July 13, 2011

I hate ants...

I really do. I hate ants. They smell of black licorice. How do I know that you ask? One summer my dad set up our tent right between a giant ants nest and their source of food. Rather than going around the large tent, the long line of ants crawled over the tent, day and night. All you could hear was the sound of them scratching their way up and down, there were so many ants!! and the smelt of black licorice, it was terrible. Ants also seem to love my favourite flowers, peonies, the horrible little things crawl all over them and bite me whenever I try to cut a few blossoms. They are evil. We have even had trouble with ants in our house; a few years back we saw a long line of ants heading up the side of our house into the attic. They had decided to relocate there and since they were carpenter ants it cost us over a grand (yeah, that's right, $1000) to get rid of them.
Up until yesterday I honestly didn't think that I could despise them more, that was until we found some in our bathroom. Yes, that's right, the bathroom that we were renovating, the "quick, 1 week, cosmetic" reno. So, it turns out that only part of the bathroom was plaster, half was drywall covered in tile. The drywall under the tile was rotten, crumbly and the studs under that are also black with rot. Oh, and don't forget that we found carpenter ants in there, along with mold. Ugggggg.
So, our one week reno will now probably take a month since we have to completely gut the bathroom, even the studs and ceiling.
Damn those ants!

June 9, 2011

Reno Inspiration

I’m super excited and have spent a good chunk of the day searching for inspiration. We are renovating our main bathroom! It’s currently hideous, I’ll post some before & after pictures once we get to work. Our house was built in the late 40’s but the bathroom was redone in the 70’s and it is soooo ugly. The tub and sink are an odd yellowy-green colour, the tiles are an odd funky brown & pea soup floral print (are this covers all of the walls) and the lights are “lovely” round frosted pendants hanging from some chain. There is also an odd mirror frame that is an ornate plastic painted brown and gold. The bathroom is not only ugly but it is falling apart, the paint is peeling from the plaster and tiles are literally falling off the walls. It’s bad.
So, my husband has agreed, we will gut the bathroom. I’ve tried to put together some inspiration board but had a little trouble. The bathroom is tiny so we are short on options, we also have a budget, so that limits what we will do. Also, because of the tile and the condition of the walls underneath we have decided that we have to have wainscoting. I really love the “Hollywood Regency” style and Art Deco style but I’m not sure that those styles really go with wainscoting.
I can’t wait to go shopping…

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May 25, 2011

I'm Back, I Swear

Well, I’m back, for a bit at least. I know it’s been a long time since I’ve written anything and I even debated just deleting this whole thing but I’ve decided that I won’t, I’ll give it another shot. I’ve been super stress out at work lately, tight deadlines, lack of resources (and by that I mean people) and having to stay late. A few disappointments in lost work opportunities as well (I have no backup so I can’t work on certain projects). Life is just so hectic that I was finding this blog to be stressful. Frankly. I know I’m not a strong writer and trying to come up with multiple interesting posts a week was keeping me up. Work has kind of calmed down (or maybe it’s that I just don’t care as much) and I think I know how to tackle this blog again. I’m just going to write about what’s going on in my life and what I’m passionate about. I’ve been having a bit of a fight with my sewing machine lately so there probably won’t be any sewing posts for a little while but I have been busy so I will have things to write about.

I'll start with the exciting news that I had this morning; I won a pattern from Rebecca at UglyCuteDesigns (go check out her blog)! It's a lovely retro leotard and I honestly can't wait to make it. Look at it's glory:

I can't decide between the yellow and green though. I really hope I can pull it off. I promise not to wear it out of my house (unless someone tells me I look awesome in it).

April 20, 2011

Dying Easter Eggs

Easter is coming up and I’m really tempted to dye some eggs, they always look so pretty. I haven’t done that since I was little. We often bought kits to dye eggs but I did recall my mother mixing up a batch using food dye. With a quick google search I found the following recipe:

For colorfast egg dyes, mix 7-8 drops of food coloring into 1 cup of hot water. Stir in 1/4 cup vinegar. Let them dry thoroughly between coats of dye.

I haven’t tried these but here are some recommendation for natural dyes that I’ve found online:

Boil ingredients in water with a tablespoon of vinegar until the desired shade is reached. Strain to remove solids.
Yellow: Yellow onion skins or ground turmeric
Orange: Same as yellow, with added beet juice
Pink: Cranberry juice concentrate
Red: Beets or paprika
Blue: Canned blueberries, red cabbage or grape juice concentrate
Green: Spinach and/or kale
Brown: Strong brewed coffee or tea (although I'm not sure why you would dye eggs brown since they often come that colour)

I’ve heard that the onion skins work really well for a yellow colour, a bit of a side note, but apparently using a whole, un-pealed onion to make chicken broth produces a really nice yellow-y stock.

I am also seriously considering making this Easter Egg Bread:
Image from Allrecipes.com, http://allrecipes.com/Cook/13263181/Photo.aspx?photoID=207651, accessed April 20, 2011.


Recipe found here.


Doesn’t it look pretty?

I do have two dinners to go to. This might be a nice thing to bring. What do you think?

Is it rude to bring bread even if they have said that I don’t need to bring anything?

April 18, 2011

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

We had a nice little visit from some of the in-laws last weekend (my brother in-law, sister in-law & boyfriend & another sister in-law) which involved bowling and food. We fired up the BBQ since it’s no longer completely buried in snow (only a couple of feet left) and I made a very yummy cake. DSC00964 I’m not going to include the cake recipe since I cheated and used a cake mix (I added a few crushed chocolate bars to give it a little extra oomph) but I will share the icing recipe. I made a Swiss meringue icing and it was amazing, not quite as good as the stuff that was on my wedding cake but still amazing. Meringue icings have always intimidated me, for some reason they just seemed really difficult and so much work (compared to a traditional buttercream). It turned out to be really simple, a bit time consuming but worth the effort for a special occasion. I adjusted the recipe to make it smaller (Only 4 eggs and 1.5 cups of butter & 1 cup of sugar) but it almost wasn’t enough icing (to coat and fill two 9” cake rounds). I would recommend make the full amount and eating freezing the leftovers. This icing isn’t as sweet as a traditional buttercream, so if you like really sweet icing this may not be for you, this one is super buttery with a mild sweet taste. Unfortunately with this recipe you will be left over with some egg yolks (unless you use that carton stuff); I used mine to make lemon bars later in the week, but you could make pudding or custard with them.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Recipe
6 egg whites
2 cups white sugar
3 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Steps:
1. Place the egg whites and sugar into a metal bowl and set over a pan filled with about 2 inches of simmering water. Stirring frequently, until the temperature of the egg whites reaches 140 degrees. I didn't have anything to measure the temperature with so I heated/stirred until the gritty texture was completely gone.

2. Transfer the heated egg whites and sugar to a large mixing bowl or stand mixer. Mix at high speed (or as high as you can go without egg flying out of the bowl) until they have reached their max volume, 5 to 10 minutes and are stiff and glossy.
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3.Mix on medium or medium-high speed while throwing in small pieces of butter and mix in vanilla. The buttercream may look like it is breaking down, but keep on mixing and it will come back together.

After I added the butter I thought I had ruined the icing, it became oddly runny and liquidy, so I left the machine running and hoped that it would somehow work out. I came back a bit later and my icing looked horrible, like it had curdled or become dry curd cottage cheese, slight panic set in but I figured that I had already ruined it so I would just let the mixer keep going and maybe it would smooth out. It did, about 10 minutes later I came back and it started to look like this:
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Normal icing.

After some googling it looks like I’m not the only one this happens to, so if you make this be prepared, it will turn into liquid then chunky curds and then glorious buttery goodness, don’t panic! Since I didn’t have enough icing to make this cake look nice I dressed it up with skor bits on the side, crushed chocolate bars and drizzled melted chocolate on top. In the end I think it looked great and it tasted pretty good too. The skor bits and topping ended up being really sweet but the icing wasn’t so it seemed to balance out.

April 17, 2011

I have been a horrible blogger...

That's right, I have been a horrible blogger. I haven't blogger in quite awhile and now that I have a chance to blog I do so with a terrible entry that is basically just a list of excuses. It's been very busy around here. Work hasn't been going well, I was put on a great project then taken off because someone else with more pull wanted me for their crappy project and I've been a little down ever since. I've been working late because of tight deadlines and the new project. I've basically have just been working, going to the gym, eatting and on the weekends entertaining family and in-laws (not this is really horrible, it just doesn't leave any time for fun little things and blogging). Of course to top it all off, my sewing machine was jammed beyond belief, however after 4 hours of working on it, I managed to get it going again. I'm still not entirely sure what was really wrong with it. The stress of life has really been getting to me. I've been eating way too much junk food and I am sad to say that my belly has gotten bigger. In conclusion, I haven't done much with my blue dress but I will be able to post a bit on food (yummy, yummy, belly inducing food).

March 31, 2011

What I’m working on...

I’ve had the fabric for this dress for months now but I’ve been procrastinating on making it. I think because I’m not crazy about the fabric and I’m a bit unsure on the pattern. Don’t get me wrong, the colour is nice and the pattern is pretty, but now I realize it just isn’t a very practical dress. It may be too dressy for my lifestyle. The fabric is a crepe backed satin and plan to use the crepe side as the good side, so it won’t be as flashy (as the satin side would have been). I am going to power through it the dress because I am not going to let myself buy any more fabric until this dress is complete. This will be a big motivator since I have recently bought a few (okay maybe more than a few…6 or 7) that I really want to make up. I actually wore my red dress out for dinner and to the bar last weekend, and received a few compliments from strangers, so I am feeling better about my sewing, this one might turn out really well. DSC00956 I have the dress mostly cut out (I haven’t cut the interfacing yet) and am planning to start sewing this weekend. Stay tuned…

March 29, 2011

My seedlings have sprouted!

The peppers are still tiny but look at the tomato plants: DSC00913 They’ve grown tall! Too bad they’re so spindly. I have hope though, after some google searching I have determined that they are not getting enough sun. It been very snowy and therefore cloudy so there has been very little direct sun on the plants. I’m going to put a lamp over them and hopefully they’ll fill out a bit (I’m hoping a regular CFL bulb will give off enough UV rays). I’m also going to top up the soil, which is suppose to help spindly tomato plants. If neither of these actions work I may have to pull them out and start over, boooo. DSC00917 As for the peppers, they are still really short (less than an inch) so I’ll leave them under the plastic dome until they get their height up (1-2”). Hopefully with the introduction of a lamp they’ll do well. I can’t wait for spring so that I can put these in the ground!

March 28, 2011

What a weekend

Uggg, I accomplished very little this weekend. The weekend started out alright, we went out for a late dinner for a friend’s birthday; we went to a nice little Caribbean place and I had some good jerk chicken with rice & peas. After dinner we went out to a bar for music and dancing, it was a bit dull and we ended up leaving late since it was a birthday bash. This was where the trouble began, we got home late, we went to bed late and were exhausted and lazy (maybe a bit hung-over) the next day. My husband decided to go to bed really early and about an hour later I followed. When I go to open the bedroom door, it’s locked and I think to myself, “so silly, he accidently locked me out.” I start banging on the door to wake up my husband so he could let me in, when he finally reached the door, to the surprise of both of us, the door wasn’t locked, the handle was broken. Being a smarty pants, I headed downstairs to find a screwdriver and I took off the handle, problem not solved, the latch was actually seized and even with the handle off it wouldn’t budge. My husband was trapped in our bedroom. After a good long search through the mess of tools in our basement I found a set of pliers that would actually fit under the door. My husband used the pliers to pull out the hinge pins that are a bit rusty and then I threw my weight against the door to knock it off. It barely moved, the door fits too tight to the frame and since the latch was seized it wouldn’t swing open. About an hour later we realized there is no way to open the door without destroying it, which really sucks since the door is original to the house and has a beautiful wood grain pattern to it and of course there are three doors in that hallway that all match (which then match the closet doors) and are irreplaceable. I ended up having to drill holes into the door so that I could cut a out a chunk of door large enough to pass the saw through to my husband so that he could cut out the seized latch. It worked, but now my bedroom door has a huge hole in it and needs to be replaced. L I really hope someone else with a ‘40s house is renovating so that I can replace just the one door (that we destroyed) rather than have to replace all the doors. I am now very tired since I had two nights of little/horrible sleep and I managed to get only the bare minimum of chores completed on the weekend. Next weekend will be better, I am determined. Lessons learned? We need a phone in our bedroom and we need to give a spare key to a relative or friend, this situation would have been horrible if both of us had been trapped in the room. DSC00954 Look at all that sawdust and the damned hole in the door. DSC00955 The hole from the other side...

March 23, 2011

Homemade Protein Bars

I’ve been working late again this week and end up being too tired when I get home to really do anything at all. The only thing I managed to do was make some food, there is always time for food. I made my first attempt at protein bars following a recipe found here. It’s basically a 1:1:1 ratio of protein powder, oats and nut butter or oil. I measured out the oats and powder but then didn’t on the nut butter (I used a mix of all natural peanut butter and some hazelnut/almond butter) so I ended up needing to use a bit of olive oil to add moisture to the mix. The result was a bit of a sticky mess but I managed to cram the dough into 12 muffin tins. The turned out really, really yummy and taste just like cookies. Of course this was probably to be expected considering they are just vanilla flavoured powder, oats and fat (nut butter), basically a cookie.

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Protein Bars:
1 part whey isolate protein powder, any flavour (I used vanilla)
1 part oats
1 part nut butter or olive oil

If I were to make this exact recipe again I would cream the fats and powder together first, and then stir in the oats. Like I said, these were really good but they are clearly high in fat, I had one the next day and going by the now translucent paper muffin cup these babies would pass the Dr. Nick Riveriera test. If your work out goal includes not looking like such a wimp gaining some mass, then these would be great for you. These were good and I would probably make them again but they gave me an idea for my own recipe so I will probably try that out next. In the mean time I have a dozen yummy “cookies” waiting to be eaten in my freezer.

I also made some whole wheat/ “mixed grain” bread. It turned out ok, but it was a bit heavy/dense. Every time I make whole wheat bread it’s really dense, I think that I might be using too much whole wheat flour and not enough regular white flour. Any ideas? I know that it’s not the yeast because whenever I make cinnamon buns they are nice and light and fluffy. Are there recipes for light fluffy bread that uses only whole wheat?
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March 21, 2011

A Strong Quote from an Interesting Lady

Rainbows and waterfalls are inspirational, well according to many posters in offices they are

I’m not usually one for “inspirational” quotes but I found this one awhile ago and I really like it. It was about women in the public life but I think it can apply to most women, especially those in the business world (and ones trying to climb the ladder and break ceilings):

You cannot take anything personally.
You cannot bear grudges.
You must finish the day's work when the day's work is done.
You cannot get discouraged too easily.
You have to take defeat over and over again and pick up and go on.
Be sure of your facts.
Argue the other side with a friend until you have found the answer to every point which might be brought up against you.
Women who are willing to be leaders must stand out and be shot at. More and more they are going to do it, and more and more they should do it.
Every woman in public life needs to develop skin as tough as rhinoceros hide.

- Eleanor Roosevelt


I don’t actually know much about Eleanor Roosevelt, but I think a biography on her may be purchased in the near future…

March 18, 2011

Starting some Seeds

Well, spring is only a few months away and I am getting excited for warm weather and spending some more time outdoors. This year I am planning on growing some heirloom vegetables in my little garden plot, I also plan on planting my garden on time this year. About a month ago I bought some heirloom and organic seeds from a small Canadian company called The Cottage Gardener and I figured it is finally time to get some of my seeds started. I bought two greenhouse kits and some seed starting soil and decided to start my tomatoes and my hot peppers.
First I filled the cells almost full with the soil and lightly packed it down. You need to make sure that the soil is mostly level.
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Then I carefully placed in two seeds in each cell and covered them with a thin layer of soil and lighlty patted it down with the back of a spoon.
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I then watered each cell making sure that the soil was moist and not soaked (you don't want to drown the seeds). Then I placed the dome back on the top of the tray and ta-da I was done (for now anyway).

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I put my two trays, one is a mixture of tomatoes (yellow pear, cherokee purple, morden yellow, oxheart and green zebra) and one is nosegay peppers, in front of a sunny window. Now I just need to wait (and remember to water them).

Has anyone else started their seeds?

March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Avoid Green Beer

I lived in Ireland for a year, I say lived because at the time I didn’t know if I was ever going to leave so I started to carve out a life for myself there. While I'm not sure if I would ever live there again, I really do love Canada despite the horrible weather (Ireland actually has some pretty nice weather compared to here), there are some days that I really miss it and long to be back.

The oddest things will remind of my time there, for example bus exhaust on a rainy day always reminds me of Belfast (often I used public transport) and makes me crave an ice cream cone with a stick of flake stuck in it (I would go for long walks on misty days and often pick up a cone).
Whenever I miss a place I make food; it seems like you take that first bite and you are transported back to the place you were thinking of, cheesy I know but it really does seem to work. Ireland isn’t really known for its food (those fry breakfast are deadly – bacon, sausage, black pudding, white pudding, eggs, potato farls, soda farls and a half tomato all fried in butter and bacon fat) there are some things that I wish they sold in Canada. I miss rhubarb yoghurt, honey yoghurt (why don’t they have these flavours in Canada? They’re amazing), store bought bakewell tarts (the store bought ones are basically pie crust, raspberry jam and topped with white cake), mini honey-nut Wheatabix (they sold these in Canada for awhile but now all I can find is the regular mini Wheatabix), Smithwicks on tap (the bottled stuff just isn’t the same), cheese & onion crisps (although you can find these in some specialty shops), cheese toasties made on an Aga (I stayed with some people who owned an Aga for awhile) and soda farls. I used to eat a toasted soda farl every day, they are so good.

So, in honour of St. Patrick’s Day and Ireland, I give you a simple recipe for Irish Soda Farls:
soda farl
I used whole wheat flour in these ones, that's why they look darker, I normally use white flour, it's more Irish

Irish Soda Farls
Ingredients:
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
2 tbsp butter

Steps:
1. Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl and cut in butter with a fork (crumble in like a pie), make a well in the centre and pour in buttermilk, then mix.
2. Lightly kneed the mixed dough on a floured counter, form this into a flat circle (about ¾ inch thick) and cut into quarters with a knife.
3. Heat a large fry pan, sprinkle on a bit of flour and cook the farls for 6-8 minutes on each side or until browned
4. Once browned, remove the farls from the skillet and wrap in a clean tea towel and let sit for a few minutes.

**TIP** if you don't have buttermilk you can use 1 cup of milk with 1 tbsp of white vinegar added to it (let the mix sit for 5-10 minutes before using), or you can use plain yoghurt.

So Happy St. Patrick's Day! Avoid green beer (no one in Ireland drinks it) and have some Irish food & drink ;) instead.

March 16, 2011

I need to stay off of ebay

I may need to get out more…

A couple of weeks ago I purchased some vintage Jello molds on ebay and yesterday they finally arrived. They’re a bit smaller than I thought they would be (my own assumption, no fault of the seller) and super cute. In reality they are probably a proper portion size, I’m just used to large modern sized servings. I now have some rings, spiral rings, and a couple of bundt shaped ones.
I made some homemade Jello just so that I could use them (I am ridiculously excited about having them). They work great and are really easy to unmold. Look how cute they turn out:
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I think I’m going to have to use them next time I have company over. It’s totally cheesy but I keep imagining little rings of suspended veggies to hold in dip. Now I just need to find some more Jello recipes.

March 14, 2011

Keeping Up Appearances

The first signs of spring are finally here, it almost reaches zero during the day then is icy cold again at night which means out comes the salt and sand to prevent slips on the sidewalks. It also means white spots and mucky sand all over my nice leather work shoes. Shoe's aren't cheap so one has to spend some time on upkeep. I polished them up and now they're back to looking fine.

The first step to polishing shoes is to clean them, I use a clean damp rag to get off any salt, mud or even just dust. I use a dry rag to take off any excess moisture. Once completely dry, I sray them with some store bought "weather-spray." You can usually find these type of sprays at any shoe store, they last a long time and really do protect your shoes, just make sure to read the directions because some of them aren't good for all leather types (suede for example). Once the spray has dried you are ready to start polishing. I use two old socks to polish my shoes, one for applying the polish, the other for buffing.
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Rub the sock in the polish, then rub the polish filled part of the sock on your shoe in a circular motion, you want the leather to be covered but not have a noticable excess of polish on the shoe. You will probably have to grab polish a couple of times to cover the whole shoes.
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Once the shoe is covered in polish, take your buffing sock and rub off the polish, again in a cicular motion. You'll notice that the leather goes from a matte to slighly shiny. You will need to use some pressure to get a good shine so it's best to have one hand in the shoe while buffing.
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If you haven't polished your shoes in awhile or they are really scuffed you will probably have to repeat the whole process again to get a good shine. Also, rough leather (like the shoes I'm polishing in the pictures) will never get a really good shine, only a slight sheen.

and for your amusement, I found some hilarious vintage shoe polish ads on the blog "Found in Mom's Basement." You should check it out because they have a bunch of other good ones.

Images from Found in Mom's Basement, found March 13/2011.

March 13, 2011

Easy Breakfast

I’m sure you’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and it really is. A healthy breakfast provides your body with essential nutrients that will help you concentrate, can lower cholesterol, control blood sugar levels and even help with weight loss . I personally am not a huge breakfast eater, not because I don’t like breakfast foods, it’s because I don’t find myself hungry when I wake up, I would prefer to wait a couple of hours, then eat breakfast. Eating a late breakfast isn’t really an option during the week for me so I force myself to eat something before I head off to work. I pretty much always end up eating oatmeal. Being a complex carb and full of fibre, oatmeal keep you full longer, plus depending on how you make it, it can be low fat and low calorie. I make my oatmeal in a big batch on Sundays, then scoop out and re-heat what I need during the week. I like it topped off with some extra cinnamon, mixed berries, milk and a handful of almonds. It would be pretty easy to make the morning of though too since I make mine in the microwave.

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Basic Oatmeal Recipe
1 cup of oatmeal
1 cup of water
2 tbsp cinnamon (optional)
1 tsp nutmeg (optional)
Dash of salt (optional)

Stir everything in a large bowl, microwave on high for 1 ½ minutes. Stir and microwave for another 1 ½ minutes. This makes about four days worth of thick oatmeal.

If you do like to eat breakie at work I would suggest putting ¼ cup of oatmeal, some cinnamon, raisins, dried cranberries (or other dried fruit), possibly some sugar if you need it sweet, in a little plastic baggie and taking it to work as a homemade “instant” oatmeal type deal. I recently found a fairly good economical breakdown and tutorial on making your own instant oatmeal packets on this site; although I personally wouldn’t recommend using coffee whitener like they do since who knows what’s in that stuff – they recommend it because it won’t mold or go bad, what does that indicate to you? It’s worth a read though.

March 9, 2011

A couple of things to think about...



I came across some interesting posts/reads lately.

Jen but Never Jenn had a lovely post about feminism and International Women’s Day. While I myself often use the term “genderist”, as in fair treatment for all genders, I do feel strongly about the feminist movement and am disappointed in how it has been dying over the last decade. On a silly side note, my mother used to call me her “little feminist” because when I was young I renamed the characters in my favourite movie (The Land Before Time); I would call the main character (Little Foot) Sara and vice versa because I hated how all the females in the movie were portrayed as “dumb.”

Charlotte from Tuppernce Ha’penny Vintage brought up a controversial post by SuperKawaiiMama about a possibly (her readers had varying opinions) offensive bar statue that she owns. The comments are an interesting read. I personally don’t find it offensive for people to own such items as long as they are for historical interest and education on how things have changed for the better, however, I would never personally display such an item in my house. I must confess though that I own an offensive book, a reprint of Tintin in the Congo (see the book cover here). The Adventures of Tintin are a series of comics, books and a television show. My brother bought it for me as a gift from his trip to Belgium (it is in French) because we used to watch it together every morning, even though I absolutely hated the show (Snowy the dog was so very annoying). We only watched it because my brother liked it so much. Anyway, back on topic, the depictions of the Africans are really offensive, they look similar to Super Kawaii Mama’s statue, I find it astounding that they would even still sell a book with these kinds of portrays but I keep it because it was a gift and it is an interesting piece of history; it’s packed away and out of sight but I’m not sure that I would get rid of it. A side note, the author of these books apparently later regretted making this book and was ashamed of this piece of work.

The thoughts of many of the commenter’s and readers on the two blogs above did get me thinking, am I a hypocrite? I frown upon the display of such items yet I do feel fine displaying pin up prints and I have always wanted a nicely framed print of Josephine Baker, Black Thunder by Paul Colin, which is possibly offensive (the whole banana dance part). Something to ponder I guess…

March 5, 2011

Tobacco Fabrics

First, I want to thank everyone's well wishes on the car incident, it really did make me feel better. My husband is still laughing about it (I am so glad that I have such an easy going husband). I was feeling under the weather this morning due to dinner out last night (I can't seem to eat rich foods anymore, damn all that healthy food that I've been eating, I really love a good burger) and was completely bored mostly watching tv. I manage to catch up on my newpaper reading though and came across an interesting article in one of the small local areas. It was about a museum exhibit that is in town, called "Better Choose Me: Collecting and Creating with Tobacco Fabric Novelties, 1880-1920."

From 1880 - 1920 there was a popular style of needlework called "crazy quilts." These were made up of small, brightly coloured pieces of fabric with embroidered edges. The style was used on garments and household accessories, such as blankets and pillows, and considered very stylist. When tobacco companies started tying cigars with silk ribbons, they became popular collectors items among women, who would then sew them into quilts. The companies decided to cash in on the craze and began to issue fabric inserts with their products (these had their company logo and name on them for advertizing of course). The cigarette companies figured that not only would this work for advertising but it would make women less critical of their husbands smoking since there was something in it for them.

Pretty fascinating really, I'm going to have to make it down to the museum.

Pictures from:
Kauffman Museum: Travelling Exhibits, accessed March 5, 2011, http://www.bethelks.edu/kauffman/Traveling%20Exhibits/BCM/Index.html

March 3, 2011

Bad Day

Well, I've been a bad blogger (again) lately. I haven't been posting very often. I was planning on posting some lovely long well thought out post but it will have to wait. I'm having a terrible day. This morning on my way to work I got into a sort of collision. A man in a big pick up truck in driving just ahead of me went into a big skid, I of course in a panick hit the brakes; I know, I know, I've been driving in winter conditions for over 10 years, I should know better than to hit the brakes. I was worried that the big truck would smoosh me and my little car against the tall concrete median, not a good excuse but I'm going to use it. Anyway, I of course went into a skid as well since I hit the brakes (for non-winter drivers the best thing would have been to gear my car down) and off I went flying rid across three lanes of traffic (luckily there weren't any cars nearby) and up onto the huge snow bank. Image something like this:

up the snowbank again
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but on the edge of a major road/highway and in a tiny little compact car. I had to wait for an hour and a half for someone to help me get my car out and it was cold so that wasn't very fun either (-28 C). Of course now my car shakes horribly when I go over 80 km/hr. I really hope it doesn't cost too much to repair. There goes the money I was saving for some new clothes. :(

I hope everyone else is having a better day.

February 28, 2011

Fresh vs. Frozen - a Household Tip

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While I do buy fresh fruit and veggies there are some that I prefer to buy frozen. Many people think that frozen foods aren't as good as fresh but that's not always the case. If you live in a coldern climate, like I do, for half the year the majority of available produce has been flown in or travelled on a truck across a country or two. Produce begins to looses nutritional value after it is harvested so by the time it reaches the shelves it could have significantly less nutrients than the frozen counterparts. In addition to the nutrient loss during travel time, fresh produce is often picked before it is ripe (at it's peak for nutrients) since it will ripen during the trip. As for those bags of frozen produce, the fruits and vegetables are usually frozen immediately after being picked which is when it's nutrient content is at its peak.

The bags of frozen stuff also save time; you don't have to chop or wash these veggies. I love them for stire fry's since you can just throw everything directly into the wok; no chopping and no waste.

The frozen stuff can also be less expensive than the fresh stuff and sometimes the no name brand is just as good (I find this true for broccoli, cauliflower, peas and brussel sprouts). Plus if I bought too much it doesn't really matter since I just throw the rest of the bag back into the freezer for later (rather than into the compost after it's sat in my fridge for a couple of weeks).

February 27, 2011

Butterick 5059

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My red dress is complete! It felt like it took forever since there was quite a bit of handsewing for this pattern. I'm still not exactly sure as to the date of this pattern but I love it's mod stylings. It's designed by "Jean Muir" who was a "60's fashion icon," so my guess remains late 60's or early 70's. I picked this to go with the Sewing through the Decades Challenge. Here's my version:
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I really need to start ironing my finished products before I get my husband to take photos, look at all those wrinkles and creases

I ended up thinking that the skirt was too big and I took it in quite a bit, but that of course ended up being a bit of a mistake since the dress now looks really boxy on me. (or maybe it's just me?) I'm not really sure this style suits my body type very well, I end up looking very rectangular and flat chested. I do have broad sholders so maybe that's why.

I messed up a bit with the fake belt detail (it ended up centred rather than off centre) so I had to add a second button to balance it out. I hemmed it a bit on the long side since I'm not sure that I can still pull off something so short (check out the mile long legs on that red dressed model).

This shot is a bit better:
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Maybe I should just always stand with my hands at my waist. Overall though I think it's pretty cute. I love the curved seams that make up the bodice. I think this pattern could be modified into a really cute top.

February 22, 2011

Homemade Pizzas

Last weekend I made two very large pizzas and froze them so that on a busy night we could take one out and just pop it into the oven for dinner. I used large disposable aluminum cookie sheets (they didn’t have pizza ones) for baking and storage and wrapped the tops with one layer of plastic wrap and one layer of tin foil.

While this is by no means a healthy meals, I do consider this to be healthier than the alternatives (ordering it in or eating store bough frozen ones with their mysterious chemical additive ingredients). I know that the whole “eat this – not that” (also known as “eat sh*t – not cr*p”) philosophy is flawed but is you want to maintain a healthy diet you do need to eat some of your guilty favourites every once in awhile. I like a homemade pizza and the whole wheat crust used here add a bit of fibre and I personally couldn’t taste the ”whole-wheatyness” of it, so it doesn’t affect the flavour.

I don’t really have a true recipe for pizza, I just make the crust, throw on some homemade sauce and toppings. My sauce is made form 1 can of tomato paste (per pizza), mixed with garlic, pepper, basil, oregano and crushed chillies, use a lot of spices and garlic so that you can taste the sauce despite the toppings. I like to put half of my veggies and meat under the cheese and half on top. I use about 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese per pizza, but you can use more or less depending on how much cheese you like, and I often crumble some feta on the very top if I have it.

Whole Wheat Crust
Ingredients
1 ¼ cup all purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour (possibly a bit more for kneeding)
1 package of active dry yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup of warm water (120F approx.)
2 tbsp olive oil

Steps
1.
Mix 1/ 1/4 cups of flour, yeast and salt, then add warm water and oil. Beat with an electric mixer on low until combined, then on high for about 3 min.
2. Stir in as much of the remaining flour as possible (I used my mixer with a dough hook, but the recipe originally suggested a wooden spoon).
3. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface until dough is smooth and elasticy (to knead dough fold it in half then push the dough down and out with the palm of your hand, then repeat over and over).
4. Divide the dough in half and cover with a clean dish towel, let it rest for about 10 minutes.
5. For a thin crust pizza, roll the dough out and transfer to a greased pizza pan; prick the dough with a fork and bake at 350F for about 10 minutes, then add toppings and pop back into the oven.
6. For a thick/regular crust pizza, roll out dough and place on greased pans. Cover and let rise in a warm space until the dough has dobled in size (about 40 minutes). Again, prick the dough with a fork then bake for 10 minutes, then top the pizza and bake until cheese is golden.

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If you want to freeze your pizzas don't bake them the second time, freeze them just after you put on the toppings.

Making large batch meals like this seems like a lot of work, but it actually saves time in the long run. It took about an hour (including rise time) to make these two large pizzas since I chopped and shredded and mixed everything at once. I don’t have time to make something like this during the week (and often by the time Friday rolls around I don’t have the energy to make something like this), but once a month or so I can usually find an hour on the weekend to do a large batch of something. Right now I have these two pizzas in my freezer as well as two homemade lasagnes. This weekend I’m hoping to add a couple of pot pies to that stash.



February 21, 2011

My Latest Project

Things have been very hectic around here lately. I've been so busy and stressed that things haven't realy been getting done. I've skipped a could of gym sessions (for good reason), meals haven't been so good/healthy and I've pretty much just been veg-ing in my spare time. As mentioned before, my grandma is in the hospital (hip replacement surgery) and now my grandpa is in the hospital (pneumonia), so I've been visiting. Frankly it sucks (not the visiting, them being in the hospital).

I did manage to work on my latest project for a couple of hours though, so I thought that I would give a sneak peak. It's part of the Sewing Through the Decades Challenge. I picked out a pattern from my mothers stash, so I believe that this is a late 60s or early 70s pattern (I couldn't find a date anywhere, if you know please send me a link). It's a mod dress, Butterick 5059:

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I'm making the red one. This is a pattern that I wouldn't normally go for but in keeping with the challenge and trying new decades I figured, what the heck. It is pretty cute.

February 17, 2011

Mini Friday

Ahhh, it's almost the weekend and it's been one of those weeks again. Work is crazy and I leave a bit late, then I get to the gym late so I leave there late, then I come home and still have a few things to do around the house. Plus my grandma broke her hip and had surgery (she's old and frail so it was a bit stressful). Man am I glad that it's mini Friday. It's time for a drink and I'm all out of dark beer, I need something yummy and not too sweet. So, here it is, one of my favourite drinks Pimm's No.1 Cup.

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Pimm's No.1 Cup

1 part Pimm's No.1
2-3 parts English style lemondade (I use 7up or gingerale)
slices of cucumber, strawberry, lemon, orange, apple or whatever you have
plently of ice

I used cucumber, strawberry and lemon. I swear I only had two...

February 15, 2011

Household Tip - Pineapples

My husband offered to run to the store on his way home and happened to pick up a treat for himself (all dressed = gross) and one for me, a pineapple. An odd pick but I guess they were on sale and he seemed to remember that I "liked those thingys," which I do. I picked it up and smelt the bottom and told him "mmm, this is going to be a good one," he gave me an odd look and I had to explain that smelling the base was how one picked out a ripe pineapple. He had been using dumb luck.

As odd as it sounds, and looks at the grocery store, this is the best way to pick a pineapple (although it should look nice on the outside too). Just pick up that baby and smell it's bottom base; it should smell nice and pineapply, not fermented/alcoholy.

Sine my hubby doesn't eat pineapple and a whole one is a bit much for one person, I generally cut up the whole thing into nice chunks and eat it throughout the week as dessert or snacks. The first thing you want to do it\s chop of the top spikes and the bottom.
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Next you want to "peel" off the skin and little spikes by running your knife down the sides of the pineapple:
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I generally cut out the tough core and cut the rest of the pineapple up into large chunks or wedges.
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see the core (circle) in the middle?

I actually like to eat the core, but it is tough and chewy so I won't serve it to guests (pieces always seem to get stuck in your teeth too - you've been warned).

See, easy-peasy, I don't know why people buy that cut up stuff in juice.

February 14, 2011

Happy Valentines Day!

Happy Valentines day everyone! Hope you do something nice for someone you love (and they do something nice for you) and if you don't have someone special to spend the day with, wait until tomorrow and reap the benefits of discount candy.


and if you're still looking for that perfect card, check out this site (VintageHolidayCrafts). They have a bunch of really cute vintage cards that you can download for free, including the one above.

February 13, 2011

Back Button Blouse Complete!

I have finally finished my 1940's back button blouse, Simplicity 1906. It actually wasn't a difficult pattern, I've just been really busy with work, work outs, and those pesky everyday chores. I am so glad to be finished.

I ended up going to a friends to borrow their machine to do the button holes; my machines zig-zag is still out of alignment. I am seriously considering buying a new machine when my yearly bonus comes, we'll see.

Here's the pattern:
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and here is my version:
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I had a bit of difficulty with the sleeves lining up and I still don't think they look quite right. I just couldn't figure it out, I measured the sleeves and they were exactly the same size in all aspects, the arrows lined up perfectly on the bodice and yet they still look off. Erg, I'll have to tweek it a bit if I make this pattern again (and I think that I will). The neckline also ended up being very high, it doesn't look odd I'm just not used to wearing high necks like that, they usually make me feel like I'm choking (turtlenecks drive me nuts).

Here is a view of the back:
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I love that the buttons are on the back, you don't see that very often anymore. When my husband saw the buttons on the back (to take the picture) he couldn't stop saying "you're crazy, button on the back, crazy!" They're actually really easy to button up as well, I kind of thought it would be a challenge.

My next project is a red mod styled dress, so stay tuned.

I had planned on making a bathing suit (I did finished the bottoms) but, well, it turned out bad, really, really bad.

February 11, 2011

Amazing Almond Ricotta Cake

Last weekend my parents came over with their snow rake to knock down some of the snow from our roof (we really didn't want to have to climb up there and shovel), so for their help I made a nice big warm meal, finished with a yummy Almond Ricotta cake.
I had never made this cake before and I planned on modifying the original recipe a bit so I wasn't sure how it was going to turn out. It turned out very, very yummy and moist. Too yummy in fact, I ended up eating at least a quarter of the cake (yes I am ashamed), it took a lot of hard work at the gym last week but I still think it was worth it. My husband even liked it, and normally cake has to have a lot of icing for him to say that I should make something again.

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Amazing Almond Ricotta Cake

Ingredients
Cake:
4 eggs
1 1/3 cups of sugar
2/3 cup canola oil
2/3 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp rum
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp almond extract
1 cup + 2 tbsp ground almonds
1 1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Topping:
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
1 egg
1/3 cup suagr
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp milk
1 cup sliced almonds

Steps:
1. Preheat oven to 350F and line a springform pan with parchment paper (I did bottom and sides).
2. Beat eggs, sugar and oil wih a mixer on high until the mix is thick and pale. Add ricotta, rum, vanilla and almond extract and mix until blended.
3. Add remaining dry ingredients and mix until evenly combined. Pour into pan and bake 40-45 min (until a toothpick comes out clean).
5. While baking, combine ricotta, egg, cocoa, vanilla and all but 2 tbsp of sugar, in a seperate bowl mix milk with 2 tbsp of sugar and toss almonds in mixture to coat.
6. Let cake cool for about 10 minutes then pour ricotta mixture on top and sprinkle with the almonds, put the cake back into the oven and bake at 370F for 15 minutes or until almonds have started to brown.
7. Cool cake, then serve.

This cake ended up tasting even better the next day straight from the fridge, it was still really moist and I think it tasted better cold (although it was still really, really good the day that I baked it).

I am a little ashamed to admit it but I ate a good 1/3rd of this cake, so good, so many miles at the gym and boring bean salads, uuugggggg.

February 7, 2011

DIY Vanilla Extract

I have been wanting to make my own vanila extract for quite a while; a couple of years ago I was watching Chef at Home and Michael Smith showed that he makes his own and this inspired me. It took awhile before I actually made my own because of well, time and the fact that the only vanilla beans that I ever saw in a local store were $20 for 2, which is pricy in my opinion. So, the other day when I saw some beans on sale for $10, I grabbed a vial and decided to finally make some extract.

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Homemade Vanilla Extract

Ingredients
2 plump vanilla beans
1 cup hard liquor (rum, vodka or bourbon are good choices but it must be at least 40% alcohol)

you will need 1 clean jar & lid (I sterilized mine in some boiling water)

Steps:
1. Split vanilla beans open by running a sharp knife lengthwise down the bean.
2. Spread the beans open and use the side of a knife to scape the "caviar" (or seeds) out, place the seeds in the jar.
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3. Cut the beans in half and place in the jar, add the alcohol to the jar and seal.
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4. The hard part - place the jar in a cool dark location for at least one month before using, you can top it up as you use it (best to add more beans as well since they loose their flavour over time).

I used some white rum that we picked up on our honeymoon, so the total cost for my extract was under $15, which is less than what a cup of artificial extract would have cost me (that bottle cost less than $5 - god bless Cuba).

Apparently "the USDA requires at least 35% vol. of alcohol and 13.35 ounces of pod per gallon which is roughly 8-11 pods per 250ml." Mine is nowhere near that as you can see but I think it will still turn out pretty well, I mean, if Chef at Home make his with only a few beans, then I'm sure that mine will taste just fine.

In a couple of months I'll pull this baby out and well see how it turned out.

February 5, 2011

My Latest Project

I've found my next project, a vintage inspired swimsuit. I know you may be thinking "what ever happened to that purple shirt?" but I am almost complete, I just need to make buttonholes and attach the buttons, unfortunately my sewing machine is old and the buttonhole setting doesn't really work, so I am going to have to borrow someone's machine to finish it off. I'll finish and post it soon, I swear.

Anyway, back to my latest project. While cleaning out my cold storage room I came across a tankini that I had bought a couple of years ago, why it was in the cold storage room I do not know. The suit is now too big, in fact all of my swimsuits are a bit too big, so I am going to try to make one myself (I'll probably end up buying one this summer too, hopefully an Ester Williams one). I want to make a skirted bikini type suit. I love them and they are suppose to be flathering. I've never actually tried one on so this may be a good test before I go out and buy one.

There are a ton of lovely photos online that one can use for inspiration, check out some of the ones that I found:

image found here
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image found here


image found on flickr
I love the wing busts on some of these, but I'm not going to try something that crazy (maybe one day, maybe one day). Here's what I have to work with:
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Wish me luck! ;)