Monday, January 31, 2011

How To Make Salad Dressing, Geek Style

The following is a lesson in Geek cooking.  Read carefully and learn from me, oh grasshopper.

1.  Have husband make subtle hint about homemade dressing, "I bet you could make Catalina dressing. I don't think it would be hard."*

2.  Decide to whip up some salad dressing while making dinner.

3. Find reasonable looking recipe online.

4.  Try to figure out how the heck one grates an onion.

5.  Quickly discover that using a box grater will turn the onion slimy, but not at all grated.

6.  Try using your immersion blender.  It works.  With the added bonus of being tear free.  Your eyes will burn as if they are actually on fire and one or both eyelids will twitch convulsively, but hey, you will not cry.

7.  Add paprika.  Discover that what you thought was paprika from your spice rack was actually cinnamon sugar.

8.  Blame the twitching eyelid.

9.  practice self-control.

10 rinse out blasted cinnamon/ onion mixture and start again.

11. Follow the recipe correctly this time.

12.  Take dressing to husband for taste-test.  First words out of husband's mouth will be "this looks weird doesn't it?"

13.  Decide that all you need is ONE woman on the jury and you would NEVER be convicted.

14.  Practice self-control.

15.  Have husband pronounce it good.  Nothing like Catalina dressing, but he would still eat it.

16 Go finally start supper.

*The House of Geek has a very traditional division of labour.  It works for us.  Usually.   

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

DO NOT Read this if You Are in Your First Trimester. You Have Been Warned

I posted a while ago that I was going to make a chai tea concentrate.  I have been working on finding the spices which is harder than I thought it would be in this very multi-cultural city.  For example, Wal-Mart has cloves and cinnamon sticks.  That's it.

So, I had to go to Superstore.  Like most Western Canadians I have a love/hate relationship with that place.  Most are on the dirty side, they are often out of what you need and customer service is about as plentiful as flip flops in January.  However, the prices are low.  Real low. And they sell decadent chocolate chip cookies.  Plus most have a HUGE aisle dedicated to ethnic food.

And that is where I found myself on Saturday night desperately seeking star anise along with many families stocking up for Chinese New Year.

Now you have to understand something.  I have a touchy stomach.  It is my children' fault.   Before pregnancy I rarely threw up.  I could handle almost anything.  Very little made me queasy.  Enter hormones and pregnancies where even reading the Bible could make me sick and even now six years later it is AMAZING the stuff that can make me gag. So I found myself amongst the crunchy fried shrimp chips, the seaweed and other delicacies and I realized I was in trouble.

SERIOUS trouble.

You know the phrase I just threw up in my mouth?

I actually did.

Right there in the ethnic aisle of super store.  And when they say super, they are referring to the store's size, not the fact that it is any kind of awesome.  They are MASSIVE.  And I had a mouth full of puke.  Fortunately usually I travel with children with bladders the size of an ant so I knew where the washrooms were, but it was a long sprint to get to them.

Made further complicated by the fact that most of the checkouts were closed with gates blocking your way to the blessed bathroom.

All the while I had a MOUTH FULL OF STUFF.

I passed the floral aisle and had an overwhelming urge to just spit it into one of the buckets and just calmly walk away.

You will be pleased to know I did not.  Although I am not sure any of you are still reading anymore. I really have no concept of how much is just TOO MUCH INFORMATION.

I made it, spit, rinsed my mouth out with water and vowed once again, to NEVER go back there again.

Or at least until I run out of flour.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Year of Grace

Back at the beginning of 2010, Anne Voskamp shared that her word for the year was going to be Yes.  It would be a year of  saying yes for her.  The whole idea greatly intrigued me so I too choose a word.  Mine was grace.  I did not feel as if I was good at it, giving or receiving so this would be the year that I choose grace.

I had no idea at the time how much this was going to resonate.

2010 was a year when I discovered just how weak I am.  For the past twelve years I have been running on adrenaline and caffeine.  For five years  I worked a job I did not like and quite honestly wasn't very good at.  So to make up for my lack of ability I just worked hard.  Very hard.

Then I had two very strong willed children.  Plus I moved six times.  I did not have time or energy to breath, let alone really stop and think.

This year was a tad bit different.  There's nothing like major surgery to force one to slow down and evaluate themselves.

Can't say I really like what I saw.

I got face to face with my sins.  Especially the persistent ones.

They are SO MANY.

Left to my own devices I do not choose good.

I choose the easy route.  I am self-centered.  I am quick to anger, prone to doubt and can carry a wicked grudge.

And yet, His grace really is enough.  ALL my sins are forgiven.  My Saviour covered it.

It truly is an indescribable gift.

Even more amazing are the times that I do say the right thing.  The times I forgive. The times I can let things go.  Because that is not me.  Not even a little bit.  That is grace working in me.

2010 was a year I realized just what grace is all about.  How it was and still is extended to me.

It was also a year I began to give grace to myself.

To allow myself to say no occasionally.  To potentially let people down.  To forgive myself as I have been forgiven.

2010 was not the year that I choose grace, it was the year I fully expereienced it.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

An Extrordinary Decision

The following was written in a coffee shop on a COLD afternoon in late December.  Heather of the Extraordinary Ordinary does this, she just listens and writes.  I cannot listen, my ears have enough trouble with the sounds intended for me, so I watched and wrote and imagined their words.
Today marks a remarkable day for an extraordinary lady.  One year sober.  So as a tribute to her incredible courage I write in the style that she does so very well.  No editing, just what I see and feel in the moment.
The sun is streaming in and the dust motes dance.  The old man smiles at the lady, with whom he is close.  You can see someone cares for him, his hair is neatly cut, his jacket is new and warm, not a brand picked up in shops frequented by old men.  As they go to leave he takes the tray, a task his frame is not suited for anymore, she smiles and carries it for him.  Just as she smiled when he told her a story she had probably heard before. A gentle smile, just for him. 
She is jangling her keys, waiting, pacing, another stop in a busy day.  Her shadow is longer than her and quieter, less frenzied as the keys gently bob up and down in the sun.  I see me as she flips through the magazine, unable to keep from doing something, anything as the waiting passes.  There is just not enough time to just be.
The contrast is almost startling, a life almost done, not hurried, no more tasks that MUST BE DONE right now.  RIGHT NOW.  She flies on with her day, he meanders, she has many waiting on her and what she can do for them, he is now reliant on the ones he once served.
She stomps in, a grin lighting her face as she spies the one who waits.  They smile, jackets removed, coffees compared, all the while bathed in the late afternoon sun.
The dust motes dance.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Good Links For You!

Some of the funny, thought-provoking and otherwise good stuff I've seen on the interweb in the last while.

Most of you have probably read the Wall Street Journal Article by Amy Chau on why Chinese mothers are superior.  But you may have not yet read  why Star Trek mothers are Superior by Nan.  You MUST go read this.  It is pure bloggy gold.

Awkward Pregnancy Photos.  SO darn funny.  My favourite involves a gun and a watermelon.

Anne Voskamp's book comes out today.  If it is anything like her blog, it is a must read.

If you are a Chai fan like me, this recipe for home-made Chai concentrate looks VERY good.  I have no idea if these spices are easy to come by or not, but I will let you know.

Happy Monday!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The salad He Actually Eats

Last Spring I outed my husband as one with a rather pre-packaged palate.  The following week he went to a healthy eating conference and they scared the pants off of him.

He came home a lone crusader against the evils of nitrates, trans fats and glucose-fructose.  The latter is his particular enemy.  Now just about everyone who reads know that this stuff is bad for you but to my husband it is particularly evil.  In his mind cancer, diabetes, heart disease, bunions and bad breath can all be linked to this menace.  Quite honestly I think his solution to world peace is just to get rid of all glucose fructose and instantly we would all bond over fresh bruschetta with home made bread.

I was DELIGHTED to discover he was going to try more homemade stuff.  I was a little less delighted to discover his new passion did not come with a new palate.

But to his credit he is trying new recipes and we are slowly but surely eliminating all processed meat, store bought crackers and cookies and basically anything that has GF in it.

I think a turning point was the day I was making him a salad and realized that I was about to feed my husband something that had cumin, sea-salt and curly parsley in it.  And what's more, he asked for it.  I think I may have cried.  He had even hunted up the recipe for me after trying a tomato and cucumber salad at a restaurant and thinking it was some good.

My favourite meal moment came a few weeks ago when he came home after eating out with some of the guys at work.

Now you gotta understand something about Way Cooler.  When he eats out it is at a chain restaurant.  Preferably one that he has been to many times before and has fish and chips and clubhouse sandwiches on the menu.  But his co-workers insisted on trying this place so he looked for the "safest" thing in the deli case and settled on a pasta salad.

He came home singing the praises of this pasta salad. He described it in intricate detail and fairly soon I had pulled up Pioneer Woman on the iPad and showed him this.  Turns out that Oklahoma has also come to a little deli in Calgary.  It was pretty much the exact same salad.  So, now, with a few modifications I make this for way cooler on a weekly basis for his lunches.

So for your eating pleasure, the two homemade recipes that Way Cooler cannot get enough of.

Dave's Tomato and Cucumber Salad - This is best in the fall when I was plucking tomatoes from our plant and then immediately chopping and serving them.  We use bottled lemon juice and Way Cooler also really likes it with red onion.  And now my mother in law will faint dead away upon learning that her son is actually eating onions.  If you live in a climate where you can harvest tomatoes in the summer than this is more a summer salad.  If you harvest your tomatoes in the spring, well, please just keep that tidbit of information to yourself mmmkay? Thus says she who lives where today's high is a balmy -17C (1F)

Sun dried Tomato Pasta Salad   We ALL love this salad, with the exception of Sprout but then he doesn't really count as he eats two grapes a week and is full.  Because fresh basil is impossibly hard to find and impossibly expensive up here in the winter I use the stuff in a tube.  Please do not judge me.  Come summer I will grow the stuff on my deck and make my salad even more magical.  I also reduce the oil to 3/4 cup, take out the olives (as Way Cooler's new passion for good food only goes so far) and am very generous with the red wine vinegar.

Bon Appetit.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I can't Wait to See The Google Searches I Get Off This Post

As I may have mentioned a time or two, when it comes to food, Way Cooler and I are on opposite ends of the spectrum.  I live to eat and he just eats to live.  Which means he has NO appreciation for the finer things of life.

One of them being stew.  He cannot think of anything more gross.  On a cold January day I cannot think of anything more sublime.  Elizabeth Esther talks about the sacrament of soup, for me it is the sacrament of stew. So, as he was working the other night I asked my sister-in-law to come for stew.  She too knows what is good and was only to happy to come.

Now, we're both moms and have learned to go with the flow but this supper gave gong show a whole new  meaning.

To start, my niece was fussy.  This child is NEVER fussy.  You know the type, slept through the night from day one, smiles all the time, obeys pretty rapidly and only poops rainbows.  Pretty much the opposite of the harum scarum I am raising.

However, she fussed through the whole meal, milk was spilled, food flung, and a general good time was had by none.  We soon figured out why as the potty training sweetie came down with the runs.  Several times.   And this time it was NOT rainbows.   In her big girl pants.  PRAISE GOD for ceramic tile.

So my SIL dealt with the mess, I tossed my niece into the tub and my children ran around being gophers.  Excessively loud and possibly rabid gophers.

We got a diaper on, baby girl got all cleaned up and went off to play with the gophers.  I was just about to offer my SIL a well deserved cup of tea when a shriek was heard from upstairs.  You know the type shriek.  The " I have sat on the folded up pack and play and somehow managed to trap my scrotum in the plastic legs" shriek.  Yes indeedy.

My oldest child had managed to once again cause his scrotum to bleed.  At the rate he is going if I get a grandchild out of this son it will be a blessed miracle.

It took Advil, an icepack, ice cream and 30 minutes of Toopy and Binoo to get him to calm down.

My sister in law smiled and got the heck outta dodge.  And continued to pray that this next baby be another girl.

Monday, January 10, 2011

It's Always Cooler on an iPhone

A month or so ago Way Cooler installed Words with Friends on my iPad.  Oh.My.Heavens that game is addictive.  It has brought us both hours of geeky joy.  It does not hurt that I am better at it than he.  This is only due to the fact that I have had my nose buried in a book for the better part of my life whereas the last time Way Cooler read through a book cover to cover the majority of Americans still approved of George Bush as president.

I've discovered something about myself.  I may be a tad bit competitive.  (Insert Way Cooler shouting up the stairs "a bit?  A bit?"  but let's just ignore that shall we?)  Trouncing my husband brings me joy at a level that is almost a bit sad.

To redeem myself, let me explain.  Way Cooler is a gamer.  This can loosely be translated to mean that he takes the fun right out of family game night.  He questions most of my moves, offers tips and will not play any game where winning is not the ultimate goal. SO FUN. Finally, for the good of our marriage we stopped playing games together about five years ago.  But now, I can be another room and still play scrabble with him.  It's awesome.  

Except I am NEVER to refer to it as Scrabble.  Which apparently is a game for geeks.  Playing it on an iPhone however as the technology redeems the cool factor.    Or at least as cool as it is going to get for a family where we both have blogs, twitter accounts and consider an episode of Star Trek Voyager a treat.  

What about you, what games bring you all closer together?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Staying Alive With Preschoolers

It's January.  Which for those of us who live in Northern Climes, the month that NEVER ends.


I think last January was 392 days long.

I have absolutely no scientific data to back this up, but I would venture a guess that this is the month that causes many a SAHM to pack it in and go back to work.

We are almost at the end of it.  Sprout starts Kindergarten in the fall.  I go back to work.  (I have no idea what I will be doing but it will be something part time.)  But I thought I would share with you all some of the things that got us through this month in the past.  Feel free to leave your killer suggestions in the comments.

Rice table.  I spread an old table cloth on the floor, fill a tub with rice and hand the kids a bunch of spoons, sieves, cars and what not and let them go to town.  It is messy, you will get rice on the floor, but it does kill at least an hour.

Baking.  My kids have done this so much that they pretty much can make muffins by themselves with me just supervising the cracking of the eggs and reading the directions.  We always have baked good in the freezer this way, it takes up time and it teaches them all kinds of useful skills like sneaking dough when mommy isn't looking, how to fish eggshells out of dough and how best to removed dough from cupboards when flung there by bored 2 year olds.

Painting With Water.  This is the red neck version of aqua doodle.  I give my kids a container of water, large sheets of construction paper and a paint brush.  It is a bit frightening how much my kids enjoyed this.  It's a sure sign we need to get them out more often.

Cutting:  The boys have spent HOURS and HOURS cutting pictures of of magazines and saving them for goodness knows what.  They also used to enjoy cutting things out and them gluing them into pretend houses drawn on large sheets of paper.  According to my kids, the best use of kitchen space is often a leafblower or a motor bike.

Penny drop.  To help my kids with their fine motor skills I cut a small slot in the top of a clean yogurt container and they had to pick up pennies with one hand and drop them in the container.  This also was a surprise hit.  If they grow up to be surgeons I'd like the credit for their killer dexterity.  I'd also like a bit of their money.

Obstacle Courses:  Our living room was often transformed into an obstacle course.  There was jumping (over wooden spoons) bouncing (over couch cushions) throwing (bean bags into empty garbage bins) and crawling (under a broom suspended by two chairs.)  It was great for gross motor and lots of fun.

Ice melt:  I fill a Styrofoam cup with a bit of water, and stick in an old plastic toy.  Then I freeze it and then give it to the boys to work together to melt and free the toy.  This is cold, but lots of fun.  The boys had a blast coming up with all the ways the warm the ice up faster.

We've also done sidewalk chalk in the unfinished basement, used washable markers on our windows, played clothespin games, painted till our arms fell off, taken long bubble baths in the middle of the day and made crafts by the pound.

What about you?  How do you get through January?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A Look back

I must confess, the news junkie in me loves all the year in review features taht happen this time of the year.  So, for your reading pleasure, 2010 in review at the hosue of Geek.

January.  It was cold.  It snowed.  Like all Januarys it was 385 days long.

February: It was not cold.  We lost most of our snow.  It was LOVELY.  The Olympics were on.  Canada kicked some major tushie.  I visited the ER with a child for the very first time which I do believe is a MIRACLE with the way my boys attack life.  Or in this case, are attacked by cousin's whose fingernails could have used a trim before they connected with my son's eye.  

March:  Sprout turned four.  I turned a lot older than four.  I found out that I would be needing surgery.  I ate a large quantity of chocolate.

April:  I cleaned.  And cleaned and cleaned some more.  If I couldn't control when my surgery date was going to be by golly I was going to control something.

May:  I went into the hospital feeling great.  I came out feeling as if someone had cut open my chest, pulled back my ribcage and took something out of my lungs.  Oh wait, I felt like that because that is actually what happened. I can't say I recommend this.  I spent the rest of the month throwing up and watching TV.

June: It snowed.  It was cold.  I was FINALLY allowed to drive again.  Spud finished Kindergarten.  He was quite disappointed to learn that it was not the end of his academic career.

July:  We vacationed.  It was full of family, friends, beaches, splash pads and LOTS of memories.

August:  We went for a drive in the country.  We went to a small town.  We decided we would JUST LOOK at some houses.  We signed the papers for a new house three days later.

September:  Spud started grade one.  We all cried a lot.  We picked out all the stuff for our new house.  Which basically consisted of us saying to the designer "whatever you think looks good together."

October:  I started the long process of rehabilitating a house that had been left to its own devices for several months. I cleaned a lot.

November:  The beginning of winter.  Nuff said.

December:  Advent.  Christmas.  It's all good.