Monday, 23 May 2011

A Newbie Sets up a Website

Yes. For years I've been traversing across the internet doing things that most of us have come to accept as normal everyday life. Communicating by email, searching for info on Google, watching the Canucks beat the Sharks 4-2 on Youtube and talking to the family many of thousand of miles away on Skype.

Everyday, I am learning more about this inetrnet creature and and how to navigate my way through it.
Last winter I asked for more trouble (or learning experiences, as Money & You grads would say) than I really needed when I thought
"Hey. Wouldn't it be a great idea to build a website for the Artists & Crafters of Salt Spring where everyone was in one place, thus making it easy for people to find us?" Silly me when I answered "Why yes, it would." I called it Salt Spring Craft, because Salt Spring Artisans just didn't sound right. That was the easy part.LinkLike so many of these great ideas, it took more time, more sweat and more tears than I had bargained for. Now, I'm not saying that I'm regretting having set up the site. In fact, it's blossoming slowly but blossoming just fine. I guess I'm saying that everytime I look at the website, I feel that I can do so much more and that I'd have to go on an intensive learning curve if I wanted to make it the way I see it in my head.

Because I have no web-building experience, I figured I'd build it on a Blogger platform as I'm already using it and have become accustomed to it's idiosyncrasies. This was great for organising posts into categories like weaving or ceramics to make it easier to find an artisan. All artisans can list for free. Click here for the form.

We now have over 40 listings and it is slowly growing. However, in the midst of all adding all the artisan pages to the website, it occurred to me that many Salt Spring artisans have no web presence. So how would people off-island see their work? Ergo, the Showcase Listing was added to give artisans up to 10 pictures for their page and stacks more options & room for describing their designs, work & process.
Then I tried to integrate the free google search box. Well, that didn't work. Apparently google's free search box is, err, not quite up to the standard of it's paid search feature. Thank goodness for blogger how-to & know-how pages. I found most of what I needed to customise the website from there.
Based on feedback from a great many helpful people, I've added a Salt Spring Events calendar which has dates and information on as many events, classes & workshops I could find trawling the pages & website of guilds, tours, b&b calendars and the indepensible Salt Spring Exchange.
Here's a place, if you're visiting or have freinds & family visiting, to go to to see what's happening on the island. And if you have a Art (this includes performing art) or craft event, workshop or class, click here to send me the info to list for free.

That was the other thing. I'm building this webiste for artisans and organisers to list for free and yet, even with a free blogging platform & free gadgets, there are costs. That's when I learnt how to use Ad Sense and that I needed to get some revenue to cover some of the marketing costs of getting Salt Spring Craft noticed by the world at large. So, ta-dah, down the right is a space for advertisers and a Donate Button. So please donate if you feel so inclined to help independent business in a workd of the mass produced.

And so was born a new little website that will, hopefully, grow up to be useful to all who come to it, inspirational to those who seek products and experiences that come from a slower pace of life and engaging to all who value that which is handmade, unique and speaks from the human spirit.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

How do you prune an apple tree?

When we bought the house last year, it came with two apple trees. I'd let them grow in their usual way all year so that I could see them as they were. And what they were was leafy, full of little branches that made it look like it was having a bad-hair day. But most frustratingly, in the autumn, when the tree was full of apples, the reddest and juiciest looking ones were at the end of the highest branches, and hopelessly out of reach.
This year is going to be different. I'd learnt some about gardening and most importantly had the expert help of friend Belinda, the super-duper master gardener. I had learnt that a shaggy tree full of skyward shooting branches was not the best thing for a tree; that where the bark was scarred and gueyly damp was where there was damage and infection and needed to amputated like a gangrenous limb; that a tree so laden with that multitude of apples had to work very, very hard to churn out the harvest, which also means that quality would be sacrificed for quantity. And if I'm brutally honest, last years apples was a bit lacking in, how can I put it? taste. This year, it's going to be different.
Armed with newly sharpened and freshly sanitised tools, plus two ladders, we were at it with vigor. Belinda giving me tips on which branch to cut (the ones that were too small to support the many spurs at its tip, where the apples would eventually form, any shoots growing downward or inward) and were was the best place to cut it. Three and a half frozen hours later, my initial hesitant nips at weedy shoots evolved into sawing off great chunk of branches and my previously afro-headed apple tree looked buzz-cut botak, and very sad.
Despite it's forlorn appearance, I know that it'll be healthier, will look better (in a couple of years I'm told), it'll bear better tasting fruit and most of all, I'll be able to reach the yummy apples.

But now that I think about it, so will the deer! Hurrumph!!

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

The Slipper Chair Project

This is something I've been wanting to do since I came to Canada. Having spent countless hours watching HGTV during my first few months in this new land, I was swept away by the slew of shows out in cable TVland that would help you DIY just about anything. Sarah Richardson and the Designer Guys found old furniture and in five TV-minutes, covered, nailed and stained and voila! furniture completely redone, revived and reborn into a gorgeous must-have.

A couple of months ago, I was out indulging in my favourite new passion: thrift-shopping and stumbled upon the perfect candidate for my first real re-upholstery job. It was an orange slipper chair stacked on top of a jumble of other chairs in the Lion's Club Thrift Store in Duncan. There wasn't a price on it so I asked. "It's $10" the lady said, "but if you like, we'll sell it for $8." I said that I liked. And she said, "in that case, we'll carry it out to your car (and in this case, my friend Emma-Louise's stationwagon) for you." A bargain, I'd say.
I finally got my act together last month, in Victoria, and forked out $45 for a whole meter of thick upholstery fabric from Chintz & Co, being too much of a skinflint to buy a half meter more.
And, I know you must have guessed by now, I was half a meter short. Sigh.But I soldiered on with my recovering and the pictures show the result.
The process was pretty easy, using the existing covers as templates for cutting the new fabric. The original piping was in pretty good nick, so that was reused and this project gave me a good excuse to buy and learn how to make fabric covered buttons.

I'm not too happy with the temporary brown fabric covering the back of the chair, but the next time I see the right half meter, I am so buying it.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

First Snowfall

I'm never quite prepared when it snows. No matter how I anticipate it or mentally gear myself up for it, it always takes me by surprise.

The weather report said that there'd be snow mixed with rain for Friday, when I first check it. It was the day b & I were to make a run to Vancouver. Thinking that this would be the first snowfall of the season, it wouldn't amount to much. Right.
Out from the Long Harbour ferry and onto Vancouver, the meteorologist Russ Lecate on news 1130 gave us the bad news. The snowfall would be pretty serious (for the greater Vancouver region anyway), 5cm of snow coming late that evening. Crikey! We take the 10:20 ferry home then. Not having dealt with a real winter since that crazy one 2 years ago, I couldn't get my head around his 5cm prediction and didn't think much about it. Hmmm....
At 11 pm we were still in the line-up waiting to be called onto the ferry home. The wind was whipping up and the snowflakes were getting bigger and more abundant. By the time we got to Salt Spring, it was pass midnight and the 5cm of snow had beat us to the island. Living in the 'Canadian Reviera' we don't have very many snowploughs and so the main road was icy and slippery. It was so treacherous that we didn't quite make it home. Had to park the car o the main road and walk up the hill. In the moonlight and the snow, the scene glowed with the luminous that only a foot of snow can give.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Making Punpkin Faces

I've never carved a pumpkin before. Enough episodes of Buffy & The Simpsons Halloween have convinced me that I wanted to at least make an attempt at one, even at this late juncture of my life. Not having grown up in a culture that celebrated Halloween, all this is new to me.

But, as with many things in my life right now, I learnt how to carve a pumpkin on YouTube. There were really elaborate designs of dragons and wizards and even Barbie, that you could download and print a template from. This, you could put on your pumpkin, trace out the design by pricking holes through the paper onto the pumpkin face and then start carving out the hollows with your sharp knife. After being thoroughly impressed and somewhat overwhelmed with all the choice, I chose the old way. I did what B did when he was a kid making pumpkin heads, I drew up a couple of faces on paper and then copied them with a Sharpie onto the big orange squash and I was ready to wield my chopper with the best of them.

First it was "OFF WITH THE Top of the HEAD!!!", then you scrape all the guts out. Seeds, juice and all. It was a great big messy affair and my weeks worth of newspapers couldn't contain the flinging, chopping and dripping pumpkin parts. Three days down the road, the house still smells of that squashy massacre.

I thought I'd have a practice pumpkin, a smaller one with easier lines.
As you can see, Munch would have been proud of my ode to his Scream. Of course I had to show my creation off.

All day on Halloween, my little screamie pumpkin head had his insides stuffed with dried Oak leaves and greeted the customers coming into the bookstore.

The next one was bigger and has a kind of sugar-high crazed vampire bat look to it. I mean, a pumpkin head had to be , at least, a little scary, right? I liked this too. The eye-balls were the trickiest to carve out.

Despite lighting both the heads and leaving the out on our deck on Halloween night, no trick-or-treaters came a- knocking. Good thing too. Because B & I couldn't resist and ate almost all the candy before nightfall....

Monday, 20 September 2010

My First Apple Harvest

Ok. There is no way to prepare a girl from Singapore for the sheer amazement of harvesting fruit from a tree in her own garden. I mean, with most Singaporeans living in flats, the best we can hope for is a few limes and a couple of chillies.
But here in Kampung Canada, on this little island called Salt Spring, I have two apple trees that I didn't plant or nurture that are bearing 40 to 50 apples just like that!
How fab is that? So, now I have to quickly brush up on all the apple-involved recipes I can find. Last week, I attempted an apple pie, and forgot to add the sugar to the dough till the last minute.
Suffice to say, the crust was, err, not very edible.

Still, there's always this week and some more apples to aid my journey to apple pie perfection. Fingers crossed.

Salt Spring is quite abundant with different types of apples which explains why we have a yearly Apple Festival on the island.
Looks to be a lovely country kampung sort of outing. Can't wait!

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

So we bought ourselves a bookshop

So we bought ourselves a bookshop.

It was a sudden thing, this life-changing switching of cities and of lifestyles.

But, if you know anything of my history, most of the important things that have happened in my life have happened this way.

This paraphrase pops into mind, “when the time is right, all obstacles melt away.”

It was sometime in January that B & I made the decision that Vancouver wasn't the place for us anymore. Two weeks later, we're taking a fog-shrouded ride on a BC Ferries, er... ferry, to Long Harbour on Salt Spring Island to check out a charming Fine Used bookshop called Sabine's, which had come onto the market a couple of months ago.

Three weeks later, we've decluttered, staged and sold the condo for it's asking price, giving us the money to put in a offer for the bookshop. And, as these stories go, the offer was accepted. We moved to the island in April and officially took over in May. And what a ride it's been!

Sabine's Fine Used Books is in the main village of Ganges, in a charming little shopping area called Grace Point, where there are art galleries, bistros, a spa, a yoga studio and a great jewellery shop called Frankly Scarlet.

The bookshop itself has a marvellous olde worlde feel about it with lots of woods and carpets like you seen in the libraries of period BBC programmes. Bookshelves stretching themselves from floor to ceiling and hugging you as you walk between the aisles.

Hundreds of books filling all two floors of the shop with antiquarian books from the 1800's to brand new reads like 'The Book of Negroes'. The first estate sale we went to we bought a beautiful black, green & gold leather bound set of Shakespeare's works which we sold in the summer for $450. It was a wonderful feeling to be able to turn a profit. Kinda like what Lovejoy does, it does!

The funny thing about Sabine's is the coincidence of the bookshop's name and that Nick Bantock, the author of the Griffin & Sabine books, came to live on the island. So it made all sorts of sense that Sabine, the original owner of the bookshop, joined up with Nick to create the Griffin Room. A special place on the upper floor for a great many things Nick Bantock. All his titles are here, including most of Nick's out-of-print pop-up books as well as his original prints and the drawers of strange & curious ephemera (like Indian court documents and old stamps).

Now, it's the autumn and 6 months since the move. Although the flood of summer tourists have eased up, the enthusiasm and optimism for this move to be islanders and bookshop owners hasn't abated. Wish us luck!

2011 Update| And now we have a Facebook Page. Check it out at