A Minimalist Christmas | The Tree Alternative

With the world of things like Pinterest at our fingertips, it’s no surprise that people are jumping at the alternative of easier and smaller Christmas Tree solutions. When I was 18, I had rushed my boyfriend (now husband) to a big box store to buy a fake tree on sale. It had lasted several years which is great, I love decorating trees, but in a few of the places I had lived over the past few years, it was not ideal to have even the smaller scale tree I had. I didn’t even know there were other options!

It’s hard for people to justify investing in a tree that they only have out for a month in a year, and still be able to store it (and storage is valuable real estate in the apartment world!). Along with the tree, the decorations, lights etc., also need to be stored somewhere, so now it’s impeding even more.

For those who love the traditional tree-feel, I’ve seen many people go for the 2-3’ trees (in various colours: white, purple lights, black with red lights, traditional green with white or multi-coloured lights), which can be placed on tables (read: away from mischievous pets, and small fingers). I know my hubby and I lived in this very cramped basement apartment for 2 years where my (what I thought was small) 6’ tree took up most of our hall space! It was very invasive! A 3’ tree would have been far more practical, but still offer my love for decorating trees.

I have some friends who have kindly provided/shared with me some of the things they’ve done to overcome their tree space challenges.

1: The DIY Tree

My friend Morgan says: “Each of the top smaller pieces are on their own and the longer bottom lengths are cut in half so they’re each 2 pieces.” She followed up to mention her boards are comprised of cardboard, cork, batting and then felt. As of right now they’re tied together and hung with a string in the back, however she’s looking at finding a better hanging solution. She puts a little shout-out on Facebook to her friends, who collectively (over the years) make her decorations for her tree. It’s a great solution for conserving her space, while also creating a personal touch to her space.

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2: Au Natural

I really love this look; my friend Jessie was inspired from something she saw on Pinterest. She actually had her dog find the sticks, “I used a pocket knife to debark and make them the right length. I used walnuts to polish them.” Which is a great personal touch. She adds lights and a few simple colour themed decorations to it to help keep it simple, but still stunning.

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3: Simple Tinsel

This was a fun and very simple artistic way of giving that look of a tree, just up on the wall! My friend Meagan here used tinsel by itself. Please be careful with tinsel if you have pets, it can be very harmful if swallowed. That said, it’s a fun way to create texture in a very simple way! There are many ways to put a creative spin to this, or if you do not like tinsel, you could use other variants of garland, or purely just lights etc. The options are endless!

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These of course are just a few of the very many choices out there in the world. Feel inspired and have fun!

Wishing everyone a very happy holidays from Nested Green.

Green Jobs | A little Speech

While juggling a few different things in business right now, I have an exciting update on a recent event we were very pleased to participate in. Canadian Green Building Council (CaGBC) had invited us, well… Katherine, to speak to students and those interested in a career that revolved around the environment. The speakers promoted passion but also sustainable business structures to help inspire those interested in this field.

With approximately 50+ students and those interested in changing career paths, it was actually a larger turn out than we expected. The few other speakers were engineers and large corporate businesses focusing on sustainable environmental factors from a much larger scale.

With a quick speech from most speakers, Katherine insisted on telling us where she got started in the business. When we spoke to the many people eager to chat with us, they seemed inspired and enlightened to find a natural business… on a smaller scale. This made us very happy!

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Of course our evening went much longer than we anticipated… with hearing hopes and dreams from many others, we attempted to guide them in the best direction possible to help achieve their goals. It made us both so excited to see so many eager faces ready to jump into the work of environmental design (and living!).

Suffice to say, Katherine enjoyed telling her story so much she (and I) can’t wait to go and do something like this again! Despite her recovering from illness, she did very well in her speech… come take a look for yourself!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4uH1UEEvhv8&w=420&h=315]

The Lighter Side of Laundry

There’s nothing quite like climbing into fresh clean bed sheets baked on the laundry line in the summer sunshine. Crisp linens, towels and under garment are one of the benefits of hanging your laundry to dry. The other huge benefit is the energy savings from not using your dryer.  As well, if like us, no air conditioning means no unwanted heating from dryer or oven when temperatures hit the sweaty level.Laundry 1

Today, as temperatures far exceeded the sweaty level, I noticed a load of laundry had finished its final cycle. Call me crazy, I jumped for joy. Not for the realization that my 19 year old son was doing his laundry without a word of prodding from me but that I could hang these damp clothes with the clear blue sky and sunshine!

A clear sky is key to a relaxed laundry day for us line users. One large dark cloud can have us running with empty basket and pin bag at break-neck speed screaming… “It gonna rain!!!”

Breaking up laundry day throughout the week is a good tip… if you can. Sheets and towels can fill that line up pretty quick. Luckily they dry rapidly when you have full sun and humidity levels are low.  wind-power-clothesline

Weather forecast for tomorrow says partially cloudy with chance of rain… So I’ll go to work instead. No need to call in sick for laundry tomorrow!!

Show us your laundry line.

Silk Road To Happiness… never too cool for silk

 

The incredible heat and humidity lately has me thanking my lucky stars for the silk wrap skirt that was given to me many years ago.  I’m reminded of my mother in law when in her mid 50’s claimed that she needed to wear silk clothes to feel comfortable. The wonderful natural qualities of silk out-do cotton every time.  Humidity is not a friend of cotton… Wet T-shirt contest anyone!?silkworm+on+leaves

I was intrigued by the way silk feels and acts.  I read somewhere that when used as a pillow case, the amino acids in the silk can have a anti-aging effect on your face.  Uh, can I just swaddle myself in the stuff!!??

Even with all the potential of body temperature regulating and skin smoothing, there’s a sad fact about silk. The common production method of silk fibers is a cruel one.  Simplified: when the silk worms are still alive in their cocoon, they are dropped in boiling water to release the fibers of the cocoon.  The threads are then carefully pulled and wound onto spools for the next step in production.  The worms, now dead never get the chance to become the beautiful butterfly they were meant to be.

silk-ballsThere is an alternative to the killing fields of commercial silk production but you will really have to look for it. Ahimsa Peace Silk, produced in Fair Trade communities in India, this silk is ethical.  The mulberry larva are allowed to finish their growth into flying beauties and continue the reproduction cycle.  Their abandoned cocoon are collected, inspected for vacancy then painstakingly unraveled by caring, patient hands.

Sadly, wild eri silkworms are becoming endangered, possibly due to the same fate as honeybees.  The commercial use of silk worms too is unsustainable.  A couple only produce 50 eggs, so management is precarious if greed kicks in.IMG_20150724_164321

Research about silk also turned up that toxic chemicals and heavy metals like lead are used in the colouring of silks.  So, not only is ethical silk more desirable for fair treatment of living beings but also healthier if natural dye processes are used on the fabric.  But that’s a whole other post.

Excuse me while I attend to my bowl of ice in front of the fan.  I think there’s a hint of fresh air coming through the window.  In the meantime, feet up, silk wrap on, fan on full blast.  I’m dreaming of Ahimsa Peace Silk sheets and a cool night sleep.  Stay frosty my friends.

 

Designs from the Mat… Hippies and Hemp to the Rescue

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I was called a “hippie chick” once. Well, probably more than once but at least one time that I specifically remember.  I took offence since I didn’t own a tie-dyed t-shirt or drive a Volkswagen Westfalia.  Could it have been that I let my hair grow too long??  What I didn’t realize at the time was that the person who called me this term was referring to my social and political outlook on life.  I should have thanked him for noticing.  I was born in the year that “Hair” hit Broadway, but my parents were the furthest from being Hippies.

On the other hand, our neighbours in Calgary, Alberta were Hippies. I played with their daughter and went on outings with the family in the luxury of a Volkswagen Westfalia.  One outing in particular may be responsible for my fascination and reverence for mid-century modern design … I may have been all of 5 years old.  We were treated to a visit to a custom build home in the middle of ranch country. The home had lofting ceilings, sky lights and spiral stair cases… all covered in moss green shag carpet… no, not the ceiling.  Giant pillows in paisley patterned fabrics, low tables and hanging lamps swagged from the lofty ceiling was all that adorned the grand main area.  Despite the serenity of the country side, I could not help but notice the oil well pumps cluttering the vista from the giant windows.

The Hippy movement of the 60’s and 70’s opened up alot of alternate thinking in the youth of the time. The use of natural products such as hemp were considered illicite due to it’s relation to cannibis sativa, commonly known as marijauna… or weed.  Hemp was a cash crop in the United States long before the country was even that… Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper.  Growing industrial hemp in the the U.S. is illegal (although many states are moving to remove the restrictions). In Canada it is highly regulated… pardon the pun.  Check out the links below for a brief history lesson on why such a useful and environmentally progressive product was made illegal.  Hemp can replace the use of fossil fuels for plastics, energy, paper, concrete.  Wonder why wealthy industrial tycoons with interests in forests, metals and oil used their influence to manipulate the government and the country’s population??  Henry Ford produced his Model-T car with “hemp plastic” with an engine that ran on clean burning hemp oil (Ethanol) … where is this product now?? Mr. Ford’s friends at Standard Oil (J.D. Rockefeller) and the United States Steel Corporation (Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, and Charles Schwab) were not happy with Henry’s use of products.

Hippies embraced Eastern and indigenous peoples’ philosophies, home grown foods, natural products, social reforms, holding governments to task for their actions and sharing “Truths” amongst those who will listen and those curious to learn. Was there a dark age of knowledge that all that is good for us was burried? With the aid of the internet and those who wish to expose that which is wrong in the world, the information that has been hidden from us for hundreds of years is finally being revealed. Well, it’s probably been out there all along but we just weren’t programmed to hear it.  Remember the X-Files?? The Truth is Out There.

There is a growing interest and a resurgence in the philosophies and political views of the Hippie movement.  How can our future be anything but bleak with the continuation of a system that propagates unwellness for our air, water, food, animals and ourselves by pushing plastics, pollution and politics that create wars, famines and plagues? Hemp, the carbon negative resource of the past has the potential to replace the poisons of our current economic and political systems.  I’ll get off my soap-box now… back to the mat!!

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More Information:

http://www.collective-evolution.com/2012/12/05/how-hemp-became-illegal-the-marijuana-link/

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-other-cannabis-war-20140603

http://naihc.org/hemp_information/hemp_facts.html

http://www.hempcar.org/ford.shtml

http://higherperspective.com/2014/02/5-uses-hemp-show-legalized-immediately.html

http://www.onegreenplanet.org/animalsandnature/4-ways-hemp-can-save-the-world/

http://www.treehugger.com/environmental-policy/perfect-plant-7-great-uses-for-industrial-hemp.html

http://hempethics.weebly.com/what-is-industrial-hemp.html

http://www.agr.gc.ca/eng/industry-markets-and-trade/statistics-and-market-information/by-product-sector/crops/pulses-and-special-crops-canadian-industry/industrial-hemp/?id=1174595656066

http://beforeitsnews.com/blogging-citizen-journalism/2013/06/hemp-anti-bacterial-fabric-homes-fuel-and-more-something-that-all-americans-can-agree-on-2448220.html

Power Windows … Musings of the obsession of windows in our lives

 

Window in Window

A window is a frame through which we see the world. Some views are full of wonderment, others frame that which is not so pleasant with our world. A window, unlike a door will only be looked through, never exited through… except in an extreme emergency… Actually and metaphorically.

For every new building I’ve ever worked on, the selection of the windows has been the main obsession for the project. I’ll use the word “obsession” a lot when referring to windows because it is a huge part of both the interior and exterior function and aesthetic of any building. Not to mention the large percentage of the budget they eat up. Designers of buildings since the beginning of recorded history have been obsessed by windows.

Norfolk Church

Early examples of window architecture are exhibited in every culture… from a hole in the wall adding animal skins, weaved grasses, wooden shutters to carved stone lattice. In ancient Far East, paper was used as a window covering. Small pieces of glass were developed in 100 AD in Roman occupied Alexandria, Egypt. Windows have allowed us the ability to see our enemy coming from afar while we stay protected within our abodes. The colourful stained glass of European churches has wondrously guided illiterate followers with pictured stories of the Bible. Later in time, the size of your windows exhibited the status and wealth of your family. Windows were covered in the interior with heavy draped fabrics… the more money you had the thicker and fancier the drapes were. The Hall of Mirrors at Versailles was a stunning showcase for France’s new plate glass technology of the 1680’s.

Store front

Store front

The agenda of windows has not changed much since ancient times, except we add energy efficiency to the list of reasons for purchasing the best windows that we can afford. Ancient designers knew the benefits of window locations. Not just adding vantage points in buildings for spotting marauders but strategically adding windows for best lighting of interiors, efficient seasonal heating and cooling from the sun’s rays and air flow throughout the interiors. The architectural term is “fenestration” which also includes doors in the category. Since the advent of structural glass and industrial steel in the late 19th century, fenestration such as skylights, glass floors, and mile high curtain walls have been made possible.

 

As well as real objects, a window is a metaphor, as in Queen Elizabeth’s proclamation that she “did not want to make windows into men’s souls”. Through romantic poetry and art, the window is a magic casement of symbols of hopes and dreams. That which appears outside the window seems to be better than what we have within. Modern day artist, film director Alfred Hitchcock was fascinated by voyeurism and used the window as a setting in his film Rear Window. There are whole books dedicated to the meaning of windows in dreams. University psych courses abound with deep meanings for windows. A certain company has made a fortune with a computer program using the name. Windows are deeply rooted in our collective unconscious… there is a reason why we don’t like windows behind our bed’s headboard!!

A window will determine a lot about an interior, such as how much air, light, heat, cold, view and much needed privacy one will or will not receive from their window. On the exterior, it’s all about aesthetics. For windows, they do not just following the rule “form follows function” but add a layer of status and metaphor to the mix… a perplexing thing they are. That’s why designers and architects love, love, love windows…. obsessed!!

Window Lattice

Whoa Dude…. What Happened to My Light Bulb!? 2014 The Year of the Light Bulb

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As of January 1, 2014 the U.S. and Canada has ceased the manufacture and importation of incandescent light bulbs. Worried yet? If you are concerned about the upcoming bulb shortages you’d best stock up like it’s a zombie apocalypse because they’ll be going fast and furious. Panic not, the EU and Australia went through with this same ban back in 2009… so it can be done without total mayhem.

Dining room glass feature
Where would we be without the invention of the incandescent light bulb? Scholars argue that there were more than 22 scientist with patents throughout the world over from 1809 until 1879 when Thomas Edison and his wealthy backers (one being J.P. Morgan who owned General Electric and The Titanic) purchased the patent from two Canadian scientists that he improved upon for his now commercially successfully light bulb design. The incandescent light bulb has been evolving ever since but now will see it’s end of days and be dismissed to a shelf in a museum and memories past.
Commercial properties have been refitting their ceilings with fluorescent light fixtures as a cost saving measure since the late 1990’s. The LED bulbs at the time of this great switch-up were priced far out of economical sense for building owners. The new LED (light emitting diode) technology has overtaken the CFL (compact fluorescent light) bulb in new commercial building lighting design. Currently the LED light is only slightly more energy efficient than the CFL for the same amount of light but the LED light also can be dimmed and tinted other colours, as well, the next generation of technologies promises to better the efficiency. Health issues such as seizures and the special disposal of CFL bulbs, since they contain toxic mercury, will see the end eventually of the CFL bulb too. The research into commercial lighting has lit the way for a future of LED lighting in our homes at a reasonable price.

Mud room and Powder room light fixture
Now I’m sure you are smart and understand our governments’ legislation of light bulbs is motivated by reducing energy consumption… we’ll just stick with that premise (see “Research” link at the end for more info if you suspect otherwise). Big retailers such as IKEA, Home Depot and Walmart are on top of the low priced LED bulbs sales… so we should not have to be too worried about finding an affordable bulb for our existing light fixtures. IKEA has moved to only selling light fixtures that use LED technology, so that’s a huge statement of where they think the future of lighting is heading.
A good cost saving strategy is to stock up on incandescent bulbs to avoid the cost of new technologies… then hold on until the competition heats up for the newest and cheapest LED bulbs to come out of the giant retailers … the fight is on for your light bulb dollars. Don’t be tempted by the reduced cost of CFL bulbs either. The environmental impact of even the smallest amounts of mercury that is used in these bulbs is astronomical when the shear number of bulbs that are used in North America are added up. Those bulbs will all die one day and must go somewhere. As with most waste in our countries, not all of it that should be handled with special care make it to the proper facilities and end up in regular waste dumps where the toxins will eventually leak into our precious ground water.

Living room light fixture and custom drapery
If money is tight coming out of your pocket… stretch it a little and stock up on the inexpensive incandescent bulbs to hold you over… invest a little for a few LED bulbs for high use spaces like kitchens… or that lamp you never shut off for “security” reasons… mom. Spend some to save some is the name of the game here. The trendy “Industrial Style” is glorifying the incandescent light bulb in one last hurr-ahh… before they are dismissed from the store shelves as the cause of over consumption of electricity… what’s next? Yes, your oven could be next… or perhaps your refrigerator?? Remember… when in doubt, turn it out … or just light a candle instead!!

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Walmart:
http://inhabitat.com/walmart-launches-line-of-10-led-bulbs/

Canada ban 2014 – Government unprepared for mercury waste from increased use of CFLs:
http://digitaljournal.com/article/341813
http://www.ctvnews.ca/sci-tech/in-line-with-u-s-ottawa-to-allow-sales-of-less-efficient-light-bulbs-1.1484749
http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/incandescent-light-bulb-ban-starts-jan-1-2014-1.2462888
Canada govt FAQ for light bulbs
http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy/regulations-codes-standards/7281
Ikea news:
http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-10-01/ikea-plans-to-sell-only-led-lights-worldwide-to-cut-emissions
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-10-01/ikea-plans-to-sell-only-led-lights-worldwide-to-cut-emissions.html
http://jamesbedell.com/blog/2013/8/22/ikea-is-going-all-led-heres-what-that-means-for-the-lighting-industry
Research:
http://freedomlightbulb.blogspot.ca/

Living with Multi-generations Under One Roof… How to Get Along

It was only suppose to be a temporary situation… maybe a few months at the most. Almost 8 years later and we’re still living in my parents home. I bought a house in the town where my parents retired to. For me and my two children, living near their grandparents was going to make life easier for me, a single parent, to be able to pursue my career in the city an hour’s drive away. Knowing that my kids would have breakfast in the morning and dinner at night, as well as, to and from school safely while I battle rush hour… making the drive a little less stressful. For my parents and children, with son in elementary school and daughter in high school, getting to know thier grandparents on a personal level was priceless.
The house I bought was a real deal, a handyman-special for sure… as were all the properties I looked at in my price range. To my benefit though, I knew what I was getting myself into… so I thought. On the surface the house looked liveable but I didn’t need the house inspector to tell me that there were problems. Most century homes that haven’t been renovated in 40 years usually have issues. I’ll save the details of my reno at Helen Street for a series of blog posts I’m planning for later. So we settled into my parents house for what we thought would be a short term…. but life happens and plans change with or without your consent. Lost jobs, lacking consistent income, parent illness and subsequent death, started and failed business, depression, loss of relationships, new relationships, found self, launching daughter, comforting mother, guiding son… life happens and everything happens for a reason.
I’ve come to understand there is a difference when a living situation is thrust upon you or if you are allowed to choose the living situation carefully. In this case, with me and my children moving in with my parents … we didn’t have a choice of living situations when the house we want to live in was and still is unliveable. I understood this completely when my daughter who was recently married, talked to me about her and her new husband starting a family and worrying that they wouldn’t have much flexibility in thier activities with little ones around and no help. Quickly I said “I’m your go-to Grandma!!”, then added that life could be even easier for them if we just lived with them. So I suggested we look at pooling resources and coming up with a plan of action. Who pays for what? How would things get decided? Who cleans the toilet? The list goes on, but at least it is discussed. Time to finish the repairs and sell that house the we have never lived in.
Multi-generational living is not a new concept. In fact, it wasn’t until the 1950’s when the idea of the “Nuclear Family” was being widely promoted. What it meant was that smaller family units swarmed into suburbs and out of the cities and left aging parent on thier own. There are many cultures living in North America that for them having many generations live under one roof is very common. Typically in North America, if you still live in your mom’s basement, people may think there is something wrong with you. There is even a term for that… failure to launch. More and more families every year are embrassing age-old communal living. Whether it is for financial reasons or for built-in security, there has been a surge in the past 5 years of multi-generational homes.
Successful communal living starts with planning the living spaces where everyone will have thier own zones for functionality, privacy and noise control. Everyone needs private and quiet sleeping spaces. Not all are on the same sleep schedule so planning these spaces are very important to the success of your living situation. If time and budget aren’t a huge barrier for you, designing and building a home specific to your families needs would be ideal. If a new building is out of the picture for you, consider hiring a designer to organize your existing property to get the most efficient living spaces out of it.
The Players and Other Considerations:
Pets … who’s pet is it anyways? cost, allergies, cleaning, feeding, poop, noise; Small children … noise, toy management, bath time, quiet sleep space, discipline rules (Mom & Dad get to set them), little friends, babysitters;
Pre-teen & teens … video games, friends, partying, latenights, electric guitars, loud music, eating right, privacy, sleep-overs, emotions, more discipline rules (Mom & Dad still get to set them);
The Parents (and thier partners and extended families) … long work hours, meal making, chores and the division of work, privacy and intimacy, discipline of children, financial obligation, retirement, travelling, entertaining;
The older parent(s) … noise (24/7 TV on top volume), hobbies, meals and the difference of taste, health issues, sad widow(er), sleeping hours, mobility issues, special equipment;
Dealing with Stuff … material stuff and emotional stuff… and the laundry;
Storage… and enough pots in the kitchen for everyone!!
Some Benefits of Multi-generational Living:
*  Extra eyes on the little ones… and not-so-little ones;
*  Consolidating resources and decreasing costs such as utility bills, insurance, mortgage, rent, vehicles, commuting, child and elder care;
*  Sharing of household duties (more hands to wash dishes and toilets);
*  IT problems will be resolved quickly (as long as you’ve got techies around to hit re-boot);
*  Increase of familia bonding through meals, activities, chores and play time… quality time!

Every living arrangement has it’s pluses and minuses… we choose to dwell on the positive. Having your aging parents close to you can be a comfort knowing that they are well taken care of by all of the family. There are so many benefits but like any relationship, communication is the most important tool for multi-generational families to live successfully under one roof. I’m looking forward to my next living arrangement!!