Saturday, April 30, 2011

Best Friends

These two are the best of friends- exploring together- hugging, scrapping occaisonaly. N has even started trying very hard to pronounce 'Kitty' properly. It makes me think that this little cat might need a proper name- one that is a bit more solid sounding than 'kitty', more permanent less like what you'd call a stray cat. I was kind of thinking that Prudence would be a good name for her though it might have to be a name that starts with K so as not to confuse poor N- Katerina, Kabira, Katy, Kasey, Callie- I don't know.

I'm a big fan of formal human names for cats- the other two are Nelson and Ferdinand, and our other outside cat is Fats- which is inaccurate now that he's ouside and a healthy weight- but we keep it because it sounds tough- and suits him somehow.

This Kitten is tiny- she's not technically a kitten anymore actually- but she's kept her minute size, and it makes her an ideal pet for the babe as she's the one cat that N can actually lift. We weren't sure if we were going to keep her when we took her in last summer but it seems like she's sticking around- so what do you think we should name this little lady?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter Dress

I realised a couple of days before easter that N didn't really have any dresses that would be appropriate for easter- and I have been trying to use up some fabric latley, so I thought I would whip up a little dress for her. It turned out very sweet- though I think she'll grow out of it right away, I just love the mixture of patterns and the colour combo the pink print has some chartruse flowers in it and the green ribbon really picks it out. The black and white pinstripe fabric was left over from a shirt of mine that needed to be shortened, which worked great because it was already hemmed- and there was just enough to make this tiny bodice- yay for recycling fabric!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Spring Coat & Hat

N recieved this hat and coat as Easter gifts, she loves them so much the first thing she wanted this morning was the hat on- I have to say I'm pretty fond of them myself- I wish I had a raincoat and hat like that!!

Monday Inspiration: Gustav Stickley

Gustave Stickley, Interior of a Craftsman Home. (source)

Gustave Stickley's log home at Craftsman Farms in Parsipanny- (source)

Interior of a modern home- Crab tree Farms- based on Stickley's design plans (source)

I love the Arts and Crafts movement- I love the idea of having a home that is filled with warmth and useful items, that even the small items have a place and a reason and it all adds to the overall design. The photo source sites have tons of info on him if you're interested, and it's a nice place to dream on an Easter Monday. I think maybe a pilgrimage to his log home in Parsipanny will make it on to my dream vacation wish list.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

this year and last

Above : last year on April 19th- yes, APRIL!!!!!

Below: This year on April 19th and 20th.

Sometimes I think that we Manitobans just like to complain about the weather- winter is too cold or or too late or too early, we have too much snow or too little snow, whatever the weather does it seems like the wrong thing. But this year- I think we have reason to complain, I wasn't sure of this until I looked at photos from last year on April 19 (one of my first blog posts), and there is the babe- hat off- short sleeves- sitting on the grass. Talk about unpredictable weather.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

the best lemon squares

I've been longing for some yellow lately- maybe it's the snow that will. not. stop. falling, I don't know but I'm desperate for spring- and that desperation is coming out in a desire to make something yellow- something like a banner or a quilt or a dress that is gloriously sun coloured. As my studio is currently the site of the great the un-junking of the veranda- I settled for these lemon squares- from Martha Stewart. They're perfect as far as lemon squares go- slightly gooey and sweet- but tart enough to pucker your mouth just a little bit, and the almonds really add something to the flavour.

I usually don't love Martha's recipes- they're beautifully photographed, and all that- and the magazines do inspire me to try to make it- but usually the steps are so spelled out it can seem daunting; instead of making a complex thing seem simple- I find that her directions often make a simple thing seem overly complex. But this recipe is not like that- it's simple- and I did it with N, and we had a blast- I let her crumble in the butter with her hands and help pat the crumbs in to baking dish- it's a perfect not fussy baking with kids recipe, and it's fast too.

Elke Wood's Lemon Squares

from Martha Stewart Living, April 2003

Makes 1 dozen three-inch squares

This recipe is from an aunt of Heidi Johannsen, senior associate food editor at Martha Stewart Living.

1 ¾ cups sifted all-purpose flour

1/3 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus more for baking dish

1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

1/3 cup almonds, toasted and chopped

2 cups granulated sugar

4 large eggs, beaten

½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

½ teaspoon baking powder

1 - Preheat oven to 350. Into a medium bowl, sift together 1 ½ cups flour, the confectioners’ sugar, and the salt. Cut in the butter, 1 teaspoon zest, and almonds until mixture just clings together.

2 - Press mixture into a lightly buttered 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Bake until just firm and lightly golden, about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly before filling.

3 - In a large nonreactive bowl, stir together the granulated sugar, eggs, lemon juice, baking powder, and remaining ¼ cup flour and tablespoon zest until combined. Pour into prepared crust.

4 - Bake until filling is set and lightly browned, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Cut into squares.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

40 bags in 40 days

Well - 10 bags this week! yes we finally started tackling the veranda- it's a scary spot- but we managed to pick out a few things we don't need- we also found a few gems- some crafting stuff- thread, some maracas and possibly best of all- a skeleton back scratcher. those last two were favorites of N's- but then again- she was also rescuing a giant advertisement with some kid on it from the garbage repeatedly- so one man's trash and all that.

The room is still far from complete though and the 10 boxes only bring my total up to 32- I don't think I'll have a hard time finding 8 more boxes of stuff in the next few days. I'll extend my forty days a bit maybe- give myself until Easter Sunday- if that's okay.

All in all though this exercise has been great- the disaster areas I went through and cleaned up are for the most part still clean!! which is amazing- also amazing is the amount of stuff I don't miss at all- what was I doing with that stuff?? storing it mostly I guess- I need to figure out how to make myself believe that my house is not a storage unit- it's a place to live- a place that doesn't need a lot of stuff to fill it because that stuff just gets in the way of life, and I want my house to facilitate my life, not hamper it.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Monday Inspiration: Helen Frankenthaler

Helen Frankenthaler, Nature Abhors a Vacuum, 1973, acrylic on canvas. (source)

Helen Frankenthaler, Sesame, 1970. (source)

Helen Frankenthaler, Robinson's Wrap, 1974. Acrylic on Canvas, 70 x 94 inches. (source)

Frankenthaler was born in the 1920's, and made work among the abstract expressionists of New York. Those guys were guys- they were the ones who made painting masculine (think of guys crushing beer cans while explaining how the colour red is the most difficult to paint because it's the most difficult for our eyes to see, it actually is the most difficult to see- because it reflects the least amount of light- but I digress...). Amid these- jocks of painting- this one woman stood out- making works of art that were just as- if not more so - full of daring, and abstraction. They're called colour field paintings.

A quick art history lesson here- The importance of the American abstract expressionist movement is mostly historical- in that as far the history of art is concerned up until that point art was largely representational- it was meant to be an image of something recognizable- or a design meant for decoration. It was not art that celebrated the medium, maybe the best way to describe this is that if you used paint to make an image, it wasn't ever about the paint itself, the way that paint acts- the texture of the paint itself, the mark made by the brushes were all secondary or even meant to be hidden- a bad painting had visible brushstrokes.

These guys changed that- there's a lot of political implications to all this too -abstract expressionism- and Pollock as it's media sweetheart were championed as a symbol of American freedom of expression when contrasted to the soviet union (hello cold war). So no matter what you think of this work- it is important work-even if it's not your thing- for anyone though who loves the way that paint works- for those who revel in the medium of paint- these paintings are glorious.

Frankenthaler is a bit of a personal hero not only because her paintings show a depth and sensitivity to her medium that astounds me, but also because she must have been a tough chick to put up with that art scene- and I admire that. Her paintings are bold and strong without being masculine or harsh, they're painterly without brushstrokes- they're complex and simple. They're so true- which is perhaps an odd thing to say about an abstract image- but what I mean is that speak directly and eloquently to my soul.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Signs of Spring

Even with the snow lingering the buds are coming out, it's a welcome sight in this neck of the woods. As is the sight of my darling daughter's face as she splashes in puddles- so happy to be out running around, making sure she gets into the deepest part of the puddles in the lane, thoroughly enjoying the way that the yard is opening up and the birds are singing.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Signs of Spring

Jumping in puddles has taken over our outside time, the yard is expanding from under the snow and the layers we wear are becoming less cumbersome. Spring is coming, I can feel it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

40 bags in 40 weeks- week 6

Alright- I have to admit my slackness this week - one bag- one measly bag- so thay brings me up to 22?. This week will be a flurry though- the lingering sore throat and general busyness has been taking priority around here.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Homemade Mozza

So I've finally done it- made the foray into home cheese making, I've long been lurking over at Fias co. Farms home dairy page, and in the last two weeks I've made three batches of mozzarella. The first one had a really smooth texture- almost like cream cheese, it was also a little salty for us. The last two batches have had only a half teaspoon of salt and that makes it more to our liking, but I've kneaded it too much and so it ends up a little more like tofu in texture than fresh mozza, but still it's darn tasty- and so delicious on pizza, so so delicious. This pizza was last night's dinner- just sauce and procuitto and mozza and parmesan, and little globs of garden basil chopped up and stored in olive oil, which by the way is an excellent storage technique, just make sure it stays covered with oil in the fridge and it will be like it was the day you picked it.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Signs of Spring

I spotted the first robin today! One of the first and most special signs of spring amidst a sea of snow.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A day at the fair

Last week the grandparents and I took N to see the animals at Brandon's Royal Winter fair. She took a little while to warm up to the idea that you can pet them- I suppose when you're that small they must look fairly overwhelming. She eventually did pet a few animals, and then warmed up fully to a giant Percheron horse, to the point of running back to him when I set her down- right towards his giant grain shovel sized hoofs! After that she was okay with all the animals.

It only served to whet my appetite for farm animals - the baby lambs were so cute- the goats so tiny, the chicks so soft, but the thing that really got me were the jersey and brown Swiss milk cows, they are the most beautiful animals, so gentle looking and massive, and docile looking. But I was a bit taken aback at the amount of milk they produce -20...litres...daily... that's a lot of milk, too much for me and my little family, no matter how much we love homemade mozza!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

40 bags in 40 days- week 5

I've fallen behind a bit this week- no bags done- but a bit of a start on the upstairs veranda, the issues is that the boxes are filled with stuff that is very personal- letters and cards that belonged to K's Grandma, trim that she had crocheted, these lovely beaded pillow fronts that she made- and never got a chance to sew up into pillows. It's heart rending stuff, and it takes time to go through, and it's all full of things that you really don't want to give away - but also don't really have room to store indefinitely.

It makes me think of all of my projects, and what will become of them- the life of a crafter is so full of potential items, useful things that are carefully saved and stored because they might come in handy. The thing that gets me about all this stuff is that it's so personal, I really believe that the things that you save- the fabric you stockpile- the yarn you can't get rid of- say so much about you as a person. I never got a chance to meet K's grandma, and now here I am going through her stuff- looking over the piles of Crochet patterns and acrylic baby blue and pink yarn, and I don't know what she would think of all that.

I do know that it's all stuff that would have been used at some point, in a way these tubs in my veranda are similar to a sketch book of possible projects, they were things that moved her, things that made her dream of possibilities, and that's powerful.

I will get on with it though, I swear, the areas that I have cleared out are like a balm, I feel so relaxed when I open the bathroom cupboard and I know that it's neat, it's taken away a stress I wasn't even aware of holding onto, so yes more bags this week I promise- Easter is creeping up on me!