A Family Sunday

On Saturday morning, we found Candy Cane hiding under the chair in Thing 1’s room, riding a LEGO scooter, playing with the a Vaporeon and a Playmobil pegasus:

And Sunday morning we found her hanging around in the kitchen with Chimpy:

I spent most of that day with my little family decorating the house for Christmas. As of now we’re still not done, but that’s to be expected as we do Christmas almost as big as we do Halloween around here.

Of course, we had to take a break for dinner, which was roll-your-own sushi again at the kids’ request. Since this is a pretty healthy meal, I don’t mind indulging them.

Their rolling skills are getting better, but their knife skills could use a bit of work. Part of their difficulty was the knives we used, though, which could definitely use a sharpening.

One thing we did manage to finish was decorating the tree, which is a real one in our house so it doesn’t stay up all that long. We find three weeks (two weeks before Christmas and one week after) is about as long as the needles will stay on. I know that the kids would be more than happy to have it up in November otherwise, although I’m pretty sure my husband would object.

The addition of the tree and its decorations are, I think, the inspiration for the stuffed Christmas bear to tie Candy Cane to the tracks this morning. Although I do remember learning somewhere that there is actually no damsel-in-distress-tied-to-the-tracks scene in any old movie other than parodies; maybe I saw that on QI? At any rate, the elf is safe enough considering that the train has no batteries. Her predicament didn’t seem to bother the children at all.

Pierogies

We ate a lot of pierogies when I was growing up, not because I am of Central or Eastern European heritage, or at least not recently enough that we have any record of it. Rather, frozen pierogies from the grocery store were cheap, easy, filling, and tasty, and hence made a good family meal.

Last night I boiled up some frozen potato-and-onion pierogies, then I fried them lightly in bacon fat and topped them with freshly chopped bacon bits and fried onion. I served them with (lactose-free) sour cream.

When my kids asked what was for dinner and had no idea what a pierogi is, I realized how long it has been since I had made this dinner for the family. I guess I was just trying to keep the food fresh, or at least homemade. Given the warm reception that this dish received and the speed with which the kids gobbled them down, I think I’ll have to make them again sometime soon.

However, what I’d really like to do is make them myself, perhaps in a large batch to freeze for future use. Homemade pierogies have always been on my list of things to learn how to make, ever since a friend of mine’s mother served me fresh ones at a sleepover when I was a child. They are so good. I guess I have been intimidated by the way that every family seems to have a secret recipe that they proclaim to be the best, and that only proper grandmothers have the real trick of it. My husband’s maternal grandmother was Polish and promised to teach me all kinds of dishes, but she sadly passed away many years ago, before she could teach me — or my children, who had not yet been born. I think I may just have to find friends with the appropriate heritage and beg them for instruction. We could make a day out of it! And once I have got it down, I could pass it on to my children. After all, even though pierogies are not technically a part of my heritage, they are definitely a part of theirs, and it’s very important to have connections to your culinary roots.

Spicy Green Tomato Chutney

I spent most of yesterday evening and well into the night putting up the last of the green tomatoes — not only my own, but a whole bunch of them from a friend’s garden as well. Sadly, I waited a bit too long and some of them had spoiled, but I did have a satisfactory result nonetheless.

That’s twenty 250mL jars of spicy Green Tomato Chutney, the recipe for which can be found on page 208 of The Canadian Living Complete Preserving Book (2012). I’ve made a few versions of this chutney over the years (I believe I have at least four versions in different cookbooks on my shelf, let alone the ones that can be found online), but this is by far my favourite. I was really happy with how it turned out this year! I made it a little hotter than usual by including the jalapeno seeds, but otherwise I kept the recipe the same. I labeled mine as “spicy” this year, and it does have some heat, but given that chutney originates in India, it’s not the spiciest one out there by far. To me, it’s just spicy enough to pack a nice punch.

Chutney is supposed to be savoury and sweet and spicy all at the same time. Preserving says this version is especially good with eggs in the morning, but I would say that it is great on a sandwich or grilled cheese or burger, with cold cheese, with most meats, with roast potatoes or other veggies, as a dip or a glaze… Basically, if you want to take the flavour of anything savoury up a notch, chutney is perfect. And now I have five liters of it, some of which will stay in my pantry, and some of which will become Christmas gifts.

Pumpkin-centric Weekend

It seems like I spent the majority of my time over this past weekend dealing with pumpkins. On Friday night I cooked up all three of my orange jack-o-lanterns (I had two white ones as well, but they had white flesh and a melon-like consistency, so I decided they probably wouldn’t cook up well with the more traditional kind). Even without the white pumpkins, I think I will have enough to last me for a while.

This is all going into the freezer for now, but a good quantity of it will become pumpkin butter as soon as I deal with the other fresh food in my fridge that I have to put up. I did a lot better this year with regards to processing my pumpkin in a timely manner, since I only got to it at the start of December. I mean, it hadn’t spoiled, but I was definitely running slow. I didn’t have a lot of leeway this year since the gourds were already carved, and once the innards are exposed to the air they can go bad pretty quickly.


Photo by Karen Turnbull

Then on Saturday I headed out to Metcalfe where the South Tower Armouring Guild was hosting their annual Great Pumpkin Massacre. Basically, sword handling enthusiasts get together with their weapons and take turns using them on pumpkins, which are bought by the truckload after Halloween. People also bring along their Halloween pumpkins and carved jack-o-lanterns. All kinds of weapons are used in the “massacre”: swords, axes, knives, maces, sledgehammers, machetes… No projectile weapons, though! Everybody just hangs out and has fun practicing their technique and/or venting their frustrations in a safe environment on some inanimate gourds. It may sound silly to some, but it’s a heck of a lot of fun.

Looking back through my photos I realized that I’ve actually been attending this event for eleven years! The above photo was taken by a good friend of mine back in 2009, on a year when the weather was much nicer. I didn’t even bring my camera this year because it was raining and I didn’t want to chance getting it wet. (And yes, the sword I’m holding in the picture is taller than I am. It belongs to a much taller person. Yes, I can wield it. No, I cannot wield it well.)

Although I took the above photo of a friend of mine in 2014, it’s a better representation of the weather we had yesterday — and everyone was even more bundled up than this! And muddy. Very, very muddy. It was very cold and wet, with wind that just drove the moist, cold air right through your warm woollies. We still had a good time, but it would have been better if the weather had been lovely and sunny like it was on Sunday.

Pumpkin Massacre 2018 Slo-Mo

As you can see, despite the weather the pumpkin horde met their demise. I think that this year’s weapon of choice was the sledgehammer, specifically because it makes the pumpkins splat so nicely.

I’d like to say a big thank you to STAG for hosting and coordinating this event every year. It has been one of the highlights of my autumn for eleven years now.

Evans/Ellis Cemetery

Today I’m continuing with the interesting places I visited on my recent trip to the States, because heaven knows I won’t be cooking right now with this nasty cold knocking me off my feet. One of my favourite spots was the Evans/Ellis cemetery in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

It’s a tiny little family cemetery, with only seven permanent residents and one gravestone (although there used to be two). What makes the graveyard notable isn’t its occupants, although there were (untrue) rumours at one time that the story of Mary Ellis, whose name is first on the remaining headstone, was the inspiration for the 1972 pop song “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)”. No, what is most notable about this graveyard is its unusual location.

This tiny little graveyard is right in the middle of the rear parking lot for an AMC movie theater!

In the other direction, it overlooks a construction site.

This little cemetery originally was on Mary Ellis’ private farmland, as so many old family plots used to be. As you can see in the historical photographs from Weird N.J., it was originally on a small hill, surrounded by a wrought iron fence and had two headstones. However, the land was sold to developers in the 1960’s; since it is conveniently located next to US Highway 1, it is prime commercial real estate. The ground around the plot was leveled to make for better parking for the Great Eastern Department Store, which eventually closed and became the Route 1 Flea Market. Then, once the land was sold again, the developers again declined to move the graves, instead choosing to bring the surrounding ground down even further. They built a rather attractive eight-foot retaining wall around the site, and now the graves overlook quite a stretch of pavement.

Unfortunately, despite the obvious evidence of visitors to the grave in the form of a rough path beaten down in the undergrowth and pebbles on top of the headstone, the Evans/Ellis cemetery is sadly neglected. If I’d had more time in the area, I might have headed out to the local hardware store to grab some gardening gloves and yard waste bags so as to rescue the plot from some very aggressive vines. If I’m ever back in town, I think I will do just that.

613flea Saturday September 22nd

Tomorrow is another 613flea, and I’m happy to say that I will be there! I will be in my usual spot, one row away from the north door. And I’ve got all kinds of “new” goodies to share! (“New” in quotations because, well, they’re new to my collection, but since I specialize in vintage housewares, they’re not really new per se.)

As usual, I couldn’t decide between promotional images, but I did narrow it down to two. Which do you prefer?

Apparently there are multiple events happening at Lansdowne Park tomorrow — an Ottawa Redblacks vs. Edmonton Eskimos football game starting at 4:00, Green Energy Doors Open in the Horticulture Building, as well as all of the shops and restaurants in the area. So come in to browse, or just pop by on your way to another event. I’ll be there all day!

613flea Saturday August 25th

I’m happy to announce that I’ll be participating at 613flea tomorrow! It’s such a great market, with so many fantastic vendors and a really great atmostphere. The floor plans were released yesterday, so now I can let you know exactly where to find me:

It’s supposed to be a lovely day weather-wise, sunny with cloudy periods and hovering around the mid-twenties, so it’ll be a great day to get out of the houseand pop in for a browse. I’m really looking forward to it.

As with last time, the event organizers are running a contest for vendors to design the best social media post. I must have taken fifty pictures of different setups of my wares, but in the end I thought that the notebook list was a better summary of the back-to-school vibe of a late August market. Even though I finally had a photo I was happy with, I couldn’t choose between Version 1, which shows the whole page…

And Version 2, which is cropped closer. I like the look of the page-long list, but I think it may have too much tiny text for people reading on their smartphones (which is how most of us consume our social media). But I’m not sure that Version 2 is quite as dynamic — although it seems more clear. To be honest, I spend an awful lot of time setting up and editing the photos for this blog, and I’m often still unsatisfied with the final result — even for quick snaps! For this one, I think I re-wrote the list five times before I was happy with it.

So I’ll throw it out there and ask, which one do you prefer?