Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Misbehavin' Bakin'

I cut it really close this year.

Christmas baking almost didn't get done.

GASP.

I kinda, sorta started to run out of time.

Energy abandoned me a LOOONG time ago.  I started December running on fumes instead of fuel. 

Note to self for future Christmas seasons - don't start December running on fumes instead of fuel.

So, yeah, I worked really hard at getting shopping done during the right pay period, and crafted a few minor things with a few mishaps and wrangled hubby into wrapping away the afternoon hours for a few days.  And the baking kept getting bumped from the priority list to the point that I began to think I just wouldn't this year.

That option didn't seem all that bad, really!

....until the oldest boy started making the odd comment about seriously missing having Christmas baking in the house...

What's a mama to do when faced with big brown 13 year old eyes, blinking pathetically, begging for cookies?

She bakes cookies, of course!

However, given time and energy constraints, cutbacks were in order this year. 

My list of baking (this information is likely completely dull to you, but will be my baking record for 2012) included:

1.  Chocolate chip cookies made with red, white and green chips.
2.  Haystacks - made for the young one, who is rarely interested in any baking outside of puffed wheat cake and haystacks
3.  Reindeer chow - a Chex/Cheerios/Pretzels/Peanuts/Smarties covered in white chocolate confection inspired by Pinterest.  Note to self:  this was ridiculously expensive.  Ridiculously.  DO.  NOT.  MAKE.  AGAIN.
4.  Magic bars made with graham crumbs, pretzels, caramels, chocolate chips, coconut and sweetened condensed milk.  Note to self:  spray the daylights out of the pan and underbake, for heaven's sake.  Sheesh.  She don't wanna come out of the pan.  And watch your fillings.  You've been warned.
5.  Cookies that did not want to be - a lovely pretty little cookie in the ilk of a pinwheel cookie that is marbled instead of jelly-rolled that was supposed to be rolled in non-pariels but they were sold out so crushed candy canes were substituted instead which made the cookies stick to the pan that was supposed to be covered in parchment paper which I did not have and which were made from a recipe that recommends baking according to weighed ingredients instead of measurements and called for cake flour instead of all purpose flour which I also did not have and also called for a cup of butter which I tried softening in the microwave and ended up completely melting by accident and then the dough ended up too dry so I put the dough in the fridge to chill hoping that a miracle would happen but of course the miracle did not happen in the fridge (my hopes were too high) so I ended up adding more butter and remixing them and then chilling them again and in the end they turned out pretty close to the picture but I'm too bothered by the whole mishap to photograph them for the sake of a blog.  ...insert feeble grin here.....
6.  Buns that nearly choked - blah blah blah, something happened to the baker's brain whereby she forgot to add the majority of the liquids to the flour sponge and then she added all of the flour without thinking, wondering why the dough was beyond dry and then when she added the liquids after the fact the dough got really wet and a bunch more flour was required so just maybe the buns might end up on the dry side?

Yup!  Finished my baking!  Sounds .....   like I finished my baking.  Misbehavin' bakin' had a mind of its' own.

Ahem.

However.

The 13 year old brown eyed one just reported that everything  tastes SO GOOD.

Fait accompli!!!

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Christmas Joy

He had some money in his wallet.

One - maybe two - bills lay there, carefully preserved, protected, saved, unspent, waiting for some irresistible spending whim to strike.

I give him credit. He usually spends that hard earned money pretty fast. But he's growing up.  His wish list has become expensive so he spends his money on candy and slush....or sometimes nothing at all.

A casual comment came from him a day or so ago.  "I'm going to buy you a present this year, mom."

"Mm hmm", I replied, absently.

Today was the day that the trip would be made to the mall.  "Let's go buy a gift for your brother, from you" I instructed.  And off we went to the mall, his wallet tucked into his brown coat pocket, his flannel pajama pants haphazardly tucked into his winter boots.  Who wants to abandon comfy pajama pants for a quick trip to the mall?  I smile at his attire.  He's too precious, I will not argue with his logic.  It's cool with me.

Brother's gift safely tucked into a bag, he turns to me and asks "Where do they sell Ferrero Rocher?" 

"For your brother?" I ask.  It seems like the obvious question.

"No, for you", he replies.

We head to the department store at the end of the hallway.  He wants me to stick around to watch him shop.  I refuse.

"I want to be surprised", I say.

This young man-to-be with his wallet tucked safely in his brown coat pocket while his pajama pants are tucked haphazardly inside his winter boots stays back in the candy section while I inconspicuously wander through the cosmetics department.

I glance back a time or two....I see his brown coat headed to the cashier.

"This is a big deal", I think to myself.  He never pays for something on his own, always wanting someone at his side to face the larger-than-life adult at the till.

Before I know it, the transaction is complete and he is tucking his wallet back into his coat pocket, bag in hand, smile on his face, contents well hidden from my view.

We leave the store and his grin is contagious.

"This is SO COOL!!!"  It's SO MUCH FUN buying presents for someone!"

Shortly thereafter, he passes by the bell-ringing gentleman manning the Salvation Army kettle and drops some of his precious coins into the kettle.  "Aw, bless you!" the man remarks, looking over this small hero's head at me, smiling, pleased, touched by his donation.  I smile too.

"I feel SO GOOD today!" my boy says.

Come to think of it, I feel pretty good myself.

The joy of giving, discovered by an 11 year old.  For real. 

Christmas came to us today.  It came to me today through a young child.

Seems to be a bit of a theme at Christmas ... 


"She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel.
8-12 There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”
13-14 At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises:
Glory to God in the heavenly heights,
Peace to all men and women on earth who please him."


Tuesday, 6 November 2012

The Cooking Report Card

I made a keen observation last week.

It's impossible to hide motivation, when it comes to cooking.

Somehow, the food knows.....

The food knows when you are happily cooking a meal, baking something.

The food knows when you are grumpily/half-heartedly cooking/baking.

The results are totally different.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me present Exhibit A:

Two weeks ago, we had a dessert auction at our church to fundraise for Teen Challenge.  I had been asked to bake something for the auction several weeks prior to that and I had spent quite a bit of time considering what I would bring.  There was this wee niggle of competition brewing inside me.  I wanted to present a dessert that would have a "wow, I want to buy that" factor.  I wanted people to be intrigued, to be highly motivated to buy MY dessert.  I had my eye on this idea that I had seen on-line many months before.  I studied the idea, rehearsed the idea in my mind, dreamed about the idea....until I had a pretty good idea that I could actually accomplish it.

....and I did accomplish it.  Have a look!


This dessert fetched a whopping $170.00!!!  The highest bid of the night.  Proud as a peacock, I was.  I still smile!  The couple that bought the cake said they sat down and had a slice each later that week, and figured they consumed about $20 worth each with the first go-round. 

Yup.  Successful.


Exhibit B: 

Well, it's hard to be as supposedly successful as Exhibit A.  But, well, Exhibit B, that really knocked me from my little self-confident-cook stool.

Our church has this program for new moms.  As soon as they get home from the hospital, we take turns delivering a hot supper for 2 weeks.  So, for two weeks, each new little family gets a parade of cooks bringing food to their home, all carefully and thoughtfully prepared.  Proudly delivered. 

So, sometime in Sept., this new baby shows up at church and, spontaneously, the Pastor decides that we might as well get volunteers to cook right then and there.  He asks for people to put up their hands and commit.  I had a tremendously busy 2 week schedule and was already feeling overwhelmed with just surviving with my own family to take care of.  Somehow, however, my hand flew up into the air and I volunteered to make them supper that very week.  Tuesday, even.  This was Sunday.

Monday, I hemmed and hawed.  I.  Did.  Not.  Want.  To.  Do.  This.

What should I make?  No clue.

They have 2 boys, twin sons in elementary school.

What do you feed someone else's 7 year old boys?

Stumped.

Boy, I don't want to do this.

Finally, I decided that I would make my no-fail-EVERYONE-loves-it soup.  Seriously.  People love this soup.  It's hardy.  It's healthy.  It's DELICIOUS!!!

Problem solved, Tuesday dawned and, though I have my menu planned, I still don't want to make this meal.  I'm tired.  I'm stressed.  This is adding stress.  I dug out some frozen dessert.  "Handy", I thought to myself with a snort.

I grudgingly cooked the soup and called the mom to arrange delivery time.  No answer.

"Great.  Just what I need.  Can't get ahold of her.  This is just great."

Well, of course she called back and we arranged a time that I could drop the food off and I did that task, and she seemed ever so grateful and I left, glad that it was done, confident that all was well.

The next Sunday, I ran into one of the twins at church.

"How was the soup?" I asked him, with a self-assured smile.

"It was AWFUL", he replied.

"I just about threw up", he said.

Oh.

Dear.

Hmm.

Thanks.

How does one politely reply to that review?  <inserts wobbly grin here>



I had a pretty good idea that my whole "compassionate action" was laced with resentment and an "oh bother"-type chip on my shoulder.  It was a good lesson to me.  If you're going to do something nice for someone, do it nicely, happily.  I think that blessing of a home-cooked meal was not mine to give that week.  I couldn't give it out of a good heart.  I just gave it.  And it showed.

Last week, I was fighting an "I-don't-feel-good and I'm-grumpy-too" bug all week.  But ya gotta feed the family, right?  For this gal who normally wakes up and decides what to cook that day within the first hour, I left all of our meals until the last minute, I don't know, hoping that some food would magically show up on the doorstep.  Once no food arrived by, oh about 5 p.m., I would try to think up some great meal idea that would be easy and that would make the family full and happy. 

Well, at least full.

And my meals were horrible.

Pitiful excuses for homemade hamburgers.  And I usually make a great hamburger!

Some wild "I'll make up an Asian sauce in my head" pork and noodle thingy.

"Let's clean out the cupboard and eat this horrible soup from a powder"  lunch.  Yeah.  That was good.
 >(eyes crossed)<  .....not.....


And I was reminded again that somehow effort and motivation and attitude seem to contribute to earning A+'s on the cooking report card.  It's nice to succeed, but it's good to fail sometimes too.  Failure makes us re-examine ourselves and reminds us to try hard, work hard, dream big, accomplish.

No recipe to share today (although I have one I'm dying to share with you!).  For me, today's thoughts are really more of a life lesson; one that I am in desperate need of learning.

For today...

HAPPY cooking

HAPPY serving. 

May those things that you do, those things that you choose to do, even those things that you HAVE to do be laced with pleasure and goodwill.



....this week, we've been eating much better.....   ;)

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Let's Play

It's a day off!

For a shift worker like me, not all Saturdays are days off....sometime my "weekend" comes on a Monday/Tuesday.  My "Sunday" can be a Wednesday, and my "Friday", a Thursday.

Today is actually a true Saturday for me.

I've looked forward to this day for a couple of weeks.  My next shift is a several days away, so the pressure of being in the strict work mode is off for a tad.  I'm thankful.  There are many things that I could be doing today, but today, really, is meant to be a day off.

I just said to Dean that there's a whole lot of things on my things I'd love to do today list - "let's watch a movie-let's go shopping-I'd love to go to the library-I want to go to Little Red-I want to do a photo shoot of the boys-clean the shed with me-let's sit outside on our red lawn chairs-I want to read read read-how about a campfire-I want......" 

If I were a kid, I'd run outside right now to play pretend.

I'd find my secret clubhouse in the park and pack a lunch and run away with my dolls.

I'd write notes in my secret journal using invisible ink and live in fear that someone might someday read my notes and that would be so embarrassing!!

Oh to be a kid again!  I think my best pretend years were during Grade 5.  I did have a sort of secret playhouse where a lot of 'let's pretend' happened.  I devoured Trixie Beldon books and dreamed of living this alter-ego life where I was hero and where all my dreams came true.

Etc., etc.

I'm just in that kind of mood today.  The world is my oyster.  For the moment anyway.  I know that there's housework to be done, we're having company for supper and turkey is on the menu, I have things to prepare for tomorrow.  But I want to fly like a fairy through them and try not to absort the heavy responsibility of them. 

Today is MY day. 

It's a mind game.

Think it'll work?  ;)

You might know me enough to know that cooking is almost always "play" for me. I did have a minor meltdown on Tuesday where cooking was NOT fun and I might have banged a few pots around the kitchen in the process.

But Wednesday, well Wednesday was a good cooking day for me.  I worked a short 8 hour shift (an unusual gift, how nice to be done at 3 p.m.!) and, well, the snack cupboards were bare so I thought I should bake.

Muffins?  Nope, did that a few days ago.
Cookies?  Too much work, all that 'dropping by teaspoonful'.
Cake?  Nobody eats a big cake here...too much icing, cake's too thick.
Pie?  HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!  No.

For some silly reason, I like slab cakes.  A slab cake is, well, a cake, but you bake it in a cookie sheet so you get a nice thin slice of moist cake.  Easy to eat, no plate required.  Easy to make, usually very moist and light and seldom needs icing.  Bakes up in  20 minutes.  Win win win.

I have this thing about efficiency lately, too....and that is this belief that if I'm baking ONE cake, I might as well bake, um, er, more than ONE.  The stand mixer IS out of the cupboard after all.  Mix, bake, wash dishes, mix, bake, wash dishes....

So, yeah, I made 3 cakes.  The recipes for each cake is below.  The only change that I would make would be to substitute some applesauce for some of the oil - maybe 1/2 cup applesauce + 1/2 cup oil (= 1 cup of oil).  Cakes like this are pretty forgiving.

The banana cake was a hit for Ben.  This is huge for me.  Ben is very picky has a selective palate when it comes to baking.  He loved this.  Will definitely make it again.

The chocolate zucchini cake is a great texas brownie cake/chocolate zucchini cake marriage. 

And, the piece de resistance, the pumpkin cake was the only one that I frosted.  How can you go wrong with pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting?  Loverly.

The best part of all?  There are still a few pieces left today!  It is not unusual for a batch of cookies to be consumed in less than 24 hours over here. 

For your baking pleasure, here they are!

PUMPKIN CAKE BARS OR SHEET CAKE

Content Copyright © 2012 Cooks.com - All rights reserved.
4 large eggs
1 c. oil
2 c. sugar
1 lb. can pumpkin (I used the ?395mls size)
2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ginger
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
Beat until blended eggs, oil and sugar in large bowl. Thoroughly mix in pumpkin. Sift together rest of ingredients. Add gradually to pumpkin mixture. Pour into a greased and floured jelly roll pan 17 x 11 inches or 2 greased 9 x 9 inch pans. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. When cool, frost with cream cheese frosting.
CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:
3 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
6 tbsp. butter, softened
1 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 3/4 c. powdered sugar
Beat cream cheese until very soft. Add butter; beat until smooth. Beat in milk and vanilla. Gradually add powdered sugar.

BANANA SHEET CAKE

Content Copyright © 2012 Cooks.com - All rights reserved.
1 cup butter, melted (or 1 cup oil)
1/2 c. water
2 c. flour
2 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 c. milk
1 tsp. baking soda (added to milk)
1 c. bananas, ripe
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Add all ingredients together. Beat well. Mash bananas. Add. Pour on sheet cake pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

CHOCOLATE ZUCCHINI SHEET CAKE

Content Copyright © 2012 Cooks.com - All rights reserved.
2 c. sugar
1 c. vegetable oil
3 eggs
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. baking cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. milk
2 c. shredded fresh zucchini
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips
In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar and oil. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt; gradually add to the egg mixture alternately with the milk. Stir in the zucchini and extract. Pour into a greased 15-inch x 10-inch x 1-inch baking pan. Sprinkle chocolate chips over batter prior to baking.  Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes or until cake tests done.  Cool on wire rack. Yield: 20 servings.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Peachy, Just Peachy

I feel like I'm a season behind.

Apples.  I should be doing something with apples.

Instead, I'm wrangling a case of peaches.

In the "it seemed like a good idea at the time" file, I bought a case of peaches the week that school started.  I had SO many good ideas for peachy things.

Like peach pie.

And..........................................................

??????????????????????????????????????

I don't think this case was necessary.




Help.




Yeeaaaahhhhh, ummmmmm, a case of peaches is a LOT of peaches.

What to do, what to do.

My wandering eye has been roaming through Pinterest, pinning APPLE things.  "I'll just bake the pie and maybe something else and the case will be done and the next day I can get at the apple things", she said.

She says, today, after the peachiness of the day today, tomorrow we rest for we all have need of a Sabbath.

At the end of the day today, I have a beautiful PEACH PIE to eat, one lovely cookie sheet of PEACH SLAB PIE to freeze and 6 glistening jars of PEACH JAM to remember these sunny summer autumn days in the cool of the winter.  I'm pretty happy with that. 

However, that's only half the case of peaches.  That means tomorrow I have to think of something else to do with the other half case.  I want my mommy. 

There's a good chance the rest will end up in freezer bags, a.k.a., "freeze-it-and-forget-it" until it is unearthed in the next freezer defrosting episode, in approximately 5 years.  I must do better at that.


For someone who's as violently opposed to making pies ungifted in the pie world as I am, I have really enjoyed making this following pie version. It is a recipe that I found on "Mennonite Girls Can Cook" and the dough is really forgiving.  And, ahem, in all fairness to me, I can make a pretty decent pie crust, I just don't enjoy the process.  Anyway, here's....

Peach Slab Pie 

Pastry:
  • 1 1/2 cup margarine
  • 3 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg yolk and milk to make 1 cup (reserve egg white to use as glaze)
Peach Filling:
  • 6 cups peaches (about 9-10), peeled, pitted and cut into thin slices.
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  1. Combine flour and salt. Cut in margarine to obtain coarse crumbs.
  2. Mix egg yolk mixture into flour mixture until dough holds together in a ball.
  3. Roll out half the dough on floured work surface....slightly larger than 12 x 16 inches.
  4. Spray 12 x 16 inch pan with cooking spray. Line with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang on the long sides.
  5. Transfer dough to prepared pan. Trim edges of dough...leaving 1/2 inch to hang over edge.
  6. For filling, combine sugar, cornstarch and salt. Add sliced peaches and lemon juice and stir. Pour peach filling into prepared baking sheet.
  7. Roll out remaining dough. Place on top of filling. Trim edges of dough to hang over sides slightly. Fold edges under and pinch to seal.
  8. Beat egg white until foamy and brush over top crust.
  9. Bake at 375°F for about 45-50 minutes...or until golden and filling is bubbling.
  10. Allow to cool completely on wire rack (several hours). Then pull up parchment paper to remove.
  11. Cut into 20 pieces. Freezes wonderfully.
By the way, the pie is delicious!  Why don't you come over and have a slice with me?  My address is $#%^^ $%^%^$%FDGHGHJ%$%^^&$%#^&*((*^$. 

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

All Good Things Must Come To, or At? The End

Helloooooooo.....

I've been away from here for so long.  Not sure if anyone is still out there.

I made a vow to myself when I started blogging that I would choose to avoid blogging deadlines, self imposed and/or perceived, and that I would only write if there was something stirring within me, urging to be let out.

Thus, it's been quiet here.

That, and, well, it's summer, for goodness sakes! 

We have had a good summer.  Our summers tend to be rather public.  We spend a lot of time with people - Family Camp is full of group ... everything!  We spend our holidays with very good friends and that gives us memories and strength to last through the year.  We try to see family. 

And we love it.

But by the end of the summer, I look at our little "Dynna IV" family and I have this compulsion, this drive, this crazy NEED to be isolated with them.  I've shared them all summer.  Now I want them to myself.  And so, we made a quick 'end of the summer' trip to Waskesiu, just us.

So many things barrelled through my brain while we were there.

"Wow, the boys will actually get along when no one else is around to hang out with."

"Seriously?  The boys WANT to spend time with ME!"

Andrew asked us to buy a ball at the corner store and he and Ben played endlessly with that ball.  READ:  it was not an electronic ball.  It was a ball.  And they played.  And had fun.

No one wanted to go home.  We all begged for an extra night there.  And we took it.

"Best time ever", they said.

Tuesday, we stayed at the campsite for most of the day and rested.  Read, napped, fed the neighborhood bum squirrel.  Threw a football around.  Went for a walk.  (Okay, and later we shopped and spent a small fortune on some of the nicest clothes the boys have ever had the privilege of picking out because it was 50% OFF, FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE!!!)

Sigh.  Loved it. 

Must make a point of doing that every summer.  Isolate the Dynna Four.  Hibernate.  Escape.  Run away.  Re-discover "us".

I paid attention to my sons this week, particularly to what makes them tick.  A couple of years ago, I attended a session with Gary Chapman, author of the Love Languages concept. 

Love Languages = how we "hear" love through ....  , how we want love to be communicated....

Google it.

Fabulous concept.

Anyway, my boys:

Andrew - needs words of affirmation.  Last week, he snuck into my room one evening and blurted out an observation in regards to some communication habits that we had all fallen into.  He was hurt, he was tired, he was frustrated.  And so, while we were away this week, I tried to be aware of what he, at the age of 13, needs to hear these days.  "Andrew, you did a good job.  Andrew, your outfit makes you look handsome.  Andrew, I appreciate how much you helped Dad hook up the trailer.  Andrew, thanks for trying."

He blossoms under words of affirmation.  He receives it.  There is a respect that grows and develops when words are meant to build up.  He holds his head a little higher, he tries a little harder, he is a little more confident.  He grows up, mentally, emotionally.  And 13 year old boys want to be grown up.

Ben - needs quality time.  He is a veritable bouncing ball of "spend time with me".  "Watch me, look at me, listen to me!"  Mom, mom, mom.  Let's, let's, let's.  So, within reason (after all, me and the cold water of Waskesiu were never meant to be close), one afternoon, I tried to answer his "Mom, let's...." with "sure".  It was like he saved up 11 years of "let's..." for that one afternoon.  " 'Let's wade in the water', 'let's play water games', 'let's walk down the beach', 'feel this stone, mom', 'let's look at the water on this side of the pier', 'let's lie on our stomachs and watch the minnows', 'let's jump long jump at the museum just like foxes, mom', 'let's hop back to the beach' (whew, that was a long hop), 'run like this, mom', 'let's run up this hill, mom', 'I bet I can beat your time running up this hill, mom', 'let's hold hands', 'let's talk, mom,' ... 'mom....', 'mom....', 'mom.....'

Wow.

He never ran out of ideas.  They just poured out of his lips. 

I'm a bit of a blubbery mess, reflecting on how much these boys want their mom. (and their dad, by the way, but this is my blog, not his!)

Somehow, during a few days away, we went from not wanting to be seen with me (who can blame a 13 year old?  I do get it...) to the bare bones of relationship.  Talk to me.  Tell me I'm okay.  Tell me I'm smart and kind and handsome.  Be with me.  Hold my hand.  Dance down the street with me.  Act like you love me.

Seems like it wasn't too much to ask.  I've spent lots to time, pining for their company.  Feeling abandoned for their passions, hobbies, image. 

Perhaps they have felt the same sense of abandonment as well?

The powerful draw of "FAMILY" is a pretty awesome way to end the summer.  Good things did come AT this summers' end.

I am humbled.

Spend time with me, mom.

Monday, 16 July 2012

For Adults Only

Caught your attention, perhaps, with the title?  I smile.

Ah, yes, the days of summer where the kids are home 24/7 and it's nice to be together!!!

And then, along comes camp and takes the kids away for a WHOLE WEEK and the grown ups get to hang out alone for 6 glorious days!!! 

What to do, what to do.

Well, we took advantage of the opportunity to make a few extra $$ and went to work and barely saw each other.  How is that for exciting?

We did do a couple of interesting things the week that the boys were away.  Our nicest adventure was going to Sabarosa's (Brazilian Steakhouse) in Saskatoon for supper with some friends.  My heavens. What a lovely dining experience!  We will be going back there!!  Lovely place to dine, especially if you like meat and lots of it, which we do. 

Our next moderately interesting adventure was going to see my Dr. to inquire re: the finger that I hurt back in May when I fell off my bike that I never bothered to have looked at until almost 2 months later.  Yup.  Broken, but healing nicely and well aligned.  Ahem, it seems that I was a little late in bringing this up to the Dr. and he could have done much more for me had I come in sooner and I am to expect that it will give me trouble for a long time.  Other than that, we had a nice catch up visit.  >:<

Probably the adventure that was extravagant to us was being able to cook/eat whatever we wanted, thus the title "For Adults Only".  Our kids are fairly adventurous but, you know what it's like, there are just things that you wouldn't make for supper and expect them to eat, so you don't make it and resign to be satisfied admiring the recipes from afar.  We had 4 successes!

Success #1 - grilled chicken breast with fresh (not canned) salsa on the side.  I am growing cilantro in my garden this year and this salsa was a really nice change of pace.  Ingredients - raw tomatoes, onions/garlic minced (blanched by pouring boiling water over them and draining immediately - cut the flavor and increased a rounded, more mellow flavor instead), salt, pepper, juice of a lime and a couple tablespoons of chopped cilantro.  The flavors are so fresh.  I recognize that with cilantro, you either like or dislike.  I like, and this was just lovely served on the side of the grilled chicken.  If anyone wants some cilantro, please ask me!  If you cut it back, it keeps growing back!  I'd love to share it with anyone who would like to try some!

Success #2 - grilled pizza with fresh (not aged) mozzarella cheese.  We've been wanting to grill pizza for a few summers now.  This was easy and quick!  We picked up the fresh mozzarella cheese after having read about it and watched it being used on many recipes over the years.  The pizza crust was a homemade thin crust (very forgiving recipe).  It cooks quickly on the grill, yikes!  We did not use any sauce on the crust, but layered a splash of olive oil, fresh tomato slices, fresh mozza slices and basil.  Mommy, I want some more!  Will definitely make that again!  The recipe said to have a hot grill, but next time, we'd bring it a little lower so that the crust wouldn't cook quite so quickly.  That fresh mozza is tasty!  Mild, but melts into gooey, creamy goodness.

Success #3 - fruit infused water for moi.  Cut up 1/2 lime, 1/2 lemon, 1 clementine orange and 1/3 grapefruit.  Place in pitcher, cover with cold water.  Mash/bruise the fruit to get the flavors released.  I added a small scoop (? 1/3 cup) of sugar and am really enjoying the benefits of mildly flavored water.  I don't love lemon/lime on it's own.  The four fruits combined created a nice flavor base.

Success #4 - our final success of the week - Cold Pressed Coffee for iced coffee drinks.  We have been loading up on the iced coffees in the afternoons and have found them refreshing.  However, we would never think to make the coffee concentrate ahead of time so kept ending up with lukewarm coffee drinks.  There had to be a better way!  I had read about this method on the internet from a couple of sources.  While it seemed like large portions to experiment with, I decided to give it a go.

Take one pound of coffee grounds (advisable to use a good quality coffee, and dark roast, if that's your thing).  Put the coffee grounds in a large pot or bowl.  Pour 32 cups of cold water over the coffee grounds and stir until they are completely soaked.  Walk away for a minimum of 8 hours.  I left mine for 12/13 hours; I don't think it makes any difference.  After the soaking time, strain the coffee through a very fine strainer.  I used a combination of a fine sieve and coffee filters.  Cheesecloth would work, "they" even say paper towels would work.  Press all of the coffee goodness out of the grounds and you've got your iced coffee concentrate!

For coffee drinks, I put several ice cubes in a tall glass, fill the glass to about 1/2 - 2/3 with coffee concentrate, add milk to fill the glass and then stir in some flavor. 

  • My flavor favorite right now is Rolo Syrup - found in the same aisle as the Nestle chocolate milk syrup.  I don't like really sweet coffee so add to your taste
  • Dean likes more of a caramel machiato vibe and adds butterscotch/caramel ice cream topping to his, bypassing the hint of chocolate that I get in mine.
Other flavor suggestions?  I'm open!  I suppose you could go in the direction of a Vietnamese coffee by adding sweetened condensed milk.  Other ideas? 

I don't think the boys would feel that they missed out on any of these culinary experiments!  Once in awhile, it's nice to take the adult-friendly approach, instead of kid-friendly.

What flavors have you been experimenting with this summer?

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Summer Randoms

A few things are scooting through my mind as summer begins.  Nothing of very great importance, however, things are on my heart.

If you remember last summer, my yard and I were having a bit of a summer tiff.  This summer, we're friends.  Enough said.  I'm so very happy to be home and enjoying the yard.  My flowers are getting pretty, my garden has been weeded, we have two (2!!!) hose boxes (finally after 14 years of wandering, snaky hoses), a new shed has been assembled, and the garden swing is ready to be re-painted.  I just have a couple of beds that I'm trying to rid of crab grass and, so far, I'm losing.  Here are my four approaches:
  1. Dig them out by hand - FAIL
  2. Use Round-Up - SUCCESS, but I'm always a little leery of such a nasty product.  However, it works.  But, I'm cheap, so.....
  3. Straight vinegar, as per Pinterest suggestion.  Very small success, not even worth mentioning.
  4. Iron tablets dissolved in water. NO SUCCESS WHATSOEVER.  At least, not yet.
I guess it's back to the Round-Up.  I want to bring in a load of gravel for ground cover on the large bed and I have portulaca patiently waiting to be transplanted in the small bed.  I need to get that small bed in shape SOON or those portulaca are going to expire.


Both boys have achieved their fair share of accomplishments at school this year.  The bottom line is that they are well rounded boys who achieve some accomplishments that others do not.  Ben's marks all year have been outstanding.  They have both done well in some sporting events.  At the end of the school year, Ben won the Grade 5 band award and Andrew won the Artistic Award for excelling in the arts of drama, art and music.  Andrew has had to really dig in this year to achieve any sort of academic success.  He has, unfortunately, brought a lot of stress home, with undone work, unrecorded "assignments due", etc., etc., with the odd email/phone call from the teacher.  He's smart, no doubt about it.  But I had an "AHA" moment when he won that artistic award.  This kid may never love the academics - he's an artsy guy.  I remember his Grade 2 teacher telling us that he'd hit his stride in Grade 7 or 8; a casual prediction on her part.  I always hoped that she meant his academic, organized brain would arrive then.  Maybe it will.  But this year has been a strong, strong year for Andrew's artistic talents to erupt.  So, at the end of the school year, I, all of a sudden, look at him and understand him a little better.  Andrew, the artist.

Okay.  I can work with that.  It helps me define his learning style and interests a lot more and that will be helpful.  Dean and I are both artistic in our own way but I wouldn't have thought of us as artsy people.  Are we?


Funny how school can be joy for Ben and torture for Andrew.  Random thought.


The end of the school year makes me melancholy.  I know.  I'm a sentimental sap.  I can't help it.  Two random thoughts in this paragraph.



Our youth group joined the Shellbrook youth group last night for a big end-of-the-year Amazing Race challenge that Shellbrook hosted.  Wow!  Creative level = excellence.  It was so cool.  A couple of things struck me - we arrived at the church to find at least a dozen bikes outside the church.  Not locked up.  And they stayed there all night and nobody worried.  The 14 teams had 20 some challenges to complete all around the town and the last team of 4 young girls arrived back at the church AFTER ELEVEN and nobody worried.  Small town life.  I know it's not all innocent but there was a casual, relaxed atmosphere.  Makes me want to move.  ;)


One of their challenges was to mix a batch of bannock and cook it on a stick over an open fire.  I woke up this morning craving this for breakfast.  I settled for toast.


I want to bump up our trailer from tent trailer to hybrid.  Hubby's not budging.  Harumph.


In the summer, I have an insatiable appetite for ice cream and ice cream treats.  Thus, the missing budget for a hybrid trailer.  ;)


This week I concluded that I'm a better winter cook than summer cook.  Winter can be full of all kinds of slow cooker meals, soups, stews, oven dishes, use-all-four-burners-on-the-stove meals.  Summer is warm.  My barbecue is located in the hot afternoon sunshine.  How much can you barbecue?  Help me out - besides burgers and steaks, what are you barbecuing?  Perhaps we need to move the barbecue...simple solution.


I spend all winter dreaming of things to cook while we're camping.  I want good taste with low fuss and I have a mild aversion to the overuse of hot dogs.  I found an idea on Pinterest and tried it out yesterday.  When it came time to eat, no one was hungry, we were in a hurry and it was hot.  Hard to judge the success of a recipe on that then, isn't it?!! 

"It Doesn't Have A Name" Supper Idea For Camping  (how do you like my title?)

In a large slow cooker, lay one layer of pork chops.  Cover with mushroom soup and sprinkle with onion soup mix.  Wrap 4-6 baking potatoes (keep them small) in foil and lay on top of the pork chops.  Cut 2-3 cobs of corn in half, and wrap in foil.  Lay them on top of the foiled potatoes.  Set slow cooker on "low" and walk away.

Results:  I let mine cook for 8-9 hours on "low" and we felt that everything was overdone.  However, my pork chops were very small. 

Next time: I would cook it for 6 hours on "low".  I think the results would be better.  The potatoes were very moist, not dry like an oven-baked potato.  The corn was great.

Possible Variation:  I think I would also try a small roast, and perhaps add the potatoes and corn halfway through the cooking time.

Conclusion:  For camping, a meal couldn't be easier than this meal.  Small tweaks will make it a "make again" for this family!  The slow cooker that I used this time is a large, oval one, 6-7 quart size.


Those are all of the printable thoughts I have for this time!  See you around!



Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Ben's Brownies

"Oh, I wish I could just stay home from school today and eat brownies."  Ben Dynna, May 2012.

Sometimes the simplest wishes are simply the best.  In hindsight, maybe I should have granted it?

.....11 days of school left.....we are all ridiculously happy about that.... ;)


Buttermilk Brownies

1 cup margarine
1/3 cup cocoa
1 cup water

2 cups flour
2 cups white sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla

Boil together the first 3 ingredients.  Meanwhile, mix dry ingredients in mixer. Combine eggs, buttermilk and vanilla; add to dry ingredients.  Slowly add the hot cocoa mixture and blend together.  Bake in a large greased cookie sheet for 20 to 25 minutes at 375 F.

Icing:
1/4 cup margarine
3 Tbsp cocoa
3 Tbsp buttermilk
2 cups icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla

After the brownies have cooled, boil together margarine, cocoa and buttermilk.  Remove from heat and add icing sugar and vanilla.  Spread over cooled brownies.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

My Hardest Summer Job....EVER!

What was your hardest summer job? 

That's an easy question for me!

Sort of.

..."Sort of" because I did lots of hard work every summer, but I only got paid serious money for a couple of things from an outside source (outside of my dad).

One summer job (not my hardest) was one that my sister and I did together.  There is an official name for it, which I forget, but basically we had a neighbor that was growing alfalfa for SEED, not feed, so instead of baling it up like the rest of us did, he harvested it to gain it as a seed crop.  Compared to oats/barley/wheat, alfalfa seed is tiny and, when harvested through the combine, the combine decides to keep lots of small stuff that it thinks is seed but is actually junk.  Our job was to shake this junk which included valuable seed through a variety of sizes of strainers until the only thing that remained at the bottom of the pile was pure alfalfa seed.  The sifters were sort of the size of, um, extra large communion trays, and were stacked 4 or 5 high.  We had to shake the whole stack side to side and the good stuff fell to the bottom tray.  We kept that and discarded the rest.  We went through sacks of this stuff and stood in the garage day after day, shaking.  No wonder we were skinny!  Our employer - "Joe".

The job that I would consider to be my "hardest job ever" was also for "Joe".  Joe was a distant relative of ours, and a bachelor.  A Ukrainian bachelor.  He dropped in for meals often.  ;)  No kids, no sons to do these crazy jobs for him.  He had some crazy ideas sometimes and he was on this "alfalfa seed" kick for a few years so, on another summer, he employed my friend and I to clean up his alfalfa field.  I'm bad at estimating acres, but I'm going to say that he had a field that was 30-40 acres big and his goal was to grow pure alfalfa for this seed project.  However, in a landscape where clover and alfalfa easily grow together, there was clover in this field which would, potentially, ruin his alfalfa seed project.  So, can you imagine we actually did this, my friend and I walked up and down this field for DAYS and plucked out every single clover plant by hand.  We had little shovels or some sort of hand tool and we would walk up and down this field all day long, south to north, north to south, looking at every single grass plant that was growing.  If it was alfalfa, it stayed; if it was clover, we pulled it out.  The alfalfa would have been mostly grown by then so was probably mid-thigh height.  It was in the heat of July, and we did this all day long, sometimes going to my house for lunch, sometimes just eating our lunch at the side of the field.  I remember the heat and the helplessness of looking across the field, hoping to see purple flowers (alfalfa), cringing if we saw yellow flowers (clover) and the monotony of this routine that went on for days.  It was so hot.  It was dirty work.  There were bugs.  I think we each got paid $100.00, which seemed like a lot of money.  We earned it, though!!!

Those jobs with paychecks attached were few and far between.  As a farm kid, you just worked.  We grew up close to a beautiful lake but we seldom went there in the summer as there was too much work to do on the farm.  In addition to the large gardens that Mom had, we helped pick rocks and roots off the fields and we helped with haying.  This was in the days of square bales and stooking.  Poor dad only had daughters and there was never any gender inequality on our farm.  We did the work of farmers; being a girl was no excuse to not work.  Hay baling, however, was more than I was capable of.  My dad drove the equipment, which failed more than it worked, and mom and I (or mom and my sister) rode on the stooker behind the baler and, together, lifted those heavy hay bales onto the stooker to make a perfect pyramid.  It was dry and hot and incredibly itchy work.  You had to wear long pants and long sleeves to protect yourself against the dry, scratchy hay and, really, you hoped for hot dry weather to get the hay done in, but, goodness, that was unpleasant.  The wind blew the hay dust into your face and covered your whole body with dust that itched and scratched under your long sleeves and long pants while the sun beat down on your head.  Sigh.  Can hardly believe we worked that hard, but we did.

However, in my current work world of multi-tasking and balancing acts, head games and thought process continuity requirements, I find comfort and peace in a day of hard physical labor work.  When I can set aside the nurse in me, and get outside and work with my hands, there is some inner "me" that gets nourished.  And I like that.

I'd love to hear what some of your summer jobs were!  Care to share?

I'd like to record another rhubarb recipe here.  I went searching for rhubarb cake recipes this morning.  I found one, but it made a 9 x 13 pan and we will be here and there for the next little bit and I thought the cake would be wasted.  I resorted to hunting for another spring favorite recipe for a rhubarb loaf that makes 2 loaves (so we could eat one and freeze one).  And how's this?  When I compared the 2 recipes, the recipes are virtually identical!  So, here's a recipe that can be in cake form (9 x 13" pan), loaf form (2 loaf pans) or muffin form (18 or so muffins).  Cake form would be more in the line of a coffee cake.

Rhubarb Cake-ffin-loaf!

2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup oil
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk (or sour some milk with vinegar)
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups chopped rhubarb

Topping (rub ingredients together for a crumb topping):
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp melted butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Grease selected pans well.
In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt.  Add rhubarb and toss lightly.
In a separate bowl, blend sugar with oil; whisk in egg, buttermilk and vanilla.
Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients, just until flour is incorporated.  Spoon into selected baking pan and top with crumb topping.

Bake muffins for 20-25 minutes.
Bake loaves and/or cake for 40-45 minutes.

Tell me some stories!!!

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Leaves Me Wanting More, Farewell Jill

Have I said yet how much simpler spring is when you don't have a busy summer planned?  The past two summers have been full.....of good things....but full, nonetheless.  In 2010, we journeyed through our crazy kitchen renovation.  Oh, that was a summer of epic proportions in the stress and joy departments.  Wow.  Not sure that renovating during the school year would have been easier but to have the house pulled apart when everyone was home presented some interesting days and challenges.  In 2011 we completed our Maritime tour right smack at the beginning of the summer and from there on we were on the move for the entire summer, either travelling or working = no time at home.  At the end of those 2 summers, I found myself longing for my own back yard, feeling like I had been unfaithful to it and that I had missed out on something, even in the midst of making some incredible memories elsewhere.

This spring has had a nice pace.  Shift work cycles in oddly predictable fashion, and the past 5-6 years have had me working a bundle of shifts through the month of May.  This year, not so much. 

So, finally, time for yard work!  I mean, sufficient time for yard work.

Ah, I'm settling back into something that makes me tick, minus the stress of having to get things done within small time constraints.  Couple the time with nice weather (well, not this week) and a new corner of the yard that's opening up with some sweet spots, and I find myself wanting more of this gardening world that slipped through my fingers for the past few years.

We went to a couple of greenhouses on the weekend that we hadn't been to before - Obsessions at St. Louis and Garden of Dreams on the Candle Lake highway. 

Dangerous ground.  Dangerous, dangerous ground.

I want more.

Almost any greenhouse is a good greenhouse, in my books, but these 2 gems are lovely.  The plants are healthy and interesting and were almost overwhelming with the variety of choices.

I bought the basics of what I needed on the weekend but, um, I want more.  I'm almost disappointed that I found everything I needed that day.  I want another excuse to go back and browse and dream and buy and plant and watch the beauty develop.

Today marks the memorial service of a friend that passed away on Thursday, Jill.

We've known Ron and Jill for many years.  Music first brought us together.... a variety of music projects, really.  Jill and I were very similar - we both played the piano, sang alto, all those support roles that we happen to have that support other peoples' music project ideas.  We've been in their home, they've been in our home, we've done music in their church, they've done music in ours.  You know, that kind of stuff where there is mutuality and an understanding of worlds and perspectives, dreams, goals, joys, frustrations.

Life moved on, for both of us.  They moved to a new community to pastor a church and we lost face to face touch, but then I found Ron's blog and read it now and then and heard his voice in the virtual world, and saw her continued influence on his world and in their community.

Then I started my blog and she poked her head in here and we found that we shared a mutual love for cooking and serving others through food and that was very cool.  I loved seeing her remarks, under the alias of "Ron Baker" on Facebook, quietly marked .... Jill.

Her journey on earth ended somewhat unexpectedly on Thursday.  She had heart issues for most, if not all of her life.  I'm told that she lived on borrowed time for many years so we need to remember that she probably got more time than she expected.

But I'm feeling today that, in regards to time on earth with Jill in it, I want more.  I want a little bit more time.  I want to connect with her in a cooking chat just once more.  I want to hear her excited chatter and hear her giggle just one more time.  Her smile lit her entire face. 

I know that I do not mourn with the depth that her family and close friends mourn.  But I'm quietly sad over here in my corner of the world today, praying for her family and friends as they gather today to say good-bye.  There have been too many heart breaking good-byes around this community in the last little bit.  I'm sure there are many people who are left wanting more.  More time to watch the beauty develop through the life of someone precious.

Not sure how to end this post.  No recipe today, although maybe Jill would ask for one?  ;)

Live well.  Let us live each day well.  Pursue those things that make you tick.  Celebrate friendships where the love of mutual things draws you together.  Leave your mark on your world in your own sweet way and live well.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

The Simple Life

Thinking today of some simple things. 

Andrew has been away overnight on a Band Trip to Moose Jaw.  Why do dads of sons get asked to chaperone these trips and not the moms?  This is both justice and injustice at the same time.  It's justice when I don't really want to go in the first place and can nod at Dean and conclude that, being the dad, HE should probably go.  It's injustice when I'd like to go and don't get asked because I'm the mom.  However, I digress.  Neither one of us went this time and I realized far too late that I could have volunteered.  So, being the mature parent that I am, I had to resort to the occasional text to, well, um, check in on him.  Following a briefer than brief text exchange last night at bedtime, I realized this morning that I had to learn to speak his language (so to speak) when texting as, obviously, he only wants to give out limited information. 

Here is the verbose (NOT) exchange we had this morning:
Me:  Hey
A:  Sup
Me: Whatcha doin'?  (which really means "tell me every little thing that you've eaten, done, thought, experienced in the last 24 hours because I'm dying to know")
A:  At mall
Me:  Nice mall?
A:  Yeah
Me:  Seeing the tunnels later?
A: Yeah
Me:  You sure are chatty.  :)  What did you do for breakfast?
A:  Waffles
Me:  Nice.  At the hotel?
A:  Yeah
(obviously, this conversation is going nowhere, I've got to cut it off before he tells me he has to go....)
Me:  K, g2g (aren't I clever using that acronym???)
A:  Bye

Oh, he is a man of few words.  Simple
.....When he wants to be.....

Later this afternoon, I texted again (don't roll your eyes at me) to find out where he was on the road as I had a meeting to attend this evening, depending on the time he got home.  (I never made it to the meeting, he's not home yet).  Anyway....here's some more.....

Me: Tired?
A:  Nope
Me:  Good.  Looking forward to stories.
A:  Yeah I'll tell them to u right now

HUH????????????

And he then proceeded to go into a lengthy diatribe on hotel rooms, museum experiences, concerts and the large amount of times they could order whatever they wanted at the restaurants, which included "quiznos six meat stack sand witch so delicious".

That boy.  Can never predict what he wants to talk about.  Or when he wants to talk.  Gotta be ready for those moments, right?


Ah, yes, simple things.  Chats with your growing son.


I've wrestled lately with some discouragement.  It's just not like me to wrestle something for as long as I have, but I couldn't get past some stuff.  Dean sat me down today and watched my tears slip down my cheeks and told me that, at the end of the day, even if all we have is just 'him and me', we'll be okay.    A simple reassurance, but rich enough to settle my soul.

And don't worry about me.  I'm okay.

.....insert wobbly grin here.....


Simple things.  Quiet reassurances.


Simple things.  Hard work.  I'm back in the yard and garden doing what also brings me peace - digging in the dirt.  How I wish my back was as strong as my passion for digging in the dirt!  There is something about getting on your hands and knees and fighting with stubborn dandelions and crab grass.  It's like life - you fight challenges one little dandelion at a time and soon the garden gets cleaned.  The simplicity of that truth is not wasted on me.


Simple things.  Hopeful anticipation.  We were away so much last summer that I really missed hanging out at home.  I missed going outside under the warmth of the sun and absorbing the sounds and smells of summer in my own yard with a good book and a cup of whatever or deciding to head to a lake for the afternoon or going out for a late night DQ run.  I plan to do that this year.  I have no wanderlust for this summer, beyond the couple of planned things already on the docket.  The pressure is off to plan and prepare.  The simplicity of that feels good.  And, LARGE HURRAH, we finally figured out a creative corner in the yard that will take minimal development to become the new hang out spot.  I`ve been looking for a spot in this yard for 14 years and we finally found it.  Sometimes you gotta live with the challenges until the right solutions show up.  Another simple truth.


And now, I`m simply tired, so I`ll leave you with one last thing.....a simple treat.

Rootbeer Float Popsicles

Open a can of rootbeer several hours in advance of the rest of your prep so that the rootbeer goes flat.  I opened mine in the morning and did the rest of the job in the evening.

Into a popsicle mold (mine had 8 spots) scoop small amounts of vanilla ice cream into each mold (Ì`d guess at approximately 2-3 tablespoons per mold).  Slowly pour the rootbeer into each mold.  The rootbeer mixes with the ice cream without any foam up.  Stick the popsicle sticks in to the mixture and freeze.

Yum-oh!  Ben and I made these last night and enjoyed a taste after school today.  If you love rootbeer floats, you`ll love this very simple treat. 

Next time, I`d like to make orange float ones, too.  Maybe grape ones too!  Cream soda?  Yes please.


Keep it simple, keep it real.  Take care.



Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Enough

I read something online the other day as I was getting ready for work.  I often turn to a list of devotional/inspirational blogs to read when I'm sitting at the island alone at 6 o'clock in the morning, getting ready for a long day ahead.  On this day, I read something that made me stop in my tracks, so to speak.

I thought about what I had read a lot throughout that day.  About how it applied so perfectly to me.  How I could relate to every.  single.  statement.

And then I thought about this little space that I draw your attention to, here on "Make Again", and I wondered if I've ever discouraged you with my mental meanderings.  I tend to come here often and describe the long list of things that I've done, things that I've attempted, all my "homemade" blah blah blah.

I guess, after reading the writing that I will quote in a sec, I want you to know that, yes, I have some homemaker triumphs. 

....and then I have some homemaker struggles, too, mostly surrounding the long list of things that I often carry plenty of guilt around in regards to things that I DON'T get done. 

I often feel that what I'm doing is never enough.  I can't get my act together to succeed at everything all at the same time. 

As wives and mothers, we juggle this huge pile of plates/expectations in our roles as moms, wives, friends, employees, volunteers and, well, I just never feel that I successfully manage everything.  If I'm cooking well, my house is dirty.  If my house is clean, I'm exhausted and grumpy.  If I'm doing a good job at work, I'm absent from home.  I spend time with my family, but then neglect my friends.  To quote my nephew, when he was 4 years old - "I CAN'T DO IT!"  I can't do it all, that is. 

So, when I read this the other morning, it brought a lump to my throat.  Seems I'm not the only one who has ever felt that what I do is "not enough".  I've tempered my personal frustrations with reminders to myself from this during these past couple of days.

Here it is:

Well, here's the deal{the real truth}:
You are enough.
You cook enough.
You work enough.
You clean enough.
You play with your kids enough.
You smile enough.
You bake enough.
You craft enough.
You volunteer enough.
Your car is enough.
You exercise enough. You exercise enough. Again---You exercise enough.
You are creative enough.
You care enough.
You car pool enough.
Your house is enough.
Your apartment is enough.
You attend children activities enough.
You walk the dog enough.
You eat healthy enough.
You drink water enough.
You organize enough.
You do laundry enough.
You are think enough.
You read to your kids enough.
You weed enough.
Your car is clean enough.
You read enough.
You write enough.
You paint enough.
You listen enough.
You are attractive enough.
You share enough.
You discipline enough.
You care enough.

You are beautiful.

Yeah, it's got me goin' again.  My eyes are leaking.

It's my prayer for YOU today, that you'll realize that "you ARE beautiful".  You're doing enough, in fact, you're probably doing too much. Stop striving.  Don't ever think you'll catch me watching you, measuring your actions with some imperceptible yardstick of "success". 

As Mother's Day brings herself around in a few days, I hope that you will find yourself at peace with your place in this world, whether you're a mother or not, simply as a woman.  I hope that there will be a place of inner rest for you, a sense of affirmation, a personal understanding that the long list of expectations that you find yourself under does not make YOU.

My heart to yours today. 

...And I think, for today, that's enough.

Monday, 23 April 2012

I'm Baaa--aaaccckkkk!!

Dear blog, I have missed you.  Life just got in the way and nothing could be done about it.

So, I'm back, by popular demand.....ONE, yes, ONE of my faithful readers messaged me to say that she missed this place!!!  My popularity knows no bounds!!!  ;)

I thought that you might want to know what has been keeping me busy.  To see how well you know me, I've made up a few multiple choice quiz questions.  Okay, let's see, I'll go back a couple weeks.

1.  To celebrate Easter, I:
       a)  Made a big meal and had family over
       b)  Organized and performed a special music package at church
       c)  Couldn't do either of the above - hey, I'm a shift worker, remember?!!  Work trumps fun.
       d)  All of the above

And the answer is.......

d)  All of the above    Super woman, I am NOT, but I did manage to get myself and my musicians organized way back in March with music packages and rehearsals and we spent some time and put together a special Easter Sunday morning service.  I love church on Easter Sunday morning - it just represents the whole reason the church exists, doesn't it?!!  Of course, I had to be organized because, yes, I was booked to work Easter weekend - Good Friday and Saturday found me pounding the halls of HBH.  We even took some time on the Saturday to decorate eggs with the residents.  One elderly fella seemed to enjoy being part of the circle.  We'd show him the latest egg that someone finished and he'd comment "Oh, I wonder what kind of robin laid THAT egg!"  We all giggled for his benefit.  Five minutes later, another egg would be shown to him and, yup, same joke..."I wonder what kind of robin laid THAT egg!"  By the end of the afternoon we were having more than a few giggles at him   his joke that really was new to him each time he told it!  Ah, I smile.  And then, yes, we had Dean's parents over for supper Easter Sunday - always a good day to be with family and it was all nice except for the rebellious turkey (literally) who chose to be tough instead of tender.  Boo.

Okay, next question.

2.  Inspired to lead my own group of musicians into some new and improved musical skills, I taught a seminar on Worship last Saturday.  During my final week of preparation, which of the following did NOT happen:
       a)  I got overly ambitious and went into overdrive and baked my heart out
       b)  I had insomnia
       c)  My aunt passed away
       d)  We took a trip to Waskesiu
       e)  None of the above
       f)  All of the above
       g)  Can you repeat the question?

The correct answer is......

f)  All of the above!  With the deadline looming, we still chose to take an overnight trip to Waskesiu with the boys during the last weekend of Easter break.  The weather was cold and rainy but we had such a nice time.  The cabin was beautiful, we enjoyed the outdoor hot tub and walks through the bush.  Very nice indeed.  Once we got back and my final preparations started, I truly did go into hyper-drive.  I was F-O-C-U-S-E-D, with a capital F.  My stacks of yellow sticky notes that had been collecting for months had to be put into reasonable order, things needed to be written and re-written, organized...yikes!!!  And by the time I would drag myself to bed, I'd be too mentally busy to sleep and so, yeah, some level of insomnia/busy sleeps sustained me as best they could.  Yes, on top of writing the seminar, I decided that serving cookies to my team would be nice and baked more than I needed to.  And, in the midst of all that, my dad's sister passed away without giving any of us any notice that she was going to do that.  I mentally scrambled for a bit, anxious to hear the date of the funeral as Saturday was out for me, due to this seminar.  To my relief, the funeral was Friday, which meant that I could go - and that meant A LOT.  I really wanted to be there and I'm glad I was.  Family is so important.

Next question.

3.  My baking extravaganza turned out:
      a)  Excellent - all three batches of cookies were superb!
      b)  Well, um, hubby said something like "um, well, er, I liked the lemon ones."
      c)  How am I supposed to know?  I never touched them
      d)  A and B
      e)  B and C
      f)  A and C


And the correct answer is......

e)  B and C.  Yeah.  That was the truth, or so my objective judge told me.  It is true (c) - I didn't touch 'em.  That was one of those "I'm baking too much at one time and, yuck, I'll pass on the sugar" moments.  So, they were taken to the seminar on Sat. and Dean reluctantly said that, yeah, one batch was good.  The others.....didn't really make the cut.  I made a peanut butter sandwich cookie (that he felt was, well, only, hmm, one dimensionally peanut buttery).  Then, in the vein of sandwich cookies, I found a recipe for a snickerdoodle sandwich cookie (snickerdoodles sandwiched with brown sugar cinnamon frosting).  He felt the icing was too thick and turned the whole cinnamon thing into overkill.  The last batch, which he liked, btw, was a glazed lemon cookie.  Once I finish this post, I plan to grab a couple of those and a cup o' tea and, hopefully, enjoy.


Okay, last question.

4.  After the insanity of all things Easter/seminar/funeral/concert (forgot to add that we also went to a concert in Saskatoon Friday after the funeral), I worked my regular night shift.  Now I won't even attempt to pretend that one Night shift/month is a hardship, but it was really hard dragging my butt to work last night after all of the busyness of the week.  Nonetheless, I went, and we had a good night and now I'm done nights until the May long weekend comes around.  To recover from all of that crazy busy week/night shift stuff, what did I do today?
      a)  Went to bed with a nice hot magic bag and snored until 3
      b)  Went to bed with a nice hot magic bad and dozed until 11:30 a.m., for heaven sake.
      c)  Started the new day with eggs and toast and a nice big cuppa joe
      d)  Drifted during an afternoon movie under a nice warm blanket
      e)  Begged hubby to cook supper
      f)  All of the above, except (e)
      g)  All of the above, except (a) and (b)
      h)  How the HECK am I supposed to know?????

Well, the correct answer is......

(b), (c), (d), and (e).  Went to bed, but, nah, drifted and didn't sleep much.  Woke, hungry, like I ALWAYS am after a night shift and got hopped up (really?) on carbs, protein and caffeine.  Stayed wide awake  awake through all of some of a movie this afternoon and, yes, hubby cooked supper for me without any persuasion at all.

Which brings me to today's recipe.  I'm posting this recipe partially because we always have to go digging through web sites and magazines, etc., etc. to find it each time we make it.  Should be a little easier to find this time, right?!!  Hmm, wonder if he ever reads this blog?...... 

Anyway, this is his recipe.  He found it, he experimented with it and he cooks it....and we love it.

Its' very fancy name is:  Bucatini All'amatriciana, otherwise known to us as "that cherry tomato/balsamic vinegar spaghetti dish Dean makes".

To make, saute 4 ounces of bacon until crisp, and then crumble and set aside.

Add 2 Tbsp olive oil to a saute pan and saute 1 garlic clove (minced) with 1/4 tsp dried pepper flakes briefly.  Add 1 cup chopped onion and saute until soft.  Stir in 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar and cook 1 minute; then add 3 cups chopped cherry tomatoes and saute for 6 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, cook 12 ounces of spaghetti until done.  Drain and toss together with the tomato/vinegar mixture and add the bacon.  Top with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Delish.

So, there, we've caught up.  We're still good?  ;) 

And, by the way, my latest favorite tea latte is black cherry vanilla.  Mmmmmmmmm. 

Later!

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Community

I tried two recipes from Pinterest today!

Thinking about that made me realize that there are so many ways to belong to a "community".

I have been a hesitant Pinner.  It took awhile to figure out how to maneuver through it all.  I think I have it figured out now; at least, I am satisfied that I've seen enough and learned enough from it given the amount of time that I want to spend there, which isn't a lot.

Neat truth - Pinterest is made better by the friends that you are surrounded with.  If your friends are pinning interesting things/things that are interesting to you, your Pinterest time will be more rewarding.

Kinda like life, isn't it?

I love hanging out with my musician friends....but, it is far more enjoyable if we share musical tastes, AND even more fun if we can make music well together.

My nursing friends are a fantastic bunch of people to be with and, because many of them love their job like I love mine, we share nursing on deeper levels than just 'providing care'.  You know what sweetens that pot?  Our mutual love for old people!

It is wonderful to find another person who loves to read.....and it's even better when they share favorite books.

Don't you love a fellow crafter who teaches you new crafts?

It was so interesting participating in many tea-related discussions at work after my last blog post!  Who knew that there were so many of us who love tea?!!

It's not just a matter of belonging to a community; it's more the blessing of belonging to a community that contains people who will enrich your life and who will encourage you to grow and be better at "______".

So, today, I stuck my neck out and "pinned" a couple more things to my boards, brought to my attention by my friend Debbie in Nova Scotia.  It's nice to share a mutual interest in gardening; the world seems so much smaller, "seeing her" around the boards.  Then I washed my smelly towels in a vinegar and baking soda wash, thanks also to Debbie pinning that as a household tip.  For supper I made a Mongolian Beef slow cooker meal, also from Pinterest (oddly enough - I went "hmm....don't really like it" and the boys both think it is wonderful!  Huh?").  And, then for dessert, while sipping another tea latte (oh I MUST tell you about this one!) my last "pin-inspired" thing for the day....

Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Pretzel Treats

3 Tbsp butter
1 pkg marshmallows
1/2 cup peanut butter
4 cups rice krispies
2 cups crushed pretzels
2 cups chocolate chips

Melt the marshmallows with the butter, add peanut butter and stir until smooth and combined.  Mix the rice krispies and pretzels with the melted marshmallow combination and press into a greased 9 x 13" pan.  Melt the chocolate chips and spread on top.  Chill.  Slice.  Eat.

Just one.  We must watch our waistlines.  Let's support each other by making healthy choices.  Sort of.

;)

FYI - the bars would be equally fantastic without the chocolate layer on top....

Oh, and the latte I'm sipping? 
1 cup very strong Bengal Spice tea (I used 2 bags to 1 cup of water)
1/2 cup hot milk
3 Tbsp cinnamon syrup (syrup recipe = 1 cup water, 1 cup white sugar, 2 tsp cinnamon - boiled for 5 minutes, then kept in the fridge)

Thanks for being part of this little community in my corner of the world called "Make Again".

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

I Love....

....so many things.....

  • first snowfall of the winter
  • .....the last snowfall of the winter....
  • 10 year old sons who still want to go out with mom.  Too big to hold your hand, but not too big to be with you and who still consider you kinda "cool".  Heavy emphasis on the kinda.
  • 13 year olds who give very few signs of thinking that you're not cool, too.....yet....  ;)  Who show you that they still kinda like you by snuggling up close during a movie
  • a good, good, good concert, and make it LOUD!
  • quiet music in a quiet house
  • good days at work
  • great days at home
  • a good read
  • a new craft
  • a new and exciting recipe
  • an old "tried and true" comfort food meal
  • rain
  • warm sun
  • camping
  • coming home
  • my silly, smart, talented, thoughtful husband
  • fuzzy slippers
  • summer flip flops
  • blue jeans and yoga pants, both trumped by a good pair of pajamas
  • dressing up
  • a strong cup of coffee
  • and a beautifully mellow cup of.......
TEA!!!

We've recently made a point of stopping at David's Tea in the Lawson Heights Mall in Saskatoon a couple of times.  The first time, well, I just needed a calming cup of tea.  Just did.  We stopped there on a whim, hoping to find something warm and soothing and good for the soul.  I was impressed with the store and how and what they offer.  Since that first trip there, I've been scheming hoping to return and to expand my tea tastes, to give a little nudge in the direction of finding a "guilty pleasure" that would be light on the budget (well, sort of) and heavy on the comfort.  I came home with a nice cuppa tea for the trip, plus 3 small sizes of teas to imbibe in at home.

When they told me last time that any tea that they serve could be served fresh and hot, in a latte or in an iced fashion, I got thinking that one could take this tea thing and nudge it a little in the direction of experiments/new flavor sensations.  To this point, I've only ever tried tea lattes in the following flavors - London Fogs (Earl Grey), Chai (see here), and a deliciously delicate Japanese Mist (cherry vanilla) latte at Waskesiu a couple of summers ago.  So, when we got home, I started doing a bit of research on the syrups attached to tea lattes.  I did notice that David's Tea sweetens their tea with a simple syrup instead of sugar, and the syrup users state that there is less of a grainy texture to the sweetener.  Well, can't say that I ever thought sugar was all that gritty, but on the other hand, a poorly stirred cup of tea does leave a sugar film on the bottom of the cup.

Simple Syrup Recipe, for ordinary sweetening:

1 cup of water
1 cup of sugar

Boil gently for 5 minutes.  Store in a decorative bottle or squeeze bottle for easy dispensing.  I haven't been able to find the ratio of sugar equivalent yet, but I think I'd start with a tablespoon of syrup to equal a teaspoon of sugar and experiment from there.  I may be way off with that, but it's a fair place to start, I think.

The next research showed that London Fogs are sweetened with Vanilla Syrup

Vanilla Syrup

1 cup of water
1 cup of sugar
1-2 tsp vanilla

Boil water and sugar gently for 5 minutes.  Take off the burner and stir in vanilla.

Let's be real here; homemade lattes and syrup knockoffs are SO SIMPLE.  And cheap! 

I love.

Earl Grey is a decent tea, but not a favorite.  However, I do have some Earl Grey tea in the cupboard, so in the spirit of all things adventurous, I made myself a London Fog this afternoon, if for no other reason than to get a little milk in me and to experiment with these syrups.

London Fog

1 cup strong Earl Grey tea - let it sit for a good 5 minutes if possible.
1/2 cup heated milk - I stirred mine in a pot on the stove with a whisk to get the foamy action
3 Tbsp vanilla syrup

Done!  And I'm loving it!

Analytically, next time I will let the tea steep just a tad longer, or maybe even use 2 tea bags.  The milk does dilute the tea quite a bit.  3 Tbsp of syrup is plenty.  I may even try less next time.

But, I'm already planning on a 'next time' for the London Fog and that makes me happy!

Have to confess that one of my New Year's resolutions this year was "drink more tea". 

I've thought about that a few times and have giggled at that resolution a little bit.  "Drink more tea"?  Is that all you could come up with?  How about "spend more time with friends"?  "Study a new language"?  "Be a better wife/mother", etc.?

.....drink more tea?????.....

'Drink more tea', because to drink a cup of tea, you have to slow down.  You have to take the time to boil a cup of water and let the tea steep.  You sip the tea not too slowly, not too quickly, and it soothes the soul.  The very process of making a cup of tea soothes the soul.

I steep, I sip, and I slow down and I remember that life is good and life offers an eclectic variety of things to savour, if only you take the time to discover them.

And.       I.       LOVE.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Marching Through...um, March!

I try not to be absent from here too much but time goes on, doesn't it?

I haven't cooked anything out of the ordinary lately.  I have "pinned" a couple of recipes from Pinterest that I might like to try soon.  We bought some pike at the local fish market last week and made that for supper one day.  Wow, so good!

I have been busy doing other creative things.  One day I hauled my sewing machine up to work on a bag that I had cut out.  Somewhere in there, I got distracted with a bunch of a couple of other projects and I've been sewing up a storm.  The projects that I've been working on have been random, small jobs, with a little bit of mending thrown in there for good measure.  I haven't sewn this much for years and I even managed to fix my tension (thread tension, that is) issues this afternoon.  It's been good to work on something new and challenging. 

I'm already eyeing up Andrew's room for my new sewing room after he leaves home     

Some day, I hope to have a sewing room, where the sun shines in through the window and I can leave things out for spontaneous creativity. 

Incidentally, I have been so distracted with my fun projects that I haven't even started the bag yet....  All things in good time.

Other things have been on my mind.  People, actually.  I don't know, I know that not all of you understand my faith - it is a personal thing, for sure.  But, there have been so many people on my mind lately, I just have to pray for them.  And I really mean "pray" - no empty promises.  I can't help it.  The burdens of people around me are heavy.  And so I pray.  I sew.  And pray.  I cook.  And pray.  I read.  And pray.  And God puts another name on my heart and I think "another person to pray for, Lord?  Wow, this is keeping me BUSY!"  Who am I but an ordinary gal having some simple conversations with God about people I love. 

That's what's on my heart today.  Doesn't make for very interesting reading on your part, hey?!!

I did try a new recipe for supper and really quite enjoyed it.  It's a version of a "Taco Pie" and it was sourced from "Mennonite Girls Can Cook" - see link.

I know, I know.  I hate making pies.  But somehow, the pressure was off a bit with it not being a dessert pie.  The crust recipe looked fairly forgiving, and hearty, even, so I gave it a go. 

Crust:

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
2/3 cup shortening
4 Tbsp cold water

Add shortening to dry ingredients and mix until small crumbs are formed.  Add cold water and stir until the dough comes together.  Divide the dough in half and roll out the bottom crust and place in a deep pie plate.

Filling:

1 lb hamburger
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili pepper
s and p to taste
Fry until hamburger no longer pink.

Add:
1 395 ml tin of tomato sauce
1 tin kernel corn, drained
1/3 tin refried beans

Brush the bottom crust with an egg wash.  Place the remaining 2/3 tin of refried beans on the crust, then layer 1 cup grated cheddar cheese, meat mixture, 1 more cup of grated cheddar cheese.

Roll out remaining crust, vent the top with a large "X" and place on top of the pie.  Brush with remaining egg wash.

Bake at 400 F for 15 minutes.  Turn the heat down to 350 and bake for 45 more minutes.  When finished baking, let cool for 10-15 minutes before serving.  Serve with salsa and sour cream - a necessity!!

Thanks for reading even when my creativity has been invested in other areas besides this blog.  Just bein' me today.