Monday, December 28, 2009

Happiness is...

...finding an umbrella swift and a ball winder under the tree on Christmas morning!

oh, I'm a lucky lucky gal (and a truly spoiled one at that!)...
Also in my stocking: tickets to It's A Wonderful Life, which J and I are going to see tonight. A Holiday Date on Granville Island!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Day 24 of Advent: Let the Merry-Making Begin!

We are in a constant flurry of activity around here, but it feels like nice "work" so it hasn't been stresssful. Holiday music, wine, tea, and treats help. Also kitchen helpers.

Shea helped me make our favourite ginger cookies for Santa this afternoon. Other kitchen wizardry today included:
Almond "roca"
vanilla marshmallows
strawberry marshmallows
toasted coconut marshmallows
two pumpkin-kuri squash pies

I think I'm forgetting something but I'm too tired to think too much about it. It is getting close to midnight, and the stockings are hung, cookies and milk set out, and kiddies asleep. J and I are tagging and stuffing up a storm.

We spent the evening in Maple Ridge with some family (oh, the drive to and from Maple Ridge is painfully long to us!) and the kids came home overly tired. We set out Santa's treats and read a couple of our favourite stories (Faire and I each read one story).
Shea set out the Lego he received tonight on the kitchen table so we can admire it while eating raspberry-rhubarb pie for breakfast tomorrow.
Three generations working on the Star wars Lego.

I hope your holidays are full of merry-making and holly jollies!

Merry Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Day 23 of Advent: Wrapping It Up

Ahh, the final preparations for the Big Day(s)...

J and I had a small list of errands we hoped to accomplish today and Graham and Kyla graciously took our kids off our hands so we could do so.

Not wanting , or really needing, to do the "mall" thing, we hit South Granville Street. We knocked off our to-do list quickly, strolling hand in hand, and breathing crisp winter air, and even had a late brunch at cafe Barney before picking up the kiddos. Oh, that is surely the way to shop!
I noticed all my family wearing hats today handknit by me, so I had to get photos.

Kim's Hats, from Last-Minute Knitted Gifts. Love this pattern. I have knit so many now I can do it in my sleep (hmmm, much like the Toasties!) Nearly every one of my family members has one now. They keep requesting, and I can't say no!

Sweet Baby Cap for Isla, and Side Slip Cloche for moi.
If nothing else this winter, our heads are warm!
Advent Activity of the day: Faire went to work on our old holidays cards, cutting them up and making tags for our gifts. And Sarah's boys, Kai and River, have joined us for a sleepover. We loaded up the van and tried to take them all to the Festival of Lights at VanDusen, but when we arrived at 8pm, the line up was 45 minutes long. Ummm, no. Hot chocolate, popcorn, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas (cartoon version) was decided by the five (five!) of them.
Now they are tucked into bed, and have fallen almost instantly, amazingly, to sleep (told you they got the crazies out at your house two nights ago Sarah! haha!) I am knitting the last few inches of my last Toasty and then I am DONE. Knitting accomplished, which I am ever so proud of, especially with lots of holiday merry-making taking away from knitting time, and a funeral in there to boot. Knowing me, I'll pick up needles tomorrow and "just whip up another gift since I have an extra day"... J will confiscate my knitting basket if I do that, I think.
Two more sleeps!!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Day 22 of Advent: Happy Birthday PopPop!

Party preparations abound around here. Today is PopPop's birthday (Faire began calling her paternal grandfather "PopPop" out of the blue, of her own accord, around her first birthday!)
Every year we celebrate the day with some family and friends we love. A few years ago, I started the Soup Night tradition. It is so much easier to have a couple of pots of soup on the stove for dinner, and if there are leftovers, well, a bowl of soup comes in soooo handy during thses busy days!

On another note, cranberry sauce has been made. I'm so glad I bought the local cranberries back in October at the Farmer's Market and threw them in the frezer. And I'm also glad that canning is second-nature to me because I can go from this:

To this, in less than an hour. I make "plain" cranberry because because J complains about "additions". I figure I can add to each jar if I want to fancy it up.

Hmmm, do you think this (plus two other jars) is enough cranberry sauce for 20 people???
I predict much cranberry sauce in my future...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Day 21 of Advent: The Solstice!

We were all busy busy busy around here today. Lots of secret present-making, present-wrapping, and, of course, baking to be done!

This evening, to celebrate the longest night of the year, we walked along Trinity Street, where nearly all the houses along 5 or 6 blocks decorate for the season with lights aplenty. J always likes this one best (blurry photo, sorry!):

I think this one is awesome.

When I went to my favourite BC Wine shop today to stock up for the holidays, my trusted wine advisor was telling me about a great Gewurztraminer he thought I'd love. When I saw what it was called, I knew I had to have it for this evening:

Kids are in bed, wine is poured, knitting and baking await me (in a good way) and then some time by a fire with my man...

Happy Solstice indeed!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Day 20 of Advent: Done!

At one am this morning, after a couple of glasses of wine at a party and a big mug of tea at home...

The socks are done! I tried them on to take the photo, and oh my, are they ever comfortable!!
I may just go back on my "I'll never knit socks again" stance...
The older kids' Advent activity today is a sleepover at my dear friend Sarah's house. They are super-excited: Shea, to play Lego with Kai; and Faire, to help Sarah with baby Juma. They're going to a Solstice light show in Dundarave. Lucky kids, crazy Sarah (there will be five kids to watch!)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Day 19 of Advent: Holiday Pancakes

Because I needed an activity for Advent, and the kids wanted pancakes for breakfast, and because doesn't everyone have a set of holiday-shaped pancake molds hanging around their house??

These ones worked quite well, actually, except that I didn't have the patience for more than two batches. J and I had regular ol' circles! Another simple thing (well, simple if you happen to have holiday molds collecting dust - I mean, waiting for the right moment to be used) that thrilled the kids. Love those.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Day 18 of Advent: Saying Good-bye

Grandma's funeral was today, which was much harder than I expected. It was a lovely service, though, and she would have enjoyed it. And everyone enjoyed the fudge ;)

I am feeling completely exhausted, and all I want right now is tea and knitting beside the tree, followed by a long winter's sleep.

I am so thankful that school let out today. Two weeks of long, leisurely mornings. They're the best.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Day 17 of Advent: The Bake Sale

Last year, for the Bake Sale, I made gingerbread fairy wands. I baked gingerbread "sticks" and stars, then iced them together and decorated them. They sold fast, and were requested again this year. However, with the funeral tomorrow, and all the work in the kitchen that has come with that, I cheated a bit. I simply made a fancier star shape and stuck a lollipop stick in it before I baked them. They're not as good as last year's, but oh well. They will still be well-received, I'm sure.
Just ignore the dusty chandellier, okay?

Hard at work.

My sweet boy.

Isla wanted to help soooo badly! She decorated one, but started eating the second. We just let her eat the treats off it, and redecorate it over and over again to keep her happy and occupied. I'm sure you've guessed she loved that!

At the school Bake Sales, anything on a stick goes fast!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Day 16 of Advent: Success, In Pictures

The Recipe, written out by my Grandma Dixie.

Vintage Irish Coffee Glasses, a Christmas Tin, and an Assortment of Old Christmas Finger Puppets, to keep the wee one happy, and out from underfoot. Hey, whatever works!

Up to temperature, and the stirring has begun.

Once my arm is burning from all the stirring, into the buttered pan (my Grandma's, with all the scores along the bottom from years of fudge-cutting)

Scored, and setting up.

Sweet success! Crumbly when you bite in (oh, yes, I bit in!), but not gritty or overly sweet; just the taste of Christmases past.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Day 15 of Advent: Tower of Toasties

Christmas Gift Knitting Update:

Major progress. All it takes is a movie or two, really. I forced myself to take the "second sock" to the couch while we watched Julie and Julia and powered through the worst of it. The next time I force myself to knit it, I will finish! I am thinking I may not be a sock knitter after all...oh well. They will be well-loved by the recipient, I just know it.

I am finishing up my fifth Toasty. Love the pattern, but perhaps getting a tad bored of it at this point. I think I could knit it while sleeping now. However, through an unforseen series of events (which is really not very interesting) I now have a pair for myself! Yes, amidst all the gift knitting, I have a little something to keep! Bliss. Another pair is for my niece to match her hat, one each for the teachers, and one for...Vicki. Yes, you, Vicki. The ones with turquoise that you loved. Because I love you. And because your hands are cold, as you say. And especially because I want you to embroider something for me and the thought of embroidery makes my eyes roll back in my head.
After school, we ate a mini cupcake and had local, hot apple cider for a snack. It was so yummy, and felt so Christmassy. I am feeling like the next couple of days will be busy so hopefully I will remember to post! I'm trying for the whole 24 days of Advent, but we'll see. Tomorrow I am baking for the kids' school Bake Sale, the Out Of The Cold Project (the kids make gifts bags for less fortunate folks in the school community) and also for my Grandma's funeral. I am going to attempt that %$#&* fudge again, so tomorrow I may be too drunk to post. Just a warning.
Off to put my feet up and watch a holiday movie. But I'm not knitting that sock!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Day 14 of Advent: Autumn Rainbow Silk

Day 14...does this mean I only have 10 days to get my gifts made? (gulp)

I needed a break from knitting today (not a good thing on this deadline!) so I decided to dye an autumn rainbow on a long playsilk. I bought it at Maiwa, for local folks. I am giving it to Isla for Christmas with a set of wooden playclips from Natural Pod. It's one of those things I've long felt was a great, useful thing, but never bought. When I finally brought them home from the Waldorf Fair, my kids were hard at work making a fort, trying to keep the blankets from falling down on them, and Jason was impressed with the clips (although I wouldn't let him give them to the kids - they're for Christmas!) As usual, he rolls his eyes when I head out to the Craft Fairs this time of year but he always thinks I get the "best stuff". Maybe next year he'll skip the eye-rolling, but I doubt it.

Anyhooo...dying playsilks. Easy for the most part, but much harder when you're trying to do a rainbow of sorts. I hung it outside to dry for an hour and it froze. Not surprising. I hung it over the shower curtain rod next and used clothespins to weigh down the ends to straighten it a bit. I really like how the colours turned out. And I think Isla will love making little forts with it.

Another gift done!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Day 12 and 13 of Advent: Snow!

We've had a busy week and weekend. Thankfully, after this morning, I'm not teaching any more classes or workshops until the New Year. We had J's staff Christmas party last night at the Four Seasons (ooh lala) which was fun. Excellent food. The kids had a sleepover with their grandparents and decorated little gingerbread houses. They forgot to bring them home, though, so I have no photos!

The snow has started falling here in Vancouver. Faire is at a birthday party, but Shea is out there. I caught him hanging around this pile of yard "stuff". I can read his mind: "hmm, how can I climb in here and make this a fort?"

Isla is napping, the house is quiet, and I'm knitting (what a surprise!)

I think I'll put on some milk to heat for cocoa. I have a feeling he'll be in soon, and what's a snowy day if there's not hot cocoa when you come inside from the cold?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Day 11 of Advent: How to Get Your Child to Eat Avocado

More chocolatey goodness, as promised:
(the photos aren't working, so I'm giving up on them)
Vegan Chocolate Mousse
3 medjool dates
(soak in boiling water for 30 minutes, then peel and pit, reserving the soaking water)
1 tsp. vanilla
heaping 1/4 cup cocoa powder (apparently carob works too)
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 avocado
1/4 cup water (use soaking water)
In food processor, blend dates until smooth. Add vanilla, cocoa, and syrup. Blend again until smooth. Add avocado and water and go to town with the blending. Be patient. Even with a loooong blending time, I sometimes have tiny bits of "texture" in this, but it's still AWESOME! And this only serves two so I always double it. Actually, I usually triple or quadruple it, if I'm being honest. J is the only one around here who likes avocado, so this is how the rest of us eat it!
Chocolate mousse with no dairy, soy, or refined sugar! It's practically healthy!
Homespun Salon tonight. Can't wait to craft with my girls.
I'm working on a purple cowl for my teenaged cousin (as per her request), the second fingerless mitt for my niece (to match her requested green beret), and I'm trying to finish a doll I am making for Isla. Doll-making tries my patience like nothing else. One afternoon of it and I can certainly see the reason why Bamboletta dolls cost what they do! Worth every penny too! Alas, they do not make Princess Leia, which I am about to do, buns and all. Photos will come. I may take out a billboard when I finish this damn thing.
Oh, I guess I should work on that "second sock" too! Arg!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Day 10 of Advent: Trimming the Tree

Oh, my most favourite activity!

And this year, after we found our tree as a family, J and I got to decorate it alone after the kids were in bed. Practically a date, with wine and all! (although then I had to take his opinions into consideration...)When we were done, Faire got up and added one of her own. It's just so pretty in the living room when the tree is lit. I'm sad every year when it has to come down. And the old holiday vinyl on the record player just made it all perfect.

My sister and I spent the day together in the kitchen Not being Domestic Goddesses. Hell, we just just followed each screw-up with another. We were baking for our Grandma Dixie's funeral. She died on Sunday after a full and happy life. She was the original Domestic Goddess; knitting, baking, cooking, sewing, etc. Most of my skillzz have been passed down from her.

She loved cardinals. They were a part of her "decor". Last year, when I saw these, I thought of her. They made me smile when I put them on the tree tonight.

Love you, Grandma Dixie. Don't worry, Colleen and I will will figure out the fudge and pass the recipe on to the next generation.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Day 9 of Advent: Pomegranate Parfaits

We eat local fruits and veggies for the most part around here so the pomegranates waiting for them after school were quite the surprise and treat!

Simply pomegranate seeds over a little pile of whipped cream.

Shea said it looked "great, and it will look even better in my stomache!"
Post-Edit: Once his bowl was licked clean he said: "I wish I could have more of that. It was disgustingly awesome!"

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Day 8 of Advent: Chocolatey Goodness

Star-Shaped Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes

1/3 cup cocoa
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder

1 cup cold coffee
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup oil
2 tbsp vinegar

Mix dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately. Basically, let one child mix the wet and the other mix the dry. (Less arguing this way) Make sure they each get their own whisk. Very important.

Mix together and fill 12 cupcakes liners (star-shaped if you want to be super-cool, like us of course!)

Bake at 350-375F for 25-30 minutes. A toothpick will come out clean (you know the drill.)

This also makes a 9-inch square cake. Or I double the recipe for a 9 by 13 inch.

Stay tuned...more chocolatey goodness is in the works around here!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Day 7 of Advent: Hot Cocoa in the Tub

Shea's hands-down favourite Advent activity so far.

Sometimes (most of the time!) the simplest ideas are the sweetest.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Day 6 of Advent: The Parade

It was Parade Day today, and Vancouver lucks out with the weather most years. But, oh, it was freezing! We were bundled right up and still felt cold.

My favourite part of the parade, always. Must be the Scottish blood and the fact that I once played the pipes. I get choked up each and every time I hear them. However, we always sit in the same spot at the Parade, and they always break between songs at this spot! Next year, I will remember to sit further down the route so I can get the full effect of pipe band. I will.
Now that I have thawed I am having my first rum and eggnog of the season, listening to Bing Crosby (with Faire on back-up), and flipping through some holiday food magazines I got from the library. Life is very sweet indeed.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Day 5 of Advent: Home Alone (sorta)

I left this morning to head out to my Aunt's for our annual sausage roll-making extravaganza. Yum. Lean pork from local, free range pigs as opposed to those frozen thingys in the stores? No contest. We take it very seriously, although we never remember each year how exactly we "assembly line" ourselves, so the first few attempts are usually comical. We eat enough to put ourselves off sausage rolls for the next while and freeze them to use over the holidays. Oh, sausage rolls. Old school, yes?
I tried to take a photo for the blog while I was there, but the ridiculousness of photographing a sausage roll made it impossible. My uncle was trying to be a food stylist with Christmas ornaments and we were all laughing too hard about it by them to hold the camera steady anyway. I'm sure none of you reading will miss the photo, right?

The kids are at a hockey game tonight with their Dad and Pop Pop. J was given tickets and so, hey, make it part of the advent activity calendar, right? Originally he thought we could all go, and Isla could sit on a lap, but I told him to take his Dad, leave the toddler with me, and now that she is asleep, I am Home Alone (sorta). I totally worked that to my advantage. We mamas know "home alone" doesn't happen all that often. I tried to get going on knitting J's gift while he was out of the picture, but I twisted my stitches (damn!) which I didn't notice for an inch or so and now have had to rip it out. Guess I'll finish Faire's second legwarmer. Or the "second sock" (oh, that second sock is going to kill me!). Nah, I'll continue to procrastinate about that until the week before Christmas. I work better under pressure.

Second legwarmer while watching Miracle on 34th Street. With Baileys.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Day 4 of Advent: Holiday Card Photos

The cards are ready to be picked up, hurray! Now to address all those envelopes!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Day 3 of Advent: Snow Fairies and the Perfect Afternoon

What a sweet little project.

I bought the Snow Fairies kit a couple of years ago from Natural Pod. I didn't think the kids were quite old enough to manage it without a lot of help from me until this year.

Faire is always down with the crafty projects, although she struggled a bit with this one so she was frustrated. She wants me to get the supplies to make more so she can do it "the way she really wanted to".

Shea was surprisingly keen. He's so excited each day to see what the Advent activity is. It's pretty awesome to see that excitement about something other than Star Wars Lego! And he happily tried sewing for the first time!


Sweet little snow fairies on a dusty chandelier ;)


On another note, I had a perfect afternoon.

I was knitting for the first time with Noro (love!), there was a ginger cookie within easy reach, the toddler was sleeping (at least that's what I thought but she appeared ten minutes later) and the sun was shining through the window. I looked down at myself and thought that I needed a picture of this perfect moment. What you don't see is the bowl of popcorn and cup of tea within easy reach to my left. See what I mean? Perfect moment.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Day 2 of Advent: Ginger Cookies

I made a double batch of these the other day and they went FAST.
I'm pretty sure I ate them for breakfast, lunch, and snacks in between. I did find the strength to resist having them for dinner (but I did eat the last one for dessert!) Please make them. Ina knows what she's doing in the kitchen.

But be sure to double it. Trust me, you won't regret it.

Oh, and the recipe calls for unsulphered molasses, but I can only ever find Blackstrap. I use regular Fancy molasses instead. The Blackstrap tastes way too strong in these cookies. Anyone know of a milder unsulphered molasses around here?

Recipe here.

I'm off with Isla to pick up some more candied ginger so there will be warm cookies and milk for the kids when they get home from school. (This makes it look like I'm doing it for them, but really, J and I want them for when we watch "Milk" tonight...shhhhh!)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Day 1 of Advent: Trimming The Kid's Tree

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

We set up our tiny (fake - akk!) tree in the playroom this afternoon. I've had it for years and we keep it so the kids have a tree of their own for all the ornaments they make and/or collect. Or ones we simply have run out of room for on the real tree. There are some oldies on it too. Like this awesome felt mouse. I remember my mom painstakingly making these when I was little. She made a lot of kick-ass ornaments. I used to play make-believe with these old-fashioned mice. They reminded me of the Mouse Family in the cartoon 'Twas The Night Before Christmas. (Oh, how I loved that show. I need to watch it again soon. I bought it a couple of years ago and freaked Jason out because I knew all the words to all the songs. He had never seen it. Never!) One of my favourite parts of the holiday season? The annual watching of all the Christmas films. They never get boring to me.

Anyway, the kids loved decorating the tree. And they love talking about all the ornaments and where they came from, which makes it all the more special. Isla really got into it. Her first time trimming a tree. Hopefully she got it out of her system so she won't want to help me decorate the real tree next weekend (haha) She tends to...cluster ornaments, shall we say?

Here's another of the oldies. How can I not love it? She's knitting!!