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.

Spring Weekend Recycling Projects

Posted on April 23, 2016 at 2:15 PM Comments comments (0)

The weekend's just started and if you want to get outside and do something, but nothing too strenuous, how about these four projects?

I've got a collection of vintage trucks that I use for all kinds of things, including this one. Just plunk a couple of potted plants in the truck and you're done. The little guy loves these truck plant pots and spends hours pushing them around the back green garden. 

Make a statement with these bashed and banged up tin cans. Just paint with any leftover paint you have on hand, plunk in some daffodil bulbs and wait for the flowers to appear.

For a little indoor spring project magic, this little frame is just the ticket. I photocopied a page from an old French lease that I found in Paris and decoupaged it onto a charity shop frame. I found the fern lying on the ground in a neighbour's yard, pressed it, and stuck it in the frame.  

This entire project uses recycled material. I have a terranium that's overflowing with moss (I can't remember what it's called, unfortunately) so I removed some. Then I took some Styrofoam computer packaging, shaped it, smoothed on some soil and then applied the moss. I twisted some bits of wire into U-shapes and used these to hold the moss in place. Twigs support the plant and the basket is one I found in a tip during one of my morning walks. Took a bit of time to look this good as the moss had to settle. To maintain the moss I just spritz it daily with water.

Try any of these ideas (or make up your own) and your friends will be amazed by your creativity and your wallet will stay filled with green.

Earth Day April 22 2016

Posted on April 15, 2016 at 9:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Earth Day is April 22. The Nature Conservancy organization is urging us to make it an Earth Month. A branch of this organization exists in almost all counties (visit the website to find your location) and is dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. 

But shouldn't every day be an Earth Day? Rachel Carson's book, Silent Spring, written in 1962, was a wakeup call to the damage being done to our planet. Now under scrutiny for some of her claims, it, nevertheless, provides many valuable lessons for us as stewards of Earth. I have just finished reading Dave Goulson's, A Buzz in the Meadow, and fifty years after publication of Carson's book, it looks like things haven't changed much. 

To find out more about the demise of bumblebees and its effect, visit Goulson's Bumblebee Conservation Trust site.  

If you want to turn your kids into nature lovers, I would also recommend any book by Gerald Durrell

Go to the Nature Conservancy website, to find ways that you and your family can, not just on April 22, but from now on, find ways to ease the destruction of this lovely earth.

Recycling My Stuff - Molding Ideas

Posted on January 18, 2016 at 4:10 PM Comments comments (0)

A while ago (okay, years ago) I talked myself into buying a stash of metal molds -– the kind used to shape puddings, jello, cakes, and things in aspic (shudder!).  The fashion for forcing food into elaborate shapes has been around for a long time (centuries, I discovered) but it appears to have gone out of vogue these days.

With all the moves I had to make over the past few years, I never got around to using my horde in any way and promptly forgot about them. Clearing out my storage unit uncovered the molds in a pile of junk stuff yet to be recycled,  and never finding a use for these molds, it’s time to let them go. Before I do that, however, I wanted to see what useful possibilities, if any, were out there.

A quick search online and I found some pretty appealing ideas.

Plant Pot Idea #1

I found this idea at Boot n Gus, an Etsy online shop and it shows you the possibilities for this type copper tone mold. It appears all you need to make it is some twine (heavy duty, I suspect, and an electric drill to make the holes. I have the identical one in my stash but I don't have a drill.

Plant Pot Idea #2

Another idea, and one I really like, is from yet another Etsy shop, Armory Art and Antiques. These Etsy owners are a busy and creative lot. This idea for holding plants is just one of their ideas. These cute little molds could be used for organizing your bits and bobs, hold candles, or anything else you can think of. Again, I have at least a dozen of these so this may be a possible. And no drill required. You know me, if it's easy-peasy, I'm there!

Pinning Away

A very practical idea if you're a sewer or mender. Not me. Again, yet another Etsy find. You may be able find it at Smile Mercantile if it hasn't been sold


Caveat: Please note that the above items from the Etsy shops may no longer be available.

Oh, Christmas Tree

I know, I know, Christmas is over, Maybe a project for next year. Just pile the molds on top of each other and voila, a tabletop tree to adorn your kitchen table. Nice idea for a foodie. I found this on Merchant Design, a French design blog, but in checking, it looks like the site no longer exists. 

Light Up

This lighting idea will work all year round if you can get your hands on a few dozen of the small molds. This project is from Farm Fresh Therapy.  I like this one but you need a drill.

Mold History

If you're interested in finding out more about the history of molds, Ivan Day over at Historic Food provides all the information you need and recipes, too!

Recycling My Stuff - The Key Thing

Posted on January 1, 2016 at 3:00 PM Comments comments (0)

I've decided to start the new year off by trying (again) to download more of my bits and bobs. I found these keys in a small box tucked away on the floor of my storage unit. How and where I came to acquire them is a mystery to me. Maybe they came with the storage unit and have always been here. I know that I could have been really clever and recycled or upcycled these keys myself had I the inclination, the time, or the energy, but I don't. My little voice tells me to let someone else do it. By the way, these keys are resting on an eviction notice for a house in Paris ca. 1815. That I'm keeping.

Stylish Hardware

With Valentine's Day just around the corner, keys can be used to make nice hardware for your cutie to wear around his/her neck.  You can buy a similar chain to the one shown at any hardware store - cheaper than craft stores. This particular one was found at an online shop - - but the necklace and the website are no longer available.

Under Lock and Key

Love this idea - use it to keep the clasp of a diary closed from prying eyes - yeah, this will work! From an Etsy shop - Binding Bee. I think it's already gone but there's loads of other examples.

Tomorrow I'm talking molds - not the virus kind - the making jelly molds kind.