22 December 2008

My Challenge - Conclusion

I made it through the entire week of my challenge. Actually, let me amend that - I made it through the entire week of my challenge, less Saturday night dinner.
I was rather surpirsed by the outcome. I had expected to run low on food, completely depleting my supply of fresh fruit and vegetables, and resorting to dry, unappetizing menu options. As it turns out, I actually still have food from my original shopping cart left. I did not touch the cous-cous, chickpeas, green beans or falafel mix. The pork chops are still in my freezer. My crisper still houses half a bag of carrots and a significant number of apples. I still have left-over eggs, bread, raisins, sunflower seeds, oatmeal, and pasta. Shockingly, I even have a small cube of cheese left. I think the groceries that I bought for just over $40 could have fed me for ten days at least. What I did eat more or less met the Canadian nutrition guidelines.

There are nutritious and appetizing options out there for the budget conscious. Lessons learned:

*One pot meals, such as chili which is healthy, yummy, and easy to make, can easily be stretched by serving it with healthful brown rice.

*Cheaper meats are extremely versatile. Two large turkey drumsticks, simmered in the crockpot to make the meat tender (and to provide a week's worth of stock) provided many warming bowls of soup and the base for a delicious stirfry. The soup was fortified by the addition of grated carrots and brown rice.

*Proteins such as beans/legumes and eggs are a wonderful low-cost substitute for meats. They also are an eco-minded alternative to livestock production.

*Organization is key. Plan your menu, buy only what is needed, and cook in advance if possible. Using your stove for the bulk of your cooking only once a week also helps to reduce costly energy bills.

*The cost of one Starbucks tall latte, can feed one person for an entire day!

I know that over the holidays I am likely to be plied with cookies, chocolates, meats, cheeses, and all manner of delectable dishes. My goal for the New Year though is to try to continue this lifestyle as a general rule of thumb. I have a tendency to be self-indulgent and the continual New Year's Resolution to lose weight or be healthier is meaningless, and typically tattered and broken by February. It is easier to make a lifestyle adjustment toward less seld-indulgence when you hear the repeated news of lay-offs, record unemployment, foreclosures, etc.

My early best wishes for a year of stability and recovery in 2009.

Turkey stirfry, with green pepper, onion, carrots and bean sprouts. Cooked in turkey stock and soy sauce, and served over brown rice.

Sweet treat to cure a dessert craving. Apples sauteed with brown sugar and a little water to make a caramel sauce; raisins and sunflower seeds tossed in for good measure.

16 December 2008

Christmas Memories

Our family traditions were pretty simple.

The tree, always a Scotch pine, would go up about week or so before Christmas, decorated year after year with the same glass ornaments; the styrofoam balls pinned with rikrak and sequins that my Mom made; upturned pillbottles filled with a little cotton and a small figure created by my Nana; plus the new ones that we toted home year after year from school.

In grade six we had to sew a stuffed ornament. I made a snowman... called Snowy. Snowy was very lopsided on the bottom and had too little stuffing. I didn't realise you were supposed to stitch and then turn things inside out so that the stitches were hidden. He was lined with horribly crooked, uneven stitches. He was hideously ugly, but Mom put him on the tree every year anyway, and my siblings all laughed at him. It was a mercy for poor Snowy the year a mouse found that box of ornaments and ate him.

The star would always go on last, and always by my Mom.

Along the railing was hung a fluffy gold garland, and from the centre hung an elf dressed in retro gold lame, sitting hugging his knees. There were two reindeer candles, one had his neck snapped cleaned, yet the head remained loosely attached by his cotton wick spine. On each of the front windowsills sat a set of tiny plastic reindeer drawing a tiny Santa's sleigh. One set of reindeer were sans antlers, having been chewed off early in life by my brother when he was a baby.

Once the decorations were in place, the presents needed to be wrapped in gloriously gaudy papers. We took turns going into Mom's bedroom and each wrapping a gift with her, the final touch being peeling off the paper to reveal the underside of a pointy ribbon bow. Once the presents were under the tree, we would have to re-arrange them over and over again everyday until Christmas. The dog would chase the cat up the tree.

We would go to Christmas Eve Mass, and listen to the NATO/Interpol Santa tracking on CFRB radio, before we went to bed. Cookies and milk were left out for Santa, and carrots for the reindeer. Most years, my uncle would come to stay with us. He would sleep in my sister's room so we bunked together on Christmas Eve, and the excited whispers carried on long into the night, despite the repeated threats that Santa would not come until we were asleep.

We always woke up super-early, of course. We could open our stockings right away. Always, there was one of the gigantic oranges and the matching Red Delicious Apple, and a handful of nuts, a candy cane and some miniature toys.

Next would come the big presents, those left by Santa, and carefully selected from our early December letters to Santa. And of course, there was our childhood delight at watching our parents open the gifts that we had chosen for them, decisions which were laboured over, sometimes for minutes. There have been an odd assortment of gifts over the years. Typically Dad was easier, Old Spice, a wallet, a tie. But Mom was harder. We wanted to be sure it would be pretty, yet useful, and something that would surely make her smile... like the frozen meat saw that I bought her one year.

After the unwrapping was a gigantic Christmas breakfast. The rest of the day was spent playing with the new toys, and snacking on Christmas cookies ... shortbread, gingerbread, fruit cake, mincemeat tarts, Nana cookies (not sure what those were actually, other than something that far-far Nana, the one in PEI, used to make at Christmas). And then came dinner. This was always a full-on turkey feast, with stuffing and cranberries. Dessert was a Bouche de Noel or Yule Log.

Boxing Day meant a trip to visit with city-Nana, the non-PEI Nana's house. Again, there would be loads of wonderful baked treats. Each year, Nana would give us each a deck of cards, and usually a sweater. Often times, the three girls would each get the same sweater, each in a different size. In a family fond of hand-me downs, my younger sister could easily wear the same sweater style for 5 years. My older sister was lucky, once she outgrew it, she never had to wear it again.

As we count down to the big day, I wish everyone a wonderful Christmas. I hope you create many happy memories this year.
Please feel free to share your memories here, too.

14 December 2008

My Challenge - Part 2.

I'm a person who prefers to do things on a whim. I don't typically plan my excursions to the grocery store, list in hand. I usually head out when there is little in my kitchen to inspire me, and then head to the store seeking out that inspiration. Having to make a list, and buy only those items, do some preliminary meal planning, etc, is in itself a bit of a challenge for me. I needed to be organized if my experiment was going to be a challenge. Added to that, the fact that my part-time, out-of-the-house job has me working extra hours and odd times over the holiday season, and the fact that I am scattter-brained on the best of days and often forget to tote along my lunch, meaning a quick dash out for a bite to eat, at extra expense. No extra dollars for that sort of carlessness this week.

To keep myself on track, I took a few hours and pre-cooked meals so that I would have meals ready when I needed them. As I suspected, carrots were invaluable additions to most dishes. I tossed my turket drums into my crockpot and added LOTS of water, a bit of carrot and a couple slices of my precious onion, so that I would have an abundance of extra stock for making soup and adding flavour to my cooking through the week.
I browned my ground beef, used 2/3 of the can of red beans, 1/3 can of the diced tomatoes and 3/4 of the can of tomato sauce for chili. It was heavily plumped up with grated carrots.

Using the rest of the canned tomatoes and tomato sauce, I sauteed my full block of spinach (forgetting that I had planned to reserve half for addition to a quiche), mixed in 2 more heaping handfuls of carrots, and simmered the mixture until a half box of whole wheat pasta was cooked. I tossed it all together in a casserole dish, sprinkled it all with a small block of my mozzarella, and baked it. The top noodles ended up a little dry, so I will have to brainstorm a remedy for that.

I have a bowl of grated carrots sitting in my fridge that will be tossed into soup, added to stirfry, and mixed into a carrot salad using the raisins and sunflower seeds.

As far as organization goes, I am not off to a bad start.

In the centre, are the grated carrots. Thank goodness for a Cuisinart; being spoiled I did the quick method rather than hand-grating. On the right is the carrot, spinach and tomato mixture for the pasta. On the left is my pot of chili, heavily mixed with carrots.

My Challenge

Last week as I got ready to make my weekly trip to the grocery store, I decided to see if it was actually possible to maintain a healthy diet on a fixed income. I set myself an initial budget of $20, and sat down with pen and paper to make up a weekly menu and corresponding shopping list. The menu would need to include large one pot meals that would produce many leftovers, or one meal that could be re-fashioned several times over. It would also need to rely on the healthiest ingedieants that my meagre funds could supply. As I scratched items off my list to make less expensive substitutions, I realised it was a near impossibility to subsist, healthfully, on that $20. I revised my plan, confident that I could be successful on $30.

I made the trip to my regular grocery store. I started loading my cart in the vegetable aisle. Bulk bags of carrots ($1.99) and apples ($2.99) were the first in, as they were inexpensive, packed with vitamins and nutrients, and in the case of the carrots at least, multi-purpose. I scoured the produce section for other inexpensive options. Green peppers were on sale, so I tossed one in. I added an onion. Grapefruit, in season, were 2 for $1.49 and large as they were would cover four breakfasts. Green beans, a relatively inexpensive vegetable, were tossed into a bag, and then half of the quantity were pulled back out, worried that they would end up costing too much. This did not seem like an overwhelming amount of fresh food, so I wracked my brain for other inexpensive vegetable options. Salads of any type were out of the question, with both lettuce and tomatoes being too expensive. I recalled my university day saviour... the lowly bean sprout. Handfuls of beansprouts can bulk up a quick stirfry meal for literally pennies. Well, in those days it was pennies; currently a decent sized package costs $1.59. In the freezer section, I added a block of frozen spinach.

Next stop was the meat aisle. I grabbed a loaf of multi-grain bread on the way, adding $1.99 to my current tally. In the meat aisle, I added a full chocken, reasoning that I would be able to toss in the crock pot, have a nice chicken and vegetable meal on night and then use the rest for soup and sandwiches a few more times through the week. The cheapest chicken that I could find was $10. Right there, that was 1/3 of my total budget. I left it in the cart, but continued to fret about it. I added a small package of ground beef for $3.88, and then a package of very thinly sliced pork chops. Cooked alone, and again cut into strips for a stir fry, I should be able to stretch those to two meals. They were a good buy at just $2.91 for 7 chops.

I added a carton of milk to make sure I got some dairy (though in truth I hate milk and it will likely be used simply in coffee and perhaps in a quiche), and a carton of 12 eggs for aforementioned quiche, and for protein on days when I have no meat. I added a small block of cheese. Cheese is my fatal weakness, my kryptonite. I can never pass the cheese aisle. This was my worst splurge, although I laboured over the decision for a full five minutes or more and finally settled, dejectedly, on a small store-brand brick of mozzarella. It was the least expensive cheese there, plus, the one that would be multi-use for pasta, eggs, to top chili, or to simply snack on. If I had to do it again, I would have just avoided the cheese aisle completely.

I moved into the heart of the grocery store. I added to my cart an inexpensive box of whole wheat pasta, luckily on sale that week. In the canned foods aisle I added tomatoes, an inexpensive plain spagetti sauce, chick peas and red kidney beans; inespneisve sources of vitamins and proteins that could be added to various recipes, as well as being the basis for a great big hearty pot of chili that I would be eating often through the week.

I left the canned foods aisle and found myself face to face with a meat freezer, where somewhat poorly packaged and looking sad were gigantic turkey drumsticks - 2 drumsticks for $4.44. I looked into the cart at the $10 chicken. I added the drums to the cart and wheeled back around to replace the chicken. It was simply too much money.

I went to the checkout and watched the figures add up. They added up quicker and higher than I anticipated. Despite a very thoughtful and laboured tour through the grocery aisles, I had well surpassed the $30 budget. I finished at $39.13. I still had a trip to the bulk food store to make. I would have to be very careful there, as it was going to be impossible to stay below $40, I didn't want to break $50.

It was a quick run through the bulk store to avoid the lure of the candy, dried fruits, and other beckoning bins. I picked up few simple, but very useful items. Oatmeal, for hearty, sustaining, hot breakfasts; brown rice to provide healthy carbohydrates to meals, rounding out chilis, stirfries, soups, and if I can stretch it, for use in a rice salad; couscous to mix with beans, and carrots for a simple meal; raisins (which probably should have been skipped as they cost more than anticipated though I chose the most inexpensive option available)to be used to add a little excitement to salads, and as a snack; Sunflower seeds, for the same purpose as the raisins with a little protein punch; and finally falafel mix, an afterthought, but a good alternative to a meaty meal, and a very inexpensive option, costing less than a dollar for a healthy-sized scoop. The total at this store was $5.40.

The total that I spent on my total grocery trip was $44.58. I hope that at the end of the week there will be some food left over. Maybe enough even to stretch my purchases to almost ten days. If I can do that, then I will have spent less than $5 per day. The caveat, for this experiment, I am assuming that staple items are already in place such as flour, sugar, salt, a modest spice rack and cooking oil.

Looking back at the receipts and the purchases that I made, there are changes that I could have made that would have helped stretch those dollars a little further. I should have left the grapefruit and instead bought another three green peppers. I could have bought dried beans for half the cost of canned, which would not have resulted in a huge savings, but when on a budget, every penny counts. I would have left even the turkey drums behind and instead added two cans of tuna and more beans. Proteins are expensive and finding inexpensive alternatives is a challenge if you have any carnivourous tendencies whatsoever.

Hints and reminders:
Buying at bulk food stores is an excellent way to shop as you can control the portion purchased, and you save on expensive packaging.
Store brands are much cheaper and of similar quality when it comes to staple products such as canned foods.
It is more difficult to shop for one as you can not take advantage of bulk or family sizes of meat. If you have the outlay of cash to buy them, split the trays into individual portions and then stash them in the freezer to be eaten throughout the month. This is a great way to reduce costs.
Bringing your own bag saves you a penny per each bag used. Not significant, but as they say, a penny saved is a penny earned. Plus, it does a favour to the environment.

8 December 2008


There is a photo by a French photographer (his name eludes me at this time), taken in Paris, 1944. It is a photo of a thin Santa in a ragged red suit passing out leeks to the children gathered around. There is a heartwarming shine on the faces of the children as they reach out and grab the leeks. There are no toys in that sac for them to collect, no games, dolls, or whistles. Certainly no over-hyped Cabbage Patch Kids, dancing Elmos or Playstations. These children have been given a far greater gift, something that they can rush home and present to their mother and share with their families.... fresh food. Imagine seeing the leaf green tops and plump bulb of a leek after enduring months of food shortages and rations. What a delight. What a happy Christmas that must have been for those fortunate families.

It is easy at this time of year to get caught up in the commercialism of the season, inundated as we are with newspaper inserts proclaiming this or that as the next big, must have toy. Slick television ads showing us decadent little cakes, glossy skinned cooked turkeys, and delicious assortments of mini-foods easily ignored the rest of the year, now tempting us over to the side of gluttony. Rarely though do we stop to remember that there are many, many children who will go without that must-have toy, or any toy, and instead wonder why Santa forgot about them. Countless others will go without juicy turkey legs, candy canes, and shortbreads, they will just go hungry.

In this time of economic uncertainty, when the entire world teeters on the brink of deep recessions, as companies fold, and unemployment lines lengthen, and everyone wonders, what if it is me next, this is the perfect opportunity to practice going with a little less, and sharing a little more.

This is not something I usually discuss, but I am opening my vault here to illustrate a point. My dad died a few months before my 9th Christmas. That Christmas, a hamper arrived at our door, brought by friends and neighbours. It contained Christmas toys for myself and my three siblings, and a small something for my Mom. It also contained all the foods needed for a proper Christmas feast. The people bearing these gifts didn't do this because we suddenly found ourselves without, they did it because in a small community, that is what people do. People look out for one another. Not because they are looking for anything in return, but because that is what it is to be a neighbour, a friend, to be human.

There was nothing that could be done that year to lessen the pain of losing a father, or a husband, but this act of kindness did mean a great deal to us - even if it meant just reducing the stress on my mother of having to go out and do these tasks herself, while grieving and keeping it together for her four kids. Having these unexpected gifts and treats did bring a smile to our young faces, and a warm feeling knowing that there were people who cared, and who were thinking about us as we dealt with a tragedy too great for our ages.

I remember this kindness every year, and I pay back by donating toys, food and healthcare products to local drives. If you find that your wallet is emptier than normal this year, remember that many of these organizations are just as happy to have you donate in time.

If you eschew the concept of charitable giving, believing that people get what they deserve, think again. Most people aren't looking for free handouts, and most aren't too lazy work. Sometimes people just need a little help, for any number of reasons. And now, especially, we all need to remember that next Christmas season, it could be any one of us finding ourselves down on our luck.

Food Banks Canada

6 December 2008

A Few of my Favorite Things

Christmas is around the corner so of course I have been humming tunes from the Sound of Music. With the song "My Favorite Things" haunting me, I exorcised the demon by putting together this lovely little collection of etsy items, all featuring kraft paper and string. Guess what? The treasury collection made it to the Etsy front page this morning.

4 December 2008

Last Chance

Last chance to enter Tiny Fig's blog giveaway to win a free pair of String Me Along hairsticks.

Click the picture below for details:

28 November 2008

Kick off the Holiday Shopping Sprees...

...with free shipping. With only 26 more sleeps and lured by the tradition of American Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, I am offering free shipping - WORLDWIDE - in my Etsy shop.
In effect from now until midnight (EST) Monday, Dec 1.

Until Sunday night, all purchases are also entered into the draw for the free bracelet.

25 November 2008

The World is Aglow

Last night I looked out the window just in time to see a winter fog begin its creep across the sky. It was wonderful to see. It was this morning however, that the true beauty became apparent.

24 November 2008

A Hint of Spring on a Snowy Day

Sweet little birdies, keeping watch over a nested egg.

23 November 2008

Where is Mr Tumnus With That Hot Drink?

Late this morning I drove just to the edge of Moncton and stepped into the hushed woods of the Irishtown Nature Park. If you read regularly, you may remember that this was the park where earlier in the year I stepped on a snake. I still shudder at the thought, but decided that by this time of year this snake was likely hibernating (or dead) and not likely to notice my return.

The sun was weak, the wind brisk, and the snow high. Despite these perhaps less than ideal conditions, the surrounding forest was idyllic. Only for the lack of a lone lampstandard, an overly sensitive faun, and a couple of wise-cracking beavers, I would have sworn I had stepped into Narnia.

As fantastical as this scene was, it was not until after I left the park, that I spotted this unusual quartet of creatures.

I am not really sure what Barney in a chapeau of snow, is doing chumming about with a group of snowmen.

21 November 2008

A Rant

I am pretty tired of out-sourced call centres calling me to tell me that *insert credit card, bank, phone or cable company, etc* is excited to offer me an exciting new product or service. Honestly, if they were that excited, they would call and tell me themselves!

I don't ask a stranger to call my Mom when I am excited about wishing her a Happy Birthday. Nor will I pass the message on via my neighbour that I am pissed that having to type this rant, meant that I just burnt the crap out of my lunch!

20 November 2008

First Snow - 2008

The first snow of 2008. These photos were taken at the Chartersville Marsh, Dieppe, NB.

There is always a late bloomer in the bunch. Here, this wild flower/weed just kept on shining yellow despite the cold temperatures and the layer of snow that had fallen around it.

19 November 2008

And So..... It Begins.

As I sit and type this the world outside my window has fallen into a hush, and slowly all becomes shrouded in a blanket of white. The snow arrived today and with it begins my first Maritime winter.

I was certain that I was prepared for this moment. I bought a warm toque at a summer craft fair, mittens and scarves and winter jackets have been unpacked and cleaned, hung, ready to wear at a moment's notice. I had my snow tires and witner rims installed three weeks ago, just in time for the full-blown sunshine and balmy temperatures of Indian summer. I was ready, I was certain of it. Then the inevitable happened.

Yesteday was a frigid morning and a layer of frost coated my car. I would need the ice-scraper. Where was it? Somehow in all my packing and unpacking this past year, the scraper had gone missing. D'oh... rookie mistake. No matter, nothing that a few swipes with a trusted video store card couldn't fix. I wasn't however, going to make the same mistake again, and I would be prepared for the next incident. Well, that next incident came today. The snow came. I had forgotten in my haste yesterday to stop and pick up a new scraper/snow brush, so today I had to resort to using a hefty piece of junk mail that I had conveniently picked out of my mailbox moments before. Because the wind was steadily blowing the snow in one direction I had only to clean off two side windows. The passenger side, front and rear had all miraculously remained clear. I stopped to get a snowbrush before continuing in to work. I didn't want to look like the silly person from Toronto, who thinks that Maritime snow can be whisked away from one's car with just a quick call to the Army to come marching in to clean it on your behalf.

The snow fell all day, and heavy enough so that as I was at work I was confronted with this shortened version of Twenty Questions.

"Can I ask you a question?"
"Do you have a car?"
"Do you have a snowbrush?"
"Yes", this time thinking, "Oh great, here come the jokes!."
"Can I borrow it after work?"

Oh it was fantastic!!! I loaned out my brush to anyone who asked. And for those who didn't. "Need a snowbrush? No? Cuz I got one!" I took a certain satisfaction in watching people in the parking lot shoving snow off their car using their arms. There weren't going to be any jokes flying around this evening about people from Toronto and their fear of snow. But it is wrong to gloat, and in the end karma will get you. Pride goeth before a fall. As I took my snowbrush back from the last person to borrow it, my right shoe found a patch of ice and suddenly there I was laying in a pile of chilly slush. So for all my pre-winter preparations, I still ended up cold, and wet, and miserable.

As I sit here dry and warm in flannel pajamas, I can admit that the blanket of white is very pretty and admire it from a distance. Maybe tomorrow I will venture out again to get some photos.

17 November 2008

Booby Earrings for Breast Cancer Research

I didn't intentionally set out to make a pair of earrings that look like boobies. In fact, hanging as earrings normally would, there is no resemblance to boobies at all. when I shot the photo for the etsy listing however, sure enough, the booby image presented itself. But enough about that.

I made a pair of these earrings as a way to help fellow etsy seller loopy4ewe raise money for next year's Weekend to End Breast Cancer in Ottawa. The money raised from the sale will be donated to the cause on her behalf. On sale now in my etsy shop.

15 November 2008

39 Sleeps

Only 39 more sleeps? Can this be true? I shook my calendar to see if it was broken and I came up with the same result.

Only 39 more sleeps until Christmas. That means only 38 more shopping days. I'm not really worried. Since I spend at least some of everyday on etsy, I have managed to complete the bulk of my Christmas shopping already, and I haven't even stepped foot inside the mall. Actually I have not even really needed to leave my couch.

At this time of year though, I actually do enjoy going out to the streets and the malls and taking in the essence of the season: the glow of the Christmas lights, the trumpets and trombones of the Salvation Army band, the hustle and bustle of shoppers rushing to and fro laden with parcels and packages. It is easier to enjoy the season when you aren't the one rushing about, hauling parcels. I can sit in a warm cafe window, wrap my chilly hands around a steaming mug of gingerbread latte, and just take it in.

I know that it is too early to be waxing poetic about the joys of Christmas but I was hit hard this morning with the first pang of holiday excitement. Carols were playing in the shops; gingerbread and fruit cakes lined market stalls as other vendors warned of ordering your turkey or goose soon; the city hall creche and Christmas trees sprang up overnight. All this early excitement does lead to the danger of peaking too soon. Come Decemebr 1st I may have turned into a scrooge, but for today I will revel in it.

I still do have some Christmas presents to buy, so maybe I should click on over to etsy to see what I can find. Come check out my etsy shop if you are in need of some pretty baubles either for gifts or for your own personal adornment. And remember, any purchases made before November 30th qualify for a chance to win a fantastic bracelet.. my gift to you!

14 November 2008

Another Exciting Give-Away

I am now hosting another exciting giveaway in my etsy shop.

Everyone who purchases an item from my shop between November 13 and November 30 will have the opportunity to win this bracelet:

All purchases will be entered into a draw, and the winner will be drawn December 1. Multiple purchases = multiple entries.

11 November 2008

Around the World Fun

As part of the TransCanada Etsy team, I will be taking part in this fantastic global trunk show. Our team will be presenting at 11pm Atlantic/10 pm Eastern Standard time on Thursday, November 13.

The team has organized some fun trivia based give-aways, and many sellers will be offering fabulous trunk show specials. I'll be doing both, and at the same time unveiling a special new promotion.

Be sure to check it out. Remember, Christmas is fast approaching!

10 November 2008


There is something that has been troubling me lately. When we moved to New Brunswick a few months ago, we settled in Dieppe. As I called utility companies, financial institutions, etc to update my address, I would name the city, and then spell it out for the customer service agent. Ninety percent of the time, the agent would then read the address back to me and pronounce Dieppe, as "Dippy".

Most Canadians SHOULD be familiar with the name of Dieppe, maybe not as the name of a Canadian city, but as a name with historical significance in Canadian history. For those who don't know the small town of Dieppe, France was the setting for a major yet, largely unsuccessful Allied raid on German troops in 1942. The purpose of the raid on Dieppe was to give the Allies a chance to test techniques and equipment for landing troops from the sea. The Battle of Dieppe was, unequivocally, a disaster for the Canadian troops, resulting in over one thousand Canadian deaths. Another two thousand Canadians were wounded and/or taken prisoner. Two years later in 1944, however, the lessons learned from this debacle would lead to major Allied victories on D-Day, ultimately turning the tide toward complete Allied victory in 1945.

The fact that the raid was at the time unsuccessful is not the point here. The point is that over 3000 Canadians sacrificed themselves on that one day. Over the course of both World War I and World War II, a total of 109,980 Canadians lost their lives. Hundreds of thousands more were wounded or taken as prisoners. Of the millions who enlisted in the two world wars, and who endured situations and tribulations none should ever have to bear, I think it is safe to say that none ever again found personal peace. But from this, we today continue to live in peace in one of the greatest nations in the world.

One can not say what our country, our world, would be like without the sacrifice of these men and women. I think we would never want to know. Show respect to these men and women: learn a little about what they gave, what they achieved, and how you benefit as a direct result. The lost or fractured lives of one million men and women is not something to take for granted.

As these men and women pass on and finally find their own personal peace, the memory of their sacrifice is in danger of becoming lost forever. Today, and always, remember, but also respect what was done for you.

Rest in peace. Lest we forget. And most importantly - Thank You.

This photo was taken at the Commonwealth War Cemetery in Courcelette, Belgium. The cemetery is near the town of Ypres.

7 November 2008

I am Divine

I am extremely camera shy so there is little chance that you will get an opportunity to see a photo of me posted on this blog. I don't even like people looking at me in the real world. If they look too long, I think "Oh, I must have ink or something horrible on my face" and then wait anxiously for that person to turn to someone and say, "Hey, check out that girl with ink or something horrible on her face." So, yeah, neuroses prevent me from putting up a personal photo. Therefore, let me paint you a little verbal picture instead.

Sitting atop my head is a messy mop of shoulder-length-ish curly brown hair. On a good day it is a nest. On a bad day, birds can actually get trapped in this nest, and disappear in there only to re-emerge the following spring with hatchlings in tow. It is unruly, it can be wild, it defies me at every step. I have tried every conceivable magic potion - conditioners, de-frizzing cremes, curl boosters, smoothers, tamers, glossing agents, I could go on - all to no avail.
I have pale skin, that easily flushes crimson when warm, cold, exposed to the sun for more than 30 seconds, if embarrassed (often) or flustered (more often), if I have a sip of wine (not often enough) or if it just feels like it. My pale skin is dry, and despite my tender age it is starting to crease, and despite my advanced age will still mock me with a pimple.
I have a nervous, you might say endearing (but no its not endearing, it is neurotic), habit of chewing on my bottom lip. The result of this is that my lips are often dry in these harsh Canadian winters and there is a permanent front tooth impression in the centre of lower lip.
I spend a lot of time working with my hand, and though my mother used to tell me that my hands were one of my best features, she now plies me with hand cream and tut-tuts over the state of my cuticles.

There you have it. What a pretty picture! So with all that, is there any help to be found out there? As it turns out, yes, there is. The answer lies here.

Carmelsoaps is a fellow Etsy seller, based in Alberta, Canada. My first purchase from her was a trio of lipbalms.

Like any girl, I had always carried lipbalms with me, but unlike any girl, I rarely used them. These balms, however, are so darned tasty that I can't wait for it to wear off, so that I can re-apply. My favorite is the Lemon Cheesecake. The only problem, which isn't really a problem, is that they are made with such high quality ingredients, that they don't disappear fast enough. Since I started using Carmelsoap's lipbalms though I don't suffer through dry lips and I swear the permanent toothmark I mentioned has diminished in appearance.

My next purchase was a ButterCreme Body Creme. I have since also purchased the Vanilla Creme.

If you like to smell like cupcakes, and feel like the goddess of silk, if there is such a deity, this is the product for you. Within days my skin has become soft and smooth, and although my hands benefit from just the remnants left over after applications elsewhere, my cuticles are in much better shape.

Although this lotion is quite miraculous, I did give it a bit of a head start in tackling the dry skin issue by also indulging in one of the shower-candies.

The scent matched the vanilla creme of the lotion so I was a truly tantalizing treat. The shower-candy is a solid, salty, softening, scrubbing bar that sloughs away all your troubles and leaves glowing skin and a soft fragrance in its wake. It is wonderful for the bottom of tired, sore feet as well.

With skin on its way to full repair, there was still the issue of my hair to tackle. I needed to dislodge any trapped birds before their brief, migratory window of opportunity had passed. Luckily, Carmelsoaps had recently added a line of solid shampoo and conditioner bars to her shop.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have tried these from other places before to no avail. I was pretty confident that with the quality of products that I had previously received, I might have better luck. I also knew that there was a chance that they may join my archive of unused hair products. I ripped into them straight away because I could not believe the smell seeping out of the packaging. I chose the Lemon Drops scent. On its own, it is delicious. Use it on the same day as you use the Vanilla Creme body products, and you are a perfectly delectable match to the Lemon cheesecake lipbalm. See... always thinking, I am. Would it work though, in my hair. Happily, the answer is YES! My hair was so soft. And so CLEAN. You know that wonderful "Sqquuuueeeeaaakkk" you hear as you rinse and you know at that moment that your hair is really clean and free of residues - well I rejoiced in that sound. OK, shampoo - check. The real test was in the conditioner. This is where things can, and often do, go horribly wrong for me. I rubbed the bar across my head a few times. Good, it felt like there was product on there. I ran it through my hair with my fingers and tangles came free. My fingers slid through. Sakes alive. Could this be for real? I rinsed, and it rinsed out easily. I toweled dry, and was not immediately met with a new crop of tangles. I added minimal styling product and waited for my hair to air-dry - about an hour - and then went back and though one-partially opened eye, I checked the results in the mirror. I opened that eye fully, and then the other. Could it be... a head of shiny, happy, bouncy curls.

I beamed at myself in the mirror that day. Suddenly I was divine! I'm still not going to post a photo though, so you shall just have to take my word for it.

5 November 2008

Bunny Love

Look what I found in fellow esty sellers Heart of a Cowgirl's shop:

This chubby-bummed, sweet little bunny is the cutest button closure that I have ever seen. Coupled with pale blue lace agate and bali silver, the simple style of the bracelet allows the bunny to be the real star of the show.

HeartofaCowgirl has so many other great items in her shop, including more jewelry featuring wonderful unique silver components and some great cowgirl insired leather accessories.

This quote from her shop profile sheds light on the inspirations for the items in her shop:
"I share my life with 4 horses, 2 goats, 2 dogs, 7 bunnies, 4 chickens, 6 desert tortoises and numerous pond goldfish."

Check out her blog as well to see more of her work, and to learn more about what inspires her.

Remember to check the incredible blog giveaway below. You could have a chance to win one of HeartofaCowgirl's incredible pieces.

2 November 2008

Too Much Awesomeness!!

To win a pair of String Me Along hairsticks, check out this great giveaway hosted by The Tiny Fig. Just click on the great big picture of fun giveaway items to find entry details.


26 October 2008


Being a very practical girl, I keep those little mini bottles of champagne in my fridge for emergency moments. Last night before dinner I decided steal from the emergency kit, and treat myself to a Kir Royale. A drop of Creme de Cassis and the little bottle of champagne mixed into a flute, and voila, the perfect pre-dinner apertif.

Or so one would think. Does Creme de Cassis have an expiration date? It was horrible. Instead of the pretty pinkish colour that the drink should have turned, it was more a ginger-ale golden brown. Since it did not look appetizing, I naturally decided to taste it. Hard to believe, but it did not taste appetizing either. Just another episode in the week of disappointments. This one was easier to get over though, as all I had to do was reach into the fridge and grab a bottle of Stella instead.

So with dreams of Cassis quashed, I created this etsy treasury, which today made it (very briefly) to the Front Page.


A little over a month ago my husband and I purchased our first house. We were beside ourselves with excitement, and during the last month certain elements of our regular life, like blogging, crafting etc, got put on hold. Sadly, last week when the house was meant to close, the deal fell apart for various reasons. It was disheartening and sad, but we have decided that all things considered it was for the best.

Moving on, the few boxes that I had packed, are now unpacked, and I am able to once again resume normal life. On a happier note, that means that I will be able to actually get to my beads and supplies without crawling over a stack of boxes. Therefore, keep an eye on my etsy shop as new items will be appearing each day.

I also did have a bit of good news. A craft show that I was late applying to, had a cancellation and they contacted me last week to see if I was still available. Yes. So, next weekend I will be at the Sackville Curling Club's 3rd Annual Craft Show and Dessert cafe, in Sackville, NB. I haven't done a craft show since last Christmas so I am very excited about this one.

Now, back to regularly scheduled programming.

5 October 2008


I have a new earring series in my etsy shop. Let me introduce you to ... "Dripping".

"Dripping" puts sole focus on the beauty of the beads used. I have a passion for Czech firepolished glass faceted donut beads. There's a mouthful! The beads are superior quality with wonderfully even facets, and a stunning array of colours and sizes. The variety is staggering and I get excited every time I see a new offering.

The Dripping series involves a carefully selected trio of complementary colours that are simply wire wrapped and suspended one below the other to create a (dripping) cascade of beads.

Here are the three that I have listed to date on etsy.
From left to right:
Dripping: Rainforest; Dripping: Rainbow; Dripping: Tree Trunk (sold)

30 September 2008

Etsy Front Page

For those who don't know, the main focus of the front page of etsy is a collection of twelve carefully selected and curated items. Typically, these items are chosen by a member (either a buyer or seller) and assembled into a "treasury". It is from the treasuries that etsy admin chooses the list that graces the front page.
Sometime in the wee hours of this morning, my most recent treasury list was chosen for the front page. I, unfortunately, happened to sleep through it, but nonetheless, I was very excited to learn this morning that it happened.
Here is a copy of the treasury that I curated:

I was especially happy that my treasury was chosen as it featured two of my favorite etsy sellers, fellow Canadians, sixthandelm and wittyworkshop.

15 September 2008

The Addiction Deepens

There is no secret that I have an addiction to both beads and handmade goodies. When, however I discovered the proliferation of handmade beads and findings on etsy, the addictions collided, creating one addiction super-nova.

I have one bead-maker in particular that I have been stalking mercilessly for close to a year, gillianbeads. Her beads are beautiful, stunning, radiant even. So wonderful are they that I had hoarded a neat little stash of them, unable to part company with the beauties. But as my bead holder runneth over, it was time to put them to use.

Here are some examples of her beads in action, made into String Me Along originals:

11 September 2008


It is that time of year. With a temperature of only 6 degrees this morning when I awoke, its quite evident that autumn is swiftly and surely muscling summer out of the way.
Another one of my favorite things about this time of year is watching the migrating birds, converging into their convoys, and with a chippering frenzy, preparing for the long trip south. I marvel that year after year these migrations occur on little more than instinct, whereas I with map, GPS and roadsigns still manage to get lost on a straight road.
Fly safe avian friends, and I await your return in the spring. In homage to you....

7 September 2008

Raining Cats and... Ducks?

The rain is falling here. Really, really falling!! The remnants of Hurricane Hannah have settled over New Brunswick and overnight several millimetres of rain saturated the area. When I woke this morning over thirty ducks had gathered at the side of my building where the water has turned the lawn into a verdant marshland.

Knowing that the rains were coming and that I was facing rain for the next ten days or so, as Hannah is to be followed closely by Ike and then Josephine, I did what any level-headed catastrophist would do and I brought in the necessary provisions. Luckily, yesterday was a market day so I was able to stock up on good cheeses, seafood and fresh produce. The result - a deliciously rich dinner of seafood lasagna, followed by an autumnal dessert of apple crisp.

And as beach trips or other outdoor excursions are not likely to be in the schedule for the next several days, I needed to prepare myself for a week of indoor activities. Naturally, this led to an exploratory excursion to a local artisan wool shop - London-Wul. Discovering this shop is certainly not going to do anything for a wool habit that is teetering on the perilous edge of full-blown addiction. The shop is dangerously near to my home, through a quick and pretty, rural drive. Upon arrival the delights that await you are better than any candy store. On-site is a natural dye garden, a dying studio, and many of the wools are spun on site as well. The colours, the textures, oh, the soft squooshiness of it all! I treated myself to two exquisitely coloured bags of roving. I plan to spend the rainy days ahead felting a multitude of beads.

(PS... I don't mean to make light of the seriousness of hurricanes. For those who live in the path of destructive hurricanes - past, present or future - I wish you safety and peace of mind.)

5 September 2008

OverHaulin' Sale

It took a long time and was a very tedious process, but finally, FINALLY, my ETSY shop overhaul is complete. Photos have been reshot, edited and uploaded (approximately 850 photos in total were taken!!); some items have been repriced (lower prices, that is!); and some of my older items which no longer seemd to fit have been removed. removing items was the hardest thing to do and I chewed over the idea for quite some time before deciding it was the best course of action.
So with a sigh of relief, and with a whoop of excitement for the future of my shop, I am announcing that starting at midnight (Atlantic Standard Time) Friday, September 5th I will be having a BOGO sale. Buy one item at regular price and the second item - of equal or lesser value - will be half price.
New items are currently being listed everyday, and the holiday season is creeping ever closer so it is a great time to shop at String Me Along.

26 August 2008


One day I asked my sister to go into my bag and grab my wallet. She opened my bag, looked in, looked back up at me imploringly, and cried, "Which one is it?". Sigh, is it that hard. Obviously it is the empty looking one!!

I guess to the uninitiated, it could be daunting to find the correct cute accessory within my monster bag. After all, there is the apples and pears fabric chequebook cover that I purchased on etsy from blissbyheather; there is the catch all wallet that come from the One of a Kind show in Toronto; a business card holder from rikrak, plus on any given day a digital camera, an ipod, sunglasses and various other items which demand their own protective (and stylish) covering.

One thing though that I was seriously lacking was a lip balm cozy. How could I have missed out on this essential accessory? I always end up tossing away lip balms before they are finished because I get disgusted by the grottiness that results from having them rolling around in the bottom of my bag. This lip balm cozy therefore will not only look good, while providing me with smooth, kissable lips, but it will save me money in the long run by reducing my overall lip balm expenditures.

Add to this the fact, that this lip balm cozy is benefiting a worthy cause. Etsy pal loopy4ewe is fundraising as an attempt to earn the funds needed to participate in the Weekend to End Breast Cancer in June 2009. As part of her fundraising scheme she has created this sweet little lip balm cozies.

It is made of the softest pink cotton and it has the most fantastic little closure. The teeny breast cancer ribbon buttons were supplied by another extraordinary etsy seller, gillianbeads.

To prevent my lip balm from rolling around in the bottom of my icky bag (I could clean the bag, I guess?) the cozy comes with a convenient key ring. I can never lose my lip balms now... unless I lose my keys and let us not even consider that possibility, thank you.

Here it is again, complete with lip balm. One final shout out here, for carmelsoaps who makes some very drool-worthy lipbalms. This one is cinnamint and you can see it is a little dirty... darn bag... but I couldn't find my nice fresh clean one, probably due to the fact that it does not yet have its very one easily accessible cozy!

ps... carmelsoaps Lemon Cheesecake lip balm is delish!

18 August 2008

Return to Summer

A mere few days ago I was singing the praises of autumn. Today, however I feel the need to backpedal a bit. Summer has returned to Eastern Canada, and brought with it many, many enticing morsels.

I thought I would post a few quick and easy dishes which, in my humble opinion are perfect for enjoying the best of the season. Both of these dishes are perfect for those meat-free days which we should all try to fit at least once into our weekly meal schedule.

First, zucchini rosti. This is one of my summer favorites, and very simple to prepare.
First, grate one medium zucchini. This will serve person one as a hearty main dish, or two as a side dish. Let the grated zucchini drain in a sieve over a bowl, ideally adding weight to the top to squeeze out the excess juices. (I used a small plate with a jar of pasta sauce on top; to finish I squeezed by hand.)
Add 1/3 cup bread crumbs, and 1 egg. Mix together until combined. Season with sea-salt and freshly ground pepper. You may choose to add herbs if you wish, though I reserved mine for the sauce that I made to top the rosti.
Heat about 1.5 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan. When hot, place the mix in the pan and shape into a flat round. You can complete the cooking on the stovetop, or put it into a 375 degree oven. Either way, you will want to flip it once, to get the top and bottom equally crispy. You can also finish it off in the broiler to make it extra crisp.
For the sauce I mixed 1/2 cup Balkan style plain yogurt, with 1 tbsp mayonnaise. Add fresh herbs of your choice. I used tarragon. It was delicious.

Another summer time favorite is a simple tomato tart. This is a super-fast dish, and is perfect for a light dinner or lunch. I have also served it as small individual squares as part a bridal shower buffet.
You will need one square of puff-pastry, thawed in the fridge. If you can get the pastry in sheet form, that is easiest. If you can only find blocks, roll it out to approximately 10x10 inches. Place it on a parchment paper lined sheet pan.
Next, brush with an egg wash, and prick the pastry several times at regular intervals with a fork. Place it in a pre-heated oven (follow package instructions), until it is browned and puffed. Now, remove it from the oven and let the pastry fall until it is even and has no irregular lumps and bumps. Pre-baking the pastry helps keep it crisp and flaky.
In the meantime, slice enough tomatoes to completely cover the top of the tart. I used 2 medium vine tomatoes. Chop some herbs to scatter on top. Choose your favorite. Tonight, I used a mix of basil and tarragon.
Layer the tomatoes on the now fallen pastry, scatter on your herbs, and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. You may also decide to add some cheese. Tonight, I added a wonderfully creamy, triple-cream brie. It is also wonderful with goat's cheese or feta.
Place the tart back in the oven until tomatoes are wilted and warmed, and the cheese is melted.
There are so many variations to this tart. Apart from a gamut of herbs and cheeses with which to experiment, there is now also a wonderful variety of heirloom tomatoes available. You can add your own additions as well, such as olives, or pine nuts.

Enjoy. Bon Apetit.

15 August 2008


I know that no one wants to hear this, but the sad truth is that summer is drawing to a close. The signs are all there.

It is evident by the cooler nights and shorter days. Back to school shopping and the Canadian National Exhibition (the unofficial end of summer, and the start of the fall fair season). It is in the cycle of the farmer's market: strawberry and rhubarb harvests have passed, blueberries and peaches are in and, apples and pears should be arriving not far behind. The softer light of early fall caresses the cornfields and meadows, bathing them at twilight in subtle golden glow.

There is nothing we can do to stop time. Embrace the season. In my opinion there is no season better. The colours are stunning, the cooler temperatures mean you get to layer on fun accessories, the delicious bounty of the season is ready for harvest (butternut squash soup. YUM!), and longer evenings mean more opportunity to snuggle in with your sweetie.

Above a new pair of earrings which draw inspiration from the wonder of autumn. Below, a collection/treasury of some of my favorite items on etsy.

13 August 2008

It Had to be Done.

For the first time in ages the sun is shining and rather than frolicking about outside, I am utilizing the sunny daylight to re-photograph some etsy listings. When I first started on etsy, I was sans-tripod. This is not the best way to attempt still photography.

When I got the tripod, I was still fortunate to have a lovely outdoor location in Toronto to use as a backdrop, namely the remains of a brick facade in Rosetta McLain Park in Toronto's east end. Though the location was a ideal, sometimes my lighting was not. Too sunny, too cloudy, rarely just right. Then this past winter, my ideal location became blanketed with a foot of snow and that left me the new challenge of trying to figure out how to photograph well using indoor, often artificial light. It was also this past winter that I discovered the macro-setting on my camera, which is an indispensable feature. And then as you know, spring came and once the snow melted once again revealing my ideal location, I was packing boxes into a U-Haul and leaving my lovely shooting location far behind.

The result is that in the year and a half that I have had my etsy shop, several different styles of photography have found their way into my shop listings. This, I believe, does not serve to make my shop as appealing as possible. It looks choppy and incohesive. With the buying season looming, it is time to fix this issue. So today I am hard at work, reshooting some of my worst photos, while longing to be outside.

In a nod to one of my favorite quiet past-times many of my new listing photos use antique books as props, as in this example.

Below, was my original listing photo. I love the look of the exposed brick behind the bust, but the detail of the beads was far too washed out.

If at first you don't succeed.....