"Someday's gonna be a busy day..."

Friday, 30 March 2012

Thorny Roses

It's Thursday. I'm on my third cuppa coffee, my mood tangled somewhere between exhaustion and apathy. I suppose I'll perk up after I fill the bird feeders and go for a brisk walk while the north wind tries to push me around. Or maybe I'll just creep upstairs on my lunch and hide under the covers for 45 minutes.

This time of year is always a mixed bag of emotions for me.

Spring is such a delightful season, full of little joys: violets peep from their hiding places in the grass, plump buds adorn the trees, rhubarb's wrinkly nubs appear, birdsong fills the air, chocolate cake and presents are pending. But around the corner from my birthday come sad reminders: Rose's birth, and my mother's death. And then joy hits me again with Jade's birthday, lilacs and apple blossoms, spring rain and the music of frogs and crickets.

Isn't that just life all over though? A heady mix of exhilaration and despair, small moments of beauty and ugliness, unremarkable days and thrilling nights? Never boring, this life of mine. Never a rose without a thorn, or a thorn without a rose.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

5 Things I Think about When Choring

1. Is this cow gonna kick me? Please don't kick me. Oh crap, she's gonna kick me!! She's moving her foot!!! Ahhhh! Okay, she's not going to kick me. Is she?

2. Stupid, rotten, dirty, dirty cow. Who lays down in their own poop?

3. How many times do I have to wash this teat before that black stuff comes off? Come ON! Get clean!! GET - oh. That teat IS black. Oops.

4. D looks so freaking hot in those coveralls. Seriously. I'm going to pinch his butt next time he bends over to put a milker on.

5. Geez, my mother-in-law must have shrunk these coveralls. I can barely bend - (gasp!) - over. Hmm. Maybe I'm just fat. No, she probably shrunk them.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

The Rumbly Tummy: Dandelions are Dandy

You know the cool thing about living in the country? Your lawn is likely pesticide free, and if you don't have a dog, it's likely pee-pee free too (so long as your toddlers haven't gotten there first). Which means that you can pick your very own dandelion greens for salads!

If you are wrinkling your nose and thinking "I would rather step on a dandelion than put it anywhere near my mouth," well, I dare you to give them a try. Not only are they plentiful and FREE, they are delicious and full of green goodness. Seriously: 1 cup of raw dandies give you crazy amounts of vitamin A & K, plus 10% of your calcium and iron needs for the day. How's that for a little handful of weeds you pulled out of your lawn?

If you're still skeptical, then hide the dandies in a salad of some sort. You know, like a pasta salad. That's what I did yesterday when my Dad came over for lunch.

Pasta salads are quick and easy. Plus you can throw in whatever is lying around in the fridge. I've chucked in various combinations of spinach, green onion, sweet onion, red onion, cucumber, zucchini, carrots, broccoli, celery, tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, frozen peas, frozen corn, chick peas, kidney beans, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts....you name it, it's been partying in my pasta salad at one time or another.

Pasta Salads are great for using up limp-ish veggies and emptying open jars of artichokes or roasted red peppers you used in some obscure recipe last week. If you want to be extra naughty, throw in some crumbled bacon just before serving.

As for dressing, anything with oil and vinegar is good. Lemon juice and herbs make it even better, and for heaven's sake, don't forget to add enough salt. The pasta tends to suck up all the flavour, so make sure you have enough dressing. I usually add about a cup of dressing for a a big bowl, let it sit in the fridge for a few hours, then add a bit more as needed.

And adding those dandelions ensures you get your nutritious greenies with minimal fuss. So get your butt out there and start pickin'!

Friday, 23 March 2012

A Maple Syrup Hissy Fit

If there's one thing I adore, it's maple syrup. And if there's one thing I adore about maple syrup, it's maple syrup festivals. Oh, the walk through the woods, the smell of wood fires, the pleasant people dressed in period costumes, the kettle corn line ups, and best of all, the pancakes and sausages and syrup...I think it's just great.

My loving husband, however, has a slightly different viewpoint, as evidenced by our conversation the other night.

Me: (bouncing around in an annoying fashion): Guess what time of year it is???
D: (grimly) What?
Me: MAPLE SYRUP TIME!!!! It's the old time maple syrup festival this weekend and-
D: No.
Me: But-
D: NO.
Me: What do you mean, no?
Me: (pouting) But you went last year.
D: Yes. And I'm not going this year.
Me: But the kids will love it!
D: I don't care.
Me: (batting eyelashes and making wanton gestures in his direction) Don't you love me anymore?
D: Yes. (holds his hand up high in measurement) I love you THIS much. (holds other hand significantly lower) And this is how much I love that stupid sh*tty festival. I'm NOT GOING. EVER. AGAIN.

Well. At least he got it out of his system. The question is, do I attempt to take two children under the age of three to an outdoor festival myself, or do I stay home and sulk? Or (and this is the idea that really appeals to me) do I run away and leave D with the kids, and go by myself, gorge on pancakes and kettle corn and come home when I'm satisfied?


Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Dear Mother Nature...it's MARCH, not AUGUST!

Spring was just stretching and yawning when Summer hip-checked her aside and flopped down on Someday Farm, grining a big, satisfied smile.


I won't go into a diatribe about climate change or the springs I used to remember as a kid. But COME ON! It should NOT be 24 degrees in MARCH.

The warm weather does make me feel frisky...for greens, people. GREENS! Nice, fresh lettuce and spinach and herbs. Which, of course, means only one thing: salad is on the menu again at Someday.

When I volunteered as a newsletter writer for the CSA in Waterloo, I had to come up with new and wonderful ways to eat greens, because we got a LOT of them in our food boxes in the spring. So I started inventing weird and wonderful salads. I used to think salad was boring-o, but it turns out you can be as funky and decorative with salad ingredients as you can with soup.

So here you go...one of my latest faves.

Asian Beef n'Greens
- 1 clove garlic, smashed
- 2 tbsp sesame oil
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 3 tbsp rice vinegar
- 5 thin slices fresh ginger
- dash of five spice powder if you have it

1/8 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
squeeze of lime
1 clove garlic, minced
1 slice ginger, minced
salt to taste

Other ingredients
1 medium chunk flank steak
4 cups greens of your choice (I like using a combo of iceburg lettuce, baby bok choy and spinach b/c they can hold up to the temperature and weight of the beef)
1 carrot, sliced diagonally
2 stalks celery, sliced diagonally
1 handful snow peas, ends trimmed & cut in half
2 green onions, sliced diagonally
2 handfuls bean sprouts
10 basil leaves, torn
1/8 cup sesame seeds, toasted in a frying pan over low heat until fragrant
2 cups cooked rice noodles (optional)

1. Whisk up the marinade & pour into a big leak-proof bag. Throw in the flank steak and marinate up to 12 hours in the fridge.
2. Grill your steak over medium heat on the BBQ for 10 minutes on each side. Do not overcook! Make sure it's still a bit pinkish in the middle, or you'll be sorry. Let it rest on a cutting board for 5 minutes. Slice thinly against the grain.
3. If you're using the noodles, lay them out like a nice bird's nest on a platter. Then assemble your veggies on top: greens first, carrots & celery & snow peas next, then sprouts and onions.
4. Lay your slices of delightfully pink steak in any artful way you wish on top of the salad. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and basil leaves.
5. Serve the dressing separately so each person can decide how much they want, or forget about the whole platter thing, chuck all the ingredients in a bowl with the dressing and serve it like a piece of abstract salad art. It still tastes delicious.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Stupid, sandwich-stealing wind...

I've told you before how freaking windy it is up here at Someday farm. And damn, I hate the wind.

You'd think the winds would come howling over the lake, but no: the winds come mostly from the south. They scream across the south field and whirl right through the hole in our tree line (thanks, faulty septic system) to pummel us as we attempt to get anywhere from our back door.

Today, we're having gusts up to 54km/h, but it feels more like 100km/h, the way my hair was nearly torn off my head once I managed to wrench open the screen door. Giving me the mother of all bad hair days wasn't enough though: that pesky wind proceeded to blow the top layer of granola right off my bowl of yogurt!

To add insult to injury, the wind decided to steal my lunch this afternoon. I thought I'd gotten smart: I scurried from the house to the office with my sandwich and salad sheltered under my coat. Apparently I am not smarter than nature. The wind flipped open my coat, and made off like a bandit with the top slice of bread and the last two delicious pieces of summer sausage I'd managed to find in the fridge. My half-sandwich is now decorating my muddy lawn, and will no doubt become a prize worth fighting over for our nightly parade of critters.

Damn you wind! If I didn't know better, I'd think you were in league with the raccoons.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Starry, starry night...

Sunday, 8:45p.m. Someday Farm.

The kids are finally in bed. D is passed out on Jade's futon. The dishes loom, laundry lurks, the kitchen floor looks like it's been noodle-bombed. But I quietly open the creaky closet, slide on my coat and sneak out the back door.

I take a deep breath. A winter night, and it's all mine.

There's a big ring round the moon and the snow glitters with diamond sparkles. No wind tonight, for once, so I can hear the river rushing along behind the treeline, and owls hooting hellos to each other in the sentinel pines. Their chuckles echo off the barn wall. I can even hear Ms. Red Squirrel tossing in her sleep inside the hollow of our chestnut tree. I'm alone, and not alone.

Then I hear a snort. I turn to see ten deer in the south field, maybe six car lengths away from me. One is meandering along the edge of our lawn, snuffling the ground in search of old apples. Then she spies me and stands perfectly still. I stand perfectly still. I hold my breath.

Our screen door, which I've neglected to close tightly behind me, makes a terrible clang as it slams shut, scaring the hell out of me, the deer and the owls. The deer flicks her tail and gallops off with her sisters, fast, then faster, until they're just blurry bounding specks heading for the safety of the trees.

After a pause, the owls begin to chat again. The snow is still full of diamonds. The river keeps rushing.

I take another deep breath, and smile.

Friday, 2 March 2012

The Rumbly Tummy: Soup, beautiful soup!

I love making soup. Have I told you that before?

Oh...I guess I have.

Well, anyway, my latest creation turned out so well I felt compelled to share it with you, so that you, in turn, would be compelled to make it yourself. Cuz it's damned good, friends. And healthy. And addictive.

D, like many men, is programmed to only shop in bulk. This means he buys entire trays of chicken and dumps them in the freezer, without separating them first. Which means I end up thawing 6-8 giant bone-in breasts at once. I am not a big chicken fan to begin with, and so I season and roast half of Chickie Chick for supper and lunches, and have to be creative with the other half. And this, my friends, usually means SOUP, glorious soup!

As I surveyed the frozen Chickie triplets on the counter, wishing yet again that someone would invent a way to prepare raw meat without actually having to touch it, my inner chef nudged me.

"Hey," she whispered, "it's all rotten and rainy out. Don't you feel like some nice, hot chicken soup? You know, like Nana used to make? With noodles and stuff?"

I made a frowny "Hmmmm" face and looked outside. It was a gross, damp day. The sky was the colour of old socks and the last brave clumps of snow were losing a valiant battle against the mud. Soup, eh?

"Plus," continued Inner Chef, "you can just slide that nasty raw chicken into the pot. You won't even have to touch it."

Inner Chef always knows how to convince me. So that, dear reader, is what I did, along with carrots, onion, garlic, celery and a bay leaf or two. Plus salt and pepper. Plus ginger and lemon. And I simmered the heck out of it for about an hour, until the chicken started to pop off the bone nicely.

Once the broth was done and Chickie was cooked, I strained everything and began to rummage, slice and dice. This is what I came up with:
- 1 onion, roughly chopped
- 2 carrots, thickly sliced
- 3 ribs celery, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 hunk of fresh ginger, thickly sliced

I threw all that chopped up goodness in my soup pot and sauted it in about two tablespoons of coconut oil, my new favourite cooking tool. It smells and tastes divine, is supposed to be antibacterial and you can rub it on your chapped winter hands afterward.

The smells that filled my kitchen were indescribably lovely. Inner Chef agreed. And pointed to my spice cabinet. "Forget the noodles. That coconut makes me want turmeric. And curry. And cumin. And lots of it!"

The measurements went something like this:
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp turmeric
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp salt
1 dash cayenne powder

I stirred that into the veggies for about a minute, until the fragrances became so heady that I almost fainted into my soup pot from sheer bliss. I topped everything up with the broth and a bit of water, giving myself an accidental curried facial. Then I checked the cupboards.

Red lentils?
"Ooh, yeah," purred Inner Chef.
Wild rice?
"Why the hell not?" said Inner Chef.
Coconut milk?
"I thought you'd never ask," sighed Inner Chef.

And so my coconut curry chicken soup was born. Topped with lime, chopped green onion and cilantro, it's dreamy. I served it over basmati rice for supper and even D, an avowed anti-curry-ite, ate it and approved.

It's incredible that something as disgusting as raw Chickie can turn into something so profoundly yummy. Thanks, Inner Chef. And thanks, Chickie.

PS: I ate it all before I thought to take a photo, but this image is pretty close, if you don't count the noodles.

In praise of...Crashing at Tanzi's

My work from home arrangement dictates that I must grace the "real" office (and by that, I mean the one where I can't show up braless wearing ratty track pants with paint splotches) every three weeks. It's a sweet deal. What makes it even sweeter is that my monthly trips to the city give me a great excuse to catch up with friends, and crash with my sister Tanzi.

Her latest pad is in a quaint part of Kitchener behind St. Mary's hospital. There are all sorts of old wartime "doll houses" and quiet, tree-lined streets. Although Tanzi's old place in Waterloo was beautiful and had easy access to all the down-town goodness, it didn't have an extra bedroom, so I didn't stay over. At her new place, I not only have my own giant bedroom, where Tanzi's naughty allergenic kitty Gatsby is forbidden to enter, I also have my own bathroom. Yeeha!

Hanging with Tanzi is always a treat. We often cozy up in her living room to share the news in between bites of take-out sushi. Or we go out for Thai. Or wings. If it's too late for supper, we drink wine and eat chips, sometimes in her big bed. That's the beauty of hanging out with my sister: we share similar vices.

After our evening excesses, I love how Tanz always tries to make me a healthy breakfast in the morning. She drinks these vile smoothies with spirulina or wheat grass or chlorophyll or some other gawdawful stuff that's supposed to be good for you, but they give me the chills. She doesn't know this, but the first one she ever made me got poured down the toilet after she left for work. Lord, it was nasty! Even Gatsby wouldn't touch it, and that cat rarely turns down an edible offering. Thankfully, my sister always has a bottle of Bailey's and buys decent coffee, so that makes up for her attempts at smoothie poisoning.

Can't wait to hit the city again soon and hang with my sistah, drink her wine and baileys and have some laughs.