Category Archives: Re-Fresh

Practical tips to refresh your home

Green Acres!!

Oh Boy!
What have we got ourselves into now?
Our new house build is going amazingly quickly – roof goes on this week !!! – however we will not be able to move into it until late September. Since our closing date on the old house was June 27, we had to find alternate living arrangements. Camping on the building site was not really an option (and I’m SO glad since we’ve had the wettest summer so far) and any short term rentals were cottage rentals, at cottage rental rates.
Since my husband and I are both a bit impetuous crazy, we decided to invest in the purchase of a rental cottage ourselves. It needs A LOT of work, however, both to get it liveable, and rentable for next summer.
Luckily for us, my hubby is very handy and I love to paint, so it will be the kind of challenge that we love to take on.
The cottage is a real, old Ontario cottage with a great sunroom and lovely wood floors (under all those layers of Lino) and original wooden slider windows, on a large lot with humongous old maple trees providing natural air conditioning so the place has potential, that’s for sure.
Can we do it? Stay tuned to this blog over the summer as we try.


Green Acres is the place to be!!



We were welcomed by a lovely Sunflower



Huge maple trees on the property dwarf the little cottage



Doesn’t this one look like it’s just made for climbing?



Re-cycling ornaments

Every year I struggle with the sheer amount of Christmas decorations I have. Over the years, despite myself, I have gathered huge amounts of ornaments, mostly plastic. Although I really try to utilize all that I have, there is always a box of ne’er do wells – tired-looking ornaments with bits missing, dusty looking, crumpled, and just sad. Rather than putting them in the landfill, I thought I would try to re-use them by freshening them up a bit.
For my outdoor wreath I used a plastic (sigh!) wreath form which is 30″ in diameter. Every year I take all the ornamentation off it and store it in a bag. When I take it out it has been quite compacted, so I spend a few minutes pulling on every one of the needle branches until they stick straight up. Then I added a string of LED mini lights, tucking the wires in very well and hiding them by bending down the needle branches. I then added a handful of real white pine branchlets all around the wreath going in the same direction. This makes the wreath look a lot more realistic, plus it smells real too.
Just inside the larger wreath I used a plastic laurel wreath, 18″ in diameter that’s looking a little worse for wear, as a base to glue other ornaments onto. I used the wired needle branches of the outer wreath to secure the inner wreath so it wouldn’t move.
Then I pulled the dusty pomegranates off 18 picks I have had for years but hadn’t used. These I sprayed lightly with clear lacquer as I wanted them to be shiny looking. I also spray painted some little plastic apples with a light coat of lime green spray paint. I wanted the original red and gold to come through, but brighten them up a bit.
I hot-glued the painted apples in a ring around the centre of the laurel wreath, and then hot-glued the refreshed pomegranates around them.
Then I pushed any remaining picks and berry branches in around the perimeter to fill in the wreath. I did not use every sad-looking ornament I had. You just have to judge for yourself when there are enough.
Lastly I added a few real berries (rosehips from my garden) around the wreath and a bright red paper bow.
It’s amazing what you can do to recycle ornaments and have them look new and fresh. It takes no time at all really, and you end up with a really festive wreath.

Wreath form

Pull on each of the branchlets until they stick straight up



assorted tired-looking Christmas ornaments

Some pretty sad-looking ornaments from past years



image of real white pine stuck into artificial wreath

Stick some real white pine branchlets around the artificial wreath going in the same direction. Use the wired needles to hold the real ones.


image of laurel wreath inside larger wreath

Affix the smaller wreath inside the larger one by using the wired branches to hold it in place


image of small crabapples hot-glued onto the smaller wreath

Hot-glue the refreshed crabapples in a circle around the smaller central wreath


image of pomegranates glued around the crabapples

Hot-glue the refreshed pomegranates in a circle around the crabapples


Lee Valley brick hanger

Lee Valley brick hanger



Image of completed wreath

Add a festive paper bow and hang it outside using a Lee Valley brick hanger. They work great and are very strong. This wreath weighs around 7lbs.


Decorate Your House for the Holidays!

image of holiday urn insert

It’s so easy to make this gorgeous urn insert!

Year-end celebrations are upon us again. For years, while my children were small, Christmas was very stressful for me. There just seemed to be too much to do and, unfortunately, I got right into the thick of the mass media messaging so prevalent: “buy, buy, buy – no, that’s not enough!, buy more!”
It’s the type of thinking that just overloads your home with “stuff” and plastic. For the last few years, however, I have definitely had a more sane approach, by sticking to one gift per person, and by allowing myself to spend only $10 on new Christmas decorations, not counting the tree or items that can compost or be recycled. I certainly have enough decorations, collected over the years, and I know how to recycle them effectively so that everything looks fresh and new, without having to buy more and more. Over the next couple of weeks I want to share how I do this, starting with this week, where I show how incredibly easy it is to make a stunning urn insert to dress up the outside of your house.
The first thing you need is a couple of plastic pots which fit right inside your outdoor urns. You probably have some left over from the summer. Fill them with garden soil, which hopefully is nice and wet at this time of the year. They will be heavy, so bend your knees when you lift them and spare your back. It’s easiest to bring them indoors and work on a newspaper lined table. Next gather greenery – from your backyard if you are lucky enough to have some growing, or from the garden centre. Buy or gather a lot more than you think you will need. More is better in this case.You will also need 6 each of pomegranates and red apples, wooden chopsticks and some decorative wired burlap for making a bow. This burlap is weather proof and can be re-used for years. For this urn I used white pine boughs, cedar, larch, dogwood, red berries and green hydrangea flowers, all of which grow abundantly in my backyard.
Starting with the tallest boughs, stick them into the soil, starting at the centre and working your way, using smaller and smaller branches, out to the edges in concentric circles.

image of plastic pots filled with garden soil ready for the greenery

Plastic pots filled with soil and ready for the greenery

Keep adding more, working in circles, until your urns start looking really stuffed. Then add more! Add the cedar and larch boughs, filling in any spaces, then finally add a few branches of dogwood and red berries right around the centre bough.

image of pot getting filled

Keep adding greenery until you think you can’t possibly stuff any more in!

Stick the wooden chopsticks into the bottom of both the pomegranates and apples and insert them into the centre as well. Make sure they are propped up by the surrounding greenery as they can be heavy. Finally, gently add the hydrangea flowers around the centre bough.
Then, make a big bow out of the burlap, (and I used some decorative ribbon as well). Use a bit of wire or black twist ties and securely wire it to one of the larger branches in your insert.
Water every day until it is completely frozen and it will last right through until the Spring. The squirrels will eat the apples, but not the pomegranates.

Beautiful Skin starts with natural exfoliation

picture of the author's Mother

Janina Wodecki 1930-2007

If you ever knew my Mother, you would have been astonished by how smooth and wrinkle-free her facial skin was, right into her 70’s. I’m sure part of that was her personality shining through as she was ever calm and did not like to show too much expression on her face (part of her English upbringing, I guess). Another part of it was that her skin was so super-senstitive that she really could not use any products on it. She washed her face with cold water and used vaseline (horrors!) as a winter moisturizer. A secret she shared with me in how she kept her skin looking so fresh was her particular method of natural skin exfoliation.

All you need is pure glycerine soap, such as Pears soap (from England, but available in many grocery stores). Basically all you have to do is: about once a week in the winter and 2 or 3 times a week in the summer, whilst showering, lather your face up well with the Pears soap. Leave it on your skin for one minute and then rinse off. When you’re done showering, using your fingers, massage your face in a circular motion, around and around your nose and cheeks, your forehead and skin, and all those yucky dead skin cells will roll right off and can be easily rinsed away. When you get out of the shower, make sure you put on a moisturizer right away, such as my favourite – a drop of organic jojoba oil which does my whole face and neck. Voila – reveal your fresh new skin.
Exfoliation of skin is very important as it gets off those old, grimy skin cells which are actually bonded to the skin layer below. While body exfoliation is not really a problem, because our clothes, towels and bedsheets naturally exfoliate us all day long, facial exfoliation usually has to be done mechanically either with a granular or chemical exfoliant, both of which are way too harsh for sensitive skins, or using the glycerine soap method, which, technically, is a chemical method, it’s very mild. The glycerine soap works by actually dissolving the bond between the old, dead skin cells and the fresh new ones below.
Who knew?

Natural Cleaners

Isn’t it wonderful that four times a year – Spring and Summer, Fall and Winter, our bodies follow a natural circannual rhythm to prepare us for the season ahead. In the Fall it causes us to want to eat more carb and fat-laden foods and to want to clean up our “nests” to prepare for hibernation.
This rhythm is regulated primarily by the amount of sunlight hitting the retina, so if you are experiencing sleep abnormalities at this time of year, you might want to take an early morning walk without wearing sunglasses. I’ve tried doing that for a week and it has certainly helped.

This is the second great clean-up time of the year. The first being Spring, when we really want to clean up from the Winter’s excesses, and the second in the Fall, when we want to clean up from Summer’s excesses.
The garden has pretty much died and needs to be cleaned up.
The house is looking pretty grimy and needs more attention than a weekly “going over”. Windows need washing, closets need going through, with summer clothes cleaned properly, stored and exchanged for winter ones.
Furnace filters and smoke alarm batteries need changing.
When it comes to cleaners – buyer beware! There are a lot of cleaners out on the market today that purport to be “all natural”, “green”, “phosphate free”, “biodegradable”, etc. etc. Sometimes, they just have a picture of flowers on the packaging, but they’re not “green” at all.
Like with anything else, you must use your common sense and read the labels. Considering that phosphates have been banned for more than 20 years, the value of the term “Phosphate Free” on advertising is nil.
What you really need to look for on the package is:
Third party certification: look for logos such as the Ecologo or Ecocert.
Biodegradable OECD 301 E or D in 28 days or less
Recyclable packaging, also made from recyclable materials.
Phthalate free, petrochemical free.
A list of all the ingredients. This is not mandatory yet, but some companies disclose them.
Some odd but effective cleaning materials I have found to work well:

Image of soapnuts

Don’t try to eat these soapnuts!

Image of Himalayan Soapnuts

Himalayan Soapnuts for Laundry

                                                                                                                                                                                 Ecoideas Himalayan Soap Nuts. They are the outside part of the seed of the Sapindus Mukorossi tree, a relative of the Lychee nut native to India.
You put 4-6 of these dried soapnuts in with your load of washing in cold water. They work well in an HE machine, as well as a regular machine and are great for preserving the colours of clothes. They come with a little cotton bag to put them in but I have found through experience that a piece of old panythose works much better at keeping them contained.

Image of pantyhose with soapnuts inside

soapnuts in pantyhose, ready for the washer

You can dry and re-use the nuts (right in the pantyhose) another 4 times. Then you just cut open the pantyhose and dispose of them with your kitchen compost. This product is also available as a liquid if you don’t like the idea of putting soapnuts in your washer.
Another product that I think is really great, for many reasons, is Ecoideas BioGreen crystals. Along with being very effective cleaners, they are completely non-toxic, hypo-allergenic and come in a small package. You drop the concentrated crystals into an empty spray bottle, top up with water and you have a whole bottle of cleaner, or stain remover or window washer or what have you.
Both these products are available at Goodness MeImage of  Biogreen crystals

If you’re ready to give up using dryer fabric softener sheets (which aren’t that good for you, or the environment), try Natura fabric softener cloths. They are available at Home Hardware. You just leave them in your dryer permanently, and they last for years and years.
No, I don’t work for or get endorsements from Ecoideas, or Natura, I just like their products.
Or – Make Your Own!
Since you may have already cut up some panythose to put your soapnuts in, you might want to try making your own dryer balls. I have not tried this yet, but I intend to as, apparently, using 3 of these recycled wool balls with your dryer load allows you to consume 30% less electricity. And you know what an electricity miser I am!
Check out this website as well for tips and tricks on making your own natural cleaners. It seems simple enough, and I like the idea of having a spray bottle of (safe) cleaner on my counter all-purpose spraycleaner recipe. For a recipe for homemade, natural liquid laundry detergent that seems very simple to make, check out this link
I haven’t tried these recipes yet, but I intend to, just to see how effective they are.

Holistic Wellness – Healthy Eating

You really ARE what you eat!!


If you have been following my blog for any length of time then you can see that it’s all over the place regarding the topics. Well, not really. It’s all been part of the Master Plan!!

Wellness, in general, encompasses every single little thing that we are exposed to, and so, by definition, is holistic, and that includes the environment you live in, from the quality of the air inside your home to the colours on your walls and the the textiles and materials you furnish your home with.

I am a Holistic Interior Designer, which means that I make your home look wonderful, but in a manner that’s safer and healthier for you, your family and the environment.

However, no amount of organic textiles, zero VOC paints or re-purposed items will help you feel better if you are not eating properly, exercising, and generally looking after your health in a holistic fashion.

Of all the things you can be doing to help yourself, what you eat is by far the most important. You really ARE what you eat, so, sadly, if you eat a lot of junk food, you will pay the piper eventually in the form of chronic or acute disease.

If you feel that your diet has been poor so far, but you don’t know where to start or how to begin, just remember to start by taking small steps, and don’t give up. It takes a while to re-learn old habits.

Start small by:


Start by shopping around the perimeter of your store – choosing as many fruits and vegetables as you can. If possible, buy local and/or organic as much as possible. Try really hard not to buy any processed or pre-packaged food.  Although they may look appealing, they are chock-a-block full of sodium, preservatives and chemicals to make them taste better.


Learn to cook. There’s no point in buying all these fruits and vegetables if you don’t know what to do with them. Luckily there’s such a vast gamut of cooking websites, many with how-to videos so you can learn the techniques you will need to cook succesfully.


Try not to eat out as much as possible. Unfortunately, most restaurants rely on deep-frying to make foods taste better – but it’s really not good for you at all. The oil that is used begins to develop trans-fats in it almost immediately, and we all know that restaurants will keep the deep-frying oil for several days and just keep re-using it. So the food, no matter how wholesome it starts out, is being cooked in a toxic cocktail. Blegh!


Be organized. If you lead a really busy, hectic lifestyle, set aside a day a week to plan, shop, pre-prepare the ingredients you might need, and or pre-cook and freeze. A great resource for meal planning in this way is Sandi Richard. She also has a cooking show where she helps various families get organized with their meal planning.

For a lot more really helpful advice,and some wonderful recipes,I recommend you check out Julianne Bitely’s website. She is a wellness coach in Little Rock. On her website is a link to an e-book on Intergrative Nutrition written by Joshua Rosenthal (the founder of the Institute for Integrative Nutritionthat you can download for free.

Eat Really Local!

Eat REALLY Local!!


My garden is growing like crazy. (For the “before” pictures, check out my previous post on this garden).

I have experimented with planting different species of tomatoes – both hybrids and heirlooms just to see the difference.

There truly is a very visible difference as you can see from these pictures.

I have planted extremely intensively, having my tomato plants only a foot apart, but you can see that the Early Girl tomatoes, although they are heavy bearing (which is what they were hybridized to do!) have been attacked quite heavily by spider mites, whereas the heirlooms on either side are growing very vigorously indeed, with no incidence of spider mites even though the plant a foot away is infested.

Early Girl hybrids/spider mite

I have been having a problem, however, with blossom end rot and the tomato flowers just not producing the fruit, but turning brown and drying up.

Milk Sprayer
Blossom end-rot

I looked into it, and I have started spraying my blossom end rot plants with milk spray (1/2 cup instant skim milk powder into an empty 2 litre pop bottle, then fill with water) and we will see what happens.

The non-producing flowers, however, are a much simpler problem to fix.

In my quest to find the perfect spot for my tiered planting beds, I thought the very best spot in the world was in my back yard, between cedar hedges, and protected from the wind.

Well, they are so protected that I believe they are not being pollinated sufficiently by the wind. Tomatoes are self-pollinating, which means that both anthers and pistil (male and female parts) are in the same flower. BUT, they rely on either wind pollination or bees. With the reduction in bee population, and lack of wind in my backyard, that leaves ME!

blossoms withering

Luckily, it’s very easy to pollinate a tomato by hand. All you have to do is give the flowers a little shake. Here’s me shakin’ up the tomatoes!

I will let you know if it worked or not in a future post.

All in all my gardening “experiment” has been a success.

Last night we had a most delicious grilled eggplant dish, and we have been eating grilled Swiss chard at least twice a week for a month now. It has become my favourite (and I didn’t particularly care for Swiss chard before) not only because it’s delicious, but also because I think it’s the perfect vegetable – not really susceptible to pests (except cheeky chipmunks!), and whenever you pick a stem, it seems that two grow back to replace it! How good is that? 



8,9 or 10 (or however many you want) swiss chard leaves and stems

Glorious Swiss Chard!

1/2 a large or 1 small onion

kosher salt

olive oil

Wash and chop the stems very well and slice into about 1/2″ pieces.

Put a piece of foil onto a medium-hot barbeque

Dump the stems and chopped onion onto the foil, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt.

Close the lid and let cook for about 5 minutes.

Add the chopped leaves, close the lid and cook for a further 3 minutes or until the leaves are quite wilted.

Enjoy with abandon!

Chop those Swiss Chard Stems