Entertain like a pro with no-fuss flair

(NC) Every great party starts in the kitchen says television personality, Jillian Harris.

“My job is to help Canadians fall back in love with their homes, which often includes updates to the heart of that home—the kitchen,” says Harris, a well-known foodie, designer, and co-host of Love it or List it Vancouver. “This is especially important with all the entertaining on our shoulders during the holidays. Start the update by looking for ways to maximize your kitchen space with the latest innovative appliances. For example, the totally unique Door-in-Door refrigerator (by LG) is a key player in any kitchen – and at any party. It keeps food fresher longer and it can also double as a help-yourself wet bar. This newest appliance technology will make any party host fall back in love with entertaining at home.”

For no-fail, no-fuss entertaining, take a look at a few more Jillian Harris tips:

• Lead with fresh food and be prepared with no-cook options. People popping by unexpectedly? No problem. Have a selection of pre-made options on-hand. Charcuterie is one option that is easy to save, can be thrown together quickly, and looks fabulous when presented on a serving plank.

• Invite guests to help themselves. Let your appliances take all the hard work out of entertaining. The fascinating third door in the Door-in-Door refrigerator, for example, not only gives you quick and easy access to the foods you use most, but for parties it can also be stylishly staged with an assortment of beverages. Move the food into the back compartment (behind a separate door) and fill the front section with neat rows of wine bottles, mini glass pop bottles, mini sparking waters and beer. Not only does it look great, it encourages guests to help themselves.

• Sweeten the party with mini desserts. Jillian loves to create her signature no-bake apple pie in advance – and store the treat cold until ready to serve. The individual portion-size looks great and allows you to save the rest for your next batch of visitors.

• Presentation makes all the difference. From colourful plates to festive napkins, set a cheerful tone with hand-crafted, seasonal centrepieces. Add an elegant twist to dress-up your table décor by using spray paint.




Kitchen remodeling 101: Making the space your own


There is a lot to think about when remodeling your kitchen. You want to design a kitchen that reflects your taste and style, which you’ll love for years to come. Whether you’re designing for yourself or for resale, the key to success is to embrace timelessness. That doesn’t mean sacrificing personality for a neutral palette, though. Quite the opposite.

Here are five creative, thrifty and helpful tips from Summer Baltzer, interior designer and former host of HGTV’s Design on a Dime, to send you well on your way to a kitchen design that not only looks great in the long term, but also reflects you.

Tip one: Know your style.

Design your kitchen around colors and objects that make you feel great. This is the room you probably spend most of your time in whether you’re cooking, entertaining or just doing homework with the kids. Loving the look is important. Make your design meaningful and something you’ll want to see every day. Look for inspiration from a pottery collection, a piece of artwork, or even the food you love.

Tip two: Get creative on a budget.

A great way to save money is to repurpose found items for your accents where you can. Frame pictures from favorite recipes, use inexpensive flower pots or mason jars to store utensils and cutlery, repurpose an old console table as a center island. You might even want to spray-paint the old dining table and give it a new life. Look for salvaged floors, pallets or pottery to create new furniture pieces or accents. This approach not only saves you money, but also makes your kitchen enviably unique.

Tip three: Develop your vision.

Keep your ideas on track by collecting loose drawings; they can become your own personal design board. They don’t have to be professional or even exactly like the finished product – just enough to make your point and start to envision what the finished product will look like. Seeing your ideas come together before taking a sledgehammer to your old tile not only gets you excited about your project, but can also save you from making design decisions that don’t fit your vision. If you’re hiring a professional, plans for the kitchen should be included in the cost. Make sure that they fit your vision and that you’re getting everything you need from your new space before demo and installation begin.

Tip four: Create timeless beauty.

When focusing on your large installed items, don’t just concentrate on what’s popular now. Instead, take a look at the items that have been relevant for more than a decade. If you’re designing a kitchen for a home you plan on living in for the next 20 years, by all means, go crazy and embrace colors and patterns that make you happy. But if you don’t plan on staying there forever, give yourself room to grow. Look to classic color combinations like white, black or gray cabinets; stone countertops with white or walnut cabinets; or butcher block with just about any cabinet color you can imagine. Wilsonart’s Calcutta Marble and new Old Mill Oak and Truss Maple are affordable laminate options that look real but are made from recycled wood fibers. They have finishes that withstand daily wear and tear, and are a fraction of the cost of traditional stone countertops. Look to lasting styles and materials, rather than what’s simply trendy at the moment, to create a timelessly beautiful kitchen. Learn more at http://www.wilsonart.com.

Tip five: Start with simplicity.

Keep the lines of your installed, more permanent items clean and simple. To add style and versatility, get creative with your accents. For instance, try going Shaker with your cabinets. Traditional cup pull handles will move them in a more classic and traditional direction and linear pull handles will take you down a modern road. By keeping your appliances and more permanent items simple, and using your accents to create a sense of style, you’ll open up tons of design doors for yourself, creating a kitchen that transitions easily, keeps up with your style and has staying power.

With this timeless know-how and creative inspiration, you’re ready to create a kitchen you’ll love both now and a decade down the road.

Keep your swimming pool water clean and clear


It’s that time of year again to fill up the pool and make a splash. But did you know that even clear pool water can harbour disease-causing bacteria and viruses?

Good sanitation reduces the number of microorganisms to safe levels and keeps algae in check. This means testing the water daily and keeping the proper level of sanitizer in the water. This applies to all types of pools and spas, even inflatable and kiddie pools and saltwater pools.

Traditional pools are sanitized using chlorine- or bromine-based chemicals in granules, puck, tablet or liquid form, sometimes used with a dispenser. Saltwater pools rely on chlorine- or bromine-generating devices. Both the chemicals and the devices are also effective at controlling algae.

Although using a sanitizer regularly should prevent the excessive growth of algae, the more the sanitizer is used up to control algae, the less sanitizer there is left to control harmful micro-organisms. To tackle an algae problem, you may also need an algicide like a copper sulphate-based or a quaternary ammonium-based product.

Chemicals and devices that are used to control disease-causing organisms and algae in pool water are registered or scheduled by Health Canada. Look for the five-digit PCPA registration number on the front of the package or the mention “Scheduled under the Pest Control Products Act”. This is your assurance that Health Canada scientists have assessed any health hazards associated with using the product, and determined that it works.

General safety tips for using pool chemicals:

. Make sure to always read and follow the label directions. Instructions for devices that generate or dispense sanitizer can be found in the user’s manual, on the package, and on the device itself.

. Never smoke, drink or eat while using pool chemicals, and never mix pool chemicals together.

. Always store pool chemicals in their original containers out of reach of children and pets and away from food and beverages.

.Never use contents of an unlabeled container, and throw out unused or partially used product at provincial and municipal household hazardous waste disposal sites.

More information is available toll-free at 1-800-267-6315, or through e-mail at pmra.infoserv@hc-sc.gc.ca.

Spring into the season of home improvement with Scott McGillivray

Scott McGillivray

Scott McGillivray


(NC)—As the days get longer and the weather improves, this is the time to make sure that our homes or rental properties are well maintained. Here are a few do-it-yourself projects to tackle in and out of spring showers:

• Update your attic insulation. This will help to save on energy consumption and will keep your house cooler in the summer months. Popular is a product called Roxul RockFill. It is quick to apply and this one step will reduce the work (and energy bills) of your air conditioning unit during the dog days of summer.


• Clean out your gutters. During the fall, your home’s gutters may have been clogged with falling leaves. With spring showers in the forecast, this is a good time to clean them out and install gutter guards.

• Prep your deck for entertaining. A good clean will ensure that your deck space is inviting for summer entertaining and by tackling this task early you’ll have your feet up in no time. Also, pull out your patio furniture and give it a quick wash as it may have collected dust and dirt during the off season.

• Plan your gardens. Begin researching plants and consider planting perennials that will return each year. Fresh herbs and vegetables are also good choices to fill spaces in the garden and be a tasty addition to any dish.

Scott McGillivray is a full-time real estate investor, contractor, television host, writer, and educator.

The Spring Garden Guide

Spring Gardening

Spring Gardening



(NC)—Spring is the season of rebirth and re-growth. Which also means green-thumbs can’t wait to get back in those gardens! To get you started, here are some helpful tips from garden guru Peter Cantley, at Loblaw Companies Limited

Make your garden beds. Rid planting areas of weeds and spread a 4-inch layer of compost or manure over soil. Using a pitchfork, mix soil and compost going about 10 inches deep until you’ve got moist crumbly soil.

Primp and prune. Remove dead or damaged branches from woody shrubs or trees before new leaf growth begins. Prune spring-flowering shrubs and trees only after the first spring bloom.

Take some tests. Different planting areas may have different needs. Check the pH balance of soil in each spot with a home soil test kit. Then as new growth appears you can treat each one with the fertilizer and amendments required.

Peter’s Dos and Don’ts to get you ready for beautiful summer Blooms:

• DO water the garden before 10 a.m. If you leave watering for the hotter hours almost half the amount of water you apply will evaporate in the summer heat.

• DON’T cut back foliage of bulbs until it dries naturally. The bulb needs the green leaves to make food for next season’s growth. Cutting foliage too early results in small, weak bulbs the following year.

• DO fertilize roses every week, all summer long. Most hybrids are very heavy feeders and need a lot of fertilizer for beautiful and healthy blooms. Be sure to plant your bushes in a location with plenty of sunlight and leave at least 3 feet in between plants for good air circulation.

• DON’T forget to experiment with new perennials every year. Each year, we showcase some of the latest introductions and it’s a wonderful treat to find new plants toenjoy in the garden. For instance, try the PC® Campanula – Purple Get Mee, with purple bell-shaped flowers. This perennial acts like an annual with rich blooms that come back summer to fall.

Decorate with the latest home-fashion trends

(NC)—It’s no secret that interior décor takes its cues from fashion. Sharon Grech, the colour and design expert for Benjamin Moore, points out that the pastel colours popping up in fashion apparel and accessories are also brightening up the home this spring.

“There is a palpable shift as Canadians are now ready for a “cleansing” of the palate,” she begins. “Hits of white, pale greys and a bouquet of pastels bring a desired lightness to your wardrobe and to your home this season. Pastels have been popular in the past, but rest assured, what’s in style today is very much of the moment and sophisticated.”


In this image, Benjamin Moore’s 2013 Colour of the Year Lemon Sorbet proves it’s got staying power, especially when paired with soft grey.

The new pastels work best, Grech says, when contrasted with a darker charcoal shade or the rough texture of reclaimed wood or heavy woven textiles. These heavier materials and colours give the pastel a less fragile sensation. Designers today take some of the sweetness out of the pastel look by not always pairing it with a clean, crisp white, but instead with other neutrals like grey, sand and tan.

“Benjamin Moore’s favourite pastel for the home this year is Lemon Sorbet,” says Grech. “Fresh and bright, it is the perfect pick for any space. Its wispy nature is the ideal backdrop for any colour, especially when paired with warm grey furniture and blue-green accents, to create a living space that is energetic and calm all at once.”

There is a fine line when it comes to this airy trend. Just as in fashion, don’t outfit the whole home in pastels. You wouldn’t dress in head-to-toe pastels, and the same goes for the home. “It’s all about balance,” she says.