Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Homemade Tomato Sauce

Do you know how long it takes to skin and seed 30 lbs of tomatoes? I didn't, until I did it a few days ago to can some homemade tomato sauce for the winter. Let me just say that it took a LOT longer than I had anticipated. Of course, I kept getting distracted by the kids. But I am reconsidering my idea of planting a bunch of tomato plants next spring...

Here's a recipe for Tomato Sauce that I got from the book "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life" written by Barbara Kingsolver. I've modified it slightly for my own use, but the original recipe on the book is as follows:

30 lbs tomatoes, pureed
4 large onions, chopped
1 cup dried basil
1/2 cup honey
4 tbsp. dried oregano
3 tbsp. salt
2 tbsp. ground dried lemon peel
2 tbsp. thyme
2 tbsp. garlic powder (or more, to taste)
2 tbsp. dried parsley
2 tsp. pepper
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg

Soften onions in a heavy 3-gallon kettle - add a small amount of water if necessary but no oil if you are canning (very important!). Add pureed tomatoes and all seasonings, bring to a boil, and simmer on low heat for 2-3 hours until sauce has thickened to your liking. Stir frequently, especially toward the end, to avoid burning. Meanwhile, heat water in canner bath, sterilize jars in boiling water, and pour boiling water over jar lids.

Bottled lemon juice or citric acid - NOT optional!

Add 2 tbsp. of lemon juice or 1/2 tsp. citric acid to each quart jar (1/2 that much to pint jars). This ensures that the sauce will be safely acidic. When the sauce is ready, ladle it into the jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Cap jars, lower gently into canner and boil for 35 minutes. Remove, cool, check all seals, label, and store for winter.

When I made this, I had enough for 4 500 ml jars and 23 250 ml jars, plus enough sauce to go with the roasted garlic ravioli we had for supper the next night :)


Friday, November 6, 2009

Tray-Baked Lamb Chops

Oh, yummm! I just finished eating a very yummy supper. The recipe comes from the book "The Gorgeously Green Diet". I used lamb chops from East Coast Family Market (at the Enfield Farmers Market on Saturdays), and I helped myself to extra when I was finished my 1st serving :)

Tray-Baked Lamb Chops

1 cup olive oil
juice of 2 lemons
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
salt & freshly ground black pepper
2 lamp chops (shoulder or leg chops work well) (I used 3 chops, as there were 3 of us eating)
4 medium carrots, sliced lengthwise
3 medium parsnips, sliced lengthwise

Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, rosemary, and salt and pepper to taste in a shallow bowl. Place the chops in the bowl and massage with the oil mixture. Cover the bowl with a plate and leave in the refrigerator overnight.
Preheat the oven to 400F.
Put the chops with the marinade on a large baking sheet and add the carrots and parsnips, coating the vegetables with the marinade. Put in the oven and bake for 45 minutes.
Serves 2.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

One of my Contributions

I've been doing lots of reading over the last couple of years about organics and environmentally-friendly, sustainable lifestyles. I think that we, as in the general human race, are doing a great disservice to the planet we call home.

We pollute the soil with loads of chemicals, just so we can get that "perfect" tomato (that looks nice but has next to no taste). We pollute the air with fossil-fuel burning power plants so we can run the electronics that make our lives so much "easier".We pollute the waters with garbage and oil.

I want to do as much as I can to help stop this. Once in a while I slip up and throw something in the garbage that could be recycled, or fall asleep with the tv on, but I make a conscious effort to keep my carbon footprint to a minimum.

One new way to help is by formulating a line of soaps made with organic oils. I'm in the process of doing this now :) I will hopefully be introducing a line of organic soaps in the new year. All of the vegetable oils I'll be using are certified organic - canola, coconut, flax, hemp, shea butter, and sunflower. Most of the essential oils I'll be using are certified organic, with a few that are organically grown and processed, but not certified. I do this not because I think it's better for the skin - let's face it, soap is a rinse off product and it doesn't stay on your skin long enough for any residual chemicals that may be present in a non-organic ingredient to be of concern. I do this for the planet - by using certified organic ingredients, I know that there have been no chemical fertilizers or pesticides used in the growing or processing. By taking this step to help the planet, I'm also helping future generations who will be relying on Earth for food, clothing and shelter.

This is where you come in :) I need testers for my new soap, as I'm using a few ingredients that I don't use in my existing soap line. Right now, most of my soaps are made with olive, palm, coconut and avocado oils with shea butter, which I've had wonderful reviews for. And I need to hear some honest feedback on what people think of my new soap. How it feels like to use, what they think of the lather, how it makes their skin feel, etc. I have a batch of organic unscented soap curing now, and when it's ready for use I'd like to send some sample bars to you for testing. If you're interested, please let me know (if you reply to this post, please make sure I know how to contact you). I will gather (privately) your address so I can ship it out next month when it's ready.

Thanks so much!!!

Monday, November 2, 2009

I Heart Hats

I really really do love to wear hats.

I discovered hats at a thrift shop while still in high school, and fell in love with this gorgeous, chocolate brown fedora. I used to wear that thing almost every time I went out!

I stopped wearing hats for a few years, but rediscovered them again about 5-6 years ago while I was participating in a local craft show. The neighbouring booth was run by a lady who made winter hats under the business name The Mad Hatter. I bought a lovely burgundy winter hat that was like a soft faux-suede outer and warm, snuggly faux-fur on the inside. The following year I bought 2 more hats from her, one was a lovely coffee with milk shade of brown outside with thick, warm faux-fur on the inside and the second one was a funky grey mix faux-fur that was almost shaped like a top-hat. I wore that thing to lots of my daughter's skating practices and it kept my head (and me) toasty warm :) This is a good thing, as it doesn't take much to make me uncomfortably cold.

I also have a crocheted summer hat that I purchased from Loopy4Ewe that I usually wear to the farmers market in the summer if I'm outside. My daughter also has a cool beanie from her. Just look at this cool hat:
Last spring, I discovered a very cool hatter in Lunenburg, NS - Anna Shoub. She's originally from the US, but found her way to our beautiful province. I want soooo many of her summer hats. Especially now that I have funky retro sunglasses in the style similar to Jackie O's. So I'm really coveting these couple of hats:But she also has stylish winter hats available.

Please check out these ladies' shops - they have lots of wonderful goodies to choose from! Support handmade, support local :)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Organic Trade Association

Organic has become such a catch phrase. There are some companies that market their products as made with organic ingredients, however unless they are certified organic they might only have a small percentage of organic ingredients.

And for a manufacturer to become certified, there are a lot of hoops that they have to jump through and red-tape that needs to be dealt with. And it's very expensive.

Not that I think it's not worth it. I think that our Earth needs us to grow our crops and raise our animals as organically as possible. There are too many chemicals used by too many large "corporate" farms as fertilizers and pesticides. These chemicals are collecting in our soils and water systems, negatively effecting our animals, plants, and our families.

More and more consumers are searching out organic food and products, which is great! The more demand there is for organic the more there will be available, and at better prices.

For some more great information on organics, please check out the website for Organic Trade Association. They have lots great information.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Personalized Jewellery

My daughter has been making jewellery for a couple of years now. She's made mainly earrings and necklaces in the past, and had sold a few pieces here and there. When I started selling at our local farmers market at the Enfield Legion, I told her that I would take her jewellery and display it on my table for her. She was thrilled, and most weeks came with me to the market to help out.

However, there has always been a couple other vendors there with jewellery, so her sales were minimal. I thought about what she could do that would be different then what the other jewellers offered, and made a couple of suggestions. She decided to go with personalized necklaces and bracelets. So she takes memory wire and strings it with mainly glass beads on either side of the requested name. These have just taken off for her! She's very excited to be making these and has almost saved up for her goal - a Wii. She's had a lot of custom orders, and tries to make sure she has some popular names made up in advance.

Memory wire is a special wire made from steel that retains it's round shape and does not require a fastener or clasp. The majority of her pieces are made using glass beads, but she can also use other beads made from wood, ceramic, and semi-precious gemstones. The basic bracelet costs $3, while the basic necklace costs $8. If she uses beads made from materials other than glass, the cost is usually higher.

She made some necklaces in a Hallowe'en theme, and still has a few available. She's usually with me at the farmers market if you'd like to come down and take a look. You can also contact me if you'd like to order a personalized item with your favourite colours :)

Here are a few photos of what she has available right now:

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Long 5 Months, and Some New Soapies

I think I'm finally able to get back on the blog and start posting again. It was a long summer, and I tried to spend as much time with my family as I could.

But I'm back, and I have 3 new soapies to share with you :) They are all available now at the Enfield/Elmsdale Farmers Market on Saturdays 8-1 at the Enfield Legion. They are also available online at my Etsy shop

We have Cinnamon Leaf, with my regular soaping oils of olive, palm, coconut, avocado and shea butter, scented with straight cinnamon leaf essential oil. I wouldn't use this if you have sensitive skin, but it should be fine for everybody else :)
We also have our Black Licorice soap, scented with star anise essential oil, and swirled with black oxide and red clay. And yes, it smells just like black licorice, or the licorice allsorts :)

And we have Almond Jubilation - smells just like cherry almond :) It's coloured with a touch of red clay.

Friday, May 29, 2009

My Friend, Tom

A light has gone out in the world. A dear friend of mine ended his life last Sunday. I first met him 19 years ago, and was honoured to be able to call him "friend".

I have been struggling with this since I was told on Monday. I have my own beliefs regarding suicide, which I will not bring into this writing as this is about Tom, not me... Tom has touched so very many people throughout his 42 years. It's hard to believe he's gone - we've had so many wonderful conversations and adventures, I thought we had a lifetime's worth of conversations still to have. There is still so many things I want to talk to him about. There is a hole in my life. I can honestly say that the last 4 days rank as equaling one other event for the saddest in my entire life.

I first met Tom at a party at the apartment of the man I was dating at the time. I was totally mesmerized with this man who was obviously very intelligent and had an interesting way of looking at everything. He really could see every aspect of any given situation. I remember telling my boyfriend and his roommate how charismatic Tom was. And if you saw Tom on the street you wouldn't give him a second glance. He was short (maybe 5'6" or 5'7"?), very slender, scarred face, a laugh that would wake people up on another floor (I loved that laugh, by the way). But his personality filled the room and hearts of everybody that knew him. He was a beautiful person.

At this party, I knew right away that Tom was different than other guys. We were playing a game called Spoons. I was a rather feisty young lady, who liked to win. And I was tough. But every guy I played against wouldn't fight very hard, and I could tell they were letting me win - perhaps because they were afraid they would hurt me, I'm not sure... But not Tom. He fought me tooth and nail for those spoons. He played like we were equals, even though he was stronger than I was, he regarded me as an equal. We both ended up with bruises and teeth marks from those games.

Another time we were having a very interesting conversation. He was likening boyfriends (and girlfriends) to toasters. You might have a fancy-pants 4-slice toaster with all the bells and whistles, and be miserable because as fancy as this toaster is it just doesn't toast the bread the way you like it. What you might be happier with is a little manual toaster than only toasts 2 slices of bread, doesn't have a darkness selector, looks kinda beat up, but it makes perfect toast every time. Just one of the many memories I have of conversations with Tom.

We went back-country camping in Keji. One long weekend of canoeing and camping in the middle of nowhere. Tom and another friend, Brad, didn't have a tent (the rest of us did), so they really roughed it sleeping in the open air (and yes, the bugs were baaaad). But it was an amazing weekend that I will never forget.

Tom has travelled to many places - on his motorcycle when he had it, as well as backpacking. I remember his stories of his travels through Britain, and the story of the mead :) He almost had his pilot's license - if I remember correctly he was only a few hours of flight time from getting it.
He worked in the movie industry in Halifax. I remember his allergies (who is allergic to lilacs???).

Tom would help people just because he could. He never expected anything in return. Although he didn't help me paint when I moved (he said that he's absolutely horrible at painting, and this has been confirmed by other people), he did help me move - more than once. He put his own dreams and ambitions on the back burner because of a promise he made to help somebody. You could tell him anything, and if you asked him not to tell anybody else he wouldn't. Period. He helped people physically, emotionally, and spiritually. He and I had a lot of similar spiritual beliefs. He was a bit of a flake, just like me :) In a good way, of course!

As smart and as intuitive as Tom was, I don't think he had a clue as to how important he was to so many people. If he knew just how many lives he made better, he wouldn't have ended his life. He has left a hole in so many hearts and lives.

The memorial service is tomorrow afternoon. I'm writing this now because, even though I've been crying since typing the title, I'm afraid that if I don't get it out somehow I will be an absolute mess tomorrow afternoon. I don't have any digital photos of Tom on my computer, although I think my husband does on his laptop. The only photo I have access to is the one that he had on his Facebook profile.

May he have found the peace that he must have been looking for. My life is better in so many ways for having known Tom, and yet now there is this emptiness...

I'll see you in another lifetime, my friend. And perhaps I will be in a position of being able to help you as much as you have helped me in this one ...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A "Me" Day at Crescent Beach

Today was an absolutely beautiful day here in Nova Scotia :) The forecast was calling for a high of 26C here, and I decided to get out of the house all by myself while the kids were in school and take a little road-trip! It was glorious! I do enjoy taking the kids on mini-adventures so they can see all of this beautiful province (and so I can see it fresh through their eyes), but going on a solo road-trip is a different experience altogether.I decided to go to a beach I've never been to before. It's called Crescent Beach and it's in Lunenburg Co., just outside Petite Riviere. There was a bit of delay getting there, as there was a road crew re-paving a section of Highway 103 and it was down to 1 lane of traffic. But the wait wasn't too long. I stopped shortly past the re-paving at a bridge to take some photos of the Mushamush River, then headed on. I actually got lost trying to get to the beach ... I was following the directions that Google Maps gave, and ended up on a dirt road that brought me back to the highway going back the way I came from! So as soon as I realized the problem, I turned around and stopped following Google's directions ;)When I got to the beach, it practically took my breath away! It was an amazing sight - unlike any other beach I've seen in NS. It stretched farther than I could see with gorgeous sand. I wish I had gotten on the road a bit earlier so I could spend more time there. It's definitely a place I'd like to take the kids to later.Crescent Beach is a 4 km crescent of sand, and it forms a natural causeway to the LaHave Islands. It was weird, though, as I noticed a car drive right down onto the beach as I was getting out of the van. Perhaps in the summer, when they are more people on the beach, the cars can't get on the sand. I certainly hope so, anyway... And the wind off the water was perfect. I like it warm, but even 29C is a bit too hot for me, but the wind off the Atlantic waves cooled it down just enough that I was comfortable.

I hope you enjoyed the little tour :)
Until next time,

Happiness Thought of the Day:
"You don't have to fight or struggle to gain happiness."

Monday, May 18, 2009

Natural Dishwashing Liquid

Here's another recipe for a natural dishwashing liquid. It calls for citrus seed extract. I'm not exactly sure why? Citrus seed extract is often used by "natural product manufacturers" as a "natural preservative". Citrus seed extract made from grapefruit seeds is not in itself a preservative and has no antimicrobial properties. When commercially prepared samples of citrus seed extract have been laboratory-tested by 3rd parties, the following substances have been found in different samples: benzalkonium chloride, benzethonium chloride, triclosan, or methylparaben. None of these substances are found in grapefruit seeds. So I will include the citrus seed extract in the following recipe and you can use it if you want to. However, please keep in mind that any antimicrobial activity comes from the additives the manufacturer included in the processing.

Alternative Dishwashing Blend
liquid castile soap
20 drops lime essential oil
10 drops sweet orange essential oil
5 drops citrus seed extract

Fill 22 oz plastic squirt bottle with castile soap, add essential oils, and shake before each use. When I make this, I will not be using the citrus seed extract...

In my search for certified organic ingredients, I have found organic liquid soap in bulk. It is not a castile soap - which by definition the only oil used is olive, however it is a natural liquid soap and not a synthetic detergent. It is made using organic sunflower and coconut oils. You can find liquid castile soap and essential oils at your local health food store as well as some grocery store chains. I also have them available, and if you'd like to pick some up let me know and I'll bring them to the Elmsdale & Enfield Farmers Market on Saturdays starting June 6.

Happiness Thought of the Day:
"Feeling you should be happy when everything inside you is telling you to be unhappy is like trying to correct nature - be unhappy and patient and happiness will come later."

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Day Trip to Queensland Beach

This is the May long weekend. But it's supposed to be rainy for most of it. So today I decided I would take the kids on a short daytrip to a very popular beach. Queensland Beach is just on the Halifax side of Hubbards. Beautiful sand, but when the tide is in there isn't much room. Lots of young adults go there in the warm weather - it's "the" beach to strut your stuff! Before leaving home, we packed a picnic so the kids wouldn't get cranky from hunger. Pita bread and tortillas, peanut butter, carrots, and juice. Even though it was overcast, it was quite warm - 16-18*C. I was a bit overdressed, as I thought it might be a bit chilly from the wind coming off the ocean. I didn't try the water, but the kids took off their shoes, rolled up their pants, and dove into digging the sand :) They had such a blast, we're looking forward to making a trip to another beach as soon as we can. I'm not keen on going to the beaches when they're crowded with people, it's just too noisy and hard to keep track of the kids... But during the off-season, beaches are a wonderful place to spend a couple of hours :)
On the way home, we dropped into a lawn & garden center - it was the first weekend they were open this year :) I chatted with the owner (I love dealing with small businesses) and he gave me a bit of gardening advice. I bought mostly herbs and edibles - basil, parsley, lemon thyme, sage, oregano, mint, yellow cherry tomatoes, roma tomatoes, romaine and mixed lettuces - along with a couple of monarda (bee balm) plants and a small-leaf rhododendron. I didn't take pictures of them yet. I will try to do that tomorrow before transplanting them. The herbs will be going into pots so I can bring them into the house in the fall to use into the winter as long as I can. I will probably put the tomatoes into large pots as well, as I don't have my raised beds built yet.
Do you have any beaches that you like to go to? Are there any spots in Nova Scotia that you'd recommend to take a family for a daytrip? We're kind of in the middle of the province, so it's not more than 4 1/2 hours or so to anywhere in Nova Scotia. I'd love to hear of your favourite spots to take the family, that isn't overly touristy :)

Happiness Thought of the Day:
"The path to happiness may be paved with tranquil solitude."

Organic Agriculture

Over the last little while, I've been doing lots of reading and research on organics. I started a couple of years ago, reading a bit here and there. But the last few months it's been really important to me to get as much information as I can.

A good website to check out is the website run by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM). There is a lot of information to read there, including links to organic producers. And this is an international group, so it has information for many different countries which is great!

Being located where I am, it's difficult to choose what food to eat. Ideally, local organically grown food would be available as it's important to me to support local producers as well as eating food that is grown/raised without using chemical fertilizers and pesticides. During the winter months, it's next to impossible to find fresh local food, so when I can I usually choose certified organic food, even though it's grown in the US or another foreign country. However, if I can choose between an organic item grown in a different country and one that isn't certified organic but grown in my own province, which should I choose? I waffle back and forth on that issue every time I go grocery shopping :(

Luckily, one of the vendors (East Coast Family Market) at our local farmers market will have certified organic vegetables this year (I'm so looking forward to our opening day - June 6!). ECFM also has meat available, but I'm not sure if the meat is certified organic or not. But I do know that the animals are humanely raised, and even though I haven't asked them yet, I'm sure that if they feel it's important to grow certified organic veggies that they will also be raising their animals in an organic way.

On the organic topic, I've decided that I'm going to produce a line of organic soaps. I have on hand certified organic carrier oils and essential oils that are either certified organic or organically grown but not certified. I hope to have this line ready for market no later than September. The soaps themselves will not be certified organic, as I am not certified. But all of the plants provided the oils I use will have been grown organically so I know that I'm helping to support organic agriculture, which helps keep our Earth healthy.

Is organic agriculture important to you? Why or why not? How do you ensure that you are buying food that is healthy for both your family and the Earth? I'd love to hear what other people think!

Happiness Thought of the Day:
"Now is the time to be happy. This is the place to be happy."

Friday, May 15, 2009

New England Clam-less Chowder

In the search for some yummy meatless meals that the whole family will enjoy, I found a recipe for New England Clam-less Chowder. I haven't made it yet, but I plan on doing so this weekend for supper. I'll make the veggie stock today to use as a base, and I'll make the soup tonight. I'm hoping to take the kids on a mini-adventure to a beach tomorrow if the weather co-operates, but it is supposed to be drizzly so a good pot of hot, homemade soup will be the perfect pick-me-up when we get back :)

New England Clam-less Chowder

1 tbsp canola oil
2 tsp soy sauce or tamari
4 oz firm tofu, finely diced
1 tbsp margarine
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely diced
2 tbsp whole wheat flour
4 cups vegetable stock or water
3 medium potatoes, scrubbed and diced
3 cups corn kernels
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried summer savory or marjoram
2 cups low fat milk or soy milk, or as needed
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat oil & soy sauce or tamari slowly in medium-sized skillet. Stir diced tofu in quickly to coat, then turn heat up to medium high. Saute, stirring frequently, until browned and crisp on all sides, about 12-15 minutes. When done, remove from heat and set aside until needed.
In meantime, heat margarine in soup pot. Add onion and celery and saute over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is golden, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle in flour a little at a time. Slowly stir in stock or water, then add potato dice, corn kernels, and dried herbs. Bring to simmer, then simmer gently, covered, until potatoes are tender and corn kernels are done, about 20-25 minutes.
With back of wooden spoon, mash small amount of potatoes to thicken base. Then add milk or soy milk as needed; soup should be semi thick but no overly dense. Slowly bring to gentle simmer, then season to taste with salt and pepper. If time allows, let soup stand off heat for an hour or two before serving, then heat through as needed.
Serves 6-8.

I'm looking forward to making (and eating!) this - it looks pretty darn tasty, eh?

Happiness Thought of the Day:
"Try to find happiness with as many different people as you can."

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

OHHHHH, A Neat Giveaway :)

I just read about a giveaway by the Polymer Clay Artists Guild of Etsy. They've put together a gift basket for Mother's Day filled with oodles of polymer clay goodies :) They will be drawing for the winner on May 11, so go over to their blog and check out the details! They have some wonderfully talented artists that work with polymer clay there - I found lots of goodies that I'd love to buy (if only I'd win that $32Million jackpot tomorrow ;) )

Natural Household Cleaners

Every since just before Earth Day last week, I've been thinking more about environmentally-friendly living. I had borrowed a book from the library called The Naturally Clean Home written by Karyn Siegel-Maier. There are several books available on this subject either at your local library or book store if you want to buy a copy. I highly recommend checking out one or two to get some ideas, as we really don't need 101 different cleaners when you can get buy with just a few different ingredients and make your own without the chemicals...

I'm going to share a few with you here:

Synergistic Dishwashing Blend

liquid castile soap
15 drops lemon or lemongrass essential oil
6 drops lavender essential oil
5 drops bergamot essential oil

Fill a clean 22-oz plastic squirt bottle with castile soap (diluted according to directions if using concentrate). Add the essential oils. Shake the bottle before each use. Add 1-2 tbsp. of the liquid to dishwater and wash as usual.

Mold Deterrent
Use this spray in the shower or bathtub, or anywhere else water tends to collect on surfaces. If you already have a buildup of mold or mildew, allow the spray to "rest" on the surface areas for a few hours. Wipe with a soft cloth, then respray the areas and let dry without rinsing.

1 1/4 cups white vinegar
3/4 cup water
4 drops cinnamon essential oil
6 drops patchouli essential oil
2 tsp. tea tree essential oil

Combine all ingredients in a spray bottle. Spray surfaces well but do not rinse.

Lemon-Walnut Wood Polish

1/8 cup walnut oil
1/8 cup linseed oil
1/4 cup lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Apply a light layer of polish to wood with a brush or cloth. Rub into wood with a soft cloth, using circular motions. Wipe again with a dry cloth.

There are so many natural alternatives for cleaning floors, walls, dishes, clothes, bathrooms, sinks, etc, all using baking soda, vinegar, water, washing soda, liquid castile soap, and essential oils that there isn't any need for the commercially available cleaning products that are heavily scented, full of chemicals that aren't really all that great for our health, and are expensive.

If you try any of the above formulas, or if you have your own tried and true homemade cleaners, I'd love to hear about them!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Today is Earth Day

This post is going to be short & sweet!

Today is Earth Day. A day to celebrate Earth, and to revisit how we should be treating her. Lots of people participated in Earth Hour which is great. How many people are going to seriously consider what they can do on a daily basis to help our great planet?

Here, we have decided to reduce the amount of time the computers and tv are on. Each are on for several hours a day, and we quite often have 3 computers in the house. My work computer (which I also use for personal use), my husband's work laptop, and our son's personal computer. So, we have agreed on a rule that the tv does not get turned on during the week and the computers are only on for each child to use for 1/2 hour each day to send an email to Dad when he's working and to do their daily Webkinz activities so their Webkinz don't get sick... Yesterday was the 1st day we did it, and the kids were fine with it! No complaints (I think it's because I didn't make a blanket statement of no computer or tv at all) and they actually played with Bionicle lego - together!! And played with dominoes, and practiced their musical instruments (drums, guitar, violin and recorder).

I also made a commitment to use less packaging or to reuse packaging whenever possible. For a great way to reduce your use of plastic bags at the grocery store or bulk food store, check out these bags from Kootsac on Etsy.

Also, if you ship things you can use old (clean) cereal boxes and granola boxes for mailers. You can check out a fabulous tutorial on how to make there here.

Several members of the TransCanada Etsy Team are celebrating Earth Day with specials. You can check them out here. I am also having a special - free shipping on all orders over $15. You can check out what I have in stock at my Etsy shop - but the sale runs for one day only! April 22. If you are local and normally pick up your order anyway, then instead of free shipping I'll include free items with your order :)

Hmmm, guess it wasn't quite so short and sweet after all. But now that it's ready to be posted, I'm going to be turning my computer off again for the day and doing some spring cleaning with natural cleaning products that I'm making myself. Stay tuned for some recipes so you can also make some!

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Old Burying Ground

Yesterday, I took the kids on another mini-adventure. This time, we went to the Old Burying Ground in Halifax. The weather was overcast, with a few showers. It was a bit too cold for the kids to spend more than about 45 minutes there, and I didn't get to see all of the grounds, but we had a good time while there!

The Old Burying Ground was Halifax's first cemetery. In this common burial ground lie many of the first citizens of Halifax, their descendants, and men of the British Army and Royal Navy who were stationed here. First opened in 1749, the year Halifax was founded, it was used until 1844. During that period, over 12,000 men, women and children were buried here; fewer than 10% of their graves are marked.

The gravestones were all carved by hand, using chisels and wooden mallets. Many of the old slate stones were quarried and carved around Massachusetts Bay, and shipped to Halifax before the American Revolution. By the 1770's local stone carvers were making gravestones from a poorer quality local slate (or "ironstone"). Most gravestones carved after 1820 are plain, massive sandstone.

The images or symbols can be a clue to the gravestone's age. Older stones show symbols of death-stylized winged skulls ("death-heads") or winged angels (soul effigies). In the early 1800's the images gradually changed from representations of death to those of bereavement - funerary urns, lamps (of life, extinguished), and sometimes sprigs of willow (weeping).

A monument was erected in 1860 in memory of Major A.F. Welsford and Captain W.B.C.A. Parker. These two Halifax men both perished during the Crimean War. In September, 1855 they participated in the assault on the Great Redan, part of the eastern defenses of Sebastopol.

I was particularly drawn to this gravestone. The emotions must have been very strong to have the details carved into the gravestone for everybody to read...

Originally, the cemetery was located outside the settlement's walls. However, as time passed and Halifax grew into a city the burying ground was embraced by the city boundaries. It is now located in the heart of the city, surrounded by office buildings, a thriving shopping district, educational institutions and restaurants. I wonder how many people walk by every day, without ever thinking about the history right beside them?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Potato, Cheese and Green Chili Soup

Okay, so here it is - what I think is the best soup I've ever had! It comes from the book "Vegetarian Soups for All Seasons" by Nava Atlas

5 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
5 cups vegetable stock (I used the full recipe of Onion & Garlic stock mentioned below) or water
1 tbsp canola or olive oil (I used olive)
1 large onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
1 large green bell pepper, finely chopped (I used red as we didn't have any green)
1 cup chopped fresh, ripe tomatoes (substitute canned if good, ripe tomatoes are unavailable)
1 cup cooked fresh or thawed frozen corn kernels
1 4-oz can chopped mild green chilies
1 tsp chili powder
8 oz reduced-fat cheddar cheese or cheddar-style soy cheese, grated (I didn't weigh out my cheese, I just used a big chunk that we had in the fridge)
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Place the diced potato in a soup pot and cover with the stock or water. Bring to a simmer, then simmer gently, covered, until the potatoes are just tender, about 15 minutes.

In the meantime, heat the oil in a small skillet. Saute the onion over medium heat until it is translucent. Add the garlic and green pepper and saute until the mixture begins to brown lightly.

Remove half of the potatoes from the cooking liquid with a slotted spoon and place them in a shallow bowl. Mash them well, then stir back into the soup pot, followed by the onion-bell pepper mixture. Add the tomatoes, corn, green chilies, and chili powder. Add additional water if the soup is too dense. Stir together, return to a simmer, then simmer gently for 20 minutes.

Sprinkle in the grated cheese, a little at a time, stirring it until it is fairly well melted each time (soy cheese may not melt as completely). Season to taste with salt and pepper and allow the soup to simmer over very low heat, stirring frequently, for another 5 minutes.

Serve at once, or let stand for an hour or so before serving. Heat through as needed and adjust the consistency with more water if the soup becomes too thick.

I had 5 bowls of this soup over 3 days (it really is the best soup I've ever tasted - have I mentioned that?), and even my two sons had second helpings!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Onion and Garlic Broth

Last night I made what I think is probably the best soup I've ever had! It was amazing... But I'll get to that later ;)

The other day I went to the library to pick up a book that our daughter had put on hold. While I was there, I decided to see if there were any books I'd like to check out, too. I did a few searches and came out of the library with 5 books just for me :)

I've been inspired by a friend's blog ( ) to think even more about how to conserve. One of the books I took out of the library was "Vegetarian Soups for All Seasons" by Nava Atlas. I'm not a vegetarian, but certainly could be. But with 4 other people in the family it's much easier to make some days meatless than to go completely vegetarian. Usually, when I see a recipe that looks really yummy, I'll go out and get whatever I need to make it. However, following my friend's example I decided to only make meals that I already have the ingredients for in the house. Let's face it, I have cupboards, a fridge & freezer, 2 pantry shelving units and a deep freeze absolutely full of food already - so I should be able to find some recipe that uses items I already have, right?

And boy, did I!

First, I made an Onion & Garlic Broth. Here's the recipe:

1 tbsp. canola oil (I used olive)
1 large onion, chopped, or 2 medium leeks, white parts only, cut into 1/4 inch rings (I used 2 medium onions)
4-6 cloves garlic, minced (I used 6 as we all like garlic)
6 cups water
1/4 cup dry red wine (I used a Chilean Shiraz)
salt to taste
1/8 tsp. freshly ground pepper, optional

Heat the oil in a large heavy saucepan. If using leeks, separate the rings and rinse them well to remove grit. Add the onion or leeks and saute over moderate heat until golden. Add the garlic and continue to saute until the onion or leeks brown lightly. Add the water, wine, salt, and optional pepper, and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat for 30-40 minutes. You may leave the onions and garlic in if you wish (I did), or strain the stock through a fine sieve or cheesecloth.

Now it's ready to use as either a clear broth if you're not feeling well, or you can use it as a base for any soup that calls for vegetable broth. I used it for the above mentioned best soup I've ever had... I'll do another post with the recipe for that soup later. But for now, let's just say it has potato, cheese, and chiles. Did I mention it was the best soup I've ever had? Stay tuned for the recipe...

Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures. As soon as the broth was finished I had to leave to take my doctor to Halifax for an eye appointment, and as soon as we got home I had to start making the aforementioned best soup I've ever tasted.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Adventure on the Ferry

Yesterday, I decided I wanted to take the kids out on a mini-adventure. Nothing too strenuous, but just something a bit different to get out of the house and recharge the batteries :) So I decided we'd drive to the Dartmouth Ferry terminal, hop on the ferry to Halifax, wander around the waterfront, then back on the ferry, and home.

Some history on the Dartmouth Ferry: It started running in 1752, and was used by the farmers and other settlers in Dartmouth to transport food and ice to the Halifax army garrison. The original ferry vessel was a large rowboat equipped with a sale! It is the oldest, continuous, salt-water passenger ferry service in North America. Very cool!

We got to the Dartmouth terminal as the ferry was approaching. Yay! No waiting around :) Fare was $2/adult, $1.40/child. I think it was pretty obvious I wasn't familiar with the ferry (it's been a few years since I've lived in the city), since I wasn't even sure where to put my money! The gentlemen behind the desk were very helpful, and even gave us transfers with extra time on them so we could come back across for free :)

It was a gorgeous day, a bit overcast as we were expecting another winter storm later that night, but it was above 0C so we went on the top deck so I could get some photos.
Here's George's Island - well part of it anyway :)

We had to veer a bit off course as an ACL container ship was going past, so I snapped a few pics of it...

When we arrived on the Halifax side of the harbour, it was close to lunchtime so we stopped at Perk's for a quick bite to eat. Perk's has been around for a long time - it opened on Lower Water St. right by the ferry terminal in 1989. It was a great place to go on a date back in the day :) The kids each had something to eat and drink, I just had a peppermint tea as I'm on a cleanse right now and want to stay away from wheat.

Both the boys had a Cinnamon Apple Roll - and man, did they look yummy!
And my peppermint tea. Love peppermint tea :)

After leaving Perk's, we walked around the waterfront for a bit. The kids wanted to see some starfish - they didn't realize how deep the water is there. My knee wasn't very keen on walking too far, so we skipped Historic Properties. That can be for another trip, perhaps when the kids aren't with me and I can browse as long as I'd like ;)

When I figured my knee had enough, we started back towards the Halifax ferry terminal, and lo and behold the ferry was approaching! We really had great timing, as on Sundays the ferry only runs every 1/2 hour. The kids wanted to sit inside going back, so we found seats on the main deck. But Nathaniel started to feel a bit ill - probably from the smell (not terrible, but certainly not the freshest). So he and I went up to the top deck for the trip back to Dartmouth. And of course, I took a few more pics :)

Here's looking down at the water from the front of the ferry:

And here's saying goodbye to Halifax:

I hope you enjoyed "tagging along" with us on our mini-adventure :) I wonder where the next one will take us?

Happiness Thought of the Day:
"Happy is he who has intellectual curiosity."

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Sweet Potato Pecan Pie Tealights

It's been a long time since I've made candles. I've been making lots of Aroma Melts for years, but stopped making candles with wicks in them several years ago. Well, I've been wanting to make them again, and so this week I made a batch. I started out small - just made a batch of tealights. But as time allows I will be making more types of candles :)
They will be available on my Etsy shop very shortly, just need to list them!

The scent I made is Sweet Potato Pecan Pie - sweet potatoes, vanilla, roasted pecans and caramelized butter baked with cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg make up this amazing dessert blend. All topped with a dollop of fresh whipped cream! Well, not real whipped cream, it just smells like that ;)

On another note, as some of you know already my oldest son is going to The Gambia (in Africa) with several Venturers and Scout leaders the summer of 2010. He is helping to build a skills training center. We have much fundraising to do (we've been raising funds for over a year now!) to buy the supplies they will be using to build it. They need to raise approximately $45000 for the project. One of the fundraisers is an goods auction being held at Shooters in Enfield on Saturday, Feb 21. Viewing is 5-5:30, with the auction itself 5:30-8:30. Tickets are only $5, and you can contact me if you'd like any, or they can also be purchased at the door provided we don't sell out beforehand. We are also accepting corporate donations if any business would like to donate goods or money for the project. If you would like to have more information about the project and how you can help, please let me know :)

Today is a beautiful, sunny day. I hope you all enjoy a fabulous weekend!

Happiness Thought of the Day:
"Happiness is the best adventure on earth!"

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Incense Sticks - Ginger Maple and Tibetan Black Tea

I've been really slow getting things made the last couple of weeks :( My daughter has been sick, and when I took her to see our doctor yesterday he said that she has pneumonia. Well, actually he said that other doctors would call it "walking pneumonia" but he doesn't really like to use that phrase so he was going to call it a really bad case of bronchitis... So she has been home from school for almost 2 weeks, but is now on antibiotics so should start feeling better soon.

Anyway, I haven't really had much time to work on things. But I did get a couple of batches of incense made - Ginger Maple and Tibetan Black Tea.

Ginger Maple is a smooth blend of ginger infused with sweet maple notes.
Tibetan Black Tea is a sultry blend of Tibetan black tea, mystical spices and rich woody notes of patchouli mingling together.

I've taken a few photos of the incense outside in this wonderful snowstorm we're having today :) I have listed them in my Etsy shop, as well as my new ArtFire shop and my forgotten (oops) iCraft shop.

Happiness Thought of the Day:
"No person can ever truly know what lies behind your happiness."

Friday, January 30, 2009

Apricot Freesia Soap

Well, my Fun & Funky soap production has really slowed down since the Farmer's Market has closed for the season. But I wanted to make something that I could make around my daughter, since she's been home the last few weeks with this nasty respiratory flu that's been going around (and yes, I have been feeling the effects of it, but I'm trying to rest as much as possible so it doesn't get too bad). So I decided to do a log of Apricot Freesia soap. And since it's coming up to Valentine's Day, I thought I'd make it with a pink swirl :)

These are available now in my Etsy shop. If you're local and I don't need to ship it just let me know in the Message to Seller box during checkout that you'd like to pick it up in person and I'll let you know the total minus the shipping :) And right now I have a BOGO Free sale going on for a limited time, so you can choose a 2nd type of soap for free :) Just check out what's in my Etsy shop and make your selection from the varieties available.

Happiness Thought of the Day:
"The path to happiness can be found by doing as much good as you can by all the means you can."

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Sun Island Soap Almost Ready

My Sun Island Soap is almost ready for sale. This is the soap you want to use when you're head is all stuffed up from a cold. Scented with essential oils of eucalyptus, rosemary, benzoin resin and peppermint this will start to clear out the sinuses :)

This soap never looks the same from batch to batch. It's a bit finicky to work with, but it's a popular bar with my customers so I keep making it :)

Along with the essential oils listed above, it has wonderful oils such as lots of olive, coconut, palm, avocado and unrefined, fair-trade shea butter, and beeswax from a local apiary. I colour it with red clay. Sometimes it's a defined swirl, other times it's a layer. This batch it's all just kinda mixed in for a speckled pattern. This isn't the prettiest batch I've made, but it still works :)

These are stamped and just need to cure for another few days, then they'll be ready for sale. I'll have them up in my Etsy shop within a week or so. Once they're up, they're good to go :)

Happiness Thought of the Day:
"There is no greater happiness than going out of your way to do something for a good cause in which your part is only discovered by chance."