Archive for February, 2010

The Beauty of a Semi-Frozen World

The cold fingers of winter slowly release their grip on a frozen landscape….

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A Lot Can Happen in 5 Years

5 years ago today I married my wonderful husband.    Although 5 seems like a milestone anniversary, it also seems very small compared to many of my friends who have been together for 7, 10, even 20 or more years!   In many ways it seems like we just got married, in others it seems like we have been together our whole lives (in the best of all possible ways.) 

I was looking through old photos on the computer looking for wedding shots (there are none) and realized just how much we have accomplished in 5 years. 

In 5 years we have:

Turned this house:

Into this one:

Turned this backyard:

Into this one:

Tore down this deck:

And built this one:

And the entire inside of the house has been re-wired, re-floored, re-painted, re-insulated, re-everything.  If there is something possible to change we have done so (or are in the middle of it!). 

We’ve both left jobs, started businesses, and developed new hobbies.

We finished building this:

So we can do more of this:

Through it all, we’ve remained best friends, and more in love than ever.  I feel blessed for each and every moment we have had together, even the tough ones.   

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I discovered one of my great-grandmother’s school books.  It was in among her recipes, possibly because the content refers to kitchen economy, how to make meals and keep the household running smoothly.  The book is dated 1913, which means that she would have been 14 years old when taking this class.  Here are a few snapshots of what you would have been learning as a girl of 14 in a school just outside London, England.

I wish I had inherited the ability to write so neatly!

Imagine what our garbage piles would look like if we never threw out anything of any use.

Imagine what our houses would look like if we never threw out anything of any use.

Times have changed….

I would like to add croutons to the stale bread list – yum!

There were several pages of these dinners for 6, all written out including the cost and time to cook.   I wonder what the cost equivalents would be in today’s currency?  Are the economical meals of our ancestors still the economical meals of today?  And I don’t know about you , but whenever I read about Fig pudding I can’t help but get the Christmas song stuck in my head “Now bring us a figgy pudding…” 

Do you suppose this made a white loaf or whole wheat?

Now where would a woman be without knowing how to make the perfect pie crust?  (other than in my own kitchen, that is…)

I laughed out loud when I read that second-to-last tip – “Do not swing.”  But oh how tempting it is….

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Walking in a Winter Wonderland

I love to snowshoe.  I love knowing that I can walk anywhere, despite the piles of snow that might be outside.  I love that it is such good exercise.  I love that it is a tradition passed down through generations of people living in this northern, snowy, climate.  And I really enjoyed sharing the adventure with three wonderful ladies this week-end as we discovered this beautiful river:

and made pretty tracks in the snow

spied a herd of deer through the trees

and returned to a cosy log cabin to rest and rejuvenate

all powered by these wonderful inventions.

One of those days when I really appreciate winter and remember just how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful part of the country.

If you live in a snowy place, I highly recommend snowshoeing.  It’s fun, inexpensive, and it takes only a few minutes to adjust to walking with extra-big shoes on your feet.  What better way to enjoy a winter wonderland?

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Happy Pancake Day!

It’s Shrove Tuesday today.  As a child, I remember how excited I would be about having one of my favourite breakfast foods, for dinner!  It was definitely one of my favourite days of the year.  

Now that I’m all grown up, I still enjoy the novelty of having pancakes for dinner.  When we were first married, my hubby, who is not a big fan of breakfast foods, wanted no part in this tradition and I ate pancakes alone.  But tonight he decided to join in on the pancake party and I think I won him over with my yummy pancake recipe and I must say that I was thrilled to share this fun tradition with the one I love. 

The recipe originally came from family friends.  I remember many a Sunday brunch eaten at their house after church, and I still think they are some of the best pancakes I have ever eaten.  I have adapted the recipe somewhat from the original (of course!) but they still remain fluffy and wonderful.  Tonight I served them with fruity syrup, and in the spirit of early 19th century cooking served them on a nice platter with matching sauce-boat for the syrup. 

Here is the Recipe:

Favourite Whole Wheat Pancakes

  • 1 1/3 cup whole wheat flour (I use bread flour because that’s usually what I have on hand)
  • 3 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3 Tbsp real maple syrup
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 3 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla

Combine dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl, beat egg.  Stir in milk.  Then add syrup, butter and vanilla.  Pour into dry ingredients and mix until wet and lumpy.  Cook on a hot skillet or frying pan, turning when bubbles appear on the top of the pancake and the edges are set.  (If the middles aren’t getting cooked, but the pancakes are dark brown, your pan is too hot.)

Fruit Variation – For fruity pancakes, throw some fresh or frozen fruit into the batter before cooking.  Blueberries are my favourite, but I also enjoy them with strawberries, bananas, raspberries, and small pieces of apple or peaches.  When I was a child, chocolate chips added to the batter were a special treat. 

Pancakes can be frozen or refrigerated and re-heated in a toaster or toaster oven.  They are wonderful topped with maple syrup, but I also enjoy them spread with apple butter, peanut butter, or jam, or topped with a dollop of yogurt and berries. 

Fruity Syrup is a current favourite topping.  The recipe can be found here

Have a happy pancake day!

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Valentine’s Dinner

I truly believe I have the best husband in the world.

Last night, he made me a beautiful Valentine’s dinner including:Apple and rosemary roasted chicken,

Black Olive and Herb Focaccia Bread (from scratch!),

Mango Lassi, and…for dessert….

Berry Pudding with Raspberry Cream. 

And he did all the dishes too. 

And he did it all even though he could have been at his friend’s house, visiting with his brother whom he hasn’t seen in ages and watching the first NASCAR race of the season.  I told him to go.  But he stayed.  

 I am a lucky girl.  

He even found time to make himself two batches of Nana’s Chocolate Syrup

(I love the shape of the bottle on the right,  it makes the syrup look that much more decadent.)

I am so thankful for my wonderful hubby!

Should you want to try any of these delicious eats for yourself, they can all be found here.  I guess you can say he was my “Chef at Home” for the day. 🙂

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Recipe Source: Grandma Pursel, whoever she may be 

Recipe Date: Late 1800s?

Although the official name on the recipe card is “Grandma Pursel’s Cookies” we have always affectionately called these cookies “100 year-old cookies” due to the fact that when my mother finally surmised whose grandmother Grandma Pursel actually was, it seemed like the recipe must have been in use around the turn of the century.

The original recipe made 20 dozen cookies.  Imagine the size of the family who could consume 240 cookies (and the size of bowl required to hold 10 cups of flour!)

Last night I used the recipe to make Valentine’s Day cookies for my class.  Cookies are contraband at my school so it was a very special day and I really cherished the moment we spent huddled together, them munching on cookies and me reading aloud from “Charlotte’s Web.”  (I of course asked permission before bringing in the cookies, but for them it was like having a secret surprise). 

They are a nice, light, cookie, very different in taste and texture from what I would consider a traditional sugar cookie, perhaps due to the limited amount of butter.  They definitely do not need icing, but I drizzled a little on mine to make them extra-special for Valentine’s. 

Grandma Pursel’s Cookies

  • 2 1/2 cups flour (I used 1 1/2 cups whole wheat)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder (I added an extra 1/4 tsp to help with the heavier flour)
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup shortening (I used butter, at room temp.)
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 cup milk (I found a needed a little more to get a workable dough)

Stir together first four ingredients.  Cut in shortening (butter) with a pastry blender.  Then add sugar and mix well.  Combine egg, vanilla, and milk in small bowl.  Mix with a fork.  Make a well in the center of the first mixture and slowly add wet ingredients.  When mixed, knead on table until smooth.  Roll to 1/8″ thick.  Cut with cookie cutter.  Bake on ungreased cookie sheets at 350 degrees for 5 – 6 minutes. 


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Tomatoes are not a winter food in my neck of the woods.  Oh, they can be bought in the grocery store, looking all rosy and red, but when you bring them home and slice into them, and pop them into your mouth, you realize that they are actually made of nothing less than painted cardboard (that’s what they taste like, anyway.)  It’s not really the poor tomatoes fault.  They didn’t ask to be picked before they were ripe and shipped in a dark box to a cold place where snow and ice cover the ground and tomatoes just aren’t meant to be.  It kind of makes you feel sorry for them a little, but not sorry enough to actually eat them!

So it is much to my amazement that this year I have garden-fresh tomatoes in my house in February.  This is all thanks to a tomato variety called “The Mystery Keeper.”   Between deer and blight we have had nothing but tomato troubles in our vegetable garden over the past few years, but this year we hit the jackpot and had 10 thriving “mystery keeper” plants.  These magical fruits ripen on the vine to a nice pale green colour and then are picked just before frost.  Over the next few months they ripen on the kitchen counter (or pantry, or wherever you choose to put them) from the inside out, turning a nice yellow-orange-pink colour.  The best part is –  they taste like real tomatoes!  The kind you pick off your tomato plant and pop right into your mouth, no accompaniments required.

Mystery Keepers ready for eating!

So in mid-February when everything outside is white and frozen I am in tomato heaven in my kitchen where I can whip up a tasty batch of salsa or bruschetta, garnish my sandwiches and burgers with thick slices of tomato goodness, and top everything from pasta to pizza to dips with chunks of fresh ripe tomatoes. 

Tomatoes, cilantro, garlic, onions, salt & pepper

Our supply is beginning to dwindle, but I have to say that I have enjoyed every miraculous bite and will definitely be planting these plants again, come spring.   Thanks to them I will have “love apples” for Valentine’s day, which I think is fitting, don’t you?   

Pasta topped with white cheddar sauce and fresh tomatoes

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I’ve been pattern-testing again.  Remember this fabric?    Here it is turned into a baby quilt:

And here is my very first pieced back (I wish I could say I planned it that way, but it has more to do with the mental fog I experienced at the fabric store when I forgot to buy packing fabric….why is it that you can have yards and yards of fabric but nothing that matches the particular project you are working on in the length you need?  In the end I’m kind of glad because I really like the way this looks – and that orange fabric – that’s some of Gran’s fabric, so it fits in well with the current project.)

The pattern is called the Baby S’Mores quilt (can’t you see the graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallow?) and I love all the different fabrics and textures in it.  Like all the Sew Fun patterns the instructions were super-easy to follow and the quilt was really fun to make.  I need to work a little on my machine-quilting skills (or maybe I just need to baste it better before I start?), but other than that I am in love with this quilt and I think I’m going to have a hard time parting with this one…

The pattern also includes instructions for this really cute plushie:

It’s kind of a soft blankie and cute marshmallow guy all in one.  Here he is showing us another pose:

Don’t you just want to pick him up and give him a cuddle?

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We are lover’s of books, hubby and I.  It is the one thing that we find irresistable, easy to acquire and hard to give away.  As such, we have more books and magazines than we do storage space.  As much of our reading is done in bed, there are piles of books on both of our night stands, and hubby in particular always has a large stack right beside the bed, where his feet should land each morning.  So far, no person or book has been harmed by an accidental morning slip, but it’s one of those things that seem inevitable – magazines are very slippery on hardwood floors!

So, when I saw this bedroom book organizer in One Yard Wonders it seemed the perfect thing for us, AND a perfect use for some of Gran’s fabric.  This pale green matches both our winter duvet (made by me) and our summer quilt (made and hand-quilted by Gran herself!).  It nicely fits a couple of books and magazines, and once I get some anti-slip stuff sewn on, hopefully that will be the end of the pile of magazines and books on the floor (the pile has reappeared since I made this and put these books in….I am hoping it’s just because at the moment it still sometimes slips out from between the mattresses at night?)

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