no pink and green nursery for #2

Here's the note I just sent to a friend, with our very exciting news of the day:

I went to an appointment with Dr. H this afternoon (because of the previous c-section, to discuss birthing options and such), and after measuring and weighing me, he said "I have a surprise for you." He opened the door, pulled in a portable ultrasound, and I got to see the baby! It was lovely. The wee one didn't stop moving, and of course, looked perfect in every blurry and black-and-white way. Then the Dr. asked "What is your child that you have at home?" "A boy," I said. "Well, you're going to have another one!" And I clearly saw his bits, so I'm confident that there won't be much pink around here anytime soon. :) Yay!

Speaking of boys, here's a smart one:

No kidding, he loves letters and their sounds and finding out what everything spells. It's fantastic. And makes for lots of entertainment when we're out and about.


recipe-a-week #34: herb-cheese palmiers and the 1000th post winners!

Yipee, it's time to announce the winners! Random.org chose comments 1 and 13 to be the soap giveaway winners, so congratulations to Amber and Lauren! I don't think I have either of your addresses, so please e-mail them to me at birchbarksoap [at] gmail [dot] com, along with your preferences for soap types, which I will do my best to accommodate. If I have your addresses before noon tomorrow, your beautifully fragrant wonder packages will be sent out in tomorrow's mail, and if not, it will be next Monday before they'll be sent off as I'm going away for work for the rest of the week. I hope that you enjoy them!

And here is a super-easy, delicious recipe which I took to our civilized ladies' get-together on Friday (where we primarily discussed killing rodents and giving birth). It was a lovely and relaxing time. The recipe is from the current issue of Everyday Food. (There's no 'after' picture, and these were gone in no time. Sorry about that.)

Herb-cheese Palmiers

1. Preheat oven to 375, with racks in upper and lower thirds. On a lightly floured surface, roll out 1 sheet of thawed puff pastry to a 10"x16" rectangle. Brush with 1 tbsp olive oil, and sprinkle with 1/4 cup extra-sharp cheddar, 3 tbsp grated parmesan, 3 tbsp chopped fresh herbs (such as thyme, sage, and oregano) and 1/4 tsp coarse salt. Fold dough lengthwise into thirds (like a letter), then fold in half. Refrigerate until slightly firm, about 10 minutes. Cut dough crosswise into 1/4 inch thick slices. (*I used fresh grated parmesan, fresh chives, and dried thyme. I think they would have been better had I used some cheddar as well.)

2. Place slices on 2 large baking sheets. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. (To store, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 1 day.) In a bowl, combine 1 large egg yolk and 1/2 tsp water. Brush tops of palmiers with egg wash. Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes (mine took just under 20), rotating sheets halfway through. Yum!


recipe-a-week #33: cranberry lemon muffins and what I would love in my kitchen

I had fun taking some pictures of these delicious muffins, the recipe for which I got from my mother-in-law, who also happens to be here for a visit. A great was to use up some cranberries at this time of year! Like most muffins, these are definitely best right out of the oven and warm; if you make them the night before and save the glaze for the next day, that would be okay, too. If the glaze sits on them, though, it kind of melts and makes a sticky mess.

Cranberry Lemon Muffins

2 1/2 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 egg
1 1/4 cups milk
1/3 cup oil
1/3 cup honey
2 tsp grated lemon rind
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries

2/3 cup icing sugar
1 tsp grated lemon rind
3-4 tsp lemon juice

Combine first four dry ingredients./ Combine egg, milk, oil, honey, and lemon rind in large bowl. Add dry ingredients. Stir until dry ingredients are just moistened. Fold in cranberries. Spoon batter into greased muffin cups. Bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes, or until golden.
Combine ingredients, adding enough juice to make a smooth spreadable consistency. Glaze muffins after they've cooled a bit. Make sure the glaze is not too thin - then it will just run off of the muffins. *Tip - lay a piece of waxed paper under your cooling rack before glazing, that way it will catch the glaze drips, and you can easily peel them off and eat them. Umm, I mean, it makes clean-up easier.*

Best dustbin ever. (Doesn't 'dustbin' sound so much nicer than 'garbage can'?) Seriously - if you know where I can find one on this side of the pond, it will be my Christmas present to myself. I suppose I could look for a smaller galvanized one and paint it... but I don't think I've ever seen a small one.

Don't forget to leave a comment on this post for a chance to win some of my soaps! I'll be drawing a winner on Sunday.

I'm looking forward to a relaxing, quiet 'dinner and a visit' evening with some civilized ladies. I'm making some herb and cheese palmiers for an appetizer (they're all put together and just need to be popped in the oven) and I think they'll be fantastic. I'll be sure to share the recipe if they're as good as I think they'll be! Have a lovely weekend!


1000 posts! You know what that means...

Hey, it's me! Adam took the pic the other night as I made some long-awaited chocolate fudge cake. My belly's getting significant.

Secondly, Phillip and I made these lemon cranberry muffins last night. They were (yes, were - we did share some, though) delicious. And the pictures were fun to take. I learned a lesson about ISO settings, which was kind of fun, too. Can you tell I'm excited? I get all rambly when I am. Speaking of rambly, I know that I've been posting a LOT about food lately. I am hungry all of the time, and food tastes SO good. I had forgotten how amazing it is when you're pregnant. Something connected to the heightened sense of smell, I'm sure. Mmmm.

On to even more fun...

What craziness! 1000 posts. You would think that I had something to say! The 1000 posts are from here and Frenchy's Finds combined. (As a side note about something that's been driving me crazy since then, but I don't know how to fix it: for some reason, when I copied those posts over here and moved to my new bloggy home, the search bar in the upper left corner of the blog doesn't seem to work at searching those older posts; just the ones originally published here. Strange, but true! That's why some of my links to previous posts take you back to the old blog.)

Giveaway goodness: Because I have so much fun blogging, because I'm feeling generous, because I won something yesterday*, and of course because this is post #1000, I'll share the love with a little giveaway! Two lucky winners will each receive three bars of my gorgeous soaps. Depending on what I have on hand after I get some orders together, you may even have some choice in the matter! I'll draw the winners from the comments on this post on Sunday, around noon Atlantic time. I would love to hear what you like best about my blog, so be sure to mention that in your comment. Tell all of your friends!

Hope you're having a lovely week!

*I've mentioned a million times how much I listen to Martha's Sirius channel when I'm driving for work. Last year, when Martha Stewart's Cooking School was released, I called in to one of the shows, in the hopes of winning a copy. And I did. Last week, I called a show to both ask about using yogourt in soups and also with the hopes of winning a copy of Dinner at Home, Martha's newest book. They called yesterday, and I won! Yipeeeee! Now if I could just put that luck to work at winning the lottery.


pomegranates, calendars, and Sigg info

I love pomegranates. And they're on sale this week - buy two, get two free. So I got four and have eaten two already this evening. Yup, two whole pomegranates. Yikes. They're not perfectly ripe yet (that didn't stop me) and you can see in the second photo that some of the seeds look like ice cubes, in the sort of exploding patterns in the fruit. Mmmm, tangy.

Since I loved this year's so much, I ordered my 2010 Fieryeyed calender as soon as the shop reopened earlier this week. If I had the need and extra cash hanging around to surround myself with calendars on every available surface, I would buy this one. And maybe this one. These tiny little adorable pages, too. Oh, and this one - so pretty. And this one is super fun, too. This botanical one is also right up my alley. And despite the misplaced apostrophe in the title, which I cannot ignore, this calendar is so pretty. I don't think one can ever have too many calendars, so if you're inclined to buy me one, I won't complain!

I happened to overhear someone last week talking about exchanging her old Sigg bottle in for a new one at Yarmouth Natural, because of potential problems with the liners containing trace amounts of BPA. Which is a problem, and I'm a bit perturbed by the whole thing, especially since I trusted that their trade secret liner was truthfully BPA -free in the first place. Anyway. Of course, I asked the person I overheard for the scoop, since we have a few of our own that we tote around everywhere. It's a voluntary exchange program, and many retailers are taking Siggs with old liners (they're kind of a coppery brown colour inside) back and exchanging them for new ones with a BPA-free liner. Or you can send yours in directly to Sigg, but it has to be before October 31. Here's the scoop, from Sigg. And pictured above are two of my snazzy new bottles. I'm not sure if Yarmouth Natural is still taking them back, (I think last week may have been the last week) but you can certainly give them a call to find out.

That was a bit rambly and scattered - can you tell I'm excited that it's the weekend? Have a lovely one!


baby icks

May I introduce "Baby Icks" (it seems to be primarily plural) to you. Apparently, they're soft and blue and have faces. Oh, and they live in Phillip's open palms, as you can see in the photo from when I asked him to show you. (Sorry his hands are supper-covered.) Sometimes the Icks need kisses from everyone in the room, but this morning when I asked if they did, Phillip said "they're okay, they don't need hugs and kisses right now". They appeared yesterday after P's nap, when he started asking Adam, "Dadoo, did you see my Ick?" and he showed it (them?) to Adam. This kid is hilarious.


recipe-a-week #32: pumpkin cheesecake, and I called 911 today

Part 1: Pumpkin Cheesecake:

Please pardon the somewhat unappetizing photo - I had to snatch one quickly before the last pieces disappeared. If you're tired of pumpkin pie, like Austen, give this pumpkin cheesecake a try instead - I don't think you'll be disappointed. I could eat it every single day for the rest of my life. And it's easy to make!

Pumpkin Cheesecake

1 1/2 cups graham crumbs, 3 tbsp melted butter and 3 tbsp sugar, mixed well and pressed into a springform pan or pie plate.

2 packages cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/4 tsp cinnamon
dash nutmeg
whipping cream for serving

With mixer, combine cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla until well blended. Fold in eggs. Remove one cup batter and set aside. To remaining batter, add pumpkin and spices, mixing thoroughly.

Pour plain batter into crust. Layer pumpkin batter, being careful not to disturb the first layer. Bake at 325 for 40 minutes or until centre is set. Refigerate at least 3 hours. Top with whipped cream to serve.

Would you believe that I forgot to whip cream to serve with this? So I used the cream I had and made some homemade vanilla ice cream (sans eggs) yesterday in my Cuisinart ice cream maker which I picked up at Frenchy's for $5. It works like a dream, and the ice cream is heavenly.

Part 2: Why I called 911 for the first time in my life today:

As I was driving along the highway this afternoon for work, a Camry in the oncoming lane swerved across traffic, crossing in front of me in a cloud of smoke and skidded into the ditch, rolling up onto its side in a swamp of cattails and another puff of smoke. I was the first one there, and was calling 911 as I stopped the car and ran out. Terrified, of course, that the people in the car would be injured or worse. Because the car was on its side, I couldn't climb up to look in (I'm only 5 feet tall), and then I saw a hand waving from the driver's side. An off-duty RCMP officer happened by right then and was able to climb up and help get the driver out. She was fine, but shaken up. Most of this time, I was talking to the 911 people, who arrived within a few minutes. Amazingly, because when I was speaking to the ambulance dispatcher, she said that they didn't have exit 32 on highway 101 (a main highway in Nova Scotia) on their map. What? This wasn't a back road in the middle of nowhere - maybe they need to start using Google maps. The driver had fallen asleep. If I had been in that spot on the highway 4 or 5 seconds earlier, things could have been much, much worse. That was the excitement of my day - the driver called me this evening to see if I was okay (I was knee-deep and shivering in freezing, muddy swamp water for awhile) and she said that it was a wake-up call (har har, punny) for her to make some changes to her routine, which involves getting up at 3:30am for work. I hope she does.

So tonight, I am thankful to be alive, home and well, with my sweet guys for company and homemade ice cream in my belly.


thump thump

It's the sound of Phillip's new boots running along the pavement, and the sound of Baby #2's heartbeat, which we heard today for the first time. So completely amazing.


natural catch fruit fly traps and other things I keep forgetting to mention

Image from Lee Valley.

I posted awhile ago about a fruit fly trap I made that worked pretty well. And it was more or less free. But there was still the odd fruit fly or two lingering around the kitchen, and if the old-style trap wasn't cleaned often enough, it got really gross. I saw these Natural Catch Fruit Fly Traps in the Lee Valley catalogue ages ago, but it was Adam who finally got so frustrated with all of the fruit flies that he ordered them back in August. We have been absolutely amazed and delighted with how well they work! Nary a fruit fly to be found. In August! And September! They are a bit pricey, but each one lasts a month, and I think it's well worth it. I had plans to take the first one apart so you could see the hundreds of dead, bloated fruit fly bodies trapped inside, but I think you get the idea.

I've been listening to Lisa Hannigan again lately. Sigh. I love her.

I've been looking at Simply Breakfast and Simply Photo again lately, too. I'm feeling so much more like myself. I love it.

Speaking of love, I think this bag is perfect.

recipe-a-week #31: peanut butter cookies, and Thankgiving

Thank you all so much for your sweet comments on my last post! It's funny - until I saw my own post of my own belly, a certain aspect of the idea of being pregnant again hadn't really formed itself in my mind. Now it's there, and your lovely comments made my day. So thank you!

I also had a request for the peanut butter cookie recipe that I made one night last week when Adam did the guest post. So here they are! (What do we think - will I get to 52 recipes before the end of the year? Definitely possible.) This one's from page 831 of the 1997 edition of The Joy of Cooking. They are light, crumbly, perfect peanut butter cookies; not the small, dense, hard ones.

Classic Peanut Butter Cookies
Makes about 3 dozen 2 1/2 inch cookies

Position a rack in the upper third of the oven. Preheat to 350. Grease cookie sheets.
Whisk together thoroughly:
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Beat on medium speed until very fluffy and well blended:
1/4 cup corn or canola oil (I used olive, because it was all we had)
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter
12 tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup powdered sugar (sifted after measuring if lumpy)
1 cup packed light brown sugar

Add and beat well until combined:
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 1/2 tsp vanilla

Stir the flour mixture into the peanut butter mixture until well blended and smooth. Let the dough stand for about 5 minutes to firm slightly. Pull off pieces of the dough and roll between your palms into generous 1 inch balls; it will be fairly soft. Space about 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Using the tines of a fork, form a crosshatch pattern and press each ball into a 1 1/2 inch round.

Bake, 1 sheet at a time until the cookies are just tinged with brown at the edges, 9-12 minutes; rotate pans halfway through baking for even browning. Remove the sheet to a rack and let stand until the cookies firm slightly. Transfer to cooling racks.

Thanksgiving weekend was lovely. We had some family here with us who loved playing with Phillip. Which, honestly, was a really nice little break. And it's so much fun to watch him interacting with other people. We went on a few little outings, where the pictures were taken, and enjoyed lots of food. Turkey, dressing, scalloped potatoes, cranberry sauce, roasted vegetables and gravy (thanks, Ing!) and pumpkin cheesecake and apple cobbler (Ingrid made the cobbler, too) for dessert. On Saturday morning, I made these heavenly pumpkin waffles, which are worth the extra effort and numerous bowls, once in awhile. My next recipe will be for the pumpkin cheesecake, which is really easy and incredibly delicious.


root beer belly

More of the chestnuts I picked up on my walk the other night. Thanks to Adam for his guest post - he's so sweet. And the cookies were fantastic. They're perfect peanut butter cookies - light and melt-in-your-mouth. From The Joy of Cooking. Let me know if you want the recipe, and I'll post it.

My kitchen smells amazing right now - I'm making cranberry sauce and dressing for out Thanksgiving dinner on Sunday. Us Canadians are nice and early for Thanksgiving, which I really like. And we ahve some fun company coming, so it promises to be a fun weekend.
We went out for lunch today, and they were out of iced tea. WHAT? Since a drink was included, I got a glass of root beer. I really can't remember the last time I had pop. (Or soda, for you American friends.) The point of my story is that I felt Baby #2 moving around, absolutely, definitely after all of that sugar. It was lovely.


recipe a week #30: tomato soup and hot hot heat*

- - - Guest blogger alert: This is Adam. Sherrie's in the kitchen cooking in order to satisfy a peanut butter cookie craving. Even though it's her craving, I think trading blogging for cookies is a good deal. - - -

Tomato Soup (from the October 2009 issue of Everyday Food)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large red onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped (I pressed. It's easier.)
coarse salt and ground pepper
3 large tomatoes, about 2 pounds total, cored and chopped
1 cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 cup heavy cream

1 In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium. Add onion and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until onion softens, 4 to 6 minutes. Add tomatoes and increase heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring, until tomatoes begin to break down, 4 to 6 minutes.

2 Add broth and 1 cup water. Simmer until tomatoes are very soft, about 10 minutes. In batches, puree soup in a blender (use caution when blending hot liquids). Return soup to pot and simmer 1 minute; stir in cream and season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.

Sherrie took the lovely picture of the chestnuts above a couple of days ago. She was out for a walk and came back with her pockets full. The reason it's showing up now is because we were both too interested in eating the soup to spend the time to take a picture where it didn't look like someone had already digested it.

I've been doing my best recently to make sure that I'm trying new recipes when I make meals. Without a concerted effort we'd be eating an awful lot of even more baked potatoes and salad. For the past couple of weeks, I've been raiding the pages of Sherrie's current and past copies of Everyday Food when making our menus. Everyday Food is the only corner of the Martha cult that I can really enjoy (zombie voice "Must do whatever Martha says"). I love that the recipes are all real food ingredients instead of boxed or canned junk. They're also mostly easy enough that even I can make them. All that to say, this soup is fantastic. It was really easy to make and tasted incredible. I initially balked at using the whole red onion but the flavour really mellows out and goes well with the tomato. We're still waiting for our big tomatoes to ripen so we bought some fresh local tomatoes. The magazine includes a recipe for cheese and bacon toasties to go with it but lacking bacon or regular bread I made some cheesy baguette bites instead. Overall, easy and delicious.

This beautiful cayenne pepper grew in our backyard. I planted them as an experiment to see if they would have enough time to ripen. Success! I'm not much for spicy food but I love the look of them. I'll photograph them and then set them loose to wreak havoc on someone else's digestive system.

Well, Sherrie finished her cookies before I finished the post. Mmmmm, they're delicious.

*Sorry if you were looking for Hot Hot Heat.


recipe-a-week #29: gingerbread cake, & more pumpkin goodness

Here's our back door (which will be replaced, hopefully soon - we're waiting for a body shop to paint the new one this same red for us.) But look at the Fall cuteness! Oh, what's that on the big pumpkin? Our house number!The numbers are outdoor self-adhesive decals from Home Depot. I picked them up when we were in Saint John over the summer, not knowing what I was going to do with them. I think they were $1.49 each. This is the cutest, and easiest pumpkin project, ever. Even easier than the glittered gourds. If you don't have a front door on a busy street where someone is likely to smash your pumpkin, you could put it on your front step.
On to the recipe - I made this cake last week, and we ate the whole thing in no time. I've had this recipe in my repertoire for about seven years now, and I always go to it for a slightly spicy, perfectly crumby fall cake. With a dollop (or two) of sweetened whipped cream on top, it is perfect. And it takes about 3 minutes to get together and in the oven. My kind of cake.
Favourite Old-Fashioned Gingerbread
(original recipe here)
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup hot water

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9 inch square pan (I don't think this would be quite large enough. I have an odd sized glass Pyrex dish with deep sides that does the trick.)
  • In a large bowl, cream together the sugar and butter. Beat in the egg, and mix in the molasses.
  • In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Blend into the creamed mixture. Stir in the hot water. Pour into the prepared pan.
  • Bake 1 hour (or a bit longer) in the preheated oven, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan before serving. YUM!
I love autumn, can you tell?

One more miscellaneous thing: if you have kids around 10 or so (or younger and curious) The Eleventh Hour is a wonderful book to keep them busy on a rainy day. I remember reading it for hours when I was a kid at my surrogate grandmother's house, and recently found a copy at Frenchy's. It's a mystery that needs to be solved using clues hidden in the fantastically detailed drawings throughout the book, and there's a sealed section at the back of the book with the answers (which we were never allowed to open as kids, and I still haven't looked at them). If you have a kid who likes that kind of thing, you should get them a copy for Christmas.