Sick Day

I dislike being sick; I dislike (sort of) taking days off work because I’m sick. However, this cold is lingering and today, I woke up with a bit of an earache and a bit of a fever. I’m hoping it isn’t an infection, whether ear or sinus. That would really suck. That said, it’s definitely a stay at home and look after myself day.

This past weekend, Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada, was spent looking after everyone else. Saturday was spent finalizing the menu and making as much ahead of time as I could. In this case, that was a batch of Smokey Pumpkin Soup (a recipe that came from my sister, Grace), two pies (a gluten free Dutch Apple Pie and a gluten free Pumpkin Pie… an afterthought), and mashed potatoes, in addition to getting the chicken into a brining solution. I think that’s it. Oh… also a batch of slow cooker stuffing (dressing). By Sunday morning, all that was left to do were the vegetables and the chicken.

After making the soup, I had a full quart of puree left so I decided to bake a pumpkin pie. I’ve never made Pumpkin Pie. I remember my mother made it once and no one liked it. I’m pretty sure the filling was out of a can so that may have had something to do with it. It may have been the texture. After all, I’m definitely not a custard person and, basically, the filling is nothing more than a baked custard. It wasn’t bad, not something I’d swoon over but not bad. With the remaining cup or so, I made a batch of Pumpkin muffins, which really turned out well.

DSCN1302 The Sweet Dumpling Squashes will be dinner another day; I’m still exploring recipes. If you know a good way of doing them, let me know! For now, they’re part of my table/Thanksgiving decor (a fancy word for centerpiece, in this case.

We decided to have our dinner on Sunday, the day before Thanksgiving, because Kristen had to work on Monday. The company she works also has outlets in the US and someone needs to be in the local office on days when we have holidays but they don’t. I didn’t mind as that gave me  Monday to “destress”. So, what do I do to destress? Yup, did more cooking.

The leftover Brussels sprouts (for once, they didn’t all get eaten) were turned into Brussels Sprouts Gratin…. delicious! Basically, it’s just the sprouts with heavy cream, cheese, and a panko topping. What’s NOT to like, right? They tasted much better than plain old reheated Brussels Sprouts.

Some of the leftover mashed potatoes (to which I added half a head of cauliflower that really needed to be used up) went into a batch of potato bread. The chicken carcass was transformed into a delicious chicken noodle soup with dumplings, my new favourite comfort food. I was in bed by 8:30 p.m.

Maybe I overdid it a bit but, I must say, everything turned out extremely well. We had a wonderful dinner, with good company (Kristen and the kids) and no one went to bed hungry. DSCN1306

Categories: Baking, Blogging, bread, Cooking, Health, Holidays, Kitchen, Thanksgiving | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Odds & Ends

It’s Saturday again. Why does it feel that the weekdays crawl by but the weekends fly? It isn’t just me, is it? Anyway, today is a day of odds and ends.

First, over the course of the last two weeks, John’s had cataract surgery on both eyes. His eyesight had been diminishing rapidly and his ophthalmologist decided it was time. The first eye was done October 25 and seemed to go well but, with only his regular glasses, his eyes had to work pretty hard and he was often uncomfortable – tired and headachy. Not unexpected. This past Thursday, the second eye was done. Now, he has to get used to seeing the world in a whole new way and it’s shaken him up a bit. He will still need glasses for distance but he can see very well (perhaps too well) close up. He’s suddenly seeing all the dust and grime that, unfortunately, has built up around here.  Hmmm… with his time at work (gardening) coming to an end for this season, perhaps that’s not a bad thing??


Last weekend, we decided to have roast beef for Sunday dinner. Normally, when we have a roast beef dinner, one of our staple sides is, of course, Yorkshire puddings. However, recognizing that Kristen is gluten intolerant, I wanted to try something different. I’d also picked up a beautiful head of cauliflower on my trip to the market. I went hunting on Pinterest and found what looked like an interesting recipe… for cauliflower cake. The recipe incorporated one whole head of cauliflower and three eggs.

The recipe is one from Yotam Ottolenghi, an Israeli born British chef and I can heartily recommend it. John has been talking about that cake all week! Leftovers warm up beautifully and, with a bit of gravy, you’ll never miss the Yorkshire puddings.

It does call for one cup of flour but I substituted a cup of gf flour and it worked just fine.


The photo is not mine; it comes from the blog I found through Pinterest. Mine looked very similar though (I thought I had taken a picture of it; I didn’t). The recipe can be found on Ciao Chow Bambina‘s lovely blog.

This past week was also a week of surprises in the mail. I came home from work Tuesday to find two small packages on my computer desk. It isn’t that I wasn’t expecting anything, I was. I was involved in a soap swap on Ravelry so I knew there would be a couple of packets coming. My son had also let me know that a couple of bottles of essential oils were coming my way by mail so I knew there were parcels on the way. It’s still a nice little surprise to walk in the back door and see parcels waiting for me. Another parcel was waiting for me when I got home on Thursday!


This one was the first to arrive, from a Ravelry friend in Pennsylvania. The white flower bar of soap is a brine soap; the bar is a citrus soap; both have been aged for more than a year and, so, should be really good soaps. I’ll put them into rotation once the current bars in use are finished.


The second parcel came to me from Michigan and included some Peeps chocolates. John had never heard of Peeps before; I had but I wasn’t aware that Peeps also made chocolates. I’ve had to hide the chocolates as there’s a chocoholic in our house… and it isn’t me. The bar at the left is scented with Honey & Leather and the bar on the right is made with powdered peanut butter and Peanut Stout scented.

It’s always nice to try someone else’s hand made soaps and I’m very much looking forward to trying all of these.

There, I’ve rambled on long enough. I could go on and tell you what’s on my needles (yes, there has been knitting) but I’ll leave that for another day.

Categories: Baking, Health, Just stuff, Knitting, Making Soap, Soap | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Further Adventures in Fermentation

So, a couple of posts ago, I told you about my first forays into the art of fermentation. Let’s see, I’ve made sauerkraut (not bad), pickles (nobody likes them… I’ve disposed of them), picked beans (um… also not a major success), pickled cauliflower (won’t ANYBODY try them??), water kefir, and kombucha.

Notice that those last two have no comments? Well, that’s because the kombucha has been going strong. I had one batch that went very wrong (smelled suspiciously like a sewage tank.. not very palatable) and started fresh. I was able to purchase a scoby (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast… look it up but be prepared – it looks like slime… see below) as well as starting another one from a bottle of purchased unflavoured and raw kombucha. A few months in, my kombucha is pretty darned tasty, if I do say so myself.


The beginnings of a new scoby on the surface of a batch of kombucha. The larger blob is the original scoby, used to ferment this batch.

If you’re not familiar with kombucha, it’s a fermented beverage made with tea, sugar, and a scoby, a bacteria/yeast culture that feeds on the sugar and the caffeine in the tea. When the process is complete (or to one’s satisfaction), the resulting beverage is kind of tangy/sour/sweet and slightly fizzy. Flavourings like juice, berries, herbs, syrups, etc. can be added in a second ferment in a sealed bottle and the resulting drink can become quite fizzy. The batch I bottled earlier today (pictured below) is seasoned with blackberries and lavender and is one of my favourite combos.


It’s a drink that has been around for a long time (possible thousands of years) and there are many reported, but largely unproven, health benefits. For myself, I can say that some developing hip pains have pretty much gone. Is is from the kombucha? I don’t know. Thing is, I like this stuff. It’s easy to make. It tastes good. I’m drinking something that’s filled with probiotics and that can’t be bad for my body.

The water kefir, on the other hand, seemed to be going very well. Unfortunately, it was so sickly sweet that I was concerned that it wasn’t fermenting properly. I threw it all out. I do, however, have a couple of bottles that turned out so well that I’m tempted to try again. Tempted. I haven’t broken down yet and purchased more water kefir grains. I have a bar fridge filled with kombucha that will need to be consumed before I seriously consider it.

As for other fermented foods? I like the idea of fermentation but, around here, if no one’s going to like or eat them, why make them?

Categories: Blogging, Fermentation, Health, Just stuff, kefir, kombucha, No Knitting, water kefir | 1 Comment

Welcome to 2016

Ah, a new year and all the promises of a fresh start. Yeah, who am I kidding? There are, however, one or two things I would like to start doing. The first sounds rather disgusting but it won’t hurt and, if it helps, that would be awesome.

The internet is, of course, home to all the medical cures known to man. And we know that everything we read on the internet is absolutely true. Right? Well, some things do make some sense. I read an article about gelatin, plain gelatin not the sugar-laden flavoured stuff that comes in a box. The article explains where gelatin comes from and the health benefits thereof, which include reduction of joint pain in aging bodies… like the one I happen to inhabit.

Both John and I are experiencing more than our fair share of aches and pains these days so I thought we’d give it a try. Or I’ll give it a try. The article suggests using 2 tsp. of unflavoured gelatin dissolved in 1/4 cup of water, every day for one month, to be repeated every six months. It’s gelatin. I like Jello; I don’t want all the sugar and artificial flavours. What have I got to lose? I’ll try it; if it works, I’ll get John to try it. If it doesn’t, I’ve lost nothing but some unflavoured gelatin (which I buy in bulk at my local bulk food store).

The second thing we need to start doing is eating better. Too often, we get home from work with nothing planned for dinner. Often, neither of us feels like cooking so we end up eating bacon and eggs for dinner. Again. Both of us are feeling the effects of not eating properly, even though we both usually enjoy cooking… and eating.

With all of the post-Christmas sales happening, I decided it was time to break down and purchase a crock pot, something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. I drove out to Canadian Tire yesterday and picked up a 4 quart Crockpot for $29.99. All morning, I’ve been scouring Pinterest for interesting, appealing, crock pot/slow cooker recipes and have found a few that look promising. I’ve also posted on Facebook, asking friends and family for their favourite crock pot recipes; that’s given me a few more suggestions.


What about you? Any suggestions for good crock pot meals? Any favourites?

Last night, before going to bed, I set some steel cut oats so we can have ready made oatmeal in the mornings. I’m not normally an oatmeal kind of gal but if it’s made right, I’ll eat it. I’m one of those weird people who likes their oatmeal with some crunch and textural interest so I add grains (a mix of chia seeds, cracked buckwheat, and hemp hearts) and raisins or cranberries to mine. I must admit that it was nice to wake up this morning to a hot bowl of oatmeal just waiting for me. I had some even before I poured my first cup of coffee.


Right now, I have a pot of Green Lentil Soup in the crock pot (here’s the link if you’re interested). It should be ready for a warming, comforting kind of meal by dinner time. Served with some warm crusty bread, it should be a great alternative to a heavy meat and potatoes kind of meal which I don’t mind but not night after night after night. Besides, how many nights in a row can one eat leftover prime rib and Yorkshire puddings?

Don’t answer that!

Categories: Cooking, Health, Just stuff | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

One Foot In Front of the Other

That phrase kept coming to me on my walk this morning. Yes, I walked (I even forced myself to bake Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies yesterday). I had some postcards to get into the mail so I decided to walk to the post office. It’s a 2.5 mile round trip and there was a point where all I wanted to do was sit down. I told myself to just keep putting one foot in front of the other and I’d be home before I knew it.

That’s when it struck me that right now my life walk is tough. I’m tired and all I want to do is sit down and not move. However, I can’t give up; I need to keep putting one foot in front of the other. It’s the only way I’ll get to where I need to be on this journey. Along the way, though, I’m allowed to stop and enjoy the view. I need to do that more often.

There are times that the journey isn’t as important as enjoying the view along the way.


Categories: Baking, Blogging, Health, Just stuff, No Knitting | 4 Comments

Magical Mystery Tour

John is a fan of taking “magical mystery tours” (Beatle fans, anyone?). Yesterday, he took us on one that resulted in a magical evening of music and friendship rekindled. He has reconnected with an old tree planting friend who plays the flute… wonderfully! John Anderson, and his brother Brian, are a flute and bass guitar duo who play some amazing music and we (John, myself, Z… John’s boss, who is staying with us for the week, and Kristen and the kids) were treated to a wonderful private concert at John’s home. It truly was a magical mystery tour!

I’m on my own mystery tour. At this point, it isn’t very magical.

There are times in your life you wonder if you’re where you should be, whether or not you’re doing what you should be doing, if the work you’re doing is killing you or fulfilling you. Or perhaps you simply need a good, long vacation. I’m at that point. This week, the busy-ness of my job, the everyday stresses of keeping up with the hectic pace at which we’ve been working, have finally caught up with me.

It’s been building for a while. I even told my boss not long ago that once it slows down, I need to take a break. It isn’t slowing down. And this week, the break found me. I’m sure that you, those who still read this blog, realize that I haven’t been posting nearly as often I usually do. Well, in all honesty, I’ve been doing very little of what I usually do. I’ve been too tired to knit; I don’t feel like painting; baking is really low on my priority list (and I LOVE baking!);  even eating has become a chore, believe it or not. And blogging? Well, you know better than anyone, I haven’t been doing much of that!

I’m not sure which direction my life will be taking but I feel I’m at a crossroads. Care to come along for the ride?

Categories: Blogging, Finished, Health, Just stuff, No Knitting | 9 Comments

How Was Your Christmas?

The Christmas season is coming to an end. There’s just New Year’s Eve to get through and then we can get back to normal again. That really sounds rather “grinchy” doesn’t it? As nice as our Christmas was — quiet but nice — I’m happy it’s behind us. Both John and I were hit with a flu/cold bug of some sort about a week before Christmas and we’re both struggling (John more than me) to get over it. Neither of us has our appetite back yet so making a fancy dinner wasn’t necessarily all that appealing.

It was, however, a lovely dinner. We chose not to repeat last year’s adventure; remember the Morton Thompson turkey? If you’d like, you can read about it on the old blog, the original Strings ‘n Things. There’s a series of posts about the turkey.

Part 1     Part 2     Part 3     Part 4     Part 5     Judgement Day

This year, we decided to go a completely different route. Instead of turkey, we decided to cook up a prime rib roast with “the fixings” and to invite our friends Mike & Judy. We feasted on a perfectly cooked prime rib roast with roasted sweet potato, parsnips and carrots, steamed brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes and gravy, and the must have Yorkshire puddings. It’s just too bad that we really could not eat as much as we normally might have… or maybe that’s not such a bad thing. John asked yesterday whether or not Kelly (truly the sweetest dog I know) had had any of the roast beast during dinner; I assured him that Kelly had indeed “helped” me with my dinner.


Even though I’m happy that this holiday season is almost behind us for another year, I must say that I was happy for the extra couple of days off. It did give me the opportunity to do some much needed knitting.  (I would have done more painting but the paints were put away so we could use the dining room table for what it is actually meant for… dining.)

I’ve been saying for quite a while now that I need/want some slippers that will keep my ankles warm. They’re not always cold but when they are, I get really cold. I’d bought a pattern quite some time ago (like a year or more ago). I really like the leg warmers but, as I posted in a previous post, I’d bought the pattern and wool to make a pair of felted boots and now, with a couple of days off, it was time to make them.

felted boots

They were done by the end of Christmas day, as in knitted, felted, and drying. I was even nice enough to let Judy wear them while we were having dinner as her feet were icy cold (I could tell by looking at her). She was very appreciative!

Alpine boots

Now, however, they are mine… all mine!

Alpine boots feltedI’ve also been working on the 10-stitch afghan but when I looked at how much progress I’ve really made since the last time I posted about it, I’ve only really completed one half of a round. Granted, the blanket is getting bigger with each round but I thought that I’d made a little more progress than that! Ah well, that blanket will be a work in progress for some time to come; there is no rush to finish it, thankfully.

In closing for today, I do hope you all had a lovely Christmas, no matter how you celebrate it and I wish for you a year filled with good and happiness.


Categories: Cooking, Finished, Health, Just stuff, Knitting, Slippers | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Progress on More Than One Front

I’ve had an enjoyable week. As the title of this post indicates, I’ve made progress on more than one front. I celebrated my … *mumble, mumble* birthday this week. I guess that’s progress; it certainly is a progression of time.

This week also saw a decision made. As you may, or may not, know, I’ve been going to the gym on a one month free membership that John won at a golf event a while back. Well, that one month has come and gone and this week was decision time. I did check out another gym, even closer to my work (about as close as one can get, actually; they’re next door to where I work) but I wasn’t terribly impressed with the facility or the prices. It was an easy decision to make; I’ve taken out a two year membership at the gym and I’m committing myself to going three times a week, minimum. I’ve been going Monday, Wednesday, and Friday so far and I intend to keep going with that. It feels good to have made that decision.

As well, I’ve committed myself to going for at least one good walk on the weekends (weather permitting). Today, I went for a 4.5 mile (7 km) walk, with some hills and straight stretches. My pedometer tells me I burned over 500 calories on that walk! I’m quite pleased with myself, to be honest.

I’ve also made progress on John’s sweater… in more ways than one.

parker002That’s 5″ worth of knitting so far. I haven’t been working on it daily but I do find it’s knitting up fairly quickly and has almost become mindless. The pattern is truly quite simple; it’s a p1, k2 repeat, which is why it’s ALMOST mindless. I do find myself occasionally doing p2, k2.

parker003I’ve only posted this second picture because it’s more indicative of the true colour. The yarn, incidentally, is Knit Picks City Tweed heavy worsted (55% Merino, 25% Superfine Alpaca and 20% Donegal Tweed). It’s lovely and soft and almost feels like some of the newer acrylic blends (blasphemy, I know). I think it will quickly become one of John’s favourites to wear.

The last bit of progress is something you can’t see. When it comes to knitting, I’m a “thrower”. Usually. Well, that 5″ of knitting in the two pictures has been done primarily in Continental. I’ve always known how to knit continental but I’ve never been comfortable with the purl stitches. I’ve decided I want to get more comfortable with continental and I’m definitely making progress towards that goal.

As I said at the outset, this has been a week of progress… and that feels great!



Categories: Blogging, Health, John's Sweater, Knitting | Tags: , | 7 Comments

This Is Serious!

001Let me start out by saying that I have no intention of turning the blog into a health/fitness related blog. That just isn’t me. That said, however, this post is just that.

A couple of weeks ago, we were at a golfing event and John won a door prize – a gym bag with a variety of freebies included (an umbrella, a frisbee, a book, some zippered pouches, etc.). Included was also a free one month membership. I immediately claimed it as I know there’s no way John will use it. After all, his job is very physical, being a gardener.

002I’ve decided that I’m going to do it. Actually, I did it! After work yesterday, I went to the gym and was given the grand tour and signed up for the one month free membership.

003One of my sisters asked me on Facebook why; here’s what I told her:

The numbers on my scale are too high (160 lbs… I should be around 130 lbs), my blood pressure’s too high, my cholesterol is too high, the price of a new wardrobe for this enlarging body is too high, and I don’t want the extra meds my doctor is threatening to put me on (to lower my cholesterol). By joining a gym, I’m taking a serious step to addressing all those issues.

It is something I swore I would never do but I can tell you, it’s not easy getting off that chair to go for a walk every day. The gym I’ve signed up with is between work and home and is open 24/7. It’s my intention to drop in after work a minimum of three times a week, for a minimum of half an hour to an hour each time.

And the cost? Well, if I look at it as a lump sum, it’s a lot of money (I won’t say just how much); however, it is billed bi-weekly and that cost  is about the cost of two bottles of wine. So, realistically, it’s about the cost of a single bottle of wine per week (we sometimes go through three or four on a weekend). I know we can afford that.

I’ll let you know how it goes.




Categories: Blogging, Health, Just stuff, No Knitting | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

Stuff Dutch People Like

Your satirical guide to Dutch culture and the Netherlands!

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sketches, paintings, photos, random things that inspire me and other kind of art related stuff

domestic diva, M.D.

my mother raised the perfect housewife...then I went to med school


so knitsome ... so knit some