Friday, May 29, 2009

My Creative Space: Inspiration and Cross-pollination

The focus of my creativity this week has not been in the studio or even being inspired by other blogs. My main focus this week has been preparing for a concert organized by my husband performing with his colleagues and our daughter. His fellow musicians graciously donated their services to help him raise funds for an upcoming trip to England of the Men and Boys' Choir of Christ Church Cathedral Ottawa of which our two boys aged 8 and 11 are members. I was involved in publicity and helping to oversee some of the little details to make it run smoothly. The programme featured my husband and fellow National Arts Centre Orchestra musicians Donnie Deacon and Margaret Munro Tobolowska the lion's share performed with harpist Caroline Leonardelli.

This young lady sung four beautiful Italian art songs from the 18th century accompanied by harp. As proud parents, we were delighted with her performance and her desire to help the Choir's upcoming trip. We were thrilled for her and hope she enjoyed the praise as much as we did on her behalf. Our daughter has been singing with the Cathedral Girls Choir for five years and this year has had some important solos and is one of two head girls (each leading the two sides of the choir). Her ease and poise that her experience in the choir has helped her develop allowed her interpretation to shine and her audience to fully enjoy the music.

My creative contribution for this event was the donation of a felt purse to the silent auction held before the concert and during the intermission. The body and handle of the purse was created with a thrifted, felled(felted) sweater that was purchased slightly shrunken already. Some sweaters are so beautiful and in such good condition that I hesitate to purchase them for felling because I believe they still have life left in them in the their original form. With this particular sweater I felt no guilt for continuing the process. I find that fair isle patterns often shrink up the best for creating purses with the final product create a dense felt that is thick enough (but not too thick) to create the body of the bag.

The lining of the purse is made from a thrifted curtain. When I found the curtain on the rack I recognized the print to be Laura Ashley which was confirmed by the selvage within the hemmed sides of the panels. The button closure is a vintage button and the wool I use for the needle felted designs comes from the side seams of the sweaters that I remove before felling. I love the sculptural qualities I can achieve working with scraps of felt and I enjoy combining the three dimensional applied designs with the needle-felting. On a scrap of ribbon, I was able to use the alphabet feature of my sewing machine to create a label.

This week I have enjoyed how my family's musical/dancing talents have inspired me. I also am thrilled with the way sharing with other bloggers seems to inspire us all, whether it is to try new techniques or just to keep going doing what we do knowing that others are interested in what we create. I spent several enjoyable days reading all the blogs linked to Kristy's blog and would encourage others to do the same. One of the most satisfying things about blogging has been making new blog friends. Imagine my delight when I read Katherine's blog at Woolywotnots and found that she had dedicated her post to me! What a flattering incentive to continue sharing. It looks like she is finding the yo-yos as addictive as I do. I love her knitted collectibles and how she shares her inspirations. All of this creativity is definitely benefitting from cross-pollination.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Mummy glow

Today is a basking and recuperating day. After a very successful day of performances by my younger two, we are all trying to recover from all the effort leading up to and including the day. Like many families, our household buzzes with the many creative outlets that children enjoy. Our younger two boys are involved in some slightly out of the ordinary activities for eight and eleven year olds. They both sing in the Men and Boys' Choir of Christ Church Cathedral were they are immersed in the tradition of Anglican(Episcopalian in the US) Church music and they are also part of the professional ballet training programme at the School of Dance in Ottawa.

Both boys had a 7:45 am call to be at the warm-up and dress rehearsal with other students from the School of Dance who were guest performers in the National Arts Centre Orchestra's Family Adventuresconcert. A series designed for families with young children. Number 4 even got to give flowers to the event's narrator, former prima ballerina, Veronica Tennant. They each had two performances as there were 1:30 and 3:30 shows. The boys have had to learn some very important skills in performing for the public and one of the most important is the waiting that goes on before it is your turn. While I was able to watch the boys from the audience sitting with their older siblings, my husband had the honour (while doing his job) of playing in the orchestra behind them. He has played for many great dancers over the years but this was pretty special for him and his colleagues who have seen the boys grow from infancy.

After their dance performance, the family hopped in the van and drove to Ottawa's Christ Church Cathedral for a concert of English Church Music. The boys were fed and watered and readied for performance while the parents and guests participated in a English pub-style dinner. The concert started at 7:30 and even the parents and others who hear them every week were transported by the music. The concert was being recorded for broadcast on CBC's Choral Concert on Sunday,June 14. The concert and fundraising campaign are leading up to the choir's upcoming trip to England in July. The men and boys will be staying at Cambridge with a Concert at Selwyn College on Canada Day and then at week in residence at Ely Cathedral. The tour will also involve some sightseeing and will finish with Evensong at St.Paul's Cathedral. I am very excited to be accompanying the boys as one of the parent chaperones. I feel so fortunate that the boys are able to benefit from being part of this tradition and sing music that can take them to a higher place. They enjoy working hard learning the music and singing together; they also enjoy playing floor hockey games before and after rehearsals and of course being boys quite a bit of food.

Today was really a day just to enjoy (and catch up a bit on tidying) and reflect on yesterdays beauty while I looked at today's flowers. As a parent, all we can do is provide the right environment and encouragement. Just as in a garden, you can only provide what the plant needs and encourage its natural habit of growth. We are back on the horse tomorrow with rehearsals, dance classes and school. Thursday will bring a fundraising concert that my husband is organising for the trip. It will be a concert of chamber music with some of his orchestra colleagues, my son's harp teacher and our daughter will be singing. She has been singing in the Cathedral Girls' choir for five years and is now one of the two head girls for the choir. The girl's choir tradition is much newer but it has been an excellent musical and learning environment for her and has given her some of the opportunities that can come from an all-girls environment. She is just starting to branch out a bit more with her solo singing but has already been asked to sing in next season's programming for Ottawa's Thirteen Strings Chamber Orchestra. So I will be doing a little more basking later this week.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

My Creative Space: How I found religion with Amy Butler

I love Amy Butler's designs and would gladly spread them around my whole world so sometimes I just have to go and spread the word. This book does not contain all the secrets of life but it does look pretty. I am not really a paper crafter but I love the available supplies. Around the corner from my sewing studio, I have a curbside-find dresser with all my supplies: bone folder, various adhesives, cutting tools and embellishments. It takes up part of the laundry room/extra pantry space adjacent to the studio. When we have finished painting, etc. I will post photos.

The little book started out as an extra date book given to my husband by the local musician's union. Calendars become obsolete rather quickly and I had yet to find a purse size book for myself. The ugly, black plastic cover was a problem I could fix and Amy Butler showed me the way. Well not actually, but her paper and stickers inspired me! I used card stock sized paper which was a little short for the height of the booklet but that gave more reason to use the stickers. I also glued in a length of narrow pink ribbon to mark the pages. Of course, I need to work harder at daily observance of said book but that may take practise.

My post's subtitle is a somewhat tongue-in-cheek reference to how design-centred are lives have become. For creative types, it has always been the case but for the rest of the world this is a new revelation that is fed by manufacturers and marketing. Organization is the saviour of our modern world! Organization is required for all the stuff we are encouraged to accumulate. I do believe things have gotten more than a little extreme with de-cluttering/organizing television shows and magazines devoted to this trend. In the end, it seems to suggest that more consumerism is the answer, the concept of which I do not agree. It is better to eliminate what truly is unnecessary and improve what remains. Not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, my modern vintage philosophy advocates organization and finding beauty in order, while trying to use what you already have. So here is my little kitchen 'desk' makeover before; a little cluttered looking and not pretty.

The Amy Butler effect here is covering the phone directories. I still prefer to look up a number in the books rather than online but I hate the way they look. We do not have cupboard or drawer space I was willing to devote to phone books so I think this solution works well. I used sheets of Amy's double-sided 12 x 12 scrapbook pad, using two sheets per directory, craft glue stick and my dymo label maker. I think that the overall effect is a big improvement. The pens, pencils and scissors etc. are all in two Ikea plant pots found at the Thrift store. The improved appearance should increase our motivation to keep the area attractive and functional.

Do not forget to check in with who other creative spaces at Kristy's

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A current thrifting obsession

After experiencing a little blog guilt, I thought I had best publish a post.
I have been working on something else but we will see if I get that done. Last week, I promised the Indian recipe which I include in this post. People have asked how I find what I do or comment that Ottawa has particularly good thrift stores/garage sales. I do not believe that this city is noticeably better or worse than other Canadian cities (I cannot comment on England, Australia or the USA yet) but how you go about looking can make a huge variation in what you find. Besides the obvious, visiting a location regularly, changing your search method can make the difference. I have shopped when I had a larger block of time and rather leisurely searched through the aisles and I have found rewards for my time but I have had more success with a much shorter chunk of time available to me where I have needed to improve my efficiency. Firstly, have a literal or mental checklist of the things that you are usually interested in eg. aprons, china, sewing notions. Next, be aware of other items that you might find that could be of value or interest through reading other blogs so that you can make a good choice if you happen to find such items. For instance, if you were to see a Pyrex dish that is not in a colour or pattern you would use, what is the condition and price and can you think of a friend who might want it. Walk in the opposite direction to your usual pattern. A newly identified household need often has previously unnoticed candidates practically jumping off the shelves.

Some of these strategies resulted in the purchase of this cache pot. My husband does not like the plastic pot covers in which house plants tend to be sold and for awhile I searched in the mark-downs of the floral department but usually did not find anything I really liked. I was already thrifting but had not looked much at ceramics. The first pots I found were often from Ikea or unmarked and their simple lines have served their purpose well. I have since found hand potted, prettily painted or ceramics of more interest. This one is marked Churchill, England and the glaze has some of the qualities seen in other English potteries. My amateur Internet sleuthing has yet to reveal any information. The basket weave texture works well on the hand embroidered tablecloth my Mum gave me that has a basket pattern in the same colour stitched on it. It is interesting to see what appears when you look for it.

The lamb vindaloo that I cooked last week can be found here and the tandoori chicken I made but did not post about can be found here. I do cook other food besides Indian but my children love the seasoning and it fits very well with the unpredictable weather we are having in Ottawa. For the taste, instruction and understanding of Westerners cooking Indian, I highly recommend any cookbook by Madhur Jaffrey.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

My creative space

With many of my children's activities approaching the year's big finales, my creativity is definitely found in dribs and drabs; little things that I can pick-up and put down easily. A year and a half ago, we gave my daughter two sizes of the Clover Yo-yo makers and a charm pack for Christmas. While she happily expresses creativity in baking, she has never showed much interest in sewing and crafting. This crafting idea caught on and kept her busy through the rest of the Christmas holidays. She liked it enough that she decided that should would like to make a throw out of the yo-yo's. Once we had used all the samples in the charm pack we went to the fabric for more of the same line which was Moda's Chez Moi. Unfortunately, they only had a few of the prints in stock, but we bought several metres of what they did have. Unfortunately, shortly after getting at the new fabric, she became sick with mono and lost some of her interest. She did a bit when she was recovering but was quite overwhelmed with the need to catch up with her school work. When she started learning to make the yo-yo's I made some along side of her to help teach her, understand how the makers worked and to keep her company. I soon discovered, as my daughter had, that they are addictive to make. We stopped at some point for a variety of reasons and it has remained a dropped project until recently. I am happy to say that I am back at it and with a up coming (Victoria Day)long weekend, No. 2 should be joining me.

This is another dropped project that has been picked up again. The garden and other things pulled me away from this but I believe that I was also doubting my vision on this project. This is a jacket that I have had for about eleven years. I love the colours and texture of the linen check but I was finding the styling a little dated and overall a little boring. I want to create a vintage safari look (think Out of Africa) and I have started by applying a tatted lace edging made by my Grandma. Amazingly there is just enough edging for the collar and lapels.

On the back, I wish to create some interest. I found this open-work and lace tray cloth(?) and I have shaped it slightly and I am tacking it on the centre of the back. Where there are wear holes or tears that I cannot fix, I plan to sew vintage mother-of-pearl buttons. The buttons in the front and on the sleeves will also be switched up (I hope mother-of- pearl) and I have a pocket hanky and a few other lace bits to try. Does anyone have any ideas of what else I could do? (with out decorating it like a wedding cake).

Tomorrow the post will include a recipe from this book as cooking has really been my creative time lately. My family needs to eat more than I need a revamped jacket. If you would like to see where others have their creative space, check out Kristy's blog.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Lucky Me!

Look what came in the mail! I won a give-away from Nadine at Little Lovelies. This little crocheted Egglet is simply darling and beautifully presented. Following her blog is very inspiring and I am very excited that I get to enjoy Nadine's work firsthand. It is great to look at creative projects that use a skill that I do not have. Lately, crocheting has drawn me in and all I can do is a simple chain. Nadine has been showing her work in making granny squares with inspiring colour combinations.
Also tucked into the parcel are three covered buttons. Take a closer look.

I love buttons and will just be enjoying looking at these for quite a while. Hours were spent going through my Mum's button box when I was a kid and I have told her that I want to inherit it! She feels pretty much the same as me about buttons so she takes this request seriously. When I was a child, I visited a lot of fabric stores but my favourite was a haberdashery or notions shop called Buttons and Bows. Apparently it is still at the same location so I will need to visit it in my next visit to Victoria.

I was also lucky the other day because we had the opportunity watch our sons dance both Monday and Tuesday night. It is wonderful to see the culmination of the year's work and dedication but the thrill is to see how much they enjoy themselves. So why the skillet pictured at here you ask? Well with the two boys at pre-performance rehearsals, we had the chance to eat a quick vegetarian meal. But what to make? We have onions, garlic and tomatoes along with some pasta and cannellini beans in the pantry. I had the makings of quick, impromptu pasta dish. I chopped two onions and slowly browned them in 1 Tbsp. of olive oil over medium to medium-high heat. Cook them slowly enough to bring out the onions sugars and then add 2 to 3 cloves of chopped garlic and 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes. Chop two tomatoes (mine were vine-ripened but unfortunately not organic) and slowly cook them down (around 7 minutes). Add the rinsed and drained beans to heat. While putting this together I found a block of cream cheese in the refrigerator which was perfect for holding the dish together and marrying the flavours (I only used half the block) and added a small amount of Parmigiana and chopped,fresh flat leaf parsley(from the window sill) before tossing it with the pasta. I photographed it before adding pasta as I had gluten-free quinoa fusilli and my husband and daughter had regular rotini. The meal conversation was very quiet compared to usual and somewhat refreshing to be without our vivacious carnivores.

Of course, seeing a special performance means dressing up a little. I have always loved linen and silks. I look forward to wearing this jacket in linen which is beautifully cut and embellished with the taupe skirt (pictured in the back ground). Recently I found a sleeveless silk blouse at the thrift store which works perfectly with this outfit(great print and fit too) and the jacket is the ideal base to one of my vintage brooches.

Another thrifting find is this vintage wicker handbag. I use my felted purses in cool weather but I like summer-like textures as it gets warmer. This purse is in good condition and although it does not have a label, it does say Empire Made on the inside. The Liberty scarf was found at our church's Nearly New Shop. If you love print and pattern, Liberty's can keep your attention for long stretches.

Nadine included a personal note in the parcel which was typed (with a typewriter) and information on creature comfots blog for making free postage labels. My old Smith Corona needs to be used again. Sharing my luck inspires me to have my own give away soon.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Apron Day

Yesterday was National Apron Day (USA) and I thought I had better write about it as my first apron was a gift from my paternal Grandmother and yesterday was her birthday. The apron had been a gift from her in-laws in England and I believe had been made by her husbands grandmother. The embroidery is beautifully done and it is trimmed with lovely lace. There is wear on the straps and I know I wore it as a child and recently did a little repairing. This apron is officially the "one that started it all" as far as my collection of aprons is concerned. I have two other aprons from my Grandma that I will post about later.

Here is more of a close-up of the details. Click on the photo to enlarge it. I do not remember my Grandma doing this kind of embroidery, but she did try to teach me to tatt. I wish that I had retained more of that skill. I found a book in the thrift store and bought a shuttle, but it is not as easy as I remember. Arghh! If she was still alive, my Grandma would be 104. She lived through possibly some of the biggest changes in modern history. She was born in Michigan where her Father was streetcar conductor. His mother was born a Putnam and could trace her lineage to her Dutch family's 1661 arrival in America. My Grandma's mother was born a Stebbins and could trace her roots to her family's emigration from England to Massachusetts in 1636.

My Grandmother was about five in this picture and her life was about to dramatically change when her family chose to homestead in Saskatchewan. She was seven before she started schooling as the cold and travelling conditions were difficult with the school three miles away. Unusually for the time she went away to high school and then went on to Normal School(teacher's college). She taught school until her marriage in 1938.

I love this portrait of my Grandma done in her twenties. She had a fashionable haircut and dress and looked comfortable with her Independence. She was a very social person but quite fiercely independent. While her sister asserted her independence by running off and marrying an unsuitable husband, my Grandma was a career teacher and therefore making her own way and answerable only to herself. She continued to teach until her marriage in 1938. Her independent spirit served her well during the war when she followed her husband from training base to base with her infant son, my Father. After the war, they opened a small general store on Vancouver Island which I will blog about in the future. After she was widowed in the '60s, she moved to Vancouver were she ran a boarding house for university students including quite a few foreign students.

By the mid-'70s she moved back to Vancouver Island and was regularly involved in my family's life. She travelled fairly frequently and even drove herself to Saskatchewan in 1985 to celebrate the eightieth anniversary of province hood. She never really recovered from my Dad's death in 1988 and her physical health started to deteriorate. For such an independent person, this was very frustrating for her. In remembering her, I think of her as a thoroughly modern vintage woman: she appreciated where she came from and was very resourceful, she was respectful of her parents but independent, she enjoyed marriage and family life but spent most of her adult life on her own, she took traditional women's role and made them new, and she had all the aspirations that her 21st century sisters have but had a vintage wisdom to not expect it all at once.

Putting on her aprons has given me more confidence in my role as a wife and mother and allowed me to enjoy it in the way women of old enjoyed making and embellishing their very practical aprons.

To see how others enjoy their aprons check out The Apronista

Monday, May 11, 2009

Print, Pattern & Something Creative

After reading a few posts on this blog it becomes apparent that I love pink and I am inspired by pattern. With the Internet I am allowed to indulge this predilection with abandon. A blog that I enjoy fairly frequently is print & pattern. On May 1 there was a post featuring a new Designers Guild - Fabrics & Wallpaper Collections, Furniture, Bed and Bath, Paint, and Luxury Home Accessories">pattern collection that ticks all my boxes: pink with green, re-worked retro graphic, and stylized florals. This habit is slightly addictive but probably better for you than actually going into the fabric stores where you might lose all objectivity. I think that some of the pleasure/purpose women find in shopping is hard-wired from our hunter-gatherer days when we needed to use intuition to find food and supplies for our families survival. We are always on the look-out for new or special things. If we understand this about ourselves, we can use these instincts thoughtfully and focus on necessary purchases and not be victims of consumerism.

My daughter was asked to do "something creative" in her application to participate in her high school's students council. At the suggestion of a friend, she decided that a literal approach would work best. She is a talented singer, french hornist, is taking drama and has been in community musicals but she was inspired by her baking muse.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day

My view from breakfast in bed. It is a good thing that I had something blooming inside because today was cold and grey. The African violet and Christmas cactus are in recently found thrifted cache pots. The pot with floral decoration is marked Japan and improves the look of the cactus that will not bloom again until Autumn. I guess because my house plants need a little dressing up I have been finding ceramics lately. I have limited knowledge about where they come from or when they were made but buy things that appeal and are reasonably priced.

I chose this little bowl because of its sweetness. The gold has almost worn off and the surface shows signs of wear. The mark on the back is Alfred Meakin Ltd. and would suggest that it was made between 1907 and 1930. I do not think it worth a lot of money but I enjoy having it. I have photographed it on a tablecloth that my Mum embroidered before she was married(or maybe just before I was born) and used when I was little. She gave it to me early in my marriage and I love the colour combination. While I remember her doing crewel work, I do not remember her doing any other embroidery. I guess she was influenced partly by what would work in her house (modern Danish) and how time consuming young children and home keeping can be.

My Mum found this Lloyd Loomchair at a second hand/antique store. She bought it for me when I was still a child and it is of smaller proportions. I remember that she saved for a long time and paid for it a little at a time in a way that businesses do not seem interested in doing these days. It has proved to be a good investment that I still enjoy. The pillow with the church was made with a panel of Nottingham lace that was given to my Mum by one of the members of the Nottingham Youth Orchestra that we had hosted in 1984. I made the bargello pillow a few years earlier.

My Mum made this crazy quilt pattern with the last scraps of a Laura Ashley fabric used in my curtains and bits of lace. The creative use of luxurious and precious fabrics has always made me love crazy quilting but I have yet to try it. I do have quite a few precious scraps...

These two pillows are embroidered with my Mum's Viking #1 sewing machine. She has become very adept at using the designs available in ways that serve her creativity well. The fabric she used for these cushions was from I skirt that I owned back in the '80s. She was up cycling before it was the thing to do.

I hope all the mothers you know have had a great day.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Cultivating Creativity

How do you encourage creativity? Provide a rich environment, protect from harm, encourage strong growth with selective editing, allow for cross pollination from exposure to others, support a little risk, acknowledge the set backs, shower with love and allow to bask in admiration. These conditions are ideal for creativity which thrives with nurturing just like a garden. Just like the master gardening that she is, my Mum encouraged my creativity to bloom.

My parents provided a safe and stable environment and while given a fair amount of freedom I was not allowed to go weedy. My Mum responded to my interest in sewing, cooking and gardening with gentle teaching and lots of opportunity for practise. My interest in drawing and painting was encouraged with lessons and materials. A love of ballet and music led to many hours of classes and lessons and miles of driving to get me there.

If my gardening analogy can be further indulged, parenting is like creating foundation plantings which will establish future habits of growth. It seems that any creative activities I partake in now have their roots in my childhood. With that in mind, I wish to thank my parents for having the vision that all gardeners have when it came to nurturing their children.

A special thanks today to my Mum with love and best wishes for her birthday and Mother's Day. Thanks for allowing creativity to germinate and bloom.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

My Creative Space: Completed WIPs and a seasonal recipe

Which one is the weed? Obviously the dandelion you say. Not so fast I say! The recipe mentioned above is not for dandelions. We have tried them but we really did not like them but maybe one day we will try them again. When the kids were little they would enthusiastically present the dandelions they picked just for me. For some gardeners the violets would create a lovely carpet of spring colour. The point of my photo is that in my garden, both of the pictured flowering plants are weeds. No matter how carefully I try to remove the violets (making sure that I have all the roots) they keep coming back and in the actual flower beds, choke out the plants that I am actively cultivating.

There are some wonderful things about Spring gardening: blossoms on the trees, waves of bulbs and the freshness of it all. It is rather difficult to be getting creative in the sewing studio when the garden beckons and seeing the violets in the lawn reminds me that I should try to get them out of the flower beds before they take over. So with limited crafting time and better weather, guilt becomes a strong motivator. The detail of the bulletin board is now evidence of a complete WIP. It really does not look any different than yesterday unless you look close up. After over 16 months it is finally varnished and ready to use.

The one above is for Number 4 and the one to the left is for Number 3. This was a project that was given as an incomplete Christmas gift to all three sons. It stayed an incomplete and unused gift. December weather interfered with the final finishing. I was afraid of using brush on varnish over the images and concerned about using spay varnish indoors. Even though I have a nontoxic spray varnish, I am much happier using it outside. The first two boards have copied images from the boys' favourite books: Graeme Base's At the Water Hole for Number 4 and Dragonology for Number 3. I did use copy written images so you could only do this for your own use and it would be preferable to use actual pages from the books. Being a book family, we would find it difficult cut up a book unless it was already irreparably damaged.

This the one for Number 1. I used purchased stickers that are reproductions of vintage travel stickers. In decorating his room, we gave it a vintage travel feel which helps in its use as an occasional guest room. The first two bulletin required a lot of careful, detailed scissor and glue work so the sticker were a treat to use. It is funny how when interruptions to the process (lack of time and weather in this instance) can lead to a dropped project. Of course, mother guilt eventually will put it back in play and I am pleased to say that these bulletin boards are ready to use.
More spaces of creativity can be found at Kristy's blog.

So what do you feed your family when there are distractions in the garden or other creative spaces. I recommend this family friendly dish originally found in the Canadian Dairy Boards annual Milk Calendar. Country-Style Spaghetti is a family friendly meal that is ideally suited for limited time and in between seasons type of appetite. We are having outdoor grilling weather at one moment and then it can rather quickly be raining heavily or blowing the next. It even uses an ingredient that might have been slated for the grill.

Country Style Spaghetti -serve 4 to 6

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. salt
1 onion, chopped
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. hot red chili flakes (opt.)
1/4 c. chopped pimento or sweet red pepper
1 lb. sausages (sweet or hot Italian) removed from casing and broken up
2 Tbsp. flour ( or tapioca starch)
2 1/2 c. milk
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 lb. spaghetti
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

1. Heat oil in a large skillet and brown sausage as you break it into chunks. When the sausage is getting brown, add the garlic, onions and hot pepper flakes. Drain off any excess fat.
2. Sprinkle meat with flour and cook a few minutes, stirring. Add milk and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add nutmeg, salt, pepper and pimentos. Simmer gently for 15 minutes.
3. While sauce is cooking, cook spaghetti in a large pot of boiling, salted water. Cook until tender 10 to 12 minutes and drain.
4. Toss spaghetti with sauce, cheese and parsley. Taste and season if necessary.

Serve with any green vegetable and if you wish, garlic bread.

Prep. Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes

If you are looking for other recipes check out Randi's blogand see what else is in the Recipe Swap Box.
swap blogpost

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Thrifting at the community garage sale

This past weekend was our community's garage sale and eventhough I was not feeling very well, I made a quick trip around the need to pick my daughter up from Youth Orchestra. At the community centre there was a large sale as a fund raiser for a child with a rare disorder. I did not get to the sale until after 1:00 but the deals were still to be had. For $1 you were given a plastic bag to fill: all the books and the ceramic piece fit in the bag. The Planter(?) is marked Crown Ceramics, Vancouver, B.C. and the only information I could find on the web was a vase with an almost identical glaze which dates it from the '50s. I am really attracted to that colour and the shape reminds me of a lotus flower. I forgot to add the bread machine cookbook that my eight year old wanted in the photo but you might see the "Arthur" and "Science Experiments you can eat" books he also wanted. There are sewing and craft books from the '60s and '70s and "Roughing it in the Bush" by Catherine Parr Trail who was a early Canadian Pioneer diarist ( I already have the book by her sister Susannah Moodie). The small red book is Nevil Shute's "On the Beach" which is about people in Australia after a global nuclear war and I remember being struck by themovie when I saw it as a teenager and no doubt made a huge impact when it came out in 1959 at the height of the Cold war. The last book is the "Rand-McNally Reference Atlas of the World" from 1936. It is filled with demographic and social information as well as maps of countries whose geopolitical boundaries are quite different than today's. It will live on the shelf next to my Father's "Historical Atlas of Canada". The last piece is the shelf the books are on. We will use this in our music/living room to hold the sheet music used daily by my husband for teaching and by my children for practising. The ironic thing is that we know the family who donated it to the sale because their name is written on the back. Fine Hand inspired me to photograph my front door(or part of it to show the colour) like she had been inspired by pink picket fence and the bookshelf had belonged to her in-laws. Is there some kind of thrifting karma going on?

I actually went to another sale first and I immediately saw the Androck egg beater for $.50 and it was all I bought at that house. As the first purchase of the garage sale season it is great because I have waiting for one to go with my other vintage kitchen tools for over a year and it is perfect mostly because of the red wooden handles. Selena at posted about patience and thrifting today. The yellow bowl is Fire King rather that Pyrex and in rough shape but at only a quarter, I thought I might use it in the sewing studio as catch-all for buttons I am using. The train case came for the same house as the bowl as well as some videos and DVDs. The case is in rough shape but I would really like to alter it like Julie or Bethany. Number 3 found some very nice newer Bushnell binoculars in a nylon case that he bought with his own money. He was in a spending mood because what he found next was way out of my garage sale budget. A return trip home and discussion/negotiations with his father ensued and then a call back to the owner sealed the deal. I know that this would not happen in many households, but we let him buy a drumset. Yes, you read correctly. What is a housefull of classical music types doing with a drumset? Well just because my training was to be a orchestral flutist does not mean that I do not enjoy other types of music and the same goes with my husband who has worked as a full-time orchestral musician for over twenty-five years. The fact is that our harp-playing choir boy of a son plays percussion in the school band. He knows that he cannot play the drums when anyone else is practising, teaching or sleeping but he was still willing to use his whole year's choir pay to buy it. We were going to need to buy him a snare drum anyway. I hope that we do not regret this decision.

When we went to pay for and collect the drum set all the garage sales were over and free stuff was at the curb. The water carafe and glass/lid is for my husband's bed side table and is nicely weighted at the base. The vase is marked "Treasures of Spain", Brody, Japan. Click on the photo to get a clearer view of the texture and colour. I can picture a bouquet of same type flowers in this vase and it will work well with less attractive stems or lack of greenery. Does anyone know about this ceramics company?

The lamp shades were also for free at the curb and although they look good in the photo, they are damaged so I will be stripping them and using the frames. It is amazing that people do not bother to donate leftovers to charities. This morning was our local garbage pick-up and there was still some donate-able stuff at the curb. If people place so little value in their stuff, why did they buy it in the first place? I do not mind benefitting but I do believe that the lack of thought behind consumerism has contributed to the world's present economic woes. As consumers we have the power to reject what does not have the quality and lasting value we seek!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

A special day

The beginning of May has been special for as long as I can remember. When I was growing up the first two weeks of the month was one long celebration. Three family members shared their birthdays within the first eleven days of the month with Mother's Day caught up in the festivities: My Father, my Mother and then my Father's Mother. Usually a large family meal would occur somewhere in the middle but if my Father's birthday of May 2 fell on a weekend we would have two family parties with the second on the following weekend for my Mum's on the eighth and Mother's Day and a few days later have cake with my Grandma on the eleventh. The calendar and how the dates fell on the days of the week varied but we could always count on the lilac to be in bloom. As far as I know it was my father's favourite flower and he was pleased to see a vase full of blooms on the birthday dinner table.
My Dad was born in 1939 in Lloydminster, Alberta. The provincial boundary goes right through the city so that the hospital was on the Alberta side but my Dad's family lived in Saskatchewan. His parents waited a long time through the Depression before they had saved enough money to get married. My Grandma turned 34 nine days after my Dad was born. When he was a few months old, the war started and my Grandfather, who was too old to be sent overseas, started travelling around the country to train cavalry for the army. My Grandma packed up her infant son and followed him in her car and I believe spent most of the war doing just that. We are always told how a child's early experiences shape who they become and that may be true with my Dad. He had a sense of adventure and openness with people that may have come from that time and I believe that early travelling led to his career choices.
After the war they settled on Vancouver Island near Qualicum Beach which even then was an attractive destination for tourists. They owned a small general store with a gas pump and by then had another child, my Dad's little sister. When he would recount that time it seemed just like some of the idyllic childhoods of the movies: bicycles, paper routes, Davy-Crockett hats and swimming in the river. He was a smart kid but was happy to coast through school. He worked hard doing chores like most kids of his generation but relished free time in a way that may not even occur to many kids now.
When he finished high school he became a Navel Cadet at Venture and he loved being at sea. (The link is the only one I could find that refers to the programme as my father experienced it.) He was a good cadet and an able seaman but a French requirement was added while he was there and that was not so easy for him. They offered to teach him to fly which while not part of his original plan appealed to him. The writing was on the wall with the French language requirements in the Canadian Forces so he left the Navy when he was finished his officer's training. The camera, light meter and bible are all things that he had while still in the programme.
With his pilot's licence he worked as a private pilot for a Californian millionaire and travelled from Vancouver to Mexico. Unlike French, he was able to master conversational Spanish. It was during this time that his family sailed from Vancouver Island to spend the winter in Mexico and California in a boat that my Grandfather built. My Dad had helped his Father build the boat with the ultimate intention of sailing it to England where my Grandfather had left his parents many years before. Fifty years ago international travel was prohibitively expensive and if you left family members in another country it was assumed that you would never see them again. Unfortunately, my Grandfather never made it to England as he died of a heart attack the day before his sixtieth birthday on March 31, 1963. Around that time my Dad also spent time working for Canadian Pacific Airlines as a ticket agent I think with the hope of eventually flying for the airline and also helping his mother and sister settle into a new home.

The desk here was my Grandfather's and when he died it followed my Father and is now following me. I have great memories sitting at it as a small child and exploring its cubbies and drawers and I wonder if my Dad had similar memories when he was a child. The pewter mug in the previous photo was from my Dad's time at Venture and was stored in the desk and always contained a variety of pens (ball-point and fountain) and pencils (mechanical and regular wood) which may explain my love of writing instruments and certainly in part, my love of this desk. In the fall of 1964 he enrolled as a mature student at the University of Victoria. Here he was studying for a major in Geography with a minor in Economics. He was very active in student politics and had a busy social life. The other books on the shelf were his at this time. I believe that my Dad built the book rack for his mother when he was a little younger but I liked showing his books with something he made. While at university he worked at a bar/lounge as a bartender and at the liquor store over the Christmas holidays. I guess the mixing drinks book was homework! The Esquire Etiquette book is quite fascinating and contains still pertinent information. My father was interested in music and had this Stories of the Great Operas and the History of Jazz(which unfortunately was recently damaged beyond repair) His own father loved opera and would listen to the Met broadcasts on the radio every Saturday afternoon. My Grandfather felt that the mark of an educated man was not knowing everything but knowing how to find out. The other two are on the rack because they represent what my Dad was thinking about at the time(click on the picture to get a clearer look). Being born before the war made him too old to be part of the mass culture of the baby boom but he was not exactly a child of the depression either. We are all so created by the time and place in which we are born. The atlas and dictionary were a given for him as a university student but it was a good thing it was an Oxford dictionary or maybe my Mum would not have married him.

During the summers he worked as a bush pilot on the northern coast of British Columbia out of Prince Rupert. At that point he was flying out of a seaplane base and that is where he eventually met my mother who was also working at the base. Because of his officer's training and working as a pilot before he became a student he was actually two years behind her in studies despite being five years older. His life had seemed so rich with experience to that point, that when my Mum was getting to know him she thought that he was a good bit older than his twenty-eight years. After a brief courtship they married and by the Fall my Dad was in his last year of university. I was born the following February. Despite still having difficulties with French my father was made valedictorian of his graduating class. When his classes were over his little family moved back up north in a VW Beetle pulling a small trailer for him to resume his flying job.
After awhile the job moved us to the nearby Queen Charlotte Islands were he got to see the rich geographical variations as he flew over. I got to see it too as a passenger and now when I view his extensive collection of slide photographs taken with the camera pictured above and another bought after living there for a few years. My younger sister was born when I was almost two and with that our family was complete. We moved to Vancouver Island when I was about to start school and my Dad started working as a corporate pilot for a Victoria based logging and engineering company. My father was able to fly over even more of the province and even had a consulting role when the company was working on small airport and landing strip projects.
The economic downturn of the early '80's ended that job and the loss of a job that he loved was very difficult for him. He did continue flying and for five years worked for a company involved in fighting forest fires. Again this had him flying a part of Canada that he loved and even bought him to Yellowknife in Canada's north. In the winters, he investigated fatal aircraft accidents for the coroner's service which was often difficult but usually interesting. Unfortunately, due to mechanical faults and dangerous flying conditions, he also was in a fatal accident at the age of 49.

Happy Birthday Dad, I miss you.