Happy New Year, my friends!

For some of you I know the first day has come and gone and it’s business as usual again. but I am still up and it’s not yet midnight on the first, so I’m sort of still on time.

I hope you all had a good Christmas; it’s different for everyone and it’s different every year, but still . . .

IMG_5930Our tree, an artificial one, which the cousins bought two years ago after Spooky had moved in. A real tree would prove too much temptation, was the idea. This year the tree was not on the dining table, but next to the tv. It went up on Christmas morning and was put away at the end of Boxing Day, after Spooky had managed to get up and knock off one of the ornaments and was looking seriously like he wanted to climb the tree.

Below is a very poor shot of the table decoration cousin M made by putting a string of faery lights inside a huge ;brandy snifter’ made of  strawberry glass. It’s so lovely, but the photo doesn’t do it justice., really.IMG_5924

Our Christmas was good; quiet, but the usual feast. I found stockings at a dollar store and used them as ‘carriers’ for a couple of small gifts for the cousins (and myself), including a chocolate ‘orange’ in the toe.

And the cat instructed me to wrap and deliver three packages of nuts to ‘the staff’ as he likes to think of us.

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The Lord and Master of the House

We also had more of this between Christmas and New Year’s Eve:

And I received this as a sort of joke gift, but I really like it:

It’s an alarm clock with two features I need: (a) the sound changes every few seconds, becoming more and more insistent and (b) if set correctly, it will roll off the table and ‘run away’ if you don’t shut it off promptly . . . and ‘hide’. Of course I don’t use the ‘run away and hide’ option! I shot a couple of short videos of it ‘running’ but can’t share them here. Too bad. 🙂

I don’t know if anyone will remember when I was on a basket-making binge early in the summer, but I finally dug out the largest one; it’s meant to be a workbasket so I can take my projects with me in the car and not have the needles poking through the plastic (and the annoying rustle of plastic bags). Besides, I’m working away from using plastic whenever possible. Anyway, the large photo is of the basket body and the other two are the straps, which will cross over the centre of the bottom and be held in place by a third piece (not shown ’cause I forgot to take a photo). They will let me carry the bag slung over one shoulder.

I haven’t finished stitching on the handles yet, but am telling you to increase the ‘guilt factor’ I’m SO good at beginning things, not so good at the final steps.

And in the meantime, I had another “great idea” I thought I’d make some popcorn and cranberry strings, but quickly realized I didn’t have enough time and there was nowhere to hang them. So the idea morphed into just feeding the birds . . . with bird balls.  So I popped a LOT of popcorn, added both bags of cranberries and melted a pound of lard and poured it over the lot. Mixed it will by hand, then realized it wasn’t going to form nice tidy balls, so I packed it firmly into my spare yoghurt containers, with the string in the middle (see the photo of the strings). WE shall put them in a box on the back porch tomorrow to freeze, then decant them one at a time into a mesh bag to be hung in one of the trees. I only hope the birds like them, as cousin M is not enthralled with the idea. He has read up on bird feeding and has his own ways. I, on the other hand, leapt before I looked, as they say. Oh, well, as I say . . .

They do look rather pretty, though, don’t they? We have been feasting, too, did I mention that? I was too slow to get a photo of the bird and the side dishes. But I did take pictures of the baking . . .

The first three pictures are the shortbread I made on the 31st. I had another bright idea, this one a success: I melted two squares of unsweetened dark baking chocolate and the same amount of semi-sweet; this in a mug. I had to add a bit of milk to make it soft enough to dip the shortbread into. In the end, cousin S simply used a table knife and frosted them while I phoned my Auntie. She made the cute face on a couple, too; only this one remained by the time I had the camera out. 🙂 The next picture and the last two are of the same ‘tart’ in the old-fashioned sense. In it are some of the last of the Macintosh apples from the tree here. There is one more tart in our future, I think and then we shall have to resort to frozen cherries, also from our tree. It’s a hard life we lead here, believe me. 🙂  The remaining two pictures are of some of the butter tarts I made from a recipe my sister J sent to us. I like it best of all I’ve ever eaten. These are the first I’ve made and it was surprisingly easy.  It’s a pity I’m giving up sugar on the 8th, isn’t it?  but I know I’ll be healthier and my food won;t ‘go to waist’ as much in future.

Cousin M loves old things as much as I do, although his are less of a sentimental nature and more of an investment. Still . . . I thought I’d share these photos of a lamp with cast iron work that dates to the 1880s. I’m sorry the pictures are poor; my camera phone is an old one and not the clearest or best for photography. Its reservoir is also strawberry glass, more lovely than you can tell here, even with the light behind it.

I have pretty much finished one side of the pocket scarf but can’t remember if I shared this photo or not. The other two pictures are of the knitted tea cosy, which I have been stitching up the sides. I won’t finish that, as I want it to fit the teapot my sister has; it used to belong to my Aunty in Edmonton and, since I have her wee coffee percolator, I wanted my sister to have the teapot. she prefers tea and I mostly drink coffee.  Or at least I used to. I don’t know if you can tell, but the cosy is of green cotton like the yarn used for dishcloths. I took a close-up to show you the stitching; it makes ridges down the sides.

We had to go to Vernon just after Christmas and the cousins needed to stop off in Armstrong on the way back. The landscape pictures show how misty it was that day.

They dropped me at my LYS and I was so careful watching my step as I entered that I missed the sign on the door saying they were closed for inventory until the New Year.  However, they recognized me and remembered that I was not local, so offered to let me buy the yarn I had on hold. I was waiting for an order to come from Scotland, but that may take more weeks, and, as I was in the neighbourhood . . . so now I have the dark chocolate brown I need to complete the pair of Fair Isle style socks, if you remember.

. . . and two balls of green, dark and light, which I had meant for a pair of rather special socks. I’m now deciding if I still want to do that or if I’d rather have a nice waistcoat to keep me warm.  I do like the paper bags they pack the yarn in, don’t you?

I’ll stop here. I’ll need more to write about in a few days. I haven’t finished the post I’d intended for today, nor the Big News post, so you shall just have to keep on Anticipating.

And for those of you on the other side of the equator, here’s what I woke up to this morning, on the first morning of a new year . . .

So lovely, but it can go away now, any time soon will do . . . I’m not quite ready for spring, but spring like weather would be rather nice. It went to -18 C last night, but warmed up a bit today.

This is the purple poinsettia we gave to our Auntie in Princeton. I sent my cousin there some money to pick up a blue one, but those had sold out, so she chose this instead.

Auntie M Poinsettia Christmas 2017

I wish you all the very best in the coming year; whatever that may be for you.

Much love from here and may this be a year when we share the Light between ourselves and with others.   ~ Linne

Passing on the Light 01

Three Things / Thankful on Thursday

Thankful on Thursday

I have been sitting here and contemplating what to write about tonight. There are things in the works that I’m not ready to share yet and things I planned and haven’t been able to begin. Still, there is much to be grateful for.

One: I am grateful for the skills that my mother started me on when I was a wee child; hand-stitching from the age of two or so, for one. Knitting and crochet and embroidery for more. I feel so deeply happy when I knit and crochet; I feel connected to such a long line of women in my family who all did the same, either to keep their family warm and cosy or to be creative or, in most cases, both. Last winter i crocheted an enormous throw for my friends in Tacoma. Out of cotton yarn. It began as an idea for a light (ha!) summer wrap, something to keep  one’s back warm when sitting by an evening campfire. And it morphed into this:

crochet spread teal white mango 01

I used two yarns; one teal and the other a variegate with teal, mandarin orange and white. I started in the centre, crocheted once around, then joined the second yarn. I just kept alternating yarns in a lovely spiral. I changed the pattern a couple of times, too, but now I wish I’d written down what I did. I would like to try this again one day, but with three yarn colours. I did find at first that the variegate interfered with the clarity of the pattern. Next time I will choose solid colours only. AS you can see, it’s five feet across or more. I’m still amazed that I created this in about two months, in the midst of other handwork and with only two to four hours a day, some days not at all, too.

The second thing I’m grateful for is my renewed love of sock making.  When I was in my twenties, my lovely mother in law gave me a pair of work boots for Christmas. I was living with my oldest son and his dad on one of the Gulf Islands and we walked everywhere. They were wonderful boots that fit me exactly and I have never forgotten her thoughtfulness. But I needed some warm socks to go with them. I didn’t than have the patience for knitting with fin yarns and I had some pure wool rug yarn, so I took a men’s dress sock pattern and did the math. The resulting pattern was a perfect fit and I had those socks for many years.

A few weeks ago my cousin and I were driving to Vernon for some of the weekly sales shopping and he kindly took me to Armstrong along the way. Armstrong is a small town about twenty minutes from here, not far off the main highway. We went to The Twisted Purl Yarn Studio and I bought some Jamieson & Smith pure wool two ply jumper yarn in five colours: black, burgundy, red, pink and a sort of sage green. I had not stopped to think what I might make, so gave the colour selection less thought than usual,; the selection was small for my taste and I simply picked colours that I thought I could use successfully in Fair Isle type stranded knitting. A few days later I decided I needed a pair of wool socks and the adventure began. The colours aren’t quite what I like, but I think they are working out fairly well. In any case, they will keep my feet toasty warm.

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AS you can see, I’ve successfully turned the heel and am about to begin knitting my way up the leg. The other sock is ready to have its heel created, too. There are a few errors in the knitting; While doing the hearts motif I was listening to Runrig on my headphones and lost track of the counting, so some of the hearts aren’t quite right. By the time I noticed it was too late for frogging. And while doing the heel, the pattern required using short rows with a wrapped stitch at the beginning and then picking up the wrap with the stitch and knitting or purling them together. Sounds easy, right? Well, try doing that with black yarn in the late evening and under rather dim lighting. Not to mention that my eyesight is not too good at present. However, I got through rather well, I think and the heel looks fine to me.

Today, with snow coming tonight for the firs time this autumn, we went to Vernon again so that I could buy a pair of thick work socks, some heavy work gloves for shovelling snow and the like and some more candied ginger. My cousin is a very kind man and made time to take me to the Twisted Purl again, where I put in an order for a few colours I feel I need before I begin the next pair of socks and another ball of the black for this pair. The Purl was out of the black but ready to make another order, so I asked for not only the black but also a medium green, a slightly golden yellow and I think another colour. And as long as I was in the store . . . I bought these:

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Two balls of dark green, one of a light blue, one of  a darker blue and one each of the three reds I’m already using in the current socks. We were in a bit of a rush to get all the shopping done and get home before dark, so I didn’t want to take time over the colours and order more. I think I can make these work, though. I have a happy pattern in mind for the legs of the next pair and I’ll share that with you all once I get to that. It’s all part of the plan for next year . . .

The third thing I’m grateful for today is my odd knack for baking ‘on the fly’; adapting recipes that I’ve never made before I make them and then having it all work out so well. Usually, anyway. Yesterday my cousin’s wife, Cousin S, gave me five bananas she had brought home from her work as a school custodian. They had black spots on the skins but were still firm. She mentioned that she had been thinking of banana bread and had Googled for a recipe, finding one for Chocolate Banana Bread. I offered to whip that up, as she rarely has time for baking and after lunch I set to. I added chopped walnuts, whole wheat flour and wheat germ to the original recipe (I like to maximize nutrition as much as possible). I doubled the recipe so that I could use all the bananas and when I found the batter a bit dry I added some yoghurt. In the end, we got twenty four muffins out of the recipe. I chose to do muffins instead of a loaf as it makes it easier to pack one for lunch and, wrapped individually, they keep very well in the fridge. They turned out scrumptious, especially hot from the oven with butter after I split them open. The chocolate chips didn’t hurt, either; they formed wee volcanoes of deliciousness that I’m sure you can imagine.

I will share the recipe here, likely tomorrow. It was very easy and well worth it.


Chocolate Banana Muffins 

INGREDIENTS for a single recipe: makes 12 muffins or one loaf.

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/4  cup wheat germ

1/2 cup cocoa, preferably not processed with alkali

1 tsp baking soda rounded slightly

1/2 tsp salt (less if you like) The original recipe called for sea salt, but we don’t have that, so I used regular table salt.

3 large brown bananas – 1.5 cups mashed

(I find there is a more pleasant and mild banana flavour if the bananas aren’t too ripe, but I abhor waste, so use whatever you have)  🙂

1/4 cup butter, melted and slightly cooled

1/4 cup oil (I used safflower)

Note: you can use all butter, all oil or cut it back and substitute yoghurt or milk for part of the liquid.

3/4 cup packed brown sugar (if you measure the oil and butter first, then the brown sugar in the same cup, you will waste less oil/butter). This will work with less sugar.

1 large egg at room temperature (I didn’t see this recipe in time to take one out, so I used a cold egg. You could use 2 smaller eggs if you don’t have large.)

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1/2 to 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 to 1 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 to 1 cup raisins (large are great and for special occasions, you can soak them in rum or brandy first; the alcohol is eliminated during baking, leaving only the flavour)

Optional for topping: chop some chocolate chips and walnuts together. You would need a few tablespoons of the chopped mix.

Optional (if needed): plain or vanilla yoghurt OR milk

INGREDIENTS for a double recipe: makes 24 muffins or two loaves.

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2  cup wheat germ

1 cup cocoa, preferably not processed with alkali. I used a couple of heaping tablespoons more; we like chocolate around here.

2 tsp baking soda rounded slightly

1 tsp salt (less if you like) The original recipe called for sea salt, but we don’t have that, so I used regular table salt.

5 – 6 large brown bananas – 3 cups mashed. I confess I didn’t measure them. Hence the yoghurt added at the end.

(I find there is a more pleasant and mild banana flavour if the bananas aren’t too ripe, but I abhor waste, so use whatever you have)  🙂

1/2 cup butter, melted and slightly cooled

1/2 cup oil (I used safflower)

Note: you can use all butter, all oil or cut it back and substitute yoghurt or milk for part of the liquid.

1.5 cups packed brown sugar (if you measure the oil and butter first, then the brown sugar in the same cup, you will waste less oil/butter) This will work with less sugar.

2 large eggs at room temperature (I didn’t see this recipe in time to take them out, so I used cold eggs. You could use 3 – 4 smaller eggs if you don’t have large.)

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 to 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 to 2  cups chopped walnuts

1 to 2 cups raisins (large are great and for special occasions, you can soak them in rum or brandy first; the alcohol is eliminated during baking, leaving only the flavour). I didn’t use raisins this time; cousin M has requested them for next timre, as he loves the large raisins we buy.

Optional for topping: chop some chocolate chips and walnuts together. You would need a few tablespoons of the chopped mix.

Optional (if needed): plain or vanilla yoghurt OR milk

Variation: I think these would be wonderful made with chocolate chips and chopped candied ginger, too. But I love candied ginger! lol

METHOD:

Heat oven to 350 F

Grease one or two 9 x 5 inch loaf pans or one or two 12 hole muffin pans, I use a non-hydrogenated margarine made with olive oil. Safflower oil would likely work, too. I like the margarine because it isn’t absorbed so much by the muffins / loaves.

In a medium sized bowl mix the flours, wheat germ, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.

In a large bowl mash the peeled bananas with a fork or a pastry cutter.Add the butter and oil. Stir until well mixed.stir in the brown sugar, egg and vanilla extract. Beat well with a wooden spoon until smooth.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture, folding in carefully. I usually add the dry mix in three portions; it makes the folding in easier. Don’t overmix.

IF the mixture seems too dry, add a few heaping tblsp of plain or vanilla yoghurt. Milk can also be used. Use your judgement; less is more sometimes.

Fold in the chocolate chips, walnuts and raisins.

Using a large serving spoon or a tablespoon (a small metal measuring cup would also work, I think), spoon the batter into the muffin cups or the loaf pans.

Optional: Spoon a little of the topping mix onto each muffin or top the loaves with it, if using. I didn’t and they were fine without it. It’s my idea, not from the original recipe; I just thought it would fancy them up for a special occasion.

If making a loaf, the original recipe calls for baking it for 50 – 65 minutes. I’d test them from about 30 minutes on, using a toothpick or table knife. When it comes out clean, remove from the oven, let cool for 5 – 10 minutes, then remove to a rack.

If making muffins, bake for about 15 – 20 minutes and then test to see if they need more time. Every oven is different. I had mine in a 400 F oven for 25 minutes and it was a wee bit too long; the chocolate didn’t burn, but it would have if I’d not checked them.

These muffins are fantastic eaten hot, split open and buttered. You may want to make tea, coffee or your favourite hot drink to enjoy along with them.


I have more to tell you, but it will have to wait. It’s well after midnight now and bed is calling me . . .

Correction:

I didn’t link to The Twisted Yarn’s Three Things on Thursday post. And a good thing, too! I was doing my best to get back to more timely posting and typed that from memory. Actually, the Thankful on Thursday posts belong to Mrs. Snail. My apologies to both ladies.

It’s too dark for me to type properly as it is. I’ll add that tomorrow, too. In the meantime, do share your Three Things / Thankful in the comments, if you feel inspired to do so. Love and warm hugs to each of you. I hope you are all doing well.

A final addition: This is what I woke up to today:

And, as to my Peace Poppies for Kendal; they arrived in time. In this photo you can see two of them quite clearly (the ones with the red bit around their black centre):

The second photo shows the WWI medical tent over which the poppies were draped after being fastened together by some wonderful volunteers.