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
http://thumb2.webshots.net/t/52/152/9/94/39/2305994390091063602Fcsyps_th.jpg

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.