backstage at the ballet

I feel that I should be writing something reflective here specifically to close out the year, but it turns out that 2012 will end much of the way 2012 went, that is, with my mind in a constant gallop, never pausing to stop. It was a good year, though, and I hope to reflect on it and the future privately over the next few days.

I want to thank all of you for reading, for your kind comments, and support. I wish you all the best in 2013. So, so much love to you. I can’t help but have Kate Bush in my head tonight:

I just know that something good is gonna happen
I don't know when
But just saying it could even make it happen.

These photos are completely unrelated to everything that I’ve written above, but they’re quiet and ghosty in a way that I feel is appropriate for the last night of a big year. A few weeks ago Geoff & some friends & I went to see the National Ballet’s performance of Giselle, which was so beautiful. We happen to have a friend who works in the costume department, and he was lovely enough to take us backstage for a little tour after the show. Since the bulk of the costume work is done off-site, it was mostly laundry machines and wigs and some still-sweaty tutus, but it was such a privilege. I asked him, wide-eyed, how much he loved his job.

Giselle’s costume

Parts of the costumes were appropriated from a production from the 1960s, and some of the older skirts had handpainted details.

Veils of the wilis

Giselle’s tomb

The photos below are far, far more incredible than my snapshots, but I wanted to share them here because they are so incredible. They were taken by Daniel Neuhaus for a Toronto Life feature on Giselle rehearsals. They really make me wish I could go back and see it again, and this time not from the very last row in the Four Seasons Centre (the seats that come with a vertigo warning. Not bad for $25, but I can dream of seeing a ballet from a little closer up...).

So many flower crowns! Obviously this is the ballet for me.


my first touque

I’ve never had much luck with knitting. I’ve tried it, and I’ve made a few scarves that are one width at one end and another width at the other end. I get distracted easily and get lost. It’s just never worked out, which is fine because I can leave the knitting to people who are adept at it and who can make beautiful knitwear. When I was making the pom pom wreath recently, I really loved working with the soft yarn, and it made me want to use yarn more often.

I find myself in craft supply stores all the time, and I recently came across a loom kit that I thought I would try with one of my half-off coupons. It took me a few hours to pick up knitting on it and to have the first hat or touque made by me. Very satisfying! For some reason my brain can work with a loom in a way that it can’t work with needles. I added little dot stickers on the pegs so I could remember when to knit and when to purl (the knitters among you might laugh at me but it worked). I’ve started making another hat, possibly to give as a gift, weaving a few rows every once in a while and setting it aside again. 

When I finished the first hat I noticed that I had woven a few of my long dark hairs into it, because my hair gets into everything (gross but true). So I’ve had Leonard Cohen’s “Winter Lady” running through my head for days:

She used to wear her hair like you
Except when she was sleeping
And then she’d weave it on a loom of smoke and gold and breathing

It’s not perfect but I really like this touque (I used this pattern as a guide). It’s slouchy and super warm and doesn’t fall off my head as some other slouchy hats do. I’d like to try making a woven throw blanket at some point.

I’ve also continued with my pom pom habit. I just love to make these guys. I made the ones below with cotton yarn, inspired by this Design Sponge garland tutorial (I love the one that Katy made).


giveaway: penguin drop caps

12.21: This giveaway is now closed. The winner is Caroline. Congratulations!

I may not write about it here much, but I spend most days of the week sitting in an office in a university library typesetting books and journals. It might not be the most exciting job ever (I sometimes spend hours manually formatting italic text, for example), but it gives me the opportunity to work with books, my first love. I have learned so much about typography and about how books are made in the past few years, and it has also deepened my appreciation of book design.

Penguin Classics recently began releasing a new series called Drop Caps, made up of collectible editions of classic texts with covers designed by Jessica Hische and Penguin Art Director Paul Buckle. There are six in the series thus far: A for Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, B for Brontë’s Jane Eyre, C for Cather’s My Ántonia, D for Dickens’ Great Expectations, E for Eliot’s Middlemarch, and F for Flaubert’s Madame Bovary (translated by Lydia Davis—this is a great translation, by the way). I don’t run giveaways very often but this is one that I was excited to do, since it will mean that someone will get two classic novels, to read or, if the book is already beloved, enjoy adding to his or her collection.

Penguin sent me a copy of the Drop Caps Jane Eyre, which is one of my favourite books. It would seem that I can’t own enough editions of this book! This one is really quite lovely and I’m looking forward to seeing the full, colourful alphabet. All 26 spines next to each other are going to make a beautiful spectrum of beautiful literature.

For a chance to win two books from the Drop Caps series, please leave a comment below telling me which two books you would choose, and please be sure to include a means by which I can contact you if you win (an email address, a link to a blog, etc). This giveaway is open internationally. Comments are moderated to prevent spam; your comment might not appear right away but it will be registered. I will close comments on Friday, December 21.

Good luck!

(I was not compensated financially for this giveaway but I was given the copy of Jane Eyre.)



Here is how I have been spending some of my spare time over these past gloomy, grey days.

I think I’m done with wedding posts (sorry/you’re welcome?), but Etsy did post a few more wedding pictures on the Etsy Wedding blog, so check that out!

I posted the picture above to Instagram about a week after our wedding. Leftover flower vessels, a lovely flower crown that I didn’t use, a pretty glittered banner which was a gift from a good friend, and a lovely glass cake stand that belongs to Nikole. A vintage swivel frame I found on Etsy, painted with chalkboard paint, and adorned with a decal from Shanna Murray (it had a little welcome message on it). I have since put parts of my bouquet in that shadow box.

My latest Frankie DIY features holiday/winter-themed cards made using masking fluid and watercolour paint. Listen, I didn’t go to art school and I can’t draw. Masking fluid is pretty cool, though.

I’ve been guest blogging for the fine folks over at Brika, reinterpreting DIY projects I’ve seen elsewhere and making them my own. Sometimes I’ll have to figure out how to make something on my own, sometimes I’ll have instructions, sometimes I’ll have to MacGyver the project together with things I have lying around.

So far I’ve made a couple of super simple ones: a pom pom wreath and a star garland. I’ll be sharing new ones weekly, so check back. My apartment is permanently a craft supply disaster area.

I made a wishlist over at the Robber blog. My pals at Robber are the best, so I sucked up the bah humbuggy feelings that always assail me in December and window shopped at the store. I love our local small business owners.


ice beach

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I have been going skating, as I had wanted to, for the first time since the 11th grade. I’m still pretty terrible at it and I feel like Bambi most of the time, but I’m really enjoying it! Since the rink is so close to where I live, it’s so easy to go on a whim for fifteen minute loops around the rink. Every time I go I think that it must be similar to how people who own pools must feel. “Just going out for a dip!”—only with way less privacy and way more packs of teenagers. I think of it as Ice Beach (just a touch of self-deprication there). It’s not even winter yet and it has yet to get really cold, so we’ll see if I keep it up. But I love things that are free (okay, yes, I pay taxes, etc., but you know what I mean). 

Since it’s my current obsession, I like to compile lists of cute ice skating outfits and accessories in my head. Pretty on rinks!

1. I got this tassled scarf at Topshop recently and it’s the best! So much personality. They don’t seem to have it in stock any longer but there is a black one available here.
2. A good knit hat with a pom pom on it is essential for ice skating. This ALL Knitwear one is so cute.
3. This No. 6 wool coat looks so warm! (via Miss Moss)
4. Touchscreen gloves! So you can Instagram your skating party without getting your hands cold. I like the cashmere ones. Hot (cold?) tip: if you know a little basic sewing you can stitch some conductive thread onto the tips of your gloves! This is genius technology.
5. I could have easily included about ten hats that I love in this post, but I limited it to two. I love a beautiful trapper hat, and this alpaca one from Catbird is so luxurious.

6. As I mentioned earlier, I got my skates at a thrift store for cheap (they were in really great condition, nice and stiff at the ankles). They’re not proper figure skates, just recreational skates, which is all I need since I will not be performing spins on the ice any time soon/ever. I mostly glide. I did have to get new laces, but those are easy to find online. I’ve been using camel-coloured ones lately.
7. I have been going a little bit pom pom crazy and recently I made these faux fur poms and then made them into tassels. Not sure how I’d use them but I like them anyhow. They seem appropriate.
8. Warm, thick socks are essential
9. If I went skating indoors I could wear this Twenty-Seven Names dream dress with my cute hats and legwarmers.

Toronto: here is a link to the outdoor rinks. Most of the indoor rinks don't seem to offer much in the way of pleasure skating hours. I believe that most rinks have skate rentals: I know for sure that Dufferin Grove skate rentals are $2, but Nathan Philips Square charges $10.

I really enjoyed Erin’s ice skating outfit here.



White-hot images from an editorial entitled “Blush” by Portland photographer Jon Duenas, who shot the incredible White Magic / Dark Heart series for Summerland. The light, the luscious roses, the red red hair.


julie morstad's the wayside launch

On Friday TYPE books on Queen Street will be hosting a launch for illustrator Julie Morstad’s latest book, The Wayside, published by Drawn & Quarterly, and I’ll be holding a Q&A with her during the event. This is definitely something a little out of my comfort zone, but I do love a good chat! 

You may know Julie’s work from her books, the children’s books she’s illustrated, the cover of the Neko Case album Fox Confessor Brings the Flood which she illustrated (she also provided illustrations for the video for “People Got A Lotta Nerve”), various print publications including The Walrus and The Globe & Mail, etc. She’s even designed wallpaper. Her work is seriously amazing.

Julie Morstad in conversation with Anabela Piersol + book launch for her D&Q title The Wayside
Friday, 23 November 2012
6PM, with Q&A at 7PM
TYPE Books, 883 Queen Street West, Toronto

The photo of curios above is from Foxtail and Fern, and when I saw it, it immediately reminded me of the book.


winter goals

Of all the seasonal transitions, I handle the fall/winter transition with the least grace. After our first truly cold day in late September, I started mourning the end of the best parts of the year and dreading the approaching winter by complaining about it constantly, abandoning my gym routine completely, and eating a lot of snacks. No pumpkin spice latte could console me* as I whimpered about heating bills and dug out my (admittedly super cute) hot water bottles.

I’ve been trying to think of ways to embrace the cold and the early dark, especially since this winter might be a particularly long one. So I made a list of winter goals. Most of these goals are mini projects or activities, and none of them involve eating family-sized bags of ranch popcorn and plowing through all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls in record time (because I have already done that). I have boots, all the pretty & warm knitted things one person could ever want, a couple of tins of dark hot chocolate, and a few wool blankets, so I have warmth & coziness covered.

The word “goal” is a little lofty, but so far, my list includes:
  • sewing a party-ready lace dress (I got this pattern from Burda Style—they call it a wedding dress but it’s just a cute shift, I think—I’m going to use the pink lace pictured below)
  • making a few items out of faux fur, such as pillowcases (already done, actually) and maybe a clutch 
  • making a velvet (!) cape or jacket with a big bow at the neck, a design that came to me in a Lula-inspired daydream
  • trying to take more film photos because the light outdoors is actually pretty great sometimes in winter (this will be a huge challenge)
Then there are a few smaller goals, such as going out for coffee with Geoff in the morning before work at least once a week, the tried-and-true act of burrowing under the covers listening to Slowdive on headphones, visiting Coriander Girl for flowers, listening to Boney M’s Christmas album until I get sick of it, putting sequins on everything, lighting candles and twinkle lights every night, and trying to see friends regularly because (sad but true) sometimes in winter I need to put that kind of thing on a list to follow through with it.

One final goal that I’m really excited about is ice skating. I used to love ice skating, despite being kind of lousy at it (I taught myself to skate as a kid by clinging to the sides of the Wallace Emerson rink). A few years ago I slipped on ice and broke my ankle & I’ve been a little afraid to step onto ice deliberately since. But I want to try it again, because there is a small rink literally behind our house, and every winter I can look out of our back windows and see people skating. It always looks so serene and romantic. I found a pair of ice skates in a thrift shop on the weekend, and I am counting down the days until the rinks across the city open again.

If any of you in northern climes have any winter secrets, please share! Desperate times.

*because I hate pumpkin spice lattes.


dreamcats 2013

Our third annual dreamcats calendar is here! We decided to stick to last year’s theme of shapes & fluffy white cats, only shaken up, with accents in shimmery gold.

We’ve also decided that this year we will donate $2 from each calendar sold to the World Society for the Protection of Animals (in one lump sum once we have stopped selling them early next year). We love cats, but we also love sea turtles, dogs, bears, and all manner of fauna. 

Available here and here. We hope you like it!


tomboy style

I was thrilled when Daniel Wellington offered to send me a watch because I love integrating classic, somewhat masculine pieces into my wardrobe. I went with the Southampton, partially because dark blue & pink were our wedding colours and that particular scheme was on my mind, partially because I really enjoy the flexibility of the NATO strap (fun fact: when we visited O’Connell’s in Buffalo, I said,  “Look at these cool dog collars!” My friend Joe had to tell me that what I was looking at were actually watch straps. Whoops). 

Geoff took these square format photos with his Mamiya C220 camera, a camera I am increasingly less intimated by.

Daniel Wellington has kindly offered a coupon code for you: 15% off on their website with the code GUIDED.