Thursday, December 29, 2011

Another Salad

We have several apple trees of many varieties on our property and we usually harvest a lot of apples.  We also have a good cold storage building to keep our apples and other harvested produce cool enough to keep it in good shape.  Here are the very last apples for this year, in a box in the fridge.

This fall there was one apple tree that split under its load, although we did see that the crotch of the tree had rotted earlier, making it susceptible to this stress. I used the apples from that tree immediately by juicing them in the Omega.  They made such tasty juice that I started a carboy of wine from it.  That wine turned out very well, and because I left it in the carboy a long time, it is a lovely, clear yellow.

I use apples in a breakfast "coffee cake," in muffins, and in salads.  We like the traditional Waldorf salad, and recently I came across another interesting and easy apple salad.

We buy season tickets to Rosebud each year and attend at least three plays there each season.  They are always excellently produced and enjoyable.  The tickets include a buffet meal (either at noon or at 6 p.m.) and their food is as good as their performances.

The last time we went to Rosebud there was a new salad on the buffet, sliced apples with some other ingredients, so I gave it a try.  It was delicious!  When we were home again I tried to duplicate it, and it turned out well.  So we have a new salad recipe in our "cookbook."

INGREDIENTS:
apple slices
chopped nuts
grapes
CoolWhip
cinnamon sugar

The first time I made the salad there were no grapes in the fridge, so I softened some dried cranberries in water and used them.  They were fine!

Today we did have grapes and they are also fine.  I think that raisins might work just as well.

I always use pecans, not walnuts, because bought walnuts are so often rancid.  I also always keep the nuts in the freezer, not the closet.  Also stored in the freezer: flour and coffee beans (that is, in addition to the usual contents of freezers: blanched vegetables, berries of all sorts, baked goods and meat and fish.)

CoolWhip is not my usual ingredient.  This is the low fat version.  I feel quite compromised by such a "fake" commercial product, but that was how the salad dressing tasted when I met this salad.  Some day I'll try to come up with a substitute.

The cinnamon sugar is stored in an old spice container with a "shaker" top.  It's simple to fill it with sugar, add about two teaspoons of cinnamon and, presto, you've got cinnamon/sugar for your baking needs.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Back from B.C.

B.C., as in British Columbia, where Dear Son #2 and his family live.  We flew into Abbotsford on the 16th, also, coincidentally the 74th birthday of the Dear One, to spend some time with DS #2, DDIL and two Dear Granddaughters.  It was a lovely, relaxing visit, and we actually did have one sunny day there.

DDIL and I like to knit together, and spent a lot of time finishing two of her projects that had gotten stuck for one reason or another.  I taught her how to knit a few years ago, and she does very well, but because of lack of experience sometimes gets stuck when a problem arises.

The one project stalled because it was too tight, especially under the arms.  We fixed that by knitting a gusset into the underarm/side seam.  The other project had a finished skirt for the younger granddaughter, but the sweater/top was about 1/3 bigger than it should have been.  The only cure for that was to "unknit" the entire top and reknit it at a smaller size.  She had some bad advice from the person who sold her the pattern and yarn, as the yarn and needles obviously gave a bigger gauge than the gauge the pattern called for.  But she was game to reknit.  I give her lots of credit for that!

There was one other project, a very interesting shrug-like top for herself that only needed to be picked apart at the seams and resewed with a much looser seam treatment to be useable.  We both worked on these projects, and it was very satisfying.

Abbotsford is a lovely small airport.  With the new Golden Ears bridge this airport is just a forty minute drive from their home.  What a difference compared to driving all the way from here--dealing with the snowy mountain passes, possible delays for avalanche control, and even more scary, possibly dangerous road conditions.

We returned this past Wednesday, but I took a horrendous cold home with me and have been totally out of it until today.  I'm thankful to feel human again!  The sun is shining, the house is put back in order and I'm planning to make a succulent chicken breast with stuffing, cranberry sauce, oven-fried sweet potato and green bean casserole for our Christmas dinner.

We come to the end of this year full of thankfulness for our continued good health, the blessings of children and grandchildren, the love of friends and relatives, and most of all the love of God expressed in his gift of his Son, our Saviour.

May the blessings of the Christmas abound in your life also!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Met That Deadline!

Since September when I started teaching violin again I've felt that I just managed to keep up to what needed to be done day by day.  One reason for that was that a lot of odds 'n ends needed to be "manufactured" or music needed to be printed to meet the schedule.  In October we three violin teachers chose December 8 as the date for our violin students' Christmas party, and I volunteered to sew up a little gift bag for each student.

Monday I cut and sewed the bags.  They need only a nice gold ribbon in the casing to  be finished, and then filled with a variety of small treats.  That was a full THREE days ahead of time!  They turned out very well, about 4 1/2" wide, and 9" long, just big enough for an orange, some chocolates, some taffy, a "Happy Face" pencil, a tiny wooden snowman to hang on the Christmas tree and some notes (sticky notes).

We had our party Thursday night at which we played several pieces of Christmas music for the parents and grandparents.  Each student (and some of the parents) received a bag with a "Thank You for your hard work!"

Now I have three weeks without lessons and that feels quite luxurious.  I know the time will whiz by and seem very short but at this end it stretches out before me with all sorts of possibilities.

First on my list is a pair of handknit socks for dear grandson #2 whose birthday comes on the 20th of December.  These were knit from the toe up.  What you see here is the sole of the sock facing up with the heel in the triangle formed by the top two needles,  The side two needles hold the sides of the heel gusset, and the bottom two needles hold the instep of the sock.

The original pattern was formulated to knit two socks on one extremely long circular needle.  I do start the sock on two circular needles, using Judy Becker's magic cast on.  But pretty soon I like to switch to dpns.  There just seems to be less strain at the cross overs from one needle to the other.  When I get to the heel gusset, heel cup and heel flap I like to use lots of needles, just to keep things feeling open and easy.

The first sock took me one week to knit.  The second sock I started on Wednesday and finished this evening.  The yarn is from Mary Maxim, 75% wool and 25% nylon for strength.  This wool has a good "hand" and knit up very much easier than the fancy yarn for DD#2 and her daughter (the pink socks shown earlier).  They look kind of blue here, but are actually army green, brown and black.

Lacking a model, I put on the socks myself for this photo.  I'm very happy with the way they turned out, and am thoroughly converted to knitting socks toe up, rather than top down.  I like the way the heel turns out much better, since you knit the heel stitches together with the gusset stitches, rather than picking up gusset stitches along the heel flap.

These go into the mail tomorrow, with hopes of reaching Ontario before next weekend!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Super Pea Soup

A cold, overcast day calls for a pot of soup!  Pea soup is one of our favorites, and I like to use the big crock pot to make several quarts at once.

Super Pea Soup
8 cups of water
2  (450 gram) bags of green split peas
1 onion chopped
2 good sized carrots chopped
3 (mild) Italian sausages cut into rounds,
   and then the rounds are cut in half
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp coarse ground pepper
1 large or 2 small bay leaves.

Pile all ingredients into crockpot.  Set on high.  After a few hours when it's really boiling, turn down to medium or low, whichever works on your crockpot.  Let it simmer for hours.  Have a bowl while you watch the evening news.  Feel warmed and filled.

A slice of homemade whole wheat bread rounds this out nicely.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Dutch Salad

I call this Dutch Salad because this is the only salad my mother-in-law ever served.  I've never encountered it anywhere other than at her table.

Hard boil an egg for each person.  Shred lettuce onto a salad plate for each person.  To each plate add some chopped onions. Sprinkle some sugar over lettuce, drizzle with a little olive oil.  Grate one hard boiled egg over each plate of lettuce.  Add a little salt and pepper to taste.

That's it.  Simple but a nice change from our usual menu of salads.

My mother-in-law lived a rather hard life, with many difficulties to endure.  She was born in 1900 in a small village in North Holland (the Netherlands).  Before she was a year old her own mother died.  There had never been a photo taken of her, and as long as she lived Moe (pronounced Mooo--short for Moeder) felt that lack.  She never knew what her own mother looked like.  But I have the impression that her father kind of made a little pet out of her to make up for the lack of a mother.  Moe had seven older siblings, three girls and four boys.

A few years later her father married his housekeeper and they had three little girls together.  So I guess Moe was about three or at the most four when that happened.

She was a teenager during the First World War.  She never talked about that at all that I know of.

When she was twenty-four she married my father-in-law.  She became pregnant the first month she was married.  Her father-in-law was living with them until he died some years later.  There were four children in quite quick succession: first a boy, then a girl, then a boy, and three years later another girl.  Those were the years of the world wide Depression, and in a small Dutch village there was no money to spare.  They raised much of their own food, but when it came to luxuries there simply were none.

Then the Second World War started and Holland was invaded and occupied for the duration of the war.  That meant even more deprivation and having to try to make ends meet in the middle.  My Dear One was born in '37, before the war and his younger sister was born during the war in '40.  That made seven children to care for.

Also during those war years the family took care of several young men, called "onderdijkers" who had to hide from the Germans lest they be shot or shipped off to Germany to work in the war factories.  In retrospect those years seemed good because of the camaraderie of the young men, and some of the ingenious devices they rigged up to provide light--the electricity had been cut off.  If they received word that a raid was coming, the young fellows fled by boat along the canals.  My husband can recall cowering in bed as a helmeted soldier looked for these hidden boys.

One good thing during the war years: they always had enough to eat, mainly potatoes and brown beans (dried beans).  In contrast there was much starvation, especially the last year of the war, in the cities.  People from the cities would walk for miles to beg some food from those living in the country.  Moe would give them a sandwich, but require them to sit and eat it in front of her.  Otherwise, there was the possibility that they would turn around and sell it.

On one occasion they slaughtered a goat in the back entryway.  If the Germans knew they had it they would requisition the meat.  On another occasion my father-in-law walked for miles with a cow on a leash that he had bartered for.  A few time during that trek he had to dive into the ditch to avoid being strafed by enemy aircraft, and the cow ran away and had to be caught again.

The family all survived the war.  But soon after the war my father-in-law fell from the hayloft of the barn and impaled his leg on the wooden handle of a rake.  He spent almost a year in the hospital and forever after limped badly from that injury.

Even before the war Pa had in mind to emigrate to another country, but the war and his injury postponed those plans, until finally in 1949 the family emigrated to Canada.  Their oldest son was already there and their oldest daughter and her husband also came along.  So Moe was 49 when she moved to a completely strange country with a completely strange language.

For the first few months they lived on a doctor's estate and Pa was one of the gardeners.  But there was a German fellow living there, and Pa got into a fight with him.  The doctor said that Pa and his family had to leave.  So in the middle of the winter they bought a 40 acre farm near Hamilton, Ontario.  They raised the downpayment by selling a ten acre plot to another buyer.  They became flower growers who marketed their flowers in the Hamilton Farmers' Market and in the Toronto Wholesale Market.

Over the years, with lots of hard work from the whole family and typical immigrant frugality they made good on that stony little piece of ground.  Toward the end of their life they sold the old house on the highway and built a cozy brick home on the sideroad.  Their youngest daughter lived next door with her family and helped look after them in their last years.  I think that those last years of their lives were the most peaceful.

Monday, November 28, 2011

So Much Going On!

So much has happened since I last posted that it seems like it was a month ago!

On Sunday the 20th we got up early (5 a.m.), had a quick breakfast and hit the road to Iron Springs, a very small town north of Lethbridge where Jim had a preaching appointment.  In the 70's we lived a short drive west of Iron Springs and we are still well acquainted in that area.  It was a very cold day, but the roads were all clear and driving was no problem.  We had a good time visiting there and stayed overnight with friends from Nobleford who had come to the service especially to hear Jim preach again.  It was a nice little holiday, and we returned home by noon on Monday.

Tuesday Dickens had an appointment with the vet to have his inoculations and be neutered.  They also showed me how to clip his nails so he doesn't do me so much "loving" damage.  Before I even reached home after bringing him there they were on the phone to let us know a surprising discovery: he had already been neutered!  That means that he is not the simple stray that I thought he was; he belonged to somebody.  We are quite puzzled, because we know all the cats in this rural neighborhood, and he wasn't one of them.  Several friends have suggested that a townperson dropped him off in the country to get rid of him, but why would they do that when he's such an appealing, good-natured cat?  The vet also assured me, based on checking his teeth, that he is at least a year old, and perhaps as much as a year and a half.  Well, that saved us about $95, so all to the good!

Tuesday the quilting club met and finished up all the quilts for Slave Lake:
There was quite a stack of them, and very attractive quilts, too.  We had our picture taken and the next day I submitted a little write up on our activities to the local weekly newspaper.  We have lately been asking for donations from local service clubs and governments to help defray the cost of these quilts that we give away.  We are blest to receive quite a few donations of fabric, but batting and backings add up. Perhaps reading about all the quilts we give away and seeing the picture will help us raise some money to continue this good work.

On Wednesday we had our last rehearsal of the string group and the community choir before our performances on Friday and Saturday.  We were in good shape--knew our music well and were quite confident of a good performance, even though choir had had only four rehearsals.  And truly, the Christmas program given on both nights was a great success!  I was very happy with the performances, and, judging by the applause and the appreciative comments, so was the audience.

Sunday was the first time I met with the accordian group who have asked me to conduct them in a concert to be given in January.  This is organized by Rosebud School of the Arts and is a fundraiser for the Badlands Passion Play.  The Community Choir has also been asked to take part in the concert.  The rehearsal took place at a home that is a 25 minute drive from here. It was early afternoon when we went, and the wind was severe.  It only got worse flinging dust and gravel against the van as we went along and almost pushing us off the road.  We learned later that it was up to hurricane force in Calgary and did a huge amount of damage there.  Trees were down all over the city, semis were overturned on the highway, and there were so many windows blown out in the downtown core that the entire downtown was closed to vehicular and pedestrian traffic.  We were fortunate to be spared such heavy damage as our area is about 50 kilometers further east.  It was a record breaking storm.

Sometime over that busy weekend I managed to get the sleeve for granddaughter's sweater back on the light knitter to add a few inches.  The stupid thing is that I had originally made the sleeve about that much longer and then raveled it back to this shorter length.  When I finish fixing the sleeves and sewing them back on, I need to start the other sweater for her sister.  We will see them in the middle of December, which is also when they both have their birthday, so this is a priority!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Finished Angel Quilt

The lap quilt that I started three weeks ago tomorrow is finished!  It was a simple design and was easy to put together.  There was very little "reverse stitching" in this one.

I bought 4 remnants, 2 fat quarters and found one more previously purchased remnant in my stash.  The batting was a polyester batt that had been given to our town quilting club.  The backing came from the $5.00/meter shelf.

The finished quilt is soft and fluffy, good for an "angel quilt," the quilts that are collected by our local fabric store and given to needy locals in the Christmas season.  Although it's not strongly feminine it is a quilt for a woman or girl.

I did "stitch in the ditch" quilting on the body of the quilt since it was already very busy.  But in the border I put a swirling design, similar to the print of the material.

It was nice to make a quilt with all new material for a change.  So many of the quilts the past year have been scrap quilts from the stash, and although I really like scrap quilts, it was a treat to buy some new material and create from scratch.

When the quilt was finished, these small pieces were all that was left of my purchases.  Now that's a relief, not to add a whole lot to the stash to be used up later.

Because the batt was donated and the top and back were not full price materials, this lap quilt cost only $46.80 to make.  For an all new material quilt, that might be a record!

The batt had a price tag of $5.99 on it, on sale from a regular price of $8.49.  It had an offer included for an "Ohio Rose Pattern with detailed instructions.  Send this coupon, a MOUNTAIN MIST UPC symbol and $2.00 to cover postage and handling.  Available in English only.  Offer expires October 31, 1991."  (My italics)  So the batt is 20 years old!  The coupon also referred to "Straight Stitch Machine Applique and Machine Quilting."  That was back in the days when most quilts were still hand quilted.  Many quilters then (and some now) thought that machine quilting was cheating!!!

Get a load of the old machine!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Cat Tales

Dickens has been with us almost two weeks now and has proven to be a lively, intelligent and affectionate young cat.

Remember how I made him a bed in a little nook beside the cabinet in the back hall?  Well, he had other ideas.  He found this lovely nest of toques, scarves and mittens way up high in the back hall and decided that was the best bed for a cat.

Because he's quite young he's very "scatty" and needs lots of playthings to
keep amused.  One of his favorites is this empty pill bottle.  It's just wonderful fun to bat it around because it spins and jiggles.  He chases it all around the living room.  But sometimes it disappears and he has to go looking for it.  Once in a while it caroms down the open stairs.  One time I saw him pick it up in his mouth to bring it back into play in the open area.

Cats are not claustrophobic!  He's looking for the pill bottle under the loveseat.  Once in a while it gets stuck under a radiator and I have to retrieve it for him.

He also loves to bat around anything crinkly or crackly, so he'll play with a wadded up piece of paper, a paper bag, a crinkled up cellophane bag or somesuch.

The first time I ran the washing machine he was entranced.  It went round and round in the most enticing manner!  This reminded me exactly of a big tom cat we had when I was a girl.  Mom got a new washer--a Bendix front loader and "Fluffy" was mesmerized.  He sat staring at the washer with his head swivelling in time to the tumbling action.  "Fluffy," a misnomer if there ever was one, was also a striped cat like Dickens.

When I sit on the couch reading, sipping my morning coffee, Dickens likes to climb up beside me, real snuggly, until he's all the way up on my lap and there's no room for the book anymore.  My hands and thighs (in spite of wearing my heaviest pair of jeans) show the marks of his affection--lots of little scratches!

Sometimes he gets just too "scatty" and wild.  See the claws gripping the cushion?  It's time for me to decamp or
to evict him.

He's wrassled that pillow right over the edge, but he's still got a good grip on it with his sharp little claws and teeth.







Oops!  Lost it!






He is learning that he's not allowed up on countertops, etc. and I think he's
 intelligent enough to absorb that lesson.
He can barely resist chewing on my
new slippers, so I give him the old one
to chew on--the fur is so alluring!

This morning he was sitting alertly on an armchair across from the couch, observing the fireplace mantel, the wall sconces, the ceiling fan.  It really looked as if he were taking stock of the possibilities for mayhem.  He's already been up on the mantel and almost knocked over an antique Dutch glass canning jar.  I'd hate for that to crash to the floor!

I thought it would be interesting for him if I turned on the ceiling fan.  The switch is right beside the couch.  So when he stared up at it again, I gave the rheostat a little nudge.  OOOOh!  I repent in dust and ashes!  It scared him silly!!!  He exploded out of the chair and shot out of the room, claws scrabbling on the smooth wood floor.  The poor little cat was traumatized.  He finally dared to come back in the living room, but eyed the now immobile fan with great suspicion.  He was unusually quiet for the rest of the day.  Much the same way I would feel enervated after a big shock.  I'm just relieved he isn't holding that against me.

"Fluffy" was more vengeful.  One day my sister was carrying him around in her arms and accidentally knocked his head against a doorframe.  For some time he sat in wait on a dining room chair, just concealed under the drape of the tablecloth.  Whenever Peggy went by the chair, a paw shot out and took a swipe at her.  He didn't bother the rest of us--he was out to get back at her for that insult and injury.

Of course, it's possible that Dickens doesn't know it was I who turned on that fan!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Super Easy Soup

When I buy a beef roast I cut it up into small portions, about 8 ounces each and freeze them for future use.  Today I took one of those portions out of the freezer around 10 this morning, thawed it a bit in the microwave and put it into this handy little crockpot with two pieces of bay leaf underneath.  By 1 o'clock it was tender as could be, surrounded by nice thick gravy, courtesy of a little gravy mix, a spoon of cornstarch and a cup of water, added earlier.

When we were clearing up the dishes after dinner, there was still a cup of thick gravy left in the crockpot.  I couldn't let that go to waste, so I added 1/2 cup of pearl barley, 1 1/2 cups of water, 2 ribs of celery (including leaves), 1/2 an onion chopped, one good sized carrot cut into small pieces, and 1/2 cup of corn kernels.  Let that simmer all afternoon, with the lid on.  Now I added another cup of water with a little beef bullion concentrate.  It will make a satisfying supper on a fairly cold, dark night.

I could also make it a little heartier by adding some precooked loose hamburger that I have in the freezer.

Winter time is soup time!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Dickens

The cat's name is Dickens, not after the author, but because he is a little dickens!

Beside the washer and dryer in the back hall is a cabinet with a double sink.  Under the countertop beside the cabinet is a 10" wide cubbyhole.  Dickens was attracted to that nice little hidey hole, so I put an old rug down there to make a  bed for him.  That suited me just fine, because I keep the cat confined to the back hall at night.  He's got a bed, a water dish and a kitty litter box there, all nice and snug.

While I was working on my latest quilt top yesterday afternoon, Dickens went exploring.  I heard him somewhere in the back hall, but couldn't find him.  Even peering behind the washer and dryer with a flashlight didn't reveal him, but I could still hear him somewhere in there.

I opened the cupboard, and there he was inside!  He had crawled through the 3" space between the back of the cupboard and wall, found the hole in the back wall of the cupboard where the faucets come in and the drain goes out, and climbed into the cupboard that way.  When I opened the doors there he was with his head is the bag of cat food!  He didn't come out without a struggle!

I wrestled the bag away from him and poured the cat food into a plastic pail with a lid.  I think it's safe now.  He had fun with the empty bag.

Because I worked hard on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, I had a day off on Thursday, and that meant, as usual, a day of sewing.

This is the beginning of a lap quilt.  I bought some remnants on Saturday, came home and started cutting and sewing.

But WHAT WAS I THINKING? I cut them into 1-1/2" strips and started sewing them together.  If I'd stopped to think I would have cut wider strips.  That would mean half as much sewing for a slightly larger quilt top.  But did you ever notice how, when you ask yourself that question, the answer usually is: I wasn't  thinking.

Exactly what I used to do when I was still in Junior High School, first making my own clothes.  I would take the bus downtown, buy some material for a skirt or blouse, come home all fired up and start cutting.  By the time Mom came home from her full-time secretarial job I was in a pretty hopeless bind, and she had to figure out an ingenious rescue--which she did.

Well, yesterday morning I was getting sick of all these little 3" blocks, so I thought I'd throw in a few, maybe 7 or 9, six inch blocks of another pattern.  The first one I made is the smaller one of the left in the picture above--turned out to be just 5".  That won't fit.  Second try is on the right: 6" for most of it, and about 1/2" short in the middle of four sides.

There just wasn't enough material to go on experimenting, and no one came to rescue me, so I went back to my original plan: all the 3" squares sewed together in rows, the area shown on the bottom of this photo. This is a basket weave pattern.  With a four inch border on all sides it will finish out at 47" x 59", which is plenty big for a lap quilt.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cat and Choir




Two new things in my life:
Meet the newest member of the family.  This young cat followed Jim home the other day.  We think he was
part of the passel of cats that live around the tannery.  I think he's quite young, and he's quite determined to live in our house.  When he showed up I fed him and petted him and encouraged him to live in the garage.  Having a cat on the place would really help to keep the mouse population in check, and this is quite an appealing young cat.  Before the weather turns very cold, I  would like to take him to a vet and have him wormed and neutered, so as to turn him into a good house cat.  We'll see what happens.

I think I'll name him "Trippy" because he has that cat habit of walking crosswise in front of your feet.

I took a 30 second video of him curling around my feet, purring his heart out.  But it somehow won't upload to blogspot.


The other new event in my life came about this week when the all-around-assistant at the Arts Academy where I teach some violin students told me that she was desperate to find someone to conduct the Community Choir for the annual Christmas Concert, coming up on the 25th and 26th of November.  She didn't know that I have decades of experience leading church choirs.  So when I agreed to do the Community Choir this November she was delighted.

Last night (one day after I agreed to do this) we had our first rehearsal.  Marilyn had picked out two appropriate choir pieces, and I found two more in my files. They are fairly simple pieces, since we will have just four rehearsals before the concert.

I really enjoyed the rehearsal; I've always enjoyed group music rehearsals, whether string or voice.  We had one bass, three tenors, five altos and four sopranos.  A balanced group to start with.  Perhaps other singers will join us when they hear that we are going ahead with a choir for this year.  I hope so!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Gorgeous Day!

What a beautiful day we had today!  Our high temp was +19ºC (+67ºF) and very calm.  We took advantage to have our last afternoon break/cold drink on the swing out back.  Jim has his favorite: orange soda, packed with vanilla ice cream.  I had my usual: diet cola.  I had to hunt around for a place to balance the camera, set the timer, and hurry back to sit next to Jim.

I did a bit of cutting and sewing on a new "angel quilt" project (no picture yet).  When I went to buy thread yesterday there were three remnants in the bin that called my name.  For just under $20 I have enough to make a lap quilt top.  I will add borders of another remnant to "stretch" the size a bit, and that will add another $6.49 to the price.  Still a big bargain.  I'm using a "rail fence" pattern, and being sorry that I decided to make 3 1/2" square blocks.  That means a total of 216 blocks for the modest sized top.  What was I thinking!  They could just as well have been 5" squares and saved lots of sewing time!

Tomorrow the weather is supposed to head downhill, so after our nice little break I came inside and made a big pot of "my kind of minestrone."  When I make soup I don't fool around.  This is a five quart Dutch oven, about as full as can be without boiling over.

I like to start with a package of soup mix, and this is Bear Creek Minestrone. I find Bear Creek soup mixes very good.  They can be hard to find here, so when I saw some the last time we were in the States, I bought all the packages on the shelf.  There were about five, I think.  Then I add some or all of the following: onion, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, spinach, fresh green beans, corn kernels, green and red peppers, Italian sausage, fresh mushrooms, broken uncooked spaghetti, canned tomatoes, a can of beans in sauce (pork & beans without the pork) and the following seasonings: oregano, thyme, anise seeds, and cumin.  Amounts vary, depending on availability.  It always turns out well and is a very hearty soup, almost like a stew, as you can see.

When we were on the way to Fort St. John for Thanksgiving we had supper at a Subway Restaurant.  The sandwiches were great!  But the soup was a sad shock.  I think it came out of a can.  I guess we're spoiled with all our "made from scratch" foods. 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Dark Day

Yesterday morning when M. and I walked south the wind was bitingly cold.  It was about -5º and heavily overcast.  The second half of our walk home was a lot more comfortable because the wind was at our backs.  Shows the reason for the old Irish blessing: May the wind be always at your back!

I had planned to do some housecleaning, but without sunshine housecleaning is no fun.  Besides, I had done a whack of cleaning on Monday--dusting and vacuuming the upstairs (where all the living quarters are) and washing all those windows, inside and out.  That was a warm, sunny day and I'm so glad I got the windows all cleaned up before winter.  But because Friday was dark and gloomy I gave myself a day off.

Jim was working outside in the afternoon when I sat down to work on the Slave Lake quilt.  It was cozy in the sewing room, and I remembered another dark, cozy day late in 1993.

Dear Son #2 had brought his girlfriend home for Christmas to meet us for the first time.  I had knitted them matching sweaters as a way of making her feel welcome into our family.  Our previous glimpse of her was a photo that #2 sent, taken at the end of a three day canoe/camping trip with no showers, etc.  She had clamped a baseball cap over her hair, and her face was hard to see.  "Well," I thought, "she must be really sweet, 'cause she's not too pretty."  The first thing I said to her when they arrived that December was, "You're way more pretty than your picture!"

We had a nice time together, especially one afternoon when the guys were out somewhere and she and I were together in my sewing room.  That was another dark day, but we were cozy together.  She was working on a quilted hearts wreath for #2 for Valentines Day, and I was working on one of my projects.  What made that afternoon memorable, aside from the fellowship we had, was listening to a CD of the music from Shindler's List that they had brought along.  It's sad, haunting music, perfect for a dark afternoon when you just want to be stitching and drinking tea together.

So yesterday, another dark afternoon of sewing, I put that CD (which they gave to me because I loved the music so much) on the player and quilted to that sad, haunting music.  Sad and haunting in a good nostalgic way.  It's a long CD, and when it was finished I started it all over again.  Partway through the second time I turned it off and put on a record of Scott Joplin Piano Rags, also quite laid back, but quite a bit more upbeat.

By 5 p.m. I had the machine quilting finished and started sewing the binding down by hand.  I have about 65" of slip stitching to do on the back yet, but ran out of the colour thread I need.

Later today I'll go pick up a few groceries from town and another spool of black cotton thread.  Then all that remains is to print off a label.

I really like this quilt.  It's the top I started in July when D.S.#2 and his family and D.D. #2 and her family left after a week-long visit.  It's all scraps except for the borders, binding and backing.  I managed to find a piece of batting in my stash just the right size.  The scraps encompass a lot of history--back to the early 90's at least.  I hope this "comfort" quilt warms someone's heart!

P.S. The book on the coffee table is quite interesting: Dirt, The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth, by William Bryant Logan.  Read it and learn lots of interesting things about the soil on which we depend for all our food.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sure a funny sock!

I mentioned when I finished the socks for D.D. #2 and her daughter that I immediately cast on stitches for a new pair.  This sock is called "Skew," and I found that pattern on line at Knitty.com, the winter 2009 Issue.
Here's the sock, toe up, and the flare at the left side is called the "mini gusset."  It's the addition of stitches where the inside ankle will come, the stitches being added to make room for the heel.

The straight edge of the sock is the inside of the foot, and the rounded edge goes around the outside of the foot.  At this point in the knitting I was quite confused as to what is the top of the foot and what is the sole.  D.D.#2 and I went on line and looked for others who had used this pattern.  By looking at the pictures they had posted we figured out the top and bottom of the sock.

That enabled me to proceed with the directions.  Here's the "sole" of the sock, and the heel is that funny little triangle folded backwards over the sole.

I am really enjoying this yarn.  It has a very good feel to it and I love the colour combination.  But now I'm wondering: when D.D.#2 was here last July we ordered three kinds of sock yarn.  The first one that I knit, the pink lace socks, I'm sure was one of her picks.  But the other two yarns, this one and a similar but lighter-coloured yarn, got me mixed up.  Now I'm thinking this is the yarn I ordered for myself.  Well, I'll have to have a conference with her and see if these are the socks she wants or if she wants to wait for the other yarn.

So here is the first of the pair finished.  This is the top of the sock for the right foot.  Looks like just a flat piece of knitting, but when you turn it sideways you can see the funny little triangle that is the space for the heel. (Next picture down.)

Behind the sock is the quilt top I was working on this Tuesday at Pieceful Stitchers.  I'm machine quilting it and hope to be finished by the end of this week.  This will be the comfort quilt that goes to Slave Lake.

Some workers from the Philippines who staff a meat packing plant in the next town up the highway suffered major losses when the boarding house they stay in burned to the ground.
A quilt I finished some time ago, a generously sized single bed quilt, will go to one of them as a "comfort" quilt.  The amazing thing about that fire was that all of their passports survived.  That's such a blessing because if the passports were indeed lost those poor people would have had to travel all the way to Vancouver to get new ones.

So there you see the little heel poking out back.  Maybe I should try this sock on and see how it fits!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Did It!

Remember that bag full of scraps that I needed to cut down to squares and strips?  Well, I Did It!!!  It took hours and hours of standing by the cutting table, picking out scraps, pressing them and cutting them into squares or strips measuring from 1 1/2" to 4" or larger.  A scrap needed to be about  16" long to become a strip.  Otherwise it was cut into squares.


So here's the lovely result:
From left to right according to size, biggest to smallest.  Strips are in 
the clear boxes, squares are in stacks
or bags in front of the boxes.  They will 
be so handy for making scrap quilts.  
I'll be just whizzing along!














Actually, this all came about because of the need for strips to make blocks for the Red Star Quilt.  So here are the piles of strips for that quilt.  The grey underneath the pile is a pair of trousers that needs to be mended.

The Red Star Quilt is coming along.  There are eight and a half 12" blocks finished.  I need at least twice that many.  This was supposed to be the quilt for Slave Lake, but since it will be a while before I can finish it, I think I'll use the top I made last July for the comfort quilt for Slave Lake and use the Red Star quilt for an "Angel Quilt" this coming Christmas Season.  Our local fabric store (part of IDA) distributes "Angel Quilts" locally according to need at Christmas time.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Breakfast Buffet

Saturday mornings are our time to sit back and relax.  We didn't get out of bed until about 7:15, which is really, really late for us.  Jim cut up fruit for a large bowl of fresh fruit salad.  I brewed the first cups of coffee and he drove to the corner store for today's (Toronto) Globe and Mail.


Around 9a.m. I started working on breakfast: first I cut up four breakfast sausages and set them to brown in a small skillet.  I added cut up onion, red and green peppers.  The mushrooms I sautéed in a separate pot because he doesn't care for mushrooms and I like them a lot.  I had microwaved some medium sized Russet Burbank potatoes, which I cut into cubes and fried in a large skillet, sprinkled with seasoned salt, sizzling in a little butter.  When everything was ready I scrambled five farm-fresh eggs and we put together our platters from the stove, adding some grated cheddar cheese and a little catsup.


What a great breakfast that was!  Right up there at a 10, and for me, it was the sautéed mushrooms that pushed it right over the top.


As we were enjoying our breakfast a little parade of deer came ambling down the driveway from the back of the property.  They live in the field across the railroad tracks that border our land to the East, and consider our landscape their "morning buffet."  This snap shows a few of the crowd that came.  There were more off to the left.


They've got their ears forward because Jim has just opened the front door.

If you want to make them go away, it's not enough to just show yourself.  They are so accustomed to people, and so sure that they are safe because of the lack of predators here, that to scare them off you need to run at them, waving your arms above your head and shrieking as loudly as possible.

So here they are leaving in response to Jim's antics.


They trot across the road, sometimes even stopping by the end of the driveway.  This herd made it across the road to the neighbor's field.  They'll be back later on their way home again.

After a few minutes a straggler came through looking as if he was wondering where everybody went.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Visit

An old friend of ours stopped by yesterday for a visit and shared our dinner with us.  We were happy to see him again, and have known him and his family since 1967.  He is a widower and lives a 3 hour drive southeast of us, while six of his eight children live a 2 1/2 hour drive to the north.  So he will often stop by on his way there or back again.

He's in his early eighties, but is in pretty good shape, having lost 34 pounds over the last year, which helps control his type II diabetes.  He lives alone and does all his own cooking, housework and yardwork.  Like Jim, he's a transplanted Dutchman, and like so many of them, just can't sit around doing nothing, but needs, as Jim says, a reason to get up in the morning.

His wife died six years ago following an operation on a brain aneurism.  She was expected to survive, but during the operation the surgeon discovered a large hardened area of previous bleeds from the aneurism, and it proved inoperable.  It was a big shock to the family to lose her like that.  We attended her funeral and it was particularly moving, since their family was close and loving and well supported by faith in God and a good and helpful congregation.

Yesterday he spoke with us about the whole experience.  I was very moved by his words and the calm yet sad way in which he spoke.  Theirs was a loving relationship, and though they had not always had smooth sailing, they had a good life together and with their eight children, and now many grandchildren.

After the meal was finished we sat at the table for a long time recalling incidents and people from our shared past.  He said a few times that he should be going, but seemed reluctant to leave.  When he did leave he said, Well, if I don't see you again here (on earth) I will see you (and he pointed upward).  It seemed that he really felt he was saying a final goodbye to us.

I felt touched and sobered by his remarks and his obvious feelings of friendship and leave-taking.  We are coming to a time of farewells in life.  If he is still living a year from now, I think we should go especially to visit him.  It's the relationships in life that have lasting meaning and it's the relationships that need to be cared for while we are still around to do that.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Done and To Do

This past weekend we traveled to Fort St. John, B.C., to visit our daughter and her family.  On the way I was able to finish a pair of socks for our dear granddaughter, identical to the ones I had already made for her mom, D.D.#2. (See the sock in progress in the post of August 16.)

I had ordered yarn in July from Mary Maxim, a well known yarn company with headquarters in Paris, Ontario.  When the yarn came, I used my wool winder to turn it into balls that pulled from the center.  But this very pretty, striped pink yarn, 100% bamboo, from Turkey, had several knots and breaks in the skein.  I was very disappointed, as Mary Maxim yarns are usually just fine.  I took pictures of the problems and sent them an email on a Saturday evening.  Monday morning there was a return email, assuring me that a whole new skein was in the mail.  I hadn't expected or asked for that, but it was good customer service, and welcome.

So when I finished the socks for D.D.#2,
I started an identical small pair for her 7 year old daughter.

This yarn was not fun to work with, as it felt more like crochet cotton than sock yarn, but I thought the socks were very pretty, and would probably feel quite silky.  They took a long time to knit as the gauge was very fine: 32 stitches to 4 inches.  The second pair were a treat to knit because they were so much smaller.  I finished them on Saturday.

So here are the two pair, really nice socks for two dear ones.

As soon as they were off the needles I cast on a new pair, these of a slightly thicker yarn, 75% superwash wool, and 25% nylon for strength.  The pattern is something I've never used before, called Skew, which I got from Knitty.com.  I've had the pattern for about a year, and wanted to try this strange method.  I'll show those socks when they are finished.

On Tuesday our town quilt club met from 1 p.m. to about 9:30 p.m. to work on quilts for the people of Slave Lake, Alberta who lost their homes and possessions in forest fires this summer.  I brought my whole fabric stash along and said, Use whatever!  That's what it's for.  The only things I held back were projects in process, including a large queen size quilt for our bed that I hope to make this winter.  Sadly, it didn't seem as if that much fabric disappeared.  One woman joked that they had all been secretly adding to my stash as the day went along.

So I took home more than a basket full of scraps.  This afternoon I got busy and trimmed all the scraps to useable squares, alá Bonnie Hunter of Quiltville's Quips and Snips.  So here are the containers, with the scraps sorted by size from 1 1/2" to 4" and up.  Most have been cut into squares but some of the longer ones I left in strips.  The basket to the left of them was full, almost overflowing, when I started.  I actually worked until it was empty, and then I was able to put the lovely Briggs and Little Sock yarn in the basket.

But, sad to say, look what's left in another even bigger container that needs to be sorted and cut up:
I bet there's about three days work there!  It will have to wait for another day.

To the right of the clear boxes on the design wall are the four squares of "Red Star" that I finished on Tuesday.  I need to make at least another four, maybe more to finish the quilt for Slave Lake.  They take longer to make than I figured. But then, it seems every project takes longer than I think it will.

The poppy print above them is a piece of art that Dear Son #1 made and sent me via email.  I took it to the upholstery shop and had it printed, first on canvas, but that was too dull, and now on this white material.  I plan to put it on "stretchers" and send it to him for a present.  I think it's really neat.  He based it on a photo I took a year ago of a fabulous poppy in our garden.

Do you also find that there are more interesting things to do than there is time to do them?  I guess that's a good problem to have, and I can't imagine ever being bored.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Quick Quilt

Seems that I've had trouble finding time to blog lately.  Only four posts in September!  I know I like the bloggers I read to post often.  Here's a list of the blogs I visit regularly: Under knitting blogs: Modeknit/Knitting Heretic, Yarn Harlot, Zarzuela knits and crochets, and Knitty blog; under Friends: Suzie Foods, The Question of the Day, The Organic Writer, and Memoirs of a Prairie Boy; Under Quilting Blogs: Elaine Adair Pieces, Quiltvilles' Quips and Snips, Gipsy Quilter, Sara's Scraps, Creative Quilter, and Rogue Quilter; under Sewing Garments: A Dress A Day; Sew Intriguing, and Sew Nancy; Under Music: Musical Assumptions.  Quite a long list, and I don't read each one every day, but try to keep current with them.

At our first meeting of the town quilting club our attention was called to an article in the Country Register, a monthly newspaper that features many quilting stores in Alberta, by region, that asked for donations of "quilts of comfort" for the devastated people of Slave Lake, Alberta, the community that was almost wiped out by wild forest fires this summer.  As a club we are dedicating our first meeting in October to creating quilts to meet this need.

I decided to get a head start on a gift quilt and hauled out a bag of odds 'n ends, sorted by colour compatibility.  Since "Turning Twenty" is such a quick sew, I used that pattern and started cutting the squares for the blocks this past Tuesday at our meeting.  Friday morning I decided the quilt needed some "brightening up" and bought seven other fabrics--just .3 meter of each.  All but two were from the $5.00 shelf.  By Friday evening I had most of the squares needed, and this morning I dug through my stash of fabrics to finish cutting.  I needed: 20 - 10 1/2" squares, 20 -   6 1/2 x 10 1/2" rectangles, 20 - 6 1/2 x 16 1/2" rectangles, and 20 - 3 1/2 x 16 1/2" rectangles.  It took quite a while to cut all of them.

Here are the blocks, partly sewed, with
The next piece laid right sides together on top of the 10 1/2" squares.  The finished blocks are 16 1/2" x 16 1/2" with only three seams, so they go together very quickly.

All the blocks were finished with just one hour of fast sewing.  I was on a roll!

Next I started sewing the blocks into rows.  That didn't take long either.  Before I knew it I was ready to sew the rows together.  I couldn't wait to get the top finished and take it in to the Fabric Nook to show it to Brenda.

Total sewing time: 3 hours!

This is really a scrap quilt, with a bit of colour control, but some pretty scrappy combinations too.

While I was there I bought 2 1/2 meters of one of the fabrics to use for a backing.  This evening I was planning how to piece the back and realized 2 1/2 meters won't cover it.  Have to go back on Monday and buy some more.

That's what happens when you think you'll use up some of the scraps in your stash of fabric!  Inevitably you end up adding to your stash.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Farmers Work Hard!

video
This time of the year farmers work very hard, very long hours, with very large, quite dangerous equipment.  You can say a prayer for the safety of all those farmer taking in the harvest.

Do you remember the field with the swaths of canola?  It was time to harvest it on Wednesday evening.  About 9 p.m. three combines started making the rounds.  It was already dark, but dark doesn't stop farmers this time of the year. They worked until about 11:45 and then called it a day. Work started again about noon on Thursday, and by 3:30 p.m. the field was finished.

When one field is harvested, they move the machinery to the next field that's ready to harvest and keep right on going.  Their only break is a half hour for a hot meal around 6 p.m., a meal that is brought out to the field by the women.  I hope to show that whole process sometime this fall, but if not this fall, then maybe next year.

The next morning the sun rose shining on the underside of some fairly solid clouds.  They probably had a lot of dust in them from the field work going on.  It gave an unusually beautiful, rosy light to the early morning.

I have a video, but it never finished uploading, so I'll give this still shot instead.  It doesn't quite capture the extent of the rosy light which bathed the entire landscape, but it gives you a little idea.  What a beautiful world!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Phew!

I won't bore you with the details, but it's been a hectic twelve days since my last post.  But I will show you some of the "fruits" of my efforts.  Here are a four of the five art displays that I arranged for and helped set up in that time:
A quilt display.  This is just one of four parts of the display.  This quilt artist did her own set up, saving me valuable time! This quilt is on display in a local furniture store.

This display and the one that follow are part of our local celebration of "Alberta Arts Days" which, in turn, is part of the Canada-wide "Canada Culture Days."
The idea behind these displays is to acquaint the population of our County with the many talented artists living with the County.

This beautiful pottery is on display in our local Sears Store.


Another benefit of this celebration of the arts is to get people into the local businesses where the art is displayed.  Both the artist and the business benefit.

It was very interesting to me to go around to various businesses asking if they would be willing to host an art display for Alberta Arts Days.  These beautiful paintings are on display in an Alberta Treasury Branch.

Some business owners immediately see how hosting a display will benefit them.  Others decline--for their own reasons, which I can only guess at.  But mostly, the response is an immediate and enthusiastic "Yes!"

This jewelry is on display at a local Credit Union.  These artists are invited by the volunteer board of "Arts Alive" to have a display of their work.  They are welcome to add business cards.  If anyone is interested in purchasing one of their pieces, the transaction is between the artist and the customer.  We take no commission, nor does the business.

I did one more set up of an abstract painting in a restaurant, but don't have a photo of that particular display.  I'll try to post a picture sometime later, because it is a terrific piece of art, done by a local high school girl.

During this same time frame I started teaching Suzuki violin again, after having just one student for the last three or four years.  In the 80's I taught as many as 40 students, ranging in age from as young as 2 years (whose big brother was taking lessons) to high school age kids who had always wanted to play violin.  I love teaching, and I enjoy children (most of them! most of the time!).  So when the local music school needed to replace a violin teacher for a two year time frame I was willing to take that on.

It was a stretch!  I hadn't started a beginner for years, so had to do lots of studying to get back in the groove.  I'm also instructing a small student string ensemble (small ensemble, not small students) for which I had to dig up some appropriate music.

When I reached Friday afternoon, and all that (plus some other stuff I won't bore you with) had been accomplished, I felt it was time to reward myself.  So you know what that means!  It means a new quilting project!!!  But this time I knew it had to be small, not like the one I did in July.  I had some Halloween materials, so I got them out and started cutting and sewing.  Here's the project in progress:

I cut everything except the orange piece down to the size of the smallest fabric, which trimmed to 7 1/2" x 15".  Then I cut strips the long way and started sewing them together.  When I had five identical strip sets I cut them into four sets each of 4 1/4" x 11 1/4".  These formed the striped area around the centre orange fabric, set off by a 1" strip of black on either side.

Now, after about 5 hours of cutting and sewing, I have a simple table topper to celebrate Halloween.  Everything is finished except sewing the binding down by hand on the back of the table topper.
In the centre of the panel (which says, Happy Halloween), I stitched a big pumpkin for the quilted motif.  The other quilting is just simple "stitch in the ditch" around the black borders.  This was lots of fun and a rewarding little project after not touching a sewing machine for two months!

I just want to mention for any quilters out there these terrific little "True Grips" sold by the Grace Company.  You see on the back of the ruler the little whitish circles? They are the grips.  There are more on the rectangle and they come in this package.  Ask your quilt store to stock them because they really, truly keep your quilting ruler from slipping out of place when you are cutting your strips and squares.  Just a great product!