Friday, March 30, 2012

Late March Frugal Luxuries

Oops. I almost let the month of March slip by without doing a Frugal Luxury post. I must confess that March is not my favourite month of the year. Winter just doesn't seem to get the message that it is supposed to be finished. One day it can be so warm I am tempted to plant my spinach and peas in the garden, only to wake up the next day to find my garden box covered in snow.

In the midst of this confused season I consider it a Frugal Luxury to be able to harvest something from my garden. This was my first time growing Jerusalem artichokes, and I have to say I was impressed. There was something very satisfying about going out on a warm March day and being able to run my hands through the soil, searching out the clump of tubers hidden under the thawing ground.

Jerusalem Artichokes

They were kind of a pain to prepare. It definitely took longer to peel them than dig them up, but it turned out to be worth the extra effort. (Recipe compliments of Jamie Oliver.)

Sautéed Jerusalem Artichokes with bay leaf and garlic

My Sky Scarf is starting to take shape. For a small investment in yarn I get 365 days of enjoyment watching it progress, making it the ultimate knitting Frugal Luxury.

Sky Scarf after 6 weeks

The next Frugal Luxury is one most of us have access to - the public library. I can go online and search the catalogue, place holds on books, and a few days later I get an email letting me know my books are waiting for me. The cost? Absolutely nothing!

Kamloops Public Library

The great thing about the library is you can take a chance on a book with absolutely no risk involved. I am always so disappointed when I buy a book, only to find it wasn't what I expected. If I check one out of the library and decide it's not to my taste I just throw it back into the book basket by our front door to return on my next trip to the library. No guilt. No dent in my pocketbook. Better yet is when I happen across a book I previously had no idea existed and find it is a winner. This is exactly what happened when I checked out Gluten-Free Cupcakes.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Only two more days until the calendar turns to April. Then I really will be able to plant my spinach and peas!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Stress Orders

Alexandra is now home from the hospital, and, hopefully, on the road to recovery. Let's just say my stress coping mechanisms have been stretched to the breaking point over the past week.

As soon as Alexandra got sick I fell off the wagon and started drinking my tea with honey in it again. Copious cups of tea, each with a heaping spoonful of honey. I can't say I started eating chocolate again, since I never stopped in the first place. What I can say is my personal chocolate consumption hit an all-time high. Chocolate bars, chocolate cookies, gluten-free chocolate cupcakes, and at one particularly low moment handfuls of chocolate chips straight out of the bag - it really didn't matter, if it was chocolate I ate it.

Oh, but it didn't end there. On the final day, worn down by a week of much worry and little sleep, I stupidly clicked on a link for some knitting project bags that had just arrived at Simply Socks. I was fine, really I was. Right up to the moment I saw the bag with the dachshund print. So what could be so wrong about ordering a project bag for my knitting? Well, maybe this...

Who could resist a knitting bag with sheep?
Or this...

How could a gardener not fall for this?

Or this...

Everyone loves sock monkeys!

Or this...

This was to make up for the fact Kamloops doesn't allow residents to keep chickens in their backyards.
Instead, I keep chickens on my zipper pulls.

No matter how you look at it I did not need another knitting project bag.

There's only one thing I needed less than a new knitting project bag. And that was the skein of Opal Van Gogh sock yarn I threw into the shopping cart just before hitting the Purchase Now button.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Keep Calm and Carry On

Sorry for the lack of blogging. Alexandra is in the hospital due to some complications with one of her autoimmune diseases. Things are slowly improving so we think she will be able to come home in a day or two. I hope to be back to regular posts again next week.




Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Forest of Stitches

Imagine a sweater that perfectly captures the beauty of a dense forest. In the midst of this forest the light filters through the trees, playing tricks on your eyes. Colour and shape reverse themselves, and the result is breathtaking. This is, perhaps, the most beautiful sweater I have ever knit. Meet Boreal, another brilliant design by Kate Davies.

I love the yarn - City Tweed, a lovely, soft mix of merino wool and alpaca.

I love the way the tweed gives the impression of gently falling snow. 

Most of all, I love the mirror images of the trees and snowflakes. 

It is almost enough to make me wish the cold weather would last just a bit longer so I could wear it. But then again, Fergus is at the stage where he is chewing up anything that gets near his mouth, so perhaps it is just as well that it will remain safely tucked away until next winter!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Useless Random Facts

Here are some really random facts about me. This is the kind of blog post one resorts to when life has gotten away from them for the past week. It is amazing how much energy one tiny puppy with a bladder the size of a lentil takes!

  1. My three biggest fears in life are, in no particular order, flying, dentists and snakes. I can face the first one with some small amount of courage. No such luck with the other two. Ask anyone who has been out walking with me when I have encountered a snake. Or who has seen me after major dental work. 
  2. My socks must match some part of my wardrobe. I know that post with the picture of me walking the dog early in the morning might seem to indicate otherwise, but it is true. My dad was the same way, so possibly there is a gene of some sort responsible for this. In the picture above I can guarantee you that my socks had at least some blue in them. If they didn't I would definitely not be smiling.
  3. In the past I have been employed as a truck driver. Not the kind who drives huge transport trucks across the country and eats at greasy diners along the way. I was the kind who drove trucks in wheat fields and hauled the loads to grain elevators. It was all part of growing up on a farm.
  4. One of my biggest pet peeves in life is people who talk incessantly but don't have anything to say. Imagine my excitement when I read about the latest technology coming out of Japan. It is a speech jamming gun that stops people from talking by freezing the brain. In my experience the people I know who need this technology applied already have frozen brains, but still, it might just work. 
  5. I have a degree in mathematics, which seems odd considering most of my knitting mistakes are because I don't seem to be able to count. I take heart in the fact that I once sat through a university math lecture where the professor could not get a formula to work out. He spent the whole hour trying to get it to come together, only to discover at the end of the class that he had added something wrong at the very beginning. This would have been a member of the same math department that had several professors who went out to cut some fire wood. After careful calculations as to where the tree would fall they proceeded to chop it down. It landed squarely on top of their truck. 
  6. In spite of the fact I have a fairly good grasp of mathematics, I have absolutely no spatial sense. It is like I was born without an inner gyroscope. This would account for the fact I consistently park my car at least two feet from the curb.
  7. I have always been very good at sports with the exception of golf, bowling and billiards. I think my failure with these three is due to that spatial sense defect. I might be the only person on the face of the planet who has unintentionally had both a bowling ball and a golf ball go backwards instead of forwards. 
  8. My body's reaction to stress is to turn off the memory switch in my brain. The first time this happened was when Alexandra was a toddler and got air ambulanced to Children's Hospital in Vancouver. For the first three days she was there I could not for the life of me remember the name of the disease she had been diagnosed with in spite of the fact I had been told repeatedly what it was. I remember feeling a strange sense of panic at the time, wondering if I was losing my mind. I now realize it is my brain's way of coping, and it has become my "stress barometer." When I find myself unable to remember the simplest things I know I am on overload.
  9. What was I just saying??

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

My Friend, the Rotisserie Chicken

Just because I haven't done a food post in awhile doesn't mean we have stopped eating. I think the problem is I am currently uninspired and unmotivated about anything to do with cooking. Well, except for eating the finished product. I still like that part.

I think it is the time of the year. It's March. It will be two more months until the Farmer's Market starts up again. The apples, which were harvested many months ago, are starting to taste like they came from a museum instead of the grocery store. At least they are locally produced. At this time of the year practically every other thing in the produce section comes from a great distance, and looks like it too. I think it would actually be possible to do a geography lesson amongst all the imported fruits and vegetables.

So last week when I was in Costco in this uninspired state of mind and discovered they no longer carry what I was planning to serve for dinner I fell back on my tried and true Costco double dinner trick. I bought the one thing that Costco is guaranteed to carry every day of the year. Other items might vaporize from one Costco visit to the next, but there is one thing you can always count on. The rotisserie chicken.

This is a double dinner deal because the first night we have the chicken along with a veggie side dish. In order to have the second night work out properly you must follow these instructions very carefully. Before anyone in your family can get up and help themselves to a second serving of chicken you must grab what's left of the bird and throw it in the fridge with a sign saying "Do Not Eat." This works in our house because there are only four of us living here now. Back in the days when there were seven of us, including multiple hungry teenagers, this plan would have been doomed to failure.

The next morning take the picked over rotisserie chicken, skin included, and throw it in the crockpot with a bit of sea salt and cover with water. Cook on high for a few hours, then pull the chicken out, let it cool, and remove the meat from the bones. While the meat is cooling search your refrigerator for any veggies that look soup worthy. I found carrots, a bit of celery, an onion and some kale. Chop them up and throw into the crockpot. Add some seasoning. I used sea salt, pepper and some Bragg mixed herbs. Put the boned chicken in and cook for another few hours.

Check the time, and about two hours before you want to eat dinner  add some wild rice. If you don't have wild rice some nice alternatives are barley or quinoa (if you aren't allergic). 

My friend Hilary was the one who introduced me to rotisserie chicken soup. I think she's a genius. The flavour is so much better than chicken soup made the old-fashioned way that I have totally abandoned that method. It really is as good as it looks in this picture.

And no, I don't want to know what it is they sprinkle on those Costco chickens to make them so tasty!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Sweetly Out Of Tune

Last night a friend and I went to a function at the library. A local author was reading from her newly published book of poems, accompanied by a local string quintet playing classical music. I wasn't sure I would enjoy the poetry reading. It seems to me that poetry is a lot like Longfellow's little girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead. When it is good it is very good indeed, but when it is bad it is horrid. I needn't have worried. It turns out the poet was excellent, and her reading was filled with creative expression.

It wasn't the poems that made the evening for me though. It was the music. And not because it was expertly played on instruments worth more than my home. It wasn't. In fact, most of the pieces were what I would call "sweetly out of tune" and the majority of the instruments had that "rent to own" look about them. It brought back fond memories of the many music recitals I sat through when my kids were young. What made it so memorable was the obvious love the musicians had for their instruments, and the simple pleasure they got out of performing on them. It is what every parent who has invested in music lessons for their kids hopes to see at the other end. A love of music.

That expression - "sweetly out of tune" - popped into my mind again this morning as I sleepily slipped on my jacket to go walk Fergus. I looked down and was greeted by this sight.

I would challenge anybody to make poetry out of that. Old hand knit socks, flannel pyjamas covered by my ancient bathrobe, my old blue field coat and beat up Lands' End moccasins. Oh. And one wee dog.