Platypus Symphony Handmade

will be at the Indoor-Outdoor Central Craft & HBB Marketplace

at Central United Church, 135 Wellington St., St. Thomas ON 

on Saturday May 17

from 8am to 1pm


I will be selling lots of handmade crafts, including tea cozies and cup cozies, crocheted jewellery, and handwoven textiles. All natural fibres, all made by me in St Thomas Ontario. Thanks to the wonders of technology, I will now be accepting Visa and Master Card as well as cash.


Check out 40 plus Craft & Home Based Business Vendors. Enjoy a hot dog or bacon on a bun at our Central BBQ and don’t forget to take home some goodies from our “Mega” Bake table. All home baked by “loving” hands. Something for everyone! Come, stay, enjoy!

The Enchanted Arts Show and Sale

Sunday November 18 from 10:30am to 5:00pm

at the Elsie Perrin Williams Estate, 101 Windermere Road West, London

Featuring local London artists including the incredibly talented Nancy Latchford

Check this out for a full list of participating artists.

“come and find the magic!”

Fibre Art Festival and Sale

Saturday November 24 from 8:30am – 5:30pm

Sunday November 25 from 11:00am – 4pm

Covent Garden Market in London, Ontario

Art for sale for the the individual and the home – all locally made

Includes Weaving, Spinning, Rug Hooking, Lace Making, Nalbinding, Kumihimo, and Basketry.

For more information, see the website for the London District Weavers and Spinners

I will be featuring numerous handspun and crocheted items in the sale, so if you’re in the area, come check it out!

The 2012 World of Threads Festival

Oakville: Nov. 2 – 18, 2012
Toronto: Nov. 9 – Dec. 2, 2012

From their website:

Local, National & International Contemporary Fibre Art.

The World of Threads Festival is one of the most vibrant fibre arts festivals in the world. We showcase contemporary fibre art in all forms. The Festival is based in Oakville, Ontario, Canada. For the first time we are expanding into Toronto.

The 2012 festival will have 21 exhibitions, and nearly 200 artists from 12 countries and 8 Canadian provinces. The flagship exhibitions are the Common Thread International exhibitions.

For more information, a .pdf of their brochure is available here.

Here is a recipe for the world’s easiest pulled pork.  It’s a guideline, mainly, because there are really no measurements – just eyeball it.


I like to make mine with veggies so I don’t have to make a side dish too.  If you like, you can just cook the tenderloin on its own with the broth and sauce and omit the veggies completely.


If you don’t own a slow cooker, go out and buy one – they’re awesome.  Seriously, though, you could cook this in an oven-proof pot with a lid on a low temperature for several hours and get approximately the same result.  Just don’t let it dry out or it will be gross.  With the slow cooker you get to just ignore it all day, though.



1 pork tenderloin (if frozen, make sure you defrost it all the way through)

1-2 sweet apples

2 large carrots

2 large onions

1 bottle of a sweet BBQ sauce – something like maple or mesquite.  Right now I’m using Sensations by Complements Maple BBQ sauce and it is very good.

beef stock to cover (from a can or a packet, it doesn’t matter)

1 packet of onion soup mix (optional)

any other spices you want to add (experiment a bit).  I often include whole peppercorns if I have them on hand.


Chop the apples, carrots, and onions and put them into your crock pot.  Add enough stock to cover the veggies, as well as the spices.  Place the tenderloin on top and slather it in BBQ sauce.


Cook for as long as you need to.  I usually cook it on high for about 6 hours because I’m not up at the crack of dawn cooking dinner.  You could put it on to cook early and cook it on low as well.  You will know it is done when the pork is cooked through and you can pull it apart with a fork.


Shred the pork with a fork and mix it into the vegetables which should be very soft by now.  You can leave the veggies in chunks if you want, or mush them right in (if you’re trying to hide them from the kids like I am).


If you want you can add some more BBQ sauce.


Serve on onion buns or kaisers with coleslaw.  Or serve it over rice or potatoes.  Either way you do it, enjoy!


In ocean wastes no poppies blow,
No crosses stand in ordered row,
There young hearts sleep… beneath the wave…
The spirited, the good, the brave,
But stars a constant vigil keep,
For them who lie beneath the deep.

‘Tis true you cannot kneel in prayer
On certain spot and think. “He’s there.”
But you can to the ocean go…
See whitecaps marching row on row;
Know one for him will always ride…
In and out… with every tide.
And when your span of life is passed,
He’ll meet you at the “Captain’s Mast.”

And they who mourn on distant shore
For sailors who’ll come home no more,
Can dry their tears and pray for these
Who rest beneath the heaving seas…
For stars that shine and winds that blow
And whitecaps marching row on row.
And they can never lonely be
For when they lived… they chose the sea.


©Copyright October 11, 2001 by Eileen Mahoney

The HMCS Skeena

Well, we survived the move from Nova Scotia to Ontario in one piece (mostly – we did lose a couple of minor pieces to breakage).  The house, which we had only seen on the MLS listing, is just wonderful.

The house has needed a lot of work, of course, since it’s over 100 years old.  Most of the work has been cosmetic yet time-consuming things like painting etc.  Our largest changes have been a new kitchen counter top and sink, and a door linking the front three bedrooms with the back two.  At some point the house had been divided into a duplex and was never fully converted back, which meant that there were two areas on the second floor which didn’t connect to one another and left the back bedrooms without easy access to a bathroom or to the laundry room.  A bit of muscle and a claw hammer soon fixed that, and my mother and I successfully installed a new door between the two areas which has greatly simplified things.  Knocking down walls is fun!

We’re still somewhat living out of boxes and I don’t yet have the store up and running because it’s all still down in the basement (though I’ve been doing some shopping, and have some awesome new pieces!)


What I have been doing just recently is experimenting with some Inkle weaving.  It all started when my mother-in-law spotted a little inkle loom at a second hand store (I was there with her and it kills me that I overlooked it, plus she’s been rubbing it in).  I asked around my local fibre groups and got some information, plus a great book, then started weaving.  It was quite simple once I figured it all out.

That’s the loom on the left.  Its quite small, even for an inkle, which means you can’t make anything really long on it.  It still serves the purpose, though, and you can make some really lovely things on it.


These white strings are the heddles which hold the alternating strands of the warp.  They are what helps you to separate the two different sheds, the open areas between the strands of the warp through which you pass the weft.  I tied them out of cotton yarn to the specifics in my book, not noticing that 1) they were entirely too long for this size of loom, and 2) I had tied roughly four times as many heddles as I actually needed for my initial weaving project.  In my defense, I did have a horrible migraine that day and I probably wasn’t paying very much attention.  After shortening and reducing the number of heddles, I was ready to warp the loom.


The warp, done in a regular pattern of black, white, and grey.  Inkle looms make a warp-faced weave, which means that the strands of the warp are what you are going to see when the project is complete.  The weft strand is essentially invisible, just there to hold it all together.


My very first piece of inkle weaving.  As you can see, the stripes of black, white, and grey in the warp are visible here once it is woven.


My two completed inkle projects.  The grey and black piece is long enough to use as a hair band and I’ve been wearing it all week.  The piece on the left is what I wove afterwards (I should have taken some pics of it while it was still on the loom).  The warp is made up of black and natural grey merino which I spun interspersed with some beautifully colourful Leicester locks (you can see it balled in the first picture).  The weft was the same black commercial wool that I used in my first project.  With the tasseled edging, it is long enough for a jaunty little scarf.  I think the pattern looks almost like a river bed.


They’re both a bit rough, especially the selvedges (the left and right edges) which are very visible on such narrow pieces.  Still, it was very fun, and I will definitely keep practicing!

Our move to St Thomas, Ontario has begun!  Stay tuned for updates as events warrant!

This is a guest post from my sister Sarah.  I am also a Begin by birth (and a Cotter by marriage).  Enjoy!

Commence et Persiste

Begin Family History – Begins and Continues

I’ve been really interested in genealogy for a while and have managed to trace back almost every line of my family history. In honour of Canada Day, I will share with you the story of my first ancestors to arrive in Canada, Jacques Bégin and his son Louis.
This information has been translated from L’Association des familles Bégin, and has been augmented with my own independent research.
Honfleur, France
Jacques Bégin (1600-1664), was born in Honfleur, a city in Normandy, France. He married Anne Melocque and had four children. They lived in the countryside on a farm in St-Sauveur in the parish of St. Leonard.
After the death of his wife, Anne Melocque, Jacques and his son Louis (1631-1708) left for New France. They arrived around 1654 and the following year, Jacques obtained land in the name of Louis. In 1661, he accepted a stronghold in the back of St. Anne, the place now called Lauzon. Unfortunately, he drowned three years later in the St. Lawrence River, and his son Louis, sole heir, took over. 
Around the age of 37, Louis met Jeanne Durand, daughter of Martin and Francoise Brunet. Jeanne was an orphan and married Louis at the age of thirteen on October 15, 1668.

Habitants by Cornelius Krieghoff (1852)
The Bégin family spent the most of their lives in quiet and peace. Like most people of the time, they lived on hunting and fishing and decorated with the cereal crop, which apparently was very prolific. Thus in the 1681 census, they had three head of cattle and eight acres of cleared land.
In the spring of 1690, Jeanne Durand was very sick and stayed at the Hotel-Dieu de Quebec for thirty days. In 1695, she was again hospitalized for 37 days.
Louis Bé
gin died in his house and was buried, December 26, 1708 in the cemetery at Point Levy. Jeanne Durand, with the help of her eldest son, Jean-Baptiste, lived for fourteen more years and died July 27, 1722.
Visiting Levis – 2011
While doing my research, the most fascinating information I dug up is that Louis and Jeanne are the grandparents of all Canadian Bégins. There were no other Bégins who immigrated to Canada and survived or reproduced, thus leaving Louis and Jeanne with the task of creating us all. If your last name is Bégin and your familly has been in Canada for a very long time, chances are we are cousins.
The area where Louis and Jeanne lived is now known as Levis and you can find evidence of the impact that the family had all over the town. When Jorge and I visited Quebec last September, I insisted on visiting Levis. I wanted to see the place where my ancestors lived and hoped to find their burial sites. During my research, I discovered that their original graves were moved to the newer and larger Mont-Marie Cemetery. Unfortuantely, due to the age of the graves, there were no grave markers, just a mention in their database that indeed, they are buried there.
A street in Levis
I’m amazed that my family has been in Canada for 358 years. I am often asked what my background is and I always answer “Canadian”. At that point I’m usually asked… “yeah, but where do your parents come from? grandparents?”, and I answer “Canada”. Now that I’ve done my family genealogy, not just on the Bégin side but all sides of my family, I can name all of the places where we originated, but in the end I can’t say I am anything but Canadian. After 358 years and not learning to speak the language, I definitely can’t say I’m French.

Happy Canada Day!

Hi everybody,

As someone who loves vintage stuff, and who loves a good deal, garbage day is my favourite day of the week!  Once every two weeks, when the weather is non-rainy, I take a drive around my neighbourhood after I’ve dropped the boy off at preschool and look for neat stuff.  I’m famous for it.  I’ve been able to pick up enough awesome things over the years, though, that if my hubby is with me, he’ll just roll his eyes while we turn the car around to go back for something neat.  He used to refuse to turn around, then we’d argue a bunch, then we’d turn around anyways; this is faster.

Just this last Tuesday I was making the tour when I found something neat.  Something really neat.  A chair!  To me, picking up chairs is like shopping for accessories in thrift stores.  Scarves and purses and shoes don’t need to be tried on (at least not in the changing room), they go with everything, and you can never have too many.  Chairs fit anywhere, always go with the decor of one of your rooms, and are incredibly useful (especially if you’re lazy like me).


Now, in the past I’ve been guilty of picking up awesome but flawed chairs and not, well, fixing them up the way I’ve promised.  This chair, for instance, that I got at a garage sale for $5:

I have been intending to re-upholster this one for over a year, but the curved wooden back that makes it so awesome also makes re-upholstery difficult, plus my sewing machine won’t tackle pleather.


Anyhow, it was garbage day and I found a chair (NOT THIS ^^^ CHAIR – A DIFFERENT ONE).  And the chair was good – nigh, it was great!  A solid 1970s chair with great bones that just cried out for new fabric!  And so I stuck it in the back of the car and apprehensively brought it home.  Apprehensive, I say, because while hubby may be resigned to my quirks, my mother-in-law is a little more vocal about things.  She very subtly (I’m not being sarcastic, she was being really nice about it) stated that while she liked the chair, and that it did indeed have good bones, that we didn’t actually need a chair, especially an ugly chair covered in duct tape (did I mention the duct tape).  So, I did it.  I actually did it.  I re-upholstered the chair.

And here’s where the story falls apart.  While I was working on the chair, removing the fabric, pulling out the dozens and dozens of tacks, cutting out the new fabric, putting all the tacks back in, etc. I was taking pictures of every step so I could show them here.  And just a few minutes ago, when I went to post those pictures here, I realized that the memory card wasn’t in the camera when I ‘took’ the pictures and that the pictures not only were gone, they had never existed in the first place.  So, no pics of the process!  And awful enough, this wasn’t the first time I’d taken a score of pics without the memory card in the camera!  CARELESS!


I’ve taken some pictures since, and they’ll just have to do.  But first of all, I must thank the two men who first got me interested in refinishing and re-upholstering furniture: The Furniture Guys, from their show Furniture to Go, which was on TLC back in the 1990s.  They’re hilarious!


So, here are two pictures of the completed chair.  The fabric on front and back are both Sunbrella indoor/outdoor fabrics.  The patterned one I got on sale for another incomplete project that I gave up on, and I had tonnes left over.  The back fabric is a remnant I got for $5 (because Sunbrella, even on sale, isn’t cheap).  The chair has four legs, even though it doesn’t look like it here, and swivels and rocks.

I had enough of the flowered fabric to cover the back as well, but I wanted a bit more interest and contrast.

The original fabric was a reddish orange textured synthetic with a slight thread of silver, as you can see here.  It was rough and uncomfortable feeling and quite faded, and the seat had a large worn spot that had been patched with duct tape.  The chair also originally had arms, which I had planned planned on putting back on when I was done, but it turned out the chair looked better without them and they weren’t structurally necessary.

I don’t think that this was the  original fabric on the chair, but it had been recovered by a professional who had done an excellent job.  The first step was to remove all the fabric which was tacked on rather than stapled.  I kept all the tacks in case I might need them later.  I then used the fabric pieces I had removed to create new fabric shapes, though the spare lines of the chair meant that I essentially just cut out appropriately-sized rectangles.  I also cut a double layer piece of quilt batting to cover the batting already on the chair, which was till in good condition but needed a bit of a boost.

I used a staple gun to attach the batting and then most of the pieces of fabric in places where the staples would not be seen, i.e. the bottom of the seat, and on the back where I would be covering the staples with another piece of fabric.  After I’d stapled everything tight, I cut off the excess fabric.

I finished the corners at the front edge of the seat and the top of the back with flat folds, as seen here:

For the back, I cut a contrasting piece of fabric which I tacked rather than staple to the frame since staples would be visible and ugly.  This panel also hid the staples used to hold the floral fabric on the front part of the back of the chair.  I folded all the edges over, stapled the piece down in a few places temporarily, and went to it with as many tacks as was necessary.  I removed the temporary staples as I went.  While the tacks are still visible, they are much more attractive than the staples would have been.  Another option I have seen is to cover staples with ribbon to hide them, but I didn’t think it would suit this particular chair.

I also used a few tacks where the fabric of the chair back and the seat came together at the sides since I found there was a bit of movement (and gapping) there between the two separate pieces of fabric.  Getting this area to look good was the trickiest part of the re-upholstery process.

So that’s it.  The chair is done!  Just the look on my mother-in-law’s face when she saw I’d actually finished it and that it looked good, was worth all the hard work.  Actually, it was much much easier than I thought it would be.  All I did was replicate what was already there.

This was a good chair to choose for my first re-upholstery project as it was a very simple shape, essentially just two rectangles.  Now that I’ve finished it, though, I think I might want to try something a little more complex.  Awesome orange curvy chair, here I come!


Here are some great resources and inspiration for your first/next upholstery project: – Inspiration and a beautiful chair! – great tips! – More inspiration and another beautiful chair! – this one is fantastic.  Dina here has made a printable visual guide to how much fabric you’ll need for a particular style of chair.  That way you won’t end up buying ten yards of Sunbrella fabric to recover a chair and then never actually do it, then use it for another chair that only uses up two yards (long story).

Hi everybody,

As some of you may have noticed, the store was down for a few weeks. My apologies if you tried to purchase something during that time.  Platypus Symphony is back up and running right now, so please come visit.  We’ve got plenty of new stuff coming in every day!

White Pagoda-Shaped Yaffa Storage Case – beautiful!

The reason why the store was closed temporarily is that we are moving!  And by ‘we’ I mean my whole family, not just the store.  As you may already know, my hubby is in the Navy which means that every so often we get posted somewhere new.  This time it is London, Ontario.  And before you say anything, yes I know there isn’t an ocean in Ontario so why is a Navy guy being posted there?  It’s because there is a naval reserve detachment in London (and there is a river right next to the building so he won’t get too pouty).  The store was down temporarily because we were on our House Hunting Trip so find a place to live in our new ‘home town.’

Hubby and I are both originally from Southern Ontario so this feels like going home, even though it’ll be fore 2-3 years max, then we’ll probably be posted back to Halifax.  My mother and my sister Sarah, who both live in Ontario, are both vintage-lovers too, so I’m looking forward to doing some shopping with them.  Check out Sarah’s awesome blog, Jazzy Beginnings!

Rare 1960s Cragstan ‘Queen’s Guard’ Wind-Up Toy

So consider this fair warning that the store will go down again at some point in August when we do the actual move, if all goes well.  Right now I’m trying my best to keep it up and running while we sell our house and prepare to move all our stuff across country.  Luckily the military takes care of a lot of it, but they certainly don’t help keep my house clean with two small kids while perfect strangers come in and judge it.  Meanwhile, I wake up everyday thinking ‘maybe this will be the day this damnable house will sell!’

After the move, the store will be up and running again as usual, but with some awesome vintage finds from the London/St Thomas area!

Here are some of the great new *fun and useful* items I’ve got in the store right now!  I took advantage of some lovely sunny weather, which has been quite rare lately, to take the pics outside.  Enjoy!

Designed by Daher Floral Serving Tray, Made in England

Awesome Ucagco, Japan Perpetual Shopping Reminder – I love this!

Great men’s leather toiletry kit in amazing condition – no missing pieces, which is very unusual

When I saw my sister Sarah’s post about her new coffee pot (gorgeous!) I initially posted a long comment on some of the hazards of buying vintage housewears.

Sarah runs a charming blog all about food, fashion, fun and living in Toronto called Jazzy Beginnings (’cause her last name is Begin and she’s a Jazz singer – get it!)  Check it out because it is awesome!

Due to the crankiness of WordPress my (rather long) comment was unfortunately lost to cyberspace.  Later, Sarah and I got into a discussion about some of the issues with collecting and when she asked me to do a guest post, I said I would be delighted.  I’ve posted it here for all my fans to see too:


I love vintage, and I think I have ever since I was a kid.  I remember fondly going to antique fairs at the Markham fair grounds with my parents and always wanting to buy a pair of antique spectacles.  I was there when my mother bought her antique kitchen table (the one whose leaf popped up once at dinner and almost knocked toddler Sarah on the floor).  I also remember her stripping and refinishing the most amazing kitchen hutch that came with a clever glass canister for holding and measuring out flour.  Some awful person had painted it white then left it at the side of the road for garbage collection.  Can you imagine!

We usually think of vintage items as having been much better made, and lasting forever.  This isn’t untrue; after all, if they wore out quickly we wouldn’t be collecting them today.  But not all vintage things that have lasted were made to today’s standards.  Remember when women used to use white lead to make their faces fairer?  There’s a reason we don’t do this any more.

Here are a few things to watch out for when you’re buying vintage:

Vintage Electronics.

Vintage electronics can be so cool!  I’ve bought and sold a variety of items, including some great blow dryers and lamps.  Here are some things to remember:

1) Always carefully inspect any electronics for exposed wiring, cracks in the casing, etc. You do not want to be touching a live wire if you plug it in!

2) Always test the item on a GFI outlet or power bar so that if it overloads, it is contained.

3) If in doubt, don’t use it and cut off the plug so nobody else can.  Electrical appliances, even new ones, can start fires and I don’t think you want to have a discussion with your insurance company about how cool your new blow dryer is/was.

4) Consider having it rewired.  This isn’t really practical with most electronics, but is very very easy to do with a great vintage lamp.  Buy a lamp kit at your local hardware store and you’re all set.

Melamine Dishwear!

Melamine is one of the first things people think of when you talk about vintage housewares.  After all, nothing is quite so quintessentially cool as a great melamine place setting. What is melamine, you ask?  Well, it’s a plastic-like material made from melamine resin, also known as melamine formaldehyde.  It was primarily manufactured from the 1950s to the 1970s but fell out of favour as more user-friendly plastics became available.  You can find plates, bowls, cups and saucers, serving dishes, serving dishes… the list is practically endless.

Melamine dishwear is relatively inexpensive and comes in a rainbow of colours from powder blue to salmon pink and sunshine yellow. It also comes in a variety of patterns, though these haven’t quite stood up to wear as well as their more plain counterparts.  You can collect a whole matching set, or mix and match to your heart’s content. A simple etsy or ebay search will give you dozens of results, and your local thrift store will likely have some as well.

Personally, I love the stuff and I have a bunch in my collection, but it’s not always the most practical dishwear to actually use.

Here are some tips about collecting and caring for vintage melamine:

1) Don’t get it hot!  Do not put it down on a hot stove and do not ever put it in the microwave.  Not only will it be damaged by the heat, but melamine contains formaldehyde.  You do not want this leaching into your food!

2) Do not put it in your dishwasher -you will damage it.  Gently wash in warm soapy water and never use abrasive cleaners because they will scratch.  This is the main reason why my daily-use dishes are ceramic.

3) Look out for imposters.  Melamine is still being produced, sometimes even by the same companies as in the 1950s and 60s (e.g. by Pfaltzgraff).  You can even find melamine at your local dollar store.  Vintage melamine is generally heavier than the new stuff and has a definite “vintage” look to it, in shape and colour.  The vintage stuff was better made, too, and it is generally pretty easy to tell the difference between old and new.

For more  info on caring for melamine, check out this great article:  “Melamine: A Relic of Yesterday (with a Caveat for Today)”

And here’s an interesting tidbit of information: Mr Clean Magic Erasers, those fantastic little cleaning sponges, are made from melamine foam!  The more you know!

Happy Collecting!

About Me:

Ellen, a crafty homemaker with two kids and a penchant for correcting other people's grammar.



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