Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Boozy Berries and R 'n' R!

Summer berries!  Yummy!  I know that we never run out of wonderful ideas for using and preserving, but isn't it great that people keep coming up with new ones.

Because of Hurricane Arthur, I didn't get to take Nagisa strawberry picking as I'd promised.  So, Friday we visited a local u-pick and purchased berries:  8 quarts to be precise.  We cleaned and trimmed and bagged several quarts for the freezer.  But one new idea (new to me, anyway) piqued my interest.  So I gave it a try.      

Strawberry Vodka
I got the idea from a rabbit trail that began with checking out "Cherry Bounce" at The Runaway Spoon (another recipe I plan on trying) which led me to other boozy fruit recipes and then eventually to David Lebovitz and the simple recipe for strawberry vodka --- just the choicest fruit, a decent vodka and a week of your time.  I'll let you know how it tastes.


Saturday, Amy and I dropped Nagisa off in the city; she's headed for a month long summer camp.   And I was headed for freedom! She's a honey of a girl, don't get me wrong.  But sometimes Mama doesn't want to feed the babies on time; sometimes Mama just wants tea and toast for supper; or sometimes Mama wants to walk naked from the bathroom to her bedroom, etc. etc.

After we dropped Nagisa off, we went to several thrift stores Sally Ann had 50% off selected items; and of course, I had a 30% off coupon for Value Village.  Even more fun, we visited the Asian grocer for Japanese and Korean supplies.  Then we found this little gem:  Cafe Aroma Latino and stopped in for lunch.

The thing I most liked about Cafe Aroma (besides the food) was that you could order one of each thing:  the portions were small and the prices were as well.  

We began in Mexico with a beef taco as well as Colombia for a couple of empanadas; they were gorgeous!  Full of flavor and not at all spicy.  Then we visited Guatamala for chuchitos and a couple of tamales; but sadly, we were a little disappointed in them as they were fairly bland.  We probably should gone to El Salvador for pupusas.  Oh well!  Next time!  But overall, we were pleased with the meal and the lovely decor.

They also had a small shop attached where we filled our basket with mole sauce, purple tortillas, dried hot peppers, tajine, hot sauce and all sorts of other goodies.  Such fun!  I love finding new food sources.


I'm looking forward to my month of relative freedom.  Yesterday after work, Amy greeted me with an amazing super supper salad and yummy healthy cookies made from oats, almond meal, chocolate ships and coconut. Don't you love it when someone else does the cooking.

Later in the week, I'll show you my thrift store finds.


In the meantime bloggies -
It's summer!  
Breathe.
Relax.
Swim.
Explore.
Enjoy.

And eat!

What delicious items have been on your table lately?





Monday, July 7, 2014

Post Arthur Trippin'


Arthur "stormed" through my area Friday night and Saturday leaving a mess in his wake.  It was an odd tropical storm:  wind without the rain (well, other than an inch or so).  I fared very well:  my power didn't go out nor did my phone or internet.  But there are thousands still without either/or today.  I happened to cook a huge dinner and a dessert earlier on Saturday; so I was able to help a few friends later in the day when I found out their situation.  And there was just enough for all of us!  Serendipity!

I took advantage of yesterday's sunny yet somewhat cooler temperatures; and we set out for my annual hike through Kedji Seaside Adjunct.  It's about an 8.2 km loop through a forested path to the seaside, through another forest path, past an old sheep farm, marshes, along a rocky beach and then back to the beginning on a wooden boardwalk over the marshy bird sanctuary.  Here's my tall, willowy daughter, Amy aka Lill, who's home for the whole summer.  She's been away from Nova Scotia for almost 10 years and has never before had the luxury of visiting for this long.

Mama jumps for joy at the sheer bliss of sunshine and water together.  Dipped a toe in, but pulled it out quickly before it cracked in half from the frigid Atlantic ocean!
Now this is a girl who knows how to jump.  My lovely Nagisa enjoyed her day out. 




And here's Lill's reaction to sun and sand.  (She's an honorary member of the Ministry of Silly Walks.)
She spent a lot of time wandering the beach and climbing on rocks and found this lovely "handbag".  Mermaid's purse perhaps?  Either way:  she's couldn't resist posing with it.

When we were 3/4 of the way through our hike, we came upon a German couple standing on the rocky beach looking towards the fen.  They'd spotted a young Black Bear cub occasionally popping his head up from the long grass.  Eeek!  All 5 of us cautiously finished the hike together; and although we came across the foot prints of Mama and Baby Bear, Mama must have been out for porridge (thank goodness) for we didn't see her.

We made it safely back to the car and drove along the ocean side until we reached Liverpool where we enjoyed our picnic lunch -- delicious tuna nori wraps and individual trifles -- next to the Mersey River.  A little windy but lovely none-the-less.  
My tootsies complained a lot last nigh, but today it's just a dull whisper.  Still, I do wish I had a foot massage fairy under my desk ..... for ANY day of the week!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

What do Geckos and Cupcakes have in common?

Instead of relaxing, last weekend was spent in a wonderful flurry of unexpected guests (children).  And as they needed a bed to sleep in, that meant quickly cleaning and organizing and changing bedclothes.  In spite of how tired we can be, isn't it amazing what we can accomplish when we need to!
Yes there were children -- mine and other peoples -- and there was a dance recital, burgers on the grill and music & wine on the deck (for those of us with the IDs to prove it.  For the others, there was Netflix and popcorn.)

Sunday was another flurry of returning these unexpected guests to their various homes; the last of which was my lovely daughter Molly.  As she was returning with a trunk load of stuff from my basement, I gladly drove her to the city. But after a weekend of work and festivity and driving, a body gets mighty hungry.


Enter Bayer's Lake ... and there like a huge green beacon of joy was:

The Gecko Bus!

What is the Gecko Bus?  It's "Canada's Freakiest Food Truck"  , serving up fresh, local, affordable Mexican Fusion food.  I'd seen the bus around the city, but this was my first visit:  it will NOT be my last.  Yum yum yum!  It was delicious.  I've been craving hot and spicy, and it delivered in 3 ways with 3 different tacos -- pulled pork, smoky chicken and spicy beef.  I highly recommend eating here.

Walking back to the car, I noticed another eating establishment I'd long wanted to visit: Susie's Cupcakes.  I thought "This will be just the ticket for dessert later"!  And with just a little extra enthusiasm from Molly (just look at that bright, shiny face), I was persuaded to enter ..... for one cupcake each, right?

How does one decide between "Dulce de Leche" or "Lemon Zinger" or "Snowball" or "Death by Chocolate" or any of the other marvelous flavors.  AND when you see the 50% off selection (that didn't sell at the Farmer's Market), well, you know you're done for. Resistance  is futile.

Half a dozen for Molly & her boyfriend and half a dozen for Nagisa and I.  Perfect!  

And although I practiced, I resisted eating one until later.
"Root Beer" (with a straw) and "Chocolate Deluxe".

It was a tiring, delightful, delicious weekend.  How was yours?


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Summer Camp for Adults!




Have you ever been to summer camp?


As a young girl, I was a member of CGIT or "Canadian Girls in Training", a United Church girls group which was very similar to Brownies except it was Christian based and we got to wear these really cool "midi" shirts and a lanyard around our neck.  Isn't it awesome?  (We often translated CGIT to "Cutest Girls in Town ..... but not many of the local boys fell for that one!  Zero, I believe.)

I'd always wanted to go to summer camp; and I finally got to go the summer I was 13. There were lots of new friends to be made from all over Newfoundland; I even became friends with the niece of the then relatively unknown Gordon Pinsent.  We hiked and swam and did lots of crafts and sang around real campfires, not imaginary ones.  The night before we left to go back home, a group of us pubescent girls tied together our now-unnecessary sanitary napkins and strung them from tree to tree like it was Xmas.  The next morning, the rest of the campers laughing uproariously although the counsellors were quite perturbed. (We did take them down again.)  Yup.  I have warm, relaxing feelings whenever I think of summer camp.


But why is it that only kids get to attend summer camp?




I've been a single parent since 1998. Summer for me meant a break from making school lunches, overseeing homework, reading & signing forms, and drives to & from sports & band.  But it also meant figuring out what to do with the kids, how to pick them up from swimming lessons & a whole new set of stressors.  And these days as a host mother, the school year is full of not just the usual cares with children but the extra challenge of helping them speak the language and steering them through this new-to-them culture.  By the time the end of June comes every year, I'm ready for a break! I'm ready for summer camp!  But just where does one find an adult summer camp that fits their needs?


My summer camp would be slightly different from 1967. I'd sleep in a rustic cabin; but by myself!  And please ... Give me a good mattress & a down feather pillow. Adult summer camp meals would be nutritious, healthy and balanced ... with a daily serving of chocolate (for the bioflavonoids, of course!)  And unless I feel like walking to the mess hall, it would be delivered to my cabin.  


There'd be no phones, no TV, no computer, no texting or tweeting; and definitely no twirking! (It throws my back out).  Just quiet; just nature:  a walk through the woods in the cool of the morning; a short, restorative nap after lunch; a little gentle yoga just before dinner; and a glass of sangria with the s'mores round the fire in the evening.  There could possibly be a little "wink-wink, nudge-nudge" with the hunky older camp counsellor!  But let's face it -- older than me and male probably means any spare time would be spent clipping his nose hairs and catching up on all that scratching that can't be done in public.  And if that's the case, MY camp would have an emergency kit containing a slightly racy romance novel, a large bottle of zinfandel, a box of Belgian bonbons .... and tissues for the tears.  Any pent-up energy could be spent in the adult craft cabin learning things like:
  • "Yet-Another 100 Great Things to do with Maccaroni"
  • DIY Tummy Tucks and/or Botox (2-sided tape and Prep H included)
  • Tacky Xmas gifts for the Kids (especially if you've brought the suggested box of embarassing photos)
Or you could take in a workshop such as:
  1. How to make your own wine
  2. How to stay awake past 10 pm (Completely useless if you've taken Workshop #1)
  3. How to sleep past 7 am (Completely necessary to take Workshop #1)



Yes, MY summer camp would be ever so relaxing and rejuvenating for we adult women; and it would be just as much fun as I remember from my youth ..........minus the sanitary napkins! ('Cause we're all post menopausal anyway.)


Then after I get picked up from camp and fall asleep on the drive home, someone would tuck me in with a kiss ................ and they'd unpack my bags and do my dirty laundry.


If you know where I can find such a camp, please email me immediately!  I've already found my fly dope and camp hat!




Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Amazing Mrs B!

Once upon a time, I had a husband.  Before he was a husband, he was a much-beloved only son.  His mother, Mrs B, was an amazingly wonderful woman -- always smiling, cheerful and eager to please.  (In his 30 years, he had only one memory of her being unhappy; and being bonked on the head with a half rotten cucumber was the result.  But that's another story altogether.)  She reminded me in the best way possible of Edith Bunker:  Mr B would sit at the dinner table, peruse the expanse of it and declare:


"Mrs.  I thought you said dinner was ready.  Where's the pepper?"

Upon which, she would cheerfully jump up and giggle and run to the kitchen to fetch the pepper.  She adored Mr B; and he although he loved her, he would discover later in life that he adored her just as much as she had adored him.

She loved to have the family around her; as many as possible.  Fill that dining room with people and noise!  When my once-husband and I lived in the city, we'd go to their house 2-3 times a week to eat.  


There were 2 dishes that she made that were great -- sweet 'n' sour meatballs and her chicken and rice casserole. But other than those two, she was an awful cook!  I mean awful

We'd arrive at 5:15 for dinner, and she'd only then be taking the steaks out of the freezer.  She'd pop them under the broiler and Voila!  Within 10-15 min, we'd have grain-fed, organically raised shoe leather, complete with mealy potatoes and overcooked veg.  (Better fill up on her home-made pickles and chow-chow..... which were great!)

She was an absolute darling of a woman.  She'd be the 1st to laugh along with you at her terrible cooking.



But MAN!  
Could that woman bake!



There was always between 3 to 5 home baked items in the kitchen -- never store bought.  She made absolutely the best pound cake that I have ever tasted; they were on the table for every birthday and anniversary. Her cinnamon or lemon/lime loaves were divine; not overly sweet and always full of flavor.  Her squash and apple pies, beautiful.  And the cookies!  There were at least 2 kinds a week in the cookie tins.  

In honor of that wonderful lady who was my biggest fan and best ally in a family that could often be overpowering and judgmental, I'd like to offer up one of her favorite old-time cookies, one I often baked for her grandbabies.





Darling Mrs B's Snickerdoodles

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs 
2 tsp vanilla
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
4 Tbsp sugar
4 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  

In a small dish, stir together 4 Tbsp sugar and 4 tsp of cinnamon; set aside.

In another bowl, combine the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt and add to creamed mixture.  Mix and set aside.

Cream together the butter, shortening and sugar.  Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until combined.  Then add the flour mixture and mix until combined.  

Form dough into 1 1/2'' balls and roll in the cinnamon and sugar mixture.  

Place on a lightly greased baking sheet.  Bake for 7 minutes. Remove immediately from baking sheet and cool on wire rack.

Makes around 4 to 5 dozen cookies.



Enjoy!



Sunday, June 1, 2014

Weekend in Review


The sun showed it's pretty face 2 days in a row.  So, here's how I spent my weekend.

Saturday first brought a wave goodbye to Nagisa who went out for the day.  Then there was a quick stop at a yard sale (where I came away with a lovely stack of magazines for $1); then there was a hair appointment followed by a visit to the first Farmer's Market of the season:  a visit to the Market and not a working date.  How lovely to be on the other side!   

When I got home, I watered the flowers, began a little herb garden in my deck planters, and prettied up my heart-rock collection under the hanging planter. Gotta spread the love before they even get in the door!  

As that was such an exhausting way to spend Saturday morning, the doctor ordered this for the afternoon: 
 Num-nummy Gin & Tonic.  And YES!  I ate the whole bowl!

Sunday began with a 4 km walk and an iced coffee for the 2nd leg; then a quiet breakfast on the deck ... all before 10 am.  Then there was laundry to do and 2 lasagnas to make and freeze and a student to drop off at an afternoon party. 

I really was exhausted after that.  So, the doctor once again gave the order.  But this time, I made do with an orange juice spritzer. 
This is what the sky looks like from my reclining deck lounger.  My goodness!  Yesterday the leaves on the Virginia Creeper weren't open.

I love Sunday evenings like this.  My feet are aching and my body is deliciously tired and I accomplished loads yet spent hours at a time just relaxing.  What a smart doctor I have.


FYI - I haven't had a physician for almost 3 years now!