Thursday, 19 January 2017

Comfort Food on a Thursday Night

It's still dull and it's still January, so you might as well have some comfort food. This is one of my favourite home made soups. It ends up being wonderfully creamy and flavourful, but it is full of wonderful vegetables and absolutely no heavy cream. It is time for potato leek soup!

Here is everything you need to make this soup: potatoes, leeks, onion, celery, carrot, a little butter, chicken stock, a little milk, salt and pepper (also some parsley if you have it).

Melt your butter and start chopping. All the vegetables go in to be stirred around with the butter, then over low heat, let the veggies cook a bit in a covered pot.

Add a whole container of chicken broth.

Pour in a little milk, not even half a cup. I always use 1% milk for everything.

After the veggies are nice and soft, season with salt, pepper and parsley. It is time to make this creamy. But first, we need to have a moment of silence. I lost an old friend today:

My good old Braun hand blender has been with me longer than one of my own children. It has blended many pots of soup over the years. In fact, I took this picture and was then going to take a picture of me blending the soup right in the pot, but the poor old thing just gave a dull buzz and ceased to whir. So, I was forced to use my blender to puree the soup, a few ladles at a time. It worked fine, but being able to use the hand blender in the pot is so convenient. You don't have a blender, or a food processor to wash up afterwards.

All nicely blended but still a few little chunks so you don't feel like you're on a liquid diet.

Here's the final result with a nice warm slice of cheesy garlic bread. There are lots of leftovers for later in the week. Good comfort food at this "lovely" time of year!

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Devoid of Colour

Fresh snow is pure and sparkly, and for some, lovely to play in. January snow is dingy, dirty, tainted. I was driving to work and realized that the world is rather monotone right now. I drive through the countryside and the fields and snow and trees are all varying shades of brown and grey. It is like living in a sepia tone photograph. Except it's real.

my parking lot

my drive home

my drive home with fog to further obliterate any possible colour
I have no doubt that the patches of earth that are showing through the snow will be covered with more snow and that this mid January melt is just a blip. It is a very dull world out there right now, however.

The blanket that snow provides, the whitewash of the world around us, the softening of sharp edges is what makes spring so magical. It truly is a rebirth for those of us who experience a snowy winter. The contrast between the non-colour of winter and the bright spring greens, pinks, yellows awakens our senses, makes us feel hopeful and alive, and gives us a real sense of having survived yet another season.

Alas, I can't let these dreary, lifeless surroundings get me down. We have two more months ahead of us of more of the same. But at the moment, I'm feeling a bit like Eeyore.

"It's snowing still," said Eeyore gloomily.
"So it is."
"And freezing."
"Is it?"
"Yes," said Eeyore. "However," he said, brightening up a little, "we haven't had an earthquake lately."

Monday, 16 January 2017

Well, We Can Cross that One Off the List

So, on my quest to lose some weight and be a healthier, trimmer me, I looked at the produce aisle with new eyes this past weekend. I find myself in a bit of a rut sometimes, making the same suppers, or at least the same side dishes. I thought I should check out vegetables that I normally wouldn't pay attention to.

I came home with this.

It looks healthy, doesn't it? All that dark, leafy goodness..

This is what it's called. It is not actually a member of the broccoli family, but is more like a member of the turnip family, more closely related to "greens". It is called broccoli rabe because of the little heads that look like broccoli.

I didn't know how to properly prepare this lovely bunch of vitamins and minerals, so I googled it and found out that you should first blanch it in salty water to eliminate any bitterness. Then you saute it in olive oil with some garlic. Well that sounded good, so that is what I did.  It was to be my side to some garlic sausage and mashed potatoes.

We got our plates ready and sat down at the table. I was ready to embrace this glistening dark green vegetable. I already felt a little bit healthier just for having it in my house! I took my first bite... and it was horrible. I don't mean "fussy kid, I hate broccoli" horrible. No, it was bitter, "I tried to take a pill but it dissolved in my mouth before I could swallow it" horrible.

I told my husband and son not to bother to eat it, it was that bad. My husband did actually eat it and said he didn't mind it. My son took my advice and didn't even try.

I don't know why I bothered to put the unused portion of broccoli rabe / rapini back in the fridge. I won't be doing anything with the rest of it, apart from taking the pictures for my blog. I might as well just put it in the compost bin now.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

listening to a storm

I'm  propped up in bed, laptop on my lap, and I'm listening to the wind outside. I can hear the tree branches hitting the side of the house and the rain sounds like waves breaking. We are having a high wind alert right now. We can have gusts of wind up to 90 km per hour (which is about 56 miles per hour).

I should really have the light out and be asleep by now. I love the sound around me. Is that weird? I find the whole thing so cozy, to be piled with blankets and hear the low roar and swish and know that I don't have to go anywhere and everyone is home, safe.

My father loved a good storm. In the summer months, he would sit out on the porch sometimes and watch the lightning. He taught us, I suppose, to not be afraid of thunder storms, as so many people are. Our own children slept through most thunder storms.

Weather that makes me nervous is when it seems like tornado weather. Then I get antsy and watch the sky carefully. I also do not enjoy white out conditions while driving. But hunkered down in this wind storm, it's nice. It will lull me to sleep. I suppose it's a bit like what I've been reading on many blogs lately, this notion of "hygge". If I had some beef barely stew right now to eat while listening to the wind, it would be perfect!

Friday, 6 January 2017

Sleep, perchance to dream...

Last night I had the most bizarre dream. In my dream, my back teeth were loose. I could feel them move under my tongue. Then later in the dream, my back teeth came out, just like when you are a kid, and there is no root left, just tooth. Shortly after that, the teeth in front of those also became loose and fell out! Of course there was other content to the dream, but I can't really remember much of that, but the whole tooth thing seemed so real that when I woke up I could still remember it and actually was happy that my teeth were still there!

Have you ever had a tooth dream? Apparently, they are quite common. I remember sitting in a highschool science class and a classmate talked about having a dream where he crunched and ate his own teeth. "They tasted like those candy cigarettes!", he said.

When I was in university, my housemate took a course in which she had to keep a dream journal. As part of the course, they were given common dream interpretations. For fun, I kept a journal as well. We would then analyze our dreams. Much of this interpretation wasn't rocket science. Usually dreams reflected what you had been experiencing as of late, or what had been on your mind.

A common meaning of "tooth dreams" was having to deal with a stressful situation. I doubt there is anyone who isn't dealing with some kind of stress. Another dream that I have had involves going through a big house with many rooms and hallways, not necessarily one I could identify. The interpretation for that one was trying to work out a problem, or make a big decision. Kind of a theme, here.

I used to dream much more vividly than I do now. I also used to remember my dreams much better than I do now (mind you, I used to remember a whole lot of things better than I do now). I think you can train yourself to remember your dreams better. When my housemate and I were keeping a dream journal, we were able to recall details better as we continued to do it.

Our son used to talk and walk in his sleep A LOT. It caused me a lot of concern. I worried that he would grow up and move out of the house and go to university and continue to sleep walk and get into all sorts of danger. I talked to our family doctor about it and he found the whole thing fascinating rather than concerning. He said it would likely stop around age twelve or thirteen. Well, darned if he wasn't right! Our son did in fact stop his sleep walking when he was around twelve.

If you've never witnessed a sleep walker / talker, it is a bit disconcerting. Our son would have his eyes open and he would walk into the room and talk in a normal tone to us. Usually this would happen within an hour or two of us putting him to bed. We would be downstairs watching tv and we'd hear him come downstairs from his bedroom (yup, walked down 16 stairs without a problem). Often the one way that we could tell if he was still asleep was to ask him a skill testing question. Usually it was, "What room are you in?" If he told us a different room than where we actually were, we knew he wasn't really awake. He never left the house, but that was always a fear.

Our daughter did not sleep walk, but I do remember night terrors when she was quite young. She would scream like a banshee after being asleep for a while and there was no consoling her until she just ran out of steam. For first time parents, that was also a bit disconcerting!

Apart from my teeth falling out, another dream experience that I had only once was an incident in which my body really was paralysed. I had learned that our body has the ability become paralysed while we sleep and have particularly violent dreams so that we don't hurt ourselves. In this incidence, I woke up from a bad dream and honestly was unable to move. It was scary, but I actually reasoned with myself what was happening and fell back asleep for a bit, and then when I woke up it was all fine.

So, there you have it. Respond with your sleep walking, recurrent dream, teeth falling out stories!

Sweet Dreams!

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Change of Birthday Plans

Today our son turns seventeen. The beautiful sunny weather I just posted about? Well, it got replaced with snowsqualls, whiteouts, some road closures, so the birthday plans have once again been changed. This poor kid has had his birthday messed about so many times. There have been many times where we have had to be on the road on his birthday, either returning my mother-in-law to her daughter, driving our daughter back to university, or just plain old horrible weather.

Our daughter has had so many of her birthdays spent in a three day dance recital that it just became normal. Any gatherings or parties that she had were almost always the weekend before, or the weekend after her birthday.

These pictures don't really give credit to the blowing and squalls, but I took them this afternoon.

In fact, it looks positively balmy in these shots. When the wind picked up, you really couldn't see a thing.

The change of plans meant that his girlfriend couldn't come for a visit today, we couldn't go to a town about 45 minutes away to eat at Boston Pizza, in fact, we didn't even leave the house. Instead, we had home made nachos and birthday cake (always home made) and watched Star Wars. (Yes, the non-movie watcher had her laptop and other distractions at the same time). Our daughter is already back at university, doing her own thing.

Birthdays were not a huge deal for me growing up. I have a summer birthday, not during school time, so birthday parties were not part of my childhood experiences. We didn't live in town with neighbours close by, so birthdays were usually just immediate family. My mother baked a cake and there would be presents, but I don't have any specific memories of a cherished present, or gathering. For this reason, I always like to make sure my own kids feel like their birthday is being celebrated. We still put up some kind of decoration, even if it is the Happy Birthday Sign. Sometimes there are balloons and streamers, even at the ages they are now. I always bake a chocolate layer cake (their request). We still hid our son's presents and told him if he was hotter or colder as he looked for them in the house.

At present, a very young Harrison Ford is on the screen and I am about ready to pass out from the heat of the wood stove and the one glass of wine that I've had, but we managed to celebrate son's seventeenth birthday and he isn't one to fuss if things don't go as planned, so it's been a good day after all.

But it would likely be easier if we just had cats.

Putting order to a small corner of my world

You know how sometimes you just have to control one little aspect of your life when you feel like you don't have any control at all? Today I tackled the fridge. Oh yes, I pulled every single thing out of that stainless steel bottomless pit of all things half empty. I was ruthless.

I looked at every single "best before" date. If it didn't say 2017, it was gone. (O.K. just so you know, I threw contents away and then rinsed containers and put them in the bluebox because you don't want to be too much of a rebel). I got rid of the half consumed pickled beets, blueberry jam, and salsa with corn in it. (These were all gifted to me, gulp, two years ago).

I was brave enough to open the container of cottage cheese that had just a little bit of cottage cheese, and some shaggy blueish grey mold in the bottom. Yup, rinsed that one out for the recycling as well. I poured the last of the garlic rib sauce down the drain, as well as the not so great chipotle ranch salad dressing.

I took out shelves and scrubbed them and dried them and put them back in (I think in the same spots). I questioned how fruit flies can live (and then die) inside a refrigerator. I really, really wrestled with saving the limes. They were supposed to be for something that I didn't end up making, but they are still fine, and now I feel obligated to look up some recipe that I don't really want to make just so I can use the rescued limes.

I threw out the mostly uneaten plum pudding (happy dance and firm, "I asked you about four times if you still wanted some of this!" to my husband). I questioned why I had not one, but two unopened small containers of sour cream. What the heck was I planning on serving at Christmas time that was such a good idea I bought sour cream twice??

But now, it is a thing of beauty. In fact, there are even bare patches where the gleaming glass of the shelves shows through! It looks almost like the fridges in ads for fridges do, with matching containers and just two apples, or six eggs and carrots with the green tops still attached, just lying there artistically.

When I open the double doors, a bright light shines out and a chorus sings and all is right in my world (until somebody spills something).