Friday 31 January 2014

A Special Lipstick

Long, long ago, when I was a little girl, every lady I knew had a lipstick.  She might not own another piece of makeup but she wouldn't dream of going out without lipstick on. ~

In the 1940's, when my mom came of age, the war effort put petroleum products in short supply.  A lipstick was a luxury and every bit of the tube was used.  Women carried that habit into the more affluent 50's. I remember seeing my mom run a toothpick around the inside of the holder to get the last bits of it out.

Some lucky ladies had special lipstick cases.  This vintage holder, complete with tiny mirror is available at Jewelry 4  It's silver plated and listed for $63. ~

Do any of you remember when lipsticks had slides instead of turning the bottom?  Should I admit that I do? You could buy refills to put in your own holder in the 40's and 50's.

A visit to the cosmetic counter in the big city department stores or small town drug stores was an important undertaking.  You were choosing your signature colour, the only one you would have in most cases. Your shade being discontinued was considered a disaster! ~

Post war prosperity and advertising that ensured us we all should have more and more of everything, seemed to make the precious lipstick just another throwaway item cluttering up the vanity. ~

We had every colour under the sun and tossed them away half used.  The cosmetic counter became a place that only showcased the most expensive brands.

This Christmas, I fell back in love with a single lipstick.  Knowing that all the regular brands are full of high levels of toxic heavy metals like lead, aluminum, cadmium, cobalt, chromium, copper, manganese, nickle and titanium, I wanted to give my daughters a natural, safe lipstick.  You can read about the issues involved in using non organic lipsticks here.

At a farmer's market I met a woman who makes her own line of natural cosmetics.  She had just started making lipstick.  Knowing both of my daughters wore red lipstick, we worked together on creating a colour that was the shade favoured by stars of the silver screen during the war years.  I can also give her a sample of a favourite lipstick and she will duplicate the colour.  The best surprise was finding it only cost me $10 for a natural, customised tube!

I wrapped the gifts with a note telling my daughters that the only other person in the world that had that exact shade was their sister. ~

I just may find them each a pretty, vintage lipstick case for the next special occasion.

Giving an everyday item some of the importance that my mom used to give it made me truly happy.  I think it is an attitude I'll adopt for all the things I'll purchase now.

Half the fun will be choosing my signature colour!

For those of you who have asked for contact info on Laura Lee Organics, the lady who made my lipsticks, she can be reached by email at
She will ship to you by mail.  If you want a custom colour, you can mail her a sample of the lipstick you want duplicated.

I'm sharing this with:  The HomeAcre HopFeathered Nest FridayWhat's It Wednesday

Tuesday 28 January 2014

Quick Pasta In Tomato & Cream Sauce

In my last post I showed the pasta in rosé sauce that I had for dinner.  After overwhelming requests for the recipe (okay, it was only two people that requested it but that's good enough for me), I'm showing you how I made it.  ~

At this point, I want to say, "all joking aside" but that will just make me want to make a joke.  It's a family problem.  We tell jokes at the worst possible moments, like some people have a nervous giggle. If you ever hear of me making a joke at a funeral or during a crisis, you'll know that I really can't help it.  It's genetic.

Sooo - possibly all joking aside, this is a good chance to show you that eating whole, natural foods can still be fast food.  It's been about two years since I started modifying my eating habits to move toward an organic diet.  Right after how to handle the cost, the most common question I'm asked is how do I find the time.

The answer is, it gets easier on both issues the longer I stay on this course.

This meal is ready in about half an hour and extremely economical. It's a hit with kids, too!

All of the ingredients were in my pantry or preserved last fall. ~

In the late summer, when tomatoes are at the cheapest in the markets or abundant in the garden, put some away for winter use.  You can immerse them in boiling water for about 30 seconds and drop them in an ice water bath to release the skins.  If you don't have time for that, you can freeze them in the skins and do the process later.  For that matter, if you don't mind the texture, you can just leave the darned skins on.  Mine are peeled because I'm wayyyy more organised than you are.

I always make my own tomato paste and freeze it in ice cube trays.  The cubes are tossed in a freezer bag and super simple to use throughout the winter.  You need the tomato paste to thicken the tomatoes in the sauce.

Back to the recipe.  I put about a tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and sauteed some diced green pepper, onion, carrots and a garlic clove.  I use a little, $10 electric chopper to speed the process up.  I put the freezer bag of peeled tomatoes in a bowl of warm water.  By the time the raw veggies were sauteed (about 10 mins.), I could dump the frozen tomatoes out of the bag and on top of the sauteed veggies.  I added 2 cubes of tomato paste to the frying pan.

You need a bit of seasoning.  This dish had about a quarter tsp. of dried tarragon, a sprig of rosemary from a potted plant I brought indoors in the fall, some sea salt and ground pepper to taste and a tsp. of cane sugar to cut the acid in the tomatoes. Just toss in whatever turns your crank.

It took another 10 mins. on medium high heat for the tomatoes to thaw enough to break apart and come to a boil.  I reduced the heat to medium low and let it simmer for another 10 mins.

You could serve the sauce as it is or add some cream to turn it into a rosé.  I love a sauce that is an orangy/pinky shade, so I'm going for the cream.

Stir cream into the sauce until you get a  nice blush tone to it. A quarter to a half cup will do. When you drain the pasta, keep a bit of the cooking water to thin the sauce to the consistency your prefer.

My finished sauce is a little too thick for my taste and I'll have to thin it. ~

I add a little chopped, fresh basil from a plant I'm growing indoors and some grated Parmesan cheese to the dish.  Parmesan is a staple in my freezer.  It grates easily from frozen and I never have to worry about it going bad.

Voila!  Quick, easy, cheap and delicious! ~

And it's good for you, too!

I'm sharing this with:  Seasonal Sundays

Sunday 26 January 2014

Animals Are Driving Me Crazy!

I think I have a bad case of cabin fever.  The snow keeps falling, the ice keeps building and the temperatures are so low it's misery to be outside! ~

Even with a heat lamp on in the coop, I have to make many trips to it each day, because their water keeps freezing.  The girls aren't doing anything wrong but this is the time of year when chicken keeping really isn't fun. ~

There isn't much left out there for wildlife to forage and rabbits are decimating my shrubs.  I wrapped tarps around them.  That didn't work, so I put fencing up.  The only tracks are rabbit but this one must be the size of the Easter Bunny!  The branches are sheared off 3' high! ~

And while I'm out there freezing my backside off, what is going on in the house? ~

It can't possibly have been The Barbarians.  They are sweetly sleeping in another room. ~

Don't try to pretend you were keeping the old cat warm, Michaela! ~

As determined as I am to shed a few pounds, it was in the animal kingdom's best interest that I resort to this. ~

I feel better and no animals were injured in the making of this post!

Tuesday 21 January 2014

Please, No Surprises!

I don't like surprises because I have to live with far too many on a daily basis.  The older I get, the more I have to adjust to some pretty frightening changes and every one takes me by surprise.

An absolute stranger has shown up in my mirror!  That's not me but I wouldn't be any more shocked to see her looking back than I do with my present image. ~

I'm surprised to find myself, after decades in the entertainment business and another decade in interior design, living like Tasha Tudor. ~

I'm dressing like Dian Fossey, as if at any moment I could be whisked away to deepest, darkest Africa to live with gorillas. I'm surprised my closet full of high heels haven't walked out of here in protest! ~

This Saturday was my 62nd birthday and my sister planned a surprise for me.  She would pick me up and take me somewhere for the afternoon.  I can go with that much of a surprise.  All I asked was what I should wear.  If we were going to Africa I'd be fine, but Paris would mean hauling out those high heels.  We weren't going to either country so good, casual was the decision.  I've since learned she planned to take me to have my nails and hair done.  I'm thinking that means she doesn't like my Dian Fossey look.

I got ready and waited.  She phoned.  She had the flu and we weren't going anywhere.  "Well, that certainly is a birthday surprise!", I said.  "Don't worry about it.  I'll get into my paint clothes and finish painting my bedroom."  She didn't seem to think that was a good idea and suggested I just relax for the day.  "Oh, and Liz (my friend) is coming out to visit you around 5.  You don't need to give her supper."  I'm not to feed someone who shows up at the dinner hour?

I could clean up the house that has been neglected while I redecorated my bedroom, but Liz is an old friend and won't care.

So, I do important things like hang snowshoes on my wall. ~

It's a quiet and lazy way to spend a birthday.  Liz arrived and surprised me with dinner already made.  How nice.  Now, we can settle in for a glass of wine and a good catch up chat.

But, she seems in a hurry to get this meal over with.  She's pushing me out the door to put the chickens to bed for the night.  She wants us to do the dishes.

"Just leave them, Liz.  I'll do them in the morning."  
"No, we should do them. And maybe we should pick up a little."

I'm getting a BAD feeling.

"Your birthday isn't over."

I'm getting a REALLY BAD feeling.

"Some people are coming over."
"Who is coming over?"
"I don't know."
"Some people, that you don't know, are coming here?  When?"
"In about an hour".

My sister (the one who is now in bed with the flu) had planned a surprise birthday party at her house! Rather than cancel everyone, especially the ones who were coming from out of town, she shifted it to my house. My messy house!

The only thing worse than getting older is having one hour to get ready to throw your own party, for guests that could range from your closest friends to the Queen of England! Face it, there are different levels of cleaning required for different levels of intimacy.

The food and drinks arrived.  The guests arrived.  The Queen did not make an appearance and I was rather relieved. Good friends and family filled the house. We sang and laughed and had a grand, old time.

Life is full of surprises and it is better to embrace them and make the most of them.  The things we least expect to happen, can turn out to be the best things of all!

Even when the candles on the cake say you've turned 602, you can just go with it and have fun! ~

Thanks Sis for reminding me that life is best lived as a spontaneous affair!

Friday 17 January 2014

Requiem For A Chicken

I never thought I'd find myself holding a dead chicken and crying my heart out over her.  But, I did. She was my Gertie Birdy and I loved her.  So many of you loved her too and cheered her along as she made her journey from the horrible conditions in a commercial egg factory, to the best loved resident of Bramasole. She passed away just before Christmas and it didn't seem the right time to talk about something so sad. Now, it doesn't seem right to let her pass without sharing all that I learnt from her.

I'm so glad she had two years of sun, grass, worms and freedom.  She made a great Chicken of the Sea! ~

She taught me that courage and faith are needed to overcome the bad things in our past.  She had seen only cruelty from humans before she was rescued. ~

Yet, she was the first of my rescues to venture near me for treats.  That is all the more remarkable because she had severely impaired vision and had to be be cautious around potential danger. ~

I never hurt her and she didn't judge me by what others had done.  She loved it in Bramasole and she loved being with me. ~

Life still wasn't perfect for her.  She was the defective chicken in the flock and always at the bottom of the pecking order.  If she was bullied to the point of blood being drawn, I had to segregate her. ~

Sometimes, I wished she would fight back.  But, even if there was a sick chicken in the flock, she didn't raise her own status by picking on it.  The only times I ever saw a sign of aggression from her was when new chickens fought with her original coop mate.  Then, she went at them and chased them off.  She could be pretty vocal with any chicken that came near her eggs, too.  She was a defender, not a fighter.

She found a spot to roost that wasn't too close to the others and whenever a rumpus broke out in the coop she found a place to keep her head covered and waited it out.  She knew, sooner or later, I'd be there to save her.

Gertie was a pragmatist, accepting of what was bad in her life and enjoying all that was good. She loved her treats! ~

When I opened the coop door in the morning, she literally spilled out and jumped up into my arms. She followed me around the yard and learned that a shovel meant juicy worms would soon be turned over.  The others never seem to have clued in to that. ~

And, she would wait and wait for her darling human to come out. She was the soul of patience. ~

Gertie made outside so much fun for me.  She let me see her heart and I let her into mine.

I'll keep the tags that had to be cut out of your infected wing, Gertie.  I won't forget you.  ~

You were not just a number.  You were my Gertie Birdy and I will miss you as I work in the garden and sit on the patio.  I will try to remember to have some of the grace you showed in your life.  I won't dwell on past injustice or judge others before I see their character.  I'll keep my head down when needed but race out into the sun when it shines.  I'll defend when necessary but never attack.  I'll revel in the taste of a garden tomato. Most of all, I'll love and be loved.

I think those are pretty good lessons to learn from one, little chicken, don't you?

I'm sharing this with:  Thursday Favorite Things Bog Hop

Monday 13 January 2014

For The Love Of Celery Root

I have no idea why North Americans ignore this amazing vegetable.  Celery root, or celeriac, smells great, tastes delicious, is chock full of fibre, minerals and vitamins and perfect for restricted diets! In fact, it smells so good that I'm pretty sure they talk about me at my grocery store as, "The weird lady who sniffs the ugly root vegetable."  I love it!

It's a mainstay in European cooking, grated into salads, enhancing gratins, soups and stews and to give potato dishes a dash of celery flavour.

Maybe, it scares people off because of it's appearance. ~

French chefs aren't afraid of it and you shouldn't be either.  Once you cut 'er open, she looks like this. ~

This one was a little on the large side and shouldn't have that soft spot.  Look for ones that are no bigger than a baseball to avoid that.

Here's the deal.  Outside of all the health benefits, which you can read about here, celery root is a great way to cut back on calories.  You can use it any way you would use potatoes and, at 45 calories per cup, is 1/3 the amount of calories you would normally get in potatoes.  It's an ideal substitution for dieters and diabetics.

Here's a simple way to get started incorporating it into your diet. I've cut the thick outer skin off, leaving only the inner white part, and cut that into big chunks.  Put those in a pot with potatoes and cook as you normally would.  Celery Root cooks at about the same rate as potatoes and there is no reason to cook it separately.

Mash as you normally would.  I only added a bit of butter.  The celery root retains a bit more water than potatoes and no liquid was required. ~

It looks like mashed potatoes.  It tastes like mashed potatoes, with a bit of a celery zing.  The texture is the same as mashed potatoes.  You just cut the calories on a nice big serving of mashed potatoes by two thirds!  Wait a minute.  That was faulty math.  One half has the usual potato calories and the other half has 1/3 the calories.  My brain hurts so you do the math! ~

You can sneak this one right by kids that don't like vegetables, too!

I think it may lose some of the dieting value when you put this much butter on it. ~

I'm absolutely certain Weight Watchers would frown on the piece of Cajun blackened loin pork I had with it. ~

But, it sure was good!

So, stop discriminating against ugly vegetables and invite celery root into your kitchen!

I'm sharing this with:  Wildly Original Link PartyCreate It ThursdayShare You Cup Thursday

Tuesday 7 January 2014

What I Learned About Making Sausage

When you live in the country and the temperature drops to -40 you have to make your own fun indoors.  So, when a few of the neighbours decided to have a sausage making day, I joined right in.

This will be fun to blog about! ~

The most important thing I learned was that all pictures of the process are pornography.  You can't help it. No matter how hard you try to stage them to look like works of art, they look gross!  Secondly, every thing you say about them will sound like a double entendre and make grown women giggle like they are at a slumber party and men haw haw like the kitchen is a locker room.

It's best to quit at the grinding stage.  See, even that sounds like a joke! ~

By the way, the Kitchen Aid grinder attachment doesn't work very well.  We switched to a professional machine after giving it a go.

The basic seasonings are salt and pepper, but the variations on what you can add are endless.

You need to fry a bit up for a taste test. ~

The casings look like tapeworms and it's hard to photograph them so they look pretty. ~

I have no comment on the next part of the process. ~

I'm even less inclined to comment on what happens next. ~

 At this point, the guys feel they can do a better job and take over.  I suppose experience counts for something. ~

And, you wind up with a great big one.  'Nuff said on that? ~

At this point, you twist it until you get the length you like.  Go ahead girls, giggle. ~

It's still brutally cold here and I can only hope that the next idea for amusement is nowhere near as obscene when it comes to sharing it with you!

I'm never writing about sausages again!