Monday, August 29, 2011

Stuff from this week

I rarely take a big-picture photo of our back yard because there is little of beauty there.  However, this is a beautiful sunflower.  It's actually two plants growing mighty close to each other, but both are impressive in terms of the number of flowers on each plant. 

Usually I see little out of my kitchen window beyond the 15 foot above-ground pool.  And it's not pretty.  However, this year the girls all voted in favour of a firepit instead of the pool (we can't fit both).   For a few weeks we lived with just a tractor rim, but we've now covered the rim with loosely stacked bricks.  Much better!

One day the mound it sits on (which is completely level for the pool and made up of clay and sand) will maybe be bricked and look a bit more deliberate.  For the moment, the sand makes this a very safe firepit. 

And this was today's haul from the garden. 

It's all very late, but there's:  beans, peans, turnips, carrots, overgrown patapan, celery and parsley for drying. 

The celery is awesome this year.  Almost like grocery store celery, but it's starting to get slightly bitter.  I made up some soup packages today (onion, celery, carrots) and a big batch of cream of celery soup for the freezer.   A busy day, but it feels good to start getting it out of the garden and into the freezer.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Sometimes it comes and bites you in the butt

I enjoy writing a blog.  It's a great place to share stuff that I care about or am thinking about.  It makes me feel productive if I record something I've done.  It's a great forum for sharing creative moments or moments of children's sillliness or brilliance. 

But sometimes it comes back to bite me.

My sister was here for three full days before she said "You make some nice bags right?  And they seem to be so quick to do.  I've seen them on your blog."

Yeah.  What are you getting at?

"Maybe tonight you can show me how to make one quickly.  I could use a nicer knitting bag."  She was leaving in the morning.  I think this was a test to see if I really can sew a bag start to finish in one evening the way I do in a panic before birthday parties.

Fine.  Game on.

It's been a few months since I've made this design because all the kids and their friends have them now.  I have to move onto another birthday present gift.  That meant I had to sort of rethink all of the steps, but her new bag turned out nicely.  And it's got a small zippered pocket on the inside for her scissors and other little knitting accessories.

And she didn't learn a thing.  She sat beside me and visited, but I'm afraid it might be a long time before I see a blog posting on her own blog about a similar bag that she makes.

Then I thought, since I was on the right chair in the right room in front of the sewing machine anyway, I'd make the pencil case that I'd promised Beth. 

The kid's came in from playing with fire in the backyard (We're both good parents.  Really. We just wanted them to feel like big kids for a while and have an unsupervised campfire because it got them out of our way and they sounded happy through the window!).  Her boy saw it and and wanted a pencil case just like it.  And since it was so fast to make... Ouch.  Bitten again.

Before they left in the morning, both of her boys had a new pencil case and their mom had an awesome knitting bag.  Beth and Laura still don't have pencil cases, but I've got until Thursday to deal with that.

These are my new living room pillows and the reason I had such funky fabric in my house in the first place.

 Ikea won't sell less than one full metre of fabric, so after four cushion covers using three fabrics, I'm glad I had a bit left over to play with.

And isn't it cool how all of the stuff coordinates so well with my living room?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Audio Books

I read a lot of pre-adolescent books these days.  Partly it's because there are a lot of well-written books out there, but mostly because if I don't read them, I'll get a play-by-play of the entire book anyway.  When Beth gets a book out of the library, the whole family might as well listen to the audio book. 

This week I read "The Manny Files", a humorous little book.  First Beth read every second page out loud to us because it was all too hilarious not to share.  Then I stopped her and started reading it myself.  Then we spent a day at the zoo and Alice wanted me to read it aloud to her whdile the bigger girls ran around looking at something she wasn't that interested in.  It was a very hot day and the shade on the grass of the hill looked inviting.  Then all of the girls joined us (with an extra friend as well) and spent about an hour in the shade at the zoo listening to me read aloud.  Although we missed some of the animals, we've all been there often enough to just want to relax and enjoy each other's company.  That's what summer is all about, right?

Today we spent some time at the Fringe.  We're managing to hit a lot of the local festivals this year.

But before we left the house, I made some creamy leek soup which got rave review.  Here's the recipe if you care.  My niece wanted her mom to make it sometime, so now it's in print.  I love cooking for appreciative visitors.

Creamy Leek Soup (served 4)

1 pint chicken stock
6 cups water
3 potatoes, diced
1 leek, sliced thinly (or I used the last of last year's dried leeks)
1 Tbsp dried chives
2 Tbsp fresh parsley
2 Tbsp fresh lovage
1 tsp paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
Splash of cream (maybe 1/4 cup of coffee cream was what I had)

Saute the leek in butter, the way you would onions. Add all the other ingredients except the cream.  Boil until the potatoes are soft.  Use an immersion blender to puree it. Stir some cream into the soup just before serving. 

I served it with slivers of salami and grated cheese at the table.  Bacon bits would have been great.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Bedding needs

There are three things on my mind right now.

1.  We've increased from one bed to 5 beds in 12 years.
2.  We never have enough bedding.
3.  I want to make a quilt.

It's the quilt draped over the chair in our living room that brought this on. 

When we first got married we just had our own double bed.  It was easy to buy a few blankets and we were done with bedding.

After tiring of the double bed and needing a spare for visitors, we bought ourselves a queen-sized bed.  The spare then got all of our old blankets and we got new ones for ourselves.  They weren't Canadian winter-worthy though because we made that switch while living in Australia.  However, we were still set for ourselves and guests.

Then Beth came, and with her we added a crib.  A first baby invites tons of fluffy blankets as gifts, although we did notice that no one presented us with crib sheets.  (Note to self: Give sheets as baby gifts)  No offense meant to Beth, but she was a very pukey kid and lots of sheets were required unless we wanted to do daily laundry.

Then Laura came along.  Beth moved to a single and we needed new sheets and blankets again.  Humph.  By then we needed heavier blankets for ourselves as well because we were back in Canada.  All this bed expansion was getting tedious.  And we seemed to have lots of odd blankets that didn't quite fit.  Afghans and throw blankets and such that weren't long enough for a single bed.  How many throws do people really need?  We needed real blankets. 

Then Alice joined the family, taking over the crib again and moving Laura into a big bed.  More blankets required... and then Alice moved into her own big bed.

My mom has given each of the girls their own beautiful quilt.  I love them all.  However, you wouldn't believe how many blankets the kids think they need on their beds.  They have all sorts of fleece blankets, one massive down comforter on Beth's bed (although I admit the warmth isn't great because all of the down has shifted away from the centre), and last year when Laura moved to the cold basement she started throwing a sleeping bag on top of it all. 

I know every growing family goes through this, but I find it frustrating.  Somehow, some people just throw a duvet on their bed and it's done, but in our house no one seems to be happy or warm enough with that.  It's much more complicated than it needs to be, but that's the way it is around here.  One day I'll go through all of our fleeces (from birthday gifts and Girl Guides and all the odd sources of throws) and keep only the ones that truly fit on our beds. 

And then maybe I'll make my first scrappy quilt out of cottons in my sewing room.   I look at the quilting blogs, I go to historic sites and finger the stitching and admire them all.  I'm not quite there yet, but I'm getting closer and closer to starting my own.  And it will go on MY bed, even if it matches nothing at all in our room. 

This above quilt I picked up at a thrift shop recently.  I love it's scrappiness.  Although it's far from perfect and the colors are not terribly coordinated, I'm inspired by it.  The border has a few similar blocks to tie it together, but the centre pieces are all different patterns.  I'll never do any version of the crazy quilt section.  It has all sorts of handstitched areas and embroidered bits that I don't have the patience for (never say never, maybe).  It's made by a 70-something volunteer at the shop out of donated new cottons.  At $40, she obviously places little value on her time, but I appreciate all of the careful stitching and I've always loved knotted quilts.  It's probably all I will be able to do when I ever get around to trying. 

There is no point to this post whatsoever.  Just random things I think about while the rest of my family sleeps. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Life in Smalltown

Without leaving the comfort of my home, I woke up yesterday in Smalltown.  It's a pretty little town, sparsely populated but all of the inhabitants are very helpful and pleasant. 

Signs were posted all over the house.  Blanchetti Plaza, McMaster's Drive, Freezing Fuzz Crescent, Purple Smurf Road, Couch Potato Square. 

I started the morning at the Pure Yumminess Restaurant in Blanchetti Plaza.  Their slogans are "Exactly like breakfast at home without the work" or "We have everything you bought at the grocery store yesterday".  I had homemade granola with bumbleberry sauce and coffee.  Later I had cream of sorrel soup, watermelon with yoghurt dip and a fizzy rhubarb and berry drink.  Pure Yumminess, indeed.  And I didn't have to make it.

Later in the day I provided some marketing services for McMaster's Envelopes.  Miss Alice was offering a half price sale on homemade envelopes and needed a poster designed.  I placed an order as well, and ordered an "Open/Close" sign for Ev's Bloomin' Acres, who supplies the town with veggies and flowers.

Cross marketing is always going on in Smalltown.  Ev's Bloomin' Acres provided free bouquets for the library, restaurant and envelope businesses in exchange for discrete signage in each location. 

Advertising the Raspberry U-Pick at Mrs. Ev's 1/4-or-so Of An Acreage was very successful.  Three pickers arrived and everyone went home happy and full of berries and plans for special drinks at the restaurant. 

Later, I applied for a library card at the library and volunteered to read aloud in the afternoon.  We read one chapter of "A Wrinkle in Time" while munching on raspberry upside down cakes baked by the Pure Yumminess Restaurant.  Lovely!

Miss Laura is both the librarian and postmistress.  She is kept quite busy collecting library fines, delivering notes and flyers.   Because Miss Alice is so busy with her envelopes, Laura also babysits Alice's baby, Betty.

One of the things we like about Smalltown is that we're all very interconnected and help each other when we see needs arise.  Miss Beth often needs ingredients for the restaurant, and Mrs. Ev quickly runs to either her acreage or Slug Botanical Gardens to gather herbs or whatever. 

Yesterday was really the first day of un-planned summer holidays for both of my older girls.  We were away for two weeks and then in a daycamp for two weeks.  These hang-out days are what we all really like about summer.  I was surprised how quickly they came up with a game that happily involved everyone and there was no fighting all day. 

I love summer holidays.