My New Friend

I wanted to introduce you all to my new friend!  

Custom Stencil Artist ~ Phil Kwan

Custom Stencil
Artist ~ Phil Kwan

Last month, after years of procrastinating, I finally got a new tattoo.

From the moment that I got my first tattoo I knew that I wanted to get a second one.  It took me over a decade to decide what I wanted as my second tattoo, where I wanted it located on my body and who would be the tattoo artist.

Let me tell you, finding the right artist was probably the hardest part.  I knew that I wanted to get some sort of watercolour type design and after years of researching I found the perfect artist!  

Watercolour tattoo's are tricky.  They look great to start with, but over the years, as the colours fade they can really begin to look dingy and not very nice.  If I was going to be putting something on my body that I would have for the rest of my life, I wanted it to look good.  I knew that if this was the tattoo route I was going to take, I needed to find the right artist to take on the challenge.

Close Up ~ 1.5 months healed Artist ~ Phil Kwan

Close Up ~ 1.5 months healed
Artist ~ Phil Kwan

I don't remember how I found Phil Kwan, random internet search maybe?, but when I did find him, I started following him on social media and I loved all of the work he had posted on his Instagram account.  

About 4 years ago, I got up the courage to book a consultation appointment with Phil, but due to a lack of funds and some pretty high nerves, I chickened out and cancelled the consultation.

That was a decision I would regret for years because once I was ready to re-book, Phil wasn't taking on any new clients.  I lost my chance. Thankfully this turned out to be a good thing.  You see, the only thing that happens with artists over time is that they tend to get better, and Phil was no exception.

I continued to follow Phil on Instagram and was blown away by his art.  It seemed to me that every tattoo he posted was just more beautiful than the previous one.

After a few years of waiting, I decided that it was finally the right time to take the plunge and get my new tattoo.  Since Phil wasn't accepting new clients, I let if be know to a friend of mine that I was ready to take the plunge and if they knew of any other watercolour tattoo artists, to let me know.

I ended up booking a consultation appointment with a lovely lady, whose work I also enjoyed.  Her work was different than what Phil had, but she had some really nice steady lines (a sign of a good artist) and some great colour work.  I scheduled a consultation appointment with her to discuss what she could put together and see if it would fit with the image that I had in my head, that I was unable to fully articulate to anyone, including myself.

Close Up ~ 1.5 months healed Artist ~ Phil Kwan

Close Up ~ 1.5 months healed
Artist ~ Phil Kwan

This is one of those moments in life where "it is just meant to be".  Shortly after I booked the consultation appointment with the lady artist, Phil opened up his books to new clients!  This didn't mean he would take me on as a client, it only meant that I had a chance he would.  

I filled out his form explaining as best I could what I was looking for, thankfully, the design I wanted wasn't on his "I'm not interested in doing the following at this time" list.

I got in!  I was so excited.  Phil wanted to book a consult/tattoo appointment all in one.  I had so much confidence in his work, that I accepted on the spot, not wanting to pass up the opportunity a second time to have him do the tattoo I had been waiting over a decade for.

I was a nervous ball of nerves in the months leading up to my appointment.  I kept questioning my decision to actually get this tattoo done.  Why are brains like that?  This was something I've been thinking about for years and yet I was second guessing the decision.

Close Up ~ 1.5 months healed Artist ~ Phil Kwan

Close Up ~ 1.5 months healed
Artist ~ Phil Kwan

The tattooing day finally arrived!  With only a little bit of instructions from me on what I would like (a swimming penguin on my arm), Phil came up with some lovely artwork.  

My first tattoo from start to finish took maybe, at the most, 30 minuets, and most of that was set-up. It was quite small and very simple, black ink.  My new friend took just shy of two hours to tattoo onto my arm, although I was at the studio for a lot longer between the consultation and setup.  

I'm not going to lie, getting a tattoo hurts, however, surprisingly, it didn't hurt as bad as I was expecting.  I'm not sure if that was because I had built of the pain so much in my head, the location I was getting it done is less sensitive then my previous tattoo or I was just too nervous to feel the full pain.  In any case, it wasn't nearly as bad as I was expecting.  Near the end of the tattoo however, my arm sure was getting sensitive and I couldn't wait until it was over.

As with any tattoo, you can see from the initial photo, taken moments after the tattoo was completed, to the 1.5 months later photo, that some fading has occurred.  This is a natural effect of tattoos.  The reason I love Phil's work is because of the extensive black-line work that he puts into his art.  When the colour's do fade somewhat over time, the black still holds everything together and keeps it beautifully cohesive.  

For a few days after getting the tattoo, dealing with the healing discomfort and itchiness, I kept asking myself, why I was putting myself through this pain and discomfort.  As the itchiness went away, and the healing progressed I remember why I did it and I couldn't have asked for a more beautiful or more "me" tattoo than my new penguin friend.  

Brand New Tattoo ~ I LOVE it!
Artist ~ Phil Kwan

1.5 months healed ~ I still LOVE it!
Artist ~ Phil Kwan

Editing Paintings

I've made two paintings recently that I was curious to see if I could try to edit and make some adjustments in photoshop.  To be specific these paintings are; Tropical Illuminati and Galaxy #1. The originals of these paintings can be viewed in my Watercolour Gallery, but as for why I wanted to edit them, well read on.

Tropical Illuminati

I've written a blog post about Tropical Illuminati which explains the reason behind this particular painting and why I painted Flamingos and Pineapples.  I had a ton of fun making this painting, but while I was painting it, in a few spots the water ran way from me which left some of the wrong colour in a few areas, especially in the legs of the flamingos. This is something, that while it bugged me a little bit, wasn't that big of a deal.  

One of my ideas for the future, is to eventually have prints or cards of the paintings I make.  I felt that colour of the water spilling into the legs of the flamingos is something that I wouldn't like to have on a print and I was curious if I could fix this very small mistakes in photoshop.

Turns out I can!  Even with my very limited skills using photoshop, I was able to do exactly what I wanted to fix the spilled water and a few other minor areas. While I was in photoshop, I punched up the colour just a tad so it was a bit more vibrant.  

One thing I've noticed now that I have a scanner and have started scanning my watercolour paintings verses taking a photo of them, is that the vibrancy of the colour tends to mute just a little bit more with a scan verses a picture.  This was something that I was expecting when doing my research on which scanner to purchase.

I went with the Canon CanoScan LiDe 220 which was on sale at Best Buy, which was an added bonus, when Michael and I went to purchase it

Original Scan

Photoshop Edit

As you can see, the original and the edited version are just about the same.  The main change being on the flamingo's legs, where in the edited version, I removed some of the blue water that had crept into the legs during the painting process.

I also "punched" up the colour's in the edited version just a tad. I feel that it still looks like a watercolour painting, just a bit more vibrant.  

Galaxy #1

With Galaxy #1, this was the first time that I attempted to paint a galaxy.  I kept seeing these lovely galaxy design on Instagram and I was curious if I could recreate on of them myself.  I have an idea for another painting that would include a galaxy and I wanted to attempt the galaxy first before I started work on this other painting.

The trees are dreadful, and something that I will work on in future renditions of Galaxy paintings.  I also found that I left too much blank space at the bottom of the painting, which makes the overall painting fall quite flat and boring I feel.  All of that being said, the galaxy portion of the painting, for a first attempt, I'm quite proud of. 

Galaxy #1 is another painting that I was curious if I could make pop just a bit more using photoshop.  At first I just wanted to crop the image, so there would be less blank space at the bottom, but while I had it in photoshop, I also attempted to punch up the colours a bit.  

Original Scan

Original Scan

Photoshop Edit

As you can see, the edited version of this watercolour galaxy is super vibrant and the colours just pop a lot more than the original scanned version.  I debated whether or not to add more stars using photoshop, but decided against it.

Is using Photoshop Cheating?

I've decided that my Watercolour Gallery will always include the original un-edited version (scan) of the painting I've created.  While I am enjoying being able to make some minor edits and colour punches to these paintings, they are not the originals.  I don't want the original paintings to get lost as these originals are what inspired whatever edits I may make in Photoshop and without them, there wouldn't be any art.

In the future, one day, I'd like to have the option to have prints made and I think that photoshop will help with that, punching up the colours a tad will, I believe, translate well to a final printed picture.  Only time will tell.

What do you think, is using photoshop cheating?

Tropical Illuminati

Centuries ago, pineapples and flamingos decided that they were not getting the recognition they deserved and they banded together to slowly install themselves in modern culture. Alright, I admit, that does sound crazy, but kind of fun to think about.  If Pineapples were sentient and Flamingos actually cared about that kind of thing, their seemingly takeover of modern arts and cultural would make a lot more sense.

Flamingos in Pop Culture can trace their origin to plastics, and the pink lawn flamingo specifically.  Pineapples have an even longer and varied history in pop culture than Flamingos, starting with their "official" discovery by Christopher Columbus in 1493.  Reading about the Social History of the Pineapple is actually quiet fascinating.

The hashtag #tropicalIlluminati started out as an inside joke with friends, that I loved so much I painted my newest watercolour with a flamingo and pineapple theme.  For the most part, it's still an inside joke, but I've had many people ask me why I enjoy it so much.

Alice in Zombieland

Alice in Zombieland

A few months ago, a friend of mine, Julia from Vancouver Crafty Geeks, decided that she wanted to decorate her deck with flamingos and pineapples and put out a social media call for anyone who had or knew where to get Flamingo Lawn Ornaments.  If memory serves, I believe that this desire stemmed from the previous summer when we saw a bunch of Flamingo floaties during a day-trip to the beach.

I actually had a few flamingo lawn ornaments I got from a yard sale, leftovers as Halloween Costume, "Alice in Zombieland", I only needed one, but I bought three, you never know when you are going to need extra flamingo lawn ornaments.  I was going as a zombie hunter Alice from Wonderland and Michael was going as a zombified Mad Hatter.  If you don't remember the context of the Flamingos in Alice in Wonderland, they were used as croquet mallet by the Queen of Hearts.   

A few weeks after the flamingo lawn ornament call to arms, during a shopping trip to the states, Julia found some flamingo and pineapple string lights that would work great on her deck.  They were pretty awesome, I almost wanted to purchase them for myself.

Following a flurry of picture message exchanges with Julia about all the crazy pineapple and flamingo stuff you can buy for bathrooms I started to see Flamingos and Pineapples EVERYWHERE.  A lot of the times, it would just be a flamingo on a cup or a pineapple on a shirt, but occasionally they would appear together.  I also started to spot it on TV, once Don Cherry was wearing a flamingo suit and on How I Met Your Mother, Ted Mosby woke up next to a pineapple.

As a joke, I mentioned on Facebook that noticing flamingos and pineapples everywhere was all Julia's fault, sometimes the best random conversations happen because of peoples comments on Facebook statuses.  

During that Facebook convo, two tags emerged from another friend who had noticed the same phenomenon, #FlamingoPineappleConspiracy and #TropicalIlluminati.  Since #tropicallIlluminati just had a better ring to it, I found it hilariously awesome and this is how the #TropicalIlluminati was finally uncovered from centuries of hiding.

The #TropicalIlluminati discovery was a classic case of the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, alternatively known as the Frequency Illusion or Confirmation Basis.  This is something that everyone has experienced at some point or another.  For example, have you ever purchase a car and then started to notice that same car was everywhere?  Or when reading a book, and you discover a word you never knew before, then that word starts to appear everywhere?

While I am totally away that the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon is the reason for the existence of the #TropicalIlluminati, I've still been enjoying the outcome, and it even has a longer history in my life than most of my friends are even aware.


It all started around my birthday.  I can't remember the exact birthday it was, late teens early twenties, but in any case, one year for my birthday, my good friend Katie, gave me what is to this date, the best birthday card ever.  A Pineapple.  I don't mean a card with a picture of a pineapple on it, I mean a physical pineapple, the kind you'd eat.  I don't even like to eat pineapples, and at the time I didn't even like to drink their blood, but this was by far the most memorable birthday card ever.  A fresh pineapple with the words Happy Birthday written on the tag that was attached by a little elastic to the leaves.  How many birthday cards do you remember, I bet not a one.  I have a feeling this card will be one that I remember always.

From this point on, despite my not enjoying the eating of pineapples, I've always held a fondness for them.  So when Katie announced that she was getting married, the crafty person that I am, I decided to make her a shawl as her wedding present.  

I HATED the first shawl I attempted to make.  It was a simple shell stitch, but by the time I was almost finished it, I couldn't stand it.  There was no way I was giving this hated shawl to Katie, and despite the fact the wedding was almost happening, I stopped making it.

Remembering that pineapple "birthday card" Katie gave me many years ago, I wondered if I could make a shawl with some sort of pineapple theme.  To Ravelry I went that there is a ton of pineapple themed crochet stuff and I found an awesome pattern called I Promise You Pineapples .  At this point, the wedding had come and gone and the shawl was very overdue as a wedding present.  I promise you pineapples appeared to be a pretty simple crochet and I decided to attempt it.

A year after the wedding, I finally presented Katie with a completed Pineapple Shawl. I Promise You Pineapples was a fun pattern to make and crocheted up really quickly.  I might even make another one for myself one day.  

I Promise you Pineapples

I Promise you Pineapples


Flash back forward to 2017 and the discovery of the Tropical Illuminati.  I was in a whee bit of a creative slump, having just finished my latest painting, the Alice in Wonderland Star Wars Mashup (which coincidentally also features a flamingo), and I didn't have any idea what I wanted to create next, my art supplies were sitting there, unused.

Along came the Tropical Illuminati and inspiration struck!  I knew that I had to paint Flamingos and Pineapples and give homage to the #TropicalIlluminati.

#TropicalIlluminait in Watercolour ~ July 2017, painting by Samantha Reeves

#TropicalIlluminait in Watercolour ~ July 2017, painting by Samantha Reeves

I had a lot of fun creating this painting.  This was the second time I've attempted painting water, the first time was in "C" Vancouver.  Every painting is a learning experience, while I don't think I have water "right" yet, I do think that the water in #TropicalIlluminati is a lot better than my last attempt.

If I was to redo this painting, I'd leave off the #tropicalIlluminati part on the painting itself, and add it in later on the computer.  Aside from that, I love this painting and the joy it has brought to me, my friends and hopefully the world, if #tropicalIlluminati goes viral...you never know.

Recent Tropical Illuminati Sightings

 
 

Have you discovered the Tropical Illuminati prior to reading this post?  If you have, I'd love to hear about your sightings.  If you discovered the Tropical Illuminati after reading this post, well, that's the Frequency Illusion at work again, and I love to hear about that too.

One thing I can say about all of this Flamingo and Pineapple fun, I now know how to spell Illuminati without looking it up each time.  

Update July 31, 2017 ~ I submitted Tropical Illuminati to Urban Dictionary and it was ACCEPTED!  That makes me so excited.

Update November 8, 2017 ~ My friend Julia, formerly of Vancouver Crafty Geeks has re-branded and you can now find her at Wayward Pineapple Creations.  Her newest blog post is her about her interactions with the #TropicalIlluminati, check it out!: A Conspiracy of Pineapples

Tile Coasters

Tile Coasters ~ Done with Sharpies

A Tutorial

Well, here is is, the very first of my tutorials.  I've started with these lovely Tile Coasters that you can make using tiles and sharpies.  These are a ton of fun to make and super easy, and only use a few supplies to make them.  The key to my tile coasters is Engine Enamel.  Engine Enamel is something that you would normally use on cars, to paint the engine of a car. I don't know why you would want to do this, but you can get a ton of different colours or it can be in clear.  It's the clear engine enamel that you want to purchase from your local car shop.  Make sure that you follow the specific instructions on the engine enamel that your purchase.  You want to make sure that you put enough on your tiles so that you protect your design and it won't later start to run or smudge.  I learned this lesson the hard way, so I'm hoping that you can learn from my mistakes.  Using Engine Enamel, as opposed to Mod Podge, allows you to place hot beverages on your tiles and not have them be sticky and tacky.  Mod Podge isn't heat resistant, but engine enamel is heat resistant up to 260°C.  

Group Project Setup

These tiles are so much fun to make, easy very easy to do as a group project, and I know this from experience.  They also make fantastic wedding/birthday/house warming gifts.  I have actually made some for all three events.  You can also theme them up if you wanted to.  Maybe some Harry Potter House Colours or if you know the colours for the wedding you are attending, use those.  There are so many ideas of what you can do, and the best part is because the rubbing alcohol changes everything around, you don't need to be an artist.  If you can put scribbles with a pen onto a piece of paper, you can make these super cool tile coasters.  They would also be a wonderful (supervised) project for kids.  The reason I say supervised is because you need to use sharpies to make these, so you would want to keep an eye on young kids that they don't colour themselves, the floors, the walls (as I've been told children do this type of thing)  If they do, apply rubbing alcohol liberally to the drawn on area and the sharpie should come away.  Magic Erasers are also fantastic for markings on walls.

Final Tiles From Group Project

So without further ado, here are the instructions for making your very own Tiled Coasters and if you scroll to the very bottom, you will find the instructions downloadable as a PDF for easy reference, or to give out at the end of a group project so people can make them again.  

Materials Needed

  • Tiles
  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Sharpies (Variety of Colours)
  • Eye Dropper
  • Toothbrush
  • Popsicle Sticks
  • Foam Brush
  • Felt
  • Mod Podge
  • Engine Enamel

 

Instructions

1) Wipe the dust off of your tiles.

2) Cut Felt to desired size, you want to cover the bottom of the tile with felt and glue felt to tile with Mod Podge, you can use the foam brush or the popsicle stick to spread the Mod Podge around the bottom, making sure to reach the edges so your felt adheres all the way around..

3) Flip tile over and start to colour or draw a design with the sharpies.  The rubbing alcohol will spread the ink around, so don’t be afraid to make mistakes and don’t worry about drawing pictures. 

4) Once tile is coloured, use the eye dropper or toothbrush to add or flick rubbing alcohol onto the tile.  At this point you will see you colours starting to mix and swirl.  You can use your fingers or the popsicle stick to help move the alcohol along. Darker colours will overpower lighter colours ~ experiment with your colour choices.  If you don’t like what you’ve created you can still apply a liberal amount of rubbing alcohol at this point and wipe your tile clean to start again. (Note if you use your fingers, they will get stained, apply rubbing alcohol to help remove stain)

5) Once the rubbing alcohol is dried and you are happy with your design, colour the sides of your tiles using a sharpie. Be careful at this point, your design can be scratched.

6) Now that you’ve coloured the sides of your tile with a sharpie, use the Mod Podge and apply the Mod Podge with a brush only onto the sides of your tile.  This will protect the colour and sides of your tile.

7) Once the Mod Podge is dried then you can spray the top of your tile with Engine Enamel.  Follow the application instructions on the engine enamel as each brand is slightly different.  What the engine enamel does is to protect the sharpie design on your coaster AND allow you to put hot beverages on it.  

a) If you are doing this project with kids, or as a group, you can use Mod Podge on the top of the tile to protect your design.  However, this will make hot beverages stick a little bit when you use the coaster, just be careful when you pick up your mug as the coaster might come with it.

8) Once dried, you have a lovely tile coaster that can be use with both hot and cold beverages* enjoy! 
*If you used Engine Enamel

I hope that you enjoyed the very first tutorial I have written.  If you have any questions, comments, concerns, please let me know.  If you use my tutorial to make your very own Tile Coasters, I'd love to see your final results, you can email them to me at:  TheArtisanPenguin@gmail.com.

Something Happened

Shopping for clothes is the worst and for the third summer in a row I found myself attending a wedding, as a guest this time instead of a bridesmaid.  I would be Michael's plus one as we headed off to Bozeman, Montana, this time Michael was in the wedding party, not me.    I found the prospect of shopping for a dress as a guest of a wedding almost worse than getting a bridesmaid dress.  At least buying a bridesmaid dress, my selection of dresses was somewhat limited to certain colours or styles that the brides wanted, but what should I get for a garden party wedding where I didn't know anyone?  Complete free reign, my options were endless.

Both of my amazing friends who were brides the past two years were about the furthest away from the typical bridezilla that you can find.  They both left it basically up to the bridesmaids to find dresses that we liked, only having specifics for the colour and that all dresses should be the same length.  While I ended up loving both the dresses we did choose and how I looked in them, the process of choosing and altering them, for me at least, was difficult.  

I thought that going to a wedding as a guest, and getting to pick any dress I wanted would be easier than all the hassle and frustration I went through with the bridesmaids dresses and in some ways it was, once I discovered eShakti.  In order for you to understand my frustrations of dress shopping for a wedding, I need to provide you with a little bit of background on my bridesmaid dresses so that you'll understand why I will never want to buy another dress again, unless it's through eShakti.

Dress #1, Purple

July 2015 ~ Camp Howdy, BC

July 2015 ~ Camp Howdy, BC

The Bride and I fell in love with this purple dress almost right away, so picking out the dress turned out to be pretty simple, it's the aftermath that was horrendous.  The store measured me out and told me which size to purchase and I listened to their suggestion, thinking they knew best.  I was very careful not to gain or lose any weight in the meantime, five months from ordering to delivery, as I've heard all sorts of horror stories about dresses not fitting.  

A few weeks before the wedding date, just before the dress was due to arrive, the store called my friend and told her the dress wouldn't arrive in time for the wedding despite them telling us we ordered with plenty of time.  Apparently five months in advance wasn't enough time?  I'm not sure what my friend said to the store to get the dress to arrive in time, but miraculously, it arrived, about a week or so before the wedding.  Off to the store I went, at this point the weekend before the wedding, to pick it up.  When I tried it on at the store it was too small.  Like really too small, at least 2-3 sizes too small.  The lady at the store used all her might to do up the zipper she told me it was a "perfect fit" and it would loosen up as I wore it.  I had no choice, breathing would have to be a luxury, there was no way to get another new dress in a week.  

At home that evening, I tried on the dress again.  I have no idea what kind of superhuman strength the lady at the store had, but I couldn't get the zipper up this time, Michael couldn't get the zipper up, I was screwed.  I figured I'd take it into an alteration shop the next morning and see if there was anything that could be done and worse came to worse I could just wear a shrug so you couldn't see that the zipper didn't close all the way.  

The alteration place I took it to managed to save the dress, but it was a close call.  The regular staff said the job was too complicated for them, but called over this little old gentleman to take a look at the dress.  Tearing into the dress to see how much seam allowance there was, he explained that the most he could let it out was about an inch in total, one half inch on each side.  I figured it was better than nothing and he set to work, telling me it would be ready in a week.  I begged him to get it ready sooner as I needed the dress in 5 days at this point.  Thankfully he said he would make it work.

I had a dress!  There are a lot of double sided tape involved, and a small hole on the side of the dress because there was so little fabric to work with, but I was clothed in the same dress as the rest of the wedding party with breathing was being slightly difficult.  In the end, I paid well over $350 for a dress and alterations that never actually fit but at least the dress made it through my friends lovely wedding.

 

Dress #2, Blue

From my experiences the year before, I thought I knew what to do to avoid getting a dress that was too small, and for the most part I succeeded.  Blue took a long time to find and after many shopping trips we succeeded.  I write this post I now realize that Blue it's pretty much the same dress as purple, just a longer version.

There were 3 lovely ladies who needed a dress for this wedding, and while the dresses didn't have to be the same, they did need to have a similar look, all the same colour and length.  Have you ever tried to find a similar dress to fit three very differently shaped lovely ladies?  It's tough.  We persevered and eventually found some amazing dresses, that we all liked and looked good in.  I wanted to make sure that I didn't get a dress that was too small this time, so in an effort to get something the correctly fit me, I explained the previous situation I had experienced regarding the sizing.  The lady at the store was very understanding (it was a different shop from the last place as I had refused to shop there again) and they recommended that we order a dress size based off my largest measurement because making something smaller is much easier then making it bigger.  She explained to me that when dresses are being fabricated in large batches, as is usually the case for bridesmaid dresses, when the fabric is cut, all the fabric is piled on top of each other and it's like a cookie cutter pressed and cuts all the fabric at once.  Because of the way the fabric is cut, the dresses on the top will actually be a different size then the dresses on the bottom, but they will all be labelled with the same size, even though they can be up to two size differences between them.  Have I mentioned before how I hate shopping for clothing?

Sept 2016 ~ Naramata, BC

Sept 2016 ~ Naramata, BC

When the dress arrived and it was HUGE.   Success!?  We ordered something bigger then needed, at least three sizes bigger then needed, but again, easier to take fabric away then add fabric.  Apparently I needed to buy a dress size in between the two sizes I have purchased.  I had decided to use the seamstress the store employed to have the dress altered.  This is what turned out to be my mistake this time around as the seamstress didn't do a correct job.    

At this point in the story you may think that maybe I'm just being too picky.  Well I get really frustrated when I'm paying for something and it isn't done correctly.  I later found out that the seamstress I was booked with was a junior at the shop and as it turned out, the job was too complicated for her.  I really wish she (and the store) could have been honest about it when she/they realized that she couldn't do the job correctly.

I'll start off with explaining about the hem of the dress.  It's a long dress, it's supposed to be long, your feet really are not suppose to show out the bottom of your dress, but it was too long.  I was literally tripping over the dress as I walked, that back section dragging on the ground.  You might be asking yourself if I word the shoes I was planning on wearing to the wedding when I did the fitting and yes I did.  Aside from the length being too long the actual hem itself was crooked.  Crooked!  If I wanted it to be crooked and not done correctly, I would have done it myself (I do have those skills), but I didn't want to do it myself, I wanted to pay someone else to do it.  I should have just done it myself.  

Secondly, the strap area was done incorrectly.  The straps needed to be shortened, but the dress was designed so the straps were supposed to sit just on the edges of my shoulders.  I didn't know this and the seamstress apparently didn't know this either as she did all her measurements with the straps sitting up on the middle of my shoulders.  When I came back to pick up the altered dress I commented to the seamstress that it was too long and that the straps kept falling off my shoulders.  I was there well over an hour trying to convey my concern with the fact the straps kept falling off and I was tripping over the dress when walking.  That entire time the seamstress was insisting that it was correct and it wasn't until my disappointment and frustration burst forward in a fountain of tears did she even try to acknowledge that it wasn't right and she called in her boss.

My disappointment and frustration burst forward in a fountain of tears

At this point I lost all faith in her abilities (and the shops abilities in general) and refused to allow her to "fix it" by adding bra straps onto the dress (for an extra fee).  The hem length was never acknowledged by either the seamstress or her boss.  I took the dress as is and headed out of the shop disappointed.  A quick stop for coffee and to look up how to make bra straps and I was heading off to Fabricland to buy supplies.  

I bought the material needed to make my own bra straps and decided to just be really careful walking so as not to trip on overflowing fabric as I really didn't want to hem it myself.  Fast forward to a few days before the wedding as I was showing the bride and the other bridesmaids the incorrectly altered dress.  Yes, it was too long, I wasn't just imagining it, AND, my friend pointed out to me that the reason the straps kept falling down was because they were supposed to sit on the edges of my shoulders and not in the middle.  I really feel that this was something the seamstress should have know as I was paying for her expertise.  No wonder they kept falling down, they were sized incorrectly.  For the dress and the ill-fitting alterations, I paid well over $300 + an additional $20 for the materials to sew on my own bra straps.  The dress still looked lovely and worked out in the end, but it caused so much stress, tears and even a little blood (I poked myself with the sewing needle sewing on the bra strap holders) to get there.

 

eShakti to the Rescue

June 2017 ~ Bozeman, Montana

June 2017 ~ Bozeman, Montana

After my last two disastrous attempts at purchasing a bridesmaid dresses, having them fit incorrectly, spending a ton of money, I was excited for the opportunity to purchase a dress for a wedding as a guest but was also terrified that it wouldn't fit.  I was ready to try out a new seamstress if needed to adjust a dress that I found that was close, but not quite fitting correctly.

At this point my friends of the Jedi council (the name of the group message chat we talk in) have been going on and on for some time now about how amazing and awesome eShakti is, but I was really gun-shy about purchasing something online.  I find that I really need to try clothing on because nothing ever fits correctly.  Tops are always too small around my chest or not long enough or spacious enough for my hips, and don't even get me started on shirts that have buttons.  Pants are also just about impossible to buy, trying to find something that fits my hips where I don't get waist gap is basically hopeless, unless it's made out of elastic.  The thought of buying a dress from an online store, hah!

After multiple attempts going to the shops looking for dresses I was extremely frustrated.  Either nothing fit, wasn't nice enough for a garden wedding or was well over $200.00.  Finally I decided to attempt eShakti.  I figured at this point, what did I have to lose?  It took me three weeks to decide what dress to purchase as I kept adding items to my shopping cart and then closing the browser, changing my mind.  Eventually I decided on this pretty pink dress with the red embroidery.    

Michael & I at the backyard wedding June 2017 ~ Bozeman, Montana

Michael & I at the backyard wedding
June 2017 ~ Bozeman, Montana

The dress arrived in a very nice box.  Honestly I was impressed with the box.  I figured it would be in a bag and wrinkled into as small as a package as possible, but it showed up in a nice box, and inside the dress was covered in tissue paper.  With baited breath, I tore off the tissue paper and held up the dress.  It looked even better in person than online.  The moment had come for me to try it on...it fit!  Like a glove!  I can't believe that I bought a dress, online, and it fit perfectly, no alterations needed.  I was overcome with joy and couldn't wait till Michael was home so I could show him the most amazing dress.  

Then the moment came where I was wearing the dress, to a wedding.  Meeting new people is stressful for anyone, but in this dress, that I knew looked good, I felt confident.  It was so amazing to be wearing something that took zero effort and made me feel good about myself and not self-conscious about my body.  The wedding was beautiful, the location was gorgeous and I I received multiple compliments on my dress from complete strangers.  What more can you ask for?

Once Michael and I got home from the wedding I posted a pictures of us, with me in my dress, on facebook.  The picture has turned into one of my most complimented pictures, with tons of people asking where I got the dress.  I can honestly say that I love eShakti and now have three of their dresses.  Even the cost of eShakti is awesome, after the exchange rate, duty and shipping to Canada this dress was still under $100, practically a steal.

 

A Final Note

I actually started to write this post so that I could enter a contest that eShakti is currently holding called Something Happened.  I was meant to write a short paragraph on why I liked eShakti and post it to social media to be able to enter.  That short paragraphed turned into this rather long blog post.  If you've ever had trouble buying clothing I guess you can understand why I was able to write so much about one dress.  Seriously, check out www.eShakti.com and you will see how awesome their stuff is.  #eShakti

 

PS: I never mentioned in my post how customizable eShakti is.  The dress I bought was "straight-off-the-rack", but you can provide them with your measurements and they will custom fit any of their items specifically for your measurements.  They mostly have dress, but also some tops and even jeans and all the items themselves are customizable with different options available such as sleeve type, neckline type, length.  And the best part of their dresses..THEY ALL HAVE POCKETS!

Happy 150th Birthday Canada

Canada Flag Watercolour

Canada is my home.  I was born and raised in Vancouver, BC and currently reside in a suburb of Vancouver.  I have never lived anywhere else in the world, or even in Canada, but I can say without a doubt that I live in one pretty awesome country.  Today is Canada 150th Birthday.  We are a pretty young country compared to the majority of other countries in the world, but we are pretty awesome too.

No country is perfect, and Canada has had some troubles getting to where we are, but overall, I think that we are pretty great.  There are some typical stereotypes of Canadian people.  Yes, we do apologize to the other person when they bump into us, we do sorry, A LOT (as my Australian partner, Micheal, tells me).  It IS pronounced ZED and not ZEE, unless I'm singing the alphabet, which even to this day I still have to do when I'm filing charts away at work.  Not everyone in Canada likes Tim Hortons, despite this typically heard sterotype (myself included) and Hockey is our national sport, although I prefer Curling.  (Team Gushue from Nova Scotia is the curling team I root for, in case you were curious)

Anyways, this brings me to the entire reason for this post.  I wanted to paint a Canadian Flag because I'm proud to be Canadian and we are celebrating our 150th Birthday this year and there is a lot of excitement around it (it's kind of a big one for us).  So today, I set about making a watercolour painting of our flag.  BTW Free handing a Maple Leaf is pretty hard.

Canada Flag, 150th Birthday

Canada Flag, 150th Birthday

Teaser Tutorial

Abacus Bracelet

A number of years ago now I attend an event where we learned how to make an abacus bracelet.  The idea was that it would help you keep count for any crochet or knitting projects you were working on.  I had been wanting to make another one, so finally one day I decided to attempt to reverse engineer the bracelet I did have.  I made two of them.  One was for myself, using just some pretty blue beads and the other one was for a birthday present for a friend, using Harry Potter Hufflepuff House colours.

The reason I say this is a teaser tutorial is because I haven't actually written the tutorial yet, but it is one of the many tutorials I have floating around in my brain and one day will get written about.    

Creative Ink Festival

Three years ago, the amazing Sandra Wikham had an idea.  Sandra likely had the idea a lot longer then three years ago, but I found out about it three years ago so that is where I come in.  Sandra wanted to create an event where creative people (of all types) could work on their projects in an encouraging environment, with "enforced" quite time and built in breaks to chat with other people. Thus Creative Ink Club was created.

Being a non-writer myself, I wasn't sure if I would enjoy Creative Ink.  I though it was an amazing idea, but if I didn't write what was I going to do?  However I like to encourage my friends in their endeavours whenever possible so attend Creative Ink Club I did.

It was amazing!  Everyone who attend was so encouraging, the "enforced" quite time really made you stop and think for a while and get to work and the mingle time breaks were just the right length.  I drew a picture of penguins.  I hadn't drawn anything in a long time and it was sure nice to be encouraged to do something creative.  Other people who attended worked on screenplays, writing stories, poems, blog posts and there were even a few people just doing homework or knitting/crocheting.

This event was my first exposure to the Creative Ink Festival.  I love the fact that the Festival is open to everyone, for writers, readers and artists.  I've seen other writing festivals in the past online and always felt that as only a reader that the cost of these festivals was not worth my time or money, nor would I get much out of them.  I can honestly say that The Creative Ink Festival is for everyone, writer or not, you will get something out of the festival.

Last year I helped Sandra with a bit a volunteering at the badge pick-up booth.  I hadn't purchased tickets to the event, but figured I could help Sandra out where I could.  I should have purchased tickets, everyone who picked up their badge was so nice, and very enthusiastic to be there, the energy was just amazing and I loved every moment that I was there.  All of the panels looked like they would be very informative, interesting and fun to attend, even for a non-writer like myself.  I also had a bunch of friends who attended the entire weekend of the festival, and the stories they came back to me with about how much fun they had made me really disappointed that I didn't just get tickets myself.

This year I'm not making the same mistake as last year.  I will be going to The Creative Ink Festival, for only $80 for three days of panels, I really feel that I will be getting my money's worth.  As for the my original exposure to Creative Ink (Ink Club), well Sandra has also included an Ink Club event at the Festival.  I encourage you to check it out if you can find the time.

As for myself I'm really excited to attend the Hands on Calligraphy with Barbara Gordon panel.  Sandra has been told I'm not available to volunteer during that time.

Links:

The Creative Ink Festival

2017 Programming: Descriptions of Presentations and Panels

Sandra Wickham

Musical Heart

It happened one day, a good friend sat me down and asked if I would be one of her bridesmaids for her upcoming wedding.  Of course I said yes.  Over the next few months we talked plenty of times about wedding details, mostly all the crafting the bride herself was doing.  Making soap, decorations, centrepieces.  The things she and her soon to be husband were creating for the wedding were beautiful and unique and just like the couple they are.  During all this talk the bride and I did discuss wedding gifts.  For her, just my being there and purchasing a bridesmaid dress for the wedding was enough, she didn't want any additional gift.  For a lot of months I didn't really think about gifts, figuring we had it all sorted, then one day inspiration struck.  

A little bit of background on the musical heart.  

(I completely forgot I was writing this blog originally starting it in 2015 and rediscovered it Jan 2017 while going to write a blog about the

Creative Ink Festival - more on that later )...now back to the blog

When the bride and groom first moved in together, it was during a change in my life, as I was separating from my now ex-husband.  I needed a place to live.  Turns out the groom was leaving the perfect place and it was a nice and cozy and affordable place, and I was able to move into it.  On the door of the suite, was this musical heart.  The groom loved this heart and for both the bride and groom music has been a huge part of their lives.  Personally I was never a fan of this heart being on the door and I ended up covering it up with a Penguin wall hanging I had, but I always knew it was underneath and how much it mattered to the bride and groom.

A few months earlier, before I started making this musical heart, I just started to learn cross-stitch, having only completed one project so far (with tons of mistakes).  Undertaking this new project, including creating the pattern for it, was quite the challenge.  I was so pleased how it turned out in the end, and the bride and groom loved it.

Vancouver Crafty Geeks

I have some amazingly talented friends and they have started their own crafty blog.  I get to see some amazing creations made over time by these two lovely ladies and I'm super excited for them that other people will soon get to see the amazing talent they have.  Personally I'm looking forward to the patterns they will be posting shortly.  Please check out their new blog by clicking here:

CLICK ME!!!

Fun with Cats

As I have previously mentioned in past blog posts, I love my cats.  They are always full of entertainment and continually make me laugh with their antics.  This past weekend they were even more entertaining than usual and I captured two cute and funny video of them.

I had a house guest staying the weekend and as I was making up the bed, Loki thought that he would make sure that the house guest would feel welcomed, and since he's a cat, he did that the only way he knows how, buy covering the freshly made bed in his fur.
Vader has always loved the water, playing with it even as a young kitten.  He would sometimes just hang out in his water dish.  When ever I use ice cubes he comes running to the freezer, hoping to get one to play with.  He is constantly jumping up on the kitchen counter to play with the running water as I'm washing dishes.  Well it was quite hot this weekend and I thought he could use a bit of a cooling down.  I put some water in the bathtub, and well...the rest is on the video.

Potato Chips, my own worst enemy

Alice in Wonderland

I love chips, they're my weakness (well them and noodles, but that's a different blog post waiting to be written).  Those salty tangy deep fried deliciousness in every bite potato chips.  Once I start eating them I seems to have zero self control to stop.  Those thin flat circles of potatoey goodness.  One bite and I feel like I'm Alice in Wonderland, falling down a hole of potato chip indulgence. One chip is all it seems to take. I will eat them until I am full and then eat them tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that.  I have found that the only way to stay out of this downward spiral is to abstain from eating even one. If one chip makes it's way from the bag or bowl and into my hand then into my mouth I will feel just rotten.  I don't mean rotten in the sense that I have no self-control and I'm emotionally wrought over it, I mean rotten because chips make me feel terrible.  My stomach hates them.  I get all bloated and yucky and gross. It takes at least 4 days after the last chip is consumed to feel somewhat normal again, and almost an entire week until I feel totally normal.  If you read my Stomach Problems post, you can imagine waiting an entire week to feel normal is actually quite hard for me cause of all the other foods that make me feel yucky.

The reason that I'm bringing up my total lack of self control when eating chips is because I feel the last few weeks have been like that, little to no self control when it has come to making good food choices. Any thing that looks tasty or smells good or I just plain want it, I've eaten.  In all honesty it really hasn't been that bad, but now that I'm in crunch time to fit into a bridesmaid dress I really shouldn't be overindulging.

I picked up the bridesmaid dress two weeks ago and it fits, sort of.  I need someone else to do up the zipper for me and it's tight, quite tight.  I can wear it as is because at least I don't look like a sausage trying to pop out of it's casing.  The dress is actually quite flattering and looks good on me.  It's just really, really tight (around the upper body area).  I have a fear that wearing this dress all day, at an outdoor wedding that is taking place in a day camp with lots of activities, will not be the most comfortable thing I could do.  Since the dress cost a bit of money I would really like to wear it the entire day and not just for the ceremony and photos.

It's time to take back control over my food choices instead of letting my taste buds make the decisions for me.  Yesterday I managed to resist the chocolate cake that was calling to me from the lunch room at work and in the evening I avoided eating a piece of delicious apple pie that was calling to me and whispering sweet nothings into my ear. I must go "cold turkey".  I do know that denying yourself everything isn't good either, but for some time there I was doing really well with having only one dessert per week (usually saved for Sunday dinner) and I'm going to get back to that.  To help aid in my new-old quest I'm going to keep track of everything I'm eating using the my fitness pal app on my iPhone.  Hopefully this will help me get back on track and re-gain control over those taste buds.

Chocolate Cake

This is currently sitting in my office:

Chocolate Cake

I really want to eat a piece.  I ate a small piece yesterday since it was a birthday cake for the boss after all.  I thought I was going to be saved from the temptation of eating more because the boss took the cake home yesterday to share with her family.  She brought it back today.  BROUGHT IT BACK!!!

It’s right here Ray, It’s looking at me.
— Dr. Peter Venkman (Ghostbusters)

 Now I can heard it whispering to me from the back lunch room, eat me, I am delicious and moist and chocolaty.  A Martha Stewart recipe I was told, by the professionally trained chef in the office.  She said that even she was impressed with how well the cake turned out.  Ignoring that face that this hunk of cake is sitting not more than 20 feet away from me is really hard.  Chocolate cake doesn't really fit in with my current diet plan. MUST RESIST.

UPDATE: I resisted!   Borg I will beat you.

Green Thumb?

I don't have a green thumb.  I have joked in the past that I actually have a black thumb as I managed to kill almost every single plant that I've owned.  Can a black thumb turn green?  Well I am about to find out.What about the plants I haven't killed you ask, well those plants have been eaten by my cats.

In addition to the plants I've tried to keep alive at home I also have the task of trying to keep orchids alive at work.  For anyone who know anything about plants should know that orchids are notoriously had to keep alive, let alone flowering.  I've tried everything, watering, not watering, ferterlizing, not fertalizing, putting in the sunny window, keeping it shaded.  Nothing I do seems to keep the plants alive longer than two months.  So once every two month my boss brings me a new orchid to try and keep alive.  Last week for a change we got a Lavender plant.  So far I've watered it once and now a week later it's starting to look a little tired.  I'm going to give it another good water (how much water do these things need any ways?) and maybe put it in the sunny window for the weekend.  It will either be as good as new or dead as a doornail. 

Last year I moved into an apartment that has a nice size balcony that actually gets sun.  All the other places I've lived in previously either didn't have a balcony or didn't get any sun if it did have a balcony.  I've been told that plants need sun?

Now that the weather is getting nicer and I seem to be surrounded by friends with green thumbs I decided to see if my plant killing abilities have abated.  After a "quick" trip to Canadian Tire I came home with two plants. Oregano and Rosemary to be specific as those are my favourite herbs.  I've been told that they are both "hearty" herbs and should put up with a lot of abuse, which is good because I'm likely to forget to water them.  Vader (the cat) really didn't like me being out on the balcony trying to figure out how to get the plants out of their pots and into some new bigger pots (a shovel of some sort would have helped).  Plus I discovered after getting the herbs into their new homes that I didn't have a way to water them.  A big and cumbersome plastic bowl later they were both thoroughly doused with water.  If I manage to keep them alive for more than a few weeks I may pick up some sort of watering contraption.

I'll keep you advised on their well being.

UPDATE: September 8, 2016

The plants are dead.  Like really dead.  Deader then dead.  After just a few weeks they didn't get enough water (for some reason) and shrivelled up into little brown twigs and died.  Their carcass disposed of in a proper garbage can funeral.

I should not keep plants.

Stomach Problems

Have I ever mentioned that I hate my digestive tract? I don’t have major problems like IBS or crohn’s, but I do have a lactose intolerance and my gallbladder has been removed which make digesting some foods more difficult. My lactose intolerance is not super bad any more, I can handle small amounts of dairy without upsetting my stomach (most of the time) however, there are time that my stomach does decide to wreak havoc because I either ate too much dairy, the wrong type or dairy or just because it felt like it.

Last month my stomach decided to become uncooperative to lattes (which I could normally drink without a problem) so I decided for a little while to make the switch to soy milk. I figured it was a lactose free and delicious way to continue having my lattes. Not that long after the switch I started feeling quite bloated and uncomfortable, not really thinking anything of it other than I hate my stomach and the problems it seems to present to me. A few weeks pass and I continue to feel yucky and bloated, and as any person does, I try to self-diagnose myself. Well turns out that I had all the symptoms of ovarian cancer. Not being a hypochondriac I was pretty sure I didn’t have cancer and continued to wonder when my stomach would be happy again. A few more days pass and I end up going a weekend without having a soy latte. Come Monday I realize that I finally feel normal again and was super excited! I grabbed a soy latte at lunch that day and within 30 mins I felt all yucky and bloated again. Something clicked in my brain so back to the internet I went with some more search terms. Turns out that you can have soy intolerance. Sigh…I hate my stomach.

UPDATE: After I posted this blog, my mom told me that I've always been sensitive to soy milk, even as a baby. I guess because I never had soy in large amounts before I just chalked up my bloating to lactose or no gallbladder.

Ahhhh, it's the end of the month

Wow, July went by quickly and I just now realized that I haven't blogged for this month, so without further ado, a quick tidbit something that happened today, just because I don't have the time to write anything else.

I was out to dinner tonight, sitting out on the patio, a bird flew into a building and died.  Landed beside people eating.  Once person picked up the bird and threw it into the bushes.  

Strange.