Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Dear Ruby

Dear Ruby,

Today is the day before your second birthday. You’re busy playing at your Nana’s house and I’ve been driving around all day running birthday errands with a huge smile on my face, thinking about the year that’s passed and how amazingly you’ve grown. Not physically – you’re still a petite little thing who has trouble keeping her pants from sliding down, but mentally your growth could be measured in miles. Last year I had a beautiful bald little baby who could barely pull herself up on her feed or mutter a coherent “ba!” Today I have a sassy little blonde on my hands, frequently crying “myself, myself!!!” as she stubbornly struggles to put on her own shoes.

Last year when I wrote a similar birthday letter to you, I marveled on two things: how much you constantly surprised me and how much you made me laugh. At the end of year two these two things are still very much true, but I feel like I’ve learned so much more about you. You are less of a mystery (chatterboxes leave little to the imagination), yet you continue to reveal new things every day. Here are some things about you, my Miss, that I know to be true:

1. You are a girly girl. Yes, you love cars and especially airplanes, but you also love your purse, your pink cell phone, dressing up in a tutu and high heel shoes and applying endless coats of lotion to your arms and legs.

2. You love pretending to clean or make soup.

3. You like cake. And pie. And ice cream. And chocolate milk. And pizza.

4. You hate having your hair washed, but love pretending to wash it yourself.

5. You love swimming with your Daddy, even though you are afraid.

6. You love your family. Often in the bathtub you name all of your family members (including pets) and make me draw them on the side of the tub in bath crayon.

7. You are a stubborn (or, if you prefer, assertive) little creature, which simultaneously drives me crazy and makes me proud.

I’ll leave it at a lucky number seven – but there are so many other amazing things that make you you. Our journey so far has been both frustrating and delightful and although I find it so hard to believe that you’re only two, I also can’t imagine what it was ever like without you. I love you forever and more and more each day.


Sunday, January 28, 2007

Dessert Sunday

I'm continuing on with my pledge to do weekly desserts, but man, we've got to start throwing more dinner parties. A full dessert is just too much for our little family -- I don't like feeding Ruby dessert more than once a week (especially since she usually gets a supplemental dessert if we go to the grandparents' house for dinner, which we often do) and Aaron and I really shouldn't be eating the rest of a cake/pie/torte/whatever between the two of us over the course of a week. Last week I made an apple cake (too boring to have pictured) and the guilt was far less because I pawned some off on my parents. This week we had chocolate pie and as absolutely delicious as it is, I'm going to have to toss almost half of it.

So yes, chocolate pie. The picture is a little oozy (and I had to make it in a cake pan because Aaron misplaced my pie plates), but if you like your chocolate this is the ticket. I got the recipe out of a Kraft brochure and since it appeared in an advert, I don't feel like it's a copyright infringement to share it with you. Nothing too fancy, but easy as, er... pie. (apologies).

Chocolate Triple Layer Pie

1 1/4 cups Oreo Baking Crumbs
1/4 cup butter, melted
3 squares bittersweet chocolate, melted
1/2 cup canned sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup chopped toasted peanuts (I used walnuts because it's what I had)
2 cups cold milk
2 pkg. chocolate instant pudding
2 cups thawed Cool Whip

Mix crumbs and butter in a 9 inch pie plate. Press firmly onto bottom and up side of plate to form crust. Mix chocolate and condensed mil until blended. Pour into crust and sprinkle with peanuts.

Pour milk into large bowl. Add pudding mix and beat with whisk 2 min. Spoon half of it into pie crust. Add half of the Cool Whip to remaining pudding and stir with whisk until well blended. Spread over pudding layer in crust. Top with remaining Cool Whip.

Refrigerate three hours.

So, what did you have for dessert this week. I want to know!

Friday, January 26, 2007

W.I.P. Friday: Loose Ends

Wow, have I ever been talking about food a whole lot in the last few weeks. No, it's not a smokescreen to detract from the fact that there's been little craft talk in these parts over the past few weeks. I have however, been knitting like crazy, but unlike my usual practice, I'm actually working on fairly time intensive projects. The Hearts and Stars baby blanket is still chugging along (I'm almost through two of the five balls of yarn) and here is my progress on the Zoe Mellor Fair Isle Cardigan for Ruby.

Obviously it'll need some good blocking before it starts looking nice and my fair isle skills are rudimentary at best, but I'm excited about and addicted to this project. But for the love of Pete, are there ever a lot of colour changes. Look at the back:

Yikes! I know I should weave in my ends as I go and I'm promising myself that I won't start another piece until I'm done weaving. It looks like the back of my stereo in there. Ugh.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

In Praise Of Other Bloggers

Okay, this falls way into the "nobody cares what you had for lunch" category, but look what I had for lunch yesterday! Reading other people's blogs has changed my life immeasurably -- a year ago my crafting was purely knitting based and now I'm sewing and postcard making and embroidering and... well, you know. But I am never so pleased as when my stomach is pleased. What you see above is an apple and Camembert sandwich as suggested by Amy at Angry Chicken and the easiest chick pea salad in the world, as seen over at Orangette. Delicious. I highly recommend both.

And in other news, as many have already noted, the spring Interweave preview is pretty slammin'. I haven't knit anything from Interweave in ages, but I'm definitely going to go for Grumperina's socks and I've also got my eye on the shawlette and one of the cardigans. What I end up getting done remains to be seen, but you never know.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Self Portrait Challenge: Resolutions Week #4

I resolve to use the good cups.

That's right. Why drink out of a cruddy I Heart NY mug when I can be sipping tea out of an antique tea cup that was owned by Aaron's Grandmother? In my books "good cup" can mean a piece of priceless china or a Pyrex mug, either way, I have plenty of trinkets that give me pleasure and I should be putting them to their proper use. If they break, at least they were broken in the name of good tea.

Speaking of which, I briefly mentioned a treasure trove of items that were given to me back in early December, but I've been negligent in posting more. Pictured above is part of a tea set that Aaron's old piano teacher Elinor passed on to us after she moved into a senior's complex and needed to clean out the contents of her house. The set belonged to Elinor's mother and hasn't been used since her death in the early '90s (I know this because of the newspaper it was wrapped in). My goodness, it's a full Royal Albert Blossom Time tea set, complete with 16 cups and saucers, snack plates, the tea pot, a plate for the pot, creamer and sugar, a tray for the cream and sugar and a platter for treats. It's amazing and beautiful. I tend to go for less fussy '60s and '70s era collectibles, but this is a dandy that I will treasure forever. Thank you Elinor!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Postcard From Vancouver

We just got back from a lovely last-minute trip to Vancouver. Aaron wanted to help his sister set up her new computer and catch up with some relatives that we didn't see over the holidays. Also, with Ruby's birthday fast approaching, we figured we better take advantage of one more free flight. So, we got in on Friday and jetted home yesterday.

It was a really nice time. We visited the Vancouver aquarium and saw sea lions and whales; almost made Aaron's grandmother's heart burst at the sight of her great-grandaughter; watched the worst movie ever (Lady In The Water) and two episodes of the worst show ever (House Of Carters); ate lots of amazing food and drank amazing coffee; saw Ruby play with her favourite cousin; visited the White Spot; witnessed the devastation that Stanley Park suffered after the wind storms; walked in the rain; looked at the boats; played with vintage toys; admired Auntie Erin's phenomenal Pyrex collection (sorry, bad lighting, no photos); walked around Commercial drive; laughed with family around the dinner table.

All in all, it was nice to realize that all of our loved ones in Vancouver aren't that far away. And boy, was it nice to get out of town.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Bags Of Bags

Wow, it's already the middle of January and I've been remiss in showing off the rest of the crafty Xmas presents that I received. Today I present to you: the bags! I haven't treated myself to a good bag for ages -- or at least not one that's for the purpose of toting around diapers and diaper related equipment. I was lucky enough to get three bags of varying sizes under the tree, two of which were hand crafted. Hooray.

First up, Aaron commissioned one of his very crafty co-workers to make this messenger bag for me. I guess she even came in with a huge fabric selection and he went for this cool red and brown floral print. I love it because it looks cool and it keeps my hands and arms free for those clingy Ruby moments. The sewing job is totally pro and it's lined with pockets. Aaron's trying to convince her to sell them in stores.

And secondly, a little tweed bag made by Aaron's Great Aunt Kaye. I saw this bag a few months ago at Aaron's mum's house. Leena is part of this group that makes bags that are sold to raise money for the Stephen Lewis Foundation, with the money going to help women in Africa who are raising their grandchildren who have been oprhaned by AIDS. Anyway, Kaye, who is a master seamstress and also made my beloved tea cozy as well as a sweater for Ruby, sent a bunch of bags for Leena to donate to the sale. I admired this little number, so Leena bought it for me for Christmas. I think it'll make a cute little summer purse. And by then (fingers crossed) Ruby will be toilet trained, so I won't always have to have diapers in tow. Right?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Self-Portrait Challenge: Resolutions Week #3

I resolve to buy locally more often. I've always tried to support smaller businesses, but I think my craft fixation of recent years has really driven the point home. Of course, I also resolve to make things myself as often as possible (or, at least, as often as it gives me pleasure), but when I don't, isn't it better to buy things that were made by the person I'm buying them from?

So, here I am, enjoying a piece of bread from the Prairie Mill Bread Company, a local bakery that not only bakes its own delicious bread, but also mills its own flour! It's just as easy for me to run down there to buy bread than to buy the cardboard-y stuff down at the Safeway. I think things like this help me appreciate the city a little more. It's no secret that I'm wouldn't be living in Calgary if it weren't for Aaron's job and the proximity to my family -- in general I'm pretty down on the city's general vibe, it's layout and it's growing urban problems. But savouring things like this bread, buying local art, listening to local music, shopping at Make One studios and, I'll admit, drinking Big Rock beer help me realize that there are a lot of people like me around here. And the easiest way to make the city an great place to live is to keep eating their bread.

p.s. Yes, that is a wallpaper border in the background. Yes, we've lived here for seven months. Yes, we're slow on the painting.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Dessert Sunday

In the last year I've acquired a new mixmaster and, for Christmas, a full-size Cuisinart, so I decided that I've got to step up my culinary repertoire, which sadly consists mainly of one-pot meals containing chicken, canned tomatoes, beans, cumin and a rotating variety of other seasonings. So as a personal challenge to my kitchen skills and my waistline, I'm instituting weekly desserts. With the exception of pre-lunch Sesame Street and my 90210 fix during Ruby's nap, I don't usually watch daytime TV, but for some reason I caught the tail end of this recipe on CityLine this week. For non-Canadians, CityLine is a daily "women's interest" show that deals with things like cooking, interior design, fashion, health and childcare. While they have a major failure to realize that most Canadian women aren't gloriously wealthy Torontonian socialites, the show can be helpful at times. And they do have a great bank of recipes on their website.

So, when we lived on St. Clair Avenue in Toronto, Aaron and I developed a taste for the foods of the islands, so I thought that this recipe for Gingerbread Sweet Potato Pudding would be a good one to try. It's basically a cake made out of vegetables. Veggie cake. And guess what? It's delicious. So delicious, in fact, that I didn't manage to get a picture of it until it was almost eaten. Yum!

So, what did you make for dessert this week?

Friday, January 12, 2007

For The Little People

For W.I.P. Friday I've got a W.I.P. and a bonus F.O. for you -- all the abbreviation you could ask for. Last night I whipped up a little Umbilical Cord Hat (from the first Stitch 'N' Bitch book) for the aforementioned baby Aidan. Since he's a preemie and it's cold here, I figured one of these guys would be in order. I used the Lorna's Laces Shepherd Worsted in the Hawaii colourway that I had left over from my Sweet Mary Jane slippers. It's super soft and perfect for a baby hat (though I'm pretty sure that it's not machine washable) and a good colour for either a boy or a girl.

I have to say, I really love this pattern -- it's as perfect as it gets. Kudos to Jennifer L. Jones for designing it. I've probably made at least half a dozen of these things and it's the perfect baby gift, especially for Canadian babies. I made one for Ruby before she was born and we got so much use out of it. We had some feeding problems when she was new (I was a breastfeeding fascist and refused to break down and go for formula) and we had to go to the doctor every other day for the first two weeks that she was home with us. Since she was born in February and we lived in Toronto without a car, she really needed a good toque for the walks/cab rides to the doctor's office. And the Umbilical Cord Hat did the job. Plus, you can make one over the course of an evening.

And in the W.I.P. column, the beginnings of the Fair Isle Cardigan from Zoe Mellor's Adorable Knits For Tots. Naturally, I didn't swatch, so this may be for Ruby, or for some younger child in the future. I like living dangerously.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Hey Boo-Boo

After much procrastination (strangely, I'm addicted to knitting that blasted baby blanket), I stuffed Henry The Bear's arms and legs and attached all appendages to his body. Little Aidan comes home from the hospital tomorrow (good job, little one!), so Henry is finished just in time. I want to make him a little hat too, but I'll have to tear myself away from a just-started fair isle project in order to accomplish that, so I'm not betting any money on it.

I won't do formal specs, but this is Henry The Bear, knit from Jess Hutch's Unusual Toys For You To Knit And Enjoy. I used Cascade 220 for him and stuffed him a little less than I have for my other Hutch toys, so that he'd be softer and cuddlier for the baby. The only alteration was the omission of the "H" on his sweater. That was not so much an aesthetic choice, but more of a "wow, do I ever hate doing duplicate stitch" choice. So, there you have it. One baby gift down, two million to go.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Self Portrait Challenge: Resolutions Week #2

When I was thinking about resolutions, my original intent was to follow the advice of my favourite radio host, Stuart McLean. On last week's Vinyl Cafe, he was talking about avoiding self-improvement resolutions and sticking to things like "buy better, more expensive tomatoes -- live is too short to buy the lousy ones." But, to be honest, I've been pretty down all weekend after hearing about what happened to Helen Hill, so I've had to dig a little deeper. Not that treating yourself to a good tomato isn't deep in it's own way.

I resolve to appreciate more.

I resolve to appreciate the sweet life I have, faults and all. I resolve to savor my family, to accept myself and those I love for who we are. I resolve to take advantage of opportunities, social and work-related. I resolve to accept compliments without questioning them. I resolve to see the silver lining, give the benefit of the doubt and stay positive. I resolve to make sure my friends always know how much I love them. I resolve to be less self-conscious and afraid. I resolve to let my creativity flow.

Okay, sorry to get all Oprah on all of you. I also resolve to do laundry more often and watch less crap TV. I resolve not to worry about the fact that when I look at this picture of myself I can see wrinkles for the very first time in my 31-year-old life. And I resolve to smile as much as I possibly can.

Friday, January 05, 2007

My Heart Goes Out...

For those who haven't heard the news, former Halifax resident/social activist/film maker/zinester/all-around amazing person Helen Hill was killed in her New Orleans home yesterday morning. Apparently, Helen and her husband Paul Gailiunis heard a knock at their door at about 5 a.m. Thinking that it was somebody in an emergency situation, they opened the door only to be attacked. Helen was shot and killed and Paul was shot several times, but is still alive. He was found clutching their two-year-old son, who was (thank god, oh, thank god) unharmed.

I didn't know Helen and Paul, but I certainly have known of them for years. They were an integeral part of the amazing Halifax music scene, with Paul fronting the Calypso Orchestra Of The Maritimes, Piggy. A good friend of mine who lives in Halifax always spoke so highly of the couple and even considered Helen a mentor -- so in a way I feel like I knew them. My heart goes out to Paul and his son and everyone in Halifax and New Orleans who came to know and love Helen.

For more info on Helen, please visit her memorial website here.

WIP Friday: Toys For Babes

Now that holiday knitting is a distant memory, it's time to get a move-on on baby knitting. I come from a big family. I have 25 first cousins and we're all pretty close. Since the cousins range in age from 10 to 40, with the bulk of them in the 25-35 demo, it comes as no surprise that there are four pregnancies in the family right now. Oops, make that three -- someone was just born the day before yesterday.

My one cousin wasn't due until the beginning of February, but because of some complications her little guy, Aidan came a full month early. Luckily, everyone is good and healthy, they're just keeping him in hospital for a week or so so that he can put on an extra pound before he goes home. Unluckily, I hadn't finished knitting my gifts for him. What you see above is a limbless Henry Bear, designed, of course, by the famed Jess Hutch. I also want to make him a hat, but since time is an issue, I think it'll just be another easy-peasy umbilical cord hat. Sorry Aidan, I wanted to try some fair isle for you, but you came too early.

Also on the needles is the Heart And Stars Blanket from Zoe Mellor's Adorable Knits For Tots, intended for my brother's baby, due in June. I am not a fan of knitting baby blankets -- too much of the same. So, I've decided to do one repeat of the motif, work on something else, and then return to it, which means unless the baby pulls an Aidan, I'll be finished in time. Since this is a very special addition to my immediate family, I'm sure I'll be making the little guy/gal a few other things too. And I promise, you will see some non-baby crafting on here soon. A woman can not knit for baby alone.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Home From The Holidays

We didn't actually go anywhere over the holidays, but with Aaron taking a blissful week off, we're kind of feeling like we're finally returning to real life. Mind you, the social madness of Christmas/New Years is coming to a slow halt -- last night Aaron ditched work early so that we could go to a hockey game (ah, our poor Flames were robbed by a trio of bum refs) and tonight we have a birthday party to go to. Still though, I figure it's about time that I show off some of the craftier gifts that showed up under our tree. Not to gloat, of course, but I think it's nice to share these kind of gifts on the blogs -- I know seeing what some of you out there received has already given me ideas for next year. All in the name of anti-consumerism, of course.

Today I'm focusing on Aaron's sister's girlfriend Erin (who would be Aaron's sister-in-common-law), who is an incredibly creative girl. She's an artist and an expert thrifter and thus an amazing gift-giver. For Aaron and I she whipped up a really cool oven-mitt pad with a matching dishtowl (which didn't photograph well). She's also a big pyrex collector and as difficult as it is for her, she's decided it's time to thin out some of her collection. So, we now also have a gorgeous set of orange and white pyrex mugs, which is one of my favourite Pyrex patterns.

Again, not photographing well, this other thing is a magnet from a series of her works of art. I love these things -- she basically lacquers bits of found paper onto a juice can and puts a magnet on the back. They're all one-of-a-king and really amazing. I think she sells some of this stuff in and around Vancouver, so look out for it.

And finally, check out this gift for Ruby. It's a beautifully embroidered dress/tunic that she'll be able to wear either over pants or tights forever. A great thrift find that really came from the heart. Thanks Erin!!

Well, I'm back to the grind. I recently realized that I haven't printed any of the photos from the last year and a half of Ruby's life. So, I'm uploading about 800 photos (I'm not kidding) to the photomat so I can make the poor kid an album. New parents, I'm warning you. Don't let your digital photos linger for this long. It's a killer.