Thursday, December 23, 2010

Last Minute....

We're enjoying spending yesterday and today finishing  up a few odds and ends.  Yesterday we made our gingerbread people for decorating.  Last year we decided to borrow this tradition from friends - each year they decorate gingerbread people for each person spending the holidays with them - then we decorated them ahead of time (the boys couldn't wait) but this year we will decorate them once all our company is here tomorrow.
The boys finished their woodwork gift projects and I finished a few last minute things -a knitted hat out of Buffalo wool.
And these fun hair elastics - they're made from self cover buttons that I found at the thrift store and bits of fabric from my scrap bag.
This one is my favourite because it is made from some fabric that was in my mom's stash of fabrics from when I was little.  I definitely want to make more of these.
Today all we need to do is wrap, make shortbread and prepare some beds for company coming today and tomorrow.  I might need to dig through my scrap bags to find more fabric for wrapping as I seem to have used most of my cloth bags already and will either need to make a few more or, if I run out of time...
wrap more in furoshiki like this (now I wish I'd bought more square scarves last time I was thrifting).
And...we still have plenty of time for walks and sledding in the fresh, new snow we received yesterday.  Not to mention plenty of time for hot tea and cookies too.
Wishing you joy, fun and love, as well as quiet time for tea and cookies.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Solstice and the gifts of darkness

We celebrated yesterday with our Solstice traditions. I LOVE these simple traditions - they bring me a sense of rhythm...remind me of the seasonal cycle that we are blessed with. This year I've really settled into this darker season and have found much to enjoy about it. I've enjoyed the S L O W ness that it has ushered in, actually, I've welcomed it quite readily - probably for the first time I can recall...I think I really needed it this year.
(daily walks in the woods (and seeing the antics of our silly dog) have helped immensely with my enjoyment of this season)

As a gardener I can see the importance of the winter season for plants- a time of going inward with little outward appearance of growth, a sort of gathering in of reserves to build energy for the springtime to come - and I consider this a valuable season for myself in the same way.  After all, who couldn't use a little bit of extra rest and quiet time and the darkness lends itself so well to that.  So, since I've been enjoying the darker days instead of counting them down, it almost came as a surprise that it was already Solstice but we managed to organize ourselves to celebrate just the same. 

Our traditions are very simple (and flexible) - we have homemade pizza for dinner (round to symbolize the sun) and SUNdaes (because they're delicious and having SUN in their names means it makes perfect sense).  We also have a fire (outside in the past but inside this time) into which we take turns throwing slips of paper where we've written things we want to "get rid of" - habits, behaviours, items or whatever is no longer serving us in our lives.  Then we gleefully watch them burn and say an intention to replace the burned thing.  Very fun!
Last night E also wanted to do our gratitude candles and so we did...even though this is usually our Thanksgiving tradition.  For this we sit at our table and, as we go around the table, we take turns saying something we are thankful for and then light a tealight candle off our centre candle.  I love this tradition too and we all always feel very grateful for the abundance in our lives after doing this.
I hope you had a wonderful Solstice too.

Monday, December 20, 2010

In the Kitchen

We've been busy in the kitchen making all kinds of treats.  We made some old favourites like Thimble Cookies
(shown here waiting to be filled with blackberry jam or raspberry currant jelly)

and some newer favourites like Brown Sugar Button cookies.
I made a double batch of these seedy crackers to give as gifts with homemade cheeseballs (although, of course, we will be sure to keep some to enjoy ourselves).
Filled with yummy ingredients and baked into loaves, then sliced and baked again...
they're a delicious, seedy, crispy treat.
And we didn't forget our bird friends.  E made these to put out on the solstice tree tomorrow. We put them out on the patio to keep cold and the Gray Jays have already been helping themselves to them.
We'll poke a length of yarn through and go outside tomorrow afternoon to hang them on the solstice tree as edible ornaments for the birds.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

More Felted Sweater Slippers

I wanted to make a pair of slippers that were just a bit more masculine than the ones with the crochet trim. ;-)  I found a pattern that I liked here (and, surprisingly, I was able to print it out at the size I wanted without any computer help from my son).
The top pieces are sewn together and then I cut the bottoms out of a dark blue felted sweater for contrast.  This is what the finished slippers were supposed to look like but all three of my boys thought that they didn't quite look finished.
In the end I decided to use some of the ribbing from the blue sweater as a band around the ankle and we also decided that for this pair we liked them better with the seams on the inside rather than outside.
And I like knowing that most everyone in my family will have cozy toes each winter.  Wool makes such a huge difference in helping to keep warm.  I can't imagine living here at this time of year without wool slippers...and socks, and sweaters, and hats...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Felted Sweater Slippers

One of the favourite gifts that I have been making for family members the last few years are Fibre Trends felted slipper clogs.  This year, since I'm enjoying chopping up felted sweaters so much, I decided to try making some slippers from the sweaters.  I found this pattern and knew it was a must try so yesterday I made a pair.
The instructions on that link are very clear and I was able to easily put together these slippers even though crocheting isn't my strong point.
I like them so much that I think I'll need to make a pair for myself in January.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Homemade Veggie Pot Pie

Cheesy Veggie Pot Pie
Awhile ago I was visiting a young friend during lunch time and she was eating an Amy's pot pie.   She told me she loved that kind because of the cheesy sauce in with the veggies and so, of course, I had to try making something similar - it really did look delicious.  Pot pies are, to me, an ultimate in comfort food.  So here was my first attempt and it worked well enough that we all decided we wanted it to be a regular part of our meal planning.
Cheesy Veggie Pot Pie
I sauteed an onion in grapeseed oil in my cast iron pan then added some cut up veggies (I only had potatoes and the carrots from E's garden that time but next time I would likely add sweet potato too).  I sauteed the veg for a few minutes and then added some broth and covered it with a lid so the veggies would cook a bit.  Once they were cooked a bit I used a slotted spoon to scoop them into a casserole dish and sprinkled on some of my dried thyme. 
Cheesy Veggie Pot Pie
Then with the leftover broth in my pan I made a gravy.  I usually just mix a bit of butter a flour to make a roux and then blend it in with the broth and add our favourite spices.  This time I did that but then after it looked sufficiently gravyish I also added some grated sharp cheddar cheese - it was delicious.  But, since I am also trying to use up things in our freezers to make room for holiday baking  I also dug out some raw cashews and made some cashew cream in my blender (just blend raw cashew bits and water until it looks like cream) and then added this to the gravy/sauce for even more creaminess.  So delicious. 
Cheesy Veggie Pot Pie
I got chickpeas, green beans (from our garden) and peas out of the freezer and added those to the casserole dish with the other veggies (for my sons' sake I refrained from adding zucchini) and then poured the sauce over all of it.  I had already made a pastry dough using this recipe from my tomato pie recipe.  I rolled it out and put it on top of the casserole dish and the baked it at (I think ) 375 or 400 for probably 30-40 minutes.  Guess what's on our menu for tonight?
Cheesy Veggie Pot Pie

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Pox - Round Two

We've been having lots of fun in our preparations for the holidays.  There has been more crafting for gifts.  This bookmark will be sent out with some other goodies tomorrow.  I made these for my parents last year and they were well received (the idea came from Soulemama's book Handmade Home) and when I was asking a friend for gift ideas she reminded me of them so now my brother will have one too.
We started our holiday baking.  So far we've made our annual toffee, Nanaimo bars (also something we make once a year) and W made dough for sugar cookies (he wants to cut them out and ice them).
Hard to believe that just four ingredients could turn into something so delicious.  Recipe here in case I've tempted you and I do hope I have - it's melt-in-your-mouth delicious.
I cut some greenery from different trees to make our decorations.  A door wreath is a must-have for me and I also love to have smaller branches throughout the house and especially on the fireplace mantle.
Greenery Wreath
And the boys have been busy making gifts as well.  They've been making  hand-dipped beeswax candles.
Candle making
E's beeswax candles
And they've been doing some woodworking too.  E has been making these simple and lovely napkin rings.  We all love gifts made of natural materials and strive to make sure all the gifts we make reflect our concern for our Earth.  I think these napkin rings are simply beautiful and am so pleased that my boys love making gifts as much as we do.
Wooden napkin ring
I'm glad we were able to get quite a bit done last week because now we settle into round 2 of the pox.  E showed signs of it yesterday and definitely has it this morning.   So...he and I will find some quiet things to do over the next few days until the worst is over - and I will be very grateful for audio books.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Radical Homemakers

I have long thought of myself as a homemaker - as in the Maker of the Home - and have been very proud to do so, after all, what could be more important than making a home for my loved ones and I.  When I heard about the book Radical Homemakers I asked our library to buy it so I was very pleased to see it sitting in my library bin last week.  I knew it was my kind of book almost from the moment I started reading it.  Every once in a while I find books that are so good that I don't want to put them down and so with this one I managed to find a way to read it while I went about my daily round.  I even found a way to clip it open so that I could read it while knitting gifts (which I've never been tempted to do before).
Reading while knitting
It is such a good feeling to come across a book telling about a group of people who value the same things you do.  I enjoyed reading about each person in the book and very much felt a feeling of community while reading.  And, when you choose to live your life outside the norm in our society, it always feels good to hear about others making similar life choices - it is very affirming.  Such a good book!  And so, I think the next time someone asks "What do you do?" I might just say, "I am a Radical Homemaker."  How fun is that?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Re-purposed Skirt

Re-purposed skirt apron
I've always loved to make something new out of something old, I have a hard time bringing myself to get rid of anything made of natural fibres because I know that I could re-make it and give it a new life.  My friends and family know this about me and so I am sometimes the lucky recipient of things that others no longer use.  A friend of mine has been giving me all kinds of goodies lately and when she gave me a couple skirts I put them aside to  make into aprons - I knew they would be just right for this purpose. 
Re-purposed skirt apron
Unfortunately, I tend to have more creative ideas than I  have time so often these projects can pile up on my shelves.  I had some free time this past weekend so I decided I would re-make these skirts into aprons for gifts - making things for gifts always seems to motivate me to get going. 
Re-purposed skirt apron
I thought I'd share the process here because it really is a simple way to give a skirt a new life.  I seam-ripped the back seam and took out the zipper.  Then I used some scrap fabric I had on hand to make two long-ish ties.  I inserted the ends of the ties into the ends of the waistband (where I had seam-ripped it open).
Re-purposed skirt apron
Then I sewed the ties in as I sewed a new seam down each side joining the fabric and the lining into a finished seam (the old seam allowance from the middle seam became the turned under edges to make a nice finish).
Re-purposed skirt apron
And that was it!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Our Christmas Tree

Last year was our first (and we thought, only) year in this temporary home and we decided that we would take full advantage of the tall ceiling and get a giant Christmas tree.  Since we find ourselves still here it seemed only natural to go out and find another big tree for this year's celebrations.  On Saturday we went a couple miles up the road and started our search.  Our faithful friend scouted things out for us (actually he just bounded through the snow as blissful as a puppy just as he does on our daily walks).  We found the one we wanted in a very short time.
2010 Tree
Then we brought it home and set it up - much more quickly than last year due to the experience gained from our struggles last year.
2010 Tree
The next day, after far too long for E's liking (he was asking at very regular intervals when we would be decorating from the moment we set it up) we decorated it.  One of the things I love about Christmas is getting out the box of decorations each year and the memories they invoke.  Most of our ornaments are handmade and I can recall the making of them and what was happening at that time in our lives - they all have their own little bit of history.
2010 Tree
And now I look forward to evenings in front of the fire, with the tree all aglow and filling our home with its delightful fresh scent.  Beautiful!
2010 Tree
And what was keeping us so busy that our poor youngest son had to wait to decorate that tree?  We were both making gifts.  I especially love it when S gets time to create.  He makes beautiful, useful items out of wood and he does it so well.  Last year he made these walnut breadboards/serving boards and this year he is making walnut utensils like this butter spreader (and other secret things...or so I hear).
Walnut wood butter spreader
Such a fun time of  year.