26 February 2014

A God Complex | Fundamental AND Fabulous?


Can we talk for a second?

I mean, set aside the paint brushes and measuring cups, and REALLY talk.

Can we do that?

          For just a minute?

                    Because I’m struggling to understand something and I need your help.


It’s about God. G-O-D. The big guy.
God, and also the gays. And why, in the minds and hearts of many, those two hands can’t come together.
 
*   *   *

So yesterday George Takei posted this on his Facebook fan page:


Two things–
ONE | I realize the Arizona state legislature no more represents 100% of the Arizona population than does Stephen Harper represent 100% of Canadians. (To be clear: Stephen Harper does NOT represent 100% of Canadians. Not even close.) So folks in Arizona, please don’t take offense. It’s a generalized message and if it doesn’t apply to you, let it be said that it doesn’t apply to you; and,
TWO | If you're not following George Takei on Facebook, you SHOULD BE. He’s glitter-bomb level of awesome.
 
It’s a polarizing image/comment and honestly, it’s designed to rattle cages. We can probably agree on that. And rattle it did: last time I checked there were 6,316 comments on that thread (I'm sure there's way more now), and just as many detractors (of the gay community, of gay rights, of George Takei) as there were supporters. There’s too many to read all of them but it’s a decent enough sample size that I ascertained the following:
Folks, it would seem, fall into five distinct camps around the “gay issue”. They are:
One | ALLIES & SUPPORTERS. Folks who are incredibly, passionately, tirelessly, sometimes defensively and vitriolically, vocal and active in their efforts to support and equitize the community.

Two | DEFENDERS OF THE REALM. Those who use carefully selective and edited sections of scripture as weapons to impose and justify their moral authority, and who feel empowered by their belief system to regulate (and legislate) the behavior of others on God’s behalf.
Three | FEAR BITERS. These are the dudes (sorry, dudes everywhere, but it’s true: they’re mostly dudes) who fear the “gay agenda” and believe (sincerely? Not?) that the gay community is on a single-minded mission to destroy everything these dudes hold sacred: the sanctity of marriage, a “traditional” value system, the moral fabric of society and even the will of God on earth. They also seem to be under the impression the gays are trying to “turn” everyone else fabulous, too. They are intractable in their opinions, and snap at anyone who proposes an idea or opinion contrary to their own, to the point of rabidity (and, frequently, stupidity.)

Four | LIVE-&-LET-LIVE'rs. Most notably characterized by their, “Hey man, if they’re not having sex with me, it’s not my business who they’re sleeping with (or marrying, or adopting), as long as it’s a consensual relationship between two adults. I’ll mind my business, they can mind theirs and you can mind yours. Just let people be happy!”

and
Five | FUNDAMENTALISTS. Not the bible thumpers – NOT Defenders of the Realm. By “fundamentalists” I mean the ones who are secure enough in themselves, in their faith and in their God, not to feel threatened by opposing points of view. They are the ones who take the fundamental teachings of Jesus to heart, and do their best to preach AND practice what seems to be the central tenet of Christianity: be kind to people – be good – and let God do the judging.

Before you get all worked up, obviously these are pretty general, and it’s totally possible there are many more categories (or less?). It’s also possible that lots of people straddle fences between one or more of these camps. I’m no expert, these are just my observations. Feel free to share your thoughts on these categories and more in the comments section (I’m trying to open a dialogue, so comment away!)

I don’t really believe in absolutes – life is more of a spectrum. For the record, though, I’m a Live-and-Let-Live’r. In my view: people are people. Dignity, respect and love doesn’t require a disclosure of sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity or political affiliation. Everyone is deserving in equal measure.

That being said, it’s easy for me to hold this view: I don’t hold with religion – I don’t believe in God. So I acknowledge that for those who do, this is a vastly more complex affair.

I wasn’t raised in a church community, though I did attend Sunday school for a spell when I was little. We made cutouts of Jesus and the apostles and glued them to popsicle sticks to make holy puppetry. We built dioramas of the resurrection in old shoe boxes left over from the church rummage sales, with little plasticene Mary Magdalene’s and torn up t-shirt scraps for the shroud. We sat in a circle and held hands and sang hymns, and memorized the Lord’s Prayer and the Golden Rule. But my participation was less about giving me religion than it was about giving my mum a morning off. She was a single parent who worked two jobs, and just wanted one day – a single day – to sleep in. It was free babysitting that came with its own transportation system to bus me back and forth.

It was short-lived, and in the end it didn’t take.

Then when I was 11, my two younger cousins and I were baptized as a trio. I wore a hunter green kilt and white knee socks, and a turquoise knit sweater shot through with silver thread. I looked AWESOME. I rocked that baptism, fashion-wise. There was cake. I was given a gold cross on a thin chain (which I promptly lost, because I was an irresponsible douche) and a book of prayers for girls with a cream-coloured leather cover with pink writing, and gold embossed pages. I kept it for years but never cracked it open, not even once. Unless I was in trouble, praying was never really my jam. And praying seriously didn’t ever cross my mind.
So now it’s many (many, many) years later, and I don’t give much thought to what I “am” in a religious context. If pressed, I suppose I would label myself an agnostic. I believe in a higher power guiding us along, but the idea of an elderly gentleman with flowing white robes and a long white beard perched up in the clouds giving us the hairy eyeball day-in and day-out just doesn’t jive with me. I believe in energy, in a life force. Fate. The Universe. Whatever you want to call it, it doesn’t look like Santa Claus in a muumuu, you know? (This sounds sarcastic – maybe even mocking. I don’t mean it to, and I’m not making fun if you do believe He’s up there, looking down. It’s just, for me, it’s similar to the myth of Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny: fanciful, and destined to be outgrown. But believing in a Universal force makes no sense either, nor that ghosts exist, and I believe in both. So belief is belief and faith is faith, and make no mistake: I respect yours.)

But let’s, for the sake of argument, say there really IS a God. An actual God, sitting up there in Heaven looking down on us mere mortals through His telescopic Eye.

What if?

Well first of all, I have some major kissing up to do. Awkward. But otherwise, what must He be thinking about a debate that continues to rage around who should be allowed to love whom, and marry whom, and serve whom, and employ whom, and adopt whom?
This is where I get stuck in the logic, and mired in the rhetoric. I need help understanding, because isn’t the idea that all people are made in His image? Isn’t the idea that God loves everyone, even the sinners*? Especially the sinners?

Isn’t the idea that God represents love, and friendship, and kindness, and forgiveness, and redemption?

It seems to me that if God, and Jesus too, can love the sinners – even the murderers, even the thieves and the liars and the adulterers – then He can find it in Himself to love the gay community.
And if He can, why is it so difficult for so many who follow Him?

In my opinion marriage is an agreement; it’s a legally binding contract. It’s religious only insofar as the two individuals bound by that contract are religious. I believe this because – as I said – I don’t believe in God and am not religious, yet I’m married. My eligibility for marriage was never in question (so far as I know) regardless of our omission of God in the proceedings. So if marriage is a contract between two parties, what jurisdiction does the Bible have to dictate the gender of those two parties? At the risk of sounding super unromantic: it’s just business, baby.
I’ve also heard it said that traditional families are the best kind of families; the cornerstones of society. That children need a mother and a father, full stop. But lots of kids are raised by single parents of one or the other gender, or by grandparents, or by the State, and the vast majority of them turn out just fine (myself among them, I like to think.) In my view, the best kind of families are the ones who love each other. A roof over their head, food in their belly and love in their heart is all a kid really needs to grow up successfully, and lots of gay couples I know have that in spades. Some would say that kids of gay parents have an unfair disadvantage to overcome; they’ll be singled out, bullied. Maybe so. I don’t know really. But a male/female nesting couple doesn’t guarantee an adversity-free upbringing.

Does it?

And finally, what of legislation that supports the rights of business owners to refuse service to people based on their sexual orientation? I understand it’s only a proposal right now, and I think I understand the motivations behind it. No one likes doing things that make them uncomfortable. I get that. At its heart, though, at least in my view, it’s a proposal for legislated discrimination. It’s no different than saying, “Serving coffee to black/Hispanic/Baptist/Catholic/Muslim/disabled/diseased individuals in my establishment goes against my religion,” which, we can agree, is discriminatory.
Or do we agree? I don’t know any more. I think it’s a slippery slope, but is it really?

Side note: How will a proprietor know who is gay and who is not? I mean, yes, if you burst inside an establishment in a blaze of rainbow flags and glitter-bombs and short-shorts, it might be easy to infer. But otherwise… ? Is this a slippery slope to registration? To pink stars? I know it sounds extreme – and probably inflammatory – but all the great social injustices started somewhere, didn’t they, in communities who thought they were innocuous. How does this differ?

I don’t have all the answers; I hardly have any of them. My opinions are what they are based on the information I have, but I’m always learning. I want to learn more, from every perspective, which is why I’m asking you.
 
What do you think?

          How do you feel about gay rights, and why?

                    Where and how can we find middle ground?

It’s a sensitive issue, I know. It’s probably vastly inappropriate for the Money Pit, and I’ve probably offended a bunch of folks too, which I’m sorry about if so. Daryn told me categorically it was a bad idea to post this, but I don’t think so. The blogging community comes together on so much, I think we can come together on this too. We may not agree at the end of the day but it will make us better people to better understand opposing perspectives, don't you think?
 
So… let’s talk, just for a second. Can we?


*PS- I don’t think the LGBTQ community are sinners. I’m just using that term in the context of a religious perspective. Please don't freak out. xo
   

25 February 2014

Foodie Tuesday | Roasted Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken noodle soup: the ultimate comfort food.

'Nuff said.


    
ROASTED CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP
Preparation: 15 minutes | Cooking Time: 50-60 minutes | Serves: 6-8
   
Ingredients:
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, medium-diced
  • 2 large carrots, halved & sliced into pieces 1/4 inch thick
  • 2-3 celery stalks, sliced into pieces 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 3 cups cooked chicken, shredded
    We generally use the leftover meat from roasted chicken dinners the evening before (I always cook two whole chickens on 'roasted chicken' night for exactly this reason- leftovers. Can't get enough of them.) For an awesome and tasty shortcut, pick up a rotisserie chicken from your local supermarket.
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 2 large baking potatoes, peeled & diced into 1/4 inch cubes
  • 1 tsp. coarse sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 (375mL) can evaporated skim milk
  • 4 oz. (2 cups) uncooked wide egg noodles (we use whole wheat, no-yolks noodles)
   
Cooking Directions:
  1. Heat olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed stock pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
      
  2. Add onion, carrots, celery and garlic. Sauté 5-8 minutes or until the onion begins to turn translucent and carrots are slightly tender.
      
  3. Add chicken, then sprinkle flour, oregano, thyme and poultry seasoning over vegetables. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant.
      
  4. Stir in broth, potato, salt and pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for 20-35 minutes or until potato is tender and cooked through.
      
  5. Add milk and egg noodles; cook for 10 minutes or until the noodles are tender. Serve immediately (with crusty bread and butter, because that's awesome.)
  
This soup is particularly popular around our place during cold and flu season - it's roughly a bazillion times better (tastier, heartier, healthier, sexier, smarter, more stylish and better dressed) than your average store-bought varieties. Not that I'm knocking store-bought (except that I totally am) but this soup rocks my socks.


Ain't no soup like a home-cooked soup. {drops mic} WORD.

PS- This soup can be frozen, technically, but the noodles pretty much fall apart when defrosted. If you're hoping to freeze a batch or two, may I recommend you do so before you add the milk and egg noodles? Thaw the soup, bring to a boil and add both, cooking until tender.

Notes: one-pot-wonder | kid-friendly | (sort of) freezer friendly

{original recipe courtesy of Cooking Light}
 

18 February 2014

Foodie Tuesday | Sour Lemon Meringue Pie

February is a birthday month for us. Daryn turns (gasp!) 41 in the middle of this month, and I don't have to tell you what that means....

Do I?

Because really, it can only mean one thing: CAKE!!!

Or, in this case, PIE!! Because above all else, Daryn is a pie-guy. I rarely bake pies (Christmas and Foodie Tuesdays being the obvious exception), so it only feels right to bake him up some love in honour of the amazing day of his birth.

His favourite flavor by far is lemon meringue, but not just any lemon meringue: my guy prefers his pie a little more sour that sweet (as with his bride, so too with his dessert.) This zinger of a pie is guaranteed to make your taste buds stand up and take notice: it doesn't take 'no' for an answer.

So pucker up, peeps, and get ready to get your sourpuss on. Here we go:



SOUR LEMON MERINGUE PIE
Preparation: 24 hours +  30 minutes | Cooking Time: 75-90 minutes | Serves: 8
  
Ingredients:
Crust (straight from the Tenderflake box - it's the best kind!)
  • 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 lb. (464 g) Tenderflake lard, room temperature
  • 1 tbsp. white vinegar
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • water

Lemon Curd

  • 4 large lemons
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 4 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 eggs yolks, beaten (reserve the whites for meringue)

Meringue
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 6-8 tbsp. white sugar (you can adjust the sugar content to your tastes, but we find we like the meringue a little sweeter to offset the sour lemon)
 
Cooking Directions:
Crust
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
      
  2. In a large mixing bowl. whisk together flour and salt. Cut in Tenderflake lard with a pastry blender (or two knives) until the mixture resembles course oatmeal.
      
  3. In a one-cup measuring cup, combine vinegar and lightly beaten egg. Add enough water to make one full cup. Gradually stir into Tenderflake mixture. (Add only enough liquid to make dough cling together.)
       
  4. Gather into a ball and divide into six (6) roughly equal portions. Wrap any portions not immediately needed in cling wrap, and refrigerate or freeze. Chill the portions you intend to use for 30 minutes in the fridge.
       
  5. Lightly flour a flat, smooth surface (your counter top, or a smooth cutting board.) Roll out each portion to roughly a 10-inch diameter. Transfer dough to a 9" pie plate. Trim, leaving a quarter-inch overhang all the way around, or flute edges. Bake according to your pie recipe (for this pie, pre-bake empty shell at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes).
        
  6. Yields: 6 pie shells (3 double-crust pies)
   
Lemon Curd
  1. 24 hours in advance of baking, thoroughly wash and dry your 4 lemons. Finely grate lemon zest (of all 4) into a medium sized mixing bowl. Cut each lemon in half and carve off the white rind until the fruit segments are visible. Discard the rind.
      
     
  2. Slice lemons as thinly as possible (into two or 3 slices from each half) and add to the bowl of zest. Cover with sugar and salt, and stir to combine. Cover tightly with cling wrap and set aside at room temperature for 24 hours.
      
  3. When ready to prepare your pie (and you've baked your shell), strain the lemon mixture into a separate bowl using a fine mesh strainer. The idea is to get all the sugar and lemon juice into the bowl, but none of the piths, pulp or seeds.
      
  4. Transfer the lemon mixture to a medium saucepan and begin heating over medium-high heat. In a separate bowl, combine water, cornstarch and flour; whisk until cornstarch/flour is fully dissolved. Add cornstarch mixture to lemon mixture and cook, stirring frequently (otherwise it'll clump and you'll be sad and have to start over), until the whole thing comes to a boil and begins to thicken (about 5 minutes.) Stir in butter, and remove from heat.
       
  5. In a third, small bowl (sorry for all the dishes), lightly whisk the egg yolks. To the yolks, slowly add a 1/2 cup of the lemon mixture and gently stir, taking care not the scramble the egg.
      
  6. Whisk egg yolk mixture into the saucepan. Bring the whole shebang to a boil and cook, stirring constantly until very thick (another 5 minutes). Remove from heat. Pour mixture into your pre-baked pie crust.
      
Meringue
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (again).
      
     
  2. In a medium glass or metal bowl, whip egg whites (with an electric beater, on medium-high speed) until foamy. Add sugar gradually until firm peaks begin to form. Spread meringue over the pie, taking care to seal the edges at the crust. Let stand for 10-15 minutes to form a "skin" before baking.
      
  3. Bake for 15 minutes if you prefer white meringue; 25-35 minutes if you like it more golden brown (for an extra boost, broil the pie on low for the final 2-3 minutes.) Allow to chill thoroughly and completely before serving (otherwise it will feel like liquid hot magma in your mouth - ouch - and also the curd firmly sets at room temperature.)

Is it a multi-step process that requires full attention to progress through? Yup. Does it take some time to execute? Sure. Maybe more than your average effort? Yes, I would say so.

Is it worth it? ABSOTIVELYPOSILUTELY.

This pie has Daryn's official *Stamp of Approval* which means it's good, people. It's real, real good. You won't be disappointed.

NOTES | KID-FRIENDLY
     
  
Other Foodie Tuesday dessert recipes you might like:
    

14 February 2014

It's All About the Love, Y'All



I ask you, is this not the cutest lil' cactus* you ever did see?

Despite being a prickly little devil (and it is -I'm still nursing a few thorns in my thumb), the white flowing tendrils and pretty flower on top make it a lovely, romantic gift for that special someone.

(In this case, that 'special someone' is my brother's girlfriend, who luuuurves cactuses... cacti... whatever. She loves them.)

Our Valentine's plans are pretty low key. Actually, they're non-existent. We don't really celebrate in this house, except to indulge in a bag (or forty) of cinnamon hearts until the first five layers of our tongues burn off. Daryn's away at a conference today and tomorrow (like, who schedules a conference on Valentine's Day?? No one who's wife or husband is happy with them, clearly.) The Girl has swimming, too, which means we'll be sitting on the sidelines of a muggy pool, sweating through our track pants. So you know... that's pretty romantic. And with day #2 of D's conference starting at 7.15am, we'll be hitting the sack at 8.30pm (that 5am wake-up call is really early.)

We might order pizza for dinner. Because we're classy like that, and everybody knows that true romance starts with extra cheese and garlic dip.

EVERYBODY.

Anyway, I had this big post planned where I was going to tell you all about love languages: what they are in general, what ours are specifically, what that means about Love at the Money Pit, and how you can find out your own language.

It didn't work out.

I'll tell you all about that stuff another time (love is a popular theme over here at Money Pit... Love.) I decided instead to share my thoughts on some of the most popular "love" sayings going around. They're not what you think. (My thoughts I mean. The quotes are pretty standard stuff.)

"Love means never having to say you're sorry." - Jenny (Ali McGraw), Love Story

WRONG. Totally, utterly, completely wrong. This is wishful thinking in the extreme, and such bad advice to live by. It sets people up for failure, you know?

Daryn and I apologize to each other ALL. THE. TIME. Not because we fight all that often, or don't generally get along. Completely the opposite, actually. We apologize when we've been wrong, of course, but also to acknowledge when we haven't offered the best side of ourselves to the other. Especially then.

We spend so much time out in the world, putting on our game face and giving other folks - the ones who don't matter as much or even at all - the bulk of our energy. It's easy to come home and drop the façade, and we should be able to do that. If we can't be 100% comfortable with the person we've chosen to be with until death do us part, with whom can we be? But completely at ease doesn't mean crabby or short-tempered or impatient. The energy we put into giving the people who don't matter our positive attention should be given at home, too. Sweatpants are OK, if there's a smile and a hug and undivided attention attached.

So when we don't offer the best side of ourselves to the other, we apologize. And we apologize for being thoughtless, or careless, or forgetful, or flippant, or distracted or short-tempered. Because apologizing says to the other person: You matter. You matter more than anyone, and you deserve my very best. I didn't give it to you in that moment, but I want to be better for you because you deserve it.

So say you're sorry. True love means owning your shit, and being grown up enough to apologize when it hits the fan.

"You don't marry someone you can live with - you marry someone you can't live without." - author unknown

Um, yeah. Sure. Sounds good on paper. But how do you know you can't live without them until you've tried? And have you ever lived with someone who was too much like you, or completely the opposite of that? Don't get me wrong - passion is important in any relationship. Might be TMI, but Daryn and I have been together more than 18 years and are still super hot for each other. SUPER hot. We are accused very frequently of acting like teenagers - we think that's a good thing.

But compatibility? Equally as important, if not more so. Critical, really. Passion rears its lovely head two or three times a week, but it's compatibility that lets you share a sink with your partner for 50 years without cracking heads or filing for divorce. It's compatibility that gets the laundry folded and the dishes washed and the dog walked. Passion doesn't make the grocery list, baby, and it definitely doesn't hit up Loblaw's every Sunday. Passion is amazing but life needs a lot of filler and if you can't get along then, you'll never make it to the finish line.

What I'm saying is: passion and compatibility are BOTH important in a successful relationship. Marry someone you can live with AND can't live without. That's the sweet spot right there.

"The heart wants what it wants. There's no logic to these things. You meet someone and you fall in love and that's that." - Woody Allen

Yes. I think that's actually true. Sometimes, against all odds and even though you know you shouldn't - and everything in the logical part of your brain says, No, this isn't a good idea - you fall in love with someone.

But relationships are more than that, in my opinion. At least the ones that go the distance.

Falling in love isn't the same as staying in love. And being "in love" isn't "loving" someone. Being in love is loving the feeling as much as you love the person. Loving someone is about the person, and it allows for good, bad and in between.

Being in love sometimes just happens; loving someone is a choice. Every day, whether our lives are good or bad in that moment, whether we're struggling or coasting or on top of the world, we make a choice every waking minute to stay with the person we love; to work together, to work toward a common goal, to make it work. When you choose differently - when you decide that maybe today, you'll take a day off from the work - is when things go to shit. But choosing to work - together, through and forward - is really loving someone (and loving yourself, too, enough to invest in something bigger than yourself.)

So yeah, you meet someone and you fall in love. But that's not that. The rest takes work, and commitment, and choices.

My goal is to have both: I want to love Daryn, and be in love with him. After all these years, he stills makes me giddy. I have a wicked-bad crush on him, and get pretty damn tongue-tied when he looks at me that way, or kisses the back of my neck. (TMI again? Sorry. What can I say? It's Valentine's Day.) But I love him, too. Trips to the grocery store are our "date" afternoons - we make the most of time together. We have lunch, we laugh, we offer gratitude for dishwashers loaded or floors swept, or driveways shoveled. And for us, it works.

"Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage." - Lao Tzu

Yes. YES. A thousand times yes.

*****

So, happy Valentine's Day to everyone. I hope you celebrate in whatever way is perfect for you (including not celebrating at all), and that you are surrounded by love on this day and always. And I don't mean just boys, or girls. I mean everyone, anyone: family, friends, partners, children. They all count: Valentine's Day isn't just for lovers, it's for everyone who loves anyone.

Cheers to you! We're celebrating with a large meat lover's and a few (hundred) cinnamon hearts.

xo
April

*I've only just now realized that if you didn't know this was a cactus, it could easily be mistaken for a boob. I mean, that flower at the top? Pure nipple action. My bad. It really is a plant, you guys. And maybe a prickly boob is just the perfect symbol of Valentine's Day, in the history of ever. But if you are offended by the boob cactus with its nipple flower, my bad. So sorry. Way it goes around here.

13 February 2014

Library Additions

Our newest additions to the library - all for just $37!

Book List
  1. Adams, Douglas | The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul
  2. Berendt, John | Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
  3. Coelho, Paulo | The Alchemist*
  4. Fraser, Sylvia | The Book of Strange: A Journey
  5. Fremes, Marvin | Historic Inns of Ontario
  6. Gabaldon, Diana | Lord John and the Private Matter
  7. Gaitskill, Mary | Bad Behavior
  8. Gibb, Camilla | Sweetness in the Belly
  9. James, P.D. | Death Comes to Pemberley
  10. Lee, A. Grant & Glen C. | Cabbages and Golf Balls: Marketing for Small Business Professionals
  11. Lodge, Tom | Mandela: A Critical Life
  12. Marquez, Gabriel Garcia | Love in the Time of Cholera
  13. Marx, Patricia | Him Her Him Again The End of Him
  14. McCarthy, Morgan | The Other Half of Me
  15. McEwen, Ian | Atonement
  16. Oates, Joyce Carol | American Appetites
  17. Ondaatje, Michael | The English Patient
  18. Paton, Alan | Cry the Beloved Country
  19. Urquhart, Jane | The Underpainter
  20. Stevenson, Robert Louis | Treasure Island
  21. Stoker, Bram | Dracula
  22. Suzuki, David | The Sacred Balance: Rediscovering Our Place in Nature
  23. Verey, Rosemary | A Countrywoman's Notes
  24. Wallach, Janet | Desert Queen
  25. Walls, Jeannette | The Glass Castle
*I totally already own this one, and now totally have two copies. Anybody need a copy? I hear it's a fabulous read... which I intend to get around to eventually. Possibly twice.
  

11 February 2014

Foodie Tuesday | Swiss (Chocolate) Roll

Do you want to look like you've spent ages in the kitchen making the most amazing dessert for family and/or guests, when really you spent no time at all? Do you want to be a rock star at your next office potluck lunch? Do you want all the moms in your neighbourhood to gossip about you behind your back because they're so jealous of your awsmazing baking skills?

If you answered 'yes' to any or all of these questions, do I have the dessert recipe for you!

(in that, yes: I do have the dessert recipe for you.)

This simple Swiss Roll recipe is a healthier, homemade version of the classic store-bought variety. It tastes like a million bucks and is guaranteed to make all your friends green with baking envy.



SWISS (chocolate) ROLL
Preparation: 30 minutes | Cooking Time: 12 minutes | Serves: 6-8
   
Ingredients:
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 tbsp. icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • icing sugar, for dusting
  • vegetable oil
        
Cooking Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a 9" x 12" jelly roll pan (a cookie sheet with high sides) with vegetable oil. Line with waxed paper and then lightly grease the paper. Set aside.
      
  2. In a medium sized bowl, beat the eggs and 1/3 cup sugar with an electric beater on high speed, until it becomes thick and fluffy (approximately 1 minutes 30 seconds).
      
  3. In a separate, smaller dish, whisk together flour and cocoa powder. Add slowly to the egg mixture and whisk gently to combine.
      
  4. Pour batter into greased pan. Bake for 12 minutes.
      
  5. Remove pan from the oven, and grasping the edges of the waxed paper, remove cake from pan. Place on a cooling rack for 1-2 minutes.
      
  6. Meanwhile, spread a tea towel on the counter, cover with a fresh sheet of waxed paper and sprinkle generously with 2 tbsp. sugar. Turn the cake out onto the paper.
      
  7. Roll the cake up from the long side, rolling the paper inside the roll. (Do this gently to prevent the cake from cracking, but it's pretty malleable while it's warm so don't worry too much about damaging it.) Leave on the wire rack for 5 minutes, then unroll and finish cooling.
      
  8. While the cake is cooling, combine whipping cream, icing sugar, vanilla and cinnamon in a large bowl. Beat on high until stiff peaks form.
      
  9. Spread the whipped cream over the cake, leaving a half- to quarter-inch of space at each edge. (You will have extra whipped cream left over. This is OK. You should eat the leftovers with a spoon.)
      
  10. Roll the cake up again. Place the cake, seam-side down, on a tray and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Dust with icing sugar, then cut into slices to serve. 

For a festive twist, replace the cinnamon with 1 tbsp. of crushed candy cane to the whipped cream, or a 1/4 tsp. of mint extract to the cake batter... or both!

NOTES | (SUPER) KID-FRIENDLY, EASY 

{gently adapted from the Chocolate Roll recipe in Ready, Steady, Bake}


Other Foodie Tuesday recipes you might like:
   

07 February 2014

Science is Magic! And Gravity is Cool

This is Harold. Harold is a trapeze artist.



He is a master of balance.



Also he's a bit magic. But he tastes terrible.



Harold likes to hang around on the job...



...and perform incredible feats of daring.



Want to make your very own Harold? Here's what you'll need:
  
  • 1 popsicle stick
  • 1 pipe cleaner
  • 2 large paper clips
  • a pen
  
First, draw a face on end of the popsicle stick. Give him or her a name (mine will be Carl.)

Next, lay the pipe cleaner horizontally on the popsicle stick, approximately 1/4-inch from the bottom of the opposite end of his/her face. Fold the pipe cleaner around the sides, crossing over at the back (like the initial crossover when tying shoes). Bring both ends around the front and cross again.

Attach a large paperclip to each end of the pipe cleaner by looping it (the pipe cleaner) through the small, inner-U of the clip. Fold the end of the pipe cleaner to secure the paperclip in place.

Now, get to the acrobatics! By adjusting the angle of the pipe cleaner counterbalances, you can balance your Harold on anything from your fingertip to your tongue, from the dog's nose to the end of a pen... or even on the edge of a piece of paper.

Science is magic! And gravity is cool.


06 February 2014

Art Pop

So earlier in January I was cruising around my go-to blogs as I usually do when I have ten minutes, and I happened to pop over to Lindsay Stephenson's Little House Blog (one of my faves.) And what did I happen to find there? None other than this little beauty:

photo courtesy of Lindsay Stephenson, Little House Blog







space
Well, now.

Helllooooo, gorgeous!

Not being a gal to pass up anything that is a) awesome and b) awesome+gold, obviously I ordered one immediately.

And look what's arrived!!



OK, full disclosure: it actually arrived two weeks ago (Lindsay is F-A-S-T with delivery!) I just haven't had an opportunity to blog about it until now.


I couldn't be more excited, and I know exactly where I'm going to put it: in the kitchen, across from the island where I can always see it. This might seem like an unlikely place for a 'Don't Grow Up' print but actually it's perfect. Where else is a better place to hang such a perfect motto than right in the centre of the house?

Nowhere, that's where.

So THANK YOU, Lindsay! It's beautiful, and I'm so glad to have a Penny Paper Co. print for my house - finally! Once the kitchen is painted (two weeks from now, if everything goes according to plan) and I've selected a frame, I'll share photos of it on the wall in its place of honour.

If you like this print, or are interested in Lindsay's other work, click over to The Penny Paper Co. and have a look around. She's kind of a genius, so it'll be impossible not to find something you love!
  

04 February 2014

Foodie Tuesday | Chocolat Chaud

There are few better remedies for the bone-chilling tang of deep winter than a mug full of rich, creamy hot chocolate. In fact, I'd argue there are none at all; nothing else is quite so comforting, quite so warm-you-up-from-the-inside delicious as a cup of hot, creamy chocolate.

As a born-and-bred Canadian surviving my 37th winter, I declare this to be true. There are no substitutes.

But not all hot chocolate is created equal. Store-bought varieties can be tasty, and are a good alternative if you can't get your mitts on the real thing. I used to think when I was little that hot milk with Nestle Quik (powder, not syrup!) stirred in was the height of delicious. The "real deal" as it were.

It wasn't until I was much older that I came to appreciate hot chocolate as it was meant to be: real chocolate, real milk, real cream. Real ingredients make the best hot chocolate around... so good it's fancy enough to be called chocolat chaud (because just like glasses make you look ten IQ points smarter, French makes it ten times more sophisticated - so sophisticated that I spelled out 'ten times' rather than putting it like this: 10x - because we're classy like that, you and I.)

So give your kids (or better yet, yourself) a treat this week and whip up a pot of the richest, creamiest, most decadent chocolat chaud around. Cheers to you.



CHOCOLAT CHAUD
Preparation: 10 minutes | Cooking Time: 20 minutes | Serves: 4
   
Ingredients:
  • 2 1/2 cups 2% milk
  • 2 cups half-and-half cream
  • 6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
       
Cooking Directions:
  1. Combine milk and cream in a medium-sized, thick-bottomed sauce pan. Stir occasionally over medium heat until hot but not boiling (boiling will scorch the milk.)
      
  2. Meanwhile, roughly chop chocolate squares into small dice.
      
  3. When milk is hot, remove from heat and add chocolate. Whisk until melted.
      
  4. Return pot to burner; reduce heat to medium-low. Add sugar, vanilla and cinnamon. Whisk gently until piping hot, then serve up big mugfuls topped with whipped cream, shaved chocolate or, a favourite in our house, mini marshmallows.
    
NOTES | GLUTEN-FREE, (SUPER) KID-FRIENDLY, EASY
  
Special thanks to the Girl, who served as my awsmazing model for the chocolat chaud photo shoot; those hands are perfect!

01 February 2014

House Stalking | Lea Michele

What happens when a cutting edge stylist from a trendy shelter e-zine teams up with an up-and-coming Hollywood star, to give her home a glamorous makeover?

Such was the question when Estee Stanley, interior designer and editor-at-large of Domaine, convinced friend Lea Michele (everyone's favourite Gleek, apparently) to allow her to remodel several rooms in her 1920's West Hollywood bungalow for a Quick Change feature for the popular online magazine.

The result? Pure magic. Pure, unadulterated, gorgeous, envy-inspiring magic.








What I love best about Lea's home is the sense of scale. Unlike most celebrity homes that are chock full of a gazillion (wasted) square feet and over-the-top (wasteful) opulence just because they can be, this 2-bedroom, 1,805 square foot house is small and perfectly formed. It's beautiful and rich in its own right, without beating you around the face with "I'm rich! I'm riiiiiiiich!" like some others I can think of (I'm looking at you, Oprah.)

Though this may not be Lea's full-time décor, if I were her it definitely would be. Check out the full house tour here.

Even better? Skip to the very bottom of the article for the Shop the Look: a listing of products and suppliers that'll help you recreate her super-glam look in your own bungalow.

PHOTO CREDIT: ALL PHOTOS BY JUSTIN COIT FOR DOMAINE.