I flock to phlox

I’ve been going through my old files looking for some photos of our gardens to date.

We've got pink and white but most of our phlox are purple.

I’m not totally sure what type they are as they have been in our garden as long as I can remember. We have hot pink, white, a lighter pink but most of them are purple. While I am adding many other perennials to the side garden the phlox will always be the main theme.

We got rid of the vines as the swallows were building a small city but the phlox come back each year.

I’d love some suggestions as to other colours or companion plants for the phlox as well. Please let me know what you think.

Found a blue jay!

Ah ha!

I found a photo I forgot I had taken a couple of years ago. Here is a blue jay in our decrepid old bird feeder. They like to swoop down from the line of pine trees in the back and fight over who gets to rule the feeder.

Hello old friend. I'll be back soon and I hope you will too.

Perhaps I will head up to the schoolhouse soon and fill the feeder with seeds just to see if anyone comes to visit. And with the Superbowl coming up I do need to make myself scarce so that may be good timing!

Does a garden grow if I am not there to see it?

We really want a vegetable garden at the schoolhouse but can weekend warriors do it if they aren’t there to water?

Now I’m no stranger to growing stuff. We always had a garden and I was in it a lot.

We’ve got the space, we’ve got the sun, we’ve got good dirt and access to a whole lot of mulch but if we only go up on weekends can we keep plants alive?

I’ve been doing a little research and we may investigate doing some square foot gardening. Or traditional gardening is also a good choice given what we have to work with. I’ve also found this:

Gravity feed watering kit

Lee Valley rarely lets me down so this could work. The combination of rain barrels and irrigation may be ok though the garden isn’t likely to be anywhere near the rain spouts. But access to water isn’t really the issue. With two wells I am sure we can keep the (rain) barrels full even if the rain gods aren’t our friends.

However it wouldn’t be a bad idea to take some advice from those who deal with drought on a regular basis. I cam across this blog post from a Californian gardener more acquainted with water issues.

Tips for a drought-friendly vegetable garden

I really like the irrigation of the tomatoes. Seems like it could work. It appears as though this may work if we plan ahead and do this right. We’ll stick with some containers on our condo balcony and a vegetable garden and herb garden at the schoolhouse.

Hmmm… Now I want a salad.

Bye bye birdies

I have never known birds of different species to flock together. The very concept is unimaginable. Why, if that happened, we wouldn’t stand a chance! How could we possibly hope to fight them?

— Mrs. Bundy, elderly ornithologist, The Birds, 1963

Mrs. Bundy didn’t know her Woodcock from a Bearded Tit. Yeah those are real bird names. Look it up.

 Blue Jay

This past weekend while at the schoolhouse I realized I miss feeding the birds. It was a daily chore at our house to fill the metal bowl with sunflower and other seeds and head out to the bird feeder. It made for a pretty view in the winter, with Blue Jays and Chickadees flitting about and in the spring it was always nice to see the return of the Robins of course.

And while it was a constant battle to keep the squirrels at bay, we didn’t mind when this fat fellow stopped by and ate until he waddled off after a flying leap to the nearby picnic table.

We're not sure how he got up there but gravity helped with the descent.

Here in condo land there are strict rules against feeding the birds. Though there was that one time a wayward Canada Goose made its way to a third floor balcony in search of lunch. He left unrewarded.

And now it seems a bit of a tease to feed the birds on the few weekends we visit in the winter. Perhaps come spring we’ll get back into the habit.

When I do start again I’ve found some good information from the US-based National Wildlife Federation.

Create a bird-friendly habitat

All good ideas. And as for brush piles… we’ll let’s just say we have that one bullet item covered.

Shelves in the kitchen? A happy thought indeed!

Well with condo project number one complete we move on to bigger and better things in the kitchen.

A sample of some of our cookbooks.

We are going to refurbish the crappy wood counter on one side and then build a nice shelving unit for our many cookbooks. The counter is awash with black pot rings from the previous owners and doesn’t match the beech of the other counter’s trim. Pat just got this book for Christmas and it requires a reinforced, sturdy shelf as it appears to be of encyclopedic stature.

The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook

We have a whack of cookbooks from all the celebrities like Jamie and Gordon but also Pat’s “girlfriend” Laura Calder and my pal Donna Hay. And like all good Ontarians we have a stack of LCBO Food and Drink magazines. But due to my coupon clipping, country cooking background there also has to be room for my Kraft annuals, the Minden Curling Club cookbook, old Milk calendars and recipe cards for sloppy joes, beer stew and other hillbilly staples.

Pat is going to build a nice shelf for our books and a few of our various cooking accoutrements. I wondered about keeping books in the kitchen but according to the folks at Real Simple it can be done.

Give cookbooks space

Of course the same will have to be done at some point in Buckhorn. The cookbooks still there are more of historical value including a rare vintage Dr. Oetker Cookbook in English German Home Cooking Special Issue for English Speaking Countries published in 1963. Every dish seems to have a fried egg on top of it and its 60s glossy photos look more like a “this is your brain on drugs” campaign. Rare beauty such as this needs a proper display. Just don’t look at it when you are hung over.

I mean come on, isn't that the most appetizing meal you've ever seen?

For now the bookshelf my grandfather built will do nicely for the Buckhorn books. Our city cookbooks need some attention. And a few new friends I’ve been perusing.

Until then we will just plan our shelves. I suspect it will be a couple of weeks at least what with that football game coming up. No cookbooks required for the requisite chili dogs and nachos.

Cats and kitchens

So our painting job this past weekend ended with only one person in the emergency room.

Friday night we spent a bit of time preparing our lists in order so we could head out early in the morning to get our supplies. We hit the hay to get a good night’s sleep but then as darkness fell I was ambushed by our unholy army of the night. In other words I rolled over onto a cat who didn’t care for the situation and he bit me.

No big deal. That’s what bandages and tea tree oil are for. So we headed out and got everything we needed.

Apparently a lot of thought goes into those rollers and brushes.

Pat started by sanding the rough and bumps of a thousand previous poorly completed paint jobs. We saw some vivid and interesting choices including a surprising lime green. He taped and papered to what could only be described as the level of a madman. But then again that is the difference between by “git ‘r done” method and his “we don’t have paint all over the floor and cupboards” method.

We had also decided to paint the stucco ceiling. I thought it looked serviceable enough but up close it showed the stains of years of oily cooking and smoking owners. Sort of like teeth that needed some of those fancy bleaching strips.

Saturday was all about the ceiling. The paint went only like a dream and made a world of difference. It also really showed off the red colour my finger had begun to turn.

We are down to the final bits and bobs. Only several more rooms and another house to paint.

On Sunday Pat finished up the taping, did a little more sanding and then convinced me my finger had begun to look like the beginning of a superhero film where the protagonist gets bitten by some sort of radioactive best. But with more pus. So I headed out to get that seen to.

What a delight to find, after two rounds of IV antibiotics and lots of ooze that not only is my infected cat bite on the mend but Pat had finished the kitchen. Well except for the bit around the refrigerator because I couldn’t exactly help move that now could I?

Well this isn't how I thought the weekend would be spent.

There was a tiny bit of bleeding (not me this time!) from the wall colour to the ceiling that needed to be touched up. I’ve used an edger on the walls that meet a stucco ceiling and that worked quite well but Pat wanted to go freehand. Since Pat had to putty over the massive sink holes left by too-large for the job screws from our shelving, that also required lots more sanding and coats of paint. All in all, a good start to our DIY efforts, probably due to my lack of involvement.

So lessons learned from our first attempt at a condo improvement

  • be prepared with a full list of what you will need
  • think about the job and note all of the work you will need to do
  • shop around until you find the colour, paint and supplies you need
  • be willing to get down and dirty to get every nook and cranny done
  • never anger a sleeping cat.

I’m not allowed to take final photos until the last little finishing touches are complete. We still need to deal with the terrible wood counter and build a nice shelf for our cookbooks and other kitchen goodies. Plus the added colour really makes the white cupboards pop but it also shows off all the coffee spills and other messes so vividly now I’ll have to do a massive clean. Why does work always make more work?

Kitchen colour finally!

We’ve finally decided on a colour for the kitchen in our condo.

While that may not sound like much, this is a major breakthrough. We move at the speed of molasses in February and in Canada that ain’t fast at all.

It is called Easton blue. I think it will work well with our white cabinetry, stainless backsplash and beech accents.

 What do you think?

Just give me the light

I didn’t realize just how dark my home office was until this past weekend when I replaced the missing two lightbulbs from the overhead lamp.

Now I get more done, I’m not squinting and I haven’t stubbed my toe once since I shed some light on the situation. Oh and adding the light also highlighted the need to dust in a big way so I am no longer literally sitting in my own squalor so that’s a plus.


That got me thinking about lighting. Out at the schoolhouse, we’ve got huge windows and tons of light to live by. When the sun goes down we rely on several antique globe lights called, not by coincidence, schoolhouse lights. Smaller task lamps fill in the dark corners and I’ve never had any problems. Well there is this one ceramic rhinoceros lamp that someone gave my grandmother one year but might go in a future post about dealing with horrific gifts from friends and neighbours.

The Lighting Design Lab in Washington states that according to an American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) study 68 per cent of employees complain about the light in their offices.

They have some really interesting research on the website, though most of it deals in industrial lighting.

Lighting Design Lab

I also checked out the website of the US-based National Lighting Bureau. Who knew there was such a thing? Anyway this group claims good lighting can increase retail sales, improve productivity and provide better safety and security for workers. That’s a lot of work for a few lightbulbs.


So that’s the home office but what about the rest of the house?

In this 2010 article in the Telegraph, Nina Campbell says lighting in the home builds ambience. It needs to be thought about before your design your room and should consider the tasks that get done in any given room so that the appropriate type of light is used. That nice table lamp might look great but if you start wearing your camping headlamp in order to read a book, that pretty lamp probably isn’t up to the job at hand.

Interior design: Nina Campbell’s lighting tips

Well my three bulb overhead light/fan in the office doesn’t build much ambience but when adjusted to the right heights provides a bright, clear light with no glare. It also really highlights my A-Team shadow box on the wall above my desk but I will talk about that in a future post about combining the extremely tacky items of your childhood into chic designer items.

Pretty lamp

So I guess my office is in good shape here in the condo but the living room will come next. I’m tired of wearing that headlamp.

Something old, something new

So what do you do when you have a taste for antiques and modern design?

los angeles antiques show

I’ve been wrestling with this for a while. I have some old stuff and I like a lot of new stuff. How do these things work together? Can I use an Eames molded plastic chair with my harvest table?

I think the schoolhouse will have a decidedly antique combination from various eras but the ol’ condo needs a more modern feel. I can’t Pat sitting in an old Victorian high back chair playing Halo can you?

According to House Beautiful I can if I don’t do too much in one space. I guess that makes sense. Half modern and half something else would look too cut and paste

Do Opposites Attract?

The folks at 2Modern say if you have a plan and a theme (say a colour or other type of connection) then it can work.

More on mixing modern and antique

And over here on Blissfully Domestic, there are even two examples of modern chairs with traditional tables like I mentioned earlier.

Mixing antique and traditional furniture styles

It seems the running theme here is that you need to plan your style, choose carefully the type and quantity of each style you like, and be creative throughout the process.