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    Shop Thoughts

    Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Halloween decor edition!

    Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Halloween decor edition!

    As a person who is always trying to reduce waste and be more eco conscious, I struggle every year with my deep and unwavering LOVE of all things Halloween. I consider this time of the year to be optimal for my day-to-day home goods shopping. Let's just say my everyday face cloths have little dancing skeletons on them. Still, I feel very icky about the disposable nature of festive decorations and themed decor people only use maybe once a year. So what is a diehard Halloween fan and artist/crafter to do?

    Thrift! The answer is almost always thrifting. If you start early (or late) you can often find some fun decor to use as-is. Check yard sales and Facebook marketplace too! But if you're like me and you love a project, you could do something whacky and paint all the thrifted halloween decor a pastel rainbow. What can I say, I like to keep it weird. And on brand. 

    Fishtale wall

    We painted the hallway in the shop pastel stripes some time ago and have been adding more hints of the colour scheme around the shop since then. One thing I always consider when thrifting for decorations is whether or not something can be used again or repurposed when the season of spookiness ends. Or better still, can something you already own become something spooky temporarily? A very easy example of this is a bowl. Got a nice big bowl? Cauldron it is! For this window display I went... well let's call it Hansel & Gretel's Candy House Witch: A Day in the Life. Everything pastel and looking like a marshmallow but ever so slightly... questionable. This includes a big white vintage bowl I filled with clear Christmas bulbs to look like a bubbling over concoction. Like she just stepped away from her spells to answer the door and the darn cauldron boiled over. Your typical relatable forest witch who eats children sort of thing.

    Most of the the items in the window display are thrifted or reused. Thrifted furniture pieces we use year round. The crystal ball is a repurposed light fixture glued to a cardboard box covered with thrifted wallpaper & a string of lights inside for a little mysterious glow. The mushrooms I made with leftover cardboard, miscellaneous packing paper and masking tape covered in a thin layer of air dry clay. 

    So is it a perfect zero waste display? Nope! Not by a long shot. Reusing some items that would end up trashed, flipping some thrifts and making people smile with silly crafts is a worthwhile pursuit nevertheless. 

    halloween window display

    Pastel Pumpkin Arrangment DIY

    As I said above, I strongly urge you to thrift your holiday decor items! It only takes a little bit of imagination to make them into something different or to give a slightly broken item new life.

    What you'll need:

    -A pumpkin trick-or-treating basket/bucket
    -Miscellaneous florals, sticks, leaves, etc. Real or fake! 
    -Something to stick your florals into. I used dusty old styrofoam cups because I was using what I had and didn't want to buy anything new. You could use a piece of packing styrofoam, florist foam or even a paper cup. Also if using real florals, get a floral frog!
    -A primer that works on plastic. I used Zinsser B-I-N primer because that's what I already had. It's a truly horrible smelling product but it works very well for just about everything that needs to be primed.
    -Paint in your preferred colours. I used Behr eggshell house paint because we already had it from the shop's striped wall. I've seen fake pumpkins painted more natural colours or even grey like concrete though!
    -Paint brushes, drop cloths, and whatever clean-up items you prefer.

    How to:

    1. To start: wash the plastic pumpkin well! Remove any tags and let it dry. Don't skip this! Otherwise the paint might have a hard time sticking and that is extremely frustrating. Learn from my mistakes.
    2. Prime! Let this dry according to the directions of your specific primer before painting over it.
    3. Paint! Choose your own adventure. Make the whole thing hot pink if you want to. Barbie IS having a moment, after all. Let dry!
    4. Assemble your floral arrangement: 

    If using real florals: I recommend picking a pumpkin vessel that doesn't have any holes in it and/or putting a little bowl or dish inside to hold water if you're using fresh flowers. Plus everyone should own a flower frog. They make things like this super easy! Some ideas for locally available seasonal greenery: cedar, hydrangea, a couple small branches from a tree in your yard, calendula, chrysanthemums. Broken twigs, changing leaves and acorns give it a good spooky look! *

    If using fake florals: Do what feels right! I painted a bunch of things we already had. Some old Christmas things, an arrangement from ages and ages ago. This is a great use for the dusty fake floral arrangement you hate that lives in the basement. That, or look at the thrift shops. Don't limit yourself in terms of colours because you can change that! Silk florals take paint pretty well. For plastic you might need a spray paint. Black or grey flowers look great if you're going spooky! **

    Now step back and admire your masterpiece!

     

    Notes:

    * If you're looking for a completely plastic-free alternative you can do the same DIY with a real pumpkin and real flowers (dry or fresh). I've seen a few of these and they are quite lovely but they will only last a few days in the house before the pumpkin starts to get squishy. You could definitely use a few little pumpkins for this (and not paint them) and cook them after though!

    ** I tucked in some old packing materials (paper, cardboard, etc) to keep things from falling over and fill up my buckets. Then I covered that with an old piece of cheesecloth that I dyed yellow with turmeric & onion skins. 

    A Small Business Boat in an Ocean of Immediacy

    A Small Business Boat in an Ocean of Immediacy

    A woman came into our shop the other day and after looking around for a few minutes she picked up an item, loudly scoffed and proclaimed that she could “get this way cheaper on Amazon”. 

    Were it a different day, perhaps with less people in the store or with a little more emboldened bravery on my part, I might have said something in response. Like many an imagined comeback, I stewed on this interaction for days. I rolled her statement around in my brain. The tone. The assumptions.

    I think what I would like to have said is something along the lines of this:

    “Wow. What an amazingly insensitive thing to say in a small business!”

    On “prime day” I was reflecting on the artificial urgency of purchasing a blender at a discount and the mountains of returns that Amazon ships off to be scrapped (did you know online orders are twice as likely to be returned as in person ones?). If you’re an eco-conscious person, massive big box retailers probably already make you bristle. I could talk all day about the evils of big business but ultimately, shopping on Amazon simply doesn’t reflect my values.

    All of this being said, it is not my intention to make people feel guilty for buying things on Amazon. I understand that we all balance different priorities, cost being a major deciding factor. I refuse to vilify people for making choices within their means. Our culture of immediacy places unseen stresses on our day to day lives and the ease of getting things delivered quickly can alleviate many pressures. We live in a society that wants us to be everything all at once. It is a struggle to balance it all.

    But still, where does this leave me? Where does this leave Fishtale?

    I couldn't possibly compete with Amazon. Shipping is wildly expensive! I can't be in two places at once! But also, I am not the same as Amazon. Not even remotely.  

    My goal as a business owner is not to become a billionaire and shoot myself into space in a rocket. Jeff Bezos is an icon of capitalism that frankly makes my skin crawl. I believe it is impossible to be an ethical billionaire. It isn’t possible to accumulate vast immeasurable wealth without making extremely awful choices along the way. 

    My goal as a business owner is to live simply. To pay my staff a living wage. To showcase Canadian goods and participate in the local economy. Buy local & shop local. My goal as a business owner is to facilitate connection. To build bridges between creatives and showcase the talents of so many local makers. My goal as a business owner is to enjoy coming to work every day. 

    I cannot offer you same day free shipping. I cannot offer you a limitless collection of discounted items at the click of a button. I am simply not catering to that experience. 

    What I can offer you is what we have committed to since day one. A curated collection of goods we love and believe in. Fishtale is entirely Canadian business sourced. That goes for everything from our recycled paper shopping bags to the locally made goods and the sodas, seltzers & kombuchas. It is important to us to be exactly what we set out to be.

    It has been a strange and unnerving time for small businesses. We just made it through a global pandemic only to be met with rising prices in just about every possible category. Sometimes it feels unmanageable. Sometimes, it is unmanageable. I've heard from countless small business owners that the last year has been the hardest yet. We can only put one foot in front of the other and hope for the best.

    I suppose my takeaway from this experience is nothing new. Words can wound. Sometimes in ways we might not immediately be aware of. We can be left with a desire to plead with strangers. Can't you see that we are trying? Can't you see that this is different?

    The retail world is an odd place to exist when you aren't actively encouraging overconsumption. We're not pushy salespeople. Our shopmate Jesse (in our Kingston pop-up at 94 Brock Street, folks!) has a note pinned in the fitting room that says "Buy what you need. Love what you have." We can only hope that when you buy what you need, you try to shop at a local shop. We love what we have and we'd love to tell you about it.

    So, yeah. Maybe you can get something like it on Amazon. Maybe it'll be cheaper.

    But at what cost?

    Books, Snacks and March Break Plans

    Books, Snacks and March Break Plans

    We’re kicking off March break with a fervent nod to our childhoods. We’re hosting a book fair!

     
    Don't tell me you're not yearning for the days when you went to school book fairs with a pocket full of coins, wide eyes, and a burning desire to buy reading materials? Well yearn no more, fellow book nerds! Saturday, March 11th from 10am to 5pm we will be hosting the good humans from Little Ghosts Books, Happily Ever After Books, Aaron Millard Illustration and The Sidekick! Swing by and peruse works of horror, romance, greeting cards and much more! Not to mention some special spooky and romantic treats from our favourite Lured Bake Shop and fresh hot coffee from The Sidekick!

    For those of you who are interested in a little more details about these folks, I’ve put together a few words about our guests so you can plan your visit and check out their goods beforehand! 

    Little Ghosts: A Good Story Will Haunt You

    Little Ghosts

    Our pal and fellow small business owner Chris Krawczyk opened Canada’s first horror genre book shop in April of last year on Dundas St. West in Toronto. It’s an adorably spooky little spot with big black bookcases, a rolling library ladder and a 12 foot tall skeleton on the back patio. Little details pepper the shop with frightful intentionality; a wall of disembodied hands here, a coffin shaped mirror there. With a focus on small and independent works, Little Ghosts has created a wonderful and inclusive space for anyone seeking a literary thrill. 

    Happily Ever After Books: A Bookstore For Romantics

    Happily Ever After Books

    In the beautiful realm of unlikely friendships, Happily Ever After Books was introduced to us through Little Ghosts! Not having a brick-and-mortar shop themselves, Happily Ever After has done pop-ups at the horror book shop forming a perfectly adorable meeting of niche literary interests. A new business as well, owner Jenny believes in the life changing ability of books and hopes to deliver everyone their own style of happily ever after.

    The Sidekick: Comic Shop & Cafe

    The Sidekick

    A Leslieville, Toronto staple for the coffee and comic book curious! The Sidekick offers up a variety of in-house roasted coffees, drinks & snacks alongside their ever growing comic & graphic novel selections. Go for a coffee and a comic, stay for a beer and a sandwich!

    Aaron Millard: Illustration & Cards

    Aaron Millard

    Illustrator and pun enthusiast, Aaron creates whimsical greeting cards to surprise and delight any recipient. With their familiar characters and plays on words his work is adorable and fun.

    Looking to round out your Wolfe Island plans this weekend? Check out The Hotel Friday night for collaborative music with Joyful Joyful, Michael C. Duguay & New Hermitage. After you come to Fishtale on Saturday and buy a book & a cookie, consider sneaking in to see the Heather Haynes Art Exhibit when the Hotel opens at 4pm!

    One Week Left: All Things Local & Thanks

    One Week Left: All Things Local & Thanks

    We're right in that holiday crunch time. If you have anyone left to shop for things are starting to get a bit hectic. Don't worry! We've got lots of great last minute gifts at the shop. As always, we urge everyone to keep supporting local makers and shopping at all their favourite local boutiques. This year it counts more than ever!

    The time between Christmas Eve and New Years is simultaneously the longest and shortest week imaginable. Many shops are closed and running out of milk (or Baileys) can rightfully be considered a family emergency. Time slows down with big meals and warm gatherings but somehow we'll be stepping into the new year in the blink of a proverbial eye.

    Personally, I think the best way to coast through the holiday season is with rotating charcuterie boards and mulled cider. Grab yourself a beautifully made board by Stone Road Woodworks (we have lots) and keep it topped with all your favourite snacks. Wilton cheddar, anyone?

    With the year winding down Annelise and I wanted to thank everyone who has shopped with us this year and from the very beginning. It really means the world to us. Every compliment or encouraging word really kept us going through this stressful year. We couldn't have done it without your support. We love you to the moon, you crazy kids!

    We wish you all a very happy holidays, whatever you celebrate. Let's face it, we all have high hopes for 2021.

    Cheers!

    Holiday Gift Guide: Under $30, Stocking Stuffers & a Cocktail Recipe

    Holiday Gift Guide: Under $30, Stocking Stuffers & a Cocktail Recipe

    This year is a strange one for everyone. A lot of us are separated from our families and friends and will remain that way over the holidays. It sucks. A lot. We're having a bit of a hard time getting into the holiday spirit this year and that's saying something because we consider ourselves semi-professionals in the art of festive cheer. How does one manufacture cheer? We decided the other day that we're going to send a little something to as many people near and dear to us as we can. We should all do our best to brighten each other's days, even if it is from afar. It doesn't cost much (if anything) to put a smile on someone's face and this year is certainly a good time to spread a bit of love.

    So here goes! We have some suggestions for inexpensive gifts that go a long way and ship easily.

    Starting with a fan favourite we have candles by Rhicreations. Made with soy wax and sometimes a mix with Wolfe Island beeswax, they are long burning and beautifully scented. This year's festive candle is Holly Day, a blend of dreamy Christmas scents that doesn't overpower. Truly any of these candles are hits.

    Next up we have the lovely locally made soaps from Wolfe Island Soapworks. Check out the Geranium Soap for a nice floral punch! Consider pairing it with a Lemongrass Lime Bath Bomb and a mini candle to make a little apothecary gift set for under $30!

    Annelise and I both have a fondness for miniature things and boy are these Bud Vases from Owen Davies a hit! We have a variety of styles so you can pick one that really suits your gift recipient.

    Another great gift we have is these Island-made wrist wallets by Marcia McEwen. Big enough for your phone and your keys, these come in a variety of different prints and are only $20! 

    To finish off today's blog I'll leave you with a cocktail recipe which is of course another great way to brighten someone's day. If you're a fan of a classic whiskey sour or old fashioned try this easy to make, bright & citrusy sip.

    Island Sour
    2 oz bourbon (or whiskey)
    ½ oz maple syrup
    ½ oz orange juice
    ¼ oz lemon juice
    4 dashes Angostura bitters
    Serve over ice. Garnish with Maraschino cherries and orange or lemon peel

     

    Next up: Foodies, amateur bartenders & all things locally made.