Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Have a little faith in yourself

Super random but here goes. 

Last night (like many other nights in the last couple of weeks), I was stressed (a million thoughts were affecting me including the US elections), I was grumpy, making a mountain out of everything and I was flying solo for the evening with the girls while my husband left for band practice. I managed to feed them early (husband had to fend for himself), dealt with their much over due bath and knotty/ naughty hair, followed by the bedtime routine. They were sweet so that was good and we did have good laughing moments but it was late, I still had to feed myself (one of those backward nights) and the real nag, I felt like I had to clean up our pigsty of a house, knowing that a nurse was coming to our house by 9h00 a.m. (today) to take some urine and blood samples for our new insurance while we tried to look functional on an empty stomach. That meant a full morning routine with no coffee!! 

I figured if I could just focus on the bathroom and kitchen, it was going to be okay. I was mentally prepping myself to: 1- Not make a big deal out of the state of our space (you know, to be "cool" about it and) 2- Just focus on the big chunks and overall look like Mr Wolf would do in Pulp Fiction. Sadly I couldn't find the energy to care or start. I'm a "all or nothing" kind of gal which can be dangerous. It can either give amazing results or quickly make me climb the walls and shut down if I let myself go there. So what did I do? Nothing. I made a tasty soup, read online about the US elections, that was scary so I read my sci-fi book instead and watched a TV show whit my guy when he returned home. I believe it's called procrastinating! :P In my case, it felt more like a test. Lately, I really don't have my shit together. I'm aware that there might be a depression lurking around the corner. The old me would have panicked by now and let this tip the scale in a messy way. The new (and older 'wiser' me? ) is very aware of that and shut me up when I started to fret. It's hard. A daily exercise. I often can't even managed that. Somehow this time I did. You know what? Nothing bad happened. This morning, I did a quick basic tidy up after the girls went to school, husband emptied and reloaded the dishwasher and I took a shower. Good enough. I was happy to refuse to climb walls. I still wished for coffee. 

The nurse turned out to be a good 30 minutes late (poor woman got lost). I'm not a morning person either and being on standby can be challenging when you're not allowed to eat, drink coffee or pee till all the samples are taken and done. I was worried I would be on edge but I talked myself out of it, played a record and somehow managed to stay in good spirits. Remember, no coffee! Not only I surprised myself but my mood was good. Things went fine, the nurse struggled more than I did. She forgot some important tools and had to run to the pharmacy and spend a lot of extra cash just to get our blood pressure. Eventually, I got to fill myself with coffee which somehow tasted really good this morning AND my blood pressure was excellent! :) Phew! Yay! We should have celebrated! 

Now the other stress. I can't believe I let this affect me more than it should but it looks like the elections scared me a little more than I was willing to admit. During the night and by dawn, I had nasty dreams about bugs, carnivorous plants, my husband, wastelands, invasions and what looked like walking dead people (which is almost normal in my case) but what freaked me out is that Trump was there too! He just wouldn't go away! His back was turned and he was hunched over a bit but he kept looking back over his shoulder towards me with a smug look on his face. What's even more disturbing is that he started to look more and more like Alec Baldwin!! WHY!? I hate him too! Was he trying to 'poorly' improve his looks to fool me? Somehow turning into Baldwin just creeped me out more. Then I woke up and had to face my day which I thought was going to be a train wreck. I didn't say anything and just pushed through the morning routine which like I mentioned above, turned out to be okay. So I'm moving on. 

Now I'm worrying about dinner, kids and homework, how the day is getting darker faster but most of all I'm worrying about our southern neighbours. I don't want to be in their shoes. I'm crossing my fingers for them and sending big hugs. They have so much more B.S. to deal with right now. Hope they have good faith in themselves. XOXO

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Soul fixing soup


I've been away for so long... I'm still kicking though. I'm still eating too! :) I don't know where I'm going with this blog but in the meantime here is a comforting soul-fixing soup to try.

Okay, it won't really fix your soul. That's silly but it will fill you up when you're down and if you have a cold or feeling hungry with little to nothing in the fridge to eat, this will feel good and satisfying. It's more broth than soup with a few extra goodies like egg, Parmesan and garlic added to it. It's like Stracciatella but it's whisked instead of stirred. I used to eat a German-ish version of this (minus the cheese). It's too bastardized for me to call it anything but yummy. :)

The truth is, it's post Halloween here. I swear I don't steal chocolate from the kids but we do have a big bowl left that is full of cheap candy. I'm not really a sweet tooth but somehow I found myself eating about 12 bite size BabyRuth chocolate bars! Maybe more... I don't want to know. Yeah, not my best moment. I figured I should eat something smart to help me forget. It also had to be quick! I had 30 minutes before picking up the girls from school. I needed fuel! I was feeling off and tired and the poison I just binged on wasn't going to make things better. I needed a magic potion. Soup!

The good news is that last week, I made lots of vegetable broth so I had something to tinker with. I also had some canned beef broth to finish and little leftovers of this and that with big flavours. This is barely a recipe. Just good things put together. It only serves one. Just double it up or make more if you have to share. So here is what I used.

1 cup beef broth

1 cup vegetable broth

1 small handful of thin pasta like vermicelli, capellini or spaghettini, in pieces (small pasta works too)

2 garlic cloves, sliced thin or chopped

2 teaspoons tomato paste, pizza or pasta sauce (I used a small leftover of tasty tomato bread soup)

Olive oil to taste (it's probably a good tablespoon but I just drizzle)

1 large egg

Parmesan, grated (a good 1/4 cup)

Black pepper from grinder

Salt (I use Kosher salt and I'm hooked)

Cilantro or parsley finely chopped (I often have a small leftover kept in the freezer for such use).

In a small pot pour in your cups of broth. If it's all vegetable or all beef or chicken, that is fine too. Bring to a boil. Throw in your pasta and cook till it's close to ready (check the package's instructions). Add your garlic a couple of minutes before the pasta is done with a generous drizzle of olive oil. You can do this step first but if you forget like I do, it will make no big difference. I do it for taste. Speaking of taste, stir in your tomato paste or sauce if you have it. Stir it in and taste, if you want more, add more! While the pasta, broth and garlic simmer, quickly whisk your egg and grated Parmesan in what will be your bowl till it forms a runny paste. Grind some pepper, add a few good pinches of salt. Whisk that in and while still gently whisking, add your broth, pasta and garlic concoction. The hot broth will instantly cook the egg. It will be slightly thickened thanks to the starch of the pasta and the egg, Parmesan mixture.

At this point it's ready to eat but you can add finely chopped parsley or cilantro if you have it. It's a way for me to finish small leftovers that I keep in the freezer. I've been known to experiment with what's on hand. In this particular bowl, I added some lime juice and Sriracha with the cilantro. The Parmesan still worked but I have done without cheese many times. 

So there it is, lip-smacking good and ready to eat. Grab a spoon!

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Happy Epiphany!

It's the 6th of January. For those who don't know, it's a Christian feast day. So Happy Epiphany! :)

Some like to jump in a river, we prefer to eat cake! :) More precisely, something called: Galette des rois (kings cake). It's better than cake though with it's buttery, flaky, golden pastry and frangipane filling. Frangipane is a mild and sweet almond flavoured paste that is usually made with butter, eggs, sugar and ground almonds. It's good! It is definitely something I'm looking forward to. The kids look forward to the little ceramic trinket that is hidden inside. The person who gets the trinket in their slice, gets to be king (or Queen) and wear the crown! It's a tradition that is practiced by religious, not very religious and non practicing people. Well, French people. I can't speak for the rest of the world but I know others do it too with subtle differences. For us (usually), my mother comes for a visit around this time and buy the special treat in one of the special shops she finds on her way. We also get some bubbly. She couldn't make this week so I was willing to go without. It's not a Quebecer tradition so you won't find this in a grocery store or any bakery. A French person would easily have to learn to go without or bake their own (which is doable but not as simple as it looks).

That's when Marc surprised me! He took a chance and visited a little French deli down the main street that we rarely visit (mainly because it's out of our way). He thought that if a shop was going to sell some galette des rois, this would be it. He was right! They sell them! Yay! I have to be thankful that in this day and age, we can be spoiled with special shops who specialize in foods we usually wouldn't have access to. Time for me to encourage them and visit more often! ;) We don't have any bubbly or a fancy dinner to entertain us with (plain buttered noodles and a green salad is on the menu) but I will gladly take this with the girls to celebrate the closure of Christmas holidays. After today, we officially take the tree down. I'm ready!!

We mainly do the French tradition but I will always remember being around the age of 6 or 8 and dressing up as one of the Kings with my brother when we lived in Germany. I mainly remember the dressing up part and the crafty crowns. Oh how I loved those. 

I'm going to shamelessly quote Wikipedia for further explaining since I'm running out of time... I only copied the French and German traditions. Those are the ones I can relate to but the rest of the countries mentioned in the "National and local customs" on this link are all interesting to read. If you find it boring, skip it but I find other people's cultures fascinating. I like all the differences and similarities.

"In France people share one of two types of king cake. In the northern half of France and Belgium the cake is called a galette des Rois, and is a round, flat, and golden cake made with flake pastry and often filled with frangipane, fruit, or chocolate. In the south, in Provence, and in the south-west, a crown-shaped cake or brioche filled with fruit called a gâteau des Rois is eaten. Both types of cake contain a charm, usually a porcelain or plastic figurine, called a fève (bean in French).[70]
The cake is cut by the youngest (and therefore most innocent) person at the table to assure that the recipient of the bean is random. The person who gets the piece of cake with the trinket becomes "king" or "queen" and wears a paper crown provided with the cake. This person has a choice between offering a beverage to everyone around the table (usually a sparkling wine or champagne), or volunteering to host the next king cake at their home. This can extend the festivities through all of January!]"
"In the German-speaking lands, groups of young people called Sternsinger (star singers) travel from door to door. They are dressed as the three Wise Men, plus the leader carrying a star, usually of painted wood attached to a broom handle. Often these groups are four girls, or two boys and two girls for the benefit of singing their songs in four-part harmony, not necessarily three wise men at all. German Lutherans often note in a lighthearted fashion that the Bible never specifies that the Weisen (Magi) were men, or that there were three. The star singers will be offered treats at the homes they visit, but they also solicit donations for worthy causes, such as efforts to end hunger in Africa, organized jointly by the Catholic and Evangelical-Lutheran churches.[72] As a sign of gratitude, the young people then perform the traditional house blessing, by marking the year over the doorway with chalk. In Roman Catholic communities this may be a serious spiritual event with the priest present even today, but among Protestants it is more a tradition, and a part of the German notion of Gemütlichkeit. Usually on the Sunday following Epiphany, these donations are brought into churches. Here all of the children who have gone out as star singers, once again in their costumes, form a procession of sometimes dozens of wise men and stars. The German Chancellor and Parliament also receive a visit from the star singers at Epiphany."

Regardless, Happy Epiphany! Happy New Year! It's a wrap.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

A copious and quiet evening into the New Year

Our New Year's Eve was a quiet and pleasant one. I'm not sure if it was what we wanted but it was certainly what we needed. When we returned from our "out of town" Holidays on the 28th, we were happy but fried. We decided to ignore our suitcases, ordered some grub, made a fire, watched a movie and played with our new toys and treasures. We pretty much cocooned ourselves in which was also great timing as a snowstorm was about to start. Our bare, snowless area went from greyish green to instant white that night. The denial (for me) was over, kids were ecstatic, winter officially arrived. I have to admit, for now, it's pretty.

My father was expected for a visit but we had to juggle the dates a bit to give the snow blizzard enough time to spew out it's white fury. We decided to wait and go by feel, depending on what the weather was serving. I'm happy to say that 2 days later my father made it for New Year's Eve. He joined us early on the 31st just in time to shovel our driveway (sorry p'pa) and to help me to the store for some last minute purchases. Once done, we cozied ourselves inside, got set up, made a fire, opened a bottle of Caribou and it was chin-chin right away! :)

I took out some Kalamata olives and some St-Albert cheese curds (the girls love both) while my father opened a perfectly ripe Roquefort and sliced a crusty baguette along with some good dry sausage which I think was a Rosette de Lyon (kids are addicted to it). I just added butter to the table and we just kept munching until we realized we had to stop to save room for dinner! That was round 1. Even the cat joined in.


Round 2 was a hearty dish called: Ragoût de boulettes et de pattes de cochon. I'm not sure why it sounds better in French but the translation in English is: Stew of meatballs and pork hocks. I hope I didn't lose you after this. Ha ha! You should know that the words don't work for me either. :) That said, it's a delicious and hearty Quebecer classic worth trying. Tender morsels of pork (pulled off the bone), happily swim with meatballs made of ground pork and spices in a rich gravy made from the cooking liquid and beef broth for more body. A vegetarian's nightmare. We followed this recipe from Ricardo.

My girls were being hams. Very appropriate.

It was delicious but I'm not convinced it's THE recipe I want to repeat next year. It was lacking a little something (maybe acidity) but for a first timer, I definitely recommend it. We even talked about non traditional additions like Maggi sauce (my German roots talking) and mushrooms. Maybe a few tablespoons of red wine vinegar, or wine... We like to break rules! I'm definitely looking for variations and will keep playing. It's traditionally served with potatoes and we added nice yellow ones but because of it's luscious and savoury gravy, we opted to serve it over egg noodles which believe me, was verrrry satisfying. Napkins a must!

After a couple of days, leftovers are amazing and I have to say that the potatoes were definitely the prized pieces I was looking for yesterday! Pickled beets, especially if homemade (and at room temperature), are also a big winner with this. This dish made me eat half a jar but back to our New Year's Eve feast! Red wine was poured and boy was I happy as a pig in shit. Terrible Pun intended! ;)

As we ate, we realized we had no room for dessert. Which was great because there was none. Ha ha! Well, I planned it simple. Vanilla ice cream (with raspberry swirls in it) and lots of fresh berries. Plump blackberries (a favourite with our 5 year old) and very sweet raspberries (a winner with our 8 year old).

All were happy. My father went for a nap, I went online, tasted a 10 year old tawny port I received from my father earlier (not bad with ice-cream and walnuts) and took it easy.

Marc and the girls played new video games. Low-key is the best way to describe it. As we got close to 11h00 pm, my little one begged me to take her to bed. She's usually a party animal and danced till 3h00 am last year but not this time. She was done. As she settled in with glee, my father woke up from his slumber just in time to take out the bubbly. Geneviève definitely wanted to stay up with us but she doesn't care for bubbly or fizzy drinks. She was happy to cheer with McIntosh apple juice! With the help of the laptop and a live connection to the big countdown in NY, we counted and cheered and that was that! HAPPY NEW YEAR!! Within seconds we settled down. :) Marc got on the phone with family while my father and I settled at the table. After 20 minutes, Geneviève announced that she was done and went off to bed.

Here is Marc with our first selfie of 2016!! We finished the bubbly which turned into fancy fizzy, fuzzy navels. We didn't last long. By 1h30 am Marc was heading upstairs but I had just enough energy to tidy up and chat a few more minutes with my father while making a little chair (a tradition) with the remains of the New Year's bottle. I have a drawer full somewhere... Future post. :)

I hope that this new year is an easier one. I could use it! Wishing everybody a good one. 

Happy New Year! 
smile emoticon

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The pleasure of giving

It's 3h30 am. I finished some pie dough, cleared up a mess in the kitchen (I'm far from done) and dragged my feet towards the stairs when I remembered (thanks to the notes sticking all over my cupboards), that little Évangéline wanted to give her teacher a card and a treat tomorrow. She received a pretty card form her teacher yesterday and a little present. She received a few treats from her friends too. I'm always touched by this. Of course I often forget about it myself. Thanks to my notes though, I headed to my cupboards instead of bed and started to improvise with what I had.

Earlier she found a blue sparkly bag that was used for her sister's first communion. It's been around for a while (still in great shape). She also helped herself to a box of cards I bought (when I felt like I was on top of things). She chose a nice one with a big red cardinal on it. She then asked her father to write a message to her teacher. She was quite good at dictating the letter! ;) Marc kept it simple though. Then she signed it and even wrote Mme Lynn on the envelope with a little sticker for the finishing touch. I was impressed. This happened while I was rushing and working on dinner at the other end of the room. I told her that I would assemble a few biscotti I made and some chocolates (leftovers from our advent calendar) and put them in a tin box for her to give.

(There should be a photo of a card with a cardinal here... Too tired to transfer, imagination is better!)

I quickly realized that there weren't any boxes. At least not small ones. I looked and looked. Then I found this Ikea plant pot that was taking space in my pantry. It was supposed to be in the basement with other items that will end up in a garage sale but it was holding tape and string in my kitchen instead. It wasn't very good at its job. So I grabbed it, cleaned it up, put biscotti in it and filled the gaps with chocolates. I secured the whole thing neatly with cling wrap, took some tissue paper to wrap around and in the blue bag it went. Done! It even looked better than expected. A candy cane gives a bit of colour.

I suddenly felt pretty excited about the whole thing and here I am writing about it. It's nice to give little presents that say "Thank you", or "I care". Madame Lynn happens to be a great teacher and my daughters love her to bits. I'm just glad we can show her. Now if only I could buy her a bottle of wine before school starts! ;)