Monday, 2 November 2015

Manspreading

Just a quick note. Mostly a rant. I travel a lot. I'm that annoying person that gets seated before you and gets to check luggage for free. Because travel doesn't suck any less for me, I'm not going anywhere fun and I have to do it all the time, these tiny perks make my life in airports bearable. I'm also not a very big person. I take very little of the available space on the earth (or in the sky). And since I can check my bag for free, I'm not taking up any of the precious overhead bin space. My footprint is small. So, can we talk about why yours is so large? You and I purchased the same amount of space. I am small enough and compact enough that I should really have a buffer. I get that you're taller and weigh more, but dude, that doesn't afford you the right to my foot space and to exclusive use of the middle armrest. It also doesn't mean that you, because of what I can only assume is your pendulous penis and ball sack, get to press your leg against mine, nor that every time you move your upper body that you get to Gordie Howe me in the boob or what have you. I'm very sorry that you have a confined space, and congratulations on your enormous organ, but, here's the thing, what if I was a guy? A guy of equal size? I see it all the time, two big guys sitting beside each other. It's as if each has leprosy, the desperation each uses to make sure there is never any touching, never any encroachment. WHY can't I be afforded that similar...disgust? Maybe I should stop showing before flights. Maybe I should let my dental hygiene slide a little. Or maybe I should make a scene, or even a gentle reminder of personal space instead of just ranting here on my phone...but the thing is, I can be on upwards of 4 flights a day. I do not have the energy to correct your bad manners and the bad manners of every single well endowed person that sits beside me. It's been six years of this. I'll see if I can submit it as an agenda item for the next general meeting of your Enormous Dick Society. I bet there's four feet of space between each chair.

Same goes to you jabby mcjabberson sitting behind me. Have you really never had a smart phone? You don't know how touch, I reiterate: TOUCH, screens works? This, this is why I use my express check-in lane and the lounge. We all sit up there and drink, buffering ourselves to this nonsense.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

An Unremarkable Spring - yes I know it's the fall


I’ve fallen very behind on my posts. I have a few in the wings for the next while, but instead of trying to catch-up, we’ll just erase the spring, shall we?  It wasn’t terribly notable.  I travelled quite a bit, a garden was put in, but because spring took its sweet time arriving, and was so late and so damp, it was a less than stellar year. The yard is normally terrorized by unruly cucumber plants bent on world domination, but this year, almost half my plants drowned and the rest remained demoralised even after a turn in the weather. My tomatoes eventually flowered and fruited, but we will head into the first frost with green tomatoes and no Greek salads.


Emancipation Day
I did a read a few books, but honestly, only a few were particularly memorable. I know we knocked off Emancipation Day for bookclub. I remember being underwhelmed and though interested in the history presented about race relations in post WWII Windsor/Detroit, I found the supporting characters mundane and the main characters unsympathetic.  I also read The Girl on the Train at the behest of every newsstand kiosk, blog, best sellers list etc.  Honestly, the book was hard to escape it was/is so much the rage, but, the thing is, I could have cared less about the horrible people contained within the book and the misery they caused each other. Sure, you can never truly know another person, but good grief, that is an unbelievable level of manipulation and spineless addled-mindedness. Sure, maybe the two attract one another, but I felt only relief when the book was over.  Maybe I am too naïve, but there is no way I could accept the premise of this novel, let alone that such direly stupid people could function as contributing members of our society.

The Ocean At The End Of The Lane: A NovelOn the more positive side, I also furthered my Neil Gaiman experience by reading the classic American Gods (4*) and The Ocean at the End of the Lane (4.5*). Both are gorgeous reads, full of mind popping visuals and truly immersive worlds. I also had the pleasure of reading Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance.  It was delightful as I feel Aziz himself is; quirky, cute, but holding substance. I didn’t find the results of the research particularly earthshattering, but the fact that he undertook the research was fairly remarkable.  What I know for sure is that I am grateful that I am not part of the Tinder revolution. I found LavaLife hard enough on the ego/self-confidence. A swipe? Icky.

A God In RuinsWith A God in Ruins, I was devastated that Teddy fathered such a reprehensible off-spring. My heart broke for him, and for me since Life After Life was as near a perfect story as could have hoped for. I know (no, really, I am full of a very deep understanding) that there are gross people in the world. I guess I just don’t care to read about the undeservingly entitled and unpleasant people in the world of fiction. I see too many of them in the grocery store and on the bus. Of course, we all have our stories, we all became the person we are today due to a series of defining moments of our lives. And we all have our own unique hardwiring which dictates how we will experience and allow those moments to shape us.  I guess my own wiring and defining moments harden me from accepting those moments as unredeemable.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

March Bookshelf


Wow. I was completely convinced that I had already written this blog post until I got into a discussion this afternoon with a work colleague about a letter we were writing. My colleague wanted to use the phrase 'spectacular wilderness' in the letter, but I have a thing about the word wilderness, especially in the context of a National Park. I had planned on quoting from this blog post to explain my position on the word, but then realized that said post did not yet exist in finished form, just in pencil scratches in my notebook. So...


Boundless: Tracing Land and Dream in a New Northwest Passage My interest in Boundless was piqued by a review I read in the Globe and Mail last September. At the time, we were in a Franklin Frenzy!! The announcement that after 170 odd years of the Franklin Expedition being 'lost', the Erebus had been 'found'. Don't get me wrong, from an archeological 'discovery' perspective - pretty huge (full disclosure, I studied archaeology in university, so I am in no way throwing shade at the field of study). But from the government's sovereignty perspective, claims to the North - strong and free - perspective, from an announce-able perspective: GRAND. Yes, I am cynical, because the thing about archaeological 'discoveries' is that they are a lot like anything else in the purview of white men and Western culture: someone not from that culture knew. Someone was a guide. Someone had a story. While it may be big news and all new to those guided and those that listened to the stories, it was not for the guide and the storyteller. I am often horrified by the continued under valuing of Aboriginal culture. It is a remarkably absurd hangover from our colonial past. How can we discover something that was already known?

Likewise, what is wilderness? In western culture, wilderness is bad, it is wild, untamed, it is the place of the deep dark forest where the big bad wolf waits to gobble-up wayward girls.

Merriam-Webster defines Wilderness as:


But there are no true equivalents in many other languages. In fact, when many 'wildernesses' were being 'discovered' there were all manner of human beings inhabiting the tract or region. In Ucluelet, where I grew up, there are dense forests, stunning mountains, raging rivers and the thunderous ocean. Many non-aboriginal members of the community would refer to this area as 'wilderness', but the Nuu-chah-nulth word for the same area is "nisma" which would translate to our land.

Winter covers these topics with the tone of a lyrical storyteller. She is a witness to the experiences of those around her, and she eloquently captures her own conflicted feelings about the western values with which she was raised and the utter respect for the values and knowledge of her Inuit traveling companions, the interest and awe of following in Franklin's doomed footsteps and the utter absurdity of the reverence western culture holds for foolhardy exploits of a long dead white guy.

I highly recommend: for the lovers of Emily Carr and Margaret Laurence




Love At First Stitch: Demystifying DressmakingI love Tilly's blog, Tilly and the Buttons, and was excited when Mollie Makes reported that she would be releasing her first book. It doesn't disappoint.  Beautifully executed, the book is bright and colourful and as easy going as its author seems to be.  She has some wonderful tips for beginners, easy to follow patterns and straight-forward projects that can easily be modified with personal touches and whimsical fabrics.  If you're thinking of trying to build some of your own unique wardrobe staples, this would be a nice addition to your craft room. 





Neverwhere: Author's Preferred TextWhen I was in high school, I read a book by Deepak Chopra called The Return of Merlin. The premise is that many of the mentally ill homeless in our cities are actually members of King Arthur’s court, displaced in time and utterly confused by the displacement. The Fisher King had a similar theme, though, ultimately (SPOILERS) mental illness was the root cause of the delusion, not time travel. In Nevermind, the homeless and the lost fall through the cracks of London above into the dangerous and slightly out of phase London below. London below is filled with monsters and mystery, fiefdoms and courts, hardship and magic. Because it is out of phase with the topside world, topsiders only experience these monsters and mysteries as shadows and easily ignorable people and movement.

The Doctor (so many things in our lives are relatable to Doctor Who, if you try) has repeatedly told us all that there are reasons we are afraid of shadows (hello vashta nerada), what's under our bed (um, yay) and that thing you can't quite see out of the corner of your eye. But though fear may be a superpower, living afraid is no place to be for the long term, and Gaiman makes the case for sometimes being lost, sometimes being forgotten and sometimes being a hero in your own story.

 
 

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Thank you for being a friend


And if you threw a party, and invited everyone you knew, you would see the homemade gift would be from me and the card attached would be appropriate to the occasion, but not homemade as I have too many interests already.

For better or for worse, I have been trying to make most of my gifts over the last year.  It certainly was a crafty Christmas.  If you nail the homemade gift, there is nothing more personal or treasured.  Of course, if you goof, there is nothing more awkward (and nonreturnable).  So, you've been warned.  One day, you may be gifted with an awkward and nonreturnable craft project that I slaved over and thought you would love.  And my earnest little face will shine as you stare at it in horror wondering what in God's name I was thinking.  And you will feel obliged to dig it out of the deep recesses of your closet to display it when you know I'm coming over, to avoid crushing my delicate soul.  But, hopefully, I'll knock it out of the park.

Christmas, birthdays, babies, weddings, housewarming are all fair game to my crafty gifts.  I've had a number of projects on the go, including:

My favourite recipes on cards and hand embellished tea towels for weddings;
Homemade preserves, teacup candles and aprons for housewarming/hostess gifts;
Quilts, sweaters and hats for babies:
Rainbow Quilt and log cabin pillow
And a little girl being carried away to dreamland

For birthdays, it really depends on the person.  For instance, I made my niece a little frock and crochet collar that looks equally adorable on the hanger, hung as it is meant to be worn, and on her with the collar worn as a crown, because, well, because.
 


My favourite of late has been an attempt at cross-stitch.  This is my first real foray into the thready arts since a mother's day project at Girl Guides.  I don't even remember if that was particularly successful, as I hated stitching (and given the number of badges I had, you would have thought I had gotten somewhat used to it - not so humble brag).  I preferred my crafts executable with a hot glue gun.
 
Picture it, Ucluelet, 1992.  We didn't have a lot in the way of TV signals making it to us.  One of the only consistent TV stations that we had was the CBC.  And, for whatever bizarre reason, despite being below the 49th, we only had access to CBC North.  This meant that we had nightly news that was based in Yellowknife and was often in one of the Aboriginal languages of the North.  However, everyday after school, my girlfriends and I would rush home for one particular program - The Golden Girls.  It was awesome, and it was in English.  Long before there was Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha, there was Dorothy, Rose, Sophia and Blanche.  Oh, we loved them so.  In particular, my friend Z was taken with them. 

Inspire your prayers
One day, I was on the twitter and someone posted a set of prayer candles emblazoned with these remarkable women.  I immediately started an Etsy search, but alas, they had sold out.  I was now convinced, like a sign from St Estelle Getty herself, that I needed to make a gift by hand.
 
I've been thinking of starting to explore embroidery for some time.  I love the look of a little bit of embellishment on the corners of napkins, little flowers on pretty dresses, and the woolly tattoos that Dottie Angel has been busily adding to her thrifted finds.  However, as I have explored elsewhere, I don't really have a ton of patience and my hand stitching always starts off ragged, becomes great and ends rushed.  But whilst searching out gifts for Z, I came across a cross-stitch pattern for the Florida quartet, and I knew I had to give it a whirl.  It took time, and I got annoyed (and stabbed) but in the end, I think it turned out magnificently.  And while I'm in no rush to get there, I do look forward to being a subversive senior, running amok with my besties.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Depression Lies

 
The little beast sits on your chest and pretends to be your friend, looking out for you, nourishing you, but it is in fact feeding you lie after lie.  It has an answer for every rebuttal because it does not need to live in the world of fact.  At first, it feeds you what you need, a little soul pablum, and then it feeds you what you think you need, a little mind candy.  But soon enough, it's dosing you with poison.
 
No one cares about your stupid crafts.
No one reads these posts.
Your voice isn't worth listening to.
You're not a good writer, so why are you even bothering?
 
And you listen.  And you stop.  Ideas come, but you don't act because it likely wasn't a good idea anyway.  Maybe, you tell yourself, when I feel more like writing and feel more brilliant, I'll get back to writing.  Spoiler alert >>>>>
 
With depression, you never feel like it.  IF you feel at all, it's certainly not a get up and go kind of feeling.  It's certainly not a, hey, let's open up and expose our vulnerability kind of feeling.  It's actually easier not to feel at all.  Bottle that shit up, lock it down, stick a smile on your face, laugh at every joke.  But it's not in the eyes, if you really look, it doesn't reach the eyes.  Maybe that's why I still don't have crow's feet.
 
This winter was a tough one.  There was no reprieve.  It was relentless and ugly.  I had a bad fall, and I'm still recovering from the resultant injury, still in pretty constant pain.  The world has seemed to be a particularly gross place this winter/spring too.  Perhaps I'm just feeling it more, the world's psychic pain is hitting me harder at the moment.  But the gross people, and the gross things they are doing and those gross things being justified and excused away by other, sometimes grosser people. 
 
And in some ways, being someone with mental health issues is harder, the stigma larger, even though as a society we're trying to talk about it more and normalise it.  But then you have folks blaming mental health issues for acts of terror and murder, and how does that make talking about it easier and safer?
 
Anyway, I don't feel like writing.  I don't have any answers or solutions to gross.  I'm not looking for any external validation, because as I've said, the beast doesn't work in fact.  I am however, going to write because we all must be warriors against the gross.  We have to fight the exhaustion and the despair.  We have to push back against the cynicism and anger and find the love and the patience to continue to fight.
 
Say no to gross.
And say yes to summer, finally.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Menu Monday - BC Travel


It's been a busy chunk of time for me.  This is a large country and I am on my third trip across it is 3 weeks.  No matter how good the meetings are, how comfy the hotel bed, travel is exhausting.
Can't beat the view in the lounge at Long Beach Lodge.
 
My last trip took me back to my old stomping grounds in BC.  The westcoast is a culinary playground.  Adventurous, quick to adopt new ideas, tastes, flavours and sitting in a confluence of cultures.  To top it off, Vancouver (and surrounding areas) are blessed by earthly riches and the bounty of the sea.  The sum of which is a foodie's dream.
 
Tuesday - Hotel Georgia Lounge for a roasted baby beet salad.  For dinner, before heading to the Canucks game, Omission Ale and halibut tacos.
 
Wednesday - Proved more food for the sole (new shoes!! Fluevog) than for the tummy.  I opted to grab some gluten free bars and fresh fruit from the local organic grocery on the shopping go.
 
Thursday - A beautiful spring afternoon spent on south Granville St at the delightful Heirloom.  I had the soup of the day (carrot and ginger) and Kale Caesar.  Best caesar ever.  My girlfriend and I then walked across the Granville St bridge and had a flute of sparkles on the patio of the Vancouver Art Gallery before I headed to my second Canucks game.  See, it's that paragraph right there that makes me miss Vancouver.
 
Friday - I flew to Vancouver Island via Harbour Air and rented a car to drive over to Ucluelet to visit my sister and her family.  I made a stop in Qualicum to visit my grandparents and then drove my favourite drive through to Ucluelet.  It was perfect: clear roads, no slowpokes, a little bit of torrential rain and the smell of life pumping through the air exchange.  My sister and I ended up having a bite out at Hanks.  And odd little spot, which was a bookstore for years, a few more windows would certainly perk things up a little.  However, the BBQ was very tasty.  I had the Pork Cheeks and they modified my plate to accommodate the gluten free/dairy free.  I had a hankering (get it!?) for some gooey, fall apart meet after all my clean living in Vancouver.
 
This would have been Jeff heaven. 
Instead, I took a little heaven home to him.
Saturday - My sis and I had a girls day, and headed up to Tofino for the afternoon.  Interspersed with shopping and manicures (and a lot of gabbing) we managed a couple of stops.  One was at Wolf in the Fog where I had the soup of the day (a coconut, chickpea curry) and Heather had the amazing looking Albacore Tuna Melt.  We then headed to the Tofino Brewing Co.  Having abandoned Jeff in Halifax with the wiener dogs, I want to pick him up a souvenir.  One tee-shirt, one pint glass and three of their beers carefully wrapped within my checked luggage:  Coffee Porter, Kelp Stout and Hoppin' Cretin.  We then did a quick dash to the Long Beach Lodge for a glass of wine over looking the surfers, and then a pop back in to town for dinner at Shelter.  It was absolutely pissing rain by this point, but we sat on the covered patio with the propane heaters and a couple of fleece blankets.  It was awesome.  Both Heather and I opted for the mussels and frites (they have a dedicated fries fryer); I went with bacon, Heather with Thai coconut curry.


Sunday - After reluctantly pulling myself away from my nieces and nephew, I drove back to Naniamo, after a visit with my great aunt.  I flew back to Vancouver and checked myself into my stellar hotel room at the Pan Pacific.  I opted to use Hotwire, a roll of the dice, but with all of the nice hotels in the city, I figured my odds of lucking out were pretty high.  I was so right.  Not only did I get a great deal, but the front desk upgraded me further.  I had planned on meeting some girlfriends for a beverage, but instead ran out to the liquor store so we could seat in peace and look out over a truly great view.  Hotwire - roll the dice!

Safe and delicious travels to all!
xo
s.
Panoramic windows overlooking Burrard Inlet and the Coast Mountains. 
A delightful snack of edamame, cucumber avocado roll and sesame crusted tuna.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

TBT - Easter

The Easter Bunny is a weird one.  I get that both rabbits and eggs are symbols of fertility, but together?  No sense.  We should all go Aussie style and have the Easter Platypus.  Is that a thing?  I suppose I could Google it, but I'm lazy and far happier believing it is a thing, because the Easter Platypus is awesome.
 

Finnegan is saddened by chocolate holidays.  He feels they are discriminatory.
Anyhoo, the whole confluence of weird that is zombie Jesus, fertility festivals, painted eggs and Easter Platypuses/ Platypi/Platypodes makes for some brain twisting magic.  However, any holiday that gives you days off and chocolate is a friend of mine, regardless of root.


I loved the hunt.  And the chocolate.
Growing up, my sister and I weren't often the recipients of treats (no mom, banana chips don't count), and those treats that we did get were hoarded and rationed by yours truly so that I could get some sugary satisfaction every day, in between the seasonal mother loads of Valentine's Day, Easter, Halloween and Christmas.  But Easter was the most fun.  Painting the eggs was fun.  Trying to find them hidden in the plants and behind cushions (how long should eggs be out of the fridge once cooked?), and following the trail of jelly beans and chocolate eggs to find solid chocolate bunnies was the best!





I'm still a pretty big fan of magic, and an even bigger fan of sweet treats.  Guess I'll have to pull my apron on this weekend an bake me some platypus cupcakes.  I'll bet I can find them on Pinterest.

Happy Easter, in whatever form you celebrate it!
xo
s.
From Real Simple, April 2013.  I made the following adjustments:
remove 1 1/2c. APF, and add:
1/2c. brown rice flour
1/2c. quinoa flour
1/2c. coconut flour
remove cream cheese, and add
Tofutti "better than cream cheese" in equal amount.
To decorate, I iced and rolled cupcake in shredded, sweetened coconut,
used a jelly bean for the nose and chocolate chips for the eyes.  For the ears,
I split a hand made marshmallow, and dipped the sticky side in lavender sugar.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Jamie to the rescue


This past week, Jeff wanted steak.  I have no doubt that part of this need was aided by the fact that the BBQ was trapped behind a one meter tall wall of snow and he needed something, anything that was reminiscent of summer.  I, on the other hand, wanted to try out my new cookbook.  After getting caught in a 'meh' loop, I decided I needed some external inspiration and picked up Jamie's 15 Minute Meals the last time I was browsing around Winners.

15 Minutes is about my attention span these days, so the title was working for me.  It should be noted that the idea of 15 minutes is cooking time, not prep time.  For things to actually take 15 minutes, make sure you do the prep (chopping, washing, boiling etc) prior to beginning, or you'll get out of step pretty quickly.

Sunday - The first day of the snow.  We knew that we were going to get 40cm of snow.  I knew this was going to give me a serious case of the sads, so I was prepared to dump a bunch of stuff in the slow cooker around breakfast time, and have something wonderful and comforting for dinner.  In this case, it was my stand by Moroccan vegetable stew.  This one also works well with stewing lamb, especially if you have the time to pre-brown the lamb, but straight up veggies is nice too.  I served with a quinoa pilaf with toasted cumin seeds, pistachios an
d slivered almonds.

Monday - Leftovers.  This was Gus's last beginners puppy class.  He is now responding to his name, knows how to sit, and will waiting until you signal he can have the treat in your hand.  These classes are so much fun, but they're really early for us, so leftovers is the only way to go.

Tuesday - I made Jeff steak.  Perfectly on the rare side of medium rare, lovingly grilled on a hot pan with sesame oil and Chinese 5-spice.  This one was out of Jamie's book.  It was lovely.

Wednesday - Blackened Chicken and Quinoa Salad.  Also from Jamie's book.  I love a hearty salad, and this one was spectacular.  I made it without feta, but I'm sure it would be tasty with.

Thursday - Slow-cooker Asian Pork with Broccoli and Noodles.  This one looks so much better on paper than it turned out.  Jeff still enjoyed it, but the flavours were off for me.  If I were to make it again (and I probably will), I would do a reduction of the sauce on the stovetop, and not add the cornstarch to the slowcooker.  I think I would also use full salt soy sauce, not the reduced sodium stuff I had on hand.

Friday - I took the night off.  We had been invited out, and I had planned on making my customary cupcakes, but I was feeling like hell.  So Jeff and Finnegan headed out to be social, and Gus and I curled up on the couch and watched old Supernatural episodes and drank copious amounts of ginger ale.

Saturday - I did not rebound as quickly as I had hoped, but I had a lovely thawed duck breast in the refrigerator, so I was compelled to cook.  Crispy duck and hoisin tofu in lettuce cups.  Another of Jamie's.  So good.

Today is a travel day for me, headed off for work on the road for the next week.  I've been stockpiling frozen dinners, and I left a stew in the slow cooker, so my honey is well sorted in the food department.  I like to know that he has options, even if he mostly chooses to satisfy his hunger with gluten and dairy.  I am also aware that it is Burger Week in Halifax, so, you know...

s.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Just Bliss

Value Village beckoned a couple of weeks back.  It had been a while since I'd been on a good bargain hunt, and I was craving the chase.  And so, it would seem, was half of the city on the day I finally made it.  There was, apparently, a 50% off sale, and the place was an absolute zoo.  It was also pretty picked over, but I did find the following treasures:

I have a bit of an owl thing, and I also have a bit of a kitschy Japanese figurine things, so, these amazing salt and pepper shakers have found an honoured place in the kitchen.

I have stacks of beautiful vintage teacups, but I do like having spares for projects.  This set of four are gorgeous and will make a very pretty something or other.

I also have piles of vintage linens, which I convert into various things.  I'm currently crocheting another rag rug, and I have plans on quilting some throw pillows using the granny-chic prints.  But I really had to pick these up for the nostalgia; we had sheets like these growing up, and I still love them.

My collection of vintage pattern books is getting out of hand, but I just can't resist!  And look at these beauties.  Inspiration abounds.



Happy Hunting!
xo
s.

Crochet beachwear is all the rage. 
These guys look hot.  Like sunstrokey.
Nothing chic here, just straight up granny. 
And I still kind of want to make them.
When quilting (and lady mullets) go too far.
The family that wears matching sweaters has no choice but to stick together.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

The 'what's left in the fridge/freezer/panty' menu

Last week was lazy, so this week was realllllly lazy.  It was a kind of "I have this stuff" week, so therefore I'm going to make these dishes which are good, little to no work and included ingredients that were tucked away in one of my food storage areas.  Inspiring, I know.  I'm really dragging my ass through this last stretch of winter.  The 40cm of snow that got added to our glaciated garden on Sunday has done nothing to lessen my 'meh' mood.  And they're saying that we're going to get 30cm more tonight and tomorrow.  Honestly, f-you winter, you win.  I surrender.

So bright and lovely...I use my indoor grill when
the weather gets me down.
Sunday - Lamb Kofta with Focaccia wedges and Greek salad.  The lamb is from Jamie at Home(last year's) Spring lamb from Grand Pre; Gluten-free pizza crusts brushed with olive oil, dusted with rock salt, minced garlic and (last year's) garden rosemary; and a feta-less salad of vine ripened cherry tomatoes, cucumber, kalamata olives, arugula and lemon zest with oregano vinegarette.

Monday - Leftover Beef Ragu with gremolata.  One batch from the slow cooker is enough for several meals for us.  This one was frozen back in February and we re-heated, paired with a fresh gremolata and scarfed it down before Gus's puppy class.

Tuesday - Pork Scallopini with lemon wine sauce and brocolini.  Another one from the irritatingly titled cook book. But this is a keeper.  I do love cooking with wine, and capers, and shallots.   

Wednesday - Bibimbap.  This is a different take on Korean comfort food.

Thursday - Chorizo, bell pepper and mushroom omelets.  Bacon on the side.  Sometimes you just need breakfast for dinner.

Friday - Winter blasting games night with Cards Against Humanity and DixIt.  We started tame with Dixit and then, well lubricated, we ventured into truly horrible (and hilarious) places with CAH.  Laugh until it hurts...

Saturday - We ventured out, pre-storm, for some beverages and food with our neighbours, and then took in "The Pillowman" by Martin McDonagh at the Bus Stop Theatre.  To say that I loved the play would probably point to a very deep and disturbing psychological issue, so, let's just say it's a dozy.  The production was quite enjoyable (context setting puppet shows that were both superb and totally crazy) and the soundtrack was perfectly off putting.  It was a fun night to break up the winter doldrums.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Monday's Lazy International Menu

Winter is sucking my kitchen energy dry.  It feels like spring is so deeply covered in ice, we may never see it again.  There's a mini glacier where my veggie beds are.  So, this past week was focused on easy foods from warmer climates.

Sunday - Mexico - Slow Cooker Chipotle Short Ribs with kale salad, guacamole and spicy rice.  The recipe includes instructions for a cabbage slaw - skip it.  The recipe also says boneless short ribs, which is silly, more expensive and hard to find.  Use bone-in, and by the time you're done cooking, the meat falls off the bone anyway.  Served with a light salad and guacamole, this is a wonderfully fragrant and delicious meal.  The smokey peppers will intoxicate you while it's cooking.

Monday - India - Sweet and Sour Dahl with Roasted Butternut Squash, Basmati and coconut yogurt.  This is another from the great cookbook with the irritating title.  This is a tamarind recipe, and I find that is a flavour that you either love or hate.  We love it.  The original recipe calls for roasted eggplant, but, eggplant isn't really my bag unless stewed.

Tuesday - Jamaica - Chicken Curry.  From the book above, this one doesn't quite work for me 'skinny'.  I love the allspice flavour, but broth instead of coconut milk is not inspiring.  I went full fat, not 'light', and it was delicious.

Wednesday - Italy - Sicilian Fish Stew.  Bright and spicy, this one, from that same book, is naturally skinny.  Plus, any recipe that has a healthy splash of wine is alright in my book.

Thursday - Multinational - otherwise known as leftovers.
Friday - German escapism to Ireland - otherwise known as, heading to the pub to get away from the wieners because lord knows, we all need to get out of the house sometimes!


Seems like a distant memory!
Saturday - Nova Scotian - we had our book club potluck meeting.  And since the book for this meeting took place in rural NS, we decided to go with classic recipes: Shepard's pie (lentil and sweet potato as the main ingredients), deviled eggs (filled with whipped avocado, not yolks), beet salad (with lovely quinoa), and a veggie soup.  (As always, there was way too much food!).  I made a strawberry rhubarb pie. I froze the hulled strawberries and slice rhubarb straight from my garden last summer.  I know have a recipe that makes a perfect gluten-free pie crust every time...no weird texture issues.  We were all stuffed and had plenty to say about the book (which we all loved).    

Friday, 6 March 2015

February Bookshelf

Shack-Wacky Puppy.
It's kind of hard to believe that it's March already, though quite honestly, that goodness.  February was balls out awful.  So far, the year of the Goat has been fairly harrowing, so I'm hoping I got my bad luck out of the way early.

I am also over the snow.  Like, really over it.  I thought I was over it last year, but I have several feet of compacted snow and ice over my gorgeous garden, and a couple of shack-wacky wiener dogs that are pushing the limits of my sanity.  As a friend recently pointed out, with both dogs and children, 1+1=5.


I did get a bit of reading in this month though, so that's the up side of being a virtual shut-in.

The Circle, by Dave Eggers:
18302455I wanted to like The Circle.  People have been talking about and talking up The Circle.  But I did not.  We've heard it all before: corporation starts out making life easier, has great intentions, then the wrong people get involved and bingbangboom, corporation has infiltrated our whole life and we're doomed, the end.  Great.  In this case, perhaps we're reading a satire (it is Dave Eggars after all) and not an actual warning or seeming prophecy (1984).  But the characters are wooden and derivative, the ideas less fresh, and the wilful naivety of the 'protagonist' disheartening. But the Luddite alternative was equally ridiculous.  And if that's the point, and you have a genius like Margaret Atwood adding to the genre with Oryx and Crake, and authors like Gary Shteyngart trying something new in Super Sad True Love Story, what's the end game?  We've been here, done that, and nothing has been added but a layer of money to Eggers's bank account.

Yes Please, by Amy Poehler:
20910157Everyone loves Amy (yes you do).  And I like Tina too, don't get me wrong, but Amy and I, we'd be dangerous, slaying bottles of wine and the egos of over inflated suits at fancy restaurants.  This book wasn't laugh out loud funny.  Tina's was funnier, so, for that matter, was Mindy's.  It is a pretty solid self reflection, and a love letter to her craft and the many people that supported her along the way.  Though she is amazingly gifted, what I liked about this was the acknowledgement that yes, hard work and talent are important, but so is support and so is living a relatively charmed life.  We'd all like to think that hard work and talent will get you anywhere...and for some lucky people, it is enough.  But the acknowledgement that privilege has something to do with it, well, that it a level of self awareness and maturity that we don't often see in celebrity.  Now that Parks and Rec has ended, I'm excited to see what's next.

When the Saints, by Sarah Mian:
22812831This was our bookclub selection for this month.  A true pleasure to read.  If you've lived in a small town, you are aware of this story and you've seen this family. The characters are vivid, the language is poetic and the writing is embedded with both levity and grace. Tabby is a beautifully executed character that I loved immediately. I can't recommend this one enough.

Mollie Makes, Volume 50
For such a milestone magazine (let's be honest, 50 is pretty impressive in this day and age), I was a little underwhelmed by this month's edition.  Perhaps I am in a crafting rut.  Perhaps they are.  Still, it was pretty to look at, and the articles we interesting (especially about creative couples!), but I closed the pages uninspired to create any of the offerings.  A first.

Simply Crochet, Volume 28
The March edition of this magazine also had less pop for me then usual.  Regardless, I have bookmarked a couple of patterns to try - one is a lovely daffodil, which would make a cheerful brooch in this transitory time, and the other is this month's granny square - Granny Phylis.  I do aim to finish my quilt by the end of April, so, I should probably get on it!

Happy almost, almost spring.
I found this ridiculous creature in Yellowknife last April. 
We could have one here too, but it would be an iceman.  Stupid winter.
xo
s.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Monday's Frugal Menu

A cold (in fact, ice dammed) reality check has us facing some leaner times.  We hope the vast majority of our winter ice damage will be covered by insurance, but our delightfully quirky old house is sure to have some stories and surprises behind the sodden walls.  If we're lucky, in some places, the insulation will simply be insufficient.  In other places, it likely doesn't exist, and in still others, it could be old seaweed, a common insulation material used in NS around the time the original parts of the house were built.
 
So, I was inspired by different (and cheaper) cuts of meat, canned tomatoes, dried lentils/peas, which along with healthy doses of leftovers will be on the menu for the next few months as we try to squirrel away some pennies to cover our winter loses.
 
Sunday - Pollo alla cacciatorra Jamie's Italy.  I use rice flour for dusting the chicken. A divine dish, bursting with flavour.
 
Monday - Tuna Melts.  An old favourite.  To make mine, I dice up some of my homemade garlic/dill pickles, stir in some salt, pepper, Frank's, and cage-free lemon-caper mayo.  I top Jeff's with mozzarella and mine with Daiya dairy-free cheddar. A little salad on the side, and we're in comfort food central!
 
Tuesday - Pig and Pea Soup from Michael Smith. I've adjusted this slightly over time...I use the slow cooker for mine.  8 cups of water with chicken bouillon cubes, one big old ham hock right in the pot with the onions and carrots, 2 tsp dried thyme, 2 bay leaves and a tsp of garlic powder.  I do not use celery (it goes funky in the slow cooker), and I tend not to use fresh garlic, as it can leave a metallic taste if used in the slow cooker.  About 10 minutes before I'm ready to serve, I fish the ham hock out, peel away the skin and fat, remove the bones and shred the meat, returning it to the pot with a cup of thawed fresh peas.  I also stir in a Tbsp of Dijon mustard instead of the vinegar.  I don't add extra pig...the ham hock is plenty rich, but I guess if you're feeling really swine-ish, bacon does make things better.
 
Wednesday - Butternut Squash, Pear and Chestnut Salad from the Healthy Foodie
The true glory of the feast cannot be captured in pixels.
 
Thursday - Slow Cooker Pear and Raisin Pork Loin Roast from the Healthy Foodie.  Hot damn.  In her post, Sonia claimed that upon her first taste she proclaimed to her dogs that she is a 'true, profound, culinary genius'.  I also do this on a regular basis...and this dish is very worthy of such proclamations.  Spend the time to marinate.  Spend the time to make the gravy.  The leftover salad from Wednesday complemented the meat perfectly. 
 
Friday - Glorious leftovers.
 
Saturday - One Pot Turkey Chili with Cornbread Crust.  This is all about the smoked paprika.  Make sure you have some in stock.  Some changes I've made to the recipe: chickpeas instead of beans and, one package of Bob's gluten-free corn bread...taking easy to a whole new level.  I also used the Daiya cheddar to top. (I let the batter rest for an hour before putting it on the chili and in the oven, it makes a big difference).  For dessert, I made my gluten-free version of Chocolate Diablo Cookies.

Until next Monday, happy cooking!
xo
s.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Projects and inspiration - quilting







Last year, my New Year's goal was to learn how to crochet.  Check.  This year, I want to learn how to quilt.  Part of my interest in doing so is the legacy left to us by Jeff's grandmother.  We have been very fortunate to have inherited some of Winifred's magical quilts.  The first was this stunner that she made for Jeff in advance of his wedding day.  Sadly, she passed away many years before Jeff and I even met, but somehow, she managed to capture some of me in the quilt too.
Mountains and trees and deer.  Amazing.

 
A little threadbare, but I love the fabric and colours she chose. 
Others are more utilitarian, but my favourite is one that was more or less relegated to a junk pile.  After collecting one of her beautiful old bookshelves from its place of storage, I was delighted to find this beauty being used as a storage cover.  It has been, as they say, well loved.  I desperately want to revitalise it, and I also want to start a legacy of my own.
Gus loves the quilt. 
Gus also loves eating the quilt.
 
I'm less concerned about 'theme' than most.
Knowing this (and because he is wonderful) Jeff bought me a certificate for a quilting class at Patch Halifax.  I had a tremendous amount of creating a quilt as you go pillowcase.  I immediately went out and picked myself up the necessary accessories (I do love accessories) to be able to quilt at home.  The class also inspired me to begin working on the restoration of the quilt.  First, I trimmed the torn, aged and dissolving edges.  I hope to patch the threadbare sections with bits and bobs leftover from other projects, and edge the quilt in bias tape that was in a grab-bag of goodies at Value Village.  I feel like it will be slow going, but that it will be a truly granny-chic masterpiece when all is said and done!
Granny chic to the max.
Here's to inspiration.
xoxo
s.







Monday, 23 February 2015

Monday Menu

This past week's inspiration was two-fold.  First, after a delightful dinner with our neighbours, which included a short side conversation about lamb, I had a hankering for some myself.  Jeff and I have a friend that worked in Grand Pré and has connections with some of the local farmers.  Each spring, we put in an order for locally sourced lamb, which we then get to enjoy all year long.  It being February, we are getting low, but it seemed like a good time to pull out an all time favourite, care-of Jamie Oliver's "Cooking with Jamie".  It is several hours worth of work, but dear lord, worth every single second.

Also inspiring me this past weekend was the shit ton of snow that has been dumped on Halifax.  I needed warm and comforting, but I also needed bright and full of flavour.  Lemons, fresh herbs and crisp veggies were all a must this week.

Check out my "In my belly please!" board on pinterest for recipes.

Sunday - Slow Cooker Chicken Mulligatawny Soup (Chatelaine Magazine)

Monday - Mad Moroccan Lamb (Cook with Jamie).  I make this recipe gluten free by using quinoa instead of couscous, and dairy free by using soy 'sour cream', which has a closer consistency to Greek yogurt than non-dairy 'yogurts'

Tuesday - Leftovers (there were a lot! - 4lbs of lamb goes a long way.)

Wednesday - Slow cooker beef ragu with basil gremolata (Real Simple Magazine).  The basil gremolata elevates this dish from standard beef stew to something fresh and bright.

Thursday - Turkey-scallion melts with oven fries and veggies with hummus (Real Simple Magazine).  These are part turkey burger, part grilled cheese.  All parts delicious.

Friday - We treated ourselves, post house drama, to a night at the Stubborn Goat in Halifax.  I had the steak and truffle frites (they have a gluten free fryer) and Jeff had the Surf and Swine pizza with scallops, bacon and gremolata.  It was a lovely night out.  I may have gotten a little silly.

Saturday - Superfood salad with creamy cashew dressing (Chatelaine Magazine).  While kale and carrots and chickpeas and dried cherries and avocado and almonds and apples etc, you will feel both virtuous and very satisfied.  Pairs nicely with a Chardonnay and a movie.

Superfood Salad
via Chatelaine Magazine

Sunday, 22 February 2015

just biss

Back on December 31, Jeff and I started our gratitude journal.  The initial goal was to capture 5 things we are thankful for, everyday.  So, far, Jeff has a total of 0 entries, but honestly, he doesn't need a constant reminder about positivity.  I am the one that lives with anxiety and depression.  It turns out that 5 can be pretty darn tricky to come up with each day.  Most day look pretty similar:
Stay positive and hug your wieners.
1) cuddle time with the wieners
2) a delicious meal
3) my amazing husband.
Numbers 4&5 can vary or can be absent all together.

Not Pretty
But this week has provided a couple of opportunities for gratitude.
Pretty!
1) I am thankful that we have house insurance.  The snow/ice misery that has been Halifax has created a very pretty effect on the house.  Beautiful ice formations have created a sculpted roof line punctuated with gorgeous icicles and f#@king ice damming.
Pretty!















Not Pretty.
2) I am thankful that we have the means to enjoy a concert from time to time. And, in particular, I am thankful that we decided on Dan Mangan + Blacksmith, who absolutely rocked the Rebbecca Cohen on February 18th.  It was the first night of their tour and they were full of nerves, which translated into manic energy and an edge of your seat performance.  Strobe lights and perfect seats, dead centre and directly in front of the soundboard, holy shit.  Also, this was Dan's second time at the Cohen. The first was as part of Halifax Pop Explosion a couple of years ago, playing with the symphony.  While a great show, I felt that it was a bit tentative. I've seen him use his voice to full effect, and with the symphony, I felt he was holding back.  The Cohen is also a room specifically designed for full sound, and this time he filled it.  The band keeps getting tighter and the addition of a trumpet gave more depth to some already deep sounds. A magnificent show.

Fancy pictures by Jeff...no heads in the way courtesy of someone's friend in the row in front of us not showing up.