Friday, February 24, 2012

Veggie cooking anxiety

Am I the only person in the world who gets anxious when they have to make dinner for a vegetarian?
I invited a friend over for a girl's wine and dinner night the other day and received this back, "I don't drink, but I won't say no to food - just as a warning, I don't eat meat. Picky guest." Now, this shouldn't be a big deal, but I already had a menu in mind and already had the ingredients and I don't really excel in the kitchen, so yeah, anxiety.
I mean, I can handle taking meat out of meal, but I figured if my meal was mediocre, at least the wine would be good. But no, that wasn't an option. So I had to make a good dinner.
Enter anxious Nicole searching the internet for scrumptious veggie meals.
So anyway, I ended up making sweet potato, kidney bean burritos instead of sweet potato shepard's pie, and I filled my fridge with a variety of flavours of pop, instead of wine.
At that point, I should have felt fine, but  when I arrived home after work, I was a bit of a basket case running around the kitchen like a nut, while attempting to cook and talk on Skype with my friend Katherine back in Yellowknife. (I wonder if she noticed my crazy state of mind.) Let's just say, I ended up drinking a beer before my guest arrived, just to calm my frazzled nerves. 
But, in the end, the result was actually a lovely evening. And I have to admit my dinner turned out pretty well. I changed the original recipe a bit to add more veggies, so instead of providing the link, I figure I'll give you my version, just in case you have a vegetarian friend coming over for dinner this weekend and you want an anxiety-free meal to make.

(P.S. Sorry there aren't any pictures. I just ate the last one while writing this. I just couldn't resist.)

You will need:

mashed sweet potatoes (I made mine with a little bit of red pepper flavoured cream cheese)
kidney beans
minced garlic
chopped onion
chopped green pepper
corn (canned)
sliced mushrooms
shredded cheese
chili powder
soya sauce
salt and pepper
1/3 cup water


1. To mash sweet potato, I usually cut it into cubes and then microwave it until it's soft enough to mash with a fork. Then I add a tablespoon or two of cream cheese, depending how much potato there is.

2. Next, put a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan and add the onion, garlic, green pepper and mushrooms. Once those are soft, add the mash, beans, and corn, along with 1/3 cup of water.

3. Mix well and then remove from heat, add the spices and continue to mix.

4. Put the mash mixture into the centre of a wrap, sprinkle with cheese, roll and then put on a baking sheet and bake them for 12 minutes at 350 degrees.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Dinner with an Olympian

So on Monday night I had dinner with Adam Kreek. The same Adam Kreek who, along with his team, won a gold medal in rowing at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Now if his medal isn't cool enough, this guy is now training to row across the Atlantic Ocean. You heard me right, the Atlantic Ocean!
He and three other guys are going to spend two months on their boat traveling to Venezuela from Liberia to raise money for an organization called Right to Play. While on the boat, they're also going to be conducting research for numerous universities. Awesome right?

I think it's awesome. That is until I start to think about my own life. Do you have any idea what it's like to sit down to dinner with an Olympian who's about to row across an ocean? It's cool. And then you go home and you start analyzing your own life. You start thinking, what the hell am I doing? I live in this beautiful place, I write for a paper, I write a blog and I have an Etsy store. What else do I have? What am I doing for society? Why don't I have dedication like he does? Why don't I have a gold medal? Why didn't I pick up rowing? Dammit.

So after we had dinner -- which wasn't a date, by the way, and if it was, I had three chaperones -- and after I went home and felt like a bag of crap for not doing more with my life, I got to hear Adam give a motivational talk. That's why he was in Jasper. The Rotary Club asked him to come to town and inspire us.

Part of his spiel was about focusing on the things you can control and ignoring everything else. So, I figure it's worth a try, I mean the advice did come out of an Olympian's mouth after all.
So anyway, my new goal is to stop complaining about the things I can't control. Instead, I'm going to come up with solutions and take positive, productive steps to improving the things I can control. For instance, I'm going to stop saying I don't have time to learn to sew and I'm just going to do it. I'm also going to start working on my book again (P.S. I started a book last summer) and I'm also going to make a concerted effort to exercise more. I mean, I live in Jasper, it's really the perfect place to get outside for a run, hike or walk in the wilderness. There's just no excuse not to do it.

So anyway, thanks Adam for making me feel like crap and then motivating me to do something about it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Right place, right time

Today I found out I won a photography award from the Alberta Weekly Newspaper Association. To tell you the truth, I didn't even know my photo had been submitted, so when my current publisher said she saw my name on the list, I was in disbelief.

I took this photo last year in Yellowknife while walking to a city council meeting. I had just left the office when I saw a block away there were a number of emergency vehicles. So rather than walking my usual route up Range Street, I took a detour to check it out. What I found there, on the corner of 49 Street and 51 Avenue, was a woman being strapped to a spine board, while another woman sat on the curb crying. About 20 feet away, there was a cab, a cab driver and a police officer. The officer was photographing the front of the taxi. What I found out later was that the cab struck the two women while they were crossing the street in a marked crosswalk. I also heard, although it was never confirmed, that the older woman, on the board, had insisted to her daughter, on the curb, that they walk in the marked crosswalk rather than J-walking like their friend who was with them.
If you're interested in reading the story that accompanied the photo, here it is.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The belle of the ball

Ian was the belle of the ball at the Mardi Gras party on Saturday night. He and I each created our own masks for the event and his definitely reigned supreme, catching comments, stares and strokes from everyone, including the evening's entertainers, Terri Stevens and Justyne Time of the Edmonton drag group Guys in Disguise.

In the photos below, Terri Stevens is Reba and Justyne Time is Mary Poppins. But, it's important to note, those weren't their only roles that night. The endlessly entertaining and hilarious performers came out as all the divas, including Lady Gaga, Whitney Houston, Marylin Monroe, Barbara Streisand and even Julie Andrews singing I Could Have Danced All Night, with a twist. (Let's just say she wasn't dancing all night!)
The event, which was part of Jasper Pride Weekend, was phenomenal. There were about 250 people in attendance, many of whom came in from Edmonton and other parts of the province just to take part. The energy in the room was so positive and enthusiastic (especially as Mary Poppins sang A Spoon Full of Sugar while pouring butter ripple schnapps into plastic spoons). Everyone who attended was definitely there to have a good time.

All in all, it was an awesome event.

For those of you wondering how I finally decided to fastening my mask, I cut a stretchy headband and sewed each end to the foam. To keep the mask from being flush with my face, I sewed the band about an inch and a half from the edge of the mask. To see how I made the mask, see my earlier post.

Anyway, to end off, here are a few more photos from the party.


P.S. I took all of the photos in this post, except the one of me. Yay! for learning how to use my camera and for having Ian around to teach me... and for having Ian around so I can use his equipment... and also for working on one of my goals for 2012. I have definitely come a long way since my days in Yellowknife. No more turds for this girl!

Friday, February 10, 2012

My cozy mug

I have seen crocheted and knitted mug sleeves all over Pinterest, Craftgawker and Etsy lately and they are the cutest! So I decided it was time to sit down and make my own for my favourite mug.
I used multi-coloured wool and two kinds of crochet stitch to give it more visual interest. Don't ask me what the two stitches are called because I don't know and when I looked up Stitches for Dummies, I got confused. Basically I was taught to crochet by an old lady I met while camping when I was five or six years old and since then, I have just made things up and I usually stick to projects that just require a straight line, like scarves and now mug cozies.
Once I reached the desired size, I did one extra line with 20 chain stitches in the middle to act as my fastener. I also chose a complimentary button and sewed it on the opposite side using a piece of wool.
Then, I put it on my mug and voila! I have a cozy mug in a mug cozy.

With that complete, now I'm working on my second infinity scarf. I'm changing my stitch and wool this time with the hope of making it super thick and cozy.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Feathers and sequins, oh my!

This weekend is Jasper Pride Weekend, which means there is going to be an amazing Mardi Gras party on Saturday night, complete with beads, masks, costumes and, of course, a drag show.
I'll be there volunteering with OUT Jasper, taking photos for work and enjoying the festivities, along with a few delicious beverages.
So, as you can probably tell, I'm super pumped. And because I'm super pumped, today I got crafting.

Guess what I made!? You got it, an amazing feather and sequin mask.

To make this beauty, I first took a scrap piece of paper and drew one side of the mask. Then I folded the paper in half and cut out the second side, ensuring they would be a mirror image of each other. Then, I pinned the paper to a sheet of craft foam and cut around it. To get the shape of the eye holes, I traced a large button and then drew the pointed edges and then cut them out, as well.
 From there, there was just a lot of hot glue and feathers flying around until I got even coverage. Then I turned to the sequins, which there would have been more of if it wasn't such a miserable task to glue them on.

The large purple feather was from New Year's Eve. My friend Andrea made it for me to wear to a 1920s party. I attached it to the mask by weaving the hard end of the feather through the foam. That way it's not attached, so I can continue to reuse it.

I haven't figured out how to attach it to my head yet. I know I could just use a ribbon, but I want the edges to stick out from my face, rather than conforming to it. I have some time to try different fastening methods before Saturday night, so I'm sure I'll figure it out.

Happy Mardi Gras!

Monday, February 6, 2012

And the winner is...

Michelle from Garden Rookie won my special Pickled Yarn hair clip, pictured below. Congrats Michelle, and thanks to everyone else who entered. If you want your own hair clip, you know where to go!

In other news, I've branched out from hair clips into the world of baby headbands.

The headbands were inspired by my lovely friend Jessica, who requested I make her some for her daughter Allison, pictured on the left.

After seeing how cute they look on, I decided I had to make more. So this week, I'll be listing about half a dozen new ones, that way other little ladies like Allison can accessorize with Pickled Yarn.

I'm really loving multi-coloured flowers right now, so expect to see a lot of them in the future as I list more accessories in my shop.

I've also started making ladies headbands with oversized flowers, so keep your eyes open for those.
There will be a headband giveaway in the near future on my girlfriend's blog, Merry Alana. So, if you didn't win this time, be sure to try your luck again.

Here's a sneak peak at the headbands:

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Angry birds, stupid people

Remember when Ian was attacked by a great horned owl last July?
You don't? Let me refresh your memory. Right before I went to Rankin Inlet last summer, Ian and I went out to an abandoned mine in Yellowknife to take photos of the old machinery. When we arrived, we saw an owl sitting atop a tall tree. It was hooting and circling around. We thought it was vocally telling the ravens, who were diving bombing her, to go to hell, but it turned out she was angry with us. She showed us that by picking an opportune moment to swoop down and smack Ian in the back of the head. Luckily, it was only a warning shot. Ian had three small cuts behind and in his ear, but no major damage was done. Had the owl wanted to, it could have seriously injured Ian with her talons.
We found out afterward that there was a nest high in the rafters of the old mine structure. When Ian was hit, we were looking up toward the nest, contemplating whether to climb the stairs. I guess the owl didn't want that, so she knocked that idea right out of Ian's head.
Anyway, yesterday, I was reading a paper that covers the Robson Valley (the Valemount, McBride and Dunster area), and on the front page of their website is a picture of a great horned owl. So, of course, I clicked the link and it took me to a story about three people being attacked, one after the other.
Now clearly, the owl had a nest nearby that it felt was threatened by the presence of these people. But instead of moving out of the area and letting it be, someone shot it.
To me, and to Ian who has great respect for owls (especially since his own incident), that seems totally ludicrous. The owl was only protecting its nest. It wouldn't attack for no reason.
In the story, it says that it's rare for owls to attack humans. This is probably true. But there are many known cases where they have attacked people, and in those cases, it's out of a maternal instinct to protect their young. No animal should die for that. No one was seriously hurt in the incident and people just kept coming out into the area where the owl was swooping around. It wasn't the bird's fault. It was the people's stupidity that resulted in the owl's death.

Friday, February 3, 2012

DIY: Cardigan revamp and infinity scarf

It feels like this post has been forever coming. I have had the good intention to write it all week, but some how I've been too busy to just sit my butt down and do it. But I'm here now and I have 20 minutes to kill, so here it goes.

I have been a busy little DIYer the last little while, so I figure it's time I show you a couple of the easy projects I've been working on.

So this was the simplest project of all time.  Basically I bought this cardigan at Value Village for a couple bucks. It was missing a two buttons and another was falling off, so I just replaced them with colourful ones to give it a little more personality. Now that I look at it in the pictures, I think I'll replace the top one with another colourful button. You might also notice my deer pin. It was one of my Christmas presents from my sister this year. She made it and I love it!

Now onto my infinity scarf. I finished it a couple of weeks ago now and have had quite a bit of wear out of it already. Because I didn't have much of the wool, I decided to make it longer rather than thicker. That means it can wrap around three times, which I kind of like.

Like I said in an earlier post, infinity scarves are incredibly easy. Basically you just crochet a chain as long as you want the scarf to be and then build on it until it's as thick as you want and then you attach the two ends by either crocheting them together with wool or sewing them together with wool.

This one took me about two evenings to complete. Not bad, eh?

Just a friendly reminder that my giveaway ends on Sunday, so if you want your very own Pickled Yarn hair clip free of charge, you should head over to my last post and leave a comment with your email address.