28 February 2009

What's for Dinner

I cherish Saturday evenings. It is the evening each week when my husband and I get to sit down and have a date night. Since he is working out of town all week and forced to eat either fast food or processed food, and since I work a late shift when at the bookstore, neither of us really get to enjoy the daily ritual of dinner. For this reason, we choose to stay in, and I spend all week mulling over something (hopefully) delicious for our night in.

I like to make a bit of an event of it. I like to have a complete three course meal. This allows me the opportunity to catch up for all the cooking pleasure that I miss through the week. I set the table, and we light candles. Often we will have a bottle of wine. Sometimes the meal is simple and homey: salad, pot pie, and baked apples. Other times, like today, the cuisine is a little more elaborate: asparagus wrapped in prosciutto; chicken in mustard sauce with duchess potatoes and green beans with shallots; chocolate mousse.

I think that as a new weekly feature I will share our Saturday evening meals with you. Now, I see the irony in boasting about full-course meals when a mere few months ago, I was bellowing the beauty of budget dining. But in a way, this is its own form of budget dining. Enjoying this same meal in a restaurant, including the bottle of wine that I will be opening, could easily cost up to or more than $100. For the two of us this evening, this meal is costing less than $30, including the wine. That isn't so bad.

Asparagus wrapped in Prosciutto:
Grill or steam asparagus until slightly tender. Wrap each spear in a small amount of thinly sliced asparagus. If desired, finish with a curl of Parmesan cheese.

Chicken in Mustard Sauce (from Williams-Sonoma Simple French Cooking)
Serves 4
4 chicken Halves, skinned and boned (5-6 oz each)
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp vegetable oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
3 shallots chopped
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 cup heavy cream
chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

* Trim any fat from the chicken breasts. Rinse and pat dry with paper towels. One at a time, place each breast between 2 sheets of waxed paper and, using a rolling pin, roll across the thickest part of the breast to flatten to an even thickness of about 1/2 inch.
* In a large sauté pan, over medium-high heat, melt the butter with the oil. When foaming, add the chicken breast and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Saute, adjusting the heat as needed to keep the breasts from releasing their juices, until golden and tender, about 5 minutes on each side. To test for doneness, insert the tip of a sharp knife into the centre of a breast; the juices should run clear and the meat should no longer be pink at the centre. Transfer to a warm plate and keep warm.
* Pour off any excess fat from the pan and return the pan to medium low heat. Add the shallots and sauté, stirring until translucent, 1-2 minutes. Add the mustard and cream, raise the heat to medium and stir with a wooden spoon, scraping up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Cook, stirring, until thickened and blended, 2-3 minutes. Taste and adjust the season.
* Return the chicken breasts to the pan and turn the breasts several times to coat them well with the sauce and to heat them through. Transfer to a warmed platter or individual plates and spoon the sauce over the breasts. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve at once.

Duchess Potatoes.
Simple. Make mashed potatoes as you normally would, but be sure there are no lumps. Allow to cool. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Put the potatoes in a piping bag, and using a star tip, pipe the potatoes into swirled mounds on the baking sheet. Drizzle with melted butter, and place in a heated 400 degree oven until browned and hot.

Green Beans with Shallots (from Williams-Sonoma Simple French Cooking)
Serves 4
1 lb young green beans
1 tbsp unsalted butter
4 or 4 shallots, thinly sliced crosswise
1/2 lemon , plus 4 wedges for garnish
freshly ground pepper
4 fresh mint sprigs

* Trim the green beans, and put them in a shallow dish or pan in which they lie flat. Add ice water to cover and set aside to crisp, 10-15 minutes.
* In a saute pan in which the beans lie flat, pour in water to a depth of 2-3 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat. When the water is boiling vigorously, drain the beans and plunge them into the boiling water. Add 2 tsp salt. When the water returns to a boil, continue to boil until the beans are just tender, but still crisp, about 4-5 minutes. Drain and immediately plunge into cold water to stop the cooking. Drain and set aside.
* Place the sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the butter; when foaming, add the shallots. Sauté stirring until translucent, 1-2 minutes; do not allow to brown. Add the beans and squeeze on a few drops of the juice from the lemon. Toss until the beans are evenly coated and hot.
* Using tongs, arrange the beans on a warmed serving plate. Spoon the shallots over the beans. Garnish the beans with mint springs and lemon wedges.

I am going to withhold the chocolate mousse recipe, since in all honesty, it was pretty awful! I don't know what I did wrong, but it certainly counts as today`s cooking disaster.

27 February 2009

Its That Day

Today. Today is that day. Its the day where there is a paradigm shift, and suddenly you truly believe that winter will end and spring will be here momentarily.

The sun is strong and warm. It is melting the mountains of snow and forming huge puddles. As you reach into the closet for your lined winter boots, you hesitate and reach instead for the rubber Wellingtons.

The wind, though blustery, is warm against your face, lifting your hair in teasing, instead of biting at your frigid cheeks.

Its more than the environmental signs though. There is a feeling, a giddy anticipation. People smile at each other, happy to have their faces freed from turtlenecks and scarves. I had always thought that the term "a spring in your step" referred to a coiled spring, but today I think it must mean that you sense the shifting seasons in the grounds beneath your feet - the warming, melting earth, preparing itself not just for a of rapid new growth, but offering us a forgotten buoyancy as well.

Senses are more attuned. Any splash of colour visible amidst the sea of melting white and grey, inherently seems brighter, cheerier. There is a smell on the wind, a hint of earth and trees and flowers carried from a distant land. You can taste it too, its there.

On the cusp of March and already all signs point to spring. If today is any hint of what's to come, we are in for a glorious season ahead.

26 February 2009

In the Metal Garden

I think that I have not yet quite gotten the knack of buying supplies on-line yet. I am used to buying beads and findings by sight. The ability to actually hold the item in my hand, while comparing its colours against other potential mates; being able to size up the appropriate findings; being able to judge the scale and heft of the item with which you intend to work - None of these are possible when shopping online.

You must scrutinize all the given details, not just skim. Consider the measurements. Account for the fact that the colour you are viewing on your monitor may not be exactly like what you will receive. Remember that the photos of the item have possibly been taken under studio lights, whereas the piece when worn will be worn in sunlight, office light, candle-light, and none of these look the same. Viewing something in two dimensions is very different than seeing it in 3-D and with the naked eye. If an item has been photographed from different angles, look at them all. Certainly, I have learned, never just get sucked in by a pretty picture and bright colours.

Well, sometimes in one's excitement, all these lessons learned fly out the window. I have to admit recent guilt in getting sucked in by a pretty picture and bright colours. I have been ogling enameled bead caps for sometime, and a few weeks ago in a frenzy I ordered a sizable amount of them. Yesterday they came in the mail, and I realised that though were extremely beautiful, and the colours were spectacular, they were not exactly what I had hoped. Some were gigantic; others teeny-tiny.

I pulled out the beads that I had hoped to use them with, and none of them, not a single solitary bead cap would wrap itself around these beads. So I pulled out more beads, and tried more bead caps. I was getting discouraged as I discarded vial after vial of beads. Had I really wasted my money on these? In a final desperate attempt, I placed one cap inside another to see if I could, by layering, achieve a proper fit.

Well, didn't those two caps look lovely all snuggled together like that. The colours played off each other nicely and the difference in design made for a gorgeous textured look. I pawed through the pile in front of me and looked for another cap that would be pretty with it, layered it in. Continuing to skewer a variety of different bead caps, I finally arrived at a place I never expected to be. No longer were these bead caps I was playing with, suddenly they had blossomed into enamelled flowers. They remind me so much of vintage Parisian pieces, and I am as happy as I am surprised by the outcome.

This is the first one that I did. It reminds me of an ornamental cabbage while at the height of its colour.

This second one reminds me a pond lily:

I don't know if this resembles any type of flower that actually occurs in nature, but I love the soft vintage colours with the little pop of strong colour in the centre.

So far I am stumped as to what to do with them, although I think the cabbage flower would make a smashing cocktail ring, if only I can decide how to attach it to a ring. Darcy will be home in a couple days and he is far more mechanically minded and I suspect he may have a solution for me. As for the others, I am picturing brooches or maybe pendants.

25 February 2009

Spring has Sprung

If only, right?

These sweet little primula bobby-pins are the perfect way to combat the end of winter doldrums. Something this cheery is bound to make you smile. Don't fret, real flowers will be popping up any day now.

Available now at String Me Along on Etsy.

24 February 2009

Snow Days

Are there any two words in the English language that when linked together are capable of bringing such joy? Remember as a child, the breathless anticipation of clustering around the radio or TV waiting for the announcer to state the perfect phrase: "School buses have been cancelled"? SNOW DAY! On went the snow pants, and out the door you would race, crazy carpet flapping wildly behind you.

Now as an adult the same breathless anticipation as you cluster around the radio or TV, waiting for the announcer to utter the perfect phrase "City buses have been cancelled and residents are urged to stay off the roads." SNOW DAY! On stay the PJ's, and off you race back to bed to snuggle under the covers for another few hours.

Yesterday, a Monday, no less, was one of those glorious days here in New Brunswick. I haven't had a snow day in eons, so it was a very exciting day. A fair amount of snow fell here, and winds whipped the snow into perfect peaks. If it weren't for this signed reminder, it would be easy to forget that here in this snow bank is a fire hydrant.

Now that the snow day has passed and the city has resumed to life as normal, I am back to longing for spring. In the mail last week arrived these perfect little bird's nests, and they are the perfect reminder of springtime to come:

It should only be a few more weeks of winter wonderland before spring starts to seep across the land.

23 February 2009

Favorite Things - Feb 23

Silk. Satin. Velvet. Wire-edged. Grosgrain. Organza. RikRak. Moiré. Ombre.

In a bow on a present. Looped around a pony-tail. As blue satin sashes on girl in white dresses. Trimming a pillow, or a tree. Replacing a necklace chain. Instead of string as a reminder on your finger.

Stacked in spools. Or flowing loose by the metre. A snippet saved from a fancily wrapped box.

I love ribbons. I love them in all their incantations, and for their multitude of uses. Though I love my new home in New Brunswick, there is one thing that I miss more than anything about my home in Toronto, and that is the Queen Street fashion district, where there are endless suppliers of ribbons and various other trims. Premier amongst these is of course Mokuba. I could easily wile away hours stroking the ribbons on their spools, as I surreptitiously wiped the drool from my chin. I most loved the subtle sheen of the organza ribbon selection and the subtle colour gradation and smooth texture of the silk ribbons.

I also have an utter weakness for the luxurious colours and textures of vintage velvet ribbons, and the feel of running a finger along a cheerily coloured slice of grosgrain.

There is nothing in this world that can not be made nicer with just a simple piece of ribbon. I keep every scrap of ribbon that I come across and I hoard it like a monkey in a banana tree. There is a certain romance and joy in the simplicity of the ribbon that makes it one of my most favorite things.

19 February 2009

Happy Birthday to my Mom

Seventy years ago today my Mom was born. Mom, I wish you the happiest of birthdays, with many, many more to come.

Let me tell you a few things about my Mom.

1) She is the coolest Mom that one could ever hope to have. She is by turns silly and serious, but she is always strong, supportive and loving.

2) She makes wicked-good fudge. BUT... she also used to make this really awful meal called Porcupine Balls. There was no porcupine in them, but ugh... I shudder still to think of them.

3) Since I was nine, my Mom has had to be both Mom and Dad to me and my three siblings. Not an easy task for sure, but one that she has approached head-on, rarely faltering.

4) She has always been the best at reading stories. In "The Monster at the End of This Book", she always did a Grover voice, that still makes me happy. When I was a kid I also loved the Winnie the Pooh story where he got wedged into Rabbit's Hole after eating too much honey. In art imitating life, she once locked herself out of her home and wedged open a window enough that she "thought" she would be able to fit through. She didn't have to wait quite as long as Pooh to get free, but she admits there was a moment of panic!

5) She has always been my biggest fan and biggest supporter. Though I all too often think that I can't do something, she is just as often there to tell me that yes, I can.

6) She certainly has a sense of adventure that has not diminished with age. Last year at sixty-nine years old, and with little coaxing, she packed up her old life, and moved back to PEI, the home that she had left fifty years before.

7) She stands 4'10" tall. I call her "the little troll", and I mean it lovingly! She actually has the force of a giant and an ogre wrapped in one little package. Again, I mean that lovingly.

8) She is my Mom, and I am very happy that I am lucky enough to be her daughter.

Happy Birthday!!!

The real religion of the world comes from women much more than from men - from mothers most of all, who carry the key of our souls in their bosoms. ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

Something Delicious

I have a foggy head today, so I feel unimaginative and truly lacking in creativity. I wish I had some words to dazzle you with, but I do not. So to distract you, I offer you a tempting treat.

This photo was taken at the Dieppe Farmer's Market in Dieppe, NB. The vendor is Cafe Soleil, a local bakery and cafe that makes the most mouth-watering treats.

Hmmm... there is a definite theme this week. My sweet tooth is really being bossy!!

18 February 2009

Dream Job

You may or may not know that I work part-time in a bookstore to help supplement my modest crafter's income, and also to occasionally get me out of the house so I don't devolve into a complete hermit lifestyle. My job at the bookstore is to take care of the gift section merchandising. I prefer to work with the books, but this job has its advantages. For example, I'm the first to know when things go on sale, and it also accommodates my slightly obsessive-compulsive need to line things up in pretty, colour-matched rows. The big advantage of the job at the moment is that spring is starting to arrive in the retail world and colours are brighter and lighter, and volume of merchandise is beginning to increase again as the meagre post-Christmas months get buried in the past.

This week I have been merchandising carton after carton of pastel coloured Easter goods. This year we seem to have an emphasis on old-fashioned style candy and it set me to day-dreaming, as is prone to happen. And as happens, the dream started small and morphed into something huge.

I started to think what a perfect job it would be to work as a merchandiser in an old-timey candy store. The type that has pastel coloured candy sticks and large swirled lollipops; whips of red licorice and brightly coloured pastilles; jar after jar of jelly beans and; intricately molded chocolate figures and exquisitely rolled truffles. How satisfying it would be to place gleaming glass vessels in a cluster and fill them with temptingly coloured and flavoured treats.

From there, the dream start to become a little all consuming. I imagined being the one to source all these beautiful candies. Look at these beautifully coloured and rolled lollipops from Hammond's candy. Aren't they beautiful?

Or imagine, maybe even being the creator of some myself. I would love to have a reason, after all, to invest in sets of giant copper pots and bowls. Think how incredible it would be to shop for all those wonderful glass vessels and trays that would look pretty all arranged together. Funny how every daydream eventually comes back around to me shopping.

And of course there is the chocolate. I have been spoiled since visiting Belgium just over a year ago. There is no such thing as a poorly arranged chocolate shop in Belgium. Every single morsel on display is a work of art, and such care goes into displaying the beautiful edibles. Here is a photo I took of chocolates made and displayed to look like bowls of olives:

Look at this window display. Notice the care that has gone into wrapping and decorating the boxes for gifting.

There is so much fodder for imagination when it comes to candy. Candy makes people happy whether remembering the treats that your grandmother would allow you to sneak from the lidded bowl on the coffee table, or childhood Easter egg hunts. The sweetness of candy comes from much more than just the sugar content, after all.

17 February 2009

Building a Fantasy World - One Mini House at a Time

Somewhere in the spot of the brain that controls whimsy, I have given myself over to the idea that maybe, just maybe, fairies, pixies, elves, and other wee other-worldly creatures co-exist alongside us.

With that said, I want to introduce you to one of my favorite etsy sellers, thelittlereddoor. thelittlereddoor is the builder of what are easily the most charming houses to be found. They are petite, cheerily coloured little homes and cottages, made to house your gnomes and fairies. Think of it as Habitat for Humanity for the Other-World.

My little fairy home arrived in the mail the other day and I fell in love with it immediately. I am waiting patiently for a resident, and I hope to someday build a full-size version for myself:

In her own words, is an introduction from The Little Red Door herself:

Tendonitis in my wrists forced me to take a break from the potter's wheel a little more than a year ago. I started concentrating on hand-building, and my little houses came to be. I've always loved the aesthetic of a house's shape, and everything a house can represent: family, your very own space, comfort and security, and love. There are small collections of little houses all over my home. I gave my first little house a red door, and from that the idea for my Etsy shop evolved.

Each house is hand-formed from stoneware clay, etched and air dried. Truly each is one of a kind and unique from the other as it's impossible for me to identically duplicate them. The houses are kiln-fired to bisque, glazed, and fired a final time. It's absolutely wonderful to open the lid a day later and see so many pretty little goodies on the shelf, much like opening a present.

I enjoy making each house so much. I'm always thinking of the next type I can make, how to put a different slant on a house. So far I've made cottages, houses, gnome homes, fairy huts and even miniature sky scrapers! Lately I've been expanding into etched magnets, pendants, and little scene globes. There's no shortage of things one can create with clay!

Apart from her clay homes, thelittlereddoor also makes these adorable little felt ornaments. I have begun amassing a nice little collection of these:

Check our her shop on etsy, for lots of fun and cheery items.

16 February 2009

Favorite Things - Feb 16

I have a little bit of sugar buzz while posting today. My new favorite thing is so sweetly delicious. It is a combination of two of my favorite things: a perfect white cupcake and lemon meringue pie, perfectly combined to create the lemon meringue cupcake. YUM!!

It is a little time consuming to make these beauties, but it is worth every minute.

First, start with your favorite yellow cake recipe and bake the cupcakes according to the directions. I used this recipe that I found on allrecipes.com.

While the cupcakes are baking, prepare your favorite recipe for lemon curd. I used this Martha Stewart recipe.

Remember to keep the egg whites from your separated eggs. They will be used for the meringue topping.

Once the curd has cooled, place it into a piping bag with a long tip. Insert the tip into the cupcake and squeeze gently to fill the cupcake. Be careful removing the tip as some curd will try to push its way back out.

If you have a stand mixer, you can start your meringue while you are filling the cupcakes. Using your 7 egg whites and add 1 cup less 2 tablespoons of sugar, to your mixer bowl. Using the whisk attachment, beat the eggs and sugar on medium high until stiff peaks form. Have your oven preheated again to 350 degrees.

Once your cupcakes are filled and your meringue is stiff, use a teaspoon to top the cupcakes with the meringue. I used a nice even coat to start to ensure even coverage and then I scooped a little more meringue into the spoon and flicked it Jackson Pollock style onto the cupcakes to get the tall, thin peaks. The peaks are essential as these are the bits that will brown in the oven.

Put the cupcakes back in the oven for 7-10 minutes until the peaks have browned and the meringue has set.

14 February 2009

Happy Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is one of those love it or hate it type days. Me, well I've done a 180 on it. I used to dislike it, but then 6 years ago my now-husband proposed. Since then, this has been a very special day for us.

It can be a very hectic life we all lead, so even if you are not a fan of the commercial aspect of the day, why not use it as an opportunity to let someone know that they are loved or appreciated. If you do not have a partner, call your parent, sister/brother, or long-distance friend. Maybe there is someone you know who could need a little cheering, and if so why not just do some small kindness for them.

A gesture need only be small to bring immense joy to someone else. For instance, yesterday I opened my mailbox to find a single small envelope lying within. It was this sweet, handmade card from my Mom.

13 February 2009

Flowers, Flowers, Everywhere

In real life I have an utter passion for hydrangeas. They remind me of my very first trip to England, where after days of travelling I finally arrived to my destination in Cornwall. Clinging to rocky ledges that threatened to tumble at any moment to the sea, were a profusion of giant wonderfully bluey-purple hydrangeas.

In my jewelry designs I have fallen in love with first pressed glass flowers, and then lucite, and now I have discovered that silk flowers look quite wonderful turned into jewelry pieces.

I had found some teeny lucite hydrangea cabochons for purchase, but with the cost of shipping from overseas, I decided that the cost was a little high for my liking. But I could not stop thinking about hydrangea blooms.

Further online searches for the same lucite blooms led, not to additional suppliers of the same pieces, but instead to scrapbooking supplies. A vendor had some very pretty blooms for sale, and I thought they would look very pretty all layered together. So off I went to some local craft stores and I discovered that most of the scrapbooking supplies, though beautiful, are also paper based. That was going to be an issue, as my original plan for the blooms was to turn them into hairclips. Caught in a sudden down-pour, paper blooms will likely melt. Not exactly what I would want to see happen.

So I trotted over to the silk flower section where bucket after bucket of hydrangea blooms were waiting for me to scoop them up. There was such an array of colours to choose from but I finally settled on four different heads that each had their own unique, antiqued feel to them. They looked as hydrangea do as the winter comes on and they lose most of their colour; when the tawny hue of hibernation creeps in, the colour they possessed while in their full summer glory gets pushed off to the edges where it fades with time. These were perfect; as I imagined Cornwall must look in November.

Once I got them home, I pulled some of the heads apart, plucking the colours that I thought would most pleasingly blend together. I layered them, adding adhesive between the layers, just in the centre so that the flower will still flutter as in nature. Something was missing. I had hoped to find some flat back rhinestones that I know linger somewhere from projects past, but I had no luck. Then opening a box of neglected sewing supplies, I can upon some sweet metallic pink sequins and I knew that I had what I needed. I added one to the centre as the final touch, and voila, a perfectly pretty posie for the hair. While digging I also discovered some lovely coloured bobby pins, so the flower got attached to a lovely fuchsia pin instead of just plain old black or silver. I think it has a little extra zing that way.

I sat back and looked at my hairpin. I was so happy with it. And then while I was smiling at it, it occurred to me that this bloom would make just as lovely a pendant, and I had the absolutely most perfect components at hand to finish one for use as such. I hastily put another flower together and affixed it to the necessary component. Pretty!

I expect to be listing these on etsy very soon.

12 February 2009


A bee uses twenty-one muscles to sting.

Bees never sleep.

Bees are born fully grown.

Napoleon Bonaparte III used the bee as a symbol of immortality & resurrection during the Second Empire period (1852-1870) and had bee prints on his red cape.

Bees can fly up to 22 miles per hour.

Honey is 80% sugars and 20% water. (Now that's my kind of nutritional value!)

Bees make very charming additions to jewelry:

With all the pretty spring flowers popping up in my shop, it was just a matter of time before the bees followed suit. Here is one hovering quietly above a spring pink sakura bloom.

These bees are doing the late shift. They like the darker, more mysterious flowers of the night. The nectar is just as sweet.

11 February 2009

Girl Presents for Valentine's Day

Yesterday I gave the ladies a little hand in shopping for their guys. I think to be fair, I better do the same thing for the guys. After all, although we think that we are simple to please, a savvy man knows this is not always true.

Now men, please do take note here. When you are rushing out Friday night after work, remember these simple rules:
1) Bigger is not always better in the gift department. Back away from the vacuum cleaners and blenders, please. We are not going to feel romantic after being reminded that there is housework waiting.
2) Good things do not always come in small packages. If I pulled a ribbon off a tiny box that looked as though it could contain pearl earrings, and opened the box to reveal a pedometer, I would probably cry. Why? Because pearl earrings say "I love you and you have pretty earlobes"; a pedometer says "your butt might be getting a little big. How about getting up off it once in a while". Hhhmmm... see the difference?

There are some safe, go-to options that you may be able to pull off in a pinch. For instance:
* Chocolates are generally safe, provided it is not a Mars bar purchased at the gas station. It must be either good chocolate, (keywords: Belgian, truffle, filled with champagne) or it must be elaborately wrapped chocolate. Bonus points if you can get both in one go! And remember not to add a bathroom scale as an add-on gift!
* Flowers are generally ok. Red roses are the typical floral symbol for love, but you will score higher if you know what her favorite flowers are. Does she prefer lilies, perhaps? If so, adding some lilies is another way to get bonus points. IF, however, you know that flowers will send her running for the allergy meds, you might want to steer clear.
* Perfume, although a nice gift, is a tricky one. Again, here is where a little pre-shopping research is necessary. Do not under any circumstances by her a perfume because it is the one your grandmother wears. If you are unsure, do not attempt it.
* Lingerie... well, all I can say is proceed at your own risk.

Is this sinking in yet, men? Well, since men are such visual beings, let me give you a few clues of what to look for as we move into the sure bets portion of this lecture. All of the items that I am going to mention are found on etsy.com, and there are many, many more fabulous articles to be found as well. Therefore, men, you need not even leave home to shop. True, you have the power to buy a Valentine's day gift while sitting on your couch in your underwear. How did you not think of that before?

The first and obvious answer to what to get your lady love this year is jewelry. Women like things that sparkle. Stones or pearls, silver or gold are classic. It doesn't need to be classic jewelry though. For instance, pearls, though classic, have been made modern through the use of rich, warm dyes, and their pairing with different materials. Look at these earrings made by etsy seller, fiveforty. Aren't they lovely? Any woman would love to have these.

Moving on, here in the Northern Hemisphere, Valentine's Day still has us in an icy grip so it is not inappropriate to give your lady a beautiful scarf. A scarf like this created by JaneBoFelt, would always find an appreciative audience. It is both stunning and unique. And you know that women down the road who always has the perfect rose garden? Well your wife will be able to make her jealous for once!

If you want to treat your lady to something that is soft, feminine, pink and floral, you could try something like a fine art photograph. Here is one of my absolute favorites by AliciaBock.

Finally, you could treat your love to a truly scentual experience. How about a lovely handmade soap, with both matching lotion and mist, like this set by, bellagracedesigns.

Browsing through her shop, you might also be able to find a suitable matching candle.

Well, that is all I can do to help you gentlemen. Good luck, and have a romantic day! (wink, wink, nudge, nudge)

10 February 2009

Boy Presents for Valentine's Day

OK, ladies, let's admit it, you have no idea what to get your true love for Valentine's Day. Men are hard to buy for. They don't appreciate armloads of roses, ribboned boxes of chocolate, glittering jewels, or sheer and slippery pieces of lingerie (well, that last one, maybe!).

So what to get the guy in your life? Hard question. But, I have uncovered a few gems on etsy, and I know that there are a few here that even my notoriously picky husband would appreciate.

First, for the guitar strumming guy, a silver guitar pick that can be personalised with your own special message. This is pick is made by jcjewelrydesign.

Next, another perfect gift for a music loving guy, is this unreeling cassette tape tee by Ottawa seller (and super-sweetie), mchen.

Yep, you guessed it, that's Canada's own Bryan Adams giving the t-shirt a thumbs-up!

Now, if the man in your life is a little more dapper, there is a stunning selection of silk-screened neckties available on etsy. These ones by toybreaker, really caught my eye.

Finally, to help your sweetie keep track of his money, especially his beer money, how about this great money clip from alaskagadgetry.

9 February 2009

Favorite Things - Feb 9

All last week, I was pondering all the things that I love and that I would write about today. So many things, and then yesterday, a brand new old thing came into my life and I had to give it its dues.

Today's favorite thing: childhood toys and childhood memories re-discovered amongst the many, many discarded and neglected treasures of the flea market! That's a mouthful!

Yesterday while browsing a local flea market, I glanced up at a high shelf in a deserted stall and I saw a little freckled red face beaming down at me. "Jingle-apple? Is that you?". I stretched up on tippy toe and grasped in my hands a plump little body, hearing the comfortingly familiar jingle-dingle-jangle, as I pulled him from his perch. His eyes were turned up toward me as he grinned at me, and I grinned back. It was the Fisher-Price Happy Apple.

Jingle Apple was a fixture in our home for years when I was a child. I don't know to which one of us he actually belonged. Ownership was never really important in our house where hand-me-downs were de rigeur. Nothing was ever yours for long, and for the the most part, we were pretty happy to share anyway. Our happy apple had his stem chewed through by some curious teething mouth, but he remained happy despite the amputation.

Jingle Apple has been sitting beside me at my work table since he came home. I keep glancing at his happy face and giving him a wiggle to hear him laugh in his jingly cadence. Today, he is for certain my very favorite thing.

8 February 2009


I don't think I have ever posted twice in the same day. Today is a great day for an exception to that rule. The theme of today is friendship. I posted below a birthday message to my bestest friend, Jane. And now, I am posting a little more friendly love... this time directed toward fellow bloggers.
HighonCraft surprised me with the "LOVE YA" blog award. I was so surprised and so happy to see that she had chosen my blog out of the zillions on the great world-wide blogosphere. Gosh, I don't think I have ever been given anything grander than a participation ribbon, which is a polite way of saying "Sorry, you didn't win!" The best part is now, I get to pass a little of that love on.

"LOVE YA" award winner! These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers! Deliver this award to eight bloggers who can choose eight more and include this text into the body of their award.

Here are eight blogs (in alphabetical order) that I enthusiastically pass this award onto:
Crafted Gems
Crochet and Stitches
FiveForty at Home
mchen wears
RikRak Studio
The Daily Struggles of the Domestic Un-Goddess
willowcat studio

7 February 2009

Special Edition of Favorite Things – Feb 8.

Well, what better favorite thing could I choose today, then my best and longest running friend, Jane. Its her birthday today!! That means that for the next 8 months we will be the same age and I don`t need to feel so old, all by myself.
**ages have been witheld to protect the elderly**

Jane and went to school together for a few years before we actually became friends. We were a grade apart, so in elementary school we didn't really run in the same circles. In high school however, things changed and it was a friendship born of necessity. We ended up being on the same bus. We were the first and second kids picked up along the route. The third student was a nerdy kid. We had a choice a) we could either strike up a conversation with each other, or b) with the nerdy kid, or c) endure 20 minutes of awkward silence between the three of us until the next kid was picked up 10 kilometres down the road. The choice was obvious.

"So, Hi... How was your summer?"
"Good. You?"
"Yeah... not bad. Looking forward to school?"
"Ah well, ya know, its school".

Or some equally inane, teenaged chatter.

But from that teenaged chatter blossomed a friendship that has lasted for many, many years. We don't speak as often as we used to since really, no one could sustain that level of chatter. Fresh off the school bus and we would be on the phone with each other, something at which her father never failed to marvel.. How could we have anything more to say? If we were at church together, the chatter would continue on through the Mass, until her dad would sit between us in a vain attempt to quench the verbal tide.

Since we skirted the issue there, this seems like a good place to add that there is an obvious reason that Jane is as awesome as she is. She is the product of awesome parents. I can't put my finger on the exact thing that makes Jane's parents such wonderful people - although the fact that they are Dutch and therefore always have Gouda, and those spicy windmill-shaped cookies, and that salty black licorice candy that as I type this, I realise sound horrible, but oh sweet Hannah, are they ever good!! - they just have an inherent quality that makes them special with little effort on their part. Lucky for Jane, it is a trait that she inherited from them, and it is a trait that she will pass on to her own daughters.

We email fairly regularly, and do the things that friends do when they are separated by distance. When we do get the chance to be together it is like there has never been a minute or a mile between us. It is that easy to pick up again. I guess, at the end of the day, the reason for that is simple. Every monumentally stupid thing that I have done in my life, I did with Jane. There is some good blackmail there that is waiting to happen. I can't afford to piss her off!

So happy Birthday to you, Jane. And thanks for being one of my favorite things for oh so, so many years!!

ps... Your card may be a little late.

6 February 2009


On Mondays I type about things that I really, really like. Today, I decided to write about something that freaks me out.

Envelopes. Yes, really!! Well, maybe not the envelope itself so much, though I am a little wary after getting several paper cuts from them, but rather the gluey strip along the back... you know that foul tasting band that you are expected to lick. Well, not me, no thank you!

I used to lick them, and then make the mandatory, "Oh, that tastes awful. I would rather have fluoride" look. But then, one fateful day Darcy told me that envelopes are stored in large, dirty warehouses and all day long, cockroaches crawl all over the envelopes and the part of the envelope that they really like is the really gluey strip. Sure, why wouldn't they? They like garbage, why wouldn't they like the glue strip? He told me that the glue strip is full of cockroach feces and every time you lick one you are essentially, indirectly licking a cockroach's bum. Eeewww... I don't want to do that!

And then, as it is prone to do, my mind started to conjure up more involved, and more scary situations. What if, for instance, the cockroaches were not just pooping on the glue strip but laying their eggs there? What if, every time I licked an envelope, I was getting a tongue full of cockroach eggs. AND THEN... what if, every time I got a tongue full of cockroach eggs, I swallowed them unknowingly and they started to hatch in my belly. AND THEN... once they hatched it turned into that horrifying vignette from that terrible Creep Show movie (the one that to this day traumatizes me after watching it at a seventh grade slumber party, where I had to pretend that I wasn't terrified, that I was cool, no worries, just cold and therefore snuggled into my sleeping bag because on this July night in a sweltering hot basement I was just a little chilly and therefore in need of having said sleeping bag wrapped firmly around my face, not because of the terror, but because of the chill in the air - and oh, we are going to go out soon and play hide and seek in the dark scary woods? GREAT!) where cockroaches busted out of the guy and took over his house. *shudder*

So... I no longer lick envelopes. I use tape to seal them.

Just something to think about on a February day!

This Has Never Happened to Me Before!

Yesterday, a seemingly innocuous day, I sat at my computer to set up an etsy listing for a pendant. It was a simple enough pendant. A little patinaed owl, sitting against a white Mother of Pearl disk, with a little black bead for contrast. Got the idea.... oh, I'll just show you. Wait a sec -

There you go. Now, I sat at my computer and started typing a description: "This is a pendant, it has an owl and some Mother of Pearl.... yawn." Boring old stuff. Writing descriptions for jewelry can actually become rather tedious. So, I stopped and looked at the pendant, and at the sweet little owl who was squinting up at me. "So, Hoot, what can I say about you." Suddenly, Hoot had a name, and then, a life. He was a near sighted owl, who liked the full moon because it was easier for him to see, and he didn't really like mice and moles like the other owls did, so instead he went to the diner each night for grilled cheese. And that became my description.

WOW... where did that all come from. Was there more about Hoot to discover? I decided I better find out. So I made a pair of earrings, thinking that the more Hoot there was, the more there would be to discover about him. The earrings are, oh, I'll just show you a picture of them. Wait here again:

So, there you are. By the way, clicking on either of the pictures (start with the first) will bring you to the etsy listing, so you can see what Hoot is like in person. You will like him. Trust me, he is a little bit charming in a nerdy kinda way. Like James Blunt, or that guy from the OC.

Off track again. Not my fault. I'm a Libra, so that is a built in personality flaw. Right, I was talking about something here. hrrm-ummm...

I looked at the earrings and Hoot opened up a little more and told me more about himself. He is a little afraid of the noises that the night makes, so that is another reason he likes to hang out at the diner - lots of light and some company from the truck drivers who pull off the road. Sometimes the offer him a french fry. He likes that, especially if there is gravy on the side!

Sadly, I had a limited supply of blue owl bits so I could not make another pair of earrings. But as it turns out, I didn't need to since Hoot and I, though both a little shy at first, had become well enough acquainted that we were ready to set off on an adventure together.

Hoot danced and hooted his way across my keyboard until all of a sudden a whole world of Hoot had unfolded. What an adventure Hoot had. Sadly, you can't read it all here. Sorry, to bring you all the way to end just for you to find out that you are going to have to wait until I square away the publishing rights. And well, for a Libra who is too easily distracted, that may be a long time coming.

hehehe... dandelion fluff... must run!

5 February 2009

Coming Clean About....


This is something that I need to confront. There is only one way to deal with a problem, and that is to admit that the problem exists.

So here goes... I have a problem. I have an addiction. I promised myself at New Year's that I would stop. But then, something happens that "enables" you. First, it was the 2-for-1 store wide sale at Yves Rocher. It made sense. In these tough economic times why wouldn't I make use of the offer. I can have two, but only pay for one. To steal a line from the Sham-WOW guy, "I don't know, it sells itself".

When I got home later that afternoon, and pulled open my bathroom drawer where I keep my "stash" of soaps, body washes and shower gels, I felt ashamed. Barely into the New Year and I had already failed. Deflated, I sadly added my six (three of which were free, mind you!) new shower gels to my already sizable stash. "NO MORE!!", I told myself, "No more".

Not even a week had gone by, and once again I caved. Etsy, damn you Etsy, was once again my downfall. Wonderful BovineBubbles was having a sale. Sigh, I had to resist. But wait.... there were loads of goodies in her shop that were not soap or body wash. Why, an after-shower skin conditioning cube isn't really soap. Its to be used AFTER you clean and rinse. BINGO!! And well, bath melts are not really soap, well maybe, but let's cut the semantics here. They melt and bubble, and condition, so technically its bubble bath, and although they are made from SOAP, they aren't technically soap and therefore they are a different animal altogether. (The fact that she was kind enough to toss a free bar of soap into package is not my fault. I have no need to feel guilty about that one. In fact, one might say that I am a victim, in this case. One seriously happy, good smelling victim!)

The package arrived a week or so later and hungrily I ripped it open, tearing my clothes off as I raced toward the shower. I was a woman gone wild. The scents... intoxicating. I rushed through the mandatory clean and rinse so that I could get to the good part - the after shower conditioning cube. It was coffee cake scented. As if cake alone isn't a weakness in its own right, crush it into a 1 inch cube of heaven and scrub away a day's worth of worries and dry skin, and well.... after my shower I headed to the computer and logged into Bovine's shop, you know, just to look. FREE SHIPPING!!! Oh dear, I was in trouble.

Yesterday, another package arrived. A bigger, much bigger package in fact. Repeat of the scene from the week before.

Today, I looked around at the place that used to be a bathroom, but has in the past few weeks become instead a soap depository. I had to pull my stash out of the drawer it was in, and move it down into the bigger drawer. And finally, finally, I had to admit that I have a serious addiction.

Its time to clean about it.

Here you can see the sizable stash that has accumulated. Notice how large the Bovine Bubbles stack on the left is? Add to that a portion of my Carmel soaps order, various craft show purchases, a remainder from a previously blogged about roadtrip, plus some commercial brands. See the issue?

Now if someone would be kind enough to go buy all of these from Bovine Bubbles shop to save me from myself, I would be much obliged!!

4 February 2009

A Flower .... For You!!

Two days ago, Shubenacadie Sam saw his shadow, dooming us to another six weeks of winter. Last night it snowed.... a lot!! It has mostly stopped now, and there is a weak amount of sunshine. I know there is little else to be expected in February. I am, after all, in Canada.

I am however, longing for spring. I think over the past couple weeks it has become fairly evident, as I have peppered my blog and etsy shop with jewelry pieces that are pure spring floral decadence.

For something just a little different today though, here is a photo of a real flower. A sturdy, vibrant, heavily scented (you'll have to imagine that part), hyacinth for no other reason than to warm your soul, and to remind us that six weeks is not that long, really, and before we know it spring will be upon us.


3 February 2009

Tuck A Flower Behind Your Ear

Ok.... so you have probably gathered by this point that I have a new obsession in these beautiful lucite flowers. So much so that I am ordering more soon.... very soon.

Here is another sweet use for them. I have used them to top wooden hairsticks. Normally, my hair stick toppers are quite long and slightly more flamboyant and eye-catching. I like this new style though. With the stick tucked down into your hair, the flower just peeps coyly out. It reminds me of Drew Barrymore and how utterly cute she looks when she tucks a daisy into her hair.

2 February 2009

Favorite Things - Feb 2

Today, my favorite thing is simple. In fact, I don't know how I overlooked it on my original list.

Coffee! I NEED to have a fresh brewed pot waiting for me in the morning as I rub the sleep from my eyes. On a cold afternoon, I can find warmth by wrapping my hands around a mug of oily french pressed coffee. On a damp, cold day, I find nothing more comforting than sitting in a steamy cafe nursing a milky latte or a frothy cappuccino. In the summer, I will sip it over ice.

Ethiopian, Guatemalan, Mexican, Costa Rican, mild, dark, espresso. I have no preference.

It is perfect as an ice-cream flavour, in cake, as beans coated in chocolate.

To sum up, it is the most perfect thing in the world.

1 February 2009

A New Take

I have a new take on a String Me Along classic.

Remember these mother of pearl necklaces with stone focal beads:

I have taken the triple strand Mother of Pearl design, but this time I have coupled it with beautifully feminine lucite roses. This is a softer, gentler look, but is equally as striking (in my opinion).

So far, just the maroon one is listed in my etsy shop, but the rest should follow soon.