STITCH LINES...... Ramblings on life as a quilter, stitcher, traveler, gardener and lover of books, cats and fine chocolate....

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas Everyone!



 It's Christmas Eve! Only one more sleep! The tree is decorated, the shortbreads are frosted. I think I'm ready. I just wanted to take this opportunity to wish all my friends, blog followers and occasional readers a very Merry Christmas and Best Wishes for a healthy and happy New Year. I did have several other pre-Christmas posts planned for this past week, but time has slipped away and they didn't get done. Sometimes life gets in the way and has other plans for you.
My father-in-law went into Palliative Care on Monday, and died today at around 5p.m. At least he is now at peace. I'll probably be absent from blogdom for a few days...

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, surrounded by the love of family and friends.

Peace,
Linda

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Christmas Book Traditions

Today is the shortest day of the year. The Winter Solstice. Okay, I guess it has 24 hours just like any other day, but the fewest hours of daylight. Acckkkk- I need longer days right now, not shorter days!! I still have lots to get done before the 25th... still a little shopping to do.. still a little decorating (can you believe we don't have our tree up yet??!!).. still some baking to do.. and lots of wrapping yet to do...
I am trying to stay calm.. Christmas will come and go whether I'm ready or not, I keep telling myself.
I'm really looking forward to the several days after Christmas when I can rest. I "go on strike" for a few days, and just put my feet up and read. We eat turkey leftovers and I don't do much other than turn pages and eat the occasional chocolate. I. Can't. Wait.
Speaking of Christmas traditions, I guess you could say books have always been a tradition in my family. I always got a new book or two for Christmas as a child, and that was often my favourite gift. The tradition continues, I still LOVE getting books for Christmas. I have a few on my list this year, but just in case Santa doesn't "come through", I have a good stack waiting for me - some on loan from friends, a few I've bought (just in case we have a huge storm and libraries and stores are closed down for days on end.. wink wink). Just like fabric and chocolate, one must have a "stash"!!  Here's the pile I have awaiting, I can hardly wait to delve into them. Actually there's one there that I have been reading, and am almost through, so it will be my next book review - The Gravity of Birds. However my reading time is very limited right now...
What are you reading?  Do you have any books on your Christmas Wish List?
Happy Winter Solstice! I hope you are all ready for Christmas and finding some time to relax and enjoy the season.






Peace,
Linda

May your longest list this Christmas be the one that counts your blessings.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas Traditions

Every family has traditions associated with Christmas that have been upheld through the years and must be continued. After all, it just wouldn't be Christmas otherwise, right? Some are associated with family, others with friends. One tradition I have always enjoyed is the exchange of Christmas cards between friends; sadly it seems to be one that is getting lost, with the advent (pun intended) of email, Facebook and other means of staying in touch via social media. I still send cards with a letter to many friends, but it seems with the large increase in postal rates earlier this year, many have given up on this tradition. We have received less than half the usual number, at this point.  Are you finding the same thing? I expected it, but still it makes me a little sad. I realize everyone is busy with all there is to be done at this time of year, but it is so nice to hear from those you don't see often, to catch up on their news. I admit, I send only half of mine now by post (doing my part to lighten the load of those overworked postal carriers) and the rest by email. Personally, I don't care how I hear from someone, by mail or electronically, as long as I do hear from them. I hope others feel the same way... It's a tradition I'll be keeping for a while. What about you?
Many of our traditions are related to food. Christmas dinner is definitely a "traditional meal" at our house. It's always turkey and all the fixin's. We don't do the cranberry thing- the Kellys have to have their spiced apple jelly, my grandmother's recipe. We always have the same type of salad- in fact we now refer to it as "Christmas Day Salad". The cooked veggies might vary from year to year, but the rest remains the same... the turkey, the dressing (stuffing) and gravy, the salad, the jelly and homemade pickles.... uhhh, okay I have to stop- this is making me hungry!
But first I have to tell you about dessert - it's always Christmas Pudding, again my Grandmother Kelly's recipe. It's a steamed pudding, made only for Christmas, definitely a tradition and a favourite at our house. I am the youngest with two older brothers who both love to tease. So I guess you could say it's always been tradition that my brothers teased me, even at Christmas dinner. Brother Leigh always tries to "steal" my pudding, or more accurately steal the hard sauce that accompanies the pudding. Many people serve steamed puddings with a warm sauce, but we have ours with a "hard sauce" which is just a rich butter icing that's been frozen and cut into squares. No matter how large the pieces are cut, Leigh will "complain" that his is not large enough, and that he's been shortchanged on the hard sauce.
Someone commented  on my last post that they wished I had posted the recipe for the Christmas Pudding, so here it is.

Grammy Lil's Christmas Pudding

1 cup sultana raisins
1 cup currants
1 cup suet
1 cup brown sugar
maraschino cherries to taste, coarsely chopped (I use about 20 cherries)
blanched almonds to taste, coarsely chopped (I use about 1/2 cup)
2 Tblsp. each citron and mixed peel
1 cup finely shredded raw carrot
1 cup finely shredded raw potato
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. salt



In large mixing bowl, stir together raisins, currants, cherries, nuts, citron, peel, brown sugar and suet. Peel and grate the carrot and potato, stir the baking soda into the grated potato. Add grated vegetables to fruit mixture, stir well.











Sift flour with salt, add to mixture and stir well. Line tube pan with waxed paper. Spread batter evenly in pan. Steam for 3 hours. Check it frequently and add water as needed, ie don't let it boil dry!! Cool well. Wrap in saran, then foil. Store in refrigerator.
For serving, cut in individual pieces and steam until heated through. Serve with hard sauce or your choice of sauces.






I don't have a "recipe" for the hard sauce as I don't measure... But I'm guessing I use about 1/4 cup soft butter (yes it must be butter, margarine just doesn't cut it) to about 2 cups confectioner's sugar and enough cream to make it spreading consistency. I flavor it with almond extract, but vanilla is good too. Spread into a square or rectangle about 1/4" thick, on waxed paper or foil, place on cookie sheet and place in freezer. After several hours, when solid, slide it into a ziploc bag and seal, return to freezer. Cut into squares to serve (in a size large enough to keep all your guests happy. wink)

I should add the table always holds a plate of other dessert goodies too, for the two fussy ones who don't like Pudding... Shortbreads, Cinnamon Stick Shortbreads, Almond Fingers, and several kinds of chocolate squares...  And of course.. a bowl of Chicken Bones.

What Christmas traditions do you follow? What is your special Christmas dessert?

Peace,
Linda

A three year old's reaction to her Christmas dinner: "I don't like the turkey, but I like the bread he ate."

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A New Cookie Favourite

Christmas Eve is now only a week away... can you hear the slight panic in my voice? Actually I'm finally starting to feel like I've made significant progress. I'm not ready, mind you, but I have made good progress. The Christmas letter is written and all cards to be mailed are on their way and in some weary postal carrier's bag by now hopefully. I do still have some to go by email but I'll chip away at those each day. I've made good strides on the shopping front and so far have avoided the dreaded mall totally. I'll probably cave in the next day or two, and try to get all the necessary stops there done in one visit. It's not my favourite place at this time of year. The decorating is almost finished, all that remains is what I need more than two hands for, so I expect I'll pin down the hubby tonight for a little help. And the baking has begun as well. Two batches of cookies are done, two batches of Nut Brittle are also done (and already given away) and I have all the fixin's for the Christmas Pudding; I'll mix it up and steam it this evening. Shortbreads and Cinnamon Sticks (shortbread logs rolled in cinnamon sugar) are next on the list. A friend gifted me with two containers of homemade mincemeat a few days ago so I am seeing a Mincemeat pie in my future too.. yummy! What a wonderful gift that was!! Good homemade mincemeat ranks right up there with good dark chocolate in my books! I can't name the person here who was the giver, and she knows why... but I'm sure she'll read this, so THANK YOU again. Know that it has found a good home! lol
I've tried a new cookie recipe, given to me by my friend Sue. She said she found it in Best of Bridge (sorry I don't know which one) and it was called Tutti Fruitti Cookies. I just call them Yummy!! Seriously, I could eat the entire batch myself. I won't. But I could. Just sayin'...
So I thought you might like to try them too. Here you go:

Tutti Fruitti Cookies

1/2 cup soft butter
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups toasted coconut
1 cup dried apricots, chopped
1 cup craisins (dried cranberries)

Spread coconut on baking sheet and toast under broiler until lightly browned - watch carefully! (I did one cup at a time for more even browning) Let cool. Chop dried apricots. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt, set aside. Cream butter and sugar. Add egg and sour cream, mix well. Add dry ingds., mix well. Stir in cooled toasted coconut, apricots and craisins. The original recipe says to divide dough in half and roll into two logs, wrap in waxed paper and chill well, then slice into slices about 1/3" wide. I thought the dough was a little sticky for that so I just dropped them from a spoon like you would with chocolate chip cookies (yes I always have chocolate on my mind ) Bake at 350°F until lightly browned, about 8-9 minutes.
I threw in some chopped pecans as well - yes I'm a nut lover too! Trust me - these are SO good, you will want to make another batch as soon as they are gone!!  :)  Not "fancy" - just darn good with a hot cuppa or a glass of cold milk!!

Peace,
Linda

Dear Santa,
I've been SO good all year!
Okay, most of the time.
Once in a while.
Oh never mind, I'll just buy my own stuff.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Acckkk! How can it be mid-December?

I don't know where the time goes. I have not posted anything new for a week, and several nights ago a friend accused me of being a "slacker"! (The nerve!)  I assure you, I am not slacking off! I am just busy!! And I haven't had much of anything that I can show you.. after all, Christmas is coming, ya know!! My camera has been neglected as there haven't been any idyllic wintery scenes to photograph lately- we have had days of rain and have very little snow left. What there is, is dirty and not the least bit photogenic!
I've been busy singing and "Christmas party-ing", sewing and stitching, cleaning and decorating.. (Ollie is such a  big help with the decorating. He's like a child - he gets so excited when he sees those big boxes and bags coming up from the basement - he loves jumping in and out of the boxes and especially playing with the paper. The first thing I do each Christmas is set up the nativity. The figures are wrapped in packing paper, and like a one year old, he loves playing with that paper- it's the best thing as far as he is concerned...) The baking and card/letter writing have not yet begun, and I've done very little shopping either (still waiting for divine inspiration to hit...) So you see, I haven't had time for blogging. Other things are taking priority right now, I'm sure you understand. It IS a busy time of year...
To tell the truth, I am struggling with getting into the spirit this year. I thought our choir concert would do the trick, but this entire week of dull grey days and heavy rains has certainly not helped...  Both my parents died just before Christmas, and now my father-in-law is very low. All through the fall he's been in and out of hospital, nursing home respite bed, then back in hospital. We're not sure how much longer he will last. Laura will not be home for Christmas this year, and it's the first time in my life that someone will be absent at Christmas... So I'm finding it a little hard to feel jolly these days...
I'm also suffering from PPMD. I'm sure you've heard of ADHD, PTSD, OCPD, COPD... But you may not have heard of PPMD - but I bet many of you have experienced it. At least the quilters in my readership... PPMD stands for Post Project Mess Disorder and I have it big time! So that's what I'm dealing with today- trying to bring some order to the chaos that is my studio at present. I think I need  a file clerk- someone to fold and put away fabric, project direction sheets, notes, etc. etc. lol Yes, I think I'll post a "Help Wanted" ad in the paper... Now if I could just find someone to do my cards, letters and shopping too... Anyone interested??




Peace,
Linda

Don't get your tinsel in a tangle...

Friday, December 5, 2014

It's a Good Day...

photo from www.measha,com
Last night I had the privilege of attending a local (sold out) concert by Measha Brueggergosman. All I can say is WOW! She has a new Christmas album out and part of the concert was Christmas music, with a smattering of other music as well. Her rich tone, her tremendous vocal range,  her command of the stage, her incredible band (Aaron Davis on keyboards, in
photo from www.measha.com
particular) all combined for an awesome evening. I can't sum it up any better than this paragraph from the programme: "One of the most significant sopranos performing today, Fredericton's own Measha Brueggergosman is critically acclaimed as much for her innate musicianship and voluptuous voice as for her strong stage presence far beyond her years. Brueggergosman has performed with some of the world's most celebrated orchestras and has carried her own solo shows in major venues around the world, repeatedly breaking the stereotype of an opera diva, and standing apart as a fresh and youthful ambassador for classical music."
It's been quite a while since I've seen Measha perform live, and I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but let me tell you, she did not disappoint. She is on the eastern Canada leg of her Christmas Tour now, so if she is coming to a venue near you, and tickets are still available, run, don't walk- give yourself a Christmas treat, and attend her performance. You can see her tour schedule here.
I still love Measha's duet with David Myles, "Whole to my Half", I think it will always be a favourite. You can listen to it here. Fredericton is so very proud of these two "home town kids"...    :)


A few days ago I promised to show you a surprise I got in the mail this week- As a thank-you for being a hostess in this year's Blogathon Canada, I received a Fat Quarter bundle from Sew Sisters of Toronto and a "six pack" of thread from sponsor Aurifil. What a lovely gift, and a complete surprise! Don't you just love it when the doorbell rings and you see the mailman standing there with a parcel for you?! Thanks Sew Sisters and Aurifil!! You're the BEST!

Other great news to share today: dear son Mark just got his first "real job"! (Insert big WHOOP!! here) Today is the final day of his six month clinical practicum for Medical Lab Technologist, and he just secured a job at our local hospital, starting Monday morning!! Guess he won't be sleeping in on Monday, as he thought... lol


Darling daughter Laura also is now working. She is in Ontario, and has been job-hunting all fall. She started working three weeks ago for an online travel agency, in their head office in Hamilton. She is their SEO copywriter with duties including writing copy, managing and creating marketing campaigns and contests, social media work, SEO (that's Search Engine Optimization) and analytics, and writing blog posts for TripSense. So far, she loves it!  (another Big Whoop!!) Although she feels there is a big learning curve for the business aspect of things, I assured her this is common with any new job. Check out her company at www.tripcentral.ca. I am so proud of both of them!!

The sun is shining brightly today, although it's very nippy out there... -11°C at the moment. I plan on spending the afternoon sewing, trying to get some Christmas sewing finished up... Can't show you any photos, as a certain someone might see... wink   Can't say who that would be but that might be her on the left... lol
While I'm sewing, I'll be singing.. still some work to be done on this Sunday's concert repertoire...

Peace,
Linda

Music is my escape. It silences the world and my worries.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

It's Chicken Bone Time!

My friend Sandi Mac posted this video this morning on Facebook, and since it's such an iconic New Brunswick "thing" I thought I should share it with you. To my readers who no longer live in the Maritimes, I'm sure this will bring the taste to mind, as it's a memory no Maritimer will ever forget. For the rest of you, this is a New Brunswick candy, popular especially at Christmas. It is a cinnamon flavoured hard candy with a thick thread of dark chocolate through the middle. Mmmmmm good! We call them "Chicken Bones". They are made by Ganong Brothers, a New Brunswick institution since 1873.
Chicken Bones™ were "invented" by Ganong candy-maker Frank Sparhawk in 1885. They are still one of Ganongs most popular products today, and in fact, many Maritimers feel it's just not Christmas without chicken bones! Although the video below shows the candy-making process by hand, I suspect it is a little outdated as I believe the process is now fully mechanized. Regardless, it is still interesting to watch as they were made this way for many years (and they still taste just as good, no matter how they are made!!)
Once a year, Ganongs, located in St. Stephen N.B. which borders Maine, is the center of
Chocolate Fest, a week long festival held the first week of August. St. Stephen, known as Canada's Chocolate Town, is alive with many chocolate-related events, the week is "choc-full" you might say. (Sorry, couldn't resist the pun!) Chocolate-themed luncheons and dinners, contests, a parade, lots of fun! We took our children when they were young, and haven't been since- I think it's time for a return. (Note to self- mark it on 2015 calendar...) What I remember best is the factory tour, (our Guide was Nick Ganong, then a University student, now VP of Sales and Business Development) where we got many samples of Ganong products, but by far the best was the warm chicken bones right off the conveyor belt. Chicken bones are good at any time, but they are BEST warm and fresh... mmmmm.... I don't think factory tours are given anymore, so I'm glad we did take advantage then.

You might be interested to know that the world's first chocolate bar was invented by Ganongs - the very first chocolate bar was called Pal-O-Mine and it is still produced today. Ganongs also introduced the heart-shaped candy box so popular at Valentine's, and lollipops. Ganongs is probably best known for their hand-dipped chocolates; an experienced employee could dip up to 12,00 chocolates per day, each with its own distinctive identifying swirl on top!! Today the Ganong company is the only family-owned large candy company in Canada, and it still maintains a factory (at 1 Chocolate Drive!) and company headquarters in St. Stephen N.B.
That's my sweet post for today.. gotta go, I'm craving some chocolate. Think I might have to go find those chicken bones.... What's your favourite Christmas candy?

Peace,
Linda

"Chocolate is health food for the soul." ~ Miranda Gray

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

December... already!

It's a rather nasty day weather-wise, here in Freddy Beach. We had snow overnight, and as the temps have risen we've had more than a few hours of freezing rain. I had to cancel my class that was scheduled for today. I hate doing that, because it's so hard to re-schedule, especially at this time of year when everyone is so busy. But with two of the ladies living outside of town, I knew their drive in would not be easy, so better to be safe. I would not want to feel responsible for someone ending up in the ditch, or worse. So I'm spending the day catching up on emails, laundry, and a little decorating.
I have been doing some sewing, but since it is all for gifts, I can only show you one small project which has already been sent and received. You will see the others, you'll just have to be patient... wink
My friend Kathleen in Maine burned her hand very badly a few weeks ago so has been trying to negotiate life with her hand all wrapped up in bandages (see her photo here). What a pain, especially at this time of year. I know how frustrating it can be, as I was somewhat "out of commission" a few years ago at Christmas with a shoulder injury. So I thought perhaps a pair of Mug Rugs made in Christmas fabrics might cheer her up. She received them yesterday and was so happy with them. She said they really brightened her day, which was my sole intention!  :)  (Tomorrow I'll show you the special surprise I received in the mail this week.)
I have made some other mug rugs too, but sent them off to DD Laura and forgot about a photo until they were in the mail. With the placemats I've made lately, there is always a strip of leftover Stiff Stuff, about 3-4" wide - not really enough to do much with. So I've been cutting the leftovers up and zigzagging them together, then using them for the base of the Mug Rugs. Works perfectly, and you can't tell there's a seam there. I did Laura's pair with the fabric strips running crosswise instead of lengthwise, and this pair with the fabric strips running diagonally. I think I like them the best! It's a quick and easy gift, and a great way to use up odds and ends of Christmas (or any) fabrics.
Before you go- why not pop by Kathy's blog and say Hello, and wish her a speedy recovery? I'm sure she'd love to hear from you.

Peace,
Linda

Life is a boomerang. What you give, you get.
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