Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Ratatouille Time

 When you have oodles of ripe zucchini and oodles of ripe tomatoes, it's RATATOUILLE TIME!   (Just in case you don't know that word, it's pronounced "rat ah two eee.)

This morning Jim picked a basket full of ripe tomatoes.  We had a few zucchinis in the fridge and I picked several more.

The first step: Wash and cut
up tomatoes.   Bring to a boil in a saucepan.
Put through a food mill to get rid of the skins and seeds.
This is a French Vegetable mill,  and works like a charm.  It perches on top of a container.  You put in some soup ladles of cooked tomatoes, turn the handle, and the skins and pits stay in the top section, the juicy pulp falls through.  You can use the pulp (boiled down a bit) as tomato paste, or you can use the very juicy pulp on its own.  It makes a super tomato juice drink.

Second step: Cut up an onion.  Put some olive oil in the bottom of a heavy Dutch oven.  Begin to sauté the onion.
Wash and slice lots of zucchini.  Add them to the pan.

Slice some of your favourite sausage.  I'm using Mennonite sausage that the Vancouver kids left behind by mistake--our gain!  Sauté the sausage in a tiny bit of olive oil.  Add to the pan.

While the mix in the Dutch oven is slowly cooking, add some Vegetable Seasonings, some oregano, some basil, a little seasoned salt.  If you like hot, you can add tabasco sauce, or perhaps some crushed red chillies.  I can't give you amount because I just shake in what looks about right.

Continue cooking at a very slow "bubble."
After the mix has cooked for about 15 minutes, add a few cups of the juicy tomato pulp.  

Later I added some cut up Italian plum tomatoes, just to have some distinguishable tomatoes in the mix.

Here it is, almost ready to serve.  Spoon it over a helping of rice, and you have a complete meal.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Painting? Quilting!!!

 Here's what I should be doing this week: scraping and painting the south door from downstairs into the solar space.  There are two sets of windows and doors like this.  One on the south side and one on the west side.

When we bought our place these frames had been roughly painted without scraping off the "fly dirt" in the corner.  That kind of freaked me out, so several years ago I started scraping them down to the bare wood, priming and painting them.  I'm inclined to tennis elbow and had an overuse injury in my right shoulder in 2006, so this is rather difficult for me.  Jim pitched in and helped by doing a lot of the scraping, but there are still areas that need a fine touch.  I'm using a heat gun, which really simplifies the work.  It's still a JOB!

The west door and windows are finished, but this needs to be done, and it needs to be done this summer!

In the meantime, THIS is what I am doing!  This is S's quilt, and I last posted it on March 10.  That was when I had all the blocks completed and laid out on the living room floor.

I got the 7 vertical rows on the right of the quilt all sewed together, and then got too busy to continue working on it.

This morning I felt free enough to go back to it.  The two vertical rows on the left got done this morning.  They are rows 5 and 6, so now I need to get busy on rows 1, 2, 3, & 4.

It's taking me a while because about half of the 9 patch blocks need to be taken apart and resewed.  The problem is that they turned out too small.  And I learned a lesson from that!  The next project I will check the size on the first blocks that I sew and avoid having to take a whack of them apart to redo.

The problem turns out to be that my 1/4" foot sews a FAT
1/4" seam.  When a block has several seams in it, the result is a block that is about 1/4" too small.

That actually happened on the previous quilt also, the Cascades.  I solved that problem by sewing the top together with very skimpy seams, not a very good solution!  But I think it will be all right when it's all quilted, which should strengthen and reinforce the top.

Somehow or other, I just didn't twig that I had to set the needle position to the right.  Now I know better.  When I'm aiming for a 1/4" seam I need to set the needle to 4.2, a bit to the right of 3.5, which is the center position.  LIVE AND LEARN!!!  But, hopefully next time a little sooner!

While I was at the sewing machine this morning this very interesting bird perched on the balcony railing.  I quickly got the camera so that when I go to the "Birds of Alberta" book I can identify it.
On its breast it had a red bib.

Wonder what it is?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Funny Corn

Or maybe I should call this "sad corn."  We like to grow a variety of bicolour corn called "Vitality."  It's got a short growing season, tends to have rather sparse looking plants (good for raised beds), and about three ears clustered near the ground.

This year Jim started it in the greenhouse in February, which was really too early.  Then the weather in June was cold, dark and rainy.  I think that there were too few bees around when it needed to be pollinated.

The ears look ridiculous, but the kernels are fine, sweet and juicy.

This picture taken looking west from the balcony and is a good illustration of our persistent weather pattern this summer.  Earlier in the day we had the blue sky and puffy white clouds that you see at the top of the photo.  Jim and I went for a walk to town and back (2 1/2 miles).  The last hour the dark clouds formed and started marching across the sky.  Right now they are over us and even extending to the east.  This has been happening on an almost daily basis here this summer.

The last two nights we were thankful that we weren't awakened by loud claps of thunder.  Hope whatever this cloud system is bringing is finished by bedtime!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Enjoying Saturday

 We have a tradition in our home of leaving our work behind on Saturday and relaxing with the Toronto Globe and Mail.  In the winter we sit upstairs in the living room, enjoying the view of outdoors, but in the summer we like to sit in our "solar space," the enclosed area underneath the balcony that we added after we moved here.

We had our carpenter build the walls and insert the windows (my design).  Someone else laid the ceramic tile.  In the winter this space houses plants that we are overwintering.  In the summer it's a lovely place to sit and relax with a book or newspaper (or knitting),

An additional pleasure is listening to the water trickling in our three water features.  First up, closest to the house, and the most audible is this cute little barrel with an old fashioned pump.  The water simply recirculates, and creates a refreshing background sound.

Then a little farther away in the landscape directly in front of the house is our lovely fountain.  Today we can't hear it because we have a lot of fairly noisy wind, which covers up the delight of this slowly trickling fountain.

And last of all, at the front of the property is the "waterfall" that Jim created a few years ago, recycling the water in the shallow pond that he spent so much hard labour cleaning up this spring.  You can't see it on this photo, but there is a trickle of water falling down the rock pile at the center.

Birds love these features.  They bath in the fountain, and take a refreshing shower under the waterfall.

In the evening, we unplug the water pump in the barrel, and turn a switch on the panel in the garage that controls the power to both the fountain and waterfall.

So nice of Jim to have incorporated these features into our landscape, a landscape that had no trees, no shrubs, no perennials, no annuals when we first lived here.  What a fantastic amount of work he has done to create this little paradise.  I think an appropriate name for our place would be "NewEden."  Without the serpent!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

One Down

 Just before 2 p.m. today I finished the first big project of the summer: repainting the balcony railing.

Here's how it looked last Wednesday morning.  

There were areas on this wooden railing where the paint had worn off and the wood was bare. Our helper S. had scraped the rough places.  I had coated them with primer.

Starting last Thursday I carefully painted all the sections.  About four to six hours a day of that work was plenty, especially because the sun was ferociously hot!  But just keeping at it is the key, and today it is finished.  I'm very pleased with how rejuvenated it is.  I think this is a really good kind of milk chocolate brown.  The paint colour name is "Brown Tar" which is pretty yucky, but the colour is great.

This morning I also got at another project, an indoor one this time.  My friend Susan and her husband have a wholesale fabric business and she asked if I would make some sample bags for them to display.  That sounded like an interesting project, so I agreed.  This morning I made the first bag, called Little Pouch.  It's lined and has a spring closing in the casing at the top.

This didn't take long to make, but I had to rewrite the instructions as I went along.  The pattern comes from Japan, and the instructions are somewhat strange.  I've been sewing for 60 years and had trouble figuring them out.  I finally just decided how I would construct it and followed my own directions.  I'll give Susan and new set of directions that will hopefully be clearer.

There are several other bags to make over the next few weeks, making this a fun, doable project.

Monday, July 15, 2013


We've been enjoying our second set of visitors since June 30, first were DS#2 and his family, and now DD#2 and her family.  Lots of good conversation, lots of quiet time spent reading together, lots of good food, lots of help with cooking and cleaning up, but not lots of time to spend writing a blog post.  I will be back after they leave with my usual comments and reports of projects.

In the meantime I can show one of the projects prepared as a gift.  This is a set of 12 Christmas Tree Napkins.  They can be used as a centre piece or placed separately beside dinner plates.  The colours here are not quite true.  The green is a lively apple green, which has echoes in the cream/purple/green and gold print.  The effect is really lovely.

I made one set for DD#2 and one set for DDIL. The fellows each received a pair of hand knit socks, and the four grandkids (two per family) each received a snuggly fleece blanket.

DS#2's socks were too small, so a new, larger pair were cast on while they were still here.  I'm knitting the ribbing of the first sock (toe up) of his larger socks, and will post a picture when they are finished.

Enjoy your summer as we are enjoying our holiday times with our kids and grandkids!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Two Good Quotes

Two good quotes from We Are All completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler:
Page 293 "If stupid were  fuel, we (the human race) would never run out."

Page 271 "The secret to a good life," he told me once, "is to bring your A game to everything you do.  Even if all you're doing is taking out the garbage, you do that with excellence."

So True, So Applicable!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Not Quite Finished!

This week Dear Son #2, our Dear Daughter-in-law, and their two girls were here for a visit.  The original plan was for them to come about the middle of the month, but plans had to be changed.  I was preparing some presents for them. The girls received snuggly fleece blankets.  DDIL was given 12 Christmas Tree napkins (yet to be completed).  DS was up for a pair of hand knit socks, made from this luscious yarn (Peruvian wool, Alpaca yarn, and nylon in a deep blue).  I was concerned about fit, but went ahead with what I was doing.  Alas!  They were significantly too tight.  These beautiful blue socks will be unraveled and the yarn saved for a future pair.  The grey version is coming along nicely.  I'm up to the first heel, and these have been tried on his feet at intervals.  They left this morning, so the rest will have to be knitted by measurement.

Before they came I cleaned up the lower floor and made up beds for them.  I sprayed the corners of the rooms with a version of Raid that eliminates spiders.  DGD #1 is arachniphobic, so I wanted to prepare the room to be comfortable for her.  But I had missed something in my preparations.

DGD #2 lay down on her bed, looked up at the ceiling and said, "I don't want to sleep in this bed!"  Stuck on the grid under the light was a dead mouse!  I hadn't looked up in my cleaning preparations.

Obviously this mouse had been dead for a while!  It was desiccated, as are mice who have eaten "mouse bait."

One good thing: the mouse was dead!  We could just throw him out and not worry about it.