5 tips on how to decorate for the holidays for FREE!

aqua coffee mug plaid blanket adirondack chair outdoor
While some people have the same tried and true plan for decorating every holiday, I prefer driving myself crazy by trying to come up with new ideas every year.  Basically I get bored easy and to be honest, I like the challenge.  Which means, if last year the garland was draped on the banister this year it might get tucked into window boxes and you can bet that the Christmas tree will look different and may even be in a new room.  It’s my way of mixing things up without having access to a Martha Stewart budget.  It’s actually easier than you think to work with what you have -most of us have accumulated lots of decorations we no longer use or even have boxes of old stuff we inherited from relatives who downsized or passed away.  This year why not challenge yourself to open up every box of holiday decorations?  -And don’t hesitate to use a pair of scissors, some tape or even glue to transform them into what you really want!

Front door Christmas Wreath 2013
EXAMPLE: Last year you might remember I went with a red and aqua theme for outside (for more on that click here)  and since I am still really in love with this color combo, I decided to keep it but tweak it a little and best of all I didn’t spend a dime.  Here are some of my tips:

outdoor Christmas planters

1. NATURE:  Grab your gardening sheers and take your dog along for a walk in a forest or field.  Scan the ground for pine cones, unusual rocks, interesting bushes, moss and fallen or dead birch trees/branches (they make great accents and I saw bundles of 4 thick branches sell for $12.99 at a local shop) and use your sheers to snip evergreen branches to make your own wreaths or planters (make sure to only cut one or two branches per tree and only cut branches off trees that are 20 feet or taller, this way you will be sure not to harm or weaken the tree and it will be there next year to provide you with more free branches ;-).  Aside from making evergreen planters again this year I also attached evergreen branches to to the top of the entry posts (using painters tape -it’s not so sticky that it will damage the posts but works much better than rope, especially if you are working alone! ).

evergreen branches and ribbon attach to top of supportingpost
evergreen branches and mesh ribbons
2. WRAPPING.  Ribbons and bows… rummage through your wrapping station, you might be surprised what you can re-purpose.

Outdoor Christmas Decor 2013
3. GARDEN DECOR.  Bird houses, gnomes and even the 3 foot squirrel statue your grandma gave you can look whimsical tucked into an outdoor planter with a dusting of (real) snow (or the fake stuff!).  Also, bring garden decor indoors (give them a good washing first) and try sitting them on shelf or the base of your Christmas tree.

outdoor Christmas planters
4. THE CHRISTMAS BIN.  Because tinsel is cheep and cheerful it seems everyone has some lurking around -even if it’s in the form of an inexpensive tinsel Christmas tree you picked up on clearance a few years back:  I had two small red ones.  I snipped the branches off and twisted the ends together to form a wire garland which I wrapped around the base of my outdoor planters and also gave a little ‘beard’ to the bottom of my outdoor light fixtures!  And instead of using floppy tinsel garland in your tree this year, why not use it in a new way?  I cut one up into 4 small garlands and made little ‘halos’ for the tops of my outdoor light fixtures!  No longer in love with your store bought Christmas wreath? – Add colourful ornaments you already have!  I added aqua Christmas balls and the pair of skates to the wreath on my front door.

Tinsel scissors tapeoutdoor lights decorated for Christmas
 cutting off branches on tinsel Christmad treeHoliday Christmas Evergreen outdoor planter
5. LIGHTS.  For a real feeling of change and something brand new, try re-using old Christmas lights in new places.  Last year I hung aqua Christmas lights around the white support posts on my front stoop.  I liked it but they really never popped because they were located so close to my outdoor light fixtures.  This year those same lights are nestled in my outdoor planters which is not only a fun change, but the lights are much more noticeable at night.

outdoor Christmas decor

outdoor christmas decor 2013

Get rummaging and re-imagine some new decor for your home (for FREE) this year!

Thanks for checking in,

Julie

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Frozen outdoor planters? No problem!

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PROBLEM: You are finally ready to put together some outdoor holiday decorations and fill those planters with greenery and lights but “OH $#@!”.  You realize that you left your outdoor planters filled with soil outside and now they are frozen solid.

Frozen outdoor planter thaw with hot water

SOLUTION: You could haul them indoors and let them thaw overnight or… better yet, just bring a kettle (or pot) of water to a boil and pour over the soil for instant thawing!!  YES!!

Holiday Christmas Evergreen outdoor planter

I just did this last week and it worked great, I needed about 2 kettles of boiling water per planter since mine are pretty large.  * I would advise those with terracotta or ceramic pots not to try this method since it could likely result in shattering or cracking of your planter/pot.

Happy Decorating!

Julie

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Lunch Box Wars

Are school’s and parents taking allergy precautions too far?

peanut butter & jelly muffins

Columns, Julie Cadieux » Lunch box wars
// editor@hudsongazette.com // Dec 4th, 2013

Most of us know people with allergies. In fact, two very close friends of mine have children with deadly food allergies. When preparing to have them visit my home, it’s something I take very seriously. I research and read food labels. I wipe down things like door handles and light switches and I make sure I cook meals as safely as possible. I do my part so that my guests leave in the car they came in -and not in an ambulance!

Food allergies may not run in my family but food intolerance, seasonal and pet allergies do — and perhaps some of you with food allergies snub your nose at those of us with the itchy, watery eyes or sneezing but did you know that these kinds of allergies can be pretty scary too? My mom is deadly allergic to horses (discovered during a close call on a calèche ride at Disney World when I was nine). My daughter has seasonal allergies where, aside from the obvious symptoms, she also breaks out in burning, itchy red hives on her face and torso.

I hear you, allergy parents, I do. I get how hard you have to work to keep your kids safe but well fed. I know a woman who has to make everything from scratch, even bread, to be sure her child doesn’t die from eating the wrong thing. That’s a lot of stress.

And yes, I too thought it was really careless and just plain stupid when, a few weeks ago, one high school cafeteria staff decided to make a huge vat of peanut sauce to accompany one of their dishes and told students with nut allergies to stay away from the cafeteria and not eat lunch that day. It was no surprise when a student who hadn’t heard to stay clear went in anaphylactic shock (that student is perfectly fine now btw). If the school and/or school board is going to have a policy on food restrictions then they and whoever is hired to cook food on the premises should follow it with no exceptions.

However, long gone are the days where schools only ban peanuts. In many schools today the list of the forbidden keeps growing: all nuts, all seeds, eggs, milk products and candy. If a teacher or lunch monitor just THINKS that there might be a banned substance in your child’s lunch bag, it’s not gonna see the light of day. Period.

Reese's Pieces Peanut Butter Chipits

I’m not trying to say that we shouldn’t be cautious or care about children who have food allergies, but is it starting to go too far? I read about a teacher who explained how her school implemented a new rule where the staff can’t put milk in their coffee or honey in their tea. Last year a mom in York, Ontario made headlines for fighting with her child’s school to cut down oak trees located nearby (not on the school property) because the falling acorns posed a threat to her child who had a severe nut allergy.

Plus what about the cost? I often think about how pricey lunches have become. Peanut butter and jelly, egg salad or even a simple cheese sandwich are not just old fashioned boxed lunch staples — they are economical. While parents who have children with food restrictions get attention and a pat on the back for demanding change. parents with low incomes are too embarrassed to write angry letters to their school board or call up the local newspaper to complain about how they can’t afford genoa salami, slices of lean turkey breast and bread that is certified to be milk-less, egg-less, seed-less and nut-less (and at this point why not throw in gluten-free since that seems to be a thing now too!).

And now on top of everything schools demand that kids eat a healthy snack at recess -and I absolutely agree, except forget the yogurt, slice of cheese or even milk (remember when we were in elementary school and had milk delivered to us at recess? GASP!). And if you thought the all mighty granola bar would be the no-brainer, go-to, save the day snack solution you are dead wrong. I proudly found and purchased nut-free granola bars but my daughter was told to keep it in her lunch box and take it home because it had ‘quinoa’ in it (pronounced “keen-wah,” it is a protein packed grain). I guess it is considered a seed? To be honest, I can’t keep up.

I know what you’re thinking food allergy parents “get over it and pack your kid an apple!”. Absolutely, I love fruit and so do my kids, except my daughter gets an itchy tongue when she eats apples or any fruits with edible skin and I can’t cut it up because she doesn’t like it unless its cut up fresh and my middle child has braces so he needs most hard fruit cut up also, but hey, I am not whining; I buy single-serve apple sauce and fruit cups and of course we always have bananas in the house.

Pantry: large bin with easy accessible snacks for the kids

And yes allergen parents, I am lucky enough to have a fridge full of cold cuts, lunch meats and a variety of breads for my kids’ sandwiches. Except, recently I heard a doctor explain how we should not eat lunch meats more than twice a week because of all the preservatives and salt and apparently some studies now show that eating lunch meats more than three times a week can cause cancer. SIGH. I had a great idea of making tuna salad sandwiches once a week but then I remembered I can’t because mayonnaise has egg in it. So now, I try and break up the week with a thermos of soup. Unfortunately my kids just won’t eat dinner leftovers for lunch and the whole point is to try and get them to like their lunch enough to eat it since I’m not there to make sure they do. I credit myself with being pretty creative in the kitchen, and you can find some great lunch box ideas in books like Beating The Lunch Box Blues by J.M. Hirsh, but creativity just doesn’t happen to me at 6:20 a.m. (the time when I’m putting together the kids’ school lunches).

Allergies are no joke but there it is anyway: my annoyance with it all. I know I am not the only one. What do you think? Is the line between cautious and crazy becoming a little blurry?

Email me at JulieLovesHome@gmail.com

Julie Cadieux 2012

3 steps to a Laundry-Mudroom Makeover

3tipsfortinymultiuserooms

The (bla-bla) Backstory:
When we moved into our new home three years ago I quickly painted the mudroom the same (custom paint color created by me!) pale lime green as the kitchen.  Mostly because I had a lot of paint leftover and I was exhausted:  I had spent the previous 4 months designing, planning, contracting, building, budgeting, putting in 16 hour days and even tackling some projects myself like levelling the garage before the concrete was poured, installing the thermal barrier sheet in prep for the basement floor and even sanding, priming and painting our entire home.  I was tired.  Really tired.  And I just wanted it all to be done and over with.  To move in, unpack, get the kids settled and start reconnecting and living as a family again (did I mention our temporary living arrangements were my in-laws basement?).  So I painted the kitchen and then took the paint color right into the laundry room and literally moved on with my life.
But I almost immediately regretted it.  There is zero naturally light, and so the green, which looks ‘spring fresh’ in the kitchen, just felt like the color of ‘sick’ in the laundry-mudroom.  Which of course makes sense now, because I was actually sick n’ tired  at the time I was painting the laundry-mudroom (roll eyes at bad joke here).  Lol!
I thought many times about changing it, but what color?  I got paint swatches and browsed Pinterest for inspirations but still, I had no idea.  Then, over the summer while mopping the room’s slate floor,  it hit me.  The color inspiration had been there, all around me -all along:  Black & White.  Duh!
With the room’s charcoal slate tiles, white cabinets, white appliances, black coat rack, grey counters, white trim and ceiling, the black and white accessories I already had … it suddenly became obvious to me that I should just paint out the entire room a fresh glossy white.  I’ve mentioned before that my fave white paint is Behr’s Ultra Pure White in gloss.  Every white painted surface in my home is this color, and I always seem to have a leftover can hanging around.  Best of all, because this room receives a lot traffic (and dirty soggy outerwear), I became giddy imagining how great it would be to have everything painted in the same white-glossy-easy-to-wipe-clean-and-do-paint-touch-ups-color.  As an added bonus I knew this would kick start me into properly finishing and organizing this room once and for all.
 
beforesickntiredlaundryroom
 
#1 Just Plan it:
  • Inspired by the black & white color theme my mind raced at all the possibilities for accent colors (hot pink or aqua?).  Except, when I really stopped to consider how this space was being used (backpack drop off, mail station, dog diner, laundry area, seasonal clothing storage and accessory closet).  I realized that all of our family’s stuff already had plenty of pattern and color.  A bunch of super cute colorful accessories would only end up getting lost in the shuffle or worse -just add more visual noise to the space.  Keeping it simple was key.
  • I decided to continue with a monochromatic palette adding a little warmth in the form of saddle toned wood with hits of gold.  
coachclogsforroominspiration
 
 #2 Just Paint it
  • Before back-to-school arrived, I emptied the laundry-mudroom and gave the ceiling, walls, trim and doors a new paint job (of course, I filled any holes, sanded and primed first!).  It took 4 coats (5 coats in some areas).  Not because the green paint was too dark, but glossy paint can be tricky like that.  It’s not as forgiving and for a really rich deep perfectly glossy painted surface, a little more effort is required.  It only looks great if you can build up those glossy layers of paint (not convinced about going glossy yourself?  Click here for more).

Prepping the laundry-mudroom for painting

  • I replaced the cabinet door handles for some unique ones I found at my local hardware store (Hudson Hardware) which I spray painted gold (yup still loving the gold, more on that here and here).  The gold ties in really nicely by picking up on the warmth of the wood accessories.

goldspraypaintcabinetdoorknobs

  • Finally, I had a little leftover chalkboard paint from the guest-game room makeover (more on that project here) and I thought it would be a cool, not to mention free, back-splash idea.

chalkboardbacksplashwall

#3 Just Organize It
  • Aren’t those labelled-wall-mounted-metal-wire-storage-baskets (that’s a mouthful) fantastic?  I found them at the MAXI grocery store around the time we were just moving in.  I love how they taper at the bottom so that they don’t take up too much space.  Aside from storing the obvious seasonal accessories they are also great for hanging sunglasses and the fact that air can circulate through means damps mittens get the chance to dry. Everyone in the family has their own, even our Siberian Husky, Kaya!  Best of all, they sell for about $6 each.

metalwirestoragebasketwallmounted

  • A shoe horn, compact umbrella, bottle of insect repellant and a tube of sun screen are out of sight thanks to the woven basket above the coat rack and the three large wicker baskets above the cabinets house my scented candle addiction. The wood box (made by my grandfather) hides take-out menus.

laundrymudroomblackandwhitenaturalbaskets2

  • Decorative bowls and small planters can be re-purposed for organizing misc items like gum, pocket change, message pads and pens.

mudroomstorageideascollage

  • Serving trays are the interior decorators’ go-to trick for making items look neat and pulled together.

laundrymudroomcounterstorageblackandwhite

 black and white mudroom

blackwhitewoodgoldmudroom

The Shopping
I only purchased four things for this space -all of the other items I shopped my own house!  I used up a leftover can of Behr paint in Ultra Pure White, but had to buy another can for $34.99 at the Home Depot.  The cool (earring inspired) cabinet door pulls for were $4.99 each.  I scored the mirror at Bombay for $25 (down from $299) and the black and white hounds-tooth laundry basket was $16.99 at HomeSense (also known as HomeGoods depending on where you live).  It’s also worth mentioning that the black coat rack (also purchased at HomeSense, 3 years ago) is actually designed for displaying a tea cup or mug collection, but when I spotted it I knew it would work perfectly for the mudroom.
AFTERlaundrymudroombright&organized

The 101: Before decorating any room, be honest about how you use it.  A monochromatic color scheme is a perfect backdrop to a multi-use space.  Small rooms are great to experiment with fun door hardware.

Julie

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Garden Garbage Condisauce

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why not use up whatever is left in your end-of-season vegetable garden to whip up your very own zesty condisauce? 

Condisauce: When a condiment can also be used as a sauce or a sauce used as a condiment it is refered to as condisauce. Condisauce: When you make or purchase a condiment and you find it can be used in larger amounts and be cooked in a dish with meat, poultry and fish OR when you make or purchase a sauce and realise it works equally well cold as a condiment for burgers and sandwiches.  Another way of saying source: Condiment. Sauce. Dressing. Marinade. Cooking.

when it's a both a condiment and a sauce

It’s fall but there are still some days that feel like summer.  Which is why, when you look at your pitiful end of the season vegetable garden, you’re still a tad hopeful that those green tomatoes will turn red, that you have plenty of time to bring the basil plant indoors and that you will  find the desire (soon) to pickle those hot peppers that decided to grow in all at the same time.

sad end of season fall vegetable garden

Except I know from experience that those tomatoes will in fact, stay green, that the basil will die and turn black at the very first sign of frost and that the hot peppers will end up rotting in the crisper when you’re kids catch on that you’ve been trying to sneak them into e-v-e-r-y meal.

Here is one solution for your leftover garden garbage;

leftover garden vegies like green tomatoes tomato for condisauce

Garden Garbage Condisauce:

  1. Gather up the cracked, nasty or bruised red tomatoes, the green unripened ones, a fist-full of herbs and some hot peppers.
  2. Give them a quick wash, take off the stems and throw them in a huge pot on the stove.
  3. Pour enough water to almost cover the vegetables.  Feel free to throw in a little salt, an onion or two, some garlic, even a couple of old carrots that you accidentally just discovered were growing into your oregano.
  4. Bring to a boil, then reduce temperature to low and allow to simmer for 20 minutes or until all veggies are soft.
  5. Using your immersion blender, blend together until the consistency is smooth and pureed (looks like baby food).
  6. Pour some into condiment bottles to squeeze on your burgers and sandwiches then store the rest in air tight containers in the fridge or freezer to be used in cooking. (Example: last week I threw skinned and d-boned chicken thighs into the crock pot with 4 cups of this sauce.  I let it cook all day and added in a little heavy cream about 20 minutes before serving over rice = YUM!).

condisauce

Use as dressing on hamburgers, a marinade for grilled pork chops or the base of a great sauce!

If you already cleaned up, composted or threw away you garden’s garbage don’t feel bad -just pin, bookmark, print or save this post for next year ;-)

By the way, in case you’re wondering, condisauce is almost, sort of, a real word.  I made a submission today to Urban Dictionary.com (can you believe no one had done that yet?) and to my surprise a couple of hours later I got an email back, no joke:

“Thanks for your definition of condisauce!
Editors reviewed your entry and have decided to publish it on urbandictionary.com.  It should appear on this page in the next few days:  http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=condisauce 
Urban Dictionary”

Created a blog, check.  Invented a word, check. Next, the Pulitzer Prize …LOL!  ;-)

-Julie

why not transform fall centerpieces into mini outdoor light wreaths?

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“so stupid-easy,
you’ll be too embarrassed to not claim this idea as your own!”
centerpieceturnedoutdootfalldecorminiwreathJulieLovesHome.jpg

Next time you’re out doing errands pop in to a craft store, dollar shop or browse the seasonal section of your local home store.  You should be able to find fall inspired centrepieces similar to the ones I picked up recently for $1.25 each (see photo).  Think about how many outdoor house lights you have (or wish to decorate) and buy a centrepiece for each one.

Fall DIY leaf mini wreath from centerpiece

Now for the most complicated part of this project (insert sarcasm here), using a pair of regular old scissors, make one cut in the middle ring where the candle or vase would go.  That’s it.  Slip it onto your outdoor light fixture for cute and simple fall decor!

outdoor mini light wreath

mini wreath outdoor FALL DIY

front of my house Oct 2013

outdoor house lights decorate seasonal

Don’t you just love easy?

Julie

P.S. My outdoor light fixtures were purchased at Canadian Tire, you can find them HERE.

Check back often for more home lovin’ ideas!

why not ‘beast it’ for dinner tonight?

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DIY CAMP FIRE GRATE

Forget the outdoor gas grill… make dinner on your camp fire!

I am not a huge fan of camping, but I do love campfire food.  Why is it a plain old hot dog tastes so much better on a camp fire compared to the fancy gas BBQ grill at home?  This very thought inspired my husband with a great idea:

Last summer we purchased a new outdoor gas grill but for whatever reason he decided to keep the top and bottom metal cooking grates from our old grill before throwing it out.  After we built our DIY Fire Pit (more on that here), he got the idea of attaching both of the old grates together using re-bar and heavy duty metal wire to make one long cooking grate that can sit right over top of our fire pit whenever we feel like pretending we are camping having a cookout.

To make your own DIY CAMP FIRE GRATE you will need:

  1. Two cooking grates from an old BBQ/gas grill or purchase new ones wherever they sell replacement grill parts.
  2. Two 43″inch long pieces of re-bar (double check length according to your fire pit)
  3. Heavy duty metal wire
  4. Metal wire cutters, pliers and work gloves.

Using the metal wire, tie the two grates together lengthwise.  Sit and center them on top the re-bar and attach them with more wire at each corner and along the edges by wrapping the wire around several times.   Use the wire cutters to cut the wire and the pliers to help twist the wire together tightly and securely.  You’re done!

DIY grate grill for cooking on fire pit

cooking grilling on the campfire

The other night we tried it out by cooking Italian sausages, hot dogs and green beans (picked fresh from our garden) right on the campfire!

It. Was. Awesome.

We now refer to this way of cooking and eating as ‘beasting it‘:  Cooking on a real wood fire.  Eating mostly with your hands.  Your clothes and hair smelling of smoke and charred meat. Your lap getting dirty because the plate keeps sliding off -oh and don’t forget to pick the ash out of your drink!

 fire pit Cookout

JacobMcStud

The kids loved it and the food was so tasty that everyone had second and third helpings! It was a great family evening which ended with roasting marshmallows and some tackle softball (the tackle part was introduced once I started throwing marshmallows at the hubs and kids! LOL).  And best of all, when we were done, we all got to clean off inside the house with hot showers and sleep in dry, cozy, bug free beds!

Tell me, is camping without actually camping, your kind camping too? ;-)

Julie

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