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.