What’s a thingamajig, exactly?

When I was a kid, I spent time in the kitchen with my Gramps. He was my first babysitter, and the first one to help develop my tastebuds, so needless to say we were good pals. I learned quickly to decipher many of Gramps’ expressions… thingamajigs, and whatchamacallits mostly. In context, and especially with a child’s brain, it was easy to know that he meant he wanted the particular tool for the job – a wooden spoon to stir a pot of something, or a can opener… We managed just fine with our shared language.

As I got older, I learned expressions, too. These ones I use to this day:

Six of one, half dozen of another.

One horse, one rabbit.  (that one is still my favourite; much more unique than the first even though they mean the same thing. I mean, literally “the same thing”.)

I think all this expressive talk throughout my upbringing was meant to prepare me for cooking old-fashioned recipes. Have you ever come across some of the terms cooks of old use? For example, my marmalade recipe calls for “a nob of butter”. Just how much is a nob, you are probably saying?

measuring-kit

Well, thanks to Google almost anything has some information listed but as I learned to cook I had to do more sleuthing. It seems that whether you spell it with a k or not (knob), the amount is similar to a knob on a cupboard (a bit bigger than a tablespoon). If you want to get technical, the most exact description I could find shows that a “nob” is more likely to be slang for a wealthy British fellow (also called a “toff”) or in more of a vulgar sense, the name for a part of a man’s anatomy (I’m sure you can guess which part). A “knob” is where the butter comes in, which is what leads one to think it was in comparison to a cupboard knob.

When I spent a year of university in France, I took on the task of translating old recipes from the 18th and 19th centuries to edit into a cookbook. There were terms such as  “dessert spoon” (not small like I thought, but more like a tablespoon), and glassful (based on a juice glass, so again smaller, about 5 ounces). Of course some of the terms did become standard, like tablespoons and teaspoons and even cups (based on an 8 ounce cup).

Here’s a few more for you, just for fun:

  • dash – 1/8 teaspoon
  • pinch – smaller than a dash, about 1/16 teaspoon *(what fits between your thumb & forefinger when you pinch them)
  • spoonful – a heaping tablespoon (in our house, we call this a Chef’s tablespoon)
  • jigger – 1-1/2 oz (Gramps used this one too – he put a jigger full of rye in his cocktail)
  • peck – 8 quarts, or 32 cups (you know, as in “I love you, a bushel and a peck” – now you know just how much that is!)

So, as always, my message here is to keep your sense of humour in the kitchen, and if all else fails, use your imagination. After all, if someone handed you one of these vintage kitchen tools, what would you do with it?

vintage-kitchen-tools

 

 

The original hacker’s manual

I’m an old-fashioned girl. And, let’s face it, I’m old too. Some of the newfangled stuff out there takes me by surprise, especially when it comes to the language used to explain it. I didn’t know what a “hack” was until my stepdaughter explained the concept to me. Now that I do know, I realize I’ve been a fan of them since before they were called hacks. It’s why I love The Old Farmer’s Almanac.


I’m a sucker for little trivia tidbits and tips on how to make life easier. When I first discovered the Almanac as a young adult, I thought I’d found the mother lode. In those days we didn’t even have a water cooler around which to chat! I just loved the philosophy of their founder, Robert B. Thomas:

“Our main endeavour is to be useful, but with a pleasant degree of humor.”

Did you know that the Farmer’s Almanac is the longest continuously published periodical in North America? The first edition was published in 1792 – when George Washington was President! Its combination of weather forecasts made with uncanny accuracy, gardening guide, recipes, and general advice for around the home has worked for 225 years and they are still going. (The secret formula for weather forecasts is apparently still locked in a little tin box in their head office in New Hampshire.) After all, where else could I find out:

  • A dream of eating stew foretells a reunion with an old friend
  • When the colours orange and blue are placed next to each other, they seem to vibrate
  • The first full moon of the year is called the Wolf Moon. February’s full moon is the Snow Moon (I bet you can guess why!)
  • If you turn clothes inside put before laundering, you can reduce pilling (those annoying little fuzz balls that appear over time)
  • If you see grass in January you should lock away the grain in your granary. (Don’t plant the garden quite yet!)

Are you impressed yet? You can check out more on the Almanac website if you like – and find links to your favourite social media channel too. Just think of all the hacks you can post 🙂

Or you can keep watching here; I’m sure to pepper my posts with little gems from my appointment calendar in the weeks and months to come. 

Wishing for marmalade skies

img_0431It’s another grey blustery day here – this shot is one I took on last year’s holiday in Jamaica. As my bones and I pine for warmer climes and more spectacular sunsets, I search for activities to brighten the day. Thankfully, it’s Seville orange season! So I might not be able to have marmalade skies, but I can have my marmalade on toast. That is, if I get to work and replenish my stock!

Those of you who know me have probably tasted my marmalade if you like the stuff. Many people don’t, I have discovered – more for me, I say! If we don’t know each other personally, I will apologize here and now: I’m sorry, but this is a recipe I don’t share. It was given to me in trust by an Englishwoman who made it regularly for her guests. She and her husband owned a lovely B & B in the Maritimes that I was fortunate enough to visit one summer long ago. They were a charming couple – he a Canadian who served overseas in World War II and her a war bride doing community work, whose husband was killed in service with the RAF. They met again after the war when he came back to London as a widower and connected. Happy endings don’t get any better than that, I think – although they did joke ruefully about their paradoxical plan to “relax as owners of a b & b”. They don’t own the place anymore, but it is still there and still looks as lovely. If I ever get back to that neck of the woods I will certainly visit, and I do recommend you check out Fairmont House in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia.  It’s a quaint seaside town south of Halifax; it was the perfect end to a day on a summer cycling trip.

Now that we are in the world of the internet, you can find endless recipes for a good old-fashioned marmalade. The recipe I have takes 3 days to make – it is not for the faint at heart. But it’s a very heartwarming effort on cold grey winter days.

So, here I go! If anyone wants to come for tea on Thursday afternoon, I’m sure there will be a few spoonfuls to enjoy. I might even make biscuits to put it on!

marmalade-start

Ta ta for now 🙂

 

Breathe. Think good thoughts. Repeat. 

Apparently it’s “Blue Monday” today – the day you are most likely to be depressed due to it being the dead of winter. Well I for one am not going to just roll over and give up. Thankfully, if I felt that bad I know I have friends I could contact. (If you don’t think you have anyone, reach out to a professional – there is a hand if you have the courage to ask!) 


If you can be of help, please do so. It will mean a lot, even if it’s a little thing. 

Seen at Third Space Coffee in Kelowna – ok, it’s tongue in cheek but a good reminder to connect.


So, taking the positive route, I’m just having a moment today to let my imagination work. A moment to think on my good work of late, and what else I’d like to do – or need to get done. I encourage everyone to do the same. 


Here’s to all of us! 

Funny, I just remembered it’s Martin Luther King Day, because I thought of one of his quotes:


Do good! We all have it in us. 

Pecans and Perseverance

I thought about calling this post “”Sunday Brunch” but as this morning unfolded, circumstances changed my focus. I woke up wanting waffles, and I already had the draft of my Pecan Waffle recipe in my archives. My hubby even had the inspiration to heat up some leftover chicken with a bit of maple syrup. As I read through the recipe and prepared, I was pleased to find I’d made notes reminding us to think of all the details (as I thanked my literary self for mentioning the maple syrup should come out of the fridge…) Things were going well – and then, they weren’t.

One can only multi-task so much, and then things start to implode. I was mixing, and chopping pecans, and heating milk for coffee, and greasing the waffle iron. I put the batter in the iron, but the oil had already cooked off so the waffle stuck. It really stuck! The only saving grace was that my waffle iron has removable plates. That and my hubby’s help in cleaning the plates and reheating them with oil got things back on track. I’m sorry there are no graphic representations of my fiasco; I was too busy trying to get brunch made properly.

We got the remaining waffles cooked and served up the plates. I heated more milk for a second cup of coffee.  It was a delicious meal.

So, my advice to you is this: on a lazy Sunday, take things easy. Don’t be over zealous. Persevere and you will enjoy success.

Chicken & waffles

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