Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Breadmaker Addiction

I got a new Breadmaker for Christmas, and she's a beauty. A Black & Decker Ultimate Plus 2 Pound Convection Breadmaker. The Lamborghini of Breadmakers.

What's that you say? Don't I already have a breadmaker? TWO other breadmakers?


So? What's your point?

Last summer I got a little Durabrand one from Walmart that was on clearance. It's a nice little breadmaker, but the manual is totally incomprehensible, written by someone who does not use English as their first language, nor even their second language and you have to guess at things. Makes good Brioche dough though.

And last Christmas, I purchased a beautiful machine from Canadian Tire with some Christmas money, another Black & Decker machine, a Cadillac of Breadmakers, an All-In-One Horizontal Deluxe 3 Pound Breadmaker. It makes a 2, 2.5, or 3 pound loaf of bread. It also has twin paddles and a nice long pan for mixing dough. I got it for half price - $50.00 - on a Boxing Day special and I love it. It makes gorgeous Brioche Dough...smooth, silky, satiny, perfect, tacky-but-not-sticky-to-the-touch Brioche Dough. Perhaps you are detecting a theme here. The manual for this machine is quite limited too, just a few recipes, some directions and that is it.

Back to my new breadmaker. This machine is amazing. It does so many things, I haven't even tried a tenth of them yet. And it has a great manual/recipe book. The first thing I always do is make a small loaf of white bread and let it bake in the machine to make sure it does the basics...sort of kick the tires, if you get my drift. It did ok, but I am not a big fan of bread baked in the breadmaker, I prefer to mix & knead the dough in the machine, then form it, let it rise and bake in the oven. But this machine has many other new features that appeal to my gadget-loving self. It is customizable. It has several built-in programs and you can program in 5 of your own recipes if you want to. Also, and this is one of my favorite features, it has a PAUSE button. What's a Pause button for, you ask? Wellllll, let me explain...

...say you want to make a beautiful loaf of braided Challah, you put the ingredients in the pan, start the cycle, and just before the 3rd rise, you press the PAUSE button. Remove the pan from the machine, dump out the dough, divide into 3 pieces, roll them into ropes, braid them together, tuck the ends under, place the dough back in the pan and pan back in the machine and press START. The machine resumes it's cycle, letting your loaf rise and bake. TOO COOL! You can also make Monkey Bread, or a Pull Apart as I call it. And a Mediterranean Rustic loaf, stuffed with cheese, garlic, meat and sun-dried tomatoes. Oh Yum! And did I mention the Batter Bread Cycle, or the Fruit and Nut dispenser? Or the 24 hour delay bake cycle? Or the French, Fruit & Nut, Gluten Free, and Low Carb Bread Cycles? Of course it makes Jam too, but most of them have that cycle.

My very first breadmaker, a Hitachi HB-B201 had a jam and a cooked rice cycle, and I bought it in 1991. That was a great machine too. After that one I had a Sunbeam. It died last year, or rather the pan died, the mechanism that turns the paddle seized up. It would have cost more to purchase a new pan than to purchase a new machine, that is why I bought the little Durabrand from Walmart. And Christmas of 2006, I bought a Toastmaster one that was really nice too, got it on a Boxing Day sale, again at Walmart. I gave it to Bente last Christmas when I bought my Black & Decker Horizontal machine. Hers was ancient and giving up the ghost and I knew she would give it a really good home.

So, yes, I have 3 breadmakers. And yes, at any given time, you might find two of them mixing dough. Today was Brioche day. Why today? Because I got my Christmas present from Kate today...a real honest-to-gosh Brioche Pan! Oh it is sooooooooooo pretty! And it's non-stick, and I mean truly non-stick. I baked my first ever loaf of Brioche a Tete in it and when it came out of the oven, I let it sit a minute and then after muttering "oh well, the Lord hates a coward" or words to that effect, I tipped it over and the loaf just slid right out. Not one crumb stuck to the pan.

Of course, this being my first ever Brioche a Tete, I made the dough ball to big. Next time will make it half that size and will glaze it as you are supposed to do. I didn't bother with the glaze because this was my "test" loaf. It's more like a basketball with a knob on top than a Brioche with a Tete on it, blush. But hey, it will taste incredible, I just know it.

The Brioche I make falls under the category of Poor Man's Brioche. I read somewhere that there are 3 categories for Brioche depending on how much butter and eggs there is in the loaf, Poor Man's Brioche having the least amount of both. My recipe has 3 eggs and 6 tablespoons of butter, plenty rich enough for me. I will make the Rich Man's Brioche someday, just to try. I am sure it is amazing.

Bente finally made it over today for a short visit. We have both been rather housebound for the last 3 weeks, ever since this horrible snow and cold weather hit. Max drove her over and she stayed for an hour and a half. It was so great to see her and we had a great visit. She enjoyed hearing about my new breadmaker and all the things it can do. We talked about all the things we want to do once the snow and cold are gone and our seasonal temperatures and rain are back. She brought me over some frozen peaches that she picked up for me at Quality Foods before Christmas. 5 bags of them. In the winter I prefer frozen fruit - with the exception of apples, oranges & bananas - as opposed to the fresh that you find in local stores. Somehow, a peach from Chile does not quite have the cachet it once did for me. I buy my raspberries and strawberries frozen too. There is nothing quite like a Galette made with those frozen fruits in the winter. Why don't I just buy fresh raspberries or strawberries from the grocery store imported from California? Have you SEEN the prices of them in the winter? Enough said.

Anyway, time to get the last loaf of Brioche out of the oven. This is the test Brioche dough I made in the new breadmaker. The Brioche a Tete dough was made in the Horizontal breadmaker.

What in the world am I going to do with all that Brioche?


...Baked Brioche Bread Pudding; Chocolate stuffed Brioche French Toast; plain Brioche French Toast; Baked Brioche French Toast; toast; fresh with butter; Cheese on slices of Brioche....

Yeah, I know...


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Which One of You P*ssed Off Mother Nature?


I new it was too good to be true.

I did say that pretty soon Mother Nature was going to crap all over us. Boy, did she ever. It's been cold for over two weeks now, and we have snow...LOTS OF SNOW. OVER 3 FEET OF SNOW! Yes, I know it isn't as cold as it is elsewhere in the country, and yes, I know, we don't have as much snow as elsewhere in the country. But for us here on the Island, this is HELL!

I mean, -19 (that's almost 3 below F) with the windchill in some areas. We have had -17 (that's 1F) here at night. Trust me, when you usually have +5 for a low daytime temperature during the winter, THAT'S COLD!

Yes, I AM whining. So?

I have closed the living room door to keep the rest of the house warmer as it just steals all the heat from the kitchen if I leave it open. We have no source of heat in the living room. Ok, there is a 110/120v heater, but, you may as well use a candle to warm the room, it does as much good. Richard is going to wire it for a 220/240v heater but it will have to wait until next summer to get that done. The plastic over the windows and the patio door have stopped the draft, but now we need heat.

The Bichon's are really unhappy not being able to be on their sofa. Richard brought them home a small rug to put down beside the wood stove in the kitchen. They love it, needless to say, and don't venture very far from it. I don't blame them. I, too, am spending most of my time in the kitchen by the wood stove

The photo's above sort of document the last two and a half weeks, beginning on December 12th and ending with today. We have so much snow, Richard went over to Ron's and brought back the Caterpillar tractor to plow the driveway with the other day. What a treat that was, as the snow was up above the bumper on the car. Good thing it's front wheel drive. Oh and the van was buried, got it moved after he plowed out the driveway.

Now it's melting and every so often there is a roar and a crash as snow and ice slide from the roof. The dogs go crazy at the noise, barking and running to the door. It was supposed to be sunny today, but with all the snow melting and the rain falling and the above freezing temperatures, it has created it's own fog and microclimate. We never did get above +2. The local news from Victoria claims it is going down again this weekend to -14! MINUS !@#$%^&* -14! They HAVE to be mistaken, they just HAVE to be. Enough.

I am getting extreme cabin fever, to say the least. In the last three weeks, I have been out of the house for 2 hours to get groceries, and that was on the 23rd. I want blue skies, sunshine, warm weather, green grass, flowers blooming....oh, my plants! Some of the ones I moved into the back porch actually froze the night it got down to -17. Poor things. That was my Nutmeg Scented Geranium and my Gazania. I am hoping they will be able to come back from the roots but I am not counting on it. Oh, and my poor Lemon Grass I started from pieces I bought at the grocery store froze too. I had it on the deck, covered, but it couldn't withstand the extreme cold. And my Flowering Maples...gone, sigh.

We have lived here nearly 20 years and have never had this much snow at one time nor this cold of temperatures. I have been cutting up apples and tossing them under one of the trees at the back for the deer. Poor things are having trouble finding forage under all that snow. And of course I feed the birds. I think one of the things I miss the most is the Christmas Robins. The Robins mostly stay here all year round, but in the fall they disappear for a while only to reappear just before Christmas. This year due to the weather, no Robins. Hope they will return soon.

So the photo's above start with the light dusting of snow on December 12th. That was my Calendula still blooming. Then progress a couple of days. Then a few more and a few more ending with the December 24th snow storm and Richard plowing the driveway. I quit photographing about then, too depressing.

I hope everyone had a good Christmas. Ours was extremely quiet, due to weather and inability of family coming to visit due to road and weather conditions. I think I am finally ready to celebrate Christmas in July. Oh, and one more thing....

I want to know...really I do...


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Nothing New

It's another dark, dreary, rainy day in the neighborhood; even the dogs have the blahs. The forecast for this weekend is really nasty, calling for sub-zero temperatures for we Islanders. That's just wrong. We've been spoiled by all the warm - term used loosely here - weather. Come on, +6 is warm compared to the -8 they are threatening us with next Monday night, and a high of -5. That's a HIGH of -5 folks. What's that you say? Stop my whining, you say? Hey THAT'S cold for here. Really cold.

In an attempt to stave off the cold weather, Richard has been putting plastic over the windows on the main floor of the house. I have to admit, it has made the rooms he has done a lot warmer. This drafty old house, which is over 100 years old, will seem incredibly warmer when he finishes. Just the kitchen and bathroom to do, and I think I will have him cover the patio door in the living room too. Just by doing that, it warms the house up by 10 to 15 degrees. That's a lot when you heat your house solely with a wood stove that sits in the kitchen.

Speaking of the kitchen, you know I like to try new recipes. Remember my Peanut Butter Fudge of the other day? That was a new recipe. Sometimes that's a good thing...sometimes bad. Like today for instance. I found a recipe on -
while looking for something else - for Simple Caramel Sauce. Sounded good. Has the word Simple in the title. I'm all about simple. Not too many ingredients and I have them all on hand: 2 cups brown sugar, 1 can sweetened condensed milk, 1/2 cup butter, 1 tsp vanilla, 1/2 cup milk, more as needed.

It starts off like this:
Stir sugar and condensed milk together; heat over low to medium heat, stirring constantly, till sugar dissolves;
That's simple enough, if a little vague on the time. I mean, usually a recipe will say something like "stirring constantly, till sugar dissolves, about (insert number here) minutes. So, I do what it says, and begin to stir.

And stir.

And stir some more.

And more.

And, yes, still some more.

In fact what the recipe should have said in the directions was...
...stirring constantly until you turn blue in the face or your arm falls off, whichever comes first.

I stirred that sucker for 32 minutes and the sugar granules in the brown sugar NEVER did dissolve, sigh. I gave up, removed it from the heat like it said, stirred in the 1/2 cup butter and teaspoon of vanilla. And wasn't THAT fun. You ever tried to stir butter into a thick, viscous substance? No, really...have you? Finally I got out my wire whisk and beat the butter into the brown sugar/sweetened condensed milk mixture. Then the half cup of milk.

The upshot is, I got almost a quart of Simple Caramel Sauce. Very gritty Simple Caramel Sauce. How does it taste? Kind of like a poor man's Dulce De Leche...only, grittier. What am I going to do with nearly a quart of gritty, Poor Man's Dulce De Leche, you ask?

Darned if I know.

Maybe I can find a new recipe to try it with.

Or...maybe not.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Can Ya Dig It?

The sun shone today! Wow! Ok, it was only for 27 minutes, but it still shone and we still went out into the yard to enjoy it. And it was WARM! Only Mason and Emmy and I felt like wandering around the yard. The other's went back inside to jockey for position on the back of the sofa. I took photo's of my still blooming Calendula plants and tried for a photo of my hearty little Johnny-Jumpup but that one is blurry. Oh and my Sweet Peas are going strong, looking like they could bloom at any moment, given half a chance.

It's December 7th today, and the weather continues to be mild, thank goodness. I know we will get crapped on someday soon, sigh, that is the nature of the weather out here on the Island. But boy, that sun felt good on the face, let me tell you. Most days it is so dark and gloomy out, the automatic plug for the lights on the fence doesn't shut them off until after 10am.

I made some fudge this morning, trying out a new recipe. Hmmmmm. The recipe was rather vague on the directions, just leaving you to read between the lines. For instance, it says "Add peanut butter and marshmallow cream; mix well. Quickly pour into 8 x 8 buttered pan." What it SHOULD say is "have peanut butter and marshmallow cream quite soft and then add peanut butter and marshmallow cream as fast as you can stirring all the while as fast as you can and then as fast as you can pour into prepared pan and spread quickly!"

It kind of went funny when I poured in the peanut butter and marshmallow cream, kind of...seized...if you know what I mean. I worked as quickly as I could but it still went all crumbly - kind of dry. And oh boy is it sweet! Yes, I know, it's fudge and fudge is supposed to be sweet, but, wayyyy too sweet for me. Oh well Richard will eat it. But I won't make it again. Glad I found out now before I bundled up little packages of it in gifts for Christmas.

l have other recipes to try, none of them my own because I never make fudge and don't know why I decided to this year. But I did, so people might be getting dry, crumbly fudge anyway. Maybe I will just fall back on my old standby, Peanut Butter Marshmallow squares, but with a twist. What twist you ask? Ah, now that is a surprise.

Time to coax the kids outdoors again. Molly is mad at me, has been for a couple of days, so is hard to coax out. The other night, about 10pm, we took them out into the garden yard for their last go round before bed. The minute they hit the yard, they went crazy, running around by the shed, standing up, throwing their heads back and sniffing the air. That alarmed me for it meant that something big had either been in the garden yard or was on the other side of the shed. Richard noticed it right away too, so we called to the dogs, getting 3 of them in the house. Of course Emily and Rosie took off to the far end of the yard by the garden boat. It is dark down there, even with the feeble yard light and lights on the fence. I hobble after them and finally coerce them back to the house and indoors while Richard closes the gate .

One, two, three, four, five, si...uh oh, missing one. Molly. MOLLY!!! Nope she's not in the house.

"She has to be, I got them all" Richard says.

"No" I insist, "she is still outside.

"Well, I can't see her" he replies.

"Ah, crap, she's under the flower bench beneath the rose bush!" I holler, and race - ok, hobble quickly - out the door, Richard right behind me.

"Molly, you come here RIGHT NOW!"

No, I huntin' Mow Pepo

"Now Molly!!!"

But Mom, der Mow Pepo, unner heah, lotsa dem!

Richard hollers, banging on the bench and finally she crawls out from under it.

"Ah, damn, she is all muddy, just look at her paws," Richard says as he picks her up. "YOU ARE A BAD GIRL!"

But I jus' huntin' Mow Pepo, I not bad, sniff.

We take her right into the bathroom closing the door, hounded - pun intended - by the other 5 dogs, worried and concerned because we were yelling at Molly. In the bathroom sink, I run water over her mud-caked paws, cleaning them as best I can, then washing her face and nose, which are mud-laden too. She's been using her teeth to facilitate her tunneling. Drying her as best I can, I have Richard put her in the dog room alone and close the gate. What a brat!

10 minutes go by, the rest of the crew are really upset because I have yelled at Molly. Mason comes up to me, asking me to free her. The others whine and fuss. "Let her out now," I holler at Richard, "before they mutiny." Mason runs out to the dog room to help Richard open the gate. Molly comes up to me, rolling over and baring her tummy. The others gather round, sniffing her.

I sorry mom, but der was Mow Pepo, I has to get dem

So she is still upset with me. Once I get her in the yard, I have to watch her the entire time, without watching her, if you get my drift. I keep her in my peripheral vision, because if I don't, she will slip back under the bench. On Richard's next days off, he is removing the bench and making it so she can't get under there. I know she will find somewhere else to dig, that is just Molly's nature. She is just a digger. When she was 7 months old, she dragged one of my small plant pots off the deck into the living room and proceeded to dig all the dirt out of it onto the floor, sofa, and chair. She hasn't stopped since. There is something about dirt that entices her.

Mow Pepo mom, I keep sayin' dat. You don' lissen. It MOW PEPO!

"Yes Molly, outside, we'll go outside now, just give me a minute."

Sigh, moms, dey jus' don' lissen

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Pan For All Seasons

Well, here it is December 2 already. We have been blessed with above seasonal temperatures, but I am sure that Mother Nature will be losing her temper with us in the near future and temps will plummet. My Zonal Geraniums on the deck continue to bloom their little hearts out, as does the Abutilon, aka Flowering Maple, and an assortment of others I couldn't find room for indoors. The back porch plants are doing well, the Gazania blooms open for a few minutes each day if they get enough light through the patio door.

I have been busy this week reorganizing my kitchen cupboards. I have a lot of herbs and spices, and they were spread throughout 3 rooms. Now I have them all in one - ok two - places in the kitchen, side by side. Then there is allllll my baking pans. They are, mostly, all now side by side in 3 spots. My several mixing bowls are all together in one spot and my baking utensils now fill 3 drawers.

When I go to a thrift store, something I love to do, I always look for baking pans and utensils in good shape. I have got some of my best pans that way. I found one recently at the Salvation Army Thrift Store and I had no clue what it was for. It looked nifty. Yesterday I searched baking pans online and found out it is a Cookie-sicle pan...make your cookie (or cake) dough, spread in the indentations in the pan, bake, cool, and insert popsicle sticks in them and you have a Cookie-sicle. Hey, they sell for $14.00 and I got it for $1.00.

Then there is the Ring Mold, or Savarin Pan. Got it for 50 cents last year. I have a Shell pan, for making shell-shaped cookies, cakelets or the like. Several different sized muffin tins, from really tiny - 25 cents each - to super size. One pan makes 24 mini muffins. Oh, and 3 Bundt pans, one of which is heavy duty and an odd design. Then there is the pans that look like fancy muffins; the ones that look like they would make Danish Aebleskiver the Danish pancake's actually a Mini Ball pan for making ball shaped mini cakes; some Angel Food pans - one missing the bottom insert, don't know where it went to; two sets of square and one set of round Fruitcake pans; cheesecake pans; round cake pans of varying widths and depths as well as two lone square ones. Oh and the two 9 x 13 pans one of which is Pyrex.

Did I mention the loaf pans? Bente was at a garage sale way back in the spring and saw a large pile of pans sitting there, for...are you ready for this?...10 cents each!!! 10 CENTS! Of course she bought them for me. There are 3 different sizes: regular, large, and of course, EXTRA LARGE. I love them. They are heavy duty, and work great in my Outdoor Gas Convection Oven. I have so many I even gave a couple to Kate to use with her new Bread Machine. They are the perfect size to make two loaves of bread from one batch of dough.

Then there is the two tart pans - no not the little tarts you eat by hand, but the large, 10 inch tart pans that make a fancy open-faced pie
usually using a buttery shortbread type crust. And speaking of pie...yes, I have pie plates, in 4 different sizes from about 4 inch to 10 inch..ok the 10 inch is actually a Corning Ware tart pan I have had for 25 years now. Oh, and the two sets of mini Angel Food pans I have, one I got as a gift years ago and kind of fell apart so Richard took it apart, saving the little pans and the other I just got at the thrift store, intact.

Oh yeah, I forgot the two heart shaped cake pans from the thrift store for a dollar each. But the only pans I don't have, that I really, really want, are Brioche pans. I had the mini brioche pans at one time years ago and didn't know what they were. I think they are packed away upstairs somewhere in a box in all the junk but Richard won't bring down boxes for me to go through, even though I have been asking for 3 years now. I can't climb the stairs because of my knee, but that's another story.

Anyway, someday I keep hoping I will run across Brioche pans in the thrift stores. Someday....

So what am I going to do with all these pans, you ask? Well, use them, silly! I use a lot of them already. When I make cupcakes, like to make the mini ones, a recipe will make about 6 dozen of them. My bread pans I use ALL the time. Pie pans are seasonal for me. Oh, no particular season, just once in a while I go on a pie or galette baking binge, so...seasonal. My baking sheets I use all the time as well. Cookies at Christmas; Scones year round; I use them when I bake bread to set the bread pans on to help insulate the bottom of the bread; cake pans for cake and to make buns in. Yup, I use them all at one time or another.

Now it's time to make dinner. And then I think I will make some Scones. I found an interesting recipe online on a blog I read for making Cookie Scones. Sound good. Will put dried cranberries in them of course.

Will let you know how they turn out.

And how they taste.

Yeah, I know...


Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Bird in the Bush

Kate came up for her visit last week. She brought her Bread Machine with her and her recipe for Green Chili & Cheese Yeasted Corn Bread. Oh my goodness, if you have never tried this bread, you don't know what you are missing. She also made us Beef Enchiladas to go with the bread. Yum! I LOVE Kate's Enchiladas. And her Green Chili Cheese Bread.

We made a batch of Brioche Dough as well. With it we made a Cinnamon Rolls, Cinnamon Sticky Buns and a savory cheese roll. The consensus was that the Rolls and Sticky Buns were great, but we didn't like the Cheese Rolls and wouldn't make them again. Of course, that could have been because I decided to put garlic in them and used 3 crushed cloves. Hey, on the bright side, it kept vampires away!

Kate left on Thursday morning to go back down Island to Sidney to go to work. The rain started in earnest the night before and didn't let up for 2 days. I swear we got at least 4 inches of it. That's ok, it could have been that cold, white stuff they were getting back east.

When I got groceries last week, we picked up our seed blocks for the wild birds. Richard put one in the hanger in the Cherry tree outside the laundry room window. I love to watch the birds come and enjoy it. There is a hierarchy to who eats when that I noticed this last year when we hung up the feeder. There are many different types of birds that come to peck at the seed, nut and fruit laden suet block. Some are really tiny, like the little Chestnut Backed Chickadee - some really big like the Red Shafted Flicker that is about a foot in length.

Talk about a pecking order! The Red Shafted Flicker is intimidated by no one. I like to call him the Professor, as he looks as if he is wearing a corduroy jacket with leather patches on the sleeves, a speckled vest with a black V-neck and glasses. When he arrives, the others leave so he can get some seeds.

Then there is the Starlings, or Bully Boys as I refer to them. Four or five will show up at a time, chasing off any other bird that is at the feeder, hogging it for an hour, squawking and squabbling and making a nuisance of themselves. That is, until the Professor arrives. He is the only one that can intimidate them without even trying. Even the Stellar Jays, which are larger than the Starlings, make way for the Bully Boys.

The little Chickadees are generous and share the feeder with the Towhees and the Fox Sparrows. And the small Downy Woodpecker nervously eats, bobbing up and down to check for the larger birds. We also have the Hairy Woodpecker coming to the feeder, much to my delight. Even ground feeders like the Juncos benefit from the feeder, picking at the seeds that drop to the ground beneath the tree it sits in.

But I've watched them enough and now it is time to make some more bread...Brioche of course. My favorite. Bente phoned to say she was bringing me out my Vanilla Bean order. I found a Canadian Supplier on the Internet and ordered a pound of Vanilla Beans. The savings is amazing. I have them delivered to her house in town because most delivery people can't find our house in the country. I plan to make lots of
things with Vanilla for Christmas gifts. Oh and of course I will make homemade Vanilla Extract. Once you make your own, you will never buy from the store again, believe me.

While I wait, I decide to take the dogs out into the garden yard. I bundle up - toque, mitts, jacket, pants tucked into socks - no, it's not THAT cold but it is damp. The dogs race out into the yard.

Mow pepo!
Ovah heah, unner dis plant ting.

Trying to keep my eyes on all the dogs at once is difficult. I wander about, deactivating doggy mines, checking the Sweet Peas in the garden boat to see if they have been touched by frost at all...they haven't. I am waiting to see how long they last. So far, so good.

Time to go back inside. I holler for the dogs and move towards the deck. I've got five of them, but Molly is missing.



"Come on Molly, time to go in."

I busy. I huntin' mow pepo. Dey rite heah, unner plant ting.


ok, ok, i comin'

That will teach me not to pay attention. She got under my plant bench, beneath the rambling rose-entwined apple tree and started digging in the mud. Her paws were so caked with it, that I had to dig it out of her pads, all the while berating her for being so bad. Bichons. Honestly, what a little digger she is, and who knows what she was looking for.

Mow pepo, mom, I to'd you, mow pepo unner der.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

It's Just Peanuts

I am awake early again today. Still a bit rocky from the lung infection. Still moving kind of slow, but determined to get over it once and for all. The antibiotic is all finished up. Hope to see the doctor on Thursday this week if Richard has the day off. You see, Richard got a full time job at Walmart! Hooray! He has worked hard and is always willing to go in early or whenever they need him, so he deserves it. Nice to have a bit of job security. And he enjoys the job.

He leaves for work at 9:30am and I sit on the bed, watching the news and deciding what to do with my day. Make peanut butter. Periodically the local library clears out old books and last summer I found a Food Processor cookbook for a whopping 50 cents. A couple of Christmases ago, I used a gift card and bought myself a 500 watt Black and Decker food processor. I used it a few times, once to make some wonderful Latte Shortbread, once to make a disastrous loaf of bread. I've made pastry in it - with mixed results. But since finding this book, I have wanted to try several things in it.

Today is peanut butter day. I bought some salted peanuts a few weeks ago, before I got sick, and pulled them and the recipe out. Two cups of peanuts; process 5 to 6 minutes; store in fridge. That simple. There is also a recipe for Peanut Butter Cookies I want to try, using a cup of salted peanuts, but don't know if I will do that today. It DOES appeal to me though.

After the peanut butter, I decided on making some Brioche in the Bread Maker. Yes, I do have a Food Processor Brioche recipe to try, but wanted to get the dough going in the bread maker so I could make Richard some Whole Wheat dough in the food processor. This time I used the chopping blade to mix the dough rather than the plastic dough blade, which is absolutely useless. The dough turned out good, mixed up in about a minute, then hand kneaded, or as they refer to it in the book "toss or turn it over 9 to 10 times". Now it's rising on the table, so he will have fresh bread for dinner too.

The Brioche dough finishes its first rise in the bread maker. I decide to make one loaf of bread with half of it and put the other half in the fridge for tomorrow, then make some sweet rolls with it.

The Brioche bread and Richards whole wheat turn out really good. If I sound amazed, it is only because I wasn't sure about the whole wheat made in the food processor. I have had a bad experience making bread in it before, but I guess I have it figured out. Anyway, he enjoys it. And I LOVE my Brioche. That is the most versatile dough. Maybe I will just keep experimenting with it to see what I can make, then write a 1001 Things To Make With Brioche Dough cookbook, grin.

After dinner, which I admit I did not cook - Richard brought home burgers as I wasn't up to much by then - I made some more of the Cheesecake filling in the food processor. Gosh but I think I am addicted to it.

Kate phones late in the evening to say she has decided to come up for a visit. Hooray! Can't wait to see her. She will leave after work on Monday and be here for dinner. We are going to have a Bread Machine Bake Off, as she is bringing her bread maker. What fun.

We take the dogs out for one last go at the garden yard, but Mason refuses to leave the deck. Earlier in the evening he had really been barking at something he saw in the driveway through his patio door. The girls went crazy, running back and forth to the door, sniffing at it as if something or someone was there. I locked them up and checked, but found nothing. Maybe whatever it was spooked him. Maybe that's why he wouldn't go into the yard.

Or, maybe he just didn't have to pee.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Takes the Cake

Siiiiggghh. Well, finally I think I am on the mend, hack, cough. Sure am tired of this bug and glad I have fought it to a standstill - I hope. I have been sick for two weeks, and it will take me at least that to get completely over it. Will check with the doctor the middle of next week.

I am actually going out of the house today, to get a few groceries. Only as far as Walmart because I think that is all I can handle after my two week incarceration. Got some recipes I want to try so need some ingredients for them and some food to eat too, oh and dog food, wild bird food. And liquid lecithin. I found a recipe for making Vanilla Extract without alcohol, I want to try it and it calls for liquid lecithin.

At Walmart, Richard goes to the Tire and Lube shop where he works while I begin shopping, using a
store supplied electric cart to wander around the store with. I stopped taking my arthritis medication while I was on my antibiotics, and believe me when I tell you, I am suffering for it. Just as I go down the baking aisle, Richard comes back and tells me they need him to come in to work early by 2pm, not 4pm as he originally was scheduled so we hurry with our purchases.

Back home we have a quick lunch and then Richard goes off to work while I put groceries away. The dogs are nattering to go outside. I comply. As I wander around the garden boat slowly and very carefully, ever mindful of hidden doggy mines, I try to decide what to plant there next year. Definitely Sweet Peas and Petunias. Here it is the 14th of November and both those flowers are still looking really good. Neither were touched by the frosty nights we had in October - in fact if we had sunshine, both would bloom. For sure will plant more Calendula, that is one of my favorite flowering herbs. Oh and Marigolds, they did so well last summer in the mass planting. Geraniums. Bright Red ones for the bow of the boat, like before.

I have lots of herbs growing in there, and doing quite well for the most part. My Lemon Thyme is lovely, as is my Pineapple Sage. Chives are doing ok. Purple Sage, ditto. Yarrow is tall and graceful. Apple Mint in a pot looks great.

But what about vegetables? I think some beans, perhaps Pole Beans as they grow upright and you can get more of them in a small space. I want to try peas again, and still have the chicken wire in place for them to grow up. I also have some grains, spelt and rye, and I could plant them in the gunwales of the boat. I don't want to plant a lot, just enough to see how they do and how much grain it will produce. Spelt on the port side, rye on the starboard side, that would work.

Tomatoes are going into the other large container, my 300 gallon stock tank. Will plant Black Prince, Yellow Mortgage Lifter, Brown Berry, Tumbling Tom and Bull's Heart for sure. I will plant more Marigolds along side them, maybe some onions, and for sure some chives. Maybe transplant my garlic chives in there. Hmmmmm, what else?

I got an e-mailed newsletter today from West Coast Seeds. They are on the mainland and their products are specific to our Island environment. The newsletter is about Blue Orchard Mason Bees, something that Richard and I have talked about getting for a few years now. These are hardy little bees that live to pollinate. They don't appear to be affected by the diseases the Honey Bees have been dying off from. They thrive in cooler weather, and, "a single female Mason Bee will visit 2000 blossoms a day." Wow, what more can you ask for from a bee? I think we should order some, and a starter cottage to keep them in. Think of the flowers and plants we could have!

The dogs are done snuffling and sniffing the yard, and we go back indoors. I have a recipe I found in an old Taste of Home Magazine Kate brought up to me. It is called "Cheesecake Waffle Cups" - I LOVE Cheesecake - and it is quick and easy. I bought the waffle bowls at Walmart today, and have the other ingredients on hand. Here is the recipe as written. Then I put my comments and how I would do it next time.

Cheesecake Waffle Cups
1 - 8oz package softened cream cheese
1 - 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon pure Vanilla extract
4 Waffle Bowls
1 cup cherry pie filling

In a small mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Gradually beat in sweetened condensed milk. Stir in lemon juice and vanilla. Spoon about 1/3 cup into each waffle bowl; top with 2 tablespoons pie filling. Repeat layers. Yields 4.

First off, I used my food processor so it took me less than 2 minutes to mix this up. Just pulsed the cream cheese til smooth, about 30 seconds; added sweetened condensed milk in 4 lots, pulsed 3 to 4 seconds after each time; poured in lemon juice and vanilla, pulsed 3 or 4 times. That's it. Done.

Next time, I will use juice of a real lemon and the zest. Or maybe a lime in place of the lemon. Maybe an orange. NO CHERRY PIE FILLING! It makes it waaaaaay too sweet and overwhelms the flavor of the cheesecake. Just fill the little waffle bowl - or a waffle cone, that would be cool - and top with a dollop of whipped cream. Top the whipped cream with some zest. Keep it really simple. It tastes scrumptious, or as Bente would say - after she first calls me a BITZ for making it, grin - scrumlicious!

For those who are watching what you eat, substitute light cream cheese and top with Cool Whip. It won't be very caloric that way, but still quite tasty.

I give this recipe 4 stars out of 5. It is so quick, so easy, so tasty. Yes, I do prefer baked cheesecake, but that takes hours, and this takes no time at all. Can't wait for Richard to come home and try it. What's that you say? What about Bente? Well, um, she's not eating sweets right now, trying to watch what she eats, so, um, I probably won't tell her about this, right away. Will wait a few days and then casually mention it.

I text messaged Kate and told her what I had made.

She text messaged me back a one word response.


Hmmmmm, you think she's trying to tell me something?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Birds of a Feather

Yup, I am still sick, although I think the antibiotic is finally starting to work. I didn't try to cough up a lung this morning like a 4 pak a day smoker. Which I am not...not a smoker at all. Nope, not one habit I ever had. I'm still tired, still weak, still whiney, still bored. Siiiiggghh.

Mid-morning, Richard is getting ready for work, and the dogs suddenly start barking and hooting in the living room. I, of course, ignore them. Richard goes to see what they are carrying on about, and quickly comes into the bedroom to tell me what is happening.

"There is a Cock Pheasant and at least 4 Hen Pheasants in the driveway!" he exclaims. "Quick, come and look." Then he darts back out to the living room again.

I hobble out to the kitchen, looking through the windows, and finally spot two hen pheasants under the Birch tree outside the garden yard. They are eating seeds and pecking up gravel for their crops. Silently edging out the kitchen door, I move to the gate and spot the Cock Pheasant and another hen moving up from the old garden towards the apple tree on the driveway. Of course the sharp-eyed guy sees me and bolts into the field towards the creek. The hens are oblivious, continuing to feed.

Now you may ask yourself, why all the fuss about pheasants. Well, it's this way. It's been several years since we have had them in the yard. At one time, after we first moved here, we had dozens of pheasants. One winter, we saw a Cock Pheasant and his harem of 13 hens in the yard, and could hear many others calling from different areas of the farm. We had cats at the time, one in particular was a great pheasant hunter, and had a real taste for them. She kept the population balanced for us. Then, after all the cats had gone to the great catnip patch in the sky, the population bottomed out. Now it, and the Blue Grouse population, appears to be returning. Hence our excitement.

Too much excitement for a sick person, back to bed.

Last night before settling down for my sleep, I put the dry ingredients for Brioche into a bag so I could make some dough after Richard went to work today at noon. Of course, after taking my medication this morning, I got sleepy and slept for a while, but mid afternoon I finally got around to making my Brioche dough. The recipe measures everything by volume...everything that is except the butter and that it measured by weight, or so I thought.

Note to self: if most of the recipe is measured by volume, assume that ALL the recipe should be measured by volume.

The recipe calls for 5 ounces of butter, while the rest of the recipe is measured in cups, tablespoons or teaspoons. Being a literalist, I took the 5 ounces to be a weight, not a measurement and weighed it out on my kitchen scale. Believe me, 5 ounces weighed is considerably more than 5 ounces measured. No, really.

After adjusting my dough by adding 1/3 cup more flour to the pan, the dough mixes up beautifully. I text Kate and tell her what I did. She texts back with "Oooops. Well, tell Richard it is supposed to be that way. It's a French dough. French Doughs are supposed to have lots of butter in them!"

I made two loaves of bread and some sweet rolls. I have several cans of Peach Pie Filling in the cupboard, thanks to a recent sale at Extra Foods. Now, Peach Pie filling is kind of insipid, but with the right additions, it can be quite tasty. I however, was still tired - second note to self: DON'T MAKE BREAD WHEN YOU ARE SICK AND TIRED - and only added cinnamon and dried cranberrys. Next time, lemon juice and lemon zest for more zip. The bread of course, is great. The sweet rolls, despite my just kind of slapping them in the pan...see note about sick and tired above...turned out good. When I do it again, and I will, I will puree the pie filling, add the lemon juice and lemon zest as well as the cranberries, mix together and spread on the cinnamon-sprinkled rolled out dough.

Oh and rather than purchase Peach pie filling in the future, which has a regular price of almost $4.00 a can, although I paid $1.50 each, I will buy canned peaches, add lemon juice and zest and thicken the lot with cornstarch. At a cost of almost $3.00 less.

The dogs are nattering to go outside, so after the bread comes out of the oven, I don my coat, toque and mitts, and take them into the garden yard. Today is my day for birds. Overhead a large Bald Eagle floats on the air currents above us hunting rodents. Behind me in the Holly trees I hear the raucous cry of a Stellar Jay and from the creek comes the teasing laughter of my Muttering Murder of Crows. In the distance to the North of us, over the middle field where the creek flooded two days ago in the downpour of rain, a flock of Western Gulls circles, looking for unfortunate fish left behind when the waters receded.

Time to go back indoors and rest some more, I am worn out. Going to be a while before I am well again that is for sure. And time for more drugs to combat the infection. Time to lay down again. And doze.

Then the dogs remind me they haven't eaten yet, so first, I feed them, then lay down.

And doze.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Bunnys and Bichons

I'm still sick with this dumb lung infection, not having a good time. I hate being idle like this but don't feel well enough to do anything. I'm bored. I mean really, you can only watch or listen to so much TV before that pales. Talking makes me cough, and coughing has made my sternum sore, so the phone is out. I have no books to read, none in at the library yet. I still haven't got the computer in the bedroom connected again after re-arranging the room, and I don't feel up to sitting at the living room computer, whine, snivel, bitch. Siiiiggghh.

So I decided, since the laptop hasn't been in working condition for a year, that maybe it was time to format it and start fresh. Why do I wait until I am sick to decide to do this? Yes, that is a rhetorical question.

I searched the living room, 3 times, for my Windows XP upgrade CD. No luck. Well, I AM sick after all. I had it back in the beginning of September using it to format a hard drive I had. I put it away, where I always do and it vanished. No, really, it did. So I searched all the usual and unusual places. No luck. Yesterday I sat down and thought about it and remembered that for some reason I copied all the files from my CD to my hard drive on the desktop in the living room. OHTHANKYOUDEARSWEETBABYJESUS for making me do that! I was able to burn a new Windows XP CD.

Bear in mind I am sick and shouldn't be attempting to do something like this when I am sick, but like I said, I AM BORED. And I like the idea of sitting on the bed and using the laptop to surf the net if I am up to it. I mean really, how many times can you stand to watch reruns of Holmes on Homes or CSI: Miami? Or re-watch the news on CTV Newsnet as it recycles every 20 minutes?

This laptop doesn't have a floppy drive but after I repaired Vicki's computer in August, she gave me an external USB floppy she had. I managed to get the laptop fdisked, then started to format it. 20 minutes into formatting - it's only a 40gig drive - I glance at the screen and see "trying to recover sector 17398". Uh oh. Hmmmmmm. My eyes go slitty and I make a super triple scrunchy face. That's not good! Then I walk out of the room. I'll come back in an hour and see if it formatted...or not. Meanwhile, I use the living room computer to look for the price of a new hard drive for a laptop.

The prices are outrageous! Who are they trying to kid, charging more for a 40gig drive than a 500gig drive! This laptop is old, that is, it was built 6 years ago and doesn't have the up-to-date technology available now in the new laptops. But, it still is worth spending a little money on, because the rest of it still works, despite being dropped on it's head out of the back of a moving vehicle several years ago...but that's another story. Anyway, I don't mind spending $50.00 for a hard drive but not upwards of $100.00.

Back at the laptop, the formatting is finally done and it reports over 2 gigabytes in bad sectors. Oh well. So, I hunt up my Windows ME CD and get started installing and operating system. Because my XP is an upgrade, you must first install a full version of an operating system then install the upgrade from within Windows. Yes, that is a pain in the butt. I have been at this for 2 hours and this is as far as I have gotten. However, I AM a certified computer technician and I do have the patience and knowledge to keep going. Besides, like I said before, I AM BORED.

An hour later, Millennium is installed and working. Next I start on XP. That too takes an hour, so, not counting my time searching for the aforementioned still-missing original XP CD, this has so far taken 4 hours. During this time I have spent on hour in the living room and 3 on my bed, resting, hoping the computer will work when all this is done.

I guess I dozed off, because suddenly I am startled awake by that annoying music Windows XP plays when it loads the Windows Desktop...playing as loud as it can possibly play on the internal speakers of the laptop. Well, I guess it's working then. First order of business, TURN OFF THOSE SPEAKERS SO WE DON'T HAVE TO HEAR THAT MUSIC! Next, download and install AVG Antivirus. Then Windows tells me it has downloaded updates and wants me to install them. Of course, I comply, security is important in computing.

Now it has been 6 hours, I am a bit...ok, a lot tired, but determined to see this through to the end. I eat a bowl of soup - gak, real tired of soup - and get back at it. I download some basic programs, free ones of course. First Picassa so I have a rudimentary photo editing and organizing program. Then Windows Live Mail, Photo Gallery, Writer, and Messenger. If you haven't tried Live Mail yet, you should give it a try. It is much better than that irritating Outlook Express. For a Word Processor, I hunt up Open Office, from Sun Microsystems. It's similar to Microsoft Office, but is free, and that's a bonus. And finally, download and install Flock as my browser so I don't have to use Internet Explorer which irritates me more than I can say.

And 8 hours have gone by. Oh sure, I took breaks while the laptop did it's work, but it has been a really long day, and a job that would have been better to wait to do, is finally done. At least as much as I am doing today. Time to take the dogs outside.

It's dark and wet, but the deluge has stopped for a while as I get ready to let the dogs go into the garden yard. Soon, they are all at the gate impatiently waiting. As I start to open the gate, my eye is drawn to movement in the yard. Uh oh. Cute Little Island Bush Bunny, just a short 15 feet away. But the gate is in motion, as are the dogs, and I can't stop the action. Bunny runs. Dogs dash. Bunny heads for the garden boat. Silly bunny. Leading the pack is Rosie...where did she come from, she is usually the last one out. Run bunny, run! Bunny is not too smart, mustn't be used to being chased, runs around behind the boat, 6 Bichons hot on it's cute little cotton tail. Bunny zigs. Dogs zag. As they round the curve by the boat, bunny goes into the home stretch and dashes through the fence, finally. Bunny wins by a whisker! Now dogs quarter the yard, sniffing wonderful bunny scents and searching out more bunnies. Rosie, Mason & Pippi walk the fence, sticking their noses through the wire to sniff the breeze and watch for more wild animals. Wow, too much excitement for this time of night.

I finally convince them to come back indoors, that the bunny is not coming back. I'm tired, but they are psyched and it takes a while for them to settle down. Time for my medicine and bed. Tomorrow is another day.

Nurse Pippi takes up her position outside the puppy gate to my room, just in case I need help in the night.

Just in case a wild bunny breaks in and attacks.

Well, she says it could happen.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Can You Say "Lung In-fec-shun?"

I dragged myself out of bed yesterday - which was Wedneday - and went to the doctor. He took one look at me and said "when is your knee surgery scheduled for?"

I croaked a reply: "two weeks," I said.

"No," he answered back, "you have to phone and postpone it, you will NOT be well enough to have surgery in two weeks." Then he narrowed his eyes and said "you've been waiting a long time for this new knee. Almost as long as I have known you. Too bad."

"Yes," I replied, "three years the end of February since I had the first one done."

AAAARRRGGH! !@#$%^&*

Diagnosis: lung infection, or as most people refer to it, a chest infection. He sent me home with a prescription for Amoxicillin 500mg - huge pills - take every 8 hours and instructions to come back in 14 days.

Back to bed. Sniffle, cough, hack, wheeze, whine and feel sorry for myself. The Booking Nurse at St. Joseph's Hospital in Comox took my news in stride. "Well, you are looking at after the New Year now, probably into February. We'll call you."

Here's the thing: I refuse to get all upset about it. What good does it do and it doesn't change anything. I believe things happen for a reason, although God only knows what the reason is for me getting sick at this time. Oh well.

On the bright side, once I am well enough, I will be able to do Christmas Baking and make Christmas gifts from the kitchen as I like to do. That was off my list due to my upcoming surgery. We don't have to worry about driving through a snow storm to the hospital up in Comox at 4am like we did last time I had surgery there. Still, it WOULD have been great for it to be all over with finally, sigh.

The dogs are ambivalent. Dad lets them do whatever they want to when mom isn't home. Now they will have to behave more. They do however really miss me when I am gone. Heck, you only have to leave the house for 5 minutes and they act as though it was 5 years when you come back.

I have still been taking them out into the garden yard during the day and just before bed time at night. The cool moist air feels good to breathe for me. The dogs, surprisingly, don't mind the wet grass, and especially like going out into the yard when it is dark and spooky.

We have a string of clear Christmas lights running down the one side of the fence to the boat and a yard light that shines down upon the yard from behind the house so it is lit up quite well. Unfortunately they choose that time usually to plant doggy mines all over the yard, and it is incumbent upon me to try to pay attention and remember approximately where they are planted so I can drag myself outdoors the next day and deactivate them.

The photo's above show the difficulty in that. No, I didn't photograph the doggy mines, that would be, well, disgusting. What's that you say? Then why did I add photo's of Bear Poop? Well, that's different. No, Really.

Where was I...oh yes, photo's. You can see my difficulty in trying to find doggy mines and not step in them. The leaves fall off the trees, turn brownish, curl up...need I say more? Yes, they do look a lot like doggy mines. Why don't I rake up the leaves? You're kidding, right?

Back to the photo's. The one of the water in a shallow pond in the field is for illustrative purposes. When the water appears in the pond, that means the well is nearly full! Hooray, no more hauling water, taking laundry out to the laundromat to wash, or eating from paper plates and plastic utensils!

And the other photos are to show that as of November 6, 2008 my Calendulas are still blooming, the leaves on my pot of Hydrangea are turning color, the Holly berries are ripe and the Zonal Geraniums at the front of the house are still very much alive and blooming.

Time to go and lay down again. Have to take antibiotics at 5pm and feel quite sleepy now. Hope to be a bit better tomorrow. Oh, and I have to say how happy I am that Barack Obama will be the new President of the United States of America. He is a good man, and will be good for the US, Canada and the World.

God Bless America.