Vined Embroidery

While brown isn't exactly a springy colour (can that season arrive quickly enough?), it's wonderfully versatile in the right shade and makes a far nicer compliment to most things than black does (most of the time). This prettily embroidered and appliqued purse from Divine Diva Art has such soft, gentle lines it wasn't possible to pass it up today.

More than big enough to tote around all of your necessities — even a book or two — the $45 handmade and hand-embroidered bag has an exterior of cotton but a durable, tough, "beat me up, I can take it" denim interior. That's smart thinking!


What is happening to Real Simple?
Thanks so much to those of you who've left messages about our loss of Rem. We still miss him terribly...he was a big part of our lives. I'll be back, but think it will be sporadic at first. Some probably think I'm nuts, but Rem was a spectacularly special little guy.

Well...I hate to start back off on a bad note, but I flipped through last month's (I think) Real Simple a while back, before we lost Remmy. Usually, I savour each page.

Unfortunately...I was really disappointed. The whole issue seemed extraordinarily materialistic; from cover to cover, that was the vibe I got. From the usually lightheartedly chatty and informational Real Simple, this was a letdown. It's really been nagging at me and nagging at me, even during our grief over losing our little buddy. So, I hope you don't mind my getting it off my chest...who knows, perhaps I'm not the only one!

This has been happening more and more frequently with RS, a magazine to which I'm pretty much a charter subscriber, having loved it from Day One. But the issue of which I speak was probably the worst to date. I've always enjoyed their articles about organizing, streamlining life, the recipes and beautiful photography, and articles with titles like "29 (and a half!) uses for your old broom", "Spiff up your lighting fixtures with 99-cent salt and pepper shakers", "Fairytale reception in a school gym" (actually, they really DID publish that article...!), "From burned down to totally livable in 30 days", or even "Making the perfect ice cream cake with nothing but 2 eggs, a cup of sugar, and a slice of pepperoni". RS really is one of my favourite magazines. Or was. It's wobbling there in its place of honour.

My bone of contention is primarily last month's article (among others) about the "new classics".

It was, I suppose, all well and good, but I found myself a little put off by the suggestion in the article that these would be "heirloom" items sought after by our progeny primarily because of their fabulous appearance in addition to the functionality. Surely some of these things were very cool, very elegant, and so forth, but...since when do we treasure heirlooms based on their stylishness? Is aesthetic attractiveness what makes something treasure-able? When did that happen? How very distressing and depressing!

Of course, many people do this not only to things but to other human beings or animals; that may have been in large part what put me off. I've nothing against design or owning pretty things (not at all!), but it still seems we have to draw a line somewhere. My family didn't have any Heywood-Wakefield to hand down, not much in the way of designer chandeliers, china, or even fashionable artwork.

However, I look at the old chenille bedspread from my great-grandmother who passed away a few years ago at the age of 99, just weeks shy of her 100th birthday; it really is rather pretty, though worn and snagged in a few places. I love it, though. I have one of her old, yellowed, chipped teacup plates featuring a flowery bough of pears sitting on the coffee table holding small candles to remind me of her every time I glance at it. Digging through my crafty things over the summer, I found great-grandma's old sewing kit, one that included buttons, some notes, a threader, and even a few wooden bobbins. It was like finding buried treasure, and they sit in a place of honour on my crafty shelf as I type. They're not retro-swank, but they do make me smile.

When I was young, Mom gave me a small ceramic turtle she'd painted and glazed to hold hairpins in. It's not fancy or edgy; it's just cute, even cutesy. Rem accidentally knocked it off the bathroom counter a couple of years ago, leaving me in tears and neglecting to even wash its many pieces before hurriedly gluing it together, hoping against hope I'd be able to save it. I did...my little turtle is cracked, with a glue spot I didn't remember to wipe away here and there, but I love it...it's from Mom. When we finally got rid of our last couch, a blue Herculon-upholstered monster older than I was, I cried like a baby for a long time; yes, it was not exactly attractive, and yes, we needed something firmer for my back, but...that couch had been in my life for the duration. Had we a basement at the time, we'd still have that old monster, believe me!

I've got a beaten-up copy of "Black Beauty". It's cover is nearly illegible, and the book's pages are ratted and yellowed, but Mom gave it to me. It sits with all of my other books, including a newer copy of the book (one I'm not afraid to read lest it disintegrate).

My kitchen cabinets hold several old glass bowls of a nondescript nature (though one stoneware piece is nothing short of ugly, let's be honest here). But when I pull them out, I always smile, because Great-Grandma and Grandma used them to bake cookies, pies, cakes, and other goodies. Baking with them makes me feel as if they're really not so far away after all, though both have been gone for some years now. I've got some of Grandma's old kitchen towels, too, peachy-orange and white with a cactus motif. They even get used regularly...doubtless Grandma smiles at that, especially since they look to be barely used while newer things don't seem to hold up for more than a year or so.

Long ago, my dear aunt gave me a dinosaur coffee mug; it reminds me of her every time it's filled with tea or hot cocoa. My grandfather has taken to correspondence with me lately, his letters full of great stories about he and my now-gone grandmother when they were in their first home, when he was away at war, life with the kids, his fishing stories...each one treasured and tucked away. My little sister thoughtfully purchased some vintage Kentucky Derby glasses for her horse-crazy elder sibling that make me smile every first Saturday in May when they're filled (to her chagrin) with my carefully-prepared mint juleps.

My Nannie made a warm afghan for me when I got my first apartment and she heard it was costing me upwards of $200 a month in the winter to heat the tiny place to a balmy 62 degrees; it still ends up draped over the sofa, even if lilac and white aren't exactly in our colour scheme for the living room. I believe I even have one of my Grandma Sally's old Cover Girl powder compacts and a lipstick she gave me. They're not fancy, but they were hers.

And of course there's the ancient, beat-up, well-used sea trunk my grandfather gave me; originally, it belonged to my great-grandfather. Most designers I see on television and read on the web or in magazines couldn't fathom putting it in our bedroom, but that's where it is and I love it. It may not "fit" with our style, but...it's family. It's memories. Plus, it holds our bedding and pillows, special little knick-knacks, and was one of Rem's favourite places to perch. In fact, I'd often sit down, scoop Remmy up, and cuddle him sitting on that very trunk.

None of these things or the many other treasured, family-related goodies in my home have designer labels, they didn't cost hundreds of dollars and I can almost guarantee not one was ever featured in a magazine or touted as the next "big thing". Some aren't even attractive.

It seems to me there is a lot of...well...kind of flimsy, borderline shallow aesthetic obsession out there, where family photos aren't good enough for the wall unless they're "artistic" or at the very least unusually framed, and must instead be cursorily replaced with willowy drawings, dystopian photographs, and dynamic art pieces. That's well and good to a point, but I refuse to sacrifice myself and my family memories in the name of "stylishness" and polish. Isn't there more to life?

Surrounded by these small things, these old things, these unfashionable, ragged, worn things, I feel happy, relaxed, at peace. They add warmth, a sense of permanence, and real personality to our home. These worthless, non-chic things remind me of my family, my loved ones, the stories they tell, the times we've shared, the love we treasure.

They're worth far more to me than the "must-have" things touted in magazines and home decor blogs. Those items are fun to look at and even own if we feel so inclined, but it seems to me something is jarringly wrong when someone says what makes a house a home is an Asian art piece, a leather ottoman, or a gigantic mirror instead of warmth, love, joy, peace, and the things steeped in our own history and hearts that help us feel that way. I love these old things because of what they mean and represent, not what they are or how they look.

When we willingly surrender our "stones of remembrance" because they're not HGTV- or Elle Decor-worthy, or even Real Simple-worthy, we're actually surrendering ourselves. There's not a thing wrong with enjoying and having lovely, aesthetically pleasing trinkets and "stuff", but sometimes it might be wise to step back and ask why we're doing it. What we treasure says much about us...and I think what we discard or put away in the name of style often speaks equal volumes.

As far as Real Simple...one more issue like that, and I'm cancelling a long-standing subscription. Life is cold enough these days without such admittedly urbane silliness arriving in my mailbox every month. I really miss the friendly, fun, miniature library that used to be Real Simple.


Gone For a Few Days

This morning, my much-beloved cat, Remington, suddenly became ill. We rushed him through a true blizzard to the vet, who sadly told us there was nothing that could be done for my darling little buddy. Since he was clearly in pain and confused...we had to let him go.

He's been through a lot with me and has been a true constant in my life for some years now. As we both miss him tremendously...I just can't put my heart into this right now. I'll be back in a few days, and thank you for your patience.


Red, White, And Pink Week

Bonus points to anyone who tried re-finishing that sentence with "Red, White, and Blaine". No, really (there are simply not enough fans of that man in the world, are there?).

All right, it being Valentine's week, I thought I'd bow a little to the commercialism and at least make everything red and pink. Let's face it (or, as Mara Liasson would say, "Look!"), pink is almost universally flattering. My (2) bridesmaids revolted at the idea of green, or pink and orange, so...pink was an automatic default. Red is one of my favourite colours, and it appears I'm hardly alone (though plain ol' red is the twelfth favourite Crayola colour).

I'll start with red. Tonight we have a lovely, romantic vintage blouse in a fire-engine red. Better yet? It's all in lace. The classic sweetness and femininity of lace are just about eternal, and it's just as perfect to wear on a date as it is for a night with the girls or taking yourself out to the movies and ice cream. Lace is one of those things that can be straight-laced and conservative, at home with a ladylike skirt or dress pants, or equally gorgeous and chic with jeans or a khaki skirt. Talk about your multitaskers!

Yes, another square neckline. Lovely.

This fully-lined blouse from Item Vintage zips up the back and, again, is fully-lined (yay). The seller suspects this will fit a size 6 best, with its measurements of 37" bust and a 28" waist. $20.

Check out the rest of the shop, too...there's a sweet vintage butterfly-print dress in a beautiful print in a larger size, as well as a cotton voile dress with a pleated skirt.

Have a great night!

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Fun Friday: Sweethearts At Your Local Library

Just in time for St. Valentine's day (it seems important to add the "Saint", because it's a person we are remembering, a martyr no less, not just spending gobs of money on impractical things and/or feeling ugly and unlovable because you're the only one at the office not getting $450 flower arrangements, right? Ohhhh, I remember those days...), the very talented Lauren Haupt of Local Library is putting these cute, candy-like heart earrings on the shelf for checkout. The hearts are made of carnelian, and make me think of a juicy strawberry or a sweet jellybean. Just $17.

Of course, if you really hate Valentine's day or the silly commercialism surrounding it (hey, growing up as "the ugly one" was not easy, and besides, aren't the thoughtful, homemade gifts better?), Lauren offers nearly identical earrings in black onyx and a "cold black heart" necklace with sterling silver hearts that have been oxidized to black centered on a dainty, pretty sterling silver chain.

Honestly, Lauren has all kinds of beautiful jewelry in her shop, and I especially like her charming earrings. Some are playful, some are elegant, but all very creative and unique.

Have a a wonderful weekend! We're expecting some true nastiness weatherwise, so will be settling in with home-related projects and a few great movies. I've got several books deserving of more quality time, too. ;)

Now, if you are looking for some enjoyable weekend projects involving handcrafted St. Valentine's gifts for friends, family, loved ones, or the lonely but sweet little old lady across the hall, I've scoured a few up:

10 DIY Valentine's Crafts at Threadbanger
Tons of great Valentine's crafts and snacks from, of course, Martha Stewart
Heart-y Scrambled Eggs from ReadyMade
Alton Brown's Chocolate Brownies
DIY-ing your Valentines from Digs Magazine
Several fun ideas, not all of them red and heart-themed, from Cool Hunting
Savannah Chocolate Cake with Hot Fudge from Paula Deen, Queen of Butter. I made this last year for Hubby on V-Day and he loved it.
A rather silly RoboHeart Valentine from Instructables
Tons of fun ideas from CRAFT Magazine
No-Sew Pillows for Valentine's at Modern June

Got any more ideas? Feel free to add them to the list!

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Another Embroidered Beauty

Lovely dress, don't you think? The flattering champagne-toned base, the beautifully elaborate but not overbearing embroidery, the classic and sophisticated line...the drop waist! What's not to love? It's a perfect party or event dress, flattering and feminine yet modest all the same.

It's a vintage sweetheart from the 50s, made by Jonny Herbert for Pat Tolan, and our seller (it's an eBay pick, so if you want this beauty, snap it up!) tells us it's in perfect condition with no stains or holes. It would probably fit a medium or small large, with a bust of 36-38 and the waistline fitting 31-32 inches (obviously, free hips). You can see more pictures here and bid here. Bidding begins at just $19.99, and ends on Valentine's Day (that would be next Thursday). Happy bidding!

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How To Be toasty-cozy-cute even at the office

I really have to thank Mei-Lynn at Rare Bird Finds for directing me to OrangyPorangy. This flannel skirt really caught my attention, though (there's an entire collection of them). While the word "flannel" generally conjures up images of garish plaids, this skirt is actually made up of a pretty floral print and a hemline border that makes me think of parachute seeds, the kind we'd grab as kids, hide in our hands, then blow away after making a wish on them. The flannel factor is especially nice this time of year: warm, super-soft, snuggly...It's cute enough to wear out and about nearly anywhere, but cozy enough for just bumming around the house...or on those days you want to pretend you're Canadian. ;)

The waist is soft, padded elastic for maximum comfort, and the skirt comes in small, medium and large. $55.

(I shall note that I also like this red-edged denim skirt, too. Pretty!)


Recycled Vintage

Another remade item, this time from theVintageZoo. What was once a damaged jacquard blouse has been turned into a fun short-sleeved top to which lace and velvet trim have been added for a very romantic feminine blouse. It zips up the back via the hidden zipper, and should fit a medium to maybe a large; the designer writes that she's a size 10 and 145 pounds and this fit her well, though it was just a bit small in the bust.

$34 for a one-of-a-kind top. It is so elegant and pretty, perfect for an evening out and even good for the office, but I think it might look very cute with a pair of jeans too.

Have a great night! Methinks it'll be a late one. ;)

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No More Wet Shoes, No More Ugly Rainboots!

Well, this is definitely a Pretty/Modest first: footwear! Now, with a few exceptions I'm sure you're aware of, there's hardly such a thing as immodest shoes, only the wrong times, places, or events to be wearing certain shoes (your boss' grandmother's funeral, for instance, is likely not the best time to whip out those strappy sequin stilettos). Still, upon seeing these tonight, I simply had to share them you.

What we have here are Puddle Stompers from Pluey's. These lined rubber boots were brought to life by a designer tired of wet feet on rainy days, but was understandably unhappy about the bland, standard-issue ones available at stores. She chose darling and fun designs like origami cranes, purple flowers, Scottie dogs, and polka dots and voila! Wonderfulness was born.

The boots are $55 a pair, and may be difficult to relegate to rainy days only; of course, there's always something to be said for being prepared, correct? Wear them to the beach, while walking the dog, in the garden (heyyy...we've got some major landscaping to do this summer, come to think of it...) on a snowy day, to big garage sales like the annual Lincoln Buy-Way or the World's Longest Yardsale along US 127, on casual Friday...and, yes, in the rain. Each pair comes with a waterproof, rainy-day tote in which to store your Plueys.

So adorable, these boots will be perfect as a gift for yourself or a friend, your mom or your sister...or maybe your bridesmaids for a one-of-a-kind shot of you with your girls on the big day.

Have a great night! Tomorrow is "Super Tuesday" in election-land, so if I'm not here...y'all will know why.


Fun Friday: Sunflower from Seed

This darling sunflower-bearing skirt from Seed Clothing is such a delightfully bright colour — a punch of cheer for these grey, cold days. Since it's actually made from a vintage tablecloth made of a thick cotton, your heart and body will stay warm and cozy no matter how viciously the wind blows.

This happy skirt has ivory silk-lined pockets, and the waistband and hem are ivory as well. Pretty and sweet, don't you think? The sunflower applique is made of vintage lace. It's so wonderful to see people being creative with vintage items. Paired with a favourite soft sweater, cami and cardigan, or a fitted blouse, this $55 skirt will fit a 34" waist, so I'd call that a medium-large.

Seed has several lovely skirts (including a very pretty herringbone one) and a few great tops as well.

Have a great weekend! It looks like many of us will be getting hit with some rather exciting weather, so pull your favourite book from the shelf, whip up some hot cocoa or tea, and enjoy the excuse to stay in.

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