31 March 2014

DIY electronics charging station...sort of

OK, confession time- I didn't make this version.  I started to make my own charging station for my tablet and phone out of a heavyweight cardboard box. 

Some packing tape, pretty card stock paper and modge podge was all I needed. But I wasn't completely happy with the paper I had on hand to cover it with, so I popped into my neighborhood Target store to get some more. Then I saw the exact thing I was going to make on clearance for $3.50 and it was to be discontinued. One left. In the colour and pattern I was looking for. Fate? Temptation? I argued with myself in the aisle (hopefully not out loud) about whether to consume a new good most likely made overseas instead of making it myself. Convenience won out. I know. I still feel guilty, but man it looks nice on my sideboard and I love how it collects everthing in an organized way.  

I poked two holes into it for the cords of my electronics and that was it. 

I still think it would be easy to replicate with the cardboard, and maybe I'll finish mine someday to use as a gift. 

This not buying stuff is hard sometimes, isn't it? 

28 March 2014

8 ways to upcycle rope in your home

Rope is natural, easy to work with and inexpensive, so what better material to bring into your home to use for decorating? Here are eight cool ways to upcycle and repurpose rope - and I think all of these can be DIY'd pretty easily. I may have try try one or two very soon...

unknown source

26 March 2014

DIY all-natural healthy home air freshener

Have you gotten rid of all the store-bought highly scented room fresheners and candles in your home yet? They've proven to be harmful to our health by emitting toxins from the fragrance, chemicals and paraffin waxes. The best way to freshen your home is by opening the windows and letting fresh air in. Adding houseplants will also help tremendously by absorbing toxins in the air. 

But I still love to enter my home and be greeted by a lovely subtle sweet smell. So the way I'm now doing that is by adding lavender - in a couple of ways. First, a few sachets of dried organic lavender, including one in the entry and one on my nightstand, smell wonderful and promote relaxation. I got mine from NEOB Lavender located in Niagara-on-the-Lake. 

Second, I took the the opportunity to make something cute as a natural fragrance infuser. Out came a trusty mason jar and baking soda, which, of course, absorbs odour. I added a bit of dried lavender to the baking soda, along with 15 drops of lavender essential oil. Instead of securing with the tin cover, I swapped it for a piece of decorative card stock paper and punched pin holes to release the fragrance. A little washi tape around the lid and it makes a great-looking addition to any room. 

homemade, DIY, all-natural, organic air freshener

Do you have other ways to naturally freshen your home? I'd love to hear more ideas. 

23 March 2014

6 eco-friendly ways to create a healthy bathroom

There are a number of quick and easy things you can do to refresh your bathroom to make it both stylish and also healthy for you and the planet. 

1. Change your shower curtain to all natural materials and ditch the plastic vinyl liner. Plastic shower liners are made with PVC which contains carcinogens and other toxins that can off-gas and leave toxins in your home. Get rid of them now. Unfortunately these are not biodegradable so our landfills are filling up with them. And absolutely do not burn them- that's when they release even more toxins in a high concentration. 

Switch to a liner made of PEVA, which is PVC-free, chlorine-free and biodegradable. Affordable options are popping up everywhere, such as Target and IKEA. Then make sure that your outside curtain is a natural material, like 100% cotton, linen or hemp.

I recently switched out my polyester curtain (a man-made material that also emits toxins) for a 100% cotton one from Target that came with a PEVA liner.

2. Swap your toiletries for all-natural and organic options. Using organic hand-made soaps not only cleans your hands and body without the added chemicals and carinogens that come with commercial brands, they also make your bathroom smell great. Stock up and store them in a glass jar and open the lid to wonderfully refresh the room.

3. Use natural solutions for cleaning your bathroom. Vinegar and water make a great all-purpose bathroom cleaner, and baking soda works wonders for scrubbing mold. To prevent mold in the first place, keep a bottle of water with tea tree essential oil in the shower and spray down daily. Tea tree oil is a natural mold killer. Check out more DIY cleaning solutions and free dowloadable labels from A House in the Hills. 

4. Bring in some nature in the form of plants, flowers, branches or reclaimed wood. They add an organic touch to the decor, without purchasing consumer goods that have been shipped from far away.

5. Put your toothbrush in a medicine cabinet or under the sink. Not only does it give you a nice clean look on your counter, it also prevents germs from landing on it after, ahem, flushing. 

6. Save water. Limit shower time and turn off the tap while brushing your teeth. And if you are ready to invest a bit of time and money, get a low flow shower head and/or a shower head water filter. A low flow toilet is also great, if you are in need of a new one anyway. I wrote in detail about water saving tips in the bathroom here. 

Mark Brand Architecture

18 March 2014

growing veggies on the patio

My visit to Canada Blooms on the weekend inspired me to expand my patio garden plans. There's nothing more satisfying than growing your own food. Except maybe eating it. Fresh organic produce can't be beat.

So far I've started basil and lettuce in my sunny patio window - they're good early growers and good for window growing. Lettuce, peppers and patio cucumbers, and of course, tomatoes, are next. Tomatoes love the hot sun, so my south facing patio will be perfect. Wonder if I'll still be able to fit a chair out there for reading...

PS - this post has cheap DIY plant pot ideas using natural materials. 

patio vegetable garden

Here are some resources if you too are inspired to create your own container garden:

Urban Harvest - a local Ontario company selling organic and untreated seeds. 
Veseys Seeds - a long-time fave from PEI. 
Organic Gardening has wonderful organic growing info. 
Canadian Gardening - lots of inspiration and ideas.
Mark Cullen, the Canadian garden guru.

14 March 2014

have a lucky day

Enjoy the St. Paddy's Day celebrations and many wishes for an early Spring! 

12 March 2014

snow, flowers and a healthy treat

It's another blizzard-y day in Eastern Canada, so in an effort to stay cheery, cozy and hopeful for Spring, I picked up a single snapdragon stem at my local grocery store, and baked up some healthy banana oatmeal bites. 

I'm no baker, by any means, so you know when I post a recipe it's super simple. In fact this one needs only three ingredients:

2 mashed bananas (the more ripe the better)
1 cup rolled or instant oatmeal (I use organic instant with no added sugar or salt)
chocolate chips or raisins 

That's it. Roll into balls, bake for about 10 minutes (not too much or they get crunchy). These are so yummy and healthy, it's my go-to treat now. 

Enjoy the remainder of winter and here's hoping for Spring! 

10 March 2014

spice and tea organization - pretty & sustainable

I'm big on organizing. The gene was passed down from my Mom, so I can't help it. A Sunday of organizing my kitchen cupboards while rockin' out to Bon Jovi is my idea of fun. So last weekend I pulled out the many mismatched bags, bottles and boxes of spices and teas cluttering up one of my shelves and created a station for them on the counter. My small condo is short on cupboard storage but actually has a fair amount of counter space, so displaying out in the open is convenient and functional. Now to make it pretty!

I used chalkboard paint to cover the lids of small mason jars so I could label the spices and change up when needed. Confession: I did not use eco-friendly chalkboard paint since I can only get it by ordering online and I already had some of the regular stuff hanging around (two good options that I would try for a larger project are ECOS and Lullaby). 

I also painted the covers of jars that I originally purchased full of soup, but that when repurposed make lovely containers for tea bags. I wrapped the outside of the lids with washi tape. A vintage jar I already had adds a nice touch. 

All of this freed up a cupboard shelf for baking supplies that I also organized in jars and repurposed food tins covered with pretty paper and glue. 

Now my cooking and baking supply shopping can be more sustainable for the planet because I can take reusable bags to the health store and buy organic spices, flours, raisins and the like in bulk when I need to refill. No more consumption of small bottles and plastic bags every time I run out. 

Are you inspired to organize now? 

8 March 2014

weekend wandering: Austrailian vintage

This stunning Australian cottage called Vintage House Daylesford is the epitome of a home inspired by nature and times gone by. The light-filled home is brimming with vintage pieces, but finished with such simplicity and style that it feels immediately welcoming and calming. 

  Designer Kali Cavanagh infused the space with light through large windows and white walls. Open legged furniture creates a sense of space and lots of wood accents and textures adds interest. Brilliant.

7 March 2014

room of the week: basement home office

I'm always blabbing on about finding space within your own home to renovate to meet your needs, instead of moving or building a new home. It's more sustainable to stay where you are - not only do you not consume more building materials and spend money moving, it also helps prevent the urban sprawl of suburbia. 

Suzanne Dimma of House and Home magazine did just that when she converted basement space into a sleek and bright home office. I love that event with just one small window, the white paint, light wood floors, and minimalist design makes the space feel happy, comfortable and functional. Of course, I also love the mid-century modern chairs!

4 March 2014

replace and repurpose non-stick bakeware

I've been concentrating these days on making my home not only sustainable but healthy as well. That means getting rid of toxins - in the air, on materials and also in the kitchen. Unfortunately all of that non-stick cookware and bakeware that makes stir-fries and muffins so perfect can also send chemicals right into your bloodstream. I've been replacing them with ceramic or stoneware versions. Check out this excellent book and blog, Ecoholic Home, for information and resources on making your home eco-friendly and healthy. 

But don't fill up the landfill with all of your old pans - repurpose them! 
Muffin tins make great organizers.

Cookie sheets can be used at the front door for boots. 

And baking trays can be covered and turned into a tray for collecting all sorts of things... like cooking oils, which I used mine for.

I simply used dollar store contact paper to cover the pan. Easy peasy. 

1 March 2014

layer up to stay warm- organically

Brr...it's cold outside! Where is Spring? Well, if we can't see the tulips quite yet, at least we can still enjoy guilt-free lazy weekend mornings snuggled up in bed. How to create that never-get-out cozy bed ? Layers, soft and healthy textiles, and some good books along with good lighting.

Try to amp up the comfort and health benefits of your bedding by choosing 100% natural organic materials. The most comfortable sheets to sleep in are made of 100% natural fibers like cotton, linen, hemp and silk. Bamboo sheets are even becoming popular. These natural fibres breathe and wick moisture, and are healthiest when free of chemical finishes (hint: don't choose wrinkle free). 

Wool blankets and wool-filled comforters are lovely options for comfort and health. Alpaca or sheep wool comforters resist dust mites and mildew unlike down. If you're able, choose an untreated organic mattress as well. 

Adding extra blankets or grandma's quilts at the foot of the bed look great and also add extra warmth. Have lots of soft pillows for piling up when reading, and have good lighting on both sides.  And add a rug so that your toes don't get cold when running out to the kitchen for a tea or coffee!