Lazy day

This week just flew by. The weather has been so mild, +7 C yesterday. Today we had Charlie Brown snow– big fat fluffy flakes. So pretty.  

 I had been hoping to butcher the last of the roosters this weekend. Remember how when I did roosters a few months ago I had spared some because they were pretty or I wasn’t exactly sure they were roosters?  Well, I spared ten apparently. And some of them turned mean and were attacking me when I went into the pen. That’s gratitude for you. So my daughter caught them and we moved them into a different pen. Immediately the atmosphere in the main pen changed and became calmer. Those roosters were just mean and were picking on the girls. Once they were out, egg production soared. So they are on borrowed time. 

Today turned into the kind of day where we just stayed inside and watched movies. Actually a series, a British production about crime in the Shetland Islands. We really enjoyed it. Mid morning we took a break and made a mountain of crepes.  

  

  

  

 I had mine with apple jelly and Aidan had Nutella and raspberry jam. Scrummy!!  Earlier this week I made head cheese. Peoples’eyes usually glaze over when they hear head cheese–imagining a huge bristley pigs’ head burbling in a caldron. Not so. As a kid I loved head cheese. It was a family favorite in the summer, served in a big bowl with vinegary sliced onions and slices of buttered rye bread. My mom made it from pork hocks and it was quite the production. First you simmer the hocks with pickling seasonings, a carrot, onion and celery for added flavour till the meat falls off the bones.  I put the spices in a tea bag I picked up at the Chinese grocery. So much more convenient than leaving them loose or tying them in cheesecloth. I can never find my cheesecloth when I need it.  

    
   

 Pull the meat out and let the stock continue to reduce while you pull the meat off the bones. I always burn my fingers. Then I go thru the meat and discard every shred of fat. My mother wasn’t so fussy. I think she liked the fat but I like my head cheese extremely lean. Then I shred the meat slightly and lay it in a bowl.  

  

  

 The meat should not be packed as you want the flavourful gelatinous stock to surround each morsel of meat. Into the fridge till it gells.  

 Then slice into bite sized cubes, add sliced sweet onion and a vinegrette.  

 Mom always used Italian dressing but this is too rich for me so I thin the dressing with rice vinegar. Then enjoy with a slice of bread. Rye is best but I only had ciabatta. Toasted, it goes very well with head cheese.  

 The longer it sits in the marinade the better it gets but it usually doesn’t last that long. Now, back to the Shetlands. 

Spring is in the air

The last couple of days have been just beautiful. Sunny, snow is melting. I found any excuse to be outside for a change and even cleaned out the grainery. The chickens were all out on the sunny side of the coop.  

 Momma goat is bulging already.  

  

 She still has two months to go. I’m sure hoping she doesn’t have another five or six babies in there. Three is plenty. The little goat is also showing. Goats often twin on their first pregnancy so she probably has twins. 

Piggy was out rooting thru the leavings from the chicken coop.  

  She wouldn’t lift her head for a picture. 

Today after work I walked over to my neighbors’ to check on her. She hasn’t left the yard for a couple of days and didn’t answer the phone. I packaged up a bowl of cherry crumble for her and walked over. She was fine. Watching curling with the volume turned up so she didn’t hear the phone. We had tea and cookies. Homemade oatmeal cookies. They were so good, hard and crispy, perfect for dunking into tea. Then home and chores. 

It was clean out the fridge day and I thought I would make fried rice with a pot of rice I had in the fridge. I had been saving it to make coconut pineapple rice pudding but wanted savoury rice instead. Before I could do anything with it, I first had to bring it back to life. I layered half in a Tupperware container and spooned the drippings from the roast chicken the other night over it. Then I tossed in a handful of frozen shrimp, the rest of the rice and some frozen peas on top. On with the lid and into the microwave for three minutes on high before I did chores. I scrounged a half an onion, some celery, some chopped roast chicken from the other night–I was missing a carrot. I had used up the garden carrots I had in the fridge but I still had a bucket in the pump house. Now was my chance to see how they had wintered. There are many methods for storing carrots–covering them with sand or peat moss. But I just used the same soil they were grown in.  

 Oh oh they were starting to sprout!! And they were sort of hairy too!?!   

 I tossed a few that had split to the ponies. But the fine hair just wiped off. 

   I snapped one in half and it was crisp. Looking good. I took them in, gave them a quick scrub then had a bite.  

 Perfectly fine!! Success!! 

So I chopped all the veggies and threw them into a couple more spoonfuls of chicken drippings.   

  While that was frying up, I got everything else ready. Into the pan and stirred it around. The shrimp were cooked perfectly and the rice was tender and fluffy. I cleared a spot on the side of the pan for an egg and scrambled that in.  

  

 All good fried rice has egg in it. Then a couple splooshes of soy sauce, a healthy grinding of black pepper and supper was done.  

 Best of all there’s a bowl for lunch tomorrow. 😊

Midterm break 

I had last week off. Midterm break. I had all kinds of plans but got nothing accomplished. I inspected the inside of my eye lids mostly. I think I caught some horrible bug from the kids on my bus. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I didn’t eat for several days, just drank ginger tea but then I had to have something. I had some chicken broth in the fridge and a bag full of onions so I made French onion soup. My mother ordered this when we were in France and I thought, “eeewwww, gross”.  That is till I tasted it. Then I was hooked. It’s really my go to soup when I don’t know what I want but I want something good. Salty and rich and soothing on the throat. Four or five yellow onions.   

 

They sweeten as they cook so you don’t need to start with sweet ones.  There’s not enough flavour there. A big knob of butter and you just sweat them till they melt and get all glossy and sweet.  

 I like a big grinding of pepper and some salt. Then a splash of whatever wine you have kicking around.  

 Let that cook a bit then into a deep pot with the broth. I boiled up the carcass of one of those aggressive roosters I butchered earlier. It made a nice rich broth.   

  Toast a crusty bun and let it really dry out in the toaster.  

 I make my onion soup backwards. The cheese gets melted into the bread then the soup is ladled over the top.  

 So good when you’re just not sure what you want. The weather was pretty unsettled too. Freezing rain, snow then sun.  

  

  

 I think the big dog thought she should be coming in to the house.   

 Aidan drove Louis the Wonder pony.  

  

 But back to work today. 

My teapot

Every July we have a huge three day event of the Handcraft Nature. A huge gathering of the potters, carvers, weavers and specialty food producers of the province. I’m not sure if they come in from the neighbouring provinces but the venue is huge, filling two large arenas, with outdoor food booths and other activities for the kids. But way back in its infancy I seem to remember it was called Chautauqua. It was held in the Civic Centre, over a weekend, and was only moderately popular. I was living in the cottage at the hospital then and went to see what was for sale. Not much. A lot of pottery, the kind you can find almost every weekend at garage sales, big, chunky heavy stuff with an uninspiring sort of blah glaze. Immediately recognizable as prairie pottery–everyone made the same thing. Over the first few years of the show I made several purchases, a huge platter (never used), a beautiful casserole/bean pot thing with a lid (seldom used) and a massive teapot, which I use still today.  

 It holds slightly over two litres, the largest teapot I’ve every seen. It has a dripless spout and the unique feature that the lid doesn’t fall out when you are tipping it to get the last drop of tea.  

 I’ve been looking for a replacement for the last few years thinking that it just can’t go on, it’s days are numbered, what will I do for a replacement?? I love the size–when I want a pot of tea, I want a pot of tea–not just a few cups. It cost $40 if I remember correctly. I think minimum wage at this time was about $2.50/hr and I was working for the city, earning a respectable $5.00/hr. So the teapot was quite the investment — a full days wage. I think I’ve used it almost every day since then so it certainly doesn’t owe me any money. It gets used the most when anyone is feeling poorly–even my picky daughter drinks lemon tea when she’s ill. So I make a pot and she’ll drink cup after cup–then I’ll  make another pot for the evening. The same goes for me. I’ve been a little  blah last week and over the weekend. My favourite remedy for that blah feeling is ginger tea. You take a respectable sized knob of peeled ginger sliced against the grain, and a scant cup of sugar.  

  

 Remember this is a two plus litre pot so that’s 8-9 cups. Not really that much sugar. Pulverize the ginger with some wooden implement using the sugar to help break down the fibres much like you use salt to break down a clove of garlic.  

  

 Add the juice of a lemon (I bought this juicer in Spain, in Finnisterre at the China shop–every time I use it I’m right back on that cobblestone street. Ah, memories!!) and three Red Rose tea bags (it must be Red Rose tea). Sip until the pot is empty or you don’t feel blah anymore. 

Good for what ails you. 

Happy Valentine’s Day 

My poor daughter–somehow, Valentine’s Day escaped me this year. Usually I’m right on top of it–shelves are usually stocked with Valentine’s candy right after Christmas. By the time I went out on Saturday the Valentine’s things had been mostly replaced with Easter stuff. Aaarrrgh !!!  But I think I managed ok, had to pad it with a Kinder egg ( it was pink).  But she got me a lovely bag full of goodies… Flavoured almonds, a beautiful dish towel and a favorite move, The Lunchbox. 

 I also made cream puffs and made my first attempt at macarons. The cream puffs turned out very nice.  

  

  

 I filled them with chocolate whipped cream and dipped them in chocolate.  

 Yummy 😊  

 I took a plate full up to my elderly neighbour. I think she was tickled. The macarons, as they were my first attempt, were really nothing special. Simple almond flavoured with no additional colors.


   The filling was cream cheese and cherry jam. I was really pleased with them– crunchy and chewy, with that nice tart cherry filling. I don’t think they’ll last long.  

   We were out enjoying the sun with the animals. Aidan went for a pony drive and I took my sons’ dog for a run. We are dog sitting while Bren goes skiing in the mountains.  
   He gets along well with the little one. Thinks he’s a big lap dog. The chickens were enjoying the sun too. 

  

  And so were the goats.    
 Really a nice day. Hope you enjoyed yours as well. 

Sandwiches

Sammie’s, hoagies, po’boys, butties, by any name they are the epitome of easy eating. Said to have been created when the Duke of Sandwich refused to leave the gaming table to eat and was faint with hunger–

“You there, boy!!!…Bring me bread…and meat…” Munch munch munch…”Oh I say, these are scrummy, I’ll call them sandwiches, eh, wot?? …apologies to my British friends…

As a child we went exploring as a family every weekend. We had a tin picnic basket, red plaid paint on the outside, that my mother would fill with food. It was like a magic hamper, never empty, always filled with all kinds of goodies. I remember the salami sandwiches on thin sliced rye bread. A thin smear of mustard, wrapped in wax paper, with a cup of hot sweet lemon tea from the ever present thermos, it was ambrosia. What child today would eat salami and rye bread??  Mine wouldn’t. But we were our parents’ children and they gave us the gift of trying, and enjoying, for the most part, strange and wonderful foods. (I still have trouble with Limburger cheese though).

The summer of grade seven, I think I was 13, my father packed up the whole family and took us to Europe for two months. He bought a car and we toured France, Italy, Germany and Austria. Who could do that nowadays??  On a single income??  Sure, he was the city engineer but civil servants were notoriously underpaid. Our little backwater town council was filled with miserly business men who thought people should be paid nothing, work them hard and still expect them to shop at their establishments; after all, no sacrifice was too great for someone else to make. But my father had grown up poor, survived the war and its aftermaths, and had saved for this trip.  But I digress. Back to sandwiches.

In Paris we stayed in a run down hotel with a mangy cat that the owner adored. She served no breakfast so we had to fend for ourselves. My father took us out to the neighbourhood bar. We kids were a little timid, after all bars were where adults went to drink. We didn’t understand that great institution of the neighbourhood bar/cafe where you could get everything. My mother had a huge bowl of cafe au lait , and we all had jambon beurre sandwiches. That is, freshly baked baguette,  with a smear of butter and slices of ham. We thought we’d died and gone to heaven. I still dream of these. When I was backpacking thru France later on I also had these sandwiches and when I traveled in the South Pacific, I had this sandwich in Tahiti. Heaven.

I went to university in Moncton New Brunswick for a year, I had gotten a job as an English language monitor to the first year university students. It was a French language university and there were many students from French speaking parts of the world–Lebanon, what was then Zaire, and other North African countries. One of the fellows from Zaire, Jean Marie, took me for my first donair. Meat shaved off a skewered pillar of meat charring in front of an open flame, wrapped in a pita. It was so exotic and delicious.

And then in Edmonton, at the Italian Store, the deli produced sandwiches. Crusty loaves filled with capicollo, creamy provelone, and a spicy tapenade. Incredibly good.

So, I like a good sandwich. I made one for supper the other day. Thin sliced maple smoked ham, Swiss cheese, horseradish mayo and apple jelly and a big wedge of iceberg lettuce on thinly sliced rye bread. It’s all about the crunch.

 Go make yourselves a sandwich, a meal you can hold in your hand. Thank you Earl of Sandwich.

Fat Tuesday

Or Mardi Gras. Usually pancake day everywhere in North America except New Orleans where they have beignets or square doughnuts. Not just a single day of celebrating but several days before the actual first day of lent. Another holiday stolen from the heathens and utilized by the church to make Christianity more palatable to the unwashed pagan horde. A spring and fertility festival became the clean all the goodies out of the house festival so you can fast and suffer the next 40 days till Easter. I guess I’m still a pagan. I’ll partake in Fat Tuesday but may lapse a bit as far as the fasting goes. Our celebrating started Sunday morning with a pan full of cream biscuits. We were lazy after the sleigh rally and wanted something scrummy while we binge watched HBO’s The Vikings, season one. Very very good (and bloody).  img_9022img_9025-1img_9028img_9037So after brushing the tops liberally with butter they went into a hot oven. Hmmm. They really didn’t brown very much.img_9040

But oh my goodness they were light and tender and oh so good. My daughter chose seedless raspberry jam and I finished off the jar of vanilla cherry jam. Bacon, cheese and Vikings…. 🙂img_9046img_9049Then Tuesday night we went all out and made some New Orleans style beignets. img_9050img_9052img_9053img_9054img_9055They are supposed to be square but then they are too hard to eat and the sugar to doughnut ratio is off. So I cut them smaller.  Dipped while hot into cinnamon sugar they were delicious with a tall glass of cold milk. Hope your Fat Tuesday was yummy too!!

 

NOTE:  I’m having some serious problems loading pictures–this has taken all week and I’m still not sure it will work–here’s hoping…

 

 

It’s a blustery day, Piglet

Today was the big sleigh rally.  And what a day…mild, +4C but my goodness the wind.  Environment Canada said it was WNW 54 gusting 72 K/hr.  All I know is I was nearly blown over on Airport Hill–and cold !!  At least the sun came out after the start, but it was cold at first.  Our wonderful neighbour came over and helped Aidan load Louis the Wonder Pony and his sleigh, then we all headed out to the fair grounds.  There was a pretty respectable turn out, I think over 20 teams and sleighs, all different and wonderful to see.  The route was 10-12 kilometers–Aidan said most of it was sheltered but there were a few open fields they had to cross.IMG_8967IMG_8970Aidan had a friend there–they traveled together.IMG_8975IMG_8976Here are a few of the rigs that turned out…

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Here’a Aidan at about the halfway point–still right behind her buddy.IMG_9018And the final leg, after a blustery crossing of open field and a few meters of asphalt–it was really melting…this is where I was nearly blown over–awful awful wind!!IMG_9021Then back to the fair grounds, unharnessed and into the trailer with his blanket on…Louis the Wonder Pony does it again 🙂

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day

My daughter and I went to a presentation on Iceland at the library the other day. I had been asked to give one two years ago, after my sister, daughter and I spent a week there. I excused myself saying my pictures weren’t good enough. The truth was that I thought we hadn’t done/seen enough of the country to show it to best advantage.

The two girls who were brave enough to give a presentation were a couple of teachers. As they started I realized we were kindred spirits. Their experiences almost exactly mirrored our own.

When Icelandair began their direct service from Edmonton to Reykjavik they had a special introductory offer. Four days in a wonderful hotel and several included excursions. We opted to stay an additional three nights and rented a car at a very reasonable rate. The first night was on the plane so when we landed at  6am we were a little dozy. We picked up our car and tried to find somewhere to eat. Do you think we could find a place??  I don’t know if there just weren’t any coffee shops or we couldn’t find them or it was too early but in any event we were faint with hunger when we finally found a place. My memory is that it was somehow connected to the Blue Lagoon but it was good and really, how expensive could it be??  $80.  That’s how expensive our buffet breakfast was. Bread. Boiled egg. Fruit. Yogurt. $80.  Gulp!!  Oh and coffee. IMG_1723

The girls had a similar problem. Their first meal was a $40 burger and a $25 wrap. Their next meal was a $9 hotdog. Naked. We found the famous hotdog stand that Bill Clinton ate at, and had really good, fully loaded dogs for $3.

But eating was a problem.

The girls solved it their way. One of them had brought along a suitcase full of ramen noodles, chocolate, trail mix and granola bars. They also went shopping and made themselves ham sandwiches for their week of exploring. We went shopping too but bought really good rye bread, salami, Icelandic cheese, and every flavour of Skyr we could find (Icelandic yogurt). Pear was a favorite. Olives and pickles too. The food in the grocery store was comparably priced to ours at home and we enjoyed our picnics. I had really wanted to try the lamb but we had several failed attempts at eating out so we gave up fairly quickly.

We found a nice little place in Vik–we got sandwiches and Aidan got a pizza.

Yes, nice wonder bread sandwiches and a handfull of fries.  $22.  Pizza was $25ish–excellent but we ate it cold as leftovers–not as good as hot.

Then, Aidan was slowly dying of starvation, I mean how many hotdogs and pots of yogurt can you really eat, we found…IMG_1914IMG_1913Really good food–even better price–and best of all for me, really GOOD coffee.

We had meals out on our excursions, (this was thunder bread, baked in steaming geo-thermal sand and slathered in REAL butter–tasted like ginger bread–no one else seemed to like it so we kept going back for more), IMG_1795our picnics, and a meal at a gas station Cafe–that was about it. But we saw lots. Like the girls, we had very unpredictable weather but it was green and we put lots of miles on the old rental car. And made several trips to the Blue Lagoon.IMG_1747

We’re going back again this April. The girls did try whale and puffin–for $65 a plate!! The only good news there is that they put it on their credit card and somehow, when they got home,  the charge never showed up.  I don’t want to eat whale (I have problems eating animals that are more intelligent than I am) but I want lamb and FISH!!  We won’t be taking any granola bars or trail mix or ramen noodles. But we will go shopping for picnic supplies.

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We love Iceland!!

Busy knitting

I can’t remember a recent year where I actually pulled out my knitting and finished a project. I’ve been working on mittens off and on now since before Christmas and you’d think I should have several pairs done. But I work mostly without a pattern AND try to watch tv at the same time. So not that easy. I started with this one.

 But somehow, after doing the thumb I lost a whole medallion. That’s eight stitches!!  I was not paying attention while I was increasing the thumb gusset. Sigh. I also wasn’t sure about the salmon coloured row of medallions. So then I made these and actually finished them.

 I left out the salmon coloured row and I’m sorry. It added a certain je ne sais quoi, but that pair is done now. I’ll just felt the heck out of the odd one and stuff it for a chew toy for the dog. Now I’m working on a second pair, a mirror color combo and I really like it.

 img_8950  But I ripped out as much as I knit. The colors are so hard to knit when the light is dim (for my babies’ delicate eyes) and I’m trying to binge watch Game of Thrones. All I can say is it’s so hard to see the details no one should find all my mistakes. I really like this color combo. This style of knitting is twinned Scandinavian where two colors are used in each row giving a double thickness to the fabric. The yarn felts together with wear and I have a pair that is almost ten years old.  img_8955I call these my penguin mitts.  I love the spare finger–it makes the mitts so much more versatile. IMG_8956[1]IMG_8958[1]Only the seam in the thumb is giving out but I did the thumbs on these new mitts in the round, that is with four needles, so there is no seam.  They are so warm and wind proof now.   I may just cut these thumbs off and redo them in the round.  IMG_8960[1]The inside is almost as pretty as the outside.  The yarn isn’t meant to be carried any more than three stitches or fingers would get snagged.  It would also defeat the purpose of having a double layer of knitting.

They knit this style in Newfoundland for the fishermen there. The first thing the men do is dunk their new mitts in the sea water to begin the felting process. This yarn is produced in New Brunswick at the Briggs and Little yarn mill. Single ply, pure wool, it’s hard to find out west, but when I find it (one of my hobbies is to visit wool shops to fondle the wool and add bits to my stash) I buy it even if the colors don’t really go. I never know where I can use it. Of course these days I could just order on line but where’s the fun in that?? That’s not a treasure hunt. 🙂

So now back to finish that other mitt.