Friday, December 28, 2007

Snowy days

After a brief warming of temperatures on Christmas eve and Christmas day, which gave us some rain, we're back to the cooler temps and lovely puffy snow.

Some little grey juncos were out and about, but they were alone at the feeder this a.m. This guy is so cute in his little "tuxedo". :)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I'm on the BBC!

How very cool is this?! On BBC Leicester, one of my forget-me-not photos is featured on a very sweet article about a dying mother making a memory book for her young son.

It's a great honour to be featured on the BBC!

Check it out here!

Time to Check Your Spices!

This is a fantastic ad I saw in one of my women's magazines a couple of months ago, hilarious AND informative:

Especially for this time of year, it's important to chuck out your old spices and get some fresh ones. I know, I find it difficult to throw away something I haven't finished using, but really - using something really old and flavorless isn't going to do your cooking justice, now is it? I have a lot of old ones I have to get rid of...

Check out McCormick's awesome site regarding spice freshness. Only one note: they have a visual display of old bottles (if you have this bottle, it's too old) - but here in Canada, we're still using the bottle from the '90s in America. So don't chuck your bottles if they look like that and you're Canadian! :D

Spices are often at sale prices at this time of year, so take advantage! Do your cooking a favor!

Surprise Winter Freeze

Beautiful frozen dew on the trees this morning, sparkling in the sunshine! You can even see the sunbeams streaming through the tree branches. Lovely morning!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Sweet, CHILLY Christmas Journey in honour of Grandma

An amazing journey for one family, all the way up to Tuktoyaktuk to honour their Grandmother's dying wish. They're bringing a little tree she got while in palliative care to live near the area of the Trans-Canada trail that she sponsored. But Grandma's wish was not as straighforward to accomplish as it initially sounded! Read the whole story from the CBC here.

Monday, December 17, 2007

A Pickle in the Christmas Tree

The German Christmas tradition that Germans don't know about

A few years back, I made pickle ornaments out of polymer clay for myself and my best friend. Yes, I said pickle. As in, a little dill pickle - gherkin style. Shiny and green. I had read about it, and it sounded like a really fun Christmas tradition of German origin. Once the tree is decorated, you hide the pickle ornament on the tree, then let the kids search for it. The first one to find it gets a special small present. Fun! My friend's kids LOVED it, and now look forward to the pickle decoation every year!

Once I heard about it, I found several references to it on Nova Scotia websites as part of Christmas festivities - a large percentage of our population on the South Shore are of German ancestry (as am I), so it seemed like a great way to get in touch with my roots.

But, just when I had settled in nicely with this new-to-me tradition (seeing a pickle hanging on a tree is really quite hilarious, I get a real kick out of it every time my eye catches it), I found this article. It turns out that Germans don't know about this tradition!! So now, no one knows how it started!

It's still fun, and I'll still do it, but with the knowledge it's not as old a tradition as I thought! :)

Read the entire article here, it's very enlightening: German gherkin ornament puts historians in a pickle

Want your own pickle ornament? This shop has a fantastic assortment, made of glass, sure to become a treasured family tradition: Christmas Decorations and Gifts Store.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Ready for Snow

It's been such a fantastic winter so far here! The last few years, it's been so unnaturally warm, we've had nothing but rain 'til February. But now, it's as I remember the weather years ago: crisp and cold - and whenever there's precip, it's snow! So pretty. :) It's lovely after a light snow overnight - the little puffs of snow exploding off a branch as tiny birds take off look so cute!

Nice and sunny yesterday morning, and beautiful today - but we're getting a 1-2 punch of storms over the next 48 hours, starting this evening. Glad I don't have anyplace to go!

All this snow puts me in the Christmas spirit much more than drizzle and rain!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Cute Christmas Craft

Found this very cute Christmas craft ornament in our local paper today, by Lori Pittman. Check out all the how-to details here.

Monday, December 10, 2007

More Christmas Cookies

What says Christmas more than this?

Mmmm...cookie dough in a log, ready for cutting into cookies! Check out the recipe for these fantastic cookies, and why I make this recipe every year!

But now, we have lots of cookies. Lots and lots and lots. And they will be eaten, oh yes. I don't even want to think about how many pounds this will add...gotta get out for exercise more...but it's so much more fun staying in and baking cookies! :D Besides, it's Christmas! We don't get to eat these buttery treats the rest of the year. :)

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Holiday Anguish Cheer - Simple tips to keep your celebrations on track, Part III

Welcome to my third and final installment of helpful hints to assist you this holiday season! Today I'll be covering:

Recipes and Food Preparation

Write it down. On the big day, write out the baking/cooking times for each of your recipes, AND the oven temperatures. Figure out what dishes can be cooked together at the same temperature. Make sure you give yourself a little extra cooking time if you've got the oven stuffed full. Then convert the baking times to actual clock values: that way, you know the exact time you need to put each dish in. I introduced this idea a few years ago to my mother, and she was really impressed with how much more smoothly things went!

Having a menu written out is good. Not just to help you stay on track with what you're preparing, but because you can run over it quickly just before serving, and see if you forgot anything! I can't tell you the number of times we've forgotten the buns or the cranberry sauce. There they are, sitting in the fridge, or the nuker, and when dinner's all over and we're cleaning up, we find them! Augh!

The microwave is your friend. Anything that can be made ahead, should be! A quick reheat and you're off to the races. Stove Top brand stuffing (my favorite) can be made entirely in the microwave! That's a great help on the big day, believe me.

Need some ideas for freezable foods that would be handy to have on hand (not just on the big day, but throughout the busy holiday season)? The MommySavers forum has some great ideas!

Now is not the time to try a recipe for the first time. It's been said before, but I'll reiterate it here: If you want to do something new, practice it at least a couple of times before the big day. It is WAY too much pressure to try something new - too much disaster potential!

Instead of doing one big turkey, do two smaller ones. This was a great hint I read in a magazine a while back. They take less time to cook than a large bird, and you can carve one up for serving, and still have one complete one to bring for display on the table.

Don't be afraid to let others help. If a guest wants to bring a dessert or a salad, it's a win-win - they feel good about helping, and you get one less thing to worry about - except finding a spot in the fridge for it. But be sure that who is bringing what is sorted out in advance of the big day - and remind them the day before to ensure you don't end up salad-less.

Don't feel badly about buying some pre-made foods. For example, at our house, we're not huge fans of holiday fruit cake. But I do like to have a little bit of it during the holidays (with a nice cup of tea...mmmm). So I buy a small brick of it from the store - I get a taste of what I like, without having to do through the huge effort of making it myself. There's a lot of great premade products out there made by small local companies - give them a try and save yourself some time without sacrificing quality and taste.

Hope these hints will help you as much as they've helped me in the past! Have a great holiday season!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Snow Day!

Thank goodness, we've had 2 snows this year so far - last year, it was so freakishly warm, we didn't have any until late January! THIS is more like winter - so I'm not complaining! :)

Last night, Casey made a giant snowball around her favorite rock. :)

This morning, Casey and Lila (who stayed home for the day) were out with Dave, playing toss the stick and frisbee - a good time was had by all, even though the stick and frisbee were frequently lost! :)

Monday, December 03, 2007

James Barber has passed on

This is so sad!! James Barber, the "Urban Peasant", has died at the age of 84.

I watched his cooking show on the CBC for years and years when I was younger: he definitely was a big inspiration for me. He was such a casual cook, cooking with what he had on hand: I learned to be experimental and not afraid to play around with food, adjusting things to taste on the fly to make a unique, delicious dish.

He was so fun to watch, he'd always be drooling by the end of the show, heh heh.

He will really be missed. Fortunately, he left behind a number of cookbooks! And a number of inspired cooks, I'm sure.

Read his obituary, and check out his website too.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Cookies, Donairs, and Christmas Daddies

Christmas Daddies, our wonderful Maritime charity helping poor kids at Christmas, is having their great telethon right now - the time when many, including myself, do some Christmas baking! My cookies turned out great - but the decorating...well...I think I need to do some serious practice. For now, they are frosted rather roughly. Oh well, close your eyes and eat 'em. :D

And just now, Bash Toulany came on with what he donates every year for auction on the show: a mega-normous pizza, and a super-incredibly long donair! The staff and people running the telethon will get to eat these ones, but he will make another couple with whatever toppings you want. Every freakin' year he brings out this stuff that looks SOOOOOOOO GOOOOOOODDDDD, we used to just drool at the tv. Then we realized, we really need to head on down to our local pizzaria and get ourselves our own donairs! So that's become our tradition - first, cookie baking, then followed up with a donair supper! Yippeee!!

So thank you Bash, for your awesome donation to our family tradition, and of course the fantastic donation to the Maritime's favorite Christmas charity!

The auctions for some amazing stuff, from a Sidney Crosby jersey, to beautiful furniture, to a gorgeous Canadian diamond ring, are still going on now, get in on the fun and help a great cause!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

New Nova Scotia Ad Campaign hits home

If you're not from here, you may not realize it, but a lot of Nova Scotians (and Maritimers in general) are going out west to big-paying jobs working the oil sands, etc. However, that has left us with a lot of job positions being unfilled here (I've not seen that a whole lot, but I hear it on the news all the time). So the government has launched a new billboard campaign in large cities west of here to remind people of all the good things that "home" has to offer. They have arrows pointing East, with the nearest TransCanada highway marker, and words like "ocean" and "family" - but the one that's talked about the most is the one saying "donairs".

As I mentioned before, Nova Scotia is the home of the donair, and boy do we Bluenosers miss it when we leave! So this new ad campaign is really popular!

Something we hear all the time here (regarding Toronto and gyros), and is reiterated in the article, is the following:

"Lynn Poirier says: 'Try to explain to the people in T.O. the goodness of a donair from Nova Scotia. A donair is not a gyro. You can only get a real donair in Nova Scotia. The sign helps, I can now say, ‘See, I told you,’ and they get it. I really only come home for the donairs. Well, not really, but it is a bonus.'"

So, hugs to all you fellow Nova Scotians who are missing home right now!

Read the whole article here.