Thursday, October 30, 2014

Cardinal House :: Yard Work

How would you like to wake up to this view?

It's the vista with the tree's that sold us on the property.

This is the view from our master bedroom and lanai. After a year and a half of construction we finally have grass, a patio and the garden beds are settling in for the winter.

When we first got the house the property was really over-grown. Many of the tree's were suffering because the plantings were growing into each other. So while we waited for approvals to build we cleared the property of a multitude of different pavers, pathways, a poorly built water feature and plants.
Knowing that the construction process would mean that many of the healthy plants would be destroyed, I decided to clear the garden beds myself - plant by plant. There were several hundred annual plants - no exaggeration. I felt like I dug halfway across the country. After I moved the plants I wanted to keep into newly cleared garden beds, friends and family stopped by with containers and took the surplus of plants for their gardens. Many of the plants went to a garden club for an annual fund raising sale.
The garden was repetitious, so I retained some of the main features and planned for new garden beds with more variety. The implementation of the new garden beds is stage one, spring 2015 is when the real fun begins.


Now the vista of the tree's is clear to see. We've raised the canopy on the tree's so they can breath and get water when it rains. The property was graded and the new grass just received it's first cut this week - it looks fabulous.

This is pretty much the same vantage point as the before picture.

 If you live anywhere in the Southern Ontario region take note of the Sheridan Nurseries Farm Sale {Georgetown location}. It is held each year the weekend before Thanksgiving. When I received an email notification we had just finished the garden beds and were hoping to get some of the plantings in before winter. We went to the sale with the thought that we might find something - boy did we underestimate this one.
Richard and I arrived at the sale just as the skies opened up, it poured rain but I didn't care. I was like a kid in a candy store. We bought ALL of our yew hedges {42 of them}, four large cedar tree's, four small cedar tree's, multiple deciduous bushes, 30 mini boxwood, and one large pine tree. HUGE discount. And in the spring I know that Sheridan will have the flowering plants we are looking to add to the garden.

I planted all but two of the tree's myself, leaving the heavier tree's to the landscape crew. It makes me so happy to plant in the garden....... to garden in general. I'm a happy camper. And while it pains me to put the garden to bed for the winter, I am glad that I could get so much of the existing plantings moved around and the new plants in before the snow flies.

All lined up and waiting for me .............

It was important to have plantings that offered winter interest. The yews, cedars and pine are going to enhance the landscape of the garden all year round.

The new grass hadn't been cut yet in this photo. 18 yew plants hug the garden edge along the lanai.

Many of the plants in the side/back garden beds have lost their leaves, but they will help fill the garden in springtime.

The grey cobble style brick patio will feature the outdoor table, chairs and possibly a patio umbrella with an extended arm in the summer. The table is from Restoration Hardware - metal base with an old wood top; for the winter it will be kept up on the covered lanai. The chairs are vintage wooden folding chairs that we bought at a local antique market {Aberfoyle}. We will likely need to get some other chairs to work with the table as well, I'm imagining that some of the elders in our family will not appreciate sitting for too long on the folding chairs at a barbeque.

our outdoor table and chairs

the look we are going for - obviously we need to spill a bit of wine on our table

We purchased about a dozen of the faux wood resin Adirondack chairs in charcoal. Inexpensive, lightweight, easy to stack, can stay out in the rain or winter and pretty comfortable to sit in. The chairs have already been dragged from spot to spot in the yard and lanai, so they are working for our needs.

The main patio sits about 10 feet off of the lanai edge in the middle of the grass area. This will allow us to enjoy barbeque dinners with the beauty of the garden all around us. The OAK pavers in Collonade, Greyfield were used for the main patio, the barbeque cooking patio, the walkways and the edging on the driveway. They have a light grey permeable sand between and the bricks feature a scratched finish with a tumbled edge.
The benefit to using the pavers for our main walkway is that we could have the grading gently slope to the driveway level without putting in steps or using concrete. This was very important for us in the planning as we have several elders in our family who use walkers - it makes it much more accessible without steps.


It was difficult to walk anywhere on the property without being assaulted by a tree sticking out or overgrown vines. The picture above is the side of the house before - gotta love the heater for a hot tub that hadn't worked in years.

And now........

the new walkway just installed

looking into the yard

The window wells feature the same brick, the black hoses sticking up are for the irrigation system heads. The garden beds against the house will have clematis planted in the spring which will camouflage the high brick wall at the garage area.

something like this at the side of the house to hold the clematis in place

There was a yard shed at the back of the property that we had planned to take down and re-construct. The shed had lived it's life and with a wooden floor we were aware that there were other things living underneath the shed. A poured concrete base with a new structure a'la bunkie style was on the plans. I was designing the 'byrd house' {think Cardinal House} that would serve as a retreat, place to play and the side porch with overhang would offer a covered area for barbecuing.
Of course I had the colours picked out and the decor in my head........ grey on the outside and everything white inside. A daybed with big cushions to lie about on, chippy paint salvage pieces - a great spot for Richard to lie down with his book {a'la snooze} or for me to try my hand at painting.

something like this was in the plans.

So down she came. According to the crew the shed had about 200 nails and four layers on the roof - the bobcat was put into action to break it apart. And yes, there were things underneath - no longer living. I have a gruesome picture of a dead skunk - truly creepy. And pepe le pew was joined by a big raccoon. If the ugly shed wasn't enough of a reason to rip it all down, the critter cemetery was. I stayed back from the mess and let the crew handle it all. Ugh!

Once the shed was down we saw the opportunity and view with the open space. The area is now filled with grass, tree's and a garden bed, all so much more inviting. So the large tree from the Sheridan sale has been settled in the corner with an abundance of space around her for growth. And of course, I have plans for some prettiness in the garden beds.

The view is changing every day with the season and the development of the yard. I've noticed that both Richard and I stop and drink in the pretty vista when we pass by the windows.  I know we can both imagine all of the fun we will have here with our family and friends, and the quiet times - just the two of us alone.

Things are getting spooky

Last year our house looked frightening with all the construction going on. So this year I thought it would be fun for Kya to decorate the front porch Halloween. The purple sparkle pumpkin lights up and changes colour {I must remember to turn it on}. We picked out a large pumpkin together and I painted it black so the stick-on bling would stand out. Can never have enough bling on your pumpkin.
Big branches from yard work and an old wicker bird cage give our paper bats a place to hang from. The purple mini lites - so inexpensive a'la Walmart, give a bit of Halloween glow to the branches both inside the front foyer and on the porch. The black crows sitting up in the branches outside are from Micheal's Crafts.

Someone asked me why I painted the pumpkin black - hey, it matches the rest of the front decor.

I have to admit that these cheese hot dog mummies have been on the menu twice for Kya in the past few weeks. She has had fun making them with me and thankfully loves hot dogs and cheese.

Enjoy a safe and fun Halloween.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Cardinal House :: Restored Chandelier

Our restored chandelier

About a year and a half ago Richard found an antique chandelier at a shop in town. The piece was in much need of love and repair - but he was up to the task and he has the skill to re-wire lighting. The chandelier stayed in the box and was put aside until Cardinal House renovation was nearing the finishing point.

We had a lot of time to shop ..... too much time to shop as a matter of fact, while we waited for approvals during our renovation process. While shopping for other light fixtures we visited Turn of The Century Lighting in Toronto. Be - Still - My - Heart. They had everything we were looking for and would restore the broken chandelier for us. We had our hands full with the renovation and frankly were exhausted.

Before {obviously}

We handed the piece over to the restoration crew for assessment. The chandelier was much older than we first realized - which means drilling for new wiring. One of the arms was broken and needed repair/building.

The entire fixture needed cleaning and the repairs would be colour matched. The estimate for total reconstruction was 4 times the cost Richard paid for the broken chandelier. But the estimate of value once restored was three and half times the repair bill. Now it wasn't sounding so bad.

The repair costs were less than we likely would have spent on a brand new chandelier, and a new chandelier wouldn't have had the history that this piece does. So we decided to proceed.
When we went to pick this gorgeous girl up {and let me say my pictures don't do it justice} they told us that it was a bigger job than even they anticipated. I am so impressed with the work they did on our chandelier. How they got the center glass clean and clear is a mystery - it just gleams.

sparkly and new

The chandelier is large and a good balance to the vaulted ceiling in our master bedroom. All of our lighting is set on dimmers and once we find the right tone of LED warm chandelier lights, it will be outfitted with new bulbs.

Sometimes investing in an antique piece means that you invest in restoration by skilled artisans. Richard and I love the ambiance of the French chandelier in our new bedroom, it's a pretty compliment to the other pieces we have in the room.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Elegance of Oscar

Oscar de la Renta                                          via Vogue

Sadly it was announced today that fashion designer Oscar de la Renta died at the age of 82 from a re-occurring cancer. With over 50 years of designs crediting his name, Mr. de la Renta's style was legendary.

1956 coming out party in Madrid. Oscar de la Renta designs for Beatrice Lodge, daughter of U.S. Ambassador.

Oscar taking Beatrice, and his first dress for a spin.

“Real beauty is not what you project with your physique, but what you project with your mind.”    
Oscar de la Renta

Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Jackie Kennedy, Michelle Obama, Penelope Cruz, Sarah Jessica Parker, Oprah, Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, Amal Alamuddin, the list just goes on, and on, and on. The long list of women who created a stir when they walked into a room wearing the Oscar de la Renta label.

At the young age of 18, Oscar Aristides Renta Fiallo left his home in the Dominican Republic to study painting in Spain. He abandoned painting to pursue an interest in fashion and apprenticed with Cristobal Balenciaga, assisting at Lanvin. Fifty years later, his designs make women swoon at the glance of a de la Renta gown.

The elegance that Oscar de la Renta injected into his creations is the same elegance that he wore in his own persona. 

"Elegance is a discipline of life".
                                                                                              Oscar de la Renta

The bridal creations from Oscar de la Renta filled the romantic dreams of so many brides over the years. He understood how a woman wanted to feel in a dress - feminine, confident, elegant, soft, and oh so special.

Oscar de la Renta - the Sultan of Suave

There are hundreds of images on the net of early creations {some of my all time favourites}, bridal collections, day wear, resort wear, and exquisite gowns. It would be so easy to fill this post with all of the de la Renta designs that I love. But I will share one of my favourite gowns that Oscar designed and his comment that evokes the level of confidence he wanted a woman to feel.

"Walk like you have three men walking behind you".  Oscar de la Renta

The elegance of Oscar de la Renta

Monday, October 13, 2014


It was Thanksgiving this weekend for us {in Canada}.

Richard and I went for a walk this afternoon and started down a path at a nearby creek. As I turned the corner and saw this view, the first thing that came to mind is 'the true north strong and free'. For those of you who are not familiar with those words, it is a line in our Canadian national anthem. And that line says so much about what we are thankful for.

True North Strong and Free

We had an OUTSTANDING weekend for our very first Thanksgiving celebration in Cardinal House. My Granddaughter helped me make a cake for dessert and of course it had to sport candles for a Thanksgiving song {to the tune of Happy Birthday to you....}. 
Before the cake and pie was cut and passed, I asked everyone 'what are you thankful for?'  Without a moments hesitation Kya {who is four} said; 'I'm thankful for my wonderful family and our healthiness'. Yup - not a dry eye in the house.

We are blessed. And we are Thankful.

Richard drinking in the beauty of the fall leaves.