Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I Can See Clearly Now, The Mess Is Gone...

Today, finally, my house is clean, Clean, CLEAN! I am flabbergasted by the sheer productivity of my time this morning, that and the fact that the girlies slept for 3 whole hours, allowing me to get it all done. The usual stacks of dishes all got washed, pots and pans scrubbed and sparkling, counters made spotless, and even my sinks and faucets were scoured until they shone. Floors were vacuumed, baby clothes were sorted and put away! and laundry was gathered up from all over the house. Bathrooms were cleaned. Garbages were emptied, and beds were made. Windows were opened and rooms aired out. And this was all by lunchtime!

My bedroom is unrecognizeable. This carpet... this dingy, stained, disgusting old carpet, that we meant to replace when we first moved in but never got the time or money together... is such an eyesore now. Now that you can really see it, I mean. But the rest of the bedroom looks pristine. It makes me want to paint the walls, like I intended to do over a year ago. And order new carpet, like we intended to do two years ago. I can't wait to turn on the fireplace, snuggle up with my beautiful duvet, and go to sleep in my luxurious bed tonight.

But, most of all, this spotlessness makes me want to KEEP IT UP. Now that the really hard work is done, I want it to stay this way! As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It was so amazing to be able to watch a movie this afternoon, and lay on the sofa with my feet up, and not feel a drop of guilt. Knowing that everything was done, I enjoyed making dinner, playing with the girls, and doing next to nothing all afternoon. And my husband was so happy with the state of the house that he cleared the table after supper and did the dishes cheerfully on his own initiative.

My mind feels so at ease, that I can think about things I would like to do, projects I would like to tackle, without the slightest stress or chagrin. It's a wonderful life. :)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Hear The Engines Roar

Last night we went out on a date to the Brighton Speedway. Now, I'm not normally into the whole stock car subculture, but this weekend we had a good friend racing and a few of us went out to cheer him on. The noise was, as I remembered from the one previous time I'd gone, painful and deafening. The air was a miasma of exhaust fumes, flying dust, and cigarette smoke. But the races were awesome.

The skill of these drivers really hit me while watching these pure stock cars skidding and sliding through curves, then screaming and bumping their way down the straightaway. Serious skills are required. The sheer adrenaline that drives these races is contagious, and although at another time I would probably say it's just a bunch of dirty, smelly, polluting machines going in circles a gazillion times, up close I could not help being in awe and cheering at the top of my lungs for a favourite car. While I can't understand people wanting to poison their lungs, damage their eardrums, and risk their lives, I can certainly understand the thrill that draws people back to the speedway week after week.

So today I'm not going to talk about green issues - the environmental concerns raised by automotive racing are obvious. And I'm not going to moralize about health - we all know of unhealthy activities that each of us have taken part in from time to time. Today all I'm going to say is "Good for you!" to the people who have skills and passions, and who use them to the best of their abilities. I'm looking forward to cheering on a friend in the next racing season!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Recipes: Thai Red Curry

Get out of your meat and potatoes rut with this delicious Thai stew. Despite the name, this does not contain curry - Thai curries are actually based around a chili spice paste. It is not too hot, about equivalent to mild chicken wings at Kelsey's. It is also bursting with sweet, sour, and salty flavours! What's not to love?

Thai Red Curry

1/2 pkg Asian Home Gourmet "Thai Red Curry" spice paste
5 tbsp sunflower oil
1/2 can coconut milk
4 medium raw potatoes, diced
1 medium yellow or red bell pepper, diced
1 1/2 cups zucchini, diced
1 pkg button mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1/2 can diced tomatoes
3/4 cup pineapple tidbits, with juice
4 tbsp fish sauce
1 1/2 cups baby spinach, washed
a handful of chopped cilantro

Heat oil to medium-high in a large and deep skillet. Add spice paste and stir well. Add half of the coconut milk, followed by potatoes, bell pepper, zucchini and mushrooms, and stir well. Let cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes, pineapple and juice, and fish sauce, and stir to combine. Let cook 2 more minutes. Add spinach, stir well, and cook for 5 more minutes. Finally add cilantro and stir briefly before serving. Garnish with slices of lime if desired.

Serves 4 - 6.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Funny Antics

My girls.

Don't ask me why Boo wanted to wear a diaper on her head - she has a thing with hats right now.  And Cutes saw the photo op as another kind of opportunity altogether... as her expression clearly shows.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Provisions and Decisions

It has been a good week. Sunday we took the kids to the Stirling quarry with some friends, and enjoyed some swimming and sunning on a gorgeous day. Monday we visited a veteran parent therapy home (for foster kids) and were impressed with what a rewarding opportunity we have, and how well suited to us. Yesterday I bowled badly (Tuesday night bowling league started the beginning of this month), but that was offset by a kind and anonymous giver who left a generous portion of veggies on our front porch - zucchini, squash, cabbage, potatoes... yum!

The veggies came at a great time, because I had already gone grocery shopping but had not bought much produce this week. Now I'm baking zucchini bread - several loaves - to freeze for later. Then I'll make some Asian Cabbage Salad (a new family favourite!) and maybe some sauerkraut, and probably a delicious batch of curry for later in the week. Wow, what a blessing!

We finally have a few relief days booked, meaning we will be getting our feet wet in parent therapy providing short term care for other people's long term placements. After much reflection, this has brought me to another big decision. After two years as vice-president of our local Kin club - which I recommend as a great service club for anyone with time and inclination for volunteerism - I have decided to withdraw from the organization.

I have enjoyed being a part of the club, doing the twice-annual pancake breakfasts and having good friends and co-workers in community projects, and learning about how to be a more successful leader and visionary person. Right now, however, my priorities have shifted to the home sphere where I have an incredible window of opportunity to be of great influence. I can't divide my focus between two (or three) equally deserving ventures and be effective. So, I am going to choose to set aside Kin for a while, and be fully invested in our family and foster family.

Perhaps when my girlies are older I will have another season to turn my attentions back to Kin, but for now... "So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, adieu!"

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Equal But Different

Lately some conversations have brought me back to thinking about roles in marriage, and gender roles in general. A child development and crisis book I'm reading (from the early 90's) talks a lot about sexism issues and gender bias, but the more I read, the more I'm convinced they're missing the big picture. It seems that in our push to swing the pendulum away from the fiercely patriarchal and misogynistic culture of times past, feminists and other liberators have teetered over the brink of delusion toward uniformity.

Let me illustrate this logical fallacy. We believe women are equally as valuable as men. Therefore we feel that women should have the same opportunities as men. Since we want to ensure women have the same opportunities as men, we insist that women are the same as men - and we skew job standards to gender, to support this assertion. So female candidates for a police officer position have one set of criteria they must fulfil, and male candidates have another. And, since there are more women then men, the composition of the police force must reflect the same demographics. Does anyone see a problem with this?

I think we all will agree that some women are physically larger and stronger than some (even most) men. However, on average, women are physically smaller and have less brute strength then men. Now let's look at the flip side. Some men are very intuitive and emotionally sensitive (like my husband), and have excellent communication skills. On average, however, women are far more intuitive and have a greater capacity for communication. Do either of these facts have any bearing on the capability or value to society of men or women? No.

So why do gender-equality buffs insist that there be no difference between men and women? In the study of education we have learned that people have different learning styles - some are auditory/visual, and do great in a traditional classroom setting, while some are physical/kinesthetic, and do well in co-op or internship placements. We know that these are not indicators of differing levels of intelligence, but rather different kinds of intelligence. Don't you think this applies equally to gender differences?

It is no shame to recognize women as the more emotional, relational, and nurturing gender, and to recognize men as the physically stronger and more technically proficient gender, while allowing for individual differences, strengths and weaknesses. It is not a form of denigration to see women setting aside academic or career concerns to focus on mothering their children, while their husbands go to work and provide for the family. We should each do what we are, by nature, best suited to do - and most women do have an undeniable "mothering" instinct. Does that make us somehow of less value? I hardly think so! As a mother, I am an expert on raising children - much more than any man I know; and besides, I am involved in shaping young minds into mature adults - something that is beyond the capacity of most psychologists. I dare anyone to tell me I am a lesser party to this wonderful husband and wife team we call a family.

So, my point is this. Let's celebrate our differences, not deny them. Start valuing the different and complementary contributions of men and women to society. We weren't made to compete, but to cooperate!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Harvest Time Hurries

In the absence of a productive garden of my own, I have been thriving off the clearance produce at No Frills - a fact I may have mentioned a few times already. Whether you have a garden abundantly producing, or produce abundantly available, all these ripe pickin's require fast use before they spoil.

I previously blogged about an episode of peach chutney brought on by this very dilemma, and on a later day this week I was faced with a similar situation in home-grown veggies (or fruit, if you want to get technical). A few much loved friends and family members bestowed on us some very welcome garden goodies - tomatoes and cucumbers. We have been enjoying them freshly sliced with a sprinkle of salt, but as fast as we could eat them, they were heading toward spoilage. So, what could I do?

The plump and juicy tomatoes, just starting to discolour in small spots, were the inspiration for a spur-of-the-moment experiment in a "salsa fresca" for pasta, which turned out fantastically. The cucumbers, partly from necessity and partly from a craving, were destined for homemade pickles - this time a batch of spicy garlic dills. Nothing was wasted, and we have been enjoying them thoroughly!

Today I had a chance to visit with a fellow (and more experienced) domestic mom, and her own quite prolific garden has kept her busy canning salsa and cucumber relish, freezing zucchini, and picking swiss chard. I asked her how much time in an average week she has put into her garden throughout the growing season, and she said no more than a couple of hours a week - her garden is at least twice the size of the one I had planned to plant - and for a couple of weeks she had barely even looked at it at all! But now the veggies are ripening in such numbers that she has to find ways (and people) to use up all this produce before it goes bad. No wonder harvest has traditionally been such a busy time of work-work-work - the bounty is plentiful, but doesn't last for long unless it's harvested and preserved or put in cold storage.

So, how about you? How does your garden grow? Are you feeling the hurry of putting up fruits and veggies to last through the winter? If you are doing any canning, preserving, pickling or freezing, I'd love to hear your recipes and tips. Happy Harvesting!

Recipes: Pasta Con Salsa Fresca

This is a very quick and easy dinner, about 15 minutes from shelf to table. It's also very kid-friendly. Even if you don't know how to boil an egg, you can manage this one!

Pasta Con Salsa Fresca

1/2 pkg (or 450 g) rotini pasta
3 medium-large tomatoes, washed & cored
1 large green pepper
2 large cloves of garlic, crushed
3 tbsp red wine (or balsamic) vinegar
1/2 cup shredded cheese (marble cheddar or fresh parmesan)
salt to taste

Boil pasta according to directions. In a food processor or large blender, combine remaining ingredients. Chop until sauce is desired texture. Drain pasta and toss with fresh sauce, serve immediately. Serves 4.

Recipes: Spicy Garlic Dills

These may be a bit too hot for some people's liking, so feel free to adjust down the amount of chili flakes, or omit completely. Also let me warn you, from experience, not to use cucumbers that are too old or already getting soft, as they tend to develop a slightly bitter aftertaste. Freshest is bestest!

Spicy Garlic Dills

6 - 8 baby cucumbers (average 5" long)
4 cups (1 litre) cold water
1/2 cup white vinegar
3 tbsp salt
2 large cloves of garlic, lightly crushed
1/2 tsp curry powder
1 tbsp dried dill weed
1/2 tsp dried chili flakes

Wash cucumbers thoroughly and slice lengthwise into wedges (4 to 6 wedges each). Fill a large jar or Tupperware container with water, vinegar, salt and spices, and stir well. (Adjust to taste, should be rather briny.) Fill with cucumbers, making sure all wedges are able to soak in pickling liquid. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours before eating, or follow normal canning directions to preserve for later use.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Fruit Of My Labour

I love, absolutely love, getting ripe fruit and veggies off the clearance rack (49c to 99c) at our local No Frills for next to nothing. I also love their doorcrasher sales - like a fantastic basket of peaches I picked up this week for a couple of dollars. Of course, peaches don't keep very well once they're ripe, so I had to find something to do with them. We've been eating them like crazy, and I have had a good chuckle at my husband peeling the fuzzy skin off his peaches before eating them. It reminds me of my little brother, who used to say "it gives me shiver-ies!"

Last night I saw that some of them were starting to rot, so today I set to making peach chutney. I read online that if you dip a peach in boiling water for 30 seconds, the skin slips off easily. So, I blanched, skinned, sliced and chopped peaches this morning, sprinkling them with lemon juice and salt. Then I boiled vinegar and brown sugar with finely chopped onion, cumin, coriander, and a pinch more salt. Finally I added the peaches and a generous amount of cilantro and boiled it down until it thickened into a beautiful, rich chutney. It tastes divine, and now my house is permeated with the glorious, spicy smell of peach chutney. Mmm, a taste of heaven. Now all I need are some samosas!