Wednesday, 31 March 2010

A tease on my next book review

Any guesses which book I finished reading?

Needlework Tuesday on Wednesday

I thought I was done with knitting scraves, but I still had 2 balls of wool sitting with tha pattern and If I didn't knit them up now, they might still be sitting there in a couple of years. 
The pattern is from Lion Brand and is called 'Yin Yang Scarf'.  I had intended to purchase the yarn that was called for , Lion Brand Wool Ease, but it must not have been on sale as I ended up with Patons Classic wool in Cognac Heather and Harvest.  I used 5 1/2 mm needles.  This is a very quick pattern to work up.  Once you cast on, you don't have to pick up any additional stitches, instead, you knit partial rows with an increase at  the start and knit 2 together at the end of alternate rows. 
I enjoyed the pattern so much that I went out and bought more yarn.  This time for a child I selected Red Heart kids  in Yellow and Bikini. 
Note that the original pattern is made in one colour of yarn.  I adapted to knit with two.  I had to knit one more row at the end of each triangle so that the yarn ends would be at opposite ends.  This way I didn't have to deal with darning in ends all the time.  My sister had knit this pattern in 2 colours and it looked wonderful.  My other sister chose that one as a gift.  Darn I don't have a picture to show you.  I will ask my sister for a pic.

I really have had enough of knitting scarves and am going to challenge myself to knit hats for the remainder of the year, when I'm not working on the 2 afghans that I need to finish by Christmas time.  Do you have a favourite hat pattern?  If its available online, send me the link.  Thanks. 

 I was at one of my local yarn shops the other day and they had their version of the Bernat Knit along Afghan displayed in their window.  looks like they chose 2 of the same colours as I did. 

Friday, 26 March 2010

My Life and other lies: Tales from the writer's list by Steve Pitt

This guy is funny.  Very funny.  My family would be laughing to read what I am writing, as they think I don't have a sense of humour, but I was practically falling off my sofa with laughter while reading this book. 

Author Steve Pitt writes about what he knows, and he seems to know a lot.  He has worked as a chef, armoured truck guard, movie extra, martial arts instructor, bartender, stay at home dad.... and so much more.  Everywhere he goes, he experiences life and turns it into humour.  An event that I would relate in a sentence or two, he parlays into a richly detailed encounter that will leave you breathless.  He sees the humour in taking your dog to do it's business, in getting a parking ticket, and even in getting caught in a rainstorm. 

His view on life is a little off centre from most people I know, and that makes it so much more enjoyable.  This is one book that I will be keeping on hand and re-reading whenever I need a pick me up or when I need to kick start my funny bone.

Visit Steve's website for samples of his writing.
Further reviews are found at Bridgeross Communications who generously sent me this book for review.

My 19th book for the 3rd Canadian Book Challenge

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Peter and the Shadow Thieves by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson

This is the follow-up to the popular kids novel 'Peter and the Star Catchers'.  I listened to it on an audio book.

Peter and the lost boys have been on Mollusk Island when a boat of pirates lands.  They are lead by a shadowy figure known as Lord Ombra.  He is one scary guy who is able to capture peoples' shadows, which gives him control over them.  Peter learns that Lord Ombra is searching for Star Stuff and that he is going to travel to London to find Lord Aster.  Peter is most concerned about his friend Molly, Lord Aster's daughter.  He sets out to fly to London along with his ever present companion Tinker Bell.

I enjoyed this story as much as I did the first book in the series, which now extends to four books. (Peter and the Secret of Rundoon, Peter and the Sword of Mercy)  Partly it is due to the wonderful voices employed by reader Jim Dale.  Having now listen to at least 2 audio books he has read, I would not hesitate to select an audio book solely on the basis that he is the reader.

I have two favourite episodes in this book.  The first is when Peter is in the Post Office in London and he is trying to send a letter to Lord Aster.  If he weren't already drinking, he would have driven the postal clerk to taking up drinking.  I had to listen to that part several times.  The secone happens shortly afterward when Peter loses site of the Letter Carrier and is rescued from the nasty Trotter and the man.  The rescuer is none other than a neighbour of Lord Aster named James Barrie.  Mr. Barrie gives Peter directions to Lord Asters: follow the path to the second path and turn right. (had to paraphrase this).  hmm, reminds me of something an author named J.M. Barrie wrote...

I am left wondering whether Lord Ombra is an octopus that encountered a large amount of star stuff?  At one point Molly describes his method of movement "like ink flowing".

I look forward to the third installment of this fun adaptation of the story of Peter Pan.

To read my reviews of other Peter Pan books, click the label below this post or the one in the left hand side bar.

Thanks to where I borrowed the cover photo.

Recipe Thursday - Pistachio-Chocolate Tunnel Cake

I had some of my quilting friends over a few days ago.  We have been doing this once a month for several years.  It has turned out to be a good time to try new recipes and get honest opinions.  Oh yeah, we also get some stitching done. 
I wanted to try something new.  Walking through the house I noticed an old copy of 'whats cooking' from Kraft and found this recipe.  

Pistachio-Chocolate Tunnel Cake

 4 eggs
1 pkg. (2 layer size) white cake mix
1 pkg. (4-serving size) Jell-O Pistachio Instant Pudding
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup chocolate syrup
1 cup Baker's Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips, divided
1/4 cup chopped pistachios, divided
2 Tbsp. icing sugar

Make It

PREHEAT oven to 350ºF. Beat eggs, cake mix, dry pudding mix, sour cream, oil, and water in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Remove 1 cup of the batter; place in medium bowl. Add syrup and 1/2 cup of the chocolate chips to batter in medium bowl; mix well.
GREASE 12-cup fluted tube pan ; sprinkle with 2 Tbsp. of the pistachios and the remaining chocolate chips. Pour half of the plain pistachio batter into pan. Top with chocolate chip-pistachio batter, spreading to within 1/2-inch of edge of pan. (Do not let chocolate chip-pistachio batter touch the edge of pan). Top with remaining plain pistachio batter. Sprinkle with remaining 2 Tbsp. pistachios.
BAKE 1 hour or until wooden toothpick inserted near centre comes out clean. Cool 10 min.; remove to wire rack. Cool completely. Sprinkle with icing sugar before serving.

Kraft Kitchens Tips Substitute You can also use 2 squares Baker's Semi-Sweet Chocolate, melted, instead of the syrup.

** I used the 2 squares of chocolate.  I didn't like the chipits that were sprinkled in the pan first.  They just stuck to the pan when I tipped the cake out.

The pan I used is from Nordic Wear.  It used to belong to my best friend Julie Ann.  When she passed away, her mother gave it to me as she knows I love to bake.   It has become one of my favourite cake pans.

for an easy print version of this recipe visit the Kraft website.

Come back on the weekend when I'll add the link to 'Weekend Cooking ' which is hosted by Beth Fish Reads where you can join in the food fun and add your food related link.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

The Hidden City: Novel of the House War by Michelle West

Have you ever wanted to escape into a world that is different from ours, but still familiar?  A world where magic exists, but is limited in it's approved uses?  Where life is simpler?  If you have answered yes, then its time for you to visit Averalaan.  This is a city (country?) ruled by twin kings and by the 12 main family houses.  It consists of the Isle where the wealthy ruling class reside and the mainland which is divided into 100 holdings (neighbourhoods?) not all of which would be considered 'safe'.

Jay (Jewel Markess) doesn't live in any of these places, rather she lives under a  bridge near the river.  Her life there would have been a short one had she not been 'found' by Rath.  Generally a loner, he felt compelled to take the orphan home and care for her.

I really enjoyed how this story played out.  It started with Rath and through him we are introduced to this new world which is at a pre-technology state, but which has 'mage lights' spelled globes you can hold in your hand and command varying levels of illumination.  Cool,no replacing light bulbs.  Bit by bit we are introduced to additional characters and further complexities of Averalaan life.

Much like we have geniuses and savants, their world has those who are talent born.  They have innate abilities.  The God Born form the judicial as they can't be lied to .  Jay has one of the rarest of talents 'seer born' and already at this untrained stage it is changing the directon of both her and Rath's lives.

At the root of all these happening is the old city which lies buried beneath the living city.  Some ancient cataclysm killed its inhabitants and buried it from view, or at least from the view and memory of almost everyone.

This is a long book, over 600 pages, and the action builds from the first pages until it errupts in a frenzy near the end.  My favourite passage occured just before one of the first fights in the book.

"When you draw a sword in the streets, it's not a game.  It's not part of a tournament.  It's not an act of status or prestige.  You draw a sword, you use it.  You use it quickly. " Rath

I am a fencer and had just bought my own foils the day prior to reading this passage.

There were a few times when the author, Michelle West, gets a bit wordy.  A couple of times my eyes glazed over a bit, they still followed the words across the page but I have no idea what I read.  Politics or philosopy, obviously it didn't stop me from enjoying or understanding the book, but could have gone without those pages.  I have the second book in the series "City of Night" and am looking forward to reading how Jay deals with her 'talent' and whether she stays with Rath, her reluctatnt guardian/provider/protector.

Quilting for a Cause - MCC Quilt-As-You-Go Stash-Busters by Emily Hunsbuerger

A new quilt pattern is available at the 44th Annual New Hamburg Mennonite Relief Sale.  'Quilt-As-You-Go Stash-Busters' by Emily Hunsberger. 

I saw both these quilts in person at my guild meeting monday evening and they are lovely.  The orange one featured on the front cover will be auctioned at the Relief Sale.
You can use this pattern to make quilts ranging from wall hanging to Queen size.  It's up to you to decide what size to make the blocks.  The blocks are made using a 'quilt as you go technique' including 'stitch and flip' to make the flowers, log cabin and piano key blocks.  Even the applique is done the same way with the leaves used to cover the seams.

If you are attending the MCC New Hamburg Relief Sale you can purchase the pattern for $12.00 Cdn at that time.    All proceeds from the pattern sales are going to MCC projects.  It is also available at several retailers:

MCC Ontario office (50 Kent Avenue, Kitchener)
Quilters Nine Patch, Elmira
Creative Sisters (Lancaster St., Kitchener)
Len's Mill Stores in Hawkesville and Kitchener
New Hamburg Thrift Centre, New Hamburg

I did not see it on the website of either store, however, call or send them an email and I suspect that they can accomodate any requests for mail order.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Needlework Tuesday

My kids are now settled back into their routines and that means I can get back to mine.  I have been looking forward to sharing my happenings with you all.  I am trying to work on my online grammer course.  Learning so much and its even starting to make more sense.  I have 4 lessons to go and have to write the exam in 4 weeks. Eeks, kinda cutting it close.  If I hadn't got stuck on verbs for 5 weeks I'd be in better shape.

I noticed that I have a new follower this week, even though I have been away.  Thanks to all my wonderful followers.  I am so glad that you all are finding something here that you enjoy and that you want to keep coming back for a visit. 

I am sitting here at my computer with my feet snuggy warm in my new slippers.  I knit them using a pattern found in this ancient pattern book.  If you don't have a copy yourself, your mother or grandmother probably has it in her knitting basket.

I made the 'Ladies TV Boots'.  They call for 'Beehive Craft Yarn, which I have never seen as I believe they discontinued it even before I bought the pattern.  I used one strand of Briggs and Little 'Tuffy' (red) and one strand of Patons Classic Wool (brown) and knit with 9 mm needles.
I had a real hard time taking this picture and getting the light right so you could see the cable up the front and also the 2 colours.  They are a bootie style that comes up above the ankle.

I looked on the Patons site  where there are tons of free patterns, but this one is not available either for purchase or for free.

note:you knit this slipper flat and then seam it together at the bottom of the foot.  My sister told me when i was finished that I should have added a third strand of DK weight to get the tension correct.  I will try that with my next pair.

I want to try some other slipper patterns this year, so let me know if you have a favourite.

Head on over to or Friday' hosted at Lit and Laundry see what  projects other bloggers have finished this week.  If you have something to share, be sure to add your link .

Thursday, 18 March 2010

March Break Update

I have been enjoying the week with my children who are off school.  I will be back next week with a full slate of posts.

Needlework Tuesday - I'll show and tell you my newest knit slippers
Recipe Thursday - will include a recipe for a Pistachio Chocolate Bundt style cake

Book Reviews:
'The Hidden City' by Michelle West
'Peter and the Shadow Thieves' by dave Barry and Ridley Pearson read by Jim Dale
'My Life and other lies' by Steve Pitt
'Who Owns the World' by Kevin Cahill

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Recipe Thursday - Colcannon

It's only a few days to St. Patrick's day and thus I have selected another potato recipe.   I used this 1998 cookbook, 'The Potato Harvest Cookbook' for my inspiration.  The opening chapters contain a wealth of information about potato varieties and how to grow them and how to select the proper variety for the dish you want to cook.  I learned that a high starch content make for wonderful baked or mashed potatos (Russets) and that low starch content potatoes keep their shape when boiled and are good for salads, stews and au gratin dishes (fingerlings and red-skinned potatoes).

Unfortunately this book is no longer in print, though you might be lucky to find it in a used book store.  I won this book at a raffle at the skating club several years ago, and until this week had never used it.  What a fool I have been.  Since I still had some leeks in the fridge from last weeks soup making adventure, I wanted a recipe that included them.


5 medium potatoes
4 cups packed, rinsed kale, stems removed
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup chopped leeks
2 large onions
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 - 3/4 cup warm milk
salt and pepper

Boil or steam the potatoes until completely tender.  Allow the potatoes to cool, then peel them.

While the potatoes are cooking, steam the kale 5 minutes.  Drain, squeeze out the excess water, and chop the kale finely.

In a large frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat.  When hot, add the leeeks and saute 5 minutes, or until tender.  Lower the heat, add the kale, and saute 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Peel and cut the onions in half vertically. With the flat side on a chopping block, cut each half vertically into semicircular slices.  In a medium frying pan, melt the butter over medium-low heat.  When hot, add the onions and cook slowly 15-20 minutes, or until the onions are limp and browned. 

To assemble, mash the potatoes with a potato ricer or masher, adding enough milk to make a creamy yet firm mixture.  Beat in kale and leek mixture, and season with salt and pepper. 
To serve, reheat if necessary. Turn into a heated serving bowl, make a large, shallow depression in the middle, and fill with the onions.  Serves 4-6.

I served this with broiled salmon.  The next day I flaked the left over salmon and mixed it with the colcannon and then heated it in the frying pan with some butter.  Yummy both days.

For more food inspired reading, visit Beth Fish Reads for Weekend Cooking.  Add your link for your recipe or food related review.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Straight Knitting on Circular Needles

I was asked how to knit a straight edge using a circular needle.  I found this video on YouTube and it shows it very clearly.  Its a great method to use when you have too many stitches for straight knitting needles such as the border on the afghan I posted earlier today.

Needlework Tuesday - Knit Along Finished

You've been following for months; curious to see what this project would look like and how the colours would go together.  As you can see, they look great.  I used Bernat Satin yarn in Forest Mist Heather, Bordeaux and Camel.  I am so pleased with how it turned out.  I submitted the photo to the contest over at the Bernat site. 

You really should visit there and see pics of the other complete afghans.  The colours are terrific.  When last I checked there were 10 finished projects.  each one different combinations.  Bernat Knit Along Finished Afghans.  (Click the link and it will take you to the Bernat blog, then select the Mystery Knit Along in the right hand column to see the finished afghans.)

One follower has told me that she is working on this pattern. I am looking forward to posting her pics when she is finished.  Anyone else?

Now on to sewing. I want to get the border sewn for the 'Wild Blue Yonder' quilt.  Am still thinking about how to machine quilt.  There were some wonderful comments last week that I found very helpful.  Thanks.

Did you finish a project this week and you want to share it with the world? Hop over to 'Lit and Laundry' and post your link.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Gone But Not Forgotten by Phillip Margolin

Do you like to be scared?  What about when you get that creepy, sick feeling in the pit of your stomach?  If you do, then this is the book for you.  Yes, I had to think twice about going up to bed alone last evening.

Peter Lake has return home from his law office to find his wife and daughter brutally murdered.  Police in Hunter's Point, New York have blamed 'the rose' murderer due to the black rose and the note 'Gone But Not Forgotten' that we left at the scene.

Ten years have elapsed and the killer appears to have resurfaced in Portland, Oregon.  New York homicide detective Nancy Gordon has flown to Portland the offer her expertise, unfortunately she dissappears with a day of arrival.  she did reveal that local developer Martin Darius is actually Peter Lake.
Now its up to Martin's lawyer Betsy Tannenbaum to get to the bottom of this before anyone else is murdered.

I was never comfortable while reading this book.  The whole way through I had this feeling that something bad, real bad was just about to happen.  And it did, several times.  Considering that this story is a thriller, I have to admit that it was very successful.  Mr. Margolin even had me feeling some empathy(?) for the psychopath for a few moments. 

Even though this story 'creeped me out' I do look forward to reading some more of Phillip Margolin's  15 or so novels.

See my earlier review of  'Executive Privilege'

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Recipe Thursday - Leek and Potato Soup

Now that we have moved into March, I thought I would try out some potato recipes in honour of St. Patrick's Day.  Earlier this week Petty Witter was talking about St. David's Day and mentioned that the leek was a symbol of Wales.  I knew that a potato and leek soup would be the perfect meal to make.  I used the recipe from the Canadian Living website: Leek and Potato Soup.
The first picture shows the leeks, carrots and onions sauting in the canola oil.  Don't you just love fresh vegetables.  The soup is put in the blender after cooking, or use an immersion blender, and garnished with shredded cheddar cheese and crumbled bacon.

I didn't add the salt as I try and use as little as possible.

Husband and daughter both enjoyed this soup.  We did cook up a few extra slices of bacon for nibbling.  You could easily make this for a vegetarian by using vegetable broth (thats what I did) and leave off the bacon.

I'll be looking for another potato recipe for next week.

To find out what else is cooking, visit Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking meme.  Join in with your link to your cooking related post.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Needlework Tuesday

I was sitting here earlier today thinking that I didn't have 'finishes' to show you when I remember these little stirrup socks that I knit for my daughter.  They are from a free pattern on the Lion Brand Yarn Site: Stirrup Socks.  The pattern actually calls for stocking knit stitch, but that would get kinda repetative so I pulled out a stitch book and decided to make each sockie different.  That really suits my daughter.  They take very little yarn and knit up fast.  I think a 50gram ball knit both the teal ones.  The pattern says to knit them flat, but I did them round so I wouldn't have a seam to finish.

I got a good amount of sewing done on the 'Wild Blue Yonder' blocks.  All 20 are finished now, and two extra where the background fabric didn't work with the others.
I have to admit that I'm pretty happy with them.  I was part way through the blocks and  was having some trouble getting the edges to line up. Since I had to cut more blocks I got out my Marti Michell Template set A templates 2 and 4 and continued cutting.  Yes, it does take a bit more time to cut, but then I know the sizes are closer to perfect and everything lines up nicely and I don't have to spend time trimming points or folding the larger triangle and the rectangles to find the middle points to line them up.  The blocks made with the templates turned out much nicer than the first ones, so I trimmed all the points off the already cut pieces and continued sewing.

This quilt needs a border.  The blocks are 12 inches and I do want it to be bigger.  Its not going to make bed size, but large lap is still good.

For the first border I want to finish the 1/4 triangle squares and then finish the 8 section pinwheel blocks.It brings the idea of prairie points to mind.   Fortunately I cut extras of both units so I am ready to keep sewing tomorrow.  I will use Marti's flying geese rular to cut the missing triangles  and then add a matching border all around.  Pictures of that next week I hope.

I am stuck on how to quilt this thing.  I could just stitch in the ditch along all the lines.  I would be sturdy, but possibly boring.  Any suggestions would be welcome.

Have you finished something this week and you want to let the world know.  Visit Lit and Laundry and post your link.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Storm Front: Book One of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

"Wizards control their power.  They don't let it control them.  And wizards don't use magic to kill people.  They use it to discover, to protect, to mend, to help.  Not to destroy."

Harry Dresden is a wizard who also happens to be a Private Investigator.  Upon occasion he works with Lieutenant Murphy of the Special Investigations Unit of the Chicago Police Department to solve 'unusual' crimes.  In this instance, two people were murdered when their hearts were blown out of their bodies.  Not typical in any manner.

This is a terrific start to the series that spans in to 12 novels and a number of short stories as well as a tv series.  I was drawn to Harry right from the start.  He's a little rough around the edges, living day to day, and he deals with all segments of society.  Technology doesn't seem to function for long around him, so he has to rely on his magic training and wit to solve his cases. 

Throughout the book the reader is given glimpses into Harry's past.  His mother died when he was young/born (not sure which) and he was raised by his father, but he has his mother's silver pentagram necklace.  Was she a wizard also? 

I am left with the mental picture of Harry in sweatpants and cowboy boots.  That topped with the long black duster works for me.

I must thank my friend Brendan for urging me to read this book.  Will definitely be looking for the next in the series.

You can learn all about Harry Dresden by visiting his creator's (Jim Butcher) website.