Friday, January 28, 2011

Simple Red Mitts

We’ve just experienced one of the coldest days in Southern Ontario this past week, -24C with a wind chill of -30 C.  Winter means cold hands, so mittens are a must in Ontario Canadian winters. 

Mittens are quick, and easy to knit.  They make excellent gifts as they can be personally customized for the recipient ie their favourite colour, and not to mention a perfect fit !
Receiving a homemade gift is often more meaningful than one that was store bought.  

The last pair of mitts I made I used 100% wool and felted them for extra warmth.  What is felting?   Simple – it’s matted wool.    

The project you wish to felt is knitted much larger than usual and 100% wool must be used.    Once you’ve finished your knitting your project, the process of felting is to wash it in hot soapy water so that it purposely shrinks and the fibers mat together and feel like felt.   The stitches become tight and tangled together and once dried the material becomes very durable and called felt.  The easiest way is to put in your washing machine and wash in hot soapy water.   You can felt your object in the sink, but it takes lots of work and patience.

Felting is fun because you’re not always sure what your project will look like when it’s been felted.    There are many knitted objects that can be felted ie mitts, purses, hats and more.   There are many felting patterns and books available on how to felt, whether it be in a top loading / front loading washing machine or by hand.

Mittens before felting

Mittens after felting

Try making your own mittens by felting wool fibers together. These mittens will be sure to keep your hands warm – your hands will thank you !

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Simple Winter Gardening : Growing your own indoor winter Garden

Winter is the ideal time to add living food to our diets, now that fewer locally grown items are available and most imports are not as fresh, nutritious or very affordable.
Any easy way to give your body a boost this winter is grow your own sprouts. 
It is inexpensive and a lot easier than you may think.     Sprouts can be grown from many types of seeds and legumes.   It requires very little space and all you need is some simple equipment, water, seeds or legumes.  Once sprouted, the seeds will continue to grow like an indoor garden and require little care.  They are many different sprouting kits available in health and specialty shops or you can buy on line.  
I got my first one at a trade show – The Green Living Show in Toronto  ( 
(    Seeds, beans and legumes for sprouting can be purchased at various websites, health and specialty food shops and your local grocery store.  Good ways to incorporate them into your diet is by adding them to your favourite salads, sandwiches or soups.

Benefits of sprouting :  Studies have shown that sprouts contain exceptionally high levels of natural cancer fighting compounds which help support antioxidants such as vitamins C and E.    According to, “The vitamin content of some seeds can increase by up to 20 times their original value within several days of sprouting.”  Sprouts are one of the most alkalizing, nutritious, easily digestible, and easily accessible foods.  They are rich in vitamins, minerals, proteins and enzymes, they can be grown easily in four to six days.

Growing Sprouts:  Many seeds/legumes can be sprouted ie alfalfa, little radish, lentils, mung beans, broccoli, leeks, quinoa, rye, etc.  However, some large beans ie kidney, lima, black beans should not be sprouted as they can be toxic and must be cooked to be digestible – check your local library or on-line for a list of how to safely sprout seeds/beans.   

Step by Step Sprouting:
  1. Rinse seeds under water
  2.  Soak seeds – I use at least 3 times the amount of water as the seeds will swell.
  3. Skim off all floating seeds and debris (this material has been linked to problems with bacterial growth
  4. Drain and rinse again
  5. Transfer seeds to clean jar or tray – keep in an area out of direct sunlight
  6. Rinse your seeds twice daily
  7. After about 4-6 days your sprouts are ready to harvest sprouts, rinse again and refrigerate in a loosely covered container.

Have some fun with your winter garden and enjoy the benefits !
My winter garden :  Green lentils - sprouting
Fresh Food from Small Spaces: The Square-Inch Gardener's Guide to Year-Round Growing, Fermenting, and Sprouting

Friday, January 14, 2011

New Year 2011

Someone said to me recently .. .”Is there anything you can’t do ! “

Well… there are lots of things I can’t do, but am willing try, at least once (maybe).

For one thing, setting up this blog was easier than I thought.   There were lots of templates to choose from, colours, ad contents, etc.   The content to put into the blog wasn’t too hard either.  Just write about what you know, like, daily life or want to know about.   I take all my own photos and the photos I take are of things I’ve done myself.   The jellies, chutneys, relishes, pickles, etc. I make from scratch.  The knitting and all the crafts are my own too (more posts to come).  I like to garden and hike, so there are more things to photograph.  I am now a hike leader too, so I always have someone to hike with.  What gardener, knitter and homecrafter doesn’t come complete with cats (which I have two).

Soon it will be time to start my seeds indoors for tomato plants from seeds I saved from last year’s tomatoes (soon to be another post) , and various perennial seeds found and saved.    See my simple garden post about starting a successful square foot garden.   

I've been inspired by various blogs I follow, The Simple Dollar (, Zen Habits (, to name a couple.

Getting back to simple living has been a journey, which I'll also share in a future a post.

There is a simple children's song that says it all:
'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain'd,
To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right.
 "Simple Gifts" was written by Elder Joseph while he was at the Shaker community in Alfred, Maine in 1848

Guest Photographer: Erica Ivy

Guest Photographer: Erica Ivy

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Simple Exercise .... Hiking ... any time of the year !

Bruce Trail - Great Esker Side Trail - January 8, 2011

Great Esker Side Trail after snow fall - January 8, 2011
 Last night we had a fresh snow fall.   It truly looked like a winter wonderland.    Perfect day for a hike - what a great way to spend a Saturday morning !! 

Berries on the Trail
  Not only is hiking a fun way to pass your time, it also has numerous benefits. Hiking is a cheap, fun, and natural way to, at the very least, improve your physical, mental, and emotional states.  Hiking is a fantastic workout. It consistently keeps your heart rate up and gives you an aerobic workout that will prevent the your chance of developing of heart disease, decrease your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, slow your aging process, increase your bone density, prevent you from catching a cold or flu, combat the threat of arthritis, relieve possible back pain, and provide you with a longer, better life, among other things. Regular hour-long hikes also increase your stamina, better equipping you to handle whatever situations you might encounter in your everyday life.  Hiking also provides great mental benefits. Enjoying the abundant nature of the outdoors and clearing your mind of everything for the short time you are enjoying the physical exertion of a nice hike can provide important benefits to your psychological health. Hiking is also a relaxing way to get away from everyone and spend some time with yourself. A break from the emails and phone calls of the day can do you a great deal of good. Direct sunlight and fresh air has been shown to have an affect on the psychological states of human beings. After your hike, you are sure to have gained a new perspective and feel refreshed and ready to take on the world.  

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Simple Tofu Jerky

For all my vegetarian friends (and not so vegetarian) .....

Tofu Jerky ... yup !  It is delicious ... just ask any vegetarian (or non-vegeterians).    My adult kids are my best critics and claim this is very good !  Easy to make, nutritious, delicious, easy snack to carry, great for hiking or snacking, good protein.

Secret is to marinate the tofu for several days before drying/dehydrating.   You can find various recipes on the web.  My favourite is found (

Looking for ideas to dehydrate food for camping/backpacking/hiking/paddlers (or for your emergency food storage)?  One of my favouries is "Trail Food", by Alan Kesselheim.   It's a small book, packed with how to's,  recipes, dehydrating times, etc.

Marinated Tofu before drying
Tofu after drying

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