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.