Friday, September 28, 2012

Garlic continued

Garlic growing:  what happened?  Here's the final product:

They are... tiny.  They didn't do much more than double in size from when I tried to pull them up in March, actually, so I am not sure what happened to make them not fully mature.  You can see above how big they are (and how oddly round) compared to the other local garlic we have in our kitchen.

I think I won't try to grow garlic in pots anymore - they need heat to mature and I wonder if there just wasn't enough heat retention in those little pots during cooler nights.  What I will definitely try though, when I have a garden, is try the fall-planting method, cover them with mulch over the winter, and then see what happens the following summer.  Because I am super opposed to the whole garlic import market when it's obviously easy to grow here from the amount of Farmers' Market merchants who sell it, and if you've ever tried local garlic it's easily 3-5 times more potent than China garlic so you can use less to achieve the same flavour.

We'll see how mine tastes anyway - it sure was potent when I pulled it up, and I had to leave it outside to dry for a week so it wouldn't stink up the house.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Stevia Extract

I tried to grow some stevia last year because I found a plant on sale at Canadian Tire for super cheap but accidentally killed it (I think it may have been too far gone when I bought it).  I bought another one this year and it thrived, but I wasn't really sure what to do with it.  Sometimes I buy plants because they are cool but don't know how to use them...

Stevia, if you don't know, is a plant with super sweet leaves (generally about 30-40 times sweeter than sugar).  But like, what am I going to do with a bunch of sweet leaves?  Use them in cookies?  No.  So I Googled what to do and came up with stevia extract.

Basically, all you do to make stevia extract (and almost any type of "extract" you want, really) is steep the leaves in flavourless alcohol, aka vodka.  With stevia extract though you're not supposed to steep longer than two days or it will turn bitter, whereas with others, like vanilla extract, you leave the beans in the vodka indefinitely and should wait at least a couple months before using it (on that note, I'm also making vanilla extract using this method).

So the other day, I harvested a bunch of leaves off my stevia plant (it was pretty big so I didn't come close to using all the leaves - I may try to keep it alive over the winter and plant it in my future yard next summer), chopped them up, put them in a jar, and covered the leaves with vodka:

 Sorry for the not-great photos - and yes that's a jar that was used as a rehearsal dinner vase...

I let them sit in a dark room for a couple days, then strained everything out:

 The leaves were yellowish at the end.

Since this was just a trial, and I didn't want to waste a ton of vodka by making a ton of it in case it didn't turn out, I just made this little jar full.  Apparently you can simmer off the alcohol and reduce it to increase the sweetness but then it will only keep in the fridge for a few months, and I don't see myself powering through this whole jar in a couple months so I left it in its full alcoholic, shelf-stable version.  It definitely doesn't taste "boozy" and has an interesting, very sweet herby flavour.  I wouldn't recommend using it as a sweetener in tea or coffee in place of honey or sugar but I think it will lend itself nicely to green tea and peppermint lattes, or mojitos!  It actually might even make an interesting soda-type drink if you added it to sparkling water - I don't think there'd be a need to add enough to make it a fully alcoholic drink because it is very sweet.

Speaking of mint, I'm currently in the process of drying all my leftover mint from the summer to create a mixed-mint tea which I hope works out too - I've got orange, ginger, and lime mint all mixed together and I'm drying a few stevia leaves with the bunch to see if it adds a hint of sweetness (to get the full effect of stevia apparently you need to make an extract as just adding a few leaves to a drink will not create much noticeable sweetness).  I figured this year should be the year I actually do something with my herbs at the end of the summer instead of just let them die off, and I'm hoping to keep a few cuttings alive over the winter so I don't have to buy new ones next year either.  I think if this tea thing works out I'll definitely do it again next year and also try to make some mint extracts too - I think some mint and stevia extracts added to warm milk would make a really delicious winter drink.

Of course these are all ideas - I will need to do some experimenting over the next while!

Monday, September 24, 2012

How to have the best rehearsal

Before we started planning our wedding (possibly before we were engaged), I read some posts on A Practical Wedding about people who invited all of their guests to their rehearsal dinner and/or brought their photographer to their rehearsal.  The people who had done this couldn't say enough good things about these decisions, and I knew I wanted to do them as well.

Let me also highly highly recommend this for anyone reading this who might plan a wedding someday!  While these things might take a bit more work and a bit more money, they were TOTALLY worth it.

We got our photos yesterday and I am especially in love with the rehearsal photos.  Our photographer said it was hard to get the type of candids we wanted of the guests mingling during the day of our wedding because people kept tensing up when they saw the camera, but at the rehearsal and dinner people had other things to focus on so they didn't notice they were being photographed as much.  And for the rehearsal part, the colours were brighter and I think we were just all more relaxed which made for some really cool and fun photos:

 (Brother and sister, not dating)

We had our dinner in Brahm's parents' yard.  The weather was perfect for an outdoor supper and the yard looked amazing!  Brahm's mom and her friend Mary Jane really went all out with the decor and food (catered by some of the merchants at the Saskatoon Farmers' Market and neighbours of Brahm's cousins) and it was such an awesome event.  It was really great to get to see a lot of our out-of-town friends and relatives that evening as well since the wedding day really flew by and we didn't have much time to visit with all the guests as much as we would have liked.

So once again, two things about the rehearsal to make it the best rehearsal:  bring your photographer and invite EVERYONE if you can.  Originally we were going to just do like a wiener roast or a chili potluck to keep it affordable, so it's doable even if you don't have extra money to spend on another big dinner.  I'm sure all rehearsal dinners are fun and happy events, but I think this one was especially awesome because it was so relaxed and informal and exciting to get to see all our friends and relatives who had traveled for the wedding before the receiving line.

All photos by Organic Photography

Friday, September 21, 2012


So, I basically have not been sick in over two years, but then I got married and Brahm got sick and since we live in the same house now I got a bit sick too.  Not sick enough to stay home from work though so I don't really count it as being sick, since it was really only one day of being slightly achy, then a couple days of being slightly stuffy, and that's about it.

One day though my throat was scratchy.  Before I had left for work I'd left a bag of Ricolas I bought a while ago with Brahm, thinking my immune system was invincible and I would never need them.  So, having no Ricolas to soothe my scratchy throat, I went looking in the first aid cupboard at work.

I found something called Cepacol:

It said "throat lozenge" so I figured it was similar to Ricola or Halls.

But then I put it in my mouth and everything went numb!  I am not kidding, it numbed my entire mouth and felt like I was at the dentist.  I spit it out after about 15 seconds because it was so uncomfortable.  If you are a frequent user of Cepacol you are probably laughing at me now, as a co-worker did as I immediately relayed my discomfort to him over our office instant messenger.

Here's what happened, according to the Cepacol website:

"The action of benzocaine in Cepacol® Lozenges and in Cepacol® Sore Throat Spray works on the nerve receptors in your throat so they are temporarily unable to register sensations of pain, which is why your throat feels numb. Numbing action is a fast and effective way to relieve sore throat pain."

Okay so that's great but I didn't have throat pain, just scratchiness.  Note to self to not use Cepacol anymore unless I have a legit sore throat.

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Trip to an American Walmart

While in the US on our honeymoon, one of Brahm's missions was to buy a ton of Cherry Coke to bring back to Canada.  Cherry Coke is not bottled in Canada so it's a rare treat from down south.  To purchase this haul we decided to venture to an American Walmart.

As we parked the car, we wondered what we might find.  We'd always heard horror stories about the trashiest of trashy people being the main clientele at American Walmarts, so we braced ourselves for the worst.

However, I have to say that this particular American Walmart was maybe the most pleasant Walmart I'd ever visited!  Even the posh Stonebridge Walmart in Saskatoon is a good several degrees trashier than this one.

What was so great about this Walmart?  First of all, it was near-empty.  It was a weekend afternoon and there was surprisingly not the giant weekend Walmart rush we have at Canadian Walmarts.  It was impeccably clean and tidy, even though it was a giant store.  And best of all?  Several times I rounded a corner and almost cut off a stranger with a cart - and THEY all apologized!  As well, the clerk gave us a discount on our 8 cases of pop because she was "pretty sure they were supposed to be on sale."  Would that EVER happen at one of our Saskatoon Walmarts?  I can't picture it.

The myth of the disgusting, trashy American Walmart is BUSTED.  Granted, this was only one Walmart of hundreds, but still much nicer than any Canadian Walmart I've ever visited. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Flower Picking

You might remember this post, where I excitedly planned to grow all my own wedding flowers.

Unfortunately, this summer was a weird one for ripening and maturing.  The majority of my tomato plants have STILL not produced a single ripe fruit (although they have been hanging there for months now) and all the flowers I planted, with the exception of a few sunflowers, didn't start blooming until after the wedding.  The sunflowers I planted in other peoples' gardens didn't bloom in time either so other than a couple of my own cuttings, I needed to come up with a plan B.

A friend of Brahm's mom just happened to stumble on Tierra del Sol one day while out for a drive.  Long story short, two days before the wedding my sister, two friends, and I headed out there to pick flowers for the reception tables.

I think it was one of the most fun things I got to do during wedding planning!  How awesome to go out and tour a small family-run farm and then be set loose in a giant row of zinnias.  The people who own the farm are so nice and we had the best time looking through hundreds of assorted flowers for the most perfect ones.  AND they had the cutest nicest dogs who loved me.

I'm hoping there are pictures of our finished tables with the flowers and their "vases" kicking around somewhere (other than from my blurry BlackBerry).  The combo of less than 30 bucks worth of flowers and free glassware looked amazing, and I was so happy that all the major wedding flowers (tables and bouquets) were from local farms instead of imported from halfway across the world.  If I couldn't grow them myself this was totally the next best thing.

Our bouquets came from Mistik Acres - if you click that link for their "Harvesting" blog post, the wedding bouquets they posted a picture of were ours!  I actually had no idea what my own bouquet would look like until the day of the wedding because my mom went and ordered it for me as a "backup", knowing I wouldn't have time to make my own bouquet the day before the wedding but it was beautiful - you can see it in the corner of the picture in my last post (with the sunflowers).

Buying local flowers - a super fun, easy, and affordable wedding idea!  The flower total for the wedding was easily under $150 bucks.  Mistik Acres and Tierra del Sol are both vendors at the Saskatoon Farmers' Market. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Wedding

The wedding was pretty amazing.  I don't know what I really expected but it was such a great day.  I don't know if I would classify it as being a mind-blowingly fun party or anything but it was still an incredibly happy event.

The night before I couldn't really sleep, which I wasn't expecting to happen.  I wasn't really nervous but we had invited all of our wedding guests to our rehearsal dinner, which was held in Brahm's parents' yard, and at least 3/4 of the guests showed up for that.  It was like having two receptions.  That night I went to bed thinking about how much I love everyone, and it was hard to sleep.

Because everything was outdoors, we had taken a big risk counting on the weather to be good.  The risk paid off big time though - it was 25 degrees out with no wind and not much of a humidex, so we literally could not have had better weather.

The speeches were hands-down the best speeches I've ever heard at a wedding.  Sorry to your wedding, but these ones were the best.  Everyone took a lot of time to prepare (there was no "I just remembered I had to do this 10 minutes ago! So here goes LOL!" happening) and I still cry thinking about the nice things everyone said.

I think one of the biggest things I got out of the whole event, which was not really surprising but not something I was totally anticipating to feel as strongly either, was being reminded of how great our family and friends are and how much love there is in that community.  We didn't really plan our wedding with a "theme" but in the end, cheesy as it sounds, if you ask anyone, they'd probably agree that the overwhelming theme of the day was indeed "love."

We don't have any professional pictures back yet, and there are many little details I want to eventually write about - so think of this as an introduction to several post-wedding posts.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Backwards Driver

After an extremely delicious and filling meal at the North Bay Grille in Kalispell, MT one evening on our honeymoon, Brahm and I decided it would be in our best interest to go for a bit of a walk to aid in digesting our huge supper.

After a couple blocks, we came to a crosswalk and looked both ways before stepping onto the street.  We saw a bizarre sight coming towards us - a car driving backwards?

I blinked.  "Is that car coming towards us backwards?" I asked.  "I think it is" replied Brahm.  We decided to stand on the corner and wait to make sure this strange backwards car, driving at a normal speed, would yield to us.

As the car approached the corner, we caught a look of pride and delight on the driver's face.  Lucky we didn't try to cross because he came to a quick rolling stop and continued through the intersection.  A car full of teenagers followed immediately behind and also rolled through but turned the corner.  A police car, hot on their tail, rolled through as well and pulled over the backwards driver half a block away.

I'm not exactly sure what was happening but it made our night.  Was the guy trying to see how far he could drive backwards without getting pulled over?  And who rolls through a stop sign when there is clearly a cop behind you?  Apparently that guy and his teenage friends.

Sorry about the long hiatus here - slowly but surely I will try to get back into my regular posting schedule!