Friday, December 21, 2012

Does Santa use front doors?

I LOVE our house.  I love the size of it, the layout, everything.  I already know I will be devastated when we decide to upsize, because I will miss our cute little first house.  But I do know it's likely that within the next few years we will outgrow this house and move onto something bigger.  With that in mind, I still check out Open Houses from time to time, just to see what's out there in the neighbourhood.

I recently visited a home for sale just a few streets away from us, and really loved it too, even though it could use some decorating and fix-ups.  But the house itself was a house I could picture us living in for years.  It was a side-split with 3+1 bedrooms, a large open-concept main floor, a family room in the basement, a huge backyard, lots of parking, a big deck off the dining room... and THREE wood-burning fireplaces.

If I had to tell you one thing I would change about our current house, it's that I always wish it had a fireplace (well actually, there are 2 things - I wish it had a walk-out to the backyard, but now I'm just pushing my luck).  Realistically, there is no room in our living room for a fireplace.  If we had one, it would mean all the furniture arrangements would have to change, and it would close the room off a lot more; I like how open it is right now.  But it's definitely on the wishlist for the next house, and I think that's one reason I loved that particular Open House so much.

Anyway, with a baby now on the way, it occurred to me that within the next few years, I'll be explaining to a little one about how Santa will be visiting our house, and how he'll...... well.... wait a minute now, how WILL he get into our house??  My childhood home had a fireplace, so I've never encountered this question before.

For those of you who grew up without a fireplace, please tell me!  How did Santa get into your house?  Was this a concern for you as a kid?

I think I have a few years before my future child will grasp the concept, and maybe by then we will have moved.  But in the meantime, I've been gawking over beautifully decorated fireplaces and mantles on Pinterest, Houzz, and blogs, and thought I'd share a few that I find especially festive and/or beautiful.

I guess I'm especially drawn to more modern fireplaces (although it seems like so many of them are gas, and I would always choose wood-burning over gas):

Love that this one has built-ins and a mantle.

So neat to have one as a room divider, so that you can enjoy it from so many angles!

Love this extra-long fireplace that 
makes the whole wall a feature

But a lot of the modern looks also don't have a mantle.  I love the way a mantle looks decorated for the holidays (not to mention, a place to hang the stockings!):

So classic (Source: Pinterest; root source unknown)
Festive! (Source: Pinterest; root source unknown)
While this one doesn't appear to be functional
(if a real fireplace at all), I think this is a GREAT way to
get the outdoorsy feel of a fireplace.
Source: Pinterest
Love the wintery theme!
Source: Better Homes & Gardens via Pinterest
Simple but beautiful  (Source: Pinterest)
Love the simplicity (Source: Pinterest)

And last but not least, I LOVE this retro fireplace.  A real wood-burning version would be nice!

If it's electric, do you still need to vent it?
 (Source: Pinterest; root source unknown)
So where do you hang your stockings?  And how will Santa get into your house this year?

Monday, December 17, 2012

What to do with all those Christmas cards

I LOVE Christmas cards.  I admit that the primary reason that I send them out myself, is so that I will get some back in return.  There's nothing quite as nice as coming home to a mailbox filled with mail other than bills!

But it does beg the question - what do you do with all of those cards at the end of the season?

I tend to keep some of the more personal cards - especially the photo cards, and the ones with personal notes written in them.  But I also get a lot that are simply signed by the sender, sometimes without so much as my name written in them.  I have no problem getting rid of those.  But instead of tossing them in the recycling bin, I put them to use.  They are the cards that keep on giving!

Before our wedding, we purchased a round Fiskars Squeeze Punch so that we could make round labels for all our wedding favours.  The punch we purchased was 1.5", but any size bigger than that would be useful too.  That circular punch was one of the best purchases I ever made!  I get so much use out of it.

So after Christmas, I take all the cards that I'm about to discard, and search for any spot on the card with a pretty design, pattern, or mini picture, and I punch it out!

Excuse the awful lighting....  The words "natural daylight" have not existed in Toronto lately.

Then I use a regular punch to add a hole to that cut-out, and ta-da!  Instant labels for next year's Christmas gifts!!

It's SUCH an easy task.  I do it while I watch TV.   You could also punch tags out of old gift bags that are too banged up to use as bags, and with birthday cards and other note cards for use at other occasions.  You'd be surprised what looks good in a little 1.5" diameter circle!

So there you have it!  No need to discard Christmas cards in a few weeks.  Waste not, want not!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Quite possibly the coolest tool on the internet

Remember how almost a year ago I got a new headboard for Christmas?  And then how we sold the old bed, bought a new bed frame, and painted some Kijiji night tables?

....well.... that's all that's been done to the bedroom since!   I still aspire to get new pulls on the night tables, new bedside lamps, maybe a rug beside the bed, and most importantly, to paint!  I'm ashamed to show this picture to you.  Most blogs are all about beautifully staged and styled photographs.  But Mary's Dwellings is all about real life folks!  Here it is in all its current glory:

Cleaning up the night tables is also on the list!!

I always thought I'd paint one feature wall behind the headboard, and my inclination was to go with a dark grey.  I'm noticing there is a LOT of grey in our house lately though.  So I'm wondering if I need to spice things up with a different colour.  Our duvet cover from Crate & Barrel has a whole array of colours that would coordinate nicely, but I'm reluctant to commit to a colour from the duvet - I like how simply you can change up a room by changing the bedding.... IF the paint colour is generic enough.

Anyway!  This brings me back to the coolest tool on the internet!   I recently learned about Sherwin-Williams' Visualizer tool on their website.  It allows you to upload a picture, and then select an area that you'd like to see with different colours of paint.  The site was very straightforward to use.  Selecting the area was also pretty easy  You aren't limited to a perfect polygon - you can really outline around furniture and other things in the room.  

I had so much fun trying out different colours for our feature wall.  I especially like the way it sort of hides a little bit of the junk in the room.

I don't feel like I'm much further along in the decision-making process, but it definitely gives me a lot to ponder over!   For those of you, like myself, who neither have Photoshop nor know how to use it, this is the site for you!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A 2-foot addition

There's really no excuse for taking what - 4? 5? months away from this blog.  It's definitely not for a shortage of things to say!  In fact, there are so many posts I'd like to share, that if I can get my act together, you can expect a whole slew of posts over the next few weeks.

But you see, I've been a little distracted over the past little while, as we've been preparing for an addition to our house.  A 2-foot addition.

Doesn't sound like much, right?  Why would anyone add 2 feet to their house?  Well, truth be told, this addition will not ADD space, but rather, will probably take up a LOT of space.  Because my friends, the additional 2 feet are coming in the form of a baby - I am due in February!  We announced this to our family and friends much in the same way as I just told you, and attached a copy of the "rendering", which of course was the ultrasound picture.

I'm a whole range of emotions about this - mostly thrilled and excited, but also terrified and anxious.  We've definitely got some learning to do!  We've also got lots of adapting to do.  Our little house has been perfect for the 2 of us, but I can't imagine how it will feel once our new roommate gets here with all his/her stuff!!

We've been busy trying to choose products like strollers, nursery furniture, nursery paint colours, etc.  We've also been making a mad dash to finish our built-in office in the basement, which was already too long in the making, but now is of particular priority!  Moving everything OUT of the old office (which will now be the nursery) has also been a big project, and we suddenly feel like we have WAY too much stuff, and the baby is not even here yet.

I am SO excited for what lies ahead.  I am also happy to say that I have been feeling great (which I know brings us back to the question of where I have been for the past few months!?).

And on that note, I hope to now return to regular scheduled programming!  (And no, I promise not to make it all baby baby baby.... there are already tons of blogs out there that do that so well!)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Improving the Area

Does your neighbourhood have a Business Improvement Area (BIA)?

The City of Toronto website describes BIA's as:

A Business Improvement Area (BIA) is an association of commercial property owners and tenants within a defined area who work in partnership with the City to create thriving, competitive, and safe business areas that attract shoppers, diners, tourists, and new businesses. By working collectively as a BIA, local business have the organizational and funding capacity to be catalysts for civic improvement, enhancing the quality of life in their local neighbourhood and the City as a whole.

Toronto now celebrates a total of 72 BIAs across this City, representing over 32,000 businesses — the largest number of BIAs in North America. Together, they generate over $25 million in funding towards street and sidewalk beautification, marketing and promotional campaigns, street festivals, clean street / graffiti-removal campaigns, and crime prevention strategies. BIAs also acts as a unified voice to address issues on behalf of their membership.

While the City of Toronto website lists 72 official BIA's, local business owners not too far from where we live have just succesfully voted to develop the city's 73rd, The Queensway BIA.

Although we live just beyond the boundaries of the area, I am fully in support of this initiative, which I feel will benefit all surrounding neighbourhoods.  I'd love to be within close proximity of great local shops and restaurants, and I would love even more for our neighbourhood to be a destination for people from other areas.  Matt and I have been known to get on the highway and drive across the city for ice cream and burgers (sometimes both on the same night!).  I would love to have people from other areas driving to OUR area for similar reasons.  (Ed's Real Scoop and Burgers Priest, do you hear me?!)

While our house doesn't fall within the boundaries of any of the city's BIA's, but we are surrounded by a number of others, including:
  • The Kingsway
  • Mimico By The Lake
  • Mimico
  • Lakeshore Village
  • Roncesvalles Village
  • Bloor West Village
To me, most of these represent areas that have already benefited from significant improvement and rejuvenation over recent years, with lots of successful local businesses opening, beautification of streets, and increased sense of community.  The BIAs also hold festivals and events throughout the year, that are of benefit to both business owners and the local residents.




Liberty Village, where our rental condo is located, also has a BIA.  That area is undergoing such mass development, and I think that the LVBIA has been helpful in giving local businesses some direction and cohesiveness.  Some of the initiatives that have occured in the community, thanks to the LVBIA, include the "Benchmark Program" which saw old benches transformed into public art pieces, increased bike storage/locks, discounted TTC Metropasses for employees in the area, and an annual after-work street party. 

The Benchmark Program brought on by the LVBIA
 I'm anxious to see what the Queensway BIA has planned.  The local city councillor has announced that on September 29th, the BIA's first festival "Celebrate the Queensway" will take place in a local park.  I hope this is just the beginning of many great things for our neighbourhood.

Is there a BIA in your community?  What benefits has it brought to the area?

Monday, June 11, 2012

The beauty of moss

When we first visted our current house during an Open House, we thought the backyard patio looked great.  We liked that the previous owners had laid stone, creating a nice setting for table and chairs.  It's a pretty alternate to a deck.

And then we bought the house, and we realized what a pain in the you-know-what the stone is.  There is sand and gravel in between the patio stones....  or that's where it's supposed to be.  But instead, it ends up everywhere.  No amount of sweeping gets the sand and gravel back into the crevices.  Also, it's a haven for weeds.  The legs of chairs always seem to fall into the crevices, and it's NOT nice for walking barefoot.

So we're thinking that we want to grow some sort of ground cover or moss in between the crevices.   I love the way this looks!

I also love the use of succulents and other ground covers in the bigger gaps.  Something like this might be nice around edges and up the walkway along the side of the house, where the patio stones are way more spaced out (and the weeds even more plentiful).

This is the side of the house in all its glory right now.  Don't you love all the "greenery"?  hah!

Funny enough, we do have one tiny patch of moss to start with:  

I take this as a great sign that more moss is in my future!  

I really do love how simple and natural it is, and also how green it is!  Isn't it funny how pretty it can be? 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Testing out my green thumb

When I first saw our house, one of the things I loved most was the generous-sized yard. For Toronto standards, it's pretty big. But one of the things I liked least was the chain link fence that encompasses the yard. By my estimates, we're looking at at least 150' of visible chain link fence. Blech.

This fence space is shared with 5 different neighbours, so we're also dealing with not a lot of privacy. The thing that strikes me most odd, is that most of our neighbours have been living in their houses for decades, and none of them ever changed their fences. In fact, none of them have even done anything to make them more private, or to disguise the chain link at all.

Why would you not want to do something like this?


Or even this as a partial solution:


We moved in to the house towards the end of summer 2010, and by that time, some Morning Glory vines had covered portions of the fences.  Morning Glory is really pretty when the flowers open up, and that stuff can GROW! It tends to grow a little wild once it gets going, and it was all over everything.  So last summer I made it my mission to take it away from the places we didn't need it, and tried to make it to cover as much of the fence as possible.  The problem is, it doesn’t really fill in until August or so, and I still experienced fence hatred for most of the summer. 

Since a new fence isn't in the budget for now, Matt and I made a trip to the garden centre, and here’s what we came away with:

  • A Climbing Hydrangea
  • 2 Honeysuckle Vines -  one is a male ("Hercules") and one is a female ("Diane"), and apparently they need to be planted in close proximity in order for Diane to bloom
  • Clematis

Additionally, I added 3 more perennials to the mix, because who doesn’t love a plant that comes back year-after-year without too much effort?! 
  • Peony plant
  • Hydrangea plant
  • “Double knock-out” rose bush

I strategically planted the vines in front of the metal poles that support the fence.   Those are the most unsightly part in my opinion.  Once those get hidden a bit, the green fence will not stand out quite so much. 

I'm not much of a gardener, so I'm hoping I don't kill these plants.  I am already so excited to see their progress, and I visit them almost every night after work to see how they are doing.  Apparently peony plants often don't bloom in their first year, so I'm trying to keep my expectations in check. 

I'd love to properly landscape the backyard at some point, but for now, these are just sort of randomly placed to hide the fence. 

At some point, I will probably have to put up some sort of supports for the clematis, which is already growing quite a bit (!).  I saw these cool screens on the IKEA website, and I feel like I could use them to change the look of the yard quite a bit:

But I'm not sure the protocol on privacy screens. Can I just put one up, or do I have to consult with my neighbours, whose sunlight would be affected?
While I worked on Operation-Hide-the-Fence, Matt worked on Vegetable Garden Year 2.  Last year went pretty well, and with a little experience under his belt, he’s aiming bigger and better this year. 

Here's a sampling of the homegrown veggies we hope to be eating by the end of the summer.

Have you done any gardening?  Do you have any tips for hiding a chain link fence?