A Stunning Butterfly Dress In The Window

My mum first introduced me to this stunning butterfly dress by Seattle designer Luly Yang.  I found the artist's original sketches for the dress in this lovely Seattle Times article about the creative force behind the popular, whimsical, ethereal dress that's found its way all over blogs and pinterest this week and I had planned to try and make my own, until.. I saw a similar dress in a mall window!  Its not nearly as creative or magical, but I bet with a tutu crinoline underneath it'd still look pretty awesome!  Plus I'm supposed to be focusing on school right now eep! not dreaming of dresses teehee
 I'll have to see if I can save up for it :)


DIY Carrot Clarinet


What crazy awesomeness is this??  Linsey Pollak aka SquealyD plays a carrot clarinet, a watering can clarinet and Mr Curly - a contra bass clarinet made from curly garden hose.  I'd just like to repeat that: the instruments are a watering can, a carrot and a garden hose.  On yet another blustry, wintry day, this is certainly great jams to listen to while sketching out my summer plantings :)  If anyone feels like trying this out themselves, Linsey has a great how-to video:

Carrot Clarinet Making


Apple Cider Vinegar Sugar Scrub

I got this absolutely fabulous recipe for a facial scrub from Bee Vintage Honey, that uses apple cider vinegar to balance the skin's pH and green tea to detoxify.  Both main ingredients are packed with vitamins, alpha hydroxy & amino acids which repair + renew skin while softening and controlling blemishes.  Lemon juice naturally lightens blemish marks and granular sugar exfoliates the skin, while honey, a natural humectant, provides moisture and acts as an antiseptic.As an added step to the original recipe, I often add some chopped rosemary from a plant that I'm growing in a window.  Rosemary tones and firms the skin by reducing puffiness and swelling.  The herb is an astringent, helping to reduce excess oil in skin, it also increases blood flow which improves the complexion, allowing nutrients to effectively reach the skin while removing waste products and toxins.  I'm also told, the disinfectant and antibiotic properties of rosemary is one of the reasons I find it effective on my acne.  The original recipe only calls for regular green tea, but I use a superfruit green tea that also contains apple pieces, rosehips, acai berry, goji berry, blueberries and pommegranate and, along with the rosemary, makes the scrub smell wonderful!

Apple Cider Vinegar Sugar Scrub
(for acne marks & blemishes)
Add one teaspoon of organic apple cider vinegar (DO NOT use regular vinegar) in a small or medium bowl.

Add two teaspoons of already made and cooled organic green tea to the apple cider vinegar.    Squeeze a few fresh lemon slices, and grate their zest into the bowl.  This is the point where I sometimes add a small handful of chopped rosemary.

Mix, add five teaspoons of sugar, mix again.  I use a granular sugar for a coarser scrub, but you could use fine sugar for a more delicate scrub.

Add one teaspoon of organic honey, then add two more teaspoons of sugar. Mix well.

Use your fingers to spread the mask on your face gently. Apply and gently exfoliate by rubbing in a circular motion. Do this for two to five minutes. Do not scrub hard. Let mask stay on face for about eight to ten minutes.  Exfoliate gently while rinsing off. Store any unused mixture in a small glass jar with screw top. Label it so no one will eat it! (eww yuck!) and refrigerate, use within 2 weeks.

Then, as Bee Vintage Honey's original post suggested: I use the apple cider vinegar as a toner.  I usually dilute it with water and wipe all over my face with a soft cloth but occasionally I do use it straight, usually on a cotton ball or wipe.  I find it really does a great job of evening my skin tone, its not so red and blotchy anymore :)


Sift Communications

This evening I found myself perched high above the Esplanade in the swanky city condo of my dear friend @ninacoutinho, celebrating her 25th year on this planet.  We've both come a long way since the first of her birthday parties I attended, a poolside bash where gasp boys were invited!  No longer making lists of boys (or girls) we want to kiss we now get to spend our time together excitedly discussing our adventures in social media, so...

I'd love to give a  great big shoutout to Ms.Nina's self-founded communications firm: Sift Communications
A graduate of Cornell University, Nina has experience in various new media ranging from graphic & web design to event management.  @siftcomm is your one stop shop for exceptional internal and external communications solutions!


Flavours of the Biosphere

At this time of year, many people think its difficult to find local, fresh, flavourful food .. but I disagree!

I'm so glad I was directed to this video today :)  It features flavours from the Escarpment Biosphere Reserve that are perfect for this mid-winter season!  The ingredients for the hearty Sweet Potato Soup (click for recipe) are all hardy or root vegetables, still available at the farmers market, or in your root cellar if you planned ahead!

As for the bell peppers, have you ever seen that long range of greenhouses as you pass through Vineland Station on the QEW?  Well inside St. David's Hydroponics is a warm, humid, sunny almost tropical environment suited for the brightly coloured bell peppers growing within :) a perfect thought to brighten up this dreary winter feeling.  They produce millions of tasty fresh local peppers and eggplants year round right here in our backyard!  Maarty Hendriksen, the grower featured in the video, is a great spokesperson for the sustainable, healthy and innovative ways that this large hydroponic greenhouse is operating within our environment and community.


Elements of Floral Design: Ribbon

I'm actually quite enjoying my Floral Design class this semester, and wanted to share these helpful notes!  

Obviously there are many more sizes and types of ribbon and textiles used in the floral industry, but these are the ones we'll be using most often this semester.  In our class ribbon is often used for curling & decoration, wrapping corsages or bouquets, tying around plant pots and in funeral arrangements.  Some common types of ornamental ribbons are picot, grosgrain and moiré.  I also got confused by the florists' numbering system, so I found a handy chart that I've included below!

The net and tulle at the bottom makes me dream of tutus and the roses I received after a childhood ballet performance :)


Philo vs Pothos

In our Interior Landscaping class today the discussion was all about ideal indoor plants, especially those that tolerate low-light and a bit of abuse - perfect for offices, school or even neglected corners at home!  A perfect choice (or two!) for the beginner / brown thumb is Heartleaf Philodendron (Philodendron cordatum) and Golden Pothos (Epipremnum aureum).  They have complimentary cordate leaves, and develop vines in a draping habit perfect for hanging baskets :) Both can handle being out of direct sunlight and both can tolerate drying out quite considerably in between watering!  If you want to get fancy you can trim the vines and fertilize every once in a while, but these plants won't need it to survive - I personally find mine thrive on neglect!

I posed this question to my twitter followers direct from class:

One is Heartleaf Philodendron the other is Goldon Pothos Can you tell which is which? 

I find them fairly easy to tell apart, but if you need help identifying which is which, this guide from PlantsAreTheStrangestPeople is a great tool :)



I couldn't sleep last night, and then got bored again in class today so I've folded quite a few of these adorable heart shaped bookmarks!  This tutorial from Bloomize got me started (click for more detailed instructions) and since I've got folders and folders of lovely paper scraps I'm on a roll :)


I'm counting the days!


500 Down -- 500 Up

No gym for me, I work out in the forested oasis of the Escarpment!  Today's challenge: running (or walking) up and down the 498 steps of Hamilton's Wentworth Stairs!  

  deceptively pretty view of the Wentworth stairs from the top 4:27 PM - 22 Jan 12  (LEFT) |  and the daunting view of 's Wentworth stairs once you reach the bottom  4:28 PM - 22 Jan 12  (RIGHT)
What do I listen to while exercising in the great outdoors? Podrunner BPM Workout Mixes


Sunny Saturday in the North End

I may spend my weekdays at school in Niagara, but I'm quite enjoying my weekends and time off in Hamilton!

Today we explored the North End .. First, lunch: classic Fish&Chips at Hutch's Harbourfront, perched in the sunny treehouse like deck above Bayfront Park.  Then, we walked down to the lake, following the Waterfront Trail, enjoying the bright late afternoon sun warming the snowy frozen water.  Wandering along Bay St N and Burlington St W we studied the charming Victorian homes for the one my great-something-grandparents had lived in as we made our way over to another Hamilton staple: Grandad's for Ghostbuster donuts!  Hamilton may take her knocks, but man, I think this city is a hidden gem .. there's just something special going on here :)



The Snow-Storm

Last night I could smell the crispness in the air, and this morning I awoke to muffled almost-silence and the bright white reflected light of fresh snow :)  To me, this means brisk exercise as I shovel the driveway followed by a very hot bath and curling up with a book of poetry! I ♥ snow :)

The Snow-Storm
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Announced by all the trumpets of the sky,
Arrives the snow, and, driving o'er the fields,
Seems nowhere to alight: the whited air
Hides hills and woods, the river, and the heaven,
And veils the farmhouse at the garden's end.
The sled and traveler stopped, the courier's feet
Delayed, all friends shut out, the housemates sit
Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed
In a tumultuous privacy of storm.

     Come see the north wind's masonry.
Out of an unseen quarry evermore
Furnished with tile, the fierce artificer
Curves his white bastions with projected roof
Round every windward stake, or tree, or door.
Speeding, the myriad-handed, his wild work
So fanciful, so savage, nought cares he
For number or proportion. Mockingly,
On coop or kennel he hangs Parian wreaths;
A swan-like form invests the hidden thorn;
Fills up the farmer's lane from wall to wall,
Maugre the farmer's sighs; and, at the gate,
A tapering turret overtops the work.
And when his hours are numbered, and the world
Is all his own, retiring, as he were not,
Leaves, when the sun appears, astonished Art
To mimic in slow structures, stone by stone,
Built in an age, the mad wind's night-work,
The frolic architecture of the snow.


Ancient Fruits

I truly enjoy pondering the fact that many millions of eras of plant evolution have come to land, deliciously, in a bowl on my counter where I am privileged to taste a drop of history!

Throughout antiquity there are references to both figs and citrus fruits!  Figs many have been the earliest cultivated crops, dating to the Neolithic era and the fruits and trees of the genus Ficus are important symbols throughout the bible as well as Assyrian and Babylonion texts.  In Sparta, the basic diet was cheese, barley, and figs while citron (Citrus medica) was known to the Romans in Latin as agrumes meaning "bitter fruit"

Portugese and Italian traders introduced the sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) to the Mediterranean and Southern Europe in the 14thC.  It was so popular as an edible fruit that specialized conservatories called orangeries were established, especially as the fruit circulated in the colder regions of Northern Europe.

As for the magnolia leaves - those trees are of a positively ancient lineage themselves!  Past species of Magnoliaceae have been traced back more than 95 million years!!  These ancient blooming trees spanned the globe before the Ice Age even happened!

Anyways, this all came about because the leftovers from Christmas collected in a bowl together and I think they look just lovely and ancient :)  Last but not least, this hilarious recipe from The Medieval Kitchen: Orange Omelette for Harlots and Ruffians (scroll to bottom)


Mondays Suck! (this semester)

Let me ask you something...
When you come in on Monday and you're not feeling real well, does anyone ever say to you: 
"Sounds like someone has a case of the Mondays?"

I have two of my least favourite classes ever back to back from 8:30am - 1:30pm every single Monday morning this semester and I'm starting to realize why there's a prevailing resentment towards Mondays GRR!  A great post How to Avoid a Bad Case of the Mondays (Reddit) was picked up by lifehacker and between the two I got some ideas, and had a .. relatively?.. good Monday morning :)

Clean up your desk on friday afternoon. It's nice coming into a nice clean organized work area first thing Monday morning.  Leave yourself a treat on your desk before you leave on Friday. A snack, some candy, good coffee, whatever

Set out your clothes before going to bed sunday evening. Shower before you go to bed. I personally can get away with a quick shot of deodorant in the morning. This way, you can wake up, slip into your clothes, and head out.


#HamOnt Hangover Cure

I'm in pretty rough shape today LOL so this is my whole post:
Black Forest Inn - great food, portions, prices .. best place to get "breakfast" at 3pm after a wild night!
(Hamilton, ON)


Friday the 13th

It snowed last night (above) so today was a strange, ethereal, white n wintry, dream-like sort of day today.
This video from Finland fit perfectly into the surreal mood, reminiscent of Lake Superior ice fishing...


Floral Class: Boutonniere

First floral design class of the semester today, and we made boutonnières - a floral decoration worn by men on the lapel of their jackets, typically for formal occasions.  The one I made for class marks was a smaller, traditional boutonnière like this example from my teacher's shop.  But near the end of class I gathered up some scraps to make a posie (small finger bouquet) inspired by Victorian tussie-mussies and the Language of Flowers.

This little tussie-mussie has lovely symbolic meaning, and since I'm giving it to myself I should take the hidden messages to heart :)  If you'd like to make your own boutonnière - there's some great instructions in this Brides Daily article!  And for tussie-mussie instructions - click on over here!

(from back to front) 

  • Heath (Salal Leaf) - solitude
  • Fern - sincerity
  • Statice - loyalty
  • Pink Rose - happiness, joy of life, energy
  • White Chrysanthemum - love, truth, sincerity


Local Quail Eggs

Yesterday I mentioned the lamb I found at DinhDinh's but I also found some lovely, quaint, small speckled quail eggs while shopping there :)  Packed 18 to a small carton, I noticed they're shipped direct from a quail farm in the Niagara region.

Quail eggs are very healthy (nutrition information below) but according to Chef Mark Picone this lesser-known poultry offers some other benefits as well: "[Quail] is a very versatile protein.,” he says. “It is in season 12 months of the year. Health and wellness are really big today and quail is an alternative option; it has a good fat to protein ratio. The portion size of quail lends itself to not overeating,”  Chef Mark is now a teacher at Niagara College, and often takes his culinary students on tours of CroQuail Farms in St Anns, Ontario.  As a supplier of the restaurant industry, CroQuail has grown from a family business into a modernized operation but from their own carefully selected Coturnix Quail breeding stock, to the specialized hatchery, and on site processing, everything to do with the birds is still done “home on the farm.”  The modernized facility has even remained low impact by installing a wetland biofilter to process abattoir wastewater.  I like to be conscientious with my food purchases, and these quail eggs are pretty well ideal for my regional, health, and environmental demands when it comes to how my food is produced :)  For now I've simply hard boiled them, but foodgawker is just brimming with charming ideas!


Sliced Lamb Over Parsley

So this all began when I was in Dinh Dinh's earlier this week, poking around in the freezer and found frozen New Zealand lamb sliced in an intriguingly convenient looking way: thin strips, like bacon!  Curious, I purchased it and once home did what I always do when I'm not sure what to do with a food item .. I went a-googling.  Via this chowhound post I learned that the lamb is sliced into thin strips for hot pot, but I decided to keep it simple, drawing from a few of the other responses and making it up as I went due to limited ingredients LOL

In a bowl, mix 1 part extra virgin olive oil and 1 part apple cider vinegar with a generous handful of chopped fresh parsley.  Line a serving plate with paper towel then thickly cover with more fresh parsley.  After defrosting, briefly marinate the strips of lamb in the mixture. Sautée the strips of lamb and let them rest & serve on the plate of parsley.  For dinner I served the lamb with a side of brown rice, steamed farmers market broccoli, Tonami baba ghanoush and hard boiled local quail eggs but the leftovers also made great sandwiches for school the next day!


The Business of Being ME

First day back to school after the break, and already I'm going bonkers.  I have to take "Business&Sales" followed by "Organizational Leadership Skills" with teachers who have a completely different outlook, approach and especially business ethics than I do.  I want to grow things and feed people.  I'm not naive and I'd like to make enough to live the life I've become accustomed to .. but money, sheer profit, is simply not my driving factor.
I was wondering how I'd ever make it in "business" so it was incredibly great to see this video when I got home...

..........it is still possible to be a pioneer!

I think the most important lesson I took from this video was: Know the rules, so you know how to break them! But also know which essential rules should never be broken.  I might not enjoy these business classes, but I should (teaching quality is a whole 'nother debate LOL) be able to take away the fundamental rules of integrity and responsibility.  Otherwise I'll just be making a list of what I disagree with, so that I have a list of what not to do WINK

The Hartleys (Craig as well) have been an inspiration to me for many years, the summer camp they ran, Centauri, was an absolute refuge to me allowing me to blossom into my true self.  They also gave me a first taste of adventure and travelling when our theatre troupe toured Scotland!  Just when I was starting to lose motivation in my idea of starting a small business, Julie was able to inspire me again -- thank you :)


Simply Your Style

Its shaping up to be a great year for clean, classic, basics :)
For another great example check out J.Crew's 12 Essentials for 2012.
Back to Basics



I never cease to be impressed by my blackberry's camera! Obviously, since the picture on the left is of my Torch being used as a camera, its clearly not taken with my Torch .. thank you @seannalexander!  The one below, however, was a quick snap of the stunning sunset over Burlington GO Station this evening while I was waiting for the train into Hamilton.  Since I got this "phone" which is really code for: picture, music, phone, pdf, email, research, blog, twitter, life device .. I've stoped having to haul around a bag full of electronics (camera, mp3 player, cellphone, laptop, binders, textbooks, daytimer, watch) but I've also become increasingly aware that I'd be screwed  if I ever lost it! eep!


At the Dinner Table

So I'm officially an adult, wanna know how I know?  I finally have a dining room table and I had a smokin' hot dinner guest!  No more eating off my lap at my desk or on the couch, and one more thing checked off the bucketlist.  Seriously!  Brittany is a gorgeous local model from Niagara Falls who recently shot with Hamilton's exceptionally talented fashion photographer David Hirsh. And the table is pretty rad, it folds down to only about a foot across, but has two leaves that together can seat 4 people!  We then headed off to the Envy Lounge where Enzo made us candy coloured martinis teehee


Cyclamen aka "Poor Man's Orchid"

I've never been a huge fan of Poinsettias, red is my least favourite colour and I think the plants themselves are overdone.  So when it came time to choose our winter flowering greenhouse crops my choice was simple: anything but Poinsettias.  I didn't know much about Cyclamen when I started but I've come to think they make better seasonal flowering plants than Poinsettias, which look out of place immediately after Christmas.  If you're interested  in the technical details of how we grew them, you can check out this post.  After months of tending to and obsessing over strange upside down blooms .. I just couldn't help myself and brought home a few for myself!  With fine heart shaped foliage and bright, unique flowers, these tuberous perennials bring fresh colour and cheer indoors during the dreary winter months.  Perhaps the very earliest of spring blossoms, Cyclamen flower right through January, February and into March.  Their native woodland habitat makes them perfect houseplants - the Victorians loved and cultivated them for their tolerance of indirect light and cool temperature.  Cyclamen require little care: a moderately humid environment, do not like wet leaves and prefer to dry out between waterings.


Lake Simcoe

Between Christmas and New Years I spent a magical frosty few days in our family friends' log cottage on Big Bay Point.  We've been going there for years so I've come to love the place, but this year I spent most of my time in the Scandinavian-esque loft away from my annoying little brother.  The open beam, peaked roof space has been beautifully updated with snowy white furniture that highlights the season outside and compliments the warm wood, accented by bright earth tones and matte metallics.

I've always enjoyed historical maps of places that I know and love.  Its so interesting to see the history that's shaped these landscapes.  Using the Canadian County Atlas Digital Project I found a map of Innisfil from 1880.  I rotated, sharpened and cropped the map and I'll print / mount it the way you see below.  Now I have a lovely piece of cartographic wall art that I can keep at home as a year-round reminder, or bring as a gift next time I visit the cottage!

Use this idea to print maps of the places that mean most to you :)


2011 Year in Review

Some of your favourites (as voted by unique pageloads) with a few that I love most thrown in the mix :)
..in reverse order starting with December 2011 and working back to last January..
Click on the images to go to the original post!