Life

Live Small

“‘Go big, or go home!’ ‘Upsize,’ ‘supersize…’ ‘Bigger is better.'”

Everywhere we go there are marketing messages to buy bigger, to live bigger and consequently to leave a bigger footprint. An item may come in larger packaging or be ‘party sized,’ but unless you are having a party, the smaller package will do quite nicely. Another package may come with a name to make the excess quantity seem like a bargain, but is it really? Ultimately those larger than life packages need to be put somewhere and I don’t recall ever hearing anyone complain about having too much storage space. Tuck it away, find an unusual storage place and sure enough, you will forget you have it; at least until you purchase another and try to stuff it into the already occupied space.

We live in a 1940’s built home, no linen closets, and the front closet has no door, so stuffing it up to the rafters just isn’t going to work. Just the essentials find a home there, coats (in use), a pair of shoes each and a three shelf cubby for mittens, umbrellas, and the like. There is no need to rifle through that closet, if you can’t see it, it isn’t there.

We live small in other ways too. Look under our beds – you actually can because nothing is stored under them. Our furniture is not ‘oversized’ or ‘over-stuffed.’ I think twice about storing items too – am I ever going to use it? And I ask the same question before even making the purchase. We have a tote, stored under the stairs, designated for donations, when something gets brought in, say an item of clothing, something usually goes into the donation bin. Our vehicle, just the one, is smaller too – and it gets put into our single-vehicle garage!

Some things are better big, laughs and hugs for instance. Big sunrises and glorious sunsets. That is just it though isn’t it, the best things, the best ‘big’ things aren’t really things at all.

I’m not saying it is easy living small in this supersized world, but the rewards can be bigger than you imagined. ‘Go small at home!’

Simplee 

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Gluten-Free Food · Gluten-Free Recipe

Perfect Poached Egg

Poached eggs have always been a comfort food for me. As a child, each day started with a poached egg made by Mum. She used an egg poacher which was well-worn after years of use. I, too, have an egg poacher which my husband uses to make poached eggs for breakfast every Sunday morning. I find this poacher, with metal cups, inconsistent; it makes four eggs at a time, and if you just want a single egg, pulling it out of the cupboard and cleaning it up afterwards, is too much of a deterrent for me.

Mum and I have been working to perfect a method for a consistent poached egg in a saucepan. With or without vinegar, with or without a vortex, it boils down to preference. In fact, I have found it boils down to boiling!

Here is my preferred method for a single, perfect poached egg:

Firstly, crack an egg and place it in a shallow dish or ramekin.

In a small saucepan, bring a couple of inches of water to a rolling boil. Add a drop of vinegar (it will not flavour the egg and is supposed to keep the white from floating off). Now, reduce the burner to low, remove the pot from the burner for a few seconds to reduce the boil. Once the water is just at a soft simmer, return pot to burner and stir in the centre of the pot to create a vortex, a tornado in the pot! Carefully, hold the dish close to the surface of the water and allow egg to slide into the swirling water.

I like my yolk soft, so I use a three-minute timer. Adjust your time accordingly. Using a slotted spoon, scoop egg out of water, gently test for doneness by feeling the yolk. I like to let my egg sit on the spoon, suspended over the pot – it keeps the egg warm and eliminates the water puddle if left to sit on a plate. 

Enjoy your perfect poached egg however you prefer to eat one. For me, it is mashed on a piece of toast. It makes an equally satisfying breakfast, lunch, supper, or even a filling snack (just not all in one day!)

Simplee

Gluten-Free Food · Life

K.I.S.S.

Keep it simple…a catch phrase from grade school. Advise for projects and presentations. Wise words, minus the ‘stupid, of course,’ for us even now.

I wasn’t surprised at the answer I received, when I asked my son what flavour of cake he wanted for his birthday. Vanilla. Always vanilla, whether it be cake, ice cream or frosting. He believes in the k.i.s.s. principle. So I took a page from his book this year and kept it simple.

A vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream. No swirls or ganaches this year…although I did add some picot-dots (only because there was left-over buttercream.)

Do you know what? We all agreed on how good simple vanilla can be. As for my son he got smothered by real kisses!

Simplee 

Life

By The Numbers, 2

  • 2 small purchases at the antique market
  • 1800 yo-yos sorted by colour and then value with the help of 2 guys
  • 100 more yo-yos made (109 left to go!)
  • 1 completely new and different project to try
  • 4 projects to finish before starting any more
  • 3 doctor appointments
  • 16 days of heat
  • 12 peanut butter and chocolate cups made
  • 1 pair of new glasses
  • 0 baked goods in the freezer
  • 1 visit to the art gallery
  • 2 chocolate milkshakes
  • 6 crazy patchwork squares sewn
  • 3 magazines read
  • 9 gluten-free buckwheat pancakes
  • 1 lost sock found
  • 4 kitty paws nails trimmed

And two days of quilt-shop-hopping coming up this weekend!

Simplee

Handmade · Life

Busted!…(sort of)

I have been using a bit of self-tough-love the past couple of weeks. I put down my foot and decided I wasn’t going to purchase any more fabric for my yo-yos. Afterall, the point of making the yo-yo quilt was to bust my fabric stash, empty out those bins (in truth there is only one bin). I enjoyed digging through the remnant bins and picking out fat-quarters, but those actions were counter-productive. To be fair to myself, I “probably” wouldn’t have had enough in my stash alone. The scrap leftovers from the yo-yos have become crazy patchwork squares and I am really enjoying the process of making “something out of nothing.”

A few years ago, I resolved to bust my stashes of a) quilt batting, b) fabric, and c) yarn. For Christmas that year, I made three or four little-girl sized quilts. Since then, I have used up even more batting in other lap quilts, coasters, ie. mug-rugs, snack-mats, tablet cases and just recently I have been quilting little baskets. There is very little batting left, actually not enough to make anything much larger than a coaster…which is proving to be a bit of a problem because I have projects started needing larger pieces of batting. Eventually, one of those projects will be using up those crazy patchwork squares. So I do see more batting in my near future!

I can confidently say I have also busted my yarn stash. There are two shoe-box sized containers with odds and sods, in addition to some fancy fibre yarns which get used primarily for trims. To use up the stash, I knit socks and booties. I have managed to give away the smaller newborn sized booties, and a few pairs of socks. There are remaining socks, however, and therein lies the problem with stash busting.

In order to bust the stash, one has to use up the materials. Using up those materials means making something. Once you have made something, you have created another item to store, in essence changing the yarn stash, for example, into a sock stash. It is stored in a different place and as a different item, but it is still stored. One can give them as gifts, nice to have on hand, or donate them to a charity, so someone can get benefit from one’s work.

All creative types have stashes, it is a necessary evil, recipes, patterns, instructions, even web-bookmarks. My sister-in-law knit mittens, every Christmas we were gifted a new pair; my mother-in-law knits slippers. Some clean-up or down-size their stashes, meaning others are “lucky”(?!?!) enough to inherit that stash. One man’s trash is another’s treasure – sometimes, but not always.

Over 1700, the end is near! Stacked three deep and five tall.

What is one to do? Make a resolution! Flip through the pattern stash, pull out the yarn stash and use it up. Resist temptation, we all know it is impossible to match something that has been in the stash for years, go for a scrappy-look. Knit or crochet an afghan and donate it to a shelter, make a lap-quilt and pass it on to someone on dialysis, or make small blankets for the animal shelter. Altruistic creativity – the best kind. The joy comes doubly, first in the making, and second in the giving.

….and if you just can’t help yourself, you have the third pleasure of picking out new yarns, fabrics, patterns, or notions – but this time for a specific project you can’t wait to start!

Simplee

Gluten-Free Food · Life

Comfort Food

We are told “emotional” eating isn’t good. I would argue all eating is emotional. There are some foods we have fond memories of, and others we associate with negative events or feelings. Often it isn’t the actual food which stir these memories, but when (occasion-wise) the food was served or who we ate it with. I can still remember the menu of my husband and mine’s first Valentine’s Day together – carrot soup and duck were two items (but I had a very bad cold and barely ate anything, until I got home and had some toast.) Ask me what I ate on Monday?

All of us have all encountered the lump in our throats which accompany feelings of worry or anxiety. At these moments eating is difficult. Isn’t that emotional eating?

There are certain foods which bring us comfort. Some of the comfort comes because the food is prepared for us – chicken soup when you have a cold, for instance or dry toast and ginger ale when the tummy is upset. There are other foods which were mere accessories to an event and those feelings remain attached to the particular food. Cotton candy means carnival!

The experts tell us to be more mindful of what we are eating. Eating mindfully starts with our eyes, it is engaging all the senses and being aware of the smell, textures and flavours of our food.

Comfort food does all of the above. Perhaps we were extra mindful when first eating the specific comfort food, or we were surrounded by friends, celebrating, or a loved one spent time making us a special dish. Whichever the reason, everyone has a list of comfort foods. These emotional foods bring us comfort and while some are universal, others are very personal.

  • Banana bread,
  • toast and butter (the aroma reminds me of my grandmother),
  • hot lemons (a nightly ritual for me),
  • mac and cheese,
  • old-fashioned chocolate fudge,
  • railroad cookies (a rolled date cookie a neighbour used to make specially for me),
  • grilled cheese and ketchup,
  • brown baked beans (my grandmother seemed to always have some baking in the oven – an old wood stove),
  • mulled apple cider (holidays),
  • scalloped potatoes with ham,
  • and of course birthday cake.  

Funny how simple most of those comfort foods are to make, but how important they are to my own personal history.

Simplee

 

Gluten-Free Food · Gluten-Free Recipe

A Pot of Tea and a Recipe

Mum and I had a lovely day today, just the two of us. We shared a pot of tea and a ham and havarti grilled sandwich for lunch. We wondered and browsed around shops and found a new supply of our favourite body moisturizer (in a stick for easy application!) I bought myself some flowers and then we headed home.

My son has some sniffles and is in need of extra rest after his first week back to school. To help his immune system, I made a stir-fry filled with peppers and onions and added extra ginger to the teriyaki sauce. For dessert, peanut butter cupcakes with chocolate buttercream – cupcakes may not heal but they certainly sooth!

Enjoy.

Simplee

 

Peanut Butter Gluten Free Cupcake with Chocolate Buttercream

Gather:

  • 3/4 cup white rice flour
  • 1/2 cup tapioca starch
  • 1/4 cup sweet rice flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/3 cup each granulated and brown sugar
  • 6 tbsn butter (or margarine)
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup milk

Method:

  1. In medium bowl whisk together flours, starch, baking powder and xanthan gum.
  2. In large bowl, or bowl of stand mixer, beat butter and peanut butter together. Add white and brown sugars and beat until creamed and fluffy (about 3 minutes) on medium.
  3. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing after each one. Blend in vanilla.
  4. Add half of flour mixture to creamed mixture. Mix.
  5. Add all of the milk.  Mix.
  6. Add remaining flour mixture. Mix.
  7. Fill 12 liners of cupcake tin 3/4 full each. Bake in preheated 350F oven for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool in pan for few minutes. Remove cupcakes to cooling rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Buttercream

Gather:

  • 2 cups sifted icing sugar
  • 1.5 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2 – 3 tbsn milk

Method:

  1. Melt chocolate in small heatproof mixing bowl over couple of inches of simmering water.  Once melted, remove from heat and allow to cool.
  2. In large mixing bowl, cream butter until fluffy.  Add 1 cup of icing sugar. Add 1 tbsn of milk and mix until coming together.
  3. Add cooled chocolate to butter and icing sugar mixture and beat until chocolate incorporated.
  4. Add the final cup of icing sugar and add milk, as needed, until frosting reaches the desired consistency. I pour a bit of milk into a creamer jug and then add it as I go along – there is much more control over adding a bit of milk from a small jug!

This is enough buttercream for 12 cupcakes if spread, but if piping larger swirls, there will be enough for only 9.

Handmade · Life

Tortoises, Circles and Squares…oh my!

Having completed its daily plodding, this tortoise was resting. Notice the circles and squares on its shell. Is that a hexie in the middle?

During the last week of summer holidays, we went to a nearby reptile zoo where there were snakes, crocodiles, alligators and turtles. There were also tortoises, one in particular was bound and determined to get out of the rut he had found himself in. He tried and tried, again and again to get over a rock and out of the small pond in his enclosure. And he did it! Slowly, surely, he plodded along, fell back and started again and got over the first rock, out of the pond and then over more rocks to join the other tortoises.

Some days I feel like that little tortoise, like I’m plodding along, encountering obstacles. The good news is by the end of the day, I can look back and see the distance I have travelled. Maybe that distance is represented by the number of yo-yos in my bin, the pile of squares beside my sewing machine, or the inches of knitting completed.

I have been aware of patterns this summer, and noticed some beautiful ones on the markings of some of the snakes. But closer to home, I have noticed that my handiwork practices have a distinctive pattern too. If I am working by hand, the projects tend to be circular. There are the yo-yos I work on every night, and just recently, I have knit a cowl, in the round, on circular needles.

At the sewing machine, my sewing is square. There I work on crazy patchwork squares (mostly using triangles).  And the last couple of weeks I have been cutting squares, stitching those squares together on the diagonal, cutting them in half and then pressing those new squares open; prep work for sewing four squares together to make one. The final square will be a half-square triangle pinwheel.

The circular projects, perhaps, are easier to transport – wheels are circles after all – or maybe they sit better in my hands. Either way, I will keep plodding along, clocking the miles on my sewing machine while growing my piles of squares, letting my mind think outside of the box.

Simplee

Handmade · Life · Nature

Fall Colours

Dark greens, faded greens, plums, burgundy, deep reds, oranges and burnt ambers, coppers and golds.  The colours of Fall.  They are the rich colours which tell the story of the changing seasons. 

The colours of precious metals and gemstones which nature displays to tell of the bounty of the harvest.  Much more valuable to those early pioneers needing to fill their cellars with food for the upcoming winter, a turnip you can eat, not so a ruby!  All the sun’s energy and the nutrients from the soil combining to nourish those who tend the gardens and fields, and those of us who purchase those same wares.

As I age (throat being cleared) I tend to lean more towards those darker, richer colours instead of the pastels of my youth. Perhaps it is their contrast to one another, each distinct.  It could be the way the colours fade, like in worn pioneer quilts.

On a recent visit to a small yarn and bookstore, I was drawn to a skein of yarn.  I put it down, walked away, I even looked at other balls of yarn and flipped through some books.  I noticed a pattern for a cowl which reminded me of a pattern at home. In other words, I had walked in a square around the shop and came right back to the skein I noticed first off.  

The yarn is made by Berroco. The colour is just a number, but, fittingly, the yarn is called “Vintage Colours”.

Simplee

Life

Falling Back

As the leaves begin to fall down from their lofty perches, we start to fall back. We fall back into a regular routine, retreat more into our homes and fill up the calendars with our commitments.  

School has resumed and the time will fly by now.  There are still four more months left in the year to accomplish those resolutions made back in January, or you can turn over a new leaf and make a Fall resolution. There isn’t the time for procrastination as we see the signs all around us of the ending of the season.

In the kitchen, we fall back to the warmer spices like cinnamon, cloves and ginger. We retrieve the roasting pans and put away the grills. Soups and stews replace sandwiches.  Hot chocolate and mulled cider will replace freezies and ice cream. The final Fall harvest is approaching, soon the apples will all be picked from the trees and perishable fruits, like berries will be hit by frost.  The cold cellar vegetables, like squash, and the first pumpkins are now available at the farmer’s market.

Technically, it isn’t Fall yet, but I know that in a few short weeks, the mornings will be quieter as the birds begin to migrate and the chirps of the crickets will be silenced. By the time January and February are here, I will be lamenting the long winter and looking forward to Spring’s freshness. I guess that is what happens when we look forward, as we fall back.

Simplee