Friday is NOT Just Another Day!

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 WooHoo! yes indeedy, Friday is here.  In between Thursday and Saturday, Friday is the child of the weekend, ready to run amok before the teenager of Saturday comes in to steal the show.

I was going to surprise you today, but…due to circumstance beyond my control (ok, fancy speak for I wasn’t quite ready) I have delayed the announcement until Monday.

Don’t be mad, I am not just building the drama.  It will be worth it though.  I Promise.

So with that, enjoy your Friday, and stay tuned for Monday. 

I will leave you with something to ponder though….

and no, he wasn’t part of my baby duck collection this summer… but, how fast do you think he can paddle with four feet?

Or for those Duck a’lOrange fans…. (Laura…cover your eyes)…..

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Thursday’s…are ME Days…

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I wake up in the middle of the night and roll over, peeking over hubby to see the clock…the green lights display 3:30 a.m….hmmm…may as well get rolling as the alarm is only going to blare in 30 minutes time anyway and hubby needs his sleep as he has been sick all week with a head cold.  Poor guy.

I creep out of bed, grab my clothes and head to the bathroom, carefully resting the bedroom door closed on my way out to minimize noise.  After getting myself ready, I head down to the kitchen and put the kettle on for tea while pulling things out of the fridge and freezer to pack in the cooler.  The kettle barely whistles before I grab it off the stove and fill the mug.  I lug everything to the front door and head upstairs to smooch my sweetie on the cheek and give him a big hug, he responds with the usual ‘carefree drive’,  a play on the words drive carefully, as we always drive carefully…

I load the car and pull out of the driveway, ready for the long drive up to the Homestead.  The clock in the car displays 4:08 a.m., you are probably wondering why I leave at this time in the morning.  Well, for those that are not familiar with traffic in and around the city of Toronto, if you do not get an early start, you are in for an even longer day.  There is no other way to get to the Homestead (unless I sprout wings) other than skirting our Province’s capital on the busiest highway in North America.  The 401.  Busier than the Santa Monica Freeway and I-75 in Atlanta (yes, I googled this info, but I already knew it was the busiest) the 401 is also known as the King’s Highway…of which he can have it back anytime too.  If we still had a King that is, perhaps his daughter, Queen Elizabeth would be willing to take it… 

By 4:45 a.m., I am on the 400 heading north, with the traffic just starting to build behind me.  As the city lights fade, I glance out the window to the left, just in time to see the moon, three-quarters full and orange as a pumpkin hanging low in the sky, just above the western horizon.  It was setting, and an absolutely beautiful sight.  I was almost compelled to pull over for a photo, but by the time I would have done so and found the camera, the moon would have been gone.  The stars would have to keep me company on the remainder of the drive, or at least until the sky starts to lighten with the arrival of a new day. 

It is the end of September here, and I find it amazing how late the sun finally makes an appearance in the mornings.  Like a sleepy teenager that keeps hitting the snooze button, not wanting to rise and face the day.  It is a good 2 hours of driving in the dark before the sky finally starts to turn a faint blue.  I was well past the half-way point before I didn’t need the help of the headlights to see.  By then I was nearing Hunstville and knew that I had just over an hour left to go.  Fog patches appeared in low lying areas, thankfully it was thin and not as thick as pea soup as deer and moose are rampant this time of year by the highways.  I was already kept busy on the drive scanning the sides of the highway on the lookout for them.  I didn’t need a Deer emblem to join my Impala emblem on the front hood. 

With about 45 minutes left to go in the drive, the sun finally peaked over the hills to the east…and blazed on the hillside to my left.  The trees, whose leaves are now in full colour, were brilliant shades of crimson reds, burnt oranges and golden shades of yellow.  Another photo op missed….darn, but I keep driving and admire them occasionally as the drive is long enough without stopping to take pictures of Mother Nature’s beauty. 

I pull into the driveway of the Homestead at exactly 8:00 a.m.  About 15 minutes later than I had hoped but that was due to the gas/tea stop back south of Gravenhurst.  I think everyone in the little town of Cumberland Beach decided to stop at the Timmy’s at exactly the same time I pulled off the highway.  I have never seen so many folks there at 6 a.m.  There was no free coffee either, so that ruled out the first thought I had about why so many people were there. 

I type out an email to hubby, letting him know I arrived safe and sound, then start to unload the car.  Groceries, travel bag, cooler and the new blinds we ordered for the patio door.  All find their proper home.  I peek out the front window at the bird feeder, empty, did I expect anything less? Nope.  The poor birds must have thought I abandoned them.  So I head up to the garage to replenish the feeder. 

I no sooner have it filled and hoisted back up into the tree when a chickadee lands on the feeder, looks down at me and lets loose a string of “chick-a-dee-dee-dee’s” …which I can only assume is his way of scolding me for allowing the feeder to become empty.  Within an hour, the chickadees, nuthatches, a Hairy Woodpecker and a Bluejay are happily chowing down and fighting over the choice sunflower seeds. 

After filling the feeder, I head down to the lake to check on the boat.  As I walk onto the dock, 2 frogs dart to safety underneath, they were sunning themselves on the exposed rocks of the shoreline.  I wondered how long it was going to be before they head into hibernation.  Soon I guess as most of the ‘summer’ critters have already disappeared.  Flocks of songbirds, northern terns/ducks and cormorants have already departed leaving behind the hardy souls to brave out the winter.  The boat is fine, no ropes broken and all looks well.  I stare out at the flat lake, which is reflecting a gorgeous shade of blue from the sky.  Calm.  Peaceful.  Serene.  Makes the drive worthwhile every damn time. 

With everything attended to both inside and outside, I head inside and pull out the laptop to answer emails and make a phone call.  Being home for the 3 days was busy.  So busy between listing/showing appointments, groceries, sewing a shower gift for a friend’s bridal shower, helping hubby (somewhat) close the pool and laundry that I barely had time to breathe.  I spent an hour and half getting business in order, then grabbed my runners to head out for a walk.  The sun was warming things up nicely as it was only 1C (34F) when I first pulled in. 

As I put on my fleece pullover, I remembered Oddball the Paint Mare down the road.  I grabbed a carrot from the fridge and shoved it in my pocket.  I headed out thinking again, what a gorgeous morning, clear skies, bright sun and a bare whisper of a breeze.  As I turn onto the gravel road, the sun hits my face with its warming rays and my legs are welcoming the movement after being cooped up in the car for almost 4 hours. 

I wind along the roadway and the silence is almost deafening.  Until a flock of chickadees and sparrows back in the bush noisily chatter to themselves in their search for food.  Apparently this flock didn’t get the memo about the feeder being filled up back down the road at the Homestead.  

I round the last turn before Oddball’s pasture and scan the wooded area on the right, nope, she’s not there.  I walk further on and spot her on the other side of the small, cleared side of her pasture.  As usual, her head is down, mowing the lawn.  She lifts her head when I whistle and cocks one ear forward, then goes back to eating….hmmph…going to play hard to get today it seems. 

I continue on my way out to the end of Bear Creek Road where it meets Sunset Cove Road before turning around and heading back.  It is pretty much a mile and half to this point from the Homestead.  A good distance to be able to get your daily exercise in.  As I approach Oddball’s pasture from the other side, I notice she has moved closer to the wire fence.  I guess she thought I would hang around to try and coax her over, I fooled her though.  When I was directly across from her, she lifts her head again and stares at me.  I whistle once and both ears come forward, she takes 2 steps, then puts her head back down and goes back to grazing. 

Fine…be like that. 

I continued back toward the Homestead, looking back once over my shoulder to see her looking at me as I walk away.  She walks about 5 steps, stops, gazes again, then goes back to eating.  Ok, your loss missy.  Last week she was bucking and bunny-hopping all along the fence trying to get my attention.  Fickle mare….. 

The rest of the walk was just as peaceful.  The leaves of the Birch and Poplar trees with their golden hues were rustling in the slight breeze and diehard crickets were chirping in the tall grass at the side of the road.  I headed up the driveway and into the Homestead to grab some lunch and as I pull off my pullover, the uneaten carrot falls out of my pocket and clatters to the floor.  I pick it up and put it back in the fridge…..maybe tomorrow she won’t be so fickle…

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New Season = New Purse

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Show me a woman that doesn’t change her purse at the start of every season and I will show you a man who says he doesn’t enjoy golf…HA!

I have a couple of favourite purses that I rotate for summer & winter, but I also like to change things up now and again with something new and funky, but NOT with one of the over-priced, mass-produced clones that have flooded the market.  They shall remain nameless, but you can guess what/who the top two are.

Normally my purses are made from fabric but this time I went with a knitted purse…which I made in less than a week, although total hours spent on it may have been about 10-12.  Amazing how fast these things knit up… doesn’t take me near as long as the afghans I used to make.

So here is my latest creation.  Cute eh?  The pattern utilizes the Irish Stitch, so with that, I shall dedicate it to my good Irish gal pal Trish (who lives in Ireland of course!) in her honour and call it my Trishie Purse.  It is like the Seed (Popcorn) Stitch only on a much larger scale.  Just 4 rows repeated, very easy-peasy, even for a beginner.

It didn’t call for a lining in the instructions, but I made one anyway as I love to have inside pockets to hold all the little odds and ends that must come with me wherever I go.  Just add a purchased handle, button and O-rings and you are all set.  All you need is a ball and a half of yarn to complete the project and of course, some quiet time….I can not guarantee the quiet time for you though….

How often do you swap out your handbags?

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Your Mini Virtual Vacation

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Monday’s…you either love them or hate them.  Me, it makes no difference as I work more on weekends than weekdays, but for those that hate them, sometimes a quick trip to Mexico is just what is needed on this day of the week.

So I am sending along something to brighten your day and get your week off to a great start.  A small sampling of flora grown in and around the Mexican resorts.  I gave up trying to think of the right word to describe them, as ‘stunning’ just doesn’t seem to do them justice.

Oh….and you are welcome too…. 

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System Maintenance Notice

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Next week the site will be off-line for a couple days as the DNS (Domain Name Server) is moving and it takes upwards of 48 hours for the new location to be implemented. 

I apologise in advance for the disruption.

This site, my regular website www.deborahlsykes.com and also www.lagitanacrafts.com will also be offline as of Tuesday, September 25th at approximately 6:00 p.m. and hopefully will be back up by Thursday sometime.

I appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding and will endeavour to have things back on-line as soon as possible.

There will be a surprise posted later this week once things are back on-line so stay tuned!

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Fall into the Season

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What a fabulous Summer we have had here on the Homestead.  Lots of fun things (and not so fun things…i.e. ROOFING) were done over the past few months but we definitely also took some time to enjoy the great weather and good times with family.

Now that Fall is officially here tomorrow, it’s time to clear out the summer T’s and unpack the three S’s – Sweaters, Sweatshirts & Socks (I hate socks by the way, nothing but toe smotherers they are, evil things).  But I do love to put on a cozy sweater, grab a cup of hot cocoa and sit and watch the leaves fall.  Of course, then I have to clean up said leaves…. 

Speaking of leaves, on my way back to the city this week, the hills are turning glorious colours of yellow, orange and fire red.  Mother Nature is showing off her brilliant orange hues in advance of her gray and white Winter evening gown, which will be here all too soon.

The annual migration of local birds is well under way, last Thursday was the last day I saw a Hummingbird at the feeder.  They seem to have departed in advance of a cold front that was moving through the next day, smart little critters, wish I had my own set of wings.  Most of  the remaining birds at the feeders are the year round residents.  Woodpeckers, Chickadees, Nuthatches, BlueJays and Evening Grosbeaks to name a few.

The deer have been brazen this past week, one decided my perennial garden would be a great drive-in buffet, chowing down on my Columbine and then funny enough, licking the salt off the poison ivy plants that hubby has been trying to eradicate over by the composter.  Good thing nothing will happen to him, apparently only humans react to the oils of the poison ivy plant, animals are immune…lucky!

Summer fun may be gone, but there are plenty of fun things ahead for the coming season.  Brisk walks on chilly mornings bring a spring to your step (well, for me it’s a necessity as I am pretty much always cold), evening campfires with more hot cocoa (and a splash of Bailey’s) while roasting hotdogs, who says campfires are for summer only?   Fall Fairs are in full swing and soon it will be time to gather pumpkins in anticipation of Halloween.

I hope you take advantage of the wonderful climate we live in and get out there and enjoy what Mother Nature has to offer.

Me, I will enjoy the Fall, but this Summer Gal will always have a soft spot for flip flops, shorts and a beach chair….

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Easy as Apple Pie

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One of the best things about Fall are Apples.  Apple season is now in full swing with lots and lots and lots of fresh, crisp apples ready for picking, eating, canning, juicing and baking.  I am an Apple Snob though, only liking a few specific varieties to eat fresh.  I do venture into other varieties for baking, as long as they stand up well to the cooking process.

Canadian Thanksgiving is approaching quickly and I am usually pressed for time in getting dessert ready in the days leading up to the annual food-a-thon.  So this year I decided to venture into canning Apple Pie Filling so that all I have to do is make a pie shell, toss in the filling and fire it off into the oven.  Sounds like an amazing time saver to me.

So I did some digging on the internet (I love the internet, greatest thing since sliced bread IMO) and came with up a few recipes to choose from.  I settled on one that didn’t require a store bought food starch additive as regular cornstarch would do just fine.  Why waste money on a prepared product when you don’t have to? 

Since this was my first foray into making apple pie filling to preserve, I decided to halve the batch, just in case I didn’t like the end result.   With so few ingredients, it really was a snap to put together.  I prepared the liquid first and let that simmer, then got started on peeling and slicing the apples.  To keep your apples from turning brown, fill a large bowl half-way with water and add a 1/4 cup lemon juice, then, as you peel/slice the apples, drop them in the bowl and they will retain their white colour.

Once you have peeled/chopped the apples, drain them from the bowl and pack them into hot, sterlized canning jars to within a half-inch of the top.  Fill with the liquid, remove air bubbles and adjust head-space as necessary, then centre the lids on, screw the bands fingertip tight and process in a hot water canning bath for 20 minutes.

I must say, the kitchen smelled amazing while the liquid was cooking, but Hubby was really, REALLY disappointed that there was no pie at the end of the day.  Talk about a major let down.  Poor guy.  I see a pie in my immediate future to bake….

Canned Apple Pie Filling

Ingredients

4 lbs Apples, peeled and sliced

5 Cups Water (set aside 1 Cup of Cold Water)

1/2 Cup Cornstarch

2 1/4 Cups White Sugar

2 tsp Cinnamon

1/4 tsp Nutmeg

2 Tbsp Lemon Juice

Directions

In a sauce pan, place 4 cups of the water, the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Whisk together until sugar dissolves.  To the remaining cup of cold water, add the cornstarch and whisk until smooth, add to the water/sugar mixture in the saucepan and cook over medium-high heat stirring constantly until mixture thickens and darkens in colour.  Once mixture is to desired consistency, mix in the lemon juice.

Pour hot mixture over the apples as stated above and process in a water canning bath for 20 minutes.  Let cool on a wire rack and then store in cool place.

Makes 6  x 500ml jars.  Use 2 jars for one 8″ pie.

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Sugar Rush

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Seeing as yesterday’s post was disappointing in the fact that it didn’t include a sweet, yummy dessert recipe….I have decided to make it up to you and include one.  Aren’t I nice?  By the way – for those looking for a waist-line friendly recipe….look elsewhere!

This one is aptly named in the post title too.

Sugar Rush indeed.  These little beauties will make your teeth scream from all the sugar.  Hands down, probably my hubby’s favourite dessert item.  This recipe comes from his Aunt Eileen, who made the best Butter Tarts….EVER.

Aunt Eileen’s Butter Tarts

 Ingredients

2 Eggs

1 Cup Packed Brown Sugar

1/2 Cup Light Corn Syrup

1 tsp. Vanilla Extract

1/2 Cup Butter, melted

2/3 Cup Sultana Raisins

1/2 Cup Walnuts or Pecans, chopped

Prepared pie crust cut into 4″ rounds to fit a standard muffin tin

Directions

Beat eggs lightly (do not whip), gently whisk in brown sugar, syrup, vanilla extract and butter.  Stir in raisins and nuts.  Grease a 12 cup muffin pan and insert tart shells.  Fill prepared tart shells 2/3rds full.  Bake at 400°F oven for 15-20 minutes.  Let muffin pan cool on a wire rack before removing tarts.  Makes about 12-16 tarts. 

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Blueberry Surprise

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I bet you think this is a post about a yummy, delicious, ooey-gooey-sugary Blueberry Dessert…. Nope. Sorry to burst your bubble. Maybe tomorrow I will post one….

Today’s post is about Mother Nature being thoroughly confused.  As I write this, the date is September 17, 2012 and as I headed out for my daily walk, I didn’t get very far when I came upon this sight….

Yep….blueberry plants with flowers on them.  Loco.  Muy Loco even.  It has been a weird and stressful summer for the native plants on the Homestead.  May was dry, dry, dry.  June gave us a bit of rain, not much.  The area Townships and Ministry of Natural Resources issued fire bans for much of Northeastern Ontario for all of May and part of June, then re-instated the fire ban on July 2nd which lasted until August 7th. 

It has been so dry that the poor blueberry plants shriveled before they could set their fruit.  Not just the blueberries suffered, many other plants did as well, one of the young maples behind the house shed it’s leaves in August, giving up on any rain to fall this year and went into dormancy.

But now the blueberry plants are suddenly springing to life like it really is Spring.  The last couple weeks has been warm…and wet.  With the plants not fulfilling their yearly cycle, I guess they decided better late than never.

I just hope the flowers turn to berries before we get hit by a frost that will surely extinguish their final attempt…hardy little guys they are.  I will have an update in a couple weeks time if they finally bear their fruit.  More imporantly, I hope to get to the berries before the bears do….

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Smelly Washer Syndrome

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What is that awful smell eminating from my washing machine???  It’s kinda sour, kinda musty and making my clothes smell the same way.  EEEWWWW.  GROSS.

I have never encountered this before at home in all my 35+ yrs of owning a washing machine.  Even when I washed the kids diapers it never smelled this bad…and you know what kind of nasties happen in diapers…. p-u, glad those days are over.  Back to the present though… we have no basement here at the Homestead, so the washer and dryer are located in the bathroom, which has to be about the most humid room in the place.  And after doing some research, apparently it is not the most ideal place to locate a washing machine if you do not have air conditioning.

Air conditioning does just that, it conditions the air in a home removing humidity, which is one of the factors that contribute to Smelly Washer Syndrome (which is more prevalent in the summer months than winter).  That and along with leaving the lid closed on the machine after each use.  These two combined will create the perfect environment for mould to start growing.  Resulting in that sour, musty odour.  UGH….

So…what to do?  I searched on-line for a solution but most suggested using a product called Smelly Washer or Magic Washer.  Both had a long list of ‘active ingredients’ with one being ‘dkfjsdnfkdjvnakdjsfndjfn’ acid (while not actually named that, it certainly contained just as many letters).  If I can’t pronounce it, I don’t buy it.  I prefer to use home-made remedies in all my cleaning efforts, especially being at the Homestead as I need to be mindful of what I put down the drains due to our septic system. 

Septic Systems rely on bacteria to break down matter, thus, you can not dump harmful, chemicals into it.   As well as potential runoff from the leach field poisioning the surrounding land.  Hence my dilemma.

Most sites I cruised around say to use a high ratio bleach/water solution in the washing machine, running it through a cycle with hot water and it will kill the bacteria.  I can’t use a lot bleach as it will kill the good bacteria in my septic tank.  I can only use it very, very sparingly.  So what I tried first was to use a mix of Vinegar and Baking Soda, my standard cleaning duo.

I filled the washer with water, dumped in about 1 cup of baking soda and 2 cups of vinegar and then let the science volcano project erupt and do the deodorizing and cleaning.  Once the cycle was done, I opened the lid and left it that way overnight.

The next morning, it still smelled, but not as bad.  I then added a cup of bleach mixed with a large bucket of hot water.  Poured that into the machine and let it sit all day.  Mind you, if you do this, keep the door to the room closed or you end up with a major headache from the ammonia fumes.  When hubs later arrived, he suggested running the washer in the drain cycle for a few seconds to get the bleach/water solution into the drain area as that is probably where the bulk of the odour was coming from.  Smart guy, glad I married him.

We let that sit for a couple hours, then ran the washer on a full load capacity with hot water.

Muuuuuucccchhhhhh better thank you very much.  The smell was gone.  Thankfully.  It looks like I will be having to do this at least once a year, as well as keep the lid open on the machine when not in use to let it air out.  As a preventative measure, I think once a month I will do the volcano science project method, even if just to watch the water boil up when you add the vinegar to the baking soda.  I loved science in high school, making things bubble and boil are fun….especially when the teacher wasn’t looking.

This remedy works really well for top-load machines.  But I did read that the newer, front-load HE machines have big issues with the seals around the door going mouldy.  So if anyone has a front-load, make sure you read your owner’s manual (yes, I know that nobody reads the manuals on anything you buy, but do it this once) on how to keep it clean and mould free as it can be quite costly to replace the seal if it’s too far gone. 

Now that I have done my good deed for the day in letting the world know how to get rid of their smelly washing machine odours, I am off to rewash some things….

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