Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to my family and friends. Your support during this past year has been outstanding and very much appreciated.

I have not been posting as much as I usually do...the diner seems to take up all my time but I'm slowly getting into the groove and my time management should be getting better.

The weekend specials at Magpie's are:

Saturday. - Spinach, feta and tomato omelet for breakfast, triple grilled cheese and fries for lunch and the soup of the day will be beef barley.

Sunday - 7 Dollar pancakes with two slices of bacon, one hand made sausage or one slice of Canadian back bacon, BLT and soup for lunch, and the soup of the day will be homemade cream of tomato and basil soup.

See you all at the diner...

Monday, December 28, 2009

The last day off...

Tomorrow Art and I head back to the diner after four days off. I bet you're wondering why we took 4 days off when we just started the business....

Well it's a bit complicated. I suspected my job was about to end quite some time before it actually did and in an effort to protect myself I committed to a part time job. It's a work from home job as an emergency travel consultant which can sometimes be very stressful. Anyway, I was scheduled to work this past weekend, hence the reason for the diner closure. Now, I know, some of you may think that was crazy but I made a commitment and I stand by my commitments so I worked Dec. 26 and 27th but considering the trouble surrounding travel my shifts were uneventful. I'm so very thankful for that.

Which now brings me to today. Monday is a regular off day at the diner and I was not scheduled to work at the other job so it was a true day off and what did I do??? I cooked.. a real home cooked meal.

Now we have have all heard the "simple living" and the "cook from scratch" and save, save, save...I am one of those folks..but I'm telling you right now...when you work full time, outside of your home, in stressful jobs, cooking from scratch and doing daily household chores yourself is very difficult. How did I ever do it when my kids were small because although for very different reasons, mainly financial, that is what I did, worked full time, commuted by bus and all the while cooked from scratch, baked from scratch, attended school meeting and functions, kids games ect...I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

All this was easy for me to preach this lifestyle, while working from home, with a good salary in a job that allowed me to put on a stew in the morning, to simmer slowly all day, stir every so often, to enjoy that night with a home baked roll and side salad. I forgot what it was stressful life can be, how difficult it is not to buy ease...

Tonight I made a home cooked meal just like I did prior to the diner... pork chops, mushroom gravy, mashed potatoes, broccoli and salad, we sat at the kitchen table, and ate slowly, savouring every bite, it was wonderful, one of my best nights ever.

So what does it all mean??? Is all this simple living a lie? Are we doomed?

Not at all. Take it one step at a time, start slowly and savour every moment you get to spend with your family. It does not have to be pork chops and the works every night, but just start with one night, it can be toast and scrambled eggs, just make it yourself, it will turn into two homemade meals, which will then be three....

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The quiet days of Christmas

I've always liked the days between Christmas and New Year's. I call them the quiet days of Christmas. The craziness of Christmas is done and the New Year's party is still a few days away, but in my case, the party never really happens as I like to have a quite New Year's. Usually there are lots of leftovers, chocolates and cookies to munch on and back when the kids were small, their new toys would keep them busy. I was never a Boxing Day shopper so the "quiet days" were always mine to do with as I pleased. Reading books, sewing, puzzles, I'm working on a cotton dishcloth and tomorrow I'm off to the yarn store to buy sock yarn. Yup...I'm going to try it. I found, what I think, is a great tutorial, Kelly's Sock Class, but only time will tell. If in a few weeks I have something that resembles knitted socks then it was indeed a successful tutorial. And stay tuned kids...if my venture into knitting socks is successful, guess what you are all getting next Christmas?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The days are getting longer

I'm thrilled! We officially reached Winter and the days now start to get longer. Only by minutes but that's all I need to get me through to spring.

It's a tad early, I know, but, I'm starting to think about seeds. I started broccoli, cauliflower and Brussel sprout seedlings in Aug of last year but they have not done well and although they are in the greenhouse they froze and have wilted and gone a little brown and mushy. I'm letting the chickens in to do what they do best and in a little later, maybe in Feb. I'm taking the greenhouses down. We had some heavy winds which did some damage to the greenhouses.

Now before anyone shrieks in horror...they are old, really old, with rotting wood and torn plastic. They are too cold in winter and way to hot in the summer and they are covering up some valuable real estate. I'm giving cole veggies a second try and new this year will be luffas and corn. I can not wait to get my fingers in the dirt!!!! What are your seed plans this year?

Monday, December 21, 2009

My first week at the Diner

A good friend of mine asked me to write about our first week at the diner. What was it like, how did I manage, how did Art do, was I tired????

Right away I can tell you the first week was a whirl wind and hopefully I can remember each day.

I'll start with Monday, Dec 14th. Art and I were at the restaurant for most of the day. We picked up our meat order, our baking order and did our grocery shop. I prepared all the beef patties, chicken breasts, roasted a beef roast, cut the turkey, roasted the breast and made broth with the remainder, made chili. I wanted to start on my baking but we ran out of time. Around 4pm we had to go home and deal with the dog, the cats and the chickens and then back to the diner until about 8:30pm. That night at home I put the menus together, kept running through the to do list in my head but managed to be asleep by 10:00pm.

We opened Tuesday Dec 15th at 7:00am, I was awake 3am and I could not go back to sleep for love nor money until about 5am, yay!!! But we were up at 6:00am not so good! Our original plan was to be at the diner by 6:00am. I was beat, tired beyond belief.
At the diner I bake muffins, scones, brownies and carrot cake. Art cuts the fries and takes care of the first frying. I make cream of mushroom soup and prep the fried onions, fried peppers, bacon and sausages. We get one client from the church, he's happy we are open because there is a small group of folks that go for coffee after daily mass. I'm thrilled.
Where are all the people? Where are my signs? Art starts phoning the local papers and radio stations to get advertising info. They are at the diner in a flash and they all buy lunch. Good plan Art, we have some money in our till. Not sure who we can call tomorrow but we will worry about that later.
It's 3:00pm, closing time. It was not too busy so clean up is pretty fast. Back home, deal with the dog, the cats and the chickens. Dinner is leftover soup, salad and bread from the diner. Bed is at 8:00PM... So tired!!!!

Wednesday, Dec 16th. Not a soul until the group from church comes in. Lord bless them! The man kept is word, he came back and brought is little group. They order muffins and a small breakfast. While Art takes care of them I'm getting soup ready, turkey vegetable. And again I'm surprised that we have lunch customers, not many but enough to get some practice in.
The signs are ready!!!!
We close at 3pm and by the time we clean up, hang the signs it's almost 430PM. Another long day but Art and I are exhilarated but we decide that we want to close shop at 2pm.

Dec. 17th, I think!! I'm loosing track of my days. I boil up some beef bones for beef barley soup, bake some blueberry muffins. I'm feeling at ease and ready for the lunch crowd that never show up..oh oh, what's going on, do we need to change our hours?

Dec 18th, much like yesterday, the church group has come in every day and there is another customer that has come in every day. He loves us, well loves the food and he orders the same thing, sausages and eggs, thank you, thank you and thank you.
Today we ran out of eggs. I go to the farm..."Can I buy some eggs"? I'm told "nope" what do you mean nope? The chickens are not laying right now, yikes. My menu says "farm fresh eggs" where will I find eggs? I start calling around and find them from another farm. They are good but the yolks are not very orange, not sure what they are feeding their chickens but I really want orange yolks so I'll have to keep looking but these will do for now.
We get customers after 2pm but we are closed and we are now second guessing ourselves but I stand firm, we close at 2pm.

Dec 19th. Nothing, nobody on the street, nothing going on. We decide that our sandwich board needs to go down the block to the main road, maybe that will help. We shall see.
The church group comes in again, I'm thrilled! And then nothing. We really think this will turn out to be a stinker of a day and them bam!!!! We are hit, all the tables are filled in five minutes around 12:30pm. I'm in a fog, Art is in a fog, and I hate to admit it but I was very nasty to him, he didn't deserve it but the stress was killing me and I took it out on Art. And they keep coming..they all saw the sign on the main road. Just shy of 2:00pm we have a lull and Art gets the sign off the street and Open neon sign is turned off.
Art and I are stunned, not sure we want to put that sign down there again, we are scared. I'm scared of myself and who I turned into for that hour when we were really busy. People are still coming but the door is locked!!!! Art talks to them and tells them our hours...they will be back next week they say. I hope they do!!
I really have to come to terms with the way I acted today. I think about it all the way home, I'm getting ready for Saturday night mass, still thinking about it and ask God for help all through mass. Tomorrow is another day and I'm only human, I hope to do better.

Dec. 20th. Again nothing for most of the morning. I know we will get some folks after church but I'm ready. Pancake batter is done, strawberry compote is simmering. The soup is heating, the bacon and sausages are half cooked, I'm in good shape.
10:00am and slam, again, all the tables fill up at once. I mess up the church groups order, you know the ones that come in every day, I forget one of their orders. How could I??? Art comps their breakfast, he is doing a fantastic job, talking it up, topping up everyone's coffee. I'm feeling the stress starting to bubble, feel the explosion, start to get snarky again, and Art just says "Margaret stop! We are both doing our best". And he is so right, I calm down, and get on with it.
They all leave around 11:30am and I have no potatoes and we are out of eggs again. My son and his wife show up and he makes an egg and potato run. I'm quickly cooking up some more bacon and sausages..the second mass lets out around noon...and I'm freaking out! I don't know if I can handle it. This is not what I signed up for. I want to cook, put parsley on the plate, make it look nice, take my time, but this??? This is just crap!!!!
Noon comes and guess what no one comes in, deep down I'm happy but now I worry. Where did they go?
And then a table comes in, just one, oh joy, I can take my time. About 10 minutes after that, another table, I'm ecstatic, this is what I envisioned. And that's how lunch went, a table every 10 minutes or so until we closed. Nice and steady but not slammed. The day ends! Art and I are happy and we go home after we clean up to think up a plan of attak for next weekend.
Oh right it's Christmas!!! We will be closed..

And now it's Monday morning. I've taken care of the accounting for the last week, our bank deposit is ready. We have to take our garbage to the dump and sort our recycling. I have a catering job tomorrow night so I'm getting that list ready...and I have to think about our Christmas dinner? Duck I think...

Buon Natale Aanz..che cosa e saponnette?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Wow where has the year gone

Christmas is just around the corner, where has the year gone? As 2009 winds down and I sit here and reflect back I realize 2009 has been full of miracles.

My oldest son bought a house, married, found a good job, and I will, very soon, be a third time nonna.

My younger son and his two children were able to fly out for three weeks in August to attend his brother's wedding and I enjoyed my grandchildren who I don't see often enough. Phew!!! they sure tired me out. It was a shame that my daughter in law could not come out but we chat on the phone and by email and she is a real joy, full of spunk and a real firecracker. My son enrolled in trade school to apprentice as an electrician and is doing very well.

I fulfilled a long time dream by opening up my restaurant with my husband of 29 years. Wow!!!

We are all healthy, have a roof over our heads and enough food to eat, we are very fortunate.

Christmas will be quiet this year, just four of us and who knows maybe a 5th little person. I tried my hardest to have a home made Christmas but I ended up spending a little bit of money, however I'm happy to report that it was much less than previous years.

I hope you have a Merry Christmas full of happiness and spent with the people that you love.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The downunder connection

I am a member of the Down to Earth forum and via the forum I received an note from a fellow member known as Coffeee who lives in Western Australia. In the note Coffeee mentioned that she knew someone from Powell River, an elementary school teacher. I asked her if she knew the name of the school, you see I live very close to an elementary school, and could the world be that small...well actually it's even smaller than I thought because although Coffeee didn't know the name of the school, her friend knew about my diner. She walked by many times while the windows were papered. Well we opened and here she is with her fiance. Very cool but I still don't know the name of the school she teaches at. turns out that the fiance is a farm boy, known and cowpoke. Very experienced in all farm things, good and bad, if you catch my meaning, so if any of my chickens get sick....I know who to call.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Busy, busy and busy

Well Magpie's diner finally opened yesterday. Everything went off without a hitch, except for the fact that neither my husband or I remembered to get a cash float. Thankfully my son has been saving his loose change and was able to lend a hand ( and a penny or two).
I don't have a lot of time so I'll just post some pictures for now.

My sign...I love it. Thanks to Jeff at Cranberry Signs.
Not photographed but just as wonderful..a sandwich board and a pole sign.

Front door


My baking..except for the pie.

Art's coffee station

The worst job of all that both Art and I share.

And this is my domain..I have a stainless steel work table on the opposite wall.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Magpie's Diner - the menu

Here it is the menu:

All day breakfast

“Magpie’s Big Breakfast” $12.00
The ultimate “big breakfast” 2 hand made pork sausages, 4 slices of bacon, 2 large fried or scrambled free range eggs, hashbrowns, 2 thick slices of buttered toast.

“Magpie’s not so big breakfast” $8.00
1 large fried or scrambled free range egg, hashbrowns, 1 thick slices of buttered toast and 1 hand made pork sausage or 2 slices of bacon.

The Diner Breakfast $9.50
2 large fried or scrambled eggs, hashbrowns, thick buttered toast, 2 hand made pork sausages or 4 slices of bacon.

“Eggs in a basket” $9.50
Two eggs fried in toast with 2 hand made pork sausages or 3 slices of bacon and hashbrowns.

“Stack’m high” $7.00
4 buttermilk pancakes with butter and syrup
“Stack’m not so high” $5.00
2 buttermilk pancakes with butter and syrup

Add 2 hand made sausages $3.00
Add 2 slices of bacon $2.00
Add fruit compote and whipping cream $3.00

“French Toast” $6.00
Three thick slices of French bread or raisin bread dipped in a special egg custard served with butter and syrup.

Add 2 sausages $3.00
Add 2 slices of bacon $2.00
Add fruit compote and whipping cream $3.00

Omelets your way $6.00
3 large fresh free range eggs, hashbrowns and thick buttered toast.
Add your toppings: $.50 per
Peppers, tomato slices, cheddar cheese, mushroom, onions, bacon

Breakfast Bagel $4.50
Toasted buttered bagel with a fried egg, 2 slices of bacon, cheddar cheese and tomato slices

Lunch Platters
All platters are served with home cut fries or soup and Magpie’s salad. Everybody needs to eat their veggies salad substitutions!

Magpie’s Wildwood Burgers $10.50
Pick your patty
-1/3 LB. fresh lean ground beef
-whole chicken breast
-Veggie Patty
With grilled onions, mushrooms, melted cheddar cheese, and lettuce and tomato on a grilled buttered kaiser (white or whole wheat) with Magpie’s special mayo and mustard.

Grilled Turkey Club Platter $11.00
Two thick slices of sourdough bread, roast turkey, bacon, Swiss cheese, tomato slices all grilled to perfection.

Roast Beef Cheese Melt Platter $10.50
Tender slices of seasoned roast beef, with fried onions and grilled peppers and melted Swiss cheese on a grilled hoagie.

Chili dog Platter $8.50
A plump all beef dog topped with homemade meat chili and shredded cheese on a toasted hoagie.

Soup with a slice of home made bread $5.75

Simple Green Salad $3.50

“Big Salad” with a slice of home made bread $7.50
Greens with shredded cheese, chopped turkey and eggs.

Salads are served with Magpie’s balsamic vinegar and olive oil vinaigrette.

Coffee $1.75
Tea $1.75
Pop $1.50
Juice $1.00
Magpie’s Hot chocolate $2.50
The hot chocolate is thick, creamy and made on the stove with real milk, cocoa and sugar, patience is required but well worth the wait.

Home baked goodies

Muffin $1.00
Jumbo Muffin $2.00
Sour Cream donuts $1.00
Brownies $3.50
Carrot Cake $3.50
Loaf cake $2.75
Apple or Berry pie $3.50
a la mode $4.50
Cookie $.95

Friday, December 11, 2009

It's just a mug

Really that's all it is, a mug, a chipped mug, used to drink the usual cuppa coffee, tea, hot chocolate, water and such. It's not so good in the microwave..the handle gets too why am I having such a hard time getting rid of it??

Well my sister painted this for me, gave it to me for my birthday, not sure which birthday, it's probably about 15 years old now. I love the shape, I love the flowers, but most of all I love my sister. Not so unusual, most of us love our siblings, very much, I'm no different. But..back when we both smoked, we used to spend quite some time drinking coffee, smoking, gabbing, years ago...

At some point during this time she painted the mug.

My sister quit smoking way before I ever did but we continued to drink coffee, I would smoke, we would gab, she might sneak a drag...

Then I moved away...then she moved away... but I had the mug. I would smoke, drink coffee in the mug and think about all the lovely times we had...that mug got me through some tough times...

I quit smoking, 4 years ago on Dec 15th...I still drink coffee from the mug...I can not get rid of it, I love it chips and all...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

It's so cold


It's very cold on the West Coast maybe not so cold for other parts of Canada but for us? Yup, it's cold, hovering at 0 during the day and down to -6 at night.

My poor chickens..we came home from the diner the other day to a frozen egg.

But although it's not too cold for them I still feed bad so each morning I make them some oatmeal cooked in milk to warm up their tummies.

Don't even say it...I know...what I sucker I am!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Pear mincemeat tarts

Art and I are busy cleaning up the diner and in one of the deep freezers we found a big box of unbaked frozen tart shells. I was going to throw them out because I'm not sure how old they are but before doing that I wanted to test one out. I won't use them for the public but if there is nothing wrong with them I'll use them at home. I baked them with the pear mincemeat I made a few months ago and the tart turned out very well and the mincemeat is very tasty. I nice blend of spice and crunch and not too sweet.

Very tasty but a bit too big..I'll keep the tart shells but I'll make quiches instead.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Feeling like a hypocrite!

So...I'm opening up a diner...HMMMM!! Exciting? Yes. A good idea? Maybe. Good for my community? Not so much. Staying true to my beliefs? Not at all.

What do I mean? For a long time I've worked towards simplifying, being self reliant and being kind to this Earth we all call home. It's always been my dream ... homesteading! Well the dream was alive and well when I had a paycheck every two weeks. I assumed the company I worked for practiced it's business in an ethical way. I guess I just thought about the way I wanted to live my life and not so much about the company I worked for. But now the buck starts and stops with me. Will I conduct my business in an ethical and moral way? Will I do anything to make a dollar?

I'm asking myself how a diner with not very healthy food is going to work? How am I going to feel good about it all? The health regulations don't easily allow for cloth hand towels, I hate single use anything....Paper napkins and placemats, take out containers...

Bleach and other chemical sanitizers are encouraged..vinegar, lemon juice and baking soda are virtually unknown.

On a positive note - I have decided to try and use local food where I can, not easy during winter, but I will try. And I will try my hardest to shop locally rather than having a National food supplier deliver to my door in an effort to keep my neighbours employed. The local butcher, fish monger, bakery and grocery store will supply my food and miscellaneous supplies. It won't be easy, it will definitely take more time, and it might turn into a logistical nightmare but I'm giving it a shot.

Food waste will be go to my chickens, my neighbours pigs and I will compost whatever I can.

Tomorrow I'll be visiting my local farmer's market..I heard there is a seller who is certified to sell her home made jams made from her homegrown fruit and I want to source out some locally baked sourdough bread, I heard it's also very good. Well wish me luck!!!

Very frugal dinner

While I was employed I committed to volunteer at my church once a month. Which does not seem like much but now that I'm no longer employed and venturing into self employment I find that I have very little spare time. My diner is not open yet but I'm really bogged down with health and building inspection details, elbow deep in paint and I'm so tired by the end of the day...that an evening volunteering at out parish bingo seemed, well very daunting, none the less I made a commitment and stick to it I will.

But..we still have to eat so here is my dinner tonight: sliced pork tender loin with mushrooms, peas and corn in a wine garlic sauce tossed with homemade whole wheat pasta...Not bad for a quickie dinner when tired...and it's very cheap to.

Truth is...leftover pork, veggies and gravy from the night before and I used fresh pasta I had in the fridge from last week. I just love the "cook once, eat twice" idea.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Around the neighbourhood

The West Coast of B.C., also knows as the wet coast, has experienced one of the wettest Novembers in history. I think we had 25 or 26 rainy days out of 30, dismal...through it all my husband walked Seiko, our dog, in the morning, and I walked him in the afternoon, although not very enthusiastically. But finally the weather broke and we have sun, glorious sun...

Sunset Park with the sun streaming in. The picture is very dark but I'm not much of a photographer...

See Winchester the lama on the right hand side? I usually run into him when his mom walks him in the afternoon.

Looking Northwest towards Vancouver Island as I left Sunset Park.

And again looking Northwest at Harwood in the forefront and Vancouver Island behind it.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

In the back lanes of Vancouver

We found this gem.

With three other pieces, a vanity with no mirror, a small desk and another dresser. All old, all hard wood, even the bottom of the drawer and the back of the dresser is hard wood, no pressed board and all free. Very cool and so lucky we drove by at just the right moment.

Painting and cleaning still continues on the diner but it's coming together.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Carrot Cake

I was asked to bake a little something for our church bazaar but I honestly could not think of anything to make. It seems that all my efforts and all my waking moments are committed to my new diner. But I promised and a promise is a promise so I looked at the Joy of Baking. It quickly became my favorite site for all of my baking. I've tried several recipes and have never been disappointed. I decided on carrot cake because if it turns out well I'll make it for my diner as square carrot cake for the church and one for me...everyone is happy.

You can find the recipe here. The picture I took looks NOTHING like the one on the website but I am 100% sure it tastes just as good. The cake is moist, flavourful and very easy to make and I did not change or substitute anything.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Magpie's Diner

Opening Soon - Magpie's Diner

These are the before pictures and with some new paint and a good scrubbing the joint should look pretty good.

The menu board

Table and chairs.

The blue will be yellow...soon.

The fryer will be between the grill and stove once the electrician gets it all set up.

We hope to have the diner renovations done by early next week and then I can start trying out my recipes. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


I've been thinking about buying a dehydrator for some time but could not find one anywhere then about two months ago a local "box style" store had them on sale. I went to buy one but yikes, all sold out. It would seem that I was not the only one in Powell River wanting to buy a dehydrator but none the less a rain check was offered and within two weeks it would arrive. Well two months passed and!!! it arrived.

I plan on drying fruit I grow but that won't happen until next summer and I was just too excited so I purchased fruit I normally don't buy anymore, mangoes. BIG mistake, the mangoes, having travelled a long, long distance, were tasteless. Lesson learned!!! But what could be worse than tasteless dried mangoes? Well my friends that would be mango crisps. Yup, I sliced them too thin, and dried them for too long without checking on them. Why did I not check them? Because ... I put them in before going to bed and 12 hours later??? So there you have it crispy mangoes.

Monday, November 23, 2009

British Columbia Foodsafe program and eggs..

My husband and I attended Foodsafe courses on Saturday. These courses are mandatory for people working in the food industry and although some of the information is just good common sense, quite a bit of it was new to us. We both passed with flying colors which I hope is a good omen for the opening of our new restaurant, Magpie's diner.

The instructor spoke at length about salmonella poisoning transmitted by cross-contamination of raw and undercooked poultry and other feathered fowl and eggs. Having my own chickens I asked if salmonella is a problem with really fresh eggs...he vehemently replied YES!!! He went on to further say that chicken eggs, coming out of the chicken's keister, are filthy.

I didn't say anything because I felt that this was not the place to discuss eggs or chicken's keisters...the class is just a 7 hours with an exam at the end but....

Eggs do not get dirty if the chickens have lots of space and their nesting boxes are cleaned whenever they decide to poop in their boxes. We check our chickens in the morning and evening and often in the middle of the day. If there is any poop or any broken eggs in their nests...we clean them out, right away.

Now having said all that ... my chickens have laid an egg in poop, and I do have a life besides worrying if the chickens nesting boxes are always clean, but eggs do not come out of a chicken's keister dirty and crusty. So eggs don't usually have to be washed, in fact, you should never wash an egg, unless it has been laid in poop, and then it should be used first.

Another reason why eating locally is so important...crust free eggs.

But seriously .... I do not for one minute believe that an egg, eaten within a few days of it being laid by a happy chicken, in a clean coop with lots of space where chickens are allowed to be and do whatever it is that chickens like to be and do, is as full of salmonella as eggs that have been laid weeks ago, by stressed chickens, not allowed to behave like chickens, laying eggs in filthy nesting boxes, in coops that house thousands of chickens and never, ever, and I mean ever seeing the light of day.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hanging laundry

My mom used to hang laundry year round, outside in the summer and inside in the winter. For a very long time I didn't. Seemed to me like I was going backwards. I mean civilization moves forward, it progresses with each generation, new inventions, jobs get easier blah, blah, blah...

What was I thinking? What are we all thinking? Clothes dry, naturally, on their own, it just happens, for free and with very little effort on my part. Why oh why was I paying and using more electricity for something that happens for free?

No I don't have 5 kids at home, but you know my mom did, all girls, and she managed. We wined, sulked, I mean in the 70s those jeans had to be super tight, and nothing would tighten a pair of jeans like the drier. mom held fast.

And now here I am, hanging my laundry, saving money but even more important than saving money, I'm doing my small bit to save this great, big world of ours and you can to.

Just try changing one small thing in your daily life that will help you go green and save the earth and some money. Turn the lights off when you leave the room, grow some lettuce and herbs in a container outside your backdoor, buy a drying rack and start hanging your dedicates, take transit, recycle as much as you can...change one or two of your not so green habits and before you know it you will be changing some of your bigger not so green habits.

laundry hanging in my unfinished basement

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cleaning without chemicals

How do you clean your house? Are you still using toxic harsh chemicals?

"Household cleansers are the major source of home toxins. Approximately 500,000 tons of liquid cleaners are washed down U.S. drains annually. Most of these products rely on petroleum-based surfactants, solvents and other chemicals, some of which are known to be acutely toxic in large doses. Others have been linked to reproductive illnesses and cancer. Most of these chemicals have not been tested for their impact on human health. Many household cleansers contain substances such as glycol ether, Stoddard solvent, naphtha, and kerosene, which are neurotoxins and central nervous system depressants. These substances can cause confusion, headaches, lack of concentration, and symptoms of mental illness."

- Judy Morgan, environmentalist & instructor of Saving the Planet Starts at Home


And not only are these chemicals extremely toxic but they cost a small fortune.

Why don't you try vinegar and baking soda? It's much less expensive, it works, and it's much healthier.

This is how I clean the bathroom:

The first thing I do is pour about a 1/2 cup of vinegar and a 1/4 cup of baking soda in the toilet bowl. It will bubble to start, let it sit in the bowl while you clean the rest of the bathroom.

I have straight vinegar in a spray bottle and I use it to wash the shower/bath walls. Then I sprinkle baking soda in the tub and scrub. It's a soft scrub and will likely not scratch your tub and it rinses away very easily. Tub done.

Onto the bathroom sink. I sprinkle with baking soda and scrub just like the bathtub, rinse and then I spray the sink, the taps and counter with with vinegar. Leave it a few minutes then rinse. I just use the same rag but rinse it out with warm clean water.

At this point I wipe the cupboards, moldings and the glass again I just spray the surfaces lightly with vinegar and rinse with a clean water.

To the toilet. I spray the outside and the lid with vinegar and wipe. Then scrub the bowl, it will bubble a little more, flush. Rinse your cloth and give the toilet a final wipe.

I wash the floor with hot water, vinegar and some liquid dish soap. And that's it.

You might think that the bathroom will not smell clean or even worse smell like vinegar but that's not what happens. The bathroom has a fresh clean smell and the vinegar evaporates very quickly and you don't smell it at all.
Do not use vinegar on marble. For more information on using vinegar click here: .

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Have you ever tried a persimmon? They are very common in Italy but not so much here in Canada. They usually start to show up in grocery stores in the fall. I bought two from the Italian store when I was in Vancouver last weekend. My husband and sons never developed a taste for them. The Hachiya type, which is what I purchased, has to fully ripen before it can be eaten. The fruit must be really, really soft, if you eat it to soon it leaves a nasty film in your mouth. I've been told that they can grow here in Powell River, I'll have to keep my eyes open for male and female trees, both are needed to grow fruit. Give them a try, they are really tasty.

You can read more by clicking on this link:

Monday, November 16, 2009

On the needles

The weather is still gray, windy and rainy, perfect for staying indoors and knitting. I am by no means a good knitter and I can not read a pattern to save my life, but I can knit and pearl which is enough to knit a scarf.

This is my third attempt. The first was unravelled because I was told my needles were much too small for the type of yarn I'm using. The second time I unravelled the scarf because I just didn't like it so here is hoping the third time is a charm.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Mom's soup

Today is one of the most miserable weather days I've experienced since moving here. The rain is coming down sideways, the wind is howling, the ocean is angry with big waves and huge whitecaps and it's cold. It's soup time. My mom's soup, in Italian, minestrina con pasta fina, is just chicken broth with fine (little) pasta and topped with grated parmigiano. My mom made this soup throughout the year but especially if we were sick with a cold or the flu. And it just so happens that my son and his wife are both down with a cold so mom to the rescue.

Just bring some broth to the boil and then add some fine pasta, as much or as little as you want. Keep in mind that it expands, top with grated cheese, snuggle up with a blanket and rest.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I'm letting the cat out of the bag

Well although my future plan is not yet finalized I'm going to tell you about it. It seems that this new venture is all consuming and I can't think of anything else. I usually post everyday, Monday to Friday but I'm struggling with content so here goes...

I'm opening a restaurant, well actually a diner serving breakfast and lunch with some sweets thrown in for good measure. My offer has been accepted by the seller, but the deal is subject to me getting a lease. On top of that there are health and building inspections, government tax and business numbers , bank accounts, business licence, CHEAP renovations to think about and a menu to prepare and test and of course a name.

The name that came to mind right away was the Elbow Room because the diner is so small but I have since found out another restaurant in Vancouver has the same name so I'm not sure if I want it now. The second is Magpie's Diner and the third is Maggie's Diner...

Tomorrow I'm off to the bank to set up an account as well as POS account to accept debit, Visa and Mastercard.

I'm so scared I can hardly think and at the same time I'm as excited as a seven year old on Christmas Eve, I'm having a blast but oh how I hope it all works.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Remembrance Day

Try to attend your local Remembrance Day celebration.

Many men and women died in war to secure the freedoms we all take for granted.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

And life goes on...

I'm a step closer to securing my financial future today. My plan with a capital P is coming along. Still I few things to iron out before I can share my news but in the meantime life goes on.

My mind is a whirlwind these days, full of plans, ideas, meetings to see this person, that person, get information, give information and all the while..

Dinner still has to be made.

Moose stew thickened with a shredded potato.

Bread has to be baked.

White bread for my husband. I'll sneak a piece but I prefer whole wheat bread.

And Christmas is still coming, same day as last year and again I'm a little behind with my "homemade" Christmas.

PJs for my boys in Newfoundland.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Dinner concoction

I had a busy, busy weekend in Vancouver this weekend. The trip was really for my son and daughter in law. They bought a lap top and some dressers which doesn't sound like much and we all thought it would be easy and fast but throw in busy stores, bad weather and traffic, and well it took much longer than we thought but we had lots of fun.

I got home mid afternoon and after a long walk to stretch my legs and clear my head I had dinner to think about, this is the dinner concoction I came up with and it was very easy and delicious.

I fried up some Italian sausages I bought from Bosa, five to be exact, three hot and two mild. Once they were cooked I sliced them and put them aside. I drained the fat from the pan and added some peperonata I made in the summer, added some frozen tomatoes, placed the sausages back in the sauce and gently simmered the sauce. In the meantime cook up some pasta, any shape will do but cut pasta, like rigatoni, works best.

Toss the sauce into the pasta and top with parmigiano and together with salad and a glass of wine, Sunday night dinner was amazing.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Working on a new idea

I'm so excited I can hardly stand it. I'm working on a new idea, business, where I'm the boss, my own boss, can you believe it. And of course it's food related. Can't say too much now but hope to soon.

In the meantime try as I might I can't think of anything else but my future and what it will look like. I have lots of things to do but I'm having trouble staying focused.

I'm off to Vancouver this weekend for some shopping and family visiting so I probably won't post anything until Monday.

Fingers crossed everyone that my little dream comes true.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

I have been deleted, well my job anyways

As of Nov 30 my job will be deleted, sigh...I saw it coming 3 years ago so I'm not surprised but it's a little shocking because unless I get another job right away, there will be no paycheck on Dec 15, very weird for me, I have not been without a paycheck for years so this is a little foreign.

I will soon join the hundred of thousands of unemployed Canadians as well as the millions of unemployed the world over. I'm still trying to get my ahead around it..unemployed..

So now what to do? I know I'm better equipped than many folks, I don't have a huge overhead and I know how to do lots of jobs myself. I don't have to totally depend on others for my well being but I still need some money.

But where to get that money??? Change profession altogether? Stick with what I know? Start a new business?

A few things I do know. I don't want a "downtown" career, I don't want to get dressed up and I don't want to wear makeup. I mean...I wore socks with sandals for the first time yesterday, a small dream of mine and I'm not giving that up.

So my life takes a new path and I fully embrace it. I'm excited about the future and look forward to the new challenges that this new path will bring. It won't be easy but it will be exciting.

The sun is out, just like the weatherman predicted, the air is crisp, my yard beckons me and I can't wait to get out there and get some dirt under my fingernails. My worries and problems seem to disappear and solutions seem so clear when I'm out in the garden.

Today is a great day full of promise, with infinite possibilities and change is in the air.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Plans and dreams

We all have plans and dreams, some very simple and some are quite lofty. My lofty dream was to have a little house on a large lot and try, best I can, to be self sufficient, simplify, and go green.

Part of my dream has come true. I have a small house on an acre. I grow many of the vegetables I eat, have chickens for eggs, some of the food I don't or can't grow, yet, I try to buy locally. I make many of the things I need, cook from scratch, and bake. But there are more things I want to try, cheese, yogurt - again, meat chickens and maybe a goat...and definitely more fruit.

In the backyard I have fruit and nut trees but I would like to increase the amount of fruit I grow by adding berries. I never thought about berries but I as I get to know people in my neighbourhood and speak to other gardeners it seems that berries grow very well here. Just a month ago I won two blueberry bushes because of my participation in the Powell River 50mile food challenge, to these blueberry bushes I plan on adding raspberries and strawberries.

But I don't have a garden bed for them so this past weekend, with a little bit of nice weather, my husband and I started the berry patch.

We put down some cardboard to kill the grass and weeds, then topped it off with yard cuttings, leaves and the soil from my flower baskets, then we ran out of nice weather. The weather man tells us that Tuesday and Wednesday will be sunny....fingers crossed.

We will extend the bed to run the length of the veggie garden and add some of our compost, more leaves and some seaweed. Then we leave it, next spring, we will add some more manure or compost, whatever we can get our hands on, then till the bed. Find someone with whom I can barter or trade some berry plants, but will buy some if needed. But it's so much more fun to trade. And hopefully the following year we will have berries. Not sure if it will work but that's the plan...
Has anyone tried putting this type of garden bed together? It's not quite a lasagna bed but it's somewhat similar. If anyone has suggestions to pass along I would love to hear them.

Now a less lofty dream...socks and sandals, I always wanted to wear socks and sandals, and look, I'm living the dream, here in Powell River.

Friday, October 30, 2009

End of the week - End of the turkey soup

I made a HUGE pot of turkey soup on Monday, had it for lunch on Tuesday, gave my son and daughter in law a HUGE container of soup Tuesday night. Had it for lunch Wednesday, Thursday and today, and oh my, I still have some and I really can't eat another bite or look at any more turkey soup. Enter my Seiko, our dog, he will eat it, he'll eat anything, and that's it, end of the soup and end of the week.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Christmas is coming

Are you ready? Getting ready? Almost ready?

I love Christmas, I love midnight Mass, getting together with family and friends, I love making cookies and special meals, getting up early to get the turkey in the oven and I guess in some ways I love giving gifts. But I no longer want to spend hundreds of dollars buying and stressing about the gifts. This year, for the most part I'm making most of my gifts. Little things, nothing extravagant, but made with love. As I'm sewing a little of this and a little of that I'm thinking about the very important people in my life and it gives me great joy and happiness.

But today I'm sewing some tree ornaments that I'll be swapping with folks from around the world. And I'll be thinking about these fine people and hope that this Christmas will be as special to them as it is to me.