All posts by Carolyne Kauser-Abbott

Holiday Stars in Time for the Festive Season

‘Tis the season.

Designer Robert Aucoin is here to help you decorate your Christmas tree.

Metal Holiday Stars Black Gold

These holiday-themed stars are a festive touch to attach to gift bags, hostess gifts, and wine bottles.

Choose one colour for each family member to hang on the fireplace mantel or staircase.

Perhaps this is your baby’s first Christmas, the stars are available in pink or blue.

Why we are Celebrating Small Business Saturday on November 25th

In Canada, we celebrate Thanksgiving in early October. The choice of this timing seems obvious enough, as the crops have been harvested, and in some regions of the country, there might be the odd snow flurry in the air.

Our American neighbours celebrate their Thanksgiving much later, the 4th Thursday in November. Typically, that week is the busiest travel period of the year with families gathering to celebrate over turkey and all the traditional sides. Once, the table is cleared and dishwasher running, the holiday might as well be over as Black Friday starts at midnight.

Small Business Saturday Christine VonBun Leather

The countdown to Christmas and Hanukkah is on. In the blink of an eye, Black Friday erases the harvest themed decorations. Stores change their Thanksgiving installations overnight, and the sales promotions start, in some cases, at 12:01 am. Retailers hope for long line-ups at their cash registers while shoppers are hunting for bargains. E-commerce is a factor too as big retailers can push online sales tools to a broad audience on Cyber Monday.

Community Building Means “Shop Local”

So, what hope does a small independent business have in this environment? American Express first coined the term “Small Business Saturday” in 2009. If one is cynical, you could think that the company hoped to capture some extra business squeezed in the middle of these huge shopping frenzies.

Regardless of the original intent, Small Business Saturday is a good enough reason to stop the madness and reflect on the impact of your purchasing dollar. These businesses are the ones who interact directly with your community by providing needed services and employing locals.

Read this article by Forbes magazine; Why Small Business Saturday Matters Now More Than Ever.

Small Business Saturday Colleen Poitras

Our reasons why we like to shop with small businesses:

1. They support local communities, town centres, walkable cities
2. Offer many unique, handcrafted, one-of-a-kind items
3. Encourage creativity and entrepreneurial spirit
4. Friendly, personal service – these are folks who do what they do because they love it
5. You can (and should) ask for advice – remember these folks are experts in their business whether it is tuning bikes, making gelato or weaving silk.

Culinary Gifts Hardwood Serving and Chopping Boards

We all have those hard-to-buy-for friends. They are the ones who already own the latest gadget and have a collection of unique keepsakes from their travels.

Are you looking for the perfect gift for a someone?

A house warming present?

A wedding gift?

The perfect Christmas gift for a foodie?

Something useful for someone who likes to cook?

Hardwood Chopping Boards

Kathy Clarke and her husband moved to Bowen Island from British Columbia’s interior (Okanagan) on a whim, and now she says that she could not imagine living anywhere else. Bowen Island is a corner of paradise on Canada’s west coast, close enough to downtown Vancouver for commuters, but far enough away to support an authentic island community.

Hardwood Chopping Boards

Harnessing her creative talent and inspired by her surroundings, Kathy launched Schooner Lane Designs in 2014.

“The first boards I made were for Christmas presents. I loved making them and was pleased with how they turned out, so I decided to make a few more and take them to our local Christmas craft fair. The rest, as they say, is history.”

Hardwood Chopping Boards

Handcrafting Hardwood Chopping Boards

Clarke cuts each piece of hardwood with her handheld saw. Her workshop (atelier) is her deck, so the often-wet coastal weather dictates her work schedule. Without the use of a template, she crafts each board, so the final product is truly one-of-a-kind. Clarke then sands down each board to a rustic, yet silky smooth finish. The last step is preserving the boards with a food-safe beeswax & mineral oil paste.

Schooner Lane serving and chopping boards are made with Canadian hardwood (cherry, maple, and walnut). The durable wood and Clarke’s rigorous production methodology ensure that the boards are made to last for years to come.

These serving boards are unique and rustic. Each one is handcrafted from a single piece of Canadian hardwood that Clarke chooses for its beauty, unique characteristics and natural imperfections. She uses off-cuts of timber that have interesting knots and grains, and a few rough edges. Every Schooner Lane board is made from a single plank of wood, so there is no glueing or laminating, and hardly any wasted material.

Inspired by the beauty of her surroundings, her love of wood, and all things handmade, came Kathy Clarke’s line of … wait for it … “Board out of my Mind” ~ Cheese, Chopping & Serving Boards. Explore the collection today. There are several designs, sizes and wood finishes by Schooner Lane Designs.

What Exactly is Essential Oil Diffuser Jewellery?

Whether you have embraced the benefits of essential oils or you fall into the that’s “hocus pocus” crowd; it would be hard to deny the fact that there is a global essential oils industry. Like many alternative therapies, some people simply prefer the mainstream and others are willing to experiment.

Essential Oil Diffuser Jewellery IGNITE-turquoise

In life one thing is for sure, you will meet believers and non-believers. Is the sky falling? Are stocks going up or down? Is that glass half full or half empty?

Essential Oil Diffuser Jewellery Set

Essential Oils are not New

The Romans called the lavender plant lavare (“to wash”), and the Greeks called nardus (after Syrian City Naarda). These populations had discovered the ten (10) things you should know about lavender (read more here) long before we were born.

Essential Oil Diffuser Jewellery LIVE-turquoise-tassel

However, it was not just lavender; ancient communities used botanicals, resins, and wild herbs that included rosemary, thyme, oregano, and sage for their perceived (or real?) benefits. The Romans used rosemary at wedding ceremonies, and the Egyptians used it as incense. The savoury aroma of rosemary is practically intoxicating when used to season roasted root vegetables, chicken or lamb. Rosemary is believed to aid with digestive issues, strengthen your immune system, and it tastes good too.

Essential Oil Diffuser Jewellery IGNITE-turquoise beads

Without the benefits of modern medicine, our ancestors used what was naturally available to them and experimented. According to the scientific community, there are no proven medical benefits of aromatherapy, but then again nobody can quite explain the placebo effect either. So, whether the effects of essential oils are real or perceived it certainly cannot hurt to add them to your routine.

Creating Beautiful, Purposeful Jewellery

Katja Presnal, the founder of Skimbaco a lifestyle brand that she founded in 2006, is multi-talented you can read her full background here. Her experimentation with essential oils began at a time when she was experiencing low energy, fatigue and weight gain. Her experience was positively life changing.

Essential Oil Diffuser Jewellery WEAR-YOUR-COURAGE

However, she was discouraged by the lack of available jewellery that was both functional (could diffuse the essential oils) and attractive. Wearing a ragged leather strap bracelet to a client meeting just doesn’t cut it. This woman is creative and determined. Her vision was to design a line of jewellery that would tick both boxes.

And, she did!

Explore the Skimbaco Diffuser Jewellery here.

Designer Leather Handbag Sale in Time for Fall Weather

Depending on where you live, fall has officially arrived. At this time of year, the mornings are cooler, and the sun takes just a little longer to get going. With the leaves turning brilliant shades it is time to change your wardrobe accessories to suit the weather.

We thought that a little fall handbag sale might get you in the mood for the colourful harvest season. Designer Christine VonBun is offering fabulous discounts on her exquisitely crafted handbags, until October 15th.

Gloria ostrich leather designer-handbag-in-gerbera
Gloria in Gerbera Orange or Serpentine

Her signature ostrich leather bags are offered at a 50% discount by using coupon code OstrichBagSale.

Designer Leather Handbag Sale Harper Ostrich Handbag
Harper – in blue or black
Designer Leather Handbag Sale Hope Ostrich Leather Handbags
Hope ostrich leather clutch
Designer Leather Handbag Sale Mimi Ostrich
Mimi ostrich leather bag in Crystal blue or African violet

The lovely purse she designed to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday the Tulip 150 is available for 25% off. Use coupon code TulipBagSale.

Designer Leather Handbag Sale Tulip 150 Purse Red Ostrich Leather

The Morris B collection (Adie, Bella and Sophie) are made with beautiful Italian leather and Christine is offering a 25% discount if you use this code: MorrisBagSale.

Adie-Leather-handbag-collection-in-four-colour-options
Adie Italian Leather bag available in Black or Red
Sophie-handbag-in-black-leather-interior-by-designer-@ChristineVonBun
Sophie in red or black Italian leather
Bella-Italian-leather-handbag-in-red-and-white
Bella handbag available in tan, taupe and red

The irresistible (and slightly sassy) Lola in red patent leather is on sale at 25% off with this discount code –  RedLolaSale.

Red patent Leather Lola handbag

Note: some colours may not be available  – discounts apply to in-stock handbags only.

Enjoy the Romance of Candlelight It’s a Recent Invention

Before the invention of the light bulb, candles were a necessity in homes, as once the sun set, it was DARK.

North American pioneers had few luxuries. They fabricated utilitarian candles from animal tallow (fat) or when available from beeswax. According an article from Pioneer Thinking households would have needed to make 400+ candles per year for their daily usage. Eventually, these settlers had kerosene lanterns, but even those were intended for specific tasks not for leisurely dinners discussing world affairs.

Candlelight Romance Beeswax Bees Wax Works

Within a monastery, the Chandler (learn more here) held an important position as he was the one in charge of the fabrication of candles. Traditionally, these candles were tapers formed by a tedious dipping method. The candles were used by monks and staff to move about the monastery buildings, check on livestock and other essential tasks. Alone in his room, a monk would have used his candle sparingly.

Candlelight Romance Beeswax Bees Wax Works

We can thank Mr Edison for his light bulb invention, which affords us all the luxury to live productive lives without having to worry about our candle inventory.

Now, we need to worry about blue light. These days we are practically chained to our mobile devices, for instant news and social media gratification. Health studies have shown that the blue light emitted from these devices may, in fact, interrupt our sleep patterns (details here).

Candlelight Romance Beeswax Bees Wax Works

Why We Love Candlelight

If you are taking the kids to Chucky Cheese for dinner, you do not expect or want, candles. However, for that special occasion; a birthday, anniversary or “date night” you crave something a more subdued – the romance of candlelight.

5 Reasons Why to Choose Beeswax Candles over Paraffin 

Maybe it’s just the act of lighting a candle that triggers your brain to say ok that day is done, and it’s time to wind down. Maybe the subdued light from candles allows our minds to begin to quiet for the day. Or, it could be that we like candlelight because it hides some of the wrinkles. Whatever your reason for wanting a softer glow, light a candle tonight and celebrate the gentle romance.

Explore the Bees Wax Works candle collection here.

How to Declutter your Closet and Simplify Your Life

The leaves are turning and the balancing act of work, commuting, and after-school programs have returned. Autumn weather can be beautiful, but the reality of juggling schedules is often a chaotic backdrop to nature.

Declutter your closet Pilgrim's laundry

One way that you can reduce your stress levels is to declutter your closet, get your wardrobe working with you by covering the essentials. Then pair your choices with the right accessories to refine your look. Call it a minimalist approach, a closet detox or time to cleanse, the goal is to give your cupboard (and you) a chance to breathe. Here are some helpful tips from fashion bloggers:

Olivia Youngs of Simply Liv & Co had these tips for a spring clean-up, but the same rules apply any time of the year:

  1. Put away your out of season pieces
  2. Donate clothes you haven’t worn all year or don’t see yourself wearing this season
  3. Choose a colour scheme
  4. Ditch the doubles
  5. Rely on a few key statement pieces and keep the rest basic

Vicki Archer spends enough time in France to believe that French women have perfected minimalist style with three (3) effortless pieces – black pants, white shirt and sunglasses. Call it French style; you can read her full post here.

Jill and Luke at Sutton & Grove talk about “Less is More” in this article on minimalism. They ask, “Why do we Try and Keep up with the Joneses?”

Italian Style Declutter Your Closet

Tips on How to Declutter your Closet:

I am not going to pretend it is easy to give your closet a once-over. Sometimes clothes, like photos, can evoke memories. Perhaps you bought that sundress on a beach holiday that you dream of repeating. Maybe that black dress is the one that caught his eye. You paid a lot of money for that pencil skirt, and so on.

Confession: It took six years, a renovation and a house move for me to finally give up my corporate “power suits.”

Artwork California Declutter Your Closet

My tips for wrestling the closet demons are as follows (in no particular order).

  1. Practice closet accounting FIFO – first in first out. If you have had an item for a long time, the chances are high that it either no longer fits or is out of style.
  2. Pretend you are moving or renovating. If you were doing either, you would need to empty your closet and dresser drawers. Now, that you have everything in a pile take a hard look at each item before you put them away.
  3.  One in One out. Just bought something new? That’s great! Now remove at least one item from your closet. I still try to follow this one.
  4. Enlist a friend or friends. Maybe you are not objective enough so invite some girlfriends over for a private fashion show along with some wine (I am sure that will be enough incentive). Let them be your fashion police.
  5. Hire a professional. Sounds crazy? Not at all, you go to a hairdresser, nail salon, dentist, gym and so on. Why not bring in someone who does closet organising for a living?

Now that you have cleaned up your unwieldy closet, simply add a few simple accessories to give your look some punch. Sign-up for our newsletter and download our e-guide to picking accessories.

Cinch it up – How to Tie a Scarf Belt a Video

Colleen Poitras is an Ontario-based fashion designer. Her work marries strong materials; stainless steel, concrete, leather and gemstones into minimalist designs for the “Pretty. Rocker. Chic.” The result is gorgeous one-of-a-kind jewellery, handbags and belts.

Although, she admits her that tomboy side surfaced as a child, her first love remained fashion and style. Poitras studied the art and trade of jewellery making at George Brown College and the Mississauga Living Arts Centre. You can read her full designer’s backstory here.

Artist Statement:
I believe that every day gives us the right to express ourselves, the right to be bold or the right to be subtle. I create each piece as a form of expression. I love when my pieces take a back seat to a fabulous outfit as much as I love it when my creations are the focal point to a look. Every look tells a story, and I am blessed to be part of that very personal journey with my clients. We all have pretty, we all have rocker and we all have chic in who we are. The choice is yours…who or what combination will you be today?

One of the latest Colleen Poitras creations is a scarf belt. Made from soft bison leather this belt is just what you need to tie up your blousy shirt dress, or add some punch to your sweater dress.

How to tie a Scarf Belt?

Download her video here.

Scarf Belt Bison Leather Colleen Poitras

Staying Cool Fashion Ideas for those Hot August Nights

Neil Diamond was not kidding; August can be hot!

However, for those of us who love summer August can also be bittersweet as we know the end is approaching. Hot August nights are a bit of a tease, the days are getting shorter just when the lake water is warm, the corn and beefsteak tomatoes are in their prime, and the mosquitoes are almost gone.

August is for summer living. Bathing suits and tank tops are all you need for those lazy days on the dock or at the beach. However, as the sundowner hour approaches, and you have scraped off the sand and sunscreen it’s time to slip on something carefree. We call it “Staying Cool Fashion.”

Cashmere Vest Artigiani Milanesi Staying Cool Fashion IdeasA cashmere vest by Artigiani Milanesi is a basic that is certain to beat any of your t-shirts for that spot as a “go-to” favourite. This sleeveless top made with 100% cashmere, is breathable and ultra-soft. Available in three (3) sizes and eight (8) different colours this vest will take you from summer into autumn as a great base layer.

Gracie Lacey Cashmere Sweater

The Gracie Lacy Cashmere Cardigan is a delicate sweater intended to turn your casual look into sexy. This sweater works just as well with jeans as it does with a skirt. The intricate lace-inspired pattern gives this cardigan a translucent feel. Throw this dress into your weekend bag and your “what do I wear in the evening?” dilemma is resolved. Available in eight (8) colours.

Silk Shibori Scarves Indigo Lavender Staying Cool Fashion Ideas

Sometimes all you need is a little colour. Morija Reeb a weaver by trade loves to work with silk. For this ultra-light scarf, she used a traditional Japanese technique called Shibori to create textural patterns on cloth. Available in indigo-lavender or burgundy-grey-rust, this silk scarf is easy to pack and provides that layer you might need once the sun has set.

No one said you had to change out of your shorts, after all, it’s still summer. Add a simple necklace or dangling earrings, and you have already updated your look. Browse the selection of beautiful jewellery options here.

Enjoy the hot August nights while they last.

Oh…and why not pack in this bison leather tote bag?

Travel size Tote Bag Staying Cool Fashion Ideas

 

Evolution of Clothing Brand Cassandra Elizabeth and New Direction

We recently spoke to Toronto clothing designer Cassandra Burrell regarding what she describes as the transition from a “young” brand to a universal clothing line.Her enthusiasm is contagious when she talks about an anticipated August launch (pre-orders accepted as of August 1st) for the latest additions to her “Cassandra Elizabeth” clothes. These new pieces are a key milestone in this brand’s evolution, with her vision to flatter a wider audience and ignore the seasons.

Read  her backstory here: Cassandra Elizabeth Designs Eco-Friendly Clothing for Busy Women.

Cassandra Elizabeth Canadian Clothing Brand

A Capsule Collection

Burrell believes that it is time to take her designs “to the next level” while maintaining her basic goals of any size and any season. There are a total of eight (8) new Cassandra Elizabeth pieces.  The new clothing includes three (3) sweaters, three (3) T-shirts and two (2) pants. Described as a capsule collection that will cover everything you need for wardrobe basics. The pieces are all neutral foundations (black and heather grey).

Cassandra Elizabeth Canadian Clothing Brand

Sustainable fabrics, Bamboo and Tencel, factor in the new Cassandra Elizabeth pieces. However, Burrell is also adding hemp and cotton as textiles used in her clothes.  She continually vets her Canadian-based fabric suppliers for their eco-friendly manufacturing practices.  One such example is Burrell’s choice to select a bamboo that is broken down mechanically rather than chemically, a cost differential she feels is worth it for the environment long term.

The new Cassandra Elizabeth collection promises to offer a relaxed fit without appearing slouchy. The pieces can be worn individually or layered to change a look or adjust for the seasons. Burrell has designed for every age group while offering a universal fit and maintaining a minimal aesthetic. She shared this, “I love seeing how people accessorize my clothing.”

A Universal Brand

The launch date of early August is intentional. The objective is for the Cassandra Elizabeth patterns to navigate seasonal changes as a year-round collection. Burrell shared that she began working on this project in February (2017) and to launch date, it will be seven (7) months. A quick turnaround for any designer. According to this Burrell, the scheduling is perfect as it reinforces her brand’s universality (all ages, all seasons, all bodies) and it allows her Toronto-based manufacturers to collaborate with her in their slower periods.

Due to changes in her production process these items are no longer available on Atelier, but please visit her website to place your orders. We will continue to follow the Cassandra Elizabeth creative journey and fashion direction.