Thursday, August 27, 2015

Summer Sewing : My Flower Garden Quilt

I began this quilt way back in the early spring - back when the snow was finally melting and I was desperate for temperatures that were above the -35 degrees Celsius we had been dealing with during the winter. 

It was still too cold for daffodils and hyacinths and I was really hankering for some summer blooms and the green of my garden. 

We were in need of a new picnic blanket, too. Our old one had been left outside for a few days and had grown some nasty mold in the final days of summer 2014. So I set to work creating something new and colourful and flowery. 

At first I started cutting 6x6 squares out of fabrics that "matched."
You know - subtle prints with the same colour tones in them.  Then I got over myself and thought - if the colours go together beautifully and naturally in my garden, why can't they all "go together" in my quilt too??

So I went blissfully crazy. I cut squares out of every fabric I had in my collection.  I buy fabric because I think its attractive and "pretty" so, of course, pretty goes with pretty and it all works together, right?

And now that it is done - I LOVE IT!!
Flowers, and bugs and birds and fruit.... all the elements of a fine looking garden.

As you can see form the photos above, the kids have been using it already.  The dog loves it too.  In fact -he napped on it for nearly 2 hours the other day!

And how is it for picnicking?  Absolutely perfect - as seen above on our jaunt to our town's central park the other night.

And I can't bare to put it away between picnics, so it has found a semi-permanent spot on our living room sofa.
Casey the beagle/shepherd doesn't seem to mind one bit!!
Much love to you all!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Bake Along: Molasses Oat Nut and Seed Bread

Hi All! I am linking up with Amanda at Rhyme and Ribbons for her weekly GBBO baking link-up.
This week on the Great British Bake-off, the bakers were challenged with bread-making. 
I am a baker. I bake a lot.  But bread is not my forte.  I'll admit it's because I haven't practised enough mostly because of the time it takes to make bread - ingredients, proofing once or twice, and then baking. 
You've got to have a lot of time set aside for bread-making and in my busy life, I don't have that time. 
However, after spending the three hours it took to make this bread, and loving EVER SINGLE MORSEL as I consumed the loaves afterwards, I could be convinced that it really is worth the time!! 
(Recipe modified from Canadian Living Magazine) 
Molasses Oat Nut and Seed Bread
(Makes 2 loaves)
1-1/4cups(300 mL (300 mL) boiling water
3/4cups (175 mL)  large-flake rolled oats
1/3cup (75 mL) fancy molasses
2tbsp (30 mL)  butter, softened
1 egg, beaten
1tsp (5 mL)  granulated sugar
1/2cup (125 mL)  warm water
1tbsp (15 mL)  active dry yeast
3cups (750 mL) all purpose flour, (approx)
1cup (250 mL) whole wheat flour
1-3/4tsp (9 mL)  salt
1 -1/2 cups mixed seeds, nuts and/or dried fruit




In heatproof bowl, stir boiling water with rolled oats; let stand until absorbed, about 15 minutes. Stir in molasses, butter and egg.

Meanwhile, in large bowl, dissolve sugar in warm water; sprinkle in yeast and let stand until frothy, about 10 minutes. Stir in oat mixture. Stir in 2-1/2 cups (625 mL) of the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour and salt to form sticky dough.

Turn out onto floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, adding as much of the remaining flour as necessary, about 5 minutes. Knead in the seeds/nuts/dried fruit in small handfuls.  Distribute theses add-ins evenly by kneading them into the dough.  Place in greased bowl, turning to grease all over. Cover with plastic wrap; let rise in warm draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
 Punch down dough; divide in half. On floured surface, pat each half into 11- x 8-inch (28 x 20 cm) rectangle. Starting at narrow end, roll up into cylinder; pinch edge to seal. Fit into 2 greased 8- x 4-inch (1.5 L) loaf pans. (Or shape each into round, stretching and pinching dough underneath to smooth top.) Cover with tea towel; let rise in warm draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Bake in centre of 375°F (190°C) oven until loaves sound hollow when tapped on bottoms, about 40 minutes. Let cool on racks.
Oh yes - here comes the money shot:
Doesn't that look divine?  And the scent - to die for!!  
The molasses adds a sweetness that fills the house with the smell of...autumn or gingerbread or maybe even Christmas. 
I don't know.  But it's good!
The first loaf was consumed very quickly - 2 slices before bed right after it came out of the oven, then the rest of the loaf at breakfast the next morning.  (Don't worry - 5 people live in my house.  I didn't eat it all by myself!!)
Looking forward to seeing what kinds of bread everyone else has made this week.  I've been bitten by the "bread-baking bug" and I cant wait to get started on a few more loaves!
Hugs to all,

Friday, August 21, 2015

Views From Above: Sorrento

 Thank-you to everyone who left  lovely comments on my Biscotti and Lavender Farm posts. Really and truly, each and every comment you take time to write brings joy to my heart!
I'd love to share  a few more of my favourite photos from our trip to Italy.  How about  a few views of the beautiful coastal town of Sorrento? ?  Yes!  Wonderful.  Scroll on down!!


We arrived on the Bay of Naples, high above the town. Our driver stopped at a roadside parking area and we had the perfect view of the town, far below us.  And what a sight it was!

It was a hot and sunny July day and being a Sunday, thousands of Italians had fled the city and headed to the sea.  Every parking lot was full of small little Italian cars and every beach was swamped with chairs, umbrellas and towels. 

Look how close all of the deck chairs are!! 
Sit down, enjoy the sun ,and don't move cause you'll lose your spot!!

I love how close I was able to zoom in with my new camera.  These people were on the farthest beach, and I can almost see their facial expressions - as well as the details on their bathing suits! 

These floatie-boats we strung between two of the rocky juts that reached out into the bay.  What a refreshing place to relax - in the sun and in the water!

So far up - these people look like sun-bathing ants. 

It was so hot!  Kevin and I wished we could refresh ourselves in the water, too.  We were heading down into town and we were sure we would make it to the beach, but without a bathing suit, the most we could do was put our feet in!

This must be the Bay of Naples - because there's Mt. Vesuvius!

This is one of the few pictures of the two of us together on this trip.  I try to pose as often as I can, but hubby isn't really a photographer - though he tries very hard. :)
I have lot of pictures of the town of Sorrento, too.  We enjoyed lots of lemon-y foods (a specialty of the region) and ventured up quiet back streets to see the less tourist-y part of this seaside idyll.  I'll do some more photo sharing next week!
Have a wonderful weekend everyone.  I'm back in my hometown for a few days, catching up with old friends and hopefully hitting the beach with my 3 crazy kids. 
Take care of each other,

PS.  I am linking up over at Packing My Suitcase for Allane's "Monday Escapes"
 and Bonnie's "Travel Tuesday" on  A Compass Rose. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Memories of Italy : Triple Chocolate Toffee Biscotti

I haven't done a baking or recipe post in ages.  Which I think is kind of funny because I cook and bake all the time! In fact, when it comes to baking, I bake 2-3 times a week and I usually take pictures of what I have made! 
Like everyone else who has access to BBC, I've been loving every minute of the this season's Great British Bake-off.  Last week's theme was Biscuits, or Cookies, as we call them on THIS side of the pond. 

We returned from a trip to Italy less than a month ago and my hubby and I are still raving about all of the food we consumed there.
(If you want to read an earlier post strictly about the Italian food we ate on our vacation, CLICK HERE.
So, in homage to our recent trip abroad, I picked Biscotti as my "Bake of the Week."
The Recipe
300g or 2 cup all-purpose flour
1  1/2 tsp baking powder
1  1/2 tsp salt
100g or 1/2 cup brown sugar
40g or 2 tbsp. cocoa powder
40g or 2 tbsp. golden/corn syrup
3 tbsp. oil
2 eggs
 2 tsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup of chocolate chips
1/2 cup Skor baking bits

1. Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl.
2. Whisk together syrup, oil, eggs, milk and vanilla in another bowl.
3.  Combine the 2 mixtures in the larger of the two bowls, stirring until no dry flour mixture can be seen. 
4.  Stir in the chocolate chips and Skor bits until combined. 
5.  Bring the dough together into a ball, wrap in cling-wrap and refrigerate for one hour. 
6.  Preheat oven to 300 degrees F or 150 degrees C.    
7.  Transfer dough to a parchment covered baking sheet.  Lightly roll the dough into a log about 2 1/2 inches wide, and 1 inch high.
8. Place into the oven and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the top is hardened, and when tapped, feels sturdy inside.
9. Remove from oven.  Cool for 30 minutes.
10.  Cut the baked bar into 1cm (1/2 inch) wide pieces.  Rearrange these pieces on their cut sides on  the cookie sheet and bake for an additional 30 minutes, turning over once at the halfway point.

 To add the third layer of chocolate, I melted 1/3 cup of white baking chocolate.  My plan was to drizzle it gently over the twice-baked cookies for a light, stripey effect. 
This went well until my decorating bag popped open at the tip end and flooded my cookies with white goo!!
See below:

Oh well.  And as my daughter said,"Don't worry Mommy.  More chocolate is ALWAYS better than less!" 
That girl was speaking truth!


I am linking up with Amanda at Rhyme and Ribbons for her weekly GBBO baking link-up. 
Happy Baking  Everyone!!

Friday, August 14, 2015

A Visit to Terre Bleu Lavender Farm

 Recently a local magazine arrived on my doorstep with the most gorgeous cover photo.  It featured rows of the purplest plants I had ever seen. Upon investigation inside the magazine, I found that the photos were taken at a newly opened lavender farm not 20 minutes away from my home. 

Terre Bleu is owned by  a family who fell in love with lavender after visiting a similar farm in Quebec a few years back.  Now they own the biggest lavender farm in Ontario with over 10 000 plants. 

The farm is open to visitors on weekends only so we made an effort to get there this past Sunday.  It couldn't have been a more glorious day to visit any kind of farm, yet alone rows of lovely lavender!

None of our three children had any idea what lavender smelled like.  And, if I was completely honest, I'd have to tell you that I can't stand the scent of lavender! It's much too strong for me. 
However, there was a subtlety to the fragrance in the field and it was quite light and enjoyable. 

In addition to many lavender products, the farm also specializes in their own lavender honey.  At the far end of the fields, an apiary has been set up so that thousands of bees can go about their daily lives, collecting pollen from the lavender plants in order to create many litres of honey each year.   

The Distillery is where the lavender buds are processed in order to remove the essential oils used in soaps, lotions and baking. 

 This copper kettle is heated  to hundreds of degrees and extracts the oils from the lavender. 

Lavender bunches drying in the heat of the copper distiller. 

There were bees everywhere! I would guess that every second plant had at least one fuzzy, honey-making friend circling its buds.  Kevin and  Afton are taking a look, but not getting to close!

This farm is unique in that it grows and sells two kinds of lavender- English and French.  The English lavender came into season back in June and all of the purple blooms had been picked.  The purple of the fields today is that of the French lavender, cultivated for its hardiness. 

In addition to  lavender and honey, the farm specializes in Equestrian training as well. The female half of the ownership was a competitive rider for many years.  Now she trains others to ride. 

 Casey, our beagle/shepherd mix, had never met a horse before.  I think he was a bit frightened by them, yet really excited at the same time!

 Isn't this a wonderful place?  I posted these pictures on Facebook and many of my friends who live nearby had no idea there was such a lovely place to visit within minutes of our home.  Since then, several shots of my friends' children have popped up on Facebook, sharing their adventures at Terre Bleu. 

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend,



PS.  I am linking up over at Packing My Suitcase for Allane's "Monday Escapes"
 and Bonnie's "Travel Tuesday" on  A Compass Rose.