30 January 2008
Oh, and we've lost another twelve or so shingles from the roof, too, so it was not a good day at the homestead either. A fascia board has gone (and we can't see it anywhere) and some soffits have come off as well, this time. The snow inconveniently melted off the roof yesterday, exposing it just in time for the winds to wreak their worst today. The roofers will come back at the weekend, but as it is due to snow again on Friday, I'm not sure how much they'll be able to do.
The roofing guy thinks that the roof needs a period of hot weather to weld the shingles onto each other (there's a layer of glue on the underside of each shingle) and make it more solid (the top half is nailed to the roof). Such weather seems like a long way off at the moment and we don't want too many more days like today where we watch helplessly as chunks of roof fly past the windows. Perhaps we should have waited and got the roof replaced in the spring.
Looking on the positive side, my first order of seeds arrived yesterday, bringing with them at least the promise of better weather in the months to come.
28 January 2008
I've worked out that 3kg (7lb) of bread flour (half wholewheat, half white) will make three satisfyingly large loaves. I've adapted a recipe I found at the Milk and Honey Farm site (I use sugar rather than honey and don't bother with the Vitamin C or whey powder). I freeze the spare loaves and this quantity keeps us going for a week or so. The shop-bought wholemeal loaves here seem a lot sweeter to me than the UK equivalents, so it's nice to be able to make something that tastes the way I think it should. Child #1 even eats the crusts of my bread, which is quite an achievement. I haven't worked out yet how much each loaf costs to make (or how many hundreds I need to make in order to make the Bosch pay for itself!).
27 January 2008
Delia says you should make the marmalade over two days, but I did it all in one afternoon and evening (with half the quantities) and it worked fine. My memories of earlier attempts at making preserves (my mother's and mine) were that the end result tasted fine but didn't set properly. I haven't tried the marmalade yet, so can't vouch for the taste, but am pleased that it has, at least, set.
24 January 2008
21 January 2008
It's sunny on our side of the lake today, though the clouds on other side look a bit threatening.
20 January 2008
19 January 2008
He's grown quite a bit since his last piece of cinematic exposure. Hasn't got much brighter, though: his favourite hobby at the moment is eating the snow.
This is 'take two' because in my first recording of this scene Mike was tormenting the dog by making mad growling noises and I had to remind him that the camera records sound as well as video. If he really annoys me I might post that video one day too...
15 January 2008
We did have a startled moment on the way back from the post office this afternoon when a mouse suddenly appeared on the bonnet of the car, ran across to the passenger side and then launched itself onto the roadside and ran away.
I think I've always aspired to be the sort of mother who greets her children with a plate of freshly-made biscuits when they get home from school. Today I didn't have a clue what to do for tea, but I'd taken the butter out of the fridge with a vague plan of making some chocolate-chip cookies, so just before they got home I made some. It's an adaptation of Nigella Lawson's recipe for White-Chocolate and Pistachio Biscuits, but since I had neither white chocolate nor pistachios in the house (and because we're now over here), they turned out to be Almond and Chocolate Chip Cookies.
According to Child #1 they were both "the best cookies in the world" and "as good as the ones in the shops" (I think she was remembering Millie's Cookies in the Trafford Centre).
100g very soft butter
100g brown sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
150g all-purpose (plain) flour
1tsp baking powder
100g ground almonds
handful or two of chocolate chips
The butter and sugar are mixed until creamy, then the egg and vanilla are added and mixed in, followed by the flour and baking powder, then the almonds and chocolate chips. I got 24 cookies from the mix, although Nigella's recipe says you should get 36, so mine must have been a bit on the generous side. They're baked at 350°F/180°C for 10-15 minutes and transferred to racks when they've cooled down slightly.
My original plan had been to send the children to school with these as part of their packed lunches, but then I remembered that the school has a strict 'no nuts' policy, so that isn't an option and we'll just have to eat them at home. Shame.
13 January 2008
Having spent a lot more time talking to Canadians since then, I realise that the use of this tag (as linguists call it) is actually quite different. In England, 'eh?' is usually associated with a question (or is an alternative word for 'pardon?'). Here it seems to be more similar to the use you hear in the UK of 'like' or 'you know' - as a sort of audible punctuation mark. But it's more widely used than 'like' and 'you know' are in England, although there is a similar stigma attached to its use.
There's been research into it - Mark Liberman at the Language Log describes a survey carried out at the University of Toronto by Elaine Gold, which explains the different uses of the word. It's the 'narrative' use that sounds strange to British English speakers. Here's the example Gold quotes, from an earlier work by Walter Avis:
"He's holding on to a firehose, eh? The thing is jumping all over the place, eh, and he can hardly hold onto it eh? Well, he finally loses control of it, eh, and the water knocks down half a dozen bystanders."
I don't remember hearing 'eh' used this way (or at all, really) when we visited Alberta and British Columbia in 2006 and that is borne out by Gold's paper, where her survey suggests "that eh is used more in central Canada than in the west".
She also looked at the response of immigrants to the word:
New immigrants quickly pick up the use of eh, with two-thirds reporting use of eh with opinions after less than five years in Canada. They associate the use of eh with their developing Canadian identity: one speaker, who had been in Canada for less than two years, said, "I was kind of proud when it slipped out of my mouth the first time."
I'm too aware of 'eh' now for it to 'slip out' like that, but I'll be monitoring the children for signs of incipient ehs.
12 January 2008
11 January 2008
This is the finished product:
You roll the bread dough out (best to do it on a lightly-oiled baking sheet, so you don't have to move it later) and then just put a strip of filling down the centre. I had some leftover crushed tomatoes*, half a red pepper, some cheddar and a slice of ham in the fridge, so they all went in. I softened a small chopped onion in some oil and added that with some dried thyme and black pepper.
Then you just cut the edges into strips, fold over the dough at the top and bottom and stretch the strips over the filling, going from alternate sides each time.
I let it prove for half an hour or so, then cooked it with the bread at 350°F (180°C) for 20-30 minutes. If I'd been serving it to guests I'd probably have glazed the strips with beaten egg, to make it look shiny and scrumptious, but I didn't bother as it's just us eating it. I've trained my family to expect food that tastes fine but doesn't look perfect! We won't be taking it on a picnic today, perhaps, but it is ideal picnic food.
*These are just tomatoes that have been ground to a purée and come in a tin. I don't remember ever seeing them in the UK, but they're great for bolognese sauces and pizza bases.
10 January 2008
We also finally lost the side door of the small barn, which had been looking a bit sorry for itself ever since we arrived. I'm actually glad about that casualty, because it was a pain to open and close in its previous, hanging-on-by-a-hinge, state.
06 January 2008
We've invested in a proper whistling stove-top kettle for the woodburner, which must be conserving a fair amount of electricity, the number of times we boil a kettle every day. It's also a very cheering sight in that rather dark corner of the kitchen.
Outside, we've had another mild break in the weather and the snow is turning to slush again. I'm hoping that these melting periods are good news for the water table and for my vegetable and fruit plans. I've spent much of the weekend poring over seed catalogues and attempting to decide what we'll be growing this year. When I had two small raised beds I only ever ordered from one catalogue. Now I've got three catalogues (and one more due to arrive soon) and I'm a bit overwhelmed with choice. As I had to leave all my old seeds back in England, I'm starting from having nothing (apart from one packet of rocket and one of lettuce). My growing area is also so much bigger that I'm not so restricted in what I can grow: I've never grown potatoes or winter squashes before, for example.
I'm also surprised by the considerable variations in price between the three catalogues, for the same seeds. One is American, one Canadian and one British. Usually the US and Canadian products are cheaper, but not always. I've ended up creating an Excel spreadsheet to track everything. I'm sure I'll end up ordering far too much, but hope that most of the seeds will keep for a few years at least, if I put them somewhere cold and dark. Somehow I suspect that I'll still be putting in an order in 2009, but maybe I'll manage to restrict myself to just the one supplier next year.
03 January 2008
The melting of snow on the metal roof of the barn has resulted in some lethal-looking icicles, but more interesting were the structures that were created on the ground, where drops of meltwater hit bits of grass that were sticking up out of the snow, and then refroze. I expect there's a technical name for these beautiful, blown-glass-like forms, which probably isn't icicalagmites.
02 January 2008
Postscript: It turns out to be the perfect place to prove bread dough, too! Might have to go mad and buy a proper kettle though. This one was bought for a camping trip in 1990 and is a bit on the small side.