"Someday's gonna be a busy day..."

Saturday, 31 January 2009

Sleepless but glad

I'm functioning on approximately three hours' sleep but am fighting the grogginess long enough to report that Comfort is simply suffering the effects of venerability and not some raging kitty disease. While this is not wonderful news, at least she isn't suffering. And no, I wasn't up all night worrying. (Brother-in-law just needs to get a softer guest bed!)

The kind vet and his lovely, rosy-cheeked assistant braved chilly winds and an overly excited Neko love attack to pay me a visit yesterday. Comfort was examined and pronounced "long in the tooth with failing kidneys," which made me sad. But the vet assured me she wasn't in any pain and was simply living out the last few days/weeks/months of her life with a slight case of distemper. She got a few cuddles and shot of penicillin in the butt, and waddled off, seemingly no worse for wear.

So, I guess a few extra moments in my lap and some warm milk are all I can do for her now. Sad, really, because she is such a lovely kitty. I'm sorry she won't see one more summer and have the change to lounge in the sun with baby & me. However, she seems to have had a relatively carefree, overfed life - and what more can a kitty ask for, really?

The vet was a real sweetheart and wouldn't charge me for the visit, so I paid him with two bottles of the boys' hard cider. He seemed quite tickled with it and I proudly relayed the story to D on our way to Waterloo last night. He looked horrified - turns out I'd given the vet the old, stinky, dran-o flavoured cider from two years ago by mistake! A quick phone call with instructions to pour it down the drain (or at least clean his toilet with it) remedied the situation; I'll be sheepishly delivering the "good stuff" tomorrow. Kind of embarrassing, especially after I'd extolled the virtues of "Someday Cider" for about 10 minutes to the vet before he left...

Friday, 30 January 2009

The Kittification of Someday

We have four cats at Someday Farm. They are inherited barn beasties, left for us by the previous owner's daughter, who cared for them diligently after her father died. I tried to tell her she was welcome to take the cats before we moved in; she looked at me as though I'd suggested she barbeque them and retorted, "It's the only home they've ever known." This sentiment was forcefully repeated inside a card she left us after we took possession of Someday, along with photos of "the girls."

My mother always had a cat in the house when I was growing up, with a succession of different personalities and a variety of names: Vodka, Snowball, Velvet, Champagne, Selina, Chaucer. But four cats is more than I've ever had to deal with at one time, and I'm now faced with the dilemma of a very sick kitty. Comfort, the friendliest, purriest and most congenial of the barn kitty coalition, has not been well of late. She's gotten skinny, even though she still rams her way into the food bowl. I suspected an ear infection, as she was shaking her head a lot, and made a mental note to go and buy ear drops from the vet. But this week she has deteriorated at an alarming pace, walking with a lean and sometimes falling over when one of her companions brushes by her too enthusiastically. Yesterday I found her looking practically post-nuclear, with a trail of crusty blood coming out of her eyes.

So, much to the amusement of D and C, I'm waiting for the vet to arrive. Most country people don't spend money on barn cats; they are an expendable commodity, and believe me, when one goes to "the bush" or "the happy hunting ground," there are a dozen more willing to pounce into the empty place at the food bowl. But I feel bad about leaving Comfort to suffer. She is the only barn kitty who'll stand up to Neko, and the only one I can pick up and hold in my lap. She's a friend to all children and amuses visitors with her paunch of belly fat that swings when she walks.

We've spent hours together sitting in the sunshine. She truly was a comfort to me while I was on my leave of absence, her purrs a tonic to my grieving soul. So although I am usually a bit more of a hardass when it comes to animals, it doesn't feel right to follow "the country way" in the case of Comfort. I called the vet over on the 4th Concession and he promised to drop by today. I'm going to shell out a fistful of dough, probably only to have the vet tell me she's a goner, but at least then I can put her out of her misery knowing I tried to do something for her.

I wonder how the other kitties will react if Comfort, whom I've always thought of as the feline ringleader, disappears from their kitty coalition? I think Comfort and Betty are sisters; I have no idea if cats care about that kind of thing or not. I guess I'll just have to wait and see.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

A simple mood picker-upper

Yesterday was just a yucky day, on several levels. But today has a sunny countenance and no wicked west wind to freeze my face off, so I'm taking that as a good sign. I slept relatively well last night (more vivid dreams, but no swords or devils, thank you) and it's amazing, really, what a good cup of coffee will do to elevate one's mood. Illy decaf espresso is my recommended cure for a variety of ills...without it, I truly am trapped in an Escher or worse - Dali - painting for at least an hour every morning.

If I had followed my own advice yesterday and made a fresh pot of coffee instead of warming up some two-day old slop, my day might not have been as nasty as it was. Chalk it up to all the brain cells I lost during the night. If I'd had the strength to rearrange the top shelf of the fridge in order to extricate our giant pitcher of milk, I could also have followed a very simple, tried and true mood picker-upper: Mexican Hot Chocolate.

My Mexican cookbook - purchased in the Chapters bargain bin for $4.99! - was, sadly, lost somewhere in the avalanche of divorce, and I've never found the exact same copy again. But even though I've forgotten the recipe for empanada dough, I was clever enough to memorize the Mexican Hot Chocolate and Margarita recipes.

Making MHC from scratch beats any other HC mix hands down. Plus it's a soothing ritual - unwrapping the squares of chocolate (and eating the little semi-sweet bits that tumble out of the wrappers), whisking the milk, pouring in just the right amount of vanilla and pinching just enough chili powder...it's balm to an injured - or sleepless - soul. Why didn't I think of this yesterday?

Mexican Hot Chocolate
- 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into chunks ('Cause I doubt you'll find actual Mexican chocolate, although there used to be a good Latino store on King street behind the TD bank in Kitchener near Water St. that sold it...)
- 3 cups whole milk
- pinch chili powder
- splash of vanilla (or use 1/2 a vanilla bean pod, slit open if you want to be fancy)
- 1 cinnamon stick (or a pinch of cinnamon powder)
- 2 tbsp brown sugar

1) In a saucepan over medium heat, combine chocolate and milk, stirring constantly, until chocolate is melted. Careful not to boil the milk.
2) Add sugar, vanilla, chili and cinnamon stick and stir well for 5 minutes.
3) Remove cinnamon stick (and vanilla pod if using), turn up the heat and stir with a whisk until tiny bubbles form around the edge of the pot. (DO NOT BOIL or this experience will immediately become anything but relaxing.) If you have one of those fancy electric whiskers, those work like a charm.
4) Pour into cups and serve immediately. Adding a splash of real cream or a dollop of whipped cream is nice, but not needed.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Holy bad sleep, batman

I had the world's worst sleep last night, thanks to two very distinct nightmares. A few people have reassured me that vivid dreams are the norm during pregnancy, but holy! I've had bad dreams before, but nothing like these full-on nasties of nighttime. I've always been big on interpreting dreams (see the link on my left nav bar) but honestly, I don't even want to scratch the surface of these puppies.

They were so scary that I was actually to afraid to go to the bathroom after I woke up from Nasty No. 1 (I was watching a guy go around and murder people with a large, sharp sword but was unable to do anything about it..until the very end, when, of course, he decided it was time to murder me). So I crossed my legs, snuggled up to D's reassuringly warm body, took a few deep breaths and went back to sleep - only to be plunged into Nasty No. 2 (a lovely end-of-the-world-apocalyptic-chapter-outta-revelations-devil's-comin'-to-get-us type deal). I will spare you the details, but rest assured (oh, terrible pun) that they were sufficiently gory, grisly and freaky-deaky enough to make me pull D back into bed this morning and comfort my whimpering self.

The result of these nightmares? A near-sleepless night, a tearful morning and a horrendous day. I felt like the walking dead. I yelled at the dog. I lost my temper with a colleague. I haven't done any dishes or brushed my hair and I'm currently clad in one of D's shirts for lack of ability to pick out anything from my own closet.

To top off this stellar day, I called my favourite Chinese place to order a nice Chinese New Year's supper, thanking my stars that D wouldn't be subjected to another of my brain-dead supper creations. And guess what? They're CLOSED on Mondays.

Thankfully, D is doing chores tonight so I can schlepp around in a stupor for a few more hours. Supper is bound to be interesting...peanut butter sandwiches, anyone? As long as they are not served on the end of a long, sharp sword, I think they'll have to do.

Friday, 23 January 2009


Addendum to Crankpot: Cranberry Crockpot Chicken was AWFUL. The recipe has now been resigned to the recycle bin. D didn't even take the leftovers for lunch! That guy rarely complains about my cooking and will eat whatever is put in front of him, so for him to leave the CCC behind means he is making a very big statement. Additionally, he left the M. Croquepotte "soaking" in the sink. He conscientiously washed every other dish, so scrubbing M. C's stinking innards is obviously my punishment for serving such a horrendous meal.

M. Croquepotte is going back where he belongs - THE BASEMENT. And I, my friends, am going back to using the stove.

Thursday, 22 January 2009


I am not, nor have I ever been, a crockpot kinda gal. I felt obligated to put it on our wedding wish list and with the resulting gift certificates, D and I bought a big beautiful one. It has a built-in porcelain serving dish embossed with lovely patterns and it's big enough to comfortably stew Mr. Marmalade should the need arise (hey, I'm just saying...). But I don't really like it. It's too clunky for the counter, and too unwieldy to carry up from the basement for any type of frequent use.

Several of my friends extol the virtues of crockpots. "Oh, it's so easy!" they say. "You hardly need any ingredients. And your whole house will smell wonderful when you walk in the door." So I broke down last night, hauled Monsieur CroquePotte out of the basement and he is now busily making us some Cranberry Chicken for supper. (Heck, that 8lb bag of muskoka cranberries Nana gave me last summer has got to get used up SOMETIME).

I went out at noon to pick up a parcel at the post office (How to Child Proof Your Dog) and stuffed myself with a marvellous Chinese buffet lunch at the New Seasons restaurant for $10. An hour later, I drove home, anticipating the wonderful aroma of M. CroquePotte's artistry when I opened the door. Well, there's an aroma all right, but it ain't wonderful. In fact, it smells like someone took a bottle of ketchup and sprayed it on every surface of my kitchen. I had my suspicions when I read the recipe - really, ketchup should only be used on hot dogs and in sloppy joes - but I wanted to join the ranks of the crock pot elite so I took a chance. I can just hear D now: "So what is this? Ketchup chicken?"


I will report back on the results of my crankpot cooking in a future entry, provided I haven't expired of crock-pot related poisoning.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

The Grumbling Tummy - Part III

Here's part three in the "geez, I'm hungry lately" themed bloggery that's been going on this week. I promise not to torture you with more recipes...at least, not for awhile.

This recipe comes from a cookbook I compiled and printed for my Nana to honour her 90th birthday. I borrowed all her "scribblers" (as she called her soiled, stained, well-used recipe binders), polled the family for favourites and put together about 40 pages of her recipes. I did it because I couldn't think of anything to buy her, and figured she might be tickled by the cookbook, but I'm so glad I did - now that she's gone to the Great Kitchen Beyond, I've got something to pass along to the next generation and keep Nana's memory alive.

The thing I liked about Nana's cooking was that it was never low-fat, or particularly healthy. She just threw caution to the wind and cooked in what I like to think of as a blissfully ignorant, 1950's kind of style (e.g. LOTS of butter).

Nana loved meat and had dozens of chicken recipes in her "scribblers." Chicken breasts are my least favourite meat on the planet, but even I adore this recipe. (Of course, it's hard not to like something smothered in butter and Parmesan...) If you were lucky, she'd have a pan of these waiting for you when you popped in to visit, accompanied by roasted potatoes. The smell is indescribably wonderful.

Parmesan Chicken (aka the best chicken ever)
2 cups seasoned bread crumbs (I season mine with paprika, chili powder & onion salt)
1 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped (optional)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp mustard (I like Dijon)
1 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup butter, melted
6 chicken breasts

1. Mix Parmesan with bread crumbs and put in a shallow bowl.
2. Add Wooster sauce and mustard to melted butter and mix well.
3. Dip chicken breasts in butter, then in bread crumb mixture to coat well.
4. Place in single layer in greased casserole dish; pour remaining butter over top.
5. Bake at 350 for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Serve with roasted potatoes - cut up 5-6 potatoes into small pieces, toss with olive oil and dried spices of your choice. Sprinkle liberally with sea salt and roast alongside the chicken until done, tossing occasionally.

Hmmm...I think I'll make this for D tonight!

The Grumbling Tummy: Part II

Before I share a Baba-inspired recipe with you, can I just say that I am currently craving all things grapefruit? They say pregnant women who crave citrus are bound to have a girl, but I'm convinced that Bumbo is definitely a boy - esp if the scary Chewbacca hair growth on my legs is any indication. (Oh, did I mention I'm 5 months preggers?)

I've eaten half a grapefruit for breakfast every morning this week, sucked back gallons of Ruby Red and am so addicted to President's Choice Sparkling Grapefruit tonic it's becoming an issue. I try to curb the problem by forcing myself to sip it out of a wine glass, but after a few dainty attempts, I generally gulp the whole thing like it's a tequila shot. What can I say? Whatever Bumbo wants, Bumbo gets.

Anyway, I stumbled across this bizarre sounding recipe today. Grapefruit cupcakes? YES!! Since I am having a grapefruit obsession, I will likely try baking these this weekend. Something tells me it's going to end in disaster but what the heck; I'll give it a go. D has a hockey tourney so I can always feed the cupcakes to the hockey boys - they'll eat anything after a game.

So yesterday I shared a recipe inspired by my mother; today I will share one inspired by my lovely Russian Babushka. I think the mark of a natural born cook is the ability to make stuff without using recipes, and that was Baba all over. I never learned to make anything from her because I was a) really, really dumb, b)content to let her make stuff for me and c)freaked out by the thought of cooking anything without explicit written instructions. (Just try to get a 90 year old Russian woman with limited English skills to write something down for you.)

Although she never used beets in her borscht that I can recall, this recipe comes from my favourite Russian cookbook and still reminds me of Baba's. You can make this vegetarian by leaving out (you guessed it) the beef. Enjoy the pretty reddish tinge on your fingers from cutting the beets!

1 package stewing beef, cut into small pieces, fat removed
4 tbsp butter (very important! Don't substitute with oil, no matter how your arteries scream)
1 small onion, chopped
2-3 carrots, chopped into small pieces or shredded
3 medium beets, diced
2 cups cabbage, shredded
2 small potatoes, peeled & diced (I omit these because I hate potatoes)
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup wine or balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tsp salt (seriously, you do need this much)
pepper to taste
6 cups vegetable or beef broth

1. In a large heavy stock pot, heat butter over medium heat and saute onion, carrots, and beef until beef is browned. Be sure to scrape up all bits off the bottom.
2. Stir in the garlic, bay leaf, vingegar, sugar and 1 cup of broth; cook for 1 minute.
3. Add remaining broth, cabbage, potatoes if using, salt and pepper.
4. Simmer, covered, until veggies are tender. I suggest 40 minutes.
5. Serve with a generous dollop of sour cream on top and sprinkle with fresh dill.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Welcome to the Growling Tummy

Boy, do I love cooking. I've only discovered my true culinary identity in the last few years, so now I'm making up for lost time. I was puttering around in the kitchen with lamb chops and wild rice tonight and it struck me (a thought, not a lamb chop) that I should write about it.

One of the beauties of working at home is that it leaves the perfect chunk of time between signing out and D's arrival home to cook supper. D used to make supper a couple of times a week when we were in the city (which is how I learned to hate tilapia) but I've pretty much taken over chef duties at Someday by choice. I love that my man is self-sufficient and not a bad cook (MEAT-VEG-VEG), and he's my main dude when barbeque season rolls around (oh how I hate the BBQ lighter!) - but there's something about having the kitchen to yourself and peeling through recipe books to find an "aha!" meal. The tunes go on, the Coke with lemon comes out, the dog gets something to gnaw on and I'm off to my magical kitchen escapade for the evening.

I come from a long line of amazing cooks. My mother was a virtuoso in the kitchen, whipping up gourmet concoctions from all cultures. When she died, she had a stack of Gourmet magazines that was almost as tall as I was; I still occasionally want to kick myself for selling her mandolin (the kind you slice with, not the kind you strum). Nana also reigned supreme in her kitchen. I have never to this day tasted roast beef as good as hers was, and I have very happy memories of eating lamb and roasted potatoes in her apartment kitchen ("Oh, I thought you might like a snack.") Even Baba, who leaned towards the simple things in life, made delicious soups and yeasty raisin cakes that she never had recipes for. I would kill for a bowl of her "Kroupki (barley) soup" right now on this -20 degree day.

The lovely, talented (and perpetually good-natured)Jaime has begun posting recipes and meal plans on her funky blog, which is very cool. Her cake in a cup is beyond words - I mostly just moan with pleasure when I eat it with vanilla ice cream and blackberries - and I'm forever indebted to her for the peanut butter ball recipe I made at Christmas. So hey, I'm gonna borrow from her creative brain and post a few of my own favourite recipes here. Not a cook? Well, if foolhardy-and-inexperienced-but-brave me can make stuff, anyone can. I have about a 75% success rate in the kitchen, which occasionally leads to bouts of rage where I throw vegetables and pots around, but I have come to view cooking as more of an art than a science. Sometimes things don't turn out the way you want them to, but that's okay - you just feed it to the dog and try again.

Ode to Alisa (Mom)- Chili Honey Shrimp
Mom loved seafood and used to serve this regularly. I remember my sister's dairy famer boyfriend came for dinner once; he didn't know you weren't supposed to eat the shrimp shells. Oops.

- 15-20 medium sized shrimp, shell on
- 1 clove minced garlic (or more, if you're not kissing anyone later)
- 1 good pinch dried chili peppers
- 1 good pinch sesame seeds
- 4 Tbsp honey
- 3 Tbsp butter
- green onions, chopped
- basil or any herb of your choice

1) Melt the butter in a frying pan on medium heat; saute garlic for about 1 minute.
2) Add shrimp and saute for 30 seconds.
3) Add the chilis; saute for another 30 seconds.
4) Add sesame seeds and onions
5) Turn up the heat to high and add the honey. Stir until thickened. Top with herbs of your choice.

I serve these on Oscar night; you suck the coating off the shrimp, then peel and eat. Yes, it sounds disgusting. But trust me - these are addictive.

Tomorrow: Ode to Baba!

Scared silly at Someday

They (e.g. the weatherfinks) have predicted -20 weather for the next few days, cheerfully adding "or -30 with the windchill!" Apparently exposed skin can freeze really quickly in this type of weather. My dad called this morning to inquire whether I knew what to do if my pipes froze. Egads.

Now, as I've mentioned before, I don't mind the cold. I can handle frigid temps and I am not one of those people who refuses to wear winter gear for fear of looking unfashionable or goofy (D bought me my very own pair of insulated coveralls for Christmas two years ago, thank you very much). I love snow - the deeper the better! - and I can even handle the isolation the mixture of the elements enforces on people living in the country. What I cannot handle is the scary, scary wind.

Yes, I know what you're thinking: who in their right mind would move to Bruce County, home of windmills galore, if they don't like wind? Call it temporary, self-imposed ignorance. Sheltered as we were in Blair's Grove last year, I really had no clue just how windy it actually is here. I have tried to get used to it, but can't seem to lose my suspicion that the wind is somehow out to get me. I don't know what I'm expecting - to be swept up like Mary Poppins and flown to Detroit? Like all irrational fears, being scared of the wind is a bit ridiculous. But I'm telling you, when it blows up here, I cower like a dog in a thunderstorm and want to creep under the dining room table.

It is howling and shrieking outside my study window like an angry banshee as I type this with trembling fingers. It has tossed our Christmas lights askew, knocked over my nice new light-up deer and shredded pieces of the steel barn roof. Neko doesn't even want to go out in it, which is the ultimate sign of impending doom. I can see one member of my gang of Blujays huddled in the pine tree outside, looking perturbed. Even the thick branches can't shelter him from these crazy gusts. His little feathery cap keeps flipping over backwards, reminding me a bit of my Dad's old comb-over flying up when we'd go skiing.

No likey windy. Going to go and turn up the stereo now to drown out the banshee sounds. How I am going to summon enough bravery to feed the kitties or get the mail, I'm not too sure...

Friday, 9 January 2009

Rum Raisin, Pizza and Homeless Richard

Well fellow Bloggers, I committed my first good deed of 2009 yesterday. While on a shopping spree in the city (I hate shopping and like to get it all done in one day if possible), I bought a homeless guy lunch at Subway. It's a pretty minor accomplishment, if you can even call it that, but at least I helped make one person's tummy a bit happier.

Waterloo doesn't have a lot of homeless folks and you get to recognize the ones you do see. (e.g. the Two Dollars guy, the Dreadlock guy). I've run into "Richard" before, most memorably last summer at the Gelato place. My sis was inside waiting in line with me and D was waiting outside with Neko (D disdains gelato...it's his fatal flaw). Richard was just leaving. Someone had bought him a big cone of gelato and he wore a look of absolute elation. As he was passing us we smiled at him and he thrust the cone in our faces and exclaimed, "It's Rum and Raisin! It's the best! Wanna try?"

My sister, quick thinker that she is, said, "Um, no thanks, I don't like rum and raisin." Me, I'm a bit slower on the uptake. I hate rum and raisin too, but my mind froze and I was racked with a wave of politeness. Wouldn't it be rude, I thought, to NOT taste it? So when Richard waved the cone under my nose again and said, "Oh go on, taste it," I said "Okay," and took a lick, much to the horror of my sister and later, my husband. But it made Richard grin a big semi-toothless grin, at least.

Anyways, I recognized him shuffling down King street wearing a sleeping bag yesterday. We exchanged greetings and I offered to buy him a coffee or sandwich. So we went to subway and he got their pizza (I didn't even know subway HAD pizza). Richard gently chided me when I looked skeptical about his menu selection. "Their pizza is wonderful, it really is. Plus you get to put whatever you want on it. It's a PERSONAL pizza!"

He was very articulate (despite having no front teeth) and gentle and said he used to work in the restaurant business. I had to hide a smile when he asked the lady behind the counter to please make sure to put lots of oregano and parmesan on top; Richard apparently likes his spices. He told me his favourite is curry, and he used to cook it all the time when he had a place to live.

The one thing that marred my otherwise pleasant experience was the way the staff at Subway treated Richard. Two ladies - maybe in their early 50's - were working behind the counter and they looked extremely alarmed when we came in. Maybe he goes there a lot,maybe he's given them a hard time in the past - I don't know - but when I was there, he was polite and soft-spoken. The woman behind the counter was abrupt and rude with him, barking her questions at him ("WHAT DO YOU WANT ON IT?").

It didn't seem to me that Richard made any more demands on her time than any other customer would have. For example, he asked the lady to please chop the tomatoes and onions before they went on his pizza as he has difficulting swallowing them whole; she looked at him like he'd asked her to stand on her head. She rolled her eyes, let out a huge sigh and proceeded to hack them up theatrically with her paring knife. I might have expected this behaviour from a surly 16 year old grocery clerk, but not from a mature woman at Subway.

Anyway, long story short, I filled up a Subway card with $10 (his suggestion since I don't like giving out cash), we shook hands, and I left. Richard was stuffing the pizza into his backpack as I walked out the door.

I'm not writing about this to make myself sound like a saint (cuz I ain't) or to be didactic (cuz I've walked past plenty of other homeless folks before). I just kind of felt good about Richard, and sad about the way he was treated by the Subway wenches. We don't have a lot of homeless folks that I've come across in the Kink, but I realize I've got to find some time and means to help out in my own community, where the sad, the sick and the poor aren't as easily visible. Wish me luck.