And more cookies…

Believe it or not; baking can be a great form of procrastination–with an end result that’s both good and bad!

So today….I could be wrapping presents, maybe doing a bit of cleaning, or writing a couple of articles that NEED to be done before the holidays. That’s the ACTUAL holidays. One–one being my husband–might say I’m “on holidays” now though I just reply with; “I love my job(s)!”

And so I’m baking. And really, I do NEED to bake since we’re having a “cookie exchange” tonight. I love the cookie exchange but I also have a few traditional recipes of my mother’s that I just have to make every year. That’s why I keep making more cookies.

Today’s cookies are Cherry Balls. They’re so easy. Not even baked! And they’re what I’m giving to the cookie exchange.

First thing I do…

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Crank up the Christmas tunes. Just search for a Christmas playlist on Youtube. Look! I found a whole album of Boney M. That’ll keep me moving! Boney M is great dancing music. (And I have a pretty big kitchen! Heehee!)

Next, I pull up the recipe from my handy dandy cookbook which you can see is a little splattered from years of use! (It looks bad, doesn’t it?) Some recipes are fading too and I need to rewrite them before they fade away forever!

cherryballs

Then I start assembling the ingredients. Again. Only three things. So easy. You might notice some ingredients crossed out. That’s because I temporarily lost my recipe since it was the first page in this book and it fell out. I found another recipe which had milk and vanilla. Then I found my original which doesn’t have milk and vanilla. If you want to try add them, go for it. I wouldn’t.

cherryballingredients

Now. This is where I need to confess. I was busy arranging things in a pretty fashion so that I could take photos while I worked and guess what? I put 1 CUP of butter instead of 1/4 cup! Ugh. Four times the recipe! No! I would be rolling into next week. I added another 1-1/2 cups each of icing sugar and coconut. I should note that you should make sure the coconut’s not too long and flaky–I used sweetened, dessicated and I’m wondering if unsweetened would cut down the super-sweetness of this recipe? At that point I was going to split my mixture and put half aside, maybe to freeze? I added another 1-1/2 cups each of the icing sugar and coconut to the one half and it felt fine. That meant my butter (and you MUST use butter. Margarine will NOT work here!) was a tad more than the recipe called for but it wasn’t bad. This type of error is such an easy fix. If the “dough” feels a bit too greasy as you roll, you can add a tad more dry ingredients. Likewise with butter. If you just can’t form a ball, add another tablespoon–it won’t hurt. Really!

Anyway, mix it with your hands. Grab some cherries. Red maraschinos in a jar. You could use green too, if you wanted. Drain and place on paper towels to absorb excess liquid.

cherriesdraining

Yummy. I have a brother who will grab THE JAR of cherries and eat the whole thing if you let him! Anyway here’s how to roll.

cb steps1

Grab a bit of dough. Flatten it in your palm. Place cherry in the center and wrap dough around it. You don’t want it too thick. I might estimate 1/4″ or so. It’s sweet. If you grabbed too much, pull the excess off when you get the cherry wrapped. Roll into a ball. It’s not hard. You rolled plasticine didn’t you? Am I dating myself? Who knows what plasticine is? (If you don’t know, I’ll tell you at the end!)

cb rolling

Once you have your balls done, roll them in graham cracker crumbs. I like to find the easy way to do things so I put the crumbs in a bowl that’s a bit deep (empty margarine containers work well. Get that? Empty! Haha).  Add a cherry ball and gently shake it around. I wouldn’t do too many at a time though I’ve done two or three at once. Store in the fridge and serve cold. Sooo good!

Here’s some of my finished product. I might try give them another roll in the crumbs to see if they’ll pick up a few more crumbs. The photo’s a bit deceiving too. They don’t look THAT white in my kitchen! Anyway, it is a good idea to roll these in the crumbs as you make them so that the crumbs stick. The butter tends to set a bit as they sit and the cookies won’t pick up as many crumbs if you roll them all first. (I fully suspect that some of you will have to try it for yourself before you believe me!) I was rolling every two or three cookies with these ones.

cb done

That’s what I made so far from my triple batch! I think a single batch should get you close to 3 dozen, at least 2 1/2 or you really did make them too thick! I still have quite a bit of “dough” left over but just one jar of cherries. Looks like I’m going to have to take (another) break and go to the store.

Oh well. Just another form of procrastination.

So do let me know if you try these! And, as I said before, if you’ve got a great recipe for Christmas cookies, send it to me! I’ll even post them here on my blog!

By the way, that “plasticine”–it’s like playdough! Only better. It didn’t dry out. Go Google it!

color-plasticine_123169

 

And then make some cookies.

Me…baking Christmas cookies

I can’t understand when people say they don’t bake.
Seriously.
It’s so easy.
It’s relaxing.
And unfortunately–the end result tastes pretty darned good.

Like… these…

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This is my mom’s shortbread recipe. It’s super-easy AND it’s yummy!
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One batch = 2 sheets of cookies. That’s 2-1/2 to 3 dozen, depending how big you make them. Of course, shortbread is meant to be small. Just a bite or two. They’ll cook nicer too so don’t try to make them big! Make them into balls and then…

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Flatten them any way you want. Use your thumb. Use a fork. Or a small glass, especially with a decorative bottom like mine had! Be sure to dip the fork or glass in flour or sugar or it’ll stick. I like to use sugar.

Then you can add something to the top. But you don’t have to. I cut cherries into about 6 or 8 pieces and squished a little piece into the centre of each cookie. Sprinkles work good too.

Then slip in the oven….here’s tray #2….
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and bake. For only about 10 minutes at 300 degrees. They don’t take long and they’ll be ever so slightly golden brown. You can barely see it. But if you can see the brown on top, you might have overcooked these and made them a bit crunchy. You want it to melt in your mouth.

And these will. If you don’t cook them too long. Trust me.

Time required:

I started these at 20 to 2, had the balls rolled and flattened and cherries going on by 10 to 2. The second tray came out of the oven at 2:10. That’s a half hour.

Seriously.
Who can’t do that? I’m going to pack some of these into a little box as a little gift for someone. Try it. Give them to someone you like. And watch them smile.

Here’s my finished cookies, cooling on the rack. That one over to the right. It’s for me.

cookies

 

Do you bake cookies? What are your favourites? (Feel free to share your recipe!)

Isn’t National Coffee Day every day?

It’s National Coffee Day!

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I thought EVERY day was “national coffee day” but apparently not. It’s today.

I’m here to tell you I celebrate coffee EVERY day.
This photo was taken last winter when we were at A Page in the Sun, our favourite Puerto Vallarta coffee shop/bookstore — drinking coffee. Sure, a Corona or a margarita is good but at the end of the day…I NEED a coffee!

I love coffee and that’s despite the fact that I didn’t start drinking it until I was about 17 while waitressing at a local restaurant, I actually wasn’t keen on the thick black liquid. At first. But even back then, as a teenager, how much pop could one drink in a day? So I made the switch. Without sugar, thankfully. Because now I LOVE coffee but NO SUGAR please!

Today, my perfect coffee is with about 1-1/2 cream (the colour of peanut butter) and it doesn’t really matter where the coffee is from. I’m rather partial to my own at home, mostly made with the President’s Choice gold can. (At $13.99 regular price, it’s not cheap but it’s good!)

Of course, I also like to grind my own beans (thanks Our Homes magazine for the pound of Mexican beans I got last week!) and in that case I prefer a high-end blend. Note to self: put higher-end grinder on Christmas wish list. Free trade coffee’s nice too. A nice bag of beans from St. Joseph Island Coffee Roasters is ideal–especially if it’s Stories in the North‘s Looming Deadline blend. (You can read a story I did about St. Joseph Island Coffee Roasters here!) I don’t use those premium grinds ALL the time because we drink way too much coffee but I sure would like to!

How do I make my coffee? I’m not a snob about coffee machines. Well, okay, maybe a bit. I have a Bunn coffee machine that’s nice and fast and makes good coffee. I wouldn’t use any other drip machine. I also have a CorningWare perk pot, a vintage drip pot that’s perfect on my gas stove and reminds me of my grandmother’s house. it’s great for when the power goes out and locals might just agree that’s can be a lot! I also have both a single-serve (Bodum) and a larger (Epicure brand stainless steel) French press. And yes, I do use a Keurig too–but mostly for late night decafs. So, sometimes, it depends on my mood–or time frame.

But my love of coffee doesn’t stop there. I’ve also got a collection of coffee cups.

bettercups

They mostly come to me in twos….so you’ll find two each of Tim Horton’s (okay, there are several sets of two of those ones), Second Cup, Williams Coffee Pub and a few others around. Despite my relatively untidy lifestyle (I don’t care IF the dishes aren’t done today!), all my cups had better be placed on the shelf with all handles to the right. Also, each cup should be beside it’s mate. See? We all have a little OCD in us somewhere.

If that doesn’t convince you I celebrate coffee, you only need to look around my kitchen a little more….

placemat

Yep, the placemats are coffee-themed (and I have others, also coffee-themed)….

chairs

Also the chairs have coffee cup design on the backs and trust me, I hunted far and wide to find something I liked. Seriously, when I found these, they were on clearance for $39 each and I LOVE them….

You’ll find items all around my kitchen including (too many?) clocks and a chalkboard (with a naughty quote) hung on coffee-themed wallpaper. I change the quotes so if you come across a good one, do share it with me! And as for the clocks, when I get around to replacing the batteries in two of them, I was thinking I should set them to the time zones of a couple of my favourite places.

I have signs too….

goodmansign

I love that one. It makes me smile…cc coffee sign

But I love this one too. Courtney made it for me once. (It’s in Spanish and it’s not even on a real canvas but it’s fun and quirky and that’s why I love it. I forget what it says but it’s something to do with coffee. I must ask her again and then try to remember. Or maybe I’ll see if my Word Lens app can read it.

Check out these adorable coffee-pot themed salt and pepper shakers.

salt&pepper pots And look…

cookbooks

I even have coffee themed cookbooks. There’s just one on this shelf but I needed room for my Jamie Oliver cookbooks (love them for the photos alone!) and my coffee-themed altered book. (Do YOU know what an altered book is?)

And lastly, check this out.bizcard

This is my business card….and no, I didn’t set it in coffee. They’re made like that (by the owner of Studio G who is not only a super good graphic artist but also my sister!). By the way, I hope you don’t go to that website address listed on the back of my card. I took it down because I found it too time-consuming to keep up. I think I’m going to stick with the blog only which is much more manageable. (What would you do?)

Anyway, by now I’m sure you can see that I really do love my coffee and so I’m thrilled to recognize National Coffee Day today.

But….I WILL ALSO continue to celebrate coffee EVERY day.

Life really is too short to give up coffee and really, it’s not THAT bad for you. On that note, I’m going to go have one now.

Why don’t you take a break too and tell me about your favourite coffee?

Throwback Thursday: Algomanet New Attraction in the District

I figured I might as well join in to this “throwback Thursday” thing by posting interesting articles from the past.

So to start off, I found one I wrote back in 1997. I remember this one well. The whole thing sounds pretty silly now. It’s hard to believe that’s where we started.

Who remembers dial-up and logging in? Getting booted off? And how about ICQ? Weren’t those the days? Look how complicated it all is now? But also how amazing.

A few short months before I wrote this article, my nephew took me to a meeting at the Bruce Mines Library where they were going to talk about the Internet. I’d only gotten a computer a couple months before that so it was hard to even fathom what it was all about. After that open house, I was very excited. I’d seen some demos and tried a couple of search terms. I could see a whole new world opening up in front of me. How exciting? 

As soon as the internet became available, I signed up. I can’t even remember what it cost but I think it was fairly expensive–especially for dial-up. Of course, did dial-up matter? I had a 200 mb hard-drive–top of the line at that time!

Anyway, enough reflection, here’s that story. It’s lengthy so you may not be into reading it all. If you do (or not), please share your thoughts in the comment section.

In line with Throwback Thursday, I wanted to include a couple of photos. I don’t have the ones that accompanied this article since I didn’t have digital back then and I’m not about to go searching for the original article tonight. So instead…since it was just Thessalon Community Day a few weeks ago…let’s flash back to our family float back in 2001.

Recognize anyone?

Now, how fun was that? We used to do fun floats every year. Then our kids grew up.

Here’s another float from that year.

Ridleys

How about those cute little Ridley kids riding on their daddy’s sawmill?

Anyway, enough of that. Here’s the article which practically missed Thursday:

What’s the attraction?: It’s taking off in the District and here’s what it’s all about

Why in the world would anyone want to go on the Internet? Ever asked that question? Ever been there? If you’re one of the nearly 40 customers hooked up through AlgomaNet alone (that’s the service provider and we’ll get to them shortly) you’re already familiar with the internet — but may still find out some facts here you didn’t know.

What Is the Internet?

The Internet, often called the “net” for short or the information highway, is a network of networks that allows for sharing of information.

Randy Sweetnam, owner of WRS Communications in Bruce Mines and also one of the CAP (Community Access Program) volunteers for Bruce Mines and Area Net (BMAN) refers to the net as a “communications tool with lots of tools in it.”

Sweetnam says the net is another source of information and you have to be as critical picking out information as you are picking out a book or reading graffiti.

“The Internet is a connection of computers that gives you the ability to pull files to your computer from any other machine hooked up to the system,” says Tom Stephenson, who looks after internet support and training for the Soonet Corporation.

“It has something for anyone who has a question,” he states.

The Internet started in the 1960s as a communications network for the United States military and eventually spread to universities, information technology corporations and then to businesses, schools and individuals around the world. The term “internet” began being used in 1982 when the “internet protocol” (IP) was launched.

How Do You Get On?

Stephenson says just about any computer will work.

“Although a 386 with Windows 3.1 leaves few limitations, an old XT will still be able to do a bit but will be more text-based.”

A modem is also required to hook your computer to your phone line. Then, you need to subscribe to an Internet Service Provider (ISP). There are different types of providers including the big commercial ones like America Online, but AlgomaNet is the only commercial provider in this area that offers a local calling number.

Your provider usually supplies you with software needed to hook up to the system and once that’s installed, you’re ready to dial in.

Once you call in to the local number in Bruce Mines, you enter or “log on” to the internet.
Monthly fees vary depending on the number of hours you wish to subscribe for and extra hours are charged to your account. Soonet provides the local group with the service and subscribers actually sign up through their Sault Ste. Marie office.

Remember, being on-line ties up your phone line so call answer service or extra phone lines may be options you’d want to look at.

Another Option

If you’d like to check out the internet but don’t have a computer or don’t want to sign up yet, there are a couple of options.

Three computers are available at Bruce Mines Public Library for free public access during Library hours, says Randy Sweetnam.

As well, Stephenson says everyone is welcome to visit their Soonet office in Sault Ste. Marie for a demonstration.

“A demonstration is far more enlightening than any amount of explaining,” says Stephenson. “Experiencing first hand for yourself is the best way to find out what it’s all about.”

And Sweetnam points out that Bruce Mines Library offers one on one training on Thursdays from 3:30 to 8:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 11:30 to 3:30 p.m. He says appointments are preferred and can be made by calling the Library at 785-3370.

So What’s On The Net?

While it’s virtually impossible to explain everything that can be found on the net, imagine it as a massive library with information available in text, graphics, sound and other means.

“This is where the information is now, not at the library,” says Stephenson. “That’s not to say that libraries are becoming unnecessary. Their focus will be changing,” he says. “There will never be any comparison between reading for pleasure on a computer screen and sitting down with a good book.”

As far as the net, there are hundreds of thousands of websites accessible on as many subjects.There are sites for crafts, cooking, magazines, newspapers, job searches, schools, on-line courses, games, hobbies, statistics, government agencies, schools or any other subject you might be interested in. Each page has an address, often recognizable by the “www” at the beginning. Addresses are seen on television commercials and in print media on a regular basis.

Other tools available include e-mail or electronic mail which allows transfer of information from one computer to another or several in seconds and chat lines where you can actually talk with someone on another computer virtually anywhere. Other options are quickly learned once you have internet access.

“There are different levels of data and lots of secondary data although more and more raw data is coming,” explains Sweetnam.

AlgomaNet Homepage

When you start up the dialing process, the AlgomaNet homepage appears on your screen. Currently under reconstruction by CAP, Sweetnam says a new format of the homepage will reduce loading time and will allow them to tie marketing and an index to the front page.

Bruce Mines and Area Net (BMAN), the name chosen for the CAP project is now selling rental space on the server which allows anyone to add their own web page. Policies and costs will be posted on the new webpage which Sweetnam says they hope to have up and running by the first of April.

When you log on currently, you are greeted with the AlgomaNet welcoming screen. After a short loading time, you can scroll down the page and see an image map of the area. By clicking on various shaded areas, you bring up other pages. And although most are still under construction, the Bruce Mines and Plummer Additional area does have a variety of information on their pages.

Further down the page are a variety of search engines which will take you to the rest of the world. Once you start clicking, you’re “surfing the net”.

The Dangers of the Net

“If you think just being on the net will bring maniacs to your door, it’s not going to happen,” says Stephenson. “And no one can get in and blow your computer up, although it is possible to download viruses when downloading information from the net.”

He also says giving out information such as credit card numbers is a concern but no more than it should be handing your card over at a gas bar.

“As far as pornography, the good far outweighs the bad. It just doesn’t seem like it when the bad stuff is what makes the news,” he observes.

Stephenson says he does have concerns of children seeing things they shouldn’t.

“Parents should be aware of what their children are doing. Setting them up with a computer and internet access alone in their bedrooms is not always a good idea,” he says.

Local Problems

While things are running smoothly so far, Sweetnam and Stephenson both say they may have to look at installing more lines in the near future.

Stephenson says the ratio is usually one phone line for every 10 customers. In Sault Ste. Marie, Soonet has about 900 customers and that number is increasing rapidly. They currently have about 80 phone lines which will be increased to 94 shortly.

At AlgomaNet, there are four phone lines and nearly 40 customers.
Stephenson says the lines have a hunter capability and the busy signal works on the same basis as Bell Telephone systems. “Remember a few years ago when you couldn’t get a phone call through on Christmas Day.”

“Already there are reports of busy signals although they could be contributed partly to the novelty for the many new subscribers,” Stephenson says. AlgomaNet started in mid-November and at that time, the CAP committee said they had a goal of 20% of households being on-line in another year and a half.

That would be 80 households out of a possible 400 and they are already halfway to that goal.

Stephenson says while busy signals are often in a specific time period such as early evening, Soonet can’t base their mathematical theory on a three hour time period.

“Essentially, we need more customers to increase service,” he explains.

Several other CAP sites have been approved for funding by Industry Canada and Sweetnam says confirmation of contracts are expected in the next few days. Communities receiving approval include Iron Bridge, Thessalon, Thessalon First Nation, Richard’s Landing, Johnson Township, Laird, Tarbutt and Hilton Beach.

He says the area CAPs should be up and running by mid-March and could expect to be on line sometime between June and August.

“Each of these sites are independent and can go to other servers if they wish,” he explains.

And Stephenson says while he’s not sure where things are headed, their concern is the costs.

“It might be wise for these groups to push east to Iron Bridge as a complete network allowing the largest group possible to have local access while keeping their costs of setting up and operating down,” he says.

He estimates that up to half of the AlgomaNet customers are from the Thessalon area and says they could switch locations when Thessalon gets it’s own server.

“I’m confident a solution will be found that works for everyone,” he says.

Local Internet Courses

By the time AlgomaNet was up and running, over 90 people had been trained in two adult and two children’s internet courses. More have been held since that time and there are several scheduled for the coming weeks.

A PD Day Kids Camp will be held February 28 followed by a Children’s Computer Lab on March 8. An advanced skills course for adults will be held March 15 and a hardware workshop is scheduled for April 12. Registrations are taken at Bruce Mines Library and numbers are limited.

The CAP newsletter also suggests going to www.internic.net for information and registration for 27 free lessons through the Roadmap listserv on teaching yourself the tools of the internet.

Discover the Net

“Two of our volunteers have just discovered e-mail,” laughs Patty Stienburg, Librarian Assistant in Bruce Mines. “One is corresponding with her kids in different cities.”

She says the computers are in frequent use at the Library and says they often get requests to look up information.

“Kids use them a lot and we limit them to half hour periods when it’s busy,” she explains.

She says people come in that have never used computers and once the staff and volunteers start them off and show them what to do, they have no problems.

And Stephenson says there’s nothing to fear.

“Although the internet is most popular with younger people, more and more older people are coming on,” he says. He estimates most users range in age from the teens up to the 80s.

“People say kids are smarter. They’re not smarter. They just don’t have the fear or hesitation because someone might call them stupid.”

—end–
.And that was my contribution to Throwback Thursday.

I’ll try do it again soon.

A Man’s Search for Family Links to Nestorville

Many of you know there’s nothing I like better than the chance to write up a bit of local history and I got to do that through my recent Sault Star article. That’s because the article was about a man who’s been trying to drum up local history–especially about Nestorville where his own father was born. Don is also hoping to be able to identify a whole bunch of family photos he inherited–many of them most likely taken in Nestorville or Thessalon & Bruce Mines areas.

I discovered Don Dube’s Facebook page a few months ago after my husband mentioned him to me. (Don works at Midway Lumber.) Don’s old photos of Thessalon and area were receiving lots of comments. Not only that, other people started adding photos too and really, people, seeing all the old photos and the accompanying comment sections are just great fun to read! It finally occurred to me one day that Don had a story worthy of sharing beyond Facebook. And so that’s what I shared in Saturday’s Sault Star. If you didn’t get Saturday’s paper you probably missed it. I haven’t seen the article in the online feed for the Star yet either so I’m sharing the story here. (Did you know you can subscribe digitally if you don’t want the actual paper delivered? It’s super cheap AND you get to see the ENTIRE paper with the photos etc. exactly as they appear in the print copy!)

Back to my story; you will find the article below in a .jpg (photo) file format. If you click on each image, the article should pop out larger. Click again and you should be able to enlarge it enough to read it quite easily. Let me know if it doesn’t work for you.
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I also wanted to share a few more photos that didn’t get into the paper.

Here's Don at his home. He's standing in front of some old photos on his dining room wall. The photo on the left is his aunt, Jeannine Miller who’s now 87. The other photo  is Don’s wife Georgette’s great-great grandparents.
Don stands between old photos on his dining room wall. The photo on the left is his aunt, Jeannine Miller who’s now 87. The other photo is Don’s wife Georgette’s great-great grandparents.
A photo from a 1940 visit to Bruce Station. Pictured are (center) Harry and (right) Ulric Ulric Dubé. The other two are unidentified.
A photo from a 1940 visit to Bruce Station. Pictured are (center) Harry and (right) Ulric Ulric Dubé. The other two are unidentified.

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Harry, Don's
Here’s Don’s father Harry as a child with his father Napoleon. You can see in the top photo how Don was able to repair the damage in the original photo (below).
I love this photo of Don's grandparents aboard the ship Normac. What a lovely keepsake!
I love this photo of Don’s grandparents aboard the ship Normac. What a lovely keepsake for their family! Also of note; those houses are still standing in Nestorville.

Speaking of keepsakes, isn’t it sad to think about how our newspapers are getting smaller and smaller and probably disappearing someday. I suspect that’s why these stories no longer appear on the C1 “Weekender” section but instead are buried inside the B section. Just think…someday (soon) our kids or grandkids won’t even know that little thrill of having your picture in the newspaper. It’s an online world and as much as I love the online world, it still makes me sad to think the days of holding paper in our hands are going to end.

Anyway, read that article. Be sure to tell Don you enjoyed it and share any info with him if you have some.
And if by chance you get the Sault Star, tell them if you enjoyed the article too!

I’m sure they love to hear good things from readers.
I know I do!

All For The Love of Raspberries

Who doesn’t love raspberries?

Especially the fresh, juicy somewhat tart berries of summer!

I could have been writing the first draft of an article this afternoon but no.
Instead I decided to make a few muffins. Those raspberries were crying for me to make them into something yummy.

And so….

I mixed them up….

batter

You gotta be careful not to stir too much or the batter will turn completely red. Hence the phrase, “fold in”!

Here’s the recipe I used:

1/2 c. butter
1-1/4 c. white sugar
Cream together.

Add two eggs, one at a time.

In another bowl, mix together:
2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. allspice
pinch of salt

Add dry ingredients to butter/sugar mixture.
Add 1/2 c. milk and 1 tsp. vanilla

Fold in 1-1/3 c. fresh or frozen raspberries.
Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.

Here they are in the muffin tins.

uncooked
I like using muffin papers–partly because I’m still using papers from a sleeve I got many years ago when my mother and I cooked at a forestry camp! They are finally getting low and I’m thinking I’ll need to find another huge sleeve of them somewhere!

I don’t think this is my favourite raspberry recipe but I was too anxious to make them to keep searching. Maybe I’ll find the other one next time. These aren’t bad and they smelled super yummy.

baked

I love finding and collecting seasonal recipes so feel free to share your fave raspberry recipe with me.

I promise I’ll try it!

Pondering That Fluff Floating Around My Yard

I’m pondering what the heck is floating around my yard.
At first glance, I wanted to scream.
NOOOOO!!!!!
I thought it was snowing.
But no. It’s not snowing. It’s actually pretty warm today.
Finally.
So what is floating in the air?
It’s–
Actually. What is it?

floating
It’s hard to capture on camera in the air but can you see some of the white fluff floating?

thetrees
Here it is in the trees…

moretrees
And more in the trees!

thelawn
And on the lawn….

fluff
And here’s a closeup.

So what the heck is it anyway? Is it something caught in the trees that’s blowing off now or is it ON the trees?
We had it last year too. But not before that.
What’s your take on it?

What to do with an Indigo gift card?

I have a $25 gift card (thank you Courtney!) and I’m debating what to buy.

I could use it at Coles which is in the Sault or I could wait till I get to Toronto or Windsor or Ottawa where there’s an Indigo store (and in each place we have our special gals & fams/friends to visit too).

Or I could just spend it.

Now.

Of course, I can’t buy Kindle books at Indigo but I could get a special book. I can buy soooo many books at yard sales that I like my brand new ones to be something special. Coffee table books. Or leather journals to bring to writing group.

But no. I think I found what I want.

It’s My Paris Kitchen.

pariskitchen

By David Lebovitz. I’m already a fan of his blog.

This book is so much more than just a cookbook.

Actually you can check out The Making of My Paris Kitchen here .

You’ll see why I want it.

The book sounds fascinating.

Plus I’ve seen oodles of delicious looking recipes from it.

And Paris is on my bucket list.

So, yeah. I think that’s what I’ll buy with my gift card.

The Paris Kitchen.

What would YOU buy?

Finding It All in Puerto Vallarta

Travels to Mexico

You would think we were the only people to go anywhere if you listen to us gush about our recent trip to Puerto Vallarta. After all, people go to much farther and more exotic countries, often backpacking, touring, wintering and doing all kinds of adventures. Now that I think of it, I suspect there are some who might consider us quite unadventurous.

We go to the same place every year, stay at the same place, in the same area with no thoughts of going elsewhere. But then, we meet the people who think we are “brave” or “crazy” because we’ve made Mexico our country of choice. (Mexico is SO safe — we had discussions of misconceptions with many other travellers who feel the same as us too–but that’s another story!)

A view of our hotel lobby from the pool area
A view of our hotel lobby from the pool area

But we do think of going elsewhere. Someday. Paris is way up there and France. Istanbul. Portugal. Panama. South America–maybe Ecuador. And of course San Miguel/Guanajuato (Mexico) and maybe we’ll even try a resort in Cuba or the Dominican or something just so we can say we actually experienced an all-inclusive don’t-leave-the-resort type of place. Or maybe not. Certainly not right now.
Gerry in the loboby
Gerry in the loboby

For now, we like Puerto Vallarta and the neighbourhood in the romantic zone or the old town. And we like the three hotels that belong to the Playa family. Playa Los Arcos, Los Arcos Suites and Susanna. But you might not.
Yes, iguanas are spotted around here. They are SO harmless. They run fast to get away from humans!
Yes, iguanas are spotted around here. They are SO harmless. They run fast to get away from humans!

It all depends what you’re going for and I think that’s something you REALLY need to think about before you go. We do a time share tour or two on our trips and we shake our heads at the end of them. The resorts are beautiful. There’s no doubt. But somehow we can’t imagine staying in them with their American owners planting in the things they WANT you to see to make you feel like you’re in Mexico when in reality you could be in any resort in any city in the world. Just plant in some different culture and you’re there. Or so you think. I guess if you’re looking for all-inclusive or want to stay in one place or are more interested in luxury, they’re good. Not that I’m condemning those choices. They just aren’t ours.
An early morning view of the Los Arcos pool area from our third floor room (before the chairs were filled with people!)
An early morning view of the Los Arcos pool area from our third floor room (before the chairs were filled with people!)

No. For us, we like to be smack dab in the culture of the old town of Puerto Vallarta. The hotel we’ve been staying at-Playa Los Arcos-is not as big as some of the resort hotels but big enough. This year it was busier than we like. We often chose to go over to the Susanna for our afternoon rest/siesta/swim/visit with other travellers who usually had interesting stories to tell. The rooftop (Susanna hotel is adults only) was partial sun and partial shade and the l-shaped pool had both sun and shade too and a nice view of the ocean!
The ocean is beyond the pool. Not sure if you can fully appreciate the view in this photo.
The ocean is beyond the pool. Not sure if you can fully appreciate the view in this photo.

It was here that we met the couple who flew to Mexico City and were now travelling around by bus–on a budget–staying two or three days in each place they liked as they passed through (and they were a few years OLDER than us!). You can ask Courtney about the bus system in Mexico too. She will vouch that it is way BEYOND Greyhound in Canada! There was the couple who wondered if the Inukshuk they built up by Thunder Bay many years ago was still there. I took their email in case I can find someone to check (maybe brother Pete?). And the older woman, a socialite from Minnesota who’s been coming every year for decades, leaves her stuff like her patio umbrella in storage at the hotel each year and hosts little potluck socials on the rooftop for the friends she’s made in the town. She’s the one who INTRODUCED us to a couple from the Sault, the woman was in administration at the Sault Hospital though names have left me.
This side street is typical of the neighbourhood: vendors, restaurants, stores. Colourful. The spicy, aromatic smell of Mexican food, a blend of music and voices--a feast for the eyes, the ears and the nose for sure!
This side street is typical of the neighbourhood: vendors, restaurants, stores. Colourful. The spicy, aromatic smell of Mexican food, a blend of music and voices–a feast for the eyes, the ears and the nose for sure!

Besides the people we meet around this neighbourhood, we like that we can walk out the front entrance of our hotel and be on the street where you could walk left (through the Maximillian Restaurant) or right (through Derby Burger Restaurant–yes a BURGER restaurant!). It’s true. Many of these places are right on the street though you CAN choose to sit inside too–but why would you? Even restaurants that aren’t right on the sidewalk are all open to the air. It’s never windy, never rains. The temperature is constant. You can sit comfortably outside for a late evening dinner without even a sweater! You can sit out at a table in the sand with ocean on one side and entertainment up on the malecon on the other side. While you’re eating, it’s most unusual if you’re not approached by locals who want to perform for you for pesos–or little girls seeking pesos for their boxes which look to me like they are vying for some sort of popularity contest with photos of them in tiaras etc. I must go back and find out about that! As for the musicians, they leave–usually with a smile if you shake your head and say no. Don’t be rude or annoyed. This is how they make a living.
Los Bambinos singing to folks at a restaurant on Olas Altas.
Los Bambinos singing to folks at a restaurant on Olas Altas.

I really, really like the Mariachi bands! And, of course Los Bambinos who are the cutest thing ever. They do Beatles and their own more authentic Mexican stuff too! We went to their show at Roxy’s Rock House one night and I’ll write more about them later!
A nice ocean view from our third floor room. The hotel has four floors.
A nice ocean view from our third floor room. The hotel has four floors.

Back to Los Arcos, the hotel is clean. Old. I LOVE the shower in 305. I tell people that all the time and they are surprised. “Really?” they say. “Ours is small.” You have to find a room you like and request it. There are NO cockroaches though my neice would likely ask me if I checked for bedbugs and I didn’t because really, who wants to know. But nothing bit me, the bed was hard (to some) but felt really good. We had a view of the ocean and the pool. We barely used the room except to sleep and our maid, Jolanda was fabulous.
Pool area at night from ocean side
Pool area at night from ocean side

And so, there you have it. We aren’t resort people. We don’t do all inclusive. We didn’t even eat at our hotel once. But that’s just how we roll. Figure out your own way and do it. Really. Do it now. I wish I could. Again. Now.