Every year, I post the first snowdrops in the garden, because it's really the most exciting event of the year. Seriously. Last year, it was March 8, the year before on March 6, 2008 and March 13, 2007. Wonder of wonders, today, February 26 - there are snowdrops up and cheery in the garden.



lemon cake and daffodils

Even though the daffodils were purchased at the grocery store (discounted, of course!), they're still cheery. It's been a really windy, wet day, and they brought some much-needed brightness to the house.

The house where I spent most of the day - I'm done work until next February! My blood pressure is still good, but I've been really tired and uncomfortable, and finding it hard to do my job, which involves a lot of running around. The doctor I saw on Tuesday agreed, and told me to stay home. Okay! This cake is amazing. If you're not deathly allergic to citrus (sorry, Ing!) it is heaven on a plate. The recipe is from A Homemade Life, and is on Molly's blog, Orangette, right here. You must make it, as soon as possible. It's probably best shared with other people, but I wouldn't really know. (I will not tell you what percentage of the cake was consumed by yours truly.)

Happy Thursday!


ranunculus and quince

I truly believe that if I didn't have something growing inside in February, I might just wither up, never to be heard from again. (Psssst- February's almost over, and for the past couple of years, we've seen our first snowdrops in early March! The sun made an appearance yesterday, so there is a spark of hope!)

I've admired ranunculus from afar for ages, (especially in Saipua's gorgeous arrangements) but have never seen them in person. (One of the pitfalls of living in a small town. My idea of near-heaven is walking down a street with a flower selection like this. Someday!) So I was tickled pink to find some boxed bulbs (I didn't even know they were a bulb, until then) at the grocery store. I tried one box (3 bulbs), and the bulbs got moldy. Eeeeew. I followed the instructions, too! And the box even says 'Easy to grow'. Harumph. There was one box left when I went back a few weeks later, so experiment number 2 is on the go. I'm hoping for success this time.


homemade laundry soap

A snow day did arrive! I've been having a lovely day with P, there's one of my favourite suppers in the crockpot, and it's naptime. So I decided to whip up something non-cakey and non-soapy. Okay, this is definitely not cake-y, but it is kind of soapy.

Laundry Soap
1 cup washing soda
1 cup borax
1 grated bar soap
Several drops essential oils, if desired.

Blend / process soap until it's powder. Add borax and washing soda; pulse until uniform.
Use 1-2 tbsp per load; this will not produce suds like commercial detergents.

The food processor I used (which I bought for $30; it was regularly $130 and was discontinued, so I bought it for projects like this) isn't the sturdiest on the planet, so I found that it worked well to chop up the soap (rather than try to grate it from the whole bar) and process it that way. I tried using a Simply Clean Stain Remover bar (I didn't use quite the whole thing, probably 3/4 of it - it's huge!) since it was inexpensive and really hard - I think that with my soaps, I would have needed to dry the soap a bit more after processing it so that it wouldn't clump. Now that I'm thinking of it, while the processor is out and still has soap bits in it, I should grate some extra to dry and have on hand. And of course, washing soda and borax are in the laundry aisle (usually on the top shelf).

The original recipe is here, and has a few more details you might like to know before making it.

We usually use Down East unscented liquid laundry detergent; it cleans really well, lasts forever, and it's made here in NS. But since I saw how simple this recipe is, I thought I would try it. We'll see how well it works on some of P's toddler grime, and because I didn't add any fragrance, it should be fine for Son #2's clothes, too. Let me know if you're planning to or have tried this!

Happy snow day!


february. ugh.

Maybe it's because it's the middle of February, maybe it's because there's been nothing but bad news and ridiculous politics in our area lately, maybe it's because I'm embarassed for all of the things that have gone wrong at the Olympics while we're hosting, but I'm kind of feeling discouraged. Just kind of tired of everything and wishing that I had a magic wand (how many times have you heard me say this, people who know me in real life?) and could create some positive change, especially here in my town.

But since I don't have a magic wand, here's the next best thing... cute animals!
This little beady-eyed little wonderbird was spotted over here.
The swan story and photo credits are here.

And there are good things happening, I know. I was especially taken last week when I heard about Not Far From the Tree, a project in Toronto to use produce grown in the city which would otherwise be left to waste, to feed people! You can read a bit more about it here. They even have an Etsy shop, where you can buy that adorable onesie for Son #2. There are definitely good things going on, I guess I just am feeling like they're all far away.

I guess I would feel ickier if I had a cold. But then I would have an excuse to make these homemade cough drops. I know! Fun.

And since I can't help but end on a positive note, tomorrow has snow day potential. My fingers are crossed!


toffee-date pudding (that's really a cake)

I just made this Toffee-Date Pudding from December's Everyday Food, and it is delicious. I've been wanting to try it since the issue arrived in November, but didn't want to have the whole thing for just us to eat. Which is exactly the situation we're in this weekend! For some reason, it's called Sticky Toffee Pudding on the website's recipe, and Toffee-Date in the magazine. Same recipe, though - I checked.
It's very, very similar to the Queen Elizabeth cake I've posted before. (My favourite cake of all time, by the way.) Both are date-y, very slightly spiced cakes with a sweet, sweet boiled topping consisting of mostly cream, sugar, and butter. This cake is a bit wetter and lighter than the Queen E cake. I think I prefer the Queen E cake because of the crunchy topping - it makes it much more interesting in the mouth, and the nuts and coconut add a few more flavours. But don't get me wrong - both are delicious.
The recipe is here, if you'd like to try it out.

So now I need some help to eat it - any takers?

Have a great weekend!


canada cookies and a question

Adam took all of these pictures this morning while he and P made some cookies to celebrate the Olympics starting here in our home and native land, tomorrow. I enjoy the Olympics as entertainment and cheer on Canada and all of that, but I'm really not that into them. My tune might change when we win some gold medals, though!
It's a very buttery shortbread recipe (when I, perhaps the greatest butter lover, ever use 'very' and 'buttery' in the same sentence, it means extremely buttery. I won't even say how much is in the recipe.) I tried making a Martha recipe for royal icing, from her Cookies book with meringue powder in it, since that's supposed to work well to help it stiffen up on the cookies, but it was kind of too thick. Which might be because of Adam's very clever idea (that's not being sarcastic - it's a great idea!) to turn it pink - we used raspberry juice instead of water, to avoid food colouring. It's a lovely pale pink, and tastes quite good, but it's really stiff. Too thick to easily pipe onto cookies. And it doesn't stick very well to the tops of the cookies, either. I've never made it before, and it called for leaving it to mix on low for 10 minutes, which may have been too long. And perhaps the raspberry juice was too much thicker than water for it to work properly. (I just microwaved some raspberries we had in the freezer and strained out the juice.) Either way, now I know what to try for next time!
I hope you're having a good week - I've been busily working away, and have a loooong day with plenty of driving tomorrow. But I've always got in the back of my mind a list of things that I can do to be best prepared for Son #2's arrival, and so I have a question for you:

What suggestions do you have for meals we can start making to have in the freezer for after Son #2 arrives? With Phillip, I had to eat pretty plain foods or else he suffered with terrible gas, so I'm looking to avoid beans and broccoli in particular, and of course, avoiding prepackaged stuff is how we roll. So nutritious recipes (or no-recipe recipes, you know?) made with delicious whole foods would be most welcome! Ones that are particularly hearty would be great, too - I was absolutely ravenous after P was born, and I'm expecting it will be the same story this time around. Thanks in advance for your suggestions!

Have a fantastic weekend, and go, Canada!



I've found all kinds of nifty things on the interwebs lately that I wanted to share - several odds and ends that I've been saving up. So get ready to open up some tabs! (Just in case you've never done tabbed browsing, just right click on the link and choose 'Open in new tab'. My favourite technological development since 2003.) Oh, and that's last year's hyacinth - I have one started in the cupboard, which will probably be blooming right around the time that Son #2 arrives.

This tree ring print is one of the most beautiful things I think I've ever seen.

Yummy-sounding natural home fragrance ideas.

Magic vanilla ice cream. Sweetened condensed milk is something I've only ever used on two occasions that I can remember, but I'm totally willing to try this out.

Great list of DIY beauty goodies (mostly scrubs).

The Lisa Hannigan kick continues. (It started about a year ago!) I just clued in that she has a blog although it's not often updated, and through Wikipedia, learned that her birthday is this week, and we're the same age. Sigh. Happy birthday!

Anyone want to knit me one of these? Or somehow magically provide me with the time and inclination to knit one? I loooooooooooooove it - wouldn't it be gorgeous in a colour like this?

Happy Monday!



Back in November, I saw this recipe for popovers and absolutely had to try making them. I can't think of many other things that could be such a perfect vehicle for butter. Or even better, honey butter. Mmmm. I was so dedicated to the cause that I even went and bought a popover pan ($9 at the Superstore) after the first batch didn't work out so well in muffin tins. But the second batch was kind of a flop (literally), too, despite the new pan. So I decided that I would try another recipe. Which landed in my lap this afternoon, via January's Martha Stewart Living, which I picked up at the library yesterday.
Adam laughed at my laments over the pictures of the popovers in the article - he compared it to most women reading fashion magazines and having serious body image issues. Not I - it's perfect-popover-envy for me. Still convinced that they wouldn't turn out, I halved the recipe and whipped up the batter in a matter of minutes.
And they are amazing. I poked a little hole in each one after removing them from the pan (which I also tried in my previous attempts), and they didn't deflate at all. I think that the success is primarily due to the longer baking time - I don't really know, but that's my best guess.
Here's the full recipe (I halved it), which was published in the January issue of Martha Stewart Living.


Makes 1 dozen

  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 6 large eggs, lightly whisked
  • Unsalted butter, softened, for pans
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Whisk together milk, flour, and salt. Whisk in eggs. (Mixture will be lumpy.)
  2. Heat two 6-cup popover pans in oven for 5 minutes, then quickly brush cups generously with butter. Fill each cup a little more than halfway with batter. Bake for 20 minutes.
  3. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes. Turn out popovers, and serve warm.


ugly furniture

This gets even funnier toward the end - I was doing the silent-laughing-so-hard-that-I was-jiggling-the-chair kind of laughing and trying not to lose it completely around the Wynonna poster.



Here is P's room; 98% done! We only have pictures to hang on the walls, and it will be complete. How's that for a snazzy dresser? Solid wood, great condition, and $60 at Frenchy's. Where else? Jute mat, slightly modified cotton curtains over the closet door (which is used for storage of extra bedding and my greatly reduced craft supplies) and Snoopy, ready for a nap on the slightly rumpled bed. (It's such a pain to make the bed with that bed rail!)
The man himself, looking serious next to his tiny closet. It's about a foot deep, and Adam's going to build shelves in it. But we don't have any stuff to put in it yet (yay!) so there's no big hurry.
I've been in a bit of a nesting frenzy during my time at home, and in a similar yet different kind of nesting at work - trying to get all sorts of things done before going on maternity leave. As I've mentioned before, I feel like I must get everything possible done before Son #2 arrives, and things are pretty much in place. His room is all set up, clothes washed and folded in his dresser, and my hospital bag is mostly packed and ready to go. There it is on the crib in Son #2's cleaned, washed, scrubbed, and ready room!

But the biggest thing we've been working on over the past month or so was redoing P's 'big boy' bedroom. It had turned into a storage room, mostly for stuff we didn't use or need. Living in a 110 year old house can present some storage challenges, and my new mantra is "If there's not a place to put it, get rid of it!" Seriously - as silly as it sounds sometimes when you hear or read professional organizers or people on reality TV talking about how getting rid of stuff and organizing what you have will make life better, I think they're onto something. Maybe your whole life won't change, but you will feel better about your surroundings, and will avoid frustrations when you can't find or get to something because of clutter.

Redoing that room has spread to the whole house, and we've been cleaning, organizing and purging like maniacs. It helps a lot that Adam and I are on the same page about 'stuff'. We've also used it as an opportunity to teach 2-year-old P about giving stuff away as we've gone through some of his toys and books with him. I can't stand the idea of getting rid of a child's things without telling them and then lying to them about where it went. (I know that this will become increasingly difficult as P gets older, and I may change my tune in a few years, but for now, that's that.)

It feels so much lighter, more useful, and homey since we've been seriously purging for the past few weeks. All in all, I think we've probably given away at least 15 bags of 'stuff', as well as some small furniture. And I don't miss a single thing.

Here are some tips for getting things organized:

1. Get rid of the 'stuff' that you don't use! Sort things properly: If it's junk that is beyond hope or repair, just let it go and toss it. Recycle when you can, Freecycle when possible, and if it's in good shape, donate it to a charity that can make use of it or give it to a friend who will love it. If it's too large to move easily (i.e. furniture), just set it out on the side of the street - someone will pick it up and use it.

2. Keep your goal in mind. I was picturing a tidy, simplified, organized (dare I say "Martha-fied"?) house where we would be able to enjoy doing the things we like to use the space for. (Note: I'm still picturing this, as we still have a very small amount of stuff to go through, so we're not quite at the very end yet, but I'm hoping that this weekend will be the finish line. Yay!)

3. Keep a perpetual 'donation' box or bag (I have one in the bottom of my closet). If you try on a shirt and think "I hate how this fits", then add it to the box - you're probably never going to enjoy wearing it, and someone else can. When the box or bag is full, drop it off at your Goodwill or Salvation Army, and start a new one.

4. This is perhaps the most important, and the thing which I'm getting better at - don't buy it in the first place. There are tonnes of great things out there, but if you don't have a specific place or use for it, don't buy it. Otherwise, it will just be clutter that you'll feel bad about having spent money on.

5. If done well, this whole process can take some time. And things will inevitably get worse before they get better. Keeping the end goal in sight is key (and having a deadline like an impending baby helps, too!) Having said that, every little bit of time spent does make a difference, so...

6. Start with a small space like a drawer or shelf, and see how much better you feel about it after it's cleaned (like cleaning the crumbs and old takeout forks out of your cutlery drawer - holy satisfying every time you open the drawer!) I think that picturing the outcome is the thing that gives me the most motivation to do any kind of cleaning or organizing. It's completely addictive.

7. A place for everything, and everything in its place. It's not going to magically find a home for itself, so find a place that works for you and how you use it, and stick with it. I think of putting something back immediately as a treat to myself - it means that I won't have to do it later.

Happy decluttering!

One more picture - this is a fantastic dresser which Adam picked up at a local antiques place for his very own. I love it!