Thursday, December 31, 2009

Observations

Bad Stuff
  1. Leopards still don't change their spots.
  2. Logic is a lost skill.
  3. Counting back change is a lost skill.
  4. The cult next door is still the cult next door.
  5. Legalism is as good a reason as any to start a new church.
  6. When someone is not telling you the truth, you won't know the truth.
Good Stuff
  1. Babies still smell good, usually, but if not, that is easily fixed.
  2. You don't need to knead bread dough to make good bread.
  3. Big skies exist in more places than the prairies.
  4. SLR cameras are a techie idiot's dream.
  5. God still reigns.
  6. He even reigns in "all those bad churches out there."
  7. It's wonderful to be free from the "philosophies of men."
  8. Cute, muddy little boys become unshaven, stinky, handsome men.
  9. Life is as good as you make it.
  10. God is not stuck in a box.
  11. A pot of soup is easy and economical.
  12. Honesty and trust is the oil of friendship.
Happy New Year everyone.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My 2009 Highlight

Some might expect that the highlight of this past year would be a family wedding and it was. But something else happened quite unexpected wherein I was blessed to get to know a very, very interesting person. This was someone about whom I had been told negative things all my life. The telephone rang one day and suddenly we found ourselves thrust into each others lives. Just like that.

The more time I spent with this person, listened, began asking questions - the more I realized discrepancies with what I thought was true. "You know, this isn't what I've been told all these years," I said to someone close to the situation. "Yes. I know, they replied. I was stunned. "Not everything is as it appears," I mentioned to two others. "Yes. We know." And it shook me to my core to realize that I had been misled by those so close, so trusted. Why would they do that?

So many things came to mind as I thought back over the years.
1. Never assume anything.
2. It's a bad idea to make a judgment based on appearances.
3. Making judgments based on feelings is bad altogether.
4. One really doesn't know much about anything unless they were there or ask all involved.

I'm glad the phone rang that morning. It brought some terrible heartache but greater joy. I have gained an incredible friend.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Good News

"For God so loved the world,
that he gave his only begotten Son,
that whosoever believeth in him should not perish,
but have everlasting life."
John 3:16

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

Warming hearts and toes on Christmas Eve.
Here's an old Christmas postcard wishing joy, love, toys and candy.
Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

2010 Vancouver Olympic Torch Relay

This is as far as one can travel south on mainland Canada - Point Pelee National Park, at "the tip."
The torch was passed here this morning continuing on it's 45,000 kilometer trek across and up and down Canada...and on it's way to Vancouver, British Columbia for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games this February.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Ginger Snaps

This is a quick and easy recipe GG's Mom gave me. I guess that qualifies it as a church lady recipe. GG's Mom was no slouch in the kitchen and these attest to that. I only make them at Christmas and Valentines.

Ginger Snaps

  • 3/4 cup shortening
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup dark molasses
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground cloves
  • granulated sugar in which to roll the unbaked cookies
Cream shortening and sugar.
Beat in egg and molasses.
Set aside.
Combine dry ingredients.
Mix dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.Form one-inch balls and roll in granulated sugar.
Place evenly spaced - about 12 per batch on greased cookie sheets.
Bake in pre-heated 350 F oven x 8 - 10 minutes.
Shift the pan around halfway through the bake time.Remove from oven and let the pan rest with the cookies still on it for about another minute to allow the hot cookies to set before removing them to cooling racks. I always double this recipe and it then makes about seven dozen, sometimes a bit more.I ran short of ground cloves with this batch but had whole cloves on hand. I took some whole cloves put them into a sandwich baggie, wrapped it into a tea towel and kept smashing the bag of spice with a wooden pestle. A rolling pin would do the same thing. I think the cookies actually tasted better. I don't recommend grinding whole cloves with a coffee grinder. We did this once and the grinder never worked properly after that and I could not get the cloves fragrance out of it either.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Solstice

Crunch. Squeak. Burn. Puff. No, je ne smoke pas. C'est the toes and fingers burning with cold. A colder dip in temperature and the lungs too would burn. A late evening walk yielded this scene yesterday and lest any think je live a charmed life,four hours later GG and I had been cast deep into the middle of yet another Tow Tales.

Friday, December 18, 2009

See How They Grow

The tree is up. Fun finished his first college semester. Speedy finished his second to last university semester. Buff is nearly done high school. Violinist celebrates his first Christmas as a married man this year. We have a new daughter, Roll Kuchen. That reality didn't really sink in until the day I viewed the family photos. There she was. Another woman in the photo. I reached out and ran my finger over the photo. It's real. Not just me. I smiled. I cried. Finally, my girl.
Violinist's baby sock. Saucey Chef gave them to him in his first year. There aren't a lot of things to hang on the tree - the wooden baby rattle my mother gave me. She was like that. Interesting and practical. And all those little sweaters she knit, I gave them away. Maybe they should have been kept. But I did keep a red sock she knit and it's on the tree. Now she's gone. I thought there were more, but maybe those were in a box I gave away one year - a single woman with a little girl.
Fun just came in from the shop. He is always hiding in the shop this time of year. Building. Planing. Sawing. He needs GG's help with something out there. There are his workboots on the kitchen floor. Here are his little booties I'm about to hang on the tree. Fun is sturdy - tree stumps for limbs. What was I thinking to have put these ridiculous things on that man child? Fun was never a baby. The telephone interrupts.
"Violinist? What a nice surprise!"
"Hello mother, I saw a friend's father just a few minutes ago. He leaves for Afghanistan in the spring."
"As a medic?"
"No, Mom. No...I love you Mom."
"I love you too."

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Light to my Soul

There is much preparation to celebrate the coming of Christ as a baby in a cattle shed in a distant country, culture and time. Do I likewise prepare for His second advent?

(Photo: part of an early 20th century postcard found in family papers.)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Wishes

I wish there were more Dough Boys around here - ones who do more than (as some observant readers have pointed out) display his politically correct girth from the bookshelf.
A maid would be nice too.
But I am very thankful for the Kitchen Aid.

(Early 20th century Christmas card found in family papers.)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Soup Days

While most people have been busily showing all their lovely Christmas decorating and baking, we don't even have our tree up. December has thus far been damp and overcast with just one afternoon of air flurries - snow, but nothing on the ground. Sunday evening, we enjoyed the Christmas cantata at Speedy's church in The City, in which he sang. Afterward we went back to his little basement apartment, Speedy having bicycled there still wearing his suit and tie.

I asked to see the resident rodents but Speedy said they stay pretty much hidden. He keeps them mostly contained above the bathroom by stuffing boxes of raisin bran cereal above the ceiling tiles. "They eat all the cereal, but leave the raisins," reported Speedy, "fussy rats." Before leaving for home, we dropped Speedy off downtown at the outdoor skating rink and enjoyed the lovely night a bit and then came home for soup.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

New Guy in Kitchen

Isn't he cute? Compliments of the kind folk over at Pillsbury Canada. They were having a contest for original recipes using their products and asked me to mention it here. Since I spend inordinate amounts of time cooking and baking stuff, I said, "Okay." I worked on a recipe to enter but thought it needed more tweaking so didn't submit it. However, that didn't stop the wolves here from devouring what I made just the same - sticky buns with apple, nutmeg and butter
What do you think?" I asked.
"Hmm, maybe more butter...it needs...more sugar...it needs more apples...got any more?"

Doughboy arrived in a slightly bigger box than poor old Oopsy did back in June and was carrying a cool tote bag screen printed with his picture too. But I can't show you that because last Friday when Roll Kuchen and Violinist were here for pizza, between bites, Roll Kuchen asked, "Do you have any Christmas cookie books?" So I pulled about ten books off the cookbook shelf and tucked them into the new tote for Roll Kuchen to take home. And it is time to think about Christmas cookies. When I had a "real" job, I would sensibly bake a few dozen cookies every night after work putting them away in the freezer. Now, I storm the kitchen the week prior and fall over Boxing Day.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Over The Top! Award

A few weeks ago Decadent Housewife, along with some other bloggers received
Over The Top!
award from Scriptor Senex.

Thank you Scriptor Senex. Preparing this gave me something else to do while running to pick up more milk and cat food before the first big snow storm of the season hits tonight. Scriptor Senex is an interesting blogger who reminds me of a chemistry teacher I once had back in 1970-something - someone having fun despite it all. I'll clear off some counter space in the kitchen and put this award next to the mix master. (Not sure what that stuff is on the apron.)
As is common with these bloggy awards there is a catch. We were to answer a list of questions with one word only. I've cheated using a few hyphenated words. Here Goes:

1. Where is your cell phone? Pocket.

2. Your hair? Sigh.

3. Your mother? Summer.

4. Your father? Winter.

5. Your favourite food? Comfort.

6. Your dream last night? Musical.

7. Your favourite drink? Ice-Wine.

8. Your dream/goal? Secret.

9. What room are you in? Kitchen.

10. Your hobby? Reading.

11. Your fear? Electricity.

12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Alive.

13. Where were you last night? Home.

14. Something that you aren't? Salesperson.

15. Muffins? Timmies.

16. Wish list item? Books.

17. Where did you grow up? Farm.

18. Last thing you did? Read.

19. What are you wearing? Moccasins.

20. Your TV? Incomprehensible.

21. Your pets? Cats.

22. Friends? Friendly.

23. Your life? Ongoing.

24. Your mood? Que-sera.

25. Missing someone? Dog.

26. Vehicle? Unpredictable.

27. Something you're not wearing? Mini-skirt.

28. Your favourite store? Resale.

29. Your favourite colour? Ruby.

30. When was the last time you laughed? 10:15.

31. Last time you cried? 10:15.

32. Your best friend? Heaven.

33. One place that I go to over and over? Library.

34. One person who emails me regularly? Politician.

35. Favourite place to eat? Tony's.

Now that you have been further enlightened by more of my idiosyncrasies, I can now pass this along to six more bloggers who may or may not - up to them - participate. Nevertheless, here are six blogs I regularly stop by while enjoying a pot of tea.

1. Like Mother Like Daughter - Like a Farmer's Almanac for homemakers.

2. Tomato Transplants - Parenting turned on it's head, every time.

3. Mental P Mama - Old girls looking backward, forward and upside down.

4. Margaret's Ramblings - Wise lady who shares what she knows and sees.

5. There She Sews! - If you sew, she will be like a best friend who understands.

6. Sally's World - An amazing, strong, smart, energetic woman.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Trouble-Shooting No-Knead Bread Dough

"Hockey Pucks! It made hockey pucks!" a reader wrote, when they made my No-Knead Whole Wheat Egg Buns. I feel terrible that this happened and understand the frustration when trying out a new recipe and it flops big time. There is no doubt the reader is an experienced bread baker as witnessed by the photo they sent - a beautiful loaf of bread and pan of sticky buns as proof. Unfortunately, sometimes things go wrong in the kitchen. What may have gone wrong? A few weeks ago I forgot to add yeast to a mix of raisin bread and then added it after everything else was mixed. Nothing happened for hours and hours. I ended up pitching it out - something I have never ever done when it comes to bread. Bread is forgiving. Cakes are usually the nightmare. It likely would have turned out just fine, but the dough was supposed to be a sweet dough and would undoubtedly begin to sour by the time the yeast came around. I should have dissolved the yeast into a bit of liquid and mixed it in with a dough hook. Last week I must have lost count of the cups of flour when making a batch of 100% whole wheat because I noticed the dough looked dryer and was more difficult to stir. So I added a little more water to compensate. I knew what consistency to look for, having made the bread several times now and the bread turned out just fine.To avoid that happening again, I've taken to inscribing numerals into the heap of flour after adding each cup - something completely unnecessary when making bread my old way. I wonder if there may be less wiggle room in making no-knead bread as compared to regular kneaded bread on account of the accurate measuring that occurs and how moist the dough is. I suppose the dough is actually what real bread bakers call "sponge." The first thing that came to mind that may have gone wrong with the reader's bread is the obvious - an ingredient was left out of the recipe. So I went back through my notes but found nothing amiss. (NOT!! - check comments - Leila, another reader found an error and it's all been corrected now.)I've noticed with the no-knead breads that they bake up beautifully when freshly mixed and risen, but the dough's character seems to change if it has been refrigerated. I don't know if the reader refrigerated the dough and then made the bread. No-Knead bread which I have baked from refrigerated dough has been more dense in texture, similar to a sourdough bread and chewier.
The rolls also rise up tallish and spread out less taking on the appearance of biscuits rather than rounded buns even if the dough is allowed to come completely back to room temperature. I no longer refrigerate the dough, but use it all up at one baking. Another thing we've noticed is pizzas take longer to bake with no-knead dough. For the time being we are going back to regular knead dough for pizzas.The second thing that came to mind that may have gone wrong was the yeast. Hockey puck bread suggests that something was retarding the yeast. A cool kitchen will produce sluggish bread that doesn't rise well even when everything is done correctly. One thing I have been doing is letting these doughs rise to more than doubled - more like quadrupled. I have a tallish lidded bucket - just under 8 liters capacity and let the dough rise almost to the top once mixed. This means, mix up the ingredients in the morning and come back to it later in the day, or mix it up late at night and it will be ready to use early in the morning. If the kitchen is exceptionally warm the dough will rise up very fast.Or there may have been a problem with too much salt. The reader said they had halved the recipe so I wondered if perchance the salt didn't get halved. Salt kills yeast. But we still use it because it tastes good.I have remade this bread several times now and it turned out fine each time. So what else could be the problem? The reader mentioned they have never had success baking whole-wheat flour bread. I wondered if perchance they had used all whole wheat flour. I've never had success baking bread using only all whole wheat flour either and have read professionals say that whole wheat bread needs all-purpose flour to rise properly. I could never produce a decent loaf of 100% whole wheat bread. But, no longer. Spurred on to see what would happen with no-knead using just whole wheat flour, I decided to give it a try, reasoning that with less flour in the no-knead recipes the dough just might rise. Guess what? It turned out perfectly. How exciting is that! And too, there may be a difference in the flours used. I recall reading somewhere that flour produced here in Canada is higher in gluten than flour produced in the U.S.A. I don't know where the reader was located, but think it was the U.S. Higher gluten means the bread rises better. I've noticed many bread recipes from the States call for bread flour, whereas recipes here in Canada just say all-purpose. If you are in the U.S. and have had trouble with Canadian recipes, maybe try using bread flour.Finally, I'm located at an altitude of approximately 600 feet. If you are located at a higher altitude - quite a bit higher, there may have to be some changes made. I went online to investigate this and found this site which explains how to make adjustment for altitude in baking.Whatever happened, I hope it doesn't put the baker off from working with No-Knead breads. They clearly knew what they were doing. Since discovering this method, I've not made a single loaf of bread or bun the old-fashioned way.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Sarah Said What?

Sarah Palin said Canadians should dismantle the Canadian Health Care System (Bow Down and Kiss the Earth) and turn a buck. Now we all know, at least here in Canada, that Canadians don't know who we really are. It's the national joke. So to be fair, if we don't know who we really are, how could Sarah? That is, except for the Quebecois who have always known who they really are and occasionally remind the rest of us in Canada just so there is no confusion about that, too. As confused as the rest of us Canadians are as to our identity, the one thing that is rock solid, or so it seems, is our Canadian Health Care System (Bow Down and Kiss the Earth).

Living in a border community, we frequently meet Americans and the one subject which they have always brought up in conversation is praise for our health care. Canadians, it seems, are known better for our health care system than for our once-upon-a-time peacekeeping military, flag emblazoned backpacks or Mounties. How many can right now name Canada's first or present Prime Minister? No Googling - Canadians included. There are many things Canadian in the world but nothing more identifiably so than our health care and apparent lack of national identity. Canadians gave the world insulin, Bell, BlackBerry and basketball - yes, basketball. We have already had a female Prime Minister (that would be like President for Americans) but are missing a Bible Belt, Oprah, Kennedys, Football, and Apple Pie. Or so it seems.

We did once upon a time have a Sarah Palin-like rat-pack back bencher, who rose to Deputy Prime Minister. (That would be like VP for Americans.) Eventually she went to handing out Canadian flags to help us remember what country we live in - 45 million bucks out of our tax wallet to assure us that, yes indeed, we are Canadian. But any one of us could have pulled out of our wallets for free, a little plastic card telling us what we already know - "holder is Canadian, therefore eligible for universal medical care." Never mind, that some of the care may require months of wait time once, or if you can find a doctor and persuade him or her there is something wrong with you.
As bad as the Canadian Health Care System (Bow Down and Kiss the Earth) can be, it's the one thing we all have in common, Quebecois aussi. Most of us are thankful to have it even if it means long ER waits or an orphaned patient status. Yes, it's broken in places and needs a tune-up, but it is there and we are working on fixing it. For Canadians it's death, taxes and health-care. It is our history and it started in 1644 with Jeanne Mance.

Sarah Palin is confused about Canadians, just a bit more than we are ourselves. For Sarah Palin to say Canadians should dismantle the Canadian Health Care System (Bow Down and Kiss the Earth) is akin to a Canadian saying Americans should dismantle their military and skip teaching revolutionary history. Or at least nix the marines. Let the army take care of things. And no more talk about 1776. Did anyone just cough out their Wheaties? I didn't. Wheaties are American. We have Red River Cereal.
(Photos by GG)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Clarity

Clarity comes in quiet.
Clarity comes in confusion.
Which is true?
(Photo by GG)