Dapple Design Shop will be CLOSED FOR CHRISTMAS from December 10, 2016 to January 4, 2017.

Monday, 23 December 2013


Christmas is here.  I braved the grocery store one last time today and spent the rest of the morning in the kitchen, tucking yummy things away for the next couple of days.  Did I finish everything I wanted to?  No.  Not even close.  But I'm calling it quits and taking a little rest before the fun begins.

I don't feel like I'm really ready for Christmas until I've spent a little time in contemplation.  Something about the season makes old scares prickle and I have to let a few tears fall.  Then I'm ready for joy and peace and hope.

Sitting here by the fire, I'm looking around our home -- all is quiet now -- anticipating.  Will Little Miss S sense the importance of the day?  Will she like the paper and boxes best of all?  Will she know how loved she is as she empties her stocking?  Everything I want this Christmas, I already have.

Wishing you much joy this Christmas.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

O Christmas Tree

Tree day came in several parts this year, but not because we love the tree so much that we can't get enough.  It was collision of busy life and a dried out tree from a box store.  With one string of lights around the bottom and two dust pans full of needles we made the anticlimactic call to abort decorating and take it back.  Sigh.

Buying from a box store was convenient but ultimately foolish, so we didn't waste our second chance.  On a misty Saturday morning, with tummies full of warm pancakes, we wound our way out to Gravel Mart, where they sell trees with beads of dew and the aroma of the forest.  

We're real-tree people.  We both grew up that way.  Fake trees just don't do and this year's tree experience (false start and all) reminds me why.  There's something unbeatable about the fragrance of a real tree.  The boughs are still damp.  I catch little sniffs of Christmas with every ornament.  For me, it's worth sweeping up dropped needles and maintaining the water level.

What about you?  Real tree or fake?

Friday, 13 December 2013

A Personal Photo Challenge: Let There Be Light

New camera in hand, I'm busy learning the ins and outs of taking good photos.  Donna's monthly photo challenge plays into that so nicely, that I'm giving it a try for the first time.  These photos are taken with my Nikon 1 J2 and a basic 10-30mm lens.  I used Picasa to bring the shadows up a bit, but that's it for editing.

Little Miss and I snuggled right up to the glass patio door to try out some new window stickers.  She was entranced.  One of the articles that Donna recommended reading talked about going into the garage to take photos with dramatic light.  I don't have a garage, so I tried the window.  It's winter on the Pacific coast, so we had a grey sky and a little drizzle to work with.  Even so, we had nice directional light coming in.  I like the modeling on Miss's face and hands, and the blurred out garden in the background.  There's a term for that blurred effect, but I don't know what it is.

Going to black and white really emphasizes the shape of Miss's face and I appreciate the contrast between the bright garden and the very dark inside of the house.  But is one eye too much darker than the other?  Something strikes me as not quite right.

I ducked outside for this one and took the photo through the glass window.  The trickiest part of this set up was avoiding my own reflection in the glass; it required just the right angle.  The light was oblique enough that everything reflected on the window.  Of course, that's what makes it such an unusual photo.

This photo reminds me of a certain artist whose works we use to see when I was young in Ecuador.  He liked to paint translucent bubbles and steam trains flying in the air above his surreal landscapes.  Here, Miss S looks out at the world -- at a wood floor and a shed with cedar siding, at trees and planters, at dining room chairs and lawn chairs -- with an expression of wonder.  A dismembered snowman floats by.  It's not my favorite picture, but it gets the imagination going.

Does anyone have thoughts on that black eye in the second photo?  I'd appreciate tips of any kind.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

It's a Marshmallow World in the Winter

I just looked out the window; the snow is officially melting.  For the first time since Thursday the lawn is more green than white.  My eyes dart around the yard, finding the places where these photos were taken just days ago, and it's hard to fathom the difference.  A couple of degrees on the thermometer and a little precipitation and suddenly the great outdoors is a magical, marshmallow wonderland.  Suddenly everyone wants to play Christmas music and bake cookies.

I really wanted to have a magical snow day, to throw snow balls and do that baking.  It didn't quite pan out.  But I did take my Little Miss outside a couple of times to meet the snow.  We didn't get any last year -- not a single flake -- so this was her first snowfall.  She was intrigued, glued to the window, repeating "snow, snow".  Coat.  Hat.  Boots.  Mittens.  Outside, she was less impressed.  Concern that it stuck to everything gave way to cold hands and we were back inside, crying, in 15 minutes flat.  Oh well.

It's been cold cold cold all week, but with bright blue skies.  Invigorating.  The Little Miss got used to the snow.  Today, however, the familiar grey is back.  Warmer temperatures are pulling things back into equilibrium.  Over the years, living here on the west coast, I've gotten used to the dark, monotone world at Christmas time.  It makes the light even brighter.

Just a reminder that my Give Away will be open all week.  You can enter here.

What kind of weather do you typically get for Christmas?

Monday, 9 December 2013

Give Away Day

This Give Away is now Closed.  

The winner, selected by random number generator, is lucky comment #21.
Congratulations Tammy.  You'll be getting an email soon.

Thank you to all who entered, and to Sew Mama Sew for hosting Give Away Day.

It's about time I gave something away.  I'm looking beyond Christmas with this selection.  And why not, once the holidays pass we all need something bright and cheerful to carry us through the remaining darkness and into spring.  I think these pretty pink and green prints will do the trick.

Would you like to be the lucky winner of these eco-friendly cloth gift bags?  You'll get:
- a Medium sized cloth gift bag in pink and green with pink ribbon tie,
- a Wine bottle cloth gift bag in green stripe print with pink ribbon tie and
- a set of three book-page gift tags.

All lovingly crafted by yours truly.

To enter this give away, please visit the Dapple Design Shop on Etsy and look around.  Then come back here and leave a comment telling me what you liked best.  It's that easy.

Contest closes Friday, December 13 at noon, Pacific Standard Time.
Open to readers in Canada and the United States.
Winner will be selected randomly and notified early next week.

Please Like my Facebook page as well.  It won't help you in the give away, but you'll be more likely to hear about future contests and events.

Good luck!

Linking to Give Away Day at Sew Mama Sew.

Monday, 2 December 2013


The skies are bright and clear and it's cold out there today.  Coat and hat and mitts.  I always take care to bundle my Little Miss these days, but getting out the door can be such a feat that sometimes I skip my own coat.  I made that mistake this morning and was it ever cold.  The car doors stuck a little.  What was I thinking?  Fortunately, it was a short drive -- just a couple of turns to drop off Miss S for her play date.  Next week, her little friend will come here for a morning.  It's a good arrangement.

The extra light and the clear sky (and maybe that shock of cold) must have breathed energy into me, because I spent this morning on a serious de-cluttering of the house.  I'm writing from an armchair by the fire where I can admire the open floor, the books neatly lined up, the gleam of light on empty surfaces.  After a week of heavy, grey skies outside and the flu inside I really needed to clean out the cobwebs -- literally and metaphorically.  All is right in my world and I feel ready to step into Christmas.

What brings alignment to your world?

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

This and That

Fall feels more like winter.  Several mornings this last week I woke to a wonderland of frost, enough to change the quality of the early light in my windows.  Cold and bright.  Strawberry plants gleamed red and green under their silver frosting and a sad looking potted geranium froze right over.  (I had better unclog that pot before it cracks.)  Even the patio furniture changed under it's whitewash of frost.  Miss S, bundled in her too-big coat, wasn't nearly as thrilled with the changes as I was.  Crunchy grass is harder to walk on and cold fingers and toes aren't as nimble as they should be.  She contented herself by scraping frost off a patio chair with her sandbox toy while I marveled and photographed.  Then back inside to play by the fire.

That was first light.  We were out again, ambling home from the grocery store, at dusk.  Puddles aplenty reflected the dying light, as if to extend the short day.  Miss S munched an apple.  We keep a box of them in the garage and Miss S has a hard time passing by without stealing one.  

A little new-camera fun.  I used the selective colour setting here to drown everything but Miss S's coat and hat to monotone.  The light is soft to start with and I think this effect enhances the mood of the moment -- quiet and grey with a shining path of light to lead us home.

That was last week.  Today looks more like this.

I'm nursing a sick husband and conserving my own scratchy voice.  Miss S is at Nana's for the day, breathing germ-free air and giving mommy and daddy time to rest.  Chai tea from a cheery red mug and a new crochet project are on the agenda.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Bread and Cookies

With the craft fair coming up and a few other things on the go, my to-do list had become oppressive and the Little Miss kept getting in the way.  Untold tension.  A couple of days ago it became very clear to me that I had mislaid my priorities and I set about setting things straight.

I began by taking the Little Miss on a long walk -- settling for both of us.  On the way home I bought bread.  I bought bread.  I don't do that very often, preferring to do without if I don't have time to bake right away.  It had, however, been days.  Leftovers were slim and Gary -- who relies on bread for the backbone of a lunch -- was making quick work of the crackers I keep on hand for toddler snack emergencies.  Toddler snack emergencies, incidentally, were up.  That loaf of store-bought multigrain eliminated the most oppressive task on my list -- not the hardest or the one that would take the longest, but the one that emanated the most guilt.  It tasted like freedom with jam.

Instead of baking bread, I baked cookies.  With help.  This undertaking -- letting the Little Miss help in the kitchen -- was a first and it was spectacularly successful.  I held her so she could look into the mixer at the butter and sugar.  I passed her the filled measuring cups of flour and oats.  She dumped them into the bowl.  Before I knew it, she was sitting on the counter spooning dry ingredients into the mixer with a spoon and discovering that chocolate chips (previously unknown to her) taste good.  Then I taught her how to lick the beater.

Between the bread and the cookies, I felt like I had gotten something right for once.  That sense of accomplishment has persisted for a couple of days now.  Do you ever feel this way?

Sunday, 17 November 2013


Last weekend we had a birthday party.  I had to double check that, but yes, it was only last weekend.  I would not have mentioned it except that I wanted to show you these.

I've been sewing lots of cloth gift bags for the Dapple Design Shop and the Craft Fair next Saturday.  It was fun to use them.  I love giving presents wrapping in something that will be appreciated and used again rather than clog the landfill.  I think of the gift wrap as part of the present.  These are for my sister-in-law and mother on their birthdays.  The bottle of wine is a thank you for my brother-in-law, who designed a business card for me.

For tags, I punched up the cover of an old book.  I got a lot of mileage out of Wuthering Heights, but the book is gone now -- all used up.  Sigh.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Crafting with Book Paper

A couple of people commented on the paper ball photo in a recent post, so I thought I'd take a better photo under real light and let you see it.

Do you remember my Wuthering Heights wreath?  This Christmas ball ornament is a riff on the same theme, though I ran out of Bronte pages and had to settle for Hugh MacLennan's Barometer Rising.  (In the spirit of full disclosure:  I have not read Barometer Rising and feel a bit guilty to have dismantled a book I don't know).  

I actually have a half dozen of these balls, which I'm hoping will garner interest at the craft fair in a week and a half.  They're a bit time consuming to make, but I don't mind a little brainless repetition in the evenings.  It pairs well with tea and chocolate.

Pleased with the wreath and ball ornaments, I carried the same book-page technique into gift tags, also for the craft fair.  When something is working, run with it -- right?  Or I'm stuck in a rut.  Either way, I'm amassing a nice selection of tags (not all made from book pages) to compliment my reusable cloth gift bags.

Would you be interested in seeing DIY instructions for either of the projects above?

Monday, 11 November 2013


My roster of life experience does not include much from the category of war, and for that I'm grateful.  On this eleventh day of the eleventh month I don't remember as much as try to think about the unthinkable for a moment.

Miss S and I frequent a park that includes a war memorial -- a nod to the Canadian war monument at Vimmy Ridge.  Just last week, in the early-falling dusk of autumn, we found it lit for the first time and I happened to have my camera.  I pondered the strange juxtaposition of war and this deserted park, quiet except for the giggles of a little girl.

How do you remember?

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

A New Toy

My new toy is a camera, one that I've been researching and saving for, and that turned up unexpectedly at my birthday.  So what have I been doing since the weekend?  Playing, of course.

The camera, for those who are interested, is a Nikon 1 J2.  I have a basic 10-30mm lens and lots of room to grow.

In the pictures above, Miss S is eating frozen peas.  I could never have taken these shots indoors without flash on my old camera.  Here you see her natural colouring and the light in her hair.

Camera Test #2:  The Playground.  Toddlers move All.  The.  Time.  But I felt like the camera kept up for the most part.  It was fast enough to catch Miss S mid-slide.  Though the image is a little blurred I love that I caught her half way down, feet up, with that look of glee on her face.  Once again, could not have done that before.

After bedtime, another round of camera play.  I really wanted to see what the camera could do in low light.  For these pictures I turned off the overhead lights, leaving a lamp on across the room. I don't have the most critical or educated eye, but I'm impressed and I expect to have lots more photography fun.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Bringing Pins to Life: Caramel Apple Spice Drink

Do you pin more ideas than you'll ever try?  I do.  But every once in a while I dig through a Pinterest board and surface with something to actually execute.  Enter Caramel Apple Spice.

Photo Credit to Laura at Make Life Lovely:  http://www.makelifelovely.com/2013/09/starbucks-caramel-apple-spice-recipe.html

Doesn't it look yummy?  If you read about it at Make Life Lovely, it sounds yummy too.  In need of some cozy fall spice, I gave it a whirl this week.

The caramel flavoring is little more than a simple syrup -- just use brown sugar instead of white and spike the works with a few cinnamon sticks and cloves.  This concoction lives in the fridge until called for, at which time a meager splash (and a little microwave time) infuses plain old apple juice with all the warmth and spice of an apple pie.  It really doesn't take much.

We've been making these drinks all weekend.  In fact, I'm sipping as I type.  Thanks Pinterest.

And a big thanks to Laura at Make Life Lovely for cracking the Starbucks secret and sharing.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Getting Out

Every weekend Gary and I push off indoor projects in favour of a walk outside.  We tell each other that this could be the last nice weekend for a long time.  But so far the nice weekends keep coming.  

These photos show last weekend's excursion to one of our favorite parks.  It's a bit of a drive, but well worth the effort.  Rocky shore lines and the occasional sandy beach.  Bright ocean and bright sky.  Loose forest filled with life and filtered light.  

We spotted this woodpecker high up, noisily mining for bugs, raining chunks of bark on the forest floor.  It's not the best picture, but I was pleased to catch him at all with my little point and shoot.  Notice the run of exposed wood in the bottom left.  He's been busy.

The forecast for this weekend is mixed, but we're still hoping to get out.  Fall is such a good time for rediscovering favorite places.  Will you get out this weekend?

Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Craft Fair

Have you heard?  I've signed up for the North Doug Christmas Craft Fair on November 23 with lots of gift wrapping goodies from the Dapple Design Shop.  I'll be partnering with Lorrie from Fabric Paper Thread, who will be selling lots of wonderful items to go inside my gift bags.  Have you seen her handmade journals?

This is my first craft fair event, so if you live on the South Island, I'd love to see your friendly face.

Monday, 28 October 2013

In Defiance of the Season & an Update from the Dapple Design Shop

Tulips.  In October.  Not from my garden, of course.  Gary brought these home on Friday to help me celebrate the recent action over at the Dapple Design Shop.  More on that in moment.  

I took the flowers out to the garden this morning and pondered the bizarre juxtaposition of tulips in October.  Here, they're photographed against a clematis vine thinning itself down for winter.  Jarringly oblivious, the tulips beam their springtime yellow.  They join the host of unseasonable luxuries delivered by greenhouses and rapid transport.  Tomatoes all winter.  Bananas at any time.  Tulips in October.  I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy them. 

Returning to the Dapple Design Shop.  It's been an exciting week with packages dispatched to new and distant places.  Another package arrived -- full of Christmas fabric.  Don't you love the bright, cheery colours?  Which is your favorite?  Gift bags from these beautiful prints will soon be available in the shop, so visit often and stock up early.  
 Posted by Picasa

Monday, 21 October 2013

Autumn Candles

My mom says that candles provide the illusion of warmth.  She's right, of course.  They do.  So I light them and huddle nearby with a mug of steamy tea, acting out the tableau of the chilly night, as I saw my mother do so many times.  That's just what I was doing last night when my Little Miss wondered over to point at the candles and declare, "pretty".  Thirty years from now, she'll do the same.

This particular candle arrangement came together an hour before Thanksgiving dinner with almost no planning.  Some of the best ideas come off extempore, but if you'd like to make your own version, here's how:

DIY Instructions

Begin by placing three pillar candles on a pedestaled cake plate and wrapping several layers of hemp string around them.  Tie a pretty bow or knot and, if you like, add a seasonal tag.  Then arrange fallen leaves and acorns around the candles, taking care to keep leaves well away from flames.

Now make some hot tea and enjoy your illusion of warmth.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, 11 October 2013


I took the camera into the yard with me yesterday afternoon.  Overall, the garden has that tangled, thinning look of fall, but a few bright spots hold their ground.  Dahlias and purple mums bloom until frost and succulents thrive in the cooler weather.  I'm not sure what those white flowers are.  A bush from our neighbour's yard has hopped the fence.  Far be it from me to cut back anything that flowers white in autumn.

Since embarking on this blog and my creative journey, I've become more observant -- or maybe just more willing to stop and observe.  The simple act of taking a picture requires noticing, pausing, circling, composing.  It's about seeing beauty and interacting briefly with it.  Best of all, these momentary flashes of creative energy -- this noticing -- fit around and between the demands of motherhood.  While snapping the above photos, for example, I was playing peekaboo with this little sweetheart.

And that brings me to thankfulness.  This is a weekend (in Canada, at least) to sit around a turkey dinner with family and reflect on the goodness in our lives.  Family.  Abundant food.  Health.  Freedom.  I remember that two years ago on this day Gary and I learned that we would be parents.  One journey ended and another began.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.  
His love endures forever. 
--from Psalm 136--
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, 3 October 2013

One Project, Finished, and a Confession

It's done!  I finished my Wuthering Heights wreath (more about that here) with a simple plaid bow and a spray of fall coloured branches and beads.  It has found a home on my mantle, but due to the weather and the whirlwind who is my daughter, I couldn't get a good picture there -- too dark during nap time.  Here it is, basking by the patio door.

A confession:  I'm very proud to have finished this project within a week.  There was nothing complicated or especially time consuming about it.  It's just that I have a dismal track record when it comes to finishing such things.  Why is a fall wreath imagined more alluring than an actual fall wreath?  Why do the creative juices stir and then go stagnant?  Why is starting more fun than finishing?  

Is your track record for finishing projects any better than mine?  Please share your secrets.

Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Feeling Blue

I like blue.  It makes me feel tranquil and content, perhaps because some of the nicest things in life are blue.  The summer sky.  The sea.  My daughters bright eyes.  These dried hydrangea flowers are still blue as blue can be.  It's a good thing I brought them in when I did, because the last few days have brought enough rain, wind and hail to tatter the garden.  

While Miss S naps, I'm working this bundle of squishy blue yarn into a set of baby leg warmers.  Last night the urge to crochet took hold.  I really wanted to start a new sweater for Miss S, but that requires more than scraps, which requires planning ahead.  Instead I dug out the pattern for these little leg warmers and settled in.

The pattern, by the way, is one that I bought a while back from this Etsy shop.  It's a sweet design and, after a little experimenting to get the gauge right, I'm finding the pattern easy to follow.  I might even make a pair for myself as the pattern includes an adult size.  Maybe they'll be blue.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, 29 September 2013

On This Rainy Sunday

It's been raining for two days and nights, a strong, steady rain.  The Great Wet has begun.  I try not to think of the dark days that will come, focusing instead on cozy, inside things.  Fall.  Thanksgiving.  Christmas.  Quiet evenings by the fire.

I spent the morning tidying my life and my kitchen.  Produce is still trickling in from the garden, a reminder that summer hasn't quite left us.  This morning I sliced two trays worth of tomatoes for drying.  Miss S watched from her high chair, munched a handful of diced tomato, and asked for "mo".  

I haven't dried tomatoes before this year, but I don't know why not.  It's easy and the results are yum yum yummy.  I core and slice the tomatoes, sprinkle them with kosher salt, thyme and a little brown sugar.  Then it's low and slow in the oven -- about 5 or 6 hours at 225.

Last night was Craft Night.  That consisted of three girls, a bottle of wine, some snacks and a DIY wreath project.  This is mine.

Don't you love the texture?  All those paper circles are punched from a thrift store version of Wuthering Heights.  That little detail really thrills me.  All that bluster up on the moors makes Wuthering Heights the perfect novel to punch to pieces on a blustery fall night.  Of course the wreath isn't quite done.  I want to add a bit more fullness around the outside edge and some sort of banner or bow.

By the way, the DIY instructions for this project came from Make Life Lovely.  Thanks to my friend, Amanda, for making Craft Night happen.  Let's do it again.

Wishing you a warm and cozy remains for the weekend.
Posted by Picasa