01 July 2019

Happy Canada Day!

Happy Canada Day from Whimsy Bower
Photo by Brett Sayles, pexels.com
Happy Canada Day to all Canadians, no matter where they find themselves on 1 July!

Did you know that Canada Day is not our independence day? It's Canada's birthday (happy 152nd!) July 1st marks the anniversary of Confederation, or the day the first four provinces officially joined to create the Dominion of Canada.

Long weekends are also the perfect time to catch up on your reading (how else are you going to digest all that BBQ?) Take advantage of Smashword's sale and get my novel Love Lies Bleeding for half price (and Blood Magic, as always, is free). Stop by my official website and say hi too! Support Canadian indie writers and have a good day 🍁

If you want to learn more about Canada, watch this short video by a couple of resident experts:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-ZvAVcBIrQ&w=560&h=315]

04 April 2019

New Book and Free Short Story

Hi, all! Sorry it's been a while since I've posted here, but as you can see below, I've been busy with new projects :) I have a new blog now, where I post about herbs, books, writing, creativity, and cool places to see. I may still return to Whimsy Bower, if the interest is there. What do you think--should I keep posting here, or would you rather follow me to my new digs? Comment to let me know, and in the meantime check out my new books (did I mention one is free?)...

Dark fantasy novel by Aspasia S. Bissas

What happens when a predator loves its prey?

Centuries-old Mara is dying a slow death when she meets Lee, a young man whose life has never belonged to him. Thrown together, they're forced to fight those who would destroy them and survive a slew of enemies they never expected, even as Mara falls into a downward spiral of delusion and obsession. Will she make a devil's deal to save both their souls? With pasts like theirs, can they ever have a future?

Read reviews of Love Lies Bleeding here.

Available in paperback and ebook at Amazon, iBooksBarnes and Noble, Booktopia, Kobo, Indigo, and other booksellers, including indie shops.

Free dark fantasy ebook by Aspasia S. Bissas

On the run from both vampires and hunters, Mara and Lee are forced to confront the bleak reality of their future together. But an unexpected turn of events offers Mara the chance to shift things in her favor--at a cost. Will she walk away or will she embrace the magic?

Blood Magic is a standalone short story that takes place within the novel Love Lies Bleeding by Aspasia S. Bissas. You don't need to read Love Lies Bleeding to enjoy Blood Magic (but it doesn't hurt)

Read a review of Blood Magic here.

Available as a FREE download at Smashwords, iBooksBarnes & Noble, Indigo, Kobo, and other online booksellers.

Follow me at my new website and on social media:

21 January 2017



Like so many ideas of dubious merit, this one began on Pinterest. A simple image with an excited caption about making an "easy" tablecloth by sewing bandanas together. So cute! Well...

Okay, so it's not a particularly difficult project but it's not as easy as it seems on the surface. Bandanas, as it turns out, aren't an ideal medium. They're not a uniform size or shape (at least the ones I used weren't), and the fabric isn't the best quality--ridiculously prone to wrinkles and warping. On the other hand, the resulting table cloth really is cute--perfect for a picnic table or other casual setting.

Want to make one? Here's how...

1. Buy bandanas. You can find them pretty cheap at Michaels, but you can find them cheaper elsewhere. I got mine at Bandanas Canada. Yes, this country doesn't have a local store comparable to Mod Cloth or Spoonflower (to my endless chagrin), but we have a dedicated bandana store!

2. Wash bandanas in hot water and dry them in the dryer on the hottest setting. Why? To pre-shrink them and lose some of the excess dye. You need to pre-shrink because otherwise your project will be ruined the first time you wash it. They will also bleed dye, so either keep washing them until the wash water rinses clear, or make sure to buy colours that won't ruin each other when they're washed together (it's probably best to avoid white bandanas in your tablecloth).

3. Iron. And get used to ironing. It turns out looking at bandanas wrinkles them.

4. For my tablecloth I used nine bandanas in total: three rows of three alternating colours. This size will comfortably cover a picnic table. You can make it bigger if you want to use it on a bigger table or as a picnic blanket, but I wouldn't go too much bigger.

5. Time to sew. Pin right sides together (be careful--it's not easy to tell right and wrong sides apart; at least, not until you've accidentally sewed a right side to a wrong side, at which point you will suddenly clearly see the difference and then have to fix it). I used 1/2" seam allowances and that worked well. Sew three bandanas together to make a row. Repeat two more times (or however many times needed to make enough rows for the size cloth you want). Then sew rows together (pin right sides together first, then sew long edges with a 1/2" seam allowance). When pinning two rows together before sewing, make sure to match seams (where two bandanas have been joined), not the outer edges of the bandanas. Uneven outer edges can be fixed but if the seams don't match up, your patchwork effect will be ruined. Don't forget to keep ironing as you go--wrinkled fabric does not a good result make.

6. Final step: finish the outer edge of your table cloth. I'd been hoping to skip this part since bandanas already have finished edges, but the lack of uniformity of the bandanas meant the outer edge was noticeably uneven. If yours is also uneven, fold under enough of the edge to straighten it out. Iron edge (pin in place if you need to). Sew (I topstitched with a 1/4" seam allowance for this part)--just make sure the needle catches the folded under edge as you go. That's it. Snip any loose threads and iron one more time (don't worry--it'll be wrinkled again before long).

I tried decorating the table with some nice glassware but it didn't look right. I finally realized it was a little too fancy for such a casual cloth. So...

Much better. No real lemons on hand, so I broke out the plastic one. There's nothing quite so hopeless as trying to evoke summer on a grey January day in Canada. I don't think we've seen the sun for a week.

Have extra bandanas left? You could try making pillows (place two bandanas, right sides together, and sew on three sides. Turn right side out. Fill with a pillow form or stuffing. Sew fourth side closed by hand).

You could make a quilt, although I wouldn't put too much work into it, given the quality of the fabric. Still, it could be a fun casual project. The three by three bandana configuration seems like a good size for a double bed (but measure to be sure).

Bandanas cut in half diagonally could be used to make bunting.

Two or three bandanas could be used as the basis for an apron.

Do you have any more ideas on how to use bandanas in crafts? Let me know in the comments.

07 August 2016

Getting Dishy

I'm a bit weird when it comes to crochet. I don't do it regularly like most crocheters (or knitters), but I get sudden urges to try a project. I taught myself to make granny squares when I woke up one day with the desire to make a blanket like the ones my mom and grandmother used to make. A couple of weeks ago I decided I *needed* to crochet some dishcloths. So, what could I do but give in? Crafting--it's a sickness (a fun, relaxing sickness).

I made one cloth out of each colour and had plenty of yarn left over.

Some Notes:

1. The dishcloth patterns I've looked at all call for cotton yarn (although I wonder if bamboo might also work). They also all seem to use worsted weight yarn.

2. The finished dishcloth does a nice job, but it takes a long time to dry. I need to wring it out really well and drape it over the faucet to encourage it to dry faster. I much prefer a fast-drying dishcloth, so I'm debating whether I want to make more dishcloths in future.

3. The one thing (so far) that these cloths are not good for are serrated knives. The loops keep getting caught on the blades--I'm afraid it'll ruin the cloth over time.

4. If I make any more dishcloths, I'll either wash them a couple of times before using them, or I'll use a natural, unbleached cotton yarn. These ones bleed dye like crazy, turning the dish water blue. So much for cute colours.

5. I found the pattern made very large cloths. Since my preference is for a smaller dishcloth, I crocheted fewer rows than the pattern called for.

This is the pattern I used.

Feel free to share any questions or comments below. Happy Crafting :)

05 July 2016

Making Crème Anglaise

It's been a while since my last post: sorry, everyone. Since I got back from Paris in April (sigh) life seems to be busy busy. Not that it's been all work. I finished a needlepoint, broke out my bead supplies for some necklace making, re-potted plants, worked on a paint-by-numbers, and am still sorting through photos from my trip (I have a tendency to go a bit overboard with a camera). I'm also working hard on editing my novel (stay tuned). And when I can, I do a little cooking.

A few days ago I decided to try making the Sweet Jam Crêpes with Crème Anglaise from Crêpes (edited by Camille Le Foll). The crêpes themselves were just okay, but the Crème Anglaise, a sweet vanilla sauce, was worth sharing.

You don't need many ingredients to make Crème Anglaise: eggs, vanilla, sugar, milk, and cornstarch

The recipe uses only egg yolks; I saved the whites to make meringues

I liked the effect of the steamy edges in this photo :)
Here you can see the Crème is starting to thicken and cling to the sides of the pan and the whisk. I cooked it for a few more minutes after this.

The completed Crème was still on the runny side, similar in consistency to what's shown in the book.

I found the recipe a little vague, but manageable (although I wouldn't recommend this book to cooking newbies). I'd never made Crème Anglaise before and I didn't know how thick it's supposed to be. Using the photo in the book as a guide, I left it on the runny side. I don't see why you couldn't keep cooking until you get whatever consistency you prefer (and if you cook it long enough, you'll end up with a delicious vanilla pudding). Serve Crème Anglaise with crêpes, waffles, pancakes, or fresh fruit (I had some left over and it was excellent with sliced strawberries). I think it would also be good served with cake.

Crème Anglaise

[My notes in brackets]

3 egg yolks
1/4 cup superfine sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups milk

Beat the egg yolks in a bowl with the sugar, cornstarch, vanilla extract and a little of the milk [I used 1/4 cup of the milk].

Bring the remaining milk to a boil in a heavy-based saucepan. Pour the hot milk over the egg yolks mixture, stirring, and then pour it back into the pan [This is called tempering and the book neglects to mention that you need to add the hot milk **slowly** to the egg mixture or you'll end up with scrambled eggs. You can pour the hot milk in a thin stream while you stir, or you can add the hot milk to the egg mixture a tablespoon at a time until all the milk has been added]. Cook over a very gentle heat, stirring until the Crème Anglaise thickens. [The time depends on how thick you want the resulting Crème. To get it to the stage where it has thickened and clings to the back of a spoon takes about 20 minutes.] (Do not boil or the mixture might curdle.)

Still have questions? Feel free to ask in the comments.

29 March 2016

Misha Collins Is the Fifth Element

I'm not one to gush over actors or celebrities--nothing against them; I just don't generally care about what they get up to offscreen. Occasionally, however, one of them piques my interest and I go looking for more info. That's how I found out about Misha Collins.

For anyone unfamiliar, Misha Collins is an actor--you might know him as the angel Castiel on Supernatural. I'm not really a fan of Supernatural (I'm missing the "Super" in the Superwholock fandom, alas), but I do like a few of the characters, particularly Castiel. Over time I found out through the internet grapevine that Misha is kind of a wacky guy on social media, so I started following him. I wasn't disappointed (it turns out he's a genuinely good person, as well as funny). From there I decided to check out his imdb profile and what I found out about him kind of blew my mind.

Misha Collins:

-Is a published poet (published in respected journals, such as the Columbia Poetry Review). You can watch him sharing one of his poems here:

-Has co-founded an amazing charity organization, Random Acts, which does things like building schools and orphanages, while also encouraging people worldwide to do good on their own. Random Acts has also started a crisis support centre, along with the "You Are Not Alone" initiative, to help Supernatural fans cope with all sorts of mental health issues they may be facing.

-Runs the world's largest scavenger hunt, GISHWHES: the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt The World Has Ever Seen, which has helped him break five (!) Guinness World Records.

-Does an online cooking show with his son (I think his daughter might have also joined in more recently):

-Is a certified EMT

-Goes on Buddhist meditation retreats at monasteries around the world.

-Did I mention he built his own house, including cabinets and most of the furniture in it? The pictures here aren't great but you get the idea, and it doesn't suck. 

Bonus: Was the inspiration for "Mishapocalypse" on 1 April 2013, when Tumblr users switched their user (and other) pics to pictures of Misha.

I'm sure further research would uncover more worth sharing, but I'll leave it for another time. And why am I sharing this, anyway? Because awesomeness needs to be shared, so it can inspire and beget more awesomeness. Don't you feel better knowing people like this exist in the world? Actually, the more I found out about Misha Collins, the more I started thinking he wasn't quite your standard human. Which led me to the conclusion that, much like Leeloo in The Fifth Element (a movie you should probably go watch if you haven't already, even though it's Misha free), Misha Collins is at least a, if not the, Fifth Element, which is to say...

20 March 2016

Apron Strings 7

Going through some of my pictures, I realized I'd forgotten to post about an apron I made a while back. Since I can't deprive my loyal readers of the joys of apron making, it's time to share the Reversible Hostess Apron!

I don't know if I've mentioned this before but making aprons is fun. You get to use fabrics you might not otherwise have a purpose for, they can be embellished however you like, and they're forgiving of mistakes. Not to mention that in the end you get a whimsical (or not, if that's your preference) piece of clothing that's actually practical :)

Picking the fabrics is one of the best parts (for me, anyway). I knew as soon as I saw this retro "coffee time" fabric that I had to use it for something. And polka dots are always good.

Reversible aprons are surprisingly easy to make. If you can sew two pieces of fabric together, you can do it. Ruffles are a little trickier but once you have the technique down, it's mostly a matter of patience. The pocket was the problem part on this apron. Not that pockets are inherently difficult, but I decided to freehand the template (dumb) and then experiment with contrasting stitching (meh). I also had trouble finding a good placement for it; I seem to recall having to undo it at least once and sew it on again. Measure twice and stitch once--good advice.

My freehand template and finished pocket. Not my best work.

Pocket: Side 2
Despite pocket issues, I love how the apron turned out.

Side 1
Side 2

Made using the free tutorial generously provided here.

 Photos ©Whimsy Bower