23 December, 2012

Vacation Books (Weekend Reads)

Time for a bit of a vacation. In my perfect world I would stay at home - a clean home - and sew for weeks on end with only myself to feed. This would indeed be a break. But my Hubby wants us, and rightly so, to take a real vacation from our lives. That means no sewing and writing for me and no Blackberry for him.

(Yeah, we'll see how long either of us last.)

So I've collected a few books for some uninterrupted afternoons. Maybe I'll actually finish a novel or two, instead of it taking me 6 months of reading five minutes a day before I fall asleep, book in hand and drool on the corner of my mouth.

If you've got any favourite vacation read suggestions, I'll take them.

In other news, today we tackled the first project in my new basement studio. It isn't quite done yet, but it is clean and is now home to a cutting table and sofa bed. The girls and I made a Christmas present and everything about it was perfect, right down to their erratic hand stitches. Just perfect.

And ready for a vacation.

Happy Holidays to all of you, we'll see you in January!

19 December, 2012

They Never Stop

Gee, maybe I should write a book about scrap quilts?

(This is the top of a queen size bed, for reference.)

I started looking through my bags of scraps this morning, all in search of one particular fabric for a stocking I started. After getting through 2 unsorted bags from recent work (yes, I don't always listen to my own advice) I remembered that I'd used it. Sigh.

Well, no time like the present to enlist my 4 year old in a colour game.

18 December, 2012

Paper Chains

 As I was saying on the weekend, I am aiming simply these days. It is easy for me to not get caught up in the holiday hoopla, I'm rather good at ignoring a lot of things. Just like I ignore the dog hair dinosaurs on the floor and the sinks we're using as nightstands. That being said, I still want to give the kids something special about the holiday and enjoy my own traditions, the ones I actually enjoy.

The highlight for me is always chopping down our tree. A drive to the mountains, a stomp through the forest, snacks by the bonfire afterwards. It is one of the Christmas preps we do together as a family and I will defend this tradition to my death.

But then I have to decorate the tree. That, I could do without. Thankfully the girls are old enough now to be decent at hanging ornaments and actually get excited by it.

I did something different this year though. I've come to the realization that when it comes to creativity my girls are like me, process oriented. They don't care so much for the final product as the act of creating. I milked that predilection to create decorations this year, instead of pulling out our mishmash of vintage and collected.

We spent an hour making paper chains from leftover scrapbooking paper (but any construction paper would do too). I listened to them sing this as they held each and every link to dry:

Gummy bears are good for me.
One is red, one is blue.
One is nipping at my shoe.
Now I'm running for my life.
Because the red one has a knife.

Yup, super Christmasy in this house.

The paper chains are on the tree, accompanied by snowflakes lovingly made after dinner the other night as we drank wine with friends. Just a little bit of tinsel and our tree is done. It is pretty and simple and soft and I love it. Done.

16 December, 2012

The Creative Family (Weekend Reads)

The detritus of a Sunday morning. Paper snowflakes, tea, books for Mama and The Monster, plus a few random toys.

We no longer have a TV upstairs (saving the giant creature for the new basement). This means are mornings are quieter and more creative. I LOVE it. Friends thought I'd miss it but it is one of the best things ever. We've all simplified and slowed down a little. Mornings aren't so frantic and noisy. The kids don't think of TV all the time, and we're creating together just a little bit more.

This morning I pulled out The Creative Family to read with my tea. I come back to this book all the time. Written by the popular Amanda Blake Soule of Soule Mama, it a book all about slowing down, creating, and celebrating family. Since I was feeling grinchy and frustrated by this year's holiday season I sought out her gentle advice.

Now, I'm never going to move my family to a farm and despite my domesticity I will likely never be considered even an urban homesteader, but I love visiting with Amanda through her books and blog to remind me that my way is not the only way to be. I don't have to get caught up in crap, in the pursuit of perfection, in material thoughts. She radiates beauty and creativity and nurturing. I'm all city! Colour! Shouting! Maniac! Going to her spaces that she shares encourages and reminds me that I don't have to get caught up in the energy.

The Creative Family is a resource for me for activities and attitude to slow down and celebrate the simple for at least a moment. I get tonnes of ideas for presents (homemade cards!), for family activities like drawing nights, and an attitude adjustment. It isn't the prettiest of books inside, despite Amanda's photography skills, but it still works. The pursuit of the creative and the calm simplicity comes through.

And so, today, this weekend, when I think of children lost and families broken I am encouraged by the simple, by the rituals of my own family, by tokens for Christmas and holding my littles near.

13 December, 2012

Holiday Reading

With all the chaos I've also been feeling very Grinchy. Bah Humbug to Christmas and all that! I would love nothing more than to crawl under a heavy load of quilts until January. Unfortunately, or fortunately, the kids don't let you get away with that.

I'm not sure where I'll land on the effort for Christmas this year, we're only just starting to think about the holiday in this house. The Evil Genius is off school as of tomorrow so I anticipate some baking and crafting. Shopping hasn't even started, although Hubby and I agree we're going small this year. A tree chopping adventure awaits. For now, something easy and simple. 

All the winter/Christmas books were pulled from the shelf and gathered in the living room. We've removed the TV from this space. Woohoo! I am definitely cheering about that. It has become a cozier, quiet space filled with colouring, handsewing, and lots of reading. So bring on the books about hockey (where else are we going to get it?), snow, bears, and the upcoming holiday. 

Perhaps my nights spent reading will change my spirits?

Any favourite winter/holiday reading recommendations?

12 December, 2012

Making Progress

I promised myself that I wouldn't start anything new, nothing at all, until at least two things on that massive WIP list got done. Two steps forward, one step back is the story of my life after all. Seeing as I'm desperate to play with some new fabric, need to make a couple or three stockings, and there are pillows needed for our new sofa I thought I better get going on getting things done.

So here is an update:

- Anniversary Quilt is now basted, thanks to Lee, her big family room floor, and her daughter keeping my littles entertained.
- Maple Leaves is quilted and waiting for its binding later today.
- Wine Gums is half quilted, binding already picked out.
- Gum on Concrete is also basted.

It must also be stated that I picked out the fabric for the pillows for the new sofa (and bought the pillow forms) as well as drafted my plan for the Architextures fabric.

Oh, and while helping Lee baste a charm quilt yesterday I remembered that I have 2000+ charms for a Y2K charm swap I did 13 years ago! The box is somewhere in the garage, hopefully not being used as a nest for mice. I think that might win for my oldest UFO.

Two steps forward, one step back.

09 December, 2012

Clippings from the 60s (Weekend Reads)

Well, it's been a bit of a rough week. That's why you haven't seen me here.

Our basement is all but done. Doors need to be hung and a last coat of paint to touch up. Our ensuite still needs its vanity and closets, but that's it. That WAS it, until we had a sewage back-up this week. Now we are back to no bathrooms at all, chipped up tiles, and a few more months before the repairs covered by insurance get done. Le sigh.

Needless to say that tackling the mess and hassle - all while Hubby was off driving fast cars on a boys trip to Alabama - was enough to keep me from much in the way of creativity. And because of the added mess downstairs I decided I needed to tackle some of the disorder upstairs and completely reorganize the living room. That necessitated emptying our entertainment unit, thus finding these papers tucked away.

It was months, if not more than a year ago, that I grabbed this bundle of newspaper clippings from my Mom's place. Recipes, short stories, and little ideas that she'd clipped from a Saskatchewan newspaper in the first years of her marriage in the early 60s. Taking a break from cleaning yesterday I sipped my tea, admired her very careful trimming of the articles, and flipped through the paper.

Did you know that they used canned pineapple A LOT back then? Or that you could make frankfurter tetrazzini as a great fast supper when you've got curling to get to? And that there is something in the world called sweet pickled bacon?!?!

I kept a few of the clippings, like the Christmas baking one or some that just seemed too weird that they begged for recipe testing. Then there was the one advertising a house just like mine, for a mortgage of $50 a month! Bet they didn't have sewage problems in 1963.

02 December, 2012

Ripe (Weekend Reads)

It's not just because we both have the same name. It's not because she is wickedly funny. It's not because I tested recipes for her book. You should get Ripe because it is just a damn good book.

This is my favourite cookbook from this year. Cheryl Sternman Rule is a great writer. The kind of writer I want to grow up and be someday. It makes the recipes in here a joy to simply read. She is a great cook, inspiring with a simplicity in her recipes that makes them very approachable. And did I mention that she is terribly funny?

One of the best things about this cookbook is that is arranged by colour. I know! How awesome is that? Unlike the typical and trendy seasonal arrangement, you can literally read and cook through the rainbow. This appeals to the quilter in me, obviously, but it also appeals to the Mama in me. My kids flip through it looking for something in a specific colour, just because they want to eat that colour. This is a far more appealing way to get kids interested in vegetables than by making goofy faces on their plates.

I was able to test a few recipes for Cheryl and they've easily become part of my regular repertoire, like the Smashed Cherries with Amaretti and Ricotta. I leave out the cookies and toss in more almonds and I have breakfast. Or dinner in the summer when it is too hot to cook. I've also made a dozen more recipes since getting the book. You need to try the Grapefruit Honey Sorbet. Seriously, this book is worth it just for that recipe.

I'd love to share a recipe from the book with you, but there is no way an adaptation can capture the humour and spirit that come with each entry. You just need to fill a bowl with something yummy, settle in for a good laugh and a growing appetite.