Umberto Eco inspired photoshoot

The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana is an Italian novel by Umberto Eco and translated by Geoffrey Brock.  It is a rich, wonderful, descriptive romp through antique and vintage Italian culture as Yambo, the 59-yr-old protagonist, works to recover his memory after a stroke by returning to his hometown of Solara and exploring his old newspapers, vinyl records, books, magazines and childhood comic books.  The crux of the plot is the one memory Yambo wishes to see most: the face of the girl he loved as a student and ever after.

One of the illustrations in the book as Yambo seeks this memory was my main inspiration for this shot

Photos by: Seann Alexander


Deepwater Blowouts: Is Canada Next?

This summer we witnessed the worst oil related disaster in US history, but Canada should be warned.  Here in Canada we're drilling wells off the coast of Newfoundland that are far deeper in far stormier seas than the Deepwater Horizon.  Don't get me started on the Tar Sands, but I think most Canadians are at least aware of what goes on in Alberta.  Until I watched this CBC Passionate Eye Documentary I was oblivious to the fact that a marine oil disaster of such magnitude could potentially happen here.

Canada is entering the deepwater drilling race with 250 exploratory wells off the coast of Newfoundland and 3 deepwater rigs in the Grand Banks that extract in excess of 100 million barrels of oil a year.  And not 5 weeks after the BP spill began, Chevron began constructing a well that's twice as deep and six times as far out to sea as the Deepwater Horizon!  Not to mention how treacherous the North Atlantic waters are in comparison to the Gulf of Mexico with icebergs, fogs, gigantic waves and near freezing temperatures.  I mean, this is the body of water that sank the Titanic! 

Professionals in the ocean sciences industries are concerned about the effects of drilling in and around one of the most fragile fisheries in the world.  A blowout here could be far more ecologically damaging than the one seen in the Gulf.  Commercial stocks such as Cod and Haddock would be affected both by the initial oil contamination as well as Corexit, the chemical dispersant used to hide the oil.  The oil doesn't completely disappear though either, especially not in very cold water where oil eating microbes reproduce and consume oil at a much slower rate.  The oil will sink into the Labrador current where it will be carried all along the Grand Banks,  the spawning ground for most fish stocks as well as a diverse coral based habitat, creating enormous dead zones. 

The area is home to 40 million seabirds (300 species) living 24/7/365 in the water, many very far offshore, and with the sub-zero winter temperatures any contact with oil would eliminate the birds' insulation and their chances of survival would be relatively nonexistent.  Cold water temperatures and winter storm delays will also make combating spills relatively impossible for more than half the year.  So is the Canadian government stepping up to the plate?  No - they're relaxing regulations!  For example, Canada no longer requires deepwater rigs to file a contingency plan of any sort!

I would highly suggest watching this documentary, you would be surprised what you don't know!


a wreath for @adaveaday

This is my very first tutorial so I made it a simple one!  You will need: a wire circle frame, evergreen garlands, seasonal accent picks, a focal accessory.  First attach the garland to the frame with a twist tie or wire, then start wrapping it tightly.  Use at least 3 garlands so that it is nice and full, and wrap them both clockwise and counterclockwise to make sure it is even.  Attach the smaller accent picks using twist ties then decide if you prefer to leave it like that, or add a focal accessory such as a bell, bow or pinecone.


winter gardening

My broccoli are still somehow alive!!!  They've all got small heads growing, some of which actually set after the first frost!  I'm keeping them going by watering early in the morning on sunny days with warm water so that it can be absorbed before it freezes and offsets hard frost from setting into the soil.  If I had known how long these little guys would survive I would have either built a coldframe / mini greenhouse or mulched / insulated around the raised beds. I water from my walkout rooftop using the sink / hose setup that I created in the summer!


political discourse in web 2.0

Andre Marin is my mum's Hero, mine too.  Today, the Ontario Ombudsman finally released his report on the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services's misconduct leading up to the G20 summit.  There are many articles circulating using very provocative, eloquent quotes like the one below:

"For the citizens of Toronto the days up to and including the weekend of the G8/G20 will live in infamy as a time period where martial law was set in the city of Toronto, leading to the most massive compromise of civil liberties in Canadian history. We can never let that happen again."

But the Ontario Ombudsman is not just a figurehead, he's a man named Andre Marin with a very human side and I wanted to know how he felt about reviewing the G20 summit, not just what his conclusions are.  I've written about this before, and I want to say again how powerful a tool Twitter is for quick interactions and discourse with public figures that one blogger wouldn't traditionally have access to let alone get a comment from.  Yet here we are!


Give the Gift of Life This Christmas

I came across this post on one of my social networks, and I decided that along with making sure I'm registered for organ and tissue donation, I would cross-post this message so that other people might be inspired.  This is not my personal story but I think its so well written it should be posted as is:


tying my summer garden into the winter holidays

The morning glories that grew all over my billboard and stairs left twisted vines and little seed globes, wrapped and twined and dried into a lovely almost rope-like structure.  I tied the rope onto a wire circle as gently as possible so not to unwind the rope or dislodge the seeds.  In the spring I can plant the wreath and a perfect circle of the morning glories will grow!  The whole project should be done overtop of some kind of lid or plastic sheet so you can also save the seeds that fall off :)


feeding your pets an apropriate diet

Inspired by my friend Nadia who feeds her dog a canine prey-model raw diet, I thought I should take a closer look at what I've been feeding my rats.  My pet rats are domesticated versions of the Brown Rat (Rattus norvegicus) which even themselves have been long since urbanized.  Brown rats are true omnivores, with the main portion of their diet ideally coming from cereal grains.  Over 100s of years co-existing with humans, they have adapted their tastes to garbage as their main food source!  According to one study, the brown rats' favourite foods are (in order) scrambled eggs, macaroni and cheese, and cooked corn kernels so I feed mine those as treats :)

For their main diet, I started with the most popular diet online: suebee's rat diet and adapted it using this study.  At each feeding I mix 1/2 dog food and 1/2 grain mix.  All the ingredients are from Bulk Barn!  For additional treats I just feed them scraps of whatever I'm having.  Generally if its healthy for you its healthy for rats!

Staple base diet: Lamb & Rice Dog Food or Super Premium Puppy Food (depends on age)

                                         Grain mix:
1 cup dry rolled oats
1/2 cup cheerios
1/2 cup rice krispies
3/4 cup vector
1/4 cup soybeans
1/2 cup dried fruit
1/2 cup dried pasta
2/3 cup raw sunflower seeds


    Post Inspired Christmas Decorations

    With all the talk of letter writing / sending lately I wanted to make some Holiday Post inspired art!  I found this charming tutorial for stamp coasters over at Design*Sponge!  It's cute but I didn't have any fabric transfer paper left... I do however have lots of translucent frosted sticker paper!  I printed one of the stamp images and left it in mirror image when I printed it.  That way I could stick it to the inside of the glass over top of some letter inspired paper and old christmas wrapping paper :) I chose the postal delivery bird because they he most festive!  Christmas decorations don't have to be your traditional red/green garlands and trees!


    Vintage-y Ruffle Skirt {update}

     Remember that Dust Ruffle / Jean Short upcycle skirt I made a month ago?  
    Well it featured in a cheeky photoshoot with Seann Alexander last night!


    soul of muskoka choir

    At 5:30 this morning both @Stephen_Job and I were up studying/stressing out.  He posted some reminiscent words on a lovely photograph from our summer vacation at  Muskoka Soul.  I then remembered this video of an impromptly formed choir led by Frater Musicus which has brought me peace and some how reminds me of summer, yet seems appropriate for this holiday season all at the same time!


    Winter Garden Update

    It's December 1, its snowing steadily and my garden is STILL going strong!  I harvested a handful of rainbow chard and an absolute armful of Italian flatleaf parsley :)  There's an assortment of herbs, about a dozen each of rainbow chard and broccoli plants still growing, even the Bacopa ground cover is surprisingly still thick and covered in flowers!  I love this place - its so much better than battling Zone 3 and shallow soil over the Canadian Shield in Thunder Bay haha.  Even with flurries collecting on the ground and beads of slush freezing to the leaves these plants still seem to persist.  I feel truly blessed to be heading into my 8th month of harvesting food from this garden.


    advent calendar with a twist

    When I was a kid I absolutely adored making paper chains for Christmas so when I saw this template for an Advent Calendar chain I printed it out right away!  I made a second one with colourful printed patterns on the reverse but it looked too busy, I like the simple white.  I wish my fireplace had a mantle to decorate!


    Wall Collage {update}

    The assorted bits and pieces collecting on my wall constantly evolve as I move them around the house, or get new prints.  This time I moved the blue spiral knot graphic to an entirely blue themed wall so I had an open spot in the gallery.  I wanted to match Lady with an Ermine somehow and I found this lovely beauty Lina Cavalieri on Karen's blog The Graphics Fairy.  Aesthetically she balances by looking the other way but I also think Lina and Cecilia might have been friends if they hadn't lived 400 years apart. (I've also changed the space from an office to my bedroom)


    Passive/Aggressive Water Saving Strategies

    I like to save water, but sometimes (especially when I'm sleepy) I zone out and end up taking forever!  So I've come up with two strategies to encourage myself to take shorter showers, and one extra step for water recycling consciousness!

    1) Passive: I've placed a clock in right in eyeline from where I stand under the shower.  When I'm awake and in a good mood, watching the seconds and minutes tick away is enough to motivate me!

    2) Aggressive: this one is partially possible because of the arrangement of my shower and laundry (refer to picture)  When I'm sleepy, cranky, or likely to dawdle in the shower I throw all my clothes in the laundry, turn the thing on and wait for it to fill up.  The second it switches to agitate I turn on the shower and have a few minutes, just barely enough, before it drains - then I know I have about 25 seconds to get out before the shower turns ice cold!

    3)  See those leaves down in the bottom?  I'm nursing a bay tree back to life - between the frosted window's filtered light and the humidity its a perfect environment for ailing plants and I use biodegradable soaps so I just share the water :)


    Mini Squash Sampler

    I bought three different mini squashes at the market today to put together a sampler plate for some friends who aren't familiar with squash.  The easiest way to cook squash is to cut it lengthwise, brush each side lightly with olive oil, place face down on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes or until soft.  Its a great filling but heathy vegetable with a super high carb content and low number of calories.  Squash seeds can be roasted in a similar way to pumpkin seeds, and squashes can also be pureed, mashed, grilled roasted, sauteed, or steamed.  Spaghetti squash in particular can be shredded with a fork and served with tomato sauce as a spaghetti alternative!

    • Acorn Squash: 
      beta carotene, fiber, potassium, vitamin c, vitamin b, magnesium, manganese
    • Butternut Squash:
      fiber, vitamin c, manganese, magnesium, potassium, vitamin a 
    • Spaghetti Squash:
      folic acid, potassium, vitamin a, beta carotene 


    Spin Your Own Rope

    Biodegradable Jute twine is readily available for use as garden ties, vine supports and utility twine.  But sometimes you need stronger rope to hold something together, and most rope available is either plastic or petroleum based.  Not to mention the loss of a traditional homesteading skill: rope making.  Following my source local policy I found jute twine that was spun in Guelph from 100% raw materials.  Using these Pendulum Style Ropemaking instructions I spun a couple 1 foot sections of the rope, then washed, dried, worked and oiled the rope with castor oil, using approximate instructions from this scientific paper.  Like most of my DIY adventures, this was very much trial and error and the rope isn't nearly tight enough, but that can be fixed!  Next thing I want is a hand cranked rope making machine :)  Where did I first become interested in making rope?  I visited the Mystic Seaport when I was about 10, I distinctly remember the Plymouth Cordage Co Ropewalk.


    Late Autumn Harvest Necklace

    Grasping the last luminous colours of Autumn before I take down my fall decorations (I refuse to put Christmas ones up before Dec 1) I found this very lovely Calico Flint Corn necklace idea which was a great way to use up the cobs I have adorning my house.  A nice simple project, it only took one Rick Mercer Report episode (22 minutes)



    While I do not usually write about politics, I do keep up with current events.  In light of what has been happening in Korea, I would like to suggest the following two books.  They are both great narrative fiction from the perspective of people who have had 1st hand experience living the struggle between North and South Korea.


    I am proud of my vocabulary!

    To answer Stephen Fry's question: YES!  Words transport me to giddy euphoric bliss!  I often yoke impossible words together for the sound sex of it!  I use language to seduce, charm, excite, please, affirm and tickle those I talk to!  I do!  On the other hand I am also aghast at the demise of the English language that I witness on a daily basis:


    Chez Cora - A New Canadian Icon?

     Established in May of 1987, Cora's restaurant is literally the same age as me!  Starting as a small Montreal all day breakfast bar, Cora has grown one small business into a nation wide franchise, changing how Canadians eat and an early adopter of the healthy living lifestyle.  Serving high quality, fresh ingredients, especially large portions of fruit(!!!) Cora's main mission is to promote the importance of eating breakfast.  In fact, the Cora Foundation partners with the Breakfast Clubs of Canada to provide support and nutrition to young people across Canada.  The traditional Canadian food icon, Tim Hortons, perpetuates the notion that Canadians only care about hockey, caffeine and donuts.  Maybe Cora franchisees can reinvent the face of Canadian food, giving Canadians a fresh, healthy option across the country... plus Cora herself is a gem!  Obviously, I'll be eating there often when a new Chez Cora restaurant opens in St. Catharines!

    Also - check out these great Chez Cora recipes you can try at home!


    5 Minute Rice Paper Window Garland

    I picked up some lovely earthy metallic paper at Dinh Dinh's Asian Supermarket last week and I wanted to get it up somewhere in my house while it would still pick up the warm autumnal sunset tones outside!  Using this very simple tutorial from Pin and Paper I snazzed up some dollar store clothespins and clipped them to some deep red hemp thread along my front door frame.   Then I simply clipped in the rice paper which has a fundamental elegance I didn't want to mess with.  Stunning simple beauty. 

    One lucky person will win this little package so they can make their very own rice paper window garland!
    As this is my first giveaway there are no particular rules, no random # generator, no following or twittering.  Just somehow comment why you should have this great little package (about 50 pages of the paper!) and I'll simply pick the best one at my own whim.  I know!  Not fair!  Oh well :)


    ideas please?

    I found this very cute but very broken ladybug umbrella on the sidewalk.  Any ideas what I can do with it?

    I was thinking:


    You've Got Healthcare Options Nearby

    Get to know them better!  As a student for the last few years without a family doctor its hard to know when to go to the ER or the walk in clinic and not just give up and go back to bed (resulting in lost work and student productivity).  The Ministry of Health has a great series of public services directing you to their informative website:

    Health Care Connect: can help you find nearby health care and help you select an apropriate type of healthcare.  They can help counsel you regarding long term care, diabetes education, wait times for surgery and when is best to go to the ER.

    Quick quiz:  Do you know the difference between these types of healthcare?  
    Click on each to find out!
    What makes me so interested in public health?  Well my grandmother was a VON nurse and my mum is a journalist who often writes public health stories: Hospital Superbugs, Cross Border Care, H1N1 Flu Shots, and most recently Patient Access to Medical Marijuana


    new twist on split pea and ham

    Navy Bean and Sausage Soup!  I don't cook by measuring so you'll have to figure out the ratios yourself and no pictures cause I ate it too fast, but this combo of ingredients was fantastic - same general texture and overall taste as split pea/ham but definitely also completely new!  Bring some chicken broth to a boil, add canned navy beans (I hate soaking overnight) cooked chopped sausage, and some crushed garlic.  Simmer until everything is soft, add a little milk and cheese (aged mozzarella) to make it creamy!


    balcony containers

    Its astounding - they've been flowering for 6 months straight!  Remember those tender baby fuschias and matthiolas I nursed back to health in MAY?  Well they're still rockin on blooming away and producing even more buds that haven't opened!  They've been roughly transplanted a number of times and even run over with a car but they continue to produce lovely blooms :)  Here are some pictures so you may share the enjoyment...
    Its been a great year in the garden :) 


    2 and 15/16ths

    A music video for vintage toy loving craftsters with great taste in electronic music!  Jamie and I had a great weekend and she topped it off by showing me a fantastic song and video by USS (Ubiquitous Synergy Seeker) - easily my favourite Canadian act at the moment.  I've seen this scratch-tastic duo live a few times: at WEMF in 2008, then again a few times when I was living in Parkdale. After they won the CASBY awards, I went out and bought their album and then encountered them again at the Burlington Sound of Music Festival.  Sooooo I didn't think I could love them any more than I already did until I saw the video for 2 and 15/16ths - it appeals to every part of me: beautiful lighting and rich photographic tones, vintage toys, cute girl in kneesocks dancing around, doodles and crafts, effer- vescent trippy music ... sighs perfection!  Come craft to good music anytime Jamie!


    Zeppelin T-shirt Makeover

    I had some mens rock tees that were too wide but a great length.  So we cut straight lines down each side of the shirt, cut fringed pieces along the hip, and tied them together leaving nice open arms and flared at the thigh - but its up to you whether you cut the sides/back/front and whether you tie the ends loose or tight.  Also cutting the fringes wider or thinner creates smaller bows or larger knots.  On the Zeppelin shirt we left the collar t-shirt style but you could cut it into a v-neck, scoop back or halter top!


    Remembrance Day

    Vimy Ridge France, November 2000


    I'd like a pint of Draft Punk please!

    I've been listening to Tron 2 soundtrack clips and having a mini heart attack - I've been fiending for more new Daft Punk since I saw them in Toronto on the Alive Tour:2007.  Tron (along with War Games) was one of my favourite movies as a child and I loooove Jeff Bridges (just watched the Fisher King, which interestingly enough is Terry Gilliam's second feature film about the holy grail) So obv I'm excited to see Tron 2: Legacy with a Daft Punk soundtrack that features 100 piece orchestra instruments with electronic elements!  This is their first feature sountrack as a duo and so far it sounds good, although a bit disjointed as its just the Teaser Clip track: Derezzed and End Titles: Somekind of Awesome.
    And the trailer looks rad!


    farmers market roses

    Thanks to Karen (@artofdoingstuff) my half dozen roses look twice as full as they usually 
    would in this heirloom mason jar. I totally agree:

    The biggest mistake I used to make when arranging roses was NOT cutting the stems enough.  The same gene that makes us afraid to hammer nails into our walls,  has been scientifically proven to be the same gene that instils terror when we attempt to chop off a rose stem.  I think. 

    Following Karen's instructions I lopped off a whole lot of the stem (under running water is a good idea!), bound the bunch together with floral tape and gently nestled it into the mouth of the jar. 



    Like the up-to-the-momentness of Twitter but miss reading your morning newspaper? My design-freak brother (@Stephen_Job) said once that one reason he doesn't use twitter as a news source is the layout.  He prefers the well designed online paper format (particularly http://www.nytimes.com and http://www.theglobeandmail.com) over the disjointed 140 character bursts of Twitter. 

    Paper.li is an online application that builds a daily newspaper style page based on the articles, blog posts, videos and photos shared on Twitter (using a stream, list or hashtag) tailored to your custom tastes!  Not only does it create a top level "front page" but it uses tags and keywords to create nesting sections that change depending on the user (mine are usually Arts, Education, Health, Travel in that order)  Using the retweet function and daily "publication" feature you can encourage your followers to connect and interact with eachother building stronger community network.

    Not only is Paper.li an interesting concept but it has a number of other things working for it:  functionality, quality design, easy adoptability, and constant tweaking updates.  Is this the future of news? No, but I do think it will form a lasting niche following (including myself)  I also really appreciate the evening edition feature.  Being a night owl I would prefer to see today's news at the end of the day than yesterdays news early the next morning, web based news doesn't have to wait for an overnight print/distribution cycle and Twitter based news doesn't even have to work around staff hours!

    Check out the papers I've created:
    a collection of my closest 
    Twitter  friends and followers
    mostly Ontario

    a broader range of people 
    I follow on Twitter
    mostly arts, gardening and food

    my main source of news 
    my favourite news sources 
    collected in a new way
    selected by interest
    mostly acronyms 
    (CBC, BBC, TVO, OntAG, MNN)


    That's right sistas can rock the "Mo" too!

    If you haven't heard of Movember yet you must be living in a hole or possibly North Korea.  Otherwise everywhere you look facial hair is scraggling its way to a global phenomenon :)  I myself am a fan of the Mustache with its classic sexy-ness and here we're rockin the "Petit Femme" Stash but I especially love the Handlebar-for-a-good-cause! 

    For over a decade men have been growing out their mustaches during the month of November to generate conversation about and "change the face" of mens' health issues (prostate and testicular cancer, depression) but come on, its partially just cause the Mustache is so rad!  So we all know men out there can grow a snazzy moustache to raise money and awareness but what about us lady Stache-Lovers?  You can support your Mo-sporting friends, recruit men in your life with lacking facial hair, raise funds and attend Mustache Gala Parties.  But I've thought of one more great way to spread the Mo-love message...


    snail mail time

    I know many of the postal employees in a number of different cities - I send tons of curious letters and most of them think I'm nuts.  The number of odd sized, shaped, glittery, colourful, feathery, etc packages and letters I've mailed and recieved is definately remarkable to say the least and Karen over at The Art of Doing Stuff reminded me yet again just how fun recieving mail can be!  I hope everyone has a mail ritual.  I sure do - I stack it up, shuffle the stack, feeling the tangible curiosity of what could be inside then curl up into my armchair to open each piece.  I was also inspired by a number of different tutorials on One Pretty Thing's Card Making Roundup and made some seasonal whimsical cards with my growing collection of vintage and new paper scraps!


    Hearts / Roller Derby / Basement Shadows

    {Photoshoot Update}