Tuesday, March 30, 2010

More pins, more joy

I started my dress today. Following the good advice from the woman from Rockland Textiles, I am making a muslin before I cut into my silk. Lots of pins and more cutting - I really should get shears with cushioned handles!

And, as if to reward my patience and work, my dwarf irises gave me the first blooms of my gardens.


Monday, March 29, 2010

A reason for all the pins

I'm having fun. Really. I realized yesterday as I obsessively pinned pattern pieces to the fabric that I was happy.

It's not often that I carefully pin before cutting out. Now that I have fabric weights, a rotary cutter and 3'x6' of self-healing cutting mats, I mostly don't bother.

Because I like to go fast.
Because this isn't part of a project that I enjoy.
Because, because really I can be lazy.

Go figure that I have to adjust pieces when I sew them together! But not this time.

It's because I know my daughter will love this dress. It's because I will love her wearing it. And mostly, it's because of the occassion that she'll be wearing it.

After living together for almost 13 years, her father and I are getting married. In Vegas baby. and I'm happy - we're all happy. (It's a long story but there will be no Elvis; I managed to negotiate that out of the deal.) Which is why I'm so focused on sewing dresses...

Friday, March 26, 2010

One off the list...

I did get to Fabricland yesterday and stocked up on a few basics like needles and thread. I also got the required items to finish the apron and top.

The apron is done.

So can anyone tell me why nothing is quite as straight forward as it seems? Once again, I learned a few things from a project: 
  1. Canvas does not drape nicely.
  2. It would behoove me to make a test garment when I'm making up my own pattern...actually, for anything that I really care about.
  3. Flying by the seat of your pants, while creative, means that you have to be flexible. Sometimes, you have to cross the ties in the back to make the neckline lie flat; also so that you have enough twill tape.
  4. A cup of tea and reading a few pages of a good book (The Road from Coorain by Jill Ker Conway) can help you improve your outlook.

On the whole, I'm happy.
  1. It's a finished project and that's always good.
  2. The apron looks pretty good. (I will probably buy more tape so that I can tie it in front.)
  3. It inspires me to bake. I think Lemon Ginger Sugar Cookies are in order.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Your wait will be rewarded

The day began with such good intentions.

I was at the sewing machine by 9am. Straight into fixing the side seams of the sleeveless top I'm making. Pin and measure. Try on and pin some more. Stitch. Got it right.

Then...well it's certainly not a bag anymore but it needs some structure or definition. I decide to use bias tape to finish the neck and armholes. But I don't have any.

Wait. Fabricland is having a members 50% off sale. Oh right - it's tomorrow.

Okay. So I move on to my neglected apron. (Yes, it's not strictly a priority considering the dresses I need to make but...) It's all cut out, pretty much ready to go. I figure out the neckline and start contruction. No fancy facings here, just serge/fold over/stitch the edges and hem. Add some trim the the wrap neckline. Get the pocket ready. Now how am I going to do the neck and waist ties? Decide to use D-rings and black twill tape. But I don't have the right size D-rings or the right colour tape.

Wait. Fabricland is having a members 50% off sale. Oh right - it's tomorrow.

So here I am, having stolen a cookie or two from the freezer to console my frustration. They're the Auntie Mary's I told you about. The good news is that Shauna says it's okay to share the recipe. My gift (and Shauna's) to you for your patience with my rant.

Auntie Mary's

2 Cupsflour
½ tspbaking powder
¼ tspsalt
½ Cupbutter
1 package125gr cream cheese
½ Cupbrown sugar
¼ Cupwhite sugar
1 tspvanilla
4 ozsemi-sweet chocolate
23 CupEagle brand condensed milk
½ Cupfinely chopped walnuts
icing sugar

Cream the butter and cream cheese.
Add sugars and beat unitl light and fluffy.
Add vanilla and egg and beat well.
Mix in dry ingredients.
Divide into 4 balls and chill 2 hours.

Meanwhile, melt chocolate.
Stir in Eagle Brand condensed milk and walnuts.

Working with one ball at a time, roll dough into 10"x6" rectangles.
Spread chocolate mixture ¼" thick over the centre third and fold sides over chocolate. Your rectangle should now measure ~3.5"x6".

Bake seam side down at 350° for ~13 minutes, just until bottom turns golden.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Vegetable seeds

They're here!

Ordered late Thurs., in my mailbox today at lunch.

Don't you just love parcels in the mail?

Pattern challenge:Butterick B4385

Tic toc I've got to get in gear!

I need to make to special dresses, one for our daughter and one for me, by April 23rd. Lots of time right?

That's what I thought a month ago while turning them over in my mind. They would be both simple lines, easy to sew and not much trim. Or maybe I'd do some hand-beading on them. hmmm. You can do anything in your dreams...

We've looked at silks, cottons and linen. I'm a little shy of silk because it's slippery but it would be nice. The girl thought maybe blue. I steared her away from a peacock dupioni. Too formal and this event is anything but. Yesterday we settled on a fuschia cotton satteen. It will go well with her colouring: fair, blue eyes, sandy blonde hair.

Her dress will be view C although I may make it just below the knee. She might get to wear it longer that way. We see how it looks and what she thinks.

I was going to buy a silk jaquard for me but the store that had it was closed. I did however get my pattern. I'll show it to you later, once I've got the fabric.

The cotton satteen is in the wash so I'm on my way. Wish me luck!

PS. I've joined the Pattern Challenge on Come and See the Seitz.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Gardening seeds

Well that's one more checkmark on my to-do list. The vegetable seeds are ordered.

I was really upset that I missed Seedy Saturday. You can get some interesting organic seeds that are produced locally including Greta's Organic Garden and La ferme biologique Bullion. I like to try a few packets before I make a real order.

I went with my standby, OSC. Most of their seeds are not organic but they do carry a large selection of heirloom varieties and no genetically modified seeds. And I feel better buying from a company that focuses on seed rather than say, Martha Stewart brand organic seeds. Yes to organics but...

This summer I hope to have a bumper crop of beans, tomatoes and beets. I'll also have some cucumbers and zuchini (I have an awesome recipe for chocolate zuchini loaf ) some radishes, lettuce,...it goes on. I've also got seeds I saved from my garden last year and, if I'm lucky, I'll get a present from my neighbour. He starts seedlings indoors and sometimes has too much. My leeks are from him.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St. Paddy's Day Green

Green is sprouting everywhere.

The bottom vegetable patch

Pretty messy. If you look closely you can see the weeds coming back. But, you can also see where the asparagus plants are; they haven't started to green yet.

And chamomile has self-seeded everywhere.

Leeks that were left in the ground to over-winter have come back.

Lemon thyme is one of my favourite herbs. It's tenacious, smells great and I use it in cooking.

My peony is coming back. I moved it last year and am hoping for blooms this year.

My dad keeps asking if I've ordered my seeds. I really need to get on that!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Ripping out

Not much sleep around here lately as the boy has a cough that keeps him (and us) up.

He's not really sick though, just a little worn out. So when my best friend asked me to have her youngest over while she does some painting I said yes. It's March break, the sun is out and the kids are outside. All good, right?

I thought I'd get some sewing done on that sleeveless top. As it turns out, I skipped an important process: double-checking the sizing. Or did they want that much ease? Regardless, I'd rather not wear a shapeless bag. So...

Ripping out.

I'm in a sunny spot; I have my favourite mug filled with lemon-ginger green tea; it's all good. Process.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Milk chocolate pudding cake

Yesterday was rainy, gray and cold. Yuck. So, we pretended it wasn't.

My man did ribs on the BBQ and I made coleslaw and oven fries. Just in case that didn't work, I made milk chocolate pudding cake. Warm, chocolate comfort that will make anyone feel better - even the boy with the never-ending cough.

The recipe is from the Milk Calendar. It's a keeper but whenever I make it in an 8x8 pan, it boils over and messes up the oven. This time I made it in a 3L oval with higher sides. No mess.

So by now you may have figured out that
  1. I bake. A lot. I don't promise that it always turns out but practice makes perfect.
  2. My favourite food is chocolate.
  3. I also like lemon.
  4. I need to get better at taking pictures. In fact, if my pic doesn't whet your appetite, you should really just see the image on the Milk Calendar website. Far more appealing.
Stick with me. I do plan on reading the manual for the camera. Even better, we do spring for a digital SLR (we covet one), I promise to practise and read the manual. And work on composition. Really just another process I need to learn to love...

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Banana chocolate chip muffins

Instead of buying granola bars or other packaged snacks for the kids, I often bake muffins. Banana chocolate chip muffins are one of their favourites.

Banana chocolate chip muffins

2mashed ripe bananas
½ Cupmilk
¼ Cupvegetable oil
1½ Cupflour
1 Cupquick oatmeal
1 Tbspbaking powder
½ Cupbrown sugar
½ Cupmini chocolate chips

Note: I don't add salt as I'm trying to reduce it in my diet. You could add ½ tsp. if you want.

Beat the wet ingredients together.
If you're a purist, you should mix all the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and then add the wet to the dry. When almost combined, add the chocolate chips. Spoon into grease muffins tins - or tins lined with paper muffin cups - and bake until browned at 425°, ~20 minutes.

Me, I'm lazy. I just stir the sugar and oatmeal into the wet ingredients and then shake the flour and baking powder over the mixture. I then stir until almost combined then add the chocolate chips.

A couple things to remember with muffins:

  • Never over mix the batter. The batter should be somewhat lumpy, like pancake batter.
  • If you're using whole grains, letting the batter sit for 10 to 15 minutes before baking helps keep the muffins light in texture.
The recipe above is adapted from The Muffin Baker's Guide by Bruce Koffler.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Learning to love process

Last night over coffee at Tim's - that Tim Horton's for all you who aren't Canadian - Olga and I got chatting about stashes. You know, in the closet or chest, stuff you had to have for that perfect project?

The reasons for its existent are as varied as there are crafters. My reasons/excuses include:
  • getting interupted,
  • needing to find just the perfect buttons,
  • the item no longer being in season,
and my favourite,
  • having something more inspiring to work on.

Well I'm working on it.

I've decided to make a sleeveless top using fabric from my stash, a soft cotton/silk blend, using a pattern from an old Burda magazine, the Sept. 99 issue.

(I tend to keep everything thinking it might come in handy).

In keeping with the spirit of enjoying process, instead of making bias tape from the fabric, I'm going to finish the armholes and neck with a hand-stitched rolled hem.

And I will enjoy process as a moving meditation of stitching.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Lemon cuff

The last few days have seen me stitching up a lemon cuff to celebrate the beautiful sunny Spring weather : tart yellow and contrasting turquoise make a fresh combination for the new season.

I used up some extra fabric from other projects, beads and some buttons from my mom's stash.

Notice that the snow is gone from the driveway :)

So no one better say that we're going to get another snow storm...even if it is only the beginning of March.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Lemon squares = Spring

Lemons squares taste like Spring.
Spring is about renewal.
Renewal is just what I did with my good friend Christina.

She came for lunch today. We hadn't seen each other since well before Christmas. We had lots to catch up on: new and old houses, weddings, age spots (even though we are NOT old), keeping fit, what our kids are up to...all the things girl friends share.

Besides a good chat, we had good food. Broccoli/bacon/cheese salad, corn bread, fruit salad and lemon squares. Yum!

Lemon Squares

1 Cupflour
½ Cupbutter
1 pinchsalt

Cream butter and sugar.
Blend in flour and salt.
Press into a 9x9 inch pan.
Bake at 350° for 30 min.

1 Cupsugar
2 Tbspflour
juice of 1 lemon
finely grated lemon rind
2beaten eggs

Whisk ingredients together and pour over base.
Bake at 350° for 25 min.

Sift icing sugar over top while lemon squares are warm.

So here's to Spring and lunch with my good friend Christina.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Spring has sprung

at least it's starting!

While out walking the dog we saw the first flowers in the neighbourhood.

I checked around our maple for some shoots but none yet. I hope the squirrels haven't found my bulbs!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Getting motivated to clean house

I had plans for the day. really. And they sure didn't involve cleaning.

...But...the dust, the dog hair - oh yes, our sweet pea sheds tons - and all the daily grime that gets tracked through the house. I couldn't keep the blinders on any longer. The cleaning began.

I started with dishes left over from watching the Olympics last night. Stripped the kids' beds and got the laundry going. I desperately need to vacuum upstairs and the front entry. And let's face it, the whole house.

I don't know anyone who loves to clean and god knows I don't. I'll leave it as long as I can.

Until I get disgusted.
Or I get in the mood.
It does happen.

We have a small house and if the kids don't find homes for their stuff I start looking to pitch things.

The best way to motivate myself is to invite friends over. That way, I get good company, yummy food and am left with a clean house when they leave.

I suspect that if we pretended we were selling our house, things would get done too. But, having watched friends go through the process for real, I'm not ready for the stress of an always clean house.

So, I've embraced the reality of living with two kids and a dog in an untidy, sometimes dirty house.
Just not for today.

Should you get the urge, here are a couple links you might find helpful: