Monday, December 31, 2012

Homemade Gifts - Christmas Gift Basket

What do you give 80 plus year old in-laws for Christmas, who don't want more stuff to dust/clutter up their place, who don't bake much, or can anymore?

This year I put together a basket of all my homemade preserves that I made this year ie: Salsa, Dill Pickles, Bread & Butter Pickles, Rosehip Jelly, Strawberry Jam, Green Tomato Chutney, Cranberry Chutney, Red Pepper Jelly along with several jars of "Meal in a Jar".

The "Meal in a Jar" included, Thai Red Bean Soup Mix, Quinoa and Lentil Soup, Lentil Soup, and Curry Soup.  Each jar contains all the ingredients needed, along with a recipe.   All that is reqiored is to add water and simmer till done.   I also made a couple of casseroles for their freezer with a gift certificate of bringing over one new dinner each month - something they can have right away or put in their freezer for a night they don't feel like cooking.

In the basket I also included a half dozen knitted dish cloths to match their kitchen decor.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Making a Baby Mattress

My youngest is expecting her first baby in a couple of weeks.   Her hubby is building a custom made crib, which of course needed a custom made mattress !

So.... off we went to Len's Mill this past summer in Guelph and we chose a 4" deep piece of foam for the mattress and 3 yards of vinyl covered quilt batting.  The foam was "on sale", and since I got the last 3 yards of material off the bolt I got an additional 15% off the fabric!  My task was to sew the cover for the baby mattress.   It was a project I had been putting off for quite a while as I wasn't sure how I was going to do the corners so they looked good, the cover to fit snugly over the foam and how I was going to finish off the end.    I really just had one chance to do it right, so when it came time to cut the material I had to be sure.

After searching the internet for ideas, I finally had a day to myself where I could put everything else aside, design a pattern, concentrate and finish the task.   Since my sewing skills are a bit rusty I was nervous about tackling such a project, however, I am pleased with the results.

After measuring a couple of times, before cutting the fabric, I then sewed up a sleeve and inserted the piece of foam inside and hand sewed the end.   It was quite an awkward task and the ends of my fingers took a beating hand sewing through some tough vinyl despite using a thimble to push the needle through the thickness of the material.    I'm happy the way it turned out...... and have a feeling I'll be making some "custom made" crib sheets now too!  :)

Finished custom made baby mattress

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Rasta Cowl

Now that Christmas is over, I can show you a few handmade gifts I made this year.

This Cowl was knitted with yarn called "Rasta" - a beautiful, very soft kettle dyed pure merino wool.  The pattern was a free one over at Northeast FIBER ARTS Center website

The pattern was a little tricky - knitting three separate rows, braiding and joining together for form a cowl neck scarf.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Hand Knitted Dish Cloths #2

In continuation of an earlier post on hand knitted dish cloths, here are a few more dish cloth designs.   These free patterns are also found on the Lion Brand Website - by just signing up for a free membership.

Dish cloths are a nice project for the beginner knitter.  Results are fairly quick, you get practice in reading patterns, learn new stitches and they are inexpensive to make. 

The first cloth is called "Laguna Beach Washcloth"

This second dish cloth is called "Plum Beach Washcloth"

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Baking for Charity

The company which I work for runs a "United Way" campaign every year to raise money for the United Way.  The United Way is a charity that's mission is  “To build and strengthen our community by bringing people and resources together to facilitate change.”

Money raised through United Way goes into so many programs to help individuals and families in the community.

One of the fund raising events that was held at our work place was a silent auction.   I donated - "two homemade pies of choice".   The pies went to the highest bidder - which was $50 !

The individual who won chose a pecan pie and a lemon meringue pie.   The pies were made from scratch - no pre-made store bought crusts or pie fillers.

Making pie shells

Pecan Pie fresh from the oven

using dried beans to keep the pie shell shape while baking

Lemon Meringue Pie

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Hand Knitted Dish Cloths

In between knitting projects I like to knit dish cloths.   The are a quick project that doesn't take alot of concentration and results are quick.   They make great hostess gifts or something to add to a gift.   I knitted up a half dozen of these for a bridal shower and the bride-to-be was thrilled. 

I found a couple of free patterns for different dish cloths from the traditional pattern found on the band of the cotton yarn used for dish cloths.

This pattern is called "Orient Point Washcloth" by Lion Brand.  The pattern is free if you sign up for a free membership at the Lion Brand Website.

Here's another one - also a free pattern from the Lion Brand website - called "Rocky Point Beach Washcloth"

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Dusting off the Sewing Machine

When I got my very first full time job after college... my first major purchase was a sewing machine.  I ordered it from the Sears catalogue and was so excited when it arrived.

I learned to sew in high school, when "home economics" was taught.  I think this subject should be brought back in to the school curriculum.  It's time kids learned basic skills again.

My sewing machine has served me well over the many years.   I've made clothes or myself, including my wedding dress as well as clothes for my girls when they were small and prom dresses when they got older.    Now that grand babies are starting to arrive the sewing machine is getting dusted off and have started using it again.

I would love to have a spot in my house to keep my machine out and if I could it would probably get used more often.    My machine is not a fancy one.  It's your basic machine, but does do zig-zag stitch which sure makes button holes alot easier to do !

sewing baby receiving blankets

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Homemade Cranberry Chutney

In time for Christmas ... Cranberry Chutney ! 
This chutney is great with turkey, ham or curries!  It also makes a nice gift or as a hostess gift. 

This recipe is tart and has a hint of curry.  We like it more than regular cranberry sauce with our Christmas or Thanksgiving turkey.

Cranberry Chutney Recipe
4 cups cranberries
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tart apple, peeled, cored and diced
1 cup orange juice
1 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup orange marmalade
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp salt
1 tsp curry powder

Stir all ingredients together in large saucepan.  Heat and stir on medium-high until sugar is disolved.  Bring to boil.  Cook, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes until thickened, stirring occasionally.  Fill hot sterilized jars to within 1/4 inch of top.   Seal.   Makes 6 - 250 ml jars.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Quick Knit Cowl

Looking for a quick - knit gift to make?  This cowl knit up quickly, using bulky wool and a size 9.5 mm circular needle. I used 2 skeins of a soft Peruvian Highland Wool called "Peruvia Quick".  The cowl can be worn long, or looped around the neck once, giving a bulkier warmer feel around the neck.  The pattern is an easy one, using "seed stitch" (knit 1, purl 1, next row alternate purl 1, knit 1)

I like to hand make most of my gifts, and found this year I'm running out of time, with all the babies born into our family this year I was preoccupied with knitting baby things.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Christmas Baking Traditions - Nuts & Bolts

When I was growing up my mother always made homemade "Nuts & Bolts" at Christmas time.   I've carried on the tradition of making these fun snacks each year.   Every year my daughter asks if I will be making them again.  I make a large batch as they don't last long in our house. 

Nuts & Bolts 
Mix together the following in large bowl.
I use my large canning pot.
1 family size box of Cherrios
1 family size box of Shreddies
2 bags of pretzels
2 3/4 cups peanuts (optional)

Mix together melted butter and spices in separate bowl.
1 1/2 cups melted butter
2 tbsp worchester sauce
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp celery salt
2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tbsp chilli powder.

Pour butter mixture over mixed cereal and toss until well coated.
Bake in 200F oven on cookie trays for approx
1 1/2 hours.

Enjoy ! 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Christmas Cactus

I have a Christmas cactus that was given to me by a friend.  This cactus was at her desk and when she left she gave me this cactus.   Our office moved during the summer and we weren't allowed to bring any of our own plants to the new building, so I brought this plant home. It sits in my front living room window with a small tea rose plant which is also in bloom.

This cactus has bloomed near Christmas time and near Easter every year.     

Have you ever really looked closely at the flower of a Christmas Cactus or any flower ? And really studied it?    It is truly amazing how unique every blossom is and how beautiful each one is.  The shapes and colours of the petals, the complexity of each blossom, each one so delicate.

We have no words
so complex, so delicate,
so simple or so strong as flowers.
Therefore we let them speak to us.
Pam Brown

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Quinoa Salad

Curried Quinoa Salad
It's that time of year when there are lots of activities going on, entertaining, and potluck meals to prepare for.   This recipe is also great for school/work lunches.

My mother gave me a recipe for "Curried Couscous Salad", which I've adapted into a gluten free recipe.   Instead of cous-cous  that is called for in the recipe I've substituted quinoa.  Quinoa is an ancient nutritious grain containing a complete protein.    I've taken this recipe to many potluck gatherings.   It's an easy to make-ahead salad and transports well. 

This recipe serves approx 10.

Curried Cous Cous Salad
2 1/2 cups chicken stock - bring to boil, remove from heat and add:
1 1/2 cups cous cous - let sit for 5 mins (only) off heat and covered.  Turn into salad bowl and fluff with for and cool.

SubstitutionFor gluten free recipe - cook 1 1/2 cups quinoa with 3 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock - for vegan/vegetarian dish).  Cook quinoa as per package directions - ie bring broth to boil, add quinoa, turn heat to low, cover and cook for 15 minutes.  Let cool, fluff with fork.

Add to cooled couscous or quinoa :
3/4 cups raisins soaked in 1/3 cup orange juice
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup finely diced carrots
1 cup green onions sliced on diagonal
1 cup red peppers chopped
1/2 cup pine nuts (optional)

Wine Vinaigrette
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
3 tsp curry powder
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste.
Wisk vinaigrette ingredients together, pour over couscous & veggies and mix well.

Enjoy !

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