Monday 30 November 2015

Snacking and Stitching

Isn't memory just the most interesting thing?
 Hubby and I are a little consumed with it these days. Just recently I've heard of two acquaintances newly diagnosed with dementia.
 Hubby is constantly complaining about his lack of memory.  I don't see any difference in the six years I've known him but he has himself convinced it is failing steadily.  I think there is just so much talk these days about seniors and dementia type ailments that we are all taking notice.
 As someone who always had to write things down...lived by a list at work, I don't notice any difference in my memory but I did just dribble olive oil down the front of my semi-new top. I may have other problems, LOL.

                                A permanent tomato train on the kitchen shelf these days.

                                And oven grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches for lunch.

We are surrounded by working farms here in the Ottawa Valley.   This is a shot I took of the farm across the river from us.  It has a permanently peaceful, idyllic look to it.  Like so many, it is a multi-generational operation.

Even though it is November, there is still the odd bit of green grass to be found.  Heard threats of snow yesterday but it never did materialize.  So we are strangely still green when normally we'd be snow covered by now. Definitely not complaining.

Another share of my Strawberry Thief.  Hope you are not bored to death seeing this fellow again.  I am down to just two corners on the edging to complete, and a few more stitches on his belly.  Though he has been lingering over long, I still love him. 

This is a close up of the little turned up corners that I had to work out myself because the edging is an abbreviated version of the actual pattern.

Hope it is calm and peaceful wherever you are.

Friday 27 November 2015

EPP Blocks and Simple, Sweet Words

A little catch up on what is happening with my Farmer's Wife Sampler Quilt is in order.

Above is Augusta with 33 pieces. I was happy when she was completed though no particular corners gave me a problem.

And here is Geneva

showing some of her tags in this slightly wonky view.  She had 32 pieces and this was my second go round with her.  The first was one of the early blocks I made with the too scant seam allowance.

This is Anne with an 'e' in pieces.  I'm showing you this because I am so happy to see how my stitching is improving.  In Augusta you can spy my stitches, but here they are hidden for the most part. Getting more the hang of it, I suppose.
 Success is partly due to finding the right needle for me.  I'm now using an applique needle that is very thin and a little flexible.  It helps in snagging just a tiny bit of fabric on both sides of the seam.  I'm sure this is a personal thing because I know some people prefer short needles for this kind of stitching.

The book, Farmer's Wife 1930'sSampler Quilt, by  Laurie Hird is available  right here  from Amazon.

Each of these quilt blocks have an accompanying letter written by a farmer's wife.  Here is a quote by Malcolm McLeod from Ruth's letter dated February 1933 that is matched with Anne.
Simple words, loaded with meaning.
 I tried to choose a couple that would be more appropriate and meaningful to" heartaches healed" or "good health".  But it turns out all of them are important to me.

"It is common things that quench thirst, not rare things; ordinaries, not luxuries; not palatial houses, but a home; not royal wine, but cold water; good health, kind friends, encouraging words, loving deeds, duty done, heartaches healed, a grasp, a clasp, a kiss, a smile, a song, a welcome- these are the beams that bring summer into the soul and make us lighthearted, free and glad."

Thursday 26 November 2015

Chipmunks, Cheesecake and Crochet

     Family, Food and Football

    Nostalgic, Delicious and Fun

The sentiment and excitement of the American Thanksgiving spill over into our neck of the woods too.  We  get to view the big parade on t.v. and start hearing about the Black Friday sales in the weeks leading up. And of course, lots of new recipes to try for the big meal are featured in magazines, on television and around the net.  I take real interest in all the tips for cooking the perfect turkey because before you know it, I'll be cooking a Christmas turkey. And all those left over turkey recipes will come in handy too.
 All good stuff.

  Blog surfing is a real treat these days as well.  People have created the most wonderful Thanksgiving tributes...the quilts and cross stitched pictures celebrating the seasons' sentiments are especially wonderful. Turkeys are always a popular motif.

I just had to smile when I saw this.  Thanksgiving Chipmunks!

Thanksgiving Chipmunks - Counted Needle Point and Cross Stitch Chart Patterns.  via Etsy.:

I watch chipmunks around the garden and this little Thanksgiving Cross Stitch and Needlepoint
picture is so cute to me.  It is from Etsy, Paula Howard Patterns Store.

Have to share this dessert with you. It would be a good one to file for Christmas when the family and friends are around.  I could never justify making something like this for just Hubby though he would probably say, try, just try me.   

Rock Recipes' Chocolate Cherry  Cheesecake Trifle

Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake Trifle

It is from the marvelous cook, Barry Parsons and featured in his blog Rock Recipes.
This is the link right to that recipe.  It sounds so delicious.

It is warmer today, above freezing and we should get to 10 C above.  But still cool enough to make my nose cold on my walk with the dogs a little while ago.  
 I'm sitting by the wood stove...toasty and made even toastier because I've brought my Granny Stripe blanket out here to the kitchen to crochet my two rows.  It's at an awkward very ungainly size but it can certainly warm up a lap!

Hope you are toasty wherever you are and have lots in your life to be grateful for too.

Tuesday 24 November 2015

6 Ways to Combat November

Advice to combat November settling down upon us.  Minus 12 overnight but oddly, still no snow here. 
 It really is a month with not a lot to recommend it. Any Canadian November usually battles January for the title, Most Depressing Month.
 Gloomy comes to mind especially since there is not a colour outside to relieve the eye from all the grays and washed out browns. We have been steadily losing sunshine since is when that really hits home because we are plunged into total darkness by 5:30 p.m. each day.
Yes, I guess November, in this hemisphere at least,  is considered negative in more ways than one.

Recently, I've been told to

1. Check my Vitamin D levels...lack of sun in this northern hemisphere leads to unhealthy levels of the essential D vitamin.

2. Watch out for the comfort food pit; cold weather tends to make us seek greater comforts, one of which is food.

3. Be careful of is slippery season again.  Get out those Ice Tracks.

 4.  Think about taking up a winter skating, snowboarding, skiing ( absolutely not). This is my indoor elliptical trainer season.

5.  Not let the month drive you to drink...but a glass or two of merlot is still on the 'good for you' list so check out those LCBO specials.

6. Get those winter tires on your vehicle...the white stuff will be here to stay any minute. Being prepared is important.

And if that isn't enough, time is quickly running out on those New Year's Resolutions that were made back in January to welcome 2015. November is the time to make good on those promises.
 I'm okay there because I don't think I made any but I'll have to glimpse back into my Blog posts to confirm.

But November hosts the most wonderful celebration for our American friends... their Thanksgiving which is massive.  A side effect is Black Friday which has snuck across the border and we also benefit, online especially.

And November must be gotten through to get to December and my favourite celebration...Christmas.

And my blogging friends in Australia and New  Zealand are welcoming their beautiful summer blooms this month.  I enjoy this vicariously through their posts.

Definitely not wishing life away, but ahh, November...

Monday 23 November 2015

Yummy British Sponge Cake Recipe

Just like my mother who loved these cakes for summer time especially, I make sponge cakes often. And like her, I often turn them into jelly rolls mainly because a jelly roll bakes in 12 minutes, so that is how fast you can have a dessert whipped up.

This is my British mother-in- law's recipe.  I never met her and she has been gone for quite a while so how do I know that.

For two reasons.  I have two of her 'cookery' books from the '40's and the page with her sponge cake recipe is very messy and streaked. A telltale sign that a recipe on that page is a family favourite.
 Also Hubby can remember sponge cake being just about the only cake she made and he loved it.

 Traditionally the British or Victorian Sponge Cake would be baked in two round pans, sandwiched with jam in the middle and dusted with icing sugar over the top.  Yesterday I felt like making it in a tube pan.  Since Hubby loves frosting I made my usual Butter Frosting for the top.

Recipes abound for this particular cake and most share a sameness of ingredients...flour, sugar, butter and eggs.  you will definitely need eggs which might be the only thing you wouldn't readily have on hand.  I've seen recipes calling for vanilla extract,  even lemon extract, but this one is free of any flavourings other than the rinds and lemon juice. 

British Sponge Cake


6 eggs, separated
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup real butter softened
1 tsp grated lemon rind
1 tbsp grated orange rind
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups cake flour (I've used regular flour and it works fine)
 Icing sugar

Beat egg yolks till thick and creamy.

Gradually beat in sugar, butter and the rinds.  Beat well.
Beat in lemon juice. 

Add salt to egg whites.  Whip until stiff but not dry.
Pile on top of egg yolk mixture.
Sift flour over all.
Carefully fold into mixture.

Rinse one 10 inch tube pan or two 9 inch round pans well in cold water. Drain.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees and bake for about 40 minutes. 

 I took mine out after 35 minutes mainly because I tend to err on the side of overbaking and I'm trying to break myself of that habit.  You can try the toothpick test.  The oven should be slow so I guess it depends on how your particular oven is for the temperature.  I've seen 300 or 320 degrees in recipes as well.

This cake is named after Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth is very fond of it too.  Apparently it was served to her quite a lot during her Jubilee Celebrations.  I'm sure with fresh jam, strawberries or raspberries and cream it would have been yummy every time.

Image from Cakespy.victoria sponge or sandwich cake this cake which combines light sponge ...

Friday 20 November 2015

The Sewist's Mess

Finally, finally have the new fridge...a Samsung.  I chose more white because I didn't think stainless steel suited an old farmhouse kitchen.  And I like how bright the white is too.  So far it is proving to be larger inside than the old one and it makes ice cubes in the freezer which I love with all the water I drink.

I cut back all the geraniums and am happy to see bloom appearing so they survived the trip from outside to inside.

   I had the best kind of mail recently...stitching mail which contained the

   Marti Michell templates.  No excuse now for improperly drawn pieces.

This sewist's mess
 ...don't know why but I always feel like I am 'putting on airs' to use the word sewist.  Started to sew a sashing on the embroidered blocks, decided I didn't like it and took it all off again.  The challenge is to find a sashing that will be colourful but not outshine the embroidered flowers.  The search is on. And I think I will set the blocks on point. 

A bit of experimenting and I have found the right Marti templates to use to make my 9 inch stars. This has made my life easier I can tell you.  The blocks I made  during the experimenting will be saved and perhaps used on the back.
Slowly but surely a project comes together.  
As always what you can't see are the enjoyable hours I spent creating this mess.

Thursday 19 November 2015

Home The Best of Institutions

Exploring my fellow blogger's posts is one of my favourite things; it is a gift I give myself every day which I know sounds so corny.  Hubby says it is because I like to know what makes people tick.

I like some of the ideas floating around in various blogs.  Jenny at her Jenny of Elefantz blog is nearing the end of what she termed " a year of gentle domesticity".  This is where she has been celebrating the caring for her husband and home in a mindful and celebratory way.  Her words have been positive and uplifting as well as inspiring.

This is the side window in the living room.  I face this window while sitting on my stitching couch and sewing. When outside one evening, I noted how warm and inviting this little glimpse into my home looked.

Our home is where we spend our days; it only makes sense that we laud it and make it as comfortable as we can.  I can still muster the feeling of entering my home after a hard day at know exactly what I mean don't you?  That immediate release of tension and gratefulness to have a quiet house providing much needed relaxation....and you don't have to be working in schools all your life like I did to get that feeling.

  None of my homes have been fancy; in fact, over several decades of my life have been spent living in rented accommodation, but home is where you are living, humble though it may be.

Home is synonymous with comfort for Hubby and I.  And it seems to be taking more and more to blast us out of it, lol.

<b>jane</b>-<b>austen</b>-<b>home</b>-<b>quotes</b>-there-is-nothing-like-<b>staying</b>-at-<b>home</b>-for-real ...

Tuesday 17 November 2015

Wisdom From the Stars

Out of the mouths of the movie stars.
( In light of such sad world events, I hope you don't mind a little foolishness today.) 

"There isn't a woman alive who isn't courageous," said Reese Witherspoon.

"The best thing to hold onto in this life is each other," said Audrey Hepburn.

"The person who knows how to laugh at himself will never cease to be amused," said Shirley MacLaine.

"Dream as if you'll live forever; live as if you'll die today," said James Dean.

"Women are exceptional compared with  men who even have trouble finding things in the refrigerator,"  said Kristen Bell.

" Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die," said Carrie Fisher.

"Old age ain't no place for sissies," said Bette Davis.

"You can't have everything.  Where would you put it?" said Stephen Wright.

" Everyone's got a sad story.  I've had two good decades and two bad ones.  No one was raised in Happyland.  It doesn't exist,"  said Jon Hamm

So do you have a favourite?

Monday 16 November 2015

Growing Delicious Tomatoes and Buried Treasure

I'm so pleased my tomato plants are doing fine in the greenhouse.  I've been picking 3 or 4 tomatoes every day and I wonder how far into this season would the greenhouse work.  Quite a lot of heat builds up during the day and even though some nights are flirting with below freezing, the overall temperature is remaining stable.  The pots dry out quickly though, and I've had to make sure to water them daily, approximately two cups of water per day.
 But small trouble for fresh tomatoes grown from seeds in soil claimed completely from our own compost bins.  And they are delicious.  This is a good incentive to get my tomato growing in full swing earlier in the spring. (Note To Self)

And on an entirely different matter, buried treasure!

Remember the really neat gift idea, a $20 candle with a ring buried in it I wrote about in this post? Daughter had bought one for her sister, me and herself.   Here are our rings retrieved from our candles. It seemed mine was the most buried as I had to practically burn my candle away before the little packet revealed itself.  I was beginning to think mine got missed somehow, but no.

The tags said they were worth about $80 each.  Not bad.

Friday 13 November 2015

The Ten Foot Rule Must Apply

I am logging some serious hours on my Farmer's Wife Sampler Quilt SAL blocks.
 I got ahead of myself by setting up so many blocks preparing them for sewing and not actually sewing.  Then I began to sew, found some of the quarter inch seams too scanty, and realized I'd cut and pasted several blocks with that little fault.  Anyway, I went back, recut several pieces and enlarged the allowances.  Small triangles in particular seemed to have come up short with just the one quarter seam.
I say I am pleased with my actual stitching and it is fabulous practice for applique hand sewing which is something I've always wanted to improve (and needed to).

 But still the stand back ten feet rule should apply.

With that being said, I'll show you a few of my latest finished blocks with my puny little stitches bared for the world to see.  Don't worry about some of the wonky bits; these blocks still have basting threads and freezer paper foundations attached.  When those get removed and the blocks get a good pressing, most of the wrinkles should disappear.  Fingers crossed.

Sorry about the grayish photos.  Yesterday was a very dull day and lamps couldn't seem to brighten the lighting. (No that wasn't deliberate so you wouldn't get a good look at my stitching, LOL)

 This is Carrie and she had 29 pieces to be sewn.  The cross motif appealed to me and I thought that might be a good idea for a whole quilt sometime.

              Here is Grandmother and with just 15 pieces, one of the easiest to get together.  I love baskets in quilts; something about them seem homey.

 This is Betty and I've aligned her design improperly.  She still  has her basting stitches so she can wait her turn to get switched around.  Betty has 16 pieces.

                                              Here is Ava, a block comprising 23 pieces.

This is Charlotte and there are 22 pieces in this block.  I think I would like to redo the side that is not showing  great contrast between the two colours I picked.

Miss Addie, lying sidewise.  25 pieces.  Her imperfections are many but I still like her.

My thoughts

It's a little like that old saying...can't see the forest for the trees, with me and these blocks.  It seems I don't see the errors till I'm all finished sewing, stand back and take a real  look.  Then I spy the mistakes or places I miss out on the chance to fussy cut, etc. GRRRR

Is my enjoyment in sewing these blocks enough to warrant continuing in spite of all the faults my blocks will obviously have and all the ripping and resewing I've had to do.  After all, I don't want to wind up with a terribly sewn quilt top.
But then hope springs....
With that thought in mind, I have felt a little more confident with the last two blocks I've worked so perhaps I will really improve.
 Practice, Practice, Practice- But this is where my impatience with myself enters; I want to be really good at this yesterday.

Colour choices- I think I've stayed too neutral with the colours; look at how Addie stands out.

Your thoughts????

Wednesday 11 November 2015

I Will Sing You Home

This is November 11, Remembrance Day in Canada and it is a federal holiday which means most institutions are closed for the day.  There will be ceremonies at all the cenotaphs across the country with wreath laying and speeches.
 There has been a renewed interest in Remembrance Day in recent years due to the large number of younger veterans now who took part in the Iraq/Afghanistan missions.  Sadly it seems war and their veterans will always be with us.  The need to remember those in all the wars continues.
So I share with you today this little film made in my home province. 

Tuesday 10 November 2015

A Trio of Books and Very Last Garden Bouquet

As I've said reading is like breathing to me.
 I used to have nightmares about losing my eyesight and how long would it take me to learn Braille so I could read.  Just how long would it take for the sense of touch to heighten like the stories I'd heard about one sense taking over the power of the lost one, I would wonder. Yes, as I've said, a born worrier am I too. 

 I'm lucky in that I love all genres; I read as many non-fiction as fiction. Recently Hubby dropped me off at the biggest library in Ottawa and I spent an enjoyable 90 minutes poking around.  At that library, there were people of many nationalities reading especially in the newspapers section. There are papers from all over the world and I thought that must be some comfort to be able to read a newspaper from your home country in your native language.

I've been on a pretty good streak with books lately and I hope it continues. 

I wanted to mention this book to you because I enjoyed it very much.
The Dinner, translated from Dutch, and written by Herman Koch is a cleverly constructed novel.  Two couples meet at a chic restaurant and during each course of their meal, we listen in on their conversation.  I thought at first we were in for family revelations regarding the two men who are brothers.  But the talk veers away from that to the topic of their teenaged children and something they have done and this is when as the cliche goes, the plot thickens.  I won't say any more, but I had to read to the end to see what was happening, it so thoroughly engaged me. I liked the food descriptions, the characters while unlikable, interested me, the whole exploration of how far we will go to protect our children, the idea of moral decay among even the so-called good people, all interesting food for thought (no pun intended).  I think it would be a good book for a book club to discuss.   

This was a quick read.  The book Ted and I by Ted Hughes' brother, Gerald is a lovingly written book recounting many fond memories of their youth and holiday times together over the years.  This is no 'tell-all' as Gerald is overwhelmingly positive and supportive of his brother and opted not to explore the drastic dark bits of Ted's life in these pages.  It was the first time, though, that I read about Ted and Sylvia's children, Frieda and Nicholas, as adults which was interesting.
I've always wondered why there isn't more information, photos, etc. available about them.

I've read all of Joanna Trollopes' books I think, and there are quite a few!  Joanna always writes about families and marriages and maintains a certain fine standard in each and every book...good characters and good plot, well written. I like how she portrays women as strong and intelligent, as well. 
Like all of Joanna's books, Balancing Act is not an action book, it is a people book. The lives of a family running a family business are the focus of this one. Of course there are issues and dilemmas they each face alone as well as together as a family. 
  One reviewer wrote about this one "Perfect with a coffee on a rainy evening after a hard day's work."  I'd have to say this could aptly describe all of Joanna's books.  

The second week in October I plucked what I knew would be the last of the flowers for a bouquet and it was a bit sparse at that.

But enjoyable, nonetheless.  

Monday 9 November 2015

Apricot and Chocolate Chip Scones

I love scones or tea buns, any thing that can be a form of baking powder biscuits, I guess.  There is something about eating this type of treat with a cup of tea that seems like comfort food to me.  Heartier than a cookie, scones are always a reminder of home too.
Yesterday I made a small batch for the two of us.

  Of course, you don't have to add chocolate chips; since I live with a chocolate lover I included them.  And I've made these scones with many different dried fruits...cranberries, raisins, mango bits, etc.  In fact, below is a product very similar to the kind of package I buy here at Costco which has three or four dried fruits and I use them for a number of recipes. I'm fond of the dried orange in particular to use in rice. 

                            Image result for tropical orange dried fruit mix

Anyway here is my recipe.

Apricot and Chocolate Chip Scones 

2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar (I used slightly less)
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup chopped dried apricots
1/3 cup chocolate chips

1 egg
1/3 to 1/2 cup milk  

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
Cut in butter.
Stir in dried fruit and chocolate chips.
Whisk egg and milk together and add to flour mixture.
Form into a ball and lightly knead. This is the only tricky part of this recipe...making sure the dough is wet enough to stay together but not too wet so it doesn't form a nice ball.
Pat it into a round on an ungreased baking sheet.
Score the dough marking 8 wedges.

Bake about 15 minutes; check to see if it needs 4 or 5 minutes more to brown very lightly.

Remove wedges to wire rack.

If you do try this recipe, hope you like it. We did.

Friday 6 November 2015

Food for Eyes

I couldn't resist showing you this-

an autumn garden in Wiltshire, England.

and this,  Highgrove in England.  I'm struck by how peaceful and serene the environments look.

This is very interesting...

which are quilt gardens.  A beautiful idea whose time has come it seems as these have popped up all over the world.  I think I can see half square and quarter square triangles in that bottom photo.
What clever minds think of these things.  I can barely plant a few bulbs and I still mess up what eventually grows in the largest outdoor pot. I'm guessing the real pros are behind these wonderful and intricate designs.

This magazine, Piecework, is one of my favourites.  I see something in every issue that I would love to try my hand at.  This edition, dubbed The Red Issue, was a real treat.
That knitted shawl featured on the cover is beautiful and full instructions are included.

As is this knitted cowl.  Beautiful shades of burnished red.

There is a large section devoted to Russian embroidery.  Cross stitched bands and borders abound as inspiration for those of you creating your own designs. 
The information about the use of the colour red to decorate and embellish cloth is fascinating.  Russians have loved red so long the word was lost and the word they used for it translates as 'beautiful'.  Another word had to be invented to use for beautiful.  

Image result for shades of red and their names 
Red is thought to be the first colour percieved by man.  Brain injured persons will begin to see the colour red before all other colours. 

Of course, we stitchers know the appeal of all the reds.  How we love our redwork embroidery and I know many embroiderers who have their very favourite shades of red to work in.  

Redwork Noel - Cross Stitch Pattern

How's this for a beautiful example of red work and I thought of it because the season is so quickly approaching.  I own this cross stitch design called Redwork Noel by Joan Elliott and someday I will work it. It can be purchased at 123 Stitch.