Breakfast Tray

crafted-breakfast-tray-a-real-treatAre you looking for a nice hostess gift or perhaps know of someone who will be celebrating a birthday soon?

This gift idea may fit the bill and is very budget-friendly.

A simple photo frame can be transformed into the prettiest breakfast tray in minutes. Materials for this idea may be purchased at local craft or hardware stores.


1 photo frame (11 by 14 inches)
2 silver cabinet handles
Decorative paper (12 by 12 inches)
Sharp scissors
Power drill

These little trays can be made in many different sizes. I prefer the 11- by 14-inch size for its ability to accommodate a few table items and perhaps a small book or iPad. They can also be assembled using photographs or other visual material you may want to use to personalize the tray to the recipient.

Remove the plastic wrapping from the frame and wipe the glass and outside edges with a soft cloth.

Unbend the small wire clips on the back of the frame and remove the cardboard backing, papers and glass plate. Clean the glass plate with a glass cleaner if necessary. Set aside.

Place the handles on each side of the frame where you would like them to be. Mark the small drill holes with a pencil and set them aside. Using your power drill, carefully drill two holes on each side of the frame. Attach your silver cabinet handles with the included screws. Be sure these handles are strongly attached.

Measure your decorative paper to fit the inside of the plate. In most cases you will require two sheets of paper to fill the entire glass plate. Carefully measure and cut the paper making sure to match patterns if necessary. If you are using photographs then you will need to have a background page to apply them.

Replace the glass plate and the cardboard backing. Bend over the wire supports.

These little trays are quite sturdy however they are not meant for heavy items.

Barb Lunter is a freelance writer with a passion for home decor, entertaining and floral design. She also runs Blu Dog Staging & Redesign.


Clever Serving Ideas: Slate for Cheese Tray

Don’t throw away your leftover slate…use it for entertaining!

Theme parties are becoming more popular these days. Traditional dinner parties are falling by the way side in place of more trendy cheese parties and cocktail affairs. The evening’s fare is often served on unique and clever serving pieces replacing the more traditional style platters. You have probably seen some of these pretty serving ideas at catered affairs and believe it or not you can duplicate these ideas at home.



Have you just finished a renovation or know someone who has? The square pieces of slate are wonderful serving pieces for cheese. The rustic surface is perfect for highlighting the different choices of cheese and you can write the name of the cheese directly on the slate with chalk. Use assorted slate pieces and mix them up for variety.


Autumn Serving Tray

I love this idea for its versatility. You may have tried the plexiglass placemats with the wrapping paper for a dinner party. For this idea you can use the same plexiglass pieces or go to a glass shop and have some square glass pieces cut. Select some of the pretty fall leaves that are currently everywhere ranging from the large maple leaves to the pretty oak you see by the road. Clean the leaves and let them dry for a week or so. Once dried, simply place the leaves under the plexiglass sheet and place your food on top. If you wish to move the platter around, use two sheets of plexiglass and place the leaves between the two sheets. Secure with invisible tape on the four corners.


Ice Bowl

This is a great idea for serving fresh fruit or a salad. You will need two bowls: one 8″ in diameter and one 6″ in diameter. Place a layer of ice cubes inside the 8″ bowl and set the 6″ bowl inside to fit. Fill the perimeter of the bowl with water and add fresh roses, leaves or any other greenery you may like to display. Place the bowls in the freezer for 24 hours. When ready to serve, simply put the frozen bowl in warm water for a few seconds to loosen the molds. Display the ice bowl on top of a tray that will collect the water during the evening and fill with fresh fruit.



One should never underestimate the practicality of a basket. I always search for large, flat baskets that are wonderful to serve bread, cheese and salads. Look for ones with thick wicker and no handles. The handles only serve to get in the way of retrieving the food items.

Clever Serving Ideas: Acrylic Serving Tray

We all have an inventive friend. Someone who inspires us with their entertaining ideas and unique ways of presenting the evenings’ meal. Recently I came upon a wonderful way to serve appetizers at a party. The materials required to assemble this idea are simple and the process is very easy. Choose between a real plate of glass or Plexiglas for your look.



  • 1 wood or acrylic-serving tray (with a slight depth of ½” to 1”)
  • *Look for these simple trays at Dollar Stores and Department Stores
  • 1 custom cut piece of glass or Plexiglas (to fit on top of the tray or on the inside edge)
  • Flowers, cinnamon sticks or other display materials


Clean the inside of the tray and place your display materials. Wash the glass plate with soap and water and place on top of the tray. Display your food on top.


Have you just completed a recent renovation? If so, you may have some leftover pieces of slate. These pieces are wonderful for serving pieces of cheese and fruit. The rustic surface is perfect for highlighting the different choices you are serving and for added effect you can write the names of the cheese directly on the slate with chalk. Use assorted slate pieces and mix them up for variety. This is a great idea for a wine and cheese party.


Ice Bowl

This is an old idea but a good one. It’s wonderful for serving fresh fruit or salad. You will require two bowls:  one 8” in diameter and one that is 6” in diameter. Place a layer of ice cubes inside the 8” bowl and set the 6” bowl inside to fit. Fill the perimeter of the bowl with water and add fresh flowers or leaves. Place the bowls in the freezer for 24 hours. When ready to serve, simply put the frozen bowl in warm water for a few seconds to loosen the molds. Display the ice bowl on top of a tray that will collect the water during the evening and fill with fresh fruit.

Always look for creative containers when you are out and about. Baskets, garden pots and concrete urns are just a few examples of ideas that will have you thinking “outside the box” when it comes to presenting food at your next party.

Take It Outside: Tips For A Garden Party

Warm evenings are made for entertaining outside.

There are many ways to add atmosphere to your garden and patio this summer.

Here are a few ideas to take your indoor party out to the patio:

Independent Beverage Station
It’s always a good idea to have a designated area for your beverages.

Your guests will enjoy the ease of helping themselves during the evening and the separate beverage station will not interfere with any movement around the barbecue or food preparation area.

Herbs in Terra Cotta Pots
This is a cute idea for each guest to take home at the end of the evening.

A simple, small terra cotta pot is painted white and an herb is planted inside. Add a decorative tag labeling each herb and display them on a pretty tray.

Comfortable Seating
Unfortunately not all outdoor furniture is comfortable. Adding colourful cushions to your guests’ seats will not only make them feel more at ease but will add a nice pop of colour to your outdoor area.

Floral Ice Cubes
Every time I make these for a party they are always a hit. Simply place an edible flower inside each individual ice cube compartment and fill with water.

Let them freeze during the day or overnight. Once they are fully frozen pop them into a clear ice bucket (I use a clear, tall vase) and add your bottled beverage. These are great to add inside individual drinks as well.

Garden Tea Party
If you are planning an afternoon lunch or brunch here’s a pretty idea for a table centrepiece.

A white teapot serves as a beautiful container for fresh flowers. Simply fill it with water and add stems of garden flowers to fill the top. Place at the end of a buffet table or in the center of your dining table.

It’s always nice to have a blanket on the back of your garden chair for your guests as well for the cooler evenings.

Remember to set your table up under umbrellas or an awning. Sitting under the hot sun while dining is not everyone’s preference. Providing a nice shady area to sit and linger is usually preferred.

Barb Lunter is a freelance writer with a passion for home decor, entertaining and floral design. She also runs Blu Dog Staging & Redesign. You can find more information at

Dollar Store Storage Hacks

There’s something about January that makes us want to reorganize our closets, pantries and cupboards.

Maybe it’s because we have put away our holiday decorations only to find our closets in complete disarray.

Ice cube trays
Have you ever thought of using ice cube trays for storing your jewelry?

The small containers are wonderful for separating your rings and earrings and small bracelets. Simply insert them into your drawer to keep your jewelry tangle-free. These trays are also great for storing sewing notions and workshop items such as nails and screws.
Plastic bins
You can never have enough plastic bins for storage in your home.

The large, clear ones are wonderful for storing away items in deep storage. You will find all sizes and shapes of these plastic storage containers in your local dollar store.

Use them for storing shoes, towels, cleaning supplies and other household items.

I have also seen them used in fridge drawers to separate fruit and vegetables. Use the medium size ones for storing your dog and cat food as well as ribbons and wrapping papers.

They are fantastic for placing under your cupboards to keep your Tupperware and Rubbermaid items organized.
Tension rods
These are fantastic for placing over top of your cleaning bins under your sink.

Simply hang your spray cleaning bottles from the tension rod with enough space to allow room under your sink for your other cleaning supplies.
Glass containers
Dollar stores are full of glass containers with lids in all shapes and sizes.

These containers are wonderful for storing items in your pantry such as rice, pasta, beans and seeds.

Add an adhesive chalk label and you are set to go. They are also great for bathroom items such as small hand soaps and cotton balls.

Use them to store your nuts and seeds and other snack items.
Glass votives
Small, clear glass votives are perfect for storing your makeup items. Cotton swabs, makeup brushes, eyeliner pencils can all be stored in these glass votives.

When you need to clean them you can simply place them into the dishwasher.
Barb Lunter is a freelance writer with a passion for home decor, entertaining and floral design. She also runs Blu Dog Staging & Redesign.

Accessorizing Your Coffee Table

If your coffee table looks like mine, it’s probably full of magazines, coasters and a few television remotes. Does this sound familiar?

Coffee tables are a central part of living room décor.

Styling your coffee table is very easy and with a little planning you can have it looking in tip -top shape.

Here are a few ideas to help you get started:

These are probably one of the key elements to styling your coffee table. Use candles and candle holders in different shapes and sizes. This will give the table some interest and make it visually appealing. Use decorative containers for your candles and combine short and tall pillar candles with tall tapers.

Coffee Table Books
Not only do the coffee table books look great stacked on your table but they also add a pop of colour and texture to the table’s surface.

If you prefer a monochromatic look then choose two or three coffee table books that are all in one colour tone. Black and white or all cream would work nicely together for example.

If you prefer a pop of colour, try grouping a set of three fuchsia pink or lime green books and match the candle to the colour theme.

Flower arrangements are an integral part of coffee table styling.

Flowers provide that very necessary texture and colour to the centre of your coffee table. They add a touch of nature to the table and bring life to the room. Choose a green succulent or live plant and place in a decorative pot. Be bold with your choice of flowers or plants.

Make a strong statement in the room with this accessory.

Often designers will use trays of different sizes and shapes to group all the table accessories together. It’s a great design element and really works to pull everything in one place. Look for silver or wood trays depending on the decorating theme of your room.

I love the mirror and copper trays on store shelves right now. Copper is a very hot décor trend at the moment and looks fantastic with shades of cream and white.

Decorative Accessories
Lastly, one of designers’ favourite items to dress a coffee table is the very important decorative accessory.

It may be a photo frame, a round glass ball or perhaps just a small sculpture. Choose an accessory that best matches the theme of your room. If you have a modern décor, then stick to modern accessories.

Country themed rooms would benefit from rustic style décor items and so on. Whatever you choose, be sure to keep the table as uncluttered as possible. Less is more when it comes to styling your coffee table.

*From Barb Lunter: NS News, Glacier Community Media

Barb Lunter is a freelance writer with a passion for home decor, entertaining and floral design. She also runs Blu Dog Staging & Redesign.

Beverage Ice Molds

I love simple ideas for entertaining outdoors.

Now that the weather has warmed, it’s great to host friends and family outside in the garden. When you combine good food and good company in a fabulously styled space you are guaranteed a great time. Here’s an idea to present some of your favorite cold beverages: Fruit ice molds.

The molds can be made the night before and displayed just before your guests arrive. For this idea you will require some two-litre plastic soda bottles, fresh fruit (such as cranberries, blueberries, and orange slices), and a fresh herb, such as rosemary.

Choose a bottled beverage that will not freeze when placed in the freezer.

Make sure the bottle will fit inside the two-litre plastic mold with enough space to place water and fruit. Once you have used your two-litre plastic bottles, wash them thoroughly and remove any labels. Cut the bottom portion off with sharp scissors leaving approximately 15 centimetres in length. Place your beverage bottle inside the two-litre bottom and add your fruit and herb pieces. Fill with water to the top. Place them into the deep freeze or your kitchen freezer overnight.

Just before serving, remove the plastic bottle with your scissors and place the ice bucket on a plate or round tray for display.

The mold should last for many hours and will keep your beverage cold.

Barb Lunter is a freelance writer with a passion for home decor, entertaining and floral design. She also runs Blu Dog Staging & Redesign.

Maintaining Your Barbecue Grates

maintaining-your-barbecue-over-the-summerAny good chef would agree that a great charbroiled steak is only as good as the barbecue used to prepare it.

Keeping your barbecue grates in good condition is an important factor to keep in mind when maintaining your barbecue over the summer months.

To keep your barbecue grates in good shape you may want to follow a few important tips from the experts.

Firstly, it’s important to attend to dirty grates immediately after use. Remove all cooked food and shut the lid. Bring the barbecue temperature up to high (if you have a gas version) and let it sit for 10-15 minutes. Shut the gas off at this point and let the grates cool. Using a metal-bristled brush, scrub off any remaining food residue.

Preheating your barbecue before use is a key factor. You will find if you preheat your barbecue before setting food on it, the food will slide off the grates easier than if you place food on cold grates.

Use a good quality oil to give your grates a rub before each use. This will prevent food from sticking and allow for easier cleaning afterwards.

It is also recommended to give your barbecue a good, deep cleansing once a year. There are many barbecue cleaning companies here in Vancouver that specialize in cleaning your barbecue to the point where it looks brand new – definitely worth the expense.

Personally, I prefer the eco-friendly barbecue cleaning companies that use a steam cleaning process rather than chemicals. Harsh chemicals are avoided during the cleaning process and any possibility of leftover chemicals that may linger and end up in your food is eliminated.

It is also recommended to remove the tray under the gas grill and clean it of any drippings and grease after each use. Use a plastic scraper over a garbage can to scrape away any leftover residue.

Remember to clean the outside of your barbecue. For stainless steel gas barbecues it is recommended to use a paper towel and a stainless steel cleaner to clean the outside lid and surrounding areas. Afterward, use a microfibre cloth to buff the grain for best results.


Accessorizing Made Easy

accessorizing-your-home-with-easeHave you ever walked into a room and had the feeling like something was off or missing?

Perhaps it was lacking in warmth or ambience in some way?

Well, it could very well be that the room was not accessorized properly. Accessorizing your home is important when you are decorating. Think of accessories in your home as you would jewelry with an outfit. Each accessory adds a touch of colour and texture to the space.

Many people are perplexed regarding how to tackle accessorizing their home. It really is the last decorating layer for a room and if done properly can dramatically change the appearance of the room.

If you are in fall decorating mode, here are a few tips from the pros on how to begin accessorizing your home.

You may be asking what kind of accessories should I be looking for? Well it really depends on what kind of surface you are working with. Small coffee tables, console tables and side tables are three examples of areas that are common for accessorizing. Look for items such as hardcover books, photographs, candles, vases and other containers. Also, flowers and plants, trays, and sculptures are other examples of great accessories. For walls, look for interesting mirrors and artwork that will balance the visual height of your display. And don’t forget the floor. Rugs are invaluable in adding warmth and colour to a room.

One of the most common mistakes homeowners make is to spread too many smaller items throughout the room. It is best to stick to fewer larger items than too many smaller ones. Remember to work in odd numbers such as threes and fives. For small tables and consoles stick to three items rather than two smaller ones. Work in groups rather than individual items. Combine photos and objects in groups of three or five in assorted sizes.

If you have room for a long table behind your couch, accessorize it with a nice lamp to add light in the room. Add a few photo frames and perhaps a potted plant.

Entrances look wonderful with small tables accessorized with a mirror, key tray and perhaps a small lamp.

Coffee tables usually require accessories with height. Tall candlesticks and sculptures work well here as well as a stack of hardcover books. Add a flower arrangement to bring some greenery into the room and perhaps a vase.

Bookshelves are probably the most challenging to accessorize. Hardcover books should be nestled in with other small items such as plants and photo frames. It’s important not to have too many books and over-clutter the shelves. I like to add some reflective surfaces when accessorizing a bookshelf. Shiny vases and bowls are wonderful when combined with flat surface objects to provide texture to the bookshelf.

And remember to change up your throw cushions on your couch. Flat, worn cushions make the room feel tired.

Try switching up your summer cushions with some new fall colours of the season.

Barb Lunter is a freelance writer and stager with a passion for home decor, entertaining and floral design.


Chalkboard Paint Projects

Painted Chalk board 02webChalkboard paint is probably one of the most useful products in the do-it-yourself world.

You’ve seen it in traditional classrooms, restaurants and used for memo boards. It’s now available in many different colours, useful for a variety of craft projects.

I love the fact that it dries very quickly and can be used within a very short time after application. It’s durable,  washable and very child-friendly.

The following are some ideas for quick and easy projects for the home incorporating this versatile product. Remember to not limit yourself to traditional black. Try some of the new shades for bright and colourful designs. And for best results, allow the painted area to cure for two to three days.

Herb planters and markers
Small terra cotta pots work beautifully for this idea. You can find them in nurseries and craft stores. Clean them of any dirt or debris. Apply a small amount of chalkboard paint to the front side of the planter. Using a stencil or painters tape is a good idea.

Let them dry and then write the name of the herb on the front with chalk. This works well for large and small planters. When the season is over simply remove the name of the herb with a soft, damp cloth.

Herb markers can be made using chalk paint as well. I like the large, wooden Popsicle stick markers that you can find at nurseries. Dip one end into the chalkboard paint and let it dry. Add the herb’s name with chalk.

Memo board
If you have a favourite frame or serving tray you can easily transform it into a chalk memo board. Plastic surfaces should be primed ahead of time and shiny metal surfaces should be lightly sanded before applying the chalkboard paint.

Inside a cupboard
If you have a craft room or an office with a cupboard door that you don’t mind using as a memo board then this idea is for you. I’ve done this before on the inside panel of a kitchen cupboard door to use for a grocery list.

Prep the surface ahead of time by sanding or applying a good primer if necessary. Most wood surfaces should take the chalkboard paint without priming but if you’re unsure, ask your paint professional beforehand. Measure off the space you desire on the inside of your cupboard with painters tape and then apply the chalkboard paint. Let dry.

Menu planner
I love this idea for evening gatherings. An ordinary serving tray can be transformed into a lovely menu planner to display in the corner of your kitchen during a dinner party. Write your evening’s menu with chalk and reuse the tray for future dinner parties.

Storage tub labels
This is one of my favourite uses for chalkboard paint. Large Rubbermaid storage tubs work wonderfully for this idea.

Tape off the area you would like to paint. Apply the chalkboard paint to the small area on the front of the tub and let it dry.

Once the paint is dry, label the contents with chalk and place in your storage room.

The beauty of this idea is you can constantly change the contents of the tub and relabel it each time.

Barb Lunter is a Professional Stager, freelance writer with a passion for home decor, entertaining and floral design.