Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Dream Big

The backyard has been the centre of much activity, anticipation and excitement this past week. The big buzz in these parts is the new outdoor "rink", formerly the family sandbox. Chi-Chi was the visionary on this project. Once he set his sights on his own personal hockey rink, my sweet boy worked diligently flooding, smoothing, painting, flooding and clearing. He has big dreams of being a goal tender some day and has been working on his puck saving skills. With Mommy and Muffy watching from the kitchen window, huddled up with warm cocoa and sweaters, Chi-Chi is content to brave the wind and cold in quiet contemplation. I see his lips moving as he positions his little body into various "moves", losing himself in his dream. He his perfectly content with his personal 6'X6' rink. It seems just right (for now!!)

Chi-Chi is not the only one dreaming big around here. My recent dabbling in the world patchwork "quilts" has my mind working up some grand plans for more cozy coverings. Now that my bed is dressed, I think both boys could use something a little heavier to cuddle up with during the cold months ahead. I've been busy digging through my stash, as well as the aisles of my favorite thrift shop, developing a plan and color schemes. Here is a wee glimpse of what's in store for Muffy's bed. My favorite one is the vintage kitchen, hen print that I cut from a thrifted apron. I also love the golden sunflower hues from a great old bed sheet. Since this is a new domain for me, I'm opting to use the tied approach as opposed to traditional quilting. It seems like a good place for a beginner to start. Though I used 12' squares for my queen sized project, I'm using 6" squares this time around (gulp).

Funny how both Chi-Chi and I are starting our new adventures with baby steps - one tiny square at a time!

Friday, 15 January 2010

This Little Piggy...

It seems my efforts to take a breather from crafty endeavours have been futile. The wool, the wood, the ideas, the inspiration are all too tempting and irresistible. I've reworked my master plan to allow for a bit of crafty indulgence, as long as I keep up with the meal planning, workout schedule and financial budget! Moderation is my new mantra!

Now that the gift-giving holiday season is behind us, my creative efforts this month will be somewhat selfish in nature. Since I'm planning on spending more time in the kitchen, I thought I'd treat myself to touch of fun and practicality to spice up my culinary adventures. With my weekly CSA basket overflowing with veggies, I figured a new cutting board would serve as motivator to get me slicing and dicing. This whimsical little piggy was cut on my scroll saw from one very wide maple board. My father actually served as the inspiration for this project as I made him an identical piggy for Christmas. Handmade gift ideas are particularly difficult to come up with when it comes to both of my parents. I had a eureka moment over lunch one day during on of my visits to their house. As strange as this sounds, my father often eats his lunch on a cutting board. A can of sardines, a few slices of cheese and some fresh bread are often brought right to the table on a board. I always chalked it up to general male laziness (sorry Dad!) until I came across this breakfast board. Hmmmm, maybe Dad has been onto something all these years!

Of course, my little piggies needed to be sealed and protected. I was so thrilled when I stumbled upon this recipe on Plain and Joyful Living. Not only is this polish great for the cutting boards, but we can use it on all our wooden toys! I purchased a block of beeswax from Cosman Whidden and in no time had several sweet smelling jars of homemade polish. I tucked a tiny jar in with Dad's board so he could keep it well-waxed and protected. We've even used this polish on our kitchen table with great success.

Inspired by this beautiful quilt posted on Soule Mama's blog this week, I came up with another self-indulging project for myself (and Hubby). After rummaging through my fabric stash for awhile, I emerged with enough material to create a new queen sized duvet cover for our bed. Once I started cutting squares and laying them out, I could not believe how quickly the color scheme fell into place. With the exception of the Heather Ross mermaid fabric, the entire quilt, including the flannel backing, was made using re-purposed vintage bed linens I'd thrifted over the past year. The most self-indulging part of the project was the fact I took a day to myself to focus on it. With the wee ones in preschool yesterday, I put the house cleaning and grocery shopping on the back burner while I indulged in some me time. Ok, I also stayed up past midnight last night because I was just "so close" and could not stop myself. I plan to create a cozy wool duvet to sandwich between the cover. I thought a removable, easily washable cover would be the best option. Chi-Chi put this theory to test at 3am this morning when he came to snuggle in and proceeded to empty his bladder on my lovely new quilt!

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Don't Count Your Chickens...

A few months ago, we realized a dream of raising backyard chickens. After a long year of planning, building, waiting and dreaming, we finally welcomed eight little chicks to Seaside Farms.

Since that time, we've been on a bit of a roller coaster ride with a few ups and lots of downs! When chick #1 perished, we held a small family funeral for our fluffy little friend. The death of chick #2 was just as shocking, but we all swallowed the news a little easier. By the time chicks #4 and #5 passed on, we were starting to get just a little paranoid and suspicious! With #5 packed in the trunk on ice, I headed to the Nova Scotia Agricultural College for help. For $52.50 they performed a detailed autopsy on our chicken and provided me with the grim news - a disease called Marek's (and a few other minor parasites to boot). Wow! Dreams of hens scratching around the backyard and farm fresh eggs were dashed in an instant. We were advised to prepare ourselves for further deaths. Time passed and just before the holidays we lost #6. That left us with two ladies in the hen house. The first six to perish were all Black Australorps. Our two remaining hens had been obtained from a different breeder and were Ameraucanas - also known as Easter Egg Chickens for their green shelled eggs. We certainly weren't holding out much hope for these two. We continued to care for them but remained emotionally detached in fear of getting hurt!

On one of the coldest days of the year, December 30th, I found my husband pounding on the kitchen door with a huge grin on his face. An egg, a beautiful GREEN egg was in his hand! We all rejoiced and celebrated the egg and hoped it was a sign our chicken woes were behind us, a sign of a new beginning. Convinced our two hens were going to survive, I opened up my heart a little and grew attached to our friends. Yesterday we decided the ladies needed company to keep them warm this winter and headed out to pick up a little Barred Rock rooster we lovingly named "Rocky". After a three hour round trip, we arrived home with Rocky and were eager to introduce him to his girlfriends. We called and called but my favorite hen Spec was nowhere to be found. I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Our friends usually greet us eagerly when we pull up the driveway. Hubby went searching and followed her footsteps into the woods......soon emerging with the sad news that Spec had been killed by a hawk. What timing! We were all very, very sad to say the least. Hubby turned around, hopped in the car and headed back on that three hour trip to fetch me three new hens! He's a good man I tell you. Exhausted, he arrived home last night with a new flock for us. We spent today getting to know our friends and quietly observing them as they settled into their new surroundings.

Today for lunch we dined on homemade toast and the last of Spec's green eggs. I'm saving a couple to blow out and keep as a reminder of our feathered friend and the first egg. Spec is the darker hen in this photo. This was taken about an hour before she perished. Muffy is playing peekaboo with them at the kitchen door, a favorite hang out spot of theirs.

Lessons learned - don't count your chickens, even if they have hatched! I will admire and like my new friends, but I won't fall in love again!

Thursday, 7 January 2010

The Procrastination Game

It seems I've been practising the fine art of procrastination over the past month. The holiday season found me scrambling to complete a long list of handmade gifts and Christmas crafts. The procrastination game was played right up to the eleventh hour. Hubby and I spent Christmas Eve in Santa's workshop, making a dollhouse for the boys. I considered bailing on the project, but I had worked so hard on the look-a-like family dolls that I didn't want to leave them homeless. I'd also slaved away at a Santa play set for each of the boys including a Santa bendy doll, wooden sleigh, sack and reindeer. Where would the poor guy land his sleigh? The dollhouse simply had to be completed!

I have to admit I've been feeling a little zapped of creative energy following this flurry of activity. My New Year's Resolutions this year are pretty standard - exercise more, eat a more healthy diet and be more frugal. Boosting time spent in the kitchen and pounding pavement in my running shoes means less time for obsessive crafting. Frugality also puts a bit of a dent in that wool budget! Completely drained by all the crafting and creating, I vowed to put such efforts aside for at least the month of January. My creative writing on this blog was also included this category. So much for resolutions. We have not yet made it through the first week of January and I have already knit myself a hat and started a Valentine banner, and of course, here I am stringing words together.

On the bright side, I've been trying out some great new recipes and cooking up a storm this past week. I'm enjoying the opportunity to take full advantage of the beautiful food we receive each week in our CSA food basket with Taproot Farms. Who knew cabbage and kale could taste so darn good? I've also been exercising quite faithfully, fitting in my runs around the winter Nor'easter storms - no small feat! So you may see a little less of me in this space over the next while as I take a breather from my creative efforts and focus on a wee bit more balance!

Ok, I'll take the break AFTER I finish the Valentine banner.....