Over the summer I made three or four batches of Snickerdoodles looking for the right recipe. None of them turned out the way I wanted. Then Average Betty made them and it was time for me to try again.
3/4 cup browned unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
splash of vanilla
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
Since then, we have done some work. All those trees were growing into the roof. They are now gone. That took a month of work on our part and several thousand dollars to get the two big/problem trees professionally removed.
The lawn is horrible, but there is no point in reseeding yet.
Here is the house today:I painted the mailbox to match our (eventual) red roof. The trees are gone, sort of. I planted a grafted apple tree and a grafted pear tree.
The big tree was supposed to have the stump ground out. But the tree debris (or tree poop, as we call it) had not been maintained. T used his front end loader attachment for his tractor to load the trailer and take the crap to the compost dump. It was approximately two feet deep and took SEVEN trailer loads to clear it all. Which is were we found this:
My foot for size reference. It’s the stump from the big tree. It is more than three feet across and still sticks up above lawn level. I can see that the tree guy tried to stump grind it, but it is not removed enough to lawn over.
Which… has me conflicted. Ideally, I would have liked them to have told us to clear the debris first and have them back later. We had talked about needing it gone so we could lawn. Failing that, I would have liked them to at least tell us that it may not be below the grade so that when we rented the stump grinder for the other 12 stumps we ground out we could have dealt with it ourselves.
I understand that wading through (at that point) a good six inches of pine needles to grind out the stump was likely a pain in the ass. I understand that they just wanted to finish the job and get paid. I even understand the to stump guy was a sub contractor and the tree guy may not have told him it needed to lawn ready when he was done.
Nonetheless, I am stuck with a three foot stump that I didn’t know was there, that is now really close to where I planted a new tree after we paid quite a bit extra to have it removed. Plus, I found it AFTER I left an excellent review and recommended them to a couple of friends.
I find that really frustrating.
And now for something completely different.
Check out my strawberry bed:
It was previously full of three overgrown cedars that were wrecking the roof and a massive tangle of junipers that were attacking the walk way. The plan is to widen the walk way so that the strawberries are enclosed with a 3 feet walk way all the way around. It is currently planted with three different kinds of strawberries. They are all ever bearing (they produce berries all season). The cool part is that the flowers are three different colours: white, light pink and dark pink. It makes me happy.
The brick surround isn’t staying. I’ll post it on the local sales page soon. There were a lot of bricks in the yard. I used some around my raspberries and some around the cedars I planted. We are keeping some for a fire pit. But there are still hundreds left.
I’m building some serious muscles moving them all.
In the past year, a lot has happened. I got a permanent part time job, that meant I ended up working more than full time for three months while I finished up my previous contracts.
I developed some anxiety while settling into a new routine around work.
C graduated high school.
V now is one half of a common law marriage. We adore her partner, CM.
T’s mom, Y, who taught me to knit, and to cook (rather than just follow a recipe) who was alway so supportive of us, was diagnosed with stage four stomach cancer.
School started. Two big girls in post secondary and Little Girl in grade 2.
Little girl lost her first tooth.
Chemo went bad and Y was admitted to hospital for a month.
One of the five houses on our short list of properties we might actually be willing to move for came up on the market.
Y told us we had to get it.
We spent a crazy two weeks working 18 hour days to get our house ready to show.
It sold in 24 hours.
We spend a month packing. T’s dad, B, arranged movers to bring all our stuff to the new house.
Y was admitted into palliative care.
We moved the last day in November.
C turned 18.
We frantically unpacked and sorted and hosted Christmas at our new house, including being set up enough for V and her partner CM to stay over.
Y made it through Christmas and even got to come home for a couple of hours on Christmas day.
Little Girl lost her second tooth
Many of the things we had previously done in the old house are having to be done in the new house. The second bathroom reno was almost the same as the first.
My mom made me cry for my birthday. Not in a good way. I’m getting counselling for it. We have a very dysfunctional relationship. I hadn’t really realized exactly how bad it was until I started talking to a professional about it.
Y came home for a while. They set up a hospital bed in the living room. This made it easier to visit. Homeware and friends and family all pitched in to make sure there was always someone around.
Her liver started to fail the end of February.
Y passed away March 5th.
The memorial service was March 20th.
Little girl lost her two front top teeth in a 24 hour period. The first one went to the tooth fairy. The second was completely unexpected and was swallowed while eating a pear.
Yard work is starting. I always went plant shopping with Y.
I miss her.
We need a new roof. We need to remove some trees that wrecked the current roof.
Mother’s day is coming. We won’t be celebrating with either Gramma this year.
Little girl is getting a new play house. T is out there building it as I type.
The new house is amazing. We wouldn’t have gone for it if Y hadn’t pushed us/helped us. The yard is huge. The house is nice. The street is quiet. The walk to Little Girl’s school is only half as long and she can come home for lunch on days I’m not working.
I’m hoping to start blogging more.
There has been a lot of good in the last year, but the bad has just been overwhelming. I haven’t known what to say.
I still don’t.
This random, older than me, lady came into the work today and while she was waiting, we got talking about whatever Food Network show was airing at the time. Then she slightly blew my mind by saying something to the effect of “I don’t know why everyone is so fussy about home made bread. It’s not like the recipe is hard to memorize or anything.”
I was a little surprised. I bake a fair bit of bread, but I always check a recipe to make sure I get my proportions right.
She insisted that all you need is:
1 cup water
2 cups flour
1 tsp yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
= 1 loaf of bread. Multiply the recipe by how many loaves you want and that’s it.
Now, I have baked a lot of bread and I’m pretty sure I would have recognized that pattern a long time ago if it were that easy. Any recipes I have used always involve weird fractions and what not. Plus, they are always more than 1 cup of water.
But this woman insisted that to make 1 loaf of bread, this was The Way.
Ah ha! What size of loaf? I asked. The loaf I bake in my #9 skillet uses 3 cups + dusting flour for one loaf. This is a teeny tiny loaf, right?
No. This is a standard glass loaf pan loaf.
Where’s the catch?
Well, you can add a little fat solid to make the bread more soft. (American style) or a little oil to get an Italian style loaf, or just follow the recipe as written and you get a slightly crunchy, chewy crust.
That rattled around in my head all shift.
I came home and told this to C, who also bakes a fair bit and is starting professional cooking school next week and asked what she thought. She replied “That’s just crazy! No way that will work! You are just making Crazy Bread!”
What the hell*, I’ll give it a try! Worst case scenario, I’m out about 50 cents of ingredients. If it works, I will just get to brag* about how easy bread is to make. None the less, I keep thinking, there is no frigging* way this will actually turn out as bread.*
What I forgot to ask was what what temperature and for how long. However, I do bake a fair bit of bread 400F seems about right and I would guess that 30 minutes for a loaf this size should be about right.
At the end of all of that, I got this:
It looks and smells like bread.
It sticks like I have not greased my pan enough. I guess I am spoiled using cast iron to cook in all the time.
The crumb is perfectly acceptable.
The taste is somewhat bland by my current standards. It is a plain white sandwich bread. Which is fine. It would be vastly improved, in my opinion, by the addition of some oatmeal, a banana or a 1/4 cup of molasses. However, as a proof of concept bread, I am impressed.
Our family doesn’t eat a lot of bread. This size of loaf would be just fine for the amount we would reasonably eat before it goes stale. That said, I will likely never make this recipe again. I will take the lesson of the ratios and add in other things to make it more adventurous and a little less, well, white bread.
The important part of this post is that here really is a super easy recipe you can carry around in your head and whip up on the spot at the cabin, at your neighbour’s house, when you don’t want to go to the store. That is a worth while thing to have.
Next time, honey oatmeal bread and I’m baking it in a #5 skillet. I haven’t tried this yet, but I strongly suspect I will be able to replace the sugar with honey and 1/4 cup of the flour with rolled oats or left over oatmeal….. Hmmm…. I bet it would be amazing with left over apple cinnamon oatmeal.
Proof* of Concept Bread
1 cup water (about body temp)
2 cups AP flour
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dry active yeast
– mix together, let rise 2 hours
– punch down and pour into a well greased standard pyrex glass loaf pan (it will be very sticky and soft)
– let rise another 30 minutes, depending on your oven you could turn it on now or in a few minutes
– bake at 400F for 30 minutes
– let cool and remove for loaf pan.
– serve with jam or something, because it is kind of boring with just butter.
*Hel – Norse god of the underworld, Loki’s daughter
*Bragi – Norse god of poetry, and apparently, talking smack.
*Frigg – God of wisdom,forethought, marriage and motherhood and Odin’s wife. Which I kind of find funny, because Mr Wednesday doesn’t sound like the kind of spouse I would want in my house. Her sacred animal was the goose. She is literally (really, as in literature) Mother Goose.
*No, really, I wrote that first, THEN realized I accidentally made three reference to Norse deities in one paragraph
*Proof… get it? Ha! I love puns!
I have been knitting a pair of socks every three weeks since December. I think my sock jag may be slowing down a little. I want to knit a sweater. I’m swatching for this:
Last May, I wrote this post for the Prairie Lily Knitting store newsletter. It occurred to me today, that I never posted pictures of my finished Adam’s Rib sweater. I love it. I wear it all the time. It’s almost midnight and I don’t feel up to writing about it. So…. here is a lazy cut, paste and slight rewrite of what I wrote last year:
Is It Spring Yet?
Last month, we talked about knitting a spring sweater. Since then we have had a couple of snow storms. While the first of May is the first day of summer on the agricultural calendar, it is -7C as I write this.
Definitely, time for a nice wool sweater.
This is the long sleeve version of the Adam’s Rib sweater by Carol Sunday of Sunday Knits. It is knit all in one piece and is full reversible, which is a handy feature for when you are rushing out the door.
You can find more information about this pattern on Ravelry here:
Knitting skills needed for this pattern are left and right decreases and knitting into the stitch leg on the row below, provisional cast on and some really clever short row shaping to make the shoulder cap.
Why am I featuring this sweater? Because I just finished one.
I’m not going to lie, I found this pattern difficult and rated it so on Ravelry. However, “challenging” would have been a better description. I learned a lot knitting this sweater. It was my first successful sweater, my first provisional cast on, my first drunken knitting story.
I altered the pattern in that I knit both sleeves at the same time on one long circular knitting needle using the magic loop method I had picked up for knitting socks two at a time. This change worked so well that I plan to use it for sweater sleeves from now on.
I also changed yarn. This sweater was knit size small and took me 7 skeins of Cascade 220 in light grey. I am very happy with how it turned out. I am also very happy that the only sewing up was just a few stitches in the shoulders. It really is fully reversible, which has come in handy.
FINAL VERDICT: I would knit this again
Dec 6, 13 – spent the morning frogging my last two days worth of knitting on the short rows in the arm pit. I thought I was following the directions, but when I got to the far side and started my increases, I could see it wasn’t right. It is a very clever pattern, but it is not as clear about where you are going with things as I like. I guess this means I won’t enjoy knitting the “Baby Surprise” jacket, either.
Dec 18, 13 – Not as much knitting happening just now, too much yule tide prep. Starting my third skein. I am just about to divide for the second shoulder. Feeling a little nervous, but I have done this before so it should go a little better this time. Third time is the charm, right?
Dec 22, 2013 – Starting skien 4. I am still not 100% that the sleeve are going to be OK, but the stitches seem to line up ok on the shoulders and I am really enjoying the traveling rib. Just enough pattern to keep it interesting, but not too much so I can still knit in low light.
Dec 25 -2013 -Started first should cap and skien #5. I suspect I might need six skeins. Can’t find where the sixth one I purchased has gotten too. Have to shop the stash tomorrow. In other news the shoulder cap is also giving me grief. Seriously considering moving the difficulty up to “difficult” While I understand that this project is no four strand fair isle Queen Anne sweater, I am finding this pattern difficult.
December 26- 2013 – in the cold light of day, I have decided I need to find the other skien and try the other shoulder cap. If they both look the same, I will alternate pattern repeats and knit them at the same time. Otherwise, I will frog the shoulder cap that looks the worst and start again. The first shoulder looks like a shoulder cap, but some of the short rows are a little awkward. Want to be sure that is the pattern and not just my skill level.
later 26/12/13 – Went looking for ball #6 that I purchased as insurance. It looks like I am going to need one more skien. Couldn’t find it anywhere. Weighted the sweater, after zeroing for the needles and realized it is already at 543gram. This looks like it will be close to a 7 skien sweater. This is kind of shocking since I knit a couple of gauge swatches in order to get gauge and the kit in this size comes with the equivalent of five balls. I’m starting to worry a little about that too.
27/12/13 I knit the first shoulder cap after a couple of drinks while watching the Doctor Who Christmas special. It worked perfectly. I knit the second shoulder today while perfectly sober. It took me two tries. Not sure what this says about me.
10/01/14 Sweater is going into the “Bad Knitting!” box. It is officially in time out. I accept full responsibility for this. It is not Carol’s fault at all. I ran into problems making my sleeve decreases even and in pattern. Way frustrated and need a break
Mar 17 – 14 spring is on the way, time to finish this darn sweater. Ripped both sleeves back to the elbows and picked up the stitches on a freakishly long circ. Plan to knit the sleeve two at a time to try to get the decreases more even. Spent an hour with a master knitter to get the sleeves set up in such away that the decreases in armpits make sense on the circ. No actual progress today, but feel vaguely confident that I am set up for future progress. Still like the pattern and if this sweater turns out to be vaguely the right size (I have gauge problems, sometimes even when I swatch, which I did) I would even consider knitting another one.
April 11 – 2014 – another couple of inches on the sleeves and I’ll be done!
April 12 2014 – off the needles and blocked! I love it. It needs a shawl pin and I’m thinking about picking up the sleeves, and adding another inch on a smaller needles. The sleeves blocked a little shorter than I was expecting. Not sure if it bothers me or not. I’m going to wait a week and see if it drives me nuts. So… maybe complete? I have enough left from that 7th skein that I could knit longer sleeves if I decide to
one year in (11Apr15)- I still haven’t knit a second one. I am in the grips of a sock jag, but I wear the snot out of this sweater. It has a great feature for moms that the designer has not talked up: It Is COMPLETELY Reversible! So when you are in a rush to get the kid to school on time and are frantically scrambling into a sweater as you rush out the door, you CAN NOT put this one on inside out! Once I whittle down the sock yarn stash a bit, I am absolutely making another one of these!
And, just for fun, here is a picture of Captain Jack Harkness riding Huggy The Dinosaur. I did mention there would be random science fiction references on this blog.
January 1st I started a part time job. I get about 20 hours a week and I am happy to have something reliable. Unfortunately, I has signed up for quite a few extra shifts at the other places I work as a casual. Now, I could just flat out quit those other jobs but I am resisting. Partly because if the new job goes south, I may need to go back there. Largely because my profession is fairly small. There are about 300 of us in the whole province who are licensed and insured.* It’s a fairly small community and I know that if I just pull the plug people I know (and who know everyone else I might ever work with) will have messed vacations and not be able to travel to see their first grand-baby.
The down side of this is that I am currently working more than full time. Some weeks, it’s a lot more than full time. It is really hard and I have been kind of grumpy. Throw in a sleep disorder and problems at Little Girl’s school and I just haven’t been up to blogging.
I have joined a sock club, so if you are interested in knitting there should be pictures soon. I am also going on a retreat this weekend and hope to be refreshed and less irritable by Sunday night. Which is good, because starting Monday, I work both in and out of town and it will be …. busy.
Now, if you will excuse me, I have an hour commute, in the dark to a job where I have to wait in the parking lot for someone with a key to arrive and let me in.
*Who knows how many people taking blood, running lab tests and exposing people to radiation without insurance. We aren’t required by law to have insurance or continuing education. Our professional body has been working for years to try to get something in place to change that. Please right to your SK-MLA and complain that CLXT’s should be self regulated.
T’s mom, Y, makes an amazing Beer Braised Stew with Colcannon. She got the recipe off of Allrecipes.com. If you have ever read the recipe comments on Allrecipes.com, you know that almost no one actually follows the recipe as written.
We aren’t any different. Here is T’s Mom’s version as made by me.
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 (3 pound) beef chuck roast, trimmed of fat and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 coarsely chopped onion
- 1 lb baby cut carrots carrot
- 1 can Big Rock Scottish style beer
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon saltomit, the beer was salty enough
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
- 6 slices bacon
- 2 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
- 2 cups thinly sliced cabbage
- ¼ cup milk, warmed
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1.Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
2.Heat the vegetable oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until very hot, and brown the meat in 2 batches, stirring to brown the cubes on all sides. Return all the meat to the Dutch oven, sprinkle with flour, and stir lightly to coat the meat with flour.
3.Stir in onion, carrots, dark beer, bay leaves, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, garlic, and Worcestershire sauce. Bring the mixture to a boil, and cover.
Now, Worcestershire sauce can be a bit tricky to measure. It kind of shoots out of the bottle when you shake it. Personally, I always measure it into a cup rather than a spoon because it is less messy that way.
4.Place the Dutch oven into the preheated oven, and cook for 45 minutes; uncover, stir the stew, and cook until the beef is very tender and the liquid is reduced by half, about 45 more minutes.
5.Place the bacon in a large, deep skillet, and cook over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until evenly browned, about 10 minutes. Drain the bacon slices on a paper towel-lined plate. Crumble the bacon and set aside.
6.About 30 minutes before the stew is ready, make the colcannon: Place the potatoes into a large pot and cover with salted water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes.
7.Drain and allow to steam dry for a minute or two. Place the cabbage into a microwave-safe bowl, and add 1 or 2 tablespoons of water. Cover and microwave on High for about 2 1/2 minutes; uncover (watch out for steam) and stir the cabbage. Cover and microwave for about 2 1/2 more minutes, until the cabbage is slightly tender but not mushy. Drain excess liquid, and set the cabbage aside, covered.
8.Place the potatoes into a large bowl, and add milk, butter, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Beat the potatoes with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy. Stir in the cabbage, crumbled bacon, and parsley until well combined. To serve, place a scoop of colcannon onto a plate, make a hollow, and fill with braised beef stew.