Sunday, October 21, 2007

how i'm staying cold-free (knock on wood)

Everyone I talk to these days is sick. And I don't just mean everyone in my city. I mean everyone everywhere - Toronto, London, ON, England, Europe...

Here's Michelle's sure-fire preventive for avoiding colds: raw garlic.

I mentioned this garnish in the comment to my harvest soup recipe posted earlier this week. I've been eating it like crazy for days, stirred into soups and stews.

1 small tub (500 mL) of light sour cream
8 cloves fresh, minced garlic

I actually used two cloves from a head of elephant garlic, but it works out to about the same amount. Stir the minced garlic into the sour cream and let the flavours meld for an hour or two before serving. Should keep for up to a week in the refrigerator.

(I find that if I eat raw garlic in the evening, it doesn't come out through my skin the next day the way cooked garlic dishes do. It's pretty powerful stuff during and after eating, though. Just saying.)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

jack-o'-lantern time

It's Saturday morning and I'm up to my elbows in pumpkin muck. Loving every minute of it. I'd been wanting to buy a pumpkin for several days, but kept putting it off. Then I asked my niece last night on the phone what she'd done this week that was fun, and she replied that they took a trip to the pumpkin patch.

That settled it.

Bought my pumpkin this morning. (City-slicker Aunt Michelle doesn't live anywhere near a pumpkin patch, so the selection at Dominion had to do.)

I want a jack-o'-lantern of my own because they're so cheery when it gets dark. The smell alone as I cut into the rind was worth the price of admission. This is fall - happy fall. (As opposed to chilly, rainy, dreary fall.)

I like my jack-o'-lanterns happy, too. No scary faces for me. It's always a bit of a surprise what the visage will look like, though - I prefer to cut freehand. My faces are pretty simple: two triangle eyes, a triangle nose, and a huge grin with a couple of lone teeth. (Why is it that jack-o'-lanterns have to be toothless, by the way?)

I was afraid this year's fellow was going to turn out a bit of a simpleton. Usually I try to go for a jolly laughing face with some intelligence if I can manage it. Luckily the overall effect of this year's effort was redeemed by an unmistakable aura of innocence. My pumpkin looks just like a picture of my laughing nephew, age two.

(Pepitas are sauteeing on the stovetop as I finish writing this. More happy fall memories...)

Friday, October 19, 2007

a moment

I may have already mentioned that I'm a little addicted to YouTube. It's a boon to a woman without a television - and I don't even mind watching that tiny little five-inch screen. I've seen some of the most amazing, moving, funny, gross and entertaining things on YouTube, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Tonight I was browsing through a bunch of random searches - mostly singers I like. After a search of Sting interviews I happened upon a music video of a Sheryl Crow song which featured an appearance by Sting.

I watched, and was deeply touched by the lyrics of this song - Always on Your Side.

It's funny - those private, intimate moments that happen between two people, that you assume are unique to you, and then discover much later are universal...

I once told a former boyfriend of mine that he was like a beautiful butterfly on my hand; I knew if I tried to hold on to him I would hurt him, and so I promised to leave my hand open, and just enjoy the blessing of his presence for as long as it lasted.

Turns out it didn't last nearly as long as I would have liked...

There's a lyric in Always on Your Side that goes:

Well they say that love is in the air; Never is it clear
How to pull it close and make it stay.
Butterflies are free to fly, why do they fly away,
Leavin' me to carry on and wonder why?
Was it you that kept me wandering through this life
When you know that I was always on your side?

~

It really is a lovely song. Check out the video for yourself, here.

(I'm still trying to figure out how they knew about my butterfly story.)

(And now I'm missing that boy...)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

harvest soup

I'm having my friend Tricia over for dinner tonight, and have decided to serve soup since it's easy and fairly quick. I have some jars of my basic squash soup in the freezer, so I'll use that as a base. But while I was preparing some stuff to add to it, I decided to take the soup in a whole new direction...

Heat up three portions of:

1 recipe basic squash soup

Then, in a SEPARATE pot, prepare the following SECOND soup:

1/2 large (garden large, not grocery store large) zucchini
3 carrots
1/2 cup green or brown lentils
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
pinch rosemary
Herbamare original seasoning, to taste

I had some carrots and a zucchini from my parents' garden in my fridge. I chopped them both individually in my food processor until they were in tiny pieces. (The carrots were dry pieces the size of peppercorns; the zucchini was mush, basically).

Put the chopped carrots, zucchini and lentils in a pot with enough water to cover and make a good soup consistency. Add the seasonings and simmer until the lentils and carrots are cooked. Adjust the saltiness with some more Herbamare* to taste, if needed.

What you will end up with is TWO soups: the squash soup and the lentil soup. I haven't tried this yet (I'll let you know how it goes tonight), but I'm going to pour each soup into the soup bowls from opposite sides at the same time, so that each bowl is filled half with squash and half with lentil soup.

Should make a festive-looking presentation if it works...

*Herbamare is an absolutely fantastic organic vegetable and sea salt seasoning. It can instantly add depth to the flavour of any dish. Look for it in the organic seasonings section of your grocery store or natural foods store.

Friday, October 12, 2007

someone with more blogs than i!

I'm doing research right now for a talk I'm giving next Monday for the Toronto Chapter of Professional Organizers in Canada. I'll be discussing inexpensive marketing techniques, including blogging.

I was just browsing for blogs on that topic when I came across a blogger.com user who has 43 (yes, that's forty-three!) blogs registered under his name. You can check out his profile and his list of blogs here:

http://www.blogger.com/profile/07219299130867293674

Now, what really bugs me about this guy is that he's obviously just used these blogs as a marketing ploy to generate web traffic. He has created as many blog titles as he could think of that relate to his business (advertising wraps on trucks - those huge print ads you see applied to buses and transport trucks). Then on each blog he's simply posted the exact same information - basically an advertisement of his business.

Why did he do this? Well, blogger.com offers their blog URLS for free. To do something similar by registering regular .com domain names would have cost a chunk of change.

But this is not blogging. He's not creating regular posts for any of these blogs. And I think his approach may turn off potential customers, once they realize what he's done...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

goodfellow's tree-kangaroo

I may spend too much time online.

I Googled my last name early this morning (I couldn't sleep and was randomly surfing online). On something like the 20th page of search results (yes, I actually read through the previous 19 pages!), I found mention of an animal called Goodfellow's Tree-kangaroo.

There's an animal named after us! Who knew?

Kind of cute, huh? Apparently they live in Papua, New Guinea. In trees.

(And I love the taxonomy: Dendrolagus goodfellowi. That's goodfellow with an 'i' on the end. Makes me laugh just to say it out loud. Let me rename myself: homo sapiens goodfellowi...)

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

stewp

After the holiday weekend I was sent home with another huge butternut squash (see my earlier recipe for ginger squash soup here). I'm running low on the squash soup I made a couple of weeks ago, so I decided to make some more this afternoon when I had some free time. (Oh, the joys of being self-employed!)

This time I didn't used any seasoning other than salt, and the soup had the most amazingly pure squash taste.

1 HUGE butternut squash
1 large sweet onion
1/4 cup olive oil
salt to taste

I also used Italian sea salt this time, and I loved the lightness of its salty flavour. I sealed most of the soup in jars, but for my late lunch/early supper I prepared a bowl of the basic squash soup with some leftover green peas and mashed potatoes. The potatoes gave it a lovely, thick consistency which was almost like stew, but not quite.

(Stewp, if you will... )

1 serving squash soup
1/2 cup cooked peas
1/4 cup cooked mashed potatoes
dash of salt

Monday, October 8, 2007

what i'm doing with thanksgiving leftovers

I've tagged this post with the label "gratitude," because this (and every) Thanksgiving I'm very grateful for... leftovers!

Mom sent me home with lots of goodies, including leftover peas, rutabaga (turnip) and mashed potatoes from last night's family celebration.

I defrosted and heated up a serving of my ginger squash soup, adding some of the cooked peas and turnip to the saucepan. Yuuummm...

1 serving ginger squash soup
1/2 cup cooked green peas
1/4 cup cooked, mashed rutabaga
dash of salt

A friend of mine once told me that she loves leftovers because it means you don't have to cook that night. Amen.

If you like leftovers too, there's a really great cookbook that gives all sorts of recipes to make with leftovers. The book includes master recipes for the first-time-around foods, too!

Leftovers by Kathie Gunst.

Monday, October 1, 2007

baths

I wasn't always a bath person.

I learned how to take a shower when I was 10 years old, on a solo trip visiting my maternal grandmother. And for nearly 30 years after that, showers were my personal cleaning method of choice.

Part of it may have to do with the fact that I always shared a home with at least one other person, and didn't always feel comfortable "lazing around" in a tub.* Baths also seemed like so much work; the speed of showers appealed to my go-go-go internal clock.

Since moving into my own apartment, however, I have become totally enamoured of baths. So much so, that I now bathe rather than shower whenever I have the time.

The ritual of "drawing the bath" is part of the appeal. I make sure the tub is immaculate (even if it means cleaning the tub beforehand), then pour in my additives: plain Epsom salts, pure vegetable oil (usually sesame or olive - although lately I've been trying to use up my supply of castor oil), and essential oils (usually lavender, although in the spring and summer I also like rosewood).

I add the water last. In the cooler months I like my baths as hot as I can stand; in the summer, they're usually tepid.

I like the lighting to be really dim while I bathe. I usually turn off the room lights and bathe by candlelight - or in the summer, when candles might be too hot, I simply leave the bathroom door open, letting light from the rest of my apartment spill into the dark bathroom.

Then I soak.

And I mean really soak. I have friends who like reading the bath. None of that for me. I may take the occasional phone call (and if it's dangerous to hold cordless or mobile phones while sitting in the tub, I don't want to know), but otherwise I just lie there.

I'm reminded of Blanche Dubois in Streetcar Named Desire. Stanley always rebuked her for spending too much time in the tub (especially during the hot, New Orleans summer), but she countered that it was "hydro-therapy," and good for her nerves.

Soaking in water is good for my nerves. I feel blissed-out by the time I'm done. It's as good as yoga for my mental and emotional well-being, without the effort of actually doing asanas.

*The one exception was the period I spent as a live-in housekeeper/nanny for a family with an indoor hot tub. I did like the hot tub.