Wednesday, 29 December 2010

A Very Virginia Christmas: First Day of Christmas!

"Are you awake?"

Those were H.'s first words to me on Christmas morning. I, E., immediately answered by describing the past night's dream. It was either about a curry dinner at Biola or me finding out I was the Virgin Mary, except I wasn't pregnant with Jesus. ...Must have been something I ate.

Then H. and I remembered it was Christmas morning. ("Hurrah! Squeee! Snow? Flannel? YAY!") We woke up S., who also described his dream to us. (Killer bunnies? Linear Algebra Tests?)

Then there was much squealing, running down stairs, opening of stockings, more squealing, and unwrapping parcels. It was a very bird-y Christmas for me, and I now have two little owl friends, a ceramic blackbird for pies, and a string of birds and bells for my room. Hoot Hoot! 

We followed the bird-theme by feasting on cheesy-eggy strata for breakfast.

Followed by S.'s Apple Tart, which we pecked on all day.

And we put on all of our Christmas finery (new sweaters, ties, stockings, etc.) to parade around the empty (and freezing cold) campus.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, 26 December 2010

A Very Virginia Christmas: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas

...And all through the house,

H., S., and E. were frying LOTS OF BACON.

(Only the scent of bacon wafted all through the house. Cooking was limited to the kitchen.) 

They did not attend Church on Christmas Eve for one very unfortunate reason: There was no room in the inn. Literally. The gatekeeper told the unhappy church-goers to reserve tickets for the next service. Tickets?? Harumph. H., S., and E. were too stubborn and cold to wait around for two hours, so instead they drove home and made fudge.

And thus began the culinary merrymaking!

H. made popcorn garlands.
(My apologies for the yellowness!)

S. made apple tart/provided entertainment/etc.etc.etc.

Yes. They listened to the 4 Seasons. It wouldn't be a party without Frankie Valli. 

Bacon fried, E. cried (because she was chopping onions), and everyone had a jolly time making the kitchen messy.

After cleaning for a good hour or so, the group read from the Bible, sang carols around the piano (in the style of Little Women), and turned off all the lights to scurry about and fill stockings (in the style of Betsy-Tacy). There may or may not have been much squealing and bumping. Of course, E. slept upstairs with H. since she needed to run down the stairs with everyone on Christmas morning. H. probably was glad that E. didn't have cold feet (for she wore boot socks), and E. was glad that H. had double the comforters.

It was a very merry Christmas Eve.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Just Call Me "Babs"


H. went away for the weekend.
Snow came in her place.

Bun Tracks?

Little Bear, Lettie and I attempted a group picture:

And then we had our version of Don Rags, during which Let and I discussed Peter Rabbit and plans for Apple Cake this weekend. 

Since man/E. was not meant to be alone, God provided Betsy-Tacy as a companion.

Eeek! I just realized that I have four books left to read, not three. Yipeeeeee!

Well, you know what I'm going to be doing.


Wednesday, 15 December 2010

In Memory of Juries Past (and Passed)

You Know Your Violin Teachers Are Wonderful People 
(in addition to being skilled performers and teachers):
-When your teacher spends twenty minutes telling you about his new baby.
(Okay, this also falls under "How You Know that You're a Baaaaaad Student", like when you come unprepared and use this question to get out of an uncomfortable lesson. Yes. I confess. But I only used it twice. And I will ALWAYS carry nail clippers in my purse. Forever and ever.)

-When they offer to teach you during the Winter Break, Summer Vacation, or an extra lesson on the weekend. 
I never thought I would say this, but, um, I actually enjoy lessons. Especially if I prepare for them. Ahem.

-When they tell you not to schedule more lessons but to go do something FUN.

-When they don't chastise or embarrass you for having post-studio-class-meltdowns, pre-jury- breakdowns, or other emotional-water-works-moments. Yes, these happened a lot. But hugs were often involved. I told you my teachers were wonderful.

-When they invite the whole studio over for a party with homemade Beef Stroganoff, ice cream, and readings from Winnie the Pooh.

-When they call you the day before your juries to reassure you that you're going to do fine, not to stress, take it easy, and have fun.

Many thanks to Ms. L. and S.!

Monday, 6 December 2010

Food Adventures: H&M Journey Onwards!

Hoorah! H. and I made it to Day 3 of our little eating experiment. We both had headaches over the weekend, which might be from sugar withdrawals or plain ol' allergies. However, yesterday I tried a new recipe for Chili-Citrus Chicken with Olives that cleared our sinuses, pronto. I'm sorry H. Three tablespoons of chili powder was more than our systems could handle. So much milk. I salvaged the meal by washing everything off and then mashing the potatoes with (more) milk. It worked, and we still have food for the rest of this week. I also cooked a pot of brown rice and lentils. It was a delicious accompaniment for the (washed off) chicken and olives with some feta cheese sprinkled on top.

Breakfast is my favourite meal these days. Eating sans ketchup is easier than I thought. Rather than mindlessly squeezing goopy red sauce onto my eggs, I try to consider what tastes I'm craving. Salt? Vinegar-y Tang? Sweetness? These flavours can be found non-ketchup foods, such as pan seared tomatoes with sea salt and Herbes de Provence. (My favourite!) Or even salsa works, too.

And eating French Toast without sugar or syrup gives me the chance to enjoy the texture and flavour of comforting eggy-bread. Not that toast ought to be bland, though. Cinnamon and nutmeg add flavour while applesauce, golden raisins, and Greek yogurt provide sweetness and creaminess. Maybe even some nuts for added crunch?

Of course, I won't kiss syrupy French Toast good bye. However, I am noticing that a decrease in processed sugars seems to (at least psychologically?) make my tummy feel better. And maybe, just maybe, those Ladies Magazines speak truth when they say cutting sugar might decrease cyclical discomfort (erm, PAIN. Really, really, really bad pain). It seems to be working for me, so I won't complain.

So here's to more (or hopefully no more) adventures with spices/chili powder, whole grains, new vegetables, and lots of apple sauce and frozen strawberries.


Saturday, 4 December 2010

Food Adventures: Towards "Thoughtful Eating"

Today is the first day of "Thoughtful Eating" week. I must have eaten too many thoughts in my sleep since I dreamed that my mom put me in time out for eating chocolate pudding. Maybe I've been nannying lately. And maybe I was feeling just a little apprehensive about the whole "No Sugar and No White Flour" plan. (The word "No" continues to trouble me since I am probably still two years old at heart.) But after a good "reasoning conversation" with myself, I decided to go along with the project and make some breakfast.

Today's breakfast was whole wheat toast with strawberries and Greek yogurt sprinkled with chopped pistachios. Since the frozen strawberries were not very ripe, I diced and mixed them with a tablespoon of natural orange juice. Just the right amount of sweetness and tang. I didn't even need the honey. They paired well with the creamy yogurt, and the pistachios provided the perfect crunch. And whole wheat toast? Nutty and, well, very "dark" tasting. (Does that make any sense?) Dark from the toast complimented the lightness of the yogurt and the sharpness of the berries. Mmm. Is it silly to say that pistachios taste "like the woods"? I've never eaten "the woods", but if I ever do, I hope they taste like pistachios.

It was a very satisfying breakfast: colorful, not too heavy or too light tasting/feeling, a range of different textures, and even healthy by the textbook definition!

Maybe breakfast was even better because I woke up early in the morning and ate by the fireplace.

I'm just glad to know that tastes such as "sweet" or "rich" are not my enemies. Sugar and white flour aren't even my enemies. Instead, it's rather like I'm going on a culinary vacation and leaving familiar ingredients behind. Who knew that strawberries and orange tasted so delicious together? Well, probably most people. But I didn't know until this morning.

Happy eating!

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

House-y Things and a Ramble

Virginia welcomed the First of December with sunshine and a rain storm. Funny how the two go together in this state. Sadly, the weather forecast canceled the "Snow Alert" for next Wednesday. I guess I still have time for a few more walks before my boots need their rub-down for snow.

My Use-Up-Fridge/Pantry-Items week continues. Our meals have been quite substantial considering I, erm, slightly over-purchased groceries the previous week. Here's what we've cooked so far:

Sunday: Curried Red Lentil, Quinoa, and Chickpea Stew. Recipe courtesy of Eat This. Homey, healthy and delicious. My first time cooking quinoa, too! The quinoa cooked for a while and looked like tiny little floating nose rings. I'm sorry, but that's the best way I can describe them. Maybe itsy bitsy smiles without the eyes?  I made a full recipe, so it will probably last us a while. (I might freeze whatever we don't eat.)

Monday: Whole Wheat Penne Pasta with Marinara, Spicy Chicken Sausage, and Olives. We had an unopened package of sausages in the fridge for a while now, so H. and I decided to cook two and freeze two. I love listening to the sausage skin "snap" while it cooks. Olives and penne pasta were in the pantry.  Um. I also attempted to make "S'mores Brownies" listed on the Food Network website. Lesson learned: don't attempt brownies unless you have all of the right ingredients. Suffice it to say, H. and I did not ask for s'more.

Tuesday/Wednesday: Left over stew and pasta. Bacon and Cheesy Eggs with Toast and Baby Spinach Salad + Chocolate Pudding.
H. and I finally finished the package of bacon we froze a while ago. Eggs are a House-y Staple. So is baby spinach. We eat it like chips around here. Everything came from either the fridge, freezer, or pantry. 
In the spirit of culinary creativity, or plain ol' "Grocery Budgeting", H. and I decided to try a No Sugar, No Flour experiment until S. arrives on the 19th. My goal is not to worry about weight loss or maintenance. And I'll try very hard not to make eating a means of justifying myself and feeling better that I'm consuming "more natural ingredients" than those who eat processed foods. (But honestly, don't we all feel that way sometimes?) 

The older I get, the less I enjoy heavily processed foods without feeling "gross". But can part of the "gross" feeling be influenced by my personal beliefs about processed foods? Once I ate half a biscuit and found the other half covered with what seemed to be mold. I felt sick for the rest of the day. Then my sister came home and told me that the powdery white stuff was just flour. Whoops! Ok, so I'm a hypochondriac.I'm not advocating that we all start eating moldy food and believing that it's not moldy. Or anything like that. (What a relief to discover that the powdery white was only flour!) I just wonder how the condition of the soul and body influence food choices and feelings/reactions to food. Does that make any sense? I'll keep working on a better form of that question.

Sometimes I eat apples just because I'm ashamed. And sometimes I feel guilty when I eat nachos from Target. But I don't really know why I feel guilt or shame. (Ahhhh, Roy, this is making me think of Brothers K. Cuban Cigars, anyone?) Some of the best eating moments happen when I munch on an apple just because I love the taste of apple. And really, I never want nacho cheese for more than one or two days. Oh but sometimes it's so tasty. Why why why?

Oh well. Too many unfinished thoughts and half-formed questions. I should go read some Betsy-Tacy. Thought Project, I'll be back. (With more rambles. And more unfinished thoughts. And maybe some Target Nachos.)

No sugar or white flour for a few weeks can't hurt me. I'm hoping to see if it will help with the general achies and lethargy I've felt for the past few months.

And above all else, I want to have fun and be creative in trying new recipes and ingredients. So many vegetables and grains I've never tried! Bulgar? Nope! Celeriac or beets? Nope Nope! Eggs without gobs of ketchup? Nope. ...I'll have trouble with that one. 

How exciting! The day E. finally learns to eat an egg without loads of ketchup to mask the eggy taste. 

It can be done.

Well, it has to be done. At least for the next two weeks. I still have half a week to finish off some of our sugar/flour ingredients. Hoot!

Here's to a month of good eats and joyous meal making!