Monday, December 20, 2010

Gifts for/from Gramma

I’ve been the lucky recipient of some wonderful mail this month.  Yes there are lots of cards and pictures and letters from family and friends each of which is read and displayed. 

But so far, my favourites have been these:



3 amazing Christmas drawings from Grandboy K (the top one had pictures on both sides)



This one from Grandboy E – his own idea for a gift for Gramma.

He sent me gift tags to be used when I wrapped my presents.  As you can see, they have “From Gramma” on the top and then the word “To:” and a line for the recipient’s name.

I used them on the gifts I wrapped and was so thrilled with the thoughtfulness of both boys as they sent their love and Christmas wishes to a very happy Gramma.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A new perspective on entertaining.

As many of your know, we’ve been in the process of renovating our 35 year old house. I thought you might be interested to see the difference in how our dining room looks now.

These were taken several years ago

Christmas 07 New years eve 009

Note the shag carpet, chair rail and paneled wall.

Christmas 07 New years eve 007

Before pictures 001

This picture shows the new floor we put in last year.

Now that we’ve taken out the 9 foot patio door and enclosed the covered patio this is how it looks.


As you can see we have a lot more room – here the table is set for sixteen.


There is so much more light and we feel like we are sitting outside in the garden.


Looking into the room with my back to the new windows.


We brought up an old cabinet that we’d bought when we were first married, cleaned it up and use it now as a cabinet to store wine and glassware.

And, we finally laid the carpet down that we’d bought just for this room last year when we were in Istanbul. (This room was just a dream then)

The table will normally be set up where it was before the addition but when we want to make the table bigger, we can now turn it and accomodate more people. We are very happy with the way it looks and when we had company on Sunday, we loved the extra space for entertaining.

We’ll still need to find some upholstered chairs so that we can sit and look out into the yard and enjoy the birds and flowers this spring. But I for one am thrilled to have this much done.

The next phase will be replacing the rest of the flooring in the house. Hopefully we can start that early in the New Year.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


I mentioned in my last blog post that my niece Monica and I were making Pfeffernuesse or Peppernuts. There's a bit of history to these tiny spiced cookies. I remember being told that Mennonite grandmothers used to keep a few peppernuts in their purses during church services. When the children would become a bit noisy or restless, they would pop one of these hard nuggets into their mouths and the necessity of sucking the hard cookie and the surprising spiciness would distract the child and silence was achieved.
They are always number one on the list of Christmas favourites at our house and they can become a bit addictive.
There are many recipes for Peffernuesse but this is my favourite. My friend Delores made them and I adjusted the spices to my liking.
It's a big recipe and I usually only make half of it. This year because Monica is staying with us and she was eager to help I decided to mix up the whole amount. When a bowl of Pfeffernuesse are on the table they disappear by the handful and a pretty Christmas tin filled with Pfeffernuesse is always a welcome gift.
    Here is the recipe I use - it is easily halved if the whole amount is intimidating:

  • 4 cups Roger's Golden syrup (this is different than corn syrup)
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 2 cups margarine
  • 2 cups milk
  1. Combine the above ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. Let mixture cool completely before continuing.
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 tsp. peppermint extract (use the clear extract not the green tinted one)
  1. Beat eggs in a small bowl and add extracts. Set aside.
  • 8 - 9 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground star anise (not anise seed)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  1. Place 7 cups flour in a large mixer bowl.
  2. Add spices and baking powder and stir until completely blended with flour.
  3. Add syrup mixture to the flour, stirring well until blended.
  4. Add beaten egg mixture and continue to stir until blended.
  5. Continue to add flour until dough thickens but remains sticky. You will still be able to stir it with a wooden spoon however it will take a bit of strength. I use around 8 1/2 cups flour but this may vary depending on your flour. Please note that the dough will harden considerably once it has been refrigerated so be careful not to add too much flour.
  6. Refrigerate dough overnight or for several days.

  7. Prepare cookie sheets with parchment paper. These cookies will stick to the pan whereas if you use parchment paper, they will just slide right off and you can reuse the paper.
  8. Take a tablespoon and spoon out a good handful of the dough.
  9. Sprinkle a little flour on your counter and roll the dough into a long rope about the thickness of your ring finger.
  10. Using a bench scraper or pizza cutter, cut the rope into 1/2 inch pieces and place on your prepared pans. (I get 99 cookies on each large cookie sheet)
  11. Bake at 350ยบ for about 15 minutes or until cookies just begin to brown. This is where having a convection oven comes in handy as you can bake 2 or 3 cookie sheets at a time.
  12. Remove from pan and cool. Store in ice cream pails in a cool place.
  13. The Pfeffernuesse will keep for a long time - at least 3 or 4 months.

      Monica rolled the dough into long ropes and cut the pieces while placed them on the pans. I had to get out my pizza pans to accomodate the volume of cookies.
      This whole recipe makes about 1600 Pfeffernuesse but my prediction is that they will be gone before January is over.

      Tuesday, December 7, 2010

      It's December and...

      It's December .. is it already the 7th? ... and there are still few signs of Christmas at our house. On the other hand things are happening here. Our home renovations are actually happening and with luck our dining room addition will be finished by the end of the week.

      So... I've been dusting and cleaning and dusting and cleaning again. A crew of drywallers came to put up the sheets of dry wall and used a ROUTER!! of all things to cut it to size and didn't bother to put up any poly to protect my existing dining room so everything was covered in a 1/4" of dry wall dust. I think it took me 3 hours to wipe and then wash everything down. The fellow who did the taping and mudding won my heart when he tightly wrapped the dining room off from the addition and also draped poly over my living room furniture before he started sanding. Then Harv did the painting and yesterday the flooring guys were here to install the hardwood floor. So... more dust - this time sawdust - not near as thick and a bit easier to clean up.

      Hopefully our finish carpenter friend will be by tomorrow or Thursday to finish the window trim, baseboards and crown molding. Then the dirty work will be done and we can finally start to put up a touch of Christmas.

      I have mixed my Pfeffernuesse (tiny nutlike cookies called Peppernuts) and my niece, Monica and I will roll, cut and bake them tonight. There is also a rapidly growing pile of packages and bags on the bed in the extra bedroom ready to be wrapped and sent to the grandkids. So we are remembering that Christmas is coming and although the house may not be decorated, I am preparing my heart for this wonderful season.

      It is the "away" year for our family this Christmas when our kids spend Christmas Day with their in laws so it's not as crucial to have the house completely decked out for which I am very thankful. With all that's been going on at our house this year, that would seem an overwhelming task. I'll post a few before and after photos as soon as it's done.

      I hope you are all preparing for Christmas - not only the tree, the decorations, gifts and baking but more importantly that your hearts are ready for the advent of Christ's coming.

      Friday, November 26, 2010

      Dirt Bike Tales and Trails

      The first two days we were at our daughter’s place in Sask. we spent the afternoons dirtbiking with their family.

      Well, I rode on the back of Harv’s dirtbike to the trail head and then snapped pictures while everyone else rode the trails.


      G-Boy E  all ready to go.


      G-boy K trying out the new bike his Dad bought and PopPop brought out with him.


      Mom gets K all buckled up and Dad gives the bike one last adjustment.


      The whole family ready to go.


      Harv                                                                                      Chris


      G-boy E looking like a pro                                         G-boy K riding down the trail


      Dave shows us how to do a wheelie.               Chris looks on as the boys ride by.


      Reviewing the day’s riding as the sun sets behind them.

      Tuesday, November 23, 2010

      Look who dropped by

      Every so often this fellow drops by and this time Harv had a camera close by.


      Blue Herons are often seen in our area and it is fun to watch their antics.

      This fellow seemed to have his mind on something but we have seen one try to get to the other side of the fence without flying over.

      First he pulled his neck down so that his beak sat on his chest and then he bent his “knees” (do herons have knees?) until his feathers touched the ground.

      Then, just like a duck, he waddled under the fence wire.  Once on the other side, up went his legs and up went his neck and he became heron height again.



      They watch the creek intently and when they spot a fish or eel, they are lightning fast as they pounce and then fly away.



      You can click on the picture to enlarge it – the herons have beautiful markings.  This fellow’s neck will seem to be blurry in the picture but that’s only because he has very fine, fluffy down feathers around his neck and the wind kept them in motion.

      On the same day I laughed at a half dozen Mallard ducks - bottoms up in the creek and then on the driveway, a pair of Muscovy ducks looking very much like bald eagles from a distance.

      It’s amazing what we can all see here in our corner of the Valley..

      Wednesday, November 17, 2010

      A Visit to the Prairies

      Harv and I spent the past 2 weeks in the Prairies.  Our daughter, Chris had invited me to see a play “Welcome To Mitford” that was being performed at Bethany Bible College. (Where I attended many years ago and where each of our children also spent one or two years.)  I was excited to go – we hadn’t been at their place for at least half a year and it was time to make the effort and go.  Harv was able to schedule several meetings in Edmonton and near Regina which made the trip even more feasible.

      We had a lovely drive over there – the weather was great and the roads clear.

      Chris and I headed off to the play Saturday afternoon and had a lovely afternoon’s entertainment.


      We got back from the play and headed out to a local farmer’s place where the boys were all riding dirtbikes.  After church on Sunday we headed back for more riding.  I took lots of pictures and will share a few on a subsequent post.

      After a great weekend with warm and dry days, we woke up to 6 inches of snow on Monday morning



      Of Course the grand boys were ecstatic and eager to walk to school.


      At the end of the day, we drove by the school playground.  I wish I’d had my camera.  The schoolyard boasted a crowd of snowballs and snowmen of every size and shape – many much larger than the children who’d made them.


      One afternoon, Chris and I headed to Hague where we spent a couple of hours in a great scrapbooking and quilting store.  Once again we had to  acknowledge how small the world really is.  The “Prairie Chick” who owned this store used to live a block from our home. Chris and I also spent a day shopping in Saskatoon,  something we love to do each time we’re together. 

      There is always a lot of activity around their home.   Chris teaches preschool one morning a week and is on call as an EA at their local school. Dave always has a number of projects on the go which Harv was able to ehlp a bit with.

      We watched the boys play hockey,


      And then watched first Dave and then Chris play on their respective teams.




      Harv got to watch the boys at their Karate lesson


      and we celebrated Dave’s birthday with dinner out.


      These were just a few of the activities we got to share as we spent this very special time with our family

      Eating Cake

      Coconut cake 3

      While at my Daughter’s last week I read a library book she had checked out called “Eat Cake” by Jeanne Ray.

      It’s a novel about a woman living with aging parents, a teenaged daughter and a husband who’s just lost his job.  She finds her peace and security in the baking of cakes which plays a large part in helping her to cope with the crises that come her way.

      I’d like to quote one of the paragraphs that struck me, however I don’t want to be guilty of pirating copyrighted material so I will try to paraphrase what Jeanne Ray said.

      Basically she comments that Cakes have gotten a bad reputation and that those who can turn down a piece of cake seem to be more virtuous than those of us who accept the cake and enjoy it.  She goes on to say that the person who passed on the cake isn’t really a person with more discipline than the rest of us but is someone who has “lost touch with Joy”.  Afterall, we don’t eat the whole cake and one piece of cake never made anyone fat .  Cakes are served on happy days; birthdays, weddings, and baby showers – they are celebratory and they make you feel safe and that all is right with the world.

      She says it much better than I do on Page 2 and 3 of the book.  But don’t you agree with the jist of it?

      There is something wonderful about a beautifully baked cake.  This book is well worth a read.  I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

      Monday, November 1, 2010


      This post is a little late as these pictures were taken several weeks ago but I'd like to share them. We had alot of fun watching the otters in our creek. There were 4 of them and they were making quite a splash. Literally! Harv grabbed his camera and followed them up the creek a ways. They were hungry fellows, gobbling up eels by the mouthful. Who knew there were so many eels in our creek? There's always something happening down by the creek.

      Tuesday, October 26, 2010

      A Primer on Nuts

      If you were to come visit me, you would notice a small orchard at the front of our property and would have to pass under these large trees planted on either side of the driveway.

      At other times of the year you might wonder what kind of trees they are. They must be almost 70 feet high with thick sturdy trunks.
      However at this time of the year, it's not hard to figure that out. As you walk up the driveway you will feel a crunch under your feet. Looking down this is what you'll find.


      If you look up into the tree you will see green globes hanging from the tree

      But nature has made it easy for us so we don't have to climb the tree to harvest the nuts. Most fall to the ground, shedding their green casing on the way.

      I found one that was still nestled in its cracked case.

      Picking them up, it's better to wear gloves as the fibers inside the green case will stain your fingers a dark brown. (our great grandmothers used walnut skins to make brown dye) Each year we would gather the walnuts, dry them, crack them, toast them and eat them but in recent years I've developed an allergy to them so the crows and squirrels are now the grateful recipients of nature's largesse.
      If you look to the right, you'll see the orchard floor covered in very prickly pods.

      Picking up nuts in our orchard can be hazardous. These prickly pods can incur sore fingers and because they litter most of the orchard you'll want to wear thick soled shoes.

      Looking up into the tree above you will see the green pods and brown tassles of
      an English Chestnut tree.

      In spring this tree is gorgeous with light green tassels highlighting it's bright foliage.

      This is what the chestnuts look like after they've fallen to the ground. This years crop is not as good as last year so the chestnuts are smaller, but each pod contains 3 chestnuts with the centre one being larger than its bedfellows. These are the type of chestnuts that the song says are "roasting on an open fire" and that go into chestnut stuffing. I haven't used these chestnuts although I keep intending to.
      The nuts I use most often are the ones that grow on these trees on the edge of the orchard.

      Again, if you look up you may still find a few nuts on the tree, although most have fallen by now.

      These are hazelnuts and they grow in these clusters which look like babies in blankets.

      They are prolific trees, producing far more nuts than we can eat. And, yes, you might want to be careful as you pick these up as well. You may pick a wild mushroom by mistake as they thrive under the thick foliage and in the slanting fall light can easily be mistaken for nuts..

      Or, far worse, in my estimation, would be grabbing or even touching one of these BC sized slugs. (Ugh!)

      What do I do with all these nuts? Well, I share them with friends and relatives, I use them in baking of course, and for fall decorating.

      (Those horse chestnuts came from a tree up our road which I didn't get a picture of.)

      And last but not least, I use them in a favourite pasta dish at our house:

      Chicken Linguini with Hazelnuts.
      • Linguini noodles
      • 1 tablespoon olive oil
      • 2 or 3 boneless chicken breasts cut into slices
      • 2 cloves garlic, minced

      Alfredo sauce (or you can use a prepared Alfredo sauce)

      • 1/4 cup butter
      • 1 cup heavy cream
      • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
      • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped hazelnuts
      • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
      1. Boil a pot of water and add salt and enough linguini noodles for your family.
      2. While the noodles are cooking, heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a fry pan.
      3. Add minced garlic and the chicken pieces.
      4. Saute until nicely browned and well cooked. Set aside.
      5. In a small pot, melt butter.
      6. Add heavy cream and heat without boiling, stirring occasionally until slightly thickened.
      7. Add grated parmesan cheese and stir until melted.
      8. Drain pasta, toss with Alfredo sauce and place on a large platter.
      9. Top with chicken pieces, chopped hazelnuts and freshly chopped parsley.
        Serves 4-6