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

Friday, 26 March 2010

For puck's sake...

"Oh hey there, Mrs. Lowry. Can your husband play old-timers' this Friday night?"

I knew I was destined to become a hockey widow once we moved to Kincardine and I began getting frequent phone calls like that one. But why did the guys who called feel they hadeto ask me for permission? Had I somehow gained a reputation for being an anti-hockey shrew? Or were they worried that a former city girl wouldn’t understand the crucial importance of hockey in a country boy's life?

A few years ago, they might have been right. Oh, I'd spent my fair share of Saturday nights glazed over on the couch at my dad's while Hockey Night in Canada blared in the background, but somehow I'd never soaked up much awareness of the sport. Now that I'd moved to the Bruce, though, it was high time I learned.

The first hockey game I watched my husband play, I wore a stylish short jacket and high-heeled boots.

"You're gonna want to wear something warmer than that," he warned me. “Put your winter boots on.”

"This is warm enough," I said. "You're in an arena, right? Not outside?"

D shrugged and said, "At least wear a jacket that covers your butt." I dismissed his concern. How cold could an arena be? I put the novel I was reading in my purse along with some change for hot chocolate and gave him a winning smile. His biggest fan was ready.

An hour later, I sat alone and shivering in the stands, trying to turn the pages of my book with numb fingers. There was no hot chocolate machine. My butt was uncomfortably numb. Humph, I thought. So my husband was right. I would have been having a lot more fun with a parka and a thermos of hot toddies. Maybe even a sleeping bag. And where were all the other hockey wives? I made mental notes for next time.

Although I really had no idea what the rules were apart from the whole get-the-puck-in-the-net thing, I thought I was following the play fairly well in between chapters of my book. At one point when I looked up, my husband collided with a player from the other team, who skated off the ice holding his head. A bunch of players skated around the rink slowly, peering down at the ice. Huh, I thought. Poor guy must have lost a contact lens. The play resumed; I went back to my book.

When the resurfacer whirred out onto the ice, I clued in that the game was over. I charged into the warmth of the hallway outside the change rooms and pounced on my husband when he appeared. He was walking oddly, half dragging his hockey bag.

"That was fun! Phew, it smells in there. How come your face is all red? Did that guy ever find his contact lens?"

My husband narrowed his eyes at me. "You mean did he find his TOOTH? The tooth that got knocked out when the puck came off my stick and hit him in the face?" He paused. I was horrified. "Oh right," my husband continued, "you were probably reading Shakespeare when that happened. I guess you missed the goal I scored and the hit from behind I received from Bobby Clarke’s buddy because he thought my stick knocked his tooth out." The car ride home was pretty quiet.

Things have changed since then. I don't bring books to hockey games anymore. In fact, I now know that wives and girlfriends only come to tournaments, not weekly games. And, good country girl that I am, I come wearing a layer of long-johns, a coat that has both a hood and enough material to cover my bottom, and a blanket to sit on. Like the dutiful puck bunny I’ve become, I’ve learned to spot my husband's orange-and-blue hockey socks the minute he’s on the ice and I yell like a crazy woman whenever he gets within 10 feet of the puck. I can even tell – most of the time – if he scores a goal.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

A cheezee-tastrophe

Of late, I've been trying to avoid eating crap with artificial flavouring and colouring and preservatives. It's my newest health kick. It's shocking to see all the stuff that has fake colour and flavour in it, and I figure what goes into me goes into Jade - for a few more months, at least - so I'm just trying to be a bit smarter and read labels a bit more closely.

One of the biggest culprits is the junk food I so adore. My favourite - Cheetos Crunchy (think cheesies with all the air sucked out of them)- is chock-full of fake stuff. I know what you're thinking: "Well, duh, Kimberlee. That colour of orange just doesn't exist in nature." Yeah, I know. But while I was pregnant, I kept telling myself they were okay to eat because they contained folic acid, so important for pregnant moms! But that doesn't cancel out the MSG, fake flavour and Yellow 6 dye they're saturated with.

I was half-heartedly looking for an alternative in the grocery store, when what to my wondering eyes appeared but a bag simply called "Hawkins Cheezies." It was smaller than my usual bag of crap, plus the label proudly proclaimed "No preservatives!" "Made with real cheese!" and "Made in Canada!"

Well, I wasted no time in grabbing that sucker and popping it in the grocery cart. I couldn't wait to get home, rip into it and savour what would likely be a turning point in my junk food scarfing experience.

Strangely enough, I forgot all about the magical bag of Hawkins Cheezies until this afternoon, when I was trolling the cupboards during Jade's nap time for something to nosh on. I poured myself a little bowl and went to my favourite relaxing place on the couch. I sniffed the bowl in sweet anticipation. They smelled....cheesy. Closing my eyes, I plucked one from its orange little nest and popped it in my mouth.


My heavens, they were bad. They tasted like styrofoam dipped in salt, rolled in chicken soup mix and then more salt, then spray-painted orange. UGH! Then...I ate another one. (Well, I had to make sure the first one wasn't a fluke) Okay, I ate about 7 of them, just to be sure. And the 8th one tasted just as horrific as the first one, so I poured them in the garbage and said, "That's what I get for trying to eat healthy junk food."

But that wasn't the end of it, ohhhh no.

About three hours later, my tummy started rumbling. Dangerously. Like a broken septic system about to spew. I dumped Jade in her playpen and ran for the bathroom - and here I'll spare you the gory orange details. The damned things made me violently ill!!! I am so going back to Cheetos Crunchees. They may be fake, they may be bad for me, but at least my body doesn't reject them.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Yeah, but you don't have to rub my face in it...

My daughter is generally an enthusiastic eater. She especially enjoys smearing food all over her high chair, face, hair, elbows and occasionally, her feet. All the books say not to reprimand a messy eater; children should explore all aspects of eating in the early stages, and should even be encouraged to make a mess. Right.

This would be fine if Jade would only allow me to wash her face and hands off afterwards without screaming bloody murder. EVERY. TIME. I've tried doing it quickly; I've tried doing it extra-gently. I've tried making a silly song to go with the face-washing, making crazy faces, using a wacky voice - it all ends the same way: a shrieking, writhing baby who acts like I am stabbing her with pointy objects instead of sponging her off with a soft, warm cloth.

My husband doesn't usually get home in time to see the performance during the week. I was complaining about it to him on the weekend, showing him first-hand the Battle of the Face Cloth.

"I don't know what her problem is," I growled, as dodging, yelling baby Jade eluded me for the umpteenth time. "I have to put her in a headlock to get her face clean. Your mother says Jade never makes a fuss for her."

"I'll show you what the problem is," said my husband, and without further ado, grabbed me, grabbed the face cloth and started forcibly wiping my face off. "There, how d'YOU like it? Huh? Huh?"

After my squealing and Jade's giggling had subsided, I had to admit he had a point. Having someone wash your face is not fun, no matter what age you are. So now I just dab at Jady's avocado-smeared mug and if doesn't all come off, so be it. She seems to like it a lot better, too. Leave it to my ever-practical husband to show me the light.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Oscar and the grumbling tummy

Some of you long-suffering readers might recall my effusive, gushing Oscar entry last year. Well guess what? It's that time of year again - huzzah! But I think that instead of boring you with my usual starry-eyed Oscar deluge, I'll focus on the food.

What, no moaning about how my Oscar dress is tighter than ever this year? Or the fact that I can't indulge in too much champers on account of nursing Jady? Nope, this year, I'm just gonna tell you about the food I plan to make and devour during the 3 hour Oscar shennanigans. Cause I'm hungry and I haven't written about food in ages!

I come from a long line of excellent cooks and entertainers. My mother threw elaborate parties, and relied on several mainstays when serving appetizers. My sister and I were schooled in the art of putting together the "hors d'ouvres" (as Mom always called them) for the parties, and to this day, I can still make many of her recipes from memory. They're not fancy, but they look good and they have a certain 1970's - 1980's kitsch factor that tickles me every time I make them. Plus, they rock the tastebuds, which is the most important thing.

I'll describe a few of them here, then list the recipes below if you're interested. And if you have any fancy-dancy appies to share, please do. I always prefer a meal of appetizers to a full course supper.

First on the list are the Cheese Dreams. This one is kind of a poor man's quiche, but there's never any left when I serve it. It's a bit annoying on account of the Pillsbury dough management technique, but once you get the hang of it, it's worth the sticky fingers and muttered epithets while unrolling the dough. For those of you outside North America who have no idea what Pillsbury dough is, I'm not sure I can suggest a substitute; Pillsbury dough is every lazy cook's companion. It's chock full of fat, salt and unmentionable ingredients, but does it ever taste good.

Next, I like to whip up Mom's famous Taco Dip.
Mom's prounciation of the word "taco" used to make my sister and I exchange eye rolls, but the dip is absolutely scrumptious. I have even been known to eat leftovers for breakfast...if there are any, that is. It's simple, and actually not that horrible for you if you use low-fat cream cheese. The flavours meld together into a fantastic blend and the texture is somewhere between creamy-crunchy depending on which veggies you use. I must stress that you use decent nacho chips for dipping though - use a cheap brand and they'll snap like matchsticks when you try to scoop up a decent helping. Blue corn chips seem to be the best pick in my experience.

I didn't make Mushroom Caps this year, because D doesn't like them and I don't want to gobble an entire platter myself, which is exactly what will occur. But my heavens, they are SO GOOD. I assume it's the bacon, or maybe the fresh parmesan...in any case, I have never once made these and had people not scarf them so quickly they burned their tongues, despite my warnings. Once, I brought a tray of uncooked mushies to a New Year's party. The power went out - and the guests snorked them all back raw!

Mom never served proscuitto
that I can recall, but it's a treat for me. The sweetness of the melon against the saltiness of the meat is divine. The trick is browbeating your deli-counter employee to slice it PAPER THIN. There is nothing gaggier than a too-thick piece of proscuitto, trust me, and the folks at Sobey's, bless their high-school hearts, just can't seem to grasp that until I've sent the slice back at least three times. Good thing I don't make this one very often - I might get banned from the grocery store.

So anyway, the recipes are below. I hope you'll try 'em - and even if you don't watch the Oscars, I hope you feel glamorous when you eat these patented Alisa Feick hors d'ouvres. Bon appetit!

Cheese Dreams
You'll need:
2 rolls of Pilsbury dough - crescents
4 eggs
splash of milk or cream
1/4 cup parsley, minced
1/4 cup green olives, sliced
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
dash of your favourite hot sauce

1. Preheat oven to 375. Spread the dough out so that it covers a 9x13 baking sheet, preferably one with edges. It's a pain in the butt process, but try to make sure there are no gaps between the seams. You may have to get creative.
2. In a medium bowl, beat eggs and milk together until well blended.
3. Add all other ingredients except pepper. Stir until everything is well coated.
4. Spread the mixture out until all parts of the dough are covered. You may have to tilt the pan to get the eggy stuff to move around.
5. Grind some fresh pepper on it, and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until slightly browned. Cool for 10 minutes, cut into squares and serve warm or cold.

Taco Dip
What you'll need:
5 green onions, chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 orange or yellow bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 seedless cucumber, finely chopped
3/4 cup salsa
1 block cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp chili pepper
1 tsp onion or garlic powder
pinch oregano
1/2 cup jack or cheddar cheese, grated

1. Blend cream cheese and sour cream together until smooth and no lumps. (If you have the energy, use electric beaters.) Add spices and mix well.
2. Spread the cheese mixture over a large platter to 3/4 inch thickness. Cover with the salsa.
3. Starting at the outside edge of the platter, spread the onion in a circle. Follow with a circle of red pepper, then orange/yellow pepper, then fill centre with cucumber.
4. Sprinkle with cheese. Chill 30 minutes; serve with good quality nacho chips.

Marvy Mushroom Caps
You'll need:
20 medium sized mushrooms, stems removed (reserve 8 stems & chop finely)
1/2 block cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sweet onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup parsley, minced
two (or more) dashes hot sauce
salt and pepper
5 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled (Do NOT chintz out and buy pre-cooked bacon. Just...don't.)
1/4 cup fresh parmesan, grated

1. Preheat oven to 400.
2. Mix all ingredients together (except mushroom caps!).
3. Stuff mushroom caps as full as you can.
4. Bake for 20 minutes or until juices start flowing out of the caps.
Note: let them cool slightly or you will burn your tongue!

Proscuitto & Melon
You'll need:
10 slices of proscuitto, paper thin
10 chunks of honeydew or canteloupe melon
10 fresh mint leaves
juice from 1/4 lemon or 1/2 lime

1. Toss melon with lemon or lime juice in a small bowl. Let sit 5 minutes.
2. Wrap each piece of melon with a slice of proscuitto.
3. Top with a mint leaf. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Note: You can stab them with toothpicks, but I find the meat/melon/mint combo sticks together quite well without them.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Home sweet homely

When one of the friendly young Mums at Early Years Playgroup took me aside and invited me to the smaller, private "Mom's group" that a few of them organized every Thursday, I was secretly quite chuffed. Yes! The other moms actually thought I was cool enough to make the cut to their own group!

I haven't made too many new friends up in the Kink (although I hang out frequently with several of D's female rellies), so I hoped that joining the Thursday Mom club would furnish me with a few opportunities to pally up to some nice women. D is forever moaning about how I don't have enough "girlfriends" up here. I think he was even more pleased than I was about joining the group.

Jade and I quite enjoy our Thursday afternoon visits to the various homes and getting to know the moms and their babies. I've become pals with the lovely woman who initially invited me and we've gone for coffee a few times. The other ladies are equally cordial and easy to talk to, so I'm quite pleased to be part of their little Thursday baby gang. We laugh, we commiserate, we exchange pooptastrophe stories and goofy husband gaffes. It's fun.

The only thing that worries me is this: I've offered to host in a few weeks, and deep down, I'm afraid the ladies are going to be horrified with my house.

Every home I've visited on Thursday afternoons has been huge, new and completely spic and span. Even the places with pets seem mysteriously hair and whisker free. It's enough to make my eyes bug out - these are new moms! Where do they find the time - let alone the energy - to clean?? Yow.

I've noticed that each home has beautiful tiled floors in the kitchen, and laminate or hardwood throughout the rest of the open-concept living spaces. Plus, each house features a cavernous finished rec room, complete with giant screen TVs and beautiful fireplaces, and a yawning expanse of floor for the babies to play on.

No one has puckered linoleum, or slanted floors; no one has torn screen doors where their dogs have repeatedly begged entrance. I haven't seen a single rusty toilet or unpainted garage. Everyone's lawns look like they've been professionally landscaped - no one is living in a sea of mud thanks to a recent septic mishap.

Normally, I could care less about material things or what other people think of the way I live, so I don't know why this is niggling at me so much. I guess most of these moms are ten to nearly twenty years my junior; likely none of them have much experience living in old houses the way I have. I grew up in a 100 year old house; my house in Waterloo was 70 years old, and Someday was built in 1917. And Someday isn't without its charms: the gorgeous wood trim throughout the house, the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, the mature trees and the two acres that are our very own. I adore the personality and quirks of a building that's been well-lived in - but I'm having my eyes opened to the fact that most people nowadays choose to live in brand new, sparkly houses that they had some hand in designing. And those houses look like a lot less work than mine is. I suppose an old house is always a work in progress, whereas a new house is a completed entity with no surprises.

Well, it's not a competition, after all, and I'm likely not giving these nice women enough credit. They're coming for a visit, not to judge. And in a way, I'm excited to host folks here - I've fallen out of practice in hostessing lately, and I want Jade to see what it's like to have people over at her house. I'm hoping she blossoms socially and inherits her Baba's penchant for entertaining. And none of her mother's fits of inadequacy.