Saturday, 31 March 2012

Weekend Cooking - A Feast for the Eyes - or The Elmira Maple Syrup Festival

It's pancake time again in my neck of the woods.
Elmira, Ontario is celebrating. 
 According to Guinness World Records, they host the worlds largest one day Maple Syrup Festival.

Myself and daughter caught in the act.

 I won.

Fudge anyone?

The most amazing assortment of syrup bottles are available.

Suckers of every flavour.

Hubby's favourite, cheese curds.

I gather that wizards come to the festival for their turkey drumsticks.

The cinnamon rolls look good even before baking.

The bright green wasabi spread begged for a photo.  
It is just to darn vivid to put on food.

And to top it all off, spun maple sugar.

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

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Needlework Tuesday - Quilting is Charming

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.

Last night at my local guild meeting, our guest speaker was Brenda Miller from Among Brenda's Quilts.   Brenda brought four huge suitcases full of quilts along with a few dozen purses and bags.  She entertained us for almost and hour and a half relating to us the story of how she first became a quilter and then a prolific quilt designer.  There are over sixty of her patterns on her website.  Her work is gorgeous.  I love her philosophy on bag design.  Don't make it complicated, many quilters want to be able to complete the project in one or two days, and eliminate the hand stitching or keep it to a minimum.  Her patterns are all rated for skill level as she found herself as a beginner attempting a complicated pattern without realizing it.

It was hard to do, but I did manage to limit myself to the purchase of two patterns.  The first is The Yoga Girl Bag.  This is a unique bag that opens along the length such that you can easily put your yoga matt inside instead of the usual draw string tube that you end up having to shake the matt into. 

Daughter has been taking an introductory yoga class lately. I think it will be fun to make this bag with her.

I rarely keep my coffee table clear enough to show the table runner, but I couldn't pass up this super cool The Next Best Thing, to a Table Runner pattern.This modular construction uses six fat quarters, of which I have an overabundance right now.  I will make it as shown, but then I am going wild with these units.As long as I am careful with the pressing, it should be a fun challenge to come up with a squarish table matt and perhaps a three piece wall hanging, and then maybe....

My mother made The Out and About  Bag.  She said it was fun to sew and even more fun to carry around.  You can see a photo of her and her bag at this post.

One further thing that Brenda talked about, was setting goals.  If she hadn't set herself a goal to design a certain number of patterns by a chosen date, she might not have launched this career.  She challenged each of us to select two goals to accomplished by the start of the summer and further urged us to share them with others.  Once you tell your goal to someone else, it serves to encourage you to achieve it.  Now is your chance to share a needlework goal with me.  Leave me a comment and tell me of a project you want to complete.  Then come back each week with an update, or I can visit your blog and encourage you.  This is what I do here when I share my projects.  You know I am working on them, and if I haven't worked on it during the week, I quickly pull it out on Monday and work on it for a few hours so I will have progress to show you on Tuesday.  I find this a very helpful technique.

Brenda's patterns are widely available in Canada and the United States, check this page for further details.

I managed to find a bit of time to work on my Amalia shawl.  I introduced this to you about three weeks ago.  Still on the first ball of wool, though I am now on repeat 8 of 27.  I am getting more used to the stitch pattern, but I still don't understand the mechanics of it.

 Concerned that I might have a bit too much free time on my hands, I decided to start a new project.  the Fading Charms Quilt is being hosted by Deanna at Wedding Dress Blue.  Were you part of the seemingly millions of quilters who traded 2 1/2 inch charms at the turn of the millennium.  I was and I still had all those charms sitting here.  I never did get to 2000 of them, but I had enough.  Deanna's pattern for for a 72 inch square quilt, but I am going to add six rows so mine will be approximately 72 x 84 inches.  Her version calls for 846 charms, while my revision calls for 1002.  I didn't even have to cut any.  I have cut a few since I started sewing, as I found that some were not up to size and others the fabric was just too icky to be included.  It's looking like I may have to add some orange charms as they seem to be missing.  There sure are a whole bunch of blues and greens.  Must be popular quilt fabric colours.

For my first step I am chain piecing them in pairs.  I did these yesterday.
This morning I wanted to finish listening to my audio book, I had about an hour left, so I sat and stitched.  After pressing the seams to one side, this is what I have completed.  That was about an additional 120 pairs.  Every now and then I come across and unsuitable piece of fabric and I just toss it over my shoulder to the craft pile (the bits I use to make fabric postcards) and keep a running total of how many I need to replace.  I only tossed out four this morning. 

Deanna suggests that you can also use 2 inch or 1 1/2 inch charms for smaller finished quilts.  To get you started on your charm collection, Deanna has a contest to win 100 charms.  Visit her blog, Wedding Dress Blue for details.

Remember to leave a comment sharing your summer needlework goals.

Monday, 26 March 2012

March Madness 2012 - Elite Eight

Only eight teams left vying for the championship.  This is the last week of competition within the original four Conferences.  We have four of the old times, oops, I mean classic novels in the competition.

Be sure to go and vote.  You can vote once an hour.

To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee vs Room by Emma Donoghue.

Ms. Lee wrote about a lawyer in the deep south defending a black man that has been charged with the rape of a white girl.  Ms. Donoghue's novel is about a five year old boy who has grown up locked in a small room with his mother; he has no idea of the outside world except what he has learned from his few television shows.  Both of these stories pull on the heart strings as both consider the case of a person who's life has spun out of their control.

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie vs The given Day by Dennis Lehane.

Mr. Lahane's novel is set in post World War I Boston and compares the lives of two families, one black and one white.  Ms. Christie uncovers the twists and turns of the murder of a young woman during a cruise along the Nile River.

Marley and Me by John Grogan  vs Little Princes by Conor Grennan

Mr. Grogan has written about what a family learns about life from their neurotic dog.  Mr. Grennan relates the true story of he  attempts to save the lost children of Nepal.  For me, there is no choice, the story of the welfare of children will always outweigh that of a dog.

The Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson vs Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

Ms. Paterson  tells the story of friendship and lose from a child's perspective.  Mr. White also tells the story of true friendship, though he uses a group of farm yard animals instead of a pair of children.

I voted earlier this morning, and then set about doing some research while writing this post.  During this time I have changed one of my votes.  I had been voting for Agatha Christie based on the books of hers I had read ages ago, though I have not read this title.  After taking another look at Mr. Lehane's book, I am now voting for him.  

Are people voting based on author/book reputation or for the subject and writing quality of the story.  Both Room and to Kill a Mocking Bird are about sensitive subject matter.  I am still voting for Room.  I have read the book and found it very moving, and yes, situations like this do happen.  I have not read the book by Ms. Harper, though I do agree it is an important topic.  Whether it is well written, I have no idea.  I do have to wonder if people are voting for it out of guilt of what has happened to far too many young black men who lived/live in the south.  I am not taking a stance here, I am just wondering.

I'd welcome comments on these books and their authors.

Postcard winner and new Postcard contest

There were only three commenter in the Pixar Postcard contest and they are all winners:


I have sent you each a private email.
Next contest is for a postcard from this collection of images of the work of Mrs. Mary Delany, go to this post and leave a comment to enter.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Mrs. Delany's Flowers 18th-Century Paper Mosaics: A book of postcards

 Knowing how much I enjoy sending postcards, one of my dear friends gave me this book of cards.  It features 30 of the most gorgeous floral pictures by Mrs. Mary Delany (1700-1788).  Mrs. Delany started to make these works of art at the age of 72, and manged to create almost 1000 before her death 16 years later.

To learn more about Mrs. Delaney, read this Wikipedia article.

Author Molly Peacock has written a book titled The Paper Garden: Mrs. Delany Begins her life's Work at 72, where she looks at the life of Mary Delany and at her vast collection of work.

 I have included three examples of the postcards.  The  actual postcard is much more colourful and detailed than my images.

"Stewartia malacidendron"
 "Bombax ceiba Linn"
"Rubus ordoratus (sweet flowering raspbery)"
I have this plant in my garden and it never fails to inspire me with first it's lovely shaped leaves and then it's colourful flowers.  Yes, it does get large edible berries, I don't like their flavour.

A quick google search found thousands of images of Mary and her work.


I will select a commenter to receive one of these amazing postcards in the mail.  My choice of cards.  Open to international participants.

This book is from Pomegranate and the images within the book  are licensed from The British Museum.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Busy, Busy, Busy, but Happy

 I'm happier than a pig in mud.

On Thursday I was out of town with my parents.  My dad had a chemo appointment.  He's cancer is in remission and he only has a dozen chemo treatments left.  Yippee.

Thursday night, my son drove me home as he was going to test for his drivers license the next day.  He hadn't done any parallel parking yet.  When we arrived home, after a 1 3/4 hour drive, he did the manoeuvre a few times at the end of the driveway.  Not bad, but then again, not all that good.a

Next day we spent hours driving around the neighbouring towns.  Finally off to the testing centre.  He passed.  Not good with the parallel parking, but not bad enough to fail him.   It made me remember him at his pre-school graduation telling us that among other things, he wanted to be a race car driver when he grew up.  A license is a start.

Today I am taking him back to college; he has less than three week left in the term.  It's feels good to have so many things to be happy about.

Earlier in the week, I took daughter to test for her G1, that's her permit to learn to drive.  Thankfully she passed the written test on her first attempt as there was a very long line-up.  She won't be driving this Fred Flinstone style vehicle to learn, we've upgraded since, but the helmet is still a good idea.

Hope to be back tomorrow with a review of a beautiful postcard book featuring the images of Mrs. Delany.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Random Violence by Jassy Mackenzie

Home comings are often portrayed as bittersweet, and Jade De Jong's return to Johannesburg, South Africa,  after an absence of ten or so years, is no different.  Shortly after her father, a police superintendent, was murdered, she fled the country, eventually working an assortment of private security and investigative jobs.  Now she has returned and is looking for revenge.

It didn't take long for complications to arise. When her friend, the new Police Superintendent David Patel, picks her up at the airport, he asks if she'll help investigate a recent murder.  While the police think that Annette Botha's murder is either a botched carjacking or a robbery, Jade has to be sure. This investigation leads her into some very dangerous situations.

I liked the character of Jade De Jong. She presents as a respectable woman, successful and capable. Then I met the other side, the loyal side.  She knows her father's death was wrong, and she is willing to do what it takes to get justice/revenge, though she also knows when to pull back and let things work themselves out.

This contrasts with Whiteboy, who can barely restrain himself. He is a ticking time bomb that has gone off at least several times already.  His actions are brutal and are described with all the gruesome details. Not to be read by the faint of heart.  At the same time, I don't think this story would read as well if the violence were toned down, it wouldn't seem real (not that we want this kind of violence to be real).

I was fascinated by Ms. Mackenzie's descriptions of the levels of security that South African's use in their daily life.  Security fencing with automatic gates, armed guards at the entrances to gated communities and hired, private guards to roam neighbourhoods and answer calls for assistance.  This is in stark contrast to the safety I feel here in Ontario, Canada.

I listened to the audio book version which was produced by Blackstone Audio.  8 hours 57 minutes, unabridged.  It was read by Justine Eyre, who had me totally convinced that I was in Jo'burg, as Jassy calls Johannesburg.  At first I had trouble differentiating between the male and female characters, but one I stopped trying to figure that out and wait for the story to guide me, I was fine.

Jassy Mackenzie has added two further books to the Jade De Jong series.  The second book, Stolen Lives is on shelves now, and the third, Worst Case was out in South Africa in August 2011, and will be released internationally under the title of The Fallen in April 2012.

Thanks to Blackstone Audio for the use of the cover image.