Thursday, 30 January 2014

The five day challenge

I struggle with planning meals. It has to be one of the hardest parts of keeping house, running a household, or whatever you want to call it. The food has to be palatable, nutritious, balanced and appeal to the picky eaters. It also has to work with mine and Hubby's work schedule and the little monkey's extra-curricular schedule. These are a lot of variables to take into consideration for meal planning.  Not easy! 

A week ago I said I would cook dinner every night from scratch. Nothing from cans, no prepared frozen stuff. And I did it! Did it meet all the criteria? Not really, the appeal to taste buds being the most challenging. But overall it was not bad. Not all of them were 100% balanced either. But hey, they were hot dinners, all home cooked. By the way, the meals I am speaking of is just dinner. Let's not even go near planning lunch and dinner. 

Monday - Bengal-style fish curry - I found the recipe on Canadian Living (my go to magazine for all recipes) and I had all the ingredients except mustard powder. I figured I could just grind some mustard. I only wish I had used the blender to do it because what I think it called for is fine mustard powder. I coarsely ground the mustard and used it. So, if you are going to try this recipe, use finely ground mustard powder. An easy dinner. I might add a raita next time to tone down the heat and include some greens.

Tuesday - Quinoa cakes with lemon yogurt sauce - Another Canadian Living recipe. I had to rush off to work that day so Hubby had to fry the cakes and serve them. I also had just the pine nuts so whether or not he toasted it as well as it should be I am not sure. I asked him to take a picture because I didn't have the time. More balanced than Monday's dinner. But I was told it was rather bland. I did make nearly fifteen cakes. They are in the freezer. I will provide an update on the flavour and my feedback when I have had the chance to taste it myself. According to my beautiful offspring - 'it tastes not good at all.' But I never take his word for it because if he had been watching Batman while eating it would have tasted just fine!    

Wednesday - Pasta and chicken wieners stir fry with arugula and sun-dried tomatoes and a whole lot of other things. That's right, it is my very own recipe. Well, this has to be the easiest thing to cook. It also has sweet bell peppers, cloves, cardamon and a tiny stick of cinnamon, a pinch of dried red chili flakes. Made it easy to cook and leave for Offspring's swimming lesson and come back to a warm dinner.              


Thursday - Salmon and crispy potatoes with orange buerre blanc - More Canadian Living recipes! I love their tested till perfect recipes and the ingredients are easy to find. This is also my first time cooking with wine and I have to say I loved the sauce. I would cook it again. I have to work on my presentation skills a bit, but this was a good, wholesome dinner. Even the offspring ate it with few complaints.                                  

Friday - Dosa and sambar - We went totally ethnic. I made all of what you see from scratch. It tasted okay and everyone ate well. I am still working on perfecting it. But the lentils with the eggplants in the sambar makes it a nutritious gravy and the rice and lentils in the dosa is not totally unhealthy. A little lean on protein and perhaps some fiber, but overall, not bad.
So there! I completed my challenge for the week in question. I cooked more this week. I have to because no one else will and one must eat. Hope this inspires you to plan and cook from scratch. If I can do it, anyone can!

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Teaching to give

For the last four years we have insisted that people not bring presents for our offspring's birthday party. Instead we ask that folks bring non-perishable food items that we can donate to the local women's shelter. It is a highly secure location and I worked hard to earn their trust because the women that make it there do so under terrible circumstances. Most of them end up living in the home for quite a while with their children.

This year being the fifth birthday we really insisted on no presents. I figured he was old enough to have some things explained to him. But only two people took that seriously. Some folks at least did not bring presents, but brought greeting cards (which were such a hit) and gift cards, which could also be donated. So in addition to the food that friends brought, we bought some more and took it to the home yesterday along with the gift cards. I called ahead and requested that they acknowledge the little monkey for his efforts because it was being done in honour of his birthday. I know he still hasn't quite understood what we did because, when we had dropped the food off he said, "now do we have to go sell more food?" I tried explaining the difference between selling and donating and so did the counselor. I don't think he got it. Next time I should not take him after school when he is hungry and tired. He just wanted to leave.

My darling still thinks that if we have no food at home we can buy it. Someday soon he will understand how the world works, because the biggest problem in the so called first world is that poverty is invisible. Poverty as we have come to know it is what exists in the third world. The fact that there are five children my baby's age at the home breaks my heart. I had put away socks that some folks bought our guy because they were all much too small for him and when the counselor said they needed socks I was thrilled. I was not sure who to pass it on to because everyone we know can afford to provide for their children.

We are so big on giving, but I believe we need to rethink that. What are we giving and to whom? Are we giving people what they need? Because sometimes my friends just need a hug, a home cooked meal, a good laugh and or a good long cry. None of which we can put a price on. It is nice to have the things you want, but we need to watch our wants or they will consume the spirit. Argue that with me!

What if we put aside five dollars every time we did our grocery shopping? That would add up to a significant amount that we can put towards food banks. January and February are tough times at food banks and this is a good time to think about it and begin donating. You can find more information here. If you are not able to help at least talk about it because someone who can will hear you.

In case you are wondering if our baby gets birthday presents, of course he does. From mom and dad. He's been told mom and dad can get him what he 'needs' and every now and then we will indulge his wants ;).

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

All partied out

This has to have been the most exhausting birthday party I have planned for my monkey, although when I look back there were just a few extra people and we didn't do anything unusual. So I am blaming Batman! That cake took a lot out of me. Probably because I baked the giant base for it. We were expecting more people than usual (the family that shows up unannounced) and I was concerned we would run out of cake. Next time they just don't get cake.

Having said that, the look on my Bubba's face was worth the effort. I have him to thank for helping me discover this cake making ability. The initial plan was to cut out buildings to create a city skyline of sorts all around the border of the base - Batman on Gotham City? Something like that, but I ran out of steam.

I think I will play with fondant for this year and see what I can come up. Having done all these superhero cakes I kind of wish I had a girl to make cakes for. It would be nice to make flowers and princesses and rainbows.

Now that the party is all done, I am feeling a bit lost. Perhaps I should get around to the writing, job applications and some exploration into the 'next steps'. I just need a big kick in the backside to do it. I really do loathe winter. I just want to curl up and sleep for the next three months. This winter has been horrific and even the thaw over the last few days has done little to help. In fact there is black ice everywhere and a good chance you'd break a bone. So on that note, let me be off and get some real work done. Stay warm/cool based on where you are reading this.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Eco-friendly - not so easy

My bubba's birthday is all done! He still has a little celebrating to do because only seven of his friends showed up at school. Understandable, because it was -40 outside. My little monkey was way to excited to sleep. Oh to be excited about getting older!

I am rather a committed person when it comes to not harming the planet even if I cannot help it all that much. So I looked up the internet to see what other moms are up to as far as loot bags etc. are concerned. We are all about Batman this year, so that too had to be considered. Pinterest being my amazing source of inspiration I went on and spent a few happy hours scouring pictures and blogs. This is what caught my eye. I loved the paper bags more than anything and I figured the batman emblem should be easy to cut.

I also found another cute summer birthday inspired by books/stories. Mine is not an avid reader by any means, but we have always made sure he has books around him. I am also tired of all the junk he brings home and didn't want other parents to have to deal with what we do everything he brings those things home.

So I decided to try and reduce, reuse and recycle. Or something like that. I went to the local thrift store and picked up picture books for $0.99 each. I got one free book for every four I purchased. Score! So I bought almost forty books because there are thirty kids in his class (let's not go there right now). Seven kids will be at his party and a few to spare. You can never have too many books.

Now I needed brown paper bags. I was going to throw in a pencil, eraser and this book and make a stamp of the bat emblem and get offspring to stamp the bags. Neat? I thought so. And cheap. But would you know that we have no paper bags larger than the tiny lunch/sandwich sized bags to buy? We don't, not in Toronto. Not retail. I spent four hours hunting and of course that was not very eco-friendly, all the emission from the car and drive-thru coffee. I finally gave up and bought some plain white wrapping paper. Hubby and I cut out bats while the offspring cut out the circles.

In the end our 'loot bags' looked like this, and by the look on one little girl's face as she was leaving school yesterday I'd say it was a hit. If not the book, the bat certainly was :).

Monday, 6 January 2014


Five years ago, on this day I was walking around feeling rather uncomfortable wondering when the baby would come. I had had enough. I had seen my obstetrician earlier in the day and she assured me I would have the baby before Friday. She was right. Just over 24 hours after I'd seen her, he arrived - tiny, gross and a lot like Benjamin Button. I remember feeling relief, more than anything else, when he was born. I felt like my job was done, little did I know.

Five years later I realise that my work had only just begun on that day, for life. Being a public health person, a child reaching five years has always been a big deal for me. My little gross baby is a handsome, chatty, incorrigible know-it-all. He wants me to buy him a cell phone and a tablet for his birthday. He will get a tonne of colouring books, brand new felt pens, a batman mask (top that!) and a handmade throw.

It has not been an easy five years. In fact it has been extremely challenging. It truly does take a village to raise a child and when you do it alone it is difficult on you and the child. However, it has been the most meaningful five years of my life.

Friday, 3 January 2014

It MUST be good!

Last year was a challenge to say the least. There were some good things, like resolving certain health issues and adjusting to big boy school for the offspring. But overall it pushed our limits. It also marked ten years of being married and I am afraid we did little to celebrate. That is another story, for another time, and probably will not be told here.

But this post is about 2014. It must be good. That is all I am saying. I pushed myself to accomplish little things last year and told myself if I keep at it I can accomplish more this year. I am not going to list anything out here, because that, I am afraid, would be setting myself up for failure or at least being disappointed. One of the things I did in December was make an afghan, from start to finish in under three weeks! Unheard of!! 

This means I can also write that darned manuscript in January, email drafts and start working on the annotated biblio of more interesting topics. I can sit with the offspring and patiently work on cursive writing or make play-doh people.

I also must begin full-time work again. But someone needs to employ me. So that hunt must commence. The house hunt is on in the interest of a better school for the offspring. Living in this area may result in me assaulting the next person who speaks to me in a language they assume I speak. And there is the very exciting trip happening in May. So all in all this year will be eventful if nothing else.

In the meantime I prep for my part-time teaching contract, another school term, a big birthday next week (we turn 5) and showing this house.

So happy new year to people who still visit this site and here's to a year that is more than we can all hope for.