Sunday, May 31, 2009

Here I am.

(I went on a shopping spree and got all dolled up for the kids' end of the year piano recital yesterday. I think I adhered to the principles of WT fairly well!)

I've started a weight loss blog at 3Fat Chicks. I think I'll be spending a fair bit of time over there and on the exercise bike in the basement! We'll see.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Meet The Little Iron Horse

This is Cherry Creek Fonzie Merit.*

Otherwise known as "The Canadian Horse."


It would seem we have a national breed.

Way back in the 1600's, at the request of Intendant Jean Talon, horses from the stables of King Louis XIV were sent to New France to help establish the struggling colony. (Along with the Filles du Roi, but that's another tale.)

Once they got here, they interbred in isolation for about 300 years. Apparently the result was a unique and wonderful horse with incredible pulling abilities. It was also sturdy, took the harness well, and gentle. It had remarkably good feet and could endure the harsh winter on little feed. Apparently their dispositions are fabulous: if a bit "in your face" at times.
But truly, what better horse for the family farm?

Of course, the poor thing nearly went extinct in the late 1800's. (The reasons why are actually quite interesting. See the links below). In spite of a government breeding program, only 400 existed 100 years later. Now, however, thanks to independent breeders there are about 3,000.

credit: Clix Photography

Sturdy, hardy, survives on little and modest in stature.

Best of all, Canadian Horses are renowned for their kind, sensible, sociable
natures, intelligence and willingness to please.**

What great qualities to have in a National Horse, eh? Especially a Canadian Horse.

I love it. And I like it even better that I have learned this and can pass it on to my kids.

First photo from

Last two photos and information from


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Holiday Weekend

This is the first holiday weekend of summer.

Or, rather, it is supposed to be.

When I lived in Ontario, it was known as the "Two-four" weekend.


Cases of beer come with 24 bottles (or cans) in that province. Get a case and barbecue. Or head to the Beach. Or both. We didn't do any barbecuin' this weekend.

Here, it is known as the "Gardening weekend."
It happens to correspond with our first frost free date.


But there was one small drop of hope.

His Turn

The Strawberry Shortcake Cake disappeared all too quickly, even though I had to actually ask my husband if he liked it. He had the audacity to refuse my offers of a second piece after supper. And then again he refused one before bed. You know what he said? He said he didn't want to go nuts eating it as I'd spent three hours making it.

So, it was most definitely time to bake another treat. One that wouldn't take me three hours. And hey, it was the long weekend. But this time, I decided I'd put the boy through his paces as my sous-chef.

I turned to another recipe from the Pioneer Woman: Sigrid's Carrot Cake. It was interesting to compare the cream cheese icing recipes. Both contained the same amount of cream cheese, but different amounts of butter and icing sugar. I preferred this one: lots and lots of the creamy cheesy taste.

Baking with a boy is a little different than baking with a girl. The boy isn't all that interested in creaming and mixing things. But, using a knife? And a grater?

Yes. Tools.

He grated.

And grated.

He gave it his greatest effort.

It looked wonderful.

It took forever to bake though. That might have been because I was roasting a chicken on the bottom rack while this baked above. I had to keep inserting a knife into the center.

Needless to say, it fell. When I asked my Mom "how can I keep my cakes from falling?" she just shrugged.

Oops. Looks like there might be a bit of painting to do.

By the time I thought to take the picture, we'd already, ahem, had dessert. With seconds. And my Mom took the middle "fallen" bit. "More icing," she said.

It makes a great breakfast too.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Adventures in Baking

I have been reading far too much of the Pioneer Woman's website lately. So, as a "I'll make it up to you" sort of treat, I decided that Aurelia and I would make her "Strawberry Shortcake Cake" this afternoon.


I figured it would take all afternoon--and it did.

But it almost didn't happen at all.

It started out uneventfully. I mixed the dry ingredients and showed Aurelia how to "sift" them with a fork. Next, we meticulously measured out our nine tablespoons of butter. Then, I got out the sugar and Aurelia was happily pouring it into 1/2 cup measures ("How many 1/2 cup measures do we need, sweetie?" "Three," she answers. "Yup." I reply. There. That was math for today) when she turns to me and says, "Mommy, I don't think we have enough."


Sure enough, the last 1/2 cup measure is only 3/4s full.

"We can make do, " she says.

"Um, no, oh dear." I don't know if we can. I'm not that sort of cook. If the recipe says 1 1/2 cups, then that is what we must have and not a smidgeon less. But the grocery store on the corner shut down this winter for renovations and never re-opened--and I have no car and my bicycle seat scares the pants off me.

"We'll go over to Mrs. D and ask her if we can borrow a cup of sugar," I say. I hate to beg, but this is clearly an emergency even if of the most prosaic kind.

We stand on the doorstop, measuring cup in hand and ring the doorbell.

Mrs. D is not home.

"Well, Daddy should be home in about an hour," I say, soothingly. "We can wait until then."

Her face fell. It was terrible to see. All the joy in life was gone forever.

Then, I had a brainstorm. Without saying anything to her, (Though, truly, how could that face fall any further?) I went over to the cupboard, and lo and behold there was the sugar bowl. And praise be, it was full.

I don't like creaming together the butter and the sugar, though.
Fortunately, she does.

She's a happy girl. "Mommy, I've been creaming for eight years," she positively chirps.
Well, not quite eight years. I did wait until she was old enough to stand before I taught her how to do it.

Not ten minutes into the oven, though, and disaster strikes.
We hear a hiss.
We hear a small plop.

Oh my word. The cake pan is too small. I chose the nine inch cake pan all right--but oh dear. There was nothing I could do but watch it ooze over the side and bake uselessly at the bottom of the oven.

After that, things were fairly uneventful. Aurelia and I did the dishes in between each step as we ought. I was quite proud of that.

The pan wasn't too bad either when it came out of the oven--and it was a cinch to clean after someone ate all the caramelized cake off the bottom of the pan.

Then, it came time to make the icing.

Now, anyone who doesn't live in the States who has used recipes not written for the rest of the world has learned certain conversions. In this recipe, I made sure to convert 1/2 pound of cream cheese to grams (so I would know how much to buy) and the "sticks" of butter into cups.

But until that moment, I had not noticed that PW's recipe called for 1 1/2 lbs of icing sugar. 1 1/2 lbs? What do you mean, pounds? What, do you all have little weigh scales in your kitchens, or what? What is this with giving measurements by weight instead of by volume?

So a frantic web search ensues. It turns out, that would be about 0.6 Kilograms. But that still doesn't tell me how many cups I need! Fortunately, there's a recipe for "Basic butter icing" on the package. It calls for two cups. I figure, we'll try that and see how it goes.

It went well.

Taste Test: Ironically, it is a bit sweet. And I missed that cake on the bottom of the oven! I think a little lemon zest in the cake batter would not go amiss, next time.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


At first, there was the inevitable panic about the colour. It had the unfortunate characteristic of looking just like the original colour already on the fence when wet--but drying much, much darker. As one passerby commented, "You sure can see where you haven't painted."


Except...driving by this morning after taking hubby to heart skipped a beat. There it was....shining golden in the bright morning sunshine.

Nonetheless, I knew there was a difference. There had to be. The children painted the entire street side of the East Side Fence yesterday. They really did a fantastic job and I am quite proud of them.

I wrote this up last night with the intention of taking the "after" picture this morning, in the same light as I'd taken the before, on Sunday.
Can you see a difference?

Monday being the second day of his weekend, my guy set up his brand new saw

and cut all the boards we need for the three 4x4 raised beds. (That's the west side fence above. No, that string isn't holding it up--that's for the raspberry bushes. ) He even put one half of one together for me.

Nice. (The Rose which shall likely be moved is where the red ball is.)

My daughter cheerfully did the part of the fence there behind the Highbush Cranberry. I'm glad someone in this family is so tiny! Her next challenge is to paint in behind the elderberry bush--just to the left outside this shot.

And there I left it for the day. I figure it would have taken me the last 1/2 of the third can of paint and only a couple of hours to finish. But, we stopped.

1) Nine to four is probably all the child labour laws will let me work my children.

2) I wanted a shower. 'Nuff said.

3) My daughter had a soccer game at 6:15 and a piano class after that. (Have I mentioned she is sitting her Grade One piano exam in a few weeks? All you music types out there can probably better appreciate that than I can)

4) I was dog tired.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day. My Way. (or not).

So, a few weeks ago, the hubby asks me, "What do you want for Mother's Day?"

And I said either;
a) Please finish the fireplace mantel. (It is now his project because it involves the manly Art of Cutting Wood. (I hope I said please.)
b) Let's get the fence painted.
c) Build me the raised beds I want for planting this year.
d) All of the Above.

"That's not much," he replied, meaning, "that's nothing very special."
Except that it is.
It is.

I woke up bright and early this morning, excited. Something was going to happen. We were going to get one of the those projects finished.

For the fence, I just needed to pressure wash the street side of the East fence-- Oh and the inside South corner. The boy and hubby had already done 3/4's of the inside East fence--trying out the new pressure washer my Mother had bought for the family for Christmas. The West fence I was going to tackle Another Time.

So bright and early this morning, I snapped the befores.

Steetside East Fence: (Yep. A wonky panoramic).

Inside East Side South Corner, this morning:

(Yep. That pile o'debris from last summer grew under the snow, I swear).

I really thought the kids and I would paint the fence while hubby built three 4x4 raised platforms for vegetable beds. We have heavy, horrible clay soil. With raised beds, I've been told, I can happily ignore it. The instructions were posted here. In February! Gah. Fortunately I had the forethought to save them. Hubby read them over last night. He said, "Looks simple enough." Whew. Unless my man feels totally confident about the way I want a project done, it doesn't happen. So, thank you, Ree!

Those were my plans.
I would paint, he would build.

The boxes, by the way, are going to go here: eventually there will be four in a foursquare parterre-ish pattern. I just have to move the Rose. She won't like that and neither will I.

This picture is from the end of June last year.

This is the picture taken this morning. Yes, we've been sledging again!

But before washing the fence, I realised I should whack down the long grass now growing along the bottom edge (and no where else, of course.) That meant getting the weed whacker going. No problem, except I broke the string in the first two minutes. And then hubby informs me, he needs the instruction manual to rethread it. He looked in his workshop while I looked in my files: it t'were nowhere to be found. Eventually, he announced he had rethreaded it. After I finished that ten minute job, (which took all morning), I had him haul out the pressure washer for me. Man. I do not want to re-live the horror of trying to get those hoses connected and the thing plugged in and the thing moved outside. Then, inside. And upside down. Yep. It happened. Hubby eventually figured out there were screws to hold the handle onto the machine. All he had to do was tighten them!

And here's what I did to the crosspiece bit of fence in my efforts to remove the mold. Or mildew. Could've been mildew. Whatever it was--it's gone now! Gone with the chunks of wood.....

It was three o'clock before we set off to go to Rona's to get the boards for the raised beds and the paint for the fence. And just as hubby was about to back down the driveway, I cried, "Stop!"

"I forgot the paint swatch."

And then, of course, I couldn't find it.

What I did find, (hooray for no Spring Cure this year!) was last year's two cans of paint purchased as "testers." I made good and sure I picked the proper one--I held both up to the bits of the fence I painted last year. I held it up to the bright side and squinted. I held it up to the shady side (much easier to tell, by the way) and I even got my man out of the waiting Jeep to confirm my choice of can--and we headed off.

The trip to Rona took four hours. (Everything takes four hours.) Well, OK, not quite, but long enough that the next priority was plainly stopping at the grocery store to buy a pre-roasted chicken and a tub of potato salad for supper and come home and eat.

And so, the fence now?

Yep. In the evening light.
Except the skies are grey and threaten to rain. So, maybe it's OK.
Except it would have been something special to have had it painted.
It would.
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