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February 15, 2010

Mmmmmm… I am making one of my favourite meals for dinner tonight. It is a Japanese chicken salad. There are four components: chicken breast, veggies, noodles and dressing. It is super easy.

Chicken: You take a pound of chicken breasts and sprinkle them with Japanese spices (togarashi). Then you put them in a hot pan with a spray of Pam or a little sunflower oil, and brown them on the top and bottom. Then you turn the heat down under them and let them cook for 10 or 20 minutes, until they are done through and through.

Noodles: You make some Japanese noodles, or mie or Chinese egg noodles or whatever. Set it aside until the rest is done.

Veggies (and fruit too): You take some pineapple and slice it into bite sized chunks. Cut a cucumber length-wise and scoop out the seeds and slice that nice and thin. Throw in a bunch of bean sprouts and some nice salad greens.

Dressing: 2 tablespoons of soya sauce, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 3 tablespoons of sunflower oil, stir it all up.

Then I layer it like at B&T: Noodles in the bottom of the bowl, loads of veg on top of that, and the chicken, nicely sliced and divided among the plates, on the top. Pour dressing over the top, add some toasted sesame seeds, and coriander if that is your preference. It is low in calories, very high in taste and has a freshness and deliciousness that is to die for!

This is one of the great finds I had during November, when I did a month of new recipes. I am going to do it again in April, once mum and dad are gone, and I need something to keep myself busy!


The Sleepovers Have Started

January 29, 2010

Ruby is at a sleepover tonight. It’s her first one. And she is four and a half. And the family that she is staying with is dutch. And it feels really weird.

It all serves to make me wonder… how in the hell did mum and dad get so brave??? I mean, okay, the Knills and Rebecca Lees and even Lloyd or Steve’s not withstanding… Sweden? At sixteen? Japan??? At 20? And then Indonesia, Thailand, England, Switzerland, Australia, Montreal??? Did they realize that they don’t speak the same language as us in those places?? How were we supposed to let people know when we had to pee in the middle of the night??? Or fell down and hurt something? Oh, wait… I might be mixing this up a little bit…

Which actually serves to remind me that it is okay, you know. They might speak a different language than me, but not than her. And she is down the street, not on a different continent. And she’ll be home tomorrow morning, not in a year or two. And even if it was a different language on a different continent for a year, she’d still be fine. In fact she would be, as she is right now I am sure, having the time of her life, knowing that her parents trust her to take care of her business, and feeling like she is on top of the world.

January 12, 2009

January 13, 2010

I started my day over a decaf latte with Leslie.  Always good to talk to Leslie – a creative deep thinker, socially aware, well read.  We had a good conversation about each of our struggles to reconcile different ideas and experiences.  The take-away for me was the quote “healthy organizations are not problem free, but rather they actively and effectively manage and solve the problems”.  Leslie liked my extrapolation of Mike Evan’s thinking – “If your organization can’t build relationships, then at least get it to tell stories, if it can’t tell stories, then at least share data, and if it can’t share data, then it is in serious trouble.” (From my second hand exposure, I believe Mike’s actual argument is something like ‘organizations should strive to share data, but stories trump data, so if possible organizations should tell stories, but relationships trump stories, so organizations should build relationships’).

The kids and I finished our day with Grandma Cookies (a name adopted when my kids were young to distinguish between grandparents – Grandma Cookies always had a plate of cookies to share, as opposed to Grandma Birdseed, who always had us fill her bird feeders).  We joined Grandma Cookies for dinner and a good conversation.  I have always identified myself with my Grandma.  I think of us as having the same smarts, fiery independence, and red hair.  Yet she told a story about how she’d never set foot in a high school to learn.  She’d been once with Grandad, to pick something up.  But other than that, she’d started school late, as she was so small.  And she’d ended school early, right after elementary school, having been sent to an all girls trade school that didn’t lead to high school.  And I thought to myself, how different can we get?  I’ve got more university degrees than are even useful.  At 39, I’ve still spent more years of my life in school than out of school.  Yet looking at her, and reflecting on her life, and the things she’s done with it, I will be proud if I accomplish as much by her age.  And I still see more similarities than differences.

It does make me wonder, tho, about that alternate universe where Grandma did go to school… where would have that fiery independence taken her?  Anyplace different?  Who knows…

Posting to Facebook

January 11, 2010

I have finally decided to take the idea that facebook is a legitimate way to keep people up to date with my life seriously.  I spend enough time, admittedly in bursts, checking out other people’s photos on facebook, that I should share mine with others.  That coupled with getting a camera for Christmas, means that I have been motivated to post all of my recent photos to facebook.  I’m only half way done, but I’m getting there.  Mostly the process has pointed out to me all of the photos that I should have taken, but haven’t.  I took photos of the early work on the cottages, but nothing recent.  I have great shots of only one or two of our evening sails.  I have no photos of us with our gennaker (a sail like a spinnaker, but is asymmetrical, and doesn’t have a pole) up.   I have no photos of Drew out sailing. Or any of the kids out in the little boats.  *sigh*  It does make the job for this summer much clearer.  I do still think, though, that between Mom, Sara and I, we will have plenty enough photos to create proper yearbooks.  I love the idea of beautiful hardcover books of our cottage photos each year.

It also pointed out how much progress we have made as a family, and how much I have made individually, at the cottage.  When I imagine that the repairs and the bunkies were done in a series of weekends and the occasional week, I am pleased with myself.  But I do hope next year to spend more time hanging out on the dock, and less time with a hammer in my hands!

Tonight’s Treasure: Lemon Poppy Seed Soap

January 5, 2010

Lying in bed, sick as a dog, a couple weeks before Christmas, I got leafing through the handful of books I have here at the house.  One of these was my soapmaking book.  I was inspired all over again, but I didn’t have lye, nor can you get lye at the grocery store any longer.  So I went online to do a little research. (Note: The rumours are true: you can buy anything on the internet.)  There were a number of sites that would sell me lye, but I also discovered that you can buy a soap base instead.  The advantages of soap base are:  you can easily create small numbers of soap, as you only melt as much soap base as you want soaps.  You can add all sorts of ingredients that are otherwise too delicate for the saponification process.  It is much safer, as there are no harsh chemicals to spill.  And most important for the impatient – you can use your soap as soon as you can get it out of the mold (maybe 2-3 hours after pouring it in).  So I ordered a bunch of stuff from a site ( whose base is out of Kitchener Ontario.  I figured it would take weeks to get here.  Not four business days later, Canada Post was at my door looking for my autograph!  By then Christmas was upon me, so time was precious, but tonight – after the kids went to bed – I thought I’d at least read through the instructions.  Sure enough, ten minutes later I was throwing stuff into my double boiler and an hour later, I have made two types of soap.  The first is my Lemon Poppy Seed soap; I began with the semi transparent soap base, melted it, added lemon oil and poppy seeds, and poured it into molds.  How easy is that!  I can’t wait to pop them out of their molds.  The second is my Honey Almond Oatmeal Scrub.  This time I started with the goats milk base, melted it along with a little beeswax, added honey, ground almonds, ground oatmeal, and a touch of almond extract. I think it is going to be nice to wash my garden grubby hands with.

Just for posterity, I’ve also attached a photo of my future studio space.  I spent part of the winter break pulling out the old mouldy workbench and ripping up the linoleum floor.  Next step is to frame in the walls – the first part to do is where the brick is showing (which will complete the wall), and the second part is to build a wall right where I was standing to take this photo.  This second wall will separate the laundry room (which is behind me in this photo) from my studio space.

Tom Yum Soup

January 4, 2010

I love my foodie fiance.  He wooed me with his willingness to cook (One of the few clear memories I have of those first tentative weeks, while I was moving out of Morden St., was Brian bringing me a beautiful meal of chicken and veggies and rice, that included proper place settings and wine.  I was struck both by the consideration and time that he took preparing the meal, as well as by his culinary skills.)   And he has followed through time and time again.  Tonight he did his tom yum soup recipe.  This is a recipe gleaned from a whole bunch of internet research and fueled by pure instinct.  This is only the second time he has attempted it (We have it all the time at B&T) and yet again it was spectacular!

The scent of the spices in the prep bowl alone is enough to make one salivate.

We decided this time to put the cooked noodles in the bowl first, and then cover them with the broth – cooking them in the broth makes the broth starchy, and doesn’t give you control over how much of each goes in each bowl.

Half way through eating, we decided that next time, we will strain the broth before pouring it over the noodles – saving us from the bits of kaffir leaves, galang root, and lemongrass stalks.

Still, the finished soup, over noodles, with a side of pork and veggie dumplings makes me fall in love all over again.

p.s. It makes me embarrassingly proud to actually cook something in a bamboo steamer almost regularly right now – it isn’t rocket science, but at the same time, I’d owned one for years and never dared use it…

January 2, 2010 – A Busy Day

January 3, 2010

*** SPOILER ALERT***  SER – if you don’t want to see any of the stuff that I will be sending for Christmas gifts… DON”T KEEP READING***

Today was a wonderfully busy day.  I started my day by taking a walk with Jane and Kinko.  It was cold and windy, but it felt good to be outside, walking and talking.  (No, I’m not sending you a dog!)

Then I got out the sewing machine and played!!  I had made this bag

yesterday with the Blue Christmas trees on it.  The thing I like best about this one is the (invisible in this picture) stitching line of ivy that holds the bias tape on.  But I didn’t like the final effect – it wasn’t my style.

So today I started with a different pattern and different fabric.  The first thing that I finished, and my favourite so far, is a little gem that SER will soon have in her hot little hands.  It is a little hand bag that is fully reversable and closes by the simple process of looping one handle over the other.  Here it is shown with the red and black side out.  You can’t see the beautiful geometric pattern, but it is lovely.

Of course with this success, I got excited and tried out a different style of bag, modifying it as I went, and got these!! The first two will be for Ruby and Harper.  They are single handle/strap bags that should be a perfect size for little people.

I took one (not shown here, cause I took the photos after I gave it away) to Pam’s open house.

I think of these as almost sewing snacks!  They don’t take very long, and are very satisfying to make!

I can’t wait to get my studio space ready so that I’m not working on the dining room table.  The studio space will also allow me to add the little finishing touches more readily – jewelry bits and beads etc. will be much more easily accessible to me!  More on the studio later.