Category Archives: Food

Five Things

1. The boy and I have library cards. I am a tiny bit disappointed in our local library’s offerings. Of course, I do have to keep reminding myself that the megacity’s libraries are split up into a dozen places, and I can borrow books from any of them. Still, our initial impression was somewhat lacklustre. In other book news, I have finally read The Hunger Games and it was brilliant. So brilliant that I fully intend to abuse the Scholastic book club at the boy’s school and order the next two books at prices much lower than retail prices. My editor sent me a couple of books as belated housewarming presents, both of them fun: one’s a Star Wars memoir, and the other is an unofficial Harry Potter cookbook, which has lots of really good British-themed food in it. I made breaded pork chops from it for supper last night, and while they were not absolutely identical to the delicious ones that t!’s Ukrainian Babas used to make at Easter, they were much closer to them than I’d ever managed before. I’m looking forward to trying the multitude of individual meat pie recipes in it throughout the fall.

2. The weekend saw us sharing a huge Harvest feast with other local like-minded individuals. There was so much food; the courses just kept coming out! I was particularly fond of the mushroom soup, the leek-artichoke dip, and the tomato pesto, all of which I must remember to get the recipes for. The seven different kinds of homemade bread were spectacular. The company was likewise wonderful. However, just as I suspected, it totally killed me energy-wise, not that I had a lot to begin with.

3. I am now officially babysitting Bonnie’s gorgeous 30″ Schacht-Reeves Saxony wheel for a month. ‘Lady Jane’ is a true lady, being very patient with me and working beautifully right off the bat (batt? heh heh heh, a little spinning humour, there). Bonnie also gave me three batts of beautiful black Shetland wool she’d processed herself, and they’re deliciously soft and fluffy. My initial impression of working with double treadle is that I have to treadle very gently. Part of this is due to the fact that the drive wheel is almost double the size of my Louet wheel, so I have to move much more slowly to get a similar result. The other part is, of course, that one foot isn’t doing all the work any more, so I have to divide the movement between the two feet. I also have to remind myself that the heel-toe movement on the Louet treadle doesn’t work on the Schacht-Reeves. I don’t dislike the DT, and I suspect it will come in very handy when I gather up the courage to try spinning Meallanmouse’s cotton again, but it hasn’t been a lightbulb/angels singing kind of revelation yet. It’s just a different technique. The wheel moves perfectly well using only one of the two treadles, too. I have it set up in Scotch tension, and I like it. Double drive is more than my brain can handle right now. Overall, my initial reaction is that getting a larger DT wheel would be a decent idea, to open up a lot more possibilty in my spinning.

4. The stupid sinus cold I have been managing over the past week has been joined by mild gastro, which means I’m cancelling my cello lesson. It’s somewhat difficult to concentrate with this level of nausea. Unconnected to this, the boy and I have our annual checkups tomorrow. My family doctor is now 50 km away. It’s still worth every minute and every kilometre of the trip. Fibro-wise, I am in the process of realizing, internalizing, and accepting that things are going to be bad for a very long time, and my major issue is going to be with feeling useless, which always frustrates the hell out of me. Trying to stay positive has its own energy drain, which is also ragingly frustrating.

5. I’m chipping away at my current contracted project. I think I’m about halfway through the second draft. As there will be about four drafts, I can say I’m just about halfway done, which is great because I began it seriously at the beginning of this month, and as I have just over six weeks to go I’m ahead of schedule. I’m enjoying this repurposing project, where I take an existing manuscript and turn it into something else.

I think that’s all I’ve got. I have to call my cello teacher.

Third Update: Work & House

Let’s see, what else. I’ve been working. I started back last Monday, and have been diligently moving words around in a document, making something completely different. Most of the time I think it makes sense, but sometimes I suspect that I’ve totally lost the train of thought I’m constructing through it. Well, that’s what the next step of editing is for: checking to make sure it flows. I did that copy-editing test, so it’s on file now, and unless I really flubbed it I should be good to go. I’ve also been redoing my pro website, which is ridiculously easy with iWeb. So easy that it was almost done the day I began, except I had to run out to cello, and I haven’t been able to finish up. Well, that’s not entirely true; it’s done, I just haven’t trusted myself enough to upload them. I started on the Owldaughter site, too.

The site redesign was co-prompted by Adelina and Debra. I did an author co-appearance with Adelina for the Melange’s nineteenth birthday (nineteen! an independent bookstore turned nineteen!), which was hugely enjoyable. In catching up, we discovered that we’d bought houses within ten minutes of one another! I asked her who’d done her site, and she admitted to doing it herself with iWeb, which spurred me to sit down with it and try it out, since my site hasn’t been touched in over a year. When I went Mac my comfy CoffeeCup software no longer worked, and I didn’t have the energy or focus to teach myself a new Mac-based one, but iWeb is so ridiculously easy that it’s practically magic. Debra then contacted me for up-to-date bio info for the Yule Fair prep, since the bio on the site is woefully out of date, and that was the final kick I needed to get to work on it.

We hosted a lovely birthday dinner here yesterday for my mother-in-law. They brought steak and salad, there was wine, and I made a very delicious cake. (Note to self: Use three egg whites and two whole eggs in this white cake recipe, make a quarter of this recipe for caramel filling and add a teaspoon of vanilla and a couple of pinches of fleur de sel, then do a really creamy buttercream frosting. Simple, tasty, and just what Mom likes.) HRH and his dad ran wiring to the side door, so now we have an outdoor light there and can see to unlock the door. They also fixed the bank of pot lights in the family room that blew when the cats got into the hanging ceiling a couple of weeks ago.

Also on the house front, we have discovered that we do not, in fact, have a heat pump. We have central air conditioning, with forced air that can better distribute the electric heat. But quite aside from the forced-air-not-heat-pump issue, there was a wire disconnected in the thermostat which was why our heat wouldn’t go on even when we tried to trigger it by setting it for stupidly high levels. So that’s been fixed and clarified now, too.

It’s been such glorious weather this month. Mostly sunny days with cooler nights, with that wonderful golden-tone light, while the leaves are only just barely beginning to change colour. There have been a couple of spectacular thunderstorms, too, with glorious lightshows over the seaway that we can watch from our front porch. We’re really loving the house. We’re still trying to find our rhythm in certain ways–for example, I still haven’t figured out where to do my cooking prep efficiently in the kitchen, as we seem to lack enough continuous counterspace–but that’s minor. I’m starting to take photos of the inside to post for everyone who’s been asking to see the interior. A lot of it doesn’t photograph well, unfortunately, and I’m working with an eight-year-old camera that tends to focus on things I don’t want in focus, or doing odd things with colour or bending images.

There you are; we’re all pretty much up to date.

Joy!

Lots of terribly nice stuff happened yesterday.

I got halfway through my latest freelance assignment in about ninety minutes. MLG picked me up and we went out to the Burgundy Lion for lunch together. Let me tell you, it has been aeons since I’ve had a Scotch egg, and oh heavens, the one they serve is just lovely. So there was excellent company, and excellent food, and then the heavens opened and we had a terrific storm, something long overdue. HRH and the boy met us there. The plan was to pick me up on their way home, but the rain meant they stayed for lunch (on HRH’s part) and milk and dessert (on the boy’s part, as he had already lunched at school). The boy barely nibbled his sticky toffee pudding, though, so HRH and MLG polished it off quite happily.

We came home and opened all the windows to the thunderstorms that continued all through the afternoon. I had a wonderful time sitting in the open patio doors to the front porch, blowing bubbles with the boy into the rain.

After the boy went to bed, HRH gave me my birthday present early:

I adore my fox and my copper deer, but this one is my absolute favourite. I love the colours and the knotwork. So my deer got moved to the right and my owl now hangs in the very middle of the art collage wall of my office. I need to adjust the empty spaces, but I have to do that every time I get a new piece. It’s like a puzzle.

I have a wonderful husband. He’s very talented, and original art designed specifically for the recipient is such a special gift. He’s going to look into the cost of making full-colour prints from the Celtic totems series of paintings, too. We’ve meant to assemble pictures of them all in one place online for a while now; I’ll have to add that to my ongoing list of things to do.

Tuesday Activity Log

I am freaking exhausted. I know I have fibro, I know travel knocks me out, I knew being outside knocks me out even before the fibro diagnosis. Two twelve-hour car rides in four days, plus all the time between those trips being outside? Recipe for dragging myself around for the week following. I’m really struggling.

In other random news, in the past twenty-four hours I have spent more time on Facebook talking to people I reconnected with this weekend than I usually spend in a week. Which wasn’t much to begin with (I am a Twitter girl more than a Facebook girl), but whoa. It’s good to be with them, even virtually.

In my ongoing project of recording what I do each day so I don’t feel like I wasted it, I can report that today I:

– baked bread
– baked a pan of shortbread
– coloured my hair
– finished weaving the baby blanket (that link takes you to the blanket’s Ravelry project page, which I set to be accessible via this link only if you’re a non-Rav user)
– did all the finishing on the baby blanket (hemstitching the ends, cutting it off the loom, doing the fringe)
– did research on a couple of things
– reactivated my freelance status with my employer
– viewed a house
– spun two ounces of mohair/merino blend (longdraw, ultimately trying for a worsted weight chain-plied yarn)

Notice that “practising the cello” is not on that list. Why yes, I do have a concert in two days.

I passed out in the car on the way home after struggling not to nap this afternoon. I’m trying hard to not beat myself up for being useless after the trip.

Weekend Roundup, Father’s Day Edition

Happy summer solstice!

I’m exhausted. I feel like a black hole; I keep absorbing energy, but it vanishes. It was a good weekend, with nothing specific or enormous that drained me. There were small annoyances and obstacles, though, and when I deal with those the energy tends to slip away like something appropriately metaphoric through a sieve.

Saturday morning we headed out to do groceries and our Father’s Day shopping, and the boy got his hair cut. Then we headed to Angrignon Park for a naming ceremony I was leading, but the people were an hour later than they said they’d be there to prepare, and then the guests showed up half an hour after the specified time, too. They were all wonderful people and the ceremony was lovely, but it reminded me of why I usually charge for these things: the money covers hiccoughs like these that end up forcing me to adjust the rest of my day’s schedule. While we were waiting for everyone to arrive our real estate agent called with yet more bad news (actually, this was a repeat of earlier bad news that had been potentially rescinded, but no, we got disappointed for the second time on the same property). We ended up having to leave pretty much right after things finished because of the late start; the boy was very upset because we’d promised him he could play in the playground for half an hour after the ceremony, but the adjusted schedule meant the time wasn’t there for it any more.

We went home and changed, and fed the boy a very late lunch, then we headed to to the library just as it began to rain. The boy and I kicked around there for the better part of an hour and then came home to watch the storms batter the backyard till our agent arrived and we did some more paperwork.

Sunday morning I made pie crust and then quiche, and the Preston-LeBlancs came over for a lovely sunny Father’s Day/ Solstice brunch. We had piles of delicious food and the kids played inside and outside, and we had a wonderfully relaxing time talking to old friends. When they left I called my mother for our weekly chat, and while we did that the sun vanished, the wind kicked up, and we had another bad storm roll through. When it cleared up we headed over to HRH’s parents’ house (where they hadn’t had a speck of rain!) for a Father’s Day dinner of ribs, chicken, and multiple salads. I’d reached my limit, though, so all I managed to do was sit and watch the boy play in the pool with his grandmother and knit a couple of rounds on the short-sleeve sweater that I started last year.

After we put the boy to bed, HRH and I finally got to watch the Robert Downey Jr Sherlock Holmes, which was fun and an interesting take on the characters, but somewhat annoying in that the foley and dialogue editors seemed to have fallen down on the job of making sure the lead character’s dialogue was clearly audible in the first third of the film.

I have so much to do in the next three days. I’ve already booked off my regular freelance thing because I have an interview to finish up, and we need to pack for our upcoming camping trip and do all the other stuff associated with it. I have tonnes of planning to do regarding shopping for food at the other end, plotting out the route, trying to pin down the budget… and mix CDs need to be made!

But first, I get to invoice. Hurrah!

Weekend Roundup, Birthday and Recital Edition

What a wonderful weekend.

Friday I did over half of the freelance thing in four hours, had a catnap, wrote the boy’s five-year-old celebratory post, did more househunting research, and started the laundry. We let the boy stay up an hour past his usual bedtime to finish building his Lego Atlantis sub, and HRH went out to the party store just before it closed to get helium balloons with which to surprise him the next morning.

Saturday morning the boy woke us up at 5:15, and while HRH got back to sleep I did not, so I gave up around 6:00 and got up with the boy. He was not impressed that the World Cup coverage was on instead of his cartoons. The morning felt rushed for some reason, and I headed out for our recital dress rehearsal just before nine-thirty, which was fifteen minutes later than I wanted to be out the door; as a result, instead of taking the detour and time to treat myself to a breakfast sandwich as I’d originally planned, I hit the local depanneur to pick up an orange juice and a huge granola bar. I’d expected the rehearsal to be as stressful as home had been, but it wasn’t; it was relaxed and went very well, and was very enjoyable.

After lunch I made the boy’s birthday cake while HRH did the final tidying up (who knew the front window could be that clean?). My parents had arrived in town the night before, and they came over around one-thirty. The overcast skies and drizzle cleared up enough for us to sit outside, which was lovely. Mum brought fresh peas (both the kind to be shelled as well as sugar snaps) and Niagara cherries, both of which the boy was into as soon as he saw them (he won’t eat tomato sauce, but will eat sugar snap peas by the handful, and asks for them as a treat; go figure). And he got cherry juice on a brand new button-down shirt, of course, but at least the juice kind of matches the shirt’s colour scheme.

HRH’s parents joined us around three, and the boy asked when we would be able to open birthday presents, so when everyone had settled down with a drink we let him go to town. He was perfectly thrilled with all the Playmobil and Lego (“Oh, this is what I wanted! Thank you!”), and while he didn’t seem as enthusiastic about the clothes, he has chosen to wear three new shirts from the pile of birthday clothes already, so while they were not immediately gratifying they did make an impression. He finagled various adults into helping him build the new sets of things until dinner, and had HRH fill his pool so he could play in it and take the Playmobil seaplane in. He was in and out of that for the rest of the afternoon while the adults snacked on crackers alternately piled with Brie and my mother-in-law’s wonderful seafood dip.

We had flank steak and herbed sausages for supper, and while the sausages were dry (partially a result of their composition and partially to miscalculating the cooking time) the flank steak was really quite excellent. We put out a pile of fresh raw veggies and made dip to serve with it, and a potato salad. Dessert was the cake the boy had requested, vanilla with maple frosting. The recipe for the cake is a definite keeper, though I used four whole eggs instead of eight yolks. I’m not sure why I continue to use new recipes for special occasions because so much can go wrong, although it didn’t in this instance: it was lovely and moist, although the frosting I made was essentially my regular frosting with about a half-cup of maple syrup added to it for flavour, and since maple syrup is sweeter than sugar it was a bit cloying. Now I understand why people use maple extract.

Sunday morning we introduced the boy to The Rocketeer, one of our favourite films, and it was a hit, as we’d expected: it has racing planes, a dirigible, and a rocket backpack. After lunch we got tidied up and headed out for my spring recital at the seniors’ residence, meeting my parents there. The last time my parents saw me in recital was at my first and only big public one about twelve years ago, where I played the full Breval Sonata in C (my mother tells me I have definitely improved, which is a relief). We had a really big crowd in attendance this time; either the seniors were more active, or our fame has spread. (I doubt it’s the latter.) We had two more cellists, and three violinists, so there was an increase in attendant families as well. There was a bit of oddness during setup when we discovered that the piano was tuned to A443, which meant we had to crank our cellos up three notches above the 440 we’re used to, translating to about a quarter-tone on my instrument in yesterday’s weather. You get used to A440 sounding one way, and when you adjust the tuning across the instrument it sounds really wrong to your ear for a bit even though it’s in tune with itself. The opening ensemble piece felt unsettled to me and a couple of other cellists as a result, but the audience probably didn’t notice a thing. Apart from that, I think that this is the recital I have enjoyed the most so far. Everyone did a wonderful job with their solos, and the ensemble pieces were great. I was comfortable both physically and mentally, I aced my trouble spots in my Lully Gavotte, and we delivered lovely versions of The Entertainer (all of it, no shortcuts; it’s a longer piece than people expect in its proper form) and Ashokan Farewell. All the ensemble pieces were good, but those two really stand out in my mind. Our final piece was a unison performance of the traditional fiddle tune Soldier’s Joy, and we had four violinists, a pianist, and twelve cellists playing it. We did it three times, each time a little faster, and at the dress yesterday our teacher reminded us not to speed up during each repetition because then the final set would be too fast for precision. Well, of course that’s exactly what happened, but everyone hung on and made terrific noise. My parents told me that the little kids had a blast barrelling along at the end, and it was a great way to finish the programme. I’ve never left a recital feeling that good about myself and the class. I felt like I looked good, I sounded good, and I felt really secure about everything. So secure, in fact, that when HRH complimented me repeatedly on the way home about my sound and delivery he didn’t make me feel awkward or self-conscious. I got some very nice comments from my classmates about my sound at the dress rehearsal, too, which was nice, detailed comments that went beyond the basic encouraging sorts of remarks, too.

My parents came back with us and we sat in the yard talking while the boy splashed about in his pool again, and then we went out to dinner, which was fun and pretty good. I can’t believe the amount of food the boy ate over the weekend. HRH and I wonder if he’s on the verge of another growth spurt, which would be just crazy. We parted ways in the restaurant parking lot, and after putting the boy to bed HRH and I sat down and seriously went through the latest list of houses our agent sent us for review. I think we’re ready to start this again after a few days off to heal.

It was a lovely weekend. We had lovely weather, we enjoyed great food and great family time, and the boy had a blast doing what the boy does.

Five Years Old!

Five years ago today, during a humid heatwave that was nothing like the cool damp weather we’re having these days, we unexpectedly found ourselves with someone who wasn’t scheduled to arrive till after the Wicca book proofs were handed in um till after the first draft of the green witch book had been handed in er till the nursery was ready well till we were fully unpacked from the move for another nine weeks.

One…

Two…

Three…

Four…

FIVE!

Last night after he went to bed I put up some of his party decorations (we’re doing a space theme this year, since he is newly obsessed with the space shuttle) and got his present ready by the side of our bed, because in the past he has bounded into our room for a first-thing-in-the-morning birthday thing. Today HRH had to go scoop him up out of his bed, although I think he was already awake, and carry him to ours, where he burrowed under the covers for a moment before popping upright and saying, “I’m five now!” We sang Happy Birthday to him and gave him his present, and he hugged us both before unwrapping it. Lo and behold, there was the Lego Atlantis submarine he had repeatedly told us he wanted. “You got me what I asked for! Thank you!” he said, and gave us both another huge hug. (The original plan was to get him the Playmobil police station, but he had stuck to the submarine request for a month, so it was clear to us that it was what he really wanted. The station can wait till Christmas.) Then I made pancakes for everyone as a special weekday treat, and I put a birthday candle in the boy’s buttered and maple-syruped stack, which amused him.

His building skills are extraordinary. The educators at school kept a biplane he assembled from Lego, but he can do pretty much anything with any kind of set like Knex or Tinker Toys. It shouldn’t surprise me because HRH is really excellent at three-dimensional modelling, too, but when I get comments from educators I listen a bit more closely. I’m also impressed at how he can follow the instruction booklets, something else HRH has taught him. (I will, however, be the one to teach him how to read the instruction booklets that come with video games, because HRH doesn’t even look at those.) Seriously, I’m going to start hiring him out to assemble Ikea furniture for people, because if he can assemble advanced Lego sets by reading the pictorial instructions, then Ikea furniture should be a breeze.

He has decided that perhaps he will not play the cello after all; perhaps the violin is where he wants to go instead, which is fine. He will probably never know how much of a gift he gave me when I met him after his kindergarten orientation day two weeks ago, and he said, “Mama, I have to show you… there’s a whole music room in this school!” He showed me the piano and touched the keys gently and lovingly, and he would have stood there for an hour with it if HRH hadn’t herded us out. I’m thankful that he loves music enough to want to play anything. The excitement on his face when I told him about the little strings-only music school that runs in the area in which we’re house-hunting was wonderful. Whether he ends up playing the cello like me or a violin, or even branching out into wind or brass instruments, or chooses piano or guitar or percussion, I will support him with love and find the necessary equipment and education. And again, just as I’m not surprised at his three-dimensional modelling and building skills, his love of music doesn’t surprise me either; you learn what’s around you. He makes up songs that are make rhythmic and make metre-sense, knows how to insert words or sounds into existing songs and match the beat, and loves to sing along to soundtracks.

Reading is coming along. He knows how to spell out the word he sees, then sound out each letter (if we can break him of the habit of sounding each letter out twice the way they do on Super Why, it will make hearing the word in his head much easier for him), and he’s starting to break the whole-word pattern down into smaller patterns to sound out. This morning he looked at the Atlantis logo on his Lego box and said, “That almost looks like it spells ‘Atlantis.'” And I give him full marks for that, because the font is highly graphic and the letters don’t look like the ones he’s used to. We had this problem with the Via train logo a few months ago because the A doesn’t have a bar across it, so he knows now that sometimes letters don’t look exactly alike all the time, depending on their design. We’ve been working on sounding things out and recognising repeated words or patterns (like ‘ch’ makes its own unique sound, it’s not ‘k-h’, and the word ‘the’ spells ‘the’ no matter where it is on the page), and he ran to find HRH one day when he read a whole sentence from a Mr. Putter & Tabby book ( “It was summer and the weather was very hot”, just for the record).

Recent films he has been into include The Lion King (and believe me, you haven’t lived until you’ve been in the car with the boy singing ‘I Just Can’t Wait to be King’ at the top of his voice, something that makes HRH want to burst with joy) and Atlantis, which has initiated a whole discussion about the Atlantis myth. He looked at us this morning and said, “You mean it’s a real place?”, to which we responded with an explanation of what a legend is. He decided we should build a three-man sub and go looking for it ourselves.

He’s pretty open to any kind of food, except when he’s not, which is typical of any kid, I think. The big stumbling block seems to be tomato sauce. I made him a bechamel-based lasagna that he ate with gusto and complimented me on; the recipe needs refinement, but we’ll work on it. He also has a thing about onions, and doesn’t want them anywhere near his plate. He loves pasta tossed with garlic butter, likes the idea of lobster but passes on it every time, and no longer is interested in salmon or shrimp. He gets excited about pork chops, and has lately been manfully eating the salad we put on his plate. I don’t know when we stopped preparing a separate meal for him in certain cases, but we haven’t done it in ages; he eats what we eat, or he doesn’t eat at all.

We haven’t had a doctor’s appointment since December, but we know he’s about 42 lbs and about a metre plus eight centimetres tall. He wears size 4 or 5 shirts, size 4 pants, and size 11 shoes (!!!). He sleeps about ten hours at night; naps officially ended a month or so ago, although we still suggest one on hard days or when he’s sick and he’s usually willing to do it. Otherwise, quiet time is good.

He’s five now, and as I have previously mentioned I’m going to officially cease the monthly posts here. They’re great records for me, but they take a lot of energy to assemble, so from now on I’m going to do boy-themed posts as they come up instead. I wanted to end this monthly review series with some kind of huge flourish, but instead there’s just the figurative bang of the back door as it closes behind our boy, who has run out into the backyard looking for adventure, leaving us inside with a cup of tea, wondering where the past five years have gone and what the next five will bring.