Archive for September, 2009

Pajama Party!

pjparty_buttonI’m just in time for the Pajama Party!  This month Sew, Mama, Sew was hosting a pajama sew-along.  As I needed some new winter PJs and had just bought some beautiful blue flannel on my last trip to PEI, I figured this would be the perfect thing to kick my butt into gear and get mine made (before the snow flies!).  Well…perhaps it was a little ambitious of me to take on another project during the first few weeks of school, during garden harvest season, and after already taking on some new sewing projects, but I hate to miss a deadline so…just in time…my finished pajamas!!  DSC01297

Both the pants and top are made from McCall’s patterns.  The bottoms are from a PJ pattern, but I wanted a top that wasn’t made from flannel, so I found a shirt pattern I liked and…for the first time ever….I sewed something using a knit!!!!  After avoiding knits because I thought they were difficult to work with (memories of home-ec class and a stretched-out T-shirt), I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to sew.  The shirt was a little shorter than I would like, so I added a band of the flannel on the bottom to make it longer and to tie it in with the bottoms.  I still felt that the top was a little plain, so – another first – I hand embroidered some paisley-type shapes on the sleeves to match the bottoms.  DSC01316 All in all, I am really pleased with my new PJs and can’t wait to hop into bed tonight!  I know the pictures are a  little dark, but what better place to think about warm pajamas than on a cool fall night?  Pajama Party, anyone?

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Grab ‘N Go Diaper Clutch

DSC01293I think I mentioned that I was going to be doing some pattern testing.  Well, I tested my first pattern, and here it is!  It’s the “Grab ‘N Go Diaper Clutch” from Sew Fun.  It was really fun to make and I learned a lot too as I had never used a magnetic closure before, or made a strap with a swivel clasp.  I’m not a mom, but if I was, I would really enjoy carrying around a stylish clutch – and there is even a matching changing mat that folds up inside.  I must say that I really enjoyed the process of pattern testing – it was fun to be one of the first people to see and use the pattern, and enjoyable too to talk with the designer (who is amazing!) and to think that I had a small hand in getting the pattern ready to be published.  I am also quickly becoming a Sew Fun fan (remember the brainy ball?) and can’t wait to try out the next pattern!DSC01294

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In a Pickle

DSC01282When life hands you cucumbers – make pickles!  Ok, so that probably doesn’t carry the same meaning as the lemons/lemonade adage, but it certainly sums up my cooking activities lately.  We have a bumper crop of cucumbers this year.  I’ve been eating them in sandwiches and salads, and giving away as many as I can, and still they grow.  There is supposed to be frost tonight so I picked cucumbers until I had nothing left to put them in (one drawer in the fridge is nothing but cucumbers and then I have three baskets full too) and there are still at least another twenty on the vine. (I would have used bowls to collect the rest, except the bowls are filled with tomatoes!).   So, for the first time, over the last few weeks, I have been making pickles.  To be honest, we are not huge pickle eaters in this house, so I thought I would try a wide variety of recipes so we can discover what we like the best.  So far I have made dill pickles, bread and butter pickles, lemon cucumber pickles and mustard pickles (which were recommended by a friend).  I opened one of the jars of bread and butter pickles this week and was disappointed in the vinegary flavour, but luckily my Harrowsmith magazine came to the rescue when it arrived yesterday complete with an English bread and butter pickle recipe so I am going to have another go at those tomorrow and hope for better results.  I must say it is rather satisfying to can your own produce, to have a personal hand in the ingredients from seed to fruit to pickle, and to squirrel away the bounty of summer for winter eating.  I like to imagine that my great great great grandmother would smile at that – although, perhaps she would just wonder why I didn’t go to the grocery store like everyone else and save myself the trouble!  (So easy to idealize our ancient ancestors when really they might have liked to take advantage of our more modern conveniences…)  On top of pickles I am also planning on making salsa verde (I would have loved to make red salsa but we have so many more green tomatoes than red and it is late in the year for them all to ripen), and I am also going to try peach salsa, once the peaches on the counter become ripe.  And now that I have found some way to preserve our produce, I think I may also have to find a home for some of the preserves!!   Do pickles make good Christmas gifts?   🙂

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Happy to be a Book Worm!

AG00299_Ok, I admit it, I am addicted to books.  I can imagine a world without movies, television, and even (gasp!) the internet, but even the far reaches of my overactive imagination cannot conjure up a life without books in it (and even if I could, I wouldn’t want to dwell on it too long – like the Twilight Zone episode where the man has all these books and no time to read, and then time stops and he has lots of time to read but his glasses broke so he can’t see a word – pure horror!).  Attempting to keep life simple, I am not a big shopper, but I must admit that I find it hard to pass up books (especially the worn-in second-hand ones bought in quaint shops with a real cat in the window)  As a child I read everything that had print on it including junk mail and the back of the cereal box;  if it was in front of me in black and white you can be sure it would be read, although I certainly did not limit my reading to random acts of print and also devoured books every chance I could!  As a teacher I love reading children’s books and I often visit the school’s bookroom as much for myself as my students!  I also love non-fiction and I am afraid my house is full to bursting with titles on a wide variety of topics from telling campfire stories to making your own cheese.   (Our house could be a Dr. Suess book – there are books on the chair, there are books on the stair, there are books in the drawer with the winter underwear!)  And don’t get me started on talking about the joy of libraries…..   🙂   All this to say that  this morning I stumbled across a book blog that nearly made me late for work as I was so enthralled in reading the book reviews and discovering the amazing activities that this creative blogger has  created for each title.  If you love books, and you have children, or, like me, spend most of your life with children even if they don’t live in your house, you have to check out this blog: Playing by the Book!  I only spent about 15 minutes perusing this morning and already discovered several books to add to my already much-too-long book wish list.  And I love the artwork and the music and everything else that ties into the book and makes reading so much fun!  (Even as an adult I can’t help wanting to make butterbear and magic wands after reading Harry Potter.)  So, wherever you are, whoever you are, I hope you have a good book to curl up with tonight.  Happy reading!

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Where did the week go?

j0438641I find it hard to believe that a whole week has passed since I made the last Friday post.  Yet somehow it also seems like so much has happened in such a short space of time.  I finally got to meet my students on Monday.  12 little 6 & 7 year olds, all with their own personalities, strengths and ambitions, on loan to me for the next 10 months.  The joy of seeing 7 of them that I had in my Kindergarten class only two short years ago – how they have changed and how they have stayed the same.  Watching children grow is bittersweet.  Gone are their lisps and chubby cheeks,  replaced by a new confidence and independence as they complete tasks they only dreamed of two years ago.  And yet there are snippets there of the young ones I used to know, a distinctive laugh, a bright smile, the sense of humour that still brightens my day.   How blessed I am to be a part of their lives again, to get to watch them grow in this way.  If I can’t be a parent, than surely this must be the next best thing.   And oh the goals I have for them already!  For this one to gain confidence, for that one to have a chance to shine, for another one to discover the joy in learning, for yet another to find pride in a job well done.  And my goals for all of them – to learn to solve conflicts, to encourage each other, to be good people, to care about each other, to do the right thing because it is the right thing to do.  10 months seems like a long time, but I know it will pass like a blink of an eye (although I know there will be days that it will feel like an eternity…) and yet, in the end, I know it will feel like there is never enough time.  It’s a strange job I do.  I will pour all of my time, creativity and energy into these 12 little lives in the next 10 months, set goals with them and help them reach them, teach them what I can, and then I will say goodbye and pass them on to someone else.  Many of them will not even remember me and recall only snippets of our time together as they grow into adulthood.  And I will repeat the whole process year after year, falling in love with a roomful of young ones only to say goodbye in what always seems to be too short a time.    Yet the reward of the little face that looks up at you on your first day of school and says “Boy am I glad to see you!”  outweighs the challenges you know are to come.  Yes, it’s a strange job that I do, a difficult job, but a good one.

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Ouch, Ouch, Ouch!

I know you will be disappointed, but there will be no Fun Food Friday post this week. 😦  I hurt my back on Tuesday and have done absolutely no cooking!  (Actually, there is still a bowl of un-mixed muffin batter sitting on the kitchen counter as I was in mid-muffin making when stretching too far turned out to be the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak).  Today I am just happy to be able to walk and to finally have enough mobility to take a shower (talk about the simple joys of life!)  I also missed out on the first days of school with my class – oh how hard it was to give up those days to someone else, I really was half-thinking of shuffling down there anyway, but in the long run didn’t think starting the year hunched over and in my PJs was the best option (Now if I could have found a way to get out of my pajamas….)   I think I am on the mend now and should be back to finding 101 uses for garden cucumbers very soon as I am sure they have multiplied and grown as large as giants while I have been unable to tend to them.   I’ve also had lots of time to dream up new sewing projects so hopefully will be posting about those soon too!   I wish you a great week of culinary adventures!

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Fresh from the Garden


We have really been blessed to have such a bountiful garden this year!  There is such a simple pleasure in growing and harvesting your own food.  And although some veggies are a little tricky to grow, others are so easy it is ridiculous (our zucchini patch has been hit by a bad case of powdery mildew, the leaves are shrivelled and brown, and I am still harvesting fruit on almost a daily basis!)  And nothing compares to the flavour of just-picked food.  This is the first year I have grown swiss chard and I was amazed at the sweet flavour of the fresh-picked stems and leaves.  It tastes nothing like the woody and slightly bitter grocery-store fare.  The same can certainly be said for carrots – if you have never had a fresh-picked carrot you are missing out on one of life’s great joys!!  In the basket above you can see zucchini, swiss chard, and one of the cute little tomatoes we planted (this is the first year our tomato plants have born fruit, and if everything that is now green turns red, we will certainly have a bumper crop!).  We also grew several kinds of lettuce, cucumbers, purple and orange carrots, three kinds of onions, celery (another easy grower!), melons and sweet potato.  We planted corn at the beginning of the summer but we moved the location this year and they didn’t like it.  Only one plant actually grew and produced corn cobs and unfortunately that one stalk was stolen in the night by some critter who had the audacity to leave the thing half-eaten in the middle of the lawn!  If you’re going to eat from the buffet, you should at least clean up after yourself!  🙂  Luckily all of our other garden boxes are covered in bird netting which has proved effective against all other backyard critters, from pesky deer to groundhogs.    Another great thing about growing your own food is that you always have lots to share with friends!  Anyone want some cucumbers?

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Mystery Veggie…

I returned home from my birthday adventures to a message on my answering machine telling me that there was yogurt at my back door (!).  Sure enough, there was some of my favourite yogurt from the farmer’s market waiting for me at the back door (I really do have the best friends!).  There was also a really awesome sprout-growing kit (the first batch was ruined by fruit flies but I will try again) and this vegetable:


Do you know what this is?  Kudos to you if you do, because I didn’t!  After some online searching (don’t you just love the internet?) and some help from the bestower of the vegetable, I discovered that it is a white radish.  Not being one to do anything with radishes, let alone a white one bigger than a carrot, I did another internet search to discover what to do with it!  After discovering a large number of recipes using a lot of seafood and other ingredients I don’t have on hand, I discovered this recipe.  I made it for lunch one day and was pleasantly surprised by the nuetral taste of the radish (nothing like it’s rather spicy red cousins).  I found it also tasted great just grated on top of a leafy garden salad.  I love discovering new foods – especially when they are grown fresh from a local garden.  Do you know that there are hundreds of varieties of each food that we eat?   Tomatoes come in an astonishing variety of colours, shapes, and sizes, and if you only eat supermarket fare, you are missing out on the nutrients, vitamins and good flavour of dozens of other varieties.  The same can be said of carrots, beans and lettuces.  It not only spices up our plates, but it’s good for our bodies as well to eat a wide variety of foods.  And as for keeping life simple, there is nothing simpler than eating what is available in your own backyard. (or in this case, left at your back door!)   Have you tried something new lately?  Leave a comment and we can all expand our culinary horizons together!


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Having a Ball…..

DSC01230This is my very first Baby Brainy Ball.  I made it using this pattern.  I must say, I love this pattern!  The directions were really easy and simple to follow, but they also had a bit of a personality (like a friend telling you how to make something instead of a technical writer).  I also really appreciated that it gave directions for cutting the fabric using the rotary cutter (another sewing tool I wouldn’t want to live without).  I tried a similar baby toy from a tutorial once but never finished – too many tedious seams.  The remnants of that unfinished project are now serving as stuffing in my pillows from this post – waste not, want not.  This ball is destined for a baby shower tomorrow, but I have fabric all picked out to make several more.   Oh…and the best part….I am going to be a pattern tester for future “Sew Creative” patterns.  I am soooo excited!  I love to be the first person to try something new! 🙂

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