized that it was a clear stencil and the yellow was just the backing paper. Sad Barb.

But that's okay, I have lots of paint - I can just paint the names on! Tom chose (he was home by then) Annie Sloan chalk paint in Aubusson Blue.

Our dog bowls are more like buckets with lids. They are so great because not only are they tall so the dogs don't have to lean way over to eat, but you can fill the bucket part with food and it's a travel bowl for trips.

I applied the stencil to the side of the bowl (Yay for self adhesive!) and pressed painters tape around the edges to block any stray paint strokes. And since I'd put the two names so close together I had to block the other name.

It took two coats of paint and only about 20 minutes to dry completely. I did some touch ups with a plastic scraper and an artist's brush, and then sprayed the names with a few coats of matte acrylic coating to seal.

Tell me that isn't adorable. Maybe I'll add some girlie flowers.

We hung the "Sasha" picture we found at HomeGoods over Sasha's bowl. Everyone needs something pretty to look at when they're eating, right? And why not a picture of yourself? Though for a minute I thought it might look like a shrine or something equally morbid.

Over Chloe's bowl we hung her graduation certificate from obedience class - framed of course. Isn't she a smartypants? She graduated first in her class. (She was the only one in her class.) 

There you go, my first project. Not the toughest to do, but it was fun, and I learned a lot. I can't wait to try something more complicated - maybe even with real vinyl.


I'm linking up here this week!

Jan 13, 2013

Getting Back Into It

Many, many apologies for not posting this past week. I know you don't want to hear my excuses - everyone's busy, get on with it, girl - so I won't bore you with them. They mostly involve month-end paperwork and my work location moving (no more commute!), getting ready for vacation (and cleaning the house in anticipation of the dogsitter being here), and a personal project that may get very interesting. I hope, I hope, I hope.

Let me show you a bit of what I have been doing, because it's not like I've been sitting around eating Cheetos the whole time (not the whole time).

1. I used my Silhouette for the first time - did I mention that Tom gave me a Silhouette Cameo for Christmas? - and added the dogs' names to their food bowls.

They were like, "You know we can't read right? And that we already know whose is whose?"

Just humour me, okay?

2. I took the Christmas wall hanging above the mantel from this:

To this:

It only took a few minutes and a couple of nails. The one on the bottom is a metal wall hanging that I bought the first week we moved into our current house. Tom wanted to buy it for me for Christmas that year but I was so excited that I rushed out and bought it myself. I love the contrast between the wood and the metal.

3. And we celebrated Sasha's birthday a little late. We had the family over for a belated Christmas dinner on her actual birthday (the 29th, also my birthday), so we didn't get to celebrate until after New Year's. I'm pretty sure she didn't mind.

As I mentioned before, it's full steam ahead on the kitchen update now, and we're taking off to Cuba again for a week. What have you been up to?

Jan 6, 2013

DIY Art from a Favourite T-shirt

How many of your gifts to other people were handmade? I'm guessing crafters/DIYers give more handmade gifts than other people. For me, it was probably about a 50/50 split.

One of my favourites this year was the framed t-shirt I made for Tom.

Framed T-shirt - Turtles and Tails blog

Some of his favourite shirts are from the Life is Good line. I don't know if you're familiar with it, but they make really fun, activity-oriented clothing and accessories. I have a few shirts myself, and Sasha has a "Life is Good" collar. 'Cause you know, for her, it really is.

Framed T-shirt - Turtles and Tails blog

About a year ago Tom temporarily switched deodorant brands and it made the armpits of his shirts hard and crunchy (how's that for TMI?) They didn't smell bad, it was just weird and uncomfortable to wear. Nothing would wash it out so the t-shirt had to be retired. But it was in good shape otherwise. And it was his favourite of the favourites - the first one he bought I think.

I decided to turn it into framed art so he could have it forever. I already had a frame but it didn't have a mat, so I made one from the solid mat in another frame that wasn't being used. The first thing I did was measure the width and height of the graphic so I knew how big to make the opening.

Framed T-shirt - Turtles and Tails blog

 I then added about an inch on each side and marked that on the mat. I also put it into the frame to make sure it would look balanced once it was all together. I don't know if you can see the tiny marks but they're there, one on each side.

Framed T-shirt - Turtles and Tails blog

Sasha chose that moment to walk into the room and put her face in a plate of glitter. Life is good. And sparkly. She distracted me so much that I forgot to take any more pictures until I was finished. But hopefully I can explain it well enough.

Dog with glitter

I used an X-acto knife and a ruler to join the marks and cut the matting to size. The frame is 8 x 10 so I cut the graphic out of the t-shirt in a rectangle measuring 9 x 11 - to give me extra material to wrap around behind. I took the filler board from the frame (the one between your picture and the backing board) and stretched the t-shirt tightly around it, making sure the graphic was centered, and secured each edge with packing tape.

I put the frame back together and it was finished. Oh yes, don't forget to give the glass a good cleaning on both sides if it's been handled a lot!

Framed T-shirt - Turtles and Tails blog

Cute, isn't it? Tom was so happy. And I marked on the tag that it was from the dogs so they got lots of hugs for being so clever.

Framed T-shirt - Turtles and Tails blog

Now he's not so worried that his favourite t-shirts will wear out because he knows they can live on forever on the walls.

Framed T-shirt - Turtles and Tails blog


I'm linking up to these parties this week!

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