Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Acorn Reticule

Some of you may remember that on the last yarn along I joined in on, I shared a picture that looked very much like a brown knit baby hat.
Here it is - almost completed.  It's an acorn reticule.   Well, it's part of an acorn reticule.  It is still missing the handle/strap.  Pictured here is the back of it, laying flat.  The front has a zipper closure where the nut meets the cap.  Oh, I thought I was so so clever.  And I wondered why oh why could I not find and acorn reticule anywhere on the internet.  How does such a thing not already exist?  So I made the bottom and struggled with the top a couple of times (I'm still not too happy with it...it needs some modifications).  Then, today, just before writing this, I thought I would do one more quick search...and then it occurred to me - type in acorn bag and see what comes up.  Oh, loe and behold - it does exist.  Well, a few crocheted versions exist and something kind of like this but not really in a knit exists - with button closures.

I need to knit it up one more time to make it exactly what I want.  If I can get it right, I will share.  I think I might also reverse the colours so that the nut is lighter and the cap is darker.  Stay tuned.

Reading:  Last time I joined in, I believe I was just starting to read the "Conspiracy 365" series that my son wanted me to catch up on.  Well, I am done now.  All 12.  Good thing that being kids books, they only take about an hour to an hour and a half to read one.  I think I would recommend them for teens - in fact my almost 10 year old is starting them.  I did struggle with them as mistakes jumped out at me in almost all of the books.  Things like -he was walking as casualty as possible in stead of as casually as possible.  That kind of thing bothers me.  A lot!  And I found a few.  S either didn't notice or didn't care because he never mentioned any of them...but it is one of my biggest pet peeves in printed works.  The series does get a bit old  (granted I read them pretty much back to back - which I am guessing was not the intention) with the never ending "narrow escapes" but the boys are loving them...and I think it's good for them to see that not everybody has it so easy.  There is a wide variety of family dynamics.  The ending is a predictable (for an adult anyways), but like I said, the boys are both really enjoying them, and that is what matters, isn't it?

Another children's book I read in that time (I had to wait for S to finish one of them before he would let me pass him) was The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen.  This one I would definitely recommend.  It is sitting on N's bookshelf waiting for him.

Garden News:
The carrots are finally starting to be ready.  They are mostly pretty small, but they sure are tasty.  And I have saved the tops to try some more wool dyeing.  Carrot tops are supposed to give a great green.  Time will tell.  I can't start that project for at least a week.

In the kitchen:
Fall has definitely arrived!  We are having very brisk morning temperatures, and evenings are cool enough to have the oven on whenever we want.  I shared the recipe for these cookies over here.

I'll be joining in again with yarn along at small things on Wednesday.

Sunday, 23 September 2012


 This past summer, one of our experiments was peanuts.  N chose these (and popcorn, but that's a whole other post, since we still don't have any harvested)
Last week, we went out and harvested...the boys and I.  I dug them up (have you ever seen how they grow?   Kind of like potatoes)
 And they pulled all the peanuts of the plants.
We collected a colander full from the one seed packet we planted.  Pretty successful, I think, since we were just checking if they could grow well in our area.
I soaked them overnight in salt water (like I did for the sunflower seeds) but this may have been a mistake.
After roasting them in the oven, the peanuts were still really really soft, so I am thinking I probably shouldn't have soaked them.  Incidentally, this whole process took a while...wanna know why?  After I soaked them, I put them on a baking sheet.  An air bake one that I have that doesn't have a rim on it.  I only have one with a rim, and it was dirty, and I didn't feel like washing it before roasting the peanuts, since I was doing that at the same time as getting supper ready.  I looked at it and thought "I won't spill, I will just be really careful".  So, I put them in the over at 350 degrees.  At 10 minutes I took them out to stir them up carefully, and then I went to put them back in the oven at which point I tipped the whole tray into the bottom of the oven.  The gas oven...into the part where the flame is...while I was also trying to make dinner.  So I turned the oven off and got some spaghetti sauce out of the freezer and made spaghetti instead of what I was going to be cooking...a new recipe I was inventing that we were all pretty excited to try.  Then I had to wait for the oven to cool, so I went to do the groceries.  When I came back, I took the oven panels out with a screwdriver and removed all the peanuts from the bottom flame area...some with tweezers.  They kind of got stuck everywhere...and while I was in there I removed some broken glass from a casserole I exploded a few years back (I had "baby brain" at the time...N was a baby and I was sorely lacking sleep). So I am telling myself there is a reason that I spilled all those peanuts.

Anyways, by the time I finished all that, I was in no mood to roast the peanuts, so I roasted them the following night.  For 40 minutes.  And they still came out really really soft.

So...today I shelled them all...
and roasted them without the shell.  For a little more than 20 minutes this time.
They are still kind of chewy.  If I can't figure out how to fix it, I am going to roast them a little bit more, and then candy them.  That should fix just about everything I would think.

Any suggestions - I mean other than the obvious "Do it right the first time"  :)

Linking up with barn hop at Homestead Revival on Monday
                        Backyard Farming Connection at Simple and Joyful on Tuesday.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Putting a twist on it.

Check out the giant wooden spoon I picked up this summer in China town when we visited my sister.

A few days ago I was making some soup for dinner.  Vegetable soup, with cheese tortellini on the side that we could each add in or leave out as we chose.  N walked in while I was making it and said "the onion soup smells delicious".  He was disappointed when I told him it wasn't actually onion soup, at which point he asked if we could still put bread and cheese on it and bake it in the oven.

Why not!  We often put a twist into our favourite recipes to make them our own...so why, indeed, had I never thought to make any other soup, french onion style?
So, the vegetable soup got ladled into bowls (3 of them with a handful of cheese tortellini in the bottom) and then covered with croutons (it's what I had on hand) and cheese and put into a hot oven to bake.

The soup was just chopped vegetables that I had in the fridge (onions, celery, carrots), some corn I had cut off a cob and put in the freezer, and the broth was cooked over a campfire this past summer.  Throw in some dried thyme and sage from the garden, a couple of bay leaves, a few drops of tabasco, some white wine, and it is actually very similar to onion soup.

Served with nice warm biscuits.  I am pretty sure these were my first ever really successful biscuits.  And yes, I am fully aware of the double starch, but sometimes, you just have to roll with it....and I was rewarded with the ever elusive "This dinner is delicious" from one of the minions.  How sweet it is.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Handmade Holidays?

A few weeks ago I posted a small list of projects I wanted to get done for the holidays.  This weekend, I was able to finish up the bookmarks for the boys.  They didn't turn out exactly as I planned, but I think the boys will quite like them.  The knit part is about 10" long and then the beads and braided tails stick out another 2-3" per side, so it makes them nice and long.

I found the pattern in this book but changed it up just the slightest bit.  Trust me, the ones in the book look world's better.  I even tried to iron them to see if it would help.  It did, but I still much prefer the ones in the book.  I think it is the weaving...I don't think I put in quite enough.
 From the front, you can barely see it at all...
...a little bit if you spread it out.
From the back, it shows up so nicely.  I think that was the point.  I think I was supposed to weave in from the back and make the pattern there.  I didn't get it until after they were ironed.  Oh well, lesson learned.  I am still going to pack these away for stocking stuffers, but I will make a note on the pattern that if I make these again, to weave in from the back (maybe two colours, or weave a few rows, leave a few rows).

So now I have two stocking stuffers for each of the boys done...bookmarks, and slipper socks.  Next up...I have pulled out the sewing machine and set it back up again to get to work on the next project when inspiration strikes.  I have decided though, that before I knit any more holiday presents, I better make N another hat for his birthday.  I have one finished up, but he loves them, and he shrunk his last year, and I just know he will do the same this year, so I am going to use up some leftover yarn to make him a second one.

Anyone else doing some holiday crafting?  I know you are...I've seen some...do you have a link to share?

Linking up with: Keep Calm Craft On over at Frontier Dreams
                         Creative Friday at Natural Suburbia and
                         Fiber Arts Friday over at Wisdom Begins in Wonder on Friday.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Eat what you grow, Grow what you eat - September

So here we are on the 15th, and once again, I almost missed it.

This is the September installment of my eat what you grow/grow what you eat challenge.  The May through August editions can be found here (May)here (June)here (July), and here (August).

I have decided to change my tactics this month...rather than give you a list of what I ate each day, I will just keep you updated on what is of note in the last month.

I am quite pleased that even on vacation, we were able to stick with the challenge.  For the beginning of the week, we brought some fresh garden produce with us (cucumbers, tomatoes, blackberries) and for the end of the week, we brought some jam made from our own raspberries, and a jar of peppermint for making mint tea in the evenings.  We were actually able to eat something we grew every single day while we were gone.  And also, our neighbours, friends, and family came over to harvest for themselves while we were gone.

We came home to this...
...which made it quite easy to meet the challenge in the week following our vacation.

We sampled our own peaches, we made homemade spaghetti sauce (by we, I mean I), and had our first eggplant parmesan (a hit with the adults...not so much for the kids).
 The week we returned, I did some canning to help meet the challenge through the winter.
I think I was overestimating how much we would get from our own garden.  Although we have had enough that I have had to buy very little produce over the summer months, the potatoes, corn, and green beans I was relying on to preserve did not do very well at all.  I dug up the potato bin this past week and found a total of 8 potatoes.  Disappointing to say the least.  I will not be using the potato bin again...this was round 2 and it was a failure both times.  The green beans...I missed most of them because they were ready exactly when we were on vacation, and the third planting I put in was pretty much dug up by the squirrels.  The corn...still growing, but I don't think anything is going to be ready to eat before the frost comes, so I am not holding my breath on that.
All is not lost though.  I have plenty of pickles and tomato juice (which we use for spaghetti sauce), a variety of jams, pickled items, and tomato based sauces.  I am still canning what is still coming from the garden, and we will just see what we will see.

We have also been enjoying the fresh cabbages.  This is the first year I ever planted cabbage.  I planted 4, and each one gave us enough to make coleslaw twice.  I plan to plant at least 8 next year - 12 if I have room.
I was able to make spaghetti sauce almost entirely from our own garden.  I had to get an onion and some celery at the farmer's market, but the tomatoes, herbs, jalapenos, and peppers all came from our garden.  There is still some in the freezer, and as I am still getting tomatoes, I might see if I can pressure can some spaghetti sauce.  I just have to find out how to go about doing that as I have still never used a pressure canner before.
We roasted some sunflower seeds, which turned out great.  We harvested the peanuts.  I was pleasantly surprised by the crop...however I have had no luck roasting them as of yet.  The first night I tried, I accidentally spilled the whole pan of them in the oven...the gas oven...while it was still on.  Right into the flame part.  I had to unscrew and remove several pieces of the oven to get them out before using the oven again.  Attempt #2 - I followed some directions I found on the internet, and although they smell good, they are still super soft inside.  I think I will have no choice but to shell them all to roast them.  Not looking forward to that.

And finally - here is where I admit to the tally.  I missed a night.  On the 12th.  My husband had to work late...it was the night of the dropping the peanuts in the oven fiasco, so what was planned for dinner couldn't be made without smoking us all out of the house.  So I made some french toast, with strawberries from the market...no component of our dinner came from our yard.  Neither had we had anything at any point that day...and I was going to make some mint tea, just to have the day "qualify" and then I forgot.  Oops.

So, the grand tally so far:  From May 15th to September 15th, I have missed 2 days.  Regardless, I am not giving up.  I want to see what the winter brings.

How about you?  Is your garden bearing the fruits of your labour?  And are you eating it?

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Roasting Sunflower Seeds - something new to me.

 Last year I planted sunflowers, planning to dry out the heads to feed the birds over the winter.  They grew about as tall as me, but I wasn't able to actually harvest anything because the squirrels were hanging upside down on them, eating up all the seeds before they were big enough to harvest.  This year, I didn't plant any sunflowers at all, but a whole row of volunteers sprang up by themselves so I let them grow.

 This one in particular was interesting as there were about 10 sunflowers off the one stem.  I have never seen that before.
They grew to be enormous!  I am about 5'8" or so, and this is as high as I could reach on this one...and I was stretching.  
So now...on to the roasting...  I had never done this before, so I did a little internet research.  I read that there are two ways you can do this.  You can let the sunflower heads dry out on the plant, or you can cut them off and air dry them.  I thought I would try a few of each and see which worked best.
If you are going to cut them off, you need to wait until the back of the sunflower (pictured here) starts to turn yellow.  This one was not quite ready, so I decided to let it dry on the plant.
 I collected three huge heads to air dry.  That steak knife is in there for scale.  The smallest one pictured is about the size of a dinner plate.  Woo-woo.
 On the left is one that I cut and let air dry...yucky!  A few of them had moldy spots, the backs of the sunflowers were quite soft, and it was just an all around mess getting the seeds out.  The one on the right was allowed to dry on the plant.  Much much better!  There were a few insects here and there, but a lot less than the cut and air dried sunflowers.
 So, I just brushed off those little blossoms with my hand...they fell off almost by themselves.
 After a little while, I realized the seeds could be removed much more easily if I split the sunflower into chunks.  I just ripped it apart with my hands (by the way, I was doing this outside because I knew there would be seeds everywhere...oh, and earwigs...beware the earwigs!)  I am sure there is a tool out there designed to get all those seeds out, but just picking and scraping with your fingers works just fine...especially if it is just an experiment to see how things go...
 While you are working, please take a moment to admire what nature can do all by itself!  Pretty isn't it?
 I ended up collecting a bowl full (more than what is pictured).  I have a suggestion...maybe do one or two sunflowers at a time, or recruit some help...it gets a little tedious after a while.  I had recruited some help, but then their friends came over and they all disappeared on me.  Hmmm.  Oh, and don't feel you have to do them all at once.  Turns out they hold just fine once they are removed.  I was worried about bugs, but I just covered the whole thing with a cloth and two days later, it was still fine...my point is you could do them a bit here and there over a period of a few days until you have enough instead of in one big power session if you so choose.

I wanted mine salted, so I made a brine.  It took about 2 1/2 quarts/litres (well, 2 1/2 peanut butter jars, cuz that is what was sitting right beside me) to cover the seeds in the bowl.  I added just under 3/4 cups of salt and stirred the whole thing around.  I ended up putting an inverted plate on the seeds to keep them submerged, but I don't think that would actually be necessary.  I let them soak for 24 hours (it was just supposed to be 12, but honestly...I forgot all about them in the excitement of my first pottery class of the season - ps:  they were just fine after 24). 

Drain them and spread them out on a cookie sheet.  I left them there to dry for about  7 hours (you can pat them dry with a towel instead, but I had to go to work, so air dry it was!).

Roast them in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.  Check them every couple of minutes after the 30 minute mark.  You can just split one in half and taste it to check if it is how you like it.  I went to 40 and they kind of taste like roasted pumpkin seeds...it's all about what you are looking for, right?
I was expecting them to look a lot different, but they come out looking just like when they went in.  It is OK if they split (in fact my internet research said that they will split) - mine didn't...also OK.
Let them cool and store them in an airtight container.  They should be shelf stable for a good long while.

I found that this is pretty forgiving.  You can kind of do it at your own pace.  If you forget about them, or just get too busy, they will be OK.  It would be a great project to do with kids...we just had bad timing...their friends came back from holidays the day I started, so they got distracted and disappeared on me.  They sure liked the results though.  All in all, I am pretty sure I will be doing this again next year.  N wants to try with flavours...like dill pickle, so I might try some herbs or spices in the brine, or sprinkled on top when they are in the oven.

If you experiment, let me know how it works out for you.

Happy Roasting.

I'll be linking up with Carnival of Home Preserving at Laura William's Musings on Friday
                                barn hop on homestead revival on Monday.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

What's on my needles?

I have officially finished one stocking stuffer for each of the minions!  Yippee.
I had to sneak this picture before packing them away in the "secret basket" in the back of my closet, so I apologize tremendously.  The lighting is poor, and there is nothing even in there to show you scale.  My, my.
These are what we call "slipper socks" at my house.  The boys get a new pair every year...sometimes in their stockings, sometimes just because, sometimes when they are sick.  They are worsted weight, cotton socks that they wear at home.  They are a little thick to wear outside, but on occasion, they are worn over a pair of store bought socks inside winter boots.  They are definitely worn to bed on cold winter nights (but they are cotton, so it's ok). They are definitely worn in the winter when they are at home sick, having a pyjama day.  Sometimes, they are worn when we come in for hot chocolate after sledding. The second sock here was knit up in basically a day.  I started it Saturday evening while watching TV (I probably worked on it for 45 minutes to an hour).  Then on Sunday, I picked it up here and there when no one was looking to do a few rows at a time.  Sunday night, I finished it off (probably about an hour again).  They are worsted weight, so they come together so fast!  The pattern is the one I mentioned last week...Easy Worsted Weight Socks.  I really love this pattern for beginners socks.  I think for the next pair, I will try this same pattern but modified a bit with a thinner yarn for socks they can wear in their shoes.  I will be keeping it on file, however, for the yearly "slipper socks".  I might even whip myself up a pair...after I get a few more stocking stuffers in the bag, that is.

What else is on my needles?
I am starting something I have been meaning to make for over a year.  Maybe two.  I know the yarn has been in my stash for at least two years.  At least!  I am just giving you a sneak peak right now...hopefully in the next week or so I will be able to share the finished project.  I can tell you that it is not a baby hat, even though that is what it looks like at this point. 

On the reading front...S has "suggested" that I read the Conspiracy 365 books he is currently reading.  There are 12 books, one for each month.  He just finished May.  I started January this morning.  He often does this...he gets so excited about a series and he wants to share the details and talk about it, but no one really knows what he is talking about until someone else starts the series.  Usually me.  So this morning, I started the first one.  And then he wanted to tell me all about the one he just finished.  He "accidentally" told me something that I shouldn't know until the 3rd book.  I think I might have to catch up to him in a big hurry so that he can talk about them before he explodes.

Linking up today with Keep Calm Craft On over at Frontier Dreams,
                                 Yarn along at small things.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012


One of the things I love most about reading other people's blogs is finding out the feedback on patterns they have tried.  I am more likely to try a new pattern if someone tells me how great it is rather than if I see something I like and then search out the pattern from there.

So, to return the favour...here is a pattern that I really, truly enjoyed knitting (incidentally, I shortened the leg portion because one of my minions likes short socks).

This is a great pattern for beginners, for sure, but it is also a great pattern for people who have been knitting for a while and just need, shall we say, a helping hand.  She gives lots of tips interspersed with the pattern instructions to make it easier as you go along.  Now, I have knit socks before.  I have knit quite a few socks before!  And if you read my post last week, you would have seen that I had three socks at the "pick up stitches" stage for the gusset and that I was dreading that step.  I never like that step. It makes my hands hurt.

Well!  I just did the two above, easy peasy!  She gives a little tip to slip the first stitch of each row while working the heel to make it easier to pick up.  She gives a little tip to pick up and knit the stitches one at a time rather than trying to get them all on a needle.  She gives a little tip to knit one round before starting your decreases to even out the picked up stitches.  Whew!  Problem solved.  Now I will be flying through the socks.  Disclaimer:  I have learned to knit as I go, as I don't actually know anybody else that knits.  Maybe some of you don't have this problem if you have a mentor or teacher of some sort, but somehow, I have never came across those three tips before.

My point:  if you have never knit socks and would like to try, I highly recommend this pattern.  If you have knit socks before and didn't like it, I highly recommend this pattern.   You're welcome.

Next up: please excuse the awful pictures.  The lighting was horrible because of the rain we so desperately needed.
 My new hat is finished.  It looks better in real life.  This one is from Modern Top Down Knitting and I posted a picture of this one from the book last week.
 Although it is entirely my own fault, it doesn't fit properly.  My gauge was off, and even though she said to use fleece (which stretches), I used flannel (which does not).  It is quite snug, but I do like how it looks.  I like different hats...hats that not everyone on the street are wearing.
It will, however, be perfect for the skating rink, as it won't be going anywhere!  And I will be making another  one right shortly (maybe in stripes?), but this time being much more careful to follow the directions properly.

And on the reading front:  does anyone have a good fiction to recommend?  September is a busy month here.  The boys go back to school, I go back to pottery once a week, the garden has to be put to sleep (once I finish the harvest and canning of course), and the extracurricular activities start.  I need a nice, light read that I can pick up and put down whenever.  Preferably something "old-timey".  Anyone have a suggestion for me?

Link-ups:  Keep Calm Craft On over at Frontier Dreams on Tuesday
                Yarn Along at small things on Wednesday
                Stash bash with Crunchy Catholic Momma on Thursday
                Homestead Revival's barn hop on Monday

Monday, 3 September 2012

A return of cool evenings

The return of cool evenings just before school starts always makes me think of one thing...
...the return of home baking.  Oh, baked goods, how I have missed you!  I usually try to have a good variety of baked goods ready for when school starts so that I don't have to be concerned about it in the first week or two.  This year, however, my freezer is still so full of produce that I am only going to be able to make a few things to freeze until the produce gets used up.

First up, Coconut Lime Muffins.  Oh, let me tell you!  These are fantastic.  They are based on a recipe from Company's Coming: Mostly muffins.  I have mentioned this recipe book before, I know, but it is such a great book.  It's my go to for baked goods.

I changed it up a bit, for what I had on hand.  Here's what I did this time:

Combine 1 cup all purpose flour, 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1 cup unsweetened coconut, 4 tsp. baking powder.
Cream 1/3 cup butter with 3/4 cup sugar.  Add 1 large egg and 2 tbsp lime zest.
1 cup coconut milk.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients alternating with the coconut milk (dry, milk, dry, milk, dry).
Scoop into 12 muffin cups.
Sprinkle with a little more shredded coconut.
Bake at 375F for 18 minutes.
While they are baking, bring to boil 1/2 cup sugar with 1/4 cup lime juice and 3 tbsp water.  Heat and stir for 2 minutes until it starts to thicken.  When the muffins come out, spoon a little of the glazing liquid over each muffin.  Let stand for 5 minutes and then remove to a wire rack.

Oh, yeah!

Another great recipe in the book...
Cinnamon swirl tea biscuits.  Made with yogourt.  I'm telling you, this book is worth it.  I have had it for a good while now, and everything I have tried has been absolutely fantastic.  In fact, I was just looking at my bookshelf, and other than her other book "muffins and more" I have actually gotten rid of all my other recipe books that were strictly baking.  I have the odd recipe here and there, but mostly I use these.

Do you have a cookbook to recommend?  Don't be shy.

Happy baking my friends.
I'll be sharing this over on Homestead Revival's barn hop