29.10.11

Patio Lanterns ala Thrift Shops

I've been wanting to make some thrift store lanterns for our deck for quite awhile.  I've seen some great ones online made from jars and such, but when I found these old light fixtures at a thrift store, inspiration struck and I just had to have them!


You see old light covers all the time at garage sales or thrift stores and it's not as if they are cool or modern enough to use in your actual home (unless you want to...then they are totally cool), but wrapping some wire around these babies and putting candles in them really gives them a fun new life!

So I chose two "designs" that called out to me.  Believe me there are dozens of these out there and some are just hideous!  I opted for clear and white glass only as I wanted to have as much light from the candles come through or else whats the point!
 You're going to need 16 gauge wire for these.  Its nice and bendable but you will still need pliers to tighten around the lip of the fixture.  I bought myself some from Michael's and it was really cheap.  I opted for black because I wanted the contrast against the white glass.  The wire comes in a few different choices, so again, just go with your gut and to suit your own astheic!

When assembling these, some of the fixtures you'll be able to sit on the table no problem - the clear glass one I was able to thanks to the points all over it.  The white glass didnt have a flat bottom so I tucked it into a small box for stability.  First thing you'll want to do is measure the length around the lip of the fixture.  Cut the wire about an inch longer so you have room to slip the handle in later and to tighten.



Next eyeball how long you want your handle to be making sure to take into account that you may want a twist at the top like I've done (totally optional - it will work either way) as well as about an inch at the ends that will be looped under the "lip wire".


Next I made a small loop at the top of the handle, just for more decorative appeal.  If you leave it just as a handle that will work as well.  You could at this point get creative and add some loops etc all the way up the handle, but if you opt to do that you'll want to cut the handle longer. 


Next, loop the ends under the lip wire and using pliers twist the ends up around itself.


You may have to manipulate the wire now to get a good shape in the handle. 
Then it's time to find a hook and hang your masterpiece!
I'm loving the look of this all lit up!  It has such a halloweeny glow!


Here's the clear one that I made a couple days ago. I love the sparkle it gives off. 


I would suggest using a votive candle rather than tea lights, but play with different sizes to get the light you're looking for!

I hope you have fun making a lantern or two for yourself!  You might get hooked and be on the lookout for old fixtures everywhere!  I know I am!  I imagine my balcony with a whole cluster of them!

Oh and I just had to share a picture of my Christmas Cactus!  We found this poor guy beside a garbage bin during the summer.  All we had to do was give it some water and man did we get a good return on our investment!


Happy Halloween weekend everyone!!

22.10.11

My Favourite Pancakes

This morning I was supposed to be heading out for a walk in a local garden with my mom (we've been trying to get together to do it for almost 4 months) however when we woke up it was raining and blowing and pretty miserable so we had to postpone again.

Instead I laid in bed a little extra longer and then decided I wanted a treat!  Oatmeal pancakes!

Have you had outmeal pancakes before?  They are SO much better than regular pancakes.  They have a richer texture, a deeper flavour and added benefit of having oats!

There are a million recipes out there for all kinds of pancakes, I'll share mine, but be adventurous and explore all that can be done with pancakes!

Our household tries our best to be vegan.  Well I should rephrase, that my husband IS vegan and I try my best to be.  It helps when I'm making a meal for both of us so I am forced to be.  Today's pancakes needed to be vegan which is partly why I chose oatmeal pancakes.  The combination of oats and apple sauce is just brilliant in these!  General rule of thumb for using apple sauce instead of eggs is to replace 1 egg with 2 tablespoons of apple sauce.  Also, this rule is really only for baking or quick breads where you don't need the egg to be the binder.
So here's what you'll need:
1 cup quick oats (I used a wild oat combination)
1 cup flour (if you're using WW flour, reduce by 1/4 cup)
Pinch of salt
1 Tbsp of baking powder
2 Tsp of baking soda
1 Tbsp sugar
1.5 cups almond milk
4 Tbsp apple sauce (or 2 eggs though I encourage you to try apple sauce first)
1 Tsp cinnamon
1 Tsp nutmeg

In a bowl combine all the dry ingredients

Whisk it all together and add one cup of the milk.  I like to save the .5 cup so I can get the consitancy to my liking rather than dumping it all in and possibly having to add flour or oats later.  We use Almond Breeze which is just SO good.  It has a very mild flavour and I promise you won't even notice the difference!!

Now add your apple sauce and stir it all together into a bowl of soupy goodness!


 Now for the magic!
I grate my own but fresh ground nutmeg and cinnamon will be just as good.  Grate 1 tsp each of cinnamon and nutmeg into the batter and give it a good stir!


Cooking these pancakes really doesn't vary from cooking regular pancakes.  Add some oil into a heated skillet and drop your batter in.  I like to use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to drop mine in....I don't know why, it's just handy and then I know they all be about the same!

Wait until you start seeing bubbles on the top of the pancakes and then it's time to flip!


Mmmm tasty and golden!


I usually preheat my oven to the lowest setting and pop the cooked pancakes in there.  I really wish that the internet was scratch and sniff so you could get a whiff of what I smelt when I opened the oven door.  It was like all the goodness of fall in one yummy scent! 


Once they were all done I cut up some apple slices to serve on the side.  I learned an amazing trick to keep them from browning - simply cut the apple in a bowl of water with a PINCH of salt.  It doesn't affect the flavour but stops the browning process completely!  It's awesome!  This trick comes in super handy for the lunch boxes I make for some people at work (more on that later).


Now you're ready to plate up your yummy goodness!  I sprinkled some cinnamon on my apple slices and that just made it divine!!


I hope you like this recipe if you use it!  You will find that these pancakes and way more filling than a regular flour pancake so start with a couple and get seconds if you're still hungry!  Also the apple sauce makes them rich and much denser than they would be without.

This recipe also lends itself to lots of interpretation.  You could easily make it gluten free by simply changing the flours you use.  One of my favourite way to make these is to up the cinnamon, sub half the milk for orange juice and add grated orange peel....OMGoodness super tasty!  Another option would be to use canned pumpkin instead of the apple sauce!!  Y.U.M

Hope you're enjoying your fall morning wherever you are!  I know I am!!

22.9.11

Home-Made Salve

I'm super excited!

The calendula/plantain oil that I made a few weeks ago (here) was finally ready to make into something!  Originally the plan was to make it into a hair treatment, but after getting sun burnt a couple times this year (yes I know, bad bad bad!), I decided I wanted to make it into a lovely healing salve for my skin.

Mind you my sun burn is all gone now, but I'm sure my skin could use some healing even now.

To make a salve you'll need your oil (preferably one of your own making, but it's cool if you don't).  I used extra virgin olive oil for mine, only because that's all I had in my house but there are lots of oils out there for use in home-made cosmetics.

You will also need some beeswax for solidity, and another butter or two.  I used cocoa and shea butters.  Locally you can get both of these things at Simple Remedies herbal shop on Cook St.

First you want to make sure that the jar (preferably glass) is sterile so you'll want to simmer it in hot water while you work on the oil.


So, because I created my own healing oil out of plant material, I have to first get all that plant material out.  This is the messy bit!  First pour the whole jar out into a sieve covered in cheeseclothe  over a bowl.  Once everything is in the cheeseclothe, gather it all together and squeeze all the oils out of the plant material.  This can take some time and will leave you covered in oil...but its great for your skin so it's all good!

Even with the cheeseclothe you may still find that some small particles slip through so you'll want to do another strain.


Once you've removed all the gunk from the oil, you're ready to start creating your salve!
You'll need to finely chop or grate up your beeswax.  As I understand it you can also buy beeswax in 'beads', though I suspect you'll pay more for that.  The butters are a bit easier to deal with, they are generally softer and you can simply scoop or crumble them into a measuring spoon.


Alrighty, you're ready!!  In a pot, combine your oil, beeswax and butters and heat them slowly over low heat.


Once they have melted completely remove from heat and let them rest for a couple minutes then add in some essential oils of your choosing.  You can opt for ones that you simply like the scent of, or use ones that contain healing properties of their own. 

I used Tea Tree, as it also helps preserve the salve, and Sweet Orange.  The scents combine to make a really beautiful aroma.  Make sure you're using the correct essential oils - these are NOT the same as the oils you use to make your house smell nice, just your body!


Do a sniff test of the oil once you've added the essential oils.  Keep in mind that the scent will lessen slightly when the oil is cooled.  Using too little can be so disappointing when you've made up your oil only to find that it smells just like plain oil.

After about 5 minutes it's time to transfer the melted salve into your jars.  Make absolutely sure that your containers are dry.  Any water can cause the salve to go off too quickly.  I like to give mine a good dry in the oven after they've been sterilized.


When you first pour the oil into the jar it will still be quite translucent but it will slowly set from the bottom up until it's completely opaque.  You can see in the smaller bottle in the background how it's setting from the bottom.


It's always best to let the salve set overnight, this allows it to fully harden.  I can't wait to slather this on my over-tanned bod tomorrow!

Here are the general measurments for this salve.  You can play with the amounts slightly to give yourself different consistancies.  Also I based my measurements on how much calendula/plantain oil I had.

12 Tbsp - Oil
6 Tbsp - Beeswax
13 Tbsp - Combination of Shea and Cocoa Butters
50 Drops - Combination of Tea Tree and Sweet Orange Essential Oils

I hope you found this useful and feel confident enough to dabble in home-made cosmetics with this easy step by step.  I promise, other than making the oil initially, this is a simple way to get into making your own creams and salves!


21.9.11

Blueberries Fields

Well, as promised I went back for more blueberries and to take some pics.  We got WAY more this time, now I have to figure out what to make with them!  Definitely going to freeze a bunch for smoothies!

 



20.9.11

Silly Fun

I mentioned before how much I love the 8mm app for the iPhone so I wanted to give you a taste of what you can create!  My brother and niece at a family picnic decided to have a little dance off.  I added some titles and some music and voila!

video

18.9.11

Merridale Estate Cidery and the Big Yellow School Bus

A wonderful friend of mine had a great idea to rent a school bus, get a group of friends together and do a tour of some of the many wineries on Southern Vancouver Island this weekend. 

We had such a great time and it felt just like a grown up school field trip, which I personally miss from school.  If only workplaces did more field trips, I think people would be much happier and more productive.

We ended up going to about 5 wineries but I'm only going to write about one today because it stood head and shoulders above the rest...and it wasn't even technically a winery, but rather a cidery.

Merridale Estate Cidery is one of those places that seems to have done everything right.  Their products are amazing, their staff are accomodating and immeasurably kind and their property is jaw droppingly gorgeous.  I could have easily thrown a blanket out on the lawn under the apple trees and spent the whole day there...hell, the whole weekend!

Found in the Cowichan Valley, Merridale Cidery allows visitors to wander the grounds and distillery, partake of tastings in the main building and enjoy lunch in the quaint bistro or lounge on the large patio overlooking the orchard.  Out back, their open air bakery was so inviting with the scent of freshly baked breads filling the air.  Down the hill and tucked away amongst the trees is a spa where you can get a mani-pedi or spend a whole day with one of their spa packages.  I'll definitely be going back for that!

Merridale was incredibly accomodating for our large group of 26.  They graciously asked to split us up into groups of 13 in order to partake in the tastings .  The host was so funny, warm and genuine when he spoke about the Cidery's products that you couldn't help but want to work there!  I may just have to look into that!
In the end, I bought two bottles of cider and one of their foccacia loaves which is undeniably the best foccacia I have ever had and may have only lasted a couple hours before every last crumb was devoured.  There is no doubt I will be travelling the 45 minutes again if only for that bread...that being said I wouldn't leave without lunch and another bottle or two of cider.

They are doing some pretty cool things with apples at Merridale and I'm super excited that my little island can boast such an amazing product.  I only wish I had known about it 5 years ago as it is exactly where I envisioned my wedding taking place.  Maybe a ten year renewal of vows is in order?

If you find yourself on the island or if you live here and need something new to do, get your butts to Merridale and give yourself a few hours to really get to know this island gem!



 

  










14.9.11

This Dull Tool Needs to be Sharpened!

Alrighty.  I'm not afraid to say I failed my first attempt at making fruit leather.  Let's just say, wax paper - not the way to go.

This morning I was able to begin pulling the leather off the wax paper, but the liquid content in the berries was still too high and this broke down the waxiness of the paper.  The leather also was not quite thick enough, I don't even think it was 1/4 of an inch thick, though it was definitely thicker when I spread it out initially.  Seems fruit leather looses a lot of its bulk in the drying process.

So today I'll try again.  I'm going to spread it out thicker and will be using something sturdier than wax paper.  I'll keep you posted - I'm determined to get this right!

13.9.11

Fruit Leather Time!

Having never done this before and going loosely off information from my mom I'm jumping head first into making some fruit leather....at 9 o:clock at night.  What am I thinking? 

Well I don't pretend to be the sharpest tool in the shed but at least I'll be a dull tool with yummy fruit leather...if it turns out.  If it doesn't I'll just be a dull tool.  Oh dear.

Alrighty, let's get this leather party started!

Set your oven to 120 celsius if possible, mine is digital and I could only go as low as 170.  To compensate for this and to make sure I was drying my fruit not cooking it, I propped a spoon in the door of the oven to keep it slightly ajar.  Next, line your baking sheet(s) with wax paper.


Next pick some fruits that you want in your leather.  I went with my recent freshly picked berries and threw in an apple to help soften the tartness of the berries. 

I wasn't sure how much whole fruit I would need for the amount of fruit leather my oven can handle so I started small. I don't have a dehydrator but I've been assured that an oven is the next best thing.

1 cup of blueberries
1.5 cups of blackberries
1 cored apple
1/4 of a cup huckleberries


Next, toss all your fruit into the food processor - use this instead of a blender as you still want to keep some of the chunks in the fruit. 


Give it all a good whirl until any large bits are broken down but you still have some texture.


Now spread it out on your wax paper.  Keep it thin, about 1/4 cm thick.


Now throw it in the oven for approx 2 hours.  I ended up keeping mine in for an extra 20 minutes.  Basically you want it to still be flexible but not wet.  I simply did the touch-test near the end of the two hours and found some parts were still a bit soft to the touch.  You don't want it to harden too much either as it can become brittle.  Nobody likes a brittle leather!

So now it's out of the oven and cooling.  In the morning I'm hoping it will have set enough to cleanly and easily pull it up from the wax paper and then I can see if it rolls up just like store bought fruit leathers!  If not, well, I've got a LOT more berries to go through so I'll make a second attempt tomorrow!



11.9.11

I've Got Friends in High Places

Some people consider friends in high places to be corporate fat cats or doctor's, lawyers etc etc.  I consider people who have access to free fruit, berries and land for growing to be in high places!  So today I was so honoured to be invited by my best friend Meghann to go to the farm the company she works for owns. 

We went primarily for blackberries but ended up coming home with blueberries as well.  On top of that we have plans to return to cash in on the overload of hawthorne berries and rosehips!

Of course I curse myself because I forgot my camera as I wanted to photograph the bounty on the branch.  However we do intend to go back again as the blueberries are almost done producing so I'll take pics then.  In the meantime I managed to get a couple with my phone (that I of course forgot in the car) once we were done picking. 


 

Today my intention is to make some fruit leather out of all these blackberries, blueberries as well as the huckleberries I plundered in the woods yesterday (sadly those are not wild blueberries, just some from home).

 
I'll share the fruit leather experience shortly!  It's my first time since I was a kid making this so it should be fun!
It was a beautiful morning spent on a couple acres of land and I'm SO happy to have gone!