Monday, 12 June 2017

Cosplay By McCall's Hand-Eye Coordination, Foot Fetish: Gilded, Becoming Émelie

New Summer Releases 

I've been following the Cosplay by McCall's social media accounts intermittently. One of the trends that I've noticed in their followers' comments is the demand for accessories. This is something that rarely comes up in costume pattern collections, but handcrafting accessories is quite popular within the Cosplay scene itself. Accessories can be anything from handbags, gauntlets, wings, armor and weaponry. I'm pleased to announce that the brand has released three new accessory patterns. These will likely only appeal to those with feminine aesthetics but it's still worth mentioning. I'm going to do a reading on all three patterns together as there's not much to comment on individually, they're pretty straight forward.


Hand Eye Coordination - Eye Patches, Bracers, Gloves and Claws - M2095
Foot Fetish: Gilded - Boot Covers - M2097
Becoming Émelie - Hat, Flowers, Bag, and Capelet M2098

The first pattern is Hand Eye Coordination ...I don't know who names these things but what a mouthful. The pattern contains three different eye patch designs, gloves in two lengths, two bracers and claws. The claw bracer things are freaking cool. It was a solid choice to advertise them on the cover of the envelope. Immediately I was like, "Yeah, I wanna be a lady dragon!" Rad. The other stuff? Ennnh. I like the Steampunk eye patch with the buckle ...minus the weird jewel bit. But the other ones confuse the crap out of me. They're so over-embellished and over thought, it's difficult to tell what's going on to the point that you're questioning whether or not it really is an eye patch! The one with the ruffling and the dangly bits and the embroidered eyebrow (that's what I'm assuming it is) with the blanket stitch... it critiques itself. There are no words.

The second pattern is Foot Fetish: Gilded. Spats, who doesn't love 'em? But I have to admit the cover photo leaves a little to be desired. They look like Gladiator boots? Or at least someone's attempt at Gladiator boots without a reference photo. The other two designs are far more successful, the first looks like cardboard and doesn't sit flush with the boot. I personally like look A, the dainty gold covers, they're simplistic but impactful. I think they'd look really cute with a Marie Antoinette costume. Look B features ruched material and beaded trim with a corseted back. It's not a bad pattern, it's kind of cute.

Becoming Émelie, I'm sure Loilta fans would be quick to point out any flaws with this pattern, but as usual I'm appreciative of the attempt. It's good to see this sub-style getting attention. This pattern features the classic bonnet, a capelet and handbag with instructions for fabric flower embellishments. The flower embellishments look a tad gaudy and not well made, you can find better diy tutorials online. The capelet is quite adorable and the bonnet is well made. It's a shame the lace gloves in the promo photo aren't included. I'm excited to use the purse pattern because I want to make a knock off of this Banned Apparel bag. I feel like this is a fairly successful accessories pattern

Conclusion

It'd be interesting to see them tackle some more unisex, masculine designs, especially weaponry. A basic gun or sword pattern that could be adapted for various characters might be a neat idea, and I hope that they consider it for the future. These patterns did not disappoint, it's nice to have more accessory options when creating any kind of costume, especially things like boot covers because I can never justify purchasing costume boots.

What are your thoughts?

Best,

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Finding My Style



Wardrobe Planning Prep

I can't help it lovelies, I'm growing old. And nothing hits you in the face with your own aging and mortality like losing someone you admire. I awoke early this morning to a thunderstorm with an upset stummy, and as I lay in bed with my cat joyful picking my arm my husband broke the news to me that Chris Cornell has suddenly passed. I have fond memories of listening to Soundgarden's album Superunknown repeatedly throughout my youth. I can't have a blistering hot windy day and not think of Soundgarden and Chris' distinct vocal talents. I didn't care for Audioslave and what came later but I never forgot the way that his music made me feel, and not only that, I'll never forget that he was genuinely a great person. It's really sad news. As we grow older all of our idols get older still, some pass away and some, like Bill Nye the Science Guy, grow up to be douchebags. It's disheartening but it reminds me to make my own positive changes in this life, to make great art and not be a douchebag.

Grappling with my age has been difficult this year. I'm trying to find my niche in the fashion world. I know that some people take the stance that you wear what you want and I partially agree to that. I'm concerned that I'll hit that point where I'm making an ass of myself, like my 10th grade english teacher, who was like 50 and wore mini skirts and hooker boots with blouse unbuttoned as she perched herself upon the corner of her desk. WHAT WAS SHE THINKING?!

When you're developing your own personal style you base it on a set of morals and beliefs. Everyone has different viewpoints. In my teacher's vision she clearly believed that provocative, skin revealing clothing was sexy and empowering. Adult version of me could have shown her how to style sexy without looking like she's auditioning for a PTA porno. I'm sure much of her wardrobe decision making was also driven by a revolt against aging gracefully. I have no issue with 70 year old ladies wishing to wear bikinis, as long as those bikinis fit and are tasteful. We shouldn't have to resign ourselves to 2" shoulder pad suit jackets, neck scarves, and boring ankle length skirts. The key to dressing young and original as you age is not to go full steam in the opposite direction of "old peoples clothes". You have to find a balance between the two.

This is why throughout my wardrobe purge I'm reassessing my needs, morals, and my beliefs about myself. Am I young enough to wear certain things? I'm still shapely, my skin is aging but looks fresh to most who comment on it, I don't have deep carved out lines yet and my legs are nice and slim. I'm still able to get away with revealing clothing and I am going to ride that out! But I don't want to wear the "young stuff" anymore. I don't know how to describe it... it's a certain look. Like everything is shrunken or everything is oversized. Does that make sense? It's like this: I don't feel comfortable in the shorts that I bought from Ardene's. I feel like an idiot in them. They're short and there's nothing wrong with that but they're cut like shorts for an eight year old girl. I also feel like a shithead wearing t-shirts. I have no idea where that comes from but I just can't wear those things anymore! Maybe it's become synonymous with being young? It's like how I could never do pastel goth. I don't want to look like those goons on Instagram who are manipulating their lips and eyes to three times their natural size, blanketed in a sea of baby pink and ice blue, they look like an army of Easter Bratz dolls. Jesus it makes me uncomfortable just thinking about it.

So I've been combing through the e-catalogs to see if I can get some inspiration for my wardrobe building process. It seems like I'm being drawn to the classical designs. I'm not into this weird "Part Time Unicorn" oversized pink sweater shit. I still like a good mini skirt but I'm drawn to long sleeves in my tops. I like pants despite not owning a pair lol. It's something I might try again some day. As for dresses my love of a good fitted dress lives on. I'm attracted to the a-line skater shape because it hugs my body in just the right way. I also like flowy chiffon things because I find there's something distinctly mature about it. Here's some of my inspiration (at the top of this post as well):




What are your thoughts? As you've aged what have you gravitated towards? What's become your "safe zone" in fashion?

Best,

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

McCall's Women's Cosplay Patterns Eventide, Red Reign and Cloak: Phantasy

New Cosplay Patterns!

I think it's been awhile since we've seen a batch of three patterns released at once and I'm always excited for that because the more the merrier! Today I'm look at three new women's costume patterns from Cosplay by McCall's, Eventide, Red Reign and Cloak: Phantasy. Let's look 'em over!
Eventide
Shawl Collar Jackets

In this pattern we're presented with one long and one waist cut shawl collared jacket. They're essentially the same jacket just modified for the shorter look in version 2 (right), which also features bell sleeves. I think it's painfully obvious that version 1 is the far more successful design. I dislike the shawl collar...it's reminiscent of some weird 80's high fashion that maybe Prince would've worn, but I guess it'd be cool if you're channeling your inner Ruby Rhod. The fit is off and I think it's exacerbated by the satin bell sleeves in version 2, while it looks more natural in version 1 probably because the material has more structure. You can see in version 2 there are diagonal wrinkles extending across the torso from the underarm area toward the apex of the bust, this is a fit issue, it means there is an excessive amount of material in this region and it would have to be pinned out. Switching between versions 1 and 2 there really is no apparent difference in the construction in this area, it seems that the material is working against it in version 2. In version 1, it's possible that the length of the garment is ironing those wrinkles out by weighing it downward, I also think the tabs on the waist help disguise these fit issues. Overall, I'm tempted to try version 1 but if I do, I'll be redesigning the collar and investigating fit issues in the bust and armscye.
Red Reign
Bolero Jacket, Corset, Skirt and Hoop
So the more that I'm exposed to her work, the more I realize that I don't like it. Ichigo Black and I do not meet minds aesthetically. Her first releases with the brand (Belle Noir and Belle Rogue) were promising but now I feel like she's regurgitating the same design elements only they're coming out far worse than before. The corset is the only successful piece in this pattern. The overskirt is fine if combined with a normal skirt. We all know that I loathe the exposed hoop skirt trend, I get that it's popular but I can't see how...It's not high fashion to me, it just looks like she's wearing scaffolding. As strange as it is to admit it's not the worst element in this pattern, the bolero is. The asymmetry on this piece is not successful. The eye has difficulty following the flow from right to left. The left shoulder appears deflated, and the sleeve is costumey and not in the cool way but the "I got it at Walmart on clearance" kind of way. The collar sits a tad high and the bolero itself lacks structure, but the worst offender is that back appliqué. I had to look at the diagram to understand just what is going on here.
Firstly, there are no back darts. This piece is in desperate need of shaping and back darts would eliminate that boxy effect you're seeing in the photo on the right. It's corseted but it's not functional. I normally don't find this problematic but I'm befuddled by the fact that they chose to place a lace insert underneath the faux corset closure, it confuses the eye and takes away from the detail of the corset back, which begs the question why have it there at all? Why not place the red fabric underneath it or leave it nude to add contrast? I don't get it. And to add to that, the ensemble has a corset underneath it, so why have a corset on top of a corset? And let's get to the most excruciating part, the bat appliqué. I only saw the front of this costume when I received the promo photos and I had that meh feeling about it, but to see the back...just, wow. It's pretty hideous. It doesn't flow with the contours of the shoulders and it looks super home made. It's like if you were eleven years old and wanted to be goth but couldn't figure out where to start so you glued some half-assedly cut out bat wings on to the back of your hoodie. Don't shake your head, you've been there.
Cloak: Phantasy
Capes
M2092


It's not printed on the envelope but according to the website this is is another Ichigo Black design, thankfully it's not as atrocious as that last piece but this one lacks oomph. I'm not sure if this designer is getting burnt out or what. Her designs have always lacked adequate construction and often times the details are sloppy or confusing. It's really hit or miss. :/ In this pattern there are two capes, one asymmetrical long cape and one shorter cape with a keyhole style draped back. The shorter version, version 1, looks decent on the front with a high collar that has hook and eye closures. The back has a rhinestone detail and embroidered appliqué but it's a little underwhelming and looks slapped on there. The drape on the lower portion of the cape is alright but there's something weird about the way it sits in the capelet. I don't know if it's been tucked, picked up or ruched, the diagram implies ruching. Perhaps this wasn't the most successful technique to employ for this design. The asymmetrical cape is cut well, I can't get a good look at the collar, it's difficult to tell if it's set correctly. The epaulet with the chains could look good with some tweaking. I dislike the bib. It's weird. Not a top, a bib, like half of an apron. I think it attaches to the cape itself? It would've been best to leave it out altogether because it's doing nothing for this pattern. It's also disappointing to see that the designer has yet again resorted to using a faux corset closure. Surely she's had enough of these things? Looking at historical clothing catalogs, I can see that exposed corsets weren't as commonplace as some people assume, it was mostly in their lingerie, instead their clothing had buttons. Whatever happened to buttons? You can do some cool shit with buttons.

Conclusion

I like the jacket pattern well enough and the cape pattern has its place, clearly I hate Red Reign and I'm not about to recommend it to my friends. It's always interesting to see what the new batch of patterns will be, like a Kinder Surprise Egg, sometimes you get the cool toy and sometimes you get that thing that looks weird and you have no idea what the hell it's used for so you give it to your sibling. What will the future hold? I'm always excited to find out. What are your thoughts?








Monday, 1 May 2017

April 2016

Last of the Personal Updates

I'm no longer featuring personal posts on the blog, you may have noticed 60% of the posts have dropped off, I unpublished them. Don't worry, I was not haggled by anybody! I'm doing it for the sake of my new blog and business which you'll be linked to in the coming months. I highly doubt anyone will make the connection between the new blog and the old blog, but in the event that maybe they could it's better to clean Bien Aimée up and eventually put it to rest. I'm a terribly foul-mouthed opinionated person lol, considering my potential clientele will likely be comprised of middle aged women and grandmothers I don't want to scare anyone away. I'll still be goth and love Halloween, I just won't swear as much (if at all...that's going to be a huge challenge as I was raised in a family of boys). 

So, as this post will be deleted/unpublished in a few months time (long enough for you guys to read it and be done with it) I figure I'll give you some brief updates to my life. 

Spring is here and I'm loving every minute of it! The trees are budding open with fresh lime green leaves, the flowers are in full bloom. Flashes of red, yellow and pink tulips adorn the garden beds and the much beloved almond, cherry and flowering Magnolia trees are bursting forth with new life. This is my season, as much as Summer is and Fall, each has its own unique flavor. As I told my husband while lounging on the loveseat, "You know what summer means? Vampires." Because I always get a weird hankering for all things vampiric in the summertime. In the fall it's pumpkin spice [insert food or drink here] and warm sweaters with baked goods. In spring it's gardening and sun hats, pink lemonade and romantic black and white films. And sewing, when I have the energy for it. 

I remember in 2015 I had been hospitalized, post hysterectomy, and I was terribly ill. I was bed ridden and missing the spring experience. The flowering trees only open for about two weeks, as the tulips and daffodils are quick to die off. It's a very short window before the leaves are completely open and everything begins to transition into summer. Ever since that year I have been all the more determined to immerse myself in the season and drink in every aspect of it. My favorite thing this year is the bumble bees who've been scoping out my Fuji cherry shrub (I just bought my mom one for her garden). These things bring me tremendous spiritual peace - spirituality! Another thing I always associate with spring. 

This is what I need in my life right now as I've been away from work for months and haven't shown many signs of improvement. There's good news and gray news? That's a term I just made up to describe news that is neither good nor bad. The good news is that I do not have EBV. Shocking I know. I had been both comforted and shattered by this diagnosis as I fought with all my energy to get my immune system up in order to overcome the virus (as you may have read, EBV reactivated is untreatable and can be overcome if only the body can get it under control - if not you suffer with it for months or years). It turns out that the doctor didn't read it correctly, he identified that I tested positive for EBV, it was the internist who notified me that I had overcome EBV, the bio markers indicated that the virus was in remission. Surprise! That was amazing news but I felt like storming into the hallway and cursing my brains out, why? Because it wasn't accounting for how bad I've been feeling lately. The internist was equally confused. He has no idea what's wrong with me and his resident suggested I might see an infectious disease specialist some day. They both decided to run more blood work on me testing for some serious looking crap and I'll be having an MRI to look at my brain and spine to ensure nothing weird is going on there - particularly in regards to MS which the internist felt could be a possibility and I could just be asymptomatic (I have some but not all symptoms associated with MS). 

That's the gray news. We're back to square one with no diagnosis, no explanation and I've already written my boss to tell her that I have mono only to have to retract that diagnosis...but I'm probably not going to bother. It's not legal paperwork or any such thing, it's just a conversation between her and I and I figure it's no trouble, I was suffering with EBV, I'm still suffering with something, what difference does it make? 

The future

A cat figure I made for my dad,
based on his cat, Pippin.
I have two art figurines being finished off today and tomorrow, I'll have to make the forms for five more, including hands for a devil doll I'm working on. Half of which will be stocked at the brick and mortar gift shop the other half will be listed in my Etsy shop. I have to finish the Halloween inventory by July at the latest, then it's Christmastime. I'm also making two or three "Canadian" themed pieces in honor of the 150th birthday. 

The new blog will feature my art, my home reno projects, my sewing, and maybe some writing pieces here and there. It won't be as fashion oriented as this was but I'm finding I'm getting a bit burned out lately and don't have time to invest in developing mood boards and rummaging through catalogs.

It's up to any of you if you want to read the new blog, this blog or both. Just know that Bien Aimée won't run indefinitely, it will shut down some day I just don't know when.

Meanwhile, I will be posting on the other blog for some home reno projects. We bought a new dresser that needs to be stripped, painted and stained, likewise I need to paint the fireplace mantel, a little side table which I've cleaned up and need to repair, as well as this new set up we have for hubby's video game collection (it's a weird dresser bookshelf hybrid). I have an old secretary that's dying to be painted and the hardware maybe needs to be replaced. I might even make a cool gothy frame for its windows as I got my mom's scroll saw back! We're working on a new planter, not like the one described in my garden post, it's a vertical herb garden planter and we've bought everything for it, I'm really excited to finish that! It's a super cool DIY project, which if you're a condo dweller you might want to try out for yourself. 

Anyways, I hope all is well with you guys and if you do want to know what becomes of me personally don't forget you can reach out, there is a link to me for email in the sidebar under my profile pic.

Cheers,

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Cosplay by McCall's Abigail & Hat Madders


Women's Fantasy Costumes

Another pair of patterns are emerging on Cosplay by McCall's website - unfortunately the website is currently down (?) but you can see them in all their glory once it's fully operational again. For now you'll have to settle for a sneek peak.



Abigail
Misses' Dress
M2089

This is another pattern designed in partnership with Anachronism in Action. It features a fully lined vest and decorative trim on the seam lines and skirt. The package also comes with instructions and pattern pieces for a petticoat and a bum roll (don't laugh! that's the correct terminology, it's like a bustle but smaller and looks like a sausage wrapped around your waist), it also provides tips on underlining which is often a technique used in formal wear to add structure to a garment and stabilize fussy materials. I can only read this through the eyes of a non-conformist who doesn't have cable - I can't speak to it's popular culture origins, instead I can interpret it solely as a costume. It's nice. I like the vest, the gussets are a cool touch. I wish I could see the back of it or the sketch diagram to see what details I'm missing out on as it's difficult to critique it without the nitty gritty details. The fit looks acceptable and the construction is good. Overall, it's a pretty feminine ensemble and I could see this popping up at Renaissance fairs across the country.


Hat Madders
Costume Accessories
M2093

This is difficult to do a cold read on. The description I am provided with: "Pattern includes a unique Top and Bow Tie for any fractured fairy tale or mashup you construct. Also included is a headdress for your inner unicorn and a choker and cuffs to complete any steampunk or fantasy cosplay." We're only seeing half of this pattern by the sounds of it, I'd like to know what the headdress, choker and cuffs might look like but for now all we can go off of is the bow tie and hat on the cover of the envelope. The bow tie is...what can I say? It's a bow tie. It doesn't fail to convey it's bow-y-ness. The hat. looks. busted. I am not a fan of exposed cage anything, I know that it's been a popular trend among Steampunk enthusiasts and has appeared in many specialty alt shops as a skirt with bustle. I just view it as awkward and an inconvenience, and in this case rather unfinished. The whole thing looks unfinished. Surely Ichigo Black has done better than this before but this is...not her shining moment. The brim is buckling and flopping in a weird way, likely due to the selected materials. The skeletal framework of the crown is relatively well executed but it fails to impress me as it looks like a tomato cage perched atop the models head, swaddled by a scrap of duponi, or maybe it's taffeta? Regardless, the hat band is busted. And the name of this pattern? It's as though McCall's themselves weren't even taking it seriously. This is a missed opportunity. Folks, creativity madders, and I have seen many a comment on the Cosplay by McCall's blog begging for armor and fantasy style accessories. I can only hope the other half of the accessories contained in this pattern make up for the shoddy hat design, we'll give them the benefit of the doubt for now. 

UPDATE!



The headdress, choker and cuffs seen here are way nicer than the Mad Hatter cage hat, I'm not sure why they didn't make it on to the cover. You can also see in the photo above that the hat continues to look less than ideal from more than one angle. I just don't understand why the hatter accessories took center stage, I'd much rather see the unicorn. Maybe it's because it doesn't require as much sewing?? The unicorn accessories are nothing ground breaking, just some super embellished cuffs and a headband, but they look good and I can see Lolita fans wearing them.

Conclusion

I'm underwhelmed by the accessories pattern but only being able to see 50% of the contents makes this review unfairly skewed. That being said, I can't see any one buying the pattern for the bow tie alone! I know that it's a part of the branding to have a big glossy high fashion promo photo on the cover of each envelope, but when it comes to multiple looks or styles (in this case accessories) it could be beneficial to feature all of them on the cover, perhaps using two or more models interacting with each other so that all options can be viewed (the way it was done on the patterns Shapeshifter and Laced). I just feel like if I were presented with this picture in a catalog I'd skim right past it, expecting that the hat and bow tie is all that's inside the pattern.

I'm always curious to see the future of Cosplay by McCall's and I'd like to see more prop building and armor crafting in the works, but perhaps they didn't have as much success with their initial attempt, Flight.

What are your thoughts? If any of you are cosplayers, what would you like to see?


Best,


Monday, 10 April 2017

My Diet Adventure Part 1


Adjusting to a Healthy Diet

As some of you may recall, I had seen a gastroenteroligst for some time concerning my digestive troubles. I have yet to receive an official diagnosis, we'll be discussing some results next week, but I was given the go ahead to return to my gluten free diet. I'm ecstatic! I think this is the best choice for my overall health, especially with this new diagnosis of active EBV. Today I want to share a handful of products that I use to get by on the gluten free diet.

Now these products are probably not all 100% FODMAP diet friendly. I recently switched to the FODMAP diet at the request of my Gastroenterologist. According to Wikipeida, FODMAPS are short chain carbohydrates contained in food that are poorly absorbed in the small intestine. The FODMAP diet is a diet that consists of foods that are low in fructans, fructose, lactose and polyols (whatever that means). I don't trouble myself with the scientific details. The FODMAP diet is largely a gluten and dairy free diet. You can see the difference in the high offenders food table and the low offenders food table. The idea is that on the FODMAP diet you will limit your intake of high offending FODMAP foods opting for low FODMAP foods instead. People with IBS use the FODMAP diet to control their condition.

Yes, the FODMAP diet is by far one of the most overwhelming and confusing diets out there. The fact that you can apparently eat cheese but shouldn't drink milk? Confusing! I'm sure it all has to do with how things are processed and what they contain but it's not easy to understand if you're not already a dietitian. I've made the personal decision to go off of dairy and gluten altogether, with the tiny exception of butter. I've never had issues with butter but milk and cheese tend to make me feel rather bloated. I also stay away from most meats and would describe my diet as being more like a pescatarian. 

I should note that with these dietary changes I am taking supplements, like calicum, to make up for the lack of nutritional quantities in my food. I have to find new ways of getting protein since I rarely eat meat as a primary meal component. It's a struggle but I'm learning to adapt.

Food Substitutes & Alternatives

One of the things that I've learned on a gluten free and dairy free diet is that you will almost never find substitutes for your favorites (unless you're really lucky). I found a tofu based dairy free substitute cheese which tasted okay when melted but nothing like the real deal. It was more like mayonnaise! Likewise, I've tried the vegetarian mock foods, like burgers or chicken nuggets, and they all taste like the smell of cat food! They're also technically not allowed on the FODMAP diet because they contain certain offenders (like onion). 

After much searching and experimentation I have found a few gluten/dairy free substitutes that are now cherished favorites and some have become dietary staples for me. Let's take a look! 


When I need cookies I buy the ones from Ottawa's Strawberry Blonde Bakery. They are available at some Farmboy locations. The chocolate chip mint cookies are just like GIRL GUIDE COOKIES!!! They are, legit, better when frozen! They also make some pretty bitchin' ginger spice cookies and I'm pretty sure I had their carrot cake once too. These are delicious. They probably contain some kind of FODMAP offender, surely the chocolate contains milk(?), but overall I don't find they irritate my stummy so they meet my approval. If you've gone gluten free, give this brand a try!

When I need ice cream I buy So Delicious Cashew Salted Caramel Cluster - OMFG!! Certified vegan, dairy free and gluten free, how does it taste so fucking good?! I've experimented with plenty of frozen dairy free/gluten free ice creams and this one blows everything out of the water. I've tired their cookie dough which was also pretty good, it uses a coconut base. I prefer the cashew base because the texture is more like real ice cream, something that's practically unheard of when it comes to ice cream substitutes. I definitely recommend this product!



When I need pasta I buy Barilla gluten free pasta. It has a distinct corn flavor and the texture holds up really well. I like that when you use it in soups the corn flavor comes out, which truly enhances my made-from-scratch chunky vegetable soup. Pasta was one of my go to dishes for months when I switched to gluten free, it's easy to make and my ultimate comfort food. As a little girl I swooned for spaghetti and meatballs! The only downside is that it's expensive but if you're only feeding yourself or sharing with a spouse it's not so bad (hubby loves this stuff). I recommend the penne over other kinds of pasta because it bulks up considerably once cooked, so you get more bang for your buck. It's also important to mention that gluten free pasta can make you constipated, so if that's an issue for you make sure you're taking a fiber supplement to counteract it. 


When I need bread I buy All But Gluten products! I adore their bread and they make hands down the best lemon poppy seed loaf ever. I even used it for my birthday cake! I love it. They've got a good handle on texture. I recommend their raisin bread, it's quite lovely toasted with butter (If you can still have it) or spiced peach jam. I haven't had access to their other products but I hope they emerge in time; you can find them at Metro and I think the Superstore carries it as well. Another decent alternative when I can't get All But Gluten is Udi's Gluten Free products. I like their baguettes and my husband enjoys their wraps. You have to toast them just right otherwise they're a bit gummy and tough to chew on, but they're not as revolting as some bread substitutes.



When I need milk I buy Silk products. I used to purchase Earth's Own but I have since learned that Silk is the superior brand as far as taste and texture is concerned. I buy their almond milk and coconut milk. I'm sure some of you might be put off by either of these milks but they're really quite nice once you get accustomed to the texture - yes, milk has texture! Almond will seem considerably runnier than normal milk and coconut will come across as thicker. I use coconut in my smoothies and baking recipes because it has a higher fat content. I use almond milk for my cereal or just for drinking, the vanilla almond milk is almost like a dessert drink which is great for treating yourself. They make specially formulated coffee substitutes as well, I don't recommend using their straight Almond or Coconut milk in coffee or tea because it separates and tastes sour, buy the coffee version instead!


When I want chips I buy Que Pasa Tortilla Chips. These are organic corn chips that are certified gluten free! You'd be surprised at the number of brands that will add wheat to their products as a binder or flavor enhancer. I was happy to find this brand. They're tougher than other non GF brands, like Tostitos, but they're great with salsa and they hold up better as nachos (which my hubby loves).




When I want cereal I buy Kellogg's Gluten Free Brown Rice Krispies or Crispix. Crispix is not in fact certified gluten free, it has no mention on the box that it is but the nutritional information is void of any gluten ingredients - what gives? Unlike the Brown Rice Krispies, I'm under the impression that Crispix is made in a facility that uses gluten and therefore cannot commit to being entirely gluten free. So, if you're dangerously reactive to gluten I don't recommend it, but if like me it's more of a preference go for it. It is the better tasting cereal between the two. I have tried other gluten free brands and find they're too sugary and they go stale crazy fast, it's like eating saw dust, so I haven't found a non-Kellogg's alternative.


Conclusion

These are the best alternatives I've been able to come up with for many of my old favorites. It's nice to be able to buy something you thought you'd never be able to eat again. There are plenty of gluten/dairy free vegan brands that are always trying to come up with something new! Maybe one day we'll see a great alternative for cheese, who knows? For the items I haven't been able to substitute I replace. I don't like any of the box gluten free soups I've come across so I was forced to come up with my own from scratch. This is becoming the norm for me, my culinary skills are being put to the test. In the final installment of this diet adventure I'll share some recipes that I've come to rely on. 

Do you have any vegan, gluten free, dairy free products that you would recommend?

Best,

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Gothic Green Thumb: Growing a Goth Garden in Containers


Growing Flowers in Containers

What would apartment or condo dwellers do without potted plants? I have been successfully growing flowers in containers for a few years. Don't get me wrong, I'd love an in ground garden but right now that's not a possibility for me. There are times when an all container garden is better than an in ground one; the major benefit to a container garden is that it's easier to control the soil but the downside is that only certain flowers and plants will do well when grown in containers. Unlike a permanent in ground garden, you can move your containers around to change the look of your yard or deck. This is especially helpful if your plants haven't been getting enough sun, you can pick them up and move them into the sunlight.

 Here are some of my tips for gardening in containers:
  • Get a good potting soil. It usually has a mixture of soil, perlite or vermiculite, and peat moss. It's formulated to allow for proper drainage and nutrient retention. Not product plugging here but I use Miracle Grow Potting Soil or a mixture of it and an all purpose soil for my larger containers. I don't recommend all purpose on its own, it's too dense and lacks the qualities of a good potting soil. When I first started gardening I made the mistake of using purely all purpose soil and it compacted, killing my plants. Potting soil should have a light and fluffy texture to it. If you have something thick and sludgy it won't work well and likely won't drain properly. Also, I have to mention that knowing the PH levels in your soil is important for growing certain plants. If you want to grow a flower that requires more acidity you will have to look for a potting soil with that quality. There are often PH testing kits available but these are generally used for in ground gardens, with container gardening you have the benefit of purchasing soil that has the components/PH levels that you already need.
  • You don't have to use just annuals, I grow many perennials in my planters too.
  • Choose plants that can live together! Some plants are prone to choking others out. I once planted some morning glories in with my petunias. Big mistake! They choked the petunias to death. Likewise, petunias are prone to getting leggy; last year I had them in my planter box and they became horrid sprawled out things that killed off my pansies.
  • Similar to above, don't overdo it with your planting. Flowers need room to grow and the ones you buy at the garden center are often not at their full size. Each individual flower will have different spatial requirements and these can and do change when planted in containers. Sometimes the information will be present on the flower tag, other times you will have to look it up online.
  • Don't plant too little, either. My flower boxes looked way too skimpy a few years ago. I suggest using a filler, or what's called "groundcover", for the empty in between spaces. I might use something small and bushy like alyssum to go in with my pansies and snap dragons.
  • Some flowers will require shade where others need full sun, don't mix the two together. 
  • Don't assume that rain will give your plants enough water. Some people may believe this because they're planting in small pots and not great big gardens, but the truth is is that rainwater might not be sufficient enough. Unless you had a significant amount of rainfall, you should always check and make sure that your plants are watered enough. You also want to avoid over watering which will encourage root rot and kill the plant. All you need to do is stick your finger into the soil and if it's more than an inch dry you'll need to water your plant(s). If you find that your plants get dry too quickly they may have become root bound, this is when roots exceed the soil to root ratio and take over the pot, you would need to transplant the flower or flowers into a larger container.
  • Remember to fertilize; what kind of fertilizer and how much or often depends on the plant's individual needs.
  • If you purchase a larger container you don't need to fill it all with soil, you can insert floral foam into the bottom to reduce space (unless you need that extra space for roots for say maybe something like a small tree or shrub).

Photo from Dragonfly Garden Design & Build LTD

Selecting flowers for your garden

On your first visit to a garden center you'll likely be overwhelmed by the colorful array of flowers. You might be tempted to grab up as many "goth themed" flowers as possible but don't! If only planning your garden was that easy. As mentioned above there are different variables to factor in when choosing plants for your container garden. The most important thing is to understand the needs of each individual flower/plant. Consider the following:
  • What climate does it require? * Look for information about Plant Hardiness Zones, this is especially important when purchasing online. My government offers a full scale map that details what zone I'm living in and I use that as a guide for successfully choosing the appropriate flowers. I live in roughly a Zone 6 so anything above 7 is pushing my luck!
  • Does it thrive in full sun, partial, or shade?
  • How much space does it require?
  • How tall does it get?
  • Does it have any specific soil or care requirements?
  • Can it be planted with just about anything or does it do better with only specific plants?
Arm yourself with this knowledge and you can begin planning your container garden. Start by visiting your local garden centers. If you're lucky your garden center will group flowers by their sun requirements, full sun, partial or shade. I once visited a garden center that had created a condo friendly section where they carried potted flowers and shrubs, it was great! If your garden center isn't so organized you might want to ask a clerk for assistance. Compile a list of possible flowers and return home to research which ones can be planted together without issue, and which, if any, require special care.

Check out BHG's Plant Encyclopedia. I used this when I was trying to determine which annuals to look for and what would suit my gardening needs. The entries are very detailed and will often note what works well in containers. You can filter search results based on size, season and colour. The encyclopedia also offers detailed plans for creating cottage style gardens, gardens that could attract butterflies, red themed gardens and so much more. Have a look!

I hesitate to tell anyone to jump head first into gardening with colour as the primary focus. Colour is paramount but shape, smell and purpose can also be equally as significant within the garden. Consider height and space requirements first and foremost, then your zone, and then your colour scheme. If you want to prioritize using plants that are purposeful, like adding herbs or flowers that you can utilize, or you want to attract butterflies or birds to your garden, you might have to adjust your colour scheme accordingly. Amass a list of possible flowers and then you can choose which colours suit your taste.

Start a Book!

Notebooks may seem obsolete with today's technology but I personally find them to be quite beneficial provided that they're well organized. I try to keep my books divvied up; one for sewing notes, one for story notes, and one for housekeeping/gardening and all around home improvement notes. My home and garden book will contain information on perennials, annuals, herbs and soon to be deck measurements and planter building plans. I want to be able to pull this thing off the shelf and look up whatever I need to, like did I need a certain drill bit? Do these flowers go with those flowers? Who carried it for what price? Sure, I could record all of these details onto my phone but I find it's getting too cluttered with my writing and art inspiration notes! I don't need gardening notes all the time, it just takes up valuable phone space in my eyes, so why not fill my ordinarily skimpy looking bookshelf with books? It's sad to think that bookshelves will become obsolete someday...

So what will you put in your book? Whatever you like! But you can take some inspiration from mine. Try creating detailed entries about your favorite flowers. Ask questions like "in which seasons do they bloom? what soil type do they prefer? what are their uses or benefits?" You may choose to group flowers by colour or theme. Treat it like your own personal gardening encyclopedia! You can also use your book as a gardening journal to catalog your triumphs and failures and document gardening techniques that you found were most successful.



A few flowers to consider

(From top left to bottom right)
1. Ajuga
2. Black Pearl Ornamental Pepper
3. Plum Coleus
4. Halloween Pansies
5. Shadow Cat Dahlia
6. Black Petunias
7. Blackberry Heart Sweet Potato Vine
8. Tuberous Red Begonias
9. Joseph's Coat

What about roses?

You may know about the Black Baccara, the darkest and gothiest of roses. I would love to add it to my garden someday but not all roses are container friendly. Through my own stupidity I have purchased three climbing roses which are not meant to be grown in containers. As their title implies they are destined to climb and therefore should be planted in ground by a fence or arbor. Hence why we are forced to create a planter specifically for these roses. I think it's acceptable to start climbing roses in pots but they should make it into the ground by the following year. Now, I'm not saying that you can't grow roses in containers, it's just that many of the fancier varieties of rose will not be available to you. Miniature roses are usually the best choice. They're cheaper and easier to come across. Finding container friendly roses in your garden centers might not be easy. When I was shopping I saw few varieties. You may need to buy online. This site has a great list of roses that can be grown in containers, plus descriptions of the different colours.

Conclusion

The gardening experience can seem overwhelming but can also be a great deal of fun, don't be too intimated to try it. The great thing with container gardens is that you can start small and build your way up.

Best,


Friday, 24 March 2017

Gothic Green Thumb: Spring Garden Planning


Hooray for Spring!

Spring is upon us! And as I patiently wait for flowers to break soil I'm reminded that winter can have it's last say any day now. The weather has been a roller coaster, guiding us through warm bursts of sunny spring days and then punishing us with blasts of frigid arctic air. This has been one of our mildest winters to date and I don't think anybody complained (except maybe skiing enthusiasts). It's been torturous waiting for the weather to stabilize. We're finally entering double digits, today could reach a high of 20°C! I'm definitely going to get out and enjoy it, even if I am sick. XP Our low temps are just above freezing but I'm hesitant to bring out the rose bushes just yet.

I'm in the early stages of my garden planning. Last year, I would've already had my seedlings germinating (and if you're an avid gardener you probably started germinating in February), but this year I decided against it. You might recall that I had a very difficult time raising dahlias, they all succumbed to some kind of disease. I decided that they no longer fit our garden requirements and that I wouldn't bother with planting them this year. Last year I chose to plant perennials. This kind of flower lives for maybe two years at best, if its roots can survive the winter frost, and since most flower boxes get waterlogged - including ours - I don't expect to see last year's petunias or snapdragons re-emerging in my container garden. I knew they wouldn't last which played a role in my decision to purchase them. When we moved into our condo it was winter, so we had no idea whether or not our deck would get full or partial sunlight, or none at all! It's important to know these kind of things because each plant has specific needs. Some plants are more successful in shaded gardens while others require full sunlight to thrive. I'm still not 100% of exactly how many hours of sunlight our deck receives but it's enough to sustain partial sunlight plants.

Since I used mostly perennials my deck is practically void of any vegetative life! The only thing straggling behind are the icicle pansies which can live through winter, and my chocolate mint - no, not chocolate as in yummy, chocolate as in brown! There's also the Fuji shrub and the climbing roses that I housed indoors. I'm very excited to see the Fuji in bloom and it's already sprouted leaf buds. The roses can't be brought out until we're sure that the frost has buggered off, but more importantly we've decided that this year we'll build them their own personal planter box, complete with trellis and hanging candle holders. 
That is if we end up actually building the box! Unfortunately it's too early in the season to see what shops have to offer. It'll be a few more weeks before all the garden stores have their inventory out. I'm finding most of the containers/boxes available are too small and far too expensive for our needs. Raised gardens are insanely popular and they've been clogging up many a Pinterest feed for some time. There are a handful of DIY videos that explain how to build one from scratch, and it's looking like this might be the path to take. Most pre-made raised boxes have been too small and too deep for our needs. I'm working with an itsy bitsy deck and as you can see from my garden plan above it's cramped. The blue planter is the rose planter we're thinking of building. It'll be about 4 ½ feet in length. Depth is being debated but I'm thinking a little over 2 feet. We're contemplating building the trellis. Can you believe that the kind of trellis we like could cost us up to $300 pre-made?! I figure it's gotta be cheaper to do it ourselves. I don't want to buy the cheap traditional trellis most stores carry because it tends to come apart over time and it would block out the afternoon light that the roses rely on. I want the box to look more like this (on the right) only not as long and probably not as deep.

Pre-made this kind of planter box could cost anywhere from $700-$1200. That's a lot. Ours probably won't look as polished with the finials and all that shit, we want it to be basic and a lot cheaper. I'm going to paint it a beautiful turquoise colour to accent the roses, which are Climbing Joseph's Coat and Westerland roses. It'll be a tight fit so I probably won't add anything else to the box. I'd really love to be able to screw wrought iron hangers into the trellis frame and hang light weight candle holders from them. I'm torn between doing a shabby chic style with mason jars and sand, or maybe purchasing some Moroccan inspired candle holders with coloured glass. I found that I keep gravitating towards bright and fun colours which was not my original plan. I truly thought my garden would be more pastel, shabby chic Goth, with white, pink and black flowers. This year I think I'm just going to go with this instinctive need for colour and go balls to the wall tropical! We've got some funky orange outdoor fabric that I stashed and I'd like to incorporate that this year in the patio furniture linens. 


My ultimate goal this year is to maximize space and minimize containers! I had so many damn containers last year I didn't know what to think. We couldn't hang anything up and unfortunately all the over-the-rail style planters didn't fit our railings. So everything just piled up on the deck - ugh! It look sloppy, for sure. In the plan you can see in the bottom right corner there's a large container with flowers. This could change to a slimmer, two tiered planter, to reduce even more space. I like symmetry, so I might purchase a duplicate to the Fuji's container and do it as the plan suggests, it's just a very big container, but if I'm putting all my flowers into it kinda has to be! I'm planning on mixing in my mint and maybe some of my herbs into this planter, but I want to be careful not to put anything acrid smelling in there; that means that the garlic and green onions should be planted elsewhere. I should note that if you ever wish to use mint as a filler it has to be planted inside its own separate container, like the one it came in, otherwise it'll spread like wildfire! It also needs to be pruned often, but it smells AWESOME! 

This year I need to establish some rules for adding flowers to the garden. I'm thinking about bringing back pansies. I want to plant them around the outer rim of the container, and I do want to use snapdragons again because they're easy to grow, however, I need to put them behind the pansies. This is something I neglected to do last year and it was a huge mistake! Snapdragons and petunias should behave as "backdrops" for smaller flowers like pansies, otherwise they choke them out. I'm going to buy black pansies again and hopefully orange and hot pink snapdragons for the center of the container, then fill the remaining space with herbs and hopefully something that flowers every season. The colours need to match this year, as last year it was a bizarre hodge podge of madness! I want black, orange and hot pink. I think it will really pop with the orange and blue patio decor.

Last year's container garden madness!
It's difficult planning a garden on a small condo deck. There are so many rules, such limited space, but I don't want that to ruin the gardening experience for me. It's my hope that soon I'll have a lovely outdoor space to enjoy minus the backyard!

Do you have any gardening plans for this year?

Best,

Monday, 20 March 2017

Simplicity - New Batch of Alt Patterns

Rockabilly, Boho Goth and Steampunk

I haven't been paying too much attention to Simplicity's new releases and unfortunately it allowed a few new alternative fashion patterns to slip past my radar! It appears they've added a few new Steampunk accessory patterns, a Rockabilly pattern and a Boho Goth ensemble. Let's check them out!


Misses' Knit Tops, Cropped Pants, Skirts

This is a really neat pattern. Although I feel like the Rockabilly scene isn't as strong as it once was, this is a nice attempt at recreating some of the classic pieces. I don't think it's something I'd ever use considering I have a vintage stash of over fifty items! (I purged a lot too) >.<  But I feel that this pattern would be beneficial for those who don't want to pay the hefty price tag for authentic vintage patterns. I should note that not all vintage patterns are too expensive, I bought a classic rockabilly summer dress pattern for only $10 CAD. It all depends on preference and luck I suppose. If you don't want to have to wait and search for that ideal wiggle skirt or halter pattern it is easier to buy it new. 

What I appreciate most about this pattern is what it offers for plus size girls. I sell vintage patterns in my shop and plus size patterns fly off my virtual shelves like hot cakes! They are hard to find. This pattern makes up for that scarcity and allows fans of vintage to get the style and the fit they've always wanted. I like these designs but they're far from accurate. These are "vintage style" because they lack the classic construction lines of the era. Case in point, there are no waist or bust darts to give the tops the iconic cone boob look, and they rarely used knit during the 50's (yet they did in the 40's - I think cotton allowed for a more constructed appearance in the 50's). All in all, it's probably a more comfortable and accessible pattern than it's vintage style counterparts.

On a random side note, I hope I get reincarnated as a plus size girl with an arse like that!


Misses' Lace Blouse and Skirt in Two Styles

Another one from Karen Fleisch of Arkivestry. It's weird that some of the Simplicity patterns are designed by Karen while others are labelled Arkivestry. It makes me wonder who has their hands in the design process when the Arkivestry brand is used and if Karen has dropped the label and it's been picked up by another designer?? I really wish I could tell Simplicity to buy some more versatile shoes for their promo shoots. I cannot count how many times I've looked at the pictures and thought "what were they thinking?!" Those heels with that dress? C'mon, put that bitch in sandals! 

I admit I like this better than her previous designs. I got what I asked for - more lace and a chance at chiffon. However, these designs suffer from what typifies all of Karen's work: they're terribly dated. The gored skirts sit too closely to the body and come across as matronly to me. The longer skirt is not floor length and that shit drives me bonkers. I get that that style was popular in the 70's, like bell bottoms, but in these days they need to hit the ground otherwise they look like you're preparing for a flood. I'm also not a fan of how high the top is cut, my eye wants it to drape down past the hips, like a tunic. The biggest hit against these designs is that you should not, under any circumstances, create a garment in chiffon or lace that has TOO MANY SEAMS. This is couture 101. They've tried to mask them by stitching lace trim over every seam but it comes across as clumsy and poorly made. You want sheer and lace materials to speak for themselves, seams should be subtle and not detract from the delicacy of the fabric.

I like the shape of the bell sleeves and the concept as a whole, I just wish it had been kicked up a notch, to meet contemporary design standards, because these silhouettes are far too matronly. I wish it looked like this.



Misses' Hats in Three Sizes

Look! View C is pretty much the hat that I requested in Simplicity 0666! With the exception of that icky looking bow, make that in some black felt and you've got your wide brimmed fedora. This is another Arkivestry design adding to Simplicity's ever growing appendage of Steampunk patterns. They mimic hats that I've seen on Pinterest, and while the construction of the crown leaves a little to be desired, these hats could be ramped up with the right amount of embellishment. I would like to see someone craft a fedora using this pattern but I admit that around here the thick felt required for such a project is quite costly and I'm better off buying one ready made.


Conclusion

Although I'm not blown away by much of this it is encouraging to see them continue to try navigating the world of alternative fashion. The most successful piece here is the rockabilly pattern. I'd like to see some vintage repro swimsuits come up, I know they released a vintage play-suit and bustier patterns but people felt they were too difficult to sew. Alt and goth fashion are still so unfamiliar to Simplicity. I don't think they understand the aesthetic and it's going to take some time and experimentation before they get a solid grasp of the style. Let's just hope they can see it through and not just give up entirely!

If you look through their new catalogue you can see many items that can be adapted for alt fashion uses, but things that are explicitly alt in style (like bondage clothing and body harnesses) have yet to make an appearance. What will the future hold?

As usual your thoughts are encouraged and welcomed in the comments below.

Best,

Friday, 10 March 2017

Lip Service Returns


The return of Lip Service

A brand much loved by trad goths, Lip Service recently announced its return to the fashion world, and in honor of its late founder, Drew Bernstein, the store is featuring the iconic Lip Service dagger motif in its first collection. It's important to note that the bulk of the store's inventory is currently vintage. There are a handful of new printed items available featuring the dagger, but the majority of the catalog's eye-catching display are single sized vintage items. It's a small start but it's a step in the right direction and the reception has been tremendous with items being sold off in a single day. 

This leaves us asking a lot of questions, like what does the future hold for Lip Service? With the obvious desirability of these vintage designs, I tend to wonder if re-releasing the classics will be their first step. I mean, I've looked at that pvc dress about a hundred times since receiving their newsletter and even though it's sold out it doesn't stop me from wanting it.

We've already seen some other brands borrowing from trends of the past but Lip Service pioneered a lot of those trends! It has such a tremendous history to pull from. That being said, because Lip Service is a brand known for trendsetting I am equally interested in seeing what new creations they can come up with. It's exciting to say the least.

What are your thoughts?



Cheers!

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