Flowers And Flours

We had an early morning visit from this wee beastie …

A Mistress of Camouflage

A Mistress of Camouflage

I took it as a sign that it was high time I did a bit of flower-gazing. Since it started to warm up the wildflowers around these here parts blossomed overnight. Much to the delight of all the pollinators who’ve been patiently waiting for them.

We are surrounded by the most delicate of wild rose bushes. They flower in a day and the next day the petals have fallen to the ground, but while they’re here they are a delight to see …

Intermingled with the roses were these little ‘five-leaf-clover-ish beauties …

A Five-Leaf-Clover-ish – on a stem, on a bush

A Five-Leaf-Clover-ish – on a stem, on a bush

… and these Magenta Two-Toes …

Magenta Two-Toes ... I have no idea of the names of any of these flowers so I’m making them up as I go along ... as usual

Magenta Two-Toes … I have no idea of the names of any of these flowers so I’m making them up as I go along … as usual

The RV/camping spaces behind us have been left to their own devices and this is the result …

A field of pollinator’s dreams

A field of pollinator’s dreams

Close-ups …

Daisies being pushed by the breeze

Daisies being pushed by the breeze

(Pushing Daisies – greatest 2-season TV show, ever!)

Dandy-Lions getting up close and personal

Dandy-Lions getting up close and personal

Dandy-Lions after too much sun

Dandy-Lions after too much sun

When you stare at the fruit and the fruit stares back …

Wot ch’oo lookin’ at?

Wot ch’oo lookin’ at?

It grows on this bush, and I have absolutely no idea what it is …

Probably best not to know

Probably best not to know

What about this one. An Elven hat-rack perhaps?

Elf hats – cheaper by the dozen

Elf hats – cheaper by the dozen

Self-explanatory …

I hope, because I have no idea, except that it’s not a wildflower

I hope, because I have no idea, except that it’s not a wildflower

-oOo-

In the film ‘Stranger Than Fiction’, Will Ferrell’s character brings the woman he’s courting, played to perfection by Maggie Gyllenhaal, a ‘box of flowers’, which turns out to be a box of flours. (the entire movie is worth a watch, or in my case, several re-watches, but that moment struck a chord with me)

When I was thinking of a title for this post which is a collection of photos of flowers and Mrs Widds latest baking effort, (she is pleased, and like all artists – if you think bread-baking isn’t an art then you’ve never made it from scratch – she’s very hard to please when it comes to her own creations) that scene came to mind, because the main ingredient in bread is, of course, flour …

The buns in the foreground were dipped in melted butter and maple syrup before being baked – divine!

The buns in the foreground were dipped in melted butter and maple syrup before being baked – divine!

Fresh bread burgers for dinner … (with potato salad on the side)

Bread this fresh is notoriously hard to cut evenly. I’m rather proud that they all look like decent slices

Bread this fresh is notoriously hard to cut evenly. I’m rather proud that they all look like decent slices

-oOo-

May your wildflowers bloom and grow, bloom and grow for ever, and your bread slices never be too thin.

The Adventure continues.

Mrs Widds Bakes – In the RV

I’ve been cutting my own hair with a fabulous set of hair clippers since 2019. I got tired of not being satisfied with the cuts I was getting from a salon, and as my styling needs are simple, (#4 blade on the back and sides, #9 on top) I decided I could do a better job, or at least have no-one but myself to blame for a bad haircut. It took me quite a few try’s to get it right, (trimming the back of my head using a mirror took some mental gymnastics) but now I can knock off a decent cut in about 10 minutes.

The other day I decided it was time to do the deed once more. Only this time I didn’t have the privacy of a nice big bathroom, (our bathroom on Widder Island wasn’t all that big, but compared to what we have now …) in which to be naked. (for purposes of jumping straight into the shower to wash all those stick-to-your-skin tiny scraps of offcuts)

No, this time I stood outside, (with all my clothes on – we may have a secluded camping spot but it ain’t that secluded) and a split black plastic garbage bag pegged around my shoulders. With clippers in one hand, hand-held mirror in the other, I proceeded to trim my flowing locks.

This would’ve all gone swimmingly had not a brisk breeze suddenly blown in from the south-west. Scraps of leaves and pine-needles fled before it, my be-pegged cape began to flap as it tried to escape its be-pegged confines. The (empty and dry) plastic wash-basin I was capturing the majority of my shearings in also shimmied across the picnic table and tried to make a run for it.

The end result of all this wind and free-standing/flapping plastic was that my off-cuts, now being thoroughly electrified, stuck to everything … everything. Believe me static electricity is not your friend in the tonsuring business.

-oOo-

On to the bread baking.

Mrs Widds too, has had to make some adjustments to her usual modus-operandi, being bereft of the kitchen as we knew it.

All she needed though was our handy folding table, a fabulous silicone pastry sheet (the blue thing underneath the dough), a bit of nice weather, and away she went …

Ah, the benefits of an outdoor kitchen

Ah, the benefits of an outdoor kitchen

Speaking of nice weather … a heat dome is supposed to descend on our heads in a day or two, so one could reasonably expect the temperatures to start leaving the single digits, couldn’t one?

It was 4C last night. Today never got above 9C, and tonight is forecast to be a luxurious 7C. Apparently we can blame this on La Nina deciding to stick around for a while longer. However, as Ms Scarlett O’Hara was wont to say, ‘Tomorrow is another day’, and it just might be a warmer one than today!

(unfortunately, as I’m writing this and preparing to publish it, our campground Wi-Fi is nowhere to be found, so you won’t be reading this until tomorrow anyway … I’ll let you know if we have sunny skies or cloudy ones … )(Update: We had sunny skies and now we have clouds. I’ve given up even guessing any more)

Chemistry in action – the dough riseth

Chemistry in action – the dough riseth

The last outside action is to knead the dough one last time, form it into loaves, and place in a well-oiled bread tin … and wait …

The dough riseth some more

The dough riseth some more

You see what the pans are sitting on? That’s pretty much the extent of our kitchen. Roomy eh?

The raw dough has been turned to sheer golden deliciousness by the application of heat – Chemistry for the win, again!

The raw dough has been turned to sheer golden deliciousness by the application of heat – Chemistry for the win, again!

Actually, it has taken Mrs Widds five rounds of bread baking to get a feel for how the propane gas oven works in order to have that all-over glow-y crust. A genius, is she not?

-oOo-

May static electricity never intrude upon your haircuts, and may your bread rise perfectly.

The Adventure continues.

Mrs Widds Eviscerates, Too

Mrs Widds is known far and wide, at least to long-term readers of this blog, as a baker of extraordinarily tasty sweet and savoury dishes.

However, on one memorable day towards the end of 2019 our heater broke and Mrs Widds put her culinary skills to a darker, more nefarious pastime – evisceration!

She eviscerated, she repaired, she reconstructed, until the heater worked again, and continues to do so to this very day.

In 2018 Mrs Widds acquired a dashing scooter to pootle around the highways, byways, and backroads, of our tiny corner of the world.

And pootle she did!

The thing about vehicles, of any sort, is that after a certain age, things start to deteriorate. (as it does with all of us) And so it was with the shiny little scooter.

The battery died, the carburetor had a hissy fit and turned up its toes, other assorted ills came to the fore, until Mrs Widds was forced to do this …

The Eviscerated

The Eviscerated

The Eviscera

The Eviscera

Mrs Widds assures me patient will recover in the fullness of time.

-oOo-

In other news …

The editing continues, slower that I, perhaps unrealistically, hoped, but none-the-less moving along happily.

Editing starts with a print copy

Editing starts with a print copy

I have recovered fully from my interesting week, but it’s taken me another week to get back on my feet. Mrs Widds even had to take over my lawn-mowing/weed-whacking job the other day.

Summer has arrived. The temperature yesterday was a tolerable 25°C but by this afternoon my poor antique thermometer had a fit of the vapours when its mercury topped 33°C  …and presumably got hotter. I don’t know how much hotter because the thermometer refused to countenance any further indignities. I don’t blame it one bit. It always takes me a few days to adjust to these sudden shifts from one season to the next. Which is how they’ve turned for the last five-or-so years now.

Well, the sun is now well under the yardarm and it’s time I put on my editing hat and get to it!

Mrs Widds Baked

She’d been shopping for Christmas ‘baking needs’ galore,
When I thought she was done, she went out and bought more.
Thank goodness for social distancing and masks,
Because I really thought she’d never finish her tasks.

Not quite bare but close enough … let’s see if our old kitchen table is up to snuff

Not quite bare but close enough … let’s see if our old kitchen table is up to snuff

Back at home the kitchen table was laid bare.
Empty of ‘stuff’ it gave me quite a scare.
But magic can happen, so closer I peered,
Then a bag of sugar and two basins appeared

That’s me with my camera, upside down and reversed … a candid shot, ne’er rehearsed

That’s me with my camera, upside down and reversed … a candid shot, ne’er rehearsed

In the bowl went ingredients for choc-chip dough,
Round went the spatula, going with the flow.
The best bit for me was licking the spoon,
After so much sugar I felt I would swoon

Swoon-worthy effects makes the picture glow … no more sugar for me – ‘til the next batch of dough

Swoon-worthy effects makes the picture glow … no more sugar for me – ‘til the next batch of dough

Next came Ginger Snaps, with treacle that oozed,
Right out of the carton, and (not-so) sparingly used.
And cinnamon and nutmeg into the batter were spun,
Then three sunny eggs … and all was done.

Baking’s a mess, that’s for sure … but t’was much more in the bowl than dripped on the floor

Baking’s a mess, that’s for sure … but t’was much more in the bowl than dripped on the floor

Although no pictures of cookies all baked do exist. I’m not Ebenezer, (Scrooge)
The dough was packed up and stuck in the freezer.
Bound for the offsprings (2) and delivered in a hamper,
Then back home through the pouring rain we did scamper.

Home again, home again jiggity jig,
Time to bake Christmas cake, all round and big.
Take all that lovely fruit for days soaked in ale,
Add nuts and batter and we’ll see who’ll prevail.

I must confess I snacked on these too … I’m not one to resist such a delectable roux

I must confess I snacked on these too … I’m not one to resist such a delectable roux

Baking’s an art with successes oft blurred,
Because Hestia and Demeter* have the last word.
From the oven the cake came with center all gooey
Mrs Widds language contained phrases like, ‘oh phooey’.

But being a woman of spirit, staunch and resolute,
She took the concoction of pudding and fruit,
And chopped and added it, to batter ready to bake,
Thus creating the forever now famous, Mrs Widds-Twice-Baked-Cake!

Emegherd! It’s delicious, I’m having a slice … it’s fifty-eleven-squillion times better than ‘nice’!

Emegherd! It’s delicious, I’m having a slice … it’s fifty-eleven-squillion times better than ‘nice’!

These are the hands of the Baker Supreme,
After ‘Quality-controlling’ her creations, a smile she did beam.
For the bread was all crusty, the cake a delight,
Her Christmas Baking all done, she wishes you all, Good night.’

The hands of an Artist are Art manifest … she’s my Mrs Widds, and she’s the best.

The hands of an Artist are Art manifest … she’s my Mrs Widds, and she’s the best.

-oOo-

* Hestia – Goddess of Home and Hearth … Demeter – Goddess of Grains and the Harvest

-oOo-

A bonus (short) stanza because you know how I go,

We had a White Christmas, Hooray for SNOW!!!

The tree, the shed, and dock all in white … somehow I think the new year just might … be alright

The tree, shed, lake, and dock, all in white … somehow I think the new year just might … be alright

Mrs Widds Bakes: Pumpkin Pie

As promised.

This is the recipe for just the filling, which is the most important part. The pie shell is (mostly) just to keep the filling from glooping all over your oven while it bakes.

Mind you, Mrs Widds pastry is spectacular all by itself, but, if you’re not a pastry person, or if you don’t have a Mrs Widds of your very own, a store-bought pie shell will suffice. (although, now that I read it, this recipe calls for an unbaked pie shell – I have no idea if such a creature exists in stores. You’re on your own there)

Herewith be the magic recipe book … (it’s been around the block a few times)

Published in 1960! I'm only two years older than this book. How wonderful is that!!!

Published in 1960! I’m only two years older than this book. How wonderful is that!!!

This recipe has been used so many times the page actually smells like pumpkin pie …

Can you smell that tantalising aroma from there?

Can you smell that tantalising aroma from there?

Pumpkin Pie filling:

1 1/2 cups of canned or mashed cooked pumpkin (we repurpose our Halloween pumpkin and once it’s all nice and cooked and mushy we freeze it in freezer bags with about 2 cups per bag)

3/4 cups of sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 to 1 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon

1/2 to 1 teaspoon of ginger

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of cloves

3 slightly beaten eggs

1 to 1 1/4 cups milk

1 6oz can (2/3 cup) of evaporated milk

1 9″ (22cm) unbaked pastry shell

 

Thoroughly combine pumpkin, sugar, salt, and spices.

Blend in eggs, milk, and evaporated milk.

Pour the mixture into the pastry shell. (crimp the edges high – filling is generous)

Bake at 400°F for 50 minutes, or until a knife inserted halfway between the center and the edge comes out clean.

Cool.

Eat.

Go back for seconds.

Possibly thirds.

As you become familiar with the recipe you can adjust the sugar and spices to taste, and if you want any of the other recipes on the page just enlarge the picture.

Mrs Widds Rides Again

 In my own defense I do a lot of stuff around here too, but it seems that Mrs Widds is on a roll so it’s only right that credit is given where credit is due.

(As an aside, we have a good working relationship with our landlady and if we can fix things ourselves, she has no problem OK-ing it, and paying for parts, etc)

On the 23rd of December, right at the tail end of the baking frenzy that is part of our year-end gifting to the offspring, (from Mrs Widds loins they sprung, not mine. I can’t think of anything more horrifyingly painful than trying to squeeze a whole, albeit small, human being out of my vagina, and I have the utmost admiration for all the women who do) the oven stopped working. Well, not completely, just the bottom element, the most important one.

Only the upper one remained, which left to its own devices, proved that it had the capacity to burn everything to a charred wasteland if left unattended for three seconds. Mrs Widds was not amused.

Once the Christmas festivities had concluded, the last ‘do’ was on Boxing Day, Mrs Widds, true to form, eviscerated the oven and discovered this …

Ring connectors, lightly fried

Ring connectors, lightly fried

Ring connectors are the little thing-a-ma-jigs that transfer electricity from the wiring to the heating element itself. Tucked away behind the back wall of the oven. Tightly secured. Really tightly secured. So tightly secured that we had to cut the wires to get the bloody things out.

Take one trip to Canadian Tire, add a small packet of ring connectors, stir in Mrs Widds to reassemble, and turn the oven on again.

Heating, heating …

BOOM! KAPOW!

This happened …

It looks like Kane's chest after the alien exploded from him ... Emegherd! There was an alien in our oven!!!  ...Alien (the movie) reference, in case you missed it

It looks like Kane’s chest after the alien exploded from him… Emegherd! There was an alien in our oven!!! …Alien (the movie) reference, in case you missed it

Out into the pouring rain we went, again. (it’s been raining, heavily, here since the end of November)This time to our local hardware store who had the exact right replacement element.

And now the oven looks like this …

Working perfectly, and a whole lot cleaner

Working perfectly, and a whole lot cleaner

Mrs Widds bakery on Widder Island is back in business!

We did pick up a couple of loaves to tide us over, they were OK, but nothing compared to the real home-baked thing.

Have you ever … A Lesson in Gastronomy …

… licked your fingertip and picked the crumbs off your plate because 1 – you’re an adult now and you just can and 2 – you know that the crumbs of what you just ate contain the distilled essence of all that is good and fine in the world?

Nah, me neither.

Shortbread - shorts, or breads, or cookies?

Shortbread – shorts, or breads, or cookies?

Ginger Snaps ... before and after

Ginger Snaps … before and after

Mrs Widds cuts the mincemeat with apple - means you can have more than one, even if you're not doing quality control

Mrs Widds cuts the mincemeat with apple – means you can have more than one, even if you’re not doing quality control

AllysNotebook Ginger Ale fruitcake recipe - still warm from the oven

AllysNotebook Ginger Ale fruitcake recipe – still warm from the oven

As Requested … The Recipe For Butter Tarts

Please bear in mind that this is Mrs Widds Secret Recipe, so don’t tell anyone, (without attribution) especially Great Uncle Algie. We all know what a gossip he is when he’s got a bit of eggnog under his belt

-oOo-

BUTTER TARTS

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

TASTY TIP: Place foil in bottom of oven to catch any spill. (preferably before you turn the oven on!)

Spray 12 cup tart/muffin tin very lightly to enable easy removal of tarts if your filling overflows as it melts.

 

INGREDIENTS:

FILLING
1 egg
½ cup butter or margarine softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups raisins or pecans or walnuts

PASTRY
½ tsp salt
2 cups Flour
¾ cup Shortening or lard
1 tbsp vinegar
5 tbsp cold water

 

MIX IT ALL TOGETHER AND WHAT DO YOU GET:

Filling:

Beat together the first 5 ingredients until creamy, not grainy.

Chill the filling to make it easier to work with – not necessary but less messy.

TASTY TIP: I usually make up a batch of filling early and freeze it until needed.

 

Pastry:

Mix dry ingredients together, add liquid and mix together lightly.

Roll out the pastry on a floured surface.

TASTY TIP: Dust the rolling pin with flour to stop the pastry sticking to it.

Experiment with thickness, (I prefer my pastry to be fairly thin) but thick enough to hold the filling.

Pastry and filling and butter, oh my!

Pastry and filling and butter, oh my!

ADD THIS TO THAT:

Cut pastry to fit your tart/muffin tin, leaving enough to create a fluted edge around the top of each tart. Experiment with sizes. Add a few raisins, walnuts, or pecans in the bottom of pastry cup just before you put the filling in. The tarts are delicious with or without them so adding them is at the discretion of the baker.

Fill each pastry cup approximately 2/3 full.

 

LET THE ALCHEMY COMMENCE:

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until filling is set and pastry a golden brown.

TASTY TIP: Once baked IMMEDIATELY remove the tarts from pan … or you will have to hack them out with a jackhammer!

TASTY TIP: Scrape overflow into tart. To remove from tin, slide a fork down side and slide to one side gently lifting the tart as you go. Tart should lift easily out of tin.

Makes about 12, depending on the size of your tart/muffin tin, but the recipe can easily scale up for even more deliciousness.

The tarts can be frozen after baking, and reheated as desired.

BUTTER TARTS!!!

BUTTER TARTS!!!

Mrs Widds Goodie Basket Seasonal Baking Begins

Mrs Widds rose a little earlier than I yesterday and put her nefarious plans in place.

Because we live in such a little cottage I awoke to a tantalizing toffee-and-melted-butter aroma that gently lifted me from my recumbancy.

Although I’m not at my best before my first cuppa tea, I hastened to the kitchen to be greeted by this …

Pastry and filling and butter, oh my!

Pastry and filling and butter, oh my!

She waved her magic rolling pin, and in a great act of alchemy transformed these base elements into ….

BUTTER TARTS!!!

BUTTER TARTS!!!

I quelled my beating heart for I was about to face my greatest test ..

Quality control ...

Quality control …

I girded my spleen, also pancreas, and bravely hoisting my tea, sallied forth to do my duty …

Going ...

Going …

Gone, in a sugar induced haze of glory ... if I should fall in service to the season, bury me where the wild tarts roam!

Gone, in a sugar induced haze of glory … if I should fall in service to the season, bury me where the wild tarts roam!

One of the ‘playlists’ on our ‘Wunder-Lusters’ video channel is going to be about cooking these sorts of things with a propane oven, dutch oven, campfire, all sorts of RVcooking in general really, because we do love our food, we does.

Mrs Widds Eviscerates

I have occasionally featured Mrs Widds and her exceptional baking skills on my blog as ‘Mrs Widds Bakes’ – prime examples of which can be found by doing a search for Mrs Widds Bakes, where you will find such gems as THIS.

Due to her expanding skill-set she is now also our resident Fixer-Upper.

But first … on a personal note, I was promised snow the other night. It didn’t happen. I am … disappointed.

For those new to my blog one of my little, quirks, lets call them, is an (‘over’, some might say) enthusiasm for snow. It’s in my genes.

I was born in the northern hemisphere, (in a little town called Rochford, in the county of Essex, England) but for reasons that were never adequately explained to me, my parents chose to emigrate to Australia when I was 2. Had I been able to voice an opinion at the time I would’ve voted for the alternative destination, Canada.

The ways of one’s parents are inexplicable.

It took me 42 years but I did manage to get here (Canada) by 2004. Having been so long deprived of snow I have since discovered a deep well of (insanity, some might say) joy when the fluffy white stuff falls from the sky. …

… back to Mrs Widds and her evisceration-ing.

Out little cottage used to have a real fireplace but a previous tenant used the flagstone hearth as a base for his firewood splitting endeavours. Needless-to-say the owner wasn’t at all impressed with the mess he left behind and removed the fireplace.

Mrs Widds and I grew up (separated by the Pacific Ocean) with fireplaces, so we decided to use the old fake-it-’til-you-make-it principle, and, as all our power here on Widder Island is sourced from electricity, we bought ourselves this fabulous electric fan heater.

Although you can't really see it at all in this hasty photo, the flickering light is rather lovely to stare into on a cold winter's eve whilst sipping one's chai-latte

Although you can’t really see it at all in this hasty photo, the flickering light is rather lovely to stare into on a cold winter’s eve whilst sipping one’s chai-latte

Then a few years later, it suddenly died!

Wailing and gnashing of teeth was heard across the land!

Then it started again.

Great rejoicing was heard, you guessed it, across the land.

Then it died again.

… deathly silence …

All was not lost however, because Mrs Widds, fresh from her triumphant carburetor replacement on the generator. (which can be found HERE – you have to scroll down a bit, and HERE) swung into action.

I on the other hand, retired to my computer with chai-latte in hand and proceeded to work on my ‘How to become a YouTube video-making Mavern’ (not real name) course for our Wunder-Lusters adventures next year.

Meanwhile, appropriate tools were sought, and with a few sub-sonic mutters, Mrs Widds reduced our faithful heater to it’s component parts …

Upside-down, back-to-front, and eviscerated

Upside-down, back-to-front, and eviscerated

… and isolated the miscreant …

Corrosion of the miscreant-y kind

Corrosion of the miscreant-y kind

It turns out one can’t just replace these tiny wires by themselves, or even with the plate they’re connected to, no one has to buy the whole assembly.

Some reassembly will be required . The bit at the front is the heating element and the round thingy at the back is the fan

Some reassembly will be required . The bit at the front is the heating element and the round thingy at the back is the fan

The upside is that Amazon carries many of these gizmos that are slightly less powerful and fairly cheap, (and probably will fit, probably) but to get one exactly the same as this we have to pay pretty much double the price.

We are currently quandary-ing the odds, and consulting the bank balance … will update soon.