21 July 2012

Tall Ships

I know absolutely nothing about boats and ships - starboard, what? - except that they are awesome.  The bigger and old-timier the better.  If they inspire illusions of pirate booty and scurvy they become more intriguing still.  So, imagine my delight when I discovered that the Tall Ships Festival was being held in Halifax this year.

For the past few days ships have been arriving under full sail into Halifax Harbour and this morning we took the opportunity to walk the plank and shiver our timbers.  In ordinary parlance that translates to meander along the boardwalk and tour the boats in neat single file fashion. 

I can't pinpoint exactly what it is about these giant ships that set my pulse racing: the towering masts; the rattle of rigging and reels; the wind-snapped flags; the cool brass or the warm timbers.   Maybe it is the aura of adventure and of romance: high tossed waves; far away ne'er before seen lands, and; bereft lovers alone on shore.  Maybe it is the sheer danger of it all with with press gangs and pirates.

I can state with some certainity that I do love the solemn guidance of a ship's figurehead.  Here are two from the ships we viewed today.

This traditional figurehead looks suitable charged, willing to brave the waves and lead her men to shore. She oozes determination.

By contrast, this little frog sailor is ridiculously adorable and whimsical.  He does however look as though he takes his duties quite seriously and he is a natty little dresser to boot!

Come Monday the ships will again set course for the high seas.  It was a brief romance we shared, but it was fine while it lasted.

27 June 2012


I will tell you now that if you are at all squeamish, turn back now!!

I was fortunate enough to sneak out of work early one day this week - no, wait, that is not at all what happened.  I was stupid enough to commit myself to a half day of work on my day off!  When I left the day was glorious sunny, a true bright spot in a week bookended by three day bouts of heavy rains. 

I decided to use the weather to my advantage and finally finish some of the garden projects that I started but hadn't yet had time to finish.  Grabbing my flat of seedlings, I trotted off to the garden. It was as I was picking up one of the bags of soil that I had carelessly left out beside the garden for a several days that I realized the ground below it had become a hidey-hole for horrible little bugs.  Don't ask what kind- they were bugs and that is all I care to know!

Immediately, I panicked!!  Bugs!!  AH... and herein starts the conversation that took place between crazy, insanne me (CIM) and rational me (RM).

CIM:  BUGS!!!  Ack.  Ick.  Oh my god.  OH MY GOD!!  They're in my hair. THEY'RE IN MY HAIR!!!

RM: They aren't in your hair.  How could they be?  They didn't fly there; they have no wings.  They didn't leap there; their legs are too stumpy and kneeless to be leaping legs.

CIM:  Right. Yeh, they aren't in my hair.  OH MY GOD!!! They're in my shorts. THEY'RE IN MY SHORTS!!!

RM: *sigh* They aren't in your shorts. How would they have immediately gotten into your shorts.  Look at how slow they are.  They probably didn't run there; they can barely be bothered to meander!

CIM: Ugh... they are just so gross.  Looks at them.  Ick. eeeeeeeeeeeewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwoo.

RM:  Ok, relax.  Go to your happy place.  Gooo toooo yoouurrr hhaaappy plaaace.

CIM: Happy place? My garden is my happy place, but.... IT'S ALL FULL OF BUGS!!!!

RM:  Stop.stop.stop.stop.STOP!  You have more happy places.  Go to another one.

CIM:  OK.  think.think.think.happy.place. The Museum of Natural History! DAMMIT.

RM: I give up.  Crazy... you win!

13 June 2012

What to Do With a Free Wednesday?

Road trip!  My lovely husband was working at the bottom end of the province this evening which meant he had a morning free and would be passing skirting along the South Shore later in the day.  Taking advantage of a perfect day, I decided to follow him part way out and we met up in Lunenburg for lunch.

We stopped for a lovely lunch at the Salt Shaker deli where the special of day to my complete delight was Lobster Mac-n-Cheese.  Homemade mac-n-cheese is always a treat especially when topped with a super layer of melted, bubbly, slightly browned cheese.  Adding lobster to the mix, well, that just makes a good meal even better!

After we parted, I continued a mini-tour of Lunenburg and managed to catch this glimpse of the Bluenose II which is currently undergoing an extensive restoration.  It looks so much bigger in real life than it does on the dime, no? I can't wait to see it someday in full sail!

I took the scenic route back home, taking short detours along roads that had "Point" in their name.  It's always a safe bet that you will be afforded a gorgeous ocean view if you follow these twisting, turning mystery roads.

My meandering route took me eventually into Mahone Bay where I made a stop at Jo-Ann's market to pick up their amazing mushroom pate.  It brings me immense joy to slather this pate on a slab of baguette and I have been known to drive to Mahone Bay for no other reason than to satisfy my craving.

While in Mahone Bay, I was also treated to a visual feast as wild roses and irises were bursting into bloom all around.  Look at the beauty of these deep purple irises.

 From Mahone Bay more meandering roads brought me to Chester.  While in Chester, I naturally had to stop at Julien's for an espresso and a pair of chocolate croissants for tomorrow's breakfast.  And, I just realised how today seems to be about nothing but food.  How did that happen?  Ah well, I walked off some of it.  But, really it wasn't all food, there are also more gorgeous deep purple flowers.  This time, it was lupins growing near a picket fence.  What maritime prettiness!

And leaving Chester, the plan was to just go straight home but I saw the exit for Peggy's Cove and had to make the turn.  I don't think that I have ever been able to resist the turn to Peggy.  And so, here she is - the world's most famous lighthouse.

Here is a view of her full cove complete with what was once a tiny fishing village.  Off in the distance you can see the fog starting to form and thicken.  It does that quite often at this time of year.

And maintaining her seafaring tradition, the cove is still home to lobster traps and dories

I can't wait for my next free day.  Summer is meant for roadtrips and I think I kicked the season off in good fashion this year.

5 June 2012

In Bloom

Here in Halifax we seem to have entered the rainy season, also known as summer.  Coincidentally, most of the rain days seem to happen on my days off work.  No surprise there!  It would be easy enough to sit and moan about sloshing around in wet shoes, wrangling frizzy hair and a restlessness to get out into the garden. Instead, I used the opportunity last week to dive into a project that would bring a little gardeny goodness inside. 

I found this amazing tutorial on how to make crepe paper rosettes on The Idea Room.  I used the tutorial and made a pair of rosette topiaries.  Here is my version - step by step.

First, I built the topiary structure.  I used 24" styrofoam balls, cuttings of birch saplings from my yard, styrofoam block and metal flower tins.

Next, I started crafting the crepe paper rosettes using the tutorial I posted above. My first attempts were horrendous!  I actually clicked into the additional video clip and it made things much easier to follow.  As you get used to twisting and wrapping it becomes easy and you will get much quicker at it.  Relax, the roses look prettier the less uptight you become about them.

Once I had finished my first roll of crepe paper, I started hot gluing the roses onto the styrofoam ball to get a sense of how many I would need to craft.  The answer... a lot!  I used a full six rolls of crepe paper and should have used a seventh.
Here, the result is just a funny topiary toupee.

And so, keep on wrapping.  I have to say, I love the rosettes all just sitting together in a single layer in a shallow tray.  I was resting mine in a shallow black enamelled tray and the pink just popped against it.  I think I will make an arrangement in the tray sometime.

Here is the topiary completed.  The rosettes really fill the ball out and it looks all lovely and puffy and pretty.  I did go and steal some moss off the base of a tree to wrap around the bottom, but apparently forgot to take a photo of it in its completed stage.  I had also planned to tie a ribbon around either the stem or the metal base, but didn't.  I think if I repeat this craft for Christmas I will do so to make it even more festive.

Here is one final closeup of the topiary ball covered in rosettes.  In the end I decided that I preferred the roses more loosely wrapped. They created a fuller, vintage English rose look.

Sadly, I am not keeping these topiaries at home for my own enjoyment.  These went back to work with me where they were used as a table decoration for a Diamond Jubilee party.

 And, while it is raining again this week, I will say that rainy days do have some merit.  How gorgeous does my bleeding heart look covered in raindrops?

PS... these topiaries would be fantastic decoration for a wedding, shower, or any party.  If you are in the Halifax area and might be interested in ordering some, drop me a note.  :)

19 April 2012


We were asked to cat-sit a few weeks ago.  My husband has a mild allergy to cats so I really didn't expect him to oblige, but sometimes he surprises me.    So two sweet cats, Bella (aka the fat one) and Jade (aka the little one) came to stay with us for a week. 

Bella wasted no time settling in.  She made fast friends with my husband and happily the allergic reactions were very mild.  Soon Bella was trotting along at his heels everywhere he went and meowing pitifully and pacing back and forth whenever he was behind a closed door.  He caved every time.  His original rule of "they stay downstairs" was quickly abandoned.  He admitted by the end of day two that he had been letting Bella hang out with him anywhere she pleased.  By the end of day three she had also managed to figure out how to open pocket doors so she was able to wander at will. And, by the end of the week she was greeting us in bed in the mornings, mainly to remind us that she likes to be fed.

Jade was a tougher nut to crack.  She tends to be a cranky one even in her own familiar surroundings.  Placing her somewhere new was a bit of a challenge for her - and us.  She hissed and groaned anytime we came to near.  I wasn't ready to give up on her though, and made her endure some scratches behind the ear, which soon turned into belly rubs and on occasion allowing me to pick her up.  On our second to last day together she allowed me to carry her upstairs, though she moaned and groaned all the way.  But then, I put her in the sunbeam the spreads across our kitchen floor.  She sat for a minute, then stretched out, rolled over onto her back and purred.  I had won her over.  It lasted about five minutes and then I moved, she hissed, growled and ran away.  Ah well.

 Here are some photos of the visitors.

This is Bella. She knows where to find a cushy spot to sleep.  She simply stole the little nest that Jade had made by stamping down the cushions on the back of the couch.

This is Jade at her most fierce!  Ok, really I had interrupted her 23 hours of sleeping and she was yawning.

But, truth be told I took quite a number of photos of her and this is the one where she has the least disapproving expression on her face.

We were sad when they left and are now looking for a shelter kitty that might want a new home with us.

20 March 2012

It's Spring!!

Officially.  It's here.  SPRING!

Normally, I would be a little tickled to look at my calendar and notice those little words typed at the bottom of the date telling me that the day had finally arrived.  But, today I am truly puffed up with excitement at the arrival of this wondrous new season.  Spring could not have arrived in grander style. 

At the moment the thermometer is showing me a double digit temperature - 20 degrees.  *sigh*  The sun is shining brilliantly.  Best of all - I have the day off work.  Honestly, could it be better. Not likely.

All week I have been witnessing the arrival of old dear friends and their absence has truly made my heart grow fonder.  Robins, song sparrows, and even those silly grackles that devour all the bird seed and screech their presence.  I have missed you all and welcome you back. 

Poking about in my gardens this morning I saw the first shoots of chives appearing among last year's browned, dried out matter.  And lo' did I spy tips of tulips and daffodils and croci, oh my!  Convinced I was that the newly planted bulbs had become a squirrel buffet throughout the winter, I was more than overjoyed to push aside some of the insulating autumn leaves and find fresh sprouts of growth.  How I long for those cheery yellow blooms. 

To make the most of the new season, I made a hasty jaunt to the still-bare garden centres and stocked up with (not enough) potting soil.  The first of my container veggies are planted and the fresh taste of spring will in the near future be dancing across my winter-weary palette. 

Welcome spring, and thank you March for being such a lamb. 

In this season of rejuvenation, my etsy shop is also going through a period of revival.  Currently all items are 50% off.  Follow the link here - stringmealong on etsy - and use coupon code FLING50 to receive your discount.

7 February 2012

Downton Inspirations

What an impossibly long time it has been since I have posted anything on this once again, much neglected blog.  My resolutions to be better never do last long, do they?  I do swear (again, I know!) to be more attentive.  Regardless, if you have chosen to stick around and peek in occasionally, I do thank you.  And, since you are here let's get to it, shall we?   

This past weekend I found an immensely satisfying new source of creative inspiration - Downton Abbey.  If you are not aware of this program, you must go find it.  It is a British period based on the inhabitants - the aristrocratic Crawley family and the family's servants - of Downton Abbey, an impressive country home in Northern England in the years immediately before and during World War 1. 

Not only is the cast incredible (honestly, I had no idea I could love Dame Maggie Smith more), but the setting is breathtaking, and the costumes out of this world.  Everytime a new hat enters a scene, I swoon.  Immediately, my eye started to light upon some fabulous examples of period jewellery.  It has proven to be a great source of inspiration.  I love jewellery and fashions from this area, and once I was able to tear myself away from my TV, I proceeded post-haste to my studio.  I ripped into all the supplies that I had to hand, including ones that had been long been banished and went on a frantic search for anything I could use to start crafting some new pieces.  How wonderful to find some new inspiration and to be able to look at my supply stash through these rose-coloured glasses.

Cameos, oversized glass pearls, lockets, antiqued metals, and jet glass all have a new purpose.  And I already have a significant number of pieces to add to my new Downton inspired collection.  Here is a sneak peek at some of the pieces already, and be sure to keep checking my etsy shop as more pieces become available for sale.