DIY Black & White “Geek Chic” Gallery Wall

 

Aaaand…. we’re back! While we’ve been keeping the oil-lamps burning over on our Instagram and Facebook accounts, the windows have definitely been a bit dark over here at UrbanistaAtHome.com for quite a while – I’m sorry! Since the last official blog post I’ve uploaded (back in October 2015) I’ve had 2 (yes 2!) moves.We’ve now been in our most recent apartment for almost 2 months now, and are finally starting to feel settled in.

I’ve always liked the look of gallery walls – one blank wall of a room, covered in a carefully curated collection of images and frames. Rather than just providing decoration, a gallery wall tells a lot about the person who created it – the choice of images, the colour scheme, the placement of the frames. I’ve seen gallery walls that aim to lend a theme to a room (such as a nautical theme in a bathroom, or a woodland creatures theme in a child’s bedroom). I’ve also seen gallery walls that stick to a colour scheme to draw together elements of the room and the furniture around it. My favourite kind of gallery wall are the ones that reflect the life experiences of the home owner – a collection of pictures collected along the way that tells you a bit about who they are.

My boyfriend (let’s call him the Urbanisto to my Urbanista) and I wanted to create a gallery wall that would represent the both of us – capture both of our personalities, our likes and our spirits. The very first image came from my own gallery I had made back in my room at my parent’s, before we had moved in together. It’s one of my favourite Harry Potter quotes, and a few years back, inspired by others online, I used PicMonkey to set it in white font against a black background, and paired it with the iconic glasses and lightening bolt scar. Reading the Harry Potter novels was a hugely formative part of my adolesence, and I remain, to this day, happily a part of the Harry Potter fandom. Using a simple photo editing tool like PicMonkey is a great way to make your own literary-inspired wall prints – simply pick a quote, set it against a solid coloured background that works with the colour scheme of your gallery wall, and add one or 2 simple graphics if desired. Print and frame, and you’ve got a custom piece of art instead by your favourite novel!

Urbanista at Home - DIY Geek Chic Gallery Harry Potter

The second picture to join the collection was the centre image, of the 2 astronauts embracing against a black background. One of the EDM artists both I and the Urbanisto really like is Kygo – I don’t know if you’ve ever listened to his music (hey, I totally get it if you aren’t into EDM) but I think it’s pretty much impossible to listen to the beachy tropical inflections in his songs and not walk away feeling at least a little bit more upbeat . The music video for his song “Stole the Show” is pretty magical, with just the right combination of sci-fi mystery, romance and xylophones (yes, they can go together!) The Urbanisto and I loved the mysterious story of the 2 astronaut lovers, and so for hisbirthday, I commissioned a digital art rendering of them from an amazing artist on Etsy, Kirsty Hampson (who, by the way, I cannot sing enough praises for… check her out if you need a digital art piece commisioned!) Like the Harry Potter print, the image is set on a black background… and here you have the beginnings of my black and white gallery wall.

Urbanista At Home - Geek Chic  Gallery Wall

Because these 2 prints feature a lot of black, I knew I wanted to keep within the same colour scheme. However, I’ll admit right now – the black and white scheme was also chosen due to budgetary considerations! We wanted the flexibility of printing our own pictures, and we only have a black and white printer, so it was pretty much a stroke of luck that our other already-existing prints were right in the colour scheme! 

Printing some of your gallery pictures is a great way to save money. Digital art downloads on sites like Etsy are often a lot more inexpensive than buying a paper print at a shop or online. It’s also way faster than ordering and waiting for it to be delivered in the mail! 

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As well, there are a lot of amazing vintage black and white images available in the public domain, free for public use and printing, and a lot of them are pretty awesome! The Urbanisto and I are both pretty nerdy when it comes to science, biology and history (I love my zoology and animal biology, and the Urbanisto is a huge sci-fi and dinosaur fan.) We found a lot of great vintage images on Pixabay of old-school black and white biology drawings, and found 2 dinosaurs the moon, and the elephant that we thought would work perfectly. Pixabay is great because you can search by colour scheme, category and size, and it’s all free! And of course, if dinosaurs are involved, there must be a T Rex present – we found the gorgeous black and white T-Rex image by Laura Carter on AnimalsClipArt (yes, a clipart site!)

Searching around the internet for more free-to-use black and white art yielded the beautiful collection of black and white patent drawings at Primer Magazine’s site (definitely check it out, there are patents for cameras, motorbikes, and other poster-worthy images). My dad’s family is Dutch, and as a family with way more bikes than we had room for in our basement, we’ve always identified with the bicycle culture of Holland. The  bicycle patent was a perfect representation of this part of my life, the antique vibe fit nicely with the vintage black and white biology drawings.

bicyclepatent

Bicycle Patent Image owned by Primer Magazine

Star Wars is to my boyfriend what Harry Potter is to me – and any wall gallery that represents us would require at least one Star Wars print. Looking at the vintage science images and the bicycle patent print, we thought another blueprint/patent style image would work perfectly to balance out the wall. When I asked the Urbanisto which Star Wars ship he’d most like a patent print of on our wall, without hestiation he said “Imperial Star Destroyer”. One trip to Etsy later, we had ourselves a gorgeous black and white digital download of an Imperial Star Destroyer blueprint, thanks to Denny H. at Print Point.

We needed just one last print to balance everything out, so when we came across a black and white greeting card with a little figure hugging a whale in Pina, a local clothing and art shop in Tofino, BC, we knew it was the perfect addition to our wall. While visiting Tofino, we went on a boat trip up the Clayquot Sound, and were lucky enough to see a juvenile humpback whale from our boat. The card was the perfect souvenir for the trip,and it fit into the frame just right.

Urbanista At Home - DIY Geek Wall Gallery Layout

Figuring out the layout of the pictures was one of the tricker parts of the project. We layed all of the pictures on the ground, in an area similar in size to the wall we were going to be posting them on. We played around with layout for quite a while, and even hassled some guests to give us their feedback on what looked best where! We finally decided on a layout, but transfering it to the wall was a whole ‘nother ball game.

Urbanista At Home - Laying out Geek Chic Gallery

Using a tip I’d seen demonstrated on the Marilyn Denis show (a daytime talk show here in Canada), I traced each of the frames onto brown kraft paper, and cut out the silhouettes, labeling each with a description of the picture it represented. With a level tool and a measuring tape, we set out to tape them to the wall in the order we had laid out the pictures on the floor. Although we still used the leveling tool throughout, we gave up on spacing the frames out perfectly and decided to free-hand the placement in a rough estimate, which gave it a much more organic feeling. After marking on each piece of paper where a nail should go, we hammered the nails in and ripped the paper off the wall. Then, level tool in hand, we assembled the gallery, frame by frame.

Urbanista At Home - Final Geek Chic Gallery Wall

So far, we love our gallery wall! It is the perfect represention of us, and brings that extra bit of personality to our new home. I hope we’ve inspired you to curate your own collection! I will follow up soon with a fuller listing of all the great sites I’ve found with free-to-use printable images that are perfect for gallery walls. Until then, have a wonderful summer and keep on creating🙂

xoxo,

Urbanista At Home

Thoughtful Thursday: October 29th, 2015

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Happy Thursday, everyone! Just a short post today as this week has been a super busy one, but wanted to make sure everyone gets their dose of Thursday creativity inspiration!

Today’s quote is from Mencius and was written in the year 400 BC. 2415 years later, and it still is relevant. This week I’ve spent probably over 15 hours already working on my Halloween costume (a looong process involving sewing, gluing, stapling, and more than a few trips to Michael’s craft store) and I’ve had so much fun tapping into my imagination and sense of creativity to remagine this classic movie character in a new light. (Its still a secret until halloween comes, but I’ll share an instagram picture of it on the blog instagram account on saturday!) It feels a lot like playing dress up as a child, and reminds me how wonderful and untamed one’s imagination is when they’re young. So this week, try finding that child – like creative essence inside you and bring her or him out!

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Thoughtful Thursday: October 22, 2015

Lady Bug and H. Jackson Brown Jr.

A few years ago, I did a group project on the harms of “thinspo”, also known as “thinspiration”. “Thinspo” is media (pictures, videos, “before-and-after” compilations) that are made or distributed for the specific purpose of providing motivation for weight loss, or being “thin”. The images are often accompanied by a quote that encourages the reader to “stay strong” in their quest for thinness (a popular one being Kate Moss’s “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”).

The idea is that looking at these images (which often portray extremely skinny women) will help a person desiring weight loss to stay motivated in their quest for thinness (with thinness being primarily a “beauty” goal, rather than a “health” goal). There are entire Pinterest boards, Tumblrs, blogs and Instagram accounts devoted to providing “thinspiration” to the nations, continually posting new image and word pairings that urge their followers to “just keep going” (often past what is healthy) in their quest for thigh gaps and concave stomachs.

The research we read for the project showed just how harmful these pictures and quotes could be to a young woman’s (or young man’s) mental and eventual physical health. The studies often talked about how viewers’ self esteem lowered, and their body image was negatively impacted. Other findings surrounded how such content could often distribute or reinforce unhealthy, risky eating and exercise behaviours, potentially leading to physical harm down the road. Overall, the message that seemed to emanate from the research was that these images and quotes were powerful, but caused negative harms to the women and men who viewed them.

I know this is a digression from my “usually scheduled programming”, but I am getting somewhere “crafty” with this, I promise! Sometimes I just can’t hold the health-science nerd in me at bay🙂

The project on “thinspo” got me thinking: if images and quotes on a webpage can have such a strong effect on someone’s way of thinking that it can cause real physical and mental harm, surely it could also do the opposite. I’ve always been a fan of motivational quotes and mantras for improving positive outlook, and I know pep-talks can have real effects on improving self esteem and self worth. There are plenty of amazing motivational memes and posters out there – I have a whole Pinterest board of them that I like to scan through on a day I need a bit of a “pick me up” – they often do the trick, and give me a better outlook on the day, at least for a little while.

Because of the power of these word and image pairings, I wanted to see if I could use this concept to inspire creativity and artfulness, which I find I need more of in my life! So I’ve decided to launch a “thoughtful thursdays” series on the blog, where I’ll try to post a new picture and quote pairing aimed at inspiring creativity every Thursday. Sometimes I’ll use my own pictures and pair them with a quote I’ve found and enjoyed, or sometimes I’ll mix it up and try my hand at creating quotes and perhaps pair them with a particularly inspiring photo of someone else’s.

I’ll try my darndest to ensure I give credit where its owed, as I definitely do not want to create negativity with this project through taking credit for others’ ideas. Please feel free to share them with friends who you think might enjoy a bit of creativity inspiration!

For the first Thoughtful Thursday on Urbanista At Home, I went with a picture I took last year of a Ladybug who had made herself at home on the ivy vines outside my home, and paired it with a beautiful, simple statement by H. Jackson Brown, Jr. (1991). I liked it because it reminds me that even if you’re going after your dreams on a large scale (perhaps career-wise or education-wise), it doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the other little things that make you happy, such as being creative, working on side-projects, or being crafty.

For me, it helps me remember that even if I’m working hard at pursuing my career dreams and going after those long term goals, its still important to remember to do the little creative projects that make me feel happy and at peace. Creativity doesn’t have to take center stage in my life, but it doesn’t become any less important even if it’s acting in the supporting cast.

Take a look – I hope it brings a little bit of creativity inspiration to your Thursday.

Xoxo,

Urbanista

Lady Bug and H. Jackson Brown Jr.

From “Giveaway! To “Gimme!” : DIY Re-upholstered Bench On A Budget

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Until I entered the DIY-Blogging world, I had never heard the word “upcycle” before. Yet “upcycle” (meaning to “process (used goods or waste material) so as to produce something that is often better than the original”) is the word that best describes most of the projects I do. Maybe that drive to “reduce, reuse, and recycle” comes from seeing too many PSA-style theatrical performances during elementary school- you know the kind that encourages kids to recycle and “be green”, with adult actors dressing up like empty pop-cans and singing songs about being abandoned and left to rust in the rain. Maybe those elementary school skits instilled an inner drive in me to make sure that no tired old piece of furniture with the potential for esthetic greatness ever feels sad and abandoned in the trash bin😉

This week’s post chronicles an upcycling project that I hope inspires you to try some upcycling of your own, whether you follow along with the post and try to outfit an old bench with a new design, or pick an entirely new project.

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A few months ago, my sister-in-law’s sister put out an Instagram post with a picture of an
upholstered bench (the kind you’d put at the end of your bed) and the caption “Does anybody want this?” It was quite a nice looking bench, with a gleaming dark wood frame and a button-tufted white bonded-UrbanistaAtHome.com - DIY Re-Upholstered Bench On A Budget 3leather cushion. The cushion, however, had become her (super-cute, by the way) dog’s favourite thing to lick and chew on in recent months, and part of the bonded-leather had completely disintegrated. I had been enviously looking at pinterest images of bed-end upholstered benches for awhile prior to this, and so when I saw her post and the relatively great condition of the bench’s frame, I commented “I’ll take it!” right away. And so I became the proud owner of a to-be-upcycled bench that then sat in my storage for about 5 months (DIY projects tend to have a way of building up😀 ).

 

 

So a couple weeks ago I finally got around to the actual “Do It” part of my “Do It Yourself/DIY” project. I’ve never upholstered anything before, but found an amazing blog post by Tara at Suburble that described upholstering an ottoman chair using a staple gun and a certain style of fabric folding that sounded pretty beginner-safe.

 

I spent an hour wandering the aisles of my local fabric store, debating whether to play it safe with a nice grey, neutral canvas or take a risk with something with a bit more punch. A gorgeous navy and white printed canvas, which I can only describe as “Ink-blot/Navajo Pattern/Damask” inspired (truly!), stole my heart and so I decided to take a walk on the wild-fabric side. I got just enough of it to cover the bench, but now that it’s all used up, I wish I had gotten more to make some co-ordinating throw pillows out of! (Take note, fellow DIY-ers: always ask for more fabric than you need when the fabric sales lady is waving her scissors about in front of you before she cuts it. You’ll always find something you can do with extra fabric, and you’ll always lament your poor decision to get less fabric when you realize you are 2 inches short of enough fabric to make your current project.) While you’re at the fabric store, pick up a few yards of quilt-batting or quilted fabric (usually 2 pieces of fabric with a sheet of cotton-batting sewn between them). You can use it to luxuriate your upcycled bench by adding an extra, cushy layer of comfy-ness beneath your patterned fabric – your tooshie will thank you!

 

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White and blue fabric called for something a bit less serious than the attitude a dark wood frame exudes, so I bought a can of Krylon ColorMaster spray paint in “Brilliant White – Satin”. And while we’re on the topic, here’s another area where buying extra will always pay off: always get 2 cans of spray paint! I ran out ¾ of the way through painting the bench’s frame and had to run out to buy more. It’s better to have extra – there’re always picture frames or something that could use an update with the leftover paint. Learn from my mistakes, and do what I say, not what I do😛
 
 
 

The whole project, from start to finish,before and after collage did take a couple days, due to paint dry times and the fact that whoever had made the bench in the first place must’ve been an absolute staple-gun fiend (seriously, there were hundreds of upholstery staples in places no staple need be), which took quite a while to remove. However, the time was definitely worth it – It turned out beautifully, as my cat can attest (he’s decided its his bed, and no human can change his mind.)

 

If you’re inspired and are interested in doing a similar upcycle of a bench, follow along with the image walkthrough of my project below!

 

Materials
– Upholstered bench needing some TLC (check out thrift stores, antique shops, or possibly your grandmother’s garage?)
– Heavy canvas or upholstery fabric, enough to cover the bench’s cushion, plus a little bit extra
– Quilted fabric, enough to cover the bench’s cushion, for underneath the patterned fabric
– Fabric scissors
– Staple gun and staplesUrbanistaathome.com - DIY Re-upholstered bench on a budget 6
– Exacto knife or blade
– Upholstery staple remover (or screwdriver with flat head, for prying staples out)
– Screwdriver matching screws in the bench, for bench disassembly and reassembly
– Cat, for provision of assistance, annoyance, and comic relief (optional)

 

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1. Disassemble the bench to separate the upholstered cushion from its frame. If you’re like me, you may find your cat trying to provide some “assistance” at this stage. Nothing draws a cat to a DIY project like a box-like contraption to sit in.

 
 
 
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2. Prep and paint frame first, to allow enough time for the paint to dry, and to apply multiple coats if needed. I’m not the most experienced spray painter, so I did have to do a couple coats to make up for some rookie mistakes. I gave the frame a quick once-over with some sandpaper, and smoothed out a few dents in the wood before painting. If you haven’t spray painted much before, I highly recommend checking out this post on spray painting tips from LiveLoveDIY – the pointers really helped me!

 
 

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3. While the paint is drying, you can start disassembling the old upholstery on the bench cushion. It’s pretty amazing to open up a sleek piece of furniture and see all the work that somebody put into it when it was first made. Because this bench was tufted with buttons, it had tons of string ends and buttons to cut away in order to lift the fabric off the foam. Exacto knife to the rescue! Also try to remove as many of the old upholstery staples as possible – leaving them in and covering them up is tempting, but it could make it harder to put the new staples in.

 

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4. Depending on your preference, covering the cushion in an extra layer of quilting may or may not be necessary. As you can see in image #1 above, because the cushion on this bench had buttoned-tufting in it, it left dents in the foam when I removed the old fabric. It didn’t look as smooth when the new fabric was placed on top, so I covered the foam cushion in a neutral quilted fabric (#2 & 3) and used the staple gun to adhere it to the cushion frame (#4). It made the whole cushion look a lot smoother and feel a lot cushier (#5).

 
 
 

5. Cut your patterned fabric to size, and put in a row of staples on one side of the bench. Once the staples are in place on one side, pull the fabric tightly across the cushion to pull it in place and staple on the other side. If your fabric is patterned like mine, you might want to Urbanistaathome.com - DIY Re-upholstered bench on a budget 10double check that the pattern images are all in the right spots and are not crooked before you staple it down. For the ends of the bench, as mentioned earlier, I used the fold-over finishing technique used by Tara on her blog Surbuble – no sewing required!
 
 

6. Once the paint on the frame is dry,UrbanistaAtHome.com - DIY Re-Upholstered Bench On A Budget 11 and your
cushion is fabulously fabric’d, you can then reassemble the bench!

before and after collage

7. When the frame and cushion are securely refastened, you (and your cat, who has been patiently waiting for his “throne” to be finished) can take a seat on your new, one-of-a-kind upholstered bench!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
I hope you this post inspired you to do some upcycling of your own! Let me know what you think in the comments section below – I love to hear feedback, or about your own experiences with upcycling! Until next time,

Xoxo Urbanista

Top 5 Kitchen Knives To Take Your Home Cooking To The Next Level

UrbanistaAtHome.Com - Top 5 Kitchen Knives To Take Your Home Cooking To The Next Level

I don’t know if there is anything more frustrating to a person who enjoys cooking than a kitchen knife that doesn’t do what it’s supposed to. Whether it’s dull, nicked or just the wrong knife for the job, a knife that just won’t produce a clean slice through the food item you’re processing can be hair-pulling inducing. A good knife can help take your home cooking to the next level, whether you’re cooking for others or for others! After years of working in a store that sold premium kitchen goods, and selling knives to a wide range of customers, from never-ever-cooks to home cooks to 5-star restaurant chefs, I found there were a number of knife-styles that consistently yielded the happiest customers. From these experiences, and from my own home cooking, here are the top 5 knife styles I would personally recommend for a home kitchen, in order to comfortably take on all those fun new recipes you’ve been pinning on Pinterest😉

1.  Santoku knife with a graton edge

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Yes, that’s right. The top spot on this list goes not to the famous staple, the chef’s knife, but instead to a type of knife you’ve probably never heard of and might not be able to pronounce. A Santoku is a type of Japanese kitchen knife that takes its name from what it excels at: “Santoku” means “three virtues”, and refers to the knife’s ability to take on “slicing, dicing and mincing” tasks with ease (see here for more details) . This means it takes a spot near the top of the knife-versatility list in my books. Generally, the knife loosely resembles the western chef’s knife, with a longish, wide blade and heavy handle. However, where the chef’s knife ends in (in my opinion) a bit of an aggressive, pointy tip that can be somewhat intimidating, the Santoku’s tip rounds off gently. I find this feature the basic reason I continually reach for my Santoku instead of my chef’s knife: I’m just so much more comfortable with it.

Let’s talk about one of the other coolest features of a traditional Santoku: the graton edge. A knife that has a graton edge means that it has little dimples/craters/dents in the flat part of the blade. While it does make it look pretty cool, aesthetics aren’t the only feature of a graton edge. Have you ever sliced a cucumber with a chef’s knife and found that the pieces of cucumber stick to the blade, building up on the blade and eventually falling off in a bit of a mess on your cutting board? The graton edge’s purpose is essentially to create an air pocket between the sliced vegetable and your blade, meaning that the slice of vegetable should just slip off the blade easily instead of sticking. This makes quick slicing/dicing jobs much easier and mess free. Definitely a plus to this handy little blade.

Santoku knives come in a wide range of sizes, from a small, paring knife sized blade for small jobs to lengthy 9 or 10 inch monsters who can take on the largest of tasks. I feel the most essential one to have is about 7-8 inches (similar in size to a chef’s knife) but I would definitely encourage you to try out different sizes at the shop to make sure you feel comfortable with the knife you are considering (a knife should feel like a comfortable extension of your arm).

2. A perfectly-personal-sized Chef’s Knife

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While I love my Santoku and do indeed use it for a lot of tasks someone would traditionally use a chef’s knife to do, there are some jobs where a Chef’s knife outshines all the competition. For me, the best attributes of a chef’s knife are its hefty, solid weight, and its “rock”. Let’s talk about weight first. A lot of knive’s on the market are advertised as being light or weightless, and easy to use. This is good for certain jobs, but there are times when a heavier, balanced blade is needed. A heavier blade, which is characteristic of many German-made knives (such as kitchen-store staples Henckles and Wusthof), gives stability and balance, and when you’re cutting through large items or tougher ingredients (large sweet potatoes, tough or sinewy cuts of meat), you’ll like having something with a bit more strength. Think of it this way: if you were a medieval soldier, there’d be some fights where the quick agility of a fencing sword (nice and light, enabling you to be quick on your feet) would be the weapon of choice. But when that heavily armoured enemy knight is coming at you wielding an axe, you’re going to wish you had a heavy, iron broad-sword to swing. There’s a blade for every type of job, and a Chef’s Knife is not exempt.

The second reason why a Chef’s Knife is necessary is because of something called a “rock”. Chef’s knives have a characteristic curved edge, and if you cut using the full length of the blade, you’ll be able to feel how the blade “rocks” back and forth. This rocking movement is unparralelled in other knives (except for maybe a Mezzaluna, which is a two-handled “half moon”-shaped knife whose entire purposes is to rock back and forth), and is the ideal shape for mincing ingredients, like garlic. In fact, if you are like me and hate how almost every garlic press on the market doesn’t seem to work properly, then you’ll love how easy it is to process garlic with a chef’s knife: crush the wide part of the blade, remove the skin, crush it a bit more with the blade, slice it finely with knife, and then use the rocking feature of the knife’s blade to finely mince the garlic into teeny tiny chunks, perfect for seasoning your recipe. It’s good enough to convince you to chuck your garlic press in the garbage.

By the way, many companies now offer Chef’s knives with the same graton edge feature as many Santokus have. If you’re a purist, you might not like the idea of this classic blade shape being altered, but otherwise, I feel like any knife with a graton edge just gives it a step up above the rest.

3. Sausage Knife/ Tomato Knife/ Sandwich Knife

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This type of knife is called different things depending on the brand you’re looking at, and can look a little different in each line. However, the main similarity between all of them is this: a short, smallish knife (under 6 inches) with a serrated edge, reminiscent of a miniature breadknife. Surprisingly, this is probably the knife I use most often, just because it is so versatile. Its shortness makes it easy to use, and the serrated edge enables it to do a wide range of jobs, from cutting bread to slicing through the slippery skin of a tomato, to skimming off nice, even pieces of cheese. Serrated edges also have an edge (haha) over other kitchen knives because they generally don’t need sharpening (not to say they never need it, just not very often. *NOTE: never sharpen a serrated knife in a pull-through sharpener- it will completely ruin the serration and pretty much render the knife useless!) This knife is a great lunch-helper, and truly earns the name “Sandwich Knife”. If you are making a quick meal just for yourself or a couple friends, this is a great knife to have because you only have to use and wash one knife- it does all the jobs! (Imagine that meme of “all the things!” popping up in front of you. That’s this knife.)

4. Paring Knife

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I feel like the Paring Knife doesn’t need too much justification to keep its spot in this “Top Knives” list; it’s pretty much the knife that every kitchen has, whether it’s a $1 chrome-plated and plastic utensil from the dollar store or a $150 forged work of art from Williams Sonoma. Good for small or intricate jobs requiring a bit more detail or dexterity, the paring knife can’t be replaced by any other knife ( yes, that includes peeling knives, which my boyfriend swears by as his favourite knife to use for almost all purposes :p ). One thing to remember when looking for a paring knife is to get something relatively small: anything larger than 3.5 inches gets into utility-knife territory, and makes it harder to do the little tasks that require a short blade.

5. Bread Knife/ Large Serrated Knife

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Number 5 on this list is reserved for the humble bread knife, which in my opinion should really just be called a large serrated knife, because it does so much more than just cut bread. Basically, the reason it’s important to have one is because for items that are soft inside but have a tougher-to-cut-through skin, a blade that is just straight and even is just going to squish the ingredient while you’re trying to cut it, whereas a serrated blade allows you to “rip” through the tough skin without having to press down on the blade – and voila, non-squished food! While this is most important for bread, it’s also great for tomatoes, cheese, meats, and tougher vegetables that need to be “sawed” through.

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Of course, there are so many more knives out there that would be amazing additions to your kitchen and make food processing a dream, ranging from basic, many-purpose knives (ie utility knives or carving knives) to extremely job-specific knives (look up “Pastry Knife” or “Salmon Filet Knife”). However, the above 5 knives are, in my opinion, the basics that will enable you to take on most recipes with ease! If you’re just starting to build your collection and are not sure how to pick a knife that works for you at the kitchen store, keep your eyes open for my upcoming post on “Picking the Perfect Knife” for a few pointers (because knives are pointy, get it? Ha :p)

Until next time,

xoxo Urbanista

Mini-DIY: Plan an Owl-Themed Baby Shower!

Plan an owl themed baby shower

Happy Monday everyone! I’m sorry I’ve been a bit AWOL on the posting front lately. I’ve had a few exciting new developments in the career-corner of my life in the past few weeks, and have definitely been a busy bee getting everything sorted and settled. But fear not, I love being able to stay crafty and creative, so the blog updates will continue (although perhaps at a less-than-rapid pace!). Thanks for your patience!🙂

Today’s post is what I like to call a “mini-DIY” post: instead of presenting one DIY project and going through step-by-step to the finished product, this post will give some more general tips and inspiration for how you can create a similar look to the one I created for your next party!

Recently, one of my closest cousins was expecting her first baby, and my mom, sister and I decided we would throw her a baby shower. My sister and I had just gotten back from a 6-week trip to Australia and had about a week and a half to plan and produce a party worthy of celebrating someone we had always thought of as a third sister. Our cousin loves the colour combination of blue and brown, and really likes decor themes that use owls and woodland creatures as accents; this led us to decide to plan the party decor around an Owl-theme, with a blue-and-brown colour scheme.

With not a lot of time to plan the party, but a tremendous desire to make sure it was something that she would find super special, we decided to make sure the theme was present at the party by using brown and blue decor (ie. blue, brown and white streamers and balloons) and a few key Owl-themed accent pieces:  a scrapbook-paper Owl party banner, Owl-cookie-topped cupcakes, and a Woodland centre-piece. Take a look through the following pictures to see the results!

“It’s A Boy!” Owl Party Banner

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Although party banners aren’t necessary, I always find they make parties really special by giving the decor a focal-point that places attention on the reason everyone is gathered for the party! Whether you use bunting or lettering written across a large sheet of paper, having the focus of the party exclaimed in words above the guests’ heads really can make the event look well-planned.

For the baby shower, I went to Michael’s and different party-supply stores looking for a “It’s A Boy!” banner, but couldn’t find anything I loved, or that fit the party theme or colour scheme. So after looking at different inspirations online, I pulled out my scrapbooking paper and got to work. I created a template for the shape of each “hanging tag” by drawing on with cardboard until I was happy with the shape, then used the template to cut out enough “tags” for each of the letters, plus an extra four to put cute little owls on. I cut out slightly smaller tags from a coordinating colour in the same shape to glue to the larger pieces and create a layered look.

To create the lettering, I used Microsoft Word to find a font I liked, and printed out the sentence “It’s A Boy” in a very large font size, then cut out the letters to use as templates on cute scrapbooking paper. I traced and cut out the letters (with help from my wonderful friends- it takes a long time!) and glued each one onto a “hanging tag”.

Finally, I used different colours of scrapbooking paper to collage together 4 little owls onto the last four “hanging tags”. I hole-punched each of the tags, and strung them on a ribbon, then hung the banner between the double-doors in my living room. My cousin loved the banner, and at the end of the party, took it home to put away as a keepsake.

Owl Cupcakes

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I think the Owl cupcakes were my personal favourite part of the party’s decor! Fun to make, fun to look at, and a lot of fun to eat! I always find cupcakes are a great dessert for large parties, because you don’t have to worry about cutting the cake or handing out plates and forks. They are also so simple to make!

I couldn’t find any owl or woodland-creature themed cupcake toppers anywhere, so I decided I would try and make my own. After searching high and low (probably went to every kitchen store in the city!) I bought a miniature owl-shaped cookie cutter. With the help of two of my very crafty friends (including our guest blogger, Marina!) we made a batch of owl-shaped sugar cookies, then used royal icing (in shades of brown and orange) to “paint” icing on to the cookies and make them look like the cute little owls you see above! We had found little sugar-paste “eyeball” sprinkles at Michaels (Wilton brand) and used them to give the owls a wide-eyed stare.

We let them dry overnight, and then the next day (the day of the party) I made a batch of vanilla cupcakes iced with blue icing, and then put a little owl cookie on each as a “topper”. They were such a hit at the party!

Woodland Centre-Piece

Owl centrepiece

The finger-food at the party was served buffet style, with guests making their way down the table and filling their plates, so I knew I had to have a really fun centre-piece to pull the food table together with the theme of the party.

With owls being such a huge trend over the past few years, it was relatively easy to find owl figurines (I snapped up the ones in the picture at a Japanese dollar store for only $2 each… super cute!) There’s something about owls and pussy-willows that seem to go together for me (maybe it’s that nursery rhyme about the owl and the pussy-cat?) so I picked up a few branches of fuzzy pussy-willow at a local flower shop, and put them in a clear vase. I picked some foliage from my own yard, then put all the pieces together on the table, using books and boxes placed under the table cloth to create different heights within the centre-piece.

The outcome was really cute, and the ceramic owls made a cute keepsake for my cousin to take home at the end of the party.

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Overall, I had a lot of fun planning and throwing this baby shower- party planning is really an activity that lets you explore your creativity! I hope you found some inspiration in today’s post- I think any of these ideas could be easily adapted for a number of different party occasions (ie. a child’s birthday) and you could easily use a different animal or object to change the theme (ie. engagement ring cookie cutter or foxes instead of owls).

As always, if you have any feedback or comments, I would love to hear from you in the comments! Thank you for reading and enjoy the rest of your week!

xo Urbanista At Home

Urbanista At Home is now on Pinterest!

Urbanista at home on Pinterest

Hi everyone! I hope you’re having a restful Sunday, recovering from all those Valentine’s chocolates (like I am). Just a little weekend update: Urbanista At Home is now on Pinterest! Each DIY/Tutorial post created on the Urbanista At Home blog will be pinned on our boards on the Urbanista At Home Pinterest account, making it super easy for anyone who follows us on Pinterest to know about the latest updates and find inspiration for their next project!

We’ll also be pinning what inspires us, whether it’s a neat project on another DIY blog, yummy recipes from a foodie website, or gorgeous images that can serve as nourishment for your creative side!

To follow us on Pinterest, you can click the image at the top of this post, or click here!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

xo Urbanista At Home

Guest Blogger Marina: Who says bouquets only have to consist of flowers? A DIY Personalized Bouquet in 4 Easy Steps!

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Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! Whatever your marital status, I hope you are feeling loved and appreciated today. The ability to love is one of the great things about being human, and I always marvel at how love (familial, romantic, platonic, friendly, etc) just has this amazing power to enhance our lives and bring smiles to our faces. I hope you have a chance to tell the ones you love how you feel about them today, even if it’s just by picking up the phone and telling your parents you miss them, or writing a little note to your children in their lunchbox. Or, hey, big romantic gestures always work, too😉

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I am really excited about today’s post because I get to introduce you to one of my favourite people: Marina! Marina has been one of my best friends since we met in art class in the 8th grade in high school, and we’ve always shared an enthusiastic appreciation of all things yummy and crafty. She’s the one who taught me all about Pinterest (gasp, yes, there WAS a time before I spent every waking moment on Pinterest) and who I’ve embarked on some of my most crafty adventures with, including taking on cake decorating projects and party planning ventures beyond anything we’d done before. On today’s blog, Marina is going to be our guest blogger, and has put together a step-by-step tutorial for the most unique, yummiest looking bouquet I’ve seen. I love that this bouquet can be adapted for lots of different occasions: I could see really cute university-graduation-themed bouquets or personalized, after-performance candy bouquets for the performer in your life. Take a read through her post below, and let her know in the comments what you think!

Personalized bouquet

Who says bouquets only have to consist of flowers?:  A DIY Personalized Bouquet in 4 Easy Steps!

Guest Blogger: Marina

First off, thank you Urbanista at Home for letting me do a guest feature on your blog today.

Before we get into the tutorial, let me tell you a little about myself.  My name is Marina and like many of you reading this, I truly do consider myself an “urbanista at home”.  As much as I love being a working city girl, checking out the latest restaurants and things going on in my city, what I love more is what others would think of as “housewife” hobbies.

For me it all started when I was probably about 7 years old and started to take up baking with my big sister from the big sister’s program. For years, every time there was a class party, we would get together and bake goodies for my classmates.  Although baking (and cooking) is still my primary hobby, over the last few years I’ve become a bit more “crafty” and started taking up paper crafts and other DIY projects, mostly home décor/organization related. The main reason I started doing these crafts and projects is because something store bought is rarely ever exactly what I want and quite often I can make something similar for cheaper with my own unique touch to it.

Seeing that today is Valentine’s Day, I’ve decided to share with you this personalized bouquet that I made for my boyfriend this year.

A few weeks ago my boyfriend surprised me with a beautiful bouquet of flowers.  Being him, of course he teased me by saying “how come you never get me flowers?”  I joked back saying that there aren’t any manly flowers and that didn’t know how much he’d appreciate a bouquet of twigs and two by fours.

With February 14th quickly sneaking up, I thought of his little joke every time I passed a store selling flowers or saw some sort of advertising for Valentine’s Day. I considered sending him one of those candy bouquets but like most Valentine’s Day gifts, it cost a fortune, plus I couldn’t find one filled with candy he actually liked.   That’s when I decided that I was going to make him a personalized bouquet, not with just candy, but also a few other things he likes and call it a “man bouquet”

I thought I had a great new idea that I could trademark and make millions off of.  Unfortunately, a quick search on Pinterest confirmed that I am not the first one to think of making “man bouquets”.

The great thing about this gift is that is completely customizable to the receiver and can be done for any occasion or person in your life.  In the spirit of Valentine’s Day (and my love for cheesy things), I decide to add a few heart decorative accents to my bouquet.  Not very manly but I couldn’t help myself.  At the end of the day, all that matters is that the bulk of it consists of things I know my boyfriend will like.

There are only three essentials you really need for this DIY:  A base to put your “stems” in (ie a vase, plant pot, etc), a glue gun and some wooden dowels or popsicle sticks to glue your items onto.   After you have those things, the rest is up to you and you can make it as simple or elaborate as you want

supplies

WHAT I USED:

  • Vase
  • Wooden dowels
  • Glue Gun
  • Decorative heart accents
  • Liquor miniatures
  • Various types of candy, cookies and chocolates my boyfriend likes to attach to the wooden dowels (the mints are not an insult, he’s just a little odd and eats mints like candy)
  • Clear plastic bag
  • Candy to fill the vase
  • Rubber band

HOW I DID IT

Step 1:  Line the inside of the vase with the clear plastic bag and fill with candy.

step 1

Step 2:  Using a hot glue gun, glue the wooden dowels to the back of the treats.  Allow a cooling time of 5-10 minutes for glue to dry.

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Step 3:  Arrange your goodies and decorative accents in the vase.

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Step 4:  Tie a ribbon around the vase.

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And there you have it!  A personal, quick and easy gift for that special someone.  The whole project took me about an hour, if that.  For me, the only time consuming part was getting together what I wanted to put in the bouquet and that’s mostly because finding liquor miniatures is not as easy as I thought where I live as not all liquor stores carry them.  As per usual, other ideas to make this bouquet better came to mind after I completed it such as adding bacon flowers or using an empty beer growler for the base.  Oh well, there’s always next time!

 

Happy Valentine’s Day!

xo Marina

 Personalized bouquet

Magnetic Attraction: Valentines Gift-Pockets

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Last week, a friend told me that St. Valentine’s day is only for women, that it’s all about men spoiling their S.O. with chocolates, roses, and romantic candle-lit dinners. And we’ve all heard someone say that Valentine’s is purely a consumer holiday, something that was created solely to drive sales of cards, chocolates, and fuzzy teddy bears with velvet hearts sewn onto them, who sing barely audible love songs when you squeeze their paw.

Whatever your views of Valentine’s are, there’s no denying that the holiday is a prime opportunity for crafting. There are lots of cute ideas out there for Valentine’s crafts (try looking up heart garlands or Valentine’s cards) and of course, heart-shaped cookie, cake and candy recipes are everywhere on Pinterest.

Do you remember how in elementary school, on Valentine’s Day you always had to bring enough Valentine’s cards to give out to everyone in the class? Which meant you even had to give that bully who kept pulling your pigtails a “I like you berry much” strawberry-shaped Valentine’s card, even if you didn’t like him “berry much”. While I think that having to give out a card to everyone you know is a bit extreme, I like the idea of giving out little Valentine’s gifts to your friends. So, this year, I tried to think of what crafty gift I could give out as “Valentines” to friends and family, and came up with these Valentine’s gift pockets, cute little Valentine  “special-delivery” packages filled with custom-made glass magnets. Glass vase gem magnets have been widely done on craft blogs (here’s a really great tutorial by Not Martha here), but I thought I would give my own take on how to make them as part of a gift-pocket party favour, where the focus is more on the design of the packaging and magnets together.  Depending on the designs on the paper you use for the magnets and packages, these little gift-pockets could be used for many different occasions: wedding or baby showers, birthday party favours, etc.

If you’re interested, take a look below🙂

*Note: I’m excited to announce a family collaboration with my mother, Mikki, of BlinkWorks Photography! Mikki’s gorgeous photography will be often gracing Urbanista At Home’s posts in the future, displaying different projects and tutorials. While most of the photos in this post are my own dodgy photography, a number of the photos in this post are by her: look for the BlinkWorks Photography watermark in the bottom of the photos in this post to see which are hers!

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What Do You Need?

  • Clear glass vase gems
  • Craft glue
  • Magnet buttons
  • Valentine’s themed/coloured scrapbooking paper
  • Fabric Ribbon
  • Thread & Needle
  • Scissors
  • Hole punch
  • Mini paper sacks or any small envelope that could fit 3-4 glass magnets

How Do You Do It?

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1) Pick out some Valentine’s themed/coloured scrapbooking paper with patterns that are visible through the glass vase gems (ie. small enough hearts, dark enough designs). Also, for the paper heart “pendant” for the front of the gift-pocket, pick out two coordinating colours/designs for the front and back pieces of the pendant.

2) At the dollar store, pick up some small magnet buttons (often sold in packs of 12 or 14) and a pack of clear glass vase gems. You can get these in small (3/4″) or large (1 1/3″) versions, and they look like marbles that someone melted and squished.

3) For the actual “pockets” for the gift-pockets, buy some smallish envelopes (in natural or white) that would fit 3 or 4 glass magnets. At Michael’s Craft Store, I found packages of “Celebrate It” brand mini sacks, which were the perfect size for a few magnets.

collage 2 magnets

4) Trace around each glass gem on a variety of the paper you have picked out. I’m going to suggest tracing each gem individually (because each one has a slightly different shape) but in all truthfulness, for easiness and efficiency, you can probably just use one gem and trace and cut out a bunch of circles at once.

5) For a variety of magnet designs, cut out circles in a number of different patterns/colours that go well together.

6) Squeeze a dab of craft glue onto the flat side of the glass gem and place a paper circle over it, with the patterned side glued to the glass. Press the paper to the glass gem tightly to minimize bubbles. Turn the glass gem upside down and glue a magnet button on top of the paper. Repeat with the rest of the glass gems and leave them to dry overnight (or for the amount of time specified on the craft glue bottle).

Collage 3 How to Heart

7) Draw and cut out a smallish (1.5″ across) heart out of scrapbooking paper to make the “front” of the paper heart pendant.

8) Draw and cut out a slightly larger heart (2″ across) out of a coordinating scrapbooking paper to make the “back” of the paper heart pendant.

9) Using thread and a needle, sew a row of stitches about half a centimetre in from the edge of the smaller heart, as in picture 9 above.

10) With a hole punch, create a small hole in the upper left-hand corner of the larger heart, close to the cut edge.

11) Glue or adhere (with double-sided tape) the small heart to the centre of the larger heart. If you want, write a message on the back of the large heart. Be Mine, Valentine!

collage 4 how to package

12) By now your magnets should be done! Turn them over and wipe off any glue spots or streaks that may have gotten on the front of the glass gems, and they’re ready for packing!

13) Create “sets” of magnets by choosing groups of 3 or 4 magnets that go well together. Put each set into a mini envelope/sack and close the envelope with glue, tape or the adhesive provided.

14) Using ribbon that coordinates well with the paper heart pendant, thread the heart pendant through the hole you punched earlier, and tie a bow on the top of the envelope, “package” style.

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And you’ve now made a Valentine’s gift-pocket, ready to gift to your nearest and dearest! Make as many or as few of these as you want to; the most fun part is creating different paper/pattern/colour combinations for the heart pendant and ribbons. I’d love to see or hear about any colour combos you come up with – feel free to hit up that comment section and leave some feedback!

I hope you all have a wonderful Valentine’s day!

xo Urbanista At Home

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Feel Like Being Social? Urbanista At Home is now on Twitter and Instagram!

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Hi everyone! Just a quick little Wednesday afternoon update: Urbanista At Home is now on Twitter and Instagram! If you’re also using these social networking platforms and want to join in on our little party, feel free to search us up and follow by clicking these buttons:

Instagram

I’ll be posting with the @UrbanistaAtHome Twitter and Instagram accounts each time I upload a new post, so you’ll be able to know about the site’s newest updates as soon as they happen (more time for crafting!)

Keep your eyes open for a new, St. Valentine’s Day-themed post coming soon!

xo Urbanista At Home