Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Where did it GO?

It was a long summer, and it was a short summer.  I feel like I got alot done, and yet, I still have a long list of things to do.  Fall is imminent, yes, I said it, and it's true, it is right around the corner.!  The leaves are falling, the apprentice is back in school and I sense a slight change in the temperature.  

My summer has been filled with : The Donkey Sanctuary of Canada, Farmers Markets, Rockwood Conservation area, Presquille Provincial Park, the Kilt Run, triathalons, the Fair, Big Rideau Lake, Ottawa Parkway, Toronto, Carleton Place, Smiths Falls, Merrickville, Westport, and Scoops in Pakenham, to mention only a few of my many road trips.  But, I am happiest at the studio, working on the many custom projects that weave their way into the fabric of your home and that become the anchors of your family gatherings.  Two special projects for O'Reilly's Ale House allowed for personal creativity along with input from new owners, Dan and Mary Catherine Allatt - and their kind of visible support, where they make an effort to showcase area artisans and food producers, warms my heart.  And, it doesn't hurt that they serve great craft beers!  

So, onward to fall, the season of organizing mudrooms, hockey (or no hockey), canning, preserving, traditional meatpies and warm and cozy fireplaces.

Sunday, August 5, 2012


Yes, only a seven year old can come up with that name!  Somehow it means "very blueberry" in the minds of the young.  Ask any of his friends and they get it right away, ask my friends and I get a blank stare.

In an effort to be adventurous with my ice cream maker, I decided to add a little fun to my vanilla ice cream base.  The idea came from the usual "cookies and cream" with Oreos, which everyone has either tried or made, I am sure.  Those double deckers are delicious and I admit that I've eaten quite a few in my time,  but since the birth and responsibility of creating a good food foundation for my child, sadly (for me), I buy less junk food.
HomeMade Peanut Butter Cookies
For the most part I make cookies, but his West Coast grandparents always had these around, and they are yummy, so I've caved into buying them every now and then.  On this day, it became my cookie for cookies and cream and what a delightful discovery.
The Secret Ingredient

White Ice Cream Base (made with Local Maple Syrup instead of Vanilla)
1 cup Milk
2 cups Whipped Cream (35%)
2 tsps. lemon
1 tsp Maple Syrup (or vanilla)
1 cup White Sugar

** At this point add colour, if you wish.  I like to make vooverry BLUE.

Mix well, I use a Wisk.
Pour into an already frozen ice cream maker, and it must have been in the freezer for more than 24 hrs to achieve the right consistency.
Set to ON
*In extremely humid weather, I have put the ice cream maker RIGHT IN THE FREEZER while plugged in*  This made sure that the unit doesn't warm faster than it can make the icecream, works like a charm.
Crush 10 cookies, into small/medium chunks.  I used a ziploc.  Try NOT to create too many crumbs.
After 15-20 minutes, pour the chunks into the churning mixture of cream.
Let churn for at least 45 more minutes (or until unit stops, and watch it doesn't OVERFLOW!)

Scoop mixture into storage containers, and freeze (or eat a bit, first!)
With Banana Walnut Muffins

Voila! VooVerry!

Insight :: Rustic Benches Studio

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Day with Donkeys

For over a year, I had been lurking.  Yes, it sounds like a bad word, but it's not if you genuinely like something.  See, I like the Donkey Sanctuary of Canada on Facebook, and I haven't been able to stop liking them since I started following them.  The pictures they post of these rescued animals is heart-stopping for me...or work-stopping, because I stop working to look.  They seem so gentle, and in the pictures, each ones character shines through.  For a year, I dreamed of making the trek to the Sanctuary to see for myself.  Now, this isn't a light plan to make, it's a fair distance, there's the apprentice and his schooling, the studio mutt, and not least of all, squeezing it in between actual work.!  No problemo, there was lots of time, I had a year to plan, right?
Then suddenly, it was a year later.  So, it ended up being more of a 'fly by the seat of my pants' kinda trip.  I yanked the boy out of school for a day, grabbed the leash, drove towards Guelph, ON.,  booked a campsite in Rockwood, and settled in for the night.  The next morning we showed up for "Donkey Day #19" .. a once a year event at the Donkey Sanctuary of Canada, where they open their doors to visitors, raising funds to run the facility.  We were stunned at  the amount of people we saw (2420 visitors!) - the beautiful day co-operating with a perfect sky!  People from all over,  flocking to the same destination with presumably the same addictive interest as me.  We were welcomed by a wonderful crew, who fawned over Sonney like he was an honorary Donkey.  Sonney adored the attention.

And, while Sonney and I were waiting at the Donkey Paddock, a pleasant volunteer relayed to us an interesting history of Donkeys and Dogs.  As it turns out, they are natural enemies.  Sheep farmers used Donkeys to protect their herds from wild dogs a.k.a. coyotes and wolves, and they were known to be able to kill the predator with one fell stomp of their front legs.  Sonney was a true gentleman, and did his best not to upset any donkeys.  In the end, just as many kids and adults made their way over to Sonney to give him a pat, take pictures with him, and marvel at his good manners.
Along with the Donkeys, the events and food kept visitors busy and satisfied.  An eclectic collection of food vendors from burgers and fresh cut fries, to indian cuisine - there was something for everyone, plenty of it, and everyone was biting! There was a picnic / resting area, music, kids events, a silent auction, souvenirs, and all the while, the donkeys mingled with the eager crowd.
It was a fun day, and for a moment, we visitors were one kindred collection of spirits, celebrating the challenging, but rewarding rescue efforts of the Donkey Sanctuary.
Watch for Donkey Day #20 on Sunday June 9th, 2013.
Insight :: Rustic Benches Studio

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Even on Holidays?

What's that smell? Is it baking, freshly ground coffee...perhaps the fresh clippings of garden produce?

Nope, working with wood means always working with wood - even on holidays. Some of the long weekend plans to relax turned into harvesting wood for winter (among other things). That means pulling out the trusty chainsaw, saw horses, and cutting and stacking wood to season. Sonney felt inclined to help, which usually means either suntanning or snoring nearby. On my little patch of land, I have a small stand of elm and white ash, which are decent burning species, and luckily, whenever my neighbors (who don't have wood burning fireplaces) clear their yards, they offer up their wood piles to me. This batch I got from a neighbor who are clearing backyard space for their wandering dog. Now their yard is a large fenced in play area designed to allow freedom without the dog visiting others (let's call it 'looking for trouble') or getting bumped by a wayward tractor. And, another batch I picked up from a town resident who just took down a failing tree, which would have likely taken out their garage if not harvested. I'm now sitting on two cords of wood that would have otherwise met a less useful end.

I'm surrounded by it, in and out of my home, work with it, salvage it, recycle it, reuse it and am never far from it. I adore these useful, magnificent beings mother nature gives us. Trees.

Insight :: Rustic Benches Studio

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sometimes, you just WANNA be TICKED OFF!

There's this crazy phenomenon out there, you know the one ... ticked off birds sling-shotting themselves at green pigs.  The pigs snicker when the birds miss, the birds celebrate when they connect.  All in fun.  But, addictive.  Waaaaay back when my son was four years old (okay, he's seven now, so not that long ago!) he was mesmerized, I mean really, there is a strategy to knocking over the contraptions and hitting all the targets in as few slingshots as possible, right?  It was a puzzle to solve, so I didn't mind his occasional foray into the games...but then, one game led to another, Rio, Seasons, Space...it had taken over the world in the device market.  Thankfully, the games are only $1/each and were often good incentive in reminding him about certain tasks to complete FIRST!  "Remember, you can save your pennies to buy it yourself or, sure you can set the table or shovel the laneway!" 

Well, as time went on, my apprentice had to have everything related to this game... t-shirts, bracelets, calendars, I even made his dream loft bed, but it was the ticked off stuffies hanging from it that he loved most! ..(thanks SPEAK!).  So, what do you give a guy that probably has everything to do with the one thing he REALLY loves? 

I made him a Ticked Off lunch, that's what.! 

Ha Ha.  He enjoyed that one, but then I got to thinking about his birthday.  So I started my search, while there was still snow on the ground, for something Ticked Off.  In fact, my original plan was to get him a themed Bicycle Helmet cover from Tail Wags.  I had seen her products on the CBC show - Dragons Den - and there were many great choices.  So off to peruse her site I did, again.  But this time, there it was, a new item, the TICKED OFF Bird...my heart leapt.  A perfect present for my boy.  So I ordered, right away, thinking that it would take weeks and weeks to arrive, and I didn't want it to be late for his birthday.  Well, Miss Karen is super-speedy .. and to my pleasant surprise, it arrived four days later.  This was a good thing and a bad thing, all rolled into one.  First off, the packaging and professionalism was awesome.  Timely, neat, well protected, the workwomanship, and handy information included, I was impressed.  The second part, is the bad part.  I had to sit on this surprise for THREE MONTHS!!  Impossible, you say?  Well, I did it ... it wasn't easy, but I hid it, ignored it and tried not to peek in on it (after a test fit on his helmet, of course). 

Skip ahead to the birthday, and the look on his face when he ripped it open was priceless...he wore it the entire day, even while eating the birthday cake. 

Now, it was fun to surprise him with another of his favorite characters, but the best part is that he adores wearing this helmet.  He didn't have any issues wearing a helmet before, but now he thinks he's EXTRA cool, and his friends are always curious about it.  He even brought it into school for his grade one show and tell.  Unfortunately, that day, an older kid on his school bus tried to take it from him (that's how cool it is, I suppose) and in the struggle, broke the strap on his helmet. 

There were some tears over that incident, but, the strap is fixed and back in working and chirping order.

So Thanks Tail-Wags, for a super cool product. 
Its always good to see this kind of inventiveness from a Small Canadian Business.

Insight :: Rustic Benches Studio

Thursday, June 21, 2012

If it's gonna be this HOT, I'm just gonna DRINK more!

No doubt this soaring heat has reminded you to up your liquid intake.  It sure has me reaching for more frosty beverages than usual (you know what I mean - but, I'm gonna talk about water today!).... A few weeks ago, before this sticky heatwave, I was looking for something that would help me drink more water, something habit forming.  I think I was really looking for another health reminder by researching the benefits of water, blah, blah, blah...we all know the drill...drink lots of it.  But, as much as my intentions are good, I have a hard time remembering amongst the list of things I have to do each day.  So, somewhere in my internet cruising, I tripped over someone's blog post (A Peek inside the fishbowl), who was attempting to "trim" herself of her jiggle.  Well, I've got jiggle like any healthy person, but I'm not overly concerned about it .. I did however, enjoy her idea #1 (she says she got it from Chatelaine Magazine) of sugar-free flavoured water recipes.  It piqued my interest because, sometimes that's why I don't remember to drink water...it's not very INTERESTING after the first 8 oz.  

She doesn't know this, but I've named it Jiggle Juice!

  Use 2L water and...
  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1 lemon, sliced thin, peeled
  • fresh mint and basil (from my jardin!), chopped, as much as you desire!
  • Mix and Let it sit in your fridge overnight
How refreshing for a change, I'm sure I drank the whole jug by myself!  Then made more the next day.  And the next day.  Even the seven year old apprentice asks for seconds!

A Drink and A Snack, bottled into one. And, another way to use my "crazy growing" mint and basil plants than the usual ice cream, tea, pesto and pasta.

Insight :: Rustic Benches Studio

Friday, June 15, 2012

A Garden Experiment, Rustic Style

The life of an adventurous wooder (okay, I made that up) means that I travel often.  Maybe not alot, but often enough.  I enjoy the travel from time to time, and I think that somewhere in my ancestry, there must have been a nomadic gene, and I've gotten it.  From coast to coast, meeting and greeting, friends, family and clients.!  What that also means, in immediate terms, is my garden suffers...or, let's say, it doesn't suffer so much as it doesn't start!  Sure, here and there I plant containers of herbs, and sometimes tomatoes, but I've always wanted to be in one spot long enough to try a full out garden!  This summer, I only have two weeks of travel planned for out of province, so I thought I'd give it a go.  First step was to decide what I wanted to grow.  I want my first attempt to be successful, so my plan is to keep it safe and simple, and then next year, expand to some more dangerous fare.  I chose tomatoes (million sweets, rose and romas), parsely, basil, rosemary, carrots, beets and cukes.

Off I went to the
Perth Farmers' Market

Saturdays from 8am - 1pm.
May 12th - Oct 13th.
Crystal Palace and Tay Basin

Rain or Shine

Such variety, energetic vendors, outdoor spaces and indoor spaces, the smell of food!  Again.  I said. the smell. of food.
We got distracted. By This Sign.

Sounded interesting!  And the buns looked fantastic.  It was so quaint, we had to give it a try.  Besides, we were hungry!

Borshch and a Bun, glorious....

Do you think he liked it?  At any rate, we still managed to get the garden started with these....$10 for 4 basil, 2 parsely, 2 cukes, 3 million sweet tomatoes and one rose tomato plant from Sylvia's Plant Place vendor table.

Next step is to create the garden space!

Typical Vendors at the Perth Farmers Market :

Aaah Fudge
Products for Sale: Candied nuts, fudge, jellies, produce

Beckwith Gardens
Products for Sale: non-certified organic produce, baking

Blue Chicory Garden
Products for Sale: veggies, honey, hammocks, cedar furniture

Carolyn Patrici...
Products for Sale: Homemade pies, cookies, tarts, loaf cakes, muffins.

Hollyhock Grange
Products for Sale: bedding plants, non-certified organic produce, baking, preserves, lamb

Jameshaven Farms
Products for Sale: BBQ pork, baking, preserves, pork, chicken, turkey.

Joynt Farm
Products for Sale: certified organic lamb, certified organic beef, sweet corn

Kailyard Farm
Products for Sale: garden produce

My Gem Creations
Products for Sale: Jewelry

P.D.'s Greenhouse
Products for Sale: bedding plants, hanging baskets, planters

Queen Beet Farm
Products for Sale: veggies, baking, preserves

Stella's Cake Shoppe
Products for Sale : cakes

Stony Brae Farm
Products for Sale: shitaki mushrooms, wild fruit jams, herbal teas

Strawberry Cottage

Sweet Meadow Farm
Products for Sale: Certified organic vegetables

Sylvia's Plant Place
Products for sale: bedding plants

Insight :: Rustic Benches Studio

Monday, June 4, 2012

Fresh! Simple.

Open Saturdays
I do my best to make smart food choices.  Sometimes the choices aren't always right in front of my nose, but other times, they become so obvious, I wonder why I haven't done it sooner (or more often).  See, my life has changed in so many ways over the past 10 years; I used to make choices only for myself, but, when you become entwined in family, choices eventually, if not immediately, become more selfless.  I'm the kind of person that wants the best for the people close to me (for all good people, really), so over time, some basic things around here have really changed and have had a significant impact on us.  Take food for example.  I'm the first one to admit that a quick meal at the local fast food joint is convenient, and in some cases, a matter of life and death when you're starving after a long day of whatever, and cooking is the last thing on your mind.  But, over the past few years, even this 'occasional' break-down has been completely weeded out, much like the dandelions in my driveway.  There are many reasons why, but when you live and work in an area that is brimming with incredibly talented farmers, there really is no reason not to eat fresh on a regular basis, especially, in the growing season.  Choosing farm fresh food supports the local economy, reduces the number of miles your food travels, has little or no packaging, and how about trying out something completely different, like bumbleberry pie or a locally raised bison burger! 

In the triangle (let's call them Perth, Carleton Place and Smiths Falls), a round trip of 92 km's, there are town farmers' markets open on summer weekends, besides a bevy of individual farms that can be mapped on the various side roads in between. 

I haven't been to all of them, but it is my goal this summer to discover as many as I can and to post what I find in a series of summer blogs, so stay tuned for interesting places, and maybe you'll find something you can try.  I hope to make it so that you have NO excuse not to go for a weekend drive if you live in the area - and certainly, if you are an Ottawa scenic drive lover, I will describe what perfect fresh destinations await! 

PS - I even plan to start my own full out home garden, learning from some of these local sages on how to better grow my own food.  I know, I know, LOFTY goals, but I just LOVE my containers of fresh herbs and tomatoes, surely I can graduate to in ground, cucumbers, beets and squash?

Perth Farmers Market

The first market I will tackle is - Perth Farmers Market, stay tuned.

Insight :: Rustic Benches Studio

Friday, June 1, 2012


a-ma-zing ::  adjective, causing surprise or sudden wonder.

Is this a loosely used term?  Personally, I find quite a few things in each day amazing and I don't think I use it to-o much.  Frankly, the fact that we even exist is amazing to me.  Did you know an asteroid missed us by a mere 8,900 miles on Tuesday? That's about the same distance as a flight from Ottawa to New Zealand.!  The bicycle, a dragon fly's wings, the aurora borealis, the curious case of benjamin button.  I am still amazed that I have been a parent for seven years, to a life-form, a future adult, that I am in charge of providing a decent foundation for!  The internet! How about that?  I used to think it was amazing, millions of networked computers, sharing bits and bytes that blossomed into useful tools and visual wonders.

When I first logged on (remember that sound of the modem?), utter amazement , but now, it's not as wonderous, as it has become everyday tool for me.  But as a techie of sorts, I teach someone how to use or fix their internet or their computer, or their iphone, and they will mouth that word....

...People say it to my face, and behind my back (you know who you are, I've been told!) as a compliment, for my work, in my play, what I coach, what I teach and to be honest, I don't always know what the appropriate response is.  I think I'm ordinary.  I'm in my mid-forties, and in those years, I have done alot of stuff, and seen alot of things, but I still endeavour to learn something new everyday, and, in my opinion, my footprint is tiny on this planet (no BIG FEET jokes, please!).  I get that people find what I do amazing, and it's only because they don't do it themselves (yet!) .. Put me beside a painter, a music maker, a farmer, a sensei, a yogi, a doctor, an olympic medallist, a duck carver, a helmet-cover maker, a groomer, a fundraiser, a realtor, a tireless volunteer, an elementary school teacher, a police officer, a baker, a cancer survivor, an animal activist, a stay at home parent or grandparent (imagine twins!)...and those are just a handful of the people I respect who do amazing things and who make a real, definitive, impact on lives, including mine.

 I guess my point is that we find amazing things in each other, along with our own individual moments of nature's marvellous gifts.  I respect alot of people in my life.  I find who you are and what you do, and how you live :: amazing.  The fact that I get to walk among you .. and have earned your compliment .. uh-mey-zing!

Insight :: Rustic Benches Studio

Monday, May 28, 2012

Digital Drive-In

When I was a kid, I remember waiting in the long car line to get into the Drive - In just off of Merivale Rd. in the (then) outskirts of Ottawa.  Now the scene at that intersection is long gone, and the fields have been replaced with rows and rows of new homes and busy streets.  That Drive-In nostalgia still stays with me though, and now in my mid-forties, those memories bring back the smell of popcorn and that 'open-air' experience when life was just a little bit different than it is now.  Drive - Ins are few and far between, and even though there has been a wave of Outdoor Movie showings in parking lots, run by new companies like (Outdoor Movies - ONT AND Outdoor Movies - BC), the ACTUAL drive-in atmosphere is completely different.  This is something I've tried to keep alive in my family, and fortunately, they are just as eager for the experience - it's just that there aren't very many of them around anymore.   So, when you find one - hold onto it, and go often!  The cars, the kids, the dogs, the playground in front of the screen, the smell of the outdoor food, the setting sun, the mosquitoes, and the honking in anticipation...AND, these days..the drive-in ain't your Momma's drive-in. 

The Port Elmsley Drive In was AweSomE! 

In car stereo sound and now digital picture has made the visual and sound experience rival any indoor movie theatre - the difference .. fresh air and lounging comfort!

Impossible to describe in words the incredible difference the digital picture has made, you will have to go and see it for yourself!.  It is crystal clear, (we watched the Lorax first) bright and, I might be mistaken, but the movies seem to start earlier.  At dusk (8:50pm) it was still very light in the sky, but the picture was not muted by the sunset at all.   And there is not a bad seat in the field .. all have excellent views.

We settled in, seats waaaay back, with our twizzlers and drinks, and sonney snoring in the back.  He didn't seem interested in the movies, but The Seven Year old Apprentice was wrapped in his sleeping bag and pj's, ready to honk the horn!

Back to the mosquitoes...they aren't that bad, and there are some serious remedies people have come up with to avoid the pests.  While walking around the parking lanes at intermission, I admired the ingenuity, from taped on mesh to full out mosquito nets that covered entire cars.  We didn't have anything, and we did not suffer, even with the windows partially open.  And there were many die-hards sitting out on their lawnchairs enjoying the exterior view with their pets throughout both movies that we stayed for.

Next to try : The Twilight Drive-In

Insight :: Rustic Benches Studio

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Fresh Mint!

In the late days of winter and the early days of spring (let's call it St. Patrick's Day), some guests joined us for dinner.  We'll call them the Good Doctor,  the Duck Carver, Thing One and Thing Two.  While Thing One and Thing Two played with the Seven Year old Apprentice, the adults were left to converse about adult things.  Many topics were covered, including, but not most importantly, the demise of the Vancouver Canucks and the Ottawa Senators...the last two Canadian Teams in the Stanley Cup playoffs, of which we were all disappointed with.  As the sighs wound down, the Good Doctor and I got to discussing the merits of all the fresh food recipes we prepare, when we can, amidst our hectic schedules.  We all garden, preserve, bake bread and even make homemade ice cream.  STOP! What did you say?  That's right, homemade ice cream.  Thing One and Thing Two stopped playing....the Seven Year old Apprentice leaned in closer.  The Good Doctor had even brought some freshly made strawberry ice cream and, the St. Patty's day kicker, mint chocolate chip, to share....and then suddenly the children were still.  The Duck Carver continued to check the BlackBerries...I mean, blackberry, but I know one ear was listening.  I heard whispers of "let's forgo dinner, and skip right to the ..."  But I insisted we have a real dinner first.  Sure, I got the "party-pooper" looks, but who cares, I had just made FRESH PASTA in a pasta maker from scratch and Bubble Bread.  It didn't matter, the ice cream was on everyone's mind.  No sooner had the last fork fallen did not Thing Two exclaim, "can we have ice cream now?"  Seven Year old Apprentice was nodding in agreement, and Thing One asked for more bubble bread (nice kid, that one).  I whisked away the dishes, sprinted to the freezer and scooped dollops of both flavours into bowls.  Again, it was quiet.  "This is the best ice cream in the world" my Seven Year old Apprentice exclaimed.  No other moment in that evening will be remembered, only the moments with ice cream.

A week later (when the last bits of the St. Patty's Day ice cream were scooped), it was "matter-o'factly" suggested that we needed to make some ourselves.  And so I did, with a little bit of boyish help.  And with FRESH MINT from the garden.

I don't know what the Good Doctor did, but here's my recipe :

 Mint o' Chip Ice Cream
  • Use 1 tsp mint extract or chop up 6 leaves.
  • Warm up 2 cups of whipping cream with leaves or extract (10 minutes, medium, do not boil)
  • (strain leaves) mix with 1c. milk and 1c. sugar
  • stir in 2 tsps. lemon juice (I used half a lemon)
  • pour mixture into Ice Cream Machine
  • chop up chocolate chips
  • After 15 minutes in the Machine, add chopped chips
  • Takes one full hour, or until the machine stops

First Scoop went to the Seven Year old Apprentice, who could barely contain his excitement.

Thankfully, I too, got a cheer!  "NOW, THIS is the best ice cream yet!, when can we make some MORE!"

:: Insight Rustic Benches Studio

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Re*Cycle and Re*Use

Part of what I do is find materials that would possibly end up in a landfill or bonfire and reuse them in my pieces.  Old hardware on discarded furniture,pallets, deteriorating outbuildings, and scrap ends from local wood mills.  

Recently one such adventure took me deep into downtown Smiths Falls.  An area business called the Vineyard Winery, announced on their facebook page that they had shipping pallets to offer out for re-use.  So, I loaded up the Rustic Benches trailer, and off I went to scout out the potential. 

At the Chambers Street entrance, I was greeted by "Brody" the resident shnoofer, who sized me up immediately, and with that super-sensitive nose, he knew right away, that I too was a L.A.W.S. adopter and volunteer, and gave his woof of approval to shop operator, Eric.

Now, don't get me wrong, but, as I looked around the store, I realized that this recycle mission was also an excuse disguised as a reason to purchase some Spanish Cheeky Monkey wine while I was at it, but, I'm getting off topic.

Sure enough, there were five pallets, three of which had some nice clear maple and oak, perfectly aged.  They were he-avy, and thankfully, Eric, was willing to assist, while introducing me to the benefits of the six week wine kit I was planning to purchase.  Wine purchased, dog admired and pallets loaded, I was off to the studio to rip apart the pallets.  These being of the exceptionally well constructed type, it wasn't long before I got out the ole trusty circular saw to cut out the salvageable parts, and after one pallet, I already had a great haul.  I stopped at two pallets, and plan to do the third shortly.  So herein lies the interesting part of this story....Stay tuned for what beauty will be made of the pallet beasts.!

Insight :: Rustic Benches Studio

Monday, April 16, 2012


Often I am asked to make a sweet treat, but since I have a small family, making a cake or batch of cupcakes tends to go wasted after the first day or two.  I guess it's not just our family-size, we're also not big sweet tooths, but, it is nice to satisfy that craving once in awhile.  The thing of it is, halving recipes, or throwing out extras, is not as fun as sharing, so when I know of an upcoming social event, I'll make that sweet treat, set aside some for us, and then offer the rest out.  This happened recently, so I dug out a recipe I was looking forward to experimenting with.  It was a berry cheesecake swirl, which called for blueberries - but when I went to the market, blackberries were on sale, so I made it with them.

I found the recipe at this blog : Baked By Bree which I tweaked, slightly.

  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup berries (calls for blueberries, I used blackberries)
  • 1/4 cup juice (calls for orange, I used passion fruit)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 (8-ounce) cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

  1. Put the sugar, cornstarch, juice, and berries in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until it is thickened and has come to a bubble. Take off the heat and set aside.
  2. Mix the flour, powdered sugar, and butter by hand or in the mixer until it comes together.
  3. It will be crumbly.
  4. Press into a foil or parchment lined 9×13 pan. Bake for 20 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven.
  5. While the crust is cooking, cream together the cream cheese and sugar. Add the flour. Add the eggs, vanilla.
  6. Pour the cream cheese mixture over the hot crust.
  7. Spoon the reserved berries over the cream cheese mixture.
  8. Take a knife and swirl the blueberries throughout the cream cheese.
  9. Put the pan back into the 350 degree oven and bake for another 20 minutes or until the bars are set.
  10. Let the pan cool on a rack for an hour. Then put the bars back into the fridge for at least 1 hour or overnight.
  11. Cut into squares and dust with powdered sugar.
I tested, and then shared .. mmm!

Insight :: Rustic Benches Studio

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Bubbles (not JUST for kids!)

So, why do I make bread?  It's rarely perfect, takes alot of time, and can be messy!  My guess is that I keep looking for that recipe that will be 'the aha moment' like that perfect pass, personal best run-time, or high score, and when I get that perfect moment, I'm not satisfied, I try to achieve it again, and again and so on.  It's a personal challenge, and baking bread is that challenge, for me, despite how long I've been working at it (and, if you know what Katimavik is, I've been baking bread since my tour in that program in the 80's).  While the ingredients are basic, it's the time you put into it that really matters.  For some breads, kneading is key, and others, it's the patience of rising.  And, of course, I am talking about baking bread without a bread machine,  the hands on kind of bread from start to finish. 

Foodgawker is my favorite place to find FOOD .. the pictures are dreamy and there are so many people out there with good, tried and true ideas, so why re-invent a recipe.?  Tweak it yes, but the steps are the same.  Here's one I found to share and you can adapt it to your taste.  If you like garlic and herbs, and if you like a bread that you don't have to slice, this is for you ... curious?  I've done it twice so far, and it has been 'no fail', turned out perfectly both times, and my family has been begging me to make it everyday.!

This is where I found it :: My Kitchen Addiction Blog

Garlic Bubble Loaf
Makes 1 loaf, 12 servings  
2 1/2 – 3 cups bread flour
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 packet) active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) + 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 egg
1 teaspoon ground paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

- In large mixer bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups bread flour, yeast, sugar and salt.  Whisk to combine.
- Meanwhile, in a microwave safe bowl, heat milk, water and 2 tablespoons of butter (or shortening) until warm. Add the warm liquids and the egg to the flour mixture.  Beat by hand, or if you must, by ...
- By hand, gradually stir in enough remaining flour to make a soft dough. Knead on floured surface about 2 minutes, until the dough is soft and smooth.
- Divide the dough into 2 parts, then divide each half into 6 pieces. Shape each piece into a smooth ball.
- Melt the remaining 1/4 of butter, then combine with 'herb of your choice' (I used basil flakes) and garlic powder, and mix well.
- Dip the balls of dough into butter mixture. 
- Place in a greased 9 x 5- inch bread pan, using 6 balls on each layer.
- Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
- Cover and let rise in warm place until indentation remains after lightly touching.  About 15-30 minutes.

- Preheat the oven to 375°F. 
- Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until golden brown.
- Remove from pan and serve warm

I promise, you will eat the WHOLE LOAF, in one sitting... :-)

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