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.


How to Get Your Outdoors Ready for Winter


It always feels like the official end of summer when the time comes to dismantle the outdoor living space I’ve created on my porch for the season. It’s a bittersweet time; on the one hand, I’m sad to watch the days grow shorter and colder but on the other hand it gives me the opportunity to reflect on how much I’ve enjoyed my time out there this past summer.

Autumn is usually the time when I update my garden notes, paying attention to what worked for me during the growing season and what didn’t. I start brainstorming improvements too so that I can continue to develop these plans over the winter when I’m stuck indoors.

It’s also a good opportunity to do a little research on how to best care for your garden and/or outdoor space over the winter. Don’t limit yourself to just plants. Patio furniture, planters, pots, urns and other outdoor décor and accessories all need to be properly cleaned and stored for the winter as well. You may wish to clean and take inventory of all of your gardening tools at this time of year as well, and make any repairs or replacements accordingly.

Additionally, there are certain house maintenance issues that may require attention. Gutters and eaves should be cleaned and inspected, as should the screens and windows of your house. (Some people have storm windows that should be installed at this time of year as well.)

Getting my outdoors ready for winter is a unique experience for me because I live in an apartment building. Many potted plants will not last the winter; those I can save I bring inside or winterize in their pots. This I do by spreading mulch over the soil, wrapping them with burlap and twine, and stashing them in a sheltered area that will protect them from windy and damp conditions. Plants that find their homes inside often get cut back and repotted in order to stay strong and healthy during the period of hibernation.

In a way, I’m preparing to hibernate as well. Winter is a gloomy time for me (I’m a fresh air and sunshine kind of gal) and I like to get ready for the season indoors as well by giving my house a good clean to clear out all of the dirt and grit that the summer brought in. I usually take a look through my pantry to reorganize and purge unwanted or expired food. All that extra room gives me the opportunity to stock up on ingredients for homemade soups and stews.

You better my quest for cozy doesn’t stop there either. This is the perfect time of year to wash all of your quilts, blankets and pillows in preparation for some serious snuggle time, or at least a lot of hours catching up on Netflix. I do a ton of reading over the winter as well, so fall is the perfect time for me to dust and re-organize my ever-evolving bookshelf (more about that here) and amass my reading material for the season. (I know you wouldn’t expect any less of me.)

Yes, the end of summer is a sad time for summer babies and garden lovers like myself, but for those of you who feel the same way, take heart: there are still other outdoor holiday decorating opportunities coming our way.

KBwB-BFlower-50It feels like yesterday I was just telling you guys about how I get ready for spring. How has all of that time flown by? I want to know how your gardens did over the summer. What do you include as part of your autumn cleaning ritual? Comment below or email your suggestions to keepingbusyb@gmail.com. Pictures of fall colors are definitely encouraged.

Looking for other autumn-type stuff to celebrate the season? Click here to read why fall is still an opportunity to make a fresh start, get advice on how to store your summer shoes, or bake something seasonal here.


What’s on My Cookbook Shelf


I didn’t come by my fabulous talent for baking naturally. (Okay, so maybe I’m just an average baker who’s just the teensiest bit obsessed with her own work.) True, I started baking when I was very young but I honestly think it was my love of reading absolutely anything and everything I could get my hands on that made me a better baker. My mother, an actually fabulous baker (no exaggeration), had a secret mission to collect every recipe that was ever written so our kitchen boasted an expansive cookbook collection, and its shelves sagged with even more recipes clipped from magazines and newspapers, waiting to be filed.

Now that I’m an adult (so they tell me) I’ve got my own sizeable recipe collection, although admittedly it’s a little bit more organized. I’ve tried to cut down on a lot of the paper in my life by storing many of my recipes electronically but I still have quite a few cookbooks hidden here and there on my shelves.

In some ways, owning cookbooks is way more fun than having just a collection of typed recipes. Recipes suddenly come into their own being in real technicolor. Photographs, illustrations, text and graphics interplay to create a mouthwatering reading experience. Cookbooks are designed to be pored over and loved, to inspire and entice.

Here’s some that I can’t get enough of:

1) I was so in love with the photography and design of the beautiful Martha Stewart Living Magazine that I was a subscriber for many, many years. During this time I acquired Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook and still remains an old favorite. Some may knock this homemaking guru for the unrealistic expectations that her elaborate work may set for housewives everywhere, but personally think she’s kind of great. Let her make her crazy cakes. They look gorgeous.

2) and 3) might be familiar to any Canadians in the crowd. Jean Paré got a similar start to Martha Stewart, catering brunches and party foods to small crowds out of her home kitchen until things got busy and Paré turned into a business. Her Company’s Coming line of cookbooks were published to meet her customers’ demands for recipes and the series boasts virtually hundreds of titles. You used to be able to find them in grocery stores everywhere and I still happen to have three of them: Most Loved Brunches (because it’s the best meal of the day), 150 Delicious Squares and Gifts from the Kitchen (not pictured here).

4) My mom is from Sweden so when I think of Sweden I think of baking, and I think of one of my most treasured cookbooks appropriately and succinctly titled Swedish Cakes and Cookies. It’s my absolute go-to guide for all of my Swedish baking traditions. (For example: did you know Swedes make seven different types of cookies at Christmas time? Check out mine from last year here, here, here, here, here, here and here.)

5) So many people would grab 500 Chocolate Delights off of my shelf to read that I eventually just stuck it out in the open so that my guests could peruse it any time they wished. It’s so small and pretty and filled with so many delicious chocolate things that from time to time I find myself gazing at it as well.

6) Jamie Oliver’s cookbook, Jamie at Home, may seem a little out of place in the midst of so many sweet, pretty baking manuals, but I just love this English chef’s conversational tone and this cookbook’s emphasis on good, fresh food (and how to grow it yourself!) It’s been a great resource for growing and cooking with a few herbs and vegetables of my own, so I had to include it here for those who may get their kicks from cooking more than baking.

I’m not one to work my way through a cookbook religiously- I’ll probably never make all of the recipes found in these pages, and the ones I do try will probably not be half as good. Hey, they may not even turn out to be my taste! But just because cookbooks weren’t necessarily meant to be read from cover-to-cover doesn’t make them any less valuable to my book collection, or any less enjoyable.

And the result of reading cookbooks? Delicious food- and that’s often the best part.

KBwB-BFlower-50If you liked books and baking, you’ve come to the right place. (Also, can I be your best friend?) For those of you who are new, here’s where you can find all the books I’ve been reading lately and here’s where you can see what’s been keeping me busy in the kitchen.

Recognize any of the titles on my shelf? What are some of your favorites? I’d love to hear your suggestions at keepingbusyb@gmail.com or spread the love (and the good cooking) by commenting below.