Sunday, April 29, 2012

Koko Chocolates Review: For Mother's Day and beyond.

Jen is a mom, and a chocolatier.
Officially, she knows what moms want!


Our good friend Jen Winter, owner and chocolatier at Koko Chocolates, asked us to review two of her new spring/summer flavours. With Mother’s Day right around the corner, we figured many of you might be looking for something traditional to gift—but with a little twist. Why pick up the usual box of big-brand chocolates for Mama when we have scrumptious truffles handmade by a local artisan just around the corner? And make no mistake, Koko chocolates are probably closer to you than you realize: they are now being carried at various retailers including The Candy Store in Westboro, and other great shops (or online).

Koko’s two newest flavours are described here, as taste-tested by yours truly (Jordan), who is a chocolate fanatic, and by Brian, who has been formally trained in tasting wine, beer, and coffees; his clever palette picks up all sorts of nuances that you, 
the reader, can then strive to pick up, too.


Features jam from michaelsdolce with a layer of star anise-infused dark chocolate ganache.

This adorable little truffle with its swish of sparkly pink is deceptively lighthearted in appearance compared to its rich, bold flavour. When first bitten, notes of strong dark coffee hit the tongue before the liquorice bite of the star anise sets in. The smooth anise-scented dark chocolate ganache is complemented by a bubble of tart, juicy plum jam that sits in the middle. There’s a complex spiciness to this truffle that keeps you coming back for more. Brian also noted that the flavours pair well with a Bridgehead Costa Rican Cloudforest black coffee; so perhaps make Mom a breakfast in bed with some fairly-traded coffee and this truffle on the side.


A creamy white chocolate ganache infused with dried lavender. 

This truffle is a real treat, and way too easy to eat. The chocolate shell of this truffle manages to be rich but not overpowering, as your teeth sink down into the white chocolate centre. This creamy ganache has a distinctive “cheesecakey-ness”, with a rich denseness to it. The taste of lavender is subtle in this chocolate, which Brian liked, but I—a seasoned lavender-chocolate muncher—would have been happy to have amplified. It was delicious, however, and a pleasant introduction to the almost rosemary-like taste of lavender that would be a new experience for many chocolate eaters. Brian felt that with its floral, bright, yet calming flavour notes, this chocolate should be eaten on its own. I added, yes: in large quantities.

If you’re sick of the teasing sunny-but-cold spring weather, and you’re yearning to slip on some flipflops and shorts, we heartily suggest picking up a few of Koko Chocolate’s bright new flavours. It may be a frosty spring day, but it doesn’t have to taste like one. Treat yourself, and amaze your mother with true artisanal quality treats that are truly worth the indulgence.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday's with Bri - Asian Cooking Class


I have done a lot of cooking but never have I taken a course on it, so when I was invited by Bill to go learn some Asian cooking I immediately said yes. We were going to learn how to make egg drop soup, General Tao chicken, pot stickers, and a red bean dessert pancake. 

Class watching chef Nguyen
The classroom where the course took place is upstairs in the Westboro Loblaws Superstore and it is really cool. The room is huge and the kitchen is at the front with an awesome mirror on an angle so you can see everything on the counter, no matter where you are sitting. This really lets the chef do their work and not have to stop ever few seconds to hold up the cutting board or the pot so we can see what’s happening. The really awesome part was all the ingredients that we used: we could have walked downstairs a bought right then and there.


The class was led by chef Thuy Nguyen; she probably was the most powerfully commanding lady I have ever met,  and she is only 5ft-nothing. She made the class so much fun and easy; she talked through every step and really shared her knowledge around all the health benefits of all the ingredients. My favorite was watching all her techniques, like how to get juice from a dry ginger root. My favorite quote of the day was “Tofu is safe to cut in your hand, tofu is really soft and your hand is really hard, so you know where to stop the knife”(as she cubed tofu in her hand with the chef’s knife)… until I develop hands of steal I still don’t think I’ll try this.

I particularly loved the fact that there was a hands-on portion of the class, where we as a class got to make the pot stickers (dumplings) and yours truly was given an extremely hard pat on the back, from such a small lady, when I made a different shaped dumpling.


It was surprisingly simple:
1. Prepare the filling; we used pork and vegetables.
PC Cooking school
2. We used the prepackaged dumpling wrappers.
3. Take egg whites and use your finger to coat the outside edges.
4. Take a tsp. of the filling mixture and place in the center.
5. Fold the dumpling paper over the filling and press the edges together.

...and voila! a ready-to-cook dumpling.

For the full instructions and the recipes check out the PCcooking school’s web site and sign up for a course. I don’t want to give away all the fun!

My favorite part of the class was definitely the teacher. She was loud excited and totally in charge of the class, and you could see everything she did thanks to the mirror over the counter. Oh, and the food was amazing! Jordan said I came home smelling like a Chinese restaurant.

It was an awesome experience and I encourage everyone checkout some cooking classes at a PC cooking school near you.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

In Sickness & Health: newlywed blues (and gratitudes)


So I’m going through a bit of a health crisis.

I’m not dying or anything—no ‘big C’, says my doc—but something is broken and needs to be fixed. It’s been broken since mid-February, and it’s been relentlessly antagonistic ever since. My doctor is throwing around potential diagnoses, but I have to see a couple specialists…which is why I’m still suffering: because the waitlists for specialists are terrifyingly long.

By the by, if any Ottawa/Kingston/Toronto urologists happen to read our blog and are taking new patients, please contact us. That’s the hardest specialist to get so far.

Yeah, I’ll spare you all the details but basically, either a urologist or gynecologist is going to be taking care of this problem. I just have to wait another five weeks before I can see either of them. Once I get that diagnosis, maybe I’ll fill you all in; in the meantime, I’m refusing to throw any words around or label myself with anything. No point tilting at the wrong windmill.

When 'Acute' teams up with 'Chronic':

Mr Darcy expresses my sentiments here perfectly.
 You know, I’ve talked before about being ill. I have a couple physical issues that are chronic and pretty friggin’ awful, but they’re intermittent and manageable (after years of hard work). There is more time in my day spent feeling good than feeling awful. But this new thing…oh man, it’s persistent. The part that really kicks me? That, right before everything went so very wrong inside me, things were going so very well around me.

I had a happy partner who was Acing school; a new job (just two days in) that pays well and is in the field that I love; an apartment that we finally had heated up and looking good; some steady happy relationships with a handful of good friends and even my parents; a growing blog; and tons of physical activities that I love. Suddenly, quite literally overnight, this incessant pain showed up and won’t go away. And I don’t even have a name for it yet.

Things started to slip. I have a big cry almost every day, usually after work when the effort of keeping my spirits high for 8 hours finally drains me. I’m physically uncomfortable to the point of distraction, so my personal projects suffer. Cardio exercises seem to trigger stronger symptoms, which means my beloved elliptical hasn’t seen me in weeks. They’ve got me on a medicine that is supposed to dampen the symptoms until I see the doctors, but I’m not sure it’s working and instead I’ve found it very effective at blurring my vision and drying my mouth. Because this problem is a low-low abdomen problem, certain ‘keep the home fires burning’ activities are affected, if you catch my drift. My sleep is nightmare-ridden. I am shaky and dammit, I’ll just say it: I’m freaking scared. I don’t like not knowing what’s wrong, and more importantly, I don’t like not knowing if they can fix it.

I’ve talked a lot about turning 30, and I have tried to keep my chin up about it, but the coincidental timing of this problem (starting less than two weeks before the big birthday) has sort of added to this feeling that I’m over the hill or past my youth. Maybe that sounds dumb. 

My daily gratitudes:

My amazing bestie, MJ.
What I actually wanted to note here is that I have some major gratitudes in my life. I have the most wonderful mate in the entire world, who holds me when I cry, and talks to me non-stop when I beg for aural distraction. He’s keeping the house clean and helping with everything. He pets my belly and wraps me in his big warm arms and tries so hard to keep me safe.  

I have a best friend who is like medicine for me. She soothes me with her simple presence. She loves me and I actually believe her when she says this is going to get better. She lets me take sips from her lattes (I’m not supposed to have caffeine but we all need to be naughty). She plays Words With Friends over our Smartphones with me.

I have some really special blogger friends who probably don’t realize how much they’ve come to mean to me. They keep me thinking about the positive future, and about my ambitions to build our blog into something incredible. They invited me to help plan a conference, and this gives me so much joy—which may sound weird, but I love planning stuff. Lara and Karen, thank you for just being yourselves, and believing in me.

I have a job that is so fast-paced and insane that I hardly have time to breathe, and that’s exactly what I need right now.

I have a pharmacist who is fanatical about his job and takes phenomenal care of me. I also have a family doctor who is determined to see me better; and her receptionist has been calling specialists every day for me, for almost two months.

Mom, Dad, Brian.
I have yoga. Yoga makes this feel better. I don’t know why and I’m not questioning. I’m just glad. 

I have a blog: a kick in the pants to keep writing, always writing. Thank you, readers.

I have friends that I’m not seeing much lately because I just feel so awful. But I know they’re out there, and when I get tweets, texts, or facebook messages, I feel loved. Hell, I just like to watch ‘em post status updates full of their quirky humour and wit.

I have parents who have been available for me, everytime I momentarily regress to a scared child and need to hear that everything's going to be okay. Hugs from my mom and jokes from my dad: these two things are irreplaceable.

I usually believe that everything happens for a reason; maybe it does. I can tell you that this experience has provided me with the opportunity to be completely awestruck by my own feelings of gratitude for the people in my life. I’m actually glad to know how much these people mean to me. (But hey, God, if that’s what I was supposed to learn from this whole thing, then mission accomplished…now please fix me up?)

The good, bad, and ugly:

It took me over two months to decide if I would blog about this. Please know, I’m not looking for pity or sympathy. I just realized that my writing has become a bit…shallow…over the last couple months as I hid this issue away, trying to write without touching on the real meat of things. This blog is meant to be an exploration of the newlywed experience, and so I’ve decided to include the ‘in sickness and health’ component, after all. It’s not all craft projects and cooking catastrophes, this journey; there are, it turns out, late night sobbings, and doctor appointments, and endless repeats of Modern Family as we lay on the couch with hot water bottles. And always there, constant and unending, those big warm arms, those encouraging tweets, those Scrabble battles, and those meals with my parents. Thank god for every one of you, who adds to my day just by being a part of them.

I'm going to tweet, from time to time, my gratitudes, so the universe hears me looking to the light, not the dark.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Dad blogs for cats: the dog diary vs cat diary continued

This is a completely random ‘bonus post’ for y’all.

My dad recently fell in love with this internet meme:

In case you can't read that, here's the original source.

Before I knew it, Dad was sending me additions that he’d written himself. I’ve been getting giggly emails from him with new cat diary entries that he’s written, which is surprising and odd on its own, but factor in that he’s such a dog fanatic...well, I was really surprised. The funny thing is, his entries are just as funny as the first; apparently, this joke isn’t getting old for me (nor for him) anytime soon.

In case you need a chuckle today, here ya go: two cat diary entries by my dad Bill.

Day 997
source: DeviantArt
Last night I failed in my attempt to assassinate the male human prison guard. I had waited until they slept and made my move. Unfortunately the human noticed me “sleeping on his face”. He woke up choking on a hairball. Too bad the ball was not large enough to finish the job. The next day I was tortured for my transgression with THE RAKE OF DEATH. The rake of death scenario usually begins with their war cry. The house echoes with the maniacal words “Here, kitty kitty…” I’m off in a flash! I use the sofas and chairs as launch points, digging my claws in for traction while spitting and cursing at the vile wretches. Just when I thought I had escaped this time, I hit the kitchen floor, slid across the tiles, smashed into the gruel and water bowls. Now I am wet, sore, and covered in pellet gruel! The dog is laughing. (Note to self: kill the dog.)

However, there is a cat god. The human hit the water/gruel slurry on the fly and slid into the bird prison stand. It falls over, spreading bird litter and poop into said slurry. The human lands face first in the carnage. I smiled, but my victory was short-lived. The human had me by my foot! Now the raking began. I am wet, exhausted, and covered in gruel so I reluctantly surrendered to the brushing.  The only redeeming part of the day is the dog now must have a bath (he was rolling in the gruel). I will watch this with great pleasure, wait until the human sleeps, and attempt to finish the job. There is always hope.

Source: Flickr
Day 1007
The dog must die. Being the magnanimous creature I am, have come to accept that the dog needs to exist if for no other reason than to keep the prison guards away from me. However the dog went too far today when it ate my gruel!  I know that I have said that the desiccated pellets given to me as rations are inedible; that’s not the point, people! It is my inedible gruel! No floppy eared, bandy legged, mentally deficient meat sack is going to have anything of mine. Unless, of course, I have accidentally peed on it…then it’s all his.

Actually, the gruel debacle may not be the worst thing that happened today. This afternoon I was having one of my deep meditative phases (a ‘catnap’, they call it prosaically) and I was dreaming about being wrapped in a warm fuzzy blanket. It was like my mind had found a way to escape the gulag when suddenly the blanket began to snore. I woke up to find myself pressed up against the stupid mutt and his legs were around me!. To top it all off I think the prison guards put the photo on my facebook page. I feel so dirty.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Budget Advice Part II: the no-fail budget lesson

Welcome to Part II of the no-fail budget lesson. We recommend you start with Part I if you haven’t already read it.

Did you do your homework? Did you list out all your expenses, even your debt payments and your new ‘allowance’ amount? Good. Let’s get this ball really rolling.


Now, you’re going to put all your expenses into this chart:

If it's too small or you want a pdf, email us.

I’ve filled out a fake one here just to show you the basics:

To be clear: the top part is for monthly expenses; then the two pay periods of the month are below. I often write the week’s dates in the margin, ie “Dec 7-14”. And this may sound nuts, but I print this off the computer each month. That way it’s in my planner, and it’s way more tangible…like a contract with yourself.

The first pay period of the month is usually the one with the most expenses, but using this chart, you may be able to balance it out by moving some things around. For instance, money for toiletries could be moved to pay period 2.


So now you’ve got all these numbers in a very simple table. And if this is where your strategy ends, you will likely find yourself back here in a couple months with a big FAIL written across your spreadsheet. Why? Because money has become intangible, and that makes it easier to spend. Debit cards and credit cards feel endless. We can always squeeze five more bucks out of them. And then suddenly, we realize we’re $300 overdrawn. So what can we do?

We get envelopes.

I keep a steady flow of those slim-fitting banker’s envelopes around the house. And in my wallet, I divide out each of my cash allotments with a note at the top of the envelope. I bought a long ‘pocket book’ style wallet to hold these envelopes; if you don’t want to do that, you can admittedly leave the majority of the envelopes at home most days. And I still put my regular allowance into my cute tri-fold wallet, because that’s discretionary spending so I don’t need to keep it as ‘segregated’.

When I go to the grocery store, I pull out my grocery envelope and hand over the cash. Likewise for the pharmacy. Other ‘extra expenses’, like a haircut, have a temporary envelope…I bring that, too. Each payday, I go to the bank, take out in cash anything that isn’t sent electronically to a bill collector or landlord (etc), and make these envelopes.

You may feel silly doing this. That’s pride effing with you. You know when I feel really proud? When I follow this system and, for example, manage to amass enough cash to go on a vacation.

Because what happens with this system is that you don’t overspend; and sometimes, when you’re lucky, you underspend. What do you do with the extra cash? You can keep it for an extra-large grocery shop, or you can put it in your ‘sock money’ place (your savings, that you may or may not keep in a sock).

Note: if envelopes are just not going to work for you, try paper clips with post-it notes: fold the money in half, paper clip the bundle, and get a tiny post-it for the front where you write what that money is for. Only trouble is that you can’t paperclip coins.


I have a credit score, and primarily that’s developed through purchasing larger items. When I bought a new computer last year, I paid with my Visa, after checking my spreadsheet and seeing what money I had. Sometimes I pay for something with Visa because it’s online (ie paying for movie tickets in advance), but I have a VISA envelope in my wallet, and I diligently take my movie money out of my ‘allowance’, and move it over to that envelope. Next payday, I put all the accumulated VISA envelope money into the bank.


Brian and I have divided some expenses (ie. He pays for half the groceries); for expenses we’ve split down the middle like this, we each withdraw it from our accounts, and then put it in one shared envelope. For example, since I’m the grocery shopper usually, I keep that envelope and Brian gives me his cash to add into it.

For other expenses, we may not split equally; Brian might deal with the cable bill, while I deal with the car insurance--an e-payment. As long as you talk it out, it’ll be fine. Sometimes the reality is that one person makes less money than the other; that’s okay! Just figure out how each of you can sensibly contribute.


You may try this system and screw up along the way. Some people adopt it and find that it’s super easy to keep doing. Some of us have learned the joys of instant gratification…and it will take us longer to put away the Debit card. What do you do when you screw up? Print another sheet and start again.

Give this system a try; I dare you! Let me know if you are confused on any of it, or if you need help. And tell me how you do. I would LOVE to hear from you.



SEASONAL EXPENSES: Property tax, dental cleanings, and flu medicine are the type of unexpected expense that can screw you up. Ideally you’ll have a pool of ‘sock money’ (savings) that you can dip into if you need it. But if you don’t and you have to use your credit card, just be sure to increase your payment ‘til you get it paid back down. Of course, there’s always the good ol’ garage sale: sell some stuff, or work for a weekend. Brian often helps out with a friend’s business to get a little extra spending money.

BONUS MONEY: When you get an income tax return or birthday money, think before you spend. This money should ideally never be worked into your budget, so it can remain fun and carefree, but I still keep a wishlist of purchases in my planner so that, when the birthday money shows up, I know exactly where I want to spend it. This self control has helped me to have some pretty great luxuries. (PS.: if your electrical bill is overdue, you may have to bite the bullet and give this bonus money over to the electrical company. Sorry.)

BONUS TIP FOR MONEY DUMMIES: I’m a money dummy. I need to see money in front of me to understand what I’m doing. So consequently, I have a stack of Monopoly money that I bought just for this reason. If I have a large bundle of expenses coming up, I pull out the monopoly money to figure it out. For instance, back in college I managed (with this system) to save up enough money for a cruise. I knew I had to pay x-amount to my Visa for the booking, x-amount to Mom for the flight booking, and x-amount for on-ship expenses. Soon I realized there were tons of different pockets of money I needed to be sure to pay. I counted out exactly how much (Monopoly) money I had for this trip, then laid out post-its with the titles (ie. VISA, FLIGHT, EXCURSION FEE) and put my Monopoly money in front of each one. This allowed me to realize that after all the travel expenses were paid off, I still had $300 for shopping. Woo hoo!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Budgeting advice: Jordan's recipe for financial success

Stats say that the majority of married couples (especially newlyweds) have a lot of fights about money. In fact, I’ve heard that money and moving are the two biggest hot topics in a relationship. Brian and I don’t fight much about money, and I’ll take credit for that; yep, unabashedly, I claim the gold star on this one.

Growing up, my family wasn’t rich. In fact, my parents have lived a very exciting, adventurous life, and some of their gambles lead them into some penny-pinching times (but of course, provided them with some great stories). So from an early age, they impressed upon me the importance of budgeting. I ended up hashing out a system that works for me, and I’m going to share it with you here.

I warn you now, it may seem a bit silly, but it works. I haven’t put a person on this system yet who didn’t see an immediate difference. So I invite you to try this out, and see where it takes you. 

Even if you feel like you've got your budget under control, I invite you to give this a try; just for fun, you can see if there's any sort of difference. (I wager there will be!)                                       


LIST YOUR EXPENSES: List them all, with the date they come out. Some expenses are once a month, and some are bi-weekly; make sure you list them all. Add them up, then compare them to your take-home paycheque. Ideally, you will not only have enough to cover your expenses, but you will have a little extra. This little extra will be your ‘sock money’; more on this soon.

Be realistic about your expenses. If you know you need 80.00 for gas each pay, but you’re only budgeting 60.00, you’re going to regret it later.

WHAT IF YOUR EXPENSES OUTWEIGH YOUR INCOME? This is usually where people struggle. I find that for many people, it’s the cost of housing that puts them over the edge. This is the time to make hard decisions; you may have to consider moving to a less expensive home, or you will need to skimp in other areas to make up the difference. Perhaps you’ll need to drop that gym membership for a while, or hold off on that art class. Hey, you can still use yoga podcasts, and do some oil painting on your own!


Allowance: Include an allowance for yourself. It’s not indulgent, it’s realistic. I recommend you budget $10 per day as your allowance. This is what I use for my latte, my impulse earring purchases, and my rock climbing fees. If you spend $20 on Monday, you’ll need to go spending-free on Tuesday or a different day that week. You may currently not allow yourself any allowance, but I urge you to give it a try. The trick to allowance is adhering to it: don’t just give yourself an extra 20 bucks if you overspend!

Debts: Debts need to be paid. I always try to pay more than the minimum, otherwise the interest rates will slowly kill you. Try to put even an extra $20 onto your minimum payment. Include all your debts, even the family ones.

Utilities: Sometimes people forget to budget for utilities; same goes for cable/internet.

Sock money: After you’ve paid all your expenses, this is the money that you take out of the bank and put in a sock for safekeeping…or that you store in a separate bank account. I have a savings account now, but for years I used a sock, so the name has stuck.

Birthdays and holidays: These are one-time expenses each year, but don’t forget to budget for them. Write all the gift-giving holidays and birthdays in your calendar, with a reminder at least 2 weeks before. This way you can budget well in advance.

AUSTERITY MEASURES DON’T HAVE TO SUCK. Remember, if you’re figuring out your numbers based on my system here, you’re going to have $300 of allowance each month to enjoy, guilt-free. People often think that budgets are horrible, skimpy things that don’t allow for any joys in life; those types of budgets are very hard to stick to.

-Write out all the numbers mentioned above.
-Go get a stack of banker’s envelopes…you know, those tiny ones that fit snugly ‘round your bills. If you can’t get a dozen from your bank, go buy some at Staples.

Tomorrow, we’ll tackle Part II: putting the budget in motion.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Friday's with Bri: mini post - guitar lessons

My First Guitar
I received my first guitar a long time ago. It is a Yamaha acoustic; it sounds like...a guitar, plays like...a guitar (in the right person's hands) and I have no idea how to play it. I have taken piano lessons and learned to play the trumpet in my youth, so when I got the guitar I also bought a book called The Idiot's Guide to Guitar. I always dreamed of learning to play the guitar, being that cool guy by the campfire singing and playing. And now I finally had the guitar.

Turns out, that is a lot of pressure to put on yourself and all I could do is play the open strings… do do do do do do do do. It was sad. Every couple of days I would pick it up and play do do do do do do. It then turned to every couple of weeks between tries, then months, and finally years. I was nowhere near being that guy by the fire...

My birthday guitar
Meeting Jordan’s dad with his passion for music and playing instruments has been inspiring. Bill is an incredible guitarist and I hear about the lessons he is taking with Canadian blues great J.W. Jones, and how he is actually teaching the teacher some tricks! He has an amazing collection of Vantage guitars.

Jordan and her parents got me a guitar for my birthday last year, and it is beautiful. It is the guitar I always wanted, a sunburst orange electric, and every time I play Guitar Hero I make my virtual guitar look like this one. My one fear is that the dreaded monthly session of do do do do do do do do do do will occur if I don't get some lessons. So what better idea than to finally get some lessons from my new family’s great guitar players: Jordan and Bill. Finally, after years of my first guitar collecting dust, and the new one being licked more than played, I am finally learning how to play it. 

So far I have been taking lessons for a month now and its progressing well. I am learning to play House of the rising sun, Blackbird and The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. It is a fantastic thing that Jordan and I are doing together and it gives us a fun activity to do with Bill. 

And hey, I can finally feel good about going into a music store, picking up a guitar, and playing with it.

Keep checking back in and I may even post a video soon, of us playing!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

DIY: appliqued duvet cover, forest friends theme!

This past long weekend, Brian and I took on a giant project. I don’t think we realized quite how large of a DIY adventure it would be until we started working on it, but by then it was too late to turn back. Don’t get me wrong: the end result was worth it; but with a lot of repetitive activity and tedious motions, this is the kind of project I usually avoid like the plague. Enough whining, though: look at our gorgeous appliqued duvet cover!

Here’s how you can do this for yourself:

-a duvet cover. We got ours for $14.00 with pillowcases, at IKEA. Cotton is probably best.
-scraps of fabric: felt, cottons, flannel
-buttons as accents
-Fabric glue: I love Aleene’s
-iron-on adhesive interfacing
-scissors and sewing basics
-parchment paper or cardstock
-large surface to work on
-a co-pilot. This is a two-person job.

1. Prep your duvet cover by washing and drying it. Don’t use any fabric softener: it will interfere with your adhesives.
2. Choose a design (we got some ideas off the internet), and choose your fabric accordingly.
3. Start drawing out your designs onto the fabric and cutting. Practice placing the pieces out.

Inspiration online.

Keep cutting.

And cutting.

And placing.

We lay everything out on a spare yellow sheet while the duvet cover was in the laundry.

4. Iron all your pieces perfectly. I recommend throwing on a TV show.

5. Lay out your big sheet of interfacing. We got a bulk roll at Fabricland for 16.00. Place your pieces on it. We were careful to squish everything close together, yet we still ran out of interfacing. (This is when the fabric glue steps in.)

6. Iron the interfacing onto the fabric. We couldn’t flip the sheets over without screwing up our placement of the fabric pieces, so we lay file folders (ie cardstock) over the top of everything and just ironed a little longer than directed. Worked great.

7. Cut out all those fabric shapes again. Yyyyyyyep, it’s as much fun as it sounds.

8. Lay out all your pieces on your duvet cover, likely on the floor unless you have the biggest table ever. Follow the directions for ironing your pieces down. Because we had extra leaves, and the branches of the tree didn’t fit onto the interfacing sheets, we used fabric glue for some pieces. In retrospect, I might have used it on everything if I could have guaranteed that I wouldn’t get any ‘wet’ looking spots. The interfacing is stiff and has a ‘crinkly’ quality that is unfortunate, but I think it’ll soften over time.

9. Finishing touches: Brian sewed the owl’s button eyes into place. We’ll have to re-iron a few spots on the tree trunk where the interfacing didn’t quite meld with the duvet cover. But other than that, it’s pretty freakin’ spectacular!

This project took at least 8 hours spread out over 3 days. There were points where we were snapping at each other, where we fought over who lost the scissors, and where my hands were literally coated in fabric glue. We also went over our intended budget: I thought I’d have enough fabric at home to make all the leaves, but it turns out I didn’t have things on theme. Between the plain duvet cover set ($14), the fabric ($40 with lots left over) and the interfacing ($16), we spent $70 on this project. While I recognize that’s not much for a duvet cover, it’s a lot for a craft project that had a high chance of failing.

But, hurray, it didn’t fail. And now we have a personalized, on-theme bedding set that we absolutely adore. And now we just need to go buy the summer-weight duvet to go in it. Yep, we apparently gave away our old one. Sigh. Nothing quite as frustrating as finishing a project and then not being able to use it. ONE SMALL UPDATE: The applique iron-on material turned out to be permanently crinkly, and not the best at adhering. In retrospect, we would have just used the Alene's fabric glue for the whole thing. But if you're doing small pieces instead of, say, a giant tree trunk, the iron-on material may be just fine.

Fair thee warned: sometimes you pay for your project, not with money, but with sweat, tears, and iron burns.