Saturday, February 27, 2010

mothers and daughters

This week, there has been a lot of press concerning the human drama Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette is living. Her mother had just arrived in town over the weekend to watch her daughter compete and died suddenly just days before Joannie was to take to the ice. With the support of her team and coaches Joannie chose to compete and skated to a bronze medal. But the announcers and colour commentators do not know when to stop. On and on and on about how brave this young woman is. We could all see what a struggle it was for her. The country held it's breath on Tuesday night as she skated the short program. Poised and graceful, she had a great performance and broke down as soon as it was over. Thursday night she returned to the ice and skated a near perfect long program and won a bronze medal. She was more composed and rejoiced in her accomplishment - watched by her Dad. She's become an inspiration to a generation of young figure skaters and she should. This is what heroines are made of.

And as hard as her coaches and team must have worked to shelter her during the competition, Joannie's toughest days are ahead and my heart goes out to her. So young, at 24, to lose your mother. I was 27 when I lost my mother and we had known for a while that my mother would eventually lose her battle with cancer. I had known from the day my father told me that my mum's cancer had spread to her bones, that the disease would kill her. I had a chance to get used to the idea (as far as you can get used to such an idea) and to say good-bye. So I don't know how it is to lose your mother suddenly. But I do know what it is like to dial the familiar number and to be reminded of your loss when your father answers the phone. Or to visit your parent's house again and have her not be there. And over the years, the moments in your life when you so wish you could just pick up the phone and hear that voice and feel that love one more time. So to Joannie Rochette, congratulations on your bronze medal - you did your country proud. And I hope all the love and support you felt this week from the crowds and your team mates will help you through the days that are to come. Bonne chance!

another transportation adventure

The whole world is visiting our city and last weekend I thought I would take T to experience some of it. So someday I can show him the pictures and say, "you were there!" But as these things go, it didn't quite turn out the way I planned. I had originally thought of taking a bus downtown to look at the cauldron and the outdoor skating rink at Robson Square and watch people zipping overhead on the zip lines - the ones people are lining up for hours to go on (6+ hours in some cases!). But that's not what happened. We took the Seabus (T loves it!) across the harbour,
seeing boats, landing float planes, nearly colliding with a sailboat and we did spy the cauldron in the distance. Then we took the Skytrain to the Olympic Village station and lined up for the Olympic trolley.
When it was our turn to board the "trolley",
the driver spied T and asked him to do him a favour - guard the space behind his door so he would be able to open in and get into his booth. T was thrilled. Once the driver was in the booth and we were getting underway, I put T up on my shoulders so he could see the track.
So during the whole 10 block ride, T gave us a running commentary about crossings and the cars we were racing. The driver thought it was funny! At Granville Island we stopped for a bite to eat, T played with his truck by the duck pond
and around the kid's playground. There were crowds of people enjoying the sunshine. We didn't end up visiting any of the pavillions there or seeing anything beyond all the people but it was a lovely day and T had fun. We did get maple leafs painted on our faces!We made our way back via trolley and T shared his chocolate buttons with the people behind us in line. He commented all the way back on the trolley. Back on the Skytrain we managed to get a spot at the front so T could see the tunnel. Then back to the Seabus passing thousands of people in Waterfront station - some lining up for the train to the Richmond Oval and thousands more streaming into town for the US-Canada hockey game (we lost!) all wearing red and white costumes and waving flags. And on the Seabus ride back across to the North Shore, we saw two helicopters land as well as a float plane.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Olympic spirit?

It's no secret that our household hasn't been supporters of the Olympics. We've been against it since the announcement was made. My grinchiness is the result of the tax hangover suffered by Montreal after it's Olympics. We both felt that the exhaltation of sport and the money poured into building new sporting venues around the city would be better spent elsewhere. And as the games approached, the silliness just seemed to reach, well, Olympic proportions. Snow being trucked in from 3 hours away to make up for the warmest winter in 115 years was the least of it. More insidious was the closing of operating rooms in case they were required by the Olympics - denying the people paying for the games, access to care during the games. The takeover of all advertising space in the city by the Organizing Committee for official sponsors only. It's not hard to find our city's problems - most media covering the games will wander down to the east side to see the drug problems and homelessness that plague our city. Where some of the money spent could have housed people. Whether that would have happened in the absence of the games is debatable. It doesn't make it right though, that so many suffer.

The cherry trees started to bloom in the week before the games started. The torch approached the city. Vanoc told us to get out of our cars and take transit. Transit warned us of huge delays (up to 2 hours). Polls showed that half of us were less than thrilled with the whole prospect of the looming event. The torch ran right by our house one morning just over a week ago, so T and I got to see it from our window. I drove past the torch convoy that night driving home. Crowds were growing at the torch events and a buzz was building in the city. I saw more and more shuttle buses on the highway driving to Cypress or Whistler or back again.

A few days before the games a local columnist summed up how I felt. I wasn't in favour of the games but I hoped they would succeed.

Then right before the opening ceremonies a young, Georgian luger lost his life on a training run. As the mother of a son, I cannot fathom the pain of his own mother. A young life lost, suddenly, tragically. A cloud over the games. But they went on. The opening ceremonies happened. In my opinion, watching it, it seemed to me that if you weren't Canadian watching them you would think that we are all aboriginal or mad, Celtic fiddlers/tap dancers. The effects were gorgeous but the national anthem was made to sound like a sentimental Christmas song. Months of debate ended about who was going to light the cauldron - 5 people including I was glad to see - Nancy Greene Raine. But one of the arms didn't come up - oh well, the cauldron still lit. And then the Great One (Gretsky) was loaded in the back of a pick-up truck and driven in the pouring rain to light the outdoor cauldron. That was very Vancouver!

Now it is day 8 and Canada has won 4 gold medals! There is an enormous surge of patriotism I've never seen before. We've been critisized in the media for the weather, the non-working cauldron arm, the fence around the outdoor cauldron, our audacity at wanting to win medals and everything else. But it doesn't matter. People are thronging the streets of Vancouver, dressed in red and white, with wacky, outrageous costumes supporting our country and our athletes. Even I'm getting swept up in it. As I write this I'm wearing red and white. So GO CANADA GO!

My wish for this games is this. That Canadian athletes kick butt! That visitors to the city have a wonderful time and don't get ripped off. That they go home and tell people that it's a great city to visit. Mostly I hope that Vanoc hasn't been lying to us, that the games pay for themselves and that the Olympic village condos all sell, so those of us who live here don't end up paying for the games into perpetuity. And my wish for the future is that all Canadian children have the opportunities that are being given to our elite athletes. That one day, arts will be funded as well as sports. And excellence in all endeavours will mean as much as say winning a hockey game. (What a foolish notion!) Because while our Olympic champions are being feted (and supported), programs for sports and arts in schools are being cut, medical funding for things like early support for autistic children is being cut. So here's to hoping the future medalists in the culinary Olympics, the artistic Olympics, the para-Olympics, the special Olympics and all other endeavours will one day prompt massive cheering and waving of our nation's flag and those medalists can be heroes too!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

stuffed spuds with sausage

D and I have switched shifts for the duration of the Olympics (all to do with his work behind the scenes at a local TV station). So I've been getting T up in the mornings and doing the dropoff at daycare (as preschool is closed for the duration of the games). The downside is that I get home now at around 6:30 and since we try to get T into bed around 7:30 I don't have much time with him at the end of the day nor do I have time to get dinner ready as we sit down together practically the minute I get in the door. So I've been trying to get things organized in advance. Last night I baked some potatoes, cut them in half, scooped out the pulp

and mashed it with some sour cream and dijon mustard, cayenne.

In a separate pan, I sauted half a chopped onion, a handful of sliced mushrooms, and two cut up italian sausages.

I mixed in the sausage, onion mix into the potatoes

and filled the potato shells with it.

I put those into a casserole dish, grated some cheese over top

and tonight all D had to do was put the dish into the oven and bake for 30 minutes at 350 deg F.


I spent a few lovely, relaxing days away with some friends at a spa resort.
It seems my guys missed me. T has been wanting extra hug and kisses since I got back. Tonight at supper he said he was going to write me a new Valentimes card that said he loved me and he was my friend, that he wants to give me hugs and kisses and wants to sleep with me (at this point D and I were convulsed). And then when I showed him a birthday present for his little friend, he said it was "beautiful"!

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Last night our muffin was quite upset at bedtime. He told me that he had made me a card that said he loved me and that he was my friend on it but that he had lost it. So I asked D to take a look in T's cubby to see if it was there tonight. But when I got home, I had mail from T's preschool and inside was the card - they had mailed it to me for T! Aw!

Actually what it said inside was "Happy Valentine's Day" - xoxo T.

And here is the cake I sent to preschool yesterday for their Valentine's Day party. (T had requested the gummy bears...)

And I will be away for Valentine's Day - off to the spa for a few days with some friends. So I've left a couple of cards and some surprises hidden away for them to find on Sunday.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

a couple of dips

I read Willi's blog over at about the Food Harvest project, how she tried to get through a week on $63 worth of food without touching anything that she harvested from her garden or had in her freezer and how hard it was to get through the week. I am always shocked at how much I pay for groceries each week and definitely would find it extremely challenging to get by on assistance if you only get $63 a week for food. So I've been challenging myself to use up the food in my freezer and cupboards and do a bit better budget-wise.

Last Saturday while digging out navy beans from the cupboard to make baked beans with I came across two cans of artichoke hearts. And when I opened to a page in my recipe book with roasted artichoke dip on it I knew I had to make some. D loves artichokes. And as I will be away for Valentine's Day, this is one way to show him he is my Valentine. The recipe in America's Test Kitchen Family Recipe Book actually calls for frozen artichokes but I didn't have those so this is how I did it (adapted from their recipe)

1 can artichoke hearts, drained
Place the artichoke hearts in a pan and roast at 375 deg (my oven runs hot) for 20 minutes or until there is browning on some of the leaves. In the meantime, saute 1/2 medium diced onion with 1 tsp minced garlic and 1/4 tsp of salt. Add

1/4 cup of softened cream cheese
1/2 cup of light mayonaise
1 tsp thyme

Once the artichokes are roasted, puree them in a food processor and add to the onion, mayonaise mixture and blend well. Put the mixture into a greased baking dish and bake at 350 deg F for 20 minutes until bubbly and slightly brown.

I served it up with tortilla chips and it was delicious!

Another dip I make regularly and people seem to love is my salsa/cream cheese dip.

To ~ 1 cup of softened cream cheese (if you take it out of the fridge, just pop it into the microwave for 20 seconds or so to soften up) add 1 cup of your favorite salsa. Mix to blend. Add 2 tsps of cumin, a pinch of sugar and a splash of cider vinegar (optional). Mix and serve.

Monday, February 8, 2010

not my mum's turkey pot pie version 2

On Sunday I was searching for dinner ideas so I took a troll through my freezer. I found a big bag of frozen turkey pieces and a small bag of leeks. A further look in the cupboard turned up a huge sweet potato. So I decided to make a version of turkey pot pie.

1/2 medium onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
7 mushrooms, sliced
2 oz butter
2 oz flour
650 mL turkey stock
1 tsp garlic, minced
2 tsp dijon mustard
salt, pepper, cayenne
4-5 c. cooked turkey, chopped

Saute the onion, celery, carrot in the butter. Add the mushrooms, garlic and mustard and cook for about 5-10 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Add the flour and stock and whisk to blend. Season with salt, pepper, cayenne to taste and cook for 10 minutes until thick and the flour is cooked. Add the cut up turkey and mix well. Cook for ~ 5 minutes. Pour into a greased 9x13 casserole dish.

In the meantime, bake or boil one large sweet potato and 2 small regular potatoes until done. Peel and mash with 2 tbsp butter until smooth.
Spread over the top of the turkey mixture.

Sprinkle 2 sliced leeks (white and light green parts only, well cleaned) and over the leeks, sprinkle ~ 1 cup of grated cheddar. Bake at 350 deg F for 30-45 minutes until the cheese is melted and turning golden brown. (I don't have pictures of the finished casserole - I went out for a hike and brought a friend back for supper and was too busy chatting to remember to take photos!) It was delicious!