Vintage school map DIY

Map close up

Hello, merry Christmas and happy new year everyone! I don’t know how other people do it but I have not had time to blog. Dave and I hosted Christmas for some of his family and some of my family this year. It went really well but, man, what a big job! I even delegated and it was still a mammoth effort. Lucky I had lots of help from my lovely (future) Mother in Law. Hard work aside, Christmas day and all the days leading up to it were really special. I made sure I spent time enjoying wrapping the presents while listening to carols, decorating the house, making yummy treats (recipes to come) and also enjoying the company of family and friends. It was my Nieces first Christmas too and so it was extra special with a sweet little bub to bring smiles to everyone’s faces.

Cupboard before Restor-A-Finish 2

Yesterday was the first day we’ve been sans visitors so I went on a decorating craze. What was meant to be a small project led to many other small projects to change up some rooms, reframe some art and just generally tinker with everything. As usual the craft room looks like a bomb has hit it but the rest of the house is looking fresh and summery.

Map corner

This DIY vintage school map was a quick project that turned out really well. I’d got two posters at a bookshop for $6 each (actually they were being sold as wrapping paper even though they are thick enough to be posters). I love posters but I always have trouble finding affordable frames for them that I actually want to hang in the house. Most of the ones I find are only fit for a boring office and I don’t want to spend money on custom framing, especially for a $6 piece of art. I do love those big old vintage world maps that used to hang in classrooms and roll up so this is like a smaller version of that, without the rolling up bit.

For this project you will need:

Map or other poster

Hot glue gun

Twine or string strong enough to hold the weight of your poster and the wood combined

One or two half round dowel rods. Measure the width of your poster and make sure you have enough to cut two lengths

Hack saw (or the shop you buy the wood from may be able to cut it to size for you)

Optional: wood stain, polish, etc


The dowel I got was’t actually round, I chose one that was triangle but round would look more like the original school maps. I began by going over my wood with Restor-A-Finish in Natural and then Feed-N-Wax, both from Howard, both with some ‘000’ steel wool. You’ll see from the pictures that I also treated my part-restored side cupboard with both Howard products and it looks amazing. I can’t wait until I get time to strip the whole thing and see all that beautiful wood.

Wood, half stained

Wood and poster

Next, cut your wood to size if it hasn’t already been done. Determine the length of string you will need and then add an extra inch before you cut. Once cut, make small knots on both ends just to give the glue something to grip on to.

Map, vases and tray

Apply hot glue to each corner of the top of your poster (front side) and attach the string then add glue all the way along the top border (front side) and attach the wood, flat side down. Do the same with the bottom and you’re done!

Cupboard before Restor-A-Finish 1

Also, in the pictures you can see some of my Christmas presents. Dave gave me the set of gorgeous orange jelly bean vases and Santa (ok, it was me!) gave me the Hollywood Regency faux bamboo tray. Don’t they look great together?

Map above cupboard 1

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DIY mercury glass lamp with burlap shade

Mercury Glass Lamp 3Lamp shade 3

Well, after some interweb troubles I am back online! Feels like it’s been ages since I’ve blogged and in that time I have scored myself a new job. One that is permanent (seems my little leap of faith into the temp world paid dividends by putting me in a fantastic company who happened to have a vacancy in their legal & external relations team. YAY!) and one that is keeping me pretty busy.

Working longer hours than I used to makes my free time all the more special and so I was really happy to get this lamp done over the weekend, as well as decorate the house for Christmas and make a few homemade baubles for the tree. I still haven’t got around to my annual Christmas baking but seeing as I am munching on a bag of Pfeffernüsse and I just saw a recipe for them on foodgawker (thanks Abby!) I think the universe is trying to tell me something. I must make these biscuits! Plus, Dave is at the pool and is looking forward to one of these spicy little beauties when he gets back. If I manage to polish off the whole bag before then I might owe him a batch… Oh nein!

So lets get to this lovely little lamp! As I’ve said before, when I go thrifting lamps are one of the things I always look out for. They are such a good way to add atmosphere to a room and they come in all kinds of interesting shapes and sizes. And you can never have too many. Unless you are Dave, who actually said to me “haven’t we’ve got enough lamps?”. Enough lamps? He may as well have stolen my new bike on Christmas day. No Pfeffernüsse for you Mister! (Ok, ok I’m joking. You can have one.)

before & after

When I saw this glass lamp at my local Savers (a chain of second hand shops) I knew it had potential but I didnt think it would turn out quite as good as it did. You see, like most people I was drooling over these Pottery Barn Mercury Glass Lamps. Who wouldn’t? So a lamp base made out of hollow glass was the perfect find.

The glass was made from 3 separate parts and to get them all free from the lamp I had to take the actual light fitting apart. Don’t try this on an expensive or treasured lamp in case you can’t put it back together again but I would say, this is not the first time I’ve done this and it really is quite simple as long as you’re handy with a screwdriver and can remember the correct order of the parts. I took photos for back up! I am by no means encouraging anyone who isn’t qualified to start mucking around with electrical things and then plugging them back in the wall – at your own risk my friends! For reals.

Lamp base 2

To fake mercury glass there is one thing you must have and that is Krylon Looking Glass Spray Paint. I’ve mentioned it here in my first mercury glass post, including where to purchase it in Oz (thank you Caswell Australia, the one and only place I found!).

For this project you will need:

Krylon Looking Glass Spray Paint

Lamp with glass base

Spray bottle with 1/2 water, 1/2 vinegar solution

Masking tape


Drum shade


Spray adhesive

Glue gun

Ok, first things first. Whenever I revamp a second hand lamp the very first thing I do is check to see if it’s working. Imagine proudly inserting a bulb in your newly finished project only to discover it won’t turn on and the lamp is broken. Boo.

Take a good look at the whole lamp to figure out how it is put together (where are the screws, joins etc). This will tell you how to take it apart. If you can just remove the light fitting from the base and easily paint the glass you are a lucky duck. If not, you may have to take apart the light fitting itself like I did. I’ve only ever tried this when the switch is part of the light fitting and not part of the cord so I can’t say whether the latter is doable. The old lamps usually have the switch in the top so look out for those.

Like I said, I’m not qualified so I won’t give you a tutorial on how to take apart and reassemble a light fitting but one handy hint is that there are some small loose fitting parts inside that are hard to keep in place when you’re connecting the two white parts together because they want to succumb to gravity and fall out. To get around that, simply wrap some ribbon over the loose parts and hold it in place while you put the two white parts in place then just draw out the ribbon. Trust me, it will make sense at the time and you can look at the photos for reference.

Glass before painting

To get a good mercury glass effect (this attempt was even better than my last one) you need a spray bottle that will give you small droplets, not a superfine mist. I used an empty window spray bottle.

Inside of glass after painting

Clean and dry your glass and tape over any edges, lips or surface area you don’t want to get the spray on. In a well ventilated area give the inside of the glass a light spray of the vinegar solution, and two very light coats of looking glass spray (it is very thin so runs easily). Let it dry for a few minutes and then tap or ‘burst’ all the water droplets with your finger – the paint that was on top of the water droplets will lift off onto your finger and that’s how you get that nice mottled effect. Repeat this process about 4 times or until you have the desired result. Let it dry thoroughly.

I also had great success painting the gold coloured metal base with the looking glass spray to turn it to silver. It looks fantastic.

Painted base

For the hessian/burlap shade cut the hessian to the size of the shade with a 1 inch overlap at the seam and a 1 inch border on each side. Spray the shade and the inside of the hessian with spray adhesive and on a flat surface with the adhesive side up, put the shade on one end and roll up. Use the hot glue gun to secure the seam. Wrap the border around the edge of the shade and use the hot glue gun around the inside of the edge to secure the hessian. I did realise after I had finished that I need to get a thick ribbon or trim to glue over the top of the over-lapped hessian to make it prettier and cover up the rough edges on the inside so as soon as I find the right ribbon that’s what I’ll do.

Taking light apart 7

For an $8 lamp I am seriously impressed with the result and love the look of this shiny beauty on my bed side table!

Lamp in the evening 1

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Weeknight dinner: fish & mussel risotto

Risotto 1

I make risotto a lot in our house. It’s a good standby dish when we have people over because I can make a huge pot of it and feed an army and I also really like it because it’s an excellent carrier dish. There are so many things that can be put into a risotto so I can make it to use up all the odds and ends rattling around in the fridge.

I know that doesn’t sound appealing to everyone. I was actually an apprentice chef for the better part of a year when I first left school and I know that there are risotto purists out there because I worked for one of them. But I am not a purist. I make risotto my way and I put whatever I want in it. I use red wine when I run out of white. I use chicken stock when I should use fish stock. Heck, I don’t even make my own stock. Sure I would love to make a mushroom risotto using hand-foraged fungi sourced from the foothills of the Swiss Alps and drizzled with with first cold pressed EVOO (what the?) but sometimes all I have are some puckered old button mushrooms, a carton of shop bought stock and some leftover wine in the fridge (a rare occasion I must say). What I mean is, there are times when you can devote all your resources to an exquisite risotto and there are times you can make a hearty bowl-fullo-rice dish that is satisfying and tasty and you wont have to spend all day at the farmers market. Or the Swiss Alps.

This particular risotto came about because I had an empty fridge but a freezer full of mussels, fish and peas. It was so good I’ve made it a few times since.


2 cups Aborio rice

1 cup white wine

Olive oil

1 small onion, diced

1 garlic clove, minced

500ml hot fish or chicken stock

1/2 cup frozen peas

1 1/2 cups diced fish (I use Rockling, a good, thick, meaty fish) (can be frozen & thawed)

8-10 mussels (can be frozen & thawed)

Dried dill tips

About 40g cold butter, cubed

Salt & pepper

1/2 tbsp freshly chopped parsly

Lemon wedges and zest of 1 lemon

Kettle of freshly boiled water

Put the white wine in a small saucepan and heat it up to a ‘just before boiling’ state then add the mussels and a pinch of dried dill and cook until the mussels are just cooked through (about 2 minutes). Don’t worry if they aren’t completely done as they will finish in the risotto. Take mussels out of the pan and set aside and keep the wine.

In a large, deep and heavy-bottomed frying pan sauté the onion and garlic in about a tablespoon of olive oil on a medium temperature until translucent (about 4-5 minutes).

Add the rice and stir non stop until the rice is well coated in oil and had a chance to fry a little (2-3 minutes) and then add the wine from the mussels. Stir until the wine has evaporated and while stirring use the spoon to scrape bottom of the pan to get all the yummy caramelised oniony bits into the wine. Add a ladle full of hot stock and stir the rice until the stock has evaporated. Stir well but be gentle. The stirring releases the starch from the grains, which is what gives risotto its creamy texture, but you want to keep the grains whole, not crush them.

Continue adding a ladle of stock, stirring until evaporation and so on until there is no stock left and test your rice. It should be about half way done, soft on the outside and hard in the middle. Add a ladle ful of hot water from the kettle in place of the stock until the rice is al dente or just a tiny bit underdone.

Add the fish and peas and more water if necessary and keep stirring. Once the fish has cooked (about 2-4 minutes, depending on the fish) add the mussels and stir until heated through.

Turn off the heat, season with salt and freshly ground pepper and add the cold butter and lemon zest and stir until the risotto is glossy and ready to eat. Serve with lemon wedges.

Risotto 2

Risotto 3


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