Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Missing in action

That's me.  No, not me the picture above ... me as in MIA.  My home computer took a vacation ... one of those kind of vacations where the computer shop fellas say "oooh myyyy".  So I'm without a home computer.  So no blogging until further notice.  But that's not such a bad thing ... no home computer means NO WORKING AT HOME!  It means WEEKENDS FOR MYSELF!

And something else ... lack of computer means I HAVE TO spend more time doing other exciting things which I can blog about at some later date!  So check back here now and then please ... I'LL BE BACK!

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

10 Random Things About My Job

#1 - there is NO PARKING in front of my office this week.  Our City is replacing the old downtown underground infrastructure, so there is a trench deep enough to bury a large truck where the street used to be in front of our building.  Lots of big noisy machinery.  That rumbles.  And makes it nearly impossible to hear over the telephone.  And makes our floor vibrate.

#2 - Flash, the Betta or Siamese Fighting Fish, is our Head of Office Ambience & Security.  Flash took over from Rocco, the Betta.  Rocco retired to a nice little apartment on the other side of the City.  Flash is not impressed with all that rumbling vibrating machinery either.  He's even less impressed with the fact this is hu-mom was late with his breakfast today!

#3 - I work for a non-profit organization that serves community seniors.  Seniors are generally a cantankerous lot to work with.  Sometimes downright unfriendly.  Even nasty upon occasion.

#4 - I work for a non-profit organization that serves community seniors. Seniors are generally a very friendly and chatty lot.  With great stories to share.  Lots of great stories.  Like stories about horse logging.  So many great stories, that we are in the process of publishing a book of great stories by and about some of the seniors we work with.  I'm really looking forward to the book coming out!

#5 - My staff does not like to attend staff meetings.  They complain.  And pout.  And refuse to come.  I used to try to bribe them with donuts.  Now they're all on diets that exclude donuts. 

#6 - I bribe people with food quite often.  Especially when I want people to attend meetings.  I like meetings with food.  And over-achieving name tags.

#7 - There are never enough volunteers for our organization.  There are never enough volunteers in general.  Too many of our volunteers are reaching the age where they need our services, not to volunteer to help provide our services.  Today's youngsters just don't have the same commitment to volunteering.

#8 - The volunteers who do volunteer for our organization are fabulously generous with their time and energy!  Cheers to volunteers!  (This is Mr PG.  He stands at the entrance to our City to welcome visitors.  He is a giant wood man 'cuz our City was founded on forestry.)

#9 - Even though I have terrible balance and fall easily, presenting Falls Prevention Workshops is part of my job.  That might be the definition of irony.  About a year ago, I fell and broke my left arm.  I did several Falls Prevention Workshops while my arm was immobilized.  I told everyone that I had personally undertaken some highly technical research on the subject of seniors and falls.

#10 - Every August, part of my job is to encourage people to yodel in public.  On stage.  And seniors love it!  Sometimes I really love my job!

Have a great week, y'all!

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Curry Powder

This is in keeping with my last DIY post as I mentioned that I come from a long line of people who can't look at a pattern or recipe without automatically making plans to change it.

For many years, I was unsatisfied with store-bought curry powder.  Too yellow.  Too bland.  So I started doing some reading and research, and learned that curry powder is actually a BLEND of tasty seeds and spices.  Well!  That called for experimentation!  I have gradually arrived at my OWN blend, which I shall now share with you.

Before you run screaming for the hills ... this curry mix is safe for spice weenies! Although I love anything hot enough to clear my sinuses and make my eyes water, I also love sharing food I prepare ... and the majority of my friends and acquaintances are spice weenies. If you seriously have a heat problem, you could decrease the amounts of chili pepper and ginger to suit your own palate ... experiment a little! That's how I arrived at this particular blend!

First, you will need a small dry cast iron fry pan (DO NOT turn heat on yet!!!), as well as 2 measuring spoons ... one 1 tablespoon, and one 1/2 tablespoon.

Second, measure 1/2 tablespoon of each of the following ingredients into the fry pan  (sorry about the shaky photos ... hard to measure and snap pictures with shaky hands all at the same time):  dried chili pepper, whole allspice, and fenugreek seeds.

Third, measure 1 tablespoon of each of the following ingredients into the fry pan:  mustard seeds, coriander seeds, and cumin seeds.

Fourth, turn heat under fry pan to medium-LOW and slowly toast seeds and things ... stirring constantly .... until lightly toasted and the seeds start to pop.  Trust me ... the smell will be divine!

Fifth, remove from heat and let cool, then grind to powder.  I use an old fashioned cast iron mortar and pestle for this. 
Please note, this method takes time and muscles. You can use a clean coffee grinder. You could probably also use a food processor or blender. I happen to enjoy using a mortar and pestle! The gradual release of all those toasty yummy smells is INCREDIBLE!!! I just don't believe you get the same effect using an electrical appliance.

Sixth ... once ground to powder ... pour into storage container.   

And finally, seventh, add to your ground mixture:

1/2 tablespoon ground ginger         1 tablespoon turmeric

Eighth, label your mixture ... it's now ready to enjoy!  I use a ziploc baggie which I keep inside a glass jar in the fridge.  This amount makes enough for 4 or 5 uses.  I use my curry mix quite often, so make this up every few weeks, sometimes more often.

So I'm sure you're wondering what kind of recipes I use this curry powder in ... right?  One of my favourite "quickies" is Dal.

Begin by sauteeing some chopped onion and garlic in a bit of olive oil.

Once the onion and garlic has softened, add a generous tablespoon of curry powder.
NOTE:  a generous tablespoon of "grocery store" generic curry powder would be bitter and overwhelming, so if you're not making your own curry powder, tread carefully!

Then add some fresh grated ginger ...
... followed by 1 to 1 1/2 cups of split red lentils.
Add about 3 cups of vegetable stock (I used boullion cube ... but I do freeze veggie cooking water and often use that instead).
Cook about 10 minutes, or until lentils lose most of their red colour and the mixture feels "slodgy".  Add more water if necessary ... you don't want it too dry.  Think thick stew.  That particular day, I enjoyed the dal over some coconut rice (brown rice cooked with coconut milk instead of water) with some garbanzo beans and chopped fresh tomato.  Yummy dinner in a hurry!

NOTE:  leftover dal thickens up and becomes "stodgy" instead of slodgy ...
... which becomes a very good thing slapped onto a flour tortilla with a bit of fresh lettuce and salsa!  Lunch to go!

It's definately time for quick and simple recipes here right now as it's very hot.  Miss Boots is trying to live on my dining room table directly under the overhead fan.  I don't approve ... but it's too hot to fight about it!

Have a good weekend, y'all!

Wednesday, 7 July 2010


This morning, I was knitting a cotton dish cloth (see above).  On the bus.  On my way to work.  A lady asked what I was creating.  A dish cloth, I told her.  She got a strange look on her face ... surprise, disbelief, a little disgust ... and started to say something, bit her lip, then finally blurted out "why?  you can buy a whole package of dish cloths at the dollar store!"  I've been thinking about that all day.  I realize that I'm not a dollar store fan, although I have shopped there for a few specific things like craft supplies.  I also realize that I automatically go to "I can make _____fill in the blank_____ myself".  That's just part of who I am.

I was raised poor.  Cash poor.  My family had survived the hungry 1930s ... barely ... and fortunes never really improved with the 1950s.  If we couldn't build, sew, knit (et cetera) it ourselves, we did without.  We recycled and re-used long before recycling and re-using became trendy and retro.  I spent most of my early years on a farm.  A very small farm.  On the wrong side of the tracks.  If we couldn't raise it, grow it, can it ourselves, we didn't eat it.  No trendy hundred mile diet for us!  The garden was less than 100 yards from the house, and carefully watered and tended through the long hot Okanagan summer in order to make it through the winter.  I wore hand-me-downs from cousins and local thrift store specials.  Much to my embarassment at times!  I learned very early on how to remodel and repurpose hand-me-down garments and how to sew for myself.  When I took grade 8 home-ec, other kids learned how to sew their first seams while I was already designing and sewing my own dresses.

Then there was the whole creative aspect of our self-sufficiency.  None of us were satisfied with store-bought factory line cookie cutter _____fill in the blank_____ when we were all quite capable of creating special and unique things.  If we did find a store-bought whatever ... usually at the thrift store or discarded at the village 'dump' ... we automatically kicked into plans to repurpose, remodel, repaint, et cetera.  I come from a long line of people that can't look at a recipe or a pattern without seeing potential and planning how to change it.

These are the values I carried with me as I grew up and left home, and are the same values and habits that I operate by today.  Seems normal to me.  Always puzzles me when others are surprised.

Back in the days when I was a newlywed and new mom, we lived in a rented place with a huge prolific apricot tree in the back yard.  Naturally, I made plans to use up every single apricot.  I canned apricots, and made apricot jam like crazy.  One day, my MIL came to visit, and asked why I was busy pouring over a library book on a hot summer day instead of taking baby to the beach.  She didn't come from a family of readers, so my bookworm habits were foreign to her at the best of times.  That particular day, I was researching creative ways to use ripe apricots.  I told her I was craving marmalade.  Basically the same response as the lady on the bus this morning ... "why?  you can BUY a jar of marmalade!"  It had truly never occurred to me that I could buy the stuff.

Yes, I could buy a package of dish cloths at the local dollar store.  However, doing so would deprive me of the pleasure of knitting them, of on-the-bus thought-provoking conversations about knitting and life values, of the satisfaction of creating useful things for my home with my own hands, and of the knowledge that I am creating something that will last a good long time without falling apart. 

The last batch of dish cloths (see above) were knitted over 3 years ago, and they have worked hard.  They are a bit faded, but every bit as sturdy as they were brand new.  And my personal values stand intact.

Now, if y'all will kindly excuse me ... it's over 30 degrees C today, and I need to go get nekkid!  See below ... JUST KIDDING!!!

Monday, 5 July 2010

potty expressions

Today, a client explained rather sheepishly to me that she had to "spend a penny".  Although I wasn't familiar with that expression, her need was pretty clear from her body language, and I showed her to our washroom.  While she was there, I had a great conversation with co-workers about the different expressions we use for this subject.


Use the john.

Use the can.


Get rid of some tea.

Go to the loo.

Visit the little girl's / little boy's room.

Use the litter box.

Water the dog.

Poor client couldn't figure out why we were all giggly when she came back to our front office.

Naturally, being a female crew with a couple hundred accumulated years of mothering and grandmothering experience, we soon embarked on sharing tales of potty training our children.  After lengthy discussion, we came to the conclusion that children come pre-programmed with potty expressions.

For example, my eldest referred to the act of urination as "going tiddle-iddle-iddle".  She was (and still is) a creative little creature who quickly developed her own imaginative version of using a child`s plastic potty.  Child #2 was more the in-your-face-call-a-spade-a-damned-shovel kind of lad right from the start.  He said "gotsta piss" ... generally loud enough to wake the dead if said urgency arose while in the vicinity of a polite crowd ... and did so proudly whenever and wherever he happened to be.  Thankfully, the next child was both shyer and quieter, and whispered (with a cute little lisp) "I gotta go pee".  Child #4 did not learn English in her first year of life, and consequently announced "go shee-shee", a delightful part-English expression closely related to wearing her orange child's potty as a hat.

Each one of us had a different list of potty expressions and recollections for our assorted collections of kids.  Naturally, this discussion led (digressed?) to comparisons of OUR OWN early childhood potty experiences.
For example, I was introduced to a wooden "po-po chair" by my Aunty D. around the tender age of fourteen months.  My po-po chair came equipped with a handy-dandy tray ... very convenient for balancing the book I was handed to entertain myself with while "nature took its course".  Also very convenient for keeping me locked firmly in place until nature kindly cooperated!  And folks wonder why I take a book to the loo with me now ...

Anyone have any potty expressions / experiences to share?

Come on!  I DARE YA!