Monday, December 14, 2009

Setting The Table - BTSH Around The House Tip of the Week

Over the last few weeks, I have shown you how to create an advent calendar to count down the days until Christmas, how to dress up your home for the holidays, and the best gift ideas for the person who has everything. With the holidays just around the corner now there are parties that need a-hosting, and tables that need a-setting. I love to host gatherings with my friends, from simple cocktail parties to extravagant bashes, and of course, dinner parties with my closest friends are always a holiday favourite.

The Cocktail Party
When hosting a cocktail party, while you may not have place settings, you will certainly need to set out food and drinks buffet style. First, re-arrange your furniture to accommodate your guests and allow them to mingle. It’s best to set up a table for serving against a large wall in the room, instead of in the middle of the room. Set up a pitcher or punch bowl with a non-alcoholic beverage with some highball glasses, a bucket of ice, and some lemons and limes for garnishes. Set out wine glasses, as well as an uncorked bottle of red and white (don’t open too many bottles right away, as your guests may bring you a bottle as well, and it is best to offer to serve their wine first). Serve finger foods that are easy to eat and don’t require utensils, and be sure to provide lots of side dishes and napkins.

The Dinner Party
When hosting a dinner party, how you choose to dress up your table is up to you. Whether it be simple and elegant, or festive, or even themed, have fun with it. Be sure to set the table before your guests arrive. It will help to set the tone for the evening, and avoid the chaos of trying to get it done while entertaining your guests. Set out hand-written place cards for a personal touch, and that way you can choose the seat that you want that will allow you the most flexibility to balance serving with entertaining.

The Black Tie Themed Party
If you are hosting a formal, black tie style party, why not set your table in a black tie theme? Choose a black linen tablecloth, and crisp white linen napkins, with black and white dishware. Compliment with some shimmer, such as silver candlesticks, or a centerpiece of silver and gold ornaments. Add a splash of colour by using a single colour accent, such as red or purple, both hot colours this season.

The Festive Party
If you want to keep it festive, compliment your holiday decorations and set the table with the festive colours that you have chosen for your home. Create a feeling of warmth with candles, and bring out the holiday spirit with pinecone and holly accents.

If you’re attending a hosted party this season, avoid showing up empty handed. While most hosts will appreciate a contribution to the beverage bar, such as a bottle of wine or after dinner liqueur, feel free to bring something more personal instead, something that they can keep and enjoy after the party (see last week’s ATH for some great ideas).

Written by Shauna Lynn, Beyond The Stage Homes

Monday, December 7, 2009

Gifts For The Person That Has Everything - BTSH Around The House Tip of the Week

I think everyone has at least one person on their gift list that just seems to have everything. So, to help you with your holiday shopping, I have put together some unique ideas. As with all trends for 2009, gifts this holiday season will definitely focus on sustainability and eco-friendly alternatives. I have tried to keep with that theme in these green gift ideas for any budget.

The Classic Candy Dish
A classic. Think outside the dish on this one though, as you don’t need to use the traditional candy dish to hold your sweet treats. I chose a few items that I found at Winners HomeSense, including a vase, 2 different votive candle holders, and a cute, everyday bowl, all ranging in price from $3-$5. The candy was purchased from the bulk food store for relatively cheap, but you can also consider making your own truffles, bark, or cookies to fill the containers. I avoided extra packaging by placing the candy directly into the containers (be sure to hand-wash containers first of course before doing this). As well, instead of wrapping in cellophane, consider a re-usable gift bag, or even a fun shopping tote.

Flavoured Vinegar
This DIY gift is a unique gift with a personal touch, and is great for salads. You will need to start on this right away if you want the vinegar to be done in time for Christmas, as it is recommended you allow it to sit for 2-3 weeks before using. Making the vinegar was simple, and you can find various recipes online. I chose a Cranberry Orange Vinegar, and put an orange rind and fresh cranberries in the bottle for added effect. I scoured the thrift stores for their fun, decorative bottles, and purchased about a dozen in total, all for only $1-$3. Most did not come with corks, but you can purchase new corks online, or simply collect from your family and friends. Some liquor bottles use a cork cap that I found fit most bottles really well.

Re-usable Glass Water Bottle
With all the concerns about the dangerous BPA of re-usable water bottles, consider a glass alternative. While perhaps not ideal for athletes, these are great bottles to take in the car, or use around the house. I found the Aquasana bottles online for around $4 each.

Wine of the Month Club
My brother and I have been giving this gift to my parents for the last several years. When they down-sized their home, they simply did not have the space to put any new knick-knacks or accessories. As well, it’s the gift that keeps giving. Each month, two bottles of wine are delivered right to their door, and include information regarding the wine, winery, and food pairings. There are various levels to choose from, starting at $39/month. For more information, visit

Adopt an Olive Tree
I found this idea in the Nov 2009 issue of Canadian House & Home magazine, and thought it was a wonderful new idea. The price is $116 and with each adoption you receive an adoption certificate and booklet about your tree, a Spring Package containing all the extra virgin olive oil from your tree and an Autumn Package containing a set of three flavoured extra virgin olive oils. For more information, visit

Written by Shauna Lynn, Beyond The Stage Homes

Monday, November 30, 2009

2009 Holiday Decorating Trends - BTSH Around The House Tip of the Week

You may have noticed that the stores have their holiday decorations out (in fact, I think they jumped the gun on them this year and had them out before Halloween). Well now they are even playing Christmas music too, so you know what that means—it’s time to spruce up your home for holidays. Everyone has their classic, traditional pieces that are put out year over year, but it’s nice to keep your décor fresh and exciting, so this year I have put together some suggestions for getting your home Christmas Trendy.

Keep It Natural
The “green” theme has been brought to holiday decorating by bringing much of nature indoors this year. Look for boughs, holly, sprigs, berries, and pinecones for a natural , organic look. Burlap has also made an incredible appearance this season, and can be seen as stylish tree skirts, ornaments, gift bags, and more!

Consider Alternatives to the Traditional “Pine”
Pine has always been first choice for garland, wreaths, and planters. This year, consider changing it up with some Eucalyptus or Fir, both of which will fill the room with a beautiful aroma. Another great alternative to pine is feathers, which are available in a variety of styles and colours this year, from wreaths, to garland, and even pillows.

KISS—Keep It Simple Silly
Keep things understated this season, and avoid over-decorating. Remember to follow this rule - for every holiday decoration you set out, a non-seasonal item should be removed and packed away until after the holidays.

Colour Trends
The most popular colour this season is the colour of snow—a nice, crisp white. If you are looking to add some colour, keep it monochromatic. Staying within the same colour family will keep it simple and understated. Popular non-traditional colours this year are blues and purples. Silver once again remains strong, and is found to be especially glittery this season.

Other Tips
- Compliment your existing décor—be sure that whatever you choose works well with your everyday furnishings and colours. Don’t be afraid to pack away some items until after the holidays.

- Give your existing “traditional” pieces a facelift with a little paint—spray paint traditional items such as garland and pinecones for a modern day twist on an old classic.

- Make use of lights and candles to give your home that warm touch. Choose a seasonally scented candle for added effect, such as cinnamon spice, gingerbread, or cedar.

- Keeping with the natural theme, and as a way of doing your part for the environment, visit your local thrift shops for some vintage bulbs and wreaths, and have fun mixing the old with the new.

Written by Shauna Lynn, Beyond The Stage Homes

Monday, November 23, 2009

Coffee Table Books - BTSH Around The House Tip of the Week

I love coffee table books. When I entertain, I seldom have the TV on. When there is a lull in the dialogue of my guests, a coffee table book is always a great way to invoke conversation. A coffee table book should be a non-fictional book, that can be glanced through, not read cover to cover. According to Wikipedia, a coffee table book is defined as “...a hardcover book that is intended to sit on a coffee table or similar surface in an area where guests sit and are entertained, thus inspiring conversation or alleviating boredom.”

Choosing Your Coffee Table Books
Match the books to your personality. These books should be a reflection of you, and your home. If you’re a fun-loving person that enjoys decorating in bright, primary colours, why not include a Dr. Seuss book, such as “Green Eggs and Ham”? Books with illustrations are always a great idea, such as photography or art books, or perhaps a book on your favourite musician. Another idea would be a book of riddles—these never fail to entertain!

If you’re more of a scholar, scan the reference section at your local bookstore for inspiration. Consider books such as Webster’s Dictionary, or Volume A of the Encyclopaedia. If anyone asks where the rest of the collection is, tell them that don’t want to buy the next volume until you see how the first one ends, or it will ruin it. Another idea would be a book of poems from your favourite poet, or The National Geographic Image Collection.

Have a large table? Buy a large book! Some books are simply meant to be viewed in a large format, so find an educational book such as “The Times—Concise Atlas of the World”, or a beautiful art book, such as “Georgia O’Keefe—An American Perspective”, a collection of some of the most iconic and significant artworks of the 20th century.

What’s On My Coffee Table? (well actually, it’s an ottoman)
This Little Piggy Went To Prague by Amy Allen — this is the latest addition to my collection. I picked it up at a little bookstore in St. Jacob’s, and it contains a fashion forward spin on classic nursery rhymes.

The Mullet, Hairstyle of the Gods (Mark Larson and Barney Hoskyns) - Given to me by my brother several years ago, I never get tired of this one. The book gives the history of the “mullet” hairstyle through the ages, including images and illustrations of the various styles, and the celebrities that wore them.

The New York Bartender’s Guide by Sally Ann Berk — Being a bartender myself, I seldom use this book for actually finding cocktail recipes, but since I do stock an extensive bar, it does come in handy at gatherings when a guest requests an unusual drink, or wants to try their favourite liqueur in a new way. This allows them to do some experimenting, and keeps me from playing bartender all night.

He’s Just Not That Into You, by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo — The book that inspired the movie, I fell in love with it after the famous Sex and The City episode that inspired it. Greg was a consultant on the show, and Liz a writer. Written as advice-seeking letters to Greg, the two explain what a guy is really saying by his actions.

Written by Shauna Lynn, Beyond The Stage Homes

Monday, November 16, 2009

Counting Down With a Hand-Crafted Advent Calendar - BTSH Around The House Tip of the Week

While I understand even as an adult that the holidays are all about family and friends, I can’t help but reminisce about one of my favourite parts of the holidays, which was the Advent Calendar countdown to Christmas. Let’s face it, who wouldn't enjoy counting down the days to Christmas with a piece of chocolate every day!

Well, given my love of crafts, and the environment, I thought it would be a great idea to help two of my favourite munchkins create their very own, reusable, advent calendar. My girlfriend’s kids have been a large part of my life, and I enjoy spending lots of time with them, so whenever we plan a sleepover, we also plan for a fun craft. This one was incredibly easy, and can be used for years to come. My only regret is that I didn’t make one for myself!

Tools You’ll Need:
Painting Canvas (minimum size 16” x 12”)
Christmas Fabric (optional)
Staple Gun (only necessary if using fabric)
Glue Gun—be sure that an adult does this part
25 Small bead containers or small boxes
25 Foil Squares—cut into squares approximately 2”x2”(necessary only if containers don’t have lids)
25 Candies/Chocolates—be sure they fit into whatever containers you have chosen
Construction Paper
Scotch Tape
Permanent Marker
Christmas craft accessories—eg: scrap-booking decals, garland, beads, confetti, etc

Cut the fabric to approximately 1” larger than the canvas on all sides. Stretch over the canvas, and use the staple gun to tack to the back of the canvas. If you don’t want to use fabric, set out some paints for the kids to decorate the canvas with. Then let the kids use the accessories to decorate however they see fit! I found it best to have them lay everything out on the canvas how they wanted it, and I simply went over it all with the glue gun when they were done. This allows them to make any changes they want to along the way.

For the containers, I had found these plastic bead containers at the dollar store, but they didn’t come with lids. So, we went to the bulk food store to find the candies, and while I was there I picked up some pre-cut 4”x4” foils in silver and gold (sometimes they will have other colours available as well). I then cut these into quarters, had the kids write the numbers 1-25 on them with a permanent marker, and we attached them over our containers by simply wrapping the edges in clear scotch tape (after putting the candy/chocolate inside of course). Each day in December, they simply poke through the foil to get their treat. I also cut strips of festive coloured construction paper 4” x 1/2”, and these were placed inside the containers to wrap around the inside edge to keep from being able to peak at the treats. Wondering why the one on the left has fewer containers? She didn’t want to take away from the decorations, so she put 2 treats in each container, and marked each with 2 days. The best part is that these can be used each year simply by replacing the treats, and the foil. It doesn’t get much simpler!

Written by Shauna Lynn, Beyond The Stage Homes

Monday, November 9, 2009

Big City Shopping Close to Home - BTSH Around The House Tip of the Week

Think you have to head to a big city to get great home décor? You might be surprised at what you can find in your own backyard. If you’re looking for something original and different, check out these stores that rank in my favourites for local shopping.

Conestogo Mercantile
Conestogo Mercantile is NOT your average home store. If you live in the Waterloo-Wellington region, and haven’t been to check out their store, drop what you’re doing, and GO! Located at 1857 Sawmill Road #2 in Conestogo, they have been told for years that they’re different, and they love it. Everything they carry is fun, and somehow they manage to always keep ahead of the trends. In addition to home décor, they also carry a variety of handbags and fashion accessories, as well as many unique baby items. I simply can’t say enough good things about this store. Looking for a great centrepiece for the holiday season? Get one your guests will admire and talk about at Conestogo Mercantile. Don’t forget to check the name board while you’re there—it is located behind the checkout counter, and if your first name matches a name on the board, you’ll receive 10% off your purchase!

Paula White Diamond Art Gallery + Design Studio
Dress your walls in unique, original art from PWD. Located in St. Jacobs, the Paula White Diamond gallery represents both established, and emerging artists in a variety of media, styles, and prices. The best part? Approximately 80% of the artists are local! The owner, Paula White-Diamond, is also the in-residence artist, and produces original large scale oils, acrylics and mixed media works to residential and corporate clients. PWD Art Gallery also offers sculpture, original works on paper, and limited and open edition prints. The gallery is currently located at 1369 King Street North, Upper Level, in the Sampson’s Building, with plans to move to the new Bauer building on King Street in Kitchener soon. For more information, visit them online at

Located at 4585 King St E (near Sportsworld), this store has everything you need for your home, at great prices. Their funky, unique products are displayed in their large showroom, and everything that it not a part of the structure is for sale. Structube started as a family business in Quebec 31 years ago, and has since grown to 20 stores throughout Quebec and Ontario. Their store in Kitchener opened in January of this year, and they have seen great success so far. This is the kind of store that Kitchener has been waiting for. Contemporary and modern, great quality products, at prices lower than you would expect.

Written by Shauna Lynn, Beyond The Stage Homes

Monday, November 2, 2009

Simple Tea Towel Curtains - BTSH Around The House Tip of the Week

Last week I talked about how I learned to sew by taking a great sewing course at KW Sewing Machines Ltd. at Frederick Mall. I have spoken to many people since then that while they would love to take the time to learn how to sew properly, they feel comfortable doing simple mends and simple stitches for the things that they need, and love little projects that don’t require too much skill. If you’re a beginner sewer, and want to simply sew straight seams, this is a project for you! You can use any sewing machine for this project, even a simple compact machine. I originally saw this idea in a home magazine a couple of years ago, and after searching for curtains for my own kitchen to no avail, I decided to give it a try.

Tools You’ll Need
Sewing Machine (as I said, any machine will work for this)
Tea Towels (quantity will depend on size of your window)
Measuring Tape
Ribbon (quantity will depend on size of your window)
Empty wrapping paper or fabric roll
Utility Knife
Curtain Rod with hanging hardware

Start by measuring the window. I measured mine inside the frame, but if you want yours to go over your frame, measure accordingly. Be sure to measure side to side, and top to bottom. Next, find the right tea towels. Do NOT go into your linen closet for these, be sure to buy brand new so that they are crisp and new. I used this method for curtains for two different windows. On the one window, I lucked out that the length of the tea towel was exactly what I needed for the curtains, saving me a few stitches, but this isn’t necessary. If possible though, try to get ones that are at least as wide as your window—it’s easier to take some off the sides, then to try to add to them. Once you have found the tea towels, you can find a complimenting ribbon.

For the sewing part, you’re looking at only a few seams. You’ll need one straight seam at the top, large enough for the curtain rod to fit through. You’ll need one to attach the tea towels together (the one I have shown used 2 towels). Pin the ends together, and sew this seam, and press open, then sew down each of these ends. If your towels are too wide, you’ll need to sew seams down the sides first as well. Pin first, and press if necessary. Once the curtains are completed, hang your curtain rod and attach your curtain.

Next, measure the width of your new curtains, and cut what you’ll need of the wrapping paper roll. I used a fabric roll, as it’s thicker, but these are harder to come by, so a wrapping paper roll will work fine. A utility knife should cut it easily. It doesn’t have to be cut perfectly, since it won’t be seen anyway. Determine approximately where you want the curtains to hang to, and measure and cut your ribbon accordingly. Place the roll at the bottom of the curtains and roll up to desired length, and secure with your ribbon. Now you can show off your new one-of-a-kind curtains to your friends!

Written by Shauna Lynn, Beyond The Stage Homes

Monday, October 26, 2009

Think Sewing is What Moms Are For? Think Again... BTSH Around The House Tip of the Week

Ever pick up a pillow or blanket and think “That’s just a little material and a few stitches—how hard could it be”? Have you started a sewing project that you just can’t seem to finish? Do you walk into the fabric store and find yourself in a foreign terrain?

For those of you that follow my weekly blog, you’ll notice that I often prefer to make decorative pieces for my home, instead of purchasing the mass-produced, in order to give a one-of-a-kind touch to my home. I consider myself quite crafty and innovative, and am always trying new techniques. That being said, I have a confession to make. While I took up sewing briefly at the ripe age of 11 in my home economics class, I have since yet to finish any real sewing projects. My mother passed down her sewing machine to me, a beautiful, fully functioning Singer, but how does that saying go? “The machine is only as smart as the person operating it”? Something like that. Needless to say, when it came right down to it, I knew nothing about sewing.

So, I did what anyone would do to get more information. I Googled! I found a couple of YouTube videos that were useful only if you actually had a machine that was not out to get you (as I thought mine was). It never seemed to work quite right, and I struggled to even mend a simple seam on a pair of pants. I thought it must be the machine’s fault, because again, how hard could sewing be?

It turns out, it’s really not that hard! But wow, did I ever have a lot to learn about sewing. So, with Google having failed me, there was only one thing left to do—I signed up for lessons. Now I had looked into this previously, and found a couple of places that offered sewing lessons, but they wanted you to learn on their fancy new sewing machines. The problem was that I already had a good quality machine, so I didn’t want to spend the money on a new one. Then, walking through Frederick Mall one day, I was drawn in to K-W Sewing Machines Ltd. when I noticed a woman being taught how to use a sewing machine in the store.

K-W Sewing Machines Ltd. has been around for over 30 years, previously located at Conestoga Mall. Steve Fereiro began managing the store in 1980, and purchased the store in 1984. He was later joined by his wife, Sonya Fereiro, and the two have made a great team ever since. Steve repairs all makes and models of sewing machines, regardless of age. As well, they sell a variety of sewing machines, from basic starter models, to top of the line embroidery machines, they feature the largest selection of Singer and Janome Sewing Machines in the area. If you are in the market for a new sewing machine, they will help you find one that suits your sewing needs, as well as provide you with free “how-to” lessons, so that you are comfortable using your new machine. They also offer a variety of classes, where they will teach you how to sew on your machine, regardless of whether you purchased it from them. The class that I signed up for was the beginners class, for those with very little to no sewing experience. Other classes available are Beginners Sewing for Teens and Beginners Quilting, plus a variety of project classes that consist of one or two evening sessions, for those that already have the basic skills.

The 6-week Beginners Sewing Class I signed up for was taught by Gladys Turnbull, a sewing pro. The class consisted of 6 students and, as a former teacher, Gladys was incredibly patient, and managed to balance the class time between teaching, as well and answering all of our ridiculous questions. Not only did I manage to successfully make a pair of flannelette pyjama pants, I also got to choose a new project for the last couple of weeks, and learned how to create beautiful decorative pillows. If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to sew, I urge you to check out KW Sewing Machines Ltd. For a complete list of classes available, check them out online at

Written by Shauna Lynn, Beyond The Stage Homes

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Supporting Breast Cancer Awareness in Style - BTSH Around The House Tip of the Week

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and Beyond The Stage Homes is Thinking PINK! Breast Cancer is the most common cancer among Canadian women. A great way to show your support for breast cancer research is by simply purchasing a “pink” product. I have done the research for you, and found a few pink items I think no home should be without.

KitchenAid® Mixer—Cook for the Cure® Edition

KitchenAid® blew us away a few years ago when they introduced to us the hottest new kitchen appliance, the retro style stand mixer. Not only is this a must have appliance for even your average baker, it’s a fashion statement for your kitchen. While these are available in a variety of colours, I have to suggest Pink, as they are donating an incredible $50 from the sale of every one of these towards the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation (CBCF). Available at Home Outfitters, Sears, and The Bay.

Snuggle Up To A Cure

The Classic Comfort Company has created a pillow drive, with 10% of all proceeds from the sale of their Pink Pillows going towards the CBCF. They are committed to donating a minimum of $50,000, but have set a goal to raise $100,000. These pillows are available online for only $24.99. They are also available at a variety of stores across Canada. For the location nearest you, please visit them online at

Pittsburgh Paints

Pittsburgh Paints offers many great products, but probably one of their brightest ideas yet is their new NO MISS Ceiling Paint. The paint goes on pink, allowing you to see where you have painted and where you haven’t, but dries to a brilliant white finish. Right now, for every gallon of the NO MISS Ceiling Paint sold, Pittsburgh Paints will contribute $1.50 to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. To find the location nearest you, visit In Kitchener/Waterloo, you can find their products at Innovation Paints on Gage.


The Hudson’s Bay company has also introduced a few products in support of the CBCF, and are donating 100% of the proceeds! One product that they have included is this pink candle, which will light up any room in your home.

For more information on the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, and for a complete list of pink products available, be sure to visit the CBCF website at

Written by Shauna Lynn, Beyond The Stage Homes

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Adorning Your Home for Thanksgiving and Halloween - BTSH Around The House Tip of the Week

Fall is a fun season to decorate for. The fall colours lend themselves to compliment most any palette, and carving pumpkins is fun at any age. Here are some tips to get you in the spirit of the festivities!

Start with fall harvest style décor. As a general rule in Canada, save the specific Halloween decorations until after Thanksgiving. This means that you can have pumpkins as a part of your décor, but save the carving of the pumpkin until after the carving of the turkey.

Think of the colours of the changing leaves when you think about decorating for this season. Burnt orange, browns, dark greens, burgundy, and sometimes even a little yellow. Also remember that the temperature outside is dropping, so you want to make the indoors as cozy as possible. Consider adding a throw and some decorative pillows to your living room in these fall colours. For an added touch, scented candles of apple cinnamon or orange spice give of cozy, warm scents.

Gourds are always a nice touch. These consist of a variety of decorative squash and mini pumpkins, in various sizes and colours. Have a display on the entry table at your front door, grouped on your mantel, or in a basket as a centrepiece on the dining table. Another centrepiece idea is a bowl of apples—take the family out apple picking, and put some of their best picks on display!

Great your guests with warm fall colours at the front door. Create a fall wreath from straw, corn husks, and artificial leaves or flowers. Bring it all together with a cloth ribbon. And just because the summer may be over, does not mean that you can’t still have fresh flowers displayed. Replace your potted plants on your porch with plants from the season, such as marigolds and mums.

There are really no set rules for decorating for Halloween. This is the one time of year that I say let your wildest imagination take over, and don’t hold back! Halloween is my favourite time of year. I love the energy of the day, and the creativity of the costumes and decorating.

Naturally, no Halloween is complete without carving some pumpkins for display. If you don’t think you’re much of an artist, you can download stencils online, or buy at your local craft store. Be sure to use a good carving knife with a fine edge for details. Another idea is to paint the pumpkins. This looks especially great on white pumpkins, or Luminas.

As for the rest of the decorations, try to stick with a theme, whether it be ghosts and goblins, or witches and bats, be sure that your decorations compliment one another. If you’re hosting a Halloween party, dim the lights, replace a few lamp bulbs with some black lights for effect, play some spooky tunes, and be sure to have lots of treats to avoid any tricks.

Written by Shauna Lynn, Beyond The Stage Homes

Monday, September 28, 2009

How To Host An End of Season BBQ To Remember - BTSH Around The House Tip of the Week

You’ve worked all summer long to get your home and yard looking fantastic, but what good is it if you don’t show it off? Before you shut down the outdoors for the season, why not host a Fall BBQ for your family and friends. Here are some tips for how to be sure that your party is a huge success:

The Entertainment
It is always a good idea to provide some sort of entertainment when you host a party. Music provides a nice background to any party theme. There are a few ways to do this, depending on what is available to you.

MP3 Player—Fill your mp3 player with your favourite songs, and create a playlist for the evening, whether it’s dance music, soft instrumental, country, etc., or perhaps you want a variety. Regardless, be sure to prepare a playlist in advance to ensure that the songs you don’t want anyone to know are in your mp3 library don’t randomly appear.

Instruments—If you have some friends that are musically inclined, encourage them to bring their instruments of choice, and set up a jam session. If you have instruments of your own on hand, such as guitars or hand drums, have these set out so that guests may be encouraged to join in.

Live Music—Often local, up and coming music artists will perform at private parties for minimal costs in an effort to increase exposure. Go online to find some local talent, and contact them about what their fees are. You may even be able to take up a collection with your guests to help to subsidize the cost.

The Food

First thing you need to decide when it comes to the food is whether or not you wish to do pot-luck style. This means that each guest would be responsible for bringing a dish. If you choose this route, you will want to be sure to coordinate in advance who is bringing what to ensure that you have enough food, and avoid duplicates. If you wish to do the cooking yourself, choose a theme and be sure your dishes compliment one another. This can be based on local seasonal vegetables, or flavours of the south, fall flavours inspired by thanksgiving comfort foods, or perhaps after a particular culture, such as Caribbean. If you have only one BBQ and are expecting a large crowd, consider cooking some items on the stove or in the oven.

The Setting
Since the season is known for cooler nights, be sure to prepare for this. Begin festivities early in the afternoon, to maximize the sunshine exposure. Advise guests that wish to stay into the evening to bring appropriate attire. If possible, provide an outdoor heat source, such as a bon fire, or a heat lamp (these can often be rented from party supply stores).

Although fall is not known for having a lot of pests around, it is a good idea to have some citronella candles and/or torches just in case. They provide a nice soft glow that helps to set the mood, and deter pesky bugs.

Be prepared with an entertaining area inside where guests can mingle in case of rain, or extremely chilly temperatures.

Good friends always means good times, so remember most importantly to enjoy yourself, no matter what.

Written by Shauna Lynn, Beyond The Stage Homes

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The "F" Word - Getting Your Home Ready for "Fall" - BTSH Around The House Tip of the Week

It’s the season that usually follows two months of scorching heat, and is often welcomed with it’s cooler temperatures. Unfortunately this year it follows a somewhat questionable summer, but nonetheless, it’s best to come to terms with the facts—Fall is approaching Fast and Furious, and you need to make sure that both you, and your yard, are prepared.

Preparing The Garden
- Remove annuals that have finished blooming
- Trim back perennials
- Some gardeners will recommend digging up sensitive bulbs and bringing in for the winter—be sure not dig up though until after the first frost
- I like to split some of my herbs and replant in pots to bring in for the winter—plant in pots and leave outside for at least 1 week before bringing in—this will avoid too much stress to the plant
- Add mulch to help to protect your bed over the winter

Plant Spring Bulbs
Most spring bulbs require that you plant them approximately 6 weeks before the first frost. Some great spring bloomers are:
- Daffodils
- Tulips
- Hyacinths
- Crocus’
- Snowdrops

Lawn Care
Don’t wait until spring to get your lawn ready—let your lawn work for you over the months that it is buried in snow, giving you a thick, green lawn in the spring. Mix soil, fertilizer, and lawn seed in a wheelbarrow, and spread throughout the lawn. This is also a great time to level out some uneven areas by adding a little more soil. Remember that most grass seeds need water, so be sure to water regularly if rain is not in the forecast. Putting down grass seed just before the snow falls helps to keep the seeds moist, and allow them to work into the soil before the ground freezes. To prepare your lawn, rake first with a thatching rake to pull up dead roots, stems, and leaves. Also ensure that all fallen leaves are raked up before the first snow fall.

Bringing In The Rain Barrel
Drain and disconnect your rain barrel in the fall to ensure your rain barrel and the overflow hose do not crack. Store in a garage or shed over the winter and store your overflow hose indoors. If you must store your rain barrel outdoors, drain it and put it upside-down with the water valve left open.

Written by Shauna Lynn, Beyond The Stage Homes

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Back To School for Your Home - BTSH Around The House Tip of the Week

“Back to School” can mean a lot of things to a lot of different people. Regardless of whether you are gearing up to return to classes yourself, or have kids that are, or neither, it’s hard not to be affected by all the Back to School media attention, and the whole atmosphere surrounding it all. Back to School is simply a time of year when things seem to return to normal, or at least a state somewhat resembling normal anyway. Plant shutdowns are done with, vacations are over, you begin closing the cottage, and the pool, and preparing for the fall ahead (don’t worry—that’s next week’s article). This week I was inspired by the Back to School blitz, and wanted to give you some ideas for returning yourself, and your home, to “school”. Here are some basic supplies that you’ll need:

Pens/Pencils—If you’re finding that all the pens you thought you had around the house have mysteriously disappeared, now is a great time to purchase some new ones. Get rid of all the mis-matched pens, likely only half of which actually have ink, and stock up on some pens in a variety of fun colours, or perhaps one colour specifically to compliment your décor.

Books—Just because you’re not taking any actual classes doesn’t mean that you can’t learn a thing or two. Consider purchasing a book about a topic that you’re interested in learning more about. Whether it’s a home renovation project, or a new language, or simply a hobby or interest that you want to learn more about, such as a historical event, or astronomy, or maybe classic cars. Learning can be fun when you have chosen the material, and when you’re done, the book can be displayed on your bookcase as art.

Backpack—Re-usable bags are eco-chic! Treat yourself to a new bag for picking up all your new supplies. You can find great, fashionable bags at stores such as Winners, The Bay, Lulu Lemon, and almost anywhere you find fashion. For the glam bag pictured to the right, check out Envirosax ( In addition to providing uniquely stylish re-usable bags, Envirosax also donates a percentage of its sales to charities and non-profit organizations dedicated to the preservation of the environment.

Day Planner/Calendar—Don’t wait until the last minute to start planning for 2010. Pick yourself up a new calendar and/or day-planner, and start planning your winter escape, spring break, or weekend get-aways. Getting a jump-start on your calendar allows you to write down new year appointment reminders as they come up, such as the dentist, car tune-ups, furnace cleanings, etc. To the left is the At-A-Glance day-planner that I use. I love to support Breast Cancer Awareness, and this planner comes in a pretty soft pink, and gives me plenty of space for notes to plan my days.

New Fashions—Probably one of the most exciting parts of Back to School is all the new clothes! Why not treat your home to some new fashions too? End of season sales will help you stock up for next Spring/Summer, whether it’s new outdoor furniture or lighting, or for the indoors, perhaps some cozy blankets, or new window coverings, table settings, a new area rug, or maybe simply some small accessories such as candles, artwork, or small vases. Whatever you need for your home, inside or out, now is a great time to take advantage of end-of-season savings.

Written By: Shauna Lynn, Beyond The Stage Homes

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Designing A-Z (Part 2) - BTSH Around The House Tip of the Week

Last week featured a guide to designer terms, with A-M. This week, we complete the glossary with N-Z. Whether you are hiring a design professional, or planning to do work yourself, be sure you understand these terms before you get started.

Niche—recessed opening, often arched at the top, set in a wall with a shelf, often lit from the top to display sculpture or objects of art (see Figure 1).

Organza—sheer, stiff silk or synthetic fiber, often used for fashionable evening wear (see Figure 2).

Parquet—wood floor laid in geometric patterns (see Figure 3).

Quatrefoil—rounded, Gothic tracery design with 4-leaves or "foils" (see Figure 4).

Rosette—round, elaborately detailed pattern resembling a rose, most often found in a carved wood or plaster mould application.

Sconce—wall-mounted electrified or candlelight fixture.

Torchier—standing lamp with indirect upward light (see Figure 5).

Undertone—The colour obtained when a coloured pigment is reduced with a large proportion of white pigment. The colour seen when a coloured pigment is spread on glass and viewed with light passing through it.

Vignette—little displays; using art or decorative pieces to create small decorative displays (see Figure 6).

Widow's Walk—rooftop platform, said to have been created for widows seeking their husbands who had been lost at sea, often found on Victorian homes (see Figure 7).

Yard—a unit of length, often used to measure fabric, equal to 3' 0" or 36".

Zigzag—pattern formed by a continuous line, which turns sharply back and forth making a series of "V's".

Even the simplest of projects can come with challenges. Understanding some basic terms will help to get you started, however it is always best to consult with a professional to ensure that you did it right, the first time.

Written by Shauna Lynn, Beyond The Stage Homes