Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Carrots!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


When I was little and Babi (Grandma) was still alive, we used to visit her at her house – the same house my Mom grew up in, in a small town in Manitoba. 
She spoke very, very little English (approx 3 words), but I don’t remember it being that big a deal – even when she used to babysit us.
But when she still lived in that house – she had a garden, even better though was her raspberry patch.  It was huge!  I know when you are an adult looking back at your childhood memories everything seemed big – but she had a raspberry patch big enough to make raspberry juice even after us kids came in and stuffed our faces full.

I grew up with my parents having a garden, I grew up with home canned goods all the time. 
But as I got older and my parents got busier, the canning of home grown things seems to stop.  I can’t remember exactly when, but I know I was not even in junior high when it stopped.

But there must be something in my blood.  For whatever reason I love canning.
When I was 17, I flew to Quebec to visit my Aunt and Uncle, they were living on a farm that helped special needs adults transition into living on their own.  That is where I made my first batch of jam, and my second and my third.

Since then I have made many more batches of jam – usually one a season, sometimes two.  And every year I can at least one more thing too.

This year I decided to make pickles.  I have never made pickles before, so searching the Internet I went looking for tips, tricks and recipes.

Since I had no idea how these would taste, I decided to wait and post the recipe after I had tried them.
We opened a jar this past weekend (3 weeks after initial canning) and they are great!
I am proud to say that I can make pickles!!

Jenny's Pickles (adapted from here)

12 cups water
3 cups white vinegar
3/4 cup pickling salt
1 1/2 cups white sugar (next time I would cut this down to 1 cup)
fresh dill
garlic cloves
pickling spice
pickling cucumbers, cleaned
canning jars

In each jar start with some fresh dill and garlic (I did 3 cloves in each), then add your cucumbers.  Make sure to pack them really tight, they will shrink a lot in the pickling process.

Bring a pot of water to a boil.  Pour boiling water into the stuffed jars covering all the cucumbers.  Let sit for 10 minutes.  (This apparently helps with getting a crisp pickle, I did this and it seems to work - my pickles are nice and crisp.)  Meanwhile, in another large pot, bring the water, vinegar, salt and sugar to a boil.  Cook until dissolved.

Pour out the hot water from each jar, add in 1 tsp each pickling spice, more dill and more garlic (whatever you can stuff in).
Then pour in brine to the top of each jar, covering all the cucumbers. 
Top with seals and lids, and process in a water bath for 10 minutes to seal the lids.

Once done, store for 3 or more weeks before consuming. 
(We opened one jar at 3 weeks and it was  good - but I am assuming they will be even better in a few more weeks.)


Monday, August 29, 2011

Kayben Farms

This weekend I took the kids out to Kayben Farms while I left Hubby at home to do some yard work.
I have a lot of friends that take their kids regularly to Kayben Farms, but for us, this was our first time.
Lucky for us, it was Harvest Festival Day!

If you have never been or have not even heard of Kayben Farms, it is located just north of Okotoks, they have a great adventure park for kids, a u-pick fruit section and a u-pick vegetable section.

This thing is called The Berry Bounce - if there were not so many kids there - I would have been bouncing on it - it looks like so much fun!

For the festival there were also wagon rides (no pictures – sorry – alone with 2 kids makes it a lot harder to get photos), games where the kids won little prizes (Little Boy got a sticker and Little Girl got stick on earrings).

I can see why kids and adults love this place.  Who would not love a slide this big?

They also had their outdoor concession open serving Black Currant slushies (OMG they were good), and lunch items.
We decided to share a smokie bought from the concession instead of sitting down at Jo-Jo’s cafe.  Although the smokie was good – I think next time I want to eat at Jo-Jo’s – it looked amazing.

Cost of admission is $8.00 / person or $25 for a family – in my opinion – totally worth it.  And if you want to come back a few times a family pass for the season is only $75.

There were lots of other things to do there - but my kids were starting to run out of steam, it was hot and nap time for Litte Boy was quickly approaching.
Next time we might get around to some of the other stuff.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

On My Nightstand - Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan – By Lisa See

On the back cover:
In nineteenth-century China, in a remote Hunan county, a girl names Lily, at the tender age of seven, is paired with a laotong, or “old same,” in an emotional match that will last a lifetime.  The laotong, Snow Flower, introduces herself by sending Lily a silk fan on which she has written a poem in nu shu, a unique language that Chinese women created in order to communicate in secret, away from the influence of men.  As the years pass, Lily and Snow Flower send messages on the fan compose stories, and accomplishments.  They both endure the agony of foot binding and together reflect upon their arranged marriages, shared loneliness, and the joys and tragedies of motherhood.  The two find solace, developing a bond that keeps their spirits alive.  But when a misunderstanding arises, their deep friendship suddenly threatens to tear apart.

My thoughts:
This was a book club pick, but also came highly recommended by a friend. 
I really liked this story; I read it in three days and found it fascinating when Lily described the foot binding, something I know very little about.
I understand so much more about that culture and why women did it.
Ultimately this is a story about two lifelong friends where a simple misunderstanding changes everything, what I liked is the story is more about them and their friendship.  As a reader you then get a chance to really feel the impact of their loss.
It is very well told and really opens your eyes to another culture, I know very little about but find extremely fascinating.

My rating: 4 out of 5.

Family Holidays - Fort Steele

We decided this year to try out Fort Steele with the kids.  Since they are pretty small, and you do have to pay admission, we have always steered clear thinking they would be bored as soon as we got there, or we would not get our money's worth in the short time between naps allowed.

But we found out this trip we were wrong.

Admission to Fort Steele is $5 for adults and kids under 5 are free!
Then we paid $5 for a wagon ride (for myself - the kids were free) and $10 each adult for a train ride - again - free for the kids!!

(They do have a price that gets you into everything, but since we were not doing the Theatre, it was not worth it for us).

First impressions of Fort Steele is much like Heritage Park, but no where near as busy.  They have more animals, all over the place there are vegetable gardens - honestly it felt much more like a real town than Heritage Park (no gardens, no cats and dogs walking down the road, no pigs and chickens around the next corner).

All the staff is dressed in costume, there are small skits being played out in different areas throughout the day.

There are quite a few operating businesses, the blacksmith, leather works shop, general store, etc.

Hubby was feeling a little "ill" that morning (it might have had to do with the extra drinks around the campfire the night before), so this is me taking a picture of him laying on a bench while I take the kids for a wagon ride.

Train Ride!
In all honesty, the train ride is much better at Fort Steele than Heritage park.  The train ride takes you out of the park and stops once at a view point, then you get back in and continue on the ride.

It was much better for the kids.  They like to go fast and stop as little as possible.

Lunch - we chose to have lunch in a restaurant, every day they have a buffet where you can choose just soup and salad or hot lunch.  The selection was okay - not amazing - but it was not deep fried and tasted good - the kids - under 6 (I think) pay their age for lunch.

I liked that it was easy to find a healthy lunch that did not include fries and hot dogs.

Overall we had a great day, we did not spend much time in the buildings reading and learning - the kids are just way too young for that, but for the price, and how cheap it was, we had a great time.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

On My Nightstand - Faithful Place

Faithful Place - By Tana French

On the back cover:
Back in 1985, Frank Mackey was nineteen, growing up poor in Dublin's inner city and living crammed into a small flat with his family on Faithful Place. But he had his sights set on a lot more. He and his girl Rosie Daly were all set to run away to London together, get married, get good jobs, break away from factory work and poverty and their old lives.
But on the winter night when they were supposed to leave, Rosie didn't show. Frank took it for granted that she'd dumped him - probably because of his alcoholic father, nutcase mother, and generally dysfunctional family. He never went home again.
Neither did Rosie. Everyone thought she had gone to England on her own and was over there living a shiny new life. Then, twenty-two years later, Rosie's suitcase shows up behind a fireplace in a derelict house on Faithful Place, and Frank is going home whether he likes it or not.
Getting sucked in is a lot easier than getting out again. Frank finds himself straight back in the dark tangle of relationships he left behind. The cops working the case want him out of the way, in case loyalty to his family and community makes him a liability. Faithful Place wants him out because he's a detective now, and the Place has never liked cops. Frank just wants to find out what happened to Rosie Daly and he's willing to do whatever it takes, to himself or anyone else, to get the job done.
My thoughts:
I read the first two books that Tana French has written, and although Frank was mentioned in the second book, there is no ties in the story lines at all, so it is not necessary to read the previous books at all.
If you like mystery thriller books, French does a good job.  I liked how this book was set in Dublin, set in a place I know nothing about.  It gives the book a very different feel, I find I pay attention more to the details because it is sometimes so different than reading a book set in The States or Canada.

Overall I thought it was a good read, I borrowed it from the library and am okay with not owning it (I really like to own the books I love).

My rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Garden Harvest

We have been enjoying our garden a lot recently.
This is our harvest just the other night. 

The carrots and the beets are from being thinned.  I would not have picked them, but this helps make space for the other ones to grow bigger.

Snack for the kids that night was tiny baby carrots, peas, tomatoes and strawberries.

Monday, August 15, 2011

I Came Home...

Yesterday I came home to find my husband playing restaurant with the kids.

It was quite possibly the cutest, most precious thing I have ever seen.

Blankets from their beds were covering upside-down laundry baskets. 
He was addressing Little Girl as Mademoiselle, and Little Boy as Sir. 
He had fancy names for all the food they were eating (crackers and M&M’s), they had menus (take our pizza flyers).

I can only hope you are all as lucky as I am to have such a wonderful father of my children!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Lemony Asian Chicken Skewers

I saw this recipe posted on a blog I follow: Family, Food, Fitness and Fun.  I made just the slightest modification but you can find her original post here.

These are absolutly delish!  I cut up my chicken and made the marinade the night before.  So when I got home from work, just put them onto the skewers and dinner was ready.

Lemony Asian Chicken Skewers

2 boneless, ckinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon coconut oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon minched fresh cilantro

Cut up chicken into small cubes.
In a small bowl combine brown sugar, soy sauce, coconut oil, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, cumin and cilantro.  Add chicken to bowl and toss to combine.
Marinade chicken overnight of for at least 4 hours in the fridge.

Heat BBQ to medium.  Thread chicken cubes onto skewers.  Grill until cooked, turning often.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Family Holidays - Big Green Dump Truck

In Sparwood BC they have a retired super big dump truck.

This truck used to be used at the local mines, but now it is a tourist attraction and oneof our kids favourites!

A photo would not be complete without the dog!

Family Holidays - Lundbreck Falls

For our family summer holidays we headed out to our trailer that is parked on Moyie Lake.
When we are going for 2 weeks we take our time driving, stopping at places we normally fly past at 100 (or so) km/h.

This year we stopped at Lundbreck Falls (pretty much right where highway 22 and highway 3 meet).

As luck would have it, a train was just coming by as we drove up.

Little Boy, loves trains!

It was a great little stop, a little chilly due to wind and the spray from the waterfalls.

There is also camping in th area.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Starting School

4 weeks today, Little Girl starts pre-school.

Ahhhhggggg!  I am totally freaked out.  Just how did she get so big? 
It is funny how much I want my kids to grow up all the time (I am so ready for temper tantrums to be done!), but at the same time, I want them to stay little, to be able to sit on my lap and snuggle.

But we are starting school.
Now I know a lot of Mom's that pre-school was very exciting because they are home all day with the kids, and once pre-school starts, it means they finally get a few hours a week away from said child.

But I work full-time out of the house.  My kids are both in day home, so while Little Girl is in pre-school, I will still be working - no coffee shops for me!

Someone at work told me recently that the pre-school and kindergarten years are the absolute hardest when both parents work.  The logistics are insane. 

No company (at least not Hubby's and mine) gives us a few hours a day to drive our children back and forth to school.  And then there is all the expected volunteering we are suppose to do.

But now we have 4 weeks. 
4 weeks to get ourselves a backpack.
4 weeks to get a first day outfit.
4 weeks to help my shy little girl get excited to go to school.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Garden Update

I was planning on doing a garden update before I went on holidays, but ran out of time, so here is a comparison post about how we are doing.

Before holidays: 10 weeks

After holidays: 12 1/2 weeks
 You can see in the photo that my spinach is pretty much dead.  We did not harvest any of it.  It bolted when the plants were really small and has subsequently died.  Not sure what I did wrong, but I am thinking the soil is lacking something.  Any ideas?

This is our almost ready to eat grape tomato before holidays, unfortunately it was not ready in time and my dear friend who came and diligently watered everything got to enjoy it and many other goodies from the garden.

Roma tomatoes before holidays:

 Roma tomatoes after holidays:

 Peas before (these were also not quite ready to eat when we left, but we are enjoying them now)

Peas after (they are kind of over grown, note to self for next year - more space is needed and a much, much taller fence)

Monday, August 08, 2011

Welcome Back!

I know I have been M.I.A. for a while, but I have an excuse, I was on holidays and there is virtually no internet access!  (I have mixed feeling about that, but it is probably for the best that I am not blogging, facebooking and tweeting while I am suppose to be hanging my the kids, sharing a drink with my hubby and chatting around the campfire with friends.)

But because I was so busy getting us all packed and ready for 2 weeks at our trailer, I missed doing a few posts I wanted to before I left, so I will post them over the next few days and then follow with some posts about our holidays.