Category Archives: Uncategorized

when your heart is broken

When your heart is broken, it’s hard to do more than think of similes and metaphors for how you feel.

It’s like a bomb went off in your life.

The ground goes sandy under your feet.

It’s like being crushed by a piano.

Your life is suddenly riddled with termites.

It’s like he gave your his heart, and you cherished it for years; and then you opened it, only to find it was full of maggots all along. 

Everything–colors and sounds–begin to seem like they’re in a dream. Or maybe this is just wishful thinking.

This is why, I think, there are so many poems and songs about heartbreak. The only way to deal with it is through verse.

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Lesson No. 2: Plans Don’t Always Go As Planned

My “serious” life got in the way of my “fun” life–it seems to do this even when I take “fun” very seriously. But I am back now, and full of resolve and resolutions. I don’t tend to make those, mostly because I don’t tend to keep many of them, but this year I decided to be  a full-fledged member of our goal-oriented society. Here goes:

  • Use this blog as it was intended–to spur me to do new and sensory-oriented things.
  • Learn at least three new crafts this year (soap making? embroidery? quilting?)
  • Do my best (this is something I honestly have never tried before).
  • Try at least three new food preparation methods this year (canning preserves? pickling? tagine stews? fireside cookery? Edit: Just saw this related blog post from the Kitchn.)
  • Learn to play the banjo (it’s been intimidating me since last I picked it up).
  • Take better care of my surroundings.
  • In the crafts and cookery I do know, make an effort to learn three new advanced techniques this year.
  • Start designing my own handknits–three designs this year (already starting one!)
  • Finish what I start, or truly give up on it–no leaving things half-assed.

Is that it? I think that’s it. Any more and I would be setting myself up for failure. Wish me luck, and see you back here soon.

falter

little brooklyn

Hello, anyone who is still there (were you ever there?) I’m sorry for the prolonged, unexplained hiatus. I guess you could say this blog was having an identity crisis.

You see, I love reading other people’s blogs, and I really wanted to take part in what seems like a nurturing, vivacious community. The only problem was that I had nothing to write about. I figured if I kept posting things that caught my fancy, I’d eventually figure out what it was I wanted to say. Only I didn’t. So I stopped saying anything.

Well, today I decided what about me I wanted to share: me. What I do. What I want to do. A big part of my life is about doing. Making. Creating. I think that’s why I named this blog what I did. So this, from now on, is about my life, which is sure to include at least the following:

  1. Cooking
  2. Photography
  3. Travel
  4. Crafts
  5. Books
  6. Music
  7. Art
  8. Things I want
  9. Academic musing

Note that this is not an exhaustive list, just what I came up with today in my Constitutional Law class (an aside: this is the reason professors really shouldn’t let students use laptops in class.)

It took me a while to come to terms with just how navel-gazing this blog will really be; I mean, a blog about my insular life when there are so many more important things in the world? Maybe, but ultimately, I write this blog for me, as a record of my life (as it is and as I hope it to be). You are welcome to read along, too, but consider yourself warned.

guinness stew is good for you

the stew. it was perfect. rainy outside, toasty inside, the whole apartment smelling like my grandmother’s house on a wintry afternoon. it’s amazing how very primal the smell of slow-cooked meat and veggies can be. my husband, k, and i kept poking our noses into the pots to inhale a big old whiff–it was almost enough to stave off our hunger.

almost.

when we sat down to eat (along with our roommate, j-n, since there was far too much for just two people to eat), we practically inhaled the food. it might have been because we were eating at 8:30 since, as usual, i got a late start with preparing things, but i think it was because the food was so undeniably soul-nourishing that we just couldn’t stop.

now, i was a vegetarian for many years (as you might have guessed from my previous rant about veggie works), but have been eating meat for the past three or so. i do my best, however, to eat only what i call “ethically sourced” meat: local, grass-fed, and, preferably, direct from the farmer. i am lucky to live in a place (vancouver) where farmer’s markets are prolific even in winter, and there are a good number of cattle-farms, chicken-coops, and fishermen set up and selling their meat at a good price. in general, i eat meat maybe twice a month. it had been a while, so at saturday’s farmer’s market i picked up two pounds of stew beef, mostly because it was the least expensive cut available and i’d already spent too much on wild mushrooms and apple chips. i knew it’d be delicious, though.

k is a vegetarian. it is for this reason that i rarely cook meat at home, instead eating it at restaurants, buying pre-cooked meat to put on a sandwich, or sometimes picking up a package of sausage to add to spaghetti sauce (that winds up sitting half-used in my freezer for…well…it’s still there.)

last night, however, was different. k had been telling me after weeks of watching me drool at non-veg recipes online that he would be fine with me cooking myself a meaty dinner and leaving him to fend for himself. as i planned out my beef stew, i realized that we could have it both ways, with the only added trouble of one more pot to wash. i made the meaty part of the stew in one pot, simmered for two and a half hours, and cooked the veggie part separate for only an hour. we served it up with barley cooked in no-beef stock, k taking a heap of vegetarian stew and j-n and i mixing the two stews together in our bowls. it was delightful, and luckily, there was enough guinness left to satisfy us all.

here are the recipes for both stews. if you want to make both, like i did, only put two carrots, one onion, and maybe a handful of mushrooms into the beef stew. the other amounts can stay the same.

beef & guinness stew

(from The Complete Book of Irish Country Cooking)

serves 6-8

  • 2-lbs. lean stewing beef
  • 3 Tbsp. oil
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • salt and freshly ground pepper and a pinch of cayenne
  • 2 large onions, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato puree, dissolved in 4 Tbsp. water
  • 1-1/4 c. guinness stout beer
  • 2 c. carrots, cut into chunks
  • sprig of thyme

1. trim the beef of any fat or gristle, cut into cubes of 2 inches and toss them in a bowl with 1 Tbsp. oil. season the flour with salt, freshly ground pepper and a pinch or two of cayenne. toss the meat in the mixture.

2. heat the remaining oil in a wide frying pan over a high heat (i did the whole recipe in one large dutch oven to minimize dirty dishes). brown the meat on all sides. add the onions, crushed garlic, and tomato puree to the pan, cover and cook gently for about 5 minutes.

3. transfer the contents of the pan to a dutch oven or heavy pot, and pour some of the guinness into the frying pan. bring to a boil and stir to dissolve the caramelized meat juices on the pan.

4. pour onto the meat with the remaining guinness; add the carrots and the thyme. stir, taste, and add a little more salt if necessary.

5. cover with the lid of the casserole and simmer very gently until the meat is tender — 2 to 3 hours. taste and correct the seasoning.

vegetarian guinness stew

(from the kitchn)

serves 6

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 3 (small) onions, one finely chopped, one chopped into large pieces
  • 1 lb. button mushrooms, cleaned, chopped into large pieces
  • 3 lb. russett potatoes, peeled, chopped into large pieces
  • 3 large carrots, peeled, chopped into large pieces
  • 1 Tbsp. flour
  • 1 11.2-ounce bottle of guinness
  • 1 tsp. mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. “better than bouillon” vegetable beef base
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 4 c. water
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt

1. finely chop celery, 1 onion and 4 mushrooms. heat olive oil in a large soup pot and add chopped vegetables. cook until softened and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.

2. meanwhile, chop the remaining onion, potatoes and carrots into large chunks. set aside.

3. add flour to the softened mixture and stir to coat. cook for 2 minutes. pour in guinness and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. reduce heat and simmer uncovered until all vegetables are fork-tender, about 45 minutes.

[i hope to revisit this post at a later date, when i can take some pictures and do the recipe justice. until then, text must suffice.]

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minor setback and a sandwich

so, it seems like this blog might take a big longer to get off the ground. you see, my camera was stolen.

taken from my home.

my beautiful canon rebel xsi, a present from my husband at our wedding last year.

the camera i use to take pictures of my food.

anyway, until it is recovered/we suddenly find the money to buy a new one, it looks like this blog will be going pictureless, which for me kind of defeats the whole purpose of a food blog. that said, i just couldn’t resist posting the recipe for a sandwich i made yesterday. i know, it seems pretty ridiculous to post a recipe for a sandwich, but this one was seriously good. as in the best sandwich i’ve had since i don’t know when.

growing up at the jersey shore, i was fortunate enough to live near a legendary vegetarian restaurant called veggie works, which has since closed down. in high school, my friends and i would go there to listen to whatever 1960s cover band was on the roster that night (i recall one singer we lovingly referred to as “eskimo jerry garcia,” as that is who he most closely resembled) and sit in the sawn-in-half pews that served as booth benches, eating the most miraculous veggie meat loaf or a “buffalo soldier burrito.” there was one item on their sprawling menu of unique creations and meat-like concoctions that i could never get enough of: the grilled tofu sandwich. my friends could never understand my love for such an unexciting dish, but the flavors, bright and fresh, the crunch of sprouts with the silkiness of the lemon-pepper tofu, well, it was simply heavenly. i thought i would never taste it again once the place shut it’s doors.

which brings us to yesterday. after k and i dragged our feet back home following a long, sunny day of hiking through vancouver’s stanley park with a guide book called, simply, “big trees” (and randomly meeting a man at the hollow tree who just happened to help the author find many of those trees, and who is in several of the photographs within–vancouver is such a city of synchronicity), we pondered a meal that would be easy to make and use some of the fruit we had bought the day before. As we approached the grocery store, we decided on sandwiches, tofu with mango. once home, i began doing a little concocting myself.

first, a marinade for the tofu. orange juice in the fridge, sesame oil, ginger, and under the broiler. next, the mayo issue. a tofu sandwich without mayo can be quite dry, but i have a life-long aversion to the stuff and cannot stomach the taste. so why not mix in some of that madras curry paste on the fridge door? just enough to hide that familiar hellman’s odor.

a little mango, some thai basil, and garlic sprouts, and a sandwich was born.

not just any sandwich. the sandwich.

the sandwich that instantly makes me long for a picnic on the beach. the sandwich that i wish i had every summer evening, on the porch, watching the sun start to set after biking around to catch a breeze.

the sandwich.

i’ve decided to call it “the honolulu,” because one bite washed down with a swig of almond milk brought me right back to my spring break trip there with my friend in college: sun, sand, surf, fresh fruit, and no worries.

tonight, in contrast, is stew night. perfect for the foggy, rainy, cold vancouver day outside my window.

RECIPE:

the honolulu sandwich

makes two sandwiches

1/2 c. orange juice

2 Tbsp. sesame oil

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 brick extra-firm tofu, drained & cut lengthwise into 1/4″ thick strips

3 Tbsp. mayonnaise

1 heaping tsp. madras curry paste

4 slices sourdough sandwich bread

7 large Thai basil leaves, torn

1 Atulfo mango, slices 1/4″ thick

garlic sprouts or alfalfa sprouts

1. preheat oven to broil. mix together orange juice, oil, ginger, and cayenne in shallow bowl. drag tofu through orange juice mixture and place on a lightly oiled baking sheet, being careful not to overlap slices (you could also cook these on a grill.) broil about 6 minutes per side, until lightly browned and just crispy at the edges.

2. assemble the sandwiches: mix together mayonnaise and curry paste until well blended. toast bread slices. spread curry-mayo mixture on one bread slices. place about three strips of tofu on bead, partially overlapping each slice. arrange a layer of torn basil on top of tofu, then a layer of mango. top with sprouts and another piece of bread spread with curry-mayo mixture. repeat with second sandwich.

3. serve with a cold glass of almond milk for the full island effect!

[i hope to revisit this post at a later date, when i can take some pictures and do the recipe justice. until then, text must suffice.]

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