Friday, December 17, 2010


Victorian salt clay is perfect for making Christmas decorations using cookie cutters. It doesn't puff like some salt/flour clays, keeps well and can be embellished with pretty much anything you can think of: paint, sequins, glitter...

My daughter and I made snowflakes last Christmas. This year they're hanging in the window as well as on the tree. You can get the recipe I used here.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


Tucked under the lilac bushes, the feeder offers seeds to the chickadees and cardinals who come calling this time of year. I love watching them and hearing them call to each other. Today the sun is shining and the birds are darting in and out; taking a moment or two to watch them turns into minutes and I need to get the camera. The cardinals hid in the lilacs but the chickadee are bold. Their cheer brightens my day.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Rainy Mondays...

A hard morning for all of us, but a hard morning for my boy especially.

It's Monday and back to school. He doesn't want to go. I hurry him along and he complains. I say (shout) you're going to miss the bus. He says it's not his fault. I say back "yes it is". We get out the door and just a I say watch out, it's slippy (freezing rain), there he goes down on his bum. I catch him but still...he goes down again at the sidewalk. We walk on fallen leaves to try to get better traction. The bus is late so we stand in the rain.

I tell him I can't change the weather, and I can't change school; but I can make peppermint hot chocolate for him and his sister when they come home.

Apparently, I can't take pictures today either...but the kids enjoyed the hot chocolate. Now just waiting for my man to get home and all will be well.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Baking Monday

On a chilly day it's so nice to warm up the house with the oven and smells of good food baking. Today I got a few things in the oven: bread, pumpkin muffins and chocolate chip cookies, my man's favourite. And just to get a jump on tomorrow's breakfast, I mixed the dry ingredients for pumpkin scones - yum!

The bread recipe is from my mom, just simple whole wheat with brown sugar and milk. It's got a slightly chewy texture and makes wonderful toast.

I used pumpkin from our Hallowe'en jack-o-lantern that I'd baked up and froze. If you're careful with the candle, there's no black from smoke. If there was, you could always scrape it off before baking the pumpkin. It's not quite as sweet as pie pumpkin but the flavour is still very good and works well in baking.

I have tried for years to make cookies like my man remembered from his mom, the best ever I've been told. I've used recipes from magazines, from friends and the same recipe that my mother-in-law gave me but never quite got it right. (They were all good, especially the ones made with butter.)

It comes down to the fat. When I used golden crisco (normally makes me cringe), the chocolate chip cookies were finally deemed perfect. And it is the recipe from the box, although if you're not so picky as to buy Crisco, use butter and the recipe found here. They are good cookies...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

So much for good intentions...

Hallowe'en has come and gone and my plans were mostly just that, plans.
  • I never did make a raven or try out the mole recipe
  • My pictures from Hallowe'en didn't turn out - camera setting perhaps? I need work on light settings...
  • I was such a slacker not posting what did get done...

On the up side:

We made sugar cookies in the shapes of witches,  pumpkins and ghosts

We had  a great time out at the pumpkin farm, getting apples and pumpkins, and looking at their Hallowe'en shop

I did make my boy his dragon costume and update my girl's vampire costume

We did decorate the front yard with a fresh grave, tombstone and candles, spiderwebs, etc.

well, onwards and upwards...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Not for the faint of heart

I had my own little horror show last night when I sought relief from the cough that has been keeping me awake for over a week. I don't normally take over-the-counter medications because of an underlying health issue but when desperate...

I went to the drug store to choose some cough syrup. I read lables. I tried to stay away from ones that would target a broad range of symptoms. I avoided non-drowsy formulas. Finally, I spotted on with a warning in big letters: May cause drowsiness. I grabbed it. Didn't really read the label any further...(to my subsequent peril!)

At bedtime, I prepared to take the medicine. I read the dosage. I found a medicine cup. I opened the bottle. I was overwhelmed by the smell. Oh my god! Oh my god! As I'm repeating that out loud, I hear chuckles from my man upstairs. Apparently he knew what I was in for. It smelled like a bottle of Vicks Vaporub. Only this was Buckley's Nighttime formula.

It may as well have been melted Vick's: thick, creamy white liquid smelling strongly of moth balls. The box proudly boasts that each teaspoon contains 22mg menthol. The non-medicinal ingredients include camphor and pine needle oil. The minimum dose is 2 teaspoons.

Was I really that desperate? Could I get it down without it coming right back up? Yes and yes as it turns out. I pinched my nose and got it down. I breathed out moth balls. I felt a little like one of the homeless men I knew when I worked at a shelter who had a preference for drinking Aqua Velva.

Oh please god make it work...

Well, I did get a full night sleep so I guess I'm happy about that. That said, I think it will take many more sleepless ones before I go for the Buckley's cure again. Oh the horror....

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Favourite Hallowe'en Tales

When I'm laid low with a cold (like this week) I like to curl up with a mug of tea and a good book... or snuggle on the couch and watch a movie. This time I got to thinking what are the best horror flicks and books?

Let me qualify that by saying that I'm not into gore so slasher flicks like Hallowe'en and Friday the 13th need not apply. I like the Omen series though...perhaps because I watched the first one on a black & white set alone in my bedroom when I was a young teen. Scared the bejeezus out of me!

I like some good suspense, to get a little scared or creeped out. Here's my list; I'd love to hear what would be on yours!

  • Dracula by Bram Stoker
  • Edgar Allen Poe
  • Stephen King
  • Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice
  • Flowers in the Attick by V.C. Andrews
  • Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
  1. The Shining
  2. The Omen series
  3. The Sixth Sense
  4. The Amityville Horror
  5. Seven
  6. The Birds
  7. The Changeling (1980 version)
  8. Alien

Monday, October 11, 2010

Her Fearful Symmetry

Be careful what you wish for.

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger is a perfect example of the perils of going to far to get what we want. With sympathetic characters and the evocative backdrop of London's Highgate Cemetary, Her Fearful Symmetry is a ghostly love story perfect for the season.

Between the gentle yet unrelenting exploration of human flaws and dysfunctional families, and the growing suspense, I found it hard to put down.

You can download the first chapter at Niffenegger's site. You can also see some beautiful pictures of monuments in Highgate Cemetary here. Gorgeous! I'd love to visit.

BTW. I also loved her book, The Time Traveller's Wife.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Night Marzen

A wet and cold ride out to Vankleek Hill struck gold at Beau's Brewery. I was able to pick up a couple jugs of their seasonal beer Night Marzen, a traditional Oktoberfest lager. Also able to fit into my saddle bags were one jug of Happy Pils and Sneaky, a dark wheat beer from their Wild Oats series. You can only get these at the brewery or if you're lucky on tap at a bar. Feeling very pleased with myself, I ignored my soaked hands and feet, and concentrated on riding safely back to Ottawa.

After a warm bath, getting dinner made and my girl to and from ballet, my man and I were able to cozy up on the couch and enjoy a glass. So much to celebrate: my longest solo ride yet, the long Thanksgiving weekend, and the kids being in bed!

Should you be local to Eastern Ontario and perhaps a beer drinker, I highly recommend Beau's. It's a family-run brewery that uses local spring water, 100% organic malts and hops, and the leftover mash is provided to a local farm for their organically raised pigs. You can enjoy excellent beer and feel good about how it's brewed. If a trip to Vankleek Hill is not in the books, their flagship brew, Lug Tread lagered ale, is available at the LCBO.

PS. The first time my man and I went to the Brewery, we were introduced to Night Marzen and told it's nick name was Night Mare - fits with the whole Hallowe'en theme :)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

This little light of mine...

We found our latest Hallowe'en acquisition on a beautiful fall ride last week to Merrickville. It was at The Christmas Shop on St. Lawrence St. They are opening a room upstairs dedicated to Hallowe'en. We went in because the window display was so good. I'd love one of their tombstones. Somehow, at ~3 feet tall, they wouldn't fit in any of our saddle bags...

On our list of preparations are:

- make costumes
- bake scary treats
- stuff a raven
- learn to make mole
- set up a graveyard in the front yard

We plan on celebrating Day of the Dead too - I love those skulls. You can see one of my favourite designs here.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hot buns fresh from the oven...

Or the freezer.

I love old recipes and this one is no exception. My mother-in-law gave it to me and she got it from her friend way back when. These buns are light, a little sweet and so good. They work well as a side roll with dinner, for sandwiches or as hamburger buns. My man says they remind him of cottages - that's were he first ate them. I love them because they're easy to make.

You can freeze the buns and reheat in a 375° oven for 8 minutes. They get a nice crust on them but are still soft and warm inside.

Betty Russell's Air Buns

Proof yeast
1 pkgyeast
½ Cupwarm water
1 tspsugar
In a large bread bowl
3½ Cupwarm water
½ Cupsugar
½ Cupmelted shortening
2 tspsalt

1 Tbspvinegar

Add yeast to bowl
5 Cupsflour, work 'til smooth

5 Cupsflour, work 'til smooth, sticky/soft dough

I knead the dough a bit to get all the flour worked in but that's it.

Let the dough sit out 2hours or overnight (my MIL does this but it can overflow the bowl so keep that in mind).
Punch the dough down and let it rest 1 hour.
Shape into buns, put on pans (I line mine with parchment) and let rise 2 hours.
Bake in a 375° oven for 20 minutes.

Monday, September 27, 2010

My patience rewarded

Do you ever think of purple as a fall colour? Not red, not orange, not golden yellow, think bright purple. Here, let me help by showing you my Toad Lily:

It might have a strange name but it's a beautiful flower that blooms in my shade garden in the fall. After a disappointing fall last year where the buds were killed off by an early frost, I'm excited to see the blooms this year!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

For when it's cold outside...

...and rainy.

Curried carrot soup
Sorry there's no scratch and snitch because the aroma is devine.

We had a roast chicken last night so I made stock with the carcass. In the fall/winter season, I'll often steam root veggies in a bit of broth and then puree it with an immersion blender for an easy soup for lunch. Just use whatever veggie you like and add some seasoning, spice or herbs. If you're feeling decadent, add a bit of cream or sautee the veggies first in butter.

For today's soup I sauteed three carrots in butter and curry powder. I then added some chicken stock to steam the carrots. When they were soft, I pureed, then added enough stock to thin to the right consistency. After adjusting for taste and bringing the temp back up, I had a satisfying lunch of soup, homemade bread and butter, and a pear for dessert. yum!

PS. curses on cold butter!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Walking through the farm

The kids are in school - have been for a week - and I'm breathing a sigh of relief. Back to routines, back to some quiet time for me to do with as I choose. Echo and I go for long walks. We may not live in the country but we can pretend. Come with us...

Ash Lane in the Experimental Farm

We went the long way round

Some odd looking fungus

The sky threatened rain and then the sun shone through

Morningside Lane

One happy dog

Of course there are cows on Cow Lane

A stump on the forest path

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Saucy girl

1 bushel, 3 4-Litre baskets, 2 days and 1 seriously messed kitchen later and I am the proud kitchen mama of 26 pints of tomato sauce!

Last year I canned 13 pints of sauce, thought it was really good and ran out well before tomatoe season this year. I vowed to do more. My garden didn't produce quite enough but I had contributions from my dad's garden and I bought a bushel of roma tomatoes.

I thought I'd get it all done in an afternoon - what was I thinking?! After I filled two bread mixing bowls with pulp, I called my mom for more jars and accepted the fact that I would be taking another day to get it done.

Both my stock pots were filled and took hours to cook down into an nice thick sauce. Then to get two canners on the boil. Of course, if I hadn't been so tired, I might have noticed that the burner under the 7 quart canner was on medium instead of high, I might have finished before 11:30pm. Oh well, live and learn...

None of this would have been possible without the loan of a fabulous tomato press from my good neighbour Eric. Like many of his nice tools, it comes from Lee Valley. All you have to do is wash the tomatoes and cut them in half. The press separates the pulp from the seeds and skin quickly and with very little waste. As a bonus, it washes up well too.

Next year I think I'll stick to beefsteak. Last year's sauce was a little sweeter and beefsteaks, like my Brandywine, are so much easier to press. I wound up steaming the romas to make it easier to get them through the press.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Blueberry love

When you want a treat for breakfast but don't want to stand at the stove making pancakes, try coffee cake.

I made mine with ground oatmeal instead of white flour, yogurt for most of the fat, and with the blueberry bottom, you don't need much sugar. Satisfying without the guilt.

Blueberry Lemon Coffee Cake

1½ Cupoatmeal flour
½ Cupwhite sugar
1 tspbaking powder
½ tspbaking soda
1 Cupplain yogurt
½ Cuplemon juice
¼ Cupvegetable oil
grated rind of 1 lemon
~1 Cupblueberries - either fresh or frozen

Note: For the oatmeal flour, I measure out rolled or quick oats and grind them in a coffee grinder. If you don't want to use oatmeal, you can substitute white or whole wheat flour. You'll need ¼ Cup less yogurt. Also, whole wheat flour has a stronger flavour that you'll notice.
  1. In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients: white flour through baking soda.
  2. In a smaller bowl, beat the egg. Add the yogurt, lemon juice, vegetable oil and lemon rind.
  3. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
  4. Cover the bottom of an 8x8 pan with blueberries. I tossed them with a TBSP of flour.
  5. Turn on oven to 350°.  When the oven is up to temperature, spoon batter over blueberries. Bake for 25-30 minutes until browned on top and baked through.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Friday the 13th - Port Dover

bikes backed up on the road into Port Dover

I made it:
  • in the car with the kids and the dog
  • pulling a trailer with my bike for the first time
  • through construction and heavy traffic in the Toronto area
  • following my man on his bike and six friends on theirs - and not following them
We left Stittsville Thurs. morning at ~9:30am with the other bikes and I pulled into Peter and Shauna's driveway in Waterdown ~5:30pm that Afternoon. Shauna, dear friend that she is, had a beer poured for me waiting in the fridge. My man arrived about 45 mins later.

meeting up

Friday morning, the four of us got on our bikes to meet up with the others on Highway 6. A nice fast bit of highway and so many other bikes on the road! You start to feel that motorcycles are taking over. The ride into Dover slowed considerably with the congestion of regular traffic compounded by bikes.

bikes and riders everywhere

Port Dover is a beautiful little town on Lake Erie with charming little shops and a population of 6,000. It exploded to more than 150,000 people -- about a third of them on motorcycles! This was the 50th anniversary and the busiest ever. My 5th time there, it was even more special because I rode my own instead of sitting on the back of my man's.

We walked the town, eyed the bikes and the crowd, took pictures and tried to stay cool. Thankfully, I had lots of sunscreen and water. And then the ride back to Waterdown to rescue Peter's mom who was looking after our and their kids, 4 in all. Peter led us through some twisty, empty back roads - a really enjoyable ride. Dinner, more visiting and then bed. We needed sleep before the long road home.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Friday the 13th - here we come!

Doesn't it look sad, all tied down? Sort of like when we put our dog in her crate and shut the door...

We're all packed and ready to go to Port Dover tomorrow. I'll be hauling the trailer while my man rides his Drifter. Still, it beats being on the back. We're staying with best friends in Waterdown and from there I'll ride. Should be fun!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Summer flowers

a bit of travel, a bit of gardening, lots of hunting Japanese beetles who are eating my poor bean plants. also this, just in time for the last bit of summer.

for my wrist

Even though I'm trailering my bike at least part way (and I'm a little nervous about that) I'm looking forward to riding my bike to Port Dover for Friday the 13th. I'll let you know how it goes when I get back!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


my latest beads

The demo by Hearts of Glass at The Glass Shoppe Studio was soooo good! Heather and Andrea were so generous in sharing their experience working with glass. My only regret is I forgot my camera.

Watching Heather make a fish bead was like seeing it come to life. At first it was just a pretty glass blob as she added colour and frit to make the body, but soon we saw shapes and personality as she built the eyes, mouth and fins. And the off-mandrel calla lily was gorgeous! You can see pictures of another of their fish and calla lilies here.

The whole time Heather was torching, she was talking, explaining what she was doing and why, providing pointers for working with glass. Where Heather left off, Andrea jumped in so there was a continuous flow of information along with the glass. I learned so much about glass and how to manipulate it.

I can't say enough how much I loved the beads but what impressed me most was Heather's control of the glass. Definitely something a beginner like me should aspire to emulate. 'Course now I have so many ideas, where to start?!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Going dotty

...for beads that is!

At my last studio session, I focused on laying a good footprint  - that's getting the initial layer of glass on the mandrel (steel rod) when making a bead - and applying dots to the footprint.

It is so nice to take advantage of the excellent work space at Glass Shoppe Studio: soft instrumental music in the background, comfortable and safe set-up, and an expert lampworker at hand.

Grace gently pointed out that I need to be more patient when laying the footprint so that I don't pull the glass. Also, I need to have more attitude when placing dots. The dots should stick out like a half-circle bump, not a ball touching the bead. Otherwise, the dots can easily get knocked off the bead...which is what happened to the bead on the left of the picture.

I am really looking forward to the demo on Saturday July 24th at the studio. Heather Stewart of Hearts of Glass will be demonstrating a fish bead and off-mandrel calla lily pendant while her partner Andrea Steinwand will discuss jewellery finishing techniques.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Bees over spiders

I've tried really, really hard in my life to get over a fear of spiders. With apologies to Margaret of Resurrection Fern, I have also tried to appreciate their beauty, but I am not quite there yet. Two things have helped enormously: having kids, as I don't want to pass on my fear, and gardening gloves.

I do however love bees. I love their buzzing, their fuzziness and what they represent. I'm also thrilled to see them hard at work in my garden.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Just for fun

I'm really looking forward to practising lampworking. I've started buying glass and tools as well as studio time. My first session should be tomorrow night. In the meantime, I've had some fun stringing some of the beads I made during class time.

Some of the techniques I'll be focusing on include laying stingers and placing dots. It's amazing what you can achieve playing around with these skills - providing you actually start to manage them!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Happiness today is...

Finding a baby zucchini growing in my garden.

A refreshing drink for a hot day. I made a lemon-ginger simple syrup and dilute with sparkling water.

Making tortillas with my daughter for tonight's taco dinner.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Summer reading

Hot, lazy summer afternoons should be spent with a cold drink and a good book, in a shady corner where I can admire my efforts at gardening. And definitely not with a view of what still needs to be done cause that just is never going away...

I'm enjoying Talking with My Mouth Full by Bonny Wolf. It's another food memoir, (see Trail of Crumbs), with a focus on how food grounds us.

From the book's introduction:

"And through this baking and breaking bread together, we come to know who we are and where we come from."

This is a warm, chatty book brings us to the table for stories and recipes that anchor of family traditions and life. It speaks to the same need I have to share my love through food. It reminds me that I really need to organize all my clippings and hand-written recipes that I gather from friends, family and media.

While I may not love jello salads and cakes made with instand pudding, I love Aunt Tessa's Poppy Seed Cake and  Sis's Plum Conserve. And I love this book and the spirit in which it was written.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Sunday in Merrickville

One of our favourite day trip destinations is Merrickville, a pretty little town on the Rideau Canal. Yesterday, it had a little to offer for all the family.

While my man and I looked at the bikes at the Merrickville First Annual Show and Shine motorcycle show, the kids voted the play structure that amused them as one of the best ever. It has sparked a summer quest where we hope to visit and rate a number of Ottawa area parks and play structures.

We went to Hucklebuck's, one of my favourite garden shops and got my girl some new gardening gloves. And, she agreed that means she has to help weed!

It was a short tour yesterday and we missed a number of other special stores including Mrs. McGarrigles, the glass blowing studio and the village metalsmiths.

Before we left, we stopped for ice cream.  The sweet smells of sugar washed over me when we went in The Downtowne Ice Cream & Candy Shoppe - wonderful! With flavours like chili chocolate and strawberry with carmelized onion, I couldn't resist tasting the ice cream. Amazing! Probably the best I've had. Out of all the flavours, the citrus gelato my boy had was the favourite. You must try it if you go!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Strawberry traditions

For the more than 20 years, my dad and I have gone berry picking. Always strawberries, sometimes raspberries, we pick together and enjoy time for just the two of us.

This year we went to the Dekok farm out March Rd. and for the first time had a choice of strawberry varieties. We picked Kent: medium berries with good sugar content although not as sweet as the smaller Veestar (these were about finished so picking would have taken more effort). The berries are great - sweet, ripe and I didn't get one with a mass of green seeds on the bottom.

With two four Litre baskets, there's lots to feast on. Last night we had strawberry shortcakes for dessert. Today, I made jam using the recipes in the Certo package. Thick strawberry is for my man - it's the only kind he eats - and inspired by the jam my niece gave me for Christmas, I made strawberry/rhubarb for me. Of course we share!

Now after that earthquake today - got me and the dog shaking - we need something sweet to restore ourselves. Guess I'll have the skimmings on leftover shortcakes!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

All fired up

I'm all excited about beading again. After years of waiting, I finally have the opportunity: I'm taking an introduction to lampworking at a new glass studio here in Ottawa: The Glass Shoppe Studio.

Grace is a wonderful teacher. She is so enthusiastic and encouraging as she shares her skill and love of lampworking with the class. Over the course of three nights, I'm learning the basic techniques that will allow me to create any number of different, beautiful (providing I practice!) beads.

My first beads introduced working with transparent and opaque glass, applying dots and laying a stripe. We also pulled stringers and made a twisty: a stringer made of two colours of glass twisted together.

Working the glass in the flame is so exciting.  You have to focus so intensely on the glass, watching how it is reacting to the flame, in order to be able to control it. Lampworking reminds me of riding my motorcycle in that it demands your full attention - a great escape from the rest of your life.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Onwards and upwards

I want to say congratulations to Monica who tackled her pile of unfinished projects and got some nice rewards in pretty clothes for her efforts. Will I enjoy similar results?

Not quite so optimistic but she did get me started. I finally decided to get around to curtains for upstairs and our living room. This means trying to work with an unwielding bolt of fabric that's been hanging out in my sewing room. Not sure how much I have - I bought it to slipcover a wingback chair but found it unsuitable as it pills. It should make half-decent curtains in the living room though and my current ones can move upstairs to our bedroom. The kids both need curtains over their blinds but that will come later...