During our stay in Toronto, I kept noticing colorful baskets in various sizes and shapes all over the house. A large basket in the living room held books. A smaller version in the playroom held a toy Viewfinder along with a pile of reels. A tall, slender basket in the master bathroom held magazines. Several baskets in the laundry room held sewing supplies. By the end of the week, I was so smitten with the baskets that I messaged the homeowner about them. She said they were bolga baskets from Ghana. An online search quickly revealed a whole new world of baskets to me. Bolga baskets are on pinterest, etsy, ebay… you name it! Where have I been?
They’re pretty and practical, and you know I’m all over that woven texture. Of course, I had to have one. (Or two.) After some slightly obsessive internet stalking, I discovered affordable options from this online retailer. They offer free shipping on all U.S. orders and are members of the Fair Trade Federation.
We now have bolga baskets hanging out in our mudroom…
…and living room. They’re perfect for corralling shoes, toys, reading material, craft supplies, produce, cats and, oh I don’t know, maybe your 23 Olympic gold medals. They arrive flattened to keep shipping costs down but are easily reshaped with water. I wetted, reshaped and dried mine in the bathtub. Bam! Baskets!
I wasn’t kidding about the cat part.
Did you already know about the bolga basket thing? If so, sorry to bore you, but I was too excited not share! #basketnerd
images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking
We spent a week in Toronto last month and had a blast. There was so much to see and do! The trip was nine months in the making. When we fantasize about vacations, we typically lean towards nature and a slower pace so this trip was a fun deviation. The words “I’m bored” never passed the kids’ lips. Here are some of the highlights in case you’re interested.
To keep costs down, we made the trip by car. In the past I’ve always considered Toronto “too far.” I was surprised to learn that we’re a doable 7-hour drive away. (I’m embarrassingly terrible at geography.) It’s also worth noting that children <16 years old can cross the U.S.-Canada border by land or sea with their legal guardians and a birth certificate. Steve and I had to present our passports, but the kids only needed their birth certificates.
We drove through New York to hit up Niagara Falls on our way. It’s nearly impossible to capture the grand scale of the falls on camera. In person, the vistas are vast and impressive. It’s beautiful and scary all at once.
Our favorite part was walking to the top of the falls and looking down at the hurricane decks where tiny people in yellow ponchos were getting drenched. The backs of my knees felt melty, and I’m not even afraid of heights. The constant swirling and gushing was meditative. The entire experience was breathtaking.
Nobody fell in! I want to give a little shout out to the purse I’m wearing. I bought the small crossover bag just for traveling, and it’s perfect. Not too big, not too small. Hands-free carrying. Adjustable strap. Plenty of zippers and pockets for organization. The water-resistant nylon stood up to sweat, spills, sprays from the falls and even a random thunderstorm that caught us off guard one evening in Toronto. It’s my version of a fanny pack ;)
After an exciting afternoon at the falls, we crossed the border and made our way to Toronto. We stayed in the most amazing, family-friendly airbnb. It had a cozy rustic, artsy vibe with a slew of insanely fun amenities for the kids including a kitchen swing and the ultimate playroom. You can see more of the kid-friendly features here. It was the perfect home-away-from-home base for exploring the city. (It looks like the price has increased since we booked it, but at the time it was crazy affordable.) If we lived in Toronto, I feel like we would be good friends with the homeowners. They have an amazing art collection and a great selection of reading material for kids and adults. After casually plucking this book from a shelf, I had a hard time putting it down and ended up buying a copy when I returned home because I had to know how it ended!
We realized early on that we were in a part of Toronto known as Little Portugal. Our first night was the final of the Euro 2016 championship, and the neighborhood broke out in celebration when Portugal won. It was really exciting to be in the middle of the festivities.
We enjoyed the walkability of the neighborhood. It’s only a short walk to Dufferin Grove Park, restaurants, grocers and shops. I absolutely LOVED walking to buy groceries on a whim at the local markets. In the States, I drive to make weekly grocery trips. The planning is my least favorite part. It was nice being close enough to pick up ingredients spur of the moment and wheeling them home in a wagon. Plus, it makes for some great house stalking. (Those little arched windows hinting at an interior staircase slay me every time!)
We spent slow mornings at the house then ventured off to the city in the afternoon, returning home again in the evening.
We bought city passes to visit CN Tower, Ripley’s Aquarium, Casa Loma, Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) and Toronto Zoo. (I did the math, and it ended up being $11 admission per person for each attraction with the city pass. Not bad!) We really, really wanted to visit the Ontario Science Centre, but due to poor planning (and an exhausted four-year-old) near the end of the week we ran out of time. We paid extra for the Sky Pod at CN Tower (do it!) and felt like giants looking down on the city, lake and island. People looked like ants; cars looked like toys; buildings looked like architectural models. We made a game of pointing out rooftop pools. We could have done without the zoo, and once you’ve seen one Ripley’s Aquarium (we had), you’ve seen them all. Even so, the jellyfish exhibit features a color-changing black light and is super cool.
Casa Loma was a crowd favorite. We loved being able to tour the more personal and secretive spaces. We snuck through a hidden door in the study and discovered the servants’ back stairs. We walked up a spiral staircase on the third floor and emerged on top of a turret with long range views of the city. We traipsed through an underground tunnel and popped up in a horse stable. I couldn’t get over the concrete coffered ceiling, tiled walls and brick floor in the stable. They were gorgeous!
Mid-week we hit up the lake. It was a welcome break from all the walking, crowds and traffic. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect. It was a painful descent from the sandy beach into the cool water, but we discovered that once you get past the rocks (ouch!) the lake bed gives way to sand once again. We’re quickly becoming lake fans. We’ll take the sun, sand, water and waves. Hold the salt and sharks!
Speaking of perfect weather, it was comical to us that everyone was going on and on about the “heat wave” during our stay. There was even a heat advisory in effect.
It was 83°F.
In Ohio, it’s not unusual for us to experience 90ºF+ days during the summer. Anything cooler feels pleasant. One evening while waiting in line downtown at Sweet Jesus (a local ice cream hotspot), Layne and Everett were approached by a local news reporter and asked if they wanted to be on TV. Uh, okay. When they went live (at 9:00 p.m. in SCORCHING 78ºF heat!), they were asked how they were staying cool. They were like, “Drinking water?” #celebrities
Meanwhile, I had goosebumps. To be fair, I probably couldn’t handle Toronto winters.
We tried a bunch of local restaurants. Sweet Jesus and La Carnita were good but, for us, they just didn’t live up to the hype and were overpriced. I did fall in love with the decor at La Carnita though. How fun is that chicken wire pendant filled with burnt-out light bulbs?!
Our favorite meals came from Boom Breakfast, Laziza, La Bella Managua, The Slip and the beer hall at Mill Street Brewpub in the historic Distillery District. The first three were all within walking distance of the house. We liked Boom Breakfast and Laziza so much that we ate at each of them twice! You really can’t go wrong with anything on the menu at either one. Laziza has daily specials that are amazingly delicious and inexpensive. Two giant falafel wraps for $6 total! At La Bella Managua we loved the calamares and bisteck encebollado. We were impressed with the salmon tacos and fried chicken at The Slip. The ribs at Mill Street Brewpub were fantastic. Funny tangent story: After touring the dinosaur exhibit at the ROM earlier in the day, Mabrey stopped mid-rib bite and asked with big eyes, “Are we eating dinosaurs?!” Haha.
We didn’t do much shopping, but Layne and I made it to Kensington Market the last day. I picked up gifts at Kid Icarus (a must!) and Blue Banana Market. I’m bummed I didn’t make it to Tonic Living. Next time!
As much as we loved visiting Toronto, it made us appreciate many of the things we take for granted at home. Namely, free parking and lots of green space.
Have you made any trips this summer? I’d love to hear about your adventures!
images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking
Mabrey has a real bed! We actually finished the bed several months ago. Then things kind of came to a halt while I searched for mattresses. More on the mattresses in a minute, but first I wanted to share how we gave an inexpensive, generic bed a unique look.
The catalog image of the bed is horribly styled, but I liked the clean lines, trundle option and price tag. I knew it would look better with paint and different hardware. I originally shared my plans for the bed here, then changed my mind on the brass handles and opted for kid-friendly leather pulls instead. (You can see the mood board I created for Mabrey’s room here.)
When the bed arrived, Steve and I were impressed with the quality for the price. The wood was solid and the finish was super smooth with a slight sheen. We almost hated to paint it, but it wasn’t part of my vision.
Before assembling the bed, I filled the knob holes with wood putty and let it dry.
Then we took turns lightly sanding the surface with a random orbital sander to scuff it up for better paint adhesion.
We decided to assemble the bed before painting it mostly because we didn’t have a way to prop up all the individual pieces. There was no way I was painting all the slats by hand with a brush, so Steve busted out the paint sprayer. He covered the driveway with a drop cloth to protect it from overspray and applied two thin coats of Benjamin Moore pine grove (#511) in semi-gloss, mixed in the Advance line. You can read more about the Advance paint here. It’s a great option for painting furniture or cabinetry because it’s self-leveling and provides a high-end finish.
We let the bed off-gas in the garage for over a week before bringing it inside. Once the bed was inside, Steve and I decided our dream kitchen includes cabinets painted Benjamin Moore pine grove. It’s SUCH. A. GREAT. COLOR.
I did some measuring + math then pre-drilled holes in the trundle for the leather pulls and attached them with the provided brass screws and nuts. (Depending on what mattress you use, you may need to trim the backs of the screws so they don’t catch on the mattress.) I absolutely LOVE the leather handles against the olive green!
For the price (I spent <$350 for the bed + trundle…essentially $175 per bed not including mattresses), I am extremely happy with how the bed turned out. The one thing that irks me are the pre-drilled holes on the side of the headboard and footboard meant to be used for a bunk bed conversion. I could have puttied them, but who knows? We might need another bunk one day.
Believe it or not, the toughest part of this project was finding an eco-friendly trundle mattress. The mattress needed to be less than 8″ deep in order to slide under the bed easily. I found plenty of mattresses that would fit, but they weren’t exactly green. I really wanted to use Brentwood Home since I had great success with one of their mattresses in my bedroom, so I shot them an email to see if they offered anything that met my specs.
They promptly replied and pointed me toward their kids’ section. (I had no idea they even had a kids’ section!) The Bamboo Gel 7 checked all the boxes and it was well priced at $205. Winner! If you’re ever in need of an eco-friendly mattress, I can’t recommend Brentwood Home enough. They have lots of options at different price points for cribs, trundles and larger beds, too. They even have changing pads and nursing pillows! (Totally unsolicited.)
The trundle isn’t on a track; it rolls on four casters. When pulling it out and sliding it in, you have to keep it parallel with the bed or it’ll get wonky, but it’s really not an issue since we use the trundle so infrequently.
Slowly but surely, Mabrey’s room is coming along. (Did you spy the wall coverings?) I’ll be sharing the full reveal next month along with a complete source list, but I wanted to share the source of the sheets because they’re so pretty!Mabrey couldn’t decide which set she liked most, so we bought a set of each to mix and match. They have little tags on the long sides that read “SIDE” for easy bed-making. So helpful!
patterned sheets on top bed – Threshold performance sheet set in neutral, Target
blush sheets on trundle – possibly pink vintage washed sheet set, Target
Hope you’re staying cool!
images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking