Back-To-School Shopping Guide

School is back in session but if you’re like me, you resisted buying anything while officially still on summer break. I loathe to start back-to-school shopping too soon, and often find waiting until after school has started to be a better time to make well-thought out and needed purchases. Whether your little one is starting pre-school for the first time or heading off to university, we’ve got a list of need-to-haves and nice-to-haves.

Preschoolers and Kindies

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Jump Kids World Pre School Animal Lunch Bag ($7). Lunch containers sold separately. Available at Real Canadian Superstore®.

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Lunch boxes just got sweeter with these School Mini Cookies by The Teeny Tiny Bakery (50/box, $70).  Available at OneofaKindOnlineShop.com

Grade School

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Tera Gear “Doddle” Backpack ($20), variety of colours. Available at Real Canadian Superstore®.

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PC Stainless Steel Containers ($7-$9). Available at Real Canadian Superstore®.

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Everyday Essentials Twist and Clip Insulated Lunch Bag ($6), variety of colours. Available at Real Canadian Superstore®.

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Heroes & Villains Notebooks ($10), available online only at http://www.potterybarnkids.com

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This Mini Lazy Susan will keep all the desk accessories in one place ($29).  Available at Pottery Barn Kids, http://www.potterybarnkids.com

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Magnetic Bookmarks ($6-$15) from Craft’ed, http://www.craftedvan.com

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Affordable and stylish fashions from The Children’s Place.

High School

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TOMS StandUp backpack ($60), variety of colours, and with every one purchased, TOMS will help stop bullying, one youth at a time. Available at Journeys.ca and www.Toms.ca

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Solid Task Lighting are ideal for brightening up any homework space ($52).  Available at Pottery Barn Kids, http://www.potterybarnkids.com

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Getting organized and staying organized can be a challenge but the Espresso Daily System ($49) does the trick.  Available at Pottery Barn Kids, http://www.potterybarnkids.com

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Dry Erase Whiteboard Magnets ($11) from The Tulle Box, http://www.thetullebox.etsy.com

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Storiebrooke Dipped Twig Pencils ($17.19) from Storiebrooke, http://www.storiebrook.etsy.com

University

Everyday Essentials 20 Shelf Hanging Shoe Organizer ($14). Available at Real Canadian Superstore®.

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Everyday Essentials 5-Piece Bath Accessory Set ($10). Available at Real Canadian Superstore®.

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Life at Home 7-Piece Bed in a Bag ($54). Available at Real Canadian Superstore®.

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The SodaStream POWER turns ordinary water into sparkling ($179).  Available at SodaStream.ca

For Mom

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PC Cupcake Display Try Set with Pop Out Display Tower ($20). Available at Real Canadian Superstore®.

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PC Enameled Cast Iron Pot ($60). Available at Real Canadian Superstore®.

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PC Textured Togo Mug ($10). Available at Real Canadian Superstore®.

How To Create Your Perfect Backyard Oasis by Cindy McKay

I am so happy to introduce Cindy McKay of Cindy McKay Interiors as our guest for today. Cindy is not only a self-professed fabric addict with a sharp eye for affordable design, mom of two super cute kiddos and stylish dresser . . . she’s my friend! Cindy is also an inspiration. A year ago Cindy left a high-pressure, glamorous job to pursue her passion: interior decorating. It took an incredible amount of chutzpah to leave the security her job provided to embark on something new and uncertain.   Judging by the projects she’s shared on Instagram things are working out just fine! She’s also the happiest that I have seen her. Proof that when you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.  Check out Cindy’s projects and her talent for design by visiting her website.

Today Cindy shares with us how to create the perfect backyard oasis to get the most out of the summer days.

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How to create your perfect backyard oasis!

When I’m designing outdoor spaces, I like to suggest that clients have various zones (regardless of how small) on their property for different types of meals and to take advantage of the best light at specific times of day. I’m a follow the sun kinda gal (in my SPF 30, hat wearing way). Start with a foundation that mixes both hard and soft landscaping. By adding some comfortable patio furniture and layering in various accessories, you can really make your outdoor space feel as well appointed as your indoor space.

Morning coffee

This backyard faces East, it gets a lovely soft morning sun. I’ve set up a small area on the upper patio that is ideal to enjoy a fist morning coffee and perhaps sit and enjoy the newspaper. It’s not a large space, but just enough to comfortably allow the family to sit and chat. I’ve layered in some pillows, all in indoor/outdoor fabric and some blankets to cuddle up with on cooler days. The area rug helps to identify the space and separate it from the more functional areas of this patio where the BBQ sits.

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Sources:

Patio furniture and pads, D.O.T. Furniture; toss cushion fabric, Fabricland; side table, Lowe’s; lanterns, Target; blue blanket, WestElm; white blanket, IKEA; rug, Write Impressions; turtle, planter, Homesense.

Outdoor lounge areas

There are so many great options of outdoor lounge furniture these days at a variety of price points, they are really available to everyone! And what could be better than to enjoy an afternoon nap on an outdoor couch while hearing the birds chirp and smelling the sweet smells of the garden. These are also great entertaining spaces for any time of day as they are so versatile. Here I used the rug to delineate the space from the rest of the stone patio and added some fun mirrors behind the couch to help distract the eye away from the long run of fence line. I layered in toss pillows in indoor/outdoor fabric along with some great Turkish towels that are ideal as a light blanket on cooler days or can be used as this family does, to dry off after coming out from their hot tub.

Lounge Area

Sources:

Outdoor couch and coffee table, D.O.T. Furniture; mirrors, garden stool, Homesense; rug, Walmart, tray; Lilly Pulitzer for Target; fabric and custom pillow sewing, Tonic Living; pamuk & co. Turkish Towels, Tonic Living. 

Cocktail Hour

Wherever possible, try to find a spot that takes advantage of that last light of the day, when the sun is low and warm and you can enjoy a hard days work with a cool and refreshing beverage. It doesn’t have to be large or elaborate, two chairs and a small cocktail table and you’re set! In this particular property, the front yard faces West and I created a tiny little spot within the front garden, to carve out their much desired ‘cocktail patio’. You hardly even notice it from the road since it’s well integrated into the garden but still allows them to watch their young children play on the driveway.

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Sources:

Chairs and chair pads, Homesense; table, West Elm; glasses, thrifted; bowl, Target; all plants, Sheridan Nurseries.

Dining Areas

Don’t be afraid to bring the indoors out when it comes to dining al fresco! Pull out a fun tablecloth and try it on your outdoor table. It’s a fun way to switch up your outdoor décor and adds something different and perhaps unexpected. Don’t forget the lighting! Just as lighting is an important indoor element, it’s equally important when dining outdoors. Nobody wants it to be so dark that they can’t see the beautiful meal you’ve just worked hard to prepare! Add lots of candles in various different vessels, lanterns and for some extra fun add a string or two of patio lights! There is an amazing selection out there and they are a fun way to add light to the underside of your table umbrella or to your fence line!

If a tablecloth feels too formal for the way you like to entertain, there’s a great selection of carefree, wipe able, placemats out there also! Mix them in with some linen napkins and you’ll create an easy and functional but elegant table setting.

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Sources:

Sources:

Patio table, chairs and pads, D.O.T. Furniture; plates, Pottery Barn; utensils, William Ashley; napkins, clients own; glasses, thrifted; chargers, Canadian Tire; tablecloth, lanterns, votives, Target.

Dining Area

Sources:

Patio table, chairs and pads, D.O.T. Furniture, placemats, napkins, small plates, Homesense; large plates, Pottery Barn; glasses, Crate & Barrel; lanterns, votives, patio string lights, Target; utensils, William Ashley.

Cindy’s 5 easy steps to create your perfect backyard oasis:

  1. Create zones based on how you want to use your property. Don’t forget to factor in the sun and the light at various times of day.
  1. Create your foundation using hard landscaping and a good dose of plant material in planters or garden beds, whichever suits.
  1. Source comfortable outdoor furniture that is versatile and suits your needs and budget, keep in mind clear-out sales often start as early as the beginning of July.
  1. Layer in accessories to make it interesting and unique!
  1. Don’t forget the lighting! Adding various lanterns, candles, patio lights all help to create a relaxing and inviting atmosphere.

Copy and photography courtesy of: Cindy McKay Interiors

PC Home for the Summer

A favourite go-to for affordable home accents is PC Home.  The line of products is conveniently located at Superstores (usually alongside another fave, Joe Fresh) and this bodes well for my propensity to bury the cost of such goodies among my regular grocery shop.  Somehow it doesn’t count as a home splurge if I buy it at the grocery store.

PC Home is known for their quality products and beautiful design.  And it’s no wonder when you meet their incredibly talented design team – all of whom are living busy lives juggling family and work, so they are always tweaking products to add value to our lives not just make them pretty.

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Set of 6 Melamine Mixing Bowls – $25   For food prep and display (available in warm colour set also)

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Bamboo Fiber Dinnerware – Starting at $4   Landfill friendly, gorgeous patterns, heaviness to them, will last for several seasons if well-cared for (variety of patterns and colours available)

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I’m crazy for this floral collection of traditional outdoor dinnerware, pop of colour, tie-in with  complimentary pillows and placemats.  If it’s too much for you, the print is also available in paper napkins adding a nice punch of playful design to a more conservative table setting.

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This Embossed set of dinnerware and serving ware is my favourite.  I have this large bowl and it’s the go-to for potluck salads.  It won’t break and if I leave it behind, at $9, it’s not worth the hassle of trying to arrange a time to pick it up.  (Also available non-embossed in orange, teal and clear.)

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Luxurious oversized beach towels, ideal for picnicking or pool-side.  Several colours and patterns to choose from only $16.

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Everyday Essentials Water Bottle with Freezer Stick – $5  Genius!

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Keep the light burning brightly with these lanterns ($17-$24).  If real candles make you nervous, try the LED battery-operated ones for the same look but without the responsibility.

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PC Metal Rectangular Pitcher – $12 – I love the clean white look with the rope detailing.  This pitcher could easily do double duty as a decorative vessel to hold those summer blooms.

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If you spend many hours over the summer on the sidelines of soccer fields and baseball diamonds, you need to get this Tera Gear Papa Lux Chair ($49).  It’s the most comfortable folding chair you’ll ever sit in!

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PC Home has BBQs too!  Everything from this Tera Gear 72K BTU Pro 5 plus 1 burner, all stainless steel grill for $499 to this portable option, ideal for campers and picnickers for $199!

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I was really impressed with this Tera Gear French Bistro Set for $179.  It’s the perfect size for a small balcony or creating a cozy al fresco dining area in your backyard.  The detail on the chairs is a testament to the high standards the PC Home team continue to achieve.

It’s almost hard to believe but in a few months, we will be posting some of our favourite PC Home items for fall and back–to-school.  We were at the media preview and I am almost (almost) looking forward to September.

Please note we receive no compensation from PC Home.

Children’s Artwork from Minted: Help Me Choose!

I love stationery and pretty paper products. In fact, one time I was in an elevator and met a stationery buyer for Indigo and it was akin to my son meeting the garbage collector. I peppered her with questions and basked in envy the entire 8 flights down. A stationery buyer, I thought that was a job of lore.

I spend hours searching out the perfect invitation, be it for a baby shower or a birthday party, and I love every minute of it. If I am in a store, I handle each card with care, weighing the paper in my hand, my fingers taking in the texture of embossed letters or fine linen grids. But I can’t always make it to a store, and the boys don’t seem to share my passion for loitering among note cards so, on-line must suffice.

My newest obsession is Minted. Minted is an on-line stationery and paper art store that allows artists to share their designs, all of which can be customized, to fellow paperphiles. The site is a visual delight tempting me to throw a party, get in touch with long lost friends and update my wall décor. It’s a beautiful rabbit hole to fall down and I recommend that you get lost!

My first order from Minted was my Christmas card for 2014. I was able to play around with various colours and tweaks to the design before settling on my favourite. An easy to use spreadsheet allowed for me to upload all of the addresses and when the cards arrived, all I had to do was stuff and seal.

My brother and his wife are expecting their first baby early next month and needless to say the entire family is very excited. My sister-in-law has spent the past few months agonizing over every detail of his nursery. She chose a gender-neutral palate of grey and white and the walls are decked out with these adorable animal prints. All that remains to do is find the perfect print to add to one remaining wall.

Aly has agreed to let me choose the final piece of art, and Minted is where I intend to find it. Perhaps you can help me to narrow it down?  The pictures that I pulled are a bit small, so I have include the links if you want to look at the artwork in closer detail just click on the title, or click here for the entire art collection.

An alphabet print is always a safe and classic option that can work for many years.

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Paper Cut ABCs by Ampersand Design Studio

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Animals Alphabet by Alethea and Ruth

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These hearts by InkDot are precious and will serve as a reminder of how much he’s loved.

I completed an extensive family tree and the idea of incorporating his ancestry into his room décor tugs at my heartstrings. A few of my favourites:

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Family of Oranges by Heritage and Joy

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Folk Family Tree by Heather Francisco

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The baby will be the second addition to their family. Molly, a yellow lab, was their first and this print It’s a dog’s world by Sheila Sunaryo would probably be her pick.

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Dogs may not be the best choice since the other animals featured are decidedly more exotic than domestic. This map of the animal world by Jessie Steury would tie everything together nicely.

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If only this was goodnight Toronto instead of goodnight New York.

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Since he remains to be named, this one may have to wait for his first birthday. The other prints allow for customization with his name that I have to forgo.

The selection of frames is swoon-worthy and the preview option allows for a complete once-over before committing. The turnaround time is 5-7 days, enough time for it to arrive before the baby shower.

Help me decide! Sound off in the comments and let me know your vote. Follow us on Instagram for the big reveal.

DIY Gallery Wall and Jewelry Display

While I am not much of a DIYer, I am all about creating a living space that reflects my family and the people and things that we love. Have you heard of man-caves? Well, in this house of 5, I am the sole female. The lone wolf. A man-cave we don’t need but a mom-cave? Yes. That I do need!

My office is a small room in our basement that houses my favourite treasures, mostly books among a few knick-knacks and a beloved chandelier. I have slowly added to the room over the years, taking advice from Nate Berkus to only add things that I love and “tell my story”.

This one wall remained a blank space for years, but I finally decided to take wedding photos of my parents, in-laws, grandparents and grandparent in-laws (is that a term?) and create a gallery wall. The first step was deciding on frames that would fit nicely on the wall in a cluster of six. I am what some may call a traditionalist, and others may call boring, so black frames won out.

I then visited Blacks with the original photos, a few more than 60 years old, and spent some time with one of their photo technicians. They helped me to digitally restore and resize the photos. Their expertise proved invaluable and regardless of how tech savvy you may be, ask them for input. No need to DIY it all.

I would like to preface this by saying that a gallery wall is a lot harder to hang than it looks. First off, it involves math. A lot of it. And measuring. A lot of it. I can hold my own when it comes to math, but I wanted to limit the number of holes made in the wall. Needless to say the adage “measure twice, cut once” was running through my mind while I wielded my hammer.

My thorough research suggested that I tape off the gallery before actually hammering in the nails, and this worked out well for me. I was able to rearrange the photos and modify the spacing to my liking without puncturing the wall. Overall, I am happy with my handiwork (one is slightly off, but I can obsessed about that another day) but more so, this DIY project fills my space with people I love, and tells quite the story.

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Next up on my DIY project list was to arranging my collection of costume jewelry.

My pretty necklaces and chunky bracelets were stored away in boxes and drawers, not allowing for admiration or ready-to-wear. My favourite style blogger and interior designer, Erin Gates, provided inspiration with this picture from her recent best seller.

imgres-1Here’s my take. Thank you, Erin for showing us that it’s okay to have fun with our girly accessories!

I sourced a collection of inexpensive display vessels from Home Sense. The trays were less than $30, the cake stand was $6.99, the butter dish $6.99 and the small vase $3.99. The mug was from my kitchen.

I sourced a collection of inexpensive display vessels from Home Sense. The trays were less than $30, the cake stand was $6.99, the butter dish $6.99 and the small vase $3.99. The mug was from my kitchen.

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I have two of these guys flanking the display. My youngest calls them "the treasure men".  I like that.

I have two of these guys flanking the display. My youngest calls them “the treasure men”. I like that.

DIY: Hook It Up…But Not Forever: Guest Post by Meg Gardner

Our guest today is Meg Gardner from the blog Loving Albany.  Meg is the mother of three boys, and, brace yourselves, her house is all white!  It’s all white and it works.  Meg’s house is a stunner, and you can get a peek here at Houzz.  She’s sharing with us today her most recent project: a temporary solution for hanging photos and kids’ art–without wrecking the white walls!

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I have three boys aged 9, 7 and 4.  They like to sleep in the same room.  Until recently.  I had to kick the oldest out one night for being too silly at bedtime.  He never looked back.

Which was great.  Except for this.

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He took his new room seriously.  Old toddler comforter?  Be still my heart.  Random stuffies and favorite hats?  Awww.  Taped picture on the wall?!?  I can’t take it.

So we helped him sort things out with a trip to IKEA.

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But those taped pictures were multiplying….

…just as this showed up in my email.

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I subscribe to Houzz.com emails.  It’s an amazing site filled with inspiration and ideas for your house.  From décor to organization – real life, actual, fulfilled projects in people’s homes, as opposed to the Pinterest fails that exist repeatedly in my life.

When I saw this photo, I got inspired.

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My goal was to give him a way to hang the pictures without anything being too permanent.  It’s his room to decorate, but his tastes will change.  And so might his bedroom.  We have a couple more rooms on the 3rd floor, which may be more appealing as he reaches his teenage years.

A Teenager???

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I grabbed a 1×2 piece of clear pine wood at Home Depot and asked them to cut it to size (cuts are free).  I stopped at DeSerres for the Bulldog clips and Michaels for the screw-in hooks, which happened to be white!  Score!

And after contemplating how long he will actually occupy this new bedroom, I decided to use Command Strips instead of screws to attach the wood to the wall.  This package of 4 strips holds a picture frame weighing up to 16 lbs.  Bingo.

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I asked him to help me put it all together and got about 5 minutes of painting.

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After 2 coats and letting it cure overnight, I got to drilling.  Measuring and drilling.  Measuring, calculating, re-measuring, re-calculating.  And measuring one last time before drilling.

Which turned into this.

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The wood almost blends into the wall, letting the pictures shine.

And now for my favorite, the before and after.

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I love walking up the stairs and sneaking a peek into his room now.  If only he’d make the bed…!!!