Friday, May 31, 2013

shopping shopping shopping

I'm unusually excited about some shopping I'm going to be up to soon. Stereotypically, I do enjoy shopping but I have a surprisingly hard time spending money if the purchase isn't completely planned. It looks so pretty in my wallet, and I love seeing the numbers grow in my bank account. So shopping is fun, but also stressful.

Fabric shopping, though? That has become a whole different ballgame and there's a load of shopping coming up that I am overly excited about. Which of course means getting close to finishing projects, and gearing up for some new ones.

This weekend I'll be buying batting, backing and some new quilting thread for the Scrappy Trip. Because it's just teasing me right now, sitting in the other room where I can't do anything because I don't have fabric. (I've been working on the orchids cross stitch in the mean time. It's more of an attention suck, and it's not quite as fun for that.) So I'll be getting the finishing bits for that so I can get started on the endgame. I'll also need to choose my binding soon, but not until I've got it quilted.

I've also finally, I think, decided on prints for the quilt I'm making next. I'll show them to my niece sometime this weekend to get her a-ok, and then I'll get out the charge card ('cause I'm buying them online).

This is my favourite kind of shopping. What's yours?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

closet fight

It has become apparent that it is time to do my seasonal closet changeover. Because Bunny and I don't have very much space in the wardrobe, I have most of my warm weather clothes packed up in a suitcase and just my winter sweaters and blazers and a few dresses hanging up. This isn't working for me, as clearly evidenced by the half hour it took me to get dressed this morning.

I'm not down with a half an hour to get dressed. I was trying to wear this super cute navy pencil skirt, and I could find a top to go with it (though it was a stretch in the fit department), I could find blazers and cardigans to go with it but for the life of me I couldn't come up with an actual outfit. I know I have other options packed up somewhere, but clothes only do me good if I can actually, well, wear them.

So this weekend I'll be packing up sweaters, taking a look to see what won't make it through another season, and pulling out more summery clothes. Hopefully once I have my summer wardrobe out I'll feel a bit better and it will be a matter of just continuing to search for those few key pieces that make things just perfect (I'm always on the hunt for a blazer, of course) and less "I have nothing to wear". I have plenty of clothes. I have lots to wear - I just need a decent layout of my options.

When do you know it's time to re-organize your closet? Are there any organizational schemes that work particularly well for you?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

my scrappy quilt has a top

I'm being mean today. There's no photo with this update, mostly because I'm trying to save it for the big reveal at the end. But hey, I finished the quilt top. I have this big piece of scrapped out quilt top hanging out over a table in the basement waiting for me to collect some binding and backing fabric and get sandwiching. Once I get that done the quilting process will be a lot quicker than the piecing process. (Good thing, because I started this one back in January.) Bunny and I are also devising a plot for the big reveal picture. (And I still need to get a picture of the baby quilt, too, I know.)

I did end up ripping out that seam I was talking about, by the way. Even though it was just a minor scuff up, I knew it would bother me pretty much forever so I just bit the bullet and gave it a do over. Still not perfect (a lot of the seams aren't) but it's no worse than any other matched seam I've given a pass.

The rest of this week is twiddling my thumbs, really. I've pulled out my old orchid cross stitch for busy work for now, as I won't get a chance to work on the quilt again at least until the weekend. The long arm service/quilting store I was planning on buying my batting from (I have a gift certificate) was closed when we went on Sunday so I'm at a bit of a dead end right now until I can get my hands on batting and then buy some fabric for the back. I'm thinking maybe I might just use a sheet? I haven't decided, fully.

Finishing that has also given me the opportunity to work on the design for the next round, a quilt for my niece. The design is done, and I have my fabric requirements now it's just a matter of shopping. The solids will probably come from my local Fabricland (it's hard to mess up simple black and white solids, no?) but I can't find turquoise prints I like in person so I'll be ordering online. There are a couple of possibilities, I just need to hurry up and choose what I like and then order it, so I can get started cutting and sewing.

Also, I lied at the top. You get a picture. Mostly because my cat was being cute this weekend and I had to share, but you can see the back of part of the pieced quilt here as well.


So much for clean clothes.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

flowery daydreams

As the idea of buying a house starts to look more like it might become a reality for Bunny and I in the next year, more and more of my daydreaming energy goes towards what I would do to make a generic house into our home. Some of it's simple stuff: print out and frame our favourite pictures, dust off and hang our art, get our furniture out again to enjoy, maybe new dishes in the kitchen and just general decorating. Finding display places for the model cars and motorcycles Bunny's working on. All that's the easy stuff.

But we also want outdoor spaces. We want a garden. Gardens, actually. Nevermind the fact that I'm allergic to springtime, I can deal with a few sneezes. We're both pretty set on having a productive vegetable garden, growing squashes and beans and peas, potatoes and beets and carrots, lettuce and spinach, tomatoes (for Bunny) and brussel sprouts (for me). Asparagus and some berry bushes, because both are delightful and perennials make life easy. A big pot overflowing with our favourite fresh herbs.

There's something about being connected like that to the food you're eating, you know? About putting your time into cultivating something and getting to enjoy the fruits of your labours. When children eventually come it's also a tool that we'd like to use to teach them about food, and about the value of caring for the land and work. Plus I have a handful of childhood memories that sneak into the back of my mind and remind me just how delightful peas fresh of the plant are.

Friday though I got sucked down the flower-gardening rabbit hole. Since I felt crummy and wasn't up for much more than sitting around reading listlessly between trips to the washroom I somehow started googling how to grow lilacs from cuttings. Because those lilac trees I mentioned loving at my mom's house? I fully plan on cloning those to grow in our yard.

As much as I want vegetables I'd also love to be surrounded by the pretty colours and scents of flowers. The lilacs, of course, but also other plants that bloom later into the season. Given that we plan on focusing on growing vegetables, I'd prefer to focus my perennials than annuals. A handful of rosebushes artfully spaced around the front and back yards. A lily bed, hopefully with a variety of early and late blooming varieties. Lilies are, after all, my favourite. Daffodils for their bright yellow colour and trumpeting blooms, and tulips. While they're not my favourite bulb flower, a field of tulips is rather stunning and I love the history of tulips in Canada. A tulip bed is also a little bit of a shout out to Bunny's family history, so there's that.

Do you garden? If so, what are the most rewarding plants you grow?

Monday, May 27, 2013

missing the food love

There hasn't been any real cooking or baking going on at my house right now, and I'm a little bummed about it. There are a lot of things I want to make, both meal wise and treat wise, but the world isn't on my side in that respect lately.

Last week I was working evenings, and getting home at nine doesn't lead to me wanting to make dinner. Bunny tries to help out when I'm busy like that, but his freelancing is in high gear this month so his time is in high demand. As for my mom? Well, that's not a reliable source of food. So we've had a lot of quick pasta dishes, and a few days of whatever Bunny threw on the grill.

Then, just as I was gearing up to a weekend in the kitchen life caught up with me. Cramps came pretty intensely, accompanied by one of the nastiest stomach bugs I've had in awhile. Sitting in the bathroom crying at three in the morning because I'm pretty sure my stomach is ripping itself to pieces does not make me want to bake (or eat, really ... thus the multitude of rye toast I've since ingested). Luckily the worst of that has passed and I can think about eating again ... but I'm on to another week of late shifts.

I feel so out of practice that I don't even know where to begin. Try a new recipe? Revisit a tried and true favourite? A variation of a an older one? Maybe I'll start just by putting peanut butter on my toast, next time, and go from there.

Friday, May 24, 2013

things, stuff, miscellaneii

Bunny and I like looking at old things. Other people's cast offs, second hand and vintage furniture, old houses. Of course give the man a chance to look at anything old that comes with an internal combustion engine and he's just hooked. For me, old houses and old neighbourhoods make me swoon.

We each have very distinct tastes, though there's an overlap. I love dark, heavy woods and have a fairly intense dislike for light woods and whites. They will not make it into our house, one day. He likes intricate carving and scroll work, out of an appreciation for and understanding of the skill involved. I find old chairs, particularly wingback styles, to be just luxurious and we both agree that old couches, while pretty are terribly uncomfortable.

I could spend an hour looking at old teacups. He could spend hours looking at old toys. It would not be unfair to say that our eventual domicile, when we purchase said home, will be quite a collection of things that go but don't match. New, overstuffed couches, old chairs, lots of old wooden furniture. Old art, one of a kind blankets.

This desire for the old, the pretty, the unique leaves both of us underwhelmed at the house opportunities in our city. Near the downtown centre, where the houses are 150-200 years old? They are gorgeous, unique and in various states of repair. Anywhere else in town? We're plagued with cookie-cutter, subdivision style mass market homes. Where every house looks just the same as the house beside it, just with a few different options. There's this one style of uniquely ugly home I've only ever seen in Barrie and it's quite horrible, really.

I'm confident that one day we will quite easily curate a home that caters to our own personal style and blends our old and new tastes. What I'm not so sure of is whether or not we can actually buy a house that has any interest, or whether we're going to end up in a cookie cutter house.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

summer style on the way

It's been a week since I last wore pants. Well, I had yoga pants on yesterday but really I considered that pajamas, so I'll stick with my original statement. One week. No pants.

Of course I haven't been walking around with my girly bits hanging all everywhere. The lack of pants is part of the transition to spring and summer wardrobes. Snow is off the ground, humidity has crept into the air and the temperatures are regularly above 10*C (although this weekend we passed the 20* mark). One of the many delightful aspects of that is that I can walk around in skirts and tights and not freeze my tuckus off. Actually I'm even about to be ditching the tights, it's getting so warm.

So out comes my summer wardrobe. Dresses! Skirts! Shoes (instead of boots)! Cardigans and blazers for work instead of sweaters. Oh it's glorious. It also maybe lets me ignore how tight my good jeans are getting. I could stand to lose five pounds, but I'm the only person who notices right now.

I love this shift in my wardrobe. Even when I'm sticking with the exact same colour palette that I've used previously I just feel so free and fresh with skirts and dresses. It's amazing how much more like myself I feel when I start to slip into the summer clothing. My warm weather style feels genuinely me and I feel genuinely pretty wearing these clothes; it's a way I don't connect with my winter wardrobe. Oh I mean I love my skinny jeans and knee high boots ... but I don't feel completely myself in them. But dresses and blazers? Yeah that's me.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

seamingly annoyed

It's amazing how quickly the quilt top is progressing at this point. I'm working on piecing together the last of the rows and then it's just four long (long! seams) and this will be over. I've sewn a lot of seams here, and needed to make a lot of points match. All told there are 319 seams I'll have sewn in the finished quilt. Now if only I could make all my corners match.

Which is what's driving me nuts right now. I got ahead of myself this weekend and joined the top two rows ... and the seams don't match as nicely as I'd like them to. It's nothing major, and I'm probably the only person who will notice but it bothers me. So I'm considering ripping out a four-foot seam and starting that part fresh. I like for my corners to match.

Excusing the fact that the lighting in these pictures sucks (basement overhead lighting is not designed for picture taking) what I need is more of this:

 
 
And less of this:



Granted, that is probably the worst matched seam in the entire quilt top so far, but I'm not happy with it. And when I'm not looking at it super close up it's not nearly so noticeable, and Bunny didn't see it until I pointed it out. Even my good seams perhaps aren't perfect, but I'm decidedly ok with them (especially considering that this is 100% hand sewn). But these ones bother me, and thus I have a decision to make. Stick with the crap seam? Or rip and re-sew.

Once this is done comes the next fun part: shopping! I need batting and backing and at this rate I will be ready by the weekend.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

lighting

So now that I've got this fancy (well, not so fancy, just working) camera I'm faced with the issue of teaching myself how to take decent pictures again. I say again because I did take a photography course or two in high school and I have somewhat of an idea what I'm doing, but they focused less on composition and more on film development (which is super fun, by the way).

My mom's house sucks for lighting. There's all these big ugly overhead lights in the main rooms, and the only main floor windows are around the back of the house and don't get brilliant light. I'm pretty sure it might be impossible to get decent lighting in the kitchen. Also, perhaps no one wants to see the banged up unicorn dishes. I tried to do brownie pictures and it was pretty darn disappointing. I made up for it by eating half the batch.

There's plenty of pictures I can take decently - like pathetic puppy dog pictures, and pictures of the quilt (though again, it was damn hard finding a decent lighting source there) and of course if I'm ever interested in just candid life pictures for my own enjoyment, that's easily done.

I'm trying to figure it out, it's just taking some time. Don't suppose anyone has good suggestions on resources for managing overhead lighting?

Monday, May 20, 2013

holiday

As much as three day weekends don't mean a whole lot when you work my job (my long weekend was punctuated by a Sunday at my desk) today is a statutory holiday. Which is always lovely.

So, we'll be rounding out a quiet weekend here. Watching yesterday's races from Le Mans. We'll sneak a driving lesson in there.

We're trying to see if they're doing fireworks over the bay later tonight, because we'd happily brave some crazy crowds for that. Fireworks are about my favourite thing ever. It's like love. And fireworks over water? Swoon.

(Seriously. If you want to be my friend just come over, bring sparklers, and we'll play. You'll be my favourite probably forever.)

Enjoy your day!

Friday, May 17, 2013

scrappy update

So this quilt I'm working on? I just passed that milestone moment when I can say all of my quilt blocks are complete. (Even the extras.) It's taken months to reach this stage, and while I've still go plenty to go (piece the top, create a backing, sandwich and then actually quilt and bind the thing) the biggest part is done. This is what I would consider the halfway point to be, and I'm there!

What does the halfway point look like, you might ask? Well, it looks an awful lot like this:


That's twenty 12" blocks all good to go. I've also finalized my layout and while I do have pictures of that (for my own records, in case I screw up) I think I'm going to hold off on sharing that. A finished quilt picture would be more exciting, I think.

Unlike the baby quilt, deciding on my layout was not quite so easy this time. While each block has an identical design, they're all just that little bit different with the colour choices and the overall feel. Some blocks are punchier, some more subdued. Those bright blue and orange fabrics are kind of a bitch to work with, to make sure they don't take over the whole quilt.

So I had to decide how I wanted the overall quilt to come together. Did I want the colours kind of evenly spaced throughout? Did I want stark contrasts. Bunny seemed to like the idea of "colour zones", where different sections of the quilt are more heavily one colour than others. I love how using the 14 fabric patterns has come together - the blocks lead into each other, without being obviously matchy.

Now I'm left with this to contend with:


Five rows of four, ready to be ironed and sewn together. This is coming together!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

quiet days

As much as I'm not crazy about a work schedule that includes evenings and weekends, I make a point of enjoying the perks of said schedule. One of those perks? Weekdays off. Yesterday was spent quite quietly around the house, recharging my introverted batteries and getting a little bit of this and a little bit of that done.

I played with my new camera. (Later I'll share the results of said playtime.)

Time was spent in the kitchen, chopping and baking and having fun. Old recipes were revisited, and snacks and dinner were both made.

I finished the final block on my Scrappy Trip quilt (seriously!) and got things laid out. Then I did some ironing and started sewing my rows.

I took a quick visit to my in laws. Love those next door neighbours.

Some time was spent reading - and reading non fiction, no less.

I caught up on the blogs I follow.

I watched the final race of the 2007 MotoGP season. Because that's what I do with spare time.

I snuggled with the dog. Petted the cat.

Wore hot pink leopard print fleece pajama bottoms all day because it seemed called for. I also refused to worry about the fact that trying to control my weight is driving me nuts right now.

Small amounts of cleaning were done in bursts of energy here and there.

There's something magic about a day all to myself, no obligations and nothing required of me. How do you spend those days?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Finally!

Meet Jethro.
 
 

How's that for cute? I know, he puts everyone in the world to shame. This is him in need of his eagerly anticipated spring hair cut. At which point he'll get twice as cute, and you will beg me to stop teasing you with the cuteness.

I also promise he's not actually in some sort of torture chamber or shelter, he's busy being perfectly loved in the laundry room. You know, concrete floor, water heater (to the left), spray painted newspaper on the wall courtesy of Bunny.

Actually, it's Bunny that's in the torture chamber. He works in the laundry room.

If you haven't guessed this means that I have finally finished getting my hands on a camera. I only had to go back to the store twice more, get refunded, forget the stupid memory card I bought elsewhere in the non-functional camera and then go spend more money than I'd wanted to at another store. (Although, working camera. This means a lot. Also included the memory card and the camera case.)

Mostly I'm never going to shop at Sears again. Great employees who know how to take care of a customer - but the fact that only ONCE in all the times I visited did the store actually have an electronics associate working in the electronics section was seriously problematic. Having the right employees doesn't mean much when you can't be bothered to effectively manage your scheduling.

But also I have a camera. And you will see pictures! Which means that crafting and baking updates might be about to get a whole lot more fun.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

nostalgia

In my part of Canada, spring is a rather fleeting experience. As recently as a week and a half ago, we had a snowfall. The sort of snow that sticks to the ground overnight, even. Today it's bright and sunny; enough so that over the past two weeks I've regularly seen short shorts and little tank tops. I've been slightly more circumspect - transitioning with my lightweight leather jacket, tights under my skirt, swapping sweaters for tops worn with blazers. In a month the weather networks will be talking about our first heat wave of the year, humidity will make everything cling and fog over and get sweaty and gross, and temperatures will probably climb above 30*C.

Fall is a more drawn out season, perhaps, but my climate is ruled by the two extremes, and lots of wetness in the air.

My parents bought this house the summer I was six. I finished kindergarten and started the first grade in a new city. In a house I've never really liked in any way, there is one redeeming feature that somehow makes it feel like home. It just so happens that it's a feature that only comes once a year and is even more fleeting than spring itself.



At six years old, the lilac bushes that framed the yard were shorter than I was. Now, they are taller than many of the neighbourhood trees. Two weeks a year, when we pull into the drive way I'm hit by a sudden, unexpected feeling of being home. It's a feeling I can't force out any other time, not for this house, but when the lilacs begin to bloom? It's irresistible.

Of course, the buds are just beginning to swell and bloom and this is just the start of lilac season. Hopefully I'll have another two full weeks of open lilac buds in the yard, and maybe even in a vase.

Bunny of course is someone underwhelmed by the lilacs that have been left to run amok, much like the rest of my mom's yard, and spent much of last fall heavily pruning them. For all the trees you see there, and all the little shoots coming up, there were plenty more that he ruthlessly pulled up.

When we talk about our imaginary house, the one that we save our pennies for and are hoping to purchase by this time next year, we have a fairly clear idea of many of the "projects" we are going to take on and the way we're going to own it. Clearly we'll do lots of things inside, but we're also wanting to put work into our outdoor space. There will be a vegetable garden, and cherry or crabapple trees (we both love the leaves) and there will be a fence that serves as a sight-barrier (I like my privacy, it gives me more space to run around naked).

And there will be lilacs. Lots and lots of lilacs. So that when the buds start opening for spring, I will always feel home.

baked cinnamon french toast

Sunday morning I spent some time in the kitchen, doing some easy baking. It was mother's day, and while Bunny and I didn't really make a big deal out of it, there were flowers and we did make brunch for my mom. Breakfast foods aren't really my deal. I mean, I make some mean variations on pancakes don't get me wrong and I can make a very satisfying pot of oatmeal if you give me a pile of steel-cut oats, but that's about it. Bacon and eggs make me a little queasy, so I never perfected my technique.

Given that Bunny is the designated egg fryer in this relationship we let him take the lead on the bacon and eggs portion of brunch. We wanted something fancier than pancakes and it also seemed wise to have something that let me stay out of the way while Bunny was egg frying.

Which brought up baked French toast. There are two things I want to tell you about baked French toast. Actually, three things, but who's counting? First this is easy as pie. Toast up some bread in the oven, just lightly. Place in pan, cover in a milk/egg mixture. Bake. Eat. Secondly this is easy. You will enjoy the eating of this. You may eat an entire batch between three people and not feel a little bit guilty. The way that the egg soaks and bakes into the bread, and the little cinnamon sugar sprinkle makes this seem almost like biting into a really good cinnamon roll, without half of the work.

The third thing is the kicker, though. If you are me, while you are eating this your mind will be full of the fifteen things you can do differently next time to make this even more awesome. You will say "I would put maple syrup right into the custard" because its so delicious with Aunt Jemima on top. You will say "I would use chunks of bread, not slices" because of some mental math about how to get the perfect density of bread in the pan. You will say "maybe I'd use cream instead of milk, make it richer" because at this point you're thinking of turning the whole thing into bread pudding and making it dessert. You will say "I'd use stale bread instead of toasting it" because you are both impatient and slightly lazy. If you're me, that is.

Either way, making this again is certain. And when I say this is easy I'm not lying, I promise. My version here is a cross between the Martha Stewart and Smitten Kitchen versions of baked French toast. But again, dead easy. You could wing this.

Cinnamon Baked French Toast

Ingredients
  • 1 loaf of bread (I used plain old D'Italiano white bread, because we have it on hand. You can certainly jazz this up)
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 cups milk
    • You can play with this. I used straight milk, but you can certainly substitute part of the milk with cream
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp + 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp + 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp white sugar
  • butter or margarine for spreading
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350*F.
  2. Lay sliced bread on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Toast until the bread begins to lightly brown.
  3. Grease a 9x13 baking pan.
  4. In a small bowl mix 2 tsp sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg.
  5. Lightly butter. Use your own judgment here - if you like buttery things, butter those babies up. I just barely buttered them.
  6. Sprinkle the spiced sugar mixture over the buttered sides of the bread.
  7. Layer the toasty slices in your baking pan.
  8. In a mixing bowl, beat your eggs. Add the milk and vanilla, as well as the remaining 1/2 tsp cinnamon and 1/4 tsp nutmeg. Wisk them all together.
  9. Pour the egg mixture over the bread, trying to make sure you coat each slice.
  10. Pop it in the oven for about 25-30 minutes.
  11. Serve. Maple syrup and whipped cream are optional.

Monday, May 13, 2013

game of thrones, sans politics

Over the weekend I fell down the internet reading rabbit hole. You know the one, I'm sure. You click on a link, then another and just keep following. Suddenly there are so many open that you're going to break your browser (if you're like me), or else you have gone so hopelessly forward that the back button has become useless. A quick wonder about what the first race that Rossi won in MotoGP ends up with reading about rebellion in Tang dynasty China, or deepwater fish whose mouths fuse closed in adulthood.

What I found down at the bottom of this particular hole was a natty argument about Game of Thrones and whether it's feminist or not. There are some interesting points on both sides, though I find myself quite strongly thinking that no, the show's not feminist (nor are the books). There are some kick ass female characters, but feminism this is not. I'm also bewildered as to why this even comes up as a discussion, really.

It's entertainment, and it's not meant to make a political statement. This is pure fiction, perhaps somewhat inspired by medieval history, certainly informed by the fantastical but in no way influenced by modern political movements and leanings. It's a story that's told in context, and the context of Westeros bears an awfully large resemblance to feudal England. This story isn't written in a society where women's voices count for a lot. Yes, women jockey for power and influence, but their spheres of influence are limited and there is much less scope to flex their muscles than the men in their lives.

In a lot of ways the books at least are fairly open about the constrictions placed by society on women. Sansa and Arya serve as a stark (pun not intended by now deemed hilarious) constrast between the stereotypical good noble lady and the wild woman who wants to experience life outside the limitations of a lady. In King's Landing Cersei and Margaery juggle the influence offered them, influence given only by their relationship to the king. There are women who push themselves outside the bounds of their gender - Daenerys and Brienne are two notables - but this isn't necessarily something that's easy or brings success. Or even that they encourage.

None of that is feminist. Nor should it be. It's entertainment. It's not about a political message or about what women are capable of. I don't look at my entertainment to always carry a political message. It's not like motorcycle racing or quilting says anything about the worth of women in society. Why should we expect that of a tv show?

Friday, May 10, 2013

being seen

There were a few vendors visiting our office a few days back, visiting and hawking their product and giving us all random swag. Of course at work there is nothing uncommon about this - we have vendors and affiliates there at least once a month, and they always bring something to give us. Sometimes it's lame (like a pad of sticky notes), sometimes it's useful (new pens!! - these vendors make me seriously happy), sometimes it's fun (nurf guns? yeah that happened), sometimes it's random (have a journal!) and sometimes it's branded coffee mugs. Travel mugs are the way to my heart.

This week's vendors brought a plethora of things. Some people went home with t shirt, key chains, posters and apparently there's a raffle for an iPod for the visit. I came home myself with a variety of things: I got pens, a collapsible water bottle, that journal I mentioned and a sort of rubberized bracelet. These bracelets, which essentially look like the Livestrong bracelets, came in a plastic bag full of bright colours: blue, red, yellow and purples. One side is inscribed a company logo. The other has an "I am ...." statement on it.

After giving me some fun facts about the brands he was representing, this particular vendor gave me a hard look. One of those I can see into your soul kind of looks, if you know the one I mean. He grabbed the bag of plastic bracelets and pulled out one, then another and another. He'd shake his head and put each one back, which was confusing - there were only four colours, so it seemed easy. I hadn't seen the writing yet.

Finally he said "I know just the one for you. I just need to find it." Which of course piqued my curiosity. What was he looking for. Finally he grabbed a purple one (the colour I was hoping for!) and held it out for me to wriggle into.

"That's you, right there. Don't ever forget it."

I am courageous.

It's one of the moments that makes me stop and think. What is it he's seeing there, that made him choose just that bracelet, just that saying. What about me made it clear that "courageous" was exactly the word he should give me? Our exchange was less than five minutes total, and easily half of it was spent searching for this bracelet and chit chatting. In such a short time what made it seem so clear, so important that this be the bracelet he give me. (I have it on good authority that this was an anomaly - most people chose their own sayings or he just grabbed something for them.)

What was it he saw in just those first few moments? Something about me indicating courage, or perhaps fear? A glimmer that it would be something I'd need in my future? What is it that he has seen in me?

Thursday, May 09, 2013

whirlwind

Last weekend was a busy one filled with work on Saturday and a number of social engagements down in Toronto for Bunny and I. It was a fun, and it was busy and it always throws into sharp contrast the difference between where we do live and where I love to live.

It's hard being so far away from our closest friends. That's never going to change, and it's a tradeoff because we're used to being close by. On the other hand we had an "easy" time being away from our families, but when push came to shove and shit happened we knew we wanted to invest more of our lives there. Being within an hour's drive to friends was part of the trade, and we both hate that part of the deal.

The other bit? The difference between urban and suburban? Bunny loves the suburban and I can barely tolerate it. (Although, to be fair, I loved the suburban city I went to university in. Distinct cultural difference there.) I feel stifled and bored and stagnant. It's just boring here, and white washed and insular and it's like wearing a too tight, itchy wool sweater.

There's nothing like the architecture of Toronto homes, the beautiful brick houses, all skinny and tall and full of characters. Every home on the street having its own unique character instead of the cookie cutter garbage. The press of people constantly buzzing around without demanding anything of me.

Apparently the urban environment was more suited to my introverted personality than I would have guessed. It let me have my quiet introverted time while still having all the options there for when I've got the social energy to expend.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

block 19 and musings

Still no pictures, due to some technical difficulties in camera purchasing (we'll try that again, next weekend) but I'm getting excited about the Scrappy Trip quilt. I'm on my second-to-last block and just blowing through it quickly which means that pretty soon it's on to choosing a layout and piecing this baby together. This time I'm actually done - there will be no going out and buying more fabric to make the quilt just one row bigger.

There's still so much work to do, but it's on to the work that goes the quickest. Piecing the blocks into strips and then a whole quilt top is when things start to fully come together and I get a full feel for the quilt. I'm super excited to be able to curl up with Bunny under this thing when it's done.

At this point in the game I'm also mooning over the next project, which is for my niece. There are about a dozen different things I could do for her, but I think I've finally settled on a pattern that I like. She gave me a specific wish list: turquoise, white, black and perhaps some damask if I can find it and I'm thinking I want to make a fairly straightforward quilt for her. Repeating blocks, using the same fabric over again rather than do anything slightly scrappy. The block I've been drawing up (based on a gorgeous pattern I found online) is nice and geometric, and just a little bit modern. Now I'm just doing the math for a double sized bed and figuring out how much fabric I need and start looking for prints. Then, goodbye money hello project!

For now, though? I've got to get through these last couple of blocks.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

bra talk

My bras and I have a love/hate relationship. There is nothing I enjoy as much as putting on an almost new, perfectly fitting bra. Feeling supported, knowing my chest isn't going to chafe (underboob chafing is about my least favourite thing, ever), a band that doesn't budge around my back.

My weight, though? It has not been super stable. I'd been on a year of careening downwards and slowly levelling off, and I've been on a slow upward tick that I'm trying to take control of right now. Unstable weight makes for tricky bras. Ten pounds can mean a whole new bra size, and I wear "specialty" sizes which makes life difficult.

Technically, if I'm throwing comfort and fit out the window, I can find a bra at a normal store. Except it doesn't fit properly, and there's underboob sweat, and because the band is too big things just don't stay in place. This is how wound up with me, running to catch a bus, suddenly busting out of my dress in university. I'd rather not relive that, really.

The smallest properly fitting bra I've ever owned was a 30F. The biggest was a 34G. I'm pretty sure that if I'd walked into my bra store at my highest weight I still would have only been buying a 36 or a 38 ... though maybe with an H cup??

Which is all a lot of love on my bras. I love a well fitting bra. I don't love when it's been a year since I've bought new bras, though, and I only buy 2 at a time because they're expensive, and I need to start thinking about a trip downtown to spend more money on fancy bras and get a new bra size. I don't love when I've just gained or lost 5 pounds and my bras feel just a little bit off, but not quite worth going out for new ones.

Of course this whole rant mostly just means it's time to go buy new bras. My good ones aren't holding up so well anymore - the elastic is shot and the band is starting to ride up my back and I'm starting to get some awkward boob spillage that isn't normal for me. Which also signals that I'll need to get re-sized as I'm at it, because none of that is normal. Shopping time soon, I suppose.

What items of clothing do you kind of dread shopping for?

Monday, May 06, 2013

oatmeal bars with raisins and nuts

Awhile back I made an attempt at pecan-maple syrup oatmeal bars, using a recipe from the Quaker website and was quite disappointed by the result. There was something very particular I'd had in mind and this bar didn't cut it. It was kind of crumbly and didn't hold much texture, there wasn't enough moisture. It needed more contrast than just pecan bits sprinkled atop the mess. The mess of maple syrup made the whole recipe far sweeter than I wanted. Of course that disappointment just made it clear that I needed to find my own recipe. An oat bar that straddles the space between cookie and acceptable breakfast food. An answer to my attempt to fix breakfast (or, you know, eat it), With some extra flavours in, and a more substantial mouth feel.

For textural contrast I knew I wanted raisins and nuts. Walnuts happen to be cheap here, so I used those, but pecans or hazelnuts would be delicious here. I considered tossing in some chocolate or butterscotch chips (I have good luck with butterscotch flavours), and even some coconut flakes - but that's a more muddled and dessert style bar than I'm going for with this. More is better with the mixings here, I found. The crunch of the nuts is one of the heaviest textures in this bar, and a heavy hand with the raisins helps balance that.

I also knew I needed more liquid. The last bars were hard in that awful, brittle kind of way that I just didn't want to see again. A second egg seemed called for, and liquid sweetening was definitely called for. I didn't want anything too sweet - the last bars had a pretty high sugar ratio and it was definitely overdone. These? By no means are they sweet, but they have that just enough touch that makes them perfect. I suppose you could cut the white sugar if you're super sugar sensitive, but these worked for me perfectly.

This is the first recipe I have ever made completely on my own. Oh, I pulled from old recipes to figure out when they were done and to get ideas for ratios of baking powder and such, but this was what my head came up with when I thought "oatmeal raisin bars".

Oatmeal Bars with Raisins and Nuts

Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 cups oats (old fashioned or quick, your preference)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
  • 1/4 cup honey, plus more for drizzling (optional)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup raisins (optional)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts or other nuts (optional)
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 375* F. Grease 9x13 baking dish.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients (flour, oats, baking powder, salt, white and brown sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon) until fairly evenly distributed. You'll have some clumpy bits because you've got oats in there, but stir until you don't have any clumps of  flour or brown sugar there.
  3. In a smaller bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Add melted butter and honey, stir.
  4. Pour the egg mixture over the dry ingredients, mix until incorporated. A folding technique works well here if you're doing it by hand, or else your mixer can easily handle this. The dough that comes together is just barely wet and will want to pull together into a large ball.
  5. Add the raisins and nuts to the dough and mix.
  6. Transfer to the baking dish and smooth down the batter to an even layer.
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  8. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, slice and serve.

Friday, May 03, 2013

terror of the cats

The saga of the cats continues, as life does. I've been enjoying having both cats here, even though it means I have more around the house work. I'm the cat feeder, water-er and litter scooper primarily (and yet ... neither of these cats are, strictly speaking, mine). Cats, being all smart and cat like, are quite aware of the fact that I take care of keeping them fed and so are extra sweet to me.

Plus, they've started genuinely playing and it's adorable and I'm a sucker for cat entertainment.

Bunny, though? Well the cats have been pissing Bunny off. Quite literally pissing him off. One of them keeps peeing on his clothes. He's had about as much as he can take of that and if he catches one in the act I'm pretty sure it won't be a pretty scene. I've increased the frequency of litter scooping to try and curtail the behaviour, but to no avail.

Any advice? How do I get the cat to stop doing this.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

error message

There were supposed to be photos by now. I had every intention of making there be pictures here for you, but of course I really assumed an ease that would not happen.

It's all the fault of how cheap I am, really. In buying a camera, I chose not only a model that was on sale, but one that was pretty much sold out. So I just said, hey, give me an extra discount and I'll take the floor model. No big. Right?

Except when I got home and realized that the battery and/or charger are busted and will not work. So the next day I went back into Sears figuring I'd ask them to swap it out for the battery/charger on the other floor model of this camera (just a different colour) and I'd be golden. Right?

Which of course led to a trip into Sears only to discover that the person working in electronics was just filling in and had no idea where anything is. Would happily change things for us, which is perfect, but doesn't know where to find what we're looking for.

So we're headed back in tonight to see what an actual employee from the electronics section can find for us. Hopefully a swap on the battery pack fixes this. If not? Well the search for a camera will go on awhile longer.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

starting fresh

It's May. How did that happen? April practically flashed right on by me and I'm not really sure where the month went at all.

Lately I love the start of a new month. At work with the way our sales cycles run, I always find the last few days of the month rather stressful. It's either worrying about keeping my numbers up and being terrified of having a bad day that will throw my numbers under the bus or its about busting ass to try to pull my number back to a something that resembles respectable. It feels like a lot of money is on the line; considering the percent of my monthly income that I can make in bonuses in a month it is a lot of money on the line for me.

Luckily I started April off strong so I had a lot of the work already done coming into the last week or so. I managed to pull through strong and even though I'll spend the next few days waiting for the official numbers and for management to release the month's bonus tally I know from my own math approximately how much I can be expecting, and I feel good about even the low end of the spectrum. It's nice to feel good about my performance, and I really like the hard feedback from numbers and the financial reward. Still, the last few days I'm stressed about having a bad day and throwing my month down the drain.

The first of the month feels all fresh and shiny and new at work. There's a chance to start over again. Working on setting myself up for success is more exciting than just trying to hold on to numbers that I've been working on, and even when my numbers are rock solid near the end of the month I stress out, hardcore, about the whole thing.

It's also a good time for me to reassess my financial situation on a more personal level. I haven't run all the numbers yet, but I'm cautiously optimistic. My paycheque deposit last night pulled my bank account number up above a big deal savings goal of mine that I've been working hard on developing, although once my loan payments come out it might slip just back under target.

It puts us at a good place with saving for a down payment (technically, we have a down payment at this point, we could just never afford the mortgage we'd be carrying with only this much down). We also need to figure out what we're really doing with my bonuses. We always figure them out a fair bit before they're paid out (we budget them) but it's all over the place. Probably when we're closer to buying a house we'll save them for things like laundry machines and those bits of furniture you forget you need and all the other things that go with moving but that's still ages away. We could definitely be more intentional about this.