Thursday, December 8, 2011


I have changed the names in the following story. Partly because I don't want to offend anyone, but mostly because I can't remember them. Maybe I am getting old!

Last week I was at a friend's place for dinner. Other than the host and her two daughters I didn't know anyone there, so conversation consisted of a steady stream of small talk. You know the stuff. "Where do you work?" "How do you know the host?" Blah. Blah. Blah. 

I didn't find it as awkward as I normally do. People had brought their kids and their pets, and our host had provided a Christmas craft, so there was always something to talk about. "How old is your daughter?" "How old is your dog?" "How long do you think it will take to vacuum up all this glitter?" 

Overall I had an enjoyable evening, with a below normal level of self-consciousness and self-doubt.  My job involves spending a lot of time with customers. At the end of the day I don't have energy left for socializing. As such, my small-talk subroutine is a bit rusty. In spite of this, I don't think I made the biggest faux-pas of the evening. I was the victim of it. 

One of the women, who I will call Joan, asked if I was Holly's mother. I looked at the seven-year-old crafting beside me and said that I wasn't. At that point, the woman across the table spoke up and said she was Holly. The seven-year-old was Holly's daughter. Joan thought I was old enough to be a grandmother. Balls.

I would have been embarrassed for Joan if I hadn't been so embarrassed for myself. I guess if I had started really, really young, I am old enough to be a grandmother. Still, it's one thing to be old enough and another thing to look old enough. I say again: balls. 

Which, oddly enough, brings me to a recipe. It's a recipe I have been asked for many, many times, but have never shared. Not because I was being secretive, but because I don't have a recipe. I usually just put the ingredients together until the dough reaches the right consistency then I form the dough into... BALLS!

The recipe is based on Cashew Cookie Larabars. When I realized these bars only had two ingredients I had to try making them on my own. Usually I just wing it. Last week I decided to actually measure as I went. The results are below.

Cashew-Date Laurie Balls

1 cup cashews
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon
2 cups pitted dates
1/4 cup sesame seeds or shredded coconut (optional)

  • Process cashews, salt and cinnamon in a food processor until the cashews are somewhat coarser than cornmeal. Transfer to a large bowl.
  • Process dates in the food processor. Add to the bowl with the cashews etc.
  • Knead the ingredients together until a sticky dough is formed.
  • Pinch off pieces of dough and form into 1 inch balls.  
  • Roll balls in sesame seeds or coconut if desired.
  • If you are one of my local readers, I use 1 - 300 gram bag of Thrifty Pack pitted dates which is about two cups.
  • If you want a raw item, use raw cashews. I've also used roasted cashews and roasted, salted cashews with good results. If using salted cashews I omit the sea salt.
  • My food processor is an oldie but a goodie. As such it only had two speeds: pulse and on. (I guess if you include "off" it has three speeds.) If you have a more advanced food processor you may be able to toss everything in and whiz away. 
  • In my food processor the dates go from date-sized to raisin-sized to one huge ball of sticky date pulp. When it gets to that stage it's ready.
  • If you are using an older food processor don't leave it unattended. When the dates get to that huge ball stage my food processor starts to rock, roll then wander across the counter.
  • I started making these a few years ago. At the time I visited several websites looking for ideas. This recipe is the sum of what I found. Sadly I can't remember which websites I visited. I'd give them credit otherwise. There are a lot of "Larabar" recipes out there!

As it happens, I took these balls to the dinner last week. I will state for the record that, in spite of the grandma-gaffe, Joan did not go home with balls stuffed up her nose. I may not go out much, but my social skills haven't deteriorated that far!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


I thought I knew what I wanted to write about today. I had great intentions when I sat down at the computer, but I just couldn't get going. As I often do, I started poking around on other blogs for "inspiration". At least I was calling it inspiration. In reality I think it was avoidance. 

I didn't even realize I was avoiding my writing until I slid over to Making Love in the Kitchen where reality slapped me in the face. There it was in big, red, friendly letters. 

Alphabet of 

Organic, free-range coffee would have squirted from my nose had I been drinking it when I read this. (I wasn't drinking coffee. Honest Meghan. But that's only because I had already finished it.) It was like the interwebs knew the innermost secrets that I kept even from myself. I wasn't looking for inspiration, I was putting off writing!

Of course, when I read further, I realized that "The Alphabet of Avoidance" has nothing to do with my poor writing habits.  It's Lisa Borden's first book.  According to Meghan of Making Love in the Kitchen:

“Lisa Borden is the voice of no-nonsense, common sense, low impact, conscious living. She makes it entertaining and easy. With every action suggested, Borden offers the best solution to make it happen. She is a resource of great brands, and the ultimate guru for how to make low-impact living incredibly time and cost effective. Michael Pollan penned the go-to guide for Food Rules, Borden is now offering us a go-to-guide for Intelligent Living. Her A-Z rules benefit both personal and environmental health and greatness. Reading the Alphabet of Avoidance will make us smart. Following it makes us brilliant.”

So, though the Lisa's book won't help improve my writing habits, it looks like it's worth a read. In fact, I'm writing about it here so I can have a chance to win a copy. I'm sure there's much I can learn from this book, and with my current trend toward avoidance in other areas of my life, following the suggestions should come naturally to me.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Maybe I'm Murphy Brown

So, last week it was painters.  This morning it's the crew installing the new heating system, and here I am.  Surprise!

I'm trying to stay out of the way, but still be at hand should anything happen that needs my attention.  I was using the same philosophy last week when the painters were here.  What to do when large portions of you house are unavailable to you? Well, I write.

I'm reminded of the old Murphy Brown show.  For those of you unfamiliar with the show, Murphy, played by Candice Bergen, was a journalist and news anchor.  Episodes usually focused on her work, but the scenes that took place in her home often featured Eldin Bernecky. Eldin was Murphy's house painter...for six years.  

Though I'm glad it didn't take the guys six years to paint my living room, I was pleased to have the opportunity to write with no other tasks looming. Not that there's not plenty on my to-do list. I just couldn't work on any of those items and stay out of the way.  It was quite freeing, yet I still felt like I was accomplishing something.  I'm not quite at the point where I could sit on the sofa with a novel and a box of bon-bons while other people are working.  Maybe some day.

I'm experiencing the same feelings this morning. Though it makes me anxious having other people in the house (that's another story), I'm still appreciating having this little chunk of time to do nothing but write.  I do have to go to work eventually, but in the mean time I'm out of the way while doing something I find meaningful.

According to Virginia Woolf, "a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction." In my case, I just need to be trapped in a shared room in order to sit down at the keyboard. Of course, having money helps too.  On that note, I'm off to work!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Soy Nice?

I have trouble with poetry. I have trouble understanding it. I have trouble writing it. Imagine my surprise when I found this when sifting through old, unpublished posts:

A poem written after eating edamame for two days running, and I do mean running.

Soy foods may be good for the heart, 
Though the more I eat the more I fart,
I fart and fart til the room does reel
Glad I don't eat it with every meal!

Ummm. Really speaks for itself; doesn't it? Oh dear. I just realized what a sorry pun that is. It wasn't intentional. I promise to avoid poetry, punning and possibly soy from here on in.  

Sleeping Cougar Acres Circa 2010

It is a miserable, windy, rainy day. Just the kind of weather to make me appreciate the sunny photos in this previously unpublished post. I have no idea what I originally wanted to say with the pictures.  All I found when tidying up the blog was an untitled draft with these pictures. They were taken in August of 2010 on what was obviously a beautiful day.  As we can all use some sunshine, I'm sharing them now.  Better late than never.

I think this was the first year L tried carrots at Sleeping Cougar Acres.  I remember her being rather pleased with the crop.
Ahh, yes.  The tomato cube. Tomatoes are a challenge to grow here, so when L planted this
6 x 6 bed she placed the seedlings quite close together.  Neither of us expected the plants to take off like they did. The result was a bed of tomatoes that was
6 x 6 x 6.  The plants were so tightly packed that we had to fight our way into the centre to get at the tomatoes growing there.
L allowed me to plant an experimental bed.  I tried edamame, corn and amaranth.  You can just  see the edamame at either side of this photo.  In spite of the lush plants, the pods they produced were empty.  On the other hand, amaranth grew like crazy.
These plants grew to be about 6 feet tall. I knew I wouldn't run out of leaves, particularly when we discovered that, when cut back, amaranth puts out new shoots. I had more greens than I could use.
The amaranth flowers are just starting in this picture.   A few weeks later the little red buds grew into gorgeous burgundy plumes.  Veggies that delight the eye and the palate.  Gotta love that.
The corn plants grew to incredible heights.  They were well over 6 feet tall by the end of the season. 
Sadly, the season was too short for the few cobs to develop fully.  They plants were awesome to look at though.


It's Thursday morning. I'm not working, but others are. There are painters working in my living room and guy downstairs preparing to install our new heat pump system. I'm drinking coffee, surfing the web and tidying up the blog. I could get used to this doing nothing while others work.  I'd better not though. Gotta pay for all this stuff, but I'm enjoying it while I can.  

As I've been sifting through old blog stuff, I've found things that never got posted.  Some I've deleted.  Most of them were preliminary notes for articles that were later published. A few were false starts.  Many of  those were deleted because they were so old I've forgotten what I was trying to say.  A few I'm actually going to finish and post.  Really.  I am. I'm going to start now.  See you soon. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I Am Lisa Simpson. Almost.

I have a confession.  I watch The Simpsons. Regularly. I've done so for years.

On Sunday one of my favourite authors, Neil Gaiman, appeared as himself on the show. I loved it. Neil, as always, was wonderful, but his guest appearance wasn't the only thing that had me laughing out loud. The episode poked fun at the publishing industry, teen lit, the vampire genre, bookstore/coffee shops,  writing by committee and itself. What from that list wouldn't appeal to me? Yet with all these topics to enjoy, it was Lisa's struggle with her writing that had me laughing loudest. 

When a disillusioned Lisa discovers that her favourite series is written by cubicle-bound ghost writers she decides to write her own tween lit novel. She gets as far as "Chapter One" before the distractions set in.  I wish I could list these distractions for you.  I'm tempted to  fire up the PVR and watch the show again so I can give you an accurate summary of Lisa's non-writing process.  I'm going to resist that temptation, but I will admit that I spent a significant chunk of time this morning trying to find clips online.  Are you beginning to see some similarities here?

What do I remember? Lisa with her laptop at the coffee shop. She signs onto the internet in case she needs to do some "research" while writing her novel. (I currently have two, now three, tabs open in the browser.) Once Lisa logs on she feels that she needs to compensate the coffee shop for using its free internet, so she lines up to buy a snack.  (I had breakfast, a tea, a coffee and two snacks before I finally sat down to write.) 

Once back in her room, Lisa is distracted by a tiny spot on her window.  She is shown scrubbing at it from inside, then later from outside. If you've read this post you'll know why I found that particularly funny.  (Four tabs open.) Nothing like a speck of dirt, or fuzzy felt feet, to keep a writer from writing. 

Lisa's trials with her novel are juxtaposed with the successes of a novel-writing team. This team includes, among others, Bart, Homer and Neil.  It's Neil's job to get lunch for the group.  (Five tabs open. Six. Seven.)  I don't know how pizza delivered by "British Fonzie" isn't a distraction for the group.  It certainly would be for me. I guess my relationship with pizza isn't as strong as Homer's.    

The similarities between Lisa's writing process and mine tickled me to no end. It comforts me to know that someone out there has the same issues, even if that someone is a fictional yellow girl (or the writer(s) of a fictional yellow girl). No wonder I keep watching this show. I'm Lisa Simpson, almost.  The difference being that, unlike Lisa,  between distractions I sometimes manage to write.  

Saturday, November 12, 2011

# 1 Hana Korean Restaurant

I just had the strangest dining experience.  

It wasn't the food that was strange, though it was new to me. The service and decor were well within the confines of normal. If anything, the strangeness originated in me. 

Today we tried our local Korean restaurant for the first time. I've never had Korean food before, so I didn't know what to expect. Maybe the newness allowed for what I experienced. 

Hubby ordered Man-du Guk (Korean dumpling soup) I ordered Kim-chi Bo-kum Bap (kimchi fried rice topped with a fried egg). The server was pleasant. The food was served promptly.  It looked and smelled good. Everything normal so far. 

Then I tasted the food. In some elusive way it reminded me of Ukrainian food, and not just any Ukrainian food, my Baba's Ukrainian food. I thought I was going to cry right there at the table. 

I was in no way prepared for my reaction.  How could I be? The Ukraine is nowhere near Korea. I know because I checked the atlas when I got home. Hubby thought it might be the cabbage that was triggering my reaction. Possible, though his cabbage-free dumplings had a similar impact. (The dumplings also reminded me of a Chinese restaurant we frequented in our student days, so there was a double-whammy of culinary nostalgia happening in his bowl.) 

Each bite of my meal made me feel like the Grinch on Christmas morning. I could feel my heart swelling, but in a good way, not in a congestive heart failure kind of way.  My woo-woo, meditating friends would likely call this an opening of the heart.  I think I finally understand what they are talking about.  Funny that I was able to achieve with a bowl of spicy rice what I was never able to achieve with meditation.

I'll certainly be back to the restaurant, and not just because of the gustatory/metaphysical trip down memory lane. The food was really, really good. Hubby can confirm this should you need a recommendation from a sane person.  Wholesome food made with care in a tiny kitchen. Kind of reminds me of something. Oh, yeah. My Baba. Maybe Korea and the Ukraine aren't so far apart after all.  

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

So Not the Queen of Clean!

(This post has not been proof-read. Posting anyway. It's my blog and I'll misspell if I want to!)

10:00 am

I should be cleaning right now. On Thursday a "Certified Energy Advisor" will be here to perform a home energy audit.  We already know the place is about as energy efficient as a sieve, so it would be nice to be able to show him a clean and tidy house. 

I won't have time to do much around here tomorrow. Today is it for cleaning if I want it done by Thursday, yet here I am.  Strange, I usually use cleaning as an excuse to avoid writing. I'd say this reversal is progress, but that would only be true if, on those days when I used cleaning to avoid writing, I were to actually clean. Usually I look at my options, get overwhelmed and end up spending hours playing Angry Birds.  (I finished Angry Birds Ham'o'ween yesterday. I guess I'm out of excuses.)

Sooooo, what am I going to do? I'm going to leave this window open, go do some cleaning and come and add to this post throughout the day as the mood strikes me.  We'll see what I end up with at the end of the day.


So my plan, as far as I had a plan, was to start with the floors.  Then I realized that in order to clean the floors I first had to find the floors.  Most of my Rocky Horror costume has now been put away. As I stored the bits and pieces from my outfit, I found bits and pieces of previous costumes that I decided to dispose of.  

I have no idea how old that makeup is, but I'm guessing it's well past its best-before date. As ugly as that Wild Iris eyeshadow is, I'm pretty sure I'd have to pay more than a buck fifty for it if I were to to purchase it now.  

The makeup went into the trash, as did the vampire teeth. The black marks on the gums are likely ancient stains from the Elvira-brand lipstick, but why take a chance? I'm sure the Certified Energy Advisor will notice these organizational improvements right away.

In clearing the floors for cleaning I also found some library books that needed to be returned.  Good thing I had "Don't Go to the Cosmetic Counter Without Me" on hand when deciding to dispose of the makeup above. 

Who am I kidding? I haven't looked at any of these books. In fact, I had forgotten I had most of them.  I'm sure there's someone out there waiting to read about the inside of the Tardis. I hope they realize the effort I went to to find and return it.

By the way, Emma, if you're reading this "A is for Apron" is the sewing book I was telling you about.  Better late than never!


Obviously don't clean enough, as I couldn't find the vacuum. Once found it took me several minutes to remember how to use the attachments.  Stairs and basement now vacuumed.  This is taking longer than I thought.


Upended the dining room chairs and cleaned most of the fuzz of the felt pads on the legs.  No, not ALL the fuzz.  I'm not that obsessive.  I'm sure such attention to detail will impress.  Who needs anything more than single-glazed windows when their felt feet are fuzz free?


After all that work I was famished.  Took a lunch break with hubby, then decided to make some snacks for later, as I'm sure I'll be hungry after this afternoon's chores.  Made "Black Ball Bliss" from "Health by Chocolate". I didn't have any black sesame seeds on hand, so I rolled the balls in regular sesame seeds and shredded coconut.  My balls were less black as a result. I will not be sharing these with the Certified Energy Advisor.  Offering a stranger blissful balls of any colour can only lead to trouble. 

Of course, now I have to clean the kitchen...


Most of the dishes are done, and the kitchen and bathroom floors have been swept and mopped.  Good thing I waited until after making the blissful balls to clean the floor. There was much more coconut on the floor than I had realized.  

If I'm going to get a walk in today I'd better do it now. Otherwise, it won't happen and I won't sleep tonight.


Better start thinking about dinner soon...


Answered some emails. Oh, right, dinner.


Dinner prepared, consumed and dishes washed. Breakfast and lunch prep complete.  Still have more floors to clean, a bathroom to de-grunge and assorted other chores to do before the Thursday appointment with the Certified Energy Advisor.  Hope he appreciates the energy it took to get through this day.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Lurking Leads To Listening Leads To Lurking...

A strange restlessness, that may or may not have been a deeply disguised urge to write, led to my lurking on other blogs. While snooping at Life, Love, and Food I discovered a link to The Splendid Table. As I'm always looking for something to listen to while I walk, I downloaded an episode. That episode featured an interview with Stefan Gates. Glow-in-the-dark Jello and vegetable orchestras were discussed. Gates even created a parsnip kazoo while on-air.  His silliness inspired yesterday's post. It was no parsnip kazoo, but it was a start. 

The episode also had a caller asking for brunch ideas. Savoury bread pudding was suggested, which was handy as I had purchased a loaf of day-old rye bread to have with the borscht. I didn't know what I was going to do with the rest of the loaf until I heard that suggestion.  I couldn't find the recipe they discussed in the podcast, so I lurked around on other blogs until I found a recipe I could adapt to what I had in the kitchen. 

The bread pudding was OK. The results may have been better if I had stuck to the recipe. I'll definitely try again, so it wasn't a complete waste.  And if I consider that it led back here to my writing it wasn't a waste at all. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Murder, Macbeth and Borscht.

Salads are only for murderers,
Coleslaw's a fascist regime.
Don't think that they don't have feelings,
Just cause a radish can't scream.

From "Carrot Juice is Murder" by the Arrogant Worms.

This song runs through my head every time I cook beets.  It seemed particularly appropriate last night, as I prepared borscht for our dinner. The red juices dripping from my knife, across the cutting board and onto the floor. The stained hands. It's like a scene from Macbeth. 

Fortunately, the washing up was quite fun. Look, pink foam! 

No roaming the house in the middle of the night wringing stained hands.  And the recipe made enough borscht for tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Maybe. Possibly. Perhaps.

I've been lurking around at my favourite blogs recently. When I stop writing here I tend to stop reading other blogs.  I'm sure there's a very good psychological reason for this behaviour that a skilled therapist could help me sort out. Whatever. The fact that I'm out there roaming the blogosphere leads me to believe that somewhere in the deepest, darkest places of my mind I may be thinking about writing again.  Maybe. Possibly. Perhaps.

While my subconscious continues to stew over the likelihood of my return to the world of writing, please check out the work of these three talented bloggers:  

Meghan of Making Love in the Kitchen
Rose-Anne of Life, Love, and Food
Samantha of Bikini Birthday

Hope to see you all here again soon. Maybe. Possibly. Probably.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Lettuce Not Waste Food - Again

This is a re-post of an article I published on May 11.  It was lost somewhere in the blogosphere, as were any comments you made.  Feel free to comment again.  

"We apologise for the inconvenience"  Douglas Adams

I have a confession to make.  I know this will come as a shock to those of you who saw my most recent recipe.  In spite of my attempts to maintain a healthy diet, I have a difficult time finishing a head of lettuce before it turns into a mushy, unidentifiable blob in my fridge. I hate wasting food, so this really irritates me. 
It doesn't seem to matter what kind of lettuce, though romaine tends to stand the best chance of being consumed by its best-before date.  Any other variety requires a great deal of effort to polish off before it goes off.  Sometimes I wonder why I bother with lettuce at all. 

It's not that I dislike lettuce.  There isn't really anything to dislike about lettuce.  Problem is that there really isn't anything to like either.  Even in salads I find that it's just kinda there providing the background for all the tangy, crunchy, savoury, sweet, salty ingredients that make a salad interesting. I often don't include lettuce in my salads, and I have to say I don't miss it.  

I guess I feel that I don't get enough reward for the work involved in prepping lettuce.  I wash, I dry, I tear and what do I get for it?  A healthful ingredient for sure, but not really a flavour all-star.  

I try to sneak lettuce into other things in order to use it up before it goes off, but even my recipe for lettuce soup doesn't have any lettuce.  Later versions of this recipe included lettuce, and I liked it just fine.  Unfortunately, it's not something I make often enough to satisfy my need to avoid food waste.   

Often I'll toss lettuce leaves into a smoothie.  I like using lettuce this way, as I can skip two of the three prep stages.  Just wash and blend.  It's also a good way to use up lettuce that's at the stage just before unidentifiable blob.  You know, that stage where it's wildly wilted but not yet slimy.  

At Christmas my friend G gave me a jar of homemade Thai sweet chili sauce. (Yum!  I have such talented, awesome friends!) She included this recipe in the package, and I've been making a variety of salad-filled wraps ever since.  This is also a good way to use up lettuce, but certainly not the 20 leaves the recipe calls for.  I'm lucky to squeeze a half dozen leaves into my wraps.  

Recently, as I was making a lettuce-based Greek salad, I was inspired to try something different.  Even though it was a large salad there was a lot of lettuce left when I was finished.  I knew it wouldn't last much longer in the fridge, as it was rapidly approaching the age where crispness would be a thing of the past.  I looked at those sad, remaining, soon-to-be-wilted leaves and the light bulb went on.  What if I put some of those remaining leaves in the salad dressing?

I hauled out my favourite Greek salad dressing recipe and my blender.  In went the dressing ingredients.  In went one, two, three, four lettuce leaves.  Taste.  Mmmmm!  Gooooood!

I was so confident I had a winner that I wrote down the recipe for my amazing Green Greek dressing.  I was sure I'd make it again and again, and I was sure you'd all want to make it too.  

Sadly, I've misplaced the recipe since then. (I really need to tidy up around here.) It's just as well. As much as I enjoyed the flavour of the dressing it wouldn't stick to the salad.  Seriously,  it reminded me of magnet experiments in grade school.  You remember - likes repel.  

The dressing almost magically slid off the salad and pooled in a soupy puddle on the plate.  From there it slid into everything else and made a sloppy, green mess.  Frustrating and disappointing!

Sadly, in my initial over-confidence I made a lot of this dressing.  We ate it for the rest of the week. (Did I mention how much I hate wasting food?) The dressing even slid through lettuce-free salads.  So much for my likes repel theory!  

Some day I may try to sneak lettuce into my salad dressing again.  I think it could work.  I just have to figure out how.  Maybe an avocado would help...

In the mean time, dear reader, I'd love to hear your creative lettuce recipes.  Please let me know what you come up with.  I have a head-and-a-half rapidly growing old in my fridge.

Blogger Ate My Homework

It doesn't take much to discourage me from writing.  Words don't flow freely;  ideas don't come; I don't remember how to spell acomodate, accommodate, accomodate... 

My most recent setback was technical.  I posted an article about lettuce on May 11.  On the same day I worked on new articles.  I updated my "About Me" blurb. I commented on other blogs.  I also had a migraine that day, so anything I did was completed in a post-headache, drug-induced fog. 

By the following day kind people had commented on my article.  I responded.  On May 18 I came back here to write. I was dismayed to find that everything from May 11 was gone.  No article, no new blurb, no notes for new articles. The comments and my responses were gone. Even my comments on other blogs had vanished.  It was like I imagined it all, which was very possible considering the migraine and the drugs.  

Fortunately, when Hubby came home from work he was able to confirm the existence of the article from the previous week.  I was doubly fortunate to have friends who receive emails of my articles every time I publish.  I was triply fortunate that two of those friends still had copies of the lost article in their inbox and were able to send it back to me.  (Thank you, thank you, thank you to Hubby, C and S!)

From there most people would appreciate their good fortune and move on.  Not me.  I froze.  I was the Blogger version of a deer in the headlights.  (By the way, why doesn't the spell-checker in Blogger recognize the words Blogger, blog or blogs?)  I couldn't even bring myself re-post the article from May 11.  So not only did I lose my work from that day, I developed writer's block as well.  Just marvy. 

I know the reasonable thing to do would be to set up a backup system for such emergencies.  Apparently I am not a reasonable person, as I have not yet done so.  When I have the time and the inclination to write I want to write.  I don't want spend my time setting up fail-safe systems in case something goes wrong.  Actually, I'm not completely unreasonable.  I have tried writing elsewhere and transferring the results here, but I found that to be ponderous, time consuming, and the results often didn't look right in Blogger.  

Anyway, I guess my point is that I'm back now.  I'll be re-publishing the lettuce article shortly.  Apologies to those who have already read it, and to those who commented the last time.  Your last comments are gone, but feel free to comment again, and again, and again... 

Obviously some writers need more encouragement than others. 

Friday, May 6, 2011

Nutty Rant

What the hell is wrong with the manufacturers of natural nut butter?  Today I bought a 250g jar of hazelnut butter.  It was $7. The entire jar is small enough to fit in my tea mug with room to spare for tea.  That isn't my issue. I was willing to pay the price.  I was also aware that the the nut oil would have separated from the rest of the product.  I expect that with a natural nut butter.  

What pissed me off about this product, and what angers me about natural nut butters in general, is the amount of product you lose, and the amount of time you waste cleaning up, when you attempt to stir the separated oil back into the rest of the butter.

Why on earth don't they leave enough headspace in the jar to actually stir the stuff?  I've had the same problem with every natural nut butter I've tried. As soon as I put a utensil in the jar the oil oozes over the edge and down the sides of the jar.  I pay too much for the stuff to waste it!  Not to mention how much I detest cleaning up the oily mess. They've figured out how to make an awesome product, why can't they figure out that they have to leave room in the jar to stir it?

I think it's an evil scheme to get us to buy more nut butter.  Because you can't effectively mix the oil back in, by the time you get to the bottom of the jar you're left with a dry, unspreadable and generally unappetizing pasteThen you have to go out and buy more nut butter.  Gargh!

Today I was so frustrated by the whole friggin issue that I was on the verge of running screaming into the street.  Fortunately I was saved from this particular embarassment by the recipe that called for the hazelnut butter in the first place. 

Last week I borrowed Victoria Laine's recipe book "Health by Chocolate"  from the library.  They may not get it back.  Honestly, given the amount of drooling I've been doing while browsing through the book they may not want it back!

I've been on a bit of a chocolate-making kick lately, so when I saw this book I knew it would follow me home.  It's full of recipes for beverages, bars and bon-bons all featuring quality, dark chocolate and other healthful ingredients. 

Today I made the "Nutty-ella Chocolate Spread" - hence the need for hazelnut butter.  Good stuff.  In fact, it's so good that a bit of spread on crispbread and a cup of tea and I no longer feel the need to hunt down the nearest maker of natural nut butter and stick their jar where the sun don't shine.  Thank goodness for chocolate!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Lovely Lovage

I am rich in friends, and as I result I am rich in herbs too.  The post about my new bay tree prompted my friend C to contact me.  As C has a gorgeous lovage plant growing in front of her house, and as I had herbs on my mind, I strongly hinted that my new garden could use some lovage.  Fortunately C is an incredibly intuitive woman who is good at picking up on such hints.  I had lovage and oregano for my garden and some lovage leaves for my kitchen the next day.  

My new lovage plant!

So, what the heck is lovage you ask?  That's a good question. I had to ask too the first time C offered to cut some for me to take home.   

Lovage is an old herb.  It's not that common anymore, and until I saw C's plant I had only ever read about it.  The leaves taste and smell like celery on steroids.  Not surprising, as lovage leaves look like large celery leaves.  What is surprising is the slightly salty flavour the leaves impart to a dish.  I've read that the dried leaves can be used as a salt substitute, but I haven't tried that yet.  I might though.  If my wee plant takes off it could grow up to 7 feet tall.  I'll have more leaves than I know what to do with, as a little bit goes a long way.

Recipes that call for lovage are as uncommon as the plant.  My internet searches resulted in lots of recipes for potato-lovage soup, which is very nice by the way, and several suggestions to add it to recipes I already use, like egg salad.  Since C first introduced me to lovage I've pretty much exhausted all the recipes I'm likely to make.  There are others, but they are the ones that tend to be too exotic (sanathu) or too much work (cheese-stuffed cabbage) for this cook. 

This time I decided to be brave and create my own dish using lovage.  I basically went with what I had in the house and made a salad, and I was rather pleased with how it turned out.  It's tangy, sweet, salty, crisp and crunchy all at the same time.  It's also something that could be switched up quite easily.  No raisins? Use dried cranberries.  The mixed bean sprouts only went in because I had them in the house.  I bet walnuts or pecans would work just as well.  Prep and clean-up were also easy.  (You'll notice that I make the dressing first in the same bowl the salad will be served in.  I know that's not the traditional way to make a salad, but it means one less item to wash come clean-up time. Always a good thing in a house with manual dishwashers.) 

Salad with Honey-Mustard-Lovage Dressing

Makes 2 generous servings. 

Honey-Mustard-Lovage Dressing
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard (approx measurement)
1 tsp honey (also approx measurement)
2-4 minced lovage leaves
pinch of sea salt

Mix the dressing ingredients in a large bowl.

4-5 romaine leaves
1 crisp apple
1 small handful mixed bean sprouts (maybe 1/4 to 1/3 cup)
1/3 of an English cucumber
1 small handful raisins

Tear romaine into bite-sized pieces, chop apple and cucumber and toss into bowl with dressing.  Top with sprouts and raisins. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


One veggie bed built!  Muahahaha!

Thanks to Hubby we have our first veggie bed.  I assisted somewhat.  Mostly by staying out of the way.  As my eighth grade shop teacher could tell you, I'm not the handiest person in the woodshop.  (Sorry about your thumb Mr. Lee!)  Sadly, my skills haven't improved much over the years.  This was quite apparent when I helped L at Sleeping Cougar Acres construct her veggie beds a few years ago.  I'm pretty sure this not how the finished product should look. 

Fortunately there were no injuries, so I guess there's been some improvement since my middle-school disasters.  Still, I'm lucky L lets me come back to play in the vineyard.  I will admit, though she was an excellent sport about my ineptitude that day,  she's never asked me to help with another construction project.  That's alright.  I'd rather drive the tractor anyway.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I Break for Trees

I spent most of yesterday's holiday on the sofa with my book club's current pick while awaiting the arrival of trees and tree products.

Every year a co-worker shares the trimmings from her bay laurel with our staff.  This year, not only did she have bay leaves, she had a bay tree for me as well.  Exciting!  She was going to bring it to work for me on Sunday, but only the leaves made it.  The tree was too big for her car.  Yikes!  I wondered what I had gotten myself into.  I hadn't realized that bay laurels got that big, but I have wanted my own bay tree for a while, so when she suggested bringing the tree by in her truck on Monday I happily agreed.  

I didn't really know what time my co-worker would be by, so I made a point of getting out of bed at a reasonable hour just in case.  Good thing I was up. When I checked my email there was a note from L at Sleeping Cougar Acres.  She has a friend who mills lumber, and I had ordered some rough cedar from him.  There's a veggie garden in the works folks!  Anyway, her note was to inform me that she'd be by with my lumber later in the day. 

As I really didn't know when to expect my deliveries, I felt that starting any of the projects on my never-ending list would be pointless.  I'd just get going and have to break for trees.  No hardship there.  It was a cloudy, rainy day.  Just the kind of day to sit on the sofa with a good book waiting for generous friends with trucks to bring goodies for my soon-to-be garden. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

On Sirens and Saving the Shoes

The sirens started at around 5:30 Monday morning.  It was shortly after Hubby left for work, and I was just getting back to sleep.  Not that sirens are unusual.  We live fairly close to the police station. We often hear sirens in the distance, and given the nature of our neighbourhood we frequently see the police going about their business.  Heck, we've even had them here a few times.  This was different though.  There were a lot of them, and they were close.  And getting closer. 

I got up in time to see police cars racing through the intersection up the road, then two fire trucks blared past our house.  Given the time of day, and the fact that I'm not a morning person, I was a bit miffed that they all had their sirens going.  It is a residential neighbourhood, and there's really no one on the road at that time of day.  Except for hubby of course, but he's on foot and not likely to impede their progress.  (Ironically, the fire trucks did have to slow right in front of our house, as the city installed a speed hump there a few years ago.)

Those incredibly grumpy first thoughts were quickly followed by more compassionate ones.  Who had to call the fire department before dawn?  Was it someone I knew?  Did everyone get out in time?  Did their pets?  What was happening?

I sat with my thoughts for a while, and found myself thinking  about the people waiting for the firefighters.  How relieved must they been relieved to hear those same sirens I had been grumbling about moments before?  
I thought too about the firefighters.  I really don't know anything about our local team, but it's a small town.  I imagine most of them were asleep when the call came in, yet there they were, sirens blaring, racing to who knew what.
By 5:40 my perspective had changed completely.  My thoughts had changed to ones of gratitude.  I was safe at home, and I live in a place where there are people willing and able roar into action and help those in trouble at any hour.  How lucky am I?

It turns out that the fire was pretty bad. The fire chief considers it "non-survivable".  Fortunately there were no injuries, as no one was home when the fire started. The house, though, is beyond repair. 
The incident reminded me of a Ted Talk I saw recently.  Probably because the presenter, volunteer firefighter Mark Bezos, was was in full gear.  I watched his talk again Monday afternoon, and was surprised to find that Bezos also started with less-than-positive emotions.  I had forgotten that.  My memories of the talk were of his humour and his message.  His speaking of his firefighting rival made me feel a little less guilty about my first response to the early morning sirens. The fact that I managed to bring my thoughts from grumpy to gratitude gives me hope.   Maybe I too will find a way to get in the game.  Save the shoes. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

New Beginnings

There.  I did it.  I hit the "new post" tab.  I'm so proud of myself!

Now, what to say...

I think I'm going to go easy on myself today and let my pictures do the talking for me.  Both are evocative of spring and new beginnings.  Sounds like a good way to start after a lengthy absence, doesn't it?

Tomatoes in the greenhouse at Sleeping Cougar Acres...

...and garlic in the garden.  Dreaming of pasta already!