Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!


Have a wonderful new year everyone and may God help all of your hopes and dreams, design and otherwise, to come true!

This image has been enhanced and is from an unknown advertisement in a Better Homes and Gardens Magazine,February, 1976.

This Years Hallway Christmas Display

Hello everyone, I didn't get as much decorating done as I usually do at Christmas. We had nine days to Christmas Day from the day we arrived back from Toronto. Jet lag took its toll as well as visiting, baking, and a tiny bit of shopping. I did get the hallway display done. Here it is for you to have a look at.

Here is a full picture of the display. I found a vintage pink and white seersucker tablecloth that I had bought several years ago. I immediately thought "candy" and went on from there using bright colours and candy tins. The Santa robe is displayed on a 1920's lamp base. The pockets are filled with vintage treats and two new plastic candy toys that I bought in Toronto. That seersucker tablecloth is tucked into 75 feet of white handkerchief weight silk with lengths of hand dyed silk added for interest.

This is a picture of the lower half of the display. None of the colours are traditional Christmas colours but I am really pleased with the final outcome. I pulled a lot of the pieces in the display from my studio. I really wanted to include my snowman marotte. "Alphonse" as he is known has a music box in his head that is activated by shaking the handle to get the head turning. I love the yellow carpet with the concentric circles on it. I bought it specifically for displays.

This candelabra is sitting on top of a column by the window. The bottlebrush horseshoe wreath is vintage 1940's/50's.

This final picture shows the other column with a vibrantly painted urn filled with fake evergreen boughs, a wind-up duck from my bedroom dresser, and two vintage candy tins from the studio. I topped each of the columns with a bright yellow faux fur cushion. These bright yellow faux fur cushions are to be used in a child's bedroom. Personally I don't see why kids should get all the colour and fun in life. I love colour and with no apology.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Well I did mention several posts ago that the boys - Jack and Black Cat were back. It has been very peaceful around here thank goodness. I had also mentioned that we were expecting visitors; Jerome and Alphonse arrived two days ago. The house is full with friends and family. Have a wonderful Christmas. Eat lots of turkey and all of the trimmings.

Merry Christmas everyone from all of us to all of you.

Click here to follow Santa and his travels around the world.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Little Tour of My Brain, Part 12 - Christmas Window Displays - Toronto Eaton's Centre

I hope I haven't been boring the socks off of everyone with all of these Christmas window displays. I love window shopping especially when the windows look so beautiful.

Aritzia was the first of the store windows that I took pictures of in Toronto. We came into the Toronto Eaton's Centre right past this store. I had to take pictures of these windows; they are so much fun.

"Garden Gnomes From Outer Space", there is a really bad B movie possibility here. Who ever came up with this fun and silly window display idea I would love to have as a friend.

Garden gnomes, outer space, Christmas presents and Christmas lights, what else do you need to sell clothing to the shopping public?

"Rudolph in Outer Space" the bad movies for Christmas are endless.

This giant LED Christmas tree is in Dundas Square opposite the Toronto Eaton's Centre. I would take pictures of the tree whenever we passed it and was pleased to see that I had the full colour change of the lights. Some of the pictures are out of focus but it gives you an idea of what it looked like.

Guess had a very straightforward approach to a Christmas window display.

I think that these two windows are from the Le Chateau store. I couldn't get back far enough to photograph the entire window so I did it in four sections. They are roughly joined to give you an idea of how it looked. Unfortunately the last section of the window I photographed once and it is out of focus. I just realized that I should check to see if my camera has a panorama setting.

This is the other window from Le Chateau. The windows use a traditional outdoor holiday theme to very dramatic effect.

Nothing says Christmas like 1960's blonde hairstyles elaborately festooned with braids and candy! That panel in behind the mannequins is covered with cellophane wrapped candies; "Sweet B" this is your window. Unfortunately I didn't get the name of this store.

I liked the non-traditional colours for this Christmas window - black and white with the addition of a very modern Christmas red and green. No fuss, no frills; the lights are just hung as is. I didn't get the name of this store either, oh well, that is life when you are on the run at Christmas.

That is all of my Christmas windows from Toronto, I hope you enjoyed them.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Little Tour of My Brain, Part 12 - Christmas Window Displays - Holt Renfrew

Well, I finally have had a chance to see the Holt Renfrew Christmas windows. Holt Renfrew sell designer labels and is on Toronto’s most expensive street. The attention to detail and the top quality in the windows is an absolute delight. This year's themes running through the window displays are words describing the holiday season and images of Christmas and winter. Most of the mannequins in the window displays have had their heads replaced.

This window has two angels with Christmas card halos and wings. The three male mannequins (three wise men?) are in suits with sacks of mail or gifts. In the background is the word LOVE.

This window has the male mannequins with toy soldier heads and the female mannequins have marionette heads. The word JOY is in the background. The detailing with accessories is what sets these windows apart.

The lone male mannequin has his head replaced with the amazingly realistic head of a black swan while the heads of the female mannequins are replaced with the heads of white swans. The word in the background is BEAUTY.

A holiday cocktail party is in progress with the word MAGIC in the background.

The gigantic word WONDER dominates this window. The female mannequins are facing the word and have antlers attached to their heads creating a sense of mystery and excitement.

The mannequins all have beautifully modeled penguin heads in place of their human heads. If only we could change our heads like we change our cloths! Following along with the mannequins is a flock of penguins. The word in the background is WARMTH.

The school Christmas concert has all of the mannequins with snowman and snowlady heads and the word SHARING in the background.

These last two windows were on either side of the store entrance. They are a little more traditional department store in their presentation with the giant word SHARING behind the mannequin sporting a set of antlers and the merchandise piled on the large cubes. The cubes and the background panels have all of the words from the various windows printed on them.

The other window in the store entrance set has a snowlady sitting on the floor with the word SHARING in behind her.

The last set of window displays will be from the Toronto Eaton's Centre.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Little Tour of My Brain, Part 12 - Christmas Window Displays - Yorkville

Our daughter put one day aside before the wedding just for the family, this also included a very close friend that grew up with them and is still a very close friend of the family. I had wanted to see the Holt Renfrew windows and that was part of our outing. We all went to Yorkville, looked throughout a number of shops, and then had a very long and relaxing lunch.

We were waiting at a Starbucks for Dan to meet up with us, he got lost on the subway, so I went outside and photographed several shop windows. These two Chanel windows were across the street.

The windows are striking close up and also from across the street; very haute couture, very avante garde, but at the same time they had a sense of Christmas fantasy.

The Louis Vuitton windows were interesting but not fabulous, Christmas is about fantasy.

When I was going through the images that I had taken in Yorkville I was happy to see that I had two pictures of this window but unfortunately I do not know what the name of the store is. The pictures do not do it justice. The back and sides of the window are hung with silver chain; the same silver chain that is used for keeping sink stoppers within easy reach. Hung in front of this is a 6' silver wreath. Three silver bar carts are at the front of the window. On top of each cart is a single pair of shoes and on the shelf below are other accessories. Three different changes of light gently play across this silver window display to great effect.

I have seen pictures of Anthropologie in New York on the Internet.

I have seen pictures of the new Anthropologie shop in London England.

I have finally seen Anthropologie first hand.

There is an Anthropologie in Yorkville. I love this store. It is about fantasy. It is about drama. It is about fun. The store is two floors high with large windows across the street level and across the second floor level. I'm not sure if those big white poufs in the window are supposed to be snow or giant garlands but it doesn't matter. Each garland is made of white and cream tissue paper that is cut, fringed, and scalloped and then made into giant pompoms. Clear plastic like that used for dry cleaner bags is also treated the same way and tucked occasionally here and there into this gigantic garland that snakes across the entire two floors of windows.

One or two bust forms are positioned in each window to dramatic effect.

This shop is like walking into an eccentric scavenger’s delightful vision of the beautiful by using junk and the imperfect to create a delightfully unusual Aladdin’s cave of treasures.

One of the wonderful ostriches created from paper cones. Can you tell that I am in love with this store and the design team behind it? This store would not be what it is without the vision of its designers.

Another of the ostriches having a nibble from the plate of berries left out for it. Just in behind these two birds was a third ostrich his head at ground level peeking out the corner window from underneath the giant garland. I am in love and inspired.

In my next post of holiday windows I'll show you the Holt Renfrew windows.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Little Tour of My Brain, Part 12 - Christmas Window Displays - Bloor Street Village

This blog is going to start looking a little more like Christmas. I know that I am more than somewhat late. A winter wedding and just before Christmas and out of town and... that is about how everything felt around here before heading off to Toronto. Christmas is almost here and the decorations are just going up! To get me in the mood for decorations and to give you some holiday eye candy here are a few of the shop windows in the Bloor Street Village that I photographed late one afternoon just heading into the evening. I love the colours that the setting sun creates at this time of day. Remember to click on any image for a better look at the window displays.

This shop Write Impressions is the only one of the stores that I remember the name of.

Another of the windows at Write Impressions. They sell cards, wrapping paper and lots of interesting giftware.

Some "tasty" glass ornaments are displayed as a Christmas baking window. That reminds me, we have some Christmas baking of our own to get done.

The other window in this shop was interesting as well.

As I walked past this storefront the giant candies caught my eye. I have no idea what was for sale as it was closed. I took a few pictures and then caught up to my wife who was patiently waiting a few shops down the sidewalk. I have lots more window displays to show you and will be doing as many postings before Christmas as possible.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I'm Back!

This is a very quick hello to everyone. I didn't mention in the postings that the wedding was not in Victoria where we live. We flew to Toronto for the wedding and were gone for 8 wonderful somewhat relaxing days. I have taken lots of pictures of Christmas display windows and will share some of them soon. I was obviously the father of the bride so I didn't take any pictures of the wedding but we hope to get some sent to us soon. I have to go to bed, it says 10:18 PM here but my body is saying 1:18 AM!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The wedding is almost here.

We are so excited. Our daughters wedding is coming up and this will be my last blog until about the 15th of December. I will try and have some Christmassy things up on the blog. Other than three cards that have come in the mail and are stuck on the mantle that is all that has anything to do with Christmas that is in the house. I was going to get some blogs done and have them ready to go up during this hectic time. That did not happen. My how time flies when you are having fun!

I had a very quick look in my wedding collectibles and found this little book called "The Bride's Book", dated 1929. It was a giveaway from the Home Furniture Company here in Victoria, BC.

Bye for now until the 15th.

I can hardly wait to walk her down the aisle!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

An update and some new work.

I mentioned in an earlier blog that I am not getting as much accomplished as I would like due to getting ready for our daughters wedding. Shopping definitely has taken time. It is so exciting; I now have a suit!

I did make three new moulds but I haven't had the time to cast anything let alone get them ready to post in time for Christmas

 We are so excited about the wedding.

I do have a marotte that is ready. Meet Alphonse. Jack said that it looks just like him. This marotte is built over a 1939 (?) Pinocchio marotte that was in very bad condition. All of the paint was off of the handle, the paint on the face was coming off and there was no other ornament at all on the head. The head did spin around and activate the music box. It was crying out to be recreated. Wire arms have been attached to the handle and papier-mache covered them to simulate wooden limbs. Papier-mache has been applied to the head and the body. After many long hours (days in fact) of drying, we have had a LOT of rain lately, it was ready to paint and apply his accessories. 

His party hat is made of hand painted papers, as is his party horn. That wonderful fine red stuff hanging from the inside of the party horn is cellophane. I was at a Salvation Army Thrift Shop and found about 10 packets of very old candy wrappers from Spain. Some of the packets were just cellophane and some were cellophane and paper lined foil. All of them were finely cut on both ends of the wrappers. To top it off there are about 50 pieces in each packet. I love the delicate nature of the finely cut cellophane. Now back to Alphonse, he is nibbling on a lovely large piece of marzipan, one of his favourite candies.

I have had this candy container in the studio for a while now and just needed the time to finish it and I am glad to say it has been completed. Early Santa's had a more elf like appearance and I wanted to capture that innocent spirit. He is sitting on top of a giant snowball. In his left arm is a basket filled with gifts. His right hand is holding onto a hand made goose feather tree complete with decorations and candles (decoration only, not to be lit). The tree is standing in an occupied Japan brass urn. There is also a mess bag of oranges hanging off of his right arm. The snowball is sitting on top of an upturned 1920's metal light socket emptied of its electrical innards. Around the base are vintage "gifts" and presents wrapped in vintage Christmas paper, tied with vintage ribbon.

The wedding is coming, the wedding is coming!

This is as far as I have managed to get on the large frozen pond serving tray. Blue, green and purple high lights need to be painted on and then the trees and other accessories need to be added so it will not be finished in time for Christmas nor will the cake/display stand, oh well.

Did I mention that we are really excited about the wedding?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Home made almond paste

Amelia Schaefer of "Sweet B Folk Art" is my inspiration for sharing this recipe for home made almond paste. Her candy club challenge for November was fruit! Almond paste can be turned into marzipan and then moulded into whatever you like. We have made baked potatoes with butter, carrots, and various fruit (get the connection?)

My wife and I made this birthday cake for my mum years ago. It was kept hidden until the last moment and then brought it out; everyone loved it right down to the last bite. The cake covering, table cloth and decorations are all made from plain store bought almond paste tinted with liquid food colouring from the grocery store. We made a Battenburg cake the first day and then assembled it and made the decorations the next day. The birthday dinner consists of a salmon steak with lemon wedge, peas, carrots, a baked potato with a pat of butter and even a sprig of parsley all served on an almond paste plate. The other items on the birthday table are a napkin with rose decoration, a party blow out, a party hat, two gifts and another real birthday cake on an almond paste plate decorated with 3 roses and its very own candle.

Here is the recipe for home made uncooked almond paste. I have tried both the cooked and the uncooked almond paste and prefer the uncooked.I don't take it on to the marzipan stage because I love the taste of fresh almond paste. I LOVE marzipan but there is so much more sugar and the paste is cooked. Freshly made almond paste doesn't taste anything like the store bought variety, it is amazingly good.

Almond Paste

3 1/2 cups fine granulated sugar
6 cups of blanched peeled almonds (I buy blanched whole almonds to save the time of removing the skins. Ground almonds are available but why get stale almonds when it takes hardly any time to grind them in a food processor)
3 tablespoons of meringue powder (available at bakery supply stores)
6 tablespoons of water

Soak the 3 tablespoons of meringue powder in the 6 tablespoons of water. I don't use fresh egg whites because of the possibility of salmonella poisoning.

Grind the 6 cups of almonds in the food processor and then add the sugar. Grind the almonds and sugar until they fully blended together. Pour all the ground almonds and sugar into a large bowl. Add the meringue liquid.

Start kneading all of the ingredients together. It will be a little granular but don't worry and start adding more liquid, be patient. If after kneading for a few minutes and it is still a little crumbly add a teaspoon of water, continue kneading for a few more minutes. I had to add water into the mix twice but only after kneading for a while between each addition. The oil from the almonds will also be released and help to bind everything together. Don't let the almond paste get sticky by adding too much water, always err on the side of caution, better safe than sorry.

This little piece of fruit was supposed to be an apple but with the addition of the yellow paste food colouring on top of the red it looks more like a mandarin orange, so that is what it is a mandarin orange. I made the shape of the piece of fruit and then dipped my fingertip in the colouring and rubbed it on the outside of the fruit. I then dipped my finger in some water and then rubbed my fingertip on the fruit to blend it all together. I don't usually colour them this way but I wanted to do it quickly so that I could photograph it to show you what it would look like. So there we go the very best almond paste that you will ever have tasted, so fresh, rich, and creamy.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving to All of my American Friends

I am always amazed at the strength of the American woman. This turkey is balanced on her thumbs and forefingers with amazing ease and agility. Are American turkeys a special breed of light meat therefore they fill but don't weigh that much? In a famous painting by Norman Rockwell titled "Freedom From Want" the mother/grandmother of the family is placing an even larger bird in front of her husband with equal ease and lack of strain. The bird at our Thanksgiving dinner is no light weight and as one person takes it out of the roaster another person is there with the platter to make certain that it arrives on the plate safely ready to be carved and then put on the table.

Don't talk back or get into an arm wrestling competition with your mother she will always win!

Conjecture aside; have a wonderful Thanksgiving everyone.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I am what I said I did not prefer.

Oh I love these cryptic headings that I put up occasionally!

DellaRae had left a comment on my last blog posting "Everything looks beautiful. You have what I like a traditional designer trees for me." I responded with "I agree totally. Designer trees are beautiful but they seem so cold. I did my share of tree decorating in department store Christmas departments and loved it! I was responsible for all of the trees. Our home tree(s) are my favourites though." That got me thinking about the mantle displays that I did for department stores; so I looked to see what pictures I had if any. I like my designer trees and if I didn't have all of the vintage and antique Christmas decorations I would do this style of decorating!

 Oh Len how fickle you are. 

This first display I called the "Midnight Mantle". All of the mantles are free standing so I used two curtains hung from the ceiling to create a back wall above the mantle. I would like to do this above our mantle some day. The tree is a prelit tree for the front porch. The branches at the back of the tree were bent to the right and the left so that it could fit on the mantle. Approximately 12 floral picks were stuck into the branches to fill it out. Metal stars in three different colours were added to finish the tree.

A prelit garland with snow on it was positioned on the mantle and two vases that pick up the colours of the metal stars are laid on their sides. Wired ribbon is then looped over and around the garland, vases, and tree base.

On the "back wall" is hung a very large clock with its hands at midnight on Christmas Eve, the exact time when Santa arrives and all things magical occur.

This mantle display began with the idea of a very small tree and very big ornaments. I used a very cheap Christmas tree about 18" tall that came with glass ornaments to use on the tree. It is standing in a glass vase almost as tall as the tree. The vase is weighted so that the whole affair doesn't crash to the floor. Floral picks comprised of various citrus fruit and assorted greenery are placed in the tree to fill it out. No other decorations are used on the tree. I treated this tree more as a floral arrangement.

An evergreen garland with cones and dusted with snow is arranged on the mantle. The four plastic ornaments are arranged on the mantle with shredded red paper placed under each ornament. Shear red wired ribbon hangs in behind the tree and the ends spill into the garland.

 Well, there you go I am what I said I did not prefer and I'm happy with that!

By the way the boys are back. Both Black Cat and Jack were off visiting friends so things have been quiet around here. We are expecting visitors some time in the next while. Black Cat has referred to them as foul weather friends because they don't like the warm weather. They will be here at some point and I will introduce them to you.