Category: Cabin

Blueberries

Blueberry Picking as a Competitive Sport

This summer has been a banner year for blueberries – lots of blackflies in the Spring to pollinate, and lots of rain to help them grow. As a consequence I have been involved in several blueberry picking expeditions here at the lake. Each time I was out there I thought about blogging about it – it’s a fascinating activity, after all…

If you’ve never picked blueberries, read on. You might learn something about the sport art of blueberry picking. If you have, well, you’re not going to learn anything, but you might have flashbacks. Sorry. 

It all starts when you pick up the elders others who are going to join you. Choose carefully. You must like them a lot, and they must either know “the code” or be able to pick up on “the code” without being told directly. (Ok, from now on just do air quotes whenever I say “the code”.) If they don’t know the code, you’re in for a very irritating experience. The two elders in this photo taught me the code, so they’re cool. 

Elders
Liz & mom – experienced elders! 

Then you have to go to the secret location. If it’s not secret, you’d better hope you’re first, otherwise, you’re pooched. The best berries will be long gone. After a few days of berry picking season, once others have also started, you really need to start to investigate the crown land (don’t ever pick on someone’s property, even if they’re related … picking someone else’s berries is tantamount to theft and you will go straight to hell). If your fellow pickers are a bit more lithe (under 65 is good) you can have them hop out of the boat and do a quick looksee. This is what you want them to see:

Bushes
Blueberry bushes at the beginning of the season – we knew there was lots of good picking to come!

There needs to be a LOT of berries to make it worthwhile – or at least a reasonable amount of BIG berries – otherwise it’s going to be a long berry picking session. 

Note: Leave your phone in the boat or you will be treated as a teenager, chastised for being tethered to your phone (and the temptation to take photos will slowly overpower your will to keep picking, let’s face it…). 

Once you’re out there picking, you’d better have a lot to think about, because it’s fucking boring as hell. It take a LONG time to pick blueberries, even when they’re big. And if the boredom doesn’t get you, there are other things that will:

– the incessant chatter of the person close to you

– the fact that someone has come along and has started picking IN YOUR PATCH (this only happens with rookies) – when that happens, try not to lose your mind – just move on gracefully, you can be mature! 

Quart basket
Everyone has a favourite picking container. Quart baskets do nicely. But no handle …

– the insidious heat (berries like the sun, and since part of the code is to wear long pants & shirts, shoes and a hat, you’re going to be dying)

– the ENORMOUS horseflies (ignore them or soon you’ll be thrashing about, increasing your body temp even more)

– the pain (deep squats or bending over happens every 15 seconds. If you haven’t worked out in a few months/years/decades, you start daydreaming about laying in savasana.) 

– dropping a berry that is PERFECT (do NOT search for it… omg such a rookie move) 

– knocking over your entire basket (this can lead to weeping so don’t be stupid and set your basket on a rock … always wedge it in somewhere)

– hearing rustling in the bushes (a bear? a snake?) – do not use your imagination – consider the creature to be your competition and pick on

Throughout the berry picking there is often lively banter from patch to patch. Don’t be distracted from the fact that people are in a masterfully discreet competition. Best patch, most berries. Period. You have to FOCUS.

And for Christ’s sake, don’t step on the berries! (Crucial part of the code – almost forgot to tell you this…)

Once you think that you have suffered picked enough, it’s time to see if the others are feeling the same way WITHOUT ASKING THEM OUTRIGHT. Part of the code is that you don’t complain and you can’t be the one who has had enough. So this is a careful move. Pick your way back to the boat. If you’re with an elder, one of them will likely be there already. But if you’re with folks in your generation, you want to navigate this next step fairly carefully. Of course, you also need to have more berries than them, so keep that in mind. If you’ve got more, then just go for a skinny dip or check your phone (to make sure the kids are ok). Someone will eventually suggest it’s time to go. If there’s thunder, that’s a perfectly legitimate reason to leave. Anything other than that and you’re a wuss. If you haven’t got more, you might want to double back and top up your basket. Depends on what you’re made of. 

Once you’re in the boat people invariably congratulate the best picker on their prowess (while secretly noting that they also have more leaves, red berries and stems in their basket).

Berries in the boat
Bottom of the boat comparison. Note the extra foliage in Paul’s basket. Demerit points. Just sayin’

And you leave.

Done picking
After a skinny dip we’re cool and ready to head back.

Go back to the cottage, take note of the location – maybe even mark it on the lake map so that you remember for next year – and start “cleaning” the berries for eating, baking or the freezer. 

Cleaning berries
When cleaning berries you have to pull out all of the purple & green berries, sticks, and leaves.
Garbage berries
This is the garbage that you have to pick out. It’s a total drag, actually.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And now you Bake Bake Bake! Here is one of my favorite things to bake with blueberries:  blueberry crumb cake (with a shit ton of berries in it).

Pretty much the best blueberry cake I’ve had.

I have also made a LOT of blueberry muffins (see a previous post). They are the same flavor as the crumb cake – just not as many berries or as much sugar. 

Blueberry muffins
These are pretty much the perfect recipe. Check out the link to my older blog post for details.

My most recent discovery is bluberry boy bait (buttery and seriously amazing). At the time it was too amazing to take a photo of. Try it out!

Note that ALL of these recipes are from my fav blog, the smittenkitchen.

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:

imageI’m liking it.

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.

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.

 

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.