Monday, December 2, 2013

Red Neck Soda Can Ornaments { A Tutorial }

I just love homemade Christmas ornaments, each one seems to have a story behind it. Either a memory from a past Christmas, or the person who made it, or the little toddler who proudly stamped his hand or finger into a humble dough shape and mailed his grandparents. 
Homemade ornaments in our home are also where we like to use up bits and pieces of craft supplies, or in this case, our household recycling.

I started making these around 10 years ago and they've always been a hit and a fun conversation piece on our tree and have also made some really unique gift toppers and garlands. 

What started out as an experiment of doing haphazard origami on tin cans (a good cure for boredom on a long winter's evening) became these shiny, festive stars.

For years I sold these on etsy and in local shops, and they were even featured on HGTV and in a Christmas edition on People Magazine. 

This year though I decided it was high time to share the fun and offer a tutorial on how to make them yourself. (If you like!) 

You will need: 

A well rinsed Soda Can. (or Pop can, if the word "Soda" makes you cringe.)
A pair of scissors with a sharp tip. (Or a pair of blunt tipped scissors AND an utility knife.)
A cardboard circle cut about 2 inches in diameter (Or a two inch circular scrapbooking paper punch)
A piece of wire, or an ornament hook. 

After rinsing out your can, using either a utility knife or a pair of sharp tipped scissors, pierce the side of your can near the top and cut the top off. I try to keep the puncture area somewhere that I don't want to use for an ornament. Somewhere like the UPC symbol, or ingredients etc.

Cut straight down the side, and then cut remove the bottom.

Flatten out the can. Now you should have a rectangular piece. 

Position your cardboard circle (or paper punch) in the area of the can that you would like to use for your ornament. You will need to cut two circles, so decide before cutting where you'd like them. (Main Logos etc)
Now either trace around the circle with a marker before cutting, or cut around the circle. (Or punch it out with a punch.) Do this twice so that you have two circles.

Now it's time to fold your star:

A couple of last minute tips:
You can make these smaller, or larger. Just keep in mind, the smaller they get, the harder they are to fold.
On thinner cans, avoid pressing your creases too hard or you might get a split.

Have fun, and enjoy!!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Cozied up


Over the last few days i've been working on these fun little ornaments, which are really easy, and sort of addictive. Come the end of Christmas, i'm not sure what i'll replace them with for tiny, portable projects.

I made a few at first that looked ok, but I couldn't get them stuffed in a way that I found satisfying....and then I decided to try it with a 2.5" Styrofoam ball. Voila, perfect roundness. I'm sure it would work with a standard 2.5" blank or coloured Christmas ball as well.

Most of mine were done in worsted or sport weight yarn, on size 7 needles.

Cast on 8 stitches, and either work as Icord, or divide on 4 needles. (Two stitches per needle). Be sure to leave a slightly longer than usual cast on tail-we'll use this later.

Join in the round and work in stockinette stitch for about 5 inches. This will be the "hook" for your ornament.

(you can skip the whole icord part, cast on 8 and begin the ornament. You will however need to either crochet a hook later, or tie a piece of yarn to the top to act as a hook.)

Now begin the ornament. If you worked the first stitches as Icord, now divide the stitches onto four needles. Place a marker to mark the beginning of your round.

Increase rounds:

Round 1: kfb all the way around. (you should now have 4 stitches on each needle.)
Round 2: Knit
Round 3: On each needle, kfb, knit to last stitch, kfb.
Round 4: Knit
Repeat round 3 and 4 until you have 12 stitches on each needle, ending on a round 3. (having just done your last increases.) Your increase rounds should leave you with 6 stitches, then 8, then 10, then 12.
Knit for 6 rounds

Decrease Rounds:
Round 1: *SSK, knit to last two stitches, K2tog*all the way around
Round 2: Knit

Repeat rounds 1 and 2 until you have 6 stitches on each needle. Now it's time to pop the styrofoam ball in there. Depending on your tension, it might be a bit tight at this point. That's good though, because it's a lot easier to knit around it from this point on if the knitting holds it in and you don't have to try to hold it in as you knit.
If you put the ball in and it's too loose, wait until the next decrease round and see if it stays put a bit better.
Continue decrease rounds 1 and 2 until you have 4 stitches on each needle.

Last round:  SSK and K2tog on each needle. You should now have 2 stitches on each needle.

If you decided to skip the styrofoam ball, now would be the time to put in some batting to form your ball.

Break yarn, thread it onto a tapestry needle and draw through the remaining stitches and secure.

Now thread your cast on tail onto a tapestry needle, bend your top icord in half and secure the top end to the bottom end (top of the ornament).
For this I tied a few hidden knots, and then ran the needle down the side of the ornament to the base and did one final knot down there.

Voila. Christmasy fun!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Yarn Along ::Catching Up::

I've been utterly terrible lately about posting and keeping updated. I've sort of taken an unintentional mild internet/social media hiatus over the last month, keeping busy with slightly more eventful everyday life.

As a result, I haven't updated my knitting projects on my Ravelry page (or here) at all, so i'm just starting to get them photographed to post.

I can't post any of the many Christmas presents I've finished, but I can post a couple things that have been keeping me busy!

Currently i'm working on a mindless but fun and addictive project, my Candy Land Cowl

I'm using 8 mini skeins that I have leftover from my Little Leaves...but they probably won't last me for as much bare eco wool I'm using along with it, so I'm thinking that I might try using dmc cord for the remaining colours. It seems to be about the same weight as the mini merino. If that doesn't work out, maybe i'll get a few different colours of  sock yarn. 
I'd just go buy some more mini merino skeins but the seller doesn't seem to carry them any longer. Bummer!

I've also just finished the newly released Swift Hat, and let me just say that this yarn was heavenly. Talk about beings spoiled! I've had it in my stash for over a year just waiting for the perfect project.

This was such an pleasant and fast project, I'll probably make more in the near future.

The pattern would look better and more accurate if It were being modeled by an adult, but Lotte stole it from me and won't give it back. She even went to bed wearing it, so I'm out of luck getting a better picture until I can sneak it away from her. I'm continuously amazed by how incredibly territorial a determined toddler can be!

Binding off,


Thursday, October 10, 2013

::t w o::

My little Charlotte is getting bigger.
She's turning into this independent little creature that surprises me daily with her new found abilities and tricks.
She's earned herself several nick names over her two years. "The house hippo", "Pickles","Lah-tee-Dah" name a few. And all with good reason, I assure you.
She's as stubborn as her Daddy, and has little fits and stomps her chubby little legs over silly little things, and I have to try my best not to laugh. 
 It's so hard to take a very cute, furious toddler seriously. Especially when she's wearing a crown, her big brother's rain boots, and a  tutu, with a tool belt strapped around her waist.

Two is an awkward age. I can tell her that we have to wait for morning to do the activity she wants to do. And she understands.
She knows her days of the week, her ABC's and can count to 10.
 But she simply cannot figure out why it's not OK to eat crayons. Or Put them in her nose....or put them in MY nose.
And why she can't, despite all her best efforts, wear a shirt as pants. Or why I can't wear her clothes, no matter how much she begs me to.
But she's full of love and affection, and has such a sweet and soft gentle side. (Even when sporting a tool belt.) She always has time for kisses and cuddles, and will sit on my lap and tell me tall tales about her day. 
She melts my heart. I am continuously reminded of how blessed we are to have her as a member of our family; She's brought us such joy and laughter.

Happy Second Birthday to Lotte, My little sugar pie!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

{Yarn Along} Mildred

Yarning along while on the road. We're rounding the end of our trip now and currently in Council Bluffs, Iowa, visiting my grandfather.
My knitting over the last day has proven to be...ugly. I just wanted something simple and mindless that doesnt take up too much space in the car, so I cast on a wash cloth. (Or as you would say here in the midwest... a "worsh" cloth.)

What can i say? Its brown. Its round, it has no rhyme or reason, no bells, no whistles. If she had a name it might be Mildred, and she might be a bit grouchy because her support stockings are too tight. And When you visit her home, her only snacks to offer are grapefruit juice, old saltines and banana flavoured hard candies that are all sort if stuck together in one unpromising wad, in the bottom of an old watkins cough drop tin.
Yes, Its safe to say that knitting Mildred right now is purely about the process, and has very little to do with the actual project. If not, she would have been frogged by now.
My reading has mostly been limited to some recipes, a few magazines weve picked up on the way and the orschelns catalogue. (Which is actually more excting than it sounds.)
Also, a few of Lottes books that have been read more during these last few days than i can count. Dr. Seuss, anyone?

Binding off, 


P.S... check out the yarn bombing I found at the old market in omaha, Nebraska!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Far Away Home {weekending}

Blogging from my phone for the first time. Eeek!

the weekend started off with the annual town wide yard sale
so many temptations
but with the constant reminder that it will have to be lugged or mailed back to Ontario

so instead of thrifted treasures i opted for a better kind...browsing through Grandma's very full recipe box, which didn't disappoint
and led to laughter over some of the notes

and maybe a impromptu, wee runza fest with my aunt in my Poppie's tiny, but well loved kitchen

Grandma dozed in the next room, and although she's fading quickly and most of her memory has long gone, i couldn't help but wonder what she would think of our laughing about some of her notes

surrounded by her beautiful paintings, i was flooded with memories of her showing me different brush techniques as a little girl
she always had turquoise rings on her long and tan fingers

 I can still remember the distinct paint smell of her little art studio that my Poppie built for her on the side of their house.

and how she would let me  carefully wash her real, sable brushes when I visited.
i remember thinking that i was pretty big business-being trusted to wash them

I missed her so much when we would have to leave that i would cry and beg to stay "just one more day".
living far away from family for so much of the year was so emotionally difficult, and it still is

its the pits

and now my kids do the begging
and i have to be the voice of reason
which is darn near impossible for someone who is already homesick for Kansas.
Dorothy wasn't kidding around when she said "there's no place like home."

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

{Yarn Along}

~ Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading, and the evidence of this often shows up in my photographs.  I love seeing what other people are knitting and reading as well. So, what are you knitting or crocheting right now? What are you reading? 

Life has been a bit of a whirlwind during these last few weeks. The kids and I are packing up to take a road trip back to Kansas to visit my family, and I'm still dealing with preserving the last of my tomatoes. There are still quite a few green one's out on the vines, and im not sure what will become of them. (Unless I fry them, of course!)
The boys keep reminding me that our tomato abundance is my own darn fault, as I'm the one who chose to plant 26 plants. But they also keep merrily eating them, so I don't think we'll have any problems using them all up. This morning, I found Lotte sitting in the dirt (in her birthday suit, of course) chowing down on the black russians. (and some grass, I think.) Like I said, I don't think we'll have too many.

Before we head out on our trip, I wanted to get one of my 'on the road' knitting projects started. I wanted to make sure that I wasn't going to run into any problems that I might need to google-help my way out of, because my internet access will be heavily limited on the road, and possibly where we'll be staying.

It's incredible how much help the internet is now-I don't think i'd have ever have learned how to knit in the round had it not been for the knit picks and knit witch videos on youtube!
I don't want to run into any fancy/different stitch maneuvering on the road and not have the resources to figure it out.

 I AM bringing some extra yarn and needles for some washcloths and baby hats should this problem occur. You know, so I don't go mad or anything. And luckily, our route is littered with hobby lobbies should any true emergency occur.

I'm working on some sweaters for my nieces and nephews, and decided on making the "gramps" sweater for two of the boys. I love the design, and think they'll be great for autumn. 
And of course i'm always in favour of anything that will make baby boys look like little grumpy old men.
I picked out a brown/grey tweed for the tiniest. My sister wanted washable/dryable, so this stuff is completely acrylic, (Lion's brand Vanna's Choice) but I actually don't mind working with it, it feels much closer to real wool than a lot of other acrylics!
I didn't like the way the pattern worked the raglan increases for the arms (KLL, KRL). I tried it but after a few rows decided to rip back and do Elizabeth Zimmerman's M1 L and M1 R instead, and now it's trucking along nicely; I'm just about ready to start on the body.

My reading these last few weeks has been limited to whatever the boys are using for school work. We schooled through the summer, but have some exciting new books for Autumn that we've just cracked into.

and I'm pretty sure that the boys would tell you that the "speller" isn't one of them.

Binding Off,


P.S I'll be posting about a fun giveaway later this week, stay tuned! 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Yarn Along { Log Cabin }

Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading, and the evidence of this often shows up in my photographs. I love seeing what other people are knitting and reading as well. So, what are you knitting or crocheting right now? What are you reading?

I'm still knitting away at the noro log cabin blanket that a bunch of the girls from our knitting group decided to do together. (We're pretty relaxed about our pace on this, as we're all going at different speeds.)

I, for example, have just finished square number 5, yet one girl is almost finished her second blanket. She's speedy, and motivated by anxiety inducing toddlers. (what is it about toddlers that do that to us?)

I'll be going on a road trip soon, back home to visit family in Kansas. I need to stock up on more Noro before I go, and maybe i'll catch up with her a little bit.

And, why yes! That is colourway number 319 pictured above! The wool I love so much that I had nightmares about losing it.

I picked up the Soupmakers Kitchen a couple of weeks ago while doing some grocery shopping at sam's club in Niagara Falls NY, of all places. (We make a trip at least once a month. The price difference in gas and milk alone make the trip worth it.)
I flipped through the book quickly and was instantly drawn to one traditional soup that looked amazing.
(Please note. I could live on soup alone if I had to; Or if my family would even allow it. They usually start to get bitter about 4 days in...)
As I turned the pages, I realized that almost all of the recipes looked amazing, and all of them use traditional, old country type methods for the broths, and even the noodles. There isn't one mention of a bouillon cube. And the book is loaded with valuable tips on making different stocks and noodles.
And all the different broths and ingredients (and their appropriate cooking times) mentioned can be used for an unlimited number of soups that you can make up on whim without the use of any of the recipes at all.

My favorite part is that it doesn't read like a trendy food channel chef wrote it, but rather, someone's Grandma, who values real food and tradition. (and even the photographs of the food being prepared don't feature typical "hand model" hands, but the experienced, wise hands of an older woman. I love this.)

As much as I'm enjoying summer and all it has to offer, I'm eager for autumn; when I can cozy up in a sweater (maybe hand knit?), open the windows and smell the crisp and falling leaves, and try a few of these soup recipes out!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

{ A Peek Inside Heirloom Tomatoes }

Because all of these things are not like the other...

Each one has a completely unique flavour from the next, and make regular, boring, waxy grocery store GMO tomatoes taste like, well...boring, tasteless tomatoes!
It's such a pity that we can't find these on the grocery store shelves. It makes me wonder what other varieties of other fruits and vegetables many people and especially children will never know or taste. 

 I'm sorry I can't show you a bigger, better beefsteak. We have many, but we ate them all. 

And then we ate this one too.

All it took was a few bites before the Mr. forgave me for turning most of our yard into a garden. That, and you know, not having to mow...
 I promise i'll post an update with a better beefsteak once I pick the huge ones that are still on the vine and just starting to ripen.

This brandywine is rather misshapen too, which is one of the hilarious perks of heirloom veggies. They aren't uniform, they all have their own personality. They refuse to conform! And even the underdogs have their own hidden talents and tricks. 

And all the other tomatoes out there know and respect that.

Even their insides are different. Very different. 

Beefsteak (Do not be fooled. There's no beef involved here, folks. If you listen closely though, you might here the occasional moo because he's got a good sense of humour.) 

Your beef burger might as well be just plain naked without him.

Brandywine. A trusty, delicious and hearty, loyal and dependable friend who's always there, no matter how many times you forget to water her soil or feed her snacks like coffee grounds and eggshells. 

Pink Ox Heart (again, no beef. But pretty shape, and a great paste tomato.)

 He can be a bit of a wiener and not want to ripen without the most perfect of conditions, and the slugs will pick on him first before attempting the other tomatoes. But if you start to tell him who's boss and to put on his big boy pants, he'll start to stand up for himself.

Black Russian 
Where do I start with this one? This is the guy who couldn't decide if he was a cherry tomato or a regular tomato. He's small, but not small enough to just pop in your mouth or eat on salads. But he certainly isn't large. you need about 4 slices to cover a standard sandwich.
 It's like he said "well, put a fork in me, i'm done growing now-Because heck, ladies i'm tasty! So deal with it". 

And we do.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin I think God designed these to be eaten like an apple, with black pepper and balsamic vinegar, of course. 

And to think, there are so many more out there. The thought is overwhelming.

If you can find one, I urge you to visit a farmers' market, and go see what real food tastes like. Sample some heirloom fruits and veggies today.  Surprise your taste buds. They might, after all make life long bosom buddies.

P.S to the "anonymous" lady who messaged me earlier this week, and told me to "stop talking about tomatoes already" and said some naughty, and not very creative words, 

this post is dedicated to you. 

Monday, August 19, 2013


Our weekend was spent almost entirely in the kitchen.
First a Saturday kitchen overhaul with the help of my practical thinking Mom, and an annoyed Reuben (who just really wanted to play a board game) and a chocolate chip bribed Lotte who spent most of the time colouring at (on) the kitchen table.
She also occasionally sampled her crayons when we weren't looking.

While Mark and Zeke participated in their wheelchair basketball team's fundraiser, the rest of us unloaded cupboards, piled dishes and cans in laundry baskets, filled canisters and spice jars until we were yawning.

I invited my mom over for breakfast that day, and told her my plans for rearranging the kitchen (because things just weren't working out the way that they were) and she dove in and ended up staying until 7 pm helping me.
She came to two conclusions that day...

1. I have way too many interests. (Duh. Where does she think I get that from?)
2. Drinks, spices and condiments are my downfall . (Again, duh, Mom. I'm your kid.)

Sunday afternoon was spent actually using my newly arranged kitchen (which I thoroughly enjoyed. I can tell we will be good friends) in making and bottling Crab Apple Red Pepper Jelly, Spiced Tomato Chutney, finishing up my plethora of Sauerkraut, and finally, finishing this morning with bottling our Kombucha. Phew.

There were Bacon Tomato sandwiches to keep us happy and to keep extra cooking to a minimum, and a new (free!) lawn swing to take fun, short breaks on. I plan on spending a lot more time out on that swing, once I tackle this last box of crab apples!
or as Mark enjoys calling them, Crub-Upples. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

✻ Friday Food Fair ✻ {Chinese Dumplings}

Once upon a time when I was quite young, my parents were shopping in an Asian market. They ran into a very friendly Cantonese couple who explained how to make some foods that my parents were curious about-and then invited our family over to watch and learn how to make dumplings.
At least this is how I *think* we met them. I need to check and verify that-we were always meeting new people at the time and the majority of them were I could be confused.

Regardless, by some happening, we were invited to this couple's home for dumplings. 
The woman's mother lived with them as well, so when we arrived, they had quite an assembly line going to make these dumplings. 
One person would roll the dough, one person would fill, and the next person would pinch the dumplings shut and drop them into boiling water.

I don't know exactly how many dumplings were made that night, but I know my sister and I left with our tiny tummies bursting. I think that was also the night that I declared my life long love for chinkiang vinegar, a delicious, dark, thick and malty vinegar, which is what they had used as the dipping sauce.

They sent us home with the recipe and they've been a family favorite ever since.
They're easier than ever to make now that we can buy the wrappers at the asian market, already rolled and cut. But sometimes it's fun to make the dough completely from scratch, and I think that they do taste better. It's up to you whether or not you want to buy or make the wrappers.

The real fun in these is that you can make these filled with just about whatever you want. Play around and experiment! I've even had these with tofu or textured vegetable protein instead of meat and they were delicious.

Here is the traditional recipe though-you can leave out anything you don't like or don't have.

For the filling, you will need...

1/2 lb ground pork (while pork is traditional, you could use ground shrimp, turkey etc)
1/4 a head of large napa cabbage leaves, minced
3 stalks green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup of thinly sliced dried chinese mushrooms

-soak these in hot water about 20 minutes before starting and drain
1/4 cup ginger root, minced
3 tbsp soy sauce or fish sauce
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp corn starch

For the Dough:

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour 
approximately 3/4 cup just-boiled water

Mix the filling until very well blended and then set aside.

Put the flour into a large bowl, and add the water in small amounts at a time, while mixing with a fork or chop stick.
You want the dough to be a little bit sticky when you're done.
Next, roll the dough into 1.5 inch logs (like a play-dough snake) and cut into discs. You can dust your work surface with a little bit of flour if you have a hard time with the dough sticking.

Next, take the discs and roll them into flat circles. Try to keep the edges thin, but the middle slightly thicker. They'll hold up better when cooking this way.
At this point, if you're making a lot, or making these ahead for a later meal, you might want to line a platter or baking sheet with some parchment paper and sprinkle with some corn starch to keep them from sticking to the tray as they sit.

You can put a whole tray into the freezer and once frozen, drop into a resealable bag and freeze until you want to use them. If you do this, cook them from frozen state, do not thaw.
I usually roll out about 5 wrappers at a time, fill them and then do 5 more.
Keep your extra dough covered with some plastic wrap so that it doesn't dry out as you work.

Once your wrapper is rolled, drop about a round teaspoon's worth of filling in the centre.
Fold up your wrapper into a half moon/semi-circle, and pinch shut. Then make some simple pleats/folds and pinch again to ensure it doesn't fall open during boiling.

Bring some salted water to a boil (not a super hard boil, but a low boil) and drop your dumplings in one at a time, giving each one a couple of seconds before dropping the next. This will keep them from sticking to eachother. At first they will sink, but will start to float to the top when they're almost done.
Boil for about 4 minutes.
Remove with a slotted spoon and place onto a lightly oiled platter or plate. Serve with a dipping sauce of your choice. My favorite is chinkiang vinegar, but other sauces like a homemade peanut/rice vinegar/sriracha sauce work really well too.

P.S. I've read about the origin of the Chinese dumpling and have found a multitude of stories claiming to be the original.  There are even dumpling festivals to celebrate some of the history. The stories vary widely as far as details go, but all come down to, basically, "somebody was hungry, and a hero invented these simple and nutritious little dumplings as a way to feed the masses quickly." (sometimes an army, sometimes a whole province of poor farmers...) In our case, a large extended family with a lot of kids. Works for me!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

When the Kettle Drum Player Stole My Noro

I had a terrible dream last night that I went to see a rather disappointing musical called "Wake up, Sally".
The cast seemed completely unaware that the performance was embarrassingly awful and the play included house pets that didn't want to be included.
But all was not lost, for I could still knit while I watched this catastrophic event unfold.

My act of knitting, however, was met with looks of disgust from people around me and in a panic of guilt I decided to tuck my knitting away.
My bag slipped though and to my absolute horror, somehow my whole ball of yarn, project, and two sets of circular needles rolled right into the orchestra pit.
I anxiously waited for three more excruciatingly painful hours before I could get my knitting back.

After the show I went down to get my mess, and it was gone! So I quickly went to the lost and found desk, where smirky bell hop (remember, I was dreaming) handed me two carefully coiled sets of circulars, ..put into a makeshift cardboard sleeves.
Something or someone had taken the needles out of my project, and had kept it and the rest of my precious Noro Kureyon wool! And it was colourway no. 319 to be exact-a colour that had to be brought from Florida by a friend who vacationed there..because its no longer available here!

I asked  Mr. Bell Hop where my knitting and the rest of my wool had gone.... and he spat:

"I don't know. BUT, you should know, kettle drum players like Noro too!"

I pouted the whole way home and wondered how I'd get some more Noro in that colour again without having to make a special trip to Florida. Or worst yet, how I could convince the Mr. to drive to Florida, for wool.

The End

Monday, August 12, 2013

Weekend Snippets

We had a rushed Saturday full of errands and grocery shopping, but our reward came Sunday, when we drove out to to see friends who live in the country.
Where we sat outside while the kids played.

Where we (or I) picked 60 lbs of crab apples from a tree that was so loaded that her branches were dragging on the ground.
The boys shot the worm eaten crab apples off into the field with their sling shots.

The girl rolled around under the tree on the grass as I picked, and tired herself out.

And then we sat outside some more, surrounded by quiet and sunshine
and did nothing at all.