Monday, December 31, 2012

My first real but artificial Christmas tree in years . . .

Living in a tiny apartment doesn't lend itself to lots of Christmas decorating so for a couple of years we did not have a tree.  My friend Deb was absolutely disgusted when she found this out and gave me a little decorated tabletop artificial tree.  That has served for two years.  But this year we are in our giant apartment and there is lots of room for a tree.  We dragged our grandsons out with us to find a tree just before Christmas but all the lots were closed for the night.  Next stop, Zellers.  We found a tree valued at over $100 and pre-lit on clearance for $39.  It's ours.  We had to buy ornaments since we had given ours all away years ago.  The boys helped us set up and decorate.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

So what are you working on this week?

Last week was so busy but so much fun. It is nice spending time with family, talking and laughing and playing games . . . and eating . . . This week I'm back to the Dreaded To Do List which continues to shrink in size despite the fact I wasn't able to put much time into it over Christmas and the fact that I keep adding new projects.

I had a few finishes this past week or two but no photos to share at the moment. For some of my Ladies' Day Out friends I made adorable little crocheted icicle ornaments and I got to spray them with silver glitter. They were so pretty that I'm putting them back on my list to make some for myself in 2013. I made hats and scarves for my 3 grandsons, son and daughter-in-law . . . all are in their team colours since all 3 boys play on CYO London basketball teams and Greg and Kate are coaches. To be totally truthful, due to being stranded on a Montreal run with Hal a few days before Christmas, I didn't actually finish Greg's hat until Christmas morning and Kate has been a very good sport about waiting for hers. It will be done for New Years Day which is when Tim & Krystel will be down and we will have our own turkey dinner. I can't tell you what I made for Tim and Krystel yet . . . LOL

I also finished another mystery knit-along dishcloth shaped like a Christmas tree. It is quite cute.

Had a few ladies in the other night to watch a movie and do a little crafting. I taught Cheryl how to crochet in about 5 minutes. Her first dishcloth was a little wonky but the second one looked pretty darn good.

So what are you working on this week?

See ya

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Multi-tasking Grandma

I recently volunteered to run the concession at my youngest grandson's first OBA tournament.  My shifts were set up so I could see all of Cameron's games.

What a great team!  They all played so hard.  Cameron is #13.

I loved that I could watch every game . . .

. . . and get some knitting done.

The secret to knitting Christmas gifts in front of the recipients is to tell them it is for someone else and ask them not to tell . . . LOL . . . hey, it worked.

So What Are You Working On This Week?

I was too busy to even answer this question on time this week.

I almost finished all my Christmas knitting on time. I finished Greg's toque off Christmas morning and cast on for Kate's. Other than that . . . everything was done. I have no photos of anything yet but I will share when I do. I made matching scarf and toque sets for Greg, Kate and the 3 grandsons in black with red and white which are the colours of their basketball teams. Many of my friends received knit dishcloths or crocheted ornaments. Also waiting for photos of the ornaments.

So now I'm back to all my regular projects:

getting prepared for our letterboxing mini-meet Honouring the Trails in May
3/4 done a large counted cross stitch project Edible Flowers
scrapbooking a page each day
hand-stitching another of Nancy's quilts
making paper piecings . . . right now I am making a bunch of Angry Birds. Youngest grandson loves them
working away at the family tree . . . this will be a never-ending project
just about finished 2 more sketch books for publication
posting to my blog each day
writing a series of classes on layout design and another album in a day class for Memories on Main Street and possible publication
playing with my stamp collection
continuing to work on the Oddball Sampler afghan . . . a really challenging series of knit squares
I have the outline for another book ready to start . . . its a secret until May so I won't mention it again.
And I am being very bad by beginning to collect patterns I want to start as soon as I finish some of these projects . . .

If any of you local gals would like to come and hang out and work in my craft room on whatever project you have on the go just give me a shout by email or Facebook. I have lots of space.

So what are you working on this week?

See ya

Monday, December 17, 2012

Boston Pizza, St. Thomas, ON

I have been quite remiss in not blogging about a very good restaurant in St. Thomas . . . Boston Pizza.  While these photos were taken back in 2009, we have been many times since.  The service is excellent, the food is always good and the prices are fair.  What more can you ask for?

Well I don't know what caused the change but the last two times hubby and I have been there the service has improved.  How does one improve upon excellent?  I don't know how they did it, but they did.  Friendly, efficient, good understanding of the rules of service . . . and a huge smile.  It is a very nice touch when the manager stops by your table to make sure you are happy.  The food came out good and hot.  My one pet peeve is that there is too much food on the plate.  I have yet to finish a meal and in a weird and freaky way that bugs me.  That is until the next day when I am enjoying the leftovers.

Looking for a good meal?  I recommend Boston Pizza in St. Thomas, ON.

Boston Pizza on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Busy, yet boring . . .

I cannot begin to tell you how busy I am right now.  Every year I make plans for handmade gifts and homemade entertainment and then go crazy trying to accomplish it.  At the end of the holiday season I say next year I`m not going to do it but I do.  Why?  Because secretly I love it.  I love the long lists and goals and deadlines and just a little crazy mixed in.  Without these elements it just wouldn't be Christmas.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Nanna's Christmas flower

If you've followed my blog for any length of time you know I can grow just about anything in an outdoor garden.  Bringing plants inside my house is signing their death sentence.  I can't make a chia pet grow.  This is a serious problem.  A plant I received as a birthday gift recently actually lasted almost two months.  The really funky curly poinsettia that Nanna  just gave me has only lost a few petals so far.  I have high hopes that it will last until Boxing Day but not much longer.
Every year Grandma Shirley would give me an amaryllis and every year I would try and make it grow.  I don't think one ever survived to Christmas Day.  Hey, I can't be skilled at everything (just kidding . . . because I can.  I'm just not)!

So now you know my not so secret shame.  I kill houseplants.  Nanna, on the other hand, can make anything grow.  I just got a call from her the other day because she is so thrilled with her new plant and she wanted photos taken.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Tangled Ashes by Michele Phoenix

I read a lot of book reviews and think perhaps I should be writing my reviews more like them . . . you know a blurb about the book and then a blurb about the author and then finally my opinion . . .  but you can find all that easily enough if you decide you want to buy the book or get it from your local library . . .

I think I will just stick to writing about what I find interesting and hope that some of you will be interested to.

Tangled Ashes is a very interesting book.  I say that in the best possible sense.  It is full of very interesting and complex characters.  Some of them are pretty damaged but you will still root for them throughout the book in hopes they will find redemption, resolution or peace.  I particularily liked that every time I thought I had figured out all the mysteries Ms. Phoenix would throw in another angle.  Good going!  I had no choice but to keep reading just to figure everything out.  Some of the curve balls I definitely didn't see coming.

What's the book about?  Architect Marshall Becker arrives in France with the job of renovating an old castle after some serious pushing from his friend slash business partner who hopes that getting away would help Becker get a grip on his personal issues.  The book is also about the castle itself,  It was used for some rather nefarious purposes by the Germans in World War II and the results of this use have come back to haunt the castle, not in the ghostly sense but in the sense that this is where a resolution needs to be found for some of the victims.

There is a lot of drama and great characters and mysteries in this book and it is definitely a good read.  If I could find one flaw it would be that the writing lacks a sophistication which I am sure the author will develop with time and experience.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Chickpea & Tomato Soup

Image result for Chickpea & tomato soup

3 tbsp olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion, minced
1/4 tsp crushed hot red pepper
1 14-1/2 ounce can diced tomatoes, juices reserved
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dried rosemary
2 cups cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans) or 1 16-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
4 cups chicken stock or reduced-sodium canned broth
1/4 tsp salt, or to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup croutons

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, onion and hot pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is softened but not browned, about 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes with their juices, the vinegar and rosemary. Increase the heat to high and boil until juice from the tomatoes thickens, about 5 minutes.

Add the chickpeas, chicken stock and salt. Cover and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and smashing some of the beans with the back of a spoon. To serve, sprinkle with the cheese and the croutons.

From:  The One-Pot Gourmet by Pat Dailey

Throwing caution to the wind . . .

When we (Big Blue Team) first started planting letterboxes we found the most frustrating thing was how quickly some of our boxes would go missing especially in the Waterworks/Dalewood area.  So we placed restrictions on all our boxes, allowing only experienced letterboxers to see the clues on Atlas Quest.  We haven't lost many boxes since then.  This makes us happy.

This fall a group of local Girl Guides wanted to go letterboxing.  The leader came over and learned all about letterboxing including a simple carving method for the girls that didn't include using sharp tools.  I was confident that our boxes would be safe under her care.

Because we knew the girls would be hunting in one location, Hal and I decided we should go double check on our boxes in that area to make sure they were all still safe since our last check in the spring.  A couple were gone.  In one case the log which had been home to our box had completely disintegrated and the box was no where to be found.  The other was just gone.  Considering the number of boxes we have planted in Pinafore Park we thought these were acceptable losses.

I went home and updated all the boxes and printed off a copy of all the clues for the Girl Guides, since they couldn't see the clues because of the restrictions I had set.

As I am snooping around at all the boxes planted in the St. Thomas area I realized just how few of our boxes were found this year.  I thought this was odd considering how much time I spend talking about letterboxing on different social media sites.  And then I started wondering just how many potential local boxers I had discouraged because they could only find a couple of local boxes to hunt.

I wondered what was more important, sharing our boxes or protecting them and came to a decision to remove all the restrictions from my boxes and set them free.  I'm going to take a chance.  What good is a safe box if no one actually finds it?

So if you are looking for something fun, different and accessible to the whole family, young and old . . . try letterboxing over the Christmas holidays.  You will have the fun of solving the clues and going on a treasure hunt to follow the clues and find the boxes.  Ontario letterboxers make every effort to make our boxes winter-friendly.  To see all the boxes available in the St. Thomas area just click on this link.  

And if you want an experienced boxer to come along, just email me . . . LOL . . . I love any excuse to get out and letterbox and want to share my love of this hobby with others.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Book Review: The River

The River:  A Novel by Michael Neale is a good story with a heart-warming ending.

Gabriel Clark is traumatized as a child when he witnesses his father's death while trying to save someone drowning in the river.  The river he had always loved was now his enemy and he is happy to move away to live with his mother.  He grows up distant and timid, not quite fitting in.  Even though he does have some close relationships, he is never totally able to trust and share with anyone.

Excellent writing and easy to read.  For me, the best part about the writing was that Gabriel’s story came out gradually and in a realistic way.  You don’t learn about a person in a few minutes.  It takes time.  Neale takes that time.  

As an adult Gabriel goes on a camping trip and ends up back by the river.  He feels the pull of the river even as he fears it.  An opportunity is offered and he learns to love the river and forgive it.  He realizes he was made for the river . . .  

Monday, December 10, 2012

Book Review: Remember Guam

Remember Guam:  A collection of memories and recipes to warm your heart and lighten your spirit
by Paula A. Lujan Quinene

I am a procrastinator.  I procrastinate when I really don’t want to do something.  I don’t want to write this review.  What happens if authors will no longer be willing to send me books to review once I post this?  I have put on my big girl pants and I’m going to do it right now.

I really thought I was going to like this book.  I enjoy reading about different places and cultures.  I definitely love to read recipe books.  I wanted to like it because the author was good enough to send me a copy to review.  I did like some of it.  I was interested to learn how to crack a mature coconut.  Unfortunately, the stories very quickly became repetitive and boring.  Some of the recipes sounded good and quite do-able but many require ingredients you might only find in large cities.

I think I was hoping to read the author's own stories and remembrances.  I was expecting beautiful colour photos like those on the cover to be inside as well.  I think my expectations may have got in the way of my enjoyment of the book.  So please don’t avoid this book because of anything I have said.  I think many people will enjoy this book especially if they've ever been to Guam or lived there and moved away.  It just was not a good book for me.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

What are you working on this week?

What have you been working on this week?
You all know about the Dreaded To Do List. What you may not know is that despite putting new projects on the list every 2 weeks I am still catching up at an amazing rate. My 2-page typed list is done to 1/2 of a page. Woo Hoo! It has required some serious dedication to accomplish all these things and I am really proud of myself. Would you like to read the story of the DTDL? It is here . . .
My accomplishments since last week include:
going to Hal's Christmas company Christmas party
teaching an album in an afternoon class which was a great deal of fun
finished sewing a Christmas gift for my buddy Melissa. I hope she likes it.
finished off a couple of fun paper piecings including Give Thanks title and hiking boots
Ladies' Day Out was amazing last week. I got a lot of Christmas knitting done and we celebrated 2 birthdays which meant lunch and cake
took the grandsons to the dentist and a basketball game and were treated to supper
got a lot of blogging done
volunteered at a basketball tournament
as so many other chores and days scratched off the Dreaded To Do List . . . yeah!!
See ya

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Dancing Santa

This is my newest source of happiness and I found it at the dollar store.  Gotta love those dollar stores.  Every time the sun shines Santa dances for me.

Mystery dishcloth knit-alongs

Indian head

turkey on a platter

Oddball Afghan: Celtic Braid and Twining Trees

Celtic Braid
This one was very tricky.  I had to write each cable stitch out on an index card so I could keep them all straight.  
Twining Trees
Lots of cables but not as difficult as Celtic Braid.

November Scrapbooking