Dec. 13 – or Where is this month going?

This month has been a whirlwind of activity – as usual. I feel like I live my life from one deadline to the next, and I know I’m not alone here. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not complaining. Having nothing to do would be the worst thing that I could possibly imagine, but somehow a compromise between ends of the spectrum sounds like a good idea. I’m not sure I’ll ever get there.

Here’s a glimpse of my month so far. The first shot shows the elves the first time they made coffee with me. They’re very helpful, and they’re not fussy about how their coffee turns out.

Next my daughter, Devon, came for a quick visit. Whatever time I get to spend with my family is a good time. We made a day trip to Lethbridge to visit my parents – and Felix. It was an excellent day.

I was impressed with the Christmas veggie display at the grocery store. It’s great to see people infusing the Christmas spirit into the produce department! My fibre group, Contextural, had their December meeting/pot luck at my house. I stitched together a new tablecloth to celebrate the evening. We have some very talented members and the food was delicious!

Last Saturday was a workday for our Calgary chapter of Days for Girls. It’s always fun working with the enthusiastic volunteers supporting a very worthy cause.

My activity report wouldn’t be complete without a photo of my assistant/companion, Kush. Sometimes she actually lets me work by sleeping next to where I’m working. Not like now – as I type across her body.

coffee elvesDevonFelixveggiestable setDfGKush

Lastly I’m including some pics of my favorite Christmas decorations. I have a number of large glass vases filled with beautiful ornaments, so I’m showing some close up views as well. In case I don’t get back to my blog before the 25, I’d like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas!

vasesvases 2

vase detail 2vase detailvase detal 3

Christmas is coming – it must be time to bake!

How did it get to be December already? Am I the only one who just noticed that Christmas is now less than a month away? Good thing I’ve started Christmas baking. First of all, let me share with you my big baking news for 2013. Every year for as long as I can remember, I have baked dark fruit cake for Christmas. I think the most I baked in one year was 70 cakes, and these were regular sized cakes – not Gulliver’s Lilliputian sized ones. However, this year, I am not baking cakes. As much as I think people enjoy them, I doubt that anyone will be too disappointed, and I will have saved myself days worth of work. Now, if I could only figure out where those days have gone…

But back to the baking. Every Christmas season I bake with my good friend, Lois. We bake a number of recipes which have become our family standards, and then try one or two different recipes as well. On a recent Sunday we spent about seven hours baking. We baked gingerbread snowflakes and stars, two types of biscotti and loads of magic toffee. It was a great day. Then the following Friday we baked for nearly 10 hours. This time we baked gingersnaps, mocha slices, pecan crunch cookies and some green tea shortbread. We still have one more baking day scheduled together, along with our special invited guest baker, Barb, from Just a Smidgen. I wonder if she knows what she’s getting herself into!

Here are a few photos of the baking so far.gingerbread snowflakes and stars magic toffee gingersnaps mocha cookies twice dipped pecan crunch cookies cookie assortment unbaked green tea cookies green tea shortbread cookiesMust point out a couple of thing. Note the sleeping cat in a box (supervisory position) above the cookie assortment. The green tea shortbreads were bright green before baking, but the color was more mellow and golden after baking. The recipe was for green tea shortbread leaves, but after struggling with 2 or 3 leaves, I decided that we should bake green tea shortbread coins. Much better. The taste of macha tea was subdued after baking and quite delicious.

I’ll post more photos after our last baking session. Perhaps I’ll arrange them on a pretty plate for the photo shoot. (Actually I will prepare a plate for an upcoming Christmas gathering.) I don’t like to do cookie platters until I have a full selection of baked goods to choose from. It just doesn’t seem right to put together a “partial” plate. Time to get back to work on some of the baking I do by myself. It’s not as much fun as baking with a friend, but I still love it!

2013 : ready or not, here I come

Whew, a sigh of relief as the first day of the year comes to a close. Oldest son, Brad, was home for a visit and I was busy doing things with him today. All the usual things that need doing before one of your children heads back to their home city.

We started the day with a family breakfast. Nothing fancy, just fried potatoes (chopped leftover cooked potatoes and carrots, fried onions and bacon diced and browned, lightly seasoned and all mixed together), sunny side up eggs and toast. Such a treat now that both boys eat eggs. Seems only yesterday that one of them wouldn’t eat eggs and the other one only liked them cooked like rubber… The only downside to breakfast was the realization that the dishwasher decided to give up the ghost. That just meant more family fun time as we washed the dishes in no time flat. (Must start researching new dishwashers in the morning.)

I sewed some burlap bags out of coffee sacks. Didn’t think to take pictures – oh no – that would be too easy. Trust me, they were cute. Brad brought the sacks home from work, and it was his idea to have bags in different sizes for as yet undetermined use. Great – I’ll be cleaning burlap fibers out of my sewing machine and the studio for the next few weeks. Thanks, Brad.

Recently I bought a couple of sewing machines at Ikea. They are simple little machines that would be useful for anyone to own. They sew basic straight stitch and zig zag, plus do several decorative stitches and make buttonholes. For most people this little machine is all that is necessary for repairs and occasional projects. And for a mere $80 – what a steal of a deal! Due to some obvious interest, I gifted a machine to each of my boys. That meant that on today’s agenda I needed to teach Brad to use his sewing machine. I demonstrated and Brad practiced the basics of threading, filling bobbins and sewing. I rounded up a few basic tools and some extra thread, pins and sewing machine needles to round out his gift. We boxed the machine and packed it into a suitcase, with plenty of clothing for padding. Can’t wait to see what he creates. Did I think to take photos of Brad at the machine? Well, no, in fact I didn’t.

I practiced the ancient art of sock darning (at least it seems like a very long time since I’ve done any) on Brad’s favorite hand-made socks. I just happened to have the perfect color of wool yarn in with my crewel embroidery supplies. Doesn’t everybody?

We went out for a dinner of Indian food at a restaurant called “Green Chile” since I was far too busy doing other domestic chores to whip up a nutritious dinner. The food was quite good, but the restaurant was busy so the service was not as good as usual. At least we didn’t have any dishes to wash! Brad was quite impressed with how gentle Kush has become since spending so much time with me. Well, pretty gentle, and more so when her nails are trimmed. Before he left for the airport, he spent a little time chilling with Kush while she was enjoying a gift box. Before we knew it, it was time to head to the airport. I opted to say my good-byes at the door and stay home to blog. What a good mother I am.

Brad and Kush I did manage to put away a few of the sparse Christmas decorations that we had out this year. I’m anxious to get all the holiday decor put away and the “let’s just stash it here for now” piles sorted and put away properly so that I can get to work in the studio. Marc’s quilt is calling to me. Actually there are so many projects calling to me that I might need to start wearing earplugs if I don’t get busy! So to start the year off with a bang, here is a photo of the Ikea sewing machine. This is Marc’s machine – not fully unpacked but with all the hype on the machine I thought I should include a picture. I’ll take photos when I give Marc his sewing lesson so that you can see the machine in action. With a promise like that I’ll bet you can hardly wait for my next post…

Ikea sewing machine

coastal christmas

For several reasons, we decided to spend Christmas in Victoria with family. It’s always a different experience spending Christmas away from home, but I think it’s important to make the effort to share time together. My daughters were not able to come home for the holidays so we visited with them on Skype. That’s not as good as being together, but it’s the best we could do. Here are a few shots with impressions of Christmas in a fair weather city.

beautiful rainbow

hotel in the distance

angel

Christmas tree

cinnamon buns

tortilla pie

cornbread

guacamole

salsa

 

tree ornaments

another Chinese ornament

assorted ornaments

Chinese ornament

snowman ornament

Kush knew something was up as soon as the suitcases were laid out. She jumped into the available space, but unfortunately she had to stay at home. Hope she’s not too mad at us for leaving her in the care of a friend. I know Christopher will take good care of her so I don’t have to worry.

Our hotel is on the ocean. The large building in the distance in the second photo is where we are staying – the Oak Bay Beach Hotel. Our room has a great view of the hotel driveway, but that hasn’t stopped us from enjoying the area. A little rain was followed by a magnificent rainbow. Christmas day has been rainy and cool, but we’ve been far too busy to let that bother us.

My sister-in-law, Janet, puts up a beautiful tree. We share a similar taste in ornaments so it makes me feel very much at home. We both love hand-made ornaments as well as special ones picked up on our travels. The whole house is beautifully decorated and festive. Janet is an excellent cook, and we have eaten like kings – really well fed kings – since we arrived. On Christmas morning there were freshly baked cinnamon buns for while we opened gifts, followed by an outstanding brunch of tortilla pie with guacamole, salsa, sour cream and yummy corn bread. I’ll try to list some of our other meals, but now I’m too full to be thinking about any more food. Think I’d better sign off as we have a full day planned for tomorrow. I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas.