Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Sustenance is Necessary...

I've been quiet for a little while now. Even Mom commented on my blogging silence. It's just I've been so busy with my crafting that I haven't had time to post - ssssshhhhh! Top secret! Can't tell you about anything I've been working until after Christmas, but I can tell you I just put the finishing touches on gift number 17 this morning!

I'm hoping this means that I will complete the last few gifts in plenty of time before Christmas is upon us so that this year, instead of having a crazed lunatic marathon of crafting and melting down on December 23rd like I did last year, I can just relax and enjoy the time with my family during this festive season.

Of course with all this craftiness, sustenance is necessary. Tasty, tasty sustenance.  And do I have a recipe to share with you!

I met my friend, Betty, years ago, when we both had little kids and were muddling our way through early motherhood in those first few years. I remember Betty always bringing awesome treats when it was her turn to bring snack for playgroup! Over the years due to various reasons we lost touch and then several years ago picked up our friendship through the magic of Facebook.  We live several hours apart so we haven't had an opportunity for coffee dates or in person visits yet, but we do keep in touch via the net regularly.

The last few weeks she's been posting photos of delicious looking treats on Facebook, including whipped shortbread. I had a pound of butter in the fridge that was relentless in its calling of my name, just begging to be used. So a quick message to Betty and I had the recipe in my hands.

Yesterday was shortbread day. Tomorrow maybe shortbread day again. Perhaps the next day after that.  I can't see these lasting around here very long! These are delicate, melt in your mouth, morsels from heaven. Yum. Yum.

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Happy Holidays!

So here's the recipe! (Don't worry, I'm not divulging any ancient secret recipe here although it's tried and true, she's been using it for over twenty-five years for her own family - Betty told me to go ahead and share it with everyone! )

Betty's Whipped Shortbread

1/2 cup corn starch
3 cups flour
1 lb butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Pinch of salt

Heat oven to 350F/175C

Combine flour and cornstarch in a bowl and set aside.

Whip butter until fluffy then add powdered sugar. Whip again and add vanilla and salt when it looks creamed like whipped cream. Add the flour mixture a half cup or so at a time, whipping in between each addition.

(Betty says if you have a kitchen aid mixer use paddle attachment and at the end give it one good whip for 30 seconds. I don't, but found my electric hand mixer worked just fine!)

Spoon onto cookie sheets garnish. Betty's were so pretty - she used glacé cherries, cutting red ones into a small dot and the green ones lengthwise to make it look like holly! So festive! I didn't have cherries, so I just used colored sugar.

Bake for 6-10 minutes (start checking at about six minutes). Shortbread is done once the bottom is delicately browned. Cool on racks, then make yourself a cuppa, sit down, put on some festive tunes, relax and enjoy the season (and your shortbread)!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

This Bag's Got Bling

A few weeks ago I got an email from Anna over at Charmed Liebling.  I'm always excited to see a message from her appear in my inbox. It means she's been pattern making again and needs testers. I really do love testing for Anna! She's great to work with and has fantastic designs!

This time was no different! As soon as I saw the bag I knew I would say yes, even though this time of year I'm up to my eyeballs in crafting for the holidays. But I even knew exactly what fabric combo I wanted to use, and had almost everything in my stash already. Fate, it was, I tell you. Fate.

The bag went together really quickly despite all the extra details. I love that it has so many pockets both inside and out! My favourites though are the V-shaped front slip pocket and the elasticized pocket on the inside.

My biggest challenge proved to be the rivets. Not the application of them, but the procuring of them. Agh. So frustrating!  As per usual my tiny shop in town had nothing. The fabric store chain in the city had a pitiful selection, not too mention they sell a few packets of rivets but not the tools you need to apply them. Did I mention it was frustrating?

At that point, since I was on a deadline, I chose the ones I thought might work the best. I really wanted plain silver, but none were to be had so my bag's got bling. Sparkly red crystal rivets - the choices were purple, green or red. I thought the red the best option. To apply them I used a combination of my eyelet pliers, an old drum practice pad from when I was learning drumming in 402 Squadron's Pipe and Drum band back as a teenager in the mid-eighties (using it to apply the rivets was probably the most productive use it's ever seen - goodness knows the drum lessons weren't successful!), and random bits and bobs from old eyelet and snap sets until I found one that worked.  After consulting with Janelle of Emmaline Bags I now know that the next time I want rivets I'll go directly to Tandy Leather in the city, they even do online sales! But I was short on time. I should have talked to her first!

My other frustration with my bag was my fabric choice. Velvet and I have never been fond of each other, especially after the tailored velvet highland dance jacket incident of 2009, which saw me, nine months pregnant, sobbing at my machine, coming well and truly unhinged while trying to make a perfectly fitting jacket for G to wear while competing in Canadians a week later - she ended up wearing her old jacket and a borrowed kilt. That particular beast that sent me over the edge is still at the bottom of my bin of "fancy" fabric. But I digress. Suffice it to say velvet is not usually a fabric choice I make willingly.  My other problem was that my wool blend has a bit of stretch to it. Gah!!!! Not a fun combination, although I like the end result. So all's well that ends well.

Anyways, here's my sophisticated wool blend and velvet bag with bling! Perfect for a night out on the town... Or at least I imagine it would be. With (BF)G's work schedule and the little boys, we're not really night out on the town people. We tend more to the hermit/homebody type truth be told, but should the occasion arise  down the road! I will have just the handbag for it!

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Front view - I LOVE that V slip pocket!

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Back View - Another pocket!

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Inside view - look at all those pockets in there!

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Told you my bag has bling!

If you'd like to make yourself an All Day Out Bag, hop on over to Anna's site, Charmed Liebling. You can purchase the pattern and read more about her design on her blog!

Saturday, November 02, 2013

The Dog Ate My Wallet...

Really. She did. Actually it was a few years ago now that she chewed the corner off of it and it's been a source of embarrassment since. Nothing says classy like a wallet with a big bite out of it. Good grief!

I've been looking for a replacement for a long time, but never found one in the stores that I liked enough. So then last year I started looking at patterns and tutorials, but I always found something I didn't quite like about them. Fast forward to a little while ago when I found the Necessary Clutch Wallet from Emmaline Bags.  I was completely taken with it. Roomy, oodles of spots to put things and it looks darn good as well. I was sold.

It's taken me a little while to sew, mostly because I had to make the boys' knapsacks, my swap gift and the Halloween costumes. It was also a bit daunting to tell you the truth, only because I've never made anything quite like it yet.

The instructions that Janelle provides with the pattern are excellent though. Clear as can be, lots of photos, and really thorough. I was quite impressed.  I had cut out one set of fabric for it, but then going through my cottons fabric bin one night in search of something totally unrelated I came across the left over fabric from my Working Girl Laptop Bag and knew I really wanted to make a black and white wallet instead.

I started out one evening with great gusto. Well, that is until I got to step three where I had to put the locking clasp in. Eeek! Somehow it was more stressful than the one I did on my laptop bag.  I think the instructions should come with the first step of having a stiff drink! Cutting holes in fabric, fumbling with teeny tiny screws that are nearly impossible to find when they fall under the sewing desk, glue running everywhere... Yikes! But I had my trusty assistant Fluffy the kitten to cheer me on in his own special way of climbing on my head or sitting right on top of it all. Maybe stiff drink should also be the final step of that part too.  In the end I managed to conquer the locking clasp and oh what a beauty it is. The screw in plate, despite all my trials and tribulations, makes such a nice professional looking finish.

Look at that locking clasp looking all innocent
and not at all like it almost drove me to drink!
I had a few moments of frustration along the way, but nothing to do with the pattern. I tried several times to put in the card slot section of the wallet. My BFF the stitch ripper was my constant companion. After several tries I gave up. There's only so much I can take in one sitting. After I felt a little less like tossing the whole thing out the window, it occurred to me that maybe I should double check my measurements. Guess what?!? Even though I use a rotary cutter, ruler and mat with grid lines I had somehow cut the whole piece almost a quarter of an inch too narrow. The mind... It boggles. I cut a new set of pieces and lo and behold, problem solved.

I finished my wallet yesterday afternoon and I LOVE it! I transferred everything over from the overstuffed,  chewed up one to my brand spanking new Necessary Clutch and would you believe I have tons of room left in it? It's kind of like Mary Poppins' carpet bag. It doesn't look overly huge until the lamp gets pulled from it.  I won't likely carry that much in it, but nice to know I could easily stash my phone  right in my clutch wallet if I wanted to! I just can't say enough good things about the Necessary Clutch Wallet pattern. 

The Mary Poppins carpet bag of wallets!!
See, what did I tell you?! Look at all that room! There's a slip pocket on either side of each card slot section - which, by the way, has a total of twelve slots - then there's the zip pocket you can see there with the zip opened to give you an idea of size, and lastly a section in the middle that is roomy enough for my cel phone!  But even with all that room inside it all compacts nicely into an "easy to pop into your purse" size!

The Necessary Clutch Wallet
I wonder how many wallets a girl can have? I'm already thinking about that other one that's already cut out...

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!!

We've been busy getting ready for Halloween for the last few weeks!  On Tuesday night, it was finally time to carve the pumpkins that the boys grew from seeds this year.  They were so eager and had been asking ever since we picked them out of the garden (Ok, flower bed, truth be known, but that's where they grow the best for some reason!) when it would be time to carve them, so you can imagine the excitement in the house the day that Daddy brought them in from the breeze way and set them on the counter for carving to begin!

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Carving pumpkins they grew themselves!
I had spent the last two weeks making the requested costumes. I thought I was going to get off easily again this year and be able to pull costumes from the costume bin, especially when, for weeks, Little Man told me he wanted to be a pirate. So simple.  He had his pirate costume from his skating show last spring! Whoot!  And then it all became so much more challenging...

He changed his mind. Only a triceratops would do.  No problem! I was going to alter my much used old Butterick pattern and add a tail and quilt a chest plate, but then I pulled the pattern out set to go and found all the major pieces missing - backs and fronts and sleeves. Gone. Bad words were said.  Then a friend told me about the simplicity pattern that I ended up having (BF)G pick up from the fabric store for me and life was good again.  It was perfect. Pretty much what I wanted. Except for a  few things. I changed up the "dino hands" from mitts to mitten covers. Years of experience tells me those costume mitts cause nothing but frustration when trick or treating. So the covers will slip easily over their mittens tonight.  Also, I made the tails detachable. They have a belt that feeds through slits in the side seams and then velcro around their tummies. Pure brilliance on my behalf I thought. Not only easy for sitting en route in their car seats, but for future use. They can use the hands, hats and tails as costumes for play without me having to put on the jumpsuit, take off the jumpsuit, put on the jumpsuit, take off the jumpsuit, put on... well you get the idea. And bonus to the costume making? They counted for Kids Clothing Week Challenge last week - making it my most successful KCWC ever.  Ha ha!!

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Dinos in our field!
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And a back view!
After the costumes were finished I had some other halloween sewing to do! When Baby Boy turned one I made all the cousins treat bags for his party using the Fishsticks Designs tutorial. All but the two that were still babies.  So I'm catching up! I made my littlest niece her's and am looking forward to giving it to her tonight when we meet up to go trick or treating!

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Yesterday I took a notion into my head to put together a little goodie bag for the two nieces we will be with this evening.  Just a fun, non-purely-sugar type treat of fruit snacks and Halloween playdoh tins. But I didn't think to buy those little plastic goodie bags at the store yesterday. So this afternoon I did this:
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Prepping the goodie bags with freezer paper stencils
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Fun and festive bags! Meow! 

Lastly, this morning we also had to do something with the tonne of pumpkin seeds we removed from our pumpkins.  I looked online for how to roast them because they've never really turned out well in the past for me.  Turns out I didn't really need to.  I had a resident expert.  Little Man made them in preschool on Monday, so he could tell me what to do.

Here's his instructions:

1) boil in a pot in salty water
2) drain
3) use oil
4) then use seasoning salt - make sure it's seasoning salt - IS THAT SEASONING SALT?!?
- what are you doing putting them in the oven. We did NOT put them in the oven at school. Well... Maybe they put them in the oven while me made slime and I didn't see it... I don't think they go in the oven... WHY ARE YOU PUTTING THEM IN THE OVEN???????

My interpretation:

Bring seeds to a boil in salted water, simmer while getting the dog out of mischief, removing cat from counter, picking up aforementioned slime - so maybe five minutes? Drained them, put them back in the pot and mixed with a little oil, and seasoning salt (yes it definitely was seasoning salt! Yikes!), then onion powder, a sprinkle of soya and Worcestershire sauce and in the oven (at 400F) for about ten minutes. Yum, yum. And the head chef approves so phew! ;)

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Very tasty! And four year old chef-approved!

So, I think we are all set for Halloween fun! I hope all of you celebrating have a safe and happy Halloween.

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Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Bevy of Bags

Happy thanksgiving to all my fellow Canadians!  I hope you are having a wonderful weekend full of all good things - food, family, friends. (BF)G and I are certainly enjoying the time with our little men folk (too bad the older kids couldn't be here, but they all had other plans - I'll have to get my invite in sooner next year!).

We have so much to be thankful for. Life is good.

So while I sit back and relax after a rather huge feast of turkey and all the fixings I thought I'd stop by and talk about some of my latest crafty pursuits.

I'm aspiring to be a bag lady these days. No, not the kind that you see pushing shopping carts with all their worldly possessions contained within shopping bags, but the kind that can't stop making bags. I've become quite smitten with making bags. You may have noticed evidence of this obsession withmaking bags  through my posts about my Rose Petal Bag,  Leibling's Bag and then my Working Girl Laptop Bag. I haven't stopped there... Oh no. Not even close to slowing down. So today I want to show you my bevy of bags that I've been madly working on in the last few weeks.

The first ones were out of necessity. Well, not really, I suppose. I could've gone to Walmart and bought a cheap backpack (or as Little Man called it Snackpack), but where's the fun in that? Little Man started preschool last month and he needed a backpack to carry his snack and supplies in (thus the name snackpack) so I picked out a few tutorials and a pattern I had and let him choose the design he wanted.  He chose Birchfabric's Little Hitchhiker's Backpack. I modified a few things to work with the fabrics I had as well as modified the straps to a style I preferred, using the Fishsticks Designs Playdate pattern as a guide, but other than that it was a great little tutorial.  I even made my own piping for it! He was thrilled with it, as was I!

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Little Man on his first day of preschool
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The Little Hitchhiker's Backpack
Then suddenly the night before preschool I realized he should probably have a little lunch bag for his snack so it didn't get scattered throughout his snackpack. Again, I modified to fit the fabric I had on hand and made it much smaller since it's only to carry a snack, albeit a big snack - that boy can eat I tell you! I used a tutorial (from Lemon Squeezy Home) that I've used before and whipped in up in about half an hour.

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The perfect size for a snack
Baby Boy, who is already feeling woefully left out because he can't go to preschool too, was feeling even worse that he didn't have a "knapsnack" as he calls them, of his own, so of course I made him one as well, following the same mods as Little Man's. I think I goofed on the amount of elastic at the top of the bag though and cut too short. I'll probably unpick it and redo it so it sits a little better. Also I placed the snaps a little differently and wish I hadn't, but he was really happy to have it made. He carted it around town with him the other day while we ran errands, with a juice box and a little baggie of goldfish type crackers in it, and felt quite grown up. He is so proud of his big boy knapsnack.

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The Little Hitchhiker's Backpack - Take 2
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Going a wandering with his knapsnack on his back
While I was waiting for my magnetic snaps for Baby Boy's bag to arrive in the mail - would you believe that even with shipping it's more economical (and far superior quality) to order from Emmaline Bags than buy locally?? - I made yet another knapsack. This one is for a friend's little fellow who is turning three. Rumor has it the little guy like cars and trucks (hmmmm... I seem to know a few other preschoolers that have a similar fondness for all thing transport or construction...) so I used some left over fabric and some contrast I picked out specially to make Fishstick Designs Playdate Bag.  I also made a car wallet (pattern of my own design) to go inside the play date bag. I really hope he likes his present. I know my guys sure liked it! (I'm definitely putting car wallets on my "make for Christmas" list!)

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The super fun Playdate Backpack -
 it even has slots for crayons on the inside!
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Vroom - cars to go
Last, but certainly not least, I've wanted one of those zipped, boxy styled bags for a Work In Progress small knitting bag, so after much perusing of the internet I finally decided on the one for me. I used  Truly Myrtle's tutorial - I love that her's, unlike so many, have no exposed seams. I loathe exposed seams in a bag. They just look so... Exposed. The tutorial is straightforward and simple. Its just that I seemed to suffer from, well, I don't  exactly know what, that made what should have been an easy project into one that refused to co-operate. The brown one - for a friend none the less, was my first attempt. I felt something looked just the tiniest bit off. So I made the second one... And realized as I was sewing the corners that something had gone wrong. I had cut out and sewn the whole thing the wrong way. So much for boxy - it's so streamlined that it barely fits a 50g skein of sock yarn. Sigh.  I decided that hopefully my friend would love the slightly off kilter brown one regardless of it's quirks and I kept the long skinny almost pointless one for myself. Some day I may try this whole thing again. Maybe I'll even get it right.  But in actual fact it's going to be a while before I venture down this particular boxy bag path once more. Twice bitten and all that...

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WIP Bags
So as you can see I'm all about bags lately. Next up I plan on making myself that Necessary Clutch I've been obsessing about from Emmaline Bags! I have one all cut out and ready to sew, but then I started thinking I liked a different set of fabric in my stash much better so... We'll see which gets made. I'd also like to sew a bag for Purse Palooza 2013 before the end of the month.  Before any of that happens, though, I have to get cracking on some Halloween Costumes and a trick or treat bag I promised to a special little lady - our niece - who missed out on the treat bags that I made for everyone for Baby Boy's first birthday party (she was a baby - she got a hat instead).  I've got all the details hammered out in my head for these upcoming projects... Now just to execute them.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Busy Days and a Birthday!

I feel like I haven't even looked at my blog in days. Or has it been a couple weeks already?  Things have been cruising along at a rapid pace here chez Prairie Girl.

With a new schedule of preschool and skating lessons, and all the usual things like running into the city for doctor appointments, trying to keep on top of day to day housework, and the like things have been hectic to say the least.

Part of that hectic last week was preparing for a very special day! Baby Boy turned three this past Monday.  How?!?! How is it even possible that this wee little baby is now already three years old?

Baby Boy - A few hours old!
Giving his very biggest three year old smile
wearing this year's birthday crown, perfect for a Rescue Bots fan

Yes sir. Time flies! It was in a blink of the eye that he went from teeny tiny newborn to big boy!

We had a party last Saturday with the family for him.  He was very excited that all his brothers and his sister were able to come to his party, as well as Grandma, a few aunties and uncles and some of his cousins too. He had lots of fun, and quite liked his cake that I made to look like the Rescue Bot emblem that he has on his crown.

Cake with sparklers! What more could a boy ask for ?

Cake and fun. Really what more could a boy ask for? Well... presents of course are always nice! He hit the jackpot in new toys - Oh My Word!!!! It was like Christmas in our house that evening!

Fun opening presents with cousins!

What a day!!!

On Monday, it was his actual birthday. Daddy was on a vacation day from work, so we dropped Little Man off at preschool for the morning, then did some errands with Baby Boy. We met up with Little Man at the library - he was on his very first ever field trip! - and had fun choosing some books then went for Birthday Lunch at McDonalds. When we got home I made yet another cake. Baby Boy was quite insistent that he needed a volcano cake too, just like his brother had for his birthday, so I made a mini version. Needless to say, I don't think I want to make or eat cake for quite some time now...

The mini volcano cake
More sparklers and candles too!!
It was also N's 19th birthday the week before. And because he was home for the party I had made some pumpkin spice cupcakes for him and planned to put a candle in and sing him happy birthday too. Unfortunately, after almost everyone had left except J, N and N's girlfriend, I suddenly remembered the cupcakes that were in the freezer. So then I figured I'd just send them home with him to enjoy whenever he wanted. Except, I just found them still in the freezer the other day. Ooops! N - if you're reading this I hope you'll forgive your old mama. I promise I will make you pumpkin pie or pumpkin cupcakes - your choice - the very next time you're home. (and look at that... I'll wager that as good a bribe as any to get my kid to come home to visit! ha ha!)

Monday, September 30, 2013

I Really Do Love Me Some Lace!

I have a new cardigan and I absolutely love it. It's probably my number one favourite knit so far this year (and just for reference, I've knit 28 projects to date in 2013, so that's saying something!)

Hetty by designer Andi Satterlund is a sweet little retro vibe cardi - slightly cropped, fitted, with an all over lace pattern. I modified mine to be slightly less fitted and slightly longer, which was so simple to do as you switch from lace to stockinette as you do the shaping, so there's nothing complicated to figure out.

I have been hoarding some Arucania Nature Wool in my stash for over three years now. It was one of the treasures I received from my dear friend, Kristy's mom's stash. It also happens to be one of my favourite colours!  I gave been waiting for the right pattern to come along and as soon as I saw Hetty I knew that it was the one.

Timing was perfect too. Luvinthemommyhood's Summer Sweater KAL was still in full swing and just before it was scheduled to finish Andi's Ravelry group, Untangling Knots was going to be kicking off a knit along specifically for Hetty. I love knitting as part of a KAL, it really motivates me to keep going. Although, with Hetty I didn't really want to put it down anyways. It was a totally unique construction from any other thing I've knit. Top down with sleeves attached by picking up stitches and then doing short rows to form the cap. (I'll admit it made me feel brilliant when I mastered those short rows I've been so intimidated by!)

I finished it on Friday morning and it got a bath in Euclan then blocked and was ready to wear to my dinner date with my sisters last night.

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Swatching - actually got gauge first time around!

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Trying to knit... with  help -
Little Man took this photo the other day
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Splish Splash getting a bath!
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All Done!!! I love it!!!!!
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Love the fit of my Hetty!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Monsters on the Move!

Early in the spring one of my mama groups on Ravelry got a group together to do a "travelling sock" project. There were a few of us who couldn't commit to a sock project for various reasons - for me it was because they had to start as toe up socks and I wasn't sure a project where others would be depending on my skills would be the best place to try and learn toe up sock knitting - so the idea for a traveling monster project was born. (Some moms did both! I bow down to their enthusiasm and time management skills!)
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A small diary travelled with each monster -
this was ours
We could each choose our pattern and it travelled along. We also could make requests as to what kinds of yarns we wanted to be used or what colours were our little one's favourites. We all started our own monster (some of us, like myself chose to do two smaller monsters rather than one big one so that our "October Baby" and their sibling would each get a monster.
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This is what the boys and I sent off into the world
I wrote up a very loose pattern for our monsters. Really what I hoped was to just give a jumping off point and hoped everyone would have fun. The part in the photo was meant to be a flat base, but the first knitter changed them into legs by shifting the start point (I assume). I love the legs a million times better than my flat bottom original idea!!! They are perfect!

Each knitter worked a few inches and then would mail it on to the next knitter. The last knitter finished up the monster's face (if requested) and sent it home flat and unseamed (to cut down on postage) to its owner. We kept the monsters a surprise so that we didn't have any idea how they'd look when they got back to us. Our monsters have travelled nearly 19,000 kms around North America before coming back home to us!!

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And these are the awesome monsters that arrived home!
Such a fun project!! And such a great group of ladies to do it with. Definitely good times and Little Man and Baby Boy adore their monsters!!

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Getting to know their monsters!
 Little Man is tickled with the fact his monster has eyes on the back of his head too
 and Baby Boy loves that his has hair!

So that's the last of my "crafty installments" for this week! Of course I'm still plugging away at my Hetty Cardigan. I was knitting while tired the other night and made a mistake I didn't notice so I have a few rows to rip back before I continue on. Sob!! I'm also busily working on some sewing projects that I'll likely show you next week! Hope you all had a great week and got in some time for your favourite hobbies or activities too!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Working Nine to Five...

Sorry. I've got Dolly Parton running through my head right at the moment. You'll have to forgive me if I break into song at some point along the way today.

The reason she's on continuous loop is my latest sewing project. Another gorgeous bag pattern from Anna of Charmed Liebling! You may have noticed I have a bit of a thing for her patterns. It's like an addiction. She sends a request to ask if I'd like to test and I'm helpless. I just love her patterns that much.

Anna has just released her latest, The Working Girl Laptop Bag this week and it's a beauty! Loads of pockets, a generous size - it even fits our somewhat large, somewhat ancient Toshiba, and great details such as piping (she guides you through making your own, or check out some of the other test versions! A couple testers used ric rac instead of piping and it looks amazing, another one did ruffles instead!) as well a locking clasp and swivel hooks so the strap is removable.

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I was really excited to get the pattern to test. Not that I really need a laptop bag, but I just loved the look of it and couldn't wait to try it out. As per usual her pattern did not disappoint. She puts so much attention into creating instructions that make it easy for even an novice sewer to understand, with lots of explanation and photos.  If you haven't checked out any of her patterns yet, I really urge you too.

And really, if you sew and you have anyone on your gift giving list that carries a laptop at all, I think this would be the perfect gift.

It's quick to sew up too. I only spent two days working on it, and part of that time was working up the courage to cut a hole in my beautiful bag to insert the locking clasp. Yikes! That is one heck of a nerve wracking task. Right up there I think with steeking your knitting. Well. Maybe not quite at that level, but close.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and PhotosA word about locking clasps.  It's come to my attention that not all clasps are created equal. Boo to that. I had ordered a locking clasp from Emmeline Bags when I ordered my gate rings for my Liebling's Bag, with the intention of using it on the Necessary Clutch I'm so smitten with. Then I got the project from Anna and thought I'd use it on my laptop bag instead. But. (There's always a but...) Then I was in the little fabric shop in town and spied locking clasps there. So I got one thinking I could use it for my laptop bag and the one from Janelle's shop for the clutch and I'd be covered on all basis.  EXCEPT not all clasps are created equal as I mentioned.  The one from the local shop is absolutely abysmal.  Where the ones from Emmeline Bags leave a neat professional looking finish inside and out, the un-marked ones from my local shop are applied like a magnetic snap would be, which ends up with the prongs showing and worst of all it lends itself to fraying around the edges. EEEEK! So not what you want when you've spent time and money on a beautiful bag. Not only is it unsightly, it doesn't seem like it would be very sturdy. Unfortunately this epiphany did not strike until after I was already finished the bag except for the final step of the clasp - the locking mechanism was already in (with much cursing and usage of clear glue to stop the fraying - where the h-e-double hockey sticks did my fray check vanish too????) and I'd have to take the entire bag apart to use a different clasp. More clear glue was used and hopefully that suffices to keep any fraying at bay, but really. Don't waste your time. Go for the good ones and you'll be much happier. You'll want to look for one with a little screw on plate for the back. It'll make a world of difference to the finished product.

Anyways, despite my disappointment with my less than great quality locking clasp I am really happy with my laptop bag and how it turned out! Stylish yet functional and versatile. You can't beat that kind of combination!  Head over to Anna's website and see the other test versions for inspiration then get working on a laptop bag of your own! (I might even use it as a knitting bag for going to knit nights! I could easily fit my ipad, a knitting project - even a large one, and all my necessities in the bag.)

And now, since I've been humming it in my head the entire time I've been typing, I'll leave you with this country classic from Dolly. You're welcome. :)

Monday, September 09, 2013


I have so many things to tell you about that I've been working on lately crafty wise that I don't know where to begin.

I've been mentioning it long enough and yesterday I finally managed to get a few pics of my newest cardigan, so I think that's where I'll start for tonight.  It's Miette from designer Andi Satterlund.  A sweet cardigan with a retro vibe and pretty feminine eyelet detail along the edges.

I fell in love with the look of Miette ages ago and knew I wanted one to wear with my summer dresses. Of course procrastination and a need to order yarn being what they are, it ended up finished sort of late in the season. It was also a billion degrees out when I finished it, so no need for a cardi at all. I am glad I got it done though and it'll be ready for the minute spring hits next year.

I chose to modify it from the 3/4 length sleeves to short sleeves to make it even more summery. (Also I'm lazy and sleeves are my knitting nemesis.  I HATE knitting sleeves.) It really only took about a month to knit and would have taken much less time except I sort of put it aside when my knitting mojo went out the window with the sweltering heat of summer.  (Interestingly enough I suddenly started going on it again when summer all but vanished for a few weeks in the middle. Ha ha!) Also, knitting something white while sitting on the deck seemed a bad idea.  Things have a habit of getting a bit dirty outside and I didn't want some sort of ghastly mishap occurring to my pristine white cardigan.

The buttons were another time killer for me.  I decided I absolutely needed vintage buttons for my Miette.  I justified it by the fact that I could get them just as cheaply off of Etsy as I could brand new buttons from the fabric store.  Especially if I went to the tiny shop in the local town instead of the big chain store in the city.  So I ordered a set. Actually, in manner of full disclosure I should admit to ordering two sets.  BUT! They were a great bargain. I promise you that. Really. They were.

The first set was a set of eight 1920's glass buttons.  They were very pretty. I thought they would be perfect, however, what I failed to do is mathematics.  Or proper mathematics anyways.  They turned out to be far too small.  Oooops! Have no fear though. I'm thinking they'd be perfect on a cute button down the front shirt at some point. I'll use them. It's not like they'll go bad! And did I mention they are 1920's GLASS BUTTONS?????

So, I had to get a different set. Which, ahem, I'd actually ordered long before my too small buttons arrived, only because after ordering the glass ones I found some 1960-ish plastic buttons from a closed out haberdashery in Paris for a song. 19 buttons for under $8.00  (and that included shipping!!). I'm lucky if I can get four nice buttons for under $8.00. My Parisian buttons arrived quickly - even before the ones from the states, but at that point I didn't know that my glass ones would be too small so I waited it out thinking that way I could compare and decide. It cost me a couple extra weeks in finishing time, but that's alright. As I said, I'll be all set for next spring!

I think it will be a really great addition to my spring and summer wardrobe in the cotton blend Berroco Weekend yarn I used!

Well that's project number one! I'll tell you about another tomorrow.  But for now I have (BF)G's lunch to make and coffee to set for tomorrow morning and I am eager to get back to working on my newest sweater, Hetty (which is also by Andi Satterlund - I LOVE her designs!)

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Wild Chokecherries!

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It's definitely a chokecherry tree -
 taken only a few days before the chokecherries turned dark purple
and were ready to pick!
I seem to have developed a small obsession with chokecherries after having discovered several, dripping with berries, chokecherry trees on our property (and confirmed by a quick picture text message to Mom a few weeks ago, having no desire to accidentally poison my family if I was wrong). They are actually everywhere I turn, except unfortunately the best one's seem to either be too high to reach with a ladder or too awkward for bush crashing too get too. There has even been a small incident involving over five foot tall stinging nettle in the gathering of chokecherries as well. Obsession. I have it something fierce. I seem to have a crazy need to pick all chokecherries. It's as though I dare not waste, or Mother Nature may determine my property to be unworthy of this boon of fruit.

Wild chokecherries, which are native to Western Canada, are an interesting sort of fruit. They are unbelievably tart, and more than a little astringent. They will dry your mouth out in a second when eaten fresh off the tree. One taste had me gasping and my mouth puckering for the rest of the evening. And yet, Little Man eats them by the handful. Crazy kid! Boil them, strain the juice and cook with sugar, however, and suddenly they transform themselves into amazingly delicious syrups and jellies.(and apparently wine - maybe a project for next year) just don't eat the stones if you're eating them whole or crush them if you are making juice - they contain Hydrocyanic Acid, which could make you sick if you consume too much. But the fruit itself is perfectly safe!

So, if you're like me and have chokecherries a plenty at your disposal here's a few ideas of what you can do with them!

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Lots and lots of chokecherries!

Preparing The Juice

First off you will need to pick, wash, boil and strain the juice. To do this, place your washed chokecherries in a large pot and barely cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and strain. You can use a couple layers of cheesecloth, a jelly bag, or like me grab an old cotton pillowcase from your linen closet that you don't care about staining.

I place my colander on top of a bowl then hang my pillowcase "jelly bag" over the colander and pour the contents of my pot into it and let it pour through. I will use a potato mashed to press a bit more juice through at the end. I know a lot of jelly makers would be horrified as you're never supposed to do anything but let juice drip through, lest your jelly be cloudy, but from what I've read you can't expect a clear juice from wild chokecherries anyways. I've certainly found this to be true - it makes a somewhat thick, opaque, pink-purple juice, not even remotely close to clear! So go ahead and get every last drop you can! Waste not want not and all that! (just don't crush the stones!)

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Chokecherry Juice
So now you have juice. What to do, what to do????

All three of the following recipes will follow basically the same process once you've cooked it.

Processing Instructions

Fill clean, hot sterilized jars leaving a 1/2" headspace. Run a non-metal utensil such as a chopsticks, spatula or plastic knife, down the sides of the jar to remove any air bubbles. Wipe rims and apply snap rings and lids. Process in a boiling water bath for ten minutes.

Wild Chokecherry Syrup

There is NOTHING in this world so tasty on pancakes or waffles. Seriously. It's heaven.

4 cups prepared juice
4 cups white sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 pkg of powdered pectin (such as Certo which comes in a 57 gr/2 oz box)

Combine all ingredients in a large pot, bring to a full rolling boil for two minutes. Remove from heat and process as above. (makes approx 3 1/2 pints)

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Chokecherry Syrup

Wild Chokecherry Jelly

So good on toast and scones. YUM!!!

3 1/4 cups prepared juice
4 1/2 cups white sugar
1 pkg of powdered pectin

Combine prepared juice and pectin. Bring to a boil and then add sugar. Return to a boil, allowing the mixture to be at a full rolling boil for one minute. Remove from heat and skim foam if necessary, then process as above. (makes approx 5 half pints)

Wild Chokecherry "Soda" Syrup

So incredibly refreshing on a hot summer day!

3 cups prepared juice
1 cup white sugar

Combine prepared juice and sugar and bring to a full rolling boil for one minute. Process as above. To serve, pour a half glass of soda syrup (or to taste) over ice and top off with either soda water (we have a soda stream machine for making our "bubbly water") or ginger ale.

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Chokecherry Soda

And for one last treat... I whipped up some chokecherry frosting the other day to put on vanilla cupcakes! So pretty and pink and not a drop of artificial coloring used at all! I made my usual buttercream using a bit of lemon juice in place of the milk and vanilla then stirred in some jelly and blended until smooth. So simple, yet so tasty!!!

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Chokecherry Frosting

I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as I do!

PS: I used a couple online resources and of course my Mom. For more info check out the following websites. Sorry I'm not sharing my mom - well except with my seven siblings, but that's only because I have too. ;)
The University of Minnesota
Manitoba Association of Home Economists

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

A New Bag!

First off, apologies for any potential weirdness that might occur in this post. I'm blogging from my phone. My Internet has died a mysterious and sudden death here at the house. All things look good, but nothing connects. It has been days. I may go mad. My phone only gets service sporadically here so I have no idea how things will work.

But enough of my griping and grumbling - let's talk about good things instead. I've got a brand new bag! It's another new pattern from Anna of Charmed Liebling called the Liebling's Bag! Such a fun bag! It sews together quickly, and features a outside zip pocket and two pockets inside - one slip pocket and one with an elasticized opening that will be perfect for my phone! Like all of Anna's patterns the instructions are really detailed and clear.

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Liebling's Bag by Charmed Liebling

One of my favourite details of the Liebling's Bag is the gate rings that attach the straps to the bag! I had quite the time finding the rings, but I'm going to tell you exactly where you can get them so you don't do what I did and have to spend ages hunting high and low for them!

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I really love the look of the shiny gate rings!

I first checked my local sewing shop. Nothing. Then I checked the one in the city. They had them but $10 felt a bit steep. Etsy and EBay both produced results but shipping from the states was crazy expensive (I might as well buy the $10 ones...) and my other options - from China - would take far too long to get here. I checked other places too. Walmart, Canadian Tire, even Dollerama. I thought all hope was lost. Then late one Saturday night I tried googling purse supplies. BINGO!!!!!! Emmaline Bags! Located in Alberta, Janelle has a great selection of purse making supplies all very reasonably priced. Best part (beyond great products of course) is shipping is inexpensive and FAST! I got my order within three business days!!!

I really like my Lieblings Bag! It will definitely be a go to bag this fall! And it will definitely fit all the essentials... including the fruit treats, hot wheels and super heroes as well as quite possibly a small knitting project. A girl can't ask for much more than that!!!

So jump on over to Anna's site to read more about this fun new bag and pick up the pattern for yourself! With the change in seasons - I saw a large flock of geese pass over the house today which means fall is setting in soon - it's always nice to treat yourself to a change of handbags as well!