Monday, June 30, 2008

the kite runner and other summer reading


I finished reading The Kite Runner last night, in a reading marathon. I started when Phillip went to bed, and I couldn't even put it down during 'How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?' (It is the only show I've made a point to watch, like, ever. We usually only have the TV on for movies, which works out to be, oh, a few times a month. We're radio folks.) I haven't done that in a VERY long time. I stayed up until 11:00 and the book was done (wild, I know!) Here are my scattered thoughts.

It's always refreshing to be reminded that we're all human, and this book certainly did that. It's an incredibly quick read, which often (for me, anyway) means that a book isn't that good, just plot driven and fast. This story was completely engaging from beginning to end. The characters were thoroughly developed, but not in that fake way where you're reading along and thinking "Oh, the author is developing this character." All of the events were woven together in such a way that it felt like real life. Details were described so vividly that you really felt that you were there and observing the events unfold, but not in so much detail that it was distracting. The writing was pleasantly clear and succinct. I also found two typos in the copy I was reading. It's so satisfying to find typos in a printed book. It's also a disturbing book, and I almost didn't choose it for summer reading because of this. But since I borrowed it from a friend a few months ago, I thought it was high time I returned it. To sum up: highly recommended. And apparently there's a movie from 2007 as well. I don't know if I could watch it, both because of the events in the book, and also because I feel as though I've already watched it. I don't know if I want to let go of the movie of it I have in my head. Isn't it funny when you're reading a book and you picture events happening in places similar to those you're familiar with in real life, but it's this unconscious dream-like sort of thing where you have to make a point about thinking about it before you realize that's the case? Anyway, I'm rambling. My apologies for publishing this accidentally before it was finished. Next up is In Defense of Food and East of Eden (I've already read it, but feel the need to again. Another human book.) Happy summer reading!

roses


Some of our roses are in bloom. Once again, I wish you could smell them! You can tell from the light in the picture what kind of day it is here - foggy and kind of gloomy. And windy.

All of the advanced orders have been shipped, and I had some time to tidy and organize some soap things this weekend, which feels very good. It's my first weekday of summer vacation, which is always really satisfying, too. I think I'll take P to the library this afternoon. I'm sure he'll say 'buh, buh, buh' (book) many times over.

Friday, June 27, 2008

school's out for summer!

Yay! All of the details have been squared away until September - I'm on holiday! From my non-soap work, that is. I'll be busy this weekend, packing up advanced soap orders for the perfectly cured bars which were ordered earlier in June. Then a craft fair in Wedgeport the next weekend to prepare for. Did you catch that, locals? On Sunday July 6, I'll have a table at the Fire Hall in Wedgeport. I'll have all kinds of goodies, gift baskets, and other wonderful things. I'll post pictures once they're all set, so you can know what to be excited for. Happy weekend!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

swimming

For his birthday, we bought Phillip a giant inflatable turtle for swimming. Not usually the sort of thing we go for (being giant and plastic and such), but we bought it anyway. And Phillip loves it! His feet hang down in the water through leg holes, and he can splash around without tipping, as you can see below. His funny expression in the picture is because he was watching some other kids playing.


video
Here are the Coconut Salt Bars I mentioned - they look, smell, and feel amazing. I'm pleased!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

poppies


I finished up the last of my reports for work today! One more long list of things to get through this week, and it's summer! I just made another batch of Island Coconut Salt Spa Bars tonight; this time I'll cut them before they're hard as rock. Happy Tuesday!

Monday, June 23, 2008

ants + peonies = ?

Can someone explain to me why the peony buds are always covered in ants? Always! Okay, I couldn't wait for a response, so I googled. Apparently the buds secrete nectar which ants are attracted to, and once the blooms open, the nectar (and ants) are gone. There you go!

As long as there aren't any ants in my pasta salad, I'm happy. This is a very simple and delicious summer meal. We usually use whole wheat pasta, but had white on hand, for some reason. Anyhoo, toss in some cubed cheese, frozen peas, green onion or chive, and whatever else you like. Mix up a dressing of a blop of mayo, salt, pepper, a splash of olive oil, parmesan, and lots of garlic powder, mix, and voila!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

bike ridin'



Phillip went for his first bike ride today! A friend loaned us this nifty (and delightfully safe) seat for him on Adam's bike. The three of us rode around for a bit and stopped in to visit some friends. Phillip adored being on the bike. This could make for some very efficient errand-running this summer!
video

Saturday, June 21, 2008

first haircut

Before...
during...

and after!

And you were right, it is strawberry shortcake. Adam took the pics of Phillip and constructed the dessert, while I took its picture.

strawberries and biscuits


Adam made these beautiful biscuits this morning. We went to the Farmer's Market and bought some local strawberries, too! They are absolute heaven. Guess what we might be having for dessert today?

happy first day of summer from a little monkey

Guess where I could have possibly found this adorable monkey hat? (Brand new, by the way.) Frenchy's, of course. Phillip loves it.
This is a Caesar salad we've been making lately. Adam has a modified top secret recipe (it's not really top secret, but I don't know where he put the piece of paper) for a delicious dressing sans eggs, and it includes homemade croutons (from homemade bread, of course) and bbq chicken. Very summery, and very delicious. Homemade croutons are very simple, and much better than store bought. Just toss a bit of olive oil in with bread cubes, and add whatever seasonings tickle your fancy. I love garlic, so we loaded on the garlic powder. Toast on a baking sheet at 375-ish for 15 minutes or so, with a little stir every now and then, and you're all set.

Speaking of delicious, I was in Shelburne for work yesterday, and a co-worker and I went to a fabulous little place called Charlotte Lane Cafe and Crafts for lunch. I had heard of it many times, but as it's only open in the summer, I had never been in. It's a gift shop and restaurant, both of which were delightful. Speaking of delightful, I was so happy to see that they carry Gwen of Desideratum's jewelry, as well as Jennifer of Hunter Street Silver's things! I bought a couple of gifts, and had an incredible lunch. The prices are better than reasonable, the service is excellent, the food is real, delicious, food, the decor is fun and well put-together. I enjoyed a tomato and cucumber sandwich with sundried tomato cream cheese, along with an arugula, belgin endive and goat cheese salad with Canadian bacon and beet vinaigrette. Oh my, it was heavenly. Along with fresh squeezed lemonade, and a dessert of chai tea and an English dessert cake. I can't recommend it highly enough! Really, it was amazing.

Only one week of work left before summer!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

DO NOT buy anything from Well Naturally

I've been duped, and I feel very silly. But in the interest of helping fellow soapers, I'll share a little story.

At the beginning of June, I placed an online order with Well, Naturally, based in Surrey, BC and run by Mary Robinson. It was for soap supplies. My credit card was charged on June 4, and after hearing nothing from Mary or her cats (I'll get to that in a second) about shipping, I sent an e-mail asking about the order status. Nothing. So a week or so later, I e-mailed again. Still nothing. I think I e-mailed a third time, nothing, then decided to call last night. According to her voicemail, "the cats are terrible at taking messages", and apparently so is her machine, as it is full.

Before I placed the order, I did a very quick search and no huge red flags went up, but apparently I should have googled "well naturally complaints". I'm thunking myself on the forehead for not checking with the Better Business Bureau before ordering from a new company - their rating there is unsatisfactory.

Edited to add: I contacted my credit card company, and they can do a charge-back once 30 days have passed with no delivery of goods. I will definitely be changing my credit card number! I'm glad that I don't have to pay, but it REALLY upsets me that people do stuff like this. I like to think that people can be trusted. Argh.

At ripoffreport.com there are lots of complaints from other people who have had similar experiences.

Please do not order anything from Well Naturally!

Some WONDERFUL Canadian suppliers about whom I have nothing but good things to say are Cranberry Lane and New Directions. Very professional, prompt, and they have great selection.

Update: June 21, 2008: Mary e-mailed me today to say that I should go ahead and do the charge-back, as she is dealing with cancer and chemo. I would like to believe her, but I kind of just, well, don't. I will be doing the charge-back, though - does she think that by telling me that, that I'm just going to say "Oh, you poor thing - just keep my money." Umm, no. I will be writing back to tell her that if that is indeed the case, she should at the very least delete her website.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

frilly flowers

I think pansies are very honest looking flowers. Once they're open, they're kind of like, "Yup. Here I am, this is me. Nothing to hide here." These ones got a bit of a pounding in a short rainstorm today, but they're not too much worse for the wear.

Monday, June 16, 2008

i scream, you scream, we all scream for... well, it's gone

Homemade strawberry ice cream. Every molecule of it is absolute perfection. And I'm not exaggerating.
And this cute little number is our Donvier, in which we can make said perfection in approximately 20 minutes. You can still make it without the Donvier - check out these instructions. Here's the recipe:

1 egg
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup whipping cream
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 cup mashed fruit

Whip eggs and sugar together until creamy. Stir in remaining ingredients and freeze according to ice cream maker instructions. Be prepared to eat the entire batch and not regret a single gram of fat.

carrot soap and basil

It seems that I'm on a bit of an herb theme this week. I have these sweet little basil shoots growing on the windowsill in a pot I love.

And this is the Happy Carrot Complexion Soap I posted right after it was unmolded. I think the honeycomb pattern would be fantastic on a honey or beeswax soap.

The excitement of my day was having the very talented Pia Jane Bijkerk post about my soap! Check it out here. If that's not enough to make you click through, she lives on a houseboat. In Amsterdam. Ha! I knew that would make you take a peek.

We're off to out kayaking lesson this evening, yipeeee!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

chives

I love chives. Their blooms are beautiful (and edible) and they couldn't be an easier herb to grow. I took several pictures I like, so there will be more coming. Two recipes I'm itching to try:

Red Potato Salad with Sour Cream and Chives

Asparagus with Sesame and Chive Blossoms

For those of you concerned about the state of our MacBook, it's apparently not a problem with the hard drive, but with inverter. They replaced the motherboard for good measure. It should be back to us early this week. Better than new, I hope.

I spent some time in the yard today, mowing and trimming and digging and weeding and watering a tiny bit. Very enjoyable. P and I went for a walk, which he loved (especially the cat that crossed our path), and we had yummy naan pizza for supper. A delightful day. Oh! And we had a delicious waffle breakfast to celebrate Father's Day. Happy Father's Day, Adam. You really are the very best dad to Phillip.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

lavender honey facial scrub

I whipped up this lavender honey facial scrub this afternoon. It's a blend of brown sugar, grapeseed oil, honey, and lavender essential oil. It smells divine - I can't wait to try it out!

Friday, June 13, 2008

soapwort and soap

My soapwort is blooming! I saw these little blossoms peeking up this evening, and it took me a minute to remember what I had planted in that spot. There's no scent, but they are so dainty and cute, it doesn't really matter. I tidied up our vegetable bed and planted a couple tomato plants, watered a bit (it's been stangely dry and warm here lately) and did a little weeding after Phillip went to bed. It's so nice that the days are long enough to do that!
What is this? Only the most brilliant inspiration to hit this brain in awhile. Think baking, only soapier.
Does this help?
What about this? Okay, here's what I did. I was having a terrible time getting my round soaps out of my tube mold, so I was lining them with parchment paper. Which worked not-too-badly, but it left wrinkles all around the edges and was tricky to wrestle s I poured the soap in. So I bought a silicone baking mat, rolled it into the tube mold, filled it with a batch of Happy Carrot Complexion Soap, and voila! It came out very easily, and unwrapped like a dream. Next time I think I'll put the smooth side in, although I do like the honeycomb pattern.

Happy weekend! (I only have two weeks left of work before summer holidays, yipeeeeeeeee!)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

oddities

We bought this BBQ lighter this week. Heh heh.
A fun bulletin board I picked up at Frenchy's - pictures and notes and such just tuck in behind the ribbons.
An adorable apple print on a very short skirt. I'm not sure what it will end up being (any ideas?), but I loved it too much to leave it there.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

calla lilies




Calla lilies are not my favourite flowers (I much prefer peonies and lily of the valley) but Adam loves them. They are very elegant, which might have something to do with my indifference, as I am most certainly and definitely inelegant. Oh my, am I ever. Cheerful, energetic, and cute are the words people generally use to describe me. Which is probably why I've always wished I was tall and willowy and graceful - we all want to be something we're not, don't we? It also might by why I always assume that people I respect and admire whom (is that correct grammar, BIL? I never did get that one straight) I have not met in person are taller than I am. It's a strange thing.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

teacup treasure



Sweet little teacup, n'est-ce pas? 15 cents. Not bad at all.

Monday, June 09, 2008

finally, some more garden goodness

The tulips are almost gone. This ruffled wonder is hanging on for a little while longer.
The peonies are well on their way, and I am thrilled!


Fuschias are kind of showy, and especially this colour combination. Which I usually wouldn't go for, but I knew that Phillip would like them. And he does.
The peas are coming along nicely.As is the lettuce.

Ahh, lily of the valley. I wish you were here and could dig some up to take home with you. They spread like mad, and smell divine.
As much as I don't really care for dandelions in our yard (and Adam's done a great job at keeping on top of digging them up), I do think the seeds are beautiful and very well designed.

Adam and I went for our first beginner kayaking class tonight. It was a lot of fun, and perfect weather. It was 33 degrees here with the Humidex this afternoon, which is almost unheard of. On the lake this evening, it had cooled down a bit, and there was a perfect breeze to keep the bugs at bay. We had a lovely time. Adam and I ended up in the 2 person kayak because they were one boat short. I don't understand why they filled more spaces than they have for boats, but it wasn't that big of a deal. Oh yeah, and the instructor fell off of the dock and into the water as she was instructing. Which was funny, but in that sort of awkward way, and only once you knew that she's okay.

Other updates: our computer was sent for repairs again today. Sheesh. Junebugs are bouncing off of the windows as I type. Weekend Etsy orders for non-advance things have been shipped. J at the post office is the model of efficiency, as well as my hero. He didn't even flinch when I rolled in at 8 this morning with two tote bags full of packets to ship.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

i was going to... (or, caramelized onion, arugula, and goat's cheese pizza)

post a terrific picture I took of the caramelized onion, arugula, and goat's cheese pizza I made the other night.

But our computer died. Again.

I have all of my soap things backed up, and I have another computer I am using right now, but some of my pictures are inaccessible on the other Mac. Phooey. Mac's aren't supposed to die! Ingrid was kind enough to bring hers over, as I needed to print some labels from our external drive and this Windows beast won't open those files properly. So thanks, Ingrid!

In other news, I'm a busy gal this weekend, packing up soaps which have sold in my Etsy shop. Oh, did you hear? I'm this weekend's featured seller!

Until the picture is available again, here' the recipe for the pizza, from the latest issue of The Herb Companion. It's delicious, beautiful, and simple to make.

Ellie Krieger's Arugula, Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Pizza

1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced in half moons
4 cups arugula, rinsed, dried, and coarsely chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper
4 whole wheat tortillas (I made real dough in the bread machine)
2 ounces fresh goat's cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat.
2. Add onion and cook, stirring, until edges are golden and browned, 10 to 12 minutes.
3. Add arugula and cook about 1 minute, until it's wilted. Season with s&p.
4. Place tortillas on baking sheet. To each with arugula mixture. Crumble goat cheese over each.
5. Bake until tortillas are crisp and cheese is slightly melted, about 10 minutes.
6. Let cool a few minutes, cut into wedges and serve.

Enjoy! I really liked this one cold, but that might not be everyone's cup of tea. Happy Saturday!

Friday, June 06, 2008

i'm an Etsy featured seller!


Here it is in print: at 1:00 Atlantic time today, I’m going to be on Etsy’s main page as the featured seller! There’s a picture of me (thanks, Adam!) and a little interview. Ill be on the main page for a couple of days, and there is also an archive of featured sellers where the picture and interview will remain. I’m very excited, and hope that you all check out my shop! I’m anticipating some extra sales, so I have decided to list soaps which I have curing as advance orders - they will be shipped when they’ve finished curing.

I can be contacted through Etsy conversations, or by e-mail at info (at) birchbarksoap (dot) com

Happy lathering!