Friday, June 19, 2009

My Tiny Garden

I have been doing quite a bit of gardening lately, which is not something I have ever excelled at. It seems that when someone gives me a flowering plant I end up inadverdently killing it and that makes me very sad. A while back my sister-in-law had bought me a stunning orchid plant and even though I tried my darndest to keep it alive it eventually perished. Although it did last quite some time! Another time a co-worker had bought me a miniature cactus plant (almost bonsai-like) but unfortunately during the summer it withered down to nothing. Let's just say that it ended up looking like someone had dribbled water on green tissue paper. I did not water it excessively to the point that it would shrivel up like that and so I blamed it on the humidity in the air. But I have to say that my most painful memory was in Grade 3 (yes, unfortunately I do remember that far back!) when the entire class planted seeds and we had to chart the progression over a three month period. Well you can guess the outcome of this story. Mine was the only little pot that remained empty. Absolutely nothing grew, no roots no plant. Nothing!!!! I seriously think that I am cursed in the green thumb departement. My mother can grow just about anything. Even if it is dead it comes back to life. I just don't get it.

Well fast forward to summer of 2009. I really wanted a garden this year. I don't know why and what propelled me but I needed to see something grow and thrive after a very long and grey winter. My brother helped me till the soil (bless his heart) and me and my sister-in-law went shopping for vegetables, herbs and the dreaded "F" word......FLOWERS! I planted some of the vegetables we got early on and she planted the ones we got lately. The ones she planted are doing well. The ones I planted well.......we'll see if they grow well. Her thumb is also more "greener" than mine.

The reason I dread flowers is because I haven't seen good results lately. Last year early on in the summer me and my s-i-l planted two Asiatic lillies. We have very heavy winters here in Canada and so I was planning on covering them but alas did not. More so because I was occupied with other things and do admit I got lazy. I doubted that they would survive the winter but yay!!! they did. In late May one day when the weather was nice I ventured into the garden to plant the vegetables and was taking in the beauty of the lillies when I beheld its voracious nemesis. Yup!!!! The dreaded red lily beetle. For those of you who have lillies in your garden you know what I am talking about. There is really nothing to do to get rid of them except for uprooting your lily plant. Once you are infested that's it!!! They just feast on Asiatic, Oriental and Tiger lillies and fritillaries (don't know if I spelled that right). It is a bright scarlet beetle that eats the leaves at an alarming rate and lays eggs under the leaves so you don't see them and it is the most disgusting thing I have ever seen. I had to go into the leaves with gloved hands and physically remove the "stuff" . I can not really use pesticides because I have planted an herb garden near it so I don't want to take the chance. If any of you out there are thinking of planting lillies look on the internet before you do and read up on this "horrible pest" because you are going to think twice before you plant any of these flowers. I didn't know that this pest even existed. I want to try and save the flowers but "they" start feasting in April so you can imagine what havoc they have wreaked in my garden. It might be too late but I am trying to make an organic "pesticide" with cayenne pepper, garlic and onion along with water but do not know if I will get positive results. Well I know the red beetle is part of nature but I sure hope it would go live somewhere else during the summer and not in my garden. Geez, I only have two plants, I could not imagine what I would do if I had a whole bed of them.

I tried to take some pics to show ..... here they are.
I have planted cucumbers, red peppers, green peppers, cauliflower, red chilli peppers, 3 different kinds of tomatoes, cabbage, fennel, parsley, and mint.

We wanted celery and green beans but we would have to plant seed indoors for that because we could not find them in any nurseries as growing plants. Don't mind the weeds in the front. I am not a seasoned dedicated gardener. I do what I can though.

This is the smaller garden path across from my back balcony.

And these are my pretty lillies in peril............

Yesterday my s-i-l was tending to the garden and she gave me two beautiful peony flowers. She planted a pinkish/lavender peony near my lilies but the flowers have already bloomed but have withered. Here is a parting shot of the two she cut for me. Have a beautiful week everyone!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Raining Beads

I've been beading up a storm recently. With the weather not cooperating (raining practically every day) I decided to dabble a bit in my bead stash. I got out my delica beads and tried a couple of color variations for fun. Initially my design started out flat and I picked through a selection of iridescent beads. I went crazy on my last visit to Dressmakers in Montreal. I bought a whole bunch of little packets of delica beads. It was like running into a tiny rainbow. Gorgeous browns, spring greens, mauves, teal, blue-greens. Every color imaginable. Aside from the bead purchase I also needed a couple of silver clasps for finishing off the bracelet. I prefer to use silver because it makes the piece look more polished. I realised very quickly in the store that the small two string silver clasp was almost the same price as the three string clasp. What's going on here? My first instinct was that they made some pricing mistake but oh no......It seems that when they purchased the clasps from the supplier the price was low but the next time they bought more the price of silver had risen dramatically and they have to sell it at current price otherwise they lose money. The price between the smaller clasp and larger one was a .40cents difference. If it keeps climbing that way I won't be able to use this type of clasp any longer and will have to find another alternative.

Well I started beading using the square stitch method which when finished resembles beading that is done on a loom. I have a small inexpensive one but threading that thing is a hassle and I have to make sure that it is always tight and it drives me crazy. I feel that when using the loom a lot of threads are wasted unecessarily. I don't know if it is obvious in the picture but the beads I used were slightly iridescent and they were two-toned. Depending upon how the light hits the bracelet some of the beads reflect a pink color and some a green.

So after I finished it I had to measure it around my wrist so it would be the right length. I had to add some more beads because it came out a tad short. So I threw caution to the wind and added some nice peach/brown colors at the ends. Then I proceeded to stitch it closed in a tubular fashion with a seam down the middle. I wanted a round coil as a bracelet and did not want to leave it flat. I had originally imagined it round. But unfortunately after I spent the time stitching it closed it was too wide and did not give me a perfect coil. It started to pucker in a strange way. The coil was too large and did not lend itself properly to the design I had envisioned. So I flatenend it with my fingers all the way around and came up with this design.

Then I proceeded to add the "expensive" silver clasp.

I also took some pictures of other projects which I have worked on previous to the bracelet. The one below is a necklace I did after my trip to Savannah, Georgia last May. I took a trip with my brother and sister in law to Savannah and while we were there we stopped off at St. Augustine's in Florida. Very picturesque and beautiful place to visit. From there we visited Vilano Beach. That was one of the highlights of my trip because I went up and down the shore digging for shells. It was so amazing!!! As soon as I saw a beautiful shell I had to be quick and scoop it up otherwise the wave would wash over it and steal it back into the ocean where it would be out of sight and gone forever. I scavenged for every type of strange shell and anything with an unusual texture and colour which I could lay my hands on. We all looked for small to medium shells and by the end of the afternoon I had a hatful which I left with. I don't know what was more fun, going hunting for them or getting to imagine what I would be making with them. When I finally got home at the end of our trip I took inventory and washed and dried them all and put them away. But before I did I wanted to bead a necklace and pick one for a pendant. So I picked out the medium brown shell I found. Nature had already "drilled" a hole in it. There was actually nothing I needed to add to it except for the shellac on the top and underside. I went to the bead store and tried to match the color of the beads as closely as possible to the shell. Here are a couple of close ups.

Another design I attempted was this green necklace. I didn't have the right color thread so I experimented with black thread instead. Surprisingly enough I like the contrast of the black thread with the bright green beads. Check it out.

Well that's all I have for now. I have a whole bunch of aqua glass beads as well as a series of silver beads I will try to put together for a summer necklace. Will try to post soon. Catch ya later.....

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Wading Through My Stash

I've been nursing a cold that is just lingering. It just refuses to leave. And no, I haven't been to Mexico recently. I guess it is just the really warm and then suddenly cold weather fluctuations that we are currently experiencing. This past Saturday was the wedding I mentioned on an earlier post and it was very touching and beautiful. The ceremony was conducted in Greek/Italian / English by one priest. Wow! I have never seen that before. Truly unique.
Unfortunately half my family members were sick so it was only me my brother and his wife. We still had a blast though. Lots of dancing, food and special memories with family and friends. Unfortunately, I relapsed the next day and was in bed with fever. So now, I am slowly finding my way back. I am flipping through my magazines and doing a lot of pattern buying since the New Looks, McCall's and Buttericks have been on sale. I am just recently wading through my stash and trying to decide what I want to sew for summer. My tatting project is doing quite well. I finally figured out the motif and I am repeating it to make a baby blanket. I also bought a baby blue printed cotton flannel material which I will back the tatted blanket with. Never made a baby blanket before so this is very new to me. I will post at a later date when I have more of the blanket to show. It is a very slow process. I am basically repeating the pattern over and over and we all know how much fun that is. Like watching paint dry!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Altered State

Last night I had some alterations to do for my mother's jacket. She recently bought a new suit because we are invited to a wedding which is taking place next week. Everything is fine with the fit except that the jacket hangs strangely in the back underneath the armpits. I realised that the jacket needs extra shoulder pads. The ones that were stitched into the jacket are almost non-existant so I thought why don't I go to the fabric store and purchase a pair and just stitch them in. Well, last night I was watching the last episode of Project Runway Canada and felt pretty courageous to unstitch the sleeve lining and slip in the extra pads. I was so afraid because the wedding is next week and I thought that I would ruin her jacket if I tinkered with it. Never done anything like this before but thankfully everything turned out well. She kept complaining that she would not find anything that fits her in time for the wedding. I am so glad she did.

I spoke with my sister on the phone telling her of my accomplishment and she told me that she bought a dress for the wedding also and if I could take a look at it because there is a spot at the shoulder area which needs adjusting. I just about dropped the phone in mid-conversation. I think that I should start charging. I am sure that will deter the clients from accumulating.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Little Blessings

Recently, my favourite pastime has been reading other people's blogs (usually one after another) and in the process learning about new painting and sewing techniques. I love to read about how each person got started sewing whether it was a grandmother or mother who started them off to sewing their own clothes or that of their dolls.

My mother was a very experienced seamstress and could manipulate any piece of material into a beautiful garment even without the use of patterns. I would have loved to have learned everything she knew but unfortunately never got the chance as she passed away when I was four years old. My mother's sister quickly stepped in and became the mother figure that me and my siblings look up to, to this day.

It was during the spring of 1987 with my (grad reception looming) that I was taught a valuable lesson and developed a driving need to learn about sewing I never thought I had in me. I was approached by a friend and told that she could have my grad dress sewn for me. I was very excited throughout the months of planning until the day of or the day before the grad reception when I was informed that the dress would not be finished due to time constraints and that I would have to make do with whatever was in my closet. I guess that things are not always what they seem. That night at the reception I vowed to myself that I would never again rely on someone to do something for me that I could learn to do for myself. Somehow that negative experience was a true blessing in "heavy" disguise because without ever having experienced that I would have never been propelled into learning how to sew. I am still trying to squeeze out some lemonade from those sour lemons by trying to learn everything there is through books, mags, and tutorials.

After graduation I took private lessons from a seamstress who had worked in some couture ateliers in Europe and proceeded to go home and duplicate everything I had learned in a second garment so I would not forget the techniques. I was taught the basics at first then jacket tailoring, hemming, finishing seams, handsewn buttonholes (which I still can not master perfectly), etc......I am by no means an experienced seamstress. Just a couple of months ago I learned what a Full Bust Adjustment was and I'm looking forward to trying it out on a shirt or blouse. I probably will not get it right away. Maybe on my fourth attempt but I am dead set on learning everything there is to know.

My biggest supporter to this day has been my mom (mom's sister) because she would always tell me to go ahead and purchase material I loved regardless of the cost and to believe in my abilities. She would tell me and still does that even if I ruin a piece I will get some experience (knowledge) out of it for the next one. I had seen a blue wool material once which I swooned over and she bought it for me on the sly and lugged it on the bus and metro (we live an hour from downtown) to surprise me when I got home. Just keep in mind that she is only 5'2 and this material which was 5 meters of heavy wool weighed about 1/3 of her weight. She huffed and puffed but managed to get it home. She is my little firecracker and I love her.

I guess that true blessings come in many forms we do not recognize but only in hindsight do we seriously realise the magnitude of their existence.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Artful accessories

Awhile back I made a promise to myself that I would not buy any more fabric until I managed to sew a couple of pieces from my fabric stash. Given the fact that I have accumulated.....hmmm... a couple of clear plastic bins of material it is a promise I better keep or I run the risk of becoming a pack rat. Mind you these are not notions....just material. I always buy something with the intention of making it into something specific. Well last week I paid a visit to Fabricville, downtown, as they were having one of their sales. I even have the discount savings card and thought that I would just see what was available. I was a good girl and did not entertain the thought of buying anymore fabric. But...... I did pick up a couple of accessories. I found these cute little "snippers" in the scissor section. I thought that they would be very good for clipping the
material when making buttonholes.

I really like the fine tips and they cut pretty well. An old sewing teacher of mine once told me that the scissors which I use for material should never be used to cut paper or they will dull the blades faster so I have other scissors for my material and a separate pair for cutting my paper patterns. Then I saw a colorul pair of Unique thimbles in a variety of colors and sizes. They are flexible and do not feel cumbersome like the metal ones. In the cart they went also.

Unfortunately my "sewing purchases" are not excusive to the fabric stores. I also tend to visit the local art store and since they carry a lot of scrapbooking items I also saw a pair of ribbons which I think that I would like to use as drawstring for pyjama bottoms.

My tatting project is coming along nicely. So far I have a square and a middle and somehow I will put the two together. Don't know how I will take care of that yet but so far this is all I have.

I still don't know what it will be but I am sure it will eventually make itself clear to me. Can't wait to find out. 'Till next time.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Bitten by the bug......

The tatting one that is, not the creepy crawler kind. Last week I went to "Dressmakers" on St. Catherine Street (Montreal) and all the way in the back against the right hand wall I found a beautiful DMC no. 5 thread in a scrumptious blue color. I am very much attracted to color, whether it is a muted tone or a bright vibrant one it never fails to bring out an emotion in me. I always tend to pick color which reflects the mood I am in. I guess I must have been in an uplifted and optimistic kind of mood that particular day because this color reminds me of lazy summer days. It is somewhere in the middle between cerulean and azure and conjures up images of a Meditteranean ocean and summer skies. It is actually a medium blue and not a washed out tone which the picture may, unfortunately, lead you to believe. I am not a very good (quite horrible actually) photographer and I apologize for the quality of the picture.

First of all one of my main passions is sewing. Believe it or not, that is mainly what led me to tatting. I love lace and I was searching for a way to embelish some of my sewn articles of clothing. My sister crochets (beautifully). She was taught to crochet one summer by my great- aunt while we were visiting Crete. She took to it like a fish to water but I on the other hand can not crochet to save my life. I am horrible at it. So about 2 years ago I got it into my head that I just had to learn how to make lace. I tried to crochet but it wasn't meant to be. I bought books, begged my sister for lessons and got irritated when the results came out too tight or too loose. Something was just not right. I shelved the books, the crochet hook and yarn and forgot about it until I discovered tatting. My first attempt was with a needle and it was amazing what can be created with only one needle! I fell in love with it instantaneously. From then on I have created lace edgings for scarves. I thought that this would be an embelishment as well until something inside me was screaming that it should be turned into a square motif. So here it is slowly turning into a square..... I don't have an inkling as to what the inside will look like or how it will look finished but I guess that is the excitement of the adventure. Not knowing how it will eventually turn out. Promise to post when I have more to show. 'Till next time. Au revoir......

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Thinking of spring........

On the days when I feel sad and the winter blues get to me I think of these images and it reminds me that Spring is right around the corner. Today we are experiencing 8 degree celsius weather!!!! Just a couple of days ago it was -10 so you could only imagine how excited I am that the weather is warming up. I relish the idea of putting away all the boots, scarves and pullovers. Give me my shorts and flip-flops any day. We are almost there!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Uncomplicated reading

Last night I was curled up with a really good book, "Interpreter of the Maladies" by Jhumpa Lahiri and it led me to thinking about reviewing some other books which I have read lately and which ones were actually worth reading and others I wouldn't want anyone else to waste time on because they weren't that great. So here goes.....

"Middlesex" by Jefferey Eugenides. One of the truly amazing books which I read a couple of months ago. This is a page turner. It is a book that you would love to read in one sitting because it is difficult to put down. It chronicles the story of a Greek-American immigrant family from their roots in Smyrna (1920's) to their life in Detroit (1960's). It is narrated through the eyes of Calliope Stephanides and details her life and experiences intertwined with those of her parents' and grandparents'. I don't want to give anything away because there are a lot of twists and turns and many shockers in this book. I have passed it on three times and there is a 4th person in the wings who is waiting for it. My goodness, my brother read it and he only reads user guide manuals. 10/10.

"A Complicated Kindness" by Miriam Toews. This book was a huge disappointment for me. I picked it up on the advice of people on the web who said it was a good book. It also won the Governor General's Award and that fired up my interest and I purchased it. It centers around Nomi Nickel, a teenager with angst, growing up in a strict Mennonite community, where she is trying to come to terms with issues a young girl faces. Her mother's brother is head of their church and there are restrictions placed on her and her family. This book was not my cup of tea. For all of you out there who require plot twists and surprises, this is not for you either. The tone throughout this book is one of heavy sedation. The dialogue is so boring that you feel that they are discussing the weather throughout the entire book. Even when certain events do take place which are milestones in a young girl's life you don't take notice because they are written in such a mundane fashion that with frustration you have to turn back and reread. Unfortunately I could not get the time, which was lost reading this book, back and therefore do not recommend it. Still could not understand how it won a GG award. 3.5/10

"The Birth House" by Ami McKay. This book centers around the main character, Dora Rare who happens to be the first girl after five generations of men in the Rare household. The book starts off with her apprenticeship to Ms. Marie Babineau who happens to be the only midwife in the poor Nova Scotian fishing village. Ms. Babineau passes down to Dora a slew of information on midwifery including a book on an array of herbs and recipes which cure many ailments, (e.g. croup, lack of menstruation) etc..... With the arrival of a Dr. Gilbert Thomas on the scene, a doctor who wants to open up a birthing hospital, the traditional childbearing practices of the women in the small village are challenged and along with a series of plot twists this is an intresting read. It is a little bit predictable though at times and certain issues fall too perfectly in place. I do recommend it but it is not an extraordinary book. Light read. 6.5/10

I have picked up so many books at Indigo that I wish to read that my list is forever growing. Hoping this small review will be a help to some. 'Til next time. Happy reading......

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

First time for everything......

This is my first time posting in blogville. I am very excited, thrilled and hesitant all at the same time. Excited in that I am putting myself out there in a non-tangible world with thoughts and ideas that I hope may be meaningful to others. Thrilled to take the chance as I have never done anything like this before and hesitant because others may not find what I have to say interesting. I love reading many different blogs on the net which make reference to painting/drawing, sewing, stamping, beading, tatting, etc..... I could go on forever. I love the excitement that comes with starting a new project but have to force myself to follow through and actually "finish" what I've started. I have some family members already reminding me that I have not started a particular painting which I promised to them not too long ago. Y'know who you are!!!! I have too many ideas flitting through my mind at the same time but not enough hours in the day with which to attempt to execute them.

Unfortunately the number of friends I have which would be considered "artsies" is next to nil and therefore I am looking forward to having dialogue with people interested or avidly pursuing art in some shape or form.