Saturday, December 31, 2005

Last day of the year

Well, Christmas is over and the bathroom walls are turning pink. Yes... Pink. Really, it's a very nice pink. And I'm not desperately trying to convince myself. Really.

It'll dry darker.


Anywho... We're clearly renovating here. Neil's put up two new light fixtures in the bedroom and stripped 30 years of paint off of the bathroom window frame to restore the wood. He's also bought all kinds of wood that he planned on turning into a bookcase, a coffee table and a snow wall. The snow wall on our back door has gone up, but the other two projects have suffered because he got sidetracked helping me in the bathroom. There's only one day left in our holiday time.

And speaking of things accomplished.... the nice lady over at Two Sheep (who's name I haven't yet managed to figure out) has inspired me with a summary of her 2005 accomplishments.

Although I'll have to cast my mind back and remember the last year, I've started a new memo on my christmas present PDA so I can keep track of all the good things I accomplish in 2006.

- started the blog in April
- bought a digital camera shortly thereafter and began having loads of fun with it
- expanded my gardens yet again, particularily with a trip to Richters Herbs for medicinal and dye plants
- took a vacation, a real one, in early September to the east coast
- spun lots of fiber, and finally got the hang of drafting as I go instead of the slower park and draft method
- weaved a bit more on the damned twill
- naalbinded quite a few things - socks, hats, etc.
- dyed lots of innocent fiber with a wide variety of natural dyes, some of which I grew myself
- took on the job of Canton Arts and Sciences officer for the SCA
- entered the Kingdom Arts and Sciences Fair

Hmmm... seems like there should be more. But heyla, that's what the new list on the PDA will do for me next year. Organization, gotta love it.

Anything new y'all are taking on this year?


Wednesday, December 21, 2005

'Twas the day before Christmas...

.....and all through the house, wafted the smell of freshly baked pies.

I volunteered myself into baking pies for both of the upcoming family dinners. I have three pumpkin pies and two apple pies cooling, and one more planned. By special request, I'm going to attempt one of Neil's family recipes for something called "Flapper Pie".

The tarts I made a few days ago turned out quite well, by the way. This dough that I'm using can last for quite awhile in the fridge. Good to know.

Presents are all wrapped, and under the tree. Neil says if I'm good, he'll let me open one tonight. :)

Merry Christmas,


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

tonight is tart night

Tonight, I bake tarts. I've had the fillings and dough leftover from two weekends ago in the fridge and I must use them now.

I wanted to use them last night, but after spending all day making a Christmas present for the hubby that I'm just dieing to tell y'all about - I conked out at the thought of all the dishes I still had to do to make the kitchen clean enough to roll out dough in. *sigh*

Tonight I find out just how long pie dough can reasonably last in the fridge anyway.

One or two tidbits left to pick up for others and I'll be done. Okay, a little more wrapping, and a few pies to bake....and time isn't really running out, is it?

It's Stephanie's fault, really, that I'm starting to get a little anxious about finishing the Christmas stuff on time, and I'm not even knitting. I had to order an extra book, you see, to get the free shipping from Chapters so I threw in Yarn Harlot (Stephanie's book) and it's pretty darned funny.

I'd get off this mad Christmas whirligig if I could. But with 4 very young nieces and nephews, and attending familial expectations, it's a little difficult.

Speaking of Christmas... have a Happy Holiday :)

(Hey, if it was good enough for Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra in 1957, it's good enough for all of us today as well.)

And don't forget that ye old Solstice is coming up in just a few hours. Light a candle for the return of the light in the shaded areas of your life tonight.


Friday, December 16, 2005

Not much to see here

On things fiber-y:
I've been naalbinding quite a bit. The sweater might be turning into a poncho for me instead. I can't put my brains to figuring out the sleeve holes on a sweater. If I don't abandon the project altogether because it appears stiff. I can't imagine it draping properly, and I don't want to waste that much wool. And I've been making hats, because they are easy. The socks... sucked. So I haven't finished them.

There's also fiber and a drop spindle sitting on the coffee table waiting to be picked up and spun.

Other then the above, I don't have much on the go.

I guess that means the weaving has managed to put itself in the background again. *sigh*

On things election-y:
The NDP (New Democratic Party) has come up with a fun new thing for tonight's english language debate. I wonder if they have any idea just how easy it would be to turn this into a drinking game. Hey, it's a friday night... no work tomorrow.

On things Christmas-y:
I'm almost done. Enough that I'm not feeling anxious about what I still have left to do before the holidays. Pies, tarts, more pies. Organizing the pizza lunch for the staff that stick it out 'til the very last day. Buying a few more presents for the nieces and nephews, and Gram, Mom and Dad, and the Brother.

Although I suppose I should get on the Bro's present sooner, rather then later. He's off on the other side of the country. I really wish he'd come back to Ontario - I miss him.

I'm even reasonably resigned to the travelling to other people's houses for multiple Christmas events. A month ago, projecting this travel in my head had me in a really foul mood. I'm a curl up at home with the hubby, dog and cat kinda gal.

Speaking of dogs and cats... you should go and check out Diane's new friends at Piffle. Adorable. :)

I am so looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow.


Monday, December 12, 2005

more election mutterings

Admittedly, the Political Science degree is many years behind me and I haven't been paying attention to the details lately.

So imagine my annoyance when my darling hubby found this little tidbit on declining ballots with a judiciously applied google search.

Google is my hero. I worship Google.

Now I don't mind terribly that my hubby found it so much as that the good people on the phone at Elections Canada couldn't answer my question after all, and tried to tell me that Section 284 actually did cover it.

The long and short of it is that one can not legally decline one's ballot in Federal elections. It's an option that simply isn't available in the legislation covering Federal elections. Most provincial governments have this option, but not the Federal government.

So now I'll have to make an actual decision on election day. Phooey. None of them deserve my vote.

And apparently, the current government has been in power for 18 months or so. Longer then a year... like I said, haven't been paying attention.

On the fiber front - I've been naalbinding a fair bit. Hat, socks, and now ...maybe, a sweater. Wish me luck on that one. I've never met anyone who's tried to naalbind an object as large as a sweater.


Monday, December 5, 2005

Current Weather Here is...

The current weather in south-western Ontario is.... colder then Iceland. Alda says it's only 3°C in Iceland. It's currently -7°C here, with a windchill factor making it feel like -16°C.

Doesn't it just kill you? Iceland. The name says it all.

Anyway... the current political weather here is no better. The dofuses-that-be have decided that Canada should undergo yet another federal election. There's nothing quite so heartwarming as politicians wasting our tax dollars on elaborate popularity contests, twice in one year.

I've been a strong supporter of the New Democratic Party for years, but I fear this time I'd rather decline my ballot then vote for any of them.

Interestingly enough, I was on hold on the phone with Elections Canada, attempting to find the section of election legislation that deals with declining one's ballot in order to link that bit in the paragraph above, when a coworker dropped in and said "vote Liberal".

When I asked why, the answer was "so the Conservatives don't get in".

*sigh* While I do sympathize, because I don't want the Conservatives to win either, I want to vote positively. For the party that best reflects my views.

That used to be the NDP, but it might now be the Green Party - I'll have to make myself more familiar with them.

Although I do have to admit that it might be nice, just once in awhile, to vote for a party that might actually have a hope of governing someday. While the NDP has managed to win elections and govern at the provincial level, it's yet to have success with federal politics.

I could go on - I did my degree in Political Science after all - but why bore you? Everyone's got an opinion.

On the bright side, my coworker and I just put up the Christmas tree in the lobby. So, it's official now....

"It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...."

Come on and sing along.... you know you want to. :)


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Three Dye Baths - two failures, no pictures

First, my apologies. It's been a long time without a post.

So... I had a couple of days off last week and finally got caught up on two dye baths that I'd had fermenting about the house for weeks.

Woad - it's my first attempt at dyeing with woad. When we moved the plant to a new location in mid-October, the hubby strongly encouraged me to try dyeing with it. I was reluctant because it was just one plant, and the reading that I'd been doing suggested that it takes the leaves from 24 plants to dye 4 ounces of wool.

Many mistakes later.... not a bit of change in the wool, at all. Colour me frustrated.

Elm bark - One of my dye books, which I otherwise quite enjoy so I won't malign it with identity, suggested that all elm bark needed was to simmer an hour and it would give a subtle cherry colour. That didn't work.

A friend, and a mailing list suggested soaking in alcohol for a few weeks. So I dutifully added alcohol to the pot and let it sit for weeks. Until last week, when I heated it up and tried it again.

Still no colour change. At all.

I began to wonder if it was me, the fates, my water, or the phase of the moon.

So I dug out the commercially prepared cutch crystals, dissolved them in boiled water as directed, added the solution to a pot of water, stuck the wool in and presto (an hour later) - butterscotch dyed wool!

I'm a little disappointed that I so butchered the ones that started with nature and needed some work, but I will enjoy spinning that wonderful butterscotch colour. And I will do my research and make those other dye baths work eventually.


Sunday, November 20, 2005

Kingdom Arts and Sciences

Clearly, I need to get out more.

There were lots and lots of wonderful entries at this year's Kingdom of Ealdormere Arts and Sciences Fair. They call it a Fair now, and not a Competition like they used to do, but there's still a large element of competition in the air. I certainly felt it.

The interesting thing is that after a full day of talking about my entries, and some lovely compliments on my weaving - I actually feel like finishing the piece that has been languishing on the loom for the past year.

Anyway, without further ado then, my entries:

Naalbinded socks. Naalbinding = Viking Era handcraft, similiar to knitting and crocheting, both of which were invented several centuries later.

Indigo dyed, combed and handspun from the fleece, skein of yarn.

This weaving, is a 2/2 twill, in progress....

....on this warp-weighted loom.

And some of these beads. They're made with modern lampwork techniques but they are very similiar in shape, size and design to Norse Viking-Era beads.

I also want to start making beads again. It's been awhile.


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

And I thought a day off would be restful

Silly me.

Okay, so I slept in until 8am (which is still an ungodly hour but better then the usual 6:30am), and had a leisurely breakfast of christmas candy, fruit and toast. But then I've spent the next few hours engaged not in the craftiness that flitted across my mind in the bath, but instead....

By the end of the day, I was having a mini little crisis of faith - so much to do, so little time.

There's still more housekeeping to do - I had to give up at some point - but I really need to get to work on my entries for the Kingdom Arts and Sciences Fair this weekend. For those of you not in the know, that's the big deal once a year for the historically minded crafty people who hang about with the strange people of the Society for Creative Anachronism.

Which I do, so I guess that makes me strange as well as historically crafty. :)

So anyway, I have five entries, across 3 categories, which qualifies me for the Pentathlon - a special category for the truly exuberant among us. But I'm not entering Pentathlon until I'm better at what I'm doing. I'm a little bit of a perfectionist, tempered by the reality of imperfection.

If I'm not making sense, it's the headache that won't go away.

My 5 entries then, because that was the point of the previous paragraph after all:
- a skein of yarn (dyed in the fleece, combed and spun on a drop spindle)
- my work-in-progress on the warp-weighted loom (which I've otherwise been ignoring for months now)
- a string of glass beads
- naalbinded socks
- and for display only, a book of dye samples

Pictures will come someday.


Tuesday, November 8, 2005

20 Random Things

Well, no one's tagged me, but I've seen this meme on a few sites now and I'm interested. My mind works in random ways. I gather I'm supposed to write 20 random things about myself and then tag as many people as it takes in minutes to write.

I'll skip that second part. I probably don't know that many bloggers yet. But here's the 20 random things.

1. I have a dog named Leif the Licky.
2. And a cat named Ginger.
3. And a husband named Neil.
4. Leif came with the husband.
5. I fell in love with the dog first. He is adorable beyond all measure.
6. He's my first dog.
7. I'm allergic to both the dog and cat, but mostly to Ginger, the cat.
8. I'm not allergic to the husband.
9. I've had Ginger for 16 years.
10. I feel guilty when I think about her dying because I need to not have sinus problems anymore, but I won't give her up.
11. I have a degree in Political Science that I don't use much.
12. My favourite non-fiction author, whom I've met once or twice at the Michigan Womyns' Music Festival, wrote me last night to tell me about her newest essay, published here. Her name is Kay (Leigh) Hagan.
13. It's a good thing that I'm not doing the second part of this meme because it's taken me more then 24 hours to come up with this many random things.
14. I find Kay's latest essay very disturbing. I could be her sister... eyes sliding away.
15. I have now baked 4 apple pies - one too dry, one too wet, one damnably boring of taste but otherwise technically perfect, and one just a little bit undercooked but absolutely delicious.
16. And three meat pies, dozens of tarts and two pumpkin pies.
17. There's a big pumpkin out on the front porch waiting to be turned into more pumpkin pies, or rotting, whichever comes first.
18. Real pies - from scratch, from making the pastry and rolling it out and scorning of pre-made shells, and 'just add this' pre-made mixes.
19. I'm actually proud of, and intensely fascinated by, this growing domesticity.
20. And that's weird for a former radical feminist.

21. Now that I've started, I don't want to stop.
22. It's not 'former' as in 'gave it up, changed my mind, suddenly turned into a funny-mentalist' but 'former' as in 'I still believe, but the function of my life has changed'. Just to be clear and all.


Sunday, November 6, 2005

Casa Loma, pie, pie, and tarts

Yesterday, we went to an SCA event at Casa Loma in Toronto. It was our first event in at least six months - neither of us can remember when we last went to an event.

What a wonderful setting! Casa Loma really sets a wonderful atmosphere for medieval recreation, even though it dates back only to the 1930s. I do wish the event organizers had mentioned that the afternoon part of the event was being held in the stables, semi-outdoors. I'd have brought a cloak. Good thing the weather co-operated and the temperatures were quite reasonable for early November in Ontario.

My spinning yesterday was a mess! Almost all of what I spun at the event started pulling apart in my hands, with the least bit of pressure. I wonder if it was the different temperatures and humidity of being outdoors. The first skein of yarn off the spindle uses the same wool and is approximately the same diameter. It didn't break but it was all done indoors.

Tonight, I made a new apple pie. This time I've tried it using Granny Smith apples. Last week's pie was perfect in every way except.... it was boring. Bland. So bland I didn't even blog about it.

So this one, I decided to try Granny Smith apples, a much sharper flavour then the Courtlands that I used last week. Granny Smiths are hands-down my favourite just for normal eating, so we'll see how they work in a pie. It's late, and the pie isn't cooled enough yet, so I'll have to taste-test it for breakfast. :)

Oh, and there were tarts to finish up the dough. Strawberry-Rhubarb and Wildberry, but that filling came out of can, so they don't really count. On the perfectionist domestic goddess scale, of course.


Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Staying Power, in the garden

Blanket Flower

Fall Aster

Ummm... well, it's blue.


November already!

It's November and I still have a few flowers left!

And it hasn't snowed yet!


Pictures of said flowers to be posted tonight.


Wednesday, October 26, 2005

woohoo! it's finally working!

Now that the garden has mostly been put to sleep for the winter, I have time to do the various fiber crafts that I enjoy.
- spinning on a drop spindle
- pretending the spinning wheel in the corner of the living room is something useful that I'm going to learn any minute now
- naalbinding, which is often referred to as 'single needle knitting' but I find it more like a combination of crotcheting and handsewing
- pretending that I'm working on the warp-weighted loom
- crotcheting

And on rare occassion, I've been known to embroider, cross stitch, knit and handsew.

So, okay, I have a few flaws in my hobbies.

The project on the loom is just irritating me. It's dusty and it sticks such that opening each new shed is painfully annoying. It's dusty because it's sticky. But let's move on past that for now. See that avoidance in full action? Isn't it cool?

The spinning wheel? On loan from a friend who will no doubt read this and tsk at me. I have trouble co-ordinating all of my body parts, and find it so annoying that I've been avoiding it. I don't handle a slow learning curve very well. I'm used to picking up new things very easily. Anti-V will no doubt tsk at me because she's made suggestions about the process to go about learning the wheel. And she is right... but I just haven't gotten around to it yet.

Naalbinding came easily, but I grew up knitting and crotcheting all of my life. A different needle art is just different - not at all hard.

Spinning on a drop spindle! This is the one that I wanted to get to from the start of this post. I get it!

It's only taken me more then a year!

There are quite a few methods of spinning - one is called park and draft. I think of it as a beginner's technique and it's where I've been stuck for quite a while now.
You start the spindle whorl spinning, and then when it's reached it's slow-down point, you park it between body parts (knees, underarm, etc) and then use both hands to draft and spin the fiber.

A more advanced method, that is much more efficient and faster, is to spin the whorl while drafting and spinning at the same time the whorl continues to spin. I've watched more experienced (or more determined, or just more damnably co-ordinated) spinners do this with some jealousy.

And last night, I finally got it! Just somehow, completely inexplicity, my hands finally figured out what to do. All by themselves. :)


Sunday, October 23, 2005

Garden summary

One million bulbs (or so it feels like, anyway), several million annuals to pull out, herbs to cut back, mulch to cover the gardens like a warm blanket for the winter.

Before I get into the meat of the summary, I want to wax philosophical for a bit. I've really truly been enjoying the harvest season - the feeling of growing and using my own foods. I've had an abundant crop of tomatoes and green peppers, of basil, oregano, parsley, sage, rosemary, and peppermint. Now, I don't have the foggiest how to use the sage, rosemary, and peppermints to their best advantage, but hey.. that will come with time. I've also got an abundance of lavender (for pretty smells) and golden marguerite (for dyeing). And there will be so much more next year when other herbs are sufficiently grown. It's just so deeply satisfying to do for oneself, to create usefully.

I have to wonder.... what is it about modern life that this fills so deep a crevice in my psyche?


On with the summary then....

Starting with the shed garden (to the right of the back door):
We had Elderberry and Grape, and a few annuals in a little 6' by 2' space. The Elderberry is a large bush, and not suited to a space that's only 2' wide. So Neil moved it out to the fenceline nearest the neighbour's. And I put a few bulbs in there - tulips and anemones. My hope is that when the tulips and anemones are done, in May or thereabouts, I can add tomatoes. It will be handy having them close to the house when I need a tomato to cook with.

Moving on to the round garden on the left of the back door:
Last weekend, I pulled up all the annuals so I could get a feel for how the herbs were doing. The lemon thyme, being a low-lying plant, had been largely shaded by the explosive annuals and surrounding other herbs. So it didn't take off in quite the same way as the others.

This weekend, we moved the woad and weld because they will need space to expand if I'm going to have enough to dye with. The woad will actually need a new plant next year, because it's a biannual, and it's usefulness in dyeing is in it's first year. So I'll need to always have at least one plant in it's first year.

The wormwood got moved because it's a monster plant. Chest-high and at least 3' wide. It dominated the entire space. [pretty 'though - Neil]

So now I had a garden with big holes where the woad, weld and wormwood had been, and where the annuals had been - time for more bulbs! Again, when the tulips die back in the late spring, I can add tomatoes and green peppers.

I will probably also need to replace the pennyroyal and rosemary, because they are listed as tender perennials for this region, but I won't know until next year. An herbalist friend in the area thinks the pennyroyal might survive but the rosemary is probably toast.

We harvested lavender and rosemary and parsley from this garden. The parsley has already been dehydrated and put in the spice jars. The lavender and rosemary are in grocery bags on the table in the mudroom, waiting for me to recoup energy to deal with them.

Moving on again to the triangular and inside the driveway fenceline gardens:
We chopped back the applemint and peppermint and sage. Some which we saved, and hence harvested. Some of which we just tossed in the compost bin.

We pulled out the remains of the basil. There wasn't much left after I'd harvested it last weekend.

We split the irises and moved some of them.

And then planted yet more bulbs. :)

These are all relatively new, or recently expanded garden spaces, so the more planting the merrier right now.

Moving on once again to the former vegetable garden:
What was once a big rectangular traditional vegetable is now going to become a mix of flowers, herbs and vegetables.

This is the space where the woad, weld, wormwood and the split-off irises were moved.
And we also moved in a cherry tree that is about 3 years old, and 5' tall.

I've become a big fan of growing tomatoes and green peppers, and herbs. But the corn just hasn't taken for the past 2 years so I'm going to give up on it next year. Of course that rationale doesn't apply to the rhubarb - I'll try that again next year in yet a different space. Some things just have different, entirely irrational priorities. :)

Peas and beans are always nice, and usually reliable, but they take up so much space. I don't know what I'll do with them next year. Cucumber was nice, but I'm going to have to learn how to pickle - we didn't use the cucumber that we got this year. 6 or 7 cukes from just one plant!


Friday, October 21, 2005

blog block, and putting the garden to bed

Sorry for the delay folks, I've been suffering blog block.

In other activities this week:
I've been baking cherry and apple tarts, and yet more pumpkin pie. The hubby complimented me tonight on the tarts.

Neil and I have almost finished the porch on the back yard. I think it's really pretty, but I'm biased. It's an original design by my one and and only husband.

I harvested the last of the oregano and basil, and then promptly bought two new plants on the way home tonight to grow indoors over the winter.

I pulled up the impatients to get a feel for how the herbs were growing in the new round garden, where everything just exploded with growth this year. And wow, have I got herbs! I only wish I knew what to do with them.

Brought in the surprise new tomato plants to see if I can raise them indoors over the winter. I broke one of them off at the stem while digging it up but stuck it in the dirt anyway, and watered it deeply. And surprisingly, it seems to be recovering!

I started spinning the blue-faced Leicester that I bought at London Wul on our vacation. It's new to me, I usually stick with Icelandic fleece because Icelandic is period to the Viking Era, but I am really enjoying this fleece as well. I might be becoming a fiber addict. :)

On wednesday, I harvested the tomatoes before the first frost hit. It's very satisfying to be be supplied my own foodstuffs. I could get addicted to this gardening thing as well.

And for the past several nights, I've been making myself and Neil miserable with bad sinus reactions in the middle of the night. Neil pulled out the furnace filter and cleaned it this morning. I hope it helps.

Yes, it's been cold enough that our furnace has come on - welcome to the northern climes.

This weekend, Neil is determined to put the gardens to bed. We have dozens of new bulbs to plant, and several plants to move. And tonight we arrived home to a heaping pile of mulch - to be added to what was the vegetable garden, and will next year host a wider variety of flowers, herbs, trees, bushes, and a few vegetables.

I've got a list here of everything that I want to do to the gardens next year. It's on our home site so I can use it as a reference point, and my hubby can update it as well.

I've been promising to post a garden summary of the previous year, haven't I? Well... soon. Really.

Karen :)

Monday, October 10, 2005

Love at first bite :)

Made a pumpkin pie - crust commercial, filling straight from the raw pumpkin - for Thanksgiving dinner with my parents yesterday.

As you can see, we all loved it. :)


Saturday, October 8, 2005

gardens, pie, serenity and shooting, oh my!

The foxglove in the garden is behaving strangely. It gave me one stalk of flowers in the middle of the summer (pictured above) and then died back. I assumed this was normal, since it's the first year I've grown foxglove.

But now, 2 months later, it's growing and flowering on another stalk. I've never seen another plant do that. Fascinating. I can't wait until it's more established and starts reaching the 4 or 5 foot range that I've heard foxglove can go.


No news on the pie front yet. I've been busy this week. Although I do hope to get to the pumpkins soon. I promised my Mum that I'd bring her a pie for Thanksgiving dinner on sunday.


In the meantime, we were at the Bogenschuetzenfest today. It's an archery contest that is part of Oktoberfest every year. Now, I generally loath all things to do with Oktoberfest, but I make an exception for the Bogenschuetzenfest.

Today, it was pleasantly chilly - you know when it's definitely turning into fall, but not so cold that I couldn't spin between my times to shoot. The day went on so long that they were needing to rush the shoot to finish so the club could open for evening festing.

That's me, up to shoot. I didn't win anything but I did enjoy the shooting, the spinning and hanging with friends.

The scarf that I'm wearing in the picture, by the way, is my first weaving project off the warp-weighted loom. I took it off over a year ago, and haven't been wanting to cut it for fabric but it's perfect for an oversize scarf.


Last night, we finally got out to see the movie Serenity. Joss Whedon did a fantastic job following up on his too-soon-cancelled series Firefly.

A friend of mine went to see it a week ago and wrote me this:
oh dear
oh no

An excellent summary. :)

Sunday, October 2, 2005

my how time flies...

A week has gone flying by since my last post!

I started an elm bark dye bath two saturdays ago by soaking the elm bark. Colour is supposed to be in the pink/coral range. It's supposed to be finished by simmering for an hour and adding the wool, and simmering for another another. So... I stuck it on the stove last night and simmered it, and put a test strip in...and an hour later - nothing. No colour change at all.

For the moment, I've given up. Took the pot off the stove and back into a corner to soak some more. Any ideas?

Anti-V mentioned to me in email that perhaps I need to be soaking it in alcohol. Although the recipe I'm using is from Jenny Dean's _Wild Colour_ and she didn't mention alcohol. All the other recipes have worked so far, I'm surprised that this one hasn't.

Any clues?


I've been browsing through all the images that I've put up on the web, and quite a few of them have never made it to the blog. So here's a couple more to amuse you.

Still blooming now in our garden, I'm not sure of this one's name, except that it's an aster of some variety.

This is Ginger, being weird, and sticking her head up between the coffee table and the couch. She's returned to her normal, healthy old-lady ways after a bout with fatty liver this summer.

This is Leif, or or in this position, sometimes known as "Belly Boy". This weekend, we took him up to Neil's Mum's house, where he got to spend time with Pogo and Shelley. Now, Shelley's been spayed, but Pogo hasn't yet, being very young. Pogo has apparently gone into heat, and it was amusing watching Leif and Pogo try to get together. Leif's been neutered for so long, I'm surprised he still knew what to attempt to do.


Also, I bought 3 'pie pumpkins' with an eye to making pumpkin pie in the next few days, right from scratch. There's a recipe in the Joy of Cooking. Wish me luck, and feel free to send other recipes my way.


Monday, September 26, 2005

my hubby :)

Neil passed his exam with flying colours, and is now a certified Project Management Professional.

It's kinda like a lawyer passing the bar, for the vast majority of folks who won't have heard of the profession. I hadn't heard of it until I met and married the man.

I'm very proud of my hubby. :)


Sunday, September 25, 2005

gardens and pies, oh my!

The most recent picture of my newest garden space - one of three new spaces that I made this spring. And the single most full sun garden possible in my yard, since it is full of large old trees. As you can see, the impatients have had a huge visual impact.

This is what the same space looked like much much earlier in the year. You can tell then that are actually other plants in the garden!

Wormwood, golden marguerite, woad, weld, lemon thyme, skullcap, st.john's wort, feverfew, rosemary, lemon balm, pennyroyal, dyer's broom and alkanet are the other plants - all herbs. Some are dye plants, some are medicinal.

The home store of Richter's Herbs isn't that far away from me. While they largely focus on selling seeds online, the store also has baby plants. I have not had good luck with seeds, but baby plants are awesome starters!

As wonderful as the garden looks this year, I want to make major changes (again!) next year. This is also the garden that is closest to the back door of the house. It isn't making sense to me to put dye plants and medicinals that close to the house, when they aren't used as often as the vegetables. So my thought for next year is to move some of those out, and the tomatoes and green peppers in. Right now, the tomato and green peppers are the furthest out from the house.

But I'll be posting a more comprehensive garden assessment in a few days.


I made more pies yesterday. This time I took pics. :) This time my major problem is that they were -too- moist. I had to pore off excess moisture. I'm sure I'll get the hang of it soon enough. I'll just have to keep practising - oh gosh, the torture of it. ;)

Both are apple pies - one has a pastry string top, and the other an attempt at the dutch apple crumble top. I say "an attempt" because I don't really have a recipe around for it. I just went on instinct - oats, brown sugar, cinnamin, nutmeg, and a little margarine to make it stick together.

Please feel free to give me pointers on both pies and gardens. :)


Tuesday, September 20, 2005

who wants pie?

Well, I made a pie. For the first time ever, from scratch. Apple. It's a little dry. Not enough sugar.

But the making pastry, and rolling out therof, proved to be not hard at all.

So overall, I believe I can learn to make good pie, with a little practice.

Picked out a few dozen photos from all that is online, to be printed. I still like physical albums and the hubby needs something to put up on his office walls.

Didn't get the porch stained 'though.


There's snow in the air on the West Wing rerun that I'm watching, and a chill in the air. I'm thinking of Christmas. But I suppose that I shouldn't get ahead of myself - there's still Thanksgiving, Octoberfest, the hubby's birthday and Halloween first.

Will have to put the garden to bed sometime in the next month. Watch for a wrap-up soon, and plans for next year.

Does anyone else feel pensive at this time of year?


Friday, September 16, 2005

it's the weekend!


I've never had a longer week at work. Coming back from vacation is the hardest thing.
All that freedom to do what you want, more or less whenever you want, only to return the structured days of working for someone else.

All week I've been craving the chance to make a pie. From scratch, like my Mom used to do. I should mention that at 40, I've only been discovering the domestic arts recently. Two years ago, I made my first turkey. And for both sides of the family, no less. If I was ever going to fail at domesticity, that would have been the day. But I didn't. The turkey timed out well with the other foods, and no one died of my cooking, or even got the slightest bit sick.

I could buy a pie - there is a farmer's market just down the road. But I want to learn how to do it myself. Get my hands messy with dough. The whole bit.

Maybe I'll finally have time this weekend.

How do y'all - the other blog types who've rediscovered the domestic arts - in spinning, weaving, cooking, etc. - how you do find the time?


Sunday, September 11, 2005

vacation's over

I went back to work today. *sigh* It had to happen.

Classes start today. All of the new kids are so damn Young. Thin. They don't even know what a vinyl album is. *sigh*

But at least I have some new clothes. Really, it's almost like I was going back to school myself. :) It's a hard feeling to lose, even in adulthood, when one works for a University.

Now, the weekend that was:

- Cut the lawn and trimmed the edges.
- Pulled weeds and deadheaded flowers.
- Watered the back garden. The front garden's a pain since the hose out there is broken. I dislike lugging buckets out.
- Picked tomatoes and green peppers and pears. Surprisingly the tomatoes did not all ripen and fall off while I was gone.
- Threw the ball for the doggie a few million times.
- Cleaned up the living room bookcases. Had to make more room for the fiber and fiber books.
- Started a quilting project. I've never actually quilted before. I'm just guessing on the how-to of it, based on observations made.
- Worked on but haven't finished the baby-blanket-in-progess yet. It's for a friend, don't get excited.

The pictures will likely be fewer for awhile. I'm all pic'd out for a bit. And dig how badly IE handled the panoramic shots. Try Firefox instead. It's what I use at home, but the workplace is too paranoid or Bought to use it.


Thursday, September 8, 2005

More pics from the vacation

Today we're getting back to our lives, sadly. My hubby went back to work, and I'm missing him. Silly, I know, but we've spent 95% of the day together for the last 12 days.

I don't need to go back to work until monday, so I've got a couple of health appointments today. The allergist was long overdue - apparently I have to start the shots from scratch again. Oh joy.

And there's laundry and vacumning, and garden mapping!

The hubby is a project manager - he likes plans. Parameters, making lists, budgets, etc. So I'm going to map the gardens - what's in each space. And maybe even naming the spaces so I can refer to them easily.

Anyway, here's a few more pics from the vacation. I've been playing with the stitch-assist function of the camera to make panoramic shots.

Maggie - a friend of a friend, whom we met in Annapolis Royal

This is the best view I could get while crossing the PEI bridge. I was very disappointed. It's the longest bridge in Canada, possibly the world, and it's got those damn concrete barriers for walls. Hell, I couldn't even get a decent view of the bridge itself from the shore.

Hopewell Rocks (link in previous post)

This is the lakeside view we woke up to on monday morning.


Tuesday, September 6, 2005

Home again - smelting pics.

We finally pulled in mid-afternoon today. After several discussions along the way about stopping at various fun places like Cullen Gardens, Black Creek Pioneer Village, Richters Herbs or Ikea, because the opportunity was there, because we had the time... we both decided that we just wanted to get home.

Of course that also meant that we had to stop to get the dog, the cat, dinner stuffs from Zehrs, and the mail. But we finally made it.

Let's see now... I've promised pics since the smelting, several days ago. I've finally got it all arranged.

But first, the shoreline of Annapolis Royal on the morning of the smelt.

Before the smelt got started, we needed to have the ritual Jiffy Pop over the smelter as the pre-heat took place... that's our erstwhile leader Darrell, doing the honours.

More details then you could ever want about the process of iron ore smelting in the Viking Era are available on the DARC webpages, under Projects, so I'll just give you some highlights here. Please remember that I take pictures, that I'm not technically oriented. I only superfically understand the science involved.

With a lot of hard labour pumping the bellows....

...the smelting process gets started - iron ore is added, alternating with charcoal.

Skipping ahead a few hours of bellows pumping and adding stuff and monitoring the smelter (by the sound of it, and the glass runoff), the boys decided that they had failed this time around. And after some discussion, they even came up with a good reason for the failure.

So....they added an electric blower to compensate...

...finally got the glass slag runoff they were looking for...

...and eventually came up with a bloom...

...which Kevin and Mark ...

...proceeded to beat in order to consolidate it.

The final product, last seen below, is much smaller and compact then it comes out of the smelter.

When we woke up the next morning, we had found that someone had stolen the bloom!

We think it was the Weird Guy (there's one at every exhibition, it seems), since he disappeared that morning as well.

But how disappointing is that?


Monday, September 5, 2005

Day What?

I've lost track of which day in the vacation this is - the hubby just decided it was Day 10.

I'm exhausted. It was a very very very long day of driving. All the way from just-before-Quebec to just-after-the-province-that-doesn't-want-the-rest-of-us.

Highlights of the last couple of days:

London Wul
- the people were wonderful to talk to, the dogs delightful, a natural dyes garden, and a great selection of all things fiberish.

Hopewell Rocks - lots of pictures, coming soon. Just like the smelting/forging pics I promised earlier. I'm just a little too tired to cope with it tonight.

Spa tub and lakeside view in Grand Falls. Spa tub with lots of hot water and jets = good thing.

Stopping at a hotel that finally has internet access (ie. tonight's hotel) = also a good thing.

More later. Home tomorrow.

Leif and Ginger tomorrow. Also a good thing.


Friday, September 2, 2005

Day 5 and 6 - Historical Gardens and Smelting

Still in Annapolis Royal.

Day 5 - overcast or raining most of the day. Surprisingly, there was just enough of a window in the afternoon to make it to the Historical Gardens after all.

And I have pics, of course. It's a big ol'garden - whatever else shall I do? :) Mind you, there are a million more pictures but I've narrowed it down to just these few.

Oh, and we can play a guessing game. For most of these, I haven't the foggiest what it is, so please feel free to let me know.

Blue something and white something.

Blue something and yellow something.

Love Lies Bleeding - this one I know! It's very distinctive.

Pretty things...identified as Cosmos by Diana and Jamie. :)

Water Garden...

Big ol'pumpkin...

Day 6 - Smelting

This was the point of getting us here, to this place. The Dark Ages Recreation Company, of which I am a part, had a specialized smelting team out at CANIron, a Canadian conference for blacksmiths from North America and Europe. Neil and I followed our hardy smelting crew out to take pictures and document the process.

The day started at 9am and finished at 9pm, more or less. The historical smelt was an abject failure. *sigh* We've had successes before with the process, but this time, the team made a fatal mistake. They tried too hard.

As I understand it - and I am not a blacksmith or particularily technically inclined - the team made the smelter *too* good, *too* much able to handle heat. They used a highly refractory clay and added kyonite to the mix as well. Apparently the process actually depends on part of the smelter breaking down and contributing sand to the slag bowl that should form at the bottom of the smelter, for the heat to reflect back and help the iron solidify and sit in the bowl. No smelter breakdown, ore that was too pure (and hence didn't have enough slag of it's own to contribute) = no slag pool, not enough heat for the bloom to solidify.

Now, there was a bloom and the removal and hitting therof makes for great pictures (as yet unprocessed) but that came only after they gave up on the historical process and added an electric blower.

Ah well. Pictures later.


Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Day 4 and 5, in Annapolis Royal

Yesterday we took the ferry from Saint John to Digby, a 3 hour cruise. It was a delightfully short drive from Digby to Annapolis Royal, after we stopped at the Visitor Information station and picked up a few million pamphlets.

Annapolis Royal is very pretty, very historical, and quite cheerful about gouging the tourists.

There's no phone line available, at all, in our little hideaway housekeeping unit, so blogging will be spotty for a few days, until we move on to the next leg of the trip. The town library has internet access, so we can check in from here.

I can only hope the cell phone works in case someone from home needs us. The remaining bits of Hurricane Katrine is hitting our home in south-western Ontario right about now.

I leave you for a few days in the care of a few more friends from the Aquarium two days ago.


A small Ray of some sort...

Crab (again of unknown variety)



Monday, August 29, 2005

Day 3, the end

Today was much much better! Driving-wise, that is. I'd have to say I found the sights just as fun as yesterday.

We crossed back into Canada around noon, and immediately around the corner in St. Stephens, we sat down to the quintessinal Canadian lunch - at a Tim Horton's. Just across the street from Tim's, there was The Chocolate Museum.

"Presenting the story of brothers James and Gilbert Ganong, whose candy-making company built in the late 1800s continues today, the Museum offers hands-on exhibits, interactive computer displays that explain how chocolate and candies are currently made, collections of historic chocolate boxes and antique candy-making equipment."

Samples were part of the tour. Delicious!

There was an obligatory Chocolatier store out front, of course. I didn't spend a cent. And if you believe that.... ;)

Then we moved on to St.Andrews where the Huntsman Marine Science Centre is located. We weren't allowed to take pictures at the Chocolate Museum but I got a few at the Science Centre.

The seals were delightful. Chelsey, Buddy and Aurora are a small family. When the tourist season ends in two days, the young Aurora will either be moved to another Aquarium or introduced to the wild.




Buddy was a ham, showing off his swimming abilities...

...and lunging for the food.

A few other folks made the pics as well, but as you can no doubt tell, Buddy stole the show. :)