It gets old fast, but even weeding dandelions has a special charm for the first few weeks of spring. Try Garant’s new weeder to remove the entire root without damaging the lawn. ($40 at Rona and other retailers)
Raising chickens in the backyard probably isn’t the top item on your to-do list. But that doesn’t mean a quaint little book about how to do so isn’t a terrific read.
In municipalities that allow small-scale residential farming of chickens, the slim copy of Minnie Rose Lovgreen’s Recipe for Raising Chickens that recently crossed my desk will have definite educational value. But for the average cityslicker, it will be Lovgreen’s oddly compelling, down-to-earth voice that’s the real appeal of this book —without a doubt the most delightful and engaging piece of writing I’ve read in a very long time.
Lovgreen probably never thought of herself as a fascinating person. But consider her life story. Born in 1888 in England, Lovgreen was the eighth of nineteen children. In 1912, she and her brother decided to set off for Canada on a ship called the Titanic. But Lovgreen got bored waiting for the ship to be sail-ready, and hopped instead onboard another Montreal-bound ship. Those details alone were enough to make me place my order for Lovgreen’s other book, As Far As I Can Remember; Minnie Rose’s Story, also available at Trillium Press.
By 1920, Lovgreen had made her way to Washington State, where she met and married Danish-born Leo Lovgreen. They worked together for 30 years, creating a 170-acre dairy farm, where Lovgreen also learned all about rising chickens. After some 60 years, she decided to collect her wisdom in a simple, hand-lettered 31-page booklet, which was illustrated by Elizabeth Hutchison Zwick.
If you do want to raise chickens the old-fashioned way, this is probably an excellent primer. If not, it’s full of wonderful insights from Lovgreen, and delightful gems of wisdom, such as:
You’re much better off with a broody hen, even if you have to borrow one.
One or two white eggs in a box bring out the value of the brown ones… they look real pretty.
If two roosters get fighting hard, the only way I can do (sic) is to take a board and slap one of them in the face.
A quick read, this is the perfect book for the cottage — as bedside reading or, in a comfy chair in the shade. But while it’s tempting to characterize it as charming anachronism, it’s worth remembering that Lovgreen lived in a time and place when connections to the land, and to the food chain that sustains us, were much stronger and more visible.
Lovgreen and her husband probably got just about everything they needed to survive from the land, or the local community. When I compare that with the fact that my husband, who’s an elementary school teacher, regularly encounters kids who don’t realize that apples come from a tree, I worry about what we’ve lost by becoming increasingly removed from the realities of food production. Makes you wonder about the nature of our progress, doesn’t it?
And if you read and enjoy this book, you must look for a copy of Betty MacDonald’s The Egg and I, about a young newlywed— also in Washington State — who finds out that her husband has plans to start a chicken farm. The book was made into a sweet and funny little movie of the same name, released in 1947, and starring Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray.
Oi has an unusual plan for bringing its product to market
An interesting side story to my Hot Home Products piece this week involves a campaign just launched by Oi, a Winnipeg-based company that designs modular furniture pieces that can be configured in various ways to create flexible “cell seating”. The components - made from recyclable plastic - sit on spiked bases, and come in several colours and coverings, including polyvinyl, polyester and Sunbrella, which can be used outdoors.
Oi cells can be configured to create various seating plans
The twist is that Oi is now offering the pieces at a $399, down several hundred dollars from the original price. The reduced pricing was based on advice from the infamous Dragon’s Den and was made possible by a decision to manufacturer off-shore. Since that price is based on volume, Oi needs to find a minimum of 400 orders to make it worthwhile.
To promote the plan, Oi has come up with a Twitter campaign that can net the top-tweeting “Oi’vangelist” free seating and 400 trees for their community. Clever. I think.
Available through a more traditional channel, but in keeping with the theme, Staples has just launched Martha Stewart’s home office line for Avery, which includes modular trays, boxes, organizers, journals, and accordion files. There’s also a range of sticky notes, including removable chalkboard labels that can be used to label everything from office storage boxes to jars of jelly beans.
One of the things I love about the Stok barbeque I’ve been testing is that the interchangeable grills means you can pretty much cook the whole dinner outdoors, without running in and out of the kitchen. And I’m all for dialing down the stress meter during entertaining which is, after all, supposed to be fun for everybody, right?
I recently wowed a gang (if I do say myself) by starting off an al fresco dinner with Persian flatbread brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and Herbes de Provence that I cooked on the pizza stone that comes with the grill. It went beautifully with a melted Brie that I had plopped in a small cast iron pan and topped with Garlic and Hot Pepper jelly from Jelly Boys, a fantastic line of all-natural, home-made jellies that I just discovered at my local farmer’s market.
If you're lucky enough to live near a Longo's, you could also use their house Brie, topped with one of their compotes, which are stellar (see pic below). As a matter of fact, you could do a terrific outdoor party with cheese from Longo's (they have an excellent offering), olives and artisnal breads.
While we chatted and enjoyed the starter, I shoved a second, larger cast iron pan on the grill, closed the lid and let it heat up for about five minutes. Then I stuck a whole chicken in the heated pan, scattered some garlic around it and shoved a lemon cut in half in the cavity, closed the lid and left it alone for just short of an hour. More chatting and laughter and wine (see below). Just before serving, I squeezed the lemon juice and some salt over the bird, (Thank you Mark Bittman for the easiest and BEST roast chicken recipe ever.)
While this was cooking, I gathered cherry tomatoes and fresh basil from the garden, and mixed them with pearl Bocconcini cheese before drizzling the whole thing with extra virgin olive oil and salt.
For dessert, we grilled fresh Ontario (natch) peaches (just skin ‘em, cut in half and brush lightly with melted butter — and grill for a couple of minutes.) Serve with fresh whipped cream or vanilla-flavoured Greek yogurt from President’s Choice. Next time, I’ll make fresh raspberry ice-cream with my Hamilton Beach ice-cream maker.
My new fave tipple for summer meals is Farnese Monepulciano d”Abruzzo Cerasuolo 2010, a lovely rosé at just $8.95 a bottle. (Thank you, Beppi Crosariol, for the tip. This die-hard rosé lover is so grateful!)
Tom Filippou, the executive chef for President’s Choice, and the friendly face you’ve seen on CBC’s Live Right Now nutritional spots, thinks that keeping it simple, and planning ahead for outdoor entertaining, pays dividends for you and your guests.
“Some folks get over-motivated and try to do too much, which means they are too busy to mingle,” he says. “But if you choose the right menu for your barbeque, you can be become part of the party.”
Mini sliders and sausages are a good choice because they’re easy to handle, and allow for lots of variation. "I always serve them,” says Filippou. “You can have a bunch on one side of the grill while something else is going on the other, and if you have lots of garnishes, guests can experiment and have fun.” Caramelized onions, sauteed peppers and grilled mushrooms make terrific toppings, although I've been known to just plop on some PC tomato-basil bruschetta sauce when I'm feeling lazy.
Indeed, President’s Choice mini portions have been a big hit with shoppers this summer, including me. We went through a lot of the Angus Sliders and the Smokin’ Stampede Brisket Sliders. Also loved the Sweet Italian mini pork sausages. (Make sure to grill extras of these and use leftovers in pastas salads, sandwiches or frittatas.)
All have great flavour, and I love that they’re a manageable size, making it easy for kids and adults to juggle one in one hand, and a glass in the other. Pair them with the mini Ciabatta buns (which you’ll of course toast lightly).
Face it – no matter how summery is still feels, evenings are cooling off. You can still enjoy them outdoors though, with the help of firebox (check your municipal by-laws for what’s allowed). Or you can opt for a heater, quickly becoming the de rigeur outdoor accessory for the cool kids. Napoleon’s new Outdoor Torch (shown above – top) is a fully enclosed single flame in a sexy stainless steel mounting. It doesn’t require venting. There are two on/off switches, one for the burner and another for optional accent light for the base, which is filled with decorative glass embers. It sells for, gulp, around $2400. If that hasn’t made you faint, you might also consider the Kindle heater (also shown above), which I wrote about for this week’s Hot Home Products column. It’s available at Andrew Richard Designs in a similar snack bracket.
So glad I dropped by Design within Reach the other day, when I made a rare trip down to the corner of Spadina and King. Met the delightful Emily Scott, an account exec there, and we took a little spin around the showroom floor. At the time, I had my eye open for outdoor furniture and decor so two things stood out (see below) But I couldn’t help but keep wandering back to an Eames Molded Plywood Lounge Chair from Herman Miller (see pic above).I think it’s the Platonic ideal of a chair. More on that and other stuff from HM soon.
I know melamine is all the rage these days, and there’s some great stuff out there (check out JacKryn France (at right) and Pottery Barn) made from the newest generation of this retro material, but I loved Stefania di Petrillo’s handcrafted Variopinte enamel dinnerware, which I also saw at DwR. The hot hues are made by crushing natural pigments mixed with glass powder and applying it by hand to metal before firing. That means no two firings produce exactly the same result, and each plate is a little piece of original art. It’s also is non-toxic and dishwasher safe, which satisfies my housewifely side.
Also loved the Oppiacei table, designed by Diego Grandi and Manolo Bossi for Skitsch. Made of fine porcelain, Oppiacei is shaped like a poppy seedpod from the poppy plant, (oppiacei is the Italian word for opiates). It comes in white or a metallic glaze) Not only is it beautiful, the removable tabletop can be used as a serving tray. So all you need is a few flutes and a bottle of Veuve and the evening can commence.
Funny how that we which so crave in early June can become enervating by the August long weekend. It’s hard to imagine right now, but we’ll soon begin to shield ourselves from the punishing rays of the sun. (No, really, it's true!) So investing now in a spot of shelter for entertaining and relaxing will pay off. There are options at every price point.
The Elora Sunshelter (above) is a nine- by nine-foot powder-coated grey steel frame with a beige water-resistant canopy, pole cover and mosquito netting. Available at Canadian Tire for about $100 (At press time, it was on sale for $70). Slightly more elegant is the eight- by eight-foot Crawford, with bronze-finished decorative steel posts and a brown weather-resistant canopy ($150, now on sale for $100).
Move up to the mid-range with Rona’s Victoria Gazebo (above), a 12- by 12-foot aluminum structure that includes a screen door and curtains. ($489).
If you love the English country look, or if you’re planning to host a jousting event, you can watch it in comfort and style from underneath a blue and white heavyweight cotton canopy with scalloped edges from HomeSense (about $1,000). Be warned that while it can take some rain, this model should not be left out in all weather.
Status brand Kettal offers the Landscape collection; gorgeous daybed structures and aluminum pergolas that can be configured with blinds, net curtains, panels and ceilings. If you have to ask how much, you probably can’t afford it, as prices start at about $8,000. From www.bonavistapools.com If those prices don’t scare you, check out the line of Dedon outdoor furniture from Studio B which includes the Orbit shaded lounger below (about $9,000).
As Earth Day approaches, attention once again turns to living a little more lightly on the planet. If you need fresh ideas on how to do that, visit the Green Living Show, which will run April 15 to 17 at the Direct Energy Centre at Exhibition Place.
In addition to over 400 exhibitors showcasing all things green — from jewelry to cookware to furniture — scheduled events include a green business forum, youth conference, fashion show and appearances by journalists such as Evan Solomon and Emily Hunter.
Celebrity chefs will cook eco-delicious dishes, and visitors can taste local foods, wine and beer. Fresh, local and sustainable foods can also be purchased at a Farmers Marketplace. Hybrid, electric and fuel cell cars will be available for test drives, and there’s a programmed EcoKids Zone for the little people. A panel discussion on the prevalence of toxins in beauty products will also take place, led by Gill Deacon, author of There’s Lead in Your Lipstick. Musicians Sarah Harmer (whom I adore!) and Alyssa Reid will perform in a live concert on Saturday at 6:45 p.m.
On Sunday, April 17, feature speaker Tom Rand will offer a presentation called Kick the Fossil Fuel Habit, which is also the title of a book he wrote. Rand was a successful businessman who now focuses his energies (get it, energies?!) on carbon mitigation. The anti-carbon crusader is now active in raising venture capital for clean technologies and works with a number of clean energy companies and organizations. (see pics above)
For décor-istas, there will be also lots of information about, and inspiration for, green renovation and design. Two exhibitors that I think are especially worth checking out are The Recycler, the nom de green ofa former pig farmer who now makes whimsical furniture out of old bicycle parts and The Timeless Material Company which offers wonderful salvaged and reclaimed building materials (see pics below).
Larger corporate exhibitors, such as American Standard , will also be there. Visit their booth and ask about their FloWise toilet, which saves about 25 per cent more water than conventional dual-flush toilets. (I like the Tropic, a sleekly contemporary looking toilet that comes in white and biscuit.)
Admission to the Green Living Show is $12 for adults, $9 for seniors and students between 13 and 17. But Samsung Electronics Canada will provide free admission to anyone who brings e-waste to the event for recycling at their Canadian facility. For details visit the Green Living website.
The same folks who brought us the Joe Fresh clothing line at Loblaw's are now exerting creative influence over the company's home and housewares lines. The results are fabby-do. So it's VERY hard to choose what I liked the most from the spring/summer preview by PC Home. But here are a few pieces that stood out. The woven hammock, with a lovely, soft textured sling on a steel frame ($159), cute-as-a-button powder-coated steel square and lollipop-shaped side tables ($29) in sunny yellow, cheery turquoise and zesty green and the super-chic, super-clever (foldable!) aluminum roll-top table. There’s tons more to the offering, which should begin showing up in stores soon. But I just had to show you a sneak peak. Watch my column for more….
Copyright Toronto Star Newspapers Limited. All rights reserved. The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Toronto Star or www.thestar.com. The Star is not responsible for the content or views expressed on external sites.
Distribution, transmission or republication of any material is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Toronto Star Newspapers Limited. For information please contact us using our webmaster form. www.thestar.com online since 1996.