Thursday, March 11, 2010

My Creative Space: Stuff Done, More to Do and When Do I Do It?

The dish garden is done despite the lack of supplies. Using my make do and mend hat, I decided that a little bit of Styrofoam packing peanuts should work at the bottom of the planter. Like the commercially produced dish gardens that we have received as gifts, this planter does not have drainage holes and I was not sure anything was needed at the bottom except that it seemed a little deep for it all to be soil especially since I think most indoor potted plants like to feel slightly pot bound. When I started this little project I also found myself without moss or decorative stones yet there are stones in the photo but I did not get back in my van to procure them. Procrastination had yet again saved the day! A few years ago when we installed a large climber in the back yard for our children, we investigated the possible solutions for a safe surface under the structure and concluded that 18 inches of pea gravel was the safest, most practical and economical option. The closest gravel and soil company gave us a Ziploc bag sample of their smallest gravel but it was not actually pea gravel and we went with another local company. We had intended to return the sample but never got around to that so it has instead been used to create a top dressing in the dish garden.

With all the musical and dance activities my children have been involved in I am inclined to adopt the kind of garden activities in last week's creative space. All the driving around and the arrival of a gift that I won from another blog's giveaway made me think back to the crafting I did as a teenager. The Teddy Bear Book comes from the early eighties when hand crafted bears were gaining in popularity. I also received these lovely sheets of paper with rubber stamped vintage images which reminded me of the teddy bear images that I used to draw during boring classes in high school.

This is a photo of my family in 1983 in front of our stall at the local Christmas Fair. Most of the things we sold were made by my Mum who spent hours making fabric boxes and frames and Cabbage Patch Doll clothes. I made hand-embroidered lavender sachets using recycled fabrics (I had similar interests even back then)with free-hand designs and baked pounds of Scotch Shortbread! I think that I might also have made some hand drawn items as well. I was a busy almost straight A student, serious music student and battled less than optimal health and when I look back, I cannot believe my productivity.

Here is one of my teddy bear sketches. I had created a series of early twentieth century bears named Arthur and Lavender who went on all sorts of outings and adventures. I believe that here they are off to the opera. When I was pregnant with Number 1, I thought that I would take time to bring out the sketch pad and trying an improve on my adolescent doodles but of course that never happened. Finding time to create was almost impossible and needed to be directed in a more practical manner.

I will share more of what I won in Amy's soon and would like to remind everyone that there is still time to enter my giveaway. Most importantly, a nudge here to check out all the fabulous creativity hosted by Kirsty at her inspiring blog.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Last of the Single Digits!

Number 4 turned nine today which means this is his last year in the single digits. I am using a photo taken during our trip to England last summer as most of the photos taken of him lately have him dramatically hamming it up with very goofy expressions. Everyone woke up cheered by his excitement this morning and shared a large English style breakfast with sausages and potatoes before he went off to school. In the afternoon, Numbers 2 and 3 helped me to make our usual birthday cake recipe into cupcakes to share with the boys at the choir before their rehearsal this evening. Number 3 had a great day at school and revelled in the attention of his choir singing Happy Birthday! The Choir sang an Evensong at St.Georges Cathedral in Kingston on Sunday and is preparing to participate in a performance of Bach's St. Matthew Passion this coming Sunday. Along with a birthday and musical activities, Number 4 also had his first ballet exam this week and is pretty sure that he did a good job. All this activity and still only in the single digits. My blog is also a single digit and you can still enter my giveaway for another week.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

My Creative Space: Desperate to Garden

The new Volkswagen Beetles have a bud vase; our minivan has a holder for small tropicals. Actually, the cup holder was the method of transport home for a new plant to add to my indoor garden. The objective is the creation of a new dish garden. We have received several dish gardens as gifts, but invariably, the plants grow at uneven rates, or one of them fails to thrive. To remedy the situation, I have bought a few new plants, fresh potting soil and cleaned up one of the previously used containers.

While I know winter will soon be over, seeing blogs from locations where Spring has already sprung, or speaking with my Mum who lives in British Columbia have made me desperate to get my hands dirty and work in the garden. It is my hope that these indoor substitutes will hold me over until the soil warms up enough to work. These are only the before pictures of my dish garden. Like many projects, I thought I was prepared, but ultimately forgot to get any moss or top dressing of pebbles as well as gravel or other material to provide enough drainage. Has anyone tried using styrofoam packing peanuts at the botton of container plantings? Just like I am frustrated by snow still on the ground, I am frustrated by forgetting essential materials. Maybe I will finish tomorrow...arggh!

Other creative spaces at Kristy's blog may have completed projects.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

My Not So Secret Cache

Living with a long winter and loving flowers the way I do, it is absolutely essential that I have a large collection of house plants, especially flowering ones. I also occasionally spoil myself with cut flowers but I find that flowering plants tend to last longer and require slightly less maintenance to keep them looking good. This post is not about indoor gardening but about how to complete the look. Most flowering plants can be bought at the grocery store and are usually (relatively) locally grown in greenhouses but their plastic pots are dressed in a colourful foil or plastic sleeve which might be acceptable presentation in the store but does not work for me in my home. Just as a fashionable outfit requires the right shoes and purse (I would say hat too) to complete the look, potted plants need the perfect cache pot to show the plant to its best advantage. The cache pots available along side the plants at the grocery store are usually uninspired and expensive so this is where the beauty of thrifting comes into play.

For some reason there often seem to be a plethora of beautiful cache pots in the various thrift stores that I frequent. Many of them are vintage and beautifully made. I can also rely on quite a few Ikea examples which always provides a good selection of colours and simple designs. The hob nail milk glass makes a perfect match with the pink hyacinth and even improves the supermarket metal cache pot behind it. The pair of pots (in the photo above) holding the daffodils are just the perfect shade of light aqua, are marked West Germany and are lovely counter to the yellow of the mini daffs.

I know that many people force bulbs very successfully but it is not yet something that I have tackled. The crocuses were in the planter a few weeks ago and now they have died back ready for me to put them in the garden. The bulbs can be quite short-lived indoors in the winter as a house is just a little too warm for them. I hope that the spent bulbs will be able to naturalize our flower beds and eventually bloom again. I like the idea of stored potential in a bulb and that something that has given me mid-winter pleasure will have a second life in the garden.

Bulbs are not the only flowering plant I like in my indoor garden. African violets never fail to tempt me with their many varieties of leaf and options of blossom colour. I am particularly drawn to the sugared quality that the flowers have. I am not so much an aficionado as to belong to a club and propagate them but I do find the ignored orphan varietals that turn up on the supermarket shelves impossible to resist. When I have nursed them back to health they get to enjoy a prominent location in a beautiful cache pot like this mid-century Toperhof Keramik made in former East Germany.

As the days and nights are getting to be almost equal, the blooms on this Christmas Cactus are about to open. It is looking lovely in this sweet pot that was made in Japan for this Los Angeles based company for known for Head vases than cache pots or other ceramics. I can't believe that I turned down my Grandma's lovely examples when she was distributing some her things to her granddaughters because I was fascinated by them as a child. I was especially partial to the elaborate hats found on the glamourous Head vase ladies.

To be desirable to me, the pots do not need to be marked or even vintage but to be of an appealing colour or shape. This aqua one is unmarked but a lovely colour and form that compliments the white hyacinth. It also happens to be a perfect foil against the lovely vintage tablecloth with pussywillows and birds(!) and a fabulous squarish basket in the same shade of aqua. I have other cache pots that I have already blogged about and certainly will find more. Just like shoes, hats, and purses, one can never have too many!

Monday, March 1, 2010

A Giveaway to Celebrate my Blog's First Year!

The best way to celebrate Thoroughly Modern Vintage's anniversary is with a give away for which I have two thrifted items to send off to two lucky recipients. The first item is this lovely vintage brooch with enamelled white heather and lilac-coloured stones. It might be signed (with the stamp very smudged) or it might be a copy (?) or repaired version of an Exquisite brooch as it is slightly different on the back from the one in the link and the one that is already in my collection. What ever its provenance, it will add a delightful vintage touch to many an outfit and it is just lovely to look at!

My second item available is this wonderful cookbook in absolutely mint condition! I have the newer printing but when I found this 1996 version at the thrift store I knew that I needed to pass it on! I cook from the recipes in this book at least once a week and have mentioned the book in a previous post. Many of the recipes do require a pressure cooker to be truly quick, but I believe this piece of equipment from our grandmothers' kitchen is an excellent addition to our modern kitchens (in its updated form). I love how this book gives me the option to make healthy, quick and flavourful dishes even on days when I have little time to be in the kitchen.

Like Birthdays and New Years, anniversaries are a chance to look back at the past year and reflect. I have noticed there were long periods of time when I was not posting and I would prefer not to let that happen again! I started this blog to share things that I find, things that inspire me and what I make and I find a lot of pleasure in sharing. That pleasure is increased exponentially when I have feedback in the form of comments, so, to all who have commented, Thank-you! For readers who have not commented, please don't be so shy!

If you are interested in winning the brooch or the book, please leave a comment. If you do not have a blogger profile (with an email or blog) and do not wish to create one, please leave me an email address so that I will be able to contact you if you are the winner. Also, let me know if you would prefer the brooch or the book but if you cannot decide, I understand and could put you in both draws! I plan to do the draw on March 17, so that leaves everyone just over two weeks to enter.

I look forward to reading your comments. Thank you for your interest in my posts.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

My Creative Space: Vintage Loveliness and a Question

My Aunt has all sorts of vintage treasures; stuff that she has saved over the years. She especially loves pretty things and shares generously. Her inventiveness has been to my benefit as she used some vintage wall paper to wrap a birthday gift for my Mum last year and my Mum passed it on to me. I thought about how I wanted to use this scrap of 1950's loveliness and realized that I wanted to see it regularly. After some consideration I decided that I wanted to use it for a bulletin board but a little further pondering made me sure that I did not want to litter it with pin-holes. With those parameters, I decided that it would be best used as a facing for a magnetic board.

I soon set about looking for something I could make into a magnetic board with the wallpaper. I kept my eyes out for months in the thrift store: I knew that I had seen steel magnet boards that might work for this project. Alas, the thrifting fairies were eluding me and I found nothing suitable! I started to look in the hardware stores for a cookie sheet of the right size made of a magnetic metal. No luck! Finally I went to Wal-mart and found a magnetic cork board which at 17" square was not quite the size that I had in mind but was the closest yet. Life has interfered with my crafting lately so I did not get to the project right away. Last Friday, when the Salvation Army was having their fifty per cent off sale, I finally found what I knew was out there: An Ikea steel magnet board 16" x 23" for $4.99 minus 50%.

So now I have a few questions. First, I believe it better to use more length than width of the wall paper's design so I think that the Ikea board would work best even though I would have preferred it to be slightly wider. Does anyone have another take on this? The second question is which adhesive should I use to hold the paper to the steel (or maybe cork)? I do not expect anyone to pick the Gorilla Glue (I just love the name) but the other four are likely candidates. Wednesday is usually a day that I can accomplish a little in the studio but today my husband and I went to the funeral of one his colleagues who had been a founding member of Canada's National Arts Centre Orchestra and well-loved by all. I just have not had the oomph to get to the project today but that has allowed me to ask the questions that I have yet to work out. I am hoping that all the creative people sharing on Kristy's blog can give me some guidance.

An Education

Last night, my husband and I went to see this film which we have wanted to see for a while. Somehow over the holiday and through the surgery period we just could not make time to go to a theatre where it was playing. Living in the suburbs gives me a large house and garden but sometimes keeps us away from more urban pursuits. Fortunately, we live fairly close to a second run theatre that is housed in that suburban scourge, the shopping mall and last night was Toonie Tuesday so the frugal me was happy (unfortunately the seats are not as comfortable as the multiplex cinemas and the people that were in the theatre talked!). If you love vintage, especially early 1960's, you will not be disappointed by this film. The handbag I have pictured here is from the late fifties or maybe the early sixties and fits right in with the style of the film.

The charming young actress Carey Mulligan plays the lead as a young school girl destined for Oxford but questioning the reason for such educational ambitions. It could be said that this story, it is based on the memoir of journalist Lynn Barber, puts the finger right on that point when young women started to think about careers beyond being a teacher, nurse, secretary, and, of course, wife and mother. The society in general was supportive of the idea but was as ambiguous about putting it into practise as it might still be. Having the right kind of education was seen as the goal for the parents of the film's protagonist which would not have been unusual for many couples whose children where born near the end of the war. They knew what label to put on it, they maybe just did not know quite why.

The handbag is labelled Lodix England -Handbags of Taste. The only online information I have located is other vintage handbags for sale and nothing about the company that made them. I find this particularly sad as it means we are losing our society's identity as manufacturers and becoming one of sales people and consumers. The label says "Handbags of Taste" which it certainly is and when it was originally purchased it no doubt was intended to last (which it has) and bought for its quality. Interestingly, unlike today, the label is on the inside whereas today the labels are emblazoned on the outside for everyone to see.

The young Miss Mulligan has been called: "the new Audrey Hepburn". As an huge fan of Miss Hepburn, I find this kind of label unfortunate as it would be impossibly overwhelming to try and live up to and negates the talent and charm of this newcomer as well as that of the original. The clothing style of the film, her slim figure and on-screen presence do suggest similarities but I think that this is not a comparison any young actress of integrity would welcome. Just as Audrey knew, I hope that Carey knows that it is what is inside that counts not the outer shell that we see at first glance.

For me, what I really love about the handbag is the design and quality of the inside of the bag. It allows me to carry almost all that I need when I am out of the house with the exception of indoor shoes and a book or magazine. The pockets are useful and orderly, the original mirror is still in its pocket, the suede is of beautiful quality and has been well cared for. From the few other bags by the same make available online, I believe that it is missing a coin purse but that does not detract from my appreciation of this vintage handbag.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Thrifting and some thoughts

Going to the thrift stores can seem to be more than slightly addictive. For someone who likes to make things it offers all sorts of potential materials to alter or work with. Often I find raw materials: lengths of fabric, ric-rack and seam-binding and buttons. Other times I find things to be transformed: worn-out purses with hardware to be re-used, shrunken sweaters, hats, damaged linens and broken jewellery. This habit that started when looking for raw materials has transformed the way I shop and how I look at things. I have always been cautious about how I spend money while still having an eye for luxury and quality. When I was looking for sweaters to felt, I started to notice sweaters that suited me and were in beautiful condition. I also started to find other articles of clothing that suited me and before long I was looking to the thrift store first for most of my wardrobe. I have often been able to find very good quality labels, like this cardigan from Holt Renfrew and try out colours I do not usually wear, like this turquoise.

Although I have on occasion been surprised by what I find, the best clothes tend to come from specific stores. One of my favourite sources is the Nearly New Shoppe at the Cathedral. This is were I found this Liberty of London and it is not the first Liberty item I have purchased there. I have also found some of my beautiful vintage handbags and costume jewellery that I will feature in a future post. Many of the donations made to this charity shop are made by people who bought quality items that were made to have lasting value. With a few exceptions, this is not now the norm in the retail world and is a refreshing advantage when it can still be found in the thrifting world.

Along with the Liberty print shirt, I found two silk shells, one black and one winter white, that will be good under jackets, a black and white gingham shirt in silk and another old purse to add to my collection. At some point soon I would like to actually model the garments that I thrift like my favourite thrifty fashion blogger, Missa. First I need to figure out how use a tripod or a mirror and then maybe I could grow a few inches and lose a few pounds (and about ten years). I am kidding about the second part but I am starting to think a lot about a vintage diet. After teaching pilates in the fitness world for ten years and living the ballet world for much of my childhood, I approach the idea of a diet with many reservations. That said, I have been thinking a lot about how our society eats now as compared to how our grandparents ate and I think that there is a need for further examination. It would seem that I am not the only one to think about this as Queens of Vintage has wondered this and the Imperial War Museum in London is featuring an exhibition on the Ministry of Food. While I would not say that I am fat, I no longer fit into some of my favourite vintage finds or some of my favourite clothes from the past. In an house with three young boys, it would seem likely that I am simply eating a little too much for a forty-something woman whose favourite physical activities do not involve snow and sub-zero temperatures.
Just as I am not inclined to make resolutions at New Year's, I will not declare that I am on a vintage diet but I am certainly going to think a little more about easy it is to eat a chocolate bar and how I really do not need to eat the whole thing to enjoy it. I do hope to bring some war ration recipes to the blog and with time, I may be able to use the lovely vintage buttons on a jacket for a slightly smaller me.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

My Creative Space: Make Do and Mend

My Mother once commented that I must lie awake at night dreaming about projects to do. I have to admit that she was right. Of course, sometimes even when we dream of doing big things with our creative energies life has an habit of getting in the way and our creative muscle goes unflexed. This is where we need to find pocket size projects that fulfill that need but that we can fit into slivers of time. We also may need to redefine our creativity. Make do and mend is an old idea that really had its day during the Second World War when shortages made it an absolute necessity. The concept of scarcity is foreign now but we can choose to apply some of the vintage strategies it demanded.

If our Grandmothers stained or damaged a garment, most of them could not afford to toss and replace the item as so many people do today. Clothing was far more expensive relative to income and was chosen with care for longevity in a way that few of us consider now. This may be why there are beautiful vintage clothes available sixty or seventy years after they were made. I usually wear an apron to protect the clothes I own but on rare occasions it is hanging on the hook in the kitchen instead of being usefully worn by me. The sweater pictured here was being worn by me when I splattered myself with a bleach solution. It should have been a 10 per cent solution which would not have removed colour from the fabric when I immediately tried to rinse it out but it was not. I was left with a sweater I really liked that had some horrible bleached out spots at its hem. I tried to re-dye the area with a 'sharpie' pen but the colour was not intense enough. This is where my habit of lying in bed thinking up projects came in handy and I decided that maybe black lace appliques would cover the offending marks attractively. I did need to purchase the appliques but they are the kind of thing you might see at the thrift store. Covering the bleach marks took very little hand-sewing and I decided to balance the effect by placing an applique on the shoulder. While I was happy with how it looked, I further embellished the appliques with some seed beads that had been purchased for another project.

The relative speed and success of the sweater mend has inspired another quick repair: one of the pictured bobbie pins had lost the marquise-shaped stone. I have a nail polish of the same amethyst shade as the stone and layered a few coats in the setting. Now the missing stone is hardly noticeable and I am not too upset by its loss. It is just a good thing that it is not one of my favourite vintage pins with a lost stone.

Be inspired by all the other creative spaces on Kristy's blog.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Shrove Tuesday and Vintage Aprons

My kids love Shrove Tuesday (or Pancake Day as they sometimes refer to it). They are not alone in loving pancakes and having them for dinner is extra special. Shrove Tuesday celebrations can be communal and have more recently included connections to the Catholic traditions of Mardi Gras. The Cathedral where the children sing holds such a supper but yet again our family activities did not mesh with the event. We usually prepare two batches of pancakes (one egg-free for me) and have them with maple syrup and sausages (mild Italian are not traditional but are preferred). I thought that since this post is mostly about food it would be the perfect opportunity to share some recently acquired vintage aprons. They were all found on the same day, at the same thrift store at fifty per cent off. I have found fewer and fewer decent aprons lately and the prices have been going up so findinf so many good ones on sale was a special event. This one appears to be home-made and uses an eye-bending print. You certainly would not want a whole garment made out of this fabric but an apron is just fine.

This one is also hand-made and uses french seams to join the panels. I love print as it reminds me of delftware. My pancake recipe is very basic: 1-2 eggs, 1 1/2 cups milk, 2 Tbsp. melted butter or oil, 2 cups of flour, 1 Tbsp. sugar, 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. baking soda, 1/2 tsp. salt. Whisk the liquids together, mix the dry ingredients and then add the wet ingredients and stir out most of the lumps. Pour out batter onto a med-hot griddle or skillet (buttered or oiled depending on how much seasoning there is). When the bubbles in each cake have popped and the edges have dried, flip the pancakes. Finish cooking and serve hot!

I really love this apron especially for the deep pockets and the orange seam binding; it also appears to be hand-made. The pockets go all the way to the bottom of the apron and would be perfect for house-keeping supplies. The print suggests the 1950's to me. When I made the second batch of pancakes I increased the milk to 1 3/4 cups and added a powdered egg-replacer or you could use the usual amount of milk and use a flax seed and water egg substitute. In the past I have used other milks(rice, soy, etc.) with success and have even used water as my liquid (pancakes are a bland food, but water makes them too bland in my opinion). I chose to make my pancakes buckwheat and substituted 1 3/4 cups light buckwheat flour and 1/4 cup chickpea flour for the all-purpose flour used for the rest of the family. Do not be discouraged by the taste of uncooked bean flour in the batter. Just don't taste it after all you would not taste the batter if it has raw eggs would you? I also added 1/4 tsp. xanthan gum as it tends to improve all gluten-free baking.

This apron will go with my other gingham smocked and chicken scratch aprons. It looks like it has had a pretty hard life but I couldn't leave it on the rack when I was bringing home all the others. I have other green gingham aprons but not the darker shade which works well with the black embroidery thread navy ric-rack. Pancakes were a weekend ritual when I was growing up and one of the few foods that my Dad had learned to make. We have continued that tradition and Number 3 makes excellent pancakes on his own. Our weekend mornings have tended to be busy so the tradition has waned a little but Shrove Tuesday should help that.

My daughter really liked this apron and insisted that I buy it! She loves the high waisted short skirts that are in fashion right now and this apron mirrors that trend even though I suspect it is almost as old as me. Our daughter likes to bake so a full bib apron is more practical for her but maybe she will want to take this apron when she sets up her own home. The batter for pancakes can have many variations but it is universally thicker than the batter for crepes. Sour milk and butter milk make excellent pancakes and require a little more baking soda. I have had pancakes made with over-ripe banana puree, rolled oats, chocolate chips and even left-over egg nog (before my egg allergy). It really does not need to be a special day to have pancakes for dinner; they can work very well when you have nothing else planned and not a lot of time. The ingredients are most likely in your kitchen and substitutions work surprisingly well.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Modern Vintage Valentine's Hat

Anyone reading more than a few posts on my blog would have noticed how much I love flowers! The inventive beauty of nature is an inspiration to all who seek a creative life. Flowers are traditional gift for St. Valentine's Day and this beautiful potted cyclamen from my husband melted my heart. He also treated me by preparing the family's dinner. Last evening two members of the family performed in two separate concerts: our daughter sang with her choir and my husband conducted a concert of mostly romantic French music with the Ottawa Chamber Orchestra and flute soloist, Joanna G'Froerer. Despite my concerns about my daughter's recovery, I could not be at two places at once and brought the boys to see their Dad conduct. Both concerts were enjoyed by all who performed and attended.

The hat on which I was working in my last post was ready to be worn this morning to the morning's service at the Cathedral. While it is not required to wear a hat at our church, a few of us choir Mums enjoy the opportunity for some headgear! I was hoping to achieve an early 1950's look for my reworking of my thrift store find with a subtle (or not so subtle) nod to my love of hearts. I tried a more vintage hair style but it worked better with my hair down and slightly wavy(I would have liked to have time to do more of a pin curl wave).

I have a small collection of hat pins, one of which I used to keep the cap securely on my head as it was a bit windy this morning. Even with the hat pin, I needed to re-pin the hat after I hung up my coat but at least I did not lose my hat. The felt had a fair amount of body that was increased by the scalloped border of hearts. Although it may be somewhat season specific, I am quite happy with the results.

Today was also a debut for the lovely vintage brooch I received for my birthday from my Mum and a newly thrifted skirt. The colours in the skirt seem to complement the lovely illustrations on the cover of Laura Stoddart's All For Love which was a gift for my romantic husband. This lovely book is already being enjoyed by both of us and I highly recommend it to all; even the more cynical among us will find something that makes their heartstrings ring. I wish us all a little romance in every day.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

My Creative Space: Silk Purse from a Sow's Ear?

I love hats, always have and I sure I always will, so I get excited when I find them at the thrift store. This one was too small for me but I bought it anyway because I have a friend who wears more(?) hats that I do and has slightly smaller hat size. The hat was too small for her so then what do I do with it? I am sure some might re-donate it but I just looked it as a creative challenge. I love the colour and it is good quality wool felt. I am in the middle of a Valentine's Day idea that I hope my family prefers to my fascintator. All will be revealed in a few days! Check out all the creative successes found at Kristy's blog.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Sense of Accomplishment

A lot has been accomplished lately in the Thoroughly Modern Vintage household but not the kinds of things that are easily tangible. The most important event has been the successful spinal fusion surgery for our daughter and parenting/nursing care that has allowed her to have such a speedy recovery. The medical care that she received at the hospital was excellent but she needed twenty-four hour comfort care from her parents. This was perfectly reasonable considering the seriousness of her surgery, and, of course, the resultant pain, but surprised us slightly as she is usually such an independent girl. Fortunately, my husband had time off of work and my sister was visiting so someone was able to be with our daughter at the hospital and the boys at home at all times. She is at home now and recovering well. Meanwhile, I am trying to catch up on the domestic front and actually feel like I am accomplishing something!

Ironing is often the first chore to slide when things get busy but pressing a dozen shirts (10 for my husband and 2 for me) gave me a quantifiable sense of ac- complishment. I actually enjoy ironing. The smell of steam on the cloth and eliminating creases gives me more than a little pleasure. I am especially enjoying my fresh, new cover which looks very pretty in the sitting area of our bedroom.

The enjoyment while ironing was augmented by the sun streaming in the room and the lovely company of Clara pictured above. Isn't it funny how the small things we accomplish help us to put our life back on an even keel?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Taking stock

For many people, this point in January could mean resolutions made and possibly discarded. I am not inclined to make resolutions because of the New Year (and certainly not make them public if I did) but rather to take an inventory of the past year: what was accomplished, what I learned, what I prefer not to repeat and what I especially enjoyed. This blog is not yet a year old, but it has been a way of sharing some of this past year although maybe not quite as much as I had intended.

The year has been full of many rich experiences for the family as well as a few challenges. December was very much a culmination of some of the most time consuming family activities. Numbers 3 and 4 performed with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet Company's The Nutcracker. Daddy was playing in the pit but had permission to watch them for the first act of one show. They were both cast as "party boys" in the scene where Clara receives the Nutcracker on Christmas Eve and then as "mounties" during the battle scene with the Rat King in this Canadian version of the ballet. We loved how they looked in their vintage style of little boys clothes. There were seven performances with the weekend having matinee and evening shows. A week later, the boys were singing the Messiah with the Choir of Men and Boys of Christ Church Cathedral Ottawa followed by Nine Lessons and Carols on Dec. 20 and Christmas Eve mid-night mass as well as Christmas morning and New Year's Day.

Our daughter had a very busy month singing both with her duties a head girl of the Girls Choir of Christ Church Cathedral and in her debut singing solo with Thirteen Strings Chamber Orchestra in their annual Christmas By Candlelight Concert. Here she is in the gown made by me and the beautiful pashmina that Daddy bought for her. She also enjoys the benefits of thrifting and was wearing beautiful Italian-made gold leather sandals found by my Mum and me during one of our trips this past fall. She sang beautifully and we were very proud: her father playing in the orchestra and me and her siblings, grandparents and aunt in the audience.

The dress came together easily but still required a lot of my time to complete. There was even a last minute change of mind about the silk roses on the bodice which were removed late in the afternoon before the concert. I was very pleased to have my beautiful sewing space to work in.
The next day, my husband conducted his colleagues in the National Arts Centre Orchestra for their annual fundraising Christmas Fanfair Concert that raises money for the local food bank and the Snowsuit Fund which provides much needed winter clothing for children in the city. The concert was a great success with his colleagues enjoying his leadership as much as the audience enjoyed the music.

After Christmas, we hosted all the families of the Men and Boys Choir for a dinner party. Thanks to thrifting, I had enough cutlery and cloth napkins for sixty people. The menu was quite vintage: stuffed mushroom caps, vegetables with ranch dip, hummous and pita (not so vintage but very popular with my boys), cream of cauliflower soup and peppery cheddar crisps, baby greens tossed in a simple Italian dressing, baked ham, scalloped potatoes, green and yellow beans with baby carrots and home-made rolls, trifle, seasonal cookies and mincemeat tarts. I wore my high heels, pearls and vintage apron and felt Julia supporting my role as hostess.

With all my thrifting, love of clothes and vintage collecting I like to have opportunities to wear some favourites. One of the choir Moms made a special request for some of the hat wearing ladies to wear a great hat on Christmas Eve. This was the perfect opportunity to wear a 1950's hat that I found this past summer. The photo was taken at about 1:30 am after the midnight mass so my french roll was starting to fall out and was getting a little tired. I wish that we had taken pictures at the church so that I could share all the other hats worn that evening. If I were to have made a resolution, it would be to share so much of what I enjoy like the many bloggers that inspire me. I was specifically inspired by a meme at Curly Pops. I had intended to go month by month with links back to specific posts but I think I would rather share some of my favourite memories as the new year unfolds.