About Jessica

Carving out my path in this world, one shopping adventure at a time.

Good things growing

Balcony Update!
So, I have been taking pictures of my balcony and its journey from cold, sterile concrete to a lush paradise. I have had some ups and downs, and most of all surprises! First off, my cherry tomato plant. We started off the season fantastically, then my poor plant was attacked by all these tiny little white bugs (chime in here please if you can identify these horrid creatures.) My big, beautiful plant was eaten alive, and I had no idea what to do.  A family friend suggested putting some flour on the underside of the leaves in an attempt to keep the bugs away without having to resort to a pesticide. ( which I am totally against) Although the flour worked, it also created a paste of good that stuck not only to the bugs, but the leaves and branches as well. My poor plant was left with dozens of dead leaves, and twigs and is now a ghost of its former self.  Funny and lucky for me, the plant still continued throughout and still is producing a good handful of sweet small tomatoes for me everyday. Below are photos taken from 2 weeks ago and one taken this morning. Sad, isn’t it.
Similarly, my larger tomato plant also has suffered from some bugs, and 2 weeks of hot hot weather took its toll on the leaves. Although it too continues to produce, its foliage is lacking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the flip side of things, my Fig Tree has been growing like crazy!! Although its yet to produce anything edible, the height has doubled in size in just two months and I’m ecstatic. My boyfriend’s parents and grandparents ( all avid fig growers) have all assured me that young plants generally don’t fruit in the first few years, and they are all pleasantly surprised to see how tall my fickle fig plant has grown on my balcony. ( I think they were slightly doubtful I could pull it off.)  Look how tall it is!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rest of my garden has been growing more or less without issue. All of my herbs have fared splendidly, as you can see from the photos below, and my strawberry plant (although small) has been producing some small and sweet table strawberries.  Overall, I’m really pleased with the way that everything has turned out.  Keeping a garden has kept me semi productive, and really refreshed my spirit and energy.  Nothing is more enjoyable to us then spending a late afternoon on the balcony watching the sunset, surrounded by our own green paradise from 25 floors up. 🙂

My Green Garden

Over the past almost 2 months now, (I cannot believe its almost July already!) I have been watching with delight as my garden has been brimming with growing activity, soaking up the warm sunshine that cascades over our west facing balcony each afternoon.  We have had ample rain, and lots and lots of sunshine (a noticeably warmer start than normal for this region) and my herbs, veggies and flowers have responded nicely! I’m happy to say that other than soil, water, and some good love and TLC, I haven’t added anything to my greenery – no pesticides, no herbicides, nothing! The only thing I have is Charlotte, (a little spider I discovered on my deck one day) who despite initial water logging & destruction of all her webs, continued to nest under my herb planter until I gave up trying to get her to vacate the area (or plan her demise ’cause I’m superstitious and I hate when it rains a lot) in hopes that maybe she would encourage the flies and other small things to leave my plants alone.  My plan worked. Other than Charlotte, nothing else dares nests anywhere near my plants, and she’s become my little garden bodyguard.

Cherry Tomato Plant Fig Tree

Cherry Tomato Plant & a Fig Tree Plant ( planters are from Urban Barn)

Cilantro (Coriander)

Cilantro (Coriander), Curly & Italian Parsley, Tarragon, Dill, Thyme, Rosemary & Mint

Strawberries

My Strawberries ( This awesome stand came with the plant)

Lettuce

Catnip

Catnip & the Catnip Lover, my cat Beefake 🙂

Getting my green thumb on

Life on my balcony this summer is going to be sweet this year, I guarantee it. Why you ask? Because I will be growing strawberries! lol, bad joke, I know.  But it was a great intro to this post, and technically true. I, Jessi Fine, have decided to become an urban gardener.  For the past few years, ever since I have had my own condo and my own balcony, I have been growing small flower plants and a few fresh herbs.  The benefits to this were pretty obvious  to me; something pretty and colorful to brighten up my otherwise dull balcony, and a more economical way to enjoy fresh herbs on my cooking creations throughout the summer.

Over the winter, my boyfriend and I have really gotten into watching documentaries.  We switched off our cable TV, and turned on our Netflix, and have not gone back since. (There WILL be an entry to explain THAT story soon…if I remember) Anywhoo, we spent the better part of December and January watching food documentaries, Food Inc. in particular. Let me tell you, we were horrified.  I mean, we had always known that fast food was bad for us, but to discover that even our healthy fresh produce was being tampered with on a such an extreme level sent shivers down my spine.  If you don’t know what I’m referring to, then you need to watch Food Inc, and all the other amazing documentaries that Netflix offers for only $9.99 a month. (No, they didn’t pay me to say that, I actually LOVE LOVE my Netflix and tell everyone I know to use it.) Our food is being loaded up with hormones, and antibiotics, and being altered on a genetic level to grow faster, bigger, and produce earlier.  Our farmed food is being kept in horrible, deplorable conditions that have result in E-coli poisoning, dying and sick animals, and massive food calls around the world. Nearly everything we eat is being altered on a significant level at the cost of the health of millions of people.

Becoming an informed citizen inspired me to do my part.  Between watching these documentaries, and reading informed literature, there’s several things you can do as a single person to help offset these massive issues.  One is to visit Farmers Markets ( which I have already been a fan of for years, as their produce is fresher, and usually organically grown with little to no pesticide.)  There are a few Farmers Markets located around my area, and I’m fortunate enough to live a close drive to The St. Lawrence Market, one of the world’s TOP rated.  I try as often as possible to choose local beef, lamb, and chicken that’s organically raised on farms a short distance from where I live, and I try to buy locally grown produce I know has a smallish carbon footprint.  Best of all, my hubby is Italian, and both his parents and grandparents have gardens on their properties that supply us with fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, peppers, squash, onions, eggplant, fresh herbs, pears, and more all summer long right into fall.

I was super excited for the spring this year, because I wanted to try my hand at actually growing some of my own fruits and veggies too! As per usual, my herb garden this year includes rosemary, thyme, dill, both regular and italian parsley (I’m slightly addicted), tarragon, & mint (FYI mint comes in a huge variety of flavours, one year I had orange, chocolate, lemon & regular mint!). I also have 4 different types of basil – lemon, italian, thai, and purple (I LOVE basil).  If you’re looking to start your own garden, I highly recommend trying out different varieties of the same herb, as you get different flavour combinations and each adds its own special touch to various recipes. To expand on this, I decided this year to also grow strawberries, cherry tomatoes, lettuce and a fig tree! ( The tree was totally an unexpected random purchase, I’ve never grown figs – but my in-laws are experts and I figure why not try something before giving up on it first) I still want to add more, but need to hold off as I’m running out of space!! My only downfall to living on the balcony, otherwise I would have bought a few more baby trees!

** A note on this – if you ARE planning to do a little balcony gardening yourself – Congrats! Its super easy, and fun – and aside from the obvious benefit of fresh produce, it’s also a great way to get a bit of exercise, and it’s just good food for the soul. I get a great sense of achievement and pride every time I take a bite of anything I grow myself. Knowing that I’m reducing my carbon footprint, contributing to a greener tomorrow AND avoiding eating GMO pesticide laden fruit makes my soul feel alive, and hey, they say a gardener lives longer!

Oh Happy Day, we found a couch.

So if you know me, you know my biggest stress these past few months (asides from moving in with my boyfriend) has been trying to find that perfect couch.  Much as I love shopping, I have detested couch shopping.  This is the first time my boyfriend and I looked to purchase a large item together. We had previously cut our buying teeth on the purchase of an Ikea bed (see my Ikea post)

” This one is too firm, this one is too soft”  ” this one is just WAY too small, this one is too big!”

Store after store, nothing seemed to meet both my requirements, and my boyfriends desires.  I want something modern, sectional components with a flip chaise so that its really functional and easy to move around the condo. He wants something firm, yet comfortable with a high back to rest his neck on for watching TV. Our current couch is 93″ across the back, and I wanted to try to get us down to something in the 88″ range, and my boyfriend couldn’t care less about how large the couch was, as long as he has a nice armrest to relax next too.

Taking the advice of a gal pal, we started off at Urban Barn. Let me just tell you, I could write an entire post, or two or three about that store.  I had never previously entered an Urban Barn, for some reason I was under the impression it was very cookie cutter and above my price range. Surprise, Surprise for me, cause it was totally my style and totally affordable. So anyways, we looked around and found a couch that we immediately were drawn too, however it had two fall backs  It was 93″ across the back and there was no chaise pillow to be seen.

We both loved the colour ( polo smoke grey) and the seating pillows were like that bowl of porridge Goldilocks finally settles on, just right. However, there were several problems.  One, there was no chaise pillow to be seen.  The  saleslady assured me that there was an extension ottoman and flip chaise pillow that could be ordered with the couch, but the store itself didn’t have those items on the floor, and I wasn’t prepared to lay down all that cash for my first ever grown up furniture purchase without having seen and sat on it first.  We looked at a few other couches in the store, but nothing else really sparked our attention in the same way, and we left empty-handed.

So began the 3 month-long search for that perfect couch.  I had an idea in my head of what it looked like, I had all the measurements, I had the colour.  What I did not have, was a couch.  We visited the designer chains, hit the trendy condo furniture stores, we even tried the big department stores like Leons, and The Brick. We found nothing.

Every weekend, come saturday afternoon I would drag my poor man out of bed as early as possible to lug him to countless stores that provided to only further frustrate us. We came close to finding a great couch one day – the length, colour, style, and cushion firmness all matched up – but the sectional add-on wasn’t the most flattering, and the back was really low.  Plus once we factored in the add on warranty ( Urban Barn includes one in their prices FYI), we realized that this couch was above what we wanted to pay, and we didn’t love it that much. In the back of our minds, that original Manhattan couch was still there, and we didn’t seem to be able to let go of it.  Without seeing the chaise first though, we were hesitant to commit to such a large purchase (custom orders are final sale) and so began what I like to call my own personal hell.

Frustrated, and met with disappointment, I found myself driving out to Urban Barn’s Clearance Centre every Tuesday, hoping to find a gem at half price to fall in love with.  Despite not finding another style we loved in store, I somehow convinced myself to continue going to Urban Barn – their warranty, and standard coverage far surpassed anywhere else we went, and I really loved their easy-going modern/contemporary style. As time passed however, and the second month slipped us by,  I was becoming more and more depressed – we were never going to find a couch.

Then, last week the impossible happened.  We were downtown together, and checking out some sofa stores we hadn’t yet our way down too, when we passed by an Urban Barn.  Lets go in there ONE more time, my boyfriend pleaded. ( I should mention at this point, that my sweetie had been trying to convince me to just say yes to that Manhattan couch, and I like the stubborn fool I am, kept insisting there must be something else out there for us, as I couldn’t visually see the chaise)

The Manhattan couch was sitting smack dab in the middle of the showroom, and as always, we were both immediately drawn to it.  A really nice salesman ( who already knew us from our previous visit) came over to say hello.  “Back again?” he says. I say “Yes, we are STILL looking, and somehow my boyfriend hasn’t dumped me yet, shocked?” Rather than tease, he kindly asks what keep holding us back from the purchase. I explain that I although we love the sofa, we are unsure of purchasing such a large backed couch with an additional chaise if we cannot visually SEE the chaise first. As silly as it sounds, I have this fear of purchasing an add-on chaise, and then not being happy with the dimension of it when it arrives. “Oh, is that all? You want to see the pillow?”  YES YES YES YES, OMG YES.  And without hesitation, my knight in shining armour (otherwise known as Ben) proceeds to head to the back room, where he not only pulls out the elusive chaise pillow, but switches out the couch pillow, converting my Manhattan couch to the sectional of my dreams!!!!

After dozens of stores, and 3 months worth of searching…..we finally ended up settling on the first couch we saw.  Why you ask? Because out of 7 different Urban Barn Stores that I went to visit, and dozens of salespeople assisting me, only one had the foresight to give me what I wanted, visual confirmation that I was making the correct choice.  Thank you Ben.  I really hope your boss somehow sees this post and gives you a gold star.

How to save those buttons!

Found this via @Real Simple this morning ( http://bit.ly/57OtUK)

If you dont follow or read this magazine, you really should.  They have tons of tips on home organization, DIY, Recipes and more! I’m a little in love with them 🙂

TIP!!

“To avoid lost buttons, dab clear nail polish on the threads of the buttons to prevent them from fraying and loosening.”

Friends with Benefits

Last night as I was sitting a table with a group of people I know and love, that saying came to me, and I thought what does it really mean?

I feel a little special to have such great friends; especially since I think good relationship skills is something we tend to take for granted.  My mother once told me if I could count the number of good friends I have on one hand, then I was a very lucky woman indeed.  Well, I’ve made it past one hand and on to the other, so I guess I can consider myself double lucky.

I had a fantastic evening with some really wonderful friends last night – my extremely talented pal Robin, throws pairing evenings at his bar – we get 4-5 food courses, all paired with a pint of beer (or glass or wine or whisky, whatever the night is focused on).  We spent the evening catching up, laughing, drinking a wee little too much, and delighting in the wonderful meal that was laid out before us.  The mood at our table was happy, and a smile was plastered all over my face.

I have been feeling a little down lately, for no particular reason, maybe its the weather; but I havent been wanting to go out as much, and my couch and me have become quite good friends.  Despite my pleading to beg off of a social engagement or two, my better half encouraged to get out and see my friends.  It will make you feel better he said! And as always, it seems my boyfriend was right. After spending a few hours laughing so hard my sides hurt, I really was feeling better; I felt grounded, and once again sure of myself.

Having the benefit of friends, people who are there to pick you up when you are down, or cheer you on as you pass that personal finish line, is priceless.  Make new friends, and keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.

The Ikea Love Affair

My boyfriend and I recently moved into a new condo together, taking that next step in life by combing our two.  Thanks to the aid of friends and family, our move went off relatively well, there were no serious injuries sustained, and aside from a broken dresser drawer (which I was able to fix with some wood glue), what furniture we had made it there safe and sound.  The next step after unpacking all of our crap was to make our first shared purchase together; it was a toss up between bed and couch. (More on the couch later, as that search is still on)

Both of us were huge fans of a tufted fabric headboard in a nice neutral gray, but everything we were looking at was twice the price of what we wanted to pay.  What we really NEEDED was a bed with storage – both of us are clothing/shoe whores, and although our new closet is a walk in, it is by no means HUGE.  Despite the closet, and a gorgeous 6 drawer vintage dresser I DIY’d (check out mypost on that!), we are still really short on space! Rather than purchase two items for the bedroom (storage and a bed) we agreed that combining the two and getting a bed with under storage made the most financial sense.  After a month long search, hours of driving back and forth to endless stores with overpriced crap, we ended up at a very familiar spot, IKEA.

Ikea is one of the places that I can’t seem to stay away from.  On a rainy day, the big blue box beckons to me; the well priced lighting & furniture, the cheap little kitchen accessories, the great smelling hall of candles I cant seem to not buy at least ONE from.  Everything in IKEA just seems so easy and convenient. (Not to mention it’s a 5min drive away!)

So on Sunday, my boyfriend and mutually found and agreed upon a bed at IKEA that met all of our requirements: it had storage under the bed, it had storage in the headboard (which is conveniently slanted for reading, and watching T.V. and it came with reason on our budget scale. As much as I was originally against the idea of purchasing our big items at Ikea, in the end I’m really pleased with how the bed turned out. It looks modern, and its saving us space in our bedroom; not to mention the price leaves us with some extra funding to push towards a our other big purchase, the couch.

5 hours, 2 people, and 1 big bruise later, our bed was complete. I am the proud owner of an ikea bed, and still alive to boast about it.