Drum roll...

No, I'm not switching jobs, or having another baby (yet), or moving to Portland.

My big announcement is the start of my new project: Purple Workbench.

I've had so much fun blabbing about anything and everything on "done well" over the last 4 and a half years, but it's time to refocus.

I've always had hopes that my creative life would one day take center stage, and although I'm still not there yet, I think Purple Workbench is a step in the right direction.

So mosey on over.


It's still in its early stages. My logo isn't up. I haven't even started my facebook account. But I *have* broken into the world of Twitter! Don't get too excited. I still don't know how to tweet.

Please visit me in my new home! It's going to be slow and steady, but hopefully just as exciting and maybe a great way to spend creative time with you in person!


The end of an era

Excitement and sadness consumes me as I write this post.

I have yet to decide if it will be my last, or my second-last.

Don't worry, I'm not going far. But this is the end of the road for this blog.

I've read that you should write blogs assuming no one will read them (no one besides your mom). But now and then I need to thank you for actually reading my ramblings. It's motivating to know you're out there.

I will make a final announcement here on June 1st to tell you all about my new project, but today, I just want to reminisce on everything "done well"and leave you with some parting words.

1. Donate blood!

Remember when I started this blog? My grandma had passed away, and I wanted to encourage people to donate blood. Some people still let me know when they last donated, or that they have an appointment coming up. Dustin actually received his "25" pin last week. 25 donations! Thanks to all those blood donors out there! I'm still hopeful that they change the rules and let me donate one day. The offer still stands if you need someone to hold your hand or to bake you a cookie reward. Or a coocookiekie. Just let me know.

2. Make something!

My discovery of the workroom, a cute fabric shop and sewing studio in Toronto, kickstarted my love for sewing. "Make Something" is the motto there, and I couldn't agree more. You can do it. Try the birdie sling bag. Or a Christmas ornament. Or a baby bib (complete with tutorial!).

Birdie Sling Bag
3. Quilting is for the young and hip.

Modern quilting is an actual thing. Patterns are easier. Fabrics are way cooler. You meet amazing people. I took classes at the workroom for the sampler quilt, and the Houses! paper piecing quilt. But there are endless resources online. Like the Houndstooth pattern, or how to free-motion quilt.

Houndstooth Baby Quilt
Hunger Games Quilt
4. Eat locally: CSA boxes, home gardens, or neighbourhood restaurants.

Not only does local food generally taste better (not always: my mom once told me that she spent $6 on a pint of local Ontario strawberries that were terrible; I guess you can't always win), but you are also supporting your local community and province.

If you live in a somewhat major city, you likely have the option of a CSA (Community Shared/Supported Agriculture) program where a box of local produce is delivered to your door, or available for pickup. It's pretty fun. You learn to eat weird, new foods, or begin a quest to find out how to love beets.

Our food box from The Culinarium

I live in a typical Toronto townhouse with no backyard and minimal sun-exposure. But I managed to maintain a pretty decent vegetable (I guess tomatoes are fruit...) garden! Tomatoes, snap peas, cucumbers, kohlrabi, beets, even strawberries were all quite successful growing in pots on our back balcony. Nothing beats walking out there and munching on fresh snap peas that still taste hot from the spring sun.

Fresh snap peas
If you're the "go out to eat" type, then make sure you go check out your local restaurants. Forget the chain restaurants. Pick places that focus on local and seasonal items, or smaller local businesses that make your city special.

Duck poutine pizza from Bannock
MTK Burger from Mildred's Temple Kitchen
5. Share and inspire.

I find myself often explaining how I find time to do "all this stuff". You'd be amazed at how much you accomplish if you just start keeping track.

Start your own blog. Here is a fantastic article with tips about blogging. The author, a hero of mine, mentions that it changed her life. I think I can honestly say that it has probably changed mine as well.

When you share, you inspire. When you're inspired, you share more.  Here are some of my fave inspirational blogs: Make Something, Mothers Daughters, Orangette, Oh, Fransson!, Dirty Kitchen, Joy the Baker, I made that, ... the list goes on. (See my blogroll to the side.)

This concludes my parting words. I hope you'll stick around for my next project.

It's been an absolute pleasure sharing my first blog with you. We've done well.

Here marks the end of an era.


Envelope t-shirts

At first glance, this blog implies that I have been quite successful in keeping up with my crafty and foody hobbies. But if you look closely at the dates of the posts, and look even closer at the dates of the pictures from the posts, you will see that I binge-sew and binge-cook.

The cycle usually begins with a mild depression. Pregnancy and then early motherhood (and then regular being-a-girl) has been a rollercoaster ride of crazy emotions for me. I always tell people (and by "people", I mean Dustin) that what makes me crazy is also what makes me awesome. Boringly sane people are rarely awesome.

My mild depression usually ends in sobs of how I miss doing things for myself. So I cry it out, decide to make time for me, binge out on me-time, and then feel ready to rock it out with Lily again. Until the next depression hits, then we rinse and repeat.

But during the me-time, I get lots of great blog-worthy stuff done, and most importantly, I catch up on many of the things I've been wanting to do.

My dear friend Emily has taken wonderfully to motherhood and she has also been able to keep up with so many of her passions. Her blog leaves me in awe.  She always remembers my birthday, and even shopped for Lily this Christmas. I was determined to return the thoughtfulness by sewing something nice for her darling baby Lucas.

I've had my eye on Dana's 90 minute shirt tutorial for a while now. I find the envelope-style neckline makes it so much easier to get over big baby heads. In early January, I made my first attempt and used one of Dustin's old orange tshirts. I think I got lucky and the tshirt was almost perfect.

I just needed a couple changes to neckline, a little more room in the torso, and I was ready to make one for Lucas!

Wrong. Attempt #2 left me with a neck that was too big, armholes that didn't match up, and an express ticket back to devoting my time to Lily and muttering mean words to my sewing machine.

I slowly worked on a 3rd revision, which quickly led to a 4th. I finally went back to Dana's tutorial and restarted a new pattern from scratch.

The final pattern is definitely for a bigger baby; I'd guess it's in the 12-18 month range, but at least it wasn't too small. And I'm not ready to make a smaller size yet. Lucas will just have to cuff up his sleeves for a while.

I finished off Lucas' tshirt with an 'L' and then continued on my streak and sewed another one for Lily.

Usually when making gifts for friends, I wait until I give them the gift before blogging about it. I thought it would be neat doing it the other way around this time. I had already told Emily of my plan to sew Lucas the shirt and that I was have "trouble". So it's no surprise a tshirt is on its way. Now we can look forward to our next playdate where we may force the kids to wear their shirts so we can take pictures and be "those" moms. Maybe we can get them to hold hands...


White snow, brown butter

What a winter! Growing up in Ottawa really teaches you to embrace the snow in Toronto. This snow has not slowed us down at all; Lily and I are as adventurous as ever with the outdoors.

During our winter promenades, we have witnessed some odd behaviour in our Toronto neighbours. I think they need a crash course in snowy winters.

Brushing the snow off ones vehicle is apparently limited to the windshield and the side windows. I see ridiculous cars with piles of snow on their hood and roof; perhaps they enjoy leaving a cloud of white behind them? Like a cartoon?

There are several neighbours that insist on using a broom to clear their walkways and driveways. Not the heavy duty brooms you might see a janitor use; the brooms you see witches ride. in movies. kid movies.

Even when I see a proper shovel being used, most of the time the snow is being shovelled directly onto the street. Yesterday, I wanted to tell a man that if he was going to shovel onto the road (which he shouldn't, but that's besides the point), he should at least shovel to his right and not his left. Everyone in Ottawa knows that the plow is just going to push it right back onto your driveway in the form of solid, icy, igloo chunks.

But it all just adds to the entertainment this snowy weather brings.

Lily is really loving this weather. When she isn't outside enjoying the brisk, fresh air, she stares longingly out the window.

For those who don't share Lily's enthusiasm of the cold outdoors, my suggestion to you is to go and brown some butter. That's right. Melt better in a pot, then keep warming until it gets golden brown and fragrantly caramelly and nutty.

My sister in law baked us up some delicious brown butter and sea salt chocolate chip cookies a few weeks back. They were so delicious I decided to try one of Joy's recipes from her new cookbook that I got for Christmas.

The cookbook is pretty great. Her blog is fantastic, but sometimes you just want to flip through a physical book. I have dog eared several recipes and this browned butter blueberry muffin recipe shot to the top of the list.

Look at that golden-brown butter. Delish.

As usual, I mixed it up a bit. I substituted 1/2 cup of all purpose flour with 1/4 cup of whole wheat flour and 1/4 cup of quick cook oats. I also used frozen blueberries. In her book, she recommends that if using frozen blueberries, you should thaw and drain the liquid. Who has time for that? I threw it in frozen and it turned out great (I never seem to mind the purple hue that engulfs the muffin when using frozen berries). I realize that fresh blueberries work best, but in the middle of winter, I prefer frozen Canadian blueberries (PC has a great product) over berries picked and flown in from Chile.

I also opted to skip the streusel topping, much to my husband's disappointment, but purely out of laziness, not concern for the size of my waist/hips/bottom/cheeks. Next time, I promise him some sugary, crumbly topping.

The muffins are quite magical -- even with my substitutions and instruction disobedience. The inside is light and fluffy, the outside crisp. And standing over the stove, browning the butter will warm any cold hands and windburned face. Promise.


Ma! The meatloaf!

Lily is a pretty good eater, and it's amazing how much she consumes. It took me some time to figure out some good homemade food that she enjoys. For a while, I just couldn't figure out why she preferred the jarred green beans to homemade green beans. I borrowed books from the library, scoured the internet for recipes, and asked all of my friends what foods worked for their babies. I've been so consumed by making food for Lily that I have been neglecting my own meals. We've been getting by on throw-together meals that are still satisfying, but not very adventurous or blog-worthy.

Until now.

We made a quick stop at Costco on the weekend to pick up some essentials -- at least that was our intention. Why is it that a trip to Costco always ends up in $200 worth of random stuff? This time, included in the plethora of random stuff was Ina Garten's new cookbook: Barfoot Contessa Foolproof.

You likely already know about my crush on Ina Garten. I was in awe and deeply envious of Joy Wilson (from Joy the Baker) and her cookie swap hosted by Ina herself. My favourite go-to cookbook is Barefoot Contessa at Home and not just because it's the pink one. It was as if Ina knew I was in a culinary funk and needed a little inspiration. Her new "foolproof" cookbook looks great. I've already dog-eared several recipes to try, including marinated artichoke hearts, lamb shanks with orzo, amelia's jambalaya, and chocolate chunk blondies.

My brother's birthday was this week, so I used this as my opportunity to debut a recipe from the book. Inspired by my brother's love for meat and ketchup, I bring you: 1770 House Meatloaf.

It was fantastic, but I must confess to my abundant ingredient substitutions... I nixed the chives and parsley and stuck to thyme, no panko breadcrumbs so just the regular variety, skim milk instead of whole, fennel instead of celery, and rather than the garlic sauce that is supposed to be what takes this recipe to a whole new level, I made a mushroom onion gravy.

I have a problem following recipes. I need help. I definitely plan to try the garlic gravy next time.

Nevertheless, the meatloaf turned out delicious. My brother even told me it didn't need ketchup, but proceded to add copious amounts to his plate anyway. Lily approved as well! I love when we make food that Lily can also enjoy.  She is a demanding girl, making noises, gestures, and faces to make you understand that she wants the meatloaf NOW. "Ma! The meatloaf!"


Puppy safety

I just witnessed a really awful accident involving a neighbourhood dog named Hannah. I'm still a little shaken. I watched the dog run into the street (she had a leash on, so I imagine she got away from her owner) and collide badly with an oncoming car.

I regret the words I shouted to the driver of the car. She obviously couldn't have done anything differently and yelling to her that she just hit a dog was probably the worst thing I could have done. Stupid me. Foot in my mouth again.

Everyone was shocked; Hannah's owner was devastated. I jumped into crisis mode and managed to get a vet from our nearby animal hospital (Westside Animal Hospital) to walk to us and she took it from there.

They were in the process of getting someone to drive Hannah to the emergency clinic when I left. Both Lily and Mackenzie were so patient through the entire process. I had quite an upsetting walk home.

It would be an understatement to say that Mackenzie has taken a bit of a backseat in our lives since we had Lily. I get annoyed with having a dog around. Mackenzie gets in the way, she leaves hair everywhere for Lily to grab and eat, she makes me pick up her poop when I've got Lily in the baby carrier.

But she's still our girl, too. I love her as much as ever. Today's events reminded me how she is equally important in our family, and just as we baby proofed our house for Lily, we have to keep our leash on Mackenzie when we're out on the street. Forget the squirrel chasing: safety first.

My thoughts go out to beautiful Hannah and her family. A big shout out to Westside Animal Hospital for taking the time to walk to us and take Hannah to emerg.

circa 2007. Our first year with Mackenzie

After a trip to Ottawa filled with squirrel chases
Kisses for Lily

Play safe with all your loved ones!


Baby mittens

Autumn is my absolute favourite season. This year in particular because I get to enjoy it with Lily. I think it's safe to say that Lily is in love with the outdoors. She craves the fresh air, the buzz of traffic, the kids running around the park. We would go on 2, 3, 4 walks a day sometimes -- even during this past sauna of a summer. Thank goodness for the crisp weather change.

Along with this cooler weather is a need for some warmer gear. I haven't been able to sew much for Lily; mostly because there hasn't been the need since we got so many great hand-me-downs from friends and family. But with our numerous walks a day, rain or shine, Lily was in need of some mittens. Her cute little fingers were icicles by the end of our walks.

I pulled out some flannel from my stash, grabbed some ribbing material that never turned into a cardigan for myself, and after two attempts (with some guidance from this tutorial), Lily hands now stay warm in a cute little pair of infant mittens! I made sure to make the ribbed cuff extra long so they stay on better.

Raise your hand if you love them.


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