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.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


For quite some time now, we've been in need of a newer vehicle. Our car is quite the beater, and I'm amazed it's lasted as long as it has.

Our needs were pretty basic. We needed something reliable for multi-provincial road trips. We needed more seats, so we can give rides, but we needed to be able to remove those seats to be able to haul larger items - including modestly sized furniture, if necessary. A mini-van would suit our needs, though there were some crossover vehicles and SUV's that also would meet our needs. We were already familiar with the Dodge Caravan, which I liked, but I wanted to try other vehicles to compare.

The girls and I had done some test drives. We weren't going to get anything without their input. However, as a stay at home mom, I can't actually buy a vehicle. My husband has to be along for that. He has not, however, been able to come along with us to kick tires.

Until today.

At first, we were going to an area where there's a lot of dealerships within blocks of each other, but on the opposite side of downtown from us is a dealership we'd been meaning to check out, so we stopped there along the way.

Several hours later, we left with a 2006 Grand Caravan.

So much for just test driving something and going someplace else!

We don't actually own it. We haven't paid a dime towards it. We've signed some papers, but things won't be finalized until the end of the week. Until then, the deal can still fall through. Meanwhile, they have our car as a trade in, which is really quite laughable. They gave us $400 for it. We paid $50 for it. I'm amazed they took it at all!

It's a newer vehicle than I planned on getting, so the cost is higher, even with the sale price. In the long term, though, that's to our benefit. The thing only as 29,000 km on it, which is practically nothing. It's still under warranty. The price was higher than I wanted to pay, but we'll be able to manage. Again, long term, it'll be better for us. It doesn't hurt that as of this month, we've finished paying off the shares for our co-op, so our housing charge is now lower, starting next month. The down payment we'll be making on top of the trade in is pretty minimal. Considerably less than what we had to pay the last time we bought a car at a dealership.

They sure did want to make that sale! Personally, as much as I liked the vehicle, I was content to walk away at any point. Between that and the sight of my husband's new income, they *really* didn't want to lose us as customers.

I think we did all right. I hate having car payments again, but at this point, we need a newer vehicle sooner than we can save up to either buy one outright, or put down a more significant down payment.

Until the paperwork is done and cash changes hands, though, it's just a really nice loan. They even made sure the gas tank was full.

Once that's done, we're already talking about making some day trips outside the city, and will be working things out as far as timing goes with my husband's sister, so that we can head back to Manitoba and have a bit of a family reunion. We won't be making it out next month, as I'd originally hoped. My husband is talking October, but I'd love it if we could swing September.

One thing's for sure. Trips will be a lot more comfortable! Especially for the girls. They've got individual bucket seats instead of the bench type seat other ones we'd tried had. They can actually see, now, too. Plus, the A/C in this thing actually works, unlike our car. They're the stow-n-go seats, too, which will be handy.

On the down side, we actually have a vehicle that's worth stealing again. That was one plus of owning a beater. It looked so crappy, we could've left it unlocked on the street downtown, and it would be ignored. Not so with this pretty thing.

I think it'll work out all right.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Mushroom Pasty

Last night, we had a very successful evening of historical cooking and eating. More on that later, but first, here's how we made our mushroom pasty, using a recipe from this site.

The ingredients:

1 - 1 1/2 pounds mushrooms (the girls chose a mix of white button and crimini, and this is actually closer to 2 pounds)
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup grated cheddar
1/2 tsp each of salt and ginger
1/4 tsp pepper

dough for one pie

We started off by sauteing the mushrooms in the oil, though I did end up adding a bit of butter, too. I cooked them until the liquid was gone.

Then added the other ingredients and mixed it all together well.

The recipe was for a pie or tart, but I decided to make individual pasties, instead. Using small tart pans as forms, I divided the dough into 8 and rolled out the pieces to cover the bottoms of the pans. Then I added the filling.

These can be made with or without a top. A single recipe of dough, which should have been enough for top and bottom of 1 pie shell, was just enough to cover the bottoms. I didn't like how they looked, so I tucked the edges over the filling a bit, then rolled out another 1/2 recipe of dough (I'd pre-made 3 recipes in anticipation of other baking) and used a glass to cut circles. I wet one side of the circles with water before putting them onto the pasties, so that the dough would stick better.

These were then baked at 350F until golden.

The hardest part of making these was to stick to the recipe. I kept wanting to add garlic or other flavorings. I'm glad I didn't. They were so delicious, just the way they were!

Strangely, I neglected to get a photo of what they looked like when I took them out of the oven. Ah, well.

The entire meal was made up of 3 removes. The pasties were served with the stewed chicken our guests brought, which was incredibly good. They, too, had to resist adding at least garlic to their recipe. *L* Their leek soup was wonderful, too. Very light.

The most challenging part of the meal was the strawberry tart and baked apples in the third remove. The recipes were originals, not translated to modern cooking. What instructions were vague and confusing, and there was one ingredient we couldn't figure out at all. We used strawberry syrup instead. They were good, though we'd definitely change things if we made them again - like not including egg yolks with the baked apple. (One of the dishes Eldest wanted to make didn't pan out, as we couldn't find elderberry blossums for it.)

At the end of the meal, we were all quite full and satisfied. They sure knew how to cook well in the 12th century! Unfortunately, our guests had to leave rather suddenly as a storm moved in. We were on the balcony when the wind, rain and what we thought was hail started - the "hail" turned out to be pieces of a neighboring tree. The real hail started later on. Thankfully, we'd brought most of our planters in by then. The electricity flickered a bit, but we didn't have an actual power outage. We were lucky. I've spoken to one person who was without power for 16 hours, and today we saw one area where the power was still out.

No surprise about the outages, judging from the carnage we saw today. The streets were littered with broken branches, and we saw downed trees all over the place. One street was completely blocked by a huge elm - thankfully, no vehicles had been parked where it fell, and only some branches at its top hit the house on the opposite side of the street it had fallen on. An apartment block we passed had a patio and second floor balcony filled with a downed tree. Many others were seen in various parks we drove past. There's going to be a lot of clean up in the next few days. For now, the city must be focusing on those areas there the power was knocked out.

We didn't even get the worst of it. After the storm blew over us, I went onto the balcony a few times. We have a clear view of about 1/3rd of the horizon from our balcony. To the south and east, we continually saw lightning strikes that must've been outside the city. The small towns in those directions would have been hit far harder than we were. Quite a wild night!

As for our medieval themed evening, we all had a great time and really look forward to doing it again. Nothing like the combination of good food and great company! The only question is, what time in history shall we do next? Eldest brought up ancient Egypt and the pioneer area, both of which I would love to try out.

Whatever we end up doing, it's going to be a blast! :-D

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Preparing for history

I've been pretty quite on this blog lately, though I've been posting on my other blog more often. It's not that we haven't been doing homeschool related to post; I just haven't managed to keep up with posting about it. *L* Ah, well.

With summer here, we've been enjoying some of the local festive events, with more to come. We're also planning and working on an event of our own. This weekend, we're having our first historical food evening. I'm trying to start up a group among my foodie friends centered on friendship and re-creating historical eating. The idea is for different families in the group to host an evening, perhaps as often as once a month, with each gathering based on a specific time period/theme. The hosting family comes up with the theme, provides the location, and does the organizing while everyone who can make it brings a dish or two that's as close to historically accurate as can be replicated.

For our first attempt, we chose a Brother Cadfael theme. This puts the time period in the early to mid-1100's. While the location is England and Whales, the Brother Cadfael character had a well traveled life, so dishes from other countries would be quite appropriate.

Only one family was able to make it for this weekend - though that had as much to do with cat allergies as interest, unfortunately. That still makes for 7 people, which I think is just fine for a first time! We won't be able to do a whole lot for setting the mood - I'd love to dress up and all, but we just won't be able to do that. Mostly, it'll be centred around the food.

Which means that today, I've been baking trenchers. A typical trencher was a slice or three of thick, day old bread that were used instead of plates. I chose, however, to use this recipe. I've got one in the oven right now, two more in different stages of rising, one almost cool enough to freeze - and one we've already eaten like regular bread with supper. Trenchers weren't normally eaten by the diners. Instead, they would be tossed to the dogs or given to the poor. These ones will be quite edible, if anyone is hungry enough. ;-)

One of the dishes our guests will be bringing is a stewed chicken, though it has beef in it as well. I look forward to trying it. The girls will be making sweets for the end - Eldest has found a couple of recipes already.

I will be cheating on a few things. Wine was the usual drink of the time period, and one of our favorite grocery

... back again. I now have two trenchers cooling, one in the oven, and one last one shaped for its second rising.

Where was I?

Oh, right. Our favorite specialty grocery store carries a non-alcoholic spiced wine that's perfect for the theme. The recipe for it may well go back to the time period; this recipe sounds like it would produce a very similar drink. They even carry a brand of "small ale" that would work quite well, if we wanted to go that route. They also carry a line of forno-type breads (in fact, I think they really are baked in a forno) that are perfect for the evening, as well as cheese types that go back to that period and earlier. Some spiced wine, bread, cheese and some fruit and we've got a decent meal all on its own.

We'll be having only three "removes" (courses), so it won't be a big medieval feast by any stretch. Brother Cadfael, after all, was a monk and generally had simple fare, though with the character's adventures, he dined with the noble set as well.

The first remove will include a Welsh leek soup, with bread, herbed butter (using herbs from our own balcony garden), cheeses and probably fruit, depending on what I can find that would suit the time period. The second remove will have the chicken stew, but I still have to decide on the salad and side dish to go with it. This is where the trenchers will be used, though I will have plates under them, too. ;-) The final remove will be the sweets - I don't know where my daughter found the recipes, so I'll link to them later, unless they find other recipes they prefer. Edlerflower Worms and a Strawberry Tart are the plan. I think we can get elderflowers at a health food store.

I'm really looking forward to seeing how this turns out. It should be fun. :-)

Monday, July 06, 2009

How does your garden grow?


I just got back from checking our balcony garden with Eldest again. We're having a major wind storm right now, and our balcony has virtually no shelter from it. The wind just seems to whip around inside the side walls rather than blowing over them. I've had to take my rail planters off and tuck them against a wall. Several of my basil have been damaged by the wind - bent right over right at the base of the stems. We'll see tomorrow if they survive the onslaught. They're still being blown around some, but not as much as on the rail. I even had to move another planter that was already on the ground. My second sowing of spinach was literally being crushed by the wind.

Speaking of spinach, I'm going to have to harvest the first sowing pretty much right away. It's starting to bolt, and I don't want them getting all leggy and going to seed.

It sure is great having the garden. We've been able to make a couple of salads with the small greens I've been thinning out. We can also harvest just a few leaves for sandwiches as needed. Eldest was waxing poetic over the spinach, cream cheese and a bit of shredded cheddar sandwich she had earlier today.

The rosemary is growing a lot more slowly than I expected. Perhaps it's being shaded too much by the tarragon, which is growing much faster than I expected. We've already used the tarragon to make a lovely butter. The parsley has also seen use already, as well as a few chives. The basil isn't ready for use yet, though I could probably start using the thyme. The carrots were growing slowly until we had a thunderstorm and accompanying short deluge one evening. They grew an inch overnight after that. I look forward to when they're big enough to start thinning - can't let the little ones go to waste. ;-)

This summer, we're learning a lot about what we can expect to do for next year. While the large amounts of direct sunlight was something I knew we'd be dealing with, I didn't expect that wind would be such an issue. Not to this extent. This will need to be taken into account in deciding if we'll plant anything with height. I had been thinking peas or beans in planters with a lattice back, which I've seen in stores this summer, but with this wind, I am no longer sure they won't be ripped apart.

We still need to decide if we'll be signing up for a garden plot for next year. It'd be great to plant some corn and heirloom varieties of potatoes.

I'm going to have to stop trying to write, though. The family keeps trying to talk to me. *L*

Catch up time

Oops! I totally forgot to post after the piano came in. Ah, well.

I'm borrowing my husband's laptop to write this. Hopefully, I'll catch all the typos I'm going to be making before I publish this. LOL

So our piano arrived, mostly safe and sound. It took 5 guys and a lot of struggling for them to get it up to our door. The stairs to our place are split in two sections. The first lead right to the sidewalk and there's a landing between them and the next set. They were able to use a ramp for that. The second set is longer, steeper, and enclosed between our unit and the neighbour's. Just to make it even more fun, the landing between the two is just narrow enough that the two guys at the top had to start lifting it up the second set before it cleared the ramp. The piano was on skids that had to clear about half the staircase before they could start sliding instead of lifting one step at a time.

Then they had to deal with the landing at the top. Actually, things were a lot easier once they cleared the stairs. The landing turned out to be adequately large enough to turn the piano. Then they had to get it over the door sill, get it back on wheels and set it up. We bought a heavy duty rug to put under the piano to protect the carpet. They got hung up on that a bit and had to lift the piano one side at a time to straighten it back out again. It's now several inches past where I meant it to be, but I wasn't about to complain! *L*

After they left, I got Eldest to start going through the keyboard and we were startled to find one that wasn't making any sound. We opened the front up and discovered a missing hammer. Youngest found the hammer sitting on the works below. I've since verified that the hammer was broken *before* it left the family that had it for the last few years, and they thought it had always been that way. They left it where they found it, so it wouldn't get lost.

Other than that, the piano needs a serious tuning. I have an idea of how much that will cost, but I'm almost afraid to find out how much fixing the hammer will cost. We'll also be looking into finding out how much it will cost to re-varnish the thing. After 200 years, it's got quite a bit of cosmetic damage. ;-)

We haven't really started playing it yet. I've still got to dig out my old music books. Unfortunately, they've been buried in a storage closet already. In the process of digging out the A/C unit, various other boxes and whatnot got shoved aside. It will all have to be pulled out for me to reach the box my music books are in. *sigh* I've printed out some sheet music from online, but it's been so long since I've played, I have to learn how to read notes all over again! Especially since Eldest has already asked me to teach her a bit. *L*

All in good time. Right now, I'm just so glad to finally have it here. It was worth the cost, as painful as that was.

Next painful expenditure of funds: a new (to us) vehicle, so we can visit family and start doing some road trips again! :-D

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Happy 4th

Wishing my friends and visitors from the US a Happy Independance Day. I hope you have a great time celebrating. :-)

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Happy Canada Day!!

Just taking a moment in between outings to wish my fellow Canadians a Happy Canada Day.

I hope you're having as wonderful a day as we are! :-D