Sunday, 30 November 2014

Jocelyn Can't Live Without....

 Jocelyn can't live without these three things. 


This title is a bit of a lie.  There's lots of things I can't live without.  Besides the air, water and food that sustains my every living minute, there is also family and dogs and books and health and eyesight and workable fingers.  My opposable thumb, that, I'm quite happy to have.  Okay, I'm getting a little silly.
So here are three things I really would rather not live without which I guess is a better way of phrasing it. 
  1. My reading glasses.  I can't even begin to think of how my life would be without them.  I'd have to somehow have everything six feet away and the print enlarged and needlework would be out; no too dreadful to contemplate would be the loss of my glasses.
  2. At one time in my life, I would have put lip balm on this list. I am one of those people who think they are addicted to the stuff.   I  have used so much vaseline and lip balms over the years; I've tried them all and my lips feel very, very dry without them.  I'm going to expand this to include all skin cream.  My skin is very dry and I seem to always live in climates where there is cold weather a lot of the year and houses are furnace heated which is also a drying factor.  When I moved here and spent the first winter with wood heat, I was dismayed to hear warnings about how drying wood heat is.  And it is.. Later in the winter, we'll have to place a kettle of water on the wood stove to put some humidity into the air to combat that dryness.  So I have to slather on the creams all the more.
  3. My slippers.  I have lived in houses in the past where you could walk around bare-footed, but most have required footwear.  This present house is absolutely a slippers necessary house.  On occasion, I've had to walk from the bathroom to the bedroom, or down the hall to put the dogs outside in early morning and the floor is freezing especially in winter. Add to this the dogs with their shedding and dirty paws, well, it then becomes  a gritty, cold floor.  
This is an interesting exercise to contemplate.  What big or little things do you think you can't live without?  

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Lighting the Darkness With Old Fashioned Lamps


The other night just as we settled in for our evening's t.v. viewing, the power went out.  Complete blackness without a warning; so there we were feeling our way to the kitchen and the cupboard for a flashlight.  Our oil lamps had to be pressed into service again and we were very thankful for them.  Since there are no houses or electric lights in sight of us, we had to phone the nearest farmhouse to confirm that the blackout was not just on our property.  High winds was the cause apparently and no one knew how long it would last.
 Looking out the windows was really odd; the blackness was so complete, not a single shadow to help discern anything of the garage or trees or sky.  It was eerie and made me feel vulnerable.  
We decided to turn in, each of us with a lamp on our night tables and really you could manage to read well enough so it wasn't exactly suffering.
 However, both of us felt uneasy wondering how long before the power would be back on; ever since we lost it for four days several years ago we've been wary of the same thing happening again.  This time we were lucky; it was off for just a couple of hours so no other measures had to be taken.  Such relief.
 The next morning we found out that many parts of the city were still without their power so we really were lucky. 

Friday, 28 November 2014

Out My Window and Black Friday


I love to see the woodpeckers.  I never saw them growing up so the novelty never fades for me.  I'm not sure it is a good thing that this fellow is visiting our feeder. He seems to have to contort his body unnaturally to position himself for a few seeds.  But he is willing and he returns whenever I refill the feeder.  I think he is pecking his seed into the tree.  He repeated the tooing and froing from feeder to tree for about ten minutes. 
The chickadees give him a wide berth and hang back when he is around.  Like they say, size counts in nature.
Heading towards December and Christmas...we had to get the American Thanksgiving out of the way first.  Black Friday has infiltrated our shopping habits here in Canada as well.  Many people I know are checking out the deals online.  I hope none of you hurt yourself in the rush at the malls to get a good bargain. 
 I am in the market for a new cell phone; mine is useless for this new fangled texting so I guess it is time I gave in and joined the masses. Perhaps I should check it out. 

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Wild Turkeys and Two Unforgettable Thanksgiving Movies


Happy Thanksgiving to our American Friends   

  And here is a photo of the main attraction...wild turkeys in daughter's backyard.  The numbers of wild turkeys around here continue to grow.  You don't have to travel  far from downtown Ottawa to encounter them usually trying to cross the road, which they tend to do one at a time in single file much to the ire of drivers.  Why they don't just fly across I don't know but they seem to need to feel somewhat threatened before they use their wings.
There have been two American movies about this holiday that are favourites of mine.  I loved Home For the Holidays and it had to be good with that wonderful cast  and script.  That movie held so much of all the stuff families are made of - the good, the bad and the ugly.  You wonder just why is it that family gatherings can become opportunities for all the angst and issues and stresses to surface, despite everyone's good intentions.  I was very interested in the role of the mother, played by Ann Bancroft, in this family and Holly Hunter as daughter was marvellous.  I read that the cast had to eat five turkey dinners to complete the table scene to the director' liking (who was Jodie Foster).
The other movie is Trains, Planes and Automobiles which showcased the amazing talents of Steve Martin and John Candy.  This was a movie that, while very funny and making you laugh, had a certain poignancy running through it.  Something about the idea of being alone on a holiday, with no family or far from family, is sad; and if you haven't made friends into family it is especially sad, like poor Del.  But a happy ending, none the less.   


Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Fish Casserole, My Way




Where I grew up in Newfoundland, fish referred to only one kind of fish and that was cod.  If you were having any other kind it was called by its name, herring, salmon, etc.  I love cod but find it doesn't taste the same to me anymore and especially after it has languished in the freezer for awhile.  I therefore have to dress it up a bit more. 
This is my version of fish casserole and when I say fish I mean cod.  We don't seem to ever eat enough fish though we both like it.  I know how good it is for you but yet it seems it is usually the last thing I reach for in the freezer.
This dish is very easy as it just involves layering the ingredients and then baking it. This time I layered the following in the order given into a casserole dish...

                                          4 cups of spinach
                                          2 filets of cod
                                          one small can of chickpeas
                                          2 cups of cherry tomatoes
                                          1 cup of olives
                                          1 chopped onion
                                          1 cup of chicken broth
                                          2 cups of bread crumbs
                                          1 cup of mozzarella cheese

I baked it at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes.  So really it is dinner in less than 30 minutes.  You can serve rice or potato with this but just bread with it is good too.  Of course you can change up the ingredients; sometimes I add carrots or peas and omit the olives.  It's just that we love olives so I tried to work them in.  Feta cheese would work well with this too.  I guess really whatever you have on hand and feel like adding.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

More Embroidered Ornaments...Made By Hands

"Tools were made, and born were hands,

    Every farmer understands."

                                         Proverbs

Unlike Nora Ephron, I don't have any problem with my neck.  Maybe because unless I'm looking in a mirror, I can't see it and out of sight, out of mind with me.  No for me I'm more upset about the skin on the backs of my hands.  Unlike my neck, my hands are front and center all the time, can't miss seeing the skin and boy, in certain lights, does it look old.  Yikes.  There's not enough cream in all the world to turn this crepey, rather mottled looking skin around.
It doesn't help that I'm constantly plunging my hands into water having to wash so much with the dogs and digging in the dirt here.  I don't like wearing lotion especially since I stitch every day and I can't chance getting grease on the material. Remembering to lotion them at night is hit and miss.   Contrary me just can't get used to wearing rubber gloves either.
I have a sneaking suspicion that it wouldn't matter that much whatever I do...these are the hands and skin I was born with. And they're not attached to exactly a spring chicken anymore. So be it.
Now I feel a little guilty even mentioning this; after all I still have two functioning hands which I am thankful for.  So pretend I never said anything about the old looking skin on them.

Lately these hands stitched this

and this

 and a trio of houses







Monday, 24 November 2014

A Little Spring in our Winter






Hubby, yesterday, walking the dogs to the mailbox to get the paper. White-bearded, tall and slim, he reminds me for all the world of  a Father Christmas in this photograph.  A reference he may not  appreciate since Father Christmas is rather ancient I assume. 
 Rex is trusted to run free but Murphy is leashed.  She's the one who loves to follow her nose and would travel several counties to get at whatever scent she is picking up.  Just can't take the chance on losing her which is a shame to have to contain her natural exuberance like this.

But that is not the point of all this.  Here is my scene out the same window today...


It seems like winter has taken a giant step backwards.  We were firmly into the freezing temperatures and a good covering of snow until today when it has disappeared just as quickly as it arrived.  It is 10 degrees C outside, feeling positively balmy after the minuses of the last several weeks.
I just came inside from a walk around the garden.  It was strange to get another look at all the plants when I'd assumed it would be next spring before I would see them all again.  It all looked surprisingly green. 

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Something Purposeful In My Week

"Three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for."

                                              Joseph  Addison

Here is one of my 'somethings to do'.

 Once a week I am up early and on the road by six a.m. to make it to daughter's in time for her to start her 7 a.m. shift.  I refill her bird feeder which these days is feeding two gray squirrels that like it there so much they have made a nest in the big tree in front of her house.


Then, because grandson is still asleep, I sit back with a coffee and the ipad in front of the big window in her kitchen nook. There I can keep an eye on the feeder and the back yard.


And no, these photos are not black and white, this is just how dark it was that morning after an overnight snowfall.  It is a sweet little backyard with great landscaping and lots of flowers come spring and summer. That it backs on a pumpkin field makes it even nicer.


I enjoy a few minutes to myself and get caught up on Pinterest and let my mind float daydreaming of all the things I could make or do or cook.
A little while before grandson is awake and then it will be a flurry of what for breakfast, what goes in the backpack (which I still call bookbag), what for the school nutrition breaks, which papers, etc., etc. and a rush out the door.    
I love those mornings and the purpose they give my life.
Me, feeling thankful.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Yarn Harlot's Scarf and Rock Recipes Homemade Raisin Buns

One row handspun scarf pattern from Yarn Harlot


November, nearly the middle of the month already, and the sky is showing at least nine shades of gray today.  We had what I would call sloppy snow earlier and the sight of it sent me to my kitchen.  What is it about snow and cold that makes me want food...the kind my mother makes.  I made a batch of raisin buns and I ate one right out of the oven barely waiting for my tea to cool down enough to drink.  I got the recipe from a great site run by a fellow who cooks and bakes in his own kitchen in St.John's, Newfoundland.  His photos of the food are beautiful and the recipes run the gamut from simple to somewhat elaborate. The National Post in Toronto calls his site one of the best food blogs in Canada.  Check it out if you like food sites; I don't think you will be disappointed.  Here is the link:

http://www.rockrecipes.com/ 

On my knitting needles right now is a scarf started shown above; though I love to knit, I am quite basic.  In my defense, I am hampered somewhat by needing directions I can follow while watching t.v. I searched and found this wonderful pattern from Yarn Harlot on Ravelry that is only one line...can't get much easier than that...

Cast on 26 stitches
 K2, K1 into back of next stitch, P1,repeat to the end of row and K2.

That's it!!  I know it's a cliché to say if I can do you can do it, but in this case it is really true.
 By the way, "yarn harlot",  the person behind this rather  saucy name ( :) ) is Stephanie Pearl-McPhee and I love her site and blog.  She has a captivating way of phrasing things and has published many books on and about her knitting life.  You can check her out here:-

http://www.yarnharlot.ca/

I will share what I am embroidering with you soon.  Promise.

This post is an updated version of my very first post on this blog.  It is now my one year anniversary!

Friday, 21 November 2014

More Lynette Anderson

I've told you about a project designed by Lynette Anderson that I completed a few years ago.  Lynette is a very busy stitcher and designer and she has published a number of books.  These offer more of her lovely drawings to suit all kinds of different occasions.  This is one of her books that I found one day at the library. Again Lynette has offered her own charming version of typical Christmas items.

 

This one, Stitch It For Christmas is 48 pages long and includes many sweet designs for the occasion.  I really like her Santa and Christmas tree drawings, in particular.  Of course these can be worked into any number of projects of your own choosing...hangings, pictures, ornaments, quilts, table runners and so on.
Lynette also has a wonderful web site and blog.  I visit it regularly to see her latest offerings and also to hear about her travel and teaching. She is a busy lady!  Her kits and designs are for sale but she also offers a free pattern gallery that she adds to regularly.  These are definitely worth checking out.
Here is a link for you to follow. 

http://lynetteandersondesigns.typepad.com/lynette_anderson_designs/

Thursday, 20 November 2014

My Version Of Lynette Anderson's In Full Bloom

I always love to find an embroiderer who is creating and sharing their own designs.  I was introduced to the work of Lynette Anderson a few years back when I was taking a stitching course at one of the local quilt shops.  At that time we worked on a block of the month project of hers called In Full Bloom.  Lynette is from Australia and creates small drawings of animals, nature, seasons and various settings.   These are often described as sweet or whimsical.
 I loved their look, and got a great deal of joy working on each of the twelve little designs and then piecing them together into a hanging.  They were stitched with a simple backstitch and we used patchwork blocks to finish the hanging.  Everyone chose their favourite block and I chose the Broken Dishes pattern.
 Here are a few photos of my finished product.



I had a heck of a time getting each of the circles to look round.  I wound up doing a blanket stitch around each one just to help them round out.  This is typical of me; I usually have a problem with one area and then cause myself extra work to get whatever it is sorted out.  But it all is always a labour of love and I was happy with the finished  hanging. It spent a summer on one wall in the living room. 

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

A Gift I Can Never Give

"I would gladly go for you if I could; it could be my gift to you."
 I was telling that to a friend of mine who hates going to the dentist and I said this to my dentist one day; he found it very funny and said he had never heard that one before.
 But really, seriously, wouldn't that be a great gift for someone.  I know I've often thought of that when my mother has to have some awful test or other, I wish I could do it instead of her.  Not because she isn't brave because she really is, but it would make her life just a tiny bit better.
I have never had a toothache in my life and I don't mind going to the dentist at all, never did, but especially not these days.  Everything about it has been improved.  It is one of the few things that I think is newer and better.  They deaden your gums so quickly, in a matter of minutes they are able to begin whatever work they do.  No more waiting around for your mouth to sufficiently deaden and getting more nervous by the minute. This anesthetic also wears off so much faster than the old stuff; your mouth is back to normal in no time.  And even the material used for fillings sets up so much faster and you can bite on it almost right away.  The old days you couldn't eat solids for hours.
One thing I notice has not changed.  That is the certain whine that one of the drills makes; it is exactly the same awful sound...perhaps they should work on improving that.  
 But more efforts to increase your comfort are being attempted...there is no laughing gas  at my dentist's but there is a t.v. positioned above the chair so you can watch CNN if you want. You are also offered headphones to listen to music or radio if that would make it all more pleasant.  
The work I need doing now is replacing old fillings, never any new cavities.  Some of these fillings 'owe me nothing' as they say; they are so old dating back decades.  All the silver in my mouth has now been replaced with the more natural looking white, which no one sees at all.  My dentist joked that I have lost a pound or two.
Now if only that were true.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Halloween

"They're just too lazy these days," said an old great uncle of mine about 35 years ago.  We were sitting around lamenting the dwindling numbers of children going from door to door trick or treating.  We thought he might have a point but the teachers in the family were hesitant to support the use of the L word. That comment  certainly did not apply to us when we were young, I can tell you.

I always had a face mask like this and usually it was of an animal.

Strong in my memory are the Halloweens of my childhood.  Hugely anticipated, we would talk about and think about trick or treating for days leading up to it. Costumes didn't figure heavily in any of this...mostly we wore those rubber or plastic full face masks that cost 39 cents from Stedman's.  They were horrible, smelly things and by the end of the evening your face would be a wet, sweaty mess but we certainly didn't complain. 
We loved planning our route beforehand, wondering how far we could get.  The longer you were out and the further you went meant more goodies.  Someone could always remember which houses gave out the best stuff; we all coveted bags of chips especially and there was always a house on Mount Bernard Avenue that gave out  the 5 cent bags of Scotties chips.  I'm sure half the kids in Corner Brook would ring their bell but they never ran out of chips.
Perhaps Halloween was so important to us because treats were rarish in those days.  We got certain things for Christmas and our birthday, but candy and such was just not plentiful around the house, or at least, not in my house.
 The Halloweens of my childhood were innocent, fun-filled affairs; I don't remember ever any talk about the sinister associations some people have made of it these days.
But then it changed.  The costume got to be more involved and important and expensive.  Rumours and stories of razors and needles (eek) in apples made the news and parents became more suspicious of the free treats from strangers' houses.  Children began to get treats more readily not just for special occasions; a few candies didn't hold the same appeal.  Supply and Demand.  Maybe for one or all these reasons the children went out in fewer and fewer numbers.
Some of the subdivisions around here still have a goodly number of trick or treaters, this many years past uncle's remark.  You can almost tell the demographics of your neighbourhood by the number of children coming to your door on Halloween night.
Hubby can't remember the last time a trick or treater came to the door here.  In fact,  for us here deep in the country and fairly isolated, I think someone ringing our doorbell on Halloween night would actually be a scary thing.  Booo  

Monday, 17 November 2014

Olive Kitteridge Is Wearing My Skirt





 

 Warning: Seriously Depressed Seniors Here was what one viewer wrote as his opinion of the four part mini-series Olive Kitteridge.  Hubby and I just finished it and our opinion was a far more positive one.  Yes, there are several seriously depressed seniors in this show, but it is much more than that.
 Based on the Pulitzer Prize winning book of the same name by Elizabeth Strout, it chronicles the life of an aging Maine school teacher; we are shown her marriage, her relationship with her son, her struggles with the bits and pieces of life that snag us all. I should mention that her husband, Henry, is played wonderfully by  Richard Jenkins . 
I read the book several years ago and enjoyed  the writing very much.  I was very interested to see how it would play as a movie.  I was afraid Olive was just too unlikeable a character for anyone to root for and therefore, her behaviour and mannerisms would have to be changed.  But then it wouldn't be Olive Kitteridge anymore. 
 I needn't have worried. The Olive on paper has survived on film.  Frances McDormand does a wonderful job of showing us Olive with all her warts and especially her social awkwardness which I think is the root cause of some of her rudeness.  I identified with her as a teacher, a mother, with her strong sense of morals and on deeper levels as well. Olive seems to define the reality that for some of us, relationships are hard, really, really hard, no other way to put it.
And oh yes,in one scene, pictured above, Olive is wearing a blue, button front skirt- it's identical to one I have in my own summer-clothes box.  I can just imagine the wardrobe people on the set saying now how do we dress a school teacher; oh yes, dowdy, that's it.   

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Snow, Skunks and Smelly Dogs

Sloppy snow, that's what I call the awful wet stuff that has been falling lately.  It is some kind of hybrid between rain and snow but doesn't fall with the fierceness of sleet, which come to think of it is icier.  We tend to get a little obsessive about winter weather here in Canada.  Having to drive in all manner of wintry road conditions is part of the reason. From the time of the first real snowfall till next April when we will be done with it, there will be numerous daily accidents told to us by the radio announcers.  Most of these are fender benders, thankfully.
 We were chatting with a young woman from Thailand the other day who told us she couldn't wait to get to Canada and see snow; now of course, after a number of winters and having to contend with the large amounts of it we get here in Ottawa, the novelty has definitely worn off.
I am not walking to the upper end of our trail these days.  Deer hunting season and we have heard occasional shots from that area.  We've been told that a neighbour has sighted three bears around there as well; I guess they are doing their final foraging before finding a spot to hibernate.  I wonder will one of them come to my den, the one I wrote about in a blog last spring, the one that is within sight of  Hubby's den?! 
Friday night and the dogs went out for their last go-round before bed.  I hear a terrific shout from Hubby; the dogs have been skunked.  This happens once or twice a year so we now have a skunk shampooing routine which we perform in the garage.  I've been using a mixture of baking soda, vinegar and blue Dawn which we find more effective than tomato juice or any dog shampoo for ridding them of the smell.  I can't describe that smell but, believe me, it is awful.  Murphy usually gets the most of the spray because being the bolder of the two, she leads the way.  An hour later and they are cleaned and dried and we are finally ready to turn in.
 Murphy's coat is very glossy and smooth, none the worst for wear after all, and the smell is finally disappearing in the garage...till the next time. 

Saturday, 15 November 2014

My Version of Cornish Pasties

I promised Hubby a special English treat, something I would make in the kitchen just for him.  He loves his stomach as some say in Newfoundland about the good eaters.  So he naturally perked up when I told him this.  Here's a photo and I can't say that it is overly flattering to them; photographing food is a real art I've discovered.


They are Cornish pasties, or at least Jocelyn's version.  I understand that it's a matter of pride in the various parts of England as to who has the best pasties and competition between towns can become fierce.  They all claim to have a secret ingredient that makes theirs unique and therefore, better.
Search the internet and you will find endless recipes for fillings for these pastry pouches.  I saw many claiming to be the original Cornish recipe and in the end I just made sort of my own but with the standard ingredients. I used my own (and Crisco's) recipe for the pastry and cut around a bowl to get as many large circles as I could; in this case, I made seven.  Here's my recipe:

Cornish Pastie Filling

Chop the following into cubes:

2 large potatoes
1 large carrot
1/2 a turnip
1 onion
I decided to put the carrot and turnip into a saucepan and give them a boil for about ten minutes before adding the potato.  I didn't trust that the vegetables would cook fully inside the pastry so I wanted them slightly parboiled beforehand.  
For the meat I used a steak that I cut into cubes as well.  This was mixed with the drained vegetables and sprinkled with some salt and pepper.  At this point the mixture seemed very dry to me so I added about a 1/4 cup of beef broth mixed with a little melted butter.  This mixture was then divided  among the 7 circles I had made from the pastry recipe.  I found getting the filling to stay put in their circles was not easy.  My problem though was that I was overfilling them.  
Anyway, I managed to roll the edges of each pouch, pricked them with a fork and brushed them with a little beaten egg.
I baked them for 40 minutes at 375 degrees.


With his broccoli- spinach salad and especially the Guinness, Hubby thought it a great meal. 

Friday, 14 November 2014

Drawing Mr. Cardinal For a Felt Ornament

Spying Mr. Cardinal the other day gave me the idea to include cardinals in my ornaments that I'm currently working on.  After all, I love them and really their profile is simple and easily recognized.  Above is a Christmas card I kept from several years ago; it is a Hallmark card and the cardinal is so bright and Christmasy.


I looked at my cardinal photos and sketched a little; I had problems with how plump to make him appear.  I've also exaggerated the crest; my little guy does not have such a prominent crest but it almost looks more 'cardinal-like' to make it higher.  I cut out the cardinal from that Christmas card which is a cute, rather styalized version of a cardinal.   The simpler the shape, the easier to cut from felt which was my goal this time for this particular project.


And here is my little cardinal embroidered ornament.  Such a bright, cheery bird to incorporate into my collection.  I chose the word "Joys" to write in running stitch; I love the cardinal and seeing him from time to time is a treat but really all the birds are my joys.  

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Cardinal, King of Colour

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What a treat for me when I glanced out the kitchen window and spied this little guy foraging in the back yard.  I think he is the same cardinal I see around every now and then. He's fairly reclusive, doesn't hang around for long; only shows himself very briefly... just enough to tantalize me.


True to form he stayed just long enough for me to grab my camera and take a couple of shots through the patio door.  But as always, I loved seeing him.
Cardinals are a treat in the bird world here in Canada...most of our birds are dark colours, the grays, browns and blacks.  Bluejays and cardinals are the exception and because the cardinals are rarer than the jays, we appreciate them all the more.
This site all about birds is full of interesting information about cardinals (and any other bird you might want to check out).  It is one of my favourites.

http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/northern_cardinal/sounds

Not only is the red colour of the cardinal outstanding, their song is also melodious and beautiful.  Give it a listen; guaranteed to cheer you.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Princess Anne and Remembrance Day


Today is Remembrance Day in Canada, a day where we officially mark the sacrifice of all the Canadians who served in all the wars.  It was a day I didn't like much growing up.  Though we always had a school holiday, it was a somber and sad day.  My mother lost her father in the Second World War so for her it really was a day of mourning; to us kids it was even more somber than Sundays would be.  The only programming on t.v. would have to do with wars and the coverage of all the Remembrance Day ceremonies taking place across the country...very dull events for kids.
Princess Anne is here in Ottawa today where she took part this morning in the ceremony at the National Cenotaph. You just know from her bearing and look that she is not a jokey sort, very matter-of-fact and probably doesn't suffer fools gladly.  I like her ever since I read she is the hardest working member of the royal family; I also like how she did not bestow prince or princess on her children.
This morning when I took Grandson to school he was glad to tell me they would be having a special assembly for Remembrance Day today.  I asked why was that and he said, well assemblies usually take 25 minutes which is a whole period of no work!
Yes,  10 year old boys...

I've included a link to view the amazing display of poppies around the Tower of London, England.  It marks the 100th anniversary of the First World War.

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-30004315



Monday, 10 November 2014

Our New Pacific Energy Wood Stove

Our new Pacific Energy stove

This is a post from last year that I've updated. 

 We use wood as our primary heat source during the winter.  I was never used to this till I moved to the farm house four years ago and I have been surprised by how much I enjoy it.  I even learned how to start a fire in the morning and how to cook on it.  Anything that can be cooked in a slow cooker can be cooked on a wood stove; potatoes and other root vegetables, well wrapped in tin foil, can be roasted inside the stove and are delicious this way.  You can buy neat roasting pans just for this purpose too.  And of course you can toast marshmallows and wieners as well.
 Hubby worked out where to place a fan in the hallway of our bungalow so cool air gets pushed to the kitchen from the back of the house and even the bedrooms off that hallway surprisingly reach a warm, comfortable temperature that way. We buy our extra wood from a farmer on the next road who makes a bit of extra money cutting wood on his property.  I think it is a true win-win situation.
The wood stove was a god-send two years ago when during a freezing rain storm, we lost our electricity for 4 days.  We moved our frozen food from the fridge into the freezer and used a generator to keep the temperature at a freezing point.  Because of the wood stove, we continued to have our hot cups of tea and plenty of good food.  We were able to boil water for washing- enough to make do anyway. The collection of old oil lamps suddenly became more than decorative and were put to good use again.  With one on each side of the bed, we could each see to read no problem.
For those few days  it really did feel like we had turned back the clocks a hundred years or so.  But you know what? The novelty of it started to wear thin by day 4 and we were very, very  happy when the power suddenly surged on...ahh, showers, television, the internet; we had missed them.
I watched a show on t.v. about the surprising number of people who are preparing for an apocalypse; I think it was called Doomsday Preppers.  I had to admire their commitment and determination to look out for their families no matter what, even while often ridiculed for it. Our experience reminded me of that.
The freezing rain storm taught us several  things...
 We now have several cases of drinking water in reserve and a small holding tank of water for general use.
 We also bought extra lamp oil to keep on hand.
We do need to keep a workable generator; ours saved our freezer load of food.  
Who knows what will be needed when.
 

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Which Cloud is Heaven?

"Which of these clouds is heaven?" my seven year old grandson asked me.
We were flying back from  Newfoundland three years ago and were high up in the sky, bathed in beautiful sunshine and looking down on the most wonderful fluffy white clouds.  You know the kind, they look like giant marshmallows and you feel like you want to reach out and touch them.  I was a little thrown off by the question because heaven was not something I thought he knew much about.
"Are we going to see it? Is the pilot going to fly us over it?"
I didn't know what to say to him.   
"Look at these clouds, they're so beautiful, we've got to be getting close to heaven."
I was at a loss for words struck by the simplicity yet enormity of what he was saying.
"I really want to see Buddy," he continued.  Ahh, so that was it.  Buddy, the family dog, had died of old age recently and it had been a big loss to everyone.  I realized someone  must have said Buddy was now in heaven. Grandson went on to say could I ask the pilot to make a detour over heaven if it wasn't on our route.
I don't really know what I said to him, knowing me it would have been a whole lot of words but I did tell him to talk about this with his Mom and Dad when he got home.
 He took all this very seriously and had a few tears when he realized he would not be able to see Buddy that day.  It might be my only chance to see him again, I remember my sad little grandson saying, as I hugged him. 
Yes, out of the mouths of babes....

Saturday, 8 November 2014

One of the Royal Wedding Dress Embroiderers-Sophie Long

Mastering the Art of Embroidery: Tutorials, Techniques and Modern Applications

This is another one of those books I love to borrow from the library more than once.  This book was published in 2013 so is more modern in its approach to embroidery.  It was written by Sophie Long who is with the Royal School of Needlework and was part of the group who embroidered Kate Middleton's wedding dress for her marriage to Prince William.  What an honour that would be for an embroiderer!  I can't even imagine it.

Sophie has her own web site at and her gallery of work is really worth looking at.  In particular I loved the giraffe she has stitched, and her ribbon embroidered hearts are lovely. 
The link to her website which is truly worth a visit is http://www.sophielong.co.uk

Sophie's book covers a lot of ground; as promised in the title there are lots of tutorials and illustrated techniques.  There is also a dictionary of embroidery stitches.  All these are accompanied by beautiful photographs which are sure to be visually pleasing.  I loved the works by a variety of artists that are used to highlight the various techniques.


I should tell you that this book has been praised for what it attempted to do but also criticized for actually trying to cover too much ground a fault shared with many instructional type books, but that certainly did not detract in my humble opinion.

 I love this book. It is available from the Book Depository for around $30 with free shipping.

Friday, 7 November 2014

The Pioneer Woman Cooks, Writes, Photographs ...


It is amazing to see what Ree Drummond has created since beginning her blog Confesssions of a Pioneer Woman, http://thepioneerwoman.com.  This blog is a treat for the eyes, a wonderful, professionally arranged resource and has grown into a jumping off point for more and more topics for Ree to write about.  These include her now regular columns on photography, giving advice, and homeschooling besides her cooking and recipes which I think is what started it all. The family dog has even gotten in on the act and now is featured in a series of children's books. As a result, Ree has been a guest on many t.v. shows and these days is hosting her own cooking show, The Pioneer Woman Cooks, on The Food Network which is a favourite of my mother's.  I've watched her become more comfortable in those on-air roles and you can check her out yourself on Youtube.
Ree also has a number of cookbooks in print and I have enjoyed looking at all of them.  This one, A Year of Holidays, is arranged according to the major celebrations in a calendar year.  Typical of her blog and books is the very beautiful, vivid photographs which you find in this book also.  As well, she writes little vignettes about her family and life on the ranch and background about the 140 recipes she has included.
One thing I really love is the way she photographs each step of a recipe.  You really can't go wrong.


 I think this would be a wonderful cookbook for anyone beginning to learn to cook.  It is available from Amazon.com for about $20.   I borrowed this copy from the library and I could see it was a well used edition; I'm thinking a very popular check-out. I copied out several of the recipes including her versions of Caesar Salad and potato salad.  I know the recipes would be mostly considered home-style, nothing particularly gourmet or dietetic, and perhaps a little simplistic by some folks standards. Not mine!  And perhaps that is its charm and why it is one of the best sellers in the cookbook world. 

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Where the Men Are


Here is Rex helping Hubby read the instructions to the brand new leaf blower.  It seems like quite a super sized apparatus well researched and newly purchased at Princess Auto.  For those who may not know, Princess Auto is a store specializing in tools, automotive supplies, farm and garden equipment, camping gear, and all sorts of other manly odds and ends.  It may be sexist to say, but it is a man's idea of paradise to shop there.
 I know Hubby just loves it when we have an excuse to go there.  Last visit we spent an hour or so wandering around, Hubby in serious pursuit of things he had on his list.  For myself, I was looking for a new ash shovel to use in the wood stove and a brush to use when shampooing the dogs.  There were dozens of brushes to choose from and I found a nice one simply labelled wash brush.  Loads and all sizes of shovels, but neither one that quite fitted the purpose I wanted it for.
 I spent a long time in the trapping aisle and that is where I found the mouse trap I've shown you a few times now.  I was happy to see how many traps were of the humane type with a catch and release mechanism; you can trap most things it seems...badgers, raccoons, skunks, squirrels, beaver with the intention of letting them go.  It was a very large aisle. The rat traps always make me shudder, though.
I was only one of three women shopping at the time amid many, many men.  In fact, it occurred to me that it would be a great spot to meet men, if you were 'in the market'.  Several men spoke to me; one asking was I doing my Christmas shopping, with a ha ha to his friends. One man struck up a conversation in the electronic aisle and we had a pleasant conversation about trying to stay current with all the new-fangled internet gadgets.
  I thought to myself that never mind going to the supermarket to meet men, head to the nearest Princess Auto instead.  It seems most men end up there at some time or other and are in very good moods while there. 

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Madame La Fee's Beautiful Site

I am always adding to my list of things I wish I knew more about especially of a technical nature.  This is a very long list because you must realize you are dealing with a person here who still is in awe of the notion that voices can carry through wires hence telephones.  Imagine how confounded I feel about the concept of wireless anything.
 So I am still trying to work out how to do a few more things with this blog.  Some of the sites I visit invite you to link them to your blog so today I will attempt to do that.  Bear with me....
I have found the most beautiful little cross stitch site called Madame La Fee originating in France.  I just love the patterns and kits and the prices seem reasonable too.  Also there is an archive of free patterns which is always a treat so I invite you to check it out here....

http://www.madame-la-fee.com

I think that worked!

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Am I Catching the Same Mouse?

Am I catching the same mouse (or mice) over and over?
Here is the new mouse trap we bought at Princess Auto in action.  It is a humane one that operates on a catch and release system.   It has proven to be very successful with catching a mouse just about every night.  Here is one little guy...


He was not anxious at all and just kept looking at me.  He'd eaten a good meal of peanut butter so I knew I was sending him off with a full belly.  I set him free down at the shed in the wood pile and he took his own time before running off.


This morning two little creatures looked at me when I pulled the trap from deep in the cupboard under the sink.  One was seemingly unafraid while the other little fellow stayed backed up in the corner.  When I opened the lid to let them loose, the timid one took a while to leave but eventually scampered off into the same gap in the wood chunks as his friend.
I am loving this trap and wish I'd had it for my other winters here. No messy setting of springs and no sad little corpses in the mornings.
My count is now up to four and they have all looked identical (and not like the white with brown mice of last winter).  It really does make me wonder if I am trapping the same little critters over and over.   

Monday, 3 November 2014

A Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Coffee Go Down

Coffee is not worth drinking without all the trimmings, some fellow in a novel once said, as he liberally lashed his cup of coffee with sugar and cream.  I think of this comment now that I am trying to wean myself off sugar in my coffee and finding it hard to do.  I gave up milk in tea and coffee many decades ago, but still hang on to the bit of sugar.  I've been pretty good, down to less than a teaspoon but I'd love to give it up altogether.  I have tried Splenda and liked it but I have been going more naturally lately.  Coconut sugar was one; couldn't even taste that in the coffee.  Truvia was another; I was a little put off by the slightly 'too sweet' taste.  I am now using Stevia and finding the same thing...just a little too much saccharine flavouring for me.  Maybe as Dr. Oz suggests, I should just go back to real sugar and keep at the weaning process.  I do love a cup of coffee in the morning    ( tea for the rest of the day) but maybe it is time for me to rethink that. 


And here are a few of my little felt houses in the beginning stages.  These are so much fun to work out.  I have since added embroidered flowers and a word or two.  Progress!

Saturday, 1 November 2014

From the Wonderful Mary Corbet

From the wonderful Mary Corbet at ...www.needlenthread.com
 Her work is beautiful (check out her blackworked fish) and I love how she has not skimped on her web site.  She obviously has put a lot of time and effort into developing a workable, useful and inspiring site that hand embroiderers will want to turn to time and again. 
I just can't praise Mary and  Needle 'n Thread enough. This site is generously chock a block with loads of information for the hand embroiderer.  There are how to videos, tips and techniques, patterns plus a gallery of free patterns that is just wonderful.  All manner of monograms can be found there.
  I'm one of the embroiderers who has returned to this site many times over the years and I always find something new and inspiring.  Her latest offering is a set of four patterns entitled Lavender Honey and Other Little Things. 
 This is available as an e-book and features patterns for five basic designs which can be finished in a variety of ways making a total of twenty possible projects in all.  These are lovely little designs of nature...the sheep and hedgehog in particular are adorable.
But as I say there is lots on this site to use as a resource including the links to a wonderful list of other sites offering more free downloads.





Meanwhile, I keep stitching away on my little ornaments.  I have started to complete the embellishments on the original pieces and I like how they are turning out.  I am using buttons and small seed beads and a variety of ribbons for the hangers.  I will post some photos of the finished products later on.