Just stuff

Flying Time

No, I won’t be flying anywhere any time soon. It’s time that’s flying. Far too quickly. Do you realize it’s almost February?? How the heck did that happen? That endless spiral of hour following hour, day following day, week following week just seems to suck us all in, doesn’t it? Before we even realize it, another month has gone by. And what do I have to show for this past month? Not much.

Knitting has been sporadic at best. To be honest, I’m not even missing the needles. Yes, I pick up the Loop shawl occasionally, finish a row or two but, honestly, the satisfaction level I usually feel while knitting just isn’t there right now. I know the urge will return. It always does. Right now just doesn’t seem to be the time for knitting.

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I’ve started doing a little sketching again; and when I say a little, I really do mean that. Doodles have been popping up on my desk calendar at work. Little scribbles have been showing up on my desk at home. Apparently, my pencils have been calling and I’ve been hearing the siren call, picking up a pencil. It’s a start. And it’s about time.

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I’ve also been a little obsessed with macarons for the last couple of weeks. These little French delicacies are so yummy and so finicky, especially when you have an oven that’s way hotter than the dial shows and bakes unevenly.

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Lemon Macarons – These look pretty good but they’re hollow inside.

I’ve been trying to bake THE perfect batch and, after three or four batches, I haven’t done it yet. Maybe today, right? It’s definitely been an enjoyable, and tasty, learning experience. Even a “failed” batch tastes amazing. If you’d like to read more about my “experiments”, check out my cooking/baking blog here.

Around the yard, the kids have been skating more and getting much more comfortable. Ethan no longer needs, or wants, something to hold on to. He’s even been practicing with a hockey stick and puck! Trinity has finally gotten over her disgust of the figure skates (and the “pickers”) and was trying some “moves” last weekend (until she fell hard on her hip). Temperatures right now are hovering around the freezing mark and the ice is still great. It would be nice to see it used a little more often but, in the meantime, we’re having fun. And, no, I have not gotten back on to the ice.

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Apparently, John DID get on the ice this past week, with Ethan and his friend, but there’s no photographic evidence to support his claim. I’ll have to verify it with Ethan.

To be honest, I’m making it sound like January’s been a downer. It really hasn’t been. It’s just been a quiet month and there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s a time for quiet, a time for rest, a time for restoration. It’s just going by far too quickly!

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Categories: Baking, Just stuff, Kitchen, Knitting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Practicing

Now that November 11 (Happy Birthday, Gloria!) is past, it’s time to start thinking about Christmas. The operative word there is “thinking”. I’m not big on decorating for the holidays, really. When we were growing up, the tree didn’t go up until just days before Christmas. When we had our children, the tree didn’t go up until school let out for the holidays and came down when they went back to school in January. It’s a day, not a season.

However, all that said, when it comes to Christmas baking, a little bit of time and preparation is required. This year, with the discovery that Kristen is gluten intolerant, it also means practice runs of promising recipes. That’s what this weekend has been about.

This is going to seem like a digression, but it really isn’t. When it comes to cookie baking, I’ve always wanted a cookie press. Each year, I check out Amazon.ca for their prices. I wander over to Michael’s to see what they have; and each year, I don’t buy one. My mother had an aluminum one years and years ago but it was never really used and I have no idea where it ended up. This year, I decided it was time to just get one. I went to my favourite kitchen store (Chef’s Edge in Kelowna, if you must know) and bought one. The price was reasonable, very much in line with buying it online, and taking into account the delivery costs. Plus, I didn’t have to wait for it to arrive.

With new toy, er… tool, in hand, I set about to finding some recipes to play with. I came across one that looked really good – Vanilla Cardamon Spritz. The recipe I used is from Serious Eats, one of my favourite food websites. The only thing I did differently was to use a 1:1 gluten free flour.

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The cookies are crisp, buttery, perfectly flavoured. The cardamon doesn’t overpower the vanilla but gives the cookies a depth of flavour that’s really nice. With a cup of tea or coffee, these are perfect.

I didn’t do much in the way of decoration, as you can see. I wanted to try out the recipe gluten free. However, I did play a little bit later.

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A little melted dark chocolate, some sprinkles… it doesn’t take a lot to make these little cookies look festive and cheery.

Then, because I’m not super big on sweets, I decided to try my hand at some savoury biscuits. During my hunt for the spritz recipes, I came across a cheesy spritz recipe. It seems this recipe is all over the internet – how have I never come across it?

This time, I inadvertently used wheat flour, even though the gluten free flour was already on the counter beside the mixer. Doh!

cheesy

These call for a pound of aged, sharp cheddar so they’re not an inexpensive treat but, my oh my…. they are addictive! They go very well with a glass or two of white wine. VERY well. Don’t ask how many I ate, ok?

I did have a bit of an issue in getting these on to the cookie sheets – they wouldn’t stick very well, even after I washed, dried, and cooled the cookie sheets in the freezer. In the end, I rolled out the last bit of dough and cut cookies out with a small square cookie cutter, kind of like Cheez-Its.

I followed the recipe on the TGIF (This Grandma Is Fun) blog but I’ve noticed that the same recipe appears on numerous other blogs. Some bakers add a little dry mustard to their mix but I found that the addition of a little hot sauce (I used Franks’s) works well. Seriously, these are good!

If you do bake them, whether with wheat flour or gluten free (that will happen at some point), I’ll offer one tip: beat the heck out of the butter and cheese mixture. Seriously, you can’t underbeat it. The longer you beat that mix, the easier it will be to put it through your cookie press.

Categories: Baking, Christmas, Just stuff, Kitchen | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 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??

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Sick Day

Ethan has been sick this week. With his mom working, and me working, babysitting duties have fallen to Grandpa John. That lasted one day. Then, I got sick, too. Yesterday (Thursday), both Ethan and I had a sick day. (I’m having another one today; this cough is painful and I’m exhausted!)

Yesterday was one of those gorgeous spring days. It’s chilly in the shade but the sunshine is oh, so lovely. Ethan was definitely feeling better than he did on Wednesday and, after a lunch of Lipton’s Chicken Noodle Soup and a hot dog, he decided to play outside… with my camera.

There’s been a lot of renovation going on in the suite next door and each of the guys working there, or watching there, has a dog. In all, there were four dogs around the property yesterday and Ethan adores all of them. That was one of the reasons he asked if he could use my camera. Here are a few of the shots we took…

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Categories: Blogging, Just stuff, No Knitting, Nonsense | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Pizza Day

This week, the kids had pizza day at school. Mom decided they didn’t need to participate in every single pizza day; it comes around once a month and the slices are $3.00 each. For a single mom, two kids and two slices each, $12.00 is no chump change. They seemed a little disappointed but not overly so. I decided to step in.

No, I didn’t pay for pizza day. I suggested that we have our own pizza day… at my house. They could pitch in and make their own pizza with whatever toppings they might want. That’s what we did and it was fun!

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I made the pizza dough while the kids were upstairs meeting Samson, the pup that’s being boarded with S for the next couple of months (he’s a mastiff akbash cross). Once it had had time to rise, I sent Kristen upstairs to get them while I prepped the toppings. Then we got to work.

Both of the kids helped to roll out their own pizza crust and then got to embellish them with whatever toppings they wanted. It was a lot of fun and the pizzas were pretty darned good. I draw the line at pickled asparagus pizza, though.


 

The pizza dough recipe we used can be found at Giada DeLaurentis’ website. We heartily recommend it. The pizza sauce was made with one can of tomato sauce, one can of tomato soup, a tablespoon or so of tomato paste and a tablespoon or so of Italian seasoning and a teaspoon of garlic powder. Simmer until the flavours meld, then allow to cool before using.

Categories: Baking, Cooking, Just stuff | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

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.

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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.

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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!

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Last Day of 2015

I suppose the last day of the year is a time for reflection on what has passed and looking forward to a new start but I’m not going to do that. It’s been a year I’m happy to put behind us. Yes, there’s been plenty of good but there has also been heartache. I would rather concentrate on the now.

It will likely be a quiet New Year’s Eve for us. Kristen and the kids will probably not be here as she’s come down with some kind of bug. I’ll try to stay up until midnight to help ring in the new year but, realistically, I rarely stay up that late. Part of today will be spent making olie bollen (fritters) and I may make some soap but I’m not even sure about that yet.

I do know I will be doing some knitting… have already, in fact. John’s cardigan is coming along, if slowly. The back is finished and I’m working on the fronts simultaneously, sort of. I started with the right side and have it almost to the armhole shaping. Then I decided it would be a good idea to work on the left side as well, and get it to the same point, then work the shaping at the same time. That way, the shaping will be the same, at the same time.

Incidentally, the soap making thing? It’s really coming along. I’ve been making, and selling, quite a bit of soap. Christmas, it seems, is a good time for soap sales. This week, I even made shaving soap… real, use a brush, soft, creamy, shaving soap. It’s awesome!

Anyway, I need to get this day going. To all of you, from all of us, we wish you a very happy 2016. I’ll borrow an image, posted by an online friend, that perfectly describes what I wish for all of you.

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Categories: Baking, Blogging, Cardigan, John's Sweater, Just stuff, Knitting, Making Soap, Review | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Almost Christmas

Time certainly flies when there’s much to do. It’s almost Christmas already. Here, in the house, you’d never know. The only decorations up are the Christmas cards that have been trickling in and the giant 3D snowflake Trinity made for us.

3d star

While the kids were here yesterday, we made a batch of sugar cookies; Ethan was more interested in breaking eggs and adding ingredients while Trinity was most helpful when it came to rolling out the dough and cutting it with cookie cutters. We embellished them very simply with some coarse vanilla sugar. When they left, I gave Kristen a small tin of cookies and kept a small tin for ourselves.

Sugar cookies

Today, I’ll be baking up a couple of very Dutch recipes, speculaas squares and koek, a spiced loaf cake. If you’re interested, you can find the recipe on my cooking blog (also sorely neglected), In Ev’s Kitchen.

We’ve decided to go completely non-traditional with this year’s Christmas dinner. When I asked Kristen what we should have, and suggested turkey, she nixxed the idea right away. Between the three of us, Kristen, John, and myself, we decided to have a prime rib roast with Yorkshire puddings and a variety of vegetables. No stuffing, unfortunately. That’s my favourite part of Christmas dinner. Yorkies make up for it a little bit, I suppose. They’re definitely a favourite around here.

As for Christmas day, the weather man has guaranteed that we’ll be having a white Christmas this year. There’s snow on the ground now, with light snow falling.

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To all of my family and friends, I hope you have a wonder-full, safe Christmas and I wish you a happy and prosperous 2016.

Christmas Tree Hand-Lettering

 

Categories: Baking, Blogging, Cooking, Just stuff, No Knitting, The Weather | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

October Means Halloween

It seems we have a tradition started. Living in an apartment doesn’t give Kristen and the kids much room, or a place, for pumpkins. Last year, she and the kids brought their pumpkins here and carved them. Yesterday, we repeated that event.

They picked up their pumpkins from a local grower and brought them over here for carving while I was finishing up another batch of soap.

A fun and productive afternoon was had by all.

Categories: Blogging, Finished, Garden, Just stuff, No Knitting, Soap | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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