Sunday, November 29, 2009
Every year, Aaron's dad tends to be the hardest person to buy for on our Christmas list. He's a man of simple pleasures: he likes to spend his weekends cutting the lawn or washing his car, or in the winter watching sports in front of his fireplace. He likes golf, cigars, and a nice glass of Scotch. Which means that any gift related to any of these activities has been bought for him years and years ago. So it's tough. But this year, thanks to Aaron's mum, the perfect gift managed to materialize.
As mentioned, Aaron's dad likes to relax with a nice glass of Scotch and I've long admired his special glass he likes to drink from: a vintage bar glass with pictures of pheasants on it (you know the type). Turns out, the pheasant glasses belonged to his late parents, which makes them all the more special. Well, Aaron's mom spied a matching ice bucket in a ridiculously overpriced small town antique store. So yesterday, we drove down and bought it. Perfect, no? The picture doesn't do it justice, but it is truly a beaut.
And yes, I did not blog yesterday. NaBloPoMo was in my sights and so close to the finish line I bailed. That said, I have a lot on the docket, so hopefully the frequent posts will continue into the upcoming months.
Friday, November 27, 2009
I'm usually not the type to buy vintage stuff on etsy (I'm a thrill-of-the-hunt kind of gal), but I couldn't resist this little treasure that Tracy had in her shop. It's a napkin holder, but my plan is to keep in on the table next to the door so it can hold unsorted mail. I'm aiming to be tidier in the house (it's a challenge), so I hope this will do the trick.
I've been noticing a lot of owl-themed things in my house lately -- it's like etsy circa 2007. I'm not collecting, I swear. Maybe I just like Henry pointing to them and saying "Whoot, Whoot!"
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Aaron's mum generously took the kids today and I spent my time doing some Xmas shopping and sequestering myself in the kitchen. With our holiday party only two weeks away and lots of busy times between then and now, I've got to prep while I can. Today, among other things, I made my mom's famous olive cheese balls. She's been making these for her annual Boxing Day party since I can remember and I've always loved them. I remember Christmases as a teenager where I'd steal a handful of these from the freezer, pop them in the microwave and make a Christmas day lunch out of them. Not healthy, but considering I was chasing them with holiday chocolates, I obviously did not care.
So, as a Thanksgiving gift to all of our American friends, here is the recipe. Try it out and let me know if you like it.
Olive Cheese Balls
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup butter, melted
36 (approx) pimento-stuffed green olives, drained
Mix cheese and flour. Add butter and mix thoroughly. Mold 1 tbsp dough around each olive and shape into a ball. Place on ungreased baking sheet and chill at least 1 hour. Bake at 400F for 15 to 20 minutes.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Did you hear that Oprah isn't doing her Favourite Things show this year? Apparently, she's not (not that I'm a big Oprah fan anyway, but you know). So, in lieu, here are some random things I've been digging as of late:
Tetley Herbal Tea
Especially in the Soothe (ginger mint) flavour. I can't get enough
This 2000 HBO mini-series was a precursor to The Wire. (Which is, of course, the best show in the history of television. This is not debatable. It is a fact.) I've been watching it on DVD and the characters are so multi-layered, and so sad. Not as developed as The Wire, but awesome.
The Onion's Best Of The Decade
Check it out here. The best of TV, movies, music, books and other media. I could hang out on here for days. On a side note, can you believe that the '90s have been over for 10 years? Seriously -- Y2K was a decade ago. I feel so unbelievably old.
Rosebud Perfume Co. Rose Mint Lip Balm
Seriously dudes, I loved it. I do not think it was actually well-written or well-acted, but I loved every second of it. I especially laughed when Jacob Black took off his shirt and the entire audience burst out laughing. So awesome.
So, that's five. Americans, have a good Thanksgiving weekend. I'll see the rest of you tomorrow.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
My shop is open. The items are still very limited, but more will go up in the next few days, I hope. Also, on a slightly related note, I will be participating in Sew Mama Sew's awesome Giveaway Day this year. It's on December 2 -- stop by and comment on that day to win a prize.
In unrelated news, I'm have tickets to see New Moon tonight. I am inappropriately excited. This article kind of sums it up.
Monday, November 23, 2009
How the heck did I find time to make a felt Christmas ornament? I don't know, but I'm telling you, these things are addictive and I can hardly wait to make more. This is the Little Deer ornament from Alicia's Walk In The Woods kit. I started with the deer because it's the easiest of the patterns, and I managed to complete it over the course of one bad Canadian film and an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. I admit, I was a little discouraged when I realized that I should do all the embroidery on BOTH sides of the deer, but since I'm creating heirloom pieces here, people, I decided laziness was a poor course of action. So yes, Mrs. Deer has beautiful sequined speckles on both sides of her rump.
I'm really hot to trot on getting onto the other ornaments, even though there are more pressing things at hand. But I really want to get the rest made so I can decide which ones I'm willing to part with as teachers' gifts. It's hard. Maybe I'll just buy them some soap or hand cream instead.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Okay, maybe not the most appetizing picture, but proof that I've got another batch of cookies in the freezer! This morning I set out to bake as much as I could with the limited supplies in my pantry (my mission: try not to actually leave the house). First up, a batch of blueberry corn muffins for Ruby and Henry's school/babysitting snacks. Done (but to be honest, pretty meh tasting). Then I wanted to do a batch of Christmas party cookies. With very little icing sugar on hand and no nuts, my choices were limited. But I did have macaroons on my list and what do you know? They require very few ingredients and are super easy to make.
I love me a macaroon, but I've never attempted to make them. Soooo easy. You basically just mix some coconut with sugar and egg whites and then bake them for 15 minutes. This is, of course, the version from the Martha Stewart Cookie book, and I added in some chocolate chips for fun. Delicious. And easy. And making me feel like I'm accomplishing something. Hooray!
Saturday, November 21, 2009
I went to a really big pro Christmas craft fair today. I have mixed feelings about these kinds of sales -- while all the vendors are people who make stuff themselves and sell it, not huge commercial retailers, I would much rather support tiny more edgy craft fairs. I find a lot of the stuff at the big fairs really not to my taste, and honestly, some of the patrons get kind of annoying to shop next to. Still, since I'm buying for parents and other people who may not share my indie taste, I usually try to hit at least one big sale every year.
And I did pretty well. In addition to some gifts for the family, I bought an angel to top our tree (do you have any idea how hard it is to find a good angel? Most stores are way more into star toppers) and this ornament here, both crafted by an older lady who was working the fair. Ruby is going to love this little gal -- so fluffy and girly. I love her too.
Friday, November 20, 2009
We always have a holiday party at the beginning of December, so holiday baking usually starts here at the beginning of November. Not so much this year. I'm a little bit freaking out because of the lack of party prep on my part -- but until very recently, Aaron's spent most of the month out of town and I've been sick since October 24 (yes, I know the date). Today I finally buckled down and made the first batch of cookies, but the freaking is still strong.
These are Chocolate Crackles from the Martha Stewart Cookie book, which I love. I made these last year too and they were so loved by all that Aaron's mum also added them to her repertoire. Actually, they also showed up at an Oscar party we went to, baked by my friend Tasya, who is a very picky baker. So they come highly recommended. As usual, each member of the family was entitled to a single cookie for dessert, then the rest of the batch went into the freezer. Next stop, cheese balls.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Okay, so you know how I have so much to do before December hits that my head is spinning? Yeah. Well, you know what I started to do last night even though I had a bunch of real writing to do and cookies to bake and important stuff to think about? I started knitting a dishcloth. And man, it feels great.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
I can't believe I missed the anniversary of my blog! It was earlier this week. Four years. Wow.
I know that this blog has slowed down a bit over the last year and a half or so, with Henry showing up in my life and all, but I still value it very much. It makes me feel like the things that I do are real and worthy of writing about. Even if not that many people stop by here on a regular basis, having a place to record my various endeavors make me feel more productive.
So, hooray! Happy belated blog day to me.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Potter Craft's 400 Knitting Stitches is a book whose title says it all: this is a stitch dictionary, nothing more nothing less. No fancy introduction (other than some knitting basics), no project ideas, no examples of sweaters or scarves or legwarmers using these patterns. Just stitches. Which is what makes it totally awesome.
Each stitch entry consists of directions, a chart, and a photograph of the stitch swatched in off-white yarn. The patterns are sectioned off into knit/purl stitches, crossed stitches and cables, slipped stitches, lace stitches, double stitches, twisted stitches, cast off stitches and "fancy" stitches (smocking, bobbles, etc). And that's it.
So, why do you need this book? Well, if you design your own knitwear, the answer is obvious. If you don't, it's still handy if you want to add some zip to a plain scarf or sock pattern. Me, all I can see is dishrags. Loads of fun dishrags. I hope to spend a lot of time on the couch with some cotton, whipping up dishrags. And when I'm not doing that, this can sit on my shelf as an amazing reference book.
Monday, November 16, 2009
I bought Ruby this fabric-covered R at Anthropologie (I find the kids' books/stuff section that exist in some Anthropologies a little weird and out of place, but totally awesome). I got Henry one too (well, an H) and I just love them. There are little hooks on the back to hang them on the wall, but Ruby's sits on top of her bookcase, which is an antique that used to live with Aaron's grandparents. This is as tidy as the top shelf ever gets (i.e. not very), as Ruby tends to stash anything up there that she doesn't want Henry to touch: her jewelry boxes, a little music box, the centrepiece from my brothers' wedding, photographs, her rock and coral collection... In our house it pays to be taller than three feet because you can reach the good stuff. I've been collecting ceramic figurines for Ruby to one day place on this shelf, but until she gets past the need to shove stuff up there, it isn't really a safe place for a lot of breakables.
In other news, I've lost my voice! This is the illness that will not end. Thankfully, I'm not feeling that bad, but it's hard to be an authoritative mother when you can only croak at your kids.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
I think I probably mentioned this last year (probably also in November), but I am absolutely stubborn about sending out physical Christmas cards. I scoff at the e-card and sniff at the annual email newsletter. I love paper mail (I won't even call it snail mail because really, next day delivery within the city is pretty frickin' quick). I find the postal system pretty fascinating. Frustrating at times as well, sure, but it really is a miracle that most stuff makes it to where it's supposed to be going.
Every year I send out about 150 Xmas cards, many of which include a Walmart photo of my children (it's the only thing I go for Walmart for. Why Walmart is a question I can not answer. It's just become my tradition). I've got the process down to a near science and I manage to get them all filled out and addressed over the course of a week or so. The only snag is tracking down addresses of people who have moved. Also, finding time to go to the post office to send off the overseas cards. This year the holidays are totally sneaking up on me and I'm feeling huge stress, but I will not forsake my Christmas cards. No way, man.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
This picture hopefully represents what will be a lovely evening. As part of our neverending slide into total yuppie-hood, Aaron and I host a wine-tasting party every few months. I think the one we're holding tonight is about our fourth or fifth, and they're really fun. Every couple brings a nice bottle of wine, we taste them, we eat cheese, sometimes we order pizza (though tonight I have a crock pot of curry on), and chit chat. Tonight we take on Australia. Each participant is supposed to research their wine, but it's really the drinking that matters.
I have a pretty nasty cold, so I'm going to have to take it easy, but I think my palate is clear enough to enjoy the wine. Aaron picked up some kick-ass cheese too, including a mellow blue encased in wax called Dragon's Breath. Apparently it's not even legal to sell in here, so we feel very special to have this contraband, quite likely unpasteurized cheese.
Oh, on an unrelated note, you know how they say that Corelle plates don't break? Not true. This morning Henry tipped a Butterfly Gold Corelle lunch plate off of his booster chair tray and it smashed into eight zillion pieces. I wish I had taken a picture of it. So yes, Corelle, if it hits on the right angle, will break. Just though you should know.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Pillows! I managed to whip up these Semi-Simple Pillows from Bend The Rules Sewing while the kids were awake and playing (our playroom and sewing room are actually the same room). I got this vintage green fabric ages ago at a fabric sale and knew I wanted to use it for a project where I could quilt or embroider around the flowers. There was also a quilt in Joelle Hoverson's Last Minute Patchwork + Quilted Gifts that it would have been great for, but I didn't have enough. So, I used some of it in my Easy Lap Quilt and saved the rest for these pillows.
My old couch pillows were getting shabby (i.e. the fabric was falling apart completely), so I wanted to get these done before we start our holiday entertaining. Free-motion quilting scares me and I didn't want to ruin the fabric, so I just hand embroidered around a few of the flowers. The rest of the pillow is made from some thick natural linen. Perfecto!
In other news, I enjoyed my first Starbucks holiday drink of the year today. I only drink Starbucks during the holidays, so this was very exciting.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Okay, I'm allowed a little cheat now and then, right? I actually have a lot to blog about, but no decent pictures, and I'm swamped with stuff I need to do, so to keep up with my NaBloPoMo (post every day in November), I'm cheating. Apologies. Two kids, husband out of town (though, thankfully, home tonight), sickness throughout the house, holidays coming up. I know, enough of the excuses. Perhaps I'm just feeling defeated because I spent two hours making a very complicated dinner that tasted like meh. Thanks a lot, Canadian Living magazine. I'll be back on my game tomorrow. Please drop by. Leave a comment if you'd like.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
A couple weeks ago when I was in New York I was walking by the Plaza Hotel and gasped. I've been to New York a bunch of times, but usually find myself spending most of my time South of Midtown, so I'd never really had a moment to gaze upon the place-where-Eloise-grew-up before. I gawked for a second, then started on my way. Then it dawned on me. I could go in. I could go in and see the Plaza. I was all alone, with no responsibilities, no children, not even Aaron. I wasn't rushing to go somewhere or pick someone up or get something done. So, I went in the Plaza, sat at the bar, and had a glass of wine at 2:30 in the afternoon. I chatted with the bartender and only grumbled silently when I realized that they charge $30 for a glass of wine at the Plaza lobby bar.
So, when I was driving with the kids after picking something up this morning and drove by a really yummy Middle Eastern restaurant that I'd only eaten at once before, I had a Plaza moment. With Ruby now over her illness but nothing on the agenda today (November 11, you know), there was nothing stopping me from introducing my kids to the wonder of falafel. And then, to be even bolder, after lunch (which they loved), we walked a few blocks to my favourite yarn store and, for the first time in ages, I bought some yarn. To knit with. Oh yeah.
And it ain't cheap yarn, but I didn't buy very much. When my aunt saw my mom and I wearing our Calorimetry headscarves at Thanksgiving, I offered to make her one. So I bought some really gorgeous turqoise merino by the Tanis Fibre Arts. And after making Fishnet Bandanas for Aaron's sister and her girlfriend I thought maybe I should make one for myself. So I bought this crazy Malabrigo colourway (I know, the fact that it's not hot pink shocks me). So yes, one day, and hopefully one day soon I will knit. Because that's something I like to do.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
November, you are deceivingly difficult. I thought after Halloween, I'd have some breathing room. But no. There are: things to make, presents to buy, cookies to bake, articles to write, stockings to stuff (and construct), houses to clean, parties to throw, kids to entertain, workouts to sweat out, friends to visit... you know. Oh, and I (and a nurse) am relatively sure that Ruby is getting over a mild case of H1N1. Yikes.
Monday, November 09, 2009
Finger puppets! A little team of finger puppets! These little dudes all come from the Arazni Aronzo book Baby Stuff, which is awesome. There are a bunch of finger puppets in there, and I had grand plans to make all of them, but I only got to six (there's a pig that I made that I found after I had already taken this picture. Sorry piggy, I swear it has nothing to do with that flu that I think Ruby may have).
I actually made these guys a while ago, when our kitchen renovation was going on. I promptly stuffed them into my embroidery bag and forgot about them. The problem is, they originally started off as a baby gift, but then I realized that no baby wants one of these finger puppets. They are far too flimsy and delicate for a baby, or even an adult to play with. I was thinking of maybe buying a couple of deep picture frames or shadow boxes and sticking them in there as little pieces of nursery art. That would be a nice baby gift, no?
Sunday, November 08, 2009
Every year I look at Sew Mama Sew's Handmade Holidays feature with awe. In case you haven't seen it, every year (this is the third annual), the geniuses at SMS spend November corralling a bunch of sewing tutorials that are perfect for holiday gift giving and decorating. It really is genius. The folks there seem to have a really great eye and a really great aesthetic (not to mention great fabric to sell), and this feature offers so many ideas and so much inspiration.
That said, for the last two years I've jumped on the bandwagon too late to actually get anything made. As a public service, I'm gently reminding you about Handmade Holidays, so you can swing by there before it's too late. New ideas all throughout November. Check it out.
Saturday, November 07, 2009
Twenty-three large bags of leaves. Just from the front yard. And there are still leaves on the trees, so we'll be doing it again before autumn is over. There was much jumping, rolling in piles, and crunching of leaves as the whole family helped with the job.
Friday, November 06, 2009
I wasn't planning to stop at that estate sale. It's just, I had some time to kill because I was running early to where I had to be. And there it was, right on my route. It's not my fault there was some choice Pyrex, plus some Melmac. I couldn't help it. I only paid $20 for the lot.
I am not addicted. And I swear I am not on my way to becoming a hoarder.
Thursday, November 05, 2009
Readers of both Angry Chicken and Posy Gets Cosy will recognize this. There's a wacky site called Polyvore where one can create a "set" of clothing items -- essentially like Fashion Plates but in a more digital way (by the way, real Fashion Plates are going for fairly top dollar on Ebay these days). Of course, at the end you can order all the clothes online, but that wouldn't really be much fun, would it?
So, being a sucker for this sort of thing, I thought I'd try it out. When my kids were awake. Big mistake -- Ruby took one look at my laptop and needed to take a go at it. Above is the outfit she put together with very little guidance from myself. It's very pink, but actually, considering it was styled by a 4.75 year old who is obsessed with Barbies and Princesses, it's pretty awesome. It is kind of Barbie Girl, but also sort of hipster '80s retro. And her taste isn't cheap, either. That cardigan alone is $372!
Here's my Dream Date outfit. I should note, I do not really dress like this, but if I had a lot of money and went to swishy film openings, I might. Oh, and if these dresses were made to fit women who are above a size six.
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
Is it too early to start making Christmas ornaments? Yesterday when I was on my mission to reluctantly purchase the pinkest, most plasticy Polly Pocket extravaganza imaginable, I noticed that my local mall was in full-on Christmas mode. Actually, I was even more shocked to see that by the morning of November 1, my grocery store had done an overnight transformation from Halloween to Xmas decor and that they were actually selling fruitcakes. It's November, people. But I digress. Back in September, I ordered both the Walk In The Woods and Ice Skate Afternoon felt ornament kits from Alicia. Normally I don't go for these kits -- I'm kind of cheap and would rather save some dough by putting together the supplies for myself. But, the luxury of letting Alicia do it for me (and thus, letting me avoid a trip to the craft store) was too much to resist.
I have a bunch of work stuff I have to do before I dive into these beauties, but I'm really excited about them. The plan is to give one each to Ruby's teachers, but I'm not sure if I'll be able to part with them. Either way, I'm excited. And while the kits are sold out, Alicia does still have PDF patterns for sale. Less luxurious, but just as festive.
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
Do you have a go-to wedding gift? Like when nothing on the registry seems quite right (or there is not registry at all) and you're not sure enough of the couple's mutual taste to buy something really unique? My go-to is what you see above: the deluxe edition of Scrabble.
My friend Joanne told me years ago that this is her go-to gift, and since we've never been mutually invited to a wedding, I promptly stole the idea. I usually add a little note" "Now that you're an old married couple, here's a little something to help you pass the time." We're going to a wedding reception on Saturday. Guess what I picked up today while helping Santa shop for some very coveted Polly Pockets?
Monday, November 02, 2009
As promised, here's the post-mortem on Ruby's mermaid costume. As previously mentioned, I used the Simplicity 4043 costume to make Ruby the costume that she'd been asking for for a year. I thought I'd be able to find an official Disney-sanctioned Ariel costume, but alas, the pattern books only had Cinderella, Snow White and maybe Jasmine. Because most amateur sewers aren't crazy enough to make a mermaid costume. Time to start calling me crazy.
Regular readers know that I like to sew but I'm more of a doll and pillow sewer. Basically, other than a very simple skirt, I would never make myself something to wear, because I take pride in the way I look when I go out in public. I like the instant gratification of sewing, but I'm not great at paying attention to meticulous detail. So, this pattern was definitely a challenge for me. Also, the material was a bit finicky -- stretch knit with a sequined lace overlay, lots of poly lining, and a shiny, very synthetic satin-y thing. Basically, that meant that the magic of pressing was not an option and I actually did melt the fabric in a few places. Oops.
I did make some modifications to the pattern to make it easier/less time consuming. I skipped on some of the sequin applique, and hand-stitched the stuff I did use, rather than machine stitching (though I did do a machine stitch under it to get a quilting effect). I skipped the zipper and the boning. I did not properly finish all of the inside seams of the lining. But I finished it and Ruby loved it. And I did take a look at some of the store-bought Ariel costumes in the Disney Store (which were basically just a cheap-o pencil skirt with some fins sewn on the side) and, frankly, mine is waaay better.
A note on the photos: why did I not actually take a full body shot of Ruby in costume so that I can admire my work 20 years from now? And prove to her what a doting mother I was when she was little? Either way, you get the drift, and believe you me, she did look like a beautiful mermaid.
Sunday, November 01, 2009
So, since I figured that this was the last year I had to totally humiliate the child at Halloween, I made Henry dress up as a garden gnome. It took most people a few minutes to figure it out, especially since he would only wear his fake beard like a bib, but all in all, I think he's adorable. And he wore that elf hat all day without complaint. I was very proud of him.
And boy, did this kid ever dig trick or treating. I stayed home to hand out candy, but apparently he'd march up to every door, drop his plastic pumpkin bucket on the welcome mat and yelp "treat!" before looking up at the resident with his big chocolatey eyes. His bucket was more than full by the time he got home and he's been begging for the candy ever since. Poor guy. Little does he know that I'll probably throw it all out long before he has a chance to slip into his desired sugar coma.
I'll post some pictures of Ruby's mermaid costume tomorrow. NaBloPoMo, you know.