Monday, October 31, 2011

All Hallow's Eve

With a feather boa!
Friendly felt ghosts
We do not go insane when it comes to decorating the house for Halloween. We make it spooky cute. I made some felt ghosts a couple of years ago. They go on top of tomato cages. I plunk them down on the garden lights and they sort of glow when the lights come on.
Spooky glow...
I didn't carve a pumpkin this year. The kids aren't here and I just didn't feel like making that sort of mess.
My pumpkin is made of crystallized plastic and lights up with the aid of 3AA batteries. Ditto the candles on the little table on the porch. I also loaded up the iPod with some Halloween tunes like Monster Mash and Attack of the Killer Tomato.
The chips and candy are ready for the the trick-or-treaters.
Floating friendly ghosts

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Two months from TODAY!

The last of the lavender and a Christmas cross stitch
If you listen carefully, you can hear alarm bells. Sure -- they are ringing, ding dong merrily on high -- but make no mistake. They are the CHRISTMAS alarm bells. Two months from TODAY we will be making merry. But, as we all know, there is a lot of work involved in a handmade Christmas.
I wish I was one of those who have been working all summer so that this TWO MONTH warning didn't seem so jarring and mildly panicky, but I can only focus on the nice weather. I revel in the waves on the beach, the novels on my e-reader, the wine after dinner lakeside -- all that comes with the pure hedonism of a Canadian summer.
A pile of ironing on the way to becoming Christmas presents
le petit packet
So, now beings the Christmas crafting. I have a pile of scraps that need to be pressed sitting on my ironing board. Sigh. Christmas used to be so much fun before I decided that my presents had to be handmade... (I am kidding!)
Earlier this month, I ordered some Christmas presents for myself. One of them came today from a Canadian Etsy seller, Pink Fawn Designs. Pink Fawn also has a pretty blog, and her real name is also Nancy. Hence, I was therefore compelled to buy some pretty Japanese cotton/linen from her.
Look how pretty le petite packet is! I was dithering about opening it. So I didn't do it -- yet.
She wraps the fabric is freezer paper -- which can be used to make fabric applique, and she also includes a swatch of vintage cotton sheeting. So cute.
Okay, now I am off to finish the ironing and get on with the crafting. Honest.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Handmade hijinks down the lane

Berni loves freemo!
FMQ on the Tilda bag
The girls and I had a hoot and half at last night's Friday Night Sew In. Amanda made a sweet tote called a Vest Bag from Quilt a Bag. Sandra made a couple of her fabulous zippered bags, and I -- wait for it -- did the free motion quilting of my Tilda bag.
I also made brownies and forgot to put out the Tzatzki and pita chips.
But oh, the fun of the FMQ!
I put on my quilting gloves -- and looking like I was on a CSI episode -- did a practice run on a scrap quiltlet -- and found my FNSI bliss.
Amanda's bag in progress
First of all, dear Berni loves to do FMQ. I slapped on her darning foot, dropped her feed dogs and we were away to the races.
It is very liberating to sew without having to worry about doing so in a straight line. My weird little quilting gloves made the whole thing hand stress and shoulder pain free.
Sandra's fabulous finishes
Of course, as with nearly all my FNSI attempts, the F does not also mean finish. I find it very difficult to chat and goof around with the girls AND finish something.
Oh, I tell a lie -- I did finish two brownies and my green tea ginger ale.

The FNSI Microwave Brownie
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup chocolate chips (optional)
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
Blend butter or margarine with sugar until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla, mix well. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder and cocoa. Stir together until blended. Then, stir into egg mixture. Stir chocolate chips and nuts (if using). Spoon batter into a lightly-greased* 8-inch square microwave-safe baking dish. Smooth top. Microwave on medium (bake setting or 60 per cent power) for 8 to 10 minutes. The top will still look soft. Don't over bake. Remove and let cool completely.
When cool, top with chocolate butter cream icing. I keep them in the fridge until they are ready to serve because they are easier to cut into squares then.
*I line the pan with parchment paper, so I don't have to grease it.

Chocolate butter cream icing
3 tblsp butter
1 cup icing sugar
2 tblsp cocoa powder
dash sea salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tblsp milk
Using an electric mixer, whip butter until light and airy. Slowly stir in icing sugar. When combined, whip until light in texture, stir in cocoa powder and salt and whip some more. Stir in vanilla and milk and whip until everything is well combined. Spread on the cooled brownies.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Wahooooooo! It's FNSI and there are treats in the fridge....

FNSI snacks chillin' and ready to go...
It's Friday Night Sew In and Sandra and Amanda are coming down the lane to do some sewing and laughing at our house. It's been a challenging week, what with one thing and my mother...(God bless her)
I am so looking forward to taking over the kitchen table with three sewing machines and just have a nice evening.
We are working on various things -- and the fridge is stocked with the fuel needed for a successful FNSI.
Surrounded by the extra moral support, I may even attempt the FMQ on my Tilda bag.
It's also high time I started my Christmas sewing, so I have to get my act together on that front this coming weekend. Mind you, I have some things done already. Now it is a matter of sitting down and doing a serious list. matching names to projects that have been bookmarked with sticky notes in at least a dozen magazines.
I've also almost finished a second culling of my crafts crap (name given by Mr. D). It is a wonderful feeling of lightness to be rid of things I no longer need. Giving them to Goodwill allows me to share and removes a lot of guilt for having weighed down my life with extra supplies for no good reason. Thank heavens for that TLC show, Hoarders. It both creeps me out and forces me to tidy up.
Keeping myself motivated through the process was tough, but I persevered. Now, I am down to culling the magazines. That is going to take forever. I always end up sitting on the floor and reading them. Hours later, I realize I have pitiful pile of "toss" and a huge pile of "keep".
But that's all for next week. Tonight is about fun. Happy FNSI one and all!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Early morning yesterday, I was up before the dawn...

Purple bowling lady PJs and matching socks
 It's not often that a Supertramp song describes what was going on at a country quilt store yesterday -- okay, it is probably the first time...
Sandra and I were on the road at 5 a.m. -- dressed in our loveliest PJs -- for a Sunrise Sale at Country Concessions in  Cookstown. It is 45 minutes north of us and we expected clear sailing at that hour. Not so. There was traffic. But we plowed onward towards a sale offering 40 per cent off all regular priced fabric cut from the bolt.
There I was, snaking through our neighbourhood -- not another soul in sight. I parked in Sandra's driveway and quickly killed the car lights. (I feared Neighbourhood Watch would be onto me, and then I would have to explain to the nice police officer why I was wearing PJs and claimed to be going to a quilt sale.)
Had to have 'em
Just as I was getting creeped out by the shadows of the trees moving in the wind, Sandra emerged wearing a fuzzy yellow bathrobe in lieu of a coat -- and her stylin' jammies.
Earlier in the week, when I suggested we go, Sandra managed to talk herself out -- and then back in -- to the sale in the space of three lines in an e-mail. Fair play to her, she really got into the spirit of the dawn. We laughed at ourselves all the way to the store, where we joined about 20 other ladies, most PJ clad, on the front porch. It had started to rain and we were still laughing. Inside the store, it was surreal, as we scanned the rows and rows of pretty bolts -- arranged both by theme and colour families.
I picked out seven fabrics I just had to own. Sandra scored some prints for specific projects, as well as radish fabric. Many others had to have help stacking multiple bolts at the cutting tables. We saw one lady with about a dozen bolts of flannel for rag quilts. The whole sale was wild.
While I was there, I found some quilting gloves to help me when I come to grips with the free motion quilting on Berni. I also bought some Japanese handles for my new bag, since I have come to the conclusion that I like them better than fabric ones.
We left for home while it was still dark, and I admit, I went back to bed -- until 11:45.
Mr. D. teased me for the rest of the day about getting up at 4 a.m. to feed my little fabric addiction. I showed him my receipt outlining my savings. He muttered something about it isn't savings if you don't need it. I see the logic, but logic has nothing to do with. The sign in the quilt shop says it best: "Stash away, stash away, stash away all..."

Friday, October 14, 2011

A place mat for everyone...
I am still coming to grips with getting comfortable with stipple quilting by machine. Hence, I chickened out on my Tilda charm squares bag -- for now. I had hoped to finish it today, but I opted to finish these Tilda place mats instead.
I found Moda's Rural Jardin print by French General for $3 a meter at Fabricland recently. Shocking, since I've seen it for quadruple that in other stores. There was no need to twist my arm -- I know a fabric bargoon when I see one. I snapped up enough to make five place mats as presented in Sew Pretty Homestyle.
The aerial view
Heretofore, we have never had a matching place mat for each family member. The table often looked like a patchwork quilt of mismatched mats. Now, we are all ready for when everyone is home for Christmas -- its the little things that make me happy -- obviously.
These little mats are very easy to do, and I like the hand quilting which produces a pretty ruffled effect when they are washed and dried. Thankfully, they also wash and wear well -- a blessing when you've got a battle-scarred table and very little will to wash and iron table cloths. The mats are just pretty enough to distract diners from the tabletop and focus on the plates.
Speaking of crockery -- check out that jumbo Francais chocolat cup. I found it and its matching plate/saucer at Value Village for $2. I was tagging along with the kids last weekend. They were planning for their Halloween party costumes. I was just along for the ride. I also scored some vintage ric-rack in green and peachypink, as well as large embroidery hoops. I like those stitcheries framed in hoops you see all over the Internet, so I plan to give them a try. I also discovered that Berni likes to do free motion embroidery and the large wooden hoops make her happy to do my bidding. We are in negotiations vis a vis the free motion quilting of the bag. Watch this space!
Tomorrow morning, Sandra and I are going to a PJ party at a quilt store north of here. We are leaving at 5 a.m. in our PJs. I would like to promise photos, but I am reasonably sure Sandra will kill me once she wakes up. All I can say is -- I will try.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wednesday's Work in Progress

The WIP Tilda charm bag
A while ago, I posted about my heart's desire: to have some fabric from the Tilda range. Available in Europe, but not here, I have admired it from my Tilda library. Wendy, on the other side of pond, longed for clear vinyl. She could not find it anywhere. I had meters and yards of it.
Sandra brokered a trade -- and Wendy and I became bloggy buddies. When the charm pack arrived, I visited it often and put it away safely -- as one would any treasure (or realization of a heart`s desire)
The details...
My Tilda charm pack is precious to me -- and in charm form -- exceptionally cute. But, over the weekend, during some blog surfing, I finally found something worthy of my Tilda charm pack. I decided to get a grip and make something with them.
During the surfing session, I found this great tutorial from My Patchwork. I began it today using it my precious squares. The bottom fabric is a Michael Miller print called Old Script.
Tomorrow, I will do the quilting of the outer bag and make the lining and handles. I will post the results later this week.
Even in pieces, I love this bag. Thank you to all those who made it possible!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Artful elements: Ontario autumn

... going out in a blaze of glory
The handmade creations I love so much sometimes just have to take a back seat to what nature can do with the changing of seasons.
This past weekend, we celebrated Thanksgiving. And, as if to remind us we are very fortunate, Mother Nature put on a lovely warm welcome for our annual farewell tour of the lake.
The lapping of waves...
Awash with beauty...
At the closing of the day ...

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Giving thanks for that awesome turkey stuffing!

Putting the yummmmm in turkey stuffing ....
This weekend Canada celebrates thanksgiving. We don't have the back story commemorated in the U.S. in November -- featuring Mayflower pilgrims feasting with the natives. In Canada, it is more of a celebration of the harvest -- and for me -- getting through another humid summer.
We spend the weekend getting the family cottage ready for its long winter's nap. While the workers (see also kids and their cousins) pull in the dock, winterize the boat and do the hundreds of other little tasks required before bidding farewell to the lake, Mr. D and I wrestle a 25 pound stuffed turkey into the oven. We went out yesterday morning to get it. along with an extra turkey breast to make sure there are enough leftovers for Monday's late lunch.
I truly love doing the roast turkey dinner. My favourite part is the stuffing. For me it is potpourri you can eat! In just three sleeps I will smell the heavenly aroma once more...
The stuffing is made with summer savoury, onions, bread cubes, salt, pepper, ginger and thyme. The savoury is grown in Newfoundland and there is nothing to compare the flavour it gives the dressing. It is herbaceous and spicy -- intriguing -- and wonderful.
Someone in the family is always going to St. John's, so that's when I stick my oar in and ask for some Mt. Scio Savoury. They probably do mail order, but it is kind of cool to harken back to a time when you had to bring it back in your suitcase -- next to the frozen cod tongues (that's another story).
The autumn wreath I made YEARS ago
My Dad actually taught me to make dressing. He was the one who cooked the major holiday meals at our house. Every time I mince up three whole onions, slice the two loaves of bread three days ahead of time to get it to dry out, and then cube up the dried bread, I hear him telling me to make the bread cubes smaller, but make the onions more chunky so they don't melt into the bird.
He wasn't a patient teacher, but that dressing is a miracle. I would try and share it here, but it isn't a recipe so much as a method -- and Mr. D. won't be able to taste it to tell you if it needs more salt or savoury...
I would like to share the grace we will say this Sunday as we gather around a groaning table by the lake:
For food, when so many are hungry
For peace, when so many know only war,
For joy, in a world where there is so much sorrow,
For family and friends, when so many journey alone,
We say thank you and amen.