Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Giving Back Gift Guide

This is the time of year when I pull together gift guides and share holiday ideas but I thought I would start off the season by sharing a gift guide that gives back.

There are many ways we can give back and like it or not it seems we focus a little more on doing this during the holiday season.  Whether you prefer volunteering your time at a local food bank; making a donation to a charitable organization or purchasing a tangible gift from an organization that sells fair trade products; I've gathered together a list for you to explore. 

There are many beautiful and stylish fair trade gifts that you can buy that are sourced from artisans in emerging economies. I'll definitely be exploring these a little bit more.  

It's a different kind of online shopping. I hope you feel inspired to act, donate or purchase.

1/ Flying Dove Ornament via Ten Thousand Villages 2/ Geometric Patterned Notecards via Far and Wide Collective 3/ Kantha pillow via Ten Thousand Villages 4/White Round Placemats via Far and Wide Collective 5/ Turquoise Endito Three Strand Necklace via Far and Wide Collective 6/ Winter Wonderland gift set via Me to We

For more gift ideas visit sites such as:

Me to We
Far and Wide Collective
Ten Thousand Villages
World Vision


 Give a micro-loan and help empower someone to start a business and change their life. 

Give the gift of sport:

Kidsport Provides financial assistance to kids under 18 for registration and equipment through a confidential application process.

Right to Play Uses play to teach important life skills to children through sports and games.

Jumpstart Canadian Tire's charitable organization helps kids participate in sports by providing necessary funds to community groups and helps families cover the cost of equipment and registration.

Gifts that help children:

Hospital for Sick Children

Artsy Gifts:

Inner City Angels
Santa Claus Fund


Other community driven charities:


Habitat for Humanity

Gifts for Animal Lovers:

World Wildlife Fund
Ontario SPCA
Canadian Wildlife Federation

Finally, The Toronto Star published a list of ways you can donate your time to help this season. Read it here.

By the way...

So much has happened since I last posted on my little blog. I've been busy with design projects and a new gig I started last spring with The Toronto Star. I'm writing a weekly column for their new tablet product "Star Touch" as well as working on other features that appear across all platforms (print, tablet and web).  Have you seen the column? It's called "Try It or Buy It".  Every week I share a simple DIY project with step by step photos. Then I show readers where they can buy it - buy something similar - for those who aren't feeling very crafty but still want the look.

I've been missing this place and was feeling a bit odd about just reappearing out of the blue. Instagram has been my main spot to share. It's so easy, right?

Friday, July 3, 2015

Laura's Urban Lakeside Townhouse - Reveal and Minted Art

Laura's cozy living room

Well the art is hung and we are finally ready to give you a peek into my client and friend Laura's, newly decorated living room and dining room space. 

There are still a few final touches waiting to happen but we are really happy with the space and couldn't wait to share it.

It was perfect timing when the opportunity to collaborate with Minted came up recently! It was a total coincidence that Laura had already chosen a bunch of art she loved and wanted to purchase for this room. So working with Minted on this collaboration was meant to be. 

Laura said her shopping experience on Minted was super easy. She liked how you could narrow the search for pieces of art by colour, style and even shape. Scroll down to see photos of the art wall.

Built-in bookcases - Ikea hack

The other main part of this project was designing a wall of "built-in's" to add some much needed storage, display space and interest to a builder basic room. Using Billy bookcases, trim and moulding we were able to achieve a built-in look for a small price. There is nothing better than a good ol' Ikea hack to get the look at a better price point, right?

Here is her art wall ...

Laura was starting fresh in this new space and also needed new furniture. We fell for this leather sofa from West Elm. It's perfect for her space and because the leather has a nice aged, worn look she thought it would be perfect for her pets.

Laura loves to travel and so a vintage globe looks just right perched on a shelf.

As an animal lover including whimsical accessories like these hedgehog planters is fitting and keeps the space playful and down to earth just like the homeowner.

The wall above was empty when we began. We had Laura's contractor customize these Ikea Billy bookcases as built-in's. The marble top table is one of my favorite pieces. Isn't it pretty? The chairs were existing and work well (and are super comfy) until she is ready to swap them out for something new.

Here are the pieces we used for her "built-in's".

 Minted asked me to share a review of my shopping experience and in return they provided me with art for Laura's wall. I have a couple of pieces that I chose for my home as well which I will share in another post. I have to say that I would definitely purchase art from Minted. The framed art they provided was framed very well and ready to hang with appropriate hardware installed. It was very nice quality and we are thrilled with the pieces we chose.

Toronto artist Robert Wu has stunning marbling art. You should definitely get to know his work.


Art Wall: Minted and larger print via Studio Robert Wu.
Sofa, coffee table, rug, brass mirror, capiz pendant: West Elm
Pillows: Homesense

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Canvas Photo Art & Gifts

Recently, Staples Canada approached me to collaborate on a project using their new canvas art and photo gift services. So I thought I would give it a try. I've used other online photo gift retailers before and I was curious about what kind of quality Staples would provide. I immediately thought of at least one particular art project I wanted to tackle right away.

I figured these could be fun Father's Day gifts.

The first project I tackled was going through some old photographs of our trips to Prince Edward Island. I chose this snapshot of the kids from about four years ago. I love this photo and the moment that was captured. It was a fun day exploring hidden beaches on the island. Something we love to do. There was a field of grass, a lighthouse and an endless beach. The kids were running, playing and just loving life. It's one of those moments that sticks with you.
I played with the photo in Photoshop a little bit to turn it into a black and white with a faded background.Make sure your photos are a higher resolution so the print quality is good.

This is how it turned out. It's an 8"x 8" canvas print. I'm really happy with it. The uploading and ordering process was simple and straightforward with Staples.

Next project... Original Art printed on canvas 

my daughter Isabella's original water colour painting printed on canvas from Staples Canada

The bigger project I wanted to do was my daughter's watercolour art that she painted awhile ago. I wanted to have it printed on canvas. This was the perfect opportunity.

When she painted it, it was a spur of the moment "art moment" and she used some random paper that was lying around. It wasn't water colour paper so it rippled and as a result didn't lay as nicely in a frame.

 I was inspired by a project that my friend Lindsay did on her blog recently using her young son's art. So this is what I did...

I took a photo of the art above, unframed. 
Then I uploaded it into Photoshop and played with the colours a little bit more, until it was a good match to the original painting. I also smoothed out those ripples and cropped it tight to the edges.
Then I uploaded it onto the Staples website and ordered a wrapped canvas of the photo. They come in various sizes and you can choose for it to be vertical or horizontal. It was so easy. The trickiest part was getting a good photo of the art. The easiest way to get a good photo is to lay it flat near a natural light source.

The canvases also come with hardware for easy hanging.

I also ordered some cards, including this one for Father's Day. 
You can choose from a huge selection of templates and card designs or if you prefer, you can upload your own. 

Oops I guess this post will spoil the surprise!

Next on my list was a custom photo mug of my nephews and brother-in-law last summer on the island. My Dad actually took this photo. I chose one of Staples full wrap mugs. I love how you don't lose any of your image with this design. It wraps around the mug!

Note: I wasn't compensated by Staples Canada to write this post. However, they did give me a voucher I could use to try their products. I was happy to try their service and to report back to you that it was a good experience.

Ordering was easy. Shipping time was just over a week, not bad. I chose to pick up the order in the store near me. The service there was great. The clerk pointed out that if I was unhappy with any product they would re-order it for me. No hassle.

All in all, I would definitely order from their website again.

If you have any questions, ask away in the comment section :)

Monday, June 8, 2015

Strawberry rhubarb soda

Have you bought any local strawberries yet? I picked some up last week at my local farmer's market along with a bunch of fresh rhubarb and I made this ... 

It's so refreshing. Just the right balance of sweet and tart.

I had never used rhubarb in a recipe but really wanted to give it a try. After all I had been pinning all sorts of rhubarb recipes on Pinterest lately so I bought a half dozen stalks.

I came across a rhubarb soda recipe on Chatelaine here but adapted it to include fresh strawberries. You can also do this with raspberries and it's equally delicious.

A facebook friend suggested this would be good in Prosecco. I love that idea. I think Monday night is a perfect time for that, right?

Here is my adapted version of the syrup recipe. I added it to bubbly water made with my Sodastream. I think this could be good if you add a drop or two of vanilla to the recipe. I'll try that next time.

1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 cup roughly chopped rhubarb
1 cup chopped strawberries or raspberries

Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a medium pot. 
Add the fruit. Stir.
Cover the pot. Turn off the heat. Let sit for an hour.
Strain the mixture, separating the fruit from the syrup. 

Let the syrup cool and pour into glass bottle. Refrigerate.

PS. Keep the fruit because it's great on vanilla ice cream :)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

12 Antique Market Tips and Top Spots for Antiquing

Antique market season has officially begun!

Last week I headed out to Aberfoyle Antique Market with friends (kids in tow) to get our first fix of the season. It was a fun afternoon. I didn't buy very much but it's interesting to visit and see what trends are happening and also for some much needed post-winter inspiration.

Things I noticed... lots of demi-johns, brass, oversized letters, globes and mid-century furniture. Interesting. All on trend but they were last year too. Sometimes it takes a while for the dealers to find supply... I'm always on the hunt for pretty glass. In fact, I have an entire Pinterest category dedicated to it. Last year I was looking for another demi-john to add to my collection and was hard-pressed to fin them at the markets. This year they were everywhere! 

I go to antique markets frequently and when I travel they are on my must-see list of area attractions. Are you like that too? I dream of traveling the world, strolling through markets for beautiful treasures to bring home. Kind of like J. Peterman on Seinfeld but minus the hat and hopefully less awkward ;)

A few items I wanted to bring home, but weren't in my budget.

 This metal cabinet. Right? 
Just needs some elbow grease to clean it up.

Brass ship lanterns. So, so gorgeous. But at $350 + sadly they stayed on this table. The man in the background is sneaking away so he doesn't have to see my tears.

These crates. There just wasn't room in the car. Look at that laundry starch crate! Gorgeous.

Antiquing Tips, hints & advice...

First... when I go to the markets I talk to the vendors. I like their kind. Sometimes a little quirky but often history buffs and full of information and stories about antiquing. Listen to them. They will give you hints about where to go and find good stuff. They are (usually) good people, just trying to make a living. So be respectful of them and their stuff. You are more likely to get a better deal and learn a little too.  Over the years, at times, I've witnessed people being a little rude, demanding a better price and even sometimes calling their stuff junk. That's not nice. Why?
I know you guys wouldn't be like that


1.  Cash is king. Bring cash. Small bills too, for smaller purchases.

2.  Get there early or arrive late? Depends. If you are looking for furniture or specific items than early is better. But don't expect better deals. The day has just begun! If you are looking for bargains than (often) later is better. Vendors often don't want to pack up and haul unsold merchandise home, so sometimes they will cut you a deal.

3.  Be friendly!

4.  Look under the tables, in boxes, look up! Ask vendors if they have more merchandise packed away.

5.  Bring shopping bags and paper to wrap your items. It keeps them safe from breaking while you shop.

6.  Research. If you are looking for certain items it's helpful to research what you are looking for online before you arrive at a a market so you can get a sense of price points and are better equipped to negotiate.

7.  Try to contain your enthusiasm for something you want. It's exciting when you find something you've been hunting for but, if the vendor knows you really want it they may be less inclined to budge on price.

8.  Always negotiate! I almost always ask if the vendor can do better on the price. I know that sometimes asking for a better price can be intimidating. One way to phrase it is "Would you be willing to consider $20 for this piece?" For example, if an item is $30, ask if they are comfortable with $20. There is usually wiggle room. It's a market, and you shouldn't be shy about asking for a better price. Sometimes they will say no, but it's worth a try.

9.  Bring a tape measure! Make sure it will a) fit in your vehicle b) fit in your house

10.  If you are buying furniture, get to know your woods, so you can certain about what you are buying, what can be repaired and how to look for damage.

11.  Try to imagine new uses for items. Upcycling, re-purposing is a fun way to incorporate old items into your home and give it new life.

12.  If you absolutely love it (and you can afford it) buy it! No regrets :)



Daytripping in Southwestern Ontario
Antiques in Canada


 Flea Market Insiders (USA)
Sunday Driver   (USA)
Huffington Post Guide 
Antique The USA

By no means is this a comprehensive list, but just a list of some of the markets I frequent plus other resources. Please share any favorite spots in the comments whether it's in Canada or the USA!

Happy antiquing!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Spring Paint Projects!

Some diy inspiration for you today ...

 The weather is finally perfect for starting some painting projects. I have several I am eager to start. When Matthew sent over these photos from his new free digital magazine with Wagner I thought perfect timing! Check out the link HERE

 I love the ideas using Annie Sloan chalk paint. I've never used it but have heard great things about it and I'm eager to try. I need to get one of the paint sprayers stat! In the meantime, lets look at these colours!

Be sure to check out Matthew's magazine for loads of inspiring ideas!


There is so much inspiration out there to help get you started on a spring project.You'll also want to visit the blogs of these lovely blogger friends for diy inspiration!

Danielle at Finding Silver Pennies also has loads of inspiring paint projects, she does an amazing job breathing new life into old furniture. I think she uses chalk paint often too.

My friend Lindsay was a spray paint maniac (kidding) last summer. you can check out some of her projects here.

Tomorrow I'm headed to Aberfoyle for their special Saturday market wish me luck, maybe I'll come home with a project or two.

Friday, April 24, 2015

backyard planning - adding a banquette nook

outdoor banquette

You guys! I'm so over this weather. Blah! April has been kind of crappy here in our household. My son was injured in a freak snowshoeing accident sliding down a hill during March Break and recovery has been slow. Poor kid has been such a trooper but we are all hoping he heals soon. He's a very active boy so it's been hard for him to sit still. I just want to see him healed and able to participate in his sports again. It's a reminder to not take our health for granted and really how lucky we are when you see what other kids go through.

Anyhow, I'm not sure about you but I'm dreaming of patio season! Spring made a brief appearance here and just as quickly disappeared but that hasn't stopped me from working on some backyard updates we've got planned. 

We have an empty wall/fence area at the bottom of our deck stairs that we want to turn into a banquette/seating area. The plan is to build a banquette we can use as a sofa with lots of comfy cushions. The layout could be a loungey conversation area if we move the table to the side and add in two chairs AND we can use it as a dining space with a big long table and chairs.

Originally, we really wanted to purchase an outdoor sectional but they are so expensive! So we decided to try our hand at a banquette/sofa DIY. I'm hoping this banquette option will give us some versatility in using the space for either cocktails or dining.

Now if only it would warm up so we can get started!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

8 Fresh for Spring Party Decor Finds via Etsy

Apparently Spring has decided not to show up in my part of the world, but that won't stop me from dreaming of pretty Spring parties. 

Etsy is one of the best places to shop for party supplies and it's always my first stop for finding unique and pretty decorations, baking supplies, invitations & more.

Here is a small selection of things that recently caught my eye. So...much...pretty.

Guess what? You guys know I love Etsy and have always shared all of it's awesomeness with you in my Etsy Picks, right? Well now I get to do that over on Etsy as a Tastemaker. It's an amazing way to explore Etsy, find new artists and makers in a more curated way. So stop by and follow me :)


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

An Urban Lakeside Townhome gets ready for Spring!

Pillows, Sofa, Table, and  Rug all from West Elm

I have to tell you... I'm kind of excited by the decorating projects I have taken on recently! I'm working on a couple right now, one a beautiful Victorian home with original details in Toronto's Junction neighbourhood and the latest is a city townhouse steps from the lake. I'll be sharing some inspiration for both homes in coming weeks but I thought I'd start with the lakeside townhouse for today.

The client currently has a leather sofa that may stay in the space temporarily. She has a dog and two cats, so the furniture has to be pet-friendly and easy to clean. I know she loves to travel, is drawn to beachy colours such as blues, greys and white and wants her space to be a comfortable space to entertain friends.

all images via West Elm

I'm playing around with some looks for this space here on the blog, just for the fun of it. This isn't the final look, but just a starting point and a way to share ideas and inspiration.

Those pendants! They are so pretty. Very feminine but modern and fun too. I thought I'd pop them in there and see what happens. I think I want them...

And yes, everything is from West Elm because it's one of her favourite places to shop. It's the perfect one-stop shop that fits her aesthetic and although we will pull ideas and product from many places I thought I'd share what I'd pick (right now) if I could only shop there, which wouldn't be so bad, right? ;)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

A Spring Giveaway from Matthew Mead and Paper Parade Co.

 Spring! I thought it would never arrive!

"Desperation" was setting in as I watched people plan winter getaways to sunny destinations that weren't in the cards for us. But now, the snow is melting, the sun is shining, and I'm wearing wellies instead of snow boots. Yay!

Last week, when it was winter, lol, I ventured out to find my friend Matthew's newest magazine. I knew it would be full of inspiration and, of course it was ... it is! 

So I'm so thrilled to share some sneak peeks of it with you AND giveaway two copies of the magazine to two lucky readers!! 

I thought I would add a gift of pretty paper goodies to each magazine winner's prize! Perfect for spring gift wrapping and inspiration as well. So I'll also draw for two of those, one for each magazine winner!

You know I love Matthew's work but this was an extra special issue, because, as a friend, I knew how hard Matthew had worked to bring this to you, to make this happen. Upcycled Style is the Matthew Mead you remember from Country Home and his first published issues of Holiday with Matthew Mead. I love this issue and I'm thrilled to share it with you.

One of the things I look forward to most about Spring is the outdoor antique markets that start in April and May. I cannot wait! Hunting for vintage treasures and finding ways to breathe new life into them epitomizes Spring to me. Upcycled Style has loads of ideas and inspiration for your Spring and Summer vintage finds, plus lovely home tours, craft and entertaining ideas and more!

Love this brilliant idea of upcycling vintage pendant lights into a tiered stand!

A collection of vintage bottles.  I am obsessed with vintage glass. These look like they might have been dug up on the beach or found buried in someones backyard....

pretty vintage bowls ... 

lots of inspiring florals ...

plenty of diy projects

Good luck with the Giveaway! 

Matthew Mead's Upcycled Style is available to purchase on news stands everywhere. In Canada, I've seen it at Chapters, Loblaws and Superstores. It will also be available to order online very soon. 
Visit Matthew's website here for more info.

For a chance to win one of two copies of Upcycled Style  simply leave a comment at the end of this post or on my Instagram post for this giveaway. Two winners will be selected on Tuesday March 17th! Giveaway open to Canadian and US addresses.

PS. I'd love to hear what inspires you. Do you have any Spring projects planned?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Colour Inspiration - Red, White & Black + A Fun Gift Wrap Idea

 and here is some more red for you - colour inspiration!


Just popping in with some colour inspiration for you. Being Valentine's week and all I thought I'd tempt you with some red. 

These are just some odds and ends I have in my studio. Things I like to keep around for inspiration and crafting fun.

How do you feel about the colour red? 
Red is supposed to be stimulating and energetic. It equates to love and passion, and is a powerful primary colour that has deep meaning in different cultures all over the world. If you are interested in reading more about the significance of the colour red go here.

We had red walls in our living room before renovating. I actually loved the colour for many years. We had lots of colour on our walls back then. Today our walls are white and soft grey and I use colour as an accent. It's fun to change the look of a room just by swapping out pillows and other soft accessories.

 Here is a little gift wrapping idea for you. 
Make gift wrap out of vintage stamps!! I'm kind of excited about this. It's the vintage paper geek in me :)

 Scan a vintage stamp, enlarge it and print it out or you could take it to a copy store and have them do it. If you are doing this large scale or multiple copies, a copy shop is the way to go.  
I embellished my wrapped gift with a heart stamp. So fun!
Valentine Card via Paper Parade Co. 
I used the stamps in the photo above.

I'm always looking for ways to use my vintage stamps and I thought this was fun. I got the idea for this after chatting with an Instagram friend who suggested that I take one of my favourite stamps to a print shop and have it enlarged to use as art in my house. I love that idea!