Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Giving Back Gift Guide

This is the time of year when I pull together gift guides and share holiday ideas but I thought I would start off the season by sharing a gift guide that gives back.

There are many ways we can give back and like it or not it seems we focus a little more on doing this during the holiday season.  Whether you prefer volunteering your time at a local food bank; making a donation to a charitable organization or purchasing a tangible gift from an organization that sells fair trade products; I've gathered together a list for you to explore. 

There are many beautiful and stylish fair trade gifts that you can buy that are sourced from artisans in emerging economies. I'll definitely be exploring these a little bit more.  

It's a different kind of online shopping. I hope you feel inspired to act, donate or purchase.

1/ Flying Dove Ornament via Ten Thousand Villages 2/ Geometric Patterned Notecards via Far and Wide Collective 3/ Kantha pillow via Ten Thousand Villages 4/White Round Placemats via Far and Wide Collective 5/ Turquoise Endito Three Strand Necklace via Far and Wide Collective 6/ Winter Wonderland gift set via Me to We

For more gift ideas visit sites such as:

Me to We
Far and Wide Collective
Ten Thousand Villages
World Vision


 Give a micro-loan and help empower someone to start a business and change their life. 

Give the gift of sport:

Kidsport Provides financial assistance to kids under 18 for registration and equipment through a confidential application process.

Right to Play Uses play to teach important life skills to children through sports and games.

Jumpstart Canadian Tire's charitable organization helps kids participate in sports by providing necessary funds to community groups and helps families cover the cost of equipment and registration.

Gifts that help children:

Hospital for Sick Children

Artsy Gifts:

Inner City Angels
Santa Claus Fund


Other community driven charities:


Habitat for Humanity

Gifts for Animal Lovers:

World Wildlife Fund
Ontario SPCA
Canadian Wildlife Federation

Finally, The Toronto Star published a list of ways you can donate your time to help this season. Read it here.

By the way...

So much has happened since I last posted on my little blog. I've been busy with design projects and a new gig I started last spring with The Toronto Star. I'm writing a weekly column for their new tablet product "Star Touch" as well as working on other features that appear across all platforms (print, tablet and web).  Have you seen the column? It's called "Try It or Buy It".  Every week I share a simple DIY project with step by step photos. Then I show readers where they can buy it - buy something similar - for those who aren't feeling very crafty but still want the look.

I've been missing this place and was feeling a bit odd about just reappearing out of the blue. Instagram has been my main spot to share. It's so easy, right?

Friday, July 3, 2015

Laura's Urban Lakeside Townhouse - Reveal and Minted Art

Laura's cozy living room

Well the art is hung and we are finally ready to give you a peek into my client and friend Laura's, newly decorated living room and dining room space. 

There are still a few final touches waiting to happen but we are really happy with the space and couldn't wait to share it.

It was perfect timing when the opportunity to collaborate with Minted came up recently! It was a total coincidence that Laura had already chosen a bunch of art she loved and wanted to purchase for this room. So working with Minted on this collaboration was meant to be. 

Laura said her shopping experience on Minted was super easy. She liked how you could narrow the search for pieces of art by colour, style and even shape. Scroll down to see photos of the art wall.

Built-in bookcases - Ikea hack

The other main part of this project was designing a wall of "built-in's" to add some much needed storage, display space and interest to a builder basic room. Using Billy bookcases, trim and moulding we were able to achieve a built-in look for a small price. There is nothing better than a good ol' Ikea hack to get the look at a better price point, right?

Here is her art wall ...

Laura was starting fresh in this new space and also needed new furniture. We fell for this leather sofa from West Elm. It's perfect for her space and because the leather has a nice aged, worn look she thought it would be perfect for her pets.

Laura loves to travel and so a vintage globe looks just right perched on a shelf.

As an animal lover including whimsical accessories like these hedgehog planters is fitting and keeps the space playful and down to earth just like the homeowner.

The wall above was empty when we began. We had Laura's contractor customize these Ikea Billy bookcases as built-in's. The marble top table is one of my favorite pieces. Isn't it pretty? The chairs were existing and work well (and are super comfy) until she is ready to swap them out for something new.

Here are the pieces we used for her "built-in's".

 Minted asked me to share a review of my shopping experience and in return they provided me with art for Laura's wall. I have a couple of pieces that I chose for my home as well which I will share in another post. I have to say that I would definitely purchase art from Minted. The framed art they provided was framed very well and ready to hang with appropriate hardware installed. It was very nice quality and we are thrilled with the pieces we chose.

Toronto artist Robert Wu has stunning marbling art. You should definitely get to know his work.


Art Wall: Minted and larger print via Studio Robert Wu.
Sofa, coffee table, rug, brass mirror, capiz pendant: West Elm
Pillows: Homesense

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Canvas Photo Art & Gifts ... from Staples

Recently, Staples Canada approached me to collaborate on a project using their new canvas art and photo gift services. So I thought I would give it a try. I've used other online photo gift retailers before and I was curious about what kind of quality Staples would provide. I immediately thought of at least one particular art project I wanted to tackle right away.

I figured these could be fun Father's Day gifts.

The first project I tackled was going through some old photographs of our trips to Prince Edward Island. I chose this snapshot of the kids from about four years ago. I love this photo and the moment that was captured. It was a fun day exploring hidden beaches on the island. Something we love to do. There was a field of grass, a lighthouse and an endless beach. The kids were running, playing and just loving life. It's one of those moments that sticks with you.
I played with the photo in Photoshop a little bit to turn it into a black and white with a faded background.Make sure your photos are a higher resolution so the print quality is good.

This is how it turned out. It's an 8"x 8" canvas print. I'm really happy with it. The uploading and ordering process was simple and straightforward with Staples.

Next project... Original Art printed on canvas 

my daughter Isabella's original water colour painting printed on canvas from Staples Canada

The bigger project I wanted to do was my daughter's watercolour art that she painted awhile ago. I wanted to have it printed on canvas. This was the perfect opportunity.

When she painted it, it was a spur of the moment "art moment" and she used some random paper that was lying around. It wasn't water colour paper so it rippled and as a result didn't lay as nicely in a frame.

 I was inspired by a project that my friend Lindsay did on her blog recently using her young son's art. So this is what I did...

I took a photo of the art above, unframed. 
Then I uploaded it into Photoshop and played with the colours a little bit more, until it was a good match to the original painting. I also smoothed out those ripples and cropped it tight to the edges.
Then I uploaded it onto the Staples website and ordered a wrapped canvas of the photo. They come in various sizes and you can choose for it to be vertical or horizontal. It was so easy. The trickiest part was getting a good photo of the art. The easiest way to get a good photo is to lay it flat near a natural light source.

The canvases also come with hardware for easy hanging.

I also ordered some cards, including this one for Father's Day. 
You can choose from a huge selection of templates and card designs or if you prefer, you can upload your own. 

Oops I guess this post will spoil the surprise!

Next on my list was a custom photo mug of my nephews and brother-in-law last summer on the island. My Dad actually took this photo. I chose one of Staples full wrap mugs. I love how you don't lose any of your image with this design. It wraps around the mug!

Note: I wasn't compensated by Staples Canada to write this post. However, they did give me a voucher I could use to try their products. I was happy to try their service and to report back to you that it was a good experience.

Ordering was easy. Shipping time was just over a week, not bad. I chose to pick up the order in the store near me. The service there was great. The clerk pointed out that if I was unhappy with any product they would re-order it for me. No hassle.

All in all, I would definitely order from their website again.

If you have any questions, ask away in the comment section :)

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