Runway Inspired Thrift/Closet Outfits

I have a secret!  Even though I spend most of my time in dirty shorts, I really love fashion.  I love to dress up, I love to photograph clothing and I adore runway shows!  Its partially nostalgia for my dressup box and partially aesthetic interest but fashion shows are fabulous inspiration!  Its not that I want to perfectly emulate a particular designer (or rush out to buy their overpriced clothing). I've spent years combing thrift stores and garage sales for a whole palate of colours and selection of silhouettes, so I watch a whole variety of shows from Europe to right here in Toronto and then use the themes I see to decide what section of my extensive wardrobe will be featured, what I'll box up in storage and what's given away.   
I'm not a huge fan of summer so I start looking towards fall clothing very early and this year is one of my favourite seasons in a long time!  Although some designers are still stuck on the pretentious boxy, 80s, garish hipster nonsense, most are starting towards a gorgeous trend of returning to organic forms.  And I don't mean pale green, eco-washed organics but what I think of as being more base elements: leather, fur, rawhide... the colours oxblood, pansy and buff... and a womanly 50s hourglass silhouette with wide hips and a bustline.  Real shaped women!  Some other trends I saw across many runways were: mixed prints (patchword, paisley, plaid) and textures (velvet, knitwork); wider pants, belted coats, shorts and capes/ponchos; gold accessories and ruffles on just about everything.  This basically sounds like someone describing my wardrobe so I figured I'd put together as many looks from my own closet as I could using this season's trends!

One of my favourite runway shows this year, that I could see myself wearing every piece:


Flora Mexicana

One of the mexican workers at the greenhouse I was working at this summer had a wealth of information about the succulent plant I'd previously only known as "Hens and Chicks".  

One of the most common and easy to grow varieties of the group known as Echeveria, the particular species E. elegans (pictured here) is also known as Mexican Snowball or Mexican White Rose because of its waxy greyish green (white) rosettes of succulent leaflets.  

It was discovered in the mountains of the province of Hidalgo by Joseph Nelson Rose in 1905 on one of his many field trips to San Luis Potosi and Queretaro.  I think if I had been born in the previous century I'd have been a roving, adventuring botanist on a quest to discover new species! 


organization vs procrastination

I really hate to do lists.  So much so that I often avoid looking at mine, entirely defeating the purpose of having one.  I figured if I prettied it up I might want to use it more (either that or this is yet another masterful way of making procrastination look like something productive).  I've got a number of different important tasks, and a few goals to be accomplished before the end of summer so I'm actually prettying up a couple different documents. 

#1 - the ToDo list.  All other sub items should ultimately be listed on here so I'll have to look at it frequently.  There's a surprising number of attractive to do list templates to choose from at oneprettything.com so I'll try out a few till I find one to stick with!

Before:  ugly, plain, boring to do list... makes me want to vomit & not do the things on it

After:  I chose to use "the freakin never ending to do list" by Vale Design because it has day circles as well as tick boxes and a special section for listing blog topics!

#2 - the monthly list
Some to do items are way far in the future, or require scheduling.  Right now I have to come up with a timeline/plan for what I'm doing with the rest of my summer.  Between appointments, travelling and possibly working somewhere in there I've really gotta manage my time!  For this I found a gorgeous printable Carnivorous Plants calendar from the A Print A Day Archive!

#3 - the medical list
I have an ongoing medical checklist (dentist appt, bloodwork, prescriptions etc) that I need to deal with while I have medical coverage from the college.  I used the  the Jellyfish Checklist also from A Print A Day as my template for these lists to liven up some boooooring subjects!

#4 - the back to school list
I have a number of things to get done before going back to school (register for classes, transfer credits, osap paperwork etc) that are really more like goals because of their complexity so I like this flowchart-like goalsetting template thats produced by getbuttonedup.com, especially because it has a "get back on track" section haha!


eco-ish spray paint

My friends had Madonna posters, I had prints of Banksy, Shepard Fairey, and Jef Aerosol...

One of my favourite memories from my teens is sneaking out of my bedroom window with Vince, Steve and Tori to tag hand cut Obey stencils all over Oakville.  We though we were so badass!  On another occasion a whole bunch of us stayed up most of the night in a garage painting t-shirts for Mikey aka DJ Busdriver - I converted a digital image of his turntable into a stencil, but Michelle and Lindsay were much better at the painting part... somehow a variety of people's different artistic talents all meshed well when it came to production line stencil-shirt making!  This went on for a few years in highschool until the ecology / global warming thing really kicked in at which point I swore off spraypaint along with spray glue (yeah I was a crafty kid), hairspray and all other aerosol products.  I found other ways to make t-shirts and still hand stencilled some images with vegetable dye but my interest moved to sewing and collage and I stashed my folder of stencils (although my love of Shepard Fairey grew exponentially during and after the Obama campaign!)
Then the other day two events coincided to bring me back to stencil cutting/tagging.  Camden wanted to spray his name on a brand new guitar case and was going to do it freehand which I knew would look just awful... and I found that old folder of stencils which of course I immediately wanted to try out!
So... I did my research and thanks to Apartment Therapy I learned about Krylon's H20 Latex spraypaint. which comes in a dozen + colours.  It's better than traditional spraypaint because its an acrylic latex paint (lower toxicity than solvent based paints) with significantly reduced VOCs and propellants.   Chemical cleaners can also be avoided since latex paint is water soluble and cleans up with soap and water (within the first 20 - 40min).  On the other hand lower VOCs isn't the same as no VOCs and the single use pressurized cans are not recyclable and hard to dispose of properly.  Spraypaint isn't the best choice when you could use other paint products but for certain things like coating furniture, decorative/artistic uses and of course stencil.tagging - spray is the only way, in which case this Krylon paint is the best option!  It is a little thicker and drippier than regular spray paint - I'll have to see if any of the pro street art paints come in an eco-friendly option!  
Since you know I love books and just have to recommend one on every topic:
-OBEY: E Pluribus Venom (Fairey, Williams, Levine)


tomato surgery

Just about all of my plants are doing really well except for one forgotten tomato plant.  It got tucked behind some other containers slightly out of reach and while it got lots of water it was never pruned and ended up with three main stems coming from one really weak joint right at the base of the plant. 
The competing growing tips steal sugars that should be going into the fruits and the stems were starting to split and physically weaken the plant as they get heavier.  Plus since this tomato was growing in a container, there was far too much competition for water and most of the tomatoes were developing blossom end rot.  One lateral stem had only vegetative growth so I pruned it right off, however, I had a different plan for the other lateral stem.
Tomatoes easily grow adventitious roots from their stems, and since this lateral stem was growing along the moist surface of the soil it had already grown the beginnings of a number of roots.  Since this lateral stem already had healthy vertical growth  that was taller and healthier than the central stem I wanted to turn it into its own plant.  So I pruned it from the main plant as close to the original stem as possible then removed all foliage except the pair of leaves directly below the flower, burying as much stem as possible to anchor a good root structure.  I also pruned and repotted the original tomato plant deeper than it was before to cover the wound and encourage more root growth.  With the second one I'm really just waiting till the 3 tomatoes on the plant ripen and then I'll scrap the rest of it, its way too stressed already!  
I tend to read alot before doing anything, this is my first intuitive gardening decision based solely on my own knowledge, so we'll see how it goes!  Hopefully I'm right and the transplant will thrive :)


I need a little time to wake up...

I always seem to sleep past my morning glories flowering but their heart shaped leaves are still beautiful as they slowly engulf the ugly billboard on my roof!

With trumpet shaped flowers and heart shaped leaves, Morning Glories are the ultimate urban beautification plants!  Growing up to 3+m in just 2 months and easy to grow from seed these twining vines quickly cover objects and thrive in poor disturbed areas as they actually prefer soils with less nutrients.  They will grow lushly with full sun and lots of water but will tolerate just about any conditions. Morning Glories live up to their name, flowering first thing in the morning, on cloudy days the flowers may last into the afternoon. 

I was trying to fit the whole plant into one shot without much success so I decided to make a short little vid.  I'm a still photographer not a videographer so please excuse the rough quality!
(looks much better if you just keep it small screen)


Capsicum annuum 'Gypsy'

There's a whole bunch of Gypsies living in my garden and I'm not talking about the freewheeling nomads, but the hybrid capsicum plants that produce prolific numbers of sweet tapered peppers.  

Although gypsy  peppers resemble banana peppers or the tapered shape of hot peppers they are actually the sweetest peppers I've ever tasted.  They have thinner walls than bell peppers so they are great for stuffing and roast/grill quickly.  Once they reach their mature size (2" - 6") they can be eaten in any of the colour stages green -> yellow -> orange -> red.  The white/green colour of the early pepper is tart and found in many hungarian dishes while the later deep red peppers are incredibly sweet and evoke more of a mediterranean taste.  The peppers are also great just on their own - either fried in olive oil or raw as crudites. 

When I planted them they were all scraggly, and dying and only had a tiny plug's worth of roots.  I planted a whole bunch of them figuring some would end up dying and I'd weed them out... well I was wrong and now I have so many healthy pepper plants that I don't know what to do with them all!   These plants are incredibly tough, not just tolerating but thriving in both the strong rains of the early spring and the excessive heat that we've had in the past few weeks.  They're also uniquely early producers in the pepper world, producing fruit just 60 days after sowing and require very little watering or feeding.  (interesting note - they're also resistant to tobacco mosaic virus among other diseases)

I almost can't believe these are the same plants...


Falafel and Friendship

Tiffany (@EatingNiagara) and I share a love of homemade Lebanese food created from local ingredients by caring neighbourhood restaurateurs Tony and Amira Barbari so I suggested to her we team up to give these wonderful people a fraction of the credit they deserve.  Tiffany did a great job of the article which you can read over at EatingNiagara.blogspot.com and I challenged myself to hold off devouring the food long enough to take some photos.  If you're downtown St. Catharines and hungry for delicious, quality food then Tonami is definitely worth checking out!


banana box booksale!

Woot!  I scored tons of organic gardening and photography books today!!  Not sure if you've noticed yet but I love to read.  I also love to comb thrift stores, find old things for cheap/free and treasure hunt.  Well today I found the best combo of all of the above when I ventured into the attic warehouse of Fremont Books!

The Fremont Books store on St. Paul St in St. Catharines (what a tongue twister!) has actually been 3 bookstores in a row (formerly A Novel Idea and The Bookworm) and much of the inventory has carried over, building up over the years in the attic and basement.  Unfortunatley Fremont Books is being forced to change their location as the building has been expropriated by the city as part of Brock's downtown performing arts center and they are having a pre-move liquidation sale.  Its not as bad as it sounds though - the books being sold haven't been touched in years as they're from the prior stores' stock and each box that is sold brings income that will hopefully support Freemont Books moving into a new location.  So head downtown and check out these great sales: All books on the main floor are discounted, but the true treasure will be found by those who venture into the upstairs attic warehouse.  Banana boxes are available and can be filled for $10 (or $5 for paperbacks) which is an especially great deal for those of us who love the usually expensive big hardcover books!  

Set aside a whole morning or afternoon though as the warehouse is incredibly overwhelming!  I've been back multiple times and never saw the same box of books twice.  You will need lots of time and patience to find the good stuff - the boxes are stacked 3 to 4 deep from wall to wall!  (and bring some water cause its hot up there!)  It wasn't until I had been there 3 hours and was ready to call it a day that I found a motherlode of organic gardening books all published by well known sources between the 1930s and 1990s.  Along with the other novels, photography/coffee table books, biographies and craft books that we managed to fit in the box these gardening tomes pushed the weight over the edge and we ended up having to borrow shopping carts to get all the books home!

Here's just a few of my favourites (they didn't seem to do much gardening in the 80s):
Gardener's Handbook (1934) Macmillan

Garden Guide: The Amateur Gardeners' Handbook (1935) AT De La Mare
A Practical Guide to Successful Farming (1943) Halcyon House
The Complete Book of Garden Magic (1947) by Roy E Biles
Gardening with Nature (1954) by Leonard Wickenden
Plant Propagation Practices (1963) Macmillan
McCall's Book of Handicrafts (1972) McCall's
The Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening (1978) Rodale Press
New Choices in Natural Healing (1995) Rodale Press


Inspiration in Niagara: Tiffany aka EatingNiagara

Last week I woke up surprised and honoured to find myself the subject of an article by Chris (@ChrisEnnest) over at GetOutNiagara.ca!  It was the first in a series we are temporarily calling "Inspiration in Niagara" that will be featured on the local site (supposed to be every Monday morning, but I'm a slacker)  Chris would like to see the featured person, pick and write about the subject of the next week - so I have the pleasure to introduce to you this week's Inspiration in Niagara: Tiffany of EatingNiagara

I briefly met Tiffany for the first time recently when we exchanged plants but I feel like I've known her for months - in fact my first twitter connection with another human being was a response from Tiffany to the success of our Niagara College spring open house.  In keeping with Chris' theme I wanted to highlight a person who has helped me discover the hidden gems of Niagara, making the best of all this region has to offer and Tiffany does a wonderful job of that through her Twitter feed (@EatingNiagara) and contributions to EatingNiagara - a blog devoted to local eating and agriculture in Ontario's Niagara Region.  

Her blog has helped me find great restaurants, markets and local goodies but Tiffany has a more investigative side as well, honed by her years as a journalist and the agricultural news articles she writes for EatingNiagara are an accurate and no fuss account of the state of farming in Niagara.  You'd think that writing quality content and responding to my endless banter on Twitter would keep Tiffany busy but she somehow also found time to start up a volunteer collective of residential fruit pickers in a micro co-op type situation where the homeowners share their fruit with the volunteer pickers.  This group is aptly named the Garden of Eating (are you sending a trend here?  this chick has great taste!) and can likely be found in a backyard near you!  

Tiffany's writing and Twitter are definitely worth checking out if you live in the Niagara Region and enjoy tasty local food with a dash of opinion.  Plus she's the expert on all things hoity-toity... what's not to love?


lavender mint cooling body scrub

My bills and flyers had an enticing scent today but I couldn't figure out why until I flipped through and found a charming little package from Ali (@eatreadlove) my newest local penpal :)  "Smell Me" it said, so I did and then quickly ripped it open to confirm my guess - Lavender, a loose bundle from the Organic General Store in Virgil along with a great letter.  I find twitter, facebook etc great for keeping in touch and I've enjoyed getting to know Ali through her blog (also called Eat, Read, Love) but I've always been a bit of an old-fashioned real world kinda gal and I just love sending and receiving such great fun in the mail!  Thanks Ali!  

Lavender Mint Cooling Scrub
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup high quality oil
handful of lavender
handful of mint
Combine all the ingredients in a mason jar and shake well to mix.  Store in the refrigerator and it will be cool and refreshing to scrub your body with.  I used Olys oil made from cereal and fruits because it has a really high Vitamin E content and a much lighter scent and feel than other oils but you could also use virgin olive oil or almond oil.  The blue soap you see pictured there is great for gardeners!  Its Pumice Soap (made by Toronto based Soap Works) which contains finely ground pumice grit to remove dirt and calluses especially from the hands and feet of digging gardeners like me!


simple boys cuff watch

Camden always gets excessively sweaty when he plays guitar which gives him a rash on his wrist.  He's been asking me to make him an absorbent cuff that doesn't look as sporty as the tennis ones, so I've been keeping my eye out for an idea and I finally found a great tutorial by Larissa.  I put together a green terry towel cuff with a velcro closure and as a bonus I finally found a use for an old watch!  Camden's used it for a few jams but no longer shows yet so we have yet to see how the velcro will hold up against extended rocking out


bloody... dock... ?

Is that a thing?  It was curiosity at first sight for @EatingNiagara and it was the same for me.  I read about Tiffany's discovery of this strange red veined leafy specimen at a greenhouse in Niagara-on-the-Lake and I was hooked as well, especially with my recently successful rainbow chard experience.  Since I'm relatively landlocked and transport challenged in the downtown core of St. Catharines, she was kind enough to bring me a great healthy plant in exchange for a few of my many peppers!  It was also really great to finally meet one of my local e-friends!  I got it all potted up in a silver basin to accent the colour and although I haven't tried eating it yet I'm hoping it will be a bright addition to my summer salad mixes. 


Zea mays everta

Popcorn: a great healthy snack and definitely "local" as it was originally cultivated by Native Americans, but not usually something easy to find in your actual local area.  I eat popcorn at least once a day but only air-popped stovetop popcorn which is naturally high in fiber, low in calories and fat, and free of the sodium, artificial flavourings and carcinogenic packaging that comes with microwave popcorn.  Stovetop can get somewhat annoying and time consuming though so I was excited to find a fun style of locally grown microwave popping corn on the cob at the farmers market!  How rad is that?  Simply insert the cob of popping corn into a brown paper bag and microwave for 2 - 3 mins.  Perfect additive free local microwave popcorn!


blueberries and antique cars!

It was a happenin' day downtown St. Catharines with both the Farmers Market and the Antique Car Show going on I was out for the whole day without leaving my neighbourhood :) 

Blueberries:  I've been buying up bundles of the locally cultivated highbush blueberries for my smoothies and granola - they're big round juicy and explode in your mouth with a sweet burst of juice.  I've been eating them almost every day for the last few weeks and I've noticed a distinct improvement in my skin (acne) must be all the antioxidants.  Today I picked up my usual container of berries, but then out of the corner of my eye I saw something that looked similar... but different.  Blueberries, but tiny ones, rolling around in the basket, barely squishing when pressed in on top of eachother.  Instantly images of rocky lakes, tall trees and boggy swamps came to me - WILD Nickel Belt blueberries!  Most people refer to Sudbury when they think of these berries, but I prefer the ones grown in the even rockier and craggier stretch from Espanola down to Manitoulin where all the stresses mother nature can throw at these plants forces them to cram  their sugars into tiny tangy berries with a much sharper intense flavour.  Lowbush blueberries (the wild ones) are almost crunchy and pack a big nutritional punch with many more antioxidants, anthocyanins, and phytonutrients than their cultivated cousins.  Either type of blueberry freezes well, maintaining far more nutrients per lb than just about any other fruit. 
After loitering around the market chatting with friends and reading the paper I walked through the antique car show.  Despite not knowing anything about cars I had a fun time looking at the shiny, colourful big man toys!  Some of my highlights included a rusted but fascinating truck from 1929 and another rusty farm truck from the 50s and the "Pimp Mobile" (pink fuzzy interior, signed picture of Jenna Jameison, I ♥ Lesbians on dashboard).  I'm sure for people who know their cars there were many rare sights but I just enjoyed looking at the character cars - the ones with great personality! 


door to a neighbourhood

The front entrance of a house is a transition from the common space of the sidewalk and street into a personal living space.  Doorways are the first impression of a home - they can welcome one in, suspensefully deter visitors or represent a symbolic purpose.  In my neighbourhood the houses are very close to the walk and I've noticed that its the little personality touches in each door that really create the character of our street.  

here's a few simple design tips to add interest to a front door:


Beta vulgaris subsp. cicla var. flavescens 'Bright Lights'

 That name's quite a mouthful and so is this leafy colourful plant!  Also known as rainbow chard this  chenopod features hilighter-esque coloured veins in dark green leafy leaves and a refreshingly bitter taste.  Along with doing double duty as an ornamental edible is also incredibly drought resistant - mine is flourishing in this heat wave!

I had thrown a bunch of seeds in a small container of soil then forgot about it when it got tucked behind some junk on the roof.  By the time I found it there were tons of medium size seedlings, completely root bound but quite healthy.  I figured I'd transplant all of them and see what happens, they're pretty resilient!  
Did you know rainbow chard roots are rainbow?  Neither did I until I pulled them out of the container!


pineapple sage breakfast

Thanks to a great post by the lovely Ms. Fern (@LifeOnTheBlcny) I knew exactly what to do with the abundance of pineapple sage I had after clipping back an excessive amount of new growth (the pineappley-est part of the plant)  First I made a pineapple sage loaf (recipe can be found here) with most of the clipped herbs along with honey, pineapple, and lemon peel.   Then after a quick trip to the market to get some fruit I made a pineapple sage smoothie.  All this was done before 8am and put me in the mood for a highly productive day!
Piney-tang Smoothie 
as much chopped pineapple sage as you have/want
large handful strawberries (tops off)
1 can of crushed pineapple
2 peeled kiwis
juice of 1 lemon
lots of ice
blend all ingredients to desired consistency, add water or juice if necessary


surprise mail - ATCs and jewelry!

I had a happy surprise this morning when I found my mailbox overflowing with lovely mail!  Two swap envies with 8 ATCs between them (and one return to sender due to my inability to address things properly) but I was expecting those any day.  The bigger surprise was a paper/padded envelope... what could it be?  Remember back in April when Camden planted an earth day cedar tree?  Neither did I!  Which is why I was delightfully surprised to discover a lovely bunny necklace in my mail today.  Thanks Figs&Ginger!  Made of recycled sterling silver using eco-friendly studio habits and inspired by Forests, I can see myself wearing this necklace daily!  Bonus points for making the clasp easy to use - I hate trying to attach the twisty kind on myself.  The cedar tree is also much happier now, surrounded by fields of herbs instead of weeds.


summer entertaining with a local twist - mini art books

I spent the day in the air-conditioned comfort of my craft room (living room) cause it was just too hot to venture outdoors.  Inspired by a great book I found in the kids section of the St. Catharines Library called Making Books that Fly, Fold, Wrap, Hide, Pop Up, Twist and Turn (what a title!) I made a number of summery art books and a few ATCs.
 The first two books I made were Summer Entertaining Drink Idea books made from scraps of an LCBO pamphlet among other paper ephemera I had around.  Even in my arts and crafts I try to promote supporting your local scene - note the niagara wine suggestions and Canadian (Thunder Bay) tea in the non-alcoholic row!
The third book I made was a mini photography portfolio book that I made as a mockup for a "real size" portfolio I plan to assemble for myself.  The final one will of course have much better finishings :p
Last but not least I made a few ATCs with the smaller scraps I had floating around after making the books.  They are up for trade in my ATCsforAll.com Gallery
(L: Adventurous Alice | R: Designer Tea)