Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Slowly Learning the Art of Fermentation

I am slowly learning the art of fermentation and the many health benefits that come along with fermented foods. 

For years I have been canning and preserving food and learning the many ways and techniques.  Some with lots of sugar, hot water baths, dehydrating, freezing.   Most recently I have been experimenting with fermentation.   Fermentation is one of the ways my grandmother used to preserve food.  She didn't have all the modern conveniences we have in our kitchens today and often the way to preserve food was to ferment in a glazed crock.    I have inherited her crock, still in excellent condition. 

My first experiment with fermentation was making Apple Cider Vinegar.   This is apple season and after peeling a bushel of apples for sauce, pies and apple crisps found I had a sink full of peels.  Since I am one of those people who do not like to waste anything, I searched the internet to see what I could do with all those peels, before dumping into the compost bin.   I found a great website called "A Return to Simplicity" where she goes into detail on how to make your own apple cider vinegar from apple peels.  I have given it a try and am now in the second fermentation stage. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Zero Waste Home

I recently came across a most inspiring book called "Zero Waste Home - The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing your Waste" by Bea Johnson from my local library.

In the book Bea shares what her family of four has done to reduce their waste to just one quart of garbage per year.  Quite impressive !  The book starts off with her sharing her journey to a zero waste lifestyle.  In the process of changing their lifestyle they simplified their lives, cut their annual spending by 40% and are healthier than ever.  Each chapter dives into detail on various aspects of the home - kitchen and grocery shopping; bathroom, toiletries and wellness; bedroom and wardrobe; housekeeping/maintenance; work space and junk mail; kids and school; holidays and gifts; out and about, etc.   There are lots of tips and easy ideas for sustainable living for even the busiest of people.  Once you get started on the easy stuff expand to the harder tips.  There is something for everyone one in this book and is all about finding the balance that works for you.   Once these ideas become habit the rest will come easier.

There are many things in the book that we are already doing, but the book has inspired me to do a lot more.  It gave me lots to think about and got me off my chair and have acted on a few of the ideas already, which will share in future posts.

We live in a busy, stressful, consumable world; a world full of plastic, and a world which is becoming less healthy and unsustainable.  There are few people who can say they would like less stress in their lives.

If we all took a few of these tips and ideas that Bea shares, we would be in a better, healthier and more sustainable place.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Cat Nip

I started growing catnip in the house by seed one winter and then transplanted outdoors after the frost. 

I grew this herb for mainly for my cat.   
         She loves catnip ! 

Catnip comes in different varieties and the one I grew is the Nepta Cataria.  It also looks pretty in my perennial beds.  The bees loved this plant this summer when it flowered.  I don't remember seeing so many bees.  But then again, when you "stop and smell the roses" as I have had to do this summer you start to notice things you didn't see before.

It comes from the mint family.

Catnip isn't just for cats.  It has medicinal and culinary qualities too.  It can be dried and used in teas and has similar effect as chamomile.   I also read that it has mosquito repellent qualities, but I haven't tried it yet.  

For now, it's hanging drying now and will be later stored for our pet. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

It's Coming up to the Season of Sock Knitting

It's coming up to that time of year that I knit socks for the next couple of months.  One reason is, I can ! And... I do like to knit socks.  I find it relatively easy to do since I found a good go-to pattern, that I can almost do without looking now.  I've knitted over 50 pairs of socks in the last few years, all of which have been given as gifts.  One of these days, I will knit a pair for myself !

Second reason, my grown-up children love hand made socks.  I was told that my hand knitted socks lasted through a season of rigorous tree planting in the bush, where the store bought ones had holes in no time.

Third reason, they are a very portable knitting project, you can take anywhere ie, waiting at appointments, etc.

As it turns out, I learned at our recent Knitter's Guild Executive Meeting, that we are taking on a sock theme for this coming Guild year.   There will be lots of tips and tricks to be learned at the upcoming meetings, such as various cast-on methods, heal methods, grafting, knitting two socks at a time etc. etc.   We even have a designer coming to one of our meetings, Kate Atherley, who has written a book on socks.  

Will be a fun and informative Guild year ahead.

Happy Knitting :)

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Lemon Balm

I've always wanted to grow lemon balm in my garden and had a hard time find a plant at the nursery, so I started the lemon balm plants by seed inside one winter.    The seeds took a while to germinate and one little plant survived.   I planted it in the raised beds, but it didn't do very well (perhaps too much shade from our old large tree).    After the tree was taken down, I moved the plant to another location with full sun and has now flourished and spreading like crazy.  It's even popping up little plants everywhere in my garden and lawn where the seeds flew.  

I love the smell of the lemon balm plant and have learned there are many things you can do with this herb.  There are so many uses for this plant - from medicinal purposes, cooking, crafts, cosmetics and teas.  There are many websites listing the uses of this plant.    I've listed just a couple of useful links on this herb below.

The Homestead Garden  -  listing everything you wanted to know about Lemon Balm
The Homespun Seasonal Living Blog -  Listing 10 ways to use Lemon Balm
The Herb Society - An extensive guide, including recipes
Healing From the Home Remedies blog - listing uses and recipes.

Some Facts I have learned :
-  Lemon balm is high in flavonoids, which can have an antioxidant effect
-  Lemon balm also contains tannins, which are astringent and contribute to lemon balm’s antiviral effects.
-  Lemon balm had historic use as an attractor of honeybees
- It has many medicinal purposes too - treats digestive issues, fevers, insomnia, colds and flu, anxiety to name a few.

This year I am going to dry as much as I can and use for tea during the winter months.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Mohair Mountain

The label on this yarn says "Mohair Mountain", Knit, Relax, Smile. Repeat ! 

I must say, though, I wasn't relaxed knitting this.  The first time I've worked with mohair / wool blend,  a very large round needle and it was a fight to the end and glad it's finished.   It was slow going and felt like I was fighting with the yarn the whole time.  

The pattern / yarn came from a kit I bought at our last Knitter's Guild De-Stash Sale.
It's a "Black Sheep and Ewe" kit. 

Shawl took one large ball of yarn - 660 yards. 
The Colour is called "Water Wheel" 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Life Can Change in an Instant

First came the much needed rain, 

Which filled up all the rain barrels, 

Then came the hail, 

When the rain stopped I went outside.  Then, in an instant, down I went on the slippery stairs out my back door, and rather hard I must say.  After I landed, I knew right away something wasn't right as my ankle puffed up like a balloon, and it was a lot more painful than just twisting my ankle.  So off to the emergency department we went.  A couple of x-rays later, it was confirmed, I had broken my ankle.  I came home with a big ski-boot type cast on the first day of my two week vacation.   Six weeks, I was told the cast would be on and 12 weeks for a full recovery. 

It put a damper on my plans for my vacation, however, when life hands you a lemon, you make lemonade.    My first week of vacation was tackle the long list of chores I wanted to get done - wash all the windows in the house, clean the rugs, gardening etc. etc.  Well, that didn't happen and the list was put away.  My foot had to be elevated and iced to get the swelling down.  Since it is my right foot, I can't drive either.  This is rather frustrating, having to rely on others to take me where I needed to go.  Hiking has been put on hold for a number of months too, as well as a number of other projects I wanted to tackle.

But, oh well, it could have been alot worse and shudder to think what could have happened.  

What have I learned ?  
I try to do too much and am learning to slow down.    
I am learning that the chore list isn't important.  
I am learning to stop and smell the roses. 
 I am learning to just sit, which is a hard one for me, as I get restless.     
I am learning to rely on others to help and graciously accept the help.   
I am learning to really look at something.  It's amazing what you will see when you stop and really look.   
I am learning to focus again.

I am in week 3 now of my cast and am still learning.  
Still have lots to learn about slowing down.  
This has been a hard way to learn, but has now forced me to.

I didn't put in a vegetable garden this year and is just as well as I wouldn't have been able to tend to it. 
  Everything happens for a reason.   
My perennial beds take care of themselves, although quite overgrown right now.  But they can wait.

Instead, I sit and look and enjoy the view......

Monday, August 10, 2015

Jam Day

This year the rhubarb crop has done well.

What to do with all the rhubarb?

I made muffins, cake, loaves, stewed, chopped, froze and .... made jam.

This year I tried three new jams which I hadn't made before.  All turned out quite well.

Rhubarb Marmalade - recipe came from the Taste of Home Website

Rhubarb Strawberry - recipe came with the Certo (box of liquid pectin)

Red Currant Rhubarb Jam from


Black Currant Rhubarb Jam / Rhubarb Marmalade / Rhubarb-Strawberry Jam

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Ultimate Surburban Survivalist Guide

Over the last few winters, we have had a taste of what it is like to have no electricity for a couple of days during the ice storms.  We live in a climate where winters can get quite cold and last winter the temperature dipped to -40C.   We lived through the 2009 financial crisis and are going through another economic recession now.    There is always something going on to remind us that we live in uncertain times. Many are loosing their jobs as companies are downsizing, droughts, wild fires, etc.  In Canada, the wild fires and droughts in the western provinces of our country  have put this year's crop in peril.

You can't change what is happening in the world around us.  But, you can prepare yourself and your family and put your own house in order, so when the bumps in the road happen, no matter how big or small you are able to ride them out.

I have read a number of personal finance and preparedness books over the years.  One of my favourites the "Ultimate Suburban Survivalist Guide - The Smartest Money Moves to Prepare for Any Crisis" by Sean Brodrick.    This book doesn't just talk about money.  It covers many topics such as:  Water; Food Storage; Smart Shopping - planning ahead; Gardening; Health; Medicine; Security; Power; Education and Entertainment, with suggestions/ideas you can do in and around your own home.  It will teach you about self-sufficiency and better preparedness.

The book is easy to read, practical, engaging and entertaining.   I first borrowed the book from our local library.  There was so much useful information in it that I got my own copy.   Let's face it - when you do need the information, and the power is out - your go-to on-line information won't be there for you.  

This book is a great addition to my own personal library and would recommend to anyone.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


Mint grows abundantly in my garden and if given the chance would take over.

I find this herb to be versatile.  I use it in refreshing drinks in the summer.  Flavouring water with just mint, lemon and lime is thirst quenching on a hot summer day.  We like to boil new potatoes with mint.  I have made mint jelly and sauce to serve with lamb and dried it for making a mint tea.

The menthol in mint improves digestion and has decongestant and antiseptic properties.

One of my new favourite ways to use mint is in a Watermelon Mint salad ! Delicious !   This recipe came by way of my mother.

Watermelon Salad with Mint Leaves

1 (5-pound) watermelon
1 small red onion, chopped
1/4 c chopped mint / basil
½ c  feta cheese, crumbled

Dressing :
1/4 c red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
1/2 c  olive oil
Cut the flesh from the melon and cut into bite size pieces, removing and discarding the seeds.
In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, salt, pepper, and whisk until salt is dissolved. Slowly whisk in the olive oil, a few drops at a time.   Add in the chopped mint, taste, and adjust seasonings.   In a large bowl, combine the melon, onion, and feta.  Pour the dressing over the melon mixture and toss gently until everything is coated and evenly mixed.

Enjoy !

Saturday, July 25, 2015


What is LUTH ?  LUTH stands for Light Up the Hills.   Light UP the Hills a community program that takes place each December in Georgetown, Ontario, when the Park in the middle of Town lights up with festive lights for the month of December.

Last year our Knitter's Guild, Halton Hands in Motion, participated by knitting/crocheting yarn installations throughout Dominion Gardens Park.  Lamp post cozies were knitted up in candy cane strips and many of the trees along the pathways were adorned with tree cozies.

A quote from our local paper last year ..."This fibre-focused project aims to deliver visual interest for those walking through the park, while communicating the value of shared experiences and community partnerships."  One of our guild members who heads up the "community" aspect of our Guild, Caitlin, organized the event and did a fabulous job.

Our Guild is again participating in Light Up the Hills.    My contribution for this year's event is crocheted.   I had two large balls of acrylic bulky yarn in two shades of green.   I crocheted up various sizes/shapes of granny squares and flowers and hand sewed together.   I also knitted up a candy cane tree cozy.

Each year that our Guild Participates, our installations will grow.

Some photos from 2014 Light Up the Hills Event .....

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Choosing Colour

Can you choose colours quickly and easily?

I can't seem to.  I have trouble and over-think it, whether it be for paint on the walls, tiles, yarn, clothes ?  I have trouble.  My daughter, the fine arts major, can do it !! NO problem.  I took her with me to help me choose a paint colour for a room.  She walked into the store with me and right up to the paint chip display, picked up a colour and said this is what you want, let's go !   BUT WAIT, I say, I haven't seen the other colours.   Trust me shes says, that's what you want.  BUT wait, I can't decide.  "Trust me" she says ... you will like it. 

So I hemmed and hawed over the colours in the display, took them over to the window for natural light, under indoor lighting and an hour later, we walked out of the store, paint mixed with the original colour my daughter chose, still unsure of the decision.  And, do you know, it the nicest colour on my walls !

So why was it so hard for me?  I'm too practical, too frugal and always have lived on a budget.   I only want to do the job once and not have to repaint again because of a colour I can't live with, not to mention the time and expense to change it again.

Is it my age? Am I too practical?  Worried I won't like it once it's all done, and it's not what I wanted it to look like? Does anyone else have this problem ?

When it comes to the house I'm always thinking cost and time it takes to paint, let alone re-do it.  I think of the resale value and how it would show to a potential buyer.   When it comes to knitting/crocheting/sewing, I'm afraid I wont't like it when I'm done.  Again, I'm too practical / frugal and all the while I'm knitting I'm thinking who would wear this colour in my family - because that's who I usually knit for.   All the while I'm knitting,  I just get frustrated thinking am I wasting my time?, instead of enjoying the time of creating something new?

At a recent Knitter's Guild meeting I purchased a skein of multi-coloured yarn called "Painted Desert" to make myself a shawl.  It was bought on impulse, something I don't do too often.  Sometimes you have to take chances.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Humber Valley Heritage Trail

Today's hike took us to the Humber Valley Heritage Trail, just north of Bolton.   The weather was iffy to say the least, and rain held off until we started the hike.  It rained the entire time we were out; four hours, 12 km later; we were wet, tired and very muddy.

BUT....... there were no bugs and the scenery was amazing !   Half way through the hike, there were signs stating the trail was closed.  We were about 6 km away from our cars, so..... we the happy hikers we are, were determined we would continue and see what was in store for us, even if we needed to do some bush wacking.   On wards we went and happy we did, because if we had turned around and went back to the car, we wouldn't have seen the most amazing scenery we did.  Yes, we were wet, our hiking boots soaked through, socks wet and becoming squishy inside and the trail was very slippery in the mud, but we continued on.   Because the trail was closed, there were times we thought we were lost, and doubled back to find the blazes, which didn't exist anymore.   Our hike leader has an amazing sense of direction and was able to get us back to the car.   We found out quickly why the trail was closed - a new by-pass highway ran right through the trail.   Still under construction, we were able to walk on it without any traffic and found the trail to continue on.

Was a fun adventure... despite the rain.    The rain was actually refreshing !

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Bruce Trail Hiking - Crawford Lake / Nassagaweya Canyon

It was the most perfect weekend weather wise here.  Sunny, no humidity and bit on the cool side.  Black flies were not present and just a few mosquitos.   Perfect hiking weather! 

Today we hiked The Crawford Lake Conservation area.  We parked on Twiss Road (Map 11 Iroquoia Bruce Trail Club - 102.5km mark) and headed north on the main Bruce Trail through the Crawford Forestry Track.   The beginning of the hike was very rock and bit of a steep rock formation to climb. 

We continued on the main trail crossing over Guelph Line into the Crawford Lake Conservation Area and along the edge of the Nassagaweya Canyon.   A spectacular view of the Canyon.  We saw a family of turkey vultures perched on branches overlooking the Canyon.  

We then looped back through the Crawford Lake Side Trail and around Crawford Lake - a meromictic lake where the lake’s basin is deeper than it’s surface area, the lowest levels of water are very rarely, if ever, disturbed by wind or temperature changes. Without an annual turnover of water, there is little oxygen present in its depths and minimal bacterial breakdown, which preserves the layers of sediment that have built up over time. This build up provides an accurate record of the human and natural history of the lake and its surroundings. Studies of this sediment revealed the agricultural history of the Iroquoian people, and the presence of a pre-contact village. 

We had our lunch by the lake and looped back on the main trail and headed back to our parked cars.   We hiked a total of 12 km today in about 3.5 hours.  Was slow going over the rocks on the trail. 

Certainly a hike I'll do again. 


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