toddler's apron

My kid's got the best play kitchen ever, so naturally, she needed an apron in her stocking.

But since I didn't want to have to make a new apron every time her head grew, there was the problem of making it adjustable. I didn't have one of those buckles on hand, nor did I like the idea of tying ties at the waist and at the neck every time she wants to put on her apron.

Then I saw this apron (via this motherload list of apron tutorials), which is completely adjustable thanks to just one long tie. Genius!

Rough instructions should you want to make one: 
Measure the kid and decide on your length and widths*, create a pattern piece out of paper and cut out one piece from cool fabric and one from muslin or bedsheet (or whatever you want as a backing). Sew right sides together, turn inside-out, topstitch, sew in casings along side edges, and finally thread through a tie (I use cotton twill tape). 

*Final measurements for my two-year old's apron (add seam allowance if you want to make the same size):
8" from top to waist, another 7" to bottom, total of 15" long
6" wide at top, 12" wide at waist, 14" wide at bottom


And with that final stocking stuffer, I'm signing off for a little while. Instead of a picture of boring poinsettias, I'll give the final word to my purple pansies. (I had no idea these little guys were so hardy.)

Enjoy the holidays!


it's finally done

Wow. I finished this little quilt top and back in February of '08 (original post). I said then that I wanted to use its little size to learn the proper way to bind a quilt. 

Four. Years. Later. 

All the quilts I've ever made made use of some sort of cheater binding -- either folding over and topstitching extra fabric from the quilt back or just machine-sewing on the binding, both of which leave a visible stitch. I finally did it the 'right' way, using using Heather Bailey's instructions.

Sure, I like the result, but meh, I think a little visible stitching is far preferable to so much handstitching.


little gorilla

There is a great children's book called Little Gorilla about a lovable gorilla that gets big and has a birthday.

This little guy was given along with that book to a big, lovable one-year old.

Even though the birthday is in December, I finished this softie back in June (hence the blooming pansies). The pattern (from one of my favourite knitting books; ravelry details here) uses skinny sock yarn, but the size makes him a surprisingly quick knit.

Does it look like a gorilla to you? Maybe I should've stuffed his shoulders more.


a tasty rut

I'm on 'repeat' in the kitchen lately...

brought these cheese balls to a party
...along with a gingerbread cake,
made and devoured this chicken again (it still reigns as the best roast chicken ever),
enjoyed mocha pot de creme with a good friend this season,
froze the extra butternut squash soup,
love that the kid is so into kale chips these days,
and I plan on making up another batch of these lovely cranberry lemon scones soon.

Jeff's the only one trying new recipes. He made Elise's chicken parmesan tonight. Delicious! 



Have I told you lately how much I love the month of December? Crafting, sending cards, counting the days...

Dana over at Made has a great idea for Advent: read a special Christmas or wintery book each day. This, my friends, is right up our alley. We've already started our collection and made our book wish list for the Grandparents. It'll be like watching National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation every year... kind of.

Here's a new book with lots of inspiration: Countdown Calendars. I'm not sure I'd ever make half of them as written (Is it really necessary to 'count down' to Halloween with candy every day?) but they could easily be adapted for Advent.

And here's a good idea for older kids: an activity advent calendar. I love that she uses her kids as motivators for her own to-do list.

Thanks to a generous friend, we are counting down the days this year with good ol' fashioned chocolate.


temporarily festive sweaters

The assignment: Two cheesy Christmas sweaters for the holiday bash at Jeff's office.

Limitations: Didn't want to buy anything. Had less than an hour of naptime to spend on this.

The process: Used bits of felt from my stash and the sewing machine to make appliques. Safety-pinned them to sweaters we already own.

The result:


wool skirt

As much as I complained about those pajamas, I will sew more clothes. In fact, I got right back on the horse with this very simple wool skirt.

And since I received this lovely book for my birthday, I've got grand plans. The little red riding hood cape on the cover may be the first thing I attempt, but I can't decide whether I'll make it with a red cotton or with a nice gray wool I already have...  ooh, a red wool would be nice.


off and on the needles

Made a pair of these socks, but they ended up being too small. Unfortunately, my kid still likes to wear them. They slip off and then she needs help getting them back on -- a high maintenance toy, really. Note to self: should probably put some sort of grip on the bottom of the next pair so she doesn't have to do so many splits and slips to get around.

Just finished another one of these sweet reversible birds. We'll keep this one. (Doh. I just realized I got carried away when I was seaming and sewed its two beaks together.)

Working on a new navy toque for me. Trying to wait until I finish the knitting before I pick out the perfect button. Free pattern via ravelry.


llama llama red pajama

This will not become an annual tradition. 

For all the folks that sew their kids new pajamas every Christmas -- wow, what an effort. I just made this one little set and think that sewing clothes is dang fiddly. I would've bought the pajamas if I could've found Plain Red Pajamas, but all I found were silly bears and moose and reindeer.

So, onwards and upwards, I decided to make my own. Granted, it would have been easier if I'd used an appropriately-sized pattern. I ended up using a baby pattern from this Amy Butler book, attempting to make the pattern bigger in the places I thought it ought to be. That's probably a relatively simple task for someone who understands clothing construction and sewing patterns, but for me, it involved some trial and error for sure. 

At any rate, the pajamas are done, and they fit, and they're pretty cute. They're to go along with a favourite bedtime book, llama llama red pajamawhich, after Christmas, will finally be owned and not just perpetually borrowed from the library.

Yes, this is a Christmas gift and it is beginning of November. (Don't hate me 'cause I'm organized -- try as I might, I am not a last-minute shopper.) But this way, my kid will forget she ever saw it by the time Christmas morning arrives. 


handmade holidays

It's the most wonderful time of the year...

See you over at Sew Mama Sew this month.


happy happy

It's birthday season.

In the next two months, there are twice as many family birthdays as there are the whole rest of the year.

*cupcake pattern from One Skein (ravelry details)


for the larder

Bring it on, Winter. I'm ready.

13 lbs cherries = 17 pints cherries
tomatoes, jalepeno, green peppers and onion = 7 pints salsa (the 8th couldn't handle the pressure in the canner)
18.5 lbs peaches = 13 pints peaches + five 1/2 pint peach jams + 1 peach crisp
4 lbs ridiculously late seasonal strawberries = six 1/2 pint strawberry jams
1 flat of raspberries from friend's backyard = 1 batch raspberry freezer jam
40 lbs fresh blueberries = 40lbs frozen blueberries
28 lbs Roma tomatoes = 19.5 quarts tomatoes
11 lbs apples = 8 pints chunky applesauce with cinnamon

* Last year I experimented with freezing tomatoes and canning tomatoes. The clear winner: canned. Although the reason may have been skin off (canned) versus skin on (frozen).

** Favourite once-a-year tool: the apple machine!



I didn't mean to be away quite so long. Sorry you had a whole month to contemplate our oatmeal regimen.

I wanted to just share a trick I recently learned in case I'm not the only one on the block who struggles to peel hot roasted beets with a paring knife.

Paper towel!

Since my trusty kitchen towels do most jobs just fine, we rarely buy paper towels. But peeling beets is now one task I will reach for the ol' paper kind for.

Once you roast the beets and cool them a bit, just rub them in the paper towel. The skin just slips off. Like buttah.

And you've got some beets ready, you're practically halfway to enjoying this salad.


our oatmeal

We eat a fair amount of oatmeal around here. Not boring, plain oatmeal, but the kind with lots of our so-called 'buried treasure' in it. (The kid eats an entire bowl trying to get all the dried fruit and berries.)

We keep a large jar in the cupboard with the base mix, to which we add frozen berries (hence my freezing 40 pounds of blueberries this summer!) and water when we're half-awake. Trouble is, there's an extreme lack of precision when we mix up the base and make up the oatmeal and honestly, I've been sitting on these pictures for a couple of months already because I can't be bothered to measure all the stuff.

I'm hoping that if you're interested, you'll start experimenting with your own batch, using what you like from ours. An adventure in the kitchen!

To make the base, we fill up almost 1/2 the jar with the additions -- a couple of wooden spoons full of brown sugar, a couple pinches of salt, 2-3 handfuls of dried fruit (Raisins and dried cranberries almost always. Golden raisins, currents, or cherries sometimes), several spoonfuls of wheat bran, a few spoonfuls of flax seed or ground flax, and several shakes of the ground cinnamon.

Then we fill the jar up with quick rolled oats, shake it and roll it around until it's all mixed together, and put away in the airtight jar until needed.

In the morning, we put 1/2 cup per big person, 1/4 cup per little person into a frying pan (as opposed to a saucepan -- more surface area works better, I find), add a couple handfuls of frozen berries, and add water from the tap.

How much water you ask? "More water than last time, but less than that time that it was too watery." That's about how it goes -- I kind of shake the pan as I'm adding the water and I only add the water until everything is nicely covered. If there's too much, the oatmeal gets gooey and bland, if not enough, it's kind of gluey and thick. What's the difference between gooey and gluey, you ask? Try it and you'll see!

What a lot of words and explanation for a little pan of oatmeal, eh?! But wait, there's more! I have to tell you what happens next.

Bring it up to a simmer and let it bubble for a few (maybe five?) minutes, until it's the consistency you want and the berries have had a chance to stew and bubble their juices into the pan. To serve, we mix in a couple big spoonfuls of flavoured yogurt and voila -- a delicious, quick and warm breakfast.

And since oatmeal does not 'stick to my ribs' as it's apparently supposed to, I recommend eating it with a piece of toast n' jam or a hard-boiled egg.


ribbit ribbit & whatever turtles say

More knitting! With football season finally here -- with its long games of prime knitting time -- I'm afraid I have no reason to stop.

But I might take a break from toys to make a few practical items. It seems that our summer, lame as it was, has ended, and we'll need to warm some ears and toes around here soon.

This little frog/turtle has been sent to its new home with a very new little boy in Seattle.

The pattern is just as easy as the other reversibles in Susan Anderson's collection, but it's not quite as cute as that elephant/lion I think.


this little piggy

Introducing our new bouncing pigs!

Squeals of delight (sorry, puns can't be helped) confirm that these are good for Daddy-O's Juggling Act.


italian fries

Well summer finally arrived to the west coast and we're enjoying every minute of it -- beach picnics, a little road trip, frozen yogurt star pops (three cheers for my new star pops!), a ton of fresh fruit... the usual summer drill.

There's been some knitting (more on that soon), but no sewing, because my machine rolled over and died. I'll get around to having it fixed/buying a new one one of these days. But first, there's canning to do, and sand to play in... and I must convince you to make these fries.

I don't think it will take much convincing because these fries are like nachos -- cheesy, herby, crispy carbs -- but with potatoes. 'Nuff said.

You'll find them in LSQ's Mad Hungry cookbook, or on the MSL website.


lemon wine mousse with raspberries

Sweetly tart is a tasty contradiction.

lemon wine mousse with raspberries
Gourmet Magazine

2 eggs
1/2 C sugar
1/2 C dry white wine
3 Tbs fresh lemon juice
2 teas fresh lemon zest, finely grated
1/2 C heavy whipping cream, chilled
1 1/2 C fresh raspberries

To make the custard, beat eggs in a bowl with an electric mixer at high speed to blend. Slowly add sugar, beating at moderately high speed, then beat for a few more minutes. Add wine and lemon juice and beat until just combined.

Transfer mixture to a heavy saucepan and cook over low-medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the custard is thick enough to coat back of spoon (about 5 minutes -- do not let boil.) Stir in zest and transfer to a bowl. Cover and chill until cold, about 30 minutes. (The surface can be covered with wax paper and the custard chilled for up to one day.)

Beat cream in chilled bowl until stiff peaks form. Fold whipped cream into lemony mixture. Layer mousse and berries into 4 serving glasses and chill until cold, about 1 hour.


pretending it's summer

I've heard tell of heat waves, but we on the west coast are having a non-summer. Rain, gray, cold rain, and more 'isolated showers'.

I've been coping with iced rooibos tea. Earthy and herbal rooibos, brewed up with a tablespoon or two of honey, chilled in the fridge.

A stack of library books is fun and all, but I'd much rather enjoy my sweet rooibos tea outside at the park. Under the sun, even. Is that too much to ask? After all, this is July.


animal print

There are four frames in the kid's room that I had every intention of switching up often. That was my plan prior to the her arrival, anyway.

First, the frames held pages from a picture book. And then they sat for a year and a half before I got around to changing them up with these animal silhouettes.

I started with a kind of A is for Antelope, B is for Bird theme, but then I liked the idea of a kangaroo too much to continue with that plan. I only wished I had one more piece of bright, some-what matching paper lying around, because my little fish are a hard to see -- especially against a similar pale green wall.

I can't decide which is my favourite. Today, I think it's the antelope.


breakfast sausage patties

I mentioned these breakfast sausages once before, around the time I made a batch and froze them. The fennel, sage and thyme makes these so tasty, it's already time to make another batch. I can attest that they're excellent with a side of eggs, with potatoes, or like so, in a breakfast sandwich.

breakfast sausage patties

from Mad Hungry
makes 8-12

1 lb ground pork
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Tbs dried sage, crumbled
3/4 teas dried thyme
1/2 teas dried fennel, crushed
pinch of ground nutmeg
1 1/2 teas salt
1/2 teas freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg white
2 teas vegetable oil

Mix together the pork, garlic, sage, thyme, fennel, nutmeg, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Add egg white and combine thoroughly. Cover and chill for at least 15 minutes.

To easily form sausage patties, rinse your hands in cold water. Shape mixture into 2" patties (original recipe says you'll get 8, but I got 12 out of a batch).

*If freezing for later, freeze individually on parchment-lined baking sheet, and then wrap each in a little of the parchment before putting into ziplock bag.

Heat oil in skillet over high heat. Fry sausages on both sides until completely cooked and golden brown. Drain and serve immediately. Apparently cooked patties can be fully cooled, wrapped, and frozen for microwave reheating, but I haven't tried it.


fat mama robin

Why is it that female birds are dull and brown while male birds get to dress up in spectacular feathers?

I know, attracting a mate, yada yada yada. But it would make toy birdies so much cuter if beautiful, colourful birds laid the eggs.

Until the animal kingdom changes its ways, I guess I'll have to pretend.

Let me introduce you to the latest installment in my Susan B. Anderson knitted toy extravaganza knitting fest obsession, Fat Mama Robin.



This project started with a bit of hubris, an 'I could make that!" declaration in a store. The store-bought play kit had a fold-up barn made out of cloth and a cute collection of felt animals.

I quickly decided my barn would be a much simpler drawstring bag, but I didn't really intend for my animals to be quite as, ahem, rudimentary as they turned out. I think it goes without saying that I didn't use a pattern, but just whipped out these critters with little regard for the details. I like the horse, but all of my animals kind of remind me of what you'd get during craft time in kindergarden. But whatever. They looked enough like animals for my kid say, 'oh, this must be a cow!' or in her words, 'mooo.'

And then I saw these felt animals at Ikea -- too cute! I had to buy them. I planned to just toss my animals and let these new ones live in the barn, but now I can't bring myself to throw mine away. I've grown attached! And I'm kind of touched that my kid doesn't seem to have a preference for the professional-grade barn animals.

So I think we'll keep all of them for a little while longer. Mine will fall apart soon anyway.


in season

Strawberry rhubarb crisp :: and there are two more in the freezer for those sad, dull days when these two lovebirds are not in season together.


spaghetti and swiss chard

Looking for what to do with swiss chard? We're kind of stuck in a rut with the leafy green, though it is a lovely, tasty little rut.

We either saute it up a la Simply Recipes or make this spaghetti and swiss chard with garlic chips from Gourmet. The flavour combo of salty feta, sweet currants, bitter chard, and toasted garlic is unique and oh-so delicious. It's a fabulous way to enjoy our farmer's market chard.

Head over to Gourmet for the recipe. (sigh, I miss Gourmet magazine.)


his and hers

DIY deodorant update: I am in love with my all natural lavender deodorant! I made a sage-scented batch for Jeff. Very studly. We smell great.


lentil soup

I recently checked out Mad Hungry from the library. Man, it's a good cookbook! So far, I've made the blueberry muffins, breakfast sausage, and this lentil soup -- and I've copied several more recipes down for later. It's not the most beautiful cookbook around (I prefer more pictures) but the recipes have been winners so far and I like Lucinda Scala Quinn's style of writing and cooking.

This soup is delicious and hearty. I forget how rich and meaty lentils are -- and how cheap!

lentil soup
adapted from Mad Hungry
serves 6-8

3 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, copped
3 garlic gloves, finely chopped
1/2 Tbs sea salt
1 small tomato, chopped
1 Tbs tomato paste
2 C green (or brown) lentils
1/2 teas dried thyme
1 small bay leaf
6 C beef broth (LSQ calls for chicken or veggie broth but I really liked the deep dark flavour of beef)
4 C water, plus more if needed
2 teas red wine vinegar

Heat large soup pot over medium-high heat and swirl in olive oil. Add the onion and saute until starting to soften. Add the carrots, celery, garlic and salt. Reduce heat to medium-low and saute until the vegetables are lightly caramelized (5-8 mins). Add tomato and cook for 2 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook for another 2 minutes.

Add lentils, spices, broth, and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until lentils are tender (about 20 mins). Stir in vinegar, thin the soup with more water if needed for desired consistency, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve in a bowl topped with fresh croutons if you'd like. (Check out this post if you're interested in making croutons.)


lion and elephant

I know lions don't usually hibernate, but this one sure did. Deep in his den at the bottom of my WIP box. But he's done now! Yep, Hank the Lion is forever joined with his jungle buddy, Lola the Elephant.

Pattern from Susan B. Anderson's Itty-Bitty Toys