DIY: Create coaster-to-coaster approval of your would-be slide show


I take a lot of pictures, especially when I travel, but aside from a few large prints displayed around my house most of the files wind up just hogging space on my hard drive.

Since it’s next to impossible to convince friends or family to sit through a slideshow of the 4,357 photos I’ve collected in recent years from adventures in England, Germany and Peru, I knew I had to come up with something a little more functional.

That’s when I hit upon the idea of turning my travel gems into photo coasters.

Not only do they add a personal touch to serving drinks, but custom coasters allow me to show off some of my favourite moments from around the globe without bombarding guests with a never-ending slideshow.

My finished pieces are now permanently displayed on my coffee table. (I won’t admit to whether or not it has something to do with the paint chips they are strategically covering up.)

These coasters can also be turned into a homemade gift idea, personalized by using the recipient’s own wedding or baby photos.


What you need:

4–12 tiles (4×4, 5×5 or 6×6 inches)
4–12 photo prints (4×4, 5×5 or 6×6 inches)
1 glue stick
1 can of a high-gloss finishing spray, like Zinsser Bulls Eye Soft-Gloss Spray Shellac

1) Select some inexpensive tiles from your local hardware store — or make use of any extra pieces left over from a renovation project. For best results, use 4×4-, 5×5- or 6×6-inch tiles.

2) Choose the photographs you want to use and get them printed to fit the tile size, or select a smaller print size to create a border. In this example I used 5×5-inch prints of old travel photos on 6×6-inch tiles.

3) Use a glue stick to apply a smooth layer of glue to the back of each photograph, making sure to get glue close to the edges. Remove any noticeable chunks of glue and press photos firmly onto tiles. Let dry.

4) Lay out a few sheets of newspaper to protect the surface you’re working on. That old issue of the Town Crier will do (as long as it’s not a page with my article on it!). Spread the tiles on top with the photos facing upwards.

5) Apply a few light coats of high-gloss finishing spray. Allow enough time for the finish to dry between coats.


As an alternative to the spray, use a paintbrush to apply coats of Mod Podge to the top of the tile and photo instead. The end result is similar but not quite as glossy.

This article was originally published in the Leaside-Rosedale, Forest Hill and North Toronto Town Crier.


DIY: Mugging up for morning Joe


I’m not a morning person.

In fact, I can be a bit of a crabby pants (as my family can attest) until I have a dose of caffeine to help me wake up.

I was having my daily — okay, busted, twice daily — cup of coffee earlier this week when inspiration struck as I stared at the drab mug in my hand.

The time had come to flex my creative juices and add some cheer to my morning routine by jazzing up my collection of plain mugs.

While I hadn’t doodled since those boring school art classes of years ago, I started with a few simple but cute cartoon-like alien drawings, which I practice drew on a notepad first.

As I looked at the mugs I decided to add some lines, like “I’m Not Human at This Hour” and a motivational “You’ll Be Awesome Today” — even though an inspirational quote probably won’t get me feeling chipper bright and early on any morning.


With Father’s Day around the corner, for my next mug I thought a personalized message to My #1 Dad would be a timely ode to pops. See photos at right for the end result. Did I intentionally leave out the “1” on the mug as a play on the “Have a Day” t-shirt slogan (the one with the expressionless emoticon)?

Did I mean to reference a hashtag, or did I simply forget to include it because it was too early in the morning?

I’ll let you decide.

For my piece de resistance I made note of some of the important dates in my life. For your own mugs you could incorporate any meaningful dates, such as the birth of your kids or your anniversary.

What you need:

• 4–12 plain mugs (I like the look of white mugs, but feel free to use colourful mugs)
• 1 oil-based paint Sharpie marker
• 1 can of acrylic sealing spray or high-gloss finishing spray


1) Practise your designs first on a piece of paper, to perfect your drawings without wasting any mugs on trial and error.

2) Once you are happy with the look of your artwork and phrases, it’s time to take your masterpiece to the mug, using an oil-based paint or Sharpie marker.

3) Let the mugs dry for at least an hour.

4) Place the mugs in your oven and then heat the oven to 350 degrees.

5) After baking the mugs for 30–45 minutes, turn off the oven and let them cool down. Allowing the mugs to heat up and cool off with the oven will prevent the ceramic from cracking.

6) Repeat the heating and cooling-down process to help the markings set.

7) Remove the mugs from the oven and let them dry for an extra hour, or overnight, depending on your schedule. To avoid smearing, be careful not to touch your drawings in the process.

8) For a final layer of protection — to stand up to the dishwasher — finish off by applying a coat of acrylic sealing spray or high-gloss finishing spray and let dry for at least an hour.

You now have some custom cups for the Joe that starts your morning off right.

photo 1(9)

This article was originally published in the Leaside-Rosedale, Forest Hill and North Toronto Town Crier.


DIY: Quick art for your walls


I moved earlier this year and still have a lot of bare walls throughout my new apartment.

Since I don’t have a huge home décor budget, I am a journalist after all, I decided to create my own pieces of art to make my home homier.

I decided to tackle a simple project to start.

This abstract art project is straight-forward and only takes a few minutes to complete, so you could even get your family involved in the process.

What you need:

• 1–3 pieces of canvas
• 2 rolls of green painting tape (one thin, one thicker). I substituted one roll of green tape for clear tape as a last minute fix.
• 1–3 tubes of acrylic paint (I chose silver and violet)
• 1–3 paintbrushes


1) Apply several pieces of thick and thin tape onto a canvas in different directions to create a unique design. Press the tape firmly onto the canvas, so the paint won’t seep underneath. (If you look closely at my violet piece you can tell I learned this lesson the hard way.)

2) Lay out some newspaper to protect the surface you are working on.


3) Apply a coat of paint to all the white areas of the canvas, including all the edges. It doesn’t matter if you accidentally paint on the tape.

4) Let dry for a minimum of 30 minutes. My paint was fast drying, so allow more time to dry depending on the type of paint you use.

5) Remove all the pieces of tape from the canvas to reveal the white portions and the final look of your masterpiece.


6) The piece is now ready to be hung up, or the process can be repeated on other pieces of canvas for a series of paintings in the same or different colours. Just remember to use a fresh paintbrush if you’ve decided on a new paint colour for the next canvas.

You could also try this project with spray paint instead of acrylic paint.

Black and white art

For my next work of art, I attempted to replicate a piece of art I stumbled upon on Pinterest.

Inspiration for Black_White Painting

Although it looked simple enough — how hard could a black and white painting be? — I still thought it wise to attempt on a much smaller scale in case things went awry.

What you need:

• 1 canvas
• 1 tube black acrylic paint
• 1 tube silver acrylic paint
• 1 paintbrush
• 1 glass of water

1) Lay canvas onto newspaper to protect the surface you are working on.

2) Dip a paintbrush in water and then into black paint before applying long strokes of paint onto the canvas, starting about halfway from the top.

3) Apply several more coats of paint, focusing on the bottom of the canvas, getting lighter toward the middle of the piece.

4) Optional: To make my piece one-of-a-kind I decided to add some silver paint into the mix. After dipping the paintbrush in silver paint, lightly dab it onto the black areas of the painting and then top it off by dabbing black paint onto it so it blends in.

5) Let dry for a minimum of 30 minutes (longer if your paint isn’t fast drying).

6) Display the painting for guests to admire.

Here’s my version:


This article was originally published in the Leaside-Rosedale, Forest Hill and North Toronto Town Crier.


DIY: Make your name a standout


From various DIY art for your bedroom to fun baking ideas for the whole family, in this column I will showcase monthly projects and ideas you can try at home.

This first project is a quick and easy one to get you started on the road to DIY art.

What you need:

• Canvas
• Wooden letters
• Glue
• White spray paint


1) After selecting the name, word, phrase or lyric of your choice, lay the individual letters onto the canvas to ensure they are spaced out nicely and are visually pleasing. Since my friend just had a baby, for my project I chose to spell out the name of her son, Jackson.

For sayings such as “Carpe Diem,” “Home Sweet Home,” or “Live, Laugh, Love,” consider dividing the words among multiple canvases. Canvas, glue, wooden letters and spray paint can be found at local craft or dollar stores.

2) Once you are pleased with your layout, and have ensured the word(s) fit on the canvas, apply glue to the back of each letter and press firmly onto the canvas. Remove any excess glue immediately and let the canvas lay flat to dry.

3) Once the glue has set, lay canvas onto scrap newspaper or cardboard and evenly apply several light coats of spray paint across the canvas and wooden letters. Let dry for a minimum of 30 minutes. Apply another coat of spray paint to the letters if needed once the paint sets.


4) Your artwork is now ready to be placed on a wall or mantle. The neutral shade of this project makes it perfect for gift giving since it can be paired with any paint colour. I gave mine to my friend at her baby shower last month. She loved it!

This article was originally published in the April 2014 edition of the Leaside-Rosedale, Forest Hill and North Toronto Town Crier.


DIY: Countdown to Christmas


Count down to Dec. 25 with a homemade 12 days of Christmas calendar. Forget the partridge in a pear tree — this DIY craft idea is filled with fun activities to spend quality time together as a family leading up to the main event.

What you need:

1 medium-to-large corkboard
12 small gift bags or envelopes
1 package of thumbtacks
12 gift tags
Wrapping paper
Ribbon or garland
Numbered stickers (1 to 12) or stencils and ink to create your own numbers
An assortment of 12 chocolates or candies


1) Set aside 12 small gift bags or envelopes (or a combination of both). Alternatively, brown paperbags, baby socks, boxes or burlap sacks can also be used.
2) Select 12 (or make up your own) of the following activities to complete as a family:

Decorate the tree
Take a Christmas card photo (ugly sweaters are encouraged)
Go skating
Watch a holiday movie
Have hot chocolate
Write a letter to Santa
Tour the best decorated houses in the area
Go see a Christmas play
Bake cookies (or reindeer cupcakes) for Santa
Make and decorate a gingerbread house
Read a Christmas story
Play board games
Get a picture taken with Santa
Open a gift on Christmas Eve
Wear new pajamas to bed
Open presents!

3) Write your chosen 12 selected activities on the back of 12 gift tags.
4) Fill small gift bags or envelopes with chocolate or candy.
5) Place each of the 12 gift tags with activities inside every envelope or attach one to each bag.
DSC_4951IMG_1775 6) Cover a corkboard in wrapping paper of your choice.
7) Attach two strips of ribbon or garland on to the corkboard. One should be near the top and the other near the centre. Tape excess pieces on the back of the corkboard.
8) Lay out the small gift bags or envelopes on the corkboard to make sure it looks pleasing before attaching each piece with a thumbtack along the ribbon or garland line.
9) Using the numbered stickers, stick the numbers 1 through 12 on each bag, envelope or gift tag. They can be placed in order counting up or down to 12 or out of order so it takes people in your household a few seconds to find the next number.
10) Place the corkboard on display and you’re ready to start counting down the days to Christmas.

DIY: Rudolph and Reindeer


Dress up your favourite homemade cupcakes as Rudolph and his reindeer pals. The end result is cute, seasonal and, best of all, edible.

What you need:

12 cupcakes
2 boxes of Smarties
2 packages of M&M’S (or 1 bag of chocolate chips)
1 package of frosting
1 bag of chocolate or yogurt-covered pretzels
1 box of Mr. Christie’s Nilla vanilla-flavoured wafers
1 package of mints or mini marshmallows


1) Apply a thin layer of frosting to already cooled-off cupcakes. (No one will know if you opt for a box of cupcake or brownie mix instead of doing it from scratch.)

2) Place one Mr. Christie’s Nilla vanilla flavoured wafer* near the bottom middle edge of each cupcake.

3) It’s time for the antlers. Place two chocolate or yogurt-covered pretzels above each wafer, with the round edge facing downwards. Parts of the pretzels should extend off of the cupcakes.

4) Dip two mints or mini marshmallows in frosting and place in centre of each cupcake, above the wafers and on top of the pretzels. The frosting holds the reindeer’s eyes in place.

5) Sort M&M’S into matching colours. Using two blue or brown M&M’S per cupcake, cover one side in frosting and place matching M&M’S onto every mint or mini marshmallow. (Using two packages of M&M’S should ensure enough blue and brown chocolates are available. If not, incorporate any colours aside from red.) The M&M’S can also be substituted with chocolate chips.

5) Sort Smarties and select only the brown Smarties and one red candy for the reindeer’s noses. Dip Smarties into frosting on one side and place in centre of each wafer. The cupcake with the red nose is Rudolph.

6) Enjoy and serve to guests.

*Mr. Christie’s Nilla vanilla-flavoured wafers can be substituted with any small cookie of choice (shortbread, anyone?) but I find larger cookies take up too much space on the cupcakes.