Tomorrow is Saturday and Sunday comes afterwards

This week, this song went viral:

I’ll admit, I’ve been listening to it a lot today because it’s Friday, I’m excited that it’s Friday, and you have to admit, this song is so bad, it’s actually catchy.

I had a whole other post here, but I thought this might be a little more thought provoking:

If you’ve been paying attention at all, you’ll know that this song received a lot of criticism. In her response, Black compared the negative feedback to cyber bullying. Really? Cyber bullying?

Hmm.

What do you think?

Has Rebecca Black been the victim of cyber bullying?

Stick your thoughts in the comments!

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Well, maybe just one drink…

It’s St. Patrick’s Day. I celebrated once in first year, two weeks after I had turned 19. It was my first real experience in a packed, hot, sweaty bar with lots of irresponsible drunken people. The campus pub was chaotic, crazy, dark, crowded. I cherish some of those memories, but St. Patty’s day has never been for me. I don’t drink beer much and green beer seems especially unappealing.

However, this is a faintly green drink that is completely delicious. Actually, it’s more yellow than green, but that’s just a technicality. I started drinking this is in university too as I was trying new drinks and expanding my alcohol repertoire.

Tom Collins

Over ice, pour

1 oz lemon juice
1 oz gin
1 tbsp sugar

Stir it all well together. Top up with club soda and mix gently.

Try not to drink too many.

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Raisin Tarts

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: housework and I, in general, don’t get along. On the flip side of that, I like to have a clean home. Have you ever noticed that your living room is a lot cozier if all the dishes are done and the kitchen counters wiped down? Weird. On the flip side of that, there are things in life a lot more important than vacuuming every day and folding laundry.

But not when your landlord comes over.

He dropped by last night, just to see us, the apartment, and drop off a tax receipt (though it turns out we don’t need them anymore… since when?). I was a wee little bit stressed out by the visit. As much as I’m willing to admit that I don’t like housework and do as little as I can possibly get away with, I don’t actually like the idea of casual visitors being able to see the evidence of this. Especially if they’re casual visitors who could decide to charge us for a full scale cleaning after we move out.

On top of all that, Mr. A had no knowledge of our adorable pooch.

– Remember, he has no power over us, M said.

– Right.

– It’s not like we’ll ever need him for a rental reference or anything.

– Right.

– And he can’t kick us out, even if we weren’t leaving.

True: in Ontario, landlords have the power to turn down an applicant if they have pets, but they may not evict them if they get one.

I had nothing to worry about.

Especially when we opened the door to our friendly Iranian landlord and heard the excited exclamation, “Oh, you have a dog! Oh, hello, hello!”

The apartment was beyond clean, thanks to my frantic scrubbing the day before, so after he left and I collapsed into one of our comfy Ikea chairs, I was able to seamlessly move into complete relaxation. Of course, this raisin tart helped immensely.

These were the product of leftover pie dough, the remnants of Pi day’s meat pie, useless bits that I couldn’t bear to throw out. Combined with the only recipe I had all the ingredients for (read no eggs, fruit, or anything perishable required) in the Joy of Cooking, these turned our reasonably well for my first attempt at tart making.

Raisin Tarts
From The Joy of Cooking with a few additional suggestions

Filling

1 cup raisins
1 cup water
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp butter

In a medium sauce pan, bring the water and raisins to a boil over high heat. Allow to boil for 5 minutes or so, or until you get bored of waiting. Stir in the brown sugar and mix well.

Remove from heat and add the cornstarch, lemon juice, and butter. Mix well together and set the filling aside to cool to room temperature.

For the crust: like I said, remnants work well for these. If you want you can put this filling into a pie or, do as I did and turn it into tarts. For tarts, roll out your remnants and cut out a piece of dough that will fit nicely into a muffin tin. Grease your muffin tin and gently fold and press the circle of dough into the tin. Make it fit around the curves by creating little folds (or big folds, whatever you prefer). It doesn’t have to be perfect. Cut away the excess leaving a nice sized lip of overhang. If desired, fold the edges over or under and pinch together to create a smoother look. Repeat until all your excess is gone. My remnants got me four tarts with just a little dough leftover — not enough for anything.

Once your filling is room temperature, fill your tarts half full or, like these, all full, depending on your preferences. I found that mine were a little overfull — too much filling and not enough pastry — but M liked them just as they were. So, this step is all personal preference.

Pop your muffin tin into a 400* oven and bake for 20 minutes to half an hour, or until the pie crust has browned slightly.

It is amazing and kind of sad how quickly my kitchen gets messy again.

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Happy 3.14159 Day!

Did you eat pie today? I went to a Geek school, so I’ve been celebrating Pi day ever since first year, though rarely with a piece of actual pie. Actually, my celebration usually only goes as far as talking about how it’s Pi day. I guess that means I don’t really celebrate it at all.

This year, however, I latched on to the excuse to make one of my favourite bad-for-you foods, not that I usually need an excuse. Mmm… meatpie.

There is a bakery in my home town that makes the most delightful meat and veggie packed meat pies, absolutely nothing like the runny ones you get in the grocery store. Oh, how I miss those meatpies. So, I sent M an email halfway through the day with a short list of groceries: ground beef, frozen veggies, flour, and a box of pie shells. When M arrived, he sheepishly handed me the pie shells and said, “I think I got the wrong ones.”

How was I supposed to make a savoury pie with graham pie crust? I eyed the bag of flour. Really? Was I going to have to do this?

I have never made a pie crust. Ever.

Thank to M’s mistake, I can’t say that anymore. And you know? It wasn’t so bad. Yes, the pie took double the time it would otherwise have taken. And yes, my hands are very dry from the flour worked deep into my skin. But I love recipes that let me get my hands dirty, that pull me in to the very essence of the food.

My pies are not exactly pretty. Eventually, perhaps, when I’ve made as many perfect pies as my grandmother has, they’ll be a little more photo worthy.

Beef Pie
From my own head, with the assistance of the Joy of Cooking pie reference section

1 lb ground beef
1 medium sized onion
2 cups mixed frozen veggies or the equivalent chopped fresh veggies
1 tbs corn starch
1 cup water
1 heaping tsp beef bouillion, or to taste
a medley of your choice of seasonings
(I used basil, oregano leaves, ground pepper, Montreal steak spice and a dash of cumin)

1 double crust pie shell

Brown the beef with the onion until beef is no longer pink and the onion is translucent. Add the frozen veggies and mix in well. Over the mixture, sprinkle the cornstarch and beef bouillion powder. (If you’re using a cube, just add it after you add the water instead.) Mix the powders in a bit so there is not cornstarch clumped together. Add the water and mix well to combine everything. Sprinkle the spices in and mix together. Allow to simmer on the stove while you get your pie pan ready or, if you’re nervous about taking too long, just remove it from the heat. It’s going to get heated up in the stove anyway.

Pie dough! Like this: take 2.5 cup flour and cut into it 3/4 cup chilled shortening. Mix it all together until it’s crumbly, kind of the size of peas. Then, add 6 tbsp of chilled water. Mix it all together. Add a little more water if you need it to get the dough to hold together, but you don’t want it to be too sticky.

Yes, friends, that is all pie dough is: flour, fat, water.

Separate the dough into two equal parts. Sprinkle a little flour on your counter top, and roll out the first part as thin as you can. You need space for this unfortunately… I had to remove my coffeemaker from the counter and put it on the floor until I was done…

Place the flattened dough in a greased 9-inch pie pan. Press it gently into the corners. Take a knife and cut the excess around the pan, leaving a decent sized crust. If at any point you tear the dough, wet your fingers and press the dough back together. It’s amazing how fixable this stuff is.

Repeat the rolling process for the second half of the dough and set it aside.

Dump the filling into the base shell, the pie dough in your pie pan. With bit of cold water on your finger, wet down the edge of the base pie dough. Carefully place the top piece of pie dough over the filling and pinch into the edge of the base pie dough. I use a fork for this – makes it much easier. And, there you go! You’re done the hard part.

Pop the whole thing in the oven at 350*for 30 minutes or until lightly golden on top. Try not to think about how much time you’ve already spent on it and how hungry you are since it’s now at least two hours after your normal dinner time.

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My Parents

My parents came to visit this weekend mainly to take me out for my birthday, but also to take a peek at our big investment. Of course, we don’t have the keys yet, so we had to stick with staring in awe and fear and excitement and giddy giddy happiness from the outside. We finally got to see it without the adornment of 2 feet of snow. And it was nice to hear all the positive things my parents had to say about our new adventure.

They let me take a picture of them!

They have always been so supportive.

And I can never thank them enough.

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The Pioneer Woman and Too Much Salt

Did you know that the widely read and widely respected* Ree Drummond has a following of hate bloggers?

At first, when I found Marlboro Woman’s blog, I was a little shocked that anyone would speak so unkindly about the woman whose food photography impresses me to no end.  And then, I actually read it. It’s a short blog, considering it was just started last week. I got a really bad taste in my mouth and not just because I had finished a cup of tea an hour ago. The accusations leveled against our dear Pioneer Woman were disturbing and smacked loudly of *gulp* truth. MW was right… I had never read a negative comment in her blog. Never! And that can’t be because there aren’t negative things to say. Have you seen how much butter she uses in her recipes? And what is with all that salt?

And then, I realized something even worse: I have never made a recipe from PW that I’ve liked. I know I’ve only made two recipes. But that is largely because I rarely come across one of her recipes that I even want to make. What is going on here? Have I been taken in just like millions of others in the world and dazzled by a created brand? Have I been hoodwinked by the possibility of winning a beautiful bright red Kitchenaid mixer just for leaving a silly comment?

Probably.

Here’s the twist: this blog post is not a PW-bashing blog post. Rather, it’s the opposite. I will continue to read and to love Ree Drummond’s cooking blog**. I will be slightly disappointed that she bans dissenters from her comments, but I will drool over her photographs anyway. And, at the same time, I will absolutely and whole-heartedly agree that Ree is fake, that she has invented herself, created a persona for herself that she portrays to the world: a super mom, a super cook, a super farmer’s wife*^. And  yes, maybe she’s got the world fooled. After all, Marlboro Woman is right: her recipes aren’t particularly original, and many of them maybe not even that good**^. And she does recycle beautiful photos over and over again. But what kind of marketer isn’t trying to fool the world? And if you’re out to make a living as a blogger or, really, any money at all, how can you do so without creating your brand? What awful thing has Ree Drummond done that has all these other bloggers so upset?

Well.

It’s very simple really.

She succeeded.

* Or so I thought.

**I will also regularly read Marlboro Woman’s blog because I strongly believe that every story has two sides, two sides that need to be equally acknowledged. Also, it’s kind of like watching a train-wreck…

*^Though if you were actually a farmer’s wife, you would know she is definitely not — farmers’ wives are not housewives.

**^ Mac’n’Cheese anyone?

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Five Roses

I used to tell my boyfriends that I didn’t like flowers. What kind of symbol was that for love, pretty things that die? Except that I think I used to tell them this in order to let them off the hook so I wouldn’t expect anything that was unlikely to come.

And then M bought me a single red rose surrounded by a cluster of baby’s breath for our first Valentine’s Day together and I was shocked that such a simple thing sent me over the moon.

I wasn’t expecting much for my birthday this year. After all, I hadn’t done much for M… he is particularly difficult to buy for and since his birthday is just after Christmas, I mostly have no more mental energy to come up with something awesome. And anything less than awesome is not really good enough.

Of course, M has it a lot easier: I’m pretty easy to buy for. I love all the traditional things and plenty of less traditional gifts. But still, I was pretty surprised when he walked into the apartment with a beautiful bouquet of roses on Friday after work.

My birthday was the perfect day, full of friends and love and a little bit of fun. And roses.

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Dreaming of March 31st

This morning, I stood in the subway station watching the sun peak over the tops of the condo buildings and I realized something: in 2 months, I am rarely going to step foot in this station again, let alone take this bus and watch that sunrise. In 2 months, I’ll be familiarizing myself with not one, but three stations. There will be new coffee shops along the way, different people, new commuting challenges and adventures. This realization sent me into a spiral of thinking about the new house, not in any specific terms, just a fixation on the change that is about to come.

I have no illusions about what we’ve gotten ourselves into: the house needs work. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this:

When you’ve stopped cringing, check this out:

Nope, there’s no more counter space on the other side of the room. That’s it. That’s the whole thing.

Rough, I know. This place is not just dirty — though it’s that too. Rather, it’s almost non-functioning. We have a month to make it livable, but I expect I’ll be living with sub-floor and unpainted drywall a lot longer than that. I can’t wait to get behind those walls and found out what mess we’ve got coming to us. I even can’t wait to start scrubbing. Who would have thought I would be so excited to clean? This project is going to bend me, stretch me, push my patience. But the final product, the home filled with our sweat and (probably) tears, the home we build, it will be completely worth it. I am confident of that.

But why did we buy such a place in the first place? I’m sure you’re wondering. After all, we could have gotten a bigger house in better condition for the same amount of money if we’d headed toward the ‘burbs. The west part of the city, even. Or what about one of those condos? We could have bought a beautiful one bedroom with top-of-the-line finishes for significantly less money. As long as we were willing to sacrifice location, that is. And there’s the kicker. Down the street from this little house there’s a bakery. A little further, there’s a butcher shop. There’s the endless numbers of restaurants, cafes, gift shops, hair salons, book stores, dog groomers, boutiques one after another. And then you hit the subway and suddenly the city unfolds at your feet. I’ll pass on the big house, the pristine condo, thank you very much. I have a whole city to live in.

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Letters From Jenny

This is a book that I’m a little surprised I even bothered reading. Surprised, pleasantly so.

Almost 5 years ago, I stopped by a table of free books outside the library at my residence, the library they were disbursing and replacing with a student lounge or some such thing. As I do with all free book tables, I pick stuff up even if I think they might be only mildly interesting. For some reason, I really enjoy collecting useless things, especially if they’re in book form. This book, with the others I picked up, landed on my bookshelf, and, at the end of first year, found themselves in my basement bedroom at my parents’ place, collecting a thin layer of forgetting.

Two weeks ago, we visited my parents specifically to finally clean up my bedroom, a room that had become a repository for the past: fragments of my childhood, dumped first year university notes, old pictures of friends I no longer have. Having run out of books to read in my own collection a couple weeks earlier, I packed up a generous stack of old books I had never read for one reason or another to come back to the Big City with me. Somehow, this one made it into that stack.

Letters From Jenny is raw, pure, non-fiction. This book is, in fact, a collection of letters, never meant to be published, never meant to be read by another other soul but the two they were meant for. In fact, were Jenny Gove Masterson still alive, I expect she would have been horrified, angry that her privacy was so violated in the publication of these letters. Even so, I am grateful they did make it to press. Jenny was a sad, passionate, disturbed, dramatic, difficult human being. There is not much that is particularly pleasant in this collection of letters. Suspicion, paranoia, disappointment in life. The letters are a study of how one person destroyed all her relationships but one, building herself a prison of loneliness. It is intensely interesting, but oh, so sad.

There is one bright spot in Jenny’s life, though, the one relationship she manages to maintain, to cherish. The letters are for (and were kept by until being passed on to a psychologist, Gordon W. Allport) one young couple, Isabel and Glenn, college friends of her son. With them, she corresponded regularly for 10 years before her death. While she visited them once or twice, and they visited her a handful of times, the majority of their relationship was built and maintained through letters. I love this book, not as a study of an old woman’s spiral deeper and deeper into her difficult personality, but as an example of how something so small as a written letter can mean so much to a troubled life. Isabel includes a letter at the end, commenting on their relationship with Jenny. She recognized that, had they had any closer of a relationship with the old woman, their relationship with her would have taken the same nose dive as all other relationships Jenny had. But the letters, the distant, normal communication, brightened Jenny’s life considerably. They took so little effort on the part of Isabel and Glenn and yet? In a sense, they were Jenny’s backbone.

This is the kind of book that reminds you to be kind to people, even people who are sometimes difficult. It reminds you how small, seemingly insignificant actions and decisions can so positively effect another’s life. It reminds you to look out for other people because it really does make a difference, if only a small one.

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Sun-dried Tomatoes and Herb Pasta

When I turned 18, something changed in how I felt about my birthday. Before, I was excited about each March 4th, waiting in anticipation for it, even, from the moment the new year hit. Each new year, I was a new year older, a new year closer to adulthood. But 18 was different. 18 was adulthood. I immediately missed 17. Sometimes, I still do. I wouldn’t want to go back, but I do think it’s the best age. At 17, you’re no longer 16. You’re no longer just an annoying teenager. But you’re not 18, either. You’re not an adult. You’re not all set to head out on your own, not faced with life changing hard decisions and responsibility, not expected to be level-headed and perfectly mature, not yet. It’s this comfortably place between being a child and being an adult. For the first time, when I turned 18, I didn’t want to acknowledge my birthday.

Since then, I’ve allowed my birthday to come and go largely unnoticed. My 19th birthday was celebrated with a single drink at midnight with a new boy. I don’t remember my 20th, but my 21st sticks in my mind as being one of the loneliest days of my life. 22 and 23? No idea what happened to them. I am determined that this year will be different. I am determined to not be shy about the fact that my birthday is on Friday, determined to acknowledge it and allow the rest of the world to acknowledge it as they wish. I am going to bake myself a cake and go out dancing with my best friend and my husband and not come back until 3 in the morning.

And, I’m going to be pleased that my mother-in-law remembered my birthday and bought me a gift and baked me a (cheese!)cake a week before, thereby forcing me to think about all this stuff as I cooked a pasta dish from one of the new cookbooks she gave me.

This dish was at first a little disappointing, kind of like birthdays, a big let down promise. The sauce was too runny, so the noodles were mostly tasteless. But, as I scooped the leftovers into my wonderful Corningware casseroles, I realized that, after a couple hours of cooling on the stove, the whole thing had thickened to perfection. Even cold, it looked incredibly more appetizing than the dish we had already eaten, a dish I had already decided to not share with you at all. But this? This has promise.

Sun-Dried Tomato and Herb Pasta
Adapted from Dinner Time from the Love Food cookbook series

3oz sun-dried tomatoes
3 cups boiling water
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp rosemary
3 cups dried pasta
Parmesan to serve

If you have sun-dried tomatoes in oil, remove them from the oil and rinse them off. In a pot or bowl, combine the boiling water and the tomatoes. Allow to stand for approximately 5 minutes. Remove 1/3 of the tomatoes from the water and chop into bite sized pieces. Set aside. Using a blender (an immersion blender works great for this) blend the remaining tomatoes in the water. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook until just beginning to colour. Add the pureed tomato and water mixture. Bring to a boil. Add the herbs and the sun-dried tomato pieces and reduce the heat. Simmer the mixture for approximately 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook your pasta. You can use whatever kind of pasta you like for this. The recipe called for fusilli, but I used egg noodles.

Mix the pasta and the sauce together. For a thick pasta, allow to stand for at least 10 minutes. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese to serve.

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