Monday, August 30, 2010
Every year, hundreds of buskers (street performers) from around the world visit Toronto to take part in Buskerfest, held in the St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood. Gabriel and I had visited it before, three years ago, and decided to check it out again this past weekend. We were amazed at how much the 3-day event had grown since we last saw it! We spent the afternoon dodging the crowds as we went from stage to stage checking out the many buskers. We saw everything from crazy fuzzy creatures on stilts, to beautiful acoustic musical acts. I especially enjoyed listening to Kim Churchill, an Australian singer/songwriter/musician who is so incredibly gifted. There is no doubt in my mind that he is going to become a huge international star. Hearing his live music was so awe-inspiring that we’ve already got plans to hear him play later this week at another venue.
Other highlights included watching a woman fit herself into a tiny glass box, having a front-row view to see the Stunt Double Circus perform, and watching as an acrobat twisted high above the crowds as she was suspended from a hot air balloon!
It’s festivals like these that make me forget about living with the sirens, crowds, and constant sound of traffic in the downtown area of Toronto.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Thank you so much for all your kind comments about our new condo living and dining rooms. Here’s a peek into what the rest of our place looks like…
The outdoor terrace used to be all cement and steel, but is now a little bit more cozy with potted plants and cedar trees, and an Alfresco Dining Set from Crate and Barrel. We chose the orange cushions in honor of our time in the Netherlands!
The study / 2nd bedroom is quickly becoming one of my favourite rooms in the house. Although it is not completely finished, I love how open and airy it feels. When we purchased the condo, this room was a dark beige with yellow-toned hardwood floors. After refinishing the hardwood floor to its original light maple state and painting all the trim and walls in Benjamin Moore’s Oxford White, we added in an IKEA Expedit bookshelf (NOT fun to assemble!) to house all of our books and office supplies. Since Gabriel works from home, this desk from Crate and Barrel is a great place to sit and has wonderful city views. All that’s left to do in this room is replace the light fixture, buy a fun rug, and order some woven roman shades for the window.
The master bedroom is simple and airy, just how our Amsterdam room felt. I wanted to recreate this feeling (even though our ceilings aren’t as high and the window isn’t as large). With off-white walls in Benjamin Moore Seashell, and neutral tone-on-tone furniture and accessories, the room transformed from a dark, dated cave to something that feels fresh and clean. I love the look of the floors, the crisp white baseboards, and the calming wall colour. Again, this room isn’t exactly finished, as I would like to purchase an antique dresser and mirror for the wall that currently houses our wicker hamper.
Our front entranceway used to be painted a dark red. Everything, from the baseboard to the front door, was painted in this colour. As soon as we primed and re-painted everything, it became apparent that the foyer actually has room for a small console table. I purchased this bright blue antique table from the St. Lawrence Market (on Sundays they have an antique market) in Toronto. It’s originally from the late 1950’s, and although it has a few bumps and scrapes, I love how it adds an element of character to our otherwise brand-new furnishings. The robin’s egg blue pitcher is a great place to put some fresh flowers, and the antique leaf plate is a catch-all for keys and cell phones. The art is actually just a framed piece of scrapbooking paper that I think makes a graphic and bold statement against the antique table. I love the contrast between old and new pieces.
Here’s a sneak peek into our kitchen dinette. Since this space isn’t overly large, and is a high-traffic area from the dining room and outdoor terrace, we opted for a small cafe-style table. Based on my love of sidewalk cafes, we decided to make this room as “European-cafe” feeling as possible. The round glass table is from the Lifestyle Shop in Toronto, and the two leather chairs were found at a discount furniture warehouse. The placemats are felt and are from Denmark, and add a fun geometric detail to the room. On the wall we framed four photographs that I’ve taken during our travels. Two are from the Netherlands, one is from Italy, and one is from Buenos Aires. These add to the cafe-feeling of the space and also serve as a reminder of our favourite travel moments. The light fixture still needs to be changed (I’m thinking of a retro pendant lamp), and in the corner we will be building a coffee-bar/beverage nook. I’d also like to get some roman shades for the patio door in a fun bold pattern that will mostly serve to add some colour and texture to the kitchen.
So there you have it! That’s the rest of our condo (minus the other terrace which I haven’t gotten a picture of yet). It’s definitely been a labor of love, and we still have so much more work to do! While I’m normally a very careful person who never gets hurt, this summer I seemed to have found myself stepping on glass, tripping over our new rug, slicing my fingers open on picture-frame glass, and damaging my shoulders during marathon painting sessions. Despite all my injuries (none serious), I am so proud of what we have accomplished as a couple and am looking forward to many happy memories in this condo!
Sunday, August 8, 2010
Gabriel purchased a condo in downtown Toronto in May, and since then we’ve been busy bees as we’ve completely repainted, redecorated, and purchased all new furniture and accessories (we had no possessions except for a few cute things from Amsterdam!)
We’ve been through all the ups and downs of renovating, from dealing with furniture delays to tackling all sorts of DIY fiascos. We’ve learned to compromise as a couple on what style of decor we like (Gabriel is more traditional, I’m more modern), and have become pros at painting, priming, and cleaning.
Initially, I had envisioned a home with sleek light wood floors, white furniture, and an overall Scandinavian aesthetic. Gabriel, however, gravitated to dark wood furniture and dark brown colours. I could not be more happy with the result: a blend between light neutral fabrics mixed with rich rosewood furniture. A great compromise between both of our styles!
This was my Polyvore inspiration board:
The first step in our living/dining room re-design was to refinish the maple hardwood floors throughout the condo. We hired a company to do this, and opted for a water-based finish that would show the natural light maple. We love the results! The next challenge was to prime the bright red walls that the previous owner’s had, and to paint over them in a fresh light gray/blue colour. We used Benjamin Moore Aura paint for our entire condo, and chose Silver Gray for our foyer, living and dining rooms.
Our first major purchase was a couch from The Art Shoppe in Toronto. We chose a linen-toned sectional with a chaise lounge. While we initially wanted a couch and a loveseat, we thought that this super comfortable couch was well-worth the added price, since we love our Amazing Race, Survivor, and Big Brother reality TV show nights :) I accented with a bright blue pillow from American Mills and two white IKEA toss cushions that we brought over from Amsterdam.
Our dining room table is currently en route from Copenhagen, and has been delayed for almost three months (thanks Art Shoppe). They’ve given us a loaner table, but our actual table is much sleeker and darker than this one. The dining room chairs are an upholstered oatmeal fabric from the Lifestyle Shop in Toronto, and were surprisingly easy to assemble.
Here’s the final result! We still need to hang a pendant light fixture over the dining room and add a few more accessories (that’s the fun part that I’ve been waiting for all summer!), but it’s pretty much finished. The rug is from HomeSense, and is a wool blend from India. The coffee table is Shisham Rosewood from the Urban Barn, and the console table behind the couch is a similar stain of wood.
I’ll hopefully get around to posting the rest of our condo pics this week, I’d love to hear your feedback!
Friday, August 6, 2010
Amsterdam was the first city I ever visited in Europe. It was the summer before I entered my last year of University, and Gabriel needed to travel to the Netherlands on business. I was ecstatic, to say the least, that I would be travelling out of North America (and to the country of my ancestry nonetheless!). Our tickets were expensive, and we only stayed for a weekend, but that little taste of Amsterdam was enough to make us both fall in love with the Dutch culture.
After a long flight with multiple stop-overs, we arrived at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport and taxied to our hotel, the Golden Tulip. What we failed to realize, however, was that there were multiple Golden Tulips in the city of Amsterdam. As our taxi driver took us from Golden Tulip to Golden Tulip, winding up and down the canals, we were shocked to see how wild and crazy Amsterdam was. People in elaborate costumes, arm-in-arm, were strolling along the cobblestones, shouting out to the large party boats that were clogging the canals. Techno music blared throughout the city, bouncing off the gabled homes and filling Amsterdam with a trance-like soundtrack. When we exclaimed to our taxi driver how wild Amsterdam was, he laughed, explaining that it was Amsterdam Pride weekend.
Ohhhh, so that explained all of the party boats and costumed festival-goers!
It was the largest, craziest, most congenial party atmosphere I had ever seen. Later that day, as we sat in a tiny bruin cafe (Dutch cafe) eating pancakes, we watched as group after group of Amsterdam Pride attendees swarmed the city in a sea of feather boas, leather, and angel wings.
Since then, I’ve experienced the Amsterdam Pride festival as a resident of Amsterdam twice. Rivaled only by Queen’s Day, Amsterdam Pride is one of the cities' largest parties. It is also, in fact, one of the world’s largest Pride festivals. What differs in Amsterdam, however, is the enormous outpouring of support that the Dutch citizens give to the festival. Known to be liberal, the Dutch are extremely respectful and supportive of the festival, and look forward to it with anticipation.
Yesterday marked the start of the festival this year, and it runs until August 8th. The highlight of the festival is the canal parade, held tomorrow starting at 2pm, which begins at the Westerdok and ends up the Amstel River. Music, beer, costumes, and dancing will take place on hundreds of party boats and barges as they slowly move through the entire city. Massive street parties will break out in numerous areas of the city, and will continue well past dawn.
For visitors to Amsterdam,vouchercodes.co.uk are offering an Exclusive 10% off hotel bookings at Hotels.com at http://www.vouchercodes.co.uk/hotels.com. Downtown Amsterdam will be the hub of excitement during the four days of the festival, and visitors looking to be in the middle of it all should consider booking accommodations near the Reguliersdwarstraat or lining the Amstel river. Visitors to the city will have a difficult time not getting swept away in the over-the-top, fun-loving vibe that lasts for the duration of Amsterdam Pride.
- Friday night street party on the Reguliersdwarstraat
- Saturday afternoon canal parade along the Prinsengracht and Amstel River
- Closing ceremonies at the Stopera on Sunday afternoon/late evening