Happy Easter!

Yesterday was Easter Sunday, which we celebrate around our house with Easter baskets for the kids from Mom and Dad and chocolate eggs hidden around the house by the Easter bunny.

Thing 1 particularly liked her Star Wars book pillow from Audin Roy Boutique.

Thing 2 really loved her Gudetama pillow, which I picked up at Ottawa Geek Market.

And the two of them spent most of the day eating chocolate eggs and making creations out of their brand new Makedo Cardboard Building System, which is so much fun that I have a set of my own.

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter weekend too!

Sweater of Many Colours

I needed a new knitting project to work on after completing my socks of many clours and another pair of wrist warmers (which I swear I will post photos of eventually). Neither of these projects made a big dent in the bag full of sock yarn scraps that I was hoping to work my way through, so I thought I’d try a larger project. I decided on a top-down cardigan for Thing 2 based on my favourite how to improvise a top-down sweater tutorial.

It hasn’t been very fast going, since the yarn is a smaller gauge than I usually work with for sweaters. So far I have completed the shoulders and knit down the chest about halfway. But I have worked my way through reasonably-sized balls of leftover yarn, which is encouraging. I’m trying to progress gradually from oranges and earth tones (Thing 2’s favourite colours) into blues and cooler colours further down the sweater. So far, so good! Thing 2 seems very enthusiastic about the project, although at the rate I’m knitting it may not be complete until it’s too warm to wear it. Hopefully she won’t have grown out of this size by next fall.

Kitchen Gifts

Of course, because my friends and family know that I enjoy spending time in the kitchen, a lot of my Christmas gifts this year centered around that.

One of my friends gifted me with some delicious Chex Party Mix and a lovely loaf of Makivnyk (a Ukrainian style poppy seed tea roll) from the Black Walnut Bakery. Oh, and Thing 1 gave me the Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix In A Jar that she’d made, thus ensuring that she would get to eat some of them too.

I also acquired a number of cookbooks over the holidays, some as gifts, others from thrift stores or as bargain books.

The Perfect Pie Book by Anne Marshall, 1984 (thrifted)
Hershey’s 1934 Cookbook, Hershey Chocolate Company, 1971 (thrifted)
Anita Stewart’s Canada by Anita Stewart, 2008 (thrifted — and I’ve wanted my own copy for quite a while)
Bread! Simple and Satisfying Recipes for Your Bread Machine by Kathrun Hawkins, 2006 ($4.00 at Dollarama)
Pumpkin Butternut & Squash by Elsa Petersen-Schepelern, 2000 (gift)

My parents gave me an Instant Pot and a handmade apron, my brother gave me a copy of Jamie Cooks Italy (since I’m a huge Jamie Oliver fan), and a friend gave me a Paderno tamagoyaki pan.

I can’t wait to try out all of my new toys!

The Stockings Were Hung by the Chimney with Care

Candy Cane was found checking out the music box on top of the china cabinet in the living room this morning.

(Please ignore the fact that the elf is out of focus. I didn’t notice until after she had moved to her next location.)

More importantly, I managed to get all of the Christmas stockings done! It only took every spare minute of my time for a number of weeks. Left to right, they belong to Thing 2, Thing 1, my husband, and me. I finished the last one (mine) during my husband’s family’s Christmas Eve get-together, which meant that it was done with only a few hours to spare before it was hung in preparation for Santa’s arrival… But it was done!

Merry Christmas!

Beer Advent Calendar Tutorial

We found Candy Cane checking out the books on Thing 2’s bookshelf this morning:

Today I decided to make a beer advent calendar for the husbeast at his request, even though we’re already a few days into December. (What can I say, I am running behind in a few things.) I’d seen them advertised online, but they’re not available commercially anywhere around here that I’d seen. I’ve also seen them for wine and for little airline bottles of liquor. I honestly think the best thing would be to build a divided wooden case with 24 little hinged doors on the top and reuse it year to year, much like some of the older traditional advent calendars (only larger). However, I’ve totally run out of time for that, so I went for a cheaper, quicker alternative.

I started with twenty-four different beers, which conveniently fit into a standard flat. Now, a proper box with those little cardboard dividers would have been optimal, but those only tend to be available for bottles. Because I didn’t have a proper box, I needed a second empty flat.

Using a craft knife, I cut about 1/2cm in around the edge of the box. It doesn’t have to be perfect, since it will be hidden.

Then I put the cardboard ring I’d created around the top of the cans of beer.

Next I wrapped the case of beer like a gift. I normally would hide my seams along the bottom of the gift, but since I couldn’t turn it all upside down without it all falling apart, I put the seam along one side instead.

Using a Sharpie and a ruler, I drew a grid above the cans of beer. I could feel the edges of the cans through the paper, so I could easily figure out where the lines should go. Then I randomly numbered the grid from 1 to 24.

My husband tried opening the advent calendar at first by punching holes in the paper, but it tore too easily into the other sections. We found that the best bet is to use a craft knife or scissors to cut a hole a little smaller than the grid markings, so as to keep the paper from disintegrating.

Once the calendar is opened, it’s possible to see the kinds of beer from the side of the case, or to displace everything inside by picking it up. This can be solved by making a cardboard grid and putting it inside the box before the cans. But if you’re not too picky, it works just fine — and my husband, for one, is too happy with his calendar to really care.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like…

It feels like the Christmas season is finally in full swing! Now that my last market of the season is complete, I can actually concentrate on our family celebrations at home.

I introduced you last year to our household’s Elf on the Shelf, who was named Candy Cane by my kids. As she does every year, Candy Cane showed up on the first day of December, along with the advent calendars.

On December 1st, Candy Cane appeared on the family room mantle, bringing with her a suitcase overflowing with tiny outfits.

On December 2nd, she hid away in our old china cabinet and tried on her outfits in front of my grandmother’s antique hand mirror.

On December 3rd, she spent time in the kitchen making hot chocolate.

And today, December 4th, she absconded with some of the kids’ LEGOs, including some minifigs from their advent calendar, and played with them by the window.

In addition to hunting for Candy Cane every morning, an essential element of this part of the season is making Christmas gifts. I was thrilled last week when Thing 1 came back from Guides with this lovely mason jar full of chocolate chip cookie mix. Each member of the troupe learned about following a recipe and got to measure out and package their own ingredients. I thought it was a great learning experience, and the girls had a lot of fun! (You can find the recipe on Very Best Baking if you want to make one of these jars yourself.)

Thing 1’s experience with making the cookie mix made me think. I do all kinds of canning, so why am I not making dried mixes in jars as well? These aren’t just good Christmas presents, they’re fantastic for teacher appreciation, housewarmings, new parents, sick friends, poor students and young adults moving out for the first time… I already have two books that devote a large portion of their contents to the subject: Company’s Coming: Gifts from the Kitchen (Jean Paré, 2001) and Jazzy Jars: Glorious Gift Ideas (Marie Browning, 2002), and as someone who makes preserves I have lots and lots of jars, so why am I not using them? I honestly think it’s because I have too much choice (I know, not the most horrible thing overall), and I’m having a hard time narrowing it down.

So my question is this: what is your favourite recipe for a dry mix in a jar?

Knitting Vero

It seems like all of my spare time recently, what little of it I have, has been spent with yarn and needles in my hands. My current project takes ten balls of Vero 100% wool in colourway Rose Bower, and even though I’m five balls into a ten-ball project, the pile of yarn doesn’t seem to be getting any smaller.

I don’t know how I manage to knit all year round, but I never seem to have what I want done in time for the holidays unless there’s a crush at the end. On top of this project, I’d like to make Christmas stockings for my family (we’ve had store-bought until now), and I want to try my hand at knitting at least one fleece-lined Mimikyu hat from Pokémon Go — although heaven knows if I give one to one of the kids, I’ll have to make a second. There’s 43 days until Christmas, I can do that, right?

Hope springs eternal.