A Dark and Stormy Night

Kitimat is a beautiful town snuggled into the mountains.  My new walking route takes me along the lookout area of town and for my exercising efforts I am rewarded with a beautiful view of the mountains gently meeting the Douglas Channel.  Even from our back porch we enjoy a lovely view of the mountains.  Well, some days we do.  Many days, and sometimes it feels like most days, the mountains are blocked from sight by thick fog and low lying clouds.  Heavy mists and rain often accompany the fog, and once they move in they often stay for days and weeks at a time.  These days are not unpleasant, in fact there is something cozy about these days and I often do my best cooking and crafting during these times.  However, like anyone else who lives in a rainy place, I do enjoy when the sun decides to come out and grace us with it's presence.

So you can imagine how thrilled we are that we have been experiencing weeks and weeks of beautiful weather.  There is the odd rainy day, but for the most  part the sun has been shining, the birds singing, and the air is filled with the sounds of lawn mowers and kids playing outside.  One day last week, the temperatures were exceptionally warm and it actually felt like summer.  Interestingly, it got hotter as the evening came on, instead of cooler as is usual.  Until suddenly, it wasn't hot; it was actually getting downright cold.  A strong wind began whipping around and the sky got darker and darker.  My husband and I looked at each other and one of us observed that it felt like we were going to have an electrical storm.

Electrical storms are unusual here. This evening however the air was electric and one just had the sense that something big was about to happen.  We stepped out onto our patio and were taken aback by what we saw: an huge, ominous black cloud swiftly making its way over the mountain tops.  The sky was getting blacker and blacker, and we knew we were in for a show!

We quickly ushered the dogs outside for a hasty bathroom break before the rain started.  They obviously knew something was up because they didn't linger long in the yard.  Tinky in particular seemed distracted.  Once we had them inside, we quickly closed windows and unplugged appliances. We heard the first rumbles of thunder while we were on the patio moving our herb and tomato plants to a safer spot under the eaves.  We immediately started counting to see how far away the storm was.  The first flash of lightening lit the sky just as we were placing the last few plants safely away.  We got ourselves inside and settled in to watch the storm. 

The storm moved quickly and soon it was directly overhead.  At one point, my husband saw chain lightening but I missed it.  We were looking out the front windows when we noticed that the black cloud had made its way around the mountains, bringing the storm in a circle around the town.  The rain was quite heavy and at times torrential.  We also had a few moments of the unique phenomena known as "sideways rain."  It was at this point that we remembered that the windows to the Jeep were open, and that even though it was under the car port, the "sideways rain" would find its way in.  My husband dashed out to shut the windows, and someone dashed out with him to help - Tinky Wink.  He turned to usher the little guy back into the house and noticed that our normally unbelievably brave little Yorkie was glued to the spot with fear.

We got the little fellow inside but he was overcome with the shakes (which had started with the thunder but had increased since his dash into the rain).  Our fascination with the storm took a backseat to our concern for little Tinky.  He is, after all, an older guy and there seemed to be no calming him down.  We grabbed a wool blanket and swaddled him up.  We took turns cuddling him, while Molly and their doggie friend Zorro (who was visiting) checked on him periodically.  He gave us a little scare, but thankfully, he weathered the storm.

The storm gradually moved off. leaving the air clear and cool.  And while it was exciting to observe nature in all its awesome power, it also made me grateful for my snug little nest. As I drifted off to sleep that night, I was thankful for many things.  A wonderful husband, beautiful pets, a warm home, and safety from the storm.

Give Me the Simple Life Part III - A Few of My Favorite Things + Fabulous Nest Friday!

A cottage small is all I'm after,
Not one that's spacious and wide.
A house that rings with joy and laughter,
And the ones you love inside.
                                         (Harry Ruby/Rube Bloom, Give Me the Simple Life)

Ah, it's Friday!  This is one of the rare weekends when my husband's days off actually coincide with those of the rest of the world.  However, even when it's not actually the start of your days off, there's something about a Friday that gets you excited and filled with anticipation.  Anything can happen on a Friday!

I like to try and have my nest all fixed up for the weekend.  You never know when you might have drop in guests, so it's always a good idea to to freshen up the house and stock the fridge and cupboards!  

The weekend is also a great time to go shopping.  Back home, I would always go for breakfast with my mom and my sisters on Saturday mornings, and more often than not we ended up hitting the shops!  We also enjoyed visiting thrift and second hand stores to search for treasures.  And if there was a basement to attic or rummage sale on the go, that was on the agenda too!
Over the years I've accumulated a lovely cache of treasures both new and previously loved.  My mother and my husband in particular are wonderful gift givers with the knack of finding the perfect item you didn't realize you wanted and/or needed!  Add family treasures and personal shopping finds to my stash and I have a nice collection of things that make my nest my own.  While preparing this week's series of posts on "The Simple Life" I decided to do a post on things that I'm loving right now, and I've decided to make it a recurring post.  Over time I'll share old treasures, new finds, investments, and just plain stuff!

Anyone who read Wednesday's post on my Cloud of Inspiration may see some of the items mentioned appear in these new posts.  And so, I'll start with one of these items.

My beautiful luster-ware tea set!
Several years ago my mother-in-law, who has a fine cache of treasures of her own, gifted me with a beautiful luster-ware tea set.  Depending on where we lived, this elegant set sometimes had to live in seclusion so as to protect it from our cats, who have a habit of breaking fine things.  The decision to put it away was finalized a few years ago, when our cat Junior Mint got herself tangled up in a Christmas display I had made that included the tea set.  As she panicked, the components of the display, tea set included, went flying across the room.  There was a horrible moment as we raced about gathering up pieces, and although several items did suffer damage, the tea set emerged unscathed.  We tried displaying it again at our first Kitimat home, but we were too nervous that the dogs would knock over the wine rack on which it was displayed  as they rough-housed.  However, when we moved into our current house, the kitchen cabinet tops provided safe shelf space, and my tea set found it's home!   

Another item I'm really loving right now is my Bodum French Press Coffee Maker.  My version is the one that Bodum designed for Starbucks; I adore it's simple, elegant design.  We love our french press coffee, so much so that when our old coffee maker gave out during the winter we decided not to replace it.  This means better coffee all the time, and more counter space for me!!

Pretty Note Books (and a long lost fountain pen!)

I'm sure some of you probably remember my recent post on to-do lists and pens?  In it I mentioned that I had found the perfect notebook, so, here it is!  I purchased two, so I use one for my daily to-do lists, blog brainstorms, and household notes, and another for Bible study.  In addition to being cute, they also have a folder AND an envelope inside!  Brilliant!!!!  And did you notice the pen in the picture?  A few days after my rant about how my favorite fountain pens were all gone, I was searching through a desk that used to live in my old craft room and I found FOUR fountain pens still in their box!  Turns out, I had doled out the pens to my husband and I in the first place and then put the box in a "safe place."  We were both very pleased to get a new supply of fountain pens!

You may also remember my salt and pepper shakers.  My husband brought them back from Nova Scotia for me.  He purchased them at one of our favorite Halifax shops, The Black Market.  Here are a few shots I took of them (and yes, it's sad that I enjoy taking pictures of shakers!)  I caught myself having a bit too much fun setting them up in different poses and then imagining the dialogue between them.  To demonstrate, (with apologies for the quality of the images):
Salt - Ridiculous! I don't believe a word of it!

Pepper - Please listen to me!  I can't let you go on thinking he's someone he's not!!
Salt -No!  I can't believe Basil would betray me like this!  And for that horrid Paprika!!
Pepper - "Don't go!  It will be fine!  You still have Oregano and I!!!!
Salt - "Hold me!"

(The phrase you're searching for is "charmingly eccentric!") 

So there you have it, the first installment of "A Few of My Favorite Things!"  I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for new, and old, wonderful treasures to share with you!

I'm linking to Housewife Bliss' Fabulous Nest Friday blog hop, and you should hop on over and check it out, too!  I've discovered so many great blogs (and the wonderful folks who write them!) through this hop, so go check it out!

Have a wonderful weekend and I'll see you on Monday!


Give Me The Simple Life - Part II - The Nesty Girl's Cloud of Inspiration

Some find it pleasant dining on pheasant
Those things roll off my knife;
Just serve me tomatoes, and mashed potatoes;
Give me the simple life.
 (Harry Ruby/ Rube Bloom, Give Me The Simple Life)

As promised, today I am going to share with you some of what inspires me in my quest to nest!  I had considered profiling just a few items and discussing why they inspire me, but I had trouble narrowing them down.  So instead, I've made a little cloud of all the wonderful people, places, and things that give me inspiration!

Family, friends, coffee, fountain pens, wild blueberries, things in jars, brightly coloured spices, cast iron frying pans, spirtles, candles, ribbon, perfectly folded towels, the air after the rain, lilacs, puppy dogs ears, The Betty Crocker Cookbook, red wine, Rachel Ray, the produce section, a fresh bouquet of flowers, plain crystal tumblers, a perfectly clean kitchen, Monday morning, Christmas Eve, cozy jammies, rainy evenings, original pottery, homemade socks, table cloths, aprons, new notebooks, Martha Stewart, my lusterware tea set, warm laundry fresh from the dryer, birthday cakes, brown paper and twine, nice stationery, mugs, hot tea, mercury glass ornaments, tea towels, copper bottomed pots, cream & sugar sets, wool blankets, buttercream frosting, real food, sauteing garlic, farm markets, the Ikea catalog, crisp autumn days, cats, lemons,  being home.

Give Me the Simple Life - Part I, A Letter of Introduction

"I don't believe in frettin' and grievin';
Why mess around with strife?
I never was cut out, to step and strut out.
Give me the simple life."
                                                  - (Harry Ruby / Rube Bloom) Give Me the Simple Life

Hello, friends!

This weekend past, I took some time to work on "Nesty."  Part of this exercise had me examining my original intent for starting this blog, and the message I wanted it to share.  I've been reviewing my posts, perusing my pictures, and yes, re-reading your comments!  And frankly, I am quite pleased with how Nesty has evolved while still maintaining the theme of "pursuing a honeyed life and a happy home through simplified living."  

Nesty started for a number of reasons.  As some of you will recall, after relocating to Kitimat with my husband, I found myself unemployed for the first time in ten years.  After a few months of being "on sabbatical" I realized that, unpopular as it may be, I was loving my new life as a domestic goddess.  I finally have the time to cook, clean, and craft to my heart's content.  And while the professional in me sometimes sneaks in, my old skills are being put to new use; I use Excel to track Christmas cards and gifts, and my daily "To-do" lists contain items like "make jam" and "transplant tomatoes."

I was happy.  My husband was happy (especially because I was happy).  Our dogs were ecstatic!!!  And yet, something bothered me.  I found myself floundering when faced with the question "what do you do?"  The former career gal in me fought with all her might against the label "housewife" while the happy and content homemaker in me wondered "what's the big deal?"  And then I realized it; in many ways, we've come full circle.  Where once it was unheard of for a woman to go out to work, now it's almost unheard of for a modern woman to not go out to work!  Especially if this woman does not have any children other than her dogs!  

Oh, the debates I had with myself!  The reality is that there really isn't any work in my field available here, and if I choose to go to work it will be doing something that doesn't challenge me at best, and that I really dislike at worst.  I don't need to work, and I am delighted with our life, so what's the big deal?  And essentially, it boiled down to this; how to answer that question.  "What do you do?"

During my soul searching, I remembered that long ago, just after convocation, the ink still wet on my English degree, I had a plan.  A plan to work part-time, and pursue my writing.  The problem was, I had more shifts than ideas, and before long I was working full-time and my writing pursuits all but disappeared.  It was still there; I'm your go-to gal if you need a nicely worded letter, a funny poem or story for a shower or anniversary, or an idea for a newsletter, but I never really considered this "writing," especially when compared to the scripts, novels, and articles that other writers I knew were producing.  

I may not have been writing much any more, but I certainly was being productive!  To decompress after work, I was spending more and more time in the kitchen.  I loved planning parties and shopping for gifts.  And being a cozy sort, I liked puttering around our home and making it comfortable and attractive.  Over time I realized I was getting more and more phone calls with questions like "how do you add a liqueur to melting chocolate" and "what' a good idea for my best friend's/ sister-in-law's / co-workers wedding/ birthday/baby gift?"  And like Elle Woods, all I need is "a glue gun, some pinking shears, and five yards of grosgrain ribbon" to warm up any space. 

In my new life, while trying to "define" myself, the reality was slowly dawning on me, and one day, it finally hit home.  I had found my calling - sorting through the web of domestic arts and science and making it fun and accessible for the average person.  Finding the jewels that make life lovely and yet leave time to have a life.  Nesting, simplified.

Nesty became the vehicle to relay this information.  It brought everything together; working, writing, and nesting.  From the beginning, I challenged myself to maintain a posting schedule of three posts a week and that I would take my posting seriously whether I had 2 followers or 2000.   This satisfied the part of me that was missing professional challenges.  I work hard at ensuring that my posts are thoughtful and informative, and while there are some that I am more proud of than others, every one of them is in some small way helping to make me feel like a writer again.  And sharing what I'm doing and why I'm doing it has helped me to validate the importance of domestic and "hands on" work.

 I don't claim to have all the answers. I'll freely admit that there are lots of things that I am not good at.  And embracing some of those things has been one of the best parts of nesting. It's also given me material for posts, such as the ones on plants and gardening and fishing. 

As I got more and more into blogging, I discovered a whole community of "housewife" bloggers!  I love reading about how different women have embraced this role and title and are bringing it back from being almost an insult to a respected and valued calling.  I also love all the sub-genres that show how women are having fun in the house: vintage housewives, apron enthusiasts, glam housewives, the list goes on and on and you're all fabulous!!!  

And so, what about the answer to that question?  I'm always tempted to say "Domestic Goddess" or "Professional Nester."  Of course I'm joking.  The truth is I'm not comfortable with just one label, and I don't think I ever will be.  However, instead of nervously rambling through my resume listings, I'll probably just try to explain about my wonderful life, and being a housewife and homemaker is part of that!  And of course I'll suggest that they check out my blog!

And so, I will continue to humbly offer my contribution and share our "Simple Life" with you three times a week.  For the rest of this week I'll be giving you a peek into the engine that powers our nest and simple life.  I'll show you some of my favorite things, what I'm loving right now, and who and what inspires me. 

"Some like the high road, I like the low road,
Free from the care and strife.
Sounds corny and seedy, but yes, indeed-y,
Give me the simple life." 
                                 - (Harry Ruby / Rube Bloom) Give Me the Simple Life

Fabulous Nest Friday - Super Speedy Spaghetti

There are few things more comforting than a big bowl of pasta.  Spaghetti is one of the first recipes a new cook masters, and is there any doubt why?  Even the simplest meat sauce poured over spaghetti noodles looks impressive and tastes great.

Over the years we have enjoyed picking out different pasta sauces and trying them out, and many a pleasant Saturday has been spent chopping, sauteeing, and simmering.  My husband makes a mean puttanesca, and one of our favorite culinary memories is of  preparing the traditional Italian "Sunday Gravy" recipe from the "Sopranos" cookbook.  Full of sausage, pork, chicken, and love, making this sauce was a weekend affair, starting with shopping for all the ingredients on Saturday and then spending Sunday concocting the gravy.  Delish!!!

Another great thing about pasta is that it is filling and, for the most part, nutritious.  It's everything you need on one plate, which makes it popular with busy families.  However, since most pasta dishes are slow cooked, it isn't easy to "whip up" between getting home from work / school and heading out for evening activities.  And so, a few weeks ago, when I found a great new recipe that puts pasta on the table quickly, I knew I had to share it with all the busy folks out there!

I found the recipe for One-Pot Spaghetti in my Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook (as luck would have it, I found a link for you!).  I was considering doing a "Retro Recipes" post on spaghetti and meat sauce, and wanted to try out some basic, tested recipes for reference (since I rarely use a recipe).  When I read the unusual preparation of this dish (cooking the pasta in the sauce) I knew I had to give it a try.  I was really pleased with the results!  This is great recipes can be prepared in under an hour using basic kitchen staples.  Is it the same as a slow simmered, thick and chunky meat sauce?  No, but it would be the perfect weeknight dinner.  It's also quite affordable, especially if you are a smart shopper and watch for good buys on ground beef and stock up when it's on sale!

Today I'm linking to Fabulous Nest Friday on Housewife Bliss; hop on over to discover some wonderful blogs! 

Have a wonderful long weekend!  See you Monday!

The Great Vinegar Incident

As you know, we have been working on "greening" our nest over the past few months.  The Great Green Spring Cleaning Challenge has evolved past a one time challenge into an everyday practice.  We're not perfect; paper towels still have their place (although greatly reduced) and air fresheners have worked their way back in (although again, in a greatly reduced capacity).  I do aim to use "natural" air fresheners as much as possible.  Now that the weather is improving we can indulge in one of the best; opening the windows.  There's some blustery weather blowing in today, and so we have several windows open in order to make the most of the crisp, rain-drenched breeze that's blowing down off the mountains.  Although it's sad to see the sun go, it's the sort of day that gets into your blood and really makes you feel alive.

There are some odour challenges,  however, that call for the big guns.  Smells like fried food, sour milk, and fish.  Fish in almost all it's forms can leave a lingering smell, the memory of which can be enough to deter an individual from wanted to prepare it.  "Smells like low tide" is an East Coast way of explaining the lingering smell of seafood.

A sure-fire way to neutralize household odours, including fish, is to bring some white vinegar to a boil and let it simmer.  Yes, your house may smell a bit like pickles, but the offensive odour is gone and the vinegar smell fades away quickly and leaves the air fresh and neutral.  I've relied on this many, many times with good results.  However, like many things one comes to rely on, occasionally it will let you down.  And sometimes, it takes your friends with you...

It was a quiet summer day in Kitimat, and my dear husband had just returned from a day of fishing with a friend.  They brought back a couple salmon and gave them to me to prepare for the freezer.  I had been trying a few different methods of preparation, but for the most part I had simply been wrapping the whole, gutted fish in several layers of tin foil and plastic wrap.  This day, however, I wanted to try my hand at filleting.

I had queried several people about the best method of filleting, and had checked out videos and how-to's on the internet, so I had a pretty good idea of what to do.  That is, at least in theory.  However, what works in theory does not always translate in practice, and things got sloppy.  I managed to get the job done, but my filleting would not win any awards.  No matter, I now had a lovely pile of packets of de-boned salmon fillet-y things in my freezer, ready to be placed into stews and other tasty dishes.  I also had a lovely pile of friends coming over for the evening, and my kitchen was covered in blood, bones, and scales. It also smelled like blood, bones, and scales.  If cooked fish smells like low-tide, then raw fish smells like...well, there really are no words for what raw fish smells like.  Not exactly fishy, but...cloying, and very metallic.  Not at all welcoming.

No matter!  I had lots of elbow grease and vinegar!  I set to work cleaning, and before long I was scraping the last of the scales off the kitchen counter.  All that was left to do was simmer a little vinegar.  My buddies were arriving as I was doing the last of my work (filleting the salmon took a little longer than anticipated) so my husband entertained while I finished up in the kitchen.  I poured some vinegar into a saucepan, put it on a back burner, and brought it to a boil.

When I purchased this vinegar, all that was available was a vinegar that claimed to be "extra strong."  Well, nothing wrong with that!  As I was wiping down the counters with "extra strong" vinegar, I started to hear a few muted coughs coming from the living room.  "Someone has allergies!"  I thought to myself. Then another cough chimed in.  "Must be something in the air" I decided as I reached for a tissue.  Now why were my eyes burning...?

The coughs were becoming more persistent now, as were the mumblings and snickers.  Coincidentally, I was developing a tickle in my throat, too!  How weird!  I was just about to comment on it when finally my husband exclaimed "What are you cooking out there?"

Ahem. While the house may not have smelled like raw fish anymore, it now smelled like brine day at the pickle factory.  Funny, when I'm eating a dill I've never stopped to think how the cucumber felt as it stewed away in its juices.  Suffice to say, the "extra strong" vinegar was doing an "extra good" job of clearing the air, and taking everyone's breath away with it!  I removed the vinegar from the stove and made a mental note to only use it for cleaning from now on.  We ran around opening windows, and eventually the air cleared and we all had a good laugh about the incident.  However, it has become one of those stories that keeps popping up, and no doubt will continue popping up at least as long as we're in Kitimat.

As a result of The Great Vinegar Incident, I have explored other options for naturally freshening the air, ones that aren't quite so breath taking!  My favorites include simmering lemon slices, or oranges and cinnamon sticks, or even a few drops of essential oil in water (read warnings first).  When all else fails, the vinegar is still there, but now I dilute it with some water before turning on the heat!

Some of our best lessons in nesting are born out of disasters, and I've had some doozies!  I have found as I've grown older that having the grace and good humour to laugh at yourself makes these lessons much easier to learn!  I've got a couple of these stories I'm willing to share, and I'll dole them out from time to time.  If you haven't already, one of my best ever epic disasters is detailed in an early post called Mental Note.

So, the next time an attempt at nesting perfection comes crashing down around you, just remember this; One, you're not alone, and two, someday, it'll make a great story!

The Dog Bellower

Molly & Tinky, my beautiful fur babies.
Ah, my fur babies.  They are a constant source of love, joy, loyalty, silly, and...


Well, not constant headaches, but sometimes, just sometimes, my beautiful babies push their mama just a little too far.   And when those times come around, I try to recall the teachings of a very wise and patient man.  That man's name is Cesar Milan, but you probably know him as The Dog Whisperer.

People who haven't watched Cesar's show or read his books sometimes snicker when you mention the name Dog Whisperer.  Often, they think that he will be yet another person trying to make dogs into furry little people.  Quite the opposite is true.  Cesar maintains that dogs are dogs and must be treated as such.  He emphasizes the importance of being a "pack leader" and using "calm assertive energy" to maintain respect and subsequent control over your pack. This of course is a very, very nutshell description of "Cesar's Way" and so I encourage you to visit his website to learn more about him.

Our wild girl digging a hole.
I started watching The Dog Whisperer while on Christmas vacation in Regina a few years ago.  I took careful mental notes and when I got home I started to work with Molly.  She did well, but we got a little off-track after the move.  As Cesar says, consistency is key.  However, Molly is a good girl over all and it didn't take long for her to remember her training.  

Early on in her puppy-hood, we discovered that my husband is definitely the recognized "pack leader" in our house. Molly would instantly do whatever he told her to, without him having to repeat himself.  I did not have the same luck. He told me that I had to be more assertive in my voice.  (My husband was quite pleased when Cesar backed up many of the dog training practices he'd been telling me to use.)  Well, that presented a problem.  Apparently, I do not have an assertive voice.  My quest to discover my "calm assertive" voice was a source of amusement to all who heard me.  If Cesar Milan is a "whisperer" I am apparently a "bellower." "MOLLY, NO!"  I would command, in a tone that, apparently, was not unlike Darth Vader.  Over time, she and I have pretty much "worked it out" and she listens to my commands as issued in my normal soprano tone.  

Tinky expressing his views to management.
Well, that worked pretty well, until a few months ago when we brought home Tinky Wink. Poor Tinky, whether from years of being spoiled by his previous owner or months of being distraught in a kennel, was not what Cesar would consider a "balanced dog."  He had food aggression, he was a flight risk, he had supreme "little dog syndrome," and, oh my land, could he bark!  

Small dog with lots to say!
He barked when he was hungry.  He barked when he needed to go out.  He barked at birds and leaves and the poor kid that delivered our fliers. He barked when he wanted to be picked up.  He barked some more when he wanted to be put down. Sometimes, as I stared down at him insistently yapping, I felt like I was being admonished by a very angry stuffed animal.

Molly would look at me as if to say, "Do something, Mom.  Use your assertive voice!"
Is he still there?  Molly tells us how she really feels.

I worked at it.  I'm sure I gave our neighbors a good laugh as I dashed out the the door in my pajamas to chase my little escape artiste up the street, all the while intoning "TINKY, NO!!!!"  The force, evidently, was not with me, no matter how much like James Earl Jones I might sound.
I Never Do Anything Bad!!!

It got better. In time, I was able to move his food bowl without risk of dismemberment.  His mad dashes for freedom ceased.  And although he still uses his voice to make his wishes known to management, we go hours and sometimes days with nary a peep.  Although not today; right now he is barking and I haven't a clue why.  He's been fed, played, cuddled, picked up, put down.  I honestly think that sometimes, he just likes the sound of his own voice. And just when I am about to lose my patience, he lies down beside me and snuggles in.  This is how noisy little lap dogs earn their keep, you know.  All their wackiness is forgotten the moment that little head rests on your knee and they sigh themselves to sleep.

Spring has brought new challenges.  Some of you may remember my "Wide Open Windows" post from a few months ago, where I expressed my concern about how Tinky would do once the windows were open.  Well, it's been interesting. Remember how I said he calms down and snuggles in?  Back in the winter, once he was snuggled in he'd be there for hours.  Now, all it takes is for a dog three yards over to issue a single bark, and Tinky is off to discover what's going on.  But it's getting better.  One thing I have learned from watching The Dog Whisperer is that our dogs often take their cues from us.  By using a calm voice I can often calm him down before he gets to upset, especially if he starts to growl before commencing with barking.  I discovered this with Molly early on and it's working quite well with Tink. 

I've had a lot of "A-ha!" moments watching The Dog Whisperer.  Just a few weeks ago I was watching an episode about shelter dogs, and so much about Tinky suddenly made sense.  He was so unbalanced that we were sure he must have been mistreated by his previous owners, but we now know that even a few weeks in a shelter is enough to undo a lot of good training in a dog.  

We are so glad that we chose rescues for both of our dogs, and we strongly encourage others to do so.  Yes, there's a significant investment of time, energy, and patience involved, but when you see your new baby responding positively to your attentions, the rewards are priceless.  Take advantage of resources like The Dog Whisperer as well as local trainers.  Get online and read about others who have rescued pets. Do I still get headaches somedays?  You betcha, but I wouldn't trade my pups for anything. If you aren't ready to commit to a dog full-time (and good for you for recognizing that) many shelters are looking for volunteers to do everything from cleaning kennels to fund-raising.  Many have fostering programs or need caring individuals to simply take the shelter dogs for a walk.  So, if you need a "dog fix" call your local shelter and get involved.

And to those of you out there who have taken the step to give a rescue dog their "forever family," Molly and Tinky thank you from the bottom of their dear, doggy little hearts!
Molly & Tinky Say "Thanks!"

"He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion." - Unknown


All Dressed Up - Tasty Homemade Dressings

Home-made pie, my anchovy paste tube, and the cutest S&P shakers EVER!!
Today I had one of those wonderful days when there was nothing pressing on my "To-do" list.  My husband got home late last night after being back East for three weeks, and we had a lovely day of doing not much at all.  The dogs were thrilled to get him back and took up a good deal of the afternoon playing, getting their bellies rubbed, and being snuggled.  While the dogs were throwing their version of a welcome home celebration, I was preparing mine; a from-scratch, all the bells and whistles feast of my husband's favorite foods.  Lasagna, caesar salad, and strawberry rhubarb pie. I started around 1:30 making my the tomato sauce so that it could bubble away for an hour or so in order to reach tomato sauce perfection.  I made pastry for my pie and got to try out a few jars of the strawberry rhubarb pie filling I made a few weeks ago.  Once the tomato sauce was ready, I started assembling my lasagnas.  I made enough to make two large lasagnas, one for now and one for the freezer.  Once the second lasagna was in the oven and the first was setting on the counter, all that was left to prepare for our feast was to whip up the Caesar salad, including a homemade dressing.

Because traditional Caesar salad dressing contains raw eggs, it can be rather controversial.  I found a few recipes that got around the raw egg by using either cooked egg yolk, or mayonnaise. I decided to opt for a mayonnaise based dressing recipe I found as part of the recipe for Caesar Salad Supreme on allrecipes.com..
 The only change I made was instead of using anchovy fillets I used anchovy paste. (My husband was kind enough to decorate the plain tube for me!).  The dressing was delicious; very zesty and garlicky.  If you've only ever had bottled Caesar dressing, which in my opinion is usually all about the parmesan, you may be surprised by how different the real deal tastes.  The parmesan cheese is definitely there, but there's so much more. It's a more sophisticated taste, but it's classic, and I strongly recommend that you try it.

Another thing that I strongly recommend you try is making your own salad dressings more often.  There are so many great recipes out there.  Just this week I whipped up an Orange Poppy-seed dressing that was the perfect accompaniment for spinach salad with cherry tomatoes and supremes of orange.  It was great, and it was so much better than a salty, too sweet bottled dressing.  And it was so easy to make!  Most dressings can be easily assembled using either a blender or a mason jar.  I'm not usually one to plug a product, but I have been using my Magic Bullet blender to make salad dressings (both the Caesar and the Poppy-seed) with great results.  I've also used a regular blender to make the Poppy-seed in the past, and it worked great, but I found that the smaller Magic Bullet worked really well and was easier to clean up.  Presentation is simple and sweet as well; after I finish mixing up the dressing I just pour it into a cruet or mason jar.  It looks so pretty!

So, over the weekend, flip to the salad chapter of your favorite cookbook and give one (or more!) of the dressings a try!  It'll be the perfect accompaniment to your weekend barbeque, brunch, or welcome home celebration!  Enjoy!

Hop on over to Housewife Bliss and join in the Fabulous Nest Friday blog hop!!!!

Wherefore Art Thou, Pens?

While shopping last week, I decided to buy myself a notebook.

I like notebooks, and in my professional life they were an integral part of how I organized my time. I would take time at the end of each work day to consider my tasks and would write out a "To-Do" list.  The next morning, after reviewing my email, messages, and meeting commitments, I would prioritize my list and set to work crossing items off.  Throughout the day I would make notes on the pages after my daily list, and then start the process all over again at the end of the day.  If a page of notes was of particular importance, I would use a page marker so that I could easily locate the information in the future.  Colour coding was VERY important to me, both in terms of labels and ink colours. In addition, whenever possible, I liked to use a dry erase calendar to have a visual map of the month ahead.  Nothing new or ground-breaking in my method, but it worked well for me.  And so, I have decided to apply this system to organizing my days in our new life, in conjunction with a new dry erase calendar on my fridge.  My husband has been away for 3 weeks, and I got bored.  Nonetheless, I think he will be very impressed with how much more organized our home and activities will be.

Now that I've left no doubt as to what a huge nerd I am, I'll return to the notebook.  I found a very pretty one with a large pink abstract flower on the cover.  It has a sleeve / folder, perforated sheets, and most importantly, a coil.  I was all set. I waited until Monday to start my new system.  With the first, fresh sheet of paper in front of me, I reached for my pen and wrote my first list.

A bit about this pen.  Several years ago, when we were still in university, we discovered a range of disposable fountain pens.  We adored these pens and used them for many years, until the office supply shop we purchased them at closed.  We didn't see them for several years.  A few months ago, on a lark, I mentioned the pens at our local office supply shop, and they were able to locate them.  We ordered six and split them between us.  I am down to my last pen.  I was confident that this pen was new, and so I made my list, imagining that all my lists would be written with the same ink.

As the day went by, I crossed items off the list with a red pen.  At the end of the day I decided that I didn't like the look of the "cross-outs" and that going forward I would "check" items off my list.  I promise I didn't rip out the list and rewrite it!  I picked up my fountain pen to start writing the next day's list, and quickly realized that the pen was bone dry.

Bother!  I quickly searched for another; I didn't remember using up the other 2 pens, so surely they must be around somewhere?  I rooted through drawers, purses, and desks, and came up with nothing.  Sigh.  But no matter, I had another favorite pen.  This is a pen I never have difficulty locating in stores, it's a good old fashioned Papermate stick pen, blue ink, medium tip.  A pen I watched my Aunt Irene use for many years, it's nostalgic and reliable.  I knew I had one in my craft room.  Off I went to retrieve it.  I wrote up Tuesday's list and went off to bed.

The next day I got up and got ready to tackle the list.  Of course, as the day progressed, there were more items to add, and it was as I was adding a note to check my husband's uniforms that my faithful old Papermate  scratched to a halt.  No.  It couldn't be.  I knew from my previous rummages that all the pens in the house were now housed in the pen cup that was in front of me. This flummoxed me.  We both buy pens by the case, as if they were going out of style.  However, at this time there were only three pens left in our house.  One was a Very Nice Pen that my husband gave me when he was buying pens for himself (he likes a nice pen, as a writer he is very particular, and when he finds a good one he buys a few and gives me one, so I'll have a nice pen too.).  But the ink in this Very Nice Pen was black, and that wouldn't do.  I moved on to the next two.  They were both from hotels; one side effect of driving across the country is that you end up with a lot of free pens from hotels.  I was immediately cheered when I read the familiar word "Papermate" on each cap. Excellent!    I uncapped one and started writing, and....black ink.  Blast!  The writing on the pen was blue!  It's just plain mis-leading to put black ink in a pen with a blue logo!!!  I tried the last pen, and of course, it had black ink.

Sighing, I put the hotel pens back in the cup and picked up the Very Nice Pen.  I turned to another list I'd started of "Items to Buy" and made a note, in black ink, "Pens."

Grumble, grumble, grumble.  The system had never failed me before. But it had one more little trick up it's sleeve.  Remember my enthusiasm over the coil?  The reason for that is that I like to have my notebook folded over so that just the day's list is showing.  Because I am Being Green, I am writing on both sides of the paper, and on the opposite side of today's list was the shopping list I had started with my fountain pen.  Towards the end of the day, as I was preparing to write tomorrow's list, I picked my book up from the counter where it lives during the day and carried it over to the table.  I opened it up to consult the shopping list and gasped; where once there was a neat list of dried goods and sundries was now a black and yellow blob of ink.  Fountain pen ink, to be exact.  In my enthusiasm I had forgotten that fountain ink is not water proof and was perhaps not the best choice of ink for a book that was going to live in a kitchen.  I took a closer look to see if I could still read the list and realized that, while it would still need to be re-written, it was not completely obliterated. In fact, there was one word that wasn't smeared or faded at all.  It stood out from the page, as clear and true as when it had been written in clear, black, water proof ink:


Can This Plant Be Saved?

Friends, we need your help!

And by "we" I mean my new spider plant and myself.

I was shopping in a large department store which shall remain nameless the other day, and as has become my ritual, I took a stroll to the garden department to look for houseplants.  Lately, I've been picking up one or two at a time, and I'm getting quite a nice collection.  There was a line of very robust, exotic tropicals for approximately $9.00 each a few weeks ago, so we picked up a few of those.  For Easter I received an ivy which is growing like a bad weed; in fact I started two slips that I potted this weekend.  A friend brought me a kalanchoe for  a housewarming gift, and of course I had my three little primulas (still blooming away!).  However, I'd had my eye out for two plants in particular.  The first was for a pothos, because I've had a few of those and I know that they grow quickly, are incredibly resistant, and look nice.  The second was a spider plant.  I wanted the spider plant mostly because of it's air purifying abilities, but also because I like how they look.  And, as I was recently reminded, they have babies!!  So I was pleased to find several trays of both pothos and spider plants for $2.00 each.  I started scanning the tray for the hardiest looking specimens, when one poor little spider caught my eye and tugged at my heart strings...
Love me...please?
I felt terrible.  The beautiful spiky leaves of this spider, as you can see, are dried out and brown.  The soil in the container had receded and the plant was in desperate need of a drink.  Bypassing healthier specimens (although to be clear, none of these plants were going to win the blue ribbon at the fair) I gently placed this little fellow, and a pothos (slightly scarred but otherwise OK) into my cart.  I picked out two terracotta pots and some fertilizer, and brought them home.  I come by this honestly; my mom has been "rescuing" half dead plants for years.

That was Thursday.  I re-potted them over the weekend.  The pothos, true to form, is already showing signs of new growth.  The chlorophytum spider is doing better than it was, but I have some questions about how to proceed with it in order to make sure he has a fair chance at flourishing.  Maybe, just maybe, if you all help me out, it can even have some spider babies!

So, here's what I need to know:
  • Should I trim the dead stuff off the leaves, remove the leaves entirely, or leave the whole thing alone?
  • Should I fertilize it at this point or let it get used to it's new pot, new home, love, and regular waterings?
  • Watering...the info with the plant says to "water moderately;" not to let it stand in excess water, but not to let it dry out entirely.  How do you gauge when your spider plant needs water?
  • Other than talking to it, is there anything else I can do to help it along?
I was discussing the plant with a friend the other day, and we both commented that we thought that spider plants were supposed to be fairly hardy and easy to care for, however if you go by the information that comes with the plant they actually seem a bit fussy.  Has that been your experience, or is it as I recall and they are actually pretty easy to care for?

So please, share your wisdom with us!  I'll post updates of its progress; I'm confident that this little rescue plant will have a long and happy life with us!

Speaking of updates, here's a peek at how my herbs are doing...
Here we grow!
So, as you can see, the basil and chives are growing along quite well.  The rosemary and sage, not so much.  I compared notes with the friends who gave me the seeds and they are having the same experience, so we are assuming there must be an issue with the seeds.  Oh well, luckily I've seen rosemary transplants at the local garden center so I will pick up a few for my containers.  I'm thinking of doing a few indoor pots as well!

I also made the Strawberry Banana Jam I mentioned last week.  It turned out really well, but it was kind of funny; when I tasted it it was not like I remembered.  The banana pretty much renders down and leaves a sweet taste and smooth texture, with nice chunks of strawberry and bits of chopped orange.  It's delicious, but I can't recall tasting it before.  Isn't that weird?  I know I made it, and I'm sure I used the same recipe, but I can't remember putting orange in it, and I was remembering it as more "banana-y."  At any rate, I'm pleased with my jam and think I may try a variation, "Plantation Strawberry Banana Jam" which adds a can of pineapple to the recipe and reduces the banana.  I'm also on the lookout for more rhubarb, so if anyone in the Kitimat area knows where I can get some, please let me know!

We've been having beautiful weather the past few days, and I hope it keeps up!  My dogs have been loving their new yard, and I'm so happy they finally have a place to go out and just be dogs without me having to be with them constantly or tie them up!  Molly just lies in the middle of the grass and looks around, and Tinky is kept very busy doing daily inspections of the fence posts.  My portly little Yorkie is actually looking very trim this days, and I'm looking forward to taking both of my babies to the groomer soon for some kicky summer do's!

Have a wonderful week!

Fabulous Nest Friday - Strawberry Shortcake Intervention...

I realize that I have been heavy on the food posts the last few weeks; even my craft project this week was food related. However, those of you who know me know that food is what I do best, and after a long winter of less than desirable produce I am so excited to have ingredients like good strawberries at my disposal.  You may recall my mid-winter post on creative uses for canned beans; if I can muster enthusiasm for pork & beans you can only imagine what's going to happen when the fruit trucks start rolling into town!

Last week I was invited out to supper, and I offered to bring dessert.  I was wandering through the baking aisle contemplating making a chocolate cream pie, when I remembered there was a special on strawberries.  The cream pie got booted out of my mind...I had all winter to make desserts out of milk and eggs.  Now was the time for Strawberry Shortcake!

Some people don't get very excited about this dessert, and for the longest time I couldn't understand why.  Then I had a strawberry shortcake made with those ubiquitous little yellow cakes, and I understood.  What I don't understand is why anyone would use those things.  My apologies if you think they are good, but friends, you don't know what you're missing!  Allow me to enlighten you...

Strawberry Shortcake, East Coast style, is composed of freshly sliced sweetened strawberries, whipped cream, and a tea biscuit!!!  NOT a tired, stale little yellow cake.  I promise you, strawberry shortcake done right is a delight.  If you must have cake, fine, have cake, but make it a good cake, like a buttery pound cake or a light and lovely angel food cake.  Just no yellow cake pucks, please!  But you should try the biscuit.  It's really really good!  We can even make it sweet...here, I'll show you....
See, doesn't that look better!  And there's sugar in the biscuits and on the biscuits. So give it a try.  Put the cello pack of yellow cakes DOWN!!!  There you go.

I will confess that that is not real whipped cream, for two good reasons.  The first is that my hand mixer is broken.  The second is that I'm dairy intolerant and whole fat real whipped cream, the stuff of my dreams, would darn near do me in.  And so, this is Cool Whip.  Still delicious, and more acceptable than LITTLE YELLOW CAKES.  (I will regale you with tales of my quest for dairy free desserts another time...)

I came up with another shortcake recipe this week that I was rather proud of (I've been patting myself on the back a lot this week...I'm due to botch something...I'm planning on making more jam later...hmmm...).  After making the wonderfully sugary tea biscuits for the shortcake, I decided to make a batch of biscuits with whole wheat flour for regular consumption.  I'll be honest, pretty much everything I ate this week short of pork chops ran the risk of having strawberry rhubarb jam smeared on it (come to think of it, that might be good...) so my system was probably pathetically thankful to get whole wheat anything.  I was getting some biscuits ready for breakfast the other morning, and just before I put the jam on I thought "what about a breakfast shortcake?"  I had biscuits and berries...all I needed was a topping.  Of course, yogurt!!  I had some French Vanilla soy yogurt in the fridge, so I took it out and set to assembling my creation.  It was great!  Kind of like a breakfast parfait, but with a biscuit instead of granola.  My camera batteries died as I was trying to get a photo, so I can't show you what it looked like.  I didn't sugar the berries for this one but if you like your breakfast extra sweet, by all means go ahead.  Without the sugar, though, this makes for a tasty and nutritious breakfast, and one that would be fun to serve guests for a weekend brunch!

It's Fabulous Nest Friday, so hop on over to Housewife Bliss to and and take part!  Have a wonderful weekend!

Pretty With (Re)Purpose!

If I had to pick one thing that all scrapbookers have in common, I would have to say it would most likely be....their stash!!!!

I'm not talking about the twizzlers behind the paper boxes or the bottle of cabernet stashed under the sink for "inspiration" (although those both sound like fine ideas...).  I'm referring to the shelves, boxes, filing cabinets, you name it, full of 12X12 sheets of patterned papers, cardstock, ribbons, buttons, brads, rivets, clips, cutouts, chipboard cutouts, fabric cutouts, alphabets, tags, shiny flowery thingies, glitter, ephemera...did I mention 12x12 paper?

You get the idea.  Scrappers love stuff, we are creative beings that for the most part create because we are inspired...and nothing is more inspiring than pretty stuff!  And there's nothing wrong with that!  Scrapbookers are always challenging themselves to use up their stash, in fact right now I am trying to not buy anything else until I use up some of my existing stash.  But there is one part of my stash that I sometimes find extra challenging to use, and that's my scraps.  Often in scrapbooking you will cut into a piece of paper and will have some of it left over.  I keep almost all of my scraps and try really hard to use them up.  But the pile is there and sometimes I feel guilty about the waste, especially when I've only used a small part of the paper.

Finally, the other day, while I was changing the garbage of all things, inspiration struck.  I really think I'm a genius for coming up with this one.

You know those giant 454 gram tubs of spinach that you can buy? The ones that come in the big plastic container that isn't recyclable in many areas?  Well, I was about to cram one of those containers into a garbage bag when I thought, not for the first time, isn't there anything I can do with this besides sending it off to the landfill?  I took a closer look. These containers are well made, they have a lid that fits well, they are clear...really the only difference between them and a lot of other plastic bins is the label on top.

And then it hit me...the label could be covered...with....it's getting clearer....SCRAPS!!!!

 As you can see here, once inspiration hit I wasn't limited to spinach containers!  I'd been holding onto a few empty Tetley tea containers for awhile for the same reason, they were so well designed that it seemed like a waste to just thow them away. 

I took my "supplies" and headed for my craft room to create.  Once I was finished I had four snazzy new containers to use for storage, gift wrap, or organizing.

The best part is that this project is incredibly easy and fast! 

Start by taking a piece of plain white paper and press it into the inner most indent of the spinach container lid. Then, trim around the indentation and you now have a template for cutting out your paper.  Go though your scrap stash and find a piece of paper that will fit your template.  For my project I used sassorted scraps of Stampin Up Designer Series Paper in Razzleberry Lemonade (all four projects).  Once you've decided on your paper, trace the template onto the wrong side of the paper with a pencil, and then trim it with scissors.  Keep trimming until the fit is perfect! 

Once you are sure that your paper is perfectly trimmed, get out some good craft glue.  I like Aleene's Original Tacky Glue because it dries clear and bonds different surfaces together well (like shiny plastic to paper).  Apply glue to the wrong side of the paper, trying not to apply it too thick.  Then, carefully position the paper in place in the indentation on the lid.  Apply gentle pressure to the paper to ensure that there aren't any lumps and that the paper adheres to the lid.  Let dry.  If you wish, you can trace another template for the inside of the lid, as the label will show through on the inside (I wasn't able to remove all of the label).  This isn't necessary but it looks nice, especially if you are using the container to wrap a gift.  Once the glue is dry, you can place it back on the container and start thinking of what you want to do with your beautiful new designer container!  I've already decided to save the next three to help organize my coat closet.  I'm going to assign one to myself, one to my husband, and one for the dogs, to hold all the "things" that are always floating around in the closet (hats, gloves, leashes). 
Spinach Bin Container Holding Yarn

  The next project is to use up those tea canisters! The best thing about the Tetley canisters is their lids; since they sink into the tube they won't tear the paper (as potato chip tube lids and coffee tin lids can).  For each tin, I cut a strip of paper 7.5 cm wide by 24.5 cm long from scraps (also SU Razzleberry Lemonade).  I dabbed craft glue on the wrong side of the paper and, on the edge of the paper that will be seen, I applied a strip of Stampin' Up Snail Adhesive on the wrong side of the paper. Then I removed the lid from the canister, took a strip of paper, lined the edge of the paper up with the seam of the canister label, and held it in place with a piece of scotch tape.

I then wrapped the paper around the canister slowly, making sure to line up the edges and smooth the paper where the glue was.  When I reached the end, the Snail Adhesive held the edge cleanly in place.  That's all there is to it!  If you like you can embellish the tins a bit.  For the pink tin I used a scrap of Stampin' Up grosgain ribbon in a pretty spring green, and a few dollar store floral embellishments.

Here are my completed projects!

As you can see, this is a simple project but one that is satisfying because the results are attractive, useful, and green!  I will leave you with a few more images of how I used my new containers.

Holding yarn (I'm a wool snob!)

Pen Cup

Craft room organizers.