Sticks and Twine, Lookin’ Fine

I’ve started making some Christmas decorations. 

Last weekend, I gathered an armful of red dogwood sticks that were laying in the bushes after being trimmed off some time last month by the council. The next day I went out back to bring in some bamboo poles and found myself snipping at the long and flexible honeysuckle vines. I need to remember to harvest them in September or August next year! 

  
I made the wreath immediately. The timing for flexible vine would probably have been past this late in the season except for the constant rain we’ve been having which means the vines were basically soaking for weeks before working. The wreath will be decorated once I’ve decided where it will hang. My fabric autumn wreath is sturdy enough to fare the wind we’ve been experiencing, but natural materials will not do well outdoors.

  
The red star took a bit of moving around, tieing and re-jigging, but I am happy with the final result. It is just over 2 feet tall. I had also originally thought about hanging it out front, but the door is a dark colour and it wouldn’t stand out well. My plan is to make smaller red stars to hang in the window. 

Earlier this week, I made our Christmas tree frame. Before we add our decorations, we’ll probably add the greenery we foraged last weekend. 

  

Crochet Mickey Mouse Set

My sister in law saw a baby Mickey Mouse outfit online and asked me to crochet one for my niece.

 

I took measurements, picked the yarn, and set to work. I made up the Mickey ears and shorts, but used The Huts Amore bootie pattern. I didn’t use the named hook/yarn combo and just stopped making them when they looked like shoes rather than boots, doing a single crochet around the edges. 

Before I sewed on the hat ears, I tried the hat on my niece. In the 3-4 weeks between finishing the hat and the photo shoot, she grew massively and the hat ended up sitting like a Mouseketeer cap rather than a full beanie as planned. I made the shorts and the shoes intentionally large so that it would look like she was wearing Mickey’s clothes and also so she could grow into them.   

Mickey Mouse shorts

Niece was: 41cm waist, 39cm back to front. Shorts made to fit larger. 

Dk yarn, 5mm hook. Chain 80

2 rows of alternating FPhdc and BPhdc, worked flat. From row 3, use hdc. Make button holes on one end. 

At about 3 inches tall, close and work in the round

Work until the top of the waistband to the bottom measures 9in

Measure off 37 stitches on each half of the shorts- so that the front and back share the stitches. String a contrasting thread from the front to back for each leg so that the leg holes are sectioned off. 
Pick up stitches at the front of the shorts, between the legs, 3 stitches wide. Work for 4 rows and then connect to the back of the crotch area with slip stitches. 

Begin legs: each leg has 44 stitches around.

Decrease by 2 stitches in the next row. 
Work for a few rows until the legs seem in proportion to the shorts. I think mine were about 7 rows. 

Finish off with slip stitches all around and sew on the buttons. 

Tail: make a knit i-cord in black and attach at the back for the tail

Add white crochet ovals for Mickey’s short buttons. 

These shorts fit a diaper and are sized about 4-5 months.

Thanksgiving Greetings

Today is Scottish Thanksgiving. At the very beginning of the month, I had a ‘crafternoon’ making Thanksgiving cards. It has been years since I sent cards to family on Thanksgiving, and I felt the need for that tradition this year. I made them early to send to our American family (and family in France) and held off posting to our Scottish family for a week or so to make the arrival time more appropriate.  

I made a stack of cards and filled them with one of the following five quotes:

Gratitude is the sign of noble souls. ~Aesop

I don’t want to just list the stuff I’m grateful for. I want to bathe in it. I want my heart to burst open with the joy of it all. ~Christine Kane

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. ~Melody Beattie

Happiness is not what makes us grateful. It is gratefulness that makes us happy. ~David Steindal-Rast

The real gift of gratitude is that the more grateful you are, the more present you become. ~Robert Holden

It was hugely satisfying to sit in reflection making the cards and to know that my loved ones would receive a little reminder of love and gratitude.

Raw Key Lime Pie

My camera battery was dead and it was night time, so this is the only photo I have of this amazingly delicious dessert. Let me tell you this: it was so good that half the pie was gone on Sunday and the other half was eaten on Monday.
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It all started when we were at the supermarket and, completely unprovoked, my taste buds told me they wanted some key lime pie. Now, I don’t know when I would have last had that because I usually avoided desserts that were too sweet or too dairy-filled. I had an incident with cheesecake as a child that took me about 10 years to move past and try cheesecake again!

Anyway, I hopped onto data and looked up a recipe. I sought out avocados and limes in the supermarket and we were good to go. The crust was very easy, in the spirit of this recipe from My Whole Food Life, except I just used 2C of almonds instead of a cup of two types as we didn’t have walnuts. I used the food processor’s grinder to chop the dates and almonds up well, then transferred it to the regular food processor part for decent mixing. I thought that the crust was probably going to crumble or even stick to the pan, but it lifted from the pie tin so beautifully, staying together like a proper crust! And, it was delicious.

For the filling, I used the key lime pie ingredients from Knead to Cook. I loved it with fresh limes! I used my my food processor’s grinder to get the filling nice and smooth.

When Honey tasted the pie, she said she didn’t even taste the avocados, which she doesn’t like. She really enjoyed the slice the first day AND on the second day! I have raved about this pie to anyone who would listen for at least a week. Honey has requested a raspberry cheesecake style pie next, so I have my eye back on the cashew cream style fillings!

Sister-in-Law’s Baby Shower

My sister-in-law gave birth to our niece in June and her baby shower was in May. A friend of hers planned the shower so I knew what my contribution would be. On the day of the shower, I passed around index cards and a range of coloured permanent markers and asked everyone present to write two cards: one for my sister-in-law to encourage her and reminder her that she’s loved in the early days of motherhood, and another to welcome the baby to the world. My sister-in-law asked what it was for so I had to let her in on the surprise. 

To go along with this, I photographed the whole afternoon- the decorations and food, but most importantly, the people sharing the day with her. I photographed the group during the shower but then also gathered individual photos of everyone present. It was helpful that my sister-in-law knew at this point because she helped encourage everyone to come over and get their photo taken with some of the props that the organiser had brought. 

After the shower, I selected, edited, and printed the photos and placed them in an album. It took quite a long time because I’m not a good enough photographer to have the photos I take match what I see and a few were too blurry, really rinsed in the wrong white balance, or under exposed. I interspersed the messages with the images, but kept the notes for my sister-in-law in the front half and the messages for my niece in the second half, so that she could quickly find her encouragement if she needed it and so that she may easily talk through the baby messages with her daughter in the future.  

I brought this over to her the week my niece was born. 

  

Cashew Cheese

I made cashew cheese. I used arrowroot powder as the starch and blended it in my power blender before heating it. It turned out amazingly. I have made it several times in a row now!

As I stirred my first batch over low heat, and it slowly turned to the right consistency (I whisk it to keep it smooth just as it is beginning to clump together), I knew I was on to something exciting. After tasting it, I didn’t even stop to think but quickly grabbed some tortillas and plopped it on top. You can see that in the top picture I didn’t even stop to prepare any vegetables!   

The next day, I picked up a loaf of genius bread (the only gluten free bread that I have found to be anything like bread) for a gluten and dairy free ‘grilled cheese’. I have been off of gluten and dairy since the end of June, at the doctor’s advice, and feel pretty good about it but after tasting the cashew cheese I knew I needed to try out replicating a sandwich that used to be paired with tomato soup as a comfort food. 

It was a win. 

Día de los Muertos 2015 

Although today was All Saints Day and not All Souls Day, I constructed my day of the dead altar today because I was home to welcome and reflect and will be at work tomorrow. This year’s altar was a simple one, using what we had around the house. The photos displayed showed 4 of our grandparents, but other family members lost were thought of as well. 

The main loss over the past year was my maternal grandmother and it seems that she guided my preparation. After coming across a bag of puffed rice in the cupboard yesterday, I awoke thinking about peanut butter rice treats and decided to make them. As I melted, mixed, and moulded the ingredients, I thought about my Nanny and how she would always make peanut butter rice squares when we came to visit. I realised they were perfect for the altar.    

 

When it was time to decorate the table, I remembered a mallow flower I spotted in bloom in the garden yesterday morning and went out to cut it. I came back with two glasses full of flowers (mallow, nasturtium, marjoram, sage, an unknown petite and starry yellow flower, and another purple flower) that I would have expected to be dying back now but that held on to some flowers for me. I also spotted some green and red tomatoes left in the garden, even though we did our ‘final’ check and harvest two weeks ago. This excited me because my nanny loved to garden and was ever proud of her tomatoes. Thank you garden, for providing me with the things I needed to welcome her should she find her way here. 

Pumpkins

In September, nearby Arnprior Farm advertised pumpkins for picking and I was excited to hear that someone managed to grow enough pumpkins in Scotland to allow for picking. My first thought was ‘how did they manage to get them to grow outside a greenhouse?’ and my second thought was something along the lines of ‘puuuuuuuuummmmmmmmmkiiiiinnn pickkkkking’!They would be open two weekends for picking in October and Honey and I headed over in the morning of the second day (last weekend). When we got there, a sign announced that they were sold out! I was bummed that we missed it but glad it had been so popular. To me pumpkin picking is so central to fall celebrations and I would love for that to catch on here. We met one of the farmers and were told we could have a look around. We chatted with her for a bit and found out that they have family in the Philadelphia area so they’ve been looking to them for ideas. I told them that I would love for it to become a tradition in the area and that I was from Pennsylvania. I asked if they would be growing pumpkins again next near and they intend to plant even more. This was their first year and they grew one tenth of an acre.
  
When we looked around, it was clear that they had put a lot of effort into it. Everything was very cute. The field by the patch had some games set up and a photo board, and a wee shed was set up as a shop with pumpkin themed things from local crafters for sale, as well as information on and recipes for using pumpkins. I look forward to seeing their autumn set up evolve over the years. 

Autumn Wreath

Sometime in September, I got nostalgic for door wreaths. I found myself on Pinterest looking at autumn and winter wreaths and decided to make one somehow. I’ve been intrigued by rag wreaths, not entirely sure whether I like or would rather leave them, and had the supplies to hand.I used a wire hanger, fabric scraps, and a beloved ribbon I have toted around with me for over a decade. Just before making the wreath, I found a pack of command hooks (which I see everyone in the US raving about) in the large supermarket in another town and snapped it up. 

 
While I’m reserving a decision on rag rugs in general, I am pleased to have a seasonal decoration on the door from barely any financial output and am thinking about how to construct a winter wreath when the time comes (and if this wreath survives the autumn winds that will surely arrive soon)!

Second Annual Apple Pressin’ Day

The date was set, we gathered our supplies, apples from various neighbours and old abandoned farm trees (around 50Lbs), and made some food to bring along. We gathered with two other families, shared food and stories and set to work. Children from 4-8 joined in as we chopped apples, shuttled buckets from the table to the press, cranked the press, occupied dogs, and enjoyed the time all together. It was our second annual Apple Pressin’ day and we had looked forward to the time together and the event.   After the apples were all chopped, we heard some shouts by the press and saw the juice begin to flow. All 11 of us were gathered around, excited to see the first run of amber juice. The littlest could barely keep his fingers out, he was so excited to try it! With the first jug full, it was time to pass around the juice and I savoured mine while inhaling the delicious autumn air.   In the end, the apples barely yielded any juice. A friend said she remembered how last year each chop of the apple wet the chopping board, so it was not surprising that these apples gave very little. Last year, there were about 4 demijohns to turn to hard cider from fewer apples while we ended up with 3/4 of a half demijohn total this year. It has been dubbed the Blood from a Stone cider.

Regardless of the cider’s outcome, it was still a wonderful day and I hope we continue the tradition for many years to come!