Porch 5.0

Time flies pretty fast. One day you’re moving into your new apartment, and the next thing you know it’s been five years and you’re still in the same apartment!

Ok, so for some people this doesn’t seem like much cause for celebration but when you’ve moved as often as I have in the past fifteen years or so, staying in one place for five years feels like a real accomplishment.

One of my favorite things about where I live is my little patch of green in the city, my porch. It’s my number-one hangout from May-September (weather-permitting) and is the best place to read, write, draw, drink coffee or eating a meal. (Food has this way of tasting better in fresh air, doesn’t it?)

Even before I start getting my outdoors ready for spring, I started planning ahead of time the kind of plantings I want to do, and I go over last year’s notes to remind myself which plants were winners and which ones not to invest in again.

I get lots of inspiration, too, from browsing gardening books, and snooping other people’s gardens on Pinterest. I’ve got a couple of green-thumbed friends on Instagram that I like to steal ideas from as well.

Space, time and financial constraints mean that sometimes my plans aren’t always that elaborate, but I’m always trying to find a way to make things cozy. Thoughtful lighting, seating, plus special handmade gifts from artistic friends always seem to make an environment more inviting.

Here are some highlights from last year’s porch:

One of the many joys of last year’s garden was the amount of herbs that I was able to grow, and I’m excited to try more varieties this year, and start them earlier so they have more time to become healthy and strong. A lot of my planters need to be replaced after a damp, rainy winter so I’m excited to see how the landscape will change with some new additions.

The garden bug has spread to some of the other porches and balconies in my building, and we’ve already been in talks about making a more coordinated effort this year. After all, it is Canada’s bicentennial, and it’s always nice to have an excuse to do something special.

I may just have to break out a flag or two.

KBwB-BFlower-50How did your green space turn out last year? What did you learn? What are you looking forward to in your garden this season? Comment below or email me at keepingbusyb@gmail.com. And send your pics please!

If you’re looking for more outdoor and household projects, click here to see what I get up to around my home. I’m also usually on Pinterest hunting around for great decor ideas, both inside and out.

5 Things I Learned from Being a Bridesmaid

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I’m no Jane in 27 Dresses, but once I did have the pleasure of participating in the wedding of a good friend of mine several years ago. She was one of my first friends to get married and her wedding felt like it was a milestone in my own life, marking that transition from crazy college student to actual adult.

I have to admit at this point that I’m really not a wedding person (although I like wedding movies), but I was wildly excited to help my friend out with hers. I thought I’d be running around helping to schedule dress fittings, sample wedding cakes, and pick out favors. Kind of like in 27 Dresses. (Did I mention I used to be really obsessed with that movie?)

Being a bridesmaid, however, ended up being more like starting a job without reading the employee manual first. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it, or that I didn’t have fun at her wedding, but afterwards I wrote a little piece about my experience as a bridesmaid to not only pass on some of my own knowledge to other first-time bridesmaids, but to process my own feelings on the subject.

Years (and many weddings later) I still stand by what I wrote; now that wedding season is fast approaching, I thought I’d share them again here with all of those bridesmaids-to-be that are out there- even those not obsessed with 27 Dresses.

Don’t expect to look attractive. I already knew the dress was horrible on me (as per the tradition of the bridesmaid dress) but I was still shocked when the first photos were posted online. That make-up, that hair, that general pasty awfulness? That I was not expecting.  Try and not let your ego be bruised too much. Your friend’s wedding day is more about her looking good than it is about you looking good. Years down the road, people will look at her wedding photos and forgive you for the hairstyle that makes you look like you have a giant cupcake on the top of your head. (At least, that’s what I’m hoping.)

Bridal showers are super boring. No one loves little sandwiches with the crusts cut off as much as I do, but other than that the bridal shower will more or less consist of you watching your friend open presents for two hours straight. I was happy for her, but it was kind of like spending two hours at your favorite housewares store and not buying anything. (Or maybe you torturing yourself like that!)

The bachelorette party may not be the party of a lifetime. They never show this in any of the movies (well, maybe with the exception of Bridesmaids) but you’d be surprised at how a seemingly innocent night of drinking can rapidly deterioriate into a night of screaming, crying and drama.

You’re not going to know anyone. Literally. After the ceremony you’ll be hanging out at the head table and all sorts of family and friends will be wandering up and congratulating the happy couple. They’ll smile vaguely at you because you were introduced when you entered the hall, but other than that you’ll probably be left to your own devices- and to the bottle of merlot the bride and groom are going to leave untouched because they’re too busy greeting everyone.

It’s going to make you really sad. Don’t get me wrong- I was so ridiculously happy for my friend that I found myself holding back tears several times during the wedding planning, throughout the ceremony and at the reception. No one really tells you what an emotional experience being a bridesmaid can be. It’s lovely and romantic and also bittersweet. Whether you’re decidedly single, or you’ve been married for several years, I don’t think that feeling will ever go away- that realization that you’re watching a person blossom into themselves; the sensation that they’re beginning the rest of their lives. We grow and change and get older, and having the privilege of watching a few select people grow and change along with you is both painful and wonderful all at the same time.

I know the above seems like I’m being all Negative Nancy, but fear not future bridesmaids: when all is said and done, being a bridesmaid can be a wonderful experience that can (hopefully) bring you a little bit closer to the bride-to-be and can help solidify a friendship between two people transitioning into a new phase in their lives. If you get the opportunity to try it sometime, do it!

Just never mind the ugly dress.

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Do you have a horrible bridesmaid story you’d like to share? Or even better, do you have a photo of yourself in your ugly dress that you’d like to share? (We won’t laugh, we promise!) Email me at keepingbusyb@gmail.com or comment below with your story and we’ll commiserate.

It Ain’t Easy Cleaning Green

“How do you find the time?”

“Doesn’t it cost more?”

“Why would you be bothered?”

These are some of the questions I get asked about my (mostly) eco-friendly cleaning routine. Some people seem surprised that this is important to me which puzzles me, because I can’t understand why taking care of our environment isn’t important to all of us.

Don’t worry- I’m not here as an ecological warrior, but as a blogger obsessed with trying to make her life more efficient and productive. I can tell you with confidence that making my cleaning routine greener has not been a waste of time or effort-if anything, it’s streamlined things even more.

Of course, sticking to a regular cleaning routine helps me avoid crazy deep cleaning sessions that in the long run saves me time and cuts down on the amount of cleaning products I use. That translates into more me-time, and more moolah in my pocket. Researching the best ways to clean has also spared me the extra time and effort I would have normally put into tackling the same spot over and over again.

Cutting down on the number of products that I use around my home has also saved me time, effort and money. You honestly don’t need twelve different cleansers for each individual room. Believe me, your cupboards will thank you too.

Making the switch to more eco-friendly cleaning materials has been pretty painless as well. In fact, I even make some myself. Some people may think making your own cleaning products is a drag, but you’d be surprised as how a few simple ingredients can go a long way. The few extra minutes it takes to mix up some new supplies is a trade-off for the money it saves you, plus it rids your home of nasty-smelling, potentially hazardous chemicals.

I still use paper towels to help out with the really heavy duty messes (keep in mind, I have a dog!) but I love using my reusable cloths and rags for all of my other cleaning needs. My mop heads are reusable as well, so everything gets dumped in the machine for a heavy-duty wash, separate from all of my clothes and nicer household items. They come out fresh and clean without me having to lift a finger (other than pushing some buttons).

But honestly? One of the greenest practices I’ve embraced is learning to live with the dirt a little bit. I always have people and dogs coming in and out of my place so over time I’ve come to accept the fact that it’s fruitless to expect the house to be perfect all of the time. I would end up spending all of my free time cleaning my home instead of enjoying it, and my time with guests would be ruined by my constant cleaning.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t clean your house, but lowering your expectations from hospital-clean to mostly clean saves you time, money, electricity and effort. Dare I say it? It also might make you a little bit happier.

KBwB-BFlower-50What are some of the ways you’ve adopted an eco-friendly approach to your cleaning routine? Let’s care for our houses and environments by sharing our tips with each other in the comment box below. Or email me at keepingbusyb@gmail.com and I may include your thoughts in a future post!

The approach of spring has got me in the mood to chat about all things housecleaning all week long. If you’re feeling the same way, may I suggest this post, this post, this post, and this post for more ideas on how to refresh your home in time for the new season. If you’re feeling ambitious, click here or here on ways to get your household more organized.