Diets, Diabetes, and Food Science.

I’ve been overweight most of my life…. I think I was probably 8 yrs old the first time someone mentioned it. My mother blamed it on my father.

My eldest son was 8 when he first started getting a bit ‘thick’, the same with my second son, and my daughter. I was all blamed on me. Despite the fact that my feeding habits with the children never changed between 7 and 9 yrs of age…. or that the eldest’s weight issues never changed after he went into care at age 9. Still. ALL. MY. FAULT.

I can tell you categorically there is probably no other single element of human science, or medicine more filled with woo and quakery and charlatans and scams than the weight loss industry. I can tell you that because I have struggled with, lost and gained weight, read the science, read the nutrition, read the papers, seen the books, followed whatever the fad diet today is. Heck at one time in my life my mother would kindly send me whatever new weight loss book was the day’s favourite for my birthday or Christmas, figuring it would be interesting to me. 40+ years on …. I can pretty much assure you that no one is really entirely sure what they’re talking about.

20 years ago, I pretty much decided I am who I am, my self worth is not a number on a scale, and obsessing about it, and / or living with other people who obsess about it, was simply no more healthy for me than the weight was. I would eat well, I would eat what I liked, I would cook and I would live. Chasing numbers is for suckers.

Now a Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis throws me right back into the hairy world of “miracle diet cures”, and the “SCIENCE shows!!” crowds. The really occasionally frustrating part of this is that there IS news in the world of dietary science, there is valid argument that the popular science thinking of the day has for decades been wrong and skewed and pushed by vested interests.

More and more good science seems to be indicative that ‘dietary fats’ aren’t the great enemy they’ve been projected as for the past 50-60 years. Largely sugars have been getting something of a pass (although not entirely), and the real culprits have been carbohydrates.

In other words…. Atkins might have been on to something.

And of course carbohydrates is exactly the place where the diet industry and the diabetes communities cross over. Especially for Type 2 diabetics, minding, watching, limiting and controlling the consumption of carbohydrates, is in a nutshell the only way to bring down blood glucose numbers – with or without the aid of medications. That much is true. However, within the diabetes community (and outside it as well) you’ll find (as one so often does) zealots. ALL carbs are bad, they obsess about the numbers, they keep scorecards…. “how low can you go?!” I’ve seen people bragging that they haven’t had a carb in years, or giddy they’re seeing BGL numbers in the 3.5mmol/l range (for those not familiar with the science or range, anything below 4 is a pretty serious hypoglycemic). On certain diabetic forums, a lot of them actually, you’ll find some people pushing LCHF (low carb high fat), and of Keto diets pretty heavily, and a lot of gluten-free woo thrown in for fun and flavour.

Now I’m not about to say these people are wrong. I’ve always kinda had a live and let live attitude towards other people’s dietary habits except as it comes into promoting bad, debunked, mythological science (a la the anti-GMO crowds, or the aspartame is poison nonsense). Really they aren’t entirely wrong, limiting carbs will reduce once’s blood sugar, the more you reduce the carbs the more you reduce your blood sugars – easy. A pretty strict very low carb regiment was how I initially got my BGL under control. And in conversational chats with dietitian friends – they agree – it’s a good kick start to getting your numbers down. However, I also firmly believe that *any* extremism isn’t likely a good thing and keto, paleo, atkins, advocates promising that a diet of just protein will cure everything from cancer to the common cold …. well it irks me.

It also irks me that it’s become almost impossible to separate the wheat from the chaff on this. I’ve seen so many people trying to flog another diet book that even good science gets read with an extremely skeptical eye.

For instance… this video was really interesting, and the science is solid and born out from another of other researchers.

As is this commentary added:

https://proteinpower.com/drmike/2017/03/11/dr-david-ludwig-high-carb-vs-low-carb-vs-slow-carb-diets/

But then both of these gentlemen Dr Ludwig and Dr Eades are flogging their current diet / weight loss / miracle cure book. Skeptical.

More established sources of information? Like for instance The Canadian Diabetes Association and a lot of the ‘accepted’ medical literature and nutritionist information… is still pushing the whole food triangle argument of ‘balanced nutrition’ and the old notions of fat=evil. It doesn’t take into account more recent science findings, or even that dietary recommendations for Type 2′s who are using diet and medication to control their blood glucose, and for Type 1′s who are using diet to medicate – are really subtly but substantially different or at least they should be.

Fats
Proteins
Simple Carbohydrates
Complex Carbohydrates
Glycemic Indexes
Slow Absorption
Fast Absorption
Keto
Paleo
Atkins
LCHF

I really don’t think that anyone has ‘THE’ answer yet.

So yes, looking for data, information, science, a simple answer, a simple eating plan, I can trust, it didn’t really exist. Because there are no simple answers, and the science is continually evolving and especially for Type 2s my insulin resilience isn’t going to be like your insulin resilience which isn’t like their insulin resilience.

After all is said and done. I’ve taken a very middle of the road, no extremes, tack. I used self testing, medication and a low carb regiment to get my BGL under control, continued to use testing to slowly see what carbs I could and could not tolerate. Slowly added a bit more carbs back in (because – yes I *do* like a muffin or a piece of pie on occasion). I do eat some carbs, chose the complex, low glycemic index, high vitamin ones as often as possible, try to limit the processed simple carbs, and keep my ‘treats’ to within reason (as determined by self testing). This works for me, I’m happy with my numbers, so far my doctor seems happy with my numbers – I do have an appointment in June to get my April (1 yr anniversary) blood test results. Will this work for you? Maybe. Maybe not. Your body and endocrine system is yours, not mine. Do what works for you.

I’ll leave you with these two links – to a two part Ideas episode from CBC radio on fats and sugars that is worth a listen to.

FATS

and

SUGARS

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A moment to breath and contemplate…

Sooooooooo the last you heard from me I was planning a series of baking attempts and posts as I was working for an application to the Great Canadian Baking Show….

Then I worked 21 days straight, and even after that the combination of the two jobs and trying to squeeze in a bit of baking and bookkeeping in between has left little time for blogging.

I think we can probably safely say, that as filming was planned to happen May-June, that I didn’t get a spot this year, I am thinking I still, at this juncture, want to continue to work towards a placement next year.

Of course if they actually viewed this blog as part of the selection criteria, well I haven’t exactly been keeping it up, and certainly the only post that I put up regarding the competition was a failure. I never did get posted the “laminated pastry in 3 hours” post… which was a win. Or the Potato Bread one. Or even Black Forest Cake for Mother’s Day post. Ah well I can only keep doing what I do…. and given the choice of baking or writing about baking, the baking will always win.

In other depressing news, the wee inexpensive building next to the national park, that would have been perfect for my Big Black Dog Cafe, (which was all part of the ‘must win Baking Competition’ obsession) has been bought. It’s a sadness, but honestly without a competition win, or a lottery win, it wasn’t going to happen this year anyway.

The combination of the two has left me floundering a bit …. I don’t enjoy the work I’m doing, but the income is necessary, but it’s not leaving a lot of room emotionally, physically, temporally, or financially, for stuff I *want* to be doing. Building the house, sending the Feychild to school in England, my cafe, or even gardening, knitting, reading,….. *anything*. So I’m feeling a bit trapped in a black hole. But James and I are in this together and we keep on slogging, and maybe, just maybe …. eventually we’ll figure our way out of it. I just kinda hope it happens before we’re too old and weak and addle minded to enjoy it. In the meantime, I’m looking for a new idea, Plan, obsession, to hang my hope on.


Oh and as you know…. there`s been changes to LiveJournal`s TOS, that has a lot of people leaving. Honestly, I haven`t been reading at LJ regularly for a couple years now – much as I hate FB it really has become my point of contact with a lot of people. As for posting that comes too from my own blog space, and dreamwidth and they`re all crossposted to each other. If I can eventually manage to figure out new image hosting (I have been continuing to use scrapbook for all my image hosting) … I may end my LJ account for these privacy reasons. But migrating all my photos is gonna take a looong time, so that may not happen any time soon. It will be sad if it does…. 15 years I`ve been there, 15 years since a certain person I will never speak to again convinced me to try this idea that sounded hideous to me (yeah really I am NOT a big fan of change….) 10 years at least since I made that account permanent….. OK enough being maudlin…. I haven`t decided, and it`ll be a lot of work before its ready to happen if I do and besides it`s not like I`m leaving cyberspace….. LOL

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The Mirror Cake experiment – or The Great Vicky Baker Off Wk1

Hello again. We’re taking a bit of a break from Market Day Posts to bring you The Great Vicky Baker Off. For fans of the Great British Bake Off, you’ll understand this reference, for those who aren’t familiar with the show (currently only running on the other side of the pond, but hugely popular – really any baker who is even passingly familiar with pop culture has most likely heard of it).

Now the CBC, here in Canada, is planning their own version The Great Canadian Baking Show, and of course, I cannot resist tossing my hat in the ring. I’ve been obsessing about this and my application for the last two weeks and today my application goes in.

While I’ve been obsessing – it seemed prudent to practice and make sure my chops are what I think they are, and try and polish what are rough spots for me. Honestly, after my diabetes diagnosis, I wasn’t entirely sure I’d ever really be able to bake at my former levels again…. it hurt to think about. With my health under control, and learning that I can be both – diabetic and baker. I thought this could be a good test of whether or not I still have it, and do I have it well enough to open my own café, and can I bake everyday and still keep my blood glucose numbers under control. In short I’m thrilled, nervous, and excited to be baking again – and to see how my skills compare to the world at large out there.

One of the things I thought I ought to do, I tracked down some of the season 7 (latest) episodes of The Great British Bake Off and am trying them out – time limits and all – over the next weeks. This will introduce me to things I may not have thought of, some new techniques and interesting things, as well as encouraging me to take my normal good game to a higher level.

Strengths: Planning, Timing, Organization. In a past life I was an airline dispatcher – and a very good one, planning, timing and organization was the very lifeblood of being a good dispatcher – or Chief Dispatcher. I’ve always said, if I have a super-power – it’s planning, I can plan anything faster and more thoroughly than any human being alive.
.. and breads, my yeast breads are glorious and to die for, I *will* win bread week, and my laminated pastries – croissants anyone, are pretty much a “could do with my eyes closed”

Weaknesses: Hand skills, I don’t have the dexterity a lot of people do for fiddly wee hand skill things. So Cakes will be my downfall. Piping, decorating, neat and beautiful, that’s high on my practice page. And maybe stick with what I can do well, fondant cut outs, molded gum paste. After all my cocounut cake is a thing of glory because …. all that shining WHITENESS … a lovely boiled italian meringue frosting and just heaps of bright white coconut. It looks a thing of beauty, but very little hand skills involved.

All that said, I’m going to be posting the failures as well as the winners – because we need to learn, and as always I share the learning with you gentle reader, that’s how we both get better at this.

Week One was just such a failure. Decided to try the Mirror Cake – because it was a decorating technique I’d not tried before, and because I’ve had génoise cakes fail on me before (too much stuff in the batter – it fell flat.)

I will say that once I stuck to Julia’s “Perfect Génoise” recipe, without trying to doll it up with cherries and ‘stuff’ – the cake batter worked much better. It does take a bit of getting used to – to quote Julia, “Sturdy, firm, adaptable, and amenable to almost any flavouring, the génoise is the first cake a French patissier learns to make and the one (s)he’ll make most often in his/her career. It is drier than most American cakes and, for this reason, not every American’s favourite, but it’s dryness is considered an asset by the French, who soak their génoise with sugar and liqueur syrups of every conceivable savor.” It’s firmer dryer texture does make me want to believe the cake failed, but as the blind taster remarked they loved the cake it was more ‘pound cake like’ than the usual fluffy fare.

So the batter turned out perfectly – really it’s just a question of beating those eggs a minute past when you think it might be ready, give it a little bit more, and being very gentle with the folding in the flour. No nothing but cake flour will really work well here.
Perfect Batter

It baked beautifully. (As a side note, you have to know when a cake is done, more than one competitor has been tripped up by the use of an unfamiliar oven – and I expect they will be using convection ovens in competition rather than standard ovens. It took me some time to get used to the vagueries of this oven it might get tricky when I have an oven that actually holds it’s temperature properly.)
Baked genoise

It has a lovely crumb and a beautiful texture… but it is different from what a lot of us think of when we say “cake”.
Nice crumb
(ignore the bad lighting – shooting in the kitchen lighting is always challenging)

This is where things started going a bit sideways though.
My thought process was – most people do white chocolate in the mirror glaze, what if I changed it up a bit and did a white chocolate butter cream filling / crumb coat, and a fruit glaze? Rather than the more traditional other way around? There wasn’t too much wrong with the white chocolate butter cream , it’s hard to mess that up…. although it was very sweet and needed a bit more white chocolate and vanilla I think to really shine.
Melted white chocolate and whipping cream
Melted white chocolate and whipping cream

.. and a bigger bowl
.. and a bigger bowl”

So while the butter cream needed some minor tweaks, it was the mirror glaze which I haven’t done before that let me down. Problem one. Non of the recipes I came across gave a temperature to boil the syrup to, so it really came out a bit thin. Also the cake should have been colder – freezer, not fridge next time. It just didn’t adhere as well as it should have. Secondly, I was working with frozen mango chunks and should have thought to thaw them first and actually cook it into the syrup part…. adding the cold pureed mango to the syrup really brought the temperature down, and if it had been candied enough – it would have solidified the syrup before it even poured. Thirdly – mango and sugar syrup – it was deathly sweet especially with the white chocolate butter cream, it needs a hit of sharp, lemon juice would be the usual way to go…. but I’m thinking maybe go lime for a bit of the unexpected next time.

Thin syrup

In the assembly … it failed some. Partly that lack of hand skills thing. It needed to have the cake sides more tidied up and even, the butter cream crumb coat needed to be smoother. Then perhaps the mango glaze had it been the right consistency would have worked better, and the ‘sunrise’ effect I was going for with the naturally coloured sunny mango and darker, copper red glaze would have worked better.

Sunrise surpise

Lovely but not good enough

What it was – was a nice enough home baked cake, but not anywhere near competition standard. We will do this again… because we learned something, and I can see that the perfect mirror cake is within my grasp.


Now the next challenge this week is:
2 batches of 12 each danish pastries, one sweet, one savoury in 3.5 hours.

Danishes? Laminated pastry? I got this. BUT. 3.5 hours? I don’t know a danish pastry recipe that doesn’t call for a minimum 4 hr rest (preferably overnight). But I’ll try it. Also the burning question… most of the competitors went with a traditional lamination – dough, then butter, a la puff pastry or croissants, on the other hand, all my recipes, Julia, Anna Olson (will she be a judge? really in Canada in TV bakers who else is there? But she might still be under contract to Shaw?)… all refer to the method most used in Denmark these days of the butter in the dough before lamination – a sort of short cut puff pastry method – like a yeasted short crust, that’s then laminated.

The sweet: goat cheese and port wine jelly – I keep wanting to ADD something to this to make it “MORE” but.. I can sometimes over think a thing. And it should be perfect as JUST cheese and port wine. (or maybe a dried tart cherry or two?)

The savoury: roasted garlic goat cheese with sun dried tomato sausage topped with sun dried tomato and kalmata olives. I was just going to go with the sausage, but I’m not happy there’s enough of the tomato in the sausage. So we’ll top it with a bit more.

We’ve got a half a pot of coffee, a full larder, it’s 3.5 hours to the buzzer and we’re wearing aprons over our pajamas….BAKE IT!

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Another long overdue update

I admit, I’ve been bad about posting regularly this last year. It’s been busy and hectic and whole months slip by unnoticed.

I took on a second part time job, because finances. The less said about that the better. The good part is they pay mileage, and it’s on my own time and it makes things a little less stressful. But lately it also means been working 7 days a week.

And the diabetes diagnosis, I haven’t said much about that lately. Except that my numbers are very nicely under control – shocked my doctor with my improvement at the 3 month mark, cut my meds back to a half dosage and things seem to be remaining stable. Even through the holidays and my returning to less strict eating patterns my BGL have stayed pretty reasonable. Even the occasional pastry is back in; although I’m still very cautious about potatoes and rice, and pretty much avoiding pasta all together. So really not cut anything out completely anymore, just LESS of. Still keeping all my 3 month check ups and minding how I go, although I’ve also kinda gotten lax on my spread sheet trackers as well – I need to be more diligent about that, but getting back into the habit when everything is so … pressing, is difficult.

This brings us to the events of the past few days…. I’ll give you the Coles Notes Facebook version:

“So.
I kinda pushed James a little into buying the Durango. He hadn’t been really interested in the ad…. but I made him look at the ad a 2nd time. And go out and see it. He has really enjoyed owning it, and I was so pleased that finally after almost 8 yrs in Canada he finally had a decent vehicle he liked, and was comfortable in and………

I wrote it off today.
A stupid error in a moment of panic.
Hit the gas instead of the brakes.
Took out a phone pole.

I got lucky and only side swiped the pole. Otherwise the truck wouldn’t be the only thing that’s gone. I banged my hand up and I’ve got a good rope burn from the seatbelt. Otherwise I’m just devastated, embarrassed and broken hearted that once again I’ve made a stupid mistake that’s going to cost us a pretty penny, and thrown our lives into logistical hoop jumping and … spoiled something nice for him.”
———————————————————————————————
Soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

I got this plan…. to toss my hat in the ring for the Great Canadian Baking Show - a new entry into the reality TV series game from the CBC … based loosely on The Great British Bake Off – I’m working on my application. I’ve mostly put it together well I think….. still trying to get a photo of me I don’t hate…. the problem is that they all look like I’m 52 LOL! The other problem is that a ‘application video’ is recommended (but not required) “for a good video, see out Video Tips” – I can’t find their video tips – not on their website, not on the cbc’s not via google – I got nothin’.

So plan is a 5 min video – no action sequences baking – that just ends up with camera shake – no script, just a few notes on key points I want to touch on.

I don’t know if I’m reality tv material – lord knows I can talk a blue streak. And I can bake, and I am competitive – I just have trouble seeing cooking as a competitive sport …… still if it gives me a shot and maybe seeing some of our life ambitions to fruition. My cafe outside the park, our Arthcwtch Creative Space and Workshops, then I’ll go to just about any lengths to make that happen.
I think I’ll have to try again on the photos….the whole squinting wrinkly forehead thing doesn’t work well.
Vicky - entry photo Vicky - entry photo

I’ve also been working on the tax returns, because there is money coming back to us there. However it’s been a bit of a pita – despite the simple calculations of mine and the Feychild’s.

“Frustrating day…. still can’t find the ‘video tips’, trying to figure out the difference between the accountant’s tax return last year (which shows a $2300 deduction from total income) and this year’s tax return where I see no category or box check where I would qualify for that kind of deduction….. this may well explain the difference in outcomes for this tax year, BUT I don’t have his working copy – just the final summary page of the assessment – so I figure I’ll try logging into My Account at CRA for the past filing…. except it won’t accept the username and password I have …. or the “security question” answers (must get all 4 right – I’m sure it’s the Make of Your first car – that’s screwing me up), too many attempts – locked out, so reregister – but to have them email me the security code to activate the account (rather than wait for Canada Post) I have to physically speak to someone – but because it’s tax season, the lines are too busy and I can’t get through.

The good news is that the brake lines on Ziggy2 look pristine and should be able to fix the brakes on Ziggy the First … but these things don’t happen instantly and it’s cold out and … the poor man :( but we need a working vehicle… now. Insurance inspection should have happened today or tomorrow – but so far no actual call from the guy actually coming out to look…. just calls from people confirming that he will call *head*desk*. Pretty sure it’s gonna be a write off and the buy back will probably make it not worthwhile…. but we’ll see. We can replace it with an identical yr/model for probably $5000-$6000 – we were into Chuck for $5K so that’s not unreasonable, but unless I win the Bake Off it might as well be a $1 million.

The work I was out to do yesterday is supposed to be completed by Friday, when the new tasks come down for next week. Staying in touch with my supervisor, but honestly wondering if there’s a point in doing a scan on Thursday and then going out and doing another one on Saturday?

Holding tight and trying to get through everything one step at a time. And taking tonight with Him as “Date Night” …. because that’s the thing that helps keep us sane.”

So hopefully we’ll get you back to one of our regularly scheduled Market Day, or now the new Prep for The Great Canadian Bake Off posts very shortly.

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Market Day – Chicken and Dumplings

The fall weather is well and truly here … cool nights, frosty mornings, and a craving for hot comfort foods, easy to make easy to eat, and smothered in gravy/sauce of some kind.

In this a slow cooker, and/or a big cast iron enamel dutch oven are your friends.
This week was ox tail stew – in the slow cooker for a market decorating day potluck
Slow cooker pulled pork for Wednesday evening was a huge time saver during a very busy week.

But what really warmed the cockles of my heart, and my belly was a big pot of chicken and dumplings. I don’t do them very often, despite the fond remembrance of childhood, so a quick glance around the internet for a recipe. Alas I really wasn’t particularly taken with any of the ones I saw, non really seemed to use what seemed to me to be ‘proper methodology’ …. so using basic ingredients from some, add a bit here and there for flavours and then upped the ante on the techniques to proper old school cookery.

Chicken and Dumplings
1 whole chicken cut into pieces / 8-9 chicken thighs
1-2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 stalks celery – chopped
1 large onion – roughly minced
3-4 carrots sliced
1 clove garlic
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tbsp mustard powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp dried savoury
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1/4 cup butter
2-3 cups chicken stock
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup white wine (optional)
2 bay leaves
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh sage

Dumplings
2 cups all purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup buttermilk (splash of white wine – optional)

Start with a nice bird. Cut into pieces, depending on your butcher there’ll be either 8 or 9 – doesn’t matter because you’re gonna debone em anyway. The other option here is to use chicken thighs – 8 or 9 or so and forgo the deboning.

Firstly – whenever you’re braising meat you want to brown it first, it’s all about the flavour and a nice crispy caramelized browning makes a world of flavour. So .. put 1 cup of flour, 1 tbsp dried mustard powder, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp ground pepper, 1 tsp smoked paprika and 1 tsp of dried savoury in a bag and about 3 pieces at a time give the chicken a shake to coat. Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in your cast iron enameled dutch oven on the cooktop over medium high heat. Working with 3 or 4 pieces at a time brown your chicken pieces and then remove to a plate and continue with the next 3-4 pieces. When the chicken pieces are all browned, add 1 minced onion (large) 2 spears of chopped celery, 3-4 carrots sliced and 1 clove garlic minced. Turn the heat down to medium and stir and saute for 5 mins or so till the vegetables wilt and soften. Toss in a 1/4 cup of butter (because butter makes everything better) and when melted add in the flour you coated the chicken in. Stir till it starts to colour just a little, then slowly add 2 cups of chicken stock, and 1 cup of buttermilk – trust me on this – you really need a hit of acid in this dish to take it from good to great! Turn the heat off, stir as the stove cools down and you’ll see that lovely thickening of a nice gravy. Add your chicken bits back into the pot, push em down a little to see them covered in sauce. Toss on top 2 bay leaves, a sprig of thyme, and a sprig of fresh sage – barring fresh herbs you can substitute a tsp each of dried herbs – but really, try to keep a couple little pots of a few essential herbs on the go in your kitchen – fresh makes a difference. Cover with a lid, pop in an oven preheated to 325°F. Go do something else, like soak in a tub, read a novel, drink some wine, for about an hour and a half.
Chicken and Dumplings

When you wander back to the oven, take the pot out, remove the chicken pieces to a plate. If the gravy / sauce looks a bit too thick (and it well might) you can add a little additional liquid, a cup of stock, some water, a bit of white wine is nice here…. just to bring it to ‘stew’ consistency. While the meat is cooling a bit, mix up your dumplings, 2 cups of flour, 4 tsp of baking powder, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 cup vegetable oil, and 3/4 cup of buttermilk (or a combination of buttermilk and a splash of white wine). whisk together with a fork until just mixed – don’t over stir these puppies! Using two forks pull the meat from the bones and add back to the pot, if you’re using thighs you can skip this bit and just serve them as whole pieces. Stir them back into the gravy. If you’ve added cool liquid to the pot bring it back up to a simmer and then turn it off, add the dumpling mixture to the pot in spoonfuls, leave some space between them they’re gonna rise!, pop the lid back on and slide her back into the oven for another 20 mins while you go build a salad, or open another bottle of wine.

And I promise…. one of these days I might actually go find a plug in that allows you to print these recipes more easily…. because it is the one thing I hate about some food blogs.

Your Market vendors … see Kevin at Thousand Hills Farms for the best chickens, and of course as always Evelyn at Riverview Produce Farms has lots of fresh onions and carrots right now, and talk to Alice at Ouest-Ville Perennials about fresh herb plants.

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Health – Home and Finanacial and Personal

Woah….. six months since I last posted?? How insane is that?

Ok, it’s been a busy six months. Getting my feet back under me after the whole health thing in April…. good news is that at my 3 month check up we reduced my meds by half the numbers were that good, the bad news is that coming up on my 6 month check in I’ve gotten sloppy about my record keeping, the numbers I think should still be good, but I need to keep my spreadsheets up to date. Also, having trouble keeping to the exercise routine – working nights makes scheduling havoc. Good news is I’ve lost 50 lbs – well 75 if you count the highest I hit (2 yrs ago), bad news is that seems to have plateaued now. Maybe getting the exercise routine more routine will help that. Good news is no apparent nerve damage in the feet or the eyes, eye doc made me buy glasses for driving, can’t stand wearing them all the time (same story of my life), but I do wear em for driving and sometimes watching TV. Bad news is I think I’m fighting another case of plantar fasciitis (had it once 30 yrs ago), combined with the arthritis that is always present, the pain in my feet, especially when working, is excruciating. Unfortunately the only cure is rest and time, rest I won’t get – my job requires me to be on my feet 8 hours a night. And as for time – been going on 2 months now. I’m hoping that a couple light weeks over the holidays will help. I’d been thinking about the diagnosis, the scheduling and now the foot thing and talking to the doctor when my 6 month review comes up about getting me onto Employment Insurance on medical grounds. However, that’s a risky proposition – I’d been meaning to have a market stall for the the cordials and drinks up and running for the Christmas boost, but it just didn’t happen in time, so that’s going to have to wait until the spring.

Which leads to the always difficult money discussion. Finding work for us both, while only part time, did mean we were out of the fire so to speak – there was still a lot of detritus in it’s wake that needed cleaning up. Still it wasn’t BAD, just .. not good. We figured a small mortgage – clean up the financial mess and the house mess and get both houses in order. Didn’t quite work out that way, almost a year of headaches and false starts and ….. stress, we ended up in a mortgage situation that was by all accounts toxic, but at least it would be something to build on. But it wasn’t what we needed to clear the house situation, although it did take care of the bad debts, but the terms were horrific and it cost us almost $10K to get there. This year we went looking for a better deal….. well it IS better … its a fast pay out at least, but we’re into another $8K just to land the deal, still no money to work on the house and the payments are double. It does put us seriously into the “we’re gonna be eating a lotta kraft dinner and hot dogs” territory. The new lender does have a different approach and is all very patronizing and paternalistic in their approach and is all “you naughty children, we’re doing this for your own good and…” yeah. But… again the process dragged out to the point where our feet were to the fire and there wasn’t a lot of choice in the matter. Good news is it IS a fast pay out, it was a bit of a wake up call regarding personal business stuff here, and it’s a 5 yr term, so we don’t have to go through this again next year unless we want to pursue a better loan option. The frustrating part is that each time we go through this process it costs us thousands, and we’re now into a $45K loan situation and still have never seen the $15K we needed to the work on the house, and until we put the work into the property, we’re not going to see an increase in the value to extend any further credit to. The payments are deep enough that I just can’t risk taking any kind of medical leave from work. I’m just going to have to suffer through it, and hope it starts clearing up and pray that something better turns up that’ll get me off my feet.

Yeah a bit depressing.

That said. Here’s the important bit. James and I are madly in love. I *am* managing my health well, we’re stressed but we have each other and Jessica and the dogs and our friends and our volunteer work – we’ve got the important stuff. The rest is just money. And as much as our lender would sneer to hear us say it – it IS just money, and money has never been that important to us (I suppose that’s how we ended up here). We’ve lived through NO employment, NO welfare, and selling off furniture to eat. We’ve had money and spent it, and we’ve been broke and done without. We will get through this, things will get better, and we are on our way OUT of the mess, it just wasn’t quite as neat and tidy as a nice wee $55K mortgage at 7.5% over 20 yrs and $450/mnth. MAYBE if we can keep this going for a year or two, and pay it down some, and put the bad debt further in the past … we can eventually find a lender willing to do $65K at 7.5% over 20 yrs… that puts us in the $500/mnth range ($600 with taxes) …. which is a $200/mnth saving over where we’re at now, and will actually get the work done on the house. The new lender would have a cow – they’re all very “NO DEBT, NO DEBT, NOOOOOOO DEBT!!!” and I’ll agree, no, or little debt is a very fine goal and one we DO keep in front of us, but ya know – adding heat to the upstairs is also a very fine goal. And if we keep to the payment schedule and are able to dump a little extra cash into it now and again we might even be able to keep that down to the original $50K plan – now that would be nice, but I’m also keeping in mind that sometime in the next 5 yrs we’re gonna need a new roof as well.

The other carrot we’re keeping in front of our noses, is the promise we made to Jessica to do all we can to get her into Aardman Studio’s Master Class in Character Animation for the 2018 semester. Between her savings (if we can keep our paws off it) and our savings (yeah right) and maybe a little help from family, and a GoFundMe we can make that happen. We’ve already had some very kind help getting her a kiln to work on her character sculptures – which should be paid back in the next week.

So right now it’s just getting through the holidays, always a busy time personally and financially, waiting on the mortgage and how much out of pocket that’s going to be, waiting on the income tax – hopefully any day now, waiting on another cheque and a couple of larger contract jobs James has in the pipes to pay out, and get David’s airline ticket for the holidays and arrange the time off to go pick him up and….

Taking today to clean the decks, catch up the paperwork, turn over a fresh page and make sure nothing gets lost in the hustle and bustle. There’s still a lot of plans on deck, stuff in the pipeline so to speak. Much to do on the PETSCORT scene and I’ll talk a bit about James plan to do Fixit workshops at the market, possibly alternating with me doing a set of DIY workshops, sticking our toes into the whole Maker / Teacher / Workshop coordination “Nouveau Arts and Crafts Movement” vision.

Speaking of which … this was supposed to be a Market Day Post but *snerk* it went in an entirely other direction. That’s ok… Market Day Post and recipe coming up.

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News, changes, woah….

So, I was diagnosed with Type2 Diabetes last Thursday …
1. this wasn’t particularly a shocking development to either myself or my husband (who was with me)
why no surprise? because I’ve been overweight for probably nigh on 40 yrs, (give or take), and 2 of my 7 siblings have both been diagnosed some years ago.
2. it was / is frightening – one of my 2 brothers also suffered from depression and that played a role in his not caring for himself after his diagnosis – this led eventually to amputation of his left foot, and eventually to him dying of a stroke in 2011.
2b) it was/is frightening – my numbers at diagnosis were better than double what my doctor wants them to be (and is confirmed by the ‘what should my blood glucose levels be’ on this website). 16mmol/L. She sorta subtly hinted at “Why are you walking around not feeling like crap/death warmed over/ dead?” When my doctor seems nervous, that’s kinda scary.
3. it was / is embarrassing – see above two statements – I’ve been whistling in the wind for years, half expecting this, going through the motions of diet and exercise for 6 months / a year … aware that I needed to take better care – In other words – I knew better than to let it get to this. I really don’t want to hear my mother say, “see I told you” right now (if ever).
3b) it was / is embarrassing – I’ve put my poor long suffering husband through a lot of difficult life changes in the last 5 yrs (we’ve been married 10 this year), I hate putting him through this too … and while it may be MY diagnosis, it will impact on him, us, the whole family.
4. it was / is depressing – as you all know I’m a passionate cook, particularly baking …. I do love my carbs. Just before my diagnosis I was working towards getting a spot at our local farmer’s market to sell syrups and cordials and flavoured ices.
5. it was/is overwhelming – despite all the knowledge and education and prior research and exposure to diabetes before the diagnosis, it’s different when it’s happening to you and see point 2 and point 3 and point 4 …. and woah…. gimme a second to catch my breath….

Ok so that was 10 days ago.

The doctor has me on metformin 500mg – started me on slowly 1/2 tab once a day 3 days, 1/2 tab twice a day 3 day, then full tab twice a day…. because of the ‘digestive upset’ potential side effects, (my pharmacist was a bit more graphic than the doctor was about those) …well didn’t see any of that on a half tab, so moved up after 2 days … since I’ve gone to the full tab things have been a bit uncomfortable, but that seems to be easing up a little bit.

No one has told me how quickly I should be seeing an improvement in the numbers. But 10 days in and I’m seeing 8′s and 9′s (down from 14-16) so target range of 6+/- is in sight and that pleases me.

We’re trying to take this in stride and remember that the lifestyle changes this is forcing was a direction we were working in anyway – aside from a higher reliance on carbs than perhaps would have been good, my diet wasn’t HORRIBLE – just maybe a bit much… so we’ve removed all sugar sweetened items, almost completely eliminated all bread / potato / rice / pasta – and when it does include bread then it’s a half portion and it’s whole grain.

Breakfast is the most difficult meal of the day to accommodate – all cereals are kinda carb heavy, and eggs everyday isn’t maybe the best choice (and don’t you always want toast with your eggs?). So balancing eggs with a half a whole grain bagel with high fibre low carb cereals like steel cut oats and 12 grain cooked cereal.

Trying to consider this a positive thing – these were lifestyle changes I was working towards – it just fast tracking some of them. I do all my own cooking and am food educated – so using this as an opportunity for recipe development and I’m pretty good at that. I found some very interesting baking options through jewish passover recipes – (grain / leavened baked goods are forbidden) – like a lovely blueberry muffin made with almond meal and beaten egg whites that – isn’t quite what we’d call a muffin, different texture, but neither unpleasant nor untasty – I think I’m going to use this basis for further recipe development. ( http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/flourless-almond-blueberry-muffins ). I’ve also downloaded all the cookbooks / recipes on this site and shared them with Him (as he does share cooking duties). Still trying to think my way around the Farmers Market plan – haven’t given that up entirely.

I am feeling good about seeing the numbers come down – I figured my next blood test was for 6 weeks from diagnosis so maybe I wasn’t gonna drop dead on the spot – still not sure how ‘fast’ they should drop but they’re coming down so it’s good right? I am also finding that I am feeling ‘better’ – I didn’t feel all that badly – I thought, but I was tired and worn out, figured that was just a product of working the night shift. Now it may be that it’s springtime now and we’ve got some sun after weeks of rain, or it may be diet changes, or blood sugars dropping, but in general my energy levels seem to be improving. (and as a side note, there’s been an improvement in my depression this past 6-8 months – still getting the blues a bit, but the deep gut wrenching death wishing crashes seem to be gone, that’s more hormonal – God bless Menopause). And well bluntly my libido is back, honestly I thought that was a menopause thing, I thought when they talked about sexual function and diabetes they were talking a guy thing – hey it’s always a guy thing side effect right? Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, maybe it’s just increased energy levels, but hey my frisk is back. Yay for that!

Last but not least, and if you’ve survived this far through my interminable ramblings you’re a brave soul and deserve a sugar free chocolate (yay my favourite Farmers Market chocolatier might make me some sugar free treats…)… I do have a question..

I thought (it made sense) that fasting blood sugars ie. the first one of the day / before breakfast should/would be the lowest number of the day…. and while it generally isn’t the highest my lowest blood sugar tends to be the one I take right before dinner on average it’s 1 below my breakfast numbers. So maybe someone from a more experienced crowd might weigh in?

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Market Day – Eggs Benedict

Geez, I haven’t updated in forever….. work, and new job applications and … Life getting in the way of art.

However, part of being busy is work, and home from a looooong night shift I’m often keen for a hot meal, that means more mid-week cooked breakfasts than I usually do. Eggs have become an important staple, but fried egg sandwiches can get a bit same old same old after a while – even with an amazing homemade ketchup (no really you should be doing this! Frenchs vs Heinz vs PC will mean nothing to you once you’ve made your own). So in a fit of insanity; after all who tries out new skills when they’re brain dead from 8 hours on a graveyard shift; I must be insane, I decided to give a go at poaching eggs … freehand, once more. I’ve tried it in the past and ended up with ‘egg drop soup’, maybe I had to be just a little loopy to give this a go again, if I’d been sane I’d have said ‘no way’. Still it’s another kitchen skill, and I’m trying to tackle more and more things that have failed me in the past.

First time I tried it in a shallow pan, with still water. I wasn’t brave enough to try the whirlpool method yet. I did add a recommended 1 tsp vinegar to the water (white wine vinegar because it tastes better when you can taste it). The results were very encouraging, more importantly, they were edible. However, I did decide that maybe the whirlpool method would help keep the whites in tight, and a deeper cooking vessel was necessary. Next day we tried again. Still edible, still improving, not sure the whirlpool helped; and well with a whirlpool you can only do one at a time, a downside for weekend brunches. Still learning, but willing to call it a fair to middlin’ success.
Poached eggs on toast

Sooooooooooo flush off one new skill success and with a fresh box of market eggs in hand… really for poached eggs the fresher the better … I figured what I needed to go with poached eggs was a little hollandaise and I’d have eggs benedict for breakfast. If I’d planned this further ahead I’d have made homemade english muffins too, but this was sorta spur of the moment thinking. Besides, I had to master hollandaise. It’s another one of those ‘chef skills’ I’ve tried in the past and failed and have been trepidacious about trying again. Still, in for a penny, in for a pound, I had nothing to lose by 3 eggs and a half a pound of butter, besides I’d mastered mayonnaise.

Interesting thing once I went looking for a recipe and instructions. Hollandaise is a pretty basic sauce – eggs, butter, lemon, beaten into an emulsion. However, like most simple classics there are about 10,000 different takes on it, from slight variations in ratios to prep methods (sauce pan vs bain marie vs blender) and all of them from sources I trust: eggs.ca, Julia Child, Alton Brown, BBC Good Food, Michael Ruhlmann….. In the end I went with Michael, and a traditional bain marie method. A) because I really liked Michael’s argument for taking the extra step of a vinegar reduction, despite that no one else does, and B) I like Michael Ruhlmann for teaching and demystifying slightly more advanced skills that some would shy from as being the providence of professionals and C) while people do debate his choices, the comments over there are always interesting, enlightening and respectful, and lastly, D) he’s always just a plain old fashioned ‘good read’

Hollandaise sauce

I’m gonna have to call this one another success! I might have liked it a bit thicker (perhaps cook the egg a bit longer?), but it was rich and lemony and lovely flavour and texture was smooth and silky. To quote Him

I’ve not been impressed with Eggs Benedict in the past. I’ve not had good hollandaise, it’s always been a bit too acidic, a bit too lemon, but this is creamy and smooth.

High praise indeed.
Perfectly poached egg plus one less perfectly poached egg

So 1 perfectly poached egg, 3 nicely poached eggs, a very nice hollandaise, (although next time – better ham) later we had eggs benedict for brunch, and enough egg whites (and a broken egg) to decide we must make lemon meringue pie for dessert tonight.
Eggs Benedict

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Market Day Post – Cranberries

Riverview Farms has had a bumper crop of cranberries this year, and of course, I’m making the best of it.

I love cranberries, their bright fresh taste gives you fresh fruit late into the year and they’re so easy to use. A quick rinse, a quick chop and they’ll go in anything. Or cranberry sauce; simply 2 cups of cranberries, a little orange zest if you like, and a cup of sugar and simmer till the cranberries pop.

This morning, it was cranberry scones. 15 mins. to mix up, 20 mins. to bake, 10 mins. to cool, and we had a lovely fresh breakfast on our way out the door. I didn’t even have to get up any earlier, I just grabbed my shower while they were in the oven.

Cranberry Scones

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Market Day Post – it’s beginning to look a lot like Yuletide

First wee bit of decorating done, picked up a wonderful fresh evergreen wreath and got it all done up with a few bits and bobs and a wee string of lights….. I’m liking the results.
Front door wreath

Beautiful evergreen wreaths available from Riverview Farms -this is a 12 inch mixed (I believe) – $9.00
Many more sizes and evergreen types available – all equally beautiful and equally reasonably priced

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Thoughts about Paris…..

Depressing thought for this morning…… the attacks in Paris, even amongst moderates I know who are wise and circumspect and know “not all Muslims” see this event as affirmation that we need to keep up the pressure on Syria and for Canada to not remove our fighter jets and to keep bombing the country and keep taking in refugees (which we have hand in creating – maybe not directly, but certainly indirectly) ……….

*cry*
9/11 was 14 yrs ago, when we ramped up the ‘War on Terror”, although lord knows it existed long before that….. and frankly – bombing the hell out of em hasn’t worked – the War on Terror has been as effective as the War on Drugs.

Without opening large cans of worms and being in my usual way broadly over simplistic. Even at the worst times of The Troubles and the IRA Britain never bombed the hell out of Ireland (although I can’t be sure there wasn’t talk of it). We have lots of home grown terrorists (although we like to put the misnomer of ‘eco-terrorist’ on them ….. like somehow that makes their violence more palatable) but no one is calling on bombing Vancouver or Northern California….

This isn’t our parents war, or our grandparents war. This isn’t one country and tanks and u-boats and armies marching across Europe, this isn’t a formal declaration of war and send in the bombers and the tanks till they cry “uncle’ and sign an amnesty, this isn’t an easy enemy to see or defeat. Because the enemy is hate. This is a new war and a new warfare for the new millennium – welcome to the technological revolution – old strategies and tactics aren’t going to work….. they haven’t for 14 yrs, or 24 yrs or 54 yrs …..

I’m just a silly old woman who’s tired of the answer being ‘bomb the hell out of them’, I don’t know what the answers are – but I know that I’m proud of Canada’s and Lester B Pearson’s role in developing the concept of Peacekeeping missions – I think that it plays a role in our identity as Canadians (or is the result of our identity as Canadians or both) …. and maybe Peacekeeping (as it exists now) isn’t the answer any more than ‘bomb the hell out of them is’, BUT maybe that thinking – maybe that mindset – maybe that Canadianism can help find answers for a new millennium and a new war. Maybe our new millennium Prime Minister can help find that, maybe I hope too much. I suspect that in the global reality – Canada is small potatoes, Justin is young and only a month in office and will he, can he, have the ear of the world … can hope and optimism that’s been so infectious here infect the world?

Yeah I know – I’m asking too much.

#thewaronhate

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and the day dawned damp cold and breezy…

Sundays with muffins

But I still love fall weekends, even when they don’t have that glorious late year sunshine. Thanksgiving weekend is always a bit of the embodiment of all that is marvellous and wonderous in autumn. Because I’ve never worked a traditional M-F schedule we tend to plan around ‘near enough’, and besides who wants to do a huge big meal on Monday and then get up early on Tuesday for work. Bah Humbug to that. So we almost always do Thanksgiving supper on Sunday.

But the Thanksgiving feast post is later.

This post is about mornings. And muffins.
Nothing much new to say about muffins, but I did need to get a little inventive.

See The Feychild, she loves cranberries, just not with the poultry feast (it has been chicken, traditional turkey, but since we moved to Nova Scotia it’s been a duck every year – my only duck of the year). She also loves orange juice, just not with a lot of pulp, I got a few jugs of orange juice from work for cheap, but they had extra pulp. So I’d strained the orange juice, but that left me with a lot of orange pulp. I was gonna use the orange pulp up with some left over pineapple (from the carrot cake adventures), but that fell by the wayside. So why not ‘orange cranberry muffins’? However most orange cranberry muffin recipes call for orange juice and zest, not pulp. So a bit of muffin recipe adaptation was called for. The results were a very nice muffin indeed, so without further ado:

Orange Cranberry Muffins

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries – chopped
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cups orange pulp
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 1 egg

Muffins cooling on an open rack

Method:

  • 1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  • 2. In a medium size bowl, whisk together dry ingredients – flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  • 3. Toss chopped cranberries with the 2 tbsps of sugar
  • 4. Stir cranberries into dry ingredients
  • 5. Whisk orange pulp together with juice, oil, and egg
  • 6. Pour wet ingredients into dry, and stir just until well combined – about 10 turns
  • 7. Fill lined muffin tin – I like to fill the cups more or less to the top (I like a big muffin top)
  • 8. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar or streusal topping
  • 9. Bake in a 400°F oven for 20 mins or till golden brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean

It’s a lovely easy start to a Thanksgiving Sunday that will involve much baking and roasting and cooking of things later in the afternoon

Muffins - a bit of sunshine on an otherwise cold and damp day

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Letting someone else do the cooking… and the brewing.

Since we moved to Nova Scotia, James and I haven’t been doing a lot of dining out. We used to go out for dinner quite regularly – as in a weekly date night. However, truth be told it got to be more and more difficult as my own culinary skills improved, it became harder to justify paying restaurant prices for food I could do myself only better at home, so that meant better and better restaurants – and prices accordingly.

So after we moved, and our household income downsized accordingly, we just haven’t been out for dinner. Oh we’ve had meals out or away as part of a trip, or other event, but we just hadn’t gone out for dinner for the sole sake of ‘going out for dinner together’. We have missed that. And as our fortunes are a little better than they were this time last year, and James learned (through his work at the Clare Shopper) of a meal event coming up at a local restaurant we’ve heard very good things about, we hemmed and hawed about it a bit, after all we don’t have the mortgage money or tax refunds in hand yet (although we are assured they ARE coming!!). In the end, it was a meal event, and it was the 3rd Anniversary of out move to Nova Scotia, so we bit the bullet, so to speak.

Rudders Seafood Restaurant and Brew Pub in Yarmouth has a very good reputation and we’ve been told by others we really needed to go sometime. When James learned of their Annual Brewer’s Dinner it sounded like a nice way to investigate the joint. We are very glad we did. The evening was a perfect delight from first sip to last bite, nothing disappointed. The location in an old warehouse building on the waterfront gives marvelous harbour views, and creates the rustic and relaxed atmosphere you expect from a microbrewery restaurant. The in-house entertainment, (which so often has the potential to be insipid), was provided by a duo of guitar and keyboards, and a talented singer, the repertoire was the old standards that so often can come across as live ‘musak’, but in this case the talent of the performers brought them to life, and was a thoroughly pleasant addition to the evening.

But we were here for the beer and the food, all the great entertainment, and fabulous atmosphere don’t mean much if the food doesn’t hold up, and a brew pub must be able to stand on it’s beer. First course was a Baked Blond Clams with Blond Rock Ale. Honestly, I don’t tend to be a big fan of blond beers, even microbrewery ones tend to be watery, thin, and a bit flavourless in their quest for lightness. Blond Rock Ale wasn’t. Yes it was light, bubbly, blond but it was full flavoured in a bright bouncy way that didn’t leave much of an after taste. It was a thoroughly delightful surprise, and it was the perfect match for the baked clams with blond ale sauce, and a very auspicious beginning to the evening. The baked clam starter, still crispy under the blond ale sauce with a hint of sharp cheese on a bed of wilted spinach was also a pleasant surprise that boded well.

James, as you may know, can’t eat shellfish, so while he sipped his beer and listened to me enthuse on about the starter (both of them – yes I ate his as well!) he was impressed with the beer, but anticipating getting to try the food as well. Most of you who know us know that we’ve often said “Salad is what food eats”. It’s hard to impress us with a bit of green leaf on a plate, but the Irish Apple Ale Salad did exactly that! The mixed greens were nicely sharp and peppery which contrasted beautifully with the sweetness of the cranberry and watermelon, and all balanced with the richness of the smoked gouda (oh my we’d almost forgotten how wonderful a smoked gouda is!). the Irish apple vinaigrette was another perfect balance of sweet and sharp, rich and bright. No flavour dominated or competed with the others, they all shone in beautiful harmony with each other. The Killam’s Irish Ale was definitely a deeper bolder ale with more mouth feel than the blond that preceded it, drunk on it’s own it had a brief but distinct after taste, that was smoothed out by the pairing of it with the Irish Apple Ale Salad. The ale alone was a wonderful drop that could easily be sipped all evening on it’s own, but it really did reach a whole new nuance of character paired with the salad. As I say, we’re not really ‘salad’ people, for James to comment on how marvelous a salad is, is a real testament.

So by this point in the meal we’re yammering excitedly about just how delightful this experience is. We expected to enjoy a pleasant evening out, but by this point it’s all been perfect, and we’re positively giddy with just how nice it all is. And then the lamb t-bones arrived. Two, at least, inch and a half thick lamb chops with Red Ale Au Jus, with baby potatoes and mixed vegetables. Simple, plain, perfect. A good cut of meat doesn’t need a lot of dolling up, it shouldn’t be dolled up, it should be left to shine on it’s own. Cooked to perfection, with a rich warm red ale au jus. I noticed that two was a bit much for many of the ladies dining this evening, but non left them on the plate, they all asked for a box to take it home. For many restaurants bringing a shining example of pure meat heaven to the table is enough and the potato and veg that accompany it are an afterthought and often they suffer for that. Rudder’s chef though did not disappoint, the baby potatoes and vegetables were cooked to exact, firm and bright, not starchy or mushy or underdone. I felt like the baby bear in Goldilocks and the Three Bears…. not too hard, not to soft, just right, and I got to eat mine! Like the lamb, simple, plain, and just right. Not meant to compete but to compliment. The Rudders Red Ale was just the thing to stand up to that hearty hunk of meat, Substantial without being heavy, full bodied, full flavoured, rich and round without being ‘too much’.

It’s quite clear trying these three beers thus far, that they’re all the work of one artist. While they are each unique and special on their own, they together form a body of work and a flavour profile that is obviously in a similar style. Much as Starry Night and Sunflowers are very different paintings, but they’re both obviously Van Gogh’s work.

Thus enthralled, the fourth course, dessert, arrived. James had never considered beer with dessert, and I admit it wouldn’t be my first thought either. However, after the lamb, this was the course I was really anticipating. I love my chocolate, I love my brown beers, how would the chef marry these together? Like everything else this evening, perfectly. Microbreweries always want to do a stout, and they so often end up feeling like Guinness knock offs, trying to be something they’re not they miss the mark. Town Brown is it’s own beer, it’s not trying to be anything else. The notes of bitter chocolate are upfront and marry well to the chocolate lava cake, as does the lingering hint of coffee notes. The carbonation is very fine and gives a light gentle buzz rather than a bright bubbly. The lava cake was amazing, I almost started to say in the first bite or two that it needed more lava, then I hit it’s gooey, liquid centre. and those words died on my ecstatic tongue.

By the end of the meal we were sated, contented, completely enthralled, and I dare say even a bit inspired. We ordered coffee, not because we really needed to finish with coffee, but simply to give us reason to continue to linger at the table. We had eaten just exactly enough, anything more would have been too much and hurt, and you don’t want any less of it.

So to sum it up. Perfect. Perfect atmosphere, perfect entertainment, perfect service, perfect beers, perfect food – I keep looking to say “but”, but there are no buts. When the only ‘downside’ to an entire 4 course with beer pairings meal is paper napkins, there is no downside.

Thank you Rudders for sharing your 10th Anniversary Brewers Dinner with us, we will be back, and it won’t take us a year.

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Adventures in plums

Essentially we have 2 kinds in the house. Larger elongated purple plums bought from the local grocery store, but locally grown, they’re quite sweet and, for the most part, free stone. And smaller, more like very large grapes, purple plums grown by the neighbour the flesh is yellower, and they’re quite tart and they’re cling stone. For the moment we have equal amounts of each.

For the plum jam, I used a 50/50 mix. Lots of fun there, the pitting and chopping – well lets just say the resulting mess of pulpy fruit mass was a dirty yellow/brown disgusting looking mess and colour. Then we cooked them. It was almost instantaneous, as soon as we added heat, the skins started turning the mass bright bright pink, and then deep strawberry jam bright red, then finally as it finished cooking (5 minutes tops) the resulting jam was a deep rich warm merlot.

Bright red!

It was, in a word, enchanting to watch. The resulting jam is delightful, it has just the tiniest hint of a tart edge to it that keeps it from being too cloying, and the colour is extraordinary and very cheery. I do tend to think that the colour of jams and jellies, especially homemade is at least as important as their flavour. The neighbour who donated the fruit to this endeavour should be pleased, I know I am.

Plum jam

Now thoughts turn to what to do with the remainder. There’s about 1.5 kg of each left. There’s no shortage of ideas, all of them good ones, just need to make some decisions.

Clafouti sounds very good. I think this might demand the sweet plums.
Duck with plums was suggested, normally we do duck for Thanksgiving, so that’s a possibility. That will require tart plums I think, and I can always get more from G* so I think we’ll leave that to investigate a bit later on.
There’s an interesting recipe for plums and apples (yes, I need to use those up too!). Harvest Fruit Dessert seems to be very much a shortbread crusted cheesecake with roasted apple and plum topping. Always a cheesecake fan, so that’s a definite option, although it’s not the Feychild’s favourite.
And of course there’s always my ‘Go To’ fall cake the BBC Good Food’s Roasted Rhubarb and Custard Cake. I love this cake, it’s lent itself gloriously to apples, I really can’t see it not working with plums, or plums and apples.

Too many desserts, too many ideas, too many plans, not enough mouths to feed!

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A quickie…. just to let you know I’m not dead….

Oh my – we’ve been crazy busy, I’ve barely had time to click a few ‘share’ buttons over on Facebook these last few weeks let alone actually write blog posts. Lord knows I owe a few … like how the bacon turned out, and ‘Carrot cake, that giant muffin of goodness’, or how I feel about being 50 :) You get non of those, you get a hit and run.

Today isn’t much different. The last 4/5 weeks I’ve only had one day a week off work – and James and I fervently try to use it to get caught up. It doesn’t work, but it keeps things from sliding too far.

We’ve had David visiting for the last week – we celebrated his birthday last weekend, we’re celebrating mine today (sort of) and we had our anniversary (9 yrs) in there as well. Unfortunately with the craziness I’ve not had as much time with David as I’d like – so we’re all going out on an outing this afternoon to the beach.

We’ve also been going potty crazy trying to make a trip to California next weekend – for James’s nephew’s wedding, and to visit with family and very dear friends – this is our real anniversary/birthday present. We have the tickets now … bought yesterday thanks to help from many friends and family, but we are still waiting on James’s passport which should be in the mail by now. (I’ll pick mine up in Halifax on Thurs morning).

It probably is a very good thing I’ve been insanely busy – and it’s a good busy mostly, getting to the marvellous stuff I want to do this year. But, it also keeps me from ruminating morosely on the things I *meant* to be doing on my 50th birthday (back when I was 45). And where we aren’t isn’t BAD, it’s just different from what I’d planned. But that’s life.

Next year will be our 10th anniversary, and we have plans for that including the honeymoon we didn’t take. We had talked about a canal tour in England, or a horse drawn caravan in Ireland – we chose Ireland, so it only makes sense to celebrate our10th with the other choice, the canal boat in England. While we’re there we’ll celebrate my 50th+1 with a lovely dinner at Jimmy’s Farm’s Sausage and Beer Festival!

Ok. must go get busy with enjoying this year’s celebration……

Love ya all!
OE

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A Market Day Post – Not at the market, but here’s what we’re doing today …

I’ve been working a lot of hours the past couple weeks covering other staff’s vacation time, so with only one day off – today – I decided, much as I hate to miss a market, to stay home and catch up on some things.

One of the things I need to catch up on is BACON.

I love bacon, I love pancetta, and thanks to Michael Ruhlman I no longer fear making my own.

At last weekend’s market, I picked up a lovely 11lb slab of whole pork belly from Kevin at Thousand Hills Farm.
The warmer temps have arrived so I have less trouble now keeping the smoker temps steady. But even if you don’t have a smoker, or aren’t comfortable with it, Michael has the answer for you.

Michael Ruhlman’s Home-Cured Bacon

Michael Ruhlman’s Home-Cured Pancetta

Pork Belly

So today we’ll get this slab o’meat into the cure and into the fridge, and in week or so, there will be smoked bacon…. stay tuned for smoking day! As for the Pancetta, last time I had a bit of trouble with the ambient temp being too high, and the summer humidity, so this time I’m gonna try it in the wee little bar fridge. (Which also doubles as a safe brewing environment for my ginger beer…. but that too is another post for another day)

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And now for something completely different…

One thing I haven’t talked about much here on this blog is cars.

Oh I mention them on occasion but never much in depth. One of the things that James and I share, is a fondness for things automotive. Now, grant you, we’re not as obsessed as some, but we both have a relationship with motorized transport that goes beyond “an appliance to get from a to b. For James I think it was growing up at a particular time in car culture in Australia; for me I think it was my Dad, and my brother Michael.

I’m not a full on gear head, but I like cars. I like motor racing of a certain age and vintage too. I do have certain particular tastes and areas of interest. I like post war, particularly 60′s, British cars. Jags, Land Rovers, Morris are always on my radar. And I’ll take notice of Nortons and Triumphs and TVRs, as well as MGs, Rovers, Austins, Astons and Sunbeams. With at least a passing awareness of Rolls, Alvis, Bently, Bristol, Daimler, Jensen and AC. This existed for me before James and I met. It was one of those “things we have in common” things – it’s not what brought us together, but was one of the weird little bent things that made us twisted in just the same ways.

Back in 2008 when James finally moved to Canada, he was greatly unhappy with my 2001 Dodge Caravan (and who can blame him!?) He worried about my driving to my critical services work at all hours, in all weather, in it and wanted me to have something 4 Wheel Drive. So once his house sold we went hunting for my ‘birthday present’, something SUVish, and affordable, we budgetted about $15K. I had looked at KIA SUVs and crossovers as affordable, but he wasn’t happy with the questions of quality and reliability and preferred something used, and older model but a more known quantity. We considered Subarus – I liked the Outback, but preferred a 6 cylinder, the Forrester was a possibility (we ended up buying one last year as a runabout) but couldn’t find one we were happy with in our price point. Then he happened upon a Land Rover Discovery II in respected used car lot. There were other possibilities, including a big Blazer SUV, but the Disco really sang to me, as he knew it would. It wasn’t just buying me ‘a’ car, but buying me ‘my’ car.

Bertie came to live with us.
Victoria and Albert

It is kind of ironic. I didn’t actually get to drive it much the first year I had it. Having picked it up in late August it had an oil cooler failure on Thanskgiving weekend which took him out of commission until December (when they finally found a replacement engine), and then there were drive train failures in February which resulted in another 12 weeks off the road. Fortunately we had bought a warranty with the car that cost us a chunk of change but probably saved us $5000 in the end. Bertie has run well ever since. But it did lead to a moment standing around waiting for parts at the local Land Rover, Jaguar, Volvo dealership and my mooning over a new Aston Martin I thought would look stunning in our Seal Cove driveway parked next to the Disco (and it would have) and James very good naturedly rolling his eyes at me and saying “Good god woman, don’t you want at least one vehicle that works?” He liked to pick on my fondness for British automotive engineering, but then promptly bought himself a 1989 Jaguar XJS project car that I’d had my eyes keenly fixed on. Bastid!
Catherine Leyland, known to her friends as Kitty

Time and us moved on to other things and places. Now 7 yrs later we’re living in the wilds of Nova Scotia, and Bertie is parked in the driveway waiting on our mortgage application to acquire a donor vehicle to make him right for inspection and licensing here. Catherine is also still with us waiting on the same funds to acquire about $600 worth of parts to make her road worthy again, and probably another $2000 worth to make her ‘finished’. As our lives have grown more rustic so too has my garage ‘wish list’. For farm ‘work’ vehicles, I’ve set my sights on getting my hands on a pair of Morris Minor commercial vehicles. Specifically a panel delivery van, and a pick up truck with the canvas cover. Both of which, while rarer than the cars, can still be had brought to Canada and restored and North Americanized for about $10,000-$15,000 each.
MM Pick Up truck MM Panel Delivery

Along that line I had had for a while, my eyes on the new Fiat 500 (because the old ones are hard to get) and I thought that they had done a better job than the Beetles and the Minis at staying true to the original. However, it really isn’t the original ‘Cinquecento’ in style or spirit, but at least it’s cute and not entirely yuppiefied. Saying all that, a Morris Minor convertible or cabriolet, would serve the niche that a Fiat 500 would as well and match nicely the other two MMs.
The convertible

The final car in the Morris Minor line is the Traveller, an estate version.
The Traveller
Now I’ve always been of two thoughts here: 1. I love estate cars/shooting brakes/station wagons (whatever your particular culture calls them) 2. I’m really not all that fussed on ‘woodies’. It was a bit of an internalized argument. Saved by the fact it’s a Morris Minor, and that the wood is real ash and structural, not just crap for show. The love affair with station wagons came from growing up through the 70s when cars were still boats, and a wagon was a land yacht and I’d always envisioned doing a camper style conversion on one. I love camper conversions, that may be something else I inherited from my Dad – his Blue Bird Blunder Bus converted to take the family to Expo in 1967. I loved it, but it wasn’t exactly a stylish or comfortable job, it was functional. Or it may just be my love affair with repurposing old junk into beautiful functional things. Or it may be that I grew up though the van conversion hay days of the 70s (air brush anyone?) Doesn’t really matter why, what matters is I keep seeing campers out of everything. From big boat station wagons to the delivery trucks my ex used to drive, to my Morris Minor fandom, and was probably the thing that led me to lusting after a Volvo P1800E – the shooting brake version of Volvo’s answer to the E-type Jag. Yes, my motoring passions keeping crossing wire with each other and coming up with some interesting frankenstiens.
The Volco P1800E
(Volvo P1800E)

Now the whole camper conversion obsession falls into three categories as well. There is the small camper, two person roughing it, weekender, little more than a hard top tent, car conversion. There is the larger take the 3 of us family, and the 2-3 dogs, and the 7-12 cats, bug out vehicle. The current Shamrock camper can/will meet this criteria when we get the firewall fixed and the interior redone, but I’m still interested in doing a cool version in an old short school bus, or a hotel people mover van, or …. something. James has even suggested something retro cool like the original GMC Motorhome.
Paddy O'Tiddslaine
(Paddy O’Tiddslaine) or..
GMC Motorhome
(Retro-Cool)
Lastly, I’d love a custom little tear drop trailer that could be towed by a decent sized motorcycle for camping type camping.
Tear Drop Trailer

Ok.. back to the question at hand. Does the small camper, two person, hard top tent fit in the Morris Minor collection? Do I do that camper conversion on a Traveller? The biggest question (literally) in doing that vehicle conversion is the sleeping bed (which is really the whole of the thing); my hubby is 6′ 4″ tall, I can fold up and sleep anywhere pretty much, him not so much. To convert a Morris would mean doing a stretch on it by at least two feet. Doable, but it spoils the lines and there’s still a host of other Minor issues, and a lot of work.
Just doesn't look right

The P1800E Volvo? The back bed still isn’t long enough. Really, we need about 7 ft behind the front door post to make it work. Oddly enough the Forrester we bought last summer as a quick cheap runabout would almost do the trick, but not quite, and it’s not got quite the quirky style I’m after here – not enough converting.
Sherwood Forrester
(Sherwood)

I’ve considered a host of donor vehicles over the years. An old hearse? That would work, but it would still be obviously a hearse conversion. An old ambulance? Possible, but Ghostbusters made buying those suddenly cachet and expensive. Don’t really want a van / SUV conversion, that’s getting closer to the Bug Out vehicle project. In the end, a compromise has been found. It’s been suggested by James, and I think it would probably work, that a classic Suburban would do the job nicely. Quirky? No, it’s not. What it is is so plain, so ordinary, so white bread bland that it’s a completely blank canvas on which to paint the quirky vision of my dreams. I can do anything I like to it, to create my own unique style. Yeah it’s a compromise, it’s not a Morris, or a shooting break, or a big boat station wagon, but there were used a lot as small ambulances by companies that couldn’t afford bespoke ambulance designs like Hess and Eisenhardt. So yes, I think its been decided that what I want as a donor vehicle is a 1965-1975 (with 68′-72′ being the preferred years) GMC or Chevy Suburban with a blown engine (because James will replace it with an LS1 or L76 engine and a 350 Turbo gear box).
The Suburban

This really brings the ‘garage’ bays up to 10. Yes, I know, no one needs 10 cars. However, that’s not the point. Jay Leno doesn’t need 130(+/-) cars either, but he collects them each for a reason, he loves them each individually. I don’t want 130 cars, but each of the 10 vehicles on the list serves a purpose and a niche and a reason ‘why’. I might even expand the space to be an even dozen, so there’s room for some of the cars on James’s list and in case I discover other niche that need filling. Some women collect shoes. Me? I want a car for every occasion.

So my virtual garage/wishlist/project plans include:

  • 1. Bertie – the Disco II
  • 2. Catherine – her Leyland cousin the Jaguar (known to her friends as Kitty)
  • 3. Morris Minor Pick Up Truck – probably a Jeeves (known for rescuing Bertie from his messes)
  • 4. Morris Minor Panel Delivery – definitely a Wallace (for obvious reasons)
  • 5. A 100″ Defender project – built on the left over chassis after the donor vehicle has Bertie running right (this is one of James’s pet projects)
  • 6. Volvo P1800E – likely he’s an Anderson, the Swede who wants to be perceived as Chelsea British
  • 7. Morris Minor Cabriolet – the car for me and my dog to go to the beach in (don’t forget your doggles Buddy!)
  • 8. The Suburban camper conversion
  • 9. Paddy O’Tiddslaine – the bug out camper (no don’t ask me what I’m gonna do when we have ponies and cows and sheep and alpacas and chickens and ducks)
  • 10. Pair of mid powered (600-900cc) touring bikes, and a tear drop trailer.

That’ll leave 2 spaces (or possibly only one as I think the big camper might take up two spaces) in the 12 car garage.

What?

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Market Day …. In Spring a Young Girl’s heart turns to thoughts of …

Greenery.

It’s been a long cold winter here in the wilds of Nova Scotia, and spring has been long late and cold in coming. There’s still not a lot of growing stuff to celebrate yet. Still the desire to get knee deep in mud and earth and cleaning out beds whether flower or vegetable has been irresistible.

Also irresistible has been the appearance of greens on Riverview Farm’s table. The appearance of green onions and beets and bok choy – thanks to their greenhouses – have been inspiring lots of folks and there hasn’t been much left on the table at the end of the day. I think we’re *all* craving a little green.

For me, when I start craving the bright light fresh flavours, often it’s fish that first springs to mind. So when I came across a recipe from The Irish Food Board, for a bright and light fish burger, I couldn’t resist. The Stone Fish had some lovely fresh Ocean Red Fish, that was just the ticket, a couple lovely fresh rolls from La-Tea-Dough, and we were off to the races. And because I too cannot resist the call of a bit of green – a wee little basil plant from Bully Goth Farm and I had a dinner plan.

Unfortunately it’s still too cold and too early for fresh tomatoes, so we made do with last year’s salsa, and The Feychild passed on the guacamole – one day I’ll get that child to try avocados. Still it was a nice light supper for an evening promise of spring, and still hearty enough to be satisfying after an afternoon in the garden. I reduced the portions posted by half, as Him doesn’t eat fish (allergies).

Fish burgers

Ingredients
700g hake, skinned, boned and finely chopped (the redfish worked fine as would haddock, cod, pollock, or fish of your choice)
2 tablesp. fresh parsley, chopped
½ red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
2cm piece of fresh ginger, grated
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 egg, beaten
2 tablesp. mayonnaise
1 tablesp. fish sauce
Zest and juice of 1 lime
40g stale breadcrumbs or Panko breadcrumbs (crushed saltines work as well)
1 tablesp. rapeseed oil

Place the fish in a large bowl with the parsley, chilli, ginger, garlic, beaten egg, mayonnaise, fish sauce, lime zest and juice and the breadcrumbs and mix together.

Shape the mixture into 6 x 8cm burgers, put them on a plate, cover with cling-film and chill for an hour if you have time. This will help them to hold their shape when you are cooking them.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Add the fish burgers and cook over a medium heat for 4minutes on each side, until crisp and golden.

Frying burgers

Topped with salsa, and a dab of sriracha mayo

1 egg
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard (15 ml)
2 Tbsp of red wine vinegar (30 ml)
2 cup canola oil (500 ml)
1 tsp Sriracha (5 ml)
1 tsp of salt (5 ml)
Freshly ground pepper
Water if necessary

Using a blender or food processor, beat the egg with the Dijon mustard and red wine vinegar. Slowly pouring, add canola oil until the mixture will start to emulsify and become very creamy in texture. Add water if necessary to have a thinner texture. Add the Sriracha. Continue to process for 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper.

Fish burgers for dinner

I think I’ll be saving this one to try again later in the summer, and serving it with fresh salsa and tomatoes when they come into season.

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A cooking interlude…

On the heels of last week’s lost philosophical / political post, I am going to make a serious effort to recreate it, but in the meantime we’re taking a little break to talk about cooking. Normally Sunday would be a Market Day post, but thanks to Friday night shifts I haven’t made it to the market in a couple weeks. However, this weekend is the Feychild’s annual Valentine’s birthday dinner.

Her favourite foods have always been spagetti and chicken so her request for chicken parmesan for her celebratory dinner wasn’t much of a surprise.

Honestly, neither was her choice of a ‘store bought cake’ a surprise either. She’s still at that age (and having grown up in a asture household) where ‘home made’ still kinda feels ‘poor’ to her. I admit for a long time I too felt the same way, and then when we were a bit more flush I discovered that ‘store bought’ might be more middle class, but it doesn’t taste better. She’s also always been of the mind that those who get paid for stuff are ‘experts’, and she has a deep abiding faith in expertise. Ah to be 24 again.

Still it’s her cake. I was after a Red Velvet cake for her, it’s Valentine’s appropriate and one of her favourites. I couldn’t find one at work – so she ended up with home made anyway. She didn’t mind, and it turned out well.

Soooooooooo chicken parmesan, I made this one up as I was going along. We started with 3 good sized boneless skinless chicken breasts cut in half. Soak the chcken pieces in buttermilk for 30 min or so. Drain and dredge them with flour seasoned with salt and pepper. Dip the floured chicken in beaten egg, and then toss with crushed cracker crumbs – I season my 1.5 cups of cracker crumbs with 1 tsp italian seasoning, 1/2 tsp paprika and 1/2 tsp dry mustard. Deep fry the chicken pieces in hot oil – 365°F for 5-7 mins till they’re brown and crispy. Drain.

Cook 300 grams of spagetti to almost al dente, drain, toss with 1 tbsp of butter and a half cup of grated parmesan cheese. Layer in the bottom of a greased (I used bacon fat) casserole dish snuggle the chicken pieces into the pasta. Cover well with several cups of pasta sauce (I use my 1/1/1 sauce) and sprinkle liberally with a mix of mozzerella and parmesan cheeses. Bake at 350°F for 35 mins.

1/1/1 Sauce:
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 onion
1 sweet pepper
1 lb ground beef
1 bay leaf / 1 tsp italian seasoning / 1 tsp salt / 1/4 tsp pepper / 1 dried chili pepper (or season to taste)
I upsize or down size this as needed – the even ratios make that very simple. Catering size cans of tomatoes = 3 28 oz ones, and makes a month worth of pasta sauce in an 8 litre crock pot. I use this as the base of most of my pasta / red sauce dishes, from lasagna to stuffed shells to chicken parmesan and chili.

The last batch I made I added a bit of pancetta that was threatening to go off soon and that added a lovely smokey flavour to the chicken parmesan.
chicken parmesan

The cake was a red velvet cake from Joy of Baking’s recipe. I find their cream cheese frosting recipe one of the nicest I’ve had.

I admit, I’m always a bit flumoxed by the instruction to cut the cake into two layers each. Not the instruction itself, but that even using the correct sized pans it never seems to come out tall enough to get two nicely thick layers out of it. But assembled it seems ok and tall enough, still I think I’d like to try it with a double recipe batch sometime.

I admit my decorating hand skills still leave something to be desired – especially when I’m rushing a bit at 8pm because I slept in till 3 in the afternoon. (I did work the night before so I can be forgiven for that.)

Red Velvet Cake

Red Velvet Birthday Cake

Good food, an excellent and surprising (and touching) movie – The Box Trolls (highly recommended) and a little 7″ tablet (which has been an excellent little piece of kit for the price) so she doesn’t have to feel badly about borrowing my Kobo …. and I’d say birthday #24 can be counted as a success.

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In which I ramble on endlessly about many things…

Yes, it’s been two weeks since I sat down and put words into some kind of a cohesive order here.

I have about a half a dozen notes here on my desktop about ‘blog posts I should be writing’, or just plain things I’d like to share with you, and other rambling thoughts. So, the chances are very good that you’re going to get all, or most, of them in one long in-cohesive post.


Michael Ruhlman wrote a very interesting article a little while back about bringing chefs into hospices, to create meals for the clients. I was deeply moved by and taken with the idea. As Ruhlman says, “because meals are about family as much as they are about food, and last meals are important.” However, reading the article what i don’t get a sense of is how often this is done. Are these event meals? Once a week special nights? Or have the created a system where every evening meal is this sort of family meal? What I think I’d like to see, what ought to be done (if it isn’t what they’re doing now) is bringing the chefs in to help create menus and planning and teaching cooking staff the techniques so that every evening meal in hospice care can be this kind of family moment. Sitting down for a meal as a family shouldn’t have to be an occasion or event for those in hospice, but something that’s just there, a quiet background thing that removes one more stress from the family, removes one more barrier from that feeling of ‘home’.

I hope that’s what they’re doing.


Poverty. Kathleen Kerridge writes this article on the face of poverty today. And this follow up article about all the stupid things that get said when you start talking about poverty. While Kathleen is based in Britain these are still valuable and enlightening reads, the numbers and systems may differ some between our countries, but the truths don’t. They’re eye-opening if poverty isn’t something you know; understand or have experienced. If poverty is something you have an intimate relationship with it’s good to hear you’re not alone.

For me, personally, aside from a period of about two years of my life, ‘working poor’ was the correct demographic description, but what it boiled down to was we were and are now, poor. We were and are exceptionally fortunate that James family was able and willing to help us out (albeit with a scolding), and that within a week of being turned down for social assistance I found part time work. Oddly enough we were denied assistance because I’d cashed in what meager retirement savings I had, and in playing shell games with credit accounts to stretch things out as best we could – we couldn’t adequately explain later where/how that money was spent. The thing of it is, I read Kathleen’s article I find myself more sympathetic to her poverty as “no fault of her own”, after all she didn’t choose to be ill. I’m less forgiving of myself and am inclined still to be embarrassed by and apologetic for our poverty, which can be directly attributed to certain choices I’ve / we’ve made over the years. My children grew up in poverty because I *chose* to leave my first marriage, oh I had hopes and dreams and potentials when I left, but the ‘poor’ came ultimately because of that choice, and choices I made later. Later on, our current situation is a direct result of my *choice* to leave my employer on March 3rd 2010 and thus effectively committed professional suicide. I didn’t think it would turn out that way, however, it did, and it was a direct result of my choices. In the end the relationships I ended that landed us in this mess were abusive ones, but that doesn’t make my abusers responsible for my choices. The thing of it is, I don’t want it to sound all noble “I’m poor because I chose a higher moral ground’, but nor do I want it to be “it’s all your own damn fault!”. In the end I did what I had to do for me, I didn’t want it to turn out this way and we work daily to move forward from here, but it’s neither to be commended or condemned – it simply is. I need to learn to be more forgiving of myself.


Writing. I’ve been thinking a lot of late of favourite phrases. I’ve long had a fairly short list of favourite words; turtle is one, I love the bumpy chewy texture of it in my mouth; but the list of favourite phrases is longer yet I haven’t really written about that. Sometimes they’re catchy and people (myself included) will use them as tag lines, but more often than not they just simply illustrate a point – succinctly or amusingly or with a particular panache. As a writer a well crafted phrase, an elegant painting of words, is a beautiful thing and I tend to collect them. I’ll often laugh out loud a little in delight upon discovering them, some of them I’ve written, some I’ve collected elsewhere. So in no particular order:

  • He couldn’t manage his way out of a paper bag without a lamp and a Labrador (mine)
  • She ain’t pretty she just looks that way.(Northern Pikes)
  • A plethora of famished cliches. (Jack)
  • Quasi-superfluously noncommital. (Ken)
  • Sooooooooooo really not so very rambly…. there was a looooooooooooooong interesting bit that’s been rambling around in my head for a while on art, artisans, arts and crafts, Ayn Rand, Pierre Berton and The Plan®…….. but after 2 days of writing on it – the computer ATE that part. I know I know *sigh*, ‘save your work, save your work often.’

    Anyway, it eventually grew to a point where it really deserves a post of it’s own, so I’ll have to try and recapture the spirit of the thing again tomorrow :)

    Til then…..

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    A state of The Plan® address..

    I know I know.. I already did a ‘Polar Bear Season’ post, and a ‘New Year’s’ post another navel gazing post is just too much!

    Too bad.

    Gonna do it anyway.

    I was trying to explain to someone recently how ‘The Plan®’ evolves. In the process scared her silly when I said, “James and I decided to take a bit of a break over the holidays” and she thought that was a polite euphemism for, “the relationship is on the rocks and we’re having a trial separation”. While we do have our moments, mostly related to stress and my depression, we are, fear not intrepid fellow traveller, still deeply in love. What I meant was “we are taking a little break from life and outside commitments and giving ourselves a couple days off – which I admit might be hard to follow when – we’re ‘retired’ already.

    However, that really is part of the process of how ‘The Plan®’ evolves. There is rarely that moment of epiphany when you suddenly wake up and decide to do something completely different. Rather it’s more of an ongoing inner process of little things and little influences and subtle tweaks, over a period of time that ends in something that might seem surprising to those outside your own head. Yeah I know, I’m still explaining it badly.

    There were a lot of influences that went into the whole decision four and a half years ago that we would up-stakes and move to Nova Scotia. We had a 5 year plan, but then we’ve always had a plan, we’ve always had ‘The Plan®’, and that came out of talking about the things we love, the things we wanted, how we saw our lives, but as they say, ‘Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans’. The place in our lives we’re at now isn’t where we envisioned five years ago, it isn’t where we envisioned when we made that left hand turn decision in the summer of 2010. Recently a combination of subtle things, the sense of a possible turn in fortunes (alluded to in my previous post), the happenstance of a couple new diy documentary serieses from Britain (the £100,000 House and it’s sequel “Tricks of the Trade’ and it’s prequel Restoration Home) and just taking a bit of time to relax and reconnect over the holidays. Even when you’re retired and share each others’ company 24/7 you can find yourself getting caught up in the mundanities of life…. meals and pets and cleaning and bills and chores. With the struggles of the past two years here, especially financially, we got bogged down in getting by. Life became about surviving, not building. So it is that this little combination of events didn’t really change ‘The Plan®’, but rather brought us back to it. Reminded us what we set out to do in the first place, what it was we were dreaming of out of our new life in Nova Scotia, and rediscovered that what we want out of our lives together, here, hasn’t really changed, it just got back burnered for a while. So, no, no great epiphany moments, but yes, a bit of an ‘ah ha!’, a feeling and moment of clarity of purpose.

    We still want our little farm by the sea (and a lack of swamps would be really good), I still want my dog aquatic centre, we still want our workshops, we still want to be doing and learning and teaching and sharing. Taking all those eclectic things we love, from the art of food, to the art of technology, to the art of writing, to the art of painting, to the art of photography, to the art of music, to the art of building, to the art of teaching, to the art of hospitality. In short we want to be creating. That is what inspires us, but we also want to be sharing that creating, with like minded folks. The goal is a retreat and learning centre. A place of workshops and learning and creative spaces. To invite the friends and people we know and admire to teach the things that they do so well, and that we want to learn, and to make new friends and family along the way sharing the things we do and know. He is in his core a teacher, I am in my core a planner and organizer. I am the artist with the soul of a scientist, he’s the scientist with the soul of an artist. It’s a vision that FITS us, and we want to take our friends and community along for the ride.

    It’s a grand dream, honestly I don’t know if we’ll ever get there, but that’s where we decided we were headed back in July 2010, that’s where we confirmed we were still headed in January 2015, maybe we’ll be a bit closer there in 2020, or maybe ‘The Plan®’ will evolve, morph, and become something different again.

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    Happy New Year

    … And a bright and shiny new year full of promise and possibility awakens, (complete with the first proper big fluffy flakes winter wonderland snowfall of the season). Seems like every year we seem all too glad to kick the old year out the door and welcome the new one. I don’t think it was really 2014′s fault it was a bit of a dud…. I think maybe we just wore it out, and by Dec 31st it’s looking tired and shabby and 2015 feels much brighter.

    It’s true – 2014 was NOT the bright year we’d hoped for back on Jan 1st. If 2013 had been tough, 2014 was a slow descent from ‘this doesn’t look good, into some kind of scary places’. That said I can’t completely knock ’14, we have a roof over our heads – which while it is kinda scary the maintenance it needs that it isn’t getting, it isn’t falling in on our heads yet, and while tight finances and stress as a whole take their toll, we still have our health for the most part, and we have each other, and while we may have been a bit distant at times lost in our individual thoughts and worries, we’ve never wavered in our love and faith in each other.

    We hit our deepest low in November when we were turned down for social assistance. However, The Feychild’s application was approved (hers being separate as she’s an adult now, and technically qualifies for Room and Board), and then shortly thereafter I found part time work. The business at the Market wasn’t quite as grand for the holiday season as we’d hoped, but it was steady and it was growing, even if not in leaps and bounds, and there are still a few pieces on the table for January so we’re hoping it continues to progress. All that and another helping hand from the parents (hopefully for the last time) and we had a more comfortable holiday than we thought we would, and we start 2015 feeling a bit like we’ve turned a corner and it may just get better from here.

    Cautiously optimistic.

    A friend recently said, her only New Year’s Resolution in 2014 was to finish the year healthier than when it started, and would be putting the same Resolution forward for 2015. That seems right to me … that all I really want out of 2015 is to end it in a better place then we’re starting it.

    Ain’t no miracle bein’ born
    People doin’ it everyday
    Ain’t no miracle growin’ old
    People just roll that way

    So it goes like it goes and the river flows
    And time it rolls right on
    And maybe what’s good gets a little bit better
    And maybe what’s bad gets gone

    Bless the child of the workin’ man
    She knows too soon who she is
    And bless the hands of a workin’ man
    He knows his soul is his

    So it goes like it goes and the river flows
    And time it rolls right on
    And maybe what’s good gets a little bit better
    And maybe what’s bad gets gone

    Yeh it goes like it goes like the river flows
    And time keeps rollin’ on
    And maybe what’s good gets a little bit better
    And maybe what’s bad gets gone

    David L. Shire / Norman Gimbel

    Posted in Progress Report, Working Hard | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

    To warm a winter’s night – a Market Day post

    Another Market Day has come and gone, and this time of year root veg is the name of the game. Admttedly this past week has been unseasonably warm but it’s still chill enough to crave thick rich warm soups.

    So when Canadian Gardening’s weekly email came across my desktop with Fall Root Vegetable Soup well it just filled a natural niche and even the idea of it was emotionally satisfying.

    The secret to it’s lovely heart and soul warming flavour is roasting the vegetables first, giving it that deep sweet caramel flavour that’s so lovely in roasted root vegetables. Of course Market fresh vegetables certainly help! Our local veg seller, Riverview Produce Farms, had it all, sweet parsnips, carrots, lovely squash, turnips, sweet potato, celeriac (aka celery root). The roasted root vegetable is enhanced beautifully by the south east asian flavour profile of ginger, garlic, cumin, and coconut milk. For the vegans among you, you can easily switch out the chicken stock for vegetable stock

    Definitely warming my winter evening, with left overs for lunch in the afternoon!

    Roasted Root Vegetable Soup

    Roasted Root Vegetable Soup

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    Something to make you smile….

    I don’t get to meet and greet pilots, or hang out at airports, or even hug the puppies or see the smiling faces…
    But this news story from CBC Ottawa, tells all the reasons I love the work I do for Pilots N Paws Canada so much, and the difference it makes to lives.

    PETSCORT might not be quite as glamourous, but we make a difference :)

    Posted in PSA | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

    A plug for your nickle..

    The marvellous organization I work with – Pilots N Paws Canada is asking for your support in the Aviva Fund Challenge ….

    15 days of voting, you have one vote each day…

    Help us help the animals?

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