Friday, January 30, 2009

Stitched with Love - Friendly Friday

Love is a marvelous, miraculous thing, but has this in common with fire:
one must keep it going and feed it.
Jean Simard

An evening or two of stitching resulted in this crazy patch heart. I love making things without patterns - just stitching as the muse leads. A few buttons and a piece of twill tape stamped with love to hold a little bouquet finished it off.

Now, where to put it? And should I do a tutorial?

Check out more Friendly Friday posts at Lynne Laura's A Romantic Nest.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Sunny Morning Walk

The sun invited me outside this morning. I just couldn't say no...I put on my jacket and shoes, tucked my camera into my pocket, pulled on some gloves after stuffing my pockets with tissues because my husband was generous enough to share his cold, and headed out the door.

I was glad for the gloves because the air was chilly, and wished I'd put on some sunglasses, too.

There's a Conservancy area near our home - Rithet's Bog. That's where I went, searching for signs of spring although I know it's only January. The grass is green all year here, so that doesn't count. But I loved the way the sun made patterns through the trees. The path beckoned me on...

And here, if you look closely, you'll see a robin. Fat, with a rusty red breast, he sat preening while I took his photograph. The robins have been here since Christmas.

I'm glad I listened to the sun's siren call for this afternoon has been cloudy and gray. Seize the moment!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tuesday Tablescape - A La Française

Last spring? summer? we had some friends over for dinner. I decided to cook a French meal and decorated the table accordingly. This heavy iron Eiffel Tower was in the middle, with a menu board just like we saw on the sidewalks in France (mine is seriously scaled down). and some fat white candles tied with perky polka-dotted ribbon.

The tablecloth is pale pink and I used black napkins. For place cards I used dollar store miniature frames. I like things that I can use for more than one party. This one was so much fun!

For more beautiful tablescapes, check out the links at Between Naps on the Porch. Susan hosts this event every week. It will soon be moving to Thursday instead of Tuesday.
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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Friendly Friday

I wish the sky would rain down roses, as they rain from off the shaken bush...
They would fall as light as feathers, smelling sweet;
and it would be like sleeping and yet waking, all at once.
George Eliot

Lynne Laura at A Romantic Nest is hosting Friendly Friday - a time to share quotations and friendly thoughts. While I don't really wish it would rain roses, it's fun to imagine what it would be like. And I do love roses - these grew in my garden last summer. Just a few more months of winter and we'll be feeling those velvety petals and drawing the fragrance in deep breaths.

And I was recently tagged by Kyllimarjaana who writes her blog from Finland. She has some gorgeous photos and is a very talented lady. I'm supposed to tell you 6 things about myself, and follow the rules below.

Here are six things about me...

1. I love dark chocolate - a day without chocolate just doesn't happen. I just take one or two squares (Lindt 70% is my favourite) and eat them slowly, sometimes with a cup of tea.

2. Making things is something I have to do - I think it's in my DNA. I have more ideas than time but everyday I stitch or knit or sew or glue or arrange something.

3. I am blessed with a wonderful family - a husband who is the BEST and always encourages me, three great children, now adults (two married), two children-in-law whom I love dearly, and an extended family of parents, sisters, brothers (including by marriage but there's really no difference to me), nieces and nephews.

4. Confession time - I have tons of unfinished projects. But...I think I'm making progress on them. This past year I've really tried to complete projects and the pile is quickly diminishing. It used to really bother me, but then I read a book by Barbara Sher and discovered that I AM A SCANNER! This has helped me understand myself and my constant need to be trying new things. I'm not such a scatterbrain after all!

5. I'm a student...of a certain age! I'm studying for my BA in French. I'm not quite half done. I love studying (usually.)

6. God's love and presence in my life gives me hope and purpose.

Here are the rules:

1) Link to the person who tagged you ( which I did )

2)mention the rules ( which I 'm doing )

3)Tell 6 things about myself ( see above )

4)Tag 6 other bloggers by linking to them

5)Go to each persons blog and leave them a comment
letting them know they've been tagged

I'm not going to tag anyone in particular, but if you do this tag, please link back here, leave a comment and I'll come right over for a visit!

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Time for Tea and Two Winners

The winning names for the Valentine Mobile Giveaway are Carole and Lilli - I'll get your kits in the mail this week!

My youngest daughter gave me this beautiful teapot for Christmas. I have quite a few teapots, but wanted one that holds more cups of tea! This makes 5 big mugfuls - perfect for when the girls drop by. Blue and white is my favourite colour combination and I love the swirls and flowers.

This teapot was made in Vietnam, I believe, and was purchased at Ten Thousand Villages, a fair trading company that supports local industries around the world. They have wonderful handcrafted items there. If your town has such a store, check it out!
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Friday, January 16, 2009

January Pleasures

January marks the start of a new year, but it can be a quiet month. For me, it's a time of peace and of reflection, although there are plenty of things keeping me busy. But I savour quiet evenings at home with my husband, and Sunday dinners with my family while the wind blows rain drips outside. Here are a few of my January delights.

* After taking down the Christmas decor I enjoy a few days of a spare,
streamlined home. Slowly, the mantle fills and a few pretty things are
added here and there - right now three pink hyacinths are beginning to
bloom there, lined up in a row with clear glass votives between them.
What a pretty sight to see the candles flicker in the evening and
smell the hyacinths.

* One ritual I've begun that is now in its second year is that of
making a collage featuring a word, or words that I've chosen to focus
on for the year. This year my word is New, with Dwell and Trust
alongside. I did a post about that here.

* I like to spend a few hours pouring over my cookbooks and marking
new recipes to try. So far this year I've made Ile Flottante (Floating
Island) and some luscious Souffle Cakes, and a Vegetable Strudel.

* new craft projects are always a lovely way to fill January evenings.
I've begun knitting a pair of blush pink handwarmers for my daughter
in the softest yarn. One is done, the other just begun.

* planning my summer vegetable garden while sitting beside the fire is
a lovely juxtaposition of seasons

* drinking copious cups of hot tea

* going for winter walks with my husband - in the evenings after
dinner, or on the weekends out along the shore or in the woods

Be sure to visit Melissa at The Inspired Room for more ideas and links to Living Beautifully.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Love Bird Mobile Tutorial and a Giveaway

Love, twitters, sweet kisses, hearts and flowers add up to Valentine's Day! It's coming soon!

I've been playing in the evenings - having fun at my desk. I came up with this idea for a Valentine mobile and thought I'd share it with you. The days are grey and cloudy and the pictures reflect that, but here goes.

1. Collect your supplies. I used scrapbooking cardstock, but any firm paper would work. Scissors, glue, a few embellishments and you're set. You'll need thread for hanging the birds - I used a quilting thread for strength, but regular thread would work too.

2. Cut out the pieces. You'll need the number indicated on the pattern below. I think if you click on the picture and print it full page you'll end up with the same size that I have.

3. Cut pieces of thread - they can be trimmed to size later, I cut mine about 5 inches to begin with.
4. Spread a thin layer of glue on one side of two birds (opposites, not pairs). Lay the thread at the top, then place the matching bird over it and glue the two together. Do the same with the two heart pieces.

This is what you'll end up with - two birds and one heart patterned on each side, with a thread peeking out the top.

5. Spread a layer of glue onto one of the circles. Place the bird and heart pieces where you want them fit into the circle and carefully lay the threads across the glue. Fit the second circle over the threads. I recommend setting a heavy book over the pieces at this point to let them dry perfectly flat. 6. Then the fun begins - embellishment! I cut the tops off feathers to get just the right size for the wings. And what's Valentine's Day without a sparkle in the eye?

For the heart, I added a stem of flowers, then the banner on which I've written "love" on one side and "l'amour" on the other. A bit of glitter on the banner never hurts, either.

7. Add a thread at the top for hanging. I used a needle and poked it directly through the two layers of cardstock, then knotted it. I think it will be stronger this way. Hang your pretty mobile in a window and watch those lovebirds twirl and dance.

If you leave a comment and a way to contact you, I'll pick out 2 names on Sunday, January 18 and send each the cut pieces to make this mobile. I'll include the paper, the feathers, sparkly eyes and flowers. You'll have to add the glue and thread, that's all! Oh, and maybe a bit of glitter.

This is a fun and easy project!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Last year, for the first time, inspired by other bloggers, I choose a word, actually five words, on which to focus. I made a collage reminder, seen here, and hung it in my office/studio. I was surprised at how often over the year I would look at the piece and think, "ah yes, that's what it's all about."

But I didn't see how I would be able to come up with new words every year, because I certainly haven't exhausted last year's words. But as I've been reading my Bible and thinking about the year to come, the word that kept coming to mind was "New." Sometimes I feel that there is so little that's new at this season in my life when I'm struggling with the empty nest syndrome. (Oh, how I hate being part of a "syndrome.") But as I've prayed and cast about in my mind for what the future holds, the words written by Isaiah the prophet "See, I am doing a new thing," remind me that God is always doing things that are fresh and new - even in this time of my life.

I'm not depressed or despairing, just dealing with a new reality. There are pleasures in every stage of life. And I've got goals and plans - exciting things on the horizon. And so I will continue to Trust and to Dwell.

Over the weekend my husband worked on designing a new piece of furniture on the computer and I sat at my little table and played. This collage featuring my word(s) for 2009 was one of my projects. I love working up here together with Tim - we don't chat much, but just being in the same space is wonderful. He is truly and completely my best friend.
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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Felt Flower Brooch

This little pin is brightening up my black winter coat these days. I made two of these - one for a friend as a Christmas gift and one for myself. I used Betz White's tutorial, found here. The white petals are from a thrift store sweater I felted, the blue and green are scraps of wool felt I had. Betz uses a felt ball for the centre, I used a pearl button.

There are so many generous designers in blogland. They share so much of their creativity and I am thankful. They inspire me in so many ways.
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Friday, January 09, 2009

Winter softness

My latest knitting project - a pair of Pretty Lace Handwarmers from the Purlbee. I'm using a soft pink yarn that is lovely to touch.
There are many beautiful projects on the Purlbee site. Go on over and take a look. You'll be inspired.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Focus and Direction

My big plan right now is to keep plugging away at my French degree and then get my teacher certification. It's a course I set out and I'm determined to finish. But oh my, so many other things crowd my mind. Ideas for crafts, books to read, sewing projects, creative writing ideas. I do keep up with some sewing and crafting for relaxation, but mostly I push those thoughts away and tell myself, "just finish this degree." It's going to take a few years and seems daunting at times.

Like our two daughters pretending to be intrepid explorers in the photo above, I have to keep my eyes on the long-term goal, on the horizon ahead.
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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Complicated Paper

I read an article in a Somerset Studio magazine about creating "complicated paper" to cut up and use in other projects. Basically, it's a large sheet of varied papers. I used a sheet of tissue paper and then added scraps of whatever I had - mostly scrapbooking paper, but also pieces of old music, a letter, some wallpaper scraps and paper lace doilies. I glued it all down, let it dry, then painted over it with an uneven wash of blue paint. After that dried I went over some areas with watered down pearlized paint.

Today I hope to iron it all flat and then cut it up into pieces for the project I have in mind. More on that later.

What is more relaxing in the evening than a cup of tea or hot chocolate and a lovely magazine (or book) accompanied by the flicker of candlelight? Aahh.
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Monday, January 05, 2009

On a Winter's Day

In a way winter is the real spring, the time when the inner
things happen, the resurge of nature.
(Edna O'Brien)

Most of the snow has disappeared in town, washed away by the rain that's falling. Yesterday afternoon we took a walk in the woods and there the snow lies deep on the ground, with a hard crust that we could walk on. I love the woods in every season - now in winter, the trees are dark and mysterious, heavy with moss. Black pools of water trickle softly and flocks of birds fly overhead.

Today it's back to work, back to studying, back to "normal" life. But always in January there's reflection as thoughts turn over in my head. What is essential? What do I value? What should be left behind? For what am I thankful? What goals should I pursue?

These are the things I'm pondering just now...
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Friday, January 02, 2009

Clean and Simple and a Dessert Recipe

Mixed emotions accompany the taking down of the Christmas decor. It means the festive season is officially over and it's time to head back to work and study. But once the pine needles are vacuumed and the decorations neatly stowed in their proper place in the storage room, I like to putter and rearrange things. January, for me, is all about simple, spare and white.

My mantle holds just a few things - a tall crystal vase filled with brown twigs and several glass candle holders. Flickering candles that refract light through glass charm me as I read or knit or write in my living room.

Have you ever eaten Floating Island? I never had but somehow, the thought popped into my head yesterday. I hankered after a light and white sweet, and this was it. Delicious, with lots of texture - melting smooth crème anglaise, marshmallowy meringue, bitter burnt sugar sauce and crunchy sweet praline.

Although this recipe has a lot of steps, it's not difficult at all. Most of it can (and should be) made ahead, even a day or two. I spent a couple of hours puttering in the kitchen in the early afternoon, then did the meringues at the last minute.

Step One:

Burnt Sugar Sauce

3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup water
another 1/4 cup water mixed with 1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons heavy cream

Heat the sugar and 1/4 cup water in small, heavy sauce pan, stirring once or twice until the sugar dissolves. Cook over medium heat, not stirring, but swirling every few minutes, until the syrup turns a light caramel. Remove from heat and add the water mixed with vanilla. Be careful as the mixture tends to pop and bubble. Return to heat and stir and cook until caramel reached 230 degrees F (thread stage). Remove 1/4 cup of caramel for the praline (recipe follows). Set the remainder aside to cool slightly, then add the cream and stir until combined. This can be made ahead and then reheated slightly when you are ready to assemble the dessert.


3/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup of the caramel sauce

Combine almonds and sauce. Bake on a parchment lined baking sheet for 10 minutes at 350 degrees, or until almonds are toasted. Let cool, then break into small pieces. (I like mine quite fine and smashed them with a rolling pin.)

Crème Anglaise

1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream (whipping cream)
dash salt
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract

Heat the milk and cream in a small saucepan until just hot. (Steam should rise from the milk, but it shouldn't boil.) Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar with the salt. Add a small amount of the hot milk to the eggs, then whisk the yolk mixture back into the saucepan with the rest of the milk. Cook, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens slightly - about 175 degrees. The mixture should not boil. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Strain mixture into a glass or metal bowl. Press a piece of plastic wrap or waxed paper onto the top of the sauce to prevent a skin forming. Chill. (Will keep up to 3 days.)


Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Beat 2 egg whites with a dash of salt and 1/8 tsp cream of tartar until foamy. Then increase the speed and add 1/2 cup of white sugar. Beat until the egg whites are very stiff and glossy. Beat in 1 tsp vanilla. Spoon the meringue onto the baking sheet, forming 6 mounds. Bake for 20 minutes (they will be soft).

To assemble the Floating Islands, pour a puddle of Crème Anglaise onto a dessert plate, place a Meringue on top, drizzle a little Burnt Sugar Sauce over top and sprinkle with a bit of Praline.

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Days at Home

  Last night after dinner the sunshine illuminating the bouquet of peonies prompted me to grab my camera. I love the frilly elegance of the ...