Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Few Odds 'n Ends

This month has seemed super busy, but then most months feel that way!  Violin lessons and group started again the first week of September, and they always require great amounts of time the first few weeks, until everything is in place and rolling along, which is the point we've reached now.  That's relief!

Quilt club also started up again, the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of this month, and Carroll and I introduced this year's Club Quilt at the first meeting.  There was a lot of preparation involved in that, including drafting a paper pieced pattern from a 2 1/2" strip pattern.  We wanted paper piecing because that demands and results in much more uniform blocks.  Here's the sample block that I made.  And wow! did I learn a lot from making samples.

We are making a somewhat controlled quilt.  We purchased the background to keep that uniform and are requiring that the fabrics used with the background are "autumn coloured" batiks.  Some of these fabrics don't fit in very well, which provided a good illustration of what not to do.

Everyone pays $25 to the kitty because this is a fund raiser for the club.  We each make a block and one of us sews the top together.  We then have a draw and the lucky winner takes the top home to finish.  We will be sewing these blocks together with sashing between them--a way of avoiding the sometimes painful chore of making the points meet.

I think this will be a particularly attractive quilt, and you will see pictures when the top is completed.

Jim was working out in the garden this month and was puzzled as to why this bed of gladioli had no blossoms.  The plants looked healthy.

But a closer inspection reveals what had happened.  See the snipped off ends of the stems in this photo?  The blossoms provided "dessert" at the deer buffet.  Well, at least that means the bulbs benefited from this year's growth and will be bigger and better for next year.

This is the first year that our pear tree has produced a crop.  In fact, it was overloaded and the ground beneath was dotted with pears it had already dropped.

I picked several, ones that came off with a gentle tug.  Pears should actually be picked fairly green and left to ripen, as these small yellow fruits showed when they were cut up for the morning's fresh fruit salad: They were already brown in the centre.

Here they are with the potato for dinner, a Russet Burbank.  Scrubbed up, sliced in half and baked in the oven, it was delicious!

And since the oven was on anyway, we also halved, seeded and roasted this lovely acorn squash at the same time.  All accompanied by a small piece of pork with some garlic/honey dressing.

Nothing is as delicious as food harvested 50 feet from the back door and served hot a few hours later!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Mouse Tales, the Sequel

HE DID IT AGAIN!  Not once, but TWICE!!!  It's beyond belief that one mouse, seemingly quite smart, can be caught three times or that one cat, seemingly quit smart, can catch that mouse three times and let it go three times.  But that is what happened.

When I came home from my morning walk Dickens was heading for the back step with a mouse in his mouth.  He put the mouse down and it quickly tried to hide between two pairs of Jim's shoes left out on the step.  Dickens wanted to come inside and have some breakfast, so he turned his back on the mouse, who promptly ran off.  I called Dickens's attention to him, and he also ran out onto the gravel driveway.  After a few feints back and forth the mouse escaped to safety under a rose bush.  I gave up in disgust and went into the house.

Later I needed to ask Jim a question.  When I went out the back door, there was Dickens again, with what I'll swear is the same mouse!  The pattern is becoming wearying.  

Now Dickens is downstairs having his morning siesta and the mouse is ----  somewhere out there, waiting for the next game of "Cat and Mouse."

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Mouse Tale

Dickens, our cat who arrived from who knows where last November, has proved to be an outstanding cat!  He's got lots of personality, is very affectionate, and is quite the hunter.  All summer he has been spending his nights outdoors, catching up on his sleep during the day, and returning to the "wild" late in the afternoon.  Very often there's an offering of sorts on our back step in the morning: part of a mouse, or vole, or bird.

When Jim was ready to go out digging potatoes this afternoon, he called me to the back door to have a look at an unfolding drama: There was Dickens, on a little pile of garden hose right by the back door and a few feet away from him on the patio was a live mouse.  I thought it might have been injured, but it was full of spunk!  When Dickens made a feint toward him, the mouse made a feint right back, with an unmistakeable threatening expression.  I couldn't hear through the door, but I imagined a mouse-sized growl.  Dickens retreated.

Jim went out the door and Dickens came in, and the mouse made a dash for safety.  He got as far as the edge of the patio near the garage door when Dickens, whom I had shooed out again, cornered him there.  The mouse found a crack to hide in.  Jim lifted the patio brick and the mouse, eluding Dickens yet again, sprinted through a crack beside the door into the garage.  Jim heard a bit of a "click" and thought, "Good, he got caught in the live trap that Louise keeps inside the door."

Some time later I went out to see how the digging was going (and it was fine) and took some pictures of the many pears ripening on the pear tree.  As Jim and I walked back to the house he told me about the mouse disappearing into the garage, and said, "I think you'll find him in the trap."

So I put down my things and went into the garage, picked up the trap and peered into the "holding tank."  There was no mouse in the trap!  Where could he be?  He was in the little tunnel from which mice are flipped into the trap.  The "flipper" hadn't worked!  I was holding the trap high off the ground when he stuck his head out one end to see what was going on.

You know, mice are actually kind of cute little creatures!

I wondered what to do.  If I put the trap down, he would escape again.  I walked around to the front door, as Jim was there watching the 4 p.m. PBS News Hour.  He came to the door.  "What in the world is going on now?"  I showed him the mouse in the tunnel.  "Well, what are you going to do?"  I said I thought I'd go to the road (165 ft away) and throw him out there.  "No," said Jim, "You should drown him."  I couldn't manage that alone, so I asked him to come to the back door and fill a pail with water.

Well, you can just guess what happened.  When I went to put the trap into the pail of water, the intrepid little creature jumped, missed the pail of water, landed on the patio and made good his getaway!

I think he deserves his freedom.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Good Apple Year, part 2

Last June 6 I posted "A Good Apple Year" and showed you a few photos of the apple trees loaded with blossoms.  Here's the Kerr apple tree now, loaded with ripe apples.  Earlier Jim had knocked loads of small apples off this tree, to help  the tree bring what it had to maturity.  Now they are ready to be picked and juiced, or whatever else I care to make from them.  Kerrs make a nice rosy apple juice.

Friday night Jim and I picked an ice cream bucket full of apples so I could make an "apple coffee cake" on Saturday morning.  That's one of his favourite breakfasts.

I used to make apple coffee cake in an 8" x 8" pan, but wised up lately and began making a double recipe and baking it in a 9" x 12" pan.

Apple coffee cake freezes well, and it's nice to have in the storage for future breakfasts.

The recipe came originally from a magazine, but like all the recipes I use, has been altered.  Here's the version for a larger cake:

Preheat the oven to ยบ375F.  Line a 9 x 12 cake pan with parchment paper.
In a 4 cup measuring cup mix together:
--2 cups white flour
--1 cup whole wheat flour
--4 tsp. baking powder
--1 tsp. salt
--1 tsp. nutmeg
In a large mixing bowl whisk together:
--1 c. sugar
--1/2 c. soft margarine
--2 eggs
Cut up and mix in 5 or 6 large apples, or the equivalent in small apples.
Add the apple mixture to the flour mixture.
Add enough milk to moisten all parts, and create a "sticky" batter.
Turn the batter into the prepared pan.
Sprinkle the top with cinnamon and sugar.
Bake for 40 minutes.

Cut into appropriate sized pieces and enjoy warm for a Saturday brunch while you read the Toronto Globe and Mail!

This is not as "heart healthy" as our usual baked fare, but comes to about 200 calories for a square approximately 2 1/2" x 3".

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Tribute to Doree

There was in our community a talented and prolific knitter named Doree.  Her stitches were beautifully even and the things she made, sweaters, mittens, toques, afghans, etc. were works of art.  She, like most knitters, gave away most of what she made.  Her family and friends cherished the items she made for them.  The Hospital Auxiliary received a few dozen of her projects every year.

I didn't know Doree, but I would have liked to know her.  She kept active right into old age, and was knitting until the day she died last year at the age of 87.  That evening her family was over for a visit, and she was fine, serving them coffee and snacks, as a loved and loving mother, grandmother and even great-grandmother.  The next morning Doree was unexpectedly gone; she had passed away peacefully during her sleep that night.

Like most people who knit, crochet and sew, Doree had a lot of projects on the go and a magnificent stash of yarn and material to draw from for her creations.  It fell to Doree's grandson's wife to take care of the stash she left behind, and that is how I am coming to know Doree.

A friend of mine, the grandson's wife's mother, knows that I've been knitting for decades and understand quite a bit about it.  So she had the idea to bring me some of the unfinished projects to see what could be done with them.  That was last fall.  I took one, a baby sweater, and said I would finish it in January. In March I finally got it out of the closet and set about seeing what could be done.

There were several parts on the go.  The back seemed to be finished, but looked pretty short from the armhole to the neck.  There were two fronts, on above the armhole and one below, and a sleeve partway knit.  Three balls of yarn and a pattern book came along with it.

I had a hard time at first to figure out which pattern Doree was using, until I realized that the purl side, which is usually the inside of a sweater, was actually the outside of this sweater.  I took a picture of the pattern, "Wee Willie Winkie."  It's in a really old pattern book which I delighted to see.  It includes patterns for little girls' knit dresses, and there's a sweater pattern that I knit for nephews and nieces something like 50 years ago.  What fun to see these old patterns again!  Unfortunately, my computer crashed after I saved those pictures, and the new computer won't let me export them, so I can't show you here.

After I finished the DSIL's socks that I made in March I started working on this sweater in memory of Doree.  Because it's a baby sweater it doesn't take long.

The pattern was printed very densely, so I went to the computer and typed out the directions for the right front, to make it easier to keep track of where I am in the pattern.  Doree had been keeping track of her rows also.  In the bag with the sweater pieces were some sheets from a daytimer called "At a Glance," dated July 1998 on which she was writing down the rows as she did them.  1998 was the first summer that I lived here.  I wish I had met her then!

Now the sweater is finished, with just one alterations to the pattern: since I much prefer the knitted side to be the outside, I sewed the parts together with the knitted side out.  I don't know whose little baby will wear this sweater, maybe a great-grandchild of Doree's.  But it gave me a lot of satisfaction to finish this for Doree, as a tribute in memory of a great knitter!