Archive for June, 2011

Last week, a co-worker handed me a recipe for “Cranberry Almond Bread.”   She told  me it was “that amazing bread so-and-so’s mom brought into the school last week.”   There almost always seems to be some amazing treat in our school kitchen (which has led many of us to both love and fear going in there) but I must have missed out on the bread because I don’t remember it at all.   On the other hand, the last week of school was a whirlwind.   I packed as much as I could into those last days of school so I’m not too surprised that I missed out on the usual kitchen treats!

A quick glance at the recipe told me it was something I could work with, so I brought it home with me to test out.   I took it out tonight, and after my usual fiddling started to create the bread only to discover that I don’t own any almond extract.  So I threw caution to the wind and let the contents of my fridge be my guide, and as I write this I am now eating a very delectable bread that would probably be unrecognizable to the person who wrote the original recipe, but is excellent and worth sharing anyway.  (It is a rare thing to get a recipe right the first time you make rewrite it, so I am savouring this moment!)

Orange Cranberry Bread

  • 2 cups flour (I used 1 cup spelt and 1 cup whole wheat)
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  •  1 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 heaping Tbsp. orange marmalade
  • orange zest (optional – I didn’t have any to add, but I think it will give the bread a nice orangey zing.)
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1/2 tsp sugar (I used maple sugar)
  • 2 Tbsp sliced almonds

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine egg, honey, orange juice, applesauce, butter, marmalade, and orange zest.

Add the wet to the dry and stir until just moistened.

Fold in the cranberries.

Spread in a greased loaf pan.  (I always put a piece of parchment paper in the bottom of my loaf pans – it makes it very easy to get the loaf out of the pan.)

Sprinkle the almonds and sugar on top.

Bake for 40 minutes at 375 degrees, then reduce heat to 350 and bake for an additional 20 – 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  (You can see from the photo that I left mine in just a tad too long…)  Remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack.


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How are your gardens coming?  With all the wet weather, we’ve been experiencing a slow start this year, but the potatoes and onions are flourishing and I ate my first radish yesterday! 

Today I will continue my series on herbs with three more you will find growing in my garden.


In the GardenDill is an annual which I grow from seed in the garden each year.  It also does very well in pots on my sunny deck.  I plant this herb twice, in spring for a summer crop, and again in early summer, so I will have lots of seed heads for pickles in the fall.  I have not tried growing dill indoors, and probably wouldn’t, due to the height of this plant!

In the kitchenThe feathery leaves (often referred to as “dill weed”) are wonderful in many summer salads, especially cucumber salad!  I cut off the big seed heads in the fall to flavour pickles, and know that you can both collect the seeds and dry the leaves for winter cooking, although I have not done so myself. 

Lemon Balm

In the Garden: I added this herb to my garden last summer, when herbs were on sale for 25 cents a pot.  It grew well last year, and this spring was one of the first to appear in the spring garden and has more than doubled its size from last year already.    Mine grows in a sunny spot, but I’ve read that it is tolerant of partial shade, and that it can be aggressive, like mint.  Some recommend that it is actually better grown in pots, and, like mint,  I would imagine that it would also grow well indoors.

In the KitchenI have note yet used any of my Lemon Balm yet, although I love smelling its fragrance in the garden.  This summer I plan to brew some for iced tea, use it to add flavour to cold ice water, and maybe try some in fruit salad.  With its lemony flavour I would imagine it would be a good complement to fish. 


In the Garden:  Sweet Marjoram is an annual that I grow in my garden, and in pots on my deck.  The pots overwinter well indoors in a sunny window, and although its growth slows down, it can still be harvested in small amounts all winter long.   

In the Kitchen:  My primary use of marjoram is in roast chicken.  I slip some between the skin and breast meat (along with some thyme) and also use some to stuff the cavity (usually along with a lemon, and rosemary).  It is also sometimes used in soups and stuffing recipes. 

This post was written with help from Herb Gardening in Five Seasons by Adelma Grenier Simmons (Hawthorn Books, 1964)   Don’t you love discovering great old books?  

Do you have any herb tips or recipes to share?  Please leave them in the comments, and don’t forget about our Facebook page for posting your photos, asking questions, or linking up your gardening blog posts!

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It’s that time of year again, when flowers and weddings are in full bloom.  I actually have attended very few weddings myself, which is perhaps why I found myself without anything suitable to wear for the wedding hubby and I are attending today. 

In a long story involving dresses that didn’t fit, and a very busy sewing room, I ended up being able to borrow a cute pink dress from a friend.  (Thank God for good friends.  What would we do without them?)   With the cool and rainy weather we were having I knew I might need a jacket to go over the dress, so I headed to the fabric store and purchased New Look 6935.  

I used an off-white linen I already had on hand with cotton lining.  I made a size 8, and said a little prayer as I cut it out as I didn’t have time for a test run.  Luckily, it fits beautifully!  And I was very thankful to have it on this cold and rainy day!

The pattern was very easy to follow, and I would definitely make one of these again.  I also hope to try the dress someday soon. 

I own two classy evening bags, but both are dark velvet and didn’t seem right with this light ensemble, so a quick online search found me this tutorial from Sew, Mama, Sew. 

It was quite easy to make, and the only change I made was to make mine with fusible fleece, instead of the layers of interfacing sugeested in the tutorial.  It’s the perfect size, and looks nice with the pink dress.   

Now I’m dressed and ready to go! 

What have you been sewing lately? 


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For the next few weeks, while the garden plants are settling in or sprouting, I thought I would feature the herbs that I grow in my garden.  Next to tomatoes, they are the garden plants I get asked about the most.

I decided to begin with three fairly standard herbs, and the ones that most often find their way into my kitchen.


In the garden: Basil comes in many different varieties, but for the past several years I have just grown the standard sweet basil, and lots of it!  It’s an annual, so it needs replanting each spring, and it grows well from seed in pots or right in a sunny garden, although you can also find basil plants at most garden centers.  I haven’t had any luck growing basil indoors, as its requirements for sun far outstrip what our sunniest windows can provide.

In the Kitchen  Where there are tomatoes, there can be basil.  Basil is beautiful in tomato sandwiches, in salads, mixed in bruschetta, cooked in pasta sauces, or made into pesto.  I grow many plants so that I can make pesto in the fall and then freeze it to last throughout the winter. 


In the GardenChives are an easy-to-grow perennial that come up year after year.  They are one of the first plants to appear in my garden in the spring and have pretty purple flowers.  When the plants get too big, you can simply dig some of it out and plant it somewhere else.  From a very small chive plant I had three years ago, I now have chives growing in three different spots in my garden.   Chives grow very well in pots and can be over-wintered indoors in a window and set outside again in the spring. 

In the Kitchen:  Besides the standard sour cream & chive baked potato topping, I think chives are wonderful chopped into salads, mixed into potato dishes of all kinds, or used as a garnish on creamy soups or cheese sauces.



In the Garden:  This plant is refered to as cilantro when harvesting leaves, and coriander when harvesting the seeds.  It is a self-seeding plant that will come up year after year (if you don’t harvest all of the seeds, of course!)  Mine did well both in pots and in the garden, although you need a good-sized pot to get a decent harvest.  My garden plants grew to a much greater size and had many more leaves to harvest than my potted plants.  If you like the leaves (like I do) you will want to replant this herb all summer long to guarantee a continuous supply of thick leaves, as they tend to thin out as the plant grows taller. 

In the Kitchen:  Cilantro is a wonderful accompaniment to spicy foods, and I include it in salsas, guacamole, burritos, bean salads, quesadillas, nachos, and spicy tomato soup.  I did not collect the coriander seeds last year as I do not often use coriander in my kitchen – perhaps that will be something to try this year! 

What herbs do you grow in your garden?  If you have any tips or recipes to share, please let us know in the comments.  And don’t forget our Facebook page where you can link up your blog posts and share your garden photos!

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How is your garden growing?  My veggie garden is now planted, but I still have flowers and herbs and plants to go (oh my!)  Numerous end-of-school-year projects and wet spring weather are keeping me from being in the garden as much as I would like, and have kept this post a day later than usual.

Today I am sharing with you some helpful links on topics that some of you mentioned a few months ago when this whole grow-along idea was born.  If you know of any more, please share them in the comments!  (and don’t forget our Facebook group!  You can post your photos and link your blog posts, or let me know what you might like to see covered in a future post!) 

Herb Gardening

Herb Gardening Guru


Container Gardening

How to plant in pots

Balcony Gardening

Life on the Balcony

Gardening with Kids

KidsGardening.org  (information for parents and teachers)

I didn’t come up with any amazing links for garden planning or flower gardening, (and I looked through a lot of web-sites and blogs.)  Does anyone have favourites they would like to share?

Happy Growing!

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As I mentioned on Tuesday, Jeannie from Life on the Clothesline is visiting today to share one of her favourite old-fashioned recipes (with a bonus recipe for chicken strips thrown in too!)  This is the second post in her series on recipes from her Gram’s cookbook (sound familiar?) You can check out the first post on her blog.  Enjoy!

Hi!  I’m Jeannie from over at Life on the Clothesline.  My blog is about old timey things, clotheslines, old recipes, crafts… things that my great grandmother would have done.  
Gram was my best friend for most of my childhood (always nice to be the favorite of someone isn’t it?) until she passed when I was 16.  When I was little, we’d go and visit her at her house (my grandmother and her lived together for most of their lives… ) where she would always cook our favorite dinner – fried chicken, mashed potatoes, slaw and tapioca pudding with oreos for dessert.  YUM.  Well, grandma would make the pudding, but gram did the rest.  
Gram always waited to start the slaw until I got there, so that I could help.  We’d stand at her kitchen sink, looking out into the yard and driveway, cutting the cabbage up and then slowly shredding it by hand.  She would give me the white cabbage cores to nibble on, always a special treat, and then later, after the slaw was put together, let me “test” it to make sure that it tasted OK.  It was always fabulous and I loved it as much because it really was yummy and also because she made it just for me.
Recently, my mother gave me an old hand written cookbook that we determined was Gram’s wedding shower cookbook.  On my blog, I have started a series of posts of the recipes from this nearly 100 year old book.  The first post was this week, so if you’re into some funky old timey recipes, please stop by and visit.  
Now, on to Gram’s Slaw recipe…
Gram’s Slaw
Layer, ending with cabbage:
1 head cabbage, shredded
1 sliced or chopped onion
6-9 large carrots, shredded
1 c. sugar
In a pan, boil:
1 c. sugar
1 c. white vinegar 
1 c. canola oil 
1 t. salt
1 t. celery seed
1 T. dry mustard
Pour over the cabbage and let sit in a crock for 24 hours.  Stir after the day is up.
OK – so some things that I’ve learned over the years… 
The bags of shredded cabbage that are next to the bags of pre-washed salad work well for this – you’ll need at least 2 bags.  However, cabbage (and this recipe in general) is super cheap, and if you can stand it, shred it by hand or use a food processor.  That’s what I used and it was super easy.   To core a cabbage, cut  the cabbage into quarters.  
Then, cut out the center white part.  It tastes good, but is tough and hard to chew…
I also used the processor to shred the carrots.  The carrots were not in the original recipe, but don’t change the taste at all and add some pretty color and nutrition to the slaw.  You can use green or purple cabbage, but purple has more nutritional value, so I always go for that.
Please only use white vinegar, apple cider does not taste good in this.  Also, as it will have to sit in the fridge, canola oil is your best bet – not olive oil, which will congeal in the fridge and while taste OK, not look appetisingat all.

Have your cabbage layered in the bowl before starting the vinegar mix.  You want to pour boiling hot vinegar/oil over the cabbage so that it wilts the cabbage as it cools down.  
And, as Gram always had fried chicken, I made up some baked chicken strips to go along with the slaw… My 3 year old loved them…
Chicken Strips
Oven at 375.
Take 1 cup seasoned bread crumbs.  Pour in 2 T olive oil and mix well with a fork.  Dip the chicken strips into water, then into the bread crumb mix.  Coat well.  Place on a foil lined baking tray and bake for 15-20 minutes until the juices inside run clear.
Enjoy the slaw and the chicken and please let your kids eat the cabbage cores – they really are yummy!

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Check Out My Line!

I’m being featured today on a really fun blog I discovered through the Sew, Mama, Sew Giveaway!  The owner actually found me, and I’m glad she did, because we seem to be kindred bloggers.  The name of her blog?  Life on the (Clothes) Line.   So please head on over and check out my laundry line post (and while you’re there you can take a look at some other neat laundry line set-ups too.)   Later this week, Jeannie will be guest posting here, sharing one of her  favourite old-fashioned recipes.   (The tagline of her blog is” Old-fashioned Wisdom in a Modern Era.”  We were destined to meet, don’t you think?)

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I can hardly believe it, but I’ve won the Extreme Makeover sewing challenge!  I was up against some pretty talented ladies!  Thanks to everyone for your support over the last six weeks! (well….seven weeks….we had two weeks for this last challenge.)  I definitely think I’ve stretched myself as a seamstress and I am so happy with my tidy sewing room.

Here is what I made this week:

A trio of aprons.

This one is from the “Sew Liberated” book (I know, it’s been a theme over the last few weeks, but I have loved having the opportunity to sew from it!)  My favourite part is the corset back.  Check this out:

And then I made two half aprons.

This fabric from my grandmother was calling out to be made into aprons.  I sort of made it up as I went, but I got the idea for a bow in the front from this tutorial.  I had a little fabric left so I made a matching bread bag.  It’s just a simple drawstring bag, but I got the idea here.

Then I made a messenger bag and water bottle tote.  I used the bag tutorial here and the water bottle tote tutorial here.  The applique was inspired (again) by Sew Liberated. 

I always carry a reusable bag in my purse, but it is always coming unfolded.  I couldn’t resist this tutorial for a fold-up pocket tote. 

And then I made two skirts.  The first is, once again, from Sew Liberated.  The one in the book is covered with applique, I haven’t decided if I will applique this one or leave it as it is.  I am really happy with the way it turned out, I’m definitely getting more comfortable with knits!

This second one is based on the two-tier skirt from Sew What Skirts.  I love this fabric, and I loved the two-tiered look, but I have come to realize that I just don’t like the look of elastic waist-bands on skirts.  I think I’d like to try one with buttons while I work on improving my zipper skills! 

Finally, I worked on a very special quilt top. I found the traditional pieced blocks among my grandmother’s fabrics (so sorry for everyone who thought I’d pieced the whole thing myself – eek, I didn’t think of that when I was posting it…).  I also found most of the fabrics she had used to make them.  Last week I created the square within a square blocks and made the pieced border.  (That border caused me a bit of trouble.  I have never done anything like it before, and there were times when I wasn’t sure it would be worth it, but I LOVE it on the quilt!)  This is definitely a quilt I will cherish as made by my grandmother’s hands and my own.  In honour of my grandmother I am even considering hand-quilting it, but haven’t decided yet. 

Total fabric used this week:  19 yards

Total fabric used over 6 weeks: 74 yards!!!  If someone had told me you could use that much fabric in a month and a half I wouldn’t have believed them. 

My sewing room has become a much more neat and organized place.




After: (that box is history!)



Whew!  Must be time to go to the fabric store!   (Just kidding….)

Thanks to Wildflowers and Whimsy and Extra Ordinary Bree for hosting the challenge, and thanks to you for joining in on this adventure with me!

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Did everyone get their planting done?  We have all of our edible garden planted (for the most part) but I still have flower gardens and pots to do.  What a rainy spring we have been having!

Here are some things about garden planting we have learned along the way.

1.  Make a Plan

This is especially helpful for the veggie garden.  By making a plan you can make sure you have room for everything you want to grow, and you can also make room for companion planting.   Did you know that tomatoes and potatoes should never be planted together?  We didn’t, and had diseased plants of both types last year.  This year I used the list in this book extensively when planting both veggies and herbs this year.    There are a few online lists too, like the one found here.  Hubby created a beautiful computer drawing of our garden this year – but in the past we have done this by hand. 

2.  Prepare Your Soil

Nothing worse than planting your garden only to have nothing grow.  Add your organic matter and dig it in.  Check out this post if you missed it.

3.  Give each plant the room it needs.

When planting tiny seeds and little seedlings it is easy to forget how big they will become and plant them close together.  Crowded plants are more likely to become diseased and will often produce a diminished crop.  Follow the guidelines on the seed packet, give your plants room to grow!

4.  Stagger your planting of quick crops (lettuces, peas, beans) so you can harvest all season.

Despite being an avid vegetable gardener, hubby doesn’t actually like eating most vegetables.  When we used to plant all of our seeds all at once, everything would be ready to harvest at the same time, and most of it went to the neighbours or to waste, because I just couldn’t eat it all myself.  Spreading out the seed planting in 2 – 4 week intervals gives me veggies throughout the season, in smaller amounts.  Some day I want to try succession planting, but I don’t think I’ll be ready for it this year!

How to Plant Your Seedlings

1.  Dig a hole slightly bigger and deeper than the soil around your seedling.

2.  Pour water into the hole.

3.  Place your plant in.  If you have leggy tomato plants, bury them right up to the bottom leaves.  If they are really leggy, you can tip them on their side when planting (you’ll have to dig a longer hole.)  This will give you strong roots.   If your plants have a lot of root growth already and especially if they are root-bound (you can see the roots in the soil when you pull it out of the container) break up the roots gently with your fingers before planting. 

4.  Place the soil back around the plant, filling in above the soil they were potted in.  Water again.

5.  Give your new plant some protection from wind and slugs.  We use tin cans and yogurt containers with the bottoms cut out.  These are fairly effective, although sometimes the slugs still get in, and sometimes the wind just blows them away. 

6.  Keep your new seedlings well watered. 

Do you have any gardening planting tips and tricks?  Please leave them in the comments.  Don’t forget you can post your pictures and blog links on our Facebook page!

Happy growing!

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Week 6 – Time to Vote!

I know I have been a little scarce this week. Between writing reports for school, planting the garden, and the last week of the sewing challenge, it seems every spare minute has been full.

But this is it. The last week of the challenge.  Please take a minute to go and vote for your favourite. I’m up against some pretty talented competition!

Win or lose, it’s been an awesome six weeks of sewing, and I can’t wait to share with you all of the great tutorials I found for this week’s round of projects.

Thanks again for your support!

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