Month: April 2012

The Veggie Vag Mug!


That’s right, now you can order your very own Veggie Vag mug!

After a recent post about my editing/writing trio and our fictitious company Veggie Vag a number of people said they loved the mug so much and wanted one. So I thought I’d make them available on CafePress. Now you too can drink your coffee in … style?! And you’ll feel the eternal love of the Veggie Vag and our faithful Dane. Much respect to Veggie-Vagger Christa Couture for the inspired design.

In praise of dance!

I am going to bypass my usual Rearview Fridays post (where I look at an old craft/dance/sewing/you-name-it project of mine) and simple offer up my absolute love for dance. Because on Sunday, April 29th, before I blog again,  it’s International Dance Day!

This is a picture of me in a solo I performed during the last year of my college dance program at The School of Toronto Dance Theatre. Titled The Illegibility of This World, the work is by eminent Canadian dancer/choreographer Julia Sasso. She created this solo on me. It was a fabulous, physical, performative challenge, I revelled in each intense performance in December 2001.  photo is by David Hou.

Below I’ve posted this year’s International Dance Day message by Flemish Moroccan choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. It’s thoughtful, beautiful message that encompasses all that I believe to be true of dance.

I encourage you, as you’re passing through your weekend, to add a little skip or gallop into your walk to the park, to stop for a kitchen dance party or just break it down old school styles in the grocery aisle — make a scene, celebrate dance!


Message of the 30th Anniversary of International Dance Day: Celebrate the never-ending choreography of life                                

By Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui

Through time, through the ages, what endures is mostly art. Art seems to be everything humankind leaves to its heirs – whether through buildings or books or paintings or music. Or movement, or dance. In that sense, I think of dance as the most current, the most up-to-date history lesson, as it is in a constant relationship with its most recent past and can only happen in the present.

Dance also, somehow, does not acknowledge borders in the same way as many other arts. Even when certain styles try to limit themselves or work within a frame; the movement of life, its choreography and its need for flux: these take over very quickly, allowing certain styles to mingle with other. Everything engages with everything, naturally, and dance settles only in the space it belongs to — that of the ever-changing present.

I believe that dance may be one of the most honest forms of expression for us to cherish: because when people dance, whether in a ballet performance, a hip-hop battle, an underground contemporary show or just in a discotheque, cutting loose, there are seldom any lies deployed, any masks worn. People reflect each other constantly, but when they dance, perhaps what they reflect most is that moment of honesty.

By moving like other people, by moving with other people and by watching them move, we can best feel their emotions, think their thoughts and connect to their energy. It is, perhaps, then that we can get to know and understand them clearly.
I like to think of a dance performance as a celebration of co-existence, a way to give and make space and time for each other. We tend to forget this, but the underlying beauty in a performance is that it is primarily the convergence of a mass of people, seated one next to the other, all sharing the same moment. There is nothing private about it; a performance is an extremely social experience. All of us assembled for this ritual, which is our bond with the performance, our bond with the same present.

And so, in 2012, I wish everyone lots of dance. Not to forget all their problems of 2011, but on the contrary, to tackle them creatively, to dance around them, to find a way to engage with each other and the world, to engage with life as part of its never-ending choreography. Dance to find honesty and to transmit, to reflect and to celebrate it.”

Quilting Challenge: April


April is flying past me, like a train with cars bearing birthday, Easter, bathroom-construction, birthday, teething-fever, bathroom-construction, sewing-gig, taxes, birthday, sewing-gig, birthday, teething-fever, bathroom-construction and so on — whip, whip, whip, blurring my vision and leaving me gasping!

Before the month is out, I need to add April’s quilt square to my 2012 Quilting Challenge. I really had no ideas but then as I was hemming pants for a costume gig the other night, it hit me out of the blue that an umbrella would be sweet! And so it is, particularly on this fabric that almost looks rainy. I’m so charmed with this one and excited to use it on burping pads and quilts.

Veggie Vag: where make-believe and pratical collide

This post is in praise of the dreamers and creators. The brave ones and silly ones who still play house and superheros and make mud pies when they’re adults. It’s also a little love story to 2 great friends of mine …

(L to R) Christa Couture, Maria Kendal, Susan Kendal, James Kendal and Lindsay Zier-Vogel at Susan's wedding in September 2003. Photo by Rhya Tamasauskas. Christa, Susan and Lindsay are the charter members of their company Veggie Vag. As far as we know this is the only photo of all 3 of us together since we are rarely all in the same place at the same time. What a shame! We'll do a shoot next time we're together. Though we are all very young and foxy in this one ...

I am fortunate to be surrounded by folks who are bursting with imagination, the kindred spirits that Anne of Green Gables was always keeping an eye out for. There are 2 such friends with whom I am having a most excellent, ongoing “practical-make-believe” adventure — Christa Couture and Lindsay Zier-Vogel, wonderful women and artists in their own rights, musician/designer and writer/book-maker respectively ( check them out, they are extraordinary).

And what is our awesome practical-make-believe game? We have a “company” called Veggie Vag. It sounds just rude enough that it makes us giggle, hard.

We even have a logo that Christa, in a fit of procrastination, sass and hilarity, used her graphic design skills wisely (?!) to create a few months ago:

Veggie Vag started about a year ago. You might ask, is it about vegetables? Or, is it about vaginas? Both would be fair questions. Veggie Vag is not really about either, other than the fact that we’re all ladies. And we do like veggies. It’s really mostly about editing. And being friends across miles of space and life. And being hilarious to ourselves.

We were all busy with applications, building websites and so on (the usual) around this time last year and were often editing for each other, enjoying getting the value of 2 perspectives on our work. We started to joke that we were like a collective. Then we decided we were a collective, which meant we needed a wicked acronym. Christa came up with both, she’s the most clever of us, hands down. VEG was first, it stands for “Virtual Editors Group,” which was funny and accurate. But then she said wouldn’t it be more awesome if we were authors — well, Lindsay actually is an author — then we’d be the “Virtual Authors Group,” ahem, VAG, which was infinitely more funny than veg. Put them together and we are really, virtually (as it were) the unstoppable Veggie Vag!

The cool thing is that between the 3 of us we’ve edited grants and “About” pages and difficult emails and cover letters. I got an amazing logo by being a member (thanks Christa!) and we’ve all  had a lot of success with the things we’ve edited for each other. Not only do we have this ah-mazing faux company together, we are quite useful to each other. Keeps us in regular contact too, which is brilliant!

Here’s what my co-founders have to say about Veggie Vag:

Lindsay Zier-Vogel: The Veggie Vag is an editing machine, a sounding board, a safety net and cheerleading squad. It’s a place to daydream and blue-sky and hammer out details. Every grant and proposal and project description that passes through these diligent hands is all the better for it. It’s a thoughtful and hilarious editing collective that keeps three of us closer than I ever could’ve imagined. Whoopi, Cate and Julianne should be so lucky to play us in our biopic …

Christa Couture: What started as occasionally asking friends for editorial advice grew into a collective, not quite formal, but steadfast and dedicated, of three women supporting each other’s work. My own work is better for the input of the Veggie Vag, and I love being up to date with, if not also being helpful to, the work of my co-Vag-ers. The Veggie Vag is friendship and artistry combined — a team of writers, thinkers, brainstormers, schemers, planners and best of all cheerleaders … cheerleaders in yellow pant suits and berets. Or spandex. Depending.

[IMPORTANT ASIDE: With “yellow pant suits and berets” Christa’s referring to Je M’appelle Steve, a brilliant YouTube clip we at Veggie Vag like to watch over and over til we cry with laughter. The more you watch it, the funnier it gets.]

Veggie Vag even has an assistant! His name is Dane. Dane Joseph McKellen. He’s fabulous. He’s shower fresh even at 4pm. He anticipates our needs. Dane shows up with a latte just before you realize you need one. Dane reminds you of impending deadlines and copies all the grants. Dane keeps extra mascara and tampons in his desk drawer. Dane orders Thai when you’re working late. Dane put fresh flowers on your desk and clears the boardroom air with aromatherapy.

I could go on and on about Dane, he’s a gem. Dane even has a twitter page, of course, @daneofalltrades. If you’d like to check him out, drop him a line to tell him he’s doing great or ask for some wardrobe advice, do it! But don’t try and lure him to your company, he’s ours and is as loyal as the day is long.

I got mugs made for our 1st anniversary this month. Dane reminded me that it had been a year since we named ourselves and signed the lease on our excellent, 2,800 square foot downtown Toronto loft offices. He suggested that mugs would be particularly classy. I agreed. And every morning I drink tea and think of my Veggie Vag ladies, standing by should I need some extra eyes and perspectives. Or a laugh. Or commiseration.

I am a dreamer. I love imagining and make-believing and creating — so much so that artist and creator became my profession, it seemed inevitable and obvious to me from a young age. I choreograph and dance, I make and inhabit worlds and ideas of my choosing and construction. I sew and craft, imagining and creating what I hope or suspect might work in fabric or paper.

I also spend a few hours teaching creative dance to wee kids each week, which allows me to gallop as a horse, swirl as a wind storm, dart as a fish. It’s a space to remember the fantastic, immense imaginations we are born with. That we have the capacity to believe the impossible into all-sorts-of-possible at our start, but often squelch or embarrass or forget that faith right out of ourselves.

Cheers to make-believing, even, or perhaps especially when you’re an adult. That’s it for this Veggie-Vagger, over and out.

Rearview Fridays: Juliet doll (best H.S. Eng. project ever)

This may be the oldest project of mine that I ever manage to feature here on Rearview Fridays! It’s a doll I made for a high school project, circa 1994. I remembered her when I featured a couple of other dolls I’d made a few years ago on a recent Rearview Fridays post. I can’t believe she’s in such good condition and that I’ve managed to carry her with me all these years.

May I introduce, Juliet Capulet:

In Alberta’s grade 10 English curriculum, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet was par for the course. I had as awesome English teacher, Mr. Young, hands down the most inspiring teacher of my high school career. He was a great juxtaposition of art and jock. He’d been a wrestler in his youth, injuries sustained made him walk with a roiling gait, and he had these giant forearms. He was also passionate about basketball, running a huge national invitational basketball tournament every year. On the other hand he taught English, was the head of the department, and ran the school’s Shakespeare Club (of which I was a member of course). And he was utterly passionate and practical about language and stories and history.

Every year he assigned one project where we could do anything BUT write an essay. Our teenage-minds were blown! It was an arts high school, called Victoria Composite High School at the time and we were exploding with creativity. The excitement was palpable for this assignment in the 10AP class. I think I learned more about Shakespeare and Romeo and Juliet and their times because of this project. I researched clothing, costumes, hair, payed close attention to the details of the play. One girl made a dance film, monologues were performed, a guy even forged a sword. Forged a sword! I made a Juliet doll — shocking, I know.

As I look at her today, I am amazed at my 16-year-old self. I started with a basic Waldorf doll, which I figured out myself by looking at other ones. I remember being so proud of how her eyes came out, painting lips and irises with such care. I picked natural fibres like cotton, wool and cotton velvet, dyed the fabric for her skin with tea, did a lot of the stitching by hand. Her hair is black cotton yarn, thick and waist-length. I crocheted burgundy lace for her dress, I even crocheted a snood, a freaking snood! I want to squeeze my overachieving, unstoppable self from 1994, tell her that she’s awesome. That she shouldn’t take the next 16 years to really feel comfortable in her skin because she’s great, extraordinary as is.

Juliet has a little lace and cheesecloth slip that ties at the back, it’s so sweet and innocent. Her dress is rich and heavy and closes with hooks and eyes at the back. Then to top it all off there’s a secret pocket under the top layer of the dress with a wee foil dagger and a corked foil vial, which, of course, has green beeswax in it so if you uncork it you see “poison”. Of course. Cause I like details. Ahem.

Mr. Young really believed in me and encouraged my shy, unsure self to trust my natural writing abilities. I am still surprised that I ended up working as a writer editor and administrator at a magazine for over 10 years without planning or training in that direction, but I think a lot of it has to do with some seeds of trust and inspiration planted in me by Mr. Young. I am forever grateful.

I’m also amused to remember that I simply am a creative creature, it’s who I’ve always been and who I am delighted to continue to be.

Cheers Juliet. Thanks for the memories.

Man-gifts and tag progress

April has been rife with birthdays among our family and friends. Including my husband Adam’s. We’ve been together for 11 years now, so while he’s easy to buy for in some ways (scotch is a good go-to), the creative lady in me always tries to do or get something crafty and handmade for him, something special and unique, unpredictable. I’ve made flannel pants with a cool basketball print, knitted iPod cases, sewed an amp cover and so on. But honestly, I find man gifts tough. I was stumped and running out of time this year, so I perused Etsy! I found a fantastic blacksmith named Benjamin Westbrook, and his shop hammeronsteel, who forges lovely, simple, rough-hewn bottle openers. Amazing! I was sold! And Adam loves it (hurray, victory!) so I had to share in case anyone else out there is struggling for an awesome man gift.

I got the opener personalized with Adam’s last name and the dates of our boys birth. It’ll be a keeper at the cottage in the summer for long lazy days full of sweaty beer bottles, dirty, content kids and that true far-from-the-city quiet that’s not really quiet at all!  Sigh.

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I continue to work towards opening an Etsy shop of my own with a projected opening date of August this year. I’m waiting to build up some stock, get my tagging and mailing and tracking, etc all organised so I can hit the ground running, and do some fall craft fairs too. Also to spend Gene’s whole first year without a bunch of hard deadlines since I have the grace of a maternity leave.

That said, I got an order for my, ahem, awesome Burp Pads from a friend and I thought I’d take the opportunity to design and make some product tags when I sent her order out. Here they are drying from being stamped. I had to go with a pocket shape of course!

I used clear labels to put the product info on the back of the tag. It’s my first time using them and I am in love, they look so clean and profesh!

And lastly, I made little Lavender Ravioli Sachets to include in my orders as a thank you. Lavender feels like the right choice with baby things, so calming and great for keeping clothes and linens fresh. Even acts as a natural moth repellant!

One thing that I love about receiving orders from Etsy craftspeople is that often they will toss in a memento or small sample of another product. It’s memorable and sweet and I love the neighbourly feel it gives as a recipient. So I’m going to join the ranks, and it’s a great way to use the ends of flannel that I hate to toss!

Cars party doodads

We made it through the friend-birthday-party with flying colours, though now I am ex-haus-ted! Rudi asked for “a Cars 2 party” and planned it together. I adore making his birthday parties personal, having a hand in loot bags and/or cake. It’s really rewarding to pour myself into something just for him, even if the cake is gone in the blink of an eye! And the crafting and baking makes the experience more tangible and exciting for him, and for me.

I think I’ve said here before that I am not really a baker, but I try now and again. And I love watching the magical baking shows where they make amazing cakes that defy the apparent laws of gravity that my cakes adhere to. So I thought I’d challenge myself and try fondant, and it wasn’t so bad! I kept the cake simple, flat, and used sugar decorations that Rudi chose/adored — who knew they still made these?! They remind me of 1980s birthday cakes. Here’s the result:

The cacti marzipan dyed with gel dye that my friend lent me — another baking revelation — and I even made my own glorious buttercream to dirty-ice the cake under the black fondant. To really go for the win, I decided to try making the inside a checkerboard flag. This was the best part for Rudi as he helped me slice thin slabs of the chocolate and white cake and place them alternately on the cake board. It worked! We were so excited! Susan Kendal, FTW!!! Check it:

And then Skor bits for dirt of course. Does it get any better? The kids blasted through our Cars cake in record time, leaving huge blobs of black fondant all over the table. Another birthday cake, sorted.

As I mentioned in a recent Rearview Fridays post about some past birthday craftinesses, above all I adore making loot bags. Or in the case of this Cars 2 party, loot CANS! If you haven’t seen Cars 2 then you might not know about Allinol, a fictional fuel that is key to the plot. I thought it’d be funny to make little oil cans for the loot bag/cans, so we started with the purchase of an obscene amount of apple juice and a no-water-apple-juice-only week in the household (it’s in the name of awesomeness kids, chug, chug, chug).

After emptying the cans and soaking off the labels, I pulled a jpeg of the Allinol logo off the web and printed it out on label paper, et voila:

And of course we needed labels so that the cans could be claimed by the 4-year-old guests. Those had to be traffic cones, naturally! I made a wee template and cut ’em out of bright orange felt with a paper one for the name:

I just love how the finished Loot Can came out. And aside from the forced apple juice drinking, it was pretty easy, and makes a great marker/scissor/etc holder!

A rewarding party it was. As I lay on the couch in the post-party haze, drinking an Allinol can of wine a glass of wine, Adam (the patient, amused, house cleaning husband in the midst of all this madness) asked me what next year’s party was going to be. I snorted and told him I needed a bit o’ time before I start thinking about the next extravaganza. Then he joked/seriously suggested that a 5-Alive party would be great for a 5-year-old, good colour scheme, automatic juice element … and the wheels started to turn …

Rearview Fridays: Knitted Organs

Today I think it’s time to share another knitting project for Rearview Fridays, 3 dimensional internal organs! I made them as costume pieces for a dance I choreographed last year called Organ Stories. The story of the dance itself will be  one for another Rearview Friday, I have to upload some video and want to give the dance it’s due here. And these organs deserve their stand-alone own entry.

This first shot is of The Uterus, with me and dancer Krista Posyniak getting organised for a rehearsal in June 2011. I was super-duper pregnant with Gene!

Inspiration: The Heart

In 2009 I knitted an anatomical heart for my husband for Valentine’s day, which he thought was weird, but I also like to think he secretly loves that I do such things! I sought out a pattern online since I didn’t really know where to start and was amazed at all the anatomical patterns people had come up with. Here’s the heart pattern I used, it’s by Kristin Ledgett of The Knit Cafe in Toronto.

I also knitted a heart that year for a wee boy named Ford, my friend’s son who was in hospital with complications from Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. Sometimes when I’m at a loss when those I cherish are in a hard spot, making something is the only way I can think of to show my deep love. I pour my thoughts and goodness and hope into my hours of work, and I hope, I believe, that the object carries the weight of that love. Ford is no longer alive, but I’m glad my knitted heart sat beside him and his mom, who is so dear to me, for a while. So this piece is especially tender for me.

The Lungs

I chose 4 organs that I’d make short solos about. The dancer spoke about facts and emotional associations of each organ and then danced a little organ-specific solo — like a lecture-demo on physiology through dance!

Here are the lungs, they tie around the neck and have super-strong earth magnets on the back that stick to a blouse with magnets sewn into it. I developed my own pattern from a few different ones I looked at online, but I didn’t write it down since I modified as I went, argh! Ah well, there’s next time.

The Uterus

This one made me giggle as I made it. And it was great when people would ask me what I was making, particularly because I was obviously pregnant while I was knitting! It was a highly appropriate organ to be knitting in my condition. I worked directly from a lovely, easy to follow pattern on Knitty by MK Carroll. I’ve also made this as a gift for my midwives, the lovely ladies that saw my boys into the world. Best midwife or obstetrician gift ever!

The Brain

The Brain I concocted myself. I used a great little Blue Whoville Hat Pattern as a base, though I modified a lot of things, made it bigger, alternated knit and purl for the earflaps so that they’d be more smooth than the original and did away with the ribbed band in the original.

Then I made miles and miles and miles of i-cord that I sewed onto the hat like a brain. It was fun to tell people that I was knitting my brain, have them look at the looooooooog cord, scratch their heads and walk away wondering about my sanity … but my plan worked! Here it is:

And lastly, I leave you with a shot from the performance of Organ Stories in July 2011. Here’s the slightly frazzled Professor Posyniak with her spectacles on and her Judy covered in organs. You can see the magnets sewn onto her blouse that the organs stick to for each solo. She was just finished lecturing about the brain and was about to dance it, which as mentioned before I’ll share in video form on another day:

This photo by Andréa de Keijzer, the dancer is Krista Posyniak.

Happy Friday everyone, hope that you’ll never look at your organs the same now that you’ve made it through this post …

Sharpie tie dye & quilt progress

Anutie Maria, my lovely sis, came over today and brought Beyblades as a birthday gift for Rudi. I only know about these toys because I have a 7-year-old nephew. If you don’t know and you want to know, check ’em out. I have learned that they are insanely popular among the cool kids these days and Rudi is beside himself to now be counted among the owners of these battling tops.

We decided to try a Martha Stewart craft with Auntie M and in honour of spinning tops and battling Beys, we used spiral designs of course! Who knew you could tie-dye with Sharpies?! And I do love Sharpies, so much so that I have a huge multi-colour set. You just draw with Sharpie and then drop Isopropyl alcohol on it and heat-set the colour. For the full instructions go check out Martha and her minions.

They came out beautifully and are far more hip than I anticipated. I love the intense colours! It was a great craft to do with a 4-year-old, he was able to draw on the shirts with ease and worked the dropper like a charm. At about 15 minutes total, it was good for a shortish attention span. Then Rudi was back to lettin’ ‘er rip. That’s right, that was a Beyblade reference. Boom, dropped it in just like that.

For myself, I went back to a project I’d set aside a while ago but which calls to me every day, ‘fiiiiinnish me, I’m so looooovely, you waaaaaant to” and so on. It’s a quilt I’m developing for my Etsy shop. Here it is with it’s seams showing!

I’m still building up product stores and not ready for the opening part of the Etsy shop, but I’m getting closer and getting excited to wade in. This lovely piece should be done by the end of the week, along with it’s matching burp pad.

Rearview Fridays: birthday loot bags!

I’m in birthday mode since I have a 4th birthday happening in my household tomorrow. So I thought it’d be apropos to dig up some crafty goodies from the last couple of birthdays I’m put together for my boy for today’s Rearview Friday.

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Rudi’s 2nd birthday party was lovely, the kids painted with water colours outside in the crisp spring air. Then we used the paintings to make frames for photos of his guests that we took throughout the party and printed up on the spot. I made loot bags out of some awesome hot pepper fabric I had lying around, waiting for just such a  moment. I adore little bags and containers, I am a squirrel after all! So I take loot bags seriously. Full Stop. No plastic junky ones for this lady, no sir. I make reusable ones that come in handy later on for, say, taking a few Hotwheels to Nana’s house!

I’m not much of a baker. But I aspire. And sometimes I reach too far. But I was pretty darn happy with these nuggets of awesome — cupcakes in cones. They were  great for newly-2-year-old hands to handle:

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Last year, for the 3rd birthday, it was cowboy time. Toy Story 3 and the ever-charming Woody were a big hit with Rudi at the time, but I tried valiantly to tip-toe around the Disney versions and keep things a bit more general cowboy-ee (thank you Waldorf for my auto “cringe at commercial” reflex!). I made “party hats” that looked like little cowboy hats (attached around with elastic):

And the reusable loot bags were small canvas feed bags. I stamped the little guests’ names on them and actually carved stamps — a cowboy boot and a horseshoe — from erasers after being inspired by the lovely Japanese blogger Mairuru. I loved carving them and remember spending one late, quiet night working on them while Rudi slept inexplicably long on the couch beside me, as happens with kids once in a blue moon.