Wednesday, September 28, 2011

More Food...

 Seriously, I'm writing this post just so I can close all the links I have open in my browser.  I've been cooking a lot from recipes found online recently.  They've been yummy and I've wanted to share the deliciousness, but I haven't been in a writing mood.   Until today, the multiple open tabs haven't bothered me.  All of a sudden, I have this urgent need to close some tabs.  Without further ado, here's what I've been cooking.

  I've had a surfeit of produce, specifically peppers, tomatoes and eggplant. (I just remembered that I have zucchini too.  Clearly I need to make fritters again.  Sooo good!) We've been eating vegetarian most meals, but I like my peppers stuffed with meat.  Out of beef, I defrosted some ground turkey instead.  I'm not sure the flavours stood out as well as I might have liked, but my guests enjoyed them as did my children.  Alongside the peppers, I served eggplant bruschetta.  Although some of the slices were too thin, everyone who ate it asked for seconds.  I think I will try this again.

 Personally, I enjoy tomatoes. Sliced tomatoes, salted and peppered, on toasted bread with mayonnaise are amazing.  I like my tomatoes roasted, sauteed, sliced, sundried or just popped in my mouth.  Unfortunately not everyone in my family shares this enthusiasm for the fruit.  But I try not to let this deter me from my enjoyment.  Last week I roasted a pan full of tomatoes and then pureed them into soup. (I scraped the juices off the pan with my spoon. Just the memory of that flavourful explosion makes me sigh in sheer delight). Oh soo good! And my picky little eaters will cheerfully eat tomato soup when you let them dip garlic croutons in it.  I almost didn't want to share it was that good.

 There were still piles of tomatoes left on my counter after making the soup. Then I stumbled on a recipe for tomato pie.  What on earth is tomato pie, I wondered? Intrigued, I read on to discover it is a Southern dish.  Well, my grandfather being born in Georgia and all, that sold it for me. My kidlets were enthusiastic about the fresh corn(a little too enthusiastic if you ask me as my pile of kernels started diminishing before even making it into the dish) while rather dismal towards the tomatoes. Thankfully, they did eat the pie, although one child made a nice little pile of tomatoes on her plate while my husband devoured his slice and had seconds.  That was some good pie. He even requested that I make this again.

 Now, lest you think I continually torture stretch my children's culinary palette, I did make them something they enjoyed.  Having leftover pork, I decided to make pork fried rice.  Oh, the happiness! Aris told me that I was the best mom ever, Zane complimented the meal in French(tres tres bien), and Kian dug in.

 In addition to the savoury dishes, I made some sweet things as well.  Veronica's husband had given me peaches. As they were rather bruised, I made peach muffins.  If you like peach cobbler, these are the muffins for you. Easy and yummy.  I also made two rhubarb crisps, one for a family dinner and one for multicultural night at school. There weren't any leftovers.  For youth group, I tried out English Toffee Bars.  Once again, these were a hit.  Very sweet, but that's perfect for teenagers. :) browser looks so much nicer now! I wonder what I'll cook this week.  If someone slips me some pears, I have a coffee cake I want to try.

 What did you cook last week?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Ride for Refuge 2011

Friday night, my daughter and I went for our longest bike ride yet.  It was sprinkling and approaching dusk but we headed out anyway.  It would have been nicer to stay at home, curled up with a good book.  We looked longingly at the couch, took a deep breath, adjusted out helmets and headed out.  The bike ride was mostly fun, except for the wet gravel.  Training wheels and wet gravel do not mix well as Aris soon discovered.  Aris was very frustrated as her bike kept getting stuck, but she pushed on.  She liked the pavement much better, although her one complaint was that she couldn't go fast enough.  "Mommy" she said" I like to go fast, but as hard as try I can't go faster than the cars".  I hadn't previously pegged my daughter as a speed demon.  Thankfully she still has many years before she can get her driver's license.  I was a bit nervous as she flew down hills, but she had no such compunctions.  Biking with my daughter is good for my spiritual life as I prayed A LOT during our journey.  Thankfully there were no accidents or major falls for either of us.  We did have many close calls though.

 So why did we go out on a drizzly night?  Well, Aris and I(and Steve and Zane and Kian) will be biking in the Ride for Refuge on Saturday, October 1st.  Originally known as the Ride for Refugees, this cycling event is dedicated to raising funds for those in need of shelter and care, wherever they may be found.  We are biking specifically in support of Welcome Home,  a refugee housing community.  As Aris has become aware of the world around her, she has realized that not everyone is blessed with a safe home with lots of food, clothing and friends.  In kindergarten she became friends with a little boy whose family sought refuge here in Canada.  Moved by his story, she wanted to do something to help.  She chose to ride in support of other refugees in our community and continues to do so, making this her third year riding.

 This is my very first time riding.  I volunteered for four years, doing sweep riding, welcoming and cheerleading.  Last year, I chose to walk alongside Aris.  Somewhat foolishly, I had assumed that she would only do a couple of kilometres on her bike.  Instead she did the full 10k with me walking alongside(and sometimes behind) her.  Although I have not ridden a bike in over 10 years, I decided that biking would be much easier than walking.  So I asked for a bicycle for my birthday and started training.  It's been a sacrifice.  Cycling is hard on my body.  But I realize how blessed I am, merely because of the accident of being born here.  My heart hurts for those who have endured injustice, famine, war and displacement.  I want to give something back, to make a difference, even if it's just something little.  So here I am, sore and nervous, preparing to ride 10k in less than a week. (Dear Lord, have mercy!)

 Would you, could you join with me?  If you could sponsor us, even $2 would be great.  But if not, could you pray or think good thoughts?  I'd appreciate the encouragement!  Go here to sponsor Aris and here to sponsor me.  Thank you!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Persevering In Family Time

 It's rare to have a perfect day with my family.  Perhaps this is common in most families, I can only speak for mine.  My children, while being beautiful, energetic little blessings, are not easy children. I have only to mention my children's names to get wide-eyed looks and whispered "How do you manage?"  They are not bad children, just spirited.  Very very spirited.

 Yesterday being Sunday we opted to have a family day.  After getting very good burgers for take-out, our family went for a bike ride.  It was a beautiful day, not too hot, not too cold.  It should have been perfect.  Instead, Steve and I exercised great patience and restraint in not ordering our children back to the house immediately after starting.  Kian was perfectly happy with his bike attached to Daddy's.  It was the other two who were too scared, or frustrated or tired of trying that tried our patience. There was much wailing and stopping of bikes directly in front of adults.  Thankfully, none of us wiped out(although Zane did fall off the monkey bars while playing at Steve's old school).  After much perseverance, we made it to our destination and back, without using our mean words.  This was indeed a victory!

 After accomplishing two family favourites(bike ride and special lunch), we decided to try for a third.  It was then that we almost struck out.  It took much negotiation, patience and some tears before we managed to get everyone out the door.  Even as we headed to the local games store for board game night, there were some very sullen expressions on little faces.  The children each picked out a special treat and then we snagged a corner to set up our game.   Much of the drama stemmed from the recognition that we did not have enough time to play Star Wars Monopoly.  Instead we cruelly forced our children to play one of their favourite games, Kids of Carcassonne. They love this game and ask to play it often.  But on the one night we only have enough time to play it, they seem to have relegated it to the list of "Things Parents Use to Torture Children". *sigh*  Once we started playing, they had a great time, even though one of them was still a little touchy.  I may have "helped" certain children win around the same time so as to avoid meltdowns.   Again, perseverance and patience were needed, but eventually we had a great family outing.

 I had to leave for youth group immediately after returning home.  I was a bit anxious after all the shouting that had been happening.  Oddly enough, the rest of the evening went quite well according to my husband.  Either they got it all out of their systems earlier, or we just need to be persistant more.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Following An Urge

 Have you ever had a nagging urge to do something a wee bit crazy?

 My dear friend Kate lives about three hours away.  Typically she comes here to visit as her house hasn't been the most practical for small people.  But as her birthday is coming up I felt a deep desire to surprise her with a visit.  I had lost her phone number(this happens when I scribble things on scrap pieces of paper as is my wont) so had to resort to a rather vague listing in the yellow pages.  Bravely I dialed the number after assuring myself the world would not end if I got the wrong person.  (Have I mentioned that I have issues?)  Thankfully Kate's mother answered right away and was delighted with my idea.

 The plan was to leave bright and early this morning. But you know the old saying about the best laid plans...Instead I woke up around the time I had wanted to leave, tired and grumpy.  It was an uphill battle to get everyone and all their stuff into the van.  Then off we headed for a long and beautiful drive.  My children kept complaining, somewhat uncharacteristically for them, that they were bored.  Tiredness does not extend my patience, so instead I gained invaluable practice in restraint, although I made crazy eyes a number of times.  Eventually, we arrived at our destination.

 Kate was out at the lake when we arrived.  She was thrilled to see us, especially Aris as they missed each other on her last visit.  After lunch we climbed rocks, went canoeing, ate chocolate mint(the plant), made tissue paper flowers, went swimming(children only), had snack on the deck(my children loved it so I made sure to get the recipe), and hiked to Kate's fort where we enjoyed second snack.  We also stayed for dinner.  It was a lovely day for all of us.  My kids were thrilled to see where Kate lives and I was so blessed to spend time with her.  We have been missing each other a lot since our road trip in July.

 After dinner we headed home with an abundance of produce.  Shortly after turning onto the main road, we spotted a bevy of wild turkeys on the road.  Steve crept up slowly, attempting not to scare them.  I was more excited than the kids. :)  We didn't see much in the way of wildlife, certainly no deer, bear or moose, but we did see a gorgeous sunset.  Kian fell asleep in the car and then we were home after a wonderful day away.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What We've Been Eating

 Several years ago, we started eating local food.  Even though we live in the warmest part of Canada, eating local limits our food choices, especially during the winter.  For this reason(and many others) I look forward to the warmer months with great anticipation.  I can put away my savoury soups featuring many ways of serving squash, carrots, sweet potatoes and other root vegetables, and instead focus on the spring and summer bounty.

 Unfortunately, I had a rough spring. The stress of finishing up with our church left me drained, emotionally and physically. I lost my creativity and my drive.  But after some much needed rest and vacation, my creativity and drive returned.  Most of my energy seems to have been packed in the checked luggage and hasn't arrived yet though.  I keep looking for it in the mail. :)

 Earlier this year, I bought a Moosewood cookbook.  I skimmed through it, but got distracted and put it aside.  It sat mostly unread on my shelf until two weeks ago.  Desperate for something to do with squash, I opened it up.  Let me tell you, that was a good move! (My children may respectfully disagree with that statement.) I have had so much fun cooking. Over the last two weeks I've made Greek Vegetable Pie, Mediterranean Eggplant Casserole, Pasta with Butternut squash and sage(I used acorn), vegetarian lasagna(with TVP instead of ground beef- my own creation and Zane's favourite), Shallot Vinaigrette, Pear and Thyme Vinaigrette, Cream of Brocoli soup(from my soup cookbook) and zucchini fritters.  I also made grilled and fried peaches.  My friends, we have eaten well!

 I have some recipes I'm excited to make this week and look forward to finding new ones to try as well.  I derived great pleasure and satisfaction from cooking(also from eating).  Being able to feed my family well(at least in my opinion) while being a good steward and using what is in my fridge has been quite rewarding.

 What have you been cooking?  Is anyone else making lifestyle changes? I forgot to mention that we're cutting even further back on meat, for ethical and monetary reasons.  Another reason why I am thankful for the Moosewood cookbook. :)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Jumping: MM 135-165

 It's hothothot, the hottest day of the hottest week of the summer, as I stand on a cliff, 20 feet above the water.   I carefully shuffle towards the edge, using my bare feet to cautiously feel out the dips in the rock as I cannot see clearly, my glasses left safely in the boat.  The water beckons invitingly below, but to get there I'm going to have to jump.  Fear has tight hold of my heart.  Will I fall wrong, hitting the cliff on the way down?  Will I land wrong?  Why did I think jumping from 20 feet was a good idea? This looks awfully high up....I breathe in, like my yoga instructor taught me and then, on the exhale, screw up my courage and jump out.  There is space between jumping and landing, I hang in the air for what seems like an eternity until SPLASH!  I hit the water, go down deep into the delicious coolness, kicking my way up to emerge laughing, triumphant.  Over to the rocks I swim, on my way to jump again. My fear is gone, only joy remains.  (And some water up my nose.)

 Weeks later, I cuddle in the darkness with my husband.  I am stepping out into new things, and fear has gripped my heart once again.  What if I fail? What if this is ripped away too?  Can I survive going through that once again?  We've had this conversation often over the last couple of years, but tonight the dialogue strays from it's well-worn grooves. He prays over me, stopping to talk, and then prays again.  As my heart opens, he prays into that as well.  I stay silent, uncharacteristic for me, meditating on his words and prayers.  Something shifts, though I'm not sure what.

 In the morning, I remember jumping into the lake.  I see myself in the same spot, wanting to trust, wanting to jump and yet terrified.  But I jumped and I can still remember the thrill of jumping and then  being fully immersed in the cool refreshing water.  Again, I choose to jump, metaphorically this time,  to step off the cliff and fall through the air into the ocean of God's grace.  And when I take that plunge, choosing to believe that God is good, no matter what befalls me, God pours out gifts on me, leaving me dripping with his goodness.

A few of God's gifts, so lovingly bestowed:
135. Smoke alarms. (Yes, there is a story there.)
136. God's protection in so many little, but important details
137. That baking soda and vinegar removed most of the black from my pot.
138. A good teacher for my little girl.
139. "Mommy, today went much better than I expected."
140. A glowing sunset as I drove.
141. A God-planned meeting with someone I've been praying for over the last several years and yet never expected to meet.
142. The reminder that God's family spreads around the globe.
143. Finding community as we strive to eat ethically.
144. A lift to the playgroup at my church.
145. Seeing Kian laugh and play delightedly with other children.
146. New dreams, new teens to love on.
147. Finding energy and motivation this week.
148. My Moosewood cookbook, lots of yummy recipes.
149. "Well, it wasn't the worst thing I've eaten"-from an eight year old
150. "It was good. I couldn't even taste the squash"-from my "I don't like squash" husband.
151. Hot 'n' ready pizza on the evening I can't find the energy to cook.
152. My husband's grace towards me on bad days.
153. His arms around me after I go postal because I am just so frustrated at how little energy I have.
154. My littlest putting away the cutlery.
155. Bright blond boy perched way up high on our neighbour's shoulders.
156. His enjoyment of my children.
157. Our small fire putting to rest my daughter's long held fears about fires.
158. My husband sharing how God is speaking to him.
159. Pink and white bouquet(with an orangey brown sunflower) on my table.
160. "Thank you for encouraging me to go, Mommy. It was good."
161. A sympathy card from my best friend.
162. A beautiful e-card from another best friend.
163. Many words of encouragement, from many different people.
164. Opportunities to conquer more fears.
165. Driving to Hamilton ALL BY MYSELF!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Belated Birthday Gelata

 A week ago today, I had a birthday. My friends and family did a great job of helping me celebrate, but one of them was away and decided that she need to celebrate me. I didn't turn her down. :)  So this evening, we headed out for gelata and drinks.

 I haven't been to the gelata place in a very long time.  My gelata was fantastic even though Keisha said the nutty gelata tasted like playdough.  The chai was the best chai I've ever had. It had a very strong cardamom flavour and may have even been dusted with cardamom. It was sooo good! I am still very happy. ;)

 In addition to yummy food and drink, we also enjoyed quality child-free conversation.  Our conversations were actually rather deep as we discussed creation and evolution, racism, segregation, multiculturalism and talking to children about race/ethnicity. I am so thankful for a group of friends that I can enjoy food, conversation and silliness with. I am blessed.