Month: September 2016

Expanded Family, Same Old Traditions

The week gone by was, well, life changing. Not just for me, but for my whole family, and for Bree, the wonderful girl who has joined it. All sorts of meetings and stress are behind us, and while there are likely many challenges ahead, we’re feeling pretty peaceful for now. We’re at the cabin, happy to show her around and share with her some of our traditions. She has already noted that we are a very “singy” family … so when we did our Disney princess challenge on the way in (in which one person sings a Disney song and the others try to name the movie faster than the others), she wasn’t overly surprised.

The other day she asked what exactly we DO up here. I think she’s figuring it out, and is starting to find her own groove. She’s been swimming, enjoying big breakfasts and plenty of baking, relaxing, exploring the woods. She likes to fish but is terrified of boats. We’ll have to work on that.

Today has been a day to make a few of the comfort foods that we love to eat when at the cabin. Buttermilk biscuits for breakfast…

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Annie ate 7. Omg.
Cinnamon buns for an afternoon snack …

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I only ate 3. 
Pasta salad, chicken parmesan and Gingerbread cake to take with us to Andrea & Mike’s for dinner…

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Once around the fridge pasta salad.

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Paul flattens and breads chicken, then fries it. Mmmm.

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Gingerbread cake is cooling. Almost ready to make the icing.
A good day so far!!

Peace out.

 

A Day for Quilting

I’m at the cabin, it’s raining, the fire is on and there are good eats going on like this:

Some onion, garlic, tomatoes, salt, pepper, white wine … Simmered down to perfection then ladled onto a ciabatta bun with some melted smoked Gouda. OMG pure bliss.

It’s the perfect day to listen to the CBC on Sirius Satellite and do some quilting. And maybe make a s’more here or there in the fireplace (sadly the graham wafers are a bit soggy… but not as soggy as it is outside!).

I’m really happy with the quilt I’m working on (I talked about it a while back in another post). I love top stitching my quilts. It’s contemplative work – I can think about all sorts of things. I can listen to the radio or a blog or watch Netflix (although not up at the cabin). Essentially, I’m forced to sit still and be peaceful. It’s slow work and good for the soul.

My stitching is by no means perfect, in fact I went to a tutorial on top stitching earlier this summer and realized that I am doing it totally wrong. I tried to change, really I did, but I can’t get the hang of the method used by the professionals. And like my stitching methods, my stitching design is also unconventional. (I prefer to “wing it” – I don’t think the Mennonites do that, but I admire their quilts just the same.) Essentially this quilt is looking like a giant doodle. Each rectangle in the quilt has a different stitching design, which makes it kind of fun, like making a self striping scarf … the quilt evolves slowly as I finish each rectangle.

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Right now I’m working on a really large rectangle. Not my favorite … the smaller ones are so much more satisfying since they’re done relatively fast. This doodle is wavy and organic. This what I’ve got so far:

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Baking with Maple Syrup

Nothing like starting the day at the cabin with pancakes and maple syrup! It made me think about what else I can make with maple syrup today. Checked my recipes and pins and decided to whip up a batch of Maple Syrup Bars for my secretary’s birthday tomorrow. The bars are basically butter tarts in square form – much easier than making pastry.

Simple crust – flour, butter, sugar. Press it in a parchment lined pan (critical, believe me).

Simple filling – maple syrup, sugar, walnuts, butter, egg, bit of flour + salt. Bake it up and BINGO! Wonderful treat to share with those you love.

http://www.simplystacie.net/2014/08/maple-syrup-bars/

Back to the Cabin (again)

The fam made it through the first week of school pretty well. Rough start for the eldest who was suffering from a brutal cold, but she rallied and managed 3 rugby practices to boot. The youngest has a new morning routine that seems to help him to be prepared for the bus. We shall see. Still in the honeymoon phase of school, as they say.

Lastnight we arrived to the lake at dusk – Paul unpacked quickly and loaded the boat while I searched for a wayward sleeping bag in mom’s bunkie. Called for the boy as we were set to leave – he was on the swing with his EarPods in … just enjoying the view.

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We booked it across the bay without having a flashlight – not the MOST dangerous thing I’ve done at the lake in my lifetime, but not exactly a good demonstration of safe boating for the kids, either. Mental note, always pack out the flashlight.

Today I found time to drink tea, read some favorite blogs, check the fridge and freezer to see what food we had available, and decide what I wanted to bake. Then I baked. And even quilted. And drank more tea. It was like heaven. Especially with the lovely assortment of chocolate bars that Paul brought from the marina. Love the man.

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First things first, though. I started off by searching through the pantry and I found some crystallized ginger that seemed to be calling my name. I also came to the startling realization that there was only 1/2 lb of butter left for the entire weekend! OMG. My heart! In addition to the butter problem was my knowledge that while the lake was calm & the sun was peering through, there was enduring rain in the forecast. Whatever, the kids can tube later. MUST. HAVE. BAKING.

Interrupting these thoughts, breakfast. It’s always great here – because of both Paul’s high-fat high-carb spread and the animated conversation … today Paul’s tutorial about how to make the cheesy eggs, Annie’s about how to scare away fishermen in the bay with messy morning hair and me with what I should bake (Liam was dying to tutorialize us with his rubic’s cube coding, but we’d had enough lastnight during Yahtzee.) Of most interest to me of course was the baking plan. We narrowed it down to peanut butter cookies, ginger cookies and gingerbread with cream cheese icing. Paul was indifferent since he doesn’t injest sugar I know, right? but the kids and I were equally vocal about our choices.

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Sent Paul to the marina to get butter, dragging the kids behind the boat. Win-win. Only cost him an arm. I was in business.

First up was gingerbread with cream cheese icing (because that’s my pic, obv). Looking at the recipe, I disn’t have cloves or applesauce – but I could make the latter. No problem. Thanks be to God for The Bullet.

Made a quick boat trip to mom’s cottage to raid the pantry for ground cloves. No luck. Found allspice though. What the hell IS allspice, anyway?? Found out from Google that “allspice comes from a single tree, but tastes like a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves” and that it can be substituted for cloves. Hurrah. Made the cake. Odd. It’s dark brown in the photo on Pinterest. It was light brown in my bowl. Shouldn’t it have molasses in it? Shouldn’t it have eggs? These days I’m working on suspending my disbelief. I tossed it in the oven… and got down to mixing up the peanut butter cookie dough.

The kids loved the cookies. Paul even ate TWO. Pigs will fly tonight. Finally, iced the gingerbread cake … and enjoyed a bite slice.

 

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This gingerbread cake is THE BOMB. Check it out at http://www.lecremedelacrumb.com/2015/11/gingerbread-loaf.html.

The Fix-it Pile

Surely everyone must have one of these piles. Surely it’s not just me. More sensible people likely have a dedicated shelf in the sewing room for the ripped or somehow damaged clothing that needs repair. Or even a basket in a closet.  Out of sight, out of mind.

Due to sheer laziness and perhaps my own efforts to urge myself into action, my pile is draped over my bedroom chair, in plain sight. Each day I think “ya I love those pants and I am going to want to wear them soon so I really should get off my lazy ass and fix them before that day comes when I’m sewing at 6am”.

Honestly though, the fix-it pile is starting to piss me off. I may have to sew tonight just to remove that small but irritating monkey on my back.

Lunches. Suck. 

It’s the night before the first day of school all across Ontario. Kids are irritated that their summer is over but they don’t have to give a crap about lunches because at this stage of the game the parental units are feeling generous with their time and making lunches that their kids might actually like. Truth.

In this household we started with the obligatory chat on the way home from the cabin. “So, what might you want to have in your lunches this year?” Yawning silence. Best friend of 14 yr old daughter says “well I can tell you all of the things she eats out of MY lunch…” OMG why the hell didn’t I think of that LAST year?? Turns out: pasta salad and perogies are favorites. Who the hell would guess that?? Jeez.

So tonight I embark on making pasta salad all 3 of us will like. It goes like this:

No dressing for the 12 year old. Add dressing and tomatoes for the 14 year old. Add peppers for me. Done.

Then I decided that muffins would be a good idea, so I whipped up a batch of blueberry lemon muffins. The kids have both stolen one and they’re ‘good’. Gee thanks.

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Love the Pampered Chef muffin pan … makes pro muffins every time.

Finally, I need granola for my own personal survival. I like it with yoghurt and whatever fruit I can salvage. It’s the perfect thing to keep at work and eat whenever I have the chance. This granola is a Deborah recipe … made with coconut oil and maple syrup and cinnamon and a dash of cloves … nice and crunchy and flavorful. I will give you the recipe for this one since it’s insanely good – not like that lame-ass orzo salad that I hobbled together with whatever was in the fridge…

After tomorrow’s lunch everyone is officially on their own. It’s all downhill from here.

You’ve Gotta Be Nuts Granola (odd title, but bear with me)
In a large bowl mix:
3 c large flake oatmeal
1 c slivered almonds (I used sliced, whatever)
1/2 c raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1/2 c raw sunflower seeds
Reserve: 1 c raw pecan halves (you’ll add this to the whole mixture after 15 minutes of baking time)
Melt together:
1/4 c coconut oil
1/4 c butter
Add: 1/4 c maple syrup
1/3 c brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves (go with it)
1/8 tsp salt
Pour the wet ingredients over the dry, mix. Spread onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake 15 minutes at 325 degrees (where the hell is that symbol on an Apple keyboard? Wtf). Add pecan halves and toss. Bake another 15 minutes or till the stuff at the edges is looking dangerously brown. Cool. Store in an airtight container. Eat it and share it and be the granola boss.

Back to Reality Cinnamon Buns

Today we have to leave the cabin and get back to routines and learning and extra curriculars and all of the jobs that I didn’t get around to in the summer. I even got up early in order to maximize the morning here – that’s virtually unheard of. The only other time I got up early this summer was when I had to get up to pee at around 5:30 and through my squinty eyes glimpsed the most beautiful sunrise. I yelled at Paul and we went down to the shore and took it in for a few minutes, snapped a photo, then went back to bed for 2 hours. I really should get up earlier. Today it was misty and mysterious at 7. I wandered down to the boathouse and saw two loons fishing in the bay. They dove and I could watch them scooting around about a foot under the surface. Very cool. Never seen that before!! Of course Paul went for his morning swim off the point, so I had to take more photos…

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I puttered around the grounds, picking up more pinecones for the Kindies and filling up the kindling box. Then inside to a warm fire. I figured that if we have to leave, it should be after we’ve consumed a dozen cinnamon buns. Here’s my old faithful recipe, no idea where it came from… been using it for decades:

Jiffy Cinnamon Buns

Filling:

1/3 cup butter, soft

1 cup brown sugar, packed

3 tsp cinnamon

toasted nuts or dried fruit (if desired)

Dough:

2 cups all purpose flour

2 Tbsp granulated sugar

4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup butter, cold, in pieces

1 cup milk, soured with 3 tsp white vinegar OR 1 cup buttermilk

Mix the first 4 ingredients together in a large bowl. Cut in the cold butter till you can’t see it in there anymore. Make a well. Add the cold milk. Stir only till moistened (about 15 stirs). Dump it onto a floured countertop. Sprinkle a bit more flour on top and knead & turn it about 4 times, then spread out into a rectangular shape.

Mix together the first 3 filling ingredients. Spread onto the rectangle. Sprinkle with whatever you want inside the buns. Add raisins if you never want my kids to eat them.

Roll up lengthwise. Cut into 12 pieces – approx. 1″ wide. Put into a greased 9×12″ pan or muffin tins. Whatever floats your boat. Bake at 400 degrees (where the hell is the degrees sign on a keyboard?). Invert onto a platter while still hot or you’ll never get them out.

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Eat.

 

Another Bourbon Experiment

 

In keeping with my bourbon focus, I put the following search into Pinterest: appetizers, bourbon, savory. Came up with a whole host of very yummy looking things. I wanted to make a chutney or something with cream cheese – something spreadable. After scrolling through, I settled on Bourbon Bacon Jam since I had most of the ingredients at hand. Here they are:

 

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Had to substitute vidalia onion for shallots.
Pretty standard ingredients, and easy to make – all you need is time to cook up the bacon, then onion and garlic, and finally simmer it all down.

Finally, after about an hour and a half it seemed jam-like. Too hot to taste so I just went with it and watched the consistency.

Meanwhile, I needed to figure out what to serve this jam ON. I thought that mini tea biscuits might be easy enough. Since I had time while the jam was stewing away, I decided to try out a new recipe. I use shortening in my “baking powder biscuits” recipe but wanted to try one that used shaved frozen butter. I’ve heard they’re MUCH better. Back to Pinterest for a recipe and off I went.

Turns out, the shaving frozen butter trick is excellent. I’m never going back. (Unfortunately I cut the shit out of my finger when I was trying to get the last bits of butter out of the grater… I have a love-hate relationship with graters.)

Taste-wise, the overall result is VERY good! Hard to describe, but overall, a deep sweet meaty flavor. Like sticky ribs. Paul moaned when he tried it. Lol

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Buttermilk tea biscuits and bourbon bacon jam.
Here are the links to the recipes:

http://www.savoryexperiments.com/bourbon-bacon-jam/ and http://foodlove.com/fool-proof-buttermilk-biscuits-from-scratch/

 

 

A Summer with Bourbon

This summer one of my staff members gave me a bottle of bourbon as an end of year “here’s to you” kind of gift. [I had been reading a book where a character had been drinking a lot of bourbon, and I must have been going on about it in the staff room.]

After doing a search on Pinterest for promising drinks involving bourbon, I settled on 4 that I thought would be tasty. I stocked up on ingredients to make the drinks, packed them up to the cabin and waited for the right moment to try them out.

I  guess I’m not much of a drinker, since I didn’t crack the bottle until peach season when I got hooked on the following recipe:

Bourbon Peach Slush

3 cups frozen peaches

1 cup ginger ale

Squeeze of lime

Bourbon

Then yesterday, when looking for a recipe that I could make for the Treasure Hunt pot luck, I came across one that includes bourbon! Lovely. So I tried it out.

It disappeared really quickly, so I think it was a big hit. Here’s the link: Http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/peach-bourbon-upside-down-cake.html

We’re invited to a lake party today at 5 … everyone is to bring an appetizer. I’m wondering if can find one with bourbon. Stay tuned.

Back to the Cabin

Survived the first week back to work (as a P, that’s the week prior to Labour Day weekend). Ran a decent PA day with excellent discussions and DOING math during our morning meeting, and had short “Fireside Chats” in the afternoon with staff to find out their goals and concerns and how I can support them this year. It was a long and awesome day! I commiserated afterwards to CB that I forgot to take photos of the fabulous math … she suggests that I have a dedicated photographer next time. I think that’s a great idea. I’m going to put a call in to Rusty on that one.

For now though, we’re at the lake for the weekend. Time for family and the annual Treasure Hunt and the inevitable taking stock of all things done and not done during the summer. We will write in our journal and make a wish list for next year. I’m not too concerned about a lot of work this weekend … for me if it’s not been finished, it’s going to have to wait. (I do not have the same philosophy as my mom, who had the early arriving grandkids doing chores all day yesterday! Annie was thrilled to arrive later in the day lol.)

My favorite finished projects are:

The countertop in the bunkie went from UG to WOAH. We learned a lot about tiling in the process. It’s not perfect, the grout pulled away from the slate in a couple of places (too wet?). But it’s just fine for the bunkie. Especially considering that it used to look like this…

Next will come the backsplash that will be vintage tin ceiling tiles. I have them ready to go but ran out of time.

The other massively great accomplishment of the summer were the three beds that Paul made. Bunk beds in the bunkie and two beds in the cabin. Such a HUGE improvement!! Here’s a before and after in the bunkie:

The old bunk bed had a ladder up the wall (each rung was covered with a piece of carpet). It was facing a different direction, and it was two double beds (the frame was a metal boxspring). We removed the old bunk bed, pulled up the carpet and hard tack linoleum and refinished the floors. Paul and I designed the queen / twin bunk bed and we stole Uncle Ian’s awesome ladder design. It turned out really well. We can fit bins underneath, and the queen bed is spacious and inviting. The top bed is a bit too close to the ceiling, but Liam doesn’t mind.

My next favorite accomplishment is the outdoor shower. It used to be a green hose with an antique shower head (a circular ring at the top that had holes in it). I requested hot water … and Paul made it happen. He built a cedar platform as well, and found me a piece of driftwood that I’d requested for a soap and shampoo holder. We decided that we wouldn’t construct walls -it is completely open air. I haven’t been caught in the shower yet, but it will happen some day. It’s inevitable. imageFinally, I love my summer weight quilt that is “in progress”. I started with scraps that match the painting and chairs in the front porch. I made a plan with grid paper, then cut the fabric into rectangles and arranged them. Sewed. Found errors in my design. Reorganized.  I found an old blanket in the cabin that was thin enough for the batting. Basted together the 3 layers: my funky top, thin batting and a new polka dot backing, and got going with the top stitching. I have a long way to go, but I am not too jazzed about it. Soon enough it will be done. And it will be awesome.

Now off to make a skillet peach cake for the Treasure Hunt pot luck.