Has it really been a month since I last blogged? It’s incredible how one’s days can be filled with life’s happenings, expected and unexpected, where what was thought would happen isn’t what is, where surprises in one’s world serve to challenge and take us in new directions.
And sometimes when life starts to run us instead of the other way around, it’s important to stop and smell the cherry blossoms, appreciating new life and opportunity. I’ve lived in Toronto for about 90% of my life, and yet I had never known about the cherry blossoms in High Park until this past week, when I visited at the right time to take in this fantastic show of nature.
As a west-end girl, High Park has always been a big part of my life; I have visited the gardens and explored the shoreline of Grenadier Pond many, many times, but I suppose never in the exact week these fantastic beauties come to life.
In 1959, the Japanese ambassador to Canada presented 2000 Japanese Somei-Yoshino Sakura trees to the citizens of Toronto, in appreciation of Toronto accepting re-located Japanese-Canadians following the Second World War. Many of these trees were planted on the hillside and around the east shore overlooking Grenadier Pond in High Park. Subsequent plantings of other trees were added to other areas of the park in 1984, 2001, and 2006. Every spring thousands of people come out to see the natural show these stunning trees provide. With the sunny, warm weather we experienced this past week, I’m guessing the appreciating masses were in record numbers.
And when life can get as harry as it has been for me lately, I appreciated a bit of downtime amongst the blooms. And today, it’s also great to have a little Hallmark-holiday reminder to make sure we appreciate the women in our lives who support us every day and especially when we need it most. Thank you, Mom, and thank you to all of the other fabulous motherly women in my life. Enjoy the blossoms!
Sometimes I get up to doing simple little crafty projects that, on one hand, are so simplistic that I think, should I be sharing this with the public, admitting I get up to menial tasks in my spare time? Like, really, does anyone need to know that I completed a do-it-yourself project that a grade-schooler could have done, as easy as macaroni art that only a mother (or myself) is impressed by? But then again, I know there are handy thrifters out there who appreciate a simple transformation of simple materials into something that is not only smart looking but practical. It’s like when in school, when you have the courage to ask a question of the instructor that you think everyone else in the room knows the answer to, but discover afterward that everyone else was thrilled that you asked it, for in actuality they wanted to know the answer too.
It is on this premise I share my latest project, a DIY leather tissue pouch for the glove box of my car, that looks a little like a flat, blue, unappetizing wonton appetizer, but works wonders for keeping my tissue handy and protected.
Something that is so minor in my life, but that now gives me such utilitarian joy to gaze into the once chaotic glove compartment of my car, once inhabited by a squished and torn tissue box…
…that now presents a serene scene of sublime organization.
And a simple project to execute it is. I picked up a couple of leather ‘samples’ for $1.99 each at King Textiles on Spadina Ave. in Toronto. From the stacks and stacks of swatches of a vast selection of colours and textures available, I chose two in the same shade but with different textures for a slight contrast.
Based on the measurement of the tissue, I cut each swatch down to 6 1/2″ x 10″. Run a thin bead of high tack glue along the wrong side of one long side of the first piece and overlap the long edge of the second piece by 1/2″, wiping up any glue the oozes out, to form the bottom of the pouch. Fold each piece in half lengthwise to overlap on the top where they meet, again by 1/2″. Secure the seams of the short sides with the high tack glue. I added a detail of a grommet in the centre of the short ends, mostly for decoration but also for added strength. Once complete, just slide the tissue into the pouch, which is now protected and easily accessed through the slot along the top. Simple yet oh so practical.
With spring struggling to make a strong-hold in Toronto, I’ve swapped the decorative winter accessories in my home for a breath of freshness. What do you do to infuse a little bit of long-awaited spring into your home? I’ve cobbled together some seemingly incongruent and slightly quirky pieces that actually work quite well together in scale, texture, colour, and interest.
On my mantel and in front of my church sale antiqued mirror find, I’ve grouped some vintage cream-coloured pottery, along with a large wire floral frog (used in vases to hold flowers up-right in an arrangement), a wooden hat stand, a depression glass candle holder, and a glass ball (which has no other purpose other than simply being a glass ball), kept company by my new, *old* little pixie vase. The floral accents are artificial and actual – dollar store pussy willows and forsythia (which will make their way to my balcony planter soon) add height while real daffodil bulbs and moss fill out the footed bowl.
A succession of three yellow feather wreaths ($2 each at a Muti Warehouse Sale – their spring 2013 sale starts April 8) are hung on the inside of my front door so that I can enjoy them for more than the moment I arrive home and cross the threshold.
A simple Czechoslovakian crystal bowl bought at Value Village for $5.99 is paired with $5 faux eggs from Homesense.
On my dining room table, a faux bird in a grapevine wreath ‘nest’ peaks out from a $3 glass cheese dome from a Sally Anne store, accompanied by real branches in a vintage milk glass vase picked up at a church rummage sale for a few dollars, adorned by dollar store egg ornaments.
As I look around the collection of accessories and oddities on display, I’m reminded of one of my favourite museums in London - Sir John Soane’s house. Soane designed the house to live in, but also as a setting for his antiquities and his works of art, constantly adding to and rearranging his collections. A single home created from a grouping of architecturally interesting 18th and 19th century structures, it houses some fantastic collections of important works of art and antiquities, architectural drawings, historical volumes and architectural models as well as important examples of furniture and decorative arts. Well worth a visit, for like minded collectors and for those with an appreciation for interesting objects.
And for more mantel springtime decorating ideas, hop on over to talk.cil and my latest post.
Have a very Happy Easter weekend, everyone!
Not only does MCC Ontario give through their volunteerism and community programs, they also give to the thrifty shopper. In follow-up to my post about their thrift store and progressive marketing and retail channels, they are generously giving you, my readers, 10% off at their Gift to the World Etsy thrift store! Just use the discount coupon code blogcoupon. Thanks for the discount and for all of the good that you do!
I reap some fantastic rewards from blogging – it’s a creative outlet for my passion for writing and interior design, and a platform for sharing the thrifty projects I get into and up to with like-minded sorts. In the world of blogging I have discovered some supremely talented people, equally passionate about repurposing and reimagining thrifty finds. One such talented person is fellow blogger Holly, of Life As a Thrifter. Holly’s household recently welcomed a new baby into the fold. With this added life-focus, she is employing a resourceful strategy to continue sharing the thrifty decor word through guest posts in her ‘Repurposed and Redone’ series. I am thrilled to have my DIY pendant light, reimagined from a $4 tired thrift-store fixture, included in this series. Head on over to Life as a Thrifter for the full feature.
Most thrift shops that support charities are operated by volunteers, many of whom are retirees and others who, while full of time to give to run the shop, may not have a lot of knowledge of or the time for alternative marketing approaches or delivery channels. A while back I profiled one of my favourite thrift stores, Double Take in Toronto, which supports the Yonge Street Mission. What appeals to me about this store, beyond the well-presented, light and spacious retail space, is their loyalty program – a modern marketing element for a thrift store. For each dollar spent, 10% equivalent in points ‘cash’ goes on your account, good for use on future purchases.
I recently visited, for the first time, the bricks and mortar location of the Christian Benefit Thrift Shop in St. Catharines, ON. Again, this is a well-organized, welcoming shop. And again it is an operation that embraces contemporary retail and marketing tactics. This shop is part of a ‘chain’ of Canadian and American thrift stores that support the local and global relief, development and peace projects of Mennonite Central Committee. The St. Catharines location’s web site is thorough and they embrace social media with an active Facebook page.
Like many charity shops, they have an in-store silent auction to help garner the highest returns on the higher quality/demand/value donated items. And while I appreciate that these auctions allow for more customers to have a chance at securing a fabulous item, alas I’m not always able to get to a shop to bid in time or to enter that last-minute bid to secure a win. To help with that challenge, the MCCC retail channels include an Etsy shop, where one can peruse and purchase some fantastic pieces. Etsy is an accessible online marketplace that operates as a virtual mall for smaller companies and organizations to build exposure in the marketplace and sell their mostly artisan, hand-crafted, and vintage wares, making fabulous, one-of-a-kind items (like those unique pieces donated to CBTS), accessible to more of the masses, and to those who can’t make it into the store. While shipping is available at a cost, items are also sold with the option for local pick-up.
Oh how life gets busy, such that it’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve posted. That, and I seem to have once again been struck by that nasty cold that has made its way around Toronto this winter. Barely three months since having a cold for the entire month of November, it’s come back for round two, sending me flat on my back for a full-fledged sick day Friday.
So in the meantime, I thought I should at least follow-up to my last post about the St. Demetrius rummage sale and share my thrifty finds.
Ceramic Lamp – A fellow thrifting friend at the sale had to convince me to buy this lamp. Despite blue and green being my colours, and despite the $7 price tag, and quite a cute little figure for the finial. She threatened to buy it if I didn’t. That’s all the convincing I needed. The original shade is damaged so a replacement is now on the shopping list.
Vintage Oak Mirror – An interestingly proportioned mirror with the silver mirror backing worn off in all the right places, it will be nice complement to my spring fireplace mantle display. I tried to offer $5 for it, but the sweet elderly lady working the cash thought that was far too much for a mirror that is in such poor condition. But that’s why I love it! We split the difference at $3.
1960s Landscaping Book by Sunset – Yes, I live in a condo and my landscaping consists of a planter and a small water feature on my balcony, but I enjoying pouring over true MCM reference materials of any sort.
Silver-Plate Teapot – I love tea, and have a perfectly good teapot (for which I made a quite effective tea cozy from a thrift store wool sweater) but at $5 this 1930s Regis Plate teapot was too good to pass up. A silver teapot takes serving tea to guests upmarket. And I was quite familiar with this design as my mother has the same one, just slightly smaller. St Demetrius is my family church, and my mom worked the sale the days of and in the week of preparation before. When I showed her my ‘new’ teapot she informed me she had taken it home earlier in the week to polish it as it was severely tarnished. Thanks for polishing my new teapot, Mom!
Depression Glass Pitcher – Another good buy difficult to pass up was this $5 Iris Herringbone pattern depression glass pitcher, that dates from the 1930s and can retail for around $40 . Again my mother has the same pitcher (it was my dad’s parents’ – I’m guessing they may have bought it new) for which my parents purchased the matching tumblers, for serving water at dinner parties. A pretty glass pitcher is always perfect to have on hand for water, lemonade, or iced tea.
Lane Cedar Hope Chest Miniature – This particular salesman’s sample, was made by Knechtel’s of Hanover, ON, and distributed by Snyders Furnishings of Toronto. Purchased for $2, these mini chests can retail for around $20 to $25. It will make a nice, novelty, trinket box. (I plan to embellish a standard light fixture with the chunky chandelier crystals shown in the chest in the top photo.)
Fairy & Tree Stump Whimsy – This sweet, little sprite that I picked up for couple of dollars is also a nice addition to my spring decor. A 1950s Treasure Crafts of California bud vase, it would retail for around $25.
So a pretty good morning of thrifting overall. I love church rummage sales not only for the thrill of the hunt and fabulous thrifty finds that can be had, but also for the support it provides the congregation for all the good that they do.
Yes, the winter months are generally quiet for church rummage sales around Toronto, but St. Demetrius the Great Martyr church at 135 La Rose Ave, Etobicoke, ON is holding their annual flea market this coming weekend in the basement of the church. Held over two days (Friday February 22 and Saturday February 23, from 9am to 3pm on both days), it’s best to swing by on the Friday if you can for the best selection of used furniture, housewares, clothing, books, and general bric-a-brac.
If I had to choose between Toronto’s hot, humid summers and its cold, damp winters I would undoubtedly pick the former. I’m one of these women who are always cold, only ever feeling fully cozy in 30C+ humidity. But alas I am a Torontonian and as such I need to find a way to work through winter, and I embrace this snowy, cold season with skating. I don’t do any other winter sports, but I really do love to skate. With Harbourfront’s fantastic rink by the lake just down the street from where I live, I never have to travel far for a skating fix. But recently I did go a little further afield, a venture west well worth it to Toronto’s Skating Trail in Colonel Samuel Smith Park on Etobicoke’s lakefront.
The setting is absolutely gorgeous for its natural beauty, the views of Toronto’s skyline, and the stunning Victorian architecture. The park is on the site of a former lunatic asylum that opened in 1889. Humber College has repurposed and reinvented many of the original Victorian buildings for its Lakeshore campus, while the restored 1888 Power House Recreation Centre, which originally generated heat for the asylum, is now a beautiful space in which to change into your skates and keep your boots warm while on the trail.
The figure-8 trail is 250m long and is a welcomed change to the counterclockwise directional round rinks, meandering to and fro. Open daily from 9am to 10pm, there is a paid parking lot beside the rink until 3pm weekdays, but it is free all weekend or travel just a little further down the park road towards the lake for a no-charge parking lot. BYOS – bring your own skates. And after a skate, be sure to take a wander down to the lake for a spectacular view of downtown Toronto. A fun and beautiful destination for a Family Day weekend outing.
When I finally ventured out again yesterday after Friday’s storm that blanketed Toronto with 30cm of snow, I didn’t have to travel far for a visual treat and a testament to the passions and hard-work of many individuals to create something quite wonderful to behold. And something that speaks to so many of my interests – travel, mid century design, old architecture, trains, Canadian heritage – albeit in miniature form. The Model Railroad Club of Toronto, celebrating its 75th anniversary, is nearing its last run at the Liberty Village location that it has called home for the past 67 years. The MRCT model recreates the feel of a late 1950s railroad, travelling through and making stops at over a dozen ‘central Ontario’ towns, hamlets, and ports.
A recent casualty of Toronto’s development drive, the Club is dismantling its stunning model railroad (the largest private O-scale train model in North America) in early Spring 2013. Plans are underway to relocate and begin rebuilding the model railway in a new location two-thirds the size, in east Toronto, beginning in May 2013. It will take tens of thousands of dollars and more thousands of hours to move and rebuild (donations are welcomed), all the work voluntarily performed by members.
The Club hopes to be up and running once again in 2015. But before the move, the public is invited to enjoy the present setting one last time at the Club’s model railway show / open house, today Sunday February 10, 2013 and throughout the Family Day holiday weekend next weekend February 16 to 18, from 11am to 5pm daily. Admission: Adults $10 | Seniors $8 | Children $6
This is an image intensive post as there is just so much to take in, and I wanted to share so many viewpoints of the immense detail of the model setting that it was impossible to pare down the pics anymore of this special and unique setting, a piece of Toronto and railway heritage.