Power is out and so is the food in our fridge…

So it was a great ol’ week for Toronto wasn’t it?

Torrential rains caused flooding both from rising waters and leaky roofs. That also meant a major power outage for many people in the city and surrounding areas including us for just under 48 hours.

Heavy Rains Flood Toronto


After living at the schoolhouse for so long a couple of days with no TV aren’t the end of the world. But it generally means it is time to clean out the fridge and freezer if it has been off for too long.

By not opening the fridge or freezer we managed to save a lot but when I started looking at expiry dates and old branding on labels I thought it might be time to do a purge anyway. How long has it been since Dave was the President at Loblaws exactly?

Toronto Public Health provides some solid common sense on its website. If it looks or smells weird get rid of it.

Food Safety at Home – Floods and Power Outages

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency also mentions on its website that if an impending outage is coming, set your fridge at 4 degrees Celsius and your freezer to     -18 degrees Celsius to help keep things on ice until the lights come on.

Food Safety in an Emergency

This was the first time we’ve had a long outage with a fridge that has its own ice maker. Guess what happens? The ice melts and the cats get their own wading pool in the kitchen.

So what do you do if you aren’t at home for a few days and the power has been out. Is the food ok? I don’t know how scientific this is but it makes sense to me: fill a water bottle half-full (or half-empty depending on your outlook on life) and freeze it. When the water is completely frozen, turn it upside down and leave it. If you come home and the ice or water is now at the opposite end of the bottle then your freezer was warm enough to thaw out and drop and its likely the food needs to go and feed the bears at the dump. (Thanks to Heather for that trick. You know who you are!)

Strawberry daiquiri can’t be far away

I’m going to take advantage of the heat and sun our condo balcony gets this summer and try to grow strawberries.

April May 2013 011

I picked up this nifty hanging basket at a greenhouse near Waterloo on a recent trip to the parentals. I’m hoping for a bumper crop as it has already grown quite a few flowers.

So when we head up to the schoolhouse to work on weekends, we can look forward to strawberry daiquiri when we return to the city. Or at least a decorative strawberry on the side.

Balcony dreams: simplify, simplify, simplify

Last year’s balcony garden was too ambitious.

By the time fall rolled around the beating western sun had burned most things off and I was left with skeletal stems and wiry vines. Not a pretty picture.

Oh the herbs fared well and we had fresh rosemary into January which was great. The catnip kept everyone happy and the chives made my scrambled eggs a lot nicer. But the rest was a not a bountiful harvest.


Carrots seemed a good idea at the time but I’ve not got the space to let them grow into something that doesn’t look like one of Gollum’s appendages.


The peppers went well both hot and sweet. We’ve always got dried chilis for soups and well, chilis. They may be on the list. Or maybe we just stick with herbs and flowers and a couple of experiments like a lemon or an avocado.

It’s back to basics on the balcony so I can contend with the actual garden at the schoolhouse!

Cheap and cheerful garden tools: An infographic

At our house, my grandmother never used a watering can.

We always had a large apple juice can with holes punched in the bottom and a bucket. That’s what we used for watering and it worked like a charm. Sure it didn’t look like something Martha Stewart would approve of but hey, my grandmother wasn’t a convict either.

Here is an interesting infographic on some pretty basic household items for gardening. I especially like the plastic pop bottle.

6 Common Household Items to Use in the Garden


Don’t pan the pantry

One day I will have a pantry that will rival that of Michael Smith.

I don’t watch much on the Food Network and I think most foodies are a-holes but damn that guy’s pantry on Chef at Home kind of rocks.

We just bought some basic jars at Ikea to replace the “olde tyme” fruit-covered ones my grandmother game me two decades ago (yeesh). These look a little better here in the condo and I want to start collecting some good sturdy ones for the schoolhouse that keeps items fresh and keeps our friends out of our food.

So for now I will content myself with a few items clearly displayed on my condo counter.

There are many blog posts and websites on what to put in your pantry and all that but we are not about food here. But in case you are interested, here are a couple of good ones:

But enough of that. I have been searching Pinterest and have found a few nice examples of what I would like to have one day at the schoolhouse.

Source: houzz.com via Ariel on Pinterest


I like the look of all of these. Simple, organized and chock-a-block with what you need. I think that when you put this stuff on display you may be more likely to use it. Since we put out our new jars I’ve already baked.

And clearly I have proven this theory with our clearly displayed bar (see photo at top). It is well used and well displayed.

“Olive” the new colour in the bathroom

After many years with a great distaste for olives I have done two odd things this year.


First I started eating olives. I guess I got over that part. And second, we’ve just painted the upstairs bathroom an olive sort of green. Who would have guessed?

Now you might say, “Ariel, olives come in many colours.” And then possibly mutter, “Dumbass” when you think I am not listening. obviously that is true and it’s fairly evident given the picture above. Now who is the dumbass?

We looked around and both actually agreed on Olivine by Behr.
Behr, Olivine, 420F 5 – color-swatches.com.

That’s a sort of olive-green with a bit of sage thrown in I guess. It looks good I think. It isn’t as olive as the name suggests and it looks nice with our brown tile and black-brown cabinets. Watch for impending, non-olive related photos to support my case.

Herbs: Surviving the winter up here in zone 3

My carrots may have sucked but my balcony herbs are insanely good.


I’ve got more mint than I know what to do with and chives are flowering left, right and centre. I am hoping to move them up to the schoolhouse but what will survive the winter?

I came across this blog post by The Far North Garden. It cites a great looking book called Culinary Herbs for Short-Season Gardeners. Both have a great list of options that might survive.

The mint, chives and catnip look likely. Perhaps I will keep the rosemary in the house and water it when we come up and then at least we’ll have it next spring.

The seven (or so) dwarves

Well I have harvested the rainbow carrots.
The good news is they are a lovely group of bold and interesting colours. The less good news is that, like goldfish, they have grown to the size of their environment. They are a wee bit stubbly and twisted.
But hey, good things come in small packages right? These little Tyrion Lannisters are going to pack a wallop I suspect.

My little urban achievers – July

So July has come and our balcony garden grows ever bigger.

June saw our first peas. It was a mighty small yield but we did manage to get a few in a stew along with some frozen companions.

The carrots are ready to go as is the lettuce. The mint continues to dominate. Won’t be long now and we’lll see tomatoes as well. Exciting times. We might even be able to have one or two people over for a salad of some kind.