Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Needlework Tuesday - Hidden Penguin

Needlework Tuesday is open to all readers looking for inspiration, encouragement or who want to share their recent needlework project. Introduce yourself in the comments and be sure to leave a link to your current post. Feel free to grab the cute little mouse for your post.

I have a wonderful 'finish' to share with you today.  I can't take any credit as it was made by Sherrie from Just Books.  Last last year she started crocheting hexagons.  On Monday she sent me an image of her completed project.  If I were at her house I would have it pulled off the back of the sofa and spread over my legs while I sat with her sipping tea and talking books.

My finish is on a much more modest scale.  Last week I showed you a small piece made from tiny 1/2 square triangles.  I added two borders and echo quilted it with a penguin design that I borrowed from Penguin Books.  I will need to contact Penguin for permission to display this quilt.  My guild has a show in May and it would violate their copyright if I were to exhibit without permission. The little guy still needs a bead to emphasise his eye.  Measures 11 1/2 inches square.  Polydown batting.  My daughter will be hanging this cutie in her room.
 Snowballs and 9-Patches.  These are the result of a swap that I hosted some years ago (five or more).   As I recall, we were supposed to use autumn colours.  I would love to live where pink is an autumn colour.  I needed to find a way to fit in those whites and make them fit in.   I pieced one more snowball with a muslin middle and two more 9-Patches with 4 white pieces.
I still need one further 9-Patch and two more snowballs. I'm pretty happy with the layout, but need to balance the 9-Patches on the left side.  They are a bit dark.  I will continue to work on the sashing.  I want this to be larger.  The blocks are six  inches  so this would be a 36" quilt, not big enough to be a lap quilt.
 Not one to linger over a project, I have a new one in the offing.  While mother and I were fabric shopping last week we came across this large scale print.  We knew it would be perfect for a technique we were wanting to try.  Mom was going to buy some and give it a try. I thought it would be fun to make the same one so also bought a length.  We have challenged each other to finish the project by December 2012.

While I was wandering and visiting some online friends, I stopped to admire their work. 

Mira at Milk and Honey Quilts is hand quilting her feed sack Wedding Ring Quilt.

Have ;you been thinking Red for Valentines Day.  Elly at Mad 4 Patchwork has beat us there.  She has pieced some lovely red blocks.

Please take some time from your stitching and leave a comment sharing your current project.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Recipe Thursday : Tassimo- Coffee and More

I read and interesting post last weekend, where the blogger had just received a new Tassimo Drink machine. Caite, at A Lovely Shore Breeze, left me a message reminding me that it was at her blog that I read that post.  I mentioned that I use my machine as a hot water source.  A few readers mentioned that they had not considered doing that.  In this post I am going to expand on my comments on that blog. (sorry I don't recall where I left the comments).

I buy the regular assortment of coffee disks.  I do enjoy the decaf, but it's not always available where I shop.  During the holidays I found a package of the Long Espresso (double shot).  Son says that it has a good kick.  He likes to make a coffee and then make an espresso in the same mug.  Same as he would order at the coffee shop, but several dollars cheaper.

One of my favourite drinks to make is the upside down Cappuccino.  I saw this on the Tassimo site and make it when I want a special looking drink.  You must use a clear glass mug for this to be effective.  I am using one that I bought ages ago from Princess House, and they are still in their current catalogue.

Every time I have seen a cappuccino made in a shop, the espresso is poured first into the cup, then the steamed milk and froth.
In this case steam/froth the milk first.
Now add the espresso and the magic occurs.  You end up with a beautifully layered beverage.
Have you ever used the cleaning disk that came with your machine?  I hope you didn't throw it out as I have heard from more than one person.  Ours get very frequent use.  We have a gas stove and I didn't want the kids using the stove to heat water, I had a fear of them lighting their sleeves on fire.  When they wanted hot water, they used the cleaning disk.  One press of the button, and it produces  six ounces (3/4 cup) of hot water.  It is not scalding hot as would come from the kettle.  It is the perfect temperature for brewing green tea.  We also make hot chocolate from powder this way.  The little paper package says to add six ounces, perfect.

Those little packages of oatmeal says to add 2/3 cup, so let the water flow into a mug first and then pour some of it into the bowl of oatmeal.
This temperature also works for the cups of instant noodles.  A frequent use in the winter, is warming up daughter's thermos.  Since the thermos is taller than the opening height, I hold the thermos at an angle and press the button .  It takes two cycles to get sufficient water.  I then put the lid on the thermos and let it warm, while the heat the food in the microwave.  After emptying the water from the thermos, I put the warmed food into the warmed thermos.

The final and most frequent use of the Tassimo, after making pod coffee, is making tea in my travel mug.  I put my tea bag in the mug and usually have to run the water cycle twice to fill the cup.  My tea is hot but not so hot that it takes hours to be cool enough to sip without burning my lips.

Next time you need a smaller amount of hot water very quickly, don't put on the kettle and wait, and wait, and wait, put in your cleaning disk and press a button.

I have been involved in discussions regarding whether you can recycle the used pods.  I do recycle mine and have since day one.  I use a small knife to slice around the inside edge of the pod to loosen the foil. I leave it to dry for a day or so and then dump out the coffee grounds.  Those go in my garden.  I pull off the foil and that goes into a container.  When I have a bunch of them, I wrap them in aluminium foil that has already by used and put them in my recycling box.  I toss the plastic parts in the recycling box.  They have always been accepted by the recycling truck.  I have since found that there is a Canadian Company that collects and recycles the pods. TerraCycle Canada.  There is a drop down menu on the home page that tells you in which countries they opperate.   Only issue is that you must send in a minimum 150 pods at a time.  The company pays the shipping and compensates you at a rate of approximately 2 cents per pod.  This is a great fund raiser for a school or church.  Won't work so well at home unless you drink a lot of coffee.  I am hoping to find other Tassimo users in my area (Kitchener/Waterloo, Ontario, Canada) who are interesting in recylcing their Tassimo pods.

Do you have another way your use your Tassimo, share it in the comments section.

Looking for more Foodie fun, be sure to visit Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking feature.  You are invited to add a link to your recent food related post.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Heartless: Book 4 The Parasol Protectorate by Gail Carriger

Even at eight months pregnant, Lady Alexia Maccon is in fine form.  She may be a bit slower of movement, but her wit has not been dimmed. When a clearly mad ghost appears in front of her with a warning that the Queen is in danger, she charges right into her investigation.  I can just imagine the usually impeccably dressed Alexia, garbed as a cook, waddling door to door  in search of clues. 

Author Gail Carriger brings back a number of my favourite characters.  Rogue vampire Lord Akeldama shows the reader several sides that have not been hinted at before, and I'm not going to spoil the story by giving you any clues.  You'll have to read the story to believe them.  Of course, the unflappable Floote, butler/secretary/librarian is always at hand and ready to deal with Alexia's requests no matter how outlandish they might be.

I loved all the twists and turns of this novel.  I would never have expected the story line that developed with Lord Akeldama, and am eager for the next book, Timeless, to see what happens there.  I'd love to give you a clue about the Westminster Vampire Hive, but then that would be telling secrets.  You will not want to miss this change of events. 

The first three books in the series I read in paper, but this time I was lucky to have the audio version.  At first I was unsure of having a woman, Emily Gray, read all the male parts, but after a few chapters, I was quite comfortable with her 'masculine' voices.  She did an admirable job of the gruffness of Lord Maccon's voice as well as conveying the dandy in the various drones of Lord Akeldama's hive.  Paper or audio book, both versions work for me and I wouldn't hesitate to listen to further audio books ready by Ms. Gray.

Author Gail Carriger's website.

Thanks to Hachette Audio for the cover image and my review copy.

Books in this series:
(links to my reviews)
Timeless  - due out March 1, 2012

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Needlework Tuesday - Finishes Sure Feel Good

Needlework Tuesday is open to all readers looking for inspiration, encouragement or who want to share their recent needlework project. Introduce yourself in the comments and be sure to leave a link to your current post. Feel free to grab the cute little mouse for your post.

I still am feeling this very strong urge to finish outstanding projects.  Ones that are closest to completion top my list.  This way I can get that satisfied feeling very quickly.  Last week I listed four such projects.  Yippee, they are all complete.

First boxers #1
Boxers # 2 & 3, for daughter. Love that plaid.
 Next up was a small wall hanging for my sister.  It is left over trimming from a bed size quilt (still un-quilted).  The tiny top was finished but it needed a quilt design.  Since it was oriental themed fabrics, I thought that an angular sashiko pattern would work.  I found an image online and strace it on tissue paper. I chose different colours of marker so it would be easy to follow the thread paths ensuring fewer ends.
 I pinned the tissue to the layered pieces and sewed on the lines with an almost pastel coloured variegated thread.  It didn't take too long to remove the paper.  I would have used the Golden Threads quilting paper, but couldn't find it where ever I have safely stored it.  Will have to buy an additional role as it does work well.
Trimmed and bound it measures approximately 6 1/2 inches x 8 1/2 inches.  I attached a jewelly 'oriental gate' to the front and voila, finished.  It does still need a small label and I'm planning to use a chop stick through loops at the top for hanging, then into an envelope for it's trip across the country to my sister.  Shhh, don't tell her, it's a surprise (she doesn't always read my blog so there is a chance of surprise).
What's up next?  This small orange and black project is made from leftover 1/2 triangle squares from stitch and flip style blocks.  It only measures 8 inches.  Needs a border or two and when finished will be for my daughter.  She loves Halloween and these colours perfectly fit the theme.  Now where is the quilt that these squares originated with?  Actually it is a partial top that is sitting at  my mothers.  She is going to add an additional border and will then return it to me for finishing.

While searching for the Golden Threads paper, I came across a bag full of 9 patch and snowball blocks.  When I opened it, I also found that I had made a diagram of the project I wanted to make with them.  There was also a detailed list of additional block units I would need to make to complete that design.  Wow, something I can work on.  It's already very scrappy, so no worry about matching any fabrics.  Come back next week and I'll include some photos and the story behind the blocks.

What did you work on this past week?  Did you finish something?  Share a link to your post, or send a private email with photos and I'll add them next week.   heatherdpear at hotmail dot com

And for Dorte who asked about a knitted book cover, yes, I am thinking about that for you.  Stay tuned.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Into the Mist by Elizabeth Sinclair

"Help, I need help, help me!" 

It's late and there is no one out, no cars on the road and why is there blood on her hands?  "Help me!!!"  She spies a light and follows it.  When she arrives the door opens and she is welcomed in, almost as though they had been waiting for her.

Carrie has no idea that she is in Tarrytown, New York on this cold snowy night and in fact, she doesn't even know her own name.  She does know that she needs help.  Fortunately for her, she has arrived at the door step of Irma, Meghan and Steve.  They work with the community of 'Renaissance' to help those people who are in need of finding themselves.

Renaissance is a community that exists beyond the usual realm of time.  It becomes visible to the outside world only when there is a person in need of their special services.  Irma helps guide these lost souls to the gateway and Meghan and Steve act as gatekeepers.

This is the second book in the series, the first being Miracle in the Mist, though you can easily read this second book without having read the first.  Author Elizabeth Sinclair has written an enjoyable though slightly predictable story.  I found the first third of the book just a little to 'goody two shoes' for me.  The story starts the day before Christmas eve in a picture perfect setting with four people sitting and waiting for the people in need.  Too cute.  I found the resolutions to some of the 'issues' to be too easy.  The logic was presented, and boom, the person was over it.  While we learn a lot about the issues surrounding the main characters, we don't really learn much about them as people.  There wasn't much to make me want to care about them.

Into the Mist was fun to read, but it didn't leave me wanting to read more.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Getting Back on Track

I wonder what Mr. Potato Head feels like when he starts to fall to pieces.  Imagine your eyes won't stay on, or your mouth starts to droop at one corner. I've rather been in that quandry regarding my book reviews for quite some time now.  I have been reading books and posting the occasional reveiw. There are more books that I've read and not reviewed and I don't quite know how to resolve this.

Life did toss a couple of fairly big lemons at me last year and I am still working through those issues.   No excuses though, life sucks at times, yet we still have to move forward. Other parts of my life are mostly back on track and now it is time to get to the book blogging part.  In the next few weeks I'll work through that back log.  Should prove interesting to look back over those books with the perspective of time to mellow my responses.  Will I still feel the same about all those stories?   A few I do think that I want to re-read, but doubt time will permit much of that.  One book was a 36 hour audio book, not a chance of re-listening.

I'm glad that my readers have stuck with me so far.  Hang around a bit longer, I've been reading all sorts of genres. Perhaps one will be your favourite, or I might introduce you to a book that you didn't even know you'd been yearning to read.

This pie picture has nothing to do with my reading, I just think it's terrific and wish I could say that I made it.  Nope, daughter found it online somewhere, wish I could tell you where.

Until tomorrow's review....

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Weekend Cooking: When a dish just doesn't quite work....

Every now and then, I try a recipe and it just doesn't quite work for me.  It might turn out perfectly as described in the recipe, it browns nicely and is all bubbly.  I sink my teeth into it, and swallow that first forkful and realize that something is missing.  It might be everything that the recipe stated, but somehow it fails to tantalize my taste buds. I tried a new quinoa recipe this week, and that is exactly what happened.

I bought this cook book: new vegetarian cuisine for my son two or three years ago when he was going through his vegetarian phase. This is probably the second or third recipe from it that I have tried.  In my opinion, it is bland recipes like this that makes people turn their noses up at vegetarian cuisine.  If you happen to like non-spicy recipes, this one might work for you.  The author has the following to say about this dish:
This is a real favorite of mine... The flavor of the cheese in this dish and the crumbs that top it remind me of the macaroni and cheese I enjoyed as a kid.
I didn't detect any of the cheese flavour unless I was eating the little bit sprinkled directly on the top of the dish.  Since this makes a large dish, I wasn't about to toss it in the composter, I needed to find a way to make it more tasty for me.  I'll give you the recipe as written and then I'll tell you how I dressed it up.  I didn't take a picture of the dish as it is so 'one colour' I didn't think it would look good in a photo.

Cheesy Chick-Pea and Quinoa Bake

1 tbsp margarine
1 cup coarsely chopped zucchini
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped scallions
4 cups water
2 cups quinoa, rinsed and drained
1 cup canned chick-pears, rinsed and drained
1 cup shredded low-fat Cheddar cheese, divided
1/2 cup shredded low fat Swiss cheese, divided
1/4 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs

  • Preheat the oven to 350F. Coat a 2 quart casserole with non-stick spray.
  • In a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat, melt the margarine.  Add the zucchini, celery and scallions; cook, stirring frequently, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until tender.
  • Stir in the water, quinoa, chick-peas, 3/4 cup of the Cheddar and 1/4 cup of the Swiss.  Spoon into the prepared casserole.  Cover and bake for 45 minutes, or until the liquid has almost been absorbed.
  • Sprinkle with the bread crumbs and the remaining 1/4 cup Cheddar and 1/4 cup Swiss.  Bake, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes, or until all the liquid has been absorbed and the cheese has melted.
Very easy to make, nice texture, just missing 'bite.  What to do.

First I added a bit of fresh ground black pepper.  Helped, but not enough.  Then I turned to my standby: Sweet Chili Sauce for Chicken from Cock Brand.  This sauce it sweet and spicy with bits of red chili floating freely.  This stepped up the flavour of the dish and I emptied my bowl and went back for a bit more.

Still lots left.  Dinner with daughter.  Heated a carton of no-salt added Chicken broth from Campbells.  Spooned some quinoa into a bowl, ladled in some broth and finished warming in the microwave.  Great soup.

Still lots left in the casserole.  Lunch the next day.  Again, what to do.  I spooned a cup or so into a bowl, cracked an egg and mixed it through.  Into the microwave to warm and cook the egg.  After cooking I added a dollop of Sweet Chili and sauce and ate.  It was ok.

Still lots left. Lunch on day three.
I'm getting a bit more adventurous.  A pat of butter in the small frying pan, let it melt.  Spoon in about 3/4 to 1 cup of quinoa casserole.  Let it fry for a few minutes on medium.  I wanted a bit of a crust to form.  Using the back of a spoon I made a hollow.  Spooned in a layer of Roasted Tomato Chipotle Salsa and cracked an egg.  Put on a lid and let the egg cook.   Turned off the heat, added a slice of Havarti cheese, put the lid on so the heat would melt the cheese.  Sort of slid this onto my dish and it made a wonderful lunch.

There is still a bit left in the fridge, don't know if it will get eaten in any of the above fashions, but my imagination is up to the challenge.

Do you have any favourite 'saves' for when a recipe just doesn't work with your taste buds?
For more foodie fun, be sure to visit Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking Post.  You are invited to join in the culinary fun by adding a link to your recent food related post.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Needlework Tuesday - No Drip Icecream Cones

Needlework Tuesday is open to all readers looking for inspiration, encouragement or who want to share their recent needlework project. Introduce yourself in the comments and be sure to leave a link to your current post. Feel free to grab the cute little mouse for your post.

In last week's post I shared with you the start of my latest project: knit and crochet ice cream cones.   Be sure to visit that post for links to the patterns.  I was able to finish the project and add lots of sprinkles/beads to bring them to life.  I loved how they turned out, though I don't think I will be making any for myself, well, except maybe for a soft serve.

My cousin and her fiance love the cones and plan to display them in their ice cream shop.  Unfortunately I managed to chose flavours and styles of cones that they don't sell in their shop.  I do believe they have sprinkles.

What's next?  As I mentioned last week, I have a million un-finished projects that I do want to work on.  I am going to put some pressure on my self and commit here to working on them. 
  • quilt and bind small Chinese inspired wall hanging
  • finish plaid boxers   - Completed January 20, 2012
  • finish banana boxers    - Completed January 20, 2012
  • finish blue bug boxers
 Be sure to check back next week to determine whether I achieve these goals.  None of them will take much work, it's just a matter of me actually sitting at my sewing machine and working on them. My plan is to load a new audio book onto my ipod and listen to that while I stitch.  I want to send the little wall hanging to my sister for her birthday in  less than a month.  Considering that Canada Post says I need up to two weeks mailing time, I don't have any time to waste.

Did you receive a BlackBerry Playbook for Christmas, Linda at living, quilting and stuff has posted instructions of how to sew the perfect cover.
Do you have plans to finish up a project that has been lingering for far too long.  Share it here and I'll help encourage you along the way.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Weekend Cooking: Curried Squash and Carrot Soup

I was at my parents for few days earlier this week. Shortly after I arrived, my mother showed  me a soup recipe she had taken from her newspaper  the previous weekend.  I took this as a nudge that she and my father would like me to make it for dinner.  The combination of curry, butternut squash and carrots was very appealing.  Since I hadn't made a soup were you roasted the vegetables before hand, I was ready to try this.

The first photo shows the vegetables ready to go in the oven.  I had to keep checking their progress to ensure that the onions didn't burn.

Curried Squash and Carrot Soup  (printable version at this link)
by Jill Wilcox, columnist for the London Free Press
Serves 8-10
  • 2 tbsp. (25 ml) vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp. (25 ml) melted butter
  • 1 cooking onion, peeled and cut in quarters
  • 4 cups (1L) peeled, cubed butternut squash
  • 3 cups (750 ml) of carrots cut into 2- inch (5 cm) pieces
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1-1/2 to 2 tsp. (7 – 10 ml) curry powder or garam masala
  • 6 cups (1.5L) chicken or vegetable broth
  • plain yogurt for garnish
  • cilantro for garnish

 1. Combine half of the vegetable oil, butter, onion, squash and carrots in a large bowl. Gently toss.

 2. Place on a baking sheet and roast in a preheated 400F. oven for 30 minutes or until just starting to caramelize. (Make sure the onion does not burn).

 3. Place remaining oil in a stock pot and heat over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until soft.

 4. Add the curry powder and cook a further minute. Add the vegetables and broth and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 10-15 minutes.

 5. Puree the soup with an immersion blender until very smooth. If the soup is too thick, add some additional broth.

 6. Season with salt to taste.

 7. Ladle into bowls and garnish with a dollop of yogurt and a sprig of cilantro.


Sorry the photo is sideways, I tried to write this post on my Playbook, and couldn't figure out how to rotate the photo.

Kate asked how this would turn out without pureeing it.  I did it in the blender and it did leave some chunks.  They didn't bother us a bit.  If you were not going to puree, I would cut the chunks smaller, I left them rather large.  I would definitely dice the onion and probably cook that part in the soup pot along with the garlic and only roast the squash and carrots.  As for cutting the squash.  I slice it into 3/4 to 1 inch rings.  Lay them flat then slice off the skin.  You can't do it safely as a huge vegetable.  Once the peel is off, I chop it into pieces and then remove the stringy insides.

Looking for additional soup recipes, visit my earlier post, "The Great Soup Recipe Hunt", for over 25 links.

For more foodie fun, be sure to visit Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking post. 

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Needlework Tuesday: Doughnuts and Icecream

Needlework Tuesday is open to all readers looking for inspiration, encouragement or who want to share their recent needlework project. Introduce yourself in the comments and be sure to leave a link to your current post. Feel free to grab the cute little mouse for your post.

What a whirlwind of activities these past few weeks.  Amid the baking, visiting and feasting, I did manage to find a bit of time with my crochet hook and knitting needles.  I was working on those lovely doughnuts.  For details see my earlier post: No Calorie Doughnuts

The winner of the contest for a couple of these beauties is : Peggy.  I've sent her a private email.

This week's post is mostly visual, hope you enjoy this calorie free feast.

Boston Cream and Raspberry Jam Filled

Military or Camo (for my nephew)

Chocolate Mint (for my father)

My daughter gave me a pedestal cake dish for Christmas, so I made more doughnuts.

Chocolate Cherry (back right, for daughter)

My cousin is getting married in March and I was in need of an addition to go with her gift.  Since she and her fiance  own and ice cream shop, Ricky's Big Scoop in Thorald, Ontario,  I had to search out patterns for ice cream cones.  I found two that I liked.  This crochet soft serve is from RedHeart.  Pattern is called: Chocolate Pie & Ice Cream.   
 I used RedHeart Super Saver for the entire project.  Colour 792 Sandy Print for the cone, and 316 Soft White for the ice cream.  It still needs a few beads for sprinkles.

Knitted ice cream cones are totally different.  Generally,  I prefer to knit, but for crafts like this, crocheting seems more flexible.  These are coming along well.  The pattern is from I Like Lemons, her Ravelry site. her blog.  In the pattern  you have a choice of two styles of cones: wafer/cake cones (left) and waffle (right).  You then have a choice of three types of ice cream.  There is a traditional scoop with a ruffle, that's the pink one that I am  working on, then there is a dipped version and finally you can knit a soft serve.  I need to have these finished for the bridal shower this Sunday, so I'll have pictures of these sweet treats next week.

Pretty well, every blog I visit this year, everyone is talking about their plans for the year.  I am going to keep mine modest, I want to finish stuff that I have already started.  That leaves it quite wide open to interpretation and I like that flexibility.  How do you approach your projects?  Do you work on them continuously start to finish, or are you like me, you start with the intent of finishing, but tend to get easily distracted along the way.  I have far too many projects that have gotten pushed to the side that haven't seen the light of day in months/years maybe even longer.  eeks.  This is why I get so excited when I actually finish something.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Make Death Wait: Heart and Stroke Society Canada

I have been seeing this commercial for the past month or two and it still stops me in my path every time.  What a poignant message.   

I lost my 26 year old nephew to heart disease this summer and don't want to lose any of my viewers this way, especially when most of us can do something about our heart health.

Do your heart a favour and watch these commercials:

Petty Witter from the blog Pen and Paper, sends along this commercial from the BBC regarding performing CPR.


Please share these messages with the ones you love.