12 December 2008


Our house used to be covered in ivy. We know because it's still there, cut back to ground level, but bits of it still cling to the brickwork. I wish we could let it grow back, but even a minor amount of research proved it would be a bad idea. Ivy climbs by rooting into what it's climbing on. This, obviously, causes major damage over time, destroying bricks and masonry, and potentially letting pests in.

I've got it into my head to replace it with a less-obnoxious climber. There's something romantic and beautiful about a building swathed in greenery. That's probably why people let ivy have its destructive way in the first place. Seeing its evergreen leaves peeking out from the snow around the foundation, however, almost makes me want to reconsider.

I haven't done any research yet on other climbers, but I'm intrigued by Virginia Creeper (see the pretty colour it turns in autumn!) Luckily, there's still ample time to look into alternatives. I will not rest until these naked walls are suitably adorned :)

04 December 2008


Does anyone know whether placing a plant--in a glazed ceramic pot--on the radiator will harm the pot in any way? I know the plant, a French lavender I brought inside for the winter, will enjoy the extra heat, but I'm concerned the glaze could be affected or even that the pot might crack. The rad is pleasantly warm at the moment, but it can get fairly hot. The plant really gets the best sun on there, though. Any advice you guys can share would be most appreciated!

02 December 2008

Mirror in the Bathroom

Given the sheer number of things that can go on in and around one's house, it's funny what can cause you to break out the exclamation marks. We got a bathroom mirror!

Or, more precisely, we finally hung the bathroom mirror.

When we moved in, the main bathroom was lacking a mirror. For over a year we've been making do with a tiny hand mirror, albeit a magnifying one (look at all those pores...) Although the bathroom was mirror-less, the foyer came equipped with a lovely large mirror by the front door. I surmised that it would be perfect in the bathroom. I was right.

Meanwhile, we entertained ourselves with endless deja vu as we spent the year repeating the same conversation with various people:

"Oh, you need a mirror? I know a place where you can get a great deal."
"No, we have the mirror--we just need to hang it."
"Oh..." Followed by a perplexed silence as the other person ponders just how lazy and/or incompetent we are.

Granted, although it turned out to be fairly easy in the end, it seemed like a big deal--big enough to put us off taking care of it. When you're not particularly handy, century-old plaster walls seem an insurmountable challenge (especially when you're used to modern drywall). Never mind that so-called hardware stores have screws and sinks for every type of surface but plaster. But that's another rant.

(FYI--metal screw sinks, the kind that look like ginormous screws themselves but have a hole in them in which, once they're embedded in the wall, the actual screw gets placed, work just fine. Use a drill and work carefully to avoid crumbling the plaster. They, of course, can be found in the "drywall" section of the nails, screws, and fasteners aisle.)

The "new" bathroom mirror looks awesome. It's got odd rivets on its sides, which makes me think it used to belong to a dresser. The frame is dark wood. The glass is scratched and a little cloudy, with a few of those black spots that mean the silvering is wearing off. It's exactly what the otherwise all-new bathroom needs to keep it from looking too sterile. It completes the space. And now I can fix my hair in the bathroom!

Better still, I ended up solving the bathroom waste bin quandary. If you'll recall this post: Trashy, I was in need of nice-looking bins that didn't require a second mortgage. I decided to go ahead and buy the marble one I'd found, only to go back (repeatedly) and find the store never again had it in stock (just the matching accessories and a mocking space on the bottom shelf where the bins had once been). It was clearly not meant to be (also, I ended up using my gift card on clothes). So yesterday, I happened across square, solid bamboo waste bins...for a reasonable price...and the store happened to have exactly two of them. No photos, but they look great, and if we should want to upgrade later on, they'll work in the downstairs washroom as well.

Our next consideration now is what colour to go with when we eventually repaint. Much as I like dark hues, I don't think dark brown (see photo above) is exactly the ideal shade for a bathroom. Here's what we're working with:

Shower and surround tiles

Floor tiles

I'm thinking a deep, rich plum would work well. Suggestions?

21 November 2008

Hitting the links

A quick post to tide us over until I have a chance to write something a little more substantial!

Anyone in the Toronto area interested in home delivery of local/organic fruits and veggies, I highly recommend Mama Earth Organics. We've been using them for a few weeks and we're really pleased with both the service and the quality of the food. A small box ($25 to $27) is just about right for two non-vegetarian people. There are several other options as well, and you can customize your order. You also have the option of adding other organic foods to your order, such as bread, cheese/dairy, and coffee. Yay for eating better!

I'm not affiliated with Mama Earth in any way (other than being a customer), but this next link comes from my sister. If you'd like to support the maintenance and upkeep of the Queen's Park Legislative Assembly (aka Queen's Park-- a beautiful heritage building), shop at the gift shop's new website (bet you didn't even know they had a gift shop!) My sister runs the shop (among other things) and set up the site. Proceeds go back into the Legislative Assembly (including the building itself). Just in time for the holidays, there's lots of nifty stuff (mostly from local artisans) to choose from. Support the Legislative Assembly...before the city of Toronto decides to tear it down and put up condos.

31 October 2008

Happy Hallowe'en!

Caramel-Marshmallow Apples

Makes 6

14 oz caramels
1 cup mini marshmallows
1 tbs water
6 med-small apples
chopped peanuts or other nuts (optional)
2 oz chocolate, melted (optional)

Line baking sheet with buttered waxed paper; set aside.

Combine caramels, marshmallows and water in medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until caramels melt. Cool slightly while preparing apples.

Rinse and thoroughly dry apples. Insert flat sticks in stem ends of apples.

Dip each apple in caramel mixture, coating apples. Remove excess caramel mixture by scraping apple bottoms across rim of saucepan. Place on prepared baking sheet; refrigerate until firm.

Caramel-Nut Apples: Roll coated apples in chopped nuts before refrigerating.

Caramel-Chocolate Apples: Drizzle melted chocolate over coated apples before refrigerating.

The ultimate: Roll in nuts and then drizzle with chocolate.

15 October 2008

Mixed Metaphors

I live in an interesting neighbourhood. Should you go for a walk in it, you'll eventually come across examples of just about every kind of architecture. There's also a fair bit of construction going on as old (thankfully, not usually the good kind of old) houses are torn down and replaced with new, bigger houses. The new homes are usually attractive, if not particularly unique. Occasionally, however, you find something that renews your faith in contemporary architecture and design.

I actually noticed the house above about five or six years ago and had to stop and take a picture. It remains one of my favourite new houses ever. Notice the gothic arch windows, the copper details, and the offset entrance (which takes focus away from the garage). If it ever went up for sale, well, I'd have to drool at it from a distance as I lament my lack of funds. (I would also have to sneak in during the open house so I could check out the interior!)

The house below is one I stumbled across on the weekend. It's another new one, built last year (according to the date on the new curb in front). Done in the Arts and Crafts style, attention was really paid to detail. The windows, porch, front door, porch light, and even the house numbers all adhere to the style.

You can see some of the details here, despite my not-great photo (I was afraid the owners would show up and chase me off). If you ever have the opportunity to design a house, I think this place offers a lesson in why it's best to stick with one cohesive look. It's fine to mix different styles and eras on the inside, but outside it would just be a confusing mess. Sticking with one look makes shopping easier too (it does if you're me, anyway!)

The photos below show a good example of messy design. Currently under construction, it's part of a new development of similar homes. You can see Tudor elements, as well as Victorian, and what I can only describe as barn-style shutters. I hope the interior makes more sense.

Now this last house (also discovered on the weekend) has to be my favourite new house of all time. The effort that has gone into the details of this place left me insisting for about half a minute that it had to be an old house. The shingles, the inset carvings, even the bricks (a much more interesting colour in reality)--beautiful. It's true there is a mixing of designs here as well--Queen Anne and Gothic, in particular--but they're all aspects of Victorian, so it works. I would love to see what they've done on the inside (note to self: make friends with the owners).

The moral of this post, if you insist on one? If you're going to build a house, do it with style.

03 October 2008

Bulbs and Basil

(Jan Reus, left)
I'm getting the garden ready for winter. My bulbs finally arrived! I ordered some tulips ('Jan Reus' and 'Gavota') for the back (to go with the yellow tulips that were already there when we moved in), and a crocus-tulip mix for the front. Planting bulbs is a pain, but it's so worth it when spring comes around.

Yesterday I harvested the basil. Not that it needed to be harvested just yet, but I needed the pot it was in. I transplanted the French lavender into the pretty glazed ceramic pot and moved it inside. French lavender can't survive the winter outside here, but it smells divine, and I've been dreaming of growing it indoors. Hopefully it'll survive in my south-facing living room window. (Gavota, below)

I also re-potted my smaller hibiscus. I've been noticing for a long time that the soil was pulling away from the sides of the container and always looked dry. If I'd known how bad it really was, I would have taken care of it sooner. It turned out there was hardly any soil in there at all, the pot being much shallower that I realized due to the water reservoir at the bottom. The roots at the bottom had grown into the shape of the reservoir, and the soil was just a hard lump. Poor plant. I got rid of as much of the old soil as I could without destroying roots, then I gave it fresh soil and
plenty of it, followed by water. It already seems much happier.

Speaking of potting soil, I learned by accident that you really get what you pay for. I used to buy my potting soil at a store that shall remain unnamed (they don't just sell tires) because it was convenient. I never thought there was anything wrong with it, despite it being full of wood chips and rocks. Fortunately, when I moved I ended up in a neighbourhood with a proper nursery. I started buying my potting soil there since it was convenient, although more expensive. What a difference! The nursery potting soil is light, clean, and free of rocks and wood. The way potting soil should be. My plants are better off and I'm not breaking my back moving them. Completely worth a few extra dollars.

Cats and Bats

Happy October :)

I've been thinking about how much I compromise my style for my cats' sakes. Windowsills are left clear for their lounging pleasure. Their treehouse gets the prime spot in front of the window in my office. An ugly (but comfy) kitty bed mars the look of the upstairs hallway, but it stays because they like it there. Toys and candy wrappers (Wraith loves them) litter the floor. The prime "under the stairs" space has been turned over to litter boxes rather than used for anything more interesting (is anyone else thinking "cupboard"?) And there is far more hair around the house than I would ever want (no matter how often I clean, it finds a way to live--much like a sentient robot in the face of human opposition). But despite all that, I don't mind. Pets are good for the soul, if not the decor.
(Photo from the old house. Isn't it horrible? But aren't they adorable?)

26 September 2008

Anywhere but here...

No matter how much you might love your home, sometimes you can't help fantasizing about other possible (or impossible) abodes. I'm terrible for this. I think it's a combination of my collecting instinct and my propensity for daydreaming. There are just too many incredible buildings out there to limit myself to just one! So in the spirit of an idle Friday afternoon, here are some other places I'd like to be right now:

European castles are always nice, especially this one.

(Okay, that's Hogwarts--but I did say impossible abodes. I wouldn't mind living in just about any of the magical homes in the books and movies, especially Gryffindor Tower, the Burrow, or even one of those tents they had at the Quidditch World Cup, minus the mildewy smell, of course).

For something slightly more attainable, a Queen Anne Victorian will always be my dream. Ideally, it would be in some fantastic neighbourhood where everything from coffee shops to boutiques are within walking distance. Filled with books and antiques and personal treasures. Surrounded with a lush garden. Heaven.

Partway between fantasy and reality is the Parisian apartment I find myself yearning for. In my mind, it's always in the Montmartre district. I blame the movie Amelie for this one. I envision it as small and perfect; painted in deep, rich shades; and full of the kind of furniture and accessories you can only find in France. And every room will have a chandelier. Downstairs will be a patisserie, a boulangerie, a cafe, and a chocolatier. You won't need anything practical in Paris if you've got access to pastries and chocolate. I'll also pretend I don't notice the butcher shops selling horse meat. I think my Montmartre flat would be the ideal getaway when it's too cold at Hogwarts (or those pesky boggarts are getting out of hand).

So where would you rather be right now?

24 September 2008

Quality Craftsmanship

So, I was wandering through The Bay (Canadian department store) a few days ago, and what should catch my eye but this lovely set:

Of course, I had to take a closer look, what with my teaware addiction (see previous post). The set came packaged in a pretty box, emblazoned with this label:

Note the statement "Celebrating a Century of English Craftsmanship."

Awesome, I thought to myself--I'm a fan of English craftsmanship! Turning over the box to check out the price, thrilled to have found THE perfect teacup, I was aghast to see that 100 years also meant $100. Extravagent even for me, I was still considering it (I had a gift card) when I noticed the small print: Made in Indonesia. I put the box down and walked away. So much for that fine English craftsmanship. I hate to think what they paid the person who made that $100 teacup. Instead of tea, I ended up with a cup of irony. Tea tastes better.

PS: The really sad thing is, I just noticed on the company's website that this cup is out of stock. Guess irony's a big seller.

20 September 2008

Idee fixe

I'm a collector--can't help it; I have packrat genes. Luckily, the neat freak genes keep things more or less under control, but there are some things I just cannot resist. Books, of course; my house is like a mini library. I also love ceramics and porcelain. I'd have dozens of sets of dishes if I could get away with it (and none of them plain white), as well as cake stands, mixing bowls, sugar bowls, mugs, pitchers... I have an obsession with tea paraphernalia. I don't even drink that much tea, but I've got to buy pretty teapots and cups (and anything else tea-related, as well). I must have been a Brit in a past life. My other major fixation is fabrics. Whether in the form of sheets, tablecloths, napkins, aprons, handkerchiefs, towels, curtain panels, throw pillows, or just plain yards from the fabric store, I love fabric. Give me a pretty design (embroidery, brocade, toile, stripes, checks, polka dots, florals...), an interesting texture, or a vibrant colour and I'm good. Better than, in fact. No doubt this particular infatuation comes from growing up around bits and piles of my mom's sewing material (come to think of it, I like buttons too, and pincushions...)

So, what are your collecting obsessions?

16 September 2008


Morning glories are on the short list of plants I have to have in my garden. They're a little chaotic, but they're low-maintenance, pest-free, and gorgeous.

Ever since I saw masses of dark blue blooms spilling over a fence just off the Danforth, I've been obsessed with growing the morning glories known as Heavenly Blue. The seeds seem to come only a few to a packet, so year after year I would try for my dark blue flowers only to have pale blue ones show up instead. Don't get me wrong--pale blue morning glories are also wonderful. But they weren't what I wanted.

This year I was sure I was out of luck again. My first batch of seeds sprouted, but I took too long getting them into the ground (they need to be soaked in water first, but there's such a thing as over-soaking). Only a couple of the seeds turned into actual plants, and my excitement over those was short-lived as they disappeared, seemingly overnight. Not sure what happened there, but it was a disappointment, to say the least.

Frustrated, I was set to have another Heavenly Blue-free year when I decided, despite the lateness in the season, to try again. I soaked the seeds for a shorter amount of time and got them into the ground. This time I ended up with a few strong plants. A couple of weeks ago, I noticed masses of flower buds on the plants. When the flowers started opening, I was thrilled to see that there were dark blue ones as well as lighter ones. Finally! And the combination is fantastic. Of course, the irony is that it's been consistently grey and rainy, a condition that not only makes taking pictures difficult, but causes the large flowers to become limp and floppy. Still I managed a few photos to share (note the beads of water in the picture above).

One of the morning glories is growing with the 'Viking" climbing rose, which also happens to be in bloom at the moment. (This is a great rose, by the way--healthy, vigorous, a profuse bloomer. The only problem is the lack of scent.) Best of all, the plants will seed themselves now. Next year I should have all the morning glories I can handle (and then some--they can be a bit aggressive, so I'm going to have to make sure to thin them out).

I also have dark purple (classic) and soft pink morning glories. I tried growing some of the crimson ones too, but somehow they morphed into dark purple--go figure.

It occurred to me recently as I was looking out over the garden, that between the roses, morning glories, delphiniums, pansies, and lavender, I'd might as well plant a few sunflowers next year and just admit I've got a cottage garden again!

11 September 2008

Zen and the Art of Household Maintenance

I find few things more mentally satisfying than housework. Maybe it's the proper Greek upbringing (doing housework makes girls prettier, don't ya know! Thanks, mom...) Maybe it's my natural tendency to organize (ahem, this is also known as being anal). Maybe it has to do with being easily grossed out. Whatever it is, I love watching order emerge from chaos.

I'm not particularly efficient at it. Because I (mostly) enjoy it, I tend to turn it into a zen experience, pondering life's deeper meanings as I wash dishes (or as a former manager at a restaurant I worked at put it, "make love to the dishes") and fold laundry.

A male friend of mine once told me that if you have a clean house, you have too much time on your hands (um, thanks). There's also a whole segment of the younger population who brag about being useless at housework (not sure what that's about--why brag about being incompetent at basic skills?) Okay, so maybe cleaning the house isn't on the scale of writing the Great Canadian/American Novel (working on that too, fwiw), but as Cheryl Mendelson said in Home Comforts (see "Book-tastic", to the right), a clean home is a safe, healthy, and comfortable home. I'm all about comfort (safety and health are all right too).

Random Housekeeping Tips

  • I do try to stick to the environmentally friendly cleaning products (I like Seventh Generation quite a bit). They smell nice too, and won't harm your health.
  • Sticky rollers work better than the vacuum at getting rid of cat hair on upholstery. If you're working on velvety material, a damp paper towel (or hand) rubbed with the grain works great.
  • Squeegeeing the shower walls when you're done keeps things shiny and mildew-free.
  • Newspapers do not clean glass better than microfibre cloths or paper towels (they just get your hands--and the window frames--really dirty).
  • Using the self-cleaning feature on your oven may use extra electricity, but have you smelled those chemical oven cleaners? I'll take a little energy inefficiency over lung damage any day.
  • Running a full load of dishes in the dishwasher is more energy efficient than handwashing--and more sanitary too.
  • As Cheryl Mendelson taught me, don't put anything in the kitchen sink you wouldn't want touching your food (including water from cut flowers and from pet dishes). Also, don't put anything on your counters that you wouldn't want touching your food (where has your purse been, anyway?)
  • Mini blinds are the devil's work.
What are some of your tips?

10 September 2008

Rescue dog

This isn't exactly on topic, but I came across this blog: http://adopttillah.blogspot.com/ and was so saddened by Tillah's story, I had to share. Anyone out there able to provide a good home?

08 September 2008

Hearth and Soul

What is it about a fireplace that just says "home"? Of all the features one can find in a house, the fireplace has to be one of the most sought after. And yet, they're inefficient. They take up valuable wall space. They're frequently the source of unwanted house guests (birds, raccoons, and in the case of our last house, wasps *shudder*) They can also be the source of uncontrolled fires. And you have to stick a Victorian waif down the chimney in order to get them clean. Okay, maybe not the last one.

Because of the aforementioned wasp issue (luckily it was just the dying ones that were looking for some warmth late in the year, but still...) I wasn't exactly keen to get a fireplace in the new place. And yet, when I saw this beauty taking up almost an entire wall:

Well, let's just say it didn't make me want the house any less. Shortly after moving in, I was fussing over furniture placement as I attempted not to hide the fireplace from view (I believe decorators would call it the "focal point" of the room).

I spend a fair amount of time planning my dream house, and I have to admit, all my plans include fireplaces. For the longest time, I wanted a huge, old-fashioned
hearth in the kitchen, the kind you could roast an entire animal in. I pictured a cast iron cauldron bubbling away in there. Even now, it's not unappealing.

More recently I've come to appreciate the elegance of Victorian fireplaces and mantles. You can't roast an animal in them, but they'd be gorgeous in a bedroom or two (and still good for marshmallows).

I could see, give free reign and limitless budget, that I'd include a fireplace in just about every room. Hell, I'd put one in the backyard too, air quality be damned!

Fireplaces, for me anyway, seem to speak directly to the heart. Their drawbacks just don't seem to matter that much...

05 September 2008


Okay, I'm the first to admit that my tastes are a little high end. It's a running joke in our household that given the option between similar items (and without knowing the prices) I'll always choose the most expensive. But even I have to question why some things are so pricy. Trash cans, for example. They're utilitarian items that are generally simply made with basic materials. So why do they cost an arm and a leg?We're still in the process of acquiring accessories for the new house. Among other things we need are waste bins for the bathrooms. Last week I found one at the Bay that would be perfect for the upstairs bathroom. It was a simple, square container made of marble, similar to the one in the picture (only with much plainer marble). It was $80! (I probably shouldn't complain--the one in the photo is over a thousand dollars.) For what probably amounts to less than $20 worth of stone and not much labour, why is the price so high? Not that any of the other ones I've seen have been more reasonably priced, even those made of plastic.

In the past I've used flower pots, which are generally less expensive, as waste bins. I haven't found any that'll work in the current bathrooms, though. The sad thing is, I'll probably end up getting the overpriced one because it really is perfect. Worse, I'll probably get two (one for trash, one for organics). I guess that's why stores can get away with charging so much.

03 September 2008

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Garden

The garden is occupying my thoughts as the season winds down. I'm getting ready to plant bulbs for next spring (about 100 of them--eep). I can't believe leaves are already falling, albeit only a few.

In the meantime, though, there are still flowers to enjoy and fun discoveries to make. When we moved, we brought a separate van-load of garden plants with us (not to mention a couple of car-loads of houseplants). Because I was recovering from wrist surgery during the move, I didn't actually do any of the transplanting, so I wasn't sure what plants were in what pots. Now I'm enjoying some surprises.

My mom did a lot of the transplanting for me. After she was done, I started feeling guilty about leaving one of the roses. It had been at the old house when we moved in. Despite being poorly placed in near-complete shade, with weeds choking it more every year (I spent 8 years weeding that garden and all I ended up with was more weeds...) it still produced beautiful pink blooms. It also never had any problems with blackspot or mildew. And here I was about to abandon it just because it didn't have a scent. This was a couple of days before we left and we were incredibly busy, so poor S had to head out in the dark to dig that rose up so we could bring it. At the time, he mentioned that he dug up another rose as well, but since I was pretty sure nothing else had survived the weeds, I thought maybe he'd made a mistake. Then I forgot all about it.

In spring when I was putting the transplanted plants into the ground, I was still sure there was only one rose in that pot. Yes, there was a big chunk of what looked like dead wood, but I thought it was just part of one plant. The other part of the plant was green and healthy. Well, both parts ended up sprouting, only one is low and shrubby and the other is tall, like a climber. They also bloomed at different times, although both had pink flowers. So it looks like we rescued two rose plants from oblivion. They do seem much happier, despite the caterpillar activity around here (but that's another story).

The other surprise happened this week. One of the plants we brought from the other garden was a recently acquired clematis. We had another, dark purple clematis but I thought it was too big to move and planned on replacing rather than transplanting it. I guess my mom had other ideas. After we moved and I settled all the plants into their new homes, my mom kept mentioning the dark purple clematis. I kept telling her we left it behind. After all, there was only one pot with one clematis in it. The light purple one we'd brought bloomed early on, but I was excited last week to see new buds. A few days ago, the new buds bloomed...into dark purple flowers. Looking at the plant more carefully, I noticed some of the leaves were lighter green and some darker. Looking more carefully still, I saw that the base of the stems are completely different (one has one big stem and one has multiple skinny stems). My mom was right--we did bring the dark purple one along too. So, along with a third clematis I bought after we moved, I now have one early-blooming light purple clematis, one mid-late blooming near-black clematis, and one late-blooming dark purple clematis. Accidental garden design at its best.

Because I've been so busy settling in, I haven't had much chance to break out the camera. I will have to remedy that. In the meantime, I found this photo of a clematis similar to mine.

30 August 2008

Return of Mousy

Not so much a return, actually, as a visit by one of his friends. Just when we thought we were free of furry crashers, the cats flushed out another guy. This time we didn't notice until Wraith had the poor little thing in his mouth, dangling by its tail (looks like he figured out what he's supposed to do with them). He let it go for a second--just long enough to get a better grip on its backside. We tried getting him to let go, but our very sweet, mellow cat just growled at us and held on. I guess the two of us cornering him with S grabbing him by the scruff and me holding the plastic mouse containment unit (aka empty salad bin) over his head finally convinced him it wasn't worth it. He finally let the mouse go and I (being much less of a silly woman this time) trapped it in the bin.

This was definitely a different mouse--a bit smaller and way more hyper. It was hopping all over the place, trying to escape. At least (and surprisingly) it wasn't hurt! Again to his credit, he eventually realized the cats couldn't get him through the plastic and he settled down. Another trip to the park, another release into the night. I hope there aren't any more of them. Maybe there's a mouse grapevine and they'll let each other know to stay away from here: Dude, that place is not sweet.

On a related note: I have to mention how much I hate glue traps. I know that sometimes you have to break out the traps, but glue traps are horrific and cruel. Imagine running around and all of a sudden being stuck to something and not being able to move. Maybe you're only lightly stuck and you can get away by ripping off hair or skin. Maybe you're panicking so much you chew through your own limb to get free. Or maybe you're well and truly immobile, terrified, helpless, and someone comes along and dumps you into the trash. They might be "kind" and drown you first. Either way, hello, slow and painful death. I realize we're talking about rodents, but there's no reason to inflict unnecessary pain and suffering. Get humane traps (the kind that let you release the animal unharmed), or if you must, spring-loaded traps. Glue traps might be convenient, but they're evil. 'Nuff said.

29 August 2008


We moved into our house last year in mid-October. Shortly after moving in, we realized there was a mouse living under the floor near the stove (we could tell because of the way the cats would sit transfixed, staring at that spot!) We figured it was too cold for it to go anywhere, but it would leave in spring (what mouse wants to share space with two mousers?) Sure enough, spring came and the mouse was gone. The boys forgot about that entrancing spot on the floor.

Well, a couple of days ago, the cats started staring again. Now, I don't mind a house mouse--as long as it doesn't get into anything or cause damage. I was content to leave it be, until last night when I started thinking about it chewing on wiring. As Wraith sat in the kitchen staring at the floor and Shadow sat in the basement staring at the ceiling, I made a mental note to google mouse repellents in the morning (silly me for thinking cats would be repellent enough!)

So, last night as I was still thinking about how to get the mouse to leave, I was returning to the basement from a quick trip upstairs and noticed that Wraith was now at the bottom of the stairs next to the dresser that contains my craft supplies. And he was batting at something on the floor. The light was dim so it took me a second. Was it a toy? Nope--small and brown. Poop? Hey, you never know. Then I noticed it moving.

Somehow the mouse had left the safety of the floorboards and Wraith had literally got his paws on him. The poor little thing was terrified. As Wraith went after him and I panicked (like a proper silly woman) and S called for me to get a container and Shadow came to see what all the commotion was... the mouse tried its best to escape us all. As it scooted under the dresser, Wraith wedged himself in there too. Luckily for all of us, the mouse was faster than the cats (who probably didn't realize they should be hunting, not playing) but it was fenced in by the stairs and the feet. We got the container (an empty plastic salad bin) over him, slid a piece of cardboard underneath and had us a trapped little guy.

I held down the container while S ran to get his boots on. The cats were very interested in my prisoner, pawing at him through the plastic. The mouse, to his credit, realized pretty quickly that the cats couldn't get at him, and settled down to wait. Let me tell you--he was damn cute. Tiny and brown, he looked like the dormouse from Alice in Wonderland (although I'm pretty sure he was a field mouse). I really wanted to get him a Habitrail and keep him, but I don't think he would have cared for that too much. Instead we took him to the nearest park and set him free under a shrub. With a slightly confused look, he scampered off into the darkness. I hope he has a good life, free of cats and the falcons (or maybe hawks?) that live on top of a nearby high rise. And I really hope he doesn't come back to our house!

When we returned home, Wraith was desperately checking under the dresser for his new fun toy. He checked the floor by the stove too, but alas, there was nothing interesting there, either. We gave him and Shadow treats for being good hunters (secretly grateful that they weren't great hunters). And to top off the evening, I watched as a chubby raccoon cut across our yard and through the hedge. For an urban area, we definitely aren't lacking in wildlife.

28 August 2008

Seasonal Pleasures (Tomato Salad)

This is more guideline than recipe, but salad doesn't exactly require precise measurements. This is my favourite tomato salad and I have it frequently as a meal.

Aspasia's Tomato Salad

Per person:
--in-season tomatoes, heirloom if possible (I usually use one large one, 2 to 3 medium ones, or enough cherry tomatoes to fill the serving bowl)
--half a small ripe avocado, chopped
--thin slice sweet onion, chopped (about 1/8 cup)
--about 2 oz feta cheese (sheep's milk is best), crumbled
--1/2 to 3/4 tsp dried Greek oregano
--salt to taste
--extra virgin olive oil (my brand/family oil: http://www.spartanrollinghills.com)
--good bread for dipping

Cut tomatoes into chunks and place in a bowl. If using cherry tomatoes, cut in half (you want to release the juice). Add avocado and onion. Add salt and mix. Add crumbled feta. Crush oregano over all and drizzle with a healthy amount of oil. Serve salad with bread to soak up all the tasty oil and juice left after the salad is gone :)

Optional: You can also add Kalamata olives and/or sliced cucumber and bell peppers, if you wish.

27 August 2008

Down the Garden Path

I haven't been gardening as long as I've been decorating, so my style isn't entirely set yet. I do think a garden should complement the house it's attached to. I don't think a sparse Japanese garden would work with a Queen Anne house, nor would a formal garden suit a cottage.

There's little as far as gardens go that I don't like. My favourite styles are probably formal (traditional) and cottage. If I could manage a combination of the two, that would be fantastic. I love courtyards and classical statuary. I'm enamoured of allees and flowering trees at the moment. I also like herbal knot gardens and Japanese gardens, but I think they're too high-maintenance for me.

Some of my favourite plants: heirloom roses, morning glory, foxgloves, poppies, delphiniums, hydrangeas, hostas, pansies and violas, heirloom tomatoes, lavender, tulips, crocuses, lilacs...

(PS: The photo is of morning glories and pansies in a container on my deck.)

26 August 2008

Defining Design

I have been into decorating and design for just about as long as I can remember. Even as a child I would get into moods where I would have to tear my room apart and start over again. If I wasn't just a bit more into writing, I'm sure I would have ended up as a decorator/designer.

My style hasn't changed much over the years, although it's a little more narrowed down now. There are some things I love: Victorian (Queen Anne and Gothic Revival) architecture and design, French Country. There are some things I like a lot: anything pre-1950s (think Old Europe), some retro design, modern country, Chinese style, Thai style, Tuscan style, spooky style. There are some things I despise: mid-century modern, all white, most (but not all) contemporary design.

I love colour. Deep, rich, clear (not muddy) shades. I do not want my entire house to be monochromatic. I don't find neutrals soothing. I love original woodwork and want to hunt down those who paint over it. My ideal home is one that's cozy and comfortable and the right kind of cluttered. My dream house is a cross between the Gryffindor common room, the house from Practical Magic, and Jack Skellington's tower. I also always thought it would be cool to convert an old church.

For nearly a year I've had the joy of being in my own little Edwardian brick gem. I'm not quite sure when life got so hectic, but we're still not finished setting things up. There are long-term plans, as well as those involving the near future. Nothing drastic--well, maybe a little--but mostly just a matter of making the place our own. Looking forward to sharing both plans and end results, among other things...