Saturday, August 6, 2011

Adventures in Canning

Well, I've done it again.  It's been over a month since the last post.  But that's mostly because I've been busy with my new internship!

Yes, I finally got one.  It was very short notice, so I wasn't able to give my other job enough notice to get out of most of my shifts,  which made July the month of no days off.  I just lacked the mental energy to force out a or even think about a post.  Other than that (and the strain on my back from bending over a microscope all day) it's been a really great experience so far, and I'm glad I have the opportunity to do it.

I've been up to many a nifty thing in the last month.  I'll be sure to update you on all of it in the very near future.  But for now, let's talk about canning cherries!

This week, I tried my hand at canning for the first time!  Okanagan cherries were on for $2.99/lb at the produce store, so, naturally, I bought about ten pounds over the course of the week.  I shared, ate and froze eight pounds, but two of them went into the great canning experiment.

I've got to admit, canning is terrifying the first time if you're the worrying type.  It sure was for me, at least.  Are the jars and lids sterilized?  What's that sound?  Did they seal?  Did I wipe the rims well enough?  Is the water hot enough?  WHAT IF I EAT IT AND DIE?!

Well, I'm happy to report that I did open one of the jars, and I did eat it, and I did NOT die.  They're even pretty darn tasty.  I used this recipe from Simple Bites' Canning 101 Series.  I made three 250mL jars each of the vanilla and almond variations.  It was easy, pretty quick, and I'm pretty happy with the result. I might use tall jars instead of short and maybe a slightly heavier syrup next time though.  It's also a good idea to make an effort to keep the types separated.  I forgot which jar was which before I could label them.

If you're thinking about home preserving, you should really give it a try.  It was scary, but really rewarding.  And the second time, you'll be experienced, so it won't be scary any more!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Summer at Last

Good morning, everyone!

Sorry about the hiatus.  The remainder of June was kind of dull, and there was little to report.

This weekend was really nice though.  After a late start, it's finally starting to feel like summer.  Scott and I started the weekend with mini golf and the driving range.  It was my first time at a driving range.  It was fun, but I can say with confidence that it will not become one of my skills.

Yesterday we took a long drive out to French Beach Provincial Park.  It was so windy that I had a hard time holding the camera straight.  We got to watch some pretty impressive waves because of it.

Going to French Beach was supposed to fulfill my goal to go somewhere I've never been on the island, but when I got there, I was surprised to find that I recognized it.  My dad took my brother and me there when we were kids, but I never knew what it was called.  I've been looking for this place for years!  

After the beach, we finished off the day with a late lunch in Sooke.  Not a bad start to the summer.

I have big plans for the rest of this week, so I'll be back really soon to report on my goings on and to update on the garden.  It's doing so well!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Screw Reality, Choose Possibility

It's 10:30 P.M. which seems to mean it's time to have a drink and dream of a better future. That's how every evening has turned out for the last few days.

I'm feeling restless. Several times a day, I've been overcome with an urge to just... GO. Big changes need to happen. That is, after all, what I'm supposed to be documenting here.

It seems like every step I make towards a new life makes me want to run for it. I say this every year, but this time I mean it; everything is about to change.

I can't be the only one who feels this way. What's stopping us from pursuing our dreams? No excuses, now. Is there any REAL reason why we can't run away and join the circus or see the world? Sure, there may be some inconveniences and it may be hard, but isn't happiness worth working for? Is it worth risking everything for?

We know what will make us happy. Admit it. I think I've know for my whole life, but I've always felt like I have to put others' happiness and expectations before my own.  I've believed all of the discouraging things I've been told.  That's pretty silly, right?

Honestly, I may be just a little bit drunk right now.  Ernest Hemingway said to always do sober what you said you would do drunk. Granted, he said that it would teach you to keep your mouth shut, but that's not how I see it. What I say when I drink hasn't been filtered through self doubt, expectations or practicality.  It's what I really think, and often what I know I have to do.

Just do it. It will be amazing.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Day 10 Journal: My Favourite Song

I'm not going to lie to you.  I drew this today, not yesterday.  But I will NOT make a habit of it, so help me.

On the upside, I had loads of time to work on this page while I was "working" at my volunteer job at the nature house.  It wasn't an amazing day, so I had lots of long visitor-less stretches.  Also, there is a library full of books with pictures to reference for the drawing.  Bonus!

The theme for today was "my all time favourite song."  I was torn between several songs.  In the end, I decided on the one that I felt would be the most fun to draw.

 What can I say?  I'm a sucker for The Beatles.

Now, I'm going to head off and work on today's page.  What is my heart full of?  Exciting!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Journal Days 7, 8 & 9

It's that time again.  Time for a 30 Day Journal Challenge update! 

Day 7: A love letter to someone special

It's to my cat.  I know what you're thinking, and no, I'm not a crazy cat lady.  I'm not close enough to anyone in my family to feel comfortable writing a letter like this to, and my partner isn't the smooshy love letter type.  But Rosie has always been there for me, even when we lived at home and times were tough for her.  I would have understood if she decided to find another home to feed her.  When I had no friends and my parents were distant, she was there to play and cuddle with me.  She's a cat, but she really means a lot to me.  Now she's getting old and starting to get confused.  I just wish that pets lived longer.

If she was a dog, it wouldn't sound as crazy.

Day 8: What I would put in a time capsule to be opened in at least 100 years.

Of course I would never actually tuck these away never to be seen again by me.  It's more of a snapshot of my life right now in objects.  I decided to try my hand at an actual font and experiment a little with ink.  It was so much fun!  I'm really happy with how everything turned out. 

The little bird and the feeder are my favourite part, though I'm also pretty fond of the seed packet.  Cute!

Day 9: Something random with no pens!

This was so much fun to make!  I think there will be a lot more mixed media in my future.  Stickers, string, a crossword, wrapping paper, a feather, ribbon and an envelope that was given to me by my grocer for lunar new year.

I'm excited to get started on today's topic: Illustrate your favourite song!  Don't touch that dial.

Monday, June 6, 2011

30 Day Journal Challenge: Days 2 - 6

As mentioned in my last post, it has been a busy, busy week.  But I have taken time out of each day to keep up with the 30 Day Journal Challenge.  From now on, I should have plenty of time to put a lot of effort into each day's entry and to make a daily update on it here.

Without further ado, here are the entries.  You can click on the pictures to enlarge them.

Day 2: Create 3 to 5 simple, accomplishable goals for your 30 day journal challenge

I'm not crazy about the visual impact, but I like the goals.

Day 3:  What are at least 5 things that you want to do in June?

Can you tell I'm a fan of The Simpsons?  This one makes me really happy.  And I can't wait to start scuba diving!  I already have a buddy lined up from work!

Day 4:  What I wish I wore. . .

I was trying to draw a dusty rose coloured dress and  old fashioned brown shoes, but I'm not too good at drawing clothing and my pencil crayons suck.

Day 5:  What are your summer traditions?

These are old traditions that I would like to do again some day.  I'm not too happy with how this looks.

Day 6:  Write a love letter to yourself

I feel a little bit silly sharing this with everyone.  It turned into more of an advice letter than a love letter.  I was worried that I wouldn't be able to fill the page, but instead I had to stop when I ran out of room.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's update.  The prompt is "write a love letter to someone special."

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Happy Birthday, Sylvia!

Wowza.  Has it ever been a busy week.  This is the first time since Thursday that I've had a chance to sit down and post.

It was my good friend Sylvia's twenty-fifth birthday last week.  As part of her gift, I made the cake for her party.  The cake is one of the things that I was so busy with, and it was totally worth it.  It turned out even better than I expected, and she loved it!

AND I finally had an excuse to use the cake stand I got for Christmas!

It was Swiss chocolate cake with French Vanilla whipped icing, and it was pretty darn tasty. The lettering and decorations are piped chocolate and purple sugar.  Not too shabby for a boxed cake mix and canned frosting.

It was so much fun to make. There will be many more baked goods in the near future.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

30 Day Journal Challenge: Introduction

It's June!  That means it's time to post the first page from my art journal for Run With Scissors' 30 Day Journal Challenge!  Today's prompt was "create an introduction page."

Ta da! Day 1.  It's way busier than I would have liked, but it was so much fun to do.

It was so nice to work with dip pens again.  It turns out the orange ink doesn't have much of a scent on the paper, but it smelled lovely while I was drawing. 

It got a little bit smudged.

This adorable ball of fuff is my bunny, Lucy. I'm really happy with how she turned out.

I was trying to make it feel as if she was underground in a burrow, surrounded by roots (Blooming roots. . .  Sure, that can be a thing.).  I guess it's about the contrast between reality and dreams/what could be.

This was awesome.  I'm completely hooked on art journaling, and I can already tell that it's going to be my favourite part of the day.

It's never too late to join in, as far as I see it.  If you're interested, get in on it!  If you want to see other people's entries, there's a flickr group for the challenge.

Happy journaling! 

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

June Journaling!

I've accepted Run With Scissors' 30 Day Journal Challenge!  Starting tomorrow, I'll make an entry in my brand spankin' new art journal every day, and I'll post them here.  As soon as I heard about the challenge, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

In high school, I fell in love with dip pens.  I had zillions of nibs and just couldn't use them often enough.  But at some point, I lost all of them and tucked the hobby away in the back of my mind.  Today, I went shopping for a brand new set of nibs, a new journal and inks!

I chose a landscape layout journal, two inks, four nibs and a beginner's calligraphy book, so the lettering can look as nice as the art.

This is the ink I'm most excited about!  It's a deep, rich orange colour and it's bergamot scented!  I've always wanted to try scented inks.  This is going to be a huge treat. Bergamot makes me think of a hot cup of earl grey tea, so there was really only one choice for the other colour. . .

Tea brown!

I think the tea themed inks will go really nicely with the cream coloured pages. 

And here we have the pen and nibs!  I can't wait to use it every day! June is going to be a fantastic month.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Growing, growing, growing. . .

I said that I would post twice a week, but here I am, nearly two weeks since my last post.  Well, this is embarrassing.

I haven't been completely idle for the past two weeks, but pretty close to it. Truth be told, it's because I've been feeling a bit down lately.  My co-op prospects are running dry and I've been missing my family on the mainland quite a bit; I haven't seen most of them in about a year and a half.   

But I'm not going to fall back into my old rut.  I'm going to apply for one last position, and I won't take it personally if I don't get it.  It's a tough job market, and it's hard to compete with more outgoing and experienced people.  The job I have pays for what I need (and a little bit of what I want), and it will be really nice to have a stress free summer with lots of free time.  And that free time and little bit of "what I want" money can get me to Vancouver to see my family in the next month or so.

Like a lot of. . .  well, a large portion of the world, we've had a less than awesome few months weather-wise.  It's been a cold, wet May, but thankfully most of the plants in my garden are doing okay.  Since my last post, the beets have germinated and are looking very healthy!  I planted a mix of three varieties, and I can't wait to see what comes out of the ground in the next couple of months.  Most of the peas are growing very quickly, too.  I bet they'll be as tall as me by the end of June.  The peppers, kale and one of the tomatoes are doing just fine, but I'm not sure about the other two tomatoes.  They've hardly grown at all, and they're already trying to flower.  Luckily, they're indeterminate, so they should keep growing and producing more flowers later in the season when it warms up (knock on wood).

I'm really excited to watch the garden explode when it warms up.  As cheesy as it sounds, I'm looking forward to growing with it, too.  It's going to be a good year.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Kale Chips Recipe

Good morning!  I hope it's a beautiful spring day where you are.  Victoria is warm, grey and drizzly.  It's a great day to stay inside, watch the cherry blossom petals blow in the wind and listen to the birds sing.

Grey days are just perfect for cooking, then curling up to snack on your homemade goodies with a good book.  The best, easiest, tastiest and healthiest snack I know how to make is kale chips.  They're savoury and crunchy like chips or crackers, but they're made with a healthy green veggy and cheesy, B-vitamine packed nutritional yeast (AKA, catnip for vegetarians and vegans).  What's not to love?

This recipe serves one or two people.  I'm kind of a bottomless pit, so I'm usually content to eat the whole batch.


Curly Kale, about 3 big leaves
Olive Oil (I like plain ol' olive oil, not extra virgin), about 2 tsp
Nutritional Yeast Flakes (some stores will call it Red Star or engevita yeast.  Powder is fine if you can't find flakes, but the texture won't be quite the same), about 1 tbsp
Salt and Pepper to taste


Preheat your oven to 350F.

Wash and dry the kale.  Discard the tough stem/centre rib and rip the leaves into bite sized pieces.  Place the kale on a baking tray, sprinkle on a little bit of oil and toss to coat the leaves.  It might look like you need more than 2 tsp when you're sprinkling the oil on, but you probably don't.  You'll see when you toss the kale that you have enough.  Spread the kale out in single layer on the baking sheet.  Sprinkle on the salt, pepper and yeast. 

Pop the kale in the oven for about 7 minutes, but keep an eye on it. When the kale has shrunk quite a bit and is looking crispy, pull out the tray and flip the kale over.  Return it to the oven for about 3-5 more minutes.  If the edges are starting to turn a little brown, they're done!

Put the kale chips in a bowl, let them cool for a second, then turn on a good movie and start munching away.

Feel free to mess with the seasoning.  This would be great with Cajun spices.  Or you can use sesame oil instead of olive oil and top it with some chili flakes, sesame seeds and Asian spices. 

Now, I'm off to make a big batch of these and stuff my face.  I hope you give them a try, too (let me know if you do!).  Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Books, Beaches and Birds

Hi everyone!  Sorry for the delayed post.  My goal is for at least two posts a week.  I'll be better about that in the future.

The last week or so has been pretty good.  I'm finished classes for the summer and sill looking for a Co-op job, so I have lots of free time.  After seven days a week of class or work, it's a nice change to have any at all.

I started reading Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer.  I'm on the fourth chapter, and I'm very happy with it so far.  I read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close last year, and it was wonderful.  I love Jonathan Safran Foer's quirky writing style and touching, lively characters.  Both books were suggested to me by two lovely friends, Kaitlin and Elyse, who happen to have really awesome blogs.  You can find Kaitlin at Gold Finch Anchor and Elyse at Microfiche Slide, if you'd like to check them out.

On Thursday, I went down to the beach to read and generally enjoy the scenery.  It's only a five or ten minute drive or a relaxing 45 minute walk to the beach from my house, but I don't make it down all that often.  That's another thing that's going to change.

I've also been spending a lot of time relaxing at home, discovering Netflix and working on a super-secret-project for a friend.  I'll be sure to post the results. 

About a month and a half ago, I set up a bird feeder up in front of my living room window.  I was starting to think that the birds would never use it, but they finally discovered it this week!  And they're ravenous little guys.  I've already had to refill it once, and it's almost empty again. 

I think that the birds are male and female house finches.  I've never seen house finches before, so I'm really excited. I'm sure they've always been here, but I'm awful at spotting birds that aren't in plain sight.

I'm already planning another post for tomorrow, so you'll hear from be again really soon.  Stay classy, blog readers.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Story is in the Soil

It's the first day of May, and it sure feels like it.  The weather in Victoria hasn't been wonderful this spring, but this weekend has been fabulous.  Birds are singing, the sun is shining and there is a gentle breeze.  Today is perfect for gardening.

Looking at my backyard, you can tell that the elderly lady who owned the property before us took good care of it when she was still able to.  There is a terraced rock garden filled with overgrown rosemary, various ground cover plants, a few bright red and yellow flowers, some rhubarb that just wont quit and more weeds than I care to count.  There is also a garden plot that the previous tenants in my suite put in.  When I moved in, it was still in pretty decent shape and even had a few carrots left in it.  But after two years of (my) neglect, it was filled with grass, dandelions and stray flowers.

Today, I brought the garden plot back to it's former glory.  I thought about doing the same for the rock garden, but it's full of big black spiders that scare the bjezus out of me.  I'll save it for another day.

Here's what the garden plot looked like to start with.  Sort of, at least.  I didn't think to take a picture until after I removed a bunch of flowers and dandelions.

Yikes.  I spent about five hours in the garden, and with a little help and advice from my dad, I turned it into this.

There are two rows of snap peas in the very back.  From left to right, the front is hot peppers, super sweet cherry tomatoes, Cherokee purple tomatoes and black krim tomatoes.  In the very front, I planted red, gold and candy cane beets.  They should germinate in a few days.  I also planted some kale in a tiny corner of the rock garden, which isn't pictured.  There's still an eggplant sitting on my windowsill waiting until June to go outside, too.

It was a lot of work, but I'm really happy with the results.  I'm really looking forward to tending to it every day.  And in a couple of months, I'll have some really great, really fresh organic veggies!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

An Introduction

Good evening, Internet.  I suppose I should introduce myself.

I'm Kate.  I'm 23, I'm a student, and I'm trying to improve my life.

Recently, I realized that I'm wasting the few short years of my youth and life.  Since I graduated from high school, my life has been pretty dull.  I've been so preoccupied with making rent, getting good grades and stressing over insignificant things that I've forgotten who I am.  I work and study hard so I can make something of myself and improve my life, but I'm throwing away the life I have today.  And I've let the people who tell me that I'm not good enough get to me.  That's not what I want.  I don't want to look in the mirror and dislike the person who stares back at me anymore.

In this blog, I hope to record my efforts to gain a zest for life.  I love to knit, garden, cook, paint, explore, craft, sing, read and write.  These are pleasures that I will deny myself no longer.  I'm going to nurture my creative side.  I'll set goals that mean something to me and reach towards them without hesitation.

Maybe you've felt the same way.  If you have, we can help each other through it.  Or maybe you'll like the awesome projects, recipes and activities I'm going to share with you.  Whatever your reason for reading, I would love to share my life with you.