On the shelf: Cookbooks (in general)

November 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

Photo by theladymargaret

I don’t know about you, but when I buy cookbooks, I buy them based on 2 main criteria:

  1. The pictures are pretty.
  2. The recipes sound delicious.

The problem with this is the fact that I prefer to live below my means, where I have a meagre budget to spend on food every week. That being said, the above criteria usually means splurging on expensive AND fresh ingredients. The result is usually delicious, but I end up feeling guilty and go back to living off of spaghetti and canned soup to make me feel better. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t live off of instant meals all the time, but for the days where you just don’t feel like cooking, they are pretty handy…

So I have yet to purchase a cookbook that suits me and my needs. I’m a very visual person, and I like to see what things should look like in the end, so if a cookbook doesn’t have pictures, it’s automatically a write off on my list.

A couple of months after I moved out on my own, my mom bought me one of those “First Time Cooks” cookbooks (which she also happened to buy for my older brother when he moved to Calgary). I flipped through it, but there weren’t any pictures!

And so it sits neatly on my shelf, looking brand new. *sigh*

I’m sure the book has loads of potential, and most of the information and advice is very practical, but all I want is a little something to look at to get my imagination going.

You can describe food all you want, but a picture is worth a thousand tastebuds.

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Cast On: Port Alice Scarf

November 24, 2010 § Leave a comment

A couple of weeks ago, I made my way over to one of the local yarn stores (LYS) I frequent. I was a bit annoyed because I had started this project a while back with a different yarn that was too thick. As a result, it was frogged.

Desperate to make this scarf, I went on a hunt for the perfect yarn. It took over an hour, but I finally picked up 5 skeins of Louisa Harding Willow Tweed in Slate. It’s a blend of alpaca, merino wool, and silk, making it sooooooooooo soft.

SO SOFT. And gorj. When I saw this on the shelf, I immediately thought that it looked like the yarn had been outside during a snowfall.

It says it’s a DK yarn, but it definitely knits up as fingering/sport, and is therefore perfect for this scarf.

I can’t wait to finish this! I’m about 25% done…hoping to finish this in time for Christmas!

A Country Snow-down!

November 24, 2010 § Leave a comment

Well, I got my wish.

And I probably should have thought twice about it.

This past weekend, I trekked out to The Farm for a surprise bridal shower for my future sis-in-law (unofficially). It had snowed a bit, but most of it had either melted, or turned brown/gray/gross, so I didn’t consider it snow. Trav had left earlier that morning to go hunting (again), and left me behind because I’m not a morning person. I eventually got up around 11am and ran some quick errands before heading out west.

When I got there, I was relieved to see that the kittens were still there. The Farm Cat had given birth to five kittens a few weeks earlier in the combine. Unfortunately, one of the kittens didn’t make it after it was dropped accidentally while being transported from the combine to the house. Still, the four remaining kittens are a handful! It’s just so much fun to see all their personalities come out!

The kittens just melted my heart. I always thought of myself as a dog person, but I’ve been somewhat converted after holding the little balls of fur and claws. And boy, do they have claws! I accidentally trained them to climb up my legs, so I have to warn people now about being a “personal jungle gym”. Whoops…

By the time Travis got back, Pickles (my fave kitten) had fallen asleep in my arms after playing “chase the ball of yarn and eat the knot at the end”. It was the cutest thing ever, but I didn’t have my camera on me at the time. Big regrets now. 😦

The evening flew by quickly as we tried to distract the bride-to-be from anything that might give the surprise away! And we succeeded…but barely. There were so many things that could have BLOWN IT for us (ex. secret looks, nervous laughs, a flurry of shadows, heads poking up behind windows, lots of loud “SHH”ing), but we got lucky. SO LUCKY. Fortunately for me, I now know what to look for when it’s my turn…which will be soon, hopefully. After 4 years, 2 months, and 18 days (not like I’m keeping track or anything), I’m getting a wee bit impatient.  Haha. Ahh…

The shower was a great time to catch up with everyone, play some hilarious bridal shower games, and shop (!!!) for Epicure products! Unfortunately, I didn’t buy anything because I got caught up in conversations and eating food (as usual), but there were so many things I wanted to buy/eat that I’m pretty sure Trav was relieved that I didn’t bring my cheque book. He gets riled up by my yarn expenses as it is.

My original plan was to leave the shower early in order to make it back to the city at a decent hour, but with all the food around, and all the laughs that needed to be shared, we didn’t get back to The Farm until 10pm. So I stayed the night, and woke up to a peaceful country snow fall.

Again, big regrets that I didn’t have my camera with me. It was beautiful.

On the other hand, it also gave me some trouble. Trav had left earlier that morning to do some more hunting, while I attempted to leave for the city at 8:30am, only to get stuck in the driveway. Twice. Trav’s parents helped push me out, and by the time I got out of the drive way, down the road, and onto the main highway, I realized that this was going to be a lot riskier than I thought. None of the lanes had been cleared, and it was only at the intersection of the Trans Canada Highway where I finally saw a snow plow, going in the opposite direction I was heading.

The first chance I got, I made a U-turn and went back to The Farm. It was probably one of the better decisions I’ve made in this lifetime.

So I got snowed in, for the first time ever! Even when we were kids, and got 5ft of snow, we never got a Snow Day. We still had to walk to school (no, it wasn’t 6 million miles away, but it sure felt like it at times).

Trav and I did end up making it back to the city that night. By then, the roads had been cleared, and there was less chaos in the city.

But, to tell you the truth, I would’ve rather been snowed in at The Farm.

City Girl meets Country Mayhem: Part 2- “Oh Deer”

November 18, 2010 § 2 Comments

The following is kind of graphic. Reader discretion is advised.

Instead of taking a nap like I had wanted (and needed), Trav suggested we sit in his dad’s pasture for a while and wait for the deer to come to us. It sounded like an okay plan, considering I was pretty much through pushing bush for the rest of the day.

We packed up our gear in the half ton, and drove to the pasture, about half an hour away. As we drove by field after field, I looked out the window and saw that the snow hadn’t really melted at all since the morning…and was glad I was wearing snow pants this time.

When we got there, I was instructed to be extremely quiet in case there were deer in the area. I honestly didn’t see the point, because the swishing of my snow pants would alert them long before we’d even see them dashing into the nearest bush. But, not wanting to upset Trav (who had a very intense look on his face), I didn’t say a word. We walked as quietly and as quickly as we could through the weeds/flax to The Bluff, a section of the field that was elevated. Strategically, it was the best place to be. Trav showed me where to sit, and then walked a few yards to his post. To be honest, I was extremely nervous, so I was glad that he was close by…

Now let’s talk about my gun for a moment. The gun, which belongs to Trav’s dad, was a .243 caliber rifle. The night before, Trav instructed me on all the important aspects of the gun, such as the safety mechanism, trigger, receiver, and inserting and removing the cartridge. It wasn’t the first rifle I’ve shot, but I was still nervous about using it.

That’s enough about the gun, I think.

Anyway, I was still nervous about using the gun, so even though I had inserted the cartridge (which holds the bullets), I didn’t load a bullet into the chamber. So I left it, sitting on my lap, while I dozed off.

When I woke up, I felt pretty good…until I looked to my left.

There, about 50 feet away, I saw two deer hidden in the weeds. Not wanting to make any sudden moves, I slowly looked at Trav, who was looking in the opposite direction. I wasn’t sure how to get his attention…so I did the only thing I could think of…

chk-chk.

The deer stopped munching and looked directly at me. I froze for a few seconds, my heart pumping at a ga-jillion miles per minute, until they went back to eating. When I looked at Trav again, he had slowly turned his head and looked at me, then saw the deer. He looked back at me, and mouthed, “Shoot it!”

I mouthed back, “No.”

He looked at me sternly, then mouthed a little louder, “SHOOT IT.”

Giving him the most annoyed look ever, I mouthed,”NO. MY GUN ISN’T LOADED,” which was a total lie because I  loaded it a few seconds before. I just didn’t want to take the first shot.

I could see him roll his eyes before slowly lifting  his rifled to shoot.

I turned my head towards the deer, hoping the shot wouldn’t be too loud when…

BOOOOOM!!!

My ears ringing, head dizzy from the blast, I looked up and saw one of the calves drop. The other had skittered off somewhere. As I turned my head to see if it had run off, I saw something move in the corner of my eye. The inexperienced calf had stopped running behind me, trying to figure out where that loud sound came from. I knew this was my only chance, but to take the shot, I had to twist my body around so I could aim behind me. It was uncomfortable, but I didn’t notice. I had the calf in my sight, aiming right behind the shoulder, just like Trav told me. Before I knew it, I had pulled the trigger.

BOOOOOM!!!

A seering pain shot through my nose, and my eyes started to water. I quickly unloaded my gun and held my nose as it throbbed from pain. I saw Trav get up, swear, then take off running in the direction I shot. I thought I must’ve missed it, because I heard two more gun shots…

BOOOOOM!!!

BOOOOOM!!!

Then silence.

Trav walked over, gagging, and then knelt in front of me, his eyes bright, his eyebrows raised…

“You shot it, honey!!! You shot your first deer!!! …wait, why are you crying? It wasn’t so bad…”

I moved my hands away from my nose.

“Oh. Oh no, honey…”

Oh yes…my nose was gushing blood. FANTASTIC.

I must’ve gotten smoked in the face by the scope, which made sense, since I wasn’t paying attention to how I was aiming. Like a first kiss, my nose got in the way. Unlike a first kiss, my nose was bleeding. Grabbing the snow around me, I stuffed it around and in my nose, trying to stop the bleeding. Eventually, it stopped, but I was shaking like a leaf.

Trav hugged me and said he was so proud of me (uhh, hello? I think I broke my nose). I asked if it was dead, and he said yes. I must’ve shot it in the “poop sack” (his words), because all the guts had spilled out, hence the gagging from before (he doesn’t handle bad smells very well). Unfortunately, it wasn’t the kill shot I was hoping for, so he had to finish it off for me before the calf could get up again and run. I didn’t mind.

That morning, I told Trav that if I was going to shoot a deer, I wasn’t going to miss. And I didn’t.

City Girl meets Country Mayhem: Part 1 – “Like a Man.”

November 17, 2010 § Leave a comment

This past weekend, I went hunting for the first time with my boyfriend (Travis) and his family. They have a farm out west, and a nice parcel of land a few miles away. Some neighbours were also kind enough to let us hunt on their land.

Hunting is definitely not for the faint of heart…and surprisingly, as a born and bred city girl, I wasn’t too bothered by it. It was hard work…much harder than I had anticipated, and sometimes, I felt like saying, “Y’know guys…I think I’m just going to sit this one out for today.”

I said it once, and missed out.

The first day we went out, I was ill prepared. I had nothing on except an orange toque, a pair of jeans, my steel toe boots, a sweatshirt, and an orange vest. Trav looked at me and said, “I think you’re going to need a little more than that.” I replied (dumbly), “No no, honey…I’ll be fine.”

Of course, the very first thing I was asked to do was what seasoned hunters would call “push bush”. Yes yes, I giggled too…but in all seriousness, the term is literal. I literally battled it out with twigs, logs, tree branches…I can’t even describe the mayhem! The worst part was losing the regulation orange toque to a branch, turning around to retrieve it, only to get slapped in the face by another branch. And the fact that it had snowed the night before, soaking everything in sight, made it that much more painful.

So with a bit of instruction as to what direction I was to walk in (very important for someone who gets disoriented as often as I do), I was left to my own devices in front of a barb wire fence.

Let’s get one thing straight…I despise barb wire fences. DESPISE them. When I have to cross over/under/through one, I fear for my life. I honestly don’t know how cows and deer get through them (in my grandpa’s words, “Deer and cow…dey get through no probrem.”) Usually, if I encounter one, someone is usually there to lend a hand (and a foot), gently guiding me through. On this particular morning, the fence was in the way, and no one was around to coax me through it. Already behind The Men, and feeling frustrated with my stupid fear, I thought I would just step on the wire and hop over.

No dice. I didn’t have enough poundage to weigh it down. So I did the only thing I could do…I went through it.

I placed the gun gently on the ground on the other side, stepped on the bottom wire, and with all my strength, pushed the top 2 wires as high as I could, and stumbled through. I was alive. It was a miracle.

Barb wire fences were “no probrem” after that!

From there, I carried on, battling tree branch after tree branch, rotting log after rotting log…I was working up quite the sweat, and didn’t realize that my jeans were completely soaked from the melting snow. EVERYTHING was wet, and therefore dirty and muddy. But I didn’t care, because I had to catch up with The Men.

Once in a while, Trav’s dad would call out to make sure I was still alive okay. I was falling behind a bit, due to my womanliness (Trav told me that I was supposed to plow through everything, and break whatever got in my way…like a man). Frustrated, I started to charge through, gun in hand, when SNAP! I got whipped in the face by a branch!

“OW.”

Furious, I broke more things, crunching, snapping, swearing, and finally made it out of the bush. Alive. Trav met up with me after and said he thought he heard someone crashing through the bush…he figured I must’ve fallen over a log or something. Nice.

When we were all out, we re-convened and discussed what had happened. While in the bush, we had seen 3 deer that we tried to chase out, but the people posting (i.e. not pushing bush) didn’t see anything come out.

We tried again, in another field. This time, I got to sit down and wait for the deer to come out. No less than 15 minutes had passed when two deer, a doe and her calf, flew out of the bush. My heart started pumping when I heard Trav’s dad take the first shot, then the second. They ran across the road, unharmed, disappearing into the shelterbelt.

I was a little relieved, but more excited than anything. The first shots of the day!

By the time we got home, we were starved. Luckily, there were leftover sloppy joes waiting in the crock pot. After a long, hard early afternoon, I was ready for a nap. But alas, there was more hunting to be done…

Stay tuned for Part 2: “Oh Deer.” (Please…don’t tell me you weren’t expecting that one…)

The secret is in the broth…

November 17, 2010 § Leave a comment

This might be the Asian in me talking, but…

I honestly think there’s nothing better than having a warm bowl of wontons on a cold, wintery day.

Eaten with a fork, no less.

There is something instantly gratifying about plunging your fork into a juicy dumpling, biting it in half, and savouring the flavours until you can’t stop yourself from taking another bite.

I found that the key to an amazing bowl of wonton soup is the chicken broth. Unfortunately, I’m too lazy to make my own, and have been relying on a canned “Chinese” chicken broth. It’s definitely not your typical chicken broth that you can pick up in the soup aisle at your local grocery store…I mean…it’s got a chunk of chicken fat floating in the can of broth! It MUST be the real thing! Nothing really compares. It’s a bit on the salty side, so I usually dilute it with a cup of water, and to cut the slightly harsh flavour, I chop up some green onions and add it to the boiling broth.

SO GOOD. It’s almost magic.

Please let it snow!!!

November 4, 2010 § Leave a comment

photograph by fraley_tera

With Christmas just around the corner, I find myself thinking about what to put on my Christmas list.

How do I tell people that all I want is yarn? It makes for an awkward conversation…

“So what do you want for Christmas?”

“Yarn.”

“…okay…what else?”

“Just yarn.”

“…”

Awesome.

Maybe I should just be more normal, and ask for say…a Kindle™. 😐 I figure it will just take away from valuable knitting time.

In all honesty, I’m just excited to finally get my own Christmas tree! Sure, it’ll be small, but it will be so darn cute!

I just need it to snow…please please snow!

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