Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Nothing Scrooge About It

I am kind of odd about how I spend money. I haven't had any extra for quite some time now, but even when I did, I wrapped my gifts in kraft paper with gorgeous satin bows and greenery. This year, I am using newspaper. I can't seem to find newspaper that looks the way it should (when did big ugly ads come in and ruin all the wordy pages like the classifieds?) but it is still black and white. (If you can find the NY Times I hear that is a good one esthetically to use. Why do I know that? How odd the random things you pick up from reading blogs!) I am taking it a bit further though this year and making a lot of decorations out of that and bookpaper. I love the look of the text mixed up with the greens and golds... black, white and green have been a long time favourite colour combo.

I have to confess, I think the decision to go with the very intense green in the living room was based on how I thought it should look for Christmas. I could envision a beautiful tree in the corner with the lights reflected in the glossy paint. Not that "tame" is really an option. I love all white interiors, but I don't think I could realistically live in one. My last living room was chartreuse. To balance out the green though, there will have to be a good amount of otherness going on. For the moment, that means paper. So with the kids help, I am building an immense number of paper chains, "balls" and weaves to put on the tree and everywhere else. The newspaper is obviously the inexpensive way to go, but it also looks great. I always have remnants of ribbons around from the sewing I am supposed to be doing, and these particular green ones have been used as streamers at no fewer than three parties, hung from trees at a BBQ, used on other gifts and gathered up afterward and occasionally used in the world of dress up. I am sort of the Queen of Re-use.

I had so much fun making these little paper ball ornaments that I thought I should pass them on. I don't do tutorials often on here, and my pics came out all blurry because I was trying to hold the camera on my knee while holding scissors and push the button and couldn't get it to focus properly. They are not too bad though. You will get the idea. Anyone who can tell me how to push the button on the camera if you are the only one home, don't have a tripod with a clicker thingy (suppose I could use my teeth), or the patience to use the timer option, please feel free to enlighten me :)

You will need:

a book no one will ever read
embroidery floss or other string type material
hole punch

chop paper
I made strips that were about 3/4" x 6"
do a few pages at a time
I used eight strips per ball, so did
four at a time and cut the strip in half

hold the strips (four at a time if easier to punch)
punch hole in the center at the end

I used a pretty small hole so that the
knots in the floss could be smaller
but I also thought that putting a bead on each of the
top and bottom would work too
and would add some sparkle :)

gently spread the strips out until you have a ball

...and VOILA!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

How to Love the Holidays

I am moving.

I started moving in the last few days of October, when a friend decided on a last minute move and needed out of her lease. Having lived in a one bedroom apartment with two growing boys for nearly five years, I was all over it. I loved the building I was in, right downtown and beautiful with a great landlord who actually fixed things when they broke... but did I mention the two growing boys... and the single bedroom? Right, so when an affordable place with a yard came up, I overlooked the single paned windows and the fact that winter would soon be upon us in favour of having my own space and an outside. If needed, I was willing to "rough it" till spring just to have space for the boys to move around and for me to sew and create. Finding a decent rental in this town is like panning for gold. I figured if my darling (although much more durable and self reliant friend) could live (and sew) on top of a mountain for years, I could do a winter.

Thankfully, I didn't have to. The house is cold, but lovely, and we have deer roaming through the yard almost daily. And my own bedroom. Although, it gets so cold at night that the boys are back to bunking with me till warmer weather. The electrical in the tiny top floor can only handle one space heater at a time before blowing the fuse. I am not sure who built this house, but it was very obviously meant to be a summer home. And while tiny by most people's standards, it actually is the perfect size for us.

The Martha in me, who has been desperate for a house to decorate for ages, immediately got on the phone and invited everyone for Christmas dinner. I did not inherit my need to decorate and entertain from my mother, and in fact, pretty much everyone else in the family thinks of the holidays as something to get through. So I thought that it would be really nice to switch it up a bit, shoulder the preparations, and do it here. That also gives me the right to inject as much greenery and sparkle into it as I can and they can't do a single thing about it :)

Then I bought paint. The kind of green that takes four coats. I have a newly painted, very shiny green living room. The part where I am still unpacking boxes and trying to make the last of the gifts (yes, I said make, because that is what I do) was kind of an afterthought. Also, the Martha in me does not cook. Nope, nada. I can cook, but I don't. I decided to put the dinner on solely so that I could set the table (that I don't have). With random vintage plates and napkins that I also didn't actually have, no less. I mean, I had it all set out in my mind, and I have been scouring for them every few days at the thrift store and I now have thirteen of the sixteen settings needed... so we're gold :)

I had my bestest friend come over and drop her kids off for a crafternoon extraordinaire with me and the boys, and then the living room looked like this. Which is actually a step up from the way it looked the day before which is covered in no fewer than twenty large boxes full of things I hadn't looked at in over five years. You know that part of the move where you have already opened the boxes that were meticulously packed and organized by a sane mind... the ones that are easily unpacked... and you are on to the ones that were packed at the end with no rhyme or reason just to get the rest of the crap out of your house? Or, say, were packed by the seven year old? That is the stage I am at now. I open a box, and it is either stuff that was in storage or stuff that doesn't actually make sense. While I can place artwork till the cows come home, and adore styling bookshelves with objets and colour coordinated tomes, I have no idea whatsoever one does with, say, the toolbox. Or the blender. Or the summer coats and hats. I understand what people with basements and storage closets and such do with them, but what if you don't have those?

Anyhow, I am quite happily puttering around and telling anyone and everyone not to worry, that there will definitely be room for sixteen people by Christmas Eve... and I know in my heart that the place will be twinkling and pretty... and most of all, that everyone will have a fabulous time. It might take a bit of mulled wine and a few cookies, but it will all work out just fine. For myself, I already got my gift. I cannot tell you how happy I am to be in a house with space for a garden (already got the seed list on the go) and... did I mention? My OWN bedroom!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Some Fabulous Halloweeniness

OK, so normally October is me signing back into the "let's take on something that I think is completely normal and unassuming and everyone else thinks is insane" mentality of my life after the (ahem) more laid back attitude of Summer. Truth be told, I don't cope well with the heat of summer and don't get much done. Then the end of summer hits and I panic and do as much as I can cram into August, then reload for September when the rest of the world (and years worth of programming from childhood) kicks into "back to school" mode. By the time October rolls around, I am planning and scheming full tilt for Halloween, my favourite time of the year next to Yule. Now that I have kids I can blame it all on them, but honestly, they roll their eyes as much as everyone else close to me does. In the same way that I take the things I missed from my childhood by NOT having a Martha disciple for a mother to an abnormal level of intensely overboard detail, my children will most likely avoid holiday planning altogether when they leave home. But alas, they have years left of "Can't we come up with something more creative than that? C'mon, let's REALLY think outside the box!" thrown at them.

In the interest of getting my eldest on board today with the costume planning bit, ("a cowboy? Really? That's what you want to be? A cowboy?") we spent a good deal of time scouring the internet for interesting ideas for me to "whip up" a costume. To be honest, it doesn't matter how much I plan, I wait till the last minute anyway because my kids are known to change their mind at least eighty times before the day of. The year Rowan turned four I made him the most elaborate and detailed Darth Vader ("Vader? That's what you want to be...?") costume any four year old could wish for, complete with a composite walkie talkie helmet with voice programming and heavy breathing on command, ordered off the internet. The morning of his daycare Halloween party, he insisted on wearing his Batman pajamas. Right. I did NOT cry. Much.

Thought I might pass some of the best on to you, since it literally took pages and pages of sifting to find any that didn't
a) look like a prostitute's excuse for a fairy, police officer, nurse, pirate, devil... or pretty much anything else for that matter...
b) need a professional Hollywood make-up artist to be hired and/or a gallon of latex (although I should mention that latex is actually really simple to use)
c) come ready made on a flat styro panel with a sprayed on six pack
or d) consist of adding a detail like a plastic-blood-covered-knife-headband to jeans and a t-shirt.

Martha is usually good for some simple and effective ideas, and you can always find instructions and supply lists on her website:

Some of the best ideas came from Flick'r...

Everything from what to wear to an uber schmancy party: an uber girlie one via the land of fae:


Steampunk is still a big deal, and this take on Iron Man is impressive:


...and Faustish


Rather elaborate Carnival threads, if that's your thing:

All Carnival photos above are by
Dominique Robert

Random Cuteness:

Little Wee Legos

Jason Gill

...and a mother who is insane just like me :)

Overall, the prize for most ingenious goes to...

So after all that searching, we went from a Cowboy to a Zombie Cowboy. Perhaps I can go to town on his brother's Fire Dragon costume.

...I will post pictures :)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

It's Time For COZY!

... and have I got some cozy goin on right here!

First up, a pair of knit clogs from Ruche (have I mentioned it's my favourite?) which are so darn adorable (and stupidly inexpensive) that I am seriously contemplating spending the money reserved for a certain canceled field trip on them instead. I think I can find a way to justify that. I am not entirely sure that clogs are the most practical shoe for... wait, what am I saying... when has the concept of practicality been my issue?

If you are looking to cozy up more than just your toes, I found this tres nifty wallpaper on Cartolina this morning when I was looking up some info on their most fabulous new iPod app launch... she always has the greatest finds over there... worth a daily looksee. Believe it or not, this is not only cool looking, but it is also woven to feel like knitting and I just think that is the bees knees! I love this stuff for a nursery, but I think it would also look kinda cool juxtaposed with gray stone maybe in the form of a fireplace. Or concrete would work too. It's one of those things that doesn't look so hot on the roll, but once it's up, it's pretty awesome. I am not that into photo mural wallpaper, I am a chintzy flourishy type... but I would adore it in your house!

Strikk out of London has an etsy shop that can send you some adorable home things that perhaps you hadn't thought about... how about vase cozies? No, I hadn't either, but how cute :)

... and they do knitted hangers, which I think would look pretty brilliant in that nursery with the above wallpaper. No?

These crocheted asters from Leninka's shop are simply gorgeous...

Ohhh, so much about autumn I love... the trees are turning, the scarves and gloves are coming out of the closet, and the feel of Thanksgiving in the air already... I must now go out to store up on a hot chocolate stash and some Green & Blacks for my pantry. Happy Autumn!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Some Stuff

Where have I been? I know... I could plead summer... and that is partly to blame. In reality though, I have not been in the mood to write anything. I keep finding nifty stuff to post about and I have a kazillion things in my "Draft" folder that I started to tell you all about, but since I lose interest these days a few lines in, I thought maybe I would just put some things out there over the next few days that have caught my interest. Totally random perhaps, but still worth note.

One of the things that is making me happy right now is that I found the sweetest blog called Dottie Angel. This woman lives the life I want to lead. And she photographs it and writes about her endeavors for me so that I can take a bit of time out of my day to look at her pretty life and wonder what mine would be like if...

It also inspired me to create the little bird mobile that she has hanging outside her dining room/patio door.

I saw it and thought I should have one, but I have so much stuff around here, I thought it better to make it for my friend's daughter's birthday. So when heading over to her beach party, stick in hand, my sons explained to the people on the little ferry that the stick was this little girl's birthday gift (I had the pretty birds in my bag). We got some wonderfully aghast looks when I followed up with "hey, it is a really nice stick."

I think it was Flickr that I found Tif's (Dottie's) fabulous photos on and followed her through to her blog. I ended up following posts back for eternity and looking lovingly through her house and studio. This woman is just inspiration incarnate. She lives in a photo shoot from Domino magazine, writes with a witty and uplifting and adorable style that is very refreshing, spends her hours revamping vintage whatnots and repurposing her lovely thrifted acquisitions. What's more, she has spent the last year challenging herself to purchase only handcrafted or secondhand goods for her home and wardrobe and successfully encouraging others to do the same. A rather lengthy list of fellow bloggers joined her in her quest which is rounding up in September. I think that in itself is quite an accomplishment, and one that supports all the things I find now daily in this apparent "movement" towards finding beauty and inspiration in a whole new box that is so much more rewarding that the new shiny one. She did a post awhile ago that made me smile when I came upon it... summing up entirely what I truly hope is the newest chapter of this book we call life while wallpapering the innards of an estate find cabinet:

"and then i pondered,
no, this sweetie was not going to end up in the thrift store later in life,
being mocked by passing strangers.

someone, somewhere will come across her,
gasp the gasp, i have gasped many times myself.
and then with a little bit of luck,
that someone will exclaim for all to know

"why this is the most fabulous example of the granny chic movement,
a movement that occurred in the early part of the 21st century.
it was not uncommon for discarded forsaken souls to be picked up
and adorned with paint, paper and fabric.
if i am not mistaken this looks to be a 'dottie angel' example...
yes, yes it is! look just inside the cupboard there,
the signature of the woman behind this granny chic redo.
one Tif Fussell aka dottie angel,
a lover of granny chic goodness...
oh this is indeed the most peachiest of finds"

I am happy to finally see somebody recognize and articulate what is happening now to be as important to design as perhaps the modern movement was, or any other "forward thinking" step we have taken in the evolution of both design and lifestyle choices in general. Going around and collecting old things or a particular style/designer is nothing new, but this new way of taking what is old and making it our own somehow, while ultimately changing our habit of seeing worth in terms of new or designer goods, is indeed a movement. Granny chic, vintage glam, upcycling... all are terms that even the shelter mags are throwing around right now to describe what devoted thrifters have known for awhile. One person's trash is indeed another's treasure.

*all images from Dottie Angel's blog except top photo which is from Spool

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Couch Cushion Architecture

It has been awhile since I have seen genius that made me laugh like this. Whoever is writing this is brilliant... and so are the "architect/builders"... well, most of them :)

Visit this blog for a really stinkin' good review of the latest Couch Cushion Architecture...

"The crisp, orthogonal structure is, in a way, camouflaged by the informality of the landscaping. While a clear bifurcation exists between site and structure, we give high marks to the close coordination of architect and landscape architect in using similar materials to exaggerate the divergent design concepts. Grade: B+"

"We greatly admire the use of coffee table as lateral moment-frame in this application. The solution is both formal and fun, offering the users a sequence of experiences beginning with the entry to vaulted ceiling to raised deck. Grade A-"

... and it gets better! The BUILD blog is new to me, but worth a go through :)