Category Archives: Home & Garden

Potters Christmas Shop and A Spot of Tea at Honeybee

An Adventure to Surrey for Holiday Shopping and Afternoon Tea

Celebrations of any sort were big at my house, and Christmas was no exception. Our house was fully decorated with a good measure of garlands, ribbon and the occasional poinsetta, and each year my sister and I would get an ornament on the night before Christmas, adding yet another decoration to the tree.  My mother has an eye for creating a festive space, and my parents home is always a welcoming space, at any time of year.

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In Ontario, where we lived until I was eight, we actually lived just down the street from a Christmas shop, so perhaps it just got into my veins at an early age, this Christmas spirit I have. So when I was asked to drop by a store entirely devoted to Christmas, I jumped at the chance and hence arrived at Potters Christmas Store in Surrey.

Potters Christmas Shop

My favourite decoration!

The owner, Ed Holden, met us when we arrived and gave us a bit of a guided tour, after which we were left on our own to peruse the aisles. It’s a good thing I had to keep an eye on the time as I could have spent a good deal of both my day and my holiday budget there.

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There were tree lights of every kind, from skulls to hello kitty, and ornaments for every possible obssession from bacon to golf. There were santa hats and turkey hats, and elves on the shelves, floors and celings.

Potters Christmas Shop

We found a Christmas tree with snow spewing out of the top, snow globes, nutcrackers galore, and hot chocolate in every flavour you could think of; everywhere you turn at Potters something catches your eye. I left with numberous ornaments, a barbeque brush, marinating sauces, and chocolate spreads but did manage to at least leave the silly hats for others.

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After working up quite the appetite we ventured on to The Honeybee Centre, where they’re serving up a festive holiday tea. The shop carries all sorts of things bee related and the cafe has a high tea available year round.

Honeybee Centre

For December  there’s a special Holiday High Tea which includes holiday flavours in the cupcake, macarons, and cheesecake, shortbread cookies, cranberry orange scones and, on the savoury side, a brie and roasted chicken panini, artichoke baguette, and a turkey and cranberry roll, all served with a choice of a variety of teas, or a peppermint honey mocha or egg nog latte should you with. There’s plenty on the plate for those suffering from post holiday-shopping starvation.

Potters Christmas Shop

If you’re up for a little adventure,  pack up a couple friends and plan on a good half day for a little Surrey-based adventure. Make sure there’s room in the car for your packages though, because I guarantee you won’t leave without at least a few decorations and stocking stuffers; you are bound to find something that you just can’t resist. Potters is open until Christmas Eve.

Uncommon Goods – Retail With A Conscience

 

This summer when I was searching for some sturdy portable BBQs that could be wheeled out to our local beach, or park, and wouldn’t fall apart after merely one use, I came across a super cool site, UncommonGoods, that featuring a super cool BBQ that I had to have. At the time they weren’t shipping to Canada, but they thankfully now are, and I’m thinking I may just do a little more shopping this season for some holiday gifts.

The company has been around since 1999, is based in Brooklyn, is privately-owned and features unique jewelry, designer décor, tabletop items, and handcrafted gifts created in “harmony with the environment” Their mission to support and provide a platform for artists and designers, half of what they sell is made by hand.

In addition to the BBQ that I ordered up a wine cooler a wine tote that I got some serious use out of this summer. Here’s the scoop on each of these “Uncommon Goods”.

Get Grilling

Great for our BBQ this summer as we just strapped it to our cart and wheeled to the park. It’s perfectly sized for small, spontaneous cook-outs, and we love the sleek, modern design with silicone handles that stay cool when the grill is hot. It’s easy-to clean with a chromium-plated iron coal bucket and lid, and has a nylon strap to secure all the parts for storage and transportation.  Make it a set with the Bristle Free Grill Brush.

Totes Cool

This tote is perfect for hiding wine at the beach until those pesky liquor laws change. Carry your favorite BC wine or any beverage to picnics and tailgate parties in style. The bag is sturdy, water-proof and has a false bottom that conceals a 5-liter, leak-proof, airtight pouch that holds your drink of choice, and a freezer pack to keep things chill. It also has room for cups, snacks, or other essentials, as well as a zippered compartment for valuables and a comfortable shoulder strap that leaves your hands free, to drink!

uncommon trayIf you are looking for some ideas for the holiday season, UnCommon Goods has some great ones! How about a dish that goes right from the over to the table and looks great too? Pie anyone?

popcorn

 

uncommongoods candle

Stocking stuffers are a breeze with Uncommon Goods, just check out the flavoured popcorn flavours above and there’s lots for the of gorgeous decor to beautify your holiday home, I’m captured by the shadow candles.

**UnCommon Goods sent me the BBQ and Tote and the other suggestions are also my own.

Smarten Up Your Home With the Newest Techie Home Gadgets #BestBuySmartHome

Make Your Home Smarter, Lighter and Safer, with Best Buy

If you call yourself a techie, you may have the latest smart phone, smart watch, pimped out car and camera, but what about the latest in home technology? While your television may unlock the full potential of HDR, and you’ve even got a home 3D printer, have you updated to the latest in home security? Are your your lighting and thermostat controls amped up? And can you monitor the temperature, air quality and even noise pollution inside and outside your home? If not, you may not be worthy of that nerd shirt you so proudly sport, and it’s time to act before your friends stop coming over to play.

Pie

Over at the Good Life Vancouver headquarters in Vancouver (the not so secret code name for our smallish Kitsilano apartment from where GLV based) we are in the process of updating a few design aspects in our home and doing some minor renos. You may have seen us wandering the isles of home hardware stores, as well as Best Buy, to satisfy our geeky side. We’ve discovered more than a few things we just can’t live without and suggest you add these very useful gadgets to add to your shopping list.

netatmo urban weather station

Ever wanted your own weather station? Well we have , and now, with the Netamo Smart Weather Station, we can gather not only temperature and humidity levels inside and outside our home, but also air quality, CO2 level, barometric pressure and even noise pollution, all accessed from our smartphones. We now know when to wear our rain boots and also when to turn our stereo down.

nest smart thermostat

It’s not that cold out here on the “wet coast”, but we are still concerned about keeping our hydro bills down and do so with the Nest WiFi Smart Thermostat, a learning thermostat that remembers the temperatures we like and then programs itself to save energy. The LCD display lights up when approached, so no need to squint to read. We can also control if from both our mobile phones and use it with numerous home products. We still have yet to agree on what that perfect temperature is though.

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Another energy cost reducer, is the Belkin WeMo Smart Plug , that controls fans and lights, shuts off the TV when we’ve forgotten, and also notifies us when our laundry is done, again, all via our phones. Unfortunately it doesn’t fold up the clothes and put them away, and our dryer still eats socks.

We’re childless and petless so the Nest Cam Indoor Camera isn’t necessary as a nanny or pet cam, but we used it when we were traveling last so we could spy on some of the home repair work that was going on while we were gone.  Did I warn them? Maybe, maybe not.

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We then took an inventory of our lighting, and along with some new track lighting with smarter LED bulbs, we went a little tech crazy and are currently installing light panels from Nanoleaf and will be adding more soon. The starter pack has nine panels that we applied to our wall and now we can customize lighting and choose from millions of colours to pretty up our living room. When I’m a little tired I switch it to bright white light and can almost blast the blues away. All lights are controlled by our Androids (IOS devices too) as well as being voice-enabled if we choose.

mipow

Another fun conversation starter (cause you know it’s so quiet here) for that next dinner party is the Mipow Playbulb Sphere Lamp, which can be placed in or out of doors and provides accent lighting via a phone app that allows you to choose from five different lighting effects.

If you are looking to earn, or maintain your Geek title, and smarten up your home, this is definitely the weekend to do so, as the Home+Design Show is in town October 27 – 30, 2016, and Best Buy will be showcasing some of their top Smart products at the BC Hydro Smart Home Booth, right on site. Take note as some of these tech gadgets are eligible for a BC Hydro discount on at Best Buy. Can’t make the home show this time? Head right in to your nearest Best Buy and ask for a demo. Use #BestBuySmartHome if you are sharing and let us know how you’re geeking out at home.

Picnicking in Style on Global TV

June 30 Global TV talking picnicking in style.

****In the interest of getting some reference material up this is just in point form for now. Check back for full story***

1) Canadian Tire – outdoor Shelter, portable coolers, picnic blanket

2) Picnic Items from Bacci’s on 12th and Granville – Place Settings & Cutler and Picnic food from Dirty Apron

3) Picnic Items from Real Canadian Superstore and Picnic food from Presidents Choice and Pete’s Meats on 12th and Arbutus

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Start at Canadian Tire where you can pick up a shelter, coolers and picnic table clothes.

ShelterBeach Blanket, Picnic Coolers, Table Cloth

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If you are looking for some unique items, head to Bacci’s on 12th and Granville.

Picnic Blanket, Plates, Bowls and Cups, Tablecloth and Napkins, Picnic cutlery.

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Dirty Apron has a complete picnic, everything you need in Gourmet Picnic.

Sandwiches  Prosciutto with figs, watercress, Brie cheese, and balsamic onions on fresh-baked baguette and  Confit albacore tuna with citrus mayonnaise, smoked paprika, fennel, basil, Parmesan on fresh-baked baguette

Salads Roasted mushrooms with puffed black rice, shallots, Thai style chimichurri and a sherry vinaigrette – Israeli cous-cous, fire roasted peppers, cherry tomatoes, grilled eggplant, asparagus, zucchini and lemon vinaigrette

Desserts Triple chocolate chip cookie, Oatmeal coconut raisin cookie, Chocolate pistachio cream cheese brownies

Charcuterie + Cheese Boards – Oyama Meat’s Italian prosciutto and mild soppresata salami – Comte and Brie cheese from France – Elsa’s Story Rosemary & Olive Oil Crackers – House-made hummus Organic fruit

Beverages – Flavoured San Pellegrino – Limonata and Aranciata

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Real Canadian Superstore a great place to pick up picnic essentials

PC Home Essentials Salad caddie, bamboo plates, glasses, napkins, tray and serving tongs.

PC Insiders Collection PC Organics Lemonade, PC Beet Hummus, PC Pico De Gallo and PC Chia & Quinoa Baked Pita Crackers

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Stop in at Pete’s Meats for some bread, cheese, rillettes, charcuterie and mustard and you are set.

Petite Patios

Although we are well into mid-summer, it’s not too late to redesign your outdoor living space, or at least give it a spruce up. In Vancouver, apartment living means our outdoor space is rather small, but we’ve managed to utilize it well and have a beer fridge, Weber BBQ, patio set and a good selection of herbs and flowers.

With the extreme heat and lack of air conditioning here in our west facing Arbutus Walk apartment, by the end of the day staying indoors is intolerable. So I set up an outdoor table where Michael can read, and I can catch up on my social media posts, in a much cooler spot. With the beer fridge within reach, and a BBQ for our summer meals, it’s ideal.

We do Diner En Blanc every year, so last year I had the smart idea to order a table and chairs, which arrived, well after the event, and proved to be far too large for our little balcony.  Presidents Choice to the rescue! I drove out to the garden center on Grandview highway and found an excellent, more fitting set, and grabbed an umbrella and a nice bright lantern, and cushions too.

Picked up some colourful flowers and herbs to pretty up the space and to add to our summer meals.

There’s a lot to choose from, and if we had more space, which we will one day, there’s plenty of other things I would add to the back yard. Like a smoker, room for more guests or some side tables.

Community Garden

 

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The other awesome thing about Vancouver is our community gardens and we are lucky to have one at city hall. This year we’ve planted tomatoes, zucchini peppers, lavender, tiny basil and are also dealing with a very aggressive lemon balm maniac of a plant.  Again all from the garden section at Presidents Choice. Pictured above is our garden in June and now when it’s almost overrun.  To the far left there’s even an experimental goji berry plant.

There’s lots of great advice on their gardening site, and I’ve go more tips from last year’s patio spruce up here. NEVER forget to read the labels on the plants and pay attention to how much light they need and plan according to your space.

Good luck with your outdoor space and here’s some other cool ideas I came across.

*President’s Choice sent us a gift card that covered part of our flower purchase.

Urban Digs Farm’s Ten Spring Gardening tips

How does your garden grow? We recently visited our community garden plot at city hall and are in the process of planning what we’ll plant this year. It’s a little bare right now! We just have a tiny spot so are fairly limited, but even with a little bit of land the tips below from Urban Digs come in handy. Thanks Urban Digs! 

Urban Digs Farm supplies families and chefs with trustworthy meat, eggs, and produce grown at their farm and by farmers they know and trust. AND good news, their farm stand opens officially this weekend on May 2nd. Urban Digs Farm is at 4992 Byrne Road Burnaby.

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  1. Make a plan – we are so fortunate that we can have fresh veggies almost all year round – with a little planning you can plant in succession starting in February all the way through to late fall.
  2. Get composting! Build and feed the soil with microorganisms, worms, and organic matter!  Never mind those little hardware store composters – you need about a metre square of material – 30-40% nitrogen (green – grass clippings, kitchen scraps, seaweed, manures) and 60-70% carbon ( brown – woodchips, old leaves, straw). Add a couple of cups of molasses to get things going.  Let it sit for a week to heat up, then turn it over once a week for about 8 weeks.
  3. Don’t till that soil! I know it feels good to churn everything up to give a fresh start – but by doing so you disrupt the brilliant growing network of mycelium under the ground that is nature’s internet – connecting plants with what they need.  As well, the more you dig, the more you spread those weeds.  Cut old plants off at the soil, let the roots rot and return good stuff back to the ground.
  4. Give your seeds a head start. Using a combination of potting soil (sterile) and vermiculate plant your tomato, cucumber, bean, and pepper seeds indoors  – you can use any desk lamp, or get fancy with a grow light keeping it low over the tray to grow strong little guys who, once there’s a couple sets of leaves, can be transplanted in the big outdoors.
  5. Root and tubers, straight in! Direct seed carrots, beets, parsnips into the dirt – make sure they’ve got lots of room underneath to grow down.
  6. Cut and plant potatoes. Either the seed stock from a nursery or the organic ones that are going green in your drawer can work to provide a great mid summer harvest.  Cut them such that there is at least one ‘eye’ per piece. Trench the row and drop ‘em in – covering with 2-3 inches of good soil.  As they grow, continue to bury the leaves as that’ll make for more potatoes later on!
  7. Cover ‘em up – once outside those little guys are still a wee vulnerable to late frost, birds, or even too much early sun. Cover up the seedlings with remay or an equivalent cloth – that provides protection and insulation while still allowing light and water to get through.  Once they’ve got a good foothold and the days are longer and warmer you can remove the cover.
  8. Mulch – bare dirt is like exposed skin. Use straw, old leaves, or even shredded newspaper to cover all the spots that aren’t planted – it’ll suppress the weeds, hold moisture, and create a lovely haven for beneficial soil critters.
  9. Jump ahead of the weeds – get ‘em before they seed! Hand pull weeds before they take over. They are just doing their job, but since you want other stuff to grow – they need to step aside. The goal is simply to advantage the good by disadvantaging the not so good.
  10. Sharpen your tools – now’s the time to get at those pruners, clippers, lawn mower blades, anything with a blade – all sharp – not only does it make the work so much easier, but means the cuts are cleaner and less damaging to the plant, tree, or shrub.

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Shopping For Valentines Day? Shop Etsy and Keep it Canadian!

Plan the perfect Valentine’s Day surprise for your sweetheart by turning to Etsy for all of your gifting needs.

ETSY

Profess your undying love through the written word with kardzkouture luxurious textured fine art paper cards, hand-crafted in Vancouver. The way to his heart could be through his stomach – surprise your significant other by making delicious cupcakes topped with mini heart-shaped cupcake toppers from LovelyLittleThingsB (Calgary), make a bold statement, and brighten a room with joy using wall decals, hand-made by Urbanwalls (Vancouver). Diamonds truly are a girl’s best friend, so take her breath away this Valentine’s day with raw pink sapphire cluster earrings, by ASecondTime (Calgary).

Prove you two are better together, and find the perfect one-of-a-kind gift for your one and only at Etsy.com.

Patio Gardening

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Like most other Vancouverites housing prices dictate that we live in a rather small space meaning gardening for us is just a patio and our community garden. This year we got a bit of a late start to prettying up the patio, but there’s still time for you to add a few plants and pretty up your living spaces.

This first photo is our basil and a few plants my partner Michael picked up as an awesome present for me. I like potted plants way better than cut flavours. Thanks love!

We recently added a few plants we picked up at Presidents Choice garden center as well. Their planters are priced well and there is great information on the plant tags as to how much sun the plants need. Be sure to read it and buy accordingly.

As our patio is rather sunny (we face west) we picked up the following on our latest shopping spree:

Sweet Georgia Heart Red

Sweet Georgia Heart Red

petunia

Petunia double Madness Mix

cha-ching cherry

Cha-Ching Cherry

confetti

Confetti Garden Beyond the Sea

stained glassworks luminesce

Stained Glassworks luminesce

calibrachoa hybrid

Calibrachoa Hybrid

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PC Gigantice Deluxe Planter

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Final Result. Max does not come from President’s Choice and I’m not sure how he got there, but he is a wild thing after all. The lamp and bookcase Ikea, and we had the ivy and the all the other planters except the two brown ones already. The framed plants are from By Nature Design.

If you’d like to start or add to a patio garden of your own do remember these key points:

1) Light – Make sure your plants are made for the light you have – check those tags!

2) Drainage – Make sure plants have drainage so they don’t drown. Add holes in pots it there isn’t sufficient drainage.

3) Plant Feed – They do need food as well as water. We use President’s Choice Magic-Grow.

4) Don’t be scared to cut back dying parts of your plants so that the healthy parts may live.

5) Repot when plants are getting crowded – you can divide some plants into two pots too.

6) Use lots of potting soil, not gravel or filler.

7) Water frequently

8) Plant herbs together and use organic fertilizer on things you eat.

Here’s a fun resource for container gardening for food too!