Thursday, May 28, 2015

Flower Talk

I can't believe it's been 10 days since my last blog post. Where did the time go? 

I've been pretty consumed by work lately, but a super fabulous vacation has been planned so there's light at the end of the tunnel for me. 

This past weekend I made a quick trip to a HomeSense store, and found these pretty trinket trays from C.Wonder. I am a big fan of pretty much everything home decor wise C.Wonder carries. I couldn't believe how much they were going for at HomeSense! I felt even better when I saw the original C.Wonder price tags on them. Score! 

I picked up four of them: "Hello Sunshine" is my favourite, with "Je t'aime" comes a close second. 

The best flowers I've ever received from Mr. were those for no special occasion or reason. Just because! Peonies are finally in season, and I intend to have them in my house throughout the entire summer. 

My whole yard smells heavenly with these lilac shrubs. I've been working out of my backyard for the past couple of days - it was as good as a home office could get. 


Lavenders (Hidcote Blue) are ready to bloom, and El Niño is to blame. After a long and harsh winter, it felt like we skipped spring and went straight into summer. Lavenders don't usually bloom until early to mid summer. 


Gold Star Potentilla couldn't hold back either. It'd be interesting to see if they actually bloom all the way to early fall. 


Petunias are popular annuals I picked up every spring. They added colours to my yards while other plants were slowly awakening to the warmer weather. 



Remember my DIY poor man's Hydrangea stakes? Looks like they are holding up nicely. Both Limelight Hydrangea shrubs are now over 6 feet tall. 


One more plant before I wrap up the flower talk - the fuchsia Phalaenopsis orchid I added two weeks ago is now in full bloom. They make me so happy every time I see them. With that, I am going to sign off and get back to the grind to finish off the year end at work. Have a great weekend! 




Monday, May 18, 2015

Spring Refresh - Part Trois

Forecast said thunderstorm but the heat and humidity raged on and there's still no sign of rain. It's been a pretty dry Spring so far and I think my yards can use a deep soak just about now. I hope you took advantage of the summer-like weather on Victoria Day. 

For many, Victoria Day long weekend here in Canada is the weekend when people start planting in their yards. Our neighbours are mostly Italian, and known as landscaping enthusiasts, they were outside cranking up their curb appeal long before today. Luckily I enjoy gardening so our neighbours' work only gave me all the motivation and inspiration I needed. Before I take you through the part III of my 2015 spring refresh series, I would like to show you this brass sculptural sphere I picked up from West Elm the other day, and the fuchsia Phalaenopsis orchid from Ikea. I think I might have developed a slight obsession for orchids over the past few months. Two of the Phalaenopsis orchid plants from February are gone, and I know given my skills, chances for them to rebloom are close to none. But they gave a solid 3-month of nonstop gorgeous flowers when it was gloomy and cold outside, and for that, I will continue to replace them and enjoy them throughout the year. 

Now let me take you outside. I don't know about you but I spend most of my summer in our yards when we are not up at the cottage. When it comes to gardening, the kinky garden hose was by far my single biggest challenge. I've tried many "never kink" and "heavy duty" vinyl hoses but they were either to difficult to wind up and release, or at some point all tangled up. I heard a lot about the expandable hose, read all the positive and mostly negative reviews, and decided to give it a try anyway. I bought the Big Boss Xhose from Lowes. So far it's living up to all its promises. It has made watering my garden a breeze. I only hope it doesn't burst like it happened to many other users. Let see how long it will hold up. 

As a result of the harsh winter we had, a few shrubs in my yards never came back this spring. A good lesson learnt is always to burlap the not-so-established plants before the first frost. So I replaced/added a few plants including this gorgeous pink Perennial Sage "Lyrical Rose". I love flowering shrubs; I have about 20 of them throughout my garden, planted there to take advantage of a sequence of blossoming times throughout the season. When picking perennials, I look for those long blooming types that give showy flowers from late spring through early fall; and flowering shrubs that bloom multiple times like Bloomerang Lilac. 

Veronica "Royal Candles" in royal blue was another perennial I added this spring. 

I stumbled upon this rectangular one in black at PC Garden Centre. I was pleasantly surprised by the plant selections, and the stylish yet inexpensive planters from the President Choice.

While there, I also picked up a few perennial Campanula plants for the said planter. 


I also added Potentilla "Gold Star", Lavender "Hidcote Blue", and a few Rhododendron shrubs. I can't wait to share with you my Jardin de Fleurs this year! 

I hope it was also an amazing long weekend for you. I am going to sign off for now and enjoy a glass while appreciating the fruits of my labour. 



Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Getting the Backyard Back to Beautiful

With summer having crept up on us so early this year, outdoor home decor has too! As any dedicated AM Dolce Vita reader knows, my Spring Refresh was already well underway in April, so I’m in pretty good shape to take that seasonal energy and enthusiasm outdoors! I’m going to take you with me so you can get the scoop on some fuss-free backyard decor and how to get the patio-season started right.

Make Spaces
If you’ve taken my home tour, you know that I am fortunate to have space for gardening as well as a patio area, perfect for social summer soirees and of course barbecuing!

These spaces didn’t create themselves, they were the aftermath of an outdoor decor plan - essential to anyone getting their backyard or even balcony ready for the season. As a general rule to any design plan: make sure you create people-friendly spaces that balance both aesthetic appeal with functionality.

Gardens
The first thing I did when I stepped outside last weekend was gasp at winter’s ugly assault on my precious garden beds. So thats exactly where I started. First I removed any dead plants, garbage or debris that had made its way into my yard over the winter months and gave my lawn a good Spring rake.

If you are planning a garden, factor sun coverage and which type is soil is best for the plants you intend to grow. I added a blend of topsoil and compost that I bought from my local garden center to the beds, which is perfect for my perennials, flowers and decorative succulents. I turned the soil, carefully minding the bulbs hidden from last season and the shoots already sprouting (to my delight!). I then used an edging tool to cleanly separate my garden space from the grass and in some areas the patio.  I’m going to have to wait until the plants have matured a bit more to add mulch. Mulch is essential to help the garden retain moisture and keep weed growth down, plus it looks pretty clean when its all said and done:
This photo was taken from my garden in full bloom last year.

Perennials are the best because they come back every year all on their own. They are truly fuss-free. Otherwise buying seedlings from the garden center can give you a jump start on any planting project, above starting from seed. Either way, plants (flowers especially!) are nature’s decor and gardens are an essential component to the overall look and feel of your outdoor space. 

The Patio
The patio is an easier place to bring back the beautiful. After cleaning gardens, I continue the outdoor spring cleanup by sweeping and power-washing the patio. Then its finally time to bring out the furniture and roll out the barbeque. If you don’t have patio furniture yet, I’m jealous because I love shopping at home and garden centres!! Make sure to buy durable outdoor-appropriate furniture that also factors in comfort and style.

Next I had to think of the best setup for my patio furniture and how it will sit around the barbeque. Last year guests got smoked out a few times so I this year I’ll be modifying my arrangement from last year slightly. Think of how you arrange an indoor space with consideration for flow and the placement of each piece and apply this to your outdoor space. You can go summer-colour crazy and have fun with it or stay with neutral tones and large pieces for a more formal or traditional outdoor setting. I like the best of both worlds, so much like my indoor design style, I stick to classic colours and pieces with splashes of colour.
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While the image above is exactly my style patio, my readers will have to wait a little longer for the grand unveiling of my 2015 patio. That said...to each their own! Here’s a few more simple and stunning patio ideas to inspire you:
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How to Get the Season Started
Ok so your garden beds are either ready or at least sprouting, you bought some beautiful potted plants, your lawn in clean and the patio furniture is arranged and begging to be sat in. Now what? It’s time to get the summer barbecue season started in the spring!

Invite the in-laws, have a playdate, call a girl’s day or even arrange a weekend bbq dinner party outside - the point is to find any excuse to host in your backyard and take advantage of the wonderful spaces you worked hard to create. Getting the backyard back to beautiful is also a great way to spent quality time outdoors with the family.

To celebrate our first of many backyard bbqs, we invited over our friendly neighbors to enjoy the first taste of the season:
We got the season started right with adorable June Bug cocktails and this mouth-watering bbq recipe from Ricardo Cuisine (ps. their bbq and summer recipe section is a goldmine!). We intend to enjoy the warm weather while it lasts!

How did  you get your patio season started? Have any outdoor home decor tips to share? What about a bbq recipe you can’t get enough of? Do share your thoughts.



Thursday, April 30, 2015

What's A Good Night's Sleep Worth?

Or how about 10 years of good night's sleep? I rarely came across posts on mattress in blogosphere. It's understandably so because in the decor world, mattress is relatively invisible compared to the lush bedsheets and pretty headboards in a bedroom. 


I recently went through a series of mattress shenanigans. It all began with our super comfy 12-year old mattress in our master bedroom starting to sag. Years ago we had the wits about picking a top-of-the-line model, and we had loved it ever since. Unfortunately in mattress world, manufacturers retire models faster than a chameleon changes colour. As you would expect, 12 years later our beloved mattress model was long gone. Here are a few things I learnt from my recent mattress buying experience:

  • We are among those who claim they would prefer a "firm" mattress, while in reality it's the "support" that we are after. We just didn't know what we wanted. Two years ago we purchased a firmer eurotop mattress for one of our guest bedrooms. In my mind, firmness equals support which means less chance of sagging. We slept on the said mattress for a few nights and we both woke up miserable. Though supporting the pressure points throughout the body, the firmer mattress failed to hug our body contour and hence caused us shoulder pains. 
  • A soft mattress can provide a lot of support. I want to feel weightless when I am in bed, so a good-quality eurotop or pillowtop would be my choice. 
  • I am not a memory foam person, so I opted for a pocket coil type. The higher the pocket coil count, the more support you will get. 
  • Temperature regulation: I love a cool and breathable mattress, so this was one of my selection criteria. 

After trying out many different options, we went with the Canadian made Kingsdown Duet Ireland, a 16-inch thick eurotop mattress with 2350 pocket coil - one of the highest counts in the marketplace today. Kingsdown is well known for its Palais Royale model which was unfortunately discontinued due to its price tag. The Duet Ireland is undoubtedly an investment piece, but it's well worth the splurge. When looking for a mattress replacement, you just need to ask yourself how much you are willing to pay for 10 years worth of restful sleeps. It's a no-brainer. Mattress is definitely not something you would want to thrift on. 



Saturday, April 25, 2015

Spring Refresh - Part Deux

As mentioned in the Part I post of my spring decor refresh, I ordered a pair of these gorgeous black and cream silk velour pillows from CC Deux Vie for my master bedroom. This Spring I crave colour and style juxtaposition, so the outcome is a mix and match of my latest obsessions. 

I created two versions: black/cream pillows with pumpkin Hermes Avalon blanket. 

Or with black Hermes blanket. Which one wins your vote? 


Again, black?

Or pumpkin?



A spring refresh isn't complete without some much needed work outside of the house. This is the before with our old bronze wall lanterns above our new garage doors. 


This is the after with a larger pair of carriage style lanterns in black - they pair so much better with the black wrought iron hardware below. In case you are wondering, the new wall lights are from Lowes. I looked at many different options, and this one is my style/value choice. 


We have two gorgeous Limelight Hydrangea shrubs in our backyard. Hydrangea is known to be floppy-droopy due to its giant and heavy flowers. It's recommended to always plant edging shrubs like boxwood to support them. But of course I didn't know that, so I have to stake them. 

I call this my poor man's Hydrangea stake. I got the idea from here. We will see if it's strong enough to support the Hydrangeas when they all come out. 




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