31 March 2011

Off My Bookshelf March 2011

Here is what has been off my bookshelf this month...

March has been a busy month and with my sister visiting many of my evenings have been spent visiting instead of reading...that and my daughter has acquired a few seasons of the Gilmore Girls and we have been catching up on a little of the TV we have missed over the past decade. So, lots of girl nights...which has been a nice change...next month it will be back to the books...I'm tired after a lot of late nights.

I found this 1975 cookbook at the local charity shop...lots of yummy goodies ...butter...flour...sugar...yum!

still looking for a large container for the fridge to hold my bread dough...I left my large tupperware containers in Nova Scotia...

This one made me want to go shopping...which I am guessing was the purpose of the book...lots of eye candy.

I ran across Gretchen Rubin's blog a month or so ago; I was intrigued and thought I would try reading her book. Easy to read, interesting insight...but I kept remembering a comment I once received from a geography professor on an essay of mine..."too many quotes". I have mixed feelings. She uses a lot of really great quotes but sometimes there are so many her voice gets lost among the quotes and it seems like she is just filling in words to link quotes. Overall a good read and an interesting project.

When I first seriously considered homeschooling my kids I bought a bunch of books for research. I really liked the idea of a literary education and not dumbing things down for my kids. I read a few books by Catherine Levison about the Charlotte Mason method (I also purchased the six book set of actual Charlotte Mason books...but they still sit on my shelf unread); they give a good overview of the Mason method.

Another book about homeschooling info. I thought that while we were having a little spring break I would continue to educate myself on some of the different methods of teaching out there.

So, that is what has been filling my head this month...what have you been reading?

29 March 2011


Most of my memories of growing up include cousins. I have a lot. They were a big part of my childhood. I am so happy that my kids have cousins that are a big part of their childhood as well. Friends are great, but family is...well, family.

This spring break my sister and her family have been visiting. Our days have been pretty ordinary, but for my kids ordinary days + cousins = an extraordinary good time.

Even the simplest things are so much more fun with the cousins.

Between the two of us, my sister and I have eight kids. Six boys...they range in age from 3 to 9 and two girls ages 3 and 11. My 11 year old being so much more grown up and way too mature to play with "kids" usually keeps herself out of the "fun".  But having the other seven together is like a party every day.

The kids have had a great time enjoying the new "spring" weather running around outside. My sister and I for the first time in years have enjoyed not having any toddlers around so we can sit, relax a little and visit.

I actually can not stress enough how much I have LOVED not having a toddler that I have to have my eyes focused on at ALL times. I have loved not having to pull rocks and other such lovelies out of mouths and no changing of diapers! The kids have enjoyed a bit of freedom and so have I.

From mud pies to explorations to tag and even pretending the old hose is a horse the kids have had a great time using their imaginations and playing outside. I have loved visiting with my sister in a way that we haven't been able to in a long time and the 11 year old...well, having an quiet empty house all to herself during the day?...priceless. (The poor girl shares a room with three brothers!) This is one of the best spring breaks ever!

23 March 2011

bagels and pretzels

In 1998 while working as a travel agent I was invited to visit New Brunswick by New Brunswick Tourism. I had an amazing three days touring the fundy coast and fell in love with that area of Canada.

While there I visited the Inn on the Cove which was a small inn that served breakfast and dinner (by appointment). I was able to tour the Inn and the Inn keepers Ross and Willa Mavis made a delicious dinner. At that time they had a small local cooking show and a cookbook.

I loved the dinner. I had been married less than a year and I was trying to learn to cook. Ross Mavis (the main cook) was so friendly and easy going and was happy to admit to being a self taught cook that I bought one of the cookbooks.

The pink scribble is an added embellishment by one of my kids. "Tide's Table" was the first cookbook I bought without pictures and was the start of my cookbook collection. I have made many of the recipes in this book and have since bought additional copies to give away. From this book I learned how to make my own granola and from the Raspberry-lemon muffins I learned to LOVE making muffins. One of the other recipes that I love and don't make often enough is their recipe for...

Fresh homemade bagels are unlike anything you can buy in the store (excepting maybe Montreal here in Canada). They are very easy to make as well...

you start with 4 1/2 cups bread flour (although I usually use all-purpose and sometimes use a mix of 3 cups white and 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour)

Make a well with the flour and in the well place 2 Tbsp sugar (although I think you could get away with less) and 2 1/4 tsp yeast. Add 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water.

 Here in the interior of BC I have had to add a bit more water as I mix the dough - not as much humidity here.  Wait five to ten minutes for the yeast mixture to foam up...

When it is all foamy sprinkle 1 Tbsp salt around the flour (I actually only use half that) and stir the flour into the yeast mixture. Mix until combined and then move dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for approximately 10 minutes...

or a little longer if you have help...

When the dough is nice and smooth and stretchy (and you can press a finger into the dough and the dough bounces back up) place the dough into a greased bowl. Cover and rest for about 15 minutes.

Divide dough into 16 equal parts for bagels or 32 parts for pretzels (or do what I did and make 16 pretzels and 8 bagels). Roll each piece into a snake like shape about 8 or 9 inches long for bagels and 12 inches long for pretzels. Shape the bagels into a circle and press to seal. For the pretzels, cross the dough at the end and press to seal. Place shaped dough on lightly floured surface and let rest for approximately 20 minutes.

When the dough is resting place a pot of water on to boil. Larger pots work better as they hold more bagels/pretzels; I actually use two just to make things go faster. When the water is boiling turn it down to a simmer. Gently place bagels/pretzels in simmering water (leave room for a little expansion).

Simmer the dough for about six minutes, flipping them over once.  After the six minutes remove the simmered dough to a dry tea towel and sprinkle bagels with your choice of toppings. I just used maldon salt on these ones but you can use sesame seeds, poppy seeds, caraway seeds, fennel seeds...use your imagination! Move to lined baking trays and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven and bake pretzels for 15 minutes and bagels for 35 minutes.
apparently my camera and my camera skills do not like the hot oven...or a very steamy 5x10 kitchen!
When baked - cool on cooling racks. They are SO good straight out of the oven that I did not even get a picture of the pretzels...there was a line up and they were gobbled up too fast!
Yours may look better than mine did...when you make them with a three year old you have to make certain sacrifices. The bagels are excellent served with cream cheese for breakfast the next morning. I have never had them around for more than 24 hours so I am not sure how long they will last...I assume they would freeze well.
That is about all that is new in my corner of the world...we are just enjoying spring break with my sister and her family and the sunshine that is melting the snow...at this rate it should FINALLY be gone by April!
Happy Spring!

21 March 2011

Spring Running

Something about Spring always makes me want to get out and do something...

Saturday we bought a new bike for my daughter who is getting ready for a spring youth triathlon training class next month. While at the sport shop we noticed a table of clearance shoes...

Yes, running shoes.

I have started running programs more times than I can count. When I am running I love it...but I don't like getting ready to run. I dread waking up to an alarm and pulling myself out of bed to go running. My programs usually last about six weeks or so...I usually get to the point where I can run close to 5km. I always see a huge improvement. I just start feeling really good about it and then something really "important" usually comes up and I quit. (Yes, I do realize there is a deeper psychological issue here...I just haven't figured out what it is yet). Everytime I start, I start from the beginning...run, walk, run, walk...I haven't run since last summer. My fall excuse was my shoes are getting too old to run in; so instead of buying new shoes...I stopped running. Again. I get frustrated thinking about how good I could be if I had been running all along instead of stopping and starting. I need some perserverence.

The shoes were a really good deal...I had to get them. I was planning on starting a running program again in April anyway. I have the running plan written up ready to go. I have been waiting for the snow to melt and the roadsides to dry up...for the conditions to be perfect.

They have been in my possession for three days and are still looking brand new.

They are out of the box and staring at me...

I have been trying to live the life I want to live and quit spending so much time planning and more time just doing. In many areas of my life I have been doing this and I am loving the difference it is making to my life. But, it is a long and difficult process. Habits are hard to change. My running habit is one I definately want to change.

So I have decided that I am going to scrap my April running "program" and just log off and go for a run.

Happy Spring!

17 March 2011

Canada, Maple Syrup and a Scone

I love maple syrup.

Wait...let me go back a little farther.

I love Canada.

I love being Canadian and I love that I have lived on both the West and the East coasts. I love so many things that it would take all day to list what I love about this great country.

(Just to make it clear...I do not love beer and hockey, drive a pick up truck, live in an igloo, or beat small seals with a club. I am not a red neck and I do not punctuate the end of every sentence with eh?...for that matter I do not call people hosers either...although I do own Bob and Doug's 2-4 anniversary special on DVD.  But, that is not what I want to talk about...)

Today, I wanted to talk about one of my favourite Canadian products - Maple Syrup and yes I do realize that Maple Syrup is made in the north east of the U.S. as well. But, did you know that according to agriculture Canada (see here for more info) Canada produces 85% of the world's maple syrup...so I call that a Canadian product. YUM.

Living in Nova Scotia we were lucky enough to visit here a few times during sugaring season.

We loved seeing how they turned, well, basically tree sap...into something so delicous...

I can see why the sugar maple leaf was chosen for the flag...what could be wrong with a country that produces 40,000 tonnes of maple syrup annually! Who doesn't love that? And while I know today is St. Paddy's Day and I should be making green food or something...I just couldn't get into an Irish mood...I don't think I have a drop of Irish blood. And there is not one part of me that would ever want a green beer. (is that even Irish?) This morning I am feeling more dark amber than green and more Canadian than Irish. So, I whipped up a batch of yummy rustic oatmeal, maple scones (actually oatmeal scones might be more Irish than green beer).

 I thought I would share...these are best warm from the oven and they are excellent with a cup of chopped walnuts added to the dry ingredients. Oh...and I confess I did overbake these just a little...I was trying to find our sugar farm photos and missed them being just perfect...but they were still very good.

Oatmeal, Maple Scones:

preheat oven to 400 degrees F

In a medium sized bowl mix together:

1 1/2 cups flour (I used 3/4 cup all purpose and 3/4 cup whole wheat but you can use all all-purpose or substitute the whole wheat for spelt)
1 cup rolled oats (Quick oats not instant)
1/3 cup oat bran
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Cut in 1/4 cup butter

In a small bowl whisk together 1 egg, 1/3 cup maple syrup and 1/2 cup milk.

Add wet ingredients to the dry and mix until combined. (do not overmix).

form into scones (I used an ice cream scoop) or you can flatten into a disk and cut into perfect circles with a cookie cutter or cut into wedges. Place on silpat or parchment lined cookie sheet, sprinkle tops with maple sugar (if desired...and really who doesn't!) and place in preheated oven for approximately 15 minutes. Serve warm...

Oh...and they would be very good with maple butter...


14 March 2011

News and Inspiration

We have been doing the happy dance at our house all week-end and I thought I would share our good news...

On Friday, my husband received a package in the mail and inside was a letter that began with...

You know a letter beginning with these words is always a good thing...(except for the time my granny received a letter from publisher's clearing house that began with these words and told her she was a winner of a million dollars; then she didn't go anywhere for a year because she was afraid she would miss them when they brought the cheque...but that's another story!)

ANYWAY...our letter did bring good news!

And so it looks like in August we will all be headed to the beautiful city of Vancouver for a few years...another adventure awaits. I am so happy to know where I will be for the next few years...and I am so proud of my amazing hubby and all the hard work he has done to get us there. Now the list making and planning begins!

PART TWO: My Inspiration

For those of you who are interested I thought I would share (with my hubby's permission of course) his story and why he inspires me everyday...it is long, so if you were only interested in my news...have a happy Monday! If you want to know what inspires me...read on:

When my husband was finishing up 7th grade he and his parents were invited to a meeting with the principal of the high school he would be attending. While there, he was informed that he would not be able to attend regular high school classes because his teachers felt that he would not be capable of completing the courses...he wasn't smart enough. He was encouraged to think about getting a trade as he would never be able to be a professional and he would never be accepted to any University. He and his parents trusted that the schools knew best and wouldn't put him in this class unless it was really necessary. They assumed that the school had his best interest in mind.

My husband didn't learn like other kids. He was very hands on and a visual learner. He didn't fit in to the way the curriculum was presented. He needed to be taken out. This decision, of course affected every aspect of his high school experience and his self esteem.

As I have mentioned previously, I met my husband in high school but didn't become friends with him until a few years after we graduated. I was new to the high school in 10th grade. I was (I admit) a little snobby and let's just say that if the school had the caste system of India...the students in the special ed. class were the untouchables. I did not choose to speak to my future hubby and he being on the bottom rung of high school society did not have enough courage to speak to me. But our story is another post.

After high school my husband did just as he was advised. He got a trade. He became a painter. At first he worked with his dad and then after we were married he started his own company. The work was not satisfying. He was bored. For fun he would draw houseplans. We would imagine different places we could live and he would draw a new "dream" plan every week. He had wanted to be an architect since his early teens but because of his lack of academic schooling and his belief that he was not capable of going to university he shelved that dream...sort of. I watched him as  he would sit at his drafting table in every spare moment drawing  plans. He had new ideas almost every day. He was amazing. He would be inspired by so many different things and he would have to draw them. In the fourteen years we have been married he has drawn out literally thousands of new plans. During our leanest years when we had no money for entertainment, I would give him a list of requirements trying to make it very difficult and he would draw up a house plan that included everything I listed. No matter how hard I made the assignment it never took him more than an hour. He is so creative and talented. I knew he could do it but it took a long time for him to believe it himself.

We tried a few times to send him back to school but things never really worked out until we turned thirty. We knew that if he didn't go to architecture school now that he would never go. We had two small chilren, we were getting older.
We finally decided to just go for it; try our best; pray for help and do it.

My hubby applied to the local college to the fine arts department. He was accepted as a mature student. He started school and the first year was very challenging. I was pregnant with our third child. We lost our only income and had to rely on student loans. My hubby had never written an essay in his life. He ended the year with straight A's and he made the Dean's list.

During his second year the small school was purchased as a second campus to the University of British Columbia. All students already in a program were automatically accepted into UBC and could continue with their program. We kept going forward. He received bursaries, grants and scholarships. He graduated with a BFA at the top of his class. Three students from his graduating class were chosen to apply to the Bank of Montreal first Art competition. They chose the top BFA graduate from all schools in each province. My hubby won for British Columbia.

He thought of applying to architecture schools. He started applications. He did not feel confident. He applied to one graduate school to complete his MFA. Most MFA programs only accept a few students. He chose what he thought was the best school in the country just to see if he could get in. They took nine students. He was one of them. We moved to Nova Scotia where after much hardship and dedication he recieved his MFA. Each year I have watched him as his confidence has grown.

After he graduated he decided to apply for a couple of University teaching positions instead of applying to architecture schools. He felt that maybe that would be better. We would not have to worry about money anymore if he got a job, we could finally settle somewhere. He didn't get hired. We talked about architecture school again. I think he was afraid to apply and be rejected. It would be final. He would never be an architect.

We moved back to  BC to take a year off to contemplate what we would do. He wavered back and forth between applying and not applying to architecture school. A few weeks before the final deadline for applications for 2011, he decided to just do it. He picked the one school he really wanted to go to and applied. They had over 350 applicants and they would accept 65. My hubby was nervous.

I felt confident that he had the talent to get in. I know that he will be an amazing architect. We prayed. We hoped. We talked a little of what we would do if he didn't get in. He did. I have never seen him so happy. I mean, of course he was happy when we got married and when the kids were born. But, this is different. I have never witnessed anything like it. He hasn't really changed much outwardly, although I can see it in his face. I can hear it in his voice as he repeats (often) "I can't believe that I got into architecture school". He chose the one school he really wanted, he sent them his resume, his portfolio, his transcripts and his references. He was chosen...no waitlist...first choice. His dream that he thought would NEVER be fulfilled is happening. He will be 38 years old when he starts school in August. He has waited for more than twenty years for this day. I really believe that this is what he was meant to do.

I am SO proud and inspired....

He shows me that if you want something bad enough you can do it...no matter how big your obstacles are. It may take time and a lot of hard work but it can be done.

He shows me that if we follow our passion success will come.

We all have potential to be great.

No one should ever be overlooked or told that they "can't" do something.

What have you always wanted?

10 March 2011

Today's Lunch

Chicken, prawn and broccoli capellini

with coconut muffins for dessert...

I wanted to make something yummy for the kids for lunch...I was feeling a little creative; but I didn't have a lot of time. This is what I came up with, I hope you enjoy!

I first pulled out a couple bowls to make up a new muffin recipe...I was all out of milk and yogurt and sour cream but I saw a can of coconut milk on the shelf...coconut muffins...perfect!

First put a large pot of water on stove for capellini...then proceed with muffins.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

In a medium bowl combine:

1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar (these are definately dessert muffins)
1 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg

In a seperate bowl whisk together:

1 egg (the last one...time to go shopping)
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup melted butter

add wet ingredients to the dry stir until just combined. Place into lined muffin tins (or if you have run out like I have just cut squares of parchment paper...works great!) Sprinkle tops with additional coconut and vanilla sugar about 2 Tbsp of each total (if desired) and place in oven for approximately 20 minutes.

Then I needed to make something to use up the extra coconut milk...

Shrimp, Chicken and Broccoli Capellini -serves 6

Heat wok on stove.

When water is boiling put one package (500g) Capellini in water (I prefer De Cecco brand).

In wok pour in approx. 2 tsp oil.

Make sure wok is very hot and then toss in 2 cubed chicken breasts stir fry for a few seconds

Then add 1 head of broccoli chopped and stir fry for a few seconds

Then add approximately 30 prawns (prepared - peeled, deveined - tails on or off your choice - I left mine on, my kids prefer it that way).

Add three chopped (I actually use kitchen shears) scallions continue to stir

When it is nearly ready add 1/4 cup red or green pepper jelly (I made a bunch last summer during my canning frenzy) along with 1/4 cup tamari (or soy sauce) and approximately 1/2 cup coconut milk (whatever is left after making coconut muffins) and 1 tsp to 1Tbsp toasted sesame oil to taste.
Check seasoning adjust to taste and take off heat.

By this time the pasta should be done (it may be done a bit sooner - if so drain before it gets soggy) and add pasta to wok.

Mix lightly, pour onto serving platter and serve.

Yum...the kids were ALL very happy!

My eldest son declared this his second favourite dish after shrimp scampi

And they all begged for seconds on dessert...

09 March 2011

a small helping of daily literature

For those of you who like to read...

I love to read. I read a lot. I generally have three or four books on the go at all times. In my house, there are books everywhere...in every room...and because my house is currently so small on nearly every surface.

Whenever possible, I pick up a book and read a page or a paragraph...whatever I can get in.

One of the saddest realizations I have ever had is that I will NEVER be able to read all the books that I want to.

Yes, I do realize I am a little odd; although, I prefer eccentric...that can be a good thing...right?

I was very happy yesterday to discover a new web site that allows me to read even more than I do already!

So, if you love reading as much as I do OR if you never find time to read this site is perfect!

Check out daily lit and they will send small snippets of books to your email account so you can read just a little bit every day. Or if you are like me you can say you are just checking your email when you are really sneaking in a bit of extra reading.

I am currently having them send me Jane Austen: Her Life and Letters by Austen-Leigh x2...in keeping with my Austen/English studies this quarter.

I was so happy to find them that I thought I would share. Hope you like them!

07 March 2011

The Joys of Motherhood

I love being a mother but there is one aspect of it that I often feel that I really could do without...the guilt.

I don't know if it is just me or if is something that just comes with the job description, but I have found that since I became a mother I have enjoyed a daily helping of guilt.

I feel guilty about not spending enough time with my kids, not doing enough with them, not spending an equal amount of time with each child (am I the only one who has ever heard...you like him/her better?), and then there is the guilt that comes when I feel I am spending too much time with them and not enough with my hubby, family, laundry...insert anything that needs to get done and isn't getting done. And then of course comes the guilt that I am not doing enough to improve myself and the years are going by...

I feel guilty about so many things that are beyond my control. Things like my daughter has no sister and is often alone and/or bored...

I really did try to give her a sister...did I mention that I have three boys...that are the best of friends...which doesn't really help her situation. So...guilt if I don't spend extra time with her and guilt if I do...guilt and worry... oh the joys of motherhood!

We are hitting the pre-teen years around our house...I am a little nervous...about added guilt and worry...and grumpiness...

But...the great thing about being a mother is that it forces me to be patient and creative; to try new things and continually grow and learn.

Growing up I was the loner in my family...and I was often alone and bored...and grumpy. I understand how my daughter feels and I can tell her in all honesty that things do change...as a mother of four I am NEVER alone and NEVER bored and never grumpy (for very long) as one of my four is always doing something to make me smile or laugh.

I am so grateful that in spite of the above mentioned aloneness/boredom/grumpiness...my kids do love each other (deep down somewhere) and they do have moments of togetherness/happiness/fun which really makes it all worth it.

It has been said that there needs to be opposition in all things. I have come to believe that in spite of and posssibly because of all the guilt and worry and work...

there is no joy like the joy experienced by a mother.

05 March 2011

vintage treasures

I am the new owner of two boxes of vintage treasures!

I was visiting my mother who is in an "if you don't love it or use it get rid of it" mode and I being a helpful daughter offered to assist her in her decluttering of a cupboard of old "stuff". I thought I would share a few of the treasures I walked away with.

I really did try to take good photos but we were in a basement with terrible lighting and no matter what I tried with my lovely basic point and shoot, I could not get any fabulous photos! I hope you can enjoy the treasures regardless.

I now have a number of old bottles (which are always fun to use as flower vases).

This one is my favourite. I love the original label!

This one has what I think is a rubber (?) stopper. I also walked away with a box of other vintage milk bottles that my mom began collecting in the eighties.

This Crush bottle isn't as old, but I love it. When I was very small my dad owned an Esso gas station. I used to visit him there on occasion. I can still remember the old vending machine in  his office where I would sometimes get a treat of an orange or grape crush in a bottle just like this one! I don't know why it is such a strong memory but I remember opening the door and tugging on the bottle trying to get it out of the vending machine and then trying to open it with the bottle cap opener - which I don't think I could ever do. Just looking at this bottle makes me smile because it is one of my earliest memories...

She had a few old tins that I happily took off her hands...

and a very cute, small, old lamp. I can imagine someone using it at the kitchen table after dark to read by...

This was found in the house my parents live in when they moved in. My mom and dad's house was built from 1929-1932 and they purchased it from the original owner/builder. It is a very cool, old (by Western Canadian standards) farmhouse. The house is very well built and if I had a couple million kicking around I would love to buy it. My mom has a few old treasures that belonged to the owners and I am happy to have something belonging to the "North" house.

I also got a few new vintage kitchen items to add to my collection. Now if I only had room to put out my collection...but that's another post!

Happy Saturday!