Daring Bakers' September Challenge

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

I put this challenge off until the very last minute. I made the puff pastry today, as a matter of fact, which is reveal day. Ask Mr. T and he will atest to the anxiety that I have been feeling ever since finding out that September's recipe challenge would be Vols-au-Vent made with puff pastry from scratch. I have always wanted to try making my own puff pastry but never had the courage to try it. What is a Vols-au-Vent? It's essentially puff pastry that is shaped into cups and then filled with sweet or savory fillings. Sounds tasty, right?

So I woke up this morning on a mission to get these babies rolled out. The recipe is not really that difficult at all, much to my relief, although I did have a few meltdowns when my one pound butter block didn't come together as nicely as I had wanted it to and then I had some butter oozing problems. I finally set my fears aside and just went for it.

The moment of truth came when I pulled the tray out of the oven. Most of my puffs had fallen over and were sadly slumped but they puffed! At least they puffed!

Check out the puffy, buttery layers of goodness.

I think I know why they slumped and will be able to remedy it for next time. They were kind of cute in their bent over kind of way and they tasted crispy and buttery and wonderful. I filled them with spicy, curry beef with carrots and peas. I'm glad that I've somewhat overcome my fear of making my own puff pastry. I'd like to try it again but until then I have the other half of this recipe tucked safely away in the freezer.

Falling Slowly

Look at that! I'm ready to pick up stitches for the neck!!! And I read up on finishing techniques using my Debbie Bliss How To Knit book. Excellent diagrams and text if I do say so myself. I can't even see the side seams on the body of the sweater. Those seams up there are shoulder seams - they're even and consistent, but not invisible, which is typical of shoulder seams. I'm still a bit nervous about knitting the sleeves in to the body since I decided to knit them in the round which was not per the pattern instructions. Oh well.

This little pretty pink skein of 100% cashmere made my entire week! Thank you again, Lauren! I've been hunting for the perfect cowl pattern for finger-weight. Any suggestions would be welcome. I'm thinking a lace pattern would be ideal.

And we've been picking up signs of fall during our sporadic walks in the neighbourhood. Must. Get. Out. More. The sun is shining today against the weather channel's predictions, and it's begging for us to go out and play! Can do.
Happy Sunday!


Sitting and Knitting

My sweater is coming along very nicely, and I woudn't be surprised if it is ready to wear soon. The front, back and sleeves are blocking, and I am oddly excited about seaming and picking up stitches for the cowl neck. Finishing has never been my forte. There's still a hemlock ring blanket stuffed in a drawer somewhere around here. While I wait for the pieces to dry, I found an old single knit sock from last summer in yet another drawer, and I found some needles and cast on the second matching sock for some mindless ribbing and travel knitting. Just the right project for catching up on season five of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Did I ever tell you that my cousin went to Sweet Dee and Mac's real life wedding? That would have been brilliant.


30 Days of Happiness :: Antiquing

Call me crazy, but those crazy moose rugs that are probably more of a wall hanging than anything make my heart flutter. And it's super soft. Is it possible that it is SO tacky, it's beautiful???? I am going to put it in my craft nook and love it all to myself (mostly so no one else sees it and laughs 'cause it might seriously hurt my feelings). I'm also a little weirded out that this animal/nature tapestry thing is not far off hanging a fleece wolf blanket in my window.
I also bought a few baskets while antiquing on the weekend, and I found this one for $3. It's a really great size for something. I haven't quite decided for what exactly, but I have lots of options - yarn, blocks, toys, etc. I nearly didn't buy it 'cause it was a little too orangey in the store, but it must have been the florescent lighting 'cause it's absolutley perfect in my living room and doesn't look orange at all. In fact it could almost pull off red.

I really love to hunt for great finds, and I had some wonderfully patient shoppers with me. It's essential to have a good sounding board for these buying decisions 'cause I have been known to get carried away thrifting. I think I did good. I'm happy.

30 Days of Happiness :: Lavender

I love the smell of lavender. I love the colour lavender. If I had to name the next domestic animal, I'd call it Lavender even if it was of the male gender. I would. Really. I remember the day I fell in love with lavender. Clearly. It was noon hour on a week day. I was at work. The director was on vacation, and while she was away, we arranged for one of our favourite public health nurses (y'all have a favourite, right?) to come in and facilitate a relaxation (therapy) session. She had about a dozen of us lie on the floor side by side, and we practiced breathing for about half an hour. It was AMAZING. And she gave us all a little cotton puff with a dab of lavender oil to place under our noses, and I carried that little lavender cotton puff in my pocket for days. The scent truly soothes me. I've since bought lavender soap, lavender oil, lavender shampoo, lavender plants for my garden . . . I'm obsessed. Ironically my first memory of lavender was dismissing it as old lady-ish. Eek. I guess I can chalk this up alongside my love of pineapple sundaes and bran muffins and decaf coffee and knitting. I should really be a senior.

30 Days of Happiness::Simple innovations

Necessity is the mother of invention, yes? Maybe I'm pushing it a little bit with this phrase but although we love our little house in the trees (we live on the second and third floors of a large, old house) there are not many places with good light for photography. I've had to wait for moments when the light would be just soft enough or just bright enough to photograph objects. And then it would still take some tweaking on iPhoto. So after some booting around on the internet (surely not during work time!) I finally came upon these instructions and having all of the materials listed at home, promptly set out to assemble my very own light box.

This is a photo taken without the light box. It's somewhat acceptable but the colour is way off.Here are the same socks taken in the light box. A notable difference in colour and the texture is more visible.A pottery turtle sans light box.
Pottery turtle hanging out in the light box.
Not a significant difference, however, it's not perfect yet. For one, you can clearly see the shadows where the cardboard did not fit perfectly in the corners of the plastic bin. I'm going to keep playing around with it and try multiple light sources (I only used one for this first try), different backgrounds, maybe diffuse the light by draping different materials around the box. At least I will no longer have to wait for the very small window of time when the light is good in the house. A small victory for simple innovation.

30 Days of Happiness :: Day of Rest

Today the girls and I are resting at home - all in one place peacefully. Yesterday was spent scattered and apart. El is writing. The Bee is under the covers fighting off a cold or infection of some sorts while watching movies. I am making. Cooking broccoli soup, baking zucchini muffins, knitting sleeves, and contemplating cookies for lunches this week. The house smells wonderful, and plenty of sunlight is pouring in through the windows. I can hear typing (my own and the oldest's), snoring from the bedroom, and the faint sound of cartoons with the occasional sniffle. The Bee wants to make rice krispie squares this afternoon which will mean a short walk to the store for cereal and marshmallows. I look forward to squeezing in some fresh air.

Happy Sunday.


30 Days of Happiness :: Crafty Bits 'n' Bobs

I knit up a pair of wristwarmers from Last Minute Knitted Gifts using an oddball skein of Noro Cash Iroha in one night while catching up on Mad Men. Such a satisfyingly quick knit. Not sure whose they will become. They will most likely be thrown in the gift drawer. And so one Christmas knit has been achieved, and I can resume knitting my sweater of which I have the front and back and a partial sleeve completed already. It's coming along swimmingly.

And I'm not the only one handcrafting around here. The Bee got a fairy doll making kit for her birthday, and she also got a lot of help making the fairy doll. It's so pretty and sweet and sparkly in all the right places.
Happy Saturday!

30 Days of Happiness :: Swimming Lessons

I know, I know. I'm sorry. That last one was not really happy. Nor was it exciting. It just was what it was. A pile of paper on my table. It's possible to spin it that I am happy that I have a dining room table on which to accumulate messes every September. : ) Would you accept that??
Now here's something truly happy. The Bumble Bee has begun swimming lessons. She's quite a timid creature considering how happy and easy-going she is the bulk of the time. She does NOT ,under any circumstances, want to immerse her head in the water. But she's also happy to have some scheduled time to chill out in the water every week. So I sit a fair distance away so I can not chide her nor hear her arguing with her instructor. I watched another mom watch her child swim laps around the Bee. I saw her purse her lips, and I wondered if she was biting her tongue too. Maybe she wanted to tell her child to stop swimming around and give the other children space to learn how to swim too. Or maybe she wanted to remind her child to listen to the instructor. Who knows! But it made me think that we should all just be happy to allow our children to learn at their own pace and in their own ways. I shouldn't envy the kids that just jump without abandon into the pool. They're probably all jittery when they're out of the pool too! My little Bee is sweet and takes her time. And that's perfectly fine with me. Maybe I will sit a bit closer next week and just smile when she looks over to the bleachers for me. : )


30 Days of Happiness :: Backpack Administration

You know it's September when the 'literature' starts gracing the dining table more than the good eats. Today I am tackling fundraisers, pandemic planning, school photos (can someone please explain why we're going with purple backgrounds this year?), newsletters, lunch order forms, and family pizza night posters. I've already sent money for agendas (one of which I haven't seen yet), and the family calendar is covered in scribbley Frenglish. One child is attending French Immersion while the other is taking it easy at an all English school. I like to mix it up. It's going to be a very interesting year. I have no doubt about that. In any case, I'm going to need a very good filing system, a bigger calendar, and an Administrative Assistant who brings me hot coffee and insists on no pay. Anyone??? Is tomorrow a gym day??


30 Days of Happiness: Football

Ok, so maybe I don't like football. Perhaps I even strongly dislike football and all of the hype that goes along with it. I don't really get why grown men tackle and hurt each other or why they keep bending over and then two seconds later the game stops yet again. But it's almost fall and some guy by the name of Brett Favre has finally decided to come and play for my (current) home town and this is a big deal. Who knows how far the Vikings will go this season now that they have obtained Mr. Favre? I'm not sure if I'm going to hang out every Sunday afternoon, Monday night and a few Thursdays to find out, however, I did suggest to Mr. T that we host this year's fantasy football draft party. Although this may sound quite contrary to what I have just told you about my dislike for the sport, I had other plans. I wanted to make these.And then I wanted to put these on top of them.How adorable is this? Enough to make me want football season to roll around again? Maybe not but certainly enough to make our guests swoon and that makes me happy.

30 Days of Happiness :: Knitters Fair

I was very brave this year and took the two girls to the annual KW Knitters Fair yesterday. I knew ahead that it wouldn't be easy or fun, but I equipped them with a knapsack loaded with snacks, drinks, paper, pens, a map, a camera, and sweaters. When I downloaded the pictures this morning, I was surprised by how much fun they really did have and not so surprised by the pictures of knitted monkeys. I had gotten conned into buying a monkey pattern booklet with requests for one punk monkey and one baby monkey.

I also came away with a big ol' bag of Briggs & Little wool. I love knitting with this earthy wool despite it's little straw bits and barn smell. I bought enough for two sweaters - Girl Friday and Margot. Did you see the new issue of Knitty? I love practically every pattern and want it knit up right now! Swoon. Oh, if I could stop everything right this minute and do just that. This is where you remind me that I have not started my Christmas knitting.

30 Days of Happiness :: Hats

I tell you - this kid can pull off a funky hat any day. I'm sure if I spent more time browsing through my photo albums, I could pull out about a hundred more of these. I can't wear hats myself. I look completely ridiculous. So I foist them on my children in a sad attempt to live through them. In Bee's case, she WANTS to wear hats! Silly kid. Whatever makes her happy!

30 Days of Happiness :: Seven

And with the wave of a wand, my little princess turned seven today. I love so many things about her.

- when she reads a sentence the first time, it's very halting, but she ALWAYS goes back and reads it with gusto while placing emphasis in all the right spots and adjusting her voice with the punctuation
- the smell of the top of pretty little head calms me
- when she's nervous or anxious, she asks a million questions (this happens most often at the dentist)
- her favourite colour changes EVERY day
- she makes friends so easily
- she can read my mind and reminds me of this frequently
- she wakes up with a smile
- she has the gift of gab with an accent all her own
- she can get away with wearing funky hats
- I want to be around her all the time

Happy, happy birthday, Bumblebee.

Love mum.

30 Days of Happiness :: Back to School

The girls had a great first day back at school. The oldest got to catch up with her gaggle of friends, and she even started off the second day back on the right foot by doing her homework! The littlest made two friends at her new school, and she remembers one of their names, so it's all good in her books. I left shoe shopping really late, so after dinner, the littlest and I went to the closest mall, and there were only two pairs of shoes left in her size at the shoe store. That was okay with the Bee because one pair glowed in the dark. Hey, that's what sells shoes to 7-year olds, and whatever gets me out of the mall fastest wins. That was easy.
Happiness is a short work week. :)

30 Days of Happiness :: Knitting

I haven't knit a stitch in days, and for the last two weeks, I have attempted to cast on for the Tangled Yoke Cardigan. Today, I declared my failed attempts a sure sign that the Tangled Yoke was not to be. Just yet, that is. So I found the Placed Cable Aran pullover in the same magazine, and I just happened to have seven skeins of Cascade 220 in a very similar shade. I enlisted the Bee to help me wind a few cakes, and I have already knit over three inches of the front. This one is going to fly off the needles. I can feel it. And with that, I am happily knitting away. Another reason I'm so happy is that we may very well spend the next week eating leftover vanilla cake. : )


30 Days of Happiness :: Princess Tea Party

I'm chalking this one down as another success. I want to tell you all about it - every single moment of happiness, but I am zonked out. Seriously. I eeked out enough energy to bake a quiche for dinner and then clean it all up, but now I am going to rest. Tomorrow. Promise. Just know that fun was had. : )

30 Days of Happiness :: Home

I took some vacation days this week to prepare for birthday festivities and of course, the obvious - back to school. I am feeling pretty good about it all. Gifts have been wrapped. School supplies and lunch food have been stocked. The house is slowly getting a thorough and much needed cleaning. I find myself walking from room to room with fresh laundry and admiring each tidied space. It's very happy-making. That and seeing the Bumblebee run from the pillows to the curtains, squishing them up to her face and deeply inhaling the fresh scent of newly changed linens. Our feline friend just wants some rest after darting around the noisy vaccuum all afternoon. Tomorrow morning, I shall wake up early and head to the farmers market and buy some fresh, cut flowers for a princess tea party and white sliced bread for tea sandwiches. Cupcakes will be baked, cooled and set aside for decorating. Everything will be perfect for our four special princess guests and the birthday princess hostess. Surprisingly, I am relatively calm. : )

30 Days of Happiness :: Mara

Well, it's been done for a few weeks, but I hadn't managed to get a good picture until today. Please note that the Bee was a bit peeved at having her Scooby-Doo marathon interrupted, and modelling the shawl was made even more difficult by the big ketchup stain on her shirt. I begged her to cover it up the best she could, and at one point, I might have wrestled her. I think we're bestest friends again.
Pattern: Mara
Yarn: 3 balls of Patons Classic Merino Wool in a rich red tweed
Needles: 6 mm circ
Time: approximately three weeks of travel and tv knitting while finishing up the Cobblestone

I'd definitely give this pattern a go again. It was very simple and mindless. Totally my style.