Thursday, March 27, 2014

Brownie points

I was reminded recently that as much as healthy eating and living is a goal for everyone who expects to live a long and happy life, it is important to have a few rest stops and treats along the way. The end of life will come to us all, for all our good works and intentions at the stove, dinner table and gym.
For me, the rest stop with treat involves a chocolate brownie sundae and Grey's Anatomy or a Dr. Who marathon.
Having come clean with my guilty (oh so guilty) treat, I now feel somewhat compelled to share it.
First, the ice cream. Chocolate mint chip ice cream is the best of all ice creams in my opinion because it is doubly cool -- it's the mint, you see.
The brownie component is always made from this recipe, published about 22 years ago in the Toronto Star. It is from a book called Best of New Wave Cooking (you know it was a while ago because microwave cooking was still considered relatively "new").
This brownie recipe is perfect for those days when you want a little something sweet that is not dessert flavoured Greek yogurt. (Which is also very good. I love the lime and the coconut. Sometimes, I do "shake it all up" into one dessert flavoured Greek yogurt.)

Microwave Brownies

1/2 cup margarine
1 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup chocolate chips (optional, but using white chocolate chips is awesome)

Blend margarine with sugar. Mix well.  Add eggs and vanilla. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder and cocoa powder. Add to egg mixture. Stir together until well mixed. This is a thick mixture. Spoon it into a lightly grease 8 x 8 microwaveable baking dish. Microwave for 8 to 10 minutes AT 60 per cent POWER. ( Bold and capitalized because it is very important). Do not over zap. The top will look a bit soft, but that's okay. Cool and then cut into 12 squares.
Top a small (ish) square with chocolate mint chip ice cream and a bit of chocolate sauce. Then, go watch your favourite TV show.
Enjoy your break. The celery sticks will be in the fridge, waiting your return tomorrow. I promise.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Hoppy Spring?!

It is International Happiness Day. I remember happiness -- there was green grass and sunshine there. As I write this, our area is under "A Special Weather Statement". There are warnings for rain, freezing, and snow.
First full day of Spring? Now, I ask you, who did Canada annoy?
So disappointing.
Last night, there was a chill in the house. We put the gas fireplace on to take it away.
And, I wrapped up in a blanket. I think by now I might be permanently chilled.
By this point in our climate, we are usually enjoying warmish days and cooler nights. That's what the trees need to make maple syrup.
Not wind chill warnings, freezing rain and more snow.
Hop on over to Tilda's World where these bunnies await

But, over in Norway, there is still snow. Also, Easter bunnies.
This is a new Tilda blog post that comes with a free pattern and instructions to make a sweet little bunny perched in an eggshell. How cute is that? Really, really, cute. I might make some  little arms so the bunny can hold something too.
When you are working with egg shells, it is really important to wash them out with a mild bleach solution.
This takes care of any lurking nasty bugs that might cause a food borne illness.
Allow the shell to dry thoroughly, and then brush some some water based varnish inside and outside of the shell. This will both preserve and strengthen it.
I am really enjoying the new Tilda blog. I wish I could leave a comment, but I can't. Instead, I will just share how much I am loving the regular posts -- and now a free project.
Maybe if we all make an Easter Bunny winter will see fit to leave.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Waving a banner of hope

Canada Sews, a non profit organization that encourages Canadians to start and keep sewing, is behind a new initiative to encourage people going through times of personal stress. It's called Banners of Hope, and it is designed to get creative Canadians to make small banners -- sort of like Tibetan prayer flags -- to hang in places like waiting rooms doctors' and health care centres across the country.
Samples of the flags will be on display at the Spring 2014 CreativFestival in Toronto.
This is one I made, using some of my giant collection of scraps.
The bird is an off cut from one of my friend Amanda's latest upholstery fabrics. I created an applique using the cheater trick for needle turn applique.
The template for the banners is here.  Some ideas for quotes about hope are here. (My leaves have strayed off the edge, so that might be a problem according to the stated design criteria. Not a huge surprise. I also had trouble colouring inside the lines when I was in primary school.) Nonethless, I am pleased with my banner.
Throughout the year, the plan is to encourage quilt guilds, crafting groups and fabric shops to promote the banner project, and even to offer banner making workshops. Sample banners will be on display at various Canadian creative shows and events.
I like the idea. The banners are accessible to all levels and abilities of fiber artists and they are something that people of all ages can create. Once completed, these banners could also be used as silent auction donations or raffle prizes to  benefit organizations that help promote hope and healing in communities.
This was a lot of fun to do, and it's nice to think about creativity inspiring hope.
The world needs  a lot of both.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Surprises from across the pond

Birthday goodies from across the pond
Yesterday, it was my birthday. (Let's not discuss the  numbers.) But, boy! Was I ever spoiled by my family.
On Friday, I made my way to the post box to find a very special birthday present from Miss B.
She sent some lovely surprises from the UK, including a Tilda charm pack, some yardage, and a package of angel wings to make the Vintage Angel from Tilda's Winter Wonderland.
She also tucked in a folding Cath Kidston shopping bag and the sweetest little needle case, shaped like a holiday caravan.
My son was equally generous. He gave me a gift card to go Etsy shopping.
I feel pretty blessed and loved. They know me so well.
To round out the birthday treats, my husband took me to Sunday brunch, and gave me tickets to the Stratford Festival to see The Man of La Mancha when it opens this spring.
(Should spring ever arrive.)
It has been so continually cold, I have been working on several crafty projects instead of getting out and about. My creative space was starting to look way too lived in, so I decided to tidy up. There were little scraps sitting in pile on my sewing machine table, along with a embroidery hoop.
Well, one thing lead to another and before I knew it, I had made a little wall decoration featuring a polar bear tucked into a quilt made from the little scraps of my precious (and some might say obsessively hoarded) Tilda stash. This decoration is framed in an embroidery hoop and is one of the really sweet ideas in Pretty In Patchwork Holidays.
I opted to make it less Christmas-y, so it can stay on the wall of my sewing room all year long.
Polar bear tucked in for the rest of this long, long winter
Surprise, surprise, my studio is only slightly less messy than it was before I made the polar bear.
Sigh. Such is the creative life.