Monday, 7 September 2015

And That was Summer!

Happy Labour Day everyone, I hope you are actually not working and celebrating the day it was meant to be celebrated. I don't know how many people march in labour union parades anymore but I think we all deserve a day that was designed to honour all workers. This still marks the end of the year for me. The school calendar still rules my mind. It's funny that autumn, the season of winding down and dying off, feels more like the beginning of the year than January. Being back in an industry that revolves around the school year intensifies this but for me I wilt all summer long and only come back to life once the weather turns and the sky turns fall blue.
It's been a busy summer. I went back to work after a long winter of idleness; spent two whirlwind weeks working at the Panam Games to come back to my store to quickly get up to speed for back to school. August has gone by in a blur and I'm looking forward to a break in September and October to settle into the job and get the store ready for Christmas. Jeff has been working his way through his course and will be heading into the co-op portion soon. It's going really well. We had a family reunion, Kilpatrick style, in June. That went well I think and it was good to see Greg looking healthier than I've seen him in a while. Jeff and Sharon look good too although they continue to deal with chronic health issues.
Moving into fall Greg, the younger, will be working in an accelerated program that will see him finally finishing high school. It's a self-directed course and he assures me that he's motivated and will succeed. Greg, the older, has entered into yet another battle with his health now undergoing cancer treatment for the leukemia that's been lurking about for years. If you can, get out and give a swab to get on the bone marrow donor list.
This summer also marks one year in Cambridge. I think we're all settled and happy. The house still has projects but it's snug and cozy. Once this crazy heat passes we're going to tackle the front yard landscaping. Not such a big job as it's the size of a postage stamp but I have grand plans that I'd like to get shaped out before the snow flies. Then on to replacing the back fence. We're going to recycle the old boards various places around the yard but the back fence is so dilapidated that I feel very white trash. Some of the boards will be cut down to make a weathered picket fence for the front yard. I'll post pics once things are co-ordinated.
And so we go gently into my favourite season of the year. I look forward to pulling out all my old issues of Victoria ( fall ) and wandering through photos lush fall colours, layering up rather than wishing there was some way to peel off my skin and heating up the oven to get some treats baking. A trip north is definitely needed to see the colours.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Mid summer's dream

It's been a while but the reasoning is my life went from 7 months of boredom and unease to 2 months of full speed new experiences. As most of you know I'm finally back to work. I made a conscious decision to find work somewhere in the children's industry. Retail continues to keep me and I was given an opportunity to return to a company I had worked for when I first came back to work after being a stay at home mom for ten years, Scholars Choice.
I've been back a little over two months and have just this week taken over as sole manager. The previous manager was training me for the first two weeks, she's having a baby in September. I found out Friday that it has been recommended that she not come back to work for the last month and so here I am. Mostly trained, remembering more and more of how it used to work and looking forward to rebuilding the business at my store. You may be thinking, why does it take thus long to train up? The reason is in the middle of all this I took off for two weeks to run three retail venues for the PanAm games. I had to switch hats and learn new systems, albeit simple ones. That was a whirlwind two weeks of sun, heating , selling and leading a great team.
I feel content for the first time in a long while. Work keeps me busy all the time and the team and I seem to be meshing.
This weekend I had hoped to go away but the gang headed to cottage country instead and left Greg and I to cat sit. Greg is camping out at Jess and Alex's for the weekend and I have the house completely to myself. I can't remember the last time this happened. No one looking for food, except the cats, no one wanting me to do anything. After a month of full tilt activity this is bliss. And with all this free time guess what I'm doing. That's right baking. It's been so hot the past month I've barely felt like putting a meal on the table. Today is cool and cloudy, just the right weather to fire up the oven and feed my soul.
I spent an hour going through one of my old standby recipe books looking for a zucchini loaf recipe. One of my co-workers gave me a yellow zucchini from her garden so I wanted to do it justice. I doubled the batch and whipped up two dozen muffins. They're delicious, I tested them.Next I had some over bananas so I made a double batch of batter that has cherries and chocolate as well. I made mini loaves of this. They've just come out of the oven but the batter tasted good so I have every confidence that they'll be good too.
Tonight will be spent watching chick flicks without the comments, heaven. Glass of wine too I think.
Tomorrow I do some yard work. We still haven't planted the gardens  but the ones that still live here need attention. I've plans for a fairy garden in one corner of the backyard. We're waiting for the cooler weather to tackle all that.
I think not going away this weekend was probably a godsend. I need peace and quiet instead of more hustle and bustle.
On another note my oldest son turned 23 this weekend. I'm constantly surprised that they keep growing up while I'm still trying to figure out who I am. Jeff is a Leo through and through. A charming showman who sometimes forgets that others have feelings. He's still my best bud but I can feel the chaffing of a grown child still living at home. I try to give him space but he's still under my roof so you know how that goes. Too many chiefs and all that.
And so we head into August, I may be imagining it but I can feel fall coming. Probably wishful thinking after a long, hot month.This time of year at the store is as busy as Christmas so the team and I have a lot to do. We're up for it. Once it quiets down again I need to start hiring. I've been thinking a lot about my old team at the Brampton Scholars. Boy, if Isabel lived closer I'd give her a call and say we're getting the old crew back together, let's rock. As it is, I'll get to know some new people in my new neighbourhood, perfect.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Deep philosophical thoughts

Happy June! Bit of an odd way to start but, for me anyway, June is starting out happily. I didn't make it widely known because I was embarrassed to be, once more, in this state but I have been out of work for the past 6 months. In the end, my path and Victorinox's weren't the same. I joined because of the opportunity to build a brand in Canada knowing little about the brand. I found it difficult to really sell the brand ( not the product) to our customers and to do what I usually do best which is build a loyal repeat business. When the chance to grow the brand across Canada changed so did my commitment to the company. Sadly, it ended before Christmas. On the positive side I had the winter to get healthy (remember the shingles) and work on really settling in house here in Cambridge. Always more desirable to have another position to go to before you leave the last but everything happens when it is supposed to happen. Another thing I've been doing is really looking at my career and deciding what works and what doesn't. The conclusion was that, while I like to sell and have sold almost everything, I need my contribution to make a difference. This led me back to children's retailing. I started by applying and interviewing for children's clothing retailers and over to the toy industry. That leads me to one of the happy things happening this month which is rejoining Scholars Choice.

 This company took me on when I rejoined the work force in 2000 after my being a stay at home mom for 10 years. My reasons for leaving were and still are important, lack of recognition of my skills and talents. The difference now is that I've made that need perefectly clear from the onset. The odd thing about coming back to a company that knew you is that the conversations start somewhere in the middle. Heather, my new DM, and I were both managers and we both left the company for extended periods of time. My conversation with Heather ran the lines of catching up, talking about the industry and then to the new specifics of Scholars Choice. I'm coming back to a company much changed by the recession and still strangely familiar. To start with they knew me as Nancy St-Onge, lots of water under the bridge in 10 years. I'm gong into a familiar scenario where the store needs to build it's business within it's four walls and adding on the challenge of building the business through B2B connections in the educational/daycare industry. I'm up for it. Lots of work? I sure hope so! Large expectations because of past association? Definitely! As I've said to Heather, I'm looking at this as a completely new job in an industry where I have experience. They've changed and so have I. My quiver is full of new skills both personal and professional. In the end I'm always me; light-hearted, loyal, smart and out-spoken. What I've learned is when and where to use these. Wish me luck and come see me at the Scholars Choice Kitchener store, if you're in the area!

Take a close look at the above photo because getting this group all together for a family photo is rare indeed. In case you don't know, this is me and my brother and sisters, Jeff, Joy and Dayle. I'm the superstar in the shades. No one told me to take them off! We have not all been together since mom's funeral and it was a much happier occasion that brought us together this weekend. Dayle was researching our family tree and came across a second ( I think) cousin, Marian. Being the social butterfly she and Marian struck up an online friendship that dew me in and we ended up trying to plan a get together. Marian lives in England so distance was clearly a factor. Serendipity stepped in with Marian and her husband David planning a visit to her kids here in Cambridge. I stepped out of my comfort zone and offered up our place for a party and so it went. Jeff and Sharon are often left out of the loop because they don't live the digital life but an invitation was mailed and to our delight they said they'd come. Joy, that sneaky so and so,made it very clear that she was too busy and important to join us. Let's just say a few tears were shed when Nat's car pulled up with her in the front seat. 

Marian and David, poor David, got the full Ferrier treatment. Sister speak, as we know it, ran rampant. I don't know if other families do this but we all have so many vital and important things to say that we all have to say them all at once. We can decipher it but for the untrained outsider it can be a bit daunting, again, poor David. Luckily for us Marian is a Kilpatrick, which means she carries the gab gene. Clearly one of us! She even thought she could have some olives!! Only those in the know understand how sacred the olive count is in our family. Needless to say we all had a good time. 
Our family is fairly far flung and we, quite frankly, don't worry too much about keeping in touch but put us all in one place and none of that matters. Sharon's stories are always entertaining, Joy and I catch up on everything and Dayle never shuts up (love you) . Marian and David seemed glad to have met us. At least we didn't scare them off, lol! Mom's side of the family is a mystery to us so having this one small link to it is precious. 
Thank you Dayle for not being happy living in our little cocoon and reaching  out. I'm sure mom is thrilled to know we're keeping family strong and adding new branches. As usual, Love you all.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Happy Mother's Day

I've waxed poetic about my mom a number of times but I think I'll do it one more time. It's five years since she left us and a week doesn't go by when I don't stop and think, " I wish I could tell mom about this". Life continues to be a chaotic mess and although I'm now the one who doles out 'words of wisdom', I could sure use a few reassuring words from her. My cousin Christine is worrying about her mom having to move into a seniors' home but I see Aunt Irene as being made out of the same sturdy stock as my mom. Life happens, you pick up and carry on as best you can. As Dayle reminded us one of mom's favourite sayings in the later years was " life might not be great but it's better than the alternative!".

This photo is from Christmas 2011
I look at my kids and think that mom would have really liked this bunch. They're outspoken (can't imagine which gene produced that), funny and good. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I've been blessed with these kids. As they grow into adults ( yes, I know, we've been adults for a while now, mom) we tend to talk about our years at Kesteven Crescent. Not with longing for the good old days but discussing the tough times we went through. It was not a happy home, although I tried to hide the cracks in their dad's and my relationship. It turns out the cracks were more like crevasses and the kids felt, at times, like they might fall in. I'm sorry I couldn't make it better at the time but we were and still are a tight knit little group who stand up for each other.
I am a Sagittarian and all that entails. I see the good side of everything, am honest and speak my mind and I have wanderlust. What does this mean as a mom? Well, I've been told I don't always sugar coat things. Ha, no kidding. I will never say anything in malice but I do speak the plain truth. If I think you're being a jerk you'll know it. If I'm pissed off you ( and a few of the neighbours) will know that too. But I'm fiercely loyal especially when it comes to my kids. I miss the days when I had to do battle for them. The world better not mess with my cubs. The gang has endured my need for the new through three moves in the last 10 years and a number of job changes. I've been told in no uncertain terms that I'm not allowed to move again. I'll just have to slip out in the night next time. It's apparently ok for them to move though. Jenn and Theo are moving back to Brampton this month and I worry that we won't make time for each other. This past year with all of us in the same town has been great. I don't want to lose that... do you hear me, Jenn?
For Mother's Day I`m being taken out for brunch at a lovely restaurant we all like. So, as I don`t have a mom to thank, I want to reverse the thanks. Thanks for being such great kids and making my job as your mom pretty easy. We are far from perfect but as I`ve said before we`ve collected other people who want to be part of this crazy family so we must be doing something right. Love you all lots.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

April 23rd and snow

Mother Nature as usual is having her last laugh this week with temperatures hovering around 0 and this morning, snow and ice. Luckily the kids and I haven't taken the winter tires off yet.Sometimes laziness pays off!

This weekend my baby, that's my 6'2" baby, turned 19. Weird to think that, officially, Greg is a man capable of making his own decisions. The reality of it is I still nag him out of bed to get to school every day. As frustrating as it can be sometimes to live with Greg the truth is I like this kid. He sees the world from a completely different angle. This is saying a lot in a family where we're all skewed a little off the norm. He and I have figured out how to rub along together as long as outside forces (that is usually Jeff) don't interfere. Our typical quality time has the two of us in the same room doing completely different things and hardly talking. It works because we're together and have the opportunity to talk as needed. Not what the books call well spent time but in this house it's perfect. I continue to worry about him getting through high school, we're currently exploring yet another avenue that hopefully will get him to the end. Anyway, Happy Birthday my little smooky poo!

I was picking up some fabric a week ago to make a shade for Jeff's window and, as usual, got talking to another lady in line. She doesn't sew and was commenting that she couldn't find a pattern for draped swags. I jokingly said she was showing her age because that style is no longer in fashion. Long story short this lead to me explaining how easy it really is to make curtains and valances and one of the sales clerks at Len's saying that I should make the valances for her. We exchanged numbers and I came home and made Jeff's shade and a cute summer purse I'd been planning. Sonia called me a few days later and asked if I would make the valances and we went back to purchase her fabric. I spent a few hours designing her scalloped valances and sending her patterns. In the end Sonia, with the influence of her daughter, decided not to put up valances right now but this lead me to design something similar for my kitchen windows.
 I've had this fabric for about 10 years. I made a table cloth for the dining table years ago and am thrilled to have the rest out where I can see it every day.

This all leads to my saying that, yes, the bake-off continues but other things are always popping up to distract me. ADHD much Nancy, ooh, sparkly. Oh, ya, I also painted the front windows, first coat only. If it warms up next week I'll finish that job. Looks so much better than the peeling avocado paint.

Last week my sous-chef and I (that's Greg) decided to make a couple of cookies from the spice section. I had Jess go over the list and choose which ended up with some editing of my lovely handwriting into what they thought I had written. Horrible children, but I think the new name for the Honey Sandies to Hans Solo cookies might be an improvement.

 We ended up with Browned Butter Cardamom cookies and Gossamer Spice cookies. I had included the latter recipe because they look like the IKEA ginger cookies we all like so much. Both batters had to be chilled before using so I whipped up both before coercing Greg into helping. Now I read over the recipes before I started and gathered all the ingredients but some of those numbers are written soo small that maybe I made a few changes.
 I like to use browned butter in a lot of things so the idea of using it in cookies was really appealing. Cardamom is quickly becoming one of our family's favourite spices and both cookies had it in them. The above photo is of the Browned Butter cookies. They are baked until just set and not browned. The result is a soft, chewy cookie with a lovely buttery flavour. The cardamom is not noticeable but the votes overall was that this is a good cookie to use as a base for other flavours. I don't really like chewy cookies but the majority rules and the rest of the family does so this one stays in the line-up. I think I'll spice them up a little more next time.
 Now the Gossamer cookies are basically a ginger snap. This is where that tiny writing got me. I was supposed to add a 1/2 tspn " apple pie spice", which is just cinnamon and nutmeg combined. I accidentally added 1/4 tspn cinnamon an 1/2 tspn nutmeg, oh well, the spicier the better as far as I'm concerned. That wasn't the end of it though. The recipe called for an 1/8 tspn of ground red pepper. Not having that I decided that cayenne could be substituted. No problem except that I added a 1/4 tspn instead of an 1/8th. In the end what happened was that the cookies have a bit of a nip to them not really an issue but next time I'll use the correct amount of pepper. The recipe also said to use my 2" cutter and what resulted were little cookies that look more like crackers than cookies. In light of the fact that the cookies are quite spicy I think the smaller size this time is perfect but next time when I make them perfectly I'm going to use the 3" cutter and roll them less the thickness of gossamer. The final decision on these are that they do remind us of the IKEA gingersnaps and they are worth keeping.

In case you haven't noticed we haven't eliminated a lot of recipes, lol. The gang is mostly enjoying having a barrage of new cookie flavours. I think the conclusion here is that we all just like cookies, any flavour, any shape.                                                                                                                 I think I'll go into the bar section of my recipes for next week. They're usually quick and easy to        make. Jess marked the goat-cheese brownies as one she'd like me to make. I've had that on my             Christmas baking list for a few years so I think that will be one. Wait and see what else I make. 
Think Spring everyone, the shoots are starting to pop up here. I'm sure Dayle is living in a tropical lushness and hopefully that foot of snow in Joy's backyard has melted. Love ya all.                          

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Cookie Bake Off Part Two

I planned on doing this baking last week but I was distracted by finding that my acrylic paints I hadn't touched for a few years were not dried out. This lead me to digging out a couple of ceramic houses that I had purchased a while ago as well and painting them. Those of you who follow me on Pinterest will know that I love miniatures and I have been collecting and painting these buildings for over a decade. I love making the small details stand out and creating my own, colourful world. Here's some pictures of my little town.
 My photography is at it's usual standard, I blame the camera. I inadvertently captured my mini Santas as well. Yes, I know Christmas is over but I spent a lot of time painting each of those so they stay out. My town consists of a dress shop, book shop ( of course) toy shop, bakery, hotel and a 
couple of houses. This is one of those things that I could care less what anyone else thinks. I've had 
fun painting them and they make me happy so they are always on the shelf.  Anyway, I worked on the bakery and brown house last week instead of baking.                                                                       So, back to the baking. I decided to go through some of my spritz recipes and came up with three that I wanted to try, mocha, hazelnut and buttery. In the end I only baked up two of them both of which taste lovely. You'd think that would be the end of it and I'd just show you some pictures but, as is more often than not the norm, things went a little bit astray. I have wanted a cookie press for years and a few Christmases ago Jess gave me one. It's the Wilton ergonomic handle one that is all plastic. It's light and has a ratchet press that should, in theory, make things easier. The reality of this press is that it's too fragile to handle any dough other than the softest. So far the only thing I have successfully pressed is my super tender whipped shortbread. Nonetheless I wanted to try these recipes. I started with the mocha recipe and as it mixed I thought to myself that this dough seem pretty stiff to go through the press. It turns out I was right. I packed the press as per the instructions and tried to press the dough. The press make some, shall we say, disturbing noises and nothing came out. I tried it a few more clicks and came to the conclusion that this was not going to happen. I pushed the dough out of the press and it came out in a beautifully round log. I then proceeded to do the same with the remaining dough and ended up with four logs. I took out my sharpest knife and cut them into 1/4" slices and baked them for the recommended time and they turned out great! They look nothing like the sunflowers I pictured in my head but the recipe is tasty. For the second batch I decided on the hazelnut spritz.  I didn't have any hazelnuts so I substituted ground almonds.Being always optimistic I thought maybe this dough would be soft enough, I was wrong. This dough came out the same as the first. I decided to get out my melon baller and roll scant 1" balls. Not wanting to give up on the press I put it to a slightly different use. You could say that I still pressed the dough the only difference is that I pressed down on the balls with the end of the press and made a daisy design on each cookie. This recipe creates a wonderfully buttery cookie. Another time maybe I'll press a half almond into the top before cooking. In the end I think I'll keep both of these recipes. I think I'm going to have to invest in a metal cookie press though. Here's a picture of both, the mocha ones don't look like much but they taste good and that's what really matters, right?    

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Where to Next?: Welcome to the completely unsolicited just because...

Where to Next?: Welcome to the completely unsolicited just because...: It's early morning on the first full day of spring. Yes, we made it through another harsh winter. The front yard is south facing so it h...

Welcome to the completely unsolicited just because I want to Cookie Bake off !

It's early morning on the first full day of spring. Yes, we made it through another harsh winter. The front yard is south facing so it has melted and the bits of trash and the ugly garden are now visible. Plans for this yard are nebulous. All I know is the stupid black garden border will be coming out as will the strange combo of plants. The only thing I really want to keep is the lilac bush. All grass ( all 10 square feet of it) will go as well. Such a waste of time trimming that. I'm thinking I'll plant the entire yard with a wildflower garden that will attract butterflies. We had one of these many houses ago and the flowers are colourful and the butterflies are wonderful. So, let's set that aside until the ground thaws and get back to the bake off.
Once I finally sat down and organised my recipes I had 111 recipes to get through. I've organised them by type; shortbreads, with nuts, shaped etc. For our first entry I chose three recipes that were versions of the Snickerdoodle. Snickerdoodles are sort of a sugar cookie that has been dressed up. I like them because they don't require rolling and cutting. I hate rolling and cutting cookies. Gingerbread men end up limb-less under my less than patient hands. Mixing and applying royal icing, blech. Let's be honest, royal icing tastes like nothing. I like to concentrate on taste with all of my baking so perfection of shape is the least of my worries.
Back to the Snickerdoodles. The point of my bake off is to wade through my copious collection of recipes and discard, deep breath here, the ones that don't pass the test. These recipes are coming from my three decade collection of Christmas Cookies magazines that Better Homes and Gardens puts out annually. I'm trying to purge my collection of magazines so these will be the first to go. Focus Nancy, I chose three recipes to bake this week. A classic Snickerdoodle, a Saffron Snickerdoodle and a Snickerdoodle crescent. ( It's fun to write the name a bunch of times!!). I used my seasoned tasting panel, my kids. Each household received a dozen of each type and were told to let me know what the conclusion was. I kept some in the freezer for a certain sister who wanted to be part of this but lives several hundred miles away.
  The signature feature of Snickerdoodles is rolling them in a sugar/spice mix before cooking. Classic has simply white sugar and cinnamon ( the darker crackled cookie above); Saffron had a Chai mixture and the Crescents had their flavouring rolled inside. So, back to the tasting. The final consensus was,
 " Why'd you spend money on saffron, mom? We can't taste it." The classic version was good when it was still warm but became too chewy once cooled, the saffron one had the best texture remaining fairly short and soft after cooling. I was disappointed with the saffron ones in that I expected the cookies to take on a yellow hue and have some of the earthy flavour associated with the spice. Maybe I was too conservative with my dash of saffron.
 The crescent was another beast altogether. Whoever named it a Snickerdoodle was taking artistic licence. This is made from a cream cheese pastry nothing like the normal texture of a classic. The pecan spice mixture used inside is delicious but the final consensus on this one is it tasted like a cinnamon roll. Given my aversion to fussing with shapes these cookies just aren't worth the trouble. I don't know about your house but here if a cookie recipe only makes 3 dozen cookies it isn't worth the effort. Three dozen are gone in a flash. Add to that the fussing of chilling and rolling of the crescents and this gets them removed from our list of recipes to keep. I'm thinking I'll keep a note of the filling though and figure out another way to make use of that.
The classic version is also going the way of the dodo.I'd forgotten the texture and since the family consumes most of my cookies their votes carry a lot of weight.
 I'd like you to please note my use of a lovely kiwi plate. I thought the colours looked spring-like. There was some debate, as there always is with this gang, as to whether or not I have the plate upside down. I made the executive decision that I like it this way. Having veto power can be wonderful!

In the end a version of the Saffron Snickerdoodle will remain. I say a version because we all liked the Chai spice mix the cookies were rolled in ( minus the saffron) and the texture. I know I will be playing with the spice mix to create a Ferrier version. The cardamom in the mix is one of our favourites.
There you have it, week one of my bake off. Next week I think I'll pull out my cookie press and make some spritz cookies. This is the lazy cooks way of making shaped cookies. The doughs are soft and you can makes dozens of cookies in a very short period of time. I have three more recipes I want to try, stay tuned.                                                                                                                              

Friday, 6 February 2015

First week of February 2015

Well, we're into the doldrums of winter and I am definitely feeling the usual February blues. Every year about this time I'm ready to murder someone. This light deficiency thing is weird and real. That being said am I one of those who are more susceptible? I have always been affected by the moon's cycle and if the air pressure changes my head wants to explode. Interesting thing to ponder. Maybe not while I'm wallowing in a slight case of depression though. Let's wait 'til summer to pursue this topic, lol. I'm sure it's just one more sign of genious.

I wanted to write about a project I'm contemplating, that of doing a Julia/Julia type blog where I wander through my myriad cookie recipes and test every one of the ones I've collected over the years. The few times I've posted my latest baking experiment on FB I get asked for my recipes. I'm thinking I'll do this with cookies. The family has given me a big thumbs up for the project. I'm sure the prospect of having fresh baked cookies every week is not a deciding factor at all. So, I need to organise my recipes into categories and gather the ingredients. There's more than enough recipes to keep this going, once a week, for more than two years. I guess I can blitz a number of them for Christmas. Keep an eye here for the beginning of the project. I might have to subject you to my sad photography skills but I'll really work on making them at least recognizable. Now that this is down in writing I'm committed to getting started.

I'm sitting here listening to the latest report on a resurgence of measles in the GTA. Maybe I'm naive and gullible but I have always believed in the importance of vaccinations. I grew up in the first main wave of children who routinely received vaccinations and I don't know of anyone who had severe complications from them. For the main part we went through school healthy except for colds and flu and never worried that anything horrible might infect us. My mother lived through scarlet fever but she knew people who didn't. Are we now being faced with a return to the early twentieth century? Polio, mumps and measles are reappearing in North America. There's no reason for this to be happening, we already came up with the deterrent. My children also received all of their vaccinations and, as adults, are keeping them up to date themselves. We went through chicken pox when Jess hit kindergarten and other than that rarely even had a cold go through the house. In my mind this all stems from everyone around us being vaccinated as well as us. The barriers were up in the neighbourhood. Basically, I am a liberal who believes live and let live but when there is a simple solution to vast spreading of debilitating diseases I think that we all have an obligation to the greater good to protect everyone from them. There, enough said, I'll step off my soapbox now.

Painting has finally been happening here in Cambridge. The front hall and living room are lovely shades of aqua and lavender and I've started the kitchen and back hall in my pale yellow/green. Trust me, these colours all work beautifully together. I'm stalling on the green because there's so many itty bitty areas to work with. I don't know about you but I hate edging. Give me a long wall where I can just load the roller and go. This has less wall area but I'll be lucky if I can use the roller in 10 sq ft. Oh well, must soldier on. The few spots I've completed look great and I can't wait for the last of the gawd-awful beige to be gone. Once this is done I'll be tackling my bedroom. Another version of purple. My favourite colour because I was a queen in some past life, clearly not this life. If I can take some half decent pics I'll share them next entry. I'm working on my vision of Shabby Chic, slightly romantic, definitely comfortable but with colour. I love the look of those  white rooms but I know I'd be stir crazy if I had no colour around me so I'm using soft versions of my three favourite colours. Once sping arrives enough I'm going to tackle the kitchen cabinets. I need to be able to work outside on the doors. I've changed my colour plans there and again, if good photos happen I'll share.

So, there you have it! I guess my year is planned. The baking will start before March, I promise, and the painting can be reported on once it's complete. I wish I could share the cookies with all of you. Muskoka Brownie and Baking isn't dead. The dream always lives on. Missing the great white north this year but things are good here and opportunities for all of us are definitely more readily available. I still haven't finished knitting a pair of socks I'm happy with, I persevere.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Goodbye and hello!

Welcome to 2015! I was reading over my horoscope and it's looking pretty good. I think it will be safe to get out of bed. The gist of the reading was that Sagittarians are at the end of a 7 year cycle of poor luck. If I look back 7 years that seems to fit. I chose to leave Tilleys that year and I haven't settled anywhere since. I'm looking forward to finding a lasting position this year. It's exhausting constantly being the new kid. Time to settle, yes I said settle, and put down roots in Cambridge.
I'm not going to revisit the year, it's over, what happened happened and I now want to focus on looking forward.
I thought I'd share with you a little of our Christmas with a picture of our simple, primitive tree.
Every year I think it's time to change the look of the tree, stop putting up the ornaments accumulated over the last 30 years and start fresh. The kids talk me out of it and we dig out the boxes. I grew up in a time and a house where that gawd-awful tinsel decorated every surface. From the first time I put up my own  tree I have eschewed any shiny ornamentation in my decorating and search for ornaments that have a lot of detail and meaning. When Jerry and I were first married and the kids were little we chose a few new ornaments each year. Hallmark used to make lovely Victorian-style ornaments that we loved to collect. Over the years I've created ornaments in cross-stitch, Mom smocked some pieces and we have snowflakes crocheted by my grandma, my mom and me and so the collection has grown. Our tree is one you have to get up close to and really look at everything. Anyone who has seen my Pinterest account knows I love miniatures and our tree is a clear example of that. I'm bringing this all up because, as usual, I thought about redoing the tree this year. I was sitting looking at it the day I took the picture and realized that I love the way it looks. We are an eclectic mix of people in this family and the tree reflects this. As much as I love blues, purples and greens the thought of a tree perfectly colour coordinated with what I think are giant ornaments, in the end doesn't appeal. We talk about each ornament as it comes out of the box, the wooden polka dot ones always go at the bottom for the cats, breakable at the top and decide where it's going to go. I always want the whole tree decorated and tend to put the least favourite one at the back. This way I'm not neglecting them just not looking at them constantly, it works for me. This year Greg did most of the decorating and he didn't get it. Sadly the back of my tree that sits in a corner did not get decorated. This is also the first year that no new ornaments were added. I think we're finally full. Jenn and Theo got their first tree so I contented my self with getting ornaments for their tree. I picked up what I thought was just the right amount. Apparently they have an even more minimalist approach than me because I was informed that they had 'way too many' ornaments and had only used about half.

As the kids were born I made each of them a stocking. I'm pretty proud of the work I did on them so you're getting a picture of the group of stockings as well. I added three new ones this year. My sons-in-law don't have stockings with our family so I had the time to add theirs finally. The third was for our fifth son, Arif. we've inherited him from Jenn's college days. He liked his so much he took it home to take care of it so you won't see that on here. When I'm creating the cuffs I try to find motifs that I think represent the person for which it's being made.  I hope you can see the detail.

With  more time on my hands I've been having fun cooking and baking. This morning I decided to make a coffee cake for breakfast. We're low on milk but I had some greek yogurt on hand so I looked up a recipe that used this. Then the fun started, not quite enough yogurt but look there's still some applesauce left! Perfect, this let's me hide healthy stuff in the cake. Ok, 1 1/2 tspns vanilla, got it but wait there's that ginger extract I love. so, 1 tspn vanilla and 1/4 tspn ginger, yumm. Batter made on to the streusel. Back to the fridge for the butter, ooh look there's that delicious pumpkin butter Dayle made. If I use this I won't have to add spices. The final product is delicious! Pippin, one of our cats, loves ginger so he was all over us while we were eating. Jeff, the big softy, gave him some and I therefore got the seal of approval from all members of the family. I've written this one down so that I can repeat the greatness another time. Oops, chipped plate, oh well that's how we live!

The Christmas decorations are down, we've rearranged the furniture and are now eagerly awaiting the unfolding of 2015. We're missing Jasper and Angie but are grateful that we still have my brother-in-law Greg. Love, laughter and health to everyone. The door is always open, figuratively speaking, and we can always add another potato to the pot.