Saturday, November 30, 2013

Road Trip

So we are on our way to our condo in Florida now, and have stopped for the night in Byron, Georgia.  I jotted a few thoughts along the way today, and took a couple of pics.  The dogs and cat travelled so well once again.  Rocco especially was happy to be able to rest his head partially on the console, his "in the zone" for travelling.  One corner of Naala's bed got scrunched which made her very happy as it created a pillow for her head.  She was zonked most of the day; I think she was so stressed out that she would be left behind, poor girl.  She seemed to "wig out" ahead of time more than Rocco this trip.
We sailed through the border at 7:15 am, only one car in front of us!  Joe remarked thatwe had an easier time today than when we go to football games.  Turned south and headed towards Michigan’s southern border, a 45-minute drive away.  We saw loads of geese, flying in small v’s, probably gathering together into larger flocks to head south.  We got into line with the human snowbirds heading south.  I saw the most Florida license plates heading south since we started driving down in 2010.

There was no snow in Ohio, and we sailed through in 3.5 hours, crossing into Kentucky at 11:30.  We’d stopped for gas in Sidney and after that at a rest stop so everyone could pee and the dogs could have their breakfast.  It’s amazing how the country changes from south Michigan and Ohio (flat) to rolling, almost immediately after you cross the Ohio River from Cincinnati into Florence, Kentucky.  There was a light covering of snow on the north-facing slopes, must be from last Wednesday’s storm that blew through.

The rock starts just north of Lexington, Kentucky:

It changes into mountains, Cumberland(?) or whatever ranges (Blue Ridge, etc) make up the Appalachians, and continues until just north of Atlanta.  It's absolutely beautiful country, folds and folds of hills, mountains, and hollows.  Every time we drive through I think of She Walks These Hills, and excellent book by Sharon McCrumb, that takes place in the Appalachians.

Joe's eagle eyes spotted two barn quilts, and I frantically unlocked the iPad to grab a picture.  Sorry they aren't that good.  These were both in Kentucky.  I know there are some along I-75 in Ohio, but I did not see them, or perhaps they're only visible heading north.

Joe and I had an interesting discussion this evening, and discovered we both are feeling that this 12-hour day is not necessary anymore and why are we doing it?!!  I think things will change from now on, as there is no need to push it anymore since we aren't limited to a week or 10 days, but get to stay for 4.5 months this year!  Anyhow we have about 6 hours to the condo, which includes a pee break. We'll probably go go west into Tampa on 275, over to the Sunshine Skyway, as we love coming into Bradenton that way even though it's several miles out of the way.  The drive over the Tampa Bay is just breathtaking. Maybe we'll head east off the bridge and take the dogs for a swim at dog beach!! Sigh...when I write possibilities like that and KNOW I can easily make it happen, I get choked up with a pinch-me-I'm-so-flippin'-happy-it-can't-be-real feeling. :-)  Yawn, need to sleep now!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Patriotism and Respect

So we were at another Lions game today, and sadly, they lost. 5...FIVE turnovers.  Horrible.  Apparently Reggie Bush has called a players-only meeting, which can't be good.  Joe doesn't think much good will come out of it; at week 12 of 16 regular season games, he says they should have it figured it out by now.  However, this blog is not about football.  Besides, I know next to nothing.

I am continuously amazed by the Americans' sense of pride.  Pride in and love of their country is unparalleled.   I watched a young dad today during the singing of the anthem turn to his son, motioning for him to put his hand on his heart.  Once he was satisfied that his son was standing appropriately, he turned back towards the field, singing his heart out.  Everyone was either singing, or if not, silent.  And I mean silent.  Respectful.  Attentive.  I didn't find an overwhelming number of people were singing; in fact, I would hazard a guess that the majority were not.  But they weren't yapping or laughing amongst themselves as often happens during the Canadian anthem at sporting events in Canada I've attended.  The flag they rolled out covered the entire football field.  And no one sat down until the flag was completely rolled up.  Pretty impressive.

It was Salute to Service Day at the game, and, once again, I was so impressed by how much respect and applause they give their military.  A deeply emotional event happened when they brought out a young family, 3 children, one of whom was in arms, and their mother.  Her husband, father of the kids, was stationed in Afghanistan, doing his third tour.  They played her a message from him on the big screen, very touching.  Matthew Stafford came on the screen next, thanking the husband for his service, and then announced that he was here.  Here!  And out he walked with a bouquet of roses in his arms.  She was incredulous (I know the feeling: your brain is not processing what you are seeing, and so you don't know how to react since you do not believe your eyes, literally).  What struck me though, were the two children.  The eldest, the girl, maybe 4, didn't seem to know this man, but the boy, maybe 3, did.  That made me so sad and mad.  These wars are so dumb, so senseless, tearing families apart, many forever, either by death or by Post-Traumatic Stress syndrome, and usually those in charge, the senators, the commanders, the presidents, never face this kind of horrific pain within their own families.  I am so disappointed, beyond disappointed, that Obama has not pulled out of Iraq, that there are still so many troops, from my country too, in Afghanistan.  However, I was very moved by the scene on the field today.

I wish Canadians had this sense of fierce pride.  I do, but I know it isn't deeply ingrained into the psyche of us as it is for Americans, and as it is for my mother, fierce in her pride of England.  Maybe it's because America and England had to fight and die for their freedom, their independence, America from the British, and England from the Romans, whereas Canada never did.

We were stuck on the bridge back to Windsor for over an hour this time, even though we'd gone for a bite to eat at Honest John's in Midtown.  Great food, lots of choices, and cheap.  Again, the LACK of respect for bridge etiquette irked me: there is one lane for trucks, and one lane for cars.  There were tons of cars, TONS.  We were all doing quite nicely, getting single file into our lane, but nope, there were many who ignored the "trucks only" designation, zooming around those of us following the rules, flying by the lineup.  WHY do they think they are more important and should go ahead of the hundred or more in line??  Invariably, at the Canadian side, there is a border guard standing in that truck lane, stopping the cars, making them merge into the car lane, and telling the first one or two off.  Those behind crowbar their way into the car lane, which is not at all fair.  There should be a fine for doing this.

The human race both impresses me and disappoints me.  How I wish we could all just show each other courtesy.  Always.

On a happy note, Dayna saved us $20 in parking by showing us a great spot to park just off Woodward, one block from the parking lot we usually use.  We ended up walking to the game with two friendly Detroiters, one a lawyer, the other in Finance at Comerica Bank.  The lawyer went to law school in California, telling us all his firends said see ya, thinking he'd never come back.  But he did.  No regrets, he's fiercely proud of his city.  He gave us his card, telling us he has four season tickets and often sells two or even three of them.  When he found out Dayna was in her fourth year at Wayne State in Finance, he turned to his friend and said, "Give her your card!"  His friend explained that he interviews a lot of students, hiring them on as interns, and then getting them into the lending side of the bank's operations.  He told Dayna to send him her resume, and to give him a call!  How incredible is that?

So I take out of today's game the positive.  Pride, respect, honour for those who serve, awe at the genuine connection between strangers.

Seaside Rose - A Finish!

One thing that has come out of my blog is finding out that I am really making progress on several quilts.  So far this year I have made 2 sample quiltlets on my Longarm,  7 other quilts, 2 placemats and 2 hotpads.  That's not bad, considering the first quilt after the samples was finished at the end of March.

So this Seaside Rose has been a long time coming.  I first blogged about it here and then I did a WIP post here, and then my last update on October 31, was here!  So today, as you can see from the top picture, she is DONE!  Washed her, threw her in the dryer for ten minutes, then laid her out flat and tugged her into her rectangle shape, and left her overnight.  Mmmm!  I love all stages of making a quilt; I really do, but one of my absolute favourite parts is running my fingers over a finished, washed, dried quilt.  The texture:  sumptuous.

So yesterday afternoon, after Joe and I went on the Kingsville Christmas House Tour (wonderful; our two favourites were the Woodbridge House B&B and a "cottage" right on Lake Erie with a jaw-dropping view) and after I had gone to Pelee Island Winery to have my glass of wine and pick up a bottle to take down to a sweetheart neighbour who has kept an eye on our condo, I packed up the quilt, hauled up my beach chair from the basement, grabbed my iPad, put on my gloves and headed on down to our beach.  Had there not been a gale-force wind, I might have sat, snuggled up under her for a few minutes, to get my last Lake Erie fix until Spring.  I did stand and drink in the view for a few moments once I had packed up, however.

I will be taking this quilt down to Florida to lie on the bed in our guest room I think.  I might have it on our bed for a while though!  There is a TON of quilting on it, and I was worried it might be stiff, but that has not proved to be the case after washing.  I'm also really pleased that the 50" or so of binding that is not the check fabric blends in quite unobtrusively.  There wasn't enough of the check fabric, perhaps due to the fact that the pattern wanted me to sew in a strip of fabric, then cut away triangles, and appliqué the remaining sawtooth strip down by HAND on top of the twill stripe.  I did two different methods of creating this sawtooth or prairie points borders, the first of which wasted some fabric.  So that might explain it.  I found the yardage in this kit very skimpy, unlike that in Brrrr Park, which is about to go on the Longarm, just needs the backing to be finished creating.  It might just end up getting quilted on my Bernina in Florida, as the countdown is on, and sewing time limited.  But I digress.  Again.

Here are some other shots of this most beautiful quilt of which I'm very proud.  I will be bringing her back north in the Spring so she can go into our Kingsville Quilt Guild Show in September.  No, there is no snow here.  And no, Lake Erie is not frozen.  The current temperature of the lake is mid-40s according to Joe's app.

If one didn't know the temperature at the time I took this was below freezing, one would think this a perfect spot for a picnic!

As a nod to our American neighbours 40 miles to the south of us on the other side of the lake, who celebrate Thanksgiving this Thursday, here is a picture I took with my Fall colours post in mind:

I had meant to have this picture at the top of that post, but completely forgot about that intention.  I took it October 6, mesmerized by the riot and splash of colours in their display.  This is Lee and Maria's Market, a great spot to get fruits and vegetables, as well as some flowers, all locally grown.  I am continually attracted to, mesmerized by, intrigued with colours, especially those in Nature.  Their display was truly breathtaking, and although this picture does not do it justice, I still find the impact is stunning.  Off to my sewing room!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Rediscovering Another Favourite Pastime

Knitting. When I was six my mum taught me to knit. She taught both of my sisters,
and even my brother! My husband still tells the story, much to both of my daughters' mirth, of picking me up for one of our first dates and meeting my brother, who was then a month short of 12, for the first time. While Joe stood in the front porch waiting for me to put the finishing touches on my appearance, he tried to make conversation with Todd. "So Todd, what do you do for excitement?" Joe, a real guy with his love of all things sports, cars and macho, was hoping to find some common ground. "Well," said Todd, "I KNIT!"

My good friend Marianne's discovery of knitting a few years ago sparked my interest again.  Coupled with that, my daughter Dayna wanted me to knit her an infinity scarf.  Once I did that for her, she wanted me to teach her to knit again.  I, in homage to my British roots, and following in the steps of my mother, had in turn taught both my daughters to knit, but neither had found it something they wanted to do as they got older.  However, Dayna wanted to knit herself a scarf or two. And she did, making two, thankful that I was visiting her in Windsor that summer, and could undo and fix any of her mistakes.  Once I went back to Alberta (we hadn't made our big move to Kingsville at that time) and she made her next mistake, she was stymied and left scarf #2 unfinished.

Since that infinity scarf, I made myself one, and I also made an afghan throw for our new house here in Kingsville.  It is 4 tassels short of being finished, and is super cuddly and warm.  I regularly have to make Rocco and/or Bella get off the one end of it!  Here it is without the tassels:

Here is the scarf I am currently knitting; I am about 2/3 of the way finished.  It's probably going to be a take-a-long project for our roadtrip down to Florida next weekend.  This is a great pattern given to me by Marianne, who has made 3.  I'm using a 100% pure wool Patons yarn, called Classic Wool DK Superwash in pumpkin.  She also put me on to the website Ravelry, a great site of knitting and crocheting patterns, many for free, some for purchase.

After I finished The Jugglers' Children (excellent in every way) yesterday in the ophthalmologist's office, I wrote most of this post on my iPhone (love technology!) and just had to tweak it and add the pictures, which I've just done.  I could sure use this cuddly scarf today, as the North Wind is just a-howling and it's a "bone-chilling" 23F aka -5C!  I am quoting our weather guy on CTV with that adjective.  Detroit Channel 4 guy says "frigid"!  Even though Joe and I grin and think these people would die with some of the temperatures we have seen on a regular basis out in Alberta over the years, to be fair, it was 47F, aka 8C here yesterday.  So this IS a huge drop, and the coldest we have seen so far.  Stay warm!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Pillowcase Palooza

I made these two to be shams for the Seaside Rose quilt.  Sidenote:  she is JUST about finished; I have about 1/2 of the last side of the binding to handstitch down.  I plan to take her down to the beach here to photograph the finished product.  Hopefully the rain will stop by tomorrow....  I've used the  "Roll It Up" pillowcase pattern off American Patchwork & Quilting's "All People Quilt" website.  I love that there are no exposed seams with this method.  You sew French seams.  I've made this pattern 4 times now.  I haven't donated any pillowcases yet to their 1 Million Pillowcase Challenge, but I plan to.

Yesterday we were over the river in Detroit, buying our Acana dogfood that is made in Alberta, but cheaper to buy in the US.  Ridiculous, as it is made in Legal, Alberta (excellent dogfood, by the way) my dad's birthplace, and about an hour from where we lived, yet I can buy it thousands of miles away in Detroit, and also in Florida cheaper.  Makes no sense.  We also visited the Detroit Institute of Arts, where we are members, and a place we have come to really love and appreciate.  And worry that its billions of dollars of art could be sold to pay debts that the DIA had no part of.  I took this picture of a cloth made in Ghana, whose designs just spoke to me.  For obvious reasons.   I feel another whole cloth quilt being born...  These were drawn or etched on; I can't remember.  I should have taken a pic of the info card right beside the piece.  Duh.
Even though we've been there three times now, we took a guided tour of the institute, and yet again, the pride of the people of Detroit was evident in many of her words.  I plan to write a post just on Detroit, the beauty and rebirth that is happening that sadly the media neglects to report.  Anyhow, I'm getting off topic, shocker.

I stopped in at a shop that is becoming a favourite, Guildcrafters Quilt Shop, on the hunt for a wool for another project that I want to finish while we are in Florida.  Sadly, they didn't have the thickness of the one I used in my Frostbite snowman quilt, of which I have a chunk left over, but not enough, of course for the daisy petals that I plan to appliqué.  But another bolt of fabric caught my eye, and a piece of it came home with me, for a pillowcase for my daughter, Dayna.  I made it for her this afternoon, and it will be one of her Christmas presents.  Here it is!
Gosh, I love it when I buy a piece of fabric and the project is done within 24 hours of purchase!!  That rarely happens...  It is an adorable flannel with funky cats on it.  She's coming over tomorrow night, so I plan to give it to her then; I can't wait until Christmas, and this way she can snuggle on it for an extra month.  I had my overseer watching:
She LOVES me being down here in the basement sewing.  I was surprised that she didn't try to sit on the fabric as I was A) cutting it or B) sewing it.  Most unusual for her.  Note she is lying, propping her elbow, on a small stack of fat quarters as well as Leah Day's "Express Your Love" goddess pattern when she has a beautiful little pouffé of her own I recovered for her RIGHT beside her...  Cats.  She does use her pouffé a lot though, but loves to lean on something, like my shins at 6 am.  I had company from Rocco as well--
I'm just so happy down here sewing, and when they join me, which is often, it just adds to my peace and contentment.  And that is a subject for yet another post, a comparison of my old sewing room to the basement corner in which I now spend a good chunk of my day.  Stay tuned!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Maren's Quilt

It has been some time since I posted, but I did a quick trip out to Edmonton to see my darling grandson for four days, so there were a few things that went into the preparation for the trip, one of which was the finishing of this quilt.

This quilt has been percolating for about 2 years on the back burner of my melon.  I bought the pink flannel for the backing online from Hancock's on a trip to Florida a few months after Maren's birth.  Unfortunately, it didn't arrive before I had to leave to go back up North.  So that was the first delay.  I bought the book that contains the pattern upon which I based the quilt around the same time.  It's a great book, one I'd had out of our local library, and then decided to buy as there are several great quilts within its covers:  Colorful Stash Busters by Mary Cowan, and it's her "Fun House Baby Quilt".  I was pretty sure I wasn't going to do the super-wide rickrack strips on the quilt, but I wasn't sure exactly how it was all going to come together.  Then my major life change, as in quitting teaching at the age of 52, and moving across country happened, which put all quilting on hold for many months, as my sewing room in our old house was dismantled, and then I had to figure out just how to set up a corner of the basement in our new house for sewing.  A few other quilts were born during this time, but only because of need: the kickstart my creativity Perky Purse quilt, the Cloud 9 quilt (well, that one was not need; it was purely want! And, I haven't blogged about it yet...), my grandson's big-boy bed quilt, Jude's quilt, and the old Round Robin quilt which I used for the class I took from Angela Walters.  After Jude's quilt, I tried for a few months to do my own design for Maren's quilt, and it was at this point that I knew I wanted to appliqué her name on the quilt.  When I wasn't happy with where my own design was going, I went back to Mary Cowan's quilt but ended up switching it up a bit.  I started with a couple of pinks and mauves and greens, a turquoise and the pink adorable owl fabric.  The border fabric just kind of happened.  It was in my stash from years ago for a Stack 'n Whack that never happened.  When I pulled a few potential border fabrics out, this one just seemed right.  So that is why I added a peach and a pinky-orange to the bars.

Planning stages
Here you see the top together without any of the appliqué:
Below is the top all done.  The original pattern had 15 - 5" squares, 3 per row, upon which were appliquéd daisies like the one you see in the top rh corner below.  I eliminated 7 of these. I simply added more bars to the stripes sections.  I had some owl fabric within the quilt, and so I drew an owl similar to the one on the owl fabric, transferred him to fabric and appliquéd him.  That one 5" block took me 1 hour to appliqué!  The other square is a heart, and I used the five left over for the letters in Maren's name.  Not quite 2 years and 5 months old, she recognized every letter in her name when I gave it to her!
Quilt top finished
Close-up of owl appliqué

I don't recall when it hit me, but I decided to quilt words in the long white  open areas.  Cuddles. Adorable. Sweet.  Kisses.  Three times across each border.  I had SEW much fun doing that part! ;-)  You can see I did "ripple" quilting around the letters of Maren's name.  I did a large meander in the other areas, as I wanted it to be cuddly.

You can sort of see the feathers I did in the outer border here; Angela Walters' Custom Feather from her Craftsy class.

So here is the finished snuggly quilt on our front entryway bench.  It washed and crinkled up beautifully, and I was so very happy with the finished product.  I think Maren was quite enamoured too.  Apparently it was great timing as she's moving into a big-girl bed right away.  It finished at approximately 48" square, as I made the outer borders larger.

Below is the border and backing view.  I made my own label using a rectangle of the owl fabric.  I've made my own label this way now for several of my latest quilts, and I'm liking it!

You get a good view of the feathers here too!
I cut too many strips, so I have a nice set of those and plenty of the border left to make another one down the road perhaps.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Enjoying Another Spectacular Fall

For the past month, I have been composing this post in my head as I walk my dog, Rocco, through Kingsville.

When I moved to Essex County the first time in 1984, I remember being impressed by the slowness of the Fall, as well as the multitude of reds and oranges.  The first Spring drove me crazy. Why?  Because it took so LONG!!!  Baby leaves would appear, much earlier than what I'd been used to, but they then took forever to open fully, probably twice as long as what I'd been used to.  Last year, when we had moved back here, and again this year, what impressed me more than the length of the Fall, was the spectacular COLOURS.  I pulled over a couple of times to snap pics of stunning reds and oranges against a backdrop of forest green:

Taken October 10, 2012

On one of our daytrips over the river to Detroit, these trees made me stop and gawk.  They look like some giant had come along and dipped them in orange-red icing, as they all were turning from the TOP on down.  I've never seen anything like it.  I still have no clue what kind of tree this is, but it looks a little in shape like the ornamental pear at the top of our lane here.
Madison Heights, MI October 24, 2012

This year was much the same as before, although I didn't pull over or lean out of a moving vehicle to snap any pictures!  I never was a huge fan of Fall, simply because it always heralded the beginning of a very long, cold, dark winter.  Being here now, I have fallen in love with Fall, ha, and the vibrant colours singing around me in all their glory make me want to rush home and grab fabric and make a quilt!!

The beginning, October 22.  This was taken (sorry it's with my iPhone, so not the greatest of resolution) on the Chrysler Greenway, a section of which we walk pretty much every day in our daily dog walks!  Some trees were beginning to change, but not many.
This is another section of the Greenway, taken Oct. 27, showing what I think is, according to how my 84-year-old friend Doug, who has lived here all his life, taught me to recognize them:  a red oak.
Red Oak (I think!)
I love how there are so many colours on the one tree: shades of green to yellow to peach, to orange and orange-red.

We live in Carolinian Forest.  I used to live in a Boreal Forest.  They both have their beauty, and I've always found myself most serene and at peace amongst trees.  However, the ancient trees around here remind me of the awestruck feelings I had in Cathedral Grove on Vancouver Island when standing amongst those giants.  It sounds rather flaky, but I feel their vibrations, their hum, their wisdom, their good chi, when I touch them.  There is one old boy I touch just about every day on my walk through Lakeside Park.  I think he's a Cottonwood.

When I was in Nice, France, in 2009, there were "camouflage bark" trees lining many of the streets.  They were SO cool.  I asked some of the other teachers on the trip what they were, and they told me plane trees.  I was floored to find the very same trees right here in Kingsville last summer.  However, I've been calling them plane trees, but it seems they are called sycamore here.  There is one in Windsor that is 200 years old that was in the paper last year because a new landowner wanted to chop it down since some of its branches were pressing on the roof and eavestroughs of the house.  That tree was a baby when the War of 1812 was on.  Wow.  Here are some in Kingsville, taken October 27:

American Sycamore aka Plane Tree Oct. 27
I took this picture October 29.  These three trees were beautiful as they slowly changed.  I think they are a sugar maple, but again, I do not know for sure.  We also have beautiful black maples that are pretty much a burgundy-black all summer.

Back on the Greenway, on November 4, I took these to show the change as well as the intense red of these trees.  Because it was a dull day, the grass seemed to just glow, almost fluorescent.

Sugar?? Maple

More orange in tone, the leaves left on this tree

A leaf off the Sugar Maple(?), just lying on the path; I love how it pops against the greys! Note to self for another Fall quilt...
I found this interesting.  It is part of a large sign on the Greenway just by our Mettawas railway station that gives information about local trees.  I had no idea there were this many kinds of oak!! Nor did I know we had a 300-year-old tree here! My daughter has a White Oak on her front lawn that keeps its leaves all winter, loses them in the Spring, and then gets new ones.  You can see Mettawas Station in the background of the second pic.

Green, gold, orange, red, burgundy, all against an azure sky...perfection

The picture below was taken on November 7.  This is one humungous tree.  Note the rooftop of the house at the bottom of the picture!  I think this is the one Doug said is a Manitoba Maple.  It's a lot bigger than those I was used to in the Edmonton area though, so I could be wrong.  Again, note the variety of colour on ONE tree.  Wow.  I also love the blue sky in the background; Nature has such a perfect palette.

Okay, so with all that inspiration laid out in front of me, I'm off downstairs to quilt.  Seaside Rose is getting her binding on!

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Joy of a Good Book...

is boundless.  Really.  When I'm in a good book, it's like there is a film reel on repeat in my head, as my brain reviews, dissects, mulls over, ongoing events within its bindings.  As a child, I had a near-tangible experience of seeing this world of a good book open its portal to me as I fell into the smelled-so-good pages.  I'm waxing a tad romantic there, methinks, but such a feeling--! 

You know, I could write a blog JUST about good books; hek, I have a book summary document on my laptop, 49 pages in length, egad, of books I have read.  I started keeping it on my computer July 1, 2009.  Prior to that, I wrote in 2 scribblers.  So I've been documenting and keeping a summary of the books I've read for a long time!  I wanted to share some good finds I've come across over just the past couple of weeks.

Right now I am reading The Jugglers' Children by Carolyn Abraham.  My mum recommended this one to me.  It is non-fiction, and it is really, really good.  I can relate to it very easily, as my husband's family has some very similar mystery, folklore, secrets and skeletons in the closet, on both his mother's and his father's sides.  I'm hoping he will read it, as what few sentences I've shared with him have resonated with him.  Carolyn, an award-winning Canadian journalist who lives in Toronto, and who grew up in St. Catharine's, north of us by about 100 miles, has never been able to discover what nationality she is.  Eurasian.  Anglo-Indian.  Chinese.  Jamaican.  Perhaps.  So after her daughter, Jade, is born, she decides to buy a DNA test and tests her immediate family members with their approval to discover her roots.  I'm only into it by a few chapters, but it's fascinating.  Like The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, it does a great job of mixing scientific data with captivating narrative

On Saturday I finished The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion, recommended to me by a close friend, and was it ever good.  Romance, comedy, a bit of drama - it was a great book, the first for this Australian author.  It reminded me of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon, and also of The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Age 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend, but Simsion's protagonist, Don, is an adult who has Asperger's Syndrome.  He begins The Wife Project, an attempt to find the perfect woman to marry.  During the process, he meets Rosie, who really wants to know who her biological father is, and so he, being a professor of genetics, decides to help her with her Father Project.  She is totally unsuitable as a potential mate, according to the 34-page questionnaire he devised.  However, for reasons even he can't always pinpoint, he continues to help with her Father Project, and develops a relationship with her.

Before that, I read The Elephant Whisperer, by Lawrence Anthony, recommended by both my mum and another very close friend.  It was excellent, and rekindled my awe of and interest in, Africa, not to mention my love of elephants and game reserves, and safaris, and the exotic animals of Africa.  I used to watch "Wild Kingdom" on Sundays with my dad, and it brought back memories of that shared time.  What Lawrence was able to accomplish with that rogue herd of elephants, aka Nana and her family, is beyond remarkable.  I actually went on Thula Thula's website and checked out costs to stay there....  not an impossibility.  He wrote a few other books, one about his part in saving the animals of the Baghdad Zoo during the 2011 the US invasion, and another about rhinos that interest me.  I can see some Amazon purchases coming up this winter in Florida!

These 3 books, two of which I got out of our library, have made me put aside both Sashenka by Simon Montefiore, which I am half way through, as well as Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky (talk about mixed races in that name!), which I am slightly more than half way through.  Needless to say, I am not enjoying either of those two nearly as much as the ones I've previously mentioned!  The tragedy and poignancy behind Suite Française is moving:  Némirovsky, a very succesful Jewish author living in Paris, was deported and died in Auschwitz before she could complete the other 3 parts of the 5-part epic novel she had planned.  So I will go back to it, as I'd just begun Part 2.

So there's just a small segment of my ongoing love affair with books! 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Food! Glorious food!

So this afternoon I made my own hummus.  And it is the best hummus I have ever tasted, except for the person's who gave me this recipe!  That would be our next-door neighbour, whose wonderful hummus I tasted a month and a half ago.  So this recipe actually comes from a food blog I now follow, Inspired Taste.  It started with their yummy hummus recipe.  You can get the recipe and directions here.

Here is the picture I took of mine, as it looked so pretty!  And tasted mighty fine too!  I had red pepper strips, carrots and Wheat Thins with it.  And yep, it's sitting on my Fall tablerunner; always gotta work in a quilt.  :-)
Smooth Hummus
I had high hopes of also making both Apple Crisp with the Spy apples we got last week, as well as Pumpkin Muffins.  Ran out of gas after the muffins...   Here is a picture of them.  It's a banana muffins recipe I modified out of a recipe book I bought for a fundraiser from my brother's work.  All the employees gave their favourite tried-and-true recipe, so it's a great book.  They did another one the next year, and I have both! 
Pumpkin Muffins

Here's what I did:
1 cup mashed pumpkin + 1/4 tsp (or more) of allspice, nutmeg and ginger
1 cup pumpkin pie filling
(I've made them both ways, and they're equally good)
6 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar (none if using pie filling)
1 tsp salt
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla (none if using pie filling)
1 1/2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder

Mix the pumpkin, oil, sugar and salt; add egg and vanilla and beat again.  Stir in flour, soda and BP.  Drop into muffin tins.  Bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes.  Makes 8 large muffins.

The plaid pumpkins I made several years ago.  A quilt shop in Lethbridge, Alberta had them as decorations and the store owner showed me how she made them...and so I bought some more fabric from her!  It's just a square of fabric with a ball of fibrefill in the middle.  Gather up the fabric; tie some jute around the top, letting the end flop over the jute.  Stick a twig in the centre for the stem, and cut apart some leaves (from Michaels), glue them on with a hot glue gun, and then spray a little spray glue on the leaves and sprinkle them with glitter.