Friday, February 26, 2010

It was kinda stupid to purchase an Easter gift for the Greeks well before actually sending it

We're sorry we ate your peeps! (we're really not that sorry)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Fantastic!

I had a bunch of egg whites in the freezer I had to get rid of (I insisted! They can only stay in there for so long, you know), so what better way to get rid of egg whites than to make angel food cake?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Are you kidding me?!

Lately, I've been kinda glum about our office situation. Yes, I'd painted it. Yes, I'd decorated it. But somehow, it started feeling really cramped and...stupid. Maybe it's better to say it was "uninspiring" than stupid, but stupid really conveys my actual feelings on the whole thing.

So I'd been thinking about what I could do differently. Maybe paint everything white to lighten things up? Reorganize? Fix the (haphazard) placement of art? Change the curtains I'd had to resew 50 times just to get right (and they still looked like junk -- to me, anyway).

Then on Saturday, I had what I like to think was a major breakthrough. You see, Idle Husband likes to work in the office for at least a small part of our weekends. And I'm cool with that. He likes me to sit with him and work along on the laptop, but on the weekends, there's really not that much for me to do on the laptop. In other words, I get real bored, real quick. Also, our setup included working side-by-side. This comprised of two office chairs, a desk and kitchen table (a genius idea of mine last year -- I'm rolling my eyes right now, don't worry) slid together to expand the work surface and there you have it! Office perfection! Well, office chair number two is not all that comfortable, and in about an hour, I'd be squirming and I'd eventually find myself back in the living room without even telling IH I'd be going. And the kitchen table, while the same height as the desk and a completely great fully functioning table, just wasn't a desk. And it looked it.

Back to my major breakthrough. I was going back and forth between printing things in the office and ironing downstairs when suddenly it hit me. We have a small, loveseat-sized futon in the basement getting no sit action at all. Why don't we move it upstairs to the office, take out the second office chair and -- wait for it -- that's. where. I. can. sit. during. the. weekend. I'm already working on a laptop, this just makes so much more sense!

Idle Husband, fully on board, helped me move it and since then, I've been trying to rearrange the office so it works. I've had the desks* (desk + kitchen table, don't forget) in every possible slid-together configuration, but the room still felt full of junk. I mean, none of it is actual junk. It's not a crappy table or desk, it just wasn't working together. Yesterday, I came to the decision that it's time to let the kitchen table go. And honestly, who needs that extra space now that we have the futon? We have a large desk as it is, we don't need that extra arm (and clutter) space.

Today, I've finally figured out the layout, and I'm really digging the redesign. The futon looks so posh for some reason! I did recover it with some new slipcovers (from IKEA. It's their futon afterall) so that helped a lot, and it's super comfy. I've paired it with an orange pouffe I've had for forever, so there's a little sitting variation, too. I don't know how, but everything looks...more proper. Weird how that works, huh?

Oh! When I bought the slipcovers, I also decided to check out the clearance fabric bins at IKEA, too. If you've never been round that corner, it really pays to check it out. In fact, it's my favourite place to go in IKEA. Anyway, I managed to find two curtain panels that looked large enough, were lined, and were in a femine yet (I thought) kinda masculine print. Total score! I'm telling you! It pays! I bought the same style of curtains last year (different print) for around $100 for the two panels. This deal was only $42! How awesome is that? I have no idea why they were on clearance either. I don't see them on the website anymore, so maybe the pattern was just discontinued, but otherwise, there's nothing wrong with them at all. Win for me. The best part is that they look really great in the room. I was so worried about the size, but it actually looks like I measured it. I should hem them a bit, but I'll get to that...eventually.

Everything's coming together! Just by rearranging and decluttering, the office already looks 100% more grown up. Now I'm planning on remaking the curtains I have on the closet, I have a bunch of papers to sort through (isn't that the worst! It comes with cleaning up any office, I guess, but I'm also super terrible at filing) and then I think I'll truly be happy to spend my weeks (and weekends!) there.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Friday, February 19, 2010

I made polenta!

Mind you, I've never actually had it before, but I've been seeing it everywhere, on every cooking blog, and it looked so easy so I thought, "hey! It's veggie night, why not just give it a go?!" I was kinda nervous about it since I didn't know what it was supposed to taste like (and, technically, I guess I still don't) and more importantly, I didn't know whether Idle Husband would like it or not. I figured there was about an 80% chance of him liking it since the recipe called for the addition of cheese -- he's pretty well sold on anything if it involves cheese.

So I used this recipe here from Tasty Kitchen. And everything about it was super easy -- except, I should tell you, you have to use a larger pot. Like, don't use one that has a perfect water to pot ratio. Get one that gives you crazy amounts of headspace, cuz as soon as I started adding the cornmeal, that puppy quickly overflowed out of the pot and into at least three of the burners on my stove. And there I was begging and pleading for it to stop, but it just laughed in my face and continued gurgling. Speaking of gurgling, it also bubbled and spit during the whole 15 minute cook time. Therefore, I also recommend using a lid. Maybe this is common polenta knowledge, but we Canadians don't do polenta (as far as my 28 years in this country have dictated) so it would have been superfantabulously awesome for that sort of thing to have been mentioned in the recipe.

Anyhoo. Polenta decided on, I thought I'd whip up a mushroom, shrimp, and onion stir-fry-type thing to put on top. I figured the shrimp had been in our freezer for way too long and IH loves loves loves mushrooms so how could this plan go wrong? Besides, I wanted to try these dried shiitake mushrooms I'd purchased. I've never used dried mushrooms, but I had had my eye on them for a while and they seemed like something that would be super handy to have in the cupboard. Actually, IH probably won't remember, but I asked his opinion of these mushrooms when we were in the store once. He wrinkled up his face and wholeheartedly refused to purchase them or to even think about purchasing them. So we didn't and I pondered them for another week until I finally thought, "No. We should try these. There's no harm in it. I'm too curious to let them go." And thus, nerve-wracking decision #2 had been made.

Here's what I learned about the mushrooms. Soaking them in luke warm water for 10 minutes is not enough soaking time. They were still very much hard and crunchy inside. I couldn't even get a knife through them without risking serious injury. I think if I had used boiling water (instead of the hottest tap water), and soaked them for 15-20 minutes it would have been a lot better. Instead, I had to keep going and checking and then test cutting and then putting them back into fresh hot tap water again, which went on for about 30 minutes. Eventually, I got to a point where I could take the thicker stems off a few and just go with what I had. I was sad I had to waste 4 stems, but so be it.

Anyway, here's my method for the mushroom/onion/shrimp thing:
1. saute a small onion in a tablespoon of oil
2. add 4 cloves of garlic
3. add 4 button mushrooms and about 10 shiitake mushrooms, rough chopped in pieces
4. add precooked, still frozen, salad shrimp (the smaller ones)
5. add salt, lots of pepper, garlic powder, vegetable seasoning, a tablespoon or two of lemon juice
6. simmer until all the juice is absorbed, the shrimp are no longer frozen, and the pan is semi-dry
7. serve on mozzarella and parmasan spiked polenta (oh yeah, I didn't have goat cheese sitting around like the recipe called for. Who has goat cheese just sitting around in their fridge?)

The Verdict?
Idle Husband love love loved the shiitake mushrooms! And, yes, specifically those mushrooms! Loved the polenta! Loved the combination! Had two large platefuls! Success!! I'll definitely keep this meal idea around for our veggie nights. It was super easy to make and everything cooked within 15-20 minutes. I still have some polenta left, but I've read about people slicing it and frying it after? I'm not sure. I'll have to do more research on that, but other than cutting that recipe in half (maybe), it's the only change I'd make. You should really give it a try.
This isn't the greatest picture, but I'd already started eating by the time I realized that this was a meal I should be taking pictures of. Mmm delicious!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The only bug I'll allow to winter inside my home

It's so frosty here today! We're getting lots of fog at night which ends up as hoar frost in the morning. It's not very cold, either, which is nice. It makes me appreciate the beauty a bit more. (Also, so you know, if there's fog, three months later, there will be moisture. That's one of many little Alberta weather rules my mom says all the time. Strangely enough, they almost always come true! So those of you who think Alberta is crazy for changing weather, I have to tell you, it usually lets you know what it's going to do in advance -- if you know what to look for!)

I was doing laundry yesterday when I found a little friend on my arm. He was still very sleepy, so I carefully brought him upstairs and put him on one of my Christmas cacti (or is it cactuses?).
He's not there anymore, so I assume he found another place to nap until spring arrives.

Last night was vegetarian night again. I made baked tofu. I've never cooked with it before, so this idea of ours has really made me expand my food horizons and try new things. I have no idea what actually goes with tofu, so I made a bunch of other finger foods and salads. It was probably the most successful vegetarian night yet! We were actually full after dinner! Whoa! The tofu wasn't really the highlight, though. It tasted like taste-less egg (if that makes any sense). I tried marinating it with Greek seasonings and either they didn't take, or they needed to marinate a lot longer than 2 hours. Strangely enough, it tasted really good dipped in tzatziki (or the tzatziki was just really good -- it should be! It's mine!) so we were both pretty happy overall. I also had a sweet potato that was starting to grow leaves, so I made some fries. Sweet potatoes are the best, aren't they? I never eat regular ones anymore.
It looks like some strange horned animal, doesn't it?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Weekend

Putt-n-Glow Mini Golf at West Edmonton Mall for Valentine's Day

A walk around Millwoods park for Family Day



Monday, February 15, 2010

[Insert cartoony double-take here]

Oh yawn, yet another boring bird trinket.

Remember my crazy bird collection? Well, I was going through more boxes of stuffs when I came across this delicate stork. Yup, I'm adding yet another bird to my crazy collection. But this one's a little bit too cool to part with. Check it out!











How much fun is that?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Bienvenue Chez McDonald's!

I finished my portion of T's photo project yesterday and I just have to say, I'm so happy with the way the pictures turned out! Honestly, as we were hunkered down in McDonald's on Tuesday, shooting away and constantly touching and mangling that hamburger, the pictures seemed to be getting more and more unappetizing as the morning wore on. I can safely say, however, after editing the pictures yesterday, that the entire time, my mouth was watering and I needed to keep snacking on cereal and rice cakes just to keep myself from going for a fry run. Here are some of my favourite pics:






Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Monday, February 8, 2010

Pink & Red

I think the marshmallows are my absolute favourite! *wink wink*

I'm so happy with these Valentine's Day treats! Especially the way the packaging turned out. So simple, but so pretty! I have one of each of these (plus some Pocky and homemade Chai mix) wrapped up in pink paper and ready to ship to a friend. I can't wait till she gets it!

* in case you're wondering: I wasn't coordinated enough to get her Christmas gift shipped in time, and then we went to Greece. Once we got back, I so wasn't feeling the Christmas thing anymore, so decided to go with the next best thing! Besides, who wouldn't want to get an extra sweet package on an otherwise non-holiday?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Mountain of Marshmallows


This is the best marshmallow recipe yet! I swear! After two failed attempts at making sponge toffee (for some wee Valentine's gifts I have in the works -- pics to come!), I decided to go with my back-up plan: marshmallows. I'd made them a couple times before and they always turn out. Anyway, I don't know what prompted me to try a new recipe this time, but I did, and boy, am I glad I did. These were super easy and took no time at all! Go make Alton Brown's marshmallows. They're like little clouds of heaven in your mouth.

Get into my hot chocolate!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Rant

Find me some Bugles and nobody gets hurt

What the hell happened to Bugles? I wanted them for a recipe where they taste fucking fantastic covered in white chocolate, and I just spent two hours looking EVERYWHERE -- I mean, EVERYWHERE -- in Edmonton for them.

The internet tells me they've been discontinued, but apparently some people are still getting them? I'm super confused. Is this another "screw Canada out of awesome foods" initiative because that's so not cool.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The elephant's my favourite

T and I have something fun and exciting planned for tomorrow, and I can't wait to share the results with you! Until then, here are some fun play-doh sculptures I made a while back!




Monday, February 1, 2010

Dreaming of flowers



I went and dug out one of my most favourite perennial books, Lois hole's Perennial Favorites. I have a lot of gardening books. I have two shelves dedicated to flower books and flower fact cards. It's almost as bad an addiction as my birds. Anyway, I'm starting to think about replanning the front yard. Normally, I would probably start in the backyard, but there's been some talk of putting in a garage and definitely a new fence, so I don't want to do a bunch of work back there only to have it trampled or have to be pulled out.

It's been kinda hard for me to think about the front yard just because of the nature of it. It's in full sun, it's super dry (there's grass, but it's mostly dead), and it's on a slope. These are all issues I've never had to deal with before. Well, I suppose I've dealt with full sun, but even then my sunny areas had a little bit of shade during the day -- this spot is full sun all the time. Just to give you an idea of the heat, the little bit of planting I decided to do in the window box last year started out well, but when I stopped watering them because our new windows were going to be installed (I didn't know whether they could work around the box or if they had to remove it), the plants burnt to a crisp within two days. It's pretty hot.

Anyway, one thing I would love love love to get rid of is the lawn. I absolutely hate grass. It's not just because I'm allergic to it (try living with that allergy your whole life), but I just see it as this complete waste of time and energy. It gives you nothing back and it takes so much work just to keep it up. Especially in a spot where it can't grow at all unless you have a sprinkler on it 24/7. Here's what I've always wanted for a 'lawn.'




(all images from weheartit)

I love the idea of having a wildflower-filled lawn. It would be so beautiful, unique, and (most importantly) it would be self-sufficient. I wouldn't have to mow it or do anything to it at all. The problem would be in actually doing it and finding a plant that would work in those conditions.

The other idea I thought would work, would be to make raised beds that staircase down to street level. That way the grass would be gone and I'd have some nice flower beds to plant whatever I like. There are a bunch of houses in Red Deer that have this kind of design. Since their front lawn is set up almost like mine (only in most cases, the front lawn is actually steeper than mine), most of these houses have created rock gardens that staircase. Next time I'm there (in the summer!) I should make a point of taking some pictures. I just think that this would be super interesting and it would give me something to build on, plus it would give a clear division between our lawn and the neighbour's (I'd really like to have either a hedge or a small fence or something to show where one stops and the other begins).

I love having a winter break. It gives me lots of time to think about and imagine the endless possibilities available for gardening and bonus! I can't feel guilty for not doing a stitch of work outside the entire time. :D