Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Summer of Food

I think that what I have been doing lately can be summed up by two book recommendations from my summer reading.

I have long believed in healthier eating and home baking and generally knowing where our food comes from, but this past spring and summer I really made a plan to find what staples are locally produced and buy those items rather than relying on the grocery store for everything. I will say it was time consuming mainly because it involves really nailing down what we eat, and finding places to buy it, and a bit of driving. But now that I have a system in place for getting what we need it has become habit and therefore a lot easier.

One book that reassured me that it is all worth while is Apples to Oysters by Margaret Webb. This is an every person's alternative to Michael Pollan (whom I also enjoyed reading this summer). The stories are warm and make you want to thank your local farmer.

Aside from food, my eldest daughter has started school and that has thrown me head first into the next phase of my life, PTA mom/volunteer. Is it just me or does it get a little more hectic around the house when the first school days hit? It has been cool to see what my youngest is like when she is alone to shine. It has also been cool/scary to see the affect that school has on a little one. She loves it and I had no doubt she would be just fine, but it as been like a minefield mitigating all the outward influences that come from other students.

When she is not in school we like to do a lot of crafts, and practice scissors skills, which I had not realized as such an important skill until I witnessed 6 kindergartners wielding sharp implements in close quarters. A friend told me about The Creative Family, by Amanda Blake-Soule. This is a beautiful book to leaf through and we are looking forward to our own family art nights during the long cold evenings in winter.

Lately I am hoping for an upturn in the financial markets and peace and prosperity for all. Sounds a little Dickensian, but if Santa can wrap it I will take some under the tree this year.

Monday, November 03, 2008

If I could, I would

I have been following the U.S. campaign. I have two words for it--Barack Obama. Wow! He has the presence of a great leader at a time when the U.S. (and the world) needs it most. He is cool under pressure, he is thoughtful, intelligent and respectful. And believe me, he is impressive to people who don't live in your fine country. I am hopeful that he will be the next U.S. president. I wish I could vote for him.

My message to all of you is vote! Bring a friend, bring two. Have a tailgate party.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Earth Hour

Maybe you have already heard about this, but if not on March 29 World Wildlife Fund wants you to join the movement to turn off the lights for one hour to reduce energy consumption. My city is participating in the challenge too, though this is a global effort that started in Australia. Check out the Earth Hour site to see if you can participate in the challenge too. In fact, why don't we have a little competition between ourselves to see who can rely on the fewest resources during that one hour. Bragging rights are at stake here. Of course how hard will it be for me not to wash the dishes or do the laundry at that hour—not very? No, the hardest part for me will be shutting off the t.v. and PVR.

Friday, February 29, 2008

And the winner is...

Sabrina, SMF Sporty Chic

I wanted to say thank you to everyone who played along. Let's just say that there was such a variety of collections. I was very impressed. Collections varied from pearls to recipes, dust (yup, we all have that one) to horseshoes, bottles to Playboys.

My collection is hand made pottery. I love that they are mini pieces of art with a practical application. When I tried throwing a few years ago I grew to appreciate the effort that goes into making a piece of pottery even more. So that brings me to the prize. Sabrina will get a gifty of some of my favourite things: a box of Stash Morroccan Mint tea, chai lip balm from Moonsnail Soapworks, and a mug for tea (artist to be determined).

Please check out everyone's fabulous collections. I posted links below:

Kristin, A Few Things to Say
Suzanne, Yarnhog
Leslie, A Friend to Knit With
Sabrina, SMF Sporty Chick
Sonya, Knitting Issewes
Mellow Being
Meg—Vintage hankies
Kim, Chronic Ennui
Lydee, Thoughts of a Sometimes Stay at Home Mom
Sophanne, Becky Knits Too
Valerie, Wandering Cat
Clara, Bloomize
Romi, Rosemary-Go-Round
Patty, Fibreholic
Senja, Senja Knits,
Temperance, Cookie cutters and Tea Pots.

Good night!

Monday, February 25, 2008

It's a Contest Baby!

I am excitedly "collecting" items for my (first eva) contest prize. Bring on the entries, I will draw names after the contest closes Feb.29. If you are really stuck on ideas here's one—and I might add that this is very embarassing for me and I am very glad I do not have a photo of it—when I was about 7 I collected eraser shavings. Seriously. Not a highlight of my youth, but I blame it on a particularly non-attentive second grade teacher. She was not very engaging. To put a positive spin on it I will call it my deconstructionist period. Since I don't have a photo of that very early collection I will leave you with an image from Brita Hansen's crayfish collection.

Please note: I (almost absolutely) guarantee there will be no eraser shavings in your prize (probably definitely.)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Stitch in Time and a First For Me

There is history in every stitch. I can't help but think of my Nana and my mother when I am sewing with this machine. I feel a connection to them—maybe the excitement over a new project, the monotony of an ordinary mend, the feeling of accomplishment over a job well done or just plain finishing another item on the to-do list. I wonder about the things on their minds as they worked away—foot to pedal, hand to fabric—maybe we shared some common thoughts. It gives me a feeling of past meets present meets future,

I finished the apron with a large front pocket perfect for hiding the collections gathered by young children. Photo number two is of snack bags I made, inspired by A Friend to Knit With, though I made a pillow fold as a closure instead of a zipper. Truth be told I have already ripped them out and re-sewn them since this picture was taken but they aren't nearly as nice now as they were before my adjustments "to make them better."

The idea of a collection has got me inspired to hold my first-ever contest. Anyone game can post an image of their special collection, or the collection of someone near and dear to them. My example is a collection my daughter put together of found objects near the cottage we stayed at last fall. I will assemble a "collection" of items as a surprise and draw names for the winner. Please post your images on your blogs and let me know in my comment box that you have participated by midnight Friday, February 29, I will post the outcome of the draw Saturday, March 1 (not February 29). I can't wait to see them.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

House Keeping.

I have been keeping track of the photos I owe you so I hope you all forgive their lateness.

First the hat I knit for daughter one. I started with a twisted stitch for the brim continued the twisted knit in the body of the hat then decreased to eight stitches at the top, increasing between those to create a little sea anemone effect at the top. And because I learn as I go I realized the hat was too small after I finished it and picked up the stitches around the brim to lengthen it to fit. I am still in the process of knitting one for daughter two (but I have been a very, VERY lazy knitter lately so I am not sure when it will be ready.)

Here is the Monkey sock using Fleece Artist sokomo from Fibreholic (thank you again), the colourway is brilliant. I tried to get a bit of the accumulating snow in the background but was unsuccessful. Trust me on this it looked very winter wonderland.

Lately I have been re-bitten by the sewing bug. I have long admired A Friend To Knit With's sewn objects, and now Lululollylegs and A Few Things To Say add to my itchy stitchy fingers. These are some very talented people and I have been inspired by their many beautifully executed projects and fun and funky fabrics. I can't wait to build up my stash (which pales in comparison.)

Last week I brought my 1961 Singer for servicing and picked it up today. I forked over $84 for the servicing and two packages of needles and was feeling really confident about all my future sewing projects when it tipped over only seconds away from home. The fall caused my spool posts to snap and let's just say that I was "slightly" miffed. The girls were so concerned that if I hadn't been so grouchy as a result of the horrible accident I would have been chuckling at the worry on their faces. Luckily the glue gun came through once again and I was able to complete the better part of two matching craft aprons. If you don't look too closely at the stitches it looks not too bad. Have I already mentioned I learn as I go? The second attempt will likely look more tailored than the first. I used Ikea fabric, polka dot lined with an animal print, and I am going to add velcro to the neck ties, and a pocket on the front. Oh, and my other little girl, my standard schnauzer, decided that you would like to see her behind in the shot. I like to think she was being protective. So that is my big update. I have loved reading your blogs and peeking at what your up to. Yarn bee and Musindigo really got me with their fair isle mittens which are to die for—you have to check them out if you haven't already seen them.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Happy Snow Day Everyone!

Nothing new to report so I thought I would post a pic of a most excellent snow person made by three very talented people close to my heart. I am enjoying the snow—especially when inside by the fire!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

I've Been Memed

This is a quick post to fulfill a meme from Fibreholic. Patty, I would love to say that I am reading one of the many decent works of fiction waiting on my shelves, David Adams Richards' Friends of Meager Fortune borrowed from a dear friend who seems not to mind that I am a book-return deviant; Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner which has become a movie in the time I have wasted not reading it. Instead the non-fiction world takes up most of my time. So I give you my current read's page 161, fifth sentence: "Add garlic and hot pepper flakes and cook gently for a few minutes until tender and fragrant but not brown."

Yes, sadly, this is how exciting my life gets lately. On the other hand we are eating rather well. Oh and I highly recommend Bonnie Stern's Heart Smart: The best of Heart Smart Cooking. I am on my second week of recipes from this book—dee-lish.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

What Would Katherine Say?

The following recipe was served as desert at our New Year's Eve Dinner and let me tell you they will rival any brownies you have had. They have a beautiful sheen on the top, and beneath that crispy layer is a fudgey chocolate heart. Hepburn once advised a woman with these simple rules to live by: 1. Never quit; 2. Be yourself and 3. Don't put too much flour in your brownies. The proof is in the brownies.

The recipe came form the Gourmet magazine cookbook, which has almost every recipe you could ever want for. You can find it here as well:
Please note that I used bittersweet chocolate because I did not have unsweetened.

Katherine Hepburn's Brownies

1. Melt together 1 stick butter and 2 ounces chopped unsweetened chocolate and take the saucepan off the heat.

2. Stir in 1 cup sugar, add 2 eggs and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and beat the mixture well.

3. Stir in 1/4 cup all-purpose flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt. 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

4. Bake the brownies in a buttered and floured 8-inch-square pan at 325°F for about 40 minutes.

You can cut these brownies into 16 squares, once they have cooled, or eat them out of the pan. We enjoyed them with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a side of the other desert I had made, Creme Caramel. The caramel sauce was divine on the brownies.

You may be wondering why two deserts? Well I started out intending to make chocolate pudding, but I burnt the bottom of the pot (I am still getting used to the ceramic top stove) in a may-be-better-just-to-throw-the-pot-away kind of way. So I made the creme caramel as a back-up. However I thought it had failed because my sugar caramel seemed too much like hard candy when I put it in the glass pie dish. So I went with my no fail desert, brownies and vanilla ice cream.

The creme caramel did work. Once flipped onto the serving tray the custard was floating in caramel sauce. I am glad I made both deserts because I am as it turns out not a huge fan of the custard—the caramel was to die for. Anyway, now you know. As an aside I did get the pot cleaned. It took a lot of boiling with water, scraping, boiling with soap, more scraping, boiling with hydrogen peroxide and soap, more scraping, and a ton of elbow grease.

This could have been two posts but I waited so long to post the first half that I came up with more things to write about in the meantime. This post is purely cooking/baking related as it turns out so it works out all right. Today I found the biggest avocado I have ever seen. I am in awe of its size though I realize for those of you living in California or Florida this will look like any other avocado. How is it I had never realized the potential for a simple avocado to reach this enormous size? (Have I ever mentioned my slightly nutty interest in joining the avocado-of-the month club? If I had I may have known of their potential size sooner.) Look, it is as big as my hand (which isn't exactly petite.)

No more buying and slicing and pitting and scooping 3 or 4 hass avocados. No, from now on I am just buying one of these bad boys and voila, guacamole! Oh and it was was delicious too!