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I’m starting the year on the right foot. I’ve already watched a couple of movies to start my annual tally, as well as tried a few new recipes and it’s only the first week of January! πŸ™‚

I have always had “make fresh pasta” on my life list. Ever since our trip to Italy two years ago, and our return trip last year (love Italia!!!), it’s bumped up on the priorities.

I figured since I don’t own a pasta machine or a stand mixer with pasta attachment, the easiest noodle to make would be ravioli. So I scoured cookbooks and online recipes until I found a recipe that would suit a first timer and had a lot of good reviews.

I ended up following the dough from here, and tweaked the pesto sauce to accommodate what I had on hand and reduce the recipe to 2 servings for my husband and I.

I admit to being a bit nervous. Homemade pasta just seemed so intimidating. But I persevered through my little well of flour and egg mixture, then through the rolling (and rolling and rolling) trying to get the dough as thin as possible. Then adding the filling in little piles on the first sheet of dough, brush with egg wash, cover with second sheet and I used a ravioli cutter but you could easily use a knife or a pizza cutter. Boiled them, then baked them for 4 mins to turn brown.

The filling was delicious with four cheeses: mozzarella, provolone, cream cheese and ricotta. For the sauce, I heated olive oil, added a fresh crushed garlic clove (from my garden last year), a 1/4 cup of my Genovese basil pesto that I froze last summer (and thawed overnight), about a half cup of heavy cream and 1/4 cup of parmesan. It turned out great (albeit the color was off because I didn’t blanch my basil when I prepared the pesto last summer..serves me right). πŸ™‚

I was relieved it all turned out and the little pillows were delicious. Wonder what I’ll make next!

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So here we are – it’s time to plan what I’ll be tackling from my Life List next year. Since we already know where we’ll be traveling to, those will likely get crossed off in 2019. I also have some food-related and skills I want to tackle.

This is the list for next year:

  • Stay in a cabin or lodge in the woods
  • See Lake Louise in Alberta
  • Stargaze in a dark sky reserve (Jasper)
  • Visit Banff, Alberta
  • Visit Jasper, Alberta
  • Drive the Icefields Parkway, Alberta
  • Hike in the Rockies
  • Hike to one of the tea houses in the Rockies
  • Learn to crochet
  • Knit a pair of stockings
  • Knit a shawl
  • Grow a fruit tree
  • Attend a paint & wine class
  • Make yogurt
  • Make cheese
  • Make homemade pita bread
  • Try canning
  • Make fresh pasta

I’ll be keeping my usual “annual” goals but have adjusted (greatly lowered) my reading one since I’ve been spending a lot more time doing other things:

  • Watch 50 movies
  • Cook 30 new recipes
  • Read 10 books

Can’t wait!!

 

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My sister and her two girls came down to spend the holidays with us again this year. They arrived on Friday (flew into the Toronto Island airport) and for dinner we had rigatoni with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil (by request :)), followed by buche (yule log). We headed out for a stroll in the neighborhood to admire the holiday lights. Once back home, we watched Daddy’s Home (first time for Chris and I, it was cute) and everyone got settled and went to bed.

Saturday we braved the mall and went shopping for some last-minute gifts – we went early and avoided the crowds (and we all wore our plaid flannel shirts :)). We ate lunch at Jack Astor’s, then back home to get ready for our evening at Westfield Heritage Village; a pioneer-style village where the staff dress up in period costumes and explain how a village ran back in the day. I love that place and learning about all the “old-time jobs”, with old-fashioned decor – super fun. We swung by Boston Pizza on the way home and hit the sack.

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Sunday we spent outside enjoying holiday festivities downtown. We had brunch at Eggspectations, then visited the Fair in the Square at Nathan Philips Square where they had a Christmas market, outdoor skating, food and drinks (mulled wine!). I bought some wool leg warmers at one of the stalls. Cozy!Β  Our next stop was over at the new winter festival Aurora at Ontario Place by the lake. They did an amazing job – it was gorgeous. There was a market as well (bought the girls stuffed alpacas and myself an alpaca sweater – love it). We had some food, warmed up under the heaters then the adults went over to the bar (warm cider) while the girls went tubing. We peeked at the skating pond (beautiful) but everyone had their fill from skating earlier in the day. We all went on the carousel and the mini-train. We loved the mystical world with all the lights – it was gorgeous. Great new winter festival to add to the holiday festivities in the city. Back home and everyone crashed.

Nathan Philips Square:

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Aurora:

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Monday (Xmas Eve) was baking day – we made kovas (nanaimo bars), ginger nut cookies and double chocolate chip cookies with mint chips. Everything turned out great and they were all gone by the time the family left later in the week. The girls also helped me with making lunch (chicken and Greek salad). After lunch, we headed out armed with an outdoor scavenger hunt game and walked through the neighborhood to Starbucks, then made our way back. If your family is into games but want to spend time outdoors, this game is awesome and kept everyone busy along the walk.Β  Luckily my sister brought her Christmas light necklace (equipped with working flashing lights) to drape over a mailbox so we could count the “decorated mailbox” as found on our hunt. πŸ™‚

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We got back home, had our usual charcuterie, cheese, crackers and other goodies for dinner, watched Daddy’s Home 2 (again, first time for Chris and I – funny) and got everything ready for the big day tomorrow. πŸ™‚

Tuesday was Christmas Day and after a morning opening gifts, we enjoyed our turkey lunch with all the usual fixings. We all ended up playing the new games Santa brought. Mad Gab (you have to read a card out loud that’s made up of words that sound like something else) – tough to explain, even tougher to play. We also played Hearing Things and had a blast – one player wore headphones with sounds that blocked out noise while your teammate whispers a phrase and the headphone-wearer tries to read their lips to guess what they’re saying. This was hilarious!! We ended the night watching The Holiday and snacking on holiday treats – even the cat joined in resting in his bed in front of the fire.

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Wednesday was Boxing Day and we headed down tot he King Edward hotel to have afternoon tea. At this tie of year they have a festive “Nutcracker Tea” and it was awesome. The finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream, jam and lemon curd and pastries – everything was yummy, festive and filling. Back home, we played Christmas charades, then off to see Mary Poppins Returns.

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Thursday was “big breakfast” day including scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns and toast. Followed by ornament-making – this year we made pine cone ornaments with berries and branches, topped with plaid ribbons. They turned out pretty well!

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Lately I’ve been really focused on skills that have been lost over generations or simply not passed down from our parents and grandparents. I don’t know if it’s due to the younger generations not caring, a general waning interest in those types of skills or a lack of time when convenience is just easier to satisfy the needs of ourselves and our families.

That being said, I’ve been happily learning and honing those skills for my own enjoyment and fulfillment. Call it taking care of my family or call it preparing for the zombie apocalypse. Either way, I’m fairly confident that in the event of a food shortage or other similar emergency, I feel like I’d be ableΒ to provide and help my husband and I not die (the bar is low folks). Unless we’re talking full-fledged apocalypse where people are killing each other for a tomato, well, I’d probably have problems and a tomato would be the least of them. But I digress.

Back to me and my epic skillz. πŸ™‚

I started a list (of course) of skills I wanted to learn and I’m happy to say I’ve been making great progress. I’ve plsit the list into four categors of “learning”: Things I already kow, things I’m currently learning (In Progress), Things I want to learn, and Things I don’t need (yet). I reserve the right to change my mind on that last one if, you know, zombies and all.

Know In Progress Want to learn Don’t need (yet)
Learn to make dried herbs x
Learn to make freezer jam x
Learn to rotate your crops x
Learn to bake bread x
Learn how to weed properly x
Start your seeds indoors x
Learn to garden x
Learn to cook from scratch and in season x
Learn to knit x
Learn how to forage for wild edibles x
Learn to store food x
Grow an indoor fruit tree x
Know first aid and CPR x
Learn a fiber arts skills such as rug hooking, spinning, weaving or felting x
Learn how to make lip balm x
Learn how to prune x
Learn to can – pressure x
Learn to can – water bath x
Learn to crochet x
Learn to grow and store medicinal herbs x
Learn to make butter x
Learn to make candles x
Learn to make cheese x
Learn to make dried fruit x
Learn to make dried vegetables x
Learn to make home medecine ointments and salves x
Learn to make vinegar x
Learn to make yogurt x
Learn to save seeds x
Learn to sew basic stitches x
Make bar soap x
Make dish soap x
Make laundry soap x
Plant a fruit or nut tree x
Learn to fish x
Learn to hunt x
Learn how to start a fire x
Learn to purify water in different ways x

That being said, these are some the tasks I have been tackling this year to hone said skills:

  • Expended my garden to 4 beds (16 square feet each), for spring, summer and fall crops. I’m still not saving seeds yet but I will eventually. I do start my seeds in doors and transplant once risk of frost is past (in my area zone 6b).
  • I grew mint and chamomile to dry herbs (with a dehydrator) for tea. This has been great – love my very own tea blend. πŸ™‚
  • I grew lavender and made sachets (second year in a row now).
  • I bought fruit at our local farm and made freezer jams (strawberry, blueberry, raspberry and peach). So excited to have a freezer full of jam for the winter.
  • I bought local pickling cucumbers and made refrigerator and freezer pickles: dill, sweet, bread & butter. Delicious. And we’ll have some for months!
  • For the first time, I planted garlic (last fall) and harvested and cured them. They turned out great and we had the first clove in dinner yesterday – holy moly – tasty!! We have 13 bulbs total to savor over the coming months.

Some pics:

Garlic harvest

Garlic harvest (TV remote for size comparison)

Lavender harvest

Lavender harvest

Lavender sachets

Lavender sachets

Drying chamomile

Drying chamomile

Pickle batch

One batch of pickles

Freezer jam - strawberry

Strawberry freezer jam

Peach freezer jam

Peach freezer jam

Freezer jam

Freezer drawer of jams and pesto

I’m also planning on tackling these tasks in the upcoming months:

  • Make basil pesto (once I harvest the basil in my garden)
  • Make apple chutney (and freeze), apple sauce (and freeze), possibly make apple pie filling (and freeze) – to take advantage of the apple harvest in our neck of the woods
  • I’m planting cabbage as a fall crop and will make sauerkraut (my first go at fermenting!)
  • I’ll be making vegetable chips in my dehydrator, possibly some dried fruit too for some healthy snacks

Once the food season passes, I’m going to work on other skills that are more indoorsy. πŸ™‚ Good times.

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It’s been a while since my last post so I thought it was high time to provide an update on my garden. πŸ™‚ BTW, I’m in zone 6b, southwest Ontario.

As the weather warmed up, I started planting and moving my seedlings outside. Everything survived except 2 tomato plants, which I replaced with 2 nursery-bought tomato plants. I love looking back to see how much things have grown over the past few months. Super satisfying. So far, we’ve eaten tons of lettuce, green peas, yellow beans, basil, mint, garlic scapes and blueberries. Soon we’ll have tomatoes. I’m in the middle of dehydrating chamomile and mint to make tea – first time so we’ll see how that goes.

Here are some pics in chronological order from mid-May up until to last weekend:

Seedlings – tomatoes, basil and parsley:

I tried something different with the two tomato plants in the front – I planted them in a trench/sideways (back to front in the pic) just to see if they would grow any different from the others (dug a hole, planted straight:

More tomatoes and some carrots

First time growing green peas (patio pride/bush) as well as zucchini:

I bought blueberry bushes from the nursery but was worried about birds. I found this amazing contraption on Amazon – it’s been amazing. I haven’t lost one blueberry to birds yet!

Mint (aka mojitos in training):

First time planting garlic (last October) and the leaves have grown huge so far – these are the scapes that I harvested (and sautΓ©ed with pasta and mushrooms) – yummy:

Peas are truly a beautiful plant:

Peas, yellow beans and zucchini up near the fence:

Buttercrunch lettuce and cucumber plant at the top near the fence:

Mint teenagers:

First harvest of lettuce and peas:

Chamomile is flowering!

Everyone looks so happy πŸ™‚

Beans are flowering!

Couldn’t believe my eyes – my very own blueberries πŸ™‚

Mint young adults:

Zucchini flowers!

Tomatoes taking off

Yellow bean harvest with some thai basil

We have zucchini babies πŸ™‚

And cucumber babies:

Chamomile and marigolds (and a garlic photobomber):

This was a few days ago – lots of green tomatoes, should ripen soon πŸ™‚

Thai basil:

Can’t wait for the first taste of home-grown tomatoes πŸ™‚

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Spring has finally arrived (more or less) which means we can start prepping the garden and starting cool-weather crops, and start/continue the indoor seeds and seedlings. In my neck of the woods, the May long weekend is planting weekend. BUT – because mild weather typically starts in April, I can get started on preparing my garden beds and sow some seeds. Exciting!

Ever since I put my garden plan together early in the year, I’ve been closely watching important dates in my calendar.

  • On Feb 10th I started mint seeds indoors
  • On Mar 18th, I started marigolds indoors
  • On March 30th, I transplanted my marigolds and mint into cups
  • On Mar 31st, I started cherry tomato seeds indoors
  • On April 21st, I (with the help of hubby) installed a new raised bed and filled it with triple mix and compost. I also added compost to my other 2 existing beds.
  • On April 22nd I sowed seeds outside for peas, carrots, lettuce (2 types) and lemon balm. I also started seeds for basil and parsley indoors.

The next key dates will be 2 weekends in May once all risk of frost has passed, usually around the May long weekend and the one prior.

That’s when I’ll get everything outside and go buy some blueberry plants for my other new bed this year. I decided to dedicate a whole bed just for blueberries because of the different soil requirements (acidic) and the likelihood of needing to cover them with netting.

Meanwhile, the garlic I planted last fall is looking great!

Progress so far:

Cherry tomato seedlings

Marigold and mint seedlings

Growing…

Growing…Β  marigolds / mint on the left. Tomatoes (near window) on the right) and basil/parsley on the right / front)

My garlic is doing well (planted last fall). There are also seeds for lemon balm (above the garlic) and carrots (whole 3rd row) in here. Tomatoes will be along the fence. Chamomile will be the bottom/right 4 squares. This was taken 1 week ago:

This was taken today:

This bed already has seeds for lettuce (one variety in the bottom 3 squares on the left, with another column of another variety next to it, then beans (to be planted in May), and seeds for peas. Tomatoes will be along the top row along the fence. I tried lining this box with cardboard this time. For the other two I used weed fabric – just want to see how well the cardboard would work.

This one will have tomatoes along the back row and basil (genovese and thai) and parsley in the front.

Beds are ready for more planting in May. πŸ™‚ The new bed will go the right of the one against the fence at the top of the photo.

I’m considering putting down cardboard/mulch between the beds and in the far corner to get rid of the grass and avoid complicated mowing.

So excited to be spending time out in the garden! πŸ™‚

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It’s been cold and snowy in my neck of the woods lately. BUT – since it’s time to plan for my spring/summer garden, I’ve been having fun buying seeds and planning out what I’ll be growing and where, focusing on when the temps will be warm again. It’ll come quickly and I want to be prepared. πŸ™‚

Without further ado, below is my square foot garden plan layout for this year – click on it to make it larger.

I will still do my usual plantings (albeit different kinds) of cherry tomatoes, basil, parsley, lettuce, beans and carrots. Oh, and french marigolds to repel the bugs. I’ll be trying some new crops this year: cucumbers, zucchini, garlic (already planted this past fall), snap peas and blueberries. Plus, to assist with my life list item to make my own tea, I’ll be planting chamomile, lemon balm and mint (the mint in its own pot because it can be invasive). I’ll be getting a dehydrator to help with that task as well.

I did all my research and bought all the seeds this morning. I’ll be picking up blueberry plants closer to planting time and I think I’ll plant a couple of other types of basil in 2 of the squares for variety. The purple basils have caught my eye – imagine what a pesto made with purple basil would look like – stunning!

My plan is to cover the entire blueberry 4×4 bed with netting to protect them from the birds. For the basil, I’ll keep some for pesto and dry the rest for cooking. Same for the parsley – I’ll use some fresh and dry the rest. I’ll dry the chamomile, lemon balm and some of the mint to make tea (my favorite tea has all of those elements in it :)). Plus, gotta save some mint for the mojitos.

I love growing my own food and walking out into the yard to pick ingredients for meals – nothing tastes better than tomatoes warmed by the sun or a fresh picked carrot – it’s incredible how different (and better!) things taste compared to the store. I also enjoy babysitting my plants and keeping an eye out for them, trimming here, watering there, picking off pests (Japanese beetles, I’m looking at you). It’s incredibly relaxing, fulfilling and the bigger jobs provide a good workout too. Weeds are few with the square foot garden method because the “good” plants take up all the space and don’t leave any room for the weeds. It’s fabulous.

Here is my list of seeds so far:

  • Red small tomato: Stupice (stoo-pee-chay)
  • Red cherry tomato: Matt’s Wild Red Cherry
  • Yellow cherry tomato: Lemon Drop
  • Yellow cherry tomato: Champagne (Loved these last year – so much sweet flavor in such a tiny package – they’re like a half inch in diameter)
  • Black cherry tomato: Black Cherry
  • Basil: Genovese  (gold standard in basil – amazing for pesto)
  • Basil: TBD – One of the purple varieties
  • Cucumbers: Muncher
  • Zucchini: Green Zucchini
  • Garlic: Red Russian
  • Beans: Yellow Golden Wax (Bush)
  • Peas: Patio Pride
  • Carrots: Nantes
  • Lettuce: Red Salad Bowl
  • Lettuce: Buttercrunch
  • Chamomile: Bodegold
  • Marigolds: French
  • Mint:: Menthol
  • Lemon Balm

 

I am doing my happy dance!!! πŸ™‚

2016 Garden flashback:

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