Monday, December 30, 2013

Books! Literature! Thank goodness we live near a library!

A friend (Hi My Adorable Smalltown Life!) recently posted an update on her 2013 Goodreads challenge.  She exceeded her goal by quite a bit!  It got me thinking about my own reading habits this year, since I've been back at work.

For those of you not in the know, Goodreads is a website where you can track what books you read, and it will offer you recommendations based on your read lists.  You can list whether you own a book or not, list of the date of when you started & when you finished, assign books to different shelves, which you can make up yourself, and recommend books to other Goodreads members on your friend list.
Essentially, it is like a Facebook for literary nerds.

I joined Goodreads at the tail end of 2012, so I really only have data for 2013.  I've been a heavy reader since I've learned to read.  I think it helped that my mom was an elementary school teacher - there were always books around the house.

Anyway . . . back to the original paragraph of the post.  Clearly, going back to work has not slowed my reading habits significantly.  In fact, since I read on my public transit trips home every workday, and sometimes on the morning trip, depending on how awake I am, I may be reading MORE than I was when I was on leave.

Here are some stats, if you like:
Number of grown up books read: 30
Kids books: I only tracked 6 - they were interesting and I wanted to make sure I remembered them for munchkin
Total pages (kids & grown up books): 10,645

My favourites:

  • The Long Earth series (only the first two are out) which is co-written by Stephen Baxter and Terry Pratchett.  It is a really interesting, and humorous, science fiction romp which tackles parallel Earths.
  • Peter V. Brett's Demon Cycle: the third book was released this year, and the library came through on this one for me.  In case you are interested in looking into them, the first book is called The Warded Man, followed by The Desert Spear and then The Daylight War.
  • David Waltner-Toews: I read two of his books this year, The Chickens Fight Back, and Origin of the Feces and both were great.  He is a Canadian veterinarian who has spent his career looking at diseases and how they spread between species, and between people.  Really neat stuff, told with a good sense of humour to boot.
  • On the parenting end, the advice in Discipline Without Distress by Judy Arnall really seemed to fit with my parenting goals.  If you have a wee one, I would recommend taking a gander at it to see if it clicks with your family as well.
I'm always looking for something to occupy me on my transit trips around the city, so please feel free to make some recommendations to me!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Tonight's Dinner: Potato & Leek Soup, Roasted Broccoli, Rice with Lentils

I'm officially on vacation this week, and so far, things have been pretty tasty.  I've made two kinds of buns and chocolate cookies, in addition to regular meals over the last few days.

Speaking of regular meals, tonight's was pretty delicious!  Here's what I did.

Rice with Lentils:
This bit wasn't from scratch.  I used minute rice and just added a cup or so of dried red lentils to it at the beginning so it all cooked together.

Roasted Garlic Broccoli with Oven Dried Tomatoes:
1-1 1/2lbs broccoli (about 4 small heads, or 1 large bunch) - broken into florets, with stems peeled & diced
1-3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
oil-packed sun or oven dried tomatoes
salt & pepper to taste

Toss the broccoli with the garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice.  Spread in a single layer in the bottom of a small casserole dish, or on a foil lined baking sheet.  Dot with your dried tomatoes in oil.  Bake, uncovered, in a 425F oven for 16-20 minutes.

Potato & Leek Soup:
1 large leek, washed & chopped (all of the white bit, and as much of the green bit that's good - watch out for the sand in the crevices!)
2 tbsp butter or margarine, or some oil
4 potatoes, diced
4-5 cups broth (I only had 1 bouillon cube left, so I added that, water, and a handful of herbs)
1 cup milk
sour cream
salt & pepper to taste

Heat the butter in a large saucepan.  Add the chopped leek, and stir for about 5 minutes, until it is all well softened.  Add the broth and the diced potatoes, then bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer, and cook until the potatoes are cooked through.  Turn off the heat (or remove the pot from the heat), and blend the soup (either with an immersion blender right in the pot, or remove to a blender and puree in batches).
Return the soup to the pot, add the milk and two big blobs of sour cream, and stir until combined.  If the soup is now too cool, heat on low until the soup is heated through.

I hope at least one of these dishes works out for you.  I'm currently really into soup, so if you have a good recipe you'd like to share, feel free!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Internet-y Things I'm Currently Diggin'

We're coming up quickly on the holidays, and I'm hoping that I get to veg out in a major way on most of the days that I will have off from work (in as much as one can with a toddler in the house).

Here's some internet stuff that I've been reading, following, etc recently, that I thought some of you might enjoy as well (which are not part of my Around the Interwebs sidebar - you should check those out too if you haven't already!)
*Note, none of these people/organizations/companies know who I am, and have not paid for me to promote them.  I just think they're pretty cool.

Captain Awkward - this is one of my favourite advice columns.  The good Captain will help you to deal with Darth Vader significant others, using your words, and all sorts of other things.  Captain Awkward is most well known for her post on "My friend group has a case of Creepy Dude" or Questions #322 & 323".
Read the comments as well, as most of them are well thought out and there are very few trolls hanging around that corner of the internet.

The Frogman - this is a tumblr based blog.  Dude creates new content when he can, and reblogs things he finds funny, cute, interesting, etc.  I think he's pretty amusing, so you might too.  Also, he always, always does his best to properly attribute content which he did not create, which is a win in my books.

Offbeat Home & Life - this one is a nice little odd corner of the internet, which is very welcoming if you are not 100% 'normal'.  I started following this one when their Offbeat Families section was still active (it still exists as an archive, but the comments are closed and they are no longer creating new content).  There are posts on relationships, jobs, gardening, homesteading, decorating, DIY . . . everything?  Any new family-related posts are also placed on Home & Life.

Duolingo - I only recently started using this, so this is not a 100% review.  It is a free language learning program.  You complete little lessons, that include written and audio components (there is a microphone option if you want to practice speaking).  I'm brushing up on my rusty French, and so far, so good.  If you have a smartphone, you can download their app so you can practice or complete lessons anywhere.

Wil Wheaton - A former child star who grew up to be a pretty decent human being, who I think would actually be pretty cool to hang out with and drink beers and play board games.  In addition to his blog (linked at his name), he also has a pretty decent Tumblr.

Have you been following anything awesome lately?  Feel free to share your favourite corners of the internet!  I'm always looking for interesting things to learn about.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Literature: Current Toddler Faves

Our little one loves story time.  We are very grateful for this, as both partner & I are both big readers (and may, based on the heaviness of the boxes when we moved last, have a book 'problem').

She has her own little bookshelf in the nursery, which we have populated from a variety of sources.  We also visit the library every week and let her pick out a book or two.

Since I know that some of you have small children in your lives, here are some selections that are currently popular with our almost two year old (all images from, in case you need some story time inspiration.

Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle: Lots of animal and vehicle noises to shout.  Don't tell her, but our little one is getting this book for Christmas.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Eric Carle: This is a classic for a reason.

Chicken Cheeks by Michael Ian Black: This book is about bums.  Animal bums.

Moo, Baa, La La La! by Sandra Boynton: Most of the books by this author have gone over really well with all the toddlers I know.

Red Hat by Lita Judge:  This book has no words, so it is great for parents since you can change up how you tell the story

A Dog is a Dog by Stephen Shaskan:  This book is also great for parents, thanks to the unusual twist in how a classic sort of story is told.  The copy from our library has been obviously well loved by many neighbourhood children.

Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy Shaw (also, Sheep on a Ship): These silly sheep can't navigate any sort of vehicle successfully

If you have any book suggestions that the kiddos in your life love, feel free to share!  We are always looking for new books to read.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Cold Weather Comfort Food: Veggie Shepherd's Pie

The weather recently has decided that it should probably give this winter thing a proper crack, since it is Canada and all.  This sort of weather change always makes me crave casseroles, stews and soups - comfort foods, in other words.
I've talked at least three times about squash on this blog, so I won't give you my squash soup slow cooker variation (unless you really want me to).

However, I will tell you how to make my vegetarian shepherd's pie (sadly, a bit of a misnomer since it contains no shepherd, nor mock shepherd - or sheep for that matter).
I also have no photos for you, since we ate it all.  What little leftovers we had went to work with partner & I in our lunches.

To make my vegetarian shepherd's pie, you will need the following:
2 packets of vegetarian ground round (we use the Yves brand, original flavour)
1 tin of mushroom gravy
2 medium or one large carrot, sliced
1-2 stalks of celery, sliced
4-6 white mushrooms, sliced
half a medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small zucchini, sliced
1 cup frozen corn
1 medium turnip, peeled and diced
4-6 potatoes, diced (most recently I used three yellow potatoes and four small red potatoes)
butter or margarine and/or oil for frying
thyme to taste
pepper to taste

Put your turnip & potatoes in a pot of water, and bring to a boil.  Turn down the heat, and let simmer until cooked soft.
While the potatoes & turnips are cooking, saute the carrots, celery, mushrooms, onion, garlic & zucchini in a frying pan with the thyme and some pepper until they start to soften.
Put the veggies in your lasagna pan, and add the corn and vegetarian ground round.  Stir everything so it is all mixed up and fairly evenly distributed.  Then add the mushroom gravy & give it another stir.
By this point, the potato-turnip mixture should be ready.  Drain the potato mix, and then mash with butter/margarine and milk until you have your preferred mash potato consistency.  Spread over the top of the other ingredients in your casserole dish in an even layer.
Cover, and bake in a 350F oven for half an hour.  Uncover and cook for a further 15 minutes.

I usually serve this with a salad, and maybe some crusty bread, because salad and some sort of bread bun goes with almost everything!
When we had this last, I made a Greek inspired salad with cucumbers, grape tomatoes, green bell pepper, and mozzarella (we were out of feta) in a Greek salad dressing.  It was really good!

Have you been making comfort foods lately?  I'm sure my partner is going to get sick of casseroles and stews sooner or later, so feel free to shoot me some suggestions.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Media Portrayals of Women: Creating Perception?

There were some interesting articles in the news the last few days on how the media portrays women.

The first one is in regards to films based on the theme of survival and how they portray men & women differently.  Female survivors tend to be presented in sci-fi/fantasy settings, but men are consistently portrayed in a 'based on a true story' way:

The second is about recent research which shows that men show just as much relational/social aggression as women, but this is not portrayed in the media in the same way as 'mean girls':

The third is in regards to an upcoming by-election, where two women who have both written about economic theory/worked in journalism are facing off against each other:
This article is an opinion article, and I'm not overly fond of this writer, but she does present a decent commentary on how female politicians are still portrayed in Canada.

I know that these are all from the same newspaper, but I don't think that makes these ideas or opinions any less relevant.  Since my daughter has been born, I've found that I'm looking a lot more into gender politics and these sorts of things.  Like any parent, I want to figure out a way to help improve the world for her - and I think a lot of these things are just as damaging to men (for example: the stereotype that boys aren't allowed to express sadness or hurt except in very specific ways, like physical aggression).

Since I was already looking at the question of whether the media is presenting reality or creating a perception when it comes to certain gender items (or possibly both? creating a perception is leading to a reality which is enforcing the perception?), these articles peaked by interest, especially since they were all published within a few days of each other.

On a final gender note, the paper also did a recent follow up on the story of baby Storm, whose parents decided not to let anyone know the physical gender.  I've actually met the mom and the kids a few times, and they were lovely, and are truly doing what they feel is best for their children (just like the rest of us).

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Produce Delivery Box, Making Us Think Outside The Box!

A few weeks ago we signed up for one of those organic produce delivery services, that recently started delivering in our neighbourhood.
The theory is that it will keep our trips to the grocery store down, and help us to get more local and organic food in our bellies now that the farmers market is closed for the season.
So far, we have had two deliveries, and I think it is going pretty well.  It is certainly forcing us to think outside our usual food box a little bit!

I'm finding that it is stretching my brain to come up with ways to use up all the produce we've been receiving - especially when you remember that you are getting another box in a week's time!

Here's a short list of some of the stuff we have made with the 2 weekly produce boxes we've received so far:
watermelon radish chips
vegetable stew
thai curry veggie stir fry
garlic bok choi with red cabbage
sweet potato fries
sweet & regular potato mash
lots and lots of salad

This doesn't even take into account the apples, oranges, bananas (the bananas & oranges are clearly not local, but they are organic & fair trade) & pears we've received.

So, if anyone has any suggestions on how I can make salad more interesting, or how I should use up the remaining sweet potatoes, before this week's box which includes regular potatoes and yet more lettuce arrives, let me know!

Thursday, October 31, 2013


Here are some Halloween tunes to get you through the rest of the night.

First, the Canadian classic "C'est l'Halloween" by Matt Maxwell

"Don't Ghost My House" by Fresh Talks (also Canadian!)

Earth Kitt's "I Want To Be Evil"

Tom Petty's "Zombie Zoo"

Happy Halloween all!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Squash Everything!

Winter squash are some of my favourite foods.  I love almost everything about them!  While this time of year tends to focus on pumpkins, there are so many delicious squashes, I can't stop at this popular variety!
Here are the links to the two squash-related blog posts I've done previously:
Butternut Squash Risotto
Pumpkin Bread or Muffins

As this past weekend was Thanksgiving here in Canada, I had plenty of opportunity to enjoy several different squash varieties.  For Thanksgiving dinner, I made a pumpkin pie (from an actual pumpkin), and an apple crumble (I know, not squash, but very delicious!).  We also had baked hubbard squash, and spaghetti squash.

Then, for dinner tonight, I made butternut squash soup (using up some of the leftover whipping cream to thicken the soup).

To make your own soup, you will need
1 baked, mashed butternut squash (cut in half, scoop out seeds, bake face-down in a 375F oven for 45-60 minutes)
half of one medium onion, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 apple, peeled and cut into large dice
1 bay leaf
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp dry mustard
salt & pepper to taste

Put a little bit of oil in the bottom of a large saucepot over medium heat.  Add your diced onion.  When the onion has softened, add the apple, carrot and celery.  Give those a minute or two to get soft, and then add your squash, spices, and then top up with 2-3 cups of water (or more, if you want more soup).  Let simmer for 20-30 minutes.  Remove from heat temporarily, and if you want a smooth soup, immersion blend away!  If you don't have an immersion blender, you can transfer small batches of hot soup to a regular blender and do it in batches, being careful of steam.
Stir in 1 cup of milk or cream, and put back on low heat, and stir until everything is heated through.

If you have a delicious squash-related recipe, feel free to give me a link to it!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Yoga Class Reasons

Here are the reasons I think I need to start going out to yoga classes again, instead of mostly doing my home practice:

1.  It is really, really hard to do pretty much any yoga pose with a one year old hanging off your knee & saying "Mamamamamamamama!"

That's mostly it really.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Still on the Preserving Train! This Time: Walnut Pesto & Oven-Dried Tomatoes

Although the weather has started to vary (yay, never knowing if you need rainboots or a jacket when you leave the house for the day!), I'm still getting tons of stuff out of the veggie patch in the garden.

I've been trying to use up as much as I can, but there's always something that outgrows your efforts.  This year, for me, it has been the basil and the cherry tomatoes.

As a result, this weekend, in an attempt to preserve some of the bounty I oven dried some of the cherry tomatoes, and made some walnut pesto with the basil.

To make your own basil walnut pesto, you will need:
2 cups packed basil
1/3-1/2 cup olive oil (start with 1/3 cup, and add more as needed)
1/2 cup grated parmesan or romano cheese
1/2 cup walnuts
1-4 peeled cloves of garlic (depending on how garlicky you want it)

Start by putting 1/3 cup of olive, and all the other ingredients in a blender.  Blend until well combined.  If you need more oil, feel free to drizzle it in.

If you aren't using your pesto right away, as I was not, you can pour your pesto into an ice cube tray and freeze it.  Once it is set, pop out the cubes and put them in a freezer bag.  Then, you can just grab cubes of pesto as needed!

To make your own oven dried tomatoes all you need are some tomatoes (plum tomatoes usually work best, but my cherry tomatoes went pretty well), salt, vinegar, olive oil, and if you like, some herbs for extra flavouring.

Preheat your oven to 200F.  Put a cooling rack on a baking sheet.  Cut your tomatoes in half (if using plum or other large tomatoes, some may need to be cut into quarters).  Sprinkle them with salt, and put them in the oven.  Keep the door slightly ajar (I used a wooden spoon to keep mine open), so that the moisture can escape.  
Depending on size, the tomatoes should take 3-6 hours.  They are done when they are leathery and a deep red (which means that you'll need to check on them periodically).
When they are done, and cool enough to handle, put them in a bowl and sprinkle them with a little bit of vinegar, and toss to coat. 
If not using right away, put them in a clean, sterilized jar, and cover with olive oil.  If you are using herbs, add them in as well (I put rosemary in mine).  The longer you leave them in the jar, the longer the herbs flavour will infuse through the oil and tomatoes.  Mine is now in the fridge for extra safekeeping.

Have you been setting aside anything for winter?  Got any recommendations on how to use up the tomatoes I still have coming in?  I'm starting to run out of ideas!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Tex Mex Black Bean & Sweet Potato Noms

Tonight's dinner was delicious!  It was also 100% an experiment, based on what we had in the fridge and cupboards.  Sometimes, the best dinners are the throw what you have in a pan and hope for the best experiments.

As the title of this post suggests, I did a Tex-Mex flavoured black bean and sweet potato. . . skillet? stir-fry? I'm not certain of the correct terminology, but here's what I did.

Figure out which carb you would like to serve the black bean-sweet potato mixture over.  We had ours over some rice, but it would also easily lend itself to being served in tacos or wrapped up in tortillas.

After that, you will need:
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 medium sweet potatoes
1 tin black beans
a handful of cherry tomatoes (I used around 15 or so), quartered
1/4-1/2 sweet pepper (any colour), diced
1-2 tbsp tomato sauce or ketchup
Tex-Mex seasoning (I sprinkled in my own mixture of chili powder, thyme, cumin and garlic powder)
Any extra veggies you'd like to throw in (as we were eating, I started thinking that a 1/4-1/2 cup of corn kernels would have been a good addition)
Tex-Mex-y items to garnish (I only had sour cream & hot sauce on hand, but avocado, diced green onions, and shredded cheese would all work well)

If you've decided on rice, get it started on the stove, since this comes together pretty quickly.

In a large frying pan or skillet, heat some oil on medium heat and add your onion.
While your onion softens, stab your sweet potatoes all over and microwave for 3-5 minutes, until they're mostly, but not all the way cooked.
As the sweet potatoes are microwaving, drain and rinse your black beans, and then add them to the onions.
Let everything cook a minute or two and add your tomatoes.
Once your sweet potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel and dice them, and throw them in the pan.
Add the sweet pepper, and any other optional veggies.
Add your Tex-Mex seasoning, give it a stir, let cook a minute or two, and then add a half cup of water and your tomato sauce/ketchup.
Then, just continue to cook until the liquid has cooked down into a saucy consistency.

Serve over your carbohydrate of choice, garnish with your condiment selection and enjoy!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Jelly Time! (with a garden update)

Now that the internet flashback is over, on to the actual post:

The long weekend is almost over, and I've been doing things!  Jelly things!
Today, I made both grape jelly:

And savory garlic jelly:

I have made garlic jelly before, but this time I did not add the sweet pepper pieces.
I have never made grape jelly before, but it was pretty easy.  Especially since I got lazy and used unsweetened store-bought juice instead of making my own.
So, now I have six jars of grape jelly (plus a bowl of extra jelly in the fridge) and two new jars of garlic jelly.  I should have gotten three garlic jelly jars, but I think I let it boil a little bit too long and there wasn't quite enough for three jars.

I've also been harvesting a lot of produce from the garden recently.

It turns out that the golden cherry tomatoes were mislabeled regular cherry tomatoes.  They are still quite tasty, and the plant is huge!
The Black Krim tomatoes are incredibly delicious.  They are so flavorful, and I'm really glad I decided to give them a try.  The only downside is that when it rains a few days in a row, they tend to crack fairly easily.  I've lost a few of them this way.
As you can see in the photo above, I've also gotten some cayenne peppers, and I got my first sweet pepper today!  It was also really tasty, and is going on my list of plants to try again next year.

Not in the photo are the handfuls of herbs and lettuce that I've been able to get almost daily.  The basil and oregano have especially been loving the recent weather.

Finally, and sadly, I'm announcing the demise of one of my blueberry plants.  Either a squirrel or a cat dug it up, and it did not survive being replanted.   I'm sure this is not the last garden face-off I will lose against local critters.

Has anyone else been canning or enjoying their garden results recently?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Baby Vs. Toddler

Friends of ours recently had a baby of their own (Eeee! Squishy new little baby!).
This has led me to do some reflecting on the differences between new little squishy babes and older babes/toddlers.  Some things are definitely easier, and others are definitely harder.

Some examples:
New babies eat approximately every two to three hours, around the clock
One year old babies are capable of sleeping through the night with minimal wakings

New babies are pretty easy to feed - boob or bottle and done.  Admittedly, it is every two to three hours, and there can be spit up, but that's generally easily wiped up.
Older babies need actual food - not that much of it ends up in their mouths.  However, you do get to see what different foods look like on your floor, mushed into the table, and smeared through another person's hair.

Most new babies are able to fall asleep pretty much anywhere.
Older babies are too aware of the world to just fall asleep at the drop of the hat.  There's generally a bit of a fight, or a lot of fussing until they pass out if they don't believe that it is bed time.

New babies mostly communicate through crying.
Older babies can actually communicate in simple terms.  You can teach them sign language, they can say simple words, and if all else fails, point and grunt.

New babies only cry if they have a genuine need, like hunger, being tired, or being in need of a fresh diaper.
Older babies cry for a variety of reasons, including wanting to wear two different pair of shoes at the same time, having a broken cracker and a wide variety of other items that only make sense if you are younger than four years old.

The lovely 'new baby' smell.
Freshly bathed older babies smell just fine.  Other times . . . they can definitely be a new kind of stinky.

New babies can't control their little bodies.  There is a lot of adorable flailing.
Older babies can control their bodies for the most part.  This means that things in your home will get messier, and possibly broken.

New babies can't control their little bodies.  This means they sometimes startle or hit themselves with their flailing - most often in the middle of the night.
Older babies can control their bodies for the most part.  They love to use their bodies to be helpful!  Wiping things with a cloth, carrying things for you, or even sweeping with a small broom are *fun* for them.

New babies can't move around on their own.  You can put them down on a blanket, take a moment to use the washroom and have them still be in the same place when you return.
Older babies definitely move.  Once they start rolling, it is all over.  When they start walking? Well, you won't be able to pee in peace for a long time.

In short, babies are wonderful and frustrating, no matter their age.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Pet Peeves

My original plan for today was to write about how much I love the farmers market.  I do too - I really like going to the market, and seeing what is in season, and tasting local cheeses, and all that fun stuff.
My fridge, as of this morning's trip to the market, may contain 100% more nectarines, strawberries, blueberries, potatoes, carrots, onions and fancy sausages for the meat-eaters in the house than it did prior to the trip.  There may also have been some raspberries that never really made it into the refrigerator.

However, later in the day, I encountered one of my major parenting pet peeves: the male spouse performing childcare = babysitting phenomena.

This really tees me off.

When my spouse is looking after our child, he is not babysitting.  He is parenting.  Period.
He contributed to half of her DNA.  He is equally involved in taking her to the park, dropping her off at daycare, putting her to bed, giving her baths, and all the day-to-day parenting items.

If I go out to enjoy myself as a grown-up for a few hours, he is not babysitting our daughter.  He is parenting our daughter.  Almost no one would say that I was babysitting our child if my partner decided to go out for a few hours.

I did call out the person who used the term babysitting in reference to my partner tonight (and not in a rude, jerk way), but it just really . . . argh.

If you are a parent that I know, it is a pretty safe bet that you are an awesome parent, who doesn't 'babysit' your own child - you parent your child, regardless as to whether your spouse is immediately available or not.  Now we just need society to start treating you like the awesome parent you are, regardless of your gender.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Veggie Stew & Smoked Cheddar Corn Muffins

I've had a head cold all week, which has not lead to a bright outlook on life.  It is hard to see the nice things when your sinuses are so congested they make your teeth & eyeballs ache.
Today, when I'm starting to feel more like a human being, it decided to be overcast and rainy.

Comfort food definitely became the order of the day!
This thought was redoubled when I got of the bus and was promptly drenched from about the waist down in a downpour.  The umbrella managed to keep the rest of me mostly dry.

Partner managed to avoid most of the rain, so he did the bulk of the cooking, but we've both made veggie stew fairly regularly. 

To make your own veggie stew is also really easy!
You will need:
1 tin tomato paste
2 cans beans of your choice - we used one tin of Romano and one of fava/chickpea mix today
2 peeled and chopped carrots
2 washed & chopped ribs of celery
4-5 mushrooms, sliced
3-5 potatoes, diced
1 onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, diced
1 beet, diced (we used a golden beet)
wine! (preferably red, but white works too)
1 mushroom or vegetable bouillon cube, dissolved in 1 cup water
thyme, oregano and pepper to taste

Start by browning your onions and garlic in the pan with a little bit of oil.  Add the rest of the veggies and let them saute for a few minutes, so they get a little bit of colour.  Then add your bouillon, tomato paste and spices.  Thin with a little bit of wine (or a lot of wine).  If you don't have any wine, you can thin with water.
Let simmer until the veggies are all cooked through and your house smells amazing!

While your stew is bubbling away, feel free to make some biscuits or cornbread muffins to go with!  I originally was going to make herb biscuits, but then I realized that all the butter in the house was frozen.  Darn!
However, I then remembered that cornbread muffins don't need butter, and they are just as quick.
I used this recipe as the base of my muffins.  However, I used whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose, reduced the sugar to 1/2 tsp and I grated what was left of the smoked cheddar we had in the fridge into the muffin batter. 
They were the perfect accompaniment for the stew.

Here's to hoping that the rest of the summer stays warm & gets a little sunnier than it has been lately.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

End of July Garden Update

Since it is now mid-garden season here, I thought I would give a little update on how things are going in the yard.

The overall answer is pretty good, despite some small skirmishes with urban wildlife!

As you can see, the oregano has pretty much exploded, and the rosemary isn't doing to shabbily either!

The blueberries are also doing alright.  The one not pictured had a fight with one of the feral cats which did some digging next to it, but I managed to replant it a little deeper, and it is doing fine.  I won't be getting any berries this year, but I might next summer!

Creeping thyme flowers.  They are super teeny & my camera just did not want to focus on them.

Here you can see the chives and the creeping thyme, surrounded by hostas & daylilies.  They're in there pretty good, and I don't forsee having any problems with them.

Hosta flowers.  Generally speaking, I'm not a fan of hostas.  However, the large ones in this bed have put out some pretty spectacular flowers.

Okay.  So daylilies aren't totally boring.  They're kinda pretty.  I just wish there weren't so many of them in my garden!

Three of four strawberry plants are doing excellently, and are starting to set out shoots!  The fourth one - I'm not sure what happened with it (I may have planted it a little high) so it isn't doing great, but it is definitely hanging on.  I'm hoping it survives the winter, 'cause its buddies look like they'll have no problems with that.  Plus, delicious strawberries in my belly!

The back planter has clearly exploded with goodness.  It is like a jungle in a box.

Radish flowers, because no matter what I do, some of the little blighters always manage to go to seed on me, rather than producing good roots.  That being said, we have gotten to enjoy some of both kinds of radish (French Breakfast and Easter Egg)

The chocolate mint & spearmint are in a battle for the ages!  Who will win? Me! They'll eventually become tea, but we've also been throwing them into curries and things.

Globe basil is starting to flower.  I just can't keep up with them.  Hopefully, I'll manage to get at least a little pesto out of them.

The cilantro has also gotten quite big, much to the guinea pigs delight.  They love this stuff.

Thai basil flowers.  Thai basil is great stuff, especially in soup.  Plus, the flowers are tiny & lovely.

Golden cherry tomatoes.  I suspect I will end up having to race the raccoons for these.

Little finger carrots.  Something (I suspect squirrels) dug up most of my first planting.  Some of the second ones have come in, but now they're fighting with the beans & tomatoes for light.

Chioggia beets.  They suffered alongside the carrots.  I'm hoping that the few which survived get to a decent size by the end of the season.

Corno di Toro sweet peppers.  They're doing super-well, and I can't wait to try them!  I'm growing long cayenne peppers in the opposite corner of the planter to these & they're also doing great.

Black Krim tomatoes.  These are a beefsteak variety from Eastern Europe.  It is putting out quite a few flowers, so I'm hoping the raccoons don't steal too many of them.

Green beans.  I forget which variety I'm growing this year, but we've already eaten a fair amount of these and the yellow wax beans I'm growing.

How are your gardens doing?  

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Peach Season=Pie Season

Peaches are in season where I live now!

I am very excited about this!!!!!!!

Partner does not like peaches, which means that I only have to share with the tiny human and maybe the guinea pigs - if I feel like it.

I have made delicious peach pie!

Look at the super-peachy insides!

I have eaten too much sugar!!

Make your own peach pie:
1 prepared pie shell (I cheated an used a frozen Tenderflake)
granulated sugar
quick-cooking rolled oats
brown sugar
butter or margarine
peaches (I used a 3L basket of peaches, minus the 3 or 4 I had already eaten)

Preheat the oven to 350F
Peel and slice your peaches
An easy way to peel peaches is to cut a little X in the skin at the bottom of the peach, put them in a heat-safe bowl or pot, and pour over freshly boiled water from the kettle.  Let sit for 30 seconds to a minute, and then run them under cold water to stop them from cooking.  The skins should be loose and easy to rub off with your hands.
Put your peeled & sliced peaches in a bowl and sprinkle over a nice layer of cinnamon goodness.  Then add some sugar (I just eyeballed it - I think I used about a half cup).  Feel free to add a little bit, and then taste and adjust accordingly.
Then drop in 2 heaping tablespoons of cornstarch and stir everything together.

To make the crumble topping, mix together around a cup of oats with 2-3 heaping tablespoons of cold butter or margarine and 1/4 to 1/2 cup of brown sugar.  Mix together with a fork until it appears crumbly then pour over the top of your pie.

Bake in the oven for 50-60 minutes and then let it cool for 10 minutes minimum, despite the temptation to cut into it right away.

Eat pie. Get a sugar buzz. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Dinner Fail

We all have them sometimes - those days where all the little things that could go wrong, do go wrong.  Nothing *big* goes wrong on those days, but all the little things seem to pile up in your brain until you end up in a grumpy mood.

I had one of those days earlier this week, and the little things culminated in a dinner failure.  It was, unfortunately, not the kind of dinner failure where you throw up your hands and order in.  No, it was the kind of failure where you just sit and eat it anyway, because it just isn't worth it to fight the inevitable.

The day started with all of us getting up early, as partner had to work early that day.  Everyone was grumpy and things just rolled out from there.
By the time I had picked up the baby from daycare, and gotten home, I got a message from partner that he was also going to be at work late, so I was on my own to get dinner started.
I decided that I was going to try a new oven-baked falafel recipe, since it would require minimal effort once the falafels were put together.

I couldn't find the recipe.

I did find a pan-fried falafel recipe, so I decided to just run with that.  I thought I would do a celery root mash and a salad on the side to round things out.  Sounds good right?

While munchkin did help with the salad (I give her a big bowl and some lettuce leaves - she loves to rip them up and put them in the bowl), by the time her part was completed, she was tired, grumpy and hungry.  So, here I am, trying to cook with a one year old hanging off the back of my knees as she would not be distracted by anything, including her favourite crackers.

I forgot to add a potato to the cooking celery root, so the mash ended up pretty lumpy.  I also put too much milk in, making it watery as well.

For the falafels, I wasn't about to hand mash the ingredients with the munchkin on my leg, and I don't have a food processor.  I decided to try the hand blender, which resulted in a sort of paste.  I had to add double the amount of flour the recipe called for in order to get it 'good enough' in texture and consistency to fry.

The cucumber I was going to use for the salad went mouldy, so the salad ended up being lettuce, carrot and overripe avocado.

In the end, the only thing that worked out was the tahini dipping sauce I made to go with the falafels (and even that was runnier than I would have liked).

By the time partner came home (just as dinner was finished cooking), I think I looked something like this:

In the end, we all had full bellies, if unsatisfied tastebuds.

Fortunately, these days don't happen too often, but when they do, I'm really glad when the following day turns out better.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Tasty Summer Beverage

Now that the rain has passed through, an most of the storm damage has been cleaned up, the sun has returned with a vengeance!

This means that the kiddie pool has been set up on the back deck, we have tackled the garden again (at least a bit, the rain made all the weeds go crazy!), and are running errands the long way so we can enjoy the sunshine.  Subsequently, we are very *very* thirsty.

The corner store has a small produce section that is quite cheap.  This produce sections includes lemons and limes that are wrapped up on little styrofoam trays in packs of four.  As a result, my fridge now contains nearly 2 quarts of homemade lemon-lime ade.  A perfect drink for a hot summer day.

Okay, so it isn't 2 quarts anymore, because we drank some.  Can you blame me?  I had to make sure it would be good enough to post about!

To make your own lemon-lime ade you will need:
4 medium lemons
4 limes
1 cup simple syrup
cold water to fill your juice jug

To start, make your simple syrup - take 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and put it in a cup or a bowl.  Boil some water, and add a 1/2 cup of the just boiled water to the sugar and stir until all of the sugar is dissolved.  You now have simple syrup!  Set it aside for the moment.

One at a time, cut your lemons and limes in half and then cut a thin slice from one half (these will float in your finished ade, continuing to impart delicious citrus flavour.  You can put them in your final juice jug now).
Juice your citrus halves!  I juiced mine into a separate container with my little hand reamer.  Mine looks a lot like this one.  When all my lemons and limes were juiced, I strained the juice through a sieve, into the final juice jug I was using.  That way, I got the big bits of pulp and most of the seeds out of the final beverage. 

Now, fill your jug most of the way with cold water, give it a stir and then a taste.  Add your simple syrup until the sweetness is to your preference.  I added the entire cup, since I had pretty tart lemons and limes.

Now the hard part - putting your lemon-lime ade into the fridge to get nice and frosty.  I'm impatient, so it was hard to wait!  It was really worth it though - I enjoyed my first glass on the back deck with a friend, while our munchkins played in the kiddie pool.

If you want a more 'adult' version, I think it would definitely make a tasty punch with either vodka or gin.  If you'd like to switch up the flavour profile, you could do lemons with strawberries, limes with blueberries, or throw in a handful of diced frozen watermelon!  Mint might also make a tasty addition. 

Stay hydrated!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Happy Belated Birthday Canada! I Made Cake!

Woosh!  It has been a busy few weeks for me.  Mostly with the usual stuff, but busy is busy, right?

I hope all of my fellow Canadians had a good long weekend.  We spent part of it at a friend's cottage and it was lovely.  Not too many mosquitoes (although one did manage to get me on the sole of my foot!), beautiful weather, and good friends. 
The kiddo seemed to enjoy herself as well, although the big waves in the lake were too scary for her when we went swimming.

I was also smart, and booked 2 vacation days at work, to extend my long weekend, even though we came home on Monday.  I've used the last two days to be uber-productive!
My house is swept, vacuumed, and laundered for the most part. 
I've made pickles using local cucumbers and dill from the back garden.

The guinea pigs have a lovely clean cage:

And then today, after running errands and having a lunch date with partner at a really yummy Mexican restaurant (I had the vegetarian burrito), I made one-bowl double-chocolate cake with chocolate glaze.

I started with Better Homes & Gardens' one-bowl chocolate cake recipe as a base.  I added one cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips to the cake batter, and baked it in a round cake pan.
When it was done baking, I made a quick chocolate glaze using:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
5 tbsp hot water
3 tbsp butter
one 100g 75% cacao chocolate bar, broken into pieces
I melted the chocolate & butter together in the microwave, and then stirred in the water & sugar until I had a nice glaze.  You may only need 3 tbsp of water, or you may need more - just keep adding water one tablespoon at a time until you get the consistency you want. 
After the cake has cooled for 10 minutes, remove it from the pan, and drizzle it with the glaze.  You should end up with something like this
I may have already eaten some, and it is as rich, if not richer, than it looks.
Oh, you may also run into the same problem I did with this cake.  Despite using a non-stick pan AND greasing it before hand, the chocolate chips stuck to the bottom a little, which has given my cake a bit of a lumpy top.  Just so you are forewarned.

Happy belated Canada - enjoy the cake!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Yup, I'm Doing a Father's Day Post Too

So I know that a good chunk of the internet is going to be doing a post in honour of Father's Day, but it is a good opportunity to get some writing in, so I figured it couldn't hurt to do one myself.

As you may have guessed, partner & I are pretty big geeks/nerds, and there's a good shot that our kid will find something geeky to love.  From my anecdotal experience, most people come by their geek status thanks to a parent.  In my case, it was my dad. 
My mom definitely gave me my appreciation for arts and crafting (plus she taught me how to drive.  Anyone who teaches a teenager to drive deserves some serious kudos I think).   But it is my dad who passed along a love of sci-fi and fantasy, as well as some cooking and baking skills.

I have memories of watching Dr. Who,

Red Dwarf,

Alfred Hitchcock Presents,

Star Trek: TNG,

and Seaquest with my father (among others).

The added bonus to watching these programs is that they gave me my first two nerd girl crushes: Wil Wheaton
and Jonathan Brandis.

 I'm pretty sure my introduction to Star Wars was through my dad as well.  We would also watch terrible sci-fi or Japanese monster films when they aired on Saturday or Sunday afternoon timeslots on the television.

My dad also influenced my taste in books (we've both read all of Piers Anthony's Xanth series, among others), provided our first video game system (original NES!  I was always annoyed you couldn't shoot that annoying dog in Duck Hunt), etc.

Now that I'm a grown-up, it is really nice that we can continue to share our geeky hobbies.  This past Christmas holiday, for example, we went to see the first installment of The Hobbit together.  If one of us finds a new tv or book series, we let the other know (or lend them a copy).

I'm hoping that as my baby girl gets bigger, my partner & I will be able to pass along our love of geeky things in the same sort of way that my dad did, leaving pleasant memories behind.