The Maple Syrup Experiment

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We attended an event at Camp Kawartha a few weeks ago, where everyone was a-buzz about maple syrup. A couple of friends who live in town had asked a bunch of folks in their neighborhood if they could tap their maple trees and just under 40 neighbors had agreed. It hit me then, we live in the forest, I’ve got the time…we can make maple syrup. Then I recalled that we don’t live in a maple stand, and while there is one close by, it’s conservation land and also too far to truck gallons of sap by hand, or even by wagon. BUT there are some mature maples in our yard – why not tap a couple as an experiment!?

I promptly forgot about this idea for a few days, then was handed a couple of spigots from good friend who recalled my enthusiastic (if fleeting) interest in the syrup experiment. That was it, we would do it. I tracked down a cordless drill, went out a couple of times trying to drill holes in a great big maple with the drill on reverse (yes, that happened) and then finally, successfully got the spigots into the tree and began collecting sap from one tree, with two spigots.

This is really, really easy and super fun for kids. Esker and I check the buckets each day after school, and have been freezing the sap in yogurt containers. Last night, we decided to boil some down to see how much syrup we got. We had about a big soup pot full of sap and got the glorious jar of syrup you see above. A couple of things I found  neat while internetting about maple syrup:

  • When the maples begin to bud, the sap they produce becomes bitter. So the window to tap is between when the sap starts to flow and the buds come out
  • If you don’t have a immersion thermometer to check the temp of your syrup while boiling it down, you’ll know it’s done when the syrup starts to bubble like crazy
  • You have to strain the sap a number of times throughout the process to remove impurities, and it’s a good idea to collect the sap daily or it will be cloudy and may breed bacteria.

So fun and rewarding.

Sewing for Summer

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Guys. I made this all by myself.

It’s the Wiksten tank! I had been thinking my sewing skills weren’t quite up to par with this pattern, but my great bud Emily was very encouraging, so I tried. Another shout out to Emily because she gave me this sweet fabric one year for my birthday. Side note: If you ever want to make my birthday, give me vintage fabric. Everyone should try to make this tank – it’s versatile and hip. But beginner sewers beware: did you know that curved hems are really hard to sew? After I botched my first attempt (big time), I went online for tips. I ended up making slits in the fabric to try and get a smooth hem line, and even that only sort of worked for me. This part of the pattern alone would have made a course like this one worthwhile. I very well might still take it. For now, I love my new Wiksten tank and can’t wait to wear it with jean shorts this summer. YES!

 

Wool Scarf

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It. is. -30. So it’s a good thing I’ve finished this huge wool scarf. It’s crocheted using a stitch that looks a bit woven. For the crocheters: (sc, ch, sc) across, then (sc in previous row’s ch, ch, sc in previous row ch) and so on. Clearly, I am biting Yokoo‘s style big time. St-t-t-tay warm friends.

Wool Longies

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Wool longies are my favourite thing to make. Shrunken wool sweaters aren’t garbage…they’re gold. Especially those of the cashmere variety. These ones were made for a friend and found their way back to me when I had my new one. I tend to stitch them by hand with a blanket stitch and embroidery thread and recently started lanolizing them so they can also be a cloth diaper cover. You can learn how to make sweater pants/longies here. Learn the great things about wool here and how to lanolize here.

Baby and Baby Toque

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I had dreams of making my new baby a quilt, all by hand, with hand dyed fabrics over the course of my pregnancy. That did not come close to happening, because a) I was working full time b) I have a 4 year old and c) I was nauseous for 7 months. I didn’t even really go outside the whole time. Like my first pregnancy, I watched a lot of television, horizontal. But I was able to get it together and make a baby toque for just after the birth. I picked up some alpaca yarn from our local market, made sure it was the softest they had, and made two similar toques – one for a very wee baby head (above) and one for a larger baby head – just my luck – our baby had a great big head (below).

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Annika was 9lbs, 6 ounces and born at home – by accident. The labour went a lot faster than we expected – I was only in active labour for about 2 hours. We didn’t have enough time to call the midwife and necessary people and get our 4 year old ready to go before I could feel her head. It was nutso. When the baby was coming out (without pushing – what?), it was just my little family there, Alnis on the phone with the 911 operator. Shortly after, we had about 12 people in the house (ambulance first responders, our great buddies who were meant to be at the birth, Alnis’s Dad, and the midwives), and the vibe was celebratory. Annika was making so many sweet little noises that the midwives said she would be a singer.

Wall Gallery

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Welcome back Me! I’m BACK ON MAT LEAVE, so I have time to journal again. Here’s one of my first projects since new li’l baby was Annika was born. I’ve been spending a lot of time in my room, nursing new baby and looking up at a previously blank wall. I thought i’d make it more lively with some mix matched frames with some cool graphics I’ve had lying around. The big one is a print from a 2012 calendar, the bear/birds/squirrel are cards given to me by great people, and the bottom one is an illustration of yours truly done by my good buddy Scotty McFadyen. It’s based on a photo of me headed out to a questionably themed party in university to which I decided to wear a blonde wig. Isn’t there an old adage about blondes? That’s probably what I was going for.

Tipi

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This fall I decided to make Esker a tipi for his Christmas present. I’m not sure how long we will be able to get away with making Esker his Christmas present, but I am going to try for as long as I can! I looked around on Pinterest for my favourite design, and finally went with this tutorial from My Poppet.

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The tutorial recommends using one queen size bed sheet, but I wanted the tipi to be colourful so I chose three different striped bedsheets (all second hand).

untitled (2 of 4)As the tutorial suggests, I used seam tape for the ties, and made peg hooks around the outside of the tipi so that when it’s outside, we can stabilize it with tent pegs. I think it will be a pretty great shade structure in the summer because it’s light and airy.

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THEN we had the idea of adding lights to the interior. We bought some led lights that go into pockets that I added to the interior. Those lights have since gone AWOL, but when they were in there, it was pretty neat because could read in there and stuff. This is a great project. If you do it, choose material that you love so that (space permitting) you can keep it up all the time! Success!

 

Christmas

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I like home-made, simple Christmas decorations best. One snowy Saturday in late November, some friends were over and we took a hike in the woods. We collected pine cones all along the way – it had just snowed, and was no easy feat – cut some cedar boughs from the cedar hedge along our yard, and made some simple decorations.

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Pine cone bunting!

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We have some pretty glass decorations for the tree, but the CATS always BREAK THEM (cats hate Christmas) and I wasn’t up for that, so our tree had about 10 decorations on it. All of which had been given to us, or handmade by friends.

We went without a advent calendar this year, mostly because I want to get an advent set that I love and will last for years. This advent solution is what I like the most so far:

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By Proverbial Daisies.

Hosting truffles

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Everyone always gives wine to the hosts. I wanted to try making a batch of truffles and giving those out instead. My best buddy at work Mirjana and I made plans one Friday to make these up and it was dead easy. Here’s the dairy free truffle recipe we used.  They were delicious.

untitled (2 of 5)I ended up using the truffles as teacher gifts as well. CUTE HUH? Recommendable holiday activity, this truffle making.