Monday 29 October 2007

Have Paint, Will...

I highly recommend vandalising your own front walk. It is immensely gratifying.

Thursday 25 October 2007

A Double Batch

I've been looking for a vegan chocolate cookie recipe that uses oil (not margarine! you cannot convince me that something chemically cooked up like that is good for me! anyway...) for a while. Something like New Moon Kitchen's (Yay for local bakeries!) MoMints, because I have been known to eat an entire bag of know, maybe...once in a while....

And then I saw this recipe and figured close enough, I'll just take the plunge and sub oil for the margarine (I really needed chocolate cookies). Not having prunes, I used the first recipe (and had to use cow's milk yogurt instead of soy, and apple cider vinegar instead of's like that a lot in our kitchen - whatever works!) Mine didn't stay risen, and they're not that pretty, little chocolately circles of heaven. Crispy giving way to chewy...deep chocolate flavour.......mmmmmmmm

The plate at the back? That's for the broken ones - 'cause they don't count ;-)

Tuesday 23 October 2007

Collected Thoughts

Before the stack of dishes to be dried get too high I'm trying to squeeze in a post, because this is what Mr. S. does with them:

I think he thinks it's a sport. If I don't bother drying them, a skyline of dishes remains overnight, which leaves me with a bit of unease, only allayed by the knowledge that this is an effective robbery deterrent. One breath and the whole thing comes down...

Some evenings, especially around craft fair time, the in-between dinner and dishes time is when Mr. S. takes Safiya to our neighbourhood park so that I can collect myself. I've always liked that expression because that's exactly how it feels. oh there's that piece of my brain...what's that train of thought doing under the couch?...oh crap, I totally forgot about the handful of worries I stuffed behind the armoire....well, they can just stay there, I'll deal with them later ;-)

Tonight we just hung out, the three of us, but I did squeeze in a new seam. I needed to join non-felted wool knit to felted wool knit, and I think it went rather well, for a first try:

The non-felted wool I turned over 1/4" and then sewed down with a straight seam in order to give a stiffer edge to work with, pressed it, and then I just zig-zagged the two together. Didn't do a trial bit, just went for it, so I'm pretty glad it turned out. It's a very late wedding present for friends we love dearly. Bit by bit that list on the right hand side there is getting shorter!

And in other walking-foot love:

A late Eid present, a scarf that went unfinished because my sewing machine exploded at the last minute. Literally. The little arm on the walking foot must have jiggled something loose and all of the sudden - !!!!!!! - pieces of the foot, the needle, the shaft - everywhere! Slight panic, picked everything up, and then I decided - BAH! - it was too unbearable to deal with right then. Which worked, as I was able to fix it after Eid due to a much calmer head, having cooled down a bit!

Oh, and dinner? That went rather well too. A recipe for stuffed cabbage rolls from The Winter Vegetarian, by Darra Goldstein. It's a lovely read. The rolls were delectable, stuffed with barley, shredded apple, onions, and parsley.....

Perfect end to a day.

Monday 22 October 2007

In the Moment

I am writing outside, on our little bench. Safiya is playing with leaves she has "trimmed" from our forsythia, giving them voices and sliding them down a makeshift cardboard slide beside me. Today is a blessed continuation of the rare weather we've been enjoying here. The air is warm, so warm, yet the patio stones are cool. The birds are chattering away, gossiping in the shimmering leaves, but the leaves are golden and russet, no longer green. The day starts with a warming tea yet is punctuated by picnics and lemonade. And, as I write, the whistle of the train that was muted by the full trees in summer now comes crystal clear through the fall air.

A crystal autumn day, a full 13 degrees Celsius warmer than the usual. So much for scarves and slippers, that thought accented by Safiya's bare feet by my side. Yesterday we went with Mr. S. to his usual Sunday afternoon soccer in the park, and we just were, in the sun, for hours.

She really didn't need the flannel shirt, and we shed our socks soon after our arrival. It's hard for me not to dwell on the possible reasons for such unseasonal warmth, but I'm starting to learn to do what I can and otherwise live in the moment. This is difficult, as I am a born worrier.

But as I look around, I realise that on a day such as this dwelling in the dark would be sacrilegious.

Saturday 20 October 2007

Struggling with Commerce, Part the First

"Isn't there an easier way to do that?"

So said the concerned Mr. S. one night as I toiled away at the embroidery on one of the blankets. I'm beginning to rather like the rhythm of the embroidery, and it's all freehand, so it doesn't feel restrictive or repetitive. But back to the question, "is there an easier way?"

Well, yes. Invest in a machine to do it for me. Of course, the effect is not same. And nevermind cost, I'm wondering if by the time I'd get the darn thing set up and programmed if it really would save me time. Well, maybe...the embroidery on each of the blankets takes about 4 hours. I think I'm just really slow, but I don't really know anyone else who embroiders, so I don't have any yardstick - is there an embroidery olympics?

Regardless, the effect is not the same. A friend suggested maybe silkscreening the words......meh. Silkscreening can be lovely, however, I like the feel of embroidery, the dimension, the solidity (is that a word?)

It just brings me back to why would I be trying to save time? Ah yes, because these blankets are a product. Products have prices. Bah humbug I say. My brother-in-law, who is almost done law school, just roles his eyes every time he gets my response to how I figure out what to charge for my wares. "But you're not accounting for your time! You should pay yourself, say, twenty dollars an hour, and add your costs for materials, and..." and then his voice turns into the teacher from Charlie Brown "whanh whanh whanh..." I love him dearly, and he has my best interests at heart, just seems so calculated.

So, maybe I'm wearing my craft on my sleeve, but how do I balance these desires? The desire to do something I love, the desire to bring home some meaningful income to help my family, and the desire to see a broad range of people enjoy what I make. All the while keeping in mind the very sage advice from my friend Johanna, who emphatically stated the last time we chatted, "Marnie, you are not your own client". I think it's really not a matter of money, but of valuing what I do.'s all a work in progress...

Friday 19 October 2007

There Should be a Pun About Fish and Doilies...

O.k., have you ever seen crocheted fish before?

I've never seen anything like them, and I love them. Besides the stack of clothes, my Father-in-law's friend also gave me these and some other doilies that she crocheted. It's meticulous work, and I love the fish because they echo my sentiments on doilies. Doilies are useless. Pretty, but useless. Thus, fish doilies are perfect - could you possibly use them as anything? Nope!

Thursday 18 October 2007

The Weekend of Food

Mr. S comes from a long line of butchers. And from a family of storytellers....loud storytellers. So the above picture is my Father-in-law, the sleeves rolled up on his good dress shirt, in the middle of a tale, whilst preparing a cut of meat. In no way does this cause me, being of the non-meat-eating persuasion, any aversion; firstly because I'm used to it, and secondly because I actually love it. His family seems to revolve around food and stories, and I can think of no better combination.

This past weekend we celebrated Eid-ul-Fitr, the end of Ramadan. And in the usual manner there was eating all day, and in the usual manner there was the preparation, most of it started days ahead. And so again we come to aprons:

You'll see in the first picture that my Father-in-law is wearing that same apron. It's a necessity - your shirt had better look good, even if you've just been wrestling with dinner!

Not only did I get stuffed with good food (they always worry what is she going to eat? and then there's always an abundance for me, even without the meat), but I also received a nice stack of natural-fibre clothes that my Father-in-law's friend was going to donate. She had heard about how I source my fabric, and is now in the process of gathering a nice stash of woolen sweaters for the next time we see each other - yippee!

Indulgence was really the theme of the weekend, as I also stopped in at my favourite bakery. Perhaps of all time. It's called The Pie Plate, and it's divine.

Ruth-Anne, the woman who runs the show down there, along with her family, is a marvel. She and her family do everything themselves; food, serving, decor, not to mention running a guest suite on top of the restaurant. The croissants are on par with Bonjour Brioche here in Toronto and anything Paris has to offer, and everything is just yummy. And the icing on the cake (ha!) is that very often there are traditional German-Mennonite offerings, so it really is local cuisine!

So good that I couldn't wait until I got home (best chocolate-gingersnap cookies ever):


Tuesday 16 October 2007

A Link in the Chain, and a Pretty Chain it is!

There's a good vibe in this craft community that I find it a privilege to play along with from time to time. Courtesy of Sarah over at cloth.paper.string there was a chance to receive some goodies from her, and I jumped right in, of course :-) Here's the catch:

"I will send a handmade gift to the first 3 people who leave a comment on my blog requesting to join this Pay It Forward exchange. I don’t know what that gift will be yet and you may not receive it tomorrow or next week, but you will receive it within 365 days, that is my promise! The only thing you have to do in return is pay it forward by making the same promise on your blog."

hee hee!

Anybody out there?

Thursday 11 October 2007

Finally Fall

The light arrives later in the morning now, just as we're finishing breakfast. It gives us a chance to welcome it...hello old friend. The coolness is a respite rather than something to be endured, as it will later in the season. It is time again for the smell of apples, of baking, of woolens from the cedar chest. Autumn for me is the new year. This is when things start again, the energy of preparing hands belying fading light and withering leaves.

I love this time of year...

Tuesday 9 October 2007


The shop update is slowly and steadily underway...

Fair Bliss

Three days of bliss. Set-up every morning. A few people walking by, more on Monday as the weather improved. And even though the lovely organiser Katharine was apologetic with regards to the lack of crowds, a lovely sentiment on her part, I was bliss-full. Safiya was as happy as a clam at high tide. There was a pond to dangle her feet in and ducks to contemplate, the HarbourKids festival had a whole room of Lego, crafts, the awesome Luminarium, and hands-on make your own claymation cartoons! She would check in, help (she's erasing pencil marks in this picture, not writing out the poem ;-), and then run off again.

And the chocolate filling in the croissant was that the first day she got an entire Saturday with Babo AND her beloved Granny was here for two straight days. AND she hung out with her best friend L. My Mom is awesome at making up stories and the girls were fascinated:

I love that L decided it would be brilliant to add some marker to my Mom's forehead.

The claymation was seriously a big hit, which kind of surprised me because of Safiya's age. Which shouldn't because she's always a delightful surprise. The National Film Board Mediatheque was running workshops, which they do every weekend downtown. (Yay!) So we will definitely be dropping in to the "Can't Sit Still" workshops. The stories kept going even after the workshop was over. Here are her squirrels and little person:

And the next day it was ducks, wearing pink umbrellas on their heads. She adopted the purple guy, who had been left behind by another group of children. Very tenderly, I'm told. He looks happy with his new family, I think.

We all ate ridiculously good restaurant food (Aki Da and Trimurti if you're around these parts), stayed up far too late, and laughed....a lot. And at night I still wanted to craft. We talked and my hands were busy. This is good. Even though I was tired, I felt mentally, craftily energised. I made some great contacts, and a lot of the wares got new homes, including my favourite pair of legwarmers (I have a confession; I faked happiness at the customer's joy):

The great thing about fairs is the interaction. For example, often the legwarmers get purchased as armwarmers by older girls/women. Then someone tried on a pair as armwarmers but upside-down (although which way is up on arms?...) and she rocked and I had never thought of that before. The chatting is enjoyable, the feedback is invaluable, and more than once someone came up to me, pointed to a playcape and said, with a grin on their face, "My grandmother has sheets exactly the same as that!" Ha!

All in all, not a bad way to spend a weekend!

Saturday 6 October 2007

The First Day, in Short...

Thanks to those of you who came by the booth at the HarbourKids Festival! I'll be there again tomorrow and Monday, 10am to 5pm - come and have a chat! There were a lot of vendor cancellations, so it's just me and the guy selling honey :-) However, it's not really about the vendors anyway - there's tonnes of cool stuff for the kids - Safiya had a blast! (One important note: my Etsy shop is currently empty - all my wares are at the fair! Not to worry - on Tuesday morning any remaining items will be listed.)

My little set-up (hasty pictures - sorry!):

And hopefully it won't do this tomorrow like it did for most of today:

Ha! I got a lot of embroidering done :-)

Thursday 4 October 2007

When Was the Last Time You Played?

My hands are a bit tired of embroidering, so I'm writing before bed instead (and yes, it's past my bedtime - I promise I won't complain tomorrow)...

Wandered over to Write, Mama Write and read "Mood changers for toddler days". What a lovely list. More of a list for those of us staying with our little ones through the day. Doing any of those things would change my mood for the better! One of the things that I struggle with is that it is "o.k." to play with Safiya - all day, if we want. Play is not doing nothing. (Nobody ever tells me that - it's just as assimilated sentiment in my head; trash stuck to my shoe during the walk of life.) That while integrating her into dishes (which she loves) and laundry (which she loves even more) and cooking (again,....) is fun and at the same time normalizes everyday work for her, playing is valuable to not only her, but to me as well.

In the picture above she's busy with her new favourite past-time: cutting construction paper into tiny little pieces with her super-tiny and yet super-sharp pink scissors. It's fascinating to me that she just sits there and does this for ages at a time. She calls it giving the paper a hair-cut and then gets all excited about sweeping up the pieces to put in the recycling so that "they can make something new out of it!"

I never thought I'd be the Mom who lets her kid play with the time I'll join her!

Bread and a Little Work

Safiya is busy in the backyard making "chalk soup" from her sidewalk chalk and some buckets of water...and whatever else she can find. So I'm sneaking this post in :-)

This morning we made bread. This household eats an enormous amount of bread and it is not a skill at which I am proficient. In fact, other than a few dismal loaves waaaay in the past, if there is homemade bread around here, Mr. S is the one who makes it.

But I couldn't get the voices out of my head. You know...."But it the easiest thing"...."It takes no time at all"..."It's actually very therapeutic", with a little apprehension, away we went this morning.

And it actually rose! It's cooling now, and the anticipation is quite high...."IS OUR BREAD READY?!" echoes throughout our little house.

The kneading was actually very therapeutic, as I have a booth for three days at the HarbourKids Festival this weekend. It's my first multi-day fair and, not knowing what to expect, I'm a little nervous. There are some things left to complete, including a couple of quilts.

I'm almost done the "Grow Child" quilt series. A quilt or two for every stanza. When this series is complete, there's another poem waiting in the wings and another style of quilt coming.....

I think that these are my favourite trees so far.

Tuesday 2 October 2007

Beautiful on the Inside

My Mom's latest visit here was especially fun. Mr. S and Safiya went to a Blue Jays baseball game and Mom and I went to Holt Refrew, or Holt's as the well-heeled would say, I suppose. We lunched with the ladies who lunch and then went to look at designer clothes.

Now, perusing designer clothes with a woman like my mother is probably not a typical experience. We both love fabric, we both love clothes. But what my Mom loves the most and which I enjoy as a spectator sport is trying to figure out how the clothes are made. So there we were, handling Dolce & Gabbana and Stella McCartney and ahhhhh, Alexander McQueen without even the remotest intention of trying them on. (The next line is with reference to a designer which will remain unnamed, and there was more than one.)

"Ugh, they would never have made seams like that twenty years ago!"

And that is my mother. Looking at the inside of the clothes. They may be beautiful on the outside, but how they are made will reflect on the outside, even if it's not immediately obvious.

Taking apart a thrifted cotton pillowcase the other day, this is what I found on the inside:

Some day my seams will look like that.