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.

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 PrĂ© 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.
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.

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 heads in the way courtesy of someone's friend in the row in front of us not showing up.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

My Bookshelf - January

The Pokey Little Puppy - A classic
I am a reader, not a writer. As you sit and read my writing, that sentence will either be utterly perplexing or undeniable fact. The truth is, I like to write, but I'm not all that good at it. But I know good writing (and good writers), and I emulate and mirror, but the threads I weave don't usually create a fabric that could keep you warm at night. I am, however, a magnificent reader. I devour words, my brain sponges ideas, my eyes search out the next literary meal. I flip thoughts and concepts, devices and language over and over, likely imbuing each with far more meaning than what was intended. But that doesn't matter. These are worlds, character, experiences to explore, try on, absorb. They become a part of you, a moment of time, a fixed point to return to. Books are our histories, our treasures, our weapons, our time-machines. They have always been my fortress.

For the next while, I thought I'd give you a sense of what sits on my bookshelf each month, what I thought of them and what they each inspired. I'll also point you to an all time favourite that you may want to explore your self.

January was a lighter than average month for reading. Between a new puppy and absolutely no time in an aeroplane (a place that the fortress is incredibly important to my sanity), I found many other things to occupy my time. But I did manage to read the following:

The Paying Guest, by Sarah Waters

The Paying GuestsSome of my Halifax ladies and I have a very informal book club. Our guys like to get together and drink beer...we decided to put a little structure around getting together and drinking wine. We all have weirdly divergent schedules, so we probably only manage 5 or so gatherings each year where we can all be there. We've recently decided that the host of the evening also picks the book. At our last meet-up (I want to say early November), I chose our next book based on a rather stellar review in the Globe and Mail. We finally had a chance to sit down and discuss at the end of January. Two of our five didn't finish it (it's a long book), and the other 3 of us each gave it a 3/5 on Goodreads. However, as we started to discuss what we liked and didn't, I realised how much more I liked the book than the initial knee-jerk star rating system indicated.

The book is a great character study of women in post-WW1 England. It explores class and privilege, grief, sexuality, and the Victorian generation trying to cope with a world with no men. It is written in the quietly stuffy way the mind of such a woman dealing with these conflicts would experience them. Stiff upper lip, chin up, keep calm and all that, but acknowledging that the status quo led to the war, and left something scratching at the back of skull, something unbalanced. I loved her voice, her doubts, her neurosis. There was probably at least one too many twists than necessary, leaving me feeling like the author was trying just a titch too hard, but if you have any interest in WW1 era England, women's suffrage etc, I would strongly recommend.

Serenity Vol 2, by Joss Whedon

Serenity Volume 2: Better Days And Other Stories 2nd EditionI've never really been one for graphic novels. I didn't read comics as a kid (full disclosure, I hated Archie and his gang. Why two women were fawning over that jackass didn't make any sense to me. I've always had a bit of an attitude about these things). I do love the Marvel universe on film. I am also a huge fan of sci-fi - Star Trek, Doctor Who, Firefly, Buffy, Supernatural, yes, even Star Gate. Last Christmas, one of my BFs got me the most perfect thing I had ever seen - a graphic novel mash-up of the 11th Doctor fighting Cybermen-Borg hybrids with Captain Picard. Come on! It was amazing.

Every Christmas, Jeff and I binge watch a TV show or two on Netflix. This year, Jeff suggested we re-watch Firefly/Serenity on Netflix. I fell back in love with Malcolm Reynolds. I couldn't just leave Wash and the Shepherd dead. I required more of that universe. Happily, the story has been expanded. I'm looking forward to re-entering that world at carefully rationed times in the future.

Chatelaine Magazine, February 2015 

I've been a subscriber to this magazine for the last 6 years or so. Sadly, since Jane Francisco left as editor-in-chief, the magazine just hasn't been the same for me. However, because of Chatelaine, I have cue cards full of recipes. I was inspired by a couple of recipes this month 1) Turkey Chili with Chedder Cornbread and 2) Coq au vin blanc. I can report that with a few substitutions, both turned out well. The Coq au vin blac was maybe only okay, but the one pot comfort of the Chili was very welcome during the blast of winter the Maritimes has been having of late.  I substituted chickpeas for the bean medley, and made cheaters gluten-free cornbread (Bob's premix gluten-free) in order to really simplify the whole meal.   

I have an e-subscription to this magazine full of craftiness. There are interviews with crafty people, links to crafty sites, crafty tends and crafty projects to inspire your crafty juices. Beautiful photos and easy to follow instructions sit well on the pastel hued pages. I love it. A couple of crafty projects that I could see myself trying 1) the Jackalope Tote - I keep meaning to try my hand at embroidery, and 2) the Patchwork Needlecase - for Christmas, Jeff signed me up for a quilting class at Patch Halifax.  I now have the itch to quilt everything.

I also have an e-subscription to this one. Since learning to crochet, it has been my go to for fun projects and a supportive online community. Sister publication to Mollie Makes, magazine follows a similar format, except it is all crochet all the time. I was inspired to try 1) the Chunky Cowl - I knocked-off in a couple of hours, and is very cosy indeed, and 2) the Winging It blue cardigan - I love the retro vibe and the sparrow detail, though I am slightly intimidated by the commitment!

Monday, 16 February 2015

Stress-free food: Menu Monday

Once upon a time, I had a resolution that kindof, sortof stuck.

A few years ago, I was horrified by the smell that was coming from my refrigerator. (Some quick context setting) At the time, I was single.  Food was something I knew I had to consume in order to keep me alive.  I was re-exploring being an omnivore after a decade of near veganism.  I was also a workaholic, in the sense that working near constantly shielded my brain from the disaster that was my personal life.  During a well intentioned shopping trip, I must have purchased the fixings for some sort of quick and easy chicken dish.  And then I was promptly required to go on work travel.  This particular trip, as many of them did, had me leave early on a foggy Vancouver morning, had me arrive back home late on a rainy Vancouver night a few days later, and so on and so forth for a couple of weeks.  When I was finally in my apartment for more than 8 hours of sleeping time, the smell of death was inescapable.  Chicken breasts should not be left unattended for 2 weeks in a locked down apartment.  From then on, I bought only what I could consume that day.  My waste was way down.  The flip side being, when I was not travelling, my food costs skyrocketed.

When I moved to Halifax, my job requirements were far less demanding on my personal time.  I also fell in love, which reignited my love of cooking.  And Jeff got the top of my culinary game, but more cooking meant more ingredients, which meant more waste.  What to do?

I started planning: flavour groupings so that the cilantro didn't become soup in the herb drawer; two different meals that each use half a butternut squash; utilising sale items to maximise savings.  On Sundays, I find one recipe that tickles my fancy, and I build a week's menu around it.  One trip to the grocery store later, our weekly food costs are down considerably.  I thought you might be interested in a peek at this process and out weekly menu board.  

This past week, I was away on business, so the menu the week before was last heavy on the large portions so that Jeff get home cooking even though I was not there.
The inspiration for this week was cleaning out the crisper - we had a number of carrots, celery and parsnips that were near to the end of their days. My first thought for lacklustre veggies is always soup.

Monday - recipe from Pinterest. Edamame is now a staple that were buy in bulk from Costco.

Tuesday- recipe from "Skinny Meals in Heels", an offensively titled cookbook that has an impressive selection of really tasty meals. (Cilantro and ginger required)

Wednesday - soup from Jamie Oliver, salad from Chatelaine. Both soup and salad were gussied up with bacon. (Ginger, sad veggies)

Thursday- recipes from Jamie Oliver. (Cilantro and ginger)

Friday - soup from Pinterest. (Sad veggies)

Both Saturday and Sunday (ginger, cilantro) were also from "Skinny Meals in Heels".

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Pupternity leave

Well, a leave from my blog, since furbabies are not recognised as a need for actual leave.  Jeff, Fin, Batty and I welcomed a new member to our clan on January 3.  Well, kind of.  Batty isn't the most welcoming of kitties at the best of times, and yet another canine invading her home has left her a little grumpier than usual.  Still...Fin is now a big brother (and no one has ever called him 'big' before!) to a little wiener we call Ferguson, or Gus for short (really short).

So, all this to say , my lack of posting is more about a lack of spare time, not about a lack of things happening.  This is Gus, in all his puppy adorableness. 

It should be noted that both Fin and Gus are very social media savvy pups.  Jeff has them both on

the Twitter @Finn_and_Gus
the Facebook @ Finnegan MacWiener
the Vine @finn_and_Gus

And I post a disproportionate number of wiener pictures on Instagram @finandbatty

so that you can keep up on all the wiener dog antics.

<3 Fin and Gus (and Batty)