Say Yes...

...Yes to April showers.
Yes to fresh fruit and farmers' markets.
Yes to Prep Talk hitting 2000(!) subscribers.
Yes to professors who make you laugh in class.
Yes to stretching after a long workout.
Yes to senior spring...
...and to four day weekends!

[photo cred to 1, 2, 3]

Thursday giveaway!

Today's giveaway is a BIG one! EmersonMade, the gorgeous fashion line from New Hampshire, is offering a $1000 shopping spree to one lucky winner! Eeks! They make beautiful clothes (including skirts and dresses and T-shirts) and accessories (like flower pins and gold coin necklaces). I'm in l-o-v-e with their jeans, and Toby wears their baby clothes! Their whole countryside life looks so dreamy and makes me want to move to a farm, wear a flower brooch and raise chickens. :)

For a chance to win, visit EmersonMade's online shop (and consider signing up for their Facebook and twitter), and leave a comment below telling us your favorite pieces. A winner will be chosen at random tomorrow. Good luck!

Update: Blogger allows a maximum of 5,000 comments -- apologies to those who wanted to enter but arrived too late! Mai from Seattle is our lucky winner. Thank you so much! xoxo

Embroidered book covers

How breathtakingly gorgeous are these embroidered book covers by Jillian Tamaki? She made them for Penguin Books, and rumor has it that they'll be available this fall. SO beautiful. (I'm sure Jane Austen would have wholeheartedly approved. I love Emma's little freckles!)

P.S. More + amazing + book covers.

(By Jillian Tamaki, via Black Eiffel)

He Wants to Avoid Paying Taxes for Band

Dear Rich: I just purchased your book online called "Music Law: How to Run Your Band's Business." I Paid For Rush Order As I Need Advice Before Friday And Not Sure My Book Will Arrive On Time So I Took The Chance Of Writing To You With Fingers Crossed You Read This And May Have An Answer For Me. My Husband Is A Professional Musician And Tours A Few Times A Year. When He Is Home He Just Plays Gigs Around Town In Different Bands And Plays At Church Every Week. He Does Not Have A Trademarked Or Serious Band Or Anything Like That Himself. He Usually Just Plays With Other Bands When He Gets Off Tour And They Pay Him By Check. They Give Him A 1099 At The End Of The Year If He Makes Over $600 With Them. My Husband Is Set Up As A "Section C" For His Taxes. My Husband Has Never Booked A Band And Does Not Really Know Anything About Signing Band Contracts For Club/Venues. A Club Just Approached Him To Play And Put A New Band Together For His Club. My Husband Is Supposed To Go To The Club On Friday And Sign A Contract. They Want Him To Play At The Club About 2 Times A Month. The Pay Is $800 Per Band And They Only Pay By Check To The Person Who Signs The Contract. I Am Very Nervous About My Husband Signing And What He Is Opening Himself Up To In Relation To Taxes At The End Of The Year. If He Signs The Contract He Will Be Responsible For The Entire Band Taxes For That Year-Correct? (If They Play 2 X Month For 1 Year That Will Be $19,200 Total Band Taxable Income.......$3,840 Per Individual Band Member). How Can He Book Gigs And Protect Himself And Not Get Stuck With Paying All The Taxes For The Entire Band And What Are His Options? Since you're in a hurry and we're in a hurry, we didn't bother to uncapitalize your question but we are curious about this grammatical aberration. Not to be rude, but what's up? If using all caps in email is like shouting, is this less than shouting but still intended to convey a sense of urgency? Curious as many are, but FYI, it makes it a bit tiring to read.
Right, you had a question (and you're in a hurry). Your husband should take the gig and take the payment. You won't have any problem with your taxes because your husband can deduct all of the payments he makes to the other band members (on his Schedule C). After that, he would only have to pay taxes on the remainder (which should be his payment). If he pays the other individual musicians more than $600 in a year, he must issue 1099s. That's not hard to do (we've done it ourselves and you can even automate the process online).  The Music Law book explains all this and you'll have plenty of time to read it before tax time.

One of a Kind Spring Show + Sale

Yesterday I was invited with a few other bloggers to the OneofaKind Spring Show + Sale. It was great catching up with Lisa, Emilija, and Lindsay over a breakfast of sweet and savoury crêpes courtesy of Véronique of Crêpes à GoGo. On a side note, we got a mini-French lesson... did you know that the accent circonflexe ˆ replaces a letter? In this case, "crêpe" used to be spelled "crespe" or "crisp" in English? And the crêpes were perfectly crisp!

With a full tummy, I headed out to browse the show. Here's a few things that caught my eye:

Lovely artisan soaps and oils by OLIVE Authentique, booth B-04. I'm a sucker for pretty packaging and vintage displays.

Sweet dresses from Keiko, booth A-54. The ladies at this booth were sooooo excited because it was the first show they ever had a booth at - and because the blogger paparazzi was taking photos of their booth :) The dresses were lovely, made of Japanese linen in the most darling of patterns. I bought one for Chloe and if I can get the kid to stand still for a photo, I'll show it all to you ;)

More darling dresses at Red Thread, booth E-11. I just loved the bright, colourful fabrics which screamed summer. Still kicking myself in the pants that I didn't pick up one of their hats for Chloe.

Stylish accessories at Mally Designs, booth B-07. These leather products are hot amongst the mommy set. I loved the graphic bibs.

Retro original art from Kelly Grace, booth H-06. This "Date Night" series was so fun.

Pseudo paint-by-numbers art by Liscious, booth H-20. Don't they have a great vintage, cottagey feel?

Fabulous manually weaved blankets by Tissage Magely Weaving, booth J-23. Gorgeous colours and a luxurious feel.

This was my favourite display. L'Atelier Du Presbytere, booth M-50 sells wares made from authentic vintage linens from Southern France. The husband and wife team moved to Montreal five years ago, and hand crafted every piece you see here. This attention to detail, and the fact they have chosen not to distribute through larger retailers in order to main creative and quality control, results in beautiful pieces of impeccable style. They will soon be adding antique pieces shipped from France to their online store... I know I'll be checking them out!

There's something at the One of a Kind Spring Show + Sale to fit every taste and budget. It is definitely worth a visit to find something unique, handcrafted, and made by Canadian artisans to put in your home.

Tommy Shaw - The Great Divide

Tommy Shaw – The Great Divide
2011, Pazzo Music/Fontana
Tommy Shaw is something of a rock n roll icon.   As one of the principal songwriters and vocalists for rock group Styx since 1976, Shaw (and the band) has cut a career path worthy of inclusion in the Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame.  Shaw has spent his share of time on other projects over the years, cutting four solo albums, two albums with Damn Yankees (Ted Nugent, Jack Blades) and three as part of Shaw/Blades.  Shaw has also appeared on a number of tributes and collections over time.  With a tenor voice that’s instantly recognizable, it’s no surprise that some Shaw’s songs (“Fooling Yourself”, “Renegade”, “Too Much Time On My Hands”, and “High Enough”) continue to be staples on classic rock radio.  Shaw’s latest album takes him down a new road.  Working with some of the finest bluegrass session players around, and with guest appearances by Dwight Yoakam, Alison Krauss and Brad Davis, Shaw’s The Great Divide is an absolute delight.
The Great Divide opens with “The Next Right Thing”, a wonderful blend of pop/rock songwriting and bluegrass style.  You could easily hear this tune appearing on a Shaw/Blades album or even as a rock number by Styx, but the bluegrass sound seems to fit perfectly.  The picking here is incredible; the backing band the real deal.  Yoakam sits in on backing vocals, adding his sound to a complex arrangement full of movement and zest.  Shaw is in fine voice here.  “Back In Your Kitchen” explores love as expressed through the culinary art.  Shaw’s songwriting is sharp and full of good humor, with a light feel that’s sweet and enjoyable.  The instrumentation here is deliriously good, and the vocal line is flawless.  “Sawmill” almost sounds like it could be Shaw playing with Union Station, matching the latter stylistically in a catchy, old-school country sound.
“The Great Divide” is sweet and melancholy; full of great hope and love.  Shaw manages to capture a bit of the high lonesome sound here at times in a ballad with a modern feel.  Alison Krauss adds her sweet voice on backing vocals.  “Shadows In The Moonlight” is a hauntingly tragic love story told in song.  Shaw manages an exquisite arrangement full of dark beauty.  “Get On The One” is a high energy turn about grabbing onto your dream and following it to fruition.  This is a theme that Shaw has revisited throughout the years in his songwriting, but remains fresh in an allegory of trains and contemporary bluegrass styling.  “Umpteen Miles” finds Shaw trying to sound like an Appalachian back-porch singer on the first verse.  It works to a degree, but the sound is much better when he graduates to his higher range for the chorus.  The story-song is brilliantly written and told; however, exploring the life of someone irrevocably tied to the land he grew up on. 
“Cavalry” is a sweet little love song built around traditional instrumentation and a wonderfully fresh pop sensibility.  “Afraid To Love” is pure Tommy Shaw; a pure pop ballad with bluegrass instrumentation.  “Give ‘Em Hell Harry” is a talk/sing number about Harry Truman’s musical career and how he stumbled into the presidency, suddenly communing with the likes of Stalin and Churchill.  It’s an entertaining turn; a nice change of pace.  Shaw closes out with “I’ll Be Comin’ Home”, an Americana/rock number done up in bluegrass instrumentation.  This is great songwriting, pure and simple, and Shaw’s iconic voice has never been better.  It’s the perfect close to a near-perfect album.
Tommy Shaw takes a surprising and pleasing turn with The Great Divide.  While it’s not at all surprising for a rock artist to suddenly turn to more traditional musical styles as their career progresses, it’s unusual to make the transition so well.  The Great Divide deftly blends traditional bluegrass sound and modern songwriting to create what should turn out to be one of the best bluegrass albums of 2011.  Don’t be entirely surprised if Shaw gets serious consideration for at least a GRAMMY nomination this time around.
Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)
Learn more about Tommy Shaw and The Great Divide at  The Great Divide is available from on CD, Vinyl and as a Download.  The album is also available from iTunes.

Wednesday giveaway!

Today's giveaway is from Moop, the Pittsburgh studio that makes beautiful handmade bags for men, women and kids. Their bags are soft and roomy and perfect for adventures around town. I'm lucky enough to have their blue market bag, and their new waxed canvas collection and Very Useful Tote (both pictured above) are gorgeous. They're offering one lucky winner any bag from their shop--you get to choose!

For a chance to win, please visit Moop, and leave a comment below telling us your favorite bag. A winner will be chosen at random tomorrow. Good luck! xo

Update: Melissa Hall is our lucky winner. Thanks for playing.

A handy guide to creating the perfect cheese plate

I may or may not be obsessed with cheese (are you, too?), so the fact that we live down the street from Murray's Cheese, the most amazing cheese shop that ever existed, is fabulous and a little dangerous. The shop is packed with incredible cheeses, meats, chocolates, breads and ice creams, and the cheesemongers are geniuses (and give samples!). Toby and I venture over there at least twice a week, and we're both fatter and happier for it.

So, my darlings, I'm thrilled to present this handy guide to creating the perfect cheese plate! I met with Murray's head cheesemonger Sydney Willcox to discover her tried-and-true tips, and the lovely Jamie Beck took photos. Here goes...
Overall pointers for putting together a cheese plate:
* When you invite friends over, buy one ounce per person per cheese; and stick to five to six cheeses total.
* Choose a fun variety of cheeses: different textures, countries, and all three milk types (goat, sheep, cow).
* Serve all the cheeses on one big board. You want your guests to start with the mildest and work up to the strongest, so place the cheeses in "clock order"--12 o'clock being the mildest and 11 o'clock being the strongest.
* Take the cheese out of the fridge at least an hour before serving. Cheese should be eaten at room temperature, when it's at its full flavor and texture.
* Put out a few different knives. Goat and blue cheeses crumble if you use a regular knife, so cheese wires are the best thing to use--if you don't have one, you can use dental floss! Softer cheeses work best with a butter knife. Harder cheeses, like parmesan, are good with a triangle-shaped knife. Cut circular cheeses in wedges, like a pizza.
* If you have leftovers, don't store the cheese in Saran Wrap, which will make the cheese sweat and leave a plastic-y taste. Cheese is living and needs to breathe, so wrap it in parchment or wax paper, and keep it in the most humid part of the fridge (usually the vegetable drawer).
Six cheeses for the perfect basic cheese plate:
(pictured clockwise from top)

1. Cremont is a bloomy, rindy, mild cheese, which debuted last year in Vermont. (The name "cremont" is a mix of "cream" and "Vermont"!) The cheese has both cow and goat milk. Luscious, coats your tongue, fudge-y, cake-y.

2. La Tur is the little black dress of cheeses! Everyone loves it. It's a mix of goat, sheep and cow--which is is pretty unusual. Flavorwise, you get a hint of all three animals--tang from the goat, lingering buttery fat from the sheep, milky sweetness from the cow. The texture feels almost whipped, like savory ice cream! At a party, this insanely popular Italian cheese will disappear first.

3. Pyrenees Brebis. Every single person I've has ever met loves this sheep's milk cheese. It's a huge crowd-pleaser. A lot of flavor, but very harmonious. Nutty, salty, floral, semi-soft. From the southwest region of France, where there are huge herds of sheep.

4. Cabot Clothbound Cheddar. Cabot makes lots of cheddars, but this is their artisanal (read: fancy!) line. What's cool about this cheese is that it's a partnership between Cabot and the Cellars at Jasper Hill--Cabot makes the cheese, which is then aged in the Cellars at Jasper Hill. There's actually a staff of guys (football-player size!) who flip these cheeses everyday, so they'll age evenly. The cheese is wrapped in cloth, which is a more English style of making cheese. Super strong cheddar; you get little crystals. You'll taste peanuts, caramel, earthy flavors. Eat from the inside out; then take the cloth off and then eat the rind--it almost takes like dirt, but it works so well with the other flavors. (P.S. It would make the best grilled cheese you'd ever have in your life.)

5. Pleasant Ridge Reserve. Made with raw Jersey cow's milk in Wisconsin. Very fruity and smooth. The American Cheese Society just named it "Best in Show" for the third time (it's the only cheese to have been awarded Best in Show more than once!). You've gotta try it.

6. Cambozola Black Label is a very, very delicate blue cheese. Just a tinge of that mineral flavor; very buttery with a bit of a cashew flavor. A great beginning cheese for people who think they might not like blue cheeses. (Once you put it on bread and add a grape, it will mellow out, if you’re feeling timid!) Blue cheeses and chocolate also go together really well--a great balance of salty and sweet.

Pair cheeses with: Dried cherries, walnuts, marcona almonds (I love these!), fresh grapes, crackers and French bread.
Yummy! Thank you so much, Sydney and Murray's! Have you tried any of these cheeses before? Do you have a different favorite cheese that you'd recommend? I'd love to hear...

P.S. More cheese-y posts!

(Photos by Jamie Beck for Cup of Jo)

How to Do A Quick Trademark Search

Hey online shoppers/fashion enthusiasts/ bloggers! I got great news for you!

This morning I received an email inviting ALL fashion enthusiasts for the launching of


an online lifestyle and deals site on Friday, April 1, 2011 at Members Only at The Fort Strip, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. The event will formally start at 7:00 pm and will highlight a mini program and presentation of deal's site, which will cater to a more sophisticated and upscale market. They will also be raffling a 3 days, 2 nights stay for 4 people at Alta Vista de Boracay for free.

mmm... Boracay... now that's really tempting! :)


our second look,


she's half-human, half vampire... our modern day setting Laura for our redesigned play project, "Florante at Laura".

so now it's pretty obvious that our version of Florante is also a vampire :)

i only had the morning to gather things from my closet that day cos i forgot to pull out items from my friends too. i initially wanted her to wear a red gown for the vamp-vixen appeal, but the only gown i had here was Grecian, so we went back to being emo instead... :)

it's funny how Sunshine's look has changed dramatically with the dark, heavy makeup and Gothic accessories.

Outfit and all accessories are from F21. Lacey gloves, my friend's own.

Faux Colorblock

I don't read tabloids and thus, have no idea whether or not Lindsay Lohan is drunk/sober/in jail/not in jail/painting her toenails/dating her cat. Though I loved LiLo in Mean Girls and The Parent Trap, I generally have little to no interest in her and her style. However, I'm obsessed with the pseudo-colorblocking that she pulls off in this particular photo. I always tuck my top into my skirt, and I'm surprised to see that it looks so polished and elegant while untucked.  At first glance, I even mistook it for a dress. Naturally, I had to give it my own twist.

The untucked top works best because of the material — I'm guessing Lindsay's is silk or a silk-blend — one that's a little more formal than your regular tee, longer (for layering), and with a looser cut. I adore this one by Theory. I also think a not-so-skintight skirt adds to the effect, which is why I picked a style in a shocking pink hue from House of Fraser. When the top is layered over it, it creates the seamless effect that resembles a colorblock dress while offering the freedom to play with the colors and proportions. I'd accessorize with spare details: these Rag & Bone wedges, a pretty gold necklace, and pair of Nina Ricci aviators. Now about that top...

[photo cred here]

Sarah Richardson Giveaway!

Calling all Sarah Richardson & Tommy Smythe fans!

With the first season of Sarah 101 wrapped up, what better way to celebrate than having a Sarah & Tommy giveaway! And its a doozy - enter for your chance to win a Sarah Richardson Designer Palette by Para Paints fan deck personally signed by Sarah and Tommy! Awesome, right?!

(image courtesy of Arren Williams)

Sarah has always been known for her keen sense of colour and I will tell you that this collection is spot on. I just painted my living room in Cashmere which Sarah describes as "the ultimate grey" - and she is right, its the perfect grey! With this paint deck in your hands, there's no telling what you'll be inspired to do in your own home!

Here's how you can win:

  • Receive one entry for leaving a comment below.
  • Receive one entry for becoming a follower; leave a separate comment below to let me know. If you're already a follower, leave a comment below.
  • Receive one entry if you tweet about the giveaway. Make sure to include my twitter @ramblingreno so I can keep track.

The contest is open to Canadian and US residents. You have until 10pm EST April 3rd to enter. The winner will be drawn from all entries using and announced on April 4th. Good luck!!

Sarah 101: Gabe's City Condo

It’s the last episode of Sarah 101! What did you guys think of it? I enjoyed some episodes more than others and judging from all your comments, you felt the same. Sarah moved even further away the neutral style of her Design Inc. days and introduced more colour, pattern, and mixing of furniture styles. That Sarah & Tommy – always challenging us with something new!

To celebrate the end of the first season of Sarah 101, I have a FANTASTIC GIVEAWAY!! More on that in my next post!

In this week’s episode, Sarah and Tommy take a blank slate of a condo and inject it with a serious sense of style. Starting with the jumping off point – a monochromatic black, white, and grey decorating scheme – Sarah and Tommy mix it up using vintage and modern pieces.

A large round vintage glass table is used to anchor the dining area. The round table is best for a small space; it allows for flow and circulation and provides flexible seating options. Paired with acrylic chairs and a sleek and airy chandelier, the glass table doesn’t feel heavy or too big in this combined living-dining space.

In the living area, Sarah again uses two inexpensive rugs bound together to create a larger statement rug. While the chairs are vintage, dramatic and full of personality, the sofa is new and neutral. A chunky vintage wood coffee table brings some warmth and needed contrast against the cool black and white and grey fabrics. Small details, like smoothing out the stippled ceiling, accenting with silver and white wallpaper, and using crisp Starfire glass in the chrome sidetables, keep the space feeling modern and masculine.

By adding unique and unusual pieces, this builder’s box of a condo gets some personality. Standard potlights are replaced with vintage pendants. Walls are adorned with large-scale DIY artwork and a gallery wall of black and white photos. The combined result is a room which feels collected over time and far from generic.

Tips from the show:

  • For professional looking framed photographs, pair ready-made frames with custom-cut mats
  • Looking to reupholster a vintage piece? Make sure its sturdy, free of wobbles, and check the original manufacturer’s label as an indication of quality
  • Black & white schemes can be harsh and high contrast. Mix them with less severe grey tones.
  • The key to a great DIY is knowing what to do yourself and what to hire a pro for (for example, getting a DIY canvas professionally stretched and framed)
  • Use black as an accent and not as the main colour in a monochromatic scheme
  • Too many black & white fabric patterns can be overpowering. Balance the look with lots of solids.

I think this was my favourite episode of the whole season! It certainly didn’t look like a budget makeover and felt suited to the homeowner. I thought it had just the right mix of vintage and new pieces. What did you think? Did you enjoy the series?