My Arts & Crafts Supplies!

In our town, the flyers are always delivered on Fridays. Last week, as I finished perusing them, I remarked to my husband that this was probably the last batch of flyers that wouldn't be advertising school supplies.  Like Christmas and, to a smaller extent, Halloween and Easter, Back To School is big business and the advertising starts early.  This makes me feel bad for all the kids who are still firmly entrenched in vacation mode, which of course they should be seeing as there is still as much break ahead of them as behind.  I can remember being in my childhood kitchen on August 1rst, many summers ago, and hearing the radio announcer proclaim that summer was half over. I was devastated!  And yet, for all that I wished that summer could last forever, there was one Back To School ritual that almost made it worth while to see summer coming to an end.

School supplies.

Shopping for the supplies was fun, of course, but there was something so wonderful about having that pile of new stuff just sitting in my closet, waiting.  I would tidy my room and closet in anticipation of my new things, and, once I had it all home, I would spend many hours arranging and rearranging.  Even better if it was a new school bag year as well; I loved arranging my supplies to see how it would all fit.  Careful consideration went into which subject got which colour folder.  Sometimes I tried a little reverse psychology and would assign a hated subject (MATHMATHMATH!!!) my very prettiest folder (one year it was pink!) One year we were allowed to have "Finder Binders" which housed all your subject in one handy, velcro'd binder.  Another year the thrill of my new school bag became a horror story, as all my subjects had extra heavy, oversized texts and I tore through four book bags in quick succession.  That my parent's didn't send me to school with a haversack was a miracle.  I also remember the first year we were allowed to write with ink instead of pencil (Grade 6) and how unbelievably horrible correction fluid smells at 3:00 in the afternoon in a hot classroom.  

The very best supplies were for art.  Not surprisingly, this class required the most supplies, and yet we barely ever used any of them. It was wonderful stuff though, and we got to keep it all in an shoe box art box; glue, scissors, crayons, markers, pencils, and oil pastels.   Every year those pastels showed up on our art list, and every year I would head to school excited that this would be the year we would actually use them.  You see, I was positive I was a great artist, and that those pastels would be the medium to release my talent.  Except...we never used them.  Once, once we used them, to learn about smudging.  And that was it.  I think I had the same box of unopened pastels for three years. 

Ah, memory lane!  I miss that annual ritual, and so sometimes I indulge in a little supply shopping of my own.  I've posted before about my love of notebooks and pens, and how much more organized they make me.  And now, instead of a shoe box  an art box, I have my very own craft room, full of all my wonderful stuff!  Wednesday we went to Terrace, and I picked up a few new supplies to add to my collection.  I think they're pretty great!

First up was a trip to the yarn shop, to see if I could get a spool of charcoal grey angora to finish my mitts.  I was very disappointed that they were out of it, and the search continues.  I did, however, get some beautiful new yarn that I think will make the most lovely mittens for someone on my Christmas list; Sirdar Snuggly Baby Bamboo in Rinky Dinky Pink!  In addition to being pink and soft and pretty, this yarn has the nicest washing instructions I've ever read "Reshape whilst wet."  Any company that uses the word "whilst" is good by me!  And yes, this time I purchased two spools, just to be on the safe side!

We were doing some shopping in a large department store and I decided to pop into the craft department to pick up a crochet hook for Housewife Bliss' Housewife 101 tutorial on crocheting, which is being taught by Tehlia (Little T) of Raw Adventures of an Army Wife.  This took me a little while, as I was mesmerized by all the pretty hooks.  I was holding onto a very nice bamboo hook when I spotted the beautiful shiny plastic ones.  I have no idea if plastic crochet hooks are considered good or bad, but the colours, like old school toothbrushes, were just so pretty, I couldn't resist!  I picked one that looks like it's made of lemon drops.  Admittedly, I hadn't written down which size to buy and so I let colour guide me.  It was hard to take a picture of this that didn't have a glare in it, so I have decided that my hook clearly must have magical powers.  Do YOU have a magical crystal crochet hook??

And finally, an impulse buy!  As we were leaving the craft department, my eye spotted something familiar - Aleene's Original Tacky Glue!  I've had the same large bottle for years and it was only recently that I noticed it was getting low.  I was wondering if I would be able to find it, and then there it was!  Only it wasn't just one bottle of Aleene's...
 It was five!  Three regular, one washable, and one "Jewel -It," for gluing "plastic, metal, glass, beads; rhinestones; pearls and sequins to fabric."  Because you know, I might.  I would've given my eye teeth to have had this stuff back in junior high, when we were customizing NKOTB shirts!  All joking aside, I have a few Christmas projects that I will put my "Jewel-It" glue to use on. Ah Christmas, what would we do if we didn't have the Christmas holidays with which to indulge our secret, hidden love of glitter and other shiny things? 

And that, my friends, will be a Nesty for another day!  Have a wonderful weekend!  And hide those Back To School flyers from the kids; the glass is still half full!!!!

Wooly Delights!

It's been a while since I updated you on my wool working pursuits.  In truth, between our move and the warmer weather starting up (and all the fun outdoor activities that brings) I had put my knitting down for a bit.  But a few weeks ago, I got the urge to knit again, and out came the needles and yarn!

When I last posted about my knitting, I had just finished a pair of mulberry stripe socks, and I was about to begin a pair of boot weight socks in Fireside Red. Now, as some of you will recall, I was very excited about learning to knit.  I had always dreamed of being to knit socks and mittens.  Well, now I've achieved both dreams!

As I mentioned above, I had put my knitting down for a while, and just picked it up again a few weeks ago.  I really wanted to finish my second red sock, which was near completion.  I finished it off, and put them aside, as I had to wait for my friend Tasha of Fibre Rox to show me how to finish the toes using the Kitchener Stitch.  I had attempted to teach myself this technique, but judging from the number of times I've had to darn the toes of my mulberry stripe socks, I needed some expert advice.  Well, Tasha set me strait and soon both socks had lovely, finished toes.  I proudly field tested my socks on a hike and I am happy to say that they are the perfect boot sock!  The aloe infused wool and nylon blend was comfy and kept my feet dry and comfortable.  And they are so pretty!  They have lived up to my expectations in every way, so much so that I've picked up another ball of Kertzer's On Your Toes DK Boot Sock Yarn, this time in a pretty blue blend. (I can't find a funky name for this one, so perhaps it's been discontinued, but I'm also keeping my eyes peeled for a ball of Meadow Mauve or Wild Child.)  Will this pair make its way into my sock drawer, or will it perhaps make someone a very heartfelt Christmas present? Only time will tell!    The Fireside pair are definitely keepers; they were a labour of love and they still show the evidence of a new knitter.  My second sock turned out a little longer than the first one, although not as dramatically as the picture makes it seem.  However, once they are tucked into my boots, no one can tell the difference.

With two pairs of socks under my belt, it was time to tackle mittens. The funny thing is, I apparently did things backward by starting with socks, since most people do mittens first and then progress to socks. Now that I've made them, I can see the logic in this progression.  Mittens teach you the fundamentals of knitting with four needles without all the extra techniques of socks.

Mittens are fun!  I started with a pair of wristlets (fingerless mitts) which are great because I can start wearing them earlier in the fall than conventional mitts.  I had picked out a spool of charcoal grey angora for this project, and using smaller needles (I think they were 3.5's) I worked away.  I couldn't find a pattern I really liked; most weren't worked in the round, or they were far too advanced for me, so another good friend came over and basically put together a pattern for me.  What good friends I have!  I had started with a pattern that featured extra long cuffs, which I loved because they were different, and hey, no one likes cold wrists!

I was so, so happy with how my wristlet turned out:
What I had failed to consider was that the extra long, ribbed cuffs would take up an extra lot of yarn, and so I only have one wristlet!  I am really, really hoping that the yarn shop is still carrying this colour when I get back there (don't even get me started on the dye lot, that would be asking too much!).  My photos aren't really doing them justice, as I was wearing a bracelet when I snapped the photo and therefore they aren't pulled up all the way.  You also can't feel how unbelievably soft and luxurious they are.  They are like puppies wrapped in kittens wrapped in bunnies (angora bunnies, as the case would be):
 Luckily, I had stockpiled yarn, so I had a spool of moss green silk bamboo that I am knitting into another pair of wristlets, this time with regular, one inch cuffs.  So pretty!

I really enjoy knitting; I find it relaxing and rewarding.  I'm itching to learn to crochet now, so I was delighted to see that this week's Housewife 101 at Housewife Bliss is crocheting!  I think that this "modern home economics course" is a brilliant idea, and I'm looking forward to following it as it progresses. I will have to pick up a crochet hook when I'm at the yarn shop!

Have a wonderful week!

Retro Recipes - Can YOU Bake a Cherry Pie?

A few days ago, my neighbor dropped off a wonderful gift - a bag of freshly picked cherries!  I was thrilled, and I knew immediately what I wanted to make.  Cherry Pie!!  Cherry pie is my husband's favorite, and it isn't very often that we get a chance to make it with fresh cherries.

Making cherry pie from scratch requires a bit more work than just opening a can of filling!  In addition to making the pastry, there are all those cherries to pit!  I had forgotten to heed the advice of my cousin Ainsley (of Pattycake Manners) to purchase a cherry pitter, and I found myself staring into a bowl of cherries with a paring knife as my tool.  Well, the paring knife got the job done, but it took a while and my hands are now very stained.  However, I had the 5 1/2 cups of fruit required for my recipe, and I was ready to begin.

I decided to use a recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks.  I have made their pie crust several times, and I really like it.  It's a funny thing about me and pie crust.  I come from a long line of excellent bakers, and I consider myself to be a really good baker.  However, pie crust stumped me.  No matter how many times I tried, my crusts tore, were tough, and just plain unappetizing.  I continued to try on occasion, but I had access to lots of great pies at home, so it wasn't a big deal.  However, once we moved to Kitimat, I decided that once and for all, I was going to master pastry, starting with pie crust.  I'm not sure what changed, but now I make crusts with no problem at all, and I'm looking forward to branching out into other types of pastry.

But back to the pie!  I've had good luck using recipes from this cookbook, so I was confident starting my pie.  The recipe called for me to combine sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl, stir in the fruit, and allow it all to sit for at least 15 minutes to make a syrup.  I followed this process, assembled the pie, and popped it into the oven.  I like to follow the technique of covering the edge of the crust with foil for the first 30 minutes of baking so that it doesn't get too brown.  When I took the pie out after 30 minutes, it looked lovely and wonderful smells were wafting from it.  I popped it back into the oven and set the timer for an additional 30 minutes, as the recipe said to bake it for another 20 to 30 minutes, or until the crust was golden and the filling was bubbling.  After about 15 minutes, I heard a most unwelcome sound; the hiss and sizzle of pie filling hitting an oven floor.  My pie was boiling over!!  I quickly grabbed a cookie sheet to slide under the pie (to reduce the amount of mess in my oven) and as I was doing so, I saw that the crust was golden and the filling was indeed bubbling.  So, I took the pie out of the oven and gave it a good inspection.  I was using a glass pie plate, so I could get a good look at the entire crust.  It was completely baked, well ahead of schedule.  So, I turned off the oven and let the pie cool for a few hours.

We were very excited to cut into the pie.  I had an image of the cherries being surrounded by a sweet-tart sauce of perfect consistency; thick enough to stay inside the crust when cut, but not gelatinous.  Well, my filling was definitely not gelatinous!  When I cut into the pie and lifted away the first slice, the recess left quickly filled with juice.  Definitely not what I was aiming for!

It wasn't awful.  In fact, some people who tried it said it was delicious, and just like any other "from scratch" homemade cherry pie they'd had.  But, that wasn't good enough for me, and now I'm on a mission to figure out what went wrong, and to perfect my recipe!

One of my first thoughts was that perhaps I should prepare a cooked pie filling first, thus ensuring that it thickens, and then add it to the crust the same way I would if I was using a store bought filling.  I have found several recipes online and they all sound great.  I also checked out a few that use the method I did; mixing raw fruit with sugar and a thickening agent.  The one thing I noticed about the second kind of recipe is that they called for much more cornstarch or tapioca than I used.

And so, dear readers, I'm throwing it to you!  Can YOU bake a cherry pie, and, if so, what are your tips?  Which method do you use?  In the meantime, I'll be continuing my research; I'll let you know how it all turns out!

Have a great weekend!

What Leftovers?

We've continued to enjoy beautiful, sunny, warm days here in Kitimat, and at our house, we're taking full advantage!  The grill has been going every evening, and we're having tons of fun coming up with new creations.  Sometimes, it's new spins on old favorites!

One of the best things about barbecue season?  Delicious leftovers!  Rummaging through the fridge for a midnight snack is so much more fun during grilling season!  Not to mention how easy it is to pull together a quick lunch or speedy supper.  Like tonight, for example; we enjoyed one of our favorite meals, Barbecue Chicken Pizzas.

Now, normally when we enjoy this dish, it requires quite a bit of preparation, or a phone call to the local pizzeria!   And to be perfectly frank, in this weather, I wouldn't be turning on the oven.  However, since we had grilled a chicken the night before (butterflied, over apple wood chips, and finished with sweet chili sauce), we were half way there.  I knew that I would use my charcoal grill to cook the pizzas, so there was no need to turn on the oven.  But what about the dough?  I like to make my own pizza dough, but tonight I was looking for something a bit less fussy.  What to use?  And then I remembered....the three Naan bread that were in my freezer!  After defrosting on the counter for a few hours, they were thawed and ready to go!

I was able to use ingredients that we already had on hand for the majority of the recipe.  Picked banana peppers are a staple in our house, and we had a large bottle of President's Choice Tequila Habenero Barbecue Sauce that served as the sauce.  I opened new packages of cheese, but cheese is another staple that we always have in the fridge.  Another leftover served as our started; I had prepared a bowl of Greek salad the night before.  The tomatoes, cucumber, feta and olives had been marinating in a bowl of Greek vinaigrette and were delicious served over a bed of crispy greens.  

Leftovers sometimes (well, a lot of the time!) get a bad reception, but I think they're great!  There's so many ways to bring leftover food to life again, aside from popping it in the microwave!  Here's the recipe that I (loosely) followed:

Charcoal Grilled Barbecue Chicken Pizzas

1 barbecued chicken breast, shredded
3 Naan bread
Prepared barbecue sauce
Pickled banana peppers
Grated cheese (I used a combination of cheddar & mozza)
Olive Oil
Light charcoal in the grill and allow to reach a "high warm" temperature.  Brush both sides of the naan bread with olive oil and heat over the grill until lightly toasted. Spread sauce on bread, and then top each bread with chicken, peppers, and cheese.  Close the lid and allow to cook, checking occasionally, until the cheese is melted and the pizza is heated through.  Enjoy!!!

My next challenge will be to actually make the dough from scratch and cook it on the grill.  I've been doing some research on this and I'm sure you'll be seeing the results soon!  

I've also been looking into grilled desserts (in fact, I'm field testing one tonight!) and I'm looking forward to sharing the results of my "study" with you in the near future!

Have a great week, and I'll see you on Friday!

Window to My World - Mountain Goats in Jasper, Alberta

This is a favorite memory from our "Great Canadian Road Trip."  The Rocky Mountains appear on the horizon and are truly awe inspiring.  I was beyond thrilled driving through the breathtakingly beautiful Jasper National Park, and was delighted that we "crossed the border" into our new home province in the middle of all this beauty (the border between Alberta and British Columbia is in Mount Robson Park).  

The drive across Canada was amazing, truly an experience everyone should do at least once!  We came from almost as far East as one can go in Canada, and traveled almost are far West as you can go.  On our way from the Atlantic to the Pacific, we passed the Great Lakes, drove into the Canadian Shield, and crossed the prairies, but when we saw the Rockies approaching we knew we were almost "home." 

We saw many wonderful sights, but these mountain goats and their Rocky Mountain home were definitely a highlight for me!!

Simple Pleasures

I try to keep my mind open to the secret messages my world is trying to send me.  Sometimes the messages come in more obvious forms, such as television commercials, news stories, or Facebook posts.  Sometimes, the messages come from cookies.

Cookies, you say?  Could the Nestygirl have finally gone crazy up there in the mountains of the North?  Do we need to send a search party up there with a pair of heels, some Clinique and a copy of Instyle?  Does she need a filing system in need of alphabetizing and colour coding?  WAS IT THE CUPCAKES????  No, dear readers, I'm fine. No cabin fever yet. But I am telling you the truth, the cookies are speaking to me.
She's mad!!  Send help anon!!!

I'm not even talking about fortune cookies.  I love fortune cookies, but I tend to always get the generic, boring "Peace is found in nature" ones.  My husband, now, the cookies love him.  It's always, "You will receive money in the mail" and "You will protect many people" and "Adventure awaits you on the water."  But like I said, I'm not talking about fortune cookies.  I'm talking about "Simple Pleasures" cookies.  You know the ones, thin, plain little cookies that are actually much more delicious than their simple form suggests?  I picked up a box of lemon ones last weekend to go with the Strawberry Mousse I made for dessert, and ever since, the phrase "simple pleasures" has been floating through my head.  So, now you understand, the cookies are speaking to me.

Suddenly, mood related messages seemed to be everywhere.  This month, one of my favorite magazines, Real Simple, is offering up suggestions on how to "energize your life."  The cover of this month's edition of another favorite magazine, Everyday with Rachel Ray contains the following phrases:
  • "Cook With Love, Not Guilt"
  • "No-Sweat Party Package"
  • "Stress Free Ways to Feed Your Friends"
The message is loud and clear; people are stressing out!  And why?  For Pete's sake, it's summer!  The livin's  supposed to be easy, remember?  So when I got to my cousin Ainsley's Pattycake Manner's post We Need to Chill I raised my hand and said "I second that!"

And then I got some cookies.  Simple Pleasures, eh?  If only cookies could get everyone to chill, how much better off would we all be?  

Part of my new life philosophy is to try my very hardest not to sweat the small stuff; I made a career out of that, and, while it served me well professionally, I really don't feel the need to be so detail oriented in our home life. And life is good!  We put our energies and, when necessary, concern into things that really require it and we move on.  So it makes me sad to see that people are at the point where things that should be pleasures, such as cooking, crafting, entertaining, even, as Ainsley pointed out, blogging, have become sources of stress. 

Cooking? Not feeling inspired in the kitchen?  Here's a little secret; to the best of my knowledge, no one has ever died from eating instant mac & cheese every once in a while.  I have a flat of it stashed in our pantry, and you all know how much I love to cook.  Just pour everyone a glass of juice to go with it.  They'll survive.

Crafting?  Unless it's your income source, crafting is supposed to be fun, so if it's stressing you out, put it away.  I have a pile a scrap-booking projects awaiting completion, but you know what?  I'm not in the mood right now. I can't scrapbook on the patio with a glass of wine, and summer won't last forever so I'm going to enjoy my patio while I can.  My paper and pictures aren't going anywhere, and I'll feel like doing it again soon, but in the meantime, I'll read, or knit, or play with my dogs.  And drink wine on the patio.

Entertaining?  I'll give you that one, it can stress out even the most seasoned party planner.  I love to throw a party, but I've been known to whimper "Martha didn't cover this" as my grill won't heat or the temperature drops to near freezing in July.  If it stresses you out badly, don't entertain.  You don't have to.  Really.  Invite people to a restaurant, or have a campfire.  But seriously, if big parties aren't your thing, don't throw them. 

Blogging? I agree with Ains, we need to chill out.  Again, as with crafts, if your blog is your income source, then yes, it could be a source of stress if you have requirements to meet.  But for those of us who blog for ourselves, for fun, and to be a part of a community, don't let it become work to the point that you dread blogging.  Take a vacation, simplify your posts, scale back the "hops" and "blog parties" you participate in, and enjoy your summer.

To that end, here's some of the "Simple Pleasures" I've been enjoying:
  • Knitting - I finally finished my Fireside Red boot socks!  My friend Tasha of Fibre Rox stopped by to help me with my Kitchener Stitch, and they are awesome!  I've started some charcoal grey angora wristlets; the yarn is so soft and pretty, you can feel your blood pressure just loooooowering down!
  • Reading - I just finished The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb.  I have my two new magazines, and I'll be starting Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin for book club soon (although I am really liking Mrs. Bliss's idea about starting a Wine Club, too!)
  • My dogs - Regular readers of my blog will know by now how in love I am with my pups Molly and Tinkywink.  I know not everyone is a dog person, but I tend to agree with Bernard Williams that "There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face."
  • Cooking - My kitchen is my happy place.  When I watched Julie & Julia and heard Julie Powell say "I love that after a day when nothing is sure, and when I say "nothing" I mean nothing, you can come home and absolutely know that if you add egg yolks to chocolate and sugar and milk, it will get thick.  It's such a comfort,"  I understood. Last night I made a glazed lemon cake, and the sight of it in my cake safe makes me happy.  Tonight, I made primavera-ish pasta sauce and added some fresh basil leaves that I grew myself.  That made me happy.
  • Naps - One of the really nice things about not working is that, if I want to, I can take a mid-day nap.  They are wonderful!!!
 These are just a few of the things I'm doing to live my life well. As we head into the weekend, I encourage you to listen to the cookies in your life, and embrace simple pleasures.  Summer is short, so enjoy it!!!

Today I am linking to Housewife Bliss' Fabulous Nest Friday, as well as New Friend Friday, which is co-hosted by The Girl Creative and Trendy Treehouse

New Friend Fridays

A Wonderful Weekend

Well, folks, this weekend I learned that the weather has a funny sense of humour, and it likes to prove you wrong, especially if you blog about it!

Remember Friday's post, the one where I detailed all the wonderful recipes I'd wanted to make before the temperature got so, so hot?  The one where I also explained the changes I'd made to my menu plan because of said heat?  Well, Friday morning we woke up to, you guessed it,  rain.

It wasn't awful rain, but it was wet, and it certainly wasn't going to be good weather for barbecues, camp fire cookouts, and leisurely cocktails on the patio.  But it was still muggy and a little hot.  I had visions of the house slowly becoming a sauna.

By the time the first group of guests arrived, the weather had met us halfway.  It was still raining intermittently, but the temperature had dropped to a more comfortable level.  After a quick discussion, my husband and I decided to proceed with the outdoor cooking plans for the most part, with a few other items thrown in for breakfasts and desserts.  So, for night one's supper, I fired up my new Brinkmann Charcoal Grill and Smoker and made souvlaki marinated pork chops with grilled kebabs of zuchini, eggplant, onion, and bread tossed in a herby vinaigrette. This was only my second time using the charcoal grill, and I was a little nervous about how it would turn out.  The meal was a great success, and we finished off our supper with bowls of homemade strawberry mousse with thin lemon cookies.  After a few drinks and lots of laughter and story telling, we all retired for the evening.  

The next morning we woke to rain again, but by the time we finished our pancakes (big breakfasts were back on the table, so to speak) the sun was coming out.  We lingered over our coffees while we made plans for the day. Our other guest wouldn't arrive until early evening, so we decided to do some sightseeing.  By the time we were ready to head out, it was so lovely and warm that I headed back into the house to change out of my jeans and blouse and into a sundress.  It turned into a perfect summer day; warm enough to be out and enjoying the outdoors but not so hot that it was uncomfortable.  We took our guests for a drive along the beaches and back-roads of the Kitimat River, where they were able to see how many people crowd the shore with RV's and tents in order to take advantage of the world famous salmon fishing.  We scouted out a good spot for the evening's campfire, and then proceeded to drive to another Kitimat landmark, the Giant Spruce.  The Giant Spruce is a 500 year old Sitka Spruce (fans of the Twilight books will recognize this evergreen).  It is the largest living organism in the Kitimat Valley as well as the largest living spruce tree in British Columbia. 

We grabbed lunch at Subway and ate at a picnic table in the City Center green-space. Kitimat was designed to be a "family friendly garden city" and has over 45 km of walking trails and lots of green-spaces.  After another quick drive around town, we headed for home to wait for our last guest.  While we were waiting, our neighbors dropped by with a real treat; half a salmon, filleted and ready to go on the grill!  What great neighbors!  We decided right away to serve that for supper the next night, and we were thrilled that our visitors would get to try this BC specialty.  

Once our final guest arrived, we had a quick reunion and then packed up the Jeep and headed back to the river for a campfire.  A good sized group of people showed up, and hot dogs, smokies, marshmallows, and other treats were passed around the fire to be shared and enjoyed.  It was a beautiful evening, and the trout were jumping and putting on a good show.  The bears stayed away, as did the rain.

The next morning we had a late brunch of bacon and eggs.  Once again, we hung out drinking coffee and catching up for quite some time.  We decided to take our visitors to Kitimaat Village, and to the marina. The day started out sunny and hot, and I put on another sun dress.  We had a nice drive to the Village, and we stopped at a lookout point along the way where we got out to enjoy the view of the Douglas Channel.  We snacked on some sun-warmed berries before heading back to the Giant Spruce, so our newly arrived guest could check out this amazing tree.  Then, it was back home to fire up the barbecue.

Now, this is the point where the weather really started to play with me.  We were enjoying a drink on the patio while the coals heated up, when somebody commented that it was starting to cool down.  And cool down it did!  Frosty Pina Coladas were traded for less icy drinks, and sundresses and shorts were traded for jeans, socks, and sweaters.  Bundled up, we sat around and waited for the grill to reach ideal temperature.

My plan was to grill some chicken legs and then pop them in the oven to stay warm while I cooked the salmon (since fish doesn't take very long to cook.)  We had to decided to try using some apple wood chips as well, since they would compliment both chicken and salmon.  All we needed was a nice, hot grill.  I was feeling confident after my pork chop success of two night earlier, and so I waited.  And waited, and waited, and waited.  It just wouldn't move out of "warm."

I tried to be patient, since I knew opening the grill would lose heat.  However, after almost an hour, I gave in and took a peek.  I could see grey ash, but the top grill just wasn't getting hot.  We added some more coals, as well as some dry wood and newspaper, and at first, things really seemed to be heating up!  Someone observed that the cold wind was probably making it difficult for the grill to heat up, so we moved it to a more sheltered space.  Nothing.  Eventually, we decided to bake the chicken in the oven, and concentrate our grilling efforts on the fish.  I won't bore you with the exact details, but suffice to say it did take a while, and some experimenting, to get our salmon cooked.  But when it did cook, it was so worth the wait!  We feasted on tequila habernero glazed chicken, grilled apple wood smoked salmon, mashed potatoes, and sauteed spinach.  For dessert, we had Strawberry Festival Cake.  By the time dessert was being served, lots of guests had stopped in to meet our visitors, so they all got cake, too!  Drinks were poured, stories were told, and, as I said in Monday's post, we laughed 'till we cried.

By 8:30 the next morning, everyone was gone.  My husband was back to work, one visitor had headed home and the others had continued on their vacation.  The house seemed too quiet, and that peculiar combination of homesickness and loneliness that sometimes comes over me since we moved here hit me hard.  As I cleared away the crumbs from our bagels and cream cheese, I felt a lump in my throat and a funny prickling behind my eyes.  And so, I did the only logical thing I could think of to make myself feel better; I cleaned the house. I stripped beds, gathered towels, did many loads of laundry and ran the dishwasher.  I swept and dusted, mopped and put things away, and by noon, the house was back in order, my spirits had lifted and I was left with the wonderful memories of a great weekend.  Everyone had vowed to return, and I can't wait until they do!

Have a wonderful week!  If you are having visitors this weekend, I hope their visit is as wonderful as ours was!  See you on Friday!

I Laughed 'til I Cried...

Happy Monday!

Well, good readers, my weekend of company is coming to an end.  I have a few hours left with them, so today's post will be a short one.  Rest assured, Wednesday's post will be full of stories about our weekend and my culinary adventures in feeding everyone.

We had a wonderful time, and, as it should be with good friends, we talked, told stories, and laughed and laughed and laughed.  I laughed until I cried at points, and it felt great.  There is something really great about spending time with people you have a shared past with, and we took full advantage of our time with our good friends.

I'm feeling a little sad right now; the visit was far too short and went much too quickly.  I have my guest book ready for our visitors to sign; this is a new tradition we've started since we've been here, and our weekend guests are the first signatures and addresses in the book.  In the future, it will be nice to flip through the pages, read the entries, and remember all the places we'll have lived and all the people who came to visit us.  To begin, I've marked "Kitimat 2009 -_______on the first page;" I hope we have many entries under this heading before we move along.

Have a great week, and I'll see you on Wednesday.

Hot Weather Entertaining

Happy Friday, Everyone!

We're very excited this weekend because we are going to be entertaining our first Kitimat house-guests!  When you live this far away from home and off the beaten path, visitors are a major cause for excitement!  And of course, I embrace any opportunity to release my inner Martha.  And so, I spent a lot of time last week perusing my cookbooks and browsing the blogs, looking for just the perfect menu items.

Naturally, I wanted to bake.  I've been working on a number of coffee cakes lately, and, with images of leisurely coffees on the patio, I'd planned to make a few.  In particular, I'd wanted to try this delectable sounding Snickerdoodle Bundt Cake with Blueberries which I discovered on My Sweet and Savory. Also, Mommy featured these delightful American Pie Cupcakes; these are seriously cute, and I could just picture serving them up for dessert.  I found another gorgeous dessert or coffee break idea  at Purple Chocolat Home; Strawberry Shortcake Cookies.  Wonderful!  My guests would be well fed, and I would get to try out some fabulous new recipes.  I started making my shopping list.

Well, thankfully, I didn't go shopping right away.  There isn't going to be much baking going on in this house, and believe me, my guests will be happier for it.  A hot spell has moved in and the air is stifling.  It's 28 inside the house and there's just NO WAY the oven is going on.  (I realize that those of you who live in warmer places than Northwestern BC may be wondering what all the fuss is about, but trust me, this is hot for us.  I 'm a delicate Northern flower and I don't do heat well.)

It's actually quite funny when you think of it.  Monday's post was about bread pudding and how it was perfect for chilly winter and summer nights.  Honestly, when I baked that, I was wearing fleece jammies, with the fireplace going, and was drinking tea.  It was cold!  And now, we have all retreated to our cellars, only to emerge in the evening when it cools down, or, as we did today, to go foraging for Creamsicles. The sad thing?  By next Sunday I could be back in my fleece jammies in front of the fire.  But this weekend, it's going to be HOT!

And so, of course, a menu change!!  We're planning on lots and lots of outdoor cooking!  We recently received a Brinkmann Charcoal Grill and Smoker as a gift, and we had our inaugural grill tonight.  For my guests, I'm going to do grilled pork chops tomorrow night, and I'll definitely be reprising the Butterflied Chickens I blogged about a few weeks ago.  We're going to head to the river for a few campfire suppers; there we can share British Columbia's rugged beauty with our guests as well as enjoy the cool river breeze.  We'll have to keep our eyes peeled for bears as there's been a lot of sightings lately.
Yes, that's a Grizz

For breakfasts, I'd planned a lot of big family style brunches, complete with breakfast bakes, pancakes, and stuffed french toast.  Since anything that heavy would probably do us in, I'm switching to a continental buffet, with an assortment of breads, yogurt, and cheese.  I'll probably do one big breakfast, maybe on Sunday, just so I don't feel too guilty!

Lunches will be simple.  Sandwiches are always popular and are perfect to take along should we decide to go on a drive or hike. That just leaves one category...

My beloved desserts!

Well, it turns out you can make some pretty tasty sweets without turning on the stove!  I'm planning to make a batch of the strawberry mousse that I used in my Strawberry Festival Cake and serve it in dessert bowls, perhaps with some thin sugar cookies.  As well, I'll buy a tub of vanilla ice cream and, on the nights we're grilling, I'll make some quick and easy toppings by grilling fruit on the barbecue while we're eating our supper.  Pineapple is great, as are strawberries. I've found a few recipes for cakes that you cook in a skillet on the grill, so I may try out one of those.  And of course, at our river camp fire cookouts, we'll be sure to bring along all the fixings for s'mores!!

And there you have it! Once the weather cools I will be able to bake again, and when I can I'm going to be trying out all those amazing recipes linked to above!  In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy the laid back and relaxed type of dining that comes along with the warm summer sun.  Have a wonderful weekend!
Molly loves cookouts!

Retro Recipes - Bread Pudding

I love desserts, and make no apologies for my sweet tooth.  The dessert course is a tradition I have gladly carried over from my childhood table, and we embrace it.  While sweets in all their forms are always very welcome, our favorites do tend to be the time-tested, well-loved traditional recipes that have graced family tables for decades.   Pies, crisps, and puddings of all kinds are frequently on our menu.

There are two puddings in particular that fall into the category of "favorite" in our home; rice and bread.  Yup, we love our carbs almost as much as we love our sweets.  We never even bothered to try Atkins; it wouldn't have lasted a day in our house.  I haven't made either in a while, so I decided to save up bread slices and heels in the refrigerator for a special treat.

Why use old bread?  I could have picked up an artisan loaf at the local grocery store and used that, and indeed, it would be tasty.  However, I've been on a bit of a mission lately when it comes to food.  You may recall a post from a few weeks ago called Food for Thought where I discussed Kerry Leonard and Christopher Greenslate's book On a Dollar a Day: One Couple's Unlikely Adventures in Eating in America, which is based on the experiences chronicled on their blog One Dollar Diet Project.  While I've always hated wasting food, since taking a closer look at the issue of food costs and world hunger, I find that I'm really loathe to toss out food.  So, we decided that we would do our very best to eat what we had in the fridge and try reallyreally hard not to make a bunch of visits to the grocery store between official grocery shopping trips.  This week, we had a leftover buffet one night, and it was great.  I read about leftover buffets at I'm An Organizing Junkie; this site has an amazing weekly menu planner and a leftover buffet is usually a part of the plan.  As we filled up our plates with pasta, ribs, salad, and meatloaf, it occurred to me that we were basically having a potluck, except that I'd cooked everything myself!  

And so, instead of tossing out the heels and other weird looking pieces of bread, I saved them up.  Tonight, I had enough to make our pudding.  I got out my Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook and found my favorite bread pudding recipe.  After some consideration, I decided to make the chocolate chip variation.  Bread Pudding is super easy to make, and before long the house was full of wonderful, chocolate-y smells.

We had some for dessert (of course!) and it was great!  I had a bit of a giggle, because bread pudding is usually more of a cold weather dessert; in fact, the description accompanying the recipe suggests that the cook "Settle in on a cold winter's night with a bowlful of this rich delight."  Well, I'm hear to tell you that it's just as yummy on a cold summer's night as it is in December.  So much so that we were half-way through our dessert when I realized I hadn't photographed the final result.  It was so pretty, too, all puffed up in it's French White casserole. Oh well, it's pretty darn cute in a dessert bowl, too!

I found two recipes on the Better Homes and Gardens website that are similar to the ones I use.  One is for Bread Pudding with no variations, and the other is for Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding.  Neither of these recipes are exactly like the one in my cookbook (the 14th edition) but they are similar and I'm sure they'd be delightful.  The Brown Sugar Sauce recipe with the Chocolate Chip version sounds just wonderful; I may have to whip some of that up for our "midnight snack" course of pudding.  Like I said, Atkins never, ever would've worked in this house.  Oh well, nothing a good brisk walk in the bracing July air can't take care of!

Today I am linking to Just Something I Whipped Up Monday, hosted by The Girl Creative.
The Girl Creative

A Fun Bit of Canadiana!

Hello again!  I hope that all my Canadian readers had a wonderful Canada Day, and that my American friends are having a great time getting ready for the big Fourth of July holiday weekend!  I had a very nice Canada Day.  We attended the local parade and later in the evening watched the fireworks display with some friends.  In between the events, however, we spent a nice amount of time just relaxing on the patio with good books and cups of coffee.  It was pleasant to take a few hours to relax and do nothing, since we have been working on a project that has been keeping us busy and, for the most part, indoors.

We have been purging.

Our belongings, that is.  This isn't the first time we've done this; I did a major purge before we moved out West over a year ago.  But this time, we're being really, really ruthless.  We've tossed stuff we swore we'd never get rid of!  We have several boxes ready to go to the thrift store, in addition to a large box of garbage and a bankers box of papers to destroy.  In addition to discarding items, we are also re-organizing and properly storing items that we are keeping, but won't be using on a regular basis.  I'll post more on that later.

One of the really fun things about purging your stuff is that it's a bit like treasure hunting.  We've recovered a lot of items that we thought were gone forever, as well as lots of stuff we are scratching our heads about.  Do you ever stop to wonder why some of the stuff in your house ever got in in the first place?  We discovered a collection of Pez dispensers.  Pez dispensers!  We're placing a lot of blame on Christmas stockings, those beloved dispensaries of "stuff".

Another discovery has actually made us $5.00 richer.  That may not seem like a lot, but those familiar with what we found will appreciate that it could take quite a while to get $5.00 worth of it.
 Canadian Tire Money is a cash bonus rewards program run by the Canadian Tire company.  Every time you make a purchase at a Canadian Tire store, gas bar, or online store, you earn Canadian Tire money.  You can read more about it here.

I enjoyed reading the facts listed in the article posted above.  I could definitely relate to the point that, since it feels like real money (the coupons are produced using the same materials and processes as legal tender) customers don't throw it away.  This is exactly how I came to be in possession of $5.00 worth.

Our collection began simply enough. Since moving to Northwestern BC, we shop at Canadian Tire a lot more than we did at home, so our cache of "money" built up fairly quickly.  As we began to purge our belongings, we discovered more and more of the coupons.  It got to be kind of funny; we would open an old wallet, or a book, or an envelope and there it would be.  We even discovered a more unusual fifty cent coupon, which was a bit of a thrill.  Apparently there are $1.00 and $2.00 coupons as well, but we haven't received one of those yet.

Watching our little pile of "money" grow made me happy and brought back other Canadian Tire money memories.  I can remember that as a little girl with her first bright purple Cabbage Patch Kids purse, a note or two of Canadian Tire money made me feel very grown up indeed!  Even as I got older, there was something about those brightly coloured, yet somewhat official looking bills that kept me from tossing them.  Perhaps it was that "legal tender" feel, or maybe it was Sandy McTire's smiling eyes and jaunty tam-o-shanter, but something kept me stashing the notes away, only to be discovered many years later.

We're keeping our cash, at least for the time being.  Right now we're making a game out of it; earlier today my husband noted that we were five cents short of $5.00.  A few hours later, I triumphantly held up a ten cent note.  We are going to build our pile for now, and then put the collected coupons toward a purchase.  

Canadian Tire money is one of those uniquely Canadian things that warms my heart.  And since yesterday was Canada Day, it seemed like the perfect time to share one of the quirkier pieces of Canadiana with you!

Today I am linking to New Friend Friday, which is co-hosted by The Girl Creative and Trendy Treehouse.
New Friend Fridays

I am also participating in the Canada Day Blog Party which is hosted by Canadian Mom Blogger.

Have a wonderful weekend!  And a very happy Fourth of July to my American readers!

Happy Canada Day & Canada Day Blog Party!!

Hello, and welcome to a special extra edition of Nesty!  And of course...


Today I am participating in the Canada Day Blog Party hosted by Canadian Mom Blogger. Canada Day has always been a favorite holiday and growing up we always attended the local celebrations at the South Bar Ball Field.  We had so much fun planning our entries into the Doll Carriage Parade, watching the dunk tank, and eating lots of hot dogs and pop!  Later, we would bundle up and go back to watch the fireworks.  As we got older we always observed the holiday by attending celebrations in one of the surrounding communities. Friends often hosted Canada Day barbecues, and the last year we were home, we hosted one.  

Last year we celebrated our first Canada Day in Kitimat, and as with so many events this last year, we started creating new memories and traditions.  One tradition I continued was making a "Canada Day Cake," to take to a barbecue hosted by a new friend.  This cake always gets lots of "Ooo's" and "Ahh's" when you take it out, and it really is quite simple.  You can find the Kraft Canada recipe here
 I'm going to be honest...I'm not actually making the cake this year.  But we are going to attend the parade and festivities.  Never fear, this recipe is always carefully filed away, and Kraft has faithfully posted it, along with the recipe for my beloved Great Canadian Potato Salad every year since I first discovered them.  I am quite certain that the Canada cake will grace yet another Canada Day barbecue before we leave Kitimat to start creating yet another set of memories and traditions.

Have a wonderful Canada Day!