Found Objects with Fussellette

Found Objects 12

Our Newfie friend Fussellette spent the entire summer this year wayyyy up in northern Ontario doing geology and getting really dirty (two things she loves). Like me, Fussellette likes to pick up random objects on her travels, and she found these two identical pieces of brick in a burnt out campfire full of tin cans.

Found Objects 2

When she came to visit LongJohn recently she took advantage of my massive craft supply inventory and gave them a bit of a makeover.

Crafts with Auntie Sam. #alidoesit

A photo posted by Alison Bell (@alidoesit.herself) on

Taking things you find and making them into something else is one of the things I enjoy the most about making and doing stuff. Fussellette is the same way, and I hope that LongJohn can come to enjoy it too when he’s a little older.

Found Objects 4

With a little bit of craft paint and some Sharpies, she turned these pieces of brick into little pieces of The Rock.

Found Objects 5

Found Objects 7

Found Objects 8

One was a gift for her hosts, and the other she left with me when she saw how much I liked it!

Found Objects 14

Trimming My Bush

Bush Trimming 1

If you think the title to my post is funny and/or risqué, then please get your mind out of the gutter. I’m talking about this bush here. When we moved in I thought it looked sickly and planned to take it out. When springtime came around, however, it produced all this new growth so I decided to leave it in. I started to think that there was a reason it was a little bit bald below the belt. I’d already hacked away some of the branches that overhung the driveway, so I could see under its skirt.

Bush Trimming 2

I took a risk and went at it with my pruning shears and saw. I’d seen another similar bush in the neighbourhood with bare knees and I thought I could pull it off if I were very careful … Once I got under there (and got so many pine needles in my underwear) I saw that someone a long time ago had cared about this tree and had intended the same thing I was about to attempt, so I followed those guidelines and snipped away at all the dead stuff. Pro (Amateur) tip: when slicing and dicing your shrubbery, make sure to step back often to make sure you are maintaining the right shape!

Bush Trimming 3

Tada! It needs a bit more work getting the stubs off on the bare branches, and I’m going to let the new stuff on top get a bit more established before I give it some shape next spring. I think it’s a vast improvement, and opens up more space for the hosta garden my dad is slowly filling in underneath it.

Bush Trimming 4

Ali Asks: What Would You Do? 

I’m at my wit’s end, readers. I’m hoping you can help me. I’m about to show you my house and describe it in such a way that if you are in my city you’ll know where I live. So please don’t rob me. I actually have no money – I’m unemployed after all. And don’t stalk me either. I’m really not that interesting.

20160901_093739

We live on the corner of a street, directly across the street from two large elementary schools. There’s no sidewalk on our side of the street, but there’s one on the other.

20160901_093816

And there are clearly indicated crosswalks at the intersection where we are situated that will safely take people across to the sidewalk.

20160901_094037

The issue we are having is that people like to use our property as a through-way to get from one street to another. Next to us is an abandoned church and we have no other neighbours so I guess they assume our lawn is also public property.

20160901_093811

Granted, the side yard is completely undeveloped, largely I think to the fact that there are no windows on that side of the house so nobody’s looking at it. We plan to rectify that in the future (both with windows and some landscaping).

20160901_093908

20160901_093852

The side yard will have a full raised-bed vegetable garden, with bunny fencing, of course.

20160901_093932

And a few more strategically placed hedges to keep people from cutting the corner.

20160901_093839

This little shady spot is a popular hangout for people making phone calls and smoking. Which is very annoying as they leave their butts on my lawn. Again, the Pie and I are planning our gardening next summer in such a way that this becomes an awkward place for people to trample across.

20160901_093736

But the huge issue is my driveway. Does it look like a sidewalk to you?

20160901_093712

Because people will use it as such, walking right up and down it, even with my car parked in it and me standing next to my car, ignoring me completely. People will even walk between the car and the house, pretending they don’t see me standing at the huge window staring at them.

20160901_094011

Of course this drives the dog absolutely nuts, which can sometimes interfere with LongJohn’s naptime. Short of sitting on my front porch with my extremely loud dog and a shotgun (which, this being Canada, would get me arrested really quickly), I’m not sure what would be the most effective.

20160901_095435

I’d put up a sign, but nobody would read it. I’ve asked the school to remind their students and staff that the houses in the neighbourhood are not public parks but they’ve asked me to photograph all trespassers for proof (so easy to do when I’m carrying around an infant). So how do I make my driveway unappealing to pedestrians?

Ali Fails: Lighting up the wee small hours

Light Clock 3

I’m currently sleeping in LongJohn’s room (though he talks in his sleep and I miss my giant squishy bed) and I bought this cute wall clock from IKEA so I could keep an eye on the time while I was there. The trouble is that I can’t read this clock in the dark. I don’t want an alarm clock that just has the regular glowing lights, a) because glowing lights annoy me in my sleep b) there are very few outlets in LongJohn’s room and there’s no convenient place to plug one in, and c) I wanted something a bit more subtle that wouldn’t mess with my night vision should I choose not to get up and turn on the light.

So I thought, what if I bought some glow-in-the-dark paint and made some modifications?

Light Clock 4

The nice thing about most IKEA things is that they can be hacked and it was simple to undo the springs at the back and take the crystal off.

Light Clock 1

Then I went to town with my paint. Followed the instructions and everything.

Light Clock 5

Light Clock 6

I think it’s quite spiffy.

Light Clock 8

When dry it’s a nice darker green.

Light Clock 9

But it DIDN’T WORK! I’m not expecting this thing to glow all night or anything like that – just something to give me a faint hint of what ungodly hour it is when I wake up in the middle of the night (fortunately these are rapidly getting closer and closer to 7AM but in the interim it’s nice to know, ya know?). But nothing. LongJohn’s room is the brightest in the house during the day but even several hours of direct sunlight did nothing. Is the paint bad? Any other ideas?

Fast Tip Friday: PlagiarEYEs Me

Eyes Have It 5

The eyes have it, folks. Feel free to take this idea (rather poorly  executed on my part, after LongJohn was in bed) and run with it for your next greeting card.

Eyes Have It 2

Step one: acquire googly eyes. These came from the dollar store.

Eyes Have It 1

Step two: come up with a pun that can be properly appreciated by a one-year – old (or a fifty-one-year-old).

Eyes Have It 4

Step three: apply both to card stock. I hope you have better drawing skills than I do.

Eyes Have It 3

I have some bigger projects in the pipe for you – now that I’m getting a bit more sleep I can actually think up some stuff – but strangely, when you have a baby in the house these projects tend to take a bit longer than they should. So stay tuned!

Eyes Have It 6

PB & J Gooballs

PB&J Gooballs 15

These are a great little snack when you’re on the go and need some protein. Or when you are pacing around your house with a small baby and have only one hand to get sustenance. Also good for children as a wee treat when they come home from school (although if you’re going to feed these to children under 1 year of age, replace the honey with maple syrup or something else, because botulism ain’t a joke). They were called “snack bites” on the website where I got the original idea but I think GOO BALLS is a way better term. So gooballs they will be. These ones taste like a peanut butter and jam sandwich, but you can pretty much customize these however you would like.

PB&J Gooballs 2

Your basic ingredients are as follows: 1 cup oats, 1/2 cup peanut butter (or sun butter, or whatever), and 1/4 cup honey. The rest is up to you.

PB&J Gooballs 4

I added in a few tablespoons ground flax, for health reasons.

PB&J Gooballs 5

And a handful of Reese peanut butter chips, for non-health reasons.

PB&J Gooballs 6

And some freeze-dried raspberries, because I had them on hand and they’re tasty as heck. Any dried fruit will do, provided you cut it up pretty small.

PB&J Gooballs 7

Assemble all your dry ingredients. I crumbled the raspberries in my hand so they were smaller.

PB&J Gooballs 8

Tip in the wet ingredients.

PB&J Gooballs 9

Stir!

PB&J Gooballs 10

Chill that for about 30 minutes, then take it out and roll a couple tablespoons’ worth of it into a ball. Repeat until you run out.

PB&J Gooballs 11

Store these suckers in the fridge to keep them firm and less sticky. ENJOY!

PB&J Gooballs 12

Momofuku’s Banana Cream Pie, only slightly butchered.

Banana Cream Pie 38

I’ve been watching a lot of Netflix since LongJohn was born – it helps to pass the time while being forced to stay perfectly stationary for long periods of time. I figured going into this that I’d try to stick with documentaries – that way I could educate myself and if I was interrupted (which I often am) then I wouldn’t miss too much plot if they played in the background while I did something else. And so I’ve been watching a ton of cooking documentaries, and I just finished plowing through The Mind of a Chef. In the first season, the focus is largely on David Chang, owner of Momofuku in New York. One of the segments features his pastry chef, who whips up a banana cream pie like it was nothing.

Banana Cream Pie 28

It looked so easy I figured I could do it even with LongJohn around. And then I had to think about that for a minute. This recipe involves making a custard, and uses four different kitchen appliances, some of them more than once. It really isn’t THAT easy, but it’s easy for me NOW to do. Talk to me five years ago and I would never have attempted this, or I would have addressed it as a challenge. It’s weird how much this blog has made me grow as someone who cooks things. But on to the pie, which is semi-easy if you’ve made things in the kitchen before. I set up a mis en place because I knew LongJohn could interrupt me at any time.

Banana Cream Pie 1

I also took my butter and, because my microwave is all the way in the basement, I set it outside on my back porch in the sun to melt. I’m that lazy.

Banana Cream Pie 3

Plus it was like 33°C, which is more than warm enough to melt butter.

Banana Cream Pie 4
You like my squinty face?

And so it did.

Banana Cream Pie 6

The recipe I used printed everything in weights (ounces and grams) so I’m going to use ounces here – my apologies. Get your kitchen scale ready. Start with 8 oz very ripe bananas (this is like two). These are the black ones that you chuck in your freezer. Pitch those into a blender together with 2 3/4 oz whipping cream, and 2 1/4 oz milk and blend the crap out of them until they’re lovely and smooth.

Banana Cream Pie 10

Next, tip in 3 1/2 oz sugar, 1 oz cornflour (I’ve come to realize that this is a Britishism for cornstarch, not masa harina, which I used – butchery #1), a pinch of salt, and 3 large egg yolks. Blend that again, scraping down the sides of the blender, until the colour is uniform.

Banana Cream Pie 11

Pour that stuff into a medium saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, whisking often, until the mixture thickens. Clean your blender while this is going on.

Banana Cream Pie 13

The recipe says to bring it to a boil but mine never did. Eventually it will be a very heavy paste that holds its shape. Pour the thick stuff back into the blender.

Banana Cream Pie 15

Grab 2 leaves gelatin or 1 pouch gelatin (I thought a leaf equaled a pouch and used two pouches – butchery #2) and follow the instructions to make it “bloom”. When it’s ready, chuck it in the blender along with 1 1/2 oz butter and blend until smooth (again).

Banana Cream Pie 16

Next, drop in 1/2 teaspoon yellow food colouring (otherwise your pie will be brown not  yellow) and blend again until the pie is artificially crazy yellow (it will get lighter later, I promise).

Banana Cream Pie 18

Pour the yellow goo into a container and chill it for 30-60 minutes.

Banana Cream Pie 20

While that’s happening, make the chocolate crumb for your crust (I actually did this first, because it made more sense to me). Preheat your oven to 300°F and stir together 3 1/2 oz plain flour, 1 teaspoon cornflour (again, cornstarch), 3 1/2 oz sugar, 2 oz cocoa powder, and 1 teaspoon salt.

Banana Cream Pie 5

Tip in 3 oz melted butter (yay, the sun!) and beat until small clusters form.

Banana Cream Pie 7

Spread the clusters on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. The clusters should be still moist but will dry out as they cool. In order for this to happen they have to be a bit bigger than what you see in the picture, because these will burn (so either cook them for less time or make them bigger – butchery #3). Apparently this makes more than you need for a 10″ pie so you will only use 3/4 of it but I didn’t want to waste it or store it so I used it all in my 9″ pie plate and it was totally fine.

Banana Cream Pie 9

Once the clusters have cooled, chuck them into a food processor and pulse until they turn sandy and there are no chunks left.

Banana Cream Pie 21

Tip these granules into a bowl and toss with 2 teaspoons sugar and 1 tablespoon melted butter.

Banana Cream Pie 23

Work that with your hands until the stuff is moist enough to knead into a ball (I did not do this because my poor carpal tunnel hands are killing me). Press that into the pan. I did it with just the crumbs and it was fine (butchery #4).

Banana Cream Pie 25

Don’t forget to press it firmly into all the corners of the pan – you don’t want it to be too thick there.

Banana Cream Pie 26

Now for the rest of the banana cream. Whisk 6 1/2 oz whipping cream and 5 3/4 oz icing sugar together until stiff peaks form (remember that it helps to chill your beater and the bowl beforehand).

Banana Cream Pie 27

Tip in your cooled yellow goo and mix, mix, mix.

Banana Cream Pie 29

See? I told you it would get paler.

Banana Cream Pie 30

Tip half the goo into your pie shell. Cut up another, less ripe banana (I used two because they were kind of weenie) and spread that around on the surface. You can get fancy with the layout but nobody’s going to see it.

Banana Cream Pie 31

Add the rest of the goo and smooth it out. Make sure none of the banana pieces are sticking out because they will oxidize and turn brown.

Banana Cream Pie 32

Chill the pie for a little while then serve and eat within a day or two. Enjoy!

Banana Cream Pie 35