Friday, December 31, 2010

My Store

I will just take a moment to shamelessly advertise some of the items that I have hand-made and sell in my store: Honey Nutbrown's. I will leave a link up on the left-hand side of my blog for anyone who wants the link.

St. Patty's Day and The Ninja Cop

When I lived in Calgary, I didn't have a car, so I rode the c-train and bus everywhere. And the characters I'd meet!
One St. Patrick's Day morning, I was riding the c-train through downtown when a man stepped onto the train and sat down beside me. I could smell that he had already been taking advantage of the holiday, as the alcohol fumes wafted off of him. He turned to look at me and said in a very deep, Russian accent, "Hchhullo." I turned to him and smiled politely. He studied me for a second and then asked, "Do you smoke?" "No," I answered. "Do you drink?" He tried again. "No," I answered. "WE HAVE NOTHING IN COMMON!" He shouted and I burst out laughing. We continued talking for awhile, during which time he told me that I don't need to be afraid of Mother Russia anymore, the cold war is over. "It's not Russia I'm afraid of..." I thought. He got off the train a few stops later and headed to another pub to make the most of the Irish holiday, leaving me with one of my favourite c-train memories.
Or there was that other time that my sister and I got chased home from the c-train by the ninja cop. Or at least, we imagined we did. Neither of us stopped to look back.
Oh, public transit, what fun!

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Grandpa Candle

This story begins many many years ago when my mother was gifted a maroon candle by one her students at Christmas time. No one really took any notice of it - at first. It was added to our Christmas display among other candles. But then, we would notice a smell coming from that corner covered in Christmas cheer. A deep, musty cologne smell. The kind that older men typically wear. Our noses eventually singled out the perp - the maroon candle. Henceforth it was called the Grandpa Candle (No reflection on our actual grandfathers. They didn't smell like this). The odour became overpowering and unbearable. We begged our mother to get rid of it. And one day, it was gone.
I don't know who started it, or who the first victim was, but it kicked off years of playful mischief and revenge. Someone (I don't remember who now), tired from a long day, lay down and smelled an unholy smell ushering from their pillow. The mischief-maker had snuck the Grandpa Candle into their pillowcase, staining the case with that odour for days. Or one time, one of us opened a clothes drawer, only to be hit in the face with the rank smell of Grandpa Candle. The Grandpa Candle passed from hand to hand, sometimes laying dormant for months, waiting for the right opportunity to shock the next victim. The first year I moved out, I returned to my dorm after a wonderful Christmas vacation. Unpacking my suitcase, I groaned to find the Grandpa Candle neatly wrapped in my clothes. And so it continued and each new addition to our family was initiated into the legend...
...Until one day, it melted in someone's car during the heat of summer and the Grandpa Candle was no more. Or so my family suspected.
You see, last year, as I was trudging through stores, I spied (or rather sniffed out) some Grandpa Candle tea lights. Not long after, my older sister and her husband received a mysterious card in the mail, with letters cut from magazines and a tea light enclosed. And after a short stay with my younger sister and her husband, she noticed an overwhelming cologne smell circulating through her suite. It took them awhile, but they finally found the cause.
They were placed in the wall vent, where blowing heat would ensure maximum scent circulation.

And now, I live in fear of retaliation.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

(Just another) Mannequin Monday

Art-man is feeling a little full and bloated from all the holiday festivities (and completely satisfied).
Happy Holidays, Everyone!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Recipe: Kris' Homemade Pizza!

(The whole wheat flour is grown locally. How neat is that?)

This recipe is a favourite in our household, especially when we have run out of ideas of what to make. And we usually have all the necessary staples to make pizza, waiting for us in the fridge and cupboard. I also think it is decently healthy (you can make it as healthy or not as you like!).
The crust takes very little time to make (10 minutes tops) and the toppings can be prepared while the dough rises for 15 minutes.

Kris' Pizza Dough

3/4 cup warm water
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 1/4 tsp yeast
2 tsp olive oil
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
Italian spices and seasonings to taste

1)In a large bowl, combine first 5 ingredients, mixing once they are all together. Gradually add 1 cup whole wheat flour and mix until smooth. Gradually add last of flour and a few pinches of Italian spices (like basil, oregano, etc..) and mix with hands, kneading until flour is combined. (If it is too dry, add just a touch of water and knead more)
2)Let the dough rise for 15 minutes. Stretch it out and do your best pizza chef impersonation by tossing it in the air (only if you're sure you can catch it). Stretch it onto a greased pizza pan.
3) Add toppings and cook at 400F for 20 min, or until crust is cooked through.

The fun part is the toppings. We usually throw on there whatever we have lying around. My favourite is when we have fresh veggies from the garden and we make a ranch sauce for the base and add tomatoes, zucchini, onions, broccoli, and olives with cheddar and feta cheese. The possibilities are endless! What are some of your favourite, perhaps unusual pizza toppings?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Monday Morning Mannequin

I am starting a new feature on this blog. Starting today, I will post a different pose from my art-guy mannequin every Monday.

Welcome, mannequin.


Do You Have Worms?

The following scenario played out numerous times in our little house in Kamloops:
Guest wanders into our house.
Guest: Where's D?
Me: Oh, he's just feeding his worms.
Guest: !!!....???......!

No, D doesn't have parasites living in his intestines (that we know of). He has a worm composter. A thriving metropolis of red-wigglers in a five-layer composting farm that very kindly chew up our household waste (like food-gone-bad, paper, vacuum dust, you name it) and turn it into worm turds. I know what you're thinking, "Worm turds! Oh golly, where can I sign up?!" Actually, worm turds are a gardener's dream. They are super potent natural fertilizer for the garden.

Now, you may be thinking that I am a pretty tolerant wife to allow a worm farm in my house. But I actually like the little guys (they give me great fertilizer!) And only seldom have the words, "You love those worms more than you love me!" floated through our home.

Alas, our worms are now dying in our apartment. They are tucked away (ok, jammed into what space is available) in our storage closet and it is difficult for D to give the proper care and attention they need. You see, worm composting is a very precise and difficult science. I hope at least some survive our exile in the apartment and will make lots of new babies when we get a house. Luckily worms are intersexed, so we don't have to worry about making sure of one surviving male and one surviving female.
The worm composter when it was starting out.

Some red wigglers. These are not your average earth-worms. These are super-composters and also a favourite among anglers (and kinda expensive too!) This photo is from Extreme Pumpkin. They sell worm composting supplies. If you are interested in worm composting, check to see if there is a local dealer in your community. If not, there are tons of places to get started online. We used All Things Organic. If the prices of things are putting you off, you can also make your own composter from a rubber maid container. It is a little harder to remove your finished turds though (I guess the proper term is worm castings). You definitely need to shell out the money for red wigglers though. No other worm will do!

And it is worth it! In Kamloops, when we had the worm composter, our outside composter, and recycling, our waste was so diminished that our garbage can only needed collecting once ever one to two months! (And it was a small can.)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Bad Boy of Webber Road Elementary

When I was a wee lass of eight, a new boy, Liam, came to our little elementary school. He was a few years older than myself, very tall, with a stylish mushroom cut and an attitude of carelessness. He soon proved that he had a knack for trouble and I think the teachers must have inwardly groaned at the thought of having him in their class. A real rascal, or scallywag as my Grandpa would have put it. He had the bad boy act down and us girls were helpless to its charm. He had a reputation to live up to.

Winter came and I was attending our school choir practices twice a week (What? Choir was cool). They started early in the morning, before class. I remember getting ready to go one morning, pulling on my rubber cowboy boots and my winter coat. We lived just across a field from the school and my mother would watch me walk to school from the living room window. I got to the middle of the school field when I saw it coming.

A great, big, black dog was running towards me, in what I thought was a death charge. (I was absolutely terrified of dogs at that age. Looking back, I know that the dog was probably just overly friendly and excited, but at the time, I sincerely thought that dog was trying to kill me.) I looked around, for some place to run and hide, but there was nothing but field all around me. And then the dog collided with me, jumping up and knocking me down. I was shrieking. The dog was biting my rubber cowboy boots. I didn't know what to do.

And then, he came. Liam ran onto the field towards me, carrying a big rock in his hands. He was shouting at the dog. He lobbed the rock into the field and the dog took after chasing it. With tears streaming down my face, he helped me to my feet and we ran into the school, before the dog could catch us. My mom had watched the entire scene unfold from the living room window, helpless to do anything. She had already called down to the school, frantic to see if I was alright. I had been badly scared, but not hurt. I think my mother was ready to hug and kiss Liam, that scallywag who saved me. After that event, he soon transferred schools and I never saw him again. I can't remember a single thing he did to deserve his bad reputation, but I will always remember how he came to my rescue that day and I will always be grateful for it (and so will my mom!).

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Potions, Salves, and Homemade Remedies

The best book ever

Calendula blooms (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

I was once gifted the most magical of books, the bible for do-it-yourselfers, "Country Wisdom and Know-How" by the editors of Storey Books (Thanks Mom!!). It is simply amazing and tells you how to do everything. Most of the articles and information in this book were published when the Flower Children of the sixties decided to leave the cities and live off the land. Peace and love and grow your own vegetables. *Contented sigh*
Well anyway, this book has a large section on natural remedies and health products. I decided to try my hand at one, the Soothing Calendula Skin Salve. It says it can be used to soothe and heal mild burns, bruises, cuts, and rashes. For any of you who bike, think of it as a remedy for saddle sores. I have also read a nearly identical recipe that recommends this for diaper rash (but please, do your own research). So, here's the recipe: (it can be doubled to make larger amounts)

Soothing Calendula Skin Salve

1/2 cup of calendula infused oil (see bottom recipe)
2 tbsp of grated beeswax
4-6 drops of lavender essential oil
2 drops of vitamin E

1) Combine infused oil and beeswax in the top of a double boiler. Heat until melted, stirring frequently. Remove from heat.
2)Add essential oil and vitamin E. Stir thoroughly and pour into containers and allow to cool and harden. If you want a a softer salve, add more oil during the cooking process, for firmer, more beeswax.

Cautions: Don't use calendula if you have hay fever or are pregnant. Always use in moderation. I am not an herbologist or anything, so use at your own risk. :)

To make Calendula infused oil, you need:

2 parts extra virgin olive oil
1 part dried calendula blossoms (I just grew a bunch in my garden last summer and saved all the blooms)

1)Combine oil and blossoms in the top of a double boiler and let simmer for 1 hour.
2)Strain cooled mixture through a double layer of cheesecloth. Store in a cool, dark location, where it will keep for 3-6 months.

Well, once you have finished all that, you can sit back and smirk in self-satisfaction, with your new cure for those elephant-skin elbows. And you can pretend that you are the family apothecary or something.

(These recipes are modified from "Country Wisdom and Know How: Everything you need to know to live off the land." From the editors of Storey Books)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Knitting! Child's Forest Pixie Hat

Here is a new pattern that I developed, based on many vintage designs for children. I love the simplicity of this pattern and how adorable it looks when done. I knitted this hat using two strands of yarn together, giving it a very nice effect and added warmth. Using two strands of yarn at once isn't necessary, just make sure you have the proper gauge.

Gauge is very important, so be sure to check it carefully. Use 4.5mm needles (straight) in stockinette stitch. 1inch x 1inch = 4 stitches x 5 rows.
I used two very thin yarns, one of acrylic and one a mohair mix (50g each). You could use just one yarn that is a little heavier (thicker).

Sizes: Ok, I don't have a baby or child to try the sizes out on, so I am going by averages. If you are making it for a specific child, you could try to get their measurements to make it a more accurate fit. Just remember that 1 inch equals 4 stitches, so add or subtract the stitches necessary for fit.
6 months to a year: 15 inches in circumference (from under chin to top of forehead to under chin again)
1 year: 16 inches
2 years: 18 inch circumference
4 years: 19 inch circumference
6 years: 20 inch circumference

With 4.5mm needles, cast on 60 stitches (64, 72, 76, 80)
1st row: Knit 2, purl 2 to end
2nd row: Make button hole: Knit2together, yo, continue in ribbing pattern to end. *(note: I made a larger buttonhole for the buttons that I used. k2tog, yo, yo, p2tog. It is just trickier to knit and purl in 2 yo's in a row in the next row)*
3rd row: Continue in ribbing pattern until last 4 stitches, knit 2, purl 1 in yo, purl 1 in final st. (just keepin' the same pattern going)
Continue in ribbing pattern of knit2 purl2 until a total of 8 (8,10,10,12) rows have been completed from the beginning.
Now for some stockinette stitching!
1st row: Knit to end
2nd row: knit 2, purl to last 2 stitches, knit 2 (use a stitch marker to mark these spots if you have a tendency like me to forget)
Repeat these last 2 rows (knitting the first and last two stitches of every row to make a garter stitch border) until the piece measures 6.5 inches (6.5", 7.5," 7.5", 8") long from the very beginning (including all the ribbing).( This is where it helps to have a child to measure on. When you get half-way through a row, fold the piece in half and pin the row you are working on together. If it can close while fitting over the child's head, then it is long enough.) Bind off when appropriate length is reached. Fold in half with wrong sides facing. Sew up the end that you just finished binding off. (See diagram)

***You can leave off the chin strap and sew a button right onto the ribbed end that doesn't have a button hole OR if you are finding the fit too snug, you can add a chin strap, detailed below. The chin strap will add roughly 2.5" to the circumference.***

Chin strap:
Cast on 8 (8, 10, 10, 12) stitches. Knit in garter stitches for 2.5inches. Bind off. Sew to the ribbed end that does not have the buttonhole.
Sew a button (Very securely!) to the end of the chin strap. (I added another button on the other side of the chin strap for a stylish touch)
Weave in ends. Tada! Done!

I have one for sale on my etsy site:

If you catch any mistakes, please please please, leave me a comment and I will fix it.

Check out my other pattern: Mary's Merry Wristers.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Historical Christmas

What's better than a National Historic Site right in your own community? A National Historic Site at Christmas in your community!! The Fort was all decked out with Christmas greenery. There were hay rides, hot chocolate, gingerbread cookies, homemade ice cream (!!), bon fires, a children's Nativity production, and chickens!!! (Okay, the chickens were locked away warm and safe in their coup and I got called a peeping Tom for spying on them through their window.)
Before we went to the Fort, we took a little walk through the woods and then I attempted to slide down a hill, but it really wasn't steep enough. I've been carrying a garbage bag around in my jacket pocket for just this purpose. It's already come in handy several times.
Posing. The forest is beautiful in the snow though! I was following animal tracks. It appears as though a wolf was chasing a rabbit all through that area. I think the rabbit must have gotten away.
D captured a near-wipeout on camera.
My trusty sled that I carry with me always. It's got a few holes in it now.
The frozen lake. It really looks dark here, but I assure you, it seemed much lighter in real life.
Hay rides!

It was my first tractor pulled hayride. Usually I have been on horse-drawn hayrides. :)
A beautiful horse. Erin, any idea what kind it is?
Frosty windows concealing chickens, old buildings, and rose hips. These are a few of my favourite things.
Chickens keeping warm in their cozy little coop.
Hunkered down for winter! That door leads to the chicken coop. When the house was built over a hundred years ago, they didn't have electricity to heat the coop, so they built it right next to the kitchen, which was always toasty warm. That kept the chickens from freezing all winter. Unfortunately, since they didn't have any electric lights, they didn't lay eggs all winter.
I'm a bit of a poser.
Wouldn't you love to live here? I would!
Cozy window shot.
Smile like you mean it! He looks so worried about something!
Ice cream preparation! -10 degrees celsius is a little cold to eat ice cream, but the line-up was a mile long for it! Go figure!
On the hay ride. The tractor kept stalling and we just drove around in circles in a small space, but it was fun anyways. The tractor that pulled us is 70 years old and been in the same family the whole time.
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