Sunday, December 8, 2013

It's Beginning to Look...

A lot like Christmas!

This weekend, Pat and I braved our storage and pulled out all the Christmas decorations. It took me two days, but I finally have (almost) everything placed just so. And just in time - there are only two weeks left before we head home for the holidays!

I was lucky - with all our new staff, I was able to get exactly what I asked for off this year. I have a whole week and a half of vacation - from the 21st to the 1st (5 days off plus weekends and stat holidays). And we're planning on spending most of it up North with family. It will be a bit strange this year - both Pat and I have lost a grandparent this year - but I suppose that's how new traditions are born...

Anyway, I didn't take too many photos, but here are a few of my tree. Oh how I love my tree! (If I get any more ornaments for it though, I will need a larger one! Also, I really wish we could have a real one, but it isn't allowed in our apartment building.)
My tree hasn't changed much in the last few years - I love it too much as is. I mostly fill it with meaningful ornaments (many handmade, a few vintage from my childhood and our grandparents, and one or two new ones each year), plus some foliage (gold poinsettias and sparkly holly) and simple garlands (red berries and jeweled "fruit"). Our star is really simple too - I'd prefer one that lit up, but this poor tree can't hold much else!

Anyway, it's been too long - I have so much more to blog about! Later - I promise!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

28 List: October Recipe

One of my goals to complete before I turn 28 next year is to cook something new from each month's Bon Appétit magazine. October's recipe is coming a bit late - I just made it tonight. And I didn't take photos, but I wanted to write up a post before I forgot I even made it. I have lots of leftovers, so perhaps I'll take pictures when I make up a bowl for lunch tomorrow.

The Recipe: French Onion Soup with Comté (except I made it with Gruyère instead of Comté) (page 112)

The Verdict: Delicious! I found it a teensy bit sweet (I'm thinking from the wine I used - Black Cellar, Blend 11, Pinot Grizio Chardonnay - and possibly from the mix of onions I had on hand: 3 large white, 1 extra large Spanish and 2 medium yellow onions) but Pat thought it was perfect. He even said a few times how much he liked it - a rarity for Pat (who typically doesn't care much about food)!

The Alterations: I stuck really close to the recipe for this one. Of the ingredients with two options, I went with butter (over duck fat), white wine (probably not dry enough, over dry vermouth) and Gruyère (over Comté). I ended up grabbing fresh cilantro instead of parsley at the grocery store today (arg!), so I didn't add that in with the broth (well I did and then noticed it didn't smell right... so I pulled most of it out... thankfully the recipe called for adding the sprigs in whole and removing later!) - I sprinkled in some dried chervil instead.

All in all - success! Definitely a recipe I'll try again and those leftovers will certainly not be going down the drain! 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


I had lunch today with a girl I know from a neighboring lab - the lab I bring some of my samples to for processing. She told me that some of her labmates had labeled me one of the happiest people in the hospital. Apparently, I always have a smile on my face.

That makes me really happy. No matter what kind of mood I'm in, I always strive to be in good humour when I'm at work. Since I work at one of the leading cancer centres in the world, I know that many of the people I encounter each day are going through a particularly hard and trying time. Me? I have nothing to be upset or angry or cranky about: I have an awesome job that I get paid well for, I work with a great team of girls, I have my health, I have a loving family and home life... I am incredibly lucky and so, so blessed. 

Smile. It's worth it. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013

Yep. I signed up.

And no. I'm not counting these words towards my total word count.

It's true. I've signed up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) once again this year and I'm only counting the words I write for my stories. I didn't sign up last year because it was my first month of my new job. But now that I'm working 9-5, I felt like I was up to the challenge.

And challenge it will be! Writing over 1600 words a day is tough, especially when I'm only writing in the evenings. Plus, I'll be heading up North this weekend and I have a feeling I won't be writing a word while there. But I took Monday off, so hopefully I can catch up then and stay on track.

I chose to work on a few different stories - mainly my Republic of Krez epic story-novel and the Mixed story I've been posting on Wattpad - so that I wouldn't lose interest as quickly. Makes it much more fun for me too.

Anyway... I have 1667 words to write. Back later!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Sketchbook Pages: Positively Serious

Here's the latest page in my altered Amber book. One of my goals this year is to completely fill this book - it's getting there. Only 27 more spreads to go!

I always regret when I don't take in progress photos, and this is another one of those cases. I do remember the steps I took, but I wish I had a photo or two of the "under-painting" collage part. Still, I love how it turned out - feels very autumn!

As usual, I started with gesso and then a collage using scraps of paper from my desk and ripped out of a magazine. I painted next (Golden paints: titan buff, India yellow hue, burnt umber light, red oxide, chromium oxide green) then used up some old dollar store rub-ons. Next I made the circles with brown India ink and added random words to each bubble. A bit more paint to lighten and brighten the bubbles, darken the India ink and to push the rub-ons into the background. Lastly, I splattered everything with a bit more India ink and used a gold Sharpie to really make each circle pop.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Christmas Baking

And let the Christmas baking begin!

I'm actually not that much of a baker - the odd crisp or muffins now and again - but Christmas cookies? I tend to go a little crazy. I simply love having a wide assortment of cookies at Christmastime! I have quite a few tried and true favourites and always add in at least one new recipe each year.

I'm also typically not one to prepare in advance (procrastination should be my middle name!) but I had some ripening, almost-mushy, fuyu persimmons in the fridge that I needed to use up this weekend or throw out this week. Remembering some awesome cookies I made a few years ago, I found the recipe (this one) and adapted it to what I had on hand. No walnuts or raisins + an extra half cup of persimmon pulp = oats + a handful of flax seeds for crunch. I didn't blend my persimmons, opting to mash them instead for a bit more texture. I also added in a bit more spices: I didn't have any ground cloves, but I did add some ginger, mace and allspice along with the cinnamon and nutmeg.
I love these subtly spiced cookies - they are incredibly moist (mega-moist, even, as my dad and brothers would say with a snicker). I think this is a recipe that will be added to the "must make every year" list... especially since I can't resist buying those gorgeous golden fruit (and inevitably forget to add them to a salad like I keep meaning to!).

Monday, October 28, 2013

Stitching Away

OK. I feel like a broken record, but I really cannot get into the swing of blogging regularly! I don't get it. I love blogging and yet, I've just gone almost three weeks without even turning on my laptop to post anything. Photos? I'm barely taking any. I even forgot my camera when I went home for Thanksgiving (lots of lovely missed shots there)...

I think there are a number of factors relating to this lack of blogging motivation. My laptop is old and slow and frustrating to work on. My 9-5 job leaves me too tired at night to do much (and so weekends are busy trying to get everything else I want to do - the majority boring things I wouldn't necessarily blog about anyway). And I think the pressure I'm putting on myself to blog (because I love it so much) isn't helping either.

So. I won't mention again how I wish I were blogging more regularly. I will be happy with any blogging, never mind consistency for now. We can always work on that later.

Anyway, onto some photos I've been meaning to show since Thanksgiving: the table runner I stitched up for my mom. She wanted it to fit the Giesler-boat-coffee-table as well as use up some of the scraps I cut off her fall / Thanksgiving table cloth (the gorgeous dark burgundy brocade fabric).

Oh - have I mentioned I've never quilted anything before?

Yeah. So I didn't want it to be too elaborate, but I still wanted it to be cute and reversible and to somehow incorporate a maple leaf block (my favourite). Essentially, I just jumped in head first. I didn't even really do any research online, besides looking up what the maple leaf block should look like. I made up a design on graph paper (and modified the "top" side since it was initially too complicated with a row of smaller leaf blocks - these larger ones being approximately 6"x6") and I cut everything with scissors because I don't have a cutting mat or rotary cutter, which made for some very crooked lines (and the addition of a few stripes around the edges to make everything line up and the proper size). I "padded" it with a few layers of an old sheet and finished it off with some store-bought navy binding.
Overall, I'm really happy with how it turned out, especially as my first quilting experience. It would have been nice if things had been a bit straighter and lined up a bit better, but I love it for all its imperfections!

I used some of my favourite fabric (see that bird above: My Folklore Japanese fabric, and those cute little trees on tan, from Fabricland), as well as a favourite neutral (Joel Dewberry Geo in Flax) and some bright plaids to tie them all together with a decidedly country feel (both from Fabricland).

I also managed to sew my mom her pillowcase (from an old sheet, to fit a large, square pillow) and have been working on the Woodland Sampler. Stitch, stitch, stitching away over here!

(Not to mention the reading, writing, journaling, painting, baking....... busy? Why yes!)

Now I think I'll upload whatever photos are on my camera and see if I can't find motivation for another post or two! 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Sketchbook Pages: Leftover Paint

When I'm painting, I tend to err on the side of caution and squeeze out / mix up more paint than I need. Instead of letting it go to waste by drying up on my freezer-paper-palette, I usually smear it into one of my sketchbooks (using a brush or my fingers). The theory is that I'll go back and add to these pages - the reality? I kind of love them as is:
They remind me of colour palettes that I've used and might try again (like the red, orange and blue-green in the last one).

What do you do with your leftover paint?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Fall Goals

As I did for this summer, I decided to make up a list of goals for fall. I was going to say that these lists tend to keep me focused and driven, but maybe not so much. I just looked over that summer list and I only half-completed 3 of 12 goals. Ouch. For this list, I think I'll keep thing simple and achievable... because nobody likes to feel like they haven't accomplished anything all season!

(What did I do this summer anyway? Oh right... work. Here's hoping fall will be a little less crazy... but who am I kidding? This is when my work starts picking up. *sigh* SO: very achievable list... and maybe I'll try to look back on it once or twice before winter to see where I'm at!)
  1. sign up for the fall sampler (I have no allusions on keeping up though!)
  2. write four chapters in my Mixed story (two a month should be easy)
  3. work on the Woodland sampler (at least two squares should be doable)
  4. finish two HerStory girls (the magenta/blue backgrounds I have ready to go)
  5. sew mom's pillowcase, blanket and table runner for Thanksgiving
  6. make two more colourway demos for Josée's "guest book" artwork (also for Thanksgiving)
  7. make something with pumpkin (muffins, cake, pie, cookies, something, anything!)
  8. get back into morning yoga (which means going to bed at a decent time so I can wake up a bit earlier)
  9. sew buttons back onto three of my coats
  10. go for at least three fall hikes (and skating as often as possible)
  11. read six books (starting with finishing Doctor Zhivago - and preferably at least one in French since I signed up for a French course through work)
  12. try a new recipe (from the Jerusalem cookbook)
I'd also really like to get back into blogging and taking photos regularly... but one thing (or twelve) at a time!
I think those are pretty achievable... here's hoping anyway! 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Sketchbook Pages: Colourful Instincts

Yesterday was all about white - today's page is all about colour.
As with most of my altered book pages, I started with a layer of gesso and then went for a collage. I chose a few papers with a specific idea in mind... of course, things veered off on a totally different path when I added some yellow and blue tissue paper and then layers (and layers) of bright washi tape, pulling colours from the original "letters and symbols" paper I used:

While working on this page, I didn't particularly feel like breaking out my paint, so I used Gelatos instead to add that juicy pop of colour. I think I set the book aside for a bit before deciding to add even more colour with Gelatos sprays and stencils.
Finally I finished it all off with some words. I went with a message that really spoke to me as I was creating these pages - even though you might think you know where you want to go with a certain piece, sometimes, your instincts know better. Just have fun with it!

I wrote the message out with a white Sharpie but then went over it with a couple coats of gesso to really make the words stand off the background.
This spread is so bright and fun, I can't help but smile when I look at it.

Make something colourful today!  

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Sketchbook Pages: White on White

Happy October!

I know everyone is saying it, but I need to express my disbelief as well - it's already October???!? What happened to September? Did I miss something?

Apparently, I did miss something - I blogged a grand total of four times in September... and half of those were this week. Yikes. But maybe I needed the break? It's been busy around here and I just can't seem to keep up with all the things I want to do. When I get home at night, I rarely get to do more than make supper, watch Jeopardy and catch up on the blogs I follow. I still don't feel like I've gotten into a groove, a good routine and there's no excuse. I've been working 9-5 for over three months...

But enough of that. I took a couple days off this week to relax and catch up on some sleep and creative endeavours. Including blogging (if that weren't already obvious). I have lots of posts in mind, so let's start by going back to August and taking a look at a page in my altered Amber book.

One weekend at the beginning of August, I decided to experiment a bit with white on white. One of the sketchbook pages I worked on I've already shown - here's the other.
As with most of the pages in this old book, I'm pretty sure I started with a coat of gesso: the first layer of white. Then I collaged a bunch of torn white and off-white papers. Finally, I added some texture with stencils, fiber paste and modeling paste. I love being able to feel a page - it adds a whole other dimension to it.

Now I'm not positive what I did next. I'm pretty sure all I did was add a bit of colour and dimension with white and metallic green Gelatos. There's just a hint of turquoise and sparkle to the finished page. Then I added a bit more visual texture with an ivory Faber Castell marker and a gold Sharpie. Finally, I finished the whole thing with a few word stickers.
The result is one of my favourite pages of all time. At least in this book. LOVE it - definitely right between wonderful and fantastic!