Friday, March 30, 2012

The Praying Kind

My Mother in Law is the praying kind. If you tell her a story about anyone who could use it, she'll pray for them. She started a prayer chain 20 years ago for my little cousin, about to have a bone marrow transplant, and today she's a healthy 27 year old. She did a lot of praying, and sent a lot of blessed items for my Sweet Mama when she was dying (she didn't). She prayed for my sister with her brain tumor. She conquered it. She has a lot of praying power my mother in law does. I know she prays every day for her family, the less fortunate, and for her son Dale, whom she lost a number of years ago. Her blessing over dinner takes so long, and includes so many people, the grand kids used to get the giggles when they were little. I truly think she the most praying person I know.

Tonight, she's in critical condition in hospital and she could use all the praying you've got. I took her one of my rosaries, and hope when she wakes, she will find comfort in finding it laced through her fingers. I know her hands will automatically start turning those beads. We love you Penny. And we're praying for you.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Making Limoncello

This post is practically a Public Service Announcement. With the Early Spring we've been having in the Northern Hemisphere, you need to get cracking and make your Limoncello for summer. It needs 40 days to sit and steep, so now's a really good time to get going. 

I was gifted a bottle at Christmas, made by a young and handsome Italian fellow, (boyfriend of one of my favorite girls) (thanks Eugene). I was quite smitten with it. I tried to get him to spill the Secret Recipe, but he was perhaps a little guarded. Cryptic instructions, vague measurements and iffy details, forced me to search for the written word. Here's a RECIPE if you would like to try. I was thinking it would make great summer hostess and birthday gifts for the drinkers in your life.

To serve my Limoncello, I am using my tiny Bonne Maman jam jars. The waiter at the Bellagio Hotel in Vegas didn't even notice I was eating 8 a day at breakfast. My suitcase home was nearing the overweight allowance in petite jars of preserves alone. Mise over the the blog PRETTY FAR WEST is a huge fan of Bonne Maman jars of both sizes. Please note, these are the miniature 1 oz jars....Limoncello is made with 100% proof really don't want to use your large jars.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Urban Farm

Handsome red eyed rooster.
Girl child and I headed to our local Provincial Park last Sunday to walk a bit and visit with the farm animals. I was shocked that it was $16.00 a car to get in. While there are acres of picnic and hiking lands, and a barn with a few animals, it is additional $ to camp and swim. I think $16.00 excludes a lot of families that would otherwise enjoy a lovely day in the country. 

We had a lovely walkabout and enjoyed the vivid colors that the sunny Spring day helped us capture.

Excuse us, we didn't know you were laying an egg at that moment.....
"get lost"
look at those head feathers
There is a random egg at the back of the box although he/she was not sitting on it.
These guys would not be still enough for a all know I love motion photo's
Afternoon Ladies
Soaking up shunshine
I think these are bluebells.
Sparrows on the old barn shutters.

On Wednesday, I am heading to a new farm about 40 minutes away to scout them as a new source of fresh eggs, veg and meat for our family.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Flowers in the House

My friend Chickie brought me these hot pink tulips as hostess gift. I placed them in a vase and popped them on the mantle. I was really chuffed with them. In my head, I thought "Yippie! look how spectacular that pink looks with my blue painting and how perfect they would be for Jane's Flowers in the House over at her lovely blog Small But Charming.

So, Yippie Yi Yay over HERE to visit Jane to see all the other pretty offerings this Monday.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Morning After the Night Before

The "decorator magazine" Blackboard. Neat, precise, organic.

I mentioned in my last post that I was a) hosting a party last night and b) had recently installed a blackboard in my dining room. I know you all had visions of it looking like the one above. With my shopping list to remind me to pick up organic eggs and to take Jack to piano lessons.But I also told you my style is relaxed, casual, hippy, and that I don't take my house too seriously.

So when, I combine my friends, good wine and a little cup of colored chalk....the results are far from magazine worthy.

50 year olds and chalk.!

Because our friend Barry likes a lot of attention, I made the cake all about him, with little cuts outs of him that I skewered with a toothpick and poked them in the top. Although it doesn't look like it in the little cut outs, he does have 2 arms.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Party of 8

We're hosting a birthday Party tonight for our friend Barry. When I host a do, it's always somewhat casual. Since I had a 5 minute wedding that cost $15.00, I didn't have a registry and therefore never had fancy china and matchy silverware. Tonight I am using my vintage flea market Buffalo China, a paisley block printed tablecloth, and some bright Indian napkins mixed in with some grey linen ones. 

Because my house is rather small, I only have 4 matching chairs, so one side of the table sits on white slip covered chairs and the other side on the leather chairs from the kitchen. Women on the left, men on the right I say. The pretty candle stick is a second hand find. If I was to liken myself to a TV personality, it would be Ina Garten but with more of a hippy flair, and I think that is reflected in my oh so casual table setting.

I've added $20.00 worth of supermarket flowers all re-potted in white earthenware bowls and I made sure the chalk is out in the little silver cup so people can write their real thoughts on the blackboard that is right behind these leather chairs. I may have to erase it in the morning.

Friday, March 23, 2012

And on to the Weekend.....

I am a sucker for corner store flowers. Especially the potted bulbs. Not so fond of the plastic pots and coloured paper wraps they come in. I always yank them out and re-pot them in something a little prettier. This was my Sweet Mama's mixing bowl from when I was a kid. I remember her making steamed puddings in this. The bottom is a bit worse for wear due to her old hand cranked mixer, but the glaze on the outside is still lovely and it's simple and fresh, so I use it for planting.

I treated myself a little pot of daffs and one of crocus for $2.99 each. Once they are spent, I shall replant them in the garden and the'll re-gift me next year. I decided they look prettiest on my old dresser along with my stag horn-a gift from my sister who found it while walking. I had hidden away from the banana eating Foster Dog (you can read about his antics HERE and HERE) lest he think he had a new 4 point bone. Foster Boy has however passed muster and I am happy to say his "trial" is over and he is now officially adopted into a family who adores him with 4 cats. I anxiously await for "the Call" regarding Foster Dog 2. Perhaps this weekend. I am hosting a dinner party Saturday night so that may prove interesting. Enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Wee Gifts

I've been stockpiling wee gifts for little occasions and as thank you's for random kindnesses. I came across these cute little Scottish soaps made with luscious ingredients such as Seaweed and Oatmeal. They come in lovely little tins to re-use for odd bits. 

Add a pretty ribbon, reused from another gift and you don't even need to waste your pennies on gift wrap.

Would you pick Oatmeal or Seaweed for your wee little gift?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring Gift Tags

If you've been reading my blog for a while now, you know how much I love to buy handmade things and love to try my hand at making things myself. I particularly like to add a handmade card or tag to a gift, and so last year I tried my hand at clay gift tags. I used Crayola white clay, cookie cutters and a rubber stamp with ink. Simply roll the clay on a piece of parchment paper, cut shape with cookie cutter, imprint the clay with a rubber stamp. Make a hole for the string or ribbon and let dry. A wonderful project for children for Mother's Day or Easter.

My homemade jam with custom tag for my son's wedding.

Last year, Boy Child got married and I made the wedding favors. Tiny pots of homemade strawberry jam with a handmade clay tag. Over a hundred of each. 

Hundreds of Heart wedding tags.

The bunny is my favorite!
I was inspired yesterday with the beautiful Spring day and once again hauled out the clay and my bunny and robin stamps.I've made enough to cover Easter and Spring time birthdays.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Craigslist Woes

Shabby Chic Cabinet Pretty painted 1950's 2 piece china cabinet.Original glass doors, nicely working drawer and 2  lower cupboards. Perfect for the cottage.

I'm selling this cabinet on Craigslist and Kijiji. While I have had good luck with these 2 venues in the past, I am always amazed at the questions people ask about the items. Since Thursday last week, I've had the following enquiries.

What kind of wood is it? I can't buy it unless you know what wood it is. (It's painted wood, does it matter?)
I can't get to Oakville until March 28th, can you keep it for me. (yes if you want to pay for it now, I will keep it for you....oh you don't want to pay, but you want me to keep it)
Would it fit in my car? (I provided the dimensions, you need to measure your car)
My car is an Escort Hatchback, will that fit? (I don't know offhand the size of an Escort hatchback)
Can you deliver it to Toronto? (I can arrange delivery but you have to pay for it first)
Can I pay you when you deliver it, just so I know it's want I want first? (why would I load it in my car, drive 30KM to show it to you and risk you saying it's not what you want?)
I am looking for a dark cabinet, how much would you charge to paint it? (I'm not a furniture finisher, you paint it yourself)
We love your cabinet. Can we come and see it right now? (sure come over now) (no show)
Do the glass doors have glass? (yes, I mentioned it was a cabinet with glass doors.)
Can I buy just the top part. (I mentioned it comes apart for moving, not sold in 2 parts)
It looks pretty old. I'll give your $50. (GET STUFFED)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Dirty Jobs - Easter Egg Tasting

With Easter fast approaching with all of it's baking, duck roasting, ham glazing and egg hunting efforts looming on the horizon, I thought I would help out my faithful readers by sorting through the barrage of chocolate mini eggs on the market. Hence, this un-scientific, not blind and not very random taste testing.

I decided to enlist the Raz Man, Girl child, and of course myself in determining not only the best tasting egg, but the prettiest and the best value for money. 

I picked three brands. Hershey Eggies. Cadbury Mini Eggs. President's Choice Brand (Not Obama...a large supermarket chain brand)

Hershey Eggies...yellow dominant
First up. Hersheys Eggies. $5.99 per 400g. The candy shell was nice and crisp, thicker than the other two and the chocolate heavy and dense. Good overall taste. They lost votes on the overall appearance..not as attractive as the other brands and far too many yellows and hardly any pink or blue. I'm not one for baby talk so the name "Eggies" bugged me a bit. 

Cadbury Mini Eggs..Bright and without speckles

Next up was the Cadbury Mini Egg. $6.99 per 400g.  A long time favourite of my family's, this egg has undergone some changes in the past few years. First they changed the colors, from gentle pastels to bright pastels, and then they removed the speckles. Not so "egg like" any more. I wonder if they changed the colours in the UK too.  My online research shows them to be pale and speckled on the UK package.? A thin crisp shell and a smooth, creamy chocolate center. But they are the priciest at almost $7.00 a bag. I much preferred the Cadbury mini egg in it's pale version. Cadbury...quit messing with the eggs!

President's Choice..the cheapest

The last batch of delights were the President's Choice Brand. At $3.99 for 400g, they are a whopping $3.00 cheaper than the Cadbury and $2.00 less than Hershey. These eggs were right in the middle of the Hershey and Cadbury. More creamy than Hershey, not quite and melt in your mouth as Cadbury. Where these babies scored points is appearance. Better shape, better size, nicer colours, and above all in my opinion....they had SPECKLES.

Top Left: President's Choice Top Right: Cabury Mini Eggs. Bottom: Hershey Eggies

Cadbury-Most expensive, poor colors, good flavour, lacking speckles
Hershey-Middle priced, not enough variation in colours. lacking speckles
President's Choice-Far cheaper, good flavour, prettiest, Speckles.

And the Winner is President's Choice.

All photos were taken with Rachel Ashwell's new book "Shabby Chic Inspirations" to provide color and beauty to the background...a super book and must read for lovers of the Shabby Chic look..

Friday, March 16, 2012

Soup D'Jour

If I had to pick a person I would most like to be like in the world it would be my Granny Vyvyan Grace. If anyone deserved the name Grace it was her. She was the kindest, hard working woman , full of fun and vigor, volunteering at Dorchester Abbey well into her late 80's. I have so many fond memories of her and how she shaped my childhood growing up in England. One of those trivial memories, but one that stuck with me is her soup making days. She always cooked on an Aga, which is a wonderful device, largely unknown of here in Canada, but a welcome and cozy addition to many British homes. My granny used to turn anything left over into soup. Roast beef, peas and carrots became a Beef with barley soup. Leftover veg and potatoes became a creamy carrot and potato soup. She would never have needed a "Green" recycling bin, because she never threw food out. Living through the war and rationing taught a cook how to use what they had and every scrap of it. 

I hope I have inherited some of her soup making skills and passion for home cooking and natural ingredients. This morning I threw together a big batch of cauliflower soup. Spring seems to have arrived here, so I thought a lovely vegetarian soup would be a nice healthy lunch over the weekend. I was gifted a box of Petite Baguettes, (a perfect gift for me) that I shall serve with my creamy soup. This soup has no dairy and is 100% vegetarian. If you want vegetarian soup, be careful because often vegetable soups have chicken or beef stock. Recipe Below. Enjoy your weekend. And your soup.

Cauliflower Soup
1 large cauliflower
1 litre Vegetable stock (save the water next time you cook broccoli, carrots or other veg)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion chopped
Salt and pepper to taste.

In large pot saute the chopped onion til soft. Cut the cauliflower into florets. Saute for 10 mins in the pan with the onion. (this part adds a richer flavor). Cover with vegetable stock and 2 cups water. Boil till cauliflower is very soft. Using an immersion blender or regular one, blend till smooth. Add a bit more water if needed to reach desired thickness. Add salt and pepper to taste. I season at the end because some stock is saltier than others. Serve with a generous sprinkle of grated sharp cheddar.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Oreo Inspiration

Oreo's dipped in Belgian Chocolate made in Florida.???
Girl Child moves today. From her scruffy student digs into her new Petite Maison. A 445 square foot condo. Petite, maybe, but it has it's own washer/dryer and a bathtub, as well as a bedroom which is a bonus in the land of Toronto "studio" apartments. I shall be spending the day supervising the emerging decor, and trying NOT to make it look like me, but rather HERS.

I picked up a package of cookies to have with our afternoon tea today, knowing full well we'll be in need of a pick me up. I couldn't resist these colorful foil wrapped Oreo cookies. Dipped in Belgian chocolate but made in Florida. How Weird is that so find on the shelves in Ontario?.

Anyway, blogging beckons us to be creative doesn't it?. Blogging competition is such that we can no longer merely photograph a cookie and post it, for fear of boring our delightful readers. As such, I took heed from posts on food styling. I noticed the colorful backgrounds and in my haste to find an appropriate "SET" for the cookies, I laid them out on the first thing at hand that complemented the vivid colors of my cookies.

This beautiful book on India that I am currently reading became the perfect backdrop to showcase my cookies. And then I got carried away, posing the pretty biscuits on various pages and marveling at the color combinations. The book is called "Spirit of India" by Gill Davies. 

Ladies in Saris, tropical fish...I just couldn't stop.

Cookies amongst the Darjeeling

Orange and Lime
Thtr would have been perfect if it was a crocus plant on my table, but the withered daffodil still lends a nod to the saffron

Who knew I could have such fun shooting these exuberant cookies. It just wouldn't have been the same with a digestive!