Living The Sweet Life: 8/1/09 - 9/1/09

Friday, August 28, 2009

Soul Kiss

Soul Kiss By Shay Youngblood

Another gripping summer read! I've started this book and should have it finished by the weekend to give you my final report. Another camping expedition is planned this weekend - the great outdoors and all. It's alot of work to get organized for three days of roughing it. I'll admit I briefly thought about making cupcakes for the trip but ended up buying rice crackers and pretzels (they're both so dry you can only eat so many!) That box of Betty Crocker sat on that counter all day staring me down.
The one thing I've already noticed and love about this book is how Shay uses words to describe something. It makes me want to underline phrases and combinations of words - a "no no" and something I would never do of course.
A coming-of-age novel set among the African Americans of the Deep South in the late 1960s. Seven-year-old Maria Kin Santos is left by her emotionally unstable mother in the care of two elderly spinster "aunts" she has never met before. Although Maria comes to love her aunts, she dreams of finding her father and spends years searching for him. Eventually, she learns that he is in Los Angeles and sets off to meet him there.
UPDATE: Finished the book. I would rate it a 3 out of 5. A good read but I would have liked for it to unfold more - I felt like there was more to tell - like where's her mother?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Liquid Gold

For years my Mom and Dad had an apple orchard. It grew and it grew. I grew so big for so long that my Mom finally convinced my Dad to cut back. Now there are only a few trees.

My Dad's hobby while doing the apple trees was making honey. It started out small but over the years especially without the trees to tend to it grew and it grew. It grew so big that my Dad has been hiding hives around the neighbourhood so my Mom can't see them. They're down behind the barn, up by the gate, over at her friends and who knows where else.

My Dad loves his bees and I don't say that lightly - he LOVES looking after them and is pretty darn good at it. His bee's have survived even the hardest winter around these parts. The hives are always pretty and white and if there's a problem like a swarm - he's out there lickety split to calm them down.

You could ask him anything about bees and hives, and swarms....he knows. He knows so much about making honey that this year he made the most honey ever! My retired Dad on his 10 acres in Abbotsford, has got - are you ready? - no less than 4,000 pounds of honey in his shed. He's bone tired exhausted from getting the honey off the hives and doing what bee keepers do. I'm just amazed - did I mention the 4,000 lbs?

This is Spencer and my Dad years ago selling honey at a local summer market. This picture warms my heart. Oh and by the way, do you know anyone who wants some farm fresh honey?

I Love Being A Mom

There is no job more important in the world than being a good Mom. It's the hardest job but it's the best job. My boys know a "love letter" is the best gift a girl can get.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Glorious Vintage Buttons

I was in my sewing room again today, still cleaning and tiding things up. I got side tracked with my glass jar up on the window sill full of vintage mother of pearl, thread and glass buttons. Aren't they just lovely? I seriously need to do some sewing but these are all so special will I have the heart to actually use them? It's like that piece of fabric that's just too great to cut and then goes out of style and ends up donated somewhere. But, buttons aren't like that - they don't go out of style, at least not these ones. If you're 100 years old and you haven't gone out of style, you won't be!

The Cupcake Obsession

Well the cupcake obsession just won't seem to let up.  After camping a few weeks ago all I could think of was cheezies my choice for a bag of junk food to indulge in on the trip.   Now after seeing and having just one cupcake at the Cupcake Shop in Vancouver I can't seem to get the sweet tooth under control.  I secretly found a wonderful buttercream icing recipe at "All Recipes".  When I saw myself put the box of vanilla Betty Crocker in my shopping basket - I was thinking it was just to have on hand, but in back of my mind I saw cupcakes.  I've even gone so far as to think about having my own cupcake shop - I know I could make it cute with just the right shade of pink and touch of shabby furniture.  It's only a matter of time....

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Eggs Please

This weekend instead of the ususal poached eggs or pancakes we had soft boiled eggs.  As we sat dunking our toast into our creamy eggs I couldn't figure out why we don't do these more.  My Mr Wonderful said the last time he had soft boiled eggs he was just a little kid.  I thought about it and I can't remember ever having them when I was little.  I remember my dad poaching us eggs in little cups with butter though!

I've managed to get quite the collection of cute antique egg holders over the years.  Antique shops weren't exactly my boy's favourite place to shop so when Spencer was little his job was to hunt for these air brushed egg cups.  That kept him busy while I could poke around for heirlooms and dishes.  My boys have had them many times over the years but it should have been more.  It goes withoug saying I do need to work on my aim when I wack off the top!  A truly simple indulgance.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

That Blueberry Pie

This picture deserves to be this big - because it was that good!

Well this weekend we finally had the last blueberry pie I've been saving that was in the freezer from last summer.  Spencer read on the freezer that cakes only lasted three months in there - I thought "uh oh" thinking about the pie.  Rather than toss it we risked whatever could happen to us and baked that thing up - it was so SO good - and of course we did have it with ice cream.  I'm thinking now, this post is not going to look good next to one of my rants about the gym.

We've been waiting for the "blues" as we call them to be ready this year and when they were I bought about 100 lbs.  I had to bag and freeze those babys fast because we were out the door to go camping.  I was a little disappointed because ususally I spend a whole day and make pies and then freeze them.  I have since found a recipe on Martha Stewart's web site where I can make the pie with frozen "blues".  Yup, there are just some things you can't go without!

Vintage Weddings

I stumbled upon this web page - and it has the most glorious vintage wedding photo's. It's a must see
Enjoy the trip back in time.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Salsa Chicken

It's no surprise that if your trying to eat healthy chicken is your best friend. It never amazes me what you can do with it. I like to think of it as a blank canvas. My mission for the last couple of years had been making chicken taste like something it's not and I'm getting pretty good at it!

Salsa Chicken

One can of Mushroom Soup (can be low fat)
One package of Taco Seasoning Mix (I use half the package)
One cup of Salsa (go wild)
1/2 cup sour cream (can be low fat)
Four boneless, skinless, chicken breasts

Here's what to do:

1. Mix the soup, salsa and seasoning in your slow cooker.
2. Add the chicks and slow cook until done, that will depend on your cooker
3. Remove from the heat and add sour cream just before serving. Most times I don't even add the sour cream because I forget or don't have it.

Serve with rice or pasta. (you can think whole grains while I'm thinking white rice and lots of butter)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Sewing Notions

I can spend a whole day in my sewing room just sorting and tidying my things. I can open my button box and spend an hour or so just going through there looking.
I need to do some sewing and wanted to tidy up a bit and got side tracked - again.

I was looking at my various vintage sewing notions I've collected over the years. I wouldn't say I collect them but there is definitely some sort of an affection for old packages especially to do with sewing. Isn't the Tintex Dye box cute?
The package from the Belding Company that contains pink ribbon shoulder straps for a bra. Today we buy mostly piping, bias tape and rick rack from Belding. Every time I buy rick rack I wonder if it will be the last time - how popular can it be? It seems like an old fashioned 60's type trim to me. Can you imagine buying a box of Mending Floss from Coats and finding little pre filled wooden spools inside.
I've always wished I could go back in time to wear the fashions of the Victorian Era. I love the corsets and dresses and undies. I would be great to go to a Mercantile and buy fine fabrics and lace - oh and the silk ribbon and trims, can you just imagine? I would be in heaven.

Sunflowers And Fall

When sunflowers bloom it reminds me that fall is just around the corner and the kids will soon be back at school. Each year when my boys were little they would plant sunflowers, and you never really know where they will sprout up. When my oldest now 24 was heading off to Kindergarten the whole class came up here on a field trip to chop down a sunflower and take it back to class - you would think they were chopping down Jack's beanstalk out there - it was huge. They carried that thing down the road like it was a Christmas tree, each kid holding the stock.

I read in the book The Silver Compass (highly recommended by the way) that a guy planted his whole back yard with sunflowers and the neighbours though he was odd - I thought it was a great idea, especially when I think about the moss currently taking over may back lawn. I thought this was kind of funny - in life you hear that location is everything - and apparently outside our front door, every single inch of real estate can make a difference.

Spencer's first bloomer of this year.

Cupcakes $3

This we made our way to Vancouver's famed "Robson Street". While we sat people watching in Starbucks (another expensive addiction) this is what we saw across the street. This cute little shop, a few shops from the corner was simply called "Cupcakes". A steady stream of locals and tourists could not resist walking by this place without going in. Cupcakes with names like Sweet Sixteen, Lemon Drop, Lava Flow and Obsession - yum.

After my "meltdown" Friday about finding a healthy balanced lifestyle I was wondering what I was doing when I heard myself ordering up a "Confetti Cupcake". I didn't even remember getting in line I was picking mine out the second I saw them. Vanilla cake, butter cream icing to die for and confetti on top - it was like a celebration and oh so good. While I sat eating that cupcake I celebrated and I vowed to enjoy it, and get to the gym Monday morning and be happy that about it.

I'm happy to report that I did just that and while I was running I was thinking about how good that thing was and worth every last calorie! Highly recommended as a motivation to work out! I'll admit it, I was already on recipe sites today searching for the perfect buttercream icing. I have since decided against making a batch of 24 cupcakes to have at home.  Really, I'm over it.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Tea Cup Pincushion

I got a few really lovely china tea cups when my mother-in-law passed away. This was my favourite. I didn't want it to just sit in the cupboard so I made it into a fancy pincushion that I could see and enjoy almost everyday while I was sewing. I don't really use it, but I

have it on my shelf and think it's very cute. I hope it's not some sort of a rare antique because I did glue gun the cup to the saucer and there is a little dab of glue here and there. I filled the cup with polyester fiber fill and tucked a piece of heavy silk over top of it and glued it in place about 1/4" below the inside rim of the cup. I finished off the edge with a pretty pre pleated ribbon. On the saucer I tacked a piece of antique lace, that sort of looks like a lace napkin. I love it even if the cup turns out to be worth a fortune I love it just the way it is!

Grandpa Clive Justice Gown

About fifteen years ago, I went to visit Grandma on my husband's side of the family in Victoria, BC. The plan was to visit over the weekend and go to The Empress Hotel for afternoon tea. It would the perfect spot to reminisce about her life and family which is what we liked to do. Sunday afternoon we went up into the attic and found this - I could hardly contain my excitement when she gave it to me. I was in heaven - this is right up my alley! My son's Great Grandfather was christened in this very dress, in Africa, during the Bore War in around 1899-1902. The original outfit was the dress, the shoes, a slip, a wool christening cape and coat.
This is a lovely close up of the one shoe I have. It's made out of a hide of some sort because if you look really close it's a short fur. On the front a delicate, pleated silk ribbon flower.

This is the bodice with it's wonderful tucks, lace and embroidery. The gown is made of 100% silk, that's soft and light - it floats when it's moved, and is simply exquisite.
So the story goes, Grandma said her mother-in-law, "couldn't boil water" - her words not mine. The Justice clan was quite well to do with servants and all and Grandma had not lived a privileged life. Love prevailed and Grandma and Grandpa happily lived their life on their farm in Salt Spring Island, BC with their five little boys raising turkeys. It was not an easy life and Grandma used the words "made due" more than once but they were in love and happy. So, remember the wool christening coat I mentioned? Grandma cut it up one winter, altered it, hemmed it up and used as a coat for one of her little boys - you can just imagine what her mother in law would have thought of that!
So this is the coat, see the hemline, it's been hemmed and let down. The same thing on the cuff of the sleeve. Don't you think the elaborate embroidery and ruffled eyelet collar is just the right touch for a little boy running around a turkey farm? That's what makes a real heirloom - the stories that are hidden within their creases.

Friday, August 14, 2009

I'm Tired Of Chicken

I'm tired of Chicken and brown rice - I want some white carbs. A big bowl of white rice with butter and soy sauce makes me want to cry. If I could have anything right now it would be a bag of Cheezies from seven-eleven.

I don't consider myself a fitness nut, but I do try and I mean try to run three times a week. I'm not excited to run it's just part of what I do. I have to have my Ipod, my fans, my water and it's best if it's not sunny out because that makes me hot. If it is sunny I get up early and go to the gym to get a treadmill in the shade. With all of these hang ups, you can see why I don't feel like I really fit in. Thirty minutes can seem like a lifetime when you're running watching the seconds tick by. I don't find it really hard, but I do find it really boring. Something has got to give.

I feel like I'm stuck - staying fit, eating healthy (except for that bite of carrot cake last night), yoga, running and weight training - how long can I keep all this up? Am I the only one who feels burnt out and tired with my "healthy lifestyle" aka fitness regiment? I started walking then switched to running to save time, burn more calories and get out of the gym sooner because I have a business to run and a child to raise and other things to do.

So this is the beginning of a new, new phase - figuring out how to come up with a combination of things that I won't dread doing and can get back to a "normal" life that isn't 30 pounds over weight. I knew I wanted to change my lifestyle, and did - but now what? I think what I'm looking for is some "balance". Oh so cliche!

My to do list:
Figure out a fitness routine that I can live with, but most of all enjoy.
Eat healthy without feeling like I'm always counting calories. Get back into yoga - see if my new gym will hire my other gyms yoga teacher.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

14 Carat Cake Mom's Cook Books

I went to my Mom's last night - to get some cherries. I ended up coming home with seven cookbooks. One to keep (a double) and six other's with my Mom's name clearly marked on the inside cover. She says I'm the only one she lends them to. Anyways, to set the scene, my Mom does everything she does BIG. I know she's been buying alot of cookbooks now that my dad is hooked on the food network. Her "collection" has moved from the bottom drawer and cupboard in the kitchen to two full size very sturdy bookcases she bought at Costco. What she calls the "overflow" of cookbooks can be found out in the hallway in an equally large bookcase. So, we looked at cookbooks, filed according to type - baking, Americas's Test Kitchen, BBQ, Casseroles, Slow Cookers, Farm Journals - the bottom shelf for big books that are too tall, a small shelf for little books. It smelled like old books, rightfully so since she gets as many from Value Village and Ebay as she does books stores and grocery stores. She told me how she needed to get rid of some but how she hated to do that - I know, I told her, you could be throwing out your next favourite recipe. My own cookbook shelves have pulled out of the wall two times in my kitchen cupboard, that I think was originally designed for small appliances. So, I have a new old cookbook called Cooking for Company by the food editors of The Farm Journal, more than 900 extra - delicious recipes. I love the old cover and inside pictures, and the old fashioned recipes. I can't wait to try some cakes out of the Country-Best Cakes section. Lemon Buttermilk Cake, 14-Carat Cake (it keeps for 3 weeks apparently) and Hawaiin Angel Cake - I can't wait!
Update August 14th: Made the 14 Carat Cake last night - it's wonderful! I didn't stack the three layers - instead, I iced all three seperately. We tested one here, and gave two away. I just got a call from the lady I gave one of the cakes to and she said it was the best carrot cake she's ever had. Oh ya, I love a five star recipe.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Memory Keeper's Daughter

Memory Keeper's Daughter By Kim Edwards

I read this book up camping while I munched away on Cheezies. I continued to read into the night by flashlight in the freezing cold. It will have you asking yourself what if it happened to you? I would rate this a 3 1/2 out of 5.

 In 1964, when a blizzard forces Dr. David Henry to deliver his own twins, he immediately recognizes that one of them has Down Syndrome and makes a split-second decision that will haunt all their lives forever. He asks his nurse to take the baby away to an institution and to keep her birth a secret. Instead, she disappears into another city to raise the child as her own.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Hope's Boy

Hope's Boy, A Memoir By Andrew Bridge

I really loved this book. The whole time I read it, I kept looking at the cover, knowing that it was a real picture of Andrew. I looked in his eyes for any clue of sadness that was his life. The story is profoundly inspirational, told without a trace of bitterness - and clearly required tremendous courage to write. It will make you see the world through the eyes of a child and you will reflect on your family and kids. It's amazing. A must read. I would rate it a 4 1/2 out of 5.


From a disastrous decade in foster care to Harvard Law School and beyond: this is the profoundly moving memoir of one boy who beat the system.