Sunday Smile

Little Gretchen (carried by mother Desiree) and I hogging the camera during a lovely afternoon adventure-walk. 

It was lovely to spend some time with my neighbour-friends.
Smiles ran rampant! I hope you had a good smile today, too.


Creative Impulse

Downloading Poladroid was the best creative impulse I've had in a while.  Since I don't own a coveted real polaroid, this was the next best thing to create vintage scenes with my photography.  I love the '70s (my era) vibe!

Now I want to dig through my photo boxes and see if I can find some real polaroids from my childhood.  If I find any, I'll make sure to post them.

Above is a photo I took of my goddaughter Astrid (of which you can view more of these photos here) in a vintage silk dress.  The other subject is a favourite vintage find, in the form of a shiny kitty.  Both the kitty & Astrid are so photogenic!
Doing this digital creative exercise is the first step towards getting my hands dirty with paint & fabric & sewing & other handmade materials.  I have been bereft of artistic insipiration, so this feels pretty darn good! I just need to keep the inspiration alive.



Art: Melanie MacDonald

Melanie MacDonald is an artist after my own heart.  There are limited words to say why (although I do attempt it later on), so just feast on the eye-candy below:

Dirty Dishes, Dain City, ON:  2007. Acrylic on canvas,30x40" Private Collection

Tea Cup 2007. Acrylic on canvas, 30x40" Private Collection

Fawn: 2008. Acrylic on canvas, 30x30” Private Collection

Joy! Enchanting! Sublime!
Realism in the most charming way.
Vintage love painted via contemporary canvases.
Depictions of domestic bliss.

For further gasping & overall enjoyment, just look at this divine (I swear, it was a religious moment for me to look upon it) piece of flea market escapism:

Flea Market Flotsam:  2009. Acrylic on canvas, 36x64"

For all you lucky ducks who live in Toronto, or are able to get to Toronto, Melanie MacDonald is having an art showing in December of this year.  Below is the poster for the show:

Do Not Pass Go: new paintings by Melanie MacDonald
Running December 16 - 22, 2009 with Opening Reception on Thurs. Dec. 17 from 7 - 9pm
Where: 1142 Queen St. W.  Toronto (next to the Drake Hotel).

Note: I found out about Melanie MacDonald's work via art consultant A.K. Colling's blog Neurartic.


A Harvest of Delights

A picturesque village called Welcome hosted a lovely & unique craft & art show this past weekend.  I was lucky enough to attend, and will be going back next year to both In a Garden & the Harvest shows that artist Kathryn McHolm's hosts.

I found out about this wonderful gathering via Smallbones Studio, where artisan Jane Weeks showcases her wonderful (the best!) 100% pure beeswax candles, 100% natural soaps & other eco-friendly delights.

Here's a visual landscape of my visit:

Smallbones: pure beeswax candles, all natural soaps, linen sprays, and so much more!

Textile artist Susan MacDonald: Wearable Art.

Wonderful pins made out of remnants from recycled sweaters. Peggy Mersereau also makes whimsical scarves, too! Here's a lovely earth-toned brooch I bought from Peggy.

Carrie Osborne creates wonderfully old-fashioned paper creations (scherenschnitte), pin-prick cards, tinwork, embroidery, crocheting, and so much more! Here's a precious crochet & pin-prick card I bought to frame.

There was always something visually stimulating to look at, even on the ceiling!

Host Kathryn McHolm has gorgeous watercolour paintings, cards, and other nature-inspired wonderments.

Note: The Textile Collective's 2nd Annual Show & Sale featuring Susan MacDonald, Peggy Mersereau, Susan Dods, Veronica Derry & Carmel Bouzanne will be held Sat & Sun Nov. 28 & 29, 2009 11am-5pm @ 22 Barrett St. Port Hope.  Contact Peggy at 905.885.6224 for further information.

Bonus: going to art & craft shows means you will get one-of-a-kind creations that are handmade and often out of natural or recycled materials.


Sunday Smile

Creepy Cute Critters!

I love vintage kitsch critters that are in the shape of useful things, like the above cow creamer and poodle planter.  I was overjoyed to have found them, and quickly set up photo shoots.  They just plum make me smile.


Rainy Day Walk

I love rainy day walks, specially when it's just a drizzly rain & things are wonderfully fresh-smelling.  I decided to go to one of my favourite walking haunts, the Ecology Park.  I love crossing the bridge & stopping to look out onto the water.

I forgot Grace's leash, so made do with the scarf I was wearing.  Made for a pretty leash, but not very practical.

Grace had enough of the drizzly weather, and forced me to follow her across the bridge.  How could I deny that look she gave me?

It's always lovely to get the chance to clear the mind and refocus energies.  Walks in nature is always my best medicine.  What's yours?


Vintage kitsch kitty (and friends).

My dear friends (family), the Karch-Ackerman's, picked up the above gathering of kitschy goodness for me.  You could not even imagine the sounds of delight emanating from my lips when they showed me these darling little creatures.  The red kitty (sassy, isn't she?) stole my heart, and in behind her are 2 sets of salt & pepper shakers (kitties & mushrooms!!).

Be still my beating heart!


Vintage ties

I received a lovely box full of vintage ties from a friend of a friend. It was so much fun to go through the box of very 1960s-1970s ties. So many artful things can be made from these wonderfully unfashionable items. I'm thinking owl plushies might be good & possibly material for pretty bags.

It's always such a surprise to open a box; anticipate what you'll find! And in this box, I was so very pleased by their content.  They reminded me of my dad, quite a bit, as he used to wear ties very similar to these "back in the day".


He was walking his dog and cat!

I witnessed such a delightful moment this morning: an older gent passed me by whilst he was walking his older cocker spaniel.  Honestly, I didn't pay him much attention until I saw a grey tabby kitty following the duo.  It was obvious this cat belonged to the gentleman, and was walking with them.  I quickly grabbed my camera to capture this wondrous sight.

There's the wee kitty, to the left of the photo.  He was slowly loping behind the other two.

Then the cat started to leap and bound in order to catch up with his walking mates.

I was overjoyed that I got to catch this moment.  I hope you, too, get to witness something that makes you think "what a wonderful world".


Sunday Smile

I found this piece of my history yesterday in my attic storage space:

The best part? When I turned it around, I found this:

"Happy Mother's Day this May 14th 1978 I love you From Carrie in kindergarten"

I am so glad I kept this, and forgot that I did; making it a huge discovery to find it again!


Baking: Gluten-Free Chocolate Cupcakes

I just finished baking some chocolate cupcakes (a la Pamela's gluten-free chocolate cake mix) and iced them with my own yummy butter icing.  On some of the cupcakes, I did little heart decals.

Now to bring these delightful little cakes to share with Desiree & Karen!


Waking up to a sparkly world.

My little guardian stone turtle was extra sparkly sitting on his table.

I love this part of the winter process, when you get to wake up to a world covered in diamonds!
Frosty goodness!



Adorable is... a basset hound puppy!

During a walk on an unseasonably summer-like day, Grace & I bumped into a most adorable basset hound puppy:

Munroe rested his beautiful little face onto my hand.

Grace & Munroe did some cute puppy nuzzling!

Adorable is... a basset hound puppy!

Note: Munroe is not my adorable basset hound puppy, simply one of many wonderful dogs that hang out in our neighbourhood park.


Sunday Smile

My goddaughter Astrid spent the afternoon with me yesterday, and we spent it lallygagging.  Astrid happily immersed herself into my little laptop, which meant that Grace had to also find her way onto Astrid's lap.

Finally, Grace settled on Astrid's feet - albeit forlornly.  She must have wondered what was so great about the little blue beast that took her place on Astrid's lap! This made me smile.



Brooches are the wave of the future!

I have a thing for vintage brooches.  It's become my main Want when I go thrift shopping.  I love how brooches can alter the vibe of an outfit.  When I want to be cheery, I wear my big yellow metal brooch.  Whimsical? I wear a Wonderlamb upcycled cashmere blossom brooch. For a dainty look, I now have this (above) delightful antique metal brooch - it's small and intricate.

Earlier this year, I did a TV spot for a local station (CHEX TV).  At the time, I was running an eco-friendly gift shop called Buttercup & Co., and we (myself and Chantilly of MyGirlThursday fame) were talking about upcycling/recycling and crafting.  My big quote on the TV segment was "brooches are the wave of the future!".  In hindsight, possibly a bit of a crazy statement, but it's how I feel about these little accessories.



Baking: gluten-free brownies

I was told about the alternative bakery Babycakes (Manhattan-based) by a good friend (thanks Michele!) of mine.  I was then sent links to said bakery and to another blog, Tea & Cookies (who has the most yummy sounding blog!).
I got the following gluten-free/vegan brownie recipe from Tea & Cookies but which originates from Babycakes.

Here's the only issue: they're Vegan meaning No Butter.  Meaning using Oil in lieu of divine butter.  I am not a believer in oil (in any large quantity) in baked goods.  It's not, shall we say, of my baking faith.  Butter is, mes ami, better (unless you're dairy intolerant, then butter would be your enemy).

However, I digress.  The end result is an edible, moist, chocolatey brownie.  What more can a girl want? And it's gluten-free! Joy!

If I were try these again, I'll use a different oil.  Coconot? Safflower? Or figure out how to replace the oil with butter... I wish I was a scientific baker!

RECIPE (as copied from Tea & Cookies):

This recipe is free of wheat, gluten, dairy, casein, and eggs, and can be made sugar free.

1/2 cup canola oil, plus more for pans
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons garbanzo and fava bean flour (I used a mix I found at Bulk Barn).
1/4 cup potato starch
2 tablespoons arrowroot flour
1 cup unrefined sugar OR sugar-free option = 10 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons agave nectar
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup store-bought unsweetened applesauce
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup brewed coffee or hot water
2 cups vegan gluten-free chocolate chips, such as Tropical Source (don't skip the chocolate chips, they really make the brownies).

Preheat oven to 325°. Brush 3 dozen mini-muffin pans with oil; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, potato starch, arrowroot, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, salt, and unsweetened cocoa powder; set aside. In a large bowl, mix together applesauce, 1/2 cup canola oil, and vanilla. Slowly add flour mixture, stirring to combine. Stir in coffee until it forms a batter. Fold in chocolate chips.

Place 1 tablespoon batter into each prepared muffin cup. Transfer muffin pans to oven, and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 12 to 15 minutes.

Let cool completely on a wire rack before unmolding.

Makes about 5 dozen mini brownies

  • I only used 1 (one) cup of chocolate chipits (am glad I didn't use 2 cups, as 1 cup was more than enough)
  • I only used 1/4 cup of brewed coffee (the added bit of coffee gives it a mocha-like taste!)
  • I sifted the dry ingredients before adding to the wet mixture
Many thanks to Babycakes & Tea & Cookies! You got me to attempt gluten-free baking again, which is just what the doctor ordered.

Sadly, I did have an allergic reaction to this recipe.  I think it's the oil or possibly the flour mixture.  Ah, the sensitive tummy is such a sad thing!
Obviously, I need to take a road trip sometime and check out Babycakes in person.


Baking: first attempt at gluten-free muffins

Note: the only difference is the All Purpose gluten-free mixture of flour in the box.
This is a recipe I have memorized for well over a decade.  It's my standby: "Maid Marian Muffins"

Note: I do not put remaining chocolate chips on top of muffin, instead I put a full one cup of chipits into the mixture itself.

I'm a big believer in leveling the spoon measurements for baking. When a recipe calls for 1/2 tsp, I put in exactly that.

The batter was runnier and schloppier than normal.  It had also risen twice its size, which should have tipped me off to the Lesson Learned (below).

The end result: failure.
This was unexpected.  When I took the baked muffins out of the oven, they were flat and of a different texture than usual, which I anticipated.  I knew it wouldn't be light and fluffy, so that didn't surprise me.  But, where the failure was visible, was the attempt to take the muffin out of the tin! To my horror, it fell apart dramatically - crumpled uselessly! And they weren't edible in the least.


Lesson learned: If I had read the ingredients of this mixture more thoroughly, I would have known not to add more baking powder to the recipe (this mix already has baking powder added).

Note: Oats are not gluten-free, but I used 'em anyways just to be a brat.  Supposedly, though, there's uncontaminated oats which are made in a certified wheat-free production facility.

Bonus Blog:
How To Start Living Gluten-Free' at Karina's Kitchen is ever so helpful! As is her many baking recipes! I'm going to dig into her English Muffin recipe soon enough.