Monday, December 31, 2012

Last Groceries For The Year.

Well, this week we did our last shopping for the year. For a change, I was able to go with Hubby who usually does it by himself after work. Shopping is just another chore for him but because I only go while I'm on holiday I always look forward to it. I love to go and read all the labels and squeeze all the fruit; Hubby just fumes and tries to get it over with as quick as possible!

"Grocery" shopping at Shopper's Drug Mart
This week Shopper's Drug Mart had great sales on coffee, peanut butter, paper towels and toilet paper. I saved $56.90 on just 14 items! As an added bonus they were having one of their 20X Optimum point promotions and now I am only a few points shy of saving another $60.00. It still feels weird though to be doing this kind of shopping in a drug store.

Shopper's bill
We were shopping in the Big City this week, and because it is cold outside, we were able to get to our favourite fish mart. They close so early on the weekend that we are usually not finished with our day by that timeand you really don't want to have a bag of fish sitting in a hot car for hours so we come home fishless. This week Hubby bought six pieces of salmon side fillet (enough for three meals) for about $24.00. I'm looking forward to a salmon dinner later in the week.

Yummy, yummy salmon fillets!
The rest of the shopping.
The rest of the shopping was done at the regular old grocery store and while the bill was over $108.00 it did include some expensive items like freezer bags, parchment paper, cocoa powder and corn flake crumbs. Nothing much was really on sale except for the cheese slices and the steak (4 striploins for $11.50). I'm all set now for a good start going into January. It's time to use up the freezer stuff. You know the items bought weeks ago that have migrated really far down to the bottom of the freezer. Yeah,  those items. Time for them to come to the top and get ready for menu planning. I'm not going to buy any meat for at least two weeks.

Superstore grocery bill.
I don't know about you but I  haven’t made any resolutions for 2013 because I really don’t stick to whatever plan I come up with. That in itself can feel disappointing. Lead a good life, appreciate what I have and love the people around me, that's essentially what I try to do every day anyway. So I'm going to go with that. What about you, dear reader? Have you made any resolutions, or any that you think you will be able to keep?

One thing that I am going to do next year is to try some new recipes. This week I am going to make a dish from the Pioneer Woman's site for "Zannie's Black-Eyed Pea Dip". It looks delicious and a good way to start the New Year off with some good luck from eating the black-eyed peas.

So, New Year's Eve is tonight and usually I would maybe have a visit from Granny New Years but, honestly, I have it all and don’t need anything else but love, good health and great friendships and the odd funny joke and a game to be played. C'mon Granny, bring me all that you can of that! Life is good.

Happy New Year!!!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

So, The Apocalypse Didn't Happen...

A Maritime Christmas scene
A Maritime Christmas Card by Cape Shore
So, The Apocalypse didn't happen as promised(?) by the Mayans. I guess that means that we will be able to get on with Christmas after all.

I just wanted to wish all my fellow bloggers, followers, friends and family a very Merry Christmas. May we all feel the joy and magic that this season has to bring and remember to help the less fortunate with our good will throughout the year to come.

I'm a very lucky person in that I do have a full time job which pays out a bonus in the new year. This year's bonus will go to "Because I Am A Girl" and the local humane society. Last year I gave to "Smile Train". It makes me feel good to be able to donate which is why I do but also because I think that I am responsible to do so.

I'm certain this year will be more challenging for everyone to save money as the cost of everything is on the rise. I'm going to be tweaking my budget even more, with Gail's help of course. I have a challenge for myself to pay down more on the mortgage because retirement is close for both Hubby and I.

When I first started my blog it was about the challenge of saving and paying down debt so I'm going to be writing about these ideas again and about the ways I plan to stretch our budget. The first challenge will be about shopping wiser and smarter so as not to waste any food. Now that will be tough because everyone has waste whether it be produce that went bad or unused. I'm going to try to buy less and use more of what we bring home.

Wish me luck and together we can come up with some new ways and ideas to save some bucks.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Halloween 2012

This year's selection of pumpkins are ready to be gutted.
This year's selection of pumpkins are ready to be gutted.
So, how was your Halloween? After a whole month of planning and decorating we had rain at just the wrong time. It started in mid-afternoon and continued all night. Not that it was really coming down hard, just a fine continuous mist. I'm not really sure if it was factor or not but we only had three groups of trick-or-treaters for a total of eight kids. They all came by car so I'm sure that they didn't get too wet. It was a bit anticlimactic for us though. We were prepared for about twenty or so and now we have all this leftover candy and chips sitting around the house. Who do you suppose will have to eat it all?
Our Halloween display in all its glory!
Our Halloween display in all its glory!

 We didn't need the kids, we had fun anyway. Hubby was on vacation the week of Halloween so he was able to get all the pumpkins gutted the day before and they had a chance to warm up before carving time. I hate working on them if they have just come in from outside. Brrrrr! We carved five pumpkins this year. I did my traditional "Miss Kitty" and he did an owl, a spider face, a toothy guy and the moons and stars. They took a long time but it was worth the effort. Miss Kitty was the most talked about again this year. Poor Hubby, some day he will carve a pumpkin the kiddies like.
The pumpkin seeds were nice and plump. They made great Devil Seeds!
The pumpkin seeds were nice and plump. They made great Devil Seeds!
 The October woodcraft.
The "October" woodcraft got finished the day before Halloween.
One thing that we appreciated this year was the size of the pumpkin seeds. They seemed to be extra plump for some reason. Maybe the pumpkins were a new variety or maybe it was due to the hot dry summer but the seeds were nice and fat. They made great Devil Seeds. I'll probably be eating them until Christmas!

We've been busy in the craft room again lately. Hubby made this cute October sign from a design we found on the net. It turned out pretty nicely but it was almost November before it got finished. I'll give it another week or so until I pack it away for next year.

I'll leave you with a few more pictures of this year's crew. Bye for now.

Almost ready to go outside for their début.
Almost ready to go outside for their début.
"Miss Kitty 2012"
"Miss Kitty 2012"
"Spider Face" and "The Owl"
"Spider Face" and "The Owl"

"Snaggle Tooth"
"Snaggle Tooth"
Okay, now let's have some kiddies!
Okay, now let's have some kiddies!
Thanks, fellas. You did a great job!
Thanks, fellas. You did a great job!

Glowing together for the last time.
Glowing together for the last time.

In the sunshine the next day.
In the sunshine the next day.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

My Vegetable Garden

So, it’s been awhile, hasn’t it? What’s been going on? Well not much to tell the truth. We’ve been busy with life and I guess I’ve been ignoring The Witch’s Island a bit too much. Thanks to those of you have kept in touch anyway.

The vegetable garden in August 2012, just before the harvest started.
It was a fantastic season for the vegetable garden this year. Lots of sunshine and heat, the plants loved it. Everything produced very well and we had so much that we couldn’t use it all and ended up setting up a table at the end of the driveway to give away the excess. The neighbours seemed to appreciate the gesture and we even received a nice thank-you note from one of them.

The onions were huge this year.
In my last post I mentioned that I had bought most of my seeds from Heritage Harvest Seed. Well their stuff worked great. We planted some of everything I listed except the Steeve’s Caseknife and Jacob’s Cattle beans. There just wasn’t enough room to get those in so they will have to wait until next year. Just about every single seed from Heritage germinated and grew into healthy plants. I always plant more than I intend to grow because there are usually some plants that die but these ones beat the odds. I had so many starters that I was begging my friends to take some. I still ended up putting some healthy little plants on the compost heap. What a shame, but I’ll know not to start so many next spring!

That's one BIG Tomato!
That's one BIG Tomato!
Just about every single seed from Heritage germinated and grew into healthy plants. I always plant more than I intend to grow because there are usually some plants that die but these ones beat the odds. I had so many starters that I was begging my friends to take some. I still ended up putting some healthy little plants on the compost heap. What a shame, but I’ll know not to start so many next spring!

Another thing I learned was that four rows of tomatoes are way too many tomato rows! Even in a poor year it would have been too many and it prevented me from putting in some other things like more beans. Next year I’m going to keep it down to just 2 rows.

Even the ceramic owl seems surprised that that tomato weighs almost a kilogram!
Even the ceramic owl seems surprised that that
 tomato weighs almost a kilogram!
I taste-tested all the tomatoes as they ripened but I never did really manage to find a favourite variety. There was obvious differences in size and shape but they all tasted great. I guess if I had to pick I would choose the Bonny Best, Uncle Joe and Sylvan Guame varieties but they were all fantastic!

We used as many of the tomatoes as we could. I made mustard pickles, hot dog relish and even some home-made spaghetti sauce and I ate a lot of cheese and tomato sandwiches this year! I'm going to miss them this winter when all I can get are hot-house tomatoes from the grocery store.

The rest of the garden turned out great as well. It looked pretty, too. Everything was so lush and full that it was hard to get down the rows to do the weeding. I guess that's a good problem to have!

The Red Peanut beans ripened very early and we put them into the potting shed to dry and then shell. we had about 12 or 15 plants (half a row) and they produced a total of about three pounds of dried beans.I haven't eaten any of them yet but we will be baking them this winter. Mmmm...

All the tomatoes from Heritage Harvest Seeds did very well and were heavy producers.
All the tomatoes from Heritage Harvest Seeds did very well and were
heavy producers.

This was the first time I tried planting Asparagus Peas from Vesey's. The description sounded intriguing:  

"Tasty and attractive addition to your garden. Small winged pods taste similar to asparagus when steamed and topped with butter Red blooms make this plant attractive as well. Low growing and spreading. Continues to produce pods throughout the season. Can be started indoors or planted outside once all chance of frost has passed" 
The plants were very attractive and they were still producing blossoms and fruit right up until the end of October when we cleaned out the garden. They were unusual to eat and were best when they were very young. I will probably put them in again next year just because they looked so nice.

The Asparagus Peas were still blooming late into the year.
So besides the garden, what was I doing this summer? With all the beautiful weather I spent as much time at the beach as I could. The new beach tent worked great and went up and down easily and quickly. It made it so much more comfortable the the old umbrella could have.

I also started geo-caching again and even hid one of my own for the first time. It's a fun hobby and it gets us out of the house and exploring in out of way back roads.

Hubby put the final touches on the gazebo. He added power outlets and a couple of strands of rope lights and then panelled the privacy walls with some nice pine boards. It's a beautiful place now to sit in the evening and watch the world go by.

I guess that that's enough news for now. I'll save the rest for the next time, hopefully it won't be six more months before I write again, but, just in case, Merry Christmas! Haha!

Here are a few more pictures, enjoy!

These are the edible portion of the Asparagus Peas. They look like green
beans with wings and they do taste like asparagus if you cook them right.
We dried the pods in the potting shed and then shelled the beans. They do
indeed look like red peanuts!
We stripped off most of the foliage late in the summer to encourage all the stragglers to ripen.
We stripped off most of the foliage late in the summer to encourage
all the stragglers to ripen.
The Sylvan Guames were not only huge but they were also very meaty and had very few seeds.
The Sylvan Guames were not only huge but they were also very meaty
and had very few seeds.
Here are five more varieties. There were definitely differences in texture, size, shape and the number of seeds.
Here are five more varieties. There were definitely differences in texture,
size, shape and the number of seeds. 
These are Uncle Joes. We used this variety while they were green to make Vera's Mustard Pickles.
These are Uncle Joes. We used this variety while they were green to
make Vera's Mustard Pickles. 
Forme-de-Coeur were nicely heart shaped as suggested by their name.
Forme-de-Coeurs were nicely heart shaped as suggested by their name.
The Forme-de-Coeurs were beautiful inside as well.
The Bisons were a good size for sandwiches.
Harbingers produced early and had lots of fruit.
The Silvery Fir Tree tomatoes had very distinct foliage on the plants.
The tomatoes were very tasty, too!
 These are Black Hungarian peppers. They produced very well.
The Matchbox peppers were very hardy. They were one of the last things
to come out of the garden this fall.
The Red Peanut beans were harvested when the pods turned bright red.

The Banana Spiders were back this year. They seem to be around whenever
the weather gets very hot and dry.
The gazebo was FINALLY finished this year! It got some
 interior panelling, electricity outlets and lights.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Martha Stewart Arrives On The Witch's Island

So it’s spring again and we’re finally getting out of the winter doldrums. Mind you, it was a great winter here, at least weather-wise and spring came early but the temperatures have been fluctuating like crazy. We had 20 degrees C in February and snow in April, Saturday was 32 C and today it is 10. It’s been hard to figure whether to get the garden under way or to wait for a bit. Last year I started my tomatoes and peppers way too early and by the time I got them in the garden they were very tall and spindly. I ended up restarting a lot of them and I swore I wouldn’t make that mistake again this year. I held myself back as long as I could but it does seem like spring is at least a couple of weeks early so I started them anyway. Let’s all pray that there is no frost in June!

Not that frost is the only thing to worry about. Our entire tomato crop was destroyed by late blight last year and we didn’t get more than 2 or 3 tomatoes from 40-some plants. What a shame as the plants were doing very well until the blight hit. So, this year we are going to mix things up a bit. We’re going to put the tomatoes at the other end of the garden away from the infected rows and we’re going to try a new supplier for the seeds.

Our order arrived about 10 days after being placed.
The packages are plain and simple. Let’s hope that the plants are more specatular.

I found out about Heritage Harvest Seed while reading a post about seeds on the Canoe Corner blog. They specialize in “rare and endangered vegetables, flowers and herbs.” and they had dozens of different varieties of tomatoes alone! The descriptions for some were so compelling that I had to try them. As an example here is the blurb for “Sylvan Guame”:
“An old heirloom from Canada that was obtained from an elderly man in his 80s. The original seed was from Russia. This excellent variety produces gigantic red oxheart shaped fruit. My largest was 3lbs and that was during a dry year! The fruit are not only large but delicious. My absolute favorite large fruited tomato. Indeterminate, regular leaf foliage. (80 days) EXTREMELY RARE. Highly recommended!”
How could a person resist? It was very difficult to pick out only a few types to try so I just went nuts and ordered 8 and then they threw in another for free! Oh, and 3 types of beans and 2 different peppers. What am I going to do with 9 different varieties of tomato, you say? Please don’t ask such difficult questions while I’m busy planting.

Here is a list of what we got for about $54.00 including shipping:


  • Sylvan Gaume 
  • Harbinger 
  • 42 Days 
  • Forme de Coeur 
  • Fireball 
  • Silvery Fir Tree 
  • Bonny Best 
  • Bison 
  • Uncle Joe’s – free 
  • Steeves Caseknife 
  • Red Peanut 
  • Jacob’s Cattle 
  • Matchbox Chilli 
  • Black Hungarian

Look, a whole garden’s worth of peppers and pumpkins are growing on my windowsill.
It sure didn’t take long for the seeds to germinate and now I’m hoping that they don’t get to spindly before I can transplant them.

Spring is all about getting back outdoors after the long winter and to me that means in part that lobsters are back on the menu. I’m not a big steak eater but I love Surf and Turf. This little canner was just the perfect size. Hubby took it out to the back deck to break it up for me so that the juices didn’t stink up the kitchen. The body and shells all went out into the trees as a treat for the birds and foxes.

One small canner is all I need for my first taste of lobster this year.
It is also time to get out into the gazebo and see if all the effort the last two summers was worth it because blackfly season has arrived with a vengeance.

So far, so good, the little bastards are staying out but we need something to sit on. We looked all of last summer and the best furniture set we found was the “Lanfair 4 Piece Conversation Set” from Martha Stewart Living . Yes, Martha has come to visit The Witch’s Island and it looks like she might just stay awhile!

The Lanfair set came in one big box in disassembled form. It really is amazing just how tightly packed in it was. We spent one whole afternoon putting it all together and it came out all right. There were a few bent tabs and some pieces didn’t align quite right but we managed to make it work. Also, the fabric cover on the cushions was different than is shown on the box and the display set in the store. Those were a solid green but ours have a subtle striped pattern (which we actually like better).

Here’s Martha arriving on the back of our John Deere.
The picture on the box showed a different material on the cushions.
Even the tools needed to put it together were included in the box.
Here are all the pieces spread out and ready for assembly.
The first chair is done after an hour’s work to get it square and level.
The chairs were finished just in time for a union-mandated beer break.
We’ve also been out to the nurseries again and this time we came home with a “Yellowbird” magnolia, a “Honey Crisp” apple and a hybrid apple tree which has 5 different varieties on one trunk. We were just going to put in the Honey Crisp but it needs a second different type of apple to pollinate properly. We have lots of wild apple trees around the yard but just to be sure we got the hybrid one to keep the Honey Crisp company.

Hubby is planting my Honey Crisp apple tree. We’re soon going to run out of space for trees in the back yard.
Red Delicious, Yellow Delicious, Granny Smith, Gala and Red Macintosh all on one tree!
Just to finish off, here’s a really quick and easy dessert recipe that takes almost zero effort. Get yourself a package of frozen tart shells and bake them (empty) according to the directions on the box. When they are cool just fill them with some key lime flavour “Oikos” Greek yoghurt from Danone and then sprinkle the top with a bit of graham cracker crumbs. One 100ml tub of yoghurt will fill 3 shells. Key lime tarts, mmmmmm.

Oikos Greek yoghurt.
Key lime tarts. Very tasty.