{ Archive for the ‘projects and crafts’ Category }

My new fave: The pincushion flower

It was about a month or so ago that I first laid eyes on the pincushion flower. So when I needed to figure out what I wanted to carry at my wedding (which took place this past weekend), yellow pincushion flowers came to mind not only for their unique beauty, but because I liked the sewing connection, as well. I also ordered some extra to display on the tables at our venue, School Bakery & Cafe. Besides the yellow orbs of the pincushion blooms, I was pretty clueless as to what else I could put with them. Without having an example flower on hand, Helen at Anthi Floral Boutique was so helpful recommending complementary greenery — Jamaica greens and bear grass for the vases and aspidistra for the wedding bouquets. For vases I used Bernardin jars that I got thanks to my Uncle Glenn, and then I tied black raffia around the necks as a finishing touch.

For the bouquets my sister and I carried, we removed the greenery from the lower stem of the pincushion flowers and wrapped them in aspidistra and raffia.

Below is an image of one of my vases. I was very pleased with how they turned out!


Visit the Evergreen Festival November 18-19 for holiday decorating ideas

I think it was back in September that Elaine Martin from Vintage Gardener asked me to help out with her Evergreen Festival. I happily accepted because I love anything to do with decorating for Christmas. I also really admire Elaine's style, creativity and her entrepreneurial spirit. We first met at a Vintage Gardener event in February that I went to with my mom. As Elaine demonstrated how to force branches and create interesting arrangements, each spring-filled pot was snapped up by a guest before she'd even finished with it!

The Evergreen Festival takes place next Wednesday and Thursday (November 18 and 19) at the Fermenting Cellar in Toronto's Distillery District. There will be a stage with chairs so you can watch holiday decorating presentations by Elaine, Gemini Nominee Ambrose Price and others. I will be presenting a seminar on forcing paperwhites and growing amaryllis!

There will also be a French-style market with flower carts where you can make your own bows from ribbon, wreaths, evergreen miniatures and more! Partial proceeds from the event will be given to the new Ronald McDonald House.

For anyone in the GTA who is interested in attending next week, I have 5 pairs of tickets to give away! Leave a comment below telling me how you use evergreens and other florals to decorate for the holidays. I will randomly draw 5 names on Monday.

The image on the promotional postcard was part of Elaine's spread in the November issue of Style at Home.

The image on the promotional postcard was part of Elaine's spread in the November issue of Style at Home.

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How should I carve this year’s pumpkins?

I love that Halloween falls on a Saturday this year. Usually it’s such a rush to carve something the night before (anything sooner is squirrel supper). Last year we got creative and scooped an idea from Martha Stewart’s Halloween issue (here is her gallery of jack-o’-lanterns). This year we have three pumpkins. Not sure what they’ll be transformed into, but we’ve got all day to figure it out!

If you’re not into pumpkin carving, try this neat idea from Mark Disero at gardentoronto.ca. Mark uses orange spotlights to turn his house into a jack-o’-lantern!

Have a safe and happy Halloween!

My pumpkin from last year - infested by rats and creepie crawlies!

My pumpkin from last year - infested by rats and creepie crawlies!

Dining between the charcuterie and the olives

Two nights ago I attended the launch of A Taste of Ontario, a cookbook jointly published by the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers and Foodland Ontario. The dinner was hosted by Mark McEwan and held at his new 23,000-square-foot grocery store, McEwan (located in The Shops at Don Mills). Between the European-style meat, deli and dessert counters, we sampled some of the delicious recipes conceived by award-winning chef Anthony John Dalupan.

Besides launching this free cookbook (which you can also download as a PDF here), the event was meant to showcase the fresh local produce from Ontario greenhouse growers. And what a difference the lack of distance between your food and your plate can make. I received an amazing basket of vegetables from local greenhouse growers — the taste and quality are amazing!

So in the dead of winter when you're trolling the grocery store for healthy local produce, keep an eye out for greenhouse-grown produce from a local grower.

Also, stay tuned as I will be posting an excerpt from the cookbook on our site!

It was pretty neat eating dinner in a grocery store, especially McEwan - I will definitely be going back to treat myself to some of the amazing cuts of meat, salads and produce!

It was pretty neat eating dinner in a grocery store, especially McEwan - I will definitely be going back to treat myself to some of the amazing cuts of meat, salads and produce!

I'll be cracking open A Taste of Ontario to use up some of these delicious peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes I received!

I'll be cracking open A Taste of Ontario to use up some of these delicious peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes I received!

A bumper crop of teeny tomatillos

The tomatillos that managed to escape my broiler and blender last year reseeded themselves and produced three plants this spring. There could have been more, but I think I inadvertently pulled some out. Anyhow, they are finally ready and survived this frosty week. They are much smaller than last year, but made a delicious salsa verde last night. Last year I mentioned a recipe I found on CanadianLiving.com, but I also really enjoy the variation I’ve created with a recipe from the old Wish magazine site because it calls for honey. A delicious addition to the tacos I made last night… yum!

Don’t forget the flowers!

happy-bunch-227If you’re attending Thanksgiving dinner hosted by friends or family this weekend, don’t forget the flowers. Cut flower bouquets make a great hostess gift. You can either stop off at your local florist to choose a lovely arrangement or you can create your own. Either way, they’ll make a lovely addition to your Thanksgiving dinner table!

For a few ideas on festive arrangements you can make yourself, check out these bouquets.

A lush fall centrepiece

A happy bunch of fall flowers

Three fall centrepieces for the harvest table

Fabulous fall bouquet and a mystery plant


What is this interesting-looking thing?


My lovely fall bouquet

Today's the first day where it's actually started to feel a little like fall. There's a slight wind here in Toronto and it's overcast and raining. We’ve had a very warm September until now. Even Northern Alberta, Vancouver and Whistler, where I spent the last week, have enjoyed an unusually warm fall. Only a few leaves here and there were beginning to turn various shades of gold in Northern Alberta, but everywhere else still seems fairly green.

My first real glimpse of fall colour is in this lovely `welcome home` bouquet that greeted me when I returned from my trip. Especially interesting are the red and furry, pie-slice-shaped flowers. I have never seen them before. My fiancé said they were called `high fives` until I realized he was pulling my leg. Does anyone know what these are?

(photo taken with a Kodak EasyShare M381 digital camera)

Alphabet soup for gardeners

We had a faint whiff of spring a couple of weekends ago–it was sunny and mild, the snow disappeared and there was that amazing dirt smell you get when the ground is wet and things are ready to bloom. I felt so hopeful, but alas this budding gardener had to talk some sense into herself. Spring does not begin in February in Southern Ontario. I will not be able to head outside in my old clothes and new Gloveables to spring clean my garden.

However there is lots still to do indoors–I need to order my seeds already (which I'll be doing with my sister), plant those seeds and start planning what I'll do in the garden when spring finally does arrive.

Looking for planting inspiration? Our shutterbug forum members have been busy posting photos in their annual Alphabet Soup. Started a few years ago by forum members Patty and Jean, users can post up to three photos that correspond to a new letter every other day. We are currently at the letter “N” and you can even go back and post on the other letters if you want to share your snaps.

Cheerful, solar-powered holiday lights

I don't usually hang any Christmas lights outside. I save the magic for inside where it's warm and cosy and I don't need to worry about a really long extension cord wrapping around my house and turning anything off and on in the cold.

However I recently got these great NOMA Outdoor Solar-Powered Decorative Landscape Lights to try out from Canadian Tire. They're like those gazing balls that you see in people's gardens, only these ones are holiday red, green, blue and amber. A simple switch on the little solar panel can leave them on autopilot for the season and the sun will do its magic during the day.

The frozen ground proved to be a challenge, but after pouring a bit of boiling water in my garden (in a bulb-less and plant-less area), I easily inserted the little stakes into the ground, stuck the lights on top and that very night had a lovely little glow lining the garden in front of my house. They're like cheerful lollipops in the snow.

These are a great last-minute gift idea for the gardener on your list–or if you get a gift certificate for Christmas and don't know how to spend it!

Eau de Christmas tree

One of my favourite parts about Christmas is finding my tree. Its scent evokes so many warm memories of my childhood, so I look forward to choosing that perfect pine (or fir or spruce) every year. When we were little, we used to go to a cut-your-own farm. This often resulted in my father having to cut off the top–or string it somehow to the ceiling–so it would fit in the house and stand up on its own.

Now that I'm in the city, my trees are a little more modest in size, but I still love walking in the door after a long day at work, breathing in the heady scent and gazing at the lights over a hot cup of tea.

If you still need to grab a tree before the big day, check out Shelagh McNally's guide to choosing the perfect tree.

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