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Guest Room Update

We can’t have friends to stay and we dont know when that will change. But I dream of having guests: People to cook for and with, friends whose presence justifies that extra drink that now just makes me feel guilty, and someone new with whom to play board games and cards.

This desire, along with a decision not to rent our place this year to vacationers, was ample motivation to spend a few days improving our guest room.

2019 guest room. Someone had to sleep against the wall.

This room – every room in fact – was freshly painted with a matte white when we bought the place in late 2007. So repainting was not an early priority. It has; however, become increasingly desirable over the last few years. And no excuse not to do it right now.

Benjamin Moore has a new, extra durable paint called Scuffex. It’s not outrageously expensive either. I chose a pearl finish as the room is a bit dark and would benefit from a reflective lift. As for colour, as usual I went with my gut, quickly singling out a pale grey white called White Wisp. It isn’t a warm colour, which is what one craves just now, but the cottage is principally a summer spot, so I had to put myself in summer thinking mode.

The paint went on beautifully, and floor, ceiling, 5 panel door and window trim were all given 2 coats of gloss in BM Cloud White.

We replaced a cheap ikea ceiling fixture with a lovely nickel fixture that we wrote out of our sales contract when we sold up in Port Moody. I was so glad to find a perfect place for it. We also replaced the non- functioning dimmer switch.

We reoriented the bed so there is (some) room on both sides, then edited and rehung wall decor. We also painted up some found “free” shelves with trim paint and installed them at about 2 metres from the floor, to add a splash of interest and some high storage to an otherwise bare-by-necessity wall.

A shippy light fixture and some free, high shelves are favourite touches.

I washed the duvet and mattress pad, replaced all the pillows and polished the floor.

As usual, there are a few things holding me back from declaring the job fully complete. We are hoping to refinish an old piece of furniture to double as desk and dresser for this tiny room. And the baseboard heater needs to be replaced.

But in general, I am happy everytime I walk by the room and can’t wait to welcome our first guests of 2021. Whenever that becomes possible.

Meanwhile, we use this as Break Out space for our individual activities: puzzles and crafts for me, and music and gaming sessions via Zoom for my partner.

A more inviting space, just waiting for friends.

There was about a litre of the grey white paint left, so after a few days rest, I washed, taped and painted the small hallway outside the guest room.

I followed on with the trim and other doors off this hallway. Now I can’t stop. My room next, then the livingroom and eventually, a complete redo of the bathroom.

The hallway before it got a fresh coat of paint.
In progress. Lighting is not optimal, but this photo shows the soft grey shade of BM White Wisp as I started to paint the hallway.

This recipe came to me from a friend named Roberta. I have made a few changes, because that is what I do. They will be noted so that you can make the original recipe, if you prefer. I did not ask Roberta if I could adapt and publish this recipe, so, bygones Roberta.

This would be a great activity to do with kids because it is simple, and can be made quick-and-easy or slow-and-craftsy.

Just mix wet and dry. Easy Peasy.

It is not messy. It makes a lot of biscuits so not only will your dog love you, but you can also cozy up to the neighbourhood dogs and (not literally!) their owners – because who else do you actually SEE these days.

Makes a ton of dry dough…
…That really begs to be mixed by hand.

One more note. My dog is a super fussy eater. He is suspicious of food. Rarely accepts a treat from anyone but us and often refuses things I expect him to like. So when Roberta brought a charmingly wrapped bag of these for my dog, I anticipated a socially awkward moment when Farley turned up his nose. But he gobbled them up. In short, chances are very good your dog will like these, though they don’t include traditionally appetizing doggy ingredients except for a small amount of peanut butter.

I could prattle on for yonks, I suppose, but I am not selling anything here, and the salient facts are now stated so lets get to it.

INGREDIENTS

3 cups whole wheat flour

2 cups quick oats

1/4 cup wheat germ (I consider this optional)

1/2 tsp salt (Roberta’s recipe uses garlic powder, but garlic is not recommended for dogs)

1 + 1/4 cups water

1/3 cup creamy peanut butter

1 large egg.

OPTIONAL GLAZE (Not part of Roberta’s recipe)

1 Tbsp (heaped) smooth peanut butter

2 Tbsp hot water

METHOD

Preheat oven to 275 degrees

Mix all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Now, blend the wet ingredients in a blender.

Add wet to dry and mix well, first with a spatula, and eventually with your hands, as the dough is dry and stiff.

Roll out half of dough on a lightly floured board to about 1/2 cm thickness.

Cut to size-according to the size of your pooch.

You can use a fancy cookie cutter – a bone, a squirrel? – but I just trim off the rough edges, cut the sheet into rectangles of an appropriate size for my 7 kilo dog, and then use my fingers to pinch them into an approximation of a dog bone. As shown below…

1. Pinch middle of rectangle with both thumbs and both index fingers.
2. Use one index finger to press lightly on the pinch point.
3. Use both thumbs to slightly flatten and spread ends to look a bit like a bone (or a lot like a bowtie!)

Now with regard to the glaze. I have a lot of time on my hands, and I thought these biscuits would benefit from an extra burst of peanut butter flavour. So I mixed peanut butter and hot water into a thin slurry and dabbed it on the top of the cookies with a pastry brush.

A little PB and some hot water dabbed on before baking makes a tasty dry glaze.
Note use of parchment.

One hour in the oven on parchment paper, then cool and store in an airtight container for three days (immediate supply) and freeze or gift the rest. Let me know how your dog likes them please.

The finished product. One of three sheets produced from this recipe.

There is time, O yes, there is time enough to amuse oneself with aliterations and acronyms. In this case P6 will serve as the yet shorter form for PPPPPP.

More simply, I’m creating a cache of well loved family recipes for my kids (and their cousins if they care to dabble.) Bonus, they are available to me wherever I find myself in years to come.

What will this include: Agne’s Swedish Meatballs, Jean’s Nuts and Bolts, Ginger Sparklers (aka Molasses cookies) and more.

When someone wants a family recipe, I’ll write it down here. Or where possible, snap a picture from my mom’s recipe book and add my preferred changes and comments.

NUTS And BOLTS

The family recipe, apparently originating with my Aunt Jean. But tweaks are necessary!

These Nuts and Bolts are the first thing I make in preparation for Christmas each year. Since they store well in a cool place, I start looking for cereal on sale in late November and often have these made before December 1st.

As noted, this recipe makes 2 roasting pans full or about 4 full 1 gallon ziplock freezer bags.

The first of two roaster pans.

The main tweak for this recipe is to DOUBLE the Worcestershire sauce to a full one quarter (1/4) cup. I believe this is the magic ingredient that turns your heap of cereal from a salty oily mess (prior to baking) into something more than the sum of its parts. But this is entirely up to you.

I also find that half a box of cheerios is plenty. My personal preference is for more shreddies. And I put in about 1 cup mixed nuts and two cups jumbo salted roasted peanuts. I use one bag of pretzel sticks and one of traditional small pretzels.

Store in a cool place, such as your garage, or you will open the bags each time you see them and snack all day.

A Pumpkin’s Journey

When I harvested my last spuds on Canada Day (July 1st) I had a few sugar pumpkin seedlings in pots so I jammed them in the fallow potato plot – where they did very little in the 3 weeks that I remained a vigilant guardian.

Then I went away from late July until early October, camping and visiting family members and friends in limited and responsible pandemic friendly terms.

I was pretty excited, on my return to Gibsons, as to what success I might have had with them. Short answer: Very Limited.

I could see where many small tender gourds had been nipped off neatly by the deer that roam the neighbourhood. And even in October there were dozens of flowers that would never produce fruit. But there were 4 lovely pumpkins that had managed to get beyond the size deer could consume. One got stem rot and one fell to a sharp toothed small varmint and finally there were 2.

Disappointing. But then considering the complete lack of care and attention they received…bonus! Here is the story in photos

A promising beginning. The deer love them at this size!
But they did not find this one
Enthusiastic vines showed no respect for garden walkways.
Halved and cleaned
Oiled and roasted
Scooped and weighed: 1.7 kilos
Pureed in batches and divided for scones, pie and the freezer
Pumpkin scones!

So was it worth all that trouble?

Truthfully, I’m not sorry I don’t have 20 ripe sugar pumpkins. That would be a lot of work and result in more than I could use. I would have been looking for someone to take most of them off my hands.

But it was fun to grow something from a single seed and then take it through its whole lifecycle to something I can eat. It gives me a real appreciation for my ancestors, who would have had this much of their own effort invested in most of their food…and also for modern food supply chains that mean I can open a can of pumpkin puree without – until now – giving it a second thought.

Staying home a bit more? We all are.  Here is a really good and simple recipe. You can make your own pizza, just the way you like it.

It’s worth investing in pans. Avoid the ones with a non stick coating as that finish will start to come off after you have used your pizza wheel on it a few times.

INGREDIENTS

1 and 1/2 cups water

2 tsp lemon juice

2 T olive oil

2 T sugar

2 T powdered milk or 1 T milk or cream (can be omitted)

1 tsp salt

4 and 1/2 cups flour

3 tsp dry yeast

METHOD

Place all ingredients in the listed order in bread machine pan and set for “DOUGH” cycle.

Always peek into the machine once it begins to mix. It sometimes happens that the paddle turns in the water below the flour.

If it isn’t mixing properly, insert a spatula along the edge of the pan to get the mixing of wet and dry started. Once the flour is being visibly pulled down it should be problem free.

Heat oven to 500F when dough cycle is finished and you are ready to form your pizzas.

The high heat is key to getting a pizzeria quality product.

Divide the dough into 2 equal parts if your pans are 14 inches or greater.  For smaller pans you can get three thin crust pizzas from this same dough.

Spray pans with a thin coat of cooking oil.  Wet hands very slightly and stretch one piece of dough gently into a flat thin shape. Place on oiled pan and working from the middle outwards, pull and press to stretch the dough towards the edges of the pan.  The dough will shrink back a bit so be sure to stretch it a little beyond where you want it.

Spread the dough with your desired amount of pizza sauce then top with shredded mozzarella  and all your favourite toppings.

Bake in the middle of your preheated oven for 10 minutes. Depending on your oven and your preferences, you may also wish to finish with 2 minutes under the broiler. If so check every 30 seconds!

When the plants flowered and started to wilt it was time to harvest.
The no hill method worked well, i didnt need to dig very much and the harvest was about 2 lbs per plant. Not great but not bad either.
Not a massive harvest, but very satisfying all the same. There was no evidence of wire worm damage, as was foretold by a worker at the nursery.
The potatoes are very flavourful, cook quickly and are beautiful to look at – at least, I think so.

There were almost as many nuggets as there were full sized specimens. I found a wonderful recipe for these. Quick, simple and delicious:

GRILLED MARINATED BABY POTATOES

Scrub and then fully cook nugget potatoes in salted water. Do not overcook. Plunge in cold water when done to stop cooking. Halve each potato after cooking, not before.

Mix 1/4 cup mayonnaise and 1/4 cup dijon mustard in a bowl large enough to hold the potatoes. Add 3 crushed garlic cloves, 1/2 tsp salt, pepper to taste and whisk it into a creamy sauce. Sprinkle in some fresh thyme or rosemary if you have it.

Add cooled cooked potatoes to bowl, stir gently to coat and then cover and refridgerate until 1 hour before serving. Allow them to warm a bit at room temperature. When your meat comes off the grill to rest, have these ready to go right on!

To finish: Place them on a well sprayed hot grill, and do not turn until they are beginning to char. Turn each piece once only and grill quickly. Remove to a serving platter and watch them disappear.

Mid Summer City Garden

After 4 months spent principally at the cottage, we are now back in the city for a bit. This garden was planted quickly during drop-ins to water house plants and collect mail.

I missed out on harvesting the black currents, so hopefully the birds feasted well. Our timing for blueberries is perfect, however.

Oodles of blueberries on our 3 bushes.

Yellow onions, green onions and leeks are doing best. Some beets grew beautifully while others put all their energy into lush greens and have spindly roots.

A cooperative beet
Uncooperative beets with small roots and excessive greens

I have re- planted carrots twice and still only have about 2 dozen growing. So I’m replanting again here at the beginning of August in hopes that I can still get a crop.

Tomatoes – only 2 this year – are doing well. Considering the amount of neglect caused by our quarantining away, and the massive ant problem I had back in the Spring, I am relatively satisfied. I will plant some garlic in September, and next year concentrate more effort into potatoes and onions which we use most often anyway.

In between bigger projects, we spent half a morning making some fast improvements:

Swapped out last years worn and faded-to-pink flag with a fresh one from the dollar store. $2.50
Set up a new laundry line in a sunnier spot. PVC coated cable, 2 clamps, 1 turnbuckle and some hooks $21.
Installed a magnetic mesh screen on our seldom used “front” door for better air flow.
Installs in minutes and the only tool required is scissors. Great value at $16
These herb (and cucumber) planters looked messy sitting directly on the deck and attracted a lot of debris, woodbugs, etc.
Getting them up on wheeled planter caddies looks neater and the deck stays cleaner. $27 for 3.

Another Garden Update

Its so interesting to me to look at photos I have taken of the garden over the past few months, so posting some here to make them easily accessible. The first three were taken in the exact same spot. This is a flower garden that has tomato, rhubarb and strawberries co-planted.

April
May
June

And then there is my lower veg garden that was previously full of gladiolus and some shrubs.

Snap peas left. Beets in the middle and carrots to the right. Back row is sugar baby melon territory and a newly planted asparagus patch that should bear next year.
Plus bush beans front and centre. Melons doing nothing weeks later.
Snow peas and snap peas starting to flower. Melons still nothing. Its too cool this June and they are only getting about 6 hours sun in this location when there is sun at all. So next year either no melons or find a better spot. Snuck a second carrot planting into the barren melon patch as consolation
Neighbours Derek and Natalie gave me some sunflowers!

Spud!

I planted 2 plots of potatoes, 20 plants in all. And so far as I can see, topside, they are a huge success. They have not been nibbled like my radishes, or consumed completely by ants as happened to a whole row of romaine. They are big and vibrantly green, and still growing aggressively. I do sometimes wonder whether all the plants’ energy is going into the leaves and there will be no tubers to speak of. That would be disappointing.

I rummaged around two days ago and came up with one perfect, ping pong ball sized red potato, so feeling optimistic. I plan to dig up one plant in the first week of July, then hopefully harvest the lot two weeks later. The cooking onions are growing similarly trouble free and make me wonder if I shouldn’t just stick to these two crops as they are so trouble free and useful.

Here are some exciting moments in my life as a spud farmer:

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The new garden with 8 seed potatoes planted 8 inches down and with a heavy seaweed mulch.

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A smaller patch, mulched with dried leaves, sword ferns…

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A third layer of timothy went on top, then lots of seaweed on top of that

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New garden looking more tamed all the time, and potatoes coming up

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I’ve kept putting fresh seaweed on top, as this is a no-hill method. In future years, I will theoretically peel back this layer of mulch and plant under it again with fewer additions of fresh mulch on top

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So green and healthy in the early part of June

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This potato is hopefully a harbinger of many to come.