Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Arabian Nights Masquerade

When I got this invitation in the mail, I was so excited.  An excuse to dress up!  And an excuse to wear a mask!  I was in love with Zorro for a good ten years, and I still love a man in a mask.  Wearing one myself is fun too, of course.

With my dress makeover complete by Thursday, I needed to figure out a mask.  Using a tutorial found via google, I made a lacy black mask to go with my lacy black dress.

The party was a 30th birthday celebration, and the amazingly talented planners and chefs for this party were Andrea and Nella, close friends of the guest of honour.  Nella's amazing downtown loft with exposed brick walls and hardwood floors was the location.

I didn't take a lot of pictures during the party, but I have to share the ones I did take.  All the details were perfect, from the fresh figs used as place card holders, to the "cloth of gold" on the table and the belly-dancing music.

And the food...!!!  This was what was served:

  • Moroccan Bruschetta on Crostini
  • Harira - spiced chickpea and lentil stew with orzo
  • Middle Eastern Salad
  • Jewel of Kashmir (more about that later)
  • Mint Tea Granita - steeped green tea with spearmint, lemon grass and peppermint and a hint of orange blossom
  • M'Hanncha - moroccan serpent cake spun of filo and almonds, served with fig and pear sauce, and finished with yogurt.

Everything was heavenly, and I'm definitely glad for the extra inches I added to my dress!

Now about that Jewel of Kashmir (see photo below).  The description on the menu read, "ginger-infused chicken tagine on a pumpkin waffle, topped with yogurt and sprinkled with pomegranate and pistachio confetti".  This was amazing.  Especially since Nella made it up!  She used a recipe for the tagine (kind of like a pumpkin salsa?), but put the rest of it together herself.

The two hostesses did a wonderful job and I'm in awe of their creativity and ability to pull off such a fun and beautiful party.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Reinventing My Little Black Dress

When my younger sister got married, I was thrilled to hear that she wanted her bridesmaids (including me) to wear black dresses.  And we could pick any dress!  I picked out a black satin halter dress from RW&Co and I loved it.  In the years since then, I've worn it to many weddings and occasions.  The last wedding I wore it to was in June.  And I could tell that things had changed!  Specifically, my body and my style.  Back in 2006, necklines were low and so were hemlines.  Now it's the other way around.  The tea-length of this dress never flattered my short stature.  And after nursing two babies, I'm no longer comfortable with a neckline that low!  Not to mention it was now several cup-sizes too small (apologies to my brother or any other men reading this...A little TMI, I think!)

I was very uncomfortable at that wedding in June.  I felt like I looked trashy, even though I know I really didn't.  This dress would never see the light of day again without some serious changes.

It took me a long time to figure out how to deal with the neckline.  And here's the result! (same shoes!  From my highschool grad)

What I did: 
- cut 4 inches off the bottom
- cut off halter straps
- sewed insert in v-neckline
- added boning to bust and sides(surprisingly easy in a lined dress!)
- added 3 or 4 inches in the back.  I could get the dress on and zip it up before, but once in it, moving and breathing and eating were difficult!  I think I added too much, so I may take it in.
- added lace to accent the details and make it look like a new dress rather than a halter dress with the straps cut off.

I didn't get a picture of the back of the dress, but it has a ladder-like pattern of lace to hide the seams in the hemline fabric that I added to the back.  Maybe I'll take pictures of just the dress details and add them here.

I finished the dress just in time to wear it to a formal masquerade birthday party on Saturday night.  I swear that I was fully stopped and not actively driving when I took this illegal picture on my way to the party.

I'll post more tomorrow about the amazing party and the mask I made!

Boy, I need to start bringing a hairbrush to events like these.  My hair looks positively scraggly next to the guest of honour, Julie from Papercastle.

In The Old Road

Friday, 27 July 2012


This is the homemade hem gauge I made for hemming the receiving blankets.  The idea was originally seen on pinterest, although I didn't actually read the article in question.  Now I can't find the pin.  for the blankets, I folded the edge over to the 1-inch mark (first black line), pressed it, then tucked the edge under all the way to the fold to make a 1/2-inch hem.

For the hem of my dress below, which was difficult to press, I just folded over half an inch, pinned it all around, then stitched it down.  Then I used my hem gauge to press a 1-inch hem.

Which I am now stitching by hand.  I find hand-sewing nice and calming.  I feel skilled and competent and somehow connected to all the women throughout history who have done the same.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

First Custom Sewing Job

This week I made another nursing cover, along with four extra-large flannel receiving blankets.  This time it was a commission for a friend.  She picked the adorable fabrics and I sewed them up.  The blankets took longer than I expected to hem them, because I was very picky about getting straight hems and mitring the corners.  I actually used a homemade hem gauge!  I usually just eyeball it.  Although I think I'll be using my gauge from now on because it was so much easier (unlike real hem gauges which I've rebelled against ever since my mom tried to teach me how to use one when I was a kid).

But to make up for it, the nursing cover took less time because I used real plastic boning instead of the zip ties.  Much easier to sew around!

The blankets are made from 1.2 metres of flannel, which I washed in hot water (to shrink) and salt (to keep the colour from running).  Then I just straightened the non-selvedge ends and did a half-inch hem.

I also made a little pouch for the nursing cover.  Maybe it will be useful for the new mama to keep it from floating around the diaper bag, or maybe it will just make it look good for the gift-giving.  Who knows.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Farmhouse Kitchen Wishlist

Since my dream kitchen from Ikea is not currently in the budget (and our current kitchen is only 4 or 5 years old), I've been trying to introduce elements of country and farmhouse without having to change the major items like cabinets, counters, and appliances.

Last week we noticed that our water in the kitchen had little black specks in it.  Turns out the cheap shut-off valves had some rubber washers disintegrating in the water.  Ew.  After a few days of avoiding the use of the kitchen taps the valves were replaced, and to my absolute delight, we needed to replace the faucet too!  There was nothing wrong with our old faucet before this issue.  I just wanted a prettier one.  We ended up choosing one quite similar to the one in the Ikea kitchen!  The main differences are the finish (shiny chrome is much cheaper than brushed chrome), and the lack of that cute ceramic handle.  Ours has a modern shape, but I don't really mind for this kitchen.  Too bad we don't have a pretty apron-front sink to install it with.

Some other things on my kitchen wishlist are these enamel kitchen utensils by Nigella Lawson.  They're so much nicer than my black plastic ones, and they don't melt either!.  Initially I wanted the robin's-egg-blue version, but I think the cream version would look better in my turquoise kitchen.
source: nigella.com
I think I've posted about this pretty yellow kettle before.  I'll have to go to the specialty kitchen store one day to find out how much it costs.  I bet it's way out of my price range because Le Creuset is excellent quality.  But the $14 red kettle at Walmart just doesn't have the same look.  I want to replace my electric kettle with a stove-top one both for looks, and to get one more electrical appliance off the counter top.  Now if only I could somehow countrify my huge black microwave...

source: LeCreuset.ca

One day when I have some open shelving I'll begin a collection of hobnail milk glass.  In the mean time I'd like to find just one little jug to add to my collection.

source: Pinterest (couldn't find the original source)

Sunday, 22 July 2012


Something that has amazed me about blogging is how supportive bloggers are.  Yeah, I know there are some snarky bloggers who cut others down.  But the bloggers I read in the genres of home decor, crafty, creative, DIY, and writing are invariably positive and encouraging, and all-around lovely.

In the past few weeks, despite my lack of inspiration, many people have proven this to me.

First, Heather, Meg, and Kara featured my Ring Around the Rose pillow this week.

Second, Leanne from Apple Box Boutique and Patty Froese have both honoured me with the Liebster Award.  As they each have different variations of the rules, and I have received the award and followed the rules before, I'll just go with posting 11 random things about me.

1. Despite my love for all-white Farmhouse style, I can't help being drawn to colour.  Like turquoise and yellow and green and blue and pink.

2. I finally have discovered my favourite spot in the house!  It only took me 3.5 years of living here!  It is sitting by the front window with the breeze blowing in.  Once my oriental lily blooms, it will smell heavenly right in that spot.  I do want to get a more romantic chair for that spot than our current microsuede recliner...like a pair of wing-backs.  And I'll have to start waving hello to the neighbours as they walk by gawping in our windows.

3. I am trying to curb my desire for more rain and thunderstorms by remembering all the flooding in recent weeks.  But I can't help but long for rain!  Sorry.

4. If I believed in reincarnation I'd want to come back as my cousin Jocelyn.  She is so much cooler than I ever was or ever will be, and she's gorgeous too.

5. For years I'd say my favourite food was apples.  Now I'd say Tim Horton's Iced Cappuccinos.  I should probably go back to the apples.

6. I realised today that I am married to a man very like Jane Austen's Mr. Darcy.  And half the female population of the English-speaking world is now envious of me.

7. I forget to water my indoor plants for weeks at a time, unless I keep them in the kitchen at eye-level.  It's kind of amazing that the one in the living room is still alive.

8. That said, my Valentine orchid is still blooming cheerfully!  I've been following Heather's advice to water it once a week with ice cubes, and it seems pretty happy with that arrangement.

9. My hole-in-the-wall cupboard is still without a door.  Although it now has plywood lining and shelves, thanks to Kevin.

10.  I have a very hard time sitting still in church.  I do pay attention, but I can't sit still.  It drives Kevin crazy.

11.  Right now as I write this (Sunday afternoon) Kevin and Juli are at the beach, Nick is sleeping, and I'm blogging.  I'm perfectly happy with that arrangement.  I'd rather sit inside with my headache on a hot day than sit with it in the sun.  I need to move to England.  Or Vancouver.

Since I'm breaking the rules anyway, I'll pass this award on to just two blogs I've recently discovered.  Click on the images to visit Ally and Thyme.

Thanks so much to all of you!  I definitely feel loved.

PS: I'm thinking of replacing the raspberry header of my blog with the birdhouse image from the top of this post.  Which do you like best?  The birdhouse sits on the deck railing at my in-law's cabin.

Sunday Summer Style

I'm not a fan of summer, in general.  I love spring and I love fall, but summer is just too hot too often.  It gives me more migraines.  And I'm not very good with summer fashion.  As a teenager I wore jeans and a t-shirt all summer.  Now when it's hot I wear whatever doesn't require too many layers...such as my one pair of shorts that fit, with a tank top.  Of course on Sundays I have to dress up a little more.  My results vary.  Some days I go through 3 or 4 outfits before deciding on something.  Today though, I only needed one try.  I'm not claiming it's fashionable, but I thought it was pretty.  And comfortable too.  And cheap.

Dress: Value Village
Tank: Zellers
Shoes: Aldo (ok, they weren't cheap, but I did use a gift card.  I love my real leather sandals almost as much as I love my real leather boots!)
Feathered hair clip: Made by me for a spring tea party last year.
Earrings: Made by me.

pleated poppy

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Cute Chicks

"Look at those cute chicks!"  That was my daughter's exclamation during supper tonight.  These three cast-iron birds were my birthday gift from one of my mothers-in-law this year.  They rest in a little cast-iron dish among pebbles from her garden.  They're the perfect decoration for the top of the sideboard/dresser in the kitchen.  I love my cute chicks!  I'm beginning to have quite a family of cast-iron birds...first Jasper, then the red one, and now these.  Plus a few of their ceramic cousins.  But honestly, I don't collect birds.

PS: Have you ever gone through stages where you felt like you had nothing to say...even though there was plenty you could say.  That's been me over these past few weeks.  I've taken pictures for blog posts...and even edited some of them.  But I've been uninspired to post.  I just feel like anything I could write would be trivial.  I know it's just my own mindset that I need to shake off.  And I will!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Ring Around The Rose Pillow Cover in Linen

Note to self: don't make this pillow again unless you use a circle cutter!  Or at the very least, know the exact number of circles needed so you don't end up cutting 60 extra!

Last month my mother-in-law showed me the pattern for this pillow in her quilting magazine.  I decided to make it for her birthday.  I had read the instructions thoroughly, but when it came time to make it, I couldn't remember exactly how many circles to cut!  And I couldn't find a copy of the magazine.  So I just went for it, and it worked out.  I did have some trouble with my sewing machine, but other than that (and cutting all the circles), it was really easy to make.  Now I need to do something with all those double-sided circles I have left over.

Since I used a floppy linen for the pillow cover, I also lined it with white muslin.  I'm really pleased with how it turned out!  I like how the lined linen makes it looks more professional than the quilter's cotton called for in the directions would.

Linked to: New House, New Home, New Life, Petals to Picots

Monday, 9 July 2012

Woodland Fairy Birthday Party

My girl turned five last week.  Five! 5!  I have no idea when she got so grown up.  Her best friend turned five in May, and ever since then, Juli's been talking about what kind of party she wants...changing her mind every five minutes of course.  We settled on having a fairy party.  Which was going to be great!  But then I remembered that we wanted to invite boys too.  So instead of pink and purple and glittery, the party became green, orange, red, and woodsy.  I posted about the invitations a couple of weeks ago.

We really like Disney's fairies.  They all have talents and jobs to do.  So I decided that we were going to help the fairies at the party.  In particular, we were going to help Tinker Bell's friend Faun, an animal fairy.

Job #1: Gather berries and feed the squirrels (search for berry-shaped beanbags around the yard, then do a beanbag toss)
Job #2: Decorate birdhouses to give the birds beautiful places to live.
Job #3: The bees are trapped in their hive!  Let them out so they can pollinate the flowers.  (beehive-shaped piñata!)

The girls really loved the idea of helping the fairies.  The boys liked throwing things and hitting things.  Special thanks to my in-laws for letting us have the party at their cabin on the lake, and to Kevin for helping the party to flow smoothly and entertaining the kids.

The birdhouses were from Michaels, and the decorations were all stick-on things from the dollar store and Michaels.  I divvied them up into little paper plant pots so the kids wouldn't have to worry about sharing.  They did have to share the glitter glue, but we had no problems with that.

The wrapping paper I used to protect the table from the glitter, etc, was from the Michaels dollar bins.

To help with the berry-gathering and the piñata, I made these little felt pixie dust bags.  I'm really pleased with how they turned out.

I had thought about buying or making fairy wings for the guests, but it was proving too difficult to find something not excessively girly, and I ran out of time to make them.  So I made these "Official Fairy Helper" badges instead.

The kids ate their snack at this little picnic table outside.

I saw this beehive piñata idea in a Country Living magazine a year or two ago, but couldn't find the directions when it came time to make it.  But it turned out well even without the directions.

For our snack, we had fairy food: carrot cupcakes (Juli's request), berries, and sliced mini cucumbers.  I quite enjoyed not having to provide a full meal, since the party was only from 2-4pm.  The cute little apple and orange cups were found at the grocery store, and were really the catalyst for the entire theme and decor.  I found them in the store, looked at them for a minute, then decided, "yep, we're doing a fairy birthday party."

Juliana needed candles to blow out of course, so she got a full-sized cupcake decorated to look like a fairy-sized cake.  It's a good thing she wasn't any older or the candles wouldn't have fit!

The best part of the party was watching my sweet girl have fun with her friends.

Linked to: Knick of Time Tuesday, Petals to Picots