Saturday, January 20, 2018

A New Challenge

Hi Everyone :)

I hope your weekend is starting off well. All I can hear is VROOM VROOM VROOM with the odd hysterical lady-laugh coming from all sides of I'm not nuts lol, it's snowmobile season here in our usually quiet little village! For some reason...the tourist-men love to rev those motors and for some further odd reason, the women they are with are terribly impressed lol.

Michael from the Scribble Picnic decided to challenge himself this year. He is going to do a drawing a day and asked if any of his friends would like to do the same. There are no rules, the idea is to challenge yourself to be creative each day for however long you want. I'm up for the challenge! I'm going to tweak his idea a little. I'm going to focus on drawing, as it's my weakness, but I'm also going to paint some days too. 

I think it's important to find time for creativity each day and I'm committed (with the exception of those crazy shopping days I subject myself to). Anyone else want to join? I am not very active on Instagram, but I'll be posting my creations daily (@rainfrancesgarden#dailysketchplan2018) and also once a week on my blog. 

I decided to start with a drawing of Chilly Willy, the Looney Tunes penguin. I'm a fan of Looney Tunes and I love that Chilly Willy cries ice cubes! Plus today is Penguin Awareness Day, that's how I got my idea. :)

When I started watercolour painting, I just couldn't get the hang of it so I challenged myself to paint every day and after a month, I loved it. This new challenge for me will also be a very good part of my daily routine of self-help and self-therapy to conquer anxiety.

Winter is all about comfort here and this Chicken Pot Pie is perfect for a weekend of hibernation!

Sundown along the river. I hope you're all keeping warm and cozy!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Scribble Picnic: Hot Chocolate and Fondue Nights!

This week's Scribble Picnic theme is "Hot Chocolate". During the next few months, my goal will be warm and cozy as we enjoy what winter has to offer. Sitting by my window on a cold winter night, looking at the Moon and watching the snow fall with a big cup of hot chocolate (laced with a little rye whisky!) is warm and cozy! I painted this scene with watercolours.

And just for fun for those who remember the disco era, here is a video of Hot Chocolate's "You Sexy Thing". I was seven when this came out but I remember rollerskating to this tune at the local rink, Caesar's Palace in Lasalle, Quebec. Martha did you ever go there?? Oh my gosh, I was ensconced in satin in those days lol!! Please follow the above link if you'd like to see other scribbles! :) Next week's theme is "Table Cloth", why not join in yourself? :)

Whoda-thunk-it? On the 14th of each month, Alex and I have a fondue night to celebrate our "monthly anniversary". December 14th's fondue night brought a big storm and a power failure. Guess what happened again on January 14th??? Big storm and a power failure! Kind of weird huh? :) There was a big blizzard and wind storm that knocked the lines down. This one lasted nearly 5 hours though, so it wasn't very pleasant in -25C weather. We had all the pets in the living room with the fire going. We were all able to keep warm though thankfully!

We decided to make our fondue night anyway and actually made the fondue in the pot with the little gas burner underneath and it worked pretty well, but it took a long time for the cheese to melt! We had an Italian fondue with Mozza, tomatoes and garlic. Mmm! :)

Monday was Alex's 30th birthday! :) I made him breakfast in bed, his Grandma's recipe for "Toast-ettes".

For his birthday dinner I made ANOTHER fondue night! This time it was a Hot Pot fondue. It's also called Chinese Fondue. You dip your meat and veggies into boiling broth and cook it that way. It was a fun meal and we both loved it! :) Note the different fondue pot - I guess we have become fondue folk...different pots for different fondues! :)

Here's an action shot of my cooked chicken. When fondue meats are on sale, I buy a bunch of them for the freezer. It's very difficult to slice meat as thinly as the butcher does; but it can get pricey if you buy the meats regular price. They're also good to make Philly Cheese Steaks.

For his birthday cake, I made a Lemon Meringue Ice Cream Pie! This was a first for me and it was a success! :)

Look at's homemade lemon curd mixed with vanilla ice cream and a meringue topping on a graham cracker crust. It was SO SWEET...we needed a glass of milk after one little slice! :) 

I hope everyone is having a great week. It's been really cold here again. This is the scene every morning when Alex wakes up. Marlene, Pavlov, Stella and Jack wait patiently when they hear him stirring...

Charlie is so lazy, she waits at the bottom of the stairs, not using up her precious energy...

The hounds. I think I will take their lead and laze about for the rest of the day. :) It's too cold to go outside!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Scribble Picnic: A Battle of Evil

Hi Everyone :)

Today, Michael chose a fantastic theme for his Scribble Picnic! "Your Favourite Fictional Character(s)". Gosh I have so many, but I decided a battle of evil should happen today in my world! :)

I chose the Headless Horseman from Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and of course Poe's The Raven.

I read all of these books in high school, and multiple times since. I'm a fan of anything creepy and scary...but well written, not like the torture crap that's being 'written' in the modern era. I think that Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow is my favourite movie version; Spencer Tracy as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a wonderful movie version too if you can find it! Sadly, the movie version of The Raven was so poorly done. But The Simpsons did a fun version during one of their Halloween specials! :)

Having your head lopped off? Clubbed to death with a walking stick? Or driven to madness by a bird using psychological warfare? Not very good options if you had to choose, lol! Follow the link above to visit other artist's scribbles! And why not join in yourself? :)

Typically, January is "empty the freezer" month. So that's what I've been doing. I made an oven-fried chicken with mashed potatoes, gravy and corn muffin dinner. Talk about comfort!

We had some of my leftover Mozzarella and we felt like poutine, so I made a version of that...oooh cheesy goodness!

And I made my first "cheese" of 2018. It's a recipe for cream cheese, but I mentioned a while back that it tastes more like a really good sour cream, so that's what I'm calling it now! For the recipe, check out Rainy Day Cheese Making. I'm going to make some more soon so we can flavour them with some herbs and eat them like a cream cheese Boursin. So last night we had pork and chicken fajitas with my Homemade Chunky Salsa. Those little frying pans come in handy for different meats! :)

Trust and innocence. Oscar the cat and my Jack sleeping back to back in bed. :)

The five-pack chewing on bones. We had a very positive and honest video call with our friend and his family last night. He's the one who left his two dogs with us in September and never came back to get them. Well, there are very good reasons we finally found out...illness, family issues and big decisions from his mom as to whether she'll relocate to Canada with our friend or not. SHE was the one who gave us confidence, Mom to the rescue. What a sweet lady. Anyway, we are okay with everything now, our friend will move back to Canada before next winter, anytime from March to September depending on his health, but it's a firm decision.

We are so relieved, not just knowing we'll be able to get our lives back to normal again...but also that he was finally honest with us about everything (thanks Mom), so that maybe we can salvage the friendship. Second chances, I don't often give them; but this time it feels right.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Scribble Picnic: New Year

This week's Scribble Picnic's theme is "New Year" (follow the link for more lovely scribbles!). I mentioned in a previous post that Alex got me a Celtic Tree Oracle deck. It really has inspired me to think of the Earth and how every thing is very much connected. I saw a similar image online and wanted to paint the connection of the animals to the Earth and the trees; for me this symbolizes the Tree of Life and how each year we start with a clean slate to start over again, just like Nature does! :)

On New Year's Eve, we took out the Raclette machine we'd found at a local thrift store. It was a glorious meal! You put your Raclette cheese on the little doo-hickies and warm it under the Raclette and this is what happens...

Gooey melty cheese all over your food! How could I live without it, and I apologize in advance for those who are lactose or dairy poor people. :(

We actually were able to stay awake for midnight! We were watching stand up comics on You Tube to keep us chuckling and celebrated with some Limoncello Sparklers. That is the last of my homegrown lemon I used as a twist! :) I hope everyone had a nice New Year's celebration! :)

It's snowing beautifully today. This is the back woods behind our yard. Part of it belongs to our rental and part to the village. Luckily they haven't used it to build any trails or we'd be overrun with tourists in our yard! It was quiet this morning as it snowed. Love this!

This might look like a cake, but it's not! Alex surprised me on the upstairs veranda last night. He'd brought in some snow and heat up some maple syrup to draw taffy! In Quebec, it's called "tire" (tier) which literally translates to "pull". The photos aren't great because we had candles as our light source.

We made little lines of maple syrup and little puddles in the snow. If you heat the maple syrup up to the right temperature, it should just roll up on your stick like taffy.

Ours didn't quite make it lol! But it tasted amazing. We were going to go down and keep heating up the maple syrup but it was so cold out! We decided to scoop it all up and eat it, then try another time! Anyone have memories like this going to Sugar Shacks, or in French, going to the Cabane à Sucre?

Last night was Twelfth Night. I've often mentioned that I live by the seasons and by my Celtic roots. Part of last night's observance was to celebrate the upcoming fruit crops. My ancestors would wassail fruit trees on this night to encourage them to flourish. Well, I have no fruit trees (though I did give my Meyer Lemon tree a good talking to!), so I made an apple cake and we drank some Apple Cider Wassail. (The recipe called for juices, but I omitted them)

Now it's time to tighten the belt a little bit for the next few months and hibernate in our cozy home! What's going on in your neck of the woods?

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Cheese Night!

Last night was cheese night!!! I have to admit I was nervous to try out my little dairy children...The Cheddars were all 3 months old and the Camembert was made in November.

All seemed normal, except my Cam turned into a creamy gooey mess!

Although it was a DELICIOUS mess!! I need to find some room in the budget to get some cheese making books soon. I've been following online recipes and it's hard for me to figure out the reasons the cheeses turn out like they do. Like, why did my first two Cams turn out perfectly and these Cams are so soft and runny? The mysteries of cheese making!!! :)

Let's hear the bad news first. The Newcastle infused Cheddar? Not so good! Maybe the beer didn't mix well with the bacterial culture...who knows, but it had hardly any flavour with an odd after taste. But my head is's the only one that didn't turn out!

The regular Cheddar was nice! All of the Cheddars had a great texture. This one was very tangy - Alex loved it but it was slightly too tangy for me. Again, I have to research how to make it a little more mild. Tweaking here and there and more experimentation is needed!

MY favourite! The red wine infused Cheddar. It turned out nice and mild and look at that marbled effect! Oddly enough, this is the only of the three that grew a hard rind too. More mysteries!!

I made some bread to go with the cheese. Check out my lonely little slab of paté!!

Conclusion: I WILL make more Cheddars for sure. Now that I know they have good to improvable flavours, there is no stopping me! I will also make more Camemberts. I want to try some new cheeses in 2018 as well. I will keep making some of the cream cheese, the Boursins, Ricotta and Mozzarellas (traditional and Bocconcini style).

I still have the Dry Jack in the cheese cave as well as the experimental Baby Swiss...we'll try both of those in the spring!

I do have to acquire better equipment though. Better shaped cheese molds and maybe some newer bacterial cultures. My Rainy Day Cheese Making blog should be more active in 2018, so keep an eye out!

Thanks for all of your support this year on my cheese making my friends, it's been a bit of a rollercoaster!

Enjoy your evening and Happy New Year to everyone! :)

Friday, December 29, 2017

Hats and Scents

I wanted to show you my Akubra "Tracker" hat! Alex and I buy our hats second hand all the time, always hoping that they are the right size and in the condition claimed. We've been lucky so far. Alex cleaned all of my hats and he had to put some finishing touches on the sizing through steaming and shaping them. I love this hat!

And this is my first hat that we bought in the fall, the Akubra "The Boss" hat - yeah, that suits me lol...I wanted to show you how I put the turkey feathers on it! We still have my western hat to shape and clean up and I'll show y'all that over the weekend! :)

My creepy heads...they hold the hats well, but do you sense a wee bit of menace the way he's looking at me??? 😱 Actually I have to turn the faces to the wall because little Pavlov the shepherd mix always looks at them very trepidatiously as he tiptoes by them! 

I got an early birthday present too from Alex. It arrived yesterday. It's an aromatherapy diffuser. 

He also got this 6-pack of essential oils. Aromatherapy is wonderful for relaxation and stress-relief and Alex said he wanted me to enjoy this earlier than my birthday to help with the anxiety of late. I'm pretty touched by the thought. :)

My office smells like a spa at the moment! This will be wonderful when I do my yoga and meditation each morning! It's a fun diffuser too, it changes colours and I can't wait to see how it looks like when it's dark. It also acts like a mini-humidifier, so we're going to put it on in the bedroom at night with the eucalyptus oil.

So what are everyone's plans for the New Year, if any? Ours will be the usual cozy quiet with lots of food and drinks! :) And...drum roll...tomorrow we are opening all of the cheeses I made in the summer!!! :)))

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Christmas - More Memories Made!

These are the last of the Christmas cookies! The day before Christmas Eve, I made Hungarian Walnut Cookies, Hot Cocoa Cookie Cups and Alex's favourite Cherry Ice Box Cookies. The walnut cookies were okay, but the dough was too overwhelming. The cocoa cups were yummy and we always love those ice box cookies!

We had our traditional pizza night on Christmas Eve while we watched Home Alone. I wrote a page in my recipe index called Pizza Ideas, and I'll keep adding to it as we try new ones.

I made four mini pizzas: Fig and Prosciutto, BBQ Chicken,

...Buffalo Chicken and Margareta. 

We opened up our stocking stuffers and now have some good hat brushes for all of our hats! 

We had a perfect Christmas morning! There was a blizzard and it snowed all day long, good thing we didn't have to shovel out.

We built a fire and put the presents under the tree, had some fancy coffees while we opened our gifts. The dogs got homemade cookies and the cats got tuna for breakfast. :)

Alex spoiled me rotten this Christmas! :) He got me a Resistol Western hat and an Akubra "Tracker" hat! He also found some real turkey feathers so I can decorate them the way I want! :)

He also got me cookbooks...the Booze Cakes book is full of delicious cakes! I can't wait to make them. The Dom DeLuise books are so darn funny...I love that man and he has so many delicious recipes, I can't wait to try them out too!

My favourite gift is this oracle deck. An oracle deck, simply put is a deck of cards that offer advice and suggestions. I love that Alex picked a Celtic Tree Oracle because I have Celtic roots and I LOVE trees! :)

Alex loved his gifts too! I made him a pair of pj's, got him a few books he wanted...

..I also got him a bottle of extra old brandy and a nice pipe. The theme was comfy and cozy so I figured he could wear the pj's, read a book, smoke his pipe and have a snifter of brandy. :) He loved it! Then the cooking began!

Alex and I made dinner together. We made a Chinese food dinner. It really turned out well!

This part was a surprise though. I shoo'd Alex upstairs while I brought out my take out containers. I found a "Chinese Take Out" font and printed the names of the dishes and drew the little symbols on each one. It made the dinner so much fun, we ate right out of the containers and into the fridge they went for leftovers after.

Beef and Mushrooms and Pineapple Chicken

Spareribs and Chicken Fried Rice

Chicken and Pork Egg Rolls

I forgot to take pictures of the Fried Liver with Tomatoes and the Fortune Cookies. The cookies, frankly, sucked...but I found some fun Charlie Chan proverbs to put in them so we had fun reading them, but they were inedible!!

We don't have anywhere in this area for good take out, more less Chinese take out, so I wanted to make it special. I wrote my recipes here: Chinese Food Dinner.

But...this took just over 8 hours to prepare and cook...eegad and there were two of us, really, that was far too long on Christmas day. Next year there will be a much easier meal I think!

We finished off the night with some of the brandy and fell asleep to a movie. Today is all about resting and playing with our gifts! I hope everyone had a nice day and made lots of wonderful memories!