Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Pumpkin Squares

I don't often go to Starbucks, but last fall someone suggested I try the cranberry pumpkin bars. Yum! They haunted me - pumpkin smooth with a hint of spice, creamy sweet vanilla icing and a few chopped cranberries sprinkled on top. So I decided to try my own recipe. And I think it tastes pretty good. It's easy and makes a big panful.

Pumpkin Squares

4 large eggs
1 2/3 cups sugar
1 cup oil
1 16-oz can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup white all-purpose flour
2 tsps baking powder
2 tsps Pumpkin Pie Spice
1 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 15 x 10 inch jelly roll pan. In large mixing bowl beat together eggs, sugar and oil. Gradually add the pumpkin, beating until smooth. Add the flours, baking powder, spice, and baking soda. Stir until smooth (there may be a few small lumps). Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes.

When cool, cover with a layer of vanilla butter icing (soft butter, icing sugar, vanilla and some milk) then chop a few sweetened dried cranberries and sprinkle them on top. Enjoy with a cup of hot Earl Grey tea.

This is a perfect treat for a cool fall afternoon.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Buttons and Wool

I'm working on a pillow made from a recycled wool sweater and some buttons that remind me of fall with their warm colours. Hopefully I'll finish it this week...
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Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday's Child

Here she is...the birthday girl with her cousin, the bride. She's filled our lives with joy from the moment of her birth on a sunny Friday morning in a small jungle town in South America. And like the nursery rhyme...she is loving and giving. Happy, happy birthday sweetheart!

Monday's child is fair of face
Tuesday's child is full of grace
Wednesday's child is full of woe
Thursday's child has far to go.
Friday's child is loving and giving
Saturday's child works hard for a living
But the child that is born on the Sabbath day
Is bonny and blithe and gay.
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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Evening Stitches

The autumn rains began yesterday. Grey, moody skies drizzled off and on throughout the day. I love fall and the change to an indoor, hearth-centered focus on daily activities. Last night we had a simple meal of soup and sandwiches as we gathered round the table and touched base on what happened in each other's lives.
And then an evening spent puttering - cutting out fabric for a new dress, some reading, and a few stitches. I've started thinking about Christmas presents. For someone in my family, I found a linen table runner that I'm embellishing with simple swirls of whipped chain stitch. The feel of the fabric in my hand and the rhythm of the needle while I sit in a pool of lamplight is a perfect end to a fall evening.
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Monday, September 22, 2008

An Autumn Cup of Tea

Autumn arrived last night and I heard her blowing through the trees this morning as I lay in bed in morning's half-light. Although the garden is still coloured with roses and cosmos, they are blowsy and loose, ready to lose their petals to the wind.

When we went to Alberta for a wedding in August, my mother-in-law divided among her daughters and daughters-in-law, her china teacups. In the 1950s it was fashionable to give bone china cups as wedding and shower gifts. I came home with several and I shared them with my daughters and daughter-in-law. I think the one above is going to be taken down from its perch to become my autumn teacup. The colours and leaves just remind me of this wonderful season. And as I sip my tea, I'll thank God for mum and for the love she's shown me in the years I've known her.
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Friday, September 19, 2008

September Delights

Summer and autumn fuse into each other...in a mild wonder of too-soft days."
H.E. Bates, "Through the Woods"

Melissa at The Inspired Room posted a list of 20 Little Things to Treasure in Autumn. That inspired me to think of my own delights in this wonderful season. What are yours? If you post a list I'd love to read it - even a list of one thing!

My September Delights

1. Long walks with the sun shining and a cool breeze playing against my face.
2. Making (and eating) soup.
3. Reading in a pool of lamplight with a few candles burning.
4. Apple Crisp.
5. Dahlias in all their sizes, shapes and colours.
6. Bittersweet acknowledgment that the days are shortening rapidly.
7. Scuffling through dry leaves.
8. Collecting pine cones.
9. The warm smell of vanilla in sauces and desserts.
10. Gathering around the table with my family.
11. Sewing with wool and corduroy.
12. Snuggling on the couch with my husband to watch a movie.
13. Baking bread.
14. Starting new programs - church and community.
15. Connecting with friends after summer's travels.
16. Admiring the jewel tones of the jars of homemade jams lined up in the pantry.
17. Savouring the last fruits of summer - plums, fall berries, peaches
18. Hot Chocolate.
19. Pancakes and sausage for breakfast, with maple syrup and the last of the strawberries.
20. Birthday season (my son, my youngest daughter and my son-in-law, mother-in-law, brother-in-law and 2 nephews have September birthdays)

Stitching with Scraps

Yesterday I was playing around with some scraps of fabric - I hate throwing away leftovers after making a project. This was made from some torn duipionni silk. A little hand-stitching, some fluffing and a few freshwater pearl beads...and wouldn't you know it - a flower emerged.

But what to do with it? Well, I thought it looked pretty against a colored napkin as a table accessory.

And also as a pin on my black wool winter coat - which I am not wearing yet, but the day is soon coming. Or it would be pretty on a gift, tied to a bag, stitched to a pillow. Just thinking about the possibilities makes me want to make a few more of these.

And the scrap pile will diminish! Yay!

edited to add: Several have asked for instructions on how to make this flower. I hope to do a tutorial in the next couple of weeks.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Why is it...

that mini-almost-anything is so appealing? Like these muffins I made for our ladies' Bible study starting this morning? Just two mouthfuls of yummy, warm goodness. With the days shortening and a chill in the air, these Apple Struesel Muffins are the perfect start to a fall day.

Apple Struesel Muffins

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup white flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 egg
2/3 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable cooking oil
3/4 cup grated apple, peeled or not (I didn't peel mine)

In mixing bowl stir together flours, sugar, baking powder and salt. In another bowl beat egg, milk and cooking oil to blend. Stir in apple. Pour into flour mixture and stir just until moistened. Fill muffin cups (I made 3 dozen mini ones - or 12 regular sized) Sprinkle with streusel topping (below) and bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes. (15 minutes for the minis)

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour (I used whole wheat)
1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Rub all ingredients together until crumbly.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Cozy Lap Throw

My daughter Ashley made this throw - a wedding present for a friend. Isn't it pretty? I love the different textures of fabrics she chose, which are hard to see in the photo. A bit of velvet and brocade adds richness. She's so talented.
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Monday, September 15, 2008

A Walk in the Bog

One of my favourite places to walk is the bog. I took my camera along and noticed all the signs that autumn is close. Come with me....

Tall dry grass against an impossibly blue sky.

Long afternoon shadows reach across the pathway.

Red berries - I'm thinking these would look great piled into a bowl on the table - not for eating, just for looking. I'll have to find some that aren't in a park.

In many places the path is shaded by a tangle of willows and blackberry bushes grown tall. I love these "tunnels" - and the emerging light at the end. So romantic. As I walk I hear the rustle of leaves, the flutter of birds in the branches and some noises in the grass that make me walk a little more quickly.
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Thursday, September 11, 2008

More Touches of Fall

I took a walk after dinner last night. My daughter and I climbed to the top of Christmas Hill (isn't that a wonderful name?) from where we could see downtown Victoria, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountains beyond. The sun was mostly gone and all around us the sky was pink, orange, yellow and faintly purple. The colours changed as I turned myself in a circle, looking at the horizon from all angles.
The weather is gorgeous - lovely warm sunshine and no rain at all, but the nights are cool and from the top of the hill I could see that slowly and relentlessly the trees are fading into gold. And as I stood there a spark of anticipation leaped up in me. A new season is coming! What will it hold?

Every year during September I pull out this handcarved wooden leaf bowl. The warm colours and leafy shape whisper autumn to me. There's a small town in Ecuador, San Antonio de Ibarra, where woodcarvers concentrate. On one of our last trips there, before moving back to Canada, I purchased this bowl. I love to fill it with nuts or pretzels or Werthers Butterscotch candies. And when I see it, I remember living in a land where autumn didn't exist.
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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Deviled Eggs with a Twist

I saw this on Alicia's blog and since I love deviled eggs, I had to try them. The full name of the recipe, from The Splendid Table, is "Pan-Crisped Deviled Eggs on French Lettuces." They were perfect for dinner last night preceded by a bowl of ginger-flavoured roasted squash soup. Yum!

This was so simple. I added some cucumber and tomato slices fresh from my garden and the meal was completely satisfying.

8 large eggs, hard-cooked and peeled
1 scant teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 1/2 teaspoons minced onion
2 1/2 tight-packed Tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
2-3 Tablespoons milk
2 1/2 teaspoons mayonnaise
1 1/2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 - 3 Tablespoons good-tasting extra-virgin olive oil

Cut the hard-cooked eggs in half lengthwise. Gently remove the yolks and place them in a medium boil. Reserve the whites.
Add the mustard, garlic, onion, parsley, milk, mayonnaise and vinegar to the yolks. With a fork, crush everything together into a thick past. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Pack the mixture back into the hollows of the egg whites, so the filling is even with the surface of the egg, not mounded. You will have leftover stuffing which will become the salad dressing.
In a large non-stick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Gently place the eggs in the pan, stuffed side down. Cook until the eggs are beautifully browned, 3-5 minutes. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper as they cook.
As the eggs saute, combine the leftover egg stuffing with all the dressing ingredients (following). Add the salad greens to the bowl and toss. Heap them on a serving platter.
Gently lift the eggs from the pan, turn them filling side up, set them on the greens, and serve.


Leftover egg yolk stuffing
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 generous teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 1/2 Tablespoons milk
2 1/2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
salt and fresh-ground black pepper
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Sunday, September 07, 2008

How to Make a Simple Table Runner

Making a table runner is a quick and easy way to add colour or seasonal touches to your dining room, breakfast nook, or even a library table. Choose some great fabric, like this print from Anna Maria Horner and you'll have instant pizzazz.

First, collect your supplies.

Fabric - the amount depends on the length of the runner you want to make, but a yard or two is sufficient
Contrast fabric - I added a solid print for contrast - you can do this or not
Satin bias binding - instead of lining the runner, I finished the edges with 1/2 inch double folded ivory satin bias binding. Again, the amount depends on the size of your runner. Measure the length and the width and double it for the amount of bias binding needed, plus a few inches.

1. Determine the length and width of your table runner. I like about an 8 inch overhang. It's long enough to hang prettily and not too long to get in the way of anyone who might sit at the end of the table.
Since I'm finishing the edges with seam binding, I didn't have to take hem allowances into account. But I did add a contrast piece at each end, so I added 2 additional inches to the length of my runner for seam allowances. In addition, the contrast pieces were 9 inches each, so here are my calculations:

60 inch table length
+ 16 inches for overhang (2 x 8 inches)
+ 2 inches for seam allowances (4 seams for insert at 1/2 inch each)
- 18 inches for inserts (2 x 9 inches)

Total...60 inches of the main fabric.

I like a fairly wide runner, so I cut mine 18 x 60 inches.

2. Cut the contrast pieces. Mine are 18 inches wide x 9 inches long.

3. Determine where you want the contrast fabric to be inserted. I wanted them about 4 inches from the end of the table. So I cut the main fabric at 12 inches from each end. What I ended up with...

2 pieces of main fabric 12 x 18 inches (ends)
2 pieces of contrast fabric 9 x 18 inches (contrast insert)
1 piece of main fabric 36 x 18 inches (center of runner)

4. Stitch the pieces, right sides together, using 1/2 inch seams. Since I decided not to line this runner, I finished my seams with a close zigzag to prevent unsightly fraying. Press all seams towards the darker contrast pieces. If you use a lighter contrast, press towards the darker main fabric. You could also press the seams open and finish each seam allowance separately.

Make sure you stitch the contrast pieces in their correct placement. Here I am "unstitching" where I joined the end to the middle instead of to the contrast piece.

5. Apply the satin binding. Carefully open the binding and insert the raw edges of the runner into the binding. I like to use a really narrow zig zag stitch when applying bias binding. It seems to stay in place better.
I stitched the binding to both of the long edges of the runner first, then applied the binding to the ends, folding in the binding at each corner.

Voila, the finished runner.

If you make a runner, I'd love to hear about it. This is a quick and easy project.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Hot Chocolate Recipe and a Birthday

I thought I'd share my hot chocolate mix recipe with you. Hot chocolate made from milk and cocoa powder on the stove is probably the best, but it's not really fast. And I don't really like the purchased powdered mixes - they taste like they are full of chemicals. And many of the homemade mixes call for coffee creamer, which is also mostly chemicals. A friend gave me this recipe a long time ago and I try to keep it on hand. It's not too sweet. And without further ado...

Hot Chocolate Mix Recipe

4 cups powdered milk (I like to whirl it in the blender for a finer texture)
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (like what you use for baking)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups icing sugar (powdered sugar for those of you in the US)
1/2 tsp salt

That's it. Mix it all up, put it into a pretty container and use about 2 1/2 heaping tablespoons per cup of boiling water. There's nothing like it for a cool September morning, or evening. I can drink it all day long!

And for the birthday....

Our son, Travis, turns 25 today! He was born on a sunny September day in a little mission hospital on the edge of the Amazon jungle. It was a great community - I remember a friend coming in while I was in labour to bring me the mail and I read a letter from my mother. This was pre-email days. Most of the doctors and nurses were our friends and kept popping into my room throughout the day to chat and see how things were progressing.

And now here he is...all grown up, married and just finished his computer engineering co-op and degree and beginning a brand new job on Monday.

Love, love, love and birthday blessings to you, dearest boy!

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Friday, September 05, 2008

Blogging is so much Fun!

Christi gave me this lovely award. She is a talented artist - her drawings are so detailed and full of emotion. She puts her heart into what she does. Her blog is Charm and Grace Cottage - isn't that a beautiful name?
I'm really short of time right now and am not going to follow through with linking to 7 other blogs the way I'm supposed to.

What's keeping me so busy are my studies - wow, all the reading! History, Geography, French and English - the material is all so interesting, but really time intensive. I'm loving it.

Blogging is my way of taking mini-vacations. I've met so many wonderful people through blogging. Someday, I'd like to meet you all in person!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Late Summer Colour

A pretty windowbox along the water in Bamfield, BC. I'm feeling the need to soak in all the colour and warmth I can in these mellow September days.
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Monday, September 01, 2008

Autumn is Here!

Melissa at The Inspired Room is hosting a Fall Nesting Week. I don't have many warm colours in my home - I tend to blues, grays and yellow, but I like little touches of autumn here and there. I hope you enjoy seeing them and check Melissa's site for more wonderful Fall Nesting ideas.

Although the official date for autumn's beginning is not for another three weeks, it always seems to start right after Labour Day weekend. School begins and the crispness in the air, even though the sun's warmth continues, indicates a change...in the weather and in my mind. Today I changed the wire cone on my front door from summer to fall. I lined the cone with paper that can easily be changed according to the season, and the silk flowers provide the colours of fall.
Dahlias - glowingly beautiful in a pot on the patio.
When autumn comes I pull out the candles. I love lighting them in the evenings, or on cold mornings. I lined a silver tray with tatted, crocheted and stitched round doilies, set a grapevine wreath on top and then a wire pumpkin holding a candle and some fall colours.

A cup of hot chocolate or tea is always welcome when the rain falls and the air is chilly. I like to have a tray ready to carry to the living room or bedroom and it makes a nice accent on our dry sink in the family room.
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just a hint

The sky yesterday was blue, blue, blue. Warm sun shone, but there's a hint of the season to come in the air. A fresh feel to the air - a scent of change.
Another hint - an oak leaf, brown and dry, fallen on the rocky shore, waiting to be carried off on an autumn breeze.
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Of Spare Rooms and House Guests

  If you've ever read L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables , you'll remember the importance of the spare room. It was a long-...