Sunday, 8 December 2013

DIY Nativity...

I've heard my husband tell the same story over and over of a childhood tradition he held very close to his heart growing up. I won't go into details, (mostly because I'll probably get the details wrong!), but in a nutshell, his Grandpa would read his brothers and cousins the Christmas story. Each child would get a 'character' from the story to place in the nativity scene. My husband always talked about how his youngest brother a   l   w   a   y   s got to be baby Jesus and how he had to be a Wiseman.

Needless to say, I realized how important it was for our growing family to have our own traditions. Enter my most favorite DIY project to date. I decided to make a nativity scene for our family, in hopes to carry the tradition that my husband spoke so fondly about.

I made my way to Michaels with little idea of what I was going to make the scene out of. I came upon some little wooden 'pieces' that I figured I could fashion into my Nativity characters. I also knew that I would be incorporating some of my own supplies like burlap, twine and paint.

Once I had all of my supplies, I made my way to my moms and raided her craft supplies. The crafting began. Thanks to her jewellery rejects and some old silk plants I was able to put finishing touches on all of the characters. (Check out the Wisemans' crowns and the angel's wings :)

I can't wait to read the Christmas Story on Christmas eve with our little girl this Christmas. I can only hope she'll speak so fondly of the tradition when she gets older.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

DIY Advent Calendar!

This is one blog post I have been eager to write...and with December less than a week away, today seemed like the perfect day to share!

I have fond memories of counting down the days to Christmas through use of the highly sought after chocolate advent calendars. However, through my ever changing family unit, and thus ever changing family traditions, I have longed for a way to bring new tradition to the Christmas season. Enter the new and improved DIY Advent Calendar...sans chocolate.

The final project...I wonder what's in each envelope?

I started this project by 'washing' an old piece of douglas fir with red paint. ( I wanted the wood grain to show through so I just made a water and paint mixture that almost stained the wood).
 The douglas fir was picked up by my husband from a timber framing company he used to work for. It has, and will continue to come in very handy for this DIY family!

The project in it's early stages... was still working on the layout and envelope designs at this point!

I then began decorating each little envelope with a countdown day! I found the great little brown envelopes on Etsy  for about $20.00 including shipping. Although that seems expensive, this was my only expense for this project so I easily justified it!

I then made the activity inserts for each envelope. Some of the activities I included were, "have a no TV day", "bake cookies with the whole family" "go on a shopping trip for the food bank" and so on... I made those using good old and most importantly, cheap shipping tags from staples!

I had so much fun making this project and decided to send it to a friend instead of keep it for myself so I can't comment on it's success. I can however comment on the fact that a year later, I look at this picture and feel very proud of the project! So proud in fact that I might even tackle another one this year...only a bit different...stay tuned and cross your fingers I have the energy to create something new before that countdown to Christmas begins!

--As always, thanks for taking time to check out my blog :)

Monday, 18 November 2013

Budget Update...

It's been about two weeks since my last 'budget' post and I'm sure you've been d y i n g to find out how everything is going!

We just completed Level 1 of the MyMoneyMyChoices program and already we are feeling so much more comfortable with our finances.

Some highlights of our budgeting 'workshop':

-created a spending analysis and dissected why we overspend when we do--how therapeutic!
-updated our debt repayment plan to suit our changing needs--(It has an end date and we are working with a very low interest rate! yahoo!)
-created a NetWorth statement...interesting exercise nonetheless--will be neat to watch it grow!
-earned our first level badge!

-started Level 2!
-we did this months ago but we have a very easy to follow budget calendar that made it easy to align our cash flow and bills

What's coming?
- we are going to start our spending

I can't really assume that everyone reading this blog has the same financial situation as us. But what I can assume is that if you've made it to the end of this blog post, then you're interest is probably peaked... Please send me a tweet or a facebook message if you are interested in more info--why not be financially literate? And for purely selfish reasons, I'll get bonus points for guiding someone through Level 1! ha ah

Oh and...minor celebration--Gail Vaz-Oxlade and I have been exchanging tweets! I feel so honored! (as long as she's not considering me one of her Money Morons!)

Happy Budgeting!

P.S. Christmas is coming which means DIY projects are on the rise! Stay tuned for a sneak peak at the advent calendar I made for a friend last year!

Sunday, 3 November 2013

DIY it goes

I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the subject of this blog post. "How to set yourself on the road to financial freedom". Wah wah.

What I will NOT apologize for is sharing a fantastic, new, hands on, user friendly, and most importantly, free, resource for how to set your finances straight.

I am a huge fan of Gail Vaz-Oxlade. She is the host of various budget 'helping' shows such as Til Debt Do Us Part, Princess, and Money Morons. I have been following her blog for years and with her help, my husband and I have learned how to spend cash only and create a monthly budget so we know exactly how much money we have to 'spend'.

The problem is, we seem to keep spinning our wheels and can't seem to get ahead. For whatever reason (maternity leave, emergencies--flood in particular etc etc).

Enter Gail Vaz-Oxlade. I can't even remember how it started. I think I responded to a tweet Gail sent out about people interested in gaining financial literacy. I have been receiving emails since regarding the launch of her new website/ financial literacy course.

On Friday we were sent the confirmation that the website had launched and we could begin our road to financial freedom! We quickly gathered what we needed to begin the program...

Six months of bank statements, an excel spreadsheet, and colored pens. We mean business. Working on earning our first 'stone'-- We've almost completed Activity 1!

I won't waste your time sharing details of the program--I'll let you check that out for yourself on your own time. Head on over to My Money, My Choices and see what my hype is all about.

For those who know me personally, feel free to send me a private message on Facebook to learn how to become part of our 'Tribe'.

Or, leave a comment below and I'll see how I can help :)

Happy Budgeting!!!

Friday, 11 October 2013

DIY Fall Wreath...

I have totally fallen off the boat with posting to my blog over the last month (almost 2). Today I'll blame lack of money and a lengthy list of 'need's throughout the house.

But enough is enough. I was craving a DIY project today and with the help of Pinterest I knew just what I needed... A fall wreath!

I started by gathering ideas about what kind of wreath I wanted on our front porch.

Love the berries :)
Love the Burlap and the letter placement.

Enter coupons from Micheals--perfect timing no less.

I managed to pick up a grapevine wreath, two berry garlands and a monogram letter from Micheals--all for just over $20.00! Love those coupons!

A little twisting, tying and gluing and my masterpiece was complete..

I am SO happy with how my wreath turned out and even more happy that our front door now has a bit of character! True to Second Story Finishing's style, not everything on the wreath was purchased from Micheals today. That little burlap bow was made with what little burlap I had left from
my wedding ;)

On another note, I'll give credit where credit's due... Thanks to Lindsay for starting a blog and reminding me how much I love DIY sharing projects--check out her DIY tipi !


Tuesday, 20 August 2013

When DIY and Organization collide...

Well it's been almost 2 weeks since we've moved into our new house and what a whirl wind!

I learned two lessons when it comes to 'doing' projects around the new house:

Lesson 1. Begin making a list immediately. Wander around the house with a clip board and create a list--it's totally inevitable that in each room, you will come across something that needs to be done. Instead of just doing it, write it down...then do it and cross it off your list! How productive you'll feel! Ha! (Maybe try a lanyard with a clipboard attached--that way it never leaves your side ;)

Lesson 2. Prioritize your list. I learned that moving can be a very overwhelming task--especially if you like to 'do' things to your house like paint, decorate, add personal touches etc. etc. Prioritizing that list in to whatever categories you see fit will be so helpful in tackling ALL of the tasks...For example, although I'd love to get started on creating a really funky powder room--the reality is that the use of that space is already totally functional--I'd just be adding lipstick. What wasn't totally functional made it to the top of my list of things to do.

Lucky for me, the item on the top of my list included a little DIY and a little organization.

I know it's barely visible but there's clutter to the left on the counter...and the calendar is in a sorry place. Not to mention there are papers just shoved in the file box on the counter.
The need for a command center became very apparent very quickly--in fact I even recall on moving day, looking at the pile of keys and documents on the kitchen counter closest to our back door--NOT OK!

And so began the collide of organizing and DIYing...

I actually started by just reflecting on what we needed in a command center. Here's what our family needed the most:

1. grocery list (clipboards were purchased at Dollarama. I just spray painted the chrome pieces with matte black spray paint to help make them a bit more rustic) 
2. spot for 'stuff' that needs attending
3. Our family calendar (This is on a bulletin board that my husband and I made from an old bulletin board that had a broken frame, and an old frame from a friends parents' garage sale in High River--before the flood! I orignally thought about painting  the frame but realized that the color of it matched the desk hardware perfectly--a match made in heaven!)
4. A drop spot for keys (hook plaque from Pier 1 Imports) 
5. A drop spot for change, and my husband's wallet  (tin that was originally used to house kitchen herbs. Purchased from chapters)
6.  and stuff that needs filing and a spot for notepads to make lists, meal plans, draw pictures, write love letters, keep score in a game of scrabble etc. etc.
 (bought this filing box from Winners!)

The desk, also mentioned in a previous post, belonged to my Grandma. I asked her about it's 'story' and she said, "Oh that old thing, we picked it up for nothing at a garage sale or something. We just needed something for the spare room. And it's not a desk. It's a vanity table." Bless her heart.

The chair was given to us by my mother-in-law and was also purchased at a garage sale!

Overall, I think I was successful in creating a Spencer Family Command Center! I would like to eventually paint the wall a bold color but for now, our family 'stuff' will continue to be dropped in a more organized fashion! Yahoo!
Thanks again for taking time to read my blog...Stay tuned for the next project!

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Here we go!!!

Today is the day! We are finally moving our belongings into our new home and I couldn't be more excited. It actually feels pretty surreal to know that we get to sleep in our own bed tonight, use our own coffee mugs and rediscover all of our treasures!

I am also SOOOOOOO excited to start DIY projects again. My husband asked me last night what my first project is going to be...I have so many to choose from! Bless his heart--instead of borrowing a drop cloth to keep furniture on the floor so we don't damage the hardwood, he bought one and said, "you'll need somewhere to put your projects when you're painting." It's the little things that count right?

Adding to our list of projects, we went to Nanton last weekend and took part in their Round Up Days celebration. We also spent time looking through the antique shops for something (we had no idea what) for our new home. One of the stores we loved was a new one to town called The Raven Store.

We came upon a HUGE mirror that was part of an art deco bedroom set. Someone had already purchased the set but left the mirror! Although we don't love the frame, the size of the mirror is perfect. (sorry we don't have pics--it's in storage--story of my life). I think we'll add some new trim to make it a bit more 'us'. More on that later.

Here's a little sneak a peak of the new house...Stay tuned for pics of all of our 'stuff' moved in!

Fireplace in the great room

HUGE kitchen...can't wait for all of the cabinetry!

Stairs--I took this pic more to see the color palate.
Eeep! Excitement is an understatement! Thanks for sticking by on our journey...I promise I'll get back to the premise of my blog once we've moved in!

P.S. I'd like to make a mini shout out to my dear friend Jodi who has decided to start a blog called She Calls me Mommy. Her strength and courage continually amazes me and I LOVE that she is sharing her story...Love her to pieces. ;)

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Making a new house old...

Well as our story continues, my journey back to a DIY blogger is slowly taking shape--a new shape.

The house we were to purchase in High River was full of stories we will never know. It's walls were thick with history and we were thrilled to be adding to the stories that would be written in the home.

Since we lost that home, we have purchased a new home in Okotoks and are scheduled to move in next week. (Cross your fingers this one works out!)  Interesting enough, this house is brand new and has never been lived in, (well that's a tiny lie--it served as a home to flood relief victims immediately following the flood). 

The new house!

So begins our journey to create stories within these new walls.

As you can imagine, I have been obsessed with searching for ways to create character in a new home. Thanks to my trusty pal Pinterest, I have come across some amazing ideas that I will for sure be trying out.

Creating character will be the new direction I take with the DIY projects I complete.

All of our 'stuff' waiting to be painted, arranged, re-discovered!

For my own organizations sake (and perhaps your interest), below is a list of projects I will complete through out the next few weeks, months, years!

-refurbish Patio Set (FREE pick up from Kijiji)
-butcher block (gifted from grandparents when they moved out of their home)
-refurbish coffee table
-turn armoire into office
-command center

To name a few! I am giddy thinking about the above DIY projects and can't wait to share the story of each piece with you!

I believe everything happens for a reason and for now, I'm holding onto the idea that the reason this home has come to us is to allow us the opportunity to start from the ground up and create our own feeling within the walls.

Thanks for stopping by and reading. Your support means so much.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Redefining home...

My husband and I are finally on the road to picking ourselves back up and are ready to move forward. But that didn't come in one day, or even two days, it came with lots of reflection, grieving, arguing and a total revamp in our way of thinking.

Our dream of moving to High River was a long and methodical one. We had already welcomed one perfect little babe into our family and knew that eventually we would like to grow our family. The biggest problem was that we lived in a small, 2 bedroom townhouse with no yard and little breathing room. Although we became very efficient at organizing and finding a place for almost everything, we knew it wouldn`t last long.

But more than the foundation and walls, we were looking for a feeling. An experience that we could give our family for years to come. And so began our hunt.

Despite his initial reaction to my idea about moving to High River, it slowly grew on him. We would spend afternoons driving through the little town on the hunt for our favorite lunch and coffee spots. We are both history junkies and quickly fell in love with the historic character of the town. We knew that we felt right in the community and so began our hunt for the perfect home.

                                               Evelyn`s, our favorite lunch and ice cream stop!

                                          Colossi`s Coffee House--Our favorite coffee stop!

Both Levi and I LOVE old things and old homes--The great thing about High River is that many of it`s streets are lined with old trees and old homes. After at least a year of waiting (with no success)  for the perfect home to come on the market, we decided to take things into our own hands.  We made a list of all of the homes we were going to `door knock`. We were going to plead our case to these strangers about if they were wanting to sell their home, and why they should consider selling to us! It was a risky move but we were becoming desperate!

Nearly less than 2 weeks later, we got an email about a house that had just come on the market. I recognized the address and knew it was on our list of door knockers! The first sentence I read was that it was originally owned by Levi Bradley, owner of the first saddlery shop in High River nearly 100 years ago. As if this house wasn`t perfect already! It didn`t take long for us to move forward in purchasing the home.

All of our dreams about the perfect house in the perfect community  had come true and we were beyond excited. The countdown was on.

In literally minutes, our dream home went from picture perfect, to basically condemned. Our dream community was ravaged by flood water and was best described as looking like a war zone.

I believe that everything happens for a reason. Although it may not be clear yet, little lessons are coming up through the loss of our dream home and dream community. We are amidst another search for a new home in a different community and I am realizing that, we don`t need a house that has the perfect layout, or the perfect finishings, or the perfect yard. We don`t need a house that is on the perfect street in the perfect community with the perfect neighbors. What we need is a house that we can call our own. The rest is up to us.

Edward Sharpes song Home is wherever I`m with you has completely new meaning to me.

We`re moving forward and are feeling excited about the new chapter that is being written... stay tuned and thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking time out of your day to read my story!

photo credit:

Thursday, 4 July 2013

One chapter...

This post has nothing to do with DIY and everything to do with one of the scariest days of my life. How this all fits into my DIY obsession will come in a separate post. 

As many of you reading this know, my husband and I were days away from moving into what seemed like our dream home. As previously described, we had found our little piece of heaven in High River Alberta on two lots, in the form of a home built in 1908. We were to take possession on June 21, 2013. 

June 20, started out like any other day. I was taking my little girl to her dayhome in High River and getting prepared to wrap up one of my last weeks at school. As I drove out of town I crossed a bridge and noticed that the water was extremely high. I thought to myself that I shouldn't have even been on the bridge. 

High River floods often enough that people know which houses are on the flood plain,  and to not be alarmed by flood warnings if your home is clear of those plains. 

At 11:00 I read a tweet that the NW side of High River was being evacuated. That was where my little girls dayhome was. I promptly left my school(located in a community south of High River)  and went to pick her up. My husband was meeting me to take her home to Calgary. At about 12:00, I was on my way back to school, and my husband and little girl were safely on their way home.

At about 12:40 I got the frantic call from my husban that while he was attempting to get lunch for our little girl at the local Co-Op, roads washed out and he and she were now stranded in the town that was amidst the worst floods ever seen in its history. 

Unable to call due to phone lines that were down, I sat and waited for any communication that the two most important people in my life were ok. I received a phone call from my husband that the RCMP were going to attempt to rescue them by boat. I was later informed that those rescues were too dangerous in the raging waters. 

I have never felt so helpless in my life. I felt lost and stranded myself. Frozen in a world that I knew was drastically changing. 

Nearly 9 hours later I received a phone call that my husband and daughter were safe. Rescued by combine and left in town to wait for me. 

Words can't express how I truly felt that day. The problem was, that day continued to unfold and has since altered everything that we as a family were looking forward to. 

So here we are, nearly 3 weeks after the historic High River flood, and we, among thousands of others, find ourselves grieving, an without a home. 

However, our story is still being written, and that day is just one chapter. Stay tuned....there's more to come...

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

When two become one...

As many of you have experienced, and as many of you can imagine, getting married means more than committing to one person for the rest of your life--it also means committing to your significant others' stuff.

My husband (Levi) and I moved in together and I quickly learned that my style wasn't best suited for a man. I also learned that he had his own style and that I would need to tread very lightly to ensure that both of our design styles 'meshed' in our new house. 

One of the first projects I did to marry our styles was to refurbish some night stands.

Here are the Night Stands today!

Levi brought a relatively nice looking, classic IKEA night table into the marriage. The problem was there was only one. So began my hunt for another night stand.

To no surprise I found the perfect piece at Goodwill for only $14.00! It was a two drawer filing cabinet from the 70's or 80's with a curved front.

My next challenge was figuring out how to make both of these, very different night tables work in the same space. I chose to paint each night table the same color--and if you read my last blog post about the desk, you won't be too surprised to know that I painted them a nice earthy shade of blue.

I was happy with how they turned out but still wanted to add a bit of personality. I dragged my husband out to one of my favorite shops for the home (Anthropologie) and began hunting for new knobs! I figured that having Levi choose his own knobs for his own night table, would be a good way to make him feel included in this whole refurbishing process. (I bet this is a good strategy for kids too!;)

The Goodwill Find

The classic IKEA

The best thing about these nightstands is that they can be painted again to match any d├ęcor. What ever I decide to do, their story as a married couple is turning a new leaf...I wonder what's in store for them in the new house???


Sunday, 16 June 2013

A little help from Jillian Harris...

I need to start this DIY post with my original inspiration. A designer friend of mine is also part of the DIY movement and has taken her career to the next level. Her blog is full of inspiration and she is pretty neat too ;)

Below is a picture from her website, of a reclaimed desk she did. This desk (including the staging around it) is so adorable. As if you wouldn't want to grab your cup of coffee, turn on your stylish Mac computer (it's on my wish list)  and blog away!

The image of this desk was in the back of my mind and I was dying to recreate something similar. The DIY gods must have heard me because check out what my husband and I stumbled upon in the back alley one sunny afternoon...

The first thing I had to do was fix that dang hole (thanks to it's previous life as a sewing table--I think). Thankfully my husband was in the midst of carpentry school and eager to help out! He fashioned a lovely top to cover the hole for me!

I then  faced the task of choosing a color. Now, girly, single Jill would have chosen to paint it a shade of white (I LOVE white). But, knowing that this desk was going in a high traffic area of our home, and knowing that my husband was getting tired of all of the white 'stuff', I knew I had to go in a different direction! (enter inspirational rug)

A few lovely, world travelling family members gifted us this rug for our wedding--I believe it's from Turkey. I wanted to give it some justice in our home and so it became the inspiration for our desk. With the help of my sister (the paint expert) I chose a blue color to match the desk. I took it a bit further and chose to paint the wall behind the desk the terracotta -ish color that you see in the rug.


My apologies for not being able to see the color of the desk--I obviously need some photog skills. I have to admit, I was pretty happy with the end result. Mostly because I forced myself out of my comfort zone and tried something new with color. My husband appreciated it as well.

That being said, another desk has come into my ownership and I have 'girly' plans for it in our new home. Stay tuned!


Thursday, 13 June 2013

One woman's trash... another woman's treasure. I have a DIY frame hanging on my wall that has travelled with me to 4 homes since I originally rescued it from a driveway in my university town. 

I always keep my eyes open for the perfect DIY 'find' but I certainly didn't expect to find this treasure. It had a ripped canvas (thanks to a teenage boy I was told), and was painted colors that would never work in my home--I'm actually surprised it even caught my attention--the red, black and gold frame was far from my personal idea of style. I knew I had to have it.

After a quick discussion with its owner, and an awkward walk home, I had a new project on my hands.

The DIY transformation began- and let me tell you, this was just the beginning.
(As it goes I've got no pictures of the beloved frame from it's early days--if you can imagine an ornate French country frame on the wall with nothing in've got it!) -- And that's how it stayed for years, starting many conversations like, "what are you going to put in it?" and,  "it's kind of creepy,

Then I got engaged. And of course, planning a DIY wedding was right up my alley! I decided to include the frame in our wedding design. With the help of burlap and chicken wire, the frame quickly morphed into our seating board.

The frame as it hangs today...
Check out the burlap and chicken wire detail! Love this idea!

Then I had a baby. And of course, having a baby means taking pictures. What better canvas for displaying a collection of baby pictures than my burlap and chicken wire frame!

The Birthday Frame

The frame has now been packed and is ready for the Green House. I have NO idea where I am going to put the frame once we move--I'm sure I will figure something out. Any suggestions you have would be appreciated! (I'm open to changing it's function too by the way!)

Stay tuned to find out the next chapter of this DIY treasure :)


P.S. A new frame was added to my collection a few weeks back-it's story in our home has just begun-- possibilities are endless!

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Let the DIY story begin...

After much time spent pondering how to start a DIY blog, and much time spent deciding whether or not it was something I actually wanted to do, my excitement and passion for DIY 'stuff' got the best of me. I'm diving into the world of blogging!

I have a fairly long commute into work and have a lot of time to think about what DIY projects I can do, how I will share them and what I will get out of it-- Conveniently, my husband and I recently purchased a 100 year old home and will be working on making it a "home of our own". This--for obvious reasons-- lends itself nicely to a budding DIY blogger!

As mentioned in my first "Welcome" post (apologies for not being a good host and refraining to post for 4 months), my mom and I both have incredible passion for bringing used objects into a home and giving them a new 'story'--thus we have created Second Story Furnishings (more on that later).

Little does my husband, daughter or new house (appropriately named The Green House) know, I will be documenting our journey via this blog--reporting on the latest and greatest DIY projects in and around our home. As you can imagine, the house has over 100 years of story to tell--I can't wait to add a few more chapters ;)

The Green House...

Thanks to Speechie Evie and Kanelstrand Simple Living for providing some great tips on how to get started!

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Welcome...And here's our story...

Everything has a story.

Bringing story into your home is something we feel is very important.

What a better way to bring story into your home than to include some previously loved furnishings?

Our homes are filled with these pieces. Throughout the next few months, we will share some of these stories with you.

Follow us as we continue to write our story...