Repurposed Computer Keys

computerkeyvases1A few years ago I worked in an office that was changing all of its computer keyboards. Old ones were stuffed into the cardboard boxes that the new ones had just vacated. I asked what was going to happen to the old keyboards and was told that the large boxes holding numerous small boxes containing keyboards and cords would be deposited in the garbage dumpster behind the building.

That would have been a violation of regional and municipal waste management bylaws.  I asked if I could have the keys… I knew they had to be good for something.

While the technicians did their thing I worked as fast as I could to remove the keys. I’ve had them in a plastic bag in my home office ever since.

Today, while thinking about a little gift I could give someone starting a new job in IT, I remembered the keys.


The USA Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that in 2015 61,400 tonnes of keyboards and mice were “trashed”.

Electronic waste has become a global crisis. My country, Canada, is said to produce 65+ million metric tonnes annually.

Here’s a decorating idea for an office party…




“Retired” Manual Lawn Mower

I was out for a walk when I literally tripped over this manual lawn mower on the curb of a house a couple of blocks away.

I felt a little self-conscious pushing it home along blacktop and concrete, but this late-planted Scarlet Red Runner was glad to see it.

And I thought it had a statement to make…





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Wedding Card Mailbox

WeddingCardsMailboxThis is a remake of a plastic mailbox I painted last fall for Christmas porch decoration Christmas Mail.

A friend’s backyard wedding this summer has me seeing wedding décor everywhere I look.

The other side of the mailbox had a big chip in the front. I covered it by making a few quick and simple fabric flowers and hotglued them to the mailbox.

The wording was printed off on the computer and applied using the packing tape method. A string of very inexpensive imitation pearls was hot glued for a little elegance.



Follow Your Hearts

followyourheartaOnce upon a time it was a wicker headboard. By the time I rescued it from next to a dumpster it had no legs – but loads of promise.

I thought it would make a nice piece of wedding décor so I gave it a couple of coats of white spray paint. Then I got a long bristled paint brush and a dish of homemade chalk paint and tried to get into all the grooves the spray paint couldn’t reach.


I tried it over my bed. It kinda fit with my rustic country furniture.


But in the end I went back to the original plan. I attached a picket that came from a gate my neighbours were hauling to the dump (after scrubbing and painting it, of course).

Then I applied some lettering to make it more welcoming. I could see it being used for a wedding or engagement party or really any event or facility where the guests might need a little direction.






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Soup Can Door Hanger


Going through old photos the other day I found this soup can vase. It was made before you could simply download vintage labels from the internet. I think I got this one from an antique magazine or book and had to go to Staples to get a colour photocopy.

I hadn’t discovered all the fancy adhesives that we now have easy access to. If I remember correctly this is scotch taped on the back.

I used a hammer and nail to punch holes for the twine.

And I ALWAYS have daisies in my garden.

Aside from the drive to Staples it took about 5 minutes to create this sweet little door hanger.


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Glass Lightshade Planter

The City of Delta in British Columbia was the first community in North America to provide residents with curbside recycling. The province continues to be fairly progressive and a couple of years ago offered a red box companion to its blue box collection program for recycling glass. (see collection excerpt below).

Glass had to be separated out for safety, environmental and economic reasons. It breaks – some types easier than others. That makes it a danger in a multi-material collection box. It makes separation of multi-materials (much of which is done by hand) dangerous and prevents separation and recycling of the materials contaminated by broken glass, making them difficult to recycle.

It takes time to educate people about what can and cannot be included in a curbside program. Although the table below shows that light fixtures cannot be included in the red box, I have found a few in my neighbours’ redboxes walking down the street on collection day.


When I found this lovely art deco style lightshade my initial plan was to make a tiered stand, inspired by the fabulous tiered stands made by Angie over at Knick of Time…

Lightshadeplanter2  But then I found a couple of these smaller fixtures that also have a deco flavor.

I was fooling around with them – you know, how we do when we’re starting the creative process. They clicked together as if that was the intention of their design.


I put some screening over hole at the bottom of the shade to retain the soil. Then I filled it with colourful annuals and my favorite soil (I use the same soil in the garden as I do in potting house plants.

And voila!


Glass Containers
(Depot or Collected Separately at Curbside – check with your collector)

MMBC Materials List

Material Description Do not include
Non-deposit glass bottles and jars
  • Clear or coloured
  • Consult with your recycling collector for instructions.
  • Empty and rinse bottles and jars. Labels OK.
  • Include lids with container recycling
  • Drinking glasses or dishes, cookware, whole or broken window glass or mirrors
  • Ceramic mugs or other ceramic products
  • Light bulbs or light fixtures
  • Beverage containers (return to depot for refund)


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Repurposed Antique Cigarette Tin


In the past few years I have had the opportunity to accompany my uncle on appraisals and to view and list consignments to his antique and estate auctions. I grew up working in the family business, but I am learning so much more now. And occasionally I get great stuff – without even asking for it.

In July I was helping my uncle list a consignment from longtime friends of his and fellow antique dealers. I gasped when I spied this Sportsman Cigarette Tin. Both of my grandparents smoked Sportsman cigarettes. My grandfather died when my mother was only 10 or 11 years old, so I never knew him.

But I have few memories of my grandmother that don’t involve her smoking. She was one of those chronic chain smokers that frequently light one cigarette from another.

She’s even holding a cigarette in some photos, like this one.

Her smoking is not a good memory (although we have a number of funny stories that feature her smoking – and trying to hide it when her children tried to get her to quit).

She was my best friend. I adored her, but I lost her to a brain aneurism (which is linked to smoking) when I was only 9 years old.

Her death in turn triggered a domino effect of very sad events that dominated nearly 3 years of my childhood. I should hate this tin.

But I gasped when I saw it and held it up for my uncle to see. From the son who had bribed and begged his mother for 20 years to quit smoking poured forth warm, funny stories. Like about the time she promised to quit smoking if he would buy my mother (then a single mom) a washer and dryer. When he dropped by her house the week after installing the washer and dryer, Grandma pretended the screen door was jammed shut while she had one arm held behind her back and a tendril of smoke spiralled upward from behind her back.

In the presence of such emotion, John told me I could have the tin. In addition to be a reminder of my grandparents, I collect Canadian antique tins and this one clearly states that it was made in Canada.

I am in the process of launching myself as a freelance writer with an environmental specialization. I’m using the tin to hold cards and bits of paper with contact information of prospective clients – using it to help clear the air on many levels, I hope.


Chair Planter with Bling

Planterchair1.jpg  Here’s a tip off the top from the auctioneer’s kid: when you go to an auction (or antique store) park near their garbage.

It’s astonishing in this junk-friendly era with distribution mechanisms like curbsides and “Craigslist free” listing, but people still throw away stuff that is…well, “killing me with potential” as we used to say around the Crib board.

In this case the source was my antique auctioneer uncle. He bought a batch lot (a “Lot” at an auction is an item being sold. That item can, as in this instance, be a group of items. Usually they are items of low value grouped together in the hope of creating enough value to make it worth the auction house’s overhead costs of selling it.)


My uncle wanted one item in a batch lot being sold at a competitor auction and he did NOT want this seatless, scratched up chair frame and told his employee to haul it out to the garbage.

It never got there.

The frame was nearly 100 years old and perfectly solid. Someone had sanded one side – clearly intending to refinish the frame and probably upholster a new seat cushion (if that is your desire for a chair frame you come across, there are tons of cushion forms floating around for free or you can get one cut from scrap wood for a song!)

I had other plans. So on the way home I stopped by the recycling centre. I don’t know about where you live, but in British Columbia you can take your leftover paint to the provincially funded recycling depot in every community. They will either dispose of it in the most environmentally-safe manner possible or, if it is still usable, will put it in a bin where another member of the community can take it for free and use it up (THE most environmentally responsible disposal method). I picked up almost a full litre of off-white paint (colour selection is limited to what gets dropped off…of course).

But I was fortunate and found a good supply of cream colour latex – which I made into homemade chalk paint with the addition of some Plaster of Paris (about 30% which I mix in a separate container so I can play with the combination until I get it right.

I took advantage of the lovely summer weather to paint outdoors. Two coats.


I then distressed it by scraping with the blunt edge of a butter knife the parts that would be worn naturally (edges of the legs, back and seat, most elevated areas of carved section) and then lightly sanded with a sanding block.

It was pretty, but I wanted something a bit more so I looked through my vintage costume jewellery and found a brooch I thought perfect for the job.

I love pearls – and am quite fond of rhinestones.


I attached it with E6000- a good, strong glue.


I wiped the chair down and gave it a coat of clear outdoor Minwax.

The only planter I had that fit the chair was brown, so I gave it a quick spray with quick-drying Rustoleum matt white spray paint. Filled it and set it next to the front door.

The pink flowers brought out a pink tone in the pearls.




I’ve used it as porch décor, but it would make a nice piece of decoration for a backyard wedding, as well.


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Beached Porch

What do you do with a driftwood plank? Make a nautical sign, of course!

And of course that naturally leads to redecorating the porch. Of course!


As those of you of shared creative temperament will understand, sometimes inspiration hits at 2:00 a.m. when craft and stationery stores aren’t open.

I had some stencil letters from a community project but the spacing of the individual cards didn’t fit the wood, so I used chalk to trace the letters onto some scrap (black) paper in the recycle bin, cut the letters out and spaced them on the wood and then traced the letters once again.


Then I used a paintbrush and homemade chalk paint to fill in the letters. To make those stand out against the pale blue  background paint and old dripped white oil paint, I used a Sharpie to trace the outline of each letter.


Then I sanded the letters to give them a distressed look similar to the wood.


Then I gave it a couple of coats of fast drying polyurethane.

It looked fine, but really was in want of some kind of embellishment. Which had to be free – or darn close to it.

The real fun came in when I spied a dog chew toy I had purchased from a bargain bin ($1.50 CDN – so about $1.00 US). All of a sudden I realized that it was a perfect nautical knot.


I used all kinds of white paint remains that I had on hand (from craft paint to spray paint) to alter the texture and colour a bit. Then glued it to the sign using both my hot glue gun and E6000 (more weather proof).

Then I bashed it about a little to make it look aged similar to the wood.

Beach sign 3

Then I pulled together some nautical-type items and got to playing.

Beach 6.jpg

beach sign 5

Beach sign 4

Confession: that fabulous LLBean beach bag doesn’t belong to me. A friend was walking by with it just as I was about to lift my camera.  It just works, doesn’t it!



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Altered Card Canada’s Parliament Building


I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to use this gold maple leaf lapel pin that I got at an estate sale.

An old friend I lost touch with – crazily because it is someone who was precious to me – just got a major career promotion within the Canadian government.

As AiJ readers may know, I love making altered cards. But I’m nervous about sending this one. Not everyone shares the same artistic taste.

My favorite feature is the piece of rust I used as a harvest moon behind the corrugated cardboard hand torn silhouette of the center block of Canada’s Parliament Buildings.

Would you feel really special if someone sent you a hunk of rust and fabric fragments?

Fingers crossed!


For the first time I also altered the envelope. The base of the card was fabric from a pillow sham that came with a Movie blanket (one I bought specifically for the sofa) and never had use for the pillow sham. I cut a piece of the edging and attached it to the envelope with a vintage button.

It can’t go in the mail like this: Canada Post sorting machines rip embellished envelopes. But I will be sending this expedited mail, so Canada Post will put it into one of their expedited mail cardboard envelopes.