New Year, New Work Space

Friday, December 30, 2011

I've been thinking a lot this week about what my goals and resolutions are going to be for this coming year. I spent some time reflecting on this past year as well and what I'd like for the future. I came up with a long list but I decided that I want my primary theme this year to be focus. I'd really like to focus on my big goal of getting into architecture school but I also want to bring more focus into my daily life. Doing things with intent and awareness. Stop watching mindless television shows while I cook dinner. Getting back into practicing yoga and meditating more. Focusing on the important things, and letting the rest go. Since I'll be spending a lot of time studying this next year (and hopefully doing some making too!), I wanted my work space to be ready. Not huge changes, but I think they will help. I finally got another Ikea lamp to match Mark's, so there is no more trash lamp with the wrong bulb. I also got some magazine files from Ikea to help organize all the papers that end up floating around our desk. I went through all my notes from this past year of school and put them into binders. I cleaned up my computer, organized my files and downloaded some apps for task and time management. I've read before that the key elements to a good work space are good lighting, plants and inspiring images so I brought over my little tillandsia plant (it's still alive!) to add some greenery. Then I printed off some "inspiration" pictures from the internet. I usually find inspirational quotes and posters to be pretty terrible but I actually like these ones. At least they have nice typography. The lower one is by Jon May, I came across it on Pinterest and he is offering it as a free wallpaper so I didn't feel too bad about printing it. It came out pretty nice, you can see the fabric texture and everything! The other one I saw on For Me, For You a while ago but since it's not available to buy anymore I just printed out a small version for myself. I think they will both be my mottos for 2012. I hope you all have a lovely New Year's Eve, with lots of champagne and sparkles! 

Closet Makeover

Thursday, December 29, 2011

I wish this post was as exciting as the title sounds, like I had won a shopping spree or something like that. Instead, I just sorted through my clothes and reorganized my closet. I know, things are getting wild around here this Christmas vacation. We each have one of these closet cabinet things in our bedroom and I'd been meaning to go through mine for a while. I got rid of all the clothes that didn't fit, were worn out or that I just didn't like anymore and have them bagged up and ready to be donated to a charity shop. I usually do this about once a year and find that it feels so good to have your closet down to what you actually like and wear. And I end up wearing more things since I can see everything and it's not just in a messy pile. I also bought some rose sachets to put in my lingerie drawer, like an old lady. They smell so good that I think I will go back and get a whole bunch to put all over my closet. I had written a while ago that one of my goals was to stop buying cheap things, especially "fast fashion" clothes from places like H&M (although I do love their stuff, sigh). I really want to support handmade, independent designers and be a more sustainable and ethical consumer. I've had a couple of slip ups, like the gold sequin top from H&M that I bought last month, but overall I've been a lot better. I haven't bought many clothes this year, but most of what I have bought has been from thrift stores, flea markets or Etsy. I'm still not feeling super inspired by my closet at the moment, I don't really feel like it reflects what I'd like to be wearing. That's also because most of the time I just want to wear leggings and a striped tee shirt if I'm being honest. I might try something like this in the new year, just to force myself to try wearing different things in a different way instead of buying more clothes. To stop myself from grabbing sweatpants when I open the closet and see nothing I want to wear, I put up a bunch of pictures on the inside door as inspiration of colours and textures that I like lately. They are mainly tear outs from Danish fashion magazines (because I need to practice my Danish, of course!), as well as some packaging and branding that I like, from a Mast Brothers chocolate bar, to Fieldguided's cards and a postcard from a teahouse here. There's also an old picture of my Nana, laughing in a bathing suit, and photo booth pictures of Mark and I from our first year anniversary, just because they make me happy. I love this time of year, when you can spend some quiet time getting ready for the year ahead, planning and organizing. Right up my alley!

Hot Chocolate Kits

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Now that Christmas is over, I can show you some of the presents I made. Most people on my list (which is pretty much just our immediate family), got these hot chocolate kits. Back in October, I got together with a friend and we mixed up huge batches of spiced hot chocolate, packaged up in a mason jar with a stamped doily tied to it with embroidery thread. I came across the idea via this tutorial, and we basically just adjusted the spices for the mix to taste. I had wanted to make marshmallows but my limited kitchen facilities didn't really allow it, so I dipped marshmallows in peppermint chocolate, rolled them in coconut flakes then packaged them up inside the jar as well. At least they looked cute and wintery. The cross stitch initial mugs are the same as the ones I did for the porcelain painting workshop, from this tutorial. I made up a bunch of bags of different cookies, for the both the kits and to give to friends here, with peppermint chocolate cookies, maple sugar woodland animals, pistachio and cranberry shortbread and gingerbread. Instead of the cookies, our parents in Canada got a photo book I made of our wedding photos, since parents tend to like that kind of thing. I just make and order my photo books through Apple, and I've been really happy with them. Last year I made photo calendars for all our parents, and the quality was great. I order an extra one for us too, so it works out well. I also sent out these homemade cards to friends and family, with a little Danish ornament tucked inside. 

Merry, Merry

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

We had a really wonderful Christmas this year. It was the first year of celebrating in our own little apartment here and not visiting family or each other somewhere else. I was a tiny bit homesick of course but it was so relaxing to not have to travel anywhere. Mark celebrated Danish style with his family on the 24th, while I opted to stay home to bake and watch Meet Me in St. Louis. The next morning we opened our stockings over a breakfast of blueberry pancakes and then headed down to the beach to go for a walk with our friends Nicola and Rune. Mark even wore the hat that I knit for him even though it looks like a tea cozy! It's a bit of a West Coast tradition to go for a beach walk on Christmas day and we were lucky enough to catch some sun as well. We had a great time oogling all the puppies running around, eating cookies and drinking some rum spiked homemade eggnog out of my thermos. In the evening, Mark's brothers and their girlfriends came over for a potluck dinner. We had an amazing collection of food: cedar wrapped salmon (cedar wrapped portobello mushrooms and goat cheese for me), fig and port stuffing, roasted vegetables, maple butternut squash, orange Waldorf salad, cranberry spinach salad and sticky toffee pudding and more eggnog for dessert. As usual, I was too concerned with all the food to take any pictures until dinner was over. Mark tracked down a burning log video (another West Coast tradition) and I lit some cedar incense and the candles on the tree. It was pretty magical. I was also so thankful for Skype, which let us celebrate with our family in Canada too. It was a big day for Tiggy, with all the treats, attention and a new sweater, so here he is all tuckered out at the end of the evening. We spent Boxing Day as it should be spent - recovering and relaxing, snacking on cookies and leftovers, playing Scrabble and tidying up from all the festivities. Now we're back to our normal routine, just a bit of a quieter and slower version. Saving up our energy for the New Year, and a visit from Canadian friends! Hope you all had and have lovely holidays. 

Meet Harald Jr.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

I dressed up our tree, Harald Jr., for Christmas last night! People don't often get their tree, let alone decorate it, till much later here. I really wanted to put real candles on our tree this year, since it's a Danish tradition and it looks so pretty at night. I'm still a bit nervous about them, so I think we'll just light them for a few hours on the 25th. I also wanted to get a potted tree, so we could plant it together in the New Year. I think it would be a nice thing to start doing every year. The Christmas trees here are a bit funny though, they're not pine so they don't smell and this one is quite prickly. We have pretty simple decorations this year, just the candles (I had to look forever to find the holders for them!), the felt animals I made and the Danish paper hearts and stars. Then I wrapped up the pot with some gingham fabric leftover from making our stockings. I think he looks pretty cute! Please ignore all the needles on the floor.

Winter Solstice

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy solstice! As I get older and think more about what Christmas means to me and all the traditions surrounding it, the more the idea of celebrating the winter solstice makes sense to me. I was doing a little reading about it and found this article really interesting. So with that in mind, I wanted to make today a bit special, in the simplest of ways. I made my favourite breakfast lately - a soft boiled egg, toast with homemade jam and tea - listened to Lana del Ray, and read the beautiful Tree of Codes (I found a brand new copy at the library yesterday!). It was rainy and grey out but I was hoping it would clear up later so I could go for a a walk. I made another batch of cookies, this time chocolate peppermint, with my helper  Tiggy who supervises the whole process and who is looking very dashing lately in the Christmas bow tie I made for him. It was still a bit dark by the time I was done but I wanted to be in the little light there was today so I bundled up, packed my bag and biked out to the forest. I never take myself out for walks but it was so lovely to walk in the silence, looking at all the colours and textures of the forest. It felt great to be out in nature, to breathe in the crisp air and to have some time to reflect and wander. Once my nose and fingertips started to get cold, I biked over to the market to pick up a couple Christmas parcels and some handmade truffle tortellini for dinner. One of my favourite treats! It tastes amazing with just a bit of butter and lemon. I'm looking forward to spending the rest of the longest night of the year cozied up inside with lots of candles, knitting, baking and decorating our tree with homemade decorations and lights. 

Holiday Films + Fashion

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Last night I was watching National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and in between baking dozens of cookies and knitting a sweater for Tiggy, I was surprised to notice that the mom's outfit at Christmas dinner was kind of banging. I normally don't take fashion inspiration from late 80's moms, but I thought it would be fun to put together a few holiday outfits based on some of my favourite Christmas movies. 

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation - I still think this movie is pretty hilarious, in that exaggerated way that was so popular in the the late 80's, early 90's. There isn't much style inspiration to take from it but I do love Ellen's white silk blouse with lace detail (kind of racy!) and the gold wreath brooch at the neck. I have no idea what she's wearing on the bottom since there is never a shot of it. Mom jeans? I'd go with black skinny jeans and ankle boots to make it a bit more modern. 

Home Alone - Another early 1990's classic of our childhoods. I know what you are thinking, first an 80's mom outfit and now a little boy outfit. But how cool is his parka? I was totally coveting it when I was watching this movie the other day. The back plaid panel and zip up hood? So cool. I'm into all the knit sweaters, scarves and hats he wears too. Try this burgundy parka with plaid lining, cream cable knit jumper and this reindeer ski hat (I love the giant pom pom!). I think this outfit would look good with jeans for a cozy day or paired with a gold sequin mini skirt for a fancier occasion. 

It's a Wonderful Life - Probably my favourite Christmas movie of all time. I'm saving it to watch this weekend with Mark since he's never seen it! There are some great 1940's outfits in it but this black dress with white lace collar is my favourite. There are lots of similar vintage dresses on Etsy, like this silk velvet one, then just put on some pearl earrings and follow this tutorial for pretty 40's style hair and makeup. I would shorten the dress to knee length and wear some colourful or patterned tights like these snow tights and of course some high heels. 

Holiday Outfit Wish List

Holiday Banner

Monday, December 19, 2011

Another paper craft for your holiday decorating pleasure! It seems that I'm not doing much else these days besides crafting little decorations, knitting presents, baking cookies and making lots of soup. I've been watching some Christmas movies to keep me company while my hands are busy. I did a little poll on Facebook and it seems that Home Alone is the most popular Christmas movie among my friends! So I watched that while I made this quick banner for the door in between our living room and bedroom. It's the first thing that catches your eye when you walk in, so I'm glad it's something cheery. It was really simple to make, I just printed off the letters (I used Lullaby for the font), glued it to a cereal box to use as a template, and then cut out gold foil paper and stuck it to bakers twine. I was thinking of putting gold glitter on it but decided I liked the shiny look. As I wrote before, it means happy Christmas in Danish. It's more common to say glædelig jul, but god jul is much easier for crafting purposes. The Nutcracker Suite is on, I'm drinking pots and pots of peppermint tea and I'm savouring these quiet days. 

Danish Jul Traditions: Paper Crafts

Friday, December 16, 2011

Yesterday I had my friends over for a 'julehygge' which translates roughly to a 'Christmas cozy'. It's pretty much what it sounds like - people getting together for some gløgg and æbleskiver and to make the traditional Danish Christmas crafts - stars and hearts. It's really common here to do this in school or with friends. I love this tradition (of course)! We had lots of treats and we all worked on knitting and sewing projects, wove heart baskets (you fill them with candy), folded Christmas stars and cut some paper snowflakes too. You can click through the links to get instructions on how to make them yourself. Not a bad way to spend the afternoon! And now our place is all Danish and Christmasy. We also got a tree, named Harald Jr., but he is still pretty naked so I'll show you some pictures of him when he is all dressed up. And yes, that is my polka dotted robe in the first picture, so what? I'm on holiday. 

Potato Printing

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Last Sunday at Cafe Retro I held a potato printing workshop. I had some supplies left over so I decided to post a tutorial here in case any wants to make some handprinted cards, gift wrap or tags for Christmas. I know potato printing seems like a craft for kids but that's why it's so great! It's really easy and most of the materials you'll have at home, unlike other kinds of printmaking. You can make all different kinds of shapes (there were triangles, trees, hearts, stars, waves and whales among others on Sunday) but I decided to make these woodland style cards to go with my theme for this Christmas. They are inspired by this printed paper on Time to Craft. They are both super simple designs so they would be easy to make a bunch of. It's pretty self explanatory, but here's the tutorial:


Paring knive and/or exacto blade
Sharp tool or pen for drawing design on potato
Sponge and paint brushes
Paint palette
Paint - red, green, brown and white
Stamps and stamp pad (optional)

For the tree design, cut a large and long potato in half. Wipe any wetness off with a paper towel before tracing a long triangular shape on the potato with a sharp tool or pen. You could measure or just do it freehand. Then cut the shape out, by cutting around the lines. Using a sponge brush (it gives a better application of paint), brush on a good layer of green paint. Stamp the paper in whatever design you would like, brushing with more paint in between stamping. You can try it out on a scrap piece of paper first, to see how much paint looks best. 

For the trunks, I used the bottom part of the potato that I cut off for the tree shape. Then just cut out a little rectangle shape and paint on brown paint for stamping. The clean lines of both shapes makes it easy to line up. 

For the mushroom, find a small, round potato and cut off the top part and then cut in half again. That's it! Sponge some paint on and stamp. As you can see, I liked the look of repeating the shapes in lines. 

You can use the same rectangle piece for the mushroom stalks, just paint and stamp again.

For the white mushroom dots, use the bottom end of a paintbrush to stamp on little circles in a random pattern.  

If you'd like, use alphabet stamps to add holiday greetings. Or, if you are really ambitious, you could make them from potatoes. I put 'God Jul' on mine which is Danish for 'Happy Christmas'. 

Happy printing!

Danish Jul Traditions: Julebryg

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

One of the Christmas traditions that Danes seem to hold quite dear is their Christmas beer (ha, so rhyme-y!). They are usually darker, stronger beers that are produced for just the Christmas season. The beer comes out on the first friday of November and it's such a party that it the day has it's own name, J - day, from the Danish word for Christmas beer - juleøl. There are also special beers for Easter and other holidays, I guess Danes just really like to get drunk their beer. This last weekend we had our pals Nicola and Rune over for dinner, and Rune brought a bottle of Mikkeller's Santa's Littler Helper, one of the best Christmas beers from a local microbrewery. It's really hard to get a hold of this stuff and it sells out super quickly, so it was really nice of him to share it with us! I had thought of hosting a Christmas beer tasting this year but it's pretty strong, so we just had this bottle after dinner along with a couple bottles of wine, some port and some cherry liquor. Um yeah, things might have gotten a bit overly festive. Last year my Christmas present to Mark was to take him out for pho, beer at Mikkeller Bar and then to a The Tallest Man on Earth concert. I really loved the design of the bar but couldn't really take any photos, since it was dark and there were lots of cool people around. So I found these via Design Milk to share. Pretty nice, right? I'm really sad to see that their Ris a la M'ale (a beer version of the Danish Christmas rice pudding with cherry sauce) is retired since I had it when we went to the bar last year and loved it. We also like the Nørrebrø Julebryg which is a little bit easier to find. Let me know if you have any Christmas/winter beer favourites!

Top photo of  Danish Christmas beers via A to Z of Beer
Photo of Mikkeller Happy Lovin' Christmas via All These Beers
Photos of Mikkeller Bar via Design Milk
Interior by Femmes Regionales, photographs by Lars Engelgaar

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