Sunday, January 27, 2013

さようなら Sayōnara Natsumi :(

I've had a busy week preparing for the departure of my darling Japanese student, Natsumi.  5 am came early Saturday morning, and we did just fine until I parked at the airport and popped the trunk to take out the luggage.  Then the waterworks began.  It's so hard to say goodbye to these kids you come to love.

Elly is not a crier.  Her nose remained a normal, non-red color. 

Damn Koreans!

After our final goodbye to Natsumi, Elly and I went for breakfast.  Then we did what all smart country folk do when in close proximity to the city shopping centres, we went shopping.

She picked up the floral Doc Martens that she'd ordered last month.  We visited The Body Shoppe (Mmmmmm!  So yummy smelling in there!), and I bought new facial products.  (And we greedily slathered our hands and arms with as many sample products as we could.)  We had ice cream from Laura Secord.  And as we were headed for the highway, my car automatically drove itself (and us) to Value Village where my sadness was assuaged by great bargains and stellar finds.



I found a gorgeous new soft and supple leather messenger bag by Danier ($19.99).  (These are usually $100 plus.)

I found a beautiful large Chinese bowl ($3.99) to go with my small collection of (what I call) miso soup bowls and spoons.  My repertoire of Asian recipes is growing all the time.
Some of you recall that I began collecting "Petals" tableware a few years ago.  (I call it cheap Fiestaware.)  I have to be patient when collecting "Petals" as they seem to be scarce as hen's teeth in eastern Canada.  But I was rewarded this weekend:  2 blue dinner plates for $1.99 and 2 orange dinner plates and 1 side plate for $2.99.
Anyone know where I can find bowls and mugs?

I picked up some interesting new books to share with the bookclub.  (Buy 4, get the 5th free = $12)

Then, we picked up the obligatory Starbucks and drove home; we were settled on the couch with a hot cuppa by 3 pm.

Later that night before I went to bed, I thought about my beautiful little Japanese girl and what a blessing she'd been to my life this past year.  

So I sent her a Facebook message telling her that Elly and I missed her already .... and I assured her that her slippers did NOT stink like she thought they did and that I felt better when I wore them.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

I've seen my future ... it says Meow!


I'm so busy trying to deal with today, I don't often think too far into the future (except to wonder what to get for dinner tomorrow night and when I might possibly be able to eat cheesecake again.) 

Because my life is so full, I don't I don't often think about being a  woman alone (because, Gol Darnit!, I can't get anyone to leave me alone even when I purposely don't shower for days!).


And the only time that I ever think about those two things together -- Sandy in the future as a single woman -- is when I come across a picture like this one that fills me with terror:



How to organize and stack my cats!


Will it come to that, do you think?  

Man, I better start stocking up on Purina now!




Sunday, January 13, 2013

Some birthdays deserve 2 cakes, don't ya think?

.
Turning 17 meant a Korean feast and 2 cakes; I love my girl (and my tummy) that much!  

We began with Elly's request - Bulgogi:  slices of beef & veg in a pureed marinade of soy sauce, onion, garlic, an apple and an Asian pear.  Sweet & delicious!  We also had my favorite - Jeyuk Bokem:  slices of pork & veg in a marinade of soy, Gochujang (spicy red bean paste), garlic and sugar.  Just a touch of bite!  We had steamed rice, Elly's Mom's very spicy (but good) Kimchi and a delicious mixed greens salad with mandarin oranges and dried cranberries & golden raisins and this wonderful, wonderful dressing.  The dressing makes a lot -- which is perfect because you're going to want to have it again and again.

Asian Salad Dressing 
(http://allrecipes.com/recipe/asian-ginger-dressing/)

Blend all the ingredients together until well incorporated; store in the refrigerator and shake before using.

3 cloves minced garlic
2 Tbsp minced ginger root
1 cup olive oil 
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce
3 Tbsp honey
1/4 cup water 




I found the Korean Rainbow Rice Cake, when trolling the internet for recipes.  It was intriguing so I decided to give it a try.  
  It was a lot of work, a labour of love, but still fun to make; and I learned a lot.  Like ..... next time use the called-for 8" springform pan and the layers will be better defined; and more importantly,  go with your gut when it comes to cooking time and pan size.  Although mine tasted good, it was chewy rather than fluffy.  The flavors in this cake are very subtle; the green tea Matcha layer was my favorite.
(A real plus?  You can eat "cake" for breakfast and not feel guilty about doing so!)


THIS cake was the real hit of the night:  Lighter Authentic New York Cheesecake!  (http://bakingbites.com/2011/01/lighter-authentic-new-york-cheesecake/).
It uses 1% cottage cheese, 1% plain Greek yogurt and a block of light cream cheese -- all blended in the food processor to ensure an even, smooth texture. It was delicious!  Lighter tasting for sure, but still maintaining that creamy just-rich-enough taste as a New York cheesecake.


We shared our meal with another host family, who have gotten to know Elly very well over the past 2 years, and one of Elly's Korean schoolmates.  Elly said the meal and the presents were perfect ....
And they had so much fun creating messages with their sparklers!

I'd encourage any of you adventurous eaters out there to try different foods.  From my experiences over the last 4 years, a lot of them are as easy as reading a recipe .................. 
but sooooo much more rewarding!

Bon Appétit!




Friday, January 11, 2013

Cheap Addictions!


So, in an effort to improve myself, I went thrifting at my local Frenchies this week.


I found a great pair of brown pants and this pretty top - $3.85 each.  When you do a close-up, you really see how pretty the fabric is with that warm copper and cool blue.

I'm a pushover for red!  I found this beautiful cardigan; look at the  pretty ruching detail.  


I found what I hope will be a great read:  The Saffron Kitchen -- about an English woman returning to her native remote Iranian village to face a troubled past.  And my visit to The Daisy paid off when I found this wee little Paderno covered pan at $4.

These items didn't come from a thrift store.  But the ceramic covered jar with the black Scotties was a thrifty buy at $3.99.  (It held little packages of Walkers shortbread -- just what I need, right! -- but I've passed them on to skinny people!)  The jar now is now  my tea holder .... which I'll serve you when you drop by from my new cottage teapot -- one of my favorite Xmas gifts from Elly.


What thrifty purchases did you find this week?



Monday, January 7, 2013

Gettin' the Sugar Monkey off My Back!

Hello; my name is Sandy; and I love sweets!  Good quality chocolate and rich ice cream; homemade cookies, pies and cakes; flavored lattes and hot chocolate with marshmallows.  And after 58 years of living, I don't believe in dieting.  What I do believe in, however, is imbibing in moderation!
What's that word you said?  
Is that even a word in your dictionary, Sandy?  


I do the same thing every Christmas -- I buy/receive/bake too many goodies; then I place no boundaries on what I put in my body during that "happiest of seasons".  And when the new year comes, I pay for it because I get the ole' "Sugar Monkey" on my back.  I crave it all the time -- at home and at work; morning, noon and night.  And the last thing I need (after the weight I've gained over the past year because my cronic shoulder pain put a stop to most of my weekly exercise regime) is more excess blubber!  Believe me:  when the revolution comes, my body can exist for quite a few months on it's own fat stores!

So, the new year and the Sugar Monkey call for extreme measures.  I detox for a few days to break the sugar habit.  It gets rid of most of my cravings as well as making me feel so much better.

I've fasted in years past, with only lemon/maple syrup water and prayer as my detox companions. ('Cause nobody else wants to be around my fasting crabbiness!)  I've tried cabbage soup, and I've tried only raw veg and fruit.  This year, I took a page out of Dr Oz's book -- well, part of a page; I made my own alterations.  I tried his 2 day detox this past weekend (you can find it online).

I did not begin with Dr Ozs' suggested breakfastQuinoa with Prunes (see recipie at oprah.com).  I'm not at all fond of quinoa -- I always want to moo or baa like a farm animal while it's cooking!  But I did begin my day with a couple of prunes because I do like them.  
(And ain't they just nature's perfect model of efficiency!)

This is my version of Dr Ozs' Revitalizing Fruit Smoothie (recipie at oprah.com):  spinach blended well w/ water, almond milk, raspberries, 1/2 banana, 1/2 tsp chia seeds, a wee drizzle of honey and a dollop of plain yogurt.  I made up several large portions and drank it whenever I wanted a hit of sweetness. 

And here's his suggestion for dinner:  Vegetable Broth with a Side of Sauerkraut and Sliced Apples (recipe at oprah.com)It's a glorified version of cabbage soup, but the veggies and herbs are chosen to help with the detox process.  And the fennel, fresh oregano, paprika and cayenne made this absolutely delicious!  

Dr Oz also suggests a snack: Pineapple-Kale Juice (recipe at oprah.com).  I couldn't find artichokes; and cucumbers were much too dear at $2.49 each to put into what I deemed to be an "iffy" sounding smoothie to begin with.  So, I improvized, and my verdict was: 
  Yeah --- NO!  
Simply vile tasting!  
I drank the green smoothie or citrus water.  


I also had a half cup of almonds in the early evening, drank the dandelion tea (which was quite nice) and took his suggested epsom salts bath -- never a problem for me!  

And how do I feel?

I feel really good!  I didn't have a problem with doing the 2 day diet; and although I still think about the lovely, expensive chocolate that's stashed away at home and my taste buds tell me that it's time for a mid-morning break cookie, I don't have overwhelming cravings.  So, I'm able to handle it.



Hopefully, I'm back on the nutrition wagon and that nasty monkey has left town.   


How do you guys handle the post-Christmas eating disorder?




Friday, January 4, 2013

What I read in 2012


I used to be an avid reader; then I had children and then I became a single Mom and then I became a working mother; so, there wasn't much time for reading in my life.  Four years ago when I joined a local book club, I knew I'd have to somehow work reading into my busy schedule; I even warned the other members not to expect much from me and that I was not a quick reader.  

But reading took hold of me again, and it's a necessary part of my busy schedule now-a-days.  I love the escape; I love the knowledge gained; I love the culture and countries I visit.  I love to read!  

Last January, I began to keep track of what I read by simply writing it in the margins of my daily calendar.  I surprised myself!  

Here's what I read in 2012:  I liked most of what I read, but the books that I really, really liked are in color.


  1. The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Milan Kundera)
  2. A Dance with Dragons (George RR Martin)
  3. The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins)
  4. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob deZoet (David Mitchell)
  5. Rockbound (Frank Parker Day)
  6. Delirium (Lauren Oliver)
  7. Before I Go to Sleep (S J Watson)
  8. The Wonder Spot (Melissa Bank)
  9. Purple Hibiscus (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)
  10. Grave Secrets (Kathy Reichs)
  11. A Catered Affair (Sue Margolis)
  12. The Birth House (Ami McKay) 
  13. Catching Fire (Book 2 in The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins)
  14. Mockingjay (Book 3 in The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins) )
  15. What's Invisible (Beth Ryan)
  16. Prodigal Summer (Barbara Kingsolver)
  17. The Cure for Death by Lightening (Gail Andersen-Dargate)
  18. The Virgin Cure (Ami McKay)
  19. Late Nights on Air (Elizabeth Hay)
  20. Her Fearful Symetry (Audrey Niffenegger)
  21. The Handbook for Lightening Survivors (Michele Young-Stone)
  22. Rush Home Road (Lori Lansens)
  23. Death du Jour (Kathy Reichs)
  24. Deja Dead (Kathy Reichs)
  25. Deadly Decisions (Kathy Reichs)
  26. Fatal Voyage  (Kathy Reichs)
  27. Bare Bones  (Kathy Reichs)
  28. Monday Mourning  (Kathy Reichs)
  29. Cross Bones  (Kathy Reichs)
  30. Break no Bones (Kathy Reichs)
  31. Devil Bones (Kathy Reichs)
  32. Spider Bones (Kathy Reichs)
  33. Balzac & the Little Chinese Seamstress (Dai Sijie)
  34. The Night Circus (Erin Morgenstern)
  35. Jackdaws (Ken Follett)
  36. Remembering the Bones (Frances Itani)
  37. The Salt Road (Jane Johnson)
  38. Truth & Beauty (Ann Patchett)
  39. Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Alan Bradley)
(I think it's pretty evident that I spent my summer away from my book club reading forensic mysteries!)


Do you like to read?
Any recommendations on favorites?




Thursday, January 3, 2013

A good way to begin the new year!


I awoke on January 1st to a quiet house -- babies all gone and only Elly at home but fast asleep.  This was the best Christmas I've ever had; and although I'm sad to see my girls leave, returning to "normal"  is okay.  After all, how can you miss someone and enable your heart to become fonder if they don't go away?  

I had a leisurely breakfast with my feet up on my new red storage ottoman, reading "Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie", the warm winter sun bright and reflecting off the snow outside.  That's a good way to begin the new year.  

Then I  perused my Value Village shopping from the day before.  Two new pairs of shoes for under $20!  That's a good way to begin the new year!  



I shed a tear or two as the tree and all the Christmas trimmings came down and the usual chatchas came back upstairs.  Indeed, the only nice thing about having to dismantle and pack away Christmas is the fact that things are clean and organized afterwards.  Clean and organized is a good way to begin the new year.

New Year's supper was 떡국 Duk Guk - Korean Rice Cake Soup.    A recipe consisting of a simple fish and beef broth, chopped beef and  disc-shaped rice cakes.  You garnish your soup with chopped green onions, slices of flat-fried egg and chopped Gim (seaweed).  Very quick and easy to make, and a lovely relief from the richness we enjoyed over the holidays.  Plus, eating this on new year's day ensures a year of good luck -- a good way to begin the new year.  



The evening was spent with one more game of Skipbo.  Daughter Molly went incognito as her hair was a mess, so she says! We ate fruit with a really yummy yogurt/sour cream dip (Epicure Berry Dip mix) and drank soda water with ice and lime.  Fun and fresh fruit - another good way to begin the new year.

I like to begin the year as I mean to go:  thrifty shopping, a clean and organized house, healthy eating and fun times with the family.  Didn't I do a good job of it?

Then why am I sitting here at work on my break eating Godiva truffles that somehow found their way into my early morning shopping bag full of spinach and bananas and 2% milk?

Oh well!  Shall we try again, Sandy?  After all, you're only a failure if you give up completely.  And I haven't given up yet.

Trying once again -- a good way to begin the new year!



   


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Ending 2012 and beginning 2013!

The last day of 2012 went like this:
Saying goodbye to my eldest daughter ..... followed by a brief trip to my favorite haunt (because one must deal quickly with a broken heart!).

Home for some pre-ordered takeout with Elly and soda and peanuts while watching my 1st zombie movie in over 20 years.  (Good thing we ate first!!!)



The first hour of 2012 was spent like this:


Watching the countdown from Halifax Parade Square on TV and a wee glass of white to toast the new year; a sweet kiss and hug from my favorite Korean daughter ..... then back to the conclusion of a more light hearted film



Happy New Year friends!