Oklahoma City Fun!

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I had the opportunity to travel this past weekend to Oklahoma City for 4 days.  Hubby is working a contract job there for a month so to break up his “30 day sentence”, we made arrangements for me to fly down and spend our 38th wedding anniversary together exploring some of the fun and exciting tourist attractions that are available in this large Midwestern city

I was able to glean some information from an Internet pal Amy in Pittsburgh who has frequented OKC on numerous occasions and she gave us brilliant suggestions on places to visit as well as which restaurants to try.  She did not disappoint!

Our first stop was the Myriad Botanical Gardens located downtown, right across the street from the Devon skyscraper.

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The 17 acre gardens are gorgeous and the crown jewel is the ‘Crystal  Bridge’ which is a behemoth of a greenhouse filled with tropical plants from around the world.

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The flora on display is stunning, from teeny violets tucked into crevices to towering palm trees and everything in between.

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A gorgeous Blue Agave plant…Tequila anyone?

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Anyone who loves botanical gardens, definitely put this stop on your to see list. You will not be disappointed.  I could have posted more pictures, but then this post would turn into a novel.

After spending a couple hours strolling the grounds and tropical building (and working up a great thirst!), we went to a fabulous Mexican restaurant touted by Amy as the best Mexican food in Oklahoma City, the Iguana Mexican Grill.

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It is a tiny place, packed with friendly servers, cold beer and mouthwatering food!

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Hubs tried the fish tacos and I had the Yucatan Style Roasted Pork, which was achiote and orange roasted pork cooked in banana leaf and served with soft flour tortillas, cilantro and pickled onions.

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Devine! I chose the pinto beans and red chile rice to accompany the roast pork and was seriously stuffed at the end.  I highly recommend this restaurant if you are ever in OKC and you love Mexican food just as much as I do.

Our next tourist destination was the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. I am sure some of you have seen their flagship carving called “The end of the Trail”, a stunning sculpture soaring some 25 feet (at least!) In the air.  The scale of which is hard to depict in photographs. This sculpture signifies a native American and his horse, both weary in body and spirit at the end of their journey.  Sculpted my American artist James Earle Fraser, it is truly a treasured national sculpture.

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There were so many art galleries to meander through, featuring artists from America, Europe and Native North  Americans depicting western life from the early 1800s to the present.  All types of medium were used, whether they were cast sculptures, ink and pen on paper,  oil on canvas, watercolours, tempura and many more. I loved this first one below titled “The Flying Mare”.

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If you love western history and art, make sure you mark this museum down on your bucket list.

They also have a full sized scale of an early western frontier town complete with sheriff’s office and jail,  bank, mercantile shop, saddlery,  saloon and livery stables.  All full of original pieces of furniture,  tack, wagons and full sized replica horses saddled and ready to go.  I was expecting John Wayne to come out of the Saloon at any moment, it was such a fun way to experience a frontier town up close and personal.

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After leaving the Frontier town exhibit, we wandered for over an hour through a maze of of rooms highlighting native and western clothing, saddlery, guns, Chuck wagons,  rodeos and even a room filled with over 1300 samples of barbed wire held in vertical drawers you could pull out and examine. Seriously,  I never knew barbed wire came in so many styles!

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There were a couple of rooms devoted to the film industry of the old West as well.   Featuring actually clothing and props from Western movie stars like John Wayne, Roy Rogers, John Ford and many others.

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There was also a display of Army Cavalry clothing,  guns, horse tack and static displays of enlisted life in the 1800s.  Like the Smithsonian Museum of American History in DC, it has artifacts frozen in time for generations in the future to see and experience.

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Not to be outdone there is a massive display of saddles and tack from not just North America, but early saddles from Spain, Europe and Mexico as well as the saddles made by Native Americans.

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To see the form and function and how they evolved over a century is truly a history lesson I loved to learn.  How they made these items with the limited tools and materials they had available is awe inspiring.

With my limited time in OKC,  these were the 2 main attractions I wanted to see, but there is also the memorial to the OKC bombing of 1995 as well as the OKC Zoo and Botanical Garden which are great places of interest that I would have loved to see if I had more time.

I managed to squeeze out 2 stops at local yarn shops, which of course, I just had to make sure was on the to do list.  The first stop was Yarnatopia and Mustang Creek Alpaca Company.

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I happily contributed to the coffers of both, splurging on yarns not available back in my neck of the woods.  I also managed to fit in Hobby Lobby and a quick trip to JoAnns for sewing patterns as they are significantly cheaper in the U.S., even with the exchange rate.

All in all a fabulous albeit a short visit to spend time with hubby and see the sights Of Oklahoma City. Soon it was time to get back on the plane (not without a cold beer and an awesome grilled vegetable flatbread for dinner)

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and say adios to midwest life and head back north to Canada and my home.

Deborah

 

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Smoked Gouda, Mushroom & Spinach Pizza

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It didn’t take me long to whip up a pizza utilizing the freshly smoked gouda cheese.  I kept the pizza simple with no strong ingredients to compete with the cheese and it was absolutely delicioso!

Studio_20180430_095325Want to make your own?  Take my whole wheat pizza crust recipe here and top with a minimal amount of pizza sauce, thinly sliced red onion, tomatoes, mushrooms and baby spinach leaves.  Top with grated smoked gouda and cook in a 475F oven until the edges start to crisp, flip to broil and broil until cheese is bubbly.

Enjoy!

Deborah

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Smoked Gouda ~ Cheese Heaven

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The Homestead acquired a new appliance a few weeks ago.

An electric Smoker.  We should have bought one at least 25 years ago, I probably spent as much money as a smoker on store bought smoked gouda over the years.

By now you can guess what was the first thing that went into the smoker, yup, CHEESE.

I love cheese.  Who doesn’t love cheese? (If they don’t, they are weird) So I googled how to smoke cheese and its pretty darn simple; add some wood chips (we used Apple) set the temperature for NO HIGHER than 90F (32C) and leave in the smoker for about 2 to 2 1/2 hours.  We did have a heck of time keeping the wood chips going as the low temperature selected meant the heating element wasn’t hot enough to light the wood chips.  The solution was to open the little exterior drawer where the chips were and light them with a propane torch.

I smoked two types of cheese, Gouda and Swiss.  The Swiss cheese we tried out on Montreal Smoked Meat Sammies, which reinforced and highlighted the “smoked” flavour in the sandwich title. We will definitely be using the smoked Swiss in those sammies from now on.

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As for the gouda ~ I haven’t had a taste yet, but I am planning a smoked gouda “white pizza” very, very soon, so will report back afterward.

Meanwhile, the next item smoked was salmon (oh so yummy) as well a chipotle rubbed pork tenderloin, both of which turned out AMAZING!  We will definitely be getting a lot of use out of this new appliance, the possibilities are endless!

I have been cruising websites looking for different ideas and recipes that will certainly get tested out over the summer.  If you  have been sitting on the fence about getting a smoker, I highly recommend you get off the fence and get one! You won’t regret it.

Deborah

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Growing like….weeds

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Yup.  Growing season has commenced!  Things are right on schedule in the seedling world.  So much so that I had to give the pepper plants a haircut to promote bushier growth as opposed to wanting to be giant bean stalk height.  They have been under a grow light since they sprouted and have just gone crazy.

The tomatoes are now well on their way. I started them a full month after the peppers because last year I experimented with starting peppers early to be immensely rewarded with fruit ready much sooner and more mature plants by the time I got them nestled into their summer beds.  The tomatoes will soon catch up and surpass the peppers in no time as they are such fast growers_DSC6532I have also started my next pot of cilantro as the first one is bolting already.  It doesn’t matter how often I snip and use up the ‘soapy’ herb, it still wants to bolt when IT wants to.  The mint is also getting out of control, he is ready for a hair cut as well.

I started the mint and basil this year from cuttings from last years plants as trying to get them started from seeds is a HUGE hassle, especially mint.  So I put the cuttings in glasses of water to root, then planted them where they slowly established themselves over the winter in pots.  In the past few weeks, they have exploded.  I gave the basil a severe haircut and froze the leaves in a new-fangled procedure I learned off the inter-web.  Once I go to use some of the frozen basil the next time I need some in a recipe, I will let you all know how it fared out.

_DSC6531Now I just need to concentrate on keeping my little green buddies healthy until I get them planted at the Northern Homestead…which, with the way this Spring has been going (or lack thereof), may not be until August!

What have you started to grow? Do you have a favourite tomato or pepper type? or other veggies?

Deborah

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Its almost time….

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Time for what you say?

Seed planting time!!!!!

Seeds have been ordered and delivered, planting pots and trays are out of storage and at the ready.  All I need is a bag or two of seed potting medium and I am ready to roll!

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Hurry up February 15th!

That is the day I start my peppers seeds.  Let year I decided to start the peppers a month earlier than the Toms as they are slower growing and I have found they take longer to mature and fruit in the shorter growing season of the Northern Homestead.  Boy did it work out fabulous as they were fruiting 3 weeks earlier than the year before.

I planted them in the raised beds the end of April keeping the plastic rolled down for the greenhouse effect until after the last frost date to which they responded by growing into tall, sturdy plants loaded with fruit being harvested in a much shorter time.

So for now, the days count down slowly as I anxiously await the 15th of February to get my little charges into their new little peat pot homes. Yippee!

What will you grow this year?

Deborah

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Fuerig’s Offering ~ Update

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Remember Fuerig? The black baby alpaca fibre I received back in the early Spring?  Well after a couple weeks of washing, carding and spinning 2 ounces of his lusciously soft and silky fibre, it turned into a gorgeous jet black skein of yarn just begging to be petted and smooshed.  Trust me, ask anyone who knits or crochets what they do when they pick up a pretty skein of soft yarn and you will understand our crazy ways.

DSC06093Smooshing aside, in my minds eye, I envisioned knitting a soft and drapey shawl that would wrap around me like a warm hug on a chilly evening.  Especially given that we had just booked a trip to Cuba for January 2018, so there was some urgency in finding and knitting a shawl  in time that I could take it with me.

Once I settled on “what” to knit, it was time to look for the perfect pattern on Ravelry that would showcase the lovely fibre.  It couldn’t be too complicated a stitch pattern as the black fibre would make any intricate stitch definition disappear, rendering it a total waste of time and energy, but I finally settled on a simple pattern with a scalloped lace edging featuring hundreds of tiny seed beads set in like iridescent blue stars against a jet black sky.

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Knitting didn’t take too long as the first 80% of the shawl was a somewhat boring knit, but boring was good as I was soon going to be challenged in the final outer lace pattern section with painstakingly inserting the many teeny blue beads onto stitches as I knit along each row.  This definitely took a boatload of patience, but it was so well worth it.  This is just the second time I have ever knit with beads and I think I have had my fill (bet I change my mind though when I see a lovely pattern with beads I just have to knit), but for this project, I thought the chosen pattern was how to best show off the qualities of Fuerig’s fleece.

_DSC6431Once the shawl was complete, I spent considerable time trying to capture a decent photo. Ha!  Ask anyone who has ever tried to photograph a jet black object up close and they will tell you, it’s hard!  Indoors or outdoors, with a flash or without, bright sunny day or a cloudy day, it was all proving very difficult.  There was going to be lots of time spent in photo editing land I feared. About 50 shots later, I ended up with a couple of ‘decent’ photos and I wholeheartedly admit, I am not a professional photographer so I best not quit my day job.

With the shawl done, I began to count down the “sleeps” until hubby and I were whisked away on a plane to Cuba.  I carefully packed the shawl (along with a few others I have done in the past couple years) into my luggage all the while hoping and praying the airline wouldn’t lose my suitcase.  I just couldn’t fathom not ever seeing the shawl again after all the hard work of washing, carding, spinning and knitting the fleece from such a beautiful animal.

Thankfully, we arrived in Cuba with all our luggage – yay!  It was then  time to plan out what evenings to wear each shawl with a complimentary dinner outfit, also taking into account how warm or how cool it ended up being each day as well as whether we were dining in one of the indoor a la carte restaurants or one of the outdoor ones.  I tell you, such hard decisions you have to deal with on vacation ;)

I ended up wearing the shawl  on our last dinner night out at the Mediterranean restaurant, which was absolutely divine and I felt like royalty with the lusciously soft fibre draped around my shoulders.  It would have been great to have a photo of me wearing the shawl or the shawl alone in a sunset photo, but the location of the resort geographically made that impossible as the sun was setting behind the resort and not over the water along with dinner reservations were set for long after the sun had gone down.  So, best I could do was to try and photograph it with the pretty backdrop of a Caribbean Sea.

_DSC6482I simply adore how this turned out and know this will become a treasured heirloom in my family.  I still have several pounds of Fuerig’s baby fleece carefully tucked away so now it is time to explore what else I can use his sillky, soft fibre for…..other than smooshing.

Deborah

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Turkey Vegetable Soup

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Last weekend was Canadian Thanksgiving, and as is the norm after cooking a 10lb bird for 3 people (actually I cooked for 4, but my daughter is a vegetarian), there are oodles of leftovers…..leftover.  This soup is hearty and has a good zip to it with the addition of the canned tomatoes with chiles (ie. Rotel).

First order after removing the remaining meat from the bird was to put the carcass in a large stock pot and add about 12 cups water.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and let simmer for several hours. Remove from heat and let sit overnight.

Next day, remove carcass and strain the broth into a large bowl. Cover and put in the fridge so that any remaining fat solidifies to be skimmed off the next morning.

Now you have great base for your soup!

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Ingredients

10 to 12 cups turkey broth
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 cup diced celery
1 cup carrots, sliced
1 large golden beet, peeled and cut into 1cm cubes (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 cup mini red potatoes cut into 1cm pieces
500 ml jar of canned tomatoes with chiles *
1 1/2 cups shredded turkey meat (white/dark or both)
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 sprigs of oregano, leaves stripped and chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil

Directions

In a large stock pot over medium heat, drizzle 2 tbsp olive oil.  Add onions and celery and cook for 3 to 5 minutes until onions are translucent.   Add carrots, beets and potatoes and cook for another 5 minutes stirring often.  Puree the canned tomatoes with chiles and add to the pot.  Add herbs and turkey broth.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 2 to 3 hours.  If you like a thicker consistency to your soups, dissolve 2 heaping tablespoons of cornstarch in one cup of cold water and add to soup 20 minutes before serving.

Serve with a side salad and a crusty harvest grain bread.

Makes 8 servings

Deborah

* Substitute plain canned tomatoes for the tomatoes with chile’s if you don’t like spice.

 

 

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Dyeing with Onion Skins

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I have done this dye job once before, but didn’t document it very well so figured I would have a virtual record of it this go round.

Dyeing fibres with onion skins is amazingly simple.  You don’t need any mordants (Che icals that affix the dye particles to the fibres) and you can use your regular kitchen utensils (but, if you are going to use other plant based dyes or chemical dyes, you must have a separate set of utensils so as not to contaminate and possibly make yourself very ill!) and it’s one of the few plant based dyes that don’t stink up the kitchen.

Next up, save onion skins, the dry outer layers only.  If you eat a lot of onions, it doesn’t take long, but if you don’t,  ask family to save them for your or ask your grocer if he will give you the remnants in the onion bins.  It took me about 9 months to save these two amounts here.
Studio_20171005_152418I separated them by colour, having more of the red, but still a huge amount of both.  In a large pot (2 pots, one for each colour), bring skins to a boil, then simmer for a couple hours.  Turn heat off and let cool overnight.  Next day, strain skins out and you are ready to dye!

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Add presoaked (in water) yarns or cotton/linen/silk fabrics and slowly bring the temp up to 170F.  Make sure the pots have lots of water/dye so that the fibres have room to move freely around.  Don’t stir, swirl or vigorously poke animal fibres or you will felt them.  Just let them sit and do their thing.  Once up to temp, hold that temp for about an hour.  Turn heat off and let cool overnight.

Remove skeins from the dye bath, rinse and wash and hang to dry.  If there is still lots of Colour left in the dye bath,  add another skein of yarn and repeat the process.  The colour will be paler than the first, but still give a good shade, this is called an exhaust bath.

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Above skeins are (left to right): red skins-1st bath, red skins-exhaust bath, yellow skins-exhaust bath, yellow skins-1st bath

You can modify the colours using different modifiers,  ie vinegar, ammonia, or just using an iron pot.  I ended up with the green skein using the red onion skins but using filtered lake water.  Our lake has a lot of iron in it and therefore it reacted with the red onion skin and produced a nice shade of green.  Strangely, it didn’t affect the yellow onion skins.

I have a few more skeins to dye using black Walnut husks, which will compliment these skeins nicely in a planned woven rug, so stay tuned!

Deborah

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September KAL (Knit Along)

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For those knitters and fibre enthusiasts out there, you know the feeling of completing a KAL with a great bunch of like minded folk. For those that aren’t into fibre-arts, you are missing out!

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For the month of September,  I signed up to knit a shawl for a KAL group on Ravelry, which by the way, if you are not a part of and you are a fibre geek, then I suggest you head over pronto to sign up (its free) and you will then have access to oodles of patterns from mitts to socks to hats to sweaters and blankets in every style,  for every age, and most are free patterns!

Anyway, back to the KAL.

The group I am a part of is called the DIY & DYE, where we spin, dye and knit our creations from raw fleece.  I joined in with some alpaca that I had spun and hand-painted and included a commercial skein of yarn in a contrasting neon peach colour.

The pattern was somewhat simple, but it still took some concentration after making a….design element, yes we call mistakes “design elements”.  Aside from the impromptu changes to the pattern, I finished the project just one day outside of September, even with life getting in the way.

The pattern, called “Metalouse” by Stephen West (a well known knit designer in the knitting world) features a striking pattern created by slipped stitches in a contrasting colour that melds beautifully with the variegated handspun alpaca.

I simply love how this turned out and have another one planned very soon.  Have you been a part of a KAL or CAL (crochet along) or even a WAL (weave along)? If so, I would love to see your creations, feel free to tell me all about them or link your projects below!

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Tomato & Avocado Salad

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I had a pretty good garden crop this year, especially the tomatoes.  A bumper crop of the luscious round globes had me eating them in a variety of ways, especially with the extended summer heat of September.  The thought of having to prepare and cook a hot meal on days where the mercury climbed above 30C had me melting into a puddle.  Salads became a staple for lunches and dinners.

A favourite is this super simple and super tasty tomato and avocado salad.  With so few ingredients, you are done in a snap!

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Ingredients
4 Garden Fresh Tomatoes (for a prettier plate, use multi-coloured tomatoes like Golden Queen and Heirloom varieties)
2 ripe Haas Avocados
1/4 cup diced Red or Sweet Onion
6 fresh sprigs of Cilantro
1/4 cup Olive Oil
Juice of 2 Limes
Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions

In a small bowl, whisk olive oil with the fresh lime juice and set aside.

Slice tomatoes and arrange on 2 plates.  Peel, pit and slice avocados and arrange over the tomatoes.  Sprinkle onion over tomatoes and avocados.  Drizzle with the olive oil and lime dressing and top with fresh cilantro leaves. That’s it! You are done!  To make this into a satisfying and healthy dinner salad, just add some grilled chicken or salmon along with a nice crusty loaf of whole grain bread.

Serve immediately.  Makes 2 servings.

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