Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Fondue Night! Scribble Picnic and Winter Garden


This week's Scribble Picnic theme is "Gift Wrapped/Unwrapped". Since Christmas is coming up, I'm sure everyone is on their best behaviour to be on Santa's "Nice List". If you are on the Nice List, you may want to check out other artist's versions of this theme - and why not join in yourself? :)  If you are on the "Naughty List", and I know some of you are πŸ˜, you're in the right place! That gift is for YOU. Go ahead...go get your gift. 😱 You just have to be quicker than the monsters lurking in the dark! Oh, and you have to make it to the end of the tunnel...but who knows what's on the other side...


The Winter Garden:  The cold frames that I made are doing their job so far! I have greens and roots...some have stalled, some are still growing, despite the deep freeze. The garlic patch is snowed in and I'll have to see if I have success in the spring. Tomorrow there is a break in the weather and it'll be above zero. This may be my last chance to water the winter garden before next year. I have a feeling the only veggies I'll be harvesting will be the winter lettuces and the carrots/beets that I'd started in the summer. Still though, this is a fun experiment!


By pure chance, Alex was looking out the window yesterday morning at the lilac tree and saw a cardinal couple! We rarely see those birds in this area, he managed to get one photo from the cell phone before they took off. That was a nice bit of luck! Native lore says that if you see a cardinal, then a romantic encounter is imminent. :) Another bit of lore is that if a cardinal visits you, he's telling you to start that project that you've been putting off!


How time flies, it was fondue night again last night! That means another milestone celebration. :) Alex and I have 4 years and 8 months under our belts. :) As corny as it may be, I love to celebrate our monthly "anniversary"! I made a Roasted Garlic, Cheddar and Zinfandel Fondue last night...holy garlic, it calls for two entire roasted garlic bulbs....and this one uses red wine. I used to be an old school fondue type of gal: Swiss, white wine, bread cubes. I'm happy that I'm branching out now, the red wine gave the cheese such a nice flavour! If I make this again though, I'll cut the garlic WAY down!


I used a bottle of Ravenswood Zinfandel that I found by coincidence here in Quebec in August. I first tasted it at a wine show in 2013 and we finally have it on the shelves! Delish! If you are a red wine drinker, do you have a favourite type of wine, a favourite country? Italian Primitivo is my absolute favourite red...did you know that Zinfandel is the same grape as Primitivo? When it was brought overseas to the States, the name changed, so if you love California Zinfandel, you'll love Italian Primitivo too. :)


Alex made us some Irish coffees for dessert too, it was such a nice meal!


My "boys" on my lap...Jack and Pavlov. They are like velcro on me wherever I go. Last night we watched a great movie called The Lodger based on the Jack the Ripper story. There have been many versions made over the years, including a 1927 silent by Alfred Hitchcock, one of his first movies. Here is the You Tube link, I don't know how long it'll be up there, but I highly recommend that movie. It was made in 1944 and stars Laird Cregar, a pretty unknown actor who died way too young with so much potential. The last half hour is pretty suspenseful, turn the lights off for this movie! :)

Saturday, November 11, 2017

It's Cookie Season! :)


'Tis the season to bake cookies! For three years now, I've held up a very delicious tradition. From about mid-November, I make a different cookie each week in preparation for the Christmas eating frenzy that will definitely happen around here! :) Today I baked Alex's favourite Cherry Icebox Cookies. I'll probably ramp things up in December and bake two different cookies each week. I'll do some of our favourites, but each year I like to try a few new cookies. 


Also, based on the success of my recently devoured Camemberts, I made two more wheels, they'll be ready in time for Christmas!! :)


We are currently in a deep freeze. The other morning I woke up to -22C and it was so windy...that wind was devilish, it felt like it went right through my bones. Am I the only one who grows physically intolerant of cold as each year passes??? I've decided no dog walks under -5C from now on...my lungs were aching when I came home!


I was sure the snow would melt by now, but no such luck. I think winter has hit the Laurentian mountains! The huskies and Pavlov have thick coats and it doesn't bother them a bit, but Stella (in the middle) has a thin coat like Jack and she was shivering...I will have to knit her a sweater too. :)


Speaking of knitting, I found some time again! I love knitting, it's so relaxing and very therapeutic if you ask me! I found a very easy pattern for Little Christmas Stockings (6" version). Aren't they cute? I have two done and now I have six more to go for the pets. If I have enough yarn, I'll triple up the pattern and make two bigger ones for Alex and me. And if I have time, I may embroider names in them too. Does this count as my very first ever pair of knitted socks??? :) Just for fun, I timed myself. With some canine, feline and cheese-related distractions, each stocking took me just over 2 hours to do. I'm feeling normal again now that I have time for my hobbies! It's hard to believe we've had the two new dogs about 2 months now...that's how long it took for life to get back to somewhat normal!


Look what Alex got for me this month! He orders me a new cookbook each month, usually from Amazon or Thriftbooks. This is more of a joke book than a cookbook, with recipes like "Rotten Eggs" and "Burnt Toast"...but there are excerpts from the shorts and movies, and fun pictures to see. It's a collector's item that's for sure! So what are you all up to these days? I know my American friends have Thanksgiving coming up. I'm in Christmas and Yuletide prep-mode right now.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Camembert Success!!! πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€


Oh my gosh, this wheel of Camembert that I made on September 19th is a thing of beauty! After all the cheese fails lately, I was actually considering giving it up. Really. But we opened this Cam last night and I have to say, I'm re-motivated to keep making cheese!!!


I was terrified to open this to be honest. You know when your confidence has been squashed? I felt like that last night...Alex cut it open while I closed my eyes lol...I actually got emotional when I saw that it was looking just as it should be!! I will have to transcribe this recipe on my cheese blog soon, because I got it from a wonderful member of the Cheese Forum who was very helpful and gave me a lot of good tips. I think that for the most part, I'm done with the New England Cheese Making's recipes. All the ones I made from them didn't turn out well at all. Life and Cheese Lessons Learned! :)


I made a loaf of my bread last night too, and Joyce from October Farm's Rustic Olive Bread Sticks. Thank you Joyce, they were delicious!!! What a nice meal!! The Camembert stunk up the village that's for sure! That made me nervous that it could be too strong, but the taste was between mild and strong - just perfect!! Now I just have to perfect a patΓ© recipe of my own! That Imperial Cheddar spread though...that's one store-bought cheese that still tastes good, so for now, we'll keep buying it occasionally for a treat!

Marsha from Lefty Crafter, asked me a while back about cost. When I made the Camemberts, I made two of them. Each wheel takes half a gallon of milk and half a cup of full cream. Including the small amounts of bacteria cultures, I calculated that my cost is about $5.00 Canadian per wheel. VERY reasonable! As I post about the cheeses we try, I'll post my costs too. It's hard to figure out the Cheddars at this point considering my first two babies were trashed. But I'm going to concentrate on the successes now! This cheese is easy to make also. We are letting the second wheel age another 2 weeks to see if the flavour changes. I will be making these regularly! In fact I have to get some milk to make more tomorrow! :))


It started to snow this morning during my first dog walk. The woods are so beautiful under a blanket of snow. I can take the dogs in the woods until the new year usually, then it gets too deep to walk in.


So much to see, smell and hear for these sweet dogs in the woods! I'm so happy I can do this for them...and for me! By the way, the regimen of daily fish oil, B vitamins, leg massage, yoga and gentle strength training for my legs and core is really working! I can sleep through the night without that zapping pain all down my left leg and knee! The walks are still a little gimpy, but I feel that I'm healing. I just have to make sure I keep it up and be careful. I don't want to ever miss a morning like this! :) I hope everyone is having a very nice Sunday! :)

Friday, November 3, 2017

Mexican Dinner & Marlene's Birthday!


Here's the birthday girl! :) We don't really know her age, we are guessing she is close to 9 years old. Yesterday was the anniversary of when we adopted our anxious little Marlene! We don't know any of the pet's actual birth dates, so we celebrate on the adoption days. :) Marlene had a tough life. She was back and forth in shelters often, so we were told. The last family that adopted her wasn't prepared to own a dog. They didn't have time for her and kept her locked in a basement for endless hours when they were out of the house. She often broke through windows and opened doors to run away. But she was always found sleeping next to the car of her owner where the owner was working (thankfully in the same town). She wasn't as much a menace as just lonely and desperate for love. When we found her, she was just so sweet, we couldn't resist taking her in. She is still a little insecure, afraid of the dark and terrified of loud noises, but she is now so much more well-adjusted and happy with her pack! She's never once tried to escape here so we know we're doing a good job with her! :)


As per usual, I made the Spoiled Dog Cake. :)


The pack all had to "take their place" while Alex served the cake into their dishes. I kept trying to get their attention for the photo, but they wanted nothing to do with me lol...I didn't have the cake in my hands!! Marlene was allowed to go first, then the rest...the cake was devoured in less than 20 seconds lol!


The dogs had their treat, we gave the cats some chicken so they wouldn't be left out...then it was our turn! I'd made my first Homemade Salsa yesterday morning and it turned out so wonderful! I followed a recipe more or less, but ended up winging it, so I can safely say it's my own recipe! :)


I used the salsa to make Baked Chicken Enchiladas. They were delicious, and that salsa was something else. No more store-bought! (That seems to be my new philosophy these days lol!)...I wanted to make something Mexican because, see up on the left? That is my homemade sour cream. Well...I actually followed the recipe for Cream Cheese...but it did not taste like a cream cheese I'm used to at all. I'm sure that most homemade cream cheeses don't taste like Philadelphia cream cheese...which most of us are used to. I did some research and learned that Kraft adds a sweetener to make it palatable. I'm not giving up though. I found a few tips online to make the "sour cream" into a sweeter cream cheese. I'll update next time I make it!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Halloween Fun and Toy! (Scribble Picnic)


Happy Halloween Everyone! :)

I hope everyone has had a very spooky and fun Halloween, or just a nice Tuesday! :) These are my pumpkins this year, The Oogie Boogie Man, Nosferatu and King Kong. I think they turned out pretty well!! I got inspired to do Nosferatu from Michael at Scribble Picnic, who drew a nice scary Nosferatu for his Inktober drawing challenge! Speaking of that, this week's Scribble Picnic theme is "Toy!".


Since it's still Halloween, I was thinking about all the creepy looking toys out there! :)) I remember some Jack in the Boxes being quite scary when I was a kid, I certainly wouldn't want this as a toy! (check out the above link to see other people's versions of the theme, or to join!)


Because of the crazy Nor'easter wind storm we've had the last few days, I stuck to decorating inside. And I only decorated our "breakfast bar". With the 5 dogs, I barely had time to hang my skeletons lol!


For lunch I made a Nacho Cheese Dip Graveyard with fun-shaped baked tortillas.  The tortillas kept sinking on me, so I had to put them all around the sides. (I posted the recipe I used, but added half a bottle of salsa)


I made Jack O' Lantern Cocktails. Isn't the garnish cool? It's an orange juice drink with some brandy and Grand Marnier. Delish! Made us slightly drowsy while we watched The Mummy with Christopher Lee!


And for dinner, I made some pizzas, a pumpkin-shaped bacon pizza...


...and a ghost-shaped chicken pizza with Gruyere cheese sauce - ooh yeah! :)


We had some sparkling wine and I added some vampire teeth for fun!


Dessert was Pumpkin Cheesecake...it was very good but we didn't really taste the pumpkin in it! I'll try another recipe next time. Now I'm off to bed to watch the Three Stooges in 3D (yes, we have the glasses lol!)...and our yearly tradition of Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein! Nighty night! :)

Monday, October 30, 2017

Some Cheese Updates!


We opened our 3-month aged Cheddar the other day! I made this cheese way back in July and it was time to try it! I wrote a more detailed post on Rainy Day Cheese Making, but in a nutshell...that icky orange plastic coating left an unnatural taste on my lovely little wheel. We cut the outer rind off and it's now "airing out" so hopefully in a few days we won't taste that plastic anymore. Otherwise, the cheese was very tasty! I'm confident to make more but definitely NOT with the orange coating!


This isn't my cheese...this is a photo I got from the internet of factory-made curd cheese for poutines. This consistency is smooth and slightly rubbery, which is spot on for a poutine curd.


The cheese on the left of the cutting board is my fresh curd - which is very nice tasting, but by no means a poutine curd! I personally do not understand how the factories make their cheese so perfectly without aging it. From my little experience, I know that fresh cheese is soft and more like a Feta consistency at first unless you start to age it. Curd isn't supposed to be aged...I've tried 7 different recipes for curd cheese over the last few months and they never get to that same consistency as the ones I showed above. I kept asking myself WHY do people say that their recipes make "the perfect curd"? Anyway, I know when I'm licked! I won't be making curd anymore, but, the cheese on the right of the cutting board is my aged Mozzarella, we used that for the poutine instead.


With a homemade gravy (that still isn't perfected!), it made a great curd cheese substitute and that's what we'll be using from now on. I took this photo too fast because I wanted to eat my chicken burger lol...but the cheese actually did melt under the heat of the gravy!


I am currently in the process of making my first cream cheese! I want to make a pumpkin cheesecake for Halloween tomorrow and decided NO MORE STORE BOUGHT!!! It's currently in the draining phase and I'll post an update on Wednesday! So far though it smells and looks right! But my gosh...there is SO MUCH of it lol...I must get some bagels!!


Oscar silliness. He's been sleeping with his head face-first against the pillow lately. It's very cute! Our pets are always entertaining to watch!

We are in the middle of a nasty Nor'easter and the wind is shaking the cottage, at least that's how it feels! We've had power loss off and on all night...I'm hoping it'll all settle down soon, it's too dangerous to walk the dogs in the woods during wind storms. 

I'm going to make the best of my day today, I have some paintings planned, I'm carving pumpkins, decorating and making my cheesecake! I think I found my energy again. :)

Friday, October 27, 2017

Tired...


I think the weather is getting to me...I have zero energy this morning! It's very overcast, cold, windy and damp out. I have had a mystery zap! pain up and down my left leg for a few weeks now. I'm doing a daily yoga routine to help my body limber up some more. I also started a regimen of omega fish oil supplements, a B-Complex, and a fruit/yogurt shake every morning. I'm hoping that in a few days I'll feel a difference. If not, I'll be buying some Glucosamine (thanks Harry) and hope that helps my aches and pains. I separated my right knee in 2008 in a skiing accident. Some little dweeb was "hot dogging" between lanes on the ski hill to show off to his ski-boarding buddies and rammed right into me. I think that my desire to ring his neck was more intense than the pain of separating my knee lol...It's been nearly 10 years since then and I still feel that pain this time of year in my knee. Not to mention my hands ache too lately...I'm falling apart lol! 


As you can see, Pavlov agrees about the windy day! :) I have some great news though - at least it's great for me! After 5 weeks of slight chaos in our home since picking up Pavlov and Stella...I am finally back to another one of my important routines...morning dog walks on the mountain!!


This is so important to me...not only do I get my daily exercise, but the dogs get to be out in the woods and on the mountain. I do, however, have to make TWO trips...I can't possibly handle all five at the same time! I take our three first, then the two fosters/adoptees! Alex and I still walk them after dinner, but it's really just a small stroll around the village. The morning walks are for exercise! 😊


We "fall back" an hour next weekend in November, so it'll make the mornings lighter earlier. I was out at 7am and the woods were still dark, the sun was just peeking out as we got to the top of the mountain - on the first walk! I'm speechless about how grateful I am to live in these mountains...I missed my Nature Therapy! :)

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Boo!


The theme for the Scribble Picnic this week is Boo! How appropriate for this time of year and also for me! I love anything scary, spooky and creepy! I woke up SO early yesterday morning, it was still dark out and I was on a roll alright! I started off painting some zombies with acrylics. Zombies definitely have a Boo! factor!! I remember the first zombie movie I watched was in 1984 at a second-run movie theater, Night of the Living Dead. It scared me REAL GOOD.


I haven't done a watercolour in a while, and I felt like painting some more. I looked out the window and all I could see was dark blue and black. It was pouring rain so there was no sunrise and it was drearily dark out. I remembered seeing an image like this online a while back so I figured I'd paint something like it! Walking in the pitch dark with just a lantern can be quite spooky! When I lived more up north many years ago, I would walk my pugs at night and all I had was my headlamp for light. Once in a while I'd hear a sound on either side of me. In the dim light of the headlamp, I could never see what was making the sounds. It got me spooked enough that I'd jump through the roof when a mouse ran across in front of us!


I'm a big fan of Poe as well. When I lived alone, I used to read his short stories by candlelight and scare myself silly. :) This is my Raven, another acrylic painting.


And I did this one just for fun! What's a Boo! theme without ghosts?? :) This is another watercolour.


Gasp! My October Wall of Horrors is full! I still have another week before Halloween too. This was so much fun to do, and I loved the theme this week Michael! :)

And just to end this post without giving you nightmares ;) here are our sleepy little angels! :) No nightmares here. :)

Jack
Leo

Charlie and Dana

Stella

Oscar and Marlene
Pavlov