Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Callum's Hat

My baby boy has a rockin' new hat.


I've managed to devise a way for this one to stay on his head. As he is not a fan of the things, this was a bigger challenge than it seemed.

How did I do it? I bought a reversible model, threaded the straps through the holes for the "reversing part" and tied a knot in one side. A most excellent fit, right under the baby chin.

And now this rockin' new lid is ready for all kinds of action - like going to the park for the very first swing ride ever.


I'd say he's a happy camper, hat and all!


Oh, I just want to kiss that face!!!

Happy baby swings, M

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Evolution of a Garden

I have been told by neighbours that the man who used to own my house was an avid flower gardener, renowned for it even. I have found evidence of this all over the property but by the time I moved in, there was very little left growing.

In fact, only these eight tulip bulbs still show up every spring along the fence.


I have to admit that, being a bit of a green thumb myself, I have been eager to start growing things here, especially knowing that the property has a history of gardening love. It gives me a sense that it should be covered in green loveliness again.

If you'll recall from a previous post, this is what my backyard used to look like.


The fence on the shed side of the property was in very bad shape and was one of the first pieces of construction I had done. It was literally falling to pieces and on more than one occasion, a dog passed between properties.


The shed, while originally all handmade and quite adorable, had an addition made of corrugated plastic, even the extra part of roof - strange! David removed the addition for me but left the adorable part.


These days, this side of the backyard looks a lot like this.

There have been a few more things added and moved and built since I took this picture last week, but you get the general idea.

As for the growing part, we've already been munching down on some lettuce and onion greens, and as of last Friday, we had a zucchini blossom. Hurray!


I checked this morning and we have a three inch long baby zucchini, along with several other plants about to burst into blooms. I am feeling oh so successful as a farmer already!

Happy gardening, M

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Adventures in Soapmaking

It's been a whirlwind of activity around here lately. With the solstice celebration, gardening forays and amazing feats of babyhood going on, we've been busy little bees. As a point in case, I've been trying to get this post written up and filled with photos since Monday.

I've been wanting to share my soapmaking experiment with the blogiverse. These photos were taken last Thursday morning, as I tried out my first lye-oil recipe.


You can see that the measuring of ingredients is very important, as are the safety goggles and rubber gloves recommended by all the soapmaking resources. I also have a thermometre handy to make sure the separate parts are at the same temp before I join them.


Once the lye-water solution and the oils are joined, the chemical reaction starts immediately. With a little mixing with the stick blender, things really get cooking. I had to keep this up until the mixture was like pudding.

Then I dumped it all into the prepared soap mold (or former margerine container), worked out all the bubbles, smoothed it over and let it set for 48 hours.


Once set, it was ready for cutting into bars and imprinting with my Canada rubber stamp. Now it's curing in an out-of-the-way place for the next four to six weeks.

It was quite an adventure and I'm quite thrilled to have it go so well. I can't wait to see how it turns out in the end. I have many big plans for this soap of mine. Tee hee.

Happy summer! M

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Soon He Will Be Unstoppable

Any second now, he's gonna figure out how this crawling business works.



And then I will be chasing him for the next many years!

It's all so exciting - for him and for me!

Happy Thursday, M

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Bread Quest

This past winter (and well into the spring), I have been seeking the perfect bread recipe. It needed to be something I could make by hand and that would turn out well, each and every time.

Although I have been making bread-machine bread for years, I have never been 100 percent happy with that method. I also considered it a considerable cheat. (Though you can never really cheat all the way because there's that hole in the centre, from the paddle in the bottom of the machine. That's always a dead give away that it was a machine bread.)

My first steps into non-machine bread still used the machine to do the mixing for me, until I got used to the consistency I needed. And once I stopped using the bread machine for mixing, I still used the same recipe. I was breaking that dependency one step at a time, apparently.

So while I was home this winter with Callum, I decided that I would go in search of the hand-made bread recipe of my daydreams. And it took a while.

I read books. I looked online. I watched tutorials. I looked up recipes in very old cookbooks. Throughout the process, not a lot of edible bread was being made but an awful lot of flour was being wasted.

I finally phoned a good friend and asked for her recipe. We even made a date for her to come the 1.5 hours south to have a bread making day. It turned out that her bread recipe was more ad hoc than she realized and the preparation I did in advance wasted yet another 10 cups of flour. We went for sushi lunch instead. :)

In the end, though, we went to the recipe's author, another friend from the north, to be told that the original measurements published in a fund-raising cookbook were a misprint and the 10 cups of flour should actually read 15 cups. Well, that might explain the problems I had with it.

Armed with the correct ingredient amounts, I made one last attempt to work that bread recipe. I vowed that if this was not meant to be, this would be my last try and we would go back to weekly visits to the local bakery.

But lo and behold, it worked. It well and truly worked. I was stupefied. My husband breathed a sigh of relief. These first four loaves were a masterpiece; indeed, they were loaf-shaped beauty. Ahhh.


Even with this initial success, and the subsequent batches, I am still tinkering with the bake time - a nudge this way, a skosh back - trying to get that airy inside and that crispy outside. I think I may finally be there.

But more importantly, I have finally realized that the whole process, as trying as it was, was worth the end result. It was also a lesson in patience and perseverance, things I'm going to need a lot in my new role as parent.

Next, I quest for pastry.

Happy bread baking, M

Monday, June 14, 2010

Laundry Day

Today is the first time this spring/summer that laundry day and sunshine have coincided. How crazy this weather has been this year.

But it's finally here - some sunny weather and some diaper-bleaching, -disinfecting sunshine has been shining on the diapers all afternoon. Yay!

As I type this, though, I have on my very long to-do list a reminder to make more diapers. Callum is growing so fast and he is in need of some new, larger ones. And I am itching to try a new design of my own that incorporates all the features of the products we have tried and love. Yes, sewing/parental dorkiness abounds!

And in the realm of laundry as well, I'm going to be making cold pressed soap very soon. I have all the supplies and equipment and now I just need to find the baby-free, pet-free time/space to get it done. Once the cold-pressed is done, I'll use that to make my own chemical free laundry soap. We use a nice brand now that is very basic and as green as I can find while still cleaning, but I'm looking forward to trying my own. Wish me luck with that endeavour!

Happy Monday, M

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Blink! And Four Days Are Gone!

I swear I have no idea how that happens. But it well and truly does around here.

So on with the discussion of natural oven cleaning solutions. How did they work for me?

Hmmm, well, first I have to qualify this by telling you my oven has not been cleaned in two and a half years. Ewwww! I know. I know. But I bought it new when I moved in. And I just kept thinking of it as a new oven. And then, well, life moved on and I wasn't about to clean it last year in all my pregnant glory. So now we're here, two and a half years later.

Now, keep in mind, there have been times in my life when two and a half years of not cleaning an oven just would not have seemed that bad. I rarely cooked in those days, and even more rarely cooked in the oven. So no biggy.

These days, though, I run that oven hard. I bake pies that overflow. I roast pork and chicken until they spatter. I make pizza from scratch and the cheese gets all melty and gooey. It is a well used, and well loved, oven. Needless to say, this translate as a very, very dirty oven that should have been cleaned ages ago.

Now that we have that back story, let's return to the cleanser issue.

I found the first formula completely ineffective. I was using more elbow grease than anything and it was barely touching the grime. I decided to up the game and use the salt/soda paste as the initial scrub all over the oven.

Again with elbow grease being a key element, along with a bundle of steel wool, I made fairly good headway. Once I had scrubbed the inside and applied a good coating of the paste, I turned on the oven to 500 degrees and waited for results.

The gaseous substance emanating from my oven freaked me out at first. I realized, though, that it was just steam from the water in the paste. Once I opened the windows, the steam dissipated quickly and there was no smell or anything to worry about. So not-really-a-crisis averted.

Once the oven had cooled down and I removed the cleanser, I was impressed with the state of the thing. I won't tell you it was gleaming or perfect or anything like that. But it was very much improved.

The verdict? I will use both suggestions again, only much much sooner. I figure if I clean my oven as part of the regularly monthly routine around here, it will clean faster and more easily. I can live with that - cleaning more often makes it easier. Got it.

Happy oven cleaning to you, M

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Home Made Oven Cleaner

NATURAL SCRUB CLEAN OVEN SOLUTION

4 tbsp baking soda
Enough very hot water to make a paste with the baking soda

Make a paste and apply to your oven with an old toothbrush or soft bristled brush. Let sit for at least 1 minute, then scrub with the brush. Rinse with water and cloth, making sure to remove all traces of baking soda (or your next oven-cooked meal will have a funky taste!).

TOUGH OVEN STAIN REMOVER

1 cup baking soad
1 cup salt
Enough water to make a paste

Apply the paste to the stains in your oven. Turn oven on to 500 degrees F and let bake for 1 hour. Allow oven to cook and remove cleaner with a damp sponge. Again, make sure all traces of the cleaner are removed.

Both these recipes came from here.

Guess what I'm doing today. I'll let you know the results later.

Happy house cleaning, M

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Rain. Sigh.

I know it's been far too long since my last post. I have no defense. I have no explanatory apology prepared. But I am sorry to anybody that keeps checking back here and finding nothing new in over a month.

The month of May was unusually gray and rainy and gloomy. Not unlike the way June is starting out. But it was also a busy and celebratory month. David and I both have birthdays at the beginning of May, followed very closely by my first Mother's Day as a new mom. We also managed to get out to some awesome spring events in town, despite the rain and thunder. It wasn't a bad month really, it just wasn't a good writing month, I guess.

But here we are in June, with a garden nearly planted, knitting on the needles, new diapers that need to be sewn up, all kinds of things that might make good blog posts. One might even call them inspiring. Let's hope I can get the time/energy/inspiration combination right this month and start up with the regular posting again.


But if you had this guy to hang out with every day, I'm thinking you might have a bit of a trouble pulling yourself away to blog, too. :)

Happy June! M