Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Ho Ho Ho

We spent part of our day yesterday sledding at the public beach....thought you might enjoy a glimpse into our afternoon:

Note: no boys were injured in the filming of this video!

Here's to having fun with you and yours!



Thursday, December 20, 2007

Teacher gifts

Each year we like to try to say a thank you to our boys' teachers at school. I was out of ideas this year when I ran across a post over at Angry Chicken about cakes baked in jars. Whaaa? How perfect is THAT idea? And it inspired me. Yup.

It was as easy as making any quick-bread recipe...and I got to give away some more canning jars (I really am trying to thin things out around here before we move - no, no one has looked at the house in 3 weeks, but a girl has to be hopeful, doesn't she?).

I made Pumpkin Spice Cake and here's the recipe:

Pumpkin Spice Cake in Jars

1 c seedless raisins
1 c walnuts
2 c all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
4 eggs
2 c granulated sugar
1 c salad oil
16 oz can pumpkin

Preheat oven to 325-degrees.

Brush the inside of 8 (1 pint, straight-sided) Kerr or Ball Quilted Crystal (12 oz, straight-sided) canning jars with shortening (DO NOT use Pam); set aside. The 1 pint jars are shorter but bigger around than the decorative 12 oz jars, use either one. Sterilize the jars, lids & rings first.

Coarsely chop the raisins & walnuts; set aside. Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cloves, cinnamon & ginger in a large bowl. Add raisins & walnuts; toss to lightly combine. In another large bowl, beat eggs at high speed until thick & yellow (2-3 minutes). Gradually beat in the sugar until thick & light. At low speed, beat in the oil & pumpkin; blend well. Gradually stir in the flour mixture until well blended.

Divide among the 8 canning jars (should be slightly less than 1/2 full).
Wipe the sides of the jars off (inside/ outside) in case you slop or it'll burn. Place jars on a cookie sheet or they'll tip over. (I used our canning funnel to fill the jars, so there was no slop).

Bake in preheated 325-degree oven for about 40 minutes or until a long pick inserted into the center (deep) of the cakes comes out clean. (My jars took about 15 minutes longer!)

When the cakes test done, remove the jars, one-by-one & immediately place a lid & ring on & screw down tightly. Make sure to use HEAVY-DUTY hot pads because the jars are VERY hot. Place on the counter to cool. You'll hear a "plinking" sound when they have sealed. I nearly forgot, keep the lids & rings in the hot water until you're ready to use them; you want the gaskets hot so that the jars will seal.

I did use pecans instead of walnuts, but aside from that I followed the recipe. Only one didn't seal, so we will eat that one!

I printed out the recipe (partly so that the recipients can make it themselves if they want to, and partly so that they can see what's in them - in case of food allergy or some such) and the boys decorated each one. We ribboned and tissue papered the top of each jar, attached the recipe/cards, and sent them off to school.

The good news is that we still have five jars to share with friends and neighbours.

Happy Holidays,


**later edit - sorry about the wacky fonts...I don't know what's up there, and can't seem to get it to be normal!** -L

Friday, December 14, 2007

Ornament exchange

Every year at this time the book club that I belong to does an ornament exchange. This group of ladies has been really a wonderful force in my life in many ways...were it not for them, I think that the adjustment to moving here (rural BC from Vancouver) was one that I might never have made.

We do that 'each brings a gift' game - is there an official name for it? We draw numbers and each, in turn choose gifts from the table - or choose to 'steal' another's gift...things can get quite spirited! It's loads of fun, and it never fails that the most beautifully wrapped things go 'round and 'round. One year I'm going to wrap mine in crinkly brown paper and jute, just to see what happens.

The last two years I've played with the idea of giving an 'ornament'. It struck me that we never said 'tree ornament'!

Last year I made silver earrings loosely shaped like Christmas trees, and this year I wanted to do a collage.
Being book club, it made sense to do something based on book parts and imagery. I built the background with scrapbook paper and laminated some cherub/angel tissue to it using fabric medium. I lucked into finding this charming picture in a '50's era Reader's Digest Condensed version of a book called 'Joy in the Morning'. The picture is perfect, the window in the store reads 'Merry Christmas' backward, and the date on the calendar is Dec 24. I cut out words that said 'Merry Christmas' (top) and 'love and joy come to you' (bottom) and laminated the whole works along with a bronze skeleton leaf using another layer of diluted fabric medium. A light sprinkle of bronze 'radiant rain' watercolour spray, put everything in a dollar store frame, et voila! A Christmas 'ornament'.

Trish got this one, and I'm glad that she did.

It all sounds pretty seamless, but in reality I have 2 others here that weren't so successful. They'll go back into the paper bin and something else will be made from them, no doubt.

Hope your season is shaping up to be a merry one, with those you care about most.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A special day

It's my Mom's birthday.

My Mom has been a wonderful gift in my life.

The picture is of me, Mom and her mom, my Nana, circa '71 or so, somewhere in Saskatchewan (probably Moosejaw), I think.

Nana was a prolific knitter and crocheter, and my memories of her all involve partially formed wooly things taking shape beneath her hands.

I know I've mentioned my Mom here and there in this blog, but I don't know if I've properly given her credit for teaching (enabling? :) ) my fibre skills from an early age.

Growing up my Mom and Dad never discouraged my love and exploration of handwork (I remember saving up money for yarn to make a sweater and Mom going 'halfers' with me on it). They always were interested and encouraging, making technique books abundant and available. Mom taught me to tat, and even once knit back part of a sleeve that I'd unravelled after discovering an overlooked mistake. Although I learned the basics of crochet from an Aunt, Mom taught me everything else...how to put all the pieces together, how to diagnose and fix my mistakes. She managed to reach into corners of our basement and find whatever tools were needed (even a beautiful old hand crank Singer -and carding brushes...I never did ask why she had carding brushes).

She has always been there when I needed her, and came as soon as possible to meet each of our boys (meeting youngest when he was just a few hours old). She has redefined 'Grandma' and made that moniker her own.

I get to talk to her often, and wouldn't trade our relationship for anything in this world.

Thanks for everything, Mom. Happy Birthday.



Monday, December 10, 2007

Finished silk scarves

I found a little time here and there over the weekend to finish up all the silk scarves. I can't tell you how happy I am with them! The colours are so luminous, translucent. Very pretty.

Using the Shiva paintstiks proved to be interesting, as silk is somewhat wiggly and squiggly, not wanting to stay put. It made doing the rubbings challenging, but well worth the effort. For most of the scarves I kept the colours in the same or analogous colour family (some were highlighted with a little sparkle,too) so that the effect was more 'emergent' than stamped or printed on top.

It would be hard to pick a favorite out of these!

The grape colour to the left is actually a rich plum in real life, and for some reason I can't get it to photograph well.

All 12 scarves, done.

Back to quilting!



Friday, December 07, 2007

Kool silk

Working on the assumption that wool and silk are both protein fibres, I tried the same methods that I tried last month for sock yarns on the remaining silk scarves....success!

The photo does NOT do the colours justice. There is almost no natural light around here these days, certainly not powerful enough to get a decent photograph. These colours are beautiful Kool-Aid bright and lustrous.

The only thing I did differently from the sock yarn was to use a much larger bowl and more water so that I could agitate things with a wooden spoon in between zaps in the microwave. That and pre-dampening the scarves helped to give lovely, even colour. Next stop, Shiva Paintstiks! I have it in my head that they would look wonderful with an allover rubbing design of some kind, in lustrous colours...

I dyed all those scarves (7 in all) while making dinner last night. Can't beat that for multitasking.

Happy stitching,


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Whew. Out of my system, at last

It's been in my head for a while, actually since I made my last bag. I saw this 'bagsket' tutorial over at Foofanagle and filed it away for future reference. The last few days it's been like a song stuck in my head...I had to make one just to get it out of my system. Of course I will now have to make more, that's just the way I'm built.

I did things MOSTLY as presented in the tutorial, but changed a few things (surprise, surprise). Rather than re-write the whole works, I'll just catch you up to date on my modifications...

First, I made it with a 10" circle for the bottom, bringing on an avalanche of math. The bag was originally 12" tall, but I cut it down to 10" later in the game as it just seemed too tall.

The inside pocket: It's the black floral stripe in the photo at left - I didn't use a piece of bias for the top edge, I just turned it twice and topstitched it. I stitched the whole lining to a layer of black batting (to give the bag some body, but did not use interfacing). The pockets are segmented to hold specific tools. Lines were stitched from edge to edge across the short width to create the divisions and add vertical strength to what will eventually be the up/down axis of the bag.

Bottom (no photo): fused Timtex to the bottom before assembling outside of bag.

Once the lining was placed inside the outer bag (handles already stitched in place) I ran a line of stitching around the bag to hold the two layers together and keep the lining from collapsing inward.

Photo at right: The drawstring top...
I combined two things here, attaching the top and covering the top edge.

I put the drawstring top on the bag right sides together, matching the top raw edges. I stitched around the top through all layers using a 3/8" seam.

Then I flipped the drawstring top to the inside and stitched in the ditch around the top edge (photo left). You can see below how it looks once completed.

Trust me, it will all make much more sense if you click on over to the original tutorial.

And here it is, pressed into service for it's intended purpose:

I made it because the cats have taken an unhealthy interest in my knitting lately. Now I can pull the top closed and they won't be able to play 'unravel' anymore.

Happy stitching,


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

From one of my older pattern books

I couldn't resist.

This is from one of the knitting pattern books I have from the early 1900's.

Something to knit for the man in your life, with clever buttons under the arms so that this lovely vest can be 'converted' to - ah, well, let's let the book speak for itself, shall we?

"This model is adjustable (I assume the author is talking about the vest and not the fella). For a sleeveless sweater it is buttoned down both sides under the arms as in the illustration to the left. When the thermometer runs so high that less protection is desirable the buttons may be unfastened and the sweater turned around for a chest and back protector with the ends buttoned into half sleeves as in the second illustration."

Is it me, or does he look happier with it as a vest? Perhaps he doesn't feel the need for chest and back protection? Or is he disturbed by the way his tie hangs down beneath?

I think there's just enough time before Christmas to make on one of these special gifts for that special man who finds himself in need of the occasional chest and back protection.

Happy stitching,


Monday, December 03, 2007

What I've been up to

Okay, so it's my first attempt at a photo collage. I can see already how I could make it better.

Oh, and the bottom left corner...

An 'on the fly' fix for a customer who didn't see that this one block unit was rotated. (Nothing like getting most of the way through the first pass of quilting and finding one of these little guys.) Thank goodness for zippered leaders! I zipped it off, unpicked the unit, sewed it back in with my domestic machine, zipped the quilt back on. What could have taken well over an hour to do was done in 1/2 hour. Did I say thank goodness for zippers?

I don't use them TOO often, but when I need them they make a huge difference.

Happy stitching,

Saturday we......

...unleashed the Christmas chaos...This is the first year that the boys did the tree completely on their own. It's beautiful.

Holly Jolly,