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Archive for April, 2010

I was staying in Chilliwack this week, helping out my dad and stepmum Cindy after Cindy’s knee replacement surgery. Can you imagine having your knee bones sawed right off and replaced with metal ones? And a metal knee cap, even? Amazing, really. While out in Chilliwack I attempted to help out by doing something that’s somewhat easy to do, while also attempting to entertain and care for an almost-8-month-old, easily bored baby: cooking and baking!

One night I made Japanese Sticky Wings (but I used drumettes, and malt vinegar instead of white vinegar), coconut rice and this very easy but refreshing and delicious salad – actually, if you chopped the ingredients more finely, it would also make a frickin’ awesome salsa:

Mango, Jicama and Cucumber Salad

[Sorry, no photo of the actual salad – I didn’t have my camera with me! So please enjoy Arvind Balaraman‘s lovely and artful photo of mangoes.]

1 jicama, peeled and diced
2 mangoes, peeled and diced
1 English cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1 good handful of cilantro, roughly chopped

For the dressing:

3 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp sugar
salt to taste

Put all the salad ingredients in a bowl (as if you hadn’t already figured that out). Whisk the dressing ingredients together and pour over salad. Mix it all up and refrigerate for about an hour (if possible) to let the “flavour profile” (as they say on the Food Network) come together.

And dang if that jicama ain’t deelish! Slightly sweet and crunchy and a little bit apple-ish – what a fine legume.

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This Moment

Inspired by SouleMama‘s Friday ritual – a photo, with no words, from the past week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savour and remember.

Okay, maybe just a few words – my dear dad is staying with me this weekend, and yesterday afternoon he and my cat Frieda had a sunny late afternoon nap together. Awwww…

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[Okay, so I know it’s not actually Thursday, but I started writing this post yesterday  – does that count?]

Whenever I eat coconut, I think of my sister Chay. It could have something to do with the fact that in her partying years she favoured that sweet, fabulously trashy, coconut liquer-type stuff in the white glass bottle with the blue 80s font, aptly named Malibu. Goes well with Coke.

So, inspired by my gorgeous, hilarious, wondrous sister Chay, I concocted what I have dubbed my Malibu Granola. Like Chay, this granola is sweet, smart, sassy, earthy and beautiful. Eating this granola for me evokes images of warm summer days, wearing sundresses and flip-flops and listening to Sublime (remember them?). Try it with some plain yogurt and banana slices on top.

Malibu Granola*

7 cups rolled oats
2 1/2 cups total of any combination of chopped Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, walnuts, sesame seeds and/or hemp seeds
1/2 cup coconut
3/4 cup of dried fruits, such as cranberries, finely chopped mangoes, apples, apricots and/or pineapples
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract

Preheat oven to 250F. Put all ingredients except for the coconut and fruits in a very large bowl (or divide between two large bowls – I certainly didn’t have a bowl that was honkin’ enough to hold it all!). Mix well. Spread the mixture out on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Bake for about an hour, flipping the granola over a couple of times. Add the coconut after 1/2 an hour (otherwise it can burn!). Add the fruit when it’s all done bakin’, and store in airtight containers.

*Of course, the great thing about granola is there are about a thousand different combinations of oats, nuts, seeds and fruits you can put together. It’s so easy to make, and so much cheaper than the store-bought stuff. The general rule of thumb is 1/2 cup oil and 1/2 cup liquid sweetener (ie. honey or maple syrup) to every 10 cups of dry stuff.

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Midnight Knitting

As you may already know, I do all my best work during my Golden Hours, from about 10pm to 2 or 3 am. This includes learning something new, like knitting. As I mentioned before I went on my Okanagan vacation, I’ve been learning how to knit, thanks to my best friend Heather, the excellent site www.knittinghelp.com and the equally excellent, very popular book Stitch ‘N Bitch: The Knitter’s Handbook by BUST goddess Debbie Stoller. They all complement each other very well: Heather got me started, Knitting Help showed me the long tail cast-on (I finally got it, yay!) and Debbie keeps me on track. There is absolutely no way that I could have learned only from a book, though, ’cause of course it’s impossible to see the motion and the action of the whole thing. But for tips and visual aids, it’s definitely good to keep at my side at all times while knitting.

While Josh, Keaton and I were in the Okanagan on our little holiday I became quite knitting obsessed. You know how that is when you’re learning something new, or have just discovered something new, and you just can’t get enough of it? Yep. I had my rolled-up knitting kit on the coffee table the whole time, and I picked up my little swatches at any opportunity to knit a couple more stitches on:

Clockwise, starting in upper left corner: my very first attempt – what I have dubbed My Knitting Creature (maybe I should put googly eyes on it), complete with dropped stitches, etc.; my first proper garter stitch swatch; my attempt at a stockinette stitch swatch, although apparently at some point I forgot what row I was on and started a knit row… oh well.

My tension on these swatches was so insanely tight that the ends of my fingers were sore and developing callouses, like when you first learn to play guitar and your tender little fingers have to toughen up. I hadn’t really figured out yet about bunching up all the stitches on your needle that you’re about to knit, and to not hold the right-hand yarn too tight – Heather set me straight on that! For the past few days I’ve been trying to keep my hands relaxed, and it’s making a big difference.

Even though I’m still a complete and utter novice (I don’t even know how to increase or decrease yet, for chrissakes!), and I still knit painfully slowly, I still see all this as a bit of a breakthrough. I’ve tried learning how to knit on and off for the past eight years, and I just seemed to have a mental block. I absolutely did not get it. But after reading Stitch ‘N Bitch (or Stitch ‘N Botch, as I keep accidentally typing – that title pretty much describes what I’m doing at the moment), I realised that in the past I’d been shown the Continental “picking” style (with the yarn in your left hand), which I found next to impossible and totally confusing. I’m an English-style gal all the way. (Again, thanks Heather!) I love the idea of learning a craft that you can just pick up and work away on while watching TV or a movie, something that doesn’t take up too much room.

It’s kinda cool to see the actual, tangible evidence of how much I’m improved in just a couple of weeks. Here’s my ribbing swatch that I’m practising (maybe I’ll turn it into a little scarf for Keaton):

And I’ve cast on for my first proper project, a thing that I hope to one day wear – albeit a very easy garter stitch one – in this gorgeous yarn that Heather got me:

I’ll just keep going until the ball is done and see what I have – a neck cozy, perhaps. Maybe it’ll even be finished by the time it’s cold enough outside to wear it! (Although at the speed I knit, maybe not…)

Also, can I just add that coffee with a scoop of vanilla ice cream is just about the best thing ever? (Just polished off a cup. Was inspired to make it after Iron Chef Battle Coffee tonight.)

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Chicken soup with matzo balls and grilled cheese sandwiches with ketchup and mustard – an unorthodox yet delicious combination. Soup and sandwiches is one of my favourite meals, ever.

At age fifteen I became obsessed with everything Jewish. It was around the same time that I started watching – and loving – Woody Allen movies. All his references to his Jewish faith, family and background really got me started. This was also the time when I had a crush on my cute Jewish boy triumvirate: Woody, Paul Simon and Dr. Joel Fleischman from the TV show Northern Exposure. The episode where Joel’s Uncle Manny dies and then he dons his yarmulke and prayer shawl to say the kaddish? Don’t even get me started – I’m getting all verklempt! I dreamed of going to New York City to Max’s Delicatessen. I listened to tapes of people speaking Yiddish and Hebrew. I read Jewish folk tales and treasuries of Jewish humour. One day my younger sister Tara and I even snuck out and went to Vancouver by ourselves to – get this – go to a Jewish Film Festival. I started writing a screenplay about a nun and an orthodox Jewish man who somehow meet and fall in love (oh, the whole “forbidden love” thing – so appealing to teenage girls!). In grade ten I even pretended that I was Jewish around some people I didn’t know very well, and told them that I celebrated hanukkah. Yep.

My teenage Jewish obsession culminated in a special fancy dinner that Tara and I put on for our family, with orthodox/kosher Jewish dishes (ie. no milk and meat combined). I can’t remember what they were exactly, but we researched the recipes forever. (And this was in the days before the internet – many trips to the library.) Matzo meal was next-to-impossible to find in Maple Ridge in 1990, let me tell you. Tara and I even went so far as to make ourselves some little yarmulkes and beards, and then to curl side tendrils of our hair, sidelock style. Yes, instead of donning wigs and a great deal of make-up like good orthodox women, we had apparently decided it would be more fun to dress up like orthodox Jewish men. Gad, I wish I could dig up the pictures from that dinner party. On second thought, maybe not.

So, what about the Jewish faith and culture could fascinate a good little gentile girl from the suburbs to such an extent? Well, a big part of it is of course the whole “The Other” fascination – the Jewish culture seemed so exotic, so different from my Christian church-going, perogie-eating, hymn-singing Mennonite background. To my teenage self the Jewish culture seemed so much more witty, so much more edgy than the freshly-scrubbed, wholesome types that I was surrounded by. Growing up in Maple Ridge, B.C., I had never met anyone even remotely Jewish, but I had read about them in Judy Blume books.

Gradually my Jewish obsession faded, only to be replaced by some other new obsession (I think it was Star Trek: The Next Generation and my huge crush on Data. I’m certainly prone to my obsessions, ask anyone who knows me well). On Friday night, in a little nod to my Jewish-lovin’ past, I cooked up some chicken soup with matzo balls, which my best friend Heather so kindly procured for me from Solly’s Bagels (matzo meal is still hard to find, it appears). Oy vey! Delicious.

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Class photos. Old journals. (Many, many old journals.) Notes from my junior high best friend. Play scripts that my sisters and I wrote. Tooth fairy pillows. High school I.D. cards. Au Coton and Colors of Benetton catalogues. Childhood combs. My favourite My Little Pony. Boys’ phone numbers. Old zines. E.T. stickers. My prom dress, even.

I dug up all this childhood/teenage memorabilia and more from my mum’s basement recently. My mum and stepdad are selling the family home, and my sisters and I have spent the last couple of months going out to our hometown of Maple Ridge to sort through tons (and I mean tons) of our old crap in the basement. I guess when we all moved out we just hucked our old stuff down in the depths of the basement, thinking, “Oh, I’ll deal with that later.” Well, now is later, and the sifting through has been incredibly embarrassing, hilarious, mortifying, touching, and enlightening. For a nostalgic sap like me, it’s been really hard parting with some of this stuff. For example, check out my childhood collection of stuffed animals:

Like, are you kidding me? Oh, the memories! Muppet Baby Miss Piggy, a Gremlin fuzzy guy, a Yawny dog puppet, Piglet, Pooh and Eeyore (albeit the Disney versions, so maybe not too hard to part with), my Care Bears, my two Snorks (anyone who grew up in the 80s will remember the Saturday morning cartoon, aptly named The Snorks). Then there’s the Chef doll that my mum lovingly handcrafted out of pantyhose – does anyone remember the 1980s trend of making doll faces and bodies out of pantyhose? I remember my mum buying packages of pantyhose, stuffing them with batting, and then hand sewing them to make these crazy scrunched-up-type pruney faces. But anyway. I don’t know what to do with these guys. Do thrift stores even take stuffed animals? Some of these ones are stained and damaged, so I wouldn’t want to donate those ones, anyway. So what to do? You see, I wrote my MA in Children’s Literature thesis about toy fantasy – books and stories for children in which the toys come alive. All my old stuffies have feelings, I believe. I can’t imagine them languishing in the dusty metal bins of a thrift store or worse, in a landfill. I read The Mouse and His Child, for chrissakes. And maybe it’s also because my toys were such a huge part of my childhood, and I want to hang onto my childhood things a little longer. But as my husband so gently reminds me, we just don’t have the room for all of them. So there they sit, in a pile in Keaton’s toy bin, waiting for me to decide their fate. Waaahh!

Some of the stuff that I unearthed in the basement is just way too awesome (and often awesomely embarrassing) not to share. So, welcome to my new, semi-regular feature, “Notes from the Basement,” featuring tidbits from my past. And now, to get my scanner working…

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