Tag Archives: Books

I am NOT just a sewing machine

Looking back at my blog posts over the last few months it might seem to you that I do nothing but sew cute cuddly create-a-creatures.   And although that part of my life and business seems to have grown exponentially and taken up a larger portion of my time – I really have been doing more than just sewing!

And so, as friends who have been out of touch for awhile, let’s get caught up!  Here’s what’s been happening in my neck of the woods:

1.  I am teaching Kindergarten again, which I love.  This year I started a class blog (for parents of students only – sorry) and I love, love, love being able to share all of the crazy, happy, exciting moments of our days together.  One of my favourites from the past few weeks was creating a blizzard in the gym using crumpled up pieces of scrap paper.  One of my students said “This is the best day ever!”  I love hearing that!

Kindergarten Artwork

2.  I have just started reading this book.  I have had a hold on it at the library for so long that I can no longer remember who recommended it to me or why I wanted to read it.  What I’ve read so far makes sense, but the jury is still out…

3.  This song has become one of my favourites.  I love the imagery in it.  Wow.

4.  I have discovered that I love green smoothies.  It’s funny how your tastes change over time.  My current favourite mixture is kale, frozen peaches, spirulina, a little maple syrup, and almond or coconut milk.  It’s very green, but good.

5.  I feel like I have become an expert in Disney World vacations – and I haven’t even been yet!  I read this book and this book cover to cover.  I never knew there was so much attention to detail in the parks, I guess as a kid you don’t really notice or remember those things.  I am looking forward to experiencing it all as an adult.

6.  Truth be told, I really have been spending most of my time sewing creatures, and I love it.  But I am also hoping to take some time to finish up some other projects I started last year (um…yeah..and some I started the year before that.)  This year I have vowed to not buy any new fabric until I finish up old projects – it’s only February and it has already been a hard promise to keep!  But there are several of those old projects that I am really looking forward to finishing and hopefully can share with you soon!  In the meantime, one of my current favourite custom pieces.  I love the ruffles on the dress!

And now it’s your turn!  What’s been happening with you these last few months?  Any exciting books, or songs, or projects on the go?

 

My New Favourite Gardening Book

We have a whole shelf in our book-filled house dedicated to gardening.  Last year I posted a list of my favourites, and since then I have a list a mile long of books I have read from the library, and those that I hope to read.

But of all the gardening books I have read so far, I now have a new favourite.

You Grow Girl by Gayla Trail.

This book is different from any gardening book I have read before, and I think that is why I love it so much.

To start with, Gayla keeps things simple.  After reading stacks of gardening books with flawless photos and long lists of plants I can never seem to find, and a confusing amount of information on soil and ph and watering and garden design, it is refreshing to find a book that is, well, fun!  Rather than getting bogged down by how much there is to be done, she makes gardening sound doable, reminds you that it doesn’t have to be perfect, and then gives you lots of great ideas for making your garden a success.

And it’s not that the book isn’t meaty, because it is.  There is a wealth of information in there on starting a successful garden, no matter how small the space you have to grow (and even what to do if you are growing on a public space!)   But there are also really fun crafty projects like making your own leaf-shaped concrete stepping stones (I so want to do this!), sewing yourself a garden apron, creating moss-covered pots and stones, making tea with your own home-grown herbs, and on and on.  All told in a relaxed, you-can-do-this kind of way.

And as much as I love reading about gardening, I sometimes find the process a little stressful as the list of things I have to be doing and I should be doing and I need to be planting gets longer and longer.  You Grow Girl comes without the panic.  Instead there is the kind of enthusiasm you get when talking to your best friend about the thing you are passionate about.  I finished reading the book inspired and excited about the gardening season ahead.  (and I have yet another book  I am going to keep out of the library as long as I can….) :)  I am also adding “grow my own loofah sponge” to my list of gardening things to do.  I had no idea this was something you could grow in your garden – how cool is that?!

Gayla also has an amazing gardening blog which I read regularly, and two other gardening books which I can’t wait to check out.

Have you read any good books lately?

Cookbook Review: Ripe From Around Here

I have spent all March cooking from this cookbook:

Ripe From Around Here: A Vegan Guide to Local, Sustainable Eating (No Matter Where You Live) by Jae Steele.

I shared with you some of my culinary adventures with Lemon Poppyseed Pancakes, Roasted Applesauce, West African Stew, and, what I called, the Best Ever Vegetarian Split Pea Soup.

I loved all of these recipes and I know I will make them again and again.

I also tried several other recipes from the book with mixed results.

Oatmeal Raisin muffins were delicious, but crumbly.  We made the most of their crumbly nature by cutting them in half and using them like the biscuit in strawberry shortcake, topping them with yogurt and berries.

I was really excited to try the baked beans, as we love our baked beans around here, but sadly they just didn’t work out for us.  I kept having to add a lot of extra water as they thickened to the point of burning, and they ended up lacking in flavour.

Coconut Curry with Seasonal Veg was also disappointing.  In this case, it may not be the recipe’s fault, as I had to play around with the spices a bit to use what I had on hand.  We ate the curry with “Naked Oats” also called “Rice of the Prairies” which was also a new venture for us.

Coconut Curry with Seasonal Veggies over Rice of the Prairies

 

Ginger Miso Almond sauce was another recipe that I wasn’t happy with – until I changed a few things. :)   I found the original recipe to be overpowered by the almond butter (but someone else might think it’s fine!)  It’s not perfect for us yet, but it’s a recipe worth playing around with.

There are still several other recipes in the book I want to explore.  I want to try making my own oat and nut milks, and have all the ingredients for making the dried fruit compote, but just haven’t gotten around to it yet.  And because this book works with seasonal ingredients, I only made recipes that used winter ingredients.  There are so many other recipes I want to try when our garden is producing again, including Blueberry Peach Pancakes, Raspberry Millet Muffins, Herb Garden Hummus, Homemade Ketchup, White Bean and Lovage Soup, Roasted Fiddleheads with Garlic, and two different Pad Thai recipes, to name a few.

Curried Golden Split Pea Soup

 

Despite a few so-so recipes, I generally loved this book.  I especially love the way it is organized.  So many cookbooks that focus on seasonal ingredients are organized by season.  This one is organized like a traditional cookbook, but uses symbols beside each recipe to show you in what season the ingredients will be available.  I like the interesting descriptions for each recipe (it’s fun knowing the history behind things!), and like so many vegan cookbooks, it is packed with other useful information, such as how to start your own vermicomposter, which house plants to buy to purify the air inside your home, and recipes for simple household cleaners.  The fact that it is Canadian makes it even more useful to me, as it is based on seasonal ingredients I can find right here (and the author does an excellent job of offering a wide variety of produce, and mentioning when a certain ingredient might not be available locally.)  I am sure anyone in the Northern part of the United States, with their similar growing season, would find the same thing.

The recipes are not overly fussy, although some look quite beautiful, which makes this a perfect, all-around cookbook.  And although it is a vegan cookbook, I think the recipes have appeal for a much wider audience (after all, my meat-loving hubby enjoyed these dishes too!)  The recipes are very easy to adapt to your own tastes and preferences (I will admit to using butter and milk when trying out some of the recipes!)

This is a book I will definitely keep out of the library as long as I can! :)  And when the librarians won’t let me keep it any longer, it will definitely be added to my “to buy” list.

This month I am cooking my way through “The Food Matters Cookbook” by Mark Bittman.   I was inspired by the Food Matters Project and can’t wait to try out some of the recipes!

What if you became a Pizza…

A few weeks ago, we explored this book in my classroom:

In this story, Pete is disappointed that he can’t go outside to play, so, to cheer him up, his Dad turns him into a pizza!  Not a real one, of course, but an imaginary pizza, complete with dough kneading, the addition of toppings (checkers!) and a trip to the oven (the sofa.)  This is a fun. light-hearted book that just begs to be acted out!

If I were reading this book to one or two small children, I would definitely follow it up with scooping them up and immediately turning them into pizzas (of the Pete variety.)  I must admit that I did consider doing some variation of this in my classroom, but with 13 youngsters all eager for a turn, I instead turned to activities we could all engage in at the same time.

Hello play dough!  (I apologise in advance for the photos.  Fluorescent lighting and my camera do not agree.  I am determined to learn how to get great photos despite the lighting – if anyone has any tips I’d love to hear them!)

Following all of the steps in the book, we turned our play dough into our own pizza.  We all took turns to knead the dough and roll it flat, and then everyone had the opportunity to make their own toppings to add to the pizza.  By the time we were ready to put it into the “oven” imaginations had taken hold and we were really cooking the pizza.  Some of the students commented on the amazing smell as it was baking, and others had grumbling tummies waiting for a bite.

When we removed it from the oven we had to figure out how to cut the pizza so that everyone could have a fair share (math is everywhere, isn’t it?) and then we all enjoyed describing the wonderful flavour of this best pizza in the world.  While we ate, several of the students contemplated opening up our own pizza store and selling our wares to the world (or at the very least to the principal!)

To follow this up we made and ate our own real pizzas using mini pitas, and we wrote a class book about our favourite pizzas.

 

"My pizza is very good. It was so good I ate it all."

 

More pizza fun could include:

  • create signs and menus for our very own (imaginary) pizza store
  •  plan a pizza party and invite a special guest (like the principal in my case!)
  • draw a number of pizzas and then cut them into pieces to serve different numbers of people (My Grade 3 students loved doing this when we were learning about fractions – I played it up with taking orders via telephone and having them create and cut the pizzas for the different orders…and then we really had fun with silly customers who wanted crazy combinations like 1/8 sardines, 3/8 strawberries and 1/2 stinky cheese)
  • making a cardboard pizza!
  • creating our own stories where we turn into our favourite foods!
  • Some of my students were disappointed that Pete didn’t turn into a real pizza.  This could be fun to explore – what would happen if we really did turn into a pizza???
  • Pizza tag – you are the pizza, and I want to eat you, yum! :)

Anyone else have fun pizza ideas to add?

Roasted Applesauce

Here is another amazing (and simple!) recipe from Ripe from Around Here.

Applesauce is pretty standard fare around here.  It often finds its way into baking, and I also enjoy it for a snack or dessert.  I have always made it the same way – peel and chop the apples, put them in a pot and simmer until done.

But this recipe puts a new twist on things by making the sauce out of apples that are roasted in the oven, then put into a blender.  The recipe with variations can be found on the author’s website, here.

Begin with peeling and chopping your apples.  She suggests using two different varieties, I made mine with Spartan and Cortland as they are two varieties that are still available locally grown.

Lay them out on a baking sheet, lined with parchment, drizzle with fresh lemon juice and sprinkle with cinnamon.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.  Pull them out and stir and flip the pieces of apple over, then bake for another 25 minutes.

Give it a few minutes to cool off, then purée in the blender.

This is absolutely the smoothest applesauce I have ever eaten.  And yummy.  I will definitely be making applesauce this way again and again!

What is your favourite way to make applesauce?

Giants, Beanstalks, and a Brave Girl Named Kate

I am so excited to be writing my very first Creative Kids post!  I actually had an activity I did in my classroom last week that I wanted to write about, but had such a fun and amazing afternoon with my students yesterday that I can’t resist writing about that instead!

On Monday afternoons I do something in my classroom I call “Story Adventures.”  Usually this begins with the reading of a story, and then we get involved in all sorts of adventures inspired by what we just read.

Yesterday I read them the story of Jack and the Beanstalk.  Not just the ordinary tale, but the one found in this book:

One half of the book is the tale of Jack that we are all familiar with.  After reading the story we had a short discussion about Jack, and his actions, and how we felt about the giants.

I then read them the other half of the story; which is the same story, but told from the point of view of the giant’s wife.  In this version the giants are all very innocent and Jack is made out to be one very naughty (and greedy) boy indeed!

We then talked about whether their feelings about Jack or the giant had changed.

And then the fun began.  What I often do with a story like this is tell my students we are going to put on a play, and have them create all of the props/costumes necessary, and then spend some time acting it out, allowing different students time to try out different roles.

But I took a risk with this young group and decided to try something I have never considered doing with a class so young.  We decided to put Jack on trial.  (It was smooth sailing once I explained what a trial was!) :)

Students who sided with the giant sat on one side of our meeting mat, students who sided with Jack on the other, and one undecided student played the role of Jack.  I sat as judge so as to have some control over the proceedings.  Then we proceeded to debate.  Giants had their say, humans had their say, and Jack had a chance to defend himself.  And after a few minutes, my classroom was no longer full of 5 and 6-year-old boys and girls, but giants, offended at having been robbed, and humans, explaining their neediness, and for goodness sake Jack might have asked permission to take some of the giants things but the giants were too intent on wanting to eat him to notice!  Without any prompting or prodding from me (I only called for order when too many people were talking at once), the two parties came to the conclusion that they would share the stolen goods, and the giants would agree not to threaten to eat any more humans.  Without any formal teaching at all, my K/1 students have learned to debate, to persuade, to compromise, and to keep order in a large group discussion.  And they worked the judge right out of her job!  When I brought the drama to a close, the only thing I heard was : “Can we do it again?”

Because they enjoyed all of this so much, I decided to read them yet another version of the story today.

In this version the hero is a brave girl named Kate, who steals not for her own benefit, but to return the giants items to their rightful owners.  And when the story was finished, my students immediately started working out their own version of the drama, assigning roles and deciding who sided with who.   (Who needs the teacher anyway?) :)

If the interest lasts another day or two, here are a few other things we might do together:

  • build our own giant beanstalk, – we will have to decide how tall it should be (hello math!), and then the challenge will be deciding how to create a beanstalk out of the materials we have on hand – or we might build other giant things too – how big would a giant’s shirt be?  Or the food on his table?  (If I had a big enough oven, I would have loved to have created some giant food to share!)
  • plant bean seeds and watch them grow
  • go on an imaginary adventure where each child can climb the beanstalk and enter into their own magical worlds (and then write about it!)
  • create and tell our own story, replacing the giant beanstalk with another giant plant, and the giant’s castle with another magical place (Perhaps entitled….Our Class and the Humongous Apple Tree, or something of that nature)

Fee Fi Fo Fum, I see some kids having lots of fun! :)

What would you do with a giant beanstalk?

West African Stew

I have really been enjoying cooking my way through Ripe from Around Here by Jae Steele.  (If you missed it, you can find the first recipe I tried here.)  I absolutely love that the recipes are based on seasonal ingredients, and that there were quite a few winter recipes to choose from (although I am dying to try some of her summer recipes, too!)

The recipe I am posting today is one I almost passed by.  It was the name that threw me.  ”East African Groundnut Stew.”  I admit that at first I didn’t look past the title.  ”Groundnut?  Sounds like something exotic.”  Luckily I read on or otherwise I would have missed out on something delicious.  And the groundnut?  Not so exotic.  It seems it’s just another name for the humble peanut.

This stew has a delicious, spicy-as-you-want-it, peanut-butter infused base, which complemented our veggies nicely (and hubby enjoyed it even though it was full of veggies he doesn’t usually like!)  It was also another great use for that frugal winter vegetable – cabbage!

My version is similar to the one found in the book, with a few minor changes and substitutions.

West African Stew

  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into small cubes (about 3 cups)
  • 2 cups chopped cabbage
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp dried chilli (or more to taste)
  • 3 cups water (you could also use stock, but it was still delicious just with water)
  • 1 cup apple juice
  • 1/2 can tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp grated ginger (I always keep some in my freezer – it keeps well and is easy to grate)
  • 1 tsp sea salt (or to taste)
  • Up to 2 cups frozen veggies (I added peas and beans)
  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter

In a large pot, cook the onions in the oil over medium-low heat until the onions are soft.  Stir in the potatoes, cabbage, garlic and chili.  Cover the pan and cook for another few minutes.  Add the remaining ingredients (except frozen veggies and peanut butter), cover the pot, and simmer until the potatoes can be pierced easily with a fork.  Add the frozen veggies and cook for an additional 5 minutes.  In a small bowl, mix the peanut butter with some of the hot broth from the pot until it is smooth.  Add it to the pot and stir well.

Enjoy!

Just a few more recipes to go and then I will do a final review!  (So far it’s looking favourable!)

 

Valentine’s Dinner

As I have mentioned before, it is tradition around here for Hubby to create a gourmet meal for me on Valentine’s Day.  I always feel like a princess when he has put so much time and care into making something really special.

This year, all of the recipes came from Gordon Ramsay’s book “Healthy Appetites.”

Our meal featured a roast leg of lamb.  Covered in a paprika spice rub and cooked with oranges this was quite a treat.  Especially since neither one of us has ever eaten lamb before!  I think I’ll be spending some time this week finding some good recipes for leftover roast lamb! :)

He also created a lovely sweet potato frittata with homemade tomato salsa.  Hubby will not usually eat sweet potatoes, but he chose this recipe because he knows I love them!  What a sweetheart! (and incidentally, he found he enjoyed the potatoes cooked this way – score one for Gordon Ramsay!)

We ended our meal with this beautiful spiced apple cake.  This was definitely one of the best apple cakes I have ever had – full of spice, and oh so moist! (and it was even made with whole wheat flour!)  I admit that I had seconds of dessert! 

The frittata and apple cake are definitely going to be added to our family recipe box.  And although I don’t know that I will be cooking a leg of lamb anytime soon, I might get adventurous enough to try more lamb recipes in the future.

It was a beautiful meal and a fun evening!  Did anything special happen at your house this Valentine’s Day?

 

New from the Nightstand – January Edition

I have quite an eclectic mix of books to share today.  I actually allowed myself the pleasure of devouring a few fiction selections in the last few weeks, and devoured they were! :)   I also discovered a new non-fiction favourite and attempted some projects from a crochet book. 

I told you I would come back to this.  The author describes the Renaissance Soul as a person who is multi-passionate.  The kind of person who loves change, variety, and moving in new and different directions all the time.  (She had me from the title – I know who I am!)  I absolutely love this book!  It has been instrumental in helping me to find focus, weigh priorities, deal with my want to do everything and all at once, and with more than a little help from Michelle Ward, is helping me to design a life and business that fits my dreams and personality.  A must read for anyone who struggles with balancing diverse interests and passions.

Ok…I know I’m a little late in picking this one up.  (After all, the book was released years ago and the movie hype has long died down.)  But I’ve never been one to do something when everyone else is anyway….(hmm…or at least not since I left high school…)  I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  I have not seen the movie, so was not tainted by visions of actors dancing in my head.  This book takes you an a journey, lets you spend a year in the life of the author, and allows you to meet a host of wonderful people in the process.  It’s not a high-action, can’t-wait-to-see-what-happens-next page- turner, but it’s honest, engaging, and satisfying.  I will definitely be seeking out more from this author!

This was a book that I loved, until I actually started trying to make one of the projects in it.  I love all of the full-colour photos, the wide range of projects, the fun and casual writing style.  Where I ran into problems was in trying to follow the patterns.  And perhaps I just happened to pick the project with the most errors, but errors there are.  Enough errors to fill two pages on the errata link (although I believe these have been corrected in the 2nd edition), and then I discovered some that were not on the errata list at all!   Although I gained a lot of crochet practice and was really proud of myself for not only finding the errors, but figuring out how to fix them (After all, I’m no expert crocheter)  in the end, it just seemed like too much work and time when there were other projects I wanted to tackle, and I gave up on the book. 

This was a fun read!  Especially if you are a fan of food tv (which I am!)  The characters are interesting, the story enjoyable, and I was happy with the ending.  It’s one of those books that makes you smile and then you pass it on to a friend so they can smile too (which is how I ended up with my copy, which I then passed on to my mom!) 

What books are on your nightstand?  Please share your favourites in the comments – you can never have too many books to read!

Inspiration

I am very influenced by the books I read and the movies I watch.  I am not sure whether it is because I have such a wild imagination, or if I just love a good story, but I come out feeling like I know the characters personally (or wish I did.)

For instance, after seeing “You’ve Got Mail” I really wanted to open a bookshop (I know, I know, in the movie the bookstore goes out of business, but it didn’t stop me wanting to have one of my own!)

Reading “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy had me wanting to throw on an elven cloak and head out on an adventure. 

And let’s not begin talking Harry Potter….. :)

Today, while working on a crochet project, I sat down and watched Julie & Julia.

You have perhaps already guessed what I feel inspired to do.  Read more about Julia Child, try some recipes from her cookbook, write a blog about it (oh, wait, that’s already been done….)

What it really reminded me of was how much I enjoy cooking and reading cookbooks, and how I really would like to do more of it again.  I never actually finished working my way through my Nana’s recipes, and I also have a shelf full of cookbooks with delicious recipes just waiting to try.

Not so long ago, I used to try to make one new recipe each week.  I did this for a long time, but when life is busy sometimes it is just easier to go with the old standbys.  But I am inspired today to get back in the habit of trying new things.  It probably won’t be Beef Bourguignon, but hopefully it will still have me saying “Bon Appetit!”

Do you ever get inspired by a movie?

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