Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Still cold

It was really cold yesterday (Tuesday, Dec 29th) and the dogs did not want to stay out too long. I didn't either, so I didn't take the camera out. It was starting to get milder today, although it was still quite cold this morning. This is a close up of the brush that is still encased in the ice from the freezing rain. The ice decorations tinkled lightly in the breeze, like glass wind chimes, and as the dogs ran around, brushing by them.

This afternoon, Tawny sat by the fence watching for Freda to return. You can see the virtually all of the ice has falled off the sugar maple.

While Tawny was outside waiting for Freda, Taz was inside trying to nap on the couch. Taz feels the cold a lot more than Tawny so he doesn't stay out when it is chilly. I am fascinated by how he can curl his huge body up into such a small space.

This is just a photo of a pear. But what a pear - look how huge it is!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Mother Nature's Crystal Chandelier

This is the photo that inspired the title of this blog posting.

It was a beautiful mild morning - about -1C - with wonderful sunshine. That made it delightful to take the dogs out for a play.

The bright sunshine made all the ice on the trees glitter like crystal. Very pretty!

Here's a close up of some glittering branches. The photo doesn't really do it justice.

We are dog-sitting Max, the little black dog on the left of this photo. He loves playing with Tawny and Taz.

There is a house down the road under construction. There is a crane there today lifting the roof trusses into place.

The dogs all get along very well, here they are taking a quick breather before they start playing again.

The fence looks like it is a wall made of glittering ice.

The sunlight started to disappear in the late morning, shoved out of the way by the clouds. A short while later, some large fluffy snowflakes started to fall, gradually giving way to a heavier snowfall of smaller flakes. This photo was taken when the snowfall was transitioning from the large to the small snowflakes. It looks like the sun has left us for today.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Day after freezing rain

We had freezing rain yesterday, and it caused quite a burden on the younger trees and small branches. The small tree in this photo is the young sugar maple that we planted last year and is really suffering as a result. It was about 0C when I took this photo, and you could hear the ice falling off the larger trees as they moved slightly in the breeze. It was overcast so there was no sun to hasten the melting of the ice on the trees. We were going to go out to visit some friends, and it seemed to me that the weather would not be mild enough for the ice to melt off our little maple. So I went out with a bucket of tepid water and a soup ladle, and poured water over the ice on the tree, which unburdened the tree of the ice. This was the 'before' photo, of course.

The big elm out front looked very pretty with its cocoon of ice.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Freezing rain

Boxing Day dawned with freezing rain hitting the window. This was the view out the front where you can see glittering ice sheathing the tree branches (on the right side of photo).

The freezing rain was coming from the northwest, so the windows on the back of the house were coated in ice, as you can see from this photo.

There were a lot of little icicles on the eavestroughs.

Our poor little sugar maple is bent over with the burden of the ice. This reminded us of the ice storm back in 1998 that completely bent birch trees over, where the trees were bent double and the tops of the branches were touching the ground.

This photo was taken just after 9pm, when the freezing rain had turned to snow. It sounded like the freezing rain was still falling, but that was just the sound of the ice creaking on the trees as they moved in the wind.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Meaningful things

We went to Arnprior last week, and found these napkins in a little store. After we stopped laughing, we decided we would buy these for some friends who have four children. She enjoyed them too!

The best gifts are those that help others. This gift represents stocking a medical clinic. Very nice.

And this gift represents helping start a small business. Terrific.

In our usual Christmas tradition, we go over to some friends for the Christmas dinner. We had been so busy lately that we hadn't had any time to vaccuum, so we cleaned the floors before we went over. The dogs were kept in the solarium while we were doing that so they wouldn't track wet footprints all over the house... Poor doggies - NOT!

When we go to potlucks, some people have favourite things that they always ask us to make. Helen and Steve like our Golden Crumb Broccoli Bake.

We actually make this recipe with cauliflower as well as broccoli - it adds a touch of sweetness as well as some colour. We also use real cheese instead of 'American' cheese. I used Colby cheese this time.

The cooked broccoli and cauliflower is covered with a mixture of condensed mushroom soup, mayonnaise, grated cheese and lemon juice. After that, some crushed crackers and the rest of the grated cheese are sprinkled on top of the sauce. This is what the dish looked like when it was ready to go in the oven.

And this is what the dish looks like after it comes out of the oven. It smells very nice too!

We also needed to take a pumpkin pie - as Steve loves pumpkin pie.

When I was buying the ingredients for the pie filling, I wanted to buy pure pumpkin, as a lot of the pumpkin pie filling is s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d with squash. The only pure pumpkin pie filling was a large can, so we would have enough filling for two pies. This is not such a bad thing... :)) So, Freda made two pie crusts and we baked them. While they were baking, I mixed up the filling. This photo shows the pies after the filling was poured into them. It smelled very tempting!

One of the best side-benefits about baking is that it fills the house with delightful aromas. Pumpkin pie is certainly no slouch in that department. This is what the pie looked like after taking it out of the oven - hmmm, looks good enough to eat (haha!).

Of course, you need to have whipped cream to accompany pumpkin pie. The recipe called for 'spiced' whipped cream, which basically just means adding a bit of cinammon and ginger when you're whipping the cream.

And this is what the pie looked like later on -- yummy! The pumpkin pie recipe called for cinammon, ginger and allspice - no nutmeg, surprisingly. Although the pie was delicious, I think I would add nutmeg the next time.

I'll close off this very long post by wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and best wishes for a Happy New Year!!!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve pano

December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve was a nice winter day - it was a nice temperature although kind of a dull and overcast day.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Making mini black and whites

When I was preparing to make the biscotti, I decided I wanted to make a festive cookie, but something that's a little different from the usual Christmas fare. I found a recipe for a minature version of something called "black and whites", the description read: This is a miniature version of a New York favorite — a cakey cookie with sweet half-moons of vanilla and chocolate icing. The usual version are 2 1/2 inches or larger in diameter, which is why these cookies are called "mini".

This is the mixer doing all the hard work, mixing the ingredients up. After I mixed it all up, I realized that I forgot to put in the baking soda - oops! So I kept the mixer going and sprinkled the baking soda in so it would get mixed in well.

After you bake the cookies, you turn them over and ice the bottoms, which is flat so the icing doesn't slide off.

These are the cookies after I iced them. I wasn't able to do a very good job icing the cookies because the icing was a bit too thick. The instructions said to ice the cookies with an offset spatula - I didn't have one of those so I just used a spoon. Maybe the offset spatula would have made it easier to ice them, I don't know.

This was the photo of the cookies that accompanied the recipe. They look way way nicer than my version - they are rounder (even though I used the freezer bag as a pastry bag trick to 'pipe' out the cookie mixture on the tray) and the icing is much smoother and more even.

Overall, I would have to give this recipe a D because it is so very very time consuming and the result isn't that esthetically appealing. I don't plan on making this recipe again.

Edit: You can find the recipe for these cookies at

Making Parmesan and Black Pepper Biscotti

So I decided to try a new recipe... Parmesan and Black Pepper Biscotti. Comments on the recipe suggested that adding some chopped fresh rosemary was a nice addition. So this is what I set out to do.

First, the parmesan. The recipe suggested using the King of Cheeses - Parmigiano Reggiano. I never cared much for the usual Parmesan cheeses, like the bland grated Parmesan that Kraft pushes, but Parmigiano Regginao is very different - it is delightful, with a nice sharp taste. The downside is that this is an expensive cheese, $39/kg at most grocery stores but can be purchased at a big box store for $29/kg and is sometimes even on sale (like when I purchased it).

Once you have the grated Parmesan cheese, you add the coarsely ground black peppercorns to the flour and baking powder and mix it in. I used Freda's coffee grinder for grinding spices once before, but it's not recommended to do that if you're grinding pepper. So I found a coffee grinder to grind the peppercorns, it cost me just over $7, so now I don't need to worry about contaminating the coffee grinder with other flavours.

The recipe didn't call for rosemary, but commenters on the recipe suggested it. So I chopped up some fresh rosemary and mixed it into the flour mixture. Then I mixed the butter in with the flour.

The next step was to whisk the eggs with the milk, and then add it to the flour mixture, stirring it with a fork to make a soft dough. I thought this would be hard to do, but it was quite easy.

The next step is to form the dough into four "logs" on ungreased cookie sheets. Biscotti normally calls for putting it on parchment paper, so I was going to do that but, as luck would have it, there was only a short piece left for one cookie sheet. Then you whisk up the last egg and brush that on top of the logs, and then sprinkle the remaining parmesan cheese and black pepper on top.

The logs are baked in a 350 oven for about 30 minutes. Take them out of the oven and let them cool for 10 minutes, and then cut the logs diagonally and put them back on the cookie sheet for the second baking for 35-45 minutes at 300, turning them over once.

This is the biscotti after the second baking, and when they are cooling on the rack.

I've never been a big fan of biscotti, because they are usually so hard even after dunking into your coffee. Traditionally, biscotti is made with almonds, so that's another reason that I haven't been a big fan of them. Unlike the dessert-type of biscotti, these savoury biscotti have a slightly crumbly texture and, I have to say, are truly wonderful and were a hit with everyone who tried them.

The recipe wasn't difficult to make and it turned out quite well and it was not difficult to make them look very esthetically appealing.

Overall, I would give this recipe an A+ for ease of making and also for the results. Yummy!

You can find the recipe at

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Fixed already!!!

I just posted about the Ooops! that I did when cleaning paint off the cupboard door. The cabinet maker came on Friday to pick up the door, resprayed it, and returned it today to reinstall it. Wow - that was quick and there is no remaining sign of the Ooops which is really awesome.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A mixed bag...

Pano - Dec 18, 2009
I seem to have been on a roll this week, making lots of blog updates and panorama photos, and baking too. So this blog entry is more of the same. Tawny was enjoying the scenery on Friday when we took our (short) walk - it was quite cold (-26C overnight) but the wind made it quite miserable. We were walking with the wind on the way out, but when we turned to face the wind when turned around to head home. It was so cold that we ended up running the last 500 feet home. Thank goodness I had on the really nice thick tocque that my mum knitted for me a few years ago. That is my favourite tocque for very cold or inclement weather because it is long enough that I can pull it right down over my ears.

Uh-oh.... When I was baking a few days ago, I had the cupboard door above the fridge open, and then I opened the pantry door. That ended up leaving a scraping of paint on the cupboard door. So I thought I would use the Magic Eraser to get the paint off the door. Wow - that worked really well I thought, after I finished with the Magic Eraser. Then the next day I noticed that it left a dull patch on the door - Uh Oh!!! The cabinet guy came today to pick up the door to respray it, to restore the finish to the even lustre.

And finally, to cap off this blog post, I decided to make another batch of the molasses crinkles (that I made the other day). But this time, instead of the molasses, I put in some of the left over syrup from the candied ginger that I made. I made a double batch which is why the bowl is so full here. I am happy to report that these cookies (and I am calling the ginger crinkles, because there is no molasses in them) passed the Freda taste test!!

Lucky coyote!!!

Imagine you are a coyote. Imagine you are a coyote running across a highway in Colorado, and get hit by a van going 75 mph. Now imagine spending eight hours wedged behind the bumper of that Honda, traveling 600 miles and ending up in California, and surviving with a few scrapes and scratches. I think that is the definition of LUCKY!!

You can read the full story at

Window replacement #5

This is Jeff, who came to replace the window pane with Andrew (not shown). This window has been a real pain, literally, as this is the fourth replacement (fifth piece of glass).

Because the window was cracked, the seal was broken. This meant the window was essentially a single pane unit. As a result, the condensation on the inside of the glass froze, and of course this meant any water in the drainage channels in the window froze as well. The bottom piece of moulding that holds the glass in was frozen to the frame, and unfortunately broke when Jeff was trying to remove it. You can see all the ice that they scraped off the bottom of the window frame in preparation for installing the replacement glass.

This is the window after the new pane was installed. No cracks yet - cross your fingers! I asked Steve (the owner of the window company) what would be different this time, so that the window would break again. He said that Fenergic, the window manufacturer, said to put a bead of silicone on the glass. To me, that just doesn't make sense because there must be something that is putting pressure on the glass and causing it to fail. That was also Steve's idea, because he asked Jeff to take a look at anything that might potentially be causing the glass failure.

When Jeff was cleaning out the ice, he noticed that there was a very small nub of plastic sticking out at each of the bottom corners. That little bit would have only been protruding about 1, or maybe 2m mm. Since added pressure could cause the glass to fail, Jeff got out his knife and shaved the pieces off. This photo is a macro zoom of the tiny particles of plastic shaved off the bottom corners of the frame. For comparison, you can see a couple of Taz hairs in the photo also :). Hopefully that will be it and there won't be any more glass failures...