Thursday, November 29, 2012



I've finally had success with the Swiss Meringue Butter cream, I think... last time I thought it was great- but then I tried some after it had sat in the fridge and it was curdled, and it would not come back together. This time I ate two cupcakes before I refrigerated them, just to make sure I had my fill in case it goes wrong, but so far so good. I used this recipe- (which was much simpler, and smaller, than the first one I used)  the only difference being that I heated my egg whites to 160- for some added peace of mind. I usually don't worry about raw eggs, but I figured the few extra minutes of whisking and heating were worth it. Oh and I also accidentally melted my entire pound of butter- then had to harden it in the freezer and whip it back together again, no harm done though.

This is the best icing ever, seriously, I love that it has more egg white and butter than sugar- which makes it seem like a health food when you compare it to regular icing, which is basically just icing sugar. It tastes like sweet buttery air. Apparently it freezes well too- so I stashed the majority of the cupcakes in the freezer.

I've also been making headway on the sewing projects, very furtively answering the question, "what are you sewing mama?" so I don't ruin any Christmas surprises. I'm also toying with the idea of taking the credit for stockings so that I can put handmade gifts in there. We've been pretty discreet about Santa so far- and I think we could just turn him into some guy who represents the "spirit of giving", that you send letters to, and leave cookies out for? hm... maybe not- but maybe the idea of Christmas being a joint effort between Santa and mom and dad is not so out there, any ideas?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Monday Inspiration: Diego Velazquez

Diego Velasquez, Venus and her Mirror (The Rokeby Venus), 1650 (source)
Diego Velasquez, Vieja Friendo Heuvos (old lady frying eggs), 1618. (source)
Velasquez is mostly known for his portraits of the Spanish royal family, but the thing that I love most is the way that he treats his backgrounds, the scenes are full of objects, and fabrics that are painted with just as much care as his figures. The brushstrokes are painterly and lush, but the whole image feels very real, and every brushstroke counts. I love the shadow of the knife laying across the bowl, and the gauzy texture of the headscarf.

For some reason, Venus as a painting subject matter really fascinates me, in school I did a study of the rokeby Venus, and then went on to write papers about Giorgione, Titian and Manet's versions of Venus. Velasquez' Venus is sumptuous, and lovely, and trying replicate the subtle textures of the fabrics was a really great exercise. You get a feeling of what each fabric is- heavy velvet curtains, blue silk taffeta, and fine white bed linens, just through the way the light reflects on them, which is a pretty remarkable thing to translate into paint.  

Friday, November 23, 2012

this moment

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember-
Amanda Blake Soule

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Mending Jeans

One super thrifty thing that we do, which I know some people think is a bit excessive is that I patch K's jeans for work. He's pretty hard on pants, and I suppose he could wear coveralls to protect his pants, but then I'd have to patch his coveralls wouldn't I? As an aside, I feel this way about bibs too, unless it's a special outfit, I don't really see the difference in between having to wash a bib and having to wash a shirt- it's all laundry right? except sometimes with a bib- the spill soaks through to the shirt and then you have two things to wash. I know this drives my mother and mother-in-law a little crazy, I've witnessed both of those ladies putting bibs on N even when she has no shirt on! (some things are just safer eaten while nude, Popsicles are the #1 thing to eat with no shirt on...when you're a kid that is). I'm always being given gifts of bibs, it hasn't really changed my mind though, I think it may be a generational thing.

Anyways.... Jeans only last around three months for him, so it actually does add up to pretty big savings for us, and also has the added benefit of K not having to shop for pants as often, which I think he enjoys.  I try to make a rule of only two patch sessions per pair of pants, otherwise it's a bit ridiculous, but I always keep the jeans to make other patches.  The ones in the photo are mostly patches through the crotch, and thigh area, but they're still keeping on. I think mending clothes is a lost art. I suppose things are pretty cheap nowadays, but it still seems like a huge waste of money to buy a new replica of something that is basically okay... or maybe I'm just super cheap, at any rate here are some tips for mending clothes:

Some areas are not worth mending- if the fabric is disintegrating along the crotch seam, or at the waist band, or in some other fitted area, it's pretty difficult to fix. I don't want to spend a whole day fixing one hole.

I always use the least contrasting material I can find to patch holes that are in the crotch or butt area. I also always try to mend those places with a patch on the inside, using a piece of fabric that will cover the whole weak area, attached using a zig zag stitch, all over the spot. I don't want to fix only the place where the hole is if the fabric around the hole is weak too- you'll just end up putting more patches down later.

Use a weight of fabric that is similar to your pants for your patches, I like to use some thing similar as well as some contrast -to make it interesting. I also don't want to hide the patches, and K isn't embarrassed by them, so I don't shy away from a nice manly floral pattern either. But only on the leg area, and I usually limit it to one contrasting colour or pattern.

I also avoid using fabric that frays easily. Without getting into too much about weaves- jeans are a twill weave, which makes then fray a little differently than a plain weave (which looks like a basket weave pattern). You want to avoid a plain weave because it will fray in big strings that will be messy if you don't turn under the edges of the patch. So most quilting cotton is a no no, ( to test it- cut a tiny bit of the edge- then rip the two edges apart- if you can rip the fabric in a straight line easily, it's not good patching material) you can still use it- but you have to press the edges of the patch under, before you sew it on.

Use a zig zag stitch to attach the patches, because it's a bit wider and will grab more good fabric. Fabric deteriorates around a hole- so if you stitch too closely to the edges of them, it will just pull away with wear. You want your patch to be at least a quarter inch larger than your hole, to give you enough room to sew it on. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Winter Light

I love the way that the light changes in winter. It's a subtle shift- and I think it's due to the snow, it acts as a big light diffuser, spreading and brightening the suns rays. One of the things that I love about living in Manitoba is that the seasons are very distinct, some would say harsh, even. A dream of ours is to live in Hawaii for a few years at some point of our lives- we love the atmosphere, and culture, and find the agriculture fascinating, the only thing we don't love- and what stops us from planning the move right now (besides public school and health care) is the lack of seasons.
I look forward to the shift our life takes in each season, and I'm learning that one of the keys to enjoying a harsh winter is to notice and appreciate the ways that it is unique. The light changes, the hours shorten, the way that sound is carried changes as the snow provides an acoustical blanket. The way that in summer we are outside for most of the day, and in winter we are inside.
But I always look forward to the clear light that the snow brings in winter. When I first came back here after spending my adolescence in British Columbia, I told people that I could handle -40, as long as the sun is shining, In B.C. it might be warm, but man that gloomy rainy weather all winter and fall will get you down. I love the sunny days here- even though it may be too cold to enjoy them for long.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Real Snow


We've had the first real dump of snow for the year, and it was a big one, enough to stop us from doing anything outside except blow snow, and make snow angels. It also feels darn cold outside, even though it's not really, it's only -7 or something and I'm already freezing, and that has me wondering how I'm going to survive the rest of winter, when it gets below -25. We went out briefly anyways, and took a few photos, and then I was so struck by the light at the door so I took a few photos of N, with the camera lens fogging up. I love the effect it makes, I just wanted to capture that moment of cold pink cheeks and sweaty toque head, so sweet.
She's also been wearing her fleecy jammies for a bit longer each day- this day she even wore them under her snowsuit outside, things get pretty relaxed around here in the winter. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

clearing out

One of the many paradoxes of  caring for small children as an artist is that while I'm caring for them I have lots of time to think up new projects or ponder solutions to artistic problems, but very little actual time to carry these thoughts out. I'm not sure how this works, or how to describe the time vacuum of small children, the closest I've come so far is that it feels like I'm busy being interrupted, mostly. It's like they have this orbit that pulls you in and before you know it every thing you do is put off by something else, or your mind is absolutely free to explore but your hands are totally occupied.

Anyhow- I've been feeling like in order to get anything done in, I need to focus on one extra activity only, and I've chosen clay, so I'm putting away the sewing for now. Of course as soon as I've decided this I also thought up about fifty projects I'd like to make ( Christmas presents for the girls, because it's that time of year again) and came across a ton of mending and altering to do.  I also thought that it might be a great time to update my studio- take out the carpet, and rip down the wallpaper and paint and build better storage. So it'll probably be spring before I actually get the studio into shape so I can work on clay, but that's my lot in life right now.

I've been chipping off the small projects that I have piled up too- I finally got these frames up on N's room, and finished the floor pillow I made for her last year for Christmas (she'd been using it but without the button in the centre the stuffing shifted everywhere).  I'm really happy with how the frames look on the wall, and happy to have the blue bird that was my Grandma's up in a safe place.

The tutorial for the floor pillow is this one- it was a heck of a lot of sewing but totally worth it in the end.

Monday, November 5, 2012


The snow has come. And probably will melt away- but for a couple of days snow angels have ruled the yard. The tractors got snowed on- then plugged in and hastily stowed away for the winter. It seems that we are behind on our fall chores, and in this way I see how important my hands are to the running of this place. It doesn't always seem that I do too much outside of the house- but when I'm completely absorbed with the small one, it sort of falls apart, K has to make suppers, do laundry, entertain the big girl, and it's simply too much to do that plus everything outside too.
I honestly didn't see this coming when I planned the big garden, when I dragged out the flower pots and the toys, and the outdoor furniture in  the spring, I didn't factor in how much time the baby would consume. It was silly- but part of me will be happy when it just snows for good- and the things left undone outside (planting garlic, tilling, transplanting, leaf picking up, outdoor furnishings packed away) will just have to stay undone till spring.  I'm actually looking forward to snow this year, to the quiet winter time.

Friday, November 2, 2012

This Moment

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.
-Amanda Blake Soule

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Happy Halloween!

The bee (on her blooming bath- which doesn't really fit in my sink as an actual bath-
but really works well as a mat for her to lie on- especially when she's dressed as a bee)

The spooky witch turning her sister into a bee 

N wanted to be lots of things this Halloween - and so I held off making any costume until the last minute when she clearly decided to be a witch (a spooky one). So the 30th found me searching for some appropriate fabric, and making a fleece lined cloak and black dress (with the dress being an altered maternity shirt- and the black fleece transformed from an old cardigan of mine. The great sparkly moon and cloud fabric was a hand-me-down fabric from a project my sister started). I always think I should get rid of my fabric- or at least cull the hoard, but then I remember all the last minute projects I complete with fabric I was on the verge of giving away.