Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tuesday Musings

It's a grey and gloomy day in LaHave; lentil soup and chewy, nutty brown rice are just the treat for work lunch.

I spent last Sunday decluttering my bedroom and doing the weekly dinner prep.  It sure is hard work at this age and with my back and shoulder issues.  But my body recouperates through the week by nights relaxing in front of the TV with a heating pad and a cuppa.

I visited a different farm market this past weekend; and I swear -- I really did forget about my no-wheat plan (it was the excitement) and purchased an absolutely worth it, delicious brioche from Julian's French Bakery. (If you've been reading my blog for a while, you may remember my love affairs with Julian's.)  And if you buy it, well you've gotta eat it, right. And although my sugar intake has also lessened, I did indulge in some of the delicious chocolate that arrived at the office yesterday. Keep on tryin', that's all I can do.

My experimentation with cooking this weekend took me to Thailand and India.  Last night's dinner was a Thai pork dish made with a spicy red chili paste, coconut cream, tomatoes and sliced zucchini.  I find I'm not a big fan of coconut cream; I'd prefer coconut milk. (It was the texture.)  But still, it was quite good and had enough heat to slightly warm my mouth and lips. (More chili paste next time!) It's on my "Cook Again" list.

As I finish my lunch, I'm musing over the next step in my de-clutter for this weekend:  the basement "wreck" room.  That will take a few weekends, I'm sure.  But behind all that furniture and boxes and books and stuff, there's actually a nice looking room in there wanting to be inhabited by my kids this Christmas.  And there's a new homeless shelter opening in town that will appreciate the surplus bedding and pillows.  

Friday, September 26, 2014

"Fall" into Reading

 I read all year round but Autumn really makes me feel like reading.

Tucked up on the couch on a blustery day, tea at hand, blanket over feet.  It's such a refreshing treat after the hussle and bustle and wonderful busyness of the summer.  

I've had a hard time settling into a book over the past couple of weeks.  I've begun several books just to find didn't feel right -- they weren't feeding my spirit at the place where it is now.  Then after the 4th time round the bookshelf, I grabbed a favorite author, Barbara Kingsolver, and am happily ensconced in this book. Have you read it?  Lots of good reviews.

Autumn is slowly (Thank you, Jesus) moving over Nova Scotia. We have cold mornings, warm days, and chilly evenings.  The leaves have begun changing color in earnest:  whereas a week ago, I found one or 2 trees changing, I'm aware of more and more on my daily drives home now.  I find myself wondering what weekend would be best for the annual drive to the Valley for apple picking, corn maze and the sheer delight of the colors going down the other side of the mountain.  

I also find my mind thinking of fall blankets and cushions.  The blankets are well taken care of:  I have a wonderful orange toned 100% wool throw that I found for a song at a yard sale a few years ago.  

But I've no fall colored cushions.  Not the end of the world, I realize.  But I think about checking out our local Wicker Emporium to see if they have any cushion covers on sale.  And I haven't been to Frenchies or The Daisy for a couple of weeks.  

Hmmm!  Sounds like a plan for the end of the work week!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Ma-ma-ma-ma-marvelous Museli!

I am a huge proponent of starting the day with a healthy breakfast. Weekends are a time when I sometimes indulge in big, old fashioned breakfasts of bacon and eggs or crepes at the market. But on weekdays I usually just grab a yogurt and granola.  

And like the hobbit I am (complete with hairy toes), 2nd breakfast happens at 10 am at work with more yogurt or peanut butter rice cakes.

In my house, we also have a favorite breakfast recipe that I found from some ancient library cookbook when the children were young. The recipe was simply called "Muesli". But it's not the dry, dusty can-be-tasteless stuff I once bought at the supermarket. That was a miss; this was a big hit. We loved the stuff! 

What's the difference between granola and museli?  Well both are yummy; but whereas granola is baked, museli is a raw food.  You can eat it dry with added milk; lots of people like it that way.  But soaking overnight makes the grain more digestible. This also allows for better absorption of calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc as it neutralizes the phytic acid that's found in the outer layer of the oat; this phytic acid can block absorption of those valuable nutrients; and too much phytic acid in the diet can lead to mineral deficiencies and poor bone density -- something extra important to us more "mature" women.  (Mature in years, anyway!) And even though it's also delicious, granola usually contains added fat and sweetener which equals more calories than museli. 

With my renewed drive towards health and eating well, I made some for myself last night; and that just reminded me of how wonderfully delicious it is!  And so, I share with you. 

You can be as creative as you like with this recipe; I've found others that have slight differences.  
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do!

Because I'm so excited to eat in the morning, I never remember to take a picture first; so, this photo is compliments of Wikipedia ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muesli)

Museli (for 1)

2 Tbsp rolled oats
3 Tbsp water
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 medium apples
1 Tbsp grated almonds or hazelnuts
Optional:  Yogurt, honey, other fruit, nuts/seeds

Soak the oats overnight in water.  Next morning, add the lemon juice and grate the apples into the mixture.  Sprinkle with grated nuts and serve immediately with plain yogurt to the taste and consistency desired.  You can also add a little honey and top with blueberries or any other fruit you desire and sprinkle on nuts and/or seeds.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


We’ve all heard the phrase “Less is More”?  Well, I’ve decided to apply that adage to my own life in regards to stress.  Less stress = more life!  Of course, no one can alleviate all the stressors in their life.  But there ways we can help.  So, over the next 4 weeks I’m giving myself a personal challenge to try to distress my life by at least ¼ of what it is now. Here are the areas I’m going to work on.

1.     Food

I do usually eat good, nutritious food:  low in fat and sodium, lots of fiber, whole grains, protein.  But because of my terrible sweet-tooth, I also tend to consume a fair amount of refined sugar.  Bad!  Bad, Sandy! As well, I need to limit my consumption of wheat products as it bothers my tummy.  And with the recent move to eating mostly vegetarian, I’m hoping my cravings can be brought under control by making even more good choices.   


2.     Sleep Habits

After the fun and freedom of summer, the Autumn back-to-students routine really helps me return to what is normal for my house. Work, dinner, conversation and/or TV, a book in bed and lights out by 11 pm during the week all add up to a rested and happy Sandy. After almost 60 years, I can read my body; and my body likes regularity .... with an occasional dalliance into the unexpected.

I also need to remember a few key things to help enable sleep to come: things like no caffeine or chocolate after 2 pm, no food after 6 pm, no stimulating phone conversations …… and no worrying if I do have a night when sleep alludes me.  Menopause!


3.     Exercise

I was the grateful recipient of the wonderful benefits of exercise for years.  And I hate the fact that I’m still not able to participate in yoga or Zumba any longer without pain and setback. I was told a week ago that with bone spurs on both hips, any amount of walking and hiking will just make things worse. But I can't give up! So, I continue with simple stretches and twice weekly short walks. But next month after my “big” birthday, I plan on joining the rec centre for swim classes. 

We must move people!  There’s always something we can do, and I refuse to give up completely.  I shall “not go gentle into that dark night!”.


4.     “ME” Time

Daughters visiting; new students arriving.  Yup!  It's time to get back to ensuring that I get some down time for myself. Due to age and thyroid, I seldom schedule events on my weekday evenings: feet up, heating pad at my back, getting lost in TV or a book is a must for me in order to rejuvenate and function until the weekends.  And even on weekends, sandwiched in between dances or movies or road trips or activities with the girls, I have to be allowed a few hours to just putter. It's one of the things at the top of my "To Do" list.  

5.     Disorganization 
You know how you get used to the things around you and become blind to the obvious.  Well, that’s what’s happened here.  I opened up my eyes a few weeks ago and realized that although I'm not at the hoarder stage, the house is close to being featured on one of those purge and re-organize programs.  I hold onto things thinking I’ll sell that when I have a yard sale:  then spring comes, and I can’t have a yard sale because I can’t lift things up and down stairs and out onto tables.  And I struggle with the fact that there’s good stuff there and, therefore, money to be made or lost.

But you know what?  I can’t concentrate when the house is a big mess. I used to have a lot of “organized” stuff; not I just have a lot of stuff:  and I don’t have the energy to try to begin to tackle organizing because there’s just so much. I find myself thinking about the “stuff” and how much I hate being this disorganized.  So, I asked myself this weekend if the money to be made at a yard sale was more than the serenity to be found by just giving it to the thrift shop.  And the answer was no!  There’s more value in the serenity. 

So, over the next couple of weeks, I am going to tackle my house; not all at once -- one room at a time to avoid being overwhelmed. I’m going to do a little every weekend; the girls can load up the trunk of my car, and I’ll share the “wealth” with the Salvation Army and The Daisy - great thrift shops that bring extra benefits to this area.  And I'll gain a tidier home, more freedom and less stress.

Less stress is worth working towards, right?

So .... 
4 weeks .....

One step at a time; 
day by day; 
little by little; 
bit by bit

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Open Farm Day

Nagisa was away but Lena was happy to head out today with me for Open Farm Day -- an opportunity to meet your local farmer. After a downright chilly Friday and an okay Saturday, Sunday's heat was a lovely surprise and made the day that much better.

First stop -- "Out to Pasture" farm on the Mossman Road.
Look at this gorgeous German girl!  Does she not look like the poster child for healthy farm living?
Out to Pasture offered us cute little ducklings, sheep, horses, pet goats and some fantastic meat products. (I took home some chorizo.)  They also gifted us with delicious apples to munch on during our walk about.
The pumpkins gave a hint of autumn to the scene; and the leaves are just beginning to turn color here.

It took us a little time and a few wrong turns but eventually we found our way to farm #2.  But that's what we get for going on what I call "adventure" drives -- you know, the ones where you can figure out roughly which direction to drive and that one of these dirt roads will get you to the other trunk road you need to reach your destination.

This is  Watershed Farms, a fantastic organic/biodynamic farm that sells at my local Farm market.
 I always buy my tomatoes from this farm -- usually a basket of tiny heritage varieties that taste like candy.  They are so amazingly delicious!  But look at all the other varieties they offer; and look at the size of that one guy next to my hand. A meal in itself!

And this is owner/operator, Camelia standing next to her living fence.  15 years ago, this was all just a hay field with 3 apple trees.  Now, although she certainly doesn't make money, she survives.  She's so dedicated to growing good food and giving back to the land and teaching the younger generation to continue the tradition.  

After a quick stop for ice cream, we found our last stop of the day,
Indian Garden Farms, owned and operated by the same local family for 158 years.
They sell at the local farm markets as well as having their own market shop full of apples, pears, peaches; all sorts of veggies and these days, cranberries -- getting ready for Canada's Thanksgiving Day next month.  
There were a lot of families there today and a 40 min wait for the wagon ride around the property.  So, Lena and I opted out of that treat and bought corn and squash instead.  

Ain't nobody here but us chickens!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Seasonal Dressing

I ask you:  exactly what season is this?  

  • Fummer?
  • Sprall?
  • Stauttum?

I wake to 4 degrees Celcius (39 F).  Brrr!  I need to turn on the little box heater in the bathroom when I shower; I need to defog the car windscreen as I pull out of the driveway; and my little pasty-white legs complain by raising their little hair nubs.  (My lungs, however, love the nip in the air.)

By mid morning, the temperature has risen to 14 degrees, and the sunshine is streaming in the side window in my office, warming my back (and making it difficult to read my computer screen).  By afternoon, it's 18 degrees -- perfect for a walk to the post office to pick up the office mail (and maybe a quick scoot into LaHave Bakery for an iced coffee and an oatcake).  

By the time I get back home at the end of the day, I can notice the chill once again in my house; the girls and I wear our slippers and may need a sweater.

It sure is difficult to know what to wear when dressing for work in the morning! 

Do I go more summery?

This forgotten skirt gets paired with a cap-sleeved white blouse, dark pink 3/4 sleeve cardigan and pinkish jewellery. (All thrifted except for the necklace - Reitmans - and bracelet - 5th Avenue.)

Or should I be transitioning into more Fall like colors?
Here's the same skirt with a gorgeous tangerine blouse, black long-sleeved cardigan and coordinating jewellery. (All thrifted except for the blouse - Northern Reflections.)

Well, I'm not ready for Fall yet.  We've another week before it's officially hits.  So, I'll go for the pink and white ensemble.

What are you wearing this Sprall?  
Have you dug out your autumn clothes yet?  Are you itching to wear those boots or more scarves?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Dum Paneer Kali Mirch

I love Indian food:  the rich, wonderful aromas and the varied  mixtures of spices and herbs.  I've had the opportunity to view quite a number of TV cooking shows over the past 6 months that have featured Indian cooking and techniques.  And with so many wonderful vegetarian recipes to choose from, it was a natural choice for this new vegetarian venture.  

A foodie friend of mine often grills paneer; so when I found this recipe -- Dum Paneer Kali Mirch -- I was happy to have an opportunity to try cooking it myself.  Paneer is a fresh, unripened cheese used in many South Asian dishes.  Although it's not hard to make yourself, I purchased mine from the supermarket.

It took time to cut and chop and then blend & grind the 2 pastes.  But once that's done, the cooking time is short.  
While the paneer simmered on the back burner, I prepared an easy potato and green bean curry, steamed some rice and added some spicy roti flatbread.

Unfortunately, the potato/green bean curry was a bit of a dud as the curry powder I used (discovered at the back of the cupboard during a recent clean) was old and, I believe, had lost its pungency.  Sad!  Edible but sad.

But the paneer was lovely!  The cheese itself has a delicate taste and texture, and the sauce was again quite mild and delicate. This went very well with the plain rice and roti.  Still, I think next time I will play around with the flavoring a little and see if I can bring out more oomph .... a touch more cumin, coriander and perhaps garam masala. (I'll scout around other recipes for comparison.) And I'd probably serve it next time with simple sliced veggies like ripe juicy tomatoes and red onions.

I'd give this dish a 7 out of 10 on the yum scale.  

Definitely worth a repeat!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Citrus Roasted Tofu

I'm now on week 2 of being mostly vegetarian and I must say, it's been surprisingly great.  I've had a couple of dud meals where they were fairly tasteless.  (Thank you, Siracha.) And I've craved meat once or twice (and was able to satisfy the cravings with adding a chicken breast for Nagisa and I or with adding something to my lunch.)  But Lena has been a most grateful veggie-child for all my efforts -- good or bad.

I've been the lucky recipient of 3 great new-to-me cookbooks from Value Village:  vegetarian slow cooker, a Thai and an Indian.  And I've found a number of great websites and/or blogs. But of course, with many of these dishes, you have to get your pantry stocked in order to prepare the food.  In the meantime, I experiment with what I have.

This weekend when I did my weekly cooking, I prepared a chocolate chili, a shrimp curry and my daughter's adapted beet burgers.  We all love tofu, and Saturday evening's  Citrus Roasted Tofu (Food Republic) was a huge hit.
The julienned carrot/almond side was delicious as well.

An excellent recipe.  And even if you're not a tofu lover, this one may convince you!  Give it a try.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Labor Day Weekend - Food, Friends and Family

Rabbit Rabbit everyone!

Happy September!  May this month be filled with the remainder of summer -- sunshine and warmth, laughter with friends and more barbeque. And don't forget to finish those cocktails as well; they won't last until next June!

I went to a wedding dance this past Saturday.  It was held
on the couple's property in the country, well off the main road, down a dark, narrow driveway lined with votives in paper bags. When you got to the end, it opened up, and there were lanterns hung in trees and bon fires on either side. The dance was held in the newly-erected frame of the barn, and the bar was in the old barn adorned with tulle and huge Chinese lanterns.  There were tressle tables laden with food and music playing and babies and dogs and people dressed in whatever way made them feel comfortable -- which meant a wonderful collection of glitter and bling was mixed with dungarees and vintage 70's pant suits.  It was quite magical! 
The bride was my daughter's best friend whom we've known for 20 years.  And although there were lots of people there who were my age, most of the time I was the only one gal on the dance floor with the "youngsters".  What's with that, over 50-yr-olds? Regardless, I had such a lot of fun!

Besides my own 2 kids being home this weekend, I also picked up my "foreign children". Nagisa returned for her last 5 months.  And I have a newbie: 15 yr old Lena from Germany, a petite little girl with a mass of lovely wavy hair, big glasses and a sweet personality.  

 She was delighted to jump into the very cold Atlantic ocean with me on Sunday (as Nagisa sat and snapped pictures of us).  
Then she was doubly delighted to walk the boardwalk and eat Canadian ice cream; she said that Germany just has the regular flavors -- vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, etc.  She ate "Grizzly Tracks", I had "Double Decadent Chocolate" and Nagisa "Peanut Butter Cups". I can see we have a lot of ice cream to eat together!

Lena's a vegetarian who (thankfully) eats fish, dairy and eggs.  This semester will be another adventure in eating as we mix lots of good, nutritious vegetarian meals in with the occasional meat meal. She doesn't expect anything extra from me and would happily make do with whatever we eat minus the meat.  But I love to try new recipes.

This weekend, I cooked Indian as I already have a good base of vegetarian meals that I've cooked before.  But bloggie friends: If you have any suggestions for tried and true recipes, please pass them along.  

I do love a good mouthful!


  Sorry! I thought I could return to a normal schedule. But my sense of 'normal' has changed. After the past 5 years of various ailm...