Archive for November, 2010

Winter Has Come Early

These are pictures I took on Saturday morning. 

 On Saturday afternoon I looked out and saw this:

Winter has come early this year, not with a whisper but with a shout! 

Anyone want to come and build a snowman?

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One of my favourite things about being a teacher is all of the great children’s literature I get to read.  I love reading out loud to my students and especially enjoy seeing them fall in love with a book that I love too.  I have a pile of best-loved books for each grade level I have taught (everything from preschool to Grade 5) and love discovering new titles. 

Many books are best for certain age groups, but once in a while a book comes along that seems to have wide-range appeal, a book that is enjoyed by children of all ages, and speaks to them all in different ways (including the adults!)

Pete the Cat is one of those books.  It is a simple story, but with lots of fun repetition, engaging illustrations and a great message. 

Pete the Cat has a pair of brand new white shoes.  He loves them so much that he walks around singing a song about them.  But as he is walking he accidentally steps into some bright red strawberries.  His brand new white shoes aren’t white anymore, they’re red!  But does Pete cry?  Not him!  He just accepts the change and makes a new song.  “I love my red shoes……” 

Young kids will just enjoy the musicality of the book – especially if you also listen to the author telling the story himself!   But for my seven and eight-year olds it was also a great lesson in having a positive attitude in the face of small challenges and disappointments (like not getting the tidy-up job they wanted, or the colour paper they were hoping for, or having to switch to outdoor shoes yet again)   This book was read over and over (and over!) again in my classroom and it is not uncommon to hear my students walking down the hall or cleaning the classroom singing their song…..”I love to sweep the floor….” or “I love my outdoor shoes…..”

As an adult it reminds me that although I cannot control what challenges and disappointments will come my way during the course of a day, I can control how I react to them.  I want to choose to just keep on going while singing my song a lot more often.  It’s a much happier way to live. 

Don’t you love it when you are teaching something to others, and you learn the lesson too?

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Homemade Maple Ice Cream

Some of you were asking about the maple ice cream that I served alongside the Cranberry Pie.   The first time I made ice cream in my new ice cream maker, I used the recipe that came with it, without any substitutions or changes (it was hard for me, but I felt I should at least follow the book the first time around…)   Ever since that time I have been playing with the recipe, trying to come up with something that uses as little refined sugar as possible (without going to the trouble of boiling maple syrup on the stove until it reduces as most recipes suggest.)  This last batch was my best ever, and definitely one I will make again.  I love that there are only four ingredients.  Have you ever looked at the ingredients on a carton of ice cream?  It’s crazy!  What ARE all those long words anyway?  I’m not sure I want to know….    Here is the recipe:

Homemade Maple Ice Cream

  • 1  cup whole milk
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 cups heavy cream

Combine the milk, maple syrup and sugar in a bowl and beat with a whisk until well combined and the sugar has dissolved.  Stir in the cream.

Pour into your ice cream maker and let it mix until thickened (this takes about 25 minutes in my machine, but follow the directions for your own.)  If you want maple walnut ice cream you could add some chopped nuts into the cream during the last 5 minutes or so. 

Remove the ice cream from the machine into an airtight bowl and freeze for about 2 hours.  (Important step: while waiting for the ice cream to freeze, grab a spoon and “clean out” whatever is left in the ice cream maker.  Yum!)


Anyone else have favourite ice cream recipes? 

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I am truly blessed with wonderful family.  With my own family members living a few provinces away I feel lucky to have been welcomed into hubby’s family with open arms.  His parents, brother and sister-in-law are all wonderful people who I am happy to be related to.  When we get together we always have a great time.

This week-end my mother-in-law showed me how to make an evergreen wreath.  Growing up as a city girl I find I am still surprised to discover that people actually do these things I used to think only happened in the movies (like walk into a forest and cut down a Christmas tree with an axe, or visit the same forest to gather evergreen boughs for wreaths and garlands.) 

With snow softly falling outside we gathered at the dining room table with a big bucket of evergreen boughs. 

It smelled like Christmas already and we hadn’t even started yet!

We then cut the boughs into smaller “hands” which we piled in groups of 3 or 4. 

We then used green florists wire to attach the “hands” to the wire frame, alternating attaching them to the front and back.  (Maybe next year I will write a tutorial on this.  It was super fun and easy, if you have access to fresh greenery you really should give it a try!)

Ta da!

I have to admit I did have a few “oh dear” moments when my wreath seemed more like a wild square then a wreath, but with a little trimming I was quite happy with the result.

I tucked a little cedar in for variety. 

I usually just trim my wreaths with a simple bow and hang it on the door, but my mother-in-law had bags and bags of ribbons and flowers and pinecones that she had saved over the years.  It was too much fun to pass up! 

With the wreath now gracing our front door I feel like the holiday season has truly begun.   And with snow on the ground and more softly falling, it certainly does feel like Christmas is coming.

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This week was Pie Week on the Pioneer Woman’s blog.  (WordPress seems to be having technical difficulties this morning and I can’t insert links.  Sigh.  There is a link to her blog from my sidebar if you want to go take a look.)

I actually wasn’t particularly interested in the pies and kind of scanned through in my daily reading not expecting to find anything that I wanted to make. 

And then one caught my eye.  Cranberry Pie.  Now that’s something different.  I actually took the time to read the recipe – full of white flour and cups and cups of white sugar.  I promptly closed my browser without adding the recipe to favourites and wrote it off as a neat idea but something I would never duplicate.

But it sat there in the back of my mind.  Cranberry Pie.  I had frozen cranberries in my freezer.  I could make some substitutions to make it healthier.  I could try out the new palm sugar I just bought.  Finally I convinced myself that it could be done and I went back to the computer to print out the original. (http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2010/11/nantucket-cranberry-pie/)

And I am glad I did.

Although I am sure my version tastes nothing like the original, I love the sweetened, yet still slightly tart whole cranberries on the bottom, the crunch of the nuts, and the rustic crust on top.  With the honey and nuts it reminded me a little of butter tart squares, but a more wholesome less sickeningly sweet version.  I made half the recipe and created an 8-inch pie, which was perfect as hubby won’t touch anything made with cranberries.   Due to the lack of pastry it took no time at all to make and yet I think it still looks fancy enough to serve to guests (not that we were having guests, but if we did, I would feel confident serving it.)    

Cranberry Pie

  • 1 heaping cup of cranberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 1/3 cup pecans
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar (I used date palm sugar)
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • pinch of salt

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8-inch pie plate.  (This recipe is easily doubled for a larger pie so if you are serving a crowd go ahead and grease a 10-inch) 

Put the cranberries on the bottom of the pan and drizzle with honey.  Chop the pecans and sprinkle them over top. 

In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, butter, egg, almond extract and salt. 

This is the palm sugar I bought at our local bulk foods store.  It is grainy and not granular like sugar cane sugar, and from my understanding is a lot less processed.   

Slowly pour the batter over the cranberries, moving your bowl back and forth to cover the top evenly. 

Bake for 30 – 40 minutes (slightly longer if you doubled the recipe for a larger pie) until the top is cooked through and the cranberries are bubbling.

This was really yummy served with a little homemade maple ice cream, but would also be nice with whipped cream, or even eaten on its own.  Cranberries make it a great pie for Thanksgiving or Christmas, too!

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One of THOSE Friends

One of the hardest parts about moving to another part of the country was saying goodbye to all of my closest friends.  You know the kind I mean.  The ones that know all of the best and worst things about you and love you anyway.  The kind that you build silly traditions with and have that one word or phrase that you always say that can send you into a fit of giggles.   The kind who share enough similar interests to give you lots to talk about, but are different enough to challenge you.   The ones that you laugh with, and cry with, and just do life together with. 

The kind of friends that you treasure for they can be hard to find.

I prayed for a long time after I moved here that I would find that kind of friend again.  I did.  And I married him.  But I knew to make it in this world a woman needs her girlfriends, too. 

This week-end I brought one of my friends a bag of garlic.  As a gift.  And she was as happy as I knew she would be.

On the same day she had bought me a tomato cage.  As  a gift.  And I am so excited!  I went to bed last night thinking about the possibilities….

I think my prayers have been answered.  🙂

Do you have one of those friends?

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Easy Peasy Pear Crisp

Apple crisp is one of my favourite desserts of all time.  (I’m a simple girl, ok?)  I remember being a teenager and asking for a crisp with candles instead of birthday cake.  I have the apple crisp recipe from my old Betty Crocker cookbook memorized and can make it at a moment’s notice. 

As I have gotten older and become more experimental with my cooking I have tried crisp variations of all kinds, including apple cranberry, apple pineapple (with a little lime juice and nutmeg this is SOO good), mixed berry, peach, peach and ginger, the list goes on.  But somehow in all of this I had never made one with pears.

So I decided it was time to remedy that and came up with this little recipe.

I have adapted this recipe to reflect my healthier, no-sugar-except-for-honey-and-maple-syrup way of eating, so much so that I don’t think Betty Crocker would recognize it if she saw it.  She does deserve the credit for getting me started, though.  Thanks, Betty!

Easy Peasy Pear Crisp

  • 4 – 6 pears, cored and sliced (I like mine unpeeled, but you can do as you like)
  • 3 Tablespoons of honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup ground pecans (any nut will do, you can experiment!)
  • 1 cup rolled oats, ground into flour
  • 1/4 cup butter or coconut oil
  • allspice and cloves, to taste

Arrange the pears in the bottom of a baking pan. 

Drizzle with honey, vanilla and nutmeg and stir to combine. 

In a separate bowl combine the nuts, oatmeal, butter and spices and mix with a fork until crumbly.  ( A pastry blender or your fingers can help speed up this process).  Sprinkle over the fruit.

Bake at 350 degrees for about half an hour, or until the crisp is nicely browned and the pears are soft.  This is nice served with a little whipped cream or ice cream, or even with a little drizzle of maple syrup, but I also find it delicious right out of the pan. 

Ginger Pear Variation  If you like ginger (as I do) try adding a piece of finely chopped candied ginger in with the pears instead of the vanilla.  Yum!

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Quilted Pencil and Marker Rolls

I am taking a break from making handbags and decided to try something completely different.  It seems every sewer out there has made a few crayon or marker rolls, and I had some really cute fabric set aside to try making a few myself.

And then I came across some pictures of these beautiful, quilted rolls, where the background was colour-coded to the marker colours.  I knew I wanted to make one.  But of course, when the time came, do you think I could find those photos again?

So, I did what I do best.  I made it up on my own.  I am really happy with the way these turned out.  They are a great use for colourful scraps and although a lot more work intensive then the average marker roll, I think the end result is worth it.  Here is my first one, unrolled. 

I used batting scraps in between the layers of the quilted pieces and the front pocket is interfaced for durability. 

Here it is, all rolled up and ready to travel. 

I figured while I had the rainbow strips out and cut I might as well make a bunch.  Here are a few more. 

They work well with pencil crayons, too!

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A few More Satchels

What a great week-end for sewing!  I locked myself away all day Sunday and got a lot of things made, and came up with a whole list of other things I want to tackle.  I woke up this morning with my brain spinning with ideas…but alas, had to head off to work instead. 

I have definitely discovered that I am not a sewer who can handle making the same thing over and over.  I made two more satchels and have to admit that I am all satchelled out for the time being.  I do love the finished bags, though. 

The one on the right is made with some of my Grandmother’s fabric.  I think it is my new favourite.  The one behind was made from a pair of worn-out pants.  I love giving old fabrics new life!  I used blue for the topstitching to coordinate with the blue shirt I used for the lining.  The pocket inside is the pocket from the shirt. 

Isn’t recycling fun?

If you missed it, you can find my first group of satchels and information about the pattern here.

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I tucked myself away in the sewing room for as long as I could yesterday (if only cooking and eating didn’t take up so much time I’d have more time to sew!)  Sometimes I think my sewing room is a time warp.  I walked in there around 1:30 and couldn’t believe that it was 5:00 when I walked out.  I also discovered that I was hungry and thirsty once I left the room, but didn’t notice it at all when I was sewing, does this happen to you when you are being creative? 

I started by making this Small Satchel.  It is a Keyka Lou pattern.  It is the first of their patterns that I have tried and I love it.  It was super easy and the instructions were very well written.  I am really happy with the final result. 

I made the two-handle version because I like the way it looks with a bag of this size. 

I liked the pattern so well that I actually cut out 3 more to make right away.  I did, however, have to change it up a bit!   This second bag is made from a pair of corduroy pants.

Try as I might, I could not get the seam lines to be centered on the bag the way that I wanted (the seams on the pants weren’t straight to begin with….grr…)  Do you think it matters?  I was thinking maybe a fabric flower on the right would add a little pizzaz to the bag and help it not look so unbalanced.  Suggestions?

Instead of making the inside pocket from the pattern, I used one of the pants pockets.  I love the way it looks!

While in a recycling mood I decided to make another sweater friend.   I have always loved this grey sweater and thinks it looks great as a pig.  I added the contrasting ears and nose to this one just for something different. 

Oink, Oink!

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