Thursday, May 31, 2012

To Your Tilth

     The first real gardening post of the new growing season, how exciting. Being an enthusiastic gardener, I've greeted the warmer weather with a smile and have been spending a lot of time out doors getting things ready and in the ground.

      As with pretty much everything I do, I've been reading up on gardening in preparation for the season. There is always something new, or old, to learn.  I read an article, a good article, about soil management. Good information but I have to say it left a bad taste in my mouth. One, because of the slant within and secondly because of the comments it generated. Obviously the people reading it didn't understand what they had read.

     What was the bone of contention for me? Organic. Certified organic as opposed to all plant and animal matter is organic.

     If you've read along with me before, you will know I am not a huge booster of organic. It isn't even that I disagree with it in principle, it's the reality of it that bothers me.

     In a nutshell, organic, and I mean certified, gardening means a return to natural methods of soil cultivation and management. No herbicides, check. No pesticides, check. No chemical fertilizers, hm, maybe not a check there. Truth be told, I don't one hundred percent agree with any of it. Don't get me wrong, it's a great idea but how realistic is it?

     I'm going to pass along a little of my experiences as the son and grandson of small farmers in Eastern Ontario. It's all I know.

     First let's dispense with the notion of "natural". There is nothing natural about gardening or farming. Cultivation is all about packing as many plants into as small an area to get the biggest yield possible. We create artificial micro environments to ensure we get the most out of the least.

     No GMO, genetically modified organisms? We've been modifying our seed and livestock since we moved from hunter gathering to harvesting. Eons of change. Even our heirloom seeds are the product of untold generations of selective breeding. Yes, it is different than firefly genes spliced into wheat to make it rust resistant, but only by degrees of manipulation. Is it a good or bad thing? Honestly, I don't know. I don't condemn it out of hand but I don't think it should be given free rein either.

     No herbicides, pesticides or chemical fertilizers? Farmers always take it on the chin for this one. Wasteful, willfully endangering the ecosphere. What a load of crap.

     All of the above are expensive. If a farmer could get away without using them, they would. Cereal crops can't be repeatedly sprayed or fertilized. Fruit crops can, and why? Because consumers won't buy misshapen or spotted produce. Are there alternatives? Sure, but many are not as effective and again we come to cost.

     You know what gets repeated attention, whether it needs it or not? Lawns, parks and golf greens. What is a big contributing factor in the greening of our waterways? Phosphates from industrial and residential use that get flushed out by the millions of litres every year.

     When organic produce first started making it's appearance over two decades ago, it was smaller, spotty, looking more like what you would pick out of a garden. These days, it's hard to tell one from another without the tag. What's changed?

     Enough of my rant, let's talk tilth.

     Basically, tilth is the condition of your soil or it's preparedness for cultivation. The article was all about using organic, not certified organic, waste material in re claiming damaged land or improving farm land. Interesting, accurate but again with a bit of a back hand slap to the farming community.

     In closing the author remarked on the need to educate the farming community on the importance of using the above mentioned organic waste. What in the hell does he think the farmers have done for centuries with their manure piles, or plow down crops, or leaving fields fallow. They already know all of this and have for centuries.

     One commenter went on a rant about how they knew city organic compost was no good because it wasn't "certified" organic, it didn't provide what soil needed because of not being single sourced and thanks what a great article for confirming her suspicions. But it didn't.

     None of the organic amendments talked about in the article were certified. As the end result of industrial production they couldn't be. He also had pointed out the disadvantages of using single source compost for getting all the micro and macro nutrients needed for good soil health. We obviously didn't read the same article.

     One word describing my gardening soil, crap. I've been working on improving it for the last eight years. I use quite a bit of compost. Usually three different kinds, mixed together, none of it certified. I don't compost my own garden waste, it is contaminated with juglone from my walnut tree. I don't use pesticides or  herbicides, I can work my 1/100 of an acre by hand. I do on occasion give my plants a mid season boost with fertilizer, 8 whole tablespoons worth.

     Here is a little visual for you to ponder.

Some of this season's soil amendments
Compost and blood meal

     If you look at the red boxes you'll see the nitrogen content of both products, neither certified organic. The compost, at 15 kg is 0.5, the 1.5 kg bag of meal is 12. How many bags of compost do I need to get the same nitrogen boost as the blood meal? Anyone, anyone? That's right, 24 bags of compost.

     This is one of the problems the farming community faces, the sheer volume of compost needed. More work, more handling, more time, higher transportation costs. That equals higher prices at the grocery store for you and I.

    We also don't begin to produce enough. In smaller scale farming, yes, organic can and does work. Start spreading it on the prairies, no where near enough.

     I'm not anti certified organic but I think there's a lot of room to meet somewhere in the middle.

     Is it healthier for you? Probably, any reduction in chemicals is a good thing to me. Here's the thing though, I live in a relatively toxic environment anyway, a city. Does organic produce really give me an edge on my health when every breath I take is polluted with God only knows what?

     Does it taste better? Call me a Philistine but I have to say no. I much prefer what has come out of my garden to any organic produce I have ever had. Comparing supermarket produce, I honestly can't tell a difference.

     I'd much rather pay more for fresh, locally grown produce, from a grower I know than I would for certified organic greens all the way from China in a local supermarket any day. 

     How's your tilth? Where do you weigh in on certified organics?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Thanks for the memories

     Tuesday again, time to grab a coffee and chat a bit with Rory. Here is the thought she left us with last week.

Since my recent birthday, I have been quite reflective and pensive. I have concluded that Memories are the staircase to our most treasured things. Share a great memory, and why/how it affects you now.
     I thought this would be a no brainer, I have a ton of great memories. Memories of family and friends, places and things, special events and achievements. How to pick one? What makes this one special? How does it affect me now? "Rosebud."
     Every life has it's own share of struggles, failures, missteps, tears and tragedies. Mine is no different. At the end of the day, this is what I remember the most.
The smiles,
My grandmother with my cousin Harley
My grandmother always, always had a smile for us
My father as a young man

My uncle Doug

My aunt Barb

My cousins Carly and Melanie

My cousin Jason

My father's parents
Grandma and Grandpa Craig

My cousin Jenny

My aunt "Leenie" and cousin Todd

My aunt Deb holding her grandchild Hanna

My cousin Chris with his wife Krista and their daughter Alicia
(pre the arrival of their son Austin)

My aunt Karen and my father

the laughter,
the throw your head back, let it all out,
big booming laughter
Grandpa Craig, Doug, Marlyn, my mom
 Impossible not to laugh along with them

My aunt Judy and my grandmother

My aunt Jean and uncle Leo
I miss my uncle's great big laugh

being together,

My mom and cousin Adam

My cousin Sherry and I

     My most treasured memory, family. The whole, great big mess of it that's mine. The noisy, nosy, laughing, loving, always there for you bunch. Whether it's a pat on the back, a shoulder to cry on or a kick in the pants, they're there to oblige.

     At the end of it all, if the smiles, the laughter out weigh the tears and teen angst, it's been a pretty good ride. Don't you think?


Monday, May 28, 2012

House Proud?

     The last Listicle of May, can you believe how fast time has flown by? This week, 10 words to describe your house. Where I live in 10 words?

1 Full - Myself, Minion #1 and three tenants make for a very full house. In every sense.
2 Messy - See above

3 Funny-Refer to #1
4 Endless- As in the to do list. I bought a fixer upper, no further explanation needed.

5 Comfortable-I'm very comfortable in my house, the neighbourhood, the city.
6 Welcoming- My place has been described as having a "chill vibe". What can I say?

7 Lived in- Very. There will be no magazine shoots unless they are for the before pictures.
8 Convenient- To public transport, parks, schools, grocers and butchers, restaurants and the liquor store.

9 Haven- My place to retreat and unwind, especially in the garden during the summer.
10 Temporary- Because of my tenants, there is always an air of impermanence or change about the place.

     My house in 10 words, the place I call home.

I think the squirrels have been reading my blog.
Although I can applaud the delivery method,
Still not a Bieb-liever

Lemon Squares

     I love the taste of lemon. Whether it is the wedges with my oysters, (or garnishing my rye and ginger) or the decadent, silky smoothness of lemon meringue pie, I just can't get enough. The bright, sharp tang of lemon always makes me think of summer.

     I have been on the hunt for the ultimate lemon square recipe for a while. My aunt Jean has a kick ass recipe. Sorry this isn't it. I got the chocolate marshmallow brownies from her but not the lemon squares just yet. I have my own recipe, no bad but meh.... This is from a co worker. Of course when I made it it didn't turn out like hers but, still a keeper. I just need to fiddle with it a little more to perfect it.

    Getting recipes from some one who makes it all the time can be a bit of a crap shoot. They know their oven, what they use, how they prepare it so often recipes lack a few of the specifics that can make or break your efforts. This is no exception.

    The first time I made this, it was lemon fruit leather you could roll off the crust it was so over cooked. That fruit leather was still pretty tasty so I tried again, then a third time. That's the charm right? I still haven't quite perfected it but here goes, as I got it, with my notes to follow.

Lemon Squares
2 cups of sifted flour
1 cup of icing sugar
1 cup of butter melted
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups of sugar
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 cup of flour
a little over a half a cup of fresh lemon juice
zest for decorating

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Grease a baking pan
In a medium bowl, stir together 2 cups flour and the icing sugar.
Blend in melted butter.
Press into bottom of the prepared pan and bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
In a large bowl, beat eggs until light.
Combine sugar, baking powder and 1/4 cup of flour.
Stir the sugar mixture into the eggs.
Finally, stir in the lemon juice.
Pour over baked crust and return to oven.
Bake for an additional 30 minutes or until bars are set.
Allow to cool completely before cutting.

     Now for my notes.

A baking pan-I used an 8x11 1/2 and am wondering if next time I would try a 9x13. The crust was a tad thick for my liking, but only just so...

1 cup of butter melted- I used butter and butter and margarine, half and half. No one could tell the difference. You could probably get away with a good soy margarine on its own.

Beat eggs until light.-I took that to mean texture, ie fluffy. I'm thinking it just means colour, as in just beat the eggs don't whip them. I'll explain a bit further on.

1 teaspoon of baking powder- I'm not sure what the baking powder does in the lemon custard. I think it is a sub for cream of tartar to stabilize it. You could use 1/4 teaspoon of that instead. Again I'll explain a little further down the line.

a little over a half a cup of fresh lemon juice- I used 3/4 of a cup, but I really like it tart. I also reduced the sugar by 1/4 cup and added 1 tablespoon of zest to the custard for added lemony goodness. All of the above can be adjusted for your own personal taste.

Bake for an additional 30 minutes or until bars are set. My oven runs hot, 30 minutes was way too long. The custard also browned and it shouldn't. I reduced my heat to 325 degrees and it didn't colour any further, so...
1 The oven is too hot-cook the custard at 325 degrees
2 The eggs are frothy, or over beaten. A thin layer of froth on the custard is what browned so if I hadn't whipped them there would have been no froth.
3 Swap the baking powder for 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar. Baking powder can cause browning, can't remember why, I believe it is the baking soda in it. No soda, no browning.

     The picture is a variation, Strawberry Lemon Squares. My strawberries are coming in so I added them on top of the cooked crust and poured the custard over top. Delicious, strawberry lemonade in a bar. You could also add blueberries.

     Because of the extra moisture in the berries, cook a bit longer. With the berries in, I did use the full 30 minutes. The edges should be firm but the centre should still jiggle when you take it out of the oven. It will set as it cools.

     I have a good Key Lime Square recipe but I would like to try this recipe with grapefruit juice or blood orange. I think it would work and I love the taste of citrus. We'll see.

     Although it has given me a bit of trouble, this is still a great recipe. Give it a try and let me know what you think. Don't forget to drop by and see what Susi has in the oven. Enjoy.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Up or Down?

     Tuesday, the last day of my extended holiday weekend and what a weekend. Five glorious days. There were fireworks, beer, gardening, more beer, fires in the fireplace outside, a bit more beer. A small matter of injuring myself so the beer is now self medicating and a trip to the doctor tomorrow, back spasm. Ouch.
     I've finally levered myself to the desk for a little chat. Here is what Rory left us with last week.
Oh no! Your elevator just suddenly stopped!!
Who would you like to be stuck in there with you? Why? Or, who would be the absolute worst person to be stuck in an elevator with?
     Very appropriate seeing as how I just finished watching Devil, a horror flick about 5 people trapped in an elevator. Definitely don't want to be stuck with them, it didn't end well for most.
     I have been stuck in an elevator once. I was fooling around playing the Bionic Man, sound effects and all and tripped the inner doors. Who knew you could do that? About an hour of going up and down with the inner doors open not fun for me or my friend who was freaking out. No more Bionic Man.
     Who would I pick?
     There are a few, okay quite a few, names that come to mind but I'll keep this a PG rating and there are a few qualifiers.
1. I've had my coffee. I don't play well with others caffeine free. Ever.
2. I have my smokes. I don't do well in an extended nicotine free state either.
3 I don't have to pee.
4 No cameras
5 No Muzak.
     Now if I was stuck with Ferd, it could be either the best or the worst. We would laugh about the situation, he would keep me entertained with song and dance. OR He would start bitching. How are we going to get out? Can't you climb through the escape hatch and fix this thing?  When will this be over? I would reply. We wouldn't be here if you hadn't had to take 2 hours getting ready, making us late so we ended up on this particular elevator in the first place There is no f****ing way I'm climbing on top of this thing. You do it if you think it's so easy. A bit of a coin toss.
     For all around coolness and a wee bit of hero worship; Annie Lennox, David Bowie, David Sylvian, Richard Butler, Brian Ferry, Meryl Streep, Judy Dench, Tom Waits, Grace Jones, Simon Pegg, and on and on. Any one who's art I've admired over the years. A chance to have a one on one with them for even 10 minutes.
    The are you for real; Mariah Carey, Snooki, Alicia Silverstone, Tammy Faye Baker, Paula Abdul, Kanye West, Simon Cowell, OctoMom, Prince, Martha Stewart. The out there crazy, are you kidding me kind of folks. Just to see if all the hype about the crazy is real or just a publicity stunt. I'm fully aware this could go very, very wrong.
    Honestly, I can't think of anyone who would be torture to be stuck with. Weird, but even people who's view of the world is completely different from mine would be interesting to talk to just to try and understand, to make sense of where they are coming from. Are Chris and Roman the waste of skin I think they are? Is Bristol, well, Bristol. I'm not saying we would ever be BFFs but they're people too, right? Again, this could back fire, badly. I guess I'm just a sucker for punishment.
     Drop by Rory's place and see who else we'll be stuck with, or not.


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Oh Bristol

     It's a holiday Monday for me and Listicles with Stasha. This is the prompt she left us with last week,

For next week to thank my lovely husband for a wonderful Mother’s day surprises I am letting him choose a topic. He says to come back with a list of TEN THINGS HUSBANDS SHOULD DO. Clearly he forgot that I get to make a list too…

     Sorry Stasha, I'm going rogue this week.

     Last week threw a few things my way that I would normally have ignored. Partly because they don't affect me personally but also because they just make me angry. Angry of reading/hearing about things that really should be non issues.

     The first was the cover of Time. I know you know the cover I mean. The blatant, absurd sensationalism really belonged on the cover of The World News. The picture and resulting caption would have been a little different. It would have read "Vegan Mom Raises Healthy Green Child ." With an appropriately tinted child attached to her breast.

     Are you Mom enough? Are you kidding me? A voyeuristic photo on the cover, an inflammatory caption, sure you're just trying to stimulate conversation. Shame on you Time magazine. Is there only one way to raise a healthy, well adjusted child? Because we all know every child is exactly the same as the next. Enough with the judging, the Mommy Wars. Like it isn't a hard enough job as it is.

     The next two came right out of left field. Or maybe that's right field? Courtesy of Bristol Palin. Yes, you read that correctly. I have to say, she and her family are pretty much non entities to me. A gun toting Mom sporting a star spangled bikini picture I could have gone my whole life without seeing, a teen pregnancy, a failed vice presidential run and a stint on DWTS. That pretty much sums up what I know of the Palins.

     My login page directed me to a post about Bristol whining about being bullied in "the name of love." Now of course I was expecting some sort of foolishness but was not prepared for what I read. Ms Palin's take on President Obama's stand on same sex marriage.

     After reading her post, the only question on my mind was, "What did I just read?" followed by "Are you really this clueless?". Okay that's two questions.

     In case you are, Ms Palin, let's address your insightful post.

     You started out on quite the high note.

When Christian women run for high office, people inevitably bring up the question of submission. ...
People automatically assume that a Christian female President isn’t capable of making decisions without her spouse’s stamp of approval.  (I should add female Republican candidates –liberal women don’t get the same kind of questions.)

     Is your point that women running for office get asked inane questions or that Republican, liberal women aren't Christians? Not sure? Neither am I, so let's move on. Cause the next bit, well what can I say?

While it’s great to listen to your kids’ ideas, there’s also a time when dads simply need to be dads.  In this case, it would’ve been helpful for him to explain to Malia and Sasha that while her friends parents are no doubt lovely people, that’s not a reason to change thousands of years of thinking about marriage.  Or that – as great as her friends may be – we know that in general kids do better growing up in a mother/father home.  Ideally, fathers help shape their kids’ worldview.

Where to even start?

     Mr. Obama's daughters didn't set policy, they posed a question. Why do we treat these people like this? How should he have responded? Because they're not like us. Because we always have. Because what they believe is different. Tough to give a good reason when there isn't one. He's being applauded for being a big enough person to re examine the reasons why he thinks the way he does.

     As for changing the thinking on thousands of years on marriage, which thinking would you be referring to? Would that be no one caring one way or the other? Would it be women and children as a husband's property? Would it be parents arranging marriages for political or economic gain? These are the traditions of marriage that have lasted for thousands of years. And just for the record, various cultures through out time have recognised same sex bondings.

     Say what now? You really should have brushed up a little on your history. It doesn't paint marriage in quite the same light you seem to be referring to.

     Perhaps you're thinking of the romantic idea of love and marriage. The happy couple working together to raise their children. That isn't even three hundred years old. Love or picking your own marriage partner gained popularity in the mid 1700's and was considered quite revolutionary at the time.

    The white wedding dress, the modern symbol of purity and chastity for the demure bride, not even two hundred years old. Queen Victoria broke with tradition and in 1840 opted for a white lace dress rather than the elaborate jewelled and embroidered confections that had been worn previously.

     Fathers involved in shaping a child's world view? Let me just wipe the tears of laughter from my eyes so I can type. Historically, men have had almost no involvement in child rearing beyond conception. Fathers didn't shape a child's world view, they told it to them. Obedience was the only virtue a child need possess. Even in today's world, child rearing is still firmly seen as a woman's job. Sure more men are active parents these days but take a look at your statistics before making such claims.

     While we're here on the statistics, there is no evidence same sex parents, single parents raise children who are any more or less mal adjusted than their peers from heterosexual couples. A loving, supporting environment makes happy, healthy children not the sexual orientation of their parents nor the two person,  father /mother model. As a single parent yourself, your position, the sheer hypocrisy of it, astounds me.

     For curiosity's sake, in your opinion, what does constitute a need to change one's way of thinking? The world is flat, everything revolves around the earth, women aren't smart enough to vote; a few other very popular, commonly held beliefs. Staunchly defended for centuries.

     I get it though, change is scary. Standing up for beliefs not you own, terrifying. You see Bristol, I'm not asking you change what you believe. I don't care about your religious views. We don't live in a theocracy, we live in a more secular world. There is no valid legal reason to deny same sex marriage. Denying any group the legal rights enjoyed by all other members of a society is just plain wrong.

     Marriage is not now nor has it ever been solely a religious institution. You don't need any church's permission to marry. Your license is granted by the state. A legally binding contract, between two consenting adults bestowing all kinds of rights and obligations. And whether you choose to stand up and say your vows in a church, or in front of a state appointed JOP, it's still called a marriage. Not in a spiritual sense, in the every day, secular one. And even if you do neither and choose to co habitate, eventually you are in a ..... common law marriage.

     Just to clarify, you're not a victim of bullying. You're a victim of you own stupidity. Criticised for airing your ignorance and claiming it as truth. There's a difference and youth only excuses so much. Again, I understand. I'm sure your speaking engagements, at $15,000 to $30,000 a pop, leave you little time to type in a few Google search words or flip open a book.

     Enough already. Life is hard enough with out everyone constantly throwing stones at each other. Can't we just play nice? Isn't that supposed to be the beauty of living where we live? The freedom to live, worship and be as we choose, without prejudice?

          In answer to your prompt Stasha, what ever ten things he's asked. Cheeky, but the best I could come up with this week. I promise, I'll do better next. And sorry Mark, no pictures.

Friday, May 18, 2012

TGIF, the May 2-4 Edition

     It's been a long time since I linked up for a TGI-Friday post over at Jennifer's place. The fates conspired to make today just about perfect so...

1 It's the May long weekend, Victoria Day on Monday. Unofficially the May 2-4, as in a 2-4 of beer. I have 4 of them. Oh yeah, a patriotic Canadian.

2 I extended the long weekend, no work today or Tuesday.

3 My car had actual keys. No ignition lock, no muss, no fuss. Okay, it took a minute to figure out how to unlock the trunk. No trunk release, it was part of the door release then a little button on the trunk. Weird and not exactly straight forward but I managed.

4 Gorgeous weather forecast for all five days.

I need to do a little painting
Yes, chainsaw oil, there will be some wood cutting as well
Hoo rah, manly power tools

5 I got to spend the whole morning doing my favourite thing, cruising the home improvement stores. All alone and unhurried, I got to look through Rona, Home Depot and Canadian Tire. I didn't end up buying much but I did save $50 on the range hood I was looking for, mine broke the day after the warranty expired. I didn't have to shower or even brush my hair. And no one batted an eye. Perfect.

New light for the fountain
(I dropped the old one and it just isn't the same without illumination)
Goofy little flame less tea light dragonflies
They change colour too!
6 I have most of my plants for the garden and avoided the chaos this weekend will be. For added entertainment value, I got to watch the fireworks early. Husband and wife arguing about where to park. Door slam, angry stalking through the gate. Glad it wasn't me.

Plants for the garden
Over half are for eating

     On a small side note, two minor annoyances. Last night, there was a young woman crouched down beside my car, right outside my back gate. I was making a movie run and almost ran into her as I was leaving. It was pitch dark. She startled me, but quickly went on to explain she was a neighbour, didn't realize the gate opened, it was quiet, she liked sitting under my tree, blah blah blah. I responded, " I don't give a crap, get off my property, sit in your own freakin' yard." Insert appropriate cuss words. Who does that? There are two parks within two blocks of my house.

     The other happened as I returned home from my chill shopping morning. Someone was parked in my driveway. I was now illegally parked to unload the car because some one was illegally parked behind my house. WTF? I was sorely tempted to flatten all four tires but I resisted. Aren't you proud? LOL

     What's in my long range forecast? Lots of working outside in the garden, barbecuing, fires at night and beer. And there will be lemon squares. It's the little things.

     What's making your Friday great?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Turning Points

     Monday, again? What happened to last week? Disappeared outside enjoying the nice weather that's what. I hope everyone had a good Mother's Day celebration. Flowers to Mom and my grandmother, just to say I'm thinking of you even if I don't call or visit as often as I should. And I did call my mother, we talked for quite a while, actually.

Purple columbine just about to flower

     Now it's Listicle time again, here's what Stasha left us with last week.

 Next week’s topic is 10 THINGS YOU WISH YOU COULD DELETE. But since it is a day after Mother’s day, feel free to submit a list to celebrate your mom. I would advise you against combining the two though…

     My Mom knows I adore her(even if she didn't vote for me again!) and there is no way I could list only 10 reasons. How do you break a lifetime into 10 things?

The large irises, taking over now the mni ones are done
The blooms are as large as my hand

     I couldn't really think of ten things I wish I could delete either. I have made lots of mistakes, had my heart broken, been thoughtless and cruel, made and lost friends. The thing is, each mistake, or unkind word has been a lesson learned. If you delete those things, it changes who you are now. So although I have regrets, for lack of a better word, there aren't many things I would delete.

The second round of creeping phlox

1 The car rental this weekend. Another fiasco, only this time with the car itself. For whatever reason, the key less entry on my rental kept locking the ignition every time I got out. I rented the car to run errands, remember the plan? I had lots of stops to make. After spending 20 minutes trying to get the stupid thing to start after the second stop I gave up. 35 minutes of my day wasted fooling around with the damn card. I miss keys. And now I have to rent a car for the third time. This one will have keys.

2 The unfortunate perm incident in grade 11. It was the 80's, everyone had a body perm. Mine turned out more French poodle than body wave. I had it cut out 2 days later.

3,4 and 5 would be the car accidents. Specifically, being hit by cars while riding my bike. Two bikes ruined, cracked ribs, assorted bruises, cuts and scrapes. I could do with out those.

Look at that, ripe strawberries
In a few weeks I'll have baskets of them

     That's it. I know, surprising really but that's all I can think of off the top of my head. It did get me thinking of what would my life have been like if? You know, if I had done this rather than that. Not regrets, just wondering how different life would be for me right now. There are a few of those.

Lilac florets, ready for making scented sugar

6 When I was 16, I had enough money to buy that little Mustang OR to go on a summer French immersion trip to Trois Rivieres. The first trip away from home. I chose the trip and it opened my eyes to the big old world outside the farm. I've often wondered if buying the car would have had that much impact on my life.

7 The decision to go away to school. I never ended up going back to the farm to live after that. I've often wondered what life would be like had I stayed on the farm rather than gone to the city.

Two cups of floral sugar being infused
Should be ready in about a week or two

8 When I was 23, 24? my father offered me one of the farms he owned at the time. I was home for a visit during the summer, had been dating Lesia for a long time, my mother loved her, I had even considered proposing. Life would have been all mapped out. Obviously I chose differently, but I do wonder how things would have turned out. I'm thinking probably not well for a whole lot of reasons but you never know......

9 Buying the house. I've been a bit of a wanderer. The house is probably the biggest commitment I've ever made to tie me to one place. I've often wondered how "settled" I would be had I not. Would I still even be in this city?

10 What if I hadn't said yes to the business partnership? Although the business itself was/is a success, the partnership was a disaster. Three years of my life, a staggering amount of debt, a stall to my career and an unresolved court case later, you would think it would have landed itself firmly in the delete pile. Tempting but it did teach me a lot. I wish it hadn't been quite so expensive or painful but it's changed me in positive ways too so...

More lilac ready for making syrup

     This weeks list, such as it is. Drop by Stasha's and see what everyone else had to say.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Flower Power

     My first link up with Susi at Boca Frau for her new meme I'm Baking. A new recipe every other Thursday. Sounds good to me.

     I had a bit of a hard time coming up with an idea. Not because I didn't have a recipe or ten floating around, I just didn't have a favourite that called to me. And it's finally Spring. The nice weather has been calling me outside into my garden, not a lot of baking going on. Let's see.

    The chocolate chip butterscotch oatmeal cookies? A newly developed recipe, turned out beautifully but I hate the way it tastes. It sounded so good in my head, the reality, not so much. Scratch that one.

     It's spring, I know exactly what I'm going to write about. Flowers. That's right, I just finished a batch or three of these little beauties. A huge hit as always, so here are a few hints on bringing Spring to the table.

Single serving Pavlova, decorated with violets and fresh mint

     There are hundreds of edible flowers. First up around here are violets, then lilacs, a summer of roses, followed by lavender later on. Throw in some pansies, geraniums, peonies, nasturtiums and glads and my summer decorating is pretty much complete.

My violets have spread everywhere
I have hundreds

     The easiest way to use flowers is fresh, picked and placed. They definitely up the appeal of just about any dish.

     To preserve them a little longer, sugar them. Take your fresh picked flowers, paint them with some lightly beaten egg whites and sprinkle generously with caster sugar. Gently tap off any excess sugar. Let dry completely and they can be stored for as long as a couple of months.

Imagine those glads decorating a chocolate cake

     Make scented sugars. Lavender, lilac and roses make incredible sugars. Lavender, because it is so strong, mix a couple of tablespoons of flowers with a cup of sugar. Pulse a couple of times in a food processor or grind together with a mortar and pestle and let sit for a week or so until the sugar absorbs the scent. Sift out the now dried flowers, or not, as you prefer, and it's ready to use.

The neighbour's lilacs are looking pretty tempting

     Lilacs and roses, 1-2 cups of petals or florets to a cup of sugar and same process as above.

     Make syrups. Infuse a simple syrup, 1 cup water, 1 cup white sugar. The amounts of flowers to syrup are roughly the same as for making sugars. Place the flowers and water in a pot. Bring to a boil. Add sugar stirring until it is all dissolved. Reduce heat and simmer about 15 minutes, covered. Remove from heat and let steep anywhere from an hour to overnight. Strain the flowers out. I do it twice, once through cheesecloth then through a coffee filter. Place in jars and refrigerate. It should stay good for a week or two. The great thing is you can also can it.

Incredibly fragrant antique roses
Midnight Blue

     Bring your strained syrup to a boil. Ladle into prepared jars and water bath process for 10 minutes.
Remove and let cool checking the seal. If sealed properly, they will last for 6 months to a year.

     You can also make jellies and vinegars but I think that is enough for now.

     Now for the warnings and disclaimers.

     Check and double check the flowers you have are edible. There are many that are extremely toxic. They can cause organ damage or prove fatal. When in doubt, don't. It isn't worth the risk.

     Only use flowers you are sure haven't been prayed with pesticides, herbicides or fungicides. Do not use that beautiful bouquet you got from the florist. Flowers that are safe to eat are labelled as such. I try and only use ones I have grown myself or from other people's gardens I know.

     People with pollen allergies will react badly to eating flowers. You can minimise that by trimming out the stamens, or just using the petals.

     When sugaring, there is a risk of Salmonella when working with raw egg whites, about 1/30,000. Use powdered egg whites if you can find them. Meringue powder is not powdered egg whites and tastes awful.

    For the syrups, the procedures are how I do it. By all that I know, it is safe to can but I couldn't find any reliable information to back that up. I've never had a problem but....  don't take my word for it. Be smart, get informed and make your own choice.

This years crop of regal geraniums
These beautiful blossoms will be used up all summer

     Hopefully, I haven't scared you off of trying some of these out. Cakes, cupcakes, salads, entrees decorated with fresh flowers are beautiful. Desserts sprinkled with floral sugars are amazing. Drinks and desserts made with the syrups are incredible.

     My favourite pairings, vanilla with lavender, rose or lilac. Lemon with rose or lavender. Chocolate with lilac or rose. Rose scented lemonade, with a generous splash of vodka of course, perfect for the patio on those lazy, hot summer days. Chocolate, lilac scented buttercream frosting, a little slice of heaven.

     Not baking exactly but a baking booster post. I'll end with a question. With grilling season starting, what is your best burger recipe? I know, still not baking but I do love my burgers and my BBQ rules all summer long.

     Don't forget to check out what eveyone else is baking this week. Enjoy.