Tuesday, November 24, 2009

One Crafty Weekend in Toronto

Remember when I told you Melissa bought me a Letterpress Workshop for my 30th birthday?
Well, it was this weekend.
And it was amazing.

I drove to Toronto on Friday (Thanks to my husband's remarkable ability to be a fabulous single parent. I'm becoming obsolete and I love it.) and arrived at Melissa's pad in Kensington Market at about 6:30pm.
Melissa, incidentally, lives in the Kensington Market Lofts.
The same building Brad and I lived in when we were in Toronto.
It's such a great place.

As if I wasn't heartsick enough driving into the bright lights of the city, being in this building, right in the heart of Chinatown, makes part of me wish we had never moved home.
There is just SO much to do in Toronto.

I could spend entire afternoons just drifting through the market, finding all the weird, great ingredients needed to make practically any ethnic dish, poking through shops that peddle everything from beautiful dining ware to synthetic wigs, waving around my vendors permit and snatching up steals on gorgeous imported stuff to resell in the shop. (We're talking 3 Pashminas for $9 people. We are paying WAY too much for Pashminas here.)

Or, I could spend that same amount of time sampling cheeses (some good, some not so much. Brad and I once tried a cheese that tasted like a combination of brie cheese and bad fruit cake, and fruit cake is pretty brutal to begin with) at Global Cheese.
This time I had the good sense to bring back some of their divine Herb & Garlic Cream Cheese to my afore mentioned deserving husband. As well as two soggy Doubles from the Patty King. His favourite food item on earth. Or at least in Chinatown.

Friday night Melissa and I kept it pretty low key and went to see a movie. Precious.
The acting was incredible (I know because I genuinely hated a few people, and that's how I gauge.) and the film was something I would recommend seeing, but it wasn't exactly the most heart warming story.

I need to look into it to see if it was a true story. I think it must have been. You'd have to be pretty sick to think up something that tragic.

Saturday our Letterpress course began at 10am.
Oh my god I have a new LOVE. I've always been really drawn to paper crafts. Stationary design, beautiful book covers, that kind of thing. But letterpress takes it to a whole new level.

Our instructor was a girl names Tanya Roberts of Snap & Tumble.
Her studio was in her apartment and it was the fastest four hours I've spent in a while.

Normally it's my instinct to make things for the shop and mass produce a bunch of items and just suck all the joy out of the experience, but this time I decided I would do something for myself.
So I made recipe cards.

I have been trying out a bunch of new recipes lately and since I find most of them online I keep losing them. Solution!
I figure it'd be pretty Martha of me to give other people recipes on these cards too.
You know, when they say things like "Oh Emily! That was delish! You must give me the recipe."
Before now, that was always an awkward scenario.
As I'm sure you can imagine.

Melissa chose to make note book covers.
In a nutshell, the letterpress is what newspapers used before we had typewriters or computers. You physically have to set all your letters by hand, reversed and backwards. (In more than a few instances "b's" were discovered in the place "d's" in the proof).

We'd then lock the letters into place and fit them into the press, ink the wheel and lower the lever.
It's very much like stamping, but because of the weight behind the lever, and the density of the paper, it leaves an ink filled impression on the paper.
Photos don't do the result justice whatsoever.

Of course, since I'm always thinking about Blackbird, I did make a few adorable little tags which I think I will save for Valentine's Day. Or maybe for when we give gifts to charitable causes.
I just couldn't resist.

When I came home on Sunday, Mr. Wonderful was already putting Clemmie to bed.
I didn't interrupt, but I did peer into the room to watch as he gave her a bottle and she slurped it down and played with his beard.
Those kind of images are things I need to store in my memory bank next time he makes me want to murder him in his sleep.
They melt my heart.
She loves her daddy so much, and he's so great with her.
She slept through the night that night. All the way until 6:30am.

He normally would go get her in the morning, change her diaper and deliver her back to me for her "breakfast" while he had a shower, but mommy needed a baby fix.
I leapt out of bed at her first cry and went into her room.
When she saw me she lit up and started to giggle.
Oh, but it gets better.
I picked her up out of her crib, she pushed herself back from my chest (I think to see if it was really me), looked me straight in the eye and, clear as a bell, said "Hi!".

This is the stuff to live for don't you think?

Great friends, great husband, great kid.
I'm one lucky duck.
Err. Bird.

xo Em

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Windows of Opportunity

As beautiful and bustling (sometimes) as Mill Street can be, there are still a handful of empty storefronts for rent on the main drag.
I get a lot of comments from customers about how sad they think it is that there are vacant shops, and how awful it is that people go out of business...and blah blah blah.

It gets me down when people talk like this.
What they don't realize is that owning a business is really tough.
It's a ton of work, it's a huge risk and it's not for the faint of heart.
What's more is that you have to bite your tongue all the time when people come in spouting negativity.

This isn't necessarily an example of the negativity I'm talking about, but it is a taste of what we in the retail world are dealing with on the daily.

Yesterday I had a total wackadoo of a customer. And keep in mind, this is just one example of the crazies I meet.
Our conversation went as follows:

Me: Hi there!
Wacko Jacko: I'm just browsing.
Me (internally): It's a free country.
Me (aloud): Of course! Browse all you like.
Wacko Jacko (picking up a handbag): What are these? Like bags that you buy?
Me (internally): How do I even answer a question like that? Are you new?
Me (aloud): Yep. We like to get a few more accessories in at this time of year.
Wacko Jacko: Staring blankly

Wacko Jacko (holding a gorgeous-if I do say so myself-oversized glass ornament): Is this going to break?
Me (internally): If you throw it against a brick wall, probably.
Me (aloud): I'd like to think not. (laughing like a big fat faker) I guess it depends what you plan to do with it. I have others that are the same, only a bit smaller and lighter if you'd like to see them.
Wacko Jacko: Show me.
Me (internally): Rudeness!!

Wacko Jacko (on her way out the door): I just wanted to let you know that I put those ornaments back. I'm not stealing them or anything.
Me (internally): Whatever nutbar.

What is wrong with some people?!
This is why I'm so exhausted at the end of some days. It literally takes everything in my power to keep this shit-eating grin on my face*.

But I am digressing.
Back to the empty storefronts.
In talking to my bookkeeper Catherine a few weeks ago about how much I love creating window displays, we came up with a stellar idea for those empty shops.
Put stuff in them!

I immediately called the landlord of an empty building across the street to ask if she'd be my guinea pig. She agreed that it might actually be mutually beneficial and popped right over with the keys.

Side note: This is just one more reason I love this town. This woman doesn't even know me! I could go, you know, like hang out in her shop whenever I want...or something.

I immediately wrote up a little proposal to all the Mill Street shop owners asking them for $25 so I could create a "Night Before Christmas" scene using products from all the different merchants. A bed from the Rebound Centre, a quilt from Curiosities, books on the nightstand from The Millers Tale, slippers under the bed from Nordic Star, the possibilities really are endless!
The $25 is so I can design and print proper vinyl signage for the window that will read:

"The items in this window aren't for rent, they're for sale right here on Mill Street. This shop, however, is for rent. If you'd like to open a business in Almonte, please phone the number below."

What do you think?
I think it's a super idea.
Stay tuned for that one to come to fruition.
Since I put it out there, I actually got a call from the landlord saying she may have rented it out come December 1 so I will have to set my sights on the next place.

What else?
Kid's Night is coming! Kid's Night is coming!
This year we're having 2 nights again. Thursday December 10th and Friday December 11th.
As my loyal blog-a-teers know, we made a special door just for this event last year.
Well, this year we've topped it.
Christine Moses, aka the Mosaic Queen, macked out the windows in a big bad way.
Yep. She mosaicked (holy awkward spelling) them.

Is that GORG or what?

You know what is also gorgeous?
In every picture but this one:
I wanted to get a picture of her two front teeth.
Which are new, and will totally be here for Christmas so we don't have to sing that damn song.
I had to string her up by her toes to get this unflattering shot. I'm her mother. I can do whatever I want with her okay?

To reward her for being so accommodating during our little photo shoot, I let her bounce.
Nice right?

xo Em

*Danica, if you're reading this, "shit" is a bad word. I'm sorry. Sometimes it's just plain necessary.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Calm after the Storm

A new shot of the storefront courtesy of the wonderful Shawn DeSalvo.
Shawn and his gorgeous wife Marta brought along some friends and a camera to last night's shindig and, moments ago, Shawn emailed me a link to some great pictures he took of the action at our Open House.
Thank goodness he did too, because I didn't take any!
I know. Not like me.

As I eluded to last night before bed, this year was our very best Open House yet.
We had steady customers, lots of minglers and plenty of Christmas cheer.
I'm always amazed at the generosity of my customers, friends and Mill Street neighbours.

Don St. John (of Don's Meat Market up the street) came by just after 6pm with a platter of cheeses, meats and olives for me to share with my customers and staff.
So unexpected and so much appreciated.
I would bet dollars to sausage links that Don doesn't read my blog, so I'll be sending him a proper "thank you", but I thought I might send him some virtual props as well.
If you like meat, and you like nice guys, go to Don's.
He's right beside the Beer Store in Almonte.
Perfectly located if you ask me.

Another customer brought me a flower. A red gerber daisy with gold twigs and red baubles tied to the stem.
She works at The Blossom Shop in Carleton Place and though we've only met a few times in the store, she's one of the more thoughtful people I've met.
Who gives flowers to strangers?
So nice.
I'm going to have to pay that one forward this week.

There's lots of tidying up to do in here today, so I better get to it.
But first, let me leave you with a few pictures from last night.
Thanks again Shawn.


Friday, November 13, 2009


Thank you to everyone who came out tonight.
We came really close to doubling the sales of last year.

Thank you to my fabulous, patient staff for being (and looking) so lovely tonight.
Thank you to the gorgeous Josie for helping Em man the wrapping station.
Your friendship means so much to me. Who knew I could love you more than I already do?!
And thank you to Shawn for taking the pictures that I will post as soon as I get them.
For now, I'm off to bed.

xo Em

Party Day!

Oh my gosh I'm tired.
Yesterday was another busy day.
Drama-filled busy to make things worse.

It'll be fine. The store will be beautiful, and you won't know what's missing (if it is), but the furniture which should have arrived early this week, still isn't here!
I had to call the vendor as well as the delivery company about 7 times yesterday making threats and hissy fitting left and right until finally they agreed to send a truck to Almonte today.
First they said the stuff would be here Tuesday.
Then Wednesday, then suddenly MONDAY (I'm pretty sure I went through the five stages of grief and loss in the process) and that's pretty much when I lost it.
So I hope to SANTA that the pieces arrive in time because until they do, everything that isn't already on a shelf, is on the floor in the middle of the shop.

Including Clementine.
I really need to find a shelf for her.

Fabulous Andrea Fabricius came to help today and I put her to work in an area I knew she'd enjoy.
Just look at the gorgeous display she created with all her merchandising know-how:

We've never had so much jewelry at one time! And we're still waiting (of course) on another new line of silver stuff from a company called Far Fetched that I hope hope hope comes today.

The next time I post I hope it's about how awesome tonight was and how the furniture arrived with more than enough time to prettify them and how I had to close the shop on Saturday because we ran out of merchandise...

Hope to see you all tonight!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

"Christmas Flip" Day Three

Panic is starting to set in!
I was expecting four pieces of display furniture to arrive yesterday and, by the time I left at 8pm last night, they hadn't.
The store is coming along really nicely despite, but it just won't be complete until we have those pieces for the centre of the room.

But let's just focus on the positive shall we?

Our window displays are KILLER!
Sometimes when the store is quiet, I'll hunt the internet for funky product merchandising ideas, store layouts, window displays, signage etc, and I save the images in a file on my desktop.

Colleen and I LOVE Anthropologie and are always striving to give Blackbird a feel that's as eclectic as that of this lovely little shop, so we used it for our inspiration for a lot of our displays this year.

At busy times of year I like to keep merchandise out of our window displays as much as possible to avoid missing out on the sale of something we can't find so, with the help of a few Flickr albums, some folks who share our Anthropologie obsession, and, as always, Sadie and her tool belt, we came up with two gorgeous windows.
We were so in love with them that we decided to take the paper out of our blocked off windows (hanging curtains behind so you still can't see in!) and give you a sneak peek of the level of effort that's going in to this years' Blackbird Christmas.

Andrea (who used to own Fabulous, the shoppe of gorgeous things) helped me do the first one. It's an absolute mess of paper garland.
We almost lost her in the process of making it.

Inside the store...

...and outside the store.
By this time it was quite dark out, so the pictures aren't great. I may try to take new ones today when I get in.

While we were stapling little bits of paper, Sadie was busy on the floor doing this:

What ever is she making you ask?
Why a forest of course?!
This is something I've been wanting to do for at least a year now.
My uncle Steve cut these beauties down for me to use, Sadie and I picked them up yesterday, and she immediately got to work making bases for them.
What can't that girl do really?
Thanks to Sade's perseverance we got both windows completed last night.
I might have called it quits after such a long day, but not her!
This picture was taken just before we put up the curtain again to hide the store so it's a bit distracting, but you get the idea.
Behold the beauty that is our new window forest.

Besides being a busy decorating day, yesterday was also Remembrance Day.
As the parade of Veterans went down Mill Street yesterday, Colleen and I popped our heads out of the store to watch the action.
In doing so we accidentally let this Golden Retriever into the building.
He immediately started running around scoping out the place, winding up getting one of our grass woodpeckers entangled in his tail.
Of course, I had to take a picture.
He was pretty scuzzy looking and stinky, and even once we got him out of the store he wouldn't leave his spot on the sidewalk out front, so we checked his tags and began calling around to the vet, Animal Control, even the Fire Marshall. Of course, on Remembrance Day, everyone is closed so by the time we heard back from anyone, this little guy had wandered off again.

I hope someone found him and is helping him find his family.
I should have let him keep the woodpecker so at least he'd have a friend.

Another busy day ahead.
Let's hope that furniture arrives.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"Christmas Flip" Day Two

Originally it was just going to be me coming in today since I have Clementine in the morning and her daycare doesn't start until 1:30...but after a relatively sleepless night dreaming about what I need to accomplish still, I decided to call in the troops.
Or troop rather, and phoned Colleen to see if she'd come in to help.

When we arrived, the store looked something like this:

A hot mess of Christmas stuff crammed in the middle of the store.

We hammered out quite a lot in the little time we had today.
Since much of the stuff that I order arrived as early as August, as we unpacked box after box, I rediscovered some handsome little devils I had forgotten all about.

Chubby little wooden penguins with kitchen prep bowls to match.

Cute ceramic covered mugs that almost smell like the hot chocolate that awaits them in the near future (all priced to make them perfect teacher gifts by the way!)

Funky retro signs and vintage inspired glass ornaments.

And "whoo" knows what else we'll find tomorrow?!

Only a few more days to prepare for the party.
I'm baking cupcakes as I type just for all of you.
Because what's a party without cupcakes?

Monday, November 9, 2009

"Christmas Flip" Day One

Thank GOD we're not renovating this year!
I don't know how we fit so much work in to one week last year.

Last night (Sunday) Colleen and I met at Blackbird at 3:30 to help Emily (and by "Emily" I mean the other Emily - let's make it clear that I'm not talking about myself in the 3rd person, which can be hilarious, but not always, and oh gosh I must be tired, I'm using commas inappropriately...) start clearing merchandise out of the windows so we could paper the suckers up.

Of course some people think we're closed permanently.
Ugh. Every year we get this feedback. Nevermind the fact that there are about 12 postcards announcing Friday's party in the front window, and cheerful sparkly little snowflakes hand painted on the kraft paper we used to cover them up.

If I'd closed for good, I would have painted something sad or evil on the paper if anything.
Like skull and crossbones. Or little frowning emoticons.
Or at least a happy face with a line through it.
Something far less joyous than glittered snowflakes.

My mom GENEROUSLY offered to take my little 9 month Clembot (it's her very merry un-birthday today) ALL day, freeing me up to meet Col and reek a little havoc on the store.

We started rearranging the layout and building our new displays, which look so adorable thanks to some ideas we've picked up over the past few months.

We cleaned Walmart out of twinkle lights (the white cord was VERY important to me this year and of course they were almost impossible to find. Colleen to the rescue on that one) and are incorporating them everywhere.

Who knew lights could look this cute jumbled up in a jar? Come on.

We found a whole new use for chicken wire.

And we started working our way from the front of the store to the back, loading up the shelves with yummy Christmas stuff.
Just look at all the stuff you didn't know you needed!

It was a great, fun day, but momma is tired.
Clemmie is 9 months old today and I really thought the kid would be sleeping through the night by now.

She. Is. Not.

She wakes up around 12:30am and again at 4:30...and again at 6:30 (if we're lucky enough to have her fall asleep again) and it's wearing me out.
Last night I tried to let her cry out the 12:30 wake up and there was just no winning.
She is SO strong-willed.
She cried for an hour "da da da DA, nuh nuh nuh NUH" (at least get my name right if you're going to wake me up in the dead of night. That's always been a strict rule of mine) until I finally broke and nursed her back to sleep.

I have found a new form of punishment that's working for me though.
A little something I call "humiliation through fashion".
Today I made her wear a onesie advertising her for sale.

You mess with the bull you get the horns Clem.
You get the horns.
And also my purse...and keys...and camera case apparently.

Night all.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


It's Saturday night in the shop and I'm about the shut the doors, but before I do, I wanted to quickly post.
We're closed this week for what I like to call "the Christmas flip".
Tomorrow night after Emily closes for the day (yes, I have an employee named Emily. Just to make things extra complicated when vendors call), Colleen and I are coming in to paper up the windows and get started on the transformation to Christmas.
I love Christmas.
Everything sparkles. Including the customers.

So if you want a peek behind the curtain this week, stay glued to the blog.
Hope to see you ALL here Friday.