Thursday, November 17, 2011


This have been a little quiet over here lately, as they are wont to be sometimes. I have a few updates for you on some sewing and crafty things that I hope to share very soon....but first, I want to show you what's been keeping me so busy.

This beauty is ours! Home ownership has been a whirlwind experience -- we saw it for the first time a few days before Hallowe'en and take possession on Nov. 29th. The whole house-buying process, from viewing to offering to closing, will take about a month from start to finish.  Even though some moments were absolutely terrifying, I'm actually shocked by how smoothly things played out.

We are keeping our current apartment until Jan. 1, so we'll have about 5 weeks to paint, make some minor changes, and move. To say I'm excited is a complete understatement. (Just ask my fella and my parents, who have heard me talk about little else since we signed on the dotted line). I'm hoping to share our progress here on the ol'blog.

Now, I just have to keep my head from totally exploding before Nov. 29. SO EXCITED!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Prayer after Eating

I have taken in the light
that quickened eye and leaf.
May my brain be bright with praise
of what I eat, in the brief blaze
of motion and thought.
May I be worthy of my meat.
                                                                           -Wendell Berry

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Bunting for baby

You know when you meet someone for the first time and you can just tell you're going to become good friends? That's how I felt when I met Kirk and Sara. My husband and I were only introduced to this lovely couple about 9 months ago,  but we've already become kindred spirits. Kirk and my husband are big music nerds who can geek out for hours over recording equipment, while Sara and I share a love of good food and crafting (we have actually just started a knitting circle, which I will get around to blogging about someday).

Shortly after we met them, Kirk and Sara told us they were expecting their first baby. It's been fun and exciting to watch Sara's belly grow and tag along with the whirlwind experience of cooking up a little person.

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending Sara's baby shower. It was a special gathering of close friends and family only, so I was so thrilled to be invited. I wanted to give her something practical that could be used everyday, but I also wanted to give something special and homemade. I settled on cloth diapers from Sara's registry and a sweet little bunting flag for the nursery.

I knew Sara had chosen to paint her nursery orange -- they don't know the sex of the baby -- so I went to the fabric store with that in mind. I settled on an admittedly girly palette of greens, pinks and oranges. (I was trying to make it gender neutral, but I was surprised at how few fabrics didn't scream GIRL! or BOY!. Plus, what can I say. I gravitate to the girly stuff).

Making a bunting flag is a very simple and satisfying project. All I did was make a triangle template out of cardboard -- I think mine was five inches across and seven inches long. I used the template to trace the flags onto my fabric, then cut them out with pinking shears. I pinned the flags inside some premade bias tape, then used a zigzag stitch to sew it all together.

Sara and Kirk both really loved their present and were so sweet and gracious when I told them I had made it myself. I hope their little baby likes it too.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Two years ago...

...this is what I was doing. What a fun, heartfelt, emotional, whirlwind day.

Wishing my fella a happy second anniversary! xoxo

Sunday, August 21, 2011

To market

I wish I could say I was one of those people who visited their local farmers' market every week. Sadly, I'm not. Most of my shopping is done in a rush on my way home from work when I dash into the supermarket to pick up ingredients for dinner. 

But last weekend, my fella and I decided that we'd take the time to visit the market. I'm so happy we did -- it was so much more fun than the grocery store.



We picked up a couple of coffees -- locally roasted and brewed cup-by-cup -- and wandered around the stalls. We were given slivers of cheese to help us decide which ones we want to take home. We got advice from the butcher about how many pounds of pork shoulder we'd need for pulled pork. We chatted with a farmer about why garlic from China is so freely available and local garlic is tough to find (apparently our government subsidizes Chinese garlic).

The cherry on top of our market experience was how good the food was. The local tomatoes we bought were ripe and flavourful, the cheese was mouthwatering and our pulled pork was fantastic. I think we're going to work more market visits into our weekends.

PS  - We used Anna Olson's pulled pork recipe...delicious and easy.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Every summer for the past few years, I've made a preserve. Two years ago, I made dill pickles (which were fantastic). Last year, it was raspberry jam and spicy dilled beans. This year, I made some blueberry lime jam -- my favourite preserve so far.

I bought the blueberries at a little fruit stand in Niagara when my fella and I took a little road trip one Saturday. The blueberries were huge, sweet, and perfectly ripe.

The recipe is very simple -- lots of blueberries, sugar, pectin, and the zest and juice of three limes. It's amazing how well the sweet blueberries and tangy lime go together.

The rest of the process is very straightforward -- boil the ingredients, pour into jars, and seal.

Canning really used to freak me out because it seemed so complicated. I always felt worried that I wasn't going to sterilize the jars properly and end up giving someone botulism. But, while canning might be a fairly involved process, it's really not difficult. Within a couple hours, you'll have a delicious reminder of summer that will last you all year.

The full recipe I used and a canning how-to can be found on the Bernardin website. (Sidenote: how funny is it that Bernardin's motto is "Because you can"?? Gotta love those canning puns!). Also, here are a whole bunch of canning recipes for you to try. I'm thinking I'd like to tackle a chutney before the summer's over.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Summer sewing: The 2011 edition

My sewing machine and I  have been busy lately expanding my summer wardrobe. Care to take a look at what I've been up to, dear readers?

First up: the Pendrell blouse from Sewaholic, an independent, Canadian pattern company out of Vancouver. I have to say, I really love this top. It dresses up and down so easily -- I'm equally comfortable wearing it with jeans and sandals as I am wearing it to work with with dress pants and heels. I also get a lot of compliments when I wear it, which is always a plus!

The fabric is a brushed cotton with a little bit of sheen and a little bit of stretch. I made a size 12, but ended up taking it in a few inches at the sides for a more form-fitting silhouette. The nice thing about this pattern is that it just pulls on over your head -- no pesky buttons or zippers to deal with.

I've also made a couple easy elastic-waist skirts that have become wardrobe staples this summer. The pattern is a free download from fabric designer Anna Maria Horner -- the Flirting the Issue skirt.

The purple one on the left is made out of a nice border print I saw at Fabricland that screamed to be made into a summer skirt. I've worn it to work and to a wedding shower -- it's not too dressy but still looks put together. The one on the right is made out of a cotton voile designed by Anna Maria Horner. It's a little shorter and a little funkier (yes, I said funkier). It's perfect for a night at the pub or a barbecue.

These skirts are basically two lined rectangles shaped by four narrow bands of elastic at the waist (which almost look like smocking). It's very quick and easy and I banged both of these skirts out in a few hours each. The only tricky part is feeding the elastic through the narrow channels -- it gets a bit finicky, but the end result is worth it. 

Finally, I'm working on a Peter Pan-collared blouse -- Violet from Colette patterns. This is coming together well -- I'm making it in a satiny pink with a black collar and buttons. I'll be sure to update you when I've finished the final product!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

DIY cheese

A few months ago, I picked up a copy of Home Dairy with Ashley English, a cookbook that's all about making your own cheese. I was very intrigued, but totally intimidated by the process. You need ingredients that sounded scary (bacteria! rennet!) and that were hard to track down.

But today I stumbled across something that could de-freakify cheese-making: a DIY cheese kit. All you have to do is add a gallon of milk and follow the instructions. It comes in a couple flavours -- mozzarella and ricotta, goat cheese, and paneer and queso blanco.

If you're as intrigued as I am, you can pick up your own cheese kit on Etsy here.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Perfect summer dinner

It has suddenly become incredibly hot. Hot with a capital H-O-T. So hot that I've been working up a sweat just by sitting on the couch. (Classy, I know). So hot that the thought of turning on the stove top, the  barbecue, or -- God forbid -- the oven -- makes me want to throw a major temper tantrum.

Herein lies the wonder of the cold soup. This recipe requires zero heat to make and is cool and refreshing to consume. I made a big batch of this the other day and have been eating it basically nonstop ever since (which is actually fantastic, because it's pretty darn healthy). Add a bit of focaccia and maybe a slice of cheese or two on the side and you've got yourself a fresh, heat-free, heavenly summer dinner.

Gazpacho My Way (Adapted from "For the love of  Soup" by Janelle Mitchell)

1 can crushed tomatoes
2 ripe, fresh tomatoes
1 cucumber
3 sweet peppers (a mix of green, red, orange, yellow -- whatever you have on hand. Though I like using only 1 green pepper because the other varieties are a bit sweeter).
1 small red onion
2 cloves garlic
2 chipotle peppers, or to taste (If you don't have chipotles, add a few dashes of your favourite hot sauce).
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 cup olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped fresh cilantro to garnish

Roughly chop cucumber, peppers, onion, garlic, and chipotles.

In batches, transfer the chopped veggies into a blender or food processor, adding a bit of the canned crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and a splash of olive oil to each batch. Puree until smooth.

When blended, transfer each batch into a large bowl. Add the lemon juice and salt and pepper. If it's too thick, gradually add water until it suits you -- but keep in mind this should be a thick, hearty soup.

Chop the fresh tomatoes into smallish pieces and add to the soup. (This adds a nice chunky texture).

Mix well and refrigerate until you're ready to serve. This will keep covered in the fridge for several days.

Serve garnished with the chopped fresh cilantro and, if you like, a little vino on the side.


Saturday, July 9, 2011

Reflections on home

Well, dear readers - it's been awhile. (Or should I say reader...Hi Mom!)

I took a bit of a blog hiatus this spring, as you may have already guessed. It was a busy and stressful time -- in March, my fella and I moved back to our hometown into an apartment that's pretty rough around the edges in a not-so-great neighbourhood. It was a particularly tough move because we left behind a beautiful, well-cared-for apartment in a quiet Toronto neighbourhood. We chose this route because it has allowed us to save a TON of cash to buy a place of our own (which we hope to be able to do by the end of the year).

But even though our new place will benefit us in the long run, it has taken awhile for me to feel comfortable and settled. I like to have a home that provides a bit of sanctuary (which is probably one of the reasons why I put so much care and effort into making our living space as homey and beautiful as I can). Moving into a place with a crummy bathroom and zero counterspace and a thousand little flaws just gave me this icky, mopey feeling -- like I had no refuge from the big, bad world.

Now that a few months have passed, I'm starting to feel more relaxed. We've painted, cleaned, and disguised as many imperfections as we can. This will never be my dream apartment and I will be happy to move into a place of our own as soon as we can -- but at least I finally feel like we can be comfortable here over the next few months.

My fella and I just got back from our first vacation since moving into our new apartment -- a wonderful camping trip in northern Ontario. We spent four blissful days reading, hiking, swimming and sitting on the beach. It was just the escape we both needed. But on the way back, I was surprised at how much I was looking forward to being home -- even a home with a crummy bathroom and zero counter space.

I'll leave you with a few snaps of our trip. Isn't Ontario beautiful in the summer?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Vogue 8511

I really, really love this dress. It's got a certain something, you know? It's comfortable, chic (if I do say so myself) and it's suitable for everything from a night out on the town to church.

I made this dress for my birthday party in late February and have worn it several times since. It's Vogue 8511 -- a simple, straightforward pattern that came together really easily. I was inspired by a couple versions I saw around the internet, especially here and here. (I also wrote about my plan to make it way back in (October).


The only modification I made was to underline the skirt and sleeves (the pattern only called for the bodice to be lined). I also graded up to a larger size in the hips to accommodate my lady curves. However, this proved to be a bit unnecessary as the whole thing it just a smidge too loose. I plan to make another, more springy version and cut a size smaller. To give it a bit more shape, I've been wearing it with a belt, which has the added benefit of looking very cute.
The pattern has really nice details, like princess seams in the bodice and some interesting pleats in the skirt. My only complaint about this floral fabric (which is a random poly blend that drapes really really nicely) is that it drowns out some of those elements. I plan to make it again with solid yellow fabric for the bodice and a solid grey skirt, which will make those details more noticeable.

 I'm especially happy with this dress, because it's been awhile since I've had a real sewing victory. I spent several weeks in late December/early January on New Look 6968 only to find it was a bit of a disaster.  (I mentioned in the same October post as this Vogue pattern). The fabric and the fit were so horrible that I didn't even try to salvage it. It was so depressing -- I consider myself a decent seamstress, so it's frustrating when a project goes totally awry.

My experience with making this dress was the total opposite of the New Look 6968 disaster -- everything came together super smoothly and I absolutely love the final product. Add this one to the 'win' column!