Q: Can I spruce up my old painted wicker patio furniture? – Irene Chan, Vancouver
A: Start by using a wire brush to scrape off any peeling paint, then apply two coats of an oil-based primer. Once it’s dry, paint the furniture with exterior oil-based paint using either a stiff-bristle paintbrush or – ideally – a paint sprayer.
Keep it looking great throughout the summer by giving it a regular wipe down with a rag and a mild, nonabrasive detergent, as well as diluted bleach (one cup of bleach for about every four litres of water) to inhibit mould and mildew. Avoid soaking wicker furniture with the garden hose, as the furniture will take a long time to dry and may and may warp as a result.
Q: I collect canvas oil paintings. Is there a safe way that I can clean them at home? – Justine Reyes, Montreal
A: Before attempting to clean an original canvas oil painting on your own, it’s best to have it assessed by an antiques or art expert. Valuable paintings should be cleaned by professionals, which can cost as much as $200 per canvas. If your pieces are modest, however, consider my DIY method.
1. Remove the canvas from the frame and lay it on a flat work surface. To support the canvas during cleaning (and to prevent it from stretching), wrap a book in plastic and place it under the canvas.
2. Dust the surface with a soft paintbrush. For larger pieces, use a vacuum with a soft brush attachment.
3. Remove a clump of doughy bread from the centre of a fresh loaf and gently rub it over a small (two- to three-inch) section of the painting. Don’t laugh: This works! The spongy bread draws out the dirt. As the bread gets soiled and begins to break up, replace it with a fresh clump and repeat the process over the entire surface of the painting. If this doesn’t sufficiently clean the painting, you can purchase solvents at your local art supply store that are specifically designed to clean oil paintings.
This story was originally titled "Design Dilemma" in the August 2012 issue.
"I've seen more changes this year than in the past three years," says Lisa Gittens, a tax expert at H&R Block.
Here are eight things families will want to be aware of when filling out their 2016 return.
1. Last chance on certain tax credits
The government is phasing out a handful of tax credits and focusing on larger benefits. The children's arts and fitness tax credits will be halved for the 2016 tax year, and cut completely next year, meaning families will no longer be able to defray costs for things like swimming lessons, ballet and tutoring. For post-secondary students, the education and textbook credits are being eliminated in 2017, although education amounts carried forward from previous years will still be claimable.
2. No more income splitting
Also gone is the Family Tax Cut, which lets the higher-earning spouse transfer up to $50,000 of income to the lower-earner. During the 2015 election, the Liberals promised to cut it, calling it a "tax break for the wealthy."
With the benefit gone, Gittens recommends a spousal RRSP, which allows the higher-earner to contribute to the lower-earning spouse's RRSP and claim the tax benefit. "You may have an RRSP set up, but you haven't thought about setting it up for your spouse. This is an ideal time to use that strategy," she says.
3. Changes to child benefits
The Canada Child Benefit was a signature feature of the 2016 budget, replacing the old Universal Child Care Benefit and the Canada Child Tax Benefit. It's non-taxable, so you don't have to claim it. However, in order to continue to receive the benefit, both parents must file a return, even if one doesn't generate any income, says Gittens.
Also keep in mind that the benefit started in July, so you still have to claim the taxable UCC for the first six months of the year.
4. New tax rates
New tax rates mean you may or may not be pleasantly surprised by the size of your tax bill this year. If you're in the meaty middle that earns between $45,000 and $90,000, your rate will come down to 20.5 percent from 22 percent.
"Most Canadians will be receiving more money at the end of the day than they were under the old system," says Jamie Golombek, managing director of tax and estate planning at CIBC Wealth Strategies Group.
However, high-income earners will be paying more due to a new 33 percent bracket for people earnings more than $200,000.
5. Child care expenses
Childcare costs are usually the biggest deduction available for families, says Golombek. But what many people don't realize is that it goes beyond simply daycare. If you have a nanny, you can claim that expense, but also babysitting, if it's during the day, and summer or day camp.
6. Disability tax credit and family caregiver amount
If you have family members with a disability there are certain credits that may be available to you. The Disability Tax Credit is available to people with disabilities to reduce their taxes. For children under age 18, a parent or caregiver may be able to claim the unused amount.
If you're a caregiver to a family member with physical or mental impairments, you may also be able to claim an additional $2,121, according to the Canada Revenue Agency.
7. Selling your principal residence
Selling your home has typically not been something you've had to report on your taxes, because usually Canadians don't get taxed for capital gains on their principle residence. But starting with the 2016 tax year, individuals who sold their principal residence during the year must report the sale. The government is ostensibly doing this to crack down on people who try to pass off income-generating homes as their principal residence.
8. eFile early, get your refund early
Tax deadline is April 30, but if you want to get ahead of the game, file early, before the government is inundated with last-minute returns. You can still file the old paper return, but Gittens says you'll be looking at a turnaround time of anywhere up to eight weeks, versus 10-14 days for a return filed early and electronically.
There are so many reasons to bake a cake—birthdays, family get-togethers, office potlucks—and no dinner really feels complete without a dessert or something sweet to end the meal.
Everyone is familiar with the retro
pineapple upside-down cake, topped with rings of pineapple baked in a brown sugar glaze with a moist and tender cake below. But upside-down cakes don't have to be limited to just pineapple. Apples, pears and berries all make delicious and beautiful cake toppers. Take time to carefully arrange the fruit; once flipped over, you will be rewarded with a spectacular dessert!
Upside-down cakes need to be inverted shortly after they come out of the oven or the fruit may stick. Place serving platter right side down on top of the cake. Using oven mitts, hold the sides of cake pan and platter together; carefully flip cake onto the serving platter.
Upside-Down Buttermilk Pear Cake Delicate slices of pear and a rich, gooey caramel sauce are the crowning glories of this moist and tender cake. If any of the caramel and pear topping sticks to the pan, just use the tip of a sharp knife to scrape it back onto the top of the cake.
Photography by Ryan Szulc
Raspberry Upside-Down Cake Flip over this summery cake to reveal jewel-toned raspberries, the perfect treat when fresh berries are in season. Sweet caramel enhances the juicy fruit.
Photography by Jeff Coulson
Mini Berry Bundt Cakes These cute raspberry-swirled cakes only reveal their pretty design once they are flipped over. Dusted with icing sugar, they make the perfect addition to any
Photograpy by Jodi Pudge
The Ultimate Tarte Tatin Apples, slowly caramelized in butter and sugar, sit proudly atop this classic French upside-down tart. Traditionally, this tart is baked in a heavy cast-iron pan. Clean and season your pan well to get rid of any savory flavours before baking up the
Photography by Jeff Coulson
Sticky Caramel Apple Buns These sticky caramel buns—with a hidden apple filling—will make ordinary cinnamon rolls seem boring. You wouldn't even know the dough has a bit of whole wheat flour! Don't wait too long before flipping these buns; the caramel will stick if it gets too cold.
Photography by Jeff Coulson
Caramel Topped Semolina Cake Sweet caramel surrounds this moist and dense flan-like cake. Not many cakes are made with breakfast cereal, but this one uses wheat semolina (a.k.a. farina), traditionally cooked up in milk for
Photography by Jim Norton Looking for more dessert inspiration? Check out our
Baking and Desserts page
The Sundew Hat is one of our all-time favourite easy knitting patterns for winter—a super easy pom-pom beanie that is sure to be worn again and again.
Quick to knit and extra-cozy, the Sundew Hat is the perfect cold-weather accessory. Whether you are looking to knit a thoughtful last-minute gift or your own quintessential hat, the Sundew Hat is a crowd-pleasing favourite with its classic design and soft texture. It looks great when worn slouchy, and just as cool with the brim rolled. We designed the hat in our luxurious Alpaca Wool yarn, which perfectly balances the softness of alpaca with the structure of wool. The yarn is a pleasure to knit with and the pattern is easy to follow – you will be so pleased with your results, you’ll want to make a Sundew Hat in every colour.
The Sundew Hat is a good beginner project as the thick stitches are easy to see and you will be able to wear your finished hat in no time. Because the stitches are chunky, it is easiest to follow the instructions and begin knitting the project with round needles and then switch to double pointed needles when required to complete the crown shaping. The hat is finished with an oversized pom pom. This special touch is easy to make – you can purchase a pom pom maker or create a pom pom the old-fashioned way using cardboard cutouts. Before attempting to make a pom pom, we find it helpful to watch online tutorials, which ensure that you achieve the right look on the first try. You also have the option of buying a pre-made pompom, or leaving the hat without any embellishments at all. Either way, you’ll have a beautiful hat that you’re sure to love!
- 2 Skeins of Americo Alpaca Wool (30% Superfine Alpaca / 70% Wool) 100g / 87 yards (80 m)
- 6.5 mm (US10.5) 16-inch (40 cm) circular needles and set of 6.5mm (US10.5) DPNs
- 1 stitch marker
- Yarn needle
Note about the yarn: Alpaca Wool is available through Americo Original online and in select yarn stores. You can substitute for other bulky/heavy worsted weight yarns like Americo’s Highland Simple Twist, Copito Medio, or any bulky/heavy worsted weight in your stash.
Finished size is 20-inch (50.8 cm) circumference by 11.5 inches (29 cm) long. Yarn has considerable stretch; one size will fit most head circumferences
13 stitches = 4 inches (10 cm) in stocking stitch using 6.5 mm (US 10.5) size needles or size needed to achieve gauge.
K, k: knit
P, p: purl
DPN(s): double pointed needle(s) - a needle with points at both ends; used in sets of 5
M or PM; //M//: stitch marker or place marker; denotes stitch marker dividing sections
Ribbed/rib/ribbing: a pattern stitch – has vertical columns of knit and purl stitches, side by side, with elastic properties. Examples: (K1, P1) aka 1 x 1 ribbing, (K2, P2) aka 2 x 2 ribbing etc.
St-st/stockinette /stocking stitch: a pattern stitch – in circular knitting – knit every round
k2t (slant to R): Knit 2 together (a decrease) - insert the needle into the front of the 2 knit stitches from left to right. Draw the yarn through to the front both stitches from the needle
Using 6.5 mm (US 10.5) 16” (40cm) size needles, and Alpaca Wool yarn, cast on 64 stitches, //PM//, and being careful not to twist your stitches, join in the round.
Round 1: (K1, p1), repeat to the end of the round.
Repeat this round for 4.5 inches (11.5 cm)
Change to stocking stitch (knit every round) until stocking stitch measures 4.5 inches (11.5 cm), and you have a total of 9 inches (22.8 cm) from the beginning of your work.
Shape Crown: Note: When the stitches no longer fit comfortably around the circular needle, change to double pointed needles.
Round 1: (k6, k2t), to end of round. (56 stitches)
Round 2 and all even rounds: knit to end of round.
Round 3: (k5, k2t), to end of round. (48 stitches)
Round 5: (k4, k2t), to end of round. (40 stitches)
Round 7: (k3, k2t), to end of round. (32 stitches)
Round 9: (k2, k2t), to end of round. (24 stitches)
Round 11: (k1, k2t) to end of round (16 stitches)
Break yarn leaving an 8-inch tail. With yarn needle, thread through remaining stitches, tighten to close the top of the hat and secure inside the hat.
A pom pom maker can be easily made using cardboard and scissors. Instructions are readily available online. A commercial pom-pom maker can be purchased.
Weave in all loose ends.
Americo Original is a Canadian yarn company and online knitting shop with its own line of quality yarns, knitwear patterns and accessories. Americo’s yarns are made exclusively in the Andean highlands of South America, using only natural fibres, including luxurious wool, llama, alpaca, cotton, linen, silk and cashmere. Americo and its in-house design lab are based in Toronto, offering international shipping from its online store: americo.ca/shop.
Our editors share the items they are coveting this February—and they're all under $100.
As much as we love shopping, what we love even more is a good deal. Which is why we asked our style editors to share the items that they'll be shopping for this month. The good news? Everything is under $100, which means you don't have to feel guilty about picking a few things up yourself.
As I think about spring, I always begin to think about what sneakers I’m going to pick up. Spring is sneaker season, at least if you ask me. This year, I’m going back to basics with a classic pair of Vans. Bonus—they’ve been spotted on bloggers, models and off-duty actors, so you know this style is making a comeback. At the very affordable $80 price point, this will be money well-spent seeing as how I'll be living in them for the season. - Alexandra Donaldson, contributing editor
Graphic pants are everything at the moment. Dress them down with sneakers, add heels for a more professional look, pair it with a form-fitting top to keep it sleek. They'll go with everything. - Noelle Gauthier, style intern
Uniqlo women smart style ankle length pants, $40, uniqlo.com.
Easy to apply eyeshadow
If I’m wearing makeup beyond my under-eye concealer and mascara, it needs to be efficient. Which is why I have my eye on this Nudestix eye crayon. The metallic hue will add a bit of pizzazz to my makeup look, without too much extra effort.
Nudestix Magnetic Eye Colour in Twilight, $28, sephora.com.
How come boyfriend jeans always seem amazing in theory, but never translate into the model-off-duty look when worn? These "girlfriend" jeans have a tailored fit making them far more wearable.
Animal motifs have been hot on the runway—but if you can’t afford to spring for Gucci (and really, who can?) you can pick up this panther cropped sweatshirt from Forever 21. At $25 it’s a steal—and super cute to boot.
A few years ago I never could have imagined loving the kitten heel like I do now—but these days everything is old new again. The low-heel allows me to survive in them all day, so I'm thinking they'll be sticking around for awhile.
Say what you want about the Kardashians, but they have the perfectly tousled California-girl waves I'm after. Enter this new haircare line by their trusted hairstylist, Jen Atkin. I'm eyeing this texturizing spray to recreate their manes.