Friday, May 24, 2013

Wondering Wanderer

Woke to early-morning rain yesterday. No surprise there. The showers didn't encourage outdoor activity, so I puttered around my kitchen, did some yoga and puttered some more. At around 9:00am I noticed that the rain had stopped and the sun had appeared.  I left my kitchen in a complete mess and headed out the door.

Did I mention I was a complete mess too? Hair unbrushed. Face unwashed. Yoga togs not necessarily clean after a morning in the kitchen. Too bad. The sun is fickle here, and I've been trying to get outside for 30 minutes each day as part of The David Suzuki Foundation's 30 x 30 Nature Challenge

I slapped on a rain hat and sunglasses, grabbed my jacket and hoped I wouldn't run into anyone.

I was out for less than 3 minutes when I met a young man, his adorable daughter and their sweet-as-can-be puppy. There was really no avoiding them, especially when the puppy ran up to me with his tail wagging. The friendly greeting didn't last long. Once he got close he started to growl. Maybe my unshowered state was too much for his wee, sensitive nose. A good possibility, as the growling increased after he sniffed my toes. I walked on with the darling thing following me and threatening me in his fluffy, puppyish way.

A little further on I met a young mother pushing a stroller. In it was a beautiful baby bathed in golden sunlight. For the record, I generally don't find babies all that cute. I'm more of a "look-at-that-wrinkly-monkey-alien" kind of person. 

As the stroller rolled toward me, I gazed at the sun-limned child wondering if it might, in fact, be a doll.  When I got close the child turned its head, looked into my eyes and began to howl. I tried not to take it personally, but as soon as I was out of sight the crying stopped. Really! I know I wasn't at my best, but I didn't think it was that bad!

Was it my ungroomed state striking fear into the locals? Maybe it was my wardrobe choices? Was it my rain hat? My sunglasses? The combination of the two? I know it seems like an odd pairing, but given West Coast weather, sometimes it's the best option. And considering my unwashed hair and bleary eyes, the hat and the glasses should have minimized the fright factor. Perhaps the young eyes of my critics found my efforts at disguise intimidating.

Or maybe my odd footwear prompted the growling, sobbing greetings I received on my walk. 

Nothing like knowing you're scaring children and small animals to make you wonder about your appearance.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Whole Hog Meets Good Earth

Whole Hog Produce Bin - May 10, 2013

Tomatoes, butter lettuce, bok choi, green beans, salad greens, apricot, kiwi.
Thanks to this bin, meal planning was once again a breeze. Everything came together perfectly on paper. Then real life happened, and the plan fell apart. Then it came back together. Then it collapsed once more. 

In spite of ever-changing plans, we ate very well. Fortunately, for weeks like these, we have some favourite go-to meals. This time squash pesto came to our rescue when things went all pear-shaped. Or rather butternut-shaped.

Yep. You heard me. Squash pesto.

Heather of Good Earth Farms first told me about squash pesto four years ago. She kindly shared her recipe when I couldn't resist buying an abundance of squash from her at the Farmers' Market. It was an instant favourite. Now we make squash pesto regularly, and as the recipe freezes well, it is perfect for those nights when a quick meal is needed. Toss with pasta. Top with cheese. Serve with a green salad. Dinner in minutes. Couldn't have planned it any better. 

Thanks to Heather for many delicious, easy meals and for allowing me to share her recipe with you.

Good Earth Farms' Squash Pesto

Notes in brackets are Heather's

(Based on Martha Shulman's recipe in "Vegetarian Feast".)

(I use a basil pesto recipe from one of my many cookbooks as a guideline. I never follow it exactly, and always have a great result. Simply substitute cooked squash for the basil, and continue as normal. I also use sunflower seeds in place of expensive pine nuts. I buy raw sunflower seeds and toast them in a dry (no oil) cast-iron pan or a frying pan until they are golden. They have a great flavour.)

2-3 cups cooked squash
1/2 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic (We love garlic, and I always use more in sweet squash pesto.)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (I leave the cheese out if I plan on freezing the pesto.)
2 tsp lemon juice (Again, use a little more if needed to offset the sweet squash.)
2/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup sunflower seeds - toasted

Combine first 3 ingredients in a food processor. Add the cheese. Blend until you have a homogeneous paste. Add the lemon juice. In a slow stream add the olive oil. Finally add the sunflower seeds and blend to a uniform paste. Taste while still in the food processor and make adjustments as needed, ie. salt, lemon juice etc.


My Notes:

I used a small butternut squash from an earlier Whole Hog bin which I baked then pesto-fied. The squash was very orange and very sweet, so I used Heather's suggestions and upped the garlic and lemon. (Three cloves garlic and the juice of 1/2 a lemon.) The baked squash was quite moist, so I only needed 1/3 cup of olive oil to get the consistency I wanted. I later thought I could have roasted a head of garlic when I baked the squash and used it in the pesto. Next time.

To bake squash:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Cut squash in half and scoop out seeds.
  • Place squash cut-side down in an oven-safe pan. Pour about 1/2 inch of water into the pan with the squash.
  • Bake until squash is tender and easily pierced with fork. (For my small squash it only took about 40 minutes.)
  • Scoop cooked squash from the skin. Discard skin. 
  • Make pesto!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Panicked Pictures and Perfectly Playful Boots

Last week I panicked. I didn't like any of my outfit photos, so I posted a picture of my Rocky Horror costume instead. 

The rejected photos featured outfits I wore to work. This week's photo features an outfit I wore to play. (Hubby and I went out for lunch, then shopping, then to a matinee showing of Iron Man 3.)

There's much I could write about my work/play wardrobe issues. Especially the work issues.

Photo-bombed by a poppy!
My satisfaction with this outfit has much to do with my new footwear. 

On Wednesday I went shopping with a friend - something I hadn't done in years. The experience was so enjoyable that I was a bit giddy. Then I found the boots. Last pair. Half-price. My size. AND a brand I am growing to love. 

I cradled the lone display boot while I browsed. It was as though I was afraid someone would rush in from the street on that rainy afternoon and grab the last pair before I could...what?

There's much I could write about my shoe issues.

I wasn't planning on buying the boots. I don't wear heels. I don't need more shoes.  Then somehow I got talked into trying them on. Really, there wasn't much else to do. It was too rainy to leave the store. For the record, I also tried on a pair of green, floral, strappy sandals. Something like these.You know. Just for fun. They did not follow me home. Have to draw the line somewhere! Besides, I couldn't actually walk in them.

The boots, on the other hand, were very comfy. Still, I wasn't sure. Were they comfy enough to wear to work? I am on my feet all day. Where would I wear them if I don't wear them to work? What would I wear with them? Even at half price they still cost about a day's pay. Doubt. Doubt. Doubt.

Then I decided that I can't make all my wardrobe choices based on what will work for work. Besides, given how miserable my last shift was, I deserved the damn boots!

Sometimes you just gotta say WTF!

And in the spirit of WTF, I've decided to post the rejected photos. I may not like these outfits, but I think I'm learning from them. I'm ever grateful to Patti at Not Dead Yet Style for giving us a place to play, to experiment and to grow. Head on over for Visible Monday. I am!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Let's Do the Time Warp Again!

An old photo this week. I thought I'd share it here, as only four people have actually seen this outfit.

Jazz hands!

In October of 2011 the art gallery planned a screening of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Some friends asked me if I wanted to go. You bet I did! I hadn't been to Rocky Horror in more than twenty years. I was stoked. I went often in my university days. Heck, I still know the words to all the songs.

Of course, none of my original Rocky Horror outfits were still in existence, nor would they have been suitable for a woman of a certain age, so I hit the thrift shops. I was thrilled to find a twelve-dollar, second-hand tuxedo on my first try. A trip the the dollar store for glasses and a wig, plus a trip to the dancewear store for a bow tie and a hat and I was set. I was going to be one rocking Transylvanian. I don't think any of my outfits were this awesome back in the day.

Then they cancelled the show. Boooooooo!  Hiss!  Boring!

All was not lost. The four of us who planned to go the the show still got together. We wore our costumes, ate Chinese take-out and watched Rocky Horror on DVD. We had a great time. 

Still, only four people saw the costume. I think we can do better than that! Such an awesome costume deserves to be visible, so I'm sharing it over at Not Dead Yet Style for Visible Monday. Stop by and see what Patti and all the rocking women are wearing. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Whole Hog - Spring Swoon!

Whole Hog Farm Produce Bin - May 3, 2013

Leaf lettuce, asparagus, pepper, zucchini, rhubarb, butternut, mango, tomatoes, braising greens, pear.
Yes, I know the picture is blurry. I trembling with excitement over that asparagus!

OK, I admit I can be a local-food geek, so you shouldn't be surprised to learn that I practically swooned when I saw the contents of this bin. Asparagus and rhubarb and greens! Oh my! Meal planning was a breeze. 

Keep in mind I no longer look at rhubarb and immediately think "dessert". I got over that a few years ago when many, many friends presented me with rhubarb from their gardens. Eating and preparing rhubarb muffins and rhubarb sauce wore thin quickly that year, and we all know that my pie skills are lacking. Still, I hated to see the rhubarb go to waste. Thus began my quest for savoury rhubarb recipes. There are more out there than you'd think!

Not only did we use all the rhubarb in this bin without reaching for the dessert recipes, we also had to raid the garden to have enough for the meals I planned. Rhubarb chili is so amazing that I made a huge batch and froze some.

We prepared the following meals. Items in bold are from the bin.
  • Grilled New Zealand steaks, steamed asparagus, salad with leaf-lettuce, pear, Natural Pastures Aged Farmhouse cheese and home-made vinaigrette. Lettuce, pear and asparagus.
  • Broccoli soup, toast and raw veggies. Broccoli (from previous bin) green pepper and tomatoes.
  • Savoury black-pepper rhubarb with poached eggs. Steamed greens. Rhubarb and braising greens.
  • Rhubarb Chili Cubano, raw veggies. Rhubarb, pepper and tomatoes.
  • Pasta with Zucchini and Lemon. Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home. Stir fried greens with tomatoes. Zucchini, tomatoes and braising greens.
We ate the mango for breakfast, and I baked the butternut squash and used it in pesto.  The recipe for that will follow soon!  Sadly, I can no longer find the link to the original recipe for the rhubarb and egg dish, and the rhubarb chili was clipped from a magazine, so it's not really mine to share. 

Each meal made enough for dinner for two with leftovers for lunch the next day. If you want to get two meals for two people out of one pear, I highly recommend salad. Particularly if you can get your hands on cheese like the Aged Farmhouse from Natural Pastures. 

Leaf Lettuce, Pear and Aged Farmhouse Cheese Salad

If you don't have access to Natural Pastures cheeses, their Aged Farmhouse is described as "firm", "slightly granular" and "leaving you a lingering sweetness on the tongue". Hopefully with that description you can find something similar. And hopefully you'll let me know what you find, because I want to try it too!


2 tbsp sherry vinegar
6 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp honey (OK, a generous tablespoon)
1 tsp dijon mustard
salt and pepper
  • Combine the dressing ingredients and blend.

3/4 head of leaf lettuce - washed and torn into bite-sized pieces
1 large ripe pear - washed and cut into bite-sized pieces
Aged Farmhouse, or similar firm cheese,  crumbled (I didn't measure. Just keep going until it looks good to you.)
  • Toss your salad ingredients. Add dressing to individual servings at the table.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Presto Chango!

When it comes to clothing, I am not a good shopper. That could be because I find shopping so discouraging. I feel like there's very little out there for someone of my shape. More often than not, after trying on several things that really don't work, I'll settle for the item works best. Sometimes the item isn't particularly flattering, but if it covers all the important bits decently, I'll take it. 

My close-enough-is-good-enough approach is particularly apparent when it comes to second-hand items. This tank dress was one of those items. I was shopping on my lunch-hour, so I was pressed for time. I checked that the dress covered my bust, that the armholes didn't gape, and that my bra straps were concealed. Yes, yes and yes. Six dollars spent and I was out the door. 

Later I realized that I should have checked that my bust and my butt were covered. While the dress didn't look too short in the dressing room, as soon as I started to move I realized I was in trouble. 

At that point I was tempted to toss the dress in the donation bag and be grateful that the lesson only cost me six bucks. But I kinda liked the dress. I hung onto it and hoped that it would magically get longer in the closet.

Eventually the ol' light bulb went on. I added a hand-me-down jacket, a consignment-store belt and some leggings. Abra-cadabra! Presto-chango! My short dress was now a long tunic. Sadly, I didn't actually own the leggings, so I had to spend another $35 to get my bargain dress to work. Fortunately, I've found other things in my closet that work with the leggings. Somehow that seems to justify the expense. 

This is the outfit I wore for date night on Friday. Hubby and I walked down to our local pub for burgers and beers.  The pub is quite new. I'm rather liking having a drinking establishment within stumbling distance of our home.

Linking up with Patti and the rabble over at Not Dead Yet Style for Visible Monday. Go check out the inspiring, innovative and stylish women!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Whole Hog - And a Whole Lot of Potato Salad

Last Friday's produce bin from Whole Hog Farms included the following:

green beans, kale, broccoli, cucumber, beets, grapefruit, carrots, potatoes
Meal planning for the week was difficult. I don't think it was the bin selections. It could be that I wasn't sure how our evenings were going to look.  There was the possibility of a change in my work schedule. There were after-work appointments, and we had hoped to get to the Service Canada office to renew our passports. Whatever the reason, it took me three attempts to get our meals sorted out, and even then things didn't quite work out as I had expected. Actually, the plan unravelled pretty early in the week. Hubby participated in Snow to Surf on Sunday. (Running. He did really well.) By the time we got home, neither of us felt like eating the meal I had planned. Still, we were able to prepare the following delicious meals. Items in bold are from the bin.

  • Potato, Green Bean and Tuna Salad served on baby spinach. Avocado and tomato salad. Potatoes and green beans.
  • Pasta with Squash Pesto. Spinach, tomato and cucumber salad. Cucumber.
  • Cannellini and Kale Soup. The Soup Sisters Cookbook. Toast. Kale.
  • Potato Curry. Rice. Cucumber and yogurt. Potatoes and cucumber.
  • Beet Salad with Sheep's Cheese and Olives. Food 2.0Beets and lettuce. (The lettuce came in this week's bin.)
The carrots were eaten throughout the week as snacks, the grapefruit rounded out a couple of breakfasts and most of the broccoli was used last week. Each meal, with the exception of the beet salad, made enough for dinner for two with leftovers for lunch the next day. In fact, the potato salad made enough for a couple of lunches and then some. 

Potato, Green Bean and Tuna Salad

Note: Skip the tuna if you want to go all veggie. We have it that way more often than not. Yummy either way.

Also, this recipe is my adaptation of several long-forgotten recipes. I think it was one of Jamie Oliver's shows that first brought mixing warm potatoes with vinaigrette dressing to my attention. I haven't made creamy, mayonnaise-based potato salad since.


2 small cloves garlic, minced (about 11/2 tsp)
1 tsp dijon mustard
juice of 1 lemon (3 tbsp)
5 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
  • Combine the above ingredients in a large bowl. Use the bowl you will be serving the salad in. That large. You'll want a bowl that can handle a bit of heat too, as you'll be adding hot ingredients next.

6 (about 1 lb) potatoes, peeled if desired, and cut into 1 inch chunks
12 oz green beans, ends trimmed and snapped into bite-sized pieces
1-6 oz can tuna
1/4 cup chopped chives
  • Steam the green beans until cooked to your liking. Cool and set aside. (I steamed the beans in the pot I later used for cooking potatoes. Hubby and I are the dishwashers here.)
  • Boil the potatoes until tender.
  • Drain the potatoes, and while they are still hot, mix with the dressing.
  • Chill potato-dressing mix.
  • Once the potatoes have cooled, add the green beans, tuna, and chives and mix well.
  • Serve on greens of choice, or not, though more greens are always a good thing.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Your Woman on the Street Reporting

Hubby left for work quite early yesterday morning. I had the day off, so I saw him off from the comfort of our bed. There I lounged reading, drinking coffee and contemplating a caffeine nap followed by some yoga and maybe some writing. 

At 6:03 am SOMETHING happened. NOISE. The house shook, the windows rattled and the bed jumped. I had two thoughts. Earthquake or intruders. Both were reasonable assumptions. We live in the Pacific Northwest, and we have felt small tremors before. We also live in a neighbourhood that lends itself to interesting activities. Since moving here we've had one break-in, and we've experienced a bout of vandalism that included smashed windows. (On really good days I can think of those events as "forced de-cluttering" and "an opportunity to discover the comedy of Craig Ferguson's Late Late Show", respectively.)

After the initial impact nothing happened. When my terror subsided and I was able to breathe and move, I summoned my bravery and investigated. My first step was to call Hubby at work. (My first instinct was to call my Mommy, because that's what 47-year-old adults do when they're scared witless.) Hubby works within walking distance of our house, so I figured he would have felt a quake had there been one. 

He had, in fact, heard something, but hadn't experienced the shaking. He stayed on the line and provided calm reassurance while I checked the house for damage/intruders/monsters. Thankfully, there was nothing. I was still quite rattled, so I hopped back in bed to cower. It was past 8:00 am before I felt able to get up and on with my day.

From that point on my day seemed slightly off-kilter. Plans for yoga and writing and shopping fell away. Breakfast dishes sat in the sink until dinner time. It didn't matter. Nothing like a mysterious seismic event to provide some perspective. As a result of this letting go, I had a surprisingly good day: A walk to the coffee shop where I was delighted to find that my latte purchase entitled me to a complementary muffin. Lunch with co-workers followed by cake with even more co-workers. Two trips to the chocolate shop. 

As I was entering the chocolate shop the first time I ran into a woman who has been off her feet for a while. As we sat in the sun (she needed to keep her empurpled toes elevated) and visited, we were joined by a fellow with a camera. We chatted with him for a few moments. Then he asked if we had experienced the still-unexplained early-morning event and the camera was on. On me.

That slightly bizarre feeling of the day, combined with the sun and my companion's complements about my writing, lead me to cooperate with the cameraman. Any anxiety I would normally feel in such circumstances didn't materialize. I was relaxed, and I was confident, and I later appeared on the news

Given all the people the reporter Gord Kurbis spoke to, I'm surprised my comments made the cut. My co-workers and I should have ordered champagne with our lunch to celebrate my moment of stardom.