Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Month of Me: birthday day review.

My Month of Me is wrapping up at the end of the upcoming weekend. Yes, I acknowledge that this will make it more of a Six Weeks of Me. It was a weird month and there were scheduling difficulties. Anyway, I’m enjoying this ‘me’ stuff so much that I may just keep right on doing it.

This post is just a brief one today, though, highlighting my birthday day itself. I had posted to say that I would be doing the 10 Photos project—one photo an hour for 10 hours—for my birthday, and I did it. I missed a spot here or there, usually when I was having the best times, of course. What’s that old quote? “It’s the good girls who keep diaries. The bad girls never have time.” But I think I got enough to illustrate how my awesome day went.

Gift #1: typewriter charm from Brian. Love! Presents in bed are the best kind.

An hour later, birthday pug Mr Darcy comes to get me out of bed.
By request, Brian finally shaves his mountain man growth. Another present for moi.

Lunch of sushi with my sweetie!

Down at Magpie in Westboro to pick up my Pyrrha (gift to myself); and Brian surprised me with a dino pendant!
Meanwhile, I fed the staff chocolate covered ginger.

Shopping with birthday money...3 garments, good for work AND play.

A stop at my BFF's house to watch River Monsters.

Mom and Dad give me their gift: archery equipment to learn with Brian and Dad!

Dinner with parents at the new Mill Street Brew Pub. I was too busy eating to take a photo, so here's the dino pendant
that Brian got me as gift #2.

Comedy club with Brian and parents. Front row seats meant that everyone got harassed, high-fived, and hollered at.

Bonus pic: Mom & Dad at the comedy club.

Bonus pic: me and Brian at the comedy club.

Unexpected gift: Brian made the bed. (It looked better before, but I jumped on it in glee.) Confession:
there was another gift in the bedroom. But I'm not showing you.

 So all in all, a fantastic birthday. Probably my favourite so far, actually. Adventurous food, a plethora of presents, comedy club laughs...and time with my biggest cheerleaders. It felt like such a great way to start off my new year. I've got more reflections brewing, so stay tuned for another post about the Month of Me before long. In the meantime, I'm trying to just enjoy the afterglow of being spoiled rotten; and I'm trying to stop hesitating before programming my age into the elliptical machine.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Come one and all: Celebrate Her 2012 begins!

We've got a couple pieces of news from the Celebrate Her 2012 headquarters, so let me quickly update you!

First off, if you missed our previous blog entries, you may be asking, "What is Celebrate Her?" A quick reminder: Celebrate Her is a week-long fine-arts fundraising and awareness campaign benefiting Ottawa's Sexual Assault Support Centre (SASC), “Amazing Women” and local artists running from March 3rd thru March 10th. And the two of us here at the NEST have been dubbed the official event bloggers, hurray!

Head over to the Celebrate Her website, and see all the wonderful arts events going on this first week (and a bit) of March. The week starts off with an art crawl through the Wellington West/Hintonburg/Centretown areas, with a launch party to follow. As the week progresses, you will see there are slam poets, author signings, musicians, and tons more happening, with at least one event happening every evening over the eight days. Tickets are Pay What You Can, with a suggested amount of $10; the Grand Finale, of course, will be the place to be, and tickets start at $35. We'll be live tweeting and Facebook reviewing as many of the events as we can possibly get to, and blogging about our favourite moments. Stay in touch with Celebrate Her via twitter and facebook to be sure you don't miss a moment.

From the site: "Celebrate HER presents a week-long Amazing Women photo installation open to the public from March 3-10, 2012.  This series was conceived to recognize and honor women in our community who live to love, inspire others and affect positive change." Anytime we recognize extraordinary women for their contributions and hard work, I'm excited...but this time, I'm super excited because I've been nominated, too.

Brian secretly nominated me, and I know that may seem like, "Oh, well, obviously her husband nominates her", but this means more to me than anyone else nominating me ever could. Brian read me his nomination letter, and in it he called me his hero. To have your partner call you their hero is one of the most gratifying experiences I think you can ever have. More than anyone, Brian sees the literal sweat, tears, and quaking anxiety attacks that go into my many projects and volunteer efforts. He sees how I labour over blog posts, fundraisers, or event coordination equally. He has watched me transform myself from quiet mouse to roaring lion (okay, but I'm getting there), and he thought enough of it to nominate me for recognition. I have a hard time with praise, but I hope he knows how much I am moved by this gesture.

Everyone, regardless of gender, is invited to the Celebrate Her events. I hope we see many of you out there, and that you come say hi to us. I love it, always, when the 'fun' is put into a fundraiser, and we sincerely believe you'll experience just that at the Celebrate Her festivities.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Turning 30: Birthday Day

Today is my birthday. We are half-way through, and this is the first chance I've had to write a quick post. I will be taking a photo every hour (like we've done, along with many others, for the 10 Photos challenges on holidays past), and posting them on Twitter. Later, I'll write a post about the day and how the Month of Me has been going...but for now, you can follow along on Twitter by clicking here. Or, you can search for hashtag #jordanbday .

Hopefully your weekend is turning out as spectacular as mine is.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Fridays with bri: How to cut a Bell Pepper

How to cut a bell pepper…  The hardest part of cutting a bell pepper is cutting it so none of those tiny little seeds get in the way. I believe that I have found the best way to cut it and I guarantee that you won’t have to clean up more than a couple of those stray seeds.

Step one: Start with a sharp knife, a rinsed pepper and a clean cutting board. This will make the cutting so much easier.

Step two: Cut around the top of the bell pepper to separate the two halves buy doing this first step it allows you to remove all the seeds in one go. And pull out all the white sides on the inside of bottom half of the pepper.

Step three: cut off all the green edges of the top half, and discard the seeds.

Step four: cut the bottom portion in half, then in half again. Then continue to cut them into fingers; you can choose to stop here or cut them into smaller pieces.

This is by far the simplest way to cut a pepper with no mess that I have ever found!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Shoes Shoes and more Shoes: Brian reflects on shopping.

Amidst the challenges Jordan has been having in finding herself some shoes (more info see the rebranding post), I have also been looking for a more formal-yet-casual shoe for myself. I have decided that with my wife’s redesign in full swing, I should at least try to not wear cheap skateboarding shoes or that pair of shoes beat-up work shoes anymore.

A fantastic pair of 150$ shoes that I LOVE; thanks Aldo...
I must say that with all the shoe shopping we have been doing, it seems women have it rough. All these different styles, and it seems that all of the shoes for women are designed to be uncomfortable…but trying to find nice men's shoes is starting to be just as difficult. It seems like every shoe I look at, especially dress shoes, are elf-pointed; you know the ones? It feels like you could impale the person waiting in line at Starbucks just by stepping on their heels. Or I find some I like but they cost 150$ plus tax. I'm gonna start saving now because these are amazing shoes: check them out they are by Aldo's new line 'Mr B's Gentleman's Boutique'

Brian's new shoes from HushPuppies, 75% off!
The good news is that I have found an amazing pair of shoes, and best of all they were on sale. During the hunt for both of our dream pair of shoes, we both had extremely specific wants; mine were as follows: brown, dressy, comfortable, cowboy boot-like, something I can wear with jeans as well as a casual suit, not too expensive and certainly not elf-pointy. The pair of shoes I found are all that except one thing: they are not brown. And they still aren't the Mr B's, but they are incredibly comfortable and will go with more of my outfits.

With all the headaches and pains from trying on shoes I believe that we have come up with some helpful tips on how to shoe shop…

Wear the socks and the bottoms you are going to wear with the shoes:

This is pretty obvious, but you need the proper socks. They affect the  size and comfort of the shoe. The bottoms matter just as much; I still have the image of Jordan holding a scarf at her knees, and her pant rolled up to above her calf, so she could see what the shoes looked like in a skirt or dress. When men wear a pair of dress pants, they fit much differently than jeans, so wear the appropriate ones. And: please, please, please match your shoes to your belt.

Don’t get distracted:

There are so many styles, shapes colours and do-dads with shoes, so know what you want. This will make your life so much easier and limit yourself. Don’t spend 12 hours looking at shoes because you’ll start to forget what you’ve tried and if the person you're with is not shoe shopping, they will be very bored. Jordan gives me her phone to play with while she tries on shoes…

Pick your shoe shopping partner well:
The shoe shopper extraordinaire--as long as I'm kept occupied.

If you're with someone who will never say you look bad in anything, you probably have the wrong person for shopping. Be ready to have some honest opinions thrown your way because a good second opinion goes a long way.

Thanks for this... shoe?
Don’t expect one shoe to do everything:

This one has probably been the biggest discovery of this whole process. We have realized that one shoe doesn’t necessarily go with jeans, a skirt, a fancy party dress, a suit, and your pjs...and isn’t under a million dollars. This is something you have to let go. Accept that you will need to buy more shoes--and that's not bad!!! And with the pressure off, when you do find that perfect shoe, it truly will be a special thing.

The last piece of advice I can give you is very simple:

Relax; they're just shoes.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Friday's with Bri: Pulled Pork Adventure


Pulled pork, the wonderful crock pot meal! It's a delicious creation that I have never tried to make before, until now; with all the different recipes out there I decided to combine and conquer, and create my own. So here it is:

You will need about 15 min of cooking time and 7 hours for total cooking. 

All my ingredients
Pork Shoulder – 1.5 lb
Green Pepper – 1 bell
Onion – 3 cloves
Butter – 1 tsp
Watter – 4 cups
Spices and seasonings used
Lemon salt

pork chopped in to large pieces
The first step is to chop the pork shoulder into large pieces. By doing this you make the crock pot cooking faster and the meat will come out nice and tender.  When cutting meat remember to cut it on a plastic cutting board; wood boards are porous and will soak up the juices so keep your wooden boards for the vegetables

Melted butter
After chopping the meat, coat it with your spices. Don’t be afraid to over-coat the meat and really get the spices rubbed into it. Then melt the butter in a frying pan and place in the meat to start the browning process. This is an important step because it starts to cook the meat...and if you are cooking for someone who worries about that all
Look at all that seasoning yumm
the time (like I am with Jordan) this is a very good idea. While the meat is browning, chop up the vegetables: we used green peppers and garlic.


When the meat is finished the browning process, take it out and place it in the crock pot. Then put the chopped vegetables into the same frying pan for a couple minutes to make them nice and tender, and to help loosen some of the pork bits.
Next, add a little bit of water to the pan to loosen the meat that was left behind in the pan and add the mixture to the crock pot. Then add the rest of the water, plus half a bottle of Diana sauce; stir and let cook for 6-7 hours on high.
Jordan is smelling the wonderful creation

Pulling it with a fork
You’ll know it’s done when you can put a fork through the pork easily. Remove the pork from the pot and begin to tear the pork with a fork. The juices that were left make an awesome au jus sauce.


We put the pulled pork on wonderful multi-grain bread, and paired it with an incredible mixed greens salad with ranch dressing; we dipped the sandwich in the au jus sauce. 

It made for a simply amazing dinner and definitely something I would try making again. The best part: the slow cooker did all the work, so I was able to sweep and mop the floors...which meant when Jordan got home, she dubbed me best HouseHusband ever.


Month of Me: rebranding the caterpillar


Me, graduating 2007 from social service worker program.
I have been in the process of rebranding myself for a few months now. Well, maybe to be fair, I should say that I’ve been contemplating my rebranding. It began when I was successful in gaining employment outside my college field (social services) and within a field I desperately wish I’d studied in (marketing/communications). I decided that this was a sign: I could recreate myself from the hodgepodge muckitymuck that I had managed to assemble during the first 28 years, into something happier, cooler, and smarter in my 29th year and beyond.


The idea of rebranding usually is applied to a company or, well, a brand. I think people can rebrand themselves, as well. I had to look at the same questions that a business would look at, a few being:

-What concepts/labels/words are you currently associated with?
-Which of those did you choose for yourself, and which were chosen by your audience?
-What concepts/labels/words would you rather be associated with?
-What are you selling [or doing, being, offering, creating]?
-What’s your look-and-feel?

When I asked myself these questions, I wasn’t happy with the results. So the first step was to run my butt off to get into marketing/communications (check!), and the next step was to start examining my image. I tried to figure out what labels or words I’d apply to myself, and found that the list of ones I had chosen were short and sort of ambiguous, whereas the list of ones thrust upon me were very effective in boxing me in:

Me, 3 yrs ago, taking a plane solo for the 1st time.
Self-proclaimed labels:

Labels given by others:
-social worker
-wife (or fiancée)


I looked at the question mark that was my self-image and thought, no wonder I feel aimless. Remove the label ‘creator’, and my self-image was synonymous with a well-trained border collie. Meanwhile, I’d been spending my time living within the constructed labels given to me by my surroundings: an anxious, disabled social worker, presumed straight and in a long-term relationship, who doesn’t like to go out at night and is anal-retentive. Now, I know that I helped people to begin associating me with these labels through my own actions—I’m not blaming my sorry state on them—but what’s frustrating is that the people around you like to keep you in your designated box, often by accident. Friends get used to not inviting you out; people stop chatting with you about same-sex rights; no one asks you to proofread their work because you’ll rant about semicolons. 


Rebranding is hard because you have to do things that may be the entire opposite of what’s expected of you…and no matter how positive these actions are, people will have an initial uncomfortable reaction. The trick is to stick with it. Walk your talk. Make your own box. My new box ideally reads:

-cool non-straight married chick
-communications wizard
-social media padawan
-blogger extraordinaire
-writer and will-be author
Me, 2 yrs ago: first day of roller derby;
went on to play for 18 months.
-woman of wry wit
-loving soul
-organizer (most notably, of SoCapOtt)
-adventurer (at her own pace)
-Brian's sweetheart
-spiritual seeker
-best friend
-introvert (and proud of it)
-amateur chef
-healing body
-healing soul
-happy spirit
-agent of change
-risk manager


Now, it’s important to recognize your limitations during a rebranding process. If Coke tomorrow wanted to become the new recommended drink of the Diabetes Association, they’d be shooting themselves in the foot. Likewise, I recognize that there are certain labels that may never apply to me (at least not in this incarnation): ‘warm’, for example, has never been applied to me; ‘laid back’ is another foreign concept. But ‘enthusiastic’ was practically made for me. Recognizing the inalienable truths about ourselves makes us stronger, because by recognizing our weaknesses, they become strengths. An introvert who pretends to be an extrovert doesn’t last very long—I speak from experience.


I’ve had some setbacks. Last week, before I started my new job, I went out and spent some Month of Me money on getting a haircut and work clothes. My regular stylist is off on mat leave, and I’ve been travelling around the city trying to find someone who’ll still cut my hair like a rockin’ punky-emo-hipster-21-year-old, with little success. I went to see my mother’s stylist this time, though, as she  tends to be creative. Her creativity resulted in a Vulcan bowl-cut with straight-across bangs that she then cut into different 1-inch lengths, like piano keys across my forehead. I demanded she fix it, and she removed the blunt ends to my bangs but by the end of cutting, I was left with tufts—I’m not exaggerating—all over a nearly-shaved head. I left in tears. My hair is a big part of my image—my brand—and while I don’t mind crazy hair, this was out of control. I looked like I’d been shorn with a bowie knife to avoid lice during a post-apocalypse scenario. With so little left, I can’t get it recut, so currently I’m attempting to style it attractively.

I bought pants, a skirt, some shirts, and a some shoes for my new job, too. I found this pair of shoes that made my heart sing: they work equally well with pants or a dress, which women know is as hard to find as the genuinely perfect Little Black Dress. I bought them on sale, and wore them to work on my first day…only to discover I’d bought them a half-size too large. Calls to the company were fruitless; size 9’s were sold out nationwide. I returned the shoes that evening and began tearing through shops looking for a replacement, to no avail. I ended my evening sobbing on the couch, trying to explain to Brian that this wasn’t about two pieces of leather strapped to layers of rubber…this was about my failure at revamping my public image. I would now be headed into work in my old Converse chucks and my sorority-prank-styled hair. 


But I rallied. I have decided that lipstick is a part of my image, and I’ve been experimenting with types. I am enjoying the mix-and-match process of getting dressed in the mornings, and when I finally calmed down, I revisited the Aerosole store and noticed a pair of shoes I’d forgotten about: a pair that I love more than the first ones, even though they’re a bit too tall for my walking abilities. Regardless, they were on sale for the same price as the first pair, and they’re gorgeous. And they 100% suit my envisioned public image.

I’m taking great big strides towards my personal rebranding. I’m at that awkward stage where I’m still in my cocoon, one wing extended out, dripping and unpretty. But I’ve still got eleven days ‘til my 30th birthday; that’s when I’ll really hit the ground running. Oh, but not in these shoes; I’ll have to bring my Converse along.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Feed the Fire: Advice on keeping it hot.

It’s Valentine’s Day week, and while we here at the NEST don’t believe in a commercialized day of romance, I did think it might be a good time to give you a brief spot of advice. February is a dismal time of year, where spring taunts you with smatterings of rain or above-average temperatures, but generally it’s still dark and miserable outside. The only difference indoors is that you can control the heat and the majority of sitcoms have new episodes. But if you have a special someone in your life, you can remake February into Cuddle Month. Here are some tips for keeping the home fires burning.


I heard a study done long ago that showed how women and men responded to times of stress. The study—a little too simplistically divided along the genderline, but interesting nonetheless—stated that women will have a reduced sex drive in times of stress, because they biologically recognize this isn’t a good time to be reproducing. For men, the study said, the stress response is the opposite. Apparently on a biological level, men are spurred on to create more babies in a time of stress, to prevent the decimation of the human race. My experience has been that these rules do apply to people, but may not apply to the appropriate gender. You may find yourself, a male, who has no sexual mojo at all, or you may find yourself a gal with a burning desire to grab your mate. Worse yet (and this is my world), both you and your partner may both be the stress-cancels-sex types.

Be aware of your own stress reactions. If you know what’s happening you can consciously take steps to reduce the stress, or at least be able to talk about the romantic lull with your partner. In the meantime, find other things to do with each other that feels like intimate time.

source: Life as a New Wife

Remember high school? Remember French kissing at the movie theatre and how awesome that was? As adults, we get very focused on the…ins and outs…of sexual encounters. What a waste of all the wonderful ways we can be close to each other. Try getting really close to your sweetie and not kissing…just feel the electricity. When s/he starts to smile a devious little grin, I guarantee your toes will curl and you’ll feel seventeen again.


What are we supposed to give to a woman to say “I love you” this month? Chocolate and flowers, right? While I am never opposed to gifts of chocolate, this may not be every girl’s deepest desire. Likewise with men: not every guy really gets the big deal with lingerie. This Cuddle Month, try doing something you actually both enjoy. It’s okay if that means going to bed at 9pm after watching old Matlock episodes—it’s your time together, whenever you make it happen throughout the year. Be adaptable, and learn new favourite things to do with each other. The right activity, even one as everyday as going to a museum, can become a special, intimate ritual for the two of you. A trip to the Nature museum with a box of Jr Mints, two headphones in one Ipod, and a secret kissing game everytime an animal has a silly name…now, that’s a hot date.  

source: homorazzi

Touch is crucial in a relationship. Your partner may not be a fan of constant contact, PDA’s, or kissing in the middle of go-go-go days, but a caress on the arm or back can send a wonderful message of love and support. As a task-oriented person, I’m still learning how to do this. I’m putting a lot of effort into reaching out and squeezing Bri’s leg when we’re driving, or ruffling his hair when we’re sitting on the couch. A cautionary note, however: not everyone likes having their hair touched. My rule: no mussing up my hair til 10pm or we’re settled in for the night. Otherwise my 20 minutes of hairspray and hot iron were for naught.


At Christmas, we did a post about the art of gift giving as a guest post on the UsedEverywhere blog. I suggest you reread it. There are many times in a year when we may find ourselves in a position to offer a token of affection to our sweetie; work hard to learn how to do a good job of it. And receivers: learn to show your appreciation. We’re not all the jump-up-and-down-squealing type, but a few extra hugs that day or even an email at work the next morning may be a great way to say thank you and ensure the gifting continues.

photo by Adam Pap

Last piece of advice: stop worrying so much. Some people thrive on a date night schedule or gift-giving schedule, or even a ‘cuddle’ schedule. Some people have  the natural ability to consistently make time for tender moments. Usually, we fall in love with someone opposite of ourselves. We all need to stop judging and condemning ourselves for not living up to a cultural image of red hearts, satin sheets, and teddy bears. Communication is key, and kindness is crucial. Forgive yourself for sucking if you suck, and forgive your partner too. Then get to work; if you’re like me and Brian, you’ve got nothing but time to practice getting it right.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Fashion Survivor: 6 pitfalls in spring fashion 2012.

I feel so passionately about this topic today that I'm reprinting this post here, as well as where it will originally 'air', on the UsedEverywhere blog. For the wellbeing of women everywhere, I beseech thee: stop torturing yourself with clothes.

I don’t usually talk much about fashion in my writing, but this upcoming season of clothing has me worried. I feel like, as a classically educated image consultant, it’s my moral obligation to stop a lot of women from making themselves look terrible in an effort to conform to the fashion world’s newest obsessions. Let’s see if I can help you avoid some pitfalls this spring.
Ralph Lauren 2012...or Dorothy, Rose,
and Blanche
from The Golden Girls.

Everything in the stores lately seems to be a shade of beige with some pink or taupe mixed in. More recently, looks like we may be seeing some minty greens and yellows, too. Pastels are uber feminine—and remember, there are lots of ways to be feminine, but pastels are the fashion equivalent of a giant mammary gland. They also tend to be less slimming than their rich-pigmented colour cousins. If you choose to play with pastels, be cautious. Throw in a pinch of it with some other crisp tones: a soft pink top with a bright white cardigan and blue jeans.

source: Like a maxi pad commercial.
Usually every season, there is one or two popular colours. Last year, Kelly green was in—not for long enough, in my opinion. But if you didn’t like green, there were still other colours around to choose from. What’s dangerous this season is that the fashion industry has fallen in love with an entire pallet—faded pastels, as mentioned above—and this means it’s hard to get away from the trendy clothes, and find yourself something that flatters you. A couple seasons back when chartreuse was in, I managed to creep around the periphery of the stores and find some other colours choices…but I worry that this spring won’t allow for that. We’ll have to see. A good trick: if you try on the current colour trends and (like me) hate them on you, spend this season shopping second-hand. Last year’s spring clothes will be out at the consignment stores and you can find some items in the right colours for you.

Smart Set. Like a big tarp.

Everywhere I look, shirts seems to be batwing or simply square-cut. Even sweaters! These styles of tops immediately add ten unintended pounds to most women...not in any specific helpful area, but just in an ambiguous mass around your torso. I’m sorry, you may like these shirts, but you must be very careful and very critical when you try these on. I have bought one wide-sleeved shirt this spring for myself, and it was because the body was still completely fitted—meaning that you could still see my small waist and well-bra’d bust. If you really want to try this style out, look for the same thing: shape somewhere in the garment to help the eye recognize your curves. Or, if you just can’t resist, compensate for the bagginess with very fitted pants.

source: nibblypig.
I think we’ve all learned by now that leggings are only pants if you’ve covered your bum with a top or tunic. Good. But skinny jeans continue to be worn around by girls with luscious backsides. If you’ve got meat on your butt or thighs—this is most of us, girls—skinny jeans should be worn cautiously. You can end up making yourself look like Miss Piggy, with all your mass at the top of your pants, and little piggy hoofs…especially if you’re wearing a slender shoe. If you really want the skinny jeans but are a normal woman who isn’t ‘H’ framed with perfect thighs, throw a long shirt or tunic over. Think of the jeans as leggings.

Suzy Shier. It's even akward
in this marketing shot.
Suzy Sheir. Elastic hell.
Elastic waists and belted waists are in. I’m sad for anyone who isn’t a stick insect, including myself. I am an hourglass-shaped gal myself, leaning towards an ‘H’ frame, and when I try to wear these waistlines, I often end up looking like I have a bun in my oven because of where the waistline visually divides my body. If you’re anywhere over 108lbs, you will likely have this trouble, too. I know it seems like a tiny belt or elastic at your waist, around your belly button, is going to show off your waist, but it doesn’t. Your clothes should visually lengthen your torso (where most of us feel the most square or round), not divide it in two awkward pieces. If you insist on wearing these little belts, wear them low on the low part of your hips; they will at least draw the eye past your belly. If you insist on wearing the elastic waistlines, I don’t think I can help you.

This is who those clothes are for: photoshopped
carb-free 17 year-olds with twig legs.
Put on the clothes you’re consider, then back up. Look at yourself from a distance in the mirror, and squint or unfocus your eyes. Do you look square/wide/round/shortened? If so, it may not be the right outfit for you. Don’t feel pressured to buy styles that are thrust upon you by the fashionnati; they’re typically designing for scrawny 16 year-olds—the models they spend their time with and think are ‘real’ women. If you happen to be a human giraffe, more power to you…enjoy all the clothes the rest of us can’t wear. But for the rest of us: hold your breath and pray for better selections next season.

Author's note: Listen, gals; if you have a deep love for one of these fashion items, more power to you. Rock your 'en vogue' clothing and love yourself...that love with shine through and we'll all think you're hot! The only person who has to love your style is you. But if you're cramming yourself into petal pink and jeggings because you think you have to, let this post be a battle cry: no more uncomfortable, disproportionate, skin-tone-ruining clothing!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Month of Me: a weekend of tea and craft

I know it’s midweek now, but I’m still glowing from my weekend. It was a 48 hour period of Month of Me activities (my birthday month of self-indulgence), and I can’t stop talking about it. The highlights: High Tea with my mom, and a killer felting workshop with Annie Bananie.


In preparation for my birthday month, I purchased a social coupon (you know, off a site that does group coupons, if you will), for The Tea Party on York Street in the Byward Market. I’d been in there only once before, just to peek around while on a stroll with Brian, so I didn’t remember much about it except that it was located in an ancient house on the edge of the market. Anything Alice in Wonderland themed is guaranteed to catch my eye, so I bought the coupon--$20 for a High Tea for two—and invited my mom along.

We headed down to the market, parked, and walked down to the little house. As we stepped inside, the place was rockin’ busy. A dozen charmingly mismatched tables were crowded with cheerful diners enjoying all sorts of (unexpectedly) Indian lunch foods. I have made a note to come back and try the tandoori tofu because it looked delicious. We were led to our tiny reserved table in a corner by the front window, and while we waited for our server to come see us, we perused the shelves of tea cups, teapots, and china all available for sale. A two-tier Alice in Wonderland themed tea tray caught my eye and I may have to go back for it.

The server brought us our teas in big pots, chosen by us from the wall of labelled glass jars. The tea was lovely, and I was pleased to see the wide array of non-caffeinated options they had. Settling on a concoction called Jamaican Chai, I was delighted with the spicy aroma mixed with tropical undertones. Mom chose an anise-based tea called Angel Wings which she enjoyed very much, being a fan of strong flavours. A few sips into our tea, our tray of squares, scones, and sandwiches arrived. We were surprised to find none of the ‘usual’ tea sandwiches—no tuna, egg salad, or ham here—but a wide variety of unique flavours instead. My favourites included a roasted red pepper with hummus, and a tomato with some type of baba ghannouj.  The scones were superb, served with a pot of jam, and the squares were all made on-site…no pre-packaged date squares here.

We munched away happily, lingering long after our sandwiches were done, pouring more tea from our big pots and gossiping. When it was finally time to go, we went to the cash to buy a tea cup for Mom, and received the last part of our social coupon deal: two little bags of tea to take home. I grabbed a bag called Yoga Spice, and Mom grabbed a green tea. We headed out, satiated and promising to return for a full lunch.


Happy crafting Jordan.
Sunday found us at the workshop of Annie Bananie, local crafter extraordinaire. Annie Bananie is no stranger to us: she helped us out with the wedding project by offering a workshop for our wedding party to make felt rosettes, which we used as decorations in our centrepieces. Annie and I have kept in touch, as I adore her felt creations. This incredibly talented yoga teacher, Singing Tree daycare owner, and arts instructor is one of those wonderful people you feel blessed to have met. To my utter joy, she feels the same about us. So when Annie invited us to come to her felting workshop, wild horses couldn’t keep me away.

Another woman's work.
You can see the whole tutorial on Annie’s blog, including photos of Brian and I working our butts off; but in a nutshell, let me say this: the seven hours you spend in this workshop will simultaneously be the most exhausting and the most rewarding thing you do all week. The morning started off with a brief Kundalini yoga-based meditation. This is something outside my comfort zone, as Kundalini involves chanting and singing, and I’m not really a public singer. I rock out in my car, but to sit in a circle and chant ancient Sanskrit is something outside my box. I did it, though, and Brian was a trooper too, only once disturbing the group when he got carried away with his yogic spine rotations and hit his elbow off a shelf. I held it together and managed not to burst into giggles…sometimes Brian is just like a Great Dane puppy, all feet and tail.

We started out felting project, laying out the white felt that would become the back of our hanging. I had planned to make something about 2’ by 3’, but Brian kept quietly laying out more wool, and before I knew it we had a piece about 4’ by 5’. Annie encouraged everyone to work as large as they liked, and I shrugged, figuring it would be a centrepiece in our house somewhere. We argued back and forth over the image we’d create and finally amalgamated our two ideas: toadstools and owls.

The other workshoppers remarked on how brave we were to be doing a project like this as a team. I have to admit, there was a few times where I had to deep breathe and not snatch the wool away from Brian, rearranging things until they looked ‘right’. But as the image started to come together, I had that wonderful moment where I can see how much cooler the product is going to be because it was a collaborative effort. We finished laying out our image, ate a homemade lunch of pea soup and ArtIsIn bread (provided as part of the workshop), then began the process of felting the wool into one big mat.
Rolling the snake with our feet. UGH.

When Annie encouraged us to work on a big piece, the one thing she failed to tell us was that it would mean more work at the felting stage. Another woman who had created a smaller piece finished felting her mat and left around lunchtime, while we were still layering colours of wool. The process of felting the wool involves soaking the project with soapy water, stepping all over it, and then rolling it into a tube and rolling that tube back and forth along the floor. Because our piece was so big, the usual technique—laying your hands on it and rolling it like a big Play-doh snake—was proving ineffective. Every time we unrolled it to peek, fibres were still lose and easy to pluck. So after about an hour of using our hands and arms, we switched to using our feet.

One hour of rolling the mat with our hands, then two hours of rolling our mat with our feet, and finally we were done…or at least, I didn’t want to roll it anymore. We took our piece home, rinsed it in the shower to get rid of the soap, and tumbled it in the dryer for a bit to finish the felting process. It was still wet, so we layed it out on some garbage bags and left it to dry.
Other workers' creations.

Ready for water.
My legs ached for two days after this project. I got a better workout from rolling that damned wall hanging than I have ever gotten from roller derby. It was exhausting, but the final product is something pretty extraordinary. There is nothing pretty about our owl and mushroom scene, especially because the owl’s eyes sort of felted in different ways and he looks a bit drunk. But it is a collaborative expression of our nest: Brian as the owl, brightly coloured and a bit wobbly; then me as the hedgehog (a last minute addition to the piece), because as much as I call Brian a Great Dane, Brian calls me a hedgehog: cute, but rolls into a spiky ball when provoked. So there is Brian the owl, with Jordan the hedgehog, hanging out in a field of mushrooms. It probably sounds silly when you read it, but this hanging is truly a visual representation of our little world.

I fell in love with felting at Annie’s workshop. I find myself plotting new designs, examining our piece to see how colours blended so that I can plan my layers out better next time. I don’t think I’ll make such a large piece again because the rolling sucked so badly; but guaranteed, I’m going to be felting again soon. As an artist who typically works in paint and pen, the less precise, more expressive motions of felting was again outside my ‘box’, but as these things so often are, it was wonderfully rewarding. We can’t thank Annie enough for having us along, and we heartily recommend you all sign up for the next one. Annie is planning another wet felting workshop in the warmer weather, to potentially be held in Wakefield out on a beautiful piece of land…but if you can’t wait that long to get your hands on Annie’s workshops, other ones will be coming along soon and can be found on her blog.


Tea and shopping with mom…tiny triangle sandwiches…time with my sweetheart…and a new art medium. It doesn’t get much better than that. I would say this was a highly successful Month of Me weekend. Let the games continue!