Kittens

When our kids were growing up, we seemed to have kittens around every few years. It all started because our neighbour Ed’s cat had kittens and we obligingly said we’d take the cute furry, white one who we named Princess (as in Princess Leia from Star Wars > she also had a brother named Chewy, who my other neighbour Nicky adopted).
Princess was a lovely, cuddly, furry lap cat. Soon, she became a mother to Obi and Rainbow, both pure white, furry male kittens. We became a family. Before we could get Princess spayed, she gave birth to 4 more pure white, furry kittens! Sadly, Princess got hit by a car when the kittens were 4 weeks old so we started them on softened kitten food. We found homes for three of the kittens but decided to keep the ‘runt’ called Dali, who had a rough start. Life went on and soon some of our white cats began to disappear and we were left with just Obi who lived until he was 12.

Nellie&Rainbow&DaddyWM

Daddy reading Nellie and Rainbow a story 1994

 

Fast forward to this past January. A feral cat who has lived in our neighbourhood for a number of years showed up in our backyard……. with 3 kittens in tow. I figured the kitties were about 6 weeks old. They were SO cute and it was SO cold outside (January!)…….. so I couldn’t resist feeding them to give them sustenance in order to survive a brutal winter. Wouldn’t you? I couldn’t be so heartless as to turn my back on them.
Nellie gave them all names: Mother Cat, Mochi (a cute ginger cat), Mandu (striped tabby), and Dimsum (striped/slightly mottled tabby) – we called the latter two, the twins. They remained alive and feral all winter.
One day in the spring, I made a discovery: Mother Cat was a mother again to a litter of 4 more kittens who lived in the woodpile at the side of the garage! These kittens seem to be about 4-6 weeks old.  That very same day, I accidentally left the garage door open and found out the Mochi was a mother to newborn kittens when I caught her bringing several kittens into the garage! She was real fast and had two of them behind all the junk before I could stop her. I left the door open that night as she’d never been inside before and I didn’t want her freaking out – and I didn’t know how many kittens there were. But I had my car parked in there and I had to figure out another plan for her.

Mochi's babiesWM

Our ‘little sausages’

 

The wood shed. I wasn’t using the wood shed at this time of year so I hoped she would move them there (she was moving them from place to place in the garage). I opened up the back doors to the wood shed and left them open, giving her a chance to bring them inside – I even put down a little piece of foam and tiny hunk of carpet. I wasn’t disappointed because the next morning after I fed the ‘outside cats’ I snuck into the wood shed and found 4 little baby kittens who looked like sausages all lined up in a row: 2 ginger and two blackish coloured.

pettingWM

 

Mother Cat’s kittens remained beside the garage and were spooked every time we went over there to try to civilize them. They remained ‘untouchable’ and feral. But we didn’t want that to happen to these new kittens. We knew we had to get them used to humans in order to catch them to get them all spayed/neutered when the time comes. So every time Mochi was eating, we’d go into the woodshed and ‘handle’ them, getting them used to us. And, of course, we gave them names: the two ginger males are Haru and Gogooma; and the two mottled black females and Jin and Min. Slowly, they became friendly and were unafraid of us. When they began to venture outside, they would come up to us for petting. But Mochi was still staying far away from us. Mandu ran like hell any time we went outside and Dimsum had gone to live somewhere else (we’ve only seen him once since the spring). Mother Cat must have figured it was getting crowded around here so one evening she led her 4 new kittens trotting down the driveway and left! She’d come around to eat every day at first but hasn’t shown up lately.

outside playingWM

 

The worse thing is that Mochi brings home dead moles for the kittens to snack on almost every morinng! They are getting plenty of cat food but she insists on providing for her young with fresh kill. It’s disgusting to have to pick up these dead rodents with a plastic bag over my hand, put them in another plastic bag, and take them across the road and throw them into the forest. I don’t want them to eat them because it will likely give them worms or something else.
Now that we’re on the other side of summer, we knew that we’d have to make inside accommodations for these ‘outside’ kittens especially if we’re going to get them fixed in a few months. We already have an inside cat, Dante, and I’m not interested in a houseful of new cats. But they are welcome to stay in the mudroom where they will be safe from winter storms and predators. We began this week leaving the back screen door propped open and moved their food inside. They spent one day going in but mostly out and since then are quite comfortable with being indoors. Nellie even bought them a couple of kitty beds and a litter box – which they now know how to use (important for their post surgery recovery). They’ve even spent the past few nights in there quite comfortably! Even Mochi! We tease her inside with kitty-treats because we know she would freak out and rip the screen door to shreds if she was separated and left outside.

MudroomWM

 

And this morning I found scaredy-cat Mandu inside the mudroom eating too.
So now we have a whole bunch of kitties! We love watching them play and wrestle with each other then suddenly flop down for a nap. They especially love to play ‘jungle kitty’ around my spider plants out on the deck.

nappingWM
Nellie has claimed responsibility for their care, food, and vet bills.
They ARE adorable though 😉

cutiesWM

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Nettle Tea

I love tea – yes, I’m a real ‘tea granny’. I also like iced tea. When I went to Florida a few years ago with some of my grown kids/grandkids, I learned that you had to ask for ‘hot tea’ is you did not want ice tea.

NettlesWM

 
I’ve already harvested my first batch of Stinging Nettle found growing wild around my yard near the pond, river, and (unfortunately) the playhouse, where a big bunch was leaning into the porch blocking the door just waiting to brush against bare skin, stinging it for hours. Nettle is one of those amazing plants that I love and dislike. I don’t like how the raw plant stings my skin but I just love the great, healthy tea that it makes.
I picked the leaves with heavy garden gloves on to avoid the sting. I actually cut off each leaf and put it in a bag closepinned to my pants. When I got back up to the house, I blew off each leaf and placed it in my dehydrator to dry overnight.

Drying Nettles

Nettles in the Dehydrator

The next morning it was done – shrunken, crisp and ready to crumble into a glass jar to store. But first I had to make a batch of nettle ice tea to keep in the fridge for the upcoming days of heat and humidity. I fill a large tea strainer with as much dried nettle as I can stuff in. Then I place it in a glass Mason jar and fill it with boiling water. It takes hours to cool before I put it in the fridge. I leave in the strainer for at least a day to get all the flavour and nutrients I can.
I love nettle ice tea sweetened with my own maple syrup that I made this spring and with a slice of frozen lemon (to keep it cold) – especially after I come in from working outdoors in the garden for a few hours. Usually after I’m done with a glass of nettle ice tea, I refill it with water, keeping the lemon to add a delicious tarty flavour.
I wrote about Nettles a few years ago if you want to read about it here  https://grammomsblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/22/nettles/ .

Nettle2WM

Dish Washing

I have a dishwasher. I’ve had a dishwasher almost since I became an adult when I moved out of my parents home and eloped at 18 years old. My first dishwasher was a cute, efficient little table-top model which sat on the counter and was hooked up to the tap. It was marvelous even though it took up the entire counter space. As a busy university student, I didn’t have the time or interest to do something as mundane as washing dishes.
When my first baby was born, I was even busier. I evaluated my time vs. money spent on a dishwasher. My time with my baby was the most important and I still didn’t like washing dishes. So I figured out a solution: I cloth diapered (disposable diapers where a new fad) and breastfed my baby and saved money. After doing the numbers, I concluded that I would pay for a dishwasher in 6 months with the money I saved by breastfeeding and washing the diapers. So we bought a portable dishwasher.
I have even fixed my dishwasher when it was broken. Mostly times when it was plugged or the timer was broke (I ordered a new timer). Once, after struggling to fix a plugged line, I finally gave up and called the repairman: he was there for 10 minutes, pulled out the peanut which was plugging the line and handed me a $45 bill!

repairWM

 
My current dishwasher is showing it’s age. But as long as it works, I’ll keep it. Late last year, after a family dinner, I found it plugged. After soaking up all the nasty standing water with towels, I took the draining area apart and cleaned it thoroughly, using a toothbrush to clean all screens. I even took pictures of every step just in case my memory failed me when it came time to put it all back together. Then I sprinkled a liberal amount of baking soda on the drain and soaked the bottom in vinegar – it fizzled up like the school volcano projects!  I boiled the kettle while I let it sit for 15 minutes. Instead of making tea this time, I poured the slightly cooled-down boiled water into the bottom of the dishwasher and let it sit for another 15 minutes. Then I ran it through a short cycle – and voila, it was unclogged!
Now that my dishwasher was almost as good as new, I noticed that the wire racks were really rusty in spots. I went online to research what to do and discovered that they make a special paint to repair dishwasher racks called ‘Rerack’. I figured that while I was at it, I might as well fix that too so I ordered some from my local Home Hardware store.
BUT THE MOST AMAZING THING HAPPENED WHILE I WAS ON THIS DISHWASHER ADVENTURE! I started doing dishes by hand again! And I loved it! Actually, I’ve only used my dishwasher twice since late last year. With just two people in the house, it used to take 3 days to fill the dishwasher and by then it was kind of smelly even though we rinsed off the dishes before putting them into the dishwasher. Every night after supper, Nellie and I take turns washing the dishes by hand. The two of us don’t use many dishes in a day anyway. I even bought a dish drying rack and tray from the dollars store. We let the dishes air-dry overnight and I put them away in the morning while waiting for the kettle to boil. Amazing! I even feel like my kitchen is cleaner too!

SudsWM

 
I’m sure my dishwasher will get plenty of use when the family comes for dinner and I don’t mind using it then. I have to admit though, I love washing dishes the old fashioned way again!

 

 

 

Candied Squash

I love squash. My favourites are the winter types like Acorn, Butternut, and Buttercup but my overall, hands-down best is Butternut. During the summer, I like to BBQ sliced Zucchini squash brushed with my homemade Italian salad dressing.
I’ve roasted Butternut squash halves in my oven while I cook dinner. I’ve also made a yummy Curried Squash Soup (recipe here) that my DIL Jeanette introduced me to. Lately though, I’ve been craving for squash nearly every day – it’s probably due to my body’s need for more squash-specific nutrition. Afterall, squash is the new Superfood. It contains a huge amount of vitamins A, C, E, B6, B2, B3, K, niacin, thiamin, manganese, copper, potassium, pantothenic acid, folate, omega 3 fats, magnesium, and fiber.

homegrown squash

Organic Homegrown Squash

I grow squash in my garden or purchase locally grown produce in the fall – one of the best things about squash is that it’s locally grown and available all winter long. It’s not suprising why North American Natives grew “the three sisters”, corn, squash, and beans as a dietary staple. I store it every fall in my mudroom in a basket on the floor. It’s pretty cool in there all winter and I know squash probably doesn’t like it THAT cool (45F degrees/7C) but they seem to be just fine. It’s easy to cut off a hunk from the neck or half a squash and cook it randomly inside the oven of my wood cookstove.
I decided to add a little zest to my squash and now this has become my favourite! I call it Candied Squash.  It’s not really candy but it might as well be to me!   Here’s the recipe:

1WM

 
Candied Squash Recipe

1/2 butternut squash or the neck of a butternut squash
Butter – please, please do NOT use margarine (a bucket of chemicals)
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
cinnamon
Scoop out any seeds inside the squash half you are using. I cover the open end of the other piece with a leftover plastic bag and put it back in storage with the rest.
Slice into one inch pieces. Peel off the outer skin. Cut into one inch cubes.

2WM

Butter lightly a baking dish or piece of tin foil. Put in the squash. Add 4-5 small pieces of butter on top. Sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon. Cover or wrap the tinfoil to completely cover it.

3WM

Bake for at least an hour at 325F degrees. I left mine in the cookstove yesterday for 4 hours because I forgot about it and it was deliciously ‘well-done’!
I usually simply pour it into a bowl and eat. Sometimes, if I’ve planned ahead, I add it as a side to my dinner meal.
I hope you enjoy this recipe and discover that squash tastes as good as it looks.

4WM

I Love a Real Christmas Tree!

There’s a lot of debate about Christmas trees.  Some people like an artificial tree for many reasons.  They feel that it’s less messy because there are no pine tree needles from a real Christmas tree falling all over the floor when they put up a fake Christmas tree.  Some say it’s more environmentally sound because no real tree is cut down and they reuse the same Christmas tree year after year.  Others feel that an artificial tree is easier to assemble and take down every year.  I appreciate all those reasons that fit other people’s lives.  BUT I LOVE A REAL LIVE CHRISTMAS TREE!

Searching

Searching for the Perfect Tree

Tradition.  I’ve always had a real Christmas tree for as long as I can remember.  When I was growing up, we used to buy a Pine tree for Christmas – they are the ones with the short needles.  I went with my Dad to the Woolco plaza parking lot and we picked out the perfect tree to bring home.  Later, after I got married, I always bought a Scotch Pine with the longer needles which didn’t seem to fall off as much.   We usually went out to a Christmas Tree Farm to cut our own tree but occasionally we bought one from a lot.  When Marty worked at a garden center once, we picked a gorgeous Balsam Fir from their selection – we hadn’t intended to buy one already cut but we couldn’t resist the urge.   One year when I was 9 months pregnant, we went out to a tree farm and picked the closest tree because I couldn’t walk too far – my poor husband was worried I’d give birth right there in the field!  Hahaha – I waited until 6 days before Christmas.  Some years, we went to a nearby Christmas tree farm where they had horse-drawn wagon rides and hot chocolate, but the commercialism of the entire operation began to nauseate me.  The whole spirit of Christmas was becoming depressing from the beginning of cutting a tree!

Timber2

Timber!

So I scouted out another Tree farm that just sold Christmas trees (and homemade wreaths) – cut and cut-yourself – at a reasonable price.  THIS is what I was searching for – driving into the tree farm fields, walking around (sometimes for a LONG time) to find that perfect tree, and sawing it down ourselves.  Some years, there is no snow while other times, there’s lots of snow to trudge through.  One year it was unusually mild around 0C degrees and another time it was -20C!  You just have to dress for the weather to stay comfortable.  There is plenty of room for everyone and the farm is never crowded like some other ‘wagon rides and hot chocolate’ Christmas tree farms.

I feel that Christmas Tree farms are very ecologically responsible.  The farmers who grow these trees use hands-on, labour-intensive practices to grown and prune their trees –  I remember my oldest son Robin working for a Christmas Tree farmer one summer, when he was a teenager, to prune them by hand.  The farmer’s livelihood depends on the seasonal sales of Christmas trees.  I support Farmers and I try to practice local consumption – Christmas trees are no exception.  After Christmas is over, I take my tree outside for the birds to land on or find shelter in for the rest of the winter.  Then in the spring, I cut off the branches and spread them around my blueberry plants.  I’d say that’s environmentally sustainable.

All my grown children and their families who live around here will drive out to the tree farm this year:  Nellie, Melvin, Sarah, Kristi, Mike, J, Josh, Taylor, Darin, Amanda, Kalia, Livi, Janet, and Frank.  After a fun afternoon searching for our perfect trees, we’ll come back home for a nice warm supper beside the toasty, wood-burning cookstove.  Our tree will have to wait till after supper to be brought into the house.  I just love the pine smell from a freshly cut Christmas tree!  Then we’ll let it warm up overnight before we decorate it.  And again, it will be the best Christmas tree ever!

Tree

Homemade Lasagna

Making my own lasagna has always been a family favourite.  It’s not fancy or anything; pretty basic I’d say.  I find making Lasagna is one of the easiest things to do because you can make it before guests arrive or take it already cooked to a pot-luck supper.  We recently celebrated my son Taylor’s birthday so I made this lasagna at his request.

Wbaked

I usually make meat lasagna with local, lean ground beef from my favourite community grocer, the B & H (click here for their website).  You can always add other ground meat of your choice like chicken, turkey, sausage, or even lamb but I can’t guarantee how this modification would taste since I’ve never tried it.  I have also made vegetable lasagna to suit vegetarian guests.  And I’ve also added finely grated carrots to the meat sauce to discreetly increase the veggie content.  I use my large roasting pan to make the lasagna in because I like it thick.  It’s important to plan ahead.  You need to bake this lasagna for about 50 minutes, remove from the oven, THEN let it ‘sit’ for an hour, covered.  The juices need to absorb into the noodles so it stays together when you cut it.  If you cut it when it’s hot out of the oven it will fall apart.  It’s still tasty anyway.

This lasagna goes nice with a green salad and garlic bread.

 

Meat Lasagna Recipe – serves about 12 people

from my cookbook Mom’s Recipes

  • Lasagna noodles, uncooked store bought or homemade
  • 1-2 lbs. local, lean ground beef
  • 2 cans pasta sauce (680 ml. size) or your own homemade
  • 2 containers of 1% cottage cheese (500 ml. size each)
  • Mozzarella cheese, grated (I use approximately 300 grams or about 2 cups grated)
  • Olive Oil

Steps:

  1. Brown ground beef until thoroughly cooked.  Add pasta sauce and mix will.
  2. Oil the roasting pan or other deep baking dish.
  3. Place a layer of uncooked lasagna noodles in the bottom of the pan.  You might need to break some to fit them in.
  4. Place a thick layer of meat sauce (about ¾) over the lasagna noodles. Wsauce
  5. Top with another layer of noodles.
  6. Spread the cottage cheese over this layer of lasagna noodles.  Top with another layer of noodles. Wlayers
  7. Add another layer of meat sauce, reserving some for the last layer.  Top with another layer of noodles.
  8. Spread the remaining meat sauce over the lasagna noodles.  Top with a generous amount of grated mozzarella cheese. Wcheese
  9. Bake at 350F degrees uncovered for about 50 minutes.

Remove from the oven and place on top of your stove or on a wire rack for an hour.

Slice into pieces.  The first one you take out should be the end piece, then you can easily lift out all the others.

For vegetarian lasagna, leave out the meat.  Add slightly cooked veggies of your choice:  broccoli, carrots, onions, celery, cauliflower, mushrooms, zucchini, peppers, etc.   Everything else is the same.

You can make half as much of this recipe in a smaller baking dish.  Cut down the baking time by 10 minutes.  You might want to have leftovers as these lasagna pieces re-heat very well for your lunch of another supper.

Bon appetit!

Wmmmm

 

 

 

 

Beef Stew

Today was a fine day to make Beef Stew:  it was -20C on my outdoor thermometer when I woke up this morning at 6:30 a.m.

I’d actually planned to make it today anyway.  I’ve been saving my ‘potato water’ (water used to boil potatoes in) for several days now.  And we had a roast beef dinner a few days ago so I already had the leftover gravy, peas, and potatoes which I add.  I also bought some local beef to use, so I was all set this morning to begin.  I usually choose a big pot to make it in because by the time I add all the veggies and meat, it’s full!

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My wood cookstove was blazing away on this cold morning, so I made this stew on it, beginning at 8:30 a.m.  I find a long, slow cooking stew tastes great.

 

Beef Stew Recipe

Beef, stew beef or steak cut up into chunks or leftover roast beef.  The amount is up to you.

1/2 teaspoon olive oil or vegetable oil

1/2 celery, chopped

1/2 turnip, chopped into 1″ or so squares

2-3+ large carrots

1 onion

6+ potatoes, cut into 3″ chunks

leftover gravy, about 2 cups

Any leftover vegetables in your fridge

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2+ liters water (or ‘potato water’), as needed

 

Cut up the beef into 2 inch chunks, unless you’re using stewing beef already cut up.  Add the oil to the pot with a little water, just enough to cover the bottom.  Cook the beef until browned.

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Add the uncooked celery, turnip, onion, and carrots.  Cover with the ‘potato water’ or water.  Add salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to barely simmering for 3-5 hours or more.    This is easy to do on my cookstove as I simply move the pot over to the side where it’s less hot.

One and a half hours before you want to eat, add the raw potatoes and any leftover cooked veggies from your fridge.  I find that if you add the potatoes at the beginning, they fall apart by suppertime, after stewing all day.

Fifteen minutes before eating, add the leftover gravy.  Stir well.  Let it heat up until it starts to bubble slightly.  If you find it way too runny, you can mix some flour (1/4 cup) in a jar with 1/2 cup of COLD water, shake really well until it’s mixed completely with no lumps. Then add it to the stew and stir completely, allowing it to come to a boil, stirring often.

It’s ready!  We love to eat our beef stew with lots of whole wheat bread smothered in butter.  Mmmmmm.

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Leftover stew is even better the next day!  Which is why I always start out with a big pot.  You can eat it for supper again or have it for lunch.  It never goes to waste around here – I think our poor dog Yukon wishes there was more left over for him.

 

 

 

 

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