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.