In mid-2006, my employer at the time was acquired by another company, and my new employers required me – rightfully so – to take some basic training that I should have taken several years earlier. The training was after work hours, two evenings a week, for a few weeks.
Normally, my eating habits were (and still are) such that a given day’s lunch was composed of leftovers from the previous evening’s supper; in fact, normally supper meal plans at the time and still to this day usually intentionally include cooking for one more serving than the meal would call for, so that I would have a lunch the following day.
The training course, however, had the effect of not only requiring me to improvise for my supper plans, such as eating fast food, but also required me to improvise for the following day’s lunch too. My memory of this period is that there was a snowball effect on much of the week’s meals, although it probably was not quite as dramatic as what my mind has woven into my memory.
One of the solutions I came up with — but never quite fully implemented at the time — was the idea of a cooking weekend, targeted at being done at the cottage. My ambition at that point was to stock the freezer with a variety, as well as a large stock, of dishes and prepared meals, including lunches, so that the above situation wouldn’t be a problem moving forward. I had notions that were fairly ambitious, both in terms of the variety of meals to be made during the weekend, as well as the sheer amount of food that I suppose I expected to make over such a hypothetical weekend.
I developed the following planning table:
As can be seen, one of the goals was to make a number of dishes based on a common ingredient, my spaghetti sauce, which I had begun making in the early 1990’s.
As also can be seen, although there were a few numbers of dishes to produce, overall the list is rather vague in what I would end up with in terms of numbers. Among other things, while I did have rough ideas of how much of most of the items I would make (or at least envisioned making), for instance, I didn’t start planning out the required amounts of each of the ingredients and sub-ingredients needed to make the dishes and components.
Overall, it seemed — and still seems to this day — rather vague and all over the place, and overly ambitious to the point of being daunting. Critically, although I knew that I would be making about seven to eight quarts of my spaghetti sauce, I didn’t plan out its ingredients, determine just how many of each of the other dishes for which it would be used would be produced from the seven to eight quarts, or whether some of the “larger” dishes were to be prepared for their own sake and the freezer, or to be ultimately cooked and divided up into lunch containers. Except as an afterthought, I just about didn’t even insert the making of the spaghetti sauce into the weekend’s already ambitious cooking plans!
Before coming to this last realization, I realized that my plan would only produce two or three servings’ or meals’ worth of each, which might all be eaten in short order.
Unsurprisingly, the planned weekend was never executed, and after a few weeks, my evenings freed up, and my regular lunches returned.
Years later, I realized despite the usefulness of the intentions behind my plans for the cooking weekend, at least for me, it suffered from not only being too ambitious in its own right, but from being even more ambitious than I thought. At the same time, the overall plan suffered from being a bit too wide in its intended scope given what would be a limited amount of base (the spaghetti sauce). As such, the plan was likely to produce — should I accomplish it all in such a weekend — merely an amount of food, especially the lunches, that would be consumed far more quickly than I had hoped.
My spaghetti sauce — and what I do now for tomato sauce based dishes
My spaghetti sauce was a bit of a marathon sauce to make. Based on canned tomatoes, it also included an inordinate variety and amount of chopped vegetables for a spaghetti sauce, and — especially the end product — was not unlike my current vegetable soup recipe, which I have been making since about 2013. I had a prideful joy in making it, partly as a result of it being so chock-full of vegetables, but, to a degree than I didn’t care to admit at the time, also borne of a stubborn pride resulting from it being a showcase of all the vegetables it contained and a desire to show off a certain (naïve) cooking acumen.
However, one of the things I realized in looking at my big cooking weekend, both early on without realizing it, as well as more formally just recently, was that I just wanted to make, say, lasagna, chilli, beef rolls, pasta dishes, or my eggplant dish (as well as a few lunches not involving my sauce). The “without realizing it” part (early on) was overshadowed by the prideful notion that it made sense at the time to want to use my spaghetti sauce to then make all these other dishes.
Except … I have come to realize that the effort to make the sauce to begin with, as well as my pride in wanting to use it, was perhaps core to the difficulty in implementing the cooking weekend. While the dishes were meant to be a showcase to myself for my spaghetti sauce and as well as my cooking in general, I realized that all these dishes were about showcasing the whole dishes, and not so much meant to showcase my spaghetti sauce.
As such, for a long time now, many of the tomato sauce dishes I make call for commercially prepared tomato / spaghetti sauces, as opposed to, specifically, my home-made sauce.
(As a side thought, were to I make spaghetti sauce again, I have a few vague notions about simplifying it somewhat, as well as chopping the vegetables much more finely, to the point of grinding them, instead of the coarse chopping I favoured for the “sauce” in the 1990’s.)
How things have evolved to today:
Despite the fact that the above weekend plan never materialized, I soon took to often planning cooking weekends when I went to the cottage, especially during the off-season (it’s a family cottage, so there always have been occasional scheduling issues which haven’t always allowed me to do what I would like, when I would like. 🙂 )
However, the first thing that should be mentioned, since this post is at least partly predicated on a period of time in which having ready-made lunches handily available in the freezer was essential, but was not the case, is that … I haven’t since planned out cooking weekends dedicated to cooking ready-made lunches for the freezer, or form a cooking club with a few friends in which we fastidiously make a week’s worth (or more) of lunches and other meals every Saturday, or otherwise come up with a systematic method of stocking the freezer with ready-made lunches.
In the intervening years, the principal approach I have taken to rectify unforeseen needs for prepared lunches is to hoard lunches and leftovers in the freezer; in addition to routinely making extra food for the following day’s lunch, I would occasionally also, at random opportunities, zealously make an extra lunch to place in the freezer. As such, my supply of extra lunches at any given time ebbs and swells according to how many lunches I have managed to hoard at that point in time, versus how many I have needed to eat recently. Fortunately, some of my recipes somewhat ease mounting full lunches in the freezer by being pair-able with odds-and-ends leftovers, such as bacon wrapped chicken, meatballs, and stuffed potato skins.
What I do do is plan “big” cooking weekends many times while I am up at the cottage, including quite often during the off season in winter, incidentally without running water. This is done in conjunction with weekend afternoons in the city with similar objectives (including a cook-through-my-collection-of-recipes project I did mostly in 2021, accessible off my home page at https://www.malak.ca ). Depending on my desires and ambitions, I usually concentrate on single projects, per day anyway; during a week over Christmas to New Year’s, for instance, I usually plan for almost as many large cooking projects as there are days – to cook various large cooking projects to fill the freezer.
I had begun large, more focused, cooking weekends not too long after my above planned weekend should have taken place, continuing a certain tradition I had started years earlier of occasionally making large quantities of my recipes, from a then-limited recipe répertoire, typically focusing on large freezer quantities of one, or perhaps two, recipes from my collection.
Therefore, early on — at this point, exactly “when” being lost to the sands of time and the multiple computer upgrades over the years, during which dates of creation, or at least the last edit, have been lost several times over — I had put the following list together. I tried to write down what my aims and guidelines had become. Note that the text of the list has been slightly edited to fit the current narrative:
A dish needs to be just as easy to make several units of the recipe as one unit – if not easier, and as such not more difficult to make because it’s in quantity (barring the extra time and labour merely due to extra quantity – taking advantage of economies of scale);
A dish needs to be easy to make in large quantities, using a repetitive production line process;
A dish must be appropriate for freezing – for instance, my zucchini dish is not appropriate for freezing, although its sauce is appropriate for freezing!
A dish should be something that just needs to be defrosted and reheated / cooked in toaster oven or regular oven;
A dish should be “convenience food” — the operative notion being “convenient because it’s made in advance and ready to eat” (or brown and serve), not as in “junk food” or like industrially produced, store bought frozen lunches;
A dish should not be something at its core easy enough to make any day of the week fresh (looking back, I suppose that this is barring a notion to make multiple units of otherwise easy to make lunches to stock the freezer, were that have been a priority at the time);
A cooking project should not just be components for other dishes – ie. projects should be to make full meals, not just cooked hamburgers or burger meat, nor just cooked chicken pieces, etc.
Given that over the years, my objectives have evolved, changed, and widened, I have long since abandoned at least a part of the guideline regarding making meal components or single items, because I now regularly cook large quantities of breakfast sausages for freezing, have in the past cooked whole packages or more of bacon for my mom, and I regularly make bacon wrapped chicken, meatloaf, meatballs, stuffed potato skins, as well as cooked ground beef frozen in ice cube trays to keep in the freezer for other times calling for small amounts of cooked ground beef.
Of course, it would only be appropriate to show a recent planning table for a week’s stay at the cottage over Christmas , 2021 (regular meal planning blocked out):
Yes, there are still a lot of details missing here from this list, such as specific numbers, arguably allowing for somebody besides myself to look at both lists and wonder, beyond the more relaxed pace and the specific list of foods and ingredients to bring, what the difference between this 2021 table and the 2006 table are. However, each entry is based on, normally, the standard amounts in my various recipes, plus often slight excesses. And, according to my notes, I also made stuffed potato skins, bran muffins for my mom twice instead of once, and the chocolate buttercrunch twice, as well as, as intimated in the “bring” list, a container of cheese sliced off of the block for my mom to consume the following week.
These days, my freezers are usually full of many tasty dishes from my collection of recipes, individual servings of many foods both from and beyond my collection of recipes, and various lunches made up of leftovers, some consisting of components from multiple meals and cooking sessions. This is actually served by a certain hoarding instinct; I often fill containers with bits of leftovers from a given meal to freeze, and as possible I add to them with other little bits already in the freezer as they are produced.
And … do I run out of lunches? Usually not! However … managing the freezer is a work in progress and a continuous project, sometimes a daily project beyond simply preparing tomorrows lunch; I sometimes grab opportunities to make a second lunch or portion thereof!
My mom has been making a rhubarb chutney (of the British variety, not the Indian variety) since I was young, and she has loved it as long as I remember. Every year, she would harvest the rhubarb growing in her garden and make at least one batch per season, or two, or even three, depending on the yield.
I have been saying for years that I should learn how to make the chutney for her, although it has taken until this year before I finally consulted her recipe card and notes. The recipe I present here is adapted from (and very closely tracks) the recipe on my mom’s recipe card with several years’ worth of notes. The recipe on the card, if my recollection of her stories is accurate, is apparently derived from a recipe developed by her church ladies’ group in the early 1980’s, and which was possibly assigned to her after one of their canning sessions with a request to make some at home for an upcoming fall bazaar’s preserves’ table. It also incidentally is identical in ingredients and comparable in amounts to a recipe found on the internet for a barbecue sauce … so go figure.
Mom eats it as a condiment to various dishes, such as roast pork, chicken pot pies, shepherd’s pies, and many other dishes … basically, despite its sweet nature, it is also savoury, and pairs well with a number of savoury dishes.
Making the rhubarb chutney:
First, I took out two groupings of commercially grown rhubarb, in this case, about nine stalks each:
The individual stalks of rhubarb were washed:
The rhubarb stalks were trimmed of their ends, leaves, and as the case may be, torn or damaged parts:
A non-reactive stainless steel pot (yes, there are some cheap stainless steel pots which will react with acid contents!) was taken out, and put to the ready beside the cutting board:
The rhubarb was sliced into 1/4″ to 1/2″ slices:
The chopped rhubarb was transferred to the stainless steel pot as sufficient amounts accumulated on the chopping board:
Once all the rhubarb was chopped and transferred to the pot, to be sure of the amount of rhubarb I had chopped was enough for the recipe, I measured it out …
… and placed it in a bowl:
Once measured out, the rhubarb was placed back in the stainless steel pot.
Next, packed brown sugar was measured out:
The brown sugar was added to the chopped rhubarb:
The chopped rhubarb and brown sugar were mixed with a wooden spoon:
The chopped rhubarb and brown sugar mix was covered with the stainless steel pot lid:
The stainless steel pot with the rhubarb and brown sugar mix was placed in the refrigerator overnight:
Onions were taken out:
The onions were trimmed:
The onions were sliced into half-coins:
The onions were coarsely chopped:
The onions were transferred to a measuring cup to keep track of how much onions I had:
The chopped onions were transferred to a sealable container:
The container of onions was covered and placed in the fridge until the next day.
The next day, the first thing done was to fill a pot with water, for use later as a boiling water bath for the mason jars used to bottle the chutney:
A burner on the stove was turned on:
The pot of water was placed on the stove to bring it to a boil:
The pot of rhubarb and brown sugar was taken out of the fridge:
Another burner on the stove was turned on:
The pot of rhubarb and brown sugar was placed on the stove:
As the mix began heating up, it was mixed to loosen some brown sugar at the bottom of the pot:
Throughout the following process, the mix was constantly stirred in order to avoid burning at the bottom of the pot.
The chopped onions were added to the pot:
The ingredients were mixed together:
Vinegar was measured out:
The vinegar was added to the pot:
The ingredients were yet again mixed together:
Raisins were measured out:
The raisins were placed in a small blender, to coarsely chop them:
The raisins were chopped:
The chopped raisins were added to the pot:
The raisins were mixed in with the rest of the ingredients.
Ground cloves were measured out:
The ground cloves were added to the pot:
Ground cinnamon was measured out:
The ground cinnamon was added to the pot; as evidenced by the rising steam, the ingredients were heating up nicely:
Ground allspice was measured out:
The ground allspice was added to the pot:
At this point, the chutney was starting to boil, and, for reference, two hours was set on the stove timer (because the original recipe called for two hours of simmering):
The stove burner was turned down to a low setting:
The ingredients were constantly stirred in order to avoid burning and sticking on the bottom of the pot:
After about half an hour of simmering …
… this is what the chutney looked like:
At this point, the pot of water for sanitizing the jars came to a boil and its burner turned off:
After about an hour of simmering …
… this is what the chutney looked like, and was at the point of being syrupy:
As such, I knew I wasn’t going to need to continue simmering the chutney for another hour.
Canning tools were taken out: a ladle, a jar funnel, tongs, a large spoon, and a jar wrench:
Mason jars, rings, and lids were taken out — and yes, I used good condition used lids for this batch, since I had no intention of giving away any of the jars:
The water for the water bath was brought back to a boil, and mason jars were placed in the boiling water:
The canning funnel was quickly dipped in the boiling water to sanitize it:
Unfortunately, at this point, I could not take as many photos, in order to quickly fill the jars while the chutney and jars were still hot, and create a proper seal with the lids.
The chutney was taken off the stove; a mason jar was taken out of the boiling water, and the jar was filled with chutney:
A mason jar lid and ring were dipped in the boiling water:
The lid and ring were placed on the mason jar and the ring tightened.
The process was repeated until all the chutney was bottled, in this case, filling seven jars:
The jars were placed in the fridge to cool down a little more quickly:
Afterwards, labels were placed on the jars, and the jars were placed in the cupboard.
And … Mom loves it, and has even whispered “it’s better than when I make it!” … no doubt (at least) a mild exaggeration. 🙂
For several years, I have used a backwoods washing machine — basically, and literally, a slightly modified 20 litre bucket using a modified toilet plunger as an agitator — up at the cottage to wash clothes, towels, and even bed sheets, for its inherent value of washing clothes of course, but also to reduce the workload upon my return from holidays, as well as to implement a certain DIY ethic, and pass the time (in my eyes, in an amusing way). This is of course in the context of not having an automatic, electric washing machine at the cottage for a variety of reasons, including a lack of space, and the fact that the cottage is not winterized, hence there would issues related to freezing.
Note that while the use of modern conveniences of concentrated laundry detergent, as well as plentiful, clean water (from a pressurized water system) and a garden hose are shown in this post, depending on your circumstances and should you wish to make a backwoods washing machine for yourself, you may wish or need to adjust steps, practices, and so on.
Washing the laundry:
First, since my bed sheets at the cottage needed washing, I stripped my bed and took them outside to the back deck:
I also took out some other laundry to add to the wash:
Laundry detergent was taken out (on the right), and previously, one of the laundry packs was diluted in water for easier use and dividing up in smaller laundry loads (on the left).
My backwoods washing machine was taken out — a modified 20 litre plastic bucket and a modified toilet plunger:
A garden hose was taken out:
The clothes line was also up and in place for use:
Finally, sufficient clothespins were in place:
The lid to the backwoods washing machine was taken off the bucket:
Clothes were added to the backwoods washing machine’s bucket:
The diluted laundry detergent was taken out and added to the backwoods washing machine:
The plunger-agitator was added on top of the clothes in the backwoods washing machine:
More laundry was placed in the backwoods washing machine:
The backwoods washing machine was moved to a more convenient location on the steps of the deck at the cottage:
The garden hose was used to fill the backwoods washing machine with water:
The lid to was picked up and placed on the backwoods washing machine’s bucket:
The plunger-agitator was moved up and down like a butter churner:
As part of moving the plunger-agitator up and down, the laundry will sometimes get caught a bit:
After about five minutes of manual agitation, the lid was taken off the backwoods washing machine:
Sometimes, the laundry may become caught up in the holes in the plunger-agitator:
Given the rough-edged hole in the lid of the backwoods washing machine, the wooden handle can become worn and the wood fibres dislodged …
… and which may transfer to some of the laundry:
After the washing had been completed for the first load, the individual items were taken out of the backwoods washing machine and hand-wrung, and were put aside for a few moments:
The rest of the dirty bed sheets were placed in the backwoods washing machine, and the agitation action mentioned above was repeated:
As the water on the steps of the deck and the garden tiles at the foot of the steps shows, the process can be a bit wet:
At the end of the manual agitation, the bed sheets were removed from the backwoods washing machine and hand-wrung, and were put aside for a few moments.
At this point, the backwoods washing machine’s bucket of dirty wash water …
… was brought inside and emptied in the toilet, and the toilet flushed:
Back outside, the backwoods washing machine’s bucket was rinsed with the garden hose:
The backwoods washing machine’s lid was rinsed with the garden hose:
The backwoods washing machine’s plunger-agitator was rinsed with the garden hose:
At this point, the backwoods washing machine components were allowed to dry, and the backwoods washing machine was put away until the next use.
The laundry was hung on the clothesline:
In order to rinse the laundry, the garden hose was used to spray clean water on the laundry hanging on the clothesline:
At this point, the laundry on the clothesline is dripping water:
The bottoms of the various pieces of laundry were hand-wrung at their bottoms in order to remove the rinse water:
As the laundry dries and become less heavy, they begin to get caught in the breeze:
And depending on the amount and strength of the breezes and the winds, the laundry can really get caught in the wind:
As the laundry dried, it was taken off the clothesline …
… while the rest of the laundry remained on the clothesline to continue drying out:
Ah, the wind picked up quite a bit again, making the remaining laundry on the clothesline really get caught up in the wind:
As the dried laundry was taken off the clothesline, it was folded up, ready for their next use:
Although the backwoods washing machine has its limits regarding just how much laundry it can wash at once or just how well it deals with ground-in dirt, it is quite effective at washing regular albeit small loads, and is quite useful in situations in which more modern and convenient, automatic washing machines are not conveniently available!
This post is a translation of and (somewhat of an) adaptation, as well as slight update, of a presentation I gave in November, 2021, at a meeting of my local Linux Meetup. This adaptation includes some extra limited mockups of demonstrations performed live during the presentation.
The presentation was put together using Fedora Workstation (a general purpose version of Linux, in this case specializing in being a desktop workstation), highlighting some software either installed by default, or available in the Fedora Linux and rpmfusion software repositories (“App Stores”). It is therefore not intended to be a complete exposé on all available open source / free software options for PDF, even under Fedora Linux, let alone GNU / Linux in general, or other systems.
It should be noted that the presentation’s original target audience was a French-speaking group of Linux enthusiasts, Linux professionals, and other IT enthusiasts and professionals familiar with Linux. Most of the listed software would typically be available in standard or easily accessible Linux software repositories (“App Stores”). Beyond the world of GNU / Linux, free software is generally available for use on other systems, and, barring instances of a specific given package offered with paid warranty support, are usually also free of charge to download, install, and use.
In the case of the software highlighted in this post, all are either free-of-charge, or represent the free-of-charge version.
The Value of a PDF File
Context / Situation:
Take the case of the exchange of a document between two computers — such as between one running Linux, and another running Windows (or vice-versa) — and each computer is endowed with a different office suite, such as LibreOffice (cross-platform) on one, and Microsoft Office (Windows / Mac) on the other. (Of course, other possibilities exist, such as Calligra Suite (cross-platform), Pages / Numbers / Keynote / etc. (Mac), Corel Wordperfect, Google Docs, etc.)
LibreOffice, and in days gone by, OpenOffice.org, have long been touted as being “compatible” with MS Office; this purported compatibility, however, is disappointingly nowhere near as good as I and many others would like to believe.
As such, each user will open the shared document, which will be displayed according to each suite’s interpretation of the file, and may find that the actual displayed content on their screen could be different — sometimes substantially so — from the intended original display of the document. Text lines may be cut off; fonts may not be available on one or more of the systems, causing font substitution; font sizes may be changed, or text size may be different while substituting a different font due to the lack of the specified font; certain symbols may not be available on some systems; table effects may not work, or objects inserted into tables may not function or be displayed as expected, such as the insertion of a spreadsheet.
Unfortunately, I would estimate that said disappointing lack of “complete and perfect” “drop-in replacement” compatibility is a very common experience in comparing many well-known pieces of proprietary software and their open-source counterparts — not just LibreOffice and MS Office. Personally, as a Linux user, I have experienced this lack of complete compatibility a number of times since beginning to use OpenOffice.org in 2005 and Linux in 2006. Since then, I have also seen the incompatibility in action on a number of occasions during varying presentations under completely unrelated circumstances in which the presentation files were produced in one suite, and attempts made to show them in another were met with varying degrees of disappointment, sometimes leading to complete failure.
The following four images are jpeg images of the pages of the PDF document linked to above, and which I created in LibreOffice Presentation. It should be noted that, for the sake of argument, the pages could have been created in another format, such as a word processor, a spreadsheet program, or a drawing program, for instance.
Page 1 — Song lyrics to be displayed for a Karaoke Night
Page 2 — Expenses list for a Luncheon
Page 3 — TV Listings
Page 4 — Flea Market Poster
The above document — represented here in jpeg format directly produced from a PDF of the document — was originally prepared in LibreOffice Presentation, and therefore correctly represented the original document.
However, the following four images are jpeg images of the pages of the PDF document I created in Microsoft PowerPoint (you will need a PDF viewer) into which I imported the original LibreOffice Presentation, in order to demonstrate the relative lack of compatibility between, at least in this case, LibreOffice Presentation and Microsoft Powerpoint.
Page 1 — Song lyrics to be displayed for a Karaoke Night
Changes: Text fonts and font sizes, causing text to be cut off the page
Page 2 — Expenses list for a Luncheon
Changes: Text fonts, and improper translation of symbols
Page 3 — TV Listings
Changes: text fonts, font sizes, and lack of background colours in the various cells
Page 4 — Flea Market Poster
Changes: Text fonts, font sizes, corrupted translation of spreadsheet table in the centre of the flyer
The value of a PDF:
PDF files are generally well supported across multiple platforms and software, generally regardless of platform, and will usually be displayed in a virtually identical fashion on all systems; in the case of discrepancies, they are usually inconsequential.
There exists a certain perception that, short of having Adobe Acrobat Pro (a commercial, closed source piece software), PDF files are difficult to edit and modify, allowing for a certain view that PDF files are more secure. This is a case of “security by obscurity”, since editing and modification may be performed by many pieces of software, besides but of course including Adobe Acrobat Pro.
PDF files may also benefit from a perception of being less susceptible to viruses and malware, such as through macros. Suspicious files, regardless of format, should always be checked when there is reasonable doubt, particularly under certain environments.
Be careful when using some PDF software downloaded from random websites on the internet, or websites which advertise PDF modification: The may add watermarks to the resulting file — this may be undesirable, and embarrassing, particularly if the software, website, or their output aren’t vetted prior to distributing the resulting file.
Further, websites providing PDF editing services may have very reasonable terms of service for editing your document, limiting their responsibilities toward you. By submitting a document to an external website, it may may not be able to protect personal privacy, nor be able to guarantee to not divulge commercial or industrial secrets or confidential personal information contained in the submitted document: They may become the victim of a hacking, or become the target of legal proceedings, not to mention potential dubious or unscrupulous intentions operators might have to begin with. Or, they may simply be unwilling to formally engage in such responsibilities in the absence of a paid service contract.
This article’s objectives therefore are:
Firstly, presenting the utility of PDF as a useful format for distributing documents to a wide audience, without having to concern oneself with what software individual audience members may or may not have access to, if at all, and regardless of reason(s);
Secondly, presenting safe, free software and open-source software options for using and editing of PDF files;
Thirdly, beyond the general promotion of free and open-source software and PDF editing, this article is not about promoting nor deriding particular OSes or software packages, or strictly speaking their strengths or weaknesses.
As such, if a particular system or software package suits your needs and / or purposes, you should use it.
However, if a given preferred solution is costly software, perhaps your organization (or your family) may find it to be financially worthwhile to only purchase a minimum number of licences and only install it on a minimum number of designated computers, instead of needlessly on every computer in your organization (or family).
A simple cost / benefit analysis would be worthwhile: You should consider whether you wish to pay $5, $10, $15, or more, on a recurring basis (perhaps monthly), per computer on which such software would be installed. The costs, be they one-time costs or recurring, should be considered against how often the software may be used, perhaps in some cases only once or twice monthly — perhaps overall, let alone for each individual instance, depending on your organization’s size, needs, and other considerations. Further, it should be considered what operations are typically executed, especially if they simple operations such as joining multiple PDFs, or extracting a page or two, which can be easily performed by many, using any of a multitude of software packages you can get without cost, as opposed to perhaps more technical tasks which may justify costly specialized software.
Creating PDFs from an established document
To begin with, most software which create documents will have an option in the File menu or elsewhere to Print, or Print to Document, or an Export function, which will offer PDF as a format:
At the risk of skipping ahead to the PDF splitting section below, note that it is a common option to be able to selectively output some, instead of all, pages to the resulting PDF, thereby avoiding the question of having to later split the PDF to get only the desired page(s).
Overview of PDF Software
Perhaps (or perhaps not) to the surprise of many, there are many software packages and suites which will:
Display PDF files
Combine, divide, and export PDF files, as well as reorder pages within a PDF;
Edit PDF files, such as the overall files and the file metadata, as well as the PDF file content
Import and display PDF files according to particular strengths (The Gimp, Inkscape, e-readers)
Displaying PDF files:
Here are some examples of software which will display PDF files directly:
Evince Document Viewer (Gnome Project)
Okular (KDE Project)
Firefox and Chromium (Web Browsers)
PDFSam (limited free version; there is also a commercial version with more capabilities); a version for Debian derived Linux systems is available on their website
Here is a very short list of software which will open and display PDF files and allow editing, each according to their strengths, but whose primary function is not PDF display:
LibreOffice (Office Suite)
Calligra (Office Suite)
The Gimp (Image Manipulation)
Inkscape (Vector Graphics Editor)
Evince Document Viewer
Chromium (web browser)
Software to Combine PDF files
A relatively common activity is to combine multiple PDF files into one file — such as, separately scanned pieces of paper, or PDF files produced separately, perhaps by different people.
Here are some examples of software which will combine PDF files:
PDF Mix Tool
Combining PDF files in PDFArranger
Software to Divide PDF Files / Extract Pages
Another relatively common activity is to divide a PDF File, or extract one or more pages from a PDF file.
Note that if you are the creator of the document, as shown earlier, the software you used to create the document likely allows for you to selectively export individual or multiple pages to PDF in addition to exporting the entire document.
Here are some examples of software which will divide PDF files / extract pages:
PDF Mix Tool
LibreOffice — allows to print and / or export one or more pages
Calligra Suite — allows to print and / or export one or more pages
The Gimp — allows to print and / or export one or more pages
Splitting a PDF File with PDFMod
Here are some examples of software which will edit PDF files to varying degrees:
LibreOffice permits the possibility of creating a hybrid PDF and .odt / .ods file (word processor or spreadsheet files), which will allow for the PDF to be more easily edited by any suite that is able to edit .odt and .ods files; create a document with LibreOffice, and in creating a PDF, choose Export — General — PDF Hybrid (incorporating .odt / .ods file)
In my personal experience, PDF editing — and ease of doing so — can vary wildly according to what one wishes to do, as well as wildly according to the nature of the source PDF. I have had excellent experiences editing a PDF created from a CAD software drawing (presumably created using commercial CAD software such as AutoCAD), and whose individual elements could be manipulated in LibreOffice Draw. I have also used LibreOffice Draw to insert text zones, arrows, and scanned signatures into PDFs. Conversely, documents composed primarily of scanned images — including text and forms — may require more image manipulation skills to edit, modify, and manipulate individual and specific elements of the document, depending on your objectives.
What you can do will also be dictated by which software package you choose and its strengths and weaknesses.
For instance, it should be noted that the phrase “Editing a PDF” can be a nebulous thing which can mean many and different things to many and different people. For instance, actually editing document text directly in the PDF may be what one understands and expects, while the strengths of a given piece of software may lay elsewhere.
LibreOffice has some PDF import functions, as well as imperfect document layout functions. Depending on the source PDF document, it can be quite effective at editing text directly.
Note from the closed-source world: I once had an excellent experience with a moderately-difficult-to-edit PDF using Microsoft Word, which included being able to edit the text — and presumably save in MS Word’s native file format.
Importing and editing a PDF in LibreOffice Draw (note the imperfect import):
In the case of my example PDF, LibreOffice Draw allows for some direct editing of the text (Notice the word “MODIFIÉ” with a brick-red text colour replacing some of the text):
Importing and editing a PDF in Scribus, a desktop publishing programme:
The Gimp can insert text zones into a PDF, and which text zones themselves may be edited within The Gimp; however, its strengths lie in dealing with a PDF as an image, and editing image characteristics, while editing the text as one might in a word processor might be more challenging.
Importing a PDF file into The Gimp, image manipulation software:
Adding a text zone to a PDF in The Gimp:
Exporting Text, Cut & Paste, and .odt File Creating
Depending on the source PDF and its nature, “cut & paste” may work (as opposed to not working at all), and may even “work well”, although this may be wildly variable according to the source PDF document. However, even in the best case, this method will normally only copy the actual text, and some of the images, from your PDF document; it may not usually be particularly useful in actually replicating the PDF document formatting.
As for other document and content formats, such as drawings, pictures, and text rendered into images, other sections of this post should be consulted (ie. using LibreOffice Draw or The Gimp for drawings; optical character reading (OCR), including OCRFeeder, etc.)
In addition to the mention of LibreOffice above, OCRFeeder is software that acts as a front end to optical character recognition software, and is able to import PDF files, and then export in HTML, plain text, OpenDocument (.odt) format, and of course PDF. Again depending on the source file, results may be variable, although the results are usable.
… and here is an image of the exported .odt file (word processor file) of the page viewed and created in OCRFeeder, then opened in my word processor (LibreOffice):
Ironically, as this case shows, the changes (or lack of adequate recognition and / or translation of the original layout) can be as great or even more as can occur by simply sharing documents between not-fully-compatible-though-similar software suites. However, though far from perfect, it is arguably usable, depending, of course, on how much effort you are willing to devote to replicating the original document layout — and then making your desired changes, and finally creating a new PDF document.
Exporting to other file formats:
As has been (indirectly) demonstrated several times throughout this post, PDF files can be imported into software that isn’t specifically dedicated to PDFs, and then allow for the resulting imported file to be exported into other formats. For example, The Gimp was used to create most of the working images for this post: In the case where PDF files were to be displayed, the PDF files were imported into The Gimp, and then exported in jpeg or png formats. This type of conversion — from PDF to another given format — can often be done by other pieces of software (to varying degrees) according to their strengths or weaknesses.
Photo Editing with PDFs
The Gimp is fully functional image processing software, very similar to — but, unfortunately, not fully compatible with nor a perfect drop-in replacement of — Photoshop. Using The Gimp, you can import a PDF and edit the image(s) directly, or extract photos and other images through a variety of means, such as selecting the area of the photo, copying the selected area, and creating a new document from the clipboard.
Here is a The Gimp having imported a PDF of a photo of myself on a cruise:
During the live presentation, I gave the hypothetical example — for the sake of levity — of a barber who particularly likes sideburns, and seeing mine in a PDF, decided to clip out one of my sideburns from the photo …
… and then notice on how I was starting to go grey at the time :
It is taken as an understood that use of The Gimp to manipulate the photo can be continued at this point — such as how my sideburns might look after a colouring, or to compare side-by-side against other people’s sideburns — and then the result exported as a PDF.
PDFTricks allows for resizing of images in PDFs, principally compressing and reducing the file size to the order of “large”, “medium”, “small”, and “extra-small”, as well as image exporting to .jpg / .png / .txt formats, and file merging and splitting.
During the presentation, the PDF document above composed of the photo of myself on a trip was run through the software’s “extreme compression” option. The following is a clip from a screenshot from a file manager, showing the size difference between the the original file, and the newly created compressed file:
LibreOffice Draw allows for some image manipulation.
In this particular situation, the night sky drawing in the karaoke page of the example PDF I created was selected, and the various options directly available were shown. However, as mentioned earlier, I have imported PDF documents of building plans and modified them to include notes showing were works were performed, or to add signatures to documents.
PDF Form Creation
LibreOffice Writer and Calligra Suite are fully-featured for the creation of forms. Unfortunately, I am not particularly adept at creating forms.
Filling PDF Forms
Evince — if the PDF form was designed to be interactively filled
Okular — if the PDF form was designed to be interactively filled
The Gimp — allows for text areas to be inserted, as well as photos, drawings, and the like
LibreOffice Draw — allows for text areas to be inserted, as well as photos, drawings, and the like
Viewing / displaying PDF files : User’s choice (usually a system’s default PDF viewer is adequate, or a web browser)
Combining and splitting PDF files : PDFMixTool
Editing PDF files : User’s choice (depends on objectives and source file; The Gimp and LibreOffice Draw are good contenders)
Adjusting PDF file size : PDFTricks
Form creation : User’s choice
Form filling : User’s choice (usually a system’s default PDF viewer is adequate, or a web browser)
Exporting PDF to other formats : OCRFeeder (for .odt); LibreOffice Draw (Photos and images); The Gimp (photos and images)
Note on Linux availability of the above software:
Here are some screen shots from my system’s installed repositories (Fedora Stable; Fedora Updates; rpmfusion.org — free and non-free)
PDF software easily accessible from my computer’s software repositories (“App Stores”):
As this list suggests, there is lot of software available which have varying PDF abilities, ranging from being dedicated PDF software of various kinds, to other pieces of software with other principal functions but with PDF functions ranging to simple importing from and exporting to the format, to being useful within the limits of the software’s main functions to manipulate PDF files in some way(s).
This presentation’s goals are to highlight:
how PDF files are well supported most of the time on most systems, while the various pieces of software, between two versions, typically a well-known closed source project and an open-source counterpart, for document production, are not as compatible with each other as we may want;
free software while avoiding the security risks inherent to using unknown and potentially dangerous websites, as well as software which is easily available for routine tasks as well as to reduce costs;
the possibility of editing PDF files with various pieces of free software which are easily available in most Linux distributions’ repositories — as well as often easily available for other platforms — albeit occasionally with variable success.
Questions taken during the presentation:
A question asked midway through the presentation expressed a certain surprise that The Gimp can be used to edit PDFs. As mentioned earlier, The Gimp is able to import PDF files, and perform various functions on the file according to its strengths (image manipulation).
A participant asked at the end during a question period about a recommendation for software to affix signatures to documents. I replied that I was not aware of any open source official signing software with digital traceability, simply because that I had not done any research on that subject; however, an image of a scanned signature can usually be inserted in a document using The Gimp or LibreOffice Draw, or as a document is being created in a word processor.
A final comment recommended the use of LibreOffice Draw, based on the commentor’s frequent use of it to perform a number of the functions listed here, to which I’d commented that I had asked my employer’s IT department to install LibreOffice on my work-issued Windows-based laptop computer in order to be able to perform some drawing-modification functions as part of my employment.
Enjoy sharing and editing PDF files!
Signing PDFs can be performed with jPDF Tweak.
JPDF Tweak can also encrypt and add passwords to a PDF.
One of my mom’s perennial holiday dinner treats was her roast potatoes, something I figured it was time to learn how to make. As such, I asked her how to do it — it is fairly easy — and adjusted the basic recipe to two generous servings, which can be multiplied and adjusted according to the number of people to be served.
Note that the recipe as presented can be easily made in a countertop convection oven — as was the case in the following series of photos at the cottage — but there may be some minor variations when scaling up to larger amounts cooked in a conventional oven.
Making the roast potatoes:
First, the oven was pre-heated to 400F:
Water was poured into a pot:
Potatoes were taken out, in this case, about 400g or 3/4lb to 1lb of potatoes:
The potatoes were peeled:
Peeled potatoes were placed in the water:
Potato peels were collected, and in this case burned in the fireplace, since it was heating season:
Peeled potatoes were taken out one by one to slice:
Potatoes were sliced in half lengthwise:
… and then sliced into pieces:
The potato pieces were placed back into the water:
The rest of the potatoes were similarly cut up:
The water was drained from the potatoes:
… and fresh water was poured in the pot to rinse the potatoes:
A clean, dry towel was laid out on a cutting board:
The drained potatoes were placed on the clean dry towel:
The towel was folded over in order to pat dry the potatoes:
Parchment paper was taken out:
An oven tray was taken out:
The parchment paper was placed on the oven tray:
Margarine was taken out:
The kitchen scale was set to zero with an empty spoon on it, and then margarine was weighed out:
A bit of margarine was picked up with my fingers:
Pat dried potato pieces were picked up one at a time and slathered with margarine and placed on the oven tray:
And as can be seen, the roughly 75g / 3oz of margarine were used up:
Onion salt was taken out:
Onion salt was shaken somewhat liberally over the margarine covered potatoes:
The timer on the oven was set to about 45 minutes:
The tray of potatoes was placed in the oven:
Here is a shot of the roasting potatoes after about 25 minutes:
The potatoes were turned over at this point:
The potatoes were taken out just before 45 minutes, ready to eat:
(Note that because of the excessive amount of parchment paper used, yes, I did have to deal with some burning parchment paper!)
My version of my mom’s stuffed butternut squash is a new addition to my collection of recipes, although it is a dish that my dear mom has been making for years. Yummilly, it very closely tracks my mom’s version.
It is actually a fairly easy recipe, and is fairly easy to scale up to feed a larger crowd than the two to four servings to which this recipe is tailored.
Beyond being a tasty dish, Mom used to make it as a way to use up rice she’d already made earlier in a larger, more conveniently sized batch, or as a way to have rice in the fridge to use later in the week; for this post, I show the photos making rice, to have more rice for later. Conversely, I do not show the cooking of the ground beef, already having some previously cooked and frozen ground beef on hand.
Also with regard to the rice used in the photos below, I used a commercial flavoured rice I like; however, the point of the recipe lies in using any rice that suits your tastes.
Note: This post uses photos from two separate cooking sessions, as I was working out some of the required specific amounts of each ingredient and techniques. As such, in some cases, one may notice slight discrepancies between two or more photos showing the progression of steps the narrative identifies as sequential, when in fact in some cases the photos may switch between two separate sessions which may have inadvertently involved slight differences.
Making the stuffed butternut squash:
I began by taking out a commercial packet of a flavoured rice I like:
The flavouring packet was taken out of the package:
The rice in the packet was measured out, and a matching amount was measured out from a bag of plain rice, since I find the amount of flavouring in the packet too strong when the rice is made with the amount of rice as packaged:
The rice was added to a pot:
Water was measured out:
The water was added to the rice:
The contents of the flavour packet was added to the rice:
The rice, flavouring, and water were mixed with a fork:
Margarine was taken out:
Margarine was spooned out of the tub …
… and transferred to the pot with the rice:
The stove burner was turned on …
… and the rice was brought to a boil …
… at which point the stove was turned down to a low setting …
… and a timer set to twenty minutes:
The rice was simmered for 20 minutes:
While the rice was still simmering, a butternut squash of approximately 2lbs was taken out:
The squash was cut in half along its length:
The seeds were removed from the squash:
The squash halves were peeled and trimmed:
The squash halves were cut in two:
The halves without a natural hollow were hollowed out, and the extra kept:
About an inch’s worth of water was added to the microwave-safe cooking vessel:
The squash pieces, including those cut out from the solid pieces of squash, were placed in the cooking vessel:
The squash was covered and placed in the microwave oven:
The microwave oven (1200 watts) was set to 10 minutes:
The cooked squash was taken out of the microwave oven:
The water was drained from the cooking vessel, and the pieces cut out to hollow out two of the pieces were transferred to a bowl (while the rest was put aside for the moment) …
… and the squash pieces were mashed with a fork:
The mashed squash was put aside for a few moments.
Normally, I cook ground beef and onions in advance, and freeze it in ice cube trays, which conveniently hold roughly an ounce in each well. Earlier, two and a half cubes, about two and half ounces, were taken out of the freezer, and allowed to defrost on the counter:
The ground beef cubes were broken up with a fork:
The mashed squash was added to the beef:
At this point, the rice was cooked:
A cup of rice was measured out, while the rest was placed in a container to freeze and eat later:
The cooked rice was added to the cooked beef and mashed squash:
The cooked ground beef, mashed squash, and rice were mixed together with a fork:
The rice mixture was put aside, and a can of condensed tomato soup was taken out:
The can of condensed tomato soup was opened:
The cooked hollowed out squash pieces were taken out again:
A small amount of the condensed tomato soup was placed in the bases of each hollowed-out piece of squash:
The rice, cooked ground beef, and mashed squash mix was spooned into the squash:
The rest of the condensed tomato soup was spooned onto the top of the rice, beef, and squash mix:
The cooking vessel was covered …
… and the dish was placed in the microwave oven again:
The microwave oven (1200 watts) was set to seven minutes:
After seven minutes of cooking, the stuffed squash was ready to eat:
… and the stuffed squash was served:
It was, of course, yummy, and of course, Mom approved.
(… and, at the risk of sounding like I’m bragging, putting aside that, well, I *had* cooked it, I couldn’t tell whether I’d cooked it, or whether Mom had cooked it!)
The various steps were performed over several sessions during the week (mostly cubing and drying bread), however, for the sake of narrative, the photos are listed, largely, as though it could have been done in two sessions. And, despite stating in the recipe that its cooking in a turkey is beyond the scope of the recipe, I do indeed show at the end of this post the cooking of the stuffing with the Christmas turkey, in response to a conversation with, and comment from, my brother: “If you get a trailer, you want to see it hooked up to a truck.“
Making the turkey stuffing:
Although the following picture was taken this past week as part of preparing for making the stuffing, normally, throughout the year I collect bread bits and bread crusts …
… and as I collect them I cube them and dry them, to add to a container of dried bread cubes:
The loaf of bread was sliced for freezing, and some slices were put aside:
Bread slices were sliced into spears:
The bread spears were cut into cubes and placed on a tray to dry:
Once dried, the bread cubes were placed in a container I fill over time with dried bread cubes:
Fresh bread cubes were also put aside in a freezer bag and frozen, to be used later in the week when I made the turkey stuffing:
On the day I made the turkey stuffing, onions were taken out:
The onions were cleaned and trimmed:
The onions were cut in half:
The onion halves were sliced into half coins:
The onions were somewhat finely chopped:
The chopped onions were transferred to a microwave oven safe cooking vessel, and put aside for a few moments:
Bulk sausage meat was taken out:
… and removed from its packaging:
The sausage meat was broken up by hand and placed in the microwave oven safe cooking vessel along with the chopped onions:
The sausage meat and onions were mixed together by hand:
Time was set on my microwave oven:
The microwave oven safe cooking vessel was placed in the microwave oven:
Part way through cooking the sausage meat and onions, they were taken out and large pieces were broken up with a large spoon:
Mostly cooked sausage and onions:
The fresh and dried bread cubes were taken out:
Fresh bread cubes were measured out:
Fresh bread cubes were transferred to a large mixing vessel, in this case, my 16 litre soup pot:
The cooked sausage meat and onions were added to the bread cubes
The bread cubes and the cooked sausage meat and onions were mixed with a large mixing spoon:
Chicken soup base was taken out:
Chicken soup base was measured out:
The chicken soup base was added to a measuring cup:
Water was added to an electric kettle:
The kettle was turned on:
Once boiled, boiling water was added to the measuring cup with the chicken soup base:
The chicken soup base and the boiling water were mixed together:
The chicken soup was added to the rest of the ingredients:
The ingredients were mixed together again with the large spoon:
Savoury (spice) was taken out:
The savoury was sprinkled over the ingredients, and the ingredients were mixed again:
Dry bread cubes were measured out:
The dry bread cubes were added to the rest of the ingredients:
The ingredients were yet again mixed together with the large spoon:
Gauze poultry stuffing bags were taken out:
A gauze bag was filled with the stuffing:
The gauze bag was tied off:
The gauze bag was placed in a sealable freezer bag and placed in a fridge for use later, on Christmas day:
And in the spirit of seeing the “trailer hooked up to a truck”, here are photos from Christmas day, cooking the turkey and stuffing:
On Christmas day, the gauze bag with the stuffing was taken out of the freezer bag, and placed on a baking rack in a roasting pan:
Bacon was taken out:
Slices of bacon were placed on top of the stuffing:
Two turkey breasts, tied together with butcher’s string, were placed on top of the stuffing:
Bacon was liberally wrapped over and around the turkey and stuffing:
The Christmas turkey was placed in the oven:
After some cooking, basting, and browning, aluminum foil was placed on top of the turkey partway through cooking the turkey in order to avoid burning on the outside and drying out of the turkey, while the inside of the turkey and stuffing continued to cook (a meat thermometer was critical):
The fully cooked turkey and stuffing were taken out of the oven:
The turkey stuffing was taken out of the gauze bag and transferred to a serving vessel, ready for Christmas dinner:
It has been several months since I’ve done an entry on a recipe from my collection of recipes, mostly just because last winter and spring, I’d run through most of the recipes that I regularly make and which at the time I had considered to be of “sufficient” note to highlight here, save for the recipe which is the subject of this post (but yes, there is a small number more which may eventually be featured!) As such, many of my recipes from my collection of recipes have since been made at least once, and in many cases, several times, over the past few months.
Over the past couple of weeks alone, I did a lot of cooking at the cottage while on holidays, making:
Yes, that’s a lot of potatoes, ground beef, chicken, onions, carrots, eggs, flour, cheese, olive oil, and other secondary ingredients prepared, as well as beer consumed, during the multiple cooking sessions! And, yes, this is how I like to spend winter holidays at the cottage!
Note that this recipe is vegetarian of the lacto-vegetarian variety (basically, meatless) if the tomato sauce used does not contain meat.
Making the Eggplant au gratin:
First, a nice beer was taken out — Brune d’Achouffe, a Belgian brown ale 8,5% alc/vol in a 750mL bottle, brewed under licence from the Brasserie d’Achouffe by Brasseurs RJ in Montréal, Québec.
Next, the beer was poured into a glass:
… and of course, right away I had to do a bit of quality control on the beer:
Now to the cooking of the eggplant au gratin, really, this time:
Ramekins were set out — as it turns out, another ramekin was needed to be added later on:
An electric skillet was taken out and plugged in:
Olive oil was added to the skillet:
The olive oil was spread out in the skillet with a plastic spatula / egg flipper:
A couple of eggplants were taken out:
An eggplant was rinsed with water:
The eggplant was trimmed:
Coins were sliced off the eggplant:
Slices of eggplant were placed in the hot skillet:
After a few minutes of frying, the slices of eggplant were turned over:
The fried slices of eggplant were placed in ramekins:
The rest of the first eggplant was sliced, the resulting eggplant slices fried, and the fried eggplant slices were placed in the rest of the ramekins, such that the fried eggplant slices were roughly equally distributed amongst the ramekins:
Half of the zucchinis were taken out:
The zucchinis were rinsed with water:
The zucchinis were trimmed:
In order to quickly slice the zucchinis, a food processor with the slicing blade attachment was taken out:
The zucchinis were fed into the running food processor in order to slice them:
Zucchini slices were placed in the electric skillet with more olive oil:
The zucchini slices were turned over:
Fried zucchini slices were placed in ramekins:
The rest of the first half of the zucchini slices were fried:
The rest of the fried zucchini slices were placed in the rest of the ramekins, such that the zucchini slices were roughly equally distributed amongst the ramekins:
Onions were taken out:
The onions were cleaned and trimmed:
The onions were sliced in half:
The onions were sliced into thick half coins:
The onions were roughly chopped:
The chopped onions were placed in a bowl:
About half the chopped onions were placed in the electric skillet with more olive oil, and salt was added:
The chopped onions were fried:
The fried chopped onions were roughly equally distributed amongst the ramekins:
At this point, my beer chalice was empty and needed refiling:
It was time to repeat the process, and the second eggplant was sliced and fried the same way. When the eggplant slices were placed in the ramekins, the contents were patted down with a fork, in order to get rid of deadspace in the ramekin:
The rest of the steps were repeated with the zucchinis, and the chopped onions, and both were placed in the ramekins in the same order as above, after the second layer of fried eggplant. Note that at this point, another ramekin was added to accommodate what proved to be more ingredients than I originally estimated that I’d had:
A jar of commercial (meatless) tomato sauce was taken out:
The tomato sauce was spread over the ingredients in the ramekins:
A block of mozzarella cheese was taken out:
Mozzarella cheese was sliced off the block of cheese:
Cheese slices were placed on top of the ingredients in the ramekins:
Zipper bags were taken out and identified:
Filled ramekins were individually placed in bags for freezing:
The bags were placed in a freezer (in this case the freezer door) for future eating:
A few days later, an eggplant au gratin was taken out, defrosted, baked, and eaten; of course it was yummy!
I love halloween, and for over twenty years, I have been serving candies to the local ghosties and ghoulies.
Over the years, I have been trying to do my part to make my street a destination for ghosties and ghoulies, including marquis and costumes.
Over the past few years, inflatable decorations have become the rage in my area, and I’m no exception in having fallen for their charms.
This year, things on my street have gone into overdrive; maybe some people have been organizing with each other unbeknownst to me, and maybe the pandemic has had people wanting to do *anything* to raise spirits, no pun intended.
The first house to start decorating for Halloween started, best I could tell, on the last weekend of September. As of mid October, there are fourteen of the twenty two houses on the two block stretch I can see from my house (however, there is another block of street beyond my view, with some decorations too!)
I have taken pictures for your viewing pleasure:
This is the furthest house I can just see from home, and they are also the most decorated!
This haunted house is easily visible from my house, despite being at the second furthest house from me.
The inflatables in this house have flickering lights, as well as other decorations on the other side of the house.
The ghost on this lawn is actually covering an old tree stump; there are also other decorations at the door on the side of the house, and in the windows out front.
Here is another house needing two pictures for their decorations:
This is the house had the first decorations this year, first set up over the last weekend of September:
At this house, Dracula is ready to welcome ghosties and ghoulies!
This house has a piglet dressed as a witch inflatable, and a witch who can’t fly too well on her broom!
Here’s a baby Frankenstein, and an x-ray dinosaur!
I’m not sure is this a Halloween decoration, or just a cute fall / harvest themed garden decoration.
Here is the lawn at my house — a ghost, a headless person holding up a pumpkin, an x-ray pumpkin head person, a funny Frankenstein, a cute monster, another ghost, a happy witch, and a frankenstein, and — UPDATED PHOTO 20211024 — a bat in the tree. Three Four are new this year!
Here is another house with their decorations:
One of my close neighbours likes zombies:
And, so far the last house on the street (I live on a cul-de-sac), this house has an alien visiting, and being a little confused as to whom the real locals are:
UPDATE 20211024: Another house set up their decorations this weekend, and it merits three pictures!
UPDATE 20211025: Another house set up their decorations this weekend! Check the little lights around the tree, and the pumpkins on the steps up to the door.
More pics will be added if, as, and when other houses are decorated.
Although over the past few weeks I have continued cooking a number of dishes from my collection of recipes, for this post, I decided to highlight another obsessive hobby of mine: Making firestarters!
I make these firestarters in such large quantities over time that I have few hard numbers quantifying “how much wax” or “how long to allow cooling” or “melt to what temperature”; it is a matter of experience and “feel”, although it is a process which could easily lend itself to measured amounts.
The process allows for me to do many of the steps below separately, as well prepare “for the next batch”.
Although I used to regularly sell these at craft fairs and flea markets, I now just liberally give them out to my neighbours at the cottage, as well as of course using them myself to light fires in the fireplace at the cottage during heating season.
Preparing the egg carton wells:
Flats from eggs sold in bulk were taken out:
Each flat is brought up to the light and checked for holes:
The wells with holes were cut out of the egg carton flat:
Flats were then trimmed around the edges:
Trimmed flats are stacked together for future cutting:
Flats were cut into pieces to be further cut:
The flat pieces were again cut into manageable pieces:
The pieces were cut into individual sets of wells of varying formats (2, 3, or 4 wells) for making the firestarters:
The cut wells are stored in a box:
Making the firestarters:
Melting the wax:
A portable electric countertop stove was turned on:
Some old candles were placed in a pot:
The pot of old candles was placed on the stove:
The wax was melted:
When “enough” wax was melted …
… liquid wax was poured off into a coffee can, which is a convenient size for dipping the filled egg carton wells and soaking them in wax:
Large unmelted pieces of wax were put aside for the next batch, and some solids such as a metal wick base and a wick were transferred to another coffee can where solids from the melting of waxes is collected, to be later rendered for its wax value, and the solids burned in the fireplace:
Preparing the egg cartons:
Cut egg carton wells were laid out on a tray:
Using a sawdust and wax filler:
At this point, a sawdust filler is used, which I normally create after the current step; hence here, I used sawdust filler made during a previous batch. If you have not done so , see the sections (lower down) on making the sawdust and wax filler.
The wells of the cut egg cartons were filled with the sawdust and wax mixture:
Dipping the filled egg carton wells in the melted wax:
A grouping of egg carton wells filled with sawdust and wax mix was picked up with a pair of pliers, and brought over to the coffee can of liquid wax:
The wells were dipped in the liquid wax:
The dipped wells were lifted out of the liquid wax:
The dipped well was returned to the tray:
The rest of the wells were dipped in the liquid wax:
The tray of firestarters was placed on the lawn outside my shed where there was a light breeze to help cool the firestarters:
Trimming the firestarters:
The mostly cooled firestarters were picked up, in order to trim the solidified wax from the bottoms:
The solidified wax was trimmed off the bottoms of the firestarters:
The wax trimmings were placed back in the pot with the unmelted candles, to be melted during the making of a future batch of firestarters:
Making the sawdust and wax filling:
Sawdust was taken out:
Sawdust was placed on a tray:
The liquid wax, which at this point had started cooling and hardening, was placed back on the stove to remelt the wax:
The remelted wax was slowly poured over the sawdust:
Sawdust not having absorbed any liquid wax was shifted on top of the rest with hot wax:
More sawdust was added to cover the wax soaked sawdust:
The sawdust was pressed down with my hands to spread out the hot wax:
The wax and sawdust were put aside in order to cool for a few hours:
The rest of making the filler can be found at the end of this page, after the section on bagging the firestarters.
Cutting and trimming fireststarters:
The firestarters, now having cooled, were brought into the house, and placed on a working surface, a piece of plywood board on the floor:
A knife with a serrated blade was taken out to cut the firestarters into individual units:
The firestarters were cut into individual units:
The protruding bits of sawdust and wax were trimmed with a pocket knife:
Sometimes, an individual firestarter does not need to be trimmed:
Here is the pile of trimmed firestarters:
Trimmings from the firestarters were placed in the can, for use in a future batch of firestarters:
Bagging the firestarters:
The trimmed firestarters were grouped in dozens (in this case, three dozen):
Seven inch by eight inch sealable bags were taken out:
Firestarters were placed in bags, a dozen per bag:
Prior to making this batch of firestarters, printed out labels were copied, four to a page (and for this post, my phone number was blacked out in the pictures):
Labels were cut:
Labels were folded over (note that I live in a predominantly French-speaking area, hence the text is in both English and French):
A folded over label was placed in each bag:
And here are the three bags of firestarters made in this batch, ready to give away or sell:
The bags of firestarters were placed in a plastic crate with other bags of firestarters:
Back to making the sawdust filling:
A while later, when the sawdust and wax mix had completely cooled, excess sawdust on the tray was transferred back into the bucket of sawdust:
Excess sawdust was brushed off of the cooled and solidified sawdust and wax mix:
The cooled and solidified sawdust and wax mix was brought to my work surface:
Some of the pieces of solidified sawdust and wax mixture were placed on the work surface to cut into smaller pieces:
The pieces of sawdust and wax were cut into fairly small cubes (about half an inch) :
Some of the sawdust and wax pieces were sliced into lengths …
… which were then cut into about half inch cubes:
Finally, the cubes and crumbs were placed into a container, to be used as filler for a future batch of firestarters.
If you came from the top section to see how to make the sawdust filler, return to the section on filling the egg carton wells.