Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Living Room Picnic

Last night our youngest daughter and her boyfriend came over for dinner. It was cold and rainy, and I thought a hot dog roast in the fireplace would be fun. A sand-coloured blanket on the floor stood in for the beach. I pulled up the coffee table and covered it with a warm red runner from Guatemala. Candlelight always makes a table look special.

Here's the gang roasting hot dogs. With them I served oven yam fries with a chipotle dip and a crudité plate. We love our hot dogs with guacamole, which I make with grated onion and finely chopped tomato, lemon juice and salt. Yum! Dessert was brownies topped with ice cream and black forest cherry sauce. Simple and fun!

Don't forget to enter my giveaway which is in the post below this one.

For a weekly dose of wonderful tablescape inspiration check out Susan's blog at Between Naps on the Porch.
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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Time to Celebrate

I think it's time for a giveaway. This seems to me like a great week to do it - I've just opened an Etsy shop and it's my birthday. And what's a birthday without presents? I love giving presents as well as getting them. There are two parts to this giveaway.

The first giveaway will be for those people who are already followers of my blog. It's one of my hand stitched journals. I have three of them here in my Etsy shop but I saved this one just for someone special. I'm amazed every time I look and see how many people have signed up to follow this blog. And I'm so grateful for comments and encouragement - this blogging community is just wonderful. But I don't really want people to sign up to be followers just to get in on the giveaway. So....

 I'm giving away one of my sweater pillows. This pillow is made from recycled wool sweaters - including the flowers. It has a stuffed cotton insert and is sweet and cozy. If you would like to enter this giveaway, please leave me a comment and make sure that I have some way of contacting you if you win. You don't have to have a blog to enter.

Want to increase your chances of winning? Follower or not, I'd be thrilled if you post about this giveaway on your own blog and will put in another entry for you.

I'll keep the poll open until Monday night, November 2.

In your comment, please tell me what you would use a blank journal for (they make great gifts for others, too) and what is your favourite hot drink.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

On a Frosty Morning

Brrr! We had frost this morning. I heard the scraping of car windows and peeked outside in the dark. Sure enough, white frost covered the roofs and grass.

On Sunday afternoon we arrived home to find this beautiful arrangement on the front porch. No name, no note and I couldn't imagine where it came from. A message on the answering machine revealed the answer. Our talented daughter-in-law Katie took a flower arranging course on Saturday and shared one of her projects with us. It's so cheerful and colorful. I love fresh flowers and have been missing picking them from my garden. These sit in my kitchen where I can enjoy them while I cook.

The cooler weather always makes me want soup. I could eat soup everyday, I think. I came up with this recipe that combines ginger and a bit of red curry paste with lots of vegetables and some chicken. It fills and warms the tummy nicely. The recipe for Ginger Chicken Soup is found on my recipe blog. Just click the link!
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Sunday, October 25, 2009

A New Venture

Just a quick post here on a Sunday afternoon. The craft fair was a success in spite of the low turnout. It was a fairly new craft fair, and perhaps not as well advertised. It's also a bit out of the way. But I was pleased. I met a fellow blogger there - Pondside, who has a lovely blog full of optimism and creativity. She is the first of my blogging friends that I've met in person and our short chat was a highlight of the day.

Today, I opened an Etsy shop. I've thought about it for a long time and today, took the plunge. I've listed three of my journals there and hope to add more of whatever I'm inspired to create.

It's been a grey Sunday - time to head downstairs and enjoy warming soup for supper.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Frugal Luxuries Giveaway

I was recently introduced to Tracey McBride's books by another blogger - Clarice at Storybook Woods. Tracey has a blog (or two) and she's hosting a giveaway of her books. So click on over and see what's there. Frugal living has been a lifestyle for us for many years, and it's been a great thing especially in these months since my husband lost his job. Although we don't have the same income we used to, our lifestyle has changed very little because of practicing frugality.

Frugal living does not mean life is without beauty. Living a beautiful, rich, fulfilling life is part of living frugally. It's all about attitude. Living frugally is great for the planet and great for the bank account. And it helps me to focus on what's really important in my life - the love of family and friends, my faith, the beauty of creation, a sense of purpose throughout the day. These are the things that make my world go round. How about you?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Perfect Art Form

I think I've found my perfect art form. Making blank books! I love to read and write and I collect words and quotations like dogs collect fleas. I also like to stitch and glue and make collages and assemblages. Making books combines all of these activities - AND on top of all that, they are useful!

A linen-covered blank book with a felt bird and French ribbon.

I love this quotation. I have a stack of journals that go back years which I've filled with the breathings (and cryings and joys and thankfulness of my heart.)

I've made these for the craft fair at Willis Point on Saturday. If you're in the Victoria area, be sure to stop by and introduce yourself.

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It's Hot Chocolate Season Again!

Although this photo was taking with sunshine streaming through the window, there has been little of it around here lately. And on a dark, rainy morning what's better than a mug of hot chocolate? I'll drink it any time of day. But I really dislike the packaged mixes - they taste like chemicals and are waaay too sweet for me. Many of the homemade mixes include non-dairy creamer, which to me is a fake food - a conglomeration of chemicals and who knows what all?

I do like hot chocolate made from milk warmed in a pan over the stove, but having a mix on hand is faster. Years ago a friend gave me this recipe and it's been one of my staples ever since. I made a batch this week, and have a mug on hand beside my computer when I visit my blog friends. Setting a pretty tray with cocoa for two makes it special for my husband and me.

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 sugar1 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. I like to sift it to make sure it's completely smooth and combined. 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 autumn morning, or evening. I can drink it all day long!

And once again, visit Susan at Between Naps on the Porch for a weekly dose of table setting inspiration.
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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Scrap Bag Doll Tutorial Part One

Meet Chantal and Annette. They're made from all kinds of scraps that I just can't bear to discard.Some have been around for a long time. Although it might seem like there are many steps to making this doll, just take them one by one and you'll have your own Scrap Bag Doll in no time. She's 20 inches tall and would make a perfect companion for a little girl.

Here's what you need to get started:

Fabric - naturally! You can use any size or shape of scraps for this project. Piecing the fabric in squares or rectangles will result in a different, but charming look than using strips as I did. I used strips because that's what I had most of in my scrap bag, and I supplemented them with larger rectangles.

When choosing fabrics, go bright or subdued. I collected pieces that went together, but a truly scrap doll could be made by just pulling fabrics without thinking.

Sewing machine
handsewing needle
measuring tape
scotch tape
fibrefill stuffing
acrylic paints for face
yarn for hair
hook and loop fastening, one (1/2 - 3/4 inch)

patterns - The patterns are in JPeg format and if you click on the patterns they will open and can be printed on an 8 1/2 by 11 inch sheet of paper. A 1/4 inch seam allowance is included on all pattern pieces. They are full sized. Make sure to follow the instructions for putting together the head/body pattern piece. It won't fit on one page, so you'll have to tape it together.

arm pattern

leg pattern

boot/top of head pattern

body/head pattern

Okay, let's get sewing!

Step 1 - Prepare your fabric for cutting.

You will construct separate pieces of fabric for each pattern piece as follows:

For the arm pattern, piece a rectangle 12 inches wide by 8 1/2 inches tall. The bottom 2 inches of the rectangle will be the doll's hands, so you choose whatever skin colour you want.

For the leg pattern, piece a rectangle 12 inches wide by 9 inches tall.

The boot can be solid or pieced. You need about a 9 inch square.

For the head/body construct a square 14 inches wide by 14 inches tall. The top 5 inches will be the head, so again, choose your fabric accordingly. I used wider strips for the body, but narrower ones would work here as well.

To piece your rectangles, place right sides together and stitch a 1/4 inch seam. Keep adding strips until you have the required size. After stitching, press the pieces flat, then fold them in half in preparation for cutting.

Step 2 - Cut the fabric pieces from the patterns.

Cut two of each pattern piece given. Align the hands on the arm piece, and the head on the head/body piece to fit where you want the skin colour to show.

Step 3 - Stitch the arms.

1.  Fold the arms in half, right sides together.

2.  Pin together and stitch, leaving the top of the arm open. Tack or backstitch the beginning and end of the seam.

3.  Clip the curves of the seam allowance in the hand section. Take care not to clip into the seam itself. Clipping allows for a smoother curve.

4.  Turn right side out.

Step 4 - Stuff the arms.

1.  Begin stuffing the arms, pushing the stuffing firmly into the hand section. Use a pencil or other long object to make sure the stuffing gets into all the curves. Stuff up to the line indicated on the pattern, about halfway up the arm.

2.  Stitch across the arm with the sewing machine, backstitching to fasten threads securely at beginning and end. This stitching will be visible. You will stitch from the seam to the opposite fold.

3.  Continue to stuff the arms, leaving about 1/2 inch unstuffed at the top.

4.  I like to take a small pleat at the top of the arm. It makes the arm rounder and less splayed at the shoulder. This is an optional step. I pleated the center about 3/8 inch. Pin and then stitch the arm closed.

Set the arms aside.

Step 5 - Stitch the boot to the leg.

Right sides together, stitch the boot to the leg rectangle.

Step 6 - Stitch the legs.

1.  Fold the leg and boot piece right sides together and pin.

2.  Stitch, leaving the top leg open. Backstitch to secure threads.

3.  Clip the curves around the boots, and then turn right side out.

Step 7 - Stuff the legs.

1. Stuff the leg as you did the arms, using a long tool to ensure that the boot portion is firmly stuffed. Stuff to the knee line indicated on the pattern.

2.  When you stitch across the knee-line, make sure that the boot toes are pointed upwards. The leg seam will be in the center front of the leg, unlike the arm, which has the seam on one side. This ensures that the doll's toes point forwards and not sideways. I've done it both ways and while the doll with outward pointing toes has her own charm, I prefer forward pointing toes. You can choose.

3.  Continue to stuff the legs as you did the arms, leaving about 1/2 inch unstuffed at the top. Form a small pleat and stitch the leg closed.

Set the legs aside.

Step 8 - Stitch the head and body.

1.  Pin the head/body pieces right sides together.

2.  Stitch, leaving open between Xs as indicated on the pattern. Clip the curves, particularly around the neck.

3.  Turn right side out.

Step 9 - Attach the arms to the doll body.

1.  Insert the arms into the openings. Pin carefully, making sure that the edges of the body openings are turned under.

2. Stitch closed. This stitching will be visible. I found it helpful to stitch once from each side of the doll. This ensures that all seams will be firmly stitched closed. Clip threads.

Step 10 - Stuff the head and body.

1.  Begin stuffing the head. Again, use a long tool to very firmly stuff the had, particularly in the neck area. This will make the neck firm and less wobbly.

2.  Stuff the body, leaving about 1/2 inch at the bottom unstuffed.

Step 11 - Attach the legs to the doll's body.

1. Insert the legs into the body openings. If you have chosen one side of the body to be the front, make certain that the legs point in the correct direction. Pin the legs to the body carefully, ensuring that the edges of the body openings are turned under.

2.  Stitch closed. This stitching will be visible. As with the arms, I find it helpful to stitch once from the front and once from the back side. Clip threads.

VoilĂ ! You have a completed doll body.

Now to add the finishing touches. Instructions are found in this post for the hair, face and pinafore.

SewMamaSew has many great scrap buster projects being featured this month. Visit their site for a way to lower the piles of fabrics you have stashed away.

Scrap Bag Doll Tutorial Part Two

Click here for the first part of the tutorial.

Carrying on...we'll give our bald doll some hair and a face, and make a pinafore for her to wear.

Step 1 - Make a doll wig (I used a process found here to make the wig and added a few helpful hints that I discovered as I went along.) This site has excellent diagrams. I couldn't find a way to contact the owner to give her credit, but she has done an excellent job. There are many different ways to make doll hair so choose whichever suits you.

1. Fasten a measuring tape (or use a long steady ruler) to a counter top. You will need to mark 20 inches for the length of the doll's hair. At the center (10 inches), place a 6 inch piece of tape, sticky side up. Tape this down to the table so it doesn't move around when you start laying the hair onto it. All this taping will save you no end of frustration in a few moments.

2.  Begin laying strands of yarn across the tape. Don't stretch the yarn too much and don't worry about cutting the ends now. They can be cut and evened out later. Stretching the yarn will result in a wig that might be shorter than you had planned. Keep the strands from crossing over each other. Lay down 5 inches of closely packed strands onto the tape.

3.  When you have finished, lay a strip of paper, about 2 inches wide over the tape (the center of the hair). Gently lift the taped yarn off the counter and turn over. The paper will help to support the yarn. Now the tape will be on top, with the sticky side down, against the paper (and the yarn).

4.  Stitch, with your machine, down the center of the tape.

5.  Remove the tape and the paper. I found it easier to fold the paper up against the stitching first, then to tear it gently off one side, then the other. The tape might come off in pieces and a pair of tweezers will help get it all off.

Step 2 - Stitch the hair to the doll's head.

1.  Draw a line, using a pencil, from about 3/4 inch in front of the head seam, down the back of the head almost to the neck.

2.  Lay the wig on this line and begin stitching the hair to the head. Use a back stitch and a doubled strand of sewing thread. Begin at the front and stitch down along the center, just to one side of the machine stitching, then back up the other side.

3.  Arrange the hair, not allowing the strands to cross, about 1 1/2 inches to 2 inches away from the center part, and stitch another row of backstitch to fasten the hair on the sides of the head. Slightly angle the line of stitching towards the back center.

4.  Divide the hair into three strands and braid, tying the braided end with another strand of yarn in a double knot. You can add a decorative ribbon bow later.

5.  Trim the ends of the braid.

Step 3 - Paint the face.

Using acrylic paints and a fine permanent ink drawing pen, follow the photograph to paint the doll's face. I painted two circles for the eyes, then dotted them each with white. The eyebrow and nose line were drawn with a .3 micron pen. For the mouth, I placed three dots to form a heart-shape (two at the top and one below), then painted a line out from each side.

Step 4 - Stitch the doll's pinafore.

1.  Cut the following pieces from fabric:
        - one piece 22 x 8 inches for the pinafore skirt
        - 2 strips 2 x 13.5 inches for the pinafore band and facing
        - 1 - 10 inch x 1 1/2 inch piece for the straps (you will construct them in a single piece, then cut them in half.

2.  Press in 1/4 inch to the wrong side on each long side of the strap.

3.  Fold the pressed edges to the center and press.

4.  Stitch the edges closed, very close to the edge, then stitch along the fold on the other side of the strap. Cut the strap in half. You will have two 5 inch pieces.

5.  Press one long edge of one of the pinafore bands 1/4 inch to the wrong side. This will form the facing.

6. Measure to find the center front of the band. An easy way to do this is to just fold it in half. Mark the center with a pin.

7.  Pin the straps 1 1/2 inch to the right side of either side of the center front.

8.  Take the other end of the strap and pin it 2 1/2 inches from the front center. Make sure that the straps are not twisted. Stitch to hold in place.

9.  Pin the unpressed long edge of the second band (the facing) to the top edge of the band, over the straps. Stitch.

10.  Press the two short sides and one long side of the skirt 1/4 inch to the wrong side, then fold over and press another 1/4 inch to fully enclose the raw edges. Stitch.

11.  Set your machine to a long stitch length. I just turn my dial to the maximum length. Stitch two rows of stitching close together 1/4 inch and 3/8 inch along the top of the unfinished edge. Do not fasten your threads at the beginning or at the end and be sure to leave thread tails. Take care to not cross your stitching.

12.  Gather your fabric by pulling the two bobbin threads (the bottom threads) gently.  Pull threads until the skirt fits the band, leaving 1 inch of the band free at either end.

13.  Pin the right side of the skirt to the right side of the unpressed pinafore band, adjusting gathers to fit evenly, making sure that you leave 1 inch of the band free at either end.

14.  Stitch the gathered skirt to the band. Remove the basting (gathering) threads. Press the band and the seam allowance up towards the band.

15.  Stitch across the short ends of the band and band facing. Clip the corners diagonally.

16.  Turn the band facing to the wrong side. Press over the seam, enclosing the seam in the band.

17.  Pin the folded edge of the band facing over the skirt and band seam, enclosing the raw edges of the seam inside the band. Hand baste, then stitch with your machine from the right side. I find that basting helps to ensure that all the edges are properly caught.

18.  Fasten a dot of hook and loop fastener at the back edges of the band. Place the pinafore on the doll to mark the correct fit. Although I use self-adhesive dots, I find the self-adhesive is ineffective and so I use Velcro glue to ensure a firm adhesion.

You're finished! I hope you enjoy making your scrap bag doll. I'd love to have you link back to this post, or comment so that I can see your creation as well. If you have any questions, please email.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Two Weekend Walks

Rain dripped all day Saturday. It was so dark it felt like mid-winter. In the afternoon the skies cleared up a little, so I grabbed my umbrella and my camera and headed out for the bog. Rithet's Bog is a preserved piece of history in Saanich and is surrounded by a trail that wanders through trees, blackberry brambles, across a small creek and along a bit of open water. It's one of my favourite places to walk.

I was glad for my umbrella - it soon started raining. There's not a lot of open water, but people like to come and sit on the benches and watch the ducks and wild geese that frequent this bog. No birds were in view today, they were all huddled somewhere keeping out of the drizzle.

Raindrops making ripples in the water that reach out to each other, connect and then disappear, only to be replaced by more ripples. The bog was quiet except for the sound of rain on my umbrella. Under the trees, I moved the umbrella away from my head and heard the sound of thousands of raindrops falling through the trees - beautiful and ethereal.

On Sunday afternoon the sun shone and we went for a short walk with friends after church to Tod Inlet. Here, light filters through golden trees onto the leaf-hidden forest floor.

 On the incoming tide evergreens stand upsidedown. Almost bare branches droop over the water in skeletal beauty.

 And here we are, squinting into the autumn sunshine, surrounded by nature's glory.

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Living Alongside Medieval History

  Several people have asked why we chose Leiden for our visit to the Netherlands. We've found it's easy to stay in the large cities ...