Two things about me

UntitledThis blog is helping me get to know myself better. Some things really stand out. Continue reading

Everyday altars


Do you have a home altar? Not necessarily the religious kind but something more in line with a personal altar?

Balinese and Hindu cultures, and the tradition of Feng shui believe no household should be without one but I think it’s safe to say personal or home altars aren’t popular in the typical Western household.

Maybe we have altars we’re unaware of; maybe we erect them without realizing.

“The urge to create sacred spaces is so deep in the human psyche that, even when there is no formalized intent to make an altar, we often create them subconsciously.” says Denise Linn, author of Altars: Bringing Scared Shrines into Your Everyday Life.

Think of a child’s bedroom shelf where is arranged a favourite comic book, souvenirs from special vacations and a ticket stub from a stand-out show.

Think of a kitchen window sill with small stones and flowers from the garden.

everyday altars, the kitchen window sill


Put simply, an altar is a group of treasures that act as visual reminders to reflect on things outside the mundane, to shift our attention away from the ordinary and connect with something bigger. An altar helps us remember what’s important and lets us pay homage.

There’s no one right way to create a personal altar. It doesn’t matter where or how big or small your altar is. It can be inside or outside, on a kitchen window sill or bedroom dresser, in the bathroom or in your hallway as you enter your home.

On your altar place objects with meaning. They could be whimsical, funny and irreverent, or very spiritual in nature. Altars can contain one object or twenty.

Don’t know what to include? Here are some useful questions to get you started are: What am I thankful for? What gives me peace? What inspires me? What is magical? What makes me feel alive?


Altars aren’t passive or stagnant. They can change with the seasons or celebrations. For me, things get shifted or swapped out for something else on a weekly, sometimes daily basis. Gone are the flowers now droopy and fading and in come some stones and shells from a Cape Cod beach walk.

Altars do seem to contain, however, some constant or reoccurring objects: something from nature and something to engage the senses such as candles, incense, favourite colours, pictures or cloth.


Altars and incense have a strong connection. My favourite form of incense lately is palo santo wood.


Palo santo means “holy stick”or “wood of the saints.” It’s harvested from trees in Mexico and Central and South America, and used as a remedy for spiritual cleansing and purifying. The belief (dating back to the Incas and still believed today) is that the smoke from the palo stick can banish misfortunes, calamities and evil spirits.

Palo Santo belongs to the same family as frankincense and myrrh and is a very aromatic wood with hints of cedar and citrus. Its smoke leaves a light, uplifting and pleasant aroma. Light the tip to start a very slow burn and gently wave it around until it burns out.

Burning Palo Santo Wood comes as close to a spiritual experience as possible. With minimal effort and maximum impact a peaceful ambiance is guaranteed.

Happy altar making!

Back the f*#k up autumn


Gorgeous weather here in Ottawa this Friday afternoon. Plus twenties, sunny and warm; Mother Nature fooling us to believe it’s a summer day. So back the f*#k up autumn, I’m going outside to sit in my green garden and listen to this song.

p.s.  The live performance  is impressive too. Watch both versions.

House tour hangover

happy sunday

Nursing my House Tour hangover with a bowl of floating marigolds!

I’m not literally hungover, only feeling a bit weary from Sunday’s big event, the Glebe House Tour. Read about it here, here and here.

The Tour began in the pouring rain but we didn’t let it dampen (ha ha!) our spirits. Somehow we managed all the wet boots, shoes, jackets and umbrellas. Can’t have 400 dripping wet people walking through the homes! Before we knew it the sun came out, just as I had hoped.

We asked as many tour goers how, on a scale from one to five, they would rate us (one is not satisfied and five is very satisfied). Despite the day’s initial challenges we got very positive feedback; out of 132 responses, 100 people gave us a five out of five (2 of those 100 actually gave us a ten out of five), 26 gave us a four out of five, and 6 people rated us a three. Those aren’t shabby results! Pretty great for an almost completely volunteer-run event.

The complimentary Tea, hosted by my generous friend and neighbour, Jennifer, was a huge success as well. She’s an excellent Cordon Blue-trained pastry chef with a talent and flair for unique tablescapes. I wish you could have been there to taste the delicacies and to behold the way the tables were decorated.

Here’s a sampling of photos to give you an idea just how beautiful an experience the Tea was.

DSC_2383Each table was a different colour scheme.

DSC_2442Yes! She even makes her own caramels.

DSC_2444The gluten-free orange chiffon cake, DELICIOUS!


Real teacups instead of disposable ones. Such a nice touch.

DSC_2465I doubt you will ever ever taste a more perfect ginger snap.

DSC_2446Those aren’t store-bought shortbreads either. Everything was home baked by Jennifer.

DSC_2490We are so grateful for our many local sponsors.

The floral arrangements for the Tea are compliments of Bloomfields, our wonderful neighbourhood florist.

More than just pretty: flower power

UntitledFor ages people have been giving flowers and getting flowers and feeling good about the whole thing. We visit florist shops or pick them from our gardens and arrange them in vases to adorn our homes. We send them with get well cards. We use them to express seasons, celebrations, spirituality. Think poinsettia’s at Christmas, marigolds at Day of the Dead Celebrations, or the spiritual symbolism of the lotus flower.

We prize flowers for their beauty, fragrance and colour, for how they give life to a space. They add that something extra. They make us feel good and make our homes look even better.

Just about everyone has heard about this kind of +AKA-flower power:


March on the Pentagon on October 21st 1967+AKA-

The Harvard’s Home Ecology Study of Flowers suggests flowers have real power, more than we realize. The study results suggest that spending only a few days with flowers in the home or at work boosts well-being and makes us more compassionate.

Here’s a practical example: you wake up with the morning blahs, unable to have a positive thought until later in the day (turns out this is a real phenomenon). Introduce a flower into your surroundings and you will feel better and perk up earlier. The study proved this. No need for an expensive bouquet of roses either. Even a single wild+AKA- daisy in a small vase has enough power to nudge you in a better direction. No side affects. Easy.

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Increase the potency of+AKA- the mood-boosting effects by selecting a flower you love above all others (I love marigolds), one that triggers a positive memory, or for its scent (think aroma therapy) or one that symbolizes something you love (geraniums make me think of my mom).

Take it to another level and pay attention to how the flowers are arranged or the choice of vase. Each flower and the way it’s arranged has a way of setting an atmosphere.

Those allergic to flowers shouldn’t feel left out. Allergic reactions to orchids are rare because they don’t have airborne pollen. In fact the Allergy and Asthma Foundation has chosen the orchid as its official flower. flowers

The study also suggests something else. Not only do flowers make individuals feel better, they also change our feelings for each other. Study participants who lived with fresh cut flowers for less than a week felt an increase in feelings of compassion and kindness for others.


I don’t need science to convince me of the power of fresh cut flowers in the home, although it’s cool such subjects are thoughtfully investigated.


Marigolds are the new pumpkin


Walking back from the grocery store the other day I saw pumpkins for sale. The day was crisp and it seemed like the perfect time to buy a pumpkin and place it on my porch until it’s time to carve it into a jack-o-lantern.

Suddenly this distinct voice rose up in me and firmly said, NO. Nothing against pumpkins; they are perfectly worthy of attention and a fine symbol of the season. But I won’t buy one just yet.

Instead, I continue to enjoy and celebrate the marigolds in their final days. I’m harvesting some everyday now and I swear they repeatedly bloom new flowers faster than I can pluck them off.


Because they’re so bountiful and available I’ve decided marigolds are as perfect as a pumpkin to symbolize Halloween and the the season in general. Perfect because they’re as orange as a pumpkin. AND, ever-cheerful marigolds even have a cultural and historical association with death and the macabre. For instance, marigolds are the official flower of Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexican culture and get fashioned into elaborate displays on altars and graves. In some villages, people leave a trail of marigolds from their front door to their loved ones grave so the dead may easily find their way back home again to feast and party and be guests of honour in a two-day celebration. It’s believed marigolds’ pungent aroma and brilliant colors are enough to draw the dead back to earth for the yearly reunion.

I might forgo the Jack-o-lantern this year and instead fashion something in the spirit of this amazing effort:a-skull-covered-in-marigolds-rests-in-front-of-a-wall-of-graves-mexico-city-oct-27-2009-photographed-for-ap-photo-by-gregory-bull-via-bigpicture Photographed by Gregory Bull for AP Photo.

Not as large as this one, of course, but maybe something smaller. As a centerpiece for the table?

Have a wonderful weekend

happy friday jpg

Chilly here in Ottawa today. Only 11 degrees. Maybe it’s time to harvest my marigolds,

DSC_2012and and put my geranium to bed! This will be the third time I have successfully put my gorgeous red geranium to sleep. Downstairs in the cold room it goes to be happily ignored until April. I won’t even give it a drop of water until early spring when tiny signs of a resurrection appear and build and build until it looks like this in mid September:



After looking like this:


Other than geraniums and marigolds, I’ve been thinking about colour palettes, the ones inspired by nature and the ones I notice in other combinations of things. I love it when seemingly random things match beautifully. Exhibit A:


Putting the final touches on this up-coming event. So excited. This is part of the Tour too:


I’ve been reading this book+AKA-.

I loved this video.

Have a great weekend!

Love what you Love


dried marigoldI’m crazy about marigolds. Yes, poor persecuted marigolds. Forever disdained for a down market image.

Some people loathe marigolds. A friend was over for dinner the other night and, while sitting in the back yard surrounded by marigolds, he revealed it’s his hometown’s official flower. He also said he didn’t like them. Continue reading

Family-Friendly Elegance: on the Glebe House Tour

DSC_1062Working closely with an architect and interior designer, the owners built this new home with traditional, old features yet all the comforts and conveniences of the new. Natural light floods in through abundant windows and interior transoms, shining on elegant yet family-friendly interiors. Don’t miss the gorgeous daughters’ rooms upstairs or the huge comfy couch in the multi-purpose basement retreat.

Photography by Suzanne McCarthy

House description by  Stephanie Small

The Glebe House Tour is less than two weeks away Continue reading

Nature’s colour palette

colour palletteWith camera in hand, I went out for a walk through Ottawa’s Arboretum and Ornamental Gardens today. It reminded me what I have always known; Nature is one of the best places to get inspiration for a colour palette.

I read somewhere that there are no bad colours, only bad colour combinations. I think there’s a lot of truth in that. Nature never gets it wrong. So the next time you’re in the mood for a change, whether it’s your wardrobe or the colour palette of a room in your home, get influenced by flowers, rocks, trees, sky and water.

From neutral to exuberant colour schemes, Nature provides them all. Capture the images on camera and take your photos to a paint shop where you can match paint colours with your images.

There is also a neat blog dedicated to matching and identifying different colour palettes with beautiful nature scenes and landscapes. Find it at


Untitled calming