Friday, August 20, 2010

Retail Therapy

Yesterday morning found me feeling pale azure, so I decided lift my spirits with some retail therapy.  I left the house with visions of clothing and shoes dancing in my head.  I came home with stuff for the kitchen.

I found some nifty glassware at the dollar store.  Though I don't really need martini glasses, I figured I could find other uses for the two pictured below.  Berries, trail mix, yogurt, olives.  The possibilities are endless.  At fifty cents each I figured I'd find some use for them.  I also found a spouted jar that I'm going to use for storing homemade salad dressing.  I'm hoping it pours more easily than the assortment of jars I'm currently using.  If not, it was only a dollar, and I'm sure I can find other uses for it. 

While at the dollar store I also found cheap washcloths.  I was inspired by Meghan's paper-free kitchen, so I grabbed ten washcloths to use instead of paper towels.  I'll still have paper towels on hand.  Our 18-year-old cat is a barfer.  I can't imagine cleaning up after her then cleaning the cloths.  Yuck.  Dealing with that mess once is enough.

Of course, once I had the cloths I needed something to keep them in.  As I was headed downtown anyway, I stopped at the kitchen store and found this loaf pan.  It's just the right size for the cloths, and it fits on my window sill.  I'm hoping if they're handy I'll remember to use cloths instead of paper towels.  And if I don't remember, I have a new loaf pan.

My real purpose for heading downtown, besides browsing the clothing and shoe stores, was my weekly stop at BramblesOnce I tried the maple-smoked salt from the Vancouver Island Salt Co I had to try their sea salt too.  I grabbed a bag of that and cruised the aisles for other goodies.  I was planning a beet salad for dinner.  My recipe called for sherry vinegar, but I didn't have any and didn't expect to find any.  Once again Brambles exceeded my expectations with BC sherry vinegar.

This stuff is amazing. It's from the Okanagan Vinegar Brewery. I'd never gotten into specialty vinegar, as I figured I'd use it once then it would collect dust and take up valuable kitchen space.  Not going to happen with this vinegar.  I had it on my salad last night; now I'm looking for other uses for it - besides licking it drop by delicious drop from my fingers. It's a bit pricey at $16 a bottle, but oh so worth it.  I used just over a quarter of what the recipe called for and I could have used even less.  It's that flavourful.  

As you can see,  I didn't buy anything I intended to buy, but my intentions were met nonetheless.  No shoes, no clothes but I certainly felt better.  Next time you see me I may be wearing a skirt of dollar store wash cloths and loaf pans on my feet.  I'll be unfashionable, but I'm happy!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Workplace with a Side of Veggies and Noodles

One of the great things about being on call is the variety.  I never know where I'll end up when the phone rings. This is where I've been working recently.  The building is almost 100 years old and is right across the road from the ocean.  It currently houses two other establishments. The lower left portion of the building belongs to my workplace.

If you look closely you can see my fan in the lower right window.

It's a lovely place to work.  I'm on my own there, but that's fine.  It's not the busiest branch. There's enough to keep me occupied, but I'm not run off my feet.  

I leave the door and windows open while I work.  The ocean breeze is particularly appreciated in our current heatwave.  The views are beautiful with water in front of me and gardens next door and around back.  It even smells nice there. The scent of the ocean flows in the door, and the perfume of sun-warmed roses drifts through the windows.  From time to time I hear eagles singing, and yes, eagles sing.  I was stunned when I found out too.

View from my desk.

Roses below one window...

...and the other.

View from the front porch.

Lunchtime walkies.  Looking north.

Looking south.

Of course, the building is nearly 100 years old, so there are a few inconveniences.  There's no air conditioning.  It can be a bit warm in the afternoon, though given the location I'd rather be warm with the windows open than cool and cooped up.  Fortunately the windows are quite large and open easily.

There's no running water in my portion of the building.  If I need to wash my hands, fill my water bottle or pee I have to use the facilities in the other office on my floor.  They don't seem to mind sharing, but I still feel like a bit of an interloper.  And when they lock up for lunch I have no access.  Nothing like knowing you can't go to make you have to go.  Needless to say my water bottle doesn't get filled very often when I'm there for more than one reason.  (I bet you thought I was going to say something else about filling my water bottle.  Cheeky monkey!)

Next door neighbours.  Formerly the gaolhouse, now a museum. Though the garden makes incarceration seem appealing, this building is also without facilities.  Wouldn't that count as cruel and unusual punishment?

Space in the building is limited.  The current businesses adapt to the historic building rather than the other way around.  I like that; it adds to the charm.  The drawback is that there is no room for a fridge.  That normally doesn't matter, but given the current heat and the lack of air conditioning my icepack was defrosting well before my lunch break.  I was a bit stumped about what to pack for yesterday's lunch.  I certainly didn't want to expose myself to any foodborne illnesses given the washroom arrangements.  

After consulting my recipe collection and the contents of my fridge I came up with the recipe below.  I made it Monday morning before it got too hot to cook.  It served both of us for dinner Monday night with enough left over for two light lunches.  It can be served hot, cold or at room temperature.  Yesterday's lunch was somewhere between cold and room temperature, and as Goldilocks would say it was just right.

Asian Veggies and Soba Noodles

Adapted from this Vegetarian Times recipe.  The original recipe is "noodles with veggies", but I used half the amount of noodles, cause that's all I had in the house, so I think of this as veggies with a few noodles thrown in.  

The Vegetarian Times recipe is also one of those one-pot meals where you cook the noodles until partly done then add other ingredients for the rest of the cooking time.  I did things a bit differently.  I've had various timing issues with this recipe, and on other occasions I've had overcooked noodles and undercooked carrots.  My new method doesn't take any longer, and it completely sidesteps that problem.


4 tbsp tamari
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil

- Whisk the above ingredients together in a large serving bowl.

Veggies and Noodles

1/2 cup frozen shelled edamame
2 largish carrots peeled and sliced on the diagonal
2-3 cups broccoli florets cut into approx edamame sized pieces
3 green onions sliced
4 oz soba noodles

- Put water on to boil while you gather ingredients and prepare the dressing.
- When water is boiling add edamame and cook while chopping carrots. (2-3 minutes)
- Remove edamame with slotted spoon.  Rinse under cold water.  Add to bowl with dressing.
- Add carrots to boiling water and cook while chopping broccoli. (4-6 minutes)
- Remove carrots with slotted spoon.  Rinse under cold water.  Add to bowl with dressing and edamame.
- Add broccoli to boiling water and cook while chopping onions. (Lost track of time here - about 3 minutes.  You know when broccoli is cooked, don't you?)
- Remove broccoli with slotted spoon.  Rinse under cold water.  Add to bowl with dressing, edamame and carrots.
- Add about a cup of water to the pot on the stove.  Bring to boil.  At this point the water is going to look like strong urine.  Be brave.  Add your soba noodles and cook according to package directions.
- Drain noodles. Rinse under cold water. Add to bowl with dressing, edamame, carrots and broccoli. Toss gently.  
- Pick up broccoli from the floor.  Re-think gently.  Curse when the veggies and noodles refuse to combine. Give up.
- Top with green onion and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Top individual servings with a few cashews and serve.  
- Don't tell anyone about the broccoli on the floor.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Too Hot

Sorry friends.  It's too hot to write.  Look, it's so hot the cat melted.  

 Will be back tomorrow, weather permitting.  Stay cool!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Green Kitchen Thingie

Today's post was inspired by Meghan over at Making Love in the Kitchen.  She asked her readers what they do to green their kitchen.  Here's my list. 

* Cloth napkins – Some I’ve had for 15 years or more.  They're getting a bit ratty, but they still work.
* Compost.
* Reusable microfibre cleaning cloths. I like the ones from e-cloth. I use them in the bathroom as well, but not the same ones as I use for the kitchen. That would be gross.
* Grow yer own herbs.
* Buy local and organic as much as possible.
* Weekly veggie/fruit bin (local, organic, no bags).
* Recycle or re-use packaging. Or both. Grocery lists go on the back of the receipt from the week before, then get recycled.
* Cloth bags for shopping (Some are almost 20 years old, so they're also ratty. The looks I get from the cashiers, especially the ones that aren’t as old as my canvas shopping bags!) 

Then there's this:

Hubby and I made it about 8 years ago.  I was inspired by one I saw in a magazine. Theirs was a deluxe version; it folded down when not in use.  A few bits from the hardware store, some glue and a few minutes with the power drill (That was the tricky part. The drill kept sliding off the round bit, so Hubby came to my rescue.  As a result, the job was finished in good time and we both had all our fingers at the end) and voila!

Okaaay, but what the heck is it?

It's my homemade plastic-bag drying thingie.  I still use zip-top bags from time to time, particularly the fresh produce bags by Ziploc.  So far they're the best thing I've found for keeping veggies fresh.  There are times when hubby and I are hard pressed to finish a generous bunch of greens before they go off.  These bags extend the fridge life of our lettuce, chard and spinach so less lands in the compost bin.  I hate wasting food, I like saving money and I feel better about using plastic bags if I reuse them.  Unfortunately, the bags aren't cheap (my opinion - remember, you're dealing with the under-employed here), hence my initial incentive to reuse the bags.

Most of the time this strange device sits on top of my fridge making it look like it's sprouted weird antennae.  Bags get washed, spend some time on the drying rack so they're not too drippy, then get transferred to the thingie to finish drying. 

Plastic bags aren't particularly environmentally friendly, I know, so if you have another solution for vegetable storage I'd love to know.   If you have a cheap, green solution even better.  In fact, like Meghan, I'd love to hear any tips you have for greening your kitchen.  If you choose to share here make sure you share there too; Meghan's offering a prizes.

Note: the friendly people at Ziploc do not recommend that you reuse these bags.  I'm not sure what their reasoning is, but I've been doing it for about 8 years and haven't suffered any (obvious) ill effects. 

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Sand, Salt and Salmon

Hubby and I went to see the sand sculptures in Parksville today. Tomorrow is the last day of the exhibition, and the weather was fine, so we thought we'd  go while we had the chance. Here are some photos for those of you who couldn't make it to the event.  Enjoy!

We were greeted with a smile.
Footprints in the sand trap.
Troll under the bridge.

If only every eagle would pose so nicely!
What's a sand sculpture competition without a sandcastle?

Or two?

Earth bender.  Got my vote!
Scaled creatures certainly seem to enjoy the sun.

After we admired the sculptures we walked the beach until we got to this point.

Seemed like a sign to head home.  We had to start thinking about dinner anyway.

We tried our newly-acquired Maple Smoked Rock Salt tonight.  Hubby rubbed organic canola oil and a scant 1/4 tsp of the salt on each side of wild Pacific sockeye salmon steaks.  He then barbequed the steaks for about 4 minutes a side.  Perfection.  I'm not ashamed to say I licked my plate clean; it was that good!  

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday Follow-ups

Crocheted Creations

More textile tags have been spotted in the area.  My friend and co-worker Connie, mother of the talented Leanne at Yarnbombing, snapped the photo below.

I walk by that spot frequently and I didn't even notice this piece.   That's in spite of my being on the lookout since my first sighting last weekInstead of finding new tags I keep discovering spots that would be suitable for fuzzy embellishment.  There's some wrought iron out there that's looking rather naked!

Even Hubby is better at spotting yarn works than I am.  He forwarded this story about the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef. Everything about the project pleases me: the art itself; the mission; the online community.  It's a lovely example of how the internet can bring people together and of the wonderful, woolly things they can accomplish.

When The Smoke Clears

As promised, here's a smoke-free view from my kitchen window.  

There's actually mountains out there!  You wouldn't have known last week.  The haze in this photo is a result of the current heat wave.  I can live with that.

Clip Art?

I finally soloed a pair of earrings.  I managed to cram everything I learned in my lesson into a single pair.  

I fear they may be a bit tacky, but I'm still too excited about the process to have any objectivity.  I feel like a kid who's going to wear all her new clothes at once whether they match or not.  Oh, and I did wear the earrings; in public even.  The women I work with were nice enough to compliment them.  Thanks to them I'm feeling confident in my ability to make more.  Back to the bead shop!

Salty Story

I received a nice note from Andrew at Vancouver Island Salt Co. today. He was responding to my letter asking him where he gets his rock salt for his Maple Smoked Rock Salt.  I'm pleased to say it's from Quebec, so it's a totally Canadian product.

I've included a bit from Andrew's note below, as he explains his salt choice far better than I ever could.  

"I bring it (the salt) in from Quebec, I find this salt to have a great flavour profile as well as being extremely durable through the long smoking process. I looked at a few salts before deciding to go with this one, my main concerns being quality and that it be from Canada."

Hubby and I have decided that our first experiment using the smoked salt will take place tomorrow night when he grills sockeye salmon steaks.  I'm already looking forward to it.

Happy weekend all!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

She Scores Smoked Salt By The Sea Shore

There are many, many things I considered writing about today, but none of them excited me enough to sit down at my computer.  Instead I puttered around the house then headed off to do my grocery shopping.  

As always, my weekly excursion started at Brambles, and there it was.  Excitement in a zip-top bag for the low price of $5.95 - Maple Smoked Rock Salt. 

I first read about smoked salt over at Bryanna Grogan's blog.  She was using it as the base for homemade vegan bacon salt.  I was intrigued, but not intrigued enough to have a 25 pound bag of the stuff shipped up from Washington.  

Finding this little bag was just the incentive I needed to get me to my desk today.  It's produced by the Vancouver Island Salt Co.,and it smells delightful.  Kind of like a seaside campfire.  The few grains I tasted are smokey, but not overpowering.  I can't decide how to use it first. Oh, the possibilities!

The same company also produces Canadian Sea Salt.  According to their website the salt is "harvested from the cold Pacific waters of Vancouver Island BC"Being from Windsor where salt is mined, I'd never thought of salt as being harvested before. Harvesting sounds much more earth-friendly and sustainable. I like that idea.  In fact, I like it so much that the sea salt is already on my grocery list for next week.  

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Delicious Rewards

A friend treated me to dinner last night as thanks for caring for her cat while she was off expeditioning last week.  Somehow I feel like I should have been taking her out for dinner; her week was far more strenuous than mine.

She bushwhacked through overgrown forest.  I hung out and wrote in her adorable house.  She traversed snowfields.  I played with her darling cat.  She canoed, camped, carried and climbed.  I puttered about and admired her sweet garden. 

While in her garden I picked blueberries. I discovered that of all the berries blueberries are my favourite to pick.  No stooping like strawberry picking.  No thorns like blackberry picking.  Just quiet time in the garden.  

I love how blueberries are a bit bashful.  I'd wander along, filling my bowl, thinking I'd picked every berry I passed.  Then I'd notice a cluster I'd overlooked peeking out from the leaves.  I could practically hear them giggle when I spotted them. This kind of garden could make one believe in magic.  And fairies.

Hubby and I had a berry-filled week.  Blueberries and peaches; blueberries and granola; blueberries and amaranth in salad and blueberries on their own.   You'd think my appetite for blueberries would be satisfied, but I find it hard to get tired of fruit when it's in season.  As a result I was delighted when my friend presented me with more blueberries after our dinner.  Dinner out and blueberries to go.  I've been deliciously rewarded twice for tasks that had their own rewards. 

I wonder what adventures she has planned for apple-picking season...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Knit Hit!

I was excited to see knit graffiti for the first time last week.  

This piece was on a tree outside the public library.  I doubt I would have understood what it was, but I work with the mother of one of the authors of Yarn Bombing.  Having that connection lead me to the website and to the book.  

I've secretly thought the library would be a great place to tag, but haven't had the courage to do it myself.  That someone else was thinking the same way makes me smile.

When I first noticed the tag I didn't have my camera, and when I returned later it had already been tampered with.  Fortunately, by Saturday it had been repaired and was still in good shape in spite of Friday's rain.   I was able to get pictures before it's gone for good.  That's part of the beauty of knit graffiti.  Artists can make their mark, and it can be easily and inexpensively removed if necessary.  Not that I'd want to remove it.  It's so pink, and woolly and cheerful.

Viva la fluffy revolution!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Ringing In My Ears

Saturday morning.  Heart pumping.  Excessive sweating.  Hands shaking.  You'd think I'd taken up some extreme sport.  Instead I'd extended my comfort zone yet again and was trying something new.  No, I wasn't sky diving.  I was learning to make earrings.  It doesn't take much to catapult me into anxiety does it?

At one time I had pierced ears.  When we were in elementary school my sister was determined to have her ears pierced.  I wasn't sure I wanted extra holes in my head, but as I didn't want to seem cowardly I agreed to get mine done too.  I am the older sister after all!

By university I had let my piercings grow closed, as I was tired of having constantly infected earlobes. (My sister went on to get more piercings and a couple of tattoos. Can't decide if that makes her brave or crazy.  Actually, I can.  I'll let you guess where I stand on that issue.)  Clip-on earrings were still commonly available, and I had some funky, hand-me-down sets from my mom.  I even picked up vintage earrings from time to time.  Unfortunately, most of my wee collection was lost in a break-in a few years ago, and replacements were becoming difficult to find. 

I'd pretty much given up on wearing earrings until, when visiting my parents, I saw their neighbour wearing a snazzy necklace and matching clip-on earringsI asked her where she got them, as I figured I'd better do some shopping and stock up while I was in town.  I was impressed, but rather disappointed, to discover that she had made the earrings from beads she had removed from her necklace.  That was two years ago.  It took until last week for the light bulb to come on and for me to consider making my own earrings.

Once I decided to do this things fell into place.  On Tuesday after work I stopped at the bead store conveniently located three doors down from my workplace. (Did I mention it took me two years to figure out I could make my own earrings?  I walk by this place at least twice a week.  Duh.)  I approached the young woman at the counter, told her I wanted to learn to make my own earrings and asked if she had any classes coming up.

This was my first meeting with the kind Kelsi at Shipwrecked Bead Shop.  She told me she had a wire wrapping class coming up, but on seeing the befuddled look on my face she suggested I come in for my own session.  Good call!

That brings us back to Saturday morning where the kind, and did I mention patient, Kelsi proceeded to teach me how to make my own earrings.  For ten dollars I got a personalized class.  I was able to choose my own materials, learned the basics for making earrings and when I was finished I got to keep the earrings.  

Not bad for a first attempt, huh? Of course I had lots of help and guidance throughout the process. 

They were surprisingly quick to make, so Kelsi bravely let me make a second pair at no extra cost.  And yes, it does require a certain amount of courage to allow me to use pliers (or hammers, or screwdrivers...)  Do you have any idea how far bits of snipped wire can fly?  I may insist that she wear goggles at follow-up classes. 

I was pleased with the second pair too.  I wore them when I left the store and was so excited I was tempted to stop random people in the street to show them my earrings.   In fact the whole experience was so enjoyable that I bought tools and materials to make earrings at home. 

Overall I spent about fifty dollars, but that included the lesson, two pairs of earrings, tools and materials to make more earrings.  Having recently been to a craft fair, I know I'd be hard pressed to buy two pairs of earrings for that price.

I haven't made any new earrings yet.  I'm still enjoying these ones too much to feel the need to start more.  That, and I think I'm going to need more beads.  I can see this becoming an addiction.  Fortunately beads are fairly inexpensive.  And mesmerizing.  Legend tells that the Lenni Lenape traded Manhattan for beads and other trinkets.  I know it's legend, but now I can understand how it might happen.  

If you're looking for me later today, try the bead shop.  There's a good chance you'll find me there.


Note:  This picture doesn't show the earrings all that well, but it does have a snail in the top right, so I thought I'd include it.


Saturday, August 7, 2010

Garlic Stylists

Last week L harvested the garlic at Sleeping Cougar Acres.  When I found out she would be braiding it this week, I invited myself over to play hairdresser.  

My sister and I liked to play hairdresser when we were kids.  Such sessions often ended in tears.  No such problems when styling garlic.  It didn't matter how much we pulled and tugged there were no complaints.  

L and I had to be rather rough with our clients, as we were working with hardneck garlic.  It isn't, technically, supposed to be braidable, but L never lets such technicalities stop her.  It took both of us to complete each braid.  One person held the bulbs in place and the other braided the leaves and stems.

The most surprising thing about the project was how relaxing it was.  I thoroughly enjoyed my morning, which I expected, but I didn't expect to leave feeling so energized and contented.  Now I'm looking about our yard for a suitable spot for my own stinking rose garden.

Our clients.
Needs cleaning...
...and the roots need touching up.
Brushed, trimmed and ready for styling.
Divide strands into sections and start twisting.
The first attempt.  Lovely.
That's some chic produce.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Parading About

Yesterday I was afraid of lightening induced wildfires. Today I'm afraid to look in the newspaper. I've done something totally out of character and I fear there may be photographic evidence. Published photographic evidence. Sometimes I wonder how I get myself into these situations. For someone who takes pride in her Elusive Laurie persona, this behavior was way, way out there.

I took part in a parade. Talk about being out of my comfort zone, but in an attempt to get break free from the inertia that has stilled me for months, I am making an effort to try new things.

This wasn't my first parade. In the late 80's I took part in Windsor's Canada Day Parade. I carried a banner identifying our local MP's. When I agreed to the gig I didn't realize that my duties included politician herding. My gregarious gaggle of vote seekers couldn't overcome their natural instinct to shake every hand and kiss every baby on the parade route. Their antics caused us to fall behind, yet I was the one the parade officials hounded for holding up the parade!

So how did I manage to get involved in another parade? The topic came up a few weeks ago when I was shopping at Brambles. Angeline asked what hubby and I were doing on BC Day. I must admit that there was a split second when I expected an invitation to a barbeque or beach party. The parade request was so surprising that I agreed without thinking. Then I did my best not to think about it again until the morning of the event. I was concerned that if I let myself dwell on it I'd talk myself out of it.

My duties for this parade were straight forward. I walked alongside the Brambles float and gave colouring contest sheets to kids (and one flirty senior) along the parade route. I didn't have to worry about holding up the parade this time. If I dawdled along handing out sheets, the rest of the parade just whizzed on by. Seriously, I've never witnessed such a brisk parade in my life. Fortunately, Angeline provided matching red t-shirts for the Brambles crew, so it wasn't hard to find the rest of the team when I fell behind.

Angeline, James and their group of handy helpers did an outstanding job with the float. With only a pickup truck and a trailer for their platform they were able to highlight BC food from the farm to the table. The truck bed was the farm, with straw bales, an antique plow and other farm-type accoutrements. The back of the trailer was the table, featuring a bistro set complete with dishes and flowers. Let me tell you, having a set table on a moving float requires some very creative use of tape.

At the front of the trailer, between the farm and the table, was the shop bringing the two together. This, of course, was the heart of the float complete with baskets of produce and a mini meat counter decorated with pantyhose sausages and rubber chickens. Mmmmm.

In spite of my initial what-have-I-gotten-myself-into reaction I had a great time. The weather was co-operative, the crew was fun and the crowd was appreciative. It was so nice to hear all the positive comments from the onlookers. James and Angeline are making a name for themselves, and I completely enjoyed being part of their team.








Thursday, August 5, 2010

Smoke and Thunder

I just checked my weather widget.  Current conditions: smoke.  Not that I need the widget to tell me that.  I just have to look out my window. 

I took this picture from my kitchen window last night.  You can barely make out the darker line of trees in the background.

This picture was taken this morning.  You wouldn't know those distant trees were there. Gone in a puff of smoke.

This photo was taken from the same window on another atypical day.  We don't get much snow here, but even on that unusual winter morning you could see the mountains in the background.  I'll try to remember to take a picture on a clear day so you can see the difference between what we're experiencing now and what is common on most summer days.  

The smoke is coming from a forest fire near Jervis Inlet on the mainland.  That's about 270 km away. (Or 168 miles for my American friends.) Somehow I find this unsettling.  This isn't even the big-news fire, though I suppose those blazes are contributing to smoke here as well.

According to the widget, thunderstorms are predicted for later today.  More unusual conditions for  our corner of Vancouver Island.  And to add to the overall eerie feeling, there's the knowledge that the Jervis Inlet fire was caused by lightening.  I'm left feeling a wee bit anxious, though that could just be the second cup of coffee.  Or maybe the anxiety comes from writing for the first time in months. Whatever it is I'm kind of enjoying it.  It's a huge improvement over the inertia I've been feeling since my last post.  I may feel anxious, but I'm feeling! 


Smokey Haze from Sunshine Coast Wildfire

Smoke Advisory Issued for East Island

More than 400 wildfires burn across B.C.