Valetine’s Day

Every year Kurt wants to skip Valentine’s Day. I don’t know what his problem is with it. Personally, I love all holidays and think any excuse to celebrate and do something special is great. We usually just make a special meal and a desert. This year, however, I plan to be a few days into my elimination diet come Friday, so food may not be the best way to celebrate.

What we have decided to do it go on a moonlight snowshoe. I saw it advertised in the paper. One of the nearby conservation areas is hosting it for free, including lending out the snowshoes, so I’m really excited. I think it sounds like a great way to enjoy each other’s company, get out of the house and be in nature, all for free!

I also saw an idea on Pinterest (I can’t find the original right now) for celebrating with kids and I’ve adapted it. The first day of the month I hung a ribbon on the wall and a little heart that says: “I love you because” now each day I add another heart with something written on it.

IMG_4611

I think it’s important to take every opportunity we can to tell people how much we love them. I want our relationship to be strong and for Kurt to always know that I love and appreciate him.

Anyone else doing anything special for this lovely month?

Back in Action

We have returned to an shoveled driveway, needy cats and dying house plants. It’s good to be home. Our holiday travels were as usual filled with excess. Too much food, too much driving, too little time. We clocked about 32 hours of travel time, which is slightly less than usual, but still waaaay more than I want. Despite all of this, our holidays were great.

Being away during ‘The Great Ice Storm’ was stressful though. The power was out here for two twelve+ hour stretches so I was very worried about the cats being too cold. Happily, upon our return, they both seem happy and healthy (though Daisy hasn’t more than a foot from me since I came in the door).

The trees in town did not fare so well. When we were driving into town we noticed tree branches, and trees split in half all over. The damage in town has been cleaned up and there are now piles of cut up branches on lawns waiting to be collected. Our trees all seem okay, but there is a huge branch that fell into our yard from a big tree behind our yard (in the conservation area) so we will have to figure out what to do about that. Luckily there was no property damage, but I am very sad for the trees. Tomorrow, if the temperature gets high enough not to cause frost bite (18 Celsius below zero today) I’m going to go take a closer look at the trees, just to make sure.

I hope you, your family and your trees had a wonderful holiday (and that it isn’t so darn cold wherever you are)!

Goings On

Lately we’ve been:

Hanging pictures onto our newly painted walls.

IMG_4442

IMG_4443

Organizing under sinks.

Building cat forts. Got to use the guest bed for something, right?

IMG_4447

Shoveling.

IMG_4441

Travelling sans cats this year (they’re at home with a pet sitter). I miss them terribly.

Considering our future kitchen reno.

Planning travel for the summer.

IMG_4448

Crying over Season Three of Downton Abbey.

Spending time with friends and family.

Gingerbread Cookies

These are definitely one of the more fun holiday treats to make. I’m not actually going to link to the recipe I used because I wasn’t crazy about the texture of the cookies. It was supposed to be a ‘soft gingerbread’ but came out more chewy. Here are some pictures of what we made though.

IMG_4404

IMG_4412

IMG_4407

IMG_4414

IMG_4408

Some decorating tips:

-if you decorate before baking, lightly spray the cookies with water to help the sprinkles stick, also don’t expect everything to look exactly the same when you take it out, our chocolate candy sunflower seeds melted and cracked making everything look slightly demonic
-if you decorate after baking and use icing make sure it is sticky enough for the sprinkles to stick, but thick enough to keep its shape
-if you buy a cookie decorating kit and it comes with a squeeze bag of icing put it in a bowl of warm water first, it makes it way easier to work with
-if you let husbands help you decorate, don’t expect cookies that you can give to people, or show children

Caramel Pretzel Bark

I’ve had this recipe saved for a while, but bark really is a holiday sort of thing so I decided now was the time to try it. It was a super easy recipe. It probably took less than 15 minutes of actually working time, but it looks like something that is labour intensive.

IMG_4391

IMG_4395

Four things about this recipe: Use strong foil (this will prevent you from later having to pick pieced of aluminium foil out of hard caramel), don’t worry if you caramel is spread evenly since it will turn to lava in the oven and spread itself out, don’t bother melting the chocolate on the stove just sprinkle the chips on after it comes out of the oven and spread the chocolate around with a spatula, if you have to, stick it back in the oven for a few seconds and lastly, I used the stick pretzels, but I think this made my pieces are bark fairly jagged so I think sticking with regular pretzels is best.

I probably just discouraged you from ever wanting to make this what with the bits of foil and lava caramel, but it is super easy and really tasty. It makes a cute gift in a jar with a ribbon.

IMG_4397

Ginenttis (Italian Anisette Cookies)

The town I’m from is heavily populated with Italians, in fact Kurt is half Italian. Around Christmas time there are two Italian staples that show up at every gathering: Thai plates (which are actually pizelles, but we call them Thai plates) and Ginettis (which the internet seems to think are called Italian Anisette Cookies, go figure).

IMG_4379

The best way I can describe these cookies, if you don’t happen to be from my town, is sort of like a sweet biscuit. They are light and not too sweet.

IMG_4382

Despite the name, you will not find anything remotely anise-y in my cookies, or my house for that matter, since there are few things I abhor more that black licorice flavour. You can use whatever extract you want. I split the batch in half and put vanilla in half and orange and vanilla in the other. The dough is very bland so you really do need to add something.

IMG_4383

Here’s the recipe I used. It’s not a perfect recipe. Definitely do not use the amount of baking soda it calls for, I would cut it in half, or else you will taste it. Also, I didn’t use shortening, I just replaced it with more margarine. I think butter would also work just fine. I left the dough fairly sticky and wet my hands before rolling. This worked pretty well.

Mom’s Fudge

This was the one recipe I did for Christmas this year that I was sure about. The rest I found online and I just had to hope that they would turn out, but this is the fudge that my mom used to make all the time so I knew it would good.

IMG_4403

The recipe is a bit weird, but trust me.

4 cups sugar
1 can evaporated milk
1 cup margarine*
1 package chocolate chips ( 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup marshmallows
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup nuts (optional)

Mix sugar milk and margarine. Cook to soft ball stage**. Remove from heat. Stir in chocolate and marshmallows till melted. Stir in vanilla. Pour 9 X 13 pan lined with tin foil or parchment paper overlapping the pan. Cool and remove from pan using the paper to lift fudge out and cut into squares.

*I’m a big butter advocate. I haven’t bought margarine in years, but this time I decided to use it for my baking. Mainly because it’s super cheap and easy to work with, but also because two of the recipes called for it.

**Soft ball stage is when you drip a tiny bit of whatever you are making into a glass of cool water and it turns into a ball on the way down, if it isn’t ready it will just sort of go everywhere and make the water look gross.

My mom does it in the microwave, but I did it on the stove.

IMG_4376

For all of the confidence I had in making this, things got a little hairy for a while. I read online that soft ball stage is 235 degrees and the mixture simple wouldn’t get there. I waited, and stirred, and made a batch of cookies, and waited…..Then when I was melting some of the margarine in the microwave for another recipe, we discovered the problem. I took the measuring cup out from the microwave, there was a layer of margarine at the top, and a layer of water at the bottom. Turns out I had bought vegetable spread (whatever the heck that is) which contains a lot of water.

Luckily, everything turned out in the end. The fudge finally got to the correct temperature and it tastes just like when my mom makes it. It just took a lot longer to get there.

IMG_4388

IMG_4389

Some final advice: once your marshmallows and chocolate is melted in, it hardens very quickly so you need to act fast. I tried sprinkling walnuts and candied sunflower seeds on top, but when I was cutting the fudge up most of them fell off, so I would advise adding any extras into the pot, or pressing them in on top.