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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Picking up where I left off...


About one year ago Kim and I started our Village Sampler Quilts by local quilter and designer Cheryl Wall.  I kept doing posts about my progress on each block.  And then....well, what can I say?  I got sidetracked.  First the Olympics came to town, then it was Spring and the yardwork started, then I started other sewing projects, then...well, you get the idea. Anyway, I've been crossing UFO's (unfinished objects) off my quilting list like crazy these days and this one is next on my list.  So, here's the latest installment of my quilt!  I'm so excited to finish this one!  It's been an unbelievable amount of work, especially for someone like me who doesn't have ANY patience!  If you look closely you'll notice that not only did I finish the last block on the bottom right, but I swapped out a few fabrics here and there.  It's so hard to judge what will look good in a big quilt when you're doing one block at a time.

The original quilt where I left off last February:

My new and improved, and much closer to completion quilt:
Things I switched:  I swapped out the dark sky under the courthouse for a more subtle patterned fabric, but still in the same tones.  I swapped out one of the houses that just looked to pinkish to me for a chocolatey brown house instead.  Then, I swapped out the middle friendship star in the row of 3 blocks.  That one was screaming out 'look, I'm the same colour as puke' too loudly! 
So, those swaps in themselves took a lot of time and patience, but I'm back on track baby!  Now, with the last block all pieced (top picture) I need to start the detail work. 
I need to add a few more pieces of applique, such as the leaves on the trees, and stars here and there, handstitch around all the applique, and then sew it all together, and add the borders and binding!  Stay tuned for the final installments of this project!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

In a state of Bliss...

I have been (figuratively) drooling over the Bliss Line by Bonnie & Camille for Moda.  I have seen it in stores, all over peoples blogs and on all the shopping sites, but I didn't have a project in mind for it and it wasn't a necessity.  Notice I wrote 'wasn't' instead of 'isn't'?  Well, that all changed when I saw a link for this BOTM (Block of the Month) project on Little Miss Shabby's blog.  I've always wanted to do a BOTM, but haven't ever tackled one.  Kim suggested that a few of us get together each month and visit while we stitch these blocks. 
This particular BOTM is titled 'Birdie Stiches' and it's adorable. (You'll see the link button on the right of my blog too)  As soon as I saw the style of design she was using I knew that the Bliss line would be perfect for this project!  I did my homework and found a fabulous deal on a 'jelly roll' of Bliss online.  I paid about 1/2 of what the usual cost is up here in Canada!  Yeah for bargains!  It came in to my U.S. post box the other day and I finally got a chance to pick it up yesterday!  Once the housework was done I opened this baby up and started cutting up the squares that I will need for this project.  In total I cut 240 - 2.5" square blocks.  There will be 12 stitched blocks, surrounded by 20 of these little squares and then they'll all have sashing and borders when they're done. 


I can't wait to stitch my first block!  Here's the progress I've made so far, but now I have to wait for our stitching party before I can do anymore! 

I'll keep you 'posted'!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

a REAL Snow Day!


We often get false alarm snow days here in the Fraser Valley.  They'll close all the schools down for 1" of snow, and it melts before the day's over, but today it's a REAL snow day!  We recieved the school board automated call this morning (well, 3 calls actually - they need to fine tune the system apparently) telling us that schools are closed!  The kids were thrilled!  I ran out and snapped a few pictures as it's already switching over to freezing rain.  It won't last for long, it never does.  Up at our place we have a good 10".  The kids are getting ready to bundle up and head out and the dogs have been playing out there all morning!


Monday, January 10, 2011

Black & White...


My mom gave me a great cookbook for Christmas.  It's a Good Housekeeping cookbook that has cookie recipes only.  Mmmm, cookies!  While flipping through the book I noticed a recipe for Black & White cookies.  This immediately sparked a memory from a Seinfeld episode where Jerry & Elaine are stuck in line at a New York Bakery for hours waiting for some kind of special bread that ends up being sold out, of course.  But, in the duration of their wait they have a debate about the black and white cookie and which side is better to eat.  When I saw this recipe I KNEW I had to make them for myself so I could see what all the hubbub was about!  They were super easy to make, and just a little time consuming.  But they were something different to try and really, quite good.  I took them to my post-Christmas work party and they seemed to be popular!  Here's the recipe:

Cookie batter (very soft):
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
10 tbsp butter/marg softened (this is equal to 1 1/4 sticks of marg)
1 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup Buttermilk (easy to make by adding 1 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar to 1 cup of regular milk - let stand for 5 minutes to bind)

Icings: (keep in mind these ingredients are for BOTH icings)
1 3/4 cups icing sugar
2 tbsp corn syrup
8-10 tsp warm water
1/4 cup cocoa powder (unsweetened)

Preheat oven to 350*
In small bowl stir flour, baking soda and salt together.
In large bowl (I used my mixer) beat butter and sugar until creamy. Beat in eggs and vanilla.  Reduce speed and add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. 
Drop batter by 1/4 cup spoonfuls onto cookie sheet leaving 3" gaps between cookies (I did 6 per sheet just to be safe)
Bake until edges begin to brown and tops spring back when lightly touched.  15-17 minutes.  Once baked transfer to cooling rack to cool completely before icing.


Prepare Glazes:
Start with white glaze: mix 1 1/4 cup icing sugar, 1 tbsp of corn syrup, and 5-6 tsp water, 1 tsp at a time.  Mix to good consistency, not runny, but still thin.  Once cookies are cooled, using metal icing spatula, ice the BOTTOMS of each cookie with white icing on half the cookie bottom.  Allow to set for 15-20 minutes.
Chocolate glaze:  mix remaining 1/2 cup icing sugar, 1/4 cup cocoa powder, remaining tbsp corn syrup, and 3-4 tsp water, 1 tsp at a time.  Ice other half of cookies. 

Once completely iced, let them set for a good hour. 
These cookies get very soft if stored in plastic.  It's best to eat em' all, or freeze right away.  The above recipe makes only 12 cookies (or so) so I doubled everything and made a double batch.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Just my Style...


Wanted to show ya'll a giftie I got over Christmas.  My friend, Kim, made this beautiful wreath for me!  It fits in with my house just fine!  Thanks Kim...I loves it.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Lower Rainland...

This beautiful part of British Columbia that we live in is often called the Lower 'Rainland' instead of the Lower Mainland.  This is what I saw when I looked out my windows yesterday.  The weatherman called for 2-3 inches of snow, but we ended up with a mixture of snow, rain and freezing rain instead.  Really, I can't complain.  We've had great winter weather so far with very little rain.  On days like this it's easy to stay inside and focus on comfortable things.  Yesterday I threw supper in the crockpot and enjoyed using the rest of the day to finish taking down Christmas decorations and do the regular household chores.  Here's the recipe if you're interested.  It's super easy, and tastes great!

Shredded Pork:

Place your boneless pork shoulder roast in the crockpot (3-4 lbs)

Mix together:
1 1/4 cups ketchup
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup chopped celery 1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tbsp vinegar
2 tbsp worcesterschire sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp ground mustard
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Pour mixture over pork roast in slow cooker. Cover and cook over medium-high heat for 4-6 hours or until meat is tender and pulls apart easily.  Once it's done cooking, use two forks to shred meat.  Serve over rice or buns. 

Easy Peasy.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Ta-Da....


My secret project, well, 1 of a few, can now be revealed!  I started this quilt over a year ago for my mom.  It truly was a labour of love.  This was a crazy/rag quilt.  Most of the fabrics in it are flannel, and there is a subtle Christmas theme to the fabrics.  This was a challenging project for me.  It starts out with creating 5 stacks of fabric, with 10 squares in each pile for a total of 50 squares.  Once you have the 5 piles, you randomly cut one vertical and one horizontal cut through each pile.  Once the stacks are cut, you 'shuffle' the stacks according to the pattern directions.  Then, the crazy part...sewing them all back together.  Anyway, here's a few shots of the process and the outcome.  My mom loved it and that's all that matters to me!  Love you Mom!

The Prep Work:

The placing of blocks (harder than you'd think):
Putting the binding on (one of my favourite parts):

And, Ta-Da, the finished project:

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

You know you had fun when...

...you completely forgot to take pictures during the event!  Yup, that was me.  I love New Year's Eve.  It's a great reason to get together with friends and eat yummy food and laugh, laugh, laugh.  We did all of those things this year, but I completely forgot to take pictures. Memories of this New Years Eve will include letting the kids (minus Isaac) stay up for the first time, discovering a new treat Janelle makes that is FABULOUS, the game Apples to Apples, hiccups, coconuts and SFU.  Thanks friends for a wonderful evening!
I took pre-party pictures, and after everyone left, I got Olivia to snap a post party picture.  So here's all I got...Wishing you and yours a very Happy New Year!  May 2011 be a year of personal and spiritual growth, contentment in life, and meaningful relationships with those you love.


Monday, January 3, 2011

The Kids & Christmas...

I hand-made a lot of my Christmas gifts this year.  I managed to get everything done ahead of schedule, no all nighters were involved.  I'll post a little more on those projects soon, but my point is, I didn't have a whole lot of time before Christmas to post about all the going ons that we attended. Here's a quick catch up of things the kids were involved in over Christmas.  I already posted about the school Christmas sing a long, but here's a few more.

The children's Christmas program at church was as cute as ever. The uncles came out to see the event. (Rob had to haul Isaac off the stage part way through...for obvious 'parent of a 2 year old' reasons):


Olivia had her Piano Christmas Concert. She played jingle bells and it sounded great!
And the kids helped us out with a few songs on Christmas Eve.  They rang the bells for us while we sang 'Come on Ring those Bells' and they helped us out on kazoos  for the
oh so memorable rendition of 'Mary's Boy Child'. 


All in all a wonderful Christmas Season with a some wonderful memories made!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Christmas Morning...

One of our favourite traditions is staying overnight at my parents' house on Christmas eve and then spending Christmas day together. (We spend Boxing Day with Rob's family)  The sleeping over part started years ago when Rob and I were first married and he had to go out on Christmas Eve to plow snow for half the night.  I didn't want to be alone, so my parents invited me to their place to stay the night.  It was one of those traditions that started in the most unintentional way and has become very fun and special.  We went to our church Christmas Eve program first, then over to Rob's aunts for a lovely meal, then off to my parents place.  Once the kids were in bed we loaded up the tree with gifts, stuffed the stockings and settled in for the the night.  My brother joined us in the morning and away we went.  My brother has been handed the Santa wand the past few years and he's the designated present hander over.  I was so excited to see my family open my gifts this year.  I felt like I put a lot of time and effort into the bought and made gifts and I was excited to see their reactions.  Here's a few pics from the day.  

Stockings first!
My brother had me in the draw and he did a great job!


This was the year that Isaac seemed to figure out how it all works!
It was so nice to have my Grandma Harding spend the day with us.  We missed having Nana Smith with us this year, it was our first Christmas without her.


Saturday, January 1, 2011

Out with the Old, In with the New...

Ok, so I wasn't exactly referring to the New Year specifically, but while we're on the topic, Happy New Year!!!  2010 was a year full of changes, some good, some not so good, but what year isn't like that?  I am looking forward to a fresh new year.  I'm not a big goal setter for the New Year.  I love goal setting, just not the whole hoopla of goal setting on a particular date.  Anyway, a few of my (ongoing) goals:  continuing to become more secure in who I am and who I want to be.  Focusing time and energy on friendships that are worthwhile, friendships that give and take, not just take.  Letting the 'little stuff' roll off my back.  Becoming more accepting of others, less judgemental.  Walking closer to my Heavenly Father who will make all these goals worthwhile and fruitful if I seek Him first in all of them.

So, what WAS I referring to in terms of out with the old, in with the new?  Are you ready?  Drumroll please...POTS & PANS!!!  Yes, I know, it's so exciting!!!  For me. 

The truth is that it was time.  My faithful pots and pans that we used wedding money to buy, over 15 years ago, needed to be laid to rest.  It's been bugging me in the back of my mind for a couple of years now.  I took an informal cooking seminar thingy a few years back and our lovely instructor, Mrs. Marilyn, taught me a few things about my kitchen.  I'm such a keener when it comes to domestic stuff..I LOVE it!  Anyway, one of the first things she said in her class was this:  "please tell me none of you are using T-Fal, or nonstick, cookware!  Right???  NONE of you...because if you are you're slowly poisoning your family!"  My keener, nerdy smile quickly disappeared and I was thinking everyone must be cringing inside because we ALL use it right?  RIGHT?  crap, nope, we don't all use it, just me.  In my defense, I follow the instructions (as any good keener shoud) and only ever turned my pots up to medium heat, never max, and I always hand wash them.  But the reality is, my finishes were starting to come off, and I couldn't fool myself into thinking that the finish was only coming off when I was washing them.  Anyway, long story longer, I took Marilyn's advice and decided to slowly start replacing my cookware with something good quality and safe.  Marilyn recommended Paderno cookware.  It's a high end cookware, but it goes on sale every now and then.  I watched for the sales and over the past 2 years had slowly started buying one piece at a time.  Ouch, hate spending that kind of money on pots and pans.  I had 3 pieces of this beautiful cookware, and I was too scared to use it.  I only pulled it out when I ran out of pots while I was cooking a large meal.   Pathetic, I know.  But, BUT, I'm happy to announce that thanks to my parents' generosity this Christmas I am the new owner of a beautiful set of Paderno cookware!  (Applause here, ok, nevermind, I'll do it for both of us)  My parents are incredibly generous people, and I was totally fooled when I opened this heavy wrapped box.  Even after I tore the paper off I still thought it was something else in the box because I was thinking my mom had taken my advice and bought herself a great set of pots and pans earlier this year.  Sneaky woman, she is.  Anyway, when the lightbulb finally came on, I realized that I was the lucky owner of this stellar cookware.  I took it home, put it on the floor and just stared at it for the first few days.  What would the implications be of opening these up and putting them in my drawer?  Well, caution to the wind, I did it.  I DID IT!  I carefully took my old faithful, pathetic, poisoning pots and pans out of the drawer, cleaned the drawer (new pots and pans deserve a clean drawer) and replaced with my new ones.  I had a moment with the old ones, thanked them for our years together.  Kidding, I didn't, that would be lame.  The only thought I gave the to the old ones was, 'what do I do with these, can they be recylced?...ah, I'll let hubby decide'.  So yes, my friends, not only are those pots and pans sitting pretty in my drawer, but I've used them.  Multiple times.  And, I LOVE them. 
Ok, insanely long post for a new set of pots and pans, but I pride myself in the fact that the little things in life still excite me.  Thanks Dad and Mom, for the pots and pans, and for my love of exciting 'little' things.
So, goodbye to these guys:
And Hello to these babies...


 
Editor's Note:  I thought it would humorous to add that I met Mrs.Marilyn for lunch yesterday, after I'd already pre-scheduled this blog post, and she handed me a Christmas  present.  It was heavy, and shiny.  Guess what it was?  A kick butt frying pan.  Marilyn says she can still recall the look on my face when she gave her talk about using non stick cookware.  And as fate would have it, she gave me the one size pan that I didn't have.  Yeah...my life is complete.  That is, the pots and pans portion of my life.  Thanks Mrs. Marilyn.  You rock.