Monday, May 9, 2016

All By Myself

The person in the above creative commons photo looks very sad, sitting on that swing.  They clearly do not have small children living in their home.  As much as I love my kids, since I spend most of my time with them at the moment, I have come to really appreciate time by myself.  Especially if it is quiet, like a library should be.*

On Mother's Day, this past weekend, I went to the grocery store by myself.  While it was a grown-up chore that needed to get done, it was also amazing.  No one asked me for 18 different kind of fruit, candy, cookies or ice cream.  No one pulled on, drooled on, or otherwise messed with my clothing or hair.  No one chatted at me about random non-sequitor topics.  There was no commentary on any of the items that went into the basket.  I got myself a fancy cheese, and no one did dances of impatience while I sorted out the coupons before getting in line to pay.  I did not hear the phrase "I have to go pee!" once while shopping.
I had a lovely, and oh so quiet, walk home from the store when I was done.

It was great, despite all the usual annoyances of grocery shopping, with the bonus annoyance of getting rained on for part of the walk home.
Then, my lovely partner kept the kiddos entertained long enough for me to make a pie (lemon meringue, for the record).

So, if you have small children in your home, I hope you have another adult who regularly helps you get some quiet alone time.

In closing, here is Celine Dion singing "All By Myself".

* The library, contrary to expectations, is not quiet when you are accompanied by small children.  While they do use their inside voices, there is a constant refrain of "What is that book about? Will you read this to me right now? How many books can I take home today? What are you getting from the hold shelf?  Tell me about your grown-up book! What is that person over there looking at?  Is there story time today? I have to pee!" etc, etc, etc.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

I'm Outnumbered

It has officially been about 9 months since my last post.  Considering that I am currently spending my days trying to wrangle an infant and a preschooler, it's not that bad.  Trying to remember that you are a separate being with adult interests is both harder and easier with kid number two.

A good chunk of my days are spent at local, free drop-in programs, and big munchkin has afternoon classes twice a week at the community centre.  Pretty much everything is SO MUCH CHEAPER at the community centre.  The price difference for swimming is especially stark.  Subsequently, swimming is really, really hard to get into, and we managed to do it this current session purely by fluke.

I've been spending more time on social media - Pinterest has saved my butt at dinner time more than once since the baby has been born, and I'm actually not doing too badly on this year's Goodreads Challenge.

Speaking of my Goodreads Challenge for 2016, if you are at all interested in history, go find yourself a copy of Operation Paperclip to read.  It was a challenging book to get through, but it was well worth it.  It is all about the aftermath of WWII, and the American program developed to bring German scientists to the USA before the Soviets got to them.
At the lighter end of the spectrum, if you are a nerdy geeky person as I am, try Ready Player One.  There are many, many references to nerdy, geeky things hidden in its pages.

As for other, adult media, partner and I managed to see both Deadpool and Star Wars: The Force Awakens in theatres!  Deadpool was exactly what I hoped for and expected of that character, and I'm glad the studio didn't try to edit it down to a lower rating.  
Star Wars renewed my love of the franchise.  Partner and I spent days afterwards singing "Dududunaluh! I like Star Wars!" to each other.
The big munchkin has watched Episode 4 (and I quote "Mommy, Darth Vader was very mean to those people.  He shouldn't have been so mean to them"), and I am excited for when she watches The Force Awakens and sees her first female Jedi.
Of course, I may then have to find or make a Rey doll for her when that happens . . .

On that note, I shall leave you with the trailer for Star Wars: Rogue One.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Put An Egg On It!

Tonight, I made a dinner which was surprisingly quick, easy and tasty!  I was tired when I got home, so all three were a necessity if we were to avoid ordering delivery.

Here is the cell phone pic of questionable quality:

The above is bow tie pasta, with garlic, mushrooms, spinach and cherry tomatoes, with a soft-poached egg on top.

Here's how to pull it together yourself:

Noodles (I used bow tie, but use whatever shape you have on hand)
1 bunch spinach, washed, dried and roughly chopped
1/2 pint of cherry tomatoes
3 large white mushrooms (or a bunch of smaller ones), sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced (optional)
lemon juice or balsamic vinegar (optional)
1 egg per person
water & plain white vinegar for poaching
oil for sauteing
salt, pepper and grated parmesan to taste

Start your noodles as per package directions.
In a large frying pan, heat some oil.  If using the onion, add it first, and saute/stir until starting to soften.  Then add your mushrooms and cook for 2-5 minutes.  When the mushrooms have started to get some colour, add your spinach.  When the spinach is mostly wilted, add the tomatoes and a splash of lemon juice or balsamic (if using).  Keep this on low heat, while the remaining items cook.
When the noodles are pretty much done, drain, reserving a little bit of cooking liquid, then add to your pan of vegetables and stir.  Add some cooking liquid if necessary, to keep things from drying out.  Keep this on low heat/warm, while doing your eggs.
If you know how to poach eggs already, awesome!  I'm not great at it, and if you don't know how, you probably shouldn't learn how from me.  If you know how, soft poach your eggs.  If you don't, a soft boiled, sunny side up or over easy egg will work too - or you could search for a good tutorial.

Serve up your pasta, top with your runny egg, and sprinkle with parmesan, salt & pepper to taste.
When you bust your egg open, the yolk will run everywhere and help make a delicious coating on your noodles.


Sunday, June 14, 2015

Random Stuff from the Last Few Months and a Sandwich

I realized today that it has been longer than I thought since I've posted anything.  Several months in fact.  Oops.  I haven't really been doing anything interesting (other than growing a person), which has contributed to the lack of posting.

Here's a little summary of what I've been up to recently:

The garden also went in really late this year - we kept having frost warnings right through the end of May!  It also hasn't really stopped raining, which hasn't helped getting things into the ground.
This year's garden is much smaller than usual, since I don't plan on spending too much time out there near the end of this pregnancy.  The only things I've planted are:
Black Plum Tomato
Lipstick Pepper
Cinnamon Basil
some flowers out front that the munchkin picked out

The tomato plant is a very prolific (and very tasty!) variety, and I'm looking forward to re-supplying my stash of salsa!

The sage, chives, thyme, spearmint, rhubarb and strawberries all survived the winter, which was also pretty convenient.

The two books that I have read since my last update, which have stuck out to me are: The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro (slow moving, but very atmospheric and sadly sweet) and The Acolyte by Nick Cutter (this one is a distopian novel where the science-denying, Evangelical religious right have taken over and instituted a sort of dictatorship.  Very creepy read!).

Finally, I'm very happy the seasonal farmer's markets are back!  There is a year-round market not too, too far from us, but I am fond of the seasonal market that is much closer.  When my finds at the market are combined with what we get in our produce delivery box, some very tasty meals can be had!
I've ended up making this sandwich for lunch the past two days in a row (I only have a cell phone pic, so my apologies if you can't view it well)

Delicious Sandwich!
What you see in the photo includes:
Herb & cheese sourdough from De La Terre Bakery
Garlic & chive fresh chevre (goat cheese) from Fifth Town Artisan Cheese
Spring mix from one of the veggie vendors at the market (I can't remember which one!)
Sweet Russian Mustard from Kozliks Canadian Mustard (I prefer the spicy Russian, but we ran out!)
and then tomato, cucumber and radish from the produce delivery.

Do you have a market nearby, or a favourite sandwich?

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A Bit Behind Schedule

I've gone and put a few too many projects on my plate, recently.  Add this to the fact that I've been downed twice by illness in March (food poisoning/possible stomach bug, and then a wicked head cold that took up residence in my sinuses), well, my personal projects, including this blog, are definitely not where I want them to be.

I've finished one flip-top mitten for myself, and am a few rows into the second, and got started on an adorable dragon hat for the munchkin.  Both of these are on hold, however, while I finish a baby blanket for some friends.  Their baby will be here pretty soon, and with the weather the way it has been, I haven't needed mittens recently.  Hopefully, by the time I finish the dragon hat, it will still fit munchkin.

I'm a bit behind on my Goodreads challenge too.  Part of this is that some of my holds have taken a really long time to become available.  The other part is that I have limited reading time - I mostly read on my transit trips home from work.
This year, I challenged myself to read 40 books (my challenge in 2014 was 30 books).  Here are four of my favourites so far:

Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson
I really enjoyed this story of a young Arab hacker in an unnamed Middle Eastern state, who gets caught up in weirdness after getting a copy of "A Thousand and One Days" (the secret book of the jinn).  It is rather fitting that Neil Gaiman was quoted on the cover of the copy I read, as it has similar fantastical elements to his work.

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
Other reviewers either seemed to love or hate this book.  Not many people fall into the middle ground.  I fall into the love it camp.  It is very hard to describe without giving away the plot.  There is a lot of history, and as the main character gets to live the same life over & over again (in a way that is not like Groundhog Day at all), some repetitive themes.

What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe
The author is better known for his web comic XKCD.  Before doing the web comic full time, he worked for NASA!  If you ever wanted to know actual answers to ridiculous questions like, "is it possible to build a bridge from London, UK to New York, NY, entirely out of LEGO, and have enough Lego bricks been manufactured to do so?", then this is the book for you.

Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America by Linda Tirado
While this book is written with a wicked sense of humour and sarcasm, it is, in the end, actually quite serious.  If you want a look at what it is like to be part of the working poor in the USA, from someone who actually is living that life (and not, for example, a middle class journalist who is only doing it for a few months, in order to add something to their byline), then read this.  Actually, read this book anyway.  It will give you a new perspective on the world's economic system, and possibly more empathy for those whose luck has not been as good as your own.

Do you have any book recommendations for me?  I need some books to catch up on this year's challenge!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Delicious But So-Not-Authentic Vegetable Paneer

So, there is a restaurant that delivers to our home extraordinarily delicious Indian food.  Every time I order, I think about trying something new from their menu, and always fail, because the thing I usually order is so gosh-darned tasty.  I also usually have a plan to save half for my lunch the next day, and that plan is also a HUGE fail, since I inevitably eat all of it.  My only other problem is trying to keep my child's hands off my paneer, since she always tries to steal all of it!

I've been thinking about finding some some Indian recipes to try at home, and when I was out with a coworker at lunch today, and the store we were in had blocks of paneer for a good price (our local grocery store never has paneer, which is sad), I decided that tonight would be the night I would try my hand at an Indian inspired dish.  This turned out pretty good, but since I threw it together without a recipe, based on what was in the fridge and pantry, it is very definitely not anywhere close to authentic tasting.
Partner told me it was really good when going back for seconds and thirds, so I'm taking that as a good sign.

I should have taken this photo before I mixed everything together, but you get the idea

Here is how I cooked my Inspired by Indian Restaurant Vegetable Paneer

oil for frying
1 onion (I had a large shallot, so I used that), sliced
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 large carrot, cut into chunks
1 small zucchini, sliced
1 stalk celery, chopped
2-4 mushrooms, sliced
1 frozen spinach block (from the kind that come frozen in a bag, in large blobs, not a bag where the whole bag is one block)
frozen corn
frozen green beans
1 tin coconut milk
1 tin diced or crushed tomatoes
paneer, cut into cubes
1 tsp curry powder (or to taste)
1 tsp cumin (or to taste)
1 tsp cinnamon (or to taste)
1 tsp ground ginger (if you have fresh ginger on hand, use that instead!)
1 tsp chili powder
something spicy, if you like spicy (we added ours after, because the small child would have objected to hot sauce in her dinner)

Heat the oil in a large pan over medium, and add the onion.  When the onion starts to soften, add the garlic.  Let them cook until both are softened, and then add your carrot, celery, mushrooms and zucchini.
Give everything another minute or two, and add your spices to taste.  Remember that you can always add more later.
After the spices have had a moment to warm, put in the coconut milk and tinned tomatoes and give everything a stir.  Put in your frozen vegetables, and give another stir.
Let everything cook together for 1-3 minutes, and then add your paneer.  Make sure everything is well mixed into the sauce, and then turn up the heat to bring to a simmer (you want the sauce to reduce a bit)

When everything is cooked through, serve it with some rice, naan or other grain product like quinoa or couscous.  Essentially, something to soak up the sauce.
I think that next time I may try cooking this in the slow cooker (adding the paneer at the end, so it doesn't disintegrate), so that the flavours have even more time to get to know each other.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Vegetarian Slow Cooker Cabbage Rolls

I was flipping through one of my cookbooks earlier this weekend, and came across a recipe for vegetarian cabbage rolls.  The basic components sounded right, based on the innumerable cabbage rolls I ate as a child, so I decided to give it a shot, with some modifications.

The original recipe in my book calls for black beans, and raisins.  Frankly, I believe raisins are an abomination, especially when baked into other foods, so that was not happening.  I also think the black beans are too large a bean, if you are going to get anything close to a good texture.  I don't want big balls of mush when I bit into something like a cabbage roll.

Alright, here's how I did it.

1 cup cooked rice
1 tin (19 fl oz) lentils, drained & rinsed
1/3 cup diced carrot (about 1 small to medium carrot)
1/3 cup diced celery (about 1 large celery stalk)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced
1 small to medium cabbage (I used a savoy, because they were on sale at the grocery store, but plain old green would work fine too)
3-4 cups marinara sauce (I used one 680ml jar of tomato passata, and just added spices, and a bit of water, but I definitely needed more sauce).
1 tbsp lemon juice or balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp sugar (brown for preference, but white will work too, it just won't be quite the same flavour)

1.  Mix the rice, carrots, celery, garlic, onion, lentils and one 1/2 cup of marinara sauce in a large bowl.  Set aside.
2.  Carefully peel off 8-10 of the large, outer cabbage leaves.  You want them to be as intact as possible.  Grate 2-4 cups of the rest of the cabbage.  Put the grated cabbage in the bottom of the crock pot (this will shield the rolls from the direct heat).
3.  Boil the intact leaves in a large pot of water for 3-5 minutes, or until pliable.  Drain the leaves, and cut out the thick middle rib.
4.  Mix the sugar & lemon juice with the marinara sauce.  Pour 1/3 of the marinara into the crock pot, and mix into the shredded cabbage (this will keep the grated cabbage from burning).
5.  Taking your whole leaves, one at a time, place approximately 1/3 cup of the rice and lentil mixture into the middle of the leaf, fold over the sides, and roll up.  Place each roll into the crock pot.
6.  Pour the remaining marinara sauce over the cabbage rolls (if you have to do more than 1 layer of rolls in the crock pot, pour some marinara over the first layer before putting in the second, and then pour the remaining sauce over the top).
7.  Cook on low for 7-9 hours, or on high for 3 1/2-4 1/2 hours.

I served mine with a salad tossed in a lemon-tahini salad dressing.  Yum!