For my regular visitors, if you find that this blog hasn't been updating much lately, chances are pretty good I've been spending my writing energy on my companion blog. Feel free to pop over to Moving On, and see what else has been going on.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Hot Spiced Apple and Cranberry Juice

Since we were having a more special supper tonight, thinking it was the Feast of St. Catherine, Eldest made her spiced apple drink. It's really excellent, so I thought I'd share the recipe.

Hot Spiced Apple and Cranberry Juice

2 L apple juice
2 L cranberry juice
cinnamon sticks
whole cloves
1 apple, optional
whole ginger, optional

In a large pot, combine juices. Add spices. Experiment with the quantities of spices for your own tastes. Eldest likes to use about 6 cinnamon sticks, enough whole cloves to fill the bottom of a tea ball and about a tablespoon or so of ground nutmeg in a little baggie. I think she used a coffee filter to make the baggie. The tea ball and baggie aren't needed, but they do make clean up easier, and you don't get dregs of spices in your glass later on.

If using an apple, wash thoroughly, cut into slices and add it to the juices and spices. If using the ginger, peel and slice a piece about half an inch long. The ginger can be a bit strong, so start with less before determining how much you like to use.

Heat over low until the juices are hot and the flavours are combined, which may take as long as an hour.

Serve hot. Any juice left over can be strained and refrigerated.

First Day of Christmas

Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends in the US. I hope you all had a wonderful day of it. :-)

It turns out I got my dates mixed up. I thought today, the 27th, was the Feast of St. Catherine, which we mark as the first day of our Christmas season. Some Acadian families traditionally make their Tire (pull toffee) on this day. Except, as I started to write this post and went looking back at older posts, I discovered St. Catherine's Day is actually on the 25th.

Oh, well. We celebrated it today. Not with making Tire, which no one felt up to making, but with a slightly fancier supper with candles and such.

We also put up our tree today. We didn't decorate it. It's just up. With our new kitten (who's almost old enough to be called a cat), we wanted a bit of time to train her NOT to go into the tree, using the spray bottle method. Not something we want to do with strings of lights on the tree!

So far, so good. She started investigating the tree once and got sprayed. When she started to look like she was heading for it again later, Youngest picked up the spray bottle, and that was enough for the kitten to run away. Several hours later, she seemed overly interested in it again but ran off when Dh picked up the spray bottle. He ended up leaving the spray bottle under the tree - and the kitten hasn't shown an interest in it since! LOL

We'll give it a couple more days, then decorate.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Slow Cooker Pea Soup with Lentils

I whipped together this variation of my usual pea soup (I don't usually have spare lentils hanging around) in the slow cooker before heading out for the afternoon. It turned out really well, so I figured I'd share it.

Note: I made this using a 6 quart crock pot and it was filled quite handily. If you have a smaller pot, adjust quantities as needed. This also makes a very hearty soup that does better as a meal than a starter.

Slow Cooker Pea Soup with Lentils

1 pkg (900g) split yellow peas
about 1 cup lentils
1 meaty ham bone*
1 small onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2-3 carrots, chopped small
about 10 - 12 cups broth or water

if using water, use salt and pepper to taste, as well as any other herbs or spices you like.

*Whenever you have a big, bone-in ham, leave a fair amount of meat on the bone and freeze it for future soups. I try to have 1 or 2 in the freezer at all times.

Pick over the peas and lentils, then rinse until the water runs clear. Add the peas and lentils to the crock pot liner. Spread them evenly.

Place the ham bone in the middle of the pot, pushing it into the peas and lentils a bit.

Add the chopped veggies around the ham bone.

Pour the liquid into the pot. If you're using broth (I like to use chicken, but vegetable works fine, too. I haven't tried beef broth), you shouldn't need to add anything else for seasonings, unless you'd like to throw in a bay leaf or something. If you're using water, add salt and pepper to taste. Just be careful not to use too much salt, as the ham bone will add its own salty flavour.

You'll need at least 10 cups of liquid for a really thick soup. Remember that the cooked soup will continue to thicken as it cools, so feel free to add more (I used 11, cups but I like a rather thick pea soup). If you later find you haven't added enough, use freshly boiled water to thin.

Cover the stock pot and set it to high for 6 hours.

Near the end of the 6 hours, you can take the ham bone out and leave it on a cutting board to cool for a bit. Give the soup a bit of a stir before putting the lid back on.

Once the ham bone is cool enough to handle, remove the meat. Chop the meat and add it back to the pot. Stir well. Toss away the bone and whatever gristly bits remain. If you've used a bay leave, remove it and toss it away at this point, too.

Adjust seasonings to taste, if needed.

Serve with a heavy, solid bread, like Black Russian Rye, and a green salad. Pea soup is also great served in bread bowls.

Left over soup can be refrigerated, or put individual servings into Ziplock bags and freeze.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Extended library list

Our library visits for the last while have been sporadic. Scheduling has been a bit of a problem, and I won't do a library trip if I've got a shift that night, and my shifts aren't always on the same days. So we've been doing more renewing than taking out. *L*

This is what we've got right now.

Starting with the multi-media items (because they're easier for me to reach right now) we have:

The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwin. This is a 9 CD set of the book by Michael J. Behe (who was also interviewed for the dvd, A Flock of Dodos). We've only got to disc 4 so far. Fascinating stuff. Behe is also the author of Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution.

Kissey Asplund: Plethora. Music cd; I didn't really like this one.
Energy Avenue: Shh, Just Go With It. Music cd; I didn't really like this one, either.

Samurai Japan: A Journey Back in Time. From the Lost Treasures of the Ancient World dvd series, this was quite interesting.

The Sherlock Holmes Collection Vol. Two. A four dvd set of old black and white movies: Pearl of Death, The Scarlet Claw, The Spider Woman and The House of Fear. The kids found them all right, but I had a really hard time watching them. I've never seen Holmes portrayed so ... erratic. It wasn't the most flattering portrayal of Waston, either. The stories were set in a more recent time period, and had little to do with the original stories at.

Origins of Life: Parts 1 and 2. From the Great Courses series, each part is 2 dvds for a total of 24 lectures. Eldest had been watching these during her home alone times, but she hasn't have many of those lately.

Now to the books. Youngest's list is short and sweet. She took out Folk Tales of Ireland and has been really enjoying it.

Eldest's list is a lot more extensive... *L*

Lost Discoveries: The Ancient Roots of Modern Science - from the Babylonians to the Maya. Totally fascinating. I highly recommend it. Lots of read-aloud parts. I might have to renew it again so I can read it from top to bottom myself.

The Case Against Adolescence: Rediscovering the Adult in Every Teen. This one got renewed so I could work on it. I think many home schooling families recognise that the stereotypical teen angsty behaviour is not as inevitable as our culture has lead us to expect. It's another book I highly recommend. When Eldest read it, there were a lot of read-aloud moments, too.

Sundays with Vlad: From Pennsylvania to Transylvania. One Man's Quest to Live in the World of the Undead. This book is quite hilarious and entertaining. The author, Paul Bibeau, has a very conversation writing style, and great sense of humour.

A Dictionary of Sacred and Magical Plants.
Garden Flower Folklore.
I don't know that Eldest has actually read either of these. They both seem excellent sources of historical information surrounding specific plants.

A Venetian Bestiary. This one looks at the portrayal of creatures both real and fantastical.

Juice of Life: The Symbolic and Magic Significance of Blood. Eldest just finished this one, but I don't know what she thought of it yet.

Nursery Rhymes of Newfoundland and Labrador. Samples from a random page include:

The last living father is dead
The last living father is dead
Oh, take off his glasses
And put him to bed
The last living father is dead.


Vote for Wyatt: she won't be quiet


Diefenbaker, thief and faker.

From the opposite page:

Here's to our foes,
May we cut off their toes,
So we'll know them again
When we see them limping.

Alrighty then... LOL

And finally, Cassell's Dictionary of Superstitions. This one was still sitting in the book bag, so no one's tried to read it yet. *L*

Now for my list!

In the weather/climate category I've got:

The Long Summer: How Climate Changed Civilization
Extreme Weather: a guide & record book
Blame it on the Weather: Strange Canadian weatehr facts

I also grabbed:

I Love my Life: A mom's Guide to Working from Home. This would be much more useful for someone in the US.
Fix-It and Forget-It: Diabetic Cookbook. I recently picked up the regular Fix-It and Forget-It slowcooker cookbook. This one has diabetic friendly recipes from the same book
Every Day's a Holiday Diabetic Cookbook: More Quick & Easy Recipes Everybody Will Love. Interesting recipes. Lame commentary.

Then there's my stack of craft books.

Let's Make Cute Stuff by Aranzi Aronzo! Cute Dolls. A suprisinly hilarious book I picked up for Eldest.
Kyuuto! Japanese Crafts: Amigurumi. I've discovered I like Amigurumi techniques. I'm going to have to start coming up with my own designs, though.
Mr. Funky's Super Crochet Wonderful; Included Supercute: Amigurumi Animals, Super-Cool Accessories. More varieties of amigurumi than in the previous book.
So Simple Crochet: A fabulous collection of 24 fashionable and fun designs. Some really nice stuff in here.
Quick Crochet: 35 fast, fun projects to make in a weekend; bags, jewelry, scarves, accessories, hats. Some nice some, some... uhm... kinda weird stuff.
Crochet for Today. A wide variety of projects in here.
How to Crochet: The definitive crochet course complete with step-by-step techniques, stitch libraries and projects for your home and family. Some nice projects that demonstrate the different techniques.
Crochet Style: chic and sexy accessories. A few nice projects and one that kind of freaked me out. It was billed as an ankle bracelet - or arm band. The idea that anyone's upper arm is as thin as their ankle really alarms me. Yes, they had photos of models wearing it both ways.
The Harmony Guides 220 more Crochet Stitches Vol. 7. Useful and practical. No projects, just patterns.
Party Crochet: 24 hot designs to get you in the party mood. Some very beautiful projects in here!

Embroidery Techniques & Patterns. I got this for a reference more than anything else.
Creative Backstitch. This is the book that got me to change my mind on my yearly Christmas decoration. Beautiful patterns and projects.

All done!! :-D

Monday, November 17, 2008

I'll help you!

I just had to share these photos I took of Eldest with Youngest's kitten.

Whenever Eldest paints or draws, the kitten comes right over. Today, Eldest set up on the living room couch and the kitten promptly nuzzled her way onto her lap.

I wasn't fast enough to catch her actually trying to catch the brush, but I did get her in hunt mode.

Though walking across the wet painting was a bit much!! LOL

Too funny!


We are all big fans of digital photography, though Youngest's interest seems to have waned. Four years ago, we had none. My husband got me a little point and shoot in the fall of 2004. Now we have 3 DSLRs and 3 older point and shoots, plus we'd had another point and shoot that we sold. I still use one of the point and shoots for it's video capability. Between us, we've easily taken in excess of 10,000 photos in the last couple of years alone, though we certainly haven't kept them all. The joy of digital - if you screw up a photo, you just delete it. One of the reasons I'd stopped using our film camera long ago was because there were so many wasted shots - the camera never seemed to focus where it was supposed do - and I got really tired of paying for garbage shots.

As great as digital photography is, there's still something to be said for film photography, and Eldest and been itching to try it out. More specifically, pinhole photography. Today, Dh noticed a site in a photo magazine that we checked out. Corbis Readymech Cameras. I love the idea that you can print out a camera!!

We ended up printing out the Freud-cam (Photos of Your Mother) and the red Pablo version. The pdf printouts include instructions, of course. Eldest has started assembling the Freud version, but is still missing pieces - like film and a film cannister - to finish it, so it'll be a few days before she can try it out.

It should be interesting to see how they turn out!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

I've changed my mind

I've got 45 minutes to post before I have to go back to doing laundry. One plus side of living in a large apartment block. I've got 5 loads to do today, and they're spread over 5 floors. Two and a half to three hours is a lot better than the 7 or 10 it would take otherwise (most likely 10, since the drier on our floor doesn't dry well and always needs extra time).

So just a quick post.

Every year, I make new Christmas decorations for our tree. This year, since I've taken up crochet again, I was planning to make things like crochet snowflakes in white glow in the dark yarn.

Then I found a book in the library called Creative Backstitch and was totally inspired! I'll still do some crochet. I'm going to use the glow in the dark yarn to make a spiral garland edged in red. For the other decorations, I'm going to make spice sachets. I'll be backstitching designs on aida cloth strips, make the strips into little baggies, then put whole cloves, cinnamon sticks and other spices I can think of inside. I'll include some fibrefill to keep things from moving around and, since I'm adding that in, I'll pick up some scented oil - vanilla, I'm thinking - and add a few drops. Then I'll decorate the top edge (haven't decided exactly how, yet), gather them closed so that the cinnamon sticks still show out the top, with loops for hanging. The sachets in the book are stuffed with lavender blossums and trimmed with lacy ribbon.

I'm looking forward to making them and most likely have everything I need to make them - I'll know for sure once I've decided on the decorative edging - but I can't start them yet. I refuse to allow myself to get distracted away from the coat I'm currently crocheting for Eldest. I'd really like for her to be able to wear it before things get too cold for such a relatively light coat. I'm working on the last sleeve, with the back panel and both front panels already blocked and waiting. After the sleeves are blocked, it needs to be assembled and I'll get my daughter to put it on while I figure out how to do a collar. The pattern I've modified for this is a cardigan with no collar, and I've never done collars before. I have several ideas, but I want to see how it sits on her shoulders, before I made any decisions.

Once that's figured out, a button band needs to be added, which is made up of 5 rows of crochet going up one side panel, around the neck, down the other, then back again. For added interest, when that is finished, Eldest has chosen a contrasting yarn she'd picked up for her doll making that I'll use to add a few rows to the bottom of the coat and to the cuffs.

So I'm really wanting to push getting this finished. I do hope it fits her well. I deliberately chose a larger size for this, but the panels still look so narrow. The book I got it from was for plus sized clothing and the models where all a lot larger than her, but none of them had her broad shoulders and generous front. I keep looking at the panels and thinking there's going to be trouble on her upper body. Especially since it's meant to be worn over cool weather tops. The button panels will add a couple of inches, but still... well, we'll see. Something else to figure out when I get her to put it on after assembly. I might add extra rows to the button panel or something like that.

Working all this out is fun!!

Monday, November 10, 2008