Sunday, September 25, 2011

Every Child......

"Every child comes with the message that God is not yet discouraged of man." - Rabindranath Tagore.

photo credit:  Jeff taken by Kerri MacIntyre, June 12, 2005

Cold Comfort Farm - Review

Since I reviewed the gothic tale of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall last week, I thought I'd review one of my favorite satires this week.  Cold Comfort Farm is a 1995 British miniseries starring Kate Beckinsale.  It's based on a novel written by Stella Gibbons.

The movie is set in the 1930's.  Kate Beckinsale is Flora Poste, a recently orphaned 20 year old girl, who has been left only 100 pounds a year to live on.  Flora is a Modern Woman, who fancies herself a writer.  She wants to write a novel equal to Jane Austen's Persuasion when she is 53, and plans to observe people until then, as fodder for her book.  Flora is trying to find a relative to take her in, but she has 'only 100 pounds and doesn't play bridge', so none of her London relatives will do.  She sends out letters around the country to all her other relatives, and finds a promising answer from her family at Cold Comfort Farm.  Apparently, according to her Aunt Judith Starkadder, a wrong was done to Flora's father by Judith's husband, and the family owes her a great debt, so they will take her in.

Flora moves in with the Starkadders, who live at Cold Comfort Farm, which is an extremely grim, gothic, run down old place.  The family is run by the matriarch, Ada Doom, who saw 'something nasty in the woodshed' many years ago, and has ruled the family by fear ever since.  She rarely leaves her bedroom, but her word is law.  The rest of the family is equally crazy, with Ian McKellan putting in a great turn as the fire and brimstone preacher of the family, who warns all that there is 'no butter in hell to sooth your burns'.  Rufus Sewell is equally wonderful as the dumb, handsome cousin who works on the farm, but secretly wants to be a film star.  Flora marches in to the family and takes over, much like Jane Austen's Emma.  By the end of the movie she has turned everything and everyone upside down, fixing things just to her liking.

Be warned, this film is very quotable!  If you're addicted to great movie quotes you'll find yourself talking about woodsheds, and how there've 'always been Starkadders at Cold Comfort Farm', while everyone else looks at you like you're crazy.  This film is very tongue in cheek, making fun of those grim, dark English dramas.  You can watch it episode style on youtube. It has such a great cast, including Stephen Fry, who never disappoints. If you're addicted to period drama, and feel like a good laugh, this is the film for you!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Changing Seasons

"Autumn carries more gold in its pocket than all the other seasons." - Jim Bishop, writer

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


My life has been very pie-centric lately.  Strawberry-rhubarb (pictured above), apple, blueberry, you name it, I've made it. 

A result of making so many pies is lots and lots of scraps of pastry left over, once the pie is trimmed and crimped.  I don't like to waste things, so I try to use up those little bits of pie pastry when possible.  One thing my mother-in-law makes is something called Commodores.  I have no idea why she calls them Commodores, neither does Scott.  All I know is my husband loves these, and I like to make him happy! 

It's pretty easy, you just smoosh together the leftover scraps of pastry, and re-roll them out.  I know this is technically a no-no, but please remember we're being thrifty here!  Once the dough is rolled out again, I use a big round cookie cutter and cut out lots of circles.  Try and roll the pastry as thin as possible, it tastes better.  Once they're cut out place a spoonful of your favorite preserves in the centre of the pastry.  Either top them with another circle or fold over to make a semi circle.  Then pinch the edges closed, brush with a little egg white and sprinkle with sugar.  Place on a cookie sheet, and pop in the oven while the pie is baking.  Keep an eye on them, it only takes five or ten minutes until they're done.  These are yummy little things!

Another use for leftover pastry scraps is to gather them all together, smoosh them up and roll them out into a rectangle.  Spread some softened butter on the pastry, and then sprinkle generously with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar.  Roll up like a skinny jelly roll, cut into little circles, and bake as above.  These are yummy, tiny little cinnamon buns.

This is a fun job to give to your children.  Let them have a whack at rolling out the dough, and making little treats.  They can be very creative! 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tip Tuesday - The Tooth Brush - not just for hygiene!

  I have old toothbrushes hidden under every sink in the house.  These are one of my favorite cleaning tools!  They are great for getting around the taps and faucets in the sinks, and any other grungy, hard to reach spot that needs some heavy duty cleaning.  They're good on grout as well.  I also use them on my diamond ring, which I never, ever take off, and therefore gets totally gross with bread dough and other mixtures when I'm cooking or baking.  The soft bristles of a toothbrush get right in there and clean out all the gunk.  I keep them hidden because I don't want anyone to think, 'hey, there's my old toothbrush', and then put it in their mouth, unaware of where that toothbrush has been since it was retired from active duty.  Blech!  So that's my tip, save your old toothbrushes for hard to get at cleaning jobs, and keep them hidden!

Teaching Pre-schoolers How To Pour

When I was a young(er) mother with small children, I wanted to help them be more independent.  Things like washing their hands, eating with good manners, clearing their plates from the dinner table.  Little children love to do things for themselves, also known as "Me do it!!"

A neat way to help children learn how to pour a drink for themselves is to get a tray, a small pitcher, a cup, and some rice.  Fill the pitcher with rice, place it on the tray with the cup, and let the children practice pouring the rice in the cup.  There's a little more control with the rice and the tray, nobody gets wet, and it's easy to vacuum or sweep up the rice if it spills.  Plus, they can do this activity over and over (and over) again.  This builds those important neural pathways.  Practice makes perfect!

Birthday Boy

Jason turned nineteen this Saturday, and I'm finding this birthday hard.  Some people find turning forty difficult, I find it more difficult facing my children's birthdays and other milestones.  Such as, my baby turned ten this summer.  Not a baby anymore.  My first baby is now nineteen, even worse!  It helps that he's turned into a fine young man, responsible, hard working, kind and intelligent.  Happy Birthday Jason!

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall - Review

The other day, while I was canning apples and making apple pies, and peeling pounds and pounds of apples, I grabbed Scott's ipad and set it up in the kitchen, right within range of getting splashed with flour and apple spatters.  Don't tell my husband.  My friend, Stacey, had told me about a great miniseries she watched on Youtube, called The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.  This is a joint CBC/BBC production, starring Toby Stephens, Tara Fitzgerald and Rupert Graves.  It's based on the book by Anne Bronte. 

Well, I spent a great couple of hours pulled into this wonderful movie.  It's a beautiful story about a mysterious widow who comes to Cumbria and takes up residence in the remote, forbidding house called Wildfell Hall, with her young son and faithful retainer.  She keeps to herself, and seems cold and unfriendly to her community, with rather strict beliefs as well.  She is befriended by one of her neighbors, a handsome young farmer.  There is a scandal brewing, as the neighbors starts to speculate about her relationship with the farmer and also with another young gentleman of the neighborhood. I don't want to spoil too much, but the young widow has quite the back story, very tragic, and all is revealed in the end.  I even gasped a few times!  It was very gothic. 

The scenery was breathtaking, the costumes were all you could ask from a period drama, and the young farmer was suitably handsome, noble and constant in his affections.  The young widow was very dramatic and tragic as well.  I really got pulled into the story, and was sorry when it ended.

Here's my confession:  I'm not usually a Bronte fan.  I find their stories, in general, very gothic and sometimes violent, both in emotion and actions.  Heathcliffe, Mr. Rochester - no thanks!  Not my kind of hero.  Despite my basic distrust of total drama island, I have to say I really loved this story by Anne Bronte.  If you are in the mood for brooding period drama, give this film a whirl!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Last of the summer blooms....

Temperatures have dropped considerably since last weeks little summer blast.  We've gone from 30+ C down to 14 C this week.  Tuesday morning when I took Sarah to seminary the thermometer was reading 1 degree!  With a -1 degree windchill, no less.  We have not been touched by frost in our yard, although other areas have been, so I wanted to snap a few pics this morning to capture the yard in it's late summer glory.  Before it's destroyed by frost.  Sob.  Here's a shot of the rosehips on one of our bushes.  It's loaded with hips, which many will tell you is a sign of a hard winter coming.

My petunias were looking very leggy and shabby a few weeks ago, so I cut them back hard.  The result is one last burst of blooms for me to enjoy!  The shadow is the top of my giant head.  This is why I usually get Sarah or Scott to take my photos.

One of my favorite tomato plants this year is this Tumbling Tom.  It's still producing lots of little tomatoes.

The sunflowers are in full bloom, this variety is called Kong, and has not disappointed in it's claims!  The wind is really blowing today, you can see them swaying in the wind.

I just love my sunflowers, they're so cheery!  And really, I just love to grow something that reaches 12 feet in height.  How often do you get to grow something that big? 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Apples, Apples and more Apples!

photo credit:  Sarah MacIntyre - apple trees blooming, mid summer, and harvest time.

I am surrounded by apples.  Bags and bags of beautiful, crisp apples.  Apple pies are frozen in the freezer, apple pies have been eaten by my family, another apple pie will be made today. Jars and jars of apple pie filling have been canned, and more jars are waiting to be filled.  I will also be freezing pie filling in freezer bags as well.  My hands are a little stiff from all the peeling, but it's so satisfying to see all the hard work stacked up in the freezer and cold storage room.

Here's a recipe for canned apple pie filling:

Apple Pie Filling:

5 cups peeled and sliced apples
1 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons minute tapioca
1 tablespoon lemon juice (optional)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Add the sugar and apples together in a large pot.  Let sit until juices are released.  Place on burner over medium high heat, bring to a boil.  Boil hard for 1 minute.  Add tapioca, lemon juice and cinnamon and boil for one more minute.  Spoon filling in hot sterilized quart jars, process in hot water bath for 20 minutes.  Makes 1 quart.

(Recipe comes from Company's Coming Preserves, by Jean Pare.)

For freezer filling, I put 6 cups sliced, peeled apples in a large bowl, and toss with 3/4 cup white sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 2 tablespoons of white flour.  Plus a dash of salt.  If you are concerned about the apples browning, you can always dip them in a solution of vinegar and water, or lemon and water before you put them in the bowl.  Then I toss the mixture in a freezer bag and seal and label it.  My friend Irene Hirtle (who is very clever), puts the apple filling in a pie pan lined with lots of cling wrap, wraps it up tight and freezes it in the pie plate.  Once frozen, she takes the wrapped filling out of the plate and stacks a neat pile in her freezer.  When it's time to bake a pie she unwraps the pie filling and plops it right in the pie crust - perfectly shaped!  Neat trick, huh?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Lunch Box Tip - Filling the Thermos

Sometimes it's nice to send a hot lunch in a thermos for your children's lunch.  Whether it's a leftover casserole, soup, or some other concoction that goes well in a thermos, hot food on a cold day can be very comforting.  Here's a tip on how to fill that thermos with less mess.  I use a wide mouth funnel that I usually use for canning.  It fits perfectly in the mouth of the thermos, and keeps the spills to a minimum.  I also preheat the thermos with boiling water before I fill it, it keeps the food hot longer.  I hope you find this helpful!

Setting the Table for Sunday Dinner

Sometimes a family activity can be more of a weekly tradition.  Every Sunday we have a more formal dinner.  We do have family dinner every night, with very few exceptions during the year.  I tend to serve these meals fairly casually, no fancy extras.  On Sundays I used to set the table with  table cloths, a centerpiece if available, and candles.  Lately I have gotten out of the habit, as it has been summertime and we've been barbecuing a lot.  This past Sunday I decided to resurrect the candles and nice place mats.  It was very pretty, and Sarah even decided to take a picture of the table!  (Which I haven't downloaded yet.)

What are the advantages of setting a more formal table for your family?  I think it makes your family feel really special.  My little guy, Josh, loves it when the candles come out.  It's an opportunity to use the nice things you have, instead of saving them for special occasions.  Eating dinner with your family is special already!  Decorating the table also feels more festive, and helps even more to set Sunday apart as a unique day in the week.  Setting the table nicely  is an opportunity for children to practice their table manners.  Something about nice cloths, candles and flowers makes everyone sit up a little straighter and try a little harder!  If your children are old enough, they can help make the table look beautiful, and learn where the forks and knives go at the same time.  If you're lucky, like me, and have teenagers, they can take over the task all by themselves. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Life is like...

"Life is like an old time rail journey...delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders, and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed.  The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride."  Gordon B. Hinckley

photo credit:  Sarah MacIntyre

Book Review - Slow Death By Rubber Duck

Last week I read Slow Death By Rubber Duck, (How the toxic chemistry of everyday life affects our health), by Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie.  Scary!  The two authors decided, after becoming increasingly concerned about the toxins we come in contact with on a daily basis, to perform an experiment on themselves.  They sequestered themselves in a condo for four days, surrounded by the things that emit harmful toxins, and ingested, bathed, ate off and drank out of everything that could possibly contain toxins.  The authors then had their blood and urine tested, and the results are shocking!  In four days their levels of toxins had skyrocketed through the roof. 

Each chapter of the book deals with a different toxin that we come in contact with regularly, such as personal care products, antibacterial products, coating on pots and pans and the insides of canned goods, even garden hoses!  By the time I finished reading this book, I wanted to crawl under a rock, or go off the grid.  Not realistic.  However, the last chapter comes up with action plans and choices we can make as consumers to eliminate some of the toxins we are exposed to.  Such as switching from a non stick frying pan to a cast iron pan, eating light tuna instead of white tuna, using cloth bags instead of plastic bags at the store.  These are all things a lot of us can switch to, or are already doing. 

There is a lot of science in this book, and I am not science oriented.  I'm not going to lie, I skimmed a lot of the more technical stuff.  The authors have a great narrative approach, however, and use a lot of humor in their examples.  I feel better educated on the choices I can make as I bring things into my home.  My initial response to reading this book was fear, of course.  My second response was of apathy, as in it's everywhere, there's no escape, so why bother.  My third response was more reasonable, which is to read labels, be aware, ask questions and find solutions. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Summer has Arrived!

It's official, summer has finally arrived in a blaze of September glory!  30 degree weather has arrived at last!

My teddy bear sunflowers are finally blooming.  They're one of my favorites, they're so cute!

A lady bug and a bee decided to have a little party on one dwarf sunflower.  They held a pose for me as well.  I'm really going to enjoy this beautiful weather we're having, it's been a long time coming. 

Jiffy Cinnamon Rolls

In a recent Relief Society lesson, one of our sisters mentioned that she made cinnamon buns a lot for her teenagers during the school year, because she knew they were stressed out, and she wanted them to smell the cinnamon when they came through the door, and associate that smell with home, comfort and love.  I think that is a wonderful idea! 

So, here's my favorite recipe for cinnamon buns.  It's quick and easy and delicious!  If you want a deluxe version of cinnamon buns, I can recommend PW's cinnamon rolls.  They're to die for!  They also take some planning, and I don't always have time for a big production.  If you want cinnamon buns in less than an hour, this is the recipe for you.  It doubles well, so make two batches at once.  One is not enough!

This recipe comes from my battered copy of Muffins and More (Companies Coming) by Jean Pare.  Page 87.  The one with the stains on it.

Jiffy Cinnamon Rolls

2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
 4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cold butter
1 cup cold milk
1/3 cup softened butter
1 cup brown sugar
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1/3 cup raisins (optional)

In a large bowl mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  (I once used baking soda by accident, they were completely inedible!)  Cut in first amount of butter until crumbly.  Make a well in the centre.  Pour milk into well.  Stir to form soft dough adding a bit more milk of needed.  Turn out on lightly floured surface.  Knead 8-10 times.  Roll into rectangle about 1/2 inch thick and 12 inches long.  Width will vary. 

Cream second amount of butter, brown sugar and cinnamon together well.  Drop 1 measured teaspoon into each of 12 greased muffin tins.  Spread the remaining cinnamon mixture over dough rectangle.  Sprinkle raisins over top if using.  Roll up as for jelly roll.  Mark first then cut into 12 slices.  Place cut side down in muffin pan.  Bake in 400 degree f oven for 20-25 minutes.  Turn out on tray.  Makes 12. 


To 1/2 cup icing sugar, add enough milk or water to make a thin glaze.  Drizzle over cinnamon rolls.

Notes*  I spread the entire amount of brown sugar cinnamon butter on the dough rectangle, cut into 12, and put six rolls each into 2 greased 9" cake pans.  Then I turn the whole thing out on a rack once they're done.  Once they're glazed and cooled a bit (if they last that long) I break them apart gently.  Sometimes I ice the buns with buttercream frosting.  Yum!  I don't add raisins, there'd be an uprising. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Menu Planning

Welcome to Tip Day!  Sorry to all those that have been leaving comments, I'm not ignoring you, I just can't seem to reply to comments again!  I need to check a book out of the library - Replying to Comments for Dummies.  I'm what some in the industry would call a 'stupid user'.  Sigh. 

Anyway, back to the tip of the day.  Many years ago, my menu planning style was all pantry, all the time.  I kept my fridge, freezer and cupboard stocked with the usual suspects, and basically winged it from day to day.  And if a whim struck me, I'd toddle off to the store for whatever it was I was itching to bake, stew, braise, fry, get the general idea.

My menu planning style the last few years tends towards meal planning on a two week schedule.  The day before grocery day (or that very day, more likely!) I sit down with my big mom calendar, a pencil and a highlighter.  I pencil in tentative meal ideas, taking into account what's going on on a particular day.  For example, today is Tuesday, the first day of early morning seminary (6:15 a.m. this year, holy wow!), a contractor came this a.m. to finish the office downstairs, Sarah's friends came home with her for lunch, I had to work from 12-3, pick up the boys at 3 (yes, I know it's impossible to be two places at the same time, they had to cool their heels for ten min.), drop off the car for Jason, take the three youngest to piano lessons at 4:15, home at 5:50.  This was the perfect day for a crock pot meal.  So I penciled in meat balls, which I made at 9:30 this morning, threw in the pot with the tomato sauce, and at 6 p.m. I just needed to cook some noodles and we were ready to roll. 

I always schedule pizza for Fridays, because otherwise the world as we know it would end.  I make the dough in the morning before I go to work.  Thursday is always sandwich night, because four of the children have activities on that evening, and a girl needs a break.  Saturday is Mexican food night, whether that's enchiladas, tacos, fajitas, quesedillas, chili, you get the picture.  Sunday is big dinner day, with a nice dessert.  The other days I fill in depending on what's going on that day.  I highlight the meal on the calendar.  I write it in pencil, because nothing is written in stone, baby!  If I wake up one morning, look at the calendar, and think to myself..."There's no way I'm making/eating_______tonight", I erase the pencil meal and put in what I really want! 

As I'm filling in my calendar the day before grocery day, I also make my grocery list at the same time.  I know exactly what I need to buy, it's all written out on the calendar.  This saves me time and money.  I also still keep staples on the shelf for days when I change my mind.  Like I said, written in pencil, not stone. 

I posted on routines yesterday, and I have to say my children like the meal on the calendar routine.  They check it every morning to see what's for supper, accompanied with the requisite cheers or groans, depending on what's written down for the day (Grilled cheese sandwiches - Yay!  Vegetable soup - Boo!) 

I used to swear I'd never, ever use a meal plan, it was too inflexible.  But now that I calendar our meals, I don't think I'll ever go back.  Ten minutes of planning twice a month saves me a whole lot of time every day. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Family Activity - Getting Ready for Bed

Children need to have a schedule, everyone knows that!  Having a good bedtime routine helps children relax and get ready for sleep.  There are lots of things we can do to set up a bedtime routine for our younger children.  Our kids know the start of bedtime begins with gathering the family for a famiy prayer at eight o'clock.  There are other things that happen after that, baths and pj's for the younger set, saying their own prayers, getting a drink of water and a good book to read.  One thing my youngest boy likes to do is lay out his clothes for the next morning.  He makes a clothes boy on the floor!  He flattens out his clothes on the floor, right down to his socks and hoodie.  Now that it's back to school time in the northern hemisphere, a bedtime routine sure helps with getting up the next morning.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Apple Harvest

I woke up the other night and heard things dropping outside my bedroom window.  Apples were falling from one of our big apple trees.

Justin has promised to climb up the tree to where the big beautiful apples are, and I'll get the lower branches.  Then it will be time to make apple sauce, apple butter and apple pie filling.