Ewe Send Me Spinning

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Last week my daughter and I went yarn shopping.  Just writing that sentence is a big load off my shoulders.  You know, like admitting your a crack addict (something Rob Ford can’t bring himself to do), and now my daughter, through my enabling efforts, is also hopelessly addicted to yarn just like her mother.  Thank goodness it’s an addiction cheaper than crack.

We planned a day together last week to go fiber shopping and she had been to a yarn shop before in a neighbouring city, but I hadn’t, mainly because I would not be able to control myself if I went alone.   So I relented and let her give me a guided tour of the shop, which was located within the walls of an old Victorian home…which is another fetish of mine, I just love old Victorian style homes.  Each room was crammed with a different yarn weight.  And I do mean crammed.  You could hardly walk for bins and cubbies stuffed with yarn everywhere.  It was literally sensory overload.  Like a kid walking into a candy store (I know lame analogy, but I already used the crack line).

We started in the sock yarn room.   I just stood, staring, with my mouth wide open and I am sure a little drool escaping.  Then…whammo..as soon as I saw the colour of this  stunning skein of yarn, I had to have it.   IMG_20140226_115035Actually, it leaped off the shelf and nose-dived into my hand.  A kamikaze skein of yarn, I swear.  So I couldn’t very well deny it from coming home with me.

I held on tightly to the cobalt-blue skein while she showed me the rest of the shop.  We shuffled from room to room, oohing, awing and fawning over all the pretty colours and textures.  This was turning into sheer torture.  I bet this is the kind of torture the authorities would impose for unruly knitters and crafters.  Taunt them with gorgeous skeins of yarn but don’t let them touch it or use it.  I best behave myself then and not become unruly.

With a few projects in mind, I was having a heck of a time settling on just what to get.  The options were too many and my mind was frantically trying to catch up to the visuals of seeing all the wonderfully spun fibers.

With daughter rummaging in a bin for a colour match to a hat and gloves she was planning, I descended on the sock room again and came out with 4 more luscious skeins of woolen beauty.

DSC00788Once home,  it was time to find patterns to go with them….back to cruising the internet aisles and after careful consideration I settled on a cowl pattern for the cobalt blue as well as a couple sock patterns for the others.

I can hardly wait to start on them,  but first I need to finish my current project before starting another.  My cardinal rule is to always finish one project before starting the next….but wait, I just ran out of yarn on the other project and had to order more…so I guess that is a *technicality* that I can take advantage of?  isn’t it? I mean really now, who can sit idly watching t.v. after supper without keeping their hands busy?

Shhhh….don’t answer that question…

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10 Random Tips To Make Your Life Easier

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Don’t you wish that there was a book or manual you could buy that would tell you exactly what you needed to do for just about anything?  Me too…. but if there was, it would be the size of Lake Erie and not all practical as a coffee table book.

Over the years I have come upon or discovered tips that make my life easier.  Most come from happy accidents or the “what happens if I do this…?” scenario or passed down from older relatives who have gone down the wrong path to discover new ideas.   There may not be many of them, but they will certainly make your life easier  knowing how to tackle these particular problems.

Things copy1.     Windex removes tree sap…from fingers, cars, Christmas ornaments, etc. and doesn’t damage paint finish, but don’t tell the Windex people this or they will charge more for it.  This was a happy accident after cleaning the front windshield of my car last summer and discovering that it removed the sap with little effort.

2.    Use a dry paint brush to clean your computer keyboard…it gets into all the nooks and crannies of the keys and brushes out dirt, dust and toast crumbs.  Just hold the keyboard upside down and brush away.  Hubby just did this the other day with amazing results.

3.    Balsamic Vinegar and a couple drops of dish soap attracts and kills fruit flies.  Anyone living near a fruit orchard most likely knows this little tidbit.  Fill a shot glass half full of balsamic vinegar and place 2-3 drops of liquid dish soap into it.  Stir to mix in and leave out on the counter or window sill.  Fruit flies are attracted to the Balsamic as it smells like fermenting grapes, but the dish soap breaks the surface tension of the vinegar and the fruit flies can not land on top. They fall in and drown.  I have lost count in the summer on the ones I dump down the drain.  See an earlier post here.

4.    Squeaky knitting needles…for those that knit, especially when the weather or room you are in is really warm, sometimes your yarn will *squeak* and be really tight on the needles.  Simply slide the needles through your hair a few times and continue on… Voila! no more squeaky yarn.

5.    Grow Marigolds around the perimeter of your garden to ward off insect pests and rabbits.  Both of which do not like the smell of them.

6.    Place mothballs in areas of known mice traffic…mice do not like the smell of mothballs.  We keep mothballs in our boat during winter storage and have never had mice in it since after having 3 life jackets shredded one winter.  Note ~  If you are over run with mice, use a mousetrap baited with a dab of peanut butter, gets them every time.

7.    Non-bleach laundry whitener ~ Say goodbye to toxic ammonia bleach by combining 8 cups water, 1 cup hydrogen peroxide and 1/2 cup lemon juice; mix well (I store mine in an empty 2 liter pop bottle). Use a 1/2 cup per load.  More laundry/cleaning tips can be found here.

8.    Last minute lint roller ~ Wrap masking tape sticky side out around your hand and pat down on the areas of your clothes to remove fluff n’ stuff.

9.    Wrap paint rollers and brushes with plastic wrap and place in the freezer while waiting for paint to dry before applying another coat.  The paint will not dry out and ruin the roller or brush.  Just remove from the freezer and thaw for about 30 minutes before applying the next coat of paint.

10.    Coffee filters make great liners for plant pots ~ Place a coffee filter in the bottom of a plant pot  before filling with dirt.  The filter will keep dirt from falling out the drain hole in the bottom.

Feel free to add any of your own tips in the comment section as someone, somewhere, will undoubtedly be thankful for it.

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Cornbread Update

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After a couple years of trying to find a *from scratch* cornbread recipe that always ended in complete failure (and seriously giving me a complex that I couldn’t make a decent one), I finally hit on one that I can truly call *My Own*.

I took a recipe from The Food Network and after the first run through, tweaked it slightly with the following changes:

Added 2 Tbsp Gluten Flour
Added 1/2 Cup Shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
Reduced Sugar to 1/4 Cup

winning_gold_trophy_cup_0515-1104-2101-4458_TNHubby actually liked it!!! Thank heavens. I can finally move on to another challenge…one that perhaps isn’t as ego-deflating as this one has been.  I will update the changes to the first cornbread post for anyone wishing to give it a try and I would love to hear your feedback…only good feedback though as my still fragile ego likely will not take any constructive criticism on the topic ;)

Consider the cornbread challenge officially closed.

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Chicken Enchiladas in Green Chile Sauce

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Yup.  Still in Mexican mode.  How about I am always in Mexican mode.  I could eat Mexican cuisine every day for a year and never get sick of it.  There is so much variety that I highly doubt I will ever get bored with it.

Today we are making enchiladas verdes con pollo.  A super simple and super tasty dish that will impress your significant other, your kids, even your fussy MIL.

chicken enchilada oneIngredients

2 Cups shredded, cooked chicken *
1 Cup onion, diced
1 Cup diced poblano peppers
3 Cloves garlic, minced
Salt & Pepper to taste
3 Tbsp Flour
4 Cups Chicken or turkey stock (preferably home-made), divided
3/4 Cup Fresh cilantro, chopped
1 Cup Monterey jack cheese, grated
1 1/2 tsp. Ground cumin
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 Cups Green Chile Sauce (Tomatillo Salsa)
6 ~ 6″ Tortillas (flour or corn, your choice)

Directions

* In a medium saucepan, heat 2 cups of the chicken or turkey stock to boiling.  Add 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cover, reduce to medium-low and simmer until chicken is no longer pink in the middle (about 20-25 minutes).  Remove and let cool enough to handle, then shred the chicken, cover and set aside.

In a large saucepan, heat the Olive Oil over medium heat and add the onions and peppers; cook until vegetables are softened (about 5 minutes).  Add the minced garlic, cumin and salt/pepper to taste; cook, stirring constantly, for about another minute or two.

Sprinkle flour over the veggies and cook, stirring constantly, for a minute.  Slowly add the chicken stock, stirring constantly to prevent lumps until well blended.  Bring to a boil, stirring to prevent scorching then reduce to min-heat.  Add reserved chicken and cilantro and combine.  Remove from heat.

To make enchiladas:

In a large baking dish (spray first with non-stick spray), spread a couple tablespoons of green chile sauce.

Using a large dinner plate, spread about a half cup of green chile sauce onto the plate.  Dip tortillas into the sauce, turning to coat both sides.  Into the center of each tortilla, sprinkle grated cheese and about 1/3 cup of the chicken mixture.  Roll up the enchilada cigar style (leave ends open) and using a spatula, carefully lift it off the plate and place in the baking dish, seam side down.  Repeat with remaining tortillas and chicken mixture.  Spread the top with all the remaining chile sauce and more cheese if desired.

chicken enchilada twoBake, uncovered, in a 350°F oven for about 25-30 minutes.  Makes 6 enchiladas.  Serve with guacamole, queso fresco (or sour cream) and garnish with more chopped cilantro.

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Cornbread Attempt # 145,986

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Or something like that.  I may have exaggerated a tich, but it certainly seems like I have tried a million times to make cornbread from a myriad of different recipes.

There is one really, really good one that I like, but it isn’t plain cornbread.  I had come across the recipe a few years ago and it is definitely different.  Not for everyone (specifically my hubby), but if you want to give it a try, click here for the recipe. 

But back to my quest for a plain cornbread recipe.  I have tried so many that have promised to be ‘the moistest’ or ‘the most flavourful’ or whatever only to end up with a bland, dry cornbread.  A total waste of time, energy and ingredients.

I am a sucker for punishment apparently.  So here is attempt # 145,986…

cornbread_OneIngredients*

1 Cup Buttermilk
1/4 Cup melted Butter
2 Large Eggs
1 1/4 Cups Yellow Cornmeal
1 Cup All-Purpose Flour
1/4 Cup Sugar
2 Tbsp Gluten Flour
1/2 Cup Shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
1 Tbsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 400°F.  Grease an 8x8x2 baking dish and set aside.

Combine the buttermilk and the cornmeal and let sit for 15 minutes.  Whisk eggs and melted butter together; add to cornmeal mixture and mix well.

Add remaining ingredients (batter will be very dense and thick, like a muffin batter), do not over-mix.

Pour into prepared baking dish and bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly browned on top.

Remove from oven and let cool before slicing.

The Verdict?  Not bad, a little moister than previous attempts and it did have a decent flavour if not a bit too sweet.   I prefer a more savoury cornbread vs a corn ‘muffin’ ~ which is a totally different animal IMO.  But I will try this one out on hubby when he comes home this weekend and get his professional opinion….then maybe…just maybe I won’t have to hunt for any others out there.

* Ingredient list edited to reflect changes to original recipe after *tweaking*.  See post here.

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Pickled Onion Salsa

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Also known as Cebollas Curtidas or Escabeche Salsa de Cebollas, it is a S-P-I-C-Y pickled onion salsa that will blow the roof of your mouth off.  I first tried it several years ago in Mexico and have been hunting for the recipe ever since.  Two years ago I tried bribing the waiter in one of the restaurants at the resort….no go.  I  then asked our beach mesero whom we befriended if he could get the recipe from the Chef…nope, still a no go.  Grrr….so I spent several months afterwards looking on-line for a similar recipe and still could not come up with one that was exactly like what was served at the resorts in Mexico.

Then last month we were back in the land of heat, sun, sand and cerveza and I had my opportunity to yet again, try and obtain the prized recipe.  I was finally successful this time.  Don’t worry, nobody lost their job (or head) over the divulging of one of Mexico’s National Treasures (seriously, it should be one, I am going to start lobbying tomorrow).

I first spotted a large bowl of the delectable salsa at the omelet station on our first foray to the Breakfast Buffet.  The fellow in charge of omelet making (who was amazing and could pump out enough omelets to feed the entire Yucatan state and then some in short order) was also in charge of making the onion salsa.

So while I was hanging around waiting for my omelet to finish, I asked him if would graciously pass along the recipe.  His English wasn’t the greatest, so it was a good thing I know a little Spanish…he said ‘sólo hay 4 ingredientes … cebolla, pimiento habañero, jugo de limón y pimienta’…. ‘¿en serio?’ I said (Really?!).  ‘Si, sólo 4 ingredientes’.  ‘PERFECTO y Muchas gracias Señor!’

I bounced back to our table carrying my freshly made omelet with the biggest grin on my face.  Hubby looked up at me and said ‘what’s up?’.   I said ‘I got it!  I finally got the onion salsa recipe! Woo-Hoo!’.

I couldn’t wait to get home (ok, maybe I could wait until at least our vacation was over) and try it out personally.  WOWZERS is all I can say.  It tastes just like I was right back at the omelet station.  This stuff is good on just about anything….omelets, enchiladas, quesadillas, chilaquilles, grilled chicken and pork, fish, sausages, hamburgs, even as a dip for tortilla chips.  If you love a peppy, very spicy salsa, then you will love this versatile condiment.  If you don’t like spicy stuff ~ you best take a pass on this recipe then.

pickled onion salsaIngredients

1 red onion, finely diced (I used my food processor, faster and less tears)
Juice of 4 limes
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 small Habañero pepper, finely diced*
Fresh chopped cilantro for garnish

Directions

Combine all ingredients and let marinate at least 8 hours or overnight.  Makes about 2 cups (depending on the size of your onion).  Will keep for a week or so in the fridge, best made in small batches though.

* If you are too chicken to use the habañero pepper, you could easily sub a jalapeño or serrano pepper.

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Yup…I Am Still Here

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I haven’t fallen off the planet…close, but not yet.

Falling Off PlanetI am just very, very busy trying to get all the stuff done that is currently piled on my plate…2 sewing projects and one knitting project that are all commission jobs while continuing the de-cluttering of the house (Yay for garbage day today!) and toss in demolishing a basement office area to become a future bathroom ~ which has created clouds of drywall dust that wafted throughout the house leaving a fine, white residue on everything…now I have to clean too.

Oh, and try and fit in that job/work schedule into the mix too.  So don’t fret, I will be back posting regularly once the crunch stuff is out of the way.  Tah-Tah for now.

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How To Build A Bathroom

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or more aptly…

How To Drive Yourself Crazy Building A Bathroom.

We have decided to build a bathroom in our basement.  We only have one bathroom in our current home.  Incredulous I know, but our house was built in the early 70′s and there didn’t seem to be a need to build a bathroom for every bedroom like the new construction homes of today.  We raised our 2 kids using only one bathroom, we figured it was no big deal.  Scheduling was all that was needed on busy weekday mornings.

But soon we will be downsizing and families of today (demand) want more than one bathroom.  As a Realtor in real life, I know the importance of having that second bathroom as a selling feature.

So….we are biting the bullet and building one in an empty space beside the laundry room.  Which isn’t going to be that easy as we have no rough-in for drain pipes downstairs.  Having a background in new construction in a past job life, I understand what needs to happen.

It’s concrete busting time!

Not by us of course, we do not own jackhammers.  I have called a company to come in and give us some direction in this regard.  He is supposed to come today (in a blizzard no less) and have a peek and let us know how many gazillion dollars it will cost.

That will be the hardest part.  Once the drains are in, it is then on to the actual construction.  Building walls, running plumbing lines and electrical, laying floor tile, etc.  Which has me going crazy wondering what colour scheme to do?  What type of fixtures to install?  Do I go Traditional or Contemporary in design?

I have spent considerable time this past week cruising the virtual halls of Home Depot and Lowes looking at vanities, sinks, taps, lighting and shower units.

Bathroom Collage

They say marriages either bloom or fail in a home reno project.

I am hoping for early Spring blooms.

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February Is Clutter Busting Time

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It is February, and the groundhogs have spoken.
6 more weeks of winter.

I have news for you.  We do not need rodent prognosticators to tell us that we are in for more snow, sleet and freezing temps.  Mother Nature, not groundhogs, rules the seasons, and when she is ready to grace us with her warm sunny smile, she will, but not a moment sooner.

So what to do when the snowpiles are up to your arse?

De-Clutter the house of course!

This week is the start of de-clutter month at the Homestead.  I usually start this in January, but I was too busy gallivanting around Mexico, then coming back home to be thrown into *regular* work.  So better late than never.  De-cluttering worries my husband.  He thinks I am getting rid of everything….him included.  Pfft…as if were that easy *evil grin*.

De-cluttering the house gives me control, control over all the $hit that is in our lives.  What to keep, what to toss, what to donate, what to re-use and most of all…to ponder why the heck did we buy that inane chachka in the first place.

Clutter CloudI am starting off with the file cabinet in the laundry room.  My gigantic, 6 foot tall file cabinet full of crap.  Lightbulbs, old towels for rags, extra pool towels and battery operated pool fish (which are really fun BTW, if you have a pool, you have to get some, they are so cool), cleaning supplies, brand new CD’s waiting to be burned with whatever data/music/movies (that I have no idea how to do) and of course…files.  Lots and lots of file folders full of paper consisting of utility bills, insurance papers, paid credit card bills, appliance receipts, warranty papers, bank statements, ugh…they pile up faster than the darn snow flakes outside.

The paper stuff is easiest to harness, I need most of them for my tax return anyway, so anything related to that, gets pulled out, the remainder get tossed in the ‘to be burned in the woodstove’ pile.  Who needs to buy a paper shredder when you have a woodstove handy?

Everything else is scrutinized with the end result being relocating to where it will best serve its next intended purpose ~ or tossed.

When de-cluttering, you have to be brutally honest with yourself and your needs.  I have harped on this before in past de-clutter post, but it’s true.  Lest you become a hoarder of monumental proportions with nowhere to sleep due to your paper fetish.

Next I will be moving to my office desk…even though I gave it a serious heave-ho of stuff last year, it has manifested itself into a full entity again.  After that, it is on to closets, kitchen cupboards (where I think I have the worlds largest Tupperware collection), and coming to a finale in the crawlspace.

All this should take me at least a month, given the many other things I have on the go, so not a moment to waste.  If you don’t see me by the end of February, consider me firmly ensnared in a clutter trap and toss me a lifesaver.

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