Thursday, October 29, 2009

Guess what I'm going to be?

You know I'm pretty trixie, but I'll give you a hint about my Halloween costume:

...Still stuck? Alright, more hint!

Basically this will be me for the two hours leading up to the Halloween party I'm attending:

Have yourselves a scary, scary Halloween...

"I peer outside, there’s something there
That makes me shiver, spikes my hair.
It must be Halloween."

-Eve Bunting

Happy weekend!

Vintage Halloween Postcards...Love!

I am certain most people would agree with me when I say that the days of the handwritten note, and "sail mail" for that matter, are pretty much dead. The once time-honoured tradition of sending friends and family handwritten greetings are relegated to post-wedding thank-you cards, and the odd holiday greeting card. No doubt the new trend of mass-emailing is better for the environment, but it is certainly not "better" for forging deep personal connections. In this era of Facebook et al I find it amazing that I know "so much" about people (like, for example, when they just got out of the shower, or got home from the gym), that I know so little about...

In honour of Halloween's impending arrival, and in a last-ditch effort to inspire people to put pen to paper (don't worry, I see the irony of me writing this online) I have collected an ADORABLE assortment of vintage halloween postcards. In the late 1800's and the early 1900's, people regularly sent these greetings to one another...I just think some of them are so striking and eerie, that I had to share them with you.

Aren't they just gorgeous? I have heard collectors will pay a pretty penny for these little babies too...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wedding Wednesday...and 10 Conversations

I have decided to relegate wedding talk to one day a week on my blog. This decision stems from a comment made by my future mother-in-law, who, upon reading my blog for the first time, asked me what I was going to think about after my wedding was over. I know that she's right. I have been putting the amorphous "wedding" before, well...everything else these days. I already have girlfriends warning me that I am setting myself up for the "post-wedding blues," which tends to crop up when brides have unrealistic expectations for their "big day."

The other trap I want to avoid is best illustrated by a Carrie Bradshaw quote...I realize I risk losing credibility here...but I really have to be sure I don't "let the wedding get bigger than Big." Essentially, and I think a lot of girls fall into this, I have to remember that the wedding is a means to a MUCH bigger lifelong marriage to Stephen. I truly think that couples would be better served spending the months leading up to their nuptials doing courses on communication, and really focusing on the "after the wedding" preparations...although admittedly, it's not NEARLY as fun.

To honour this newfound "wisdom," I have decided to do two things: the aforementioned ONCE weekly wedding post...although as it gets closer to the wedding I may HAVE to break this to keep myself from exploding with excitement.

I have also purchased this book:

which seeks to educate couples (young and old) how to effectively communicate, and avoid common pitfalls associated with communication. Steve and I have been making a genuine effort to follow all of the "ground rules" outlined in this book. We have already instituted a daily "Wine Time," and are seriously trying to eliminate "you language," as well as "absolutes" from our arguments. It has certainly changed the way we disagree, and I highly recommend this book for any couple, but especially for those who will be getting married soon.

Now, enough serious stuff! Next week I promise to post a more lighthearted post of beautiful wedding inspiration!

As an aside, I know I am kind of all over the map with this blog right now. As I continue building the content here, my goal is to create an inspirational lifestyle blueprint of sorts. I feel limited right now with my work schedule (I literally work 12 hours some days) so I will be living vicariously through the inspiration I find around me until my schedule slows down in June...At that point, I plan to actually start LIVING inspiringly, as opposed to just reporting how others do...until then, bear with me!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Regretsy: I've Been Laughing All Week...

Sorry I am posting so late...I am just coming out of a heart-attack induced coma brought on by a highly unexpected Maple Leaf's victory last night...

As many of you know, I am shamelessly in love with Etsy, the site for all things handmade. I, personally, have yet to find anything on Etsy that is not utterly gorgeous...however that doesn't mean ridiculous items don't exist. I recently found Regretsy...this site is dedicated to seeking out and mocking the worst of the worst Etsy finds. The writing on this site is what makes it truly hilarious. "Helen," the site's curator, describes each find with a caustic commentary. Basically, I've been laughing all week...but I don't feel good about's like laughing at a person who just fell know they may be hurt, but sometimes you just can't help yourself.

I highly recommend this site if you also enjoy F My Life or Awkward Family Photos.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Dinners for the Week of October 26...

This week, once again, the theme is quick, easy crock-pot recipes...What DID they do before the advent of these babies? The flavours here are a little more eclectic, but all of the recipes are definitely delish...the pizza is definitely a twist on tradition...don't feel confined to the veggies they recommend. Roast whatever you like. The pizza is sweet and mellow... definitely an epicurean adventure.

Monday: Spiced Braised Beef

Turkey Chili

Wednesday: Apple-Bacon Pork Chops

Thursday: Chicken in Wine Sauce

Friday: Roasted Fall Vegetable and Ricotta Pizza

As an aside, check out my engagement photo collage on the bottom left-hand corner of this page. The pictures are just as stunning as I anticipated, and Scott captured our essence perfectly. I am so thrilled!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Shop Spotlight: Pistachio

I would like to introduce to you my absolute favourite shop in the universe: Pistachio. This eco-conscious apothecary cum gift shop has such an amazing selection of, well...everything! It's all ecologically friendly (a bonus), and it's all totally beautiful (double-bonus!)

It is the ultimate one-stop shopping experience for the environmentally-minded Torontonian...Need a gift for your girl friend's new baby? Done! Need a card to go along with it? Done! Ran out of face wash last night? Restock! Thirsty for some organic, unsweetened iced tea? Pick up a tin!

Steve and I always get mad props (yeah, I said it) from our friends for picking out the cutest of our friends even framed the card we gave her for her baby shower as a piece of art for her nursery. Pistachio is my not-so-secret source for the most beautiful paper products next to Paper Source in Chi-Town...but I'm mildly obsessed with paper, so you can't expect me to have only one source!

Here's a sample of just one of the many lines of stationery they carry. Monograms, <3!

We picked up this organic cotton bath hoodie and a pair of organic soy socks for a friend's new little bairn.

The bath and body products are all natural, organic, and are the household cleaning products.

You can also indulge the furbaby in your life at Pistachio, with organic dog treats, toys, accessories and beds...oh, and the shop is totally dog-friendly...Loki gets the red-carpet treatment whenever we go in there to restock his biodegradable poop-bags.

The best part of all of this (and the inspiration for writing this blog posting, in fact) is that all Chapters/Indigo irewards members now receive 15% off all purchases (except custom stationery and cards) at Pistachio! If you have yet to step foot in a Pistachio store near you, run, don't walk! But if you're not near a branch, Chapters/Indigo stores will be stocking select items from the shop in their monolithic book warehouses...The shopping experience will not be the same, (and ambiance is a big portion of Pistachio's appeal) but at least you can get a sense of what they have to offer. You can also have a boo at the Pistachio website, although it's not an online shop.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Pumpkin Carving Inspiration

Soooo, as we are all well aware, Halloween is JUST around the corner. I absolutely love Halloween, and everything that's associated with it...but especially pumpkin carving.

I am going to be at home in Niagara this Halloween, and I can't wait to take an afternoon walk in the vineyards with my man, then carve up some pumpkins and roast the seeds. As I am wont to do, I took the liberty of researching some pumpkin carving designs, and I came upon some pretty impressive stuff. The Chicago Tribune culled together a pretty impressive gallery, which you should definitely check out here for unbelievable pumpkins like this elephant:

or this Gollum pumpkin:

or perhaps you prefer John himself:

Of course, I also checked out Her Majesty Martha Stewart's site, where I often find my best inspiration. I have used this Haunted Pumpkin Village before, and I may use it again, because it's pretty fun to do.

I also did these Owl Pumpkins using gourds.

They were nice because I didn't actually have to carve the pumpkin and make a huge mess, but they didn't light up...also I don't know if you've ever tried to cut one of those little decorative gourds before, but they're like cinder blocks.

A few years back I was wild for these white pumpkins, but I couldn't find them anywhere, so you can only imagine my elation when I found some at the little fruit and vegetable vendor by my house last week.

I may have to pick up a few just because they're so ethereal and creepy looking, and they make stunning luminaries...Now all I have to do is convince my dad to let me use his power drill...

OOOOH! As well! S and I had our engagement pictures this past Sunday, so hopefully I will have a few to post up here tomorrow! I can't wait to see them, and share them with you!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Crafty Aspirations

If you spend any time at all searching through the back of your closet, you will certainly find at least one ancient wool sweater that you NEVER plan on wearing again. If you're like me, it's because you shrank the daylights out of it in your haste get your laundry done one day...five years ago. The good news is, that shrunken sweater may actually prove quite useful. The "art" of shrinking your sweater in the laundry machine is also called "felting." It's the process by which "wool" becomes "felt." Wool felt is exceptionally warm, it doesn't fray, and it's super easy to work with.

Personally, I am planning on felting three sweaters this weekend...Yes on purpose. How am I going to do it? Follow along with my oh-so-scientific experiment.

Felting a Wool Sweater: A Highly Scientific Experiment

Question: What will happen to a wool sweater if placed in the washing machine on a VERY hot cycle, then dried in the dryer on high-heat?
Hypothesis: I hypothesize that the fibres of said sweater will mat together, and the sweater will become felt.
-Place sweater in washing machine
-Turn machine onto HOT cycle
-Run sweater through washer
-Place sweater in dryer
-Turn dryer on HOT
-Leave it for 60 minutes
-Remove sweater from dryer
-Admire newly felted sweater
-If not felted to satisfaction, repeat once or twice.

THAT, my friends, is how easy it really is to felt a sweater.
Now that you've successfully felted your sweater, what the devil are you going to do with it? This is the fun part.

Felted Mittens at Martha Stewart

Cashmere Hot Water Bottle Cover using this concept as a guideline.

Finally, since our Furbaby is growing like a weed, I am going to make him a felted sweater à la, this one from Craft Stylish:

I can't wait to get started...come on, weekend!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Handwriting Fonts for Peas...

Let's face it, most fonts are pretty boring. They just can't showcase your personality the way your handwriting can. When it comes to convenience and speed, typing certainly wins out, but it simply doesn't leave much room for creativity. Wouldn't it be nice if you could create a font using your OWN handwriting? I know, right? Crazy talk...Or is it? In my search for jazzy fonts to juice up my wedding stationery and my pretty little blog, I googled "handwriting fonts" and stumbled over Fonts for Peas. This delicious website takes YOUR own, special brand of handwriting and turns it into a font for all to download. But that's not the best part...the BEST part is, that if you have hideous chicken scratch writing, you are now officially saved! This website allows you to download some of the prettiest fonts I have yet to find!

Exhibit A: Pea Beverly

Exhibit B: Pea Lauren France

Exhibit C: Pea Devon

Not only can you find adorable fonts, you can also find an assortment of cute-as-pie doodles to adorn your "handwritten" masterpiece.

Exhibit D: Pea Delilah's Doodles

If you're so inclined, follow the instructions on their homepage to send in your handwriting to be turned into a font. If you're like me, just download all of the beautiful fonts you want with abandon, and use them to fuel your creative fire. Enjoy!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Dinner for the Week

As promised, here are my dinner plans for this week, along with links to the recipes mentioned. This week I focused on using my slow cooker as much as possible, as I love to do during the chilly fall/winter months. I have been craving classic French and Italian comfort foods with a healthy twist, so if you have too, feel free to whip up one- or all- of these delicious recipes. Oh, and don't forget to make enough for leftovers, because most of these meals are even more delicious the next day for lunch, just serve them over brown rice, whole wheat pasta, or wrap them in an Ezekiel sprouted grain wrap for a delish and healthy meal.

Monday: Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore
Tuesday: Turkey Meatloaf: Make them in muffin containers for instant portion control, and freeze them in a ziploc for dinner in a pinch. Serve with: Steamed Broccoli.
Wednesday: Slow Cooker Lasagna: For this recipe I like to use the whole wheat pasta noodles by PC Blue Menu. I also use Nordica 1% cottage cheese instead of the ricotta, and part skim mozzarella.
Thursday: Slow Cooker Cassoulet
Friday: Brined Roast Chicken with Carrots and Potatoes

I tend to avoid over-planning (ie weekend planning) as it tends to be a waste of time due to plans changing and the like, and we always have leftovers from the week that we can reheat for weekend lunches and easy dinners...who wants to spend all weekend cooking? Certainly not moi!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Vintage Tea Cups

I am certainly not much of a collector, as it calls to my mind horrific images of hoarding and general clutter (watch A&E's show Hoarders and you'll see what I mean)...however for vintage tea cups, I think I could make an exception. Not for my pied a terre, of course, but for my future summer house by the ocean.

I love to search these little babies on the internet and see what interesting and beautiful uses people have come up with. I have compiled a short list of my favourites.

I thought this was a particularly delish collection of teacups...

How about that? Bracelets made of recycled tea cups! <3

Of course the every popular teacup those ranunculus blossoms!

Some like to turn their teacups into lighting fixtures...

How perfect would this be in a shabby-chic dining room!?

They look so beautiful corralling jewelry and other notions.

Finally, of course...the mother of all uses for the vintage tea cup: The Vintage Tea Party!

These little gems can be purchased for a song on Ebay, or on Etsy...but I know the stock is full at almost every antique shop in supporting local vendors is probably a good idea.

Barring those option, I know Liv By Au Lit stocks these little pretties for just $8.00!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Great Save-the-Date Debate...Solved!

After wrestling with the idea for some time, I have decided that "Save the Dates" are well worth the expense and effort involved. My mom is rather opposed to the idea, but I think it's just because it's generally not done in our Italian tradition. So many of our friends and family are coming from away, and this weekend I heard so many "When is your wedding again?"'s that I think it's far better to err on the side of caution...not to mention the fact that they are so darn cute, and will be totally fun to make! I think it's a great way to make use of one of the pictures from our engagement photo shoot this weekend, and it will be one of the first ways we can direct people to the new website that Kevin is working so hard to build.

I think this is the one we will most likely emulate in black and white...

I love the idea of the calendar on this one, but it seems like it might be a pain in the butt to create...

I can't lie, I picked this one because the couple was so CUTE and the "man" reminds me of my baby brother...The calendar would totally confuse my non-English speaking relatives I think...

This is my FAVOURITE one, done by my one of my favourite blogger inspirations Amber in Norfolk...if Steve can photoshop these up for me, I'd LOVE to use them...

The bottom line is, my mind is made up, we will be having Save-the-Dates, they are just too cute and too much fun not, I already bought the photo magnet paper!

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Pathway to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions...

I often liken myself to Alice in Wonderland, in that "I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it." Anyone who knows me knows that organizational skills have never been my forte, but not for lack of trying. I consistently design new tools and devise new plans in the hopes of becoming a veritable Helen Buttigieg.

I have decided that, in an effort to become more consistent with my meal planning (a huuuuge budget helper) I will be posting my dinner menus for the week here along with links to the recipes. If you like them, feel free to use them...I'll do the legwork for you...and since I'm also insane about calorie consumption these days, you can rest assured they'll be clean and healthy. To further assist you, I have included a downloadable grocery list of my own creation. I have see many online (some completely unusable) but none as simple and straightforward as mine. I sometimes think I should try to make it more attractive one of these days, but why waste coloured ink on something you normally scribble down on the back of a used envelope, right?

Grocery List

Engagement Photos Soon to Come!

SB and I are currently counting down the days until our engagement pictures next Sunday, and in true "Alanna" form I have been researching like a madwoman. We all know that engagement photos are meant to capture the spirit of the couple in a casual, fun, and often times unique fashion, but our photographer also pointed out to us that they are important for a couple and their photographer to get to know one another. Although I am nervous, I am definitely glad that, come my wedding day, I will have already done the whole "professional photo shoot" thing, and will have significantly fewer jitters...There are just waaaay to many other things to think about.

I had so many questions about the engagement pictures:

- Should we dress so that we match?
- Should the venue be somewhere that is significant to our relationship?
- What time of day should the pictures be taken?
- Will we need any props?

Basically what I have learned is this: Do whatever feels natural to you and S and everything else will work itself out in the end...

I have culled several examples of the engagement photo eye-candy I've been scouring for the past few days...enjoy!

All photos courtesy of The Knot