Bye, Sam! Leaving the dog at home

Dear Vi,

Every time we leave the house, we have a conversation with Sam first. Sam sees us getting ready and starts his little happy dance.

Sam: oh boy oh boy oh boy, we’re going somewhere!

Us: Oh, Sam. Mommy and daddy are going to work and you have to stay here. (“Work” means going away without Sam)

Sam: ears go down, slinks away to jump on the bed.

Us: (following Sam into the bedroom) You’re in charge of the house. Don’t let Spooky invite her friends in. Be a good boy. You’re a good boy, yes you are, yes you are. (Said with smooches)

Sam: ducks head to escape smooches.

Us: We’ll be back in a while. Two whiles. Okay, probably more like three. Three whiles. Okay? (Said in overly bright happy tones)

Sam: climbs into the pillows, digs himself a nest to wait out the long desolate hours.

Us: Okay, well. Bye.

Sam: follows us with his sad eyes.

When we pull out of the driveway, there he is, watching through the glass door. We wave. “Bye, Sam.” Then we sigh.

Sometimes I seed his toy basket with treats before I go , creating a sort of doggy Easter egg hunt. When we get home, he’s always found them all.

I know, I know. But I bet you do something similar. Am I right?

Posted in Blog Categories | 3 Comments

The Best Banana Bread in the World

Dear Vi,

Outside the snow is coming down fast and furious, and it’s just the perfect kind of snow, too. Light and fluffy. The kind that squeaks when you walk on it. Not, thank goodness, the heavy wet coastal snow that soaks through every layer and chills you to the bone. Nope! Right now, today, we’re in the Goldilocks zone as far as snow goes. And we’re predicted to get up to 10 inches of it.

Image result for harry potter snow fight gif

Ignoring all the shoveling that needs to be done, I decided to bake banana bread instead.

Do you have a bread machine? I don’t.

Well, I do, but it actually belongs to my son, so technically I don’t. But I have the use of one, which is just as good.

And just so you don’t mistake me, the only thing I use it for is making banana bread. All other bread (by which I mean yeast bread) I make from scratch with my own two hands, no magic allowed, if you don’t count the oven. Or the yeast. Yeast is a little bit magical, don’t you think?

Image result for hogwarts stirring potion gif

Right now, while snow fills my driveway, the wonderful smell of baking banana loaf is filling my house. Can you smell it??  Yup, I know. You’re welcome.

Related image

So, do you have a bread machine?? If you do, here’s my advice: drop everything and go dig it out of the closet right now. Next, take a handful (that’s three) bananas out of your freezer. We both know you’ve got enough bananas in there to feed all the monkeys in the zoo.

I kid you not, the best banana bread in the entire world is made in a bread machine. I don’t know why, and I don’t care.

Here’s my recipe, which I have modified a bit from the original.

Nita’s Magic Bread Machine Banana Bread

In a big bowl, combine the following in the order listed:

  • 2/3 cup milk (I used lactose-free milk because of some dairy issues I’m having at the moment)
  • 3 mashed over-ripe bananas
  • 2.5 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar (I use a scant cup because the bananas are so sweet on their own)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 2.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

Stir together and spoon into the bread pan. Insert the bread pan into your bread machine. Select Quick Bread. If you get a colour option, select medium. Push start.

Yup. It’s that easy. You’re welcome.

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Posted in baking, Cooking, recipe | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Two Quilts for Two Sisters: warming the heart with hearts and chains

Dear Vi,

Last spring I made two quilts that I haven’t shown you yet, and since it’s getting close to the end of the year, and considering these are the only quilts I finished in 2017, I thought maybe I should get their pictures posted!.

The quilts were made for two adult sisters in my family.

I wanted the two quilts to share common elements while also speaking to the personal tastes of each sister, so I chose a versatile pattern: the Irish Chain with hearts.

The first quilt is made with sweet floral fabrics for a soft, comfortable, old-fashioned feeling.

It is the most basic of the Irish Chain versions: a simple 9-patch alternating with a plain square. Except instead of a plain square, I pieced a heart using the same fabric I’d sewn the 9-patches with.The quilt is finished with a mix of machine and hand quilting.

The center of the hearts are hand quilted, as is the looped row of hearts running along the bottom edge of the quilt.

The 9-patches are done in straight-line quilting, and I practiced my free-motion quilting by making loops and hearts in the borders. I’ve only tried free-motion quilting a couple of times and I really enjoyed it. The stitching isn’t perfect, but neither am I, lol!

The second quilt is a Double Irish Chain in a soft grey neutral palate.

I tried to enlarge this so you can see the print. It’s very sweet, and reminds me of France, for some reason. Perfect, because its new owner is bilingual!

I hand quilted hearts into the plain squares. The chains were done with my walking foot.

The soft, neutral tones in this quilt were a challenge to photograph. I apologize for the poor lighting.

It was a pleasure to make both quilts, and I know they are being enjoyed.

Now I think you’re all caught up, as far as finished quilts go, anyway!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and yours from me and mine. May you always have a warm quilt to warm you, body and soul. ♥

 

 

Posted in Blog Categories, Gifts, Hand Quilting, Quilts | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Head and Shoulders, Knees and…Elbows?

Dear Vi,

I hate to be a complainer, but I just have to tell you:

Too much hand quilting, knitting, typing, and gripping heavy weights at the gym have given me tennis elbow in both arms and caused the arthritis in my hands to flare up.

It’s my own fault. I let it go too far. I let it get away from me. I let it get to the point where it hurts to even pick up a cup of tea.

And that’s not all. Poor ergonomics in my sewing and writing life are affecting my shoulders, neck and back, which (not surprisingly) has worked it’s way down into the knees.

‘It hurts when I cackle!’

Because I’m a writer, I’m often at my laptop for several hours a day. If I want to continue, it’s imperative that I address the ergonomics problem.

Fortunately, I know what I have to do to fix it.

Yesterday I went to Staples and bought myself a properly adjustable office chair. My lower half notices the improved sitting situation already, but my shoulders are still complaining because the keyboard is too high.

In a perfect world, I’d buy a properly adjustable computer desk. But the reality is, we all have to work with what we’ve got and live within our means. Whatever modifications I make to my writing space cannot infringe on the rest of my very small house, and they also have to fall within my fixed-income budget.

Installing a sliding, adjustable keyboard tray (and new keyboard) under my sewing table and using my laptop like a desk computer may be the best solution.

The laptop can easily share real estate with the sewing machine. Both are lightweight & portable, and can easily be unplugged and set it aside to make room for the other. Mr. C will have the final say on whether or not the sewing table can be modified.

It may take a month or more, but getting back to my home yoga practice, doing physio & massage therapy for the elbows, and making these ergonomic fixes will hopefully take care of the worst of the problems.

Have you ever suffered repetitive strain injuries or dealt with ergonomic issues when sitting for long periods at the keyboard or sewing machine? Has knitting or hand quilting ever given you tennis elbow?

Do tell!

Posted in Blog Categories, Health, Knitting, Middle Age, Quilting, sewing, Writing, Yoga | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

All the miscellaneous bits and pieces

Dear Vi,

Today I sent out another query letter for Holding Space. That makes nine. Out of the nine, I’ve received two rejections and one request for a Full. That means the agent liked the query enough to want to read the full manuscript. That’s pretty exciting. Even if she decides it isn’t for her, it’s a huge boost to my writerly self esteem.

And I’ve got a short story out on submission, but I won’t hear for awhile yet.

Meanwhile, I’m working on two new manuscripts. This is a bit discombobulating –  I need to settle into one. Instead, I dither, going back and forth, unable to totally immerse myself in either.

I’ve been busy in other areas, too: I’ve got one quilt ready for binding and another one sandwiched and ready for quilting, and socks on one set of needles and a sweater on another set. Lots of busy going on in that area, as evidenced by the gawd awful mess of knitting and hand sewing paraphernalia next to my side of the couch.

And then, as if things weren’t messy enough,  I decided that most of the pieces of clothing I’ve made up to now are not acceptable. They looked good in the initial trying on, but once I started actually wearing them – out in public, like – their flaws started showing up. Three dresses have been tossed into the recycle bin. There’s enough fabric in the skirts to use as a muslin for a couple of tops I want to make. It’s all a learning process.

Sam and I have really been enjoying the autumn colours this year. Somehow, they seem even more vivid than usual.

What about you? Anything interesting to report?

Posted in Beauty, Blog Categories, Colours, Stitches, Sunnybrae | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A walk on a sunny October day

Dear Vi,

It was so pretty this afternoon, I just had to take Sam out for a walk. Actually, it was Sam who took me.

I was happily basting a quilt, head down, paying no attention at all to leaves blowing over the lawn, sunshine streaming through the windows and bouncing rainbows around the room.

Sam waiting not so patiently by the door

But Sam grumbled and barked and grumbled and barked until I finally gave in.

We walked through the forest, down a country road, past a horse in the field and a wild apple tree whose branches were busting under the weight of hundreds of little red apples. The sides of the road were covered in blue wildflowers – the kind that will turn to stickers as soon as their blossoms drop. I’ll hate them later, but right now they’re stunning.

Sam is not cooperating

I wanted to take a picture of Sam sitting with the flowers. It seemed like the perfect photo opportunity. There I was, squatting on the side of the road, juggling the leash and the camera phone and trying to cajole Sam into smiling (or at least looking interested)…

Yeah, right.After I gave up, we walked back along the beach, where the water level has dropped but the sand hasn’t dried out enough to walk out very far without getting muddy.

Sam loves getting muddy.

And then we came home and had some lunch.

Have you taken a walk today?

Posted in outdoors, Salmon Arm, Samson, Shuswap, Sunnybrae, Walks | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Rain!

Dear Vi,

It’s been the most awful summer of heat and heavy smoke every day, and then…just this very minute…it started to rain!

REAL rain, not an intermittent shower.

Steadily dripping, sizzling on the roof tops, glorious, cool, wet, rain!

I know I owe you a big chatty letter…and I’ll write soon, I promise.

But not right now.

Right now, I’m going outside in my nightgown to dance in it!

Posted in Blog Categories, Salmon Arm, Sunnybrae | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Smoke & Fire

Dear Vi,

A few people have written to ask if Mr. C and I are in any danger from the wildfires wreaking havoc in British Columbia, so I thought perhaps a blog post on the subject was in order.

122 fires are burning, with several communities evacuated, including entire towns. Here’s a map of what’s burning as of 5am this morning:I’ve marked the area we live in with a green star. To give you an idea of distance, it takes us about an hour to drive to Kamloops.

As of this morning, 40,000 people have been evacuated in the province. Our town is one of the evacuation centers, and people are even being sent as far away as Vancouver. Because really, where do you put 40,000 people?

We had an incredibly wet spring, including flooding and mudslides. All that rain made the grasses grow. And then it got hot hot hot and all those lush grasses dried out and turned into fuel.  They say this is only the beginning of what is predicted to be a Very Bad Fire Season.

Our visibility is about one mile in smoke, which is an improvement, actually. Two days ago we couldn’t even see to the bottom of our street, let alone across the lake. And yesterday, it was snowing ash.

Here’s the view from my deck this afternoon: And here’s what it usually looks like:Cough cough hack.

As of right now, we’re not in any danger here in the Shuswap, but keep your fingers crossed nobody throws a burning cigarette out the window.

My deepest appreciation to the firefighters, some who are coming from as far away as Australia. 

And to all the emergency organizations who are managing the refugee centers.

And to all the volunteers who are lending their hands and their hearts to those fleeing their homes, including those who are taking in displaced livestock and pets.

And to small businesses like Katja’s Quilt Shoppe in Kamloops, who is organizing social activity days for evacuees and locals to get together and work on sewing projects as a way of helping the time pass. Quilters looking after quilters.  Awesome.

Posted in Salmon Arm, Shuswap | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Socks and Rings and other Traded Things

Dear Vi,

I was knitting away in the shade of the back deck yesterday when I noticed that my sock yarn exactly matches my sun dress. Ha!  Too bad the socks aren’t for me! (though I can’t imagine wanting to wear wool socks on a day hot enough for a strapless cotton dress, lol.)No, these socks are for Kelly’s cousin, Gabrielle. She and I made a trade…I will knit her a pair of socks in exchange for these two silver rings:I am always knitting something, and she no longer wears the rings, so it seemed a fair bargain at the time. But between you and me, I think I’m getting the better part of the deal.

And speaking of trades, years ago I traded a necklace I never worn for a pair of earrings that my friend Peggy never wore. You’re not going to believe this, but take a look:How’s that for a match made in heaven? I wish I could remember the name of the stone…

Have you ever traded for anything?  Let me know in the comments!

Posted in Friendship, Knitting, Thrifty | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

The view from my window

Dear Vi,

We arrived in the Yukon three weeks ago today. Goodness, how the time flies! Today, I thought you might like to see what I see when I look out my cabin windows!

The cabin is really just one big room, with a divider that sections off the “bedroom.” We have four windows, one each facing north, south, east and west.

Of course you’ll recognize this west-facing view, taken out my front window. Look close and you’ll see Mr. C putting in the dock. The ice pushed it up on shore and then dragged and twisted it a bit, finally leaving it high-centered on a large rock. Happens every year. 

Turn to your left and you’ll see this  view from above the kitchen counter, facing south:

Now another quarter turn to your left and you’ll be facing east. This is the lovely view I see every morning from my pillow. There is a screen on this window, so it looks pretty fuzzy. Sorry about that.Last but not least, one more turn to your left and you are now facing north. This is the window over the couch in the living room. I hope you enjoyed the little tour! If you want to see more, just click on the “Related Posts” links below.

What’s your happy place?

 

 

Posted in Cabin, Fox Lake, Yukon | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Yukon HO!

Dear Vi,

I forgot to tell you that Mr C and I heading out for our annual spring sojourn to the Yukon. We arrived a week ago today. Two months off the grid are in our future. No phone, internet or television, no electricity, running water or indoor plumbing, except when we go to town.

Obviously, I went to town today, because here I am, writing to you from the Whitehorse Public Library.

Our departure date crept up on me like a kitten stalking my shoelaces. One minute I was blithely going about my business and the next I was tripped up by little needle claws in my ankles, causing me to run around making last minute lists and piles of things in doorways and on counter tops.

I did write a couple of blog posts along the way, which I’ll tack onto the end here in case you’re interested:

(May 9, 2017)  Yesterday we turned right off highway 16 onto highway 37, better known to northern locals as the the Stewart Cassiar Highway, and stayed the night at a rest stop just north of Kitwanga. It was a pretty place, and we stopped early enough to enjoy a nice supper and the rest of the evening. 

Have you ever been driving along and said to yourself, “I wonder what’s down there?” when you pass a road you’ve never been down?

Well, we did it today. We turned left at Meziadin Junction (highway 37A) and drove the 65 kilometres to almost-too-tiny-to-call-a-town Stewart, BC.

Stewart is a deep-sea port. It’s neighbour only a kilometre away is Hyder, Alaska. 

Our timing was off. It’s too early in the season, and most everything was closed down. The drive in and out was spectacular, though. Straight through the heart of the soaring Stikine mountains, through a narrow  valley, a narrower gulch, past a spectacular glacier and glacial lake. 

We decided we’ll come back on our return trip. Maybe catch the view when it isn’t shrouded in early spring cloud. When the town is awake and the visitor’s centre, museum, and coffee shops are open. 

(May 10, 2017) We’re pretty far north now, flirting with the Yukon border. It was snowing when we woke up this morning. We’d spent the night at a rest stop with the inauspicious name of Rabid Grizzly, a burbling creek beside us, the long expanse of Dease Lake frozen below.

Historically, Highway 37 has a poor reputation among Yukoners travelling south. It’s always been a pretty rough road, a sure bet for potholes, washboards and washouts, narrow one-lane bridges and never ending rain. 

The highway doesn’t deserve that old reputation anymore. I’m happy to report the highway is in fine shape and we made excellent time. 

It’s a pretty drive. Not jaw-dropping spectacular in the way driving though Muncho Park is, but when the sun decides to burn off the clouds, you’re treated to beautiful views of the Stikine mountains.

And bears. Lots and lots of bears.

I promise to post some pictures next time. I’m a bit limited here on the library computer. IMG_1552

Posted in Camping, Yukon | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

The Tunic Bible and an Orange Shift Dress

Hey, Vi… look what I got!

The Tunic Bible: One Pattern, Interchangeable Pieces, Ready-to-Wear Results. by Sarah Gunn and Julie Starr

Here’s the back-of-the-book blurb:

The only tunic pattern you’ll ever need. Create chic, ready-to-wear tunics with a multi-length, graded pattern and expert construction tips. Choose your style–casual, preppy, boho, or glamorous – with interchangeable sleeves, neck plackets, and collars. Get advice on shopping for fabric and trims, guided by a huge gallery of inspiring tunics.

I can attest to the fact that everything they say in this blurb is true. The instructions are easy peasy to follow, and there are dozens and dozens of pictures of different tunics, along with a description and fabric used.

In the mood to sew, I rummaged around in my stash and came up with this orange stripe quilting cotton by Robert Kaufman.

I don’t know why I bought it, to be honest. What was I thinking?

I remember buying it on a dreary rainy winter day. I remember holding it up to myself and feeling happy. But really, an orange dress???

Well, as my mom said, I could always wear it on Halloween, lol!

Happily, it turned out great! I feel happy in this cheerful pumpkin and cream shift dress. I don’t feel like trick-or-treating at all!

For my first tunic, I chose the  “Outside Facing V-Neck Placket,” and made it a bit longer so I could wear it as a shift dress.

A shift dress is far from the most flattering garment. But it is my absolute favourite for comfort.  I could wear a shift dress every single day, especially during the summer when it gets so bloody hot.

You can MOVE in a shift dress.

With all the orange stripes, I was worried I’d look like an escaped prisoner, so I wanted to do something creative to break up all the vertical lines. Cutting the placket and the bottom band on the horizontal was an easy fix.

The best and most important thing I can say about The Tunic Bible is that this pattern fit me with no alterations. None. Zero. Zip. This is the dress straight off the pattern. I know! That never ever happens. Not to me, anyway.

The only change I would make next time is maybe to raise the bottom of the armscye as it’s a bit low on me. But not dangerously low…no fear of flashing or anything like that. And actually, when it’s really really hot in July and August, that extra ventilation might just be welcome.

I predict many tunics in my future. I want to make the maxi-dress version, and a hip-length one with fabulous trim around the neck. Oh! and the ruffled version! Yummy!

The Tunic Bible gets five stars!

Posted in Blog Categories, Book Review, Made by Me Clothing, me-made clothing, sewing | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments