Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Year of Making

         Last night I stumbled across the most interesting of tags on Instagram- Year of Making- something about this personal tag appealed to me- it challenged me- it really excited me. I thought yes- this is something I can get behind- a personal challenge to myself to document all that I make over the course of a year! Of course for me every year is a year of making- but this year since heading back to work- I have become more focused on finishing things that ever before. That is of course in part due to the influence of my uber creative co-workers who are always pushing themselves to try new things. I think the largest part of me making more this year is for the shear joy- having a job frees me up to take more risks with my won work- as I have discussed in previous posts I am no longer working for an audience larger than myself- which is a wonderful thing!

          I have so many textile projects on the go right now- works in progress- all at different stages- patiently waiting their turn- I'm assured this is a very normal thing for knitters! I have a stack of sewing patterns that I am excited to jump into- my birthday wish this year is an hour of uninterrupted fabric time at Spool Of Thread- they have so many good things on their shelves right now- I need some quiet planning time there.

        I'm also very excited to venture out into unknown making territory- I'm taking a class with a friend- beginner wheel throwing- clay- dishes- bowls- mugs! I seriously can't wait- it's such a gift to be able to take this class. I haven't worked with clay since my art school days and way back then it was all hand building and Raku firerings- very primitive and beautiful in it's own way. Now I'm excited to be building functional objects- our current plates are in sorry state and quite frankly I just don't like them! Heres hoping I can manage to make some new useful items for own house.

         My plans sound lofty but as mentioned I have been making almost every single day for years now- if a day goes by with out some outlet of creativity I feel off kilter- quite simply making is my life. The challenge for me will be to document what I am making- often I finish something and just start wearing it- or document it in the most hideous lighting in our hall way- my challenge will be to plan out the documentation- so I can show off my finished items in a way I can be proud of! OK enough sitting around talking about the plan- I have knitting to do- followed by a trip to the fabric store!

ps if anyone wants to play along with me or even just follow my progress- head on over to Instagram- #yearofmaking

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


           While late January is always one of my favourite times of year- the promise of Spring is a faint yet persistent whisper in my ear- it does come with a modicum of sadness. You see every fall for the past few years my Father In Law has procured several boxes of apples for our little family from his friend the orchardist- I wrote about our apple picking adventure here a few years ago. This time of year- each time I reach into the wooden box out on our deck I can't help but notice the dwindling number of Okanagan goodness- yes it's true we are running out of apples!

           We are so spoiled by these crisp juicy delights- even in the "deep" of winter one can taste the Summer sunshine- if you close your eyes and stand in front of a heater while biting into one of these apples you will surely be transported back in time. Our family feasts liberally- apple sauce being a constant on our table- sliced apples grace the lunch boxes daily- apple cake is gobbled up regularly.

          Apple sauce is quite frankly the easiest ting on earth to make- why people buy it at the store has always confounded me- so I thought today I would share one of our family's favourite treats! Like I said it's ever so easy- all you need is about five apples and some cinnamon- OK well I also add in nutmeg and ginger- so yummy!

           To make apple sauce gather together your ingredients-5-6 apples- cinnamon- nutmeg- ginger- as well as a large sauce pot and about a half a cup of water. Peel apples and dice them into generally even cubes- about and inch square- throw diced apples and a few healthy shakes of spices- about a teaspoon combined- into the sauce pot along with the half cup of water. Place covered on stove at medium heat- cook for about twenty minutes- carefully test firmness of apples with a fork- once mushy the mixture is ready. Remove from stove and allow to cool- with a potato masher gently mash the cooked apples into sauce. We like ours a little chunky so I don't tend to over mash it.

       If you are making apple sauce for a new eater you can omit the spices and also run the sauce through a sieve for a more consistent texture

        On a chilly afternoon after school nothing is better than walking in the door to simmering apple sauce- trust me when I say your home will smell amazing! Just a hint because the apples will be pealed- appearance is not all that important- ask your grocer for seconds or damaged apples- fruit that is past it's peak is perfect for this dish- be sure to ask for a discount! Enjoy!

 PS- while I know apple sauce is such a basic thing I find it really is an underrated snack- perfect as a topping on oatmeal or all on it's own. When we make foods like this from scratch we eliminate the middle man- we eliminate the plastic lining on a metal lid going into a landfill from a store bought jar- we eliminate in fact the use of a new jar all together- the energy that went into producing the packaging. The simple act of making apple sauce in fact has multiple benefits to the planet! Be sure to take a re-usable produce bag when purchasing your apples- try to compost your peels or use them for apple cider vinegar! All the small steps we take towards living plastic free really do add up!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Don't Tell The Kids...

          Don't tell my kids but the other day the Mr. and I had ice cream for lunch- and it was the best thing ever! A balmy- sun shiny- January day is the perfect opening day for the new neighbourhood ice cream parlour- our favourite Earnest Ice Cream is finally with in walking distance! No longer will we have to drive halfway across town for a scoop or pint of what is arguably the best ice cream in Vancouver- Earnest has opened a second location at the foot of Mount Pleasant- Quebec and Second- adjacent to the Mr.'s office it should be noted- perfect for spontaneous lunch dates!

       So while my kiddos will surely get their fill during the dog days of Summer vacation for now this is our little secret- totally confirming what every child thinks is happening when they are at school or go to bed- the adults are indeed having all of the fun! Incidentally I had the Rhubarb Crisp- genius flavour paring- the Mr. had a Hazelnut- Rum combo which was equally delish. So I will say what I have been saying all week- to basically anyone who will listen- get thee to the ice cream shop ASAP!

P.S. we were their second customers- we may or may not have been that excited about ice cream on a sunny January day- God I love living in Vancouver!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Field Trip: Tolt Yarn and Wool

          Wow I can't believe it's Wednesday already! I paused last week in my blogging- things just got really busy for me and before you know it an entire week has passed! Anyways part of that busy life is my job- I usually work weekends but this week was treated to a Saturday off- the question loomed what to do- relax or explore. We picked explore- we threw our gear into a duffel bag on Friday afternoon and headed South across the boarder- my reasons were entirely selfish and my darling family went along with it! I have long wished to pay a visit to Tolt Yarn and Wool in Carnation Washington and so that's just where we headed!

         We overnighted in Mount Vernon- in your typical highway motel- which was good enough for just sleeping- it was clean and warm. Saturday morning we veered off the interstate and onto the more rural byways of Washington state- which was a treat on it's own- we came across a full on old school arcade at 9:30 in the morning- stopping because someone had to pee- we stayed and played for awhile. We checked out pokey little antique joints- promising ourselves a return visit with more cash in hand- so much vintage goodness just waiting to come home with us! The misty morning hanging low over the river- foliage dripping with dampness- the grey skies my exact favourite pallet.

   When we finally arrived in Carnation we were all ready to stretch our legs a bit- the boys took off to do a walk about of their own and Miss Lo and I headed to wool nirvana- Tolt! As I walked in the doors I know I had found my happy place- all my favourite wools in one place- Yoth- Quince and Co- Brooklyn Tweed- and the ladies bend the counter were ever so nice. My intention was to buy wool for my first adult sized sweater and with the help of those kind ladies I was able to do just that. There is so much more that wool to be found at Tolt- so many treasures- the button selection alone is worth the trip. My girly was in felting heaven- taking in all the colours and ideas into her five year old brain.

         With my woollen treasures in hand- wound into ready to knit balls so kindly by one of the Tolt gals- we rejoined the boys- who were by this time milling about the front of the store. We hopped back into the van and headed back to the coast- onto Seattle and the Woodland Park Zoo- which was the real reason no one complained or even balked at my mention of a visit to the wool shop! This little over night get away was just what our family needed- time spent together- exploring and adventuring- a dash of creativity but ultimately just a change in scenery was so- so good.

         Any of my knitterly friend here in Vancouver who have not made the journey down to Tolt Yarn and Wool really need to make the pilgrimage- besides the amazing selection of yarns- pattern books and buttons the folks who work in the store are truly some of the friendliest I have ever encountered- I don't know whats in the water down in Carnation Washington but surely it must be something special!

P.S. I have cast on my first adult sweater- it's the Hayward by Brooklyn Tweed- I feel it's going to take me approximately 9 years to complete

P.S.S. if anyone is headed down to Tolt please let me know- I wish I had bought one of their mugs!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A Bit Of Inspiration On A Tuesday

"I've been absolutely terrified
every moment of my life-
and I've never let it keep
me from doing a single thing
I wanted to do"

                                                                                               Georgia O'Keefe

PS- I usually don't use other people's images- and by usually I mean always- but I love this photograph of Georgia- it's stunning and needed to be shared! Also I'm not really sure of the source.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Hygge In The City

         The Danish people have this secret- or maybe it's not a secret since the word is out- to getting through winter- in a country where the winter sun often sets before 4 pm they know all about the dark days of winter. The Danes have this regional phenomenon known as "hygge"- while the translation is tricky and there really is no accurate word to explain what hygge is in English- words like coziness and togetherness only give a very lose translation or explanation.

         Essentially what brings the Danish so much joy during the darker days of winter is this underlying feeling of family and togetherness that extends well past the holidays. While we North Americans may only treat the weeks surrounding the high holidays as extra special the Danish continue well into the winter- buffering against the cold, solitude and stress.  Hygge is not a physical thing- its more intangible- a mental state of wellbeing- a mood that is catching from person to person.

     I love this idea- in months like January and February where the skies are so low and rainy- the weeks that sun doesn't break through the West Coast clouds ever- I'm embracing this Danish concept. I'm encouraging our family to rest- to take it slow- to linger- over games, meals and tea. I'm cozying up our little nest with lots of blankets and warm light- I think I will leave the Christmas lights up a while longer- the twinkling lights in the rain bring us all so much pleasure.

      Normally I would be pushing us all to get outside- hike- run errands- take lessons- get things done- but not this year- this year our winter will be all about resting up for the warmer days that are on their way! By creating our own version of hygge- which does include lots of yummy food to eat- warm beverages and togetherness- I'm hoping to get our family through this tough time of the year well rested and in good health. It's easy to start feeling down because of the short days and inclement weather but I think- I hope- by changing our patterns we can look forward to coming indoors after school and work- nesting- slowing it way down!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Thrifted Thursday

          This Thrifted Thursday item will be familiar to a few folks already as it has quickly become my favourite item to throw on this winter. A long-woven - wool vest- I suspect it is handmade as there are no tags and it is quite rustic- it just has that made by hand feel to it. One day last month I was hustling up Carroll St to get over to the school for child pick up and as I was speed walking past Community Thrift I noticed this gem in the window- I didn't stop. I obsessed all the way to the school in the pouring rain and decided that if it wasn't there on my way home then it simply wasn't meant to be- thats just how I shop.

         Well clearly the vest was still hanging in the window upon our return- had it not been such a miserable day out and the streets deserted I am sure this would not have been the case. Luck and the Thrifting Gods were on my side that day and I walked away with this beauty- truly a thrifting score! To me this vest evokes a totally 60's art teacher vibe- I can just imagine some complicated housewife sipping gin and tonics while perhaps spinning ceramics on the wheal or rushing off to a life drawing class.

        Lately my style has been described as cozy- more specifically like a tea cozy- and I do feel this to be the case. This fall and winter has been all about the layers of wool- the more layers to keep me warm and cozy the better. This vest fits that bill perfectly- keeping my back warm and my arms free- for anyone who works with their hands will tell you this is a key issue when wearing sweaters. At any rate as mentioned this is one of my favourite pieces to wear this season!

PS- also my super cute shoes are thrifted from the Salvation Army- they were brand new- handmade in South Africa- another mega score for this fall!

PSS- yes I know that is coffee in my cup- this is an older picture from over Christmas- the super cute mug was handmade by my friend Andrea- the tea challenge is still on!

PSSS- why yes that is a glorious tassel hanging from my neck! It was gifted to me by my secret Santa- Portia who makes all sorts of glorious tassels!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Family Sketchbook

         Our family likes to draw- I mean we really like to draw! With the darker- rainier days that are upon us we have been drawing a tonne- at one point we had so many pages of computer paper with half started drawings floating around the apartment that we actually ran out of paper to print things out on! Which is just silly when Mommy works in an art supply store- so we started the Family Sketchbook.

       The Family Sketchbook sits out on the dining room table- a jar of pencils and pens conveniently located along side for spontaneous creativity. Anything goes in this book of ours- you can start a fresh page or add onto an old drawing- it is the sketchbook for all. These Littles of ours have such an amazing imagination that we wanted to provide an outlet for all the colours and imaginary folks swirling round their brains- it is such a pleasure to watch it all come out the end of a pencil and alive on the page.

       Can I just say- that while we enjoy our fair amount of screen time it's good to unplug- to unwind with something that does not require batteries or a plug. Drawing together as a family brings peace to our home in a way that no amount of video games ever will- there is very little frustration with drawing because there are no mistakes- no levels failed- no game over. In the midst of a busy school year I find it equally important to give my kids a win at something they are good at- drawing provides that outlet- no way to get in trouble with drawing.

     The Family Sketchbook really does bring us together as a collective family unit- often a theme or tone is struck and it sends our entire family off on a tangent- for example recently we were drawing sea animals- which meant we also needed to hear how they sounded- look up (in a book) all the different types of dolphins and then go to the Vancouver Aquarium to draw them in real life. Drawing engages us all at every age level- drawing soothes the soul and right now it's just what we need.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

New Threads

         Today- as is often the case- I really have nothing exciting to share- and yet the desire to come here and write all that nothing out is still strong. So here I am on a chilly January morning- possibly it's in part due to my reluctance to head outside and into this foul weather that I pull up my chair to the desk and sit down in front of the computer. I have already consumed all of the tea- in an effort to kick the coffee habit I have switched to tea- a friend and I are challenging each other to last the month- we figure it is sort of a good personal goal- which is shocking because I love coffee- but it turns out I ca live with out it! I blame all the tea drinkers at work- the lack of a fresh pot of coffee in the staff room has prompted me to turn towards a quick cuppa to get me through the afternoons.

      At any rate what I really wanted to share- aside from my tea induced ramblings on the state of coffee- is my new thread stash. Just before the holidays a friend and I ventured down to Granville Island- remember those crisp- sunny days we experienced in Vancouver- before the rain came- yeah those days I spent a tonne of time outdoors! A trip to Maiwa is always called for when one heads to Granville Island- nothing I love more than touching every single thing in that store! I came away with a variegated selection of grey silk and wool thread to use in my embroidery projects. We also paid a visit to the silk weaving studio where I indulged in some beautiful white silk thread- perfect for my quilting project!

       New threads being out to use immediately in a custom order- more pillows- always more pillows! You know it's the little things like a fresh skien of thread that keep me interested and going- a few new colours keeps the work fresh- immediately updating and changing the entire look of a design. So if you need me on this grim January day- you can find me curled up on the sofa- surrounded by beautiful colours and lovely textures. And maybe another pot of tea or two- just maybe!

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Year In Review

January: The first month of the year was spent mostly outside- setting the tone for the rest of 2014- we started our year off at one of our favourite beaches- Spanish Banks- drinking coffee and snacking on cookies. Fresh off the plane from California we were tired and wanted a quiet moment before heading back into the fray of regular life. As much time as possible was spent outside at the beach- including a few sick days- whenever the rain broke we headed to the shores and trails!

February: Our collective Birthday month brought much excitement in my work life- a large order was delivered to local shop- Nineteen Ten Homestore. A first for Plain Jane- the beginning of a very busy year for me.

March: We said Goodbye to our Grandma- after a lengthy battle with Alzheimers - it sucks and we miss her.

April: Lets just call this the month of Easter eggs and influenza- we had the stomach flu several times this month- possibly the worst month ever! Regardless we did manage to head outside and soak in some sunshine- once the barfing stopped.

May: Back on track once again- all in good health- we headed South for a mini vacation to Seattle- it rained- we had margaritas- the kids danced on chairs- a fun time was had by all. We also headed up to Squamish a few times in May- as the snow retreated hiking season resumed.

June: Mother's Day in the Okanagan- many trips were made over the mountains and into the valley- a lot of miles were put on our old van heading back and forth to visit our family. The sun returned and our rain coats were shed in favour of shorts and sandals. The Boy discovered how much he likes to climb trees.

July: School finished and we headed to the Okanagan for two whole weeks- all together as a family- I have too many amazing memories of this time to list them all here- to say every day was an adventure would be an understatement- swimming, parades, parties, weddings, horse back riding, fishing, more swimming, cherry picking- holy moly it was a busy two weeks! The month was topped off by visits from two of my dearest friends and their families- Sarah and Dea- as always it was epic and too much fun!

August: This month can be summed up by one activity- swimming! August was the month of swimming- pools- ocean- lakes. The cousins came to visit and most of the time was spent in the hotel pool- the Littles can actually swim on their own now- which meant plenty of time for me to visit pool side with my sister!

September: With the teachers and government still deeply embroiled in a labour dispute we had an extended Summer vacation- probably my favourite day was our little trip over to Bowen Island- this place is truly a magical spot. Days spent exploring our city with friends- keeping the Littles busy was the theme of September- also I finally finished knitting my first pair of socks! When school finally went bad into session it was with a heavy heart that I sent my Littlest off to full day Kindergarten- my baby is a big kid now- time is flying too fast for my liking. I also return to work- which is strange and wonderful at the same time- our family struggles to find our way.

October: Fall descends quickly- it feels a little weird after our extended Summer to all of a sudden be smack dab in fall- my children are growing like weeds- long- long legs. We are falling into our school routine- baking cookies and granola bars- making big batches of soup- warm cozy happenings. Halloween rolls around- I dress up as a blogger and am the only one who finds this hilarious! I ride my bike again- the weather is perfect.

November: Cool crisp days- more hikes- so many good hikes! Time spent out at Terra Nova and a wonderful hike out in Belcarra- they don't call our province Beautiful BC for nothing! We love where we live!

December: We finish the year off much as we started it- the weather has been cold and crisp and much of this last week of 2014 was spent outside at the beach.

         It was tricky to only pick a few of my favourite pictures and memories to feature in this post- if you made it this far- thank you for your tenacity! While all these very ordinary moments might not look spectacular to many they mean the world to me- my family is everything - our year was the best possible one we could give our kids- which to me makes it wonderful- magical- spectacular! A year filled with adventure- creativity- growth- good food and the very best friends a family could ask for- leaves me filled with gratitude and I think the beginnings of grace. This new year has some big shoes to fill- 2015 are you up for it?