Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Wild and Weedy

Last week I was sick. My digestive system went ballistic. I didn't leave the house for 48 hours, and when I did it was with some reluctance and a good dose of stomach-calming medication. I'm sure it had nothing to do with the strange, local delicacies I had been eating the week before. 

Usually our meals are pretty routine. It's not that we won't try new things. It's just that our choices are restricted by what's for sale, and that's usually limited to what people will buy. It often feels like our food supply is geared to the lowest common denominator. That doesn't normally bother me. There's safety and ease in going with what you know, but sometimes it's nice to break the routine. In the week before my digestive meltdown I had the opportunity leap out of my dietary rut on two occasions.  

My book club met that Wednesday. We managed to talk about the book, but only after we discussed the seasonal appetizer our hostess served. She had set out two shallow dishes containing damp, green, wavy...stuff. It was actually rather pretty, and at first I didn't realize it was meant to be eaten. When she explained what it was I was a bit skeptical. I tried it anyway. After all, she had waded into the cold March ocean to collect it for us, she had rinsed it repeatedly to remove all the grit, and she was organized enough to marinate it in soy sauce and rice vinegar in advance. I figured that kind of effort deserved at least a taste on my part. 

I selected a piece, tried to forget I was eating herring roe on seaweed, or spawn on kelp (SOK for short) as I later discovered it is generally called, and gave it a go. It tasted like the beach smells; like oyster guts. It wasn't spit-it-out gross, but I wasn't quite sure I liked it. I pondered the flavour for a while, then tried another piece. 

That second trial was the charm. In a Green-Eggs-and-Ham-esque moment I discovered I do like spawn on kelp. I do! I had to restrain myself from gobbling up every piece on the plate. The only things stopping me were my manners and my caution when trying new foods. I don't like to overdo on the chance that there may be strange reactions later. I woke feeling fine the next day, which probably led to my brave, weedy choice at the whole-foods store.

Actually, my choice wasn't that brave. I had accidentally tried nettles last spring. I say accidentally because I didn't really choose the nettles. They arrived in my vegetable bin, and as I don't like to waste food I had to use them. It took some research and a few phone calls to figure out how to prepare them, but once I tried them I was hooked. 

As a result, it hardly felt adventurous when, on the morning after my SOK experience, I bought nettles. On purpose. They went into risotto. I was so pleased with my daring dish that I was inspired to harvest some dandelion leaves from the yard for salad.

It's a good thing the risotto turned out well, as I made enough for 6 hungry people. You can see why, when I started to feel ill, my first thought was to blame my diet. How often do you eat weeds on 4 out of 7 days?  I was relieved when I returned to work and discovered that several others had succumbed to the same stomach bug. Selfish, I know, but having just discovered these wild and weedy culinary delights I'm not anxious to give them up.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Spring Blues and Greens

Spring officially arrives one week from today. You'd think I'd be energized by the fact. Instead I'm lagging and it shows. I've lost my momentum, and I'm too tired to do anything about it.

I always find the switch to Daylight Saving Time difficult. That loss of an hour throws me right off. My body doesn't know when to sleep or when to eat. My slim grasp of things temporal slips. I know it will get better, and I'm already appreciating the longer daylight hours in the evening, but the first few days are rough. This year the adjustment to the new time has been made even more difficult by interrupted sleep. 

Monday morning brought with it an immense wind storm. The wind battered and rattled the house so viciously that I was awakened by items falling off my shelves. The windows weren't open. This wasn't the wind blowing things around in the house. This was the sheer force of the wind shaking the house until things inside shifted. I thought it was an earthquake. Scary. Considering some of the damage others experienced I'm very lucky that the only thing that suffered was my sleep.

Tuesday brought a different kind of wake-up call. It was my day off, and I really thought I'd get to sleep in a bit. No luck. This time my sleep was interrupted by the call of the wild: a flicker had decided that my chimney was just the right spot to attract a mate. The crazy beastie was up there drumming like he was channelling Keith Moon. So much for sleeping in!

Both the storm and the horny wildlife are signs of spring, but given the lack of sleep it took me until this evening to realize it. Once I clued in I headed out to the garden to see what was coming up. All the green was just what I needed to melt away the exhaustion-induced blues.  

New growth on the bay laurel.

Strawberries peeking through the leaves.

That strange red blob is rhubarb! Transplanted it at an odd time last year. So glad its making an appearance. 

Rather out-of-focus oregano.

Chives. You'd never know I've already been harvesting these. They grow that fast.

A row of parsley that didn't thrive last year somehow made it through the winter and is showing signs of life.

Either spinach or chard. I didn't label it, as I didn't expect to see it. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Housework Hell to Housework Happy

Welcome to everyone who has found me through the "Living the Creed Contest" over at "Making Love in the Kitchen". It's lovely to have you here. You've helped me to feel much less elusive. I hope you'll stop by again. 

It's now week three of this goofy little housework project I've set for myself. I suppose I should have a nifty title for this undertaking. "From Housework Hell to Housework Happy"? Hmmm. It has possibilities. Even after two weeks things are feeling a less hellish, but when I look around there's still quite a bit to do before happy is achieved. I guess I'm somewhere in the middle, hovering around "to". That's a good place to be, but "To" doesn't quite sum up what's happening. It's a bit too minimal for me anyway. I'll ponder this while I chip away at this week's chores. 

So the goals for this week were:

  • Make the bed daily
  • Wash breakfast dishes daily
  • Wipe down the tub and tiles after each shower
  • Clear the drain board each night
(When I see my goals listed like that they look so childish. Maybe I should call this project "Fortymumble Going on Five"!)

Once again, with Hubby's help, all goals were accomplished. Hooray! The morning chores are getting done, but I haven't quite developed a routine yet. As such, I'm avoiding giving myself anything new to do in the mornings. Instead, the goals for this week are:

  • Continue with the tasks listed above.
  • Wash any after-dinner dishes before bed. (For example, last night there were two beer glasses, a paring knife, a grapefruit knife and a mason jar hanging out sink-side at bedtime.)
  • Check the menu plan for the next day and make sure any frozen ingredients get transferred to the fridge to thaw.
(That last one comes from my "Shop Your Freezer" project.  I came up with this goal when Friday's chili didn't get made until Saturday. Can you guess why? Don't know why I didn't think of defrosting my ingredients before it was too late. Sometimes the light bulb in my head is slow to go off. It must be a compact fluorescent bulb. "Dim Bulb Does Housework"?)

Post a comment below if you have a thought about what I should call my humble housework project. Oh! "The Humble Housework Project!" Maybe that's it. Unless you have a better idea, of course!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Giddy, Dazzled, Surprised and Excited!

Last week I posted a piece about wearing colour. After much anxious, hesitant deliberating I entered it in a contest over at Meghan Telpner's Making Love in the Kitchen.  Today I discovered that my piece was chosen as one of their four favourites. I'm giddy, dazzled, surprised and excited! 

Meghan's readers now get to choose their favourite, and yes, there are prizes involved. Head over to her website, check out the entries, and vote for your favourite. Hope it's mine!

Click here to head over to Meghan's website and vote!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Shop Your Freezer

Recently, I've started lurking on fashion/style blogs. One expression that the stylish writers use again and again is "shop your closet". It's about re-evaluating the clothing you already own and finding new ways to put existing pieces together. I think. I'm new to this whole fashion thing, but I'm pretty sure that's the basic idea. I like this concept. In fact, I like it so much that I'm going to expand it to the kitchen. For the next few weeks I'm going to "shop my freezer". 

We have two freezers in our home: a basic freezer atop the fridge and a compact chest freezer in the basement. Last week I braved the sub-zero temperatures and plowed my way through the contents of each. There were some interesting discoveries. Several unidentifiable items, apparently relics from the last ice-age, were sent away for further analysis. "Away" in this case means to the dump. I hate to waste food, but it had to go.  

Even after I culled the science experiments there was way, way more food than I realized. I don't know what I'm hoarding it for. Emergencies? Should disaster strike, hydro will be the first thing to go. Without an operational fridge, freezer, stove or oven I'll never be able to use everything before it goes funky. It's time to use this stuff. As Gretchen Rubin would say, it's time to spend out. 

When I plan our meals for the week I usually sit down with some recipes and the sale flyer. Then I look at what's in the fridge and see what needs to be used first. Then, if I think of it, and I have some meals left to plan, I look to see what's in the freezer. For the next while I'm going to start with the freezer and plan from that. It will be a challenge, but I'm kind of excited about it.  I'll let you know how it goes. I'm already looking forward to getting back to the food aspect of the blog.