Thursday, 24 December 2015


It's not cookies, but it is a gluten free gingerbread cake.  It is moist, tender and tasty.  It isn't dense and it doesn't have that bit of a gritty texture that some gluten free baked goods seem to have.  It is also easy to make.    It certainly filled my holiday gingerbread requirements.

Gluten Free Gingerbread cake

2 cups gluten free flour 
(I used 1 c white rice flour, 1/2 c sorghum flour, 1/4 c potato starch, 1/4 c tapioca starch)
1/2 tsp xantan gum
1/3 c sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp each of nutmeg and allspice

1/2 cup applesauce
1/4 cup oil
3/4 c molasses
scant 1/4 c water
1 cup buttermilk or replacement (1 c almond milk with 1 tbsn lemon juice works fine)
1 egg

Mix dry ingredients together, making sure the xantham gum and spices are completely blended in.   In a second bowl, mix the apple sauce, oil, molasses and water.   When completely mixed, add the buttermilk and egg.   Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry, mixing well until any large lumps are mixed in.   Pour into a greased 9" x 9" pan and bake at 350° F about 35 minutes or until the top springs back when touched.     Let cool and devour!   
 It is just as tasty and still as moist on day two.

If you don't need it to be gluten free, just use 2 cups all purpose flour instead of the gluten free flour.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Twas the week before Christmas and all through the house

The last time I was at Westfield was for the afternoon Christmas Program.   After loading the wood box, sweeping and getting water, I filled up the cast iron kettle and put my lunch on to cook.  I always end up eating lunch there or do without because of the timing of my drive.  That day I had freshly laid eggs and back bacon.  It was a very yummy treat.  The kettle takes a while to get warm, but we had hot water for dishes and cooking in fairly short order.   Otherwise, I made english muffins on the gridiron and soda bread in a dutch oven.

The tea towels are off the loom.  The huck lace worked out really well and I cut the towels off the loom, leaving enough waste to tie on another warp.  The disappointing thing is that the 2/8 natural cotton I was given, turned out to not be cotton at all, but some blend, so there was no shrinkage in washing .   My tea towels are large enough to be utility hand towels or small bath towels!  Guess what I am hanging in the bathroom over Christmas?
This is Harper.  He is a 10 year old German Shepard cross, with probably Border Collie or Aussie Sheepdog, because of his colouring, hair texture, tail and personality.   He is needing a new home because of a sad divorce situation where Dad took him and then dumped him on Mom, who can't afford to keep him.   He is a sweet mama's dog.   Unfortunately Kevin doesn't like him and chases him around the house, hissing, spitting, growling and attacking him all out with teeth and claws.  Hubby doesn't like him because a) he doesn't want another dog and b) his first night anxiety caused a few issues.   However with me, he is sweet as anything.   I exchanged the 4 ft long heavy leash, with a weighted spring at the clip end that he came with, for a 6 ft. long lightweight leash and all his leash issues disappeared.   He is friendly, warm and when he is trying to get away from Kevin attacking, he does do the lap dog thing, where he climbs on me for safety.   He is a pretty large dog and definitely not a lap dog.   His house manners are pretty darned good though.  He doesn't beg for food, doesn't eat the cat food, which is on the floor and sits nicely at my feet when I am sewing or spinning.   As long as Demon Spawn Kevin isn't in the room, all is good.    Will he stay with us?  I don't know but he is slowly settling in for now after a bit of a traumatic start.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Throwing the Shuttles

colours are natural white and a mossy green
I dressed the loom with the cotton warp for tea towels, using  a huck lace pattern.   I chose a project from a magazine and modified it to fit my desired parameters.   Then I started weaving, or at least tried to.   One of the tie ups worked, for a true huck lace weave, but both the warp and the weft spot tie ups, just didn't work at all.  In the end, I resorted to several websites for information, Sharon Alderman's book Mastering Weave Structures and Ann Dixon's Handweavers Pattern Directory in hopes of figuring out what was wrong.  I got some ideas and I now know that I would use the more common huck threading next time instead of this one.    In the end, I started lifting shafts and changing combinations until I found ones that worked for the huck spots.   So totally not what the tie up is in the presented project.    I'd even looked up errata before I'd started, and there was none that I could find.

too lazy to adjust the colours or retake the photo -
All's well that ends well, I suppose, though I spent a good few hours working out the wrinkles in this one.  

The regular huck lace, which uses 2 shafts for an even balance is super easy but as I'm using a counter balance loom, one of the shots in the warp spot pattern is a little small, as it is a 1/3 lifting pattern.  I just have to be careful and slow down a bit because that is much faster in the end than unweaving to catch a skipped thread.

brilliant, multi-coloured cotton warp for a soft scarf
This colourful scarf is from a guild project.   It is made of cotton and has some sort of funky twill design, that you can only see in this photo and not really in real life.   I didn't choose the pattern, but I think it is wasted on the bright multi-coloured, random stripes, at least with the pink weft.  The pattern showed up nicely using a dark blue thread, but it changed the flavour of the project.   I was going to give this away as a present, but my hubby asked for it.  He then explained that he wanted to give it to me, knowing that I likely wouldn't keep it for myself otherwise.  

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Random Stuffs...

 The bottom cupboards are almost finished!   The face frames, doors and drawer fronts are being finished up.  Because they won't be permanently installed until the spring, they are being placed in their respective spots for storage and use.   They look so awesome!  The colours are bright, cheery and they warm up the kitchen beautifully, which is a lovely change from the dirty, dated, dreary peach paint and wallpaper.   Because it was over 20 years old, without being cleaned or repainted, it was really awful.
 There has been a fair bit of playing with string.   The sweater now has a front, a back and half a sleeve!  Yay!  
I've been winding warps for future projects as well.  The darker one is partially finished.  It will be yardage for a cloak or a sacque coat. 

 The lighter one is for a set of huck lace tea towels.   The tea towels will go on the loom in the next day or two.  Right now there is a large work table set up against the loom, to accommodate painting cupboards and attaching hardware.

Some utility sewing has been done.   I played with a pattern design and used an old sheet to work up a sample.   I'd hoped it would be wearable, but no such luck.   It was a good learning experience though, as I played around with a few new techniques but the sample is definitely not wearable.

The little Christmas stocking I made for my daughter's cat is pretty cute though.  Lucky kitty!

 It is Christmas at Westfield.   The evening programs are pretty spectacular, with the whole village being lit with oil lamps and candles.   It is so pretty.

The Lockhart house is lit with candles.  It was fun explaining to kids that the house didn't have electricity so we couldn't turn on lights.   I made a venison stew which was pretty yummy and a dried mix herb blend, for flavouring soups and stews when fresh herbs were not available.   I underestimated exactly what volume the recipe would make.  It filled the white bowl to the brim.   I had brought 6 little bottles with me, and could have filled another 4 or 5!   But the herb blend turned out quite tasty.  I flavoured the stew with it and it was perfect. I will use it this winter instead of the herbes de province mixtures I usually use.  I think it would work not only for soups and stews, but for meat loaf and spaghetti sauce as well.

Friday, 27 November 2015

The Purpleish Cotton

It started with this dye vat, using up the leftover fibre reactive dye.   I'd found this bag of Acala cotton roving that I'd put on the back of the cellulose fibre shelf.   I know I bought it for a level 3 or 4 homework session, because it was specifically labelled Acala cotton.  It is shorter than Pima or Egyptian cotton, so a tad harder to spin.   I have a bag of Acala cotton lint, which is easy to card into punis and quite easy to spin.

I was pretty happy with the dye results, although it was definitely a tad uneven.  The roving came out fairly unscathed and hardly compacted at all.   That made me very happy was well.   Once it was dry, I started to spin it.   Then I remembered why it had been shoved to the back of the shelf.    The roving is full of neps, little balls and clumps of fibre that just didn't want to spin and were the devil to pick out.   Then I remembered that I didn't even bother with this roving for my homework, because it was  awful to work with.

Since I'd dyed just over 50 g of fibre, I wasn't going to waste it.  I haphazardly divided it into 2 sort of equal pieces.   I carded it up into punis.  Lots and lots of punis.  I carded 6 or so at a time and then spun it up, switching to a different bobbin for the second half of the fibre.

It was quite easy to spin but really difficult to maintain any kind of consistency, with all those neps.  I tried really hard to pick them out, or attenuate them some how, or just smooth them out and pack them in, to create at least an illusion of consistency.    However, in the end, it was obvious that my efforts were being wasted, so I just spun it up quickly, to get it over with.

All things considered, the yarn turned out quite nicely.  It is definitely not my best yarn every made, but it is much more consistent in grist that looks than I'd anticipated.   So, I'm happy.  It is soft, pretty and useable.  The colour and grist will go nicely with the blues I spun and dyed this summer at Olds during the level 6 class.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Colour and more colour

I found a braid of fibre, 80% Bluefaced Leicester /20% nylon and spun it up.  There was only about 100 g of it.  I was going to do a 3 ply yarn but decided that I really didn't like the colours enough to spend that much time spinning it.  It's a nice yarn, just not my favourite colours.   I am considering passing it on to a friend since really, I can't think of particular project I would use this for, except maybe a scarf.  Really though, what kind of wear and tear would a scarf go through to need that percentage of nylon for durability?

There has been a lot of colour lately; dye pots full of rainbows! Fibre Reactive rainbows.  I love the colours that fibre reactive dye produces.  It is bright and cheery, with intense, clear colours.    Once the dye powder is hydrated, the resulting solution isn't supposed to last but a few days as the dye bonds not only with the fibre but with the water as well.   Besides the brilliant colours, the bonuses of Fibre Reactive dyes are that it will dye both protein and cellulose fibres, depending on which process you use and it is a 
relatively safe dye.
But these colours are amazing!   I love having such a wide range of colour possibilities for whatever project I have in mind.   Natural dyes give one range of colours, acid dyes another and fibre reactive dyes yet another set of shades.

A few days after I dyed the above colours, which are wool yarns.   I did a bit of an impromptu dyeing session.   I took the dyes that had been mixed for dyeing protein fibres at 2% solution and added a urea solution to diluted the dyes to 1%.   Then I fished out a remnant of white flax tow and some generic
tow flax

acala cotton roving and did a bit of an experiment to see if I could dye with the leftovers.   Pretty colours resulted from the effort.    The pink cotton is a bit uneven.   I pre-soaked the fibre for almost 2 hours but still it didn't totally open  the fibre.   If I could have scoured the fibre first, I think it would have been more even, but boiling the roving wasn't even a consideration that morning.  I could have also tried adding a few drops of soap to the soak water.

Acala cotton roving
  However, in the end, my first  mix of dye was much to purple than what I was after, so I just added more red until I got a colour that I was happy with.   I did all the math to begin with.  I had all my amounts carefully measured and tossed it out the window to get a colour I liked.   In this case, it bumped the DOS (depth of shade) darker than I wanted, so having a bit of white mixed it will make it heathery and lighter coloured, which is what I wanted in the first place.   

Sunday, 8 November 2015

In which it seems like little was accomplished, but...

 It has been difficult getting anything done right now.  The weather got cooler.   This combined with the fact that the garage has been a kitchen cupboard making assembly line this summer and the fronts, frames and some of the cabinet boxes are being stored there, all the painting made it's way into the living room of all places.   Well, the living room and the hall way.  Large flat work surfaces have been erected so that painting and drying can happen in a warmer room.

All the priming had been done already, during the summer.   I got to help with that because the work surfaces were at a height that worked for me.   With all this inside stuff, the height of the work spaces just doesn't work for me, so hubby has been puttering away at the painting.   There are just 2 edges left to finish up on the upper cupboards, which I think were misses rather than planned for the next session.  The yellow paint colour, which I chose for the upper cupboards will be used for the walls as well, when we actually get to that point.   However, it looks really pale everywhere except in the kitchen, where the light makes it look just fine.   The bottom cupboards will be red.  Doing them all red was just going to be too dark, so by splitting up the paint colours, I still get my red cupboards.  However, because of all the painting, it's been difficult to actually get anything done and really, I can't complain at all.

We've had some lovely bonus days lately, with very unseasonably mild temperatures and sunshine.   We actually didn't run the stove at all for 4 days as it was just too warm.   Kevin wasn't impressed at all with this.   He loves to sleep in front of the stove when it is pumping heat out.   When he wants to warm up, and there wasn't a fire, he started crawling right up to the window and staring in.  Luckily he doesn't do it when the stove is warm, so we don't worry about him being hurt when he presses his little nose to the glass. 

I've been playing with gluten free ginger cookie recipes.  So far I've gotten cookies which are edible, some which are decent but not any which are perfect and worth sharing.   Meanwhile I am getting my ginger cookie fix. 

Knitting happening.   I'm finally on the second front of the cardigan but because I had to rip out half of the first side, it's taken a bit longer.   Not so much that much extra knitting time, but you know that week and a half or more that I sat around staring at the fact that I had knit 6 inches using the wrong pattern instructions and wondering how I managed that.   Then I was finally able to rip out and reknit the offending 6 inches.

  Lots of spinning, but I forgot to take photos!  Like really!  That is a new one for me.   I did manage to make a dust cover for my sweetie's practice amplifier.  It is a good thing to keep the sewing machine working  once in a while.    While it seems to me like I didn't get much done, I think I might actually have done so.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Pumpkin Sunday

Last Sunday was Pumpkin Sunday at Westfield.  There were free pumpkins, pumpkin activities and some of us cooked with pumpkin.   I was at the Lockhart farm house, which is interpreted as 1830s.  This means open hearth cooking.  Since there is no oven, all baking is done either in a reflector oven or a dutch oven.

I made 4 dishes.  The first was a pumpkin corn bread from 1878, which I didn't take a photo of.  It was baked in a dutch oven and was either liked or disliked.  I won't try that recipe again. The chickens like the leftovers a lot though!
Pumpkin Pie, The American Frugal Housewife, 1829
I also stewed up some pumpkin.  Mainly, I wanted to talk about how to use a fresh pumpkin for baking and other recipes.   After boiling or baking, you need to strain it.  Unfortunately it was both too busy and the farmhouse didn't have a colander as part of it's equipment, so I didn't get to show it being drained of the excess liquid.  I did talk about it though.

I made a pumpkin pie which I brought home to eat.  The recipe said to cross and chequer it, which was one of those things we don't do to pumpkin pie today.  I used the amounts of spices called for in the recipes.  If I had to do it again, I'd likely add more.  It was tasty, but not nearly as flavourful as I prefer.
Potato Pumpkin, The Virginia Housewife, 1838

I also made a pumpkin stuffed with force meat.  I had to explain over and over again that I was saying force meat and not horse meat, which was kind of funny.   Force meat is a basic mixture for meatballs or meat loaf, made of minced meat, with herbs and sometimes bread crumbs and egg.   I wish I had a photo of this cooked.      It was an easy recipe to cook and the finished product was really pretty.  We ate it for dinner and it was delicious.

Potato pumpkin is a winter squash.  Since we don't grow it around here, I substituted pumpkin.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

New Girls in the barn

Sometime back in the summer, I'd asked Lisa at Westfield what they were going to do with their chickens during the winter.   While they have a lovely, cozy barn there, since the village is closed for most of the winter, I wondered if they were going to keep them or not.  If not, I was willing to give them a home, since I was down to 2 laying girls and one who was retired and just hanging around.  I was told that someone else had said they wanted them.  We talked for a bit and that was that.  I went home thinking about it and remembered that you could order ready to lay pullets.   A few weeks later, I popped into the feed store and yes, they could still get me some ready to lays, especially because I wanted just 4 of them.  A week and a half later, my new little girls came and all was good.

So a couple of weeks ago, I got an email from Westfield about picking up the chickens.   While it was a bit unexpected, I was pretty happy because really, having 10 young birds in addition to my 3 old birds means that they will produce enough heat to keep warm all winter.   These are the new girls, who arrived on Sunday.  They were fine and calm during the trip home, in a dog crate in the back of my pick up.  They popped out into the new pen as if they did this sort of thing every day.  Yesterday they gave me 6 eggs.  A couple of them came up to say hello and not a single hen showed any signs of stress.  They don't even seem to mind having shavings instead of straw!

 The bottom 2 photos are of my summer girls.  They are a couple of months younger than the new layers.   They have a little more white and some of the lovely bi-coloured feathers.   Between the two little flocks, they should make one handsome larger group of very pretty chooks.

I've been feeding them GMO free food which costs only a couple of dollars more than the regular layer mix.   It has 2% more protein though which has made a huge difference in the birds' condition.  As well, the chook who used to peck her egg open to eat it, has stopped.  Even my old girls have started laying eggs with a nicer shell and a more regular size.  I've very happy with it.

So anyone need farm fresh eggs?

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

A Crazy Week

 Save for 2 cupboards and the drawer fronts, which won't be built until everything else is installed, all the cupboards, face frames and doors are built.   The two corner cupboards will be built later so that the size can be adjusted should everything not quite fit.  Since the man has built these with incredible precision, I mean the doors are fitted with the recommended 1/16th inch and they are inset doors, which look awesome but are harder to get perfect, I cannot imagine how he would need the fudge room.  However, it is his project, not mine, so I am not complaining.   The cupboards are gorgeous!

Because the weather has cooled off substantially, all the face frames and doors are inside for priming.  We are using a grey primer because the bottom cupboards will be a dark barn red.   This will hopefully make for easier painting because reds can be fussy colours.

On Thursday night we had tickets to see Paul Brandt and Dean Brody who were playing in London.   It was an awesome concert.   Dean Brody's band was tight and perfectly timed.  There was even a chain saw involved lol. His set did seem a little short though and as it was a greatest hits type performance, there were a few great songs that were left out.   Paul Brandt and his band were a little looser and there was a bit more connection with the crowd.  They were both great, but I think Paul Brandt stole the show.

    I tried to get a few photos on my phone, but they just show the limitations that I am finding with my older phone camera.  Even though our seats were in the cheap nosebleed section, it was well worth it to see these great Canadian musicians.

Saturday was the Woodstock Fleece Festival.  If you spin, weave, knit, crochet, rug hook, felt or do any sort of fibre art, this is a great place to hang out for a few hours.   I didn't come home with all that much this year but did pre-order a few dyes from Fibre Garden, which I was able to pick up at their booth.  It is so easy to get exactly what I need from them, without paying for the shipping or the gas, and not have to worry that they didn't have enough space to bring what I wanted.

Sunday, I woke up to heavy white skies and this white nonsense!  YUK !  It is way too early for snow.  Luckily it melted before I had to leave for Westfield.   I made a steamed pudding and a beef soup.  It was pretty steady with visitors so I neglected to get photos.   The steamed pudding was a batter pudding from Hanna Glasse.   It was pretty tasty!

I found this funny, little waffle maker on deep discount at the local hardware store.   It is quite small, and heats up in just a couple of minutes.  It only takes 2 or so minutes to cook a batch of 8 mini waffles, which are absolutely perfect for the consumption of real maple syrup.  Gluten free waffles cook up really nicely in this little waffle maker.   It looks like a lot of waffles, but in actuality, there was less waffle batter for this pile of waffles than in one regular sized waffle.  That seems like a win to me!

Monday, 12 October 2015


In my mind, thankfulness comes at all times of the year, but it seems right to express it on Thanksgiving, a day dedicated to such thoughts.  
I am thankful not only that we have wood for this winter's heating, but that I was able to pull my own weight in bringing it in.  I loaded wood into the truck, unloaded and stacked this year and it wasn't just a token effort this year.  
 I am thankful that we still have rogue flowers blossoming this time of year, when clearly they shouldn't.  This brave Phlox is one of those in my garden.  Hiding in the back of a messy flower bed, I noticed it in my little walk about the back yard.

I am thankful for being able to take that little walk, with my camera in both hands, not needing a cane or any other walking aid.
 I am thankful that I can have odd pets.  My chickens are definitely in the pet category.  They come running at me as soon as I get out to the yard.  It is pretty cute when I've had only 2 or 3 chickens, but when it is 10, it can be a little daunting if you don't know my cute little girls.  Not only are they personable and funny creatures, but they provide eggs for my family and a few others.

 I am thankful that Canada is a great country to live in and I am always thankful that I was born a citizen of the maple leaf.   This allowed me access to medical procedures which changed my life, giving me back my mobility.  It allows me to live in a place where I can plant rogue flowers, have chickens as pets and stack wood because of a lifestyle choice we made.   It allows us to have a choice and a voice.   Oh Canada, the True North Strong and Free.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Just sharing

 I've been taking a bit of a break from washing the new fleece.  Well, I took a few days off from washing.  I've been spinning it up.  It is lovely to spin.  I've processed it several ways including combing, hand carding, drum carding, and flick carding.  My favourite so far has been drum carding the flick carded locks.  Just opening the locks a bit manually, sort of fluffing them out a bit before drum carding is almost as nice.    

I have 2 weaving projects in the works.  One is some woven scarf blanks for a woven shibori dye day that the guild is having and the other is some yardage for a sacque coat or cloak.   However, I am not sure I have quite enough yarn for the latter.   I was sure I had calculated it when purchasing it but now, I am really uncertain that I have enough for the needed yardage.   I had planned a plaid pattern, so running out would indeed be a minor disaster, since I cannot get anymore of this particular yarn.

 We were driving to a nearby city the other day for an appointment and I noticed a roadside stand that said they had cucumbers.  Usually this time of year, it is only hot house cucumbers and a few field cucumbers left.  But I decided that we needed to stop by on our way home.   They had the last of the pickling cucumbers there, so I was able to whip up a batch of relish.  
They also had Russet apples!  Tart, green, with leathery skins, I haven't seen them in several years.  They had only tiny baskets but one came home.  If I could have gotten a much larger basket, I would have made applesauce.  They make the absolutely best applesauce!

 Knitting this beast of a sweater in August and September was very slow, sweaty work.  When it was really warm outside, it was just too uncomfortable to knit more than a few rows at a time.   I seem to be making much better time now that it is cooler outside.   I may have made it a size too large though.   I'm living with it, since I have absolutely no desire to rip it out and start again.  It is supposed to be a generously sized sweater anyway.

This is my son's hobby.   Every once in a while he brings home a shrub, buys some tree seeds or finds a seedling to dig up.   He trims roots, re-pots and prunes.   I daresay soon there will be a forest of Bonsai trees sitting on my deck during the summer and hibernating in the sunporch during the winter.  It is pretty cool though.