Friday 30 January 2015

Quinoa and Shrimp Stir Fry

Quinoa is a relatively new food to me.  I was first introduced to it at a friend's house two years ago.  She had made a birthday cake for her husband's birthday using quinoa; it was a chocolate cake and quite good.  Now it seems to be popping up everywhere. It reminds me of couscous and I've been finding it handy for sitr-fry type dishes.  It cooks up quite fast itself and can work well with many foods and in many recipes.

Here I am frying a little onion and yellow pepper.  I have thawed shrimp and a bowl of cooked quinoa ready to go.  It will all be mixed together with a little sauce and seasonings.

This is what I used for a sauce... 1/4 cup of chicken broth, 2 tablespoons of soya sauce, 3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, a little sugar, and a little pepper.  Quinoa needs some seasoning to have a flavour, for sure.  I served naan bread with this along with mango juice for hubby.
High in protein, quinoa is an excellent substitute for rice in salads and stir fries.

Thursday 29 January 2015

Something Lost, Something Found

I lost two cities, lovely ones.  And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

from One Art by Elizabeth Bishop

I have been a colossal loser mostly for the fact that at one point in my life I lost everything I owned.  The above poem by Elizabeth Bishop was a small solace at the time.

But more mundanely...
I'm always struck by this fact- that whenever I am on the hunt for something, I find something else that I  had been missing.  I wonder what are the odds of that.  In my case, probably pretty good because I no longer own many 'things' and I lose them basically in  two rooms of the house.   This has happened so often that it has led to a sense of ease whenever I can't put my finger on something.  I know now that it will turn up some time in the future when I'm looking for another lost something or other.

WikiHow offers this article on How to Find Lost Objects....

Proving there is a method for accomplishing just about everything.
 Common sense really but as the joke goes, common sense is not so common anymore.

A few famous lost things besides ships, tribes, jewels, planes, manuscripts and so on are

Amelia Erhart's plane
Captain Kidd's treasure
The Ark of the Covenant

Among the famous found would be the Titanic which was lost in 1912 and found in 1985.
 Which brings us back to hope I guess.

Wednesday 28 January 2015

Flowers and Greenery Mid-Winter

Sun belying the bitter cold temperatures we are experiencing.  Good for the various potted plants I have around the house...

I was so dubious about having an orchid but I have to say it has bloomed continuously for almost a year now...hubby brought it into the house around Valentine's last year.  If you would like a plant that blooms endlessly with just three ice cubes of water a week and no other care, then an orchid is for you.  I don't know any other flowering plant that survives so well with what amounts to benign neglect (sort of).

It is constantly forming new buds with no visible encouragement from me.
Likewise, my lone African violet is also faring well.  I've moved it to the living room big windows to soak up more of the bright light.

 At some point, I understand I will have to remove a ring of the outer leaves.  Youtube will be my friend then as it is for so many pointers on just about every topic under the sun.  What did we do before the internet?

And here is my bank of geraniums and spider plants in the dining room. All surviving and providing a little greenery in mid winter.  The spider plants, by the way, have been ongoing for over 30 years.

Tuesday 27 January 2015

Redwork Embroidery

The chill of the wind is certainly piercing here this morning, as Longfellow wrote long ago.  It was -31 C and has now 'warmed up' to -25.  But all the news is the Big Blizzard hitting the eastern seaboard and now dumping snow in Canada in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.  So it goes with winter in this part of the world.
What a great day to stay close to the wood stove and stitch.  An extravagance retirement allows.
I've been meaning to share my thoughts about Redwork, embroidery that I love, so today is that day.
  Redwork, though a simple technique, has its own beauty.  I like the history of redwork; how women have been using redwork for generations to embellish their linens. And how, I too am now part of that history.

I loved working this set of  redworked bird embroideries called Flight of Fancy from Crabapple Hill Studio.  I remember taking several on vacation and stitching away at my parent's summer home literally by the ocean.   A great memory.

I love Red Brolly; mother and daughter team have developed a wonderful site full of excellent tutorials and pretty patterns that can be used for hangings and quilts.  They use redwork combined with other techniques in sweet, whimsical or primitive patterns.  They are generous too and offer free downloads of some of their patterns and these are well worth checking out.  Perhaps you have seen some of them on Pinterest where there are many boards devoted to their work.

Their link is here:

If you are a cat lover you will love this set of free patterns.  Some are embroidering this set and turning it into a quilt.   Here is a sample.


And here is another, this is one of  the many lovely Christmas offerings.  I love the pudding.

Believe Sampler

Monday 26 January 2015

Stewart O'Nan's The Odds:A Love Story

Did you know your odds of surviving going over Niagara Falls in a barrel are far greater than making it to year 25 in a marriage? The first is 1 in 3 and the second is 1 in 6.  

I'm reading Stewart O'Nan's The Odds these days; a deceptively simple little novel about a married couple betting their life savings at a Niagara Falls casino. It is a last ditch effort to save themselves from bankruptcy and divorce.  Stewart has started each chapter with an 'odds' fact which is an interesting way to go instead of titles.

I am thoroughly enjoying this book; perhaps its brevity is suiting my reading style these days.  Aside from that I enjoy both the main characters, a husband and wife; their internal dialogues reveal the angst, hopes, resentments, fond memories etc. that a long-time and struggling couple would hold.
Stewart has called this book A Love Story which I find a little perplexing.  Each of the couple have had an affair; they have suffered together for years to the point where they question their every comment to each other.  It is perfectly clear just how hard going it is for the two of them to even be together. Like so many couples, they too began their relationship in love but have strayed very far from that place.
Is Stewart meaning this is what love is?  A few exultant moments sandwiched between bitterness and the monotonous humdrum of life.
 I would hope it means something more or at the very least, love is an easiness with each other that these two clearly lack.
 While reading this book I'm thinking of the Gordon Lightfoot song If You Could Read My Mind  and the part where he sings, " But the feelin's gone and I just can't get it back".   And like the song, there is something bittersweet about this story too.

I've just got to add on to this piece having finished the book.  I'm not a gambler at all but I am so curious about Art's method for winning at roulette.  Always doubling the bet when you lose.  I wonder does it work?

Friday 23 January 2015

Shiny & Brite Embroidery Almost Finished

I'm happy Crab Apple Hill Studio's Shiny & Brite hanging is almost done, that is the embroidery part of it.  I have started the really fun part, adding the shiny to the brite, namely the sparkle floss embellishing some of the ornaments.  Pardon the un-ironed condition...

What a fun project this has been.  I am thinking now of which border to sew for it; so many choices for lovely patchwork blocks to choose from.  The folks at Crab Apple Hill Studio used a pinwheel block to surround theirs. They also found a red and blue snowflake motif fabric to further decorate the borders.  It all coordinated beautifully. A wonderful model.

I am held up on this aspect; can't go to the basement sewing room just yet.  It is unheated and just too cold these days to do more than a quick run in and out to pick up something.  My new sewing machine still sits on the dining room table for the same reason.
Oh well, lots to look forward to.

Thursday 22 January 2015

Helen Stubbings' Stunning Cornelian Quilt

I was looking around my favourite needlework sites and came across this quilt.
 Love at first sight.  I just had to show it to you but perhaps you already know about it.  In fact, I think I am the last to know about this Cornelian Quilt because I can see postings about it going back to 2013.


It is the pattern and handiwork of Helen Stubbings, an Australian designer and owner of the Hugs and Kisses site on the net.  This is a great site with lots to explore.  I love the stitcheries section and the BOM projects.  Helen draws sweet flowers, birds and people and often includes lovely quotes in her work.

She also has a blog called Nice People Nice Things that is interesting to check out, too.

But back to Helen's beautiful Cornelian Quilt.  The project is offered as a 10 month Block of the Month quilt or you can purchase it as a full set.  It includes extensive instructions including iron-on transfers and colour photos.  Though this quilt looks complicated, people who have done it say it is not. Each block is embroidered using basic stitches and of course so much of the lavish effect is through the quilting.
 Look above at how beautifully Helen's has been quilted.

Around the net, some have completed this project in blues, equally stunning.
  I'm drooling about this but cautioning myself ...too many projects, not enough time.

Wednesday 21 January 2015

I Made Rock Recipe's Lemon Velvet Cake

I bought a bag of lemons to use in cooking...caesar salad, Greek potatoes, other dressings and to flavour my water.  I love the taste of real squeezed lemon juice and believe there is goodness in it too.  I was looking through one of my favourite blogs... Rock Recipes by Barry C. Parsons and came across his beautiful Lemon Velvet Cake and thought, I have lemons; I can make this.  Cake for dessert after Sunday night's roasted pork dinner.  Yum.

I decided to divide the batter between three shallow pans to make a three layer cake.  With an icing that includes 8 cups of icing sugar and a block of real butter, I knew there would be lots to cover three layers.

                                                              That's a lot of icing!

I try not to over bake cookies and cake.  So while the tops are a little pale, I was happy to see the bottoms a nice baked brown.

Yes, lots of icing to cover this cake, that's for sure.  With the lemon essence and extra lemon zest, it is definitely lemony.  A nice change from the Christmas fruit cakes.  It looked summery to me, a nice thought in mid- January, for sure.

 It really is a delicious recipe and Barry's site is well worth exploring.  All his recipes are doable and his photos are spectacular.  Here is the link right to his Lemon Velvet Cake...

Tuesday 20 January 2015

Granny Square Lap Rug

Did this ever happen to you?
Choose a yarn with care, a pattern with even greater care and then not like the finished piece. Sad to say but this is what has happened with my circle in a square granny square lap rug.  I chose variegated wool of three colours I love- cream, pink and brown. I loved learning how to do the square and the wool was soft and easy to work with.  However, the finished product looks quite spotted and not what I had imagined.

                                                Folded up like this, it looks okay even nice.

                                                  But opened and it looks so spotty to me...

On my lap, it is actually distracting!  Is this just me or is this really too busy?  Oh well chalk it up to experience I guess.  I did learn a new granny square so that's a good thing which I enjoyed working, but I will be cautious about using variegated wool next time.

Monday 19 January 2015

Little Dutch Girl Embroideries

I had finally gotten round to dropping off a bag of items at Value Village (post Christmas clean out) and I debated whether to take a look inside.  I am so glad I did.
 I found these lovely cloths in the linen section.  With one for each day of the week, it appears they were meant to be daily dish drying cloths.  However, their condition is immaculate so I don't think they received much wear and tear.  They are also oversized, at 4 ft by 2 1/2 ft so seem a little large for dish cloths.  All are worked using outline stitch and a little satin stitch and the stitching is neat and consistent.

I think my favourite is the Friday pattern featuring the large working dog.  Each cloth is edged with hand done blanket stitch in two shades of blue. 
 I am wondering if Martha's Transfers has this set in their collection.  The other thought I had was that we have a large Dutch population farming in the Ottawa Valley and I often see Holland items around; perhaps these whimsical renditions would have special appeal to someone Dutch.

Whatever their origin, they have found a good home with me.

Friday 16 January 2015

Notes to Self

I don't really think too much about aging, per se.  I've usually tried to ignore the small changes and adjustments, certainly not to make a big deal about anything.  Maybe I should start paying attention....

Notes to Self : Revised Version

1. Take off your reading glasses before you  begin to walk.  I can't believe I have to remind myself of this but every now and then I'm walking and wondering why the floor is wavy...oh dear.  My case of slipitis continues so you'd think I would remember to take off the darn glasses.

2.  You don't have to do your workout on the days you are babysitting younger grandson.  You will get enough activity following, chasing, lifting, climbing in and out of forts, and rolling around on the floor with him...

                                And here he is trying to stand on his head.  

3.  Don't think that by mentally challenging yourself to remember something that you won't.  By the time you get to the store you won't remember what size washer it was Hubby wanted or which date is which appointment so can't book whatever then. 
 Give up on the mental challenge; it's not working for you.  Just write down what you are supposed to remember and save yourself the aggravation.

4. Go to the rest room whenever you have the chance.  Don't think that you can make it till you get home.  Having to find a McDonald's in a panic just to use the ladies room is ridiculous.
However, you're in good company with this note because Prince Charles has said it was also advice his mother gave him, and she's the Queen.

One of my favourites quotes of his many  from a favourite author.  

Thursday 15 January 2015

The Execution of Noa P. Singleton by Elizabeth L. Silver

What was on my night table...

 This one is The Execution of Noa P. Singleton by Elizabeth Silver.  I began this book with great interest.  I do enjoy the diary format in a novel.  It seems to help move the story along in an intimate, authentic way, usually.  And who can forget the fun of reading Bridget Jones' Diary?

 Noa is 35 and has been sitting on Death Row for 10 years after confessing to the killing of a young woman; her execution day is in a few months time.  She slowly relates her own story (sort of) and this is interspersed by letters the deceased woman's mother is writing to her daughter.  Noa admits her guilt, has never denied the murder but the mother wants to know more...especially the motivation and circumstances of her daughter's death.  More information than Noa is willing to reveal even if it might save her from execution, apparently.
This was definitely set up as something of a page turner; you were kept wondering what you didn't know that led Noa to murder and why on earth was she reluctant to tell especially if it could save her life.
 Noa's voice is strong...she is sarcastic, at times witty, but I didn't like her.  Sadly I was not really rooting for Noa; in fact I was irritated by her stubborn stance of not letting us in on the facts in a more timely fashion.  I also did not really care for the mothers' letters;  perhaps another format allowing us to learn  the mother's motivation for her actions would have worked better.
However, I did keep reading; my interest was piqued enough to get me to the end.
This is another debut author and I was impressed with that.  Elizabeth is certainly someone to follow.
By the way, this business of having an unlikable protagonist seems to be happening more often; I'm really not sure how I feel about it.

Tuesday 13 January 2015

Hope a la John Lennon

  I'm a big believer in hope, in how important it is as people that we cling to hope....hope that the world will be peaceful, that children and women will fare better, or personally that things in our own lives will improve or change for the better.  Here is a great article about the importance and influence of maintaining Hope.

John Lennon

You may say I'm a dreamer,
But I'm not the only one,
I hope some day you'll join us,
And the world will live as one.

I've written before about the influence of the Beatles on my generation.  In their time they were bigger than Miley Cyrus, Katie Perry and Justin Bieber all rolled into one. 
 We knew about their charisma and ability to bring teenage girls to tears, but I don't think we understood how good the music really was.  I certainly did not appreciate the lyrics at the time and it is only now reading them that I think how solid the lines were. And timeless, too.

Quilters Good Gift

Now getting Christmas gifts out of cellophane sleeves....
and something to go with the new sewing machine...

I realized the month is speeding by and it was time to get this particular gift opened and on the wall.

What a great gift for a quilter this one is!  Besides the gorgeous photos of beautiful quilts, it offers full size instructions for a different quilt pattern for each month of the year.  That section is a pull out...

I love all the patterns that have been included.  This one caught my eye...

It is a pattern called "Tiny Textured Trees" by Carolyn Friedlander from Modern Baby. Yet another inspired way to use up scraps if need be.

All the instructions are included.  So more inspiration, more choices at my fingertips.  No excuses.

Monday 12 January 2015

Gone Girl and Still Alice....Words to Film

We recently watched the movie versions of Gone Girl and Still Alice.  Having read both these books, I was interested in how they would fare on the big screen.
Funny, but I had pictured exactly a Ben Affleck type for the the main character in Gone Girl and I think of Rosamund Pike as a natural beauty so I love watching her face on screen. Positives for me for sure.
 I think Rosamund's performance stood out even among such a good cast who all were definitely 'on their game'.  She really can project a coolness and mystery which worked so well as Amy Dunne.  Something about her as a blonde made me keep thinking of Grace Kelly.  While I enjoyed the movie far more than the book, hubby absolutely loved this movie.  He loved the mystery, the way you are kept guessing as to what exactly is going on.
But watch any Dateline Mystery these days and you will see real life examples of Amy and Nick, couples who appear to be perfect on the surface, but upon closer inspection, reveal flaws, deception, debt and much worse.

I had not imagined Alec Baldwin or Julianne Moore  for  the lead characters in Still Alice.  I had not pictured movie star types as I read the book; thinking professors more mundane I guess.   I surprised myself by really enjoying Kristen Stewart's performance and thought she was perfectly cast for that role.  She has a bit of a surly look to her and the complete lack of smiles just adds to that impression.   It's a given that Julianne Moore always delivers a wonderful performance no matter which of her numerous roles we have seen her in.

 Early-onset Alzheimers; what a tough subject. Some of you might not enjoy any book or movie dealing with this horrible affliction.  I know hubby said he would never have watched the movie with me if he had known what it was about.  He finds it just flat out depressing no matter how cleverly handled.

Sunday 11 January 2015

After Christmas Food Thoughts

Though a repost from a year ago, my thoughts about food remain the same.  Life is hard; we need to treat ourselves from time to time without beating ourselves up about it.                                                             

It's nice in frigid January to remember summer blooms.

Fresh from Christmas I have a number of thoughts.  I wrote before about the various food indulgences that crept into the house during that time.  I should clarify that I do not think eating treats on special occasions or holidays is what makes us overweight.  They may tip us a bit but it is not the serving of stuffing or the gingerbread man wolfed down in the secrecy of our kitchens that make us fat.  Celebrations and treating our selves to something we enjoy is what makes life wonderful.  I mean how dispiriting would it be if you couldn't eat birthday cake.  I watched a fellow on t.v. explain how to swap out the traditional Thanksgiving fare for healthier choices; his dinner did not include stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes or pie.  I thought at that point, it just wasn't a Thanksgiving dinner anymore, so what would be the point.  

One of my grandmothers had a fondness for ice cream, especially a flavour called orange-pineapple.  I'm not sure if you can get that kind anymore.  She would treat herself with a bowl from time to time and always maintained a healthy weight.  Every summer when I stayed with her, we would go shopping and always stop in a local restaurant that served the best banana splits...the best in Gander, Newfoundland, anyway.  They came in their own custom glass dish and you ate them with a long spoon that I thought very elegant and special.  I loved this little tradition of ours. 

 Food, grandmothers, special occasions,  memories... just naturally go together, don't they?

Saturday 10 January 2015

Winter Winds and Warming Up with Red River Cereal

We hit a new low for inside house temperature this morning....10 degrees.  It was a quick run to the bathroom; not sure my feet actually touched the floor!
All four of us- myself,  Hubby and both dogs, spent the morning in the kitchen close to the wood stove; it was cozy and a big bowl of hot oatmeal was definitely in order.

I always add a quarter cup of Red River cereal to our regular rolled oats.  It offers 5 grams of flax per serving and is high in fibre.  It conveniently cooks in the same time as the oatmeal.  I also always add a few cranberries. As I've said before, I believe in their goodness and love the taste.

Winter wind, aka Old Man Winter, keeps blowing our way and he plunges the temperatures ever lower.  We just recorded a low of  minus 31 C overnight. Chilly indeed.
I have been refilling the feeders more often trying to help my bird friends survive this cold snap.

 I saw this little mourning dove huddled under the bush at the far feeder.  Of the dozen or so that visited all summer, we are down to just two.  I'm thinking they should have moved further south too but for some unknown reason, did not.  Hopefully, our sunflower seeds will help them keep warm and thus survive.

Friday 9 January 2015

A Delicious Gift from the Rocket Cafe

This was a wonderful surprise gift at Christmas time.  I got it in the mail and there is still something more fun about a gift that arrives that way.  Maybe it reminds me of the excitement of getting grandparents'  Christmas boxes when I was young.

It was from one of our favourite bakery/restaurants in St. John's, Newfoundland, The Rocket Cafe. I think I told you about their wonderful chocolate cake with the even more wonderful raspberry buttercream frosting.  Daughter and I both tried to duplicate it for the next family birthday cakes.  In fact here is a link showing Courtney Ralph at the Rocket decorating their chocolate cake with that frosting.  She makes it look so easy. Sigh

  Hubby couldn't wait for us to unveil this cake from its beautiful wrapping layers. It was a very dark fruit cake and with his love of mincemeat and fruitcakey type food, it was right up his alley....

extremely moist and delicious. The ingredient list includes rum and apple juice, a clue to its moistness maybe so I will be looking through the cook books to try to duplicate this cake.
 Meanwhile we are doling it out in very thin delectable slivers to help it last.
Thank you daughter!

Link to this fabulous spot...have a look at their signature cake section....

Thursday 8 January 2015

DMC Embroidery Floss Fan

I'm stitching my Shiny and Brite project for a couple of hours each day.
A new development...have been having an ache in my neck so I've had to limit how long I spend with head bent over my cloth.  A sign of the age, I guess.
 But I'm aided in this effort a little by how dark the evenings are...I've given up stitching at night in the meantime.  Which is probably good for my neck as well as my stitches.  A little novel for me to actually watch t.v.

I'm a DMC floss fan.  In particular, I'm fond of the variegated threads like these...

And I really love the reds...

I think  these have very much suited a design like Shiny and Brite because the ornaments would show different shades of colours as they turn and reflect the light.
DMC has a wonderful site that is one I check out from time to time.  A link is here
They offer hundreds of free patterns and tutorials on a wide array of projects. I also read the DMC blog by Emma who is talking Valentine's these days and includes a number of projects from various sites featuring a heart theme like the one below from the wonderful Stitching Dreams site.  I follow that site too by the way.