Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Where the Lawyer Is or The Joys of Occasional Dog Ownership

You might think the pictures above and below are spooky as hell, and you'd be right to think that because they are, in a way.
I, however, respectfully disagree with you because directly above is the driveway to my cherished mother's house, where I am as I type this. The house itself is, not coincidentally, pictured indirectly above. I am here because my mum has a sailboat and we intended to go sailing together today, tomorrow, Thursday and Friday morning. The weather had different plans for us and instead of being out on the water we've been enjoying a cozy foggy rainy day inside, knitting our hands off. We might go out tomorrow if the weather cooperates.

I love being at 'home'. Really I do, a lot. My mum has two dogs which I adore almost as much as Friskies and when I come 'home' I get as much dog lovin' as I can handle, which is quite a bit. Today I took them on a run in the foggy misty fog and they had a great time chasing birds. I think I must've been a dog in a past life because I enjoy chasing birds just as much as they do and I seriously envy their ability to shit and piss in public without the penalty of being socially outcast. Also, I would like to sleep in whenever I want and not be called lazy and hump what/whoever, just to be funny. Hmm, I might've done that on my birthday, actually.

Playing with the dogs is probably one of the top three reasons I like to be at 'home' because I can take walks in the rain alone and not be called an emo kid, not that I don't do that when I don't have the dogs. In fact, being able to take lone walks is probably the number one reason why I'd want a dog of my own. That and cuddles when GP isn't around, which brings me to the only downside of being at home: no GP.

---If you really want an authentic blog-reading experience, you should take a break here for dinner, because that's what I did. If you want a really REALLY authentic experience you should go to your mum's house (or maybe even MY mum's house) and ask her to make you some grilled Arctic Char with steamed broccoli and a slice of mushroom-leek pie and a couple chocolate-covered blackberries for dessert. I'd be lying if I didn't get some of my culinary know-how from that woman. You should also do the dishes, but not because I did it and it would give an authentic blog-reading experience, only because it's a nice thing to do and whether you're eating at your mum's or mine I know she'll appreciate it. Now you should read the paragraph before this one again and skip this italicized paragraph. Ok. Good talk.---

I know that makes me sound super gross and lovey, but I've said it before and I'll say it again: this is my damn blog and I'll write what I please. There are perks to dating a lawyer (like the weekend he just treated me to at Tigh-Na-Mara for my birthday, complete with a delicious dinner and breakfast, full-body massage, paraffin treatment and outrageously delicious never-ending gourmet tapas; if my internet skillz are what I think they are, you should see a super dorky picture of us enjoying a sunny seaside getaway to the right of this paragraph), but until he is more experienced and has more pull in the vacation department, the freedom to take many weeks off from work every year is not entirely his. That was a long sentence- my apologies. I guess the point I'm trying to make is being at my mum's house is lovely, but it's not really home if GP isn't here and I don't care how much of a dope that makes me sound.

Ok, I couldn't resist putting this picture up. It makes my mum's house look like a Tibetan hermitage. Just around the corner of the house on the left-most side of the photo is the hot tub where I'll be spending an hour or two tonight.

Monday, August 23, 2010


Y'know, birthdays are funny things.

My birthday was on Sunday. Every time I have a birthday it seems I get forced to think about my friendships, and what it takes to be a good friend and which of my friendships are worth working on. Since my birthday is in the summer there are, inevitably, people who can't make it to the party because they've gone home to their parents' houses, or they're on holiday, or they bought Michael Buble tickets for their mum for her birthday in March and there is no way they are going to pass up an MB concert to come sing karaoke with me and my drunk ass. This is understandable. It's the way that friends express themselves that I find really interesting, because peoples' actions really do show their authentic thoughts. I hope that doesn't sound passive aggressive, but if it does that's too bad because this is my blog and I can write what I bloody well feel like.

I always seem to have this problem when August 22nd rolls around and I always seem to get frustrated and stressed on my birthday, and that's not a nice feeling to feel when you're celebrating the day of your birth. So next year I will plan a party that's as low-key as possible, that would work if it were only GP and I, so that any extra guests will be happy additions to the party and we won't have to worry about who's coming or who booked another party on the same day even though our party was planned months and months in advance.

I'm not too sad about some friends not being able to make it to GP and my combined party (his birthday is on September 4th and we have friends getting married on that day, so we had to re-arrange) because we had an absolutely amazingly fantastic time with the people who did show up. Since I like dressing up, I thought we'd make costumes compulsory. GP decided he'd go for the Joaquin Phoenix look and I did Ginger Spice.

We were accompanied by Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Courtney Love, Raylene Rankin, Britney Spears, Cyndi Lauper, Blondie, and likely other characters I've forgotten.

Since GP and I had such a great time, telling you all this via Facebook seems like a cop-out. I'm not the "thanks for the birthday wishes everybody" type and though I do appreciate your posts on my Facebook wall, I hope you don't expect reciprocation. That's just not my bag, baby. I guess what I'm trying to say here is thanks to all the friends who came out with us. You made our birthday one to remember (the pictures help with the memory part) and we loved the thought and effort you put into your costumes. You are all hilarious and I'm glad I'm your friend.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Remember Yesterday's Post?

Regrets. I haz them.
I may have just vacuumed crumbs off my shirt.

All Jazzed Up with No Place to Go

If you were someone with the happy circumstance of being financially supported by your parents and living in Duncan and having no job or school work because the class you thought you were going to take has been cancelled you would know that sometimes you have days where you feel really jazzed up and you want to do something, but you don't know what the hell to do (phew, long sentence). When I first found myself in this situation it was easy to figure out what to do, because there was lots to do:

-clean the house
-purge the closets and get rid of stuff we don't need
-catch up on correspondence with long lost friends, relatives, and business acquaintances (haha, ok, I don't have the latter, it just sounded good)
-brush the cat
-stockpile food of various types in the freezer so that when I actually am busy we won't go hungry because neither GP nor I thought about dinner
-take various online courses that give me basic skills I'd need in service jobs, such as Serving it Right and FoodSafe

Now that I've done most of those things (or have managed to form them into a somewhat mindless habit) there is very little to do all day, which is one of the reasons I have this blog. Right now I'm sitting outside with Friskies, enjoying a cup of tea and a cool breeze (what did we do before wireless internet?!). It seems I am, for all intensive purposes (hehe, a joke) an accidental housewife. Believe me, this does not thrill me but I'm coping asbestos I can (gawd, I'm hilarious today). So what do I do when I can't think of anything to do? Well, find out how to get certified as a fitness instructor, of course! Would you attend a fitness class led by me? Here's how I think mine would go.

Here are some pictures of the delicious things I've been cooking lately:

A few nights ago I made this yummy yummy seared snapper fillet with avocado and grilled veggies. Grilled veg is becoming a staple, it seems, and I am slowly starting to tire of zucchini, scrumptious as it is cooked on the grill with garlic and finished with a little lemon juice. If only we could eat chocolate zucchini cake, but no, GP never fails to remind me that I'm not eating what's best for my body every time something starchy or sugary comes close to my quivering salivating lips. Needless to say, I tell him I'd rather have a satisfied tummy than a perfect body, but he does have a point. I can't eat cake every day and feel good about myself. Goodness knows I've tried. Sometimes I think about making a pan of Rice Crispies Squares in the morning and eating the whole thing before he comes home. Pretty sure that borders on Bulimia, but let's not go there. Onwards!

Above you will see some chicken (quickly marinated in a simple garlic-rosemary-S&P-oil mixture) kebabs atop a basic Greek salad. I bought the olives pitted because I effing hate having to fiddle around with my teeth getting the pit out. Maybe it's a bit more expensive, but it's really worth it if, like me, you love kalamata olives but not the pits. Plus, if you buy your veggies at the Farm Market for a pittance you can afford to splurge on olives and scrum-diddly-umptious Feta cheese.

By the way, did you know that, since 2002, Feta has been one of those protected designation of origin products, like Champagne? Yup, it's only allowed to be called Feta if it was produced in Greece (or Lesvos) and is made of sheep's milk or a blend of sheep and goat's milk (the amount of goat's milk cannot exceed 30%). The more you know.

Anyway, the dinner was fucking tasty. We've been using a thermometer for our meat cooking and our chicken has been consistently amazingly juicy and tender. I think GP just likes using it because it makes cooking feel like a science experiment, but the results are amazing. People overcook their chicken so much, it's no wonder everyone is so afraid of putting it on the grill.

Oh! I almost forgot to mention the tzatziki I made! It's P90X-proof, meaning it has some added protein and no fat to speak of. I used the last of my most recent batch of yogurt, which I have been meaning to talk about here. I think the secret to a firm and successful yogurt is fourfold: add skim milk powder (I think I mentioned this in my post on yogurt), use a powdered store-bought starter, incubate for more than 12 hours, and strain half of the yogurt for about half an hour to add back to the unstrained portion. The last step is especially important for a thicker, creamier yogurt. I was impressed at how deceivingly creamy our skim milk yogurt turned out when I did this. It wasn't as mouth-stickingly thick as the very first batch in my previous yogurt post, but it was the exact consistency I was going for: a bit firmer than commercial yogurt, but not as firm as sour cream. Plus, the extra hours yielded a more sour and very pleasant taste.

Anyway, I kind of got sidetracked by the yogurt. The tzatziki consisted of the leftover yogurt, some garlic, lemon juice, dill, and S&P to taste. I didn't add cucumber because GP and I aren't too keen on lumps, but if you did add cucumber you would want to strain it after you grated it for maybe half an hour and then plonk it into the sauce.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Lately I've been talking a lot with people about politics and the economy and, in general, things I don't really know much about. These kinds of conversations are, for me, fact-finding missions, and also missions to see if my friends/acquaintances are trustworthy or full of shit. Here is how the conversation usually goes:

Me: [Make an OUTLANDISH claim just to stir up shit] "I think we should ____ because ____. What do you think?"

Friend/Acquaintance: "Well, that's all well and good for _____ but that's not actually a thing. Blah blah blah, well-founded argument [or not]."

Me: Yeah, I don't really have an opinion because I don't know enough about the subject about which I just started a conversation with you.

And then I go on to make another outrageous claim and the cycle starts over.

To the untrained eye I might seem like a total fucking idiot. I am, however, not. To the trained eye, I am someone who only does research on things that have a direct impact on her life, such as what she'll have to pay more for with HST, or what the steps are to renew her passport, or what a human fetus looks like at 9 weeks (no, I'm not pregnant, just pro-choice), the meaning of "telos", or, more mundanely, how to make matzoh ball soup. (Yes, if you look in my Google search history you'll find all those things.)

HST is an example of my selective researching that I can tease out a bit more to illustrate the point of Selfishism. For instance, I don't mind paying 7% more for snack foods, because I generally don't buy them. Unlike GP, I don't really go for the salty snacks and instead I choose to make my nutritional blunders with homemade cookies and cakes and pies (oh my!). Staples like butter, sugar, eggs and flour are not taxable, conveniently. However, I definitely do dislike paying more for recreation. That shit is already pretty expensive. I also dislike how little the government told everyone about HST. If I were in charge everyone would've been sent out a flyer. I don't care how much it woulda cost; it's one small piece of paper for everyone and you only need to send it once. Seriously, if a girl with a degree in Linguistics and English can think it up, it's not rocket science, just common sense.

My friend Charles posted something on Facebook about the failings of a capitalist economy and now I'm in a semi-debate with some old redneck who thinks the way our economy works is the best thing since sliced bread. I disagreed and told him why. He retorted by completely missing my point and saying "I don't rely on any government hand out and I pray daily I never will." He also said, in a nutshell, that I should be happy that I benefit so greatly from Capitalism. Clearly he has lived a sheltered (selfish?) life. I said to him that although I have been born into a position of privilege, the majority of people on earth have not, and Capitalism does not favour a fair living situation for all humans (or animals, or the protection of the planet). Now, call me idealist, or a dreamer, but I'm not the only one (couldn't resist).

Ok, so maybe I'm not completely selfish. Or maybe the things I'm selfish about are basic things that everyone wants and needs, so everyone should be more selfish. Or maybe I don't know what the hell I'm talking about and this post has rambled aimlessly. Am I selflessly selfish? Shellfish? I'm getting tongue-tied here. Time for me to get a non-taxable snack.

08/19 EDIT: Kelly Black suggested I include this video in this blog post: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOP2V_np2c0 and I agree with him. I also think he and Nicola Temmel should meet and possibly date because they'd have a lot to talk about. Oh dear, I think I just made any potential meeting they might have very awkward. Sorry, guys.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Ode to My Cat and Delicious Meals

I already know I'm a crazy cat lady. Blog posts about my cat are the least of my psychoses, so no need to notify me of this.

A noble companion.

I am perpetually heartbroken at how cute and sweet Friskies is. She's here right now, laying on me and making squeaky snoring sounds. GP says cats don't feel love, but I disagree. I don't know why she would do some of the things she does if she didn't love me. For example, there have been times when I've been a sad inconsolable wreck of a person, sobbing uncontrollably (not lately, but definitely during my first year of uni, especially at Christmas time, for reasons Sarah knows) and Friskies would gently hop onto whatever surface I was sitting/laying on (bed, desk, or other) and start licking my face. She could tell I was sad and she wanted me to feel better. It wasn't because I was being noisy, either, she just wanted to be unselfishly lovey.

I'm also thankful I can have a cat because I'd go crazy (crazier?) if I didn't have someone to talk to or pay attention to during the day. Having a pet has made me more responsible and less selfish. I can't sleep in until noon anymore because she needs to be fed. I have to vacuum regularly now because otherwise our house would look like the inside of a wool muffler and GP's allergies would cripple him.

As much as I love my fluffy feline Friskies, I also love dogs. I don't, however, understand those people who prefer cats over dogs, or vice versa. Cats are independent; they don't want or need you to constantly pay attention to them. Friskies and I have a mutually beneficial relationship that seems to work really well: when I want cuddles, she capitulates as much as she wants and when she wants cuddles I capitulate as much as I want. When she wants food I capitulate as much as veterinary recommendations allow and when we both want cuddles at the same time, well, that's wonderful. I would love to have a dog. Dogs make it socially acceptable for you to go on walks and swims in the lake alone (not that I wouldn't do that anyway) and they are fun to train. Both dogs and cats are good company for TV-watching, but neither compare to GP in that arena. I guess what I'm trying to say is that my personality is sufficiently ying/yang that I'm overjoyed to have either a cat or a dog, or both. I fucking love animals.

Now, the title of this post also contains the words "delicious meals", and I don't intend to disappoint. Without further ado, I'll show you some photos of what we've been eating lately:

A few nights ago we had lemon/molasses roasted chicken thighs with grilled local crookneck squash and a salad of heirloom tomatoes and basil, lightly dressed with olive oil, balsamic reduction and some fleur de sel.

To the right you will notice some aromatics. The basil, onions, garlic and lemon zest were some of the flavour components in the mussel and prawn dish below.

Instead of the pasta usually served with this kind of recipe, I substituted some steamed local streaky-purple runner beans. It was a good experiment but I think next time I'll split them in half length-wise to make them feel more pasta-esque.

As you may have noticed, I've become a bit obsessed with all the fresh fruit and veggies that are in season now and I've been buying most of our produce locally because it's so effing delicious and cheap. Both GP and I love eating nectarines with homemade yogurt and some toasted almonds as a slightly healthier dessert. It's so nice to have fresh juicy fruit to eat and it's really a lot of fun to cook with these different-looking veggies (the crookneck squash is a favourite). We've been using our BBQ for almost every meal because I find grilling veggies brings out so much of their flavour. In fact, below is a picture of GP grilling up a storm of local turkey sausage and a close-up of the purple runner beans I was talking about earlier:

Those beans are fantastic on the BBQ- way better than steamed. If you don't do anything else new in the way of veggies this summer, do this:

1. Trim and wash beans- big thick local runner beans, or normal ones if you can't get good ones, but if you can't get the big ones I'm not sure you should bother.
2. Toss with a dash or two of grapeseed oil, S and P and a bit of garlic (fresh or granulated, doesn't matter).
3. Throw 'em on the grill at medium heat for a few minutes (four minutes total?), or until they show slight grill marks.
4. Eat them all quickly, before someone else does.

Last but not least, here is the dish I made last night:

Courtesy of Nigella Lawson and her book Forever Summer (thanks again, Monsieur Andrews), it is a chicken and parsley salad with toasted almonds. Simple enough, with a lemon juice and olive oil dressing, it was just what the doctor ordered as GP wasn't home, I wasn't very hungry, there was leftover chicken in the fridge and I didn't have enough parsley for two people. I ate it outside in the sun because it seemed like that is where it would've been enjoyed best. I wasn't wrong.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Will the Real Healthy Foodie Please Stand Up?

I am of the opinion that food should be tasty, versatile, healthy and easy to make. I don't want to buy an ingredient at the store only to have to use it all up for one dish, I want to make it last for several different dishes that depart significantly in flavour from the dish I originally used the ingredient in. Not only does this help with creativity, it saves money. Since I'm living off my parents now (and, of course, because we're in "these economic times"), saving money is kind of a necessity.

I can't stand those fussy food blogs that encourage you to follow one million different steps that only add to the presentation of your dish and not the flavour. Sorry, but I refuse to blanch green onions so that I can braid them together and wrap my asparagus in them. Asparagus (or any other vegetable) does not need to be dressed up with dumb crap that you're not going to eat anyway. That's part of the reason I don't consider this a food blog, along with the fact that I seem to complain a whole lot about school and talk way too much about my cat on here. I don't have the patience to make a food blog and, even if I did, I don't think I care enough to give people my recipes. If there's one thing I hate it's giving people my recipes only to have them not follow them. Is that weird? Probably. I'm a weird person.

That is not to say that I don't value presentation. Hell, I won't post a photo of my food if it doesn't look like it could be at least a little bit tasty. However, I'm sure Gordon Ramsay agrees with me that taste should come before anything else.

Another thing that frustrates me is the lack of healthy recipes on food blogs. Don't get me wrong, I love a good cupcake as much as the next guy, but who can eat cupcakes every day and feel good about their body? Not me, though I don't think you have any idea how much I wish I could. Is there any food blogger who is concerned about taste AND nutrition? Because it sure doesn't seem like it. The vast majority of blogs I've come across are baking blogs and the cooking blogs that I have read have so many recipes for carb-laden dishes like pasta and pizza.

The dinners I make usually consist of a lean protein (usually chicken or [shell]fish because cows and pigs are too smart for me to eat) and one or two vegetable dishes. That is the only way I can figure out to limit our carbohydrate intake because GP and I usually have sammiches [sic.] for lunch. I am continually shocked when I go out to dinner and see dishes with no vegetables on the side, or even worse, pasta dishes with bread on the side. Excuse me, but what the hell?! Nobody needs that kind of carb. overload unless she is an elite athlete and from what I hear in the news about obesity most of us are not. Anyway, I guess what I'm trying to say here is that if you find a blog (or are the writer of a blog) with lots of healthy ideas for chicken/fish, don't be selfish; share it with the class!

I Did It, I Did It!

I am very excited. After having tried to make yogurt on 3 different occasions and wasting countless cups of milk (sorry cows, I know it was disrespectful of me to waste something that took you considerable energy to make), I've finally made a batch that worked! I credit my spiffy new digital thermometer and a more intimate understanding of the yogurt-making process.

I think the mistake I kept making was not waiting long enough for the milk to cool down before inoculating (isn't that gross? That's the word yogurt people use) the milk with the starter yogurt. This time I knew exactly what I was doing because I had my fancy schmancy thingamabob to tell me what was going on. I just stuck it to the side of the saucepan when I poured the milk in and it worked like a hot damn!

The other key to my success (I think) was my incubation device. Before, I was putting the inoculated (ok, I actually just like saying that word and I'm pretty sure the only reason yogurt people use it is because they are pretentious pricks and they like saying it too) milk in a bowl in my little picnic cooler with hot water surrounding it. Yesterday, however, I had the bright idea of putting it in my Laken thermos! How brilliant of me!

I made my yogurt with only two cups of milk because all my previous experiences have made me a little gun-shy. Next time I'll definitely use more. Here are the steps it took me to come to my delicious conclusion:

1. Sterilize the incubation device (so scientific) by boiling enough water to fill it and pouring it into the device, letting it sit for 5 minutes or until your milk is ready. You should also sterilize a little bowl in which you'll mix the starter yogurt and milk. This is to make sure no bacteria get in the milk and compete with the yogurt bacteria for growing room. I'm not really sure if this is actually an effective sterilization method, but it worked for me!

2. Heat two cups of milk (I used 1%, but I don't think the fat content makes much difference) to 170 degrees Fahrenheit, for the same reason as step number one. Stir constantly to prevent scalding and ensure an accurate read on your thermometer.

3. Take the milk off the heat-source and cool to 112 degrees Fahrenheit. While you're waiting for it to cool, dump the water out of the small cup you set aside earlier and put 1/4 cup of starter yogurt in it. It must be plain- no flavouring. I bought a single-serving cup of organic Olympic yogurt and used around half of it.

4. When the milk has cooled to 112 degrees, mix a small amount of it in with the yogurt in the small cup, working quickly so as not to let the milk cool below 108 degrees. Pour the yogurt-milk slurry into the saucepan of milk and whisk to ensure incorporation.

5. Pour the water out of your thermos and then dump the inoculated (hehehehe) milk into it. Tightly seal the lid(s) and wrap a terry bath towel around the thermos, securing it with an elastic band or two. I'm not sure the towel part is necessary, but I did that so I'm not going to take any chances by not fully disclosing my process. Plus, extra insulation never hurt anyone.

6. Let the mixture sit overnight, or at least 8 hours, without moving the container. After 8 hours you should decant your yogurt and chill it. It will be lumpy and slightly runny. I took an extra step, however.

Extra step: 7. (This step will significantly reduce your yogurt yield but also make it significantly yummy.) Line a mesh strainer with a large coffee filter as in the photograph above. Place over a bowl and pour the yogurt into the filter. Lucky for us, it will hold exactly two cups. Cover with saran wrap (not sure this is necessary, but whatever), bung it in the fridge and wait for an hour or so while it de-moisturizes. You will be left with very thick yogurt, like Greek yogurt but not as bad for you. Gently peel the coffee filter away from the yogurt (no need to scrape with a spoon) and discard the whey that has collected in the bowl. I can't wait to eat it!

Next time I think I'll double the recipe (4 cups milk, 1/2 cup yogurt starter) and add 1/3 cup of skim milk powder. This is supposed to give a thicker consistency, which may prevent me from having to strain the yogurt at the end and thus not waste so much.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Let Me Count the Ways #3

Top Ten Reasons Why I Love My Life

(In no order)

1. I make an amazing birthday cake. Evidence to the left from my little brother's birthday, which was yesterday.

2. GP does nice things for me, like cleaning the entire kitchen after I made the aforementioned cake (and when the kitchen was a MESS), EVEN THOUGH he wasn't able to come to the birthday dinner because he was working and EVEN THOUGH I told him explicitly not to clean it up because I would when I got home. It was kind of like having a house-elf, but GP is a lot more handsome and independent.

3. I look fabulous in most hats.

4. I'm good at things I don't even like doing, namely yoga.

5. Friskies does NOT like whistling, which makes for endless entertainment. If GP or I whistle, she tries to bite us.

6. I don't have to go to school or work right now. Neat!

7. I have a knack for finding great places to live just at the right time.

8. I've been pretty good about working out. In the past 90 days I have only missed 5 workouts of the 6 per week that GP and I have been doing. All but one of those workouts were yoga. Also, I've been getting stronger and stronger. I can do seven chin-ups now! I must say I've been finding it hard to stay motivated lately. I need a little pick-me-up. Suggestions, anyone?

9. I haven't gotten a sunburn yet this summer. That is good because my skin is very fair and sunburns are painful and do not bode well for future health or skin appearance.

10. I can speak French. That's awesome because I live in a bilingual country and I think everyone living here should be taught more of both languages.