Friday, 30 August 2013

Making a List and Checking It...

 My Dad and I were discussing Fall and comparing our notes on the "signs" of the coming season. For us, the indication of a new season has less to with turning the page of the calendar. 
 
Here is The List that proves that summer is slowly inching back behind our treed hills, while Fall waits expectantly in the long, evening shadows: 
 
Our corn, which only feels like yesterday was up to my knees has shot over my head (and then some) as is evident in the green background for today's outfit. That is our cow corn behind me, tall as can be and the cobs are showing signs that they are ready to be harvested. When Corn Time, as I call it, begins you can be guaranteed Fall is upon us.
 
Our grass fields have slowed down exponentially but promise one final cut before the first frost. August is always a dry month. 
 
The mornings are definitely chilly now and I can no longer march over to the barn in a t-shirt knowing that after lifting some milk buckets and forking hay I'll be warmed up. Now I need a sweater and as I fasten the buttons at my neck a grey film of fog has collect around the edge of the valley.
 
Canada geese are not only cutting across the sky in their organized and garrulous V's but nesting in our grass fields overnight until continuing their journey the next day.
 
There are many more subtle signs of a change in season but between making this list and checking it twice I read an email where the sender mentioned the C-word.
 
Now hold on a minute, that's four whole months away. I can't think about Christmas yet. By then the corn will be harvested, our heifers home from pasture, sparkling frost on the ground...

Modelling the earrings. No me, not the cat. Although they would look good together...
 


Photography skills with thanks to Mom.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Heads Up, Seven Up

Lucky was born awhile ago but I knew I could not pass up sharing a photo of Lucky's lucky number seven.
 
On our farm we have never seen a marking so accurate to the real thing. And fancy. Over the years we have had a handful of different spots--some resemble a heart, others take the shape of a police or fireman's badge, or a pizza slice.
 
Then there are the calves that have more of a white face and spots around their eyes that make it appear like they wear eyeliner, or wore eyeliner and then had a good cry (and it wasn't water proof).
 
Some have eyelashes that are the opposite colour, others nearly have the same markings (but never exact) to another cow in the barn. Some noses are black, some peachy pink, and others speckled.
 
Hopefully, my above explanation helps justify how, when farmers are looking out on a herd of their Holsteins you'll hear them refer to a specific cow as "you know, the more white one," or "she is next to that black one." Sure, from afar they all are black and white, but some are more so, some are less so and some, like Lucky, are undeniably identifiable.
 
Wishing you good luck for the coming week!

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Bad Enough to Make Me Stew


The dishwasher has been broken for only a few days, but these few days have required dusting off the dish drying rack and rummaging under the sink for the drain plug.
 
Let the hand washing begin!
 
I've hand washed dishes before so the idea itself is nothing new but, while scrubbing away at some stubborn stain I could not help but gaze longingly at our down and out dishwasher. I may have even been caught mouthing "I miss you" once or twice. How embarrassing.
 
The facts of this current cleaning situation is that we are still going to be cooking/eating so the counter will always be occupied with a new set of need-to-wash dishes. How can to handle this then? Use fewer dishes! (Ironically something the parents have always tried to make a point of, but it never stuck until the spaghetti sauce obstinately did on the rim of a pot).
 
The new kitchen rules are: rinse that cup and use it a second time. Only had toast on this plate? Of course it can be used for something else. My biggest challenge is when I'm cooking. The plates and spoons and whisks pile up like dirty snow drifts and by the time I finally notice this unwashed mound its big enough to make even the toughest scrub brush tremble.
 
This is why this recipe, a stew to be exact, was timely. A well-rounded, delicious meal (I made it for lunch) and done in a SINGLE POT. Hurrah! Admittedly, the fact that the stew is a one dish deal ranked number one and its deliciousness (which it was, although a tad on the salty side) came in at number two. And that's a rarity.
 
Here is the recipe, try it out and I wish you simmering success (but I hope for your sake your dishwasher is in proper working order).


Country Style Oven Beef Stew

Prep. Time: 20 Minutes Cooking: 2 hours, 15 minutes (worth the wait!) Yields: 6 Servings

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 Tsp Corn Starch
  • 2 Tsp salt
  • 1/4 Tsp Pepper
  • 1/2 Tsp Paprika
  • 1 1/2 pounds (675 grams) lean stewing beef, cubed
  • 3 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
  • 1 1/2 Cups Carrots, diced
  • 5 Small Potatoes, diced
  • 4 Small Onions, diced
  • 1 Can Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • 1 Pouch Dry Onion Soup Mix
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1/2-1 Tsp Liquid Gravy Browning
  • 1 3/4 Cups Milk  

Instructions:

  1. Combine starch, salt, pepper, paprika and dust meat cubes in mixture.
  2. Toss meat cubes with oil in an oven proof bowl. Bake uncovered in a preheated 450'F oven for thirty minutes. Stir once.
  3. After 30 minutes add diced carrots, potatoes and onions to meat.
  4. In a separate bowl combine any left over corn starch mixture, mushroom soup, onion soup mix, Worcestershire sauce and gravy browning. Gradually stir in milk. Pour over meat and vegetables in pan. Reduce oven temperature to 350'F.
  5. Bake uncovered for one hour.
  6. Remove lid and stir to combine meat, vegetables and sauce. Return to oven and continue to bake for 45 minutes or until meat and vegetables are tender.

Recipe Courtesy of Dairy Goodness. Need ideas for dessert? Try these delightful Razzle-Dazzle Berry Bars.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

The Rocky Mountain Picture Show



Banff, our road trip destination, is a tourist village nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. It is everything you would hope to experience in a touristy place: cute buildings, stores, plenty of places to eat and drink, soaring and sweeping natural vistas. It also has the flip side to any travelling hot spot: plenty of gawking tourists (us included), teeming restaurants and sidewalks and not many budget friendly prices to be found.
 
 
However, our wallets were not hit too hard because we got to see the best of Banff with the best. Our friend Becca, a Banffite for four months, took us around to all the sights and, working at a museum during her stay, was wonderfully knowledgeable. In other words we had a museum interpreter at our side for a full two days.
 
It's okay, I would be jealous too.
 
We walked the regal lobby and marble staircases of the Banff Springs Hotel, but was able to crash at her place for the price of washing dishes. The staff at the Banff Spring seemed friendly enough, but I don't know where else you could swing a deal like that.
 
 
We went on the obligatory hike (Banff is all about being outdoorsy) and found ourselves winding closer to the Rockies then we could have ever hoped. I got a little tongue tied and short of breath (although the latter may have been because of the physical hiking).
 
Wednesday morning Becca had work, and we had our own jobs to get back too so we parted with hugs and promised "see you soon." She comes back home at the end of this month.
 
As we drove up and out of Banff, our jaws dropped once again at the sight of the Rockies and we took another round of pictures. We were as bad as pesky paparazzi but the Rocky Mountains appear to be use to this by now. They didn't even blink.

Actually, come to think of it, their features were a little stony...
 

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Refusing to be Hoodwinked

Last night I opened the hood on my Jeep and surveyed the rather sooty scene. In one hand I held the checklist my brother had written up for me (check: coolant, windshield washer fluid, transmission fluid, engine oil...) and then the driver's manual saying where the above actually was.
 
Before this, an engine was an engine and that's all I really knew. What was in the engine was another matter all together. The closest contact I've ever had with the motor is a frequent "Keep Up the Good Work" hood pat but unfortunately I have been told that if something really goes wrong a little more effort is required.
 
Darn.  
 
Leaning over the motor, paper towels wadded up in my pockets, muttering "radiator, radiator, where is the radiator" to myself I felt like a moonlighting mechanic. I even had a pen clipped in my pocket to seem extra professional. My hands got a respectable amount of soot and oil on them to look like I knew what I was doing because I was actually doing, thank-you-very-much.
 
Much of the Jeep's engine has been thoughtfully labelled so after some scrubbing the major parts were identified. There was some dip stick swiping, cap twisting and general inspecting and what I have determined is that my coolant needs a fill-up but otherwise everything else is tip-top and ready to run.
 
That was the check-up. The check-in will be with my friend living in Banff.
 
Let the road tripping begin!

How I felt when looking into the engine for the first time.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Change is in the Wind

 
 
After one friend went off to Banff for the summer (and is returning in three weeks), I have another friend leaving in three weeks with her husband and is becoming a permanent resident of Ontario.
 
Her moving has spurred a little reminiscing on my part so here is a short little story about how we came to be friends:
 
I had always wanted to work in retail (the idea of racks and racks of clothes makes me swoon) and the idea itself seemed perfect...until the day before when I dropped by the store to get my employee package. 
 
I believe it is called getting cold feet. They went from numb to frost bitten in the mere thirty seconds it took me to walk across the length of the store.
 
I became hyper-aware of the need to make sales, of ringing in a transaction (that cash register proved to be an endless battle for me) and that you cannot fold a sweater any which way.
 
These may be small fears but that day they were seemingly ginormous and I was beginning to doubt if I, a farm girl, could really do this. On the farm I am learning new things daily, but I have also been doing some of the same things for the past fifteen years. This was all new. Like being in a foreign country with the wrong phrase book, or no book at all.
 
As I stood at the desk wondering if it wouldn't be too late to cordially tell my manager "thanks but no thanks, I'm not really cut out for this retail thing", there was a sales associate finishing a sale and looking all professional in her work attire. Looking the part, I realized was also something few can do when in a foreign country. I gulped and prepared to run but halted when she came over and said with genuine, warm enthusiasm (and a shy 'raise the roof' hand pump):
 
"So, you're from a farm too?"
 
A wave of relief! She was also from a farm and worked in retail. It can be done! However, on my first day things went from good to great as we discovered that we only lived fifteen minutes from each other. We inevitably became close friends.
 
That is my happy ending to my friendship story.
 
My friend and her husband are travelling across the country by the end of August but this isn't an end, but a happy, new beginning for them. Their next chapter. And Ontario is going to be two, wonderful people richer come September. That also deserves a 'raise the roof.'

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Hallelujah, Hats!


Unbeknownst to readers of this blog (due to a general lack of photographic evidence), I am a hat lover.


A millinery maven.
 
 
My collection isn't large, twelve wearable hats in total, but never decreases in size, let's put it that way.
 
After what was recorded as the sunniest July in our local history the beginning of August took that rather coolly, literally. Our first few days were welcomed cloud cover, and yesterday our first full day of rain in a loonngg time. A few puddles formed, the surface of the ground was wet (even though the layers underneath remained as dry and dusty as a desert). 

This delightful drizzle meant that I could bolster my summer wardrobe. Yesterday was the perfect reason to change out of my summer uniform of shorts, sandals and light, cotton tops into something a little bolder: pants, boots, a sweater, summer scarf and hat!
 
Hallelujah!
 
I do have summer hats, eight out of the twelve to be exact, but sometimes I find hats a little too hot to be wearing in temperatures twenty five and above. This cool start to August meant I could dust off my felt Trilby which is one of my favourites; I like how it sits, but the brim is wide enough to keep rain off the glasses (also unbeknownst to readers of this blog getting rain on my glasses is a pet peeve of mine...although I know there are worse things out there).
 
So, hats off to a lovely August. The cool and sunny days alike!



Trilby: Urban Planet
Scarf: Ten Thousand Villages
Sweater: Thrifted (see an outfit remix here)
Jeans: Levi
Boots: The Shoe Warehouse
Shoulder Bag: Billabong