Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Goodies From Winnipeg, Sooke, & Vancouver - Part One

I was lucky enough to see my friend and fellow artist, Serena, not once, but twice, on her recent road trip from Winnipeg to Vancouver. Both visits were super short but also super sweet, since Quin could not keep her hands off of Jason and Serena's little boy, Sebastian. Serena and I have traded our art work in the past. You can see the lovely original works I own from her, both above and below. She has a shop called Heaven's Earth on Etsy. In fact we met via Etsy.

This time we traded prints of our work. Here are the ones Serena gave me. I love them both and can't wait to mat and frame them.

Two Teal Flowers By Serena Wilson Stubson

Blast Off by Serena Wilson Stubson

We were also given some edible goodies, yum! I had read on Serena's blog about pickles she made and she brought me some! I LOVE pickles but homemade ones are THE BEST. I have to admit I have not opened them yet, as I am a bit weird... when I get something new, I tend to savor it in that form for awhile before opening, using, etc. You should see when I get packages in the mail, sometimes I won't even open them for days, to increase the level of anticipation. Yeah, strange, but I know I am not the only one. Anyway, I like opening the cupboard and seeing the beautiful pickles, all lined up and cozy in their jar...

I love green salsa, a little fact Serena was not even aware of when she handed me this lovely little jar. As soon as the jar of Mrs. Renfro's in gone, I am cracking this puppy open. I has got to be good, one of the ingredients is LOVE ♥ ! Thanks my friend... stay tuned for part two of the goodies...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Japanese Lucky Cat for My Friend, Serena

Lucky Cat - Taste of Calgary - By Tiffany Teske

I made this for my friend, Serena, who is also an artist. We love trade art and since she and her lovely family made a road trip from Winnepeg to Vancouver, they swung in to see us, TWICE, and brought some lovely art. Serena loves Japanese Lucky Cats and Polaroid transfers, so I made this for her. I have to admit I am a fan of these cutey cats, too.

I will post on the lovely "goodies" Serena brought for us in my next post...

Friday, September 25, 2009

Vegetable Dumplings with My Little Helper

These dumplings are easy and delicious. Why would anyone eat the frozen ones? They didn't have baby bok choy at our store last week so I didn't line my steamer with it. I just wiped it with oil so the dumplings would not stick. You can also line it with parchment paper. For tips on breaking in a bamboo steamer click here. I have a large one and a small one. I got them at the thrift store for about $1 each, barely used.

Vegetable Dumplings and Broccoli over Baby Bok Choy

Recipe by Vegetarian Times

Serves 4

* 1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
* 1 clove garlic, peeled
* 1/4 lb. asparagus, chopped
* 1/2 cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed
* 1 8-oz. can sliced water chestnuts, drained
* 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. low-sodium soy sauce, divided
* 4 tsp. toasted sesame oil, divided
* 28 prepared won ton wrappers
* 4 bunches baby bok choy, pulled apart into leaves
* 1 1/2 lb. broccoli, cut into florets
* 2 Tbs. rice vinegar
* 1/4 tsp. chile-garlic paste, such as Huy Fong
* 4 green onions, thinly sliced (1/4 cup)
* 1 tsp. sesame seeds


1. Pulse ginger and garlic in food processor until finely chopped. Transfer half of mixture to bowl. Add asparagus, edamame, water chestnuts, 1 1/2 tsp. soy sauce, and 2 tsp. sesame oil to food processor; pulse until coarsely chopped.

2. Brush edge of each won ton wrapper with water. Place 2 tsp. asparagus mixture in center of wrapper, then fold over filling to make a triangle-shaped dumpling. Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling.

3. Line 10-inch steamer basket with bok choy leaves. Place dumplings over bok choy, and cover. Set basket over large skillet filled with 2 inches boiling water, and steam 8 to 10 minutes, or until dumplings are translucent. Transfer dumplings and bok choy to serving plate, and keep warm. Repeat with remaining bok choy leaves and dumplings. For final round of dumplings, place broccoli florets in second steamer basket, and set over boiling water. Place dumpling basket on top, and steam 8 to 10 minutes. Remove dumpling basket, cover broccoli, and steam 2 to 4 minutes more.

4. Meanwhile, whisk together 1/4 cup soy sauce, rice vinegar, chile-garlic paste, and 2 Tbs. water.

5. Use skillet to heat remaining 2 tsp. sesame oil over low heat. Add green onions and remaining ginger-garlic mixture, and sauté 1 minute. Stir in broccoli, and cook 1 minute more. Remove from heat, and stir in sesame seeds, remaining 1 1/2 Tbs. soy sauce, and 2 tsp. water. Serve dumplings with broccoli and sauce.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Embroidering with Children... Or Tick "Start Embroidering Again" Off the List...

"Again"... hahaha. The last time I embroidered was in Montessori School. So, "start embroidering again" may as well be "learn to embroider". My Montessori teacher, Mrs. Tampoe, was an amazing Sri Lankan woman who was able to work nothing short of complete MAGIC with three, four, and five year olds. She would take the whole crew of us, I would say 25 kids, and with the help of one assistant, Mrs. Gilbert, they would stage full scale productions of plays like Fiddler on the Roof. At 4 years old, I could read thanks to phonics. Everyday I read a page of a book out loud before I could eat my lunch. At five I was doing my multiplication tables, people! I knew all the flag of all of the countries in the world. I could CUT salad, with an actual sharp knife, and sift flour. The list goes on and on. And now while I patiently try to teach my own child simple skills, I marvel at the patience she had to do teach difficult skills to a whole class! She was in charge, strict, without being disrespectful or overbearing. She kept us in line while showing and telling us we could achieve anything. Like say creating a piece of embroidery that my mother actually framed, hung on the wall for years, and then saved for me. And my mother is neither sentimental nor would she hang anything in her house that I made just to make me feel good. She is very specific about appearances and not really a needlework fan. But, my beloved teacher, Nancy Tampoe, taught me to create something that so beautiful when I was that young that an adult wanted to showcase it. I wish I knew where it was now... time to hunt for it. And I would hunt for a montessori school to put my daughter into but I know they don't have one in Banff...

Anyway, my friend and I both have babes right now and we both want to embroider. Kim wants to embellish clothes for her daughter, and to make gifts. I want to use it in my mixed media pieces. Kim has been practicing. I finally made a stitch. I knew I picked a flimsy material to practice on but the color is oh-so-pretty, which inspires me and I was never very good with rules...

In order to get started and to make my older daughter feel included, I devised a way for her to both work with us, and to work with recycled materials for next to nothing. I found a plastic embroidery hoop at the thrift store for 50 cents. I found tons of pretty yarn there, too, for about the same price. And I used a plastic mesh fruit bag I had kicking around, cut a bit larger than the size of the hoop, as "fabric". I put a bit of masking tape on one end of the yarn, to make it like the end of a shoelace, and I tied the other end with a knot around the edge of the hoop. This "needle" is easy for her to push and pull through the large holes in her "fabric". She loves it. And now I am able to do a bit of handiwork while teaching her the value and fun of handmade.

Mrs. Tampoe let me use real thread and fabric at a tender age, but I think she would still be proud of my ingenuity and for the fact that I am willing to teach my daughter at an age other people might not even think to include a child. The last time I saw Mrs. Tampoe, she was in her nineties, still living on her own at an apartment across from the Montessori School she taught for more years than I even know. She dressed me up in one of her saris, complete with elaborate jewelry, and made me feel just as special as she has when I was small. I am lucky to have had her influence on me. I will never forget her. And I think that is one of the nicest things you can say about a person. Because if people forget you once you are gone, what did you even live for?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Mention in the UK's Daily Telegraph

I was pleasantly surprised to have my photography mentioned in this article by Melissa Whitworth, one of the UK's Daily Telegraph's New York feature writers. She was featuring Matt Schwartz a talented Polaroid photographer whom I mentioned in this post on my Polaroid blog. I will back with some new projects and recipes soon, I have been having server issues...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Etsy Blog Storque Feature

Nancy, of Futurowoman, wrote a great article about Polaroid photography for the Etsy blog, This Handmade Life. She featured my Super Fries Polaroid transfer, thanks, Nancy!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Revamped Purple Cow

One of my favorite places to find preloved childrens books is at our local library. They have two books shelves, a magazine stand, and a free box, as you come in the door. All of the books are the same price and the proceeded go to the library: Hardcover $2, Paperback $1, Kids Books .50, yes fifty cents! They sometimes have DVDs, CDs, and VHS Tapes which I think are between $1.00 - 2.00. Magazines are .25 and the free book is well, free. I love the free box because very old, obscure items in rough shape end up there. Usually perfect candidates for being cut up and used in collages. My most recent free box find is the Canadian Scout Handbook. It doesn't have a copyright date and is from the early seventies as far as I can tell. One of the previous owners has his name scrawled inside the front cover. The book has delightful black and white images of Scouts having fun learning about such things as conservation, water activities, home and community, and leadership. The illustrations are retro fun for all as they instruct on such useful things as self rescue should you fall through the ice or how best to stay physically fit...

As usual, I just went off on a tangent that has little to do with my original post. Anyway, I should scan some images and write a post on that manual later. For now I will tell you about my latest children's book find from our local library sale shelf. We love the library because we spend a lot of time reading each day. We also love to cook and bake. So, we were excited to find a vintage 1975 Young Children's Mix and Fix Cookbook. It was put out by Parent's Magazine, a pretty mainstream publication so I am convinced that I owned this same book when I was little. My three year old looked at it on the way home and we proceeded to "read" it over the coming days and talk about which recipes to make.

The thing that kills me about retro cookbooks is what we thought passed for good food back in the day. Many of these recipes call for processed and packaged foods, lots of white bread and canned fruit. I suppose that is what was available. I would not allow Quin to make half of these recipes as is but the fun is in updating them to use fresh foods that are healthy. Even in the case of the desserts. I remember loving Purple Cows when I was a kid, or any ice cream soda for that matter. I would not let a three year old drink any kind of soda, especially purple or red or any other kind with artificial coloring. My daughter seems to be quite sensitive to colorings, and I remember my little brother was allergic to red dyes when we were young. I knew she would like an ice cream "soda" so I decided to modify the Purple Cow recipe. R. W. Knudsen makes spritzers that are actually 100% juice with carbonation. We decided to use their grape spritzer with natural vanilla ice cream and voila, we had a much healthier little float. Guess it is time to invest in some reusable curly straws, I see a lot of floats in our future. R. W. Knudsen also makes black cherry, raspberry, orange passion fruit, and tangerine spritzers, to name a few. We may also try grape juice and Perrier (yes, my kid loves Perrier, makes it interesting when we go to someone's house and they ask her what she wants to drink...).

Have you updated an old recipe to make it healthier? I am all ears, or eyes... just leave me a comment. Merci!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

BOLD (Birth on Labor Day) Event in Atlanta

I was approached by Anna Laura of the Etsy shop Liberation, about submitting the above Polaroid transfer to an art event in Atlanta. When I found out it was a BOLD (Birth on Labor Day) event, I said yes right away. BOLD is an organization that was founded by Karen Brody, a playwright, who allowed her critically acclaimed play, BIRTH, to be performed for four days over American Labor Day across the world for free. She did this because she wanted to raise awareness about maternity care and to allow organizations that wanted to make maternity care more mother-friendly to raise money. In the end, $10,000 was raised at over 40 performances. This caused Brody to create BOLD so that there could be more events where women could talk about the kinds of births that wanted or have had and to raise even more awareness.

BOLD events happen in one of two ways. There are performances of the play Birth, which can be anything from a full on play to a simple reading where the actors are sitting at a table reading directly from a script (in this case they are often not professional actors). I love the idea of the latter, and know exactly whom I would ask to read should I ever have the time and energy to stage a reading. Birth was written by Brody after she interviewed over one hundred women in America who gave birth between 2000 and 2004. The play tells the true stories of how eight educated, low risk women gave birth.

The other way to raise money and awareness through a Bold event is called a Red Tent Event. This brings women in a community together in a red tent to tell their birth stories. These stories are recorded via film, the written word, or visually. The stories go into the BOLD Library of Birth Truths.

I sent ten of my Polaroid transfers to Anna Laura, to be showcased at the BOLD Atlanta event. I also donated a piece to the silent auction. I was pleased to see about 25 artists are taking part in this event. For more info on the art show you can click here. All proceeds of the silent auction go to benefit Georgia Friends of Midwives.

I have not seen or read Birth but I plan to. I have a passion for birth related topics, especially those that explore the options available and educate low risk women about alternatives to a medicalized birth. I had my first child under the care of a midwife in Quebec. I had a natural birth in a birthing centre and it was a wonderful experience for myself, my husband, and my child.

My second daughter was born at home in Banff, Alberta. It was an AMAZING experience. Although we had planned a home birth and I was under the care of a midwife, my husband caught our daughter in our bathtub, as our three year old looked on, because my entire labor was less than one hour and our midwife was not able to get there in time. Everything was calm and just as we had wanted and our midwives arrived ten minutes later to care for us. While I know I am among only 1% of Alberta women who have given birth at home I do feel that everyone has a right to know their options and to decide what works for them. I am not against medical birth, it was just not what was right for me and my family.

To see this full image, which includes nudity, click here.

If you are in Altanta any time during September 18th - 19th and would like to attend the BOLD event there is a schedule located here. Best wishes for a massive turn out and for many funds to be raised.

All images by Tiffany Teske

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Another Handmade Gift to Cherish - A Quilt from Great Great Aunt Rosann

My mother recently sent a box of goodies for Quin and Emmanuelle. Most of the items for Quin were clothes and shoes for starting preschool. Quin was thrilled! I don't know what we would do without Grandma. Not that we don't have plenty of clothes but Grandma has good taste, loves to shop, and she buys new items that both Quin and Emmanuelle will be able to get some wear out of, while I go to the consignment or thrift shops and gladly take all my friends hand - me - downs. Quin enjoys all of it, and I have taught her to appreciate both the old and the new.

Anyway, I just went off on a tangent... back to the post. My mom had mentioned that my Great Aunt, Rosann, had given her a quilt to give me for Emmanuelle. Inside the box was this quilt. I loved it at first sight but fell even deeper in love when I read the note from Rosann. You can read it below... just click on the image to make it larger...

This quilt was made and ties by my Great Aunt Rosann, who is my children's GREAT GREAT Aunt, along with women who knew my Great Grandmother, Gerda, who was the GREAT GREAT Grandmother of my children. That is so awesome!! It is truly something to cherish. We will likely use this quilt everyday, as I am one of those people who thinks you should use your good stuff, not pack it away from the light of day. Not to mention that in the note Rosann says she hopes we "enjoy using it." This quilt will keep us warm, be used to make a fort, will have dolls wrapped in it, and in fact just yesterday it was on the floor on top of some other blankets and Quin was using it as a ship. She had all her little stuffies and doll friends on it, it was adorable. We were able to see Rosann at the funeral and to thank her in person for her thoughtful gift.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Little Sapling Toys - A New Gift Favorite

Image by Little Sapling Toys

I dream of a world where all of my children's toys are made of wood or some other sustainable product that is non toxic. A world where there is no such thing as phthalates, lead paint, or any of the other awful things parents need to make sure is not in their kids' toys. And how are we supposed to know for sure they are not? I know that many large name brand toy companies have been recalling toys left and right, in fact the last few years are the worst on record for recalls. I don't trust these companies to tell the truth. And then there is the worry of whether or not the toys are safe as far as choking hazards or injury. I am not generally a worry wart but we are talking about TOYS that my kids play with. When did play time become so worrisome? I do not buy any name brand toys, but we have plenty of family members who do. I wish I could get them to understand the problem but they pretty much just roll there eyes and say I am over reacting... however, I know I am just better informed. There are many great websites out there that test toys for safety. One of my favorites is

I always strive to buy handmade items. I often buy them on Etsy since I have a shop there and like to support those in the community. My youngest daughter is starting to teethe (both my husband and oldest had teeth at three months!). I recently got rid of all of our plastic teethers. They give me the creeps. Who would want to bite and suck on plastic? Maybe I am the only one who is sensitive to the smell of plastic but I certainly would not want it in my mouth. I wanted to find some nice wooden teethers. And as fate would have it, as it usually does, I happened to open an Etsy email about shops offering free shipping. This is where I discovered Little Sapling Toys, and I am so glad I did! As you can see from the photo above we ordered just in time...

I ordered a set of three grasping and teething toys, a square, circle, and triangle set. The price of $22 is quite reasonable especially with free shipping to Canada. But what really sold me was that Little Sapling Toys plants a tree for each item sold. Wow, that is incredible since they have had 1,080 sales to date.

I was already so impressed by the company when I ordered that I wrote them a little note about being excited to receive the teethers. They got back to me right away with a nice little note from Kimber. When the package arrived from Idaho, which it did very quickly, I liked everything about it, from the simple gift box, to the wood shavings for packing materials, to the little card with wood information and care instructions and an insert about planting a tree for each item sold.

My daughter liked her teether right away. She is quite little, just 3 1/2 months, so she is only able to hold the triangle right now, but we gave the circle to a friend's 6 month old and she can grasp it very well. Her mom was very happy we gave it to her as she said her husband "thinks all of her toys should be made of wood".

I can't wait to order more products from Little Sapling. They also have stackers, rattles, bowling sets, blocks, peg boards, storage containers, building sets, rocking horses, and driving toys. OOOOOOHHHHHHHHHH! So many gift giving possibilities. All finished toys use a local beeswax and organic jojoba oil finish but you can just leave a note at check out to receive an unfinished toy. If you have kids or give gifts to children and you worry about the toys on the market check out Little Sapling Toys for a great product and good buying experience. You can also check out their blog here...

(Just had to include this silly image of Emmanuelle getting the hang of her teether.)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Need Some New Clothes? Consider Hosting a Clothing Swap....

Last night I had the pleasure of meeting a great bunch of women and then riffling though their clothes!! I have been into the idea of hosting a clothing swap for quite sometime, but was thrilled to receive an invite from a friend of mine, whose friend had gone ahead and planned one. It has been a long time since I participated in a clothing swap and it was so much fun! In addition to clothes, there was food and drink, but since Kim and I were the only ones with nursing little ones we were only able to stay long enough to swap some clothes. In the end I brought a bag of clothes and accessories and came home with the bag full of new clothes!! And I got to meet about 12 other ladies, from all over Canada, Australia, the UK, Belgium, and The Ukraine. I love that the evening was environmentally responsible to boot. What a way to reduce, reuse, and recycle! And since only one of my friends was there I could still go ahead and host my own swap sometime soon. My goal would be to attend a swap for each new clothing season.

Hosting a Clothing Swap
Here are a few off the cuff tips on how to host a clothing swap that I gleaned from attending one. I think the less rules the better is the number one rule...

* Invite lots of lovely ladies via an email invite such as Evite. Invite everyone to invite their friends. The more, the merrier, and the best selection.
* Invite people to bring wine or other bevies and nibblies.
* Ask everyone to bring clothes that still have some wear left to them. No garage sale or thrift store bound items (nothing against these places since I LOVE them but sometimes the clothes are not in the best shape...).
* Encourage attendees to also bring shoes, accessories, whatever is clothing related. I brought a bunch of plastic hangers to share. And some women even brought paperback books.
* Do not make it mandatory for people attending to bring items. There will be lots of things to chose from anyway and usually someone who has not brought something will wait until the people who have have made their selections.
* As each person arrives lay out their clothes on the floor in rows so that things are folded but easily seen. As more and more people arrive you can hold up the items for all to view while organizing them.
* The only rule at the swap I attended was that if two women were "fighting" over the same piece of clothing that the person who brought the most clothes to offer to the swap could have the item.
* My rule was that I wanted to try on each item I was interested in so that someone else could have it if it didn't fit me.
* At the end of the evening whatever is left over can be bagged up for the local thrift store. You can ask attendees to help with this.
* Consider variations on this theme, such as a male/female event or even a kiddo event.

And if you and a close friend are both bringing items to the same swap and you are around the same size, consider looking at each others items BEFORE the swap. In the end, I think I ended up with four items from the friend I arrived with. One of them is this sexy little number above! I scored the perfect black cardigan to go over it and I can't wait to wear it on our 6th wedding anniversary this month!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Back to School (Or Actually FIRST DAY EVER at School)

Quin went to her preschool for the first time today! It is a day she has been looking forward to since last winter. It must be so difficult when you are young and your parents keep telling you that you can do something "someday". And then closer to the time they start saying "soon". But with very little concept of time, it must be confusing... anyway, the day FINALLY arrived. We were sorry to miss the corn husk potluck where all the families got together and the trial day of class because we were away for my grandfather's funeral. Quin is an independent little girl so she basically had no reservations about just jumping right in today. I, on the other hand, wondered about what I have gotten myself into since we now go from getting up at 9 AM, to getting up at 7 AM two days a week. I know, I know, I have been sleeping in long enough. Andre made the morning better by making crepes for breakfast. Yummy! He was also able to come with us to school, thanks to being able to attend a meeting via phone while Quin was in class. What we would we all do without laptops and cell phones? It meant so much to her to have all of us there to drop her off and to pick her up.

Quin is attending a French preschool in another town. We are bummed that we don't have this option in our town, but since Andre is French, and since I know what a gift it is to know another language, since I have been struggling as an adult to try to learn French, it was important to us. We don't do a lot of driving in our daily lives, and walking to school would be amazing, but this is the way it goes. Emmanuelle and I have two hours to kill while Q is at school AND THE LIBRARY IS NOT EVEN OPEN!! It opens at 11AM! And you thought I slept in! I guess we will be spending time visiting friends, going to the thrift shop, and maybe getting crafty with some fellow crafty divas. It will work itself out but I am bummed about no library. The good news is that although Q is not fluent in French, she had a great first day, understood her teacher, and can't wait to go back! She is a sponge waiting to soak it all up.

Preschoolers need very few school supplies. A shirt for making art, which we had thanks to the Playground Pals Program in our neighborhood this summer; a change of clothes; two big glue sticks; indoor shoes that stay at school; a lunch bag and water bottle for snack; a scrapbook; a backpack; and a 3 ring binder. Makes me want to go to school, sounds like a lot of eating, and art making, and playing going on. I spiffed up Q's three ring binder with some sparkly, decorative paper and permanent ink and letter stamps. It doesn't take much to make a little one feel special. And Daddy pointed out how no one else will have a binder like hers. I hope she is happy being an individual for the rest of her life...

I had thought to send Q to school in pants but got nostalgic for my childhood and decided that the first day of school is a great day to wear a special dress. She wore one of my favorites of her handmade dresses. This sweet owl pinafore is from Humble Bea on Etsy. If you like it, here is the link. She is a great Etsy seller with over a thousand sales and 100% positive feedback. Super talented, too! (Oh geez, I just went to check out her shop and now I feel like shopping, so many cute things...).

Coincidentally, Emmanuelle also had a first today. Not to be out done by her sis, she rolled over, and laid on her tummy and held her head up like a champ while Quin proudly cheered her on. What a proud mommy I am!!