Friday, November 30, 2012


Buried under a huge "To Do" list, that is!

I've gotten any number of things finished, including a preliminary downsizing of books, the decluttering of my treadle sewing machine (much prettier when you can actually see it), and using all my powers of self-control to not injure the cat that's been peeing on my Pixie's bed.

I made a second pair of fingerless mitts (no picture) and hand sewed cotton lace to the bottom of a new thrift-store pair of jeans.

I began crocheting odd bits of yarn and may have started a new long-term project. I'll keep adding to it as I find more yarn at Goodwill. I've never used the join-as-you-go technique before, but I'm liking it already.

 Here's a random shot of my Pixie, doing what pre-schoolers do (daddy's boots).

And since I can find my ironing board (it's not covered by a mountain of fabric anymore), I am more easily able to focus on what needs to be done. Up first? I finished my new purse!

It's pretty! It's functional! And not much else. There's no pockets on the inside and I made the strap waaaaay too long and had to sew a pleat into it. You can see the pleat on the left. I'm going to pretend that it's a design feature - I just need to invent a purpose for it!

The back is much like the front.

The inside is colourful, but the lining didn't quite match the shell in the corners (I'm no Kay Whitt, people!). I fudged it by sewing some more patches into the corners and giving it a topstitch. Good enough for use.

Maybe next time I'll use an actual pattern, but more likely I'll continue to make it up as I go along.

Gratuitous Pixie shot:

One more for the Grandmas:

PS I confess....

I paid money to see Breaking Dawn part 2. I loved the part where everybody dies.

I hear that fans of this movie series have divided themselves into "camps" based on who they like the most and who they wish would "win."

I saw vampires killing other vampires and I thought, "Win-win." I'm on the side of humanity.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Workshop Part 2

There's been a lot of work going on here, but not a huge amount of progress on specific projects. That's okay, because groundwork is being laid to finish things quickly -  say, after my girls are in bed some night. I found that if I work on a few seams at a time, they really have no interest in what I'm doing. If I put it all together, they'd notice.

For example, these are the ties and future ruffles for the Christmas aprons. The ruffle for the Pixie's apron frustrated me quite a lot and had to be picked out three times, pressed, and finally starched to make it behave in the rolled hem foot. A little pile of pieces like this never gets noticed....

This little elephant got cut out and I started to piece him together, except the fabric gives him away easily. The Pixie wanted him to match the owl I made for her a few months ago and she knew when I started working that it was for her. I have to work under cover of bedtime and so his progress is slow.

I admit: I creep on Pinterest. I will never have an account of my own, but I do creep.

My brain saw a couple of ideas on Pinterest and put two and two together.....I came up with a project that should have an end date of Valentine's Day for a certain newlywed couple. I am crossing my fingers that reality looks as good as imagination.

Here are the colours:

Here is the first block:

And here is an alternate Christmas project using the same awesome rainbow! This one shouldn't take long and also involves a touch of embroidery. (Inspiration also courtesy of my creeping on Pinterest.) Can you guess what it will be?

The last two projects are selfishly for me. I am perpetually cold between the months of September to May-ish - a hazard of the poor combination of being hot-blooded and living in Canada. I spend my days wrapped up in my shawl and wearing these cozy creations. These are the fingerless gloves that I alluded to in a previous post. I take them off to cook and do the dishes only. I should make a second pair because of high use!

Lastly is a beret that took only a few hours to whip up. I crochet much faster than I knit. Although I love the toque that my girls gave me for Christmas a couple of years ago, it has always been too small and gives me headaches when I wear it. This will keep my head warm and hide my unruly hair - shown here modeled by my Punk, who is also showing off her new specs.

For now, I am attending to the apple butter in the crock pot. I am going to remove my gloves to do the morning dishes. And I've started another book-related project that has to remain hidden lest I give too many secrets away.....

If it wasn't for the cold weather, this might be my favorite time of year!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Santa's Workshop

Christmas sewing is in full swing! In between cleaning, cooking, referee'ing and cuddling, I've been designing, tracing, cutting, sewing, pressing and topstitching.

I put the Punk into her bed for a nap last afternoon, and the Pixie and I worked very fast together to make a new chewie for the Punk's Christmas present. Here you can see my Pixie pushing beads into the fabric tube.

I cut a 3" strip from fabric and sewed the long edges right sides together. We turned it with a trusty knitting needle and the tied a knot in the end. We took turns pushing beads in (Pixie) and tying knots (me). I secured the ends by sewing an elastic bridge from one end to the other, and the result was a chewie that can be worn as fashion. Of course, the Pixie was so determined to get the necklace wrapped that I forgot to get an "after" photo. You can see the partially complete chewie/necklace in this picture.

I made two sets of these diapers and wipes. I told my Pixie that we were making presents for her best friend, and she helped me without noticing that I made two of everything. She'll find out on Christmas morning. The diapers you've seen on this blog before. The wipes container is a very stiffly interfaced envelope, and the wipes are serged muslin. Hopefully this will stop the Pixie from using the Punk's disposable wipes on dolls.

From the pile of fabric shown yesterday, I cut the aprons. I cannot sew these with the kids awake - it would be too obvious. I also cannot cut out the elephant until after bedtime.

Lastly is a 99 cent shirt that will be given a skirt and gifted to the Pixie. She firmly believe that t-shirt dresses are the most "princess-y" dresses ever. She has several and she won't wear pants if a t-shirt dress is clean. I can totally get behind this [cheap] trend.

And that's it for now! You sew where the motivation hits....maybe I can get a bit of work done on my purse tomorrow.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Busy. Ain't that the life when you have short people in your home?

I finished the Christmas present for my little brother, and some mittens for one of my nephews. My list is still very long (and requires more yarn).

Yesterday my girls and I were invited to a tea party. I made this cute retro apron as a gift for the hostess. She loved it. It whipped up in about an hour and a half (including interruptions by kids). I [cheat] maximize my time by using a rolled hem foot and a ruffler.

When I made a trip to the Sally Ann for crafting materials, I happened to find a dress that fits my Punk perfectly. It's her new favorite: She already wore it two days in a row.

She is especially enchanted with the sequin trim.

I went through my stash with an eye towards Christmas gifts. This pile will be aprons for both of my girls and a "button elephant" for my Pixie. They will each get one handmade stuffy for Christmas - the Punk's is going to be a weighted snake, perfect for a kid with sensory issues. I haven't picked out the fabric for the snake yet; likely flannelette, weighted with dried beans or lentils.

Just because it's the weekend, here is some eye candy for the Grandparents. The girls were in a silly mood and posed for pictures (in pajamas) yesterday. Here are a few of my favorites.

Random confession: I eat turnips while my husband isn't home.

Have a relaxing weekend!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Toy Situation

There are too many toys in this house! There are toys in the living room:

There are toys crowding in the Pixie's bedroom:

There are toys overflowing the closet:

The Punk's room is the worst. It looks like the attack of the killer toys in here:

So I made a plan. My plan has a list of 10 areas in my home yet to be downsized and organized. Top of the list is the kid's bedrooms. My priority is reducing the toy hoard to a manageable lump, and thus simplifying my girls' childhoods. They'll be able to focus better on fewer toys, and toys with more open-ended play value.

First I chucked all the living room toys into a laundry basket and removed it to the Punk's room. Then I vacuumed and felt fantastic about it.

Notice that I've been keeping the kitchen clean!

At 10:50 I started with the Pixie's bedroom. By 11:00 her room looked like this, and I filled the mop bucket for the next task:

By 11:15 the floor was drying. It took a little extra time to clean the floor because I had to scrub the crayon off using a cleaning eraser. I put a couple pieces of furniture back into place. Break time.

How did I clean her room so fast? My secret is my super-powered BROOM. Yup, I just swept everything from one room to the other. So now the Punk's room looks like this:

Punk's room "before"
11:20 Time to procrastinate. Phone call from Husband. I adore this man. You know what he did on his day off? He cleaned [his half of] the bedroom! It no longer looks like one of us is a hoarder. There is even room on the floor for the guitars. He topped his feat by doing his own laundry. I'm gonna be crowing about his major accomplishment for weeks.

Back to work! I moved the furniture away from the walls and swept and mopped under before moving it back. Then I sat in the middle of that enormous pile and sorted toys into three categories: Keep, Donate, Garbage. I kept my Super-Powered Broom next to me so that I could sweep the pile closer to me rather than un-assing my chair. It's lazy AND fast. That's my tip for today.

In the end, I had two boxes and a bag full of toys to donate, one huge sack of trash, and a single laundry basket of toys to keep.

Ta Da!!

Punk's room "after"
The toybox is, quite literally, empty. The Pixie started raving about the clean-ness long before I had finished the job and it motivated me to be very ruthless when getting rid of toys. I kept the Pixie's easel, and all of the Punk's chewies and cat tails. Books were seriously pared down to make room for new ones that we expect at Christmas. They each got to keep their "Nana" bears, their favorite babies, and all of the food and cooking related toys. Art and school supplies are located elsewhere. The Pixie has her dollhouse and bucketful of dinosaurs.

Pixie's room "after"
By 12:50 I was completely finished. By 1:05 I sat down to blog with a glass of cold tea and a cauliflower melt sandwich.

Now, I feel like I've accomplished a lot! I'm gonna knit a little, and dream about the nightgown I plan to make for the Punk.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Brownies For Breakfast

I have been very slowly sewing a purse together. I was stymied by the lack of light in my sewing studio (can't sew after dark) and, just yesterday, a pukey Pixie. Here is where my purse progress sits: I try to sew at least one seam every day. The shoulder strap might take a few days to put together. The red pom-pom fringe is a bust. It was a bitch to get the blue on the front flap and I didn't want to frustrate myself inserting more fringe into the seam you see partially pinned in this picture. Lining still to come.

I've discovered a hazard of knitting. Some of you may have encountered this already.

Everybody wants mittens.

When word got out (because I was so proud that I advertised my success on Facebook), I got several requests for mittens for Christmas. This changes some plans, and makes it easier to keep creating in the evening when I can't sew due to the aforementioned lack of light.

So, I did what any self-respecting artist would do; I flipped the virtual bird to my Christmas list and made mittens for myself. And then put them on strings.

I might also have designed and knit half a pair of fingerless gloves, but that's still only a rumour.

What I can admit to doing is feeding brownies and smoothies to my kids for breakfast. They are so not suffering. Recipe to follow.

Smoothie contents: banana, frozen peaches, strawberries, and blueberries, lots of spinach and water to blend.

Brownies (you'll love this!)

3 cups cooked black beans
2 cups dates, soaked in a cup of water
1/2 cup unsalted almond butter (or whatever you have)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups packed spinach leaves
1/3 cup carob (or cocoa) powder

1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease 9x13 pan.
2. Toss all ingredients into food processor and process until it looks like [greenish] brownie batter. Scrap down the sides and/or add more water as needed.
3. Spread into baking dish and bake for 45. I find that the bottom gets a little dark if I do this, so maybe less time or heat? I'm still experimenting.
4. Chill completely before attempting to cut.

Really, how else do you get the good stuff into picky people unless you hide it? I couldn't possibly remember the source of this recipe, but if it's yours then please step up and take credit. I love you.

Bonus: My kids love cookies for breakfast, too. Combine 4 mashed bananas with 3 Tbsp flaxmeal, 1 1/2 cups GF quick oats, and 1/2 cup dried cranberries. Drop onto baking sheet and flatten into cookies. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


Way back, when bathing was not the fashion, ladies would stick cloves into fruit and hold them to their noses when a person of rank odor was nearby. Eventually, the tradition of pomanders evolved into fashion statements and kissing games. Nowadays, showers keep our noses from being offended and pomanders are delightfully old-fashioned reminders of the season.

Here's how to make one: Wrap a ribbon around an apple or orange. Modern times call for sticky tape to be used and replaced with ribbon after drying. Then use a nail to poke holes in the fruit and stick cloves into the nail holes. You can see that I've outlined the sections before filling in completely with spices.

I hung the finished pomander by a nail in my seasonally dry kitchen. It should dry completely in 6-8 weeks, just in time to be packed away with the Christmas decorations and loved every year for many years. The spice preserves the fruit. I've wanted one of these for a while and now I have one, but I have to tell you; if you chose to make one, do it in several sessions throughout a day or two. Cloves are sharp! My fingers ache as a type, but I'll get over it. My new pomander smells heavenly.

In other news, I ran my sewing machine for a while today.

I decided that I needed a new purse. So I whipped out my favorite sewing tome, third edition published in 1960.

I found this book over a decade ago - it was lounging in a box at a garage sale somewhere in the lower mainland. I've read it through cover to cover many times. Inside I find patterns, ideas, instruction, and inspiration. Today this book provided half a pattern, some inspiration, and a laugh.

It says this about the purse pattern:

"Over-the-shoulder bag - This type of bag used to be considered a novelty, but it is now accepted as a proper bag style. However, the 'over-the-shoulder' bag is not a good style for dressier occasions and should still be regarded for casual or sports clothes, for school, and of course business suits. For town or city wear this type of bag is not suited to the rounded or very short figure." (page 333)

So, I shouldn't wear this purse. But I will. I'll just modify the pattern and wing it on the details.
The instructions call for felt shell and no lining, but who wears felt as fashion unless they are a peacoat fan? I'm sewing together crumbs units and quilting this purse! Instead of over-the-shoulder this will be a straight up hippy style cross-body bag. I'm going to use pom-pom fringe as trim. And I have to figure out how to put it all together because the instructions don't cover lining!

I think I can! I think I can!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Normal Life

I can feel my quilting mojo creeping back up to a level that will motivate me to sew.....very soon. In the meantime, I haven't been idle.

This pair of mittens was finished very quickly. They are still waiting for hands to fill them. I had a moment of guilt for posting knitting on a quilting blog, until someone reminded me that when you knit you are creating fabric.

They match, hooray!
These pink mittens were commissioned by my Pixie who needs everything pink. She has already put them to good use making a weird snowman with a tail, and rummaging through mud puddles. You can see leftover leaves from her last excursion into the great outdoors.

My yarn stash has been severely depleted. In fact, it's almost all gone.
Here is a shot of my weekend house: It is very, very scary. But you forgive me, because all of my Readers know what it's like to have small people underfoot constantly.

Just keeping it real, Folks.
See? We're as normal as bohemian gets. The toys are awaiting a severe downsizing, the laundry drying rack is positioned over a heating duct, and the children and cats are as happy as pigs in mud.

Scary kitchen:


Time to clean.

This is this morning. Better? Yes. Exhale.

Waking up to this sight makes me happy.
It's not just me - kitchens really do look cleaner when you can put the dishrack away.

The dishwasher is just for decoration. I'm too lazy to use it. The microwave hasn't been plugged in for months.
That pot on the stove is rice pudding for breakfast, made with raisins, maple syrup, and spices. We relax our healthy eating habits a little bit when we have rice pudding. It's not that the rice pudding is unhealthy, but we chose to top it with a touch of soy cream. It's our one vice, and pretty tasty in coffee, too. Recipe at the end - it's my own creation. It's vegan, but I promise you won't miss the dairy.

These are the shelves above my stove. They hold my teas, herbs, and a few dry goods. I think they're pretty, and if they make me happy then they deserve to be there. I create my own blend of fertility tea from what you see here.

Fertility tea: red clover, red raspberry, nettle, dandelion root and sometimes melissa or rosehips.
To achieve this monumentally clean oasis, I used a homemade citrus cleaner and a lot of old-fashioned elbow grease. To make my cleaner/degreaser (worked like a charm on the stove hood), I just fill a jar with orange, lemon and/or lime peels as I use up the fruit. Then top with white vinegar, cover, and let it marinate for a month or three.

When you need a refill, just strain and dilute 1:1 with water. Use liberally and your house will smell as clean as it looks. It could also be used to wash floors, but I haven't used it as such yet.

What did I do after my kitchen was clean? I cleaned the living room. Seriously. But I didn't take pictures in time and it's already a mess again, thus the need to downsize the toys (prioritize, not organize). Coming soon will be the downsizing of my quilting book collection and you could benefit!

In the meantime, some pre-school work was done, and some nurturing was practiced. The doll in the Pixie's arms was given to her by Gramady when we visited the Island this past summer. It is her absolute favorite, and she rarely loses track of it. It gets fed, rocked, sung to, diapers changed, and tucked in beside her every night. Thank you, Gramady. She named it "Blue Baby."

And this little doll is also from Gramady. It gets cuddles when the Punk can't steal the Blue Baby. This is my Punk trying to be like her sister....she learns a lot from the little one.

Finally, my biggest achievement this weekend: I caught up on ALL the laundry. This was me, folding the laundry.

I am supremely proud of me.

Rice pudding recipe:

1 cup rice
7 cups water

Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally. Add a pinch of salt if you like. When the rice is ready it will be partially broken down, very mushy and thick. Might even have a lovely scum cooked onto the top. Tasty.

Let the cooked rice cool for ten or twenty minutes and then stir in the following;
1/3 cup coconut butter (not oil)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 cup sweetener of choice (agave, maple, honey, sugar...whatever) or to taste.

The flavour is awesome, and when cold it tastes like tapioca. To change the flavour, add dried fruit at the beginning of cooking time (raisins, blueberries, cranberries, etc) and spices to the end. I really like doing a sweet and salty flavour and adding extra agave and a pinch of coarse sea salt. A friend reminded me of the tastebud tickling power of lemon flavouring.