Monthly Archives: July 2012

Eat Local!

Eat Local!

Why is it important to eat locally produced fruit and vegetables?

Reduced travel time for produce means that the nutritional value is greater, the produce just tastes so much better and fresher, and more importantly, we are supporting our local farmers.

We are so lucky in Ontario that we have such an abundance of Farmers Markets

Farmer’s Markets are so great as we get a chance to interact with the people who are actually growing the produce we put into our mouths every day. I feel so fortunate to live in an area called “the food basket of Canada”. We have such an incredibly varied abundance of produce available to us for many, many months of the year, with some crops (greenhouse cucumbers and tomatoes) available to us year-round.

freshly picked strawberries!

Tell me: what is not to love about incredibly sweet, perfectly ripe Ontario strawberries or peaches, or when the days and nights start getting cooler, biting into a freshly picked Ontario apple?

Incredible!

Another way to eat local and support our local farmers is to take part in a CSA, which is “Community Supported Agriculture”. This is where, often in the Spring, you can purchase a “share” of a farms future bounty.

A share typically costs a few hundred dollars, depending on the size of your family, and for that you can expect a basket of whatever is being harvested that week at the farm. Click here for a list of Ontario CSA’s.

Chopping homegrown Swiss Chard

That means that sometimes (in Spring, for instance) there’s not a whole lot in the basket. But that gets balanced out by the Fall baskets, which often are over-brimming with freshly picked goodness!

Some CSA’s also have additional “goodies” such as greenhouse items or baked bread if their farm does that.

Lake trout = happy Fisherman!

And of course, the best possible way to eat local, reduce the travel time for your veggies and know exactly what is going into your produce is to grow (or in some cases catch) your own.

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Living Things

Living Things

Everyone needs to be reminded of nature, especially if you are a city dweller.

Ideally you could have a companion animal such as a dog or cat, but often this is not possible due to allergy or other restrictions. Fish in an aquarium can be a very beautiful reminder of nature and can often be placed in even the smallest of spaces. Caring for a companion animal or petting a dog or cat, can bring great benefits to your health, relieving stress and bringing calm. Having a pet can also be a great introduction to responsibility for a young child.

The energy that a living, moving animal brings to your space helps to “enliven” it, but even motionless living things, namely plants, are of great benefit to our health. All living plants will clean the air and produce oxygen to some extent – some more than others. For a list of the best plants for removing toxins from our indoor environment, click here

Often people say they have no room for plants, but there are some very creative ways to incorporate plants into the smallest home or office environment. This planter, for instance, could even be hung onto an office cubicle divider and would help to clean the (sometimes) stale, air-conditioned air of your office space.

Of course, this does not include dried plants, which should not be kept in the home due to their connotation of death. Artificial plants are also not ideal, as they really bring no benefit except for the visual one. Keep your artificial plants down to just a few floral arrangements, if you must, but make sure they are really realistic-looking and also make “sense”, i.e. change out your tulip centrepiece once Spring is over and if you have combinations of plants in an arrangement, have them be plants which grow together in nature.

Contrary to common belief, living plants are incredibly easy to care for – many needing (and wanting) water only once a month or so. Air plants need no watering at all, taking everything they need from the air. Living walls are also becoming increasingly popular. This is a stunning example of the sculptural beauty of a living wall in Madrid

In many cities with lots of highrises, living roofs are not only being encouraged, but mandated, due to the incredible benefits we get from outside plants – temperature regulation, toxin removal, oxygen production, and of course, the visual benefits of seeing “green” things.

Toronto green roof bylaw

Surround yourself with living things, get rid of dead things, and feel your energy levels rise!

Lighting and Illumination

Lighting and Illumination  

The basic building blocks of interior design are colour, texture, form and shadow, but in the absence of adequate lighting to illuminate our decorating, we have nothing. Adequate light, both natural and artificial, brings design to life. Homeowners often make the mistake of hanging heavy draperies and window treatments over their windows to embellish them. While it is wonderful to soften the outlines of a square-edged window, and important to control sunlight getting in, especially from a South or West exposure, too often it’s overdone. Let the light and fresh air in! Take down your old draperies and sheers, wash your windows and see what new perspective you can gain! If you’re very lucky and have a fabulous view and great window architecture, don’t cover your windows at all!

If you decide you need privacy or light control, consider a natural weave linen, cotton or silk in light colours made into operable curtains which can be drawn back during the day. If you really need to obscure the view, consider a Silhouette-type blind, which still lets a lot of natural light through, but not an ugly view, if that’s what you have to deal with.

Hunter Douglas Silhouette blind

Artificial lighting in the evening should consist of three different types: ambient, task and focal. Ambient lighting just means overall illumination, usually coming from potlights or a ceiling fixture and is meant to generally illuminate the room, but softly, not harshly. This is where you can get away with compact fluorescent bulbs or lower wattage potlight bulbs, or at least have your ambient lighting on a dimmer switch. Task lighting, on the other hand, should have enough “strength” to actually illuminate what you are doing. It is pointless to have a dim bulb in a reading light or desk light. You may be saving electricity, but you’re not doing your eyes any favour! Spot lighting creates the drama in a room.

Spot lighting adds drama

Findsomething that you really love: artwork, a plant, a display of found items, a sculpture, etc. and focus a small beam of light towards it or from below if it’s a plant. My favourite light for this purpose is the Jansjo worklamo from Ikea. It is a very small, focused LED gooseneck lamp sold as a desk lamp, but works extremely well as a spotlight. At $10 it’s a bargain! It’s also available in a clamp-on version. In this picture, my friends at CDECA GTA West used a whole bunch of them to spotlight our booth at the Hamilton Home Show.

Take into account all these types of lighting and watch your decorating come to life!

Spot lighting silk and artwork at our CDECA GTA West booth

Harmony & Connectedness

Harmony and Connectedness

Harmony refers to both how all the items and colours you choose to have around you connect with each other, and also about how they connect with the Earth.

Harmony in colour

Decorating with a Social and Environmental Conscience? You Bet! Decorating to provide a vibrant sense of joy and harmony – of course! But how?

Surround yourself with a harmonious arrangement of colours, furniture, accessories and artwork made of mostly natural or naturally sourced materials obtained in an ethical fashion.

Natural and living materials by Michael Fullen Design Group

Also, include live or living or natural items in every room. Plants, stones, driftwood, shells, flowers, wood, wicker, rattan, bamboo as well as pets such as fish, birds and dogs and cats are all important items which resonate with us on a deep visceral level and keep us in touch, even slightly, with the wider Universe around us.

It is so important to have this feeling of connectedness around us. It helps us to feel in harmony with nature, and this, in turn, will help us feel in harmony with one another.

The simplest arrangement of garden flowers

When we feel in harmony with nature, we think twice about harming the environment. Every time we look at a plant or animal, it helps us to get more in touch with Mother Nature, and hopefully we will then become more environmentally aware, and make choices which do less harm to the Earth, and ourselves. For instance, we might choose to purchase an organic textile over a man-made one.

Gorgeous organic fabrics

Organic textiles are gorgeous, and also do less harm to the environment because no harmful pesticides or herbicides have been used in their production. They are not made of polluting petrochemicals, they are (generally speaking) produced ethically, with the workers being paid a fair, living wage. For a fantastic blog on the real scoop about synthetic vs. natural fibers check out o ecotextiles They truly do an outstanding job on researching and telling it like it is.

If we can feel really good about the ethical, socially responsible choices we make for our furnishings and decorating then we are living harmoniously on the planet and leaving a slightly smaller footprint for our future generations to contend with.

Harmony in fabrics and furniture by Muse Interiors