Category Archives: cooking

Taking Stock No.4

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Enjoying a walk through some of Old Quebec’s beautiful, narrow streets.

Hi folks,

As you have probably noticed, I’ve been out of the look since I last wrote to you about our woes with our new downstairs neighbors. They have not gone away and neither has the mental exhaustion caused by the situation. Many times over the pas few months I have found myself dreaming of packing up and moving to an isolated corner of anywhere but here. It would be quite easy to do and no one would ever find me. My name is so common that I wouldn’t even have to change it in order to never be found, even by the aforementioned pesky neighbors should they decide to attempt to hunt me down. That would be a cowardly thing to do though and highly inconvenient for My Darling who is quite attached to his job and his family (it’s not that I’m not attached to my folks, we’re just not even nearly as tight-knit as My Darling’s family is). He did, however, manage to whisk me away to Quebec City with him for a few days when he went there to attend a conference at the beginning of the month, which did me a great deal of good and allowed me to get my creative juices flowing. Then, when we got back, miracle of miracles, Spring appeared and I have been able to spend increasing amounts of time outside. The leaves are all out, the flowers are blooming, I planted my flowers and bought our strawberry plant and I am looking slightly less pasty. Phew…the work downstairs should finally be done next week, which is an excellent thing because I am becoming less and less tolerant of the group of loud, cigarette smoking, belching, cursing men who show up every morning at 7:00 and are present until the end of the afternoon. I want my quiet home back, I to not have to worry about parking in my own driveway for fear of puncturing my tires on a nail or being trapped in my parking space by a delivery of sheet rock or some worker’s pickup truck. For crying out loud, we found a worker’s discarded t-shirt in our parking space this morning! Ugh…Anyhow, I thought one of my ‘Taking Stock’ posts would be a good way for us to catch up and hopefully I will be able to get my creative juices flowing freely enough once things calm down to come back with another post soon. In the mean time though, you can head over to my photography blog Old Orchard Photography for more about my trip to Quebec and to see a few more of the photos I took there.

Enjoying: being able to walk out the door without having to pile on more layers than an onion.
Listening: to The Merry Widow on CBC Radio 2.
Wearing: my GAP striped sundress. I bought it at an outlet store in Las Vegas last Spring and it is my go-to dress as soon as the warm weather rolls around. It is just as comfy as a pair of pajamas, but completely appropriate to wear out around town as well!

Making: time for myself.

Cooking: Korean burgers for My Darling and his friend when they get back from their bike ride.
Drinking: Iced tea made with our Fortnum and Mason teas. We just emptied our jug of Irish Breakfast and I’m going to ice some Countess Grey next.
Feeling: relieved that the renovations downstairs are finally almost finished.
Reading: ‘Her Majesty: 60 Regal Years’ by Brian Hoey, the first biography of The Queen I have ever read and I am thoroughly enjoying it. I have also recently torn through Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Big Magic’ as I mentioned in my previous post and Camilla Gibb’s ‘This is Happy’ which I highly recommend.

Looking: forward to my vacation in Poland with My Darling next month.
Wishing: we still had a deaf lady in her 70s for a downstairs neighbor. Boy, do we ever miss Mrs. L.
Liking: eating breakfast with My Darling on the back terrace under our red parasol on weekends.
Waiting: for the next bunch of strawberries growing on our plant to ripen.

Snacking: on dark chocolate raspberry Lärabars
Coveting: some Prince Edward Island therapy. I would wish for August to come quickly, but I want Summer to drag on for ages!
Hearing: no construction noise, praise God.
Learning: to not let myself be intimidated by bullies.

Loving: how My Darling has been perking up since he has been able to take his bike out for long rides again.
Watching: not much, really! It’s been far too nice out to watch TV.
Admiring: nature, it’s amazing how quickly things start growing and blooming when the warm weather finally settles in!
Getting: ready to make my first batch of homemade ice cream of the season! It’s going to be matcha, made with this recipe

Wondering: when I’ll have time to go shopping before our vacation.
Playing: piano when I can, which is not often. Racket downstairs = not conducive to learning a new instrument.
Noticing: how badly I needed my week off two weeks ago to ground myself.
Giggling: over My Darling’s waddle when he walks around in his cycling shoes.

Bookmarking: by folding the corners of the pages of the books I read. I don’t spend enough time online to bookmark sites lol
Deciding: on where we’re going to stay in Warsaw.
Hoping: for less drama in my life
Contemplating: jogging with a group of our local Running Room store when we get back from vacation.

Wanting: a new pair of running capris, I noticed several holes in my favorite pair when I got in from my jog on Thursday…
Thinking: about my dad a lot recently and how happy I am that the lupins I planted in front of his grave three years ago are finally going to flower!
Knowing: that my father would be proud of how I’ve handled the difficult situation with our new neighbors so far.
Opening: my heart to as much kindness from others as I can in order to heal myself from the unkindness I have suffered recently.

Feeling: energized and positive for the first time in months.
Marveling: at how warm, sunny weather can help turn peoples moods around within a matter of days.

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Notre-Dame-des-Victoires (Our Lady of Victories) church in Old Quebec
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My grandfather’s tree and some favorites

Good news everyone: my darling and I walked past my Grandfather’s maple tree (that’s how I’ve come to think of it) yesterday and it is still standing! I’m hoping this means that the arborist who was supposed to give a second opinion declared that the old fellow is well enough to be saved, because another very large, old, Silver Maple around the corner from my grandfather’s tree was cut down just a few days ago and Grandpa’s tree is still standing. At least when the city must take down such ancient, stately trees, they leave posters tacked to the trunk of the tree explaining why the tree had to be cut down and evidence of the tree’s illness so locals aren’t left wondering why their much loved trees have been felled. and at least if my Grandfather’s tree does end up being cut down in the near future, I was able to take a series of photos of it, of which I am happy to chare a few.

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The bottom of Old Orchard Avenue with my Grandfather’s tree on the right.
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A closeup of my Grandfather’s tree that give you an idea of just how wide its trunk is.

On another note, it has been ages since I’ve shared any of my favorites with you. I just haven’t felt up to it and haven’t had the time, but I have a few gems for you today, name this adorable counter vacuum which can be found at Zone stores here in Montreal.

Isn’t he just the cutest thing you’ve ever seen??? My brother and his wife had one just like him and I had been coveting one for at least a year but my Darling felt that ia counter vacuum was a useless gadget that would do nothing but take up valuable counter space. First of all, he clearly has no concept of how many little crumbs can be created while cooking and second of all, we have such a massive kitchen counter that we would need dozens of these little vacuums to fill it up. After my Darling was forced to go into the office for the second Saturday in a row last weeked I was feeling pretty down, so I detoured by Zone after buying some groceries and picked up my very own little mouse vacuum. He is quiet, efficient and elicited some grumbling from my Darling. I told him that if he really hadn’t wanted to end up with a kitchen counter vacuum, he simply should not have gotten himself called into work so that I would not have needed cheering up. I named my little mouse friend Brie and he has already made himself more than useful. If you’re like me and love cooking but hate having to sponge down your counter after spilling a bit of flour or other miscellaneous kitchen crumbs on it every time you cook, you should really look into getting one of these little guys. They also come in ladybug format and are about the size of a standard computer mouse.

Another one of my current favorites is a wonderful classical music album which is perfect for chasing away the Winter Blues: Vivaldi’s Four Seasons recomposed by Max Richter.

 

Richter takes the much-loved favourite and tweaks it just enough to give it a contemporary feel but best of all, there are long recordings of bees, blowing wind, bubbling brooks and birdsong so that you can very easily imagine yourself in the middle of a beautiful, lush, green field surrounded by early Spring wildlfowers. Absolute, pure bliss when you are in the dead of Winter and I find that it is an even more effective pick-me-up in February when I begin to feel that Spring is getting close but is still annoyingly out of reach.

And finally, if you are looking for a nice, light read that will have you giggling out loud, I just started reading the absolutely delightful ‘A Night In with Audrey Hepburn’ by Lucy Holliday.

The link above will send you to the Chapters/Indigo Books website for my Canadian readers,  but the book can be found at any bookshop and is so worth it if you are looking for some very easy laughs, but be aware that you will laugh out loud while reading this book. I kept having to relate the funny bits to my Darling yesterday while we were reading on the couch together, so be prepared to explain your fits of giggles to anyone you are reading around!

Reading and cooking

Dalvay Beach, PEI
Dalvay Beach, PEI

So, when a girl who loves to read goes on a two-week beach holiday, she is most definitely going to use all of her free time to enjoy some books! She is also more than likely going to end up with a rather uneven tan, because it is for more comfortable to read lying on ones stomach than on ones back when on the beach!

Now,what did I read while enjoying such lovely beaches as Dalvay, pictured above? I finished Jacqueline Park’s ‘The Secret Book of Grazia Dei Rossi’, which, as I mentioned in an earlier post, was delightful, and I then went on to read M. L. Stedman’s ‘The Light Between Oceans’, which was also excellent. I very rarely cry over books, but I cried near the end of this one and it brought out many other emotions as well. I highly recommend it, but be ready to do some serious thinking on the issues it brings up!

As far as cooking and baking go, I’ve been pretty busy since I got back and have been thoroughly enjoying have a full-sized kitchen again! Our cottage on PEI was marvelously well-equipped as far as cottages go, but I was working with about one-third of the counter space I have at home! Suffice it to say that I wasn’t able to make anything too elaborate while we were away, so as so when we got home I was more than ready for a challenge and started off by making these sausage and ricotta stuffed shells, which are baked on a bed of pureed butternut squash. They were oh, so delicious and my Darling had some jealous colleagues when he brought some leftovers for his lunch at work! One thing though: you do not need one pound of shells, or at least I sure didn’t! Half a pound would have been fine with the size of the jumbo shells I had on hand, I made the stuffed shells last week and we just polished off the leftover pasta that I wasn’t able to stuff. Also, it is very easy to shake up this recipe just by varying the types of sausages you us. I stuffed them with mil Italian sausages this time, but next time I will use another type. Make sure they are the uncooked variety though, because you have to be able to split open the sausage casings and remove the meat in order to brown it and add it to the stuffing!  Recipe credit goes to Rachel Schultz over at A Household Almanac for the recipe, which I found on Pinterest.

Another recipe I have enjoyed since coming home is Ashley’s matcha power smoothie bowl, a delightful green smoothie with an almond milk base! I love Ashley’s blog, Sed Bona, which is a lifestyle blog. She mostly blogs about fashion and Chicago restaurants which are a foodie’s dreams, but she also occasionally posts delicious recipes and this is one of them! This matcha smoothie comes out very thick, which is why Ashley specifies it is meant to be enjoyed in a bowl, but it is very easy to thin it out a bit by adding a bit more almond milk. A few other tweaks I gave the recipe included the use sunflower seed butter instead of peanut butter, since that is what we had on hand and instead of using plain almond milk, I used vanilla almond milk since, once again, that is what we had on hand. I think it would be best to use flavored almond milk in this recipe regardless though, since it adds a bit of sweetness.

There you have it! I’ll be back soon with more pictures and posts about our Prince Edward Island vacation!

The Sweetness of Summer

Hello everyone!

As promised, I’d back, although a bit later than I thought I would be. Life has been so hectic lately! My Darling was out-of-town for five days last week and I was sure I would have time to get a second post in, but things just didn’t turn out that way, mostly because I ended up being called into work more than I thought I would, but also because we had our go-to general contractor in redoing the closets in our two bedrooms (one of which is currently being used as a library since we have no need for a second bedroom at this point!) and naturally, mayhem ensued. I just finished reorganizing everything in the new closets and our dresser today and the work has been complete since Monday!

Nevertheless, I have had some time to take a few pictures around our place! Our flower pots are doing wonderfully and I also purchased an organic strawberry plant for us from the Pure Horticulture stall at Atwater Market. I’m afraid they don’t have an English website, but if you go to ‘Où acheter’, you will be able to see where you can get some of their wonderful plants and products! Our strawberry plant only cost us 20$ and we are going to get way more than 20$ worth of deliciously juicy strawberries from it!

Our strawberry plant and front balcony flower pot.
Our strawberry plant and front balcony flower-pot.

Here’s a look at the flower-pot on our front porch:

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The flower-pot on our front porch.

I am so, so thrilled with how my flower pots are doing! They look exactly how I imagine they would! They have also been quite low maintenance so far since we have gotten plenty of rain since I planted them, I very rarely have to pull out the hose to water them. A lot of people have been complaining about the weather we’ve had since May, but I just love what it has been doing for my garden and flowers!

As for what I’ve been up to aside from working a few days a week and gardening, I’ve been keeping up with my jogging, cooking and reading! I had a bit of a setback with my running a few weeks ago however when I tried to stretch the lifespan of my running shoes a bit too much and ended up with an inflamed muscle in my thigh. Since I have begun running more seriously, I’ve worn Ecco Biom running shoes. The first pair was wonderful, but I felt that the second pair never were quite right for me. I got a lot of blisters from them and they didn’t quite have the cushioning I needed for all the hill work I’ve been doing. This time I wanted to make sure I got the right shoes for me, so I headed out to The Running Room and boy, are they amazing there! I left the shop with blister preventing socks and an amazing pair of Saucony running shoes that have made all the difference for me when I run. I can now comfortably run 10 kilometers and have lost 20 seconds on my running time! So, if you’re thinking of taking up running or are already a runner but have felt like you’ve been having trouble progressing, go to the Running room and talk to them about your running goals and see if you’ve been using the wrong shoes!

As far as cooking goes, I tried this wonderful recipe for one dish roast chicken legs with sweet tomatoes by Jamie Oliver and it turned out beautifully! I made it before heading out to the airport on Saturday evening to pick up my Darling and it stayed nice and warm in the over so all I had to do when we got home was throw some quinoa in our rice cooker and voilà! Dinner was ready a half hour after we walked through the front door!

In the reading department, I finished reading Erik Larson’s Dead Wake, a very well put together account of the sinking of the Lusitania during WWI and the events leading up to it, last week. It was the second time I read one of his books and I thoroughly recommend both Dead Wake and In the Garden of Beasts if you are a history aficionado. Larson’s books always take on an almost fictional narrative since focuses on a few historical and develops his books around them. It makes them much easier to read than most non-fiction volumes that can be a bit too academic at times.

After finishing Larson’s book, which was the last in the previous stack of books I had bought, I headed down to Indigo bookstore on Ste-Catherine and picked up three more books. I chose to start my Summer reading festival with Jacqueline Park’s ‘The Secret Book of Grazia dei Rossi’ and oh my, what a treat it has been to read so far! I highly recommend it if, like me, you enjoy historical fiction.

And now, my current favorites:

1-My new David’s Tea Travel mug! I bought it this week and it is amazing, it keeps my tea hot or cold for hours on end! I have been filling it with another favorite of mine

2- Iced Afternoon Blend tea from Fortnum and Mason, sweetened with pure maple syrup. How very Canadian of me, eh?

3- Reading, seriously. It has allowed me to keep my sanity lately with all the craziness going on in our life, that and jogging. Without reading and jogging, I think I would have lost it by now lol

Finally, here is a picture of our two fur babies, Quinn and Magique, doing what they do best: lounging around on the back of our living room couch! This is their favorite place to be in the afternoon since it is nice and sunny. They especially enjoy it once the warm weather returns since they get a very nice dose of fresh air from the door to the balcony and the windows.

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Quinn and Magique lounging in their favorite afternoon spot.

Good food (including ice cream!) and exercise!

Hello everyone, I hope you had a wonder Easter, for those who celebrate it! I had a family and food filled weekend and somewhat miraculously managed not to over eat! Thank goodness for self-control!

Things are back to normal after a nice four-day weekend I  have fallen back into my routine, which includes plenty of cooking and exercise! Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not an exercise nut, but I do enjoy my runs and am currently running eight kilometers in 48 minutes on slightly hilly circuits and in 51 minutes on my new, more steeply inclined Westmount circuit. I ran it for the second time today and am quite proud to announce that I shaved 11 seconds off my previous running time on it! I’m gonna have glutes of steel pretty soon! Right now, I’m doing my hill work run once a week and a lighter run once or twice a week depending on the weather and how I’m feeling.

A very important part of my feeling good enough to exercise is naturally to eat well, which is why I’m very happy that I enjoy cooking! We very, very rarely eat any processed food at our place. We keep two emergency pizzas in the freezer and two bags pierogies as well. I made pierogies myself once, but ended up losing it because of how damn long it took me to get it done, so never again unless I have an army of helpers including my Polish mother-in-law and two Polish friends! Aside from that though, I buy everything fresh and as local as possible and make as many things as possible from scratch. My challenge for yesterday was my second ever batch of Bigos, or Polish Hunter’s stew (can you tell my darling is Polish?). It is a delicious and hearty mix of sauerkraut, venison, lamb or pork, beef, bacon, polish sausage, cabbage, prunes, mushrooms and I threw some carrots in yesterday as well because I had some left in the fridge from last week that I didn’t want to lose. I had a lot of fun making it like the first time I tried it. Make sure you have a good chunk of time on your hands if you’re going to make this though, because it has to simmer for two to three hours (the longer the better) and the prep time is at least 45 minutes if you’re speedy. It took me two hours, but I am known for being a slow mover…except when I’m jogging! If you want to give making Bigos a try, which I strongly encourage you to do, as it makes a nice, big batch, ages beautifully, keeps in the fridge forever and freezes well, you can find the recipe I use here.

On another note, my Sweetheart also have absolutely no issue with treating ourselves every once in a while and while we can make our own ice cream and sorbet as well (my Darling came with an ice cream machine!), we love going out for ice cream every once in a while. We treated ourselves to our first visit of the season to an ice cream parlor last Thursday while out in the West Island (Pointe-Claire Village to be exact). We saw that the place was open and it was eight degrees and sunny (You know you’re a true Canadian when…), so in we went! We wanted to go out for another ice cream cone tonight because Darling had a rough day at the office and needed a pick-me-up. This time it was one degree, but still more than nice enough for a walk, so we got ready to go out. Then, it started to snow. Darling nearly backed down from the idea of going, but I gave him a nudge and he shrugged and off we went. We know there was a chance the parlor would have closed down for the night by the time we got there and sure enough, they just had. Oh well, off to Starbucks we went instead for a nice hot drink, because by then the wet snow was starting to seep through our clothes. Hey, at least we got our walk in and more hills for me!

If ever you are in Montreal and are looking for some nice places to go for ice cream, here are our favorites:

Kem CoBa ice cream parlor on Fairmount in the Mile End neighborhood on Montreal.
Kem CoBa ice cream parlor on Fairmount in the Mile End neighborhood on Montreal.

1- Kem CoBa This place, I kid you not, has the best ice cream in town and changes their flavors all the time. They make it on the spot with fresh and local ingredients. Give their salted butter ice cream a try, you will not be sorry. They’re open from late April or early May through to mid October and also have the great advantage of being right next to Fairmount Bagels, where some of the best bagels in Montreal are made.

2- Le Bilboquet The second best ice cream in town. Many of their locations close for the Winter, but their Westmount and Pointe-Claire Village locations stay open year-round.

3- Wild Willy’s, a Pointe-Claire Village staple open from March to October. It’s where we got our ice cream last weekend. It’s right by Lake St-Louis on the corner of Cartier and Lakeshore roads though, so be aware that it can get buggy in the Summer, mostly with what I refer to as lake bugs. I’m sorry, I don’t have their scientific name for you, but they’re harmless compared to mosquitoes, of which there are not very many because of the wind coming off the lake in the evening.

There are many other great places to get ice cream in Montreal, but these are our favorites and will keep us from ever setting foot in a Dairy Queen again.

Enjoy!