Farewell Fall

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Ahhh, ’tis the season of snowblowers, ice scrapers and wood stoves. We had our first snow storm of the season overnight, and with it, our first snow day for my littlest man.  He was thrilled!  My husband, less so when he had to pull out the snowblower before heading to work.  But the day has gotten quite warm and a lot of it is melting off.  We have another 25 cms forecast for tonight.  Such is the life in New Brunswick.  Fall has been lovely, but I guess it’s time for us to move on.

I’ve gotten some of my canning projects completed over the fall, but not nearly as many as usual.  I seem to have lost steam this year with a number of things, not quite sure why.  But the basics are in the pantry, which makes me feel better about the cold coming.  I’ve got pot roast in a jar, chicken broth, vegetable soup, meatballs, baked beans and more pressured canned and put away.  I’ve also been working on my dehydrated stock, and it’s coming along.  I’m actually out of tomato powder (it’s amazing!!) so I’ll need to make some more.  The pickled beans turned out extra good this year, oh my Lord, why didn’t I make double?  I have no idea (probably because I was already over run with them and many other thing).  Walking past my canning shelves does make me happy.  I’ve got to make some jelly and a few other things for Christmas, but it’s coming along and my shelves are getting fuller.

The tea business has been booming, which is awesome!!  I’ve had three fantastic months sales wise (say hello to the fourth highest sales in Canada 2 months in a row 🙂  and hoping to keep the momentum up over the holidays and into the new year.  My trip to Hawaii is in early January, so I want to make sure I’ve got a thriving business to come back to.  With December starting, I’m sure to be busy the first two weeks, and then quiet for the last two.  My daughter will be home for a few days over Christmas, so I’ll be glad to have some quiet time with my husband and kids.  There have been a few vendor events over the last few months, and they’ve been super fun.  I love getting out and meeting new people.

Now, time to make some supper, close a party and make a batch of tequila pepper jelly.  The fun never stops.  Thank goodness, what would I do otherwise?

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Kombucha Crazy

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So, I’ve become a bit of an addict.  A kombucha addict.  Who knew some fermented tea would make a girl so happy?  But it does.  And I’m too cheap to buy it.  A friend told me someone at the market in Shediac was selling it for $20 a bottle.  Ummm…yeah, I’ll make my own, thanks.  My friend Stacy gifted me a scoby and some starter tea back in February and I’ve been brewing ever since.  I’ve experimented with a few things and now I’ve got it down to what I like.

IMG_20160619_113522Generally, I like to start with a plain black tea, so I’ve been using a strongly brewed English Breakfast for the most part, and I let mine ferment for about 10 or so days.  Once it hits the 14 day mark, I find it’s getting a bit too vinegar-y for my taste.  So I strain, bottle and drink like crazy.  I don’t always do a second ferment, because it’s pretty good all by it’s lonesome, but add in some strawberries or flavoured tea and let sit for a few days and bam!  Fruity deliciousness.  And fizzy, fruity deliciousness at that.  If kombucha brewing is up your alley and you want to find out more, check out http://www.kombuchakamp.com or http://www.culturesforhealth.com.  Those are great resources.  I’ve also joined a couple of kombucha brewing groups on Facebook, and they’ve been a great source of inspiration.

Since I’ve started my kombucha addiction, I’ve had a lot of friends ask how to get started.  One thing that happens when you brew your own is that you may eventually be over run by extra scobys.  I’m going to be adopting mine out this weekend.  On Sunday, I’ve got some friends coming over to learn how to make their own.  And they all get their own scoby and starter tea to take home.  Awe!  Scoby babies are heading to new kombucha families!

20160530_141318This was the first little scoby I put in here.  The jar is now almost packed solid with them.  My husband says he will be glad to see the “jelly fish” disappear from the pantry cupboard.  But I’m sure it won’t take long for more to take their place.  I may have to do a kombucha how to party every couple of months if my brew keeps going this well.  Today, I’ve got three gallon jars on top of my fridge brewing.  One is English Breakfast black tea, one is Classic Sencha green tea (and the scobys are so white!!!) and the third one is a mix of the two teas.  It will be fun to see what everyone prefers.

Do you brew your own?  I’d love to hear about your experiences!

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Strawberry kombucha

I’m back!

It’s been awhile!  So much has gone on in the last little while, I’ve had a hard time keeping up.  Some of the biggies:  my two oldest children have graduated high school and are now starting their adult lives.  Exciting, scary, and so many other emotions over that.  So now I’ve just got my little man at home, and wow, is it ever weird only having one child to look after.  I haven’t lived that since I was 23, so it’s taking some serious getting used to.  But it is also giving me more opportunities to work on other things, like my business, my canning hobby, and then adding new things.  So here is what I’m up to.

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Gingerbread Pu’erh tea.

I have started my new career as a tea match maker.  I’m a Group Director with Steeped Tea, so I help match people with the perfect tea for them.  It’s been over a year and a half now, and it’s phenomenal.  I love my job, I love the people I get to connect with, and I can’t live without the tea.  It’s been such a great year with the company that I actually earned a trip to Hawaii (!!!!!)  So this has been an amazing decision for me and my family.  I am so very grateful for it.

 

I am also so very grateful for the opportunity to go to Orange County California to become a Master Food Preserver.  Since nothing like this exists in Canada that I can find, it was an unbelievable chance of a lifetime.  I can’t say enough about how incredible the team at the Master Food Preservers/Master Gardeners program at the University of California, Irvine campus, are.  Truly above and beyond.  Cinda, who not only spent a week teaching us but welcomed us into her home with her family, is likely one of the loveliest people I’ve ever been blessed to meet.  I’ll do a whole post just on this experience because it was AMAZING.   I have now gone down the rabbit hole of fermenting and dehydrating as well.

Yep.  My husband thinks our fridge now looks like a science experiment and that I’ve turned our house into a lab.  But it’s all pretty tasty.  I’ve got kombucha, ginger beer, and sauerkraut fermenting and I’ve got the dehydrater going pretty much every day.  Everything from chanterelles, fruit leather, and dog treats.  Love, love, love it.  I have so many jars in my pantry right now full of tiny dehydrated things.  Like, did you know you can fit 20 stalks of rhubarb into a pint jar when dehydrated?  It’s true!

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I’ve also been going pretty hard core with a lot of projects for a long time, so I’m learning to step back and look after myself.  That’s a hard one!  You’d think it would be easy to care for yourself.  But for me, not so much.  So this is a real learning experience.  And one I struggle with every day.  I’m getting back into a daily yoga practice and walking every day, just to have a few moments alone with myself and my thoughts.  I’d love to hear what works for you to feel relaxed, centred and healthy.

Market Day!

A wonderful way to start the day.

A wonderful way to start the day.

It’s a cool morning.  After the blistering heat and humidity we had here last week, I’m a happy camper.  The van is loaded and we’re off to market in a little more than an hour.  Our market is small, it’s in an old converted barn (my stall is actually a stall) but it’s got a real sense of community.  We’ve been together for a few years now, us vendors, and we look forward to catching up each Saturday as much as anything else.  Lawson and Juanita make me breakfast, Katherine gets my coffee ready in exchange for a giant cookie.  Monic is next to me and her pies are to die for.  Alan and I talk about gardening and homesteading.  Jonathan and Maureen not only have lovely painted glassware, but are two of the most wonderful and kind people I’ve ever met.  It’s a real pleasure hanging out there on Saturdays.  

My booth at the Upriver Country Market in Bass River.

My booth at the Upriver Country Market in Bass River.

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My friend Natalie Richard, from Nourish Moi Health Nut. She’s a holistic nutritionist and sells a variety of local products from New Brunswick producers like Speerville Mills.

One of my most recent projects was wedding favours.  How cool is that?  My friend Helene’s daughter got married and I did mini jams up for her guests.  It was a lot of fun.  I also learned that putting little lid toppers on takes a lot longer than you would think.  But they turned out great.

Tiny jams, ready to be wedding favours.

Tiny jams, ready to be wedding favours.

There they go!  175 mini jars of jam.  Congrats Pam and Mark!

There they go! 175 mini jars of jam. Congrats Pam and Mark!

My vacation time is nearly up and I’m back to work next week.  Doesn’t it feel like you always need another two weeks off?  I have just started getting all my projects done.  The first week was almost just veg out a little and catch up on lost sleep.  The second week is where I start being productive.  So many projects to do outside and summer is so short!  My garden has been hit or miss this year.  Some things are doing well, other things haven’t come up at all, which is kind of frustrating.  We had our first feed of lettuce last night, and the potatoes plants look like they are doing really well in the new potato boxes.  What a neat thing!  I promise pictures and an update on if growing potatoes in boxes works as well as advertised.  So far, so good. 

Time to finish off my cup of tea, wake up the troops and head out.  Hope your day is as full of promise as mine is.  

Early Morning

 

Beautiful New Brunswick morning

Beautiful New Brunswick morning

It’s a quiet morning.  It’s five am, I’ve had the canner pot heating up now for about a half hour, a load of laundry is on the go.  My husband left for work an hour ago, the kids are sleeping.  I’ve got a sink full of garlic scapes waiting for me to pickle them.  Tomorrow is market.  So, a lot to get done today, hence the early morning.  I used to be a morning show radio announcer, early mornings are not new to me.  But they are beautiful.  Something you tend to forget when you don’t see them for awhile.  The edges of the sky are tinged with pink this morning, the sky is pretty clear, a few birds are singing.  Today will be gorgeous, warm and everything a summer day should be.  Another day to be grateful I live where I do and have the life that I do.  

 

I’ve got a lot of canning projects to work on over the next few weeks.  This morning, pickled scapes.  I am thrilled that it’s time to put fresh things in jars.  I got two bags of scapes yesterday, so into the brine they go and they’ll be ready in a few weeks.

Freshly picked garlic scapes.

Freshly picked garlic scapes.

 It’s not my first fresh pickling session so far this summer.  A friend was generous enough to give me 8 pounds of fiddleheads.  15 pints of pickled fiddleheads later, I’ve only got one jar left.  I also got a hot tip on a great fiddlehead picking location for me to check out next spring.  Bonus!!

Fresh fiddlheads, waiting to be pickled.

Fresh fiddlheads, waiting to be pickled.

The finished product, pickled fiddleheads.  They look pretty!

The finished product, pickled fiddleheads. They look pretty!

 Rhubarb was excellent this spring, and not only do I have lots in the freezer for jam, but I tried out a new recipe and have rhubarb bbq sauce.  Sweet, thick, sticky….perfect for ribs.  

 

Rhubarb bbq sauce in the making

Rhubarb bbq sauce in the making

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A present from my dad. He picked me a garbage bag full of rhubarb from Memere’s patch.

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Rhubarb bbq sauce, canned and cooling.

 

Next up, white wine jelly, dill pickle relish and, well, it’s strawberry season.  I picked a flat yesterday, and will pick probably 4 or 5 more before next week is out.  

Strawberries are ready!

Strawberries are ready!

There is lots to do this time of year.  I’ve got markets on Saturday mornings in Bass River.  And I did one last Saturday in Rexton at the Lions Hall.  We had a post tropical storm, and people still came out to the market.

At the market

At the market

 Maybe because we were one of the last places with power?  Our home phone is out and will be for a few days yet.  But we are much better off that others.  Our power at home was out for 24 hours, but friends in Fredericton won’t be connected again until next Wednesday or Thursday.  That’s nearly 2 weeks without hydro.  Wow.  A long haul.  

The sky is much lighter now. I can see that today may be the day that my lillies open, the pods look like they are nearly there now.  I suppose I should get my jars washed and the brine ready for the scapes.  My hands smell like garlic from trimming the ends.  I’ve got laundry to fold, bees to check on, giant cookies to bake….pitter patter, let’s get at ‘er.  

Late night molasses run

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Tequila pepper jelly on the left and margarita jelly on the right. Theme canning.

It’s been a busy few weeks here.  I think the dog is feeling neglected because every time I turn around she has a sock in her mouth.  It’s her way of acting out.  “Love me!!”  There is literally a trail of socks from my bedroom to the living room.  I have extracted at least a dozen from her mouth this morning.  Poor thing.  When we are gone a lot, she seems to want to make sure we pay attention to her, no matter what.  There will be puppy cuddles a little later today after I get some housework done.  You know, the work that never gets finished, it just gets done?  Yep.  Laundry, cooking, driving my now 15 year old daughter to work, making jelly, ect, ect.

My tired puppy

My tired puppy

My amazing baby girl turned 15 yesterday.  It is crazy how quickly she has grown up into a terrific, thoughtful, compassionate, intelligent almost woman.  Kind of freaks me out, to be honest.  Only two more years, and she’ll graduate from high school and move on to university.  Raising kids kind of feels like tobogganing.  It’s a long, cold, hard climb to the top of the hill, but once you hit the teens, you are racing to the bottom, holding on for dear life and hoping not to fall off.  The oldest is graduated and moved out, and my not so baby girl won’t be far behind.  Thank goodness I still have a six year old.  Still climbing the hill with that one.

My birthday girl, who doesn't want her picture taken

My birthday girl, who doesn’t want her picture taken

So, Christmas markets.  I had two to prepare for.  One was at a seniors complex.  I’ve done four there now and love them, they are so fun!  The residents, staff and families seem to really enjoy them and we are getting to know the residents a little more each time we go.  I started canning by 9am the day before, and pulled the last jar from the canner at 9:30pm.  Crazy!  Then it was time to start baking.  Ugghh.  I know.  I’m insane.  My big sellers are the giant ginger cookies, so I couldn’t not bake them.  It was at 10pm when I discovered I was out of molasses.  Not good.  Can’t make my gingerbreads or my cookies without it.  Here I am, texting my friend Cynthia, who does the cupcakes, asking for molasses.  The good thing with us is that we do almost all the same markets and have been able to supply each other during late night baking sessions.  She called me a few minutes later and said she was out, but had called her mother in law.  Joyce lives almost next door to Cynthia, so off I raced down the road after 10pm to nab some molasses.  It was a cool, clear night and after being in a hot steamy kitchen all day, it was a welcome respite to head outside in a t-shirt.  Joyce was on her way to bed, but met me at the door with the prized molasses, for which I traded her a freshly bottled jar of apple cider jelly.  Then it was off to the kitchen, where I baked until 3am.

Giant ginger cookies at the market

Giant ginger cookies at the market

Up at 7:30am to get groceries, then come home, pack up, pick up my friend Monic the Dutch pie baker and head onto the highway for the hour drive to Riverview.  And it was all worth it.  This was a great market.  Lots of Christmas shopping.  I brought along some knitted items, as well as insoles and yarn from my brother’s alpaca farm.  In exchange, I got to pick out whatever I wanted from his products.  There is a selection of woven scarves that are to die for.  So I now have one for me.  And I love it!  So soft and warm.  I managed to do quite well for him, which made us both feel pretty good.  A good day with lots of laughs, fun and a few dollars in my pocket for Christmas shopping.

Some of the lovely items my brother has to offer from his farm

Some of the lovely items my brother has to offer from his farm

However, not the case at our next market a few days later.  I’ve never done a deader market.  Six hours, maybe thirty people through.  I made enough to pay for my table and gas, that’s it.  C’est la vie. It’s the way it goes.  But I was so tired, and it was really disappointing.  The good news is I’m getting people dropping by the house for jam, and looking for gift baskets.  So I’ve made a few this last week.  And I’ve been busy making fruitcakes.

Nana's dark fruitcakes

Nana’s dark fruitcakes

These are made from my Nana’s dark fruitcake recipe.  Truly nothing like the stuff you get at the store.  I actually like this fruitcake.  A lot.  I soak the fruit and nuts in brandy for at least a week, then bake it.  I’ve had orders, so I’ve been working away at getting them done.  They take three hours to bake, so I can only do so many at a time.  I’ve got three more batches of fruit soaking, then that’s it for this year.  But I’ll be keeping one for me to nibble on throughout the holidays.  The best thing about fruitcake is that its like wine, it gets better with age.  Hey, it’s quality control, right?  That way I’ll know how the flavour profile changes from week to week for next year’s orders.  Uh huh, I’ll keep on telling myself that.

Procrastinating, reporting and knitting

Procrastinating with tea

Procrastinating with tea

It’s Tuesday morning.  I’m on my second cup of tea with a list longer than my arm of things I need to do today.  And I’m going to get there, I really am.  After this cup of tea.  I swear.  If you listen carefully, you’ll  hear the sound of me trying to convince myself.  1.  wrap baskets for delivery   2.  clean up kitchen   3.  bake gingerbread men   4.  deliver baskets   5.  bake more fruitcake   6.  make wine jellies.  7.  make supper   8.  take youngest to curling.  It will be a busy day, but I’d rather be doing this than what some of my friends and former co-workers are up to today.  I used to be a reporter.  About six months ago I gave it up for a variety of reasons.  But sometimes I miss it, and I really enjoyed covering court.  It’s fascinating, both the legal end of it and how it works, and how everyone’s stories are on display.  It’s a place where everyone is vulnerable.  Those vulnerabilities are there for everyone to see, like being naked in front of strangers.   A big trial has just wrapped up in the city and the jury is deliberating, so that means my reporter friends are hanging around the court house, waiting for the verdict.  I’ve always said that broadcasting and reporting was a game of hurry up, wait.  You are usually going full tilt or you’re sitting by the phone like a teenage girl on a Friday night, waiting for it to ring.  The jury began deliberating yesterday, and called it a night around 8.  They’ll be back at it this morning.

Court is hard for those who find themselves in it.  Not just those who are accused of crimes, but those who are on the other side of whatever crime is alleged to have happened.  For families who’s loved one was injured or killed, it’s like they’ve fallen down the rabbit hole.  It’s not like what you see on tv.  What you don’t see is the frustration of families who show up to court only to have their matter adjourned.  They are looking for one thing, and it takes so much longer than they ever anticipate.  Even if the result is what they are hoping for, it never solves everything.  It hardly solves anything.  These people still have to figure out how to pick up the pieces.  Their grief is delayed.  They are grieving all the while, but think that once the matter is resolved through the courts, there will be closure.  There is no such thing.  I’ve always thought that court is full of damaged people.  Not just the accused.  But everyone in it.  We are all damaged by what we hear there, by the process, by what happened to bring us there in the first place.  There is this expectation that court will make it better, that justice will be done, and that life will be fair again.  But it never is.  And justice is often a shade of grey, not black or white.  It’s like victims expect the process to make them whole again, and instead, it takes a piece away from everyone involved.   Like leaves falling off the trees in fall.  So, while my reporter friends are waiting this morning at the court house, I’ll once again go over my list of things to do here and give thanks that I get to keep a little piece of myself this morning.

My current knitting project, a hat for me

My current knitting project, a hat for me

Last night, I stayed up way too late and worked on my knitting.  It’s something I’ve just taken up recently, and so far I’ve made scarves and hats.  I’m practicing ribbing, so I’m making myself a hat.  It’s going to be long and slouchy, at least in theory.  So far, I’ve made a hat for each of my kids and now this one is for myself.  I need it to keep me warm while I wait for my youngest’s bus to arrive each afternoon.  I like knitting in the round, it’s fun.  I’m not good at reading patterns, so all I’m doing with this is knitting five and purling five.  We’ll see how it turns out.  Maybe if I get this list done today I can finish it and work on another one.  Toques for all!  Hey, I’m Canadian.  Toques are mandatory.  😉

The first hat I ever made

The first hat I ever made