Thursday, November 22, 2012

Perfect Mondays?

It's true. Mondays can be perfect. Especially if you have Tuesdays and Wednesdays off. And especially if you get to hang out with a small child who wants to do exactly what you want to do. Baking and colouring? Yes, please!

First up, chocolate chip pumpkin bread:

One of two people I to whom I will relinquish my spatula rights. 
Mom is the other one. 

Followed by volcanoes extraordinaire:

Whose is whose? 
E claims that hers is "rainbowier" than mine.

Nine times out of ten, when I suggest something fun, E decides that she definitely wants to do something else. Today was a glorious exception, which makes those other nine days of pretending that she's hatching out of an egg 86 times in a row much more bearable.

p.s. Here's some advice for her dad, who wasn't able to dine with us, on how best to enjoy his freshly baked treats:

Friday, November 16, 2012

Maybe it's Thanksgiving somewhere

Canadian Thanksgiving was last month. American Thanksgiving is next week. Does anyone else celebrate Thanksgiving? England doesn't. Grenada doesn't. And that's about the extent of my experience on the matter. But I'm going on the assumption that someone, somewhere is celebrating Thanksgiving this weekend and if I'm wrong, well I'm just celebrating on my own, which I can't imagine is a bad thing.

Today I am thankful for the ability to feed my child. Every single day, at every single mealtime and at any moment in between, I can provide my child with the food that she needs to grow and thrive. I don't ever have to hear her little tummy rumble, knowing that I cannot fill it. I have the luxury of hearing her whine about not enjoying dinner, knowing that she will never get hungry enough to have no choice but to eat it. I have the privilege of offering her choices and variety and more nutritious options than I can ever hope to convince her to ingest. All of the food issues that cause us to butt heads are, without question, first world problems.

It absolutely breaks my heart when I think about hungry children. I get a panicky feeling in my chest when I think about what parents must go through who can't provide the basic necessities of life for their own families. The one thing I would do if I was omnipotent for the day, the wish I would wish for if a genie popped out of a lamp and said I could have just one, the cause I will continue to support for as long as I live, is hunger. Especially hungry children. And I am so, so thankful that I'm on this side of the problem.

I've been thinking for a long time about how I can make a difference locally by cooking big batches of something or other and bringing it to where it's needed. I'm thinking about it again today as my stew simmers on the stove and I wish I could feed the entire world with it. I think it's time to move from the thinking stages to the planning stages, because the problem is not going to go away just by thinking about it. In the meantime, why don't we all commit to dropping a box or two in the donation box the next time we go grocery shopping? Every little bit helps to feed a hungry world.

That's all for today.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Devil Wears Tutus

Picking out clothes one morning:

E: I want to wear a pink dress.
M: How about this one?
E: That's not all pink. It has white in it. I want ALL pink.
M: This one?
E: That's a skirt. I want a dress.
M: This one is pretty.
E: Does that look pink to you? No. It's purple. And it doesn't twirl.
M: How about a tutu?
E: No - pause for reconsideration - Okay, sure! A tutu.
M: This one is perfect. It's all pink and it twirls.
E: I want the orange one.

While reading Mr. Grumpy:

E: Do you think Mr. Grumpy would like it if maybe I gave him some of my clothes?
M: You mean to make him less grumpy?
E: Yeah, like do you think a pink or orange tutu would help?
M: Absolutely.
E: Or…maybe some ballet clothes, some tights and something like that? Even ballet shoes?
M: I can't see how he could possibly be grumpy wearing tights and a tutu.
E: Yeah.

After I found matching tights and socks for the dress she picked out:

E: How convenient! Oh, I'm going to look sooo conveeeenient! As convenient as can be!!!

Where it all began.

Reasons to smile

Yesterday I found so many reasons to smile.

I had the wonderful fortune of spending the morning with my mother-in-law and her mother-in-law, two ladies who excel at being lovely, strolling through the National Art Gallery and the Notre Dame Cathedral. We saw snowflakes dancing in the wind and sunlight dappling the rooftops through a soaring glass facade. We saw stunning ivory carvings, whimsical blue ducks and a mosaic of fabrics in the most brilliant shade of red. We saw far more penises than I think was necessary, but that's neither here nor there. We saw portraits almost one hundred years old that could have been taken yesterday, as well as paintings by accomplished artists that might easily be reproduced by my three year old. It was the first art gallery I've been to in a long time, and it was refreshing beyond words. Smile-inducing, to say the least.

We sat here:

We went to lunch, the ladies and I, joined by my father-in-law who was just in time to watch us eat a most luxurious sticky toffee pudding before ducking into the kitchen shop next door to dream about a kitchen filled with every gadget for every culinary adventure I might ever take - with one in every colour, of course.

I found myself alone, wandering cheerfully along streets that before today had been previously undiscovered, at least by me, letting the sunlight soak into my pores and making a mental note to do this much more often. Wandering, exploring, dilly dallying. Enjoying the quiet in my mind amid the bustle of the city.

I drove slowly, appreciating that there was no need to rush to the next destination, enjoying the luxury of having a vehicle that could take me where I needed to go. I let people around me do the hurrying while I turned up the music and eased off the gas.

E and I ran around the park, chasing, climbing, balancing and swinging. We smiled, happy to be together.

I watched my daughter in her swim class, the one with her hand perpetually in the air to be the first to attempt whatever feat the instructor might dream up. I watched the instructor react with surprise and amusement every time E was able to do something that the bigger kids had trouble with. I watched my daughter float on her stomach with her face in the water for five full seconds while my entire body swelled with pride and my smile engulfed my entire face.

I stole a spoonful of chocolate chip cookie dough from the freezer.

J and I went to bed, for the second night in a row, before 10pm and chatted sleepily in the darkness.

Sometimes all you need is a Tuesday and a smile.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

None of us perfect, but some of us funny.

Wife asks husband to pick up 3 items from the grocery store on the way home. The following string of phone conversations ensues:

Call #1
Where is the closest grocery store and how do I get there?

…11 minutes later...

Call #2 
The store doesn't open until 12:30. 
M: It's 12:28.
I know. 

…10 minutes later...

Call #3
Is homogenized milk the same as whole milk?
Why are there so many brands? What's the difference?!
Wait, I'm going to get this one because the expiry date is December. It's more expensive, but the other one is Nov 19.
M: Babe, I'm using it all today.
I know, but it's only $1.25 more expensive, and it's fresher!

…6 minutes later...

Call #4
Someone said aisle 8, but I can't find it. Any suggestions?

…9 minutes later...

Call #5
I did it! I got it all! Oh, man I got so lucky. The guy who told me aisle 8 when I asked (you know, because I did the smart thing and asked instead of walking around randomly) ended up remembering that they had moved it and tracked me down to give it to me!
M: You're my hero.

So before you go and crucify me for belittling my poor husband after he so clearly came through for me in a pinch, let me just say this. What is life if we cannot laugh at ourselves, and those with whom we have chosen to spend the rest of our lives?

Also, if you refer to the highlighted section in Call #5, you will note that My Wonderful, Helpful, Selfless Husband, out of nowhere, decided to seize an opportunity to sucker punch me, his wonderfully attractive and appreciative wife who just fielded all 5 calls with grace and patience, about the fact that when I go into a store I assume that the employees have no idea where anything is (which is almost always the case in a grocery store), and instead apply an educated guessing system for locating items. Out of nowhere he hits me with this. That's ballsy. And after humming and hawing over whether to post this exchange on the internet, that's what sealed the deal in your favour.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

I swear I'm not getting paid to gush like this.

I also promise to talk about my daughter again one of these days. But for now just allow me my honeymoon phase for a post or two longer.

The first recipe I actually made from the cookbook I've been talking about non-stop for six days was a kale salad earlier today. But not just any kale salad - think goat cheese, walnuts, cranberries and a delectable honey-dijon dressing. The key is to let it all marinate together for awhile - as long as possible, really. J and I had it for lunch, and then again at dinner, along with some grilled sausages. It was even better the second time. But don't take it from me. Take it from J, who in the grand scheme of things comes down on the anti-kale side of the fence:

"This is good. I'm actually surprised by how good it is. I would eat this even if I wasn't on a diet, like, as regular food."

I'd post a picture, but it's long gone.

Is THAT what poppy seeds smell like???

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, by Deb Perelman, page 12, plum poppy seed muffins.

I'm supposed to be heading outside to rake leaves with the hour I have before it's time to retrieve the girl from school, but you people need to know what just happened - what is still happening - in my kitchen. You. Need. To.  Know.

I don't know why this particular recipe jumped out at me more than any other as the first recipe that I wanted to tackle out of this cookbook's exceedingly generous devotion to breakfast. Perhaps it was the intriguing anecdote surrounding peeling poppy seeds out of lemon's grasp, perhaps it was the adorable photo of her little baboushka biting into a plum, perhaps it was the idea of eating a muffin containing brown butter, flour and yogurt after two weeks of ridding my body of said delicacies. Whatever the case, this is what I settled on today.

First, I browned the butter until it smelled rich and nutty. Then, while that cooled, I went about the business of preparing the rest of the batter. Everything went according to the usual plan of muffin making, until I added the butter. The butter gets added to a mixture of eggs, sugar and sour cream/yogurt while it's still a bit warm. As I poured it in and began to stir…WHAM!!! My olfactory neurons were slam-banged with the aroma of I have no idea what but oh my god I want to smell this smell for the rest of my life. The combination of brown butter and sugar and yogurt becomes this other-worldly experience that I could have gone my entire life missing had it not been for this cookbook, and this recipe.

And then. After spending a few moments with my nose in the bowl, inhaling deeply, it was time to add the dry ingredients. And, if you can believe it, one stir in I was walloped by a smell even more divine than the last! Poppy seeds? Could it be??? I never considered them to have a discernable flavour of their own, merely a delightful crunch and an embarrassing tendency to linger between my teeth. But oh my word I'm going bake these muffins every day for the rest of my life.

Please, go out and buy this cookbook, or borrow it from a friend. But not from me, I'm not letting go of this baby for a while yet. Of course, you're more than welcome to come over and bake them in my kitchen. Every single day. Forever.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Sugar Baby

E: Mom, did the price of gas go up?
M: Umm, well I think it's a bit higher since we filled up last.
E: Okay, welI I can give you some of my money so you can buy more gas.
M: Oh, that's okay honey, we have enough money to buy gas.
E: Oh, well, do you need money to buy more things? Because I can give you some if you need it.
M: That's very sweet, thank you baby, but we have enough money.
E: Well, if I give you my money, then you won't have to save any! So you just let me know if you need some money. Maybe after dinner I'll give you a little.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Good Intentions and Bad Judgement

It's sort of my signature. It describes my particular brand of je ne sais quoi. Which explains how I ended up making this for E last night:

A cookie as big as her head. A reward for getting at least 10 magnets on her responsibility chart for the week. Seemed like a good idea, you know, before we were sitting at the dinner table at 7pm watching her eyes glaze over 1/3 of the way through her victory spoils.

Thank goodness she didn't put up a fight about saving half for today. At least someone in this family has common sense…albeit accompanied by a notable deficit in table manners:

Next week, if she gets 15 magnets she gets a bowl of ice cream. Kid sized…not kid's head sized.


Did I forget to tell you that I got this beauty for my birthday?

Her name is Billie Jean, and she's my new best friend. She's my first bike in 20 years, and my first time on a bike in about 11 years. I asked for a bike for my birthday, which coincided serendipitously with reading about one of my favourite mom bloggers and her joy ride through Target that culminated in the purchase of her very own bike that would accompany her when she needed to experience a little freedom. Very inspiring.

Now that I've regaled you with tales of coincidence twice in a row, I'm starting to doubt whether it's so much coincidence as perhaps a case of reading way too many mom blogs…but that's a discussion for another time, like never.


I considered having my husband film the inaugural ride for possible submission to America's Funniest Home Videos, but my enthusiasm/potential mortification took over and I snuck out for a spin on my own on a brilliant fall afternoon that simply wouldn't take no for an answer.

I didn't fall off, didn't hit anyone, and as far as I can tell did not make a spectacle of myself. I did, however, realize that getting a bike from Walmart will almost certainly mean that you will receive a product that has been poorly assembled by someone who doesn't possess the knowledge/inclination/compensation level to do it well, to which I credit the ability of my bike to change gears all by itself! Fortunately, I have in my arsenal a cyclist friend who generously offered to repair it, and who will receive in return an early birthday cake whose recipe has been lovingly plucked from the pages of my new favourite cookbook. Anyone else out there want to do me any favours? Because I literally can't find enough excuses to make all of this stuff quickly enough.

Am I talking about food again? Holy moly, the end of this cleanse cannot come soon enough.

So back to the point just in time to offer you my final thoughts - I am very excited about my new bike. She makes me feel younger, freer, and more fun than I did before I got her. Provided I do not become another in a fairly long list of cycling casualties in this city, I predict a long and happy relationship for the two of us. And I recommend to anyone who has spent the last decade or two sticking to four wheels for their preferred mode of transportation to take a stab at whittling it down to two. But not on a motorcycle. Those things are dangerous.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Timing is Everything

So, I got this in the mail yesterday:

I pre-ordered it in May, and have barely been able to contain my excitement since confirming my purchase on Amazon. Everything about this book is exciting, right down to the fact that I got it for 46% off of the cover price. I've been scouring it for the past 20 hours, loving every inch of it, planning what to make first, and then next. I know that I can't go wrong with one of Deb's recipes, only very, very right.

In other news, J has been studying like a madman (I just typed "madam" by mistake and really wanted to leave it that way…how does one study like a madam, and could it be done at the dining room table with children running about?) for an exam he has on Monday. He's on lockdown all weekend, and I'm not sure when the last time was that he was spotted without his bathrobe…or freshly showered for that matter.

And then there's my super-clean colon, which is currently chugging along on Day 13 of my cleanse. I'm wicked proud of making it through my first weekend, then Hallowe'en with only one skittle passing my lips, forced upon me by a terrifying devil, and on through the first 20 hours of ownership of that beautiful work of art up there. Tomorrow is my last day, mostly because I feel that two weeks is a reasonable amount of time for this sort of venture, somewhat because I seem to have dropped in weight to pre-adult parameters, which I can't say I'm thrilled about, and also because I'm afraid if I don't bring dairy back into the equation my bones might turn to sawdust.

So I can't help but feel that the universe has smiled on me, what with J's imminent release from the shackles of studying, my imminent release from the shackles of deprivation and the arrival on my doorstep of the answer to all of my culinary prayers over the last two weeks. A celebration is due, and I now have the resources and the inspiration to welcome all of us back to the land of the living with some decadent, home-cooked, love-laden feastery. I just made up that word. I'm not sure how no one could have thought of it before. Oh, wait:

Feastery - A members-only gourmet concierge
Feastery is an exclusive, members-only website that offers unique experiences and preferred pricing at great restaurants. We're like a gourmet concierge.

Damnit. Well, I like your style, San Francisco. If I needed another reason to visit you one day, I just found it.