Aggregate \Ag"gre*gate\, a. [L. aggregatus, p. p.]

Formed by a collection of particulars into a whole mass or sum; collective. To bring together. Syn: To heap up; accumulate; pile; collect.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Poultry Life…

My family and I are part of a growing trend. We have backyard chickens. It all started as a good idea last spring as we took part in Rossland’s 2nd annual ‘Chicken Crawl’. At every house along the Walk chicken owners professed how easy and inexpensive constructing coops and runs with found goods could be. They all built their structures in a weekend. The Poppets really dug the hens and I was surprised just how much Mike seemed to like the idea as well.

Then a girlfriend called with actual chicks to give and suddenly there was a very real deadline looming in front of us. We began to gather ‘inexpensive found material’. Insert reality check #1 here. Not cheap. Even with a free metal roof and free siding.
We had ourselves a good old-fashioned Amish style barn building. Check #2 - it took more way more than a weekend to finish. Family came in from Ontario one week. We sent them out to the yard and didn’t let them in till the ground was cleared, foundation level, run framed in and a roof went up. Jack’s God Parents visited the next week and together we stained, sided, and put up the hardware cloth. It really looked like a real chicken coop now! In fact so much so, that we had never seen a raccoon in our yard before and that night two came to inspect the coop that now resembled a coop! Smart little buggars. The bandits found it empty though as chicks were still inside our house. Whew!

Then there was Velma. Who quickly decided, despite her Terrier-ness, she was the mamma. Thank goodness, I thought for sure she was going to eat the little yellow fluff balls.

Last, but not least, Mike’s dad dropped by and gave the coop a once over…and a few more cross supports. Then it was time for the chick–e–boos to move on in!

They love their coop! All it needs is a chandelier  :)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Truth About Peas and Carrots

I make a lot of food from scratch for this little family. For lots of different reasons - mostly because I want my kids to adore my cooking above all others enjoy healthy food. But there are also times when I crumple under the pressure of requests for "Cheesy Noodles", a catchall phrase used in my house to describe any pasta with cheese. This phrase saves me in restaurants where a variation might be offered. They mean macaroni and cheese. 

Recently I have found a shortcut. A way to make Cheesy Noodles a little healthier, and give already great food a little boost. Frozen peas and carrots. In everything. Instead of ice in hot soup I throw in a handful of the frozen veg. In the final minutes of boiling pasta I throw a cup or two into the pot. When I make hearty fall and winter dishes, like stews and pot pies and I have slaved over a handmade crust the ease of carrots and peas thrills me!

The perfect crime. They are organic, inexpensive, washed, cut, raw, and FULL of all things good.


Monday, March 14, 2011

Appalachian Mojito

This is the first time I have ever blogged from the iPad. Michael took the Mac to Vancouver out of necessity so I am left to be judged by autocorrect. Sometimes super helpful but most of the time not. I also find myself sans streaming video and switching to the web version of everything. I am too much of a luddite to store my photos offsite so this will be a pretty bland week in terms of delicious photos. Perhaps I will cheat and add them later :)

Anyhoo, I recently came across an article in my April 2011 subscription of Style at Home magazine with a mouthwatering recipe that I immediately tore out and instructed the husband to make for me. Fast forward a few days to when we had the actual ingredients and make it he did! Soooooo delicious! A little bourbon, mint, Limonata, sugar and crushed ice felt like heaven after the week we had and it has turned my thoughts to spring. 

The drink itself had some blasé name that I cannot remember and when I dig out the recipe I'll add it along with pics so we have dubbed it the "Appalachian Mojito". Much better. I think I'll go have one now and try to forget how lackluster this post is versus how offing long it took to write. 

Pucker Up from Style at Home
Crushed ice, 1 1/2 oz Bourbon, 
1tsp granulated sugar (I also used simple syrup), 
2tsp Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice, 
2 Sprigs Fresh Mint, Pinch Orange Zest, 
3oz San Pellegrino Limonata 
Half fill a tall glass with crushed ice. Pour in bourbon, sugar and lemon juice; add mint and orange zest. Use a muddled or a honey dripper to mash ingredients together to blend. Fill the glass with more crushed ice and top with Limonata. Stir gently before serving.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Happy Birthday

Today is my Mom's birthday! Happy Birthday Woman!!!!! I wanted to take this time to share just how incredibly blessed I am to have this wonderful woman in my life. My mother is strong beyond compare, hysterically funny, humble, gorgeous, amazingly personable, spicy, selfless and brilliant.
Now as many things as I could say I found the following quotes, all of which made me a little verkelpt,  to be so accurate and succinct I could do no better. These excerpts are so true about my Mom I think they really must have been written as an homage to her alone.

The moment a child is born, the mother is also born.  She never existed before.  The woman existed, but the mother, never.  A mother is something absolutely new.  ~Rajneesh  

A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts.  ~Washington Irving 

One good mother is worth a hundred schoolmasters.  ~George Herbert

Who fed me from her gentle breast
And hushed me in her arms to rest,
And on my cheek sweet kisses prest?
My Mother.
~Anne Taylor

A daughter is a mother's gender partner, her closest ally in the family confederacy, an extension of her self.  And mothers are their daughters' role model, their biological and emotional road map, the arbiter of all their relationships.  ~Victoria Secunda

A mom reads you like a book, and wherever she goes, people read you like a glowing book review.  ~Robert Brault

Most of all the other beautiful things in life come by twos and threes, by dozens and hundreds.  Plenty of roses, stars, sunsets, rainbows, brothers and sisters, aunts and cousins, comrades and friends - but only one mother in the whole world.  ~Kate Douglas Wiggin
I love you Mom - Happy Birthday xoxo.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Home Exchange

One of the many HomeExchange sites.
I first heard about Home Exchange a few years ago and thought that it sounded like an incredibly fabulous idea! At the time though, we were living in Burnaby. Still Vancouver, but no one on the exchange boards was exactly chomping at the bit to head into the burbs. Or so I thought. In retrospect it might have been the exact place someone wanted and needed to be for a visit to the Lower Mainland for all kinds of reasons. I should not have put our little townhouse in a box.

Anyhoo. The time is here. I finally finished making a photo tour of our home and we are going to take the plunge into an international home exchange site. I have no idea which one. I am thinking the ones that you have to pay for are best after overhearing a girlfriend talking about her online dating experience. She described paying as being an incentive not to dick people around. Good advice.

One of the many reasons we love this little town is that living here affords us the ability to travel. We want to travel once a year. And, bonus, Rossland is the kind of place that other people will come around the globe to visit. I meet them on our streets everyday! What with worldclass skiing in the winter and being the mountain biking capitol of Canada in the summer, amongst other things. Huzzah :)

There are some pretty incredible destinations available in the exchange and it cuts the cost of travelling in half. Great, because we have two tiny bums that get charged full price for plane/train seats everywhere we go. Rossland is two hours from the Spokane airport and or we would drive to Vancouver to find the best - read cheapest - flights (leaving one car for the exchange family). Now enrolling does not mean we will find a match immediately but many of the sites do guarantee that you find an exchange within the first year, or the next years listing is free. Sounds good to me.

Have you tried a home exchange? Which one?

Monday, March 7, 2011

THAT Child...
Jack pushed his best friend through a glass window the other day. There, I said it. And it could have been much worse...because the stairs were half a foot to the left. Every now and then I find I am the parent of THAT child and it is so embarrassing.

Now a few things that I know to be true about Jack; he is very intelligent and way handsome. He is kind, compassionate, patient and encourages those around him. He is empathetic to a fault, sometimes skiing away from us so he can check on that random guy who just fell over. Jack is the child who plays so inclusively I have to remind myself that he is four.

Crime Scene
But he IS four. And sometimes he looses his shit.

On this night, loosing a game of Mario Party proved too much, and he pushed the boy who won. Unfortunately they were on a pull out bed in our television room which sent his best friend flying (thank the lord above that it was not down the flight of stairs) off the bed and through the 75-year-old-original-to-the-house-glass-door.

First things first. He should NOT have pushed his bestie. Obvious. But why, when he loose his cool so rarely, does everything seem to conspire to make the event soooo epic?! I mean when Jack gets pushed, or bitten, or some brat pulls his hair I seem to be the only witness and life goes on. But when Jack pushes his friend it happens to be the day we let them play on the pull-out (usually they sit on the green table above), sending said friend off into the air, AND through a GLASS DOOR!!!!! What the what?! Seriously?!

When Gramma asked Jack why he had done it he answered through tears, "I just don't know what happened...I never do stuff like that.". Jack has apologized, and all has been forgiven. He does not really grasp what could have happened (killing your bff is a pretty heavy concept) but he is paying for the glass with money from his piggybank. THAT has made a huge impact with him.

And my girlfriend still lets her baby play with mine. So there's that. Oh, and the Wii has been moved back to the playroom.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Cuppy Cups...

I rip all sorts of stuff out of magazines, but I think that this is actually one of the very first things I have ever actually followed through with. When I was racking my brain as to how best serve Aly's Vegetarian Chilli (from Aly Dahl Designs) at my and my husbands 8th Annual Oscar Party I thought I would give these a go. Of course by then I had lost the torn out page when I was cleaning. So this is what I best imagine the recipe would have gone like...and the best part was not having to wash or toss 24 dirty bowls!

1. I sprayed 24 Medium-sized flour Tortillas with Olive Oil. Next time I would also sprinkle with Garlic Salt at this point. Or Chipotle.
2. Put them into a warm frying pan on uber low and covered them briefly (so they would be more pliable)
3. Then I placed the warm and slimy rounds into large muffin tins and baked at 375 F till they became golden Cuppy Cups.
4. Fill with something delicious!
5. Enjoy your accolades :)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Teevee or Not Teevee ...Netflix and Cable

Ughhhhh... so Netflix turned out to be a bust. Boo. Terrible selection at a great price. In Canada at least. And then there was that threatened bandwidth cap. Good gravy. If the selection improves on Netflix though, I am not entirely opposed to give it another go.

When our little family moved to Rossland last summer we made the big decision to get rid of our cable . It was only at the time the choice seemed so monumental. In retrospect it hasn't really been missed, really everything that we would watch on cable is available online. Even CBC Kids.

We ended up getting cable back though, so that we might host our annual Oscar Party. This Deal-with-the-Devil includes a 3 month promotion and HD channels at a low, low price. Which ends up still being ridiculously expensive. Ridiculously expensive. I thought, "man, it will be H to the ARD prying the PVR from my daily life schedule once again.". However, I find myself checking the calendar regularly to see if our cable promotion is over yet so we can get rid of it. I am frugal not stupid.

Shocking, I know. I never thought I would prefer a life sans television, but I do. I am amazed at how quickly it has turned the poppets into tiny marketing machines. Isla, who has never been to, or even seen, a Red Lobster, now professes her undying love for the company. Egads. Jack begs for all manner of toys and is quickly developing an unhealthy perspective about germs.

Just the other day I caught myself singing the five dollar footlong jingle.  Isla shouts "skunk" whenever someone farts. Classy. Incorporating as always, and this might have been the straw that broke the cable's back, Isla called me a "five-dollar-skunk". A tidy, albeit unfortunate, amalgamation of pop culture.

The love affair is over.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Cake for Isla

I have not a clue as to how a little girl who has virtually no exposure to the Wonderful World of Disney has such an enormous affection for all things Tinkerbell, but she does. Isla's heart on for the tiny beast appeared one day out of the blue and here it has stayed.

So, of course, for Isla's birthday I endeavoured to make a Tinkerbell cake. I had seen the photos online. I might have shown them to Isla, and now her mind was made up. It looked really difficult. The combined potential brutal honesty of two preschoolers sent shivers up my spine. It was gonna have to not suck. I was scared.

Now being cable-less has left me at a disadvantage. As far as gleaning useless information from TLC to be recalled at convenient moments I am now at a loss. Internet to the rescue! I Googled how-to videos on 5 different kinds of fondant and how to apply it. The term 'crumb coat' kept coming I Googled that too. Down the rabbit hole I went.

I really wanted to make marshmallow fondant from scratch. It tastes better and doesn't have as much crap in it...then went and bought Wilton pre-made and added food colouring. The Wilton site itself was a wealth of information and I used their butter cake recipe in the end. And despite cautionary cries in chat rooms everywhere, I used my Kitchen Aid mixing bowl as a cake pan. It worked like a chizzarm!!!!

Ice Cream Cake Pops by Bakerella
Long story short, the cake did not was all kinds of awesome, nowhere near as difficult as it looks, but every bit as pretentious! Fondant is absolutely my new favourite thing! Oh, and my three year old :)

For Jack's Birthday I plan on successfully trying my hand at these Cake Pops...

Monday, February 28, 2011


So, it was has been a while. A few weeks ago (6 weeks ago to be exact) I received the following message on Facebook from a friend and avid ag.gray.gate reader:

 "it's been 20 days since the last ag.gray.gate post... and 40+ days since the post before that! This trend cannot continue.".

But my absence has persisted. I feel as though I have fallen off the face of the planet. I am not sure exactly how it happened. I had no intention of my new endeavour into the small business realm completely kiboshing this blog. This blog that I love, and that I miss terribly. Truth be told, I would rather write here.

When I bumbled my way back to ag.gray.gate last night I realized I missed a couple important events.

Firstly, the designs I had used from Shabby Blogs was gone. They had sent out numerous messages, helpful hints and finally changed servers. Oops.

Secondly, ag.gray.gate passed the 10, 000 visitor mark. Wow. Thank you. I am humbled...and I am back.

I am excited - I have so much to tell you!

See you tomorrow. xo.

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