December 19, 2010

More Christmas Baking

Well, I've been kind of sick the last week and therefore lazy. This weekend I ended up having to catch up on all my regular house chores and do my Christmas baking (since I'm having people pver for Boxing Day). The baking turned out so-so. I made chocolate chip cookies, which were fine but nothing really special, and some sugar cookies, again not so special. The sugar cookies ended up being not very pretty or sweet but I'll set them out with a chocolate fondue so they'll be fine. I wanted to make pretty swirled ones like these: Mine are swirled but not as pretty, damn that Martha Stewart and her perfection!

I did however manage to make some good Rugalach, I've only ever made it with these two types of fillings but I know jam is pretty popular as well. This recipe makes 32 cookies.

Rugalach Cookies:
1 cup butter (room temp.)
250g cream cheese (room temp.)
3 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt

Cinnamon Filling:
3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butterscotch chips
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp milk
1 tsp vanilla

Chocolate Filling:
1 cup finely chopped chocolate (dark)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp milk
1 tsp vanilla

Steps:
1. Cream together butter, cream cheese until smooth, then add the flour and salt.
2. Wrap dough and chill for an hour.
2. Mix together filling ingredients (chocolate or cinnamon) and preheat oven to 350F.
3. Cut the dough into 4 pieces and form into balls.
4. Roll each dough ball into round discs about 8 inches in diameter and cut each disc into 8 triangles.
5. Sprinkle filling at the widest end of the triangle and roll (from wide end) inwards like a croissant.
DSC00765
6. Bake for 15-20 minutes.

DSC00766

December 15, 2010

DIY Glitter House

Well, as you may have read, I really, really want a Cardboard Putz House, but I probably don't have enough time for shipping (plus I've already spent quite a bit this Christmas) or time to attempt to make one myself. Luckily, I was at Michaels (a craft store) looking for my one last gift for a crafty friend when I saw these:

DSC00758

A little cardboard house and a church ornament. I'm pretty sure that I've seen these before, so they are probably pretty easy to find elsewhere in the world. I snipped off the loops (for hanging) and painted them using acrylic paints:

DSC00759

One they were dry, I coated small sections (for example the roof, one side, etc.) in all-purpose white glue and sprinkled (a heavy sprinkle) them with clear glitter. This part takes quite awhile since it's best to wait for the glue to dry a bit before doing another section. Make sure to do this part over a bag or newspaper because glitter is messy. The glue will look murky until it completly dries, but it will dry clear so don't worry.

and here is the final product:

DSC00760

Aren't they cute? The plan is to make a couple each year and eventually I'll end up with a whole town. Next time I'll try making them from scratch.

December 14, 2010

Cardboard Glitter Houses or Putz Houses

I’ve found this hilarious blog that I felt I had to share. It’s called Jen but never Jenn, the author is a Canadian writer from Toronto and on top of being funny, she’s conducted an experiment called “the 50’s housewife experiment”. She tried to be the perfect, idealized 50’s housewife for two weeks (click the title to check it out). It’s pretty inspiring and reminds me of Ruth’s Mid-Century menu post on the No Pattern Required blog. One day, when I have the time I think I may just have to steal this idea for myself, meat and gelatine intrigue me and my house could definitely use a good strong retro cleaning. Recently Jen posted about Cardboard Putz Houses, I had not heard of these before but man, are they cute. I have decided that I need one, NEED. Check these out:

These little cardboard houses have apparently been around for a long time, the tradition starting in German. It gained popularity in the 20s when Japanese companies started producing brightly colours, sparkly variety’s for dirt cheap; they were sold in dime stores. The house had little velum windows and a hole in the back where you could insert a bulb from a string of lights, making the windows light up. These little Putz house are the precursors to the lovely Ceramic Christmas Villages that people have now. The cardboard house remained popular into the forties, when they were slowly replaced with plastic and ceramic houses.

I’ve always liked the ceramic villages so it’s not really a surprise that I like these. I think these would go great with my candy-coloured Christmas stuff and I plan on eventually having my own little town of them. You can find vintage Cardboard Putz houses on eBay and Esty, and there is a site that makes new ones (custom made), this site also has more info on the history if you’re interested.

December 11, 2010

Cookies, Holiday Baking Part I

Well, it's my birthday weekend and I'm too busy to really celebrate. I have a weekend course and my husband has a final exam today (Saturday) in French that he has been really stressing about. He's tried his best, he made dinner and bought me a knife set (??????), so I made him some cookies. Ok, maybe they were for me too. I've been in a baking mood lately, maybe it's because we're getting close to Christmas or maybe it's the horrible, horrible cold snowy weather. I ended up making chocolate thumbprint cookies, they were very yummy and I am now planning on making some for Christmas (yes, we ate the whole batch :( ). The recipe called for kraft caramels (which I didn't have) so I used what I though were butterscotch filled chocolate cups, they turned out to be mini-cups. I think this recipe would have been great the original way or with Rolos. It makes about 2 dozen cookies.

See how tiny these cups were? They didn't even fill the thumbprint!:

DSC00756

Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies

Ingredients:
1 egg
1/2 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
24 candies (rolos, caramels or chocolate cups)
1 1/4 cup chopped pecans

Steps:
1. Seperate your egg (reserve the white for later). In a bowl cream (combine) the butter and sugar. Beat in the egg yolk, vanilla and milk.
2. Add flour, cocoa powder and salt, mix well. *
3. Refrigerate for 2 hrs or so until dough has cooled and it easy to roll.
4. Pre-heat overn to 350 F. Shape the dough into balls and roll in egg white, then pecans to coat.
5. Place the cookie on the sheet and use your thumb to make an indent in the centre (this is the thumbprint part). Place a candy in each "thumbprint."

DSC00754
Here are my deformed cookies pre-baked.

6. Bake for about 10 minutes or until the edges of the cookie are firm.

*recipes normally have you mix the dry ingredients seperatly, then mix with the wet ones but I'm pretty lazy about this and just add them all in at once. I've yet to have a problem, but I would say do it whichever way you prefer.

Stay tuned for more Christmas baking in the weeks to come...

December 6, 2010

Table Runner Complete!!

I now have three of my christmas projects completed! I'm only half done my list but I'm feeling pretty confident. I ended up making a very simple table runner, I figured the fabric is very busy and my tree skirt it very busy so the rnner should be a bit more simple. Its a basic rectangular shaped runner, one side has no real decoration and the other has two mittens appliqued on. I just used a top stitch to attach the mittens; I figured it would look cute if the fabric ravelled a bit on the edges, the best of mittens are always a bit fuzzy anyway. I stitch the two rectangles together with some quilting batting in the middle to give the runner a bit of substance.
I also quilted the runner in a series of "curly q's."

DSC00749

Overall, this was also a really easy project but like how it turned out. I really love the fabric though, it's Michael Miller, and just oh so fun. Look at it:

DSC00751

You can see what I mean by curly q's in that picture as well, I guess swirls would be a good descriptor as well. This thing may need a good ironing...

Here's the finished project:
DSC00750

December 5, 2010

Three Bean Salad

We went for dinner at a friends place last night and I offered to bring something. She suggested a side, but she didn't know what she was going to make so I had no idea what my dish had to include (veggies? starch?) or what kind of food it was going to be paired with. She also had no idea whether or not she would have extra space for re-heating. So I made a salad, three bean salad. I like this recipe because it's quick, easy and pretty healthy. I have no idea what a three bean salad is actually suppose to taste like so I am not sure if this is very traditional or not (I've only ever seen it in deli's and it appears to have a vinegarette, please feel free to correct me if i'm wrong), so this is my take on a classic deli dish.

DSC00748

Three Bean Salad

Ingredients:
1 can red kidney beans (rinsed)
1 can white kidney beans (rinsed)
2 cups of steamed green beans (cut into bite sized pieces)
1/8 cup olive oil
3/8 cup white vinegar
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
4 tsp parsley
2 1/2 tsp cumin
pepper to taste

Steps:
1. After you've steamed and cut up your green beans, combine with the two kidney beans in a bowl.

DSC00746

DSC00747

2. Mix remaining ingredients and pour dressing over the beans. Stir and let sit a bit before serving.

I actually prefer to let this sit for an hour before serving to let the dressing really soak into the beans but it tastes fine served right away.

There you have it, a very quick and easy dish containing veggies, carbs and protein.

December 4, 2010

A New Christmas Wreath

Well, I've been battling a bad cold. It's terrible and it means that I have been very, very lazy and watching a lot of horrible movies in my spare time (and Sudoku, but at least that exercises my brain). I have however managed to complete one thing this week, a new and inexpensive wreath for my front door. It's a salt dough gingerbread man wreath.

DSC00745

I made a batch of salt dough, rolled it out and used some cookie cutters to make the gingerbread men (if you can make sugar cookie, you can do this no problem). Here's the recipe that I used:

Salt Dough (basically this is homemade playdough)

1/2 cup of salt
3/4 cup water
2 cups flour

1. Mix ingredients together and knead into a ball. Don't worry about over-kneading this stuff, it will be a bit tougher than cookie dough and you may need to add a bit of extra water. It's done when it seems rollable.

I used food-dyed water in an attempt to make them brown-gingerbread like in colour. As you can see this didn't really work. I think the food dye reacted with the salt because it turned very pink after I threw the brown water in. I later read that strong coffee or tea is your best bet for dying the dough brown (use it instead of the water). Oh well.

After you cut out your dough, place it on a tray and bake at 200F for 4-5 hours. I flipped mine halfway through and then I let them sit in the oven overnight to let them dry out even further. After they were dry I used puff paint (fabric paint) to drawn on some "icing" and gumdrops. Again, I waited for it to dry then I coated all of the men in varnish (since I wanted to put the wreath outside and I'm hoping that it will last for a couple of years.

DSC00743

I laid the cookies out in a circle then I used a hot glue gun to stick them together and tied them with a ribbon for hanging and more security.

I think it looks really home-made and homey. Perfect for Christmas (I'm the type that likes those popcorn and cranberry garland).

November 29, 2010

Two more Christmas gifts down

That's right, I have completed two more Christmas gifts (well four pieces for two people). For my mother and my aunt I have made some tabbed tea towels. My mom loves these, yet she can never seem to find them, she usually makes her own (hers have crocheted tops though, which I am not sure I can do).

DSC00739

I forgot to take pictures of the process, so there isn't a real tutorial, but basically I sewed two long rectangular pieces for the tabs, you can either use cord to make a button loop or make actual button holes. I then sewed the tabs onto folded tea towels, stitched on the buttons and ta-da, done. I also embroidered these, following my embroidered gift theme.

Here's how they look hanging from the stove. They're actually pretty handy, especially if you have a husband (or child) who likes to take your tea towels off the stove to use as oven mitts, floor wipes, etc.

DSC00742

I still haven't decided which towels to give to my aunt and which to my mother... The beaker one is for my mom for sure (she works in the chem field) and the Scotty is for my aunt (she has a little white dog herself). Decisions, decisions.

November 28, 2010

My new Christmas Tree Skirt

I've finished my Christmas tree skirt. It didn't turn out exactly as planned. It was suppose to be a scalloped circle and now it's kind of a scalloped squarish thing. Oh well, I think it will still look good under my Christmas tree.

DSC00738

I would advise anyone making one of these things to go with a square shape, or to use a pattern of some sort. My way was definately not the way to go. I made two large 40" squares of fabric, then I used string and two felts (markers) to try and make a protractor-type-thing. See:

DSC00734

and this is what I ended up with:

DSC00737

Not so circular. I probably should have just free-handed it. I really do love the fabric though, it's so bright and happy looking.

Aside from my wonky shape. It went together fairly quickly and without any issues. I sewed the two pieces together, then after turning it right side out, I top stitched the scallops. I didn't use any batting so this helped keep the shape. I won't go into detail on the scallops, but if you want to know more, check out Tilly's tutorial, hers turned out great.

Now I'm off to start my next sewing project, a table runner.

November 11, 2010

My '50s top complete

Well, I have finally finished Vogue 9278. Here is the pattern:



and here is my version:
with the wrap in the back...

DSC00732

with the wrap in the front...

DSC00733

Not perfect, but I like it. I think it turned out better than my first dress, which means I am improving on garment making. I had to adjust this pattern up a few sizes so that may have been one of my issues. I also ended up hating the fabric. It ravels horribly and the colour is a bit gloomy. I think if it was paired with the right skirt it wouldn't seem so bad though.

It's really baggy in the sleave area, not sure if it's suppose to be a bit baggy or not, the pattern picture doesn't look like it but the pattern pieces don't have real defined arm pit areas. The hem on the sleaves isn't very well done either, it said to use ribbon seam binding but I think it was a little bit stiff and I probably should have just done a regular hem.

Overall I deem it wearable, my husband thinks it looks too "homemade" and "nurse-like" (not sure what that really means) but I don't care. I think I prefer this with the wrap in the front, not only for look but the neck is a bit high and it feels odd the other way around.


I may make this pattern again some day.

November 7, 2010

Pantry Jars

I have a pretty small kitchen by todays standards, well actually it's not so much that the kitchen is small it's that it's an odd shape and there are very few cupboards and very little storage. I tend to buy things in bulk and always end up with a ton of twist-tied bags everywhere. I finally got off my butt and bought some jars to store some of my staples in. The jars were relatively in-expensive ($4.00) at my local Canadian Superstore, I think regular mason jars would look great for this project too.

I googled "vintage labels" or maybe it was "vintage jar labels" and picked out/stole some pretty ones. I used word to add text to the labels (using text boxes) and printed out what I needed.
DSC00726

I then cut out the labels and covered them with clear heavy-duty packing/package tape. I figured that this would probably protect them from water and if not I could just re-print the labels.
DSC00727
you can kind of see how I layered two pieces of tape to cover the paper...

I trimed the tape about 1.5 cm from the label edge and firmly pressed them onto the jars. Voila! Simple but neat jars for my pantry.

DSC00729

November 6, 2010

My latest sewing project

Well, I need a bit of a break from Christmas projects, a break from embroidery really, so I've started a new sewing project. Here it is, vogue 9278:


I bought this pattern a while ago but have been pushing the project off since the pattern is too small, way too small. I bought it for looks really, but who wouldn't? I am making view B (short sleaves) in a grey crepe. If it turns out well I want to wear it to work, grey crepe kind of seemed office-y. So far, it's turning out ok, I'm about half done but decided to call it quits for the night since I was beginning to make mistakes. I am clearly not very good at making clothing. I'll blame it on the fact that I had to re-draft a large size from the pattern.

The instructions are kind of confusing as well, I now know why some people avoid old vogue patterns. They really assume that you know what you're doing (and I'm clueless). The pattern is a "perforated" one, which is actually pretty neat. The pieces are precut and there are hole for marking darts and the seams, I kind of wish they sold new patterns like that too. Anyway, I'm hoping to finish this weekend or next, I'll post some pictures as soon as I get a chance.

November 2, 2010

I've joined the Crafty Christmas Club!

I've joined the Crafty Christmas Club blog. It’s a place to post about all your Christmas crafts and handmade presents. This is a great way to post about gifts for friends and family without them sneaking a peak on your regular blog. It was started by Tilly from Tilly and the Buttons.




If you think I may be making you something, try not to take a peak please!!

October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween Everyone!

DSC00722


(this is suppose to be the Bride of Frankenstein, I'm just not very good at carving pumpkins)

October 29, 2010

My Progress and My Past

To give a bit of authority to my posts on weight loss, I have decided to let you know a bit more about myself.

When I was really little, I didn’t have a weight issue, I was a normal size, had lovely blonde hair and loved to swim and play outside. Things started changing in grade four (when I was 9 or 10); I remember grade four as being a horrible year, it was the year that I got my first pair of glasses, my hair started to darken to an ugly “ash-blond” aka mousy-brown, and I started putting on weight, I was now chubby. The worst part was the becoming chubby, there was this one girl who would always pick on me, calling me fat, punching me for “being fat,” getting up during class to sharpen her pencil so that she could poke my “fat-a$$” with it and many, many other mean pranks and jokes. It was horrible, sometimes she would encourage my friends to tease me, they never really teased along with her but there were two of them that would sometimes laugh at what she was doing to me, which was just as hurtful. I became really depressed by this and slowly gained more and more weight over the years, often crying myself to sleep at night. Sometimes I would dread going to friend’s houses because a few of my friend’s parents would make rude comments, not necessarily on purpose but more of things like “did you see that actress? She looks disgusting in this movie, she’s gained some weight, and people who look like that are gross/lazy” (the actress would always be much, much thinner than I even dreamt of being). I would try really hard in gym class and bike for hours thinking that I could become thin again but nothing worked. I now know that it was my eating preventing this, it’s not that I would pig out on junk food really (once and awhile I would but no more than any of my thin friends), it was really the portions that I was eating. I would take a huge plate of potatoes or pasta, always encouraged by my parents because it wasn’t junk food, it was just part of their regular dinner, they didn’t know any better and neither did I. Now that I’m older I look back and can see where I went wrong with my eating, and I now cook completely differently than my parents (their food is healthier than most but still not what many would call “healthy”). Back to the teasing, eventually this girl changed schools and I found out years later that it was because she was bullied by a lot of the older children and she couldn’t take it anymore and that she had considered me to be one of her only friends, she never apologized though so I have never felt that I could really forgive her, the scars run really deep. When she left I did become a bit less depressed and it was really only the school dances that I dreaded (junior high dances). I have been turned down more than one dance by boys who don’t want to dance “with a fatty”, luckily I did have some very, very kind male friends (or boyfriends of my best friends) who would swoop in to rescue me, it was still upsetting though, none of my thinner friends were ever turned away, and it’s not like I was ever going after Mr. popular. The turndowns would also lead to me crying myself to sleep once again.

In junior high I started to compete in synchronized swimming, I had many practices but it wasn’t until early high school (most likely when I was hitting puberty) that I started losing weight from all the workouts. Looking back at pictures of me in grade 10, 11 and 12, I realize that I was thin; in fact, many of my friends would tell me that I was very thin and had a tiny waist. Did I ever listen to them? No, I was still convinced that I was huge, too large to ever wear a bikini. I guess my self confidence was still really low, the years and years of being teased had turned me into a very shy person, with a remaining mental image of someone four times my size, in reality I weighted less in grade 12 than I did in grade 8 and I was quite a bit taller. After high school I quit swimming, I was going into university and wasn’t sure that I would have the time since I would then be swimming five days a week with four hour practices and I was too young to join the recreational masters club, I started going to the bar and partying with friends and the weight slowly crept back. I also entered a relationship that was a bit of a downer. Each year I would gain just a bit more and as I became more and more out of shape there was less that I felt I could do about it. I really just should have stopped making excuses and joined a gym and learnt how to eat better.

As you may have read before, once I became a bit too close to the 200 mark I finally smartened up. My lifestyle changes have resulted in some great things, I am now 146 pounds, which is in the normal BMI range for my height (though on the higher end of normal), can run 5km, I have more energy, I feel great, and my self-confidence is better than ever, I still have a ways to go but I am confident for the future and vow to never go back to my old ways. I have set new fitness and weight goals for myself and am determined to reach them. I want to reach 140 by Christmas and am going to bike part of the Iron Horse Trail next summer and be able to do an unassisted pull-up.

October 28, 2010

Snow and cold, booo

It’s snowing already! Actually, it snowed on Sunday night, but it hasn't gone away yet! It's been -5 C every day since then, it's horrible. I realize that we usually have snow banks by Halloween but it still makes me sad. I also know that -5 isn't really that cold, but the first time it drops below freezing I am always looking for a fall jacket and some mitts (watch, in the spring when it reaches -5 I'll be in t-shirts and no jacket).

It wasn’t too long ago that I saw my last flying V of Canadian Geese heading south and I was really hoping that there were more to come. Boooo to snow and the cold weather, I guess at least I’ll get more sewing done since I won’t want to be outside.

October 27, 2010

Christmas Projects

I know haven't finished all of my handmade Christmas gifts but I have already started planning some Christmas Projects for myself. My husband hates Christmas decorations (what a Grinch), so everything that I have is either a hand-me-down or was a gift. I didn't really mind the mish-mash until recently. We have decided that since my hubby is going to be in school for longer than originally anticipated (thanks to his change in major), we are going to be staying in our little starter home for about 5 more years, so I figure I might as well start decorating to my tastes. Since it's an older home (and looks it due to many old fashioned but cute features), I have decided on candy coloured, vintage inspired theme. I went onto http://www.fabric.com/ and bought a few lovely fabrics (I'll post them later) and come up with a few thing that I need to make.
The plan is to make a tree skirt, fabric trees for my mantel, a knitted garland, a table runner (not sure what I want this to look like yet), two door wreaths and possibly one new stocking.

Here is a bit of inspiration.

I don't really knit, once I made a scarf but I believe a scarf is literally the easiest thing to knit, so we'll see how that project goes.
I will slowly have to add to my small collection of vintage and retro-eske glass ornaments. I knid of want a white or silver tree but I'm pretty sure my husband who not let me bring one into the house, I'll have to think on that one...

My Mid-Century Menu Entry

Way back when, I put in an entry for "Worst Mid-Century Recipe," while I didn't win, my entry did get made. Go check it out over at No Pattern Required. The recipe was for a tomato and shrimp salad (gelatin style). It looks truely unedible!

Thanks to the brave Ruth and Tom for trying it out!

October 21, 2010

Starting out at the gym

I know that I said that I was going to talk about weight-loss and I haven't really touched on it very much. So, here we go...

My weight-loss journey/ life-style change really began last December. I had ballooned out to about 188 pounds. When I saw that on the scale I almost cried, it seemed to close to 200 pounds which for some reason was horribly dreadful (when really even 180 was way too much). Luckily I have a very nice hubby, who decided that the two of us should go to the gym, together, and not because he wanted me to lose weight to look different, but because he wanted me to live a long life with him. I think that this really helped my weight loss, being overweight affected my self confidence, i.e. I had very little, and it really helped that I had someone to encourage me to go to the gym and remind me that I just needed to try harder. I don’t think you necessarily need someone to work out with (we argue when working out or really I argue so it’s not always the best to go together), but it really is helpful to have some to talk to about working out, someone who will be encouraging and won’t sabotage you will (knowingly or most likely unknowingly) with comments such as “you don’t need to lose weight” or “why would you do that?”

Exercise – Where to Start

Some people really do find it hard to get in the minimum recommended 30 minutes of exercise a day (you should probably do more though). 30 Minutes is actually a very small amount time, especially since you can split it up, it’s better not to split it up but everyone has to start somewhere, I’m sure that everyone can fit in three 10 minutes spurts of physical activity. I started out going to the gym three days a week an hour each session; I slowly worked my way up to 5-7 days with over an hour each day. I actually enjoy going to the gym now, which I didn’t before, and I hate when I have to miss a day due to illness or a busy schedule.

It can be hard starting out at the gym, I remember feeling awkward and embarrassed, you really just have to remember that no one is really paying much attention to you, they are at the gym trying to work out too and I would say at least half of them have no clue what they’re doing either. Many trainers say that beginners should start out with a full body workout but I found that difficult because I wasn’t sure how to design one and I didn’t have the money to go to a trainer, so I started out with the classic split training. Split training is basically when you split your workout up, I start with cardio and end with weights and finally a good stretch, this seemed like a simple approach and it worked for me (40+ pounds lost so far!!). For cardio you need to find something that you don’t hate, the fact is that if you are out of shape most forms of cardio are not going to be fun. I started with 30 minutes on the elliptical and then later started running and riding the bike and Stairmaster, if you do want to start out with running, take a look at my post “from couch to 5k.” I don’t really think that cardio needs very much explanation, you basically need to get your heart pumping and it’s a good way to burn calories. If you go really hard and I’m talking sweat dripping, panting, want to quit hard you are going to burn 10-11 calories a minute, use these numbers to calculate your calories (if you are going to bother counting) because machines (and fitness classes) often over estimate how much you burn; don’t buy into their BS, you’re only hurting yourself. Always try your hardest and try to get a good sweat going, a leisurely walk will burn calories but it won’t get your heart pumping which is what you want to do to increase your heart health (heart disease is the number one killer of women).

Cardio isn’t really my favourite thing to do at the gym as I find it kind of dull, what I really like is weight training. Strength training is an important part of any workout and is also great for burning calories, plus you won’t have to ask for help to re-arrange furniture and will be able to carry in all your groceries in one trip. Many women avoid lifting weights, especially heavy ones, but they really shouldn’t, don’t worry about gaining huge body builder arms or shoulders; those women train for hours and hours every day for years and years (and usually have a little help from various drugs) to look like that, unless you plan on putting in that kind of work, you aren’t going to look like that. If you don’t know what you’re doing, weight training can be a bit intimidating, I started out using machines since they usually show you how to use the darn thing and what muscles you are working. Once you feel a bit more comfortable on the machines, I suggest moving to free weights (doing similar movements); while some argue that machines are better because they isolate certain muscles, I agree with others on free weights being better because they use multiple muscles, increase you stability and more closely mimic movements that you would use in a real life situation. One thing that I noticed when I moved to free weights was that I was lifting less, don’t be surprised if you drop down to about half of what you do on the machines, this is pretty normal.

When working with weights you will need to decide how many reps and sets you will do, I aim for 8-10 reps and three sets (with a 30-60 second break between each set). A rep is the one motion that you perform, for example one rep of a squat is the movement downwards towards the ground and back up to the standing position, a set is a series of reps performed without a break. I pick a weight that is light enough that I can perform at least 8 reps but heavy enough that I achieve muscle failure at the 8th rep (or 9th or 10th). If I can lift the weight more than 10 times, I move up to something heavier, and if I can’t lift it 8 times I move down to something a bit lighter. Muscle failure refers to the point where there is no way you can lift that weight on your own, you are shaking and it’s coming down. As I said before, I split up my workouts into groups, day 1: legs, day 2: arms, day 3: core, I find that this works well for me but you may want to split it up into upper body and lower body or I have also heard of people splitting it up into pulling exercises and pushing exercises.

Finally at the end of the workout I make sure to get in a good stretch. I try to stretch all of the muscles that I worked out really well and I do a couple quick stretches of my other muscle groups. Stretching is really important after a good workout (weights or no weights) and will prevent stiffness and soreness the next day (although you’re probably going to be sore the next day anyway). I also have a small protein shake after my workouts to reduce soreness, having a glass of milk, or an egg or some almonds would work well too.

While most of what I have said focuses on going to a gym, you don’t actually need a gym or any fancy equipment to work out; you can get a good workout on any budget. Go for a run outside or a bike ride or if you live in a cold place like me, run up and down your stairs, use a skipping/jump rope or do jumping jacks. Parks are great places for strength training, you can use the monkey bars to work out your arms or you can use 4L milk jugs filled with water (for squats and lunge walks). I’ll try to post various home and gym workouts for you all.

Some final advice:

The unfortunate thing about losing weight is that it isn't easy and that doing it right isn't something that happens overnight. If you want quick weight loss, go find one of the many diets out there, it won't be very healthy and you'll most likely gain all the weight back plus some in less than 6 months. Eating right and working out are your best bet. Something that I keep having to tell myself is “It took me more than a year to gain all that weight so it may take me more than a year to take it all off.” Also, I really wish now that I had taken a “Before in a Bikini” type photo, at the time it was the last thing that I wanted to do, but on blue days it’s a good motivator (I use a double chin and Oprah arm photo instead – it’s almost as bad).

October 16, 2010

1920s - Scanning

My grandmother gave me an old book earlier this year and I thought I would share some of it with you, I believe it belonged to my great grandmother. The book is "Girls Own Annual, Vol. 49." The first few pages are missing but a quick google search puts it at 1927-1928, which seems right based on the clothing styles and a photo of (the now) Queen Elizabeth as a toddler. The book has stories, recipes, fashion, crafts and home styling ideas. It also seems to have quite a bit of gossip on royalty, I think it's a British book.

Click on any of the pictures and it will bring you to flickr where you can look at larger versions (they are clear enough to read there).

First up we have some of the latest styles from Paris. Look at those "reckless" bows, those French women are daring.

scan1

and of course some slips and underclothes.

scan2

and a lovely Tennis Jumper that you can make at home. I actually think it's kind of cute!

scan3

October 13, 2010

Classic Pumpkin Pie

Well, this post is a little late but I am so proud of my pumpkin pie that I had to post it. This is the first pumpkin pie that I have ever made and I created my own recipe, actually I took bits and pieces from four recipes to make my own, does that count?



I have never been a pumpkin pie fan but my mother-in-law requested it so it had to be made. I ended up really liking this one though, so much so that I would and am going to make it again. I used the pie crust recipe that was on the shortening package (and I've posted my own recipe before) so I won't re-post one here.

DSC00685


Classic Pumpkin Pie

1 pastry crust (uncooked)
1/2 can pumkin puree (about 400mL)
1 cup of evaporated milk (just under a cup actually)
1 tbsp flour
2 tsp cream
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3 eggs



Steps:

1. Mix pumpkin, sugar, spices, flour and cream together.

2. Beat in one egg at a time.

3. Stir in milk & vanilla until combined.

4. Pour into crust and cover edges with foil (to prevent over browning of crust). Bake for 30 min at 350F.

5. Remove foil and cook another 20 min until done, pie will be cooked when knife comes out of filling clean.

I also baked a small pumpkin shaped pastry in a seperate pan to cover the knife mark in the pie. I used a pumpkin shaped cookie cutter and extra pastry dough.

October 9, 2010

More fattening dessert

Next up we have a chocolate ganache tart in a walnut crust. This is a very rich dessert but very simple to make. The filling works great with regular pastry crust and cookie crusts too.

Chocolate Ganache Tart with a Walnut Crust

Walnut Crust:
1 1/2 cups crushed walnuts (I used a blender)
3 tbsp melted butter
2 tbsp sugar

1. Mix all ingredients together and push into a tart pan to form a crust.
2. Bake at 350 F for 10 min.

Here's the texture of walnuts that I had:
DSC00675
It's about 50% finely ground and 50% roughly chopped.

Chocolate Ganache Filling
1 cup of cream (whipping 35% fat)
1 cup of chopped dark chocolate (about 8 oz.)
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Heat the cream on the stove and bring to a slight simmer. Pull off the cream before it begins to boil.
2. Dump the chocolate and vanilla in the cream and stir until smooth.
DSC00679
3. Pour ganache into your crust and cool until solid (takes quite a few hours).

DSC00680

This is a great one to make the day before and it freezes really well.

Thanksgiving

Up here in Canada it's Thanksgiving weekend. Canadian Thanksgiving is celebrated in October and people generally have their big meal on Sunday or Monday. We celebrate in early October because well soon after there is a whole lotta snow. It's sad how short our summer and growing season is. I really shouldn't have mentioned the "s" word, it may come early now.

Apparently the first Thanksgiving in North America took place in Canada when the explorer Martin Frobisher arrived in Newfoundland in 1578. I didn't learn this until a few years ago and I've lived in Canada my whole life.

This year we have to go to three dinners, one on Saturday, Sunday and Monday (my husbands parents are divorced), it's going to be a lot of ham and turkey and pie. I have been given the task of baking two pies for the Saturday dinner and three pies and a dessert for the Sunday dinner.

First up we have the ever simple and delicious Chocolate Puddin' Pie (say it with a southern drawl).

This is from a Kraft magazine, so it's basically an ad for Kraft products. I made a cookie crust from the instructions on the oreo crumb box so I won't include the directions here.

Chocolate Puddin' Pie:
1 cookie crust
1 cup of milk
1 box of chocolate instant pudding
1/2 tub of Cool Whip (approx.)

DSC00676

1. Mix the box of pudding with the cup of milk until smooth. Spread half of the mix in the cookie crust and add about 3/4 cup of cool whip to the remaining pudding. Spread half of this over the previous layer of pudding.


DSC00677

2. Add 3/4 cup of cool whip to the remaining pudding mixture and mix, again layer half of it on the other pudding. Add a bit more cool whip and spread the remaining mix on the top. You should end up with four layers of pudding going from dark to light.

DSC00678

It's very simple and very good, not so friendly with the waistline though. My husband who hates cool whip loves this pie. It works well with the premade cookie crusts too, so if in a pinch for a "homemade" dessert, try this one.

October 8, 2010

What I'm Working On

Well, as you can see, I have finished my second Christmas gift and am now on my third. This project is for one of my best friends. We have been friends since "the day before kindergarten" as the story goes (for those who don't have kindergarten, this is before the 1st grade; you are usually 4 or 5). You see my friend is a very outgoing person, I was minding my own business playing in the sand at the park near my house and up she marches to introduce herself. She stated "My name is Cxxxxx (I'll leave her anonymous), you're my new best friend" and we have been friends ever since.

My friend loves all things Japan; her house is full of Janpanese prints, she speaks it and it is her dream to live there. Last year I made her an apron with Geisha fabric, which she loved, so this year I am sticking with the theme and making her sushi napkins. These aren't napkins for eating sushi, although I guess they could be, they are napkins with sushi pictures on them.

I made the napkins myself but I'm not really going to post about that. They didn't turn out so well, owning a ruler probably would have helped as they are all different sizes. They still look okay I think. To make them I cut broadcloth into 17.5 squares, then ironed the seams down and stitched. I must have folded the sides slightly larger or smaller each time, oh well.

So far I have only completed four napkin (out of eight). The tiny patterns and stitches are time consuming. In the end I am planning on having four patterns, two napkins for each pattern. I have finished two cats and two maki:

sushi napkin

I really hope she likes them.

Another great pattern giveaway!

Yes, once again I am shamelessly posting about someone else's giveaway so that I may have a second entry. To be fair I do read the blog and genuinely enjoy it, and look at the prizes, they are so pretty.

It's a giveaway from Debi over at My Happy Sewing Place . She is celebrating a new job and the fact that she now has over 200 followers!

There are four patterns being given away. I like them all, although I think the first three are my favourite. I love the 60s look but I'm not sure that I have the right body type for it, although I did "borrow" a mod pattern from my mothers house recently that I plan to eventually make, so we'll see.
Anyway, I am really digging the 40's office outfit. The waist on the skirt really catches my eye. Take a look:


and go check out My Happy Sewing Place!

More stitching

It seems like all I have been doing lately is embroidery. Ugg, it takes forever. I may have to adjust some of my Christmas gift projects to be sewn rather than stitched just so I can finish (and start working on some stuff for myself, and yes I guess that is selfish).

So far I have only completed two gifts. The retro cats for my sister-in-law and some Christmas ornament towels for my mother-in-law. Here's how they turned out:
christmas ornaments
I really like them. I think I might make some for myself someday.

I took a few photos of the process too. Here is a split stich:
DSC00659
DSC00664
You can see a bit better how you stitch a straight little line, then come up through that stitch to make the next.

I also took a picture of a french knot, which was very difficult; it's hard to hold a camera in one hand and embroider with the other.

You wrap the thread around the needle, I did about four but if you want a larger knot wrap more around.

french knot
Then you insert the needle back into the fabric a tiny distance away from where you brought it up, make the stitches very close but no the same spot, otherwise when you pull it tight the whole thing will unravel.

french knot

These took me a few tries before I got them just right, so don't give up, once you figure it out it's really easy!