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What's Been Going On ...

Posted on June 10, 2016 at 12:15 AM Comments comments (0)

It's been a busy time here in Ottawa. The weather fluctuated from tropical heat to winter cold (well, almsot) within days. I have had to take in my tomato plants at night because of the cold. 




Here are a few interesting things have been going on. Dairy farmers took their cows to Parliament to protest for stricter controls on cross-border trade and compensation for international agreements dairy farmers say have left them at a disadvantage. And I tend to agree with them. On a lighter note, there was a classic car show on Sparks Street which brought a smile to me face as I recalled my late Eon's love for his 454 Chevelle. We've had a tulip festival as well as hundreds of folks running marathons for a number of causes (and more to come). A lot of this I was able to enjoy from my 3rd floor balcony. On top of all this a huge sinkhole appeared (I should say, dropped in) on one of our busiest streets - no one was hurt but one car did disappear. But all is well now. We have a great recovery team here in Ottawa.


For those who are pestering (thanks, really) for more ideas for clothes hangers, here are two more uses. 




So simple, so easy. Why didn't I think of it? Find it here.




Not all wall decorations have to be art. So say the bloggers over at Food52. It's a food blog mainly but there are more how to tips there if you care to have a look. Click here.


Ciao bella!

Garden Recycling - Plastic Containers 2

Posted on May 24, 2016 at 1:40 PM Comments comments (0)



For those who were wondering if my plastic container garden was ever completed, wonder no more. Over this past long weekend, the weather warmed up and I found the time to repot into my recycled plastic containers. It was surprising to see how quickly the plants resettled in. Once the plants are sturdy enough, I will repot them up permanently in my larger metal garden containers - old kettles and pails. With more warmer weather on the way, it won't be long.




This year I've planted sage, tomato, flat-leaf parsley, oregano, thyme, chives, some garlic, rosemary, and mint from seed. All of these were started off in empty eggshells 'pots', then each one placed back into egg cartons. If my egg cartons had been those paper ones, I would have simpled planted the seeds into the carton compartments but mine are clear plastic and I like to reuse these over and over again. I stored the carton 'incubators' under the kitchen sink cupboard - a nice dark and cosy place for seedlings to sprout. Once the seedlings had grew a few inches, I transplanted the little fellows into plastic milk containers (the ones I used for the pizza gardens last year).


Note that before transplanting, I gently crush each eggshell and then place each in the new container. Even though the eggshells will soften in the new pots, it's still a good idea to crush them as it allows the seedling roots to quickly reach out and settle in new soil. Because it was too cold to put these outside, I placed the plastic containers in front of a sunny window near the heating ducts. When it was warm enough outdoors, I moved the containers onto to their bamboo perch.



This is such a simple way for anyone to garden. The kids that live in my apartment building are already working on this year's balcony gardens (I gave each one my surplus seedling plants) and were, again this year, eager to see the results. Note you don't have to use plastic containers - waxed milk containers work just as well. So do tin cans. If you are using tin cans, remember to put something under each can to prevent rust showing up on your patio or balcony. An old saucer or plastic lids work well.


Also you don't have to start off your seedlings in eggshells - egg cartons (as I mentioned above), newspapers or cardboard toilet rolls work just as well. Use what you have and get the kids involved. As with the eggshells, you should make tears in the toilet roll pots and open up the bottom as cardboard takes a long time to disintegrate and this can stunt the seedling roots. Newspaper on the other hand falls apart quickly.


Enjoy your gardening!


Decor Recycling - Past Treasures

Posted on May 21, 2016 at 8:05 AM Comments comments (0)

There's a lot going on right now. We've held a giant 'garage' sale in our building's community room on the roof to raise funds for the people of Fort MacMurray where the fire is still going strong. A few of us as well are going to the 'Beet It, Monsanto' march on Major's Hill Park here in Ottawa that's going on today at 1:30 pm. Still I did promise a spring decorating post and here it is - although it is not about my current home but a lovely apartment I once had that overlooked a garden and a park, surrounded by gorgeous oak and maple trees.



The living room slash office of the apartment was filled with second hand furniture and accessories. Starting way back when I was a university student, I haunted flea markets, charity shops, and church bazaars as well as the occasional garage sale for stuff. The great fun of this is that you never know what treasure you will find. And, boy, did I find treasures. The tables (I cut the legs of one to make a sort of storage cum coffee table) both came from the Library of Parliament and were just the right size for all my 'creative' endeavours. I got them at a second-hand office furniture shop for under $50 for both. The large mirror was made using an old frame that was a street find. I had a beveled mirror made for it because I knew this would look better than a flat one. This was pricey but worth every penny. The 'chalkboard' frame was also a street find. See - going for walks in the evening does pay off sometimes.


As for the chalkboard itself, it's actually a piece of black foam core board that I still use to make my blackboards. It's lightweight and costs very little. Only drawback - you can't use a wet cloth to clean it. 



For some reason fishing gear - fishing rods, baskets, pictures, whatever - always caught my eye when I went out foraging. I was lucky enough to have a friend, an antiques picker, who found and gave me most of the fishing poles you can just see in the photo. I used an old garden rake as a fishing rod holder - that was in a neighbour's trash can minus the wooden handle.



The fish specimen drawings were purchased at a framing shop on Bank Street years ago. They had been removed from a vintage book on fish species - tearing pictures out of old books was something a lot of dealers used to do as it was easier (and more profitable) to sell individual images than the whole book. Mine were kept in storage until I found frames for them, which I finally did at Ikea (so the frames were new). I picked up the fishing baskets at a flea market. One was in bad shape, so it was free. The small footstool in the photo was made by using a sturdy picture frame (again a street find - why I find frames on the street is one of life's mysteries - when I can't I head for Ikea) and covered with a quilt remnant. The feet are curtain finials which I picked up in Paris at the BHV (a DIYer's heaven, with lots of French flair) - who knows why I do these things. For the footstool how-to instructions, go here.



The seating area in front of the window overlooking some beautiful Victorian buildings across the street was kept pretty much minimal. A great place to lie down, read a book, and contemplate life. The antique foldable wrought iron daybed was purchased at an auction for a military cadet school in Montreal (now defunct) when I was a student myself (but not at the military school!). It weighs a ton and I was (and still am) lucky enough to have friends who had the muscle to help me get it up to my flat via a curved stairway. The mattress and pillow bolsters were covered in material picked up in my travels in France. A friend kindly did the sewing as I didn't and don't have a sewing machine. The fabric came from factory in Lyon where I also picked up some pearl-beaded silk fabric that is quite similar to the material used in Princess Di's famous Elvis dress. I still have this piece of silk and am still not sure what to do with it.


The rug is a silk and wool one that I found in an old barn. It was pretty wet and dirty but I could see the potential. I cleaned it with a big brush and lots of soap. Took over a week to dry but look at the result. Sometimes, you just have to go for it. If it turns out to be a dud at least you got some exercise in!



My desk held vintage Victorian gardening clay pots (bought at a car boot sale in London) and garden tools (purchased at the Vanves flea market in Paris) to keep me organized. The desk may look neat and tidy here but, in a few hours, it always ended up looking like a storm blew in. I never could keep tidy for too long.



When it's something I like, I look for ways to reuse it when it's original function is done. I bought this particular brand of coffee (Multatuli) because of the image on the can (yes, it was very good coffee but, unfortunately, no longer available!) and I knew that I would reuse the image - and here it is enlarged in another Ikea frame (they're inexpensive, come with a mat, and make framing easy). Cost was less than $8.00 and the cans were reused as pencil and art supply holders.



Finally, the bathroom. This little hot water bottle had a small hole near the top which leaked water whenever I used it in bed so it was no longer useful for that function. However, the bathroom wall needed something so I stuck a tulip in the bottle and hung it up. Easy-peasy repurposing. Cost $0 - I picked the flower from a neighbour's yard (with her permission).


My point in sharing this post is that you can have a very nice, very personal space if you know where to look and look and look (you gotta go more than once) and it won't cost you the earth. Don't be afraid to bring something home from curbside trash - it may be a treasure in disguise and will cost you nothing (okay, time, as you may have to clean and/or repaint it). By reusing second-hand stuff, repurposing what you already own, and/or making accessories yourself saves you money, yes, but maybe, just maybe, it will also help to keep the landfill smaller. And you'll have an original home.

Decor Recycling - Spring on the Balcony

Posted on May 14, 2016 at 1:10 PM Comments comments (2)


I love spring because it means that I get to decorate my balcony and my studio with an eclectic mix of vintage and found objects that have been stored away over winter. The warmer weather allows me to expand my living space. Here are a few of my balcony ideas.



I invite bird visitors to my balcony, not with bird feeders (these only attract pigeons!) but with bird baths - both water and sand. Birds like to take a dip into the sand bath to rid themselves of any pesky little insects that hide amongs their feathers. I make both types of bird baths using clay pots and saucers. I attach the saucers to the pots with velcro - that way I can undo them easily for storage or use for my extra plants.



Because wasps and hornets can be a problem when eating al fresco, I hang little jars of sugared water (flat coke works, too) a few feet away from where I will be dining. That way, the insects get their meal while I enjoy mine. By the way, the insects survive their little dip and I set them free once I've finished my meal.



I like to have a pot or two of herbs on my patio table while I work and usually pot these up in whatever container I have handy. This year, I potted my Italian parsley in empty maple syrup tins. This way I get to nibble on something while I work and the scent of herbs can be soothing.




When the sun goes down, I light up my patio with candles set in small vintage yogurt jars and topped with a few vintage cheese graters. I place these on an old laundry bench that I picked up in England.


As you can see, it's really easy to create a unique and personal atmosphere on your balcony or even in a small garden space just by using what you have on hand.


Tomorrow - what I do inside my studio.


Garden Recycling - Plastic Containers 1

Posted on May 11, 2016 at 7:55 AM Comments comments (0)

I'm getting so impatient to start my little balcony garden. I've managed to start chives, garlic, and thyme plants this year and have kept these nice and warm under my kitchen sink. Now it's time to get them outside. However, here in Ottawa it's still a little too cool to put out my plants. My plastic milk containers, all in a row, are ready to be filled. 



I slipped a bamboo rod throw the handles of each container to hold them in place and then added two over-the-door hooks to secure the rod to my balcony railing. I love this time of gardening as it saves me lots of room on my long, but very narrow, balcony. And it's portable, too, so I can move it when the plants need more sunshine. Once the plants are too big for the containers, I will transplant them into bigger garden pots. 




This photo shows how you can turn a regular plastic milk (or fruit juice) container into a sweet container. It's the perfect way to start your little ones gardening, too, as the handle on the container makes it easy for little ones to carry these portable gardens. Great school project too!

DIY Mother's Day - Last Minute Ideas

Posted on May 6, 2016 at 10:45 AM Comments comments (0)

The little guy (who lives in Edinburgh and viewed my last post) informed me that I need to add a few more Mom's Day ideas, and they have to be super fast and super easy. Okay, last minute ideas - here goes:


Bath Salts



I often buy bedding plants at our local farmer's market for my enormous (not!) balcony garden and the plants come in these lovely little purple plastic containers. I have returned quite a few of them back to the sellers, then one day I realized that these would be perfect containers for my 'famous' bath salts. I make and sell these to friends and neighbours who need a last-minute gift at any time of the year. Try some and you'll know why.



These are super easy and, if you promise not to tell anyone, I will give you the recipe here:


Lavender and Vanilla Bath Salts


You will need: lavender essential oil, pure vanilla oil, and sea salts. To make about two cups, pour 2 cups of the sea salt in a non-metallic bowl, then add 6 to 8 drops of each of the lavender and vanilla oils. Mix with a wooden spoon. Pour into a container of your choice (jars, bottles, etc. - make it recycled, please!), seal tightly, add a pretty ribbon, and you're done. It smells fabulous! Men have been known to follow any gal who used this in her bath, so beware!


Make a Note of This



If your Mom likes to make lists (and what mother doesn't), you can make these easy, peasy note pads from scrap paper and cardboard. We made these at one of my workshops and everyone had a different use for theirs. Made entirely of recycled materials, we even used dried up pens and office clips to hold the notepads together. And, best of all, refillable!


Threaded




For some reason, I have a horde of tea infusers. Some I find at charity shops, others are gifts. But they do have their uses besides infusing tea. This may be one way for Mom to keep her gift wrapping twine tidy (also a good idea for holding embroidery thread). Add a couple in a handmade box (see yesterday's post) and you're done.


Decoupage This



Our lady Martha has this neat idea for taking bottles and decoupaging them with a pretty floral print (which she provides) turning ho-hum old bottles into lovely flower vases for Mom. Heck, you won't even need to buy flowers. Don't bother running out for new paint - check out what you've got squirreled away in the garage or basement. No paint there? Ask friends or neighbours.


Click here to find out how to make.


Mom's a Star




and you'll can let her know that's how you feel with these lovely star toppers from A Subtle Revelry. Bake or buy a nice cake (preferably what Mom likes - not you!) and top it with these pretty paper stars. Get the kids to help you make them.


All done now?


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