Sustainable Design

Posts about sustainable design, architecture, interior design and home decor.

Green This Look: Rustic Industrial Kitchen

Welcome to the next entry in my "Green This Look" series, featuring a rustic industrial style kitchen filled with très cool and earth-friendly finishes! Welcome to the second post in my Green This Look series! For this round I chose this très cool rustic industrial style kitchen. Because design fusion is, like, so in right now. If you haven't seen my first post featuring a boho-minimalist living room, you can visit it right here.

My whole purpose with this series is to illustrate that any room, any decor style, can be achieved with finishes and features that are kinder to the earth than the traditional everything-must-be-brand-new approach. Because brand new is kinda old, am I right?

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5 of the Most Energy Efficient Refrigerators

What's an eco-conscious kitchen without an energy efficient fridge? Here are five of the most efficient Energy Star rated refrigerators out there!What's an eco-conscious kitchen without an energy efficient fridge?

My post How to Design an Eco-Friendly Kitchen gave an overview of things to think about when creating an environmentally responsible kitchen.

But the individual elements of an eco-friendly kitchen each deserve their own post because there is so much to consider.

The first area of the eco-friendly kitchen that I want to dive into is appliances.

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How to Design an Eco-Friendly Bathroom

Looking to create an eco-friendly bathroom? It's the perfect opportunity to green everything - including your tub, sink, faucet, vanity and toilet!

When it comes to creating an eco-friendly bathroom, we all know we need to reduce our water usage. But there's no reason to stop there! Companies who make traditional bathroom materials and products don't always take their environmental impact into account. Thankfully, there are a whole host of options for creating a sustainable space to wash, brush, floss and... all that other stuff.

As always, the first step is to follow the three Rs. If the bathroom is part of a new build or an addition to your home, reduce its square footage.

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Green This Look: Boho-Minimalist Living Room

Welcome to "Green This Look," where I show you how to create an eco-friendly living room and offer some bohemian decor ideas - that are great for any space! You know those "Get This Look" blog posts and pins you see where someone breaks down an interior space or an outfit and shows you how to replicate it? Well, welcome to my "Green This Look" series. Where I do the same thing, but instead of suggesting just any old decor - everything I suggest will be eco-friendly!

We begin with a bohemian inspired minimalist living room (Image Credit: Daria Shevtsova). This home decor look is really popular right now. 

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How to Design an Eco-Friendly Kitchen

From cabinets, to countertops, to appliances, to lighting - an eco-friendly kitchen is green, energy efficient - and stylish!If the kitchen truly is - as the saying goes - the heart of the home, then it's extra important that it be eco-friendly! Kitchens are one of the most overwhelming areas of a house to design or renovate, because there are so many items and materials to choose and so many options to choose from.

Even in the eco-friendly niche, after your options have been narrowed down, choosing cabinets, countertops, appliances, flooring and lighting can seem like an endless - and sometimes confusing - task.

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How to Find Land to Build Your Dream Home On + Our House in the Trees Update

A lot of people dream of one day buying land and building a home. Here are a few tips on getting the process started and finding that perfect property!Whenever we tell people about our land one of the first questions they ask is, "How many acres do you have?" Now, 40 acres may not be a lot if you come from a farming family and own a quarter section (160 acres) or more. Or if you live somewhere where land prices are less expensive. But owning 40 acres just 20 minutes outside of a major Canadian city is pretty rare.

We have a lot of friends and family members who live on acreages that are in the one to five acre range.

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The 5 Most Popular Of Houses and Trees Posts of 2018

2018 was a great year for sustainability. And green blog Of Houses and Trees has five popular posts that prove it's easy being green!

It's that time of year again! And by "that time" I mean time to take a look back at the five most visited Of Houses and Trees posts of 2018. This year was an exciting ride as I saw my post on creating and printing a design board get more visitors than nearly all my other posts combined, and watched in glee as my post on sustainable design trends enjoyed a mini explosion of activity.

Every year my little green blog gets more and more visitors, which makes me happy not just because it means my hard work is paying off.

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5 of the Most Innovative Trends in Sustainable Design

Architecture trends are constantly changing and are currently evolving toward sustainability thanks to innovative - and green focused - designers.I write a lot on Of Houses and Trees about eco-friendly interior design and decor, but those aspects are really only part of the sustainability package. Of course, what comes first is the building itself.

I touched on this topic in my post 5 of Canada's Most Sustainable Buildings, but one of the coolest things about sustainable design (other than it's planet-saving powers) is that it's constantly evolving. New technologies plus new ideas meet and mingle and suddenly an ingenious green product or practice is born.

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5 Current Home Decor Trends That Are Eco-Friendly

Home decor trends may come and go, but there's one trend that better not be going anywhere and that's eco-friendly home decor!Home trends may come and go, but there's one trend that better not be going anywhere and that's eco-friendly decor! I truly believe that this is where the design and decor world is headed anyway. Essentially, it has to. Our planet's population is growing and our resources are depleting. And I strongly believe that NOW, not tomorrow, not next year, is the time to make a change.

Of course, change can be overwhelming. Which is why the best way to do it is in small, easy to manage bits.

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How to Decorate an Eco-Friendly Kid's Bedroom

Decorating an eco friendly kids room is as easy as reducing, reusing and recycling. Think vintage finds, natural materials and using what you already have!Rooms for kids are the perfect place to go all out with eco-friendly decor. Why? Because so many parents already want their child's room to be non-toxic and tend to gravitate toward natural materials anyway. (With the exception of all that unnecessary plastic. There are other options - I promise!) Kids' rooms are also the perfect place to throw in some secondhand furniture and decor - because it means saving money! And, more importantly, it means there's no need to buy brand new - and no need for all the packaging that comes with new items.

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Where to Buy Eco-Friendly Home Decor

Now more than ever it's easy to buy eco-friendly home decor. Whether buying secondhand or sustainably sourced products - there's no reason not to buy green!Now more than ever it's easy to buy eco-friendly home decor to fill your interior spaces. From buying secondhand, to searching out sustainably sourced products, to shopping on websites entirely dedicated to earth friendly finds. There's no reason not to buy green!

Secondhand Stores

Secondhand stores are treasure troves of eco-friendly home decor. Why? Because buying something pre-loved means there's no need to contribute to the production cycle required to make new items.

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How to Buy Eco-Friendly Laminate Flooring

You may be asking: "Is laminate flooring eco-friendly?" If you know what to look for, then the answer is - yes! How did someone who once declared they would NEVER install laminate flooring find themselves in a flooring store, barefoot and walking on half a dozen laminate samples? Because laminate flooring has evolved a lot in the last few years. And truthfully, so have I.

I'll admit, my initial change of heart had to do with the cost factor. Of course I'd love to buy a sustainably sourced hardwood for Our House in Trees. But, simply put, we can't afford it. So I began to research green laminate flooring, myself wondering: "Is laminate flooring eco-friendly?" The answer? It can be!

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Can You Afford an Eco-Friendly Home? Yes!

You might be wondering what an eco-friendly house costs and if it's something you can afford. Remember - eco-friendly doesn't have to be all or nothing!Now more than ever - it's easy to be green. Companies are putting out more eco-friendly products. Businesses are turning to eco-friendly practices. Governments are bringing about change through incentive programs and new laws. However, for an individual or a family it can still feel pretty overwhelming. This becomes even more true when coupled with an already overwhelming situation like building a new home. So it's understandable the first question someone asks when considering a green build is - can I afford it?

The answer is - yes!

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How to Stage Your Home for Sale - The Eco-Friendly Way

Tips for staging your home for sale - with an eco-friendly slant. Readying your home for sale can be stressful. This handy list will simplify the process!With the build of Our House in the Trees just around the corner (yikes!), we've begun readying our current home for sale (yikes again!). Getting your home ready to sell can feel very overwhelming, but there's one thing I find that always helps in a situation like this - and that thing is a list.

So I've put together some tips on how to stage your home for sale. Even if you feel you have a pretty neat and tidy home (like I used to... before I had kids) there are still a few things you can do to make it more enticing to buyers.

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How to Create and Print a Design Board Using Pinterest

How to Print a Pinterest Board by Of Houses and Trees | A tutorial illustrating how to create an interior design board using Pinterest, along with instructions on how to print a Pinterest board.

Design boards just seem to scratch several of my itches all at once. My love for beautiful spaces, furniture, patterns and colours. My love for seeking out inspiration. My love for creating order in a world full of chaos.

Aside from helping to suppress said chaos with pictures of (eco-friendly!) console tables and fabric swatches, design boards also come in super handy when planning out the design and decor of a room. I mostly use photo editing software to create them, but not everyone has access to such a program nor the know-how and time to work with one.

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Nature Inspired Holiday Decor + Holiday Home Tour

Nature Inspired Holiday Decor by Of Houses and Trees | Nature inspired holiday decor is an eco-friendly way to create a feeling of calm beauty in your home. It's like walking through the woods on a winter day.Once again, it's only days until Christmas and I'm just now posting my holiday home tour for the year. I started out the season quite organized and had most of my decorations up at the end of November. I also had almost all of my Christmas shopping done. But then December happened and... I don't actually know what happened. Illness, appointments, work deadlines, misbehaving children all mixed in with the hoopla of the holidays created a perfect storm of insanity and now here we are. The eve of Christmas Eve already.

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How to Tape Out Your New Home's Floor Plan + Our House in the Trees Update

Laying Out a Floor Plan by Of Houses and Trees | Designing a house? What you see on paper and what you see in real life can be very different, which is why laying out a floor plan with tape is important.Something I have been looking forward to doing since I started designing Our House in the Trees was the day when we could tape out a simple floor plan and explore how it felt in full scale. After having spent hours upon hours adjusting, aligning, deleting, nudging, massaging and just plain old staring blankly at our plans, you better believe I know every nook and cranny intimately. But I also know from my time spent working at an architect's office that what you see on paper and what you see in real life can be very different, which is why laying out a floor plan - in full size - is so important.

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Outdoor Home Staging Tips + Our House in the Trees Update

Home Staging Tips by Of Houses and Trees | When it comes to selling, your outdoor spaces need to be just as beautiful as your indoor spaces. Here are a few home staging tips focusing on the yard.Whoa guys. The possibility of us building Our House in the Trees next year is actually pretty high. Like already picked out our appliances high. Not that there isn't a chance it won't work out because, hello, construction be crazy. But I am allowing myself to feel slightly excited. Not that I'll end up brokenhearted if it doesn't happen. I love our current house and staying here another year or two certainly wouldn't be the end of the world. But we have been planning to build and move to the land for six years now. We've kind of reached the "if we're going to do this, then let's do it already" point.

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Eco-Friendly Lighting and Accessories

Eco-Friendly Lighting by Of Houses and Trees | Nowadays, you can find eco-friendly lighting fixtures that are made of recycled materials, as well cool accessories like LED Edison bulbs.Lighting is one of my favourite aspects of home design and decor. Even before I had a home to decorate, I would always end up in the lighting aisle every time I went to a big box store. Like a bug to a flame - or to a wrought-iron chandelier, the lights just called to me.

I've also always been really sensitive to lighting levels and associate certain lights with certain tasks only. I'm constantly going around the house at night turning specific lights on and off depending on what I'm doing and how I'm feeling.

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Eco-Friendly Building Material Magnesium Oxide Board

Eco Friendly Drywall Alternative by Of Houses and Trees | Magnesium oxide board is an eco-friendly drywall alternative made with naturally-occurring materials using an environmentally friendly process.Aside from Of Houses and Trees, I also write content for a few other architecturally-minded blogs. One subject I've written quite a bit about lately is the building material magnesium oxide board (MgO board). If you've never heard of it, it's essentially an eco-friendly drywall alternative. And, of course, as soon as I see the phrase "eco-friendly alternative" I get all giddy and start geeking out. It looks like we're going to build our Our House in the Trees next spring. (Fingers crossed!) And I absolutely want to use as many green materials as possible.

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5 of Canada's Most Sustainable Buildings

Sustainable Building by Of Houses and Trees | To mark Canada's 150th birthday, here's a list of five green buildings - because our growing sustainable building industry is worth celebrating too.Happy 150th birthday Canada! To celebrate my country's milestone, I've put together a list of a few of its most eco-friendly buildings. As far as green countries go, Canada certainly isn't at the top of the list.

But with our government's shifting priorities and increased public awareness about the impact of unsustainable choices, architects are now designing buildings with the environment in mind. Interestingly, the current trend in sustainable building isn't designing structures filled with fancy green technology. 

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3 Small Home Library Ideas

Small Home Library by Of Houses and Trees | Do you dream of a massive, multi-storied library? Me too! Do you have nowhere near the space? Me too. So try one of these small home library ideas instead.

Do you dream of a massive, multi-storied, spectacular Beauty and the Beast style library? Me too! Do you have nowhere near the space nor the books (not to mention the funds) to create one? Me too.

No surprise being a writer and a bibliophile that I think about books a lot. I especially like to dream of the library I've included in my design for Our House in the Trees. It will be a teeny bit more modest than the Belle's library. But at least it will have one wall of floor to ceiling built-ins with a sliding ladder. 

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Eco-Friendly Outdoor Decor

Eco-Friendly Outdoor Decor by Of Houses and Trees | The most important place in your home to be eco-friendly isn't even in your home. It's outside! Here are nine green outdoor decor items to make earth smile.

Ah... spring. Time to throw open the doors, get out the patio furniture and bask in the loveliness of blooming flowers and happily chirping birds. Or, if you live where I do, continue to hide indoors as it snows day after day after day. Which pretty accurately describes the month of April here.

Now it's May and the snow might be gone again - you'd think we'd be safe. But, in Alberta, we're never really safe. From tsunamis? Yes. Spring snow storms? Hell no.

C'est la vie. Let's get outside when we can.

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Your Top 5 Favourite Posts

Favourite Blog Posts by Of Houses and Trees | Happy anniversary to me and Of Houses and Trees! Here are the top five favourite blog posts that received the most visits since March 31, 2016.

Happy anniversary to me! Well, to me and Of Houses and Trees that is. It's been one year today since I redesigned and relaunched my little blog at and boy have I learned a lot in those 365 days. (I also had a second child within that timeframe, which is sort of a big deal.) Technically Of Houses and Trees (nickname - OHaT) will be five years old on October 19 of this year because that's when I officially started posting on my Blogger site.

Back then, I secretly hoped people would simply stumble upon it.

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What's Your Home Decor Style

What's Your Home Decor Style by Of Houses and Trees | Is your home decor style Coastal or Contemporary? Scandinavian or Shabby Chic? Art Deco, Industrial, Mid-Century Modern, Traditional?

Are you Coastal or Contemporary? Scandinavian or Shabby Chic? Art Deco, Industrial, Mid-Century Modern, Traditional? Or, maybe, you have no clue. Don't feel bad, neither did I... until recently.

Here's my secret. Two years studying interior design and architecture and five years working in an architect's office and yet my knowledge of design terminology was pretty limited. My school didn't offer a "Decor Style 101" class and due to the nature of most of the buildings I worked on at the architect's office, any design boards I made up were strictly Commercial Not-So-Chic. I got the jist of most of the terms, but to confidently use them in a sentence to describe either my own or someone else's home decor style? Not so much.

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2017 Resolution: Do Less


2017 Resolution: Do Less | www.ofhousesandtrees.comHi. My name is Larissa and I am a chronic over-doer. Aren't most of us though? The thing is - doing stuff makes me happy. I like cooking and cleaning. I like taking my kids to the park. I like going to yoga and dance class. I like hanging out on the couch talking to Devin for hours because we're too tired to go to bed. I like working. I like running errands and going to appointments and grocery shopping and visiting with friends and family and gardening and organizing my basement and doing crafts and working out and - of course - blogging. But the older I get (and the more kids I have... man those little buggers are time consuming) the more I've begun to realize I can't do it all. Gulp. There's that word. Can't...

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Happy Holidays 2016

December 23, 2016

Happy Holidays 2016 |

Instead of a Holiday Home Tour this year I present to you a photo of my family, because every once and awhile I like to break my own rule and post a picture of my kids online... which kind of creeps me out, but for you? I'll do it. (Actually, I do it because they are just so damn precious I'll explode if I don't share their beautiful faces approximately once a year.) PS - This photo was taken out on our land!

I have about five posts partially composed that I've been meaning to finish up and just haven't gotten around to, but I'm going to be frank here - 2016 has been kind of rough on me. An amazing year that brought many moments of pure joy, but also brought some really low moments that I won't get into because those of you who know me best are already aware. Besides - it's Christmas!

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5 Pinterest Projects I Actually Plan on Doing


5 Pinterest Projects I Actually Plan On DoingWe all do it... well, those of us who use Pinterest at least. I'm talking about pinning projects we know we will never actually attempt. You know what I'm talking about. An entire wall covered in paint sample chips. A legless chair hung and used as a plant shelf. Sometimes we just pin things we think are cool or beautiful. But other times, we (and by we I mean me, but also maybe you) pin things that we absolutely plan on re-creating. This post is about those things. Here are five projects for the home that inspire me to create/re-create: a book chandelier, a farmhouse table, a painted clawfoot tub, an entrance bench and a built-in reading nook. And the best thing about re-creating a project, in my opinion, is that you can stay true to the original or completely diverge from it. It's all about putting your own unique spin on the things that inspire you.

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Much Ado About Edison Lightbulbs


Much Ado About Edison Lightbulbs
(Image Credit: Pexels)

I recently wrote an article for the local newspaper about the various types of lightbulbs (CFL, halogen, incandescent, LED, etc.) and I think I may have stumbled upon a dark side to this light topic (see what I did just there... that's the old honours degree hard at work, friends).

You know those antique-y looking lightbulbs that are kind of a thing right now? These vintage reproductions are sometimes called Edison bulbs after electric bulb "inventor" Thomas Edison (I use the scare quotes because apparently there were 22 other inventors prior to Edison, his incandescent lamp was just the most effective).

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Holiday Home Tour 2015

Holiday Home Tour 2015

Several of the blogs I read do a "Holiday Home Tour" every year where they basically take pictures of their Christmas decorations and then talk a little about the things they do to make their house feel all cozy and shit.

This practice may sound a bit self indulgent to some, but I actually quite enjoy it. It's nice being invited into someone's home to learn a little about the things they do and traditions they have that make their little corner of the world festive – even if I was only invited in a virtual sense.

I am by no means a nosy person – except for when it comes to seeing what the inside of people's homes look like.

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The Architecture of American Houses

August 26, 2015

The Architecture of American Houses
(Image Credit: Public Domain Pictures)

And now for an Of Houses and Trees first… a short post! Think it can't be done? Well, I'll show you. I'll show you all…

I came across the below poster awhile back and knew I had to share it here in honour of my "The Houses in Which We Live" series. I'm not really a poster person (anymore, I should say, because lord knows many a 90s heartthrob once lined the walls of my forest green bedroom), but if I still were I would order this one up pronto as it combines several things that I love: architecture, history and tiny versions of things. It also reminds me of The Cat's Meow Village, which are these little handmade wooden collectibles featuring everything from period homes to monuments to signposts (I'm looking at the one of a Golden Gate Bridge sign sitting on my desk as I type this).

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The Town with the Painted Past

April 1, 2015

The Town with the Painted Past
(Image Credit: The Town of Stony Plain)

Here I go again. My second attempt at this post, which was sadly lost during a Tiny House Nation marathon. In my last entry I put up a few images of our recent family trip to Maui and, I don't know about everyone else, but nothing makes me appreciate home more than when I'm away from it. Don't get me wrong, Hawaii was beautiful. Stunning. It makes our half-melted snow and sand-covered roads look, well, like half-melted snow and sand-covered roads. But I was probably more excited to come home than I was to leave. That may have had something to do with the very squawky 18 month old we had in tow. My daughter is a lot of things – smart, fun, sweet, adorable. But adaptable? Not so much.

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Apartment Living in the Country + Our House in the Trees Update

Garage Apartment by Of Houses and Trees | A garage apartment, aka carriage house, can be used as a primary residence, guest suite or rental property. Versatile! Which is why we're building one.

I realized I haven't posted an update on one of the main focuses of this blog, which is my own adventures in designing a brand new home, in a very long time… I actually don't think I've ever posted an update on the subject, if I'm being honest. And, if you know me, you know I'm always honest. So update on!

When it comes to the type of house we'd like to build on what we've affectionately dubbed "The Land" (40 acres of rolling hills and trees just north of Stony Plain, Alberta), we've gone back and forth. And in all other possible directions.

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How To Incorporate Tiny House Living Into Any Home

How to Incorporate Tiny House Living Into Any Home by Of Houses and Trees | A tiny home may not be in your future, but what about a tinier, simpler life? Here are a few things we can all learn from the tiny house living movement.

I've been infatuated with tiny house living since the moment I heard about it. Not surprising since I've always had a love-on for the little. There was the plastic toy toilet I used to hide from my sister as a child (I didn't want to share). And the miniature potbelly pig I desperately wanted for a pet as a teenager. I've been cultivating my weird obsession with tiny versions of full-sized things my whole life. And now, here is a movement that not only bolsters one of my many eccentricities – it also validates it. Because tiny houses aren't just adorable, they could save the planet too.

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Cruelty-Free Duvet Options

Vegan Bedding by Of Houses and Trees | What goes into collecting the down or silk used for duvet fill? The story isn't pretty, but thankfully vegan bedding is a readily available option.

Back when I was redesigning our master bedroom, I had a hard time answering a kind of silly question. Do I want a duvet? Now, is it important whether we fall asleep beneath a duvet, a quilt, a comforter, or a pile of dirty clothing? No. Of course not. What's important is that we fall asleep in a warm home in a safe neighbourhood where our biggest problem is what type of bedding to buy. I know this. However, there is a dark side to everything – even blankets. Impossible, you say?

I wish it were true.

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Of House and Trees Blogger Archive

Featured Image (bloggerarchive-Wikimedia-freetoUSM)If you're looking for my older posts (or just trying to navigate away from this site and over to Pinterest... you know, where the real magic happens) they are currently still hanging out on my old Blogger site. After much trial and error, it turns out the best way to import my previous posts to my new site is to do so manually. As in reconstructing them one at a time. Good thing I wasn't a very prolific poster in those days as it is time consuming work! So the old posts will be gradually moseying their way over to their new home on the new and improved Of Houses and Trees site, but in the meantime try and drop by to say hello – even blog posts get lonely in their old age.

And while you're there don't forget to comment as your lovely and thoughtful words will be imported with each post...

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