The Colour Purple

Is this an alluring tee or what? The front is graced by daylilies and the back by butterflies, hand-silkscreened onto this succulently plum-coloured cotton tee. Perfect for casual or dressier wear, this is one top you'll be certain to pack for all your trips this summer and maybe even into the fall - with its little cap sleeves, this one is easily topped off with a jacket during cool evenings and cooler months.

Now, I'm staring at this $27 tee, and honestly, I'm not sure about the neckline - it's so hard to tell sometimes, and I almost didn't feature it because of that. Still, if it's too low, you can wear a camisole underneath or do my favourite new thing for tops that are too-low cut: buy some nice ribbon in a suitable colour and sew it on. Works like a dream and adds a little more luxe if you're using satin or velvet (not sure I recommend velvet anything for summer, though).

I think my favourite thing about this top is the deep, rich purple. It's not cloying purple or fairy-tale purple, it's a flattering grown-up purple. The butterflies on back add just a hint of playfulness and lightness, though, so you won't intimidate everyone in the room (purple, particularly in its deeper tones, tends to be associated with royalty, wealth, and sophistication).

This one is available in small, medium, large and extra large, so don't be shy! Available from The Stevester, who has a really wide selection of tee styles, from Peacocks to Johnny Depp.

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Convenience Made Pretty

Remember back in the good old days, when we were told cellphones would make our lives easier and less complicated? Right. No, it now means your boss feels it's perfectly all right to call you back into the office during dinner or phone in a request for a report due at 9AM just as you and your dearest are settling in to enjoy a good book or movie. Isn't it wonderful?

Joking aside, cellphones are almost a must-have these days; in fact, Hubby and I only use our cell phones, eschewing land lines in favor of the less expensive and obviously more mobile cells. They have their drawbacks, but it's also really nice to be able to call our favourite sushi place to make reservations for that evening while we're out running around, and personally, I feel an additional sense of security having my cellphone in my purse while I'm out and about. Still, it can be irritating when someone calls and I have to hurriedly rummage through my handbag (because I only put my phone in its pocket about half the time, of course) for my cellphone.

Thankfully, super-famous Rina of Three Green Apples has solved the problem of losing one's cellphone to the darkest, more fearsome regions of our purses by creating a bunch of terrific little zPouches, like this one, the Mon Amour. Made of a swanky-sweet brushed cotton Australian fabric, the pouch is 5 X 3.5 x 1.75, perfect for holding your cellphone and probably even a lipstick or lipbalm or a few mints. It attaches to your keychain (yay!) or even the tooling on your purse via a little silver key fob. Rina sews everything to be durable as well as chic, and all the zPouches zip shut to keep your valuable phone - because you know as well as I do that you barely remember anyone's phone number anymore, just like me - safely tucked away.

This fully lined zPouch is just $18, and worth every penny; Three Green Apples is well known among the crafting community and it's because Rina is serious about producing well-made things. In addition to these handy little treats, you'll find lovely handbags, wristlets and pouches of all sorts at her shop. She uses some of the prettiest and most whimsical fabrics one can imagine, so pop on over and enjoy your shopping!


Extra-Late Pretty

Sorry this is so late tonight, but Hubby suggested we go see the new Pirates of the Caribbean after supper, so we went, and I'm sad to say (semi-spoiler alert) they killed one of my favourite characters in the entire series, more likely than not because he was the only one with any actual honour in his character. Hubby was a little put off by this as well. Nevertheless, we really enjoyed the film, which has some truly spectacular visuals and, of course, not nearly enough Jack Sparrow. (Is there ever enough of the role Johnny Depp was born to play?)

At nearly four hours, you definitely get your $10 and true bang for your buck (quite a bit of 'bang', now that I think of it...). Honestly, other than that unnecessary death (can you tell I'm somewhat inexplicably bothered by this? Remember when Haldir was pointlessly killed off in Peter Jackson's mangling of The Lord of the Rings? Must be the same thing...), I think what will stick with me most are the gorgeous, fantastic vistas and scenes created for us by the technical wizards behind the scenes. Truly beautiful, truly fantastic stuff.

At any rate, we just returned home and it's quite past my bedtime. Tonight I share with you these two lovely and very unique necklaces; I couldn't choose between the two and will therefore feature them both. From Bellissima Jewelry Designs, we have Giselle, a necklace of red Japanese glass beads flanking a bone pendant sweetly carved into the likeness of a small bird alighting on a flowering branch. This $52 necklace is a piece created for the Nest, a collection that raises and uses money to help women entrepreneurs in developing countries create sustainable art- or craft-based businesses. The second featured piece is Wildflower; from a sterling silver chain hangs a coral-coloured flower pendant made of lucite, the bloom's green lucite leaf a few links up the chain off to the side. It's a very interesting piece, and only $35.

Both of these beautiful necklaces are available from Bellissima Jewelry Designs, where you'll find some really gorgeous work. I like the materials used by the artist, and think her work really is top-notch, the kind of thing you'd see in high-end boutiques and may well soon see adorning celebrities; she manages to get chic and classic without being hyper-trendy or boring (definitely NOT boring - each piece deserves a little ogling).

Have a great night - or day, as the case may be. No more long movies for us on weeknights - but it was well worth it.


Fun Friday: Crabby Can Be Fun Sometimes

Aren't these seaside fun earrings adorable? I think they're great fun. Featuring miniature combs that look like crabs topped off with pretty orange bows suspended from gold earwires, these are actually the cutest crabs I think I've ever seen. Perfect for a fish fry, a summer party, or Friday at the office, they're a mere $5 for something that fits perfectly into the definition of "whimsical". (I don't recommend wearing them to taunt others about your forthcoming beach vacation, because that is not ony immodest, it's downright cruel.) From Modify. She has a lot of really cute, bright goodies at her shop, many with a retro flair.

I hope everyone enjoys their weekend. Please remember why we have an extra day off; in fact, Monday at 3PM is the National Moment of Rememberance, a moment of silence for one minute to honour those who've paid the highest price so we can live in liberty and freedom. Thank a Veteran, maybe buy him or her a cup of coffee or lunch (note: you have to pay for it before they know what you're doing, because our men and women in uniform are too polite to let you get away with it by asking or floating a $20 over the table). Help decorate the graves of vets with American flags in your local cemetery, or greet returning soldiers at a ship's homecoming or your local airport.

If you'd like to go a step further, you can make a donation to the Fisher House, Homes For Our Troops, or the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.

Have a wonderful weekend! See you Tuesday.

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Retro Summer

Actually, I think any time of year is perfect for retro, but the fine thing about summer is that it's the perfect time of year to bust out the bright mod-style prints like this one. It just seems to fit, doesn't it? Mod prints are really eye-popping and fun, wonderfully suited to the brighter, longer days and fun things that happen in summer.

Besides, mod flowers and Christmas don't usually go together all that well...

Anyhow, I really like this pretty flower-print dress from Crafty Like A Fox. It's a restyled vintage dress from which she's removed the original 3/4-length sleeves and gathered the shoulders with spaghetti ties. The result is a lovely, flowy summer sundress that's perfect for barbeques, parties, church, a date, even the office if you throw a sweater over it (should your office be so silly as to frown on bared shoulders when it's 90 degrees out). It's so pretty and feminine, isn't it?

If you're larger-busted than the model, you should still be all right but it's easy enough to pin the neckline a wee bit higher if you like. Wrap dresses are always flattering and feminine, a classic style and probably the best fashion to come out of the sartorially hellish 70s. Pair this with a pretty necklace - the beads shown are perfect, and only $10! - and some fab black strappy sandals and you're good to go just about anywhere. Espadrilles might work, but they'd have to be black and a little more formal looking, I think; flip-flops would be insulting to this dress, but slingbacks or mules would be very pretty and charming.

Best of all, because Crafty Like A Fox is focusing more on jewelry, she's pretty much liquidating her vintage clothing stash by pricing everything really well. Exceptionally well, since a dress like this would easily set you back $50 or more in a department store. Instead, it's only $22! With the beads, you practically have an entire outfit (sans shoes, of course) for a pinch over $30. Where else can you do that - and find a completely unique, one-of-a-kind outfit besides?

There are all kinds of wonderful things at Crafty Like A Fox; in addition to her clearancing out of the vintage clothing, there's a lot of really fabulous and fun jewelry - vintage, restyled, and new - as well as fun things for your home, vintage handbags, and other treats (like this terrifically awesome find. Owner Erin has a great sense of style, and I really like the fab collection of things she offers, and I know you'll have a great time looking at all the goodies!


To Live, Perchance to Daydream...

I saw this wonderfully pretty and smile-inducing daydream pendant and the charming design and bright colours made it absolutely pop from the page, eliciting a cheerful "Oh!" from me. I immediately thought of you and had to feature it!

The pendant, from Madison Craft Studio, is actually a piece of pressed wood fiber called masonite that has had the paper decoupaged onto it, then sealed on the front and sides to preserve the art work. Slide this charmer onto one of the $4 leather cords sold by Madison Crafts and you are good to go.

Now, get this: the lovely little piece of artwork you now behold is only three dollars. Yup, three bucks. This means that for $7, you will have a truly unique piece of jewelry.

I thought "Daydream" would be perfect to feature here, especially since the colours are so cheery and summery, and of course we all need time to just sit and dream. As a child, I was often caught daydreaming - I had a ridiculously active imagination - but lately don't seem to do it anymore. I'm all for being a mature adult, but God gave us fertile minds for a reason, and I think taking time out to daydream once in a while is not only healthy, but can be incredibly productive. Some prefer to stare into the sky while they daydream, others of us like to daydream with pencil in hand, but no matter how we do it, it's good to give our brains a 'break' from time to time. As they say, all work and no play makes Jill a dull girl!

While the daydream is whimsical and inspiring, the mother-daughter team at Madison Craft Studios also offers some really beautiful pendants like the lone tree, the olive flower, and of course many pendants with origami paper. As a singer, I'm also partial to this little singing bird pendant.

Some pendants are masonite, others natural shell or mother of pearl, so there is a nice selection of shapes and materials from which you can choose. It looks like only a few pendants are more than $5, so you could really purchase several different ones with a leather cord and have a lot of fun! I think these would make really beautiful gifts, too. There are many styles to choose from, and I'm sure there's something everyone will like. Enjoy your browsing!

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Wouldn't It Be Loverly...

...to wear this beautiful, delicately coloured cherry ripe bracelet on your wrist?

From the talented hands and eye of Beakee we have this tempting bracelet, which features a single carved agate bead graced by faceted barrels of cherry quartz and sterling silver Indian spacers. A single snow quartz dangles from the chain end of the sterling silver clasp. The quality and beauty of Beakee's work made choosing something very difficult, but I kept going back to this beauty, so here it is!

While I love bright, cheerful colours, there's something equally wonderful about well-matched delicate colours like this. Bright tones are of course energizing, invigorationg, and mood lifting, but there are days when we're not in the mood for that. Still, very few people really like the starkness of all-white, and as creatures that are largely visual, we appreciate colour even when we don't want it screaming at us, "Yes! I am green! GREEN in all my glory! Just look at me!" No, there are days when we prefer the soothing, muted versions of our favourite colours. Everything has its place and time, right? This bracelet is a perfect example of muted colours working beautifully together. Best of all, since the colours of the beads are a little more neutral than their bolder cousins, it means this bracelet is going to match more of your wardrobe, and will compliment your outfit instead of draw attention to itself.

For just $38, you can add this sweet beauty to your wardrobe. Artist Jasmin says that she believes in "simple but elegant accessories that you can wear season after season", and she seems more interested in responding to and creating beauty instead of chasing after trends - my kind of lady! She uses a lot of semiprecious gems and natural stone, probably my favourite medium for accessories right along with wood. There's something about wearing these pieces that gives one a 'grounded' feeling and is oddly calming - wearing a little creation by someone inspired by the beauty of creation, perhaps? Regardless, Jasmin has a lot of really beautiful (and a few whimsical) pieces in her shop, all lovely and several downright drool-worthy. Earrings, bracelets and more: they're all there, and I think you'll enjoy perusing her lovely work.


Some of the Prettiest Tees You'll Ever See

So, I was nursing a minor illness today when I ran across some really lovely, lyrical artwork on Flickr. The artwork was displayed on stationery, but as a bona-fide doodler myself, i had to take a closer look at the home of the stationery, Imaginary Friends. Imagine my happiness (and doubtless a healthy jump from my immune system) to see that not only does Imaginary Friends offer beautiful artwork masquerading as stationery, they sell t-shirts featuring the work as well!

As you can see, I had a difficult time picking just one tee to share, so I chose a handful: the Northern Pygmy, the woodpecker, a panamanian golden frog and even a men's tee featuring the most stylish monkey I've ever seen (in this case, it's a golden snub-nosed monkey). Each tee's page tells you a little about the animal featured - for instance, the red-cockaded woodpecker builds sap wells near the entrance to its nest to protect its young from snakes and other predators.

Each $28 tee is 100% jersey cotton that has been hand-silkscreened with the image, and they come in small, medium, and large (the monkey tee comes in extra large as well). This definitely takes that all-American classic fashion icon to a new level, especially since the delicate artwork on the tees is so sophisticated, making these tees a dressier option for days you still want to be comfortable. Really, I'm so impressed by the beautiful artwork, which is obviously inspired by the beauty of creation all around us. They are all just so lovely! These tees will top off skirts and pants with equally stylish aplomb and class.

Imaginary Friends also offers accessories, prints, and the aforementioned stationery, all featuring this elegant artwork. There are several more designs available, so be sure to check them out!

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Fun Friday: Why Don't You Just Go Join The Circus?

Now, I knew it would be quite hard to top cute-faced radioactive sheep earrings this Friday. But while today's pick may not have the crazy fun factor of sheep with green faces, it is definitely fun and cute, and I think you'll like it. This absolutely adorable, whimsical join the circus linen bag stars a ballerina kitty swinging across your bag, with the words "join the circus" embroidered onto the natural linen. The interior is lined with bright red polka-dotted cotton. Kitty and her tutu have been machine appliqued, and I really like the 3-D bits of the bag: the beads, the swing, the button 'tag', and the cat herself (of course).

From Syko's Shop in Finland, this bag is going to last you a long, long, time - and give you a reason to smile every time you pick it up. At 14.5 inches wide and 12.5 inches tall with a four-inch-wide cardboard-reinforced bottom, this has plenty of room for your daily necessities as well as a book or two, your camera or knitting (possibly both!), an umbrella, a bottle of water and some fruit, even diapers for your crumb-cruncher. Artist Kasja has added a keyring to the side to hold your car and house keys, and the $75, one-of-a-kind bag closes with a good, old-fashioned snap up top.

In addition to the sheer cuteness and fun of this bag, I like the way she's constructed it, particularly the gathers around the front. It adds that extra element of style and thoughtfulness evident in all Kasja's work. In addition to bags, she makes art quilts of various sizes as well as cushion covers, potholders, and little zipper pouches for your accessories.

I hope everyone has a great weekend. I'm looking forward to tomorrow's Preakness and Sunday's Red Wings game, which means I'll be watching way too much TV for a spring weekend, but...hey, these things only come around once a year, right?

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...And daisy-stars, whose firmament is green...

...or in this case, aqua and on your pretty hand!

The perfect accessory for this spring and all of summer, this daisy-bedecked aqua dreams ring gives you four times the flowers for your $16. Jen of Sprout Studios (honest to goodness, she doesn't pay me off, I just think her stuff is totally fab) has topped a swirly aqua-turquoise vintage button with three tiny, happy, pretty white daisies for your delectation and enjoyment. This ring - like all her others - is adjustable for your own hand.

Rings are one of my favourite accessories, especially fun ones like these. Diamonds are nice, but this is so sweet and fun, as are all such rings. Besides, while diamonds can inspire envy for whatever reason, a ring like this is bound to not just make you happy, but cheer up others as well. Especially since these are far less expensive and it's not a treat for yourself or a buddy that'll break the bank.

Jen has some of the most fun earrings you'll find, and some really charming stationery, necklaces, lovely ceramics and other goodies. Enjoy your browsing!

(Please...don't blame me if you do break the bank shopping there. Thanks.)


Deux Beauty

The elegant simplicity of this necklace is just timeless. A robin's egg blue circle sits lightly atop a slightly larger white circle, the pair warmed by the hint of gold the latter bears. Hanging off a sterling silver chain, this necklace is such a pretty, pretty piece, a classic, something bound to become a favourite of yours (or whoever you choose to give it to). This might sound strange, but this $35 necklace and pendant just make me feel...serene. Doesn't it just exude peacefulness? I'm not sure why; perhaps it's the simplicity of two circles combined in such soothing colours. What a lovely piece of jewelry - and it's custom made per order, just for you!

The artist, San Jose resident Andrea, has made the enameled discs out of powdered glass enamel featured in her kiln - which reaches temperatures of over 1,500 degrees to make ensure the pieces melt and come out with a smooth surface, before she counter-enamels the reverse side of all her pendants to ensure they are strong enough for regular wear. The Deux necklace is, unsurprisingly, her best seller, but if you're anything like me, you'll browse through her site and find you like just about everything. Her work is beautiful, whether it's pendants, earrings, bracelets, or rings (be sure to check this beauty out as well). The other interesting thing is...well, I just really enjoy looking at her online store, Dreams and Jewelry. It's a peaceful, aesthetically enjoyable experience, something that's difficult to find online. She deserves a commendation for fine website design nearly as much as she does her beautiful jewelry!

If you ask me, Andrea is definitely an up-and-coming artist whose style is top-notch, being classic and fresh all at once. You will truly enjoy browsing her shop, I can almost guarantee it! And don't forget to scope out her sale section, too.


Ringing It In With Spring

Isn't this a wonderfully pretty, cheery bag? Handmade in Japan by Rina of Chic36, this Big Flower Tote is available at Crafters For Critters and is only $30 - with 100% going to a very good cause.

While there is no size information available, it looks more than large enough to hold all your daily essentials - in fact, possibly your purse itself - as well as perhaps your camera, a good book or magazine, a bottle of water or fruit juice, your knitting or embroidery gear to work, the doctor's office, the baseball game (don't forget, Stitch 'N Pitch is now underway), the beach, or a day downtown. That's one thing I love about a good, sleek tote - it will stylishly hold everything you need in one neat package. No need to carry two bags, or a handbag and a pile of other necessaries. As an amateur photographer who brings her small camera everywhere with her, I find a good tote is indispensable, as it negates the need to put something on the ground to shoot.

The colours on this bag are so pretty, and that there are several colours in a large, modern flower print means it will coordinate wonderfully with your wardrobe.

Keep in mind, this fab tote is available only at Crafters For Critters. CFC is given donations from independent crafters and artists, sells the items via the webstore, and uses all the proceeds to help animals. The charities change every 'round' (there are three rounds a year), but they're always listed on CFC's info page. Great idea, isn't it? Crafters are usually really kind, generous people, and this fits in perfectly with the sort of thing they like to do. At Crafters For Critters, you'll find everything from pet toys (of course!), accessories, clothing, jewelry, craft kits, stationery, and every penny after shipping costs and the occasional infusion to keep the website up and running goes to the round's selected charities: they raised over $3100 last round, over $1700 the one previous to that - they list the amount raised after each round. Enjoy your browsing, and when you make your purchase, know you're doing so and supporting a great cause at the same time.


Modest Swimwear That Is Still Cute? Yes!

Well, it was a bit cooler here today, but we all know swimsuit season is nearly here (and is probably already here for many of you). Unfortunately, it seems that swimwear is less and less 'wear' and more and more 'cover only what we absolutely have to'. Even women who normally don't shy away from baring nearly all tend to be a little skittish about the scanty - in more ways than one - selection in bathing suits.

Fortunately, this year suits with better coverage are back in a big way. Full coverage equals class and glamour on the beach and by the pool this year (but let's face it, certain styles never go out of style, they just fall to our continual favour toward the new). Styles reminiscent of the ones worn by beauties such as Betty Grable, Esther Williams, Marilyn Monroe, and Marie McDonald are the look to be sporting this season - and wouldn't you know it, having more than three teeny triangles and some string on means you can actually participate in more sporting yourself!

A fine example is this Newport swim top and bottom from Shade Clothing. Shade offers several different styles of top, and this is probably my favourite due to the hint of 40s in the thick ties that get a rouched look when you tie them. The top has a built-in bra with removable padding and while the torso is described as 'loose fitting', it's obviously fitting enough to be flattering. If you take a closer look at the bottoms, you'll see the 4" slimming band about the waist to streamline your appearance.

The top is $35.50 and comes in aqua, black, olive, and navy. The $22.50 bottoms come aqua and olive as well as black, navy, a dark chocolate, red, steel grey and royal blue - so you can match your top or add a black or red bottom to that aqua tank, or even buy two different coloured bottoms to match your mood. At about $60 for a suit, this is close to what you'd pay elsewhere, and the quality isn't often that great. These are pretty, chic suits made in a classic style that really will last.

I was happy to see tankinis appearing a few years ago, and was really hopeful that we'd see the classic, super-glam swim looks of the 30s, 40s, and 50s make a comeback. Pair one of these lovelies from Shade (there are several swimsuit varieties, so if you don't like this one be sure to check out the others) with big sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat to protect your skin and eyes, and not only will you be lovely and modest, you'll be recalling an age of style much deserving of a comeback.


Fun Fridays: Radioctivity is Fun!

Well, actually, it probably isn't. Still, oddly enough, it's what I thought when I saw this darling little green-faced sheep peeking out at me from the window of Holly's Designs. Aren't these sheep earrings darling and perfect for Fun Friday?

As you can see, the radioactivity (or overdose on clover or key limes) hasn't had too much of an ill effect on this pair; not only are their cute faces a modern and individualistic shade of green (compared to the rest of the flock), they are now fully sensient sheep, as you can see in the photo of them peering at the ruler. Obviously, they know what's going on. I'm not sure these two can or will help you with that work assignment or the report your boss asked you for at three minutes to five on a Friday, but doubtless they will offer moral support. Just look at those faces! Full of empathy.

At just $12, this is an inexpensive and unexpected addition to your accessory collection. Made of lampwork beads and accented with olivine czech crystals, these earrings hang from your lobes on sterling silver wire. Personally, I just enjoy thinking about the reactions of people who realize you have wool-bearing mammals dangling from your ears. No doubt it would certainly startle a few folks, but that's what makes them fun, right?

Holly's shop has all sorts of whimsical earrings like these, including spotted chickens, penguins, and ladybugs as well as very pretty, classy, and chic jewelry. Many of the colours in her shop at the moment are very bright and summery, making them perfect to snag before you head out for vacations and barbeques. Enjoy your shopping, and have a great weekend!

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"Milliners never seem to have any difficulty discovering geometrical shapes wholly unknown to mathematicians"

A proper hat can be a controversial thing requiring some courage to wear.

People either love hats or hate them. P.J. O'Rourke thinks they are ridiculous, but Coco Chanel suggested one always wear her best hat when meeting someone new for the first time in order to put one's best face forward. A lord in England once noted that the English would never elect a Prime Minister who did not wear a hat (although come to think of it, I don't think I've ever seen Tony Blair in one, have you?) It seems there are no in-between feelings upon headwear.

Baseball hats are ubiquitous here in the States, and if you consider the fact that they're worn by everyone from presidents and pro baseball players to postmen, little kids, and even some women, the baseball hat is America's unofficial official hat. Still, I don't really consider the baseball cap a proper hat. It's a head covering for happy fans at the stadium, for greasy-hair days, for the family picnic and lazing about the amusement park on summer afternoons, not a hat for dressing well (no matter how clean one keeps it). There is absolutely nothing wrong with a baseball hat, but a proper hat is something one can wear to a wedding, a festival, the orchestra, church and not feel underdressed in, if that makes any sense. It also often makes one feel extra-pretty and a bit special, perhaps because of the bold step it can be to wear such an obvious fashion statement.

Finding a fine, flattering hat can be difficult but is possible. I nabbed a fabulous wide-brimmed turquoise hat last summer at the Ann Arbor Art Fairs in order to protect my fair skin from the sun's semi-evil rays (and because it's a cute hat, of course). The hat has since travelled all over the place with me and will certainly go with us on our Route 66 trip. It has become an indispensable little goodie, one that adds style to my ensemble in addition to protection.

Still, I've always had an affection for 30s and 40s-style hats (more here), with the netting on them. There is something excitingly glamourous and chic about that sort of hat, isn't there?

That's why I was so excited to see this fold-flat travel hat, Janis, at Glorious Hats. Minnesotan crafter Jane has made and shaped this lovely hat by hand from a sisal straw millinery hood. Not only is the colour easy to coordinate with your wardrobe, the shape of this hat proves Evan Esar (the fount of the above quote) correct! What style this hat has, don't you think? I just love the shape, it's such fun. The netting is removable for a more casual and less mysterious look, and the decorative button on top is easily changed out for one of the four extra and very fun buttons that come with this hat. You can pop the brim up or pull it down; maybe you can leave one side up and the other down the way I do with my wide-brim. At $55, this is really a steal for a handmade piece of millinery with such classic style, and as Jane notes, it's even fine as a wedding headdress, especially if you're going for a retro-style wedding.

Jane has a few other hats in her shop as well as handbags and felted wristlets. Everything is handmade, of course, right here in the USA, and Jane really has an eye for charmingly designed things. Enjoy your shopping - and don't forget to nose around for hatpins if you're really into the hat thing. Or did I just open up a whole world of obsession for you?


Flowers In Her Hair...Flowers Everywhere
Sorry this is quite late, but my dear mother-in-law was in town from Cinci today. We enjoyed a nice dinner with her and then she helped me figure out the hem on a dress I'm making - turns out the pattern has screwy directions, resulting in screwy pattern pieces, but it's easily fixed so no worries! She's a wonderful lady and I'm quite blessed to have a normal mom and a normal mother-in-law; my husband actually insists that his parents like me better than they do him.

With spring not only come flowers and warm weather - it means the hair frizzes are making their rapid advance. Here in Pittsburgh, it's 80 degrees and a bit humid, and I'm sure some ladies are already cursing the muggy air for what it does to their locks. Fortunately, there are many options for clipping those frizzy locks away to prevent your becoming frazzled: headbands, chopsticks (I use them to put my thick hair up into a French twist), ponytailers, and of course barettes.

Hair flowers - typically silk flowers glued onto an alligator clip - are gaining favour as well, not only because of the glam factor but possibly because they're a throwback to the 30s, 40s, and 50s, ages always considered to be a little more glamourous and sartorially sane. I'm sure that from the time the first woman decided to tuck a fallen bloom behind her ear, flowers have been a beloved hair accessory - indeed, some would argue a far better thing to bedeck one's locks with than jewels.

Clips like these pink lemonade cuties from gemmielou have gained a lot of popularity in recent years, probably due to the popularity of stick-straight and layered cuts. It's easy to swipe those rebellious locks away from your face and create some semblance of mane order no matter what your hair decides it is going to do. Gemmielou has quite a few available at her shop, all cheerily couloured and featuring a delicate, pretty flower on their face. Handmade, they're only $12 a pair and far more chic than the plain turtle-coloured ones at your local stores. The felt covering means your hair won't snag or get caught in the snap clip, and best of all, you'll have a sweet little flower or two in your hair. There's a variety of colours and they're the perfect treat for a friend, Mom, or yourself!


Pretty Frocks from Christa Taylor

Really, it makes me so happy to see dresses are a hot item this summer. Feminine, pretty, comfortable and the easiest thing in the world to throw on when you're running late, they make a lot of sense. Whether you go vintage or modern, there are a lot of lovely and modest dressed out there this year - or those that can easily be made more modest, such as the dress I found Saturday. The neckline's a wee bit low for my comfort, but I'm just going to hand-sew a bit of coordinating satin ribbon inside the neckline so it's wearable. If you're uncomfortable baring your arms for whatever reason, it's easy to top your dress off with a light sweater or jacket.

Of course, even the most beautiful summers are marred (kind of) by rainy days when there's a slight chill in the air. Or you just aren't body-temperature challenged like I am and you prefer short and cap sleeves. Regardless, these classic and classy coat dresses - in black and white - from Christa Taylor are a perfect addition to your wardrobe. In a timeless shirtwaist style, they'll quickly become a turn-to staple. The perfectly contrasting piping on the princess and edges will slim and lengthen your figure, not to mention add instant style. A matching wide belt is included, too - all you need is a great pair of shoes and maybe a bracelet and you're good to go! For just $55, you have something that will rise above not just the ever-changing fashion trends, but is ladylike, pretty, and quite chic. The sizes are of a decent range, too.

Christa Taylor, like many of us, became frustrated when long shopping trips resulted in only scanty returns, because so much of what's available is ill-fitting and far too revealing. Finally, she began designing her own clothing that is modest yet chic - the website notes,

We love to assemble modest clothing that is truly beautiful and unique to satisfy the high standards of both the posh and trendy girl (We resoundingly reject frumpiness!). We unashamedly desire to change the world of fashion. We want to convert you to an Empowered Traditionalist. An Empowered Traditionalist challenges the notion that to be modest you must compromise beauty and attractiveness.

At Christa Taylor we're pioneering a modest clothing revolution. Our team is committed to designing trendy and modest clothes that match your unique style. We are fashions for the empowered traditionalist; offering chic, feminine, and modern modest clothing options that are carefully selected to bring you premium quality and a totally modish [chic+modest=modish] flair that allows you to keep up with all the latest trends. We love creating those modest skirts, trendy tops, modest dresses, modest swimwear, and accessories that you had previously only dreamed about.

Gotta love that. Additionally, Christa Taylor gives at least 30% of its profits to charity, trying to help the poor and unjustly treated around the world. Thirty percent!

In addition to these fabulous dresses, Christa Taylor also offers tops, skirts, swimwear, and accessories. I'll admit to being not too crazy about the swimwear, especially in the face of this year's 40s and 50s swimsuit revival and the - imagine this! - Esther Williams collection (quite apropos to its namesake and mostly kosher), so fair warning. That's my only issue, though, and we all know I've got a wide vintage 40s-love streak in me. There are some very cute tops and skirts, though, and overall, many tempting goodies at the online shop.

All from Christa Taylor. Enjoy your shopping!

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Directly from the great state of Texas comes this mouth-wateringly hued wrap skirt. Brightly coloured flowers rest on an orange background, and the skirt is trimmed in a cheery shade of fuschia. Orange and pink always look wonderful together - the colours are reminiscent of tropical fruit and they're almost like sisters on the colour wheel. Best of all, with a skirt this beautifully coloured, you have a lot of options for topping it off: pinks, turquoises or aqua, red, chocolate, classic white, buttery yellow...I really like this skirt! The colours are perfect.

Handmade by artist Kaite of Katinka Pinka, who lives in a pink Victorian farmhome, this fabulous $55 skirt will fit up to a US size 12, up to a little more than 42" hips. The mannequin has 35" hips, so as you can see, there's a lot of room - literally - for all sorts of bodies and sizes. It looks to be beautifully well-made, too; with its classic style and fine craftsmanship, it'll last forever. This skirt can go everywhere with you - casual Friday at the office, church, picnics, the beach, a night out, a stroll with your dog around the neighborhood, vacations...with the number of top and jewelry combos available, the possibilities are almost endless. Dress it up or down - the skirt is what counts here: everything else will just be sprinkles on your hot fudge-topped ice cream (in other words, careful with the embellishments on your skirt or you risk looking too 'busy' sartorially). Don't even get me started on shoes...

Not only is this made with love here in the USA, it sounds like Kaite will bend over backwards to help you out if you need to return anything because of sizing issues, need something rush-shipped to you, and will wrap everything beautifully for that complete boutique experience. Indeed, you can fulfill nearly all your shopping needs at Katinka Pinka, as Kaite has everything except tops (at least for the moment): more than enough necklaces that would look fab with this skirt, and a few rings that would coordinate wonderfully as well. Of course, she sells earrings of all sorts as well as several other terrific prints of this same wrap skirt - you could snag half your summer wardrobe in one shop! What more could you ask for?


Fun Friday: I Love Lucy! Do You Love Lucy?

As a little girl, one of my favourite shows was I Love Lucy. Lucille Ball, with those big, beautiful, expressive eyes, her wildly red hair (not its real colour, she was a rich brunette before Lucy), peaches and cream complextion, and that amazingly fabulous wardrobe, was probably my very first fashion icon. That the show was funny and had an exotic flair (for those days) with the addition of Lucy's husband, Cuban actor Desi Arnaz (the brains behind the image, a shrewd businessman with a fine singing voice) made it all the better. Lucy and her antics also remind me a little bit of my mom's mom.

The years haven't done much to take away my affection for Lucy. Nearly 20 years after her death, Lucy is still an American icon - of the 50s, a fashion icon, a comedy icon. She's instantly recognizable in America nd probably around the world, and I can't really think of anyone who doesn't like her.

That being the case, how's about this fun Lucy pin from Art + Energy = Alchemy. Add a little zany to your day by pinning Lucy to your sweater, dress, handbag, or scarf. The image has been made with heat-sealed laminate, glitter around the edges (doubtless a tribute to Lucy's sparkling personality), and cream and white flower beads. For $20 you get a unique piece of art to wear and an almost sure-fire conversation starter (or, at the very least, something that will cause most folks to look twice and smile).

There's all kinds of fun at Art + Energy = Alchemy - pop culture jewelry (like Fred & Ginger earrings) and flower wrist cuffs made with yarns the artist has rescued from her own Nana's sewing room. If you'd like more Lucy, I'm sure I Love Lucy is running on some television near you, or you can check out The Lucy and Desi Collection, the favourite of which (for me at least) is The Long, Long Trailer (possibly just because I've grown up with RVing in what I jokingly referred to as "Ritz-Carltons on wheels" and watching my parents buy trailers worth more than my college education).

Tomorrow is Derby Day, and I've not missed a Derby once since I was about 5. It's a wide open race this year, but my mind and heart are, unless I have reason to think otherwise, going with Street Sense. Yes, he did win the Breeder's Cup Juvenile and thus carries the burden of the 'Juvenile Jinx', but if any horse can beat the jinx it's this colt. There are a few other horses I refuse to write off, but I spent my afternoon writing an article about the race and am going to cuddle with Hubby and the kitty now. Have a great weekend!

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And All That Jazz

Aren't these razmataz earrings fabulous? The colour combo of bright cherry red and cool periwinkle is very popular right now, but it's got a classic, retro feel and so will always be in style if it is your style. They're very summery shades, and make me feel cheerful whenever I see them. I really like the hook these dangly earings are on - it'll keep your pretty earrings from falling out and getting lost. The circular blue beads are such a wonderfully fun shape, too.

From Underdog Ink; you'll have to go to the jewelry section to find them and they're the first item in the fourth row. On your way to the razmataz for your ears, you'll see quite a few other chic and pretty earrings, so hang onto your wallet! Or not. At $16, these are a bargain, and all of Lisa's work is equally well-priced and hyper-fabulous. She sells everything from rings and hairpins to tees, stationery, and totes, all wonderfully designed. Everything from Underdog Ink, home of high fashion and one of the cutest logos ever. Enjoy!


Natural Beauty

Isn't this a pretty tee? Perfect for topping off jeans or a skirt, for a day bumming around town or going to a friend's party, it features what the artist describes as a bird's eye view of a seeding dandelion to one side. The artwork is striking, and the soft monochromatic tone is truly lovely and perfect for this time of year and the approaching summer. It is funny that of all flowers, dandelions (to which I'm violently allergic, interestingly enough), a weed, have such a sweet and pretty ending to their life, isn't it? Perhaps that's why they are so ubiquitous.

Artist Alison has hand-silkscreened this beautifully waning bloom onto a soft and comfortable cotton tee using a tabletop press. This $26 shirt is an open run, and comes in sizes from small to extra-large, and also comes in a dark gunmetal grey tee with purpley-blue bloom.

Just because I can (hee!), I wanted to feature this other tee, which is also very pretty and in a slightly different style. A grand live oak is silkscreened onto a chic pale blue puff-sleeve tee. I'm not sure if I like the puff sleeves or the live oak better - but as it's a symbol of the South I love so much, I've got to go with the tree. (Besides, the Derby is Saturday afternoon.) For just $22, this is listed as coming in small and medium only, but Alison's profile says you can email her with requests, so it is definitely worth contacting her about if you're interested, right?

These and many other goodies, from short and long-sleeved tees to skirts, toddler pants, and baby onesies (not sure if I like the pirate ship scary seas or meatball one more - my friends really need to start having kids!) are all available from the talented and very sharp-eyed owner of Circular Accessories. When I say sharp-eyed, I mean it; Alison creates really terrific, unique designs that I guarantee are nothing like what you'll find at other stores, and that' meant in the best of ways! Ladies with an affinity for nature will especially like the shop, but I genuinely think Alison's artwork is one of those things most people will really enjoy.

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A Little Nature In Every Day

This purse from The Sea Within can't help but remind one of spring and all the good things that come with it, don't you think? The exterior fabric is imported from Japan and features cute birds perched atop colourful balls that seem to sprout from a stylized tree branch, gazing at the dark turquoise butterflies or perhaps looking for the cure to their twitterpation. The interior is lined with a luscious magenta fabric, and the bag closes with a magnetic snap. The artist has of course interfaced the bag and the strap so the bag retains its shape and sturdiness.

I really like the bright, cheerful fabric this purse is made of - it's so whimsical and attractive, perfect for anything and sure to garner a few compliments and brighten the day of others as well. Handmade and all yours for just $35 from The Sea Within, where you can also hook yourself up with this darling owl zip pouch for just $7. The handbags and zip pouches from this shop are made of really wonderful, lovely fabrics and are beautifully made, too - indeed, there might be a good Mother's Day gift or two in her shop *hint hint*. Enjoy your browsing!

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