Tuesday 30 December 2014

1 Day and 6 Hours Before a New Year

Good Health and Good Cheer  To You All

I am fond of these old-fashioned nostalgic images.  They remind me of the illustrations that accompanied the stories in the old school readers, many of which to this day, I  remember.  We are 1 day and 6 hours away from a new year. I will spend the Eve itself with grandson while his mom gets the rare opportunity to kick up her heels.  Yes, I think the festivities for me will be a movie and Chinese food and then trying out his new games.   I think this will make me feel a certain measure of contentment; this is important because how you feel on the first day of a new year supposedly foretells how the year will go for you.  So do your best to feel positive thoughts, and what ever else, don't cry.  That is supposed to be the worse way to begin a new year.

Monday 29 December 2014

My Singer Quantum Stylist 9960 and Me

So my sewing machine search ended with finding such a great buy on one that had made my short list....the Singer Quantum Stylist 9960.  Such a fancy name, a little like what I think a hair dresser might call themselves,and believe me, it won't be sitting in very fancy surroundings. As I've said, my sewing room is in the unfinished basement.

Here I am about to unbox said machine.  It will be interesting to find out if this is what it's cracked up to be.

Highlights of its features include

  600 stitches...what do I need that many for?  I haven't a clue, but those for patchwork and applique and embroidery might be fun to explore.
  5 different fonts for embroidering alphabets
computerized with LCD lights (and a warning that in certain European countries, it might interfere with television or radio transmittance...eek).  This feature will be completely new to me.
 I am excited about the automatic needle threader and the automatic thread cutters.  And of course, I can't wait to try out its quilting abilities.
I've just begun to read the 100plus page manual and will check back with Youtube to view the excellent videos people have posted about this machine.
Overall, though, it seems I have my work cut out for me. Not complaining, it will be happy work.

Sunday 28 December 2014

Which Sewing Machine For Me?

My old sewing machine has been hanging on...handling all the sewing basics for most of what I dream up.  It is almost ten years old now, I guess a bit of a dinosaur in machine time.  It was a wonderful  buy from Costco on-line for $79 and I was impressed when it landed at my door four days after I ordered it.  It was the most basic of Brother sewing machines but that was all I was interested in at the time.  Hubby, being the believer in having good and correct tools, has been wanting me to buy a new one.
So began the sewing machine search.
 First I had to finalize what exactly I would want a new sewing machine to do for me, more than what my little Brother can already do.  My answer was free motion quilting.  To complete quilts and quilt them properly I needed a machine that had the capacity to handle larger sizes of material and could change the presser foot and drop the feed dogs.  That was basically it.  I really had no interest in hundreds of stitches, decorative or otherwise, but who knows...you can't miss what you've never had.

Anyway, I narrowed my search down to three machines and read all the forums and readers comments I could find about them.  The contest was between the Bernin550 QE  which led the race for awhile,  the Janome 720 and the Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist.  I was a bit in love with the Bernina because aren't they the Rolls Royce of sewing machines.  Swiss made just has to be better!   I was completely taken with the description of the stitch regulator feature for free motion quilting that guaranteed even novice quilters wonderful results. What I was not taken with was the price, just short of $5000.00...yikes.

Janome also enjoys a wonderful reputation in the sewing machine world.  The 720 was in my price range and had several review videos on Youtube that highlighted what a great machine it is. A built-in needle threader is a great invention especially for older eyes like mine.  Because of its lightness and small size, it seemed to be aimed at using it for travel, to classes or such.  Something I know I wouldn't require so it fell by the wayside.

I daydreamed briefly of really going for it...buying the smallest of the long arm machines and getting serious about this quilting business.  But I just couldn't justify the even higher price; as you know quilting is just one of my favourite past times so it's not like I'm quilting all the time.

As I said the Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist was on my short list and one day while searching on-line, it popped up on Amazon ( how they are tracking our on-line searches is a little scary!) being offered at half  the regular price, considerably cheaper than I could buy it in Canada.
 Time to take the leap, I thought.

Saturday 27 December 2014

Mummers, A Several Century's Old Tradition Still Alive and Well

Pierre Trudeau once said there are two distinct cultures in Canada....Quebec's and Newfoundland and Labrador's.  Here is one very old and interesting tradition that was and still is a part of the cultural life of outport Newfoundand.

 These are Mummers, people dressed up in whatever they could find around the house to disguise themselves.  During the 12 days of Christmas in the tiny outports, groups of mummers would circulate from house to house each evening.  There would be a loud knock on the door and a voice calling out "any mummers 'lowed (allowed) in?" If the answer was yes, in they would troop. The fun was to sing songs, recite poems, have a dance all the while the home owners are trying to guess who is who.  Much hilarity is a given.  What a way to brighten the winter days!

My parents tell the story of how terrified I was when mummers visited my grandparents' house the Christmas I was just past 2 years old.  Well, duh.  Look at this picture.  Yikes.  Many years later when my husband and I lived in an outport, we received mummers every Christmas.  I had to be sure I had Purity Syrup to serve and fruit cake; mummers were always thirsty being so hot in costumes and dancing in hot kitchens.

There were always lots of jokes and sometimes outlandish comments made to us in disguised voices, so the perpetrators could get away with it.  By the way, if you guessed someone's name correctly, they had to take off their masks.  This custom is still alive and well in my home province.

 The capitol city of St. John's has a Mummer's Festival and Parade each December.  Mummers are represented artistically in all sorts of ways...songs, photographs, art, ornaments, etc. and you can even buy mummers as earrings if you want.

                   Image result for mummers earrings

Old days depiction.

The artist, David Blackwood,  immortalized  the Newfoundland custom in his haunting  painting, Young Mummer in Margaret Feltham's House.

Related image                           

Portion of the St. John's Mummers Parade

Friday 26 December 2014

My Best Boxing Day Buy

Boxing Day here in Canada.
 It used to be a day for visiting neighbours or family you didn't get to see on Christmas Day.  It remains a statutory holiday with all schools, federal buildings, banks, and post offices closed for the day.  The biggest difference from when I was young is now the stores are open.  Boxing Day has become known more for its shopping than for visiting and is one of the busiest retail days of the year.
Daughter and I decided to give it a go too and this morning found us circling the local outlet mall parking lot looking for a parking space. Even early we had to go to the far reaches of the lot to find a space.  To say the mall was busy would be an understatement; throngs of people popping in and out of every store.  Some of the more popular stores had to restrict the numbers allowed in so line ups were formed.
We spent a giddy couple of hours hunting down bargains and there were some good ones; finally loaded down with bags, we decided to call it a day.  My best bargain, at 40% off the regular price, was these slippers which I love and have been wearing ever since I came home.

 They are fleece lined which I need for the cool morning floors and have a foam tread for trips to the garage to get wood.  Plus, I love the appliqued flower motif.  I'm pleased.

Thursday 25 December 2014

Thank You And Merry Christmas

Oh how I wish for you the kind of uplifting feelings we could get when we were children. You know the way thinking about a drive in the car, a new dress, Halloween, Saturday mornings, or Christmas could give our emotions a happy spike.  Hopefully, we still are able to muster the happiness and contentment that these events, big and little, can give us.

Thank you to the readers of my posts; thank you for the emails that have given me needed encouragement.  I am so fortunate to have found an astounding network of people who love the needle arts and share that love.
Merry Christmas.

I wish for you all what Ada V. Hendricks said so well so many decades ago....

May you have the gladness of Christmas which is hope;

The spirit of Christmas which is peace,

The heart of Christmas which is love.

Wednesday 24 December 2014

Snowy Owl Tree Top

Anyone reading this blog knows how much I enjoy watching birds.  This year I decided to change my Christmas tree to reflect that love of all the winged beings.  So for the second time in my life I have a tree with just bird ornaments.

I know I'm not the only one loving birds especially when I see how many ornaments you can buy that feature them.  I was happy with this venture, too, to use all the little green plumed ornaments that my hubby's mother had used on her tree.  They had been in storage for many years and I know that she was a bird and animal lover too.

A closer look at my lovely snowy owl sitting proudly on the top. In life I'm sure all the little birds would have fled at the sight of him.
I do have two different ornaments on the tree, one each for my grandsons.
How precious is all life dependent on our mercy, that's my thought this Christmas Eve morning.

Tuesday 23 December 2014

Hope, A Patient With Cancer, Gets Her Wish

I just read that the Salvation Army Kettle Drum Drive has met its goal of money raised for the season.  They were worried earlier that the goal had seemed out of reach this year. They rely on the Christmas campaign to fund their mandate of helping those in need or distress throughout the year so it is very important.
It made me think about how much we complain about Christmas being commercialized and how we are moving steadily away from the 'reason for the season'.
 But yet, there is still power in Christmas.  And it is this power that moves people to give.  Our local papers have been peppered with stories about people giving and giving...
                                           toys wrapped and ready for kids of needy families
                                           the many, many turkey drives
                                           all the hampers of food collected
                                           blood collection drives
even the humane societies are thanking the public for the response to their Christmas campaigns. So animals too will benefit from the spirit of Christmas.
 So there is still power, wonder- making power in Christmas, no denying that.

I invite you to read this story about a woman named Hope and the wish her friends gave her this Christmas.


Hope King says she wanted children in Harbour Grace to know the thrills of sledding at Christmas.

  Hope, a patient with terminal cancer, gets to go sledding like a kid again.

Monday 22 December 2014

Christmas Stocking and My Pet Cardinal

I got side tracked from my colouring to finish off the bits of embroidery on grandson's stocking.  I decided to include his name, a snowman, a tree and snowflakes;  I also sewed on two hearts to represent his parents who love him so very much.
I still have a bunch of wrapping to do.  I like to take my time with it and enjoy the process, play Christmas music and sip a mug of cocoa.
This afternoon when I glanced out the window I caught sight of this little guy again.
I'm sure he is the same cardinal I spy from time to time.

He is very cautious and you can see stuck to the bush line in the garden.  He never did join all the birds at the feeder and after darting from the tree to the ground a few times, flew away.  But I was left feeling ever so lucky to have gotten to see him again.  and

Sunday 21 December 2014

New Kubota Snow Blower Put to Work

Snowy days here now.  Pretty from the inside looking out, isn't it?
 I took the dogs up the trail after this snowfall and had a good time trying to identify snow tracks.  Two deer had used our path all the way along and I could see where they went around the lower hanging fir branches that draped across the path.  I guess deer don't couchy down to get under branches.
Hubby was eager to try out his new tractor/snow blower.  He was ever so sorry to say good-bye to the 30plus year old John Deere, which had served him well,  but was very  pleased with the performance of his new Kubota.  It is a much lighter and easier to manuever machine.

                            We'll have the cleanest driveway this winter!

Saturday 20 December 2014

Christmas Stocking and Stars

This was a cute idea my daughter thought of doing.  She wanted to make grandson a Christmas stocking  this year so she took squares from her favourite sleepers he wore as a baby, sewed them together and made this patchwork stocking.  It was fun to see the Santa belt from the tiny Santa sleeper he wore on his first Christmas Day at just over a month old.  She's handed it along to me to put a few embroidered embellishments on it.
The only challenge with this project is that so many sleepers are made of stretchy material which is tricky to cut and sew accurately.  I'm attempting to work a few Christmas motifs using surface type embroidery and I'm also finding it a challenge to lay stitches neatly.  However, I'm sure it will be a wonderful keepsake over the years.

And here are a few embroidered Christmas stars I made ready to attach to gifts.  The dining room has become Christmas central.  I'm bringing everything to the table there to keep in mind what I've bought and stored away.  I don't want to find in July something in the back of a bedroom closet that I meant for a Christmas gift.
By the way, I have done that....several times.

Friday 19 December 2014

James Scott Has Hit the Ground Running with The Kept

What was on my night table...

The Kept is James Scott's first novel.  I'm confident in referring to it as a first for he is an exceptionally competent writer and I'm sure there will be more novels to follow.  I read this book in about four sessions; despite its rather dark subject matter, it is an 'easy' read.  James has a pared down way of writing that is very direct and moves the story along quickly.
The premise is attention-getting; most of a family including young children are murdered and the mother and eleven year old son set out on foot to find the murderers.  The book is essentially their journey both literally as they travel through the backwoods and small towns of upstate wintry New York and figuratively, as each evolves in response to the trials, hardships and personalities they encounter along the route.
I'm not surprised that this book is often compared to The Road by Cormac McCarthy; the writing is reminiscent of Cormac's and the plot echos the father and son in The Road.  But what I found missing in The Kept was grimness.  I found The Road deeply, disturbingly grim (the last scene, the one on the beach, still haunts me).  This book, though sharing a similar type atmosphere at times, has more kindness and the main characters are dealt with tenderly.  This serves to soften the reality of what is happening.  I especially loved the quiet strength of the boy; what a wonderful character James has written in the form of Caleb.

It's always interesting to me when an author can write a good story that also has literary merit, especially in a first novel.  James Scott has definitely hit the ground running with The Kept.

Thursday 18 December 2014

My Light Fruit Cake

As I assemble the ingredients to make this cake I thought it appropriate to rewind and put up my original post.   Is it just me that can't believe a whole year has gone by and another new year is almost on us.  A person commented that it was odd this cake was called "light" which calorie-wise it is certainly not; the Light refers to the colour only!  

I want to share with you my Light Fruit Cake recipe.  I'm not sure why people make a joke about fruit cake at Christmas time.  In any home where I am from, fruit cake plays a part in the food eaten and shared during the holidays.  I've been making this same cake for many, many years and I've always had success with it.  You can play around with the amount of fruit you add and I think it will still  work out okay.  This recipe was in a small cookery book printed in the late 1950's; it was a time when women were still formally addressed by their husbands' names.  My recipe was submitted by Mrs. James Rumbolt and it seems funny now to read all mens' names attached to all the recipes. I don't  think they would have ever thought their names would be in print for so long in a cook book; no doubt these men would have rathered it be a book about boats or knots or even the weather.

Here is Mrs. Rumbolt's recipe:

                                Light Fruit Cake
2 cups butter                                    1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups sugar                               1 1/2 cups dark raisins
3 eggs                                               1 1/2 cups golden raisins
1 tsp. baking powder                        1 cup mixed peel
pinch salt                                          2 cups glazed cherries
3 1/2 cups flour                                1 tsp. vanilla
                                                         1 tsp. lemon flavoring

Cream butter and sugar, then add eggs.  Beat well, add flavorings.  Sift flour, salt and baking powder together. Add creamed mixture, milk and then fruit.
This was the original recipe, so you can see there was no mention of pan size, oven temperature or how long to bake it.  I had to work that out myself by looking at comparable batters.  I've found it fits fine in a large tube pan, and should be baked at 300 degrees for about 2 1/2 hours. 

My hubby loves this cake, especially the size of it!

Wednesday 17 December 2014

How Do You Tag Mice?

I glanced out the living room window checking on the bird feeder and saw this little lump of a thing on the ground under it.  I watched for awhile before realizing it was a mouse, then I could see it was gray.  I believe it is the same fellow that had been there back in the fall...I showed you photos of him scrambling around the trunk of the birch tree.
 So a couple of things..he is still alive and why is he checking out this in broad daylight ... again.  I thought mice were nocturnal creatures and completely shy of light.  Not this little guy.  He seemed unaware of his vulnerability, just happily chewed away for about ten minutes before truddling back the way he had come and disappeared under the concrete steps of the house (again).  
My humane trap, by the way, is gathering an average of a mouse a night.  We have had to figure out other release spots thinking the wood pile must be nearing its quota of mice living there.  I'm beginning to think we are maybe catching the same ones over and over; they certainly all look the same.  Hubby thinks we should tag them somehow to get to the bottom of it.  But how?
I would be concerned that we are being overrun if it were not for an article in the paper this week.  Apparently it is a good year for mice.  Reportings of mice have skyrocketed and the exterminators are doing a booming business.  (Silver lining to every cloud)  People who have never had a mouse are freaking out by now finding them in their kitchens, so it is not just me and my somehow extra tasty cupboards.
 Feel a little better now.
And investing in more screw-topped containers all the time.

Tuesday 16 December 2014

Like a Kid Again Colouring and Light Box Talk

I am continuing to work on my Crabapple Hill Studio's Shiny and Brite project.  The colouring has been taking longer than I thought it would.  After three afternoon sessions which is when I have to do it to get the best light, I still have a little more to do.  The cover design and coloured insert that came with my directions looks like the toys haave been coloured with a very light touch; the colours are quite pale.  With my cloth having that small flower motif, I feel I have to go deeper with the colours.  So I am trying to stay even toned throughout but making all the colours a little darker.

At the Start

Further Along

So you can see from these not great photos (sorry) that I am making the colours darker so hopefully they will show up okay especially after the ironing process. I always use a piece of paper towel to rest my colouring hand on to prevent smudging what I have crayoned. I am hoping the tiny flowers that are very white will have an effect like snowflakes in the end.  Fingers crossed.  Now I doubt myself for having set out with this particular white cloth...eeek.

A word or two about light boxes (not to be confused with those used for S.A.D.)

The light box I am using is interesting.  It is very old, about 20 years in fact, and was purchased for a stained glass worker.  It is large as these boxes go and is usually too large for most of my embroidery projects.  But this one pattern required the whole space and it is convenient to be able to not have to draw the design in sections.  And I need all the help I can get!
Light boxes can be purchased in many craft supply stores.  Joann's carries several choices; our Canadian version of Joann's,  Michael's, have a couple of choices as well.  On line catalogue sources such as Herrschners and Mary Maxim also have tracing boxes or light boxes.  Amazon.com provides an array of the same thing, all sizes and  price ranges.  They can be very reasonably priced that's for sure and make it easier than having to trace standing at a window.
 A friend of mine has a glass topped coffee table.  She positions a lamp under it and can trace whatever pattern she wants quite well with that little set-up.

Monday 15 December 2014

Steve Jobs and Heavy Lifting Topic

A few years back I took a special course involving palliative care.  This was interesting on many levels and I enjoyed exploring all the activities the leader set out for us.  One of the final sessions dealt with a topic I had never in my life thought of.  How would you want your last day on earth to go...assuming of course, you know it is your last day.
Who would you want to be with you?
Where would you like to be?
This session was solemn and surprisingly emotional.  Some people cried as we shared our ideas.  For some it inspired memories of loved ones and how" last days" had been spent whether good or bad.  
How could you know it is your last day?  The idea of assisted suicide is being vigorously debated at present here in Canada.  A number of prominent doctors and politicians have weighed in on the issue representing both sides with compelling arguments.  This issue has been around for many years, but lately there seems to be more momentum to allow a legal avenue for folks to pursue.  Maybe because we have more older citizens than ever before, many of them coping with degenerative conditions or chronic pain, means this topic is not going to go away anytime soon.
I came across this quote and thought it had some meaning, in light of my thoughts this morning.  I reviewed what I've done so far in this day...started the fire, worked out, made breakfast, wrote my blog, played ball with the dogs, and later while dinner is cooking, I hope to finish colouring my Shiny and Brite pattern because I can't wait to get a needle into it.  Pretty mundane overall, but it is exactly what I would want to be doing today, yes, I really think so.  

I'm not particularly a big Steve Jobs fan, but I do believe he tried to make each day count for something important to him.

Sunday 14 December 2014

Pizza Surprise

Years back I had a friend who was vegetarian which was a lucky thing for me.  I learned so much from her about food.  Having grown up in a firmly carnivorous household it was novel and interesting to me to have to make do without meat.  One of the dishes she made for me was cauliflower roast as in roast of beef.  She substituted cauliflower for meat and promised me it would taste surprisingly like beef, and it did, it really did.  I went on to use that recipe many times throughout the years. 
Lately my mother has been bragging about how she used cauliflower to make pizza and how everyone loved it.  Some in the family claiming it was the best pizza they ever ate.  When it came down to the details, she actually used the cauliflower to just make the pizza crust and I promised her I would give it a try.  So here is our version of cauliflower pizza. 

Grate half a head of cauliflower, enough to make about 2 cups.  Place in the microwave and cook on high for about 6 -8 minutes to just soften it. When cooled, mix well with one beaten egg, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, a little salt and pepper, 1/2 tsp. garlic powder. 
Place parchment paper on a pizza pan.  Form the cauliflower into a ring, pressing evenly all around.  Bake in a 425 degree oven for about 20 minutes.
 (Both my microwave and oven are very old so you might find you need less time for both stages in this recipe.)
Top with 1 cup of tomato sauce (or pizza sauce if you have it), and any toppings you like.  I used halved cherry tomatoes and sliced yellow peppers.  My mother used pepperoni on hers.  I spread mozzarella cheese over it all and put it under the broiler for about 10 minutes, just long enough to get the cheese good and melted. 

And the proof is in the tasting...it was delicious.

From Paper to Cloth of a Design

I'll share my process for getting an embroidery pattern onto my cloth.  Here is the design of  Crabapple Hill Studio's Shiny and Brite taped to my light box.  The light box has made this part so much easier than the days when I would use the window to trace designs!

This particular pattern is on the large side as the finished size of the hanging is almost 50 inches square.  It came in two pieces that had to be matched and overlapped.

My cloth spread over the design and traced with my Micron 005 pens.  I always buy these at Michael's using their 40% off coupon each week.  I like to use these pens because the design will last throughout handling and they don't smudge like pencil marks will.  At this size, 005, the markings are very fine and will easily be covered by the floss when embroidering.

 I want you to see this photo.  White fabric was suggested in the instructions and I chose this tone on tone from my stash.  It is white white with a tiny flower superimposed that is not that noticeable in ordinary light.   But on the light box the flowers suddenly jumped out making it a little harder to trace the design.  I had not thought of that, but while a little distracting, it worked out okay in the end.
I just uncovered my box of crayons so will begin the crayoning today.  What fun!

You can check out Crabapple Hill Studio at this link; their patterns are lovely, many seasonal, with themes for everyone, it seems.  Their Winter section is my favourite.  See what you think. 


Saturday 13 December 2014

Shiny and Brite from Crabapple Hill Studio

Here is the Dimensions HOPE ornament with just a few more stitches to finish it.  Poor Birdie needs his other foot!  What a great message for the world, especially at Christmas time.
I showed you the wool we found in a basement bureau.  It was in amazingly good condition especially considering it had sat there for over ten years.  It is very fine wool and I looked around the usual sites to find a suitable pattern to make something but nothing tweaked my interest. I've since placed the wool in its own little plastic container and it is happily resting there for another while.
Meanwhile I've decided to begin a project I purchased several years ago from the wonderful Crab Apple Hill Studio; it is a wreath consisting of old fahsioned ornaments and is certainly appropriate stitching for this time of year.  This design is from the amazing Meg Hawkey and is called Shiny and Brite.  I think they ran a little contest at the time to name this particular project and Shiny and Brite won.

This project feeds my fondness for the combination of embroidery and quilting.  Meg chose pinwheels patchwork squares to surround the wreath.  Very pretty.  I have the design on my light box as I write this.  More later.

Thursday 11 December 2014

Beautiful Wool from Madawasca Weavers

I know I've been banging on about the cold in our days lately.  But there are up sides to this time of year too.  What a great excuse for turning to the comfort food recipe sections, sipping hot chocolate or baking potatoes in the wood stove.  They are so yummy that way. Or just hanging out with a good book in front of that fire which is exactly where I am as I write this.
 There is something about being outside in the cold that makes you appreciate the warmth of your home and the small creature comforts we have there.  
Wool season definitely and here is some I found in a box in the basement ....what to make?

It is very soft wool and a pleasing steel blue shade...perhaps a scarf or shoulder shawl.  Lazy me must see the end in sight before I begin to know that I will finish it!

I was surprised to read what was on this tag included with the wool.  Decades back, one of my friends in university was sporting a gorgeous skirt one day, brown with a wide gold coloured band around the tail (colours of the late sixties, for sure)  and I oohed and ahhed over it.  She proudly told me it was from Madawaska Weavers like I should know who they were, which I didn't.  I haven't heard of them from that day to this.  I guess they went out of business in the eighties but while operating set a standard for quality woolen goods.  These items were mostly woven by women in their homes providing them with income and shoring up a small cottage industry.

Vintage 1950s woven wool skirt & scarf set
Here is a sampling of items made by the Madawasca Weavers still available to buy on etsy.   This skirt is similar to the one in my mind.   Ebay also has a selection of  their clothing for sale.  I guess these good woolen  pieces were woven to last, that's for sure.

Wednesday 10 December 2014

Chance of a Snow Day

First thing this morning....
hoisting wood from the garage to the kitchen.  I always overdo and bring in too much at a time.  Winter has set in I would have to say in earnest.  We've been registering below freezing temperatures both night and day for the last week or so.  The snow fall is staying, covering all the ground so we are back to feeding the wood stove constantly to heat the house.  We have a weather watch in effect, with a significant snowfall expected by tonight.  Grandson was hoping for a snow day today but I heard on the radio that the school buses are running.  He has hope still....hope that tomorrow which also is predicted to be snowy will bring a snow day...the first of the season. 

Rex is my companion, moral support I guess you could say, on my wood runs.  Aren't his ears lovely?

And here is a wonderful fire with the roiling waves of flames feature that this particular wood stove, the Pacific Endergy claims.  It is quite a display and so warming.  Note the fancy smansy ash can we bought at Princess Auto. 

Tuesday 9 December 2014

Eaton's Bride Doll

In the old photo of me I am ten or eleven.  It is Christmas because I can see the icicles on the tree in the background.  Grinning broadly, I hold an Eaton's Bride Doll in front of me and towards the camera.  She is a typical bride doll, with tight blond curls and a poofy satin dress.  I would find out in short order that the hair could not be combed; so set in curls was the imitation hair that no comb could break into the plasticy strands.  Eventually she would be almost hairless when my baby brother took a pair of scissors to her and then I could see the holes where those strands were anchored. 
I'm told she was what I had asked for that Christmas but I'm a little suspect about that.  I didn't have a lot of interest in dolls and my only interest in them was in making clothes for them.  I always had a shoe box with a needle and thread and a few scraps of cloth trying to fashion something or other for the dolls in the house.  I think my mother saw this special doll in the Eaton's catalogue and wanted her for me, as mothers are want to do.
Thinking about my Bride Doll made me wonder what are the ten and eleven year old girls wanting for Christmas these days. More than likely not a doll, and especially not a bride doll; maybe she would be considered sexist nowadays. I don't know.
The array of toys, the gadgets, the technological things, the items linked to current movies are all mind boggling.
 A friend was saying that girls still get dolls but now it is as much about the accessories... complete wardrobes, toy pets, etc. that you have to buy to go with them. 
  Anyway here is a doll of that time and you can see the hair is similar to what mine had. I was surprised to see how many of these dolls can be bought still today at ebay or etsy.

Vintage 1960s Bride Doll 20 inches Royal-like

Monday 8 December 2014

No Fashionistas Living Here

Yes, winter has begun in southern Canada.  We are finding the night closing in earlier and earlier and though only shutting down daylight by minutes each day, it is making it quite dark by  4:30 in the afternoon.  Here in the northern hemisphere we are moving closer to the shortest day of the year which is only two weeks away, December 21.
For me this means wardrobe changes...flannel sheets on the bed, flannelette pyjamas,  fleece clothing, corduroy pants, wool socks.   Hubby is permanently in his quilted jackets around the house and his RCMP fur hat when outside.  Even the dogs wear coats for their walks when the temperatures take a dip.  Yes we take staying warm seriously!
  I scan LL Bean and Lands End for clothing suitable for the extremely low temperatures we will see before winter's end. These days I have an eye out for a full length down-filled coat; I want warmth but it must be light and it must have a hood.
 No, not exactly trendy; let's face it, you can only be so fashionable in a hooded parka. Warmth must supercede fashion when it comes to Canadian winters. 
Predictions are that we will have our  normal winter here but Canada in general will experience warmer temperatures because of a mild El Nino effect.  Now wouldn't that be nice.

Sunday 7 December 2014

Cardinal Cross Stitch

Beginning a new project is always fun. I've had this little kit around for a couple of years and decided this is the time to get it done.  I love cross stitch but I do have a little issue with it.  I have to watch out for eyestrain with all the counting of those tiny holes.  It is also easy to make a mistake; I finally wised up and learned to mark off a grid by drawing a coloured thread through the quandrants on my fabric. This has helped to keep the stitches in their proper place without all the recounting.

This is called the Hope Ornament by Dimensions.  Of course, you know with my admiration of cardinals why this would have caught my eye.

And here it is in my hoop. It is being worked on 14 count Aida and I like how the cardinal has turned out. The reds are pretty and the overall look is certainly one of Christmas.

Saturday 6 December 2014

My Cut and Come Again Cake

This cake is very popular at home.  It is a variation of the famous war cake, a time of rationing when the kitchen larder would have been kind of skimpy.  In Newfoundland this cake is often called Boiled Raisin Cake and used to be a staple kept on hand in case company dropped in, the way people did back in the day.  It would be served sometimes with a little butter spread over a piece and always with a cup of tea.  Raisins were very common and relied upon during those times when dried or candied fruit was expensive and scarce.  They are good for you and I love the local way of calling this cake a "Come and Cut Again" or "Cut and Come Again" cake depending on where you lived. A cake meant to be shared...

Cut and Come Again Cake

Boil the following ingredients together for about 20 minutes (many recipes say 10 but I like more time boiling)

1 cup sugar
2 cups raisins
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. allspice
3/4 cup butter
1 cup water

Cool and add the following

2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

Mix and pour into prepared pan.  Bake approx. 1 hour in a 350 degree oven. (Try not to overbake.)
I decided to give mine a thin icing sugar glaze to dress it up a bit.

This is very easy as cakes go; for one thing no beating eggs so you don't have to get a mixer out.  You can also dress it up with more fruit...adding candied cherries, for instance, or icing the top. In fact with just a few nuts and more fruit this could pass for a small Christmas cake.
And an added bonus...the boiling and baking of this cake definitely lent a Christmasy smell to the house. 

Friday 5 December 2014

So Many Orphans- I'm Talking About Blogs

I just celebrated a year of blogging.
 This was not a venture I entered into lightly. Though I write a little every day, a blog was something I had not thought of at all.  It was a friend who mentioned I should give it a try that got me started.
 First I did research.  I read a lot of blogs before deciding how and what I would be able to focus on for my own.  I like the idea of writing daily as part of a warm up so I knew right away that I would attempt to do that. I had to have a blog where I could write about different things to be able to accomplish a day by day entry.  I knew I didn't know enough about say birds, or dogs, or cross stitch, or quilting to make just one of those my daily blog focus
 Coming up with a name for my blog was surprisingly difficult; in fact perhaps the hardest part of the whole process.  I thought of lots of cute ones but they were all taken.  Likewise play on words types or bits of sayings.  It turns out lots of people a lot more creative than me had beaten me to the punch. 
  I recently decided to do a little blog review again as a way of checking out how it is going in the blogspot world.  I mostly looked at blogs related to my interests- needlearts, sewing, cooking, etc. Many, many of these writers began their blog with the news that they hadn't blogged in awhile and in fact, checking the dates for some it was months and for others years between posts.  They usually included an apology with sometimes a reason why they were 'away'; I was surprised by how many had been involved in illness, either themselves or a family member.  Understandable absence for sure.  This was followed by a promise to do better and publish more often.  Checking these dates and more often than not, they hadn't been able to keep that promise which made me wonder how they were doing.
Also surprising  is how scanty some of the posts were; after many months away I would have thought more would have been happening craftwise or life-wise that would be worthy of writing about. I was dismayed by how many people pad their blog with the same photo repeated several times in one post. 
I was surprised too by how many blogs have now become 'commercialized'.  So many peppered with ads and pop-ups.  It seems a lot of crafters have opened Etsy accounts and are now selling their wares and offer links on their blogs to other crafters on Etsy.  Many are touting a certain fabric, a tool, yarn or the like with links to how to purchase these items.
 Not that there is anything wrong with that; in fact collecting buyers through blog readers is probably a clear way to get and keep the creative juices flowing.  And I myself love Etsy and enjoy checking out the hand made items.
I've read a whopping 95% of blogs become orphans. Maybe introducing the commercial element ensures longevity because it seems the successful blogs are doing just that.
 But I wish and hope it doesn't always have to be that way.

Thursday 4 December 2014

Ending Felt Ornaments and Starting Cross Stitched Ones

More of my embroidered trees.... They represent the end of this project.  It has kept my fingers busy since the middle of September and were a real pleasure to work on...drawing a pattern, cutting the felt and then sewing them together with whatever stitch struck my fancy.  It was sewing heaven.
 I love working on Christmas pieces during the time leading up to the big day.  And there are just so many wonderful and varied projects to choose from.
Honestly my fingers have been itching to get back into yarn again.  Winter and wool naturally go together. If you check my past posts, you'll see that I completed three afghans last winter...knitted ones for Hubby and myself, and a crocheted one using granny squares with a circle in the center that's sitting in my closet...haven't decided what to do with it yet.
As you can tell, I love birds and when I saw this poster I couldn't resist sharing it with you.  Corny I know, but what a great sentiment and adorable picture. 

Playing with John Lennons' Words  :)

I've started my next project and I'll show it to you soon.

Wednesday 3 December 2014

Carol Shields: Still Read and Still Missed

Every time I'm in the library, I take a moment to run my hand along Carol Shields' books.  It is my little tribute to her memory and the loss I feel; how many wonderful books did we miss out on by her death at a comparatively young age.  I adored The Stone Diaries, loved Larry's Party and also enjoyed Unless.  I am so happy she did get so many awards and the Pulitzer Prize as well; she deserved it all.
Imagine my surprise when I realized I had not read this one of hers- The Republic of Love.  I really don't know how this missed me.  But what a find.
I am not a romance lover, not in movies or in novels.  I will reluctantly watch a movie but I don't ever seek out books that are of that genre.  So I wondered how this so-called romance story would work for me.
  I realized an important point, the story is almost irrelevant; it is the strength of the writing that carries this particular novel.  And it is precisely that that drew me in and kept me reading to the end.  What a gift Carol had, to be able to write with such attention to detail, but yet not extend it to the point of boredom.  I like this manner, this description of the ordinary; there is a quietness to such writing that I enjoy and find satisfying. It is so much like my own life I guess so I identify. 
 And as for Fay and Tom, two supposedly ordinary, but to me, wholly interesting people...will they be star-crossed lovers or live to be a 'happily-ever-after' couple?  You'll have to read the book to see for yourself.
This novel has been made made into a movie of the same name.  Despite it being billed as a romantic comedy, I would give it a try just to compare with the book.  Seeing as how not a lot happens per se in the book, I'm curious what would have been culled together to make a movie.  I've never seen the movie available anywhere  so...

Tuesday 2 December 2014

Thinking of Trees as Homes and Lumber

You can't tell from this photo, but this was an extraordinarily large tree we came across a couple of springs ago part way across the path. It must have been taken down by one of the high wind storms we had that winter.  Goodness knows how old this tree would have been.  Hubby thinks most of this land is on its third regrowth since pioneer days but judging by its size and state of dying, this tree would have been pretty old.  It became a goldmine for Hubby in the form of wood for burning that winter; and what a great excuse for him to fire up his new Husquvarna chainsaw.

And here it is later on in the wood shed (yes the one where a number of rescued mice are living) and as you can see some of the largest pieces had to be split by the wood splitter.  This tree had been peppered with holes large and small; I'm guessing many tiny animals and birds had made this dying tree their home over the years. Its' wood was eventually burned warming our house, and the ashes were saved and spread in the flower and vegetable beds the next spring, completing an important life cycle, the unique life cycle of a tree.