rocking chair makeover

My mum has had this rocking chair since she was young and I have many memories of it too.  I lost a tooth once falling forwards onto the arm and when we were renovating our house it was the only chair in my makeshift bedroom to curl up in after midnight. (reading the Daring Game by Kit Pearson).  It's in our den/music room now and the faded salmon-polka dot ruffled fabric didn't quite match.  I found 5 yards! of this green fabric at Goodwill and it even matches our current armchair and loveseat. 


sweetie pies

Tasty, tiny, adorable, heart-shaped, lingonberry jam filled pastries!  I found a great recipe for these sweet mini pies on the Farm Chicks blog.  I used my Aunt Cathy's pie shell recipe with a Finnish lingonberry jam for the filling.  They mostly crumbled as soon as picked up but were tasty nonetheless.  Thanks Serena!


cute pear sachets

We're sending a package to Camden's mum and I wanted to include a few things for Mother's Day.  First up - scented pear sachets!  I used this simple tutorial by the always fabulous Dacia Ray!  I used the few fabrics I had (+ some ribbons) and although I didn't think they'd match they go pretty good together!  ♥ the textures :)  I filled them with rice which gives them a nice weight mixed up with 4 or 5 teabags for scent (one is peach apricot rooibos and the other pommegranate blueberry)


navy bean dijon tuna salad

I can't believe how many of my friends live on ramen noodles or other junk food claiming they're too broke to eat well.  A tin of tuna, can of beans and head of garlic is probably the same as a few takeout hamburgers.  The flavoured tuna is great on toast/sandwiches (or just with a fork!) and takes less time to prepare than noodles!  I'm into exams now and need good food to power my brain and fuel my all nighters. 

This quick 3 ingredient salad is full of protein and fills you up in a healthy, inexpensive way.
      -170 g can tuna (protein, Vitamin D, omega 3 fatty acids)
      -1 1/2 c navy beans (starch, protein, dietary fibre, iron, potassium)
      -a few cloves crushed garlic (antibacterial, antioxidant, reduce cholesterol)
Mix these three ingredients with 1 1/2 tbsp of Classic Vinaigrette  
(3/4 c olive oil, 3 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 1 tbsp dijon mustard - blend and refrigerate in glass container, use as dressing)

Seafood Watch says tuna is a species with a moderately healthy population and strong management worldwide.  Although B.C. Pacific white tuna would be the "Best Choice", it can be more expensive and hard to find.  For students on a budget: worldwide wild-caught white and light tuna is a "Good Alternative" - just make sure the label says Albacore or Skipjack and has a dolphin friendly or bycatch-reduction label.

I try to stick with Clover Leaf tuna because they are a Canadian company with a strong, scientifically based sustainability policy; a waste reduction policy; and a good description of their process from sea to can


a dangerous addiction: streaming HGTV

I had a large landscape drafting project to finish up to keep my mind off the busy work I wanted to watch something on my computer. What did I discover??  A terribly addictive thing: live streaming HGTV.  At least it gave me lots of inspiration for my design project!  I've never had my own cable, and only got bunny ears this year so specialty channels are a new thing for me.  I watch episodes online but I hate choosing shows and waiting for them to load - so live 24hr HGTV is great... especially Property Virgins in the GTA with Sandra Rinomato! 


pinapple sage / wild garlic pizza

We make homemade pizza just about every day in our house... but surprisingly it doesn't get tiring.  We make incredibly diverse pizzas but I think this one might just win for most unusual.  Going for a twist on the traditional hawaiian pizza and making use of some herbs I had just harvested we had a great combo but unfortunately I didn't get a picture because we ate it up too fast!

Mash up the following ingredients into a pesto-like paste:
- handful of wild garlic shoots (or a couple cloves of crushed garlic)
- bunch of pineapple sage
- lots of walnuts (I ground these up before putting them in)
- some olive oil to your preference for taste/consistency

Spread that mix over the pizza dough as a base then top with:
- ground pork
- crushed pineapple (we used tinned, but I bet fresh would be better)
- grated mozzarella and cheddar cheese


cloth shopping bag up-cycle

I have a million re-usable shopping bags floating around my house now and a shortage of fabric so I figured I'd put them to good use.  Using a flower template by the author of Sweater Surgery (a book I take out constantly from the library) I cut out flower shapes of varying sizes from a white cotton bag and a two blue/black heavier canvas-y bags.

The white cotton flowers were used to cover up an NHL Draft logo on an otherwise very cute black v-neck shirt that my dad gave me a while ago.  You can still sorta see the logo from one side, but I think its much less obvious than a solid patch-job.  I also gave my sewing machine a workout trying the various types of stitching (I recently had it repaired).

From the heavier bag's cloth I made a cute little pillow with black flowers.  Since I only have white thread at the moment I sewed everything up and then used blue and black sharpies to disguise my white thread!  It actually turned out just fine :)


figs & ginger earth day give-away!

Camden wanted to dig a hole for something outside so I suggested he plant the White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis) that was floundering in a container on our steps.  He did a great job and it rained late in the day so hopefully it will be happier in the ground.  Next step: clearing out all the grass so I can make a nice flower bed to accent the tree. 

In a pleasant coincidence I found an Earth Day Necklace Giveaway by Figs&Ginger so I submitted a photo of Cam planting the tree and now I get a free necklace!  (it still counts even if the tree is only knee high right??)  Thanks baby!  (I bought him a couple beers for his trouble too)


upside down planters / book purse

I repurposed a number of craft items today using a couple of rad tutorials!  @designsponge posted a very cool diy project: Upside Down Planters...  HOW COOL IS THAT?  The instructions were nice and simple to follow and when I have more time I'm going to make enough to stretch across my whole window - I love the silhouette they make against my curtains!  I'm using drought tolerant plants - I don't want to be up there watering these all the time. 
 Later this afternoon I made a fun little project that @CAGW posted a while back: Making a Book Purse.  It was a quick after-dinner project so I skipped a few steps - french seams instead of double fabric layers and glue-gun in the cardboard seams but it turned out super cute!  


simple beaded earrings

I found a tutorial by @_leethal_ for making Easy Two-Bead Earrings (I have a thing for making earrings!) I cleaned up my apartment this evening, sorting out a bunch of beads so I wanted to use them up - this was a perfect quick fix.  I made about a dozen pairs with each color of beads :)


what has my plant been eating?

It's a bit early in the season to be thinking about nutrient deficiencies, but as they say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!  I was studying nutrient deficiencies all day for a test I had this afternoon and a few key points really stuck out in my mind.  But first... some background information. 

Plants, like people, require a varied diet and need some nutrients more than others.  Plants require large amounts of macronutrients: N (Nitrogen) for leafy green foliage growth, P (Phosphorus) for flowering, fruit, resisting disease, root growth, K (Potassium) for sturdy stem growth, nutrient flow, stress resistance - which is why fertilizers list the content of these nutrients (i.e. 20-20-20)  These three nutriengs along with Mg (Magnesium) can be easily transported around the plant so they are called mobile nutrients.  Plants have a taste for a wide range of nutrients in smaller doses.  Because the plant requires less of these nutrients they are called micronutrients and include: Ca (Calcium), Iron (Fe), S (Sulfur) and many others.  These nutrients cannot be transported within the plant, so they're called immobile nutrients

So what important lessons did I learn while studying?

#1 -  WATER, WATER, WATER!  Water is super important for making sure your plant gets enough to eat!  Roots can't take up nutrients when there's not enough water.  Watering your plants also has the added benefit of helping your plants stay strong, resist pests and disease. 

#2 - Check your soil pH!  The majority of nutrient deficiencies (and toxicities) are caused by a pH imbalance.  Plants can only take up nutrients when the soil is in a certain pH range.  Home testing kits are inexpensive and since pH can affect other areas of plant growth they're a good idea to have on hand.  pH in small gardens and containers is easy to adjust - add coffee grounds to make the soil more acidic and ground egg shells with a small amount of baking soda to make the soil more alkaline.  To adjust soil pH on a larger scale garden soil amendments can be purchased at garden centers and home stores.  

How can you tell if your plants have a nutrient deficiency?

Tissue testing is the only really accurate way to tell what nutrients your plant is lacking, but some leaf symptoms can indicate your plant is screaming "I'm Hungry!!"  In the link below you can find an easy key  (if you've ever read a Choose Your Own Adventure Book you should figure it out) to follow and find out what your plant is saying.


Bonsai not Banzai!

 Bonsai is an ancient Japanese art form - pruning and shaping a small woody tree to create the illusion of a very old tree in miniature.  The word Bonsai can be broken down into two parts: Bon meaning tray, and sai meaning tree translating literally to Tree in a Tray and is an adaptation of the earlier Chinese word Penjing. 
 In the fall I chose a 2year old Canadian Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) specimen to create my Bonsai from.  Any plant that develops a woody trunk can be formed into a Bonsai provided it tolerates pruning well.  There are a number of specific Bonsai "forms" that can be created - I chose the windswept form.  We used wire to shape the main branches and pruned any extras to create the form we wanted and then left the plants in their original pots in the polyhouses over the winter.  

Today we stripped the roots bare, pruned them back by 1/3 and potted them in a potting mix that we created for ideal drainage and nutrients: 1/3 sand, 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 compost.  After we potted them I chose to decorate my Bonsai with two types of moss I had found growing in the container and some shells I collected from Lake Erie last summer.  I was going for a windswept beachside look especially since the moss shoots look a little bit like reeds and I was also really happy how the butress roots were exposed.  One of my favourite classes yet this year!

If you would like to see some other great specimens of Bonsai and Penjing the US National Arboretum has a virtual tour of their collection.  The Montreal Botanical Gardens have some photos of their collection as well as great information about indoor bonsai, basic care of Bonsai, and suggestions for tree and shrub selection.


Mind the Gap Tote Bag

Being that my favourite author is Neil Gaiman I have always loved this t-shirt, plus it was given to me by a very special friend... but its giant so I only wore it to bed and never got to show it off!  Then I found a great simple tutorial from a great blog I read called Between the Lines and decided to convert my beloved tee into a grocery bag.  I'm hooked!  It was super simple to do and I've got t-shirts in various sizes that I'd love to keep but don't wear anymore.  The bag is strong enough to hold over a dozen huge Red Ida apples but the proportions of the bag said more of a beach tote than market bag to me. 


sunset blend rice

I spent all morning shopping for yummy stuff with my mum.  The market is my main source of food - we had a great lunch lentil soup and falafel wraps from Tonami's, my mom picked up some yummy looking chili sauce, and I got some fresh produce including huge Ida Red apples!  But today's overall hilight: cheese bagels!  The market is great, but you simply can't get everything there and the other place I rely on for food is often overlooked as a regular grocery stop: Bulk Barn (or other bulk food stores).  Shopping in bulk is both eco-friendly economical for many reasons.  You don't pay for marketing or waste packaging, bulk foods are often less expensive, contain less preservatives, and come in a wider selection.  Storing bulk food in the pantry is very handy, and you have a very good idea and control over what ingredients you are consuming.

One of my favourite staple foods is a rice blend called Sunset Blend.  I cook it in vegetable stock to add flavour and its incredibly tasty both warm and cold!   It's available pre-mixed from Bulk Barn but you could easily use or customize the following list of ingredients to make your own blend:  Parboiled medium rice, lemon garlic orzo pasta, sweet potato orzo pasta, Himilayan red rice, brown mustard seed.


Book Review: Wicked Plants

Creatively designed little books entice me the way picture books did when I was a child - there's something so deliciously satisfying about a book with enchanting pictures.  Wicked Plants  is a morbidly informative little book that I love but find a little unsettling detailing all sorts of poisonous plants from those used by the KGB (Castor bean) to those found at home (White Oleander).  

Frederick Law Olmsted, America’s most famous landscape architect and designer of Central Park, was nearly blinded by POISON SUMAC (Toxicodendron vernix).

This book is a compelling mix of botanical fact driven by interesting characters and intertwined with gorgeous etchings by Briony Morrow-Cribbs using a technique that dates back to the 1600s!  (more info). Working from life, photographs, and antique botanical illustrations, she sketched each of the forty plants in the book before etching them into the copper plates.  Amy Stewart has writen a number of other garden books, and if this one is any indication I think I will love them!

If you're still not convinced you can preview the book here
Available in the St. Catharines, Guelph, Hamilton and Toronto Public libraries under the call # 581.65 Ste


repurposed jeans: utility apron

I saw this great idea for repurposing jeans into a utility apron and I figured I'd give it a shot.  I have a ton of pants with no ass pockets (stupid girl pants) and I wear skirts alot in the summer while I'm tending to my rooftop plants.  This apron looked great for holding my trowel, secateurs, plant tags etc!  I'm generally happy with how it turned out except that as the jeans I made it from were too small the waistband sits high and tight on my waist. I'll probably cut that out and make a belt so it can sit lower on my hips. 

Step one: cut out the section of jeans (ass and side pockets)
and strips of a matching or contrasting fabric.

Step two:  finish cut edges with "bias" / ribbon edge
(great instructions here)
I find my straightening iron to be a handy tool for this step
Step three:  stitch closed any cut pockets and
patch/decorate any worn sections
Step four: TADA!


free labour = free flowers

Every Monday morning at an ungodly hour I board a bus all sleepy eyed and stomp off to class in my workboots.  HORT 1011 i.e. "Horticulture Practices" should be renamed Free Labour Class.  We don't learn a whole ton we just spend 3 hours raking, mowing grass, pruning and this week: digging holes.  I understand why we have to do some of this stuff, but it doesn't make me like it any better... I came to college to get out of dead end menial labour jobs!

Sometimes though it pays off...  We do get to spend lots of time outdoors and this week we got free flowers!  Not really the type of stuff I usually pick (not a big fan of fussy pink flowers) but they do really brighten up my bathroom!  The cineraria in the middle and the primulas on each end have a few more blooms left and the pansies inbetween haven't even started to bud yet.  This window box should last me through the spring until I'm ready to put it to use outside.  The tulips from Open House are pretty ragged, I'm not sure if I can dig up the bulbs and replant them either again this season or in the fall for next year but I'll look into it. 


Guelph Farmers Market and Arboretum

 Before heading to Fergus to see the family I spent this gorgeous sunny warm long weekend Saturday in Guelph - my home away from home :)  Cities with a year round farmers market are very lucky and the fantastic Guelph Farmers Market is no exception!  Open from 7am to noon we nearly missed it because we slept in (up late last night telling ghost stories around a campfire) so there was little produce to be had, but lots of great ethnic food choices for lunch and we scored some "Caring Canteloupe" for a soul-rejuvinating snack later.  
I was really impressed with the quality of the art and crafts available - there was a gorgeous wool poncho with hood that I definately covet and some really lovely photography.  Such a gregarious community feeling too - people in Guelph seem so joyous and outgoing.  For a market with such obvious success I'm surprised they're only open once a week.  More markets should take a cue from St. Catharines and open 2 or 3 times a week even if just a few vendors are there.
-     -     -
Then we headed off to the Guelph Arboretum for a hike with a bit of learning thrown in.  2 minutes into our walk we stumbled upon a huuuuuge patch of wild garlic and/or onion (I thought wild garlic only grew in Niagara)  Tori grabbed a few bulbs but I still have some left from last week.  
The arboretum is a great place to explore with fantastical pathways through the forest, tilty boardwalks and a tiny twisty tunnel trail.  It was such a hot day and nobody was around so I ended up walking around in my bra most of the time... its funny to be so warm without any bugs!  After years of living in Thunder Bay its a dream come true to be true to walk around that uncovered without being eaten alive.


cheating at easter eggs

I fell in love with the Polish community along Roncesvalles Ave when I lived in Toronto last year and one thing I especially missed this year was looking in the shop windows decorated with beautiful Pysanka (wax batik easter eggs).  Pysanka making is an ancient artistic custom that is very difficult to learn and the beautiful illustrations have great meaning to the Polish community that I could never hope to fully understand.  That being said I found a simpler way that everyone can participate in the making of Pysanka and although it may be cheating a little the eggs are almost as beautiful and quite alot of fun to make!  

A number of the Polish stores along Roncesvalles sold Pysanka Easter Egg Sleeves made of a kind of shrink wrap plastic that you cut and slip over your hollowed out egg then dip in boiling water to shrink them onto the egg.  Blowing out easter eggs is a chore and a half all on its own so being able to create beautiful Pysanka decorations in just a few seconds is very rewarding!  I got the "Traditional Ornament" set because I wanted mine to look like the traditional Pysanka I saw in the store windows but they come in a wide range of themes from Childrens cartoons to specific national traditional pictures and even product marketing logos!

 A video demonstration of these sleeves can be found here


flowers in bed and found my wallet

I slept in while Camden went to class and woke up to being presented with a lovely potted primrose (Primula vulgaris) - so much better than breakfast in bed!   And its such a beautiful sunny warm day and they found my wallet at the bus terminal!  What more could I ask for?  Camden's so funny though...

Me:  Hey Cam, know what kind of flowers these are?
Camden:  Mini-roses?  Thats what the guy at the market said...
Me:  They're called Primulas
Camden: What's a Primula?  Some kind of lesbian Dracula?