what i did on my summer vacation: day nine

ugh. i felt truuly awful when i woke up - my cough reached a stage where it was not only painful to my chest, but i could hear and feel something rattling around in my chest. yuck. we got the fire going early and huddled around it in our jimjams, but i still had chills.

time to see a doctor. i called a medical clinic in fenelon falls, but they weren't seeing new patients. they did give me the numbers of a couple of walk-in clinics in lindsay, though. i called one, and got a machine saying they were only open after-hours. the other, i just got a busy signal, but i felt awful enough that i decided to make the drive anyway.
i forget at what point tg said "your phone keeps saying 'press unlock'" and brought it over to me. for some reason, while sitting untouched on the table, my mobile had started malfunctioning. it was as though an unseen hand was leaning on the "8" and there was no stopping it, and no way to make the phone do anything useful. grrr!
i drove to lindsay, where the busy-signal clinic turned out to be also after-hours only. grrr! so in a state of complete misery, i headed to the hospital emergency room, glad i had the foresight to bring my knitting with me, even though i was having trouble concentrating on it (esp. since i kept fogging up my glasses due to the mask i had to wear - i had almost every symptom listed on the giant "flu alert" posters that greeted me at the hospital doors). three-and-a-half hours later, i emerged with a diagnosis of bacterial chest infection, and a prescription for both anitbiotics (ugh) and an inhaler (double ugh). when i got back to the cottage, our friend cain was arriving for a quick sleepover on his way up to the madawaska, so i let the boys entertain themselves while i sulked indoors with years-old gossip magazines. i couldn't even eat dinner with my upset stomach after taking my pill.
the saving grace: an absolutely stellar performance at scrabble. i took 6 one-point letters and one blank and parlayed them into 77 points by making "neurons" on a triple word, and pluralising someone else's word besides. almost made up for the rest of the horrible, horrible day.


what i did on my summer vacation: day eight

still not feeling particularly great - and it rained all day! double boo. we went for another drive, in search of the big barn of antiques, and found it! we looked at all sorts of neat stuff - my favourite was a waffle iron designed to use on a wood stove - and came home with a chair, and bookend, and a doorknob to replace one at the cottage. i was tempted by a stack of old hand drills, like those i remember from childhood, but resisted.
a rainy indoors day is good for one thing - baking! so i sliced up the peaches, put the ingredients for pastry in the freezer to chill, and investigated the 60-year-old joy of cooking to see if it had any brilliant peachy ideas to share. since we had lots of lovely farm eggs on hand, i went with the peach custard pie with meringue on top! mmmm.

my basic pastry recipe is easy to remember: twice as much flour as fat (going by weight), a pinch of salt, a squeeze of lemon juice, and ice water as needed. for a one-crust pie, i use 4 oz butter (a half cup) and 8 oz of flour (a rounded cup-and-a-half).

since this is for a sweet pie, i tossed a scant handful of sugar into the flour along with the pinch of salt. make sure the butter, flour, and ice-water are super cold. cut the butter into bits, and then cut it into the cold flour with a fork, two knives, or your fingers - you want it to resemble fine breadcrumbs and stay cold. the key to pastry is to keep the gluten in the flour from getting "activated" - one way to do that is to keep it and the fat really cold so they are sort of interspersed among one another without actually getting blended. another way to subdue the gluten is to add a bit of acid - hence the squeeze of lemon. if you don't have any lemon, throw in a teaspoon of white vinegar, or something else acidic - don't leave it out! squeeze a half of lemon over the flour mixture, add a spoonful or two of ice water, and mix with a fork. add ice water spoonful by spoonful until the dough will just hold together, then use your hands to squash it into a disc, and put in the fridge to chill for at least a half-hour. then roll it out nice and thin (about an eight of an inch), line the pie plate, and use the leftover scraps to make a pretty edge (if you are making a single-crust pie, you can cut out leaves or other shapes out of the leftover pastry to put on top, too). put it back in the fridge to rest for another half hour (or more) while you make the filling.

the peach custard pie recipe i used is super easy. arrange the peach slices in the crust (i used 5 peaches instead of the 2 the recipe called for, and sprinkled lightly with a mix of sugar, nutmeg, and ginger and a few squeezes of lemon), then make the custard by blending 2 egg yolks, 1/3 cup sugar, and 2 cups of milk (i used cream). pour this over the fruit, bake 15 minutes at 450F, then drop the temperature to 325F for another half-hour. let it cool before making the meringue.

meringue is easy - the key is to have the egg whites at room temperature. take the 2 egg whites (left over from the custard), and whisk adding 4 tbs sugar gradually along with 1/2 tsp vanilla (the recipe suggests adding 3 tbs "finely chopped nutmeats" which would be awesome, but which i left out due to having nothing on hand). after a while the whites will turn into a light foam. stop whisking when it will hold peaks - overbeating is not a good idea. pile the meringue on top of the cooled pie, and pop in a cool 300F oven for 20 minutes. mmmm.


what i did on my summer vacation: day seven

woke up this morning with no voice, booo. we started the day with an insanely fluffy pile of scrambled eggs (farm fresh!), sausage, and toast with home-made strawberry preserves, and then headed out for our mid-week mission - mennonite cookies. when we were at zehr's on monday, they were all sold out, but today we had success in the form of gingersnaps and the classic chocolate chip! we also couldn't resist the local ontario peaches.

we did a little circuit of the county trying to find an antiques place i remembered from previous years - a big old barn, full of everything you could imagine from dishes to furniture to junk - my favourite kind of antiques! of course, we couldn't find it, but enjoyed a nice drive. and on the way home, we came across a different place - one that specialised in tin toys! and had cars from the '20s! and a real santa-style sleigh! and trains, one of which the charming owner gave to wee h! and, just to cap off the experience of the ideal antiques outing, a book that mentions h's great-grandfather and namesake.

then it was home for jigsaw puzzles, more knitting, and some rather unfortunate weather - cold and cloudy. h and i put on our sweaters and went for a walk, but there was definitely no swimming.


what i did on my summer vacation: day six

the light was right, so i took a few snaps of the cottage curtains - they are the cutest fabric ever, but disintegrating (we lost one last month when someone tried to wash them). but i have a plan - i've had a spoonflower account for ages, but haven't done anything with it yet. i am going to get a bunch of this deer-and-thistles fabric made so we can re-do all the curtains exactly as was! the time-capsule tradition of the cottage continues.

i heard some loons making a fuss so i headed down to the dock with my knitting and saw four of them - two adults and two young - horsing around in the water. a chicakdee came over to where i was sitting, and had a lot to say. soon the rest of the family got up, and we had cinnamon buns (baked by the mennonites in a wood-fired oven!) and strawberry preserves a friend of mine made. we took a short canoe ride and a stroll down the lane and i saw a cardinal. why can't i spend my whole life living like this? seems such a shame that it's only one week a year. please, someone provide me with an income sufficient that i can spend my life knitting and sewing and writing charming blog posts about nature & the changing seasons etc. thx.
and i got some work done on the shoes project - i got these pink espadrilles for $5 at value village - they'd never been worn! - i'm guessing they were an old-stock donation, and the reason they were never worn is they are somewhat unwearable - the instep strap is the wrong shape somehow and my whole foot always wants to slide right through. so i've sewn a sort of dart in the instep, and i'm going to recover them - yellow! this is turning out to be one of the more tedious projects i've attempted (which would explain why it's been in the "to do" pile for most of the summer).

(yes, that is amy butler fabric i'm using as lining - a piece i found for $5 in the remnant bin at macfab!)
there is one cottage craft that won't happen though - i saw this chair in the shed and thought, perfect for h! all it needs is a seat! and then i had a closer look. see those pale spots?

those are small piles of fine sawdust - each around a tiny ant hole. there are lots more holes than show up in the picture, too. a shame - but as long as they choose to eat something expendable rather than the cottage itself, we can't complain!


what i did on my summer vacation: day five

we needed to pick up a few things - food, tissues (we've all come down with the flu) - so we took a drive along the glenarm road to hit the farms, and then went into town to fill in the blanks and check out the sally ann. i have been carrying this fabric around with me for ages - it was given to me by my friend gayle, and was just a teensy bit too small to use as a tablecloth, so was languishing in the stash for a while.

finally last month i decided to make placemats and wee cocktail coasters out of it - all i needed was fabric in a corresponding green to use as a backing and also to make coordinating napkins. i've searched along queen street in vain, but no dice. of course i would find the perfect thing in the fenelon falls salvation army! the green is perfect, and the pattern corresponds as well!

when we got back the sun was high so we put wee h down for a nap and went for a dip. it felt really good to be warmed from the inside out by the sun. i have this hat that my mum found at the infamous hub - the perfect big brim but a bit shabby - the silk flower adorning it was completely squashed, and the stitching was coming undone in spots too - so i took my needle and scissors down to the dock and fixed it up a bit.

then it was time for dinner - we got two lovely wee free range chickens from one of the mennonite farms in the area, stuffed them with lemons and garlic, and roasted them along with potatoes with thyme and rosemary fresh from the garden. the beet greens on the side taste lovely with a bit of lemon too. h kept wanting to blow out the candle and sing happy birthday!


home again, home again, joggety-jog

well, we are back from our week at the cottage. the short version: we did lots of stuff, and i got really sick. the long version: i wrote an entry for each day while we were away, and i'll post them day by day this week. it was kind of nice to sit down each day and think through what went on. makes me almost wish i was a journal-keeping sort of person. i think the key is that i did it in the morning before anyone else was up, as opposed to at night when all i want to do is sleep. speaking of which, nighty-night!


what i did on my summer vacation: day four

we're almost ready to leave, only half an hour later than planned, which is typical. the neighbours have been notified, the plants will get watered, the kitchen is a disaster, but who cares! we're off!


what i did on my summer vacation: day three

we're heading to the cottage tomorrow, so i made a couple of pairs of shorts for h. white might seem an impractical choice for a little guy, but at a cost of basically nothing, who cares? i bought enough elastic for four pairs of shorts for about a dollar, and the rest is scraps that have been taking up space around the house. for the pattern, i just copied his pyjamas.


what i did on my summer vacation: day two

loooong day! so did not get a lot of crafting done. we had two appointments for h - one from 9:30 to 10:30, one from 11:00 to 12:30 - and then had to pick up tg's mum at 1:30 to take her to an appointment at 2:30. all of these events spread out over the city, of course. i was making sandwiches since we wouldn't have time for our traditional post-audiogram lunch, and sliced just a bit off the tip of my finger. enough that it bled a lot. boo. it was 5 o'clock when we got home and i had a nap.
so all i really achieved was chopping off a pair of jeans and then using the chopped-off bits to make cuffs.
easy stuff: cut off jeans to an inch shorter than you want them. take the leftover pantleg, and sew it back on (right sides together) where it was. chop again, 4 or 5 inches below the seam. zig zag the edge, fold the cuff up, and top-stitch along the seam, making sure the raw edges are tucked in.


what i did on my summer vacation: day one

living the imaginary 50s housewife life... obviously a real 1950s housewife life would never be as much fun as what i can imagine. but, why imagine drudgery, when one can imagine making a pretty 'fifties skirt in the backyard with baby? i made this skirt in three hours, which includes deciding exactly what i wanted to do, using the fabric to play ghostie, cutting the fabric, taking various blurry snaps of work-in-progress and my gorgeous assistant, making the baby eat his soup, taking the baby in for naptime, making and eating a grilled cheese sandwich, drawing some instructional sketches, and actual sewing. total cost: about $7 (guesstimating the cot of thread and a scrap of fabric that i used from stash).
here's the initial sketch i did of the layout:

- 1 1/2 yards (or more if you want it bigger around) 54" wide fabric - choose a pattern that does not mind going sideways or backwards or upside-down - i chose gingham, but polka dots or paisley or something would be great too
- one scrap piece of some sort of interfacing (i used a piece of heavy cotton from when i shortened the living room curtains), 4" wide and as long as your waist measurement
- 7" zipper
- thread
cut (or tear) two 4" wide strips off one end of your piece of fabric - these will be the waistband.
cut (or tear) the remaining piece of fabric in half lengthwise, so you have two strips 27" wide.
lay one 27"-wide strip on top of the other (two thicknesses of fabric), and fold the lot in half (four thicknesses of fabric). divide your waist measurement by 4. measure in that many inches along one side from the folded edge & mark with a pin. measure in that many inches + 1/2 inch along the other side from the opposite edge & mark with a pin. draw a straight line from pin to pin, and cut along it through all four layers of fabric. zigzag along the raw edges to keep them from fraying.

now you have two proper trapezoids, and two trapezoids that seem to have been cut in half. sew two of the half-trapezoids together (right sides together), to make another trapezoid. the remaining half-trapezoids will have the zipper, going down the edge from one of the short sides - mark the length of the zipper with a pin before you sew them together, and use a basting stitch for that part of the seam.

open the seam, centre the zipper face down over the seam on the wrong side of the fabric, and pin to the fabric carefully. using a zipper foot on your machine, sew each side of the zipper down neatly to the skirt. then turn it over to the right side, remove the basting thread, and the zipper is done!
now you have four trapezoidal skirt pieces - assemble them (wrong sides together) making sure all the short sides are at the top. the short sides will be at the waist, the long sides will be the hem.
for the waistband, centre the interfacing piece over the wrong side of one waistband piece, and sew along one long edge. then, sew together the two waistband pieces (right sides together) and interfacing along the other the entire length of the other edge.

gather the skirt at the waist by sewing with a long basting stitch about 1/4" in from the edge. pull the thread (gently!) to ruffle the fabric. spread the ruffles evenly about the skirt using your fingers. be gentle - it can get tricky around the seams.
pin the gathered edge of the skirt to the interfaced section of the waistband (right sides together), making sure the fullness is spread evenly. sew together being careful not to mush up the ruffliness too much.
fold the waistband so it is wrong sides together. pin carefully, folding in the raw edges. the seam between waist and skirt should be totally covered. topstitch all the way around the waistband.
hem the bottom by turning the raw edge under by 1/4" inch, and then turning it up another 1/2" and sewing along the edge.
that's it!
here are some instructional drawings which may or may not help:

and here is a terrible picture of a cute skirt!



we went up to visit aunt marg and cousin brian on sunday, and in addition to being generally awesome, marg gave me a set of doilies crocheted by my grandmother (they're a little yellowed with age, but i've dealt with such things before) and the most awesome afghan which my grandmother and mother worked on together (although my mother says she doesn't remember it).

i'm trying to think of ways to enjoy the afghan without harming it (some of the joinery bits are worse for the wear) and i think i will back it up with some fabric (for stability) and then use it as a christmas tree skirt - we "need" a christmas tree skirt (i use the quotes because when i mentioned it to tg he smiled that "where did i find such an odd creature" smile of his), and there's something about the only-see-it-once-a-year-ish-ness of the holidays that makes holiday heirlooms that much more special. also, makes them more likely to survive longer - according to the guardian's review of an exhibition on 17th- and 18th-century court dress at Versailles (as good a guide to caring for afghans as anything), textiles have to rest in the dark for one year for every month spent on show. so, christmas tree skirt it is!


the time has come

to frog my failed father's day project. a cousin has just had a baby boy, so i will use the yarn to make yet another capitan hat, the official hat of every baby boy i have knit for since i found the pattern.

the wip is dead, long live the wip!



i'm experimenting with beef ribs because we have a pork-disliker (so weird!) coming for a bbq on friday. i wanted to adapt the braise-and-bbq technique we use for pork, but with different ingredients. googling brought me a number of recipes that were close, but missing something. then i found this recipe that sounded pretty awesome, and started me thinking about mole sauce. then i found this recipe that appealed to me with its relative ease. i also found tons of recipes that involved beer. and then i thought, hey - as long as beer and coffee are involved, why not use mill street coffee porter aka the greatest invention known to man? so i browned my great chunks of organic grass-fed beef braising ribs in a bit of bacon fat, tossed in a roughly chopped onion, some cumin and oregano, two bottles of coffee porter, and one bottle of water. and so far, it smells really, really good. mmmmm.



is it too early to be thinking about christmas? because i feel like if i don't get started soon, i won't get everything done i need to do. anyway i have cut out the fabric for a pair of xmas pyjamas for young h, since i have the flannel factory going anyway. next, xmas cards. what should the illustration be this year?

baby success (sort of)

well, i did not get the whole layette done in time for the baby shower yesterday, but i did get the kimono top and diaper cover done, which will be a cute outfit on a baby girl! i didn't even think of taking a photo until today, i.e. after the set was gone. whoops. but here is the rest of the gear which i will deliver when rebecca delivers: bib and receiving blanket:

that's the trusty old elna "supermatic" in the background. i'm making pyjamas (or "jimjim" as they are known) for young harry out of the same stuff - it was some crazy deal like "buy 1 metre, get 3 free" and double-wide as well, so i have loads of the stuff. maybe i can make harry a spare crib sheet while i'm at it.



bit of a quandary here. i'm going to a baby shower on saturday, and before we went away last week i cut out all the pattern pieces for a lovely little something, but then while we were away i completely destroyed my back and don't know if i will survive a session at the sewing machine! booooo. i've been busy cancelling plans and swallowing advil and moaning and kvetching etc. i can't really drive (well i can drive in a straight line, i just can't check my blind spots), can i operate the old elna? we shall see... i may experiment with a little ironing and see how it goes.