Dirt Under My Nails

Last week, the awesome folks at Ryobi invited us to check out their power tools, and to hear the awesome Frank Ferragine (aka Frankie Flowers) talk about his new book, and how to spice up our gardens.  Did you get it? My gardening pun? Yeah, I know, I’m hilarious.

Kristen & El Granto with Frankie Flowers
Kristen & El Granto with Frankie Flowers

We got to try out some awesome tools (I’m in love with this 40v cordless mower, even though I currently have no [living] grass.) Frank also gave us some awesome tips on gardening.

Frank showing us his guns OR how light the mower is 😉

All of this was enough to inspire the heck out of me, and we spent the weekend trying to spruce up the backyard.

Here’s what we got accomplished:

The ivy got pruned by El Granto. Although I’m not sure I agree with his choice of tools, it is looking a heck of a lot better with all the dead branches trimmed.

I did not specify to El Granto what tools were appropriate for trimming ivy.
I did not specify to El Granto what tools were appropriate for trimming ivy…

The dead shrubs came out and a too big rose bush headed to Grants Mum’s garden.

Several trips were made to the garden centers as well as the adorable corner store in my neighborhood.

Seriously, this is my corner store!
The corner store even boxes up your plants for you.

We also headed to the local garden center to pick up a bag of triple mix, and a couple bags of black mulch. We brought our old lady shopping card (cause dirt is heavy!) apparently it was too much even for our shopping cart, and one wheel gave out. OOPS!

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With the mulch and dirt back at home, the planters got filled, baskets were hung, and the flower garden was tilled and planted.

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El Granto picked the hanging planter this year.
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I love how petunias add so much vibrant color.

We added a few perennial Hostas, some grasses, and annuals for color. The black mulch really makes the whole thing look more like a garden, and less like a dirt patch.

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Everyone tells me I cant possibly kill a Hosta…we’ll see.

We added a small herb garden next to the deck. I love using fresh herbs in my cooking, and its lovely just to pop outside and cut some as needed.

This year we have rosemary, two types of basil, parsley, thyme, chives and green onions. I have about 2′ left of open garden to add other items as I see fit.

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Green onions, basil, chives, parsley & rosemary (poor thyme didn’t even make it in the photo)

Our BBQ & surrounding area got a thorough cleaning, and new boxwoods were planted in the planter box beside the a/c unit. It’s been so cold this spring, that we haven’t even uncovered the air conditioner yet!

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Boxwoods hiding the ugly A/C unit

While we worked our butts off, there is still so much to do in the backyard. I will be back later in the week with a Backyard to-do & project list, but I will leave you with a sneak peek of my dirty little secret.

AKA the grass-less backyard.

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Embarrassed to even post this photo

HELP! The yard needs so much work, from a lawn, to a new path, and a whole lot of paint & TLC.

Project Outdoor Daybed

Two years ago today, I was relaxing in a cabana in Cuba at one of the most beautiful resorts I’ve ever seen. We were staying in the Royal Service Suites at the Paradisus Rio De Oro outside Holguin. It was a mini honeymoon for El Granto and I after we had to give up our European honeymoon to fix our house. It was a pretty amazing minimoon, in a beautiful exclusive resort. I could go on and on about the amazing service, poolside butler etc., but one of my favorite things were the Balinese cabana beds by the pool, and the outdoor daybed on our balcony.


These beds put chaise loungers to shame. Huge beds with thick comfy mattresses covered with pillows.  Perfect for an afternoon siesta or lounging with a cocktail.

Two years later, and I’m still thinking about those beds.

A few weeks ago Home Depot unexpectedly sent us a gift card in the mail, with no expectations other than that we should give a little love to our home for spring. We could use the card for whatever we wanted. We could add a fresh coat of paint, plant some flowers etc.

So we thought, lets build something fun. Something that is not in the giant to-do list, and that’s nice and indulgent.

You guessed it. We’re building an outdoor daybed on our master deck. It’s not quite a Balinese bed, but it will be the size of a twin mattress, and also have a built in table (or arm rest) to hold a drink or two.

It will be nestled at the end of our deck taking up the full width, using the fence as the back of the daybed.

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We will be making it blend into the deck with the same modern aesthetic as the deck and our fence.  While it won’t have a thatched roof like our cabana in Cuba, we are going to bring in lots of pillows and accessories to add luxury and break up the hard surfaces.

Here is some of our inspiration for the project:

Follow Kristen’s board Backyard Inspiration on Pinterest.


This past weekend we headed to Home Depot and picked up the lumber, as well as some wood for the basement. We rented a van to bring it all home (when you’re renting a van, buy all the big stuff you have planned, to save on van rentals).


We got most of the frame assembled, then realized someone miscalculated the lumber list, and we were short a couple boards. Oops.

A walk back to get more lumber ensued the next day.


I’d love to get more work done on it this week, but our forecast is leaning towards April showers. Progress may have to resume this weekend.

In the interim, I am on the hunt for a cushion the size of a twin mattress. Any ideas? It also needs to be budget friendly. The current forerunner is a foam kids mattress from a certain Swedish retailer, but I would love an actual box cushion with outdoor fabric.

Spring in my Step

I think we are all letting out a collective groan this week as we see the calendar mark the first day of spring yet winter boots still reside on our feet and snowbanks border our yards.

There is one thing that I’ve found immensely helpful in overcoming the winter blues;  I’ve started prepping for my upcoming trip to Denmark. (Guys I leave for Copenhagen in 12 days!) Escaping Toronto has given me the push I needed to pamper myself with a spring makeover of sorts. I’ve treated myself to new glasses. A new haircut. New shoes, clothes and El Granto got me a fancy new purse. I’ve pampered myself like it’s summer, and it’s been a game changer.


We also went out shopping and got El Granto some new duds, and I have to say there’s more skip in his step as well. I find I never buy or do anything for myself in the winter months. Before Christmas I’m buying & making gifts for others. Post holidays I am penny pinching, and the last thing I’m thinking of is getting myself a treat. But march rolls around and I haven’t got myself anything new since October and heck I could really use a new pair of jeans and dammit my socks have holes in them!

My therapy of choice is “invest in me”. Man is it feeling good.


I even said screw you winter and wore flats today (high of +4 and sunny!)

What have you done just for yourself lately?

Let’s Do Spring

A few weeks ago the nice folks at Home Depot invited me to their Spring Preview. I love these types of events, as they give me a ton of inspiration for the next season. This preview was especially welcome as it got me out of  the frigid Canadian winter and into a spring oasis filled with bbq’s, patio furniture and flowers.

I have been dreaming of planting my garden, building on a new patio and hosting many a fun summer bbq. I thought I’d share some of my inspiration so you can daydream about what you’re going to do with your outdoor space this year.

For the backyard:

Brown Jordan Highland Set
Brown Jordan Highland Set

This year Home Depot has brought in some amazing pieces from Brown Jordan. You may be familiar with the high end luxury outdoor furniture brand, but not at these prices. Home Depot has made some awesome quality furniture available at an affordable price.  They even have a swivel glider that I absolutely fell in love with. It was like sitting in your Dad’s old recliner, but outside and way more fashionable.

They also have a more contemporary set called Northshore that would be perfect on an urban patio or roof deck.

Brown Jordan Northshore
Brown Jordan Northshore

I love the clean lines of this set, and it would be perfect in our backyard. I have a total crush on it. They even use Sunbrella fabrics, which are the creme de la creme of outdoor fabrics with UV protection.

Although we do not have room for a dining set in our backyard, I still lusted after the contemporary dining sets. This one was my fave; the Larmont.


It actually looks like indoor furniture! The captain chairs add a lot of class. Patio tables & chairs can sometimes feel flimsy and cheap, but this one feels super durable.

There were also a ton of great BBQ’s and you know El Granto & I are huge bbq fans. I fell in love with this Napoleon Charcoal Kettle grill. We have a natural gas bqq, but miss the flavour of charcoal.

Napoleon Kettle Grill
Napoleon Kettle Grill

They did a really ingenious thing with this new model. The top opens to the side like a book, so that you don’t burn your hands trying to open the lid.


If we didn’t already have a bbq, this one would be on my wish list. It is a propane (or natural gas) bbq with a smoker box. Om nom nom.

Brinkmann 5 Burner Gas Grill with Smoker and Sear Burner
Brinkmann 5 Burner Gas Grill with Smoker and Sear Burner

For my fellow Urbanites. The Home Depot also showed some great small space items perfect for a balcony or rooftop deck. I thought these flooring tiles were great. They lock together to make a brand new floor surface over ugly old concrete or decking.

Multy Home Enviro Tiles
Multy Home Enviro Tiles in Flagstone Earth
Multy Home Enviro Tiles in Grey
Multy Home Enviro Tiles in Grey

They also have a great electric bbq if your condo board doesn’t allow gas.

CHAR BROIL Patio Bistro 240 Small Space Electric Barbecue
CHAR BROIL Patio Bistro 240 Small Space Electric Barbecue

To put the icing on the cake backyard, they had some really great outdoor rugs, throw pillows and flowers.

Hampton Bay Decorative outdoor pillows
Hampton Bay Decorative outdoor pillows
Proven Winners Flowers

Excuse me while I go wish for the snow to melt.

P.S. Home Depot invites me to these previews, and I sit on their comfy chairs and eat their  hors d’oeuvres but I am in no way compensated, or get anything from writing about it. I just like to share my inspiration with you guys.

Is it Spring Yet?

Last week I had an especially bad week. I went in for my second round of iron infusions, and this session was not kind to me. I came home with a fever and my whole body felt like it had been run over by a truck. I took a few days off and got some rest, and finally this week things are starting to get better. Continue reading “Is it Spring Yet?”