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Saturday, 30 November 2013

End of November

   I heard on the radio today that there are just 21 days until the Winter Solstice - the shortest day of the year. Then things start to improve as the days get longer again. It's not quite so cold today but still around zero and we could do with some sun to take away the chill.

  I managed to find a bottle of Marsala wine at the liquor store today so was able to give my Christmas cake a soaking. I have to be careful not to add too much alcohol in case the kids get into it. Somehow I don't think it will be to their taste! 

   I took my gingercake and some shortbread to my dance group last night (my turn to bring the "treats") and they were well received. Still some left to nibble on when the notion strikes. For dinner tonight I have a salmon fillet and will broil it and have some quinoa and peas on the side. Stewed plums and frozen yogurt for dessert. Who said cooking dinner is a chore? Nothing easier!

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Winter Marmalade

One grapefruit, one lemon and two cups of sugar. Magic!
   Currently got a pan of lemon and grapefruit marmalade boiling away, the only real chore I have done today. However, I did get quite a few loose ends tied up and feel slightly more organized than when I got up this morning and was confronted with last night's dirty dishes!

    After an easy start sorting out paperwork, I headed out, well bundled up as the temperature was in minus territory and the wind chill was -13C. Picked up a bottle of wine for Donalda's gift but couldn't find the Marsala I want to pour on the Christmas cake. I will have to try another LCBO branch and see if they carry it. Made the last deposit of cheques and cash for the Christmas Dance and cashed a cheque to pay the band and door prizes. I think and hope that all else is taken care of. Should be a fun evening. Just before lunch I took a walk around the block; it was lovely in the sun but the wind was very chilly.

   I am running out of reading material but James and I will head to the library first thing tomorrow and hopefully there will be a book waiting for me. Then we will spend an hour at the Early Years Centre which is in the same mall.
 
    Going out for dinner tonight for the "Festive Special" at Swiss Chalet, an annual treat. Usually in December the whole family gets together there one evening so we had better organize that soon as the days seem to fly by on the way up to Christmas.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Christmas Cake

     Normally my main effort at Christmas baking is the plum pudding. It's already stored and maturing but, this year, I decided to try a Christmas cake. Most of the family are not big on fruit cake so I am hoping to convert them with a nice moist one. The recipe I am trying is courtesy of Aly on the Cottage Smallholder forum  (www.cottagesmallholder.com).

   First step was to soak the fruit (2 1/2 lbs. of it) in rum. Unfortunately I only had Tequila but it still smelled pretty fruity in my kitchen!. After a few days I beat, stirred and folded in all the ingredients, spooned it into my one and only cake pan, and baked it in a warmish oven for 4 hours. It came out much as expected except I think, next year, I will omit the prunes and dates (they made the cake a bit too dark and sticky) and add more glace cherries as they are my favourite part of a fruit cake. Now all that remains is to let it mature for a few weeks with the addition of more alcohol (probably Marsala), then add marzipan and icing and decorate with some more dried fruit. Can't wait for the end result!

Sunday, 24 November 2013

First Snow of the Season

    It has been getting progressively colder all week with a strong wind out of the north - the forecaster yesterday described it as "Arctic" and I believe her!

   Today I woke up to -10C with a smattering of snow on the ground. If the temperature remains in the negative values, it will probably stay around but there isn't enough to cause driving or walking problems. It is still early in the winter to be having to deal with drifts and paths needing cleared. Might be a good idea to fill my gas container in case I have to fire up the snow blower any time soon. Last year I didn't use it at all and that would be my preference again this year.

    Nothing exciting planned for this week although we are gearing up for the Scarborough Christmas Dinner and Dance on December 2, just a week away. We have sold an amazing 114 tickets so it should be a jolly night. Tomorrow we will practice the dances with Donalda until we are "step perfect"! 

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Gingercake

   I started my seasonal baking yesterday with a perennial favourite - gingercake. The plum pudding is already stored and maturing in a dark cupboard but I have little in the freezer for impromptu nibbling. The gingercake is quite plain but tasty; I prefer it buttered, and it is so easy to make. I mix the whole thing in a pan on the stove. Here's the recipe:

4 oz. preserved ginger                                         1/2 tsp. baking soda
4 oz. butter                                                          4 tbspn. milk
3 oz. syrup                                                           8 oz. flour
1 oz. treacle or molasses                                    1 tsp. ground ginger
4 oz. brown sugar                                                1 egg; pinch of salt

Melt butter, syrup, sugar and treacle in a saucepan. Add chopped ginger and, when cool, 3 tbspn. of milk and the egg. Mix flour, salt and ginger and slowly add to saucepan, beating well until a smooth batter. Dissolve baking soda in 1 tbspn. milk and add. Bake in a small, greased loaf pan at 350 degrees F for 1 hour or until skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Let cool before removing from pan.


Friday, 15 November 2013

A Week of Birthdays

   This week has just flashed by - finished the paint job on Tuesday (very happy with the fresh new look), took James to play group on Wednesday and he made a very fine gingerbread boy at the craft centre, Thursday and today I got birthday gifts organized for Natalie, Steve and Alison (and bought myself a new winter coat and some lovely sherry glasses). Steve and Alison are on the 18th and 14th respectively, and Natalie's is on the 22nd.
 
   So, tomorrow Judy is hosting a birthday threesome with a dim sum lunch and cake. Natalie will be 6 - can't believe she is so big. I'm hoping to get some good photos of the kids but they are really uncooperative when I bring out the camera.

   I stuffed and cooked a chicken last Sunday and have been eating it ever since - two meals of the dark meat, stuffing and vegetables, and two meals of the white meat in a chcken pot pie with lots of carrots, peas and mushrooms. My fridge is almost empty - in fact I'm down to one banana, one lemon and some bread in the freezer! Shopping tomorrow.

    I managed to get one last shot of a rose in the garden, looking rather wilted but hanging in. The nights have been below zero this week and more cold weather is on the way. No Indian summer this year!

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Next Coat of Paint

    It wasn't really warm enough (just 7C and a strong north-west wind) to keep the front door open but that's what I had to do while the paint dried on the door frame.  It would appear that the rest of the woodwork will need a primer coat, but that will have to wait a couple of days. Other than that nothing much going on. Glad I have a good book on the go.

   The gas fire is now up and running for the first time this year, such a welcome sight and adding some warmth to the family room. Leftovers warming in the oven and a quick apple crumble in there too. Unfortunately, no apples left for James tomorrow!


Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Two Good Tasks Accomplished

   I thought I was going to have a quiet restful day today but that's not how it turned out at all.

   The morning temperature of 4C was a surprise, and it rose to 13C by noon. This tempted me into tackling a job that I have been postponing for months - painting the trim in the front hall. When I had the painter in during the summer he left me with both primer  and paint and the suggestion that the bare wood around the front door (probably been like that for 4 or 5 years) should be painted. I think he was angling for the job at the time but I didn't take him up on it.

    So, first I sanded the wood and wiped it off, then applied the primer. Actually, I sanded all the trim in the front hall and will paint everything the same colour. With the day being relatively mild I was able to leave the door ajar until the paint dried although when it comes time to apply the next coat I may not be so lucky.  I will tackle the final coat on Thursday (James is here tomorrow, not ideal time to have cans of paint out!) weather and other conditions permitting. I am excited to see how it looks after all this time with bare wood.

   In the afternoon I dug up some mint and cleared a patch to put in next year's garlic crop. I was reluctant to dig into my current crop for the cloves as they are so tasty compared to the store bought variety, but the thought of the crop they will produce next summer made up for the loss. I still have three heads left but they will soon be gone. The onions I dug up in September are long gone. Next year I will plant a second crop of onions to harvest late in the Fall.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

In the Minus Temperatures

    Woke up to a chilly morning and it hasn't warmed up much since. The sun was shining, though, so I was able to get out in the garden - all bundled up - for the last grass cutting (I hope!) of the year. In fact, at one point I took a few minutes on the lounger and the sun felt positively warm on my face and hands!

   There are still a few roses on the bushes but I trimmed everything else back, pulled up the remaining Swiss Chard, rhubarb and other leftover plants as they were all looking rather sad after the freezing night temperatures. Next job will be to rake the leaves off the grass but I will wait until the trees are quite bare.

   I made some butternut squash soup for lunch today, and had it with a cream cheese and cucumber croissant and also a couple of the yellow cherry tomatoes which have ripened since I brought them indoors a couple of weeks ago. There are still lots, so I hope I can eat them up before they expire. Rainbow trout for dinner tonight with some vegetables from last night's stew. Dessert will probably be a couple of the Hallowe'en candies! Didn't have many visitors last Thursday due to the wet windy weather.

    I've started a new book - "The Signature of All Things" by Elizabeth Gilbert. I think I will enjoy it. She wrote "Eat, Pray, Love" - a memoir, but this one is a historical novel. Should keep me interested for a couple of weeks at least.