Take Two

All kinds of fun and games going on in my digital world today! I have been unable to access my sites most of the day, and it turned out to be a problem on my hosts end, got that sorted and then it happened again. Not really sure what the problem is, it will probably take days to figure it out and make the system stable again. Sigh.
,
And my printer died. An ink jet printer, and I guess the nozzles plugged permanently, because it is seldom used. Research reveals that this is a common problem with these printers, no fix. Sigh. I am now looking at cheap laser printers, because the toner doesn’t have such problems when the printer is seldom used. My other alternative is to drive to a printer every time I want a sheet printed, which is what I will do, at least in the short term. Another Sigh.

AND I wrote a whole blog entry this morning that was sent into the ether, not sure how that happened, I think it had something to do with the host’s issues. This is a case of gone and soon forgotten, no idea what I had written. Luckily I am seldom at a loss for words, and I am back on the keyboard.

I have been trying to make a sweet Holiday Bread. The first two loaves were dense, delicious, but very dense. This is my third loaf, Panettone. This loaf was a success, good crumb, moist texture, and it tastes amazing. The reason I am having such a challenge baking a Holiday Sweet Bread is that I am using 100% whole wheat flour, milled by me right here in the kitchen, and drastically reducing the salt to 1/8th teaspoon. Holiday loaves are not traditionally made with 100% whole wheat bread, so I am having to adjust traditional recipes, and this is my first relatively successful loaf.
Did I only bake this loaf yesterday? it is half eaten now, and Attila has only had a bite! I suppose it is better to binge on whole wheat bread than on chocolate desserts or candy, or on salty snacks like potato chips. At least this is what I tell myself.
Still, two days, at 1/4 of the loaf each day, is 6 teaspoons of sugar (my limit), and 150 mg of sodium (way under my limit, so I am not going overboard on the bad stuff. That is the advantage of baking my own sweets, I can control the sugar and sodium content, which takes a lot of recipe tweaking. But it is oh so worth it.

The basement project continues slowly but surely. After the drywall was painted in the first areas tackled, Attila began the long and arduous process of moving “stuff” into the finished area, so as to clear space in the next area that he means to work on. He has to spend more time shifting things around than he does working on the actual project. That is what it is like living in an almost tiny house while living in it, there is no wiggle room.

With what Attila has accomplished so far, our energy consumption in November was down 9% from that used in October. This is even more significant in that November was much colder than October, so the heat pump was running a lot more. That is probably the biggest gain we will see from the project, as the rest of the basement is partially underground, and more of the heat was lost through the completely exposed-to-the-weather concrete walls.

When the insulating project is complete, I will be spending the rest of the winter organizing the basement, which is a very big job. I am looking forward to it though.

A case in point, raisins. I KNOW we bought several bags of raisins. But, with all the chaos of things being moved to and fro, I cannot find the raisins. Attila looked, and he can’t find them either. We KNOW a bag of raisins is somewhere in the basement, and luckily raisins are an item that will keep well, until we finally find them. In the meantime, I am tempted to buy more raisins to tide us over until the big basement reorganization can begin, to remove any pressure on the insulating project.

Onward! The next section of wall to be insulated involves electrical wiring. The plot thickens. This will require some rewiring, which is going to add a considerable amount of time to the project. It gets even more complicated when it becomes time to work around the electrical panel and the plumbing. Now that I think about it, it might be NEXT winter that I spend organizing the basement, not this winter. Oh well, everything takes time, and we knew when we bought Mist Cottage that she was a tear down, which means that there is as much work involved renovating as there would be building from scratch.

Worldly

Weather

Wow! It was -14C this morning when I began writing the first version of this blog entry, and now it is 0C. The weather I like least is the “roller coaster” weather, above freezing, then below freezing, then above freezing, and so on… The fluctuations above and below freezing wreak havoc with modern human transportation!

0°C
Date: 1:00 PM EST Tuesday 3 December 2019
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 100.6 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: -0.4°C
Dew point: -10.2°C
Humidity: 48%
Wind: W 11 km/h
Wind Chill: -4
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“That best portion of a good man’s life,
His little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.”
William Wordsworth
1770 – 1850

Looking Back, and Forward

I have entertained myself during the last few dreary gray weeks by watching The 1940s House. I enjoyed it a great deal, and loved the practicality, and the attention to the truly important aspects of family, the glue of society, during that awful war experience. Life was shown to be very difficult for those who maintained domestic stability during that era. So many times I have heard balanced historians describing survival during “pioneering” or “unstable” social periods, to be centered around the ability of families or small social units to maintain the basic necessities of life… human connection, shelter, food, and clothing. Too often, I think, “history” focuses on the wealthy and the violent, ignoring the vital role played by the provision of basic human needs.

A delightful aspects of the series were the appearances of Marguerite Patten OBE (1915 – 2015), who was one of the consultants for the series.

“The Ministry Food Advice Division employed dieticians and many home economists, to help people throughout the country. Our role, for I was one of the food advisers, was to conduct cookery demonstrations and talks to show what interesting things could be made with the rationed and unrationed foods available.”
Marguerite Patten, Victory Cookbook: Nostalgic Food and Fact from 1940 – 1954, In association with Imperial War Museum, 2002 Edition, Forward.”

This book arrived on my doorstep a few months ago, and I am enjoying it. The first degree I studied for was Home Economics, with an emphasis on Food and Nutrition, three years. I loved it, and I taught Home Economics in the public school system in Ontario. So this book is right up my alley.

Two of the things I have been thinking about and researching, in relation to my interest in domestic science, are the head scarf, and aprons.

I’ve never worn head scarves, as my head has rejected them within minutes. I must have a very animated head, because not even hats will stay on properly, unless they are tied on. So you would think a head scarf would work right… nope. But Lyn, in the 1940s House series, is ever so briefly shown tying on a head scarf as she prepared to do housework. The technique was new to me; I was hooked. I had to try it! The only scarves I have are over 30 years old, and are 40 inches square, a little too large for the project I think. The result is supposed to have either a little bow top front, or the ends tucked in neatly. I can accomplish neither, and end up with a great wad of fabric just above my forehead. A smaller scarf is called for, something to think about.

Attila likes the look, and so do I. But the what I like most is that it stays on my head! And that it prevents my ever so cleverly errant hair from escaping into my eyes, my nose, and my mouth.


So, here I am with my great edifice on the top of my head, which should be a wee bow, but you get the drift. It is a project in process. Fair dues, I took over a dozen photos of myself before I finally settled on this one, I don’t consider myself to be photogenic, and only take selfies when I want to demonstrate something, I am a free model. Photos are great in that all the blemishes are sort of pixelated out, so I end up looking a lot younger than I do in real life! I get the same effect when I take off my glasses and look in the mirror; that is when I look most like the “myself” I had become so accustomed to seeing over the decades of adulthood. I do miss the way I used to look. Oh well, been there, done that, doing this now.

I made an apron some years ago, that I wear almost every day. I want to make another apron, but haven’t yet decided on the pattern. The closest I have come to a pattern that I think will work for me is a pattern for a doll apron. And, well, the pattern needs a few alterations if it is going fit me! I am thinking of making a “template” apron, from an old sheet, to see how I like it before committing valuable fabrics to the style.

Attila continues to spend his evenings working on the basement insulation project. It is coming along really, really well. The whole wall-with-exterior-exposed, has been framed, the insulation, the vapour barrier, and taping finished off. Just the drywall, and paint to go now for that section. Some of the drywall even got installed last night!

I am really looking forward to the completion of this project! Not because it is particularly intrusive, but so that I can begin to organize the storage in the basement. Organizing the basement has been on hold for 10 years now, four of those years we have actually lived here full time. We will be able to unpack the last boxes, and put things where we can easily find them.

The first drywall has been installed! Attila installed this last night. This is mold resistant drywall, because this is a basement application, and although the basement has no moisture issues now, the air is moist because it is a basement, where cool air settles and moisture condenses. We are painting the drywall white, which will make it area much brighter.

When we bought the house there were two dismal rooms down here. One was a bedroom, with a broken window, with a piece of plywood nailed over it. It had carpet over the concrete. Everything was covered with mold and mildew. The other room was a “rec room”, in similar condition to the bedroom. Everything smelled awful from the mold and mildew, and mice and chipmunk colonies that lived there.
That first year we removed the window in the basement, the one you see in the image, and Attila tore everything out, gutted the basement completely. It was all removed through the window opening, and thrown into the large rented dumpster. We also put a new roof on that first summer, so the large dumpster was full of debris from the house. The renovations had begun, and we are still at it, but not quite to so hard at it anymore, thank goodness.

Worldly

Weather

4°C
Date: 9:00 AM EST Wednesday 27 November 2019
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.0 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 4.2°C
Dew point: 2.5°C
Humidity: 89%
Wind: NE 24 gust 34 km/h
Visibility: 13 km

Wind warning in effect
Southwesterly wind with gusts near 90 km/h tonight.
Very strong southwesterly winds with gusts near 90 km/h are expected to develop early this evening as a sharp cold front blasts through. These damaging winds will persist into the overnight hours before before veering to the west and diminishing.
The highest wind gusts will be along exposed areas of the Lake Ontario shoreline.
Power outages are possible.
Damage to buildings, such as to roof shingles and windows, may occur. Loose objects may be tossed by the wind and cause injury or damage. Be prepared to adjust your driving with changing road conditions due to high winds.

Quote

“My life has no purpose, no direction, no aim, no meaning, and yet I’m happy. I can’t figure it out. What am I doing right?”
Charles M. Schulz
1922 – 2000

There are many cartoonists, that I read and wonder, “so?” I feel I’ve missed the point somehow. They must be using a set of experiences for a frame of reference, a set of experiences I did not have, and haven’t even observed.

BUT Charles M. Schulz is one of the cartoonists I actually “got”, there have been a few.

The Last Harvest

Saturday! Since retirement, the days of the week aren’t the focus of my life, as they were when I had to be at a specific spot at a specific time. I like retirement. I was sitting here just minding my own business, and Saturday night snuck up on me!

Yesterday I milled flour, it took me quite a while, the supply was down to two cups of flour. I only mill about eight cups of flour at one time, then I let the equipment cool down before milling again. I ended up with about 44 cups of freshly milled whole-wheat flour.

Today I used the flour I had just milled to bake five loaves of bread. We were completely out of bread. No, wait, there was one partial loaf left in the breadbox, Chocolate Bread. Not really suitable for savory sandwiches.

This evening I made Hamburger Gravy with potatoes in the Instant Pot. I sauteed ground beef in the Pot, then added chopped onion and sauteed it all, adding a few herbs, Rosemary, Pepper, Garlic. Two cups of homemade vegetable broth were then added. A metal steam basket was set over the meat mixture, and the peeled potatoes were placed on top. The potatoes would be removed from the pot, and a gravy made with the meat, broth, and onions. Three minutes of cooking and dinner was prepared. Of course there is the time it took to heat up the Instant Pot, and then the time it took for it to cool down again, so the process was more than three minutes. While I was preparing the meat and potatoes, Attila prepared the very last harvest from the garden, carrots and beets. They were tiny and sweet, only about a cup all told, so good! So that is the garden done for this year.

Attila has been very busy with his insulation project. About a third of our basement is above ground, and that third was bare concrete blocks, outside and inside. When it got cold outside, it got cold inside too. By bedtime tonight he will have built stud walls and installed insulation and vapour barrier over the concrete blocks in that third of the basement. There is a noticeable difference down there already. I used to feel chilled every time I went to the basement during the heating season, and now I don’t. Not really a scientific measurement, but good enough for me.

Attila is moving along on this insulation project at lightning speed. Just dry wall and paint to go in this corner.
It is a no-stress project, compared to all the other renovations that have been undertaken at Mist Cottage. Attila only has to set his equipment and materials up once, in the now wonderfully dry garage. When he is finished for the day, he can just shut the door and walk away, and it will all be waiting for him just as he left it when he returns to take up the task again. This is a real luxury. Also, there is no deadline with this project, it will be completed whenever that happens, no rush, no pressure. Unless of course I get a bit concerned when it gets too close to Christmas and I want the basement things that are stacked in the living room taken back downstairs. But really, the project is far enough along even now, that this could be accomplished.

I’ve just bagged my five loaves of bread, and tucked them into the freezer. Baking bread is a very satisfying activity, I like it a lot. The bread I just put in the freezer is sandwich bread, it is wonderful. It took me ever so long to get a good loaf of 100% whole-wheat bread, but finally the loaves are light and airy and delicious.

I have been experimenting with 100% whole-wheat sweet breads, and am not satisfied with the results thus far. The loaves taste wonderful, but the bread is dense and a bit dry. So far I’ve made Raisin Apple Bread, and Chocolate Bread. I have to keep trying, practice makes perfect!

Worldly

Weather

2°C
Date: 6:00 PM EST Saturday 23 November 2019
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 100.8 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 2.2°C
Dew point: -1.1°C
Humidity: 79%
Wind: SW 13 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“The art of dining well is no slight art, the pleasure not a slight pleasure.”
Michel de Montaigne
1533 – 1592

Insulating the Basement

The first section of the basement studs is up! As you can see, our basement has a low ceiling, there are areas where we have to duck to get around.

The basement was finished when we bought Mist Cottage, and full of mildew and mold and chipmunk dens and mouse nests… so we gutted it. There were no salvageable materials.

It was a very wet basement. We invested a lot of money in digging up around the foundation, installing drainage tiles and water shield. But the water problem was still with us. So Attila broke a hole through the basement floor and dug a sump hole, installed a pump, and that helped, but it didn’t solve the problem.

Unbeknownst to us, a water main was broken in our front yard, and was saturating the ground around our house, seeping through the concrete walls and up through the floor. And the water traveled beyond our property.

The inspectors came because one of our neighbours assumed we were causing water problems in their basement, so instead of talking to us, they called the municipality and submitted a formal complaint against us. It turned out that was the the best way to do it, as the problem was quickly discovered and remedied. And we didn’t have to acknowledge the complaint, and could easily ignore it, pretending to know nothing about it. At that time I was using the power washer to remove the original exterior paint, which used a lot of water. She assumed that was flooding her basement. But it wasn’t us causing the problems!

When the municipality came and replaced the broken water main, THAT solved the water problem in our basement.

It will be good to get some insulation on these walls, as there is quite an expanse of blocks that are exposed above ground. I think the floors on the upper floor will be warmer when this project is finished!

Last weekend Attila started on the insulating the basement project.

Monday evening we visited the local lumber yard to order the materials needed to build the stud walls and drywall. Today the materials were delivered.

I have taken a lot of deliveries in my time and, with a few exceptions, the delivery fellows, and they have always been fellows, have been courteous and helpful. The delivery man today was exceptional. He was friendly, and helpful above and beyond the bare bones of a delivery. Attila had told me that the drywall could be stacked outside, assuming the delivery people would not bring it into the garage, and I was left a plastic sheet to cover it up in case it rained before he got home. But this young man did not like that idea, and he suggested that the drywall be carried into the garage, which he did for me. Then after he stacked all of the wood on the driveway, he covered it with the plastic sheet and secured the sheet so that the wind could not blow it around. This was a delivery from Home Hardware, and I have got to say that their employees are pretty darn good.

Attila did prep work for the last few weeks, moving things out of the way mostly. Moving things out of the way, is a pretty big job. Because this is a tiny house, and well, if you move it, where do you put it!?! He managed though. Some stuff went into the garage, never to return to the basement, yay! Other things were piled here and there., some of it in the living room. And a few corners were reorganized so as to make room for more stuff. Yesterday he finished moving the stuff that needed to be moved.

The other prep work that needed to be done was insulating the rim joists in the section of the basement he will be working on. This was an area that had been infiltrated by chipmunks, when we bought the place, so there was a bit of repair work needed there. It was all ship shape by last night.

And so the actual renovation begins! There is a lot of banging and whirring, hammers and electric saws.

Worldly

Weather

-1°C
Date: 8:00 PM EST Wednesday 20 November 2019
Condition: Mainly Clear
Pressure: 102.2 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: -1.2°C
Dew point: -3.2°C
Humidity: 87%
Wind: NW 10 km/h
Wind Chill: -5
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
Mahatma Gandhi
1869 – 1948

Bright Gray Day

Well the weather is not a ray of sunshine today.

I am still making the transition from months of being super busy with the garden and food preservation, to the quiet and peaceful passage of short winter days.

Bread baking has been of interest lately, several loaves of bread with dried fruit were baked, and consumed entirely by me! I love bread, and particularly bread with dried fruit. It is a bit of a luxury item, but as a sweet treat, it ranks up there with the healthiest. Bread here at Mist Cottage is now made exclusively with organic whole grain flour, milled right here at home. I am busy looking at recipes for Christmas treats, Panettone, Pulla, Stollen, Paska (Easter Bread), Babka, Nissua, and many more. What fun!

Making all these specialty sweet breads is fine and dandy. However, there is an issue, and that is me! If that bread is sitting in the bread box, I am eating it for every single meal! I cannot resist it. So I am on a campaign to balance my diet. First off, I will make very small loaves of sweet breads, and freeze most of them, so only one small loaf is on the go at one time.

My other measure to balance my diet, is to include vegetables in every single meal. This morning, for instance, breakfast consisted of 1/2 cup frozen chopped organic spinach (our garden), 1 medium onion chopped, olive oil, and an egg. The onion were sauteed in olive oil, spinach added and sauteed, and finally the egg was broken into the pan, stirred in, and cooked just until done. It was very good. For lunch I plan a cream of mixed vegetable soup, made from a roux, one cup of 1% milk, and a cup of cooked mixed vegetables (frozen from the store).

Canning soup bases that require only the addition of cooked noodles or cooked rice to ready them for serving, is on the to-do list. So are canned jars of chicken stew, and beef stew.

Another project that would be good to pursue during the winter, is trying to master Tattler canning lids and rings. They are reusable, and so very desirable. But the learning curve is steep, I’ve had about 80% failure rate so far. Due to the failure rate, I’ll be experimenting canning water until my skill level increases significantly.

There are a few sewing projects that need tackling, but they will have to wait until the basement insulated walls are completed. There just isn’t a horizontal work surface available for a sewing machine right now.

Worldly

Weather

-2°C
Date: 9:00 AM EST Tuesday 19 November 2019
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.0 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: -1.7°C
Dew point: -6.1°C
Humidity: 72%
Wind: NNW 14 km/h
Wind Chill: -6
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”
Maya Angelou
1928 – 2014

Interesting to note that when I was doing a bit of poking around on Google about Maya Angelou, the suggested other people of interest included Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and Margaret Atwood. Well, I admire the integrity, compassion, and talent of Toni Morrison and Alice Walker… the third candidate just makes me shake my head, not in Morrison or Walker’s league, in my opinion, and I admit to being slightly offended by her inclusion.