Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Story of BlueBell, the Little Knit Bunny

How about a quick little story about a cute little "make?"
Well, here it goes.....
Bought this magazine off of a newsstand in a Waitrose in London  while we were visiting the UK in March.  I had fallen IN LOVE with the knit bunny that sat quietly on the corner of the front cover.  Once I peaked through the mag, I saw there were plenty of other things that would make me happy to "make", too. 

Within days of arriving home from our trip, I dove into my yarn stash and pulled out some ancient rag yarn that I had bought from the thrift store several years ago.  It was the perfect weight and the perfect colour. 
Time to knit!!

This pattern was very well written and helped create a bunny body as you would crochet "amigurumi."  I've made several crocheted animal toys in this style, but I have never knitted one.  I was a bit nervous, but within one evening I had created  a head and body for my dear little bunny!

Next came his big long ears and then his chunky, little legs.  These needed a bit of concentration to stick with the pattern (and I'll admit, I had to pull one leg out several times!) but in the end they came together, too!

Once I had mastered shaping his legs, his arms felt much easier. It took one evening to sew all the body parts together and I really enjoyed adding his cute, little facial features. 
But by far, my favourite part of this whole project was adorable little pom-pom tail!

My daughter pointed out, after the fact, that I had sewn it on slightly askew and left of centre. 
I don't mind a bunny that's a little off kilter.
Adds to the cute factor, don't you think?

Speaking of cute..... looks like my youngest boy is in love. Actually, this boy adores anything that is knit or crocheted. 
He'll tell you it's his "favourite texture."
 In fact, if we ever lose him in the craft store, we always know where to find him - in the yarn section, where he'll be cuddling the biggest and fluffiest balls of yarn just like they were kittens or baby lambs. 
I wasn't planning on keeping BlueBell Bunny in our home for very long.  One of my friend's sons was going to adopt him soon.  However, now that I have seen the love my own boy is showering on him, he may end up sticking with us after all.
Hugs to all,

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

What a Busy Long Weekend!!

It has been a 3-day long weekend here in Canada.  We had originally planned to go camping in the US  but after spending the week watching the weather predictions, we ended up cancelling our campsite.  We are so glad we did because it ended up thunder-storming ALL weekend in the place we were scheduled to stay.   

So instead we kept ourselves VERY busy closer to home enjoying this perfect, summer-like weather.

On Saturday morning, we got up, I packed a picnic and we headed to the nearby city of Hamilton.  We had chosen to hang-out first at Gage Park in the more historic central part of the city.  Here we parked the car and took an closer look at the Tropical Greenhouses I had read about online. 

The kids loved seeing the green, leaf-covered animals as well as the real turtles and exotic birds.It was pretty warm in here, and we were very glad that we weren't visiting during the deadly heat of July!

Before enjoying our picnic (which included Pimm's for hubby and I!) we took a walk around the park. The kids spent a good chunk of time on the play structure before we went to play INSIDE a dry fountain and they let me take some pics in front of tulips. 

After lunch we went to explore a nearby avenue called "Ottawa Street."  It is famous for its boatload of fabric and sewing stores so a lot of the street décor is "stitching" themed. 
The kids  found button man-hole covers, spool-shaped road barriers and thimbles on the benches.  Even the sign as you enter the street is covered in buttons, a needle, thread and a spool. 
And every popular street has its share of cafes and bakeries, too.  This street was no different.  We bought fresh bread and cookies from the "Quality Bakery" and dark chocolate gelato  and cheesecake cups from "Sinfully Sweet."

On Sunday morning we met my mother and  her boyfriend at the Princess Café in nearby Waterloo.  We hadn't been able to get together the previous weekend for Mother's Day, so we made the extra effort this weekend.  We dined on paninis and excellent lattes and had some low-key, relaxed family time where no one had to cook or clean-up afterwards!

On Monday morning we awoke to our 13th anniversary!!
Kevin and I were married in 2002 on a cold and blustery day.  In fact, the morning after our wedding it snowed! It was oh-so-different than the weather we had THIS weekend! Hubby I planted trees, filled our pots with flowers and trucked dirt around the yard in the sunshine.

The older two kids had a playdate booked for the afternoon of the holiday Monday so youngest boy, Camden, requested that we have a little "mom and boy date" to a local fun-farm right near our home.  We visited geese, turkeys, goats and singing chickens.  He also took full advantage of the big plastic slides and the really tall stacks of hay.  It was a glorious afternoon finished off with a popsicle under the big, blue sky.

And of course I didn't forget my "cake a week" challenge.  I think this is week 6 and I made an "Almond Tea Cake" from this Bea's of Bloomsbury baking book.  My daughter and I had enjoyed tea in one of their tearooms while we were in London back in March so when I saw this book available on, I jumped at buying a collection of recipes for all the delicious things we had eaten there.  
And this recipe was a winner!  It was moist with a good crumb and just the right amount of almond flavour!

Have on wonderful week everyone!

I need a rest after our busy weekend.  : )

Hugs to all,


Friday, May 15, 2015

Five on Friday - Five From My Phone

Is it Friday already?  Man these weeks go fast.  In fact, I've been so busy that I had originally planned NOT to do a Five on Friday post this week because I just didn't have the time or energy.
However, one hour into my day at school today, I received a phone call from my daughter's school letting me know that she was sick and needed to be picked up early.  So, now I'm home with a little girl who is resting comfortably,  and I have several "bonus" hours to use today.
Don't worry -- I'll get some practical stuff done too, but first I'll join in with Amy's "Five on Friday" and link up with her blog, Love Made My Home.
So here they are - five photos from my phone that show how my week shaped up around here:
Number One: Our youngest son, Camden had his first soccer game of the season.  He plays on Team Sunshine and wears a uniform to match.  He was quite disappointed about not winning his first game but he ensures me that he will try even harder next week.  Too cute!

Number Two:  Do you see this temperature? Wow.  We've had some very summery, hot, hot days already in May. In fact, we've had our air conditioning on a few times!

Number Three:  What goes with hot days?  Mojitos of course.  I had some leftover mint and wasn't sure what to use it for.  Hubby came up with the best plan "so we don't waste food," and went and bought all the ingredients needed for Mojitos.  There was NO wasted mint in our house this week!

Number Four:  Still baking a cake a week.  This week my son requested a cake with raspberries in it so I made a Double Chocolate Blackout Cake with raspberry jam in between the layers.  Up on top I swirled some white and pink whipped cream, perfectly feminine for Mother's Day last weekend. 

Number Five: Oh how I love this lilac-y time of year.  I went out and cut several bunches of lilacs this morning and our home smells heavenly now!  My trees are COVERED in blossoms and I look forward to several more days of fresh cut blooms!

Have a wonderful weekend everyone.  It's a long weekend around here as Monday is Victoria Day.  We've got some fun and relaxing plans and I am looking forward to sharing some of them with you next week!
Hugs to all!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Date Night at Strewn Winery

Hubby was given some free tickets to the Shaw Festival Theatre in nearby Niagara-on-the-Lake.  We decided to take advantage and make it a night out in celebration of our 13th wedding anniversary.  
My mom agreed to come and babysit the kids, and we were off!
Kevin made us reservations at a new-ish restaurant at the Strewn Winery called Oliv.  
It specializes in food and drinks based on flavoured olive oil and balsamic vinegar. 
Sounds interesting, doesn't it?  
Come along and see what we  ordered......

Being at a winery, my wine-loving husband began with a flight of Strewn's reds.  He really enjoyed sipping them slowly, tasting their layers of flavours and comparing their intensity.  

I, on the other hand, went a bit stronger with my choice.  

I had a coconut cream Pina colada, frothy and sweet, made with just the right amount of rum!

And on the side, I gave the restaurant's specialty drink, the "Balsamic Blaster" a try. It is made with  an ounce of sweetened, fruit-flavoured white balsamic vinegar mixed with soda water.  They had many, many flavours to choose from but I went with a cranberry/pear one and a ginger/honey one.
And although the whole recipe sounds quite weird, they were really good! Very refreshing with a little acidic kick!

For our appetizer we ordered an anti-pasto plate that came served on a slice of well-used wine barrel.  Lots of yummy cheeses, meats and dips here!

For his main course, Kevin was brave and ordered:
Thinly Shaved Beef, Arugula, Olives, Capers, Parmigiano Reggianno, Garlic Cilantro Aioli, Cracked Salt & Pepper in OLiV White Truffle EVO Oil.

That's raw sliced beef for those of you who don't know.  Not my cup of tea, but hubby likes it and feels most comfortable ordering it in upscale restaurants like this one because you can pretty much guarantee that it has been prepared safely. 

I, on the other hand, chose:
Chicken Supreme, Balsamic Cherries & Figs, Chef's Choice Potato & Vegetables in OLiV Roasted Garlic EVO Oil & Cranberry Pear White Balsamic.  

The fresh spring vegetables were so delicious. Look at the size of that brussel sprout!

While we waited for the dessert menu, I stepped outside to take some pictures of the the gardens surrounding the winery.  

I absolutely loved these urns containing all kinds of spring blossoms and a cute little bird nest.  I must remember this for my outdoor decor next year!

This pink magnolia tree was in full bloom and the daffodils were bowing in the light evening breeze.  So pretty.

More drinks to go with dessert?  For sure!

Late Harvest Vidal for Kevin and a decaf coffee for me.  

And what was dessert?  What did we choose?
Kevin is a gluten-free eater so his choice was easy - 
Candied Apricots, Candied Pecans, Honey Chèvre, 
OLiV Black Currant Balsamic Pearls & Caramel Balsamic.

And me - I had a tougher choice, but in the end I went with:
Tropical Passion Mascarpone Mousse, OLiV Caramel Balsamic & Butter EVO Oil. Served with Guinness Gelato.

Both desserts were to die for!

And to think we almost didn't order dessert because we so full from the other 2 courses! But in the end we were so glad we did!

Before we left, rolling ourselves out the car, we stopped and tasted a few more flavoured balsamic vinegars.  I wanted a few bottles to make my own "Balsamic Blasters" this summer.  I also figured it would be good to make some sweeter salad dressings too.  

Overall, it was a lovely night out.  
How was the theatre, you might ask?

Well actually, we didn't make it there!!
  We were enjoying our meal and the freedom to talk and laugh together without the interruptions of our darling children, that we decided to skip the theatre and linger over a long dinner.

We are so glad we did! Both Kevin and I were reminded about how much we LIKE each other. We do have a lot of fun when given the opportunity.  
I guess that is why we've been happily married, through thick and thin, for the last 13 years!



Friday, May 8, 2015

Five On Friday - Flowers from Columbia Road Market

Hi all.  Joining in again on Amy's (Love Made My Home) weekly linky party, Five on Friday. 
I am changing it up a bit this week.  Usually I choose five pictures from my cell phone's camera to share here each week. Not this time.  Today I am going to share the 5 prettiest flowers (in my opinion) from the Columbia Road Flower Market. 
My daughter and I recently visited the UK and stayed in London for over a week.  I had seen so many pictures of the Columbia Road Flower Market showing its colourful beauty that we made it a priority to visit it on the one rainy Sunday morning we had in London.
It was also "Mothering Sunday," so it felt the whole of London was there trying to buy fresh buds for their mummies.  It was crowded and cold-- but totally worth it!
Number One:  Tulips.  Thousands of them in every shade and colour.  This photo shows the flowers belonging to just one vendor.  Imagine 20 more just like it!
Number Two:   Blue hydrangea. I have been trying to grow these in my garden for over 6 years.  I have 4 plants and none of them ever gives me very many flower heads, let alone turn this lovely shade of blue.  And yes -I have added the acid to the soil in hopes of changing my pinks into blues.  Still now luck!

Number Three:  Ranunculus.  These really are the trendy spring flower of the day.  I love how they begin as tight little balls that gradually open into crepe like petals.  And you gotta love this intense pink colour!!

Number Four:   Look at these! Are they the prettiest colour?    They are peach down inside and round the lower bud, then  each petal unfurls itself into the prettiest of rosy pinks. Isn't it amazing?  If my research is right, this could be a "Sheila's Perfume" rose or a "Daily Sunrise" rose.  Who knows? But it is beautiful with such a vintage feel to it....
Number Five:  Now look at these showstoppers! Don't they look like peppermint sticks? They would be perfect at Christmas, don't you think? While we standing and admiring them, the flower seller sold 4 bunches right from under our noses.  They were very popular - it must have been their distinctive look.  (Name: "Ferdinand Pichard" or maybe they are "Henri Matisse?" )
That's my five on Friday, but if you are still interested in a few more Columbia Road pictures, keep reading!
This gentleman was selling crates of primula for 5 pounds each. Five pounds for all of those flowers?  If London was home I'd be  taking two!
Columbia Road was a meeting place, too. I had made earlier arrangements to meet with a bloggy friend, Gemma. She blogs at Gem's Country Life Dream.  Even though she has recently lived in and around London, she had never been to Columbia Road .  She was eager to see its stalls of floral gorgeousness as much as I was. 
After meeting at a nearby train station, we walked to Columbia Road, getting to know each other better and coming up with a game plan to deal with the crowds.
Before we reached the end of the market, Gem had chosen some flowers for her own home and some tulips for her Mum and Nan. 
I had mentioned earlier how wet and cold the day was, so next we searched for the perfect place to have a cup of tea and some cake.   Within minutes, we found this cute little shop:
Here we dined on carrot cake (Gem), lemon tart(me) and a strawberry cupcake (Afton.) Tea and rose lemonade on the side!
It was lovely to be able to spend some time with a long-distance friend. Gem turned out to be just as sweet in person as her blog-demeanor shows. 

Now when are you coming to Canada, Gem??
Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!
It's Mother's Day weekend here in Canada so I'm looking forward to a bit of pampering now, too!


Sunday, May 3, 2015

A Hike, A Make and A Cake

Hello everyone! I hope you had an amazing weekend! The weather was spectacular around here and we took full advantage.
We bought new outdoor dining furniture and dear hubby spent hours putting it together so we could use it right away. I finally got out into my gardens and did some much needed clean-up while the kids frolicked on the trampoline and were entertained by the dog's antics.  Every meal was eaten al fresco and hubby and ended off a fabulous Sunday sipping mojitos on the deck.
This blog post is three parts as its title indicates.
Firstly  - The Hike. 
We recently bought a year-long pass for all the nearby conservation areas. We've used this pass every weekend since it arrived. This time we checked out Rattlesnake Point.
Created on top of the nearby Escarpment, it has spectacular views and on a clear day like today, you could see for miles!
We climbed rocks and hiked hills for over an hour before the kids complained about oncoming exhaustion. 
I was pleased to see the Trilliums up already.  I was sure they were July flowers, but with the large groups of blossoms we saw today, I was definitely proven wrong!
Secondly - The Make 
My husband and I have done a fair bit of travelling.  Now, often, our children attend these educational and cultural experiences with us.  I was looking for another way to celebrate and remember  these vacations other than our photo scrapbooks.  After searching Etsy, I came across the perfect thing - cross stitching patterns that encompass the attractions of many of the cities we have visited. 
I particularly loved this shop - Happy Stitches 4 You. I ended up purchasing patterns for Paris, London, New York and Amsterdam. 
I eagerly got started on Paris because of the cute little hearts and Eiffel Tower.  I worked on it, off and on, for about a month....

....and now it is finished.  I plan on stitching up all the cities and framing them in a matched set for our home.  Perfect little reminders of our trips abroad!
Thirdly - The Cake
After being in the UK back in March and consuming a lot of cake and tea along the way, I realized how much I really like the stuff and how rarely I make them!
I'll bake a cake for a birthday, and maybe if friends are coming for dinner. But I never baked a cake just for the sheer pleasure of mixing the ingredients, watching it get golden in the oven and eating it on a Sunday afternoon just because it tastes good! 
So to change all that, I've challenged myself to bake a cake from scratch, each and every weekend all year long. So far I've baked a Victoria Sponge, a Meyer Lemon Bundt Cake and a Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip Cake.
This morning I whipped up a Summer Berry Upside Down Cornmeal Cake. I found the recipe in the book, One Bowl Baking.
Her recipe called for plums and blueberries, but I modified it and went with a mix of berries instead. 
And boy,  was it good!
I wasn't sure how the cornmeal would taste and whether I might find the texture strange.  Nope.  It was perfect.  It gave the cake a little bit of a gritty texture that balanced the sweet, jammy layer of berries.


I ordered a couple of new baking books this past week written by the pastry chef at the Bea's of Bloomsbury tea shops.  I cant wait to flip through those and figure out what I'll make next week!
Thanks for popping by my blog today.
I'd love for you to leave a comment.  I checked out my blog stats recently and saw that I had many, many visitors come by here everyday but only a very small fraction ever leave any commentary evidence!
Hugs to all,

Friday, May 1, 2015

Five on Friday - Pictures from My Phone

Hurray! It's Friday!
We made it.  Another busy week is under our belts.  Is everyone else as ready for a weekend as I am? And it's fo y favourite months!

Before heading to work this morning I'm going to post my five pictures for  Amy (Love Made My Home) and her Five on Friday linky series. 

Number One: My mother bought a cool hair pencil so that she could jazz up her own hair for a recent event.  While visiting her home on the weekend, we gave the pencil a try and gave Afton a few pink-ish streaks in her hair. We all loved the resulting highlights.  Apparently you can buy these pencils in a handful of colors so Afton has put her order in for every single one! 

Number Two: Speaking of home - while we were visiting my mother in my hometown of Exeter, I took an hour or so to walk the Main Street seeing what was new and what had changed.  I had not done this in ages so it was very refreshing.  I took this photo of the Old Town Hall while the sun shone and the white clouds floated by.  It looks just the same as it always has except that the new library has been built, attached to one side.  Other than that - it is just as I remember it.  Isn't it nice to go home??

Number Three:  This is this week's cake in my "A Cake a Week" challenge.  What kind is it? Well, it's a Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip Cake taken from the book, One Bowl Baking. Seriously delicious and perfect after our long hike in the forest on Sunday afternoon. 

Number Four: I've been trying to add at least 36 squares (3 rows) to my colourful "Flower Garden" quilt top  each week.  I'd say I'm 3/4 complete now and I am looking forward to finishing it.  I can't wait to  sandwich the layers together and enjoy the summery new addition to our quilt and blanket collection.

Number Five:  While out for hike on Sunday afternoon, I came across this heart-shaped leaf resting quietly on a cut tree stump.  It struck me as very artistic  - as if someone had laid it there, resting on the edge.  I like the mix of textures, too,  especially when  there is hardly any colour in the image.

I'm looking forward to seeing what everyone else posts for their Five on Friday.  I see some tea-drinking and blog-reading in my future!

Off to dinner and the theatre with my hubby tonight.  Then tomorrow my mother is helping me get another stage of our camper-caravan renovation done. 
I really must share some pics of that soon, too!

Happy Friday!