I finally picked up a Halloween mug. When I first saw this at the store last week, I wasn't sure I liked it, so I left it there. I'm happy to say I went back tonight and bought it. Now that I'm drinking a hot chocolate out of it, I think it's just perfect. I love how the witch is flying behind a spider web. It's a Hallween mug that isn't kidding around.

Really looking forward to using this mug for pumpkin spice lattes throughout October.

Posted by Jen B On Monday, September 30, 2013 9 comments
I realized this summer that I love sweet potato on the BBQ. We soften it a little in the microwave and finish it on the grill and it adds an amazing smoky flavour to it. So good. I could eat a sweet potato every day, and this meal I had one with a steak and some Sidekicks (Singapore Curry Noodles, our favourite).

Posted by Jen B On Friday, September 27, 2013 6 comments
We attended the Coldwater Steampunk Festival earlier this summer and I've previously posted about the amazing costumes and the dazzling art. For the final round up of the event, here are some odds and ends of the fun we had that day.

One of the highlights of the festival was a knight fight in the street. We missed their first fight that was scheduled and in the park, but later in the day they took to the street for another battle. It was like a game of road hockey where they had to move off to the side when a car came. Hilarious! The knights were fun to watch and put on a good show for the crowd.

Knight street fighter
Real swords!
Knight fight!
Knight fist bump - love it!
Happy knight
There was also a Birds of Prey show in the afternoon. There was lots of information to take in, but the bird handler didn't have a microphone so it was hard to hear all the amazing stuff barn owls do.

Another highlight was a steam powered corn roaster. They were selling the roasted corn for only fifty cents! Super deal and super delicious.

Our last stop of the day was the Coldwater Legion for some french fries and a few rounds of the meat draw (buy a ticket, maybe win a roast). It was a lot of fun and everyone at the Coldwater Legion was super nice and welcoming.

I'm already looking forward to next year! I wonder if I will put a costume together?

Posted by Jen B On Thursday, September 26, 2013 4 comments
I spent much of the weekend in bed fighting something off. And even though I spent most of my time laying down, sleep only came in pockets, so I am completely wiped today. And grumpy. And probably cranky too.

The crummy thing about me feeling bad is that it was John's birthday over the weekend. I had a plan to make a new cake recipe, but just did not have the energy to do it. We ended up having a store bought cake to celebrate, but I have to say I have had waaaaayyyy better store bought cakes. You know I'm grumpy if I am getting mad at cake!

Also realized over the weekend that our car is making a sound that we can't ignore. I'm taking it into the mechanic today and hoping it just needs a little something and not a whole lottta something.

There is some good news to report: I finished my first week of my second 28 day reboot. I am no longer relying on my mostly broken pedometer, so have been gauging my progress on timed walks. Last week I was "on a walk" for 165 minutes (2.75 hours). My goal for the second week is 4 hours of walking. I'm hoping to do more than that, but setting my goal realistically (seeing as I'm starting the week off tired and cranky). But I will be walking back from the mechanic shortly, so at least that is something.

How was your weekend? What is the best store bought cake you ever had? Mine was a huge slab cake we got from Zehrs in Barrie for my parents 25th wedding anniversary. It was delicious. I found a photo of it and it made me smile, so maybe I'm going to beat this grump after all.

Posted by Jen B On Monday, September 23, 2013 14 comments
My brother Tommy raised some chickens this year and I was eager to buy one. Coming in at 5lbs, this chicken was huge and tasted better than I could have imagined. I'm not exactly sure what makes locally raised meat taste so good, but there is definitely something to it. I made a bunch of sides and we had a big meal that lasted two days and kept us really full. It was really quite lovely.

Posted by Jen B On Friday, September 20, 2013 4 comments
We had a wonderful time at the Coldwater Steampunk Festival earlier this summer, and beyond all the amazing costumes, they also had a showcase of some pretty dazzling art. Steampunk is such a neat style, and I had a great time looking through all these creations.

3rd Annual Coldwater Steampunk 2013 art
Hat with goggles
Love this chess set
Clock with exposed gears
Multi-gear necklace
Necklace with keys
Tin man

Posted by Jen B On Thursday, September 19, 2013 4 comments
We had a roast chicken last week which got me thinking about turkey which reminded me of this photo. Why did these turkeys cross the road? They definitely made it to the other side, stopping traffic as they crossed. Key rules for a successful animal road crossing include (1) traveling in large groups and (2) venturing out during the day. These guys made it across no problem.

Posted by Jen B On Wednesday, September 18, 2013 4 comments
I made my first pumpkin pie over the weekend. I also made my second. Here are two things I wish I didn't know about making pumpkin pie:
                   (1) it is stupidly easy. By the time the oven heats up, the pie is ready to go in. 
                   (2) 1 can of pumpkin puree makes two pies
Now that I know these things, John thinks I should make a pumpkin pie every week.

In my pumpkin pie making adventure, I noticed that recipes either called for sweetened condensed milk or evaporated milk. I had enough puree to make two pies, so I thought I would try both methods to see which I liked better. Here are my results (note: this was in no way a scientific study. It was mostly just an excuse to eat/make pie.)

Pumpkin Pie (recipe slightly adapted from Eagle Brand)

1 + 3/4 cups pumpkin puree
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 large eggs
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp salt
1 9-inch unbaked pie crust

Whisk ingredients (except pie crust) in bowl until smooth. Pour into pie crust. Bake in 425°F oven for 15 minutes. Turn oven down to 350°F and continue baking for 35-40 minutes.
Before baking
After Baking
Pumpkin Pie (recipe slightly adapted from E.D. Smith)

1 + 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
3/4 cup evaporated milk
2 large eggs
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp salt
1 9 inch unbaked deep dish pie crust

Beat eggs lightly in medium bowl. Add pumpkin, sugar, spices, and salt; stir until combined. Blend in milk. Pour into pie shell. Bake at 425°F for 15 min. Lower oven temperature to 350°F and continue baking 30-35 minutes.
Before Baking
After Baking
In this unscientific, not double blind, test study, I decided that they both tasted the same, looked the same, and cooked pretty much the same. I have a 'really like pumpkin pie spice' bias, so the recipe didn't really matter to me. The end result was they both tasted like pumpkin pie and that was what I was going for. I do prefer the sweetened condensed milk version, but only because it has less ingredients and I'm more likely to have sweetened condensed milk on hand. Also when I made the evaporated milk version, the filling dripped over the side of the pie crust. That was when I noticed that the recipe called for a deep dish pie crust. Whoops.

Have you made a pumpkin pie? Any preference on recipe?

Posted by Jen B On Tuesday, September 17, 2013 6 comments
I finished my 28 day reboot on the weekend and then immediately started a new one. Habits take time to stick with me, and setting another four weeks of walking goals will keep me moving. Plus as the seasons change, I will have to be extra motivated to get outside when the temperature dips below zero. My main goal is to develop good walking habits now and maintain them over the winter.

Here are the results of my 28 day reboot, step-wise:

Week one: 37,321 steps

Week two: 55,839 steps

Week three: 39,330 steps

Week four: 39,692 steps

I haven't gotten up to 70,000 steps/week, but I am consistently getting more than 5500 steps per day and have walked far more in the past month than I did most of the summer. I have had some low energy days where I couldn't get more than 2000 steps, but because I have a goal in place, I keep getting back out there.

Things I have done to stay motivated/get more steps in my day:

• Listen to an audiobook while walking
• Plan different routes for variety
• Make a simple trip to the store/library walk focused by walking around town before or after
• When reading, walk for around 5 minutes at the end of each chapter
• If I don't think I have the energy to get to 10,000 steps in a day, try to get at least 5000
• Walk when I first get up

A demotivater I ran into on the weekend: I'm pretty sure my pedometer is broken. I dropped it onto some concrete and it bounced unhappily and hasn't been counting properly since. I have been thinking of getting a new one (one that costs more than $6), and am seriously looking into the Fitbit. Until I take the plunge and make a big purchase, I am going to be judging my activity by the time or distance I walk. This morning I walked for 55 minutes when I first got up, which made me pretty proud of myself. I can do about 1000 steps in ten minutes, so my walk was about 5500 steps. I find it hard to measure the time I walk outside of a planned walk, but I've decided I'm not going to stress too much about the daily count. My walking goals for the next four weeks are to get outside for at least an hour a day, and if it's in the morning, even better!

Posted by Jen B On Monday, September 16, 2013 14 comments
We've added good old mac and cheese to our meal plan rotation. I wasn't in the habit of making it regularly because I thought cheese and milk were expensive. I have recently figured out that milk is cheaper than I think, and if there is a good cheese deal ($4 or less for 500g), a big pan of mac and cheese is only around $4.50. Pretty cheap considering the meal lasts two days and feeds two adults. It's also enough for late night snacks too. Mac and Cheese is also a great make ahead meal, either to freeze, or to make the day before if we know we won't have time to cook. I follow my Mom's recipe, which I've been eating for over 30 years now and still love.

Mom's Mac and Cheese (for 9x13 pan)

4 cups dry macaroni
1/2 cup + 2tbs flour
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup + 2tbs margarine
3 cups milk
3 cups grated old cheddar cheese (about half a 500g brick)

Boil macaroni until desired tenderness. Drain and set aside.

In saucepan, melt margarine with flour (mixed w/ salt and pepper) over medium heat. 

Stir in milk. Stir constantly with whisk until thickened. Now, here is the deal with making the sauce: it takes about 7 minutes of constant whisking. I have no problem with the stirring, but my brain likes to chime in and convince me around the 6 minute mark that the sauce isn't going to thicken. Even though it does every time. My mom says she does this too. But don't worry if it happens to you. Your sauce will work out!

Once thickened, remove from heat and add grated cheese and stir until melted. 

Mix macaroni with cheese sauce until completely covered.

Pour into a 9x13 pan and spread out evenly.

Sprinkle with bread crumbs, butter, and spices to taste. I use Bulk Barn bread crumbs, but when mom makes this, she uses bread crumbs from actual bread. That she made herself. I was lucky growing up, eh? My store bought bread crumbs do the job, but mom's mac in cheese is just fantastic.

Bake in oven for 30 minutes at 350°F. And enjoy! Sometimes when I get it on my plate I smother it with Franks Red Hot. Pretty tasty.

Posted by Jen B On Sunday, September 15, 2013 17 comments
My sister-in-law Jeanette has spent the past year working on the International Plowing Match (IPM) 2014 cookbook. She and the rest of the IPM cookbook committee collected and compiled over 700 recipes from Simcoe County residents and created a beautiful cookbook that, as the tag line states, is 'from the heart of Simcoe County kitchens'.

The IPM Cookbook is the official fundraising cookbook for the plowing match happening in Ivy, Ontario in September 2014. The cookbooks are sold for a year before the match to raise funds to support the event. Books are sold for $12 and can be purchased through local retailers and vendors at upcoming fairs and events (see below). I'm very proud of my sister-in-law for her efforts to create this cookbook. Great job Jeanette!

Perth County is hosting this year's plowing match, which marks the 100th anniversary of the event and begins this Tuesday (running Sept 17-21). For more information check here or watch this trailer for the event:

For further information on the 2014 match happening in Simcoe County check here.

The following is a list of vendors throughout Simcoe County who are selling the 2014 IPM Cookbook. New vendors will be added, so please check their Facebook page for updates.

New vendors as of September, 2013:

Carpe Diem - 1012 Yonge St, Barrie
Barrie Hill Farms -
2935 Barrie Hill Rd, Barrie www.barriehillfarms.com

Barrie Home Hardware
Penetanguishene Home Hardware - 2 Poyntz St #61, Penetanguishene
Midland Home Hardware - 159 4th St, Midland
Wasaga Beach Home Hardware  - 1955 Mosley St, Wasaga Beach
Elmvale Home Building Centre - 121 County Rd. 27, Elmvale
H.F. Smith Home Hardware Building Centre - 61 Queen Street, Highway 89, Cookstown

Posted by Jen B On Saturday, September 14, 2013 2 comments
My obsession with pumpkin pie spice and pumpkin puree led me to this list of 50 ways to use up leftover pumpkin puree. From there I got the idea to mix some puree and spice with pancake mix and water and these pumpkin spice pancakes came into existence. I have to say the maple syrup mixed perfectly with the flavour of these pancakes, so much so that I think I will long for the combination the next time I have regular ones. Really tasted fantastic. And I think the best part about using pumpkin spice is the way the house smells after cooking with it. These pancakes made the kitchen smell good.

Posted by Jen B On Friday, September 13, 2013 2 comments
In August we attended the third annual Coldwater Steampunk Festival. We had never been before (or even heard about it) but I have an appreciation of the Steampunk look, and the fact that it was being held in Coldwater, Ontario really caught our attention. Coldwater? Really? Coldwater is a small town near us that has a population of about 1700, and we weren't sure how many people there would even know what Steampunk was. Our main motivation to attend was curiosity, and we ended up having a fantastic time. The atmosphere of the small town, with some historical looking buildings and old timey trucks lining the main street, really added to the Steampunkiness of the event.  It was really well done.

Like any street festival there were vendors of art, crafts, and food. There were buskers of music and other talents, even an acorbatic pole dancer put on a show. There were way more people dressed up then I expected, and a costume contest was held to recognize the amazing work participants did putting them together. Someone was even carrying an elaborate bubble gun that was very Steampunky.

The following is a round up of some of the costumes at the festival. I took a lot of photos that day so I will post more over the next few weeks.

Children's Costume Contest
Women's Costume Contest
Men's Costume Contest
Judges for the costume contest
She told us she made her dress. What an amazing job! Looks awesome!
Love this group! The bubble gun was awesome.
Posted by Jen B On Thursday, September 12, 2013 2 comments
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