Thursday, 20 October 2016

"Oh good lord, enough of the leaves already!" they thought.

O.k., look. Autumn happens but once a year. I get more excited about the colour of the leaves than I do about Christmas. You don't have to run around and buy presents for the leaves. You don't have to plan a big family gathering because of the leaves. You don't have to bake ahead of time for the leaves.

I get a thrill out of seeing the leaves become so beautiful. Many, many years ago, I was in Nova Scotia and drove with a friend along the Cabot Trail which is a windy, circuitous road in Cape Breton. It was October and every time we went around another curve, it was like seeing a beautiful patchwork quilt. I know that when we retire, that is a goal I have for my husband and I, to drive the Cabot Trail when the leaves are perfect.

When I was little, my parents rented a big old brick farmhouse in the country. There was a chestnut tree with a swing and fall was my favourite time because of that tree. Chestnuts don't really put on a spectacular show with their leaves. But chestnuts are amazing! They are ensconced in green spiny coats until the fall when they drop to the ground and they start to split open to reveal a gorgeous shiny brown nut which separates into two parts. I collected many, many chestnuts as a little girl. My father drilled holes through them so I could string them into a rather chunky necklace.

When my daughter was very young, we would collect the prettiest leaves we could find and then press them flat between the pages of heavy books. Then I would iron them between waxed paper and we hung them in the window. I really love autumn.

I grew up as a child in the 70's. My parents had "harvest gold" appliances. Well, the washer and dryer were harvest gold. They weren't purchased as harvest gold appliances. They were used. My parents never bought new. The money just wasn't there. But then my father painted them. Yup, he painted them harvest gold. The kitchen was done in autumnal colours: olive green, harvest gold, rusty orange. I think earthy colours were ingrained into my soul from a young age. I am not a fan of blues or pinks, especially in decorating. But show me a warm brown, a deep gold, a dark sage green, I'm in!!

It is currently raining out. If we get any wind at all, we will lose many leaves. So, in honour of the leaves we have right now, here are some pictures I took on my way to work a couple of days ago. It was a little bit foggy, the kind of fog that hangs like individual low clouds over the land (yes, I know fog is low clouds) and the sun was starting to cut through. An ode to autumn colour, and I swear this is the end of showing you the leaves:

The end.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Quick Catch Up

Yes, this is a quick catch up, and if said slightly differently, it could be a quick ketchup.

This weekend, we took our daughter back to university. She is really enjoying her role as Don for her floor in residence. It is a co-ed residence and when we brought her back and were carrying various bags and things up to her floor, she was greeted by two giant guys (footballers). It is so funny to see her looking up and chatting with these lads. She looked so tiny. One of them was only 17!!!

On our drive to the city where she attends university, I must have exclaimed about twenty times how breathtakingly beautiful the leaves were. I swear we are having one of the BEST falls for colour. And no, we didn't stop to take pictures, but I should have.

We have a wedding to attend this December and we thought we might do some clothing shopping (me for a dress, husband for a new jacket) while we were "in the big city". I thought I found a fabulous dress ON SALE which fit well, hid some fifty year old bulging with strategic gathering and patterns, but alas, when I went to pay for it I was told it wasn't on sale because if I had read the TEENY TINY small print on the sign, the prices ending with 99 do not count. Not happy.

Tonight I do my volunteering by inputting information for our community basketball teams and then compiling what sizes are needed and how many and so on and then eventually getting that info to the local sporting goods store that prints up the jerseys with team names and numbers. It's my good deed of the season. (Sure beats coaching!!!)

Anyway, I'm going to wolf down a toasted peanut butter and jam sandwich and get going. I'm looking forward to getting caught up on everyone's blogs.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Does Anyone Sew Their Own Clothes Anymore?

I was putting my little mini ironing board away in my closet today. I do not iron frequently and sometimes if it is just a quick little thing that needs smoothing out, I can't be bothered to get out my full sized ironing board, so I have a little one that I can just put on the bed or the floor. But that's not what I'm writing about. As I was sticking this in my closet on one side of the tower of shelves, I noticed my folded up cardboard sewing cutting board hiding in there.

Obviously not my photo, but this is what the cutting board looks like.

I haven't used it for years. Seeing it got me to thinking. Does anyone even sew their own clothes anymore? Before I had this ultra fancy cutting board (eye roll) I crawled around on the floor, laying out fabric and patterns, pinning, cutting, basically playing a one person game of Twister.

It was only natural that I would learn to sew. I grew up in a house that had a sewing machine in a lovely wooden cabinet in the main kitchen / family room. The sewing machine looked exactly like this, except it folded down into a wooden cabinet.

Oh my god, how many seams did that machine sew? My mother sewed. She was of the era of the polyester pant suit. I HATED her polyester pant suits. I would beg her to stop wearing polyester. But the stuff sews like a dream, so I can understand why she liked to work with it. She repaired anything that needed repairing. She hemmed my clothes. I was the youngest of many cousins and had an older sister as well. I grew up in hand-me-downs. Sometimes things were too long. Sometimes even new clothes were not the correct length. The absolute torture of having to stand completely still while my mother pinned up the hem was unbearable. I was always afraid of being poked.

My older sister sewed. A LOT. She sewed remarkable things. At one point, I swear, she sewed a suit for her husband. A SUIT!!!! Who sews a suit?

So I learned to sew. I started with things like simple two seamed Barbie slip dresses. The kind where you could just pop Barbie's head off and slip her into a basic rectangle with arm holes. I sewed my own stuffed bunny rabbit from scraps of material. I took the mandatory Home Ec. class in grade seven. By then, I already had been using a sewing machine. Many girls in my class were "new order" Mennonite and had also already been using a sewing machine. We made the typical gathered apron (I kept it and my daughter used it to play dress up), the wrap skirt, and the furry stuffed animal made from a kit.

I learned to love fabric stores. At one time, in the relatively small town close to where I grew up, there were three fabric stores. THREE! I can still remember how they smelled, what they felt like, the joy of standing at the rack where the Butterick, McCalls, and Simplicity patterns books were resting on the ledge, flipping through them and looking for what was new. You'll notice I didn't mention Vogue. I couldn't afford Vogue patterns. If you bought a Vogue pattern, it had to be for something very special. I would buy patterns that were kind of like this:

or this:

I sewed my own skirts (LOTS of skirts), dresses, some simple pants, a few shorts, some tops. Shirts that were more tailored were a little harder. I would take my chosen fabric over to the notions section of the fabric store and would do some colour matching. Thread would have to be perfect, as close to a match you could find. How much thread would you need? It was the worst when your bobbin ran out and then you had to load a new bobbin only to discover you wouldn't have enough thread on the spool. And then there were the buttons. Which buttons to choose? There were so many buttons. I always looked at the cute little animal and floral buttons. I had nothing I wanted to sew that would be suitable for those buttons, but I liked looking at them anyway.

Zippers. The selection of zippers was tremendous. You had to check the pattern to see which length to buy and then came the matching of zipper to fabric again.

I wasn't the only one who sewed. I started highschool in 1980 (I think), and sewing was very popular at that time. Many girls sewed their clothes. Patterns were relatively inexpensive, fabric was plentiful, and it was guaranteed to be the way to have something unique that nobody else was wearing. Oh how I wish I had pictures of some of the dresses I made. Yes, we wore dresses then. We went to dances, too. I would find out about a dance coming up on the Saturday night, would buy a pattern Thursday and it would be ready for the dance. (Don't be thinking cotillion here complete with white gloves, these were local community dances, some put on by the Dutch Canadian society and they never checked to see if you were underage at the bar!)

I even sewed my own prom dress with boning, made out of a lovely lilac coloured "satiny" kind of material. (I went with a friend... that's sad isn't it?) (but I had a great dress!) Sewing was fun and rewarding. It could also be really flipping frustrating. My best friend at times was my seam ripper! And it was always great when you turned things right side out and you realized you sewed the sleeve in inside out. Get out the seam ripper again. I ironed and ironed and ironed. A great piece of clothing depended on how well you ironed your pieces as you were sewing them together. I ironed a lot of interfacing, too. That was the slightly fuzzy white inside layer that provided some extra substance and helped create a shape around neck holes, for instance. It was the 80's so I bought a fair amount of shoulder pads and sewed those in place, too!

When I was in university, I sewed my own stirrup pants. Yes, stirrup pants. My housemate and I went to a vintage clothing place and found a neat ornate dress. We took it home, and I took it in at the waist and hemmed it up a bit and turned it into really neat New Year's Eve dress for her. I made lined skirts, big boxy unstructured jackets, and all sorts of other "stylish" 80's fashion pieces.

When my daughter was a tiny girl, I made a couple of little dresses for her. I've made a few curtains over the years, but honestly, I cannot remember the last pattern I've laid out. I don't even know how much a pattern costs now. The closest actual fabric store is 45 minutes away and I haven't even been in it. With stores filled with cheap clothing made in far away countries by children younger than I was when I started there is probably very little need to sew clothing anymore. I did it because you really could save money by making things yourself.

I still have my little sewing box filled with pins, bits of left over elastic, some hook and eyes, more bobbins than matching spools of thread, and a trusty seam ripper. Sewing was such a part of my teenage years and early twenties. Maybe it is something I might rediscover when I am done working. But the old Singer sewing machine is long gone. It made beautiful button holes.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

"My New Favourite Apple Pie Recipe"

After my rousingly successful post about pastry, I was asked for my apple pie recipe. I used to make an "open apple pie" from a Mennonite cook book because it was most like what I was used to growing up. (No, we aren't Mennonite, but my mother is of rural German heritage and there are similarities in food).

Then I discovered this recipe (likely somewhere on Pinterest) and tried it and it turned out even better than my usual, so when I wrote it up on a recipe card (yes, I still use those), I named it "My New Favourite Apple Pie Recipe". So, here's to you, lovely Martha from Plowing Through Life.

Preheat to 375 degrees

Ingredients: 1 pie crust
                  5 1/2 cups peeled, cut up apples (I used Courtland)
                    1 tbls lemon juice
                    1/2 cup white sugar
                      1/4 cup brown sugar
                      3 tbls flour
                     1/2 tsp (or more) cinnamon
                      1/4 tsp nutmeg
                3/4 cup flour
                1/4 cup white sugar
                 1/4 cup brown sugar
                  1/3 cup butter (room temperature)

Place crust in pie pan. In a large bowl, mix apples and all other ingredients except topping. Feel free to use your hands for this. Pile into crust. Make topping in a med. bowl, mix with a fork until coarse / crumbly. Sprinkle topping over apple mixture. Bake at 375 for 50 minutes. Cover edge of crust with tinfoil if it is getting too dark.

And that's it. I sometimes reduce the sugar somewhat and there is very little difference. If you have a little cream, you could drizzle a little over the whole mixture before it goes into the oven to make it a bit more liquidy and delightful. Also, make sure you use baking apples. It does make a difference. If you aren't sure, it even describes the best uses for the apples if you buy them in a bag. Courtlands are a nice multi purpose apple that work well in a pie but are also o.k. for cutting up and eating.
Have a lovely day. I have pulled pork tenderloin  in the crockpot swimming around with some Diana chicken and rib sauce. I think I need a break from turkey. Of course, daughter is working (home from university for Reading Week), son is with girlfriend, so once again it is just husband and I. Oh well, they can show up for leftovers. TTFN.

Monday, 10 October 2016

For the Pastry Challenged

When I was a kid, my grandmother whipped together flaky pastry using real lard, rolled out on her lower-than-standard counter top because she was a short little thing. My mother made pastry as well. She never measured or checked a recipe, or if she did I didn't see her do it. When I left home and wanted to try to make my own pastry, I would phone my mother and ask her for guidance. She gave me ever so helpful hints like, "there's just a feel to it" and "just use your hands". This was not helpful.

Over the years, I have tried a variety of recipes, including the one on the side of the shortening box using an egg and a bit of vinegar. I've tried vegetable shortening, lard, butter, the whole kit n' caboodle (did I even type that correctly?).

I think my pastry turned out perfectly once. Just that once it was beautiful and pliable and didn't crack and rolled out with the greatest of ease. I have no idea what I did differently. I have used knives to cut the shortening into "pea size" pieces (which I have NEVER achieved) and I have used my mother's old pastry blender. I have even tried to "use my hands" like my mother told me to. I usually have to do a bit of patching after I get the pastry into the pie pan. Sometimes I roll it out onto a floured counter top. Sometimes I roll it between or on top of waxed paper. I think I even tried parchment paper once.

But then my life changed. I bought a full sized food processor (as opposed to the ridiculous small size one I was given as a wedding present). I researched how to make pastry in a food processor. This is how I do it (I got the recipe from thebakerchick, but I suspect there are similar ones out there).

2 cups flour
2 stick unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes (I used salted, this would be the same as 1/2 a pound of butter for us Canadians who don't buy our butter in sticks)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

Pulse the flour, salt and sugar together in the food processor. Add the butter and process until it seems a little chunky, little pieces, about 10 seconds. While the processor is running, slowly pour ice water through the tube until the dough holds together. After you take the dough out of the food processor, divide the dough into two equal sections and form them into thick discs and refrigerate for about an hour (or more). I wrapped them in waxed paper.

After an hour,

I put some waxed paper on the counter top and rolled out one of my discs of dough (Note the red wine which also helps with pastry making).

You can roll the pastry around the rolling pin so you can transfer it into the pie plate.

Hey! Look at that! It is almost big enough!! Only a couple of patches required around the edge! 

Next I use a sharp knife to cut around the edge of the pie plate (see the spot where I will use some of the cut off dough to make a repair?)

Then I use both hands to pinch the dough between my fingers to create an edge that looks pretty, but also serves to hold the contents of the pie inside so they won't ooze out over the edge.

I used the second disc of dough to show another way to transfer the pastry into the pie plate. You gently fold it in half...

then fold it in half again (quarters!! see, you do need to learn fractions).

Then when you place it in the pie plate, put the folded corner in the middle and unfold.

One pastry became this apple pie. Oh my lord, it was sooo good!

The other became pumpkin (what else?) which was also very good.

If you are already a pastry wizard, then this post won't really apply to you, but there just might still be someone out there who could use a tip or two. Or at the very least, this will serve as a tutorial for my own kids should they ever want to make pastry. Far more helpful than "there's a feel to it."

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Thanksgiving Weekend

This is the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend. Sometimes we get together with a bigger extended family. This year we are just having a small gathering with husband, myself, our two kids, and my husband's mother who is in a senior's home fairly close to us.

My secret weapon for these kinds of events is a pre-stuffed cook-from-frozen turkey. It never fails to be delicious and worry-free. I will, however, be making my own pies. I have tried making pastry in my food processor once before and it was pretty good, so I shall do that again this year. My kids and husband LOVE pumpkin pie, so we will have that, as well as apple.

On my way home from the madhouse / grocery store today, I took the alternate route home and pulled over a few times to take pictures. These are just iPhone shots, but hopefully they capture the beauty right now.

The most common colours that people think of at this time of year are the oranges, reds, and bronze shades, but I can attest to the fact that there is a great deal of purple and yellow at the roadsides, as these wild asters show. At least, I think they are a form of aster.

The weather was overcast and windy. I love when the wind carries leaves through the air. It reminds me of these scenes:

Oh, how I loved those scenes from the Winnie the Pooh movie we would watch with our children when they were young. I love the innocence and simplicity of those stories. I think I could be perfectly happy living in the hundred acre wood.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my Canadian blogging friends, and a wonderful weekend to all.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

What's Your Favourite... ?

This is something that I do every once in a while with a group of people. I ask what's your favourite _______?  Often it is a food related question. It becomes interesting to hear what people choose and how people have pretty strong feelings about their favourites, and how much they wouldn't want someone else's favourites.

So, let's play. With the stores brimming with Hallowe'en treats, I pose this to you:

What's your favourite chocolate bar?

I'll start. Of course I always have trouble picking just one of anything because I like things for different reasons and in different circumstances, but if I can only choose one, (oh gawd this is so hard) I would choose Skor Bar.

Now it's your turn.