It’s All Jamie Oliver’s Fault

Jamie Oliver has a Facebook page now and he posted an article giving tips on making Hot Cross Buns.

Ah! I have fond memories of the Hot Cross Buns from my elementary school cafeteria (I have an awful lot of food related memories; is this just me? Anyone else?). I have purchased Hot Cross Buns from grocery store bakeries, and am almost always disappointed. I think I tried making them once, years ago, and was also disappointed. But Jamie Oliver made me think that it was a good idea to try again.

That and the fact that I took a couple of vacation days to give me an extra long weekend. I have mostly been  goofing off. The upside of that being that I feel all rested and relaxed; I am not stressed or feeling any time pressure to get things done.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that I actually like to cook. During the week the last thing I really want to do when I get home from work is make a mess in the kitchen that I then have to clean up. Of course we have to eat, but I try very hard to come up with quick, easy meals that will hopefully give us leftovers. I find I don’t even want to be bothered on weekends these days. Five whole days off in a row? Yeah, I can scrape up some energy and enjoy the process.

Friday was a seriously beautiful, warm, sunny day. I said to Cory that it made me want to go outside, but there was nowhere to go; our yard is still buried in 2 or 3 feet of snow. It’s shrinking, but slowly. Friday was nice enough to keep that patio door and bedroom window open though, and we enjoyed the fresh air.

Look at the patches of bare ground on the hill!

I can even see the bottom of the TARDIS!

No longer buried in snow, a nice sunny spot for Zappa!

The cats spent lots of time lounging on the deck, or just inside the patio door watching the birds. Frank, eccentric fellow that he is, likes for me to sit on the floor with him, just inside the patio door which gave me some good photo opportunities.

Strangely unconcerned that a large feline is sitting just inside the patio door.

Sadly, it was a short interlude of nice weather. Saturday it rained most of the day, until it cooled off and turned into snow flurries – with some very blizzard-like flurries in the late afternoon and evening.

Sunday was sunny, but with more flurries. It turned into a kitchen day. Jamie Oliver, with a little help from Anna Olsen (I used her recipe), convinced me it was a good idea to make Hot Cross Buns. I substituted raisins and chopped dried apricots for currants and peel, because that’s what I had. Then I read the flour measurement wrong, but I caught that and added the missing half cup. I had to get stern and tell myself to pay attention to what I was doing.

With a tip from Jamie Oliver in mind, I put the dough in the oven to rise, with a large bowl of hot water on the rack beneath. The dough rose beautifully, and Cory came into the kitchen sniffing the air, just like the cats do when we bring home a rotisserie chicken. When I took the dough out to roll it into buns, I immediately thought that it smelled right. Maybe I can do this after all.

It was pretty much a day long project, and while I was at it, I made Indian Spiced Haddock for dinner.

Dinner! Indian Spiced Haddock

Dessert! Hot Cross Buns

They may not be pretty – I need to work on uniform bun size for one thing – but they turned out just right. The thing I often forget when I decide I need to do something like this is that there are only two of us…Two of us to eat 12 buns. We have been bravely working our way through the batch. I was feeling a little full on Sunday night, to be honest.

Monday was sunny but cold. It feels like the snow is never going to melt. Hard to believe it is April.

Level of snow slowly going down

Windy day, ruffling the feathers

We found the bird feeder that was under all that snow

Waiting patiently for spring...

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March and More Snow

At the beginning of March, we actually had a brief interlude of warmer weather and no appreciable snow fall. I started tracking the level of snow in our yard based on the drift under our bedroom window and how much I could see of the TARDIS.

March 8

For the last half of February, the top of this snow drift was level with our bedroom window. I was impressed, but at the same time it was nice to see it shrinking a bit.

Sometimes I do stop to look at something other than the piles of snow.

March 14

It’s shrinking!

We have a deck under all that snow!

March 16

Well, it was nice while it lasted…

March 19

The reason I bother to keep shoveling the deck.

March 20

Zappa is thinking hard about climbing over that mountain of snow.

They both did climb the drift eventually, and from the bedroom window I can see the trail of paw prints going down the other side. I don’t think they went far though, they were back at the door  pretty quickly. Not much to see, other than more snow I guess.

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The Snowiest February

It was a snowy, snowy month. Saint John got six feet of snow, which is apparently a record. Yay?

Another weekend, another snow shoveling session…

Poor TARDIS, buried in the snow.

At least we are getting some warm, sunny weather. It feels good!

I love this shot…Feeling the sun and sniffing the air..I hope he is catching a whiff of spring.

The light is bravely shining through the snow…If I could get through the snow, and knock on the door, do you think The Doctor would take us away to someplace tropical?

We plan our weekends around the snow storms now; when do we grocery shop so that we don’t have to go out in the stormy weather?

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A Little Fresh Air

I broke down and shoveled a path on the deck this afternoon. The cats are a bit stir-crazy from being  cooped up in the house, and I felt like I could use a little fresh air myself.

It actually was a pretty nice day; warm, no wind or precipitation (for a change). Up until now, any time I have opened the door, the cats have run in the opposite direction. Once I started shoveling, they seemed to think they should check it out.

That was about as far as they got, then they went in and left me to do the shoveling. Lazy little rascals. :)

I cleared a path to the bottom of the steps, and that is about as far as they will get because I don’t feel the need to dig my way through that snow drift. At least they can get out and scratch their deck post now.

Zappa, watching the proceedings from a perch on the kitchen counter, was not convinced.

Frank went out and gave it a try though.

I think we both felt a little better!

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Another Day, Another Storm…

Every few months we have a weekend deploy, which means I have to work on Sunday morning. I have the option to work at home, which is what I always choose, but there are those who go to the office. Since the forecast was calling for a Sunday storm, the deploy was moved to Saturday.

I stayed at home with my laptop, and my coffee pot, as usual. When I went for my second cup, I noticed a woodpecker munching away on sunflower seeds out front.

I haven’t see a lot of birds around this winter; a few chickadees at the patio feeders, and that’s about it. I’m not sure if I’ve just been missing them, or if they haven’t been around. I was  happy to see this guy though. He was all fluffed up like  a little puffball, and that red cap made him stand out in what is very much a black and white back drop at the moment.

Once work was done with, we had some lunch and decided we should head out for groceries, since it sounded like today would not be a good shopping day.

I got up once during the night, and looked out the window, and nothing was happening. But that’s been the way of it this winter; zero to storm!

By the time I got up this morning, it was well underway. It was drifted across the driveway, and the snow on the deck was as high as my shoulders already. I took some garbage down to the garage, and found we even have drifts inside.

Tomorrow we dig our way out of the garage, but for today we are enjoying another lazy storm day.

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Snowpocalypse 2015

We may have had a late start, but it has turned out to be a snowy winter, most of it coming down within a one week period.

We got 130 cm of snow in 10 days. Three of those snow falls (Tuesday, Saturday, Tuesday again) rated blizzard warnings and kept us at home. I don’t mind all that much; I like being at home, and can work from home when necessary, so I have not felt all that inconvenienced. But it is a lot of snow!

Winter scenes all around. Taken February 1.

Including city Bambi

The city of Saint John actually declared a state of emergency for a while. The streets have been getting narrower, entire lanes disappearing in some places; parking lots and driveways are shrinking.

Driving to work after the last storm, I remarked to Cory that I’m glad I am no longer living in my old apartment on Sydney Street, where the tiny parking lot was accessed by a narrow alley way; I suspect my car would stay buried until spring at this point!

Frank and Zappa have mixed feelings about the whole thing. Sure, there is the lounging and snoozing that is obligatory for any self-respecting feline…

But they are getting a bit stir crazy. They don’t like being  cooped up, but they don’t want to subject their dainty paws to snow either. I’m actually surprised they are still holding out.

Why won't these humans open the door!?!? Taken February 1.

Never mind.

I give up. Taken February 5.

I did, however, have to take some measures to stop them from hunting in the kitchen. After several occasions of  finding cat food packets with holes clawed in them, leaking all over the floor, I had to start storing their food in a plastic bin.

There is supposed to be cat food here!

This is not how this was supposed to go.

We’ve actually had a whole week now without snow. Except we are supposed to get another 30 cm tonight.

I don't think we need any more, do you? Taken February 3.

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December

The snow that we had in November did indeed melt. I think we had one or two dustings of snow, but nothing that lasted. It was actually quite warm for most of December.

Cory started his vacation on the 15, which meant I was going off to work every day wishing I was on vacation already. I was off as of the 19th though, and enjoyed some busy days puttering around. We did a little shopping, and found some treats for ourselves…

Because we needed that beer glass

Adding to my tequila collection

And I was in the mood to bake some treats as well…

Cookie Jar Ginger Snaps

Snickerdoodles

Mars Bar Squares

Even the deer had some treats…

See? No snow!

We went home to the valley, and I finally managed to get photos of the pheasants that visit Jim & Lynne’s yard.

No snow there either! In fact, it was quite warm and spring-like. I think I heard that it got up to 18 degrees on the 25th?

It did turn colder after we got back to SJ, though it stayed clear.

The cats were not too impressed by the colder temperatures, especially since we were having windy days. They were a little stir crazy, cooped up in the house though, so I took Zappa out in the yard with me on the 30th. He quickly decided he’d had enough and I don’t think he was too impressed to find that the cat door was not open.

Vacation is winding down. Cory was back to work on the 29th, though I happily do not go back until Jan 5th. It’s been nice having some time at home, getting a few things done. Monday is going to hurt a little bit. :)

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Thai Curry Noodle Soup with Tofu

A fun lunch idea that we tried out – originally found here – homemade “instant” noodle soup.

The ingredients and flavorings are up to you, of course, but Thai Curry flavour was a no brainer for me.

I used a little Better Than Boullion broth base, Roasted Red Chili Paste, Yellow curry paste, and about 2 tablespoons of coconut milk for flavoring.

Then in went finely chopeed bell pepper, broccoli stalk, bean sprouts and tofu. That was topped by rice vermicelli noodles.

It’s a good thing I take pictures isn’t it? Ginger, garlic and cilantro paste also went in there, and then the whole thing was topped with some chopped green onion.

The jar can then be sealed up and stored in the fridge.

Cooking and adding the noodles is pretty quick, so that could be left to do later as well. I like the President’s Choice vermicelli; the dry noodles are packaged as separate blocks and one block is the right size for a jar.

If you are at home, obviously you can combine your ingredients in a small pot, and prepare your soup that way – which is how I made the soup in the bowl above.

However, if your ingredients are packed in a jar, you can grab the jar from the fridge and take it off to work with you. Once at work, you can add boiling water from a kettle to fill the jar, close and seal the lid and let it sit, and a short time later you have soup in a jar for your lunch.

And if, one day, the kettle decides to stop working, hopefully you can find a bowl, add some water, and heat it up in the microwave.

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First Snow 2014

I’ve been noticing that the deer have their winter coats on.

Just in time for snow to fall.

Frank and Zappa were not too sure about the whole thing.

The first few snows seem to come as a surprise every year. Eventually they give in and accept it, but for now they are not impressed.

Snowy days often seem to bring out the birds. Mostly we see chickadees this time of year. I am very fond of them, for the fact that they don’t abandon us in the winter.

I was surprised and pleased to see this guy as well.

This fella first made an appearance late summer/early fall. It was another Friday when I was working at home. I was on the phone listening to a meeting of some sort, and looking out the window.

We don’t see a huge variety of birds around here, so seeing something new is exciting. I couldn’t wait to get off the phone and a) figure out what type of bird this was, and b) get my camera. Unfortunately, he (she? no idea) was not very cooperative when it came to being photographed. I was, however, able to quickly identify it as a red breasted nuthatch. I would see it around off and on; not sure if there is more than one but I only ever see one at a time.

I had just put up feeders outside the patio door the previous Saturday, which give me an excellent view. I’m taking photos through double layered glass, but at least I can get nice and close.

Toward the end of the afternoon I ventured out to have a look around. This early in the year I can still think of snow as pretty.

Of course, this early in the year I also know that it likely won’t last…

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This Year’s Garden

Things have been in a pretty sad state this year, because half of our fence was laying on the ground. The deer see this as all-you-can-eat buffet. I didn’t really feel like doing much, aside from planting a bunch of containers.

Before heading back to work after vacation, I planted transferred all the pepper plants that Dad gave me into containers. I planted the rose bush cuttings too, but I guess I didn’t get it quite right because they didn’t survive. Hopefully there will be more cuttings that I can try with next year!

On Tuesday of our first week back to work, Cory decided to call the fencing company to find out how much longer we would have to wait (I have been a little cranky about this). They told him they would look up the contract and call him back…And a very short time later, they called back and said “We’ll be there tomorrow.”

Hands up if you think they forgot about us…

Anyway, by Friday afternoon Phase 1 of the new cat fence was installed. We still need to get the extra bits for cat proofing, but at least now the deer can’t eat my garden.

We’ve enclosed a slightly bigger area; that yellow bird feeder used to be outside the fence, as did that pine tree in the back corner.

The deck is now inside the fence, which was what I had wanted when we installed our first fence, and the gate is much easier to deal with.

Love being able to go out the patio door and into the yard without opening a gate!

Most of my containers were on the deck…

And a few down at the bottom, where I got away with having some last year…

But I moved a bunch once the fence was up. I have space to get in behind the garden beds that were along the fence before, which is also nice.

I still have a lot of garden clean up to do, obviously. I’ve been picking away at a little bit when I have time. My garlic needs to be dug up right now, but I haven’t had a chance to do that yet – hopefully this weekend.

You can see the line in the grass where the old fence used to be. It will fill in before too long though, I am sure.

We told the fencing guys what we wanted, and they did a pretty good job of keeping the fence as close to the ground as possible. There is one corner where there is a pretty big gap though. It took the cats about a week to find it, but find it they did.

So for now we are still keeping them in at night, and I am living with the 3:30 – 4:00 am complaints, but at least the end is in sight.

I still miss my maple tree. I haven’t spent as much time sitting out in the yard this year – I’ve been finding that the evenings get chilly pretty quickly.

We have a chair in need of repair as well!

We’ve been enjoying fresh herbs. Tomatoes are looking good so far, and I have three cucumber plants that are looking productive as well. The Habanero plants look pretty good, the Jalapenos have not caught up yet, so not sure if they will. Still, things are not looking too bad considering the late start.

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