Thursday, December 14, 2017

Cakes and Decorations and Presents!

I do believe this is the longest I've gone without a blog post! I think that our lives are settling down at a quicker pace now, and both Alex and I are so relieved! In lieu of Christmas cookies this past weekend, I made a delicious and moist Carrot Cake (does this count as a vegetable??) 😁 I halved the recipe and put it in a loaf pan. It was gone in two days lol...Last night I made a new recipe that turned out okay, Rum and Egg Nog Bundt Cake. I find most Bundt cakes a little dry for some reason, I have to adjust my oven temperature is definitely a nice cake, tastes just like egg nog and rum! Since we can't really handle icing sugar, I frost all of my cakes with a Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting. I use maple syrup instead of honey, and it's very delicious! For the Bundt cake, I added rum to the frosting too and that made it very delectable! I'll be back to cookies this weekend though!

We went out to get our tree on Monday. This brings some much needed cozy Christmas cheer to our home! We always decorate with red, we love it! So far no dog has pee'd on the tree and no cat has torn it down lol...these are REAL concerns trust me lol!

When Alex lived in New Jersey, he would help his cousin sell Christmas trees in New York each season. He said they would make little "Charlie Brown" trees from the extra slices of the trunks. They would take a slice, make a hole and glue a branch in and sell it for $1. Well, he made one for me, for free lol...and I decorated it a little bit! :)

Speaking of Charlie Brown, I watched A Charlie Brown Christmas last night! When I finally get myself a piano, I'm learning this whole favourites are Linus and Lucy, and Christmas is the links if you want to hear the tunes! Do you revert to any childhood Christmas favourites? I also watched National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation last night...I love that movie!

I celebrate the Winter Solstice each year. As we know, it's the shortest day of the year and some things I do are to put out ice lanterns in the snow at night, make a Yule Log cake and hang symbols of the sun in my window. In this case, it's oranges that I dehydrated last year. I'm encouraging the sun to see my oranges and come back quickly!! It's dark at 4pm these days and I'm looking forward to more light! By the way, this is the last of my window garden, sigh...parsley and surprisingly a basil. The rest succumbed to the cold window!

I made an appetizer night for dinner. Chicken Wings (best recipe ever!), pizza and potato skins. Yum!

A quick cheese update: What's left of the Baby Swiss cheese is now sealed and aging for 3 months. I've come to terms that this will be an experiment. It smells great and the rind is very hard. There are still some blue moldy spots that I can't cut out, but we shall see. I stopped making cheeses this month because I'm so busy, but we will taste my Cheddars during the holidays and if they turned out well, I'll be making them much more often!

I got an early Christmas present last weekend! Alex made and installed a new memory board for me! The old one was something I put up really on the cheap when we moved in here a few years back. It was teetering on falling down every time I looked at it he put up a new very solid board for me, twice the size so I can put twice the memories up!! I have photos, cards from friends, little love notes from Alex and recently added a Christmas card from Martha at Plowing Through Life, whose blog is fun to read, as is her second blog Miniaturopolis, where she creates fun little scenes of miniature people, worth a look! Thank you Martha! :)

Also added to the memory board was a postcard from Mama Pea...speaking of that wonderful lady, I am a lucky gal, see these two beautifully quilted table runners?

My name was picked in a draw that Mama Pea from A Home Grown Journal had in November! Although Mama Pea is on a little break at the moment, she has a very fun and interesting blog about gardening, homesteading, ducks, geese, chickens, quilting, cooking and everything cozy and Hygge! (I'm sure I left something out!). I think her blog is fantastic, although most of you already are followers! Thanks again Mama Pea, I absolutely adore these runners! And Oscar definitely approves of the box you sent them in!!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Dog Days of Winter

"Cheese Please". I wonder if I'll ever be able to sneak a little piece of cheese without turning around to see this gathering?

I'm just doing a quick post today to keep in touch! The migraine is gone! Yay! My two-day stomach flu is gone! Yay! It's pizza night! Yay! 

Do you feel this way? When you've been in pain for so long and finally it's gone, you feel like a new person, a million bucks? 

Here is an eleven second video of Jack (I hope it works). When we give the dogs treats, sometimes he swallows them without chewing...competition you know. So Alex fills the water bowl with little pieces of chicken to coax Jack into drinking water to make sure the treat works its way down. Well, Jack found a sneaky way to get to the chicken bits without drinking the water. Put the sound up, you can hear the air bubbles as he dunks his face in. He exhales as he's in the water and licks up the chicken from the bottom of the dish. Anyone who says animals aren't clever are very wrong!!

How is everyone doing? How is your week going? Do you have Christmas spirit? Any decorating or baking going on that I should know about?? 🌲🌲🌲

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Countdown Begins!

December 1st already...time is going way too fast for my liking! We had a snow storm last night and this is how my camera phone caught it. I had the flash on. It looks like something out of an apocalyptic movie! The sky is falling!! ;)

Does anyone make their own Christmas countdown calendar or Advent calendar? Or do you even bother? I know that they are usually for kids, but Alex and I are very young at heart. :) I make one each year and fill it with goodies. It makes the countdown to Christmas a little more exciting. All of this stuff was acquired at the dollar store and cut up for my purpose. The numbers were from a pre-made calendar, which was pretty low in the quality department, but I figured out how to make it all look nice. :)

And here it is! :) I have to say though, sewing 24 little stockings together made my hands ache, but I'm so glad I got it done, I would have regretted not making one this year. Excuse the low lighting of the photos today, I'm still in migraine territory so the curtains are drawn and the lights are very dim still. It's almost gone though, the pain is very low, but my head feels a little "floaty". That usually means I have a few more days to go. I should be better by Monday though. This was a long one!

A few months ago (pre-Pavlov and Stella-sitting), I had the "rich lady" idea to fill each little stocking with a miniature liqueur bottle. I got the idea from browsing on Pinterest when I saw that someone made a countdown calendar out of bottles of wine! about rich! :) That would be nice day I'd love to walk into my wine cellar and ponder over which 24 bottles of wine I'll be using for this year's calendar, then which wine I'll be opening for dinner that night...big dreams! Lol...

I haven't bought those mini booze bottles in...25 years maybe? It's been a long time...I remember when they were about $2 a bottle. Now they are upwards of $5 and $6 a bottle! That would be about a $150 countdown calendar...ouch, I think not! But maybe I can buy a few each month in 2018 and do it next Christmas. I just had the romantic notion of Alex and I sharing a nightcap each December night before Christmas! Instead I bought liqueur filled chocolates for $8. So, we can still have our nightcap lol... :)

Dinner time chez moi. The dogs are continuing to come together as a pack. And they are loving the snow. It's so nice to see them playing all together, finally without any scary fighting between the alpha girls! 

What are you all up to this weekend? I have cookies on the brain again. But I will force myself to make less...we still have gingerbread cookies to finish. I have a lot of Christmas spirit though...I'm thinking of more fun things to do to make our house all cozy and festive! :)

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Cookies, Baking and Scribble Picnic

This week's Scribble Picnic theme is "Generous". I was out in the woods the other day and thought about how generous nature is, in every season that we have here in the mountains. It's all so beautiful, it's really a gift! Then I saw a deer, I love those critters! The deer is an animal that reminds us to be gracious, yet aware of our surroundings. These days I've felt like a deer in the headlights though, zoning out a lot. I have never seen a buck in the forest, but I decided to do a watercolour of one because I find them so majestic-looking. Nature has been good to this fella, look at those noble antlers! :) (To see other scribbles, please check out this link).

The migraine has now traveled to the left side, so I know I still have a day or so to go before it's gone, sigh. I smell like a black jelly bean from all the fennel tea I'm drinking, but it is helping with the pain I have to say! Here is my first ever attempt at decorating cookies. I used the decorating set that Alex got me, it was fun to do!

With 30 different decorating tips, I could only get one effect with this cookie icing. But I'm looking forward to the cake decorating soon! :) We can't handle food colouring, makes us both sick, so I stuck to plain white icing with a few bits of chocolate and some sprinkles. It's basically all sugar, which I'm not too keen on, but once a year is acceptable!

My artsy cookie photo! These happy little snowmen are cute and delicious! :) I made some "Soft Gingerbread Cookies" this time around. They were good, but I still haven't found the perfect recipe yet!

Whenever I try a new recipe, I tend to make two different cookies, just in case we don't like one of them. Not the case this week! These Jam Thumbprint Cookies were so easy to make and yummy. I used apricot and raspberry jam for them. 

I couldn't forget the dogs of course, They got their Pumpkin Peanut Butter Oatmeal Dog Biscuits. I'm still on the lookout for an easy cookie type treat I can make for the cats - that they won't turn their noses at, but everything I find is tuna or something smelly and fishy! I tried chicken bites once, but they were so hard to make...the cats now get an organic chicken treat from the vet, so they're just as spoiled as the dogs! :) So that's it for the cookies! I did some more baking though.

Soft Pretzels. I only make these rarely because they are ultra-filling and a *bleep* to make. They stick to the pan, no matter what I grease it with or line it with...I pretty much need a chisel to take them can't see it, but these pretzels don't have a bottom. I chose to just slice them off the pan rather than fight with the spatula, my energy wasn't there lol...they are delicious though!

The latest Camemberts are wrapped and will be ready for Christmas!! :)

Love them or hate them? While we were out shopping last week, we saw silicone baking liners on sale from $10 to $2. I thought it would be a nice way to save on parchment paper and foil since our pans are well-worn and we can't really put anything directly on them. HATE THEM!!! Firstly it takes 3 times as long to bake something and when I made more tortilla chips...guess what they tasted like...silicone, YUUUUUUUUUUCK! I soaked them in baking soda and vinegar and tried again...same taste. They will make good pot holders, but that is about it! Could be the brand I bought, "Master Chef", but what a disappointment! Does anyone use these and like them?

Monday, November 27, 2017

Accidental Migraine Relief

Hello my friends :)

I was going to write a nice post about my latest baking and Christmas cookies...but I have been completely conquered by a migraine. Those who have this affliction know how overwhelming the pain robs you of your time, your appetite, your sleep and your precious moments with your family! That's the part I hate the most. It hit me last night around 9pm. I was so desperate to feel better, I took a long hot shower at 2am. Alex massaged my neck and head. Still though, that I decided to just stay awake and wait it out. I did some research and did a few things that seemed to help me:

Firstly, knitting. Some very easy light knitting helps to keep me in the moment so I'm not focusing completely on the pain and blurred vision. I've often read that migraine sufferers do find relief doing hand crafts, something about hand to eye coordination...I know it helped to distract me and I got another pet stocking done! I hope it looks okay once I have the lights back on lol...

Pressure on the head is another one. I wasn't sure about it because anything touching my head, neck and face hurts, but this actually did help. I put my tighter hat on and within a few minutes, I felt a little better.

A long time ago, I went to a neurologist. All he did was whip out the prescription pad for some really heavy pain meds, morphine to be precise. I just can't take the side effects so I've been trying a safe combination of Tylenol and Advil. The pain seems to ease for about 15 minutes then comes back with a bang. Plus the Advil makes me sick to my stomach so...

I made myself a fennel tea, it always helps me with indigestion and nausea. We try to have this tea after our heavier meals and it's very good for the digestion. I was amazed though...not only was my nausea gone, but poof! Instant relief from my migraine! I was SHOCKED. The migraine is not gone by a long shot, but I can actually look at my computer screen without wincing now. The anise flavour isn't my favourite to have as a constant aftertaste, but I would do anything to ease this pain! Heck, if you told me to eat magic beans, I'd give it a whirl lol...Now I'm going back to bed, maybe I can lie down without the freight train banging on my skull and get some sleep!

I really wanted to share this because it works so well for me. Does anyone else suffer migraines and do you have any kind of relief measures that work for you?

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

I'm Feeling Cheesy...

So I've teased you all a bit, calling my next endeavor The Great Cream Cheese Experiment of 2017!! Well, it was and continues to be an experiment...could roll over to 2018 in fact. Some of you may know that I made a batch of cream cheese earlier this month and it tasted like sour cream, not cream cheese...very GOOD sour cream mind you! But my love for cream cheese was calling I tried again. 

I was slightly discouraged, but as usual Alex lifted my motivation. He suggested we make two different recipes together. Our first cheese making as a couple! :) The recipes are basically similar, but we used different cultures: buttermilk and mesophilic. (More on Rainy Day Cheese Making).

The cat barrier while we slept. It actually worked, we figured if anything, a loud bang would alert us to feline sneaky behaviour! Cream cheese is easy to make, it just takes a lot of ripening time and "hanging" time to release the whey - a good few days. My big problem is that I LOVE Philadelphia cream cheese a lot. I can't recreate it with just a cream cheese recipe. Both cream cheeses still tasted like sour cream, although the buttermilk version was creamier and less tangy. So I went online to see what I could do about it.

I started with the buttermilk cream cheese. I whisked together the cream cheese (which was 3 1/2 cups), 1 cup of vanilla yogurt and 2 tsp of salt (I found this recipe on several sites). 

I let it drain about an hour, hanging as above, then let it sit in the fridge overnight. Verdict? Sweeter, but not Philadelphia by any means...and too creamy for a hard cream cheese that I can spread a little thickly on a bagel. It had the consistency of a dip rather than a cream cheese.

But I'm making lemonade out of lemons again! My friend Tammie Lee suggested Boursin type cheeses to me. Here is a nice recipe for those herbed/flavoured cheeses, but you can basically add anything you want to it. I decided to make a Chive "Boursin" and a Sweet Cranberry "Boursin". Oooooooooooooooooooh! Success! They were SO GOOD!

I made an event out of it! Homemade bread, the home baked pita chips and some breaded shrimp made the meal very special! You can see what the Boursins look like before I mixed them all up.

We also opened the last Camembert that has been aging 6 weeks. We honestly didn't taste a difference between the 4-week and the 6-week, they were both delicious!

My latest bloomy whites are a week away from being wrapped and aged. They are forming some beautiful white fuzzy mould, it's glorious! :) Two new Cams, ready for Christmas!

With ups come downs. :(  This is what's left of my Baby Swiss. The mould problem was so bad that I made the decision to cut it all out. I lost about half the wheel...but...I remind myself that cheese making is a learning curve and an art. I realize I don't have a proper mold for this type of cheese nor a cheese press, so this is an experiment. This will be sealed on December 10th and aged about 3 months then we'll see!

I got some more Yogurt done today. I found a much simpler recipe that requires no bacteria culture other than some leftover yogurt you have in the fridge. One liter of milk makes one liter of yogurt or so, I'm making one of these a week now so they don't spoil. 

Are you wondering what I did with the mesophilic cream cheese? Well...I'll be honest, I had no clue what to do with it! Three and a half more cups of "sour cream" to use up...Sandi asked if my experiment had to do with cheesecake, so she motivated me to make one! I did the same thing as I did with the other cream cheese...added yogurt and salt and it sweetened it up. Then I made a Cranberry Cheesecake.  Lemonade out of lemons again! I admit I haven't tried this yet, but it looks and smells delicious, we'll be tasting it tonight after dinner. If I don't stop baking we won't fit through the door that a good excuse to stay home?  :)

Sunday, November 19, 2017

First Blizzard! I've Been Baking!

It's such a nice quiet Sunday, NO tourists around! How about that huh? :) I woke up to our first little blizzard this morning, it's so beautiful.

For those who have snowy you take down your laundry line in the winter? I never even think of doing that. The dogs are having a blast in the snow, they just love it!


Well, except for grumpy old Jack...I don't blame him though lol!




The dog walking had to stop, sigh. Since Alex and I are on different schedules, we're finding it hard to find a time to walk them all together. I tried to do two walks each morning, three dogs, then two dogs. Morning is when I have my energy...but I'm finding that my leg and knee ache a little too much these days. Five dogs is a lot of work. So, now I take the "day shift" and try to play with them in the yard. Alex takes the "night shift" with some before dinner playtime. We're committed to caring for Pavlov and Stella until the summer...but if their owner doesn't come back, we will find them new homes. 😩

I'm sad about it, but we have to be realistic. And I accept that my walks in the woods are just on hold for the next 6-8 months. Some comfort food always helps! It's really nice having two slow cookers! Last night I made myself a Harvest Time Chicken and Apple Stew; and for Alex, I made a Cottage Beef Stew. Just a reminder, on my sidebar, I have a link to all of my recipes and I always try to remember to add the links in my posts as well! These stews were perfect with some bread and butter for dipping! And we have meals for a few more days.

This week's Christmas cookies are Gingerbread Cookies. Hmmm...they look a little naked don't they??? Well, as I took them out of the oven, I said to Alex "I really wish I had a cake decorating set so I can decorate my cookies!". He disappeared upstairs and came down with something hidden under his shirt. He said "come hug me" and I felt some kind of box there...this is what it was:

A cake decorating set!!! Talk about being on the same wave length...that's why we are soul mates! 😊😊 This is an early Christmas gift. He figured I'd get more use of it before Christmas so he wanted me to have it. Now I just have to figure out how to use each of these tips...this is my first set, how fun!!

The baking didn't stop there...I've often said that baking can be therapeutic for me and when I start, sometimes I can't stop!!! In an effort to clean out the fridge and freezer a little, I made a variety of chips. Pita, Tortilla and Potato. The potato chips, we could take them or leave them, they just never cook evenly in the oven, but they were okay. Alex loves the pita chips and I love the tortilla chips. How much do you pay for a mediocre bag of chips at the store? Here a bag of Ruffles is $3.50 plus taxes ON SALE, and that's the standard bag. The "family size" (which is what the standard size USED to be) is $7.50. The pitas cost me $1.25 for the same amount. The tortillas are a little more and came to double that, but still much cheaper than the crap at the grocery store that's filled with mysterious ingredients! They're a snap to make too.

Can't make chips without a dip though! πŸ˜‹ This is my homemade Nacho Cheese Dip. Everything is from scratch...I love how far I've come with my kitchen skills! And again, this is so much more delicious than any store bought dip out there! It's such a simple recipe and I added some of my Homemade Salsa to it as well. Again...affordable and delicious...and I know what's in it.

What on earth am I doing now? The Great Cream Cheese Experiment of 2017...stay tuned for that! Are you in suspense???  :)

The snow is falling, the pets are all snoring, the fragrance of homemade bread should wake Alex up very shortly :), and I'm spending the day budgeting to ease my mind; and then knitting some more Christmas stockings for the dogs! How is your Sunday going?