Maple Leaf Roses

This weekend, we went up the shore to Duluth, to enjoy the fall colours. Managed to not take any photos of anything, somehow… but we DID collect some leaves. I’ve been wanting to try my hand at making maple leaf roses for the past couple years, ever since seeing them popping up on Pinterest. October is usually my busiest time of year, but with my elbow injury preventing me from sewing… I finally had some free time.

These came together pretty quickly once I figured out what I was doing. All told, it took about 1 hour from the time I first sat down. I soaked the leaves overnight, let them dry to the touch in between paper towels, and then went to it. I folded and wrapped them around lengths of florist wire, using floral tape. Once they were all done, I soaked them with some serious hairspray, and let that dry.

I love how they turned out – a gorgeous bit of fall colours right in my living room! These would be so pretty as wedding bouquets or centerpieces – they did lose some of their vibrancy overnight, though. Thankfully, my husband took these beautiful photos while it was still bright and fresh!

What do you guys think? Any plans to make a set yourself?

Sad to “Kiss Them Goodbye”…


A couple months ago, I came across a notice that upset me greatly – The Nylons were going on a farewell tour, before calling it quits.

I want to talk about what all transpired as a result, but I warn you – this is going to be the most emo post I’ve ever written. Probably going to be pretty disjointed too, I’m sorry! I have a lot of feels right now.

So, I’ve been listening to The Nylons since I was about 4 years old – they’ve been together as long as I’ve been alive, though. Their song “Up the Ladder to the Roof” was popular on the radio station that my mother listened to, and I LOVED it. Through all of my other favourites in music – Eurodance, Celtic Rock, etc – this one song has stood the test of time and remained a favourite all the way to today, for me.

I loved watching Brian Orser skate to “The Lion Sleeps Tonight“, and Landry/Johnston skate to “Bop til You Drop”.

As I got a little older, my little sister and my “peers” discovered boy bands… and I never understood the draw. My sister would plaster her wall with NKOTB posters… I would have to go to the Centennial Library in Downtown Winnipeg to search through Microfiche for old news articles about The Nylons, and print included photos off as MY wall decor. My little sister would have NKOTB dolls, a sleeping bag, accessories, etc.

… I got some FIMO clay and made jewelry inspired by the angular Silhouettes on the One Size Fits All album cover. Way too big and heavy for anyone to actually wear, but it was one of the few ways I could actually explore and express MY fandom.

When I was 12 or 13, I got dropped off to the Centennial Concert Hall, alone, for my very first concert. I was the youngest in the hall by DECADES… and I loved every minute of it! I’m pretty sure Micah Barnes sent me careening into puberty, too. He became my first celebrity crush, even though he was probably twice the age of all the boy band guys my sister and peers fawned over. That fabulous 90s hair! His dancing!

I remember so much of that concert so clearly, it’s amazing it’s made it with me this long. I can even remember the final line to a joke – more like a spoken word poem? – that the opening comedienne made. I remember she was blonde, and it was snarking about her ex boyfriend, in talking about his sweater. “It was 100% ACRYLIC.”

I learned about relationships. Rather than grow up on some of the relationship themes you see in boy band music or other top 40 stuff, I grew up listening to a more mature message. “That Kind of Man” warned me about.. well, that kind of guy… long before any instance of “The Talk”. The Stars are Ours, A Touch of Your Hand, Grown Man Cry… Sigh. So much beauty. I could rattle off song titles and themes all day. It was all night and day to the kind of relationship drama I’d hear about from kids in school… and a HUGE contrast to what I’d learned of relationships from my parents. They provided themes and examples to aspire to, when nothing in my life did.

When I was about 16, I saw them in concert again – again, on my own – and I’ll never forget what happened. The guys had said something that prompted a cheer from the crowd, and I’d let out a LOUD “WOO!”. Arnold Robinson pointed right in my direction and said something raunchy. I don’t even remember what it was, exactly… I just remember turning bright red and trying to disappear into my seat. To this day, I feel awful about it. Like… guilty somehow. There was no way he could have known he was saying something like that to a 16 year old – I think the next youngest person there was in their 30s! I felt awful!

Arnold was always my favourite. He had this deep, rich voice… unlike anything I’d heard before, or have heard since. The passion and energy he put into it.. Ah hell, lemme just share a video. The sound isn’t the best on this, but trust me, in person? Goosebumps.

.. And here come the tears. Augh. He passed away a few years ago, and … I don’t have words.

He had retired from the group around the same time I moved to the USA. I was so upset, I hadn’t bought a CD or seen them live since moving to Minnesota ten years ago.

Yes, I know I’m a terrible fan. In my defense… you should never underestimate an autistic person’s inability to handle change. I try to be good about it most of the time.. And most of the time, I CAN roll with the punches. Arnold leaving the group? NO.

I was still feeling pretty petulant about it when I heard the news of the farewell tour. I tearfully told my husband that we would need to plan a last minute trip to Winnipeg, and he was totally fine with it. As it was happening the day after our 10th Anniversary, we decided to consider the trip to be our anniversary “thing”.

As we arrived at the concert venue, I changed my Facebook status to “I’m about to be emotionally compromised, send kitty pics, please!”… and then proceeded to bawl through the whole damn thing. (Thank you to all my friends who responded my request, by the way – HUGE thread of adorable cat photos was there for me when the concert was over!).

It’s weird when you get really emotional, and you can’t figure out why. It’s like someone just turned the faucet on in the beginning, and I couldn’t do anything about it. I spent a good deal of the concert lost in my own head.

“This is the last time I’ll hear this song live”.

“I am such an idiot for not seeing them more often, while I still could”

“I miss Arnold. I remember exactly how he sounded, singing this very song. RIP”

“This group started the year I was born. Claude has been at this as long as I’ve been alive. Now it’s over. *Insert various thoughts on facing my own mortality*”

… and then there was the matter of trying to figure out why it bothered me SO much. Many people there were fans, and not ugly crying their way through it, after all.

What I came up with was this: Having loved them for almost as long as I’ve been alive, their music has really factored into a lot of memories for me, both good and bad. I’ve listened to their music in celebration of some life events, and their music has gotten me through some other, horrible life events.

During the darkest years of my life, growing up with constant physical, verbal and psychological abuse at the hands of my mother and stepfather, their music was there for me, a mental escape from the hell I was living in. When I got out of that and moved in with my grandparents around age 12, they were the ones who drove me to that downtown library, and who dropped me off for concerts. When my grandparents passed away, I consoled myself with that music. Through every move, every nasty breakup, every major life event… I think The Nylons are the closest thing I’ve had to consistency in my life.

Once I realized that THAT was what was upsetting me, the tears slowed somewhat. I still cried a few times more during the concert – some out of happiness, some from laughing so hard, etc.

The concert was amazing, as always. You know, four year old me had incredible taste – I can’t think of any group with anywhere near the talent of these guys. Just ridiculous control over their voices, their lungs, etc. I love their banter. I loved the addition of rapping, such as in “Don’t Look Any Further” – where the rap was performed by a guest artist. (OMG, can we appreciate Micah’s hair for a moment? Glorious)

Claude… man, I’ve seen him in concert when he still had dark hair- now, it’s white. The amazing thing is – for the most part – he sounds exactly the same as I remember him sounding in that first concert… with about as much energy, to boot!

At the beginning of the concert, I joked to my husband “Quick, guess which one is the original member?” and his reply was “The one with the most energy on stage?”… and Claude really kept it up the whole way. Dancing around, great showmanship.. Even doing the moonwalk at one point. I wish I had half that energy NOW, never mind “when I get to be that age”.

… I finally accepted Gavin Hope. It only took me 22 years to get over my snit about Micah no longer being in the group. Good lord… I am such an asshole! Gavin was hilarious. He won serious points with my husband by doing the Carlton, and kept us laughing the whole time. I wish I’d given him a chance sooner… what a treasure he is!

At one point, they surprised the audience with performing a “bucket list” song – “For the Longest Time”. Apparently I was FAR from alone in wishing they’d do it, and they did NOT disappoint. (Bawled through this one, too!). How often do you see a cover that blows the original away? It was very special… an honour and a privilege to watch / hear!

Towards the end, they performed “Me and the Boys” – a song that I’ve loved for decades, but I’m pretty certain that I’ve never actually heard live. It sounded like some of the lyrics had been changed to personalize it to some of the new members, but I couldn’t make out what was being said in those parts. When Claude belted out “Dance, well I can really dance, you ought to see me move across the floor”, it felt… poignant, somehow. These were lyrics written over 30 years earlier, and here he was singing it with just as much energy, and living up to it – he really CAN dance, and we really enjoyed seeing him move across the floor… myself for the last time, my husband for the first AND last time.

… and it also felt special that this – the final time I’ll get to see them live – was also the first time I’ve shared the experience with someone. It felt profound and symbolic, but not in a way I can really put into words coherently. The concert happened at a time when I was already facing themes of saying goodbye, and losing ties/connections to the past. To share the experience for the first time, with my amazing husband – the light that has balanced all the dark of the past – it was beautiful.

(As I write this blog entry, and think back on all of those earlier themes on what to aspire to in relationships, I am so happy to report that my husband lives up to all of them. I’m listening to some of their older tracks as I write this, and they give me the same warm fuzzy feeling they have my whole life… just like he does. Comfort, love, safety, reliability…)

We didn’t stay for the meet and greet, because I was a mess and knew I wouldn’t be able to put anything worthy into words at the time. I guess you could say…

I won’t ask you to stay
I can love you when you’re far away
Please, don’t stop to say goodbye
Unless you want to see a grown woman cry

…SO here I am, trying to be a little less messy (whoops) and a little more coherent, trying to put into words… just how much this group and their music has meant to me.

If you guys are reading, thank you for everything you are and have done. For all of the lightness, smiles, laughs, joy, and tears that you’ve brought not only me, but the rest of your fans. You are amazing – a national treasure – and I wish you all of the best in your future pursuits.


Duluth Vacation

One of the annoying ways we were impacted by the 2011 North Minneapolis Tornado was that any chance of taking any sort of decent vacation was now off the table for the foreseeable future. We’d been planning to visit my beloved Canadian east cost for a couple years at that point, so this killed me.

Lately, the idea that we had NO clue when we’d ever be able to make that trip finally cracked me, and we decided to find a bit of a reasonable substitution for the “sit by the side of the ocean and do nothing” trip I’d been longing for for years. We decided to go see what Duluth, MN was like – as opposed to a full day of travel and thousands of dollars in plane tickets, Duluth is a quick two hour drive for us!

Man, that trip did my soul some serious good that weekend. While the air lacked the saltiness I’d been dreaming of, it did have that same clean, crisp quality that I so desired. The rocky shoreline did kind of satisfy my need to sit on a rock my the ocean, and it really did bring me the same sort of peace that the ocean brought me, years ago.

So, I figured I’d share some memories and photos we took on our little “mental health vacation” 🙂

A funny thing happened while we were on the trip – it was almost like fate decided to theme our weekend. A whole bunch of little things happened that made me smile, giggle, or just sort of revel in feeling more at home, than I ever have in Minneapolis.

Early on, I accidentally bumped into a guy behind me.. who promptly apologized to ME. I hadn’t had that happen in so long, it actually made me nostalgic. Yep, it may be a stereotype that we Canadians apologize for everything, but it’s one rooted in reality. I STILL apologize to people that bump into me! What a weird thing to feel all gooey about, eh?

Later on, we were waiting to board a small boat for a dinner cruise we were looking forward to. I was regaling my husband with stories about going out on small fishing boats to see icebergs, whales, or just to generally enjoy large, choppy waters (I LOVE CHOPPY WATER!)… and my desire to buy a boat some day, when the loudspeaker started playing Great Big Sea’s “A Boat Like Gideon Brown“. I BAWLED. I hadn’t heard that song in years, and it always used to get to me, back in the day. It seemed so weird and out of place, I hadn’t heard it anywhere, at any time, since moving to the USA. It wasn’t one of their mainstream hits or anything – the timing was so weird and perfect. More than ever, I didn’t want to end up like the father in that song.

As we sat down for dinner, the captain came over the loudspeaker to welcome everyone to the cruise. The voice sounded familiar. It took a minute to figure it out, but he sounded like Bob/Doug McKenzie! I had to laugh – when I first moved to MN, my husband made me watch “Fargo” as an introduction to his culture. I made him watch “Strange Brew”, for the same reason!

The guy across me looked at me quizzingly when I laughed, and I explained. He agreed, and I noticed that he looked familiar. While trying to figure out if I actually knew him, I realized that he was a dead ringer for Stefan Brogren, of Degrassi fame. I am NOT too proud to admit that I had a bit of a crush on “Snake”, back in the day!

Amber and Casey

As I was spaced out and enjoying the cool air and gorgeous views, some guy snagged my husband to ask if he could take a photo of him and his girlfriend. He made a lucky choice on who to ask – Porter used to be a wedding photographer, and has years of experience with pro photography.

… and then the guy – Casey – surprised both Porter and his girlfriend Amber by PROPOSING. This was actually the second time that my husband was lucky enough to photograph someone’s engagement – the other time, he was thrown into photographing an engagement on stage at W00tstock.

Amber and Casey were so sweet and happy, Porter took a few nicer photos with the pro camera, too. Congrats again, Amber and Casey!

The rest of our little mini vacation was spent taking in the gorgeous scenery, photos below. Can’t wait to go back!

Craft – How to Sew a Cute Toiletry / Makeup Bag Travel Set

Back in the beginning of May, I posted a very long, very detailed post of the various ways that I trained and prepared to compete on MasterChef. While we all know how THAT went, I did walk out of the experience with a bunch of awesome new friends… and the super cute toiletry set I’d made mention of, near the end of that first post!

You see, I never – ever – sew for myself. I like to think of it as “I can’t afford me!”, but it’s usually more a case of a bastardized version of “The cobbler’s kids go barefoot”. Either way, I own pretty much nothing that I made for myself, save for my wedding gown.

This set was a rare thing for me. I took a bit of time out to make something pretty – albeit HIGHLY useful – for myself. The idea as inspired by a well-loved 4 piece set of a similar basic design that my friend Karen had made me for Christmas a few years ago – hers quilted from various different fabrics, embellished with ric-rac, and made from a Atkinson Designs pattern (thanks for letting me know who to reference, Karen!). They were super cute, and I loved the stand-up nature of the two little bags in the set.

For my trip, I had so much STUFF to organize, that I decided to make a big set of custom sized ones for myself. (I have a pretty OCD need for everything to match, when we’re talking things like suitcases, travel sets, etc!). The basic idea for the bags came in handy, as I was sharing a bathroom with another woman – so I made a bunch, in a bunch of different sizes. One bag for hair dye, bleach, gloves, etc… another for accessories, another for hair accessories, another for ALL my makeup, a smaller one for “day of” makeup in my purse, etc. Plus, the bright print just made me happy!

After receiving a bunch of compliments on it, I figured I should post a bit of a how-to, so you can all make them for yourselves!

So, yesterday I drafted up a few patterns – and an outline on how to make your own – and made a second set, pictured here. We documented the whole process as I went… yes, that’s a dinosaur print. I’m an adult, I can do whatever I want 🙂

So, here we go! There are three main pieces / patterns to this set – the bags, the tissue holder, and the coin purse. The bag pattern is simple to make, the the sewing procedure is the same for each, no matter what size you make. The tissue holder and coin purse use the same pattern piece, with the tissue holder requiring one other (simple!) pattern piece.

Fabrics & Notions

How much fabric you’ll need will depend on how many/ what size items you’ll be making. As an example: to make an entire set as pictured, I used 1 yard each of two different print fabrics, and one yard of very thin cotton quilt batting.

Each bag / coin purse requires a zipper that is approximately the width of the bag (more on that in the bags section!), and you’ll want thread that either matches/contrasts with the two fabrics you choose.

As for the fabric, I like to choose two prints that go well with each other, while still providing a bit of contrast in colours/ patterns. I used basic printed cotton, the kind you find in any fabric or craft store – usually with a HUGE selection to choose from!

Tissue Holder

Let’s start with the easiest piece – the tissue holder!

For this, you need:

– Three rectangles of one print fabric, 6.5″ x 4″ each
– Two squares of the other print fabric, 4″ x 4″ each
– One travel sized pack of tissues (the kind that opens on the largest surface of the pack, NOT at one small end!)
– Pins (optional

First, iron all your pieces if you so desire. I’m lazy, and usually don’t bother 🙂

Next, you’ll be folding and laying out your pieces.

Take one of your rectangles, and lay it with the right side up – this is your base. All four of the remaining pieces need to be folded in half, the long ones folded to create 6.5″ x 4″ strips.

Position one of your long strips on the base piece, lining up the two raw edges with one of the long edges of the base. Then, position one of the smaller strips overlapping it, lining up with the short edge of the base piece… like so:

Position the remaining long piece, overlapping the small piece you just put down, and lining up with the remaining long edge. Position the remaining short piece to overlap that piece, but to go UNDER the first piece you placed, lining up with the remaining short end of the base, like so:

(You can pin the corners down to make things easier, as shown!)

Stitch all the way around the edge – I like to keep the right side of my presser foot on the outer edge of fabric, as my seam allowance guide – back stitching at the beginning and edge of your seam. Trim threads, clip corners:

Finish off all sides with either a serger or a zig zag stitch, and turn everything right side out:

Slip a back of tissue in there, and you’re done! Cute, eh?


Ok, before going any further, I should detail how I do the zippers for these – it’s the way I do them for all the bags, and the coin purses.

First, pick a zipper that is about the same length as the top edge of the bag you’re making. It can be longer, but you don’t really want it to be much shorter.

Cut a strip of fabric to either match or contrast the fabric that will be on the outside of the bag you’re making. (I prefer to match, as shown throughout this tutorial!). It should be at least 5″, by the width of the zipper you’re using (usually an inch or so). Cut that length into two roughly equal pieces:

Open the zipper a little, and place it face down on the right side of one of your fabric strip pieces. Stitch them together with a straight seam, just beyond where the actual zipper ends (immediately to the right of the metal ends, in this picture):

Flip the zipper over, and pull the fabric back so that it is resting over the very end of the zipper. Stitch it down with a straight seam, like so:

Position the other fabric strip face down on the right side of the zipper at the other end, just before the actual zipper ends. Depending on the length of the original zipper, I like to leave 1/8 – 1/4″ before the metal end doohickey, as shown.

Stitch the strip down with a straight seam, and trim the excess zipper away, including the end bit:

Flip the fabric over and stitch it down, as you did with the other side.

Center your zipper across the top of the bag that it will be sewn into, and trim the edges to fit:

Place zipper face down on the right side of the bag (see bag instructions first!), and sew a straight seam down the length of it. Repeat with the other side of the zipper, and the other bag piece:

Flip the bag over and top stitch a straight seam near the edge of where the fabric folds back, on both sides. This flattens everything out and makes it look cleaner/more finished:


Wow, this is getting to be a long entry, sorry about that!

Coin Purse

Of the bags, the coin purse is the easiest, so let’s do it first! For this, you need:

– Two rectangles of one print fabric, 6.5″ x 4″ each
– Two rectangles of the other print fabric, 6.5″ x 4″ each
– Two rectangles of thin quilt batting, 6.5″ x 4″ each
– 1 prepared zipper, as described above.

First, lay out your pieces. Place one set of fabric (both the same print!) down on your work surface, with the right sides facing down.

Place a quilt batting piece over each, and top with the remaining pieces of the other print fabric, right sides facing up. Line everything up well!

You can pin everything together and zig zag around the edge if you’d like – I usually don’t bother. I do recommend serging or zig zagging one of the long sides of each piece, though – it makes the zipper installation easier / look more finished!

Apply your zipper, as described above. OPEN YOUR ZIPPER BEFORE CONTINUING (!!!)

Fold the bag in half so that the right sides are facing each other, and stitch a straight seam around the three raw edges.

Finish edge with a serger or zig zag seam:

Turn it right side out, and you’re done!

Toiletry and Makeup Bags

Finally, the makeup and toiletry bags. These are slightly more complicated to explain, but are easy to make!

For each bag, you need:

– Two pattern pieces cut of one print fabric
– Two pattern pieces cut of the other print fabric
– Two pattern pieces cut of thin quilt batting
– 1 prepared zipper

First, you need to decide what size bag(s) you’re going to make. As an example, here’s what I use as the “final dimensions” measurements:

Large Toiletry Bag*: 12″ x 8″ x 5″

Makeup Bag: 10″ x 6″ x 4″

Sunglasses Bag: 9″ x 3.5″ x 4″

* I made a large one in the MasterChef set, but not in the set pictured throughout this tutorial. Was short one zipper, whoops!

When looking at each set of measurements, this is what they’re going to translate to, in the order mentioned above:

A = Intended length of the bag

B = Intended height of the bag

C = (One half of) the intended bottom width of the bag. Measurement above is final size, but when drafting the pattern, use half of that measurement as “C”!

Using the measurements and the letters I give above, use a ruler to draw a pattern like this:

(This pattern is made to the proportions of the makeup bag I listed above. Different sized/proportioned bags will look a little different, but still this basic shape!)

Then, draw a second set of lines around your original pattern – these will add your seam allowance. I like to add 1/4″, all the way around:

Go on and cut out the pattern pieces that you’ll need, using the outermost set of pattern lines as your final pattern.

Now, lay out your pieces. Place one set of fabric pieces (both the same print!) down on your work surface, with the right sides facing down. Place a quilt batting piece over each, and top with the remaining pieces of the other print fabric, right sides facing up. Line everything up well!

You can pin everything together and zig zag around the edge if you’d like – I usually don’t bother. I do recommend serging or zig zagging one of the long sides of each piece, though – it makes the zipper installation easier / look more finished!

Apply your zipper, as described above. OPEN YOUR ZIPPER BEFORE CONTINUING (!!!)

Fold the bag in half so that the right sides are facing each other, and stitch a straight seam around the the side and bottom edges – NOT the “C” edges, though!

Finish edges with a serger or zig zag seam:

Now, go to one of your “C” corners, and open it. Within that opening, fold it in half to line up the side seam with the bottom seam, like this:

Stitch a straight seam across the new edge, taking care to stitch through ALL layers of fabric – they’ll want to move! Trim the edge if it becomes uneven at all, and finish off with a serger or zig zag seam:

Repeat on the other “C” corner. Trim all thread ends, and turn bag right side out.

Woo hoo! You’re done! (Now go make several more bags, so you have a complete set!)