Friday, December 30, 2011

Are we there yet?

I swear, it was just Jan. 1, 2011 a few days ago. What happened to the rest of it? You get so focussed on looking ahead – to the weekend, to the next paycheque, to birthdays, anniversaries, vacations or other special events, and we end up in an unintentional race with the calendar until we arrive suddenly at the finish line and we can’t remember how we got there.

11Dec30 I do have a few finished quilts and other projects to show that I was indeed awake and sewing this year, even if I can’t remember much of it. Including the last of the mug rug Christmas presents that I finished this morning – it’s before New Year’s, so it still counts as a Christmas present. It’s for a co-worker who lives about two and a half hours north of here. Ain’t modern technology grand? We connect on a mutual server and work together every day – for two years now. I’ve only met her face to face once, but she’s a lot of fun to work with.

I shared pictures of a needle book a few days ago – front and back – but I forgot to show what the “cover” looked like. It looks like this…11Dec24needlebook

My partner’s children had to cancel their visit this week due to illness, so no sewing time with his granddaughter. No snowmen, no ponies. I might go ahead and make a few myself, but it won’t be near as much fun as making them with a six year old girl.

I apologize for the lack of Rusty and Ginger pictures lately. They’re fine and being just as active and adorable as usual. And right now they’re both planted on me – Ginger on my lap and Rusty in my arms, making it necessary to type with only one hand, but it’s a small price to pay for a cuddle. I actually get the rest of the weekend off – WOOHOO! – so I promise we’ll have some kitty sweetness very shortly.

In case I’m not back here until next year, let me wish you all a healthy and very happy New Year in 2012!

Until next time,

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas new moon

11Oct6panel1 Oh, beautiful, beautiful Christmas fabric from Laurel Burch, bless her soul. I bought this panel back in October, but I still haven’t decided what to do with it.

Must be the New Moon tonight at 2 Capricorn. Trines Pluto at 7 Capricorn. Great time for beginning new projects because you’ll work on it until you’re finished.

Been connecting with friends and family tonight via email. I was born and raised in southern Ontario. First I moved to the east coast, then to Alberta, and then to British Columbia. It’s a BIG country, and it’s all so beautiful. But, damn, it’s expensive to fly around it. And it takes days if you have to drive.

So I haven’t seen my family back in Ontario for almost a decade. I see my two brothers often, though, and I see my partner11Dec24babies’s children and grandchildren even more often than that.

My own immediate family are Rusty and Ginger, and we are celebrating our second anniversary tonight. By trying to steal my spools of thread and eat every scrap of fabric they can find that hasn’t been put away. But here’s a picture of them two years ago, huddled under the couch on that first night here.

11Dec24ncdrawing I forgot to show this last post. I made this little needle book as a Christmas present for my best next door neighbour friend, my quilting partner, Judy. It didn’t turn out as beautiful as I wanted it to, but it is what it is. I used needle-turn applique for the flower on the front. The chicken is felt that was cut out with freezer paper. The cord on the back was tacked down and then that butterfly was ironed over 11Dec24ncfront 11Dec24ncback on top of it. I stitched down around the butterfly after I ironed it, just to make sure it would stay down. She loves butterflies. She also loves chickens.

I put extra batting under the chicken to make it into a pin cushion. It’s not the most even needle case that’s been put together, but it’s not the worst, either. It’s just a bit wonky. I could blame it on Rusty and Ginger, but… Who’d believe me?

Wishing you a Merry Christmas from myself, Rusty and Ginger!

Until next time,

Thursday, December 22, 2011

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree

11Dec22rusty Yowza! I’m finished work for the rest of the week! Holidays always mean extra hours (none of which I get paid for). I’m finished for the week, which means I have three days to relax and think about Christmas. Actually, two days because tomorrow is our Christmas Bird Count and I’m sort of committed to being there. But that isn’t work. It isn’t making Christmas cookies either, though. Oh well. We have other ways of putting on calories.

11Dec22terry11Jan13a I’ve finished off two of three Christmas presents.I just can’t schedule time to work on my own projects because I work when I have to work, and that is most of the time. The pictures are of this year’s presents with last year’s presents to the right. I’m hoping that this year’s presents look better.

11Dec22lee 11Jan13b Can’t complain because it’s always been that way. I’m grateful to have a decent job and a steady paycheque. And that’s what I try and remember to tell myself each and every day.

11Dec22anne I started a few Christmas presents over two months ago. Work just keeps getting in the way. I managed to finish three of the five. I have pictures of three –two that I finished and one that will be a New Years present. People keep asking me if I’m ready for Christmas. I say Christmas 2012? Yah, sure. I’m all over it!

If I was smart, I’d start on next year’s presents right now. But, alas, I’m easily distracted, and the best laid plans of mice and men…

My Christmas wish for myself would be two weeks (minimum) of sewing as I pleased. But it’ll be many years until I retire, I expect. Until then, I have to steal a few minutes here and there.

I haven’t had any time to do any Christmas baking yet this year (as  if!), but here are a couple of my favourite fruitcake recipes. I’ve been making them for years:

Christmas Cake

1¼ C granulated or fruit sugar    ½ lb red & green cherries
1 C butter                                    ¾ lb glace pineapple, diced
5 eggs                                        ½ lb mixed peel or citron
1 C flour                                     ½ C orange juice & brandy
1 tsp salt                                    ¾ C all purpose flour
½ tsp mace                                ½ lb toasted almonds
1 lb raisins candied ginger

Night Before – Add liquid to fruit and let stand overnight, covered. Stir occasionally.
Next Day – Make batter by creaming butter and sugar. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each. Add the 1 C flour, salt and mace slowly until it’s gone. Mix in the three-quarter cups flour to the fruit and nut mixture.
Pour into greased pan and place a pan of water in the oven while the cake is baking. If the top browns too quickly, cover it with aluminum foil. Bake at 300 for 3-3½ hours.

Applesauce Cake

½ C butter                                     ½ C candied cherries, chopped
1 C sugar                                      2 tsp baking powder
1 C dates, finely chopped             ½ tsp salt
1 C raisins (soaked in 2 T. rum)    ½ tsp cinnamon
1½ C unsweetened applesauce   ¼ tsp ground ginger
2 C flour                                        ¼ tsp ground cloves
½ C chopped walnuts or pecans  

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Grease one 8x4-inch loaf pan. Double recipe makes 5 mini loaves.
In saucepan, blend applesauce, shortening, and sugar. Bring to a boil and boil 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool.
In large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, salt, and ginger. Add nuts, raisins, dates, and cherries to the flour mixture.
Add cooled applesauce mixture and mix well. Pour into prepared pan(s).
Bake in 275 degree F (slow) oven for 1 hour and 40 minutes or until cakes test done. Cool 20 minutes in pan. Remove from pan and place on rack to cool completely before slicing. Wrap and store tightly covered.

Until next time,

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Addicted to last minute

11Dec15snow A little bit of snow today – couple of inches. Made everything look nice.

I’m still working on Christmas presents. Have one finished, one almost finished. One halfway finished, and one not started yet! Yeah, I’m crazy. Every year it’s the same, trying to get last minute 11Dec15snow2 presents finished. I always succeed, but at the cost of my sleep and my sanity. This is the second set of mug rugs I’ve been working on this week. I tried some fusible web for the first time with these, mostly because I’m running out of time. I picked up a bit at Fabricland on Tuesday – there was a scrap of it tossed into the remnant bin – and I’m a big remnant bin shopper – so I bought it for $1.13. I can tell you the price, but I can’t really tell you which fusible web it is. Except that it worked just fine. And it looks like this:

11Dec15flwr1 Have a long way to go to finish them.

We found out yesterday that my partner’s daughter and her family are visiting us for a couple of days before Christmas and New Years. That means his six year old granddaughter will be here, and I’m hoping that she’ll be as interested in my sewing machine as she was last last summer . I’m thinking she might be 11Dec15flwr2 interested in these snowmen or this Swedish Dala Horse . Maybe both. I need to do just a little practising before she comes. Good thing I stocked up on hobby felt on Tuesday. I might even get her brothers interested. If not, there’s always something interesting happening in their grampa’s workshop.

Right now I’m watching It’s A Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart (on my laptop). Did I mentioned that I love black and white movies? I grew up on black and white TVs. My hometown was Windsor, Ontario, so we watched a lot of Detroit stations. And back in “those days”, afternoon television was either serial shows (soap operas) or old movies (because they were cheaper to broadcast than new movies) and if you wanted to, you could watch old black and whites all day long, from Rita Bell’s Prize Movies in the morning to Bill Kennedy in the afternoon. Oh, the days of locally hosted TV shows. And then from 11 pm until the station went off the air around 1 am you could watch more black and white movies and it was usually Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly movies or Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. It wasn’t hard to fall in love with the old movies. And now I have a few in our DVD/Blu Ray collection. How many different formats have I already had to buy Casablanca in? Ain’t modern technology wonderful? Just imagine, 30 years ago, except for watching the occasional movie on TV, no one expected to ever watch these movies again, but here they are.

Lots of movie watching, Christmas baking and more sewing to do in the next week – plus work, so it’s busy as usual. Almost feels like Santa’s workshop here!

Until next time,

Friday, December 9, 2011

Another one of those days

11Dec9cats Events like a Full Moon don’t affect everyone the same way, but I’ve had quite the day. Just glad to be home, finally, safe and sound. First off this morning, I sewed my binding backwards – twice, and then gave up. Went to the gas station on my way to work and the price of gas was 10 cents/Litre cheaper than it’s been in months, so I filled up. Never know what it’s going to be tomorrow. Then I went to the bank. Nearly got into two accidents on the highway at the entrance to the parking lot. People are in such a hurry. I had to stop halfway into the entrance for a car that was trying to back out onto the highway (!) and got the horn from the vehicle behind me. I gave him a gesture that may have been construed as rude, but it honestly wasn’t. We both apologized to each other once we got out of our vehicles – he was honking at someone else, and my gesture wasn’t rude, but it was impatient.

The lineup inside the bank was all the way to the front door. I stood there for five minutes and the lineup hadn’t budged. I had to get to work, so I left. That’s the way the day started, and it didn’t get any better. Tonight there were pedestrians and bicyclists all over the road after dark with no markings to show they were there!! I’m just glad to be home.

11Dec9rusty1 And watching The Bishop’s Wife on my laptop as I type this (on my desktop). The OLD Bishop’s Wife with Cary Grant, David Niven and Loretta Young. I love old movies. And the interior shots in the movie of the house they live in – all of the intricately-detailed wood…. – is just beautiful. I see some drawers made of beautiful Birds Eye Maple in the scene I’m watching at the moment. And I love the leaded windows in the study. Things you never see anymore. There was a remake made of the movie not that long ago with Denzel Washington, and although I love him and think he’s a fantastic actor, I haven’t seen his version of the movie.

11Dec9rusty2 Well, the tree is up and Rusty and Ginger think it’s wonderful that I have erected such a fantastic kitty toy for them. I wasn’t finished putting the ornament boxes away the other day when the first icicle hit the floor! I haven’t had a chance to get any good pictures of them with the tree yet this year, so I’ve included a couple from last year. The bell ornament is a gift from grandma. This will be their third Christmas with us. Sure beats the first Christmas – the first night they arrived in our house – when they spent the night huddled together under the couch.

11Dec9flower I’ve been working on some Christmas prezzies, so I really don’t want to post identifying pictures here, just in case. I mean, at least half the fun is the surprise! But here’s a little stitching – I dug out the metallic thread for this posy and it didn’t snag on me, which is very good. I also dug out the felt that I’ve been accumulating – bits and pieces from the local thrift stores. My Janome’s blanket stitch looks very nice (I think) on the felt, although the little oval shapes were so small that I had to move them around under the needle with a pair of tweezers! (I didn’t have 11Deceggs any yellow or orange for the yolk so I used green – you know, Green Eggs and Ham! I was raised on Dr. Seuss books, and was just watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas before The Bishop’s Wife – the Boris Karloff-narrated cartoon, not the modern movie…) I couldn’t machine-stitch the “flower” at the side because of how it’s situated, so I had to hand-stitch it. As usual, it looks weird, but I guess that’s my signature.

Yours in weirdness…. Until next time,

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Small town Christmas

So typical! I began to prepare this post three days ago but was interrupted just after I’d gotten the photographs ready – and I haven’t had time to get back to it since. Until now.The good news is that part of the reason I didn’t have time was because I was sewing. I’ll show you what I was sewing, but not in this post.

For this post, I thought I’d show you some scenes from our annual Santa parade. You might laugh. This is a small town, surrounded by lots of other small towns – from populations of 1,600 to 400 – and you might find the floats sort of “basic”, but they have a lot of heart. Those are our friends and neighbours on the floats, all of the adults know who Mr. and Mrs. Claus are because they’ve been doing it for YEARS, and we all have a lot of fun. Plus, the weather co-operated. I thought last year was mild, but this year it felt even warmer! A little bit of snow is nice for setting the mood, but I can live without it. I’ve taken pictures of Christmas parades in temperatures that were so cold they made my fingers stick to my camera (the old days of metal camera bodies – and FILM!), so I’m all for no snow and warm(ish) temperatures.

11Dec4a 11Dec4b 11Dec4c 11Dec4d 11Dec4f 11Dec4g

A blog or two ago (sung to the tune of Jingle Bells), I said that I would be playing my favourite Christmas movies on my laptop because there were more important things playing on the TV out in the living room. So I fired up my laptop this morning – about three hours ago – and got hit with a whack of updates and scheduled scans. They’re still running. No Christmas movies until they’re finished.

Well, back to my sewing machine. Until next time,

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

In keeping with the season

11Nov29rusty I can’t stick to a plan. It just doesn’t work out that way. I have very little routine in my life these days, so I take whatever the moment offers me. If it says “clean house”, that’s what I do. If it says “bake”, I’ll go for it.When it says “sew”, I’m all over it. But what to sew is something totally different. I have 895 million projects on the go right now and sometimes it’s hard to make a choice between what I really should be doing and what I really feel like doing. And I have to admit that Rusty and Ginger are really no help at all in situations like this.

11Nov29newmats 11Jan13a Last year I made mug rugs for my co-workers. This year, I’m expanding on that – meaning, I’m making them each two more to go with the two I made last year. I have my first set almost finished. Even I’m astonished. I may get them done in time this year. Last year I was stitching right up until the last possible moment. I started off last week trying to make a set of microwave mitts, and ended it finishing off the first set of “rugs”. I’m just about to tack down the binding. They’re to go with these that I made last year.

11Nov29mitt My microwave mitt ended up looking like a lumpy potato. I was looking at some beautiful mitts over the weekend at a craft fair and the woman who made them did a beautiful job. They were lovely and even and the absolute opposite of mine. (That’s why I practice on old scraps of fabric first.) I went searching for more online information about how to make them, and re-read the instructions VERY CAREFULLY this time, and discovered where I went wrong. I’ll try making another one soon

11Nov29snow I’m afraid the tree skirt won’t be done for this Christmas. Maybe next year. I’ve been trying to get into the Christmas mood, but the chilly weather isn’t doing it. We’ve had a bit of snow, but it comes and then it goes. There is none to be seen at the moment, but we had lots of rain over the weekend. I can’t just pop in a Christmas movie to get into the spirit because my RETIRED partner is home whenever I am and usually watching the television. I may be reduced this year to watching my favourite Christmas movies on my laptop.

Actually, that’s not a bad idea. I can put my laptop on the table with my sewing machine and, as long as the cats don’t sit on it – and how likely is it that they won’t be attracted to something I’m staring at…? It needs a little more planning, but… Did I say plan? Hmmmmm.

Until next time,

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Design Chair

11Nov22stars Yeah, some quilters have really spiffy design walls where they can throw their quilt blocks and move them around to create beautiful and perfect quilts. I have no such thing. But I do have a Design Chair. It’s smaller than the Design Floor, but it eliminates the feline element that automatically goes with laying fabric on a horizontal surface.

11Nov22house But, of course, it cuts down on the size of the “quilt”. Luckily this one is only 10.5 inches by 15. Finished all the free motion quilting today. Looks funny, but I can live with it. It was never meant to be a prize winning piece, and I got to play with some thread that I’ve had for at least a couple of years. I bought this multi-coloured variegated Mettler poly a long time ago to use on another piece, but it didn’t happen. I think it looks not too bad here. Makes it look like a psychedelic Northern Lights. The blue background thread and brown/green thread are also Mettler, but they’re cotton. They weren’t as easy to work with.

11Nov22hanging I’ve signed up for the 2012 Free Motion Quilting Challenge over at SoCalGal's blog because I’ll take all the help I can get. She’s promising some tutorials by FMQ’ers who I really admire.

We’re coming up on another New Moon this Thursday, Nov. 24 at 2 Sagittarius – just after 11 pm Pacific Standard Time. This time it’s in good aspect to Uranus in Aries. Mercury also goes Retrograde on Thursday at 20 Sagittarius and doesn’t go Direct until Dec. 13, which isn’t so hot.

Jupiter is BIG. Big plans, Big spending, Big everything. Sagittarian past times can include a range of activities that include long distance travel (or foreign tastes), philosophy, religion, horses, higher learning, sports, mountain climbing and just being free. Sagittarians are generally optimistic, generous, forgiving and hard to pin down.

The Uranian influence lends genius, surprises, and excitement to this New Moon and will also influence any project you start now. It’s a really good time to haul those Christmas projects out. Just be careful you don’t over estimate the amount of material you need or the time it will take you to complete it.

Have you ever planned a blue Christmas? Sagittarian colours are deep blue, royal purple and pale gold. Don’t forget to add in some electric blue for Uranus.

Until next time,

Friday, November 18, 2011

Summer, we hardly knew ye

11Nov18snow It’s getting harder and harder to ignore Winter, especially when I have to drive in this ugly stuff every day. In the morning before I go to work, I brush the snow out of the bird feeders and replace the lids that the wind has blown off overnight. Repeat when I come home from work, plus go look for the garbage can and rescue it from wherever it has blown to. Okay, I’m ready for Spring.

11Nov18thread I decided to try a different FMQ design on my little cabin in the woods – something simpler and smaller, more suitable for a small piece. I also changed the foot from a darning foot to the clear plastic crosshatch foot which goes over seams much easier. The darning foot kept catching on the seams. I was making some headway yesterday morning when the bobbin ran out of thread. Sigh.

In my last post I forgot to include a couple of recipes that I made for our Thanksgiving supper back in October. The U.S. Thanksgiving is this coming Thursday and I’m sure new tried and tested recipes are always welcome: Wild Rice and Apple Cider Pilaf and Crustless Pumpkin Pie. The pilaf included apples from our backyard tree and it was soooo good. And so was the pumpkin pie – all the pumpkin taste you want in your pie in a delicious creamy – and firm – base. I’m not a big fan of crusts, or bread or anything that uses flour. I don’t have any unusual problems digesting it. It’s just not my cuppa tea. I also make a wonderful crustless quiche. So, on to the recipes.

Crustless Pumpkin Pie
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin
1 (12 ounce) can evaporated skim milk
2 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/2 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup brown sugar

Combine all ingredients and beat until smooth. Pour into 9-inch pie pan sprayed with cooking spray.
Bake at 400 F for 15 minutes; reduce temperature to 325 F and bake for 45 minutes more. Pie is done when knife inserted into center comes out clean.

Wild Rice and Apple Cider Pilaf
2/3 cup wild rice
2 cups unsweetened apple cider
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 fresh apple, peeled, cored and chopped

Wash wild rice and drain. Combine with the cider and 1 cup water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover. Simmer until rice is tender, but still firm, 30 to 40 minutes.
In large skillet, melt the butter; add the almonds and raisins. Cook, stirring, until almonds are light brown, about 5 minutes. Add the salt, pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir in the chopped fresh apple and the wild rice. Cook until warmed through, about 1 minute. Serve warm.

You can use brown (or white) rice instead of wild, although wild rice looks more interesting and has a very nice texture in the mouth. A great dish to serve up on a cold night.

Until next time,

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I’d rather be on a beach

DSC_1432 With my sewing machine. Because I’m not getting a lot done here. Besides my 50-plus hour a week job, I make and print note cards, business cards, photographs, etc. for a bit of extra cash. Some months are busier than others, and November has been pretty busy so far. As I write this, I’m running some Christmas cards off on my other computer. And then there’s my partner, who has become a television addict since he retired two and a half months ago. If I want to sit at my sewing machine, I have to at least listen to whatever he’s watching, and it’s driving me a bit nuts. I need a good set of headphones to drown it out.

11Nov16a   Nonetheless, I continue to work on a few things. I began to quilt my cabin under the stars. As usual, I did more un-stitching than anything else. Could have been 11Nov16b partly because of the crummy old fabric I used as backing. My “pebbles” look kind of funky. Not very round, but acceptable. I used a variegated Mettler thread for them. Then I tried a simple leaf and look design on the background and ran into tension troubles that I couldn’t ignore. I’ve finally got all the threads out, but I need some time without the television on in order to concentrate on my FMQ.

I’m also working on some Christmas present mug rugs for co-workers and some fingertip potholders that might become Christmas presents. I’ll be happy if I just get them done in time for this Christmas. And maybe I’ll find time to send some Christmas cards this year too. When reindeer fly.

Until next time,