Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Funky Chicken

Well that May long was just....well.. to put it bluntly...the sh*ts.

Friday night Brad picked me up at work and we headed straight out to the cabin.  Brad is always in a big hurry to leave the hustle and bustle of the city and get out to the stix.

Everything was going well despite the 1 hour trek from my office to the outskirts of town.  We got to Headingly and were sitting at a light and the truck just died.  It wouldn't start, had no power - NADA.

Perfect.  It's pouring, we have a full truck and are now stranded.  We called CAA and were told there would be a 1 - 1.5 hour wait for a tow.  Even when the tow would arrive, I only qualify for a 5K tow, which is not a whole heck of a lot.  We cancelled the tow.

I called Owen.  Owen is my big brother and has saved me on numerous occasions, this one included. Owen and Whitney were out and about but dropped everything and came and helped us.  Owen brought a truck and he and Brad got a tow rope set up and took the car to Murray Chev.  They have an after hours drop box, where you can drop the keys, with a note indicating what is wrong with your vehicle and they will get back to you the following morning.  Whitney, with Wade in tow, took me and the boys home.

We had a nice little visit with Wade while we were waiting for Owen and Brad to come home.  Wade is adorable with the biggest eyes.  Love him to pieces.

Friday morning, Brad was on the phone with Murray Chev.  Initially they told us that they might not have a chance to look at it Friday.  But Brad was persistent and just kept calling.  In all honesty, I think they just fixed the truck to shut him up.  We thought it might be the fuel pump causing the issue, which wouldn't have been great as that is a $1,000 touch.  As is turned out, it was a Relay Switch, a small insignificant part in terms of size, it's only about an inch long, but crucial in terms of truck function.  Total for repair was $355 including an engine treatment of some sort.  We were back in business and left for the cabin Friday night.

On our way to Brandon, we stopped off to pick up Brad's deer.  Back in the fall, Brad got a deer in hunting season. This deer had a nice rack on it, so Brad decided to have it mounted.  Let me tell you that taking a deer to a taxidermist isn't cheap, and for good reason. I was surprised at the the amount of artistry that goes into making it look lifelike and real.  The taxidermist had nicknamed the deer Oliver, so we decided to keep the moniker.

Saturday morning we had a lazy breakfast and then Zach, Mum and I went into Brandon for shopping and lunch.  Logan gets car sick and opted out of the two hour round trip.  We puttered around in Brandon  most the the morning and afternoon.  Later that afternoon, I got that same tell tale feeling of deja vu and being on a roller coaster, that feeling when your stomach drops.  I know well enough now that it means a seizure is imminent.

Mum said that my head dropped down and I let out a cry followed by a Funky Chicken aka Tonic Clonic or the Mack Daddy of all seizures, a Grand Mal.  A Grand Mal seizure is the classic seizure you think of when you hear Epilepsy - arms flailing etc.

I have to look really hard to find a positive here, but I guess it was that Mum was there to witness it, the first time an adult has ever been present when I had a seizure.   She was able to give me some valuable feedback on what was previously unknown.   Zach was justifiably freaked out.  Once the seizure was over, I felt exhausted and queasy, but that passed fairly quickly.

What didn't pass as quickly was the emotional fall out.  I was frustrated... actually scratch that, I was P*SSED.  I was mad that it happened because I am on meds (although I am only at 2/3 of where he wants me to be before my next appointment.  I don't know if that will be my final dosage or just a check in point though and maybe my dosage will be increased beyond that.  Who knows.

It is difficult not to feel sorry for myself.  Seizures are just humiliating, they just are.  Despite everyone around you being supportive and saying it's okay, you just want to run away and hide.  But I was stuck in a cabin in the middle of nowhere.

The weather on Saturday night and Sunday turned bad, with an early spring snowstorm, so there was no entertaining the idea of going home early.  It wasn't fun for the boys either because they were stuck inside because of the miserable weather.  I hunkered down with my new book; Orange is the New Black and escaped into the world of a women's penitentiary, how fitting.

Brad and the boys were beyond incredible, truly.  I will say this of my Hargreaves boys; On a day to day basis, the drive me crazy, but when big scary sh*t happens, there is no one else that you would want by your side.  Brad is my rock.  He held me and assured me that we would get through this together and I believe him.  The boys were wonderful, but in different ways.  Zach was very much like Brad, just stoic and supportive, hugging me tight.  Logan told me to be brave and told me that he would protect me no matter what.  He then started coming up with solutions, "Mum you should call the doctor on Tuesday and see what he says and make sure you're doing the right things".

I think of how awful it would be to go through this alone  That would unbearable, so I am grateful for my family and friends.  I  know that this is but a blip in the radar and I've just got to put on my big girl panties and get on with it.  And I will.  I might be a bit of a soggy mess for the first part of the journey, but like they say, "When going through h*ll, keep going".

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Green Guacamole

I love Guacamole.  It is deliciousness personified.

What I do not like is that it turns brown really easy.  I like a little lime juice in my guac, but I am not about to overpower it with lime juice in the hopes that it won't turn brown.

While you can put leftover guacamole in the fridge, it will be the same ghastly shade of brown when you retrieve it.  I've heard a few tricks, like keeping the pits from the Avocado can help the color, but it didn't work too well for me.

But I have FOUND it!  A way to keep leftover Guac from turning brown! Hallelujah!

What I knew was that it was the oxidizing that caused my favorite dip to turn brown.  Oxidizing occurred because of exposure to the air, so all you have to do is remove the exposure to the air.

An airtight lid isn't going to cut it, unless you have a portable vacuum to pump the air out.  Saran Wrap over the surface works somewhat, but not perfect.

OK, enough stalling... here is my trick!

Put the leftover guacamole in a tupperware container and then cover a thin layer of water.  The guacamole isn't water soluble, so the water just sits on top.  You then put a lid on it and pop int he fridge.

When you are ready to eat the delicious leftovers, pour off the excess water and give the gorgeous green guac a stir and you are ready to go.

I tried this and it completely works!  I made guac on Saturday and Brad had the leftovers last night.... lo and behold... it was GREEN!

Food Lovers Rejoice!

Thrifty Girl to the Rescue!

On Mother's Day Brad got me a shelf for the Washer/Dryer.  Initially I wanted an actual counter, but this area is much wider than a standard counter depth.  If we were to go custom, it would be mucho moola and since this is a laundry room, I wasn't prepared to outlay that kind of cash.

The shelf Brad made me absolutely did the job, but it was a plain piece of unfinished pine.  I wanted to do something to make it look a little more finished.

I looked online for some ideas, no shortage there!  Initially I thought I might just paint it, but that seems too pain as I wanted it to look like a counter.  Plus, if I am going to be putting things on top of it and pulling them off, I didn't want the paint to get scraped off.

Went to Home Depot last night and found some Peel and Stick floor tiles.  That might sound super ghetto, but they are actually pretty durable.  I went with floor tiles because of that durability and the fact that they somewhat look like a counter.  The Peel and Stick "Smart Tiles" that are used for back splashes are glorified stickers  and wasn't what I was looking for at all.  Added bonus?  The tiles were $1.38 each. Seriously! How budget friendly is that?

Here is a look at the preliminary project work:

The tiles are easy to cut with an exacto knife, you just score and snap.  Although, when I scored the tile, the knife would slip and I would get a crooked line, so instead I opted for scissors which gave me more control.

The only tricky part was working around the hoses for the washer.  For that area, we cut it into two pieces. Worked like a charm.  The last task was the front edge.  could have cut a strip of tile and glue it to the edge, but unless the cut lines are absolutely perfect, it would look like garbage.  Instead, I went to the paint section at Home Depot and picked a color that matched the tile.  Since I only need a minute amount of paint, I just bought of those paint samples that are meant for people who are deciding between colors.  It's only $4.98 and was MORE than enough paint.

By painting the edge, it gave it that finished look.

It's by no means perfect in that I would have like the shelf to come out farther, but for $20 all in, I am pretty happy with it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Couldn't help myself

For the most part, I exercise some retail restraint.  But every now and again comes along something that just calls out to me and I have to have it.

This tank.

Nerdy - Check
Dirty - NO Comment  :)
Inked - Check
Curvy - Big Fat Check

Thanks inkshop.com for my new tank!

Love it.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Two out of three ain't bad

Friday was a glorious success.  The tea towels worked just like I hoped.  The only tricky part was tracing the recipe onto the towels.  When I placed the tea towel over the recipe, it was too opaque to see the text.

Original & Reproduction
I went back and read the pinterest post and they suggested taping the recipe and towel to a window.  The light shining through will create a tracing board so to speak.  Pinterest for the win!  It completely worked and I couldn't be happier with the results.

Next on the docket was the gluten free cookies.  The box showed a picture of chocolate chip cookies. So I went on the assumption that chocolate chips were provided.  Bzzzzz!  Wrong Answer!

Lies! No Chips Included.
Brad was nice enough to run out to the store and buy some.  Pure Chocolate chips are gluten free.

The mix was a little questionable.  In reading the instructions, it indicated that the "Mix will appear Dry".  MMMMMMMMMMMM.  Just like any delicious cookie dough I've ever tried.

Here is the weird thing, it only looked dry. When you tried to scoop it up to make cookie blobs on the baking sheet, it was sticky and almost has the consistency of crystallized honey.

Needless to say I didn't have high expectations.  But, I was pleasantly surprised.  The cookies turned out amazing!  Logan and Zach tried then and gave two big thumbs up!

Saturday morning Jill and I went to the Oakwood cafe for breakfast.  it was nice to sit and chat for awhile. Jill loved the tea towel and cookies, they made her smile which was my whole goal.  Mother's Day weekend is a tough go for her.  I think we all sometimes forget that while Mother's Day should be celebrated, we need to be sensitive to those for whom this day is exceedingly difficult.

Jill and I get each other, and sometimes it's nice to spend time with someone and you don't have to hide your crazy.  They know who you are and love you all the same. It's freeing for both of us..

After breakfast, it was full on cake prep.  First I made the cherry cake. Confession time, I used a mix.  I couldn't find a cherry cake recipe that I liked, so I just bought a mix.  Go ahead. Judge away.

I was chatting with Brad while I was mixing up the cake and I didn't pay close attention to what I was doing.  After I popped them in the oven and sat down for a minute, I realized that I had messed up. The recipe called for a cup of water, which I had forgotten.  Drat.

I let the cakes finish baking, more so for morbid curiosity than anything else.  The strange part it they rose just fine.  I had used apple sauce instead of the oil that the mix called for and I think that might have saved them.

Still, I was out for perfection, so I chucked the cakes and started over with Vanilla.  Made both of the Vanilla cakes without incident.  Then re-made the cherry cakes.  The cherry cake was actually a cherry chip cake, which is a vanilla base. I wanted the cake to be pink, so I added some gel coloring.

I was so gung ho at making this cake, that after the vanilla cakes were cool, I stacked and iced them.  Sigh.   I completely forgot that I was making a checkerboard cake.  To make the checkerboard cake, you take the two vanilla and two cherry and cut out concentric rings in each cake and make bullseyes.

Crud. I had two vanilla cake stacked and iced.  I had two choices. 1) Give up my plans for the checkerboard cake and just stack the two cherry on top or 2) Attempt to unstack the cakes.  In what I am going to call the TSN turning point of the afternoon, I attempted to unstack the cakes.

What I have learned is that cakes do not unstack well. I cut the cakes into concentric rings and the outer rings broke into two letter C's.  I figured I would just schmuck it back together with icing and I would be fine.  Bzzz! Wrong Answer!  That didn't work.  The cake needed the outer rings intact to hold it all together.

With it's structural integrity compromised,  the outer later fell off as I was trying to ice it.  Undeterred, I figured I would remove the outer ring and just ice the inner two rings, which were (at the time) still holding together.  Below is a picture of the carnage from removing the outer rings.

The inner cake didn't have that harder outer baked crust and was less than responsive to being iced.  It would just crumble and rip off more cake as I tried to smooth the icing across.

That meant that my plans of the fancy scalloped icing went directly in the sh*tter because for that technique, you had to employ a fair amount of smoothing.

So I decided to opt for Ombre Dots.  This is the other fail.  I had selected a pink rose gel color, which sounded lovely.  It's not.  It's pepto bismal pink.  I was able to make the ombre colors, but it was a pepto ombre  and not as lovely as I had originally envisioned.

However, I soldiered on and started with the dots.   I had made my own buttercream and made it slightly thicker so that it would hold up better to the icing technique.  Plus, I had selected a too small icing bag tip, which meant that you really had to squeeze to get it out of the piping bags. By the time the cake was iced, my forearms felt like popeye's.

The cake was a glorious tower of hideousness.  Brad tried to say it was fine, but really it wasn't.  It was so ugly and for some reason it reminded me of a sea anemone.  Behold the awesomeness.

Note the charming lean to the right.  Precious.  I had loads of icing left, so I decided to add some iced flowers on top.  I mean, I couldn't mess it up anymore right?  Bzzzz! Wrong Answer!

The iced flowers ended up looking like brain folds which did nothing to improve it's overall look.

But it was done.  Who cares.  It was at this point my cake started to take on a life of it's own.

Do you recall that crumbly cake that wouldn't hold the icing?  Well I suppose the cake had just about enough of this icing nonsense and decided it was time to let go.

It initially started with a slight gape in the icing on one side.
Beginning of the End

See what I mean?  Plus this picture gives you a good up close picture of the disturbing icing technique.  I can't explain why, but it just makes me uncomfortable.  Almost has a tripe like look.

Self Destruct Sequence Commenced
About this time, all h*ll broke loose and my cake started to move on it's own.  First, an entire section fell off.

Brad and I were sitting on the couch just staring at this thing, wondering what it would do next.

We figured when the one section of icing fell off, that would be it as it would have released the pressure on the cake.  How wrong we were.  It was almost as if the cake was self destructing.  Within 30 minutes of my icing the cake, it now looked like this:
Destruct Sequence Finished.

Perfection.  Thankfully, my children are non discriminatory in their love of cake, so they happily gobbled up the crumbled ruins of cake and icing.

Once the one side of cake rubble was removed, there was a clear view of the inside of the cake.

That my friends is an almost checkerboard.  At the very least, it's worth a honorable mention.
Sort of Checkerboard Right?

The cake was supposed to be for Mother's Day, but since it was such a spectacular fail, we decided to have it Saturday night instead.

Once I recovered from the ego shattering baking fail of the day before, it was Mothers Day.  We keep Mother's Day low key.  Brad made me a counter to go over my washer/dryer.  I prefer to think of it as a Loss Prevention measure.  There is about a foot gap between the washer/dryer and the wall.  We have only been in the house 7 months, but we have lost many a good sock due to that gap, so the counter will come in quite handy.

My Mother's Day present from the boys was a pair of earrings and an offer to clean the house.  I made a gargantuan list of all of the cleaning chores that I do and they took it on. Zach was more receptive than Logan.  Logan lamented the sheer volume of chores, but to his credit, he did it.

We then went and had a nice visit with GG.  The boys made her cards and we brought her some flowers.  She and I spent the time chatting about HRH Princess Charlotte.  A true Brit, GG was very excited about the new baby girl.

Sunday night consisted of Logan and I curling up on the couch and watching The Three Stooges.  Logan loves it and laughs his head off at the sound effects.  Personally, I can't stand it, but it didn't matter.  I enjoyed the snuggles and sticky kisses.

It was great weekend, cake wreck and all.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Lofty Goals in Domesticity

I have set three goals for this weekend:

1. Make an epic Mother's Day Cake
2. Create some heirloom tea towels.
3. Gluten Free Cookies

I am not qualified to attempt any of the above but that won't stop me from trying.  The cake is a strawberry vanilla checkerboard.  Here is picture of what I am going for:

Then for the icing I am going to try a new technique and go for a true ombre like the one below.

I looked at two tutorials on pinterest, first for the cake itself and the next for the icing.  Like everything DIY it seems ridiculously easy and totally within reach of possible.  However, if you have ever attempted anything on pinterest, you know that it is where good intentions go to die.

But, every now and again you stumble upon brilliance.  I made comic book heels once. They turned out pretty good.  The lasted for about a year, and then the modge podge comics started to crack and look less than awesome, but a year was a good run in my opinion.

That one small win has forever buoyed me into thinking I can attempt anything.  Case in point, my next project for the weekend is recipe tea towels.  If you aren't crafty and have the time, you can upload your photo of the recipe to Spoonflower and they will make the fabric for you. It's actually pretty reasonable prices, but I am short on time because this is for Mother's Day, so I have to go the DIY route.  But here is a photo of what I am attempting:

Here is the jist of it.  You get a photo of a recipe card that someone in your family hand wrote.  Then you get some flour sack tea towels which I thought would be really hard to find, but they are available at Walmart as a package of 5 for $8 or so.

You treat the tea towels in a mix of fabric softener, alum, arm and hammer washing soda (which IS hard to find, but I finally found it at London Drugs) and water.   Click the link above for details on quantities to make the concoction.

I did all of the above last night.  From a distance, the mixture makes your kitchen (provided that is where you are working) smell like laundry which is ok, but up close, it'll burn your nose hairs off.  From the "Lessons Learned" files, if you are making more than one tea towel, double of triple the recipe because the towels soak all of it up.

Once the tea towels soak, you rinse them off and air dry.   Tonight, I am onto the next step .  Blow up the photo of the recipe card to a size that matches the tea towels.  The ones from Walmart are HUGE. 30 inches by 30 inches.  So if you are good at sewing split those suckers in two.  I however am not, so it will stay big and I am going to write the recipe twice.

You then use a sharpie to trace the recipe onto the tea towel.  Because of the concoction treatment, the ink will not fade, or so goes the tutorial.   The cool thing is that by tracing the writer's handwriting it's a lasting memory of the person who wrote it, which is really amazing.  Here is the recipe from my Grandma Preston that I am going to use.  I was hoping to get her famous matrimonial cake (which everyone in the family ate at some point, it will forever remind me of her), however, we couldn't find a copy.

 Instead my cousin Jill found this coffee cake recipe.  It's great because it's Classic Grandma in that it is written on her own letterhead, with references to where she got it (Winnipeg Free Press, Report on Farming 1975).  It makes me smile that even when writing recipe's, Grandmas was sure to cite her sources.   Vera Preston was such a bad a**. She raised 3 boys in a small house (and even smaller budget) in the North End of Winnipeg, volunteered for everything, decided to learn how to play the organ in her 70s,  stayed active and lived alone until the ripe old age of 92. Even thinking of her now with all her lovely weird quirks makes me smile. I really miss her.

Creating something that will always remind me of her is definitely worth a go.    If all goes to sh*t, I can still use the tea towels, the fabric softener and washing soda.  The alum, not so much.  I think it is mainly used for preserving fruit cake, although I did read it can be used as a blood coagulant which is somewhat terrifying considering it's sold in the spice aisle.

Last but not least is the gluten free cookies.  My cousin Jill (who I simply adore and am very close to) recently got diagnosed with Celiac.  I read into everything and recent goings on gave me pause.  Jill and I were born a year and a day apart.  Her birthday is December 30, mine, December 31.  She got her Celiac diagnosis and a week and a day later, I got my Epilepsy diagnosis.  Both of us had been dealing for issues for a long time and both diagnoses took a long time to determine.  Strange eh?

Anyways, I wanted to make her something gluten free as a treat.  I found a gluten free mix for cookies, so I am going to see how it is.  My next attempt will be using gluten free flour alternatives from Bulk Barn, but I don't want to bite off more than I can chew this go round.   I called her husband last night to get the details.   Can I make them in my kitchen if I have flour/gluten in my kitchen?  Do I have to use pans that have never come in contact with gluten?  I didn't know how far we had to go.

Jason assured me that as long as everything was washed out ahead of time, it should be fine.  Jill also has issues with eggs/dairy, but this recipe only calls for one egg, so as long as she doesn't eat all the cookies in one fell swoop she should be ok.  But if you know Jill, she is very slender (she also has alabaster skin...so basically the polar opposite to my **ahem** curvy frame and olive skin)  and the idea that she would hunker down and snarf back a dozen cookies in one sitting is beyond laughable.

I am meeting Jill for breakfast tomorrow, so I will have to bake the cookies tonight. Fingers crossed that all my projects turn out well.  But hey, if they don't, I'll at least have fun trying.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Sore Legs, Happy Heart.

This weekend was insanity, every hour that I was awake I was busy.

Friday was nutso at work.  I also had theatre tickets that night.  I had originally planned to go home and Debbie would pick me up there, but since work was running late, I met her at the play.  It was called Clever Little Lies and was really quite good.  The play had no intermission and was only 85 minutes, so we were home at a decent time.

That worked out well for me because I had to mark papers.  Students handed in their assignment on Wednesday, but I have been too busy working overtime to mark them.  By the time I got home each night I was exhausted and not up to marking them.

But I knew that Sat/Sun would be busy with the race, so I hunkered down Friday night and got them all marked.  Was up til 1 am which isn't bad at all.

Saturday am, got up early with the boys and was at Assiniboine park for 9 am.  We worked all day.  Brad was off setting up his fencing for the relay and I was spending all my time getting the finish line set up.  It was a whole new thing because we had moved locations.  We used to be over by the duck pond.  The new location is better because we have more space, but it was difficult to visualize how everything was going to fit.

The wind on Saturday wrecked havoc with the site.  We couldn't set up banners because the wind was blowing so hard and would just rip the Zip ties.  At one point, our military tent used for medical lifted up and almost blew into the forest.

Boys were great and I was so impressed with how much they helped out, lifting fencing, setting up tables, you name it, they did it.  Got home late Saturday and just fell into bed.

Sunday morning was even earlier, got up at 4:00am and was at Assinboine park for 4:30am.  The sun hadn't even thought about coming up.  Since the wind was giving us such a hard time, we had a lot of things to do.  Also this year had an extra challenge; In the past, the start and finish line were two separate areas.  That was good because I could get everything set up, medals, give away gifts as soon as I arrived Sunday morning.

This year, I couldn't do that because my space was filled to the brim with runners.  Add to that a new 5K race.  The challenge with the 5K race instead of a half marathon distance is that the runners are done way earlier and we have even less time to get things set up.  But my awesome group of volunteers came through and we got it all done.

Some of the highlights this year at the finish were:

  • Joanne Schiewe - a runner who recently got diagnosed with a stage 4 brain tumor. This amazing woman who only weeks ago has undergone 2 craniotomies, has raised over $19,000 by herself, which will be matched dollar for dollar with Brain Canada.
  • Ryder, a two year old survivor who just days before our race got the go ahead to paricipate as a volunteer.  This little boy exuded joy.
  • Sandi, a runner with only one leg who completed our race, kinda makes you run out of excuses for not running
  • A father/daughter pair who ran the relay event.  The dad is a police officer and his daughter is only 8!  She beat her Dad's time and even raised over $1,000 for Cancer.  How amazing is that?
After the race was done, it was time for tear down.  Each year this gets faster and faster.  Plus with the amazing weather, the last runner crossed 30 minutes earlier than normal, so we got a jump start.

Got home and my legs were just aching from being on my feet for the entire weekend, but my heart was full.  It's a privilege to be a part of something so incredible. 

Can't wait for 2016.

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