Monday, January 17, 2022

Hello Again and The Best of British Baking cookbook review

I took the above photo on a drive this morning, the sun was lighting up Mt. Jefferson to the right of the old barn. 

 Hello all--happy new year! I hope it is going well for everyone. We have already been "snowed in" and had a big thaw with squishy mud! It was hazardous to get out. Excavation for landscaping is underway, but I have to catch all my house-building posts up to this point so more on that much later. I wouldn't mind more snow, it is just the aftermath of sinking 3" into the mud everywhere we walk that is not so fun! A week of sunshine is drying us out nicely.

I wanted to start the year's blogging with a cookbook review, as it was a good time to stay indoors and bake!

I was thrilled to be picked to receive a free copy of this book, The Best of British Baking: Classic Sweet Treats and Savory Bakes to review! I knew that in order to truly review it I would get to bake a lot of treats!

I have followed Marie's blog, The English Kitchen, for a few years and enjoyed her practical, use-what-you-have comfort-food style recipes from both Canadian and British cuisines. Anything from a Canadian cook is going to be successful... and a cookbook of British favorites was a good fit for this tea-lover!
Besides the appeal of the recipes, the book itself is beautiful to look at and I like reading all the extras about the cuisines of each region. There are plenty of tips, too.

I have tried four recipes so far: Crumpets, English Muffins, Cornish Pasties and Scottish Shortbread. I confess I've made the shortbread twice and I think it will be the one I make the most from this book! It's really good shortbread!

Here are a few tips of my own for what I have done so far: 
--If you are going to treat yourself and order the book, put Crumpet Rings/baking rings in your cart, too! Don't mix up the batter before you discover that you need rings (in other words, read the note at the top of the recipe first!). Improvising may not be for this application. I had to make mine "free form" and the flavor was delicious but you really need the rings.

--The pasty pastry worked! Pastry and I do not get along normally. My pies are usually ragged and patched. This pastry rolled and had no holes! I wondered how the Cornish Pasty filling was going to work out without gravy etc. but it made its own sauce and was such a satisfying, hearty recipe for my family. 

--English muffins take patience (for me at least!). If you have the heat too high, even for a bit, they will get too brown too fast but not done right in the middle. Low and slow is the advice in the book so I need to do this one again.

But the shortbread...ahh...the shortbread. It was delicious very warm from the oven. With heroic effort I put aside some for the next day. 
Of course I had to take a taste for breakfast, because shortbread is never sitting there on the counter at breakfast time and I the water was boiling for tea... well  someone needed to test these out to see if they were any good the next day. They were! The texture and flavor were just the same. Delicious hot or cold.

 I will say that if you have never made Scottish shortbread before, just be aware that it isn't going to form into a dough; it is a mixture like damp sand and when Marie says "tip it into a tin" it's because it's going to dump a mixture of what you will think is too dry to make cookies. It magically melds together in the oven, all sweet buttery-ness and comes out perfectly. I may have to keep making this one regularly to further review it... you know, to double or triple check to make sure it is still delicious.
There are savory and sweet baking recipes so I need to decide which kind I am going to bake next...maybe a cake for Valentine's day!
 I hope you will take a look at the book, you can see several sample pages on Amazon. Don't forget the crumpet rings (you know you will want to try crumpets out!). Thank you to Marie and her publisher for sharing a copy with me!

Monday, December 6, 2021

Taking a Break and a Carol Remake

 I'm going to take a break through New Year's. I found more photos of the house building and it will take me a while to process them for upcoming posts. In the meantime, I wish you the best Christmas, and here is a little poetry for you!

Have you ever wanted to do something and your family just won't cooperate? I wanted to try singing the Christmas Carol, "Ding Dong Merrily on High." I think I first heard it on the '94 Little Women movie. Anyway, I found some music for it and put it in the list of our Christmas Carols. It met with, you know, those things people do when they are uncooperative.

 1 Ding dong, merrily on high!
In heav’n the bells are ringing;
ding dong, verily the sky
is riv’n with angel singing.
Chorus: Gloria, hosannah in excelsis!
Gloria, hosannah in excelsis!

We did okay on the first verse, the chorus was a bit acrobatic but with practice not unattainable.

2 E'en so here below,
let steeple bells be swungen,
And io, io, io,
by priest and people sungen.

Here then was a mispronunciation of "io" (which as I understand it is Latin for Joy)...but when it is said as "I-owe" then the confusion starts. I did explain the pronunciation as "ee-oh but then references to Old MacDonald were brought up. Not to mention the archaic past tenses. 

3 Pray ye dutifully prime
your matin chime, ye ringers;
may ye beautifully rhyme
your evetime song, ye singers.

Nobody understood "matin chimes." So here I proposed we just leave it at the first verse, but the question was  where does it say there were bells at Jesus' birth? There were plenty more Scripturaly accurate carols to sing instead of ding dong bells. 

Just singing the chorus was out of the question because it takes too much breath to get through it. 

So you see why this song didn't make the list. And I think we need up-beat songs between the slow ones so we don't fall asleep by the 4th verse of some of the others (I won't say which).

But at least the tune could be salvaged, and the next morning I re-wrote the words to be more up-to-date and realistic for modern people:

Ding Dong Merrily I Buy

Words by Elizabeth Humphrey 


1. Ding dong merrily I buy;

The cash reg’sters are ringing!

Ding dong! Verily the door

Is throng'd with Cred’tors singing!


Oh, you owe! Oh, you owe!

Oh, you owe! Oh, you owe!

2. E’en so ev’ry year

The credit cards are swipen!

And I-owe I-owe I-owe

Before the presents ripen!


Oh no I owe! Oh no I owe!

Oh no I owe! Oh no I owe!

3. Pray you dutifully Prime

Your frequent Am’zon orders!

Please come beaut’fly on time

Fedex and UPS drivers!


Oh no I owe! Oh no I owe!

Oh no I owe! Oh no I owe!

Bass Descant:

Credit Cards with Higher Int’rest

All Year Long I Owe I Owe I Owe


Perhaps we have become a bit jaded, but the rewritten carol has been put back on the list! If you want to see the original carol, free sheet music can be found at this site, along with other classic carols. I printed many songs out and the music is clear and easy to read. 

I hope my readers have a great rest of the year!



Friday, December 3, 2021

Making it Work for RV Living part two


We were happy with this rig and felt like it served us well. I have a post with a few more modifications and some things we learned in living in it full-time. 

One thing my husband just reminded me of, is always check the awning before you buy. Don't believe the salesman if they say it doesn't need to be seen, it's okay. This one was awful! There are a few things you might see & smell when you open an awning. Mold, , water stains and dripping old brown water, strong vinyl scent, and ripped shreds of vinyl blowing in the breeze. We meant to have it replaced but never got around to it.


Under the TV shelf there was a tall, narrow cupboard, rather useless. We saw that the back of this space was a panel with screws, so we peeked inside. Aha-- the water pump. The nice thing was that the pump was a short little thing (and not something we would be using, as we were hooked up to the site water). So we modified that cupboard to make a shelf above the pump, giving us a few more inches to hold things. 

Speaking of site water, you can't have full pressure water going into an RV. You have to have a hose fixture that will let you control the pressure/opening. And of course, always buy the heated hose!

I had to add "Command hooks" everywhere. I didn't want to mess up the walls but we had to have more storage. Thankfully the wallpaper was never damaged by them and they removed cleanly.

There was a huge storage bay under the bunks, and on the other side of the RV. Still there was a storage place needed for all the shoes, boots, and winter coats so we built an outdoor "closet" which was just a narrow shed.

These photos were from right after it was built. We ended up wrapping things and putting coats in bags to hang so it wasn't so pretty when you opened the door! It wasn't spider-or-mouse proof, but with no food in there there wasn't much attraction for mice. It was more often lizards that were attracted to the shed. Still, we didn't want them getting cozy in our things.

We blocked up many passages  in the camper used by mice. This isn't because we had bought a bad RV, it is because no matter how fancy your RV is it will attract mice. Look at every plumbing or electrical chase as a mouse-road. Best to get them all plugged up (we used steel wool) before you have an infestation and a huge clean-up job to do.

RVs are stickers and cardboard inside. Unscrewing things multiple times (like panels to electrical units and such) usually strips the screw-hole. Things scratch up easily, but some things (that I supposed would be ruined) are surprisingly durable.

Though the "sleeps ten" bit was encouraging for our family size, RV water heaters aren't very big. They are "on demand" but only really effective if you use the propane rather than the electric. If we felt that we were running out of propane and needed to use the electric more, we couldn't get many hot showers in a row.  After-dinner mega-dishwashing had to be timed just so or there would be a long delay while we waited for the water to reheat. 

Some propane companies have a smaller (100 gal.) tank they will bring out for RVs. Frankly we should have had a full-sized one because there were times in the winter when the propane truck could not make it out to us, and we were precariously low.

When it rained, if the RV wasn't exactly level everywhere (that is, if anything was warped) there would be a leak at the slide-out. If it snowed, it was a constant battle to keep snow and ice off of the steps and out of the entrance (I needed a fresh stack of towels every few hours to soak up the mess). And in the winter there was the winter insulation skirt that needed to be put around, and fetched when storms blew it away. 

I will never recommend that people live in RVs through the winter. As a matter of fact, I will never recommend that people live full time in an RV at all, unless they have a metal-or-post-and-beam shelter to park it under. If I could advise myself from the future, I would say "Build a GARAGE with a living space in it and don't try RVs!"

I'm trying to remember more tips about living in an RV full time. Maybe more will come out in future posts! 

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Making it Work for RV Living part one

So now we had an RV all our own, and obviously we had to modify it to fit our family. I was advised against this from a friend, who was sure it would devalue the RV to add to or take from; but with as many of us as there were, and with our lifestyle, change was necessary. We did these things over the months to make this RV work for us.

 The first thing I did was to clean it. It had been cleaned by the sellers and looked great, but I felt better putting shelf paper down in all the drawers and shelves. I also removed the bullets and crayons in the cracks by the couch (obviously this had been a family hunting season camper). 

 One of the first to go was the DVD player and TV screen. As luxurious as it would be to have them, we homeschool and needed a place for BOOKS!

Next was the microwave. We needed kitchen storage and we don't use a microwave to cook with anymore. Another modification was to not use the gas oven/stove. Partly because I don't like the smell of cooking with propane in a small space, and partly because it seemed to be the favorite haunt of mice. So we put a board on the top of it for extra counter space which was sorely needed. I used slow cookers and a toaster oven for a while in place of these things. Probably not a good idea for the electrical system.

We had the repairman out many times to fix and replace (I'm so happy there are mobile RV services, we didn't have a truck to haul this thing to town!). Electrical problems, water problems... I can't remember now if there were heater problems too. It wasn't because it was a bad quality rig, it is just when you live in one full-time things can get worn out faster . For instance, the electrical system was overtaxed. Partly because the electric line, a beefy thing, was too long to do the power we needed (sorry I can't explain that better). Also because it was asking too much of a holiday camper to be running cooking appliances 3x a day every day for a large family. It could have handled a vacation, maybe, but constantly wasn't a good idea.

 The other modification was the beds. Though the ad said "sleeps ten" it meant ten very short people. The queen-sized bed (which in an RV-speak means short queen) was half on some structure that covered one of the storage bays, and half on an indoor under-bed storage box. There were built-in drawers on each side. We took took out one of the drawers, then took out the storage box under the bed. We sold the mattress and made the space into a twin-xl-daybed.




Yes it was ugly. And sleeping against that thin wall was COLD. But it made a much longer bed. 

We lost a lot of storage with this modification (you can see the remnants of the storage box above) but there were other advantages. The extra nice one was the floor space! No more crab-walking around the bed!

There was room for a portable crib and a dresser of sorts. (The mini blinds were not in good shape, so we took those off and made some curtains to go in their place. We don't like mini blinds anyway!)

The "dresser" was really just a frame to hold bins. It was one of the first woodworking projects one of my sons built. He also took the wood from the drawer and made a little cart for the kitchen, sort of a mini "island" for some extra space.

Since we were not going to use the camper as a traveling vehicle, we were not worried about adding such furniture to it. If it had been for going on the road, we would have built-in all additions, and made them of lighter materials.

There will be more things I learned about RVs on Friday's post!