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Archive for the ‘household tips’ Category

For me, September marks the New Year. I no longer have the fun (maybe only in retrospect) of back-to-school shopping for clothes and sheaves of ruled paper for my sons, but still, I never feel more motivated to make meaningful changes than I do in September. This year I have the opportunity to seize on a deep and recurrent desire to really de-clutter my home. And I am on a roll.

I have discovered that taking pictures of stuff I am getting rid of is an excellent reinforcing tool. I initially just took a few pictures with the vague idea of a blog post, but I now plan to continue with both the de-cluttering and the photos.

I encourage everyone to try this: When you need a little motivation to continue with what is, lets face it, a tough chore, you can look back at your folder of pictures of things leaving your living space. You will be astonished and proud of what you have accomplished: Your resolve to continue the process will be strengthened and you will think carefully before bringing new things into your home as well. Once you have completed the process, you can delete the folder of pictures, and thereby rack up another de-cluttering accomplishment. Hopefully, a few of my photos will inspire you to give this a try. Trust me, photos of your own clutter will be even more inspiring.

Here is proof of how serious I am:  The hiking boots in the first picture arrived on a Christmas Eve 25 years ago and concealed an engagement ring in the toe. My love lives on but the boots must go!

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I deliver the best stuff to Crossroads Hospice Thrift store

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The rest goes to Value Village or Big Brothers. I kept the cat…for now.

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This is excess recycling, going to Encorp depot

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Newly empty hangers from my closet

 

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The Cottager is questing on the Camino de Santiago in Spain at the moment and if inclined, you can see what he is up to on his blog where he posts a few lines and some great pictures almost daily.

I spent the better part of a week at the cottage, just catching my breath and bonding with my new friend Farley. He is a rescue from an L.A. shelter and is now permanently on vacation.

Farley

The Urchins had a week at home without mom harassing them to clean up after themselves. And the cats were happy just to have a week without the dog, whom they do not consider a particularly good addition. And so for the price of one plane ticket to Spain, 7 winter-weary creatures had a vacation.  Told you I was frugal.

I did get a few things done.  The deck got its last ever coat of stain. Before it is due again we will rebuild and only use an oil product after that. Stain is a hassle.

unstained deck

stained deck

I also did some gardening at a relaxed pace, having decided to limit rentals and keep the cottage principally for my own enjoyment this summer. 

A few good friends came to visit. My parents came too, which was wonderful as the have only come in fall or winter before and hadn’t seen my garden to advantage or walked on the beach.

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Besides these pleasant events, the highlight of my vacation was having nine or ten blissful and uninterrupted hours of sleep each night. No doubt Cottager and the Urchins have better highlights.

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Makes 5 dozen: These are going to my son and his room mates at UVIC

Makes 5 dozen: These are going to my son and his room mates at UVIC

What makes a good Valentines Day recipe to show your love to those special people in your life?

That depends on where you are in life. If you are in your 20s you probably want something beautiful and decadent to impress your partner (See the Food of Love 2012.) In you’re in your 70’s it might involve prunes (See Plum Clafouti.)

I have one son at university and another about to go. This year the Food of Love demands something delicious but easy; involving inexpensive ingredients and producing a big batch. This is for all the students out there.

If, like my son, you are on a budget, buy an inexpensive brand of peanut butter when it is on sale, get your chocolate and butterscotch chips and your oatmeal from the bulk section, and buy a box of margarine squares to keep in your freezer. These are pre-measured half cups perfect for baking and also sub in when you run short of regular tub margarine.

INGREDIENTS
1 cup margarine (2 sticks or squares, softened)
1 cup peanut butter
2 cups brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1.5 cups flour
1.5 cups quick oats
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup chocolate chips
.5 cups butterscotch chips

METHOD
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Combine softened margarine, peanut butter, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla in a large mixing bowl.
Beat until very light and fluffy. Fluffier!

Combine flour, oats and baking soda in a smaller bowl, stir to mix.
Add into creamed ingredients and mix well.
Add in chocolate and butterscotch chips; stir.

Scoop dough into golf size balls on greased or parchment lined baking sheets.
Bake 10 minutes. If not browning slightly, give them 2 more minutes.
Cool on rack. Turn off the oven, Hon!

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When we first bought the cottage, I was determined to paint every interior wall.
Then I started to like the white-white walls and white-white trim.

Over the winter, we’ve done a mini make-over of the kitchen – with a few finishing touches yet to come. We replaced the dishwasher, stove and baseboard heater.

And it became clear that it was a good time to paint. So would it be white-white or white on white?We opted for white on white. Aside from the simple happiness a really fresh coat of paint can bring – I like it.

Didn’t go looking for Linen White as recommended by the Cottage Decor guru. Simple reason – we had a half a gallon of BM Elmira White. In some lights and angles the difference is very subtle – just enough to make the white trim pop.

At night, under artificial light, (and in this “after” picture) it is a bit more distinct. For a kitchen, I would say its pretty perfect.

Won’t be long until we feel the urge to give the main room and halls a paint job too. Probably next winter or spring. When we do, I will likely go about 50% lighter still, to get a really subtle white on white effect in these areas that will still harmonize with the kitchen and make all that white trim pop.

So here it is before…

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And here it is after – with a new piece of countertop and some backsplash tile still to come….

White on White cottage paint job in the kitchen

White on White cottage paint job in the kitchen

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The Cottager is technically Irish, so with St. Patrick’s Day falling on the weekend, it seemed a good time to invite the neighbours in. Everyone brought something, and it was a fine meal with lots of laughs on the side.

We started with a cheese plate featuring marbled Guinness cheese. Very pretty and mild. Andy made soda bread, which arrived warm. I made a dip with corned beef, dill and cream cheese.

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Next up was two types of barbecued sausages, served along with brown onion gravy, green salad, and colcannon, a traditional potato dish with cabbage and bacon mashed right in.

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Then there were two great cakes. I made Nigella Lawson’s dense Chocolate Guinness cake – I’d make it again, but I would try it in a tube or bunt pan another time as it sunk a bit in the middle. It has a cream cheese icing that makes the cake resemble a glass of Guinness.

My neighbour, Margaret, made a fabulous Bailey’s cake that apparently starts with a yellow cake mix but took it to another level. When I get the recipe I’ll post it.

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It’s a beautiful day for gardening. It would be especially fine at the cottage, but I am in Port Moody, where I also have a garden wanting attention.

Sun is shining. Cats are almost ready for their early naps.
Urchins are off to school, having left the kitchen in a shambles.

But what to do with this cereal bag holding almost a cup of crumbs? It’s Vector, so has a value just slightly lower than gold dust.

It took me about two minutes to layer up this breakfast parfait of fruit, nonfat yoghurt and vector crumbs but it tastes at least five times better than if I had just dumped it in a bowl. You should take a moment to be good to yourself today too!

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My kids have long envied a friend of mine who married into a Chinese Canadian family and enjoys a roast-turkey-and-chow-mein dinner each Christmas. My oldest son is graduating this year and I fear it won’t be long until I get the sad news that he is planning to spend Thanksgiving (or Christmas, or another traditional family holiday) as the guest of some other family with a fetching daughter. So, it now behooves me to up the ante a little.

Bacon is apparently the ‘it’ food these days – at least with young men. I read an anecdote in Maclean’s magazine just prior to Thanksgiving concerning a turkey-farming MP who puts pulpy orange juice and soy sauce into the roasting pan as a gravy starter and covers his turkey breast with slices of bacon for extra flavour and moistness. Without more information that this, I decided to have a go. I would say the bacon was definitely an addition; however, the orange juice/soy sauce burned in the pan and took several soak/scrubs to conquer. I’d stocked up on some gravy mixes anyway (Sorry, I can’t hear your boos and hisses) so no harm done to the dinner.

Strips of bacon keep the turkey moist and add flavour.

We cooked our turkey at the cottage on Saturday, so we could indulge ourselves in cold turkey sandwiches for lunch on Sunday and hot turkey sandwiches for dinner. When the turkey was resting and I was mashing the potatoes – which didn’t get into the picture somehow – I sent Cottager out on a secret mission to the Bayview Szechuan restaurant in the village for a container of chicken chow mein. He was back just as I finished carving the bird.

I don’t fuss with setting a beautiful table when we don’t have guests since my crew is fairly food-centric. It was just nice to have a quiet family meal at the end of a day working out-of-doors at our fall clean-up tasks. The chow mein was a surprisingly nice addition. I believe we have a new tradition. Hopefully one that will keep my boys coming home for Thanksgiving dinner.

Turkey and chow mein with all the trimmings

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