Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Season of Masks

    UPDATE:  We've just been to the Kawasaki Halloween Parade for the first time.  We went of course in full family costumes hoping that we wouldn't scare people on the train and that we hadn't misunderstood the purpose of this parade and be the only spectators in costume.  The people on the train were unmoved by our appearance and we were surrounded on all sides by costumed folk, so we breathed a prayer of thanks and a sigh of relief and were fully able to enjoy ourselves.
    It was very lively with some really wonderful costumes, and over all it was hands down the most fun I've ever had at a parade.  I'm so glad we went.  My only regret is that I did not bring along an actual camera.  I just didn't want to lug that heavy thing around all day through tight crowds while wearing 6" heels.  So, we only have two or three photos, but in a pinch these snap shots from a phone camera will have to do to help us remember the day.


Last year's ensemble of the cast from Alien.  I had a behind the scenes role.
    October is here and I don't love Halloween.  It's the one holiday I could do without.  I grew up not celebrating Halloween at all.  It was roundly agreed upon in my family that as long as we could still pig out on candy this one night a year, then all the rest of it we could forego.
    Now I have my own family and I am in the minority in my distaste of this day.  Everyone in my creative little crew loves it, looks forward to it, and puts a lot of work into it.  My husband is quite the foam smith, usually starting work on the costume pieces and props in July, and the girls work on sketches and finding items to re-purpose.
    I came to realize that by not participating, I was missing out on some great family time.  While I usually take on a support role in the whole process, there are years when I can't resist the opportunity to explore the darker side of creativity and the challenge of visually expressing an idea. 
      My first costume idea was a Lizzie Borden and I felt that for this look only an genuine antique would do.  This dress is around 100 years old and I found this at an auction for about $80.  For antique dresses, one can conservatively expect to pay a dollar per year in age depending on condition and material.  So, at $80 for its age and being in pristine condition, I felt like this was a bargain.  I looked at the dress and felt it would most likely fit and it did...after I put on a corset.  Without the corset, I could never have buttoned the waist. 

    The second idea was for a steampunk schoolmarm.  I didn't feel like altering (and perhaps ruining) any antique articles of clothing, especially since there are so many great costumes out there.  So, instead of starting with the costume and then accessorizing, I started with the accessories and then chose my costume based on them.
    I already had this clockwork locket that I had made several years earlier and I knew it would feature in my costume.  Next, I decided I wanted a facial piece, something less complicated than a mask, but more interesting than just make-up.  Something that said "the science teacher had a mishap in the lab."  So, I went first to to begin the search and there I found a glass eye piece.  It arrived and I decided to do a test run to see how I like everything so far.

 Happy with those two items I pressed on and found the perfect heels at  a local thrift store.  Made by Charlotte Russe these heels had varying brown leather strips, wood heels and rivets.  It's like they were made for this costume!
    Last but certainly not least I purchased my jacket and skirt from Tambukiki on Ebay.  I saved those items for last because they seemed the most critical and I really wanted to be sure that I got something that was just perfect.

    The outcome may well be my magnum opus in costuming.  After making these two, I haven't attempted anything else.  I've been too busy bringing my families creations to life.  This year we'll be doing steampunk as a family so I get to bring this beauty out again.  But, who knows, maybe next year I'll come up with something even better.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Artist Spotlight: For Strange Women

    The first hints of autumn are just peaking out from summer's shadow.  The scents of flowers and damp earth and crunches of dry leaves echo on my daily stroll.  It felt only natural to look to the work of Perfumers for my next artist spotlight.  I've chosen several talented and creative women from this field to help us ring in the season of cinnamon and spice, and my first is Jill from For Strange Women.    It was her lovely and evocative photos that first caught my attention.  When I read the name of the shop that accompanied them, I had to take a closer look.  

B:  Thank you so much for taking time to chat with me. You mention in your bio that your background in the arts lead you to create your perfumes, but alchemy is something we tend to view as being part of the sciences.  Is creating perfume an overlapping of two worlds?

FSW: Alchemy isn't a science, it is what existed before science. It is experimenting with materials in a more intuitive, spiritual way, and the outcomes are a mystery. There is no hypothesis, no controlled study, no theory, no laws. It is too anarchic to be a science. Everything I know about scent alchemy is in my head, and none of it is very scientific besides when I want to recreate a batch of perfume I have to create an extremely detailed recipe to follow :)

B:  You mention in your Etsy bio that everything you use is 100% natural, so I love that you call your work anarchic since  nature can be a bit anarchistic too at times, but also involves some structure and organized processes.  There must be so much involved in running a business like this, where do you find your inspiration and how then do you bring it to fruition?

FSW:  I do everything from the web design and photography to the packaging design to the scent construction and writing for my perfumes. It is not easy to switch modes, as it is easiest to stay in one creative mode all the time. For instance, I can go a month focused on design only, and then when its time to create a new perfume, it can take weeks to find the inspiration, but once I do, I am in the flow of perfume creating and you can't stop me! But then it is time to take photos of the new perfumes or write about them and I have to stop the flow, turn around, and try to gain momentum in those other creative directions. It isn't easy but I know better than to feel discouraged when it takes me a little time to switch gears every time. My inspiration comes from the universe.
B:  Our sense of smell can be very strong link to memories and the emotions tied to them. Do you ever try to create or have requests to create a scent that recaptures a memory?

FSW:  Yes, this is what I specialize in! My perfumes are all based on my own life and the associations I have with the scentscapes I have experienced. When I have custom perfume appointments, nearly everyone gravitates to something that triggers a good memory of a specific time and place for them

B:  That must be one of the most interesting creative tasks I've ever heard!  What has been the most surprising or unexpected thing you've experienced during this endeavor?

FSW:  I didn't expect to make so many connections with awesome like-minded people. But as it turns out, there plenty of other strange women that are just as obsessed with this stuff as I am! This whole thing began as an expression of my rebellion against a mainstream culture, and it just brought me so much closer to *my kind of people*.

B:  Of all the things one doesn't expect to happen, I think that is the most wonderful.  Getting to know people, to connect with them and be a part of making something meaningful just for them, it takes it beyond being a business.  Your shop has been open on Etsy over six years, how has your process or goal for your business changed over time, and what do think the future holds for you and ForStrangeWomen?

FSW:  Creating new products can be very expensive, and in the beginning I used to be on a budget when I was developing a new line, but I still poured all of my creative energy and imagination into it. Now I have a much larger customer base and I have more freedom and resources available to me. I have the confidence to go all out with every detail of the perfumes. I am releasing my newest perfume line in October. I worked all summer on these and am very excited for them to be done!

Check out Jill's new perfume line at

And follow her on Twitter at

Monday, September 28, 2015

Bargains on Blogger's Favorite Plaid Tartan Wrap

    I've seen this scarf all over the internet for over a year, and it's usually listed under some variation of "Blogger's Favorite  Plaid Tartan Scarf" and has been relatively inexpensive. 
    However, in the last month or so I've started seeing the exact same scarf in the some of those quirky shops I love, but there's a pretty big mark up on it.
    So, while I do love this scarf and absolutely recommend it, I have to step in here and say that there are some great bargains on this same scarf if you look around a little. 
    As I mentioned it's been listed for sale at a dozen different shops on Ebay for at least the last year and in all those shops it's rarely been more than $15 with shipping as compared to the up to $35 price tag at other shops. 
    While I can't personally vouch for all these sellers, I can say that at half the price as the upscale places, it's worth the risk.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Versailles Lace: Dress Review

    I love Anthropologie's lace dresses.  So far they've never let me down and this dress is no exception.  I found this at a discounted price, though it was still more than I normally spend, I couldn't resist.  I really do recommend that if you're going to splurge, it should be on something that gives you an instant "Wow!  I'm in Love!" sort of feeling.  I'll wait for the sales if it's anything less than that.   
        At the time of this post, this dress is still in stock online in petite sizes.  Check your local shop for availability.  It is still at full price though, so decide for yourself if you'd rather chance waiting for the sale.  The fit is wonderful.  The bodice has two layers--the top layer of beige and white lace and the under layer of light weight fuchsia fabric.  
        The skirt has an additional two layers to give it some flounce, but that also makes it a little too heavy to be a summer dress in my opinion.  It is a tad longer than I normally wear, and thought this might make it a little frumpy.  I prefer dresses to stay at knee level or slightly above, but I actually like that  little extra length in this dress.  
        It gives it enough of a boho feel to make it perfect for pairing with flats and a chunky cardi or heels and a blazer or slim cardi to dress it up.  I do feel like it needs a belt and since the pattern is so bold, I chose a wide belt in a neutral color to define the waist line without making it look too busy.
     Overall, I highly recommend this dress.  It's very striking and unique and I think it has lots of possibilities for ways to wear it.  For this post, I'll show you the progression of starting with the basic dress and then adding things to create a complete look.

Shop the Look:
Versailles Lace Dress by Moulinette Soeurs at Anthropologie
Charter School Cardigan In Magenta by Mak at ModCloth
Qupid Heels
Samba Sash Belt in Taupe at ModCloth
Key to Simplicity Earrings in Gold at ModCloth
Purse is Vintage
Necklace is Vintage
Bracelet is handmade

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Style to Admire: Cici Marie

For this month's style crush I spoke with Cici Marie of I love her style and gorgeous photos.  Cici currently lives in Cambridge, in the UK, and blogs about vintage style around a full-time job in publishing. She mostly blogs about her outfits and how she incorporates vintage - particularly 50s - style into her daily wardrobe. She also posts product reviews, guides and tutorials to help others embrace vintage style too.

Bleu Avenue:  Cici Marie, I am so excited to talk with you about your style.   How did you first become interested in fashion?

Cici Marie: To be honest, I don't really remember a time I wasn't obsessed with what I was wearing, but I think it was initially triggered by being forced to wear matching outfits to my younger sisters when I was a child!! There's nothing like having your clothing identity restricted in that cringeworthy way for making you want to create your own the moment you could! I think I've always looked to clothes to be a bit different and help create the image of who I want to be in the world ever since - as a teen this manifested as running around as a little goth and as I've matured I've adopted the flattering styles and shapes of the mid century. I want to look like a confident, attractive woman and I feel like what I wear now is the best way for me to do this, while still keeping a streak of individuality.
 B:  That is so true.  Whenever I've helped friends with their style, I always remind them that what you wear is a visual statement about how you feel about yourself.  Sometimes people don't realize that what you wear is sending a message about who you are and who you want to be.  It's ok to take some time to put thought into that, and sometimes we look to those we admire for a little inspiration.  Who are your style icons past or present?
CM: Past, I think it's the obvious answer: Marilyn Monroe. I'm sorry I can't be more original than that, but it was Marilyn's style and whole look that got me interested about vintage style in the first place, so she deserves all the kudos. I went through a bit of a phase of watching all of her movies and obsessively Google image searching for photos of her! Present, I'm completely influenced by other bloggers. I read other blogs voraciously and am so inspired by how women like me are playing with style and looking fabulous. Reading other blogs has probably had the biggest impact on my style of everything.

B:  How has your style or your views on fashion changed over time?
CM:  My style and attitude towards fashion, in a nutshell, has hugely expanded over the last decade or so. I used to be very narrowly focused on a handful of styles I thought suited me and was a bit scared/reluctant to try anything else. That's totally changed now and I'm actively trying out more things I never would have worn before. For example, big 50s-style swing skirts I was sure would look horrible on me because I'm so petite - but in fact, with the right length and a good pair of heels they can look great. Once I'd realised that, it made me aware there was probably so much more out there that I should be trying out. On a more aesthetic level, I'm not running around like a mini goth like I was when I was in my teens, so I'd say that's been a pretty big shift too ;
B:  That is too funny, I think everyone's been through a goth phase.  I certainly have and I'm very thankful there are no photos of it, only memories.  And, I agree with being open to lots of different styles.  It's very freeing.  Even so, I think we all have those certain things we cannot do without.  What are your closet necessities?

CM:  Red accessories! It's such an easy way to add some fun and diversity to otherwise dull outfits, and has the bonus of making them look instantly more finished. I love red shoes, belts and hats. And while I'm on hats, berets are my closet necessity for winter - they're warm, stylish and suit most people because of how they can be worn in different placements on the head.
B:  As a stylish fashionista, what is the best style or personal advice you've been given that you'd like to share with others?

CM:  I'm not sure anyone's ever dared try to give me style advice as I'm pretty stubborn! So I'll mention instead a piece of constructive criticism that came through my blog: it's possible to have too much going on in an outfit! I have a tendency to want to wear lots of colours and match everything (somehow!), but my favourite outfits, I gradually realised, tend to feature three main colours. I'm sure not everyone will find this works for them but I quite often use this 'rule of 3' as a starting point now and it's working for me, as my outfits feel much more co-ordinated and 'put together'.
B:  That's fantastic, I'm going to have to keep that in mind for the next time I'm pulling an outfit together.  Thank you so much for talking with me.

Keep up with Cici Marie at 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Crops & Midis

    I happen to love my waist line.  I worked so hard to get it and continue to work hard to keep it.  The best way to show off your curves is focus your fit on the narrowest part of your waist.  That's easier to do with a dress, but finding great separates can create a more interesting and stylish look.
     On a recent browse through ThredUp, I saw a lovely print skirt for about $11, high waist, yes, but worth the risk for that print.  Then on a second visit I saw an adorable crop top and it just clicked that these two things were meant to go together.
     I've only ever thought of bare midriffs as style appropriate on beaches.  I haven't owned or worn a belly shirt since I was a toddler with an adorable little belly to show off.  Since then I've tried to keep my midriff covered for a variety of reasons, but thanks to the literal rise in waist lines, a cropped top is just the thing to compliment those midi skirts or high-waist shorts.

ThredUp Express Skirt $11.50
ThredUp Sparkle and Fade Top $8.50
ModCloth Qupid Heels $30.99
(Interested in Joining ThredUp?  Follow this link to save $20 off your first order )

A few of my favorite Crop & Midi combos include:
              Nasty Gal Glamorous Neck to Neck $38  +   ModCloth Scholarly Statement Skirt $79.99

         Forever 21 Floral Tribal Crop Top $8.90   +    ASOS Missguided Premium Lace Midi Skirt $70

   Nasty Gal Take Sides Ribbed Crop Top $38      +    Forever 21 Ornate Organza Striped Skirt $24.90                       

Unique Vintage Voodoo Vixen Ruffle Top $38  +  ShopRuche Fields of Poppy Midi Skirt $48.99

Monday, September 21, 2015

You Winsome You Bloom Some: ootd

    I really loved this dress on ModCloth, but it was pricey and didn't come in my size.  It eventually went on sale, but was still $40 with shipping, so I decided to pass on it.  Then I found it on Ebay with the tags still on it, and it was being sold by a very reasonable seller for about $30.

    The seller mentioned that she loved the dress, but it just hadn't fit as she expected, so before buying, I contacted her for more info.  She said that the top fit normally but the waist was too tight.  Since I needed a smaller size, a tight waist would be great, and (fingers crossed) I could maybe make some alterations to the bodice.

    It was a little tricky because of the prints under the arms and on the back.  I hated to lose either, but it was too baggy to be left alone.  I decided to take it in at the back around the print, so I wouldn't lose anything, and I love the outcome.  

    I'm so excited because it goes perfectly with these gray pumps I found at a shop on my travels.  They're the same as the heels currently being sold at ModCloth as "Tea on the Train Heels in Pebble,"  but they were half the price.

    Since this dress has a very garden party feel,  I decided that only pearls would do for the accessories.  A bright yellow cardigan brings out the yellow roses since the pink and red roses stand out so well already.  Voila!  Look complete with approximately $80 saved off the retail prices. 

Shop the Look:

Dress from ModCloth

Yellow Cardigan by Fervour

Shoes the Hallie style from Dolce by Mojo Moxy

Earrings Handmade

Layered Pearl Necklace from Forever 21

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Artist Spotlight: Katie Reim of Cultivar

   For this week's Artist Spotlight, I've chosen the gorgeous work of Katie Reim from Cultivar.  I first saw Katie's work when I had a shop on Etsy .  I loved nothing better than to wait for that exact moment the treasury spots opened up and then scour Etsy and my own favorites list for things to put into a collection.  Katie's work was always at the head of the list when I searched for satin flowers.  
       I pined over her unique creations and the beautiful way she photographed them.  But Katie's work is more than that, it is born of adversity and has bloomed into the opportunity to spend each day doing what she loves. 

In Katie's own words:
      Cultivar started as an accident and opened with no plan or expectations. While recovering and bedridden after brain surgery in 2009, I began experimenting with making fabric flowers for my new short haircut. With so much time on my hands, a few flowers quickly turned into a living room full. Once I was able to spend more time off the couch, I threw together a shop and posted a few flowers. It must have been meant to be, since on the second day I landed on the front page, and my first few sales motivated me to make even more. In the years that have followed, Cultivar has evolved immensely and become my full time job.

Bleu Avenue:  Hello, Katie, thank you for taking time to talk with me.  Yours is a truly amazing story. If not for all these circumstances like being bedridden and having to manage short hair, do you think that this is an art form you would have ever considered?

Katie Reim:  I honestly don’t see any other way I could have arrived here. It started as a way to pass the time and when I decided to throw some of the flowers on Etsy, as another way to pass time, I really had no expectations of selling any. I had tried some other ventures on Etsy and failed pretty miserably. I had big plans for diving into my illustration career once I regained my health, so being a crafter likely would have remained a hobby otherwise.

B:  This whole endeavor began in 2009 and you're still going strong. What's your secret to staying inspired?

KR:  My clients really keep me going. Brides often come to me with new color combinations or ideas, which help keep things fresh. I also find inspiration in the vintage bits I find. A piece of antique lace or a sparkly brooch from the 50’s can set the tone for me to create around it. Even when I’m making the same thing over and over, I know it’s going to be a special piece for that bride to keep and possibly pass down so I want it to be perfect.

B:  I really thing that that shows in your work.  You have a great eye for composition. Each piece seems to be its own little world. How do you know when a bouquet or even a single flower is just the right arrangement?

KR:  Composition is something I’ve always been naturally good at and I have a terrible time explaining it. It just looks right to me. The balance of colors is definitely important for the bouquets so before I put a bouquet together, I lay out the large flowers first and fill in with whatever looks best as I put it together. Many of my pieces evolve as I work on them and don't always turn out the way I originally intended.

  B:  You mentioned earlier that you've tried other endeavors on Etsy in the past.  Today you're still actively creative in other art forms.  In addition to Cultivar, you also have an Etsy shop for your illustrations and you do photography. Do you find it difficult to juggle all your creative outlets or are there still more out there you'd like to try?

KR:  As an ultra runner, I spend a ton of time running trails in the PNW wilderness. This gives me my photography fix that I’ve become increasingly more addicted to. I do wish I had more time for illustration and experimenting since I have a ton of ideas floating around in my head that often come to me while I’m running. I never can seem to find time to get those ideas out. It can be overwhelming and frustrating but I’m grateful I have been able to make a living doing something creative and that I truly love, so I suppose those ideas can wait.

B:  I agree, never let go of those ideas, just put them on hold for a while.  What about those people out there who've had some creative ideas waiting for a while and feel like they're ready to get started, do you have any advice for aspiring crafters?

KR:  I say go for it but be sure to be original. Finding inspiration around you is what makes an artist, but you will be much more passionate about something that is your own and your love and passion will show through your work. Originality will leave you more fulfilled as well as successful.

Following your passion can be a huge risk, but the payoff if you succeed is well worth it.
You can find Katie's Bouquets at
See her illustrations at
View her portfolio at


Thursday, September 17, 2015

Allergy Friendly Autumn Spice Cookies

    We deal with allergies in our house, so instead of viewing it as a set of limitations to my cooking, I chose long ago to see it as an opportunity to get creative in the kitchen.  
    One of my favorite times of year is autumn.  I love the colors.  I love to layer my outfits.  I love that refreshing chill in the air after those seemingly endless summer heat waves.  But, my favorite thing about fall is the food.  
    There's nothing better than a nice hot cuppa tea and some spice cookies after a long walk home in the cold rain.  
    Rather than abandon cookies, I've made some adjustments so that they're allergy friendly and something we can all enjoy together.

My cooking is like jazz music in the sense that it's highly improvisational.  I don't often follow a recipe, or use measuring cups,....or write anything down.  So, bear with me as I try to reconstruct this recipe.

1 Betty Crocker Gluten Free Sugar Cookie Mix
1 Tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice
1 TBS Molasses
1/4 C. Coconut Oil (I like Nutiva Organic Cold Pressed Oil)
1/2 to 3/4 C. Pureed Acorn Squash
1/4 C. chopped pecans and/or pumpkin seed *optional

Split squash in half & scoop out seeds.  Fill the bottom of a covered baking dish with water to about 1/4 inch deep.  Place squash filling side down in water, cover and place in a 350 degree oven until the middle is tender.   Allow to cool and then peel off and discard the skin.  Cut insides into chunks and place in a food processor and process until smooth.  Puree should be very thick, not watery.

In a separate bowl combine cookie mix, pie spice, molasses, nuts, and oil.  Then add puree and stir until well combined.  Sometimes I have to knead it by hand like dough to get it to mix properly.  

Scoop out by the tablespoonful onto ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes.  Transfer from baking sheet to a cooking rack.  As a final touch, dust cookies with powdered sugar.

This recipe makes approximately 18-24 cookies depending on size.  I like them best with a cup of Irish Breakfast or Dandelion Root Tea.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Autumn Ahoy!

     I woke up to the first chilly morning we've had so far.  The fall equinox is almost here and with it comes the official start of autumn!  It's finally time to break out the hot cocoa, cozy sweaters and scarves, and the various be-pumpkined decorations.  Fall is also the time for blazers and plaid skirts to make their debut as children head back to school.

    I know that school actually started ages ago, but nothing says "back to school" to me better than a plaid skirt.  There is a place for plaid beyond the nostalgia of childhood though.  To me they say warmth and elegance even on the coldest days.  So, whether it's for studies or parent-teacher meetings, or just curling up by the fire with a hot cuppa and a good book, put on some plaid and welcome fall.

There are so many great options out there, but here are a few other plaid darlings that I'm crazy about:

 Forever 21 Plaid A Line Skirt in sizes XS-L for $14.90
Or in Sizes XL-3X for $17.90

Vila Hanky Hem Check Skirt at Asos for $69.00 in sizes XS (4)--L (10)


Hometown Hero Plaid Midi Skirt in Orange at Ruche for $42.99 currently available in sizes S-M
Hometown Hero Plaid Midi Skirt in Navy at Ruche for $42.99 currently available in sizes S-M

How do you wear your fall plaid?

© Bleu Avenue. Made with love by The Dutch Lady Designs.