December 31, 2006
Thankfully, the Freecycle gods smiled upon us, and we were blessed with a gorgeous Maytag Neptune front loading washing machine. It's a thing of beauty (as much as an appliance can be), and I can't imagine why the people who gave it to us ever parted with it, but I'm so grateful that they did!
I finally saw An Inconvenient Truth the other day (more on that another time) and had been contemplating putting our dryer to rest ever since - I guess this was some kind of sign. Since we can't afford the space or money required to replace our dryer, we have no choice but to go all the way with the environmental option!
With the real possibility of months of non-stop rain in the winter here on the west coast, I'm a little concerned about having to dry everything indoors. I usually manage to dry a large percentage of our laundry outside during the winter, but sometimes that's just not possible. We've got an indoor line running the length of our back room, but it's only 10 feet long so it doesn't hold a lot - I usually only dry smaller things like our skivvies there rather than subjecting our neighbors to the sight of them (or me to the thought of them having seen them). At the moment, we've got laundry hanging all over the house, but I just ordered an Ecodri rack to hang in the back room over the washing machine which I'm hoping will keep the drying laundry more contained.
High indoor humidity can be a bit of a problem here, so I'm a little worried about that. Our house being so tiny (less than 800 square feet) with four of us showering and breathing doesn't help matters, so we've been thinking about getting a dehumidifier, but I don't really like the idea of running another electrical applicance. However, we're going to look at a used Jotul wood stove later this afternoon, and I'm hoping that if we can make that work, the dry wood heat will solve our humidity problem.
We're off to ring in the new year with our family this evening. I wish you all the best for 2007!!
December 30, 2006
These are great to have on hand if you plan on having people around over the holidays. One batch can be made into as many cheese balls as you like, depending on the gatherings that you will need them for (I usually get three roughly 3 1/2 inches in diameter). I make this up at the start of the season, wrap them individually in plastic wrap or waxed paper, and pop them into the fridge or freezer until I need them. The recipe can be halved if desired.
Cheryl's Favorite Cheese Ball:
- 2 8 ounce packages of cream cheese
- 1 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
- 1 1/2 cups shredded medium or sharp Cheddar cheese
- 1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled
- 4 pieces of bacon, fried until crisp and well chopped (for a vegetarian option, substitute 1/2 cup finely chopped green olives or sundried tomatoes)
- 1 medium/large clove garlic, minced
- a good dash of hot sauce
- a good dash of worchestershire sauce
- 1/3 cup finely chopped green onions
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- minced pecans or walnuts for rolling in, optional
Put the cream cheese into the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients (except for the nuts) and mix until combined, scraping from the bottom several times to incorporate.
After you've decided how many balls you'd like to make, lay out the appropriate number of pieces of plastic wrap or waxed paper (the balls will eventually start to dry out if stored in waxed paper for too long, so you may want to slip them inside another container to help keep them moist). Divide the cheese mixture between the sheets of wrap, placing it in the middle of each sheet. To form a ball, pull the plastic wrap up around the sides of the cheese mixture, gathering it tightly, and twist the end of the wrap to form a tight package, shaping it into a ball as you go. Chill or freeze at this point.
When ready to serve, take the cheese ball out of the fridge (allow frozen cheese balls to thaw in the refrigerator at least overnight) and roll in minced nuts if desired. Let the ball sit out at room temperature for at least a half an hour (an hour is better) as the flavours are better when the cheese isn't too cold.
Serve with crackers, slices of baguette, or small pretzel twists (my favorite, as you can use them to scoop with).
This would be a great addition to any New Year's celebration!
December 29, 2006
The Rules: Each player starts with "6 weird things about you". Each person who gets tagged needs to write a blog post of their own 6 weird things as well as clearly state this rule. After you state your 6 weird things, you need to choose 6 people to be tagged and list their names. Don't forget to leave a comment that says "you're tagged" in their comments and tell them to read your blog for information as to what it means.
1. I find Jack Black strangely attractive.
2. The most impressive thing I learned at University was how to crush a beer can on my forehead (don't you all just love me now?).
3. I'm borderline agoraphobic.
4. I eat my pancakes with peanut butter and maple syrup on them (even weirder - I don't actually think this is weird).
5.I want more than anything to live in a Hobbit House.
6. I insist on line-drying my laundry in the middle of winter (this one was supplied by my husband when I couldn't think of anything else).
I won't tag anyone in particular, but if you feel like taking part in the fun, let me know where I can check out your list!
The FDA has just announced that they consider the meat and milk from cloned animals to be safe for human consumption, and these products could be on supermarket shelves sometime in the not too distant future.
Despite calls for labeling by consumer, food safety, and animal rights groups, the FDA would likely not support such a move, as such labeling could lead to widespread bans by consumers of products containing ingredients from cloned livestock. They are holding a three month comment period before making their final decision.
What's your opinion on products from cloned animals?
For more information, visit the following links:
December 28, 2006
We decided to take my grandfather to Stanley park since the weather was so gorgeous today. It's a pretty typical thing to do with visitors from out of town, but it was quite different from the usual trip to the park. Due to the severe damage from the storm we had a couple of weeks ago, most of the park is inaccessible, but we were able to get in on the side where the damage wasn't so bad - the worst damage seems to have occurred on the side where the winds came right off the open ocean.
The sight of this gorgeous old tree laying on its side was heartbreaking. Everyone who came by couldn't help but stop and look.
Normally, you wouldn't have been able to see through this stand of trees. There's a lot more light coming into the park now.
December 24, 2006
Ever since I was a child we've had cinnamon buns while we open our gifts. The ones my mom used to make were filled with raisins and dripping with sweet brown sugar syrup. When I was 19 I got a job doing the baking in a small deli, and once a week we sold huge cream cheese frosted cinnamon buns, and that kind quickly became a new favorite.
Tomorrow, after we've opened all the gifts, we'll have a big breakfast of eggs benedict, hash browns, and fruit salad. Then we'll spend the rest of the day at my mom and step-dad's place with assorted friends and family.
Wishing you a day filled with peace, love, health, happiness, good company, and good food!
December 22, 2006
Chilled Vancouver commuters faced their second day of winter hell today, as an additional ¼ centimetre of the peculiar white stuff fell, bringing the lower mainland to its knees and causing millions of dollars worth of damage to the marijuana crops.
Scientists suspect that the substance is some form of frozen water particles and experts from Saskatchewan are being flown in. With temperatures dipping to the almost but not quite near
zero mark, Vancouverites were warned to double insulate their lattes before venturing out.
Vancouver police recommended that people stay inside except for emergencies, such as running out of espresso or biscotti to see them through Vancouver's most terrible storm to date.
The local Canadian Tire (a national retail chain) reported that they had completely sold out of fur lined sandals and snow tires.
Drivers were cautioned to put their convertible tops up, and several have been shocked to learn that their SUV's actually have four wheel drive, although most have no idea how to use it.
Weary commuters faced soggy sushi, and the threat of frozen breast implants. Dr. John Blatherwick ... of the Coastal Health Authority reassured everyone that most breast implants were perfectly safe to 25 below. "The government has to do something," snarled an angry
Trevor Warburton. "I didn't pay $540,000 for my one bedroom condo so I could sit around and be treated like someone from Toronto."
December 21, 2006
The added bonus to making your own liqueurs is that they can be made with local and organic ingredients. So rather than getting Irish Cream that was shipped all the way from Ireland, or Limoncello from Italy, I make them myself using Canadian whiskey and vodka, and as many other local ingredients as possible.
This Irish Cream was a favorite of my grandmother's, so I always made sure I had some on hand when she was here for Christmas. It's rich and creamy and tastes remarkably like the real thing.
The recipe comes from a book that was given to me by a former employer as I was leaving to go off to university (I made soups, sandwiches, and did general baking in their small deli). The book was written by a woman who lived not far from where we were in the Kootenays, and it's filled with many delicious recipes, including several other liqueurs.
- 1 cup rye whiskey
- 3 tsp. instant coffee
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1 egg
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 cup milk
- pinch of cinnamon
Blend in blender. Store in refrigerator (makes just over 1 litre/quart).I'm also trying my hand at a batch of homemade Limoncello, but it won't be ready for a little while yet. The recipe that I'm using can be found here.
Click here to see the yummy caramels the kids and I made yesterday.
Happy winter solstice!
December 20, 2006
I have never seen such devastation to the city's trees. The snow storm we had almost a month ago did many of them in due to the sheer weight of the snow, with major limbs or whole trees crashing to the ground.
Last Friday we experienced another devastating storm with hurricane-force winds that took down thousands more trees within Vancouver alone. Stanley park, our city's jewel known for its stands of beautiful old cedars and hemlocks, was severely damaged, with an estimated 3, 000 trees down in the park. Logging crews are being brought in to handle the clean up, which could take up to a year, and it will take generations for the forest to return to its previous state.
The thing that really gets me is that people only seem to be concerned about the inconvenience of having no power, or having to boil their water, and are ignoring the fact that our weather has gone completely berserk this year. Jim over at Earth Home Garden has been noticing similar disturbing trends with his local weather in California. Ours certainly isn't any warmer than it normally is this time of year, but it's intensely wet and windy, which is exactly what scientists are predicting for this area in the wake of climate change (we've had at least one wind or rain warning a week for the last couple of months).
Granted, weather sometimes does strange things, and every little blip can't be blamed on global warming. But when these things start happening with increasing frequency, we should probably sit up and pay attention.
To learn more about global warming and our effect on it, check out some of the free online videos that I posted here.
What scares me is the prospect that most of North America thinks like this guy does (this is from a comment that someone wrote in response to that post):
December 19, 2006
First on the agenda was one of Rachel Ray's Five Minute Fudge Wreaths. I'm not really a fan of fudge, but I decided to give this a shot anyway.
The recipe called for an 8 ounce can of walnuts, but I've never seen such a thing, so I just used a cup of chopped walnuts and it seems like the right amount. I also used dried cranberries instead of currants, which was a nice touch. I'm happy to say it's actually really yummy - it reminds me a little bit of one of those Cherry Blossom chocolates (without the gooey center).
The other thing I made is Chocolate Peanut Butter Bark, which is a favorite of mine. If you like peanut butter cups, you'll love this stuff. It takes a little longer than 5 minutes to make, but not much.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Bark (from Canadian Living Magazine):
- 1 lb white chocolate, chopped
- 1 1/2 cups crunchy peanut butter
- 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
Line 10 X 15" baking sheet with parchment or waxed paper. Melt white chocolate with peanut butter, stirring occasionally (I do this in a metal bowl set over a pot of boiling water). Pour into prepared pan, spreading evenly. Melt semi-sweet chocolate, and pour in 4-5 (1/2" thick) lines across the surface of the white chocolate mixture. Draw a knife through the mixture (alternating directions) to marbleize. Chill in refrigerator until set. Let the bark come to room temperature before serving, otherwise the chocolate swirl will be much harder than the rest.
Tomorrow looks like it's completely free (I'll believe it when I see it), so I should get the majority of my baking done then. My 80 year old grandfather is arriving from Ontario on Friday, so it's crunch time. I'm really excited to have him coming though, we haven't spent the holidays together since I was 12!
December 18, 2006
They were sleeping with their heads together until I came in to snap this picture. I guess I'm not as cat-like as I thought.
December 15, 2006
Bee promptly turned one into a bejewelled keepsake box as a gift for one of her friends. My main reason for rescuing them was to use them for storing bits and pieces in the kids' craft cupboard, but I'll probably use a few as gift boxes this Christmas.So, you crafty people, what would you do with these lovely little boxes?
December 14, 2006
The first thing on my list for this year was a batch of Cheese Coins, which are basically savory shortbread cookies. They're rich and flaky and were an instant favorite when I made them for the first time about four years ago. Aside from being delicious, they're also a very convenient thing to have on hand for the holidays, as the dough can be kept in the fridge or freezer for weeks, and baked fresh as needed.
On top of all their other wonderful attributes, cheese coins are also incredibly easy to make, and can be whipped up in the food processor within minutes. I was excited to finally get to crack open the package of paprika that my in-laws brought me from their trip to Hungary last summer.
It seems to have a lot more colour than the kind I usually use (the cayenne,which is piled on top of the paprika in the top photo, isn't nearly as rich and red), which added a bright tinge to the dough.
Here's the dough all wrapped up and ready for the freezer.
Once the dough has had a chance to chill, you just slice it up and bake it for 20 minutes. Topped with a dab of sweet red pepper jelly, they'll be snapped up with lightening speed. Come to think of it, I might have to make another batch.This batch is looking not quite right for some reason. It may be that I didn't let it chill long enough before baking it (I had to show you the end result!), but I also may have overdone it a bit with the cheese - I grated a little bit too much but threw it in anyway. Thankfully, they taste just fine!
If you'd like to try them out for yourself, you can find the recipe here. The only adjustment I make is to reduce the cayenne by half (for the kids' sake).
On another note, something strange has happened so that all of my photos on Blogger enlarge to a ridiculous size. Does anyone have any idea what might be going on? I didn't actually change anything (that I know of) with my camera or blog settings. If you have any suggestions, I'd be very grateful!
December 13, 2006
This is my favorite ornament. She's just so cute! Bee took this photo of Baxter while we were decorating the tree. Could he look less amused?
Click here to see more!
December 10, 2006
Since it's winter and I'm having a hard time coming up with blog topics, I thought I'd do something similar.
This is one of my favorite places in our house, because it's where my husband sits when he reads to us at night (we're currently listening to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix). He's so much fun to listen to - his voices and silly faces keep us all riveted.
When we bought the house (2 years ago as of December 2), there was 30 year old carpet throughout the living room and our bedroom. We pulled that all up before moving in, and C. meticulously refinished the original hardwood floors, which turned out beautifully despite being full of staples and covered in water stains. I tiled the entryway not long after.
I love this chair, with its rich colour and subtle rose pattern. We bought it used from someone on Craigslist, but it came from Ikea originally. I realize this is a controversial thing to admit (considering they're a huge multinational corporation), but I like Ikea furniture because their products are free from formaldehyde (a major contributor to indoor air pollution), and brominated flame retardants, and to find furniture without these things elsewhere could potentially cost a fortune. Buying their products second hand is a good option if you don't want to support them directly.
The nice warm glow coming from the lamp is courtesy of my new favorite light bulbs.
Where's your favorite place to read a good book?
(In no particular order)
1. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
2. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
3. Child of the Phoenix by Barbara Erskine
4. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
5. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet
6. Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres
7. The Witching Hour by Anne Rice
8. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
9. The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx
10. Into the Forest by Jean Hegland
11. The River Why by David Duncan
12. On Rue Tatin by Susan Herrmann Loomis
13. Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
14. The Birth House by Ami Mckay
15. Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel
It's so hard to stop at 15!
If any of you enjoy similar kinds of books and have some read-alikes to recommend, please do!
December 08, 2006
I've always adored these little copper butter warmers but have never sprung for one because they're ridiculously expensive. I've been using my stainless steel measuring cups on the stovetop to melt butter when I need it (we don't have a microwave), but I'm always worried that they'll warp, so I was very excited when I saw this on the shelf for a whole dollar.
I also grabbed this great book. It's full of fun-looking projects, such as book-binding, Shaker and Amish woodcraft, floor cloths, rag rugs, and quaint little bird houses. I can't wait to try some of them out.
Have I mentioned how much I love buying things second hand? You'd never get all this great stuff from a trip to Wally World!
Well, not for $5 anyway.
December 07, 2006
Kitchen Sink Cookies (from Martha Stewart Living Magazine) :
- 1 cup unsalted butter or non-hydrogenated margarine
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 cups unbleached flour (I use whole wheat pastry flour with good results)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups old fashioned (rolled) oats
- 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1 cup flaked coconut
- 1 cup raisins
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
Cream butter and sugars together until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla. Add the rest of the ingredients on top of the butter and sugar mixture. Turn mixer on low and stir everything together until well combined. Drop by large rounded spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet. Flatten balls slightly with the heel of your hand.
Bake for 16-18 minutes or until lightly golden. Allow the cookies to cool on the pan for 2 minutes before removing them (this helps them hold together better). Makes about 4 dozen.
Now if you'll excuse me, I see that it's almost 4:00 - time for my tea!
December 06, 2006
We found ourselves a gorgeous set of used kitchen cabinets on Craigslist last weekend, just the colour and style we were looking for, and for only $500. We drove out to take a look at them on Monday night, made plans for when we might able to pick them up, and then excitedly came home to start planning our renovations. But this afternoon, I came home to an email saying that they'd sold the cabinets to somebody else! The really annoying part is, this is the second time in a month that we thought we'd found cabinets only to have them sold to someone else unexpectedly. It's getting a little frustrating!
Okay, end of whine.
On another note, I finally sat down to watch yesterday's episode of Oprah featuring Al Gore, which I'd recorded. He was on there discussing his documentary An Inconvenient Truth, something I've been dying to see but haven't. What I've seen of it so far looks really great, and I think it should be required viewing for everyone. In fact, if you're curious, but don't want to spend the money, you can check it out on Youtube (it's on there in 10 short segments).
I've been curious about Al Gore ever since I went to hear David Suzuki speak several years ago. He told us about a young man that he met many years ago who was, and is, the only politician he's ever met who actually "gets it" about the environment (the young man being Al, of course, years before he ever thought of becoming Vice President). I heard this a while after he "lost" to Bush, and it didn't match the mental image that I had of him at all.
I was sent a list of similar movies that are available online and I thought some of you might be interested in checking them out:
David Attenborough's Climate Chaos
Part 1: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/640x480/xmq0n
Part 2: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/640x480/xmy11
Strange Days on Planet Earth
2004 Trailer: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/640x480/xmj0l
Part 1: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/640x480/xmje7
Part 2: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/640x480/xmkei
Part 3: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/640x480/xmmvv
Part 4: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/640x480/xmolm
2007 Trailer: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/640x480/xmj1j
The Denial Machine
The End of Suburbia
Trading Freedom: The Secret Life of The FTAA
Big Ideas That Changed The World
Part 1: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/640x480/xjb67
Part 2: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/640x480/xjbjg
Capitalism and Other Kid's Stuff
December 04, 2006
This candle is roughly 4 X 5 inches. To buy a candle this size could easily set me back more than $30, but I only used about $5 worth of wax to make this one. The wax is a rich chocolate brown colour, which is due to the buckwheat nectar that the bees feasted on while making their honey.
I melted the wax in an old coffee can set in a pot of boiling water, which prevents the wax from overheating and catching on fire.
December 03, 2006
This is my very favorite teapot which I bought about 4 years ago. It's nice and big and makes a lot of tea at one time, so it's great when I have a bunch of people over. The spout got broken about six months ago (don't even ask), but I still love it.
This one's great because it makes enough for me to have one big cuppa (for those slow mornings), or for C. and I to have a civilised cup each.
I had to get this pumpkin pot last year because it was only $5 and it came with two matching pumpkin mugs. I love the tendrils on it.
I got this bowl yesterday too. I envision it holding my morning bowl of steel cut oatmeal - I only need one because the kids won't touch the stuff.
This cup and its mate were another one of yesterday's finds. I've been gradually replacing my cheap stoneware mugs with beautiful clay cups. I like having a varied collection instead of a matching set, that way people (and I) can choose the perfect one to suit their taste and/or mood. The perfect mug is all about feel for me. It has to have a nice curved bottom that I can cup in my hands (oh behave!).
This is another favorite from several years ago.
And it's not just dishes that these talented people make. This pretty mirror brightens up our entryway.
My salt pig is probably the kitchen's most-used item. It sits dutifully on my stove top, ready to dispense a spoonful (or a pinch) of salt whenever I need it.
I love the colour and pattern of this pasta bowl. I've seriously considered asking the woman who made it if she can make me some other things to match (a teapot maybe?). On the other hand, it might not be so precious if I had more than one thing in that style.
This blue plate is another favorite. I seem to gravitate to things with at least a hint of blue in them.
That's more or less my pottery collection. There are a few others that I didn't show that you'll see scattered in previous posts. I love the variety and personality that comes through in these one-of-a-kind creations, it's something that's totally lacking in mass produced goods. There's a little bit of the artist in each one.
Do you have a collection that you can't resist adding to?
December 02, 2006
I think I like it better this way!
December 01, 2006
This blueberry bush was being dripped on over the course of several days and it turned into one giant icicle (this is just one branch, the rest of the plant is encased in ice too).
I hope those of you who are currently being hammered by winter weather are keeping safe and warm!