Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Quilting... With a Difference

Internet searches are often like treasure hunts! Here is where one such "hunt" got me!...

I had been wondering what kind of border to add to my latest pinwheel quilt, so I did an online search of pinwheel quilt images to see what others have done.

This, in turn, led me to a blog with pictures taken at the Pacific International Quilt Festival a few years back. Two quilts caught my eye... The beautiful kaleidoscope of colors in a quilt made with pinwheels of various sizes (and no border!)

But the quilt that really amazed me was a portrait of two "Sunny Girls" - pictured a little further down the blog page. This quilt was created by a California quilter... So I did a google search to see what else this quilter (Pat Durbin) has made... And discovered a whole new style of quilting: picture quilts!

I'm utterly AMAZED by what Pat Durbin has done!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Moroccan-Style Mint Tea

When I was a university student, one of my close friends introduced me to mint tea, Moroccan style. I recall it was made of tea and sugar steeped in a lot of mint leaves. Over the years, I tried to replicate the taste, but I was never successful. Mint grows wild in my garden, but I think it's not the right kind of mint. I also didn't realize that traditional Moroccan mint tea is made using green tea... I may have to try again - using the recipe link above.

In the meantime... a few months ago, I discovered some mint tea bags, Moroccan-style, in my local supermarket. The natural sweetener, Stevia, gives it a slightly sweet taste. Whenever I drink it, it really does bring back memories!

It has quickly become one of my favorite teas: Refreshing hot or cold!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Money Memory

I was recently reading how writing down childhood "money memories" can help us understand our relationship to money.

It made me think... My earliest "money memory" dates back to when I was about four years old and living in small town Alberta (Hay Lakes: population 300 at the time)... And I was often given money by strangers...

(Perhaps I should clarify!) I had recently discovered the value of money... or, more precisely, that a nickel could buy me a small chocolate bar and a penny or two, a few candies in the corner store across the street...

At the time, we lived in a 3-room apartment above my father's garage, so I was often near the garage, or popping in to see what my father was doing.

Somehow I had also discovered that if I asked my father for money when he was at the cash register, and he refused, a customer standing nearby would invariably give "poor me" a nickel or a few pennies!

Then, of course, I would quickly run across the street to discover what my "treasure" could buy!

I'm not sure how that relates to my current relationship with money... (Do I view it as Easy come, easy go?!) I think it reveals more about my personality: That I am not afraid to take matters into my own hands. That I never viewed my father's "No" as final.

Perhaps any "normal child" would have done the same... In that case, it does make me realize how early children can learn to be schemers!

Sunday, November 27, 2011


I am slowly reading Kathleen Norris' book, The Cloister Walk. There is a lot to ponder.

Norris, a poet, makes the comment that - in our modern age, we have lost our ability to think metaphorically. (This can be a problem, as the Bible - like poetry - is steeped in metaphor.)

Elsewhere, she writes (in metaphor) that "the ancient monastics recognized that a life of prayer must 'work the earth of the heart'..."

And I (a non-poet, struggling with metaphors)... I am left pondering what the "earth of the heart" might be... Does 'working' this earth mean embracing all of the pain - as well as all the joy - life brings our way?

In my garden, working the earth means digging deep to mix the soil and soften it so plants will grow. How does this happen in me?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thankful... For City Sunsets

I love living in the city...

I'm especially thankful that, though I live in the city, I can still see glowing sunsets - even if they are partly blocked by buildings, telephone poles and trees!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Herringbone Quilts

Karyn's blog reference to herringbone quilts made me think about my own herringbone quilt - made quite a few years ago.

The color theme of my quilt was "blue"... (Though I thought of the design as waves.) But, from a practical standpoint, I simply wanted to use up my many blue fabric scraps!

The unique (to me) feature if this quilt is that I used an old sleeping bag for batting...

Yes, there's an old sleeping bag in here! (Washed, of course!) Which makes the quilt extra thick. As I recall, it was a little harder to quilt than normal batting. But I wanted to reuse and re-purpose the sleeping bag!

Come to think of it, the backing (fabric on the back) of the quilt is also re-purposed. I cut it from a European-made duvet cover that wasn't the right size for my Canadian-sized duvets.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Why this sudden burst of energy that makes me want to tidy my desk?

Could it be the sun?

The weather has been overcast for a few days... But even if the weather outside is cold - when sunlight shines in, I always feel ENERGIZED! There is nothing quite like it... (I wonder why!)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Knitting Stretch Cotton Socks

I've knit quite a few pairs of socks in the past few years, often using multi-colored yarns - both wool and synthetic...

I was inspired to try after hearing about someone who knit a pair a day...

I'm not as fast - it often takes me weeks (or even months) to finish them... I often have a pair on the go.

Last week, I began a pair using Paton's stretch cotton yarn.

I'm using a Paton's pattern for wool socks - a free pattern I picked up at a yarn store several years ago. (It can still be downloaded for free by anyone who signs up as a member of the Patons yarn website.)

The yarn is easy to knit - and I'm hoping the sizing will be right.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Kingston in November

Terry and I recently spent some time in Kingston, Ontario - a historic city on Lake Ontario.

We were lucky enough to get a hotel room overlooking the lake...

We saw a few boats in the water - and the ferry to Wolf Island...

But I imagine it was a cold ride...

Later we spent a few hours wandering along the water's edge near our hotel...

Battery Park...

The Marine Museum...

We saw relics of Kingston's marine history along the beach...

There are many reminders of Kingston's important role in Canada's history...

... when travel by water was faster than travel on land,

We also noticed ducks in the water...

They didn't seem to mind the cold November breeze that had us bundling up.

This monument beside the lake was especially sad. Erected in memory of 1500 Irish immigrants who died of typhus 160 years ago - after fleeing the famine in Ireland and braving the Atlantic Ocean to come to the New World, only to die here - it reminded me of my maternal grandfather - who also died of typhus in Europe in 1921 when he was only 30. Fortunately, typhus is a disease we rarely hear about these days.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pomegranate Memory

I don't know when I ate my first pomegranate - but I do remember standing at a rural bus stop near Kibbutz Hazorea in Israel during my summer on the kibbutz and noticing a tree nearby with fruit resembling pomegranates on it. The tree was growing at the edge of the road, so I went over and picked a red fruit, ate it - and LOVED it!

There is nothing like eating fruit fresh off the tree!

Now, whenever I see pomegranates in grocery stores, I can't resist buying one... And when I eat it, I always think of that summer so many years ago, and that delicious discovery one hot, dusty day.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Imaginary God

Our minister, George, recently commented that an imaginary wife, husband, girlfriend or boyfriend always agrees with us... But a real-life wife, husband or friend often sees things in a different way.

His point was that if God (as we envisage Him) always agrees with us and our ideas... If God doesn't sometimes challenge and disagree with us, we are worshiping an imaginary God - not the real-live living God.

George's words rang true - and I left the service thinking, not only about my real-life husband, but my real-life children, my real-life work, and my real-life friends... (My real-life LIFE!)... All are - at times - challenging... And sometimes (I admit) I do get fed-up and wish everyone would just agree with me! Wouldn't life be perfect if I could have everything my way?!!

But perhaps my attitude towards life (and all the wonderful people in it) is wrong. Perhaps life is meant to be challenging. We grow through challenges...

So maybe - instead of wishing for that wonderful future time when there will be no conflict in my life - I should revel in diversity, thankful that we are all different, constantly challenging each other to learn and grow!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Shakshuka: A Quick and Easy Meal

A while back my daughter sent me a link to a recipe blog.

Do you know how to make Shakshuka?
she asked.

Well, I've watched people make it and I've eaten it. But I've never actually made it, I replied.

But the way I remember it was simply fried tomatoes...

... with eggs added, to make a scrambled egg and tomato dish.
It's pretty easy.

(I guess the closest North American equivalent - in taste - to my recipe would be scrambled eggs with ketchup!)

After doing a little more online research, I've discovered a second recipe for Shakshuka. Both this one and the link my daughter sent me (above) make a tomato sauce with green peppers and garlic added, whereas I simply fried a tomato. This second recipe also adds spicy jalapeno peppers and suggests that - paired with pita bread - shakshuka makes a good breakfast. (I personally prefer it for lunch.)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Another Afghan Begun!

I don't know why - but whenever the weather gets colder, I have the urge to knit and crochet.

A week or so ago, I finished an afghan I started last winter...

So (of course!) I had to begin a new one!

It's based on "Anna's Afghan" - a pattern I've never tried.

(I really hate it when Terry asks me what I'm going to do with all my afghans! I tell him it's my "art": artists have to create - they don't ask practical questions like WHY or HOW MANY?!)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

DELICIOUS Pumpkin and Chocolate Chip Muffins

My baking urge started with a picture in a blog I often read: The chocolate chip pumpkin bread looked delicious! (November 7, 2011) So I hunted down the recipe*.

Here it is! But I made muffins...

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C)

In a large bowl, combine:
  • 3 cups white sugar (or a little less to taste)
  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 4 eggs
3. Beat until smooth.

4. Add:
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (As usual, I made some substitutions: I included 1/4 cup each of psyllium, oat flour, quinoa flour, wheat germ and whole wheat flour in place of some of the white flour. )
5. Mix in:
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
( I also substituted 1 teaspoon each of ginger and allspice in place of the nutmeg... But it was still delicious!)

6. Add 1 cup of chocolate chips.

7. Fill muffin tins or loaf pan 1/2 to 3/4 full and bake
for 25 minutes for muffins, for 1 hour for loaf pans - or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on wire racks before removing from tins or pans. This large recipe makes 3 loaves - or, in my case, 12 cupcakes and 2 loaves.

*The recipe in the blog "Just Breakfast" is credited to this blog... But later (hunting down nutritional information) I discovered the same recipe on the Canada website as well.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Favorite Indoor Plant

I don't know what this houseplant (top right) is called. I first saw it at a colleague's home - and Vera - a fellow teacher and plant lover - broke off a slip, rooted it and started this plant for me.

It loves the sun and grows profusely... so I also started a new plant, which I took outside this summer.

Would the outdoor sun be too strong for it?
I wondered... But it thrived... until the last frost...

I trimmed my indoor plant the other day - and I am now rooting new stems in a vase of water... getting ready for next spring, for next outdoor gardening season...

(We gardeners live in a cycle of hope!)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Apple - Cranberry Crisp

I am back to warming the house with the smell of cooking - and occasional baking.

One easy recipe I have been making is apple crisp using unpeeled apple slices and frozen cranberries. I sprinkle a little cinnamon on the apples and cranberries, add a little honey water (made by adding water to crystallized honey.)

This I cover and microwave on high for two minutes, to partly cook the fruit.

I then add crumb topping...

... (I keep some stored in the fridge for emergency dessert cravings!) ... and I add a bit more cinnamon.

Bake for about 20-30 minutes (until brown and bubbling) at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius) - and there it is, ready to eat!

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Many Uses of Quilts

I recently enjoy reading a blog post that summarized - with wonderful illustrations - the many uses of quilts.

I glanced over at an unfinished denim quilt I had started at a workshop many years ago. I realized, as I worked on it, that it would be too heavy (and probably not warm enough) to use as a comforter.

So I left it - unfinished - draping a strip of blocks over the piano bench.

Here are the unfinished pieces... Perhaps I should get back to it. It might make an interesting table cloth or picnic blanket... Or maybe even a wall hanging...

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Prayer of Thanks

I recently attended a workshop on appreciating and writing personal "psalms" - poetic prayer songs to God. I'm no poet, but I do love to read (and sing) the psalms of the Bible. (They are so honest!)

Our assignment:
To create a personal list of things for which we are thankful - adding a comment about each item on the list. So here is my prayer of thanks, written as 17 of us sat in a sacred circle - all composing, then sharing, our personal thanks to God!

Loving, surprising Father-God,

I thank You for the dreams You put in my heart -
They've taken me farther than I ever expected to go.

I thank You for the family You've given me -
They've stretched me more than I ever wanted to be stretched.

I thank You for allowing me to Live the Dream -
The grade-five dream of a house among trees,
And a life of writing... not stories, but blogs.

I thank You for pulling me back to this writing dream -
Again and again -

I have so much to learn!

This is all part of Your Divine Plan:
leading has taken me farther than I ever expected to go!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Tree Dilemma

This white pine tree...

... is really two trees growing close together.

The front tree is now leaning towards the road... and it's tall: Could it crack and fall in a wind storm?

An arborist suggested bracing the two trees together - something Terry wants to do.

But I'm no fan of the trees. They shed pine needles profusely - creating acidic soil that kills many of the flowers I plant. I feel as if I'm in a constant battle with the trees... So my preference would be to cut them both down...

What to do?!

It's our current tree dilemma.