Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Not quite resolutions, more than a passing thought

By this time in 2009 (December 31, 2009) I would like to have:

Prepared and sold our house
Packed, moved and unpacked our home into a new house (May)
Reorganized and created a new sewing studio
Assemble and hand quilt the Precincts of Tokyo quilt
Cut, sew and assemble the Purple and Red quilt for Melissa
Assemble the Black and White Mystery quilt
Design, cut, sew, assemble and quilt Jenny's Quilt for Jamboree (April)
Design, cut, sew, assemble and quilt a crib or lap quilt for the March fundraiser
Cut and sew the blocks for "Shakespeare in the Park"
Cut, sew and assemble the Poppy Rememberence Quilt (to quilt in 2010)
Make new Christmas stockings for the family (for December)
Create an artistic piece
Create Mini-quilt gift pieces (such as Fabric Post Cards, mini-quilts, table toppers)
Go to work and complete some projects there
Enjoy life with Peter
Visit with my children
Successully take at least 2 night classes
Be financially responsible and efficient
Journal on a more regular basis
Keep showing my love for my family
Have fun with the dogs
Spend time with friends
Choose physical activities more often
Pay attention to what my body is asking for
Figure out how to develop a realistic sense of time (It seems I really need to do this)
Laugh lots
Keep smiling

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

24 hours to 2009

The 30th of December always feels like a roller coaster day...all day, slowly climbing (creak,creak, creak) to the peak moment as the world rushes past us and we roll up and down, around and around, sometimes letting loose to find ourselves dangerously close to losing our hold on control and other times holding on so tightly, eyes shut tight, and not knowing what you might miss.

The old year is done, a new year has started and it happens so fast.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

A transitional day between the holidays

The Big Christmas day and the days of work that make it so are done. Today was the lazy day, R&R. I am so thankful that I have the next week off work (not counting the day I plan to use to take advantage of the quiet to do some projects).
It is however +13c outside right now (midnight), the 4ft banks of snow are melting and the yard is half grass. This also will switch back to freezing and snow in a few days.

This transitional time is perfect for reviewing the year past and looking forward to the year ahead. I like the concept of thinking through and choosing resolutions. I try to think carefully and realistically. Many of my friends prefer to make changes as they notice they are needed, and that makes sense but it is good to set a point of reference to take stock of where you have been and where you are headed. Maybe you want to understand why and then again maybe not.

The saying that you can't expect different results if you keep doing the same thing is so true. The last few years I have found that choosing a motto for the year has been good for me, especially if I could not resolve any one or two things in particular.

So after the accomplishments in the sewing room for the first 6 months of the year I can add my hours of sewing, quilting, designing
July - 40
August - 38.5
September - 23
October - 7.5
November - 19
December - 10.5

For a 2008 total of 343 hours (I know there are 4 days left and I do plan to do some quilting but I can still update this later).

What have I accomplished since the end of June:
20 Fabric Postcards
Queen Size Dick and Jane Turning Twenty (50!) quilt
Crib Size "bespoke uprising - play date" quilt
12 BOM "Precincts of Japan"
Crib Size "Juke Box" quilt, made with friends
Sofa Size Amy Butler "Belle" quilt
rebinding a quilt
4 toiletries bags
A sock Monkey, and quilting a donation quilt for LFQG
some hemming and mending
a folk-art felted wool wall hanging
I also have some fabric cut for a few projects that I have not yet started to sew.

It is time to consider new lists for 2009. The quilts, the reading, the projects, purging, packing, moving, building the new house, travel, personal development, sharing and keeping in touch, friends and family; it will be a busy year to come.

Friday, 26 December 2008

It's a wonderful Christmas (I love my dishwasher almost as much as my family)

I want to say all the very best of the season to anyone who has stopped by. It is wonderful to think about the people we love and hold them close to our heart, whether they are close enough to hug or simply at the other end of the telephone line.

Our Christmas dinner was Mexican in flavour (suggestion from Cara).

  • Tortilla Soup

  • Quesadilla Pie

  • Guacamole

  • Salad

  • Caramel Flan for dessert (remember to use pyrex since regular dessert bowls will crack when the hot caramel cools - 6 bowls we did not have to wash)

The Tortilla Soup was wonderful, the Quesadilla Pie was tasty and filling; we ate so such of this we had hardly any room for Flan. Since the rest of the family that was sharing dinner table had dietary restrictions I was able to make this and separate all the sensitive components so everyone could personalize their meal.

Easy Tortilla Soup - inspired by an online friend, Leslie in Houston (12 servings)

-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, prepared separately. Cut into small strips: saute in olive oil with a couple of crushed garlic cloves and sprinkled with chipotle chili pepper, when nicely browned I added some water to dissolve the caramelized bits and keep the chicken pieces moist

- 1 cup chopped onion

- 4 cloves garlic, minced

- olive oil

- 8 cups water

- 4 chicken flavoured (vegetable based, meatless) bouillon cubes

- 28 oz can of diced tomatoes

- 1/4 cup chopped jalapeno peppers

In a stock pot, saute the onions in the olive oil until they are nicely browned, adding the garlic and cook till it turns golden; add the water, the bouillon cubes and stir the caramelized bits into the broth. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer, pour in the can of tomatoes and jalapeno peppers. Let simmer until you are ready to serve (whether 10 minutes or an hour, it will be okay).


3 Avocados cut into small cubes (sprinkle with lime juice to keep from turning brown)

1 cup chopped FRESH Cilantro

8 or 10 corn tortillas, cut into 1/4" strips and toasted in the oven till crunchy

1 lime cut into very thin slices

1 cup Shredded cheese such as Monterrey Jack, Cheddar to be used as a topping

To Serve: Prepare separate bowls for the chicken, cheese, diced avocado, cilantro, tortilla strips and limes. Everyone can prepare their bowls with their chosen fillings, ladle the soup over it all and top with the shredded cheese.

Quesadilla Pie

6 - 10" flour tortillas (use corn tortillas for a gluten free version)

1 cup (or 1 can) Refried Pinto or Black Beans

1 /2 plus 1/4 cup shredded cheese (cheddar, Monterrey Jack)

1/2 cup corn (sprinkled with a dash of crushed chilies)

1/2 rice (seasoned with chipotle chili pepper, Mexican Oregano and some garlic)

1/2 cup browned chopped beef or chicken

2 to 3 tablespoons chopped onion

1 tomato, diced

1/2 cup salsa

Lay the first tortilla flat and spread with refried beans, continue layering the tortillas alternating with the above ingredients, mixing in salsa where needed to help the other fillings set and reserving the last 1/4 cup cheese and some salsa for the topping.

Bake at 325 F for approximately 20 minutes, Let set 5 minutes after removing from oven. Cut into 6 or 8 wedges (like a pie)

Serve with Guacamole, Sour Cream and Salsa.

That was Christmas Day. 2 dishwasher loads and a full sink of pots and baking stoneware.

The Boxing Day menu was fresh turkey with stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables, gravy, Apple Danish and Pumpkin Pie. This day required 3 reloads of the dishwasher.

Grammy's Nativity Set

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

More Holiday Baking - Cookie Trees

Another holiday tradition is to make Cookie Trees each year on December 24. We make them for hostess gifts and some neighbouring families.
This how we start, Aunt Mary's Sugar Cookies.

  • 1/2 cup margarine ( I use half soy and half real butter)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 small or medium eggs
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • few grains salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
Cream the margarine, add sugar and cream a bit more. Add eggs and vanilla, beat well. Stir in the dry ingredients and mix well. Chill the dough. Roll very on a well-floured mat. Cut into shapes.

Bake at 375 F for approximately 6 to 10 minutes

I sometimes tint the butter with green food colouring so that the star shaped cookies we stack into trees will create a green Christmas Tree.

We cut 5 or 6 graduated sizes of star shapes, 3 of each size. These are stacked from largest to smallest and each star is shifted slightly so that the points alternate. I drizzle an icing glaze over everything (looks like snow) and then sprinkle decors on the tress. Here is one from last year:

And when it is all dressed up, it is ready to go visiting...

Gingerbread House Party

This is the result of an evening of sugar laden, giggly frolic.

I bake them using Lois Black's Ginger Snap recipe, the absolute best tasting ginger bread. These can be rolled out as thin as you like and if you are just making cookies rather than houses you will be baking ginger snaps for weeks. This is the only cookie dough I cannot help myself from eating raw. I sometimes have to make an extra batch just so I can finish my house pieces because I have eaten so much of it.

Lois Black's Ginger Snaps:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ginger
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar (yes, only cider vinegar)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • enough flour to form a stiff dough (could be anywhere from 4 to 6 cups depending on the moisture content of your flour)

Combine sugar, molasses, butter, egg, cinnamon, ginger and baking soda. Mix well.
Add cider vinegar, vanilla, flour slowly till you have a nice stiff dough. Roll out thin and cut into desired shapes.

Bake at 325 F, approximately 10 to 12 minutes

If you are making ginger snap cookies, for adults, add a dash of cayenne pepper for extra zip!

Of course this has to be assembled carefully. After the structure is built you have to wait for at least 15 or 20 minutes and sample the candy.

A very important step in planning is more taste testing. We had green and red Smarties, Mini M&M's, JuJube Wreaths. Gummi reindeer, Mint Kisses, Gum Balls, Andes Mints Chocolates, Chocolate Balls, Malted Milk Snow Balls, Chocolate Macaroons, Ribbon Candy, Coloured Sprinkles, Reese's Mini Cups, Candy Canes, Candy Corn, Mints, Candy Snow Men and Candy Santa's.

All of this is cemented into place with Royal Icing. The meringue powder I have been able to find the last few years has not been as nice to use as what we previously were able to buy. It is now premixed with Icing Sugar so it is even more expensive to use. The other product only required 2 tablespoons of meringue powder to each 4 cups of icing sugar. This uses 1 cup of meringue powder to 3 1/2 cups of icing sugar, and being the same price... costs 4 times the price.
This year is it was freezing cold and the air was crisp dry. Our last 2 decorating parties had pouring rain outside, the icing would not dry quickly enough and all our roofs slid off, walls collapsed - what a trial. We were able to fix everything by using roof trusses (Cinnamon Sticks) to support our candy laden tops.
This year was great, only one roof slid and only one wall pushed in.

This year I only needed to bake 6 houses, I have baked 9 for this party before. I think our bag Ladies group has been making these together for at least 8 years, maybe 10.

What a great night!

Friday, 12 December 2008

Squeezing the dollars, twice

Grammy would make the most of everything before she would spend extra dollars.
    Grammy and a Bunny Cake, Easter, 1975

  • cook from basic food ingredients; our every day meals and our special treats
  • knit and crochet hats, scarves, sweaters, afghans etc.
  • sew pajamas, every day clothes, special occasion wear, coats etc.
  • re-purpose as many things as possible, such as using large empty cans, covered in a fabric casing to make a small foot stool
  • compost
  • save the buttons from unwearable clothing
  • mend clothing
  • make bean bags to play with
  • use a wash basin to save water while washing dishes
  • share
  • showed us her love and care by spending time with us
  • She always found a way to to use items that no longer met their original purposes

I grew up understanding that was normal, to make the most value from everything as a matter of course.

There have been many times over my lifetime so far when living that way made the big difference in how we survived tight times. Being newly married, starting a family, being a stay-at-home-mom, squeezing out mortgage payments at 20% interest rates, surviving lay-offs and unemployment; raising our family through it all.

Times may be getting tough again but we will all survive. There are hundreds of ways to spend less and squeeze the dollar tighter. It actually feels good to work through the challenge of making each dollar go farther.

I know that over the last few years I have spent money fairly loosely, not thinking quite so hard before I bought whatever happy little gadget came my way, especially if it was a kitchen tool, notions to help me quilt, pretty fabric or anything that made my kids smile. As we learn lifelong there are cycles for everything. Now begins the time to think more like my Grammy again.

All the Grandchildren (except Melody - who is there in someone's hand in a photo), perhaps in 1986 or 87

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Catch up with my quilting

"Snoopy + Belle" (the Amy Butler pattern) is done, all bound, labelled, washed and folded; ready for the Cara to snuggle under it.

The pattern is now worked out for Melissa's "Purple and Red" Strip Quilt; I think EQ6 was a great help in designing this. Now before I cut any of that pile of purple and red fabric we both understand what she would like this to look like. This one should measure up to 80" x 80".

I have to assemble the cut pieces for the 2008 Mystery Quilt that I designed for the Bag Ladies. They are cut into whites with black, Blacks with white, and a beautiful blue for the centre square. Unfortunately I cannot open the EQ6 file that I made of this pattern. You will have to wait until I finish it to see it; sorry.

The fabric needs to be cut for our Bag Lady 2009 project - "Shakespeare in the Park" (a pattern by Judy Martin). I am going to use my green and neutral FQ's and small pieces to do this one.

And then of course, I have the old UFO's .... Assembling the Bag Ladies Sampler Quilt, completing the 30's repros quilt, hand quilting my "Precincts of Japan". I will be a busy girl, even if I pack up most of the studio.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Merry Christmas fun and smiles

Please click here for a Happy Holidays jigsaw puzzle.

let sleeping dogs lie...

This is how I left the dogs this morning. I expect that they spent the whole day in the same way. Usually when I return home there are toys all over the floor. Not today. The blankets were still pretty much where they were this morning.

It is winter.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

House Update - Ki West

We need a minor variance because the zoning regulations have changed since the lot was created. The previous requirement was that the lot be 50 metres deep, ours is 56.6 metres BUT the current rules require that a rural residential lot be 80 metres deep. This means that we had to apply for a minor variance. With the able help of the local planner and the township office, our application is making its way to the local township's next council meeting agenda.

After the meeting,once approved, there is a need to wait a further 20 days before the builder is allowed to start building. January 26, 2009. Our septic permit however is in place and that can go in whenever.

It is of course freezing winter now. The earliest snow and coldest December we have had in many years. Hopefully we will have a nice thaw in January.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Cara's lap quilt

This is how I have to work sometimes ...

I am giving Cara a hand with the binding. She did such a super job creating this piece. She dyed the cotton as well as the wool for the binding. She ruched it in some kind of a steam press.

I think it is a wonderful quilt. She does not realize what a great quilter she is inside.