Railway Grunge Princess

Highlights & favourites from yesterday's shoot with Anne Hopkins (@mydailydesigns) !!


PHOTOSHOOT: rePsychled reDesign

these pictures are of the shoot as a whole -- see tomorrow's post for my selection of favourites!
If, like me, you buy all your clothing either thrift/vintage or from local craftspeople you know that your garb has a vibe different from that of mass produced lines.  Sometimes I can feel that by the time I get my clothes, they've already had a full lifetime of experience!  Ever wonder about the artistes saturating your clothing with their creative energies?
I was first aquainted with Anne Hopkins (@mydailydesigns) last summer, when I encountered her rainbow shop and got a lovely fairy-esque crochet top .. Thru the power of Twitter I found her again this summer!  Anne has left her store behind and is now a rockin photographer and etsy seller with more time to focus on her designs :)
Here's what she had to say about what's she's been up to: Whether it’s Fashion, Scouting Models..Redoing a Room, or piece of Furniture..I feel that it comes along with more of an Inner Knowing or Attitude. I see the Beauty in what others normally wouldn't..and make Things/People more Beautiful than they Already Were. I can’t help it, it’s almost an Obsession.  One that I ‘hope’ there isn't a Cure for.  Recycling isn’t just Something People should Do. I believe it’s going to Become a Way of Life..One that will Make Us Feel Good about Ourselves..and Especially the Planet.  My Newest Hobby?  Photography.  Can life get any better than That? Don’t forget to check out my latest Photo Shoots. One Day > a few Hours.. and Memories that will Last a Lifetime! :)

I got in touch with her for a TFP photoshoot and what a wonderful day it was!  We collaborated to put together some great looks with focus pieces from Anne's collection and accent clothes/accessories from my own wardrobe. Getting free range of her design stuffed apartment was like raiding the closet of a fashionable older sister I never had!  I  really love Anne's way of de-constructing vintage/thrift clothes and recycling them into new, fashionable pieces.  She fit right into the fall trends with mixed prints and houndstooth and has a tremendous sense of draping that clearly illustrates her love of Alexander McQueen and Vivian Westwood.

She's also a great photographer -- showcasing many angles, styles and types of poses for my modelling portfolio while I tried to give her some unusual/unique looks and model a wide range of her collection.
You can get many of the pieces pictured here from Anne's etsy shop: http://www.etsy.com/shop/annehopkins


Parkour isn't just an urban pastime

This wonderful forest vid is just the inspiration I need to get out free-running and exercising!


Ex-men's shirt as new dress for you!

I just love this video -- and I found a soft muskoka-esque plaid shirt!  So simple :)


Muskoka Beer Festival

Since moving down to the Niagara region I've been cultivating my wine palate, and my taste for beer has been neglected.  So I was quite excited to try some local,craft and micro brews at Muskoka Beer Festival, especially since my own college's new Brewmaster and Brewery Operations program was also being highlighted.  I tried a wide variety of ales and lagers -- way way way too many to talk about and picture here!  But I was genuinely most impressed by the knowledgeable people I got to talk to!  After the pictures and highlights I wanted to share what I learned about wheat beers, so make sure to scroll down :)

Highlight of the day was definitely Great Weiss North -- arguably the most Canadian Beer with one ingredient from every province and seriously one of tastiest most drinkable glasses of beer I've ever had!  I'm proud to say the test batch was brewed at my my home campus' Teaching Brewery at Niagara College in collaboration with Gravenhurst's own brand new (not even open yet) Sawdust City Brewing!

On that note -- since we know my mantra is support local .. it doesn't get much more local than Sawdust City Brewing Co  in Gravenhurst (above left) and Muskoka Brewery in Bracebridge (above right)

Next I went on a quest for fruit/citrus flavoured beer, since those are often my favourite and perfect for a hot summer afternoon.  I tried so many I lost track but the two standouts were Garrison Blackberry Wheat (above right) and Mill St. Lemon Tea Ale (not pictured)  Winner for most unusual was Dieu du Ciel's Rosée d' Hibiscus (above left) which I tried because I love hibiscus tea and admittedly because the label was so lovely!

Its never a good idea to drink on an empty stomach (especially for 6 hours) and with all the delectable food around, who could resist?  For lunch, while still intelligently imbibing I decided on the sophisticated options offered by the chefs at Touchstone Resort.  To start: a salad featuring local ingredients: grilled watermelon, peaches and sliced red onions from a farmers market, Brooklands Farm baby lettuce, Four Season's rainbow sprouts topped with Johnston's cranberries and a Red Maple Desert Wine dressing.  Then: a Bison burger with carmelized onions and garlic aioli on sweet potato fries with chipotle mayo.  Considering I was coming for the beer, I was suitably impressed by the food!

After hours and hours of drinking and glasses and glasses of beer though .. elegant cuisine was the last thing on my mind.  Comfort food in the form of a wood fired pizza was just perfect!  I was fascinated by this portable brick pizza oven belonging to All Fired Up in Muskoka -- never seen anything like it!  And the pizzas were still very incredible culinary creations -- ours had prosciutto, tomatoes, onions maybe?.. and lots of other tasty toppings which I can only vaguely remember as I could barely see it at that point LOL

All in all.. a fantastic day!  Cheers!

I started off my day in a sampling class taught by Roger Mittag, a veritable professor of beer while I could still think and write (relatively) coherently!  I chose Weizen is Knowing (a discussion of wheat beer styles) because I was pretty sure my favourite drinks were all wheat beers, but was completely confused by the category.  I took quite a few pages of notes, but here's the basics of what I found out...

Wheat Beer (White Beer) is just as the name sounds - beer that is brewed with a large proportion of wheat and pale/hazy "white" in colour.  Most are top fermented and unfiltered which leads to a cloudy appearance, and some are "bottle conditioned" meaning the suspended yeasts cause a secondary fermentation after being bottled.  But beyond that its a broad category that is difficult to define.  Breaking it down further Roger explained the two main types of Wheat Beers are influenced by their region of origin.

German Weissbiers are cloudy, unfiltered, medium amber coloured brews with a light body, spritzey taste and aromas/flavours of banana and clove produced by the yeasts they contain.  Also known as hefeweizen or hefeweiss (the prefix hefe means yeast) in reference to the unfiltered appearance.

Belgian Witbiers are also hazy, unfiltered, light bodied beers but paler straw yellow in colour and with a more citric/tangy taste.  The aromas/flavours are of orange peel and coriander, added to the beer in the form of gruit.  This style is sometimes just called wit, the Belgian word for white.

Wheat beers that we sampled: St. Ambroise Apricot Wheat Ale, Garrison Blackberry Wheat, Muskoka Summer Weiss, Mill St Wit, KLB Raspberry Wheat Ale and mentioned but not sampled: Blanche de Chambly

Knowing which wheat beer you want is only half the story -- the rest is in using an appropriate glass and a proper pour.  Along with those two basics, its good to note that the unfiltered sediments in wheat beers can settle to the bottom of the bottle, so it should be inverted before serving or gently rolled upside down, between your hands.  I feel empowered to properly enjoy my favourite brews!

If you are, like me, thirsty for more knowledge check out Roger's website, blog and classes at:


Professional Help Needed!

Its been a significantly long time since my last professional haircut .. my records (facebook) tell me it was May of 2009!  I've had a number of cuts / styles since then: from scraggly waist length to a blunt mid shoulder cut then again from that to a chin length bob followed by Delirium inspired rainbow hair and a side shaved mohawk!  However, all of those were at the hands of well intentioned but less than professional friends.  I had some pretty interesting asymetrical lines going on and it was just time to do things right!  I asked some Gravenhurst / Bala friends and the Muskoka twitter crowd where in town was the best place to get my hair done .. again and again the answer was the same: Thomas Schultz at NORTH!  I followed their advice, and boy am I ever glad I did :)  Not only did I get a great cut but I met a friendly dog, a fabulous stylist and got to check out a really awesomely decorated salon!
The cut itself: soooo .. I've got eccentric hair to begin with (its still shaved on the sides and curly as can be) but Thomas didn't blink an eye, he just got straight (literally) to it, shearing off the sides, taking off the dead ends and giving me some great shape.  It looked lovely blown dry and ironed, but the real true test was how did the cut stand up once my hair had been drenched in lakewater, showered back to curly, and tangled in a windblown boat ride?  Well I'm super happy with the result!
As for the salon: I just adore NORTH!  Its quirky interior is just the right amount of cottage country rustic: birch-bark, deer heads, tool chest styling stations and a really delightful front desk made of a boat; intermingled with the chic and well finished sheen you'd expect of a city salon.  Thomas is passionate about cutting, colouring and styling hair -- and it shows!  For 14 years he trained and worked all over North America, from Toronto to LA, with some of the biggest names: Vidal Sassoon, Tony&Guy, Redken brands.  Now he's in charge, having opened his own salon right here in Gravenhurst .. bringing his winning smile and personality plus the latest trends from Toronto up "north"!


Muskoka Meals

Yesterday we got some fabulous vegetables at the Gravenhurst Farmers Market and today we made some great, basic, comfort food with them :)  Using this fantastic recipe from Smitten Kitchen I slow roasted the rainbow heirloom tomatoes before tossing them into penne with olive oil.  The threat of tornadoes now being over, I finally got my pictures too!
Cherry, grape or small Roma tomatoes
Whole gloves of garlic, unpeeled
Olive oil
Preheat oven to 225°F. Halve each cherry or grape tomato crosswise, or Roma tomato lengthwise and arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet along with the cloves of garlic. Drizzle with olive oil, just enough to make the tomatoes glisten. Sprinkle herbs on, if you are using them, and salt and pepper, though go easily on these because the finished product will be so flavorful you’ll need very little to help it along.
Bake the tomatoes in the oven for about three hours. You want the tomatoes to be shriveled and dry, but with a little juice left inside–this could take more or less time depending on the size of your tomatoes.
@ninacoutinho took charge of the incredibly long parsnips, mashing them for a great spicy-sweet side dish :)  I have no idea what (if any) recipe she used, but you can follow along using the pictures .. it seems pretty simple!


In Season, In Muskoka, In August

My shopping list for the Gravenhurst Farmers Market came from a great resource I've discovered: @_RTO12's website OntarioDining -- along with its affiliate "Ontario" portal / hubs: Art, EventsTrails, and a few others that highlight regionally specific tourism experiences.  Despite the rain, occasional hail and tornado warnings?!? the market still had a number of vendors and surprisingly good turnout (no pictures today, but check out these ones from last year)  I certainly didn't get everything on the list, but it gave me some great ideas!  And I wanted to photograph these vibrant veggies in the sun where they'd look better but unfortunately there's been none of that today!  Its a dark-n-stormy, tornado threatening day at the cottage!  eep!

In Season, In Muskoka, In August
Maple Syrup, Honey, Meats, Fish, Raspberries, Corn, Shiitake Mushrooms, Garlic, Onions, Shallots, Eggs,
Assorted Herbs, Sprouts, Tomatoes, Broccoli, Romanesco, Cabbage, Summer Squash, Beans, Zucchini,
Lettuce varieties, Summer Turnips, Beets, Potatoes, Carrots


Tie-Dye Duct Tape Corset Top

I've been kinda obsessed with making things out of duct tape for my entire life, but only recently did I discover that Duck Brand makes Tie-Dye printed tape!!   My friend Cassiopeia brought some up to the cottage and asked me to make a dress, but there wasn't enough tape, so we made it into a corset tube top instead!

Cassiopeia is badass so I taped it right to her body!  HOWEVER, I would highly suggest using a thin tube top, the midsection from control top pantyhose, or a body stocking to protect the skin on your torso!
  1. Peel off one section of tape, the approximate length to wrap around the torso and determine how the pattern lays.  This will depend on which pattern, how it repeats and the individual's size.
  2. Tear off 7 - 10 more strips of equal length, and wrap / stick around the torso one at a time, lining up the pattern along the front of the torso (I flipped alternating strips upside down)
  3. DON'T just start taping in circles, it doesn't work!  (learned that the hard way)
  4. Use a contrasting colour of tape (we used white) to trim the top and bottom edges and cover up any pantyhose / bodystocking material.
  5. Be very careful cutting it off but if you cut in a straight line you could hypothetically punch holes and re-lace it (we didn't plan ahead and mangled it while taking it off LOL)


RIP Jack Layton

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. 
So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we'll change the world. 
-- Jack Layton (1950 - 2011)

Today, Canada has lost a truly great and remarkable soul in the passing of the Honourable Jack Layton. 
I had the privilege of photographing his optimistic smile during a number of his campaigns in Northern Ontario
(pictured here at Thunder Bay airport, January 2006)


Bella in Bala

Spent the afternoon exploring the lovely town of Bala with my friend Cassiopeia when suddenly an impromptu photoshoot broke out .. we were inspired by Simpler Times and the awesomeness around us!


Gravenhurst: Gateway to Muskoka

After exploring the Muskoka Wharf (tourist) area yesterday, I decided to explore the town today.  A wonderful mix of shops both eclectic and practical with community services, and just about everything is within walking distance.  I stopped into the public library and found some great historical information on this fascinating community.

I've lived in a number of different Ontario towns - some of them I liked and some I didn't, but a few of them call out to me as being home from the moment I step into them.  First in Mattawa, then in Thunder Bay I settled into a community as well as a place, plus I found some really great living spaces (a geodesic dome, a cabin deep in the woods, a peaked attic apartment).  Gravenhurst has that instant feeling of home to me.  Bala is beautiful, but it has that seasonal cottage atmosphere; Huntsville and Port Carling feel like everyone from the suburbs moved to a different setting; Haliburton is pristine but incredibly far away.  Gravenhurst however has a storied history, an interesting town separate from their cottage country attractions, and a scenic/rugged/canadian shield feel that is only two hours from Toronto and accessible by train!

Named in 1862 and provided with a post office, Gravenhurst was the first official town in Muskoka.  Previously it had been known as Sawdust City for the booming lumber industry it supported - at one time there were 28 operational mills.  Before  Gravenhurst was accessible by rail, 100+ teams of horses pulled stagecoaches along plank roads from Orillia and Barrie.  When the railway finally reached the town in 1875 it opened up access to intrepid travellers followed by leisure tourists.  In 1866 Wenonah, the first steamboat, was launched on the lake and 1887 the RMS Segwun was built right in Muskoka Bay where it still operates today as the oldest operational steamship in North America and the oldest registered vessel in Canada.  The steamships met the trains in Gravenhurst completing the Muskoka Junction Railroad that brought visitors from Toronto, New York City and even as far as Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.  Although they left the heat of the city for the cool lakes of Muskoka they brought with them an urban influence that is still felt today as they built and furnished cottages along the shore and sought entertainment in the few small towns.

One of Gravenhurst's most famous residents Dr. Norman Bethune - a distinguished and innovative surgeon and radical political Communist was born in 1890 in a Presbyterian Church Manse on John St. that is preserved today as a Parks Canada Memorial Site.  Although Dr. Bethune would leave Gravenhurst with his family at the age of 3, he would return many years later as a tuberculosis patient at the Calydor Sanatorium.
Speaking of which, I should mention that there's a picturesque site just north of town, at the end the aptly named Sanatorium Rd. that's you probably should think twice about visiting.  During WWII it was the site of a prisoner of war camp, that while apparently quite pleasant, was a detention centre nonetheless.  After the war it became a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients, followed by an unsuccessful resort.  Now it stands eerily empty and moderately guarded from urban explorers.  I found an original of a book I still reference in horticulture class today: Sylvan Ontario, A Guide to Our Native Trees and Shrubs, first published in 1901 by one of the first local residents: Dr. William Hawthorne Muldrew (for whom Lake Muldrew is named).  Final interesting fact: in 1930 a large fire threatened most of the town, in response to which the Ontario Fire College was established and still operates today. 


Greetings & Salutations from the (near) North!

I'm back in Gravenhurst for two weeks again, I had a truly fabulous time last year!  Here's a quick recap of what I got up to last summer (keep clicking away, each mention links to a previous post) and I'll be writing lots of updates / new posts this vacation!

I explored the Muskoka Wharf and its peninsula park, and Lookout Park on the opposite side.  Then later in the week: Loon Lake Road, Bala Falls and the town of Gravenhurst .. which I absolutely fell in love with!

My botanical interests surfaced when I discovered Arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia) at the edge of the lake and a lovely soft bed of mosses to set up my tent on!

I got a fabulous hand knit top at House of Ray, which I noticed is closed this year :-(

Finally, I enjoyed some delicious Belly Ice Cream when I visited one of my favourite farmers markets (Gravenhurst)

Last but not least, we're again staying at the stunningly gorgeous Muskoka Soul guesthouse !!


The Dumpling House

My favourite Spadina / Chinatown restaurant has experienced a remarkable facelift since the last time I was there!  But the pan-fried dumplings are just the same crunchy deliciousness as they've ever been


Church Street Fetish Fair

 WARNING: This is where the "outlaw" portion of my blog comes out!
for more info see this great BlogTO post



I'm in a totally androgynous mood today and I've just discovered polyvore .. combine the two annnnd:
She is the Boy


Decorating with Seasonal Produce

I love this time of year because the farmers market is abundant with a full spectrum of colourful produce!  From the yellows and greens of earlier spring and summer, to the oranges and browns of the impending fall with a wash of rainbow flowers brightening up the mix, I just want to bring everything home .. so I did!  I made a TV top vignette by simply placing a small, fresh scented, lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) into a mug with a little bit of water in the bottom (above left).

I brightened up the space between my back door and stove with a basket of sweet, juicy, bright orange plums -- easy to grab as I come in and out, then added shocking, lime green gypsy peppers (you may remember this from last year) and topped off the arrangement with a milk bottle of yellow flowers from the Jerusalem Artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) plants growing wild in my back lot (above right).  Interesting note -- they are neither artichokes, or from Jerusalem but a member of the sunflower family native to right here in Eastern North America!

Below I've shown a very simple way to turn a flower pot into a cut flower bowl by inserting a container of water into the bottom before stuffing in as many colourful flowers as will fit!  Here I've used the romantically named Lily of the Incas (Alstroemeria)  whose colours remind me of summer and fall all at the same time.