Saturday 28 February 2015

Winter Woes

Canada- A few acres of snow.


Can the earth be so far from spring?
 The roads now are snow-banked and we are back to knee deep snow on the walkways.  A sharp-as-needles wind blew today and I didn't want to take off my gloves when refilling the feeders.  This season has been rife with frost warnings and road hazards -ice, black ice, slippery ice conditions warnings (as if ice is anything but...), and white outs.  I wish we were allowed to use studded tires or better yet, chains.  I understand in some provinces you are. 
It seems the weather is our most important topic here in Canada, but we can't be blamed for that. We just  have so much of it, no matter the season.  And so much of our weather, if it doesn't describe us, certainly describes our activities.   I heard this on the radio, forecast for today bad, tomorrow, worse. Ahh, February.

Meanwhile back inside...
This is the shawl I am knitting.  I have used 2 balls of the wool and have 1 more to go.  Wish the photo could show just how lustrous the wool is and it is also not doing the blues justice at all.  It is wonderful to knit and has worked up very fast.

This was a post from last February and I was interested to see how the weather was affecting my writing at the time.  Even more frigid this year, and I just heard on the radio that  many birds have died because of the cold temperatures.

Friday 27 February 2015

A Jelly Roll To Eat

I grew up with a mom who made jelly rolls a lot.  I think it was her basic 'go to' dessert.  The fillings were often different, sometimes lemon, sometimes strawberry jam, sometimes stewed blueberries.  It would be years before I understood why it was such a great little dessert.  A basic sponge cake that bakes in a mere 12 minutes and can be dressed up with whatever you have on hand makes it a great dessert.
This was Hubby's dessert for Valentines.

By the way, this particular jelly roll is a little flatter than usual because I only had two eggs to use instead of the three.  I have seen recipes that call for six eggs which I'm thinking would make a very fluffy, high sponge.  Some time I will try that.

For a summer time dessert, I've lined the roll with ice cream and popped in the freezer.  Then I just take it from the freezer, cut off what I need and let the slices thaw a little before serving.  It works surprisingly well.  Oh, and I've also made this as a chocolate sponge too.

Meanwhile here is my recipe.

Basic Jelly Roll

3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cold water
1 cup cake flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. lemon flavouring
icing sugar
strawberry jam

Beat eggs well, add sugar and continue to beat.  Add water, then sifted dry ingredients.  Lastly add flavourings and spread batter in a sheet cake pan.  I usually grease this pan, line with wax paper that I also grease.  Bake at 400 degrees F for about 12 or 13 minutes.
I have a clean cloth sprinkled with icing sugar ready for when the cake comes out of the oven.  I wait a couple of minutes and then upend the cake onto the cloth. Let cool a little more and then peel off the wax paper carefully.  I roll this up including the cloth from the narrow end and let cool completely.  Unroll, remove the cloth and spread whatever filling you are using, jam, jelly, lemon curd, whatever. Don't worry if it cracks; you can cover up any flaws with a little frosting or cream.  Roll up again and it is actually good to eat like this; you can really taste the sponge this way.
 But this time I iced it with some whipped cream and added a few strawberries, being Valentines and all, which made it a pretty dessert as well.  

Thursday 26 February 2015

Anne Enright's The Gathering

No two people read the same book.

Apparently, each person can even have a completely different reaction at different times to the same book.
I had read this book several years back and was not overly impressed.  I picked it up one day during the holidays and it was like, presto, suddenly the words resonated and I couldn't put it down.

Anne Enright is an award winning Irish author.  This book of hers, The Gathering, won the Man Booker Prize in 2007.  The Hegarty family is gathering to mourn the loss of a brother.  All the aspects of going home, reuniting with siblings and extended family, the reliving of  memories, good and bad, are all explored. Lots of fodder there for a good tale.  But the story line is not the strength of this book for me; it is the unique turn of phrase and words given to Veronica, the sister who was closest to the dead brother, as she relays the narrative.  Certain passages meant enough to me that I made a copy.
It was not surprising when I mentioned this book to several people and received a ho hum response.  One person even said, "and don't tell me to read it again".
 So what can I say.  Some books just seem to be like either love them or hate them, I guess.

Meanwhile, this was my non-fiction read lately, Kate Hubbard's Serving Victoria, Life in the Royal Household.  Other than a few surprising facts, it was not really that insightful. Much attention was paid to the six people closest to the queen during her 63 year reign. This chronicle of their movements with the royals was a little tedious. It comes as no surprise that this queen and her family had enormous egos that had to be catered to by the servants closest to them; I guess, hence the title.
 Queen Victoria's stable of servants reached past the 300 mark and they would occasionally find people living in the house who were never hired and had no job there.  That's how many people were milling about the palace.  Many of the servants had under servants themselves; the layers reached all the way down to the royal rat killer who also had an assistant.  All of them horribly paid but well fed which in itself made it a desirable job for the times.
My interest in all things royal continues.  I don't know why.

Wednesday 25 February 2015

That Feeling When You Begin a New Stitchery

Feeling impatient and teary when I am normally patient and stoic I took my temperature.  Perhaps I am sick and don't know it.  But no pretty normal; then it hit me...maybe this is what cabin fever feels like.  I've lived in my share of isolated places so you would think I would know what cabin fever is, but I can't say I do.
 The cougar talk has stopped me from doing my big walks and just dashing to the bird feeders is not enough fresh air and exercise. And though I'm not an exercise lover, I know my body and mind feels better for it, especially if I can get it outside. In a bit of a doldrum I guess.
Lately I've been inside for four or five days at a time.  Even stepping into the garage is like walking into a freezer.  Maybe it's my age.   Anyway, that's enough moaning which I can't seem to stop doing ... Sorry you had to listen to that.
On a positive note, getting in lots of stitching time!
I'm feeling pretty good about finishing up a couple of projects lately so I decided to reward myself by starting a brand new embroidery.

This is a cross stitch kit by Anchor called "Wren and Magnolia".  It features the art of Jill Schultz McGannon.    The bird and nest with blue eggs are sweet.  I started to feel a little lighter as I prepared the aida cloth.  When I was ready to make the first stitch I began to feel excited.

It's fairly large...almost 14 x 14 so that's a lot of counting.  I think I will use a pencil to lightly shade the squares as I stitch just to help me keep track.  When I was younger, I didn't need to fiddle around with such an aid.

The embroidery floss colours are soft, earth tones.  As I'm noticing more lately, I can only work on this in daylight.  Poor eyes won't take the counting of the tiny holes at night even with my special lamp.

When I was ready to make the first stitch I felt my mood brighten. You know that feeling you get when you are just starting a new project you know you are going to love working on, that's what I was feeling. I'm working on the nest first and will save the best, the bird, for last.

Tuesday 24 February 2015

Knitting Again

What's On My Needles

Finally settled on the wool.  I made my way to a local shop called WoolTyme where I know they offer one of the best selections of wool around.  It is located in an industrial type park and though the entrance is an unassuming little doorway, inside it is huge and the bins of wool go on forever.  These are sorted by gauges so right away I was able to find the aisle I needed for my Mistake Rib scarf pattern.  The price ranged from about $3 to $15 a ball in my aisle.  I chose an in between wool perfectly suited for a scarf that cost just over $5 a ball.

I'm finding this Patons Classic Wool very soft and easy to knit. It is labelled DK for double knitting which basically means it is an ideal weight for socks, scarves and sweaters.   The strands do not separate or get pesky in any way so it's smooth sailing/knitting.  The colour, Claret, is actually a deeper burgundy than the photos are showing.

A night of Breaking Bad (finally up to Season 4) and Land and Sea episodes got me to about five inches completed.  So far, so good.  I like how the 'rib' is turning out.
A fact I came across in searching out wools... New Zealand has 4 million people and 40 million sheep.  My lovely New Zealand fellow bloggers can correct me if that is wrong.
 Make no wonder though that so many wonderful wools originate there.

Monday 23 February 2015

Kitchen Living and Jenny's Chocolate Crunch

We are doing a lot of living in the kitchen these days.  I'm dragging more and more of my hobby stuff to the big chair in the corner that is closest to the wood stove.  We had a little break in the frigid temperatures but then it snowed steadily yesterday and though the forecast said 2 to 4 cm, at least 15 cm actually fell.  Last night when I was cooking supper and deciding on a dessert and the snow had stopped, the view out the kitchen window had such a pretty blue cast I had to take a picture.

I couldn't resist trying this recipe for Chocolate Crunch that Jenny at Romany Quilts had posted last week.  It is super easy with just a few ingredients and makes a quick little sweet.  Hubby loves all things chocolate so I kind of knew he would like it.  I had a piece too and it is very tasty.  I baked mine in the oven which gave it lots of crunch.

I didn't have a square pan so baked it in a round...

Don't worry, when I 'faired' it up to make squares, the cut off round edges made an extra crunchy treat.

It is delicious and  hubby loved it. 
You can find the recipe at Romany Quilts,  the post for  Monday, February 16  and here is a link:

Saturday 21 February 2015

A Couple of Reasons Why I'm Not a Ballerina

A friend forwarded a video of his daughter dancing.  She is a bona fide ballerina having spent many years training and working in New York.  I'm captivated by her performance but it is not the beautiful leaps and toe stands that intrigue me.  I'm in love with her hand movements.  She appears to have longer than average arm-span and her hands at the ends move like tiny angels, fluttering, waving, flourishing, signalling.  I replay the video several times just to watch what those hands convey to me. Imagine going through life with hands so lovely and expressive.  Sort of like the girls on Price is Right or even Vanna White. 
I wonder about her feet though.  Ballerinas, I've read, have ugly feet from the extreme beating they take, and often require elaborate wrappings to protect them from pain and aches.  I've read a ballerina can tell if she has gained as little as an ounce; weight and the look of the bodys' bones are so important to the dance.  I think of the Black Swan and her poached egg for breakfast and Karen Kain and her story of a life of anorexia and bulimia to fit into the tutu.
So many reasons I could never be a ballerina.  My hands are so average and I suspect my fingers are shorter than they should be for proper proportion, my knuckles too pronounced... I'm a person who has never missed a meal in my life (a lie, I think I missed supper once in the mid 80's because I had strep throat, but I remember sipping beef broth before going to sleep).  I can't imagine the level of self-deprivation and devotion the love of that particular dance seems to demand.  I guess that's why we absolutely adore ballerinas and their beautiful fluttery fingers. 

Friday 20 February 2015

The Velveteen Rabbit Still Brings a Tear

All the wisdom I needed to know in life, I could get from this book. I think the messages apply more than ever, being real in an increasingly unreal world, how life breaks us all in some way, and how love is the answer... loving each other is always the answer.

I used to say that if there was a book I wished I had written, it was The Velveteen Rabbit.  But Margery Williams had that honour.
 I've read it countless times to many children, including my own, over the years.  I usually tear up at certain passages like the following...

 The little stuffed rabbit has just asked the horse how do you become real.
And this is his answer.

Timeless and touching; all the sweetest of elements... a little boy, his attachment to his stuffed rabbit, described beautifully as "fat and bunchy" and then the lonely rabbit's aching longing to be real to reunite with his best friend .

Being real, a wish fulfilled, a transformation achieved through love, friends united, a simpler world  ...
make no wonder I love this story.

Thursday 19 February 2015

Who Rescued Who

Perhaps you have seen Sheldon on "The Big Bang Theory" using this little gadget to test the temperature of his cup of cocoa.

My hubby got one for Christmas and just loves it.  He doesn't use it for his tea or cocoa though.  He can sit on the sofa and aim it at the wood stove and tell how hot it is burning.  This is important information; if it is too hot he has to get up and turn down the air control lever, but if not, he can sit tight.

Another gadget and this one has many uses.  It is a camera with a special purpose.  The long tube or scope can be inserted inside something like a pipe, engine, under boards, walls or any dark or hard to reach area  and it will show you what is there.  This has already proved helpful because hubby lost a cotter pin inside an engine and used this to locate it and retrieve it.
 Just a thought, but remember the tree with the new round holes in it I showed you a photo of; I wonder could I use this gizmo to look inside and see if an animal is there.  Worth a try.

When I saw this mug, I knew immediately it belonged to my husband. He has shared his home with dogs all his life and most of them have been rescued.  He admits that when living alone, the unconditional love of his dogs, the happiness they showed when he came home, the reason they gave him to walk every day,  was enough to keep him going.  So yes, who rescued who?

Wednesday 18 February 2015

Bone Broth, Cherries and HalfPops: Good Enough to Eat

Daughter made a gift of this first 'new to me' food item.  It is something called beef bone broth and, unknown to me, certain nutritionists have been whipping up interest by making amazing claims about its goodness. Immunity booster, inflammation reducer and longevity promoter, to name just a few.
  I always boil leftover chicken bones for the basis of my soups and keep extra frozen in the freezer.  I'm sure what I have after 4 or 5 hours of boiling must be close to bone broth.

Pretty bland looking and rather bland tasting actually.  I think I will add a few vegetables and a little salt and pepper to drink the rest.  This came from a local farm, Agape Gardens, and is just one of the nutrient-dense foods they are producing.
I wonder what their Kale Chips would taste like.


I've been reading a lot about dried cherries.  They are larger than my dried cranberries so have a more satisfying chew to them.   I love the sweet/tart flavour. I add them to yogurt, my smoothies, sprinkle a few on top of hubby's cereal. I'm loving them in my salads too.  I won't bore you with the nutrition facts but cherries are a good source of copper and essential vitamins.  

What Are the Benefits of Dried Cherries?


If you like a satisfying crunch to your food, then this snack food is for you. I can thank the other Daughter for discovering these.

Marketed as a curiously crunchy popcorn, these are partially popped kernels and dense in flavour.  I like the individually packaged sizes which have been scientifically proven to help curb snacking.  A great snack I now keep on hand.
I bought the cherries and the HalfPops at Cosco, by the way.  Haven't seen the HalfPops anywhere else.

Tuesday 17 February 2015

Drawing and Stitching

I had decided a while back to stitch a scene for my blog header.  I tried out all sorts of wintry scenes before settling on the idea of a house.

I drew any number of houses starting off with a bungalow similar to the one I live in.  Somehow a bungalow did not show the kind of warmth I wanted to portray.

Here are some of my scribbles.  I had three ball snowmen in the beginning but decided I liked the two ball ones better. Hubby wondered why there are three in who has three of them in their front yard.  I started with one on the right but then the front of the tree seemed bare so more snowmen grew.  I liked the idea of a road in front but had to give up on it. I began with a bare leafed tree but it seemed too stark for a little happy scene so I changed it to a fir tree.

One of my drawings and the colours I wanted to use...

I used coloured leads to bring up a little colour on the fabric and after one failed stitched piece, I was happy enough with the next one.
A winter scene is certainly in order; parts of Canada are being constantly bombarded with snowstorms.  We don't get the wind for storms here, but it steadily snows and the accumulations eventually mount.

I hope my little stitched house conveys what I set out to show; a warm welcome to all.

Monday 16 February 2015

Quilted Wall Hanging: Now an FO

Another UFO I've been finishing up...

This started out from a little cross stitch kit I bought several years ago.  It features a few items of Newfoundland and Labrador, namely the provincial bird, the puffin, and the provincial flower, the pitcher plant.  At the time I think you could buy a similar design for each of the Canadian provinces.
After finishing the cross stitch, I decided to make it into a little quilted hanging.

I made a drawing of what looked like waves which I thought an appropriate motif for a province on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean.  I used that to guide me in adding a little hand quilting to the top and  bottom of the hanging.

The side seams are actually much straighter than the photos allow, by the way.
I just sewed the ends last night and added a couple of ribbons to the back for hanging.  So I'm going to say this is no longer a UFO but an FO (is there such a thing?).

Friday 13 February 2015

My Chia Berry Buns

Another extreme cold weather warning.  I'm not sure how they decide to pick one day over another.  Everyone is complaining about the bitingly cold temperatures we seem to have had a lot of since Christmas.  It made it a great day to keep the oven going.  I got some chicken drums ready for supper, hiked up the oven temperature and pulled out the recipe book.
 A great baking day...  I finally settled on making some chia berry muffins which is a variation of my recipe for Walnut Berry Buns ( I'm trying to keep up with the trend wise, ha ha).

 Berry Buns

3/4 cup rolled oats                    1 cup flour
1/3 cup chia seeds                     1 tsp. salt
1 cup Greek yogurt                   1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup oil                                 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 cup applesauce                    1 cup mixed berries
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg

Soak oats in yogurt.  Add chia seeds.
 Mix oil, applesauce, brown sugar and egg.  Add to the yogurt/oat mixture and blend well.
 Whisk together flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda.
 I used chopped apricots, dried cranberries and chopped dates to make up the cup of berries.  Oh yes, I also had a few strawberries to top it off.
I mixed the berries into the flour, then combined with the yogurt.
Fill 12 muffin cups and bake at 400 F for 20 minutes.

I wonder should I have made them in the smaller muffin pan to have them more two-bite sized.  The batter is not cakey so could be dense enough for smaller sized.
Anyway  hubby just ate two for lunch which means they are good.

Thursday 12 February 2015

Gillian Anderson, I'd Walk a Million Miles For One of Your Smiles

Are you watching "The Fall"? It is one of the few shows I put down my needle to actually watch.
 I have become intrigued by Gillian Anderson's performance in that series.  Every word from her lips is delivered in such a deliberate, measured manner that I am beginning to find her the eerie one.  She is not a 'wordy' character to start with; so it is probably her subtext that is alluring to me and so I can't wait to see her again each week.  Obviously her acting chops are up to snuff. Smile. Usually it is the serial killer who garners the attention.  But after Dexter, Paul Spector is a little dull and sadly predictable.

Yes, she's slow at doling out the smiles, but I guess that adds to the mystique.

'I have jumped from relationship to relationship pretty much my whole life' … Anderson.

Meanwhile, back in my life....

Today was a dithering kind of day, some sort of listless day with no real meaning and not much to show.
  I hemmed and hawed over all my numerous old lists.  My problem is not ideas; they seem to blossom uninvited in my head mostly to annoy; no, my problem is action as in a big lack of it.
 I visited my sewing room in the basement.  It was in ship shape order when I left it in the fall, but running in and out and poking things down there, seems to have upended the place.  And it's too uncomfortably cold just yet to get in there and organize it properly.  I couldn't find the particular UFO I had in mind, so after a couple of deep sighs, I left the place to languish in its messy state some more.
 I know I sound like Miss Othmar, the teacher in the Peanuts cartoon, whining on.  (A trombone was used to give her that distinctive voice, by the way.)

I've tried three different patterns to use the wool we found in the basement and I'm not happy with either of them.  This wool, by the way, I now realize is part of another UFO from my deceased mother-in-law.

It's not the wool's fault; it's mine.  I think I am so used to using heavier, worsted type yarn that I am not good with this much finer wool.  And too, I'm not that familiar with gauge so should know more about that before tackling a pattern. These balls are missing their labels so no help there.
 But you know how it is; it takes so much time to set up a pattern on needles and you have to knit four or five inches to see if it is working out, only to have to unravel it, yuck.

Wednesday 11 February 2015

Make Tracks to Little Dear Tracks

Another of my favourite net places is Little Dear Tracks.  It is a sweet site fueled by the unique creative visions of Aimee Ray.  Aimee has published a number of books featuring her special doodle type embroidered motifs. She uses many embroidery techniques in her work and also uses applique, colour tinting and patchwork.  I've borrowed several from the library and I always find inspiration.  Aimee has an etsy shop called littledear.   This is her latest seasonal collection, The Holiday Motif Collection.

Aimee's blogspot is one of my favourite places to visit.  I think you should check it out especially if you enjoy free patterns and tutorials because it is one of the best banks available that I've found.  Her link is here:

A few examples of her offerings

Free Project!

This little free pattern is called " Patchwork Tree Hill" and as Aimee says, it is a great way to use up scraps and can be made bigger or changed about.

Isn't this sweet?  It is called " Flowering Antlers" and generous Aimee offers a tutorial for the five different embroidery stitches used for the flowers as well as a free download pdf.

I just love her latest little acorns and woodland creatures made with felt. Adorable is the only word to describe them.

 What a talented lady!

Tuesday 10 February 2015

Walk Fast Or Freeze

Bundled up against the -25 degrees C (up from -35 C overnight)  and out on the woods trail through the property...I'm trying to get my daily dose of fresh air which nobody needs telling is good for you.  Just look at how blue that sky is.

And off we go...herself has to be leashed, sadly, because she will follow her nose into the next county to track a scent.

At this point I have to start moving faster to keep up which is good for me.
Rounding the completely snowed-in greenhouse there on the left below.

She's stopping to see what I'm doing, always a chance of a treat (Labradors love their stomachs!) but no it's a camera.  Rex never lets us out of his sight.

I stopped to look at this old tree stump, in particular to examine the fresh holes that something had dug in it.
I was struck by how perfectly round each hole is.

                                                  Just look at those ears...real beauties.

 I'm making this a faster walk than usual and not because of the cold.  A farmer in nearby Carp came upon a cougar in his barn this past week.  Luckily the cougar was able to exit without passing him or his horses.  Though there has never been a case in Canada of a cougar attacking a person, I'd be concerned about the dogs. Sightings of this cougar have come to light all around us.
But on this walk, just a few chickadees are the only other living things I spy.  Endless tracks though.
 Forty-five minutes later: safe and sound at home.

                             And snoozing in front of the stove.  Notice Murphy, the diva, claims the kitchen dog bed.

                              I'm tired but happy too.
                             And a bowl of  homemade ham and pea soup is so warming.

Monday 9 February 2015

Godzilla Watching Over Me

Weather forecast showed snow before morning so I decided to make my way to daughter's house the night before.  That night I slept in the spare room where grandson stores some of his treasures.  On a shelf above me was his collection of Godzillas.  I should have felt very safe knowing that the various guardians of the galaxy were also looking over me.

It made me think of how lucky for me to have been with him long enough to see him move through these phases of his childhood.  I remember so well what an ardent Thomas the Tank Engine fan he was and how that phase lasted much longer with him than other kids.
  When he had to choose a Christmas gift this year for his new cousin, he picked a Thomas toy.  He gave it to his aunt and said," this is something from my childhood", sounding for all the world like he was 20 rather than 10.  But yes, he has moved far from Thomas and now loves all these action heroes and is always keen to add to his collection.
And I note the changes.  He gave a big whoop one day in the car when he spotted a Porsche; he could name the model to my surprise.  Just when did he learn about cars.   Sometimes he wears those hoodies the bigger boys wear.  Every time I see him he seems a little taller, a little more mature, a litlle different from who I am used to.

Selfish me feels sentimental about this.  Sigh.

Friday 6 February 2015

Leonard Cohen Be My Man

The best thing about being around people your own age is you know each others' references.  For instance, you just have to say 'Suzanne takes you down' and some of us know exactly who we are talking about.  The man himself, Leonard Cohen, was considered so "cool" as a poet way back when I was in university the first time around.
This was one of my favourites and keeps showing up in my journals over the years.

But Leonard has endured a remarkable career as a singer of his poems.  His work is shared and enjoyed across the generations.  Who can forget K.D. Lang's rendition of his Hallelujah at the Vancouver Olympics. I remember a commentator at the time being almost speechless; he just said, powerful, over and over. I have it on a tape in my car and it never fails to stir me.  Here is a Youtube video of her singing it...

Wednesday 4 February 2015

"I Just Want to Go Home and Knit"

So many of us identify with this quote, if not knit, then to embroider, quilt, crochet, etc. But I know I'm thinking about all things wool these days.

 I guess the cold weather is to blame for that; it makes a person want to wrap yourself in something warm and cozy and wool is just that thing. Here are my legs wrapped in the afghan I crocheted last year.  It's early morning and I'm waiting for the house to warm up.

It also makes me want to work in wool. Last night I surveyed a number of crochet and knitting sites wondering if a pattern would jump out at me.  And yes, one did.  It is called Mistake Rib Scarf and I found it at wonderful The Purl Bee.  Of course, the appeal of this is also the gorgeous wool used, Mulberry Merino.

I've earmarked this one for now.
That's mostly because I have two UFO's on the go at the Shiny and Brite hanging and another embroidery that I will show you soon.  At least I've finally learned to organize them properly.  I like these clear plastic boxes I bought at the dollar store for that. It makes me feel I'm in control still.

And yes, I do have a couple of other boxes down in the basement.