Tuesday, July 31, 2012

exhausted

Hey ya'll? I'm seriously exhausted. The new job and all the stuff I've got going on at home with trying to find an apartment and trying to figure out how we're selling the truck/buying an SUV and all the emotional impact of the past few months? It's getting to me.

I came home from work yesterday and slept for three hours straight, couldn't pull myself out of bed at all. I'm tired. So we're having a bit of a programming break here. Imma go take a nap.

My question to you is this: what do you do when life is catching up to you and you're just exhausted?

Monday, July 30, 2012

life, and musings in general

This has been a hard year for me, so far. (And for Bunny, too.) A really, incredibly difficult year. A lot of things that have happened since 2012 began I really could have done without. Deaths, moves that I wasn't excited about (but have since come to terms with), six long months of unemployment and a fruitless job search while Bunny was in school, difficulties finding Bunny the job he needed in the career he loves.

With all the avalanche of just plain bad and flat out difficult and general struggle that the past seven months have been absolutely brutal in some ways. Painful, uncomfortable, disheartening; I could easily describe this year with any of those adjectives. So far, 2012 has had a lot of the suck going on. In fact, in some ways it is shaping up to be the worst year of my life, and that right there is a big statement. I've never had so much of the hard stuff in one little bitty time frame. I really just can't wrap my head around all the sh*t that's gone down in the past seven months.

There's been a lot of good in the year, too. Really reaffirming that my relationship with Bunny is strong, and flexible, and can grow. Knowing that we are both capable of being each other's rock when we need it. Realizing that Bunny completely knows about my bullsh*t need to yell at people who are mostly blameless when I'm mad at the world and doesn't take it personally, and me myself catching myself and stopping myself and apologizing in the moment as opposed to only being able to do damage control after the fact. (Hopefully that means I'm on track to stop myself before that even starts, next time.) Seeing how clearly our goals line up for the big important and long term stuff, and noting how we're both willing to give a little when it's necessary. Having proof positive that Bunny's willing to make the same sort of personal sacrifices for my happiness that I've made for his in the past few years. Realizing that I am, in fact, capable of pulling my shit together and being professional at work even when my life is falling apart. That came as a really big surprise, actually. Making big life changes that are uncomfortable and make me angry but end up feeling just plain right once I give them time to settle in.

2012 is also the year that Bunny and I are going to get married. (Just don't ask us for details or dates, we've given up trying to plan this thing and are just going to do it on the fly.) That one act? That is enough to almost completely balance out all the cr*p that 2012 has thrown at me.

This has been a year of learning how to have some sort of grace in the face of loss and general life crappiness. It's been learning how to assert my needs when I'm down and out, which is something I'm historically terrible at. I'm still not very good at it, but at least I'm not so awful at it either. It's been backing up and recognizing that my way isn't always the right way, and certainly isn't the only way. It's been staring down some of my biggest life dreams and finding out a way to be ok when the floor falls out from under me. Pulling myself together, at least on the surface, because I have a life I need to live and I can't always just stop everything because I want to stay home and cry. It's knowing that some things I can bail on for no other reason than to stay home and cry, and that even when I can't bail that there's always time to cry later. It's recognizing that when things are, in fact, that bad that I can cry like a banshee .... but I don't have to be alone for that. It's been learning to recognize my limits for rational thought when things aren't going well, and accepting the fact that I am incapable of making a trivial decision like what to eat or where to sit down when things are going really, really badly. It's knowing that even though the minutiae paralyze me in those moments that I can handle the important decisions, and the hard ones.

There's been a lot of snuggling lately. A lot of emotionally drained napping. A lot of sitting around and staring at nothing, because sometimes just being conscious and living through a sh*tty moment is already more than I can take. There hasn't been any cooking, really for most of the last two weeks. I've come to terms with the fact that there is such a thing, for me, as too upset to cook and that it comes with being too upset to eat. There's been a lot of eating just because it makes Bunny happy to see me eat lately. (Which, for now, is as good a reason as any to eat. Soon I'll hopefully start actually enjoying food again.)

It`s been a damn hard year, thus far. And that`s ok, hard years happen. But even when life sucks, there are bright spots and it`s all the more important to hold on to your silver linings. Right now? I'm just glad that 2012 is more than halfway over.

Friday, July 27, 2012

a new "uniform": the blazer

My wardrobe has been under construction for awhile, now, really. Losing weight has forced me to buy some new clothes, and given that I'm not made of money I have to be fairly strategic about what to buy. I look at basics, and at pieces that can help me stretch what I already have. Starting the new job recently has also made me examine how professional my wardrobe is, and how to up the ante in that respect.

There's been a runaway favourite here, that's really become my new staple piece of clothing. The blazer. I mean, it's practically like the orange leather jacket, or my awesome vintage coat but I can wear them every day. And oh wow, do they dress up even the most casual of outfits.

My workplace is pretty casual. The description is more casual business than business casual. Emphasis on the casual. Jeans and a tee shirt are completely acceptable wear. Except I don't feel professional in just jeans and a tee shirt. Feeling professional and put together in my work clothes helps set my mindset for the workday.

And you know what? A blazer on top of anything makes me feel professional. Over the past month or so I've managed to make a little collection. I have cropped blazers and normal length, I have lightweight cotton blazers in teal, coral, royal blue, and white. I even have two black blazers. One button, two button and three button blazers are all represented in my closet. I even have my fancy interview blazer that looks like a conductor's jacket. I have cropped blazers, and full length blazers. I'm just a little bit in love with these blazers.

I throw one on over skinny jeans and a tank top, and suddenly I feel professional, polished and put together. I feel chic and stylish. I can throw one on over any of my dresses, and I look like I actually put a little extra thought into my outfit. If I'm wearing neutrals underneath, I put on a colourful blazer to add some "pop" to the look, if I'm otherwise colourful the black or the white blazer grounds the look (also, I am on the lookout for dark and light grey, navy blue and brown blazers. I'm addicted).

Do you have a piece of clothing that you are almost always wearing? Or a new fashion addiction? If so, what is it??

Thursday, July 26, 2012

life, and what we don't talk about

There's a lot that we, as a society at large, don't really talk about. Or, if we do talk about, it's with kid gloves on, carefully chosen phrases and avoid actual engaging in the issue. Lately I'm thinking that it's a little isolating, a little lonely.

When the sex part of our relationships is having a downswing, we don't really talk about it. Unless it's in arguments or a strong reaction, we seem to avoid talking about a woman's right to choose (heck, I'm even avoiding the word "abortion" here, for no good reason). People don't, as a rule, talk about fertility issues. Certainly we don't talk about miscarriage. We don't talk about fraught issues with family relationships or broken friendships. Or, how it feels when your dog dies and how you might cry for weeks or months after that. We don't talk about how useless it can feel when someone you love has lost someone they love and there's nothing you can do.

Well, sometimes we talk about those things. Usually in more vague terms, or, even when being specific, avoiding delving too deeply into the emotions of the whole thing. So often I find that when the subjects do finally come up it's after the fact. Once we've made it through the most intense of the emotional storm that accompanies the bare facts.

I'm thinking maybe it's an issue of vulnerability. It's easy to say "I've had that issue, in the past" or "awhile ago, this happened". It's not easy to say "Hey, hold up. I'm in the middle of a shitstorm. And it f*%&ing hurts." Especially when you're seeing the people who are now in the know every day. We don't want to be fragile and broken and vulnerable in front of even our closest friends.

It's hard to say that the our world is falling apart, even if we know things are going to be ok in the end. Even when we're holding it together (if only just).

On my end, we've had a really up and down and all over the place year. There's been some very, very good things going on lately (see: my new job, that I am seriously loving) and some very, very bad things (see: someone I love died and it sucks).  Sometimes I'm swinging back and forth from one extreme to the other, and sometimes I'm torn between the wonderful and the awful that are happening at the same time.

I could use some middle ground. Somewhere from which to gain some perspective. I'm thinking, too, that maybe (just maybe) it's time that everyone start talking more about all these awkward, painful, uncomfortable topics. Except I'm not really all that ready to start, myself, so how can I expect the rest of the world to be?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

summer cooking

I don't have an easy time cooking in the summer. It's hot, and sticky, and I don't really want to turn on the oven. I'm a freak of nature in that I'm not a huge BBQ fan, so that only hits the menu about once a week at Bunny's request (and he gets to cook). So, that leaves me with a stovetop, a microwave and a Foreman grill.

Which is great, except for the fact that there's only so much pasta we can eat, that I can only make fried rice so many times before we start getting sick of it. Most of my more complicated stovetop meals are of the heavier variety, and feel a little too hearty for the summer heat. I can make salads, but Bunny loves to tell me that he doesn't like eating rabbit food.

The real issue, though, is I've got a lot going on right now and I'm just not interested in food. I have no inspiration, and summer doesn't really lend itself to my favourite set-it-and-forget-it type meals.

Which is all to say that I need some help here. I'm desperately in need of some great summer recipes that can feed a woman with a little appetite as well as a human garbage disposal. So, I'm hoping you guys can help me out. What are your favourite summer foods?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

life, when it sucks

*So, for the record, these posts are often written days and/or weeks before they go up. Recipes aren't time sensitive, book reviews aren't time sensitive, and when I ramble about personal stuff I like to give myself the time to self-edit if I so want and/or need. So certain date information contained herein applies to me, as I'm writing, not the rest of the world as you're reading. And now, onward.

Today sucks. Today sucks. Today sucks. Today f&%$ing sucks.

So yes, the point is today sucks. Today, as I'm writing, is exactly two months to the day since Bunny's father died. But today doesn't suck because of that. Today sucks because of other shitty medical stuff that's going on in life right now, that I'm not 100% ready to talk about. It seems ironic to spend the two month anniversity of Poppa Bunny's death in the same ER we spent the morning in.

*Sidenote: everyone is ok. No one is seriously sick or injured. Please don't worry about that.

So today's been hard. Really, really hard. You know what, though? That's ok. It's ok to have hard, terrible, sh*tty days. They happen. Everyone gets dealt a cr*p hand sometimes. Today just happened to be my day. (Well, maybe there have been a few too many cr*p hands lately. But it'll all even out, eventually).

So here's my plan, and here's what I've been telling myself: that it is ok to be upset, and it is ok to be frustrated and hurt and annoyed. But worrying about the outcome? That's not ok. I have no control of how things work out, no matter how desperately I wish that I could affect things. This is out of my hands, and I'm going to let it go.

The waiting for information bit, though? That f*%&ing sucks.

Monday, July 23, 2012

book review: the lions of al-rassan

I am a huge fan of Guy Gavriel Kay's writing. I've read all the fiction he's ever put out, though I've yet to really delve into his poetry. I mean to, at some point. It was almost inevitable that I end up adoring him: a fellow Canadian, who writes fantasy. Historical fantasy, no less.

This isn't the first time I've read The Lions of Al-Rassan, and I'm sure it won't be the last. My copy is so well read that it has no cover, although I can't take all the credit for that as it was a used-bookstore purchase and the cover had half fallen off when I bought it. I love all his books, but this one in particular I keep coming back to.
It takes place in a fantasy version of Spain, and parts of the plot are based on the first Crusade. Religion and the interplay between faith, belonging and how people of one religion can relate to those of another weigh heavily in the book. Kay has created three fantasy religions to stand in for Christianity (the Jaddites), Judaism (the Kindath) and Islam (the Asharites). He uses these religions (well, the whole fantasy world, really) in several of his other books, and by removing the religions we so well know and replacing them with made up versions is able to make some keen insights and commentary. The pseudo-Spain he sets the world in is richly populated and fleshed out well, and it's a comfortable world to slip into. His creates this beautifully rich world for us to slip into, and he uses his setting to create the atmosphere and the mood.

The Lions of Al-Rassan has three main characters: Rodrigo Belmonte, a Jaddite knight and captain (based loosely on El Cid), Ammar ib Khairan, an Asharite poet, warrior and politician, and Jehane bet Ishak, a Kindath doctor. Though the grander plot within the book is based on the Crusades, reading it we see through these three sets of eyes and their relationships with each other drive the story.

The stories are tangled and interwoven. What happens in one area of the Kay's world can have great impacts on other areas, given that our main characters are power players in this world with Belmonte and ibn Khairan both being military leaders for their respective peoples.

There is so much depth and beauty in this book that I barely know where to begin with my review of it. There's this grand commentary on religion and bigotry and the truth (or lack thereof) that can be found within stereotypes. Two secondary characters end up adopting the habits and attire of other religions, and Kay explores this cultural appropriation in a very poignant way. The backstory of the novel is rich where it needs to be, but isn't given too much weight so as to be distracting to the main plotlines.

Kay uses foreshadowing better than almost any other fantasy author I can think of, and from a very early moment in the book begins to hint at what the final climax of the book entails, without giving away anything of the outcome. The climax itself makes me want to cry, and is so beautifully written. I'd say more but it's the moment that the entire book builds to, so I don't want to give it away.

I also find the women in his book, particularly Jehane and Miranda Belmonte and Queen Ines to be compelling. Their personalities and professions, the ways in which they conduct their lives, are set in contrast to a male-dominated world where women aren't given power and agency over their own lives or choices. Watching the ways in which they go about achieving their very different goals is interesting. Jehane, in a way, has the most control of her life; she is able to pursue her education and career as a physician by virtue of the fact that she was born a Kindath. Miranda and Ines, who are powerful women on political stages, have less choice in their own lives but are able to find their own styles of power within their relationships.

All in all? I've read this book a half a dozen times, and will likely read it many more times. This is an all around winner.

Friday, July 20, 2012

life, and settling and announcements

Two months ago, my world was something of a fog. Like someone had pressed the pause button, or turned on the slow-motion effect.

Today things couldn't be more different. I mean, yeah, I'm still living in my mom's basement (weird). Yeah, we're still in a very impermanent situation.

But there have been big changes. Things are starting to become "normal" now, if that's what you want to call this. There's a rhythm to my day, and it's quite predictable. There's a cadence to how things move about, how I interact with myself, and the world and all of that. Some of those changes are, most definitely, attitude. There's a sense of releasing and letting go some of the anger at the world for doing this to my life, and having me in a position I didn't want to be in. Some of them are attitude, in reaction to other things (good things) that are going on.

Some of them are just cool. Like the fact that I started a new job three weeks ago. Yeah, I've kept that one under wraps for awhile, but I wanted to get through the bulk of training before I said anything. I still have plenty more training. Here's the thing: the job is a bit of an off-limits topic on the internet. I don't really think I have any business telling the world the specifics of who I work for and what I do and how I like it. So don't expect too much more in the way of updates .... but hey! Regular money! Sweet! Having things to do during the day! Sweet!

Life, being life, is intent on teetering along full steam ahead. We're busy around here, and it's just going to be getting busier.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

rantz on schooling

The idea of gender-segregated classrooms has been around for awhile now, and in the past when I read about segrated classes I used to get a queasy, slightly uncomfortable feeling and then shrug it off as something that didn't really affect me. Except of course, it totally does. The class configuration the next generations of students go through affects everyone.

Everything I've read says that boys do better in gender-segregated classrooms and girls do better in mixed classes. (Has anyone read studies saying differently?) I've also heard lots of concerns that boys are falling behind in graduation rates and the pursuit of post-secondary educational acheivements compared to girls.

Honestly? It's not that I don't care, but I don't care. I don't think it's relevant. And I don't think it will be relevant until men and women are treated with equality, both by their peers and by society at large.

I don't see segregated classrooms helping with equality. When so many people can't take women and women's accomplishments and goals and ambitions as seriously as those of men, when we still only earn 70 cents on the dollar ... I can't help think that this will only serve to enforce gender inequality.

If we separate the sexes in the classroom, we take away the opportunity for children to grow up thinking of the opposite sex as peers. We create a divide, and different worlds full of "boy things" and "girl things" and that's bogus. If children aren't learning to socialize with their peers and how to interact with people of the opposite sex as children, how do we realistically expect men and women, as adults, to be able to treat each other as peers?

Of course, that's only the argument against it that rankles me the most. I'm sure there are other arguments against gender segregation (and plenty of arguments for the same segregation).

What do you think? Do you like the idea of gender segregated classrooms? Why or why not?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

things that make me happy

It's been a nice week or so around here, and I wanted to take a minute to celebrate a few things that have made me happy lately. So here goes!

  • Drive in movie dates. Or, drive in movie double dates with my in laws. Super fun times were had by all, even if we did fall asleep during parts of Avengers
  • Bunny's ring, which has been bought. What, you mean it's time we get this party started already?
  • Fireflies! There were fireflies and they are beautiful!
  • Downtown on a beach. I haven't managed to make my way there this year, yet, but it's one of my favourite parts of Barrie.
  • MotoGP Season! I love me my races, and I love watching them together with Bunny even more.
  • Garage sales! Great stuff, for under cheap prices and all the fun of trying to find it.
  • Lightweight blazers. Because nothing feels as professional as a blazer.
  • Having a reason to dress up professionally. Heck yes!
  • Finding another one of Bunny's tickle spots. This one may be even weirder than the belly button.
  • New jeans! Jeans that fit. Skinny jeans and boot cut jeans and having options of what to wear on my bottom.
  • New dresses. I've got some serious cuteness going on in my closet.
  • Credit for shoes. SHOES! I like me some shoes.
  • Having a laundry machine. This appliance makes my life complete, and it makes me sad to know that we won't have one once we move out. I love doing laundry here! (Just not putting it away.)
  • Puppycuddles! Always top of the list, really.
  • Bunny being super happy with the shop he's working at. It's refreshing to see him happy with his work situation again.
  • New opportunities and changes on the horizon, and hitting home.
  • Surviving six months of shitstorms. Coming out stronger on the other end.
How about you? What's awesome that's going on in your life lately?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

simple almond pesto

Pasta's a staple around here, as I'm sure it is in many houses. Unfortunately I'm a little particular about pasta sauces (result of my long standing, inexplicable hatred of the tomato. I seriously can't stand those things) and so I end up eating a lot of lazy pasta with just olive oil or butter and cheese, and tons of pasta with alfredo sauce, and lots of mac and cheese and the like.

It's summer though, and alfredo and mac and cheese are pretty heavy. Undressed pasta gets pretty boring after awhile (unless its fancy ravioli, which I do really need to try my hand at) and clearly it was time to change things up. A pesto seemed just the way to do that. Just one problem, and one you've heard before: I'm cheap. And pinenuts are expensive. So I said screw that, I'm using almonds. It worked just fine, I think.

This is for a tiny batch, four servings. It doesn't make a lot, but what it does has some punch. When I first turned the processor on with the basil in there the kitchen filled up with the most wonderful bright, green scent. It even tastes green. (I'm not crazy, I sweat, but that's the most accurate description.)

Ingredients
  • 1 large handful of fresh basil
    • that translates to about one cup, or 40grams but this is a very rough measurement
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons almonds or other nuts of your choice
    • I used blanched and unsalted, but you can use roasted
    • pine nuts are much more traditional, but they're not cheap
  • 1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  • salt to taste
Directions
  1. In a food processor (or a blender, or a magic bullet - use what you have), grind up your nuts until they're somewhat mealy.
  2. Add the basil to the processor, pulse for a couple of seconds. This is just to break up the basil a bit and mix it with the nuts before the oil goes in. (I find things mix up better this way.) This is where it starts to smell good.
  3. Add the olive oil to the processor and give it a few whirls. You're looking for the basil to break down completely and for all three components to start to mix together. Scrape down the bowl once or twice between whirls.
  4. When everything is well blended, add the parmesan and give it a final spin or two, just to evenly distribute the cheese throughout the sauce.
  5. You have almond pesto! Pour it over some freshly cooked pasta (or mix it up with the pasta) and enjoy. Or do some other crazy things with it - use it as sandwich spread, or to marinate some chicken or whatever makes you happy.

Monday, July 16, 2012

george rr martin is brilliant

Does the title say it all? I finally finished the five books that Martin's released so far in A Song of Ice and Fire and I couldn't be more thrilled. The hype? Entirely called for, in my opinion. And for those of you who've seen the TV show but not read the books yet, well, all I can say is that the books are even better.

I'm going to try and stay away from discussing specific plot points and mentioning who lives and who dies, so I don't spoil things for those who haven't read them yet. Because you need to read these books.

The first thing that blew me away, particularly in the first three books, was the pacing. I was really impressed with how A Game of Thrones was paced as the first book in the series. It didn't feel like a prelude or a setup to the rest, it felt like a great story in and of itself. It moved, and flowed, and when one chapter finished I couldn't wait to get to the next part of the storyline. It just kept getting better. A Storm of Swords, which was third in the series blew my mind. The action and plotlines just kept getting better, and somehow book three was better than the first two books combined (which was a pretty hard feat, let`s be honest).

Another thing that I adored was how well written and well developed the characters were. Especially the female characters. The women and girls in these books are diverse - from the meek and ladylike Sansa to her wild sister Arya (who, just maybe, is my personal favourite) to Cersei with her sly, manipulative ways to Daenaerys Targaryen who starts the series as a scared little mouse being given away in marriage and moves forward to become this amazing, ass kicking, powerful, regal force. (Remember how I said Arya was my favourite? I take that back.) Too often, in my mind, when men are writing the female characters are stereotypes, or undeveloped, or they do one great woman but can't write any other female personalities.

I also enjoyed the fact that as the books go on Martin continues to introduce new characters. New, interesting, complex characters; it's hard to introduce a new character to a series and have them be just as engaging and intriguing as the characters we start the series with. Every book brings new characters, or moves secondary characters into a spotlight.

At first the books were a little overwhelming, with so many characters and so many different, divurgent plotlines but as the books went on one of the most exciting bits was watching how the plots were woven together and how things that were happening on one side of the world were having rippling, trickling affects on the other side. The backstory Martin works with is rich and leads well into the "current" state of affairs, and he feeds the audience tidbits of backstory throughout the books as things go on and on.

I couldn't put these books down, which is saying something. I read these five in rapid-fire progression, and more than once I stayed up to the wee hours of the morning to continue reading. The only thing that made me put these books down? When I was so tired that my eyes wouldn't focus and I literally could not read another word if I tried.

I did have two complaints, though they're relatively minor. I enjoy the fact that Martin's not afraid to kill off main characters (particularly his protagonists), because it added depth and reality to the story. Where I got annoyed, though, was with how often he would do fake outs. He'd end a chapter with something that seemed like it must be a character death and then come back half a book later ... with the character alive. It got to be unrealistic. I mean, really, you expect me to believe that after an axe comes crashing down on an unprotected skull that the character is going to be still alive? No, I don't buy it. Several characters have fake deaths, and it became overdone. Had it happened once or twice, it might have been a great plot device, but it happened too often. Now, that's not to say that the supernatural returns to life were unappreciated. Just the fake outs. I'd like him to stop with those, really.

The other thing, and I hate to admit it, is that I found A Feast for Crows (book 4) to be weak, compared to all the others. I think a few things went into that judgment. Because the books had been getting stronger up to that point, I was looking for that trend to continue. Book three blew my mind, and I didn't feel like book four lived up to it. It slowed and stagnated and just didn't interest me as much. The other "issue" (if you can call it that, because it was intentional) was that I just didn't find the characters the book focused on engaging. Book four focused on what was going on in King's Landing and the mainland of Westeros, leaving out the characters that are in more remote places. I didn't find the characters book four revolved around to be interesting and their storylines and personalities just didn't resonate with me and interest me as much as a lot of the others.

Book five? Loved it and can't wait for the next one. What I don't like is it ended with what appears to be (appears to be) the death of another character. It's going to piss me off more than a little if s/he is dead, and it's going to piss me off if he isn't, because he's been there, done that. So we'll see.

I can't wait for the next book to come out.


So, since I've finished these, I'm on to something new. I've got Philippa Gregory's The River Queen in my purse, and another Christopher Moore waiting for me to crack it open. After that? I'm hoping to get my hands on the Joy Luck Club.

Your turn! What are you reading right now? What do you like (love?) about it, and what's falling flat?

Friday, July 13, 2012

crab and peppers cream cheese dip

The last time I made a crab dip, I wasn't entirely happy with how it turned out. I've been muddling around with dips for awhile now, and I've figured something out. I like cream cheese dips. Given how much I love my spinach dip this shouldn't surprise me. I loathe mayonaisse, so there's no way I'm ever going to base a dip on the stuff. I tolerate yogurt in curries and while cooking, but I don't actually like the stuff. Sour cream? Even the name grosses me out, and I won't even use it in cheesecake. Apparently I have an issue with viscous white condiments. Who knew? (I used to hate cream cheese too, actually, but have recently embraced it for baking purposes.) That all being the case, I'm not even going to try and use any of those. I'd just hate the results. That being said, if you're into dips based on those things there's a million on the internet for you, or you can use these as a base to build from.

So, this dip? It has tons of crab in it, because I tend to feel like crab dips tend towards the runny and I wanted this to be a little more hearty. And I used real crab, though the canned kind. I didn't see a point in making a dip with the fake crab that doesn't have the right texture. I added the onions and peppers to give this some more crunch and texture (and so I can pretend I'm having a vegetable).

For the record, this was a hit. And just as good the next day for lunch. With the crab meat, grated parmesan and vegetable pieces this has a great textural contrast. I served this with tortilla chips (ummm ... well, let's not pretend that this is a healthy dinner, shall we?) and found that between the chips, the parmesan and the crab the salt levels were pretty perfect. If you're using pita or bread to dip this in, add a bit of salt to your dip to round out your flavours.

Ingredients
  • 400 grams of cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 2 cans crab meat
  • 2 green peppers, finely chopped
  • 1/2 sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400* F.
  2. Drain the canned crab.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the cream cheese, parmesan, garlic powder and white pepper until the spices are pretty evenly mixed.
  4. Add the onions and peppers and mix until things are well combined.
  5. Add the crab meat to the mixture and stir it in carefully. By adding the crab last and stirring gently, we're able to keep the crab in chunks and get more contrast in texture.
  6. Transfer to an oven-safe baking dish, and bake for about 10-15 minutes or until the dip is bubbly and the top has begun to brown.
  7. Serve with some amazing things to dip!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

life, and inheritance

Growing up, I would always pay attention to the way Bunny's family would head up north to the trailer. In November, I would note that Bunny and his father went on vacation together and often as not would come home with a deer.

The summer after Bunny and I became an item, we went on our first real vacation. A camping trip way up north with some of the most miserable weather imaginable. So bad that one day I ended up hiding in the truck, with the heat blasting and about five layers on. We ended up calling it quits and heading up to his parents' trailer for the last few days, the weather was no nasty.

His parents' trailer. Well, that's not it anymore. That's our trailer now. Everything up north is Bunny and mine, now. I have a hard time wrapping my head around this. It feels awkward and uncomfortable. I love that trailer, but I don't want it to be ours. I don't want to be anyone else's, really, I just don't feel right about it being ours.

Inheritance is like a shitty consolation prize. The things that are left to you might be wonderful, and generous and amazing. They might be life changing, or more hassle than they are worth. But for the immediate family, and anyone close enough to the dead to inherit something, inheritance doesn't feel so good. At least not for me. It's like someone saying "hey I'm sorry you can't have the strongest male role model you've ever had in your life, but here, have these things instead". As if that makes it better. As if that makes it ok that someone you love is gone.

There are some great things about having the trailer. It's one of the places that Bunny and his dad had a lot of quality bonding time, and it's a place that we rarely went without his parents. It's surrounded with awesome neighbours. It's a beautiful trailer, and it has everything you might need in a trailer. In my mind, though, it's still a place that belongs completely to Momma and Poppa Bunny. I would just rather have Poppa Bunny back.

Have you ever inherited something? How did you feel about that? Was it awkward?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

spectacles and identity

Awhile ago I mentioned that I had recently procured new eyeglasses, for the first time in more than four years. I'd been wearing the last pair since my last year in university, since before Bunny and I were, well, Bunny and I.

I have really bad eyes. Like, if this were hundreds of years ago, and we were hunter gatherers living in the woods, I'd have wandered into the mouth of a bear decades ago, or stumbled into a tree and hurt myself so bad that I'd never get up again. Good thing I live in a modern world, where we have corrective lenses that can fix things.

I've been wearing my glasses since about third grade, and they're full time things. If I want to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, I had best put on my glasses or I'll walk into a wall. I can't survive without these things. I've played with contacts at various points in my life, but I hate taking them out. I'm a weirdo in that I can handle poking around my eyes to put them in, but when I'm taking them out I'm libel to have a panic attack that omg, this thing is stuck in my eye and I can't get it off. My physical claustrophobia is a touch extreme, in this regard. It's not helped by the fact that once I get the first contact out, I have fuzzy, crazy double vision from one good eye and one bad. So as a general rule, I don't wear contacts. Although, they have come out with dailies (finally! just in the last few months) in my prescription, so I may give them another whirl.

I'm always wearing my glasses though. Always. They're an extention of my physical self, as much a part of my as the freckle on the palm of my hand, or the dimple in my cheek or my hair. So choosing new ones is a big deal.

I've very fussy about my glasses. After so many years of wearing them, I know pretty clearly what looks good on me and what doesn't. I know what feels like "me". I look best, and feel most like myself, in small, rectangular frames. Basic black, always, because it goes with everything, including my colouring. I love the red, and pink and purple and blue frames and have had them in the past, but I'm not the biggest fan of them for everyday wear. I find they stand out too much, and I want people to see me past the glasses. I like the plastic frames, with none of those little "feet" because they bother my nose. If I scrunch up my face, I don't want to feel the bottom of my frames. It's also been drilled into my head that I must choose small frames or the lenses will be coke-bottles. Because I stay so basic with the frames, I like the arms to be interesting. My last frames had some little daisies on the arms. They were cute, and playful and Bunny loved them. I take all of this into account, and I take a good half day choosing frames.

So, I chose new frames. Black, plastic, rectangular. These ones are a little wider than the last frames (Bunny says this lets you see my face more, but he was the one who pulled these ones off the shelf, and made me give them a second shot after I dismissed them so he's biased) and the lines are harder, the edges don't have the same slight roundness. They've also got these really cool arms: a rosy gold/taupey colour with all sorts of random patterned lines in black over them. These glasses fit my requirements, feel good on my face, and really feel like me. Except sometimes, they feel like a different version of me, a little bit more sophisticated and grown up without the flowers. I feel more angular in them, from my cheekbones to my hipbones with the straightness of the lines.

When I chose the sunglasses I decided that I wanted them to be fun. I wanted something different. These were more playful, and I decided that I wanted colour. I also wanted bigger lenses (screw the coke bottle effect) so that I would have more sun protection. So I chose something different. Green frames, more square than rectangular, fun arms again, and they cover about a third of my face. I've never had prescription sunglasses before, and I'm loving them.

The thing is, though, I feel like a different person when I put on the sunglasses. I feel like a bit of a badass, hiding behind the tinted lenses. I feel how differently the shape fits on my face, and I feel like a different person. More mysterious, maybe. I like that they stop my eyes from watering all the time, and if they do water you can't see it behind the lenses.

New glasses can feel like putting on a costume, or dressing in a style that's completely not mine. It's play. Does anyone else feel this way?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

pasta alfredo with crab and broccoli

I know, you must be sick of alfredo recipes from me by now. I've given you plenty. (Heck, even the non-alfredo pasta recipes I've given you involve cheese. There is pesto on my horizons though, and I promise I will come out with a few cheese-less recipes at some point.) But here's the thing: pasta alfredo is dead easy to make, and infinitely variable. You can add any ingredients you like, or none at all. You can make the sauce fancier by caramelizing some onions and garlic first, like I'm doing here, or you can leave things be.

This variation is inspired by my standby in university, which was pasta with Club House alfredo sauce, frozen peas and fake crab. Fastest, easiest go to meal of university. Or at least the most frequent one I made. I've stuck with the fake crab (for the sake of my pocketbook), but upgraded everything else. Frozen peas have been switched for fresh broccoli, and I'm using my same basic alfredo sauce. The onions and garlic are just to add a little more dimension.

I don't get bored of this, really. It's just all about changing things up. I think you've got a few ideas on how to do that, by now.

Ingredients:
  • about 500 grams dry pasta, cooked according to package directions (I used a fusilli)
  • 3/4 cups freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup butter + 2 tsp butter
  • 1/2-2/3rds cups cream (again, I'm using a light 5% cream, but go with what makes you happy)
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 2 small heads of broccoli, cut into florets
  • 1 small sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Directions
  1. In a medium skillet over high heat, heat 2 tsp butter. When the butter melts, add the onions and garlic to the skillet, and cook at a high heat, until the onions start to go brown. This takes awhile.
    • I used a 9" nonstick skillet, and it took about 10 minutes for the onions to begin to brown around the edges.
  2. As you continue to cook down your onions, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. When it comes to the boil, add your pasta and cook according to package directions. Throw the broccoli in with the pasta and let them cook together.
    • I used fusili, which takes about 9 minutes to cook. So all the time directions here are based on 9 minutes of pasta cooking. If your pasta takes less than 9 minutes, put the broccoli in first. If it takes more than 9 minutes, add your broccoli with about 9 minutes left.
  3. While the pasta cooks, continue to caramelize your onions. They'll get really dark and yummy. You've already spent about 10 minutes cooking onions by now, expect at this point to spend another 10.
  4. When you have about three minutes of cook time left on your pasta, turn the heat down to medium on your onions and add the rest of the butter to the skillet with the onions and melt it down.
  5. Once your butter is melted, add the cream to the pan. You'll want to vigorously stir this to incorporate both elements. After everything's mixed up, let the mixture bubble for a bit - that's the part that allows the cream to thicken the sauce. Stir it now and again to make sure things don't burn on the bottom of your pan.
  6. Set aside about a cup of your pasta water.
  7. Drain your pasta.
  8. Add the cheese to your sauce. Mix it up a bit. Let the cheese dissolve.
  9. Add the pasta and broccoli (that you put in with the pasta) to the sauce. Mix it all around.
  10. Optional: If you feel like the sauce isn't coating the pasta well, add some of your pasta water, and continue to mix it up. This will thin your sauce a little bit more than it already is, but since alfredo is so heavy that doesn't bother me. You'll also get the bonus of the starch water helping your sauce stick to your pasta.
  11. Serve. Eat. Garnish with a little more parmesan.

Monday, July 09, 2012

new clothes

I've had a woefully sad wardrobe the past little while. It still needs some pruning. Really, I need to try on everything I own again and figure out what still fits. More things don't fit than do, lately. I really shouldn't be complaining, because it's also a sign that I'm getting closer to being at a healthy weight that I'm completely comfortable with. But having clothes that are too big is a sneaky, insidious little problem. I say "oh, they 'still fit'" because I can get them over my body.

But when the pants won't stay up and the shoulders are constantly falling off, maybe it's time to reconsider. I also have an excuse to be buying new clothes, though I'll let you in on that one later.

So Bunny and I spent part of the long weekend acquiring new clothes. I did pretty well, and I feel like I came home with enough basics (and a few "specials") that I can use to create a dozen or two complete outfits. So I could maybe show up the same place everyday without looking like I'm wearing the same outfit everyday. Even if I totally am.

How'd I do? Well, a roundup of my closet reveals that I have come home with:

  • 3 summer blazers (in coral, royal blue, and white). Toss one on over any basics (even a tank top and jeans) and they take things from casual to slightly professional and a little bit stylish.
  • 2 pairs of jeans. I have a confession, and I'm not so proud of it: I've been buying my jeans from Old Navy for about a decade. I'm cheap when it comes to jeans, and I don't generally love the idea of spending out my ass for them. (Although I have been drooling over Silver for awhile, and might buy a dress pair in the future.) It's hard to find well fitting, decently made jeans. Old Navy does that, and I don't argue with the fact that they fit. So I bought a pair of my standard bootcut jeans, and (since they were on sale) I got all experimental and got some super skinnies too. This brings me to a total of 5 pairs of wearable pants. One pair dress pants, one pair capris that are too big but I can still make work, and three pairs of jeans ... although the one pair are so pale blue that I feel like I'm sixteen when I put them on. (Granted, I was nineteen when I bought that pair.)
  • A super cute fooler dress. White, sleeveless satin top part with a grey skirt and black trim. It's super cute, looks put together and I can add some pizazz to it as an outfit by wearing it with the coral or blue blazer.
  • A sun dress. That I can totally wear as a skirt. Just for lounging about.
  • Basic tank tops, because everyone needs basic tank tops.
I'm super excited. About the clothes, and the reason for them. Having new clothes that do fit, though, makes me feel much more prepared to get rid of some of the clothes that don't.

Friday, July 06, 2012

The Drake Hotel & Avenue Q

I am not generally a fan of groupon type things. Except sometimes, when my email reveals they are doing half-price admission to the bridal show I'm going to anyway, or that there's a theatre production I'm excited about doing discount tickets. Back in March there was a deal for half-price tickets to see Avenue Q at the Lower Ossington Theatre and of course I had to snap them up.

I also had to send the deal to my university roommate, because clearly she would want to go. That being the case, at the end of June we had a double-date night out, and decided to make it extra fancy by going out to a great dinner. I let my old roomie choose the restaurant, and she came up with the Drake Hotel. Off and away!

Our dinner? It was magnificent. One thing I did find a little weird here was that there was no complimentary bread basket; if you want bread with your meal, be prepared to order the appetizer of bread and dips (it was round $7). It seems a sort of petty complaint that they didn't offer a bread, but it's just a tiny thing that I've almost come to expect at restaurants and peeved me just a touch.

Bunny was daring and ordered an appetizer - the gazpacho soup. He said it was a little "chewy" but really really good. Being that I'm not so into tomatoes, I did not try it. The guys both had cheeseburgers, and seemed to enjoy them immensely. My friend, who had chosen the Drake based on its vegetarian selection had a sweet potato bake over farro, and thought it was pretty good. She said there was eggplant in it and she didn't mind, which is a huge food compliment from her. (Note: a piece of eggplant is not a realistic vegetarian meal. While in university the two of us had this complaint many a time.)

I, on the other hand, got sucked in by the gnocchi. How could I not? Ricotta gnocchi, with sweet peas and oyster mushrooms and sauted red onions. The gnocchi was soft and pillowy, much less dense than I'm used to. It was quite glorious. The brightness of the peas complimented it well, and I loved the way a pea would burst in my mouth as I was eating a mouthful of gnocchi. As far as the onions and mushrooms go ... I'm not 100% sold. The onions were good, and really complimented the rest of the dish but there were just too many, and they were a little overwhelming. With the mushrooms, I found them a tad tougher and chewier than I prefer, but still good. A generous sprinkling of pecorino cheese brought it all together.

The verdict on the Drake? We all enjoyed it, and I wouldn't complain if I went back. All in all, though, Bunny and I spent about $85 after tip, for our food (and we each got a drink). Somehow I think I'd be more tempted to try something new or go to an old favourite like Terroni or Coquine next time we do an expensive dinner.

We had plenty of time after eating and before the show, so we decided to go on a hunt for ice cream. After a quick Yelp! on my friend's iPhone we wandered about five minutes west to the Boreal Gelato Cafe and indulged in some extra yumminess. Can I tell you how thrilled I was that they offer a mini size? Which was even a little bit too big for me, but whatever. Bunny went with the coffee gelato, and I ate his while he went to the bathroom; us girls both went with a chocolate hazelnut crunch. It was good, though I've had better gelato. It wasn't as rich or creamy as I like, and the flavours weren't super pronounced. One thing I adored, though, was how the serving options were a waffle cone or a bowl. It was nice that waffle cone was the default, rather than being an extra charge.

After that, it was off to the show. And oh, what a show. It was brilliant. Hilarious. Well performed. The only complaint we had was that sometimes we got distracted from the puppets by the puppeteers because they were acting so well along with everything and their faces were so expressive, but at the same time that added to the whole performance. I was a little bit blown away by how well rehearsed and co-ordinated everyone was, especially when the puppets needed two puppeteers or when an actor/singer was playing two puppets that were onstage at the same time.

Myself and my roommate, and her fiance, were all fairly familiar with the show to begin with. Bunny had never heard any of the songs before, though, so it was hilarious watching him get introduced to them the first time.

All in all? Great night out.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

life, at the moms'

Living with my mom again is strange, but for the most part I like it. Really, it's made even better by the fact that not only is Momma Bunny right next door but Bunny and I have also turned the basement into our bedroom/hangout. It works really well. If I want to be alone, I have a place to go. If I want to be with people but not my mom, I have a place to go. If I just want to chill with my mom, I can do that too.

The hardest part is sharing Bunny. I'm used to having him all to myself, and not only does he work more now (between the mechanic job and the freelance) but the time he does have gets shared around more. Because I don't sleep well I tend to stay in bed until after he's gone, and now he goes and spends his morning with his momma. After work, we sometimes spend some time by ourselves, but just as often we go and hang out with his mom. And his childhood best friend lives twenty minutes away, and is by to see Momma Bunny on a daily basis, and spends time here with Bunny as well.

We've figured out our own routine, a much earlier "bed time" than we used to have, that's really just "go downstairs and be together and alone time". We spend time with our families, but generally together. Although when it gets really funny is some nights I go visit his mom while he stays here and hangs out with my mom. Figure that one out!

The thing that surprises me is how much fun this is. How much I enjoy hanging out with parents. I get to laugh at Bunny and his neice being complete goofballs together, and join in. Some evenings are spent sitting on porches with his family and my mom just talking and laughing. During the day, I can creep over to Momma Bunny's house and spend time with her and the kids she babysits. There's nothing quite as sweet as hugs from toddlers, and my days are filled with those.

It's just fun. I like it.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

spiced butter drop cookies

I am so excited about these cookies. They're the first thing I've really baked since being at my mom's, and that's a little tiny thing to make me feel comfortable. We're in another heatwave, though, so it will likely be a little while until I do anymore baking. I don't need to bake myself.

I chose this recipe because it was simple, would be done quickly, and seemed interesting. Plus, it was so simple to adapt it from a more boring cookie to a spiced one. I just used the spices that caught my eye, but really you can add anything. The overwhelming taste that these cookies give is spice and butter. Oh, the butter cuts through everything and gives these such a lovely, melty mouthfeel. I'm pretty sure you don't need to chew these cookies, if you really don't want. They'll melt right in your mouth.

I got a real laugh when I finished these cookies, too. Bunny came home right as I was pulling the first batch off of the tray, and I promptly stuffed one in his mouth before he went out to fix a neighbour's weedwacker. Then, as I was in the midst of making a plate to take next door to his family (yeah, I still love saying that) his sister and her husband came running over asking for "Cookies, please! We have been sent for cookies!"

I've been told these cookies are amazing. They're certainly worth making, and they're a nice simple recipe. And, though I can't attest to this myself, I've heard that they are also pertty awesome with a touch of shredded cheddar cheese on top. (I'm related to weirdos, what can I say.)

Spiced Butter Drop Cookies
adapted from Cookies, 1,001 Mouthwatering Recipes from around the World by Reader's Digest

Ingredients
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup butter (seriously, use the real stuff)
  • 2/3 cups white sugar
  • 2 large eggs
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 325*F. Grease two cookie sheets.
  2. Put your butter in a medium sized microwave safe bowl. Melt the butter in the microwave, in ten second increments. Depending on your microwave's power, this can take between 15-45 seconds. Let the butter rest for about 10 minutes.
  3. Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and cloves into a medium bowl.
  4. Add the sugar to the butter. Mix until it's a nice, even mess. Add the eggs and vanilla, and further mix until just blended.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet. (You can do this all in one go here.) Mix until everything is evenly distributed and there are no lumps left. Because the butter has been melted, this will look (and feel) a fair bit looser (or more wet) than most cookie doughs do. Don't worry about that, it will be fine.
  6. Drop teaspoons of dough 2 inches apart on your greased cookie sheets.
  7. Bake for 15 - 18 minutes, until the edges just begin to brown.
  8. Cool of the tray for about 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to continue to cool.
  9. Eat these. Eat them all. (It only makes about 20, so it's totally doable if you have family around).

foods are good

I'm still getting into the groove of cooking around here. It's strange when I'm not the one controlling the grocery shopping, when basil on a shopping list does not result in quite what I was hoping for in the fridge. (How am I supposed to make pesto with a tiny little amount? I meant a big fresh bunch ... but oh well.)

There are things on the menu that excite me, though. A pesto, as I mentioned above, to change up my pasta meals. Because if you're anything like me, you're probably sick of alfredo by now. There might also be some tacos, because ground beef was on sale this week. And baked sweet potatoes, served with ribs. Mushroom risotto is on the menu, but that's nothing really new, either. Maybe perogis, maybe or else dumplings and fried rice.

I also have a new cookie recipe to share, and it was pretty amazing. Hopefully I'll do more baking this week, but we'll see. It's pretty hot out there.

Monday, July 02, 2012

life, and lessons in fast food

Funnily enough, when spending the entire weekend on the road, driving, packing, loading the truck and trailer and then driving back to unload and then to wash, rinse, repeat Bunny and I haven't had time to really eat a lot of real food. We're too exhausted to cook, and our schedules don't let us really take advantage of our moms' cooking.

So we've eaten fast food, a lot. It's not something I'm a fan of, really. And while I don't mind eating copious amounts of fat or sugar, I'd rather have more control of what exactly I'm putting in my body. And I'm pretty sure there's no nutritional content in a cheeseburger from Wendy's.

As it happens though, fast food is not a fan of me either. Last weekend while moving we ate three meals on the road, and we hit every rest stop on the 400. We had breakfast from Timmies, dinner from Wendy's and breakfast from McDonald's. The funny thing: every single one of them screwed up my order, and pretty spectacularly. I mean, I know I'm picky, but is it so hard to make a Bacon and Egg McMuffin? Or to give me my single cheeseburger with no tomato? Or even to not burn my coffee? Apparently so.

I'm taking it as a sign: I'm really not supposed to be eating fast food, and fast food knows it.