Liebster Awards 2013: Thousand Islands Mama has been nominated!!

I had the most incredible gift in my inbox the other day – a nomination for a Liebster Award from Joan at Nicer Than New.  I am so excited!  Help me thank Joan by visiting her fantastic website.  Thank you Joan, this honour made my day!

What is a Liebster Award?  Good question.  It is basically a fun way to highlight some of the newer/smaller blogs out there.  It helps bloggers find readers and readers find great content.  Here is how it works – fun and simple:

Award Rules

  1. Thank the blogger who presented you with the Liebster Award, and link back to his or her blog.
  2. Answer the questions from the nominator; list 11 random facts about yourself, and create 11 questions for your nominees.
  3. Present the Liebster Award to several other bloggers, who have blogs with 200 followers or less, whom you feel deserve to be noticed. Leave a comment on the blogs letting the owners know they have been chosen.
  4. Upload the Liebster Award image to your blog.

Here is what Joan wanted to know:

  1. Why did you decide to start blogging? I started blogging when I was living in a gorgeous forest near the shores of a beautiful river…amazing but isolating.  I knew there were others in my region craving connection and so I started blogging about what my family was doing locally.  I made great connections locally and then to my amazement in the bigger world as well.  I rediscovered my love of writing and creating, a part of myself I had long ignored and so I continued.
  2. What is your most memorable vacation destination?  Hands down, Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland.  This past summer we travelled and explored the amazing Newfoundland landscape by car, ferry, and on foot.  Incredible vistas, whales, puffins, moose and the cutest little vole.  The people – so friendly!  The food – scrumptious!  The kids ask to go back almost weekly.  Here are my favourite NFLD pics :

    Caribou and Fjords. The entrance to Western Brook Pond

    Amazing beaches; the kids could run forever!

    Amazing beaches; the kids could run forever!

    It felt like we had the place all to ourselves.  Shallow Bay Beach.

    It felt like we had the place all to ourselves. Shallow Bay Beach.

    No wonder they want to go back

    No wonder they want to go back

  3. What is your favourite quick go-to recipe?  Oh that’s easy.  Sharon’s Chocolate Cake of course!  I am not at liberty to share this recipe however.  It is a carefully guarded secret.
  4. Choose a movie or record album you like and tell us why?  Hmmm, that is a hard one…I have really varied tastes.  I’m listening to a lot of Sarah Slean lately.  Mostly because my daughter is an aspiring singer/songwriter and she loves listening to the piano and lyrics in Sarah’s songs.  This one is favourite:
  5. What is your favourite blog post you have completed to date?  This one.  I am an avid thrifter and crafter.  I would describe my decor style as “found style”.  This $16 shelving unit redo is one of my best finds.
  6. If you were dropped off on a deserted island and you could only have three items with you what would they be and why?  A water purifier, a super warm blanket and an “Edible Berries” guide.  I guess I’m more practical than I thought.
  7. What is your most prized possession?  My great-grandmother’s apron.  It is clearly handmade and the colours inspired my kitchen reno (post to come).
  8. If you were reborn as an animal, what would it be and why?  A black bear.  They get to spend their days in the forest, running through the trees, splashing in the streams…plus they love getting cozy in the winter.  Oh and no one messes with them.  I think I might actually BE a bear now that I think about it…
  9. What is the best book you have read in the past 5 years and why?  Ugh, I have to pick one?!  The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night time.  Seeing the world through the eyes of the main character, a 15 year-old boy with autism was incredible.  I found the book fascinating.
  10. If weight was a non issue, what’s one thing you would eat every day?   Soulemama’s Peppermint Bark.  I made this last Christmas and I could eat it all day long.
  11. What are your future plans or goals for blogging?  My life and career is full of extremely busy times and slow, quiet times…the problem is it is never consistent.  My blog reflects that, posts come in fits and bursts when I have the time.  My goal for 2014 is to write often when I have the chance and parcel the posts out in a more consistent timeframe for readers.  My second goal is to chronicle my family’s commitment to sustainable urban living.  We are giving up the car and biking and walk as much as we can (yes, even in the winter).  Reaching out to others doing the same in the blogosphere helps create community which makes these kind of goals more achievable.

The required “random things about me”:

1. I didn’t eat cheese unless it was melted or fake (think cheese whiz, Velveeta – bleh!) until I was 20 years old.
2. I hate coconut with an unnatural passion. Until recently I had a hard time understanding people who liked coconut…not the milk or real stuff, just the dried horribleness that feels like toe nails in your mouth – that stuff!
3. I love old 80s shows. I have watched all seasons of Dallas. I am currently watching season one of Remmington Steele.
4.. I was once on MTV sports when I was into ice climbing.
5. I used to want to be an astronaut and made a presentation to my parents to let me go to Space Camp in Huntsville Alabama when I was 11…I delivered A LOT of flyers to pay for that one.
6. The first birth I attended brought me to my knees it was so incredible.
7. I am one of those truly fortunate people who love what they do and wouldn’t quit it if I won the lottery.
8. Toys that require batteries are not allowed in my house (okay maybe one or two slipped in).
9. In high school I was voted most likely to be on SNL.
10. I miss my grandmother terribly and still tear up instantly when I think of her.

Some blogs I think you should check out!!

La Gang A Nat
North Story
The Happy Space Project
Sketchy Styles
Heart Heather
If People Mattered
Love on Sunday
The Uncommon Common Law

Oh right and some questions for the new nominees to answer:

  1. Why did you start blogging and what keeps you going?
  2. If you could meet up with a blogging celebrity, who would it be?
  3. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
  4. What are you passionate about?
  5. If you were a crayon, what colour would you be?
  6. What are you blogging goals for 2014?
  7. Where do you find inspiration?
  8. Do you have a favourite food blog?  I’m asking because I want to find a great food blog.  Totally selfish.
  9. What is your favourite blog post you’ve completed to date?
  10. Stealing this one from Joan cuz I love it so much:  If you were reborn as an animal, which animal would you be?

Ah….that feels good.  I hope you enjoy the blogs I’ve highlighted as much as I do.  Gotta love getting and giving some bloglovin’.  Don’t forget to check out Nicer than New!




‘hitting the thrifty jackpot!’ or ‘somebody stop me!’

I have hit the thrifty finds jackpot lately.  One major project is still ongoing and so I can’t share it yet (I can’t wait).  For now I must be satisfied with showing you these beauties:

post elna openThe Elna Supermatic.  She is a beauty.  This  blog has a great write-up on the machine and the history complete with awesome vintage print ads that are charmingly insulting to women (“If you can boil an egg, you can sew and embroider this blouse!!”).  My plan was to get her operational and gift her to Lil’S for a birthday present.  The kid is itching to sew all sorts of things and I am rather protective of my new Pfaff.  I think the Elna is perfect for her! Elna looks like this inside her case:


And when you open her up she looks like this:postelnaopentopShe comes with all of these goodies.  Cams for changing the stitch embroidery patterns, the cutest oil can known to man and the best of vintage instruction.


postelnawith stuffside viewAnd look at what else the case can do!  It turns itself into an extension table!!  Genius.  She is so well-built and in great condition.  I love the knee press instead of the foot control.  I’m officially in love.  By the by,  I took her to see Debbie at The Singer Store in Kingston and Debbie had her working in tip-top shape in no time.  And I loved that Debbie let me watch so I could learn all about my machine.  So I’d highly recommend heading over there if you have any sewing machine needs (no, she did not pay me to say that).

Okay, next up…Lil’S has also been obsessed with typing lately.  She loves watching me type on the computer and was intrigued to know I took typing in highschool.  Yep, I’m that old.  We had electric typewriters and we typed to music…oh the shame.  Anywho, I found this handsome machine on this auction site and snagged him for $16.

post typerwitterHe types beautifully.  And his name is Remmington.  There is no way this could go wrong.  He is intended as a solstice gift for Lil’S so she can type her heart out.

postmessageAnd finally….THIS:

posttableandchairsI love it.  I really, really do.  The table top is an amazing blue colour, the legs have these amazing spring lock mechanisms and it is in great shape.  The four chairs (which will serve as extra seats during family get togethers and dinners) have the same vinyl backs as the table top and the seats themselves are padded and upholstered in a lovely blue polyester.  Yes, I just used lovely and polyester in the same sentence.  For now this set is serving as a cutting table in my craft room.

I still can’t believe I had the winning bids on these finds.  You know you’ve done well when you go to pick up your items and the MaxSold staff say things like “you know you got a really good deal on that don’t you?” as he caresses the table and marvels at the mint condition, and “OH!  You’re the one who snagged the Elna…” followed by murmurs of ‘she’s getting the Elna’ circulating around the room amongst staff and fellow buyers alike.

Oh thrifting, how I love thee!

The prompt game

As promised here are the very first two paintings I did as part of this course.  The second week we did some work in sketchbooks and in the third week we moved into painting.  I made this painting using the “prompt game’.  This game was designed to loosen us up.  Basically you put a bunch of prompts written on paper into a bowl and pull them out one by one.  You do what the prompt tells you for two minutes.  Then you pull out another prompt.  I loved pulling “add a splash of red” and was terrified by “paint with your eyes closed”!!  Ack!  It definitely took me out of my comfort zone and I was prepared for some HIDEOUS paintings.  But I’m actually quite pleased with the results and once I got going, I had a BLAST!  Check out painting number two:

I know they are not perfect but I was so excited to have actually painted something that resembles…er, a painting?  I loved the freedom that having to follow instructions gave me…I’m not responsible for all that white that went over everything else – the game made me do it!  Without the responsibility for having decided to do what is on the canvas I was free to just enjoy the process and I learned a ton about how paint works.  I can’t recommend Sarah’s class enough!

A room of her own: part II

I did get momentarily sidetracked by helping Lil’S with her art space but eventually, slowly, I put this together:

Yes, it is at the bottom of my basement stairs and right upside the cast iron sewer pipe.  Yep.  But it is my space.  I can craft and paint and sew my little heart out here.  The good news is it does have a window and since I’ve taken this picture I replaced the white sheet (that is hiding our shoe rack) with a curtain rod and a curtain.  I couldn’t be more pleased!

Pages and Paint has been an amazing course so far.  The first week we were charged with setting up our spaces, gathering supplies and making an inspiration wall.  This is mine:

My favourite part is this picture that Lil’S drew of me when she was really little.  This thrifted picture frame turns it into a true masterpiece don’t you think?

I know this next picture is kind of out of focus but see if you can spot the vintage map of Nipigon, Jellicoe and Geralton!!  A little piece of home.

The thing is I find the easiest time to take pictures and get work done is at night so my photos are of questionable but sharable quality.  This one is a bit clearer:

The old picture is one of my grandma and my great-grandma ploughing a field with a horse-drawn plough.  I love the “attachments” bit.  It is the top of an old box of singer sewing machine parts.

What a gorgeous shelf, you say?  You recognize the colour don’t you?  Yes, it is true this is another of my Chalk paint wonders.  And yes, it is the same colour as the paint for the fantastic metal shelf transformation...from the same can of paint actually.  I wasn’t kidding when I said this stuff goes a long way!  This is project number three for one can!  This is what it looked like before:

A really crazy, awful MDF faux wood disaster that I’d been hanging onto since I lived at home.  It was almost trashed in the last move and now it has found new life.

Nothing like a cheerful paper bunting to hide wiring…sigh.  It isn’t perfect but already I have made more art here than I did before I had a dedicated space with everything I need out and ready to go.  Just one more reason why I am so grateful to the creative and amazing women over at Squam Art Workshops.  If you need an artistic kick in the pants they are the people to see!

I can’t wait to share with you my creations from Page and Paint though…next post I promise!

a room of her own – the prequel

Some of you may already know that I am taking an AMAZING online art course called Pages and Paint with incredibly talented Sarah Ahearn Bellemare.  In the first week of the course we (students from all around the world), were charged with gathering supplies, creating a work space and creating an inspiration board.  Our job was then to photograph all three and post them to our private flicker group.  I’m finally getting around to photographing my space.  I still need to tidy it up a bit before I’ll let anyone see.

So until I get those photos up, I’ll share with you how this flurry of artsy activity in this house has sparked a whole lot of…well, artsy activity (not that we have a shortage of that here ; ).  Lil’S has decided that she too needs a space of her own to do her “work”.  She spent this morning and most of the afternoon gathering and arranging, choosing her furniture and her art pieces.  When she was satisfied she sat down and drew a picture of her sister who was playing nearby.  “Look mama” she said as she showed me her drawing.  “This is great.  I love my new space…but I’m gonna need something with drawers”.  Already she is planning an upgrade!

She sat at her desk and carefully chose which drawings and paintings she wanted to put up over her desk.  She fussed over the perfect placement of everything; which containers she would need…

I love how she added paper frames to her drawings!

A few of my faves from her “How to draw monsters and bugs” book…

The final result.  She wanted quite a few supplies within reach and so there ended up being paper and books under her desk and beside it in a basket.  Maybe she does need something with drawers after all!  PS.  I love that she drew on her chalk board “Scarlett’s work space”…just in case there was a question.


And now for the rest of her room.  The title is a bit inaccurate, as none of us actually have a room of our own.  This room was supposed to be my craft/art space but J’s treadmill didn’t fit where it was supposed to and so I lost my dream of a room of my own.  The girls use it as a playspace (which now include’s Scarlett’s work area).  Here is what the rest of the space looks like:

Here is our beloved craft supply closet.  (Also, why are Mrs. Iverson’s dolls always in some sort of compromised pose?)

The girls love it because of this fascinating old key.  They love to pretend to lock the closet (it doesn’t actually lock), take the key out of the lock, place it gently into their apron pockets, walk around aimlessly for a while, only to arrive back at the closet where they withdraw the key from said pocket and insert it into the lock, cautiously look around (lest someone should see what is held within this magical closet), turn the key and dramatically open the doors.  Repeat.

You are some of the lucky few to get a glimpse at…er, our craft supplies.

And then there is the “horse corner”.  What is it about girls and their horses?  The two riding horses were given to us by our dear friend Heather.  Her daughters had outgrown them and they were a happy addition to our home.  I made the harness you see on the white horse out of ribbon and metal washers.  I suppose I should get around to making one for the other horse sometime…maybe I’ll show you how if I do…

This is Mrs.Iverson’s kitchen.  She is quite serious about her “cooker-maker” duties here and in our real kitchen.  Here is a question: see that doll house to the left?  I would have killed for it as a child.  I thought my kids would love it.  They don’t.  They don’t play with it at all.  Maybe once in a blue moon.  Yet they won’t let me get rid of it.  They are little still so maybe I should hang on to it and they will hit a stage where they do want to play with it?  Thoughts?

These Alice in Wonderland pictures were from an oversized colouring book from Auntie Patty.  We love them…

There is a whole other corner of the room that I didn’t photograph.  It holds our old coffee table that is the perfect height for using clay and playdough, colouring and painting for Mrs. Iverson.  Beside that is another bookshelf with toys and musical instruments.  Clearly this shelf belongs to the Mrs.  Sometimes I see little scenes like this and totally crack up.

So there you go.  Another room shared for those of you who have been asking for more house stuff.  I promise to share my new space soon.  Until then!

A birdie for Wren

Oh dear.  It appears I am about to write another post that is not quite about Squam.  I’ll get to it, I really will.  Life is busy.  My mind a little preoccupied with the everyday happenings.  But Squam is there.

I arrived back home with gifts.

A ceramic candle holder for Cathy and Eric.  A thank you for looking after the girls while I was away.  A set of five finger puppets for Mrs. Iverson.  And for Lil’S, the embroidery sampler from my class with Rebecca Ringquist.

She LOVED it!  We set to work straight away.  Scarlett already knew that she wanted to make something for her cousin Wren’s upcoming birthday and now she had an idea.  It took a bit to get her to slow down enough to learn each stitch.  Mrs. Iverson took right to it and it seemed had already been taught how to embroider?  I showed them how to tie a know in the back of the work and Ivy turned over her piece and, ta-da, she deftly made a knot!!

Scarlett was particularly curious about the sulky solvy that I had used to transfer an image onto a piece of fabric I was embroidering.  I had some left over from my class with Rebecca so I let Lil’S use it.  Up to her room she went.  Down came one of the number flashcards on her wall.  The one with the wrens on it (be still my heart, this crafty and thoughtful girl of mine makes my heart ache sometimes).

You can see the flash card on the table in the picture above. She traced one of the wrens onto the sulky solvy with a Sharpie.  The embroidery hoop kept the solvy and the fabric in place and she started to embroider.  I’ll admit she did really well for a beginner.  But she really did want to fill in every last bit of space and that took some time.  So she would occasionally pass the hoop to me and ask me to fill some in for her.  She’d snatch it back after some time had passed though, worried that if she didn’t do more that she wouldn’t be able to say she made it.  A joint effort and so lovely:

While this joint project was being worked on by Lil’S I worked on a special addition to the gift myself.  Actually I had started it at Squam with a mind to make one for each of the girl cousins for Christmas this year.  Wren got hers early I suppose : )

We then had a brilliant idea to make this into a door hanging instead of two separate hoops to hang.  We ran a bright yellow ribbon (Wrennie’s favourite colour) behind the fabric in each hoop.  Viola!  What do you think?

Handmade Gifts: Alphabet magnets

If you are like me, you have drawers (and random bags and totes) full of your children’s art work.  We have more in common if you also find it hard to part with these masterpieces.  Here is one project that will help to use up that stash and it is guilt free (aka not using them to light the wood stove – not that I have EVER done that).

I was inspired to help Scarlett makes these alphabet magnets for Ivy’s solstice gift after reading a number of great blog posts. First Sarah Jane Studios gave inspiration for reusing children’s art (plans to make this for the family christmas gift exchange is already in the works),  then at Not Martha  I found a great how-to-make marble magnets tutorial and last but not least at Tiny Twist Creative the most perfect alphabet magnets!  This is exactly what I love about the blogosphere – tons of great ideas!

What you’ll need:

  • kids art (we used abstract watercolours just like at Tiny Twist Creative)
  • 1 inch magnets (we found ours at the local Home Hardware)
  • Clear garden rocks with a flat bottom (sourced at Michael’s but I have seen some at dollarstores…just not the big ones)
  • silicon glue (we had left over from making homemade snow globes last year)
  • a marker
  • 1 inch circle punch (again, Michael’s)
  • scissors
  • a cookie sheet for placing them on to dry…trust me if you just put them on the table the will all be drawn together and it will mess your not yet dry magnets up!)

Gather you art piece, circle punch and almost 6-year-old helper.  Set him or her to work punching out circles.

If you are less than 6 years old you may have to use your entire body weight to use the punch.  If you are older than six you may not have to do this but you still could if you felt like creating some drama as you work.

Once you have punched out one row use your scissors to cut the punched out circles off so you can start again.  Keep going until you have 26 circles.

Note: this photo does not contain 26 circles.

Next, take your marker and have your helper write the letters on the alphabet on the circles.  It helps if you make them a bit “fancy” for aesthetic appeal.

Now it is time to glue the circles onto the magnets and then the garden rocks onto the circles.  First lay down something to protect your work surface.

Put a small dab of the silicon glue on the magnet and place the circle on top.  Press down.  Next put a small dab onto of the paper circle and press the garden rock into place.  Put it on the cookie sheet to dry.  If you notice the glass rock slip a bit, just move it back into place.

Enjoy and remember to let me know if you make these!

Note: the 1-inch magnets can get kind of expensive so you can make these using smaller ones…the 1-inch magnets will hold up anything though so you might consider the splurge.

That’s a Wrap! Green Wrapping Paper Part II

Remember that Hollow Book I made a few weeks back?  I have to admit I felt a little bit guilty about ruining a perfectly good book.  As I cut out the center of the book I noticed the darling illustrations that appeared every few pages.  I had to do something with them…wrapping paper it is!  Sew unique if you ask me ; ).


Step 1:  Ruin a perfectly good book (accidentally ruined pages will work just as well as those ruined on purpose).

Step 2:  Cut the pages of the book to roughly the same size (if you make a hollow book first, this work is done for you).

Step 3:  Sew the pages together end to end with a straight stitch on your sewing machine. In the picture below you can see that I did some back stitching on either end as you would when you sew fabric.  This is totally unnecessary and I gave it up a few pages in.

Step 4:  Keep sewing end to end until the strip is long enough to wrap your present.

Step 5:  Now sew your strips together to look like this…a fairy tale paper quilt!

Step 6:  Make sure you’ve made enough of a “quilt” to cover your super awesome gift (ie: Elsa Beskow inspired dinner ware for a friend’s baby from Bella Luna Toys).

Step 7:  If you didn’t think of the size of your gift and just kept happily sewing (like me), no worries, just cut the quilted paper like you would any old wrapping paper.  Then wrap it up!

Step 8: Decorate your freshly upcycled gift.  If you don’t have ribbon, make your own (like I did) by cutting up that old worn-out  yet festively coloured t-shirt into strips…if you’re really adventurous, make a t-shirt strip pom pom for on top.  And if you are adventurous but lazy, don’t bother to cut around your pom pom because it looks fine just the way it is.

Step 9:  Admire your awesome gift as it sits under the tree.  Oh, and send me some pictures if you try this at home or a link to your blog if you share this tutorial.

Stay tuned for the t-shirt pom pom tutorial…

That’s a wrap! Green wrapping paper part I

I love the flurry of activity and all of the planning and making that goes along with the holidays.  With many of our holiday gifts purchased or made already it is time to start wrapping!  I picked up some stamps on sale at Michael’s ($1 each).  We set out some paint we already had on hand and rolled out a roll of craft paper…and we set to work.

The wrapping paper turned out way better than I imagined.  The girls were pretty happy with their work.

pastel forest

Peace on Earth

Ivy was not so into using the stamps per say…the results are still perfectly usable : )

Christmas du jour par Ivy

The beauty of an activity like this is that is it a craft, something practical, an activity you can do together, and it can be green if you use recycled paper to stamp.

For the spy in your house.

There are secrets being kept in our house of late.  Requests for “secret and safe” places to stash belongs or freshly made gifts are frequent.  Scarlett is the most keen to hide things of all sorts.  She let me know recently that Ivy “messes with her stuff” and so she showed me her “secret spot”.  Behind her clothes, on top of the dresser in her closet was a large pile of party loot bags, stickers, school crafts etc.  Basically anything she did not want her sister getting into was there.

We have a tradition at solstice to exchange handmade gifts.  The secret keeping and stashing plus Scarlett’s love of “Harriet the Spy” inspired me to make this for her this year.  I think she is going to love it!

purchased for $2 at a local thrift store...

I found this gem of a hardcover book at the M.O.D shop in town for $2.  Then I went here and here to find out how to make a hollow book.

the hard part is done!

I won’t go into all of the details because the links have much better pictures than I do to illustrate the process.  Basically I used an exacto-knife and a ruler to cut into the pages a few at a time.  Bits of paper were all over my desk but the clean up was fairly easy.  I used glue thinned with water to glue the pages together and applied it with a paint brush.

spy paraphernalia

When it was dry, I filled it with Dollar store spy items.  A retractable flashlight, a book with a lock and a magnifying glass are all a junior spy should need.  And of course it doesn’t hurt that it cost me about $5 to make.

can you tell the difference?

Looking at the girl’s bookshelf, you’d never know!

I can’t wait to see Scarlett’s face when she opens this.  I love handmade holidays!!