"My mind sees that I am nothing, my heart sees that I am everything, between these two poles my life unfolds."

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Double Trouble!

It's Graduation Time!

Seems like only yesterday...
but our beautiful daughter Caroline

has her degree in Nursing :)

Right now I'm...


Why you ask?

Are coming...!!

Will I pass inspection?

All in good fun, 
both my Mom and Mother-in-law are dears and we look forward to their visit.

See you all in a few weeks :)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Mondays With Mireille

Greetings! As promised, here is the second installment in our series. Mireille describes soups as a great way to hydrate our bodies, and very satisfying in relation to their calories. I agree. I have quite a number of soups I serve on a regular basis, but carrot is a first for me.

Fancy Cream of Carrot Soup

2 bay leaves
5 cups peeled and sliced carrots
4 medium-size onions, peeled and sliced
2 potatoes, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream (I used 3)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste 
(I used 1 tablespoon salt after blending and then each bowl to taste)

1. Bring 10 cups of water to a boil. Add the bay leaves and all the vegetables. Simmer for 45 minutes.

2. Remove the bay leaves, and then puree the soup in a food mill. Add the sugar and heavy cream and heat over low flame until piping hot. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Grate or sprinkle nutmeg as garnish.

Overall impressions: Very easily made. A mildly flavored and finely textured soup, it is very attractive and would be lovely served as an appetizer. I can see myself myself making this again and keeping it in the fridge during the week for those times I am wanting to eat a little on the lighter-side. As well, these are ingredients just about everyone always has on hand. The only modifications I suggest are those in brackets above. Green onions (very thinly sliced) or chives would be a nice addition to taste and presentation just prior to serving.

"The key to continued weight loss is keeping one's compensations 
just slightly ahead of one's indulgences." 
 ~ Mireille Guiliano ~

"Like the Yorkie, the Morkie may crave and even demand attention from its family. 
From the Maltese side, the Morkie may inherit a sense of fearlessness as well as energy."

Super-puppy can now leap onto fluffy couches with just one bound!

Greetings! I trust your weekend was a good one. I had to share the above quote with you from the Great Dog Site. Hilarious and (we're finding out) very accurate. Terriers can be like little terrorists in your home with all of their demands - they will not be ignored! Good thing she is so darn cute :) 

While we worked on a project this weekend, 
poor Emma complained bitterly from the sidelines...

We did let her help with the cleanup :) 

A recipe for you later this afternoon.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sunday greetings! I've been a blogging machine the past few weeks... so I've decided this will be a day of rest and reflection :)

These videos feature some of my all-time favorite music. With CSN it's actually pretty difficult to choose a favorite. My heart aches (in a wonderful way) each and every time I listen, and I expect yours does as well.

Look around me
I can see my life before me
Running rings around the way
It used to be

I am older now
I have more than what I wanted
But I wish that I had started
Long before I did

And there's so much time to make up
Everywhere you turn
Time we have wasted on the way

So much water moving
Underneath the bridge
Let the water come and carry us away
I never tire of Neil Young.

Like Neil, I must be getting old... because no matter how many new musical artists there are every year, I really don't think it gets any better than this. I hope I don't receive any scurrilous* comments from the under 30 set, but then again I doubt they are reading this sentimental drivel anyways!

Enjoy your day :)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

What a difference a day makes! After our horrible weather on Thursday the sun managed to peek in and out on Friday (clear skies by early evening) and we made it to +1C. Late afternoon the robins were out in full force, industriously taking advantage of a small exposed strip of grass. Please excuse the quality of these photos, they were snapped surreptitiously from inside.

Loving the bright green grass shoots :)

At some points there were up to a dozen robins - all jostling for position!

Did you know that if you shop 'till you drop: you'll live longer? 
... I'll bet that got your attention lol!

Besides subscribing to the Posit Science newsletter, I also look forward to a regular update from Dr. Andrew Weil. Perhaps you've heard of him? He's authored quite a number of books, including Healthy Aging which I purchased a few years ago. This week's newsletter reported the rather humorous results from a nine-year study conducted in Taiwan, which showed that seniors who shopped several times a week (or even daily) lived longer than those who never or rarely shopped. I find studies like this so interesting and while I am not (yet!) a senior, I believe it's never too early to take positive steps towards more healthy living.

The investigators said that shopping may provide an opportunity for additional physical activity which is considered more 'heart-healthy' when compared to formal exercise programs. How many times have we heard it said that walking is one of the best forms of exercise? Going to a mall is at least a lot safer for us northerners than trying to maneuver our sidewalks in the winter! 

As well, the shopper may seize the opportunity to purchase more fresh, healthy food seeing as they are already out and about. I would also surmise that getting out on a regular basis could help ward off depression and alzheimer's

Unfortunately, except for the grocery store, I am one of those people who rarely shop retail: unless I need something and then it's in-and-out as fast as possible. Quite the departure from how I was in my twenties and thirties. At this point in my life I thankfully have everything I need and like what I have. On the other hand, I find fleamarkets and second-hand shops more of an adventure, and I'm guessing they would also qualify as long as you go often enough... so I'm thinking I'll be ok :) 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Greetings! Well we survived what was hopefully our last dump of the season. It snowed the entire day and was still at it when I headed to bed. I estimate we received close to a foot. It's enough to make one vociferate...lol!

I stumbled across this amazing creature in the Huffington Post last night and am completely enthralled...

Under normal circumstances 'cute' and 'bat' are two words I would not expect to use together in the same sentence, but this new species of bat is kind of cute! Sometimes animals are so odd looking they weirdly cross over into that ugly-cute category.

Over 200 animals and plants were recently discovered in a rugged and little-explored region of Papua New Guinea. Among the species found was this Nyctimene tube-nosed Fruit Bat. Comparisons between the bat and Yoda have been made... but you be the judge!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

For those of you concerned about Francis, 
I am happy to report that a search party was sent out 
and he is now resting comfortably after his ordeal!

Noon update...! lol

This is Francis. I'm afraid he's a little annoyed with himself right now. Yesterday, despite my best protests, he insisted I put him outside. Now look at him. I don't mean to rub it in, I really can't blame his impatience. Like the rest of us, he's been eagerly waiting for all our snow to melt; he'd just like to get out there and clear away the dead leaves and top up the mulch, if nothing else.

We've had fabulous weather for the past week, the grass has reappeared (in spots) and it was looking like spring was here to stay, but anyone who's lived in the north for any length of time should know better: especially if you've already hosed down the deck and taken out the lawn furniture!

Looking even more miserable, if that's possible...
an hour later and it's still coming down

Sorry, but I can't squeeze moratory* in here, no matter how hard I might try!


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Not much for you today, but had to share this amazing video. Love how the dolphin keeps playfully tapping the cat on the top of the head. At one point he appears to go get his friends to come and see this new furry little life form!

PS. I see now that the praxis of incorporating the wotd* into each post may prove challenging!

*Word of the Day!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Greetings! You may have noticed the Word of the Day feature along the sidebar. I have been meaning to accept the challenge (foolishly proposed by none other than Yours Truly lol) to incorporate it into my post for each day. It would also be entertaining if guests who choose to leave a comment (which I highly encourage - you can remain anonymous or assume a fictional identity) also try using The Word - no pressure, just a suggestion :) I hope this request does not incite you to oppugn me...! hehe

One of my great joys in life is discovering new music. We purchased Manfred Mann's space odyssey Solar Fire yesterday and loaded it onto our ipods. First released in 1973 it is (thankfully) as far away from Blinded By the Light as you can imagine. I am already a fan of (some) progressive rock and this particular album is a little Yes, Pink Floyd and Deep Purple rolled into one. Almost a religious experience.

Interestingly, it was 50 years ago today that Yuri Gagarin, dubbed the 'Columbus of the Cosmos' became the first human in recorded history to travel into space; orbiting the earth aboard the Soviet Union space capsule Vostok.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Mondays With Mireille

Bonjour! I hope you like my little mascot :) What's that? Perhaps I should grade each recipe based on a maximum rating of four frogs legs? "Mais non" says our little friend!

Well, I thought it would be fun to start the first Monday off with something sweet. If I think about it, I really only cook dessert (other than the odd loaf or cookie) on special occasions. That is not how I was brought up though, my mother consistently served a dessert every day after the main meal. A few of my personal favorites were apple crisp, white cake with lemon sauce, warm gingerbread with caramel sauce and whipping cream. My paternal grandmother was also an excellent cook and very French, I remember her desserts as light multi-layered creations where presentation was as important as the dish itself. Pears with Chocolate and Pepper is something I could envision her serving.

Pears With Chocolate and Pepper

"The pear is one of nature's most remarkable inventions; it's versatility is second to none. What other fruit could wed so perfectly with chocolate one minute, blue cheese the next?" - Mireille Guiliano

Zest of 1 orange
2/3 cup sugar
4 Bosc pears (I used Anjou)
2/3 cup heavy cream (I used 18% table cream)
4 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used 85% cocoa - I suggest 65-70%)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut in small pieces
Freshly ground pepper

1. Bring 1 quart water, the orange zest, and the sugar to a boil. Peel and core the pears, keeping them whole by cutting the core out from the bottom, and put them in the boiling syrup over low heat for 20 minutes. Place each pear on a dessert dish and let cool.

2. Bring the cream to a boil, then pour in the chocolate and stir to melt it. Whisk in the butter piece by piece.

3. Pour the sauce over the pears and season with pepper to taste.

Overall impressions: Very simple and quickly made up (start to finish 40 minutes), the pears were delicious after poaching in the sugar and orange zest and the chocolate and pepper were lovely together. We ate all 4 pears lol, so I would consider this a rousing success, however I plan to make the following modifications for the next time:

a) This recipe makes twice the chocolate sauce necessary - I will cut in half next time.
b) Use chocolate with 65-70% cocoa content, (rather than 85%).
c) Improve chocolate sauce by thinning a touch with milk once butter is whisked in.
d) Garnish with orange peel and a few strawberries :)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

What's so interesting Emma?
Daddy's powerwashing the deck - a sure sign of spring!

Sunday greetings! I trust your weekend was a good one. We enjoyed lovely spring weather here +10C and significant meltage :) After powerwashing the deck, we took a chair (just one - don't want to tempt Mother Nature lol) out of the garden shed and even opened a couple of windows to let in some long-awaited fresh air.

The hops vines are awake - my personal harbingers of spring.
In very short order they will overtake my yard once again...
no point in fighting them - we went to war a few years ago and they won!

Last night we watched a very funny movie for the first time: Johnny Dangerously. If you've never seen it (we may have been the last people who hadn't) I highly recommend it. Reminiscent of a Mel Brooks movie, it is set in the 1930's and heads an all-star cast including Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Marilu Henner, Peter Boyle and Maureen Stapleton.

Tomorrow I plan to post the first recipe from the Jane & Mireille project. Not the greatest title; I am working on something catchier. Jusqu'à demain!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Our RAM (Royal Alberta Museum) is moving. Construction starts this year on a new facility, which will be located in the downtown arts district. At a price tag of $340 million, the museum will feature twice as much gallery space, affording us the opportunity to host major international exhibits.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Inspiration decides how often I post and I've been been on a roll the past few weeks. Last night I was thinking that perhaps the well had run dry, which is fine as I find a few days off allow my thoughts to percolate, ferment and gel. That, and a good night's sleep, something which has eluded me the last week for some unknown reason. I woke this morning however, with the realization that I had finally gotten the rest I needed and a little bit extra. The extra being a night of very vivid dreams, which for the most part I cannot recall, but still find the knowledge of deeply satisfying. 

Except for the lingering memory of the black wolf who watched me from the end of a deserted country lane. In the dream, two deer ran wildly past and I felt their urgency and brute force as they brushed by, frighteningly close. Quickly stepping from the path, I hid in the bushes. A moment later my clothing tugged from behind and I turned to two deep pools of molten lava staring up at me. Terrified, I tried to get away but he hung on; his heavy breathing the only sound...

Thankfully, it was at this point I woke up!

I have been keeping a dream journal for the past year where I record only those dreams I feel hold some true significance. There are only four in it so far, but they are doozies. I'm going to add this one to it, but only because it is the first dream I recall ever feeling threatened by an animal in. Below is an interesting interpretation from The Dream Well

Wolf dreams challenge us to confront what we are afraid of, and to not lurk in the shadows of our subconscious. Wolf dreams offer us the gift of strength, freedom and the ability to fiercely protect that which is dear to us. Wolves in our dreams invite us to claim back our own power, to run freely and live our most authentic life possible, without fear, without shackles, without shame.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Mondays With Mireille

Bonjour! As mentioned in yesterday's post, I have decided to copy Julie Powell's project where she cooked and blogged her way through Julia Child's Mastering The Art of French Cooking. Her experiences were turned into a memoir, and ultimately, the Julie & Julia movie.

My cookbook of choice is in fact two cookbooks by Mireille Guiliano, French Women Don't Get Fat and French Women For All Seasons. The French place high importance on the ingredients, preparation and time set aside to savour the food they eat. Mireille's books not only contain delicious recipes, they also focus on helping the reader cultivate a more balanced lifestyle. This upcoming Monday, and every Monday thereafter, I will share my experience, rating and overall impressions of one recipe from either of her two books. Unlike Julie, I will not be trying out a new recipe everyday - once a week will be more than ambitious enough for me!

The remainder of each week I will continue to devote myself to serving up the banquet of trivia, weird news and lame musings you have otherwise come to expect!

My new coffee mug is out to get me. If you recall, I dropped my last one around two weeks ago. Imagine my delight when I found the exact same one last Wednesday. Little did I know it was the other half of an evil set of twins... So far I have had at least four close-calls where this one has attempted to commit the unspeakable! I now tremble in fear each time I refill. Sadly, I suspect it is only a matter of time before my two mugs are reunited in that great ceramic pile in the sky... 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I recently watched the movie Julie and Julia and enjoyed it so much that I am now reading the book. Generally I make it a point not to see the movie first, but in this instance I had zero interest in reading the book until I saw the movie... sometimes life just works out that way. A few days ago I was at the point where Julie (who is cooking her way through Julia Child's legendary Mastering the Art of French Cooking and blogging about it as she goes) takes a stab at 'Oeufs en Cocotte', which is quite a step; considering she has never actually eaten an egg 'on purpose' before. This dish, and the omelette she makes next, cure her aversion.

I was intrigued by Oeufs en Cocotte, having never tried nor even heard of it for that matter. Loosely translated, this concoction is eggs baked with some butter and cream in ramekins set in a shallow pan of water. You can keep the recipe as simple or dressed up as you like. Very easy and satisfying. 

You'll need a small shallow ovenproof dish,
The handles on this one aid when taking it out of the water
(or use a small ramekin if you want only one egg and halve the recipe)

Preheat your oven to 350

Generously butter your dish
Layer tomatoes in bottom, sun-dried are the best
Fresh asparagus and/or ham are other suggestions
Add 1 oz of cubed cheese - Fontina in this instance
Season with salt & pepper - I used coarse sea salt - very yummy  

Add your eggs:
I suggest breaking each egg in another bowl first,
then transferring them over one at a time
(just in case you break a yolk)

Season again with salt & pepper

Set your dish in a pan and add recently boiled water halfway up
Transfer to oven

I've made this twice:
With water bath:18-20 minutes - slightly runnier finished product
(good for dipping :)
Without water bath:15-17 minutes - firmer, crispier edges

Remove from oven and turn on the broiler

Add 2-3 tbsp creme fraiche
A good substitute for this is:
2 tbsp 14% sour cream mixed with 1/2 tbsp 10% coffee cream
High fat content is important or it will separate under the heat

 Place under broiler for 1 minute
Dish will continue to cook a bit after it's removed from oven

Garnish with chives or parsley if desired

Enjoy :)

I quite like the premise of blogging one's way through a cookbook...check back tomorrow as I plan to announce the Jane & Mireille 'project'. I realize it doesn't have quite the same ring to it, but I think it will be fun nonetheless!