Friday, May 30, 2014

Favourite Cake Friday

          OK so I know brownies aren't really a cake per-say but they are full of chocolate and are cake-like! There for I thought I would share my no fail- favourite chocolate brownie recipe today- just in time for swim suit season! I imagine that curling up with a hunk of brownies, a good cuppa jo and a great book would be someone's idea of a time well spent- ahem- OK maybe me. With out further ado here is possibly the most decadent brownie you will ever enjoy- also pairs well with ice cream and red wine- just sayin'.


1/2 cup coconut oil
5 oz chocolate- I like semi sweet
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup crushed pecans

- pre heat the oven to 400 degrees- line a 8 x 8 pan with parchment paper and set aside
- melt chocolate and coconut oil together in a double boiler situation- stirring until smooth
- beat the eggs lightly and add melted chocolate- stirring vigorously ( I like to use the mixer for this)
- add in flour, sugar, vanilla and crushed pecans
- pour the mixture into the prepared pan
- bake for about 15 min


1 can of condensed milk
1 bag of chocolate chips

- melt chocolate and condensed milk together- stirring constantly to prevent burning
- pour still hot topping on brownies and let stand until cool

* a big shout out to cousin Laura for the genius topping- much easier than my original icing recipe and much tastier as well!

    Friends it is Friday once again- we have had such a wacky school week due to the job action between teachers and government in our Province that we are just calling this week and heading to the Okanagan today- by the time you read this we will be on the road- let the long weekend begin! Peace, love and brownies Friends- happy Friday!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Thrifted Thursday: Three Reasons I Love Vintage

          Everyone pretty much by now knows my deep and abiding love of second hand clothing- I love to shop for it, find it, take it home and breath new life into it. Vintage shops are my favourites- the place to find the most interesting and stunning pieces. Second hand shops come in a close second- great places to find basics like jeans at low prices- occasionally the consummate thrifter can score the rare vintage piece at places like Value Village- less and less so these days. Clothing Swaps- possibly one of my all time favourite events- you take a bag of items you are no longer interested in wearing- throw them into a pile- and come out with bags of clothing someone else didn't want any longer- for free!

      For me the number one reason shopping Thrift and Vintage stores is better than hitting the mall is the interest factor- as a lover of all things beautiful and interesting I want my wardrobe to reflect that. Shopping pre-loved clothes allows me to curate an interesting wardrobe full of one of kind pieces that belong to me alone- yeah I like to be unique. My real love is Vintage stores- not to be confused with Thrift stores- shopping Vintage is literally stepping back in time and cherry picking from the decades what you love best.

     The second reason is the environmental factor- once a new item of clothing leaves the factory where it was produced it has been coated in a number of chemicals- all of which are bad for you- one of which I have an extreme sensitivity to- formaldehyde. Chemicals to deter bugs and pests during transport- chemicals for fire retardant- chemicals to starch the fabric smooth for the retailer- just too many chemicals for me!

     Also the waste factor comes into play - almost all companies today over produce- fast fashion as it's come to be known as is common place with retailers hedging their bets on consumers shopping once a week. There are now 52 seasons of clothing as opposed to what used to be four- new garments hitting the mannequins once a week to keep consumers desiring new things. So many of those textiles ending their lives in a landfill of discount thrift store- or worse headed for a third world country. Did you know that much of North America's second hand textiles are shipped to third world countries under the guise of "aid"- the result is that those local economies are affected because the local dress maker or tailor is put out of business when the towns are flooded with our left overs.

      The Third reason to shop vintage is simple the thrill of the hunt- prowling the racks for the one item that jumps out at me and begs to be taken home. Over the years I have garnered some real scores- an antique beaded hand bag from the 20's for a song- a brocade designer hand bag from the 50's New York and my all time favourite my Bakelite bangle! When I go shopping I have to head out with an open mind and a lose list- I have an exact idea at this point what my style is so while I can examine and wow over beautiful vintage gowns I no longer feel the need to bring them home with me- I can admire things and pass them along. The feeling of shopping like this is such a rush- the excitement of finding the perfect item- examining the well constructed garments and the heavy fabrics- this is truly why I love to shop vintage!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Smell of The Ocean

" Give to me miles of tall evergreens
And the smell of the ocean
And cool mountain breeze
Won't you please"

The Lonely Forest

Monday, May 26, 2014

Here We Stay

        More and more I find myself having to chose between time spent here- writing in this space- and creating- the actual act of making things that satisfies my soul- and that I can actually sell! It may be that this wee family is not so wee anymore- we are all growing in leaps and bounds- this means more time is being spent away from the house- soccer- swimming- beach time with friends- call it what you will but we are just plain busy these days. So when an opportunity to get some actual work done arrives on my doorstep I grab on and get busy in the studio- which is just what I did this weekend.

      On Saturday morning we woke to grey skies- the Littles voiced their choice to snuggle inside and watch movies- throw in some free time with the art supplies and they were content. With my family occupied I settled in to work on a project near and dear to my heart- for several months now friends and customers have been asking when I will expand my line of clothing- the same basic but cute style that I use on my children's clothes but for the Mommas. I am so pleased to report that the first of these sweet little slip dresses rolled off the line this weekend- soon to be available for pre order!

P.S.- we also went for ice cream and the first local strawberries of the season!

         Still buoyed up by the studio time from Saturday I jumped right back in on Sunday morning- starting up a fresh indigo vat out on the deck. Indigo is so magical- starting off yellow green and the changing to deep blue as the air oxidizes the pigments- a little witchy and all sorts of surprising! Into the vat several bits and pieces that will soon find their way as finished products to my Etsy shop!

    I find with the Internet bringing so much of the world right into our home it is so easy for me to get overwhelmed with inspiration- bogged down in the planning process if you will. Really nothing beats time spent getting my hands dirty in the studio- mucking about- making mistakes and working through it. Sometimes I just need to put my head down and ignore what is going on in the world a little bit- dig deep to find the focus and just get work done.  

   Sitting here this morning I am feeling rushed- both Littles are home and rearing to head out on today's adventure- the teacher's strike is giving us a bonus day for a family field trip. I want to capture and express the feeling of my weekend- it isn't very often that I get to dig in and work- not for them- my darling family- but for myself- unleashing my creativity. As I said earlier I'm buoyed up and excited about what took place over the weekend- excited to come home this afternoon and get back at it!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Focus On : Artist Brandy Masch

      Today I have the pleasure of bringing you yet another of my favourite artist- Brandy Masch- illustrator- imaginer- and all round great gal. Raised in small town British Columbia it was through the determination and encouragement of her high school art teacher that Brandy is where she is today. After high school Brandy made her way to the big city of Vancouver where she graduated with her BFA from Emily Carr- her dream alma matter. Having come full circle back to Kelowna Brandy stands out as an excellent example of fresh and exciting art coming out of an often times traditional town.

What is your favourite medium to work in?

I paint primarily in acrylic guache, fluid acrylics, inks and watercolour on paper and wood panel. But I mostly prefer acrylic guache which I am in love with because of it's intense opaque matte colour. From time to time I do incorporate other mediums for effect into my work, like crackle, patinas and rust on paper and collage.

What would you say your "style" of work is?

I would classify my style of painting as being Eco Surrealist.

Your work is obviously visual storytelling- can you tell me a bit about where you gather inspiration from?

My inspiration comes from our life around me, ecosystems and issues on biodiversity, urban development and it's impact on the environment, plus my imagination. I am very interested in pop surreal low brow art and street art.

 This past year has proved to be huge in terms of your career moving forward- what do you see in store for yourself next?

I see myself working towards having more shows, and filling my requirements to apply for artist grants, entering competitions, submitting my illustrative work to magazines and one day illustrating a children's book or some sort.

Often times achieving artistic success in a smaller centre can be difficult- does anyone stand out to you as having helped you along the way? 

In grade 11 I had a wonderful young teacher by the name of Miss Philpot who was fresh out of teaching school herself. She is the reason I decided to pursue the arts and make it my career. She signed me up (without me knowing) for an award (which I won) a bursary (which I won) and community art show (which was written about in the local paper). 

Also I would like to mention that I have been very lucky through out my university years to have such wonderful support and encouragement to pursue my dreams! My Auntie Christine, my amazing friends and university professors- all pushed me and helped to promote me. My #1 fan- my husband and his wonderful family have all been amazing in supporting me through out the years.

Brandy's work can be found at Mayberry Fine Arts in Toronto as well her prints can be found locally at Bird on a Wire in Vancouver on Main Street. Kelowna fans keep your eyes peeled as Brandy's work will soon be available there as well. You can always check out Brandy's website and purchase through her directly as well.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Here We Stay

          May Long weekend is traditionally the start of Summer here in B.C. and to go along with the start of our warmest season it usually rains. So after a number of years getting rained out camping we decided to stick close to home this weekend and have a mini Staycation. It was a weekend of being lazy and eating tonnes of yummy, local- fresh food. Lots of coffee and lots of time spent outdoors- even though the for cast called for rain we all got a tiny bit sunburnt as the weather turned out to be pretty good!

        One of the things I love about living in Vancouver is how possible it is to be car free- we really have only had a car for the past three years- before that it was all walking, public transit and car coop for us- having a car is a luxury. For the most part of our weekend we ditched the car and headed out by foot- we bussed over to the Trout Lake Farmers Market for a taste of the season on Saturday. Being on foot means experiencing the city in a way that you never could from a car- we walked the length of Commercial Drive- enjoying being a part of the neighbourhood for an afternoon.

        Sunday found us with an impromptu picnic lined up- this time we hopped in the car and headed over to the Kitsilano Farmers Market- all markets all weekend! Time spent catching up with dear cousin Laura and her wee family in the sunshine on blankets covered with market treats was the best way to spend the day. There is something magical that happens when the sunshine comes out in earnest for the start of Summer- people start to slow down- families take over green spaces and the city comes alive.

         Sitting here on Monday morning with the patio doors wide open it's comforting to hear the familiar sounds of the city waking up- sea gulls and yes even the traffic. Sometimes I think there is no comfort or relaxation to be found in the city-sometimes being here is tied to everyday life- which can be exhausting. But this weekend was a very different type of weekend- nothing special to do- no where amazing to go- just simple- easy and relaxing- in the city.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Whats For Dinner

       Friends it is Friday- it is the Long Weekend- it is sunny! All these things are terribly exciting to me right now as I sit here on my deck- sipping my first coffee of the day- surveying my kingdom- AKA garden. It's just before 7am and all ready it's hot out- not Santa Clara hot- but hot enough to sit out on the deck sipping coffee in a tank top- just for the record I also have pants on. At any rate I'm already thinking about how hot our apartment will be this afternoon at dinner time and I've decided that a hot day like this will call for some easy comfort food tonight- enter in the humble lentil salad!

Lentil Salad

2 cups lentils- soaked and cooked
garlic- minced
1/2 onion diced
one red pepper diced
one bundle spinach- rinsed and drained
salt and pepper
olive oil
apple cider vinegar
Dijon mustard
maple syrup

- in a frying pan saute onions and garlic until translucent- add in red pepper at the end just to soften up a tiny bit- add in spinach and cover- cook for a few minutes until spinach is wilted- remove from heat
- in a large salad bowl combine pre-cooked lentils and veg mixture
- to make salad dressing combine- 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/8 cup apple cider vinegar, small amount of Dijon mustard and a drizzle of maple syrup- s&p to taste
- drizzle dressing over salad and combine well- this is great when made ahead and left to marinade with the dressing on a few hours.

- serve as a side with a fried or poached egg and avocado toast for what is quite possibly the most simple meal ever- of and don't forget the wine- aways wine!

       As stated Friends it is indeed Friday- this weekend we are shockingly staying off the roads for a bit of a Staycation- we will be hoofing it all over our fair city being tourists in our own town- first up the Trout Lake Farmers Market! I hope you all have a spectacular weekend filled with love and fine boxed wine- Happy Friday Friends!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Thrifted Thursday

          Of course this Thrifted Thursday has a story to go along with it- a story of a sunny day at the beach with my girly- but of course the story runs much longer than that. This Thrifted Thursday is all about this wee little leather purse that a friend spotted at a vintage store and said "hey you need that"- I had been looking for a bag like this for months- just barely big enough to fit my wallet, phone and keys- with a long cross body strap- perfect for everything I need to keep close.

     I bought this week leather purse on a crummy day in February- I remember my friend and I had just had the best lunch of poached eggs on toast- we left the warm comfort of the cafe and spontaneously dipped into a oft visited vintage store. On this day in February it was struggling to snow- raining for sure- it was cold and dark-  when I saw this wee little bag I thought "this is perfect for summer adventures"- a little bright spot on a grey winter day.

     This little leather bag travels everywhere with me these days- including to the beach of course- across my body- freeing my hands up for important work like shell collecting and hand holding. In what might be it's second or even third life it is collecting so many more unspoken stories- tucking places away in the folds of leather- secreted away. One of the things I love best about pre-loved items are the past lives lived- this little bag travelled all the way from India to a vintage shop in Vancouver - I wonder where it went in between!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Living With: A Creative Family

      Living with a creative family is messy- there is just no getting around that- three out of four of us are Aquarians- so there is that as well. Projects get started and abandoned with a regularity that is predictable and in fact anticipated- it is just a given that most nights we need to clear off the kitchen table before we can actually eat at it. Such is life with four creative people under one roof- but it's good- oh so good to watch it all unfolding!

         Not too long ago I was the instigator of most creative happenings with our Littles- I blogged a lot of fun projects and ideas- what we were getting up to on rainy days. With in the past few months I have noticed more and more that my kids no longer need me to give them an idea or prompt or even set up any sort of creative station or craft project- they go to the art room and help themselves from their stash of supplies and get on with the business of making. It is a bitter sweet realisation that I have empowered and created two very creative little beings who are now coming up with their own ideas and fun. I am amazed with what they come up with- from fluorescent dinosaurs to shoe box Angry Birds games- their imaginations are inspiring!

         Often at the end of their creative outbursts I am presented with soggy mono coloured pieces of paper that may or may not be a painting of something- most likely an Angry Bird. I often stumble across Miss Lo's tiny story books that she makes and stashes around the apartment. The story above is about a girl who likes to play soccer- this one I found hidden in my jewelry box. We have such a stack of artwork that I hardly know what to do with each precious piece- currently they are stacked up in a box but I'm quickly running out of space. Such prolific artists I have!

       So my Friends- our life is changing once again- my Littles are moving ahead with their life- what may look like tiny steps from afar are actually huge leaps in my eyes. So too will my blog be changing a little bit- reflecting our changing and growing family. As we spend more and more time away from our nest so too will it be recorded here- maybe not as many how to craft projects- but still lots of adventures and creativity- cool stuff we love and coffee- always coffee!

P.S.- one of our favourite go to spots for fresh inspiration is Collage Collage- we made our fun shell painting there as well as purchased those awesome little paper mache dinos that Miss Lo is painting!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Away We Go

          It's that time of year again- the time when our wee little family hit the road and become weekend Gypsies living out of our van- most importantly getting out of the city and into some quiet. This past weekend we snuck into the Okanagan late at night to surprise both of our Mom's for Mother's Day- and it was perfect- neither suspected a thing and both were sufficiently surprised. Mother's Day was spent in a blur of family, laughter and food- we ate a lot of food and it was delightful.

          My own Mother's Day wish was fairly simple- I believe we should celebrate every day not just once a year the marvel of family and Motherhood- I celebrate being a Mother to these two imperfect perfect beings daily. But I did have a wish- my wish was to stop at our favourite swimming spot in Oyama and just relax. So on our way back to the Coast we did just that- we grabbed some snacks and pulled into the best swimming spot tucked in between two lakes on a spit of land. Recently the highway was diverted up and over the mountain- away from Oyama- so there is very little traffic here- just quiet, calm waters flanked by rolling orchards- verdant green hills- blazing blue sky.

    Of course it is still a bit early to go swimming- only the very brave jump in such cold waters at this time of year- but that didn't stop us from dipping our toes in and chatting about the hot days spent at the lake to come. Summer is right around the corner- only six weeks of school left and I will admit to be just as giddy as my Boy- he loves school but is excited to have the summer off. The winds are warming up and whisper the promise of long sun burnt days- to me childhood and summer are magical.

     My Mother's Day weekend was perfect- seeing our own Moms was really special and I am so happy we were able to pull the whole thing off- I am a terrible fibber and had to tell several whoppers!  Our weekend was so simple and easy- sitting on the shore of our little lake watching my children play was exactly what I needed. A little peace to restore my soul for the long week ahead!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Focus On: Artist Sarah Ronald

        Today's featured artist is the very talented illustrator Sarah Ronald. What attracted me to Sarah's work is her obvious deep and abiding love of the natural world- her love of animals and the multi dimensional beauty that streams from each of her subjects- each animal popping off the paper and coming to life with it's own story right before the viewer's eyes. Be sure to pop on over to her web site and get lost in a pair of raccoon eyes- her shop is a treat to check out- I'm always interested in what makes artists tick and particularly one with such reverence for the environment- Sarah was gracious enough to answer a few questions for me and let us all have a peek into the how and the why of what she does.

·         Obviously you have a very strong connection to the environment- when did your interest in the natural world begin?

Both of my parents have a deep appreciation for the natural world, and I definitely learnt it from them. However I think that I first felt a real conscious connection to animals when my parents separated when I was 8 years old. For any kid that kind of change is hard to understand, and during that time I grew closer than ever to the family pets, they became my stability and no doubt my connection to the familiar. I am sure there are many studies to be read about this phenomenon.

I remember being 9 years old and planning with my best friend that when we were old enough we would buy a forest, would cut down a patch of trees (by hand), build a log house and animal hospital (also by hand, of course!) and help all of the injured animals that came to us. Naturally from the mind of a 9 year old all the animals would live with us after that and we’d all be best of friends, the end.

When I was 12 years old I made my first set of drawings that were concerned with animal welfare: I drew posters of injured lions and elephants, protesting the circus that was coming to town. I put the posters up on the doors of businesses where tickets were being sold. The posters didn’t stay up for too long and I got a few kind scolds about my gorilla approach, but I felt like I did something good for the animals through my drawings.

·         Can you describe your path to becoming an illustrator and artist?

My dad is a painter, so making art was just a regular part of growing up.  As for how I got to the current place in my art practice, it’s actually not at all what I had originally envisioned. Despite going through 4 years of art school and always maintaining a creative practice to some extent over the years, I finally came into my own ten years after achieving my BFA.

It happened as a result of working by contract as a Visual Arts Examiner for the International Baccalaureate program, and it was through the process of interviewing and examining over one hundred lower mainland grade 12 students on their final bodies of work, that for kicks I decided to turn the process onto my own work. With that level of guided self-reflection, I realized what is now incredibly obvious: that in order to be truly satisfied with my art practice I needed to create work based on something that I am passionate about: nature and animals, and the fact that we as a species are very irresponsible to the planet.

The challenge then became about creating work that encompasses my concerns while ensuring that the images aren’t so blatantly ‘activist’ that it repulses viewers; I’d rather have people fall in love with the animals in my drawings than react to their personal feelings around activism. My goal is for viewers to have a positive experience of the subject, to fully consider the concept of animals trying to comprehend the world, and then hopefully to take the next step of self-reflection in real life. I know it is a big ask, but judging by the increased stacks of notes and scratch pads and midnightbrainstorms I’ve had over the last few years, I’d say that I have finally gotten to a spot of being constantly inspired to create, and given the underlying purpose of my work I don’t feel like I am doing it for vanity sake (self-indulgence is a topic that I’ve really struggled with, particularly when it comes to creating more stuff in the world).

·         What is your favourite medium and why are you inclined to use it? 

I have explored almost every medium, however drawing has always been my touchstone. I enjoy the simplicity and immediacy of it, I love the primal connection that one feels making a mark directly on a surface.  I actually enjoy working in extremely large scale– achieving a point where a drawing can encompass your entire field of vision and pull you in emotionally. When working large scale I prefer to use charcoal, however, given that I am currently studio-challenged, I go with mediums that are more manageable.  I have been hooked on using texture free papers (drafting film and Yupo are my favorites), and with those I use pencil, coloured pencil, conte, graphite, and sometimes water soluble media.

        Although I have a day job (which I actually quite enjoy), I do want to get to the place where drawing is the main focus of my day. I have some awesome ideas for opening up a small business that would allow me to get to that spot, so I have been slowly plodding along that path and keeping open to new experiences and opportunities along the way. For now, my work can be seen and purchased online and through my social media posts, through my local artist’s cooperative , and of course at upcoming exhibitions.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Going To The Mountains Is Going Home

        "Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life. "

                                                               John Muir 1901

Monday, May 5, 2014

How We Weekend

        As many folks on the West coast can attest to this weekend was Biblical in terms of precipitation- it rained- it poured- epic movie style rain most of the weekend and when it wasn't raining it was nasty and grey. It would have been a good weekend to snuggle indoors with many mugs full of hot coffee- instead our family decided to venture across the border on a mini get away to Seattle. With loads of different attractions to check out a little road trip turned out to be just the ticket!

         Our first stop- after the outlet mall of course- was the Museum of Flight- which thanks to our Vernon Science Centre passes we got in for free! Many local passes- such as the Vancouver Science World season's pass will grant you free admittance to other science centres and museums- it's always good to check the terms of your pass before you step up to the counter to pay.

    The Museum of flight was fascinating- aside from the immense scale of the entire building and the actual planes hanging from the ceiling - we found the exhibits very well curated and user friendly. I was particularly impressed with their attention to highlighting women in flight- with an entire exhibit devoted to Amelia Earhart as well as other female fliers that were ground breaking in aviation before her. Over in the WWII exhibition a large part of the display was dedicated to the WASPs as well as women in flight from other countries during the war. To me the best part of the entire day was when I was trying to explain to my daughter that these ladies were groundbreaking in what they did- I know that these ladies were just the beginning of breaking the gender barrier- I was explaining to Miss Lo that she could do anything she set her mind to. She turned to me and said "well of course I can Momma"- to her it never even occurred that women are anything but equal to men.

         We stayed over at a charming vintage hotel only a few blocks from Pike Place Market-  I say charming as in it was slightly quirky- I may have accidentally locked Miss Lo in the bathroom- we sorted it out before anyone became too panicked. With in walking distance of anything we could possibly want to see we spent a great deal of Sunday morning exploring the market and surrounding area before hopping back in the car and heading out to our next destination- The Pacific Science Centre.

        Again thanks to our season's passes from the Vernon Science Centre our entrance to the Pacific Science Centre was free- you do have to pay additional for any of the special exhibitions but the general areas are open. This science centre is quite cool with working dinosaur robots- as well as the actual bones- working tidal pools and a wonderful exhibition on how the body works- food turning to energy. The kids had a great time interacting with all the kinetic sculptures- making machines move with their bodies and lighting up lights with man made energy- it was all pretty cool!

           Sometimes all a person really needs to change their perspective is a change of setting- a mini weekend away was just what our family needed. Sitting here on Monday morning- again it is kinda raining out- I am feeling ready to tackle the week. I am inspired by things I have seen this past weekend- colours and moods- I am excited to get back in the studio- jump back into work. I think first another cup of hot coffee is called for and a bit of snuggling with my babes- then work!