Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Blogging A to Z  for April sounds great but can I do it?

I thought about it and decided I was going to try but I am adding a twist to it - I am going try to do a recipe a day (preferably one that I have done) following the alphabet.  If I don't have a recipe for that letter I will post about something else.  I know, I could be called a cheater doing it that way after I said that I would do a recipe a day but there aren't a lot of foods that start with X that I have used in cooking.

I have another problem as well - I can't remember who had the Blogging from A to Z on their site and am not sure of all the parameters.  I feel like an idiot because I went back and looked at some of the few blogs I follow but can't seem to find it.  Help!!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Playing in the dirt!

I spent part of the yesterday morning banging together my rickety old shelf unit that I use for putting my seed flats on.  The rest  of the morning and part of the afternoon  I spent filling my trays with soil and then finally seeding them in.  I had quite a number of seeds that had come as part of an Italian seed kit.  I don't even know if they will germinate but am willing to give them a go.

I, very briefly, panicked when I thought I had absolutely no tomato seeds.  Luck would have it that I had two types of seed that I very happily discovered inside another bag!  What a relief!  I know I could just jump into my van and zip over to one of the local greenhouses and pick some up.  The problem is that most of what I plant are heritage seeds and they only carry a very small variety - none of which I grow.  So, you can understand why my heart sank for a few moments.

What did I plant?  Well, let me see...   There are some gigante di napoli parsley, some romas, Genovese basil, ramata di milano onions (I've never started onions from seed before - should be interesting.), Chinese cabbage,Striato d'italia zucchini, Violetta Lunga 2 eggplants, ramoso clabrese broccoli, yellow, green and red peppers, acorn squash, Cuor di bue tomatoes, Listada de gandia eggplant, long purple eggplant, black beauty eggplant, wild grape seeds, and a hot paper lantern pepper - a haberno type of pepper.  I still would like to start a couple other varieties of tomatoes as we really like the black ones and a small red one called princepe borghese -which is a medium-sized cherry tomato that is not sweet and incredibly prolific and delicious! Hopefully I won't get them too late to plant...

Once everything comes up and it warms up outside (ha!) I will set up my small greenhouse (my daughter got for me one Mother's Day!) on the deck so they can get a nice jump on the season.  I am not going to hold my breath about the warming up part as we still have a good three feet of snow out there and it isn't going anywhere fast!!  Melting is just a word at this point - it was -13Celsius last night and still well under zero. Tonight is supposed to be the same.  It is supposed to be over zero by the end of the week but I've heard this rumour before! lol

Last night was Earth Hour. We invited friends over and shared some lovely raspberry/saskatoon wine and  tea wine.  I had made some foccoccia earlier (we hadn't eaten supper), and had that as well as some smoked fish and smoked cheese.  It was all very relaxing by candlelight.  We were quite shocked later when we turned on a low watt light to look at some pictures how glaring the electric light appeared and how blinded we were by the difference!

I was going to post a couple pictures but they will have to wait - I crashed my computer this afternoon and am reloading a few necessary items back into it...lol  

Have a good one!

Friday, March 18, 2011


As with anyone who has seen videos or pictures of the earthquake and resulting circumstances in Japan, I felt a deep sorrow for them.  All we can really do, if we are not a person with appropriate skills to go over and help, is to donate to the Red Cross in hopes that it will help them alleviate some of the destruction and to rebuild.

As a small sign of respect I wrote a poem:

earth convulsed
water tsunamied
fire spews toxic 
hope left.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Soapmaking - the real deal

I can hardly wait until the end of March/beginning of April when I have spring break.  It is not because we are going anywhere exotic, or even cross-country; hell we're not even leaving town!  I am pretty happy about just hunkering down and doing things that need a couple days to do - like soapmaking.

I love making soap almost as much as I love making bread.  Not the melt and pour stuff that you can buy in a large craft store but the real deal.  The kind of soap that makes you say "mmm" when you smell it and when it lathers up it is creamy and fresh smelling.  The kind of soap that you just know that only natural ingredients are in it.

I used to make huge quantities of handmade soap and sell it when my kids were little.  It helped to supplement our income and allowed me to stay at home with them.  As well, I wasn't allergic to it and it made the whole house smell great while it dried!

The hardest part that I find when I make soap is deciding which of my twenty-three different scents to make! Do I do my Rosemary is for Remembrance, Citrus Sunshine (hubby's favourite), Christmas in the Wilderness (one of my favourites), or do I do Euphoria or maybe Aphrodite's Delight?  I know for sure that I am making a batch of Aphrodite's Delight already for a couple friends who sell honey-based products.  It is a lovely, light soap with all of their honey's nourishing properties. 

Making soap is not hard, it just requires a few safety precautions and patience.  Generally, it takes about three hours from set-up to the end of clean-up to make a batch of soap.  Then it has to sit overnight before you can cut it.  After that, it has to sit for a month before you can use it.  A lot of recipes say to let it sit for only two weeks before you can use it but I am more comfortable with a month.  It needs that extra timeframe to become milder and it allows the bars to harden.  My batches are large because I have only the large frames and large recipes that I developed when I made it in bulk.  Forty-eight bars of soap will last us awhile so choosing the one I want to use for a long time is important - to me anyway.

I am hoping to possibly do a picture tutorial of sorts when I make it - so come and join me sometime in the beginning of April when I make a batch!  Hopefully, life won't throw me any curve balls and prevent me from it.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Pineapple Vinegar and a mini-rant on sustainability

I like making anything I can from scratch.  Sure, I can go down to the local grocery store and pick up most anything that I want or need but I really like the satisfaction that comes with making it myself.  I also believe that a lot a people, including myself, need to do more of this to pass it down for future generations.  I am not talking about sitting them down and explaining all the ins and outs or insisting that this is the only way to do things.  Just by making them aware that things can be made, and that the added bonuses are that they are less likely to be full of chemicals (if it comes from your garden) and that it is a lot cheaper to make your own. I work in a high school and it continually amazes me how many young people have no idea how to make even basic foods or even where they come from.  

We rely too much on our marketing system to provide for us.  We need to be more self-sufficient and to extricate ourselves from a lot of questionable farming products and manufactured foods.  I don't think at this point in time that any of us could or would want to be completely independent of the greater world but some self-sustainability could go a long way to making the world a healthier place both for us and the land.

That said, I realize that imported pineapples are not local but I have wanted to try to make some pineapple vinegar for the longest time and up until now, I have always composted the peels.  (Yes - I feel somewhat guilty after my little rant!) Today, my desire to make vinegar finally came to fruition.  I had two lovely pineapples to cut up.  I saved the peelings and put them, well chopped, into a two quart jar.  I had already added about 1/3 cup of brown sugar to the non-chlorinated water so just poured it in.  It now sits covered, on my countertop.  Covering something like this is important.  It needs oxygen to breathe, so a clean cloth  is necessary.  As well, the cloth has to be secured  down to keep those pesky little fruit flies out!

I understand that it  has to now sit for a couple weeks, be strained and then sit again in a dark place to develop into vinegar.  This is very similiar to what I did to make cider vinegar, except I actually used organic apple juice rather than the apple peels to make it.  My other vinegars - red and white wine, cider, and malt - are surprisingly good.  We are especially enamoured with the white wine vinegar for our salads and the cider on our homemade fries.

I will post the pineapple vinegar's progress as the weeks go on.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Shave for the Brave Cancer Support

Canada is blessed with a population is that is incredible when it comes to helping a worthy cause.  There are so many wonderful folks out there that take time to organize, find pledges, and do many kindhearted things to help others out.

I would like to introduce you to one such individual - Laurita Miller.  Anyone who has had cancer or whose heart has been touched by someone with cancer should check out Laurita Miller's newly renamed site Calling Shotgun .  She has a huge heart and has collected an enormous amount of pledges for youth cancer.  On top of all that, this kindhearted woman and her equally kind son have joined together to show support by shaving their hair all off!

Enough said.  This deed speaks volumes for itself. Check it out - it is so worth your time!

Friday, March 11, 2011

First Annual Cabin Fever Writing Competition First Place Winner 1

 Now that we  have an (appropriately) good, strong March blizzard roaring outside, I would like to thank everyone who participated and just say that I was very impressed with everyone's pieces.  I hope everyone will join us, once again next year at the same time.

I was glad that I didn't have to pick the winner as it would have been a difficult decision to make! I once again must thank our very generous judges for all their time and effort!

Now that you have had time to enjoy and peruse our second and third place winner's entries, it is time to announce our first place winner for the First Annual Cabin Fever Writing Competition. Anyone that has had a previous opportunity to read her work will agree that she continually amazes us with her writing.

Our inaugural first place winner for this year is none other than Cathy Webster Olliffe!! 

A witty and talented Canadian writer, Cathy Webster Olliffe hearkens from the "boonies" (as she puts it) of Bracebridge, Ontario.  She lives near the incredibly beautiful and scenic Muskoka River in a very old and authentic  log cabin!  Who better suited to a cabin fever competition than her?  Besides being a talented writer and blogger, she is also a graphic artist. You can read her blog called  "Life on the Muskoka River" at her site:  http://muskokariver.blogspot.com/

I was alternately, claustrophobic and despairing when I read her piece.   Now that I have been able to distance myself a little, I know that our judges have chosen well.  Her piece literally made me feel as though I was suffocating.

Our judges remarked that Cathy's piece was the "Perfect embodiment of the theme!  -so tight in the narrative - with regards to information - yet sylistic elements still present in spite of conciseness -  well thought out and paced - dramatic!"

Here is her winning piece:

One, two, three, four, five, six.
Six paces wide.
He turned in the corner and started counting out the depth.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine.  Almost ten.
A black rectangular box.
A coffin with a bunk bed, a sleeping bag, a few provisions and an
unknown quantity of oxygen.
Buck flopped down on the bunk and tried to relax, mindful of the
limited air supply.  It was tough not to be agitated, though, when you
were on a mountainside in a trapper's cabin, buried under an
He was the trapper.  This was his cabin.  He'd built it out of logs thirty
years ago.
Thirty years.  Six paces wide.  Ten paces long.
The numbers piled up in his head.  He was obsessing on them, he
knew, but he couldn't help it.  He wasn't sure how long he'd been
trapped in the cabin, but it was at least a day.
Twenty-four hours.  Thirty years.  Six paces. Ten paces.
How long before the air ran out?  Another hour?  Another day?  How
long before they found his body?  Spring?  Summer?  This year? Next
So much to count.
He leapt to his feet and paced.

Congratulations, Cathy!  I will be sending out your prize sometime this week.  Here is a sneak peak of a couple of your goodies:

Congratulations, Cathy!
Included in your prize is a pair of vibrant red (honestly they are - they just don't look that way in the picture..lol) earrings from Jeannine Elder from Neepawa and of course, a Timmy's card to help make it through those long winter days.  There are also a couple of other small surprises coming your way, as well.

Monday, March 7, 2011

First Annual Cabin Fever Writing Competition - 2nd Prize

I promised to post the picture of Barb's second place prize.  Here it is!!
There is a pair of lovely earrings from Jeanine Elder of Neepawa and a Timmy's card for those all important caffeine fixes!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

First Annual Cabin Fever Writing Competition 2

Well, it is now time to reveal our most worthy second-place writer.  She is well-known for her music reviews, has a very uniquely named and incredibly popular blog called the Bad Tempered Zombie .  I am not even sure how to describe her as I have known her for quite a long time - literally more than a couple of decades!  She is a wonderful, unique person, who is immensely talented at whatever she puts her mind and pen to. ( I am totally biased here, which is why I had to have impartial judges to decide on our winners.)

Barbara Bruederlin freelances out of Calgary.  She writes reviews for several music magazines.  Her knowledge of Indy music astounds me, (she can vouch for the fact that I am a complete Luddite in this area - lol) and I am always impressed by the depth and humour in her writing.  Our judges commented that there was "great use of colour - like points of punctuation" and that the poem was "Enigmatic, has me guessing/posturing but (the) sense of dread and hopelessness is strong."  She also writes Haiku  and occasionally posts it on her blog.  Barb was one of a few individuals that chose to submit a piece of poetry for Cabin Fever.

Congratulations, Barb!

Here is her poem:


Blood red walls
bear silent witness to
the death
of dreams.
beckons you to the water,
offering glimpses of escape.
Day pass.
Stay of execution.

When the pounding stops,
when the water stops, 
silence descends.

Silence follows you to the grey room.
Silence peers through frozen glass with dead eyes.
Silence cannot escape this wall of white.

The dead world holds you firm inside this cage

I will be sending your prizes sometime next week.  They include a beautiful pair of earrings from Jeanine Elder of Neepawa, and a Tim Horton's card, as well as a couple little surprises.  Unfortunately, the batteries are dead in my camera so I will post the picture of them tomorrow after it is charged.  (My apologies - I feel like a bit of a smuck for not being more prepared with the camera!)

Friday, March 4, 2011

First Annual Cabin Fever Writing Competition

I must apologize because of how spread out this has wound up being.  I had originally intended on announcing the winners every second day but life interfered so it has to be one a week.  Hopefully, this just adds to the excitement of who will be  featured.

I will be revealing our wonderful second place winner tomorrow (Saturday) for the First Annual Cabin Fever Writing Competition. 

Stay tuned!