Running on Empty

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Almost running on empty….It has been a very busy week here at the Southern Homestead, hmmm… maybe I will call it the Southern Plantation…seeing as the house here is about double the size of the Northern Homestead….anyway, it has been very busy with work, house, knitting, sewing, weaving and cooking.

So busy that I haven’t had time to get into regular posts, but I figured I would toss out a quickie for Friday while my ginormous batch of meatballs is cooking in the oven after having pulled out a small dish of yellow beets that were finished roasting.IMG_20140131_130510

I have been on a beet salad obsession this past week.  I have had it for lunch every day this week and literally just scarfed down another plate full.  It is so yummy, so flavourful and so satisfying.  I do believe it has helped my waistline too.  My pants are not as snug as they were a week and a half ago.

To go along with the cooking, I have been knitting 3 different projects this week, I finished a scarf for myself out of yarn that my daughter gave me for Christmas.  It is baby alpaca and so very soft to the touch it was hard to keep knitting and not just sit and play with it.  4 balls (2 light blue and 2 dark blue) made a scarf long enough to match my navy pea coat.  Looks nice no?

luscious lace scarf_1I am also working on a pair of socks that I started while in Mexico and a couple of dishcloths that will be part of a closing gift for a client.  I love the colour of the sock yarn, vibrant shades of purple and mauve that remind me of the colours of Mexico..

IMG_20140131_130259and because I have nothing better to do, I have also sewed 2 pairs of flannel jammie bottoms to replace ones I literally wore out along with a beach bag that has been requisitioned by a friend and I have a set of curtains to shorten for another.  My Huskystar machine is getting another workout lately.  She is going to need a well deserved rest soon…with a good oiling too.  Here are the fabrics that are ready to go for the beach bag…

IMG_20140131_130746and last but not least…weaving.  Last weekend I wound another warp for some more tea towels, using cinnamon/rust/chocolate brown for the warp and the first towel is natural, the next one will be sage green which I think will look amazing against the other colours…

IMG_20140131_125538I am about 12″ in on the first one, hopefully I can get some more done this weekend, the weather is to be sketchy tomorrow, so that may give me some ‘weaving’ opportunity.

Hope you all have a great weekend, if you are in *snow country*, careful driving out and about.

*See* you next week!

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DIY Knitting Needle Carrying Case

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Necessity breeds…too many ideas and not enough time.

Last year I made a knitting needle case for myself to travel back and forth with between the Northern and Southern Homestead’s.

Knitting Needle Case CollageI hate it.

The tutorial I found on-line *looked* nice enough, and my chosen fabric was perfectly suited for me (horses of course), but the end result was that it lacked enough room for my needle and accessory collection as well all the pockets were not deep enough.  If you didn’t pick it up the right way, everything would fall out the top.  Major PITA.

So before Christmas I did some more googling and searching on-line for other ideas as I wanted to make a *New and Improved* version for my daughter for Christmas (she has been enabled by her mother in the knitting department since last summer) and she needed someplace to store all her supplies instead of her couch turning into an acupuncture clinic.

I ended up pilfering ideas from 3 or 4 different sites and combined them into something that would work for her (and ultimately for me) as it needed to be tall enough to accommodate the longest needles with a flap that would fold over and hold things in place when rolled up.  This is what I came up with…

DSC00580It has a flap about 5″ in length to fold down over the needles and then it is folded into thirds and secured via a button on an exterior flap.  Fabuloso indeed!  She loved hers so much, she took it into work to show it off….which lead to me making another one for a co-worker.

So while I was making hers, I figured I had better write down how I made it so I would remember when I got around to making a new one for myself.

Start off with 5 different fabrics of your colour choice.  Be bold with colour, this is your chance to break out of your ‘beige’ mold and go with something cheerful and bright. The outer fabric I chose is an upholstery fabric remnant as you want something sturdy and durable for the exterior.  I love the remnant bins at fabric shops, you can really get some good deals on pricier fabrics and you only need a small amount anyway.  The inner pocket materials are utilized from ‘Fat Quarter’ quilting squares, you don’t need much and the sizes are perfect for the inner pockets.

DSC00514Materials Needed To Make Your Own:

Outer Fabric: 18″ wide x 21″ tall
Inner Lining: 18″ wide x 21″ tall
Contrast Pocket fabric: 18″ wide x 10″ tall (to be folded in half width-wise)
Contrast Pocket fabric: 18″ wide x 16″ tall (to be folded in half width-wise)
Contrast Pocket fabric: 18″ wide x 22″ tall (to be folded in half width-wise)
1 Piece of Outer fabric 10 1/2″ x 4″ (for flap securing the case closed)
1 Large Button (1 1/4″)
1 package of double fold Bias Tape in co-ordinating colour
Thread, sewing machine, erasable fabric marker, ruler

*Note ~ all seams are 1/2″ unless otherwise noted.

With right side of inner lining facing up, place the folded inner pockets along the bottom edge, lining them up so that the tallest is first, then place the middle one, then the shortest one, having raw edges even along the bottom.  Pin in place.

DSC00528Baste outer side edges, excluding the shortest pocket lining (more on that later).

With a ruler and erasable marker, measure and mark lines (I made some that were 1″, 1 1/4″ and 1 1/2″) to accommodate different sized needle widths, pin down the pockets across the width of the case.

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DSC00542Starting in the center, stitch along the line from top to bottom.  The next step is IMPORTANT if you have circular needles, fold back the lowest pocket out of the way, then stitch the next 2 or 3 lines. The lower pockets will be 3″ to 3 1/2″ in width to accommodate circular needles so however many line spacings you marked out, use those as a guide to space out the pocket for the circulars on the lowest pocket.  Then repeat until all lines have been stitched.

DSC00538Give the project a quick iron to flatten things out and set aside for the next step.

DSC00545Fold the outer flap piece (the 10 1/2″ x 4″ one) in half length-wise and press.  Press under  again a 1/4″ along the two long edges and one short edge.  Fold piece in half (wrong sides together) pin in  place and top stitch along all 3 sides.

DSC00548Measure down from the top of the Outer fabric (right side facing) 9 1/2″.  Place upper edge of flap at this mark, having raw edges even at the sides. Pin and baste in place 3/8″ from outer edge.

DSC00550Place inner lining over outer fabric, right sides together.  Pin sides and bottom, then stitch a 1/2″ hem on the 3 sides, leaving the top edge open for turning.

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DSC00558I find most 100% cotton fabrics fray like crazy, so for extra security, zigzag seam, then pink edges close to zigzag stitching or serge edges if you have one.  Turn right side out and press.

Take a length of bias tape 1″ wider than the top width.  Fold under each end a 1/2″ and pin in place (on outside) wrapping around the length of the top edge.  Top stitch top edge closed.

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DSC00568Make buttonhole in outer flap appropriately sized for purchased button.  Fold up case into thirds and mark spot where button will go.  Hand sew button in place.

DSC00584DSC00580DSC00579 DSC00573 DSC00574There, now you have a beautiful, sturdy, and more importantly, a functional carrying case to hold all your knitting supplies.

Now I really must get to making mine….

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It’s Spring!

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Ok…maybe it isn’t ACTUALLY Spring….

But my grapefruit tree thinks it is.  It is FULL of flowers and smells so lovely.  Think orange blossoms, it has the same beautiful scent.

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Which has got me to thinking….

IT IS ALMOST TIME FOR PLANTING MY VEGETABLE SEEDS!!!

Can you tell I am excited?

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How To Make Enchilada Sauce

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Yup…You guessed it.  I am still on my Gotta-Have-Mexican-Flavour-Fetish, and today we are making Authentic Enchilada Sauce.  Not the stuff you buy in the grocery store or the ‘Americanized’ recipe versions I have seen on-line, but real, authentic enchilada sauce made by many a Mexican Abuela (grandma) using only 4 main ingredients.  The flavour can’t be beat and it is really simple to make.

Start off with 4 dried guajillo (gwah-hee-yo) peppers and 2 dried ancho pasilla (pa-see-ya) peppers.  These can be purchased in the Mexican aisle of your local grocery store.

Dried Peppers

Step 1 ~ Toast the peppers in a dry skillet over medium-low heat for 2-3 minutes until fragrant, turning often.  Careful not to let the peppers burn as this will ruin your sauce!

Step 2 ~ Place the peppers in a sauce pan and cover with cold water.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat, reduce heat and simmer for about 15-20 minutes until peppers have softened.  Remove from the liquid, reserving about a cup or so of the liquid.

Peppers_two

Peppers_threeStep 3 ~ Open the peppers and carefully remove the seeds and stems.  Remove the outer skin of the ancho peppers as it doesn’t break down in making the sauce.  Roughly chop the peppers and place in a blender or food processor.  Add 2 cloves of garlic and about a 1/2 cup of the reserved liquid from the pot.  Process until smooth, adding more water to reach desired consistency.  The sauce will be very thick, so adjust to your liking.  If there are pieces of pepper skins still remaining, press sauce through a sieve.

Add 1/4 tsp Mexican Oregano, salt and pepper to taste and that’s it, your done.  Makes about 1 cup of sauce.

Enchilada SauceUse in your favourite enchilada recipe, whether it be chicken (pollo), beef (carnitas) or pork or my very favourite, black bean filled enchiladas.

Black Bean Filling for Enchiladas:  Combine 2 cups of Black Beans (canned or dried that have been rehydrated and cooked which is my preferred way of utilizing beans) with 1 cup of your favourite salsa and 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro; mix well.

black bean fillingTo make enchiladas, heat 6″ tortillas either in the microwave or soften in a dry skillet over low heat for 1-2 minutes each side.  Place about a tablespoon or so of grated monterey jack cheese in the center of each tortilla.

enchilada_oneTop with black bean mixture, fold in sides and roll up, placing seam side down in a prepared casserole dish.  Top with some more sauce, shredded monterey jack and a slice of swiss cheese.  Bake at 350°F for about 25 minutes or until cheese is melted.

EnchiladasThese were so good, I had them twice last week.  Now I am wondering what else I can use the leftover sauce in…maybe on a pizza??? hmmmm…..that has possibilities.

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Tropical Breezes

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Polar Vortex is so far removed from Tropical Breezes that it seems incongruous to use the two in the same sentence.  But when you arrive back from vacation and are promptly greeted by a cold snap cold enough for Jack Frost to lose an appendage, you really begin to appreciate (even if you mildly did while away) just exactly where you were a few short hours ago.

This was going to be our 6th trip down to Mexico in about the last 10 yrs and is one of those places where you begin to feel like it is a second home, with the bartenders hollering the equivalent of ‘NORM!’ when they see you belly up to the beach bar.  This year we were trying a new place though, the El Dorado Royale, recommended by our travel agent (and hubby’s cousin) saying that if we liked the Valentin Imperial Maya, then we’d love the El Dorado.  So that is where we were headed.

The last few nights before we left we (ok, mainly me) were too excited to sleep.  Clothing, books, lotions, bathing suits and sandals were strewn across the spare bedroom.  Hauling the suitcases out of storage, I was grinning from ear to ear…non-stop, like a kid going to Disney.  Even my apprehension to flying was quashed by my eagerness to feel the heat of the sun on my face and the sand beneath my freshly painted toes.

We arrived late Saturday night, finally getting to the hotel at just past 10:30 p.m.  and after checking in and being delivered to our room, we tossed our luggage in the corner, put our comfy sandals on and headed out to explore the resort and look for a much needed cerveza…or two or three.  The resort looked stunning at night…around the base of each palm tree that lined the pathways were coloured LED flood lights casting their glow upwards to illuminate the fronds of the palms.

We followed the sound of music and came to the Guacamayas Bar, the main hub-bub for evening activities and shows.  Since we were getting close to midnight, there were plenty of people ‘well on their way’ in their quest to having a good time.  This bar had large wooden swings hanging from thick ropes that were wide enough for two people to share and swing back and forth on in front of the bar.  Interesting I thought…swings..in a bar….full of tipsy people…maybe not such a good idea???  Swings at BarA young woman, 20 something or so, left the dance floor and made her way over to one of the swings and plopped down….wearing an inflatable inner tube.  Your guess is as good as mine as to why she was wearing that at midnight…in a bar… but to each their own.

We grabbed a couple beers to go and wandered off down to the beach.  The stars were faded from the brightness of the moon, but the sea and sky were picture perfect.  Just like what this vacation was going to be.  I turned to hubby and planted a smooch on him.  “Thanks sweetie…thanks for taking me away from the bitter cold back home.”  We continued on, but it was hard to see the beauty of the resort in the dark.  Tomorrow we would have plenty of opportunity to explore everywhere, but for now it was time for bed as it was approaching  2 a.m. and we are a pair of old fuddy-duddies.  It was hard to believe we were up at that hour to begin with.  We went back to the room and collapsed onto the huge king-sized bed and promptly fell asleep.

Morning came and my stomach screamed… ‘BUFFET!!!’  If its one thing I love about resort vacations, is that the breakfast buffet’s are my favourite places to be once I haul my butt from bed.  I am a morning person as well as a have-to-have breakfast or I am going to keel over by 10 a.m. person.  The breakfast restaurant ‘Cocotal’ didn’t have the vastness of items like the one at the Valentin, but the quality was good.  Fueled up and ready for the day, we grabbed our ‘bun o’clock’ items (a banana and 4 small whole wheat rolls in a ziploc) before we left the restaurant and headed back to the room to change into our suits and explore a bit before heading to the beach.

The resort was just gorgeous.  At the back of the main lobby was a huge walkout patio with stairs winding down from either side, in the middle was a stunning waterfall…

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DSC01062Gorgeous….absolutely gorgeous, as you look out towards the resort from the top of the stairs, this is what you saw…

IMG_1405Just breathtaking….it makes you think you are in a dreamland.

We wandered around checking out the locations of the restaurants for dinner as there were 7 to choose from.  D’Italia (Italian cuisine obviously), Cocotal (world cuisine as well as the location of the buffet breakfast), La Isla (Mediterranean), Fuentes (the culinary cooking theatre), Kampai (Pacific Rim cuisine), Jo Jo’s (Caribbean), Rincón Mexicano (Mexican) and the Sante Fe Grill (American).  Yum Yum Yum.  Our most pressing thought of the day was which one were we going to choose for our first night?  Italian we thought, since we loved the Italian at the Valentin, we would give this one a shot first.  More on dinner later….

We continued on exploring, always ready with camera in hand looking the typical tourist snapping pictures of anything that caught our eye…like this fella…

DSC01071We named him Iggy and his home was a dugout hole under one side of the walkway heading to the Cocotal restaurant where every morning from the first day on, we would see him peeking his head out, waiting for the sun to reach over to where his home was so he could venture out and soak up the suns rays to give him the body heat he needed.  he startled quite a few folks if they were not paying attention as they walked past him.

A huge variety of birds were everywhere too…this Hooded Oriole was playing peekaboo amongst the palm leaves…

Hooded OrioleWe carried on, meandering past the many pools and swim up bars (an amazing 11 of them, most being attached to the pricier ‘Casitas’ section of the resort) marveling at the lush,  manicured gardens.

DSC01121Casitas Swim Up Bar/Pool DSC01113When we finished our tour, we went back to the room to get the rest of our beach stuff ready and headed off to find a palapa to call home for the week…

DSC01077with an amazing view…

DSC01079The rest of the day was lounging, reading, doing crossword and sudoko puzzles, eating our squirreled away munchies for ‘bun o’clock’ (we aren’t big lunch eaters, preferring to eat breakfast then enjoying a light snack before noshing on dinner), watching the gulls and pelicans dive for fish and of course…people watching.  Always a good sport while on vacation.

Around 4 o’clock, with the sun disappearing taking the heat of the day with it, we headed back to the room where I started my daily ritual for the week.

DSC01208Sitting immersed in an over-sized whirlpool tub full of bubbles with a happy hour cerveza.  The tub took a while to fill and this is the pre-bubble shot, I never took another as I was in it, but the bubbles were up to the top as I laid back relaxing the stresses of the day away…yes, stresses, it took a lot to figure out where we were going to eat every day.

Dinners in all the restaurants we went to were outstanding.  Seriously, it felt like we were judges on Iron Chef.  The originality, plating, flavours, were exceptional, day in and day out.  This resort prides itself on pampering, from the rooms to the amenities, spa facilities, to the dining.  Nothing was disappointing to us, if anything, we felt at times like we didn’t deserve to be pampered this much!

After our dinners, we would head out for a stroll and gaze at the stars, which actually were hard to see as the moon was in its’ full phase for the week and it lit up the night sky like a huge Chinese paper lantern.  We managed to see a few cruise ships on our nightly strolls, lit up like Christmas trees as they glided by offshore headed either to or from Cozumel.

On our second morning there, I finally was energized enough to head out for a walk before breakfast, heading down to the beach to catch sight of the sun rising over the Caribbean…

DSC01150and faintly catching a glimpse of another cruise ship headed to Cozumel…

DSC01148The brown bumps you see in the water are a man made reef system.  They are environmental sandbags filled with sand and placed strategically up and down the shoreline of the resort to minimize the damage to the beach from the waves.  They are huge, each one being about 25-30 feet long.  The gulls, pelicans and terns use them as resting spots in between dive bombing fish runs…

DSC01224We would spend the afternoons watching the pelicans, always amusing, plunge headlong into the water from a height of 50 feet or so, sometimes coming up with a fish, sometimes not.  The above birds are the Brown Pelicans (two adult, one juvenile at the left), a Caspian tern in the middle and Laughing Gulls on the far left.  The sandbags start to grow seaweed and algae and basically are turning into a reef, one of the many environmental initiatives that the resort prides itself on.

They heat the water by solar energy, recycle water for different purposes and grow their own vegetables in huge greenhouses, which we took a tour of one day….talk about massive tomato and cucumber plants…take a look…

DSC01171These plants were all well over 10 feet tall.  Roma, Cherry and Globe tomatoes along with English and American cukes.  They grow peppers and herbs and other stuff in another greenhouse on the other side of the resort but the tour only allowed us into this one.  We had to ‘decontaminate our feet’ before entering via an airlock to keep germs out.  The plants are pollinated inside by bees too.

DSC01183Out of all the produce they grow, what they can’t use, they sell to other resorts as well as at a reduced cost to employees.  Nothing goes to waste and all the cuttings from pruned plants in the greenhouse and the resort grounds goes to their composting program.  We were very, very impressed by how they run the resort in trying to lessen their footprint on the environment.  Very cool.

Whenever we head to Mexico, we make a point of heading to Playa Del Carmen for a few hours.  We shop along Quinta Avenida (Fifth Avenue), which is a long stretch of cobbled road lined with many shops and restaurants.  No vehicle traffic is allowed on Quinta, but it does get very busy with people, especially when the passengers from cruise ships are in Cozumel and are ferried over from the island.  The most challenging part of walking along Quinta is avoiding the time share hawkers – they are very, very persistent, to the point of major annoyance at times.

DSC04930After rummaging through various shops along the way, we always head to Señor Frogs Restaurant at the Ferry Wharf for lunch.  A lively place that has been around for some time and has franchises branching out into other countries, there is no shortage of funny, goofy things to look at in their décor…not to mention how they plate their food.  Hubby ordered a monstrous burger and fries and this is how it came…

IMG_00000253He was a little timid in wanting to pick up the burger, lest the wire sprung and the bar slammed down on his hand …too funny.  I had a ginormous plate of chicken enchiladas, which were fantastic, both being washed down by the ever available cerveza.

IMG_00000254While we devoured our lunch, we gazed out at the Caribbean and watched the ferries that were traveling back and forth between Playa and Cozumel.  The beach in Playa is stunning, wide and long with sand as white as snow…thanks goodness it wasn’t snow…

DSC01204We had arranged for our taxi driver to pick us up at a predetermined place and time, so after we finished lunch, we mosied back along Quinta Avenida to our meeting place.

Arriving back at the resort, we change into our bathing suits and headed back down to the beach for the remainder of the afternoon.  Isabel, our beach mesera (waitress) was wondering where we had gone, but when she saw us, her face lit up and she was off to grab our orders.  You know you are a regular when….the rest of the day was spent like all the other afternoons that week….beach side, staring out into the blue sea and soaking up the warmth of the sun.

DSC01214Our last morning, after breakfast, we went back to the room to sit on the patio (or lanai, or whatever you want to call it) with our tea, coffee and the paper before grudgingly packing to leave.  We had a stellar week and were sad to see it come to a close so soon so I grabbed the camera, set it to video and set it on the little patio table and recorded a snippet of peace and tranquility to remember it by.  I figured I’d share it here too.  There is no music, just the soothing sounds of the water fountains and a mockingbird.  It is about 3 minutes long, so sit back, close your eyes and enjoy.

I would definitely recommend this resort to anyone that is contemplating a trip to the Mayan Riviera, if not here, then definitely the Valentin Imperial as well.  Both resorts are top notch in our books, and I can’t wait to get back there next year.

Hasta Luego

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Happy Experiments

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Ever have one of those ‘AHA!’ moments out of the blue?  I had one this past Monday.

After coming home from our trip to an empty fridge, I headed out to load up on produce and other staples, all the while, mentally planning what I was going to be making for dinners this week.  Seeing as I was still immersed in the sabores (flavours) of Mexican cuisine, I  was itching to keep my tastebuds south of the border(s) and trying to figure out what to make for dinner that night.

I ended up making nothing to do with Mexican cuisine.  I know, you are probably just as shocked as I was.

It all started earlier in the day with me rummaging in the freezer for soup, because it was minus ridiculous outside and I needed to warm up.  Not finding any, I hauled out some frozen containers of stock and got to work on the Madeira soup recipe that I really have come to love and can’t seem to get enough of.  So halfway through the making of the soup, before I put the broth in (see recipe link above) with the tomatoes, spices, onions and mushrooms simmering, I had my ‘AHA!’ moment.

I had settled on having broiled salmon for dinner, along the lines of something Mexican flavoured, but a thought popped into my head….quinoa, I had not made any in quite some time and it is a great side dish for salmon with a salad.  So what is the ‘AHA!’ moment you are wondering?

I scooped out a cup of the simmering soup base (with the onions, mushrooms, et al) and set it aside to be used to make the quinoa with in place of plain water.

THAT was the ‘AHA!’ moment.  If I could figure out a way to make a scratch ‘n sniff spot on this screen so you could smell the wondrous aroma while the quinoa cooked I would.  Unfortunately, that type of technology hasn’t arrived yet..maybe I need to work on that and become a billionaire…mental note…work on scratch ‘n sniff thingie for the internet.

So instead of being able to sniff it, I will give you a visual…

Madeira Quinoa_BlogIf you have never tried quinoa, shame on you, if you have and have just used plain water or vegetable broth, then you need to bump up the flavour meter as Guy Fieri would say and try it with a soup recipe like the Madeira.  It was simply outstanding and something I will be doing from now on when making this ancient grain.

This was one of my better happy experiments…some have been downright failures, but those are for another day.

Buen Provecho!

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A Little Bit Of Everything

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I know I said I would be *back* here Monday, but between mountains of laundry and work/house catchup, it took me longer to get some time available for writing.

This morning’s quickie post has me whining just how !@#%&!! cold it is outside here in the land of the Great White North as all it does is have me pining for the place I left behind on the weekend.  I guess it really makes you appreciate, no covet, the days spent frolicking in the sun and the sand.  I am still putting together a post about the trip, so your patience is greatly appreciated while I juggle several different barrels of balls…it’ll come by the end of the week… I promise ;)

The past 2 days I have also done some experiments with food, seeing as hubby is back to working away from home 5 days I week, I become the guinea pig…which I love doing as he really doesn’t like the stuff I like to experiment with.  So dinners on Monday and Tuesday were fun, more on those later this week and next.

I also was asked to do a quick sewing project for a coworker of my daughter, that will also become a future post for you sewing/knitting junkies out there, and my other hobby, Bob the loom, is about to get *dressed* as he is naked right now.  A naked loom is an unproductive loom so a new project is on the horizon now that the first dish towels are done…oops, I forgot to post a pic about the first tea towel project, I finished hemming them just before I left for Mexico, so here they are, all done…

first dishtowelsAll 4 towels have the same colours running in a striped pattern from top to bottom (these are called the warp threads), and by using different coloured weft threads (side to side), each towel develops its own personality.  The top one I used a natural coloured yarn, the next, a cinnamon colour, then chocolate brown, then black.  They did shrink a bit more than I anticipated, but still turned out well and will be a nice addition to my kitchen.   The learning curve is huge, but definitely fun!

Meanwhile, with the *Spring* real estate market under way (unfortunately for this blog and what I would like to devote to it) it will require the majority of my time, so bear with me over the coming months if I am not very regular with posts.

That’s about it for now, stay tuned and more importantly, stay warm until Mother Nature gets the ice out of her veins…

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Simply Beautiful

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My week long fun in the sun in the Riviera Mayan region of Mexico was just what the Doctor ordered.

I am refreshed, rested and probably more than a little brain drained.

BUT….It is time to get back into work mode with a New Year that just now  ‘officially’ starts for me.

I will have a run-down vacation post in the coming days but for now, I need to concentrate on my actual job and start things rolling.  Meanwhile….a few pictures for you to warm you to your toes on this cold, cold forecast of a week we are heading into.  See you in a few days….or…as they say in Mexico…..Hasta luego!

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Vamos a Mexico

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It’s that time of year.  Time to be the typical Canadian that flees the frigid arctic air mass that has settled over Southern Ontario (and much of North America actually) and head south for some sun, sand, surf…and cervezas!

This has to be the perfect timing for getting away, this past week has been frightfully cold and I am thankful we have a wood stove for alternate heat.  As well as warming up the basement, it helps to shut the furnace up for a while.

We are headed to sunny Mexico for a week, therefore there will be no posts until after I return, meanwhile, I have put together a snapshot video for you so you can at least be there with me vicariously.  Please turn your speakers on, you will love the accompanying music!

Adios y Salud!

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Mexican Spiced Lentil Soup

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I am on a mission this week.  A mission to use up all perishable food items before Saturday.  What is Saturday you ask?  You will have to tune in tomorrow to see what Saturday is all about.

Meanwhile, the weather this week has been as balmy as an Antarctic Summer Day and soup is always on the menu during frigid winter weather.  I have eaten all my squirreled away soups from the freezer, so I pulled out the soup pot and surveyed what veggies I had to use up.

2 roma tomatoes, 1 jalapeño pepper, some green onions, garlic cloves and lots of fresh cilantro…of course, all these ingredients screamed Mexican.  So I came up with the following, a hearty, warm-you-to-your-toes soup bursting with the flavours of Mexico.  The lentils give you protein, but you could easily add some shredded chicken or turkey or even chunks of ham for those meat eaters in the family.

Mexican Spiced Lentil Soup

Mexican Spiced Lentil SoupIngredients

2 Tbsp Olive Oil
¾ Cup sliced Green Onions (the white part and where it starts to turn green)
1 Cup Red Lentils
4 Cups Turkey, Chicken or Vegetable broth (homemade preferred)
1 Clove Garlic, mashed
2 Roma Tomatoes, diced
1 Jalapeño, seeds removed and finely diced
½ tsp freshly grated Black Pepper
½ tsp Sea Salt *
¾ Cup chopped fresh Cilantro
Juice of 1 Lime (about 5 tsp)

Directions

In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium-low heat and sauté onions for about 5 minutes, add garlic and sauté another 2-3 minutes.

Add lentils and broth, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and add tomatoes, jalapeño, cilantro, lime juice and black pepper.

Cover and simmer for at least 30 minutes until lentils are cooked through.

Puree half the soup (if desired), garnish with additional cilantro.

Makes about 5 cups

* Note – I do not add salt to my recipes if using store bought broth.

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