Saturday, May 30, 2009

more flowers from laurie's front yard

Took some photos of Laurie's flowers when I dropped her off after our visit to the farmer's market. Above is a really ugly photo, because there's something totally wrong with one of those petals, and there was a really gross brownish thing to the left of the blossom. Oh well.

These are violets that Laurie transplanted last week. They look really pretty, although after seeing the photo I realized that some of the petals look pretty moth-eaten. Oh well.

apple fritter

Laurie and I went to the farmer's market at the fairgrounds again this week, and once again we got apple fritters from a Dutch bakery. I didn't take a picture of the apple fritters last week. Here's this week's fritter, half-eaten. I don't know how they make these, but basically they are sinful. That's all I know.

I nearly burned myself last week, the fritters were so fresh out of the deep-fryer. This week's fritters were pleasingly warm. We scarfed them in the parking lot before getting in my car. I somehow got sugar on the crotch of my pants, though. Not quite sure how that happened. I won't tell you the euphamism that Laurie came up with for that, either.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

more kittens

I've been really bad about adding more kitten photos. My sister keeps sending pics to my BlackBerry, and since I had to replace my computer hard drive I haven't had the proper BBerry software to manage my device files or upload them to my computer. Whatever. I've taken these photos from my sister's Facebook profile. Very cute, eh?

Meghan and a kitten.

Kyle and a kitten.

Kyle kissing his kitten. I know - so cute.

Kyle's kitten, Zupur.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

blessings in a salad

I took the above photo this morning when I went into my fridge to get some almond butter to eat with my Extra Strength Advil. I noticed that the pea shoots that I bought yesterday at the farmer's market were all backing away from the top of my fridge, as if repelled by the cold or something. Made me laugh. I know food that's stored right beneath the freezer tends to freeze, for sure.

This morning at church the guest preacher (a member of our congregation who is also a member of parliament) talked about a mission and service trip that some of the congregation took to a First Nations tribe in northern Ontario this past week. We had raised money to buy nets to allow the tribe to feed itself according to its traditional ways, and Glen's story of that visit was very moving and also heart-wrenching. Among other challenges, these First Nations people can't afford the healthier food that can be shipped into their community (a carton of eggs or a bag of potatoes can cost $20), and therefore their diets are often poor, and diabetes runs rampant through the community.

When I got home and started making my lunch, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the abundance of affordable, healthy food here in southwestern Ontario. The above salad (my lunch) is made with fresh organic spinach and pea pods from organic farms, as well as Ontario carrots and apples. The only thing that was shipped from somewhere else was the celery, and even then it was really inexpensive (although don't remind me how many pesticides were used to create it - I might lose my lunch).

Seriously, though - that is some miracle sitting in my bowl. Awesome.

Really quick, here's how I make homemade dressing for my salads: drizzle olive oil over everything (don't ask me how much), and then splash red wine vinegar on top of that, and sprinkle liberally with salt or Herbamare. I toss salads with my bare hands. True. I usually wash my hands first, if that helps. Besides, I'm usually the only one eating my salads. Anyhow - when everything's all tossed, I test the flavour by popping a leaf or two in my mouth. If the salad tastes like something you'd buy in a nice restaurant, you probably drizzled, splashed and sprinkled right. Otherwise - lather, rinse, repeat. Wait - that's for shampooing. Nevermind.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

saturday morning farmer's market finds

So my friend Laurie wanted to go to the farmer's market at the fairgrounds this morning. I'd never been there (I usually go to Trail's End or Covent Garden), and wasn't expecting much. Was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food, and the variety of the stalls. We each had an absolutely decadent Dutch apple fritter from one baker, and left with these sinful butter tarts from another, Canada Comfort Foods. The top tart is Ultimate Nut, the one on the left is Saskatoon Berry, and the one on the right is - wait for it - white chocolate. They have about half a dozen other flavours. Have already eaten the berry one. It was probably the best butter tart I have ever had in my life, apart from my mother's. True. And apparently I am PMS'ing or something, because I have totally chucked my no-wheat diet out the window.

An organic hydroponic place was selling these young pea plants. The greens are supposed to be sweet, and good in salads and sandwiches. I kept picking off little bits of them before I put them in the fridge - they really are yummy. Although I feel kind of weird eating live food - maybe how carnivores might feel if they were forced to bite chunks out of living cows, or something.

Another really cool stall was selling these body care products called From the Meadow. I had bought some of their soaps last summer when Mom, Dad and I took the kids to this bee place near Belmont. Sure enough, From the Meadow uses beeswax from the bee place in their products.

This particular cream is supposed to be a hormone-balancing one. I so need that. I've already rubbed it all over my ovaries, and the smell is wonderful - really subtle, with all-natural essential oils. I already feel calmer, like my Advil had been spiked with a Valium, or something.

Oh - and Laurie and I split a huge bag of Mutsu apples from a local orchard.

Here's my half, soaking in my kitchen sink. All these apples cost me $3. I seriously don't remember the last time I bought apples so cheaply. Yes, I know they are last year's apples. That's okay - so are the ones in the grocery store, that cost me $2/lb.

how i spent my morning

I've been waking up nastily early, lately. Like 4AM. And subsequently going to bed at ridiculously early hours like 9 or 10PM. Sigh.

Anyhow, this morning when I crawled out of bed around 5 (after lying awake for an hour pretending I was a guest on David Letterman (which is one of my favorite passtimes)), I honestly meant to do some yoga. I did my morning incense ritual (which I'll probably write about sometime), made myself my morning ginger tea (in an awesome new/used mug, above, that I got from Value Village the day I got the trench coat), and turned on my computer "just to check" what was going on online.

10 movie trailers later, I ended up on Facebook and then Twitter and now I'm on my blog and honestly, I don't know where two hours have gone. I just tweeted that I'm going to try to spin online surfing into some kind of spiritual practice. True.

I love this mug. It's currently second-favorite to the one that Mac gave me, that says "Do what you like, like what you do" on one side, and "Life is good" on the other.

Added later: I also ate some almond butter out of the jar again, so I could take some more Advil. Didn't want to eat much, so I could still do my yoga. So now I'm also yoga-deprived AND starving...

Friday, May 22, 2009

how to sew on a button with a thread shank

I got this awesome trench coat at Value Village* last weekend, only to discover after I got it home that it had three buttons missing. Plus an empty candy wrapper in one of the pockets, but I guess that didn't really affect its functionality too much. Not like the whole missing buttons thing.

So anyhow, I was feeling too cheap to go out and get all new buttons for the coat, so I searched through my button jar at home and finally found three brown buttons that were the same size as the buttons already on the coat. I laid them out on the coat to see how things would look with two different colours of buttons, and it was kind of quirky like me, so I said, Hell, why not?

Except I wanted the brown button in the middle to be a little higher - like in the second position from the top, not the third - which meant I was going to have to remove and sew back on at least one other button. And if I was going to go to all the trouble of sewing on new buttons, I figured I might as well make sure ALL the buttons were sewn on well.

So I decided to remove and re-sew every single button on that coat.


And don't be thinking that I really like sewing buttons, or anything. I'm freaky, but not that freaky. Just OCD.

This was probably the funnest part of the whole job - choosing a bunch of different shades of thread to sew the buttons on with. Because I figured if I was going to sew on different coloured buttons, why not use all different colours of thread, too?

I swear, I handn't been drinking. I don't drink. Who needs to drink, really, when you can think up fun crap like cutting off and sewing on 12 buttons for absolutely no reason?

Okay, I only cut off nine. Three were already missing.

I did get a little distracted for a while, taking pictures of the spools of thread. Or maybe it was just procrastination. I REALLY don't like sewing buttons.

Now comes the really fun part, and don't go thinking that I'm going to explain this well, or anything. 'Cause I'm not. Even if I DO have a Home Ec. degree. Which I do. And which is where I totally learned how to do this.

Oh Jeez, I just realized I totally uploaded the same photo twice. Awesome. While forgetting to upload the photo that was SUPPOSED to be in the above place. Do you know how long it's going to take for me to upload and then figure out where to position the code for the correct photo? Sigh.

Okay, I timed myself. It took less than 30 seconds. But FELT like forever. True. So anyhow, you need to scroll back up to the duplicated photo for the next instructions: You'll need a match, or a toothpick. I usually use a toothpick, but you can tell how long it's been since I've sewn on a button, because I haven't had a toothpick in my apartment since I moved to Toronto. And I'm back in London again. The toothpick (or match) will leave a little space between the button and the fabric of the coat, which I will magically turn into a thread shank further down in this blog post.

Yeah, I know I have awful cuticles. I should probably get a manicure, but I don't believe in manicures. For reasons that I refuse to divulge right now.

Which reminds me that I need to tell you what a shank is, and I'm already totally bored with writing these instructions, so I'll just say that if you have the kind of buttons where you can see the holes when you look at them head-on, your button doesn't have a shank. If you have the kind of buttons where you just see buttons (no holes) when you look at them head-on, your buttons probably have shanks.

Unless you've been drinking. In which case, all bets are off, and I wouldn't suggest trying to sew buttons in that condition, either.

The shank makes it easier to button and unbutton the coat, because it leaves room behind the button (but before the fabric...) Oh, I should just shut up now. You probably aren't even listening. Nevermind. Enjoy the pretty pictures.

For those of you who are still hoping to figure out how to make a thread shank on a shankless button, I really apologize. But that's what Google's for these days, isn't it? (And if you've found this blog post via a Google search... I really, REALLY apologize. The line forms to the left.)

Above, you need to sew on the button with the match (or toothpick) stuck between the button and the coat. The matchstick will come out later, I promise. This is not at all the setup for a practical joke. And by the way, aren't those matches awesome? I got a whole bag full of matchbooks from a former client, and they're from all these cool places that this couple went, like this inn in Quebec. True.

(Also true: When they gave me the matches, they guessed that about half the couples whose weddings were commemorated by matchbooks in the bag were probably divorced now. True. AND awesome. And why did everybody stop handing out commemorative matchbooks at weddings, anyhow?)

After you've sewn through the holes of the button enough times (I usually do about three times), bring the needle back to the front of the coat, like this. Or just look at the picture in perplexity, drop your jaw slightly, and wonder unloud: Wha..?

Wrap the thread about six times between the button and the coat, to create the thread shank. Finish with a knot somewhere. I would tell you how to do that part, but I usually bury my threads, which is way too complicated to explain in a blog. Plus it's a secret, really. They make us swear in Home Ec. university that we'll never tell non-Home Ec. peeps. Sorry.

I was going to show you a picture of how neat and tidy all my button sewing was from the inside of the garment, but it took me, like, three or four tries to get something even remotely neat looking. Which is why the thread colour in the above photo doesn't match the others, in case you were wondering.

Just to really mess with your minds, here's a little reinforcement thingy I added behind one of the buttons I sewed (I think it was on a pocket). The previous owner had nearly ripped the button off, and the fabric was all holey. I was afraid it wouldn't hold a button, so I used this tiny scrap of fabric to reinforce the button. I'm pretty sure there's a name for what the fabric thingy is supposed to be called, but of course I can't remember it right now. You can call it George, if you like. I'm gonna.

A finished button. One of the brown ones. Obviously. Did I mention I sewed on 12 of these babies? Yeah.

The finished coat. I am totally loving this coat even more, now. Which kind of proves that theory, that people who invest a part of themselves in something tend to love it even more. Like when they make delinquent youth paint murals on graffiti-infested walls, and then nobody tags them again. Only my example uses trench coats and middle-aged women. Nevermind.

*Value Village is a used clothing store, in case you didn't already know that. And were wondering why a new coat that I bought would have missing buttons, and a candy wrapper in the pocket. Just saying.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

sewing thread

I sewed some buttons on a used jacket I bought at Value Village last weekend. Will post the button-sewing story sometime soon. Thread is good.

kitchen sink

Washing dishes is a spiritual event for me. I LOVE the kitchen sink in my new apartment. I love my kitchen, period. No, I'm not high.

favorite stones

I also have a thing for stones. Above is some malachite, along with some real beach glass (not the fakey, tumbled stuff you buy in home deco stores) that I found at Grand Bend years ago.

Yellow quartz, I think.

new rocking chair

I'll admit it, I have a rocking chair fetish. This is my latest (not so new, now - I think I got it two weeks ago) acquisition: A bentwood rocker found at the Rotary rummage sale. It cost me $15. I sit in it every day.

Bentwood curlique. I like furniture that is useful AND looks beautiful. And that totally makes me wonder how they got the wood to bend like that.

more flowers from last week

I took these photos last week during either my noon-hour walks or after work. Above is a dandelion from a lawn on Dufferin Ave., I think.

These forget-me-nots are from my friend Laurie's backyard.

White flowers called I know not what, from Laurie's front yard.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

pantry stew (a cautionary tale)

Doesn't this stew look awesome? Too bad it doesn't taste that awesome. But don't worry - it's not because this recipe is no good. It's because I can't seem to stop burning things, lately. Usually while I'm goofing around on Twitter. I need to make one of those red circles with a line through it and the Twitter bird and a stove in the background. "Don't tweet and cook." Or something.

Anyhow, I made up this recipe on the spur of the moment when I was hungry last night and wanted to cook something with ingredients that I had on hand. Hence the title (pantry stew). You could also call this "too lazy to go to the grocery store" stew.

Actually, the main motivating factor behind making this stew was that I had a bunch of yellow-eyed peas in my fridge that I'd cooked Thursday night in my crockpot, and I was afraid they'd go bad if I didn't MAKE SOMETHING WITH THEM ALMOST IMMEDIATELY. I'm a little averse to the fart-like rotting food smell that too-old cooked beans make, y'know? I also wanted the stew to be somehow tomato-y, but the only kind of tomato ingredient I had on hand was a jar of spaghetti sauce. Done. But I didn't want a stew that TASTED like spaghetti sauce, so I had to think up some weird new flavour twist to explore. More on that later.

So I started by chopping one sweet Vidalia onion. I think you could use any kind of onion - I just happened to have sweet Vidalias on hand - thanks to my Mom, who had two big bags of them, and was giving some away. I think she might have got them from the Shriners. Whatever - you probably don't need to know why I was using a Vidalia.

I also chopped about five or six stalks of celery, but crap, I forgot to photograph that part. To be honest, this entire recipe is kind of light on informative photos. Above is the chopped celery and onion, sauteeing in olive oil in my soup pot.

Once the celery and onion were a little soft, I added the cooked yellow-eyed peas. You could use any kind of cooked beans in this stew - or even a mixture of beans. If you cook your beans from scratch, use one average-sized package of dried beans. Don't ask me how much that is. Just average-sized, okay? If you're using cooked beans, I'm guessing you'd need about three cans of beans for this recipe, although by all means use less if you're not too fond of beans. Wimp.

Next I peeled and chopped about four large carrots, I think. I didn't want to chop them the same shape as the onions and celery - hence the rounds. Whatever. Add the carrots to the pot.

The infamous jar of spaghetti sauce. Add a jar or can of spaghetti sauce to the pot.

Now comes the interesting part. I decided to add a tablespoon of curry powder to the stew.

And a tablespoon of garam masala (which is an Indian spice mixture, and my latest favorite spice).

These tortilla chips have absolutely nothing to do with the recipe. I just had them sitting on my counter while I was cooking, and thought they looked pretty. So I took a picture of them. I think they would totally taste good with this stew, though, come to think of it. Too bad I ate all of them before the stew was done.

Finally I added a bit of water to the stew, until it reached the consistency I wanted. Don't ask me how much water I added - all I can tell you is it looked like this when I was done.

Awesome, eh? The above picture would be the bottom of the soup pot after I spent too much time on Twitter and accidentally burned my stew. Also, I dropped my camera - really hard - rushing to take this photograph. Good thing my second (and current) camera is a shock-resistant one, eh? (Guess how I destroyed my first camera...)

In an effort to salvage things, I dumped the hot (but not totally cooked) stew into another container, and then went to work on the bottom of the soup pot. Fun stuff. Do I know how to rock my Saturday nights, or what?

Was not too impressed to discover (after scrubbing the pot for five minutes) that the pot seemed permanently stained with burnt. Awesome. Like I need to be reminded, every time I make a new recipe, that I totally sucked at cooking one night. (Epilogue: I got the rest of the burnt marks off the pot this morning. Yay.)

Okay, a little tangent: I blame my stove for all my cooking mishaps. Twitter notwithstanding, if my cute little vintage stove actually WORKED PROPERLY, I wouldn't burn so much food. But this charming antique has only two temperatures: lukewarm, and EXTREMELY HOT. And the burners won't work at all unless you turn them to EXTREMELY HOT first, and then turn them down to lukewarm once they start to heat up.

Perhaps I'm a little lazy, but I figure if the burner is already on EXTREMELY HOT, I might as well get some use out of all that power. So I usually let the pot heat up until the food is bubbling, and only then turn it down to lukewarm. Kind of as a time-saving measure, see? (Mom, you don't have to tell me: I've turned into my father, haven't I?)

I had a friend over today, and she wondered why I didn't ask my landlord for a new stove. But see - a new stove wouldn't look this cute, would it? Nevermind.

After I got the pot cleaned up, I finished cooking the (now smoke-flavoured) stew, and added Herbamare to taste. Which was kind of burnt. The taste, that is. Reminded me of nothing more than campfire food, and I haven't been camping since I was a kid. Also, my apartment smelled like cooked BBQ. Which was not so charming, considering that I'm a vegetarian.

The finished stew. Finally ate some for supper tonight. (Oh - and last night's supper? The rest of the bag of Tostitos and a slab of fudge while I cleaned up the stew fiasco. True.) The stew actually didn't taste that bad, if you plugged your nose to avoid the topnote of burnt. The curry and garam masala really give it a lot of depth. Or something. I'm guessing I would totally love this stew if it wasn't burnt. So there you go. You're welcome.