Herd of Cats Etsy Shop Update

I’ve been busy busy busy sewing up a storm in my makeshift sewing room (AKA the dining room). One of my goals this year was to work on building up the inventory in my Etsy shop, Herd of Cats, so I’ve added a number of new aprons, including a new design: the scallop hemmed apron. The scallop hem came about from a custom order I had at Christmas time – I liked the results so much that I decided to add a few to my Etsy shop. Although they are quite labor intensive, I think the results are adorable, fun, and unique.

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I have a number of other projects and prototypes coming along for the shop, and I’m sure I’ll share the results once they’re ready for the world to see, but in the meantime, feel free to browse my Etsy and spread the word!

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Aprons are for sale on my Etsy shop, Herd of Cats. Please contact me directly for international shipping and custom order inquiries.

Roasted Butternut Squash & Bacon Soup

I was having tea with a friend the other day and we got on the topic of food. This of course was not an usual topic of conversation for us – we both share a huge love of cooking and eating. Then she mentioned butternut squash soup and told me that the key to a really great squash soup is to roast all of the vegetables first. Roasting them enhances the flavor and makes an overall better soup.

I’d been on the lookout for a good squash soup recipe after a few failed attempts. I love squash and I love soup, but I’ve never really found a squash soup recipe that I’ve been crazy about. For the most part, squash soup is pretty bland and unremarkable. So after the squash soup chat with my friend, I figured I would come home and do some research and then come up with my own recipe, which would hopefully be good enough to share with you here. Luckily my experimenting paid off and I came up with a really delicious butternut squash soup.

My friend was right, the key was to roast the vegetables first. I decided to roast a whole butternut squash (mine was medium-sized), a whole sweet potato, 3 medium sized carrots, one whole yellow onion, two large cloves of garlic (I still have tons of garden grown garlic in storage), and one whole red pepper. Most recipes I found only called for a squash to be roasted, sometimes with an onion and some garlic, but I wanted a really flavorful soup, so I decided somewhere along the way to add the carrots, sweet potato, and red pepper. It was worth it. The other thing that really makes this recipe? Bacon. See below for the full recipe.


Roasted Butternut Squash & Bacon Soup

For roasting:
1 whole butternut squash, cut in to quarters (mine was medium sized, but use a whole squash in whatever size you can get)
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut in to 2 inch cubes
1 whole yellow onion, outer skin removed and cut in to quarters
3 medium or large carrots, peeled and cut in to 2 inch pieces
1 large whole red pepper, stem and seeds removed and cut in to quarters
2-3 large cloves of garlic, outer skin removed
Olive oil
Salt & pepper

For the soup pot:
– 3-4 slices of bacon
– 4 cups chicken broth
– 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
– 1/4 tsp nutmeg powder

For the garnish:
– 3-4 slices of cooked bacon
– Crumbled feta cheese
– Cracked black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Toss the prepared vegetables in a roasting pan with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast in the preheated oven for about 35-45 minutes, turning halfway through until all vegetables can easily be pierced with a fork. Set aside and let cool until the squash skins can be removed (you can remove the skins before you roast them, but I find it a pain in the ass to peel an uncooked squash, so I leave this step until after roasting).

While the vegetables are roasting, fry all of the 6-8 pieces of bacon in a cast iron skillet. Set aside on paper towels to drain.

In a pot on the stove top, bring the chicken broth, thyme, and nutmeg to a boil. Add in the roasted vegetables and use an immersion blender to puree the soup. Crumble in 1/2 the bacon and let the soup simmer for about 10 minutes.


Now your soup is ready! Ladle the soup in to bowls and finish it off by crumbling the remaining bacon on top, and then crumbling on some feta cheese and cracked black pepper. Enjoy!


Gardening Goals 2015

I’d actually started writing this post at the beginning of January, right after I’d talked about my overall 2015 goals. Then I sat on it and kept coming back to it, somehow unable to hit “publish”. I talked about how I had these huge plans to build more raised beds, build a pergola in the back yard, do a big overhaul of the front yard, etc. Then I realized what was keeping me from posting it – it was BS. I had all these big plans that I’ve had for years and somehow I thought I was going to be able to magically come up with A) the money to do them all and B) the time to do them all.

One of the difficult things about being a gardener is that sometimes you want it all now but you can’t. Being a gardener is a huge test of patience. I know that eventually my garden will be exactly what I want it to be, but I need to slow down. I need to do a little bit every year within my budget and time constraints. Sure, I could hire all the work out and pay for it with a credit card, but that would be stupid and irresponsible.

Anyway, how about I stop talking about what I can’t do and talk about what I can do this year! So, after I’d taken a realistic look at what can be accomplished in the garden this year, I came up with a few things that I think are reasonable.

1. Try new things. I always make a point to try growing at least one new thing each year. I’m not talking about varieties though – I’m growing a ridiculous amount of new tomatoes and peppers this year and I know they’ll probably do well because I have experience growing these things. I’m talking about plants that I’ve never grown before. This year I’ve decided on orach, shisho, cow peas, fava beans, and sorrel. I’ve heard that these are all fairly easy to grow so the real experiment will be to see how they do in my short season climate. Although I have attempted to grow watermelon before, it has not been successful. I thought I had given up last year, but I just impulse purchased some new watermelon seeds which are ideal for shorter climate growing season, so I’m going to give watermelons another chance in addition to all the news things I’m trying to grow.

2. Re-evaluate the deck space. Up until a few years ago, our back deck wasn’t utilized. Mostly because it wasn’t very safe, but also because it was tiny and lacked any privacy from the neighbors. When we decided to fix the deck up a bit, we wanted to expand it, but not make the yard look any smaller than it is. So we decided to keep the original deck as is (we did replace all of the top boards, front skirt, and also gave the frame a lot more support so it would last for a very long time), but added a ground level that was more than double the size of the top level. This way we wouldn’t need to get a building permit from the city and we wouldn’t need to add in any railings, keeping everything nice and open (although I think technically we are supposed to have railings on the top deck, but we’re lazy and just haven’t gotten to it yet). Anyway, the first year we had the deck I decided we should buy a larger patio table and chairs because I thought we’d be out there all the time and entertain frequently. But this hasn’t happened and I am not pleased with how we use that space – the patio furniture takes up way too much real estate, so I can’t even keep any planters on the deck. So my idea is to sell the current furniture and keep my eye out for a small metal bistro set. As well, I will use a good portion of the bottom deck for container gardening in pots. All those tomatoes need to go somewhere! And although this will cost a bit of money, the cost for a new bistro set and pots will be minimal.

The original idea was to spray paint these white chairs a bright color, but I think a small colorful bistro set would be a better use of the space so I’ll sell the larger set we have now.

3. Continue removing sod in the front yard. The back yard became sod-free 2 years ago. We took most of that sod and made it in to a mountain, which last year we turned in to Compost Land. And we had big plans to remove all of the sod from the front yard, but just didn’t get to it. Anyway, we’ll continue on with that goal this season and hopefully be sod-free or else as close to sod-free as we can be. Removing sod by hand is time consuming and labor intensive. Some people will argue to differ, but we like to try and save as much of the soil as we can, eliminating waste – so every time we pull out a chunk of sod, we like to hit it and shake it until most of the soil is back where it came from. Anyway, we’ve been slowly working on the front yard and would like for it eventually to be cedar mulch, perennials, and raised vegetable beds. I’m still unsure how the layout will work, but I won’t worry about it much until the sod is completely removed.

4. Utilize the growing space in the back alley. Now that we have the new giant raised bed in the alley, there is an opportunity to use is as a growing space for vegetables. It is going to be an experiment in trust (it is an alley, so sometimes people and animals help themselves to things), as well as an experiment with new conditions. The area is completely full sun and it gets hot in the late afternoon (I got my worst sunburn ever there last year when we built Compost Land). I want to try growing my pumpkins there, but I need to build some chicken wire protectors for the seedlings to prevent squirrels from messing with them, and I might need to put up some sort of climbing support system. We park back there, so I think the pumpkins would have a better chance of not getting damaged if they grow up rather than out. In addition to the large raised bed, I also have a smaller one against the back of my shed in the alley. I currently have raspberry bushes planted in there, which give us a few hand fulls of berries each year, but I think I may want to plant a few more bushes in that space, or else look at something additional I can plant there to fill in a few empty spaces.

I think I’ll leave it at that. Of course I have a million other projects that I’d love to accomplish in the garden, but I’m going to pull back the reins and leave those for another year. I feel good about focusing on removing sod, making the deck space more functional, growing a few new things, and experimenting in a new growing space. Do you have any big or small goals in your garden this year?

Knitters Gonna Knit

Alright, I haven’t talked about knitting for awhile. I’ve been really busy with garden planning, cooking, and sewing. But between all of that I’ve also been doing some knitting. Where do I find the time? Well, I cloned myself. Not really. I find the time in between all of those other things, in my downtime – usually in front of the TV. Give me a pair of knitting needles, some wool and a season of Dawson’s Creek, Gilmore Girls or Downton Abbey and I’m one happy camper!

I learned how to knit just over a year ago. I’d dabbled a little bit prior to that but it was self taught and I really didn’t know what I was doing. Also, any evidence of knitting before 2013 has been destroyed (it was so, so terrible). So I decided to take some lessons, which was one of the smartest things I could do. YouTube is also a great resource (I refer to it constantly for knitting refreshers), but I would still recommend taking classes from an expert knitter who can explain the basics and help you with your first projects. Every local yarn store offers beginner knitting classes and it is well worth the expense. Anyway to get back on topic, I thought I would share some current knitting projects and encourage all the people out there thinking of taking up knitting that you can do it too!


This one is just a sneak peak, but I’ve been working on this shrug for several months and it is going very slowly. The stitches are tiny (I’m using a sock weight yarn) and it takes forever to complete a row. I chose this project because I’d wanted to take on the challenge of knitting a sweater, but I also didn’t want to do anything too complicated. It also doesn’t hurt that the pattern was designed by my knitting instructor. I’m thinking I’ll be done this one by the end of the year?


I’m now on to my fourth pair of socks. I love knitting socks, they are probably one of my favorite things to knit. I was actually able to knit this sock in just a week! (I was on vacation). After this pair I am going to try a pattern that is a bit more intricate than the basic toe-up sock pattern that I’ve been using (this basic pattern is great for self-patterning yarn such as the one I’ve used here).


I started this cowl because I wanted a really easy and quick project to work on and I also wanted to use up some of the chunky yarn in my stash (I’m not allowed to buy any new yarn for awhile). I picked up the button on clearance (my favorite local sewing shop was closing its doors forever, sad face), and it really does add an element of character to a basic knit. I like these colorful cowls to wear with a neutral outfit of blacks and greys.


I finally just finished these fingerless gloves/wrist warmers about a month ago after working on them for several months. It wasn’t that they were difficult – they weren’t. I was just busy with gardening, then home stuff, then Christmas, so I didn’t pick them up until the end of December. The original pattern was altered a bit on the recommendation of my knitting instructor – I wanted to do the pattern magic loop style and she suggested that I cross-stitch the cats on afterwards. It was an excellent suggestion and I’m so pleased with the results. Also, cats. This project required quite a bit of different colored yarns which can be very expensive, and while I usually prefer to shop for yarn at my local yarn store, I ended up trying out Knit Picks palette yarn, which worked out to about $3/ball on sale. I did need to increase the number of cast-on stitches using this yarn to ensure a proper fit, but I’m really happy with the results and the quality of this yarn. I would highly recommend the palette yarn for projects like these that require many different colors.

I’m not even going to think about any new knitting projects for the next few months – I’m going to focus solely on my shrug and finishing up the sock twin (maybe start another pair of socks as a relief project from the shrug). Are you working on any knitting projects?

Happy Friday!

I was hoping to have a few posts together this week about my seed starting, as well as some other fun projects I’ve been doing. But last week we flew off to sunny California and then came right back to busy work weeks, as well as a bit of sickness. So alas, no fun gardening posts. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t had gardening on the brain. In fact, seeing all the beautiful landscapes and citrus orchards in California only made me more excited for the upcoming season.

Next week I’ll be back in full swing to share my seed starting operation, as well as talk a bit about knitting.

Have a wonderful weekend and a wonderful long weekend if you’re Albertan!