Snow, sewing and soup

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Today turned out to be a snow day. The flakes were flying horizontally and I was very grateful to have zero outside commitments so that I didn’t even have to change out of my PJs!

I spent most of the morning and afternoon in my sewing room, with just a couple of breaks to fetch lunch and hot drinks. I made another of these drawstring bags (tutorial from Erica Arndt on YouTube), using up more of the snowman fabric that I made the quilt with. This is a very easy bag to make and I could just go on and on making more and more! (And my new walking foot works beautifully!)

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I managed to get daylight photos of the bag around lunchtime, but the two projects I finished this afternoon were completed after dark, so indoor shots in artificial light only.

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Both this easy zippered pouch above and the drawstring bag below are from video tutorials by WhitneySews. (That’s my ironing board with the cute cup and mug print.) I added a turtle charm to the zipper.

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This bag coordinates with the zippered pouch, as I used the same spool fabric for the main part of this bag, and also lined the zippered pouch with it. The fabric on the outside of the zippered pouch is the lining of the drawstring bag. It’s a pretty big bag, though when I boxed the bottoms I took quite a chunk out, so it is probably a bit smaller than it could have been.

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Once again, the ribbons used for the drawstrings were from stash, ones that I bought when I was doing the farmers and crafters market about 5 years ago. The skinny teal and orange ribbons were a bit thin to use on their own, but as they both coordinated perfectly with the spool fabrics I used them together.

I’m hoping to convince Tai Chi Man to go out for a walk after we’ve eaten our root vegetable and lentil soup (good warming comfort food) and then if I have time I might just have to do more sewing.

So many tutorials, so little time!

Happy December!

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Do you love this time of year? So many people grumble about the cold and the snow, but my attitude is that the weather is not something you can change so you might as well enjoy it. Or at least accept it with grace! (Or move south, I guess!)

Yesterday was Sunday December 1st and we had our first proper snowfall. It wasn’t very deep but it was enough to make the roads a little slippery and turn everything into a prettier version of itself.

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Cold weather makes you count your blessings – we have a warm house, cosy beds, plenty of food, appropriate clothing. The temperatures dropped well below freezing in the last week and I know there are people in my town who are sleeping outside.

The drawstring bag I showed you a couple of posts ago was part of my Secret Santa gift for last night’s work’s Christmas Party. I also made a couple of coordinating gnomes (the two in the centre of this photo).

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I’m happy to report the bag and gnomes were much appreciated and were “stolen” twice in our Secret Santa game. The bag ended up with a knitter for her projects and the gnomes ended up with another person for her grandkids. It’s nice when people make a little effort for these things because there’s always someone who you feel sorry for because they ended up with a crappy thing!

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Another of my favourite things this season is that my Christmas cacti, of which I have about six, are flowering beautifully. I have found that if I put them outside on my covered deck in the summer, where they get a reasonable amount of light and fresh air, and then bring them in when the nights start to get cold, they flourish.

I had my sewing machine serviced this week and also invested in a new walking foot. The old one was about 20 years old and was loosening so much when I sewed that I kept breaking a needle when it hit the foot that had shifted below it. It is sewing like a dream again and I finished this little bag yesterday.

It’s small because I was limited by the length of the zipper. It’s called a Continuous Zipper Pouch and the tutorial is here. It’s a nifty way of using one side of the zipper (if you want, the other half can be used for a wrist strap) but obviously you need a zipper that’s twice the width of your intended bag and I only had short ones.

I love watching bag tutorials. WhitneySews is a channel that’s new to me (she has been making tutorials for ten years, so I don’t know how I missed her before) and she has lots of useful videos.

I also experimented with this Scandinavian fabric star. It’s a photo tutorial and after the first step, when you flip the piece over, it took me a minute to figure out what I was supposed to do, but I did, and it worked, and I managed to finish a reasonably neat star.

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I won’t post a photo of my Advent Meditation CAL ornament yet as I don’t want to spoil the surprise for others who haven’t got around to making it yet.

I think that’s enough of my warbling for now. I hope you are having a great day. Talk to you again soon.

Advent Meditation Crochet-along

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(Image courtesy of Pixabay)

What a great idea this is! The blog, Crochet Between Worlds, is running an Advent Meditation Crochet-along throughout December. Starting today, for four weeks, they are releasing an audio tutorial for a seasonal ornament. There is no written pattern or picture of the final item, so you have to listen carefully as you crochet and follow along.

This sort of focus makes you forget any other pressures or concerns you have, which is perfect when so many people are stressed out over so many issues.

Here’s the first post about it.

I’m doing it. Are you?

Ahimsa

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I am very excited to say that my sister is now a published author!

Her book is called Ahimsa and her pen name is Caroline Earle. This is the Amazon Canada link to her book (paperback or ebook) though it is available in the UK and presumably in the US too.

Ahimsa: Respect for all living things and avoidance of violence towards others.
 
On a 32,000 km journey through six Asian countries over six months, Caroline, a journalist, and her husband become increasingly aware of animal welfare, poverty and what we are doing to the planet. They had no idea when they set off that they were going to end up vegan. Ahimsa is the story of their journey, meeting colourful characters and exploring many philosophical themes along the way. It is topical and questioning, in parts funny, sad and increasingly angry. It is an uplifting, thought-provoking account of the route to compassion, not least through the simple act of cuddling a cow in India.
 
Ahimsa by Caroline Earle, published by Grosvenor House Publishing, is available now on Amazon as a paperback and on Kindle and other ebook formats.
Caroline had told me that she was vegetarian before she went on her big trip. Even that step surprised me. I became vegetarian in about 1986, and then vegan a couple of years after that. I never thought I would see the day that she would give up meat, and she didn’t even tell me straight away. And now that she is vegan…I cannot describe the joy I feel at this fact.
She spent time in the Animal Aid sanctuary in India where she really connected profoundly with animals. Not just dogs, but cows and goats. She looked into their eyes, she comforted them when they were in pain or dying, and she saw sentient beings that deserve to live their lives without being enslaved or abused or slaughtered for meat.
A few years ago, she was on holiday on India with her husband and their blended family (four adult children and a daughter-in-law) and they rode on elephants. Now, they know better. They understand that those elephants went through enormous amounts of abuse to get them trained for tourists to ride them. And not only that, but it is tremendously disrespectful of us to think that it is appropriate to ride them.
The book is interesting not just from the change of heart she had around eating and relating to animals but also from a travel perspective and stories of her family and dog, Zippy.
I hope you get to read this book. It’s worth it!

Warm fuzzy weekend

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A whole weekend off – what fun! Saturday evening we had a potluck at a friend’s house with a group of lovely people. SO much food, we were nearly bursting! And of course we played our traditional Mexican Train Dominoes. Awesome!

My contribution to the food was apple pie and cashew-based vanilla ice cream (the big pie in foreground was the one I took with me, the smaller one and the jam tart made from the leftover pastry were left at home for the boys to eat). I rarely make pastry these days because of the fat content but OMG it came out so well – I used Melt Buttery Sticks for the first time.

This morning there was a vegan market downtown so we splurged on vegan baked treats, which we shared with the boys because they were far too rich for just two people to eat. We also bought some cool hand-made soaps again, and I also finally bought myself a vegan T shirt. Guess I need to get a photo of that sometime.

Afterwards it was tea at our favourite tea shop and a bit of crochet. I have made three of these gnomes (Gnomes of the Gnorth) now. Two of them were made following the pattern pretty closely, one wasn’t, and I shouldn’t have gone ‘off piste’ because I don’t like my version as much (the one with the white beard).

The pattern is on a blog, Mr Micawber’s Recipe for Happiness, and the designer is Sue Perez whose Ravelry name is MrsMicawber.

I have two new dishcloths made from a random ball of dishcloth cotton that I acquired recently. It never went into stash – I just used it up quickly, making up different stitch patterns as I went.

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And there has been sewing. Between tea in town and going to the gym, I spent a couple of hours making this bag.

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It was made with scraps left over from the snowman quilt/bag I made recently, with a lining from some other stash cotton. I think I need to buy a new walking foot – the one I have keeps slipping, the screw holding it on the machine is loosening so it moves as I sew (and I break needles as a result) and the whole thing is either too loose or too tight.

I am pretty happy with the bag, except for a little uneven quilting across the front. This is the same video tutorial as the other bag, and I pieced a patchwork section just like the original in the video. It’s a good way to use up small pieces.

After the gym I went out for a meal with friends, so all in all it was a very calorific weekend and I should probably not eat anything for the next five days! Yeah, right!!

 

Sunday comforts

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Saturday was a work day, with an incredible amount of rain. It was so dark outside the store, it felt like a really long day, because it felt later than it actually was.

Today it looked like it was going to be another wet and windy day, but the sun came out and it ended up being bright most of the day, which was lovely. I had a bit of a lie in, and called my mum and sister on Facetime. Tai Chi Man and I went out for a cuppa at our favourite tea shop, and of course I took some knitting.

This afternoon, we did some shopping at our favourite health food store (oops, some special Christmassy chocolate jumped into my basket, Zazubean’s Dasher (white vegan chocolate with cranberries and cocoa nibs OMG) and also I found an essential oil diffuser on clearance. I’ve been wanting one of those for ages so I snatched it up. I have it going right now with orange and lemon oils in it. Smells divine!

Before the sun set and we got too relaxed, we went off to the gym for a 45 minute workout. I did treadmill and legs today. I’m being careful  not to overdo things with the left shoulder, for which I’m getting physio, and for which I have special daily exercises.

Once we’d had dinner, it was time to make mincemeat. Mince pies, aaaaah, one of my favourite things about December. Whether we’re celebrating the Solstice, Christmas or whatever, it’s just not the same without mince pies. I like to make my own, which means it’s vegan and fat-free. No need for suet. I can’t remember where I found this recipe, but I’ve been using it for years.

I’ll give you the recipe too in case you want to try it out. It’s supposed to sit in airtight jars in the fridge for 4 – 6 weeks. When you fancy a nice mince pie, you can whip up a batch of pastry (or buy it frozen if that’s what you prefer) and make little tarts, with or without lids, or large ones.

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I like to use a mixture of dried fruit. This is a combination of raisins, golden raisins, cranberries and currants.

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Then you add in your sugar and spices (I used a combination of organic sugar and coconut sugar, plus cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice).

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And then you add your wet ingredients – lemon juice, apples and apple juice. If you have organic lemons with no icky coating, you can put in the zest as well. Give it a good stir, leave it covered in the fridge overnight, stir it up again, and then put it into airtight jars. I use mason jars with the two part lids, but you don’t can it, you just put the jars into the fridge and forget about them until Christmas.

This quantity makes about four medium mason jars full. But this year I doubled the quantity as I may give some away to friends.

Let me know if you try it out.

Vegan Mincemeat Recipe

6 cups mixed dried fruit (eg currants, raisins, golden raisins, sultanas, cranberries)

1lb (about 4, depending on size) chopped apples

2.5 cups sugar (ideally not bleached white sugar)

1 teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon cinnamon

juice of 2 lemons

¾ cup fruit juice

Mix all in large bowl, leave covered overnight in fridge. The next day, mix it again, pack into sterilised jars with airtight lids. Leave in fridge 4 – 6 weeks.

 

Throwback Thursday

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A bittersweet memory from July 2010.

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This prayer shawl was made from James C Brett Marble Chunky in a lovely raspberry shade. My project page on Ravelry is here from which you will see that the reason for that particular stitch pattern is explained.

This is inspired by the Original Prayer Shawl which uses a K3P3 repeat to make a textured pattern. My LYS owner has been making one. However mine will have a 4 st repeat so that I can use as my mantra,
“I love you, I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you” which is the Ho’oponopono blessing.

On July 10th, I wrote this blog post in which I explained further the meaning of the blessing.

My view of the meaning of this blessing is as follows:

  • myself to myself (I am healing hurts against myself)
  • myself to others (I am healing my relationships with other people)
  • myself to the Earth and the Universe (I am healing any transgressions against nature)
  • on behalf of all humans to the Earth and the Universe

In this way, good karma is being created, which will benefit us all. My belief is that we are all connected. Anything that affects one person affects us all. Anything that harms Mother Earth affects us all. We are all part of one organism.

And the finished shawl appeared in this blog post at the end of July.

I’m going to give this to my friend Anne, who has had inflammatory breast cancer for two and a half years. Her health has gone up and down since her diagnosis, she’s tried various cures from allopathic to alternative, and she’s currently on morphine and steroids which are helping with the inflammation and pain. We’ve been friends for 11 years, having met through the homeschool support group. Despite the heat, I hope she will get some use from the shawl.

I did not realise at the time I started this shawl that it would end up going to my best friend, Anne, who had been suffering from inflammatory breast cancer for over two years. But she was sleeping on the couch because lying down was too painful and I was moved to give it to her, to help her keep warm and hopefully offer comfort. She died five weeks later. I still miss her.

Quilting for a change!

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No yarn WIP photos this week. They are boring me, and are not progressing much. Instead, TA DA!

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I made a small quilt. I was given the choice of some Christmas panels at work and of course I chose the non-traditional one with my favourite colours in it. It comes with a range of coordinating fabrics which I love, so I kept it simple by cutting out the centre design and surrounding it with squares. I did have to trim some to make them fit. There is a thin line of pink around the centre, which is just a folded strip of fabric that’s incorporated into the seam.

I didn’t do any quilting on this, just tied the layers together using some pink yarn, and added a few snowflake buttons.

The back is two other sections of the panel plus another fabric from the same range.

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I then had two pieces of panel left, which went into a project bag along with some of the other fabrics left over from the quilt. The spotty buttons from my stash fit well with the colour scheme.

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And the second side…

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I sort of followed a video tutorial though I had to change the measurements a bit as my pre-printed squares were a little narrower than the instructions said to cut, and as they were also deeper than her patchwork section I shortened the top and bottom pieces. It would look better wider, but I had to go with what I had. I added batting in between the layers, so a bit of stitching and button sewing hold it in place. I managed to fit 6 hanks of yarn in there for the photo, so it’s quite roomy.

These items will have to go on display at the store, probably right up til Christmas.

I have been creating other small items as part of the Christmas cracker swap that I’m in. I think I have everything ready to pack up now. A few small crocheted things, some beading, tea, and of course a cheesy joke. The sooner I send it the better as my swap partner is in the UK. I have taken photos but probably shouldn’t show anything yet just in case.

Happy Hump Day! Hope your week is awesome.

Throwback Thursday

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Today I’m looking back at 2009. There are finally some crochet projects in my Ravelry notebook, and also quite a few pairs of socks and fingerless mittens.

These two projects, though, are two of my favourites for the year. I don’t think I have the beanie any more, but I do have the mittens as they are warm. I even mended the end of one once when a stitch came loose from catching it on a keyring.

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My Ravelry project page is here. The pattern for this beanie is called the Fake Isle Hat and by using a variegated or self-striping yarn for the background it looks more complicated than it really is. It only took me two days to knit. This was, again, James C Brett Marble DK (the blue/pink) along with some Marks & Kattens Carolina (now discontinued).

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This pair of mittens took 10 days. Same yarns as the hat, but no pattern this time. I made up the Fair Isle patterns based on the way they divided into the number of stitches around the hand. I really like this sort of thumb. It’s easy, because when you’re knitting the tube for the hand you just place some waste yarn in the spot for the thumb (within the palm stitches) and then go back and pick up the stitches and knit the thumb later. I prefer the look and the fit better than a thumb gusset.

OK, that’s enough for this Thursday. Talk to you again soon.

 

Tuesday Tea

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I don’t often make it to my favourite tea shop on a weekday. Usually I’ll go on the weekend with Tai Chi Man, when I’m not working. But today I did, and I enjoyed this lovely green Raspberry Matcha Latte which just happens to coordinate beautifully with my Espe (vegan leather) wallet.

It was a day off for me, and I was awake early, even without the alarm. So I was out walking after breakfast around my neighbourhood. These pics are from a few days ago but the weather was the same – cool and sunny.

After lunch I was feeling antsy and ready  for another walk. Very unlike me! I didn’t want to go to the gym today because my shoulder has been more sore than usual, plus I have yoga tonight. So I went to a local mountain which gives one a good workout on the steep trails and walked up for about 25 minutes, and then down again, so that made two walks of around 40 – 45 minutes today. Then I met Tai Chi Man for tea. And of course I had my crochet blanket with me.

It really is so lovely to have crisp sunny fall days. We had a heavy frost this morning, but even so it wasn’t that cold when walking, because you make your own warmth.

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This cheerful little snowperson is a side project (because when I am stuck in large projects I have to have little distractions) which I am going to take to work to keep on display for a while. I found the perfect little stick arms while out walking. I probably should have made the rainbow scarf longer but it was fiddly and I’m not making another one.

The thing with working in retail is that you can’t avoid all the “holidays” and any reason for having a “sale” – I changed out the front table on Friday for a Christmassy look. Of course, here in Canada we already had our Thanksgiving in October, and Halloween is now past, so it’s all systems go for Christmas!!!