Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

Well, our satellite internet access still isn't working, two days after a windstorm moved the dish out of alignment. Thus I am back to 26,400 BPS on dial-up while I wait for the stupid company to come re-align the dish. So no photos today (because uploading files is so slow that it makes me want to drink heavily) but I wanted to wish all and sundry a very happy New Year, and please, if you go out tonight to party, don't drink and drive!

Happy happy!

Knatolee, Gordon and pets galore

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas eve!

Well, we got yet another 15 cm of snow last night, and there's a big weather mess in store for today, too. There's over a foot on the ground in the woodlot; around the farm, it has drifted, so some spots are very deep and others less so. A white Christmas here!

Sunday was a very snowy, windy day. Nonetheless, Gordon went outside to adjust his Christmas lights. Here he is, peering in my office window as Tristan eats birdseed in the background:

Yes, his coat is VERY warm.

Two turkeys hunkered down and suffered through it. I think these same two turkeys are visiting regularly now. We get lots of turkeys, but I've had two outside my office window every day for some time now, so I'm going to say they're the same ones. Poor things, this picture doesn't do justice to how miserable the weather was on Sunday:

And here they are on Tuesday morning, feeling much perkier:

Back to Sunday. Ahem. Sophie! Tristan! You aren't BIRDS!!

And indoors to the toasty warm family room, where we put up our Christmas tree. Alex just sat back and watched the action (next to a weird-looking dog toy):

Can you spot the new Christmas ornament we got this year?

I saw this one coming, so I didn't put up any breakable ornaments!

Poor Gordon. He went and got the tree by himself last year and did a good job, so I let him do it again this year. He came back with this thing:

The photo doesn't do justice to the tree's misshapen ugliness. At the very top, it has almost a ball of needles/branches that look like a bird's nest sitting atop the tree. On the upper left side, it's like someone took a huge bite out of the tree. The back of the tree, which you luckily can't see, looks like an elephant napped on it. The whole tree is short and fat, but as it turns out, this is an excellent thing, as it accommodates our new feline ornament (see above) well. Touch wood, Naomi has not yet knocked over the tree. And the tree WAS cheap at fifteen bucks!

There were also a lot of dead brown needles at the bottom. We had decided we were going to get another tree, but when Gordon went out on Sunday, the local place was totally sold out of trees. Then the blizzard hit, so he came home. We decided to make the best of this one and I pruned it outside in a windstorm. Once we got it in, we realized that it's actually not too dry after all. I think the dead bits were quite old and not related to the tree sitting on a lot since July.

I am reasonably certain this tree did NOT come from a tree farm, or anywhere that they professionally grow Christmas trees. HAHAHAHA! And it doesn't appear to be a total firetrap as we first feared. I think it's a Scotch pine. The needles are fiendishly sharp; our hands were all scratched up after we decorated it.

After decoration, it looked like this.... still ugly, especially since half our ornaments aren't up, and there are no icicles, nor tinsel:

But if you turn out the lights, you can forget all that:

The dark fixes everything! But that tree needs more lights.

And in the end, we decided we like our funny fat tree. It has been giving us a good laugh and it's very sturdy for Naomi to sleep in.

Meanwhile, my friend Denise has been sending me Fancy Feast ornaments (mail ordered from the cat food company) for ten years now. On Sunday, I assembled them all on a very ugly Rubbermaid box which doesn't do the kitties justice. (The tenth ornament just arrived and isn't in the photo.) They are getting far too tasteful now. I liked it best when they were just beady-eyed little white cats. Now they're sending pretty snowglobes, tastefully frames, glass hearts... how can you laugh at THAT? Our very favourite is the cat on the divan.

Well to be honest, they are all our favourites. We get a real kick out of them every year. Thanks Denise!

My other favourite ornament is the Christmas pickle. It's a metal ornament shaped like a pickle that you hide in the tree. Whoever finds it is supposed to get an extra present on Christmas morning. Yeah, right.

Tristan kept a respectful distance as we decorated the tree, and made no effort to climb it, unlike Naomi:

He even enjoyed watching "It's a Wonderful Life", which we had on as we beautified our ugly duckling pine:

(Sorry, I did a terrible job Photoshopping his "red eye"!)

Have a peaceful Christmas eve, a happy Chanukah, or whatever else you choose to celebrate!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Dog toy testers

I think these two (well, really just Tristan) should be employed as dog toy testers. Problem is, no toy would survive!

The dogs' Auntie Phyllis sent them a stuffed Milkbone dog and an Orbee-Tuff bulb (which is only rated for medium chewers, and thus you can't blame them for what happened when Tristan got ahold of it!) Phyllis is a brilliant dog writer and she did an article for the Tufts University vet school newsletter in which she compared various toys and gifts for dogs.

Anyhoo, I was going to save these gifts from Christmas, but the dogs were driving me nuts the other day when it was too damn cold to go for a walk (today I gave in and walked them in a -30C windchill. I care, they don't!!!) so I let them have their prezzies. First, Tristan got the stuffed toy and surgically removed the squeaker within 90 seconds:

"Is that it?"

Meanwhile, Sophie checked out the giant rubber Christmas bulb:

"I'm allowed to have this, right?"

Then Sophie foolishly left her bulb toy unattended and Tristan grabbed it:

"Hey! This is minty! Cool!!"

And in 90 seconds, the Orbee-Tuff bulb was ... not so tough anymore:

Yes, Tristan bit the base right off! And again, don't blame Orbee, because they rightly rated this for medium chewers. I should get the Tristanator an Orbee-Tuff Snowball, rated for aggressive chewers like him. Knob.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Snoozy cutie

Naomi fell asleep like this while I was at the computer this morning. Luckily the camera was handy.

She is about six months old now and weighs four pounds. She's a wee thing but full of attitude!

Mincemeat and perogies, two great tastes that...

...don't go together, but for efficiency, I am combining them in this blog!

The other day I made mincemeat, followed by perogies for dinner. I am not of any ethnic extraction likely to be brought up on perogies (although I did have a lovely Polish uncle who was a super guy), but my English Mum liked them and fed them to me (albeit store-bought) when I was growing up. Now I occasionally make my own, from an old Canadian Living recipe.

The ones I made this week were rushed and probably the ugliest perogies on the planet, but my, they were tasty!

And, ahem, I had some blue (purple) potatoes from my garden on hand, so I figured "What the heck!" I know, I know, the results are a bit freakish. The filling was 'taters, onions, and cheddar cheese. YUM! Here it is, ready to go onto the dough rounds.

And here are the ugliest perogies ever, hastily pinched together with absolutely no artistry:

Into the pan with the fried onions and a healthy glob of butter:

And from there, onto plates next to globs of sour cream, then into our stomachs no doubt clogging our arteries on the journey. Bye bye!

And from earlier that day, we have the mincemeat saga. I suspect people feel about mincemeat much the way they do about fruitcake (i.e. strongly.) I am firmly in the mincemeat camp, although generally I ate meatless/suetless mincemeat, and store-bought at that. My Mum and I made and bottled mincemeat when I was 12, and that was the last time I'd made it. This week, I made my own first the first time in over 30 years.

I was slightly dubious about the recipe, because it included cranberries. No way does traditional English mincemeat include cranberries!! But I threw caution to the wind and made it anyway, since it's a Bernardin recipe and I find them to be quite reliable. And I figured that the ample quantities of brandy and sherry involved would more than compensate for the cranberries.

Here is is in the pot, before cooking:

Three types of raisins, currants, apples, cranberries, ground-up oranges and lemons, mixed peel, brown sugar, booze, spices... yummy!!

And the liquor, standing at attention:

(For someone who doesn't drink a lot,there's a LOT of alcohol on my blog this week!)

Here is the mincemeat post-cooking. It's not quite as red as it looks in the photo:

The jars are filled and put in the canner to boil for 30 minutes. This is my mother's canner and I believe it's the same one we used for mincemeat in 1976!

And here's the finished product. Mincemeat is better if you let it age for awhile, but I intend to crack open a bottle or two before Christmas anyway!

For the truly twisted amongst you, here's a recipe for mincemeat fruitcake (shudder!)

My kitchen helper Tristan wondering, as always, when he's going to get his free sample!

We are buckling down for a snowstorm that is going to start later tonight. Happy holidays!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Cats and booze, booze and cats...

Don't worry, I didn' t get the cats drunk. I'm just combining two completely different sets of photos. First, the love story continues...

Naomi and Alex catch some rays on the couch.

Alex modestly looks handsome.

The funny bit is, these beds (with the cats in them) were both on my desk, but I had to go out and shut the dogs in my office, so I moved the beds (with cats still inside) to the other room. They were quite happy!

And now, for my Sri Lanka friend(s):

When we went to Sri Lanka in January 2006, we both sampled the national liquor, arrack. I thought it was revolting, but then, I think all liquor is revolting and only drink the occasional Guinness or Kilkenny Cream ale (although I do succumb to an occasion Bailey's mixed with ice and milk.) But Gordon liked it, so at the end of our trip he bought a bottle of it and some gin to bring home, since booze is much cheaper in SL than here.

There is packing tape on top of the gin bottle because both of these bottles have had loooong journeys. We brought them from Sri Lanka to British Columbia, then drove them across the country to Quebec, then over to Ontario to where we live now. They've been around, and because neither of us drink much, they still have quite a lot of booze left in them. Which begs the question: how long does arrack last before it goes off? And if it does go off, can I use it to remove paint? Nail polish??

If you read the price sticker, you'll see we bought these at the Keells Super grocery store. Probably we could have gotten them even cheaper somewhere else, but we were in Colombo at the end of our trip and disinclined to devote much energy to booze-shopping! I did devote some energy to getting a manicure and a pedicure, and eating a whole lot of delicious Sri Lankan food.

I have to say, I would much rather be in Sri Lanka today than here. There is a snowstorm on the way today, and another huge one slated for Sunday. Then more snow Tuesday! We are supposed to have some 40 - 50 cm of snow on the ground for Christmas. We'll see how it all pans out. The storm is currently causing chaos in Toronto, as flights are being cancelled on the busiest travel day of the year (everyone going home for Christmas.)

I raise a glass of arrack to you. Cheers! I'm off to yoga, to drink in the drug of relaxation.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Fruitcake is evil and must be stopped...

...but because I love my husband, who is totally misguided and adores this stuff, I made a dark, rum-soaked fruitcake last Saturday. I hate fruitcake so much that I have a button with the word "fruitcake" in a red circle, with a red diagonal slash through the word. Like this:

Now mince tarts or mincemeat pie, THOSE are delicacies well worth eating at this time of year, and I am in fact making and canning mincemeat (the meatless kind) today. Homemade shortbread? Fantastic! Dephal's peppermint bark? Truffle mice (see recipe at end)? To die for! But fruitcake is an abomination. A blight on the face of respectable society!

But like I said, I love Gordon. So...

Here is the evil, vile batter, chock full of fruits and raisins and peel and pecans. And rum. I don't even like rum, but I think it's the best thing about fruitcake.

Eeeeeeeevil! Eeeeeeeeeevil! Look at those glistening candied cherries! Those revolting bits of candied pineapples! The noxious candied peel! And enough raisins to rot out a classroom-full of children's teeth!

Tristan, who will eat anything (the dog eats cardboard toilet paper rolls and wild turkey poo, for God's sake), would just love to help rid the world of a bowl of fruitcake batter. Out of respect for Gordon's twisted love of fruitcake, I could not let this happen.

The cake took three hours or so to bake, and I was so eager to get it out of my sight that I forgot to photograph the finished product. It is now wrapped in rum-soaked cheesecloth, awaiting Christmas. I should have made it months ago so it could ripen properly, but Gordon claims not to mind devouring a young fruitcake. And so I will release the beast (the fruitcake, not Gordon) at Christmas.

Incidentally, it's snowing again, and some large storm is supposed to whack us Friday. I see snow in the forecast for Sunday, too. White Christmas, anyone? Remind me again why I live in Canada, so close to frigid Ottawa and icy Montréal?

Happy holidays, all!

Pages devoted to the hatred of fruitcake:

Twelve things you didn't know you could do with a fruitcake

Truffle Mice Recipe
from Canadian Living

4 oz semisweet chocolate, melted
1/3 cup sour cream
1 cup fine chocolate wafer crumbs
1/3 cup icing sugar
Garnish gold or silver dragees (eyes)
slivered almonds (ears)
licorice (tails - whip licorice is best)

In bowl, combine chocolate and sour cream. Stir in the chocolate crumbs, mix well. Cover and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. Roll scant tablespoonfuls of chocolate mixture into small balls slightly pointed at one end. Roll lightly in icing sugar or chocolate wafer crumbs. Place on waxed paper. For each mouse, insert dragees for eyes, almond slivers for ears and small bits of licorice for the tails. Refrigerate until firm about 2 hours. (Truffles may be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two weeks.)

Yield: two dozen

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Snow, freezing rain, snow, walk...

Last week we got a bunch of snow, hours of freezing rain, then more snow. The result was very pretty, and best of all, we didn't lose our power! I sincerely hope we've bought a generator before the next big ice storm (à la 1998) hits.

Queen Anne's lace, aka wild carrot

Winter wonderland

Tristan likes poking his nose into the snow until the skin on his snout is raw!

The dogs on the trail. They both adore the white stuff.

Winter afternoon sun.

Sophie the snowhound.

Ice on white pine.

Even a barbed-wire fence looks pretty when coated in ice!

I love the colours in a winter sky (even though it's not officially winter yet!)

Ye olde barn.

And tomorrow it's supposed to rain... what a mess that will create!