Monday, 24 December 2012

Santa's scouting mission to Conestogo

A few minutes ago, Santa completed his scouting mission to Conestogo.  He was greeted by dozens of believers hoping for a glimpe of this special fellow.  What a treat.  I must have been good, and he has promised to return later after I have gone to sleep.

For a view of the terrific lights in my neighbourhood, check this earlier post.

Christmas Lights in my Neighbourhood

For at least the past ten years, my neighbours have put up and elaborate display of Christmas lights.  Each year they add a new element.  This year it is ten trees set in the back yard.  Each of a different colour that turn on and off in a varying pattern.  I absolutely love their display and walk or drive past it as often as possible.  This year I wanted to share it with my viewers.  It was rather windy last evening when I walked past and that sound was captured in the video.  I hope you enjoy it.

Merry Christmas.


Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Oh Christmas Tree Skirt

A plain white bedsheet.  That was our Christmas Tree skirt for most of the years while I was growing up.  Then when I married, the budget was too tight to purchase sonething we'd only be using a few days a year.  After we had children and they were getting old enough to notice 'stuff' around the house, I decided that our tree needed to have a proper skirt. 

By chance, I had the perfect pattern sitting in waiting.  It was one that I had got from my mother-in-laws sewing room after she had passed away.  It was several years before I got around to making it, but have loved it every year since.  I used a McCall's Craft pattern #5013 (discontinued).

Shopping for the supplies was quite the challenge.  I needed lining, shimmery fabric, lace, trim, bias tape and cording that all co-ordinated.  Love that burgundy colour.  After finishing the skirt, I had enough fabric and trim to make a matching table runner.

Granny Tree SkirtThis year, I have fallen in love with a new tree skirt pattern, this one is crocheted and the pattern is from Red Heart: Granny Tree Skirt.  I won't be making it for myself, but possibly for one or both of my children (for future use, should they ever decide to leave the comforts of home).  Shown is the photo from the Red Heart site.

Does your Christmas Tree Skirt have a story/history.  Share it on your blog, then come back here and leave a link so that we can all enjoy it.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Sixteen year old Jacob Portman just wanted to be fired from his job at the pharmacy.  He hated it that his uncles had other plans; they intended for him to work in the family empire, not caring what Jacob wanted to do.  What he wanted was to spend more time with his grandfather.  He would reflect back on the magical stories he used to tell him when he was young.  A floating girl, and invisible boy, and many other impossibilities.  It was easy to believe these when he was little, but now, an older and wiser Jacob knew better.  That didn't stop him from adoring Grandpa Abe.

One day at work, Jacob received a frantic call from his grandfather telling him that the monsters were coming for him.  Jacob rushed to his side, but he was too late.  Abe laying dying, torn open by what the police later confirmed was a wild animal attack.  With his final breaths, he told Jacob to find the bird and mumbled some other cryptic details.

Even with the help of counselling, Jacob was not able to let go of his grandfather's horrific death.  Finally, he convinced his parents that he needed to travel to the remote Welsh island where his grandfather had lived in a children's home for war orphans.  There he hoped to find some clue to Abe's final message.

I listened to the audio book version of this twice in the past few months.  The second time I enjoyed it so much better than the first.  This second time I was able to enjoy the wealth of detail, while the first time I was so busy trying to follow the story and time lines.  This was read by Jesse Bernstein. 9 hours  42 minutes.  From Books on Tape.  The descriptions were so vivid and the voices so well done, that I was able to visualize each of the children and photographs that Jacob looked at periodically throughout the story.  It was only later that I learned that the paper version shows the discussed photos and even images of the 'letters' which Jacob reads.

In this novel, we find that it's not easy being a teenager no matter the time period.  Jacob has to deal with bullying at school, yet his grandfather had to deal with a war and with the monsters he keeps talking about.  Then there are the other children at the home, they have to deal with the isolation from their families as well as from a normal relationship with the rest of the population of the island.

 Spoiler Alert:

There is only one tiny thing that bothered me in this book, and it is not something that the target audience of 14+ would notice.  Emma leads Jacob down into a sunk boat.  They are at least twelve feet underwater, and Emma picks up a hose, clears the water from it with a little puff of air and starts breathing.  Then she hands the hose to Jacob and he breaths from it.  As a trained scuba diver, this isn't going to work.  As I said, this is a small thing, and I wasn't going to let it stop me from fully enjoying this book.

End of Spoiler Alert

On his website, Ransom Riggs indicated that he is working on a follow up to this book which he plans to have ready at some point in 2013.

Thank-you to Mr. Riggs for the use of the cover image.

Also reviewed by:

Petty Witter at Pen and Paper

Thursday, 13 December 2012

The Bridegroom wore Plaid by Grace Burrowes

With the young Queen Victoria as a neighbour at Balmoral, Ian MacGregor and his family often played host to English families wishing to spend the summer experiencing 'everything Scottish'. It also didn't hurt that their paying 'guests' brought much needed cash.  This year was different.  Ian, Earl of Balfour, had determined to marry a very wealthy bride and once and for all put an end to their tenuous finances.
Baron Willard Daniels was equally determined to marry off his eldest daughter, Eugenia, for the highest title he could find.  This did not sit well with his daughter, who was determined to marry for love regardless of the bridegroom's social status.  Ian's two single brothers and their widowed sister are well equipped to house and entertain the Daniels,  but they weren't expecting to have to guard all of their hearts.
I love any story that has a man in a kilt.  It just can't do much wrong.  All the author has to do is describe him standing proudly in his plaid and I captivated.  Fortunately, author Grace Burrowes goes far beyond.  The MacGregor family has their share of challenges, the eldest brother long missing in distant Nova Scotia, Canada, famine and crop failure on their farms and have to cater to the whims of their haughty guests.
Eugenia Daniels has seen up close the horrors of her mother's marriage and is determined that this not happen to her.  She will not endure a loveless marriage.  Her brother Matthew is a disappointment to his father, but is determined to protect his sisters.  The two chaperons, widow Julia Redmond and niece Augusta Merrick, are anxious to procure a favourable match for their charge, but also want to enjoy their vacation.
This story was fun from the first pages.  A beautifully described setting, the lure of royal neighbours and a rambunctious redhead, Ian's young niece.  It truly read as two families trying to blend together, but not in the ways that might have been predicted.  Though it was only a small portion of the story, the inclusion of a scene with Albert, the Prince Consort, had me grinning and cheering him on.  Sorry no details, you will have to read the book.  Even if she didn't include a kilt clad highlander, I would definitely read further books by Grace Burrowes.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Death by Latte by Linda Berber

Being a teen is never easy, specially when your mother walked out on you and your father four years earlier with no explanation.  Then you travel 2000 miles to see her and she immediately tells you that you have to leave, now.  This is exactly what happened when Aphra Connolly travels to Seattle to find her missing mother.  Natalie shuts down the long sought family reunion and starts on the drive to the airport.  This is interrupted by a 'business call' that requires urgent attention.  Aphra's departure is temporarily delayed. 

From this moment, their reunion takes a series of twists that could not have been anticipated.  most definitely, not the normal mother-daughter relationship.  Whatever happened to shopping together and choosing clothing.  None of that for these two, more like espionage, guns and hitmen.

Natalie is still sees Aphra as that young girl she left four years earlier.  Aphra wants back that mother that she has imagined during that time.  Neither of them are living up to the other expectations.

While I did enjoy this fast moving story, I do feel that I was missing something by not having read Death by Bikini, the first book in the series.  The follow-up to this one is Death by Denim.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Needlework Tuesday - Oh for the want of a piece of felt

Welcome to Needlework Tuesday, where I share my past week of needle related adventures.  Knitting, crocheting and Quilting have kept my fingers limber.
 I finished the cuddly for my niece with the exception of eyes.  I need a small piece of felt but can't find it any where in my stash.  I know I have ample, but no sighting of it was made in my several searches.  I love the floppy ears, they look like trumpet bells gone limp.  The dangly fee are rather cute as well.  Have started on a second in mauve for her older sister.  I did splurge and buy some of the better quality stuffing amd am glad I did.  The last time I used stuffing, many years ago, it was icky, scratchy stuff .  This new to me product, Poly-Fil by Fairfield, is so soft and fluffy.  It caught me by surprise, a good surprise. 

I stuffed this little guy as much as I thought appropriate, but I do think that it will pack down a little with use.  I know that I'd want to hug him/her and use him/her as a neck pillow. 

I tend to alternate my activites through out the day.  I can't spend endless hours knitting, so a switch to the sewing machine is welcome.  I quilted and am working on the binding of my Razzle Dazzle Table Runner by Babs'n'Jas.  Note that you require one metre of fabric for the backing and a full 1/4 metre for the binding.  I did contact the designer with this discrepancy.  The pattern was easy to sew up.  Rectangles and then applique on three circles or whatever shape you desire  I happened to have this fq sampler sitting on the table and decided this was a perfect use for it. 

At first I started quilting around the motifs in the fabric, but didn't like it one bit and then spent the next two hours un-stitching.  Circles and diagonols worked out very well.

I happened to have a metre of ths fabric sitting around.  It shows off the quilting and will look good when the runner is used with the flip side up.  with the left over bits from the the top, I have started making a bag.  Will show that next week along with a link to the pattern.  You'll be wanting to make up a few of them for quick gifts.
I did start crocheting a secret gift.  I would think that it falls in the realm of an amigurumi.  I can only stitch when a certain young lady is at school, so progress is slow.  Thank-fully it is not a huge project.  Can't wait to show it to you, though it will be after the 25th as she does peek at my blog occasionally.  I can write this as I rather doubt she actually reads, just looks at the photos.
Next week, I'll have a photo of the tree skirt that I sewed a few years ago.  I still love it and wish it were on display for more weeks, but what can I do. It's a seasonal thing.  Do you have a tree skirt that you love.  Write a post about it, including pattern details if available, and I'll have a Mr. Linky that you can join.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Weekend Cooking - Spiral Cutter

Contest notice: I currently have a contest posted in my recent Needlework Tuesday post, visit this post and leave a comment there to enter.  then come back and finish reading this post.
Over  the past few weeks, I have been testing recipes from a new cookbook.  It involves a number of new-to-me techniques, one of which required the purchase of a new kitchen tool.  The Spiral Cutter.  I bought an inexpensive version from kitchenbasics.  I checked all sorts of specialty stores and kitchen suppliers, and finally found one at a shop at my local farmers market, Kitchen Help.   For a tiny shop, their shelves are jam packed with all sorts of wonderful tools and appliances for the kitchen.  They are definitely going to be my new go-to shop for unique tools.

So what can I do with my new spiral cutter.  For the most part, it has two cutting styles that appeal to me.  One, I can cut long, very thin vegetable spirals.  The carrot on the left of the plate is wafer thin. Would make a  great edible garnish. Children will gladly eat their veggies when cut like this.  With the simple flip of a lever, it turns those spirals into long skinny strips.  I tried carrots, parsnips and zucchini and all cut very well.  Some of the zucchini strips were over two feet long.  I am planning on trying beets and whatever other firm vegetable I can find.   I next marinated these spiral cut vegetables in a dressing of olive oil and red wine vinegar with a dash of salt and fresh ground black pepper.  Very tasty and fresh.
I am looking forward to using this tool to help with the preparation of several of the recipes from my new book.  This would be a great addition to a vegetarian or raw foodie's kitchen.  Also for gluten free kitchens, you could make alternates to traditional flour paste, substituting long strands of zucchini.
Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads.  You are invited to add a link to your recent food related post and to enjoy the dozens of foodie posts each weekend.

Friday, 7 December 2012

First Nations Friday: Moccasin Creek by Rene Andre Meshake

One day, Giniw and Okomissan (his grandmother) decided to go in the canoe to Moccasin Creek.  Giniw wanted to wear his new leather boots.  After some time of paddling, he noticed that one of the ribs in the canoe was cracked.  This had never happened before when he wore his moccasins, making him wonder if hadn't the boots caused the trouble. Okomissan assured him that the canoe was still strong even if one piece was damaged, that it gained it's strength from a combination of all the component parts.  Giniw realized that it was the same with his family,  that they functioned as a group.  I won't relate the entire story to you, I'll leave that for you to explore with your child.  Let me say that the story provides several launching points for you to talk with your child about choices, families and communities.
One of the most unique features of this book is how Mr. Meshake has entwined the English and Ojibwe language.  The text runs fluidly from one language to the next.  In most cases the reader can determine the meaning from the surrounding text, thought there is a dictionary at the back of the book for all the Ojibwe words.
The artwork in this book is captivating.  It appears that the drawings are superimposed on backgrounds of rock and bark, though I can't say that some aren't really rock paintings.  I particularly like the images of the beaver and the canoe paddle.  A fun activity to do with your child would be to decorate canoe paddle  and moccasin outlines with pictures that mean something in your family.
My father wore moccasins as casual footwear his whole adult life.  I think it had to do with wearing steel toed boots every day at work.  After he passed away, mom and I decided that we would send him on his way, wearing his favourite footwear, his latest pair of moccasins.
The Copper Axe

The Canadian Book Challenge is hosted by John at The Book Mine Set.  You are invited to join in the challenge by reading 13 books by Canadian Authors.  Visit John's site for details, and for listings of reviews of hundreds of Canadian novels.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Needlework Tuesday - Contest

Welcome to another issue of Needlework Tuesday, where I share updates of my past week of needlework projects.  My readers are invited to join in the fun, create a post of their current needlework projects and add the cute little mouse.  Leave a comment with your link. I'd love to visit and see what you're up to.

It doesn't look like much yet, but it's a cuddly for one of my nieces.  Bernat Baby Jacquards Florals Monster Toy.  Simple knitting so far, though I did have an incident yesterday.  I was working on another project and tugged on the end of my measuring tape and next thing I know, I heard some pinging and sensed something flying through the air.  Now I can't locate the fourth needle from the set I need for this project.  hmm, it can't have gone too far, can it?  I have also bought a ball of mauve for my other niece.  can't give a gift to one sister and not the other.

In the summer, I bought two very large balls of worsted weight cotton.  One I gave to my sister, the other I kept with the intention of making her something, as I suspect it will be ages before she gets around to using hers.  For the past two weeks I have been stitching with it.  First up were two leaf shaped facecloths.  Link for that pattern is in last week's post. Next up were two dishes/bowls.  The basic pattern is by Barb,  I played around and came up with the pointy lid, sorry, no pattern for that.  As I wandered the net, I came across the Origami hot pads.  Very neat idea, they are double thick and can be made in any size, including as pillow covers.  Finally, the little flower is a Floral Face Scrubbie.  Have yet to check with daughter to decide if this is worth making more. It is a free pattern on Ravelry, designed by Melinda Miller. ,

Been wanting to make these for a while.  Finally bought the right colour of cotton.  What are they, apple cosys of course.  The one on the left was hooked with a 5mm hook and houses a real apple, the smaller one on the right was hooked with a 4mm hook and holds a plastic plum.  Pattern is from Michaels and Bernat.  I did change the pattern a bit.  When I changed to green, I completed the row with double crochets instead of singles.  This made for more room to thread in the leaf tie.  When making the tie, I made it in one piece instead of doing a leaf and crochet chain together, and then adding a separately made leaf.  I thought it would be stronger so a child wouldn't accidentally pull off the added leaf.  The double crochets left room to thread the leaf.  There is also a knitting pattern , but I haven't had a chance to give it a try.

I'm also working on a mystery quilt with my local guild.  It is from Border Creek Station.  This is my first mystery with them.  Shown are the pieces I was left with at the end of step two.

Finally, the contest.  While my mom was here, I mentioned that we sewed a bunch of gift bags.  Shown are three of the fabrics we used.  Two are twill and the third is a heavy cotton.  I'm not showing the top of the bags as I still have to purchase ribbon for the drawstrings.  
To be entered to win, leave a comment telling me about your gift wrapping traditions. Be sure to include your email, if I can't contact you, you can't win. 
 Is gift wrapping a big deal, or does anything go including the newspaper.  Do you use eco friendly wraps or ribbons and bows, the whole nine yards.  I'm of the re-usable bag group and have been for at least 20 years.  A bit of paper ends up under the tree but not that much.
Contest is open internationally.  Number of winners will depend on how many entry  comments are received.  You don't have to be a follower to win , but if you are and you are the winner, you will receive  a bonus gift along with your bag..  First name drawn will get the choice of which bag.  One bag per winner.  Measures approx 11 x 14 inches.  Contest closes when the next Needlework Tuesday post goes live.
Marie at Daisy's Book Journal has been working on a unique afghan.  She has her first photo this week.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Breakfast for 1000 Santas

Yesterday was the inaugural Santa Pur Suit.  It was hosted by RunWaterloo and the Stork Family YMCA.   Over one thousand Santas, ranging from two years old and up, arrived for the chilly event.   The Santas had to choice of running 1, 3, or 5 kilometres.  The Santa suits were part of the registration and all parts of the suit had  be worn including the beard. (yes, the runner who had a self grown long white beard also had to wear the fake beard) .
 I was on hand as a volunteer to witness this historic event. Never has this area witnessed so many Santas and Santas-in-training in one location.  At left and immediately below are the front of back images of the volunteer t-shirts.  I wonder, since we were helping the Santas, did that make us elves?
Santas keeping warm before the race. 
This is the slimmest group of Santa, so no belly fat for warmth.

I had parental permission to snap this photo of some Santas in training.
 The youngest Santa on the course was two years old.

Ten minutes till race start

Heading to the starting line

Waiting for that final count down, no not that one, still 23 days till then.

And they;re off and running, or rolling as it might be.

And running....

And still running...

Great beard on this rolling Santa.

Santas eat an aweful lot, it took ages to cook over 1000 hotdogs.

Several boxes of banana...

Dozens of cut oranges.

Mounds of seedless grapes, easier on the clean-up crew.

Just a few of the 1000 hotdogs

Five flavours of tasty Pizza was supplied by Panago Pizza
A great time was had by all the Santas and over $10 000. was raised for the YMCA Strong Kids Campaign of Kitchener-Waterloo.

As I was leaving, a young child, also walking  out the door, commented that "Santas all gone, where'd the Santas go?"  Her parent didn't miss a beat and replied, "They're all back at the North Pole of course."

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

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Fifty Degrees Below by Kim Stanley Robinson

Global warming has become a reality.  Washington DC experience severe flooding, the Atlantic Gulf Stream has stalled and the Antarctic ice sheet is breaking up.  These are the calamities that Kim Stanley Robinson has unveiled in his 2006 novel Fifty Degrees Below.  In light of Hurricane Sandy a few weeks back, this story line doesn't seem too far fetched at all.

Scientist Frank Vanderwal is working with the NSF (National Science Foundation) to brainstorm and implement workable solutions the the global weather catastrophes.  At the same time, he has several personal challenges to meet.  First and foremost, he is homeless in DC and living in a tree fort in Rock Creek Park.  Since he is in the park, he has volunteered to help locate zoo animals who escaped or were released during the flooding.  He is also involved in a clandestine relationship with a mysterious woman named Caroline.  An additional and confusing interaction, is his relationship with the Tibetan/Khembalis delegation.

For the most part, I enjoyed the weather discussions in this story.  With the exception of one very extreme drop of temperatures in two minutes, most of those detailed seemed plausible. This is the part of the story that I really wanted, the events of the weather and it's effects on the various populations, unfortunately, this seemed to take a back seat to the political and social interactions.  Pages and pages of political machinations put me to sleep more than a few times.  The story could have proceeded without most of that drivel. Yes, it was important to acknowledge that the politics of the day played a part in either approving or delaying the NSF projects, but it made for very dry reading.  I also didn't need to read 2 1/2 pages of the vacuuming habits of one of Frank's friends.

It wasn't until I was finished the book, that I realized that this was the second part in a trilogy.  Don't know what I was missing in the back stories of the characters, but I won't be rushing out to buy either the first or third parts of the series,