Wednesday, April 29, 2009

change is in the air

Another willow picture for you, for this momentous occasion.

I've been thinking for awhile that I need to change things up here at Frenchy's Finds. A new name, primarily, that better fits with what I post. Although I'm always coming home with Frenchy's goodies, many aren't that exciting, and what I do post is often in amongst garden pictures, recipes, and pics of the babe. And it has always driven me a little bit crazy that the blog address is frenchyfinds, while the blog name is frenchy's finds. That 's' has been nagging for too long.

And so, I have a new blog to announce! I thought that Spring would be a fabulous time for a fresh start. I'm actually importing all of the posts from this blog, too, so you'll be able to search for that perfect bread recipe or tips for forcing branches, all over at my new blog,

Twenty-two Pleasant

I will leave this blog as is, so that links from others to posts in my archives will still work. So please, update your Reader and blogroll links, and come on over to Twenty-two Pleasant for a cup of tea!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

recipe-a-week # 15: spaghetti with tomatoes and peppers

I'm a little bit late with this recipe; the baby shower and visiting with my sister took up much of my time this week. Better late than never!

This is a delicious, quick meal. I chose it in order to use things up that I had on hand, so I ended up modifying the original recipe quite significantly. As you can see, when I made this, I didn't use penne. Or two tomatoes. And I added in some yellow and red pepper, because it was starting to soften. The original recipe, from Everyday Food is here, and is also in the May 2009 issue of the magazine. And here's my version:

Spaghetti with Tomatoes and Peppers

6 ounces mozzarella, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
salt and pepper
12 ounces spaghetti (I used a mix of white and whole wheat)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
1 red or yellow pepper, sliced (or half of each)
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1/4 cup snipped chives

1. Place cheese in freezer. In a large pot of boiling water, cook pasta until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water; drain pasta and set aside.

2. In pasta pot, heat oil over medium-high. Saute garlic slices for one minute; add peppers and saute until slightly softened. Add tomatoes and pasta water, and cook until tomatoes are softened, 2 to 4 minutes.

3. Add pasta, chilled cheese, and chives to pot. Season with salt and pepper, and toss to combine. Enjoy!

I also wanted to share some bread trials for the best recipe ever with you. I tried making it with half spelt flour last week, and it turned out pretty well. The dough is quite runny and a little bit difficult to manoeuvre, but the bread turns out well. Nice and crusty, and the bread itself is a little bit sticky to the touch. I think I might try with 2 cups white, and 1 cup spelt next time, to see if that helps. Right now, I have a loaf on the go with 2 cups white, and 1 cup whole wheat. It turned out perfectly!

Hope you're having a fantastic weekend.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

happy mailbox

These have nothing to do with the mailbox. I picked them this afternoon after work. Also after buying some at the grocery store, since despite all of my ditch-stalking as I drove for work, I hadn't found any. Until right after I paid for some, of course. These ones that I picked are much nicer than the store ones.

This has more to do with the mailbox! Jen, The Wool Fairy, and I did a swap this week. She's right here in Nova Scotia, and has a blog here, and an Etsy shop, here. She makes these adorable wool vegetables, which Phillip loves. The 'salad' (lettuce leaves in the bowl) are today's favourite. I love Jen's presentation, too - especially the stamp on the berry box. Brilliant! Thanks, Jen!

Does this fabric look familiar? The very talented Austen, who had that fantastic project in Canadian Living, made the bag from this material, and was sweet and kind enough to offer to send me some when I gushed over how great I think it is! I can't wait to whip up one of those bags. She's also just started a brand new craft blog, Make & Do, over at Canadian Living. It's definitely worth checking out, especially since there's a giveaway going on over there right now. (I shouldn't even tell you, since I really want that book, but in the interest of being kind, I will.)

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

spiced hot chocolate

I don't often post other people's photos, but a) it's too dark and gloomy to take one of my own tonight, and b) I haven't actually made this yet. The photo is from here. I came across the recipe in The Naturally Scented Home, a book which I was completely pleasantly surprised by. It's definitely worth borrowing from the library, for the information and recipes for herbs and spices for both culinary and beauty purposes. I was especially excited for this one, because it calls for cardamom, my spice du jour. It seems like a wintry, cold-weather kind of recipe, but even though it's April, it fits today perfectly since it's been pouring rain for a few days and I feel soggy around the edges.

Spiced Hot Chocolate

Add a small stick of cinnamon, a little grated nutmeg and 3 cardamom pods to 600mL (1 pint) of milk. Warm very gently, taking off the heat just before it boils. Leave to infuse for 5 minutes. Remove cinnamon and cardamom pods and add grated chocolate (the recipe doesn't specify how much). Stir until melted over gentle heat. Pour into bowls and top with whipped cream and a sprinkling of grated chocolate.

baby shower



The baby shower for my sister last night was lovely. Lots of our family were able to be here, including piles of kids, so it was relaxed and fun and so very, very nice to see everyone. A few times, I just kind of sat back and was delighted to have our house full of people we love, all together to celebrate a brand new little person about to arrive in the world. There is nothing more exciting than that.

Monday, April 20, 2009

lemons and little house in the suburbs

Hello, lemon! I think you just might end up in some lemon bars for tomorrow night's baby shower. If I have enough time, that is. If not, maybe I'll use one of these suggestions.

Today, Blogger tells me that this is post #928, so you can disregard yesterday's message.

I found a new favourite blog today! It's Little House in the Suburbs, and it's full of fun DIY projects to try. First on my list: Quick Stick Deodorant. And for fellow gardeners out there, newspaper seedling pots and how to build a seedling tray. Oooh, and if your sink drain is in trouble, here's a very natural and effective way to clean it out! And on, and on. Have fun browsing around!

I'll be back with shower pics in a couple of days!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

post 963 & soap tidbits


Wow, this is my 963rd post! Speaking of numbers, I'll be hitting the 300 mark soon (I hope it's soon - I'm currently at 293) for the number of soaps sold from my Etsy shop! The person who orders the 300th bar will be getting some extra goodies with their order, just so you know.

I'm in the process of updating my Birch Bark Soap blog, and will be making a few more minor changes as I figure out how to do what I want, with help from Adam. Have a peek! I just posted a tutorial on making round bars and loofah soaps, so you just might learn something new.

I'm off to get a loaf of the best bread ever started, and to continue cleaning up in the kitchen. The ceiling is done, leaving a fine film of drywall dust in its wake. My afternoon was spent cleaning and scrubbing and wiping down the kitchen, which was really kind of fun. I also made soap and did up that tutorial, so I think I'll be relaxing a bit tonight.

Have a great week!

Friday, April 17, 2009

grandma's collectables and cardamom cookies

In the course of a search for a perfect little jar for solid perfume (which I did not find), I did find this fantastic little marmalade crock at Grandma's Collectables, a funny little shop near Weymouth with just about everything antique-y and collectable and old that you could imagine. I'm a little bit giddy over it. Next time I go, I want much more time and my camera.
I also found these jars. I know, I know. Why on earth would I need more glass jars? Because these ones have the glass centre piece in the top, along with the metal ring. Fantastic! I have semi-specific plans for these ones, once they've been washed up and moved from the top of the washer.
And I found this cute little biscuit cutter, too.
To use some of my cardamom, I wanted to make something where it would be the main flavour. So I made these cookies. I wasn't expecting the lemony taste that cardamom has. All of the spiciness and warmth, yes, but not that citrus-y tang. It makes sense since it's in the ginger family, and the recipe is pretty good. Not amazing or earth shattering, but definitely decent.

Speaking of baking, I heard Michael Ruhlman on the radio this afternoon, talking about his book Ratio. I must say that I'm intrigued. The idea is that to be more creative in cooking, one needs freedom from the restrictions that recipes impose. By learning basic ratios of ingredients, you can then play around and make what you like. Part of me likes the idea, but the other part of me says, "Why bother?" I'm kind of thinking that the "Why bother?" side might win. I requested the book from the library, so I'll let you know what I think once I get my hands on it.

Lastly, we're working away on the kitchen! Adam's sanding the ceiling as I type. The "before" is above, and is now happily covered with new gyproc so that all potential lead is sealed in. It's crackfilled and will be painted tomorrow. A new floor will be installed next week (!), and then we're going to paint the trim and fix all of those little silly things that should have been done long ago. I am SO excited. And then we'll paint the porch, and redo the bathrooms and the spare bedroom...

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

recipe-a-week #14: the best bread, ever.

This bread is hands-down the best bread I have ever eaten. Seriously. And I made it! (I'm as surprised as you.) It's chewy and crusty and airy and perfect. Oh, so crusty! And of course, it's a great vehicle for butter - my first requirement for good bread.

I'm always hesitant to try the latest cooking trend, which is why it's taken me so long to get around to trying this. It's along the lines of the 5-minute artisan bread, which apparently became popular after it was written about in the New York Times. I should have tried it much, much sooner. It's been a part of my weekend routine for the past few weeks - two minutes on Saturday afternoon, a bit of attention on Sunday morning, and it's ready for lunch. Leftover pieces make amazing garlic bread, too.

I found the recipe in Mother Earth News, and you can find the original here. You use a Dutch oven to bake it in, which helps to give it the perfect crust. "Holy yum," as Ingrid would say.

No Knead, Dutch Oven Bread

1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting. You may use white, whole wheat or a combination of the two.
1 1/2 tsp salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran for dusting

  1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Add the flour and salt, stirring until blended. The dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest at least 8 hours, preferably 12 to 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
  2. The dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it. Sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let it rest for about 15 minutes.
  3. Using just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to the work surface or to your fingers, gently shape it into a ball. Generously coat a clean dish towel with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal. Put the seam side of the dough down on the towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another towel and let rise for about 1 to 2 hours. When it’s ready, the dough will have doubled in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
  4. At least 20 minutes before the dough is ready, heat oven to 475 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in the oven as it heats. When the dough is ready, carefully remove the pot from the oven and lift off the lid. Slide your hand under the towel and turn the dough over into the pot, seam side up. The dough will lose its shape a bit in the process, but that’s OK. Give the pan a firm shake or two to help distribute the dough evenly, but don’t worry if it’s not perfect; it will straighten out as it bakes.
  5. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake another 15 to 20 minutes, until the loaf is beautifully browned. Remove the bread from the Dutch oven and let it cool on a rack for at least 1 hour before slicing.
Really, you need to make this one. Like the tarragon chicken from last week. Did anyone try that recipe? Did you love it as much as I did? Let me know how you like this one!

Edited to add: I wanted to share some bread trials for the best recipe ever with you. I tried making it with half spelt flour last week, and it turned out pretty well. The dough is quite runny and a little bit difficult to manoeuvre, but the bread turns out well. Nice and crusty, and the bread itself is a little bit sticky to the touch. I think I might try with 2 cups white, and 1 cup spelt next time, to see if that helps with the dough consistency. Right now, I have a loaf on the go with 2 cups white, and 1 cup whole wheat. It looks terrific!

cardamom continued


Phillip and I had fun "squish-squishing" the cardamom before supper tonight.

Thanks for all of the suggestions for things to make. I haven't yet made anything with it, although cake, granola bars, chai tea and cookies are all on my list. Holy carbs, Batman. Now that I think of it, I hope that I like it. And I think I'll have to buy some more.

Next up: a very exciting recipe-a-week!

itsy bitsy spider, p style

video
Check out P's dance moves in the bathtub. He didn't learn them from us, that's for sure. I'm not sure if anyone in their right mind could watch this without cracking up. He's such a ham.

He woke up during his nap this afternoon, repeating "lepidopterist". Over and over. He learned it from Maybe You Should Fly a Jet! Maybe You Should Be a Vet!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

baby shower

We found out yesterday that we have a niece on the way! My sister is coming to visit next week, and we're hosting a shower, so it was kind of fun to find out that it's a girl before the big event. My Frenchy's senses were tingling when I drove by today (I'm only half-joking) so I popped in for a minute to see what there was to find. I bought this super-fun set of candlesticks, which I think I will put pink candles in and line up on the table.

Do you have any fantastic shower suggestions? It will be in the evening, and will be pretty low-key. Lots of chatting and visiting and eating. But I'm thinking that some simple things like these would be cute and non-tacky.

Any ideas? Thanks in advance!

sewing

How exciting! I picked up this table at the Superstore yesterday. I'd had my eye on it for awhile, but since the regular price was $129 and I didn't want to pay that much, I waited. And it paid off - yesterday, I paid $40 for it. Now I can sew downstairs while Phillip is sleeping, without having to unearth all of my sewing things from the corners of the house.Last night, I whipped up this tote from Lotta Jansdotter's Simple Sewing. It took me less than an hour, and I like it! The main fabric is those Frenchy's curtains, and the other two were picked up at La Shoppe Vert. I made the straps longer than the pattern called for, since I wanted to be able to wear it on my shoulder, and next time, I'll add in a lining, as well.

And speaking of sewing...
Go pick up the current issue of Canadian Living! There's a fantastic pattern in there for these simple "His and Hers Travel Mates". Don't you adore that fabric combination? And the boxy shape? I do!
Oh, and wait! Whose name is at the top of the page? Austen Gilliland. Wait a minute, didn't she win some soap from me a few weeks ago? Yes, indeed!
Her name's at the beginning of the magazine, too. I feel like I know a celebrity. It's a great pattern, Austen, and I can't wait to make one! Or two, or three.

Monday, April 13, 2009

easter fun for the fam



video
I thought the family would like to see Phillip and his Easter egg hunt yesterday. So very, very cute.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

spring miscellany

After breakfast yesterday, I asked Phillip what he would like to do more than anything else in the world.
"Go outside!"
So out we went. First for a long walk, where we saw these hundreds and hundreds of crocuses. See all of the ones at the top of the photo? I couldn't get a closer shot without going right into the backyard, but it was beautiful.
I also made these scones again yesterday. Yum. Quick and easy. Oh, and I used my new mixer! It works like a dream.
Yes, there are two on this plate, both of which I promptly ate.
I am enjoying A Homemade Life, a birthday gift to myself, very much. It's by Molly from Orangette, and it's a cookbook of sorts. There are plenty of recipes, and each is accompanied by a well-written mini essay on a particular event related to the recipe. I love that it's in (pardon the pun) bite-sized pieces, and I can sit and read one or two and feel satisfied, or if I'm comfy and the tea is good, several. It's definitely worth picking up, and this is one I wouldn't recommend getting from the library, since you'll want to go back and make the recipes again and again.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

turn it up



Thanks to Andrea for sharing this! Click on the little "HQ" in the bottom right corner, and turn the volume up!

I must say that I bawled when I watched this, for a variety of reasons. People need to be surprised and delighted.

sewing accessories, etc.



I found this little sewing case at Value Village this week in Halifax for 99 cents. I couldn't pass it up, especially because of its resemblance to this fantastic place. Don't the blue metal and the font scream 'Brunswick'? There were only two spools of thread worth saving from the things inside, but the case will certainly come in handy.

I haven't had a chance to use any cardamom yet, but check out the comments on this post for a granola bar recipe from Sarah.

Look what I bought with some soapmaking money! I think the picture that was chosen for the cover was a dreadful selection. Shells on lampshades? Really, Martha. I'm disappointed. But the rest of the book is excellent, and I have some more things added to my list of crafty projects. Like I need more things on my lists. Good grief.

It's a long weekend! We may have some friends coming to stay, and as always, there are lots of other things to be done. Soap needs to be made, and I'm eager to try making some solid perfume. The one I ordered isn't quite the right scent for me (too much lemon and not enough sugar), so I'll do it myself. "Sherrie do it!" (Phillip's been saying "Phillip do it!" lately when he wants to do something on his own. I wonder where he gets that from?)

Today was a kind of crummy day, punctuated by a fun, impromptu lunch with Ingrid. But there's always tomorrow, and a long weekend certainly helps! I hope that you have a great long weekend, whatever you're celebrating. (Even if it's just having a long weekend!)

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

la shoppe vert (lots of photos)

This is 'La Shoppe Vert'. It's in Concession, near Saulnierville, and there are walls and walls of fabric, sewing and quilting doodads, and some very old groceries.
Ingrid and I went on Sunday afternoon, and we both found some fabric for crafty projects. How happy does she look, clutching her fabric and Blackberry? (The Blackberry was an integral part of me finding fabric to match the curtain material I found at Frenchy's last week, since I didn't think to take it with me. She just looked up my post, and voila, I found some to match! Brilliant.)

La Shoppe Vert is in an old building, and these are the original smoke detectors.
This is down in the basement, where there used to be a bowling alley. Well, it's kind of still there, only under boxes and dust and such.
This is the material I didn't buy so that I would have an excuse to go back.
We had a fantastic lunch at Chez Christophe, where I had never been before. I had fricot, which I had never had before. They have a thing for glass jars, too.
And dessert was apple crisp with ice cream. Yum.
I've been sticking pictures and postcards and past months of this calendar up on the pantry wall. And I haven't gotten tired of it yet! Probably because it's always changing.
See the Bird's Custard Powder can? The owner of La Shoppe Vert gave it to me. I think it's from 1982 or so.
And these are the fantastic new shoes I found at Frenchy's! They're greener than they appear, and are so very comfortable. So comfortable in fact, that I wore them home. Phew! That was a long one. Thanks for tuning in!

recipe-a-week #13: slow cooker chicken with tarragon and leeks


I'm back! With a fantastic recipe this time. I made this recipe from the current issue of Real Simple (shouldn't it be 'Really Simple'? Or 'Real, Simple'?) magazine last week, and it is fantastic. Really, truly, delicious. And you know how I feel about slow cookers! Actually, I was surprised by a good recipe in Real Simple. I had a subscription for awhile, and found that most of the recipes were a box of this and a can of that somehow equals a 'recipe'. Regardless, this one's a winner! As in, you should go out and buy the ingredients this minute and have it for dinner tomorrow.

Chicken with Tarragon and Leeks

1 1/2 pounds baby potatoes (about 16)
8 small skinless chicken thighs (1 1/2 pounds) (I actually threw in a whole local chicken I had, but it would have been more manageable with the pieces)
3 leeks (white and light green parts), halved lengthwise and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup dry white wine (I had some white cooking wine on hand, so I used that)
salt
10 ounces frozen peas
1/3 cup heavy cream (now you know why I like it!)
1 tbsp fresh tarragon (I couldn't find this, so my version was more 'Chicken with Leeks'.)

Place potatoes on the bottom of a 4-6 quart slow cooker. Add chicken, leeks, wine, and 1 tsp salt.

Cook, covered, until the chicken and potatoes are tender, on high for 3-4 hours, or on low for 6-7 hours.

Transfer the chicken and all but 4 of the potatoes to a plate. Using a fork (I used a wooden spoon since I didn't want to scratch my slow cooker), smash the remaining potatoes into the cooking liquid to thicken.

Add the peas and cream and cook until just heated through, 3-5 minutes. Spoon over the chicken and sprinkle with the tarragon.

You'll enjoy this one for sure!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

disappearing act

I posted this picture on my other blog a few days ago, but thought I would ask you guys, too - what can I make with cardamom? Any ideas, other than chai tea?

I had a very "fun-day", as Phillip says. You can read a bit about it over here. I'll be back with pictures and stories and a wickedly wicked fantastic Frenchy's find that is green and goes on my feet. Since she was with me (or I was with her and my luck oozed out), Ingrid also found something great.

I'm scooting to Halifax (not literally) for a couple days for work, so I'll be back soon. Speaking of Halifax, my soaps are now at Love, Me Boutique! I'm hoping to stop in for myself. If you're in the city, have a peek.

Have a great week!

Friday, April 03, 2009

necklace storage & it's about time for some frenchy's finds

My necklaces have been not-so-stylishly stored on hideous plastic dollar store hooks until today. I liked that they were visible and accessible, but the hooks had to go.
So I was really excited to pick up these fun hooks at Wicker Emporium, on sale for $3 each. They look much nicer, and the necklaces won't get whacked by the door when Phillip opens it excitedly, like they did before.Can you tell that it's raining? Today's pictures are rather dark and drab and slightly blurred, but I'm too impatient to wait until tomorrow to share. I found a couple of very fun things today at Frenchy's when I scooted in for all of two minutes today. That orange thing is a felted wool pot handle cover, and it's perfect for our cast iron pan, which we use just about every day. I've been meaning to make one for about three years, so I thought that I should probably fork out the 25 cents and use this one. It's in the wash, yipee!
And check out this fabric! It's a couple of old curtains, and I love the pattern. I think I'll try making something from this book with it.
Happy weekend!