Casual Fridays Part 5

What a busy week it has been! I wasn’t feeling well at the beginning of the week so I guess I lost a few days of accomplishing things so I’m really looking forward to getting caught up on things! In the meantime, here are a few things I found on the internet this week that perked me up a bit!

10 Things

1. This Ontario home tour on Design*Sponge is pretty wonderful. I love all of their vintage furniture pieces.

2. I don’t get too excited about new music anymore, but a new Hayden album is coming March 24th! And there are sneak peaks here and here. I’ve loved Hayden since I was a teen and have seen him multiple times live (not to brag or anything, I just really love him and he is amazing live). Needless to say, I’m very excited about the full album.

3. 10 Things I’ve Learned About Sewing – I’ve been trying lots of new sewing projects lately and I’m really looking to challenge myself this year (look forward to a future post about this!), but after going through all the challenges with my blouse, I was feeling a bit deflated. This is an old article, but it really hit home for me. Especially “When you start, it will look like crap” and “Can you make me one too?”. A great read for any sewer but most of the points work for basically anything in life.

4. I’m going to try making the ultimate veggie burger. A few years ago my sister and I took a day trip out to Field BC just to eat at Truffle Pigs and had the best beet burger ever. While I wish I could go to Truffle Pigs every day, I’ve had to resort to trying to find a recipe I could make at home. Fingers crossed!

5. So buying a white couch was a horrible idea – it just doesn’t stay clean (#homedecormistakes). And even worse is that Ikea no longer makes slip covers for the model that I have. I usually throw a quilt or something over it but I’ve been really liking the look of these Mandala wall tapestries and think they might make a nice couch cover. That paired with a vintage kantha throw would be a nice touch of color and pattern.

Wishing everyone a wonderful and restful weekend!

Happy Ten Years, House!

This week marks 10 years in our home. I remember the first time walking in the front door and breathing a sigh of relief. We’d been looking at homes for a couple of days and while we’d seen things we liked, I wasn’t crazy about any of them. I knew this was the house for us when I walked in and breathed that sigh of relief – it felt just like the home I’d had in my mind. I guess our realtor must have seen the look on my face as well and commented that it was the house. It had a good sized kitchen and a yard big enough for a garden. The two things I loved most about the house then are the two things I still love the most about our house, ten years later.


Apparently this is the best picture of the front of the house I have – right after I’d painted the front door (you can still see the green painter’s tape and “west paint” sign on the steps) – oh well!

Our house has seen a bit of a transformation while we’ve lived there. The yard went from a neglected and very dull rectangle of overgrown raspberry bushes, trees planted too close to the house, and dog stained lawn, to our productive little retreat. The inside of the house has seen quite a few changes – mostly cosmetic, but also many repairs and functionality adjustments. Of course we will continue to make it in to our dream home over time (I wish this was one of those blogs that showed miraculous renovations that happen pretty much overnight, but unfortunately time and money stand in the way of that, sorry).

I’ve been thinking about the house a lot lately – it was built in 1978, which isn’t that old, but I don’t know too much about it besides that. There is very little evidence of what the house originally looked like as it has seen a few renovations over the years. The outside is more than likely exactly the same (besides the yard of course). I wish I could see pictures of what the house looked like when it was brand new, but I think even if something like that existed, it would be very difficult to obtain. I’d also love to know about the people and families that lived in our home before it came to us – we know a little bit about the previous owner we bought the house from, but not too much. It’s not that any of these things would be of benefit, it is out of pure curiosity.

I love our little house and am looking forward to spending the next 10 years in it!

Sewing A Blouse & My Mistakes

I know I mentioned at the beginning of the year that I had a bunch of new skills I wanted to learn this year, such as entomology pinning and wood carving, but I failed to mention that I want to take on more personal sewing projects. I’ve been spending quite a bit of my spare time making aprons for my Etsy shop and private orders, but besides that I haven’t done any sewing for myself. There are a number of sewing projects on my personal to-do list including a wrap dress (I’ve had the pattern for two or three years now?), a quilt (I have the fabric all ready for this one too!), and a raincoat (let’s not talk about this one – I’ve had the fabric AND pattern for like 5 years for this one). Doesn’t it always seem I have a million projects I want to do? Yes. But anyway, the first priority project for me was a blouse.

Let me back up. I have basically no experience when it comes to sewing clothing – it just seemed so daunting to me (quilts, aprons, bags – no problem! Clothing – eek!). What if it doesn’t fit? What if it looks like crap? What if I just spend $50 on materials, plus hours of my time, and I hate the end result? After all, it’s not like knitting – if you screw it up or hate it, you can just unravel it and make something else. Well, I decided to take the plunge. But not just a little plunge in the kiddy pool, it was a dive in to the deep end. Not only did I make a shirt, I made the pattern myself. Go big or go home, I guess.

I actually started with a shirt that I bought from Gap Outlet that I love the look and fit of. I decided that I didn’t want it to be exactly the same so I would include some slight alterations. The major alteration being that I wanted my version to be sleeveless. I almost always wear cardigans or blazers over my blouses, so sleeveless is my preference. The thing I liked most about the original blouse was the front – it is actually two pieces of fabric layered to create a nice little tulip front.


See? The Gap shirt is really pretty with a nice shape.

First I drew a rough outline of the original shirt using a few pieces of paper taped together from a roll of light kraft paper I already had on hand. I bought this roll awhile back at Benjamin Moore and it is for covering floors and such while painting, but this roll is so handy for basically everything, especially making patterns. The back piece of the shirt was the easiest to trace but doing the front was a bit more tricky and I actually ended up screwing it up a bit (no project is without its obstacles – we’ll get to this later). After I was finished tracing out the pieces, I held them together to make sure they would fit, did a bit of trimming to ensure the pieces were even, and then added about 1/4 around each piece for seam allowances. This is all so scientific and interesting – basically, I winged the entire thing.


The cat helped me make my pattern.

One of the most difficult parts of the whole planning process, other than fixing my screw up (I will get to this) was actually choosing fabric. The original shirt was a nice flight flowing cotton but I didn’t have anything like that on hand. For about a year I’ve been holding on to a quilting weight fabric from my favorite artist, Leah Duncan. I had considered turning it in to a dress last summer (with that pattern I’ve been holding on to for three years) but chickened out at the last minute. I waffled for a bit on using a quilting weight fabric since it is heavier and may not translate too well on to apparel. But I guess I was feeling brave because I went ahead and chopped it up.


Then I had to actually think about how I was going to sew the pieces together. First I needed to hem the neckline, arm lines and bottom edges – I folded everything in very finely, pinned it in place, and carefully sewed the hems. Then I needed to sew the three pieces together – which was actually very simple. Okay so this is the part where I tell you that I put the blouse on and everything fit perfectly and I didn’t screw anything up. Or at least, it would have been. I put the blouse on and looked in the mirror – it wasn’t that bad. I mean, it wasn’t great, but it wasn’t terrible. There was a bit of weird poofing out between the armpits and shoulders – it just wasn’t sitting right. Luckily the problem was that my blouse was too big in that area (had it been the opposite and been too small, it would have been an unsalvageable disaster). I had to think about things for awhile – do I make the shoulders thinner? Do I sew in a weird dart? Do I cut out a piece of the fabric and re-hem in around the arms? I went with the latter – worst case scenario would be that I cut too much out and then vow to never sew another piece of clothing again (very dramatic-like).

So after a bit of cursing, cutting, and additional stitching I tried things on again. Better, but still not great. What did I do?! I think the problem was mostly do to with fabric choice, but also partly to do with winging the pattern and having absolutely zero experience with sewing clothing. I felt impotent and annoyed. Now what? I decided to try out some darts – worst case I could just rip them out.


When all was said and done, the fit is so-so (not terrible but not perfect). The end result looks pretty good and if I wear it with a blazer, there is really no way you can tell that I screwed it up. And I guess it isn’t all that terrible if it is actually wearable. I have accepted the end result but I did learn a few valuable lessons which I will share with you:

– Quilting weight fabric is not ideal for apparel. I kind of knew this going in but I made the decision to use it anyway. It is fine, but it doesn’t give you a lot of shape and it doesn’t give you the nice drape that you would get from a lighter more flexible fabric. Quilting fabric does get softer over time and washes, but I still don’t think I would recommend it. I am not totally defeated against making another shirt, but I would use a voile or another lighter apparel specific fabric.

– If you’re a beginner to sewing, find a ready-made pattern. Making your own pattern is probably a bit ambitious and is probably something you should do if you’re more advanced. I am not a beginner to sewing or making patterns but I am a beginner to sewing clothing, so I probably assumed my skills would translate and everything would turn out great. So wrong.

– I probably should have experimented with a fabric that wasn’t so precious to me – it was very risky to use a fabric I’ve been holding on to for over a year because I love it too much to cut up. This silly decision could have cost me my fabric.

So that’s it. I made, I fixed, I lived to tell the tale. And I’m actually looking forward to the next sewing project!

Tomatoes Tomatoes Tomatoes

If you hadn’t guessed already, this post is about tomatoes. More specifically, all of the tomatoes I will be growing in 2015. Every year I go through the same thing: I pick out a million tomatoes I want to grow (because I just want to grow all of the tomatoes), then realize I have a small yard which cannot accommodate growing that many tomatoes, so I cut the list back to something I believe is manageable, start the “manageable” amount of tomatoes in the house, then panic when planting time comes because I have 35 tomato plants and only room to comfortably grow 20. Same story every year – you think I would learn. But somehow I always manage to find places to put the tomatoes – sometimes not ideal places, but I’ve somehow seemed to make it work.


So I wrote previously about the seeds that I ordered around the beginning of January. All of those seeds have now arrived and I’m excited to get them started in the upcoming weeks and months. But I do have several other seeds that were already in my collection that I’ve added to the big list, so I thought I would go over everything in a bit more detail.

I’ve tried to limit the number (not very successfully) of indeterminate tomatoes that I grow just because they take up quite a bit of growing space. Indeterminate tomatoes generally do not produce all of their fruit at once and always need to be staked and supported so the plants do not fall over from the weight of the fruit. They are best planted with lots of space between the plants, but I do not always follow this rule. I’m sure my indeterminates would produce better if I gave them the space they truly deserve, but I seem to do alright with them regardless. They also appreciate a bit of a pruning throughout the season, although again, I don’t do much pruning on my tomatoes because I’m kind of lazy and neglectful. I usually give them a little pruning near the end of the season so the sun can reach the fruits and help them ripen a bit on the vines. The other reason I’m a bit hesitant to planting more indeterminates is that since our season is significantly shorter than many (US zone 3), most of the tomatoes are brought indoors to ripen. It’s good because I can enjoy fresh tomatoes garden until almost December but it kind of sucks not to be able to eat the majority of them sun ripened and straight from the vine.

Here are the indeterminates I will be growing this year:
Blue Gold Berries – I have not grown this one yet, but last year was my first year successfully growing a blue variety tomato and now I am obsessed (the taste it unlike any other tomato). Plus I’d never seen a blue/yellow variety so of course I was all over this.
Purple Bumble Bee – I have not grown this but I buy similar looking tomatoes at the farmer’s market during the winter and I really enjoy them. This one was described as ideal for farmer’s market sellers, so I’m pretty confident it will be exactly what I think it is.
Pink Bumble Bee – I grew this one last year (you can read about it here) and was a bit torn on whether I should grow it again or not, but I’ve decided to give it another chance in hopes that I’ll like it more this year.
Sunrise Bumble Bee – I guess I was attracted to the Bumble Bee varieties this year!
Blue Beauty – This is one of the prettiest tomatoes I’ve ever seen and I’m hoping it will be similar in taste to the indigo rose. I usually don’t bother with the larger variety tomatoes since they require such a long growing season (and I’ve never had one ripen on the vine) but I really couldn’t resist with this one.
Green Grape – I grew this one last year and loved it (you can read about it here), so I’m interested to see if it will be as successful this year.
Chocolate Cherry – This would be my second year growing this one as well (you can read about it here). It is fairly similar in look and taste as the black cherry but I couldn’t decide which one I wanted to grow so I just put them both on the list.
Blondkopfchen – This was one of my favorites last year (you can read about it here) – it produced teeny tiny yellow tomatoes that were really tasty and a lot of them did ripen on the vines outside. I also like the name because it is fun to say.
Blue Berries – I tried to grow this last year but squirrels murdered the plant when it was just a baby, so I’m giving it another go. Are blue tomatoes the new green tomatoes for me? Perhaps.
Pink Pear – This was another that was murdered by the squirrels last spring so I’ll try it again this year. I’ve got to start devising a plan for those wire domes I was going to construct in order to keep the squirrels away from my little seedlings.
Indigo Rose – This was hands down one of my favorites from last year (you can read about it here). This one seems to be more of a semi-determinate as the plant doesn’t get overly big, but still larger than a determinate (I think my plant last year was between 3-4 feet tall). The tomatoes took forever to ripen though which was the only downside. Another thing I loved about this tomato is that the leaves were a beautiful blue/green so it made for an overall stunning plant.
Black Cherry – I’ve grown black cherry for quite a number of years now and it is always really good. I do get a few tomatoes every year that ripen on the vines outdoors.
Green Zebra – This is another that I’ve grown consistently for a few years and is the tomato that got me totally hooked on green varieties. The plant is very disease resistant and produces lots of fruit.

I’m trying all new determinate varieties this year. Determinates are pretty ideal for people with not a lot of growing space or for people who container garden. They generally do not need to be staked or supported as the plants only grow around 2 feet tall, if that. Determinates usually produce all of their fruit at the same time as well. I like determinates because they always seem to start producing ripe fruit sometimes months before any of the indeterminate varieties. I usually end up throwing basil seeds in the bottom of the determinate pots in order to maximize space, but also because basil and tomatoes have a bit of a romance going on.

This year I’ll be growing these determinate varieties:
Gold Nugget – I’ve grown this before and I will admit that I am not overly crazy about it, but my husband really likes them. The good thing about them is that they are one of the earliest producers so I will not complain too much.
Koralik – I have not grown this variety but it was recommended somewhere (I can’t remember where).
Golden Bison – I think this one was also recommended to me – I’ve been on the hunt for a determinate yellow that I will really enjoy so the pressure is really on for this one to perform well.

I have started growing a number of tumbling and dwarf varieties the last couple of years – these are both a type of determinate tomatoes but I figured I would separate them as I like to consider them under their own categories. These tomatoes are pretty much ideal for me because I can put them almost anywhere and they will perform well. A few years ago I was watching the best cooking show ever (Jamie At Home) and he was talking about growing these cherry tomatoes in old spaghetti sauce cans. At the time I thought it was BS because the cans were fairly small and there was no way I thought a tomato plant would thrive in those conditions. But what I didn’t realize at the time is that he was actually growing dwarf varieties. Silly me. Last year was my first year growing a dwarf variety (Red Robin) and I actually ended up putting multiple plants in to a 12″ terra cotta pot (of course with basil seeds sprinkled in the bottom of the pot) and the plants thrived. I’m going to experiment with some smaller pots this year – I’ll just need to be diligent about watering them really well daily. With tumbling varieties I kind of do the same thing except I stick them in with other determinates (I’ve been known to grow up to 3 tumbling tomatoes in a large planter with another determinate and basil – crazy, I know!). Tumbling varieties are ideal for hanging baskets or trailing over the edge of a pot. If you are going to stick them in a pot with other tomatoes, just ensure that the pot is heavy and sturdy enough to hold the weight – I learned the hard way last year when we had a heavy windstorm that blew some pots that may have been a bit top heavy right off the deck.

Tumbling varieties I will be growing this year:
Tumbler – I’ve grown this one for about 4 years. It is the earliest tomato to produce fruit in my garden.
Ditmarsher – This one is new-to-me this year and I first read about it on You Grow Girl.
Pearly Pink Orange – I’ve also never grown this but found it on my search for tumbling varieties. It is actually supposed to be just pink, so who knows where the orange came from, but I guess I will find out for myself.

Dwarf varieties I will be growing this year:
Red Robin – This plant produced so many fruit last year for such a little plant.
Adrina – I found this one when searching for dwarf tomatoes so growing it will be a total experiment.
Hahm Gelbe – Another one I read about on You Grow Girl as well as heard about on her podcast. I’ve been on the search for seeds for a couple of years and was very excited to finally get a hold of some. – Lime Green Salad – Again, one I first read about on You Grow Girl and I’m most excited for the crinkled leaves.
Yellow Pygmy – I will admit that I chose this one based on the name and if it turns out to be a good tomato it will be a total plus.

So that’s the tomato list for this year. I’m unbelievably excited for the growing season this year and hopefully I’ll have lots of good things to report back on these tomatoes. And I’m also curious to see how I can tetris all of these plants in to my small garden! Are you trying any new varieties this year? I’d love to hear about them!

Tomato seed sources (I am not associated with or compensated by these companies, I just love and support the work that they do in preserving rare and heirloom seeds): Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Tatiana’s Tomatobase, Heritage Harvest Seed, Seed Savers Exchange, West Coast Seeds, Urban Harvest

The Garden January 2015

As you can see there is not too much going on in the garden. Everything is covered in a thick blanket of snow and ice. It’s pretty difficult right now to picture a lush, thriving garden, but I’ve been trying not to dwell on it too much – it can be pretty easy to get depressed this time of year. I’ve been keeping myself busy with ordering new seeds (the first of the new seeds arrived in the mail this week!), taking inventory of my seed collection, and making list and schedules of things I want to grow this year. I think we’re at 24 tomato varieties and 23 pepper varieties (!!!). And even though my garden is still a few months away from thaw, the weather has been unseasonably warm this week so I’m feeling somewhat optimistic!


Have you been doing any garden planning yet?