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.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Have I mentioned I love my kids? ;-)

I'm glad we did our running around yesterday.

This morning, I woke up aching from head to foot and feeling completely drained. Now I know why my arm had been more sensitive the last couple of days. Sucks that I had to cancel my physio appointmet, though. I ended up sleeping, instead. The receptionist asked if I came down with the flu bug that's been going around - she'd been fielding cancellations all morning.

With me sluggishly making my way through the morning, then finally going for a nap in the afternoon, that left the girls responsible for taking care of things. Eldest made lunch for us, which we ate while watching a library movie. Womb Animals. Not exactly lunchtime fare. *L* It's a good thing stomache upset wasn't a problem for me. ;-) Then, when it came time to make supper, I found I still wasn't up to standing around long enough to tend the stove, so Eldest took over again and finished for me.

Life is so much easier with older kids. I love that I can have a day like this and trust completely that they can take care of things and don't need to be watched over, like when they were little.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A beautiful day.

The girls and I had one of those really great days today.

After our usual morning routine and an early lunch, we made a special trip out to a specific yarn store. One of those places we keep driving by and saying, "we really ought to stop there one of these days." Well, today was the official "one of these days." *L*

I've actually never been to a yarn specialty store before. I've only ever visited the yarn sections in department stores like Walmart, Michaels and Zellers. That's 'cause I'm cheap. LOL For me to spend more than $3 or $4 for a large ball or skein of yarn is a big deal. The last time we drove by this place, however, we noticed signs saying that they were moving. Aside from the moving sale, I wanted to check the place out before they were gone.

What a beautiful place! Shelf after shelf after bin after basket of yarn. Many were types I would never use. I just don't make projects that require those types of yarn. Even with discounts as much as 80% (though most were 50%), I still couldn't afford most of them - not when I'd have to buy at least 10 or more to be able to complete the sorts of projects I do. After wandering about, touching the different yarns, reading labels and agonising over what I was willing to actually spend money on (did I mention I'm cheap?) I finally settled on 4 skeins of a lovely mohair blend at half price that I will probably make a shawl or stole out of, and a roll of sparkly thread yarn that would make lovely crochet edgings on a neckline. Or something. Youngest was actually afraid to touch anything there, the yarns were so fancy looking. I can certainly understand why knitters and crocheters accumulate yarn stashes! After fondling silks, mohairs, fine cottons, bamboo, alpaca, lambs wool, and so on, it's hard to resist buying them!

Eldest was a lot faster than me with her choises. She was able to splurge on some higher end yarns, since she uses them for things like hair for her cloth dolls. She could pick up a $10 (and that's half price!) skein of silk/mohair blend, and one would be enough. She got herself 3 different ones. I look forward to seeing what she makes with them.

Ever since I picked up hook and yarn again, Eldest has been teasing me about my yarn shopping. I'm forever touching, squeezing and picking up yarns when I buy them. She felt this was improper, and that it was strange for me to be fondling the yarns like this. While waiting for me to finish, however, she had time to observe the many other people in the store, taking advantage of the sale prices. She discovered that *everyone* was fondling the yarn. Of course, I'd told her that this was expected, but she didn't believe me. At least not to that extend. I think I'm actually rather reserved, compared to some of the hard core knitters out there. LOL

When we were done, we took advantage of the location and visited a tea shop - another "one of these days" places. It was absolutely delightful! As Eldest put it, this place achieved to perfection, the atmosphere places like Second Cup struggle hard to reach. It was quite a small place, filled with a wildly eklectic variety of tables, chairs, rocking chairs and even a love seat and armchair tucked into a window area near the door. They were all old, nothing matched, and many had scratches on them. The walls and counters were of a darker wood, and a long shelf the ran along one side and the front, above the windows, held unique teapots and antique loose tea tins. Most of the tables had flowers in either a teapot or a tea tin. One section of wall was filled with tins of different teas. Not having been there before, I thought these were for sale. It turns out that the smaller tins are for opening, checking out and smelling. Once a tea is chosen, the leaves are taken from the large tins and a pot is brewed. We'll be doing that the next time we're there - and there *will* be a next time!

There was one employee behind a wooden counter with display case for deserts. There was a chalk menu board ("No coffee!") near the ceiling, and we asked a few questions about what was what. Eldest ordered a chocolate chai latte, Youngest ordered a caramel chai latte, and I ordered a Matcha Latte; something I'd never heard of before. We also got a coffee cheesecake, pecan shortbread square and a turtle square. Once the order was placed, we were told to go ahead and sit down and the woman behind the counter would bring us our order. The place was very busy, but we didn't have long to wait at all. My tea turned out to be bright green and foamy! When she said it was a green tea, I thought she meant the type of tea leaves, not the brilliant colour! LOL

The girls and I tried each of the deserts. Youngest liked the coffee cheesecake the best. I liked all three, but the warmed turtle square with its melted chocolate and rich flavours was my favourite. Eldest liked the pecan square, but agreed that the turtle square was definately something to order again. We had to wait for our teas to cool down, then we all tried each other's choices. The chocolate chai was spicier than expected, but both chais were deliscious. I honestly don't know how to describe the flavour of the Matcha Latte, but when Eldest tried it, she said it tasted like fish. ?!?!? I disagreed, but I still wouldn't know what to compare it to.

It was all quite relaxed and pleasant. Unfortunately, we were on meter parking, so we couldn't linger as much as we would have preferred. On the way home, we swung by the reuse centre to see what they had - it changes all the time - and Eldest found a few little things to pick up. Then we swung by an Italian grocery store that was on the way home to pick up a few things for supper. They have the most fabulous breads, and the freshest produce section I've ever seen outside a garden. I deliberately stayed away from the deli, though, or the girls would never have been able to drag me away. LOL Such a fantastic store.

All in all, a really great day. I just wish my husband were able to be with us.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Continuing on with the yogurt cheese...

We ended up leaving the cheese cloth bag of yogurt hanging for about 2 1/2 hours.

I decided I liked this consistancy, though another hour or so would still have been spreadable, I think.

Since the outer edge is thicker and drier than the middle, I turned it out into a bowl for mixing.

I used the same bowl that the liquid was caught in, after transfering the liquid into a measuring cup. Just over 3 cups - enough to split up into 2 batches of bread (4 loaves).

After a thorough mixing, the cheese was transfered to a container I could seal tightly and refrigerated for about another hour.

Then we got to OHMNOMNOM sample *mphf* some NOMNOMNOM...

It was very tasty. ;-)

I like it plain, but this would take well to having something like dill or other herbs mixed in. It's a great spread for bread or crackers, by itself or as an ingredient in a veggie dip, and so on.

Ahhh... so good!

This morning, the girls and I were really looking forward to seeing how the yogurt turned out. This is the first time we've made it with homo milk - we'd used 2% before (side note: skim milk is the only kind not to use for making yogurt).

The sides of the pot were still nice and toasty warm when I took it out of the oven. This is what it looked like when I took off the lid. Just a bit of liquid settled on the top.

The texture was so gorgeously thick and smooth. Beautiful! It was almost a shame to stir it all up.

Time to split it up. Here I've got a large sieve in a bowl, lined with 4 layers of cheese cloth. How many layers depends on how thick the yogurt it. I've had yogurt turn out so thin, it went right through the 4 layers when I picked it up. Not an issue this time around!

Here's about half of the fresh yogurt. The other half went into a crock and into the fridge, except for the big bowlful Eldest mixed with a bit of honey for breakfast. She ate only a bit, then added some frozen mixed berries. They promptly froze the yogurt, so that's still sitting and thawing out as I write this.

Here, the cheese cloth is gathered up and tied for hanging. There's already a fair amount of liquid under the collander.

I've got some hooks under one of our cupboards that I usually use to hang the utensils I use most often. One of them is perfect for hanging the bag of yogurt, as well as being able to tuck the longer ends of the cheese cloth out of the way.

Right now, it's hanging over the bowl and will remain there for a couple of hours before I check it. I don't want it to be a spreadable consistency, though I've left it long enough to make an almost semi-soft cheese that crumbled. With how thick this yogurt turned out to be, I don't think it'll need long to reach the consistency I want.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Making it ourselves.

Eldest had been craving plain yogurt for a while. Especially home made. It's been quite a long time we've made any. She's tending the pot as I write this now. :-D

Making yogurt is so easy, it's almost a shame to buy it from a store, other than for starter. Which is what we picked up today. Plain yogurt with live bacterial culture in it. If you want to give it a try, this is how we do it.

First, you'll need some milk, of course. We're using a full 4L jug (1 gallon) of homo milk (3.4% or homogenized). Raw milk would be better, but oh well.

Because I happen to have some, I added about 2/3 cup of powdered milk. It isn't necessary, but it will make for a slightly thicker yogurt, if that's your preference.

For a starter, you can buy the bacterial culture, or pick up some plain yogurt from the store. Just make sure the purchased yogurt is labelled as having live bacterial culture in it. For the amount of milk we're using, I've got about 1/2-3/4 cup set aside. I didn't actually measure it.

You'll also need a candy thermometer and a large pot. I use my stainless steel stock pot because it's easily sterilized and has a well fitted lid. The milk (and optional milk powder) is heated to 170F - 180F. Or, if you don't have a thermometer, heat it until scalding (just until bubbles begin to show along the edges of the pot). Turn off the heat and let the milk cool, stirring every now and then, until the temperature is about 105F - 110F, or until it's cool enough that you can keep your finger in the milk for 10 seconds without scalding yourself. Personally, I prefer a thermometer. ;-)

Once it's cooled down enough, stir in the starter. Mix until just thoroughly blended.

The next step is important. You need to keep the mixture warm for quite a long time. What I find works well is to pre-heat the oven to its lowest setting - about 100F - while the milk is cooling, then shut it off while leaving the oven light on. By the time the milk is cooled and the starter mixed in, the oven should be not too hot, not too cold. I then cover the pot and leave it in the over overnight with the light on. By morning, it should be set. I was considering using the stock pot set on warm this time, but I'll stick to the way I know for now. Other methods include using a thermos, keeping the container in a hot water bath, or well wrapped in towels. I've only ever used the oven method and have never had a problem with it.

Once it's set, you can pour the yogurt into clean containers and refrigerate. You can flavour the yogurt by adding honey, jam, or frozen fruit.

Tomorrow, we'll be using half of the yogurt to make yogurt cheese and reserve the liquid for bread baking.

Bread made with this liquid is absolutely sublime!!!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Luscious Baked Brie

Here's the recipe for the baked brie I made for this New Year's. It's the first time I've tried it, and I got the recipe from the husband of a friend of mine. I don't know what he called it, but I call it delicious! It's so easy, too!

Baked Brie with Maple Syrup and Pecans

1 wheel of your favourite brie
maple syrup - indulge in the real thing, not the fake stuff!
whole pecans - enough to cover the top of the cheese in a single layer
1 loaf crusty bread

Remove the rind from the top of the brie only. Place the wheel into an oven safe dish.
Spread pecans and pour maple syrup over the top of the wheel. You want enough syrup to cover the top generously, but not so much that it pools a lot when it drips down the sides.
Bake at 350F until cheese is melted - about 10 - 15 minutes.
Serve hot on pieces of crusty bread.

Happy New Year

Another year, come and gone. Where does the time fly? It's hard to believe we've been living where we are for over 3 years now. It's almost the longest I've lived in any one place since I left the farm at 18. We never expected to be in this apartment for so long. We'd expected to be in our own house - or at least a bigger rental - within the first year. Life never turns out the way you expect, does it?

I hope that everyone had a great Christmas and New Year's. Of course, there are still those waiting to celebrate Orthodox Christmas this month, and Chinese New Year is coming up soon. :-D

We stayed home for both Christmas and New Year's this time. Since moving away from our families, we no longer have lots of travelling with big dinners on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. We're kind of liking things quiet.

Our Christmas was a bit unusual this year, in that we got a couple of larger, more expensive, gifts for the girls. Usually, we spend about $200-$300 for gifts for all 4 of us, plus the grandparents send money for us to get gifts for the girls. This year, thanks to the generosity of grandparents, we replaced our old Xbox with an Xbox 360. That one is more for Youngest, as she likes gaming on the Xbox more. Plus, we got the remote for it, so it's also our dvd player now. That meant we could pass on our dvd player to the girls to replace the cheap one they had that broke. So they can watch movies on the little 13 in tv they've got in their room again. Since they helped pick the gift, we let them have it early.

The most fun Dh and I had was letting the girls guess what the 5 packages, 3 of them quite large, that made one gift was. We gave them hints. It folded. It used gas. It lit up. It rolled.

It was a drafting table set. If they need the space, they can lift the top a bit, fold in the legs, and let the top drop down. It came with a lamp. There was also a drafting chair, which has gas in the stem for raising/lowering the seat. And, of course, it has wheels. The girls - especially Eldest - really needed it. It was very hard for us to make them wait until Christmas for it.

Oh, and the reason it was 5 packages...

It actually came in 2 packages. One for the desk top, another for everything else. Neither of which fit in the trunk, we discovered. Dh and I managed to get the larger package into the back seat, then the thin table top box into the trunk, tying it down. When we got home, however, we couldn't get it out again. We'd been able to squish the box past the seat to put it in, but it couldn't get the angle to do it again to get it out. After struggling with the box for a while, we finally gave up and simply tore it apart and took it out piece by piece. The parts inside were in 4 smaller boxes, so I ended up with a total of 5 boxes to wrap. I had to find and buy larger wrapping paper to do it, but that's ok. I was running low in my stash.

My own Christmas gift from Dh is going to have to wait. Dh was going to get me a couch. Actually, I told him he was getting me a couch for Christmas. LOL Nothing new, of course. New ones are way too expensive. But we've been looking at couches at a clearance place, and we're planning to see what Goodwill or the Salvation Army might have.

Unfortunately, it's going to have to wait a bit longer. You see, on New Year's night, as we were waiting for midnight, we had out some celebratory snacks. I'd taken a bight of some glorious bread from the Italian grocery store, topped with baked brie with maple syrup and pecans. So delicious! The crust on the bread was quite chewy, and as I took my first bight and started to chew, I heard/felt a strange pop in my upper jaw.

I broke a tooth.

It cracked in half, lengthwise. The whole inside of the tooth is loose and wiggles around. I could probably pull that part out with my fingers, if I were into that sort of thing. This is one of those weird times where I'm glad I had a root canal done, though it's likely the root canal that made it weak enough to crack in the first place. The tooth doesn't have any nerves in it, so there's no pain there. Just tenderness in the gum area, though I have to make sure nothing I eat touches the tough, or it's a lot more than just tender! I called the dentist's office that's in our building, but the earliest they could take me in is Monday afternoon, so I'm extra glad it's not painful.

Anyhow, the funds that were supposed to get me a couch will now have to pay to have this tooth taken care of. I'm guessing it'll have to be pulled, and I'll be getting a false tooth to replace it - eventually. I'm afraid to find out what it's going to cost. :-/

Besides that, we had a great New Year's Night. Since we don't get tv, we just watched a movie while waiting. At midnight, we broke out a chilled bottle of sparkling apple juice - something else the girls found at the Italian grocery store - and toasted each other. We also discovered that we have a surprisingly good view of the downtown fireworks. That's where we would've been, had we gone out. We'd had enough of the cold from the last few years, though. Last year was particularly bitter, and this year was even colder. We'd talked about having a BBQ at midnight, but the door to the balcony was frozen shut, so that wasn't really an option.

Meanwhile, the girls have been really enjoying their gifts. The drafting table has absolutely inspired Eldest. She's been painting and drawing up a storm. Youngest had bought her a book that demonstrated techniques she's been experimenting with, and the results have been pretty spectacular. Youngest, meanwhile, is getting use out of it as well, though she's spending more time in the books she got as gifts.

We've still got the tree up, of course. Three Kings Day will be here soon, and then all the Christmas stuff comes down for another year. Until then, we'll probably be staying inside a lot and staying warm! It's been bitterly cold across the country, though we haven't had a lot of snow, like in other areas. That does make things a bit easier.