Projects Of My Own

Saturday, September 13, 2014

We are still at the little house in the city.

Great fun in the kitchen over the last few days! I have blanched and frozen most of the celery given to us by Terra and Lares, and dried and powdered about 250 ml of dried celery leaves for flavouring in soups and stews. I have pressure cooked the beets, which we enjoyed the whole day, eating them as a mid-morning snack, and as a side dish with every meal of the day. I like them with hot sweet mustard. What a treat!

The next day I reread the manual for the All American pressure canner, and began the prep work for my very first foray into pressure canning. On this vacation I brought along three types of dried beans, kidney, navy, and pinto beans. I also brought along the video I found online, which outlines how to can chili beans in a pressure canner, using dry beans. All in all, by the time I was ready to put my hand to chopping vegetables, washing canning jars and setting up the pressure canner, it was already well past 2:00 p.m. in the afternoon.

Finally, at around 3:30 p.m. I was ready to lower my bean, vegetable, spice, and water filled jars into the canner, to begin the canning process.

I do not think I have tackled many projects with as much reading of manuals, watching of tutorials, and thinking, thinking, thinking about what I was going to do, and how I was going to do it.

And of course, as soon as I got the pressure canner going, I was sure I hadn’t set it up properly, that it would run dry on me, that the jars would break, that the range couldn’t handle the load…

Let me just say that it was a very, very tense 120 minutes, from the time I turned on the heat, until I turned it off again. I sat in the kitchen and watched that pressure canner like there was no tomorrow. I wondered that steam occasionally came from the rim rather than out the weighted release valve. I wondered if the roiling sounds inside the canner meant the jars were bursting. I wondered if it mattered that the weight did not rattle three times a minute if the canning process was compromised, even though the gage read a steady pressure. I wondered why the weight rattled almost constantly when I turned up the heat a smidgin. I just wondered about the whole thing, from beginning to end. I had a sore neck and a tension headache by the time I turned off the heat!

What I found out was that I had plenty of water left in the canner at the end of the process, and it would not have run dry, even if the weight had rattled a lot more than it did. The canner lost a surprisingly small amount of water! I found out that I really had needed to add vinegar to the water before closing up the canner, because the canning jars came out coated with minerals. I found out that the canning was successful, 100% successful, as every jar pinged as it sealed. I watched the contents of the jars “boil” for almost half an hour after I removed the jars from the canner.

And best of all… I found out that Attila LOVES the beans!

The next time I try pressure canning I won’t be nearly so nervous about it.

We managed to get out to Terra and Lares house this past week, and had a wonderful time, sitting on the verandah chatting, watching and occasionally helping Lares with the last wall of siding on the house, sharing a wonderful meal of hamburgers, and corn and potatoes that Terra picked in the garden just before putting them into the pot to cook. We ended the evening by watching a movie, Bad Words, which I really enjoyed.

Yesterday evening Terra and Lares came to ours for dinner, which was “holiday food”, french fries and chicken nuggets. Not really that bad considering we have been out of cooking mode for the entire holiday due to the window replacement project in the kitchen and dining room.

One of the things I love about our time at the little house in the city is being able to see Terra and Lares with some frequency.

It was Tink’s birthday last week, her fifth, so we called her using Skype. She is such a character. She told us she was having “frozen cupcakes” for her birthday. Attila and I both thought, “whatever turns your crank!” Luna explained to us later that “frozen” was a movie, and the cupcakes were part of the movie themed birthday party. We all had a good laugh about the frozen cupcakes.

Yesterday Attila spent the entire day just puttering. He touched up the paint on the exterior of the house, where it had peeled, apparently not quite dry when the we painted the house a few years ago. He replaced bits of rotting siding on the garage, and painted them. He cut and painted trim.

Today I decided that this year I am making chili sauce. I like my homemade chili sauce, and have found no affordable substitutes. We do buy a commercial chili sauce, but it is almost $5 a jar, and is thickened with a thickener, it tastes and feels like cornstarch to me, which isn’t real chili sauce as far as I am concerned.

I talked to Terra about a possible source for a half bushel of tomatoes, she did not know of one. Then I poked around the internet, searching, searching, searching. I found a farm just 5 km out of town, that sells all kinds of fall vegetables, including tomatoes. So I called ahead, then headed out to the farm for tomatoes. Goodness I had a good time. There were many kinds of squash, I bought three different varieties. There were freshly dug potatoes, I bought two baskets. There were hot peppers, I bought them all. There were green peppers, I bought three. I came home with a trunk full of vegetables!

Then I headed off to the hardware store and purchased another dozen 1L canning jars. I always buy North American made canning jars. In Canada that means BERNARDIN, a company I trust. Canadian Tire had another brand of canning jars, that I don’t think are made in North America. I won’t buy them. I will not buy products made outside of North America unless I have no other options. Today I had options, I bought Bernardin.

Another project I tackled after the kitchen chaos cleared, were curtains for the kitchen window. I spent an entire day sewing a set of simple kitchen curtains for the new kitchen window, installing the curtain hardware, and hanging the curtains. Again, I love them!

I have the same material to make new curtains for the dining room windows, but will tackle that project when I am visiting the little house in the city by myself. Then I will be able to pace myself, sewing over the course of a few days, instead of soldiering on and pushing the project through in one day, as I did with the kitchen window curtain.

Our evening began when Terra and Lares dropped by with another bunch of home grown celery. I had asked her earlier in the day if they had any more that they were wanting to give away. I need this bunch of celery for my chili sauce! After they left Attila and I got down to removing all the leaves, washing them, spreading them on cookie sheets, and drying them for future use as flavouring.

It was cold and raining today, not at all pleasant out there! We were warm enough in the house though, our little bit of cooking for lunch and dinner kept the house pleasantly warm.

Attila had his meltdown today, the last full day of our renovation vacation. He was determined to install the bathroom baseboard, but ran into a few issues caused by the uneven walls and floor in this old house. He felt very frustrated. Time to end the projects for this visit!!! I pointed out that he had accomplished an incredible number of projects with great success. An evening of fun was in order. So we got out the popcorn maker, found a BBC drama to watch on youtube, and sat ourselves down for a few hours of mindless entertainment.

Here is the dining room, new windows and table in place. The curtains are shower curtains, which are not ideal, but they work. Actually they work very, very well, with shower curtain hooks on the curtain rod the opening and closing of the curtains is easy indeed. The material for the new curtains is sitting in the living room beside the sewing machine, just waiting for my attention!
DiningroomEndOfRenoVac2014

And there ends our two weeks of renovation vacation, our fifth year of spending our entire vacation time renovating our little house in the city. I guess that would be a total of about ten weeks of renovating, not a lot of time, as renovations go. We usually have a good time and are happy in our work, just not every day, ahem, and the results are so very satisfying!

Worldly Distractions

Weather

10°C
Date: 8:00 PM EDT Saturday 13 September 2014
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.2 kPa
Tendency: rising
Visibility: 24 km
Temperature: 9.6°C
Dewpoint: 7.1°C
Humidity: 84%
Wind: WNW 13 km/h

Quote

“Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children; now I have six children and no theories.”
John Wilmot

I found this quote very amusing! I raised my girls as a single mother, and had to deal with childless authority figures in the academy while studying for my Honours BA, MA and PhD. I have to say, those childless, intellectual “experts” on childrearing were a baneful bunch! It is little wonder that I have theories about theories!

Kitchen Magic

It has been nine days since I have left these four walls. Time passes without notice. Tonight I am restless, and awake, and I notice. How strange to think, that there are crowded streets, ceaseless lights, and bustle all over the planet, when here the white silence stretches into the black night. Even the bears have retreated into their dreams.

Tomorrow the wind may have died down, making it much safer to walk in the bush. Falling branches are a significant hazard. Windy days bring down a lot of branches, falling thirty feet or more to the ground. Like spears, they fly into the earth, penetrating as much as a foot into the soil. November has been very windy.

Mist and I have been keeping ourselves busy with our respective projects. Mist sleeps, and I research the family tree, read, bake bread, pace the floors, stretch, watch the snow, and listen to the wind.

Attila leaves before light, and arrives home as darkness falls. Several times over the last two weeks he has been able to come home for lunch.

Saturday I processed vegetables, which we purchased two weeks ago at a vegetable stand, on our way home from the little house in the city. The beets were easy, two batches washed and cooked whole in the pressure cooker, then sectioned, packaged and frozen. I had fun squeezing the skins off, after they had cooled. My hands were an interesting shade of red for the rest of the day! The large turnip we purchased was fresh, and unwaxed. After being peeled and diced it took only five minutes to cook it in the pressure cooker. It was the best tasting turnip I have ever cooked, and I found myself snacking on turnip cubes as it cooled. We will definitely be making more purchases at that vegetable stand when it opens again next summer.

For lunch I had a toasted sliced beet and mozzarella sandwich, with mayo and hot mustard. It is my new favourite, for now anyway, until something else takes my fancy.

We like soup. A large pot of soup makes for instant meals, with homemade bread, and cheese, on the side. One of our favourites is Hamburger Soup, which is incredibly easy and incredibly good. I used a pound of the grass fed ground beef, which I sautéed with onion, to caramelize. Then I deglazed the pan by adding a can of diced tomatoes, and then add it all to the crockpot. In goes two or more cups of beef or vegetable broth, potatoes, carrots, and whatever other bits of vegetables I can find in the refrigerator, until the crockpot is full. I add basil, peppercorns and a bay leaf, garlic if I have it, then let it cook for hours and hours and hours. It usually cooks all day, or overnight.

We had Sunday together, Attila and I and Mist. Attila and I spent most of our time in the kitchen. Mist loves it when we are all together. She sits between us and purrs, or if we are active she settles where she can watch us, and purrs.

Applesauce, mincemeat squares, and a turkey dinner with all the trimmings kept us busy. The squash was quartered and baked in a pan, in the oven, with the turkey. The new potatoes, from the vegetable stand, were cooked in their jackets and mashed.

Next week, after having eaten turkey leftovers for a week, Attila will use the remains of the bird to make soup. His process takes many days, but it is worth waiting for! And again, we will have instant meals, to eat with bread and cheese.

Perhaps those few days without electricity enhanced our appreciation of kitchen magic!

Worldly Distractions

Weather

-2°C
Date: 12:00 AM EST Tuesday 26 November 2013
Condition: Light Snow
Pressure: 101.6 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: -2.4°C
Dewpoint: -5.1°C
Humidity: 82%
Wind: SSW 22 gust 32 km/h
Wind Chill: -9

Quote

“Order is not pressure which is imposed on society from without, but an equilibrium which is set up from within.”
Jose Ortega y Gasset
1883 – 1955

Note

“José Ortega y Gasset (Spanish: [xoˈse oɾˈteɣa i ɣaˈset]; 9 May 1883 – 18 October 1955) was a Spanish liberal philosopher and essayist working during the first half of the 20th century while Spain oscillated between monarchy, republicanism and dictatorship. He was, along with Friedrich Nietzsche, a proponent of the idea of perspectivism.”
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/José_Ortega_y_Gasset

The Water Carriers

Christmas Lights on a darkening winter's evening.

Christmas Lights on a darkening winter’s evening.

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year!

Attila and I greeted the New Year at 7:00 a.m. this morning, well rested and ready to enjoy our first mugs of coffee by the fireside in the year 2013. We retired for the night at 10 p.m. last night, New Years Eve. This bodes well for us for the coming year, because I slept for nine consecutive hours, a personal record. I know it is because I am still recovering from that miserable flu I came down with on December 17, 2012. That does not detract from the miracle of a good nights sleep.

Attila's new sprouter kit, a timely Christmas gift.

Attila’s new sprouter kit, a timely Christmas gift.

We are celebrating today by tending to Attila’s new sprouting kit, from which we hope to harvest fresh greens during the winter months. The sprouter is set up beside the masonry heater so that it will not get cold, as it is always warm beside the heater. This is the beginning of day three and the sprouts are doing their thing, sprouting in the warm moist air of the sprouter kit.

I received a new pressure cooker for Christmas and we are christening it by cooking 10 pounds of fresh carrots, in several batches, which we will package and freeze for winter meals. Carrots have changed in recent years. Until a few years ago fresh carrots would keep almost indenfinitely in the crisper in the refridgerator. Not anymore, within a few weeks they become black and slimy and miserable to prepare whatever remains viable. We are going to get around that by cooking and freezing them while they are still fresh and healthy looking.

Today we both feel like eating heatlhy food again. For the most part what this means at our house is NOT EATING chocolates and desserts. To get our diets back on track for the New Year, I prepared Maple Carrot Soup for lunch, which we enjoyed very much. I have set some aside for my lunch tomorrow.

Maple-carrot soup

Baby carrots make for a quick-cooking base in this maple-syrup-and-Dijon-spiked starter.

Dec 1, 2009 Chatelaine
Preparation time:10 minutesCooking time:30 minutesMakes:8 Cups (2 L)

Michael Graydon

Ingredients
900-mL carton chicken broth
2-lb (1-kg) bag baby carrots
2 tbsp (30 mL) maple syrup
1 tbsp (15 mL) Dijon mustard, preferably grainy
2 tsp (10 mL) dried thyme leaves
1 cup (250 mL) sour cream, preferably light
Instructions
Place broth, carrots, maple syrup, Dijon and thyme in a large pot. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium. Cover and gently boil, stirring occasionally, until very tender, about 30 min.
Ladle half into a food processor, fitted with a metal blade. Purée until as smooth as you like. Pour into a large bowl. Then purée remaining soup. Return both batches to pot. Soup is quite thick and you may need to add up to 1 cup (250 mL) water or chicken broth. Reheat until hot.
When hot, stir in half the sour cream. Taste and add salt, if needed. Ladle soup into bowls, then dollop each with about 1 tbsp (15 mL) of remaining sour cream. If making ahead, prepare steps 1 and 2. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or freeze up to 3 months. When ready to serve, reheat and continue with step 3.

Source: http://www.chatelaine.com/recipe/vegetarian/maple-carrot-soup/

How wonderful it would be if we all lived in a world where hard work and integrity were valued and rewarded! Public figures are not going to lead us to this healthy state of being; by definition they are already receiving more than their fair share of rewards and recognition and are not leading a balanced social existance.

So we must do it for ourselves, and for each other. We are the water carriers. (see quote below)

The temperature has risen to -11C today and the sun is shining. The world is white and it sparkles!

Worldly Distractions

Weather

-11 °C
Condition: Sunny
Pressure: 101.6 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: -10.7°C
Dewpoint: -18.5°C
Humidity: 53 %
Wind: WNW 17 km/h

Quote

“The grass is not, in fact, always greener on the other side of the fence. Fences have nothing to do with it. The grass is greenest where it is watered. When crossing over fences, carry water with you and tend the grass wherever you may be.”
Robert Fulghum
1937 –  

Meander

The days are beginning to blend. With no regularly scheduled activities in the outside world the days begin to run into each other, broken only by Attila’s occasional day off work. It reminds me of summers during my childhood, when weeks passed without any contact with the outside world, and days grew slowly along with the trees, uncluttered by human agendas. How glorious, some of those days, spent with siblings, bonded by time and place. Little wonder I became a geographer.

Today is sunny and gloriously yellow. Most of the leaves around our home turned a shade of yellow or orange this year, there has been very little red in this autumn’s palette.

I baked bread yesterday and put the loaves in the freezer for the coming week. Today I cooked black eyed peas in the pressure cooker and have used them to prepare Mexican Bean Casserole in the crockpot. Upon reading the manufacturers instructions, I added a tablespoon of oil to the water in the pressure cooker before sealing it and cooking the peas. The seal is a bit wonky, and was leaking the first time I tried to heat the cooker to pressure. I let it cool down, removed the lid, adjusted the rubber seal and made a second attempt, which worked perfectly. The black eyed peas cooked in four minutes.

Caveat: Cook beans in a crockpot at your own risk, do it the right way. “Dried beans, especially kidney, contain a natural toxin. These toxins are easily destroyed by boiling. Safe steps for preparing would include soaking the beans for 12 hours, rinsing, and then boiling for at least 10 minutes, before adding the beans to a slow cooker.” University of Minnesota Extension

I took a trip to the dump this morning, to dispose of our microwave oven. It is about two years old and is quite a disappointment. It popped loudly when Attila pressed the start button on Tuesday evening and let forth a terrible stench. Then it stopped working altogether. I delivered it to the e-waste centre. Of course, not having been there before, I drove past the weigh scale and shouldn’t have. The young man at the gate came out to find out what I was up to, which is in everyone’s best interest I think. I promised I would check in properly next time I brought something to the dump, so we parted with a smile.

We are able to burn full fires in the masonry heater now, and to close the damper when the flames have burned themselves out. It is cosy and warm in the house. Mist is in her glory, sleeping sprawled across the floor, or pillows, or a chair, or wherever she happens to find herself when she begins yawning.

Now that we have wood heat, it is dry in the living area. I have dragged out my clothes rack and am drying a load of laundry in front of the heater.

I found a bit of mould growing in one of the used maple syrup containers I had saved, so I spent some time cleaning it out with aqueous oxygen. Which led to cleaning the kitchen sinks as well, and the burners on the range. It all needed doing, and so was not time wasted. Although why I am even thinking in terms of time wasted I do not know!

I am de-cluttering the living area this afternoon, objects have a way of piling up in corners when we aren’t looking. My goal is to get things straightened away in here, then to create a floor plan and move the furniture around in a winter arrangement. The masonry fireplace, ignored during the most of the year, becomes the central point of the house during the heating season. We like to sit and watch it, and we like to warm our toes in front of a roaring fire as well. The seating needs to be re-arranged to accommodate the shift in focus.

I find my mind meandering today. It flies from one thought to another, touching only briefly on each one. On days like this I have to make myself focus on each particular task, so that I complete each one successfully.

We heard George play last weekend, hearing him play live is really something to look forward to, and he is one of the nicest people you could ever meet. He writes beautiful love songs, or perhaps they are hymns, if there is a difference. We have one of his CDs and listen to it over and over…

Worldly Distractions

Weather

7 °C
Condition: Mainly Sunny
Pressure: 101.2 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: 7.4°C
Dewpoint: 0.2°C
Humidity: 60 %
Wind: W 8 km/h

Quote 

“Love is a snowmobile racing across the tundra and then suddenly it flips over, pinning you underneath. At night, the ice weasels come.”
Matt Groening (1954 – )
[I just HATE ice weasels!!)