Monday, May 30, 2011

Simple Curb Appeal

"Vista Red Salvia"

Now that Victoria Day has passed us, it's time to look at our outdoor spaces. Gardeners say it's best to plant flowers after May 24 to avoid frost.  When it comes to gardens, I’m pretty low key.  I like flowers that are hardy, simple and easy to maintain (i.e. just add water).

For that reason, I’ve always leaned towards perennials. However, I’m experimenting with colour, so this year, so I bought annuals…if I like the red, I’ll purchase red perennials next year in place of these ones.

We also have beautiful cast iron urns on our front porch…incredibly adaptable...just add whatever is in season.  

I find the easiest way to dress up the front porch, without planting and arranging flowers in pots is to purchase hanging baskets.

These were 2 for $25 at Loblaws or Superstore
These fit perfectly in the urns, and usually only need watering.  Just remove the hanging part (some can come undone, some need to be cut).

Perfect!  And so easy.  (Now I hope planting the annuals will be just as easy…)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Simple De(light)

Although our sitting room gets lots of sunlight (we sometimes call this the “sunroom”), we still needed a little table lamp when we enjoy the room in the evening.

I love the Robert Alley Doughnut lamp at Macys, but $435 (not including shipping, taxes and duty) for a little table lamp is pretty pricey.

I’ve been told that Restore is a little place that interior designers love to visit.  There is a treasure trove of new and antique type things (amongst the dingy as well).  Because the money goes to Habitat for Humanity, many local retailers donate their end of lines, and you can find some really great deals.

So, I found this lamp at my local Restore.  It only cost $30 (including tax!).  And the money went to charity, so more guilt-free shopping!!!
Using dish soap and a damp cloth was
the easy solution to clean this lampshade 

With a little spray paint (or maybe not…I'm still contemplating about painting it completely black, brushed nickel, or oil rubbed bronze), a little clean up of the lamp, and fabric edging on the lampshade edging (to cover a little dent), this would look fabulous!

Now...hoping to shed some light...stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Simple Mail Sorter

I've noticed in many interior design magazines, that it is quite trendy to use antique toast racks to use as “mail sorting racks” in their home.

Here’s a real antique one found in the UK.  Note that it is £44.00 (or about $88...that must be some kind of bread!)
Toast rack from Steptoes Antiques

Since I’m using this for mail, I wanted one that was less expensive.  I found a scuffed up stainless steel version (i.e. NOT antique) at Talize, a thrift store that sells mostly clothes, but also sells household “knick knacks”. This has simple lines, and for $2, it will suffice to sort our mail.

I spray painted it a champagne bronze colour (mostly as a test...i'd love to use this colour on legs of an oval glass table...very french art deco!), and now it has a subtle look of an antique (and since it was so inexpensive, I would have no qualms re-painting this a different colour in the future, to match my ever changing home d├ęcor).
I used Krylon's Brushed Metallic spray paint
in "Champagne Nouveau" in Satin finish.
Found at Canadian Tire or Michaels for about $6
I do covet a real antique toast rack for our dream home/cottage someday, to actually use for toast (I can imagine using it at a pretty brunch…it would look so pretty on a marble countertop, wouldn’t it?), but that would be for another day.

Now….I’ll toast to that! 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Now...for a little break.

With the upcoming long weekend signalling that summer is just around the corner, the list of household to-do's have started to pile up and I've been feverishly trying to get organized.  I've been looking for inspiration to keep the laughter going...and discovered this cartoon.

Courtesy of Denise Dorrance

Maybe I'll try this method of organizing...have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Simply Good(will) Table-Reveal !

This has been quite a fun DIY project, mostly because this is my test...if I can paint this table, I can attempt at a larger table for our kitchen.

Here's what I did with my $5 table.

Using sandpaper, lightly sanded all paintable surfaces.
A medium grit sandpaper worked.

Then, using a damp cloth, I wiped the table clean from debris.
I was temped to use TSP, but plain water worked fine.

I primed the table with this great oil based primer  
I only used about 1/20th of the can.
Zinsser Cover Stain is amazing, found at Lowes for about $12.
It works well on all kinds of wood, including damaged, varnished or veneered.

Spray (yes spray) painted the table using satin black paint.  
Almost suffocated myself with the fumes...
don't forget to wear a mask!  This Krylon spray in Satin
Black can be found at Michaels or Canadian Tire for about $7

I waited for about 24 hours before doing another coat, 
and paint odd places I missed (like underneath).
If you get drips or streaks,
use a small foam brush (from Michaels for $1),
and lightly brush the drips, then continue spraying.

Remember my inspiration?
Crate and Barrel Esme Bruno Pedestal Table
Here's how my version looks in our sitting room. 
The sofa is supposed to be in our living room...
this is just a temporary spot.  It will be replaced with two sitting
chairs, with this table in between.
Similar to the Crate and Barrel table in style, but definitely not $600 (or even half that).  Total cost...about $20!!! (with primer and paint to spare for another project!)

Beautiful savings.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Now...for some Zucchini Bread

I’ve been baking up a storm lately…mostly due to the ball that rolled during Easter…and also trying to find new, healthy snacks for the kids at recess, other than my old standby, banana bread.

I love banana bread.  It’s one of the first things I learned to bake  (I had a great recipe from a co-worker who would make banana bread every Friday for the creative team…what a guy!)  I love that serve as either a snack or a quick breakfast on the run.  But I wanted some variation (there’s just so many times I can add chocolate chips, walnuts, or raisins to my banana bread).

The batter will seem a little on the dry side, but don't worry,
the zucchini will change the texture.

So, during my screenwriting days, I received a recipe from a fellow writer that combined both easy baking, and a vegetable (who doesn’t love baking that’s actually GOOD for you!).  If you’re ambitious, zucchini is easy to grow in the garden, so you can have plenty of this at your disposal.  This is also easy to freeze, and the recipe makes 2 for now, one to freeze for later!  Perfect for those busy school mornings.

The batter is now quite moist with the zucchini.

Zucchini Bread
(makes 2 loaves, or approx. 24 servings)

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups grated zucchini (1 small zucchini= approx. 1 cup shredded zucchini)


  • Grease and flour two- 8 x 4 inch loaf pans.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
  • Beat eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar together in a large bowl, until creamed.
  • Add (in order, and mix in between additions): salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and flour.  Beat well.
  • Stir in shredded zucchini until well combined.
  • Pour batter into prepared loaf pans.
  • Bake for approx. 60 minutes or until tester inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Cool on rack for 20 minutes.  Remove bread from pan, and completely cool.


Now that’s healthy baking!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Simply Good(will) Table

On weekends, my husband and I try to catch up on our reading. Whether we're reading an article online, or leafing through flyers (me) in preparation for the next week, we try to relax in our sitting room.  However, we're big coffee drinkers, and had no where to put our morning fuel.

When I dropped off our usual spring donations at the local Goodwill, a little table in the store caught my eye.  For $5, I had to get it.  (You can't even buy the wood for that much... and the money goes to a good cause, so it's definitely win-win!).

I love the lines of this table.  So simple and classic, with good bones (it is very sturdy).  However, it definitely needed a little "polish". 

I am hoping to refinish it this weekend, so it looks like the Crate and Barrel one (albeit, the C&B one is MUCH larger...and $600!!!), here:

More pictures of my progress to follow...

Now...stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Simple Shoelaces

Spring seems to have finally arrived, and the heavy winter jackets and boots are being stored or donated for the next year.  Old winter boots need to be replaced with "outdoor shoes" at school.

One of the parents at my kid's school complained that she had to buy two shoes for this spring/summer for her kindergarten daughter.  One with velcro, so her daughter can put her shoes on for recess, and another one with shoelaces for when she eventually learns how to tie her shoes.  

My daughter is also still learning to tie her shoes.  However, as much of a shoe fanatic we both are, I am NOT buying two runners to be worn just for the next three months.  So instead, I found these great athletic bungee laces (found in athletic stores…used by those who run marathons!) which turn ordinary lace up shoes into slip ons.

I love that I don’t have to buy two shoes while she’s learning to tie her shoelaces up.  In the interim, she’d still be able to put her shoes on at school, and when she’s ready to use the laces, I can replace these athletic bungy ones for the real deal.


Monday, May 09, 2011

Simple Momentos

This isn’t too much of a DIY project, but while we were at dinner with a few friends of ours, they had inquired about the MacBook that I am currently using.

Although I feel that PC’s are more intuitive for business users (for graphs, powerpoint presentations, excel sheets etc.), I do like the ease of use of the MAC for creative projects.

One program that is available (and works easily) on both PC’s and MAC’s is Google’s Picasa program.  There is a “quick hit” function within the Picasa program that allows you to create collages.  I have found creating collages have made sharing photographs (real ones to frame, not on photo sharing sites) really easy and creative to do.   They're especially great for cards, or for travel "souvenirs" (sometimes I think it's better to give photos than those little souvenirs from gift shops).  And you don't need to be a designer to create these.  Here’s some samples of what I’ve done in the past…it doesn’t take long to create (for me, the longest process is actually choosing which photos go on the cards). 

Christmas & Holiday cards:

Travel Momentos:

Simply memorable.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Now...for some Chocolate Chip Pancakes!

My kids love pancakes, especially chocolate chip ones.  Who doesn’t love those fluffy goodness of morning heaven topped with berries and maple syrup,  a Canadian classic.

I try to make most of my recipes from scratch.  But since we have pancakes every Sunday (sometimes on Saturday too!), it can be time consuming.  So here’s what I’ve done to cut the time in half.

I pre-mix the "dry" ingredients and store the mixture in a glass jar in the cupboard.  This lasts in my house for about one month.  I believe you can store this for up to 6 months.

I printed all the "wet" ingredients that need to be added on address labels (although I've made it so often I can do it in my sleep, which is sometimes the state I am in when making these early in the morning).

I stuck the label onto card stock, hole punched the top and attached to a jar with a pretty ribbon.  This label helps as a guide for those in the house who want to take the initiative and make these, *ahem*…say for Mother’s Day coming up…no hints.

Then on pancake day, I add milk, eggs, butter and any additional flavourings, like vanilla or chocolate chips (all the “wet” ingredients listed on the label).  Here’s the recipe:

Homemade Instant Chocolate Chip Pancakes
Dry Mix
(pre-mixed and stored in a jar):
4 cups of all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar

Wet Mix
(added to 1 cup of the dry mix above, on the day of making pancakes)
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 egg
1 cup of milk
Additional flavourings, like 1 tbsp of vanilla or 1/2 cup of chocolate chips.

Heat griddle over medium heat.  Spoon ¼ cup of pancake mix onto the hot griddle. When bubbles appear, flip until golden.  (approx. 2 minutes each pancake)


Now…enjoy Mother's Day!

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Simply Pretty Mother's Day Table

First came love, then came marriage…now let's honour the ones who push the baby carriage.

Usually men don’t organize parties (although I have a friend who’s husband loves to organize parties, so he’s a rare breed...but I digress)…so when Mother’s Day comes up, my husband usually takes care of details like what we're going to eat (usually BBQ if the weather is nice), but decorating the house “pretty” isn’t usually top of mind (and no, vacuuming and re-arranging chairs does not constitute decorating for a party).

When we hosted a Mother's Day get together at our house last year…the night before everyone was to arrive, I was in search for a quick table centerpiece.  As I was putting together little gifts for the Moms, I thought, why not put flowers in a gift bag like it's a vase?

I like that it’s easy to coordinate the colour to a party theme, table cloth or the flowers.  And it costs almost nothing.  And it looks cute on the table, with not a lot of effort.

Pretty simple.  Simply pretty. 

Monday, May 02, 2011

Beautiful Memories

I was asked by a reader to show a few more pictures from my wedding…it’s been awhile, and the pictures were not taken during the “digital” age (and about 800 photos were taken, I kid you not!) so without boring you, here's a selected few.  I love that there’s something about weddings that makes time stand still…that brings you back to a place where joyous memories begin.  Enjoy.

The wedding party on their way to
the reception after the outdoor ceremony.

A little fun with the ring bearer

The Bride & Groom

Now that's going down memory lane...