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

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Cheers to Mrs. S in Scotland - Aye, this post's for you!

I have a lovely bloggy friend named Mrs. S, aka Mrs. Successful. She lives in Scotland and we've been fans of each others' blogs for about a year. Mrs. S. has enlightened me on various things Scottish, including gardening in Scottish climes, Robbie Burns' poetry and "oysters" (a hideous looking ice-cream concoction). I've never been to her part of the world, so I get a kick out of reading about her life.

Ironically, I live near a town with a distinctly Scottish flavour to it. Kincardine has not one but two Scottish festivals, a Scottish shop which sells everything from bona-fide haggis to clan-accurate kilts, not to mention the weekly summer Saturday night parade where everyone turns up to march behind the town's kilt-clad bagpipe-playing band.

The first Scottish Festival took place last weekend, and it had everything: highland dance competitions, "heavy" events like caber tosses, beer gardens, authentic Scottish food booths and lots of funky vendors. AND an extra parade! I am a total sucker for parades and fireworks, and there were plenty of both with Canada Day and the festival overlapping.

Jady lady attended her very first pipe-band parade. I used to go to them when I was a kid, so I got kinda sentimental and sniffly when I heard the drone of the bagpipes coming down the street. At first, I worried that the screeching and moaning and the very loud drumming would send Jady into a fit of fear - to my thinking, bagpipes are a bit of an acquired taste - but she was riveted and literally on the edge of her stroller the whole time.

We celebrated her first Scottish parade with her very first ice cream cone, so all in all, it was a memorable, happy evening...even though we don't have a single Scottish gene in our pool, I was glad to be able to share a childhood pleasure with my own bonnie wee bairn. Now, if I can just find a kilt small enough for her next parade...

Cheers to you Mrs. S, and as they say at the Scottish Festival, "We're not away to stay away, we'll always come back and see you!"

Another meaty mishap in the kitchens of Someday

I've been bored stiff with my own cooking lately, which really isn't like me. Usually I enjoy poring over my recipe books or checking out foodie blogs for new ideas; for the past two weeks, though, I seem to have lapsed into a cooking-related funk. I have absolutely no interest in shopping, planning or preparing food. In fact, I haven't even been able to take much pleasure in eating, despite the fact that I'm always ravenous. It's a drag!

Meat has always been an uphill culinary battle for me, especially lately with my complete apathy for all things edible. Last week, I half-heartedly asked my local Sobey's butcher dude for flank steak, which a magazine article had touted as "economical and delicious," as long as it was given a good long marinade bath prior to cooking. He looked confused (he was about 17), and told me there should be some in the beef section. I found something labeled "flank marinating steak," and without really giving it the once over, popped it in my cart.

Tonight I decided to try cooking it. Imagine my confusion when I pulled the thing out of the package, ready to give it a nice soak in some garlic infused oil and vinegar, and found it had been butterflied! What the what am I supposed to do with this skanky looking thing? I thought. As I tend to do in most times of kitchen turmoil, I turned to the internet for help.

"Stuffed flank steak - easy gourmet your family will love!" gushed one website. "Impress your guests with rolled stuffed flank steak," promised another. I shrugged. It was either flank steak or a can of tomato soup with toast, so I gave it a try. I sauted spinach, onion and garlic, fished out some feta and attempted to stuff my steak.

The unrolling went okay (shudder), but rolling it back up with the tasty stuffing intact proved to be another story. I snuck another look at the recipe, which said:
"Place kitchen twine around the steak lengthwise, then at 1/2-inch intervals." Kitchen twine? I had decorative ribbon, garden nylon, twist ties and some baler twine, none of which seemed like the right choice. I was on the point of feeding the whole mess to the dog when I remembered the contents of my cocktail drawer: toothpicks! The elegant flank steak recipe was saved. Sort of.

It smelled okay. It cut nicely into pretty rounds and looked quite fashionable on the plate, nestled up to the roasted potatoes and tomato bocconcini salad. But when D tasted it, he did the nose-scrunch I've come to interpret as something being rotten in the state of Someday.

"Well, what do you think?" I asked.
D chewed meditatively for a moment, then furrowed his brow. "Is there some kind of weird spice or herb or something in this?"
"No," I said, "just spinach and onions. And salt & pepper."
He took another bite and did the nose scrunch again. "Then why does it taste like Scope?"

Dear reader, when using toothpicks to secure your next classy rolled flank steak meal, I highly recommend using the non-minty variety.


Now where's that damned can opener?

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

My cheatin' heart...and pen

Last Tuesday, I did something kind of naughty. And I plan to do it again tonight.

I cheated.

On my hot husband? Heavens, no. On my recommended pre-natal diet? Um, I would actually have to be following said diet in order to cheat on it. No, I committed my naughty act against two slightly more mundane things: my old city coffee shop, and my new country one.

My long-suffering novel has been dormant for almost a year now; the last time I dusted it off was at the KPL Storytelling festival last year, where I read a revised version of my first chapter. Since then - nada.

Motivation to write is - not surprisingly - harder to come by these days, not to mention the dwindling trickle of once-plentiful ideas that kept my characters and plot ticking away. I'm trying not to be too hard on myself; family needs to come first sometimes. But things are gonna get really busy in the fall with baby numero duo, so I made up my mind to try and get at least two more chapters written this summer. And in order to do that, I needed a writing space...outside of Someday.

I'm not sure why I can't seem to write at home. I have a decent-sized office with a great chair and a reasonable desk. But I prefer to do my writing outside the walls of my house. Back in Waterloo, I used to write faithfully for several hours a week at the Second Cup coffee shop; there was something so comforting about the aroma of that place. I'd feel all the day's tension melt away at the first sniff of freshly ground coffee. I always ordered the same thing (a mocchacino to start, with a mint tea for later), the chairs fit my kinks, and there always seemed to be a table waiting just for me, with an electrical outlet within my laptop's reach. It was my weekly ritual, and I loved it.

After moving to the Kink, I searched for a suitable replacement. There weren't many options, and certainly no Second Cups to satisfy my mocchacino cravings. The independently owned Books n' Beans had a quirky, welcoming atmosphere and decent lattes, but they weren't open beyond 6pm, and I'm an evening kind of writer. Still, I liked the fact that it was a small-town operation, and not some crazy Starbucks catastrophe.

When a Coffee Culture chain opened up a block away from Books n' Beans, I disdainfully turned up my nose after trying one latte, which - HORRORS! - came out of a push-button box thing instead of a proper espresso machine. Yes, Second Cup is a commercially owned chain too, but at least all their drinks are hand-brewed!

But as I tried to find other options, I realized that unless I wanted to write in a noisy bar with peanut shells on the floor, or in the hermetic, beverage-less silence of the library, I was going to have to suck it up and give Coffee Culture a try. And so last Tuesday, after Tai Chi, that's just what I did. And I was pleasantly surprised.

CC was clean, quiet and comfortable. I had a wide array of seats to choose from; deep, squishy armchairs by the fire, straight-backed chairs at little tables, or soft, cushioned booths. They had a rather nice menu, and as I'm always starving after Tai Chi, the toasted bagel and cream cheese hit the spot. (My one complaint with Second Cup was that their food always - frankly - sucked.) Even the latte wasn't as bad as I'd remembered it, although it still made me shudder to see the guy press the "Latte" button on his machine. Service was friendly and prompt, too. All in all, CC was a location very conducive to writing. I managed to get a few pages scribbled after spending an hour sorting through old chapters and trying to collect my scattered thoughts.

So I'm going back tonight. Wish me luck. And don't tell the guys at Second Cup!

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Just whistle while I work...

Whew, it's been a couple of weeks since I've been on here. But I have excellent excuses: Jade's official birthday party was the last weekend in May, and I started work on the following Monday. Zoinks!

Since I only have to work for 5 weeks - from home! - to fulfill my EI requirements for the second maternity leave, I have nothing to complain about. At all. Really. Except...

a) I keep dozing off in front of the computer.
b) My little make-shift home office ranges in temperature from wilting, suffocating heat to icy, foot-numbing cold. And the windows don't open.
c) I get twinges of wistfulness when I hear Jade and her Auntie shrieking with laughter on the other side of the wall.

After being away from work for over a year, I thought I'd have trouble adjusting. But apart from the occasional computer-induced doziness, it feels as though I'd never left. Email, databases, toggling, internet sites, documentation strategies, meeting invites - nothing feels the least bit foreign. It's as though someone flicked my "insurance industry" switch back on and I'm plugged into the matrix again. My fingers tap across the keyboard like they could do it all on their own. Which is a good thing, because parts of my brain seem to have dissolved during the course of my maternity leave. We'll see what kind of quality of work I leave behind after 5 weeks.

At the very least, my co-workers seem glad to have me back and I'm happy for a little social interaction, albeit through email and our messaging system. We're having a big Italian lunch in the 'Loo next week so it should be a nice, goofy reunion where I can catch up on the office gossip and get hugs all around. I'm so very lucky to have excellent people to work with. Even if it's just for a month!

Jade's party was a blast. I concocted a chocolate banana bundt cake that was a hit with the adults, although my girl wasn't keen on it (D's horrified comment as I pulled it out of the oven: "Is that all there is???" But it was so rich and heavy we only needed slivers, so there was plenty to go around). Jade had been busy stuffing herself with raspberries and cheese all afternoon, so I wasn't offended when she had a tiny taste of cake and then majestically raised a hand to signal, "No more, thank you very much."

Doesn't she look darling in her birthday dress? D's cousin's personal care worker made it by hand when Jade was born and she grew into it just in time for her party.

We are making her a time capsule to open on her 10th (or 16th) birthday. All the guests contributed a small item; something to represent either themselves, or the year 2010. It should be good fun opening it up when the time comes, although I have to admit that it's KILLING me to not know what everything is! I'm one of those people who loves surprises, but secretly wants to know what's under the tree at Christmas. And yeah, I often read the last page of a book first.

One week of work down; four to go. Wish us luck!