Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Now Read This: Sew & Stow

This is a book that I have borrowed from the library approximately 3 times! Why, you ask? When I had initially borrowed it, I flipped through it the same day, saw a few neat, common-sense ideas and I was really happy to have the book. However, I then set it down somewhere only to inadvertently neglect it for several weeks. Before I knew it, the book was due back... 

The second time that I had borrowed it, I took a very close look at the contents. I saw very cute projects, all around the theme of storage and organization. This time, I earmarked a few pages, but failed to begin any projects.

By the third time, it was just getting ridiculous! I borrowed it, again, and this time vowed to either use the book to it's full potential or be done with it for once and for all.  Something kept drawing me back to this book everytime I perused the stacks of hobby, craft and sewing books. Was it the fancy cover and the fact that this book stood out more than most?  (I have been known to be a sucker for packaging). Not sure why the reason, but I am pleased to have given this book another chance.

Sew & Stow: 31 Fun Sewing Project to Carry, Hold and Organize your Stuff, Your Home and Yourself, by Betty Oppenheimer is a book that really grew on me. As the title indicates, this book revolves around projects that produce practical everyday items to aid you in organizing your home, your belongings and yourself.  From a sewing caddy, to a wall organizer, or a lunch tote to a laundry bag, this book offers projects that are appropriate for sewers of all skill levels.  Though do I feel that the average novice can tackle the vast majority of these projects with little to no difficulty.  No new inventions here, just simple, useful items that can be created by most anyone. There are plenty of sidebar tips and information is frequent throught this book. Instructions are clear and well written and the projects are nicely photographed.  This is a book that I turned to constantly when my fingers itched and I felt compelled to make something, but my brain was lacking any concrete ideas at the moment.

My only caveat (and it may seem trivial to some), is that all of the lovely photographs of each project were grouped together in the first section of the book. Instructions for each followed in the later pages. This meant for quite a bit of flipping back and forth. No, not the end of the world, but I tend to want to have a constant visual along side my instructions (like when you are following a recipe). I had successfully completed a handful of projects, taking inspiration from this book, but adding my own additions or adjustments.  I often refer back to my teenaged niece (as she is a relatively new sewer), and this would be an excellent addition to her personal library. This is a great book if you are keen on making handmade gifts that are practical as well as appreciated.

I give this book 4 pink buttons out of 5!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Project of the Month: Travel Tissue Cozy

I am very pleased to have been able to deliver to you this project of the month! I had faced a few challenges (getting anything done) earlier in October, but here it is, my project as promised. Better late than never, I suppose... This one is very easy!

Cold and flu season is upon us and this could not be a more appropriate item.  This travel tissue cozy is very simple to make, practical and makes a great addition to school backpacks, handbags or business totes.  Or, if you are like me (an allergy sufferer), you will tuck it into your robe or sweater pocket so that it is close at hand.  These are great to have handy for keeping little fingers clean, dabbing a runny nose or containing a sneeze.

Instructions can be found here.  Each tissue cozy requires very little fabric and you can quite easily churn out several in just one hour!  Another great use for those fabric scraps and fat quarters. You can be as simple or creative as you choose.  Try adding a ribbon tie closure to the front, or as a pretty trim along the opening edges.  Perhaps a tiny patchwork version?  These make great stocking stuffers and affordable small gifts.  Why not not tuck one into a matching handmade cosmetics pouch? 

Happy sewing!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Please Stand By...

It's been a very busy 2 weeks!  I had started a new job at the beginning of the month and my hours are now a bit later in the day than I am typically accustomed to. In spite of this, I swore that I would continue to blog on a regular basis. After all, I've had many musings, discoveries and creations to share... 

I was off to a pretty good start, being able to keep up with the blogging for the first week and then it happened... As each day passed, I was coming home more and more exhausted. I am dealing with the typical information overload that comes with every new job. Countless meetings and orientations... Who would have thought that listening and sitting quietly for the better part of the day could take so much out of a person?  Also, after 8 hours of sitting in front of a computer all day, the last thing that I wanted to do was sit in front of another at home. Before you knew it, I was falling asleep wherever my body rested. I abandoned my poor sewing machine, as I lacked the energy to sit up and construct anything.  I even neglected exercise for 2 whole weeks! This is not a good thing!

Well, I am over the initial wave of tiredness and the desire to vegg all evening.  I seem to have found my bearings.  I am back to a regular workout schedule, and I am back on the sewing wagon, now that my eyes are no longer too strained.  I feel great!  I will do my very best to post my (late) project of the month for October and continue to share my fab finds, ideas and creations.  Christmas is just around the corner and I have 14 (yes, 14!) stockings/gift satchels to sew (each, of course, as unique as the recipient).  Just bear with me, as the uptake may be a little slow.

Please stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


I am an Amy Butler junkie! Love her fabrics, love her patterns, own all of her her! If everything in my world could be in an Amy Butler print, I would be a very happy girl.

I have been waiting patiently for the launch of her LOVE fabric collection for Rowan....  I am relishing the moment that I can place a generous order for the lovely textiles... to have and to hold. Fortunately, some of my favourite Canadian online fabric retailers will be selling this selection pretty soon (yipee!)

Well, I must be a very bad devotee, because I somehow managed to miss this little detail of the Amy Butler Desktop Collection for Mara Mi.  How did I miss this?!  Wasn't I on the website just the other week? Anyone who knows me knows that I have a bit of an obsession with stationery and pretty office supplies. This collection is so very me.

There are three colour ways (Aqua, Coral and Garden).  This collection includes everything you need to stay organized in style. Pretty binders, sticky-note sets, folio pads and desk trays... There are of course many more items to choose from. Details can be found here. As of today, I am enamoured with the Coral Collection, though if I could afford to buy every single product, I would in a heartbeat. 

Well done, Amy! Well done!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Grey Wool Trouser Challenge continued...

I had posted a few finished items last week from my trouser re-purposing challenge.  I must say, this has been a lot of fun. When you are limited in how much fabric is available to work with, you definitely need to get creative. Here is another finished item, born of the grey wool trousers...

This artist's pencil wrap was made from the remaining trouser leg. Note the absence of ruffles! This is because I did not make this for myself...this is for my husband-to-be. (Surprise, Sweetie!) He had been asking for one for some time, but I never had any fabric in my stash that was masculine enough. This wool, I think, is just perfectly suited for him.

The interior lining is also re-purposed from an article of clothing destined for the charity bin (a chocolate brown stretch denim skirt). I think the two colours work well together. Keeping with the masculine theme, I opted for a leather cord wrap (instead of ribbon).  One of the many buttons from the orginal garment finish off the closure. Included (at my fiance's request) is a pocket to tuck your eraser into, as well as a loop to hold your pencil sharpener.  There are slots for 12 pencils (24 will easily fit, if you double up) I am pleased with the way this turned out, and I can't wait to present this little gift.

More to come...

Friday, October 2, 2009

For the Love of Pink!

I am doing my first charity run in a very long time. On Sunday, October 4th, I will be at the Toronto run site for the CIBC Run for the Cure, to support the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.  I am very excited, and can't wait.  I am part of the Booty Camp Fitness women's team.  I have sponsored many friends in the past, but never physically took part. I am told that this will be a wonderfully emotional event for all participants.

For those of you not familiar with the event, this will be a 5K run or 1K walk at several locations across Canada. I just want to thank all of my generous sponsors for helping me to reach my fundraising goal.  I plan to do this run again next year and as often as I am able to in the coming years.  I have not been directly touched by breast cancer, but I have friends who have. I will be running for their mothers, sisters, daughters and wives that have lost the battle. But I will also be running for the survivors in the hopes that they will continue to overcome the disease and live long, happy lives.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

So Long, Booty Camp...For Now

Today is my last day at Booty Camp Fitness (*sniff*).  I probably should have been blogging about this challenge all along, (sharing my progress) but I was on such a sewing rant for the longest while... Perhaps in the new year, I will keep you all posted on my weekly progress when I re-enlist. 

I had joined Booty Camp Fitness back in June and have been faithfully participating ever since. I have always been moderately active, but my exercise really only consisted of brisk walks or boring treadmill and elliptical programs. Sure, I dabbled here and there with a few resistance workouts, but it was hard to stay motivated and I inevitably fell off the wagon. I had no one willing to work out with me and little motivation. Having jobs that placed me in a cubicle for 9 hours a day did not help matters either.

I had seen the poster for Booty Camp Fitness several times on my regular routes around the city. One day particular day in May however I stopped to read the information:  Women's only...outdoor...just 2 nights a week?!   Why not?  I checked it out online and after some thought, I signed up for 4 weeks.  Couldn't hurt, right? If I don't like it, I can just stop going once my sessions are up. I must say, it was one of the best decisions that I have ever made, really.  I am on the petite end of the size spectrum and I am slim. I did not join for the sake of weight loss, but because I wanted to be fit, stronger, and in shape.

My class was every Tuesday and Thursday evening for one hour.  It was nice that it was outdoors, the fresh air pumping through your system... I was unsure about the idea at first, for fear of rain or cooler temperatrures. But I have come to prefer that setting to the smell of rubber and body odour that one may find in a gym.  I loved that I never knew what to expect. Our instructor, Courtney, was awesome! One day we got our derrieres handed to us as we were put through what felt like a sequence of endless (but challenging) lower body exercises. The next day, we were doing a number on our triceps and biceps.  Lunges, cardio, squats, push ups, name it, we did it.  I felt encouraged each day and it was great to be surrounded by other strong, positive women. The soreness in my entire body was alarming the first week, but I soon came to look forward to the feeling. It was as if it provided me with satisfaction in knowing that I had put in 110% each class. 

Between sessions, I used my Booty Camp DVD at home (provided to you when you join).  I also managed to include in a few Yoga and Pilates DVD's that I already owned, ensuring a minimum 5 days of some sort of physical activity.  Aside from the active lifestyle, common sense was applied in watching what I ate.  Yes, I treated myself to the odd little treat once a week (shhh!), but I was never overboard.  The way I see it, If I completely deprived myself of any tasty, creamy, sugar filled treat, it was only a matter of time before I would just freak out one day and down 2 pounds of candy in one-fell-swoop.  Why negate all of the hard work by slipping off the rails completely?  I was never a horrible eater in the first place, so it was just a matter of improving where possible.

In my first 8 weeks, I had only dropped about 2 pounds, but  lost 1.5" off my waist, and a whopping 3" off my hips. That was major to me!  I also went from 23%  body fat down to 17%.   My arms, legs, shoulders, back--all incredibly toned and in the best shape I can remember.  I have not been in this sort of shape since I was in high school!  No sessions were held in August, but our awesome instructor held running clinics 2 nights a week for those that were interested. I surprised myself here as well. Not having run since high school, I expected to fizzle out after the first 2K. On our first night, we ran 5K, and I was able to keep up with almost no trouble.  As the weeks passed the distance increased as far as 8K and I managed quite well. Again, my level of fitness catching me off guard.

Aside from the incredible physical transformation, I have been able to push myself far further than I imagined. Push-ups were my least favourite thing to do because of my chicken wing arms that provided zero strength.  I can now easily churn out a series of 100 on my toes before dropping to my knees. I can hold a plank for well over 2 minutes and my endurance over all is surprising.  I also make an effort to run a few days each week.  There were only a couple of day on which I was unable to get a workout in (outside of Booty Camp), for whatever reason. I was really surprised to see that I felt so guilty for missing out. I am hooked!

Classes began again in September and I was happy to see that I was able to more or less maintain my progress from the previous sessions.  I had actually lost another 2 pounds in the 4 weeks since the last class.  Today being my final class, I am really going to miss it.  I am anxious to see my results thus far and I want to do my best to at least maintain it.  Booty Camp runs through to the end of October and officially breaks until January, at which point it is held indoors until the Spring.  The reason I am not attending the final 4 weeks of classes is simply due to the fact that I am starting a new job next week.  My schedule is such that I anticipate missing too many classes in the next little while. That said, it would be wasteful to join and I will not be able to manage make-up sessions, not now anyway. I will only be short-changing myself in the end. Once I figure out my groove I will re-join for the next available sessions for sure!

Will I just pack up the workout gear and slide into a vegetative state for the next 3 months? Absolutely not!  I will continue to use my DVD's to keep the momentum going. I will get creative. I have already drafted a schedule to get me through the holiday season. Perhaps we will see what I can find in the way of drop-in classes at my local Pilates/Yoga studios and community centres.

Is it possible to become addicted to exercise? Who would have thought?

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