99. My 6 Ingredients for Warm Winter Decor

Hands up – who doesn’t think that wood is warm? I thought so – everyone agrees that 1. wood adds warmth – wood furniture, wood floors, firewood, botanical stuff brought in from outside, wicker and rattan.reclaimed stairway

But, who thinks of stone when I say “warmth?” I thought not – inherently a cold hard material, in This Green House 2. stone is what holds the heat from the thermal mass fireplace, the hot tea in the pot, the smooth sensual stones in the pottery bowl.

And, 3.Textiles – a quilt, sweaters as chair covers and footstools, carpets, cushions, window coverings and quilts on the walls – not only do they insulate, but just looking at them elicits warm cozy thoughts, maybe memories of a grandparent’s cuddles.art quilts

In the dark months of winter, even here on the balmy Pacific Coast, 4. light is a sure-fire cure for the grey blahs. Whether you have a fireplace or candles, firelight is the coziest. Artificial light is next best, and I keep the seasonal decor up until at least the beginning of spring.

I love 5. colour – It just happens that our living room set, handed down from my parents after they used them for fifty years, is green. My favourite decor colour is red. So, these are not just the colours we use at Christmas – they’re my favourite all year. They make me feel happy and cozy. I know the trend in sophisticated decor is white and neutral, but I can’t live without colour. One of the guiding principles in building green is to avoid trends, because discarding last season’s decor is wasteful, or remodelling an off-trend house will likely involve tearing up and discarding still useful materials that could be pressed into service for another generation. I shop the house for decor, and occasionally the thrift stores. We designed This Green House  to be classic and traditional Craftsman style, with enduring materials like real stone, cedar shingles, steel roofing, fir floors (themselves reused from 100-year old houses), and subway tiles.

And 6? Books, of course! Like textiles, books always make me feel brighter. Not just the reading of them, but also the seeing of them. Perhaps we were read to as children, or use books to escape, or maybe even get an education. I’m so lucky that books are in my world.

I’m lovin’ livin’ in my cozy world.cozy decor Collage


Partying with: Cozy Little House, The Dedicated House, Stringtown Home, Coastal Charm, Between Naps on the Porch, Women in Real Life, Home Stories A to Z, Savvy Southern Style, Stone Cottage Adventures, Fluster Buster, Winter Blues Wednesday, Handy Man Crafty Woman, Home & Garden Thursday, In The New House Designs (FEATURED!), Thoughts From Alice, Lavender Cottage, Domestically Speaking


98. Blimey, That was Tough (Wall Mural)

The view from the guest room:Tough to compete with that view, but I’m giving it a good try with my interior decor.

I’ve had a photo mural kicking around for about 10 years. It’s Golden Buddha (#405) by a German company (Bild Wande) and cost $99 at the time. I bought it with the idea that it would make a dramatic focal point in our condo renovation. I never got the courage up to install it there. When we were clearing out the condo to sell it, the 6’x8′ wall mural re-surfaced, and I brought it home.

We started decorating our “boho” guest room a year ago, with the installation of the ceiling, starlit with the constellations of the northern hemisphere. finished guest room ceiling

An antique Egyptian applique given to me by a quilting friend was the first inspiration for the colour scheme and general decor.

But, I had more plans. Over-the-top plans for our boho guest room. Plans that involved ethnic textiles, colour, gilt accessories, found objects, re-usable castaways, stuff that I’d never be caught dead using in our own spare zen-like master bedroom.

audition CollageSo, when D left after the holidays to go to work in the city, Cathy and Angela volunteered to come over to help me audition some of the decor items I had found, purchased second hand, or painted/sewn for this bit of exotica.

What I ended up with is a far cry from what I thought I was going to do with the room, thanks to their help.

I was planning to install the attention-seeking golden Buddha on a side wall that you don’t even see as you enter the room, and then install re-cycled sari silk curtains over the wall mural to hide it for a bit of mystery. 

I have a confession to make. I often (silently) criticize the over-use of Buddha sculptures and images in modern decor – it’s a cliche, a fad. But, here I was, installing a great big Buddha mural.

It’s like an itch I had to scratch. We (our guests, really) will live with it for a while, and if we end up hating it for its over-the-topness, then I’ll strip it off and maybe return to a boring white room. In the meantime, here’s what I did (and I ask for your forgiveness, D):

The mural comes in four panels, each 36″x 50″. I marked the centre of the wall, with a level and pencil, and then decided to allow a 4″ border of wall colour on the top to match the  side borders, so marked the horizontal centre of the mural accordingly. I researched how-to on the internet, and of course, it looked so easy. It’s not.

I bought some wallpaper paste, after making my own from cornstarch and water. I had a fit of doubt over my DIY paste, because I just didn’t want anything to go wrong. I’m sorry to report that using a commercial paste was not enough insurance to prevent problems.

I climbed the step ladder and, with a paint roller loaded with paste, applied it over the first (top left) quarter of the wall. Very carefully started laying and smoothing the paper panel from the centre line and the bottom line marked on the wall. The panel immediately developed bubbles, which I tried to smooth with a painting pad. The panel kept peeling itself off from the top. I pressed the upper corners, to no avail. My paint tray was on the ground, and if I removed my hands to reload the roller or a brush, the whole panel would come off. I kept pressing, even as the rest of the panel was developing more bubbles, until it seemed it would stay in place for a minute.

Panic was starting to rise in me. I climbed down the ladder to load a brush, climbed up to reapply paste along the edges. The YouTube video demonstrated peeling off the panel to realign it, so I tried that, only to find that some of the paper ripped off the back and distorted the image with tears (both the kind on paper and the kind in my eyes.)

I gave up trying to realign, and concentrated on smoothing the panel as best I could. Actual wrinkles were developing, and, in truth, it looked hopeless. But, what could I do with 3/4 of a Buddha, so I started the next panel, laying it exactly along the edge of the first, and smoothing it from the centre out. Bubbles and wrinkles like before, but this time I used a plastic trowel to smooth, and it went somewhat better.

It looks so much better in the picture than it was. The third panel proved to be the hardest, even though I didn’t have to climb a ladder to do it. That’s when I finally realized that the bubbles were caused by the paper stretching when it was wet (not by the absence of paste), and the panel was 1/4″ smaller when dry. Basically, I had to stretch it to fit, with my hands and the plastic trowel. Damage was done, especially at the edges.

This group of photos shows some of the types of damage. The centre circle shows the damage, and the right circle shows the repair of that damage (I couldn’t get the colours to match, sorry.) I repaired it with felt pens, watercolour paint, and crayons.wall mural repair CollageThe last panel was more of the same. I was sweating bullets by this time, trying to stretch the paper to match the image of the other panels. But, I observed that the first panel had settled more-or-less flat, except where I flattened the wrinkle permanently into the image. There were distortions still, but considering that the Buddha is made of stone, it looks intentional, I told myself.

I carried on until all four panels were adhered, smoothed as well as I could, and then went upstairs to have dinner. When I inspected it after dinner, it was seriously improved. I wouldn’t have to pull it all off after all! It took me about two hours. Not bad. I don’t think another pair of hands would have helped – except maybe to load the brush – we would have got in each other’s way. I did a few more additions to the room. The silk sari curtains replaced the blue curtains on the patio doors, after I sewed a black sheer onto the back. I used a sheer gold panel I had on hand over the window, but will probably change that. I’m fiddling around with other furniture and accessories, and will post again when I make those decisions.

But, here’s what it looked like before:

And after:

and the other wall before:

and after:

Oh, and I found two low pre-owned navy blue tub chairs at the trading post today, for when our guests want to do some relaxin’ tea drinkin’ and readin’. I had started to make a chaise lounge of upholstery scraps, but as the room slowly started to come together, I realized that it did not fit in – these low chairs seem better, somehow, for the vibe that’s growing here.

I made a bed skirt and pillowcases from four yards of Indian block-printed cotton that will forever remind me of a fibre artist who left her supplies for our group of artists when she passed away. Still looking for the right (Moroccan?) lamp for the corner to the right of the patio doors, a couple of cushions for the chairs, some navy blue candles, an area rug, better window covering, navy blue or burgundy towels, and a couple of poufs/footstools made from a gorgeous wool melton coat I found at the thrift store. I’m having cheesy fun playing with this room.

Anyway, thank you to Angela and Cathy for your invaluable help, and all three of my readers for giving me a shoulder to cry on (re: pasting the mural.) You’re the best!

Sharing with:

The Charm of Home, French Country CottageMy Romantic Home, Chic on a Shoestring, DIY Vintage Chic, Home and Garden Thursday, Table it Link Party, Cozy Little House, Between Naps on the Porch, Domestically Speaking, Coastal Charm, A Stroll Thru Life, The Dedicated House, My Own Home, Elizabeth & Co, Savvy Southern Style, Handy Man, Crafty Woman, From My Front Porch to Yours, I Gotta Create!, Inspiration Thursday, A Delightsome Life, Rooted in Thyme, Embracing Change, Shabbilicious Friday, DIY by Design, Funky Junk Interiors, Thoughts From Alice

97. Funky Desk from Rejects

If you read my other blog, This Green House, you may remember the “pirate plank” bar post, wherein I described the reclamation of a huge ol’ fir plank, advertised thusly on Craigslist:

“Free to a good home – one plank. It’s a big one – 2 1/4″ thick x 16″ wide x 12′ 7″ long. This was found in the basement of our circa 1920’s home when we moved in and it looks like it is just about that old. Nice straight grain, wood species unknown. Suitable for miscellaneous woodworking projects, or perfect for a pirate, if your ship is currently plank-less and you have a prisoner that you want to get rid of but are stuck due to your current lack of a plank. It’s leaning up outside the house and has to go ASAP. A smaller version is also available – 5′ long, perfect for your pirate dinghy. Pickup only, sorry – no mooring nearby.”

pirate plank reclaimedWell, that dinghy pirate plank has found new life as a desk top – together with four table legs I found by the side of the road waiting for the garbage truck, and three four-foot-long fir stair risers.

The space in our home is mostly open, with few spots to just quietly collect our thoughts, or in my case, do writing. I thought about the inspiring view from our bedroom and decided that a desk in there might fit the bill.

We have two great 2×6 rugs we bought when visiting a Tibetan refugee camp in India. I love them because they feel joyous, and because we watched the cheerful women making rugs from the raw wool, to the dyeing, to the spinning, to the knotting of the rugs (100 knots per inch.)tibetan runner rug

Into my mind crept the plan to paint the four landfill-bound table legs to match the rugs. It turned out to be a 3-day long project, although it looks quite simple.

First, I built the table base, cutting out a piece for knee space on the front. Drilled 6 holes to screw the top on from below.Unsure about the proportion/design of the table, I photographed the table upside down, then flipped the photograph 180 degrees to see what it would look like.desk proportion audition

Sanded the legs, and trimmed the length to make the desk an ergonomically appropriate height for computer work. Painted the base and the legs with the rugs’ darkest colour:

 Then, I masked and hand-painted the rug designs onto the desk base with acrylic craft paint.  The Greek key design was a real head-scratcher – I traced it from the photo on my monitor, and labouriously cut and re-cut a stencil, only to discover that I could just cut some letter “T”s instead of this: Then it went much more easily:I assembled the legs and base:and gave the whole thing a top coat of Varathane.

Next, the top. It’s a 2″ thick, 5′ long piece of fir. I gave it 3 coats of Varathane, temporarily placed it on the legs, and wasn’t happy with it. It looked top-heavy and unbalanced.Sought advice from friends and family. Decided to cut 7″ off the length. Better.

Another suggestion was to paint a thick line of the darkest colour along the bottom of the slab, represented here by blue tape:

Or, to paint the whole edge that dark blue. The jury’s still out on that decision. Feel free to weigh in.

For now, I’m going with this:

Cost of project: $6 for leg hardware, $8 for new paints.

Sharing with:

Sunny Simple Life, Life on Lakeshore Drive, Thoughts From Alice, Dwellings – The Heart of Your Home, Rustic and Refined, Cozy Little House (FEATURED!), Coastal Charm, Kathe with an E (FEATURED!), Kammy’s Korner, The Dedicated House, Savvy Southern Style, DIY By Design (FEATURED!), The Thrifted Home, From My Front Porch to Yours, I Gotta Create, Inspiration Thursday, The Charm of Home, Rooted in Thyme, Friday’s Furniture Fix, Chic On a Shoestring, DIY Vintage Chic, Funky Junk Interiors, A Stroll Thru Life, DIY Like a Boss, The Curator’s Collection, Friday’s Furniture Fix

96. Soap and Christmas

2015 christmas treeChristmas around here is uproarious. With 6-9 young adults and two dogs coming and going, games and food are constantly on the table, or in the case of the dogs, on the floor (for a split second.)In a rebellious moment, I decided to eschew all the traditional Christmas tree decorations and simply use the Chinese lantern (Physalis alkekengi) skeletons from the plants originating with a gift our niece gave me 3 years ago, plus pine cones, and birds. Thankfully, the ‘kids’ did most of the placement, so I didn’t have to climb those ladders.

The dishwasher and clotheswashers are in full throttle. Sauna and steam room likewise. Space heaters and seasonal lights, too.  We all use much more energy than little ol’ D and I use when we’re here alone.

The whole point of Christmas is to spend time together as a family. Over the years, we’ve reduced our commercial footprint to nearly nil. Now, we each contribute a small, often hand-made gift to each other’s stocking. Each year, I’m impressed anew with the thought and originality of each person’s contribution.hemlock with jack-o-lantern plant

I’ve long wanted to learn to make soap, and a short lecture at our local botanical garden got me started. I managed to make three kinds of soap (Skin Rx hockey puck, eucalyptus, and calendula/borage), some beard balm and beard oil, and foot soak for the stockings, and it was fun!

To make cold-process soap, the basic ingredients are lye, water, and oils. There are plenty of recipes online, and it’s important to learn about the process before you make a batch, because the lye can be dangerous, the proportions of oils to lye vary depending on the oils used, and the additives must be added at a certain stage. My goals are to use organic and vegan ingredients as far as possible.

I’m most proud of my hockey puck soap (so Canadian) – it’s got activated charcoal and a luffa sponge that I grew myself (seeds from West Coast Seeds.) Activated charcoal is often used in face masques to detoxify skin and scour out bacteria.

This is what the Miriam Sponge Gourd (loofa) looks like:loofah Collage

And here are my proportions for Hockey Puck Skin Rx soap (basic recipe courtesy of Lexi, the teacher):

19 oz olive oil (pomace), 15 oz palm oil, 8 oz coconut oil, 3 oz sweet almond oil, 6.1 oz lye (NaOH), 14.9 oz distilled water, 1 oz lemon grass oil, 1.5 oz activated charcoal, 1 loofa sponge

I lined a 3″ pvc pipe, 12″ long, with baking parchment paper, taped plastic to the bottom, inserted the loofa, and poured the batter all around (beaten to a light trace – you will learn about this when you research.) After 72 hours, the soap had dried enough to shrink it, allowing me to slide it out of the tube. I cut it with the paper still on, which helped to hold it together, using a sharp filetting knife.

For another stocking gift, I used some old (clean) socks to corral soap nuts, which are actually the husks of nuts grown in India (purchased at The Soap Dispensary in Vancouver, BC, Canada, also available at many online soap-making suppliers.) They create a lather, and the little packets should wash 6-8 loads of laundry.soap nuts

And, just to give you a little giggle, here is the floor below our poor Charlie Brown bush-found hemlock (I requested a fir), 4 days after we installed it:dropping hemlock needles Thanks for reading, and Happy Gnu Year.

Sharing with these kind party hosts: A Morning Cup of Joe, Sunny Simple Life, Life on Lakeshore Drive, Thoughts From Alice, Dwellings – The Heart of Your Home, Rustic and Refined, Kathe with an E, My Own Home

95. Harvest – A New Approach to Vegetable Storage

With our dry, dry summer, this year we had an excess of tomatoes and peppers. Also a great crop of carrots and beets (yay!)

root cellar box CollageLast year, I bemoaned my lack of foresight in not planning for a root cellar when we built our green home (this post.) My strategy then was to store our root veggies in a burlap-layered box. I’m chagrinned to report that I had to compost about 1/2 of the makeshift root-cellared veggies, because they both dried out and rotted, if that makes sense.

This year, I have decided to leave the carrots and the beets in the ground until we need them. A couple of years ago, we were still harvesting them in February.

I weeded and cleaned up the dried foliage, cut off the carrot tops.Planting garlic between root crops Planted about 175 garlic cloves in between the rows, every 4″.

Then, tucked fallen leaves around them for warmth. Good night, veggies. Stay healthy!leaf mulch on root vegetables

What’s not to love about fall?
tulip leaf on thyme