Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Spring Sewing: Leggings!

Yes that is a potato she's eating, a raw potato she took from the pantry- I tried to give her a strawberry instead but she refused- what a child.

These little leggings were a snap to make-using some store bought leggings as a pattern, except that I cut them very close so that they're tighter fitting than the usual toddler leggings. I love this fabric- I bought two metres of it about a year ago- and these leggings used up about .1 of a metre, so expect to see more clothes out of it- I'm thinking about making a top for her in brown jersey with this fabric as a contrast. I might even make myself a top with it-though it's pretty memorable fabric- and it might break my no matching with your daughter rule (too cutesy- I can't do it- except with aprons or something else equally transient).

But anyhow- I also made a pair of cropped leggings out of some green and navy patterned fabric. They also turned out very sweet- and easy- four seams I swear- the only tricky thing is sewing stretch fabric- which can be a bit of a pain. I'm considering doing a tutorial for them- would that be interesting to anyone?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Spring Sewing: Tiny ruffled tunic top

This is the latest of the spring sewing marathon I've cut out for myself- a tiny tunic made with the same sort of pattern I used for my tunic top, but with the addition of elastic thread around the cuffs, and neck, and a button to close the keyhole neck- cause a baby version calls for a little more modesty than a mama version, right? The fabric is vintage stuff I got from my mom a couple of years ago- and it's very lightweight- perfect for summer, it dries fast and breezes blow through it- though sunscreen is probably an essential under this top.

I love the black and white pattern and love the pairing of it with these red "jeggings" from 'please mum'- (look at the pockets- they kill  me), it's such a sophisticated pairing for a toddler- when you ignore the pink faux crocs. If only I'd bought her those clear jelly gladiator sandals they were also selling at 'please mum', she'd be a fashion icon, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. I was torn between buying the jelly shoes and the white straw fedora. I suppose they realize that the people who wore that stuff the first time round have kids now, and we're sentimental for our crazy 80's fashions, (oh! it was a simpler -more plastic- neon time then, sigh...). In the end I bought neither, I remembered just in time how badly those plastic shoes chafe (seriously whose idea of fun are plastic shoes in the summer?), and a white straw fedora would never survive a tantrum on grass.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ice cream and sunshine

What's better than ice cream in a park on a sunny day in spring?

New shoes!- can't beat that, especially when the new shoes are 40% off.

Friday, May 20, 2011


 I transplanted these Ostrich Ferns yesterday- out of the doomed rock garden- doomed because I've utterly failed to keep it weeded since we've moved in, and have succeeded in killing a lot of the flowers that were there- and into a shady spot along a garage wall. The rock garden is getting dismantled this year- It's too much work for me, when my focus is on growing food- and there is a serious grass problem there, it's like sod now with a few flowers struggling to compete. But in an attempt not to let my mother-in-law down completely (the house and garden were hers, before they were mine), I'm saving what I can, so this will be the summer of transplanting.

We also moved some lily of the valley yesterday- into the same shady area, but then read that you're supposed to wait until they bloom to move them- so it seems as though I may have killed them too!- oh well- there's more where they came from- they seem to have thrived on my neglect- which bodes well for them in the future. All this work is going into an area of the yard that I usually ignore- except for putting in a few impatiens, but this year I'd like to make it nice, it's a great place to sit in the evening- when it gets some dappled shade, and it's cool on the hot days, and close enough to the house to run in for drink refills, or hang out while grilling.

It's one of the areas that's getting a face lift- and these Ferns are hopefully going to get large and lovely here, multiplying generously, also as transplants from another area of the yard they fit into my budget of zero dollars, so cross your fingers that they survive.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Park Bench Makeover

I've been busy this week- the sun is finally out and that means less time for blogging I suppose- (but lots of blog fodder, so it's sort of a good situation). I've been trying to set up some areas for sitting in our yard- which is huge, and very park-like but without the appealing benches. Instead of opting to buy new yard furniture though I've decided to go on a cleaning/painting rampage to try and spruce some old things up. We have lots of old things around that could be used if they had a little care, and I love the look of painted wood furniture outside- it's much more my style than resin wicker- even with the care issues, and knowing I'll have to re-paint it at some point.

This is my first project- and it was so easy and quick- I managed to distract N with a bucket of water and some chairs that needed washing, and then I sanded and painted with an indoor/outdoor gloss paint in colonial red- that we had lying around the shop. Because I was painting it I didn't have to sand all the weathered bits off before I could start painting, which would have taken forever. I'm so pleased with the end result- free new furniture- what's better than that?

Monday, May 16, 2011


Is there anything more promising than a spring flower? I picked these to allow a little artificial sunshine into the house- it's been rainy and windy and cold here for the last week or two- and suddenly this Sunday it became spring- real, warm, shorts outside spring. It's fantastic what a little sunshine can do for morale.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The banks of the Assiniboine

These photos were taken on Sunday- they're pictures of land that is used as plot land by the Brandon Agriculture Research Station. The Station land sits on the edge of the river- the row of spruce trees is where their main drive is- the row of trees that look seriously insignificant are huge trees that line Grand Valley road- which runs east west. In the second photo you can see the line of sandbags that is holding the water back from the shopping centre and houses across the road. There isn't a lot of scale in these photos- but rest assured that the river is stretching its banks, to say the least.

There's a lot of issues with this flood- stuff I hadn't thought about before when I heard of this sort of thing happening elsewhere so here's some food for thought: Besides the obvious concerns of evacuations and housing, and closed stores- the roads that are being used as detours are getting a lot of traffic- and for the most part these are secondary roads- which means gravel around these parts. These roads don't take well to increased volume and increased moisture- and there are no excess crews of people to fix them- so the roads are an added hazard in my view.

There's also the food supply to consider- farm land that is being flooded is not likely to produce crops this year. I know it can seem like a stretch to connect cropland with the actual food on our table- (but the fact is it is food- and that's another post- probably)but the brand of veggies that is in the store in Manitoba- peak of the market- is grown in Manitoba- by producers in the flood zone- and that's going to affect our food prices directly. I hate to sound like a downer- but our food prices are only going to get higher out of all this- If there ever was a year to plant veggies where your flowers are- this is it.

And I haven't even mentioned the gas prices- people are sitting in traffic and taking detours- sometimes over ten miles out of their way, it's horrible and it's expensive for everyone- city crews fixing dikes and regular people just trying to keep on living life.

Okay there it is- the downer post for the week-keep hoping for dry weather.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Tunic Top

I've been optimistically making spring and summer clothes for myself and the girl these last couple of weeks. This tunic top was the latest finished item- made out of fabric I bought last summer and love, love,love. The combo of acid green and violet and pink and blue somehow works, and I love the scale of the print. I've been longing for more prints in my wardrobe for a while, and I'm finally using the fabric I've been hoarding for something useful. I used this tutorial for making costume tops- and inset the sleeves instead of having all that excess fabric in the shoulder area- it was easy, it would have been a fifteen minute project if I hadn't got all fancy with contrasting borders and keyhole necks.

Now if only the weather would smarten up and I could get outside, or wear something other than sweaters and rubber boots. Seriously-the flood situation in Manitoba is intense- you can read about the details here- it's a complicated mess of dikes, and faulty gages, and controlled breaches, and evacuations. In short- it's not good news, and the weather is making it worse. The water table is so high that this rain is just sitting on top- even in areas not directly affected by the Assiniboine- farmland is wet- too wet to work-to wet to plant- hopefully it dries up soon- or food prices will skyrocket and some farmers will lose their shirts.

We're lucky to be high above the Souris river, but even so it's best to cross your fingers and hope for sun.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


This spring has been a slow starter- and I've found myself outside staring at bare trees and branches, straw coloured grass and the tips of bulbs peeking out through the soil. One bonus to this type of spring is the chance to appreciate what we've got nature wise right now. It's easy to be enthralled in the natural world in the fall and the late spring and summer, even the dead of winter has some obvious beauty to it, but the in-between times can be tough- the promise of leaves and flowers seems a long way off out here, and we're caught in this liminal state where it feels like early spring has overstayed it's welcome and true spring isn't springing fast enough.

You have to look at the subtle to find something that can absorb you while you wait for the obvious things to hurry up. It's a push to go past flowers and start studying the shape of the trees- the shadows of branches on a weathered table top, the golden and grey lichen that thrive on those branches, the way that the straw coloured grass matches exactly my little one's hair.

Maybe the lesson this spring is teaching me that savouring subtlety is one way to thrive in a liminal state, when you're not quite where you want to be- but you're on your way- maybe it's best to enjoy the small things- the microcosms- and forget about the end result for a bit.

I've tucked these pruned branches into a cast iron planter I have standing outside- and am enjoying their architectural shapes while I wait for the sweet peas to grow up around them.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

We hosted a mother's day brunch here for all the mothers that were in our area this year- my Mom, K's Mom, and my sister- it was a nice chance to be around these wonderful ladies- as well as to try out some new brunch dishes. I made Pancakes with strawberries and cream ( a classic) and Shakshuka from Smitten Kitchen's recipe- (eggs poached in tomato sauce- basically) and every one loved it. It was a bit of a pain to make it on the stove top as we had to make it in two batches- which did allow us to have soft poached and hard poached eggs in order to please everyone (how often does that happen?).

I think in future we could just put the sauce in the serving dish and then crack the eggs into it and bake it in the oven- that would be easiest for a crowd certainly- and I think it would still work out. The sauce has enough body to hold the eggs with them dissipating like they do in water- so I think baking it would work- very easy impressive dish.

The photos above are N helping me make the pancakes- she's a very dedicated sous-chef.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


The weather this weekend was a little depressingout here- a blizzard- the yard that was just free of snow- filled up again- such is life in Manitoba I suppose. But while we stayed in and avoided windows N decided to dress up a bit- choosing the most extravagant dress in her wardrobe- velvet with jewels. Then we went through a few more boxes of stuff , and K found this snoopy watch. This watch was his when her was five or six- he said it stayed in such good shape because he grew out of it right away- it's just the right size for N- not that she can tell time yet- but she sure loved having it on her wrist.

It's a priceless thing to find the treasures of your youth in a box in the attic, but it's even better to see them become a treasure for your children too.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Monday Inspiration: Sustainable tree house

This house was designed by Robert Harvey Oshatz- whose website you check out here. It's certainly dreamy - like Swiss family Robinson meets star trek- (I mean that in a good way). Maybe it's funny to love both this style of house and Arts and Crafts style houses- I don't know where the common ground is- perhaps it's in the woodwork- and the overall idea of a designed space. I love the idea of a space that is thought out and planned according to the needs of the inhabitant.

I think even most newly renovated places are not like that- somehow we manage to get the idea that islands that are too big to keep regularly clean are a good idea-(you know, the ones in kitchen magazines that are about the same size as my whole kitchen)- my question is how does that work on a day to day basis- doesn't a whole pile of junk just sit in the middle of the island waiting to be put away?- that's what would happen here anyhow, it may look nice- but it's not really well designed if you know what I mean.

We waited to do any sort of work in our kitchen and bathrooms until we had lived here for a couple of years- so that we'd know how the space works and have an idea of what would work better. And I'm going to make certain choices based on that knowledge- I love the look of those white porcelain apron front sinks- but I have a porcelain sink in my kitchen right now- and it sucks- It can look nice- but I have to bleach it to get it that way- and not set any aluminum pans in it- and clean it thoroughly after every use- which is too high maintenance for me- for a sink.

I love the way well designed houses make the space work, and take the function of an item into consideration- not just the look of it, and if it can be sustainable too- then I'm in serious love!