The Power of Fire

This morning when I woke up and looked outside, my first thought was “hmmm… the sun’s still not out… and it looks a bit hazy this morning.”

As I progressed with my morning routine, I started smelling the smoke coming in through the open windows, and I realized that this smoke was thicker than I expected.

It wasn’t until I got outside on my way to work that I realized just HOW MUCH smoke there really was in the air… and after a quick check with CBC Radio, I confirmed that the smoke was from the BC wildfires, and was going to be sticking around the area for awhile.

It’s amazing the reach that fire has… both in power and destruction as a force of nature, and the diversity of uses it has in our everyday lives. Everything from the lights we turn on, the heater in the basement, the stove… then there are the open flames, like candles, campfires, torches and barbecues… there are lots of tools in the kitchen, shop and artroom are governed by heat or fire.

One of the tools I would love to learn more about is a wood burning torch. I have seen many beautiful projects created or accented by these versatile instruments, and I look forward to getting one for myself to create with.

I also love the process of candlemaking, and relaxing in the aura of those candles on winter nights when their warm glow creates a cozy feeling wherever they are placed.

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I have also created a box of very basic fire starters for our camping trips… I collect empty toilet paper tubes, stuff them with dryer lint, and fold the ends in so they are portable. I may also add wax to them in the future, but I need to figure out how to do so in a mess free way…

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Fire is a source of heat, light, and a mix of calming and invigorating energy. It is fun to play with, the secret is to not get burned….

Turning Over a New Leaf

Hello Followers and Friends!

It is exciting to be back in the saddle of writing once again.

Soon after Christmas/16, my whole world fell apart, and it has taken a couple of months to rebuild strength and will to continue as I did before.

It is August now, and so many projects that I previously talked about have been completed, started, or grown.

I have made my Citronella votive candle batch, it took an entire afternoon, but the candles turned out very pretty!

My front flower bed came up beautifully with both the crocuses and tulips, as well as some other surprise arrivals. My flower bed has since been overgrown with weeds, and I am in the process of cleaning it out once again to give the flowers some breathing room.

I have built ad filled my new raised garden beds behind the house as well. The layout is a little different than originally planned, but it serves me well. Now I have 3 raised plots, 2 reserved for veggies, and a third for herbs and flowers.

My Crafting Center has been moved and shuffled and forgotten since Christmas, but recently I have begun to once again refresh the room where my art supplies live, with plans again to create new and beautiful works of art in that space, when time and energy allow.

I also continue to take weekender trips, to explore, photograph new areas and beautiful scenery, and calm my spirit and refresh myself. The wild mountains hold a big piece of my heart, and the Kootenays and National Parks along BC and Alberta will continue to draw me.

My plan is to restart my writing processes, and continue to post weekly about what is happening in my world.

Please comment, share, and respond to ideas that you like, and we will build each other up together!

Christmas Prep Week

This weekend, I put all of my fall decorations away, and pulled out several bins of my christmas decorations. I found the lights, tinsel, wall hangings and wreaths, and what I have left of my christmas tree ornaments.

I started putting a few things up inside the house, and made plans to string the outside lights this week sometime.

I also processed the last of the pumpkin, so I can make cookies and other things with it through the winter season.

The tree will probably go up late this week, with all of the other decorations preceding it. Watch this week for my snowflake display tutorial, as well as several different cookie recipes.

This year is about making new traditions and starting new memories. I love the weeks in the end of november and the beginning of December, as they are all about preparation, and the hustling bustling spirit of christmas is so easily caught, felt, and passed on to others.

 

It’s a French Toast Morning

Yesterday I had a craving for breakfast. All day. And today too. So I decided to make french toast, because I have all of the ingredients right now, and because it’s quick and so easy to do.

I mixed 3 eggs with a little vanilla extract and some cinnamon. Then I added about 2 cups of milk, and whisked it all together. I preheated my fry pan to a little higher than medium, and gathered all the pieces to french toast assembly onto the stove.

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then I double dipped the french toast into the batter, and placed 2 slices side by side in the greased pan. I waited for about 3 minutes, and flipped the toast just after it turned golden brown.

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I made 8 slices of french toast today. I love to dress them up with a little peanut butter and syrup, topped with a dusting of icing sugar. Then they turn into a gooey, messy, and delicious treat.

 

Q, R, S, Tea…

What is the best way to settle down after a long day? What’s the best way to wake up in the morning? What’s one thing you reach for when you aren’t feeling well? What is one thing you share with good friends? 

Tea is the answer that can answer all of these questions… whether it is green or black…. oolong or chai, te has the ability to calm and energize depending on the blend that is used.

Have you ever walked into a store that sells tea and been overwhelmed? (Don’t worry, it happens to many of us) there are so many colors, flavors, uses, blends, and brands to choose from, that it is fairly easy to get lost in tea.

I usually let my nose lead me… I am not particular about any specific blend, and have not yet been presented with a reason to be. I prefer fruit blends and berries for the morning, peppermint and chamomile for sick days, chai or a rich vanilla blend for cozy night after a hard day, and will share any of these with a friend.

How do you take your tea? 2 spoons of sugar, a little milk… or honey? I like all of the above, but not all at once. In green and peppermint teas, I prefer regular sugar. In fruit teas, I prefer honey. And in chai and dark teas, I prefer sugar as well as a little milk to tone down the bitter edge.

Regardless of the flavor, strenth, or sweeter, tea is a great way to both relax and unwind, and start a busy day with just the right touch.

Spaghetti Supreme

Last night was spaghetti night…I haven’t had spaghetti in quite a while, so it tasted even better, and it was fun to make too! That is always a bonus.

I started by thawing out 2 pounds of hamburger and browning them. I chopped up the celery and onions, and grabbed a can of diced tomatoes to toss in after the meat was brown.

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When the meat and veggies were steaming, I started the spaghetti noodles in a pot of boiling, salted butter with a bit of margarine, so the pasta doesn’t stick together. because the vegetables add a lot of moisture to the meat mixture, they need to be simmered off for about 20 minutes

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As the noodles soften and the meat mixture simmers off, I grate a bowl full of marble cheese to add directly to the pot when the pasta is done.

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Here is how it works: Drain the pasta, put it back in the pan. put grated cheese on top of noodles. put meat and veggie sauce on top of cheese. Put 1 can of tomato/spaghetti sauce on top of meat and veggie mix. stir the entire pans worth of layers together, and let sit when fully incorporated for about 5 minutes, to absorb additional moisture.

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I usually make a large pan of this spaghetti, so I have enough for leftovers and sometimes for freezing as well.

Bread Maker Cinnamon Buns

Who doesn’t like cinnamon buns? Big ones, little ones, cream cheese icing, and yes, once in a while I will toss in the raisins, but their ooey gooey goodness makes for a sticky sensation.

My small cinnamon buns start in the bread maker. Mom once gave me a white bun recipe, and all I do is add a little extra honey to sweeten it up, start the dough cycle on the bread maker, and let the machine do most of the hard work. 


When the dough cycle is complete, I take out the dough, roll it flat, and prepare to get messy. First comes a thin layer of butter or margarine over the flattened dough. Next a generous dusting of cinnamon, followed by a sprinkling of brown sugar. (If I add raisins, this is where they come in)

When the dough is properly dressed, I start rolling it up, stretching it in both directions as I go to produce a uniform roll about 2 inches round.

In the meantime, I have melted about a quarter cup of butter or margarine in the microwave, and proceed to brush 2 regular muffin tins with the melted butter (24 cups/tins)

Then I take a clean pair of kitchen scissors, cut my cinnamon roll in half, then in halves again (quarters), then cut each quarter into 6 slices, and drop them into the greased muffin tins so the spiral faces up.

The buns get popped into the oven for 20 minutes @350, and will be sticky, and tricky to release from the tins as soon as they are cool enough to handle. I  find a fork or spoon works well to coax the buns from the pan. 

These buns can be frozen easily, and are a perfect addition to breakfast or dessert.

That Bread with the Bananas

Mmmmmmmmmmm…. Smell that?

It is the oh so familiar scent of banana bread that has just come out of the oven.

It was one of my favorites growing up, and still is one of my favorites. It is healthy enough that I sometimes swap it for toast or cereal in the morning, and it is snacky enough that I can serve it with a little butter after school as well.

My recipe for banana bread is very loose, and I have made it enough times that I barely measure the ingredients anymore. I know the amounts out of my head, so I toss it all in a bowl, whip it together, and it has never NOT turned out yet.

I am not shy for substituting ingredients for the standard bananas, and have adjusted my recipe for many different takes on a classic:

Banana (Nut) Bread

1/2 c – cooking oil                                                 1/2 tsp – baking powder

1 c – sugar                                                            1/2 tsp – salt

2 eggs, beaten                                                                3 tbsp – milk

3 ripe bananas, mashed                                                           1/2 tsp – vanilla

1 tsp – baking soda                                                        1/2 c – walnuts (optional)

2 c – flour

mix… bake… 350°F  for 45 min to an hour, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Makes 2 reg sized loaves

 

Variations:

APPLESAUCE BREAD: Replace bananas and milk with 2 cups applesauce and 1 tbsp cinnamon

BERRY BREAD: Replace bananas with 1 1/2 cups blueberries or mixed berries

PUMPKIN BREAD: Replace bananas and milk with2 cups pumpkin puree, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp allspice, and 1tbsp molasses

STRAW/RHU BREAD: Replace bananas with 1 cup chopped strawberries and 1/2 cup chopped rhubarb

ORANGE/CRAN BREAD: Replace bananas and milk with 3/4 cup orange juice, 1 cup chopped cranberries, and the zest of 1 orange

LEMON POPPYSEED BREAD: Replace bananas with 3 tbsp poppy seeds, 1/2 cup lemon juice, and the zest of one lemon


Photo Credit: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-02-04/banana-growers-fear-cyclone-will-see-flood-of/1929542

To Beet… Or Not To Beet

Today is the day of red-ness… or pink-ness…

Red beets are the most color intense vegetable that I have ever worked with. Once you start processing them, your hands, countertops, floor, and sometimes your dishes will be stained a shade of red for a little while.

I didn’t grow a garden myself this year, but I DID get some things out of Dad’s garden. The last vegetable to work away for me this year is the beets. This morning I started with boiling the beets, with the skins still on, until they are cooked all the way through. This takes a long time, as beets are slower in softening than some other foods. My beets averaged in size from a ping-pong ball to a large baseball, so I simmered them for a good hour.

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After the cooking process was done, I lifted the beets into a bath of cold water in the sink, and let them sit there until they were cool enough to handle. then I slipped the skins off of the beets and cut them into large chunks. I then packaged them into freezer bags, labelled and dated them, and put them into the freezer for meals all winter long.

Herb Drying… Take 2

After about 2 weeks of drying, my lovage leaves are ready for stage 2.

They have been lying in my dad’s greenhouse on a sheet of plastic, slowly drying into their crumbly wonderfulness… now they are ready to be turned into the flaky powder that is a great addition to soups and stirfries.

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I set up my workspace with 2 pails and a strainer. The leaves would have to fit through the holes in the strainer before I would be happy:

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I crushed small handfuls into the strainer, and continued to work the leaves between by fingers to produce a fine dust (yes this is dusty work).

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From a 4 liter ice cream pail full of dried leaves, I produced about 2 cups of finished product. I double sifted the herbs, then filled up my spice jars.

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From the plant to the spice rack, it doesn’t take as much effort as one may think to produce your own herb blends. For this year, Lovage (maggi plant) is all I will be doing. Next year, I plan a whole lot more…

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Finished Product