Posted in Ta-Da! Tuesdays

Ta-Da! Tuesday: Saint Valentin a Paris, DIYer’s Cut

As mentioned in my last Ta-Da! Tuesday post, I had to break up the awesomeness that was bringing Paris to us into two parts.  Today I’ll go through the processes of what I made for the date, in as brief a manner as I possibly can.  So here we go!

Berets:

I thought it was of the utmost importance to sport a beret on our Paris date in order to get us into the spirit.  I had neither the time nor the money to buy some, so I decided to hit the Interwebs for some inspiration.  I found this link and followed it until I got to the whole “cut triangles into the fabric almost up to the seam” part.  I accidentally cut the wrong part (FYI, for super-beginners like me, you’re supposed to cut from the outer part of the circle towards the inner part, rather than the inside out), so I thought I needed a second opinion before attempting it again.  So I found this YouTube video as a reinforcement and had better success the second time around.  Instead of putting in elastic or using the stretchy part of a sweater like the video suggests, I sewed a ribbon into mine in order to make it adjustable.  For the hubby’s, I cut a triangular notch out at the back so it would help to stretch and slip over his head since I didn’t have his exact head measurements.

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Almost-finished hubby’s beret, pinned up and ready for its last seam to be sewn.

3D Eiffel Tower:

I found inspiration from The Vintage Farmhouse blog but tweaked a few things.  I was originally going to use one of the big boxes leftover from unpacking, but they had all since been recycled, so I took a trip to the craft store for one of those 3-paneled presentation poster boards (boy, did that take me back to elementary school science fairs!).  Obviously, I didn’t decoupage it in sheet music (though I was debating book pages for awhile) and didn’t add tissue paper, though it had quite a cute effect for what she was doing.  Instead of decoupaging anything on it, I practiced how to draw the Eiffel Tower over and over and over (and over…AND OVER…I should’ve taken a picture of the nearly-dozen index cards I practiced on.  I’m an absolutely horrible artist!  My dogs look like dinosaurs).  When I felt comfortable enough, I drew it onto the poster board then cut it out with an exacto knife.  Then I took the other two sides and formed a little trifold stand to prop it up.

“Couture” Burlap Background:

This kinda came about accidentally, but the result was so much more fun than if it had gone the way I originally wanted it.  I had seen a Parisian-themed printed burlap print on the JoAnn Fabrics website and was really wanting to buy that, but when I got to the store, I found they had sold out.  So I went back to the drawing board and saw other things that might’ve been okay, but I really had my heart set on the burlap because it made such a nice, neutral backdrop.  So I thought, “Why not make my own?” I had the idea to turn the whole creation of the backdrop into a “stop at a couture house”.  First, I just took some stencils and a black Sharpie and did a cute stencil at the top.  Then, as an additional flourish (and because I wanted to show off my newly-acquired Eiffel Tower drawing skills), I sketched the Eiffel Tower next to it.  Come Paris Day, I introduced what we were going to do with a “making of” video from Chanel’s couture line.  Afterwards, we sewed scraps onto the burlap to make a masterpiece.

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The stencil was straight when I started, but of course burlap stretches.  I still love the way it looks.  Also?  Contrary to what you may believe, the hubby actually made the masterpiece on the right.  I made the abstract weird sculpture thing on the left.  🙂  Yep, he won artist.

Props for the Photo Booth:

I found this link and drew inspiration from it to try and make my own.  Basically, I found lots of cute free clip art on the web, printed it out, and taped it to some wooden skewers.  Super-cheap and super-cute!  It added a lot of fun to our photo booth session.  (I also freehanded the moustaches, and I feel really proud of how it turned out!)

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Fondue Recipe:

Though we do own a fondue pot, I didn’t feel like combing the town to find the right candle thingy for it (the proper name escapes me at the moment).  So I used a modified version of this recipe that doesn’t require a fondue pot.  This, I think, was really the only oopsie of the whole date.  I was so looking forward to the deliciousness that was going to be the fondue.  The chocolate that I used was 100% cocoa, so needless to say, it was extremely bitter.  I knew hubby liked pure cocoa, so I got the purest cocoa I could find, which was a mistake when it came to fondue.  We added a bit of hazelnut syrup and some sugar water and a little more cream to sweeten it up and take out the bitterness, and it was okay, but it wasn’t out-of-this-world good.  It was disappointing…

Until the next day, when the refrigerated leftovers settled into a mousse-like consistency.  THAT was just heavenly!  🙂

French Onion Soup Recipe:

I pretty much followed this recipe to the letter, except I halved it because I was only cooking for two.  I also used three kinds of onions:  red, yellow, and sweet.  I used an Australian Traminer Riesling that tasted not very sweet when I had it by itself, but when reduced in the soup and combined with the sweet onions I put in, the soup ended up being a little too sweet for me.  Perhaps that’s the way real French onion soup should be (I’ve consistently found that the French onion soup I get at restaurants tend to be much too salty), but I think next time around I’ll not use the sweet onions and use a less-sweet wine.  It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t as good as I expected it to be.  The Swedish meatballs I made from it, though (see recipe in answer #4 in this post), turned out to be absolutely delicious.

There were many more little crafty flourishes that I added to the date, like making a sachet of Herbes de Provence, wrapping a baguette of French bread in a French newspaper, and the little chalkboard sign I made for the basket, but for the most part, I think I covered  the things that took the most time.  I hope you enjoyed!  🙂

To Your Own Flashes of Creativity!  🙂

Violet

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Posted in Ta-Da! Tuesdays

Ta-Da! Tuesday: Saint Valentin a Paris

For those who have been following, I gave my hubby a “Passport to Love” for Christmas.  The short version of what this means is that every month, I let my creativity run wild, recreating vacation spots at home.  Last month it was Hawaii.  This month, I did Paris for Valentine’s Day.  A little cheesy?  Yes.  Cliche?  You betcha.  Ordinary?  Oh, no.  Anything but!

I really liked my previous structure of listing what I tried to recreate, then a followup with what it actually was, so I think I’ll borrow that formula for the rest of my vacation spots.  🙂

We arrived in Charles de Gaulle airport in the late afternoon, got our passport stamped and changed out some American currency for Euros.

Immediately afterward, I, being a bibliophile, had to had to HAD TO visit Shakespeare & Co.  We loved it so much that we picked up three books (France-related, of course.  Because it just seemed to fit.)

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Afterwards, we took a stroll down Rue Cler and put together a picnic basket from things we picked up along the markets.
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(not pictured but also eaten:  French onion soup, a baguette of French bread, and fresh strawberries to dip in the fondue)

Then we went to the Parc du Champ de Mars, plopped on our little slice of green grass, and enjoyed our “pique-nique” (picnic).

With our bellies full, we strolled on the Ponts des Arts bridge and followed tradition by attaching our own padlock.  It was fun to see the hubs get into something symbolic.

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What the hubs wrote on our lock.  I was surprisingly more generic and just wrote our names and the date on the backside.

Next was a quick stop at Deyrolle, the strange little taxidermy/curiosity shop.  We had fun taking pictures with the animals.

(need to get the photos we took off of my hubby’s phone later, so right now this will be a placeholder)

After walking a little while, we decided the picnic of bread and cheese wasn’t quite enough, so we tried our hand at making some chicken cordon bleu in the kitchen of our hotel room.

(we ate it all before getting the chance to take a picture)

By that time, it was getting late and we were tired from the flight, so we decided to call it a night and extend activities to the next day (I had a lot planned, and we weren’t quite able to fit it into one day like I originally thought.)

The next day we started out with a trip to a patisserie to get some energy for the rest of the day.  We had some freshly-baked croissants with Nutella and French vanilla lattes. We weren’t able to do the fondue the night before, so we thought some of the strawberries would be a good complement to the chocolate and croissants.  It was the first time I had ever had croissants dipped in coffee, and lemme tell ya, if you’ve never done it before, do it.  Like, right now.  It’s that good.

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I convinced my other half that a trip to Paris wouldn’t be complete without a peek at some high fashion, so we took a detour and browsed the avenue Montaigne and got the special treat of seeing how some of the Chanel 2013 collection dresses were made.  Then we found a photo booth (with a couture backdrop!) to take some photos in.

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(obviously, we weren’t *quite* ready for the first picture.  Haha.)

We were pretty tired after that, but we couldn’t let another day go by without some fondue.  So we found some energy and made some marzipan hearts to dip into it, added it to the strawberries and crunchy breadsticks spread, melted the chocolate we got at the market (with some liquor and cream added, of course), then enjoyed our creation with some wine.

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Then (warning:  maybe TMI) we perfected our French kissing.  Mostly because nothing says “kiss me” like strawberries, chocolate, wine, and marzipan.  🙂

*Reality*:

I let my little brother in on our plans and gave him a quick training on how to be a ticket-taker (I gave him the “stamp” to put on hubby’s “passport”), so the airport was really my parents’ house.  We also really did switch out American currency for Euros.  I dug up some from when we went to Germany a few years back.

Shakespeare & Co. was a local used bookstore in my town that I absolutely LOVE.  I only just recently discovered it, but apparently it’s been around for 23 years.  I hope it continues to be successful.  I always come out with a new treasure.  Anyhow, I sent a message to one of the owners on Facebook about the Parisian Valentine’s Day plans, and she was so incredibly sweet in saying that it was such a cute idea.  She got into it and set up a little French display for us to see when we came in.  Needless to say, I think I’ll be frequenting that store much, much more in the future.  They really went out of their way for their customers.

Rue Cler was a local fresh foods/gourmet foods market.  It prides itself on having both local produce or quality imported foods, so it just so happened to have some fabulous French cheese, wine, and chocolate.  Here again, I became puppet master and arranged for them to have a basket ready to pick up.  So I bought the goodies for the basket ahead of time, decorated it myself (I’m very particular about my wrapping), and dropped it off with the manager.  When we got there, we bought some things to dip in the fondue.  Imagine hubby’s surprise, though, when I picked up the basket at check out!  I tried to give the cashier the Euros we had, but I think the manager might not have relayed the message to her, because she looked a bit confused.  That’s okay, though.  It was still fun.  🙂

The Parc du Champ de Mars was a nearby outdoor plaza.  It had plenty of outdoor tables and chairs set up, and I had carefully picked out which table we were going to dine at in advance.  It had globe lights above and was situated near the complex’s outdoor fireplace.  Some Parisian Cafe music from my phone, and the ambience was set!  There was a nice little grassy hill with animal statues close to where we had our picnic, so we pretended that it was the grass under the Eiffel Tower.

Conveniently, the back part of our backyard has a chain link fence.  So I got some outdoor lights to outline a bridge, printed out a picture of the padlocks on the Ponts de Arts, then taped it to the chainlink fence with a hole cut out for us to put our own padlock on.  Originally I was going to have a bucket filled with water to be the “river” to throw the key in, but I ran out of time, so we just threw the key into the yard.

Deyrolle was me setting up my stuffed animals in silly poses and situations.  I had one in an armchair reading a book, one having tea, another playing the piano.  It was hilarious, because when we were coming back from the “Ponts de Arts” and I told hubby that the next stop was the taxidermy shop, he saw some of the animals and even remarked, “I see it!  I can see the shop!”  He did a wonderful job of really getting into the spirit of things and the illusion I created (rather than being grumpy that he wasn’t getting the “real thing”), and for that I’m so very thankful.

As you might’ve guessed, our “hotel room” was our own bedroom.  I made a 3D Eiffel Tower to have as our “view”, and topped it off with some adorable string lights.  I even put a light inside the tower that changes colors so we could watch the “light show”.

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For breakfast, it was obviously at home.  I made my own croissants and got Nutella out of the jar and put it in little bowls in a pretty pattern to make it look cuter.  I did cheat a little and got some French vanilla lattes from our favorite coffee shop (conveniently open 24 hours!), then poured them into coffee cups so it looked more homey.  What you don’t see, though (because I forgot to take a picture) was that I set up a morning picnic outside in our huge backyard’s wooden table and chairs set, with candles and the “lights from the bridge” on.  I also brought my Parisian Cafe music again, and set out the books we bought at “Shakespeare & Co.” to browse through while having breakfast.  I set it up right before the sun came up so we could enjoy the sunrise.  It was wonderful.

In reality, Gruffy (nickname for the hubs…haven’t used it in awhile) had to go to work in the morning right after breakfast, so we had to put a pause on Paris until he got home at night.  We had some French onion soup for dinner when got home,

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So. Freakin’.  Good.  The Swedish meatballs I made from the leftovers were equally good.  I’ll post that recipe next Tuesday.  🙂

For the couture houses, we watched a “making of” video of Chanel’s 2013 collection.

Afterwards, we decided to make something “couture” of our own:  a couture fabric background for our photo booth!  I had made a pretty neutral background beforehand: some burlap that I stenciled with “Saint Valentin a Paris” and a freehand drawing of the Eiffel Tower.  Then I laid out my fabric and ribbon scraps, stickers, and needle and thread so we could hand sew some stuff onto the burlap.  It was a great time and we both really got into it!  We spent much more time putting together the background than I originally thought, but it was SO worth it.

Then, ya know.  French kissing is pretty straightforward.  😉

Since your eyes may or may not be glazing over by the length of this post, I will do a part 2 of this next Tuesday, with a “behind-the-scenes”/”making-of” post.

More for my own accountability/organization than anything else, here’s what I’ll be going into:

*berets I sewed
*3D Eiffel Tower
*burlap background
*props for the photo booth
*fondue recipe
*making of couture background
*French onion soup recipe
*Swedish meatball (from leftover French onion soup) recipe

…and perhaps more.  That’s all I can remember for today.  So sounds like I’ll have my work cut out for me for next Tuesday!  Can’t wait!

Au Revoir! (at least until next time)
Violet

Posted in Fashion Fridays

Fashion Friday: Indecision, Partie Une

I’m taking a break this week from clothing inventory, mostly because I don’t feel like gathering up all my sweaters and taking pictures of them.  That’s way more work than I’m in the mood to do at the moment.  Instead, I’m using this opportunity to revisit my old-new love, Polyvore.com.

If you guys haven’t heard of this website yet, and you’re into fashion, I highly recommend it.  Some have gotten back to me saying that it just makes them cranky because they see all these super-expensive pieces of clothing and jewelry that they can’t buy, but I don’t see it that way.  For one, many of those high-priced items, you can definitely find a less-expensive version if you tried hard enough.  Two, it’s fun to use as a closet-mixer of sorts:  find clothing similar to what you have in your wardrobe, save them into your saved items, then mix and match them to find new outfits that you already own!  Three, they do actually offer options from stores like Forever 21, H&M, and Target, which is much more affordable than couture.

Speaking of couture, I bring you my fashion post for today:  I’m actually looking for advice from you fashion-lovers out there.  I’ll be sure to go into more details after the date happens, but on Valentine’s Day, I’m dressing for a date in Paris.  Okay, so I guess I’m not really speaking of couture, but Paris, couture…relates, right?  Anyway, I’m trying to put together a Parisian-inspired outfit, and I’m having a hard time choosing which outfit to wear.  I have two in mind, and I used Polyvore to illustrate them:

(All items I do actually own…or a simile of each, anyway…except for the beret.  Which, I’m planning to have one in my possession by Valentine’s Day, because c’mon.  You can’t go to Paris and not wear a beret.  I think it’s a law or something.  😉  )

Paris Date
So the things I want to wear for sure are noted in the top half of the picture:  hair in curls, fabulous beret, black and white striped shirt, black cardigan, heart necklace, hugs ‘n’ kisses earrings.  For some reason, the whole striped shirt/black cardi combo seemed very Paris to me, albeit a little “safe” and classic for my normal taste.

What I’m having trouble with is what to wear on the bottom:  should I go dark jeans and silver smoking slippers (they look like Toms), or should I go denim skirt, burgundy tights (to give it a bit of color), and black high-heeled boots?

Pros for jeans/flats combo:  more comfortable (for walking around and perhaps an impromptu picnic in the grass), a touch warmer, and a bigger contrast to the fancy dress I plan to wear later in the evening so that the fancy dress gets more of its own”wow” moment in the spotlight.
Pros for skirt/tights/boots combo:  more color, sexier/looks like I’m making more of an effort to impress (this is a plus in this case), more memorable of an outfit.

So what do you guys think?  I’ll be sure to post a picture of me wearing the real winning outfit on Fashion Friday, February 15th.  Stay tuned, and thanks in advance for your opinions!  (The good ones.  Should anyone leave bad opinions, well then, I wasn’t really asking you.  So there.)

Oh, also, you may have noticed that this is Part One in my indecision.  I’ll be posting the second part at a later date.  More fun to come!

Merci Beaucoup!
Violet