Monday, August 31, 2009

Raspberry Pie Etc

Ok so I made the raspberry pie and it is delicious. I love fruit pies! They are so easy to make and very forgiving. Usually I mix the berries but this one was all juicy red raspberries.
6 cups of berries
4 tsps of potato starch
1/2c sugar - you can use more but I like a pie with a touch of sweetness and that is about it.
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp almond or vanilla extract
splash of lemon juice
enough pie crust from your favourite recipe to make top and bottom.
Mix everything together in a bowl. The potato starch I use to compensate for juicy berries. This is a question of taste - depends how much liquid you like. Use either vanilla or almond extract. I used the almond with the raspberries for something a little different. Pour into pie shell.
Bake according to your pie crust recipe. Mine was 425 for 15 min and then 350 for 35 minutes.

I am pretty much by the seat of your pants kind of cook. I tend to change recipes and I am always checking the oven for times. Let cool and then grab yourself a piece and with a dollop of ice cream enjoy!

My sock washing session with this new soap was great. It is a mix of tea tree oil and lanolin called Kookaburra from Australia.

You can find information on all its great benefits here at Knit Picks, another great yarn store I have discovered in my exploits of the net. What did we do before? If you think about it, the net has revolutionized the way we work and play. Another toy that arrived was my Yarn Swift. It is so much easier to wind hanks of yarn when you have one of these. I have been using the back of a chair or my knees and by the end of a couple of windings my arms are ready to fall off - what with detangling, dog hair and just general frustration. Tried it tonight and works like a charm. Got some Smooshy yarn wound up for a new pair of socks soon to appear in my Etsy Shop.

Now off to wind up some more wool - this time a beautiful lavender from Dream In Colour yarns.. which you can find at The Loopy Ewe.
G'nite.. Joni

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Orchids and Summer's End

Oh my it has turned cold - where did the summer go -I think we had two weekends of summer weather and the rest has been pretty dismal. They say we are going to have a warm winter well that means ice. Because we are surrounded by water in a valley we have been getting more rain during the winter that turns to freezing rain. The bane of my existence. I hate the stuff - it is dangerous and every Montrealer cringes with fear at the mention of freezing rain - hearkening back to that one terrible January years ago when we had freezing rain and is forever more known as THE ICE STORM...hearts flutter in fear.

But hey it is still officially summer and my orchids are still outside and have been blooming since Spring. It is the only indoor plant I can grow can you believe it!

I am working on some special projects right now but did happen to get together a few things to sell on The Primitive Gathering on Sept,1st. Here is a sneak preview of them with the thought of Halloween just around the corner. I have already started making my Christmas gifts. We sort of informally agreed that giftgiving would be handmade stuff this year which I am only too happy to do. It can be homemade edibles or any craft item. We are all pretty crafty and love to cook so there will some really great wowers to be found under the Christmas tree. I just love a gift that says "I thought about you!"

Tomorrow is sock washing day - have to block all those handmade socks to be put on Etsy next month - next month is a couple of days isn't it LOL! I am trying a new wool soap so I will let you know how it goes with that. Time to make raspberry pie tomorrow. I think this is the last crop of the season and we have been eating them all summer just plain - so delicious like that but one pie has to be made.

It's 1:00am and Roby (my dog) is making his nest which means time to go bed. I wonder why dogs do that. He scratches and paws and rearranges his blankets and just plops himself down with a big old sigh and as my mother-in-law once told me - Good ole bed - which I am thinking sounds just about right..

Good Ole Bed - G'nite.. Joni

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Muggy Weekend , Happy Crafting

Well it has been a hot and muggy weekend and Monday brings no release. They have high humidity, heat warnings and smog alerts out so that means stay inside and no excessive exertion.

While watching a football game on TV yesterday (while I was reading of course) I saw fans wearing coats and rain gear. They are getting cool temps in the prairies. This summer, Canada has seen such a diversity of weather. If one part is having a drought the other side is having rain like never before seen. They say our crops across the country are in jeopardy if the weather does not stabilize. Of course that means higher prices for all of our food!

Speaking of food – which I love- but I have to say I am not a very adventuresome eater. I am more of a traditionalist though not a big fan of meat. I love baking- especially during the holidays. On our way home yesterday from the senior citizens home, there is a market with local produce where I drop by to get my week’s supply of fruit and vegetables. It is not cheaper but it is definitely fresher and the produce seems to last longer. I focused in on the berries. The wild blueberries have made it to market and they are wonderful. I love baking with them. There were raspberries which are coming to the end of the season and the strawberries are plump, juicy and sweet. No sugar needed on these! I was steered to a site called Joy of Baking which has all kinds of great baking recipes. Two that I especially want to make are strawberry/banana muffins and lemon blueberry tea bread. Mmmmmm… Now if only I can save some of the berries. I am snacking on a bowl of them while I write this.

My brother’s party was a great success – there was too much food! My sister- in-law is Greek so we had some traditional Greek dishes mixed in with our traditional dishes of pasta salads and greens. The kids had such a joie de vivre swimming and doing belly flops in the pool. It was a very relaxing and wonderful time. It’s a little something different from my usual crafty weekends.

I mentioned in a previous e-mail my love of beads and have used them in my punch needle designs. They are especially nice during the holiday season when I start doing my Christmas ornaments. This year I started making bracelets – nothing too complicated as it is not something I am going to really delve into but just a little something different than the needle work. I am learning wire work right now but in this piece no wirework was used. It was knitted – yes knitted I said. When I first read about it – I said no way but with the right tools it is a breeze and I love that it whips up quickly and that they make a wonderful gift which has a wow factor.

These are the new socks I am knitting. They will be on sale at Wooly Footsies in September. Don’t you just love the colour combination? They are my funky socks and they are always a surprise while knitting. I am excited to see what new colour or pattern emerges. If you have not realized it yet I can get easily distracted by other projects so I need several on the go so that I can flit from what thing to another. I don’t produce a project as quickly as I could if I concentrated on one but happen to complete 3 or 4 at the same time. With socks I find it more stimulating to finish one half – go on to another style and then go back to the first one. I am like that when reading a book. I don’t read one but have usually 3 on the go.

I just finished Jodi Picoult’s Handle with Care. I am a great fan of hers and have been following her since I picked up her first book years ago. She always writes about controversial subjects and really questions the ethics of situations. There is never a black and white but a lot of gray areas. This, her latest book was true to form and I loved it. She is the only author, whose book I will buy in hardcover as soon as it comes out. The movie “My Sister’s Keeper”, which just played in theatres was based on one of her most recent books. I have to say I was disappointed with the movie. The ending was changed and it became a Hollywood ending. The whole message that the book portrayed was lost by this change. I much preferred the book. Often I find that happens and I wonder what the author thinks who wrote the book. My rule of thumb is always to read the book first as it was intended.

So I started off with football and ended up with reading with a whole of crafting in between.
Have a great day - Joni

Friday, August 14, 2009

Design Inspirations

As promised here are a couple of designs I am in the middle of – right now choosing the colour palette from The Gentle Arts line of threads.

The first one (proposed title Cat on an Antique Rug) is one I have always wanted to do. My background is quilting and crazy quilts have always intrigued me. With the combination of the different fabrics (cotton, silks and velvets) contrasting so vividly with the embellishments of silk and cotton threads plus beads it lends itself to a feast for the eyes. This background will be more subdued as the cat is the focal point. He looks so aloof and very lion like. Of course I need to have my floral borders. I researched old antique rugs for composition and got ideas for some of the shapes of the flowers . Although I don’t quilt anymore my designs do have a lot of quilting blocks as an added theme. I am thinking of doing some wool appliqué designs – but that is a story for another day.
The second design is one that has been in my thoughts for awhile. On a trip to Ireland driving through the countryside around Dublin we came across a crossroads that was the village of Slane, Co. Meath. It had four identical Georgian houses built at each corner. They were the same grey limestone and the story told was that they were built for four spinster sisters. The houses were built in such a way so that could keep an eye on each other. Another tale is told of a brother who built the houses for his sisters because he could not stand their quarrelling – so they each got the same house – no jealousy there – and out of his house! So I designed it with this story in mind - but my houses will be pastel colours – with cascading roses in the border.

So with two projects in my lap along with many more – there is never a bored moment in my life. Just not enough time!

Some of the other things I have been up to -

Need to replenish my wool thread collection so I did a dye run of various colours such as Green Gables, Spicy Pumpkin and Faded Pumpkin.
I love when the colours start saturating the base wool. I should do more dyeing but it requires a dedicated slot of time so I really have to plan it well into my weekend. I do have plans to seriously start dyeing wool fabric again but it will be offered on my website as packages of 4 and 5 different wools – no single yardage. You can see some examples here on my website. Everyone is always on the lookout to round out their stash. I know I do. My dream is to have a studio with a sink – stove – washer and dryer that is not my kitchen. One can only wish! I already have two rooms dedicated to crafts – one is the wool room and the other the craft room – both in serious need of a purge. I may open up an “ATTIC FINDS” button on my website…hmm that is a thought.

Final little aside for today are pictures of my current project of socks. You can see some of the fancy lace work – looks more complicated than it is and you can download the pattern off of the APPLELAINE site. The lace pattern is at the back of the calf and goes down to the bottom of the heel. A little surprise! Using their wools has been a real pleasure. They are so soft. The most complete line being offered that I have come across is in Ottawa at WOOL TYME. They do have an on-line store. Now that is a feast for your eyes. For me it was worth the two hour trip.
Anyone out there interested in knitting but have not yet taken the leap – socks are a great beginner project. It can be as simple or as complicated as you want and very practical. Not much is required in materials and it is also quite portable. The biggest plus – it is sooo relaxing that I have been known to fall asleep with the knitting needles in my hands – LOL.

They are calling for a beautiful weekend. I think this will be our first summer weekend of the season. Spirals of smoke will be circling the sky from all the barbecues starting up. We plan on a family get together with lots of food (very important) – a beast of a chocolate cake- great conversation and lots of laughter. Hey my brother is 49! Happy Birthday Ronald!!

Have a great weekend all – Play safe.. Joni

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Typical Day

I think summer has finally arrived – hot and humid and the AC is on. The heat saps me and in order to do all my wool projects – air conditioning helps. I also dye wool at this time of the year and a hot stove with simmering water just needs cool air.

My pup loves it when I sit outside with him – so yesterday AM when the air was still relatively cool I sat and he prowled the perimeter of the property. He showed the cats who was boss by herding them and made sure everything was A ok in his world. What would we do without their funny faces and happy smiles!

So I walked around and took some pics of my flowers – a good reminder that yes I can grow something. Once tried a vegetable garden and that was a terrible disaster. It probably had something to do with the black walnut tree I have growing in the yard. Learnt years later than you should not plant a veggie garden near this type of tree. Don’t know if it is true or not but hey it was a good excuse rather that say my green thumb was sadly lacking in green.

Yay! I am almost finished the MIL socks. I get to the end of the foot and think about what luscious yarn I am going to use next. What part do I like best about knitting socks? Hmmm… I get confused with the cast on and doing the joining – there invariably is a gap but I read about a little trick where you switch your stitches the first and the last and it locks the round. It’s just trying to make sure your cast on stitches don’t twist. The leg and all those variations in stitches are a delight. I love lace knitting! The heel is pretty routine though I vary the finish – but it is really a cast off and then a cast on. The foot itself is the longest part – round and round we go but then I try to carry the pattern down.. and dare I say it the toe – Ok I have a thing about toes – the Kitchener stitch scared the heck out of me – but it really does have a beautiful finish – seamless. Now I am getting the hang of it. It demands full concentration and absolute quiet. Peter gets hushed with “I’m doing the toes – shhhhhh” and Roby gets a cookie to put him in heavenly bliss. Done!! The second sock is always faster – you know what to expect with the peaks and valleys of the whole construction.

What was waiting in my e-mail box yesterday was an announcement from The Loopy Ewe for a wool sale. Ahhh…immediately click to the site – the credit card was whipped out and I am now a happy owner of more Dream in Color Smooshy Yarn ( delectable colours) and yes more sock patterns. I think I am seriously addicted to socks.

I went through my stash of The Gentle Arts cotton overdyed threads and reacquainted myself with their colour palette. Just gorgeous and the names are especially wonderful. I especially love their line of Shaker colours. I have been mostly designing with my wool threads (Red Island Threads) but thought the next design will be done with these instead. I have drawn the design out and will show it tomorrow – actually a couple I am looking at. But the one I want to try first is a cat on a crazy quilt background with cascading flowers. I love flowers in borders that contrast with linear elements. This one I will punch needle and then translate to a rug. I want it for in front of my favourite chair.
I use my rugs. At first I thought – hmmm no way – but they are durable and I do them in linen which is much sturdier. I laid one on the floor as an experiment – as you know I have a Sheltie and what do they do but herd those fluffy wooly 4-legged creatures. I have seen what he does to a ball of wool. I thought the cats could be bad but oh no – this ball of wool travelled the whole house – chewed and scattered to the four corners of the house. Lo and behold the rug has survived with nary a pulled loop and he is best friends with it. His bone (not a real bone –yuck) gets dropped on it, barked at, picked up and dropped at another location to be sniffed and chewed. Now does this look like the face of a rug chewing pooch?

Well I’ve had a good chat and I am off to do what needs doing for the day.

Have a great one - Joni

There is a time to be born and a time to die.
A time to laugh and a time to cry,
but there never seems to be enough time to knit

Properly practiced, knitting soothes the troubled spirit, and it doesn't hurt the untroubled spirit, either. ~Elizabeth Zimmerman

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Textures & Colours to Delight the Soul

Another rainy day today – This morning at 5:30 the sun was peeking through but by the time I got my day going it was torrential rains. That seems to be the story of the summer up here on my island in the St. Lawrence River. One never knows what the weather will be as we are situated in the middle of a valley between the mountain ranges north of us and south of us in Vermont.
Last week was cool and comfortable - this week heavy and humid (which by the way I hate). It’s been a topsy turvy summer in more ways than one.

I have been having fun with some of my smaller punch needle designs – and if you want to know what punch needle is all about peek in at The Primitive Gathering where you can get a lowdown of what it is all about plus a couple of my more seasonal pieces are for sale. This month for PFATT Marketplace I did some quick thinking. What is practical and yet pretty? I had bought these felted mini purses – they are 100% wool Fair Trade from Nepal. Add some of the punch needle and voila. I am into beading so added some felt and glass beads. I love the subtle play of light on glass beads.

I have been adding beads to my knitted socks and to some of my punch needle designs. My next step is to make bracelets – I love the ones that have all those funky beads especially lamp work ones. No I am not about to attempt to go into the jewelry business – this is something I enjoy in my spare time – at this point Peter would interject – what spare time is that??

I am quickly knitting a pair of socks for my mother- in-law in a hand painted wool called Macintosh put out by AppleLaine. I had bought the skeins from an online website Earthfaire – which is such a delight and I love all their yarns, beads and kits. If only I could knit faster. So I got the wool –which was to be a beaded scarf and then decided a few days before my MIL’s birthday that these would make beautiful socks. So two days past her birthday my fingers are flying! I then discovered that this wool is local wool from Ottawa. What heaven! This called for a road trip (2 hour drive) to see all their sumptuous wools in their true colours. It’s a beautiful wool/mohair and silk blend, knits like a dream and so soft. I can confidently say there will be more of these skeins in my wool basket waiting to be turned into little treasures.

Since taking up knitting again I have to say that I am awed by the amount of hand dyed wool out there and the quality of the wool. To knit today is such a pleasure with the resources that abound. Unfortunately when I get going on a new craft – I tend to go overboard. It’s good I have limited space what with all the other crafts taking their place in my home. This calls for a good clean up to see what can be got rid of. I keep saying that but then I pick up my punch needle or my rug hooking and now knitting and say another day. Nothing gets done but a lot of creativity and where would I be without that to enhance my life.

Have a great day - Joni

Monday, August 10, 2009

Get Busy

It has been awhile and although I had the best intentions to blog more – life just happened to get in the way. June was spent going from home to the hospital for hours on end and putting everything else on hold. My better half came down with a serious illness and it meant his staying in the hospital for 3 weeks. Happy to report everything is fine and he is on his way to recovery. It was just a very scary time for me and blogging was the last thing on my mind.

July was just a month to get our life back in order and catch up on necessary chores and those endless things around the house that you wish would take care of themselves. The weather was rainy and cool – actually weather I don’t mind as I am not a summer person. I like the occasional hot day but too many is too much for this girl. People think I am crazy but I love our winters. I like the still quiet of a snowy day, the crispness of the air where the cold sears your lungs and especially the snuggling under a warm quilt while all the animals are peacefully snoozing in their various spots around me. What can I say but that I am a fall/winter kind of gal. I like that bliss of hibernation.

PS .. It gives me a good excuse to stay in the house and not feel guilty about being outside doing the outside chores – I can craft to my heart’s content.
Although I talk about not liking the outside chores I do have some flowers that do grow – I like the ones that take care of themselves.. Here are some poppies that I love and have been growing for years.

So while visiting for hours on end in the hospital these hands which are NEVER idle had to do something. What takes two needles and an endless hunk of beautiful hand dyed wool – but knitting. I used to knit years ago and I think I got so frustrated by the endless UFO’s of sweaters that lay around the house that I gave it up. Ahhh the impatience of youth – I wanted that sweater done quickly and invariably they never fit properly so what could I do that was quick, small in scope, practical and where I could explore all the different knitting techniques – dare I say socks were the solution to that. I know. How many socks can a person have – well lots I say! Especially when they are gorgeously rich hand dyed wools – using intricate lace patterns and for added pizzazz some beads thrown in.

The first purchase was a beautiful carrying bag for my projects. A plastic bag would not do for those luscious yarns. I love the Jordana Paige line of purses (simulated animal texture) and this colour had a WOW factor for me. They are big roomy bags that can carry everything and dressy enough that you can stick your essentials into it and use it as your everyday purse. Two in one – I like that.

So with socks knitting in mind come September I will be launching another ETSY shop called “Wooly Footsies - Hand knits for happy feet " - where you will find some of the socks I have been knitting. They are one of a kind – meaning I don’t repeat the sock in either yarn or pattern. I like working with different wools and there will also be exotic yarns for those that prefer something other than wool. I am not a particularly fast knitter yet and I do these to relax my weary brain in front of the TV (mind you the stuff on TV contributes to that mindless void) so as you see them on ETSY that is what I will have – no duplicates. I will be introducing them here on my blog and maybe showing a work in progress.

I have other projects on the go that I can’t say too much about here due to confidentiality issues but I am happy to say I am busy (which is a state I thrive in). The approach of September has always been the best time of year for me. I was one of those kids who loved going back to school – cracking open those new books with the crispness of fresh pages and the scratch of those pencils on a snowy white page. To me this time of year is when I wallow in creativity and the possibilities of new endeavours. It prepares me for the peace of winter which is when all these exciting projects see life.

I am excited and thankful. Always good to remember what you are thankful for – puts everything in perspective.
So if all goes well I hope to be blogging on a regular basis and have plans to set aside a time each day to chit chat about this and that.
Have a great day - Joni