Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Creamed Corn

I'm really surprised I didn't do more blogging in the past 24 hours... Last night I was up until 2:30. I'm on the brink of getting an ear infection and in an attempt to stave off the wretched pain I took Non-Drowsy Sudafed which keeps me awake. Stupid drugs. So, while I waited for myself to get sleepy I started looking up ideas for my brother's wedding. That was fun :) I want to get married again so that I can have the wedding I planned out last night! Although, I should emphasize that I would only want to get married to Matt again.
I was up around 8 today so I didn't get to sleep in much unfortunately and then I spent the whole morning emailing people. I had emails about Auxano, about printing things, about the cafe and scheduling and a whole bunch of other things. It was crazy how much I got done this morning without ever leaving the couch!
In the afternoon I packed Gabe up and we went to see my dad (or Bumpa, as Gabe calls him) at his work where we were getting some printing done for Auxano. As soon as I finished there we went and got groceries and I must say, grocery shopping is so much more fun with a little dude hanging around. He says "Hi" to all the grumpy old people that walk by in an irresistably cute voice, he tries to pound it with people in the line up and he points out everything in the produce section and calls each fruit either an "apple", a "Nana" or a "ball". He's so perfect!
We got home and I cuddled him to sleep while I watched Big Bang Theory. What a fantastic show. I have an official favorite episode (so far, we've only seen the first season and 1/4 of the second season). Anyway, Sheldon gets drugged and when Leonard asks him about a secret he says, "Mom smokes in the car. Jesus is okay with it but don't tell dad." He then claims he's Batman, then starts telling Leonard about how he drank some milk that tasted funny. Oh man, it's awesome. Jim Parsons is a seriously talented actor.
Anyway, once I finally got Gabe down for his nap (5 hours late) I started making dinner: Baked Pork Chops, Beets, Roasted Potatoes with Feta and Home-Made Creamed Corn. I've been meaning to make creamed corn for quite some time now but I never had enough corn kicking around, so this week I made sure I bought 4 ears and saved them until I had time to make it! The recipe I used was, more or less, the recipe from Food Network's 5 Ingredient Fix. You cook up 3 pieces of bacon, set the bacon aside and keep the grease in the pan. In the same pan you slowly cook the corn that you've scraped off the ears as well as all the 'milk' you can coax out of the ear. I used 4 ears for 2 people. Add salt and pepper and I added butter too. Stir, stir, stir to get the starches all milky (like a risotto) and in 40 minutes you'll have gorgeous, bacony creamed corn. The meal was a bit of an odd compilation for me. I typically only do 1, maybe 2 items per meal that take longer than 30 minutes to cook, but the pork took 40 minutes, the corn 50, the potatoes 40 and the beets 40 as well. Not to mention all the work of scraping off the kernels, prepping the beets and coating the pork. It was a rather labour intensive meal for being a plain meal. If we were having company over and duck was the main course I'd think nothing of the time, but since it was an everyday meal it was a bit much.
Matt's mom came and took Gabe to the pool and Matt and I were planning to go for wings. We used to go to the Toad and Turtle every Wednesday for wings (25 cents and they were great!) but since we've had Gabe we haven't been. I really wanted to go but I really wanted more people there. The place is crazy on Wednesday nights and it's not much fun as a date place, but great fun as a group place. Well, Matt forgot to call his buddies, so we had no one to go with, so we opted for dessert instead. We went to Montana's and were seated with a dessert menu until we realized they don't have their Chocolate Eruption anymore! I was heartbroken! So, we dropped a tip and walked out after being seated for maybe 2 minutes and not even having taken a sip of our waters! We walked across the parking lot to East Side Marios and each of us ordered a dessert... and then we switched because we liked eachother's better!
I'm going to bed as soon as I'm done writing this since I need to brace for my second marathon weekend of the month. Tomorrow I'm going to check out the new facility for Auxano and we'll probably hook up my laptop to make sure the tech side works and whip out the guitars to hear the acoustics of the room. I'll make the rest of my biscotti dough in the morning so that in the early evening I can finish baking it, and then in the evening I've got plans for coffee with a friend. Friday I need to go to the church to receive an order and maybe check out plans for renovating the cafe, then I need to bake 6 dozen cookies and finish my biscotti if need be. Saturday I need to setup at the church for the Ministry Fair and I believe Matt had plans for us to do something but I can't quite remember what. Sunday... well, Sunday is almost too scary to mention. I need to be at the church by 7:30 to set up the coffee and then at 10:00 the Ministry Fair starts so I need to be at my booth. Then at 10:30 I need to run out to the cafe and help out everyone and make sure my new volunteers know what they're doing, then it's back to the booth for a few hours. I'll be back at the church by 5:00 to do setup and staying there until 9 - at least. Monday I've got a friend coming over for coffee and then we have the Auxano kick-off which I'm helping lead worship for and running sound I think... Before then I need to find time to practice the worship songs with the rest of the team and try and learn a Johnny Cash song. Partay.
But then on Tuesday it will be sweet release, and I'll be back to my everyday schedule. I'm actually thinking I'll go rent a cello on Tuesday. $40 a month for a cello rental is really not bad. I think it'll take me about two months to learn to a point where I'd feel comfortable playing in front of people and then, if I really enjoy it, maybe I'll buy a cello myself.
But for now, I'll try and rest, keep popping pills to avoid a full blown ear/sinus/throat infection and take one day at a time.

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Construction Theme

Well, I finally figured out how to make my booth theme appropriate for our upcoming Ministry Fair at church! The theme is "Under Construction" which did not work into my original plans for how to decorate my booth. I was going to make it all cafe-ish but couldn't figure out how to juxtapose the smooth cafe and rugged construction themes. I had a few brainwaves today that I think are really going to help. I'm getting Matt to make a sign for me that says "CAFE" that will be made out of boards nailed together. I was trying to find a woodworkers apron to wear instead of just my regular cafe apron but I couldn't find one, so instead I'll still be wearing the cafe apron, but a barista tool belt overtop. The toolbelt is going to have a hand frother, a gruppa, a travel mug and some coffee packs. I'm going to build a pyramid out of espresso cups and rope it off with some construction tape and best of all I've decided to make a kid's treat to give away too! I'm going to bake some brownies and put them in the back of a toy dump truck so that they look like dirt. I'm also going to display the biscotti in an old school construction lunch box!
Today I was getting Gabe ready to go to the church with me to make lattes and it started raining just 5 minutes before we had to leave. I got drenched in the amount of time it took me to get Gabe in and out of the car so I showed up at the church looking like a drowned rat. I made a load of drinks today and most of them came at the same time. It wasn't bad, it was just busy. Matt's mom took Gabe for the whole time so I didn't have to worry about him. I usually get there at 11 and lately I've been getting out at 1:30. On Friday I'm going back into the church to check over some plans they have to reno the cafe. I mentioned to one of the pastors that I suspected we didn't need such extensive work done and he wanted me to relook the plans. Saturday I'm going in to do setup for Sunday and Sunday itself will be crazy :)

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Stoves and Hotels

My weekend is just ending now! That's right - long weekend for me! Technically my weekend starts whenever Matt gets off work and ends when he needs to go back to work. Saturday Matt went out hunting so Gabe and I skipped off to the Farmer's Market. We actually got there later than I had hoped since I didn't really fall asleep after Matt got up at 5. When I finally did fall asleep it was 7 and I had hoped to be up at 7:30... it didn't work. Anyway, we got there and I picked up some small potatoes, beets, concord grapes, blackberries and cheese. When I got home Matt and I went out and ran some errands and then I volunteered at the church for a private function. They had a silent auction that night and I won an ice cream maker for $40! Woot! In the morning we went to the early service and then we left right from the church to Calgary to go pick up our new stove! We stopped for lunch at my sister's and then drove to my uncle's house. The stove is the same stove I've been wanting all along! My mother in law has the same type and it's the same type that I used at my old job. Oh, and it's black so it matches our new dishwasher.
We drove back to Red Deer just in time for Matt to drop me off at the church since I was running the cafe that evening. I hadn't eaten dinner yet and I had a lot of running around going on at the church. To be honest I was quite exhausted. However, the evening did end and lucky for me, Matt's mom was taking Gabe for the night so I had the rest of the evening off. Matt and I had won a gift certificate from a silent action for a night in a hotel and we'd never had a chance to use it just because we needed someone to take Gabe. So, we finally found an evening and when we finished at the church at 9:00 we checked in and then went out to a restaurant down the road for dinner. In the morning we went down for the continental breakfast, checked out and then did some shopping. I picked up my new frames and then went to my optometrist appointment. It turns out my eyes got better since my pregnancy. Sweet, eh? I'll have my new glasses by the end of the week.
Tonight we had an Italian themed dinner at Matt's parents' place with a buddy. I made an antipasto pizza, melon balls wrapped in proscuitto and pistachio ice cream I made in my new ice cream maker! Then Matt's sister came to pick up our old stove and we conned everyone into helping us move our new one in and our old one out. I think I owe our friend another meal now...
It's been a good weekend, and fun, but I really am exhausted. Tomorrow I'll be at the church making lattes and running errands in the afternoon. Hopefully I can fit a nap in there somewhere!

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Botched Sushi

I was fortunate enough to have my husband home with me all morning! Well, 'home' may not be exactly accurate. We ran errands after we got up at 10:30 (crazy, eh?) starting with going over to Matt's work to drop off some bills. While he amused himself with paperwork, Gabe and I hit up Bed Bath and Beyond for the first time. I failed to find what I was looking for but found some great 400 thread count sheets for $50 (I didn't buy them, but good to know). We then went down to my dad's work for some cafe business and then went to check out some glasses for myself. I found a pair of frames that I liked for $140 which really isn't bad but I was hoping to find some for less. We were planning on going to Costco to check out some more frames but Gabe started getting super grumpy so we just headed straight home... just in time to see a friend of ours knocking on the door. He's keeping some stuff stored in our basement and came to grab some stuff. Matt accompanied him downstairs while I tidied up the kitchen and then made lunch for us. We had fun hanging out until Matt had to go to his golf tournament and buddy left. So, I tried my darndest to get Gabe to sleep since it was now 3:30 and he still hadn't had a nap. I took him downstairs and we rewatched a few Big Bang Theory episodes with no hope of him falling asleep. I needed to bake my first batch of biscotti tonight so I took Gabe upstairs, put him in his playpen and within 2 minutes he fell asleep. Lucky for me since I can only put one tray in the oven at a time without excessive browning. So, since each batch yields three trays and each tray requires 45 minutes of baking, it was going to take a long time. He slept through the whole thing, save the last 10 minutes of the last tray. Oh, and I made sushi for myself for dinner. Unfortunately for me, I started making the rice before I realized that my avocado wasn't ripe and my cucumber had frozen in the veggie drawer and gone bad. So, I made straight shrimp sushi but then I realized that I didn't have any sushi soy sauce. It's odd... for regular rice I need China Lily Soy Sauce but for sushi, only something comparable to Kikoman's is acceptable. I only had those crappy little packets that come when you order Chinese food and they sure didn't cut it. So, my sushi was not the best I've ever made. It seemed lacking.
Now however, I have finished baking about a third of all the biscotti I will need to make before next Sunday and I have officially exhausted all possible places in Red Deer that carry large steam jugs so I'll have to order one from Calgary.
Ooh! And additional good news! My uncle and aunt had their fridge conk out so when they went to buy a new one they decided to buy the matching stove and microwave too - despite the fact that their current ones were totally fine. So they're going to give us their old ones! I'm actually really excited to bake more than one tray at a time. Now all we have to do is get them from Calgary...
Matt goes hunting tomorrow morning, during which time I will bake another batch of biscotti, and then I'm volunteering for a function in the cafe tomorrow night. Partay!

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Chickens and Markets

I want chickens. Quite badly, actually. I've wanted some for a while now. Matt agrees with me too! But unfortunately, the city does not. Chickens are not permitted to be raised within city limits. There have been a few attempts over the past few years to change this, but nope, nothing doing. Can you imagine the bliss though?
Waking up every morning and walking out to your coops to grab fresh eggs with deep yellow yolks that will make amazing Soft-boiled eggs? Can you imagine how buttery those yolks would taste? And just picture how your baking would be affected with such gorgeously fresh eggs... I'd have different varieties of chickens with different coloured eggs and every week I'd give my neighbours a new basket of them. Sigh. I also want a goat. I could milk it and make my own cheese and it could mow my lawn. And I want ducks. Mmmmm... fresh duck 6 times a year. Ooh! And Geese! Only two of those a year though... we'll have lots of friends and family over for an Easter dinner of beautiful roast geese.
I got my Martha Stewart magazine today finally. Can you tell? And do you want to guess what her first article in this issue is about? That's right - chickens.
Incidentally, I also want my own hazelnut trees (see p. 138).
I just picture so much domestic felicity when I think of these things. I dream of having a huge farm where we'd grow cutting flowers, nuts, berries, fruit and veggies and raise all sorts of animals. We'd go to Farmer's Markets, or maybe even start our own market, and I'd bake biscotti and make syrups to sell along side our bags of hazelnuts, the baskets of blueberries and perfect bouquets of fresh flowers. Wouldn't that be marvelous? My kids would grow up learning where food really comes from and understanding the fruits of your labours and the time commitment would be nothing - 5:30 in the morning is my favorite time of day anyway! I'd love a good reason to get up at that time every day! We wouldn't even need a full farm. An acreage would do. Okay, maybe two acres since I wouldn't be happy with so much space and no horses. So that leaves an acre for horses, goats, chickens, geese, ducks and sheep (I'd never need to buy yarn again!), half an acre for a vegetable garden, and another half acre for our sprawling farm house complete with rows upon rows of flowers directly behind it. Now all I need is a million dollars and we're set :(
Realistically, I'd be contented right now if they would just change the laws an let me have six chickens in my backyard. I understand they could be noisy and dirty and we'd have feathers everywhere, but think of the eggs!
The fruit trees I was hoping to put into our backyard this year until Matt and I started talking again about moving to another house. There's no sense in putting in trees that I'll never get to eat from. I tried planting raspberry cuttings but Cash dug those up. I got one strawberry off of my 6 plants I put in this year and even though I planted my Bells of Ireland in good time and they had plenty of water and sun, they still only grew to about 4 inches tall. Next year I'll do some things differently, I know. But that doesn't help me much right now when I think of all the lucky people in Portland, Oregon who get fresh hazelnuts from the farm down the road. Or even of the lucky people in Edmonton who get to enjoy a real Farmer's Market all year round.
I ought to take initiative though. Wouldn't it be wonderful if there were a buy-local, farm-fresh movement in our town? (Granted, my two most faithful readers live in Montana and New Brunswick) But we have, within a 50 km radius, some of the best cheese in Canada, game birds being raised and shipped off all across the province, buffalo, long horn cattle, lots of honey and veggies and meats and breads and yet the bounty isn't reflected well. Places like Edmonton and Calgary seem to have more and seem to display it better. What I wouldn't give for a little old fashioned market set up once a week where the focus really was on stuff right off the farm instead of on trinkets and junk items. We need a physical Etsy where, if it isn't edible, it's handmade at very least.
Alas, right now is not the time to introduce such a thing. Maybe I'll brain storm all winter and have some amazing new advancements for Spring?
I did make my biscotti dough this morning so I suppose that's something. Biscotti is such a wonderful thing to make. It's so simple, and the basic dough gives you so much room for experimentation. The baking is a bit tedious however... After rolling the dough out into three equal rectangles, you bake it and then cut it and then bake in again. I'm actually hoping to gain access to my MIL's oven. She has the perfect oven for these since it's exactly like the oven I first learned to make biscotti in, so the temperature will be exact and I can use the convection setting!
Tonight for dinner I think I'm going to make sandwiches. Roast chicken, asian pear, fig butter and brie sandwiches. Although, I may add some roasted red peppers as well.
Now all I need is some brie!

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Rock in the Grinder

My goodness I've been busy lately. Between the cafe, meetings for Auxano and Gabe getting his molars in... yikes. Monday we had an Auxano meeting in which I volunteered for more things (I know, I know.) Tuesday I went to the church again to make lattes for the staff. I think this time I made it clear to all of them that it's going to be a regular thing and I must say it was quite well received :) I got everyone their drinks before their teaching time started and then went in to join them until Gabe saw me across the room, crawled through a forest of legs and eventually found me. He sat quietly for 5 minutes after that and then I had to take him out of the room! I decided to grind some decaf and get my cleaning done while they were all in their meeting but after the first pulse on the grinder it caught a rock in it! I turned off the grinder right away so that it didn't wreck anything and then spent the next 35 minutes dissecting the grinder, shaking out all the beans, and using stir sticks to unstick all the packed up oil from the last 6 years of grinding. Yep, stir sticks. Oh, and Gabe was throwing water all over the floor and shaking sugar packs and screamed everytime he dropped one. It was a party. So, everyone got out of their meeting and I just got the little tiny rock out. Stupid rock.
Today was quite productive. I had the kitchen cleaned before 10, played with Gabe all morning, got ready while he had a nap and then we went shopping. I hit HomeSense in search of a tiny bristle brush and a large metal steamjug for the cafe... no luck. Nor did I have any luck at London Drugs. After I picked up groceries we came home and I cleaned the living room, did laundry, made tacos... it was good. Tonight Matt and I picked up Big Bang Theory season 1 and 2 at Walmart which we started this evening and I think Sheldon is amazing. I adore him. He's such a little kid. In the pilot Sheldon and Leonard are talking about a woman having a baby she expects to be smart but it turns out to be just a normal baby and Leonard said, "Well, she'll still love him." and Sheldon says, "I wouldn't!" Awesome.
Anyway, I have some menu planning to do and I'm starting my biscotti tomorrow. I should make my dough tonight!

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Diaper Wipe Countdown

Well, today wasn't quite the magnificent day that yesterday was. I woke up feeling quite sucky and within about 15 minutes of being awake I had decided against going to the church to receive an order today. About 15 minutes after that I changed Gabe's first dirty diaper of the day and realized we had 5 wipes left. I spent a fair bit of time debating what I was going to do and I eventually settled on sticking to my plan of staying at home and going to Walmart tonight for wipes. About half an hour later Gabe had his second dirty diaper of the day. My confidence in my ability to stretch my 2 remaining wipes was waning. But, after a conversation with Matt my resolve held and I vowed to make it the rest of the day with only two wipes and I figured I'd resort to wet cotton balls if I needed to.
Yesterday when Matt and I went out for lunch there were hot buns at the buffet and Matt was raving about how good these buns were. He made me taste one and I couldn't quite agree with him about them being anything extraordinary. They were salty and had a fun taste to them, but I figured Matt liked them mostly because they were fresh and buttery. So I set out to make buns for him today. I whipped out my oldest bun recipe (Old School Better Homes and Gardens) and started making. And right away I screwed up. I was supposed to heat the milk until the shortening was almost melted. I failed to read the word "almost". So I kept heating until the shortening was completely gone and then I realized that I'd made the milk too warm for the yeast... but I realized that a little too late. So I ended up with a fairly tough dough by the time it had risen. I made clover buns, so I rolled 3 little balls per bun and put them in muffin tins, but I was too impatient to bake the pans separately and even though I know my oven to be finnicky, I thought I'd try my luck. My luck apparently ran out. At any time when there are any more than 1 cookie sheet, cake pan or muffin tin in my oven, the baking becomes very uneven and the bottoms of whatever I'm baking burn - or at least get very dark, very fast. I first noticed this when I was baking my annual 120 sugar cookies at Christmas our first year in this house. At first I thought I'd messed up and let the sheets touch eachother or the sides of the oven, but no. Then I thought I'd try to put one sheet up and one sheet down and switch them half way through - still no. The only thing that works is baking one sheet at a time. It's a real pain when I'm baking cakes. Anyway, as I said above, my luck ran out. The buns didn't burn but they did get extra brown on the bottoms, they failed to rise properly because I killed the yeast with my too-hot milk and they weren't as fluffy as they ought to have been, again owing to the hot milk. Smooth, eh? On the upside, they did taste a heck of a lot better than the ones at the buffet. Oh, and I made two dozen but there are only 8 left (Gabe ate four of them himself) so obviously they weren't the worst things I ever made.
I also made Millionaire's Shortbread for a family get-together tomorrow. I always forget how it should look when I make the dulce de leche filling so it kinda freaks me out everytime when it starts to chunk up a bit, but then it always works out in the end. I really ought to make a note for myself somewhere...
Gabe only had a half hour nap in the afternoon (and a third poop which cost me one more wipe and a few cotton balls) and I spent that time reading my bible instead of cleaning or cooking - which I can't really say I regret. But the result was that by the time my shortbread and my buns were done it was nearly 5:00 and I had nothing made for dinner. I called Matt and, much to my relief, found that he was still going to be a while yet, so I pulled out a Spaghetti Squash and got that baking. I also decided that I needed another dessert for the get-together, so I whipped up a boxed Devil's Food Cake to make a Black Forest In a Bowl (layers of cake, whipping cream, cherry pie filling and chocolate pudding). By this time I was quite exhausted since I had already been feeling lousy today and after dinner I collapsed on the couch. I lasted this evening for an epic trip to Walmart (the term 'epic' implies an expenditure of $200+) where we got everything from Sweetened Condensed Milk and Toothbrush to Diapers and new pants for Matt.
Oh, and after rewriting the cafe schedule for the 8th time I got an email back from one particularly hard to please volunteer saying that the second set of dates she gave me needed to be changed. Gah.
So, now I'm finally sitting down and relaxing now that Gabe has gone to bed nearly two hours late (he has a horrible diaper rash so those wet cotton balls weren't a bad idea anyway - oh, and just for the record, we used the last wipe on poopy diaper number 4 today right before we left for Walmart) and I'm excited for tomorrow but at the same time I'm pretty tired already and while the day will be fun, it will also involve a bunch of work. I'm going to need a lot of coffee.

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Good Day

Today was a good day. I love being able to say that. I love looking back over the day and not thinking of anything that went particularly wrong.
Today I got to go out for lunch with my husband. He's been away the past two evenings and I was feeling like I never get to see him anymore so he phoned me this morning and asked me where I'd like to go for lunch with him. It was a nice treat. We rarely do that.
Today I knew I had company over and I didn't need to clean for them. It was already done! I did tidy up some cook books I had sitting on the table, and I washed some dishes, but there was no rush to get things ready and presentable. That was nice :)
Today I talked on the phone with both my mother and my sister. That's not exactly rare, but it has been a while. And they were both good, long talks - not just short little blurbs.
Today I volunteered for two more things. A little on the dumb side, but in my opinion, if you don't have to double-book to agree to something, you're not too busy for it. To be honest, I did sort of double-book for both of those, but one social thing we cancelled and one commitment we rescheduled, so I'm just getting to help out with more! And I really do like to feel useful.
Today I finished rewriting the cafe schedule for the 8th time and I think this is the best schedule yet. It made the best use of people, freed up some of my time and coordinated certain people with special events. I'm glad it's done.
Today I made a great dinner. I really did. And it wasn't just great because it tasted great (which it did) it was great because it was low stress, and nothing went wrong while I was making it. I made the Stuffed Chicken Thighs for the entree. I had to debone the thighs, which went off quite smoothly, and then I had to make the stuffing, which was easy. The hardest part was stuffing the thighs and it was a breeze! Just lay open the boneless thigh, put the stuffing in the middle, fold up the sides and hold it together with a toothpick! I had them in the oven at just the right time, and then I set about making my roasted veggies. I had some squash, a red pepper, some of those adorable silver-skin onions and some apples that I chopped up, drizzled with oil, threw in a crushed garlic clove, sprinkled with Alpine Touch (the ultimate seasoning salt) and a dash of salt and pepper. They were amazing! I made up a salad with green pepper, tomato and celery and found that I had a tiny block of asiago left in my fridge so I grated that over it and it turned a normal salad into a really good one. Dinner was supposed to start at 6:00 and at 5:50 my chicken was done, and then I got my dessert ready. Take Asian Pear halves, core them and dip the cut side in lemon juice. Put each half in the center of a parchment paper square, sprinkle some anise seeds in the middle of the half, drizzle with honey and fold up the paper. Pour a bit of cider into the pouch, twist the top to seal it, and bake for 45 minutes! They were ready just in time! And they were quite nice. I'll be making them again.
Today I agreed to cook dessert for a family get-together this weekend. Millionaire Shortbread should do I think. And that's just plain fun :)
Tomorrow I have to make a trip into the church, make my Millionaire Shortbread, maybe make my biscotti dough, and then make a romantic dinner for Matt - it'll be the first evening we've spent alone together in quite some time. That sounds like it'll be a good day too :)

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Star Anise and Vanilla Beans

The other day I was lamenting over the lack of vanilla beans at my grocery store. Well, they carry them now! And sushi rice! Lucky me! Now all we need them to bring in are Creme Fraiche, fresh lychee nuts and star anise! Well, that's not really all, I actually have quite the long list for them, but they do have great prices and they do a profit sharing type thing... anyway. I actually was looking for star anise when I found the vanilla beans. Matt's Oma (grandma) is coming over for dinner tomorrow and the menu has been changing alot all day long. Originally I had been planning on making my risotto style pasta tomorrow because I've been wanting to do that all week, but then I was thinking about making pulled pork sandwiches. This was before I found out she was coming. So then I decided against pulled pork and opted for Stuffed Pork Chops. When I got to the store I realized that while some of their chops were on sale, the best ones for stuffing were not, so I went over to chicken. They had some Chicken Breasts Back Attached on sale and I was about to buy those when I got nervouse about removing the back while keeping the breast reasonably intact. Not my forte. Then I notice chicken thighs were on sale, so... tomorrow for dinner we will be having Stuffed Chicken Thighs, roasted peppers, squash and onions, salad, homemade creamed corn and for dessert, Asian Pears with Star Anise in Parchment (Martha Stewart's recipe). That, my friends, is why I went looking for star anise, and actually, my grocery trip tonight was my second of the day! I was out earlier this afternoon shopping at Value Village (I hardly found a thing worth buying since nearly everything cost as much as it would brand new from stores like Stitches - except for the wool jacket I bought for $30! And some clothes for Gabe) and I decided to stop off at Save-On on my way home to grab some stuff for dinner. Save-On is my secondary grocery store. They have a way better selection than my Co-op but their prices aren't as good, and lots of their produce isn't as local. But, I can count on Save-On having nearly everything I could ever want: vanilla beans, star anise, quinoa, lychee nuts... (No one in town carries Creme Fraiche, so that doesn't really count) Had I figured out what I was going to be making for dessert prior to my trip to Save-On I could have got the star anise there. As it stands, I'll need to go there tomorrow to get some. I did manage to get a smoked pork shoulder for $7 so whenever Matt and I want to have people over for lunch on a Sunday I can pull that out, heat it up and we have lunch meat for 20 people and it didn't have to cost me an arm and a leg! (Stupid deli meat prices) For dinner I made something not quite typical for me: Tuna Casserole. A can of tuna, a can of cream of mushroom soup, some milk, some veggies and some fried chow mein noodles. It's my Grandma's old recipe and I always loved it. Matt really liked it so that was a good sign - I now have a standby for nights when I feel like I have nothing in the house!
As a bit of an aside, and inspired by my day today, I wanted to list some things that I like.
First off, the new Tetley Warmth tea - Cinnamon Spice with Orange Blossom. A touch of honey and it's like fall in a cup.
Breyers No Sugar Added, Smooth and Dreamy line, Extra Creamy frozen dessert. It's not your typical no-frills, no-flavour, healthy alternative. I buy it for the taste. It's actually the closest thing you'll find to homemade without having to make it yourself, I think!
Ooh, tiny little silver-skin onions that were just so adorable I had to buy them and changed my menu to work them in.
And lastly, I really love foot rubs, but that hasn't happened for me today... yet!
I'm also going to list some things I don't like: Matt being gone the last two nights until at least 11:00, arthiritis, diapers the day after my baby eats chili for the first time (and corn!) and not getting foot rubs.
Last night I went to my parents' house for dinner while Matt went to Edmonton to visit his Pake (Great-Grandpa who is nearly 100) and it turned out that my mom suddenly got sick when she got home from work so I didn't get to talk with her about the cafe or gardening or anything like that! However, my dad did try to compensate by talking with me about homemade Christmas presents. He actually helped me to decided what I'm making everyone this year! Syrups, of course, biscotti and truffles! Yummy, eh? The women love the syrups, the men love the liquer filled truffles and the biscotti will be for people like my grandma, who wouldn't like either of the others! Since I'm already making loads of biscotti for the Ministry Fair at church it won't be an issue to put some aside for Christmas, the truffles I've been meaning to make for 4 years now, and the syrups take so little time and effort, how can I not? Ah yes, I should also add to those three things my own loose-leaf tea. This is not a certainty because I'm really unsure of how it will turn out, but I have a whole pot of chocolate mint that I'm going to dry, and I'll mix that with some chopped up licorice root and it will be fantastic - I hope! I'm also going to try to do up some Bath salts, but that's just for fun :)
Well, I think I'd best finish my tea, get to sleep and wake up early enough to maybe bake some bread!

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Cafe Marathon day

I am so, so, so tired. It's been a long time since I worked an 8 hour split-shift. Yesterday was my marathon cafe day. On Saturday night I was so nervous about the next morning that I hardly slept. And then, when I finally fell asleep at 2:30 I had a nightmare and Matt had to wake me up because I was hyperventilating. So, I woke up for another half hour, finally fell back to sleep at 3:30 and got up at 6. Great, eh? I got to the church at 7 after picking up Timmys and went to work right away. I ran around a whole bunch set stuff up, making loads of coffee and then moving everything I had already set up! Once the first service was over the cafe opened for the first time this year. Unfortunately since there were pancakes been given away in the parking lot on the other side of the church, no one was over by the cafe! We only made a handful of drinks all morning. It did actually help however. We were trying out new slushies and didn't have a clue about how good they would taste or how much ice to use for them. We did figure it out and now I'm much more excited about the slushies than I was before. Because of how little we charge in the cafe I was worried that we'd lose money on making the slushies that were supposed to be made with 1 cupful of syrup and 1 cupful of ice. It was calculating out poorly and I wasn't sure if we were going to be able to keep carrying them, but it turns out they work better when you use 3 cupfuls of ice to 1 cupful of syrup! And they taste great! So anyway, we won't be losing money on the slushies anymore and I won't feel bad about serving them. We then had a bunch of people turn up for training and they made some of the best shots I've ever seen newbies make! And they laughed at me a bit for how much I'm 'into' making espresso shots. After making some more coffee for the people eating pancakes I cleaned up and got home by 1. Matt had apparently walked to another church with Gabe for the morning (I had taken the family vehicle to church) so I went and picked them up and we stopped off at a garden center before we came home. I've been wanting to plant hyacinths for a while, however I didn't realize they weren't hardy in my zone. I bought some anyway and I'll grow them inside and transplant them this spring. Matt really wanted some daffodils (I love him!) and I also got some pretty tulips - a variety called Deirdre with white petals and green streaks up them. We got home and ate leftover chinese food from the day before, and I mostly just hung out while Matt went out to hang out with some guys. He got back, we fed Gabe and went back to the church by 5:30 where I started all over again with making coffee and setting up the espresso machine. This time at least I got to go to the church service - for some of it that is. I kept getting called out of the service and I had to leave it as soon as the sermon was done so that I could be at the cafe. I don't know why I rushed... all my volunteers who were scheduled didn't show up, I sold 2 hot chocolates to one little girl and a muffin to a man. It wasn't a complete waste however since 2 people turned up for training. I lucked out and was out of there by 8:45! And I got my ordering figured out for this week too! I was, however, very sore and very tired when I got home. I haven't done that much running in a long time and the shoes I wore were not the best idea. So my legs were aching and my back was sore and my feet were killing me. However, lucky for me, Matt gave me an awesome foot rub before bed! Seriously, foot rubs are one of my top 10 favorite things in the whole wide world.
Today I'm still tired and had to spend the morning dealing with stuff like credit cards and emails that never were received. Oh, and I just found out I have to rewrite the cafe schedule for the 8th time.
This week I'll need to start making biscotti for the Ministry Fair in a few weeks. I'm going to need a whole lot of butter!
Anyway, I'm going to cuddle my baby to sleep. His naps have been getting later and later.

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Friday, September 10, 2010


Matt had a unexpected day off of work today so I was super excited to get a lot of work done. Unfortunately Gabe had other plans so I spent the whole morning trying to keep him from screaming. I had received a call from a lady I used to go to church with saying that she had just received two orchids from someone and that she already had a ton so she wanted to give them to me. So finally at 2:00 I abandoned my efforts to get Gabe to have a nap and I left him with Matt while I went to visit this lady. She had rows of orchids in her window and other ones set up around the house. I explained to her how I thought my orchid at home had died but then it started growing back and she gave me some tips and told me about an Orchid show that Grant MacEwan puts on every February. The two she gave me were the same variety as mine at home but better established and larger. I'm excited to see what the blooms look like!
When I got home I was all revved up for gardening so I went to peek at my phlox that had been growing in a front flower bed that was in close proximity to one of the stumps that we just had ground out. Unfortunately, my phlox didn't survive the encounter. However, I was able to salvage a sprig and I figured I'd see if I couldn't coax any roots out of it. When I went to check on my other beds I decided that some of my annuals were too pretty to let die so I dug them up and potted them and am going to winter them and make them into containers next spring. I also noticed that my lilies were branching out so I took off the new branches and am soaking those as well to try and get them established. I also reseeded some of my perennials that I hadn't been deadheading. There were some empty spaces in my front flower bed so I planted in some of the seed pods and for my annuals that went to seed I'm going to refrigerate the seeds and start them next spring. Overall I'm quite happy with my indoor collection of flowers right now and in a few weeks I will be ordering a Mariken variety of Ginkgo Biloba. This is a dwarf variety of the ancient tree (which, incidentally, can survive nuclear blasts so I'm sure I can manage to keep it alive) and the Mariken variety only grows to 6"-12". I never used to be interested in dwarf varieties and bonsais, but then I saw some in Martha Stewart Living, like her Japanese Red Maple, and now I want them :) The maple will require a bit more money and finding effort from me than the ginkgo so I'll start with dwarves and work my way up to bonsais.
It's been a long time since I've given a guppy update on here! We have tonnes of fish. Lots and lots of babies and some of our babies are now beautiful adults. Ther are a couple in particular that I am quite proud of. My pride and joy is our green bodied, yellow finned, leopard spotted male. A green guppy happens when blues and yellows mix and the resulting sheen is green. This particular guppy must have come from our blue male and one of our yellow spotted females. At first we were convinced the spots were from the mother's side until we more closely examined our male and saw that he does in fact have tone on tone spots. We actually thought this baby was from the red leopard spotted male we bought for Gabe, wewll, for me really, but when we saw the green body we knew it had to come from the blue male. The best part about it having come from the blue male is that the blue is the only male we have with a particularly splendid tail. We also have a little male whose tail looks like it's on fire. It's tail is mostly red except for a little circle of blue right where his tail and his body meet.
Oh, and I'm no longer roasting chicken for dinner tonight. It's still frozen :). So instead we accepted a dinner invitation to the in-laws' place! I love to cook, but sometimes it's nice to have a day off!

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Egg cakes

If at first you don't succeed, figure out a better way to do it. Or, adapt what you are trying to do to skills that you already have. Now, this obviously doesn't apply to everything but sometimes it can work wonders. For example, I am not the most artistic person in the world. Sure, I love to knit, sing, play some instruments and decorate, so I suppose I have artistic tendancies, but I'm not that great at drawing, my handwriting is abysmal and I'm a horrid painter. Every Easter I am reminded of just how lousy I am at such artsy things when we pull out the eggs and the dye. My sister is fantastic at decorating eggs! Hers are always gorgeous and pretty and exactly how she intended them to look. Mine always look like they seer done by a 5 year old. And that would be an insult to most 5 year olds! I was, however, quite fortunate today in the discovery of a uniquely shaped baking pan. Egg shaped! It's kinda like a muffin tin, but the holes are oval and when the batter puffs up it should shape into little eggs! Now, I may suck when it comes to paint, but I'm actually quite good when it comes to icing! I think the reason for this is because so much of success with icing is dependant on the quality of the icing and having it prepared properly - and that, my friends, is my forte. I can whip up a gorgeous ganache, or a beautiful buttercream, in a heart beat. So I bought the stupid pan. I know I'll only use it once a year, but I will use it, and I will have the best tasting pretty eggs in town! Icidentally I also plan on making chocolates with them... Make the hollow halves, fill them with caramel or fudge or something like that, and then melt the halves together.
Today was a wee bit of a write off - I mean, besides my buying that pan. Gabe refused to sleep, and unfortunately I thought I would watch some TV while I was waiting for him to go down. The reason that was unfortunate was that it seemed to keep Gabe awake longer than not. So, finally around 2:00 he fell asleep while I was holding him on the couch. I went to lay him down 10 minutes later and... He woke up. Wide awake. Stupid me. He didn't sleep again for he rest of the day. Since I needed to get some things done like dishes and cleaning the living room I tried my darndest to do them while he was awake and for the most part I was successful. Then I only really had time to write some cards to people and to finally make dinner for Matt. I had planned on making sloppy joes since I had half a French loaf leftover and it was probably a little stale so I was going to toast that up for the buns, but it turned out we had no ground beef in the house. So instead I made French toast with some stale white bread that I bought on Monday and cooked up some sausages. I also whipped up a couple of syrups while I was making dinner. The only flavor I have yet to figure out how to do well is Irish Cream. It's actually one of my favorite flavors for italian sodas and the only one that I had to buy. So today I tried looking up what is actually in Irish Cream and there were so many various answers that I was really confused. I was hoping it would be an easy thing like how French Vanilla is just vanilla and almond, but no. See, Irish Cream is traditionally whiskey, cream and sugar, but the flavoured syrups that are around use everything from caramel to coconut. So, I finally decided to resort to what I always do - winging it. I had a tiny bit of the store bought Irish Cream left over and I started smelling it. It definitely had coffee, for sure there was vanilla (good vanilla, too) and I'm pretty sure caramel and chocolate undertones. Perhaps some almond, but we'll see about that. So, tomorrow I will be making my own Irish Cream syrup with only fresh ingredients (save the vanilla because it's nearly impossible to find vanilla beans in my town). I'll use crushed coffee beans, shaved dark chocolate, I'll caramelize some sugar and if I decide it needs it I'll crush in some almonds too. Hopefully I get the quantities right which, admittedly, would be much easier were I using artificial flavoring, but I've made enough syrups to know about how much flavor can be yielded from an amount of raw ingredient. For example, it only takes one mushy strawberry to flavor up to 3 cups of sugar syrup (as a side note, add lemon zest to your strawberry syrup to round out the flavor). So if I assume that the coffee, vanilla and caramel flavors are prevalent it should be pretty simple to figure out how to do that.
I've got a bit of a beef to lay out. I'm sure I've mentioned this story before but one day Matt and I were at a Mexican restaurant in town and I was commenting on how their salsa had too much cilantro for my liking (and by too much I mean any). Matt asked me what the cilantro tasted like and after trying to describe it to him and receiving funny looks in return I fished out a particularly large cilantro leaf from my salsa and got him to taste it. I asked him what he tasted and he said, "salsa". I found that extremely weird so I then asked if he could pick out the tomatoes and onions and peppers and he said, "Nope, I just taste salsa." I fired him that day :) Too often we tend to eat without tasting or smelling or really appreciating. We may acknowledge that something tastes good but we fail to examine why it tastes good. Is there a particular pairing of flavors that you like in it? Did the saucier add vinegar for a bit of je ne sais quoi? Is the fruit fresh or the cheese aged or do you simply love anything and everything umami? I noticed a case of bad cooking the other day when I was at Denny's (I know, I brought it upon myself). I ordered their Southwestern Steak Burrito because in the picture it had lots of vegetables. Well folks, all I can say is that sometimes pictures do lie. The first thing I noticed, other than the lack of vegetables, was the overwhelming taste of Worchestershire sauce. The meat had been soaked in it. The next thing I noticed was the unmistakable presence of Tabasco sauce. Not to say that Tabasco sauce is bad, but the way the flavors were layered there was no subtlety. You could taste each layer powerfully, and at the same time. It was an overwhelming taste where all they seemed to focus on was flavor in large quantities and they didn't seem to picky about what flavors they were. What if that burrito really had a lot of veggies? What if the steak was thinly sliced instead of chunked and if they added a touch of jalapeƱo to the Tabasco sauce mixture and they used about half the amount of Worchestershire sauce? Well, then I might actually look forward to the next time I eat at Denny's!
I think everyone needs to cook with their nose more. When I'm making a sauce or a roast and I get to the point of seasoning and cracking open my spice rack (and my spice cupboard - there are so many flavors!) I grab a few jars that I think will work and then I smell whatever I'm cooking and then smell the spice. If the smells go, I use that spice. This is a super effective way to improvise. So many people add spices just because that's what they always add but may I be the first to say that not every tomato sauce should have oregano in it? I myself am partial to basil, but not always. It depends on whether or not my sauce has brown sugar and chili powder in it. One of the easiest dishes to improvise on is apple crisp, or rather, fruit crisp. Are you going to use peaches and blueberries and maple syrup? Or maybe just peaches and rum? Or apples and brandy, strawberries and Frangelico, or strawberries, rhubarb and limoncello? Then are you using cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice or mint? So many choices!
Well I just made myself sufficiently hungry. I think perhaps I'll have some apple slices with cheese on it. ...good medium aged cheddar. ...Because I like the salty cheese and the sweet apple.

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Rigatoni and Cheese

Well, today I kept my day fairly free from obligations and trips out and about. Or rather, Gabe did. He was so incredibly grumpy that I wasn't able to do much of anything this morning. I did get a lot of emails done and rewrote the schedule for the cafe for about the 7th time. After Gabe fell asleep I was able to eat something (finally) and got Matt's request for dinner: Baked Mac and Cheese. Once Gabe was awake and fed I packed him up and took him to the grocery store. On the way home (from two blocks away) I decided that I wanted some Starbucks (on the other side of town). I wanted to get something I don't normally order so I decided to try out their Salted Hot Chocolate. I must say, I had higher expectations. The problem was, and always is with Starbucks, that they use chocolate syrup instead of chocolate milk. You can taste that it's separate... it doesn't meld well. It also has a definite rich chocolatey taste, but it's too heavy. I had an epiphany. I am changing out from chocolate syrup at the church to chocolate milk. Of course, before I can do this I need to convince a panel of people that the chocolate milk is much better than chocolate syrup. And by "need to" I mean that I "need to" for my own peace of mind. So, this Sunday morning I think I'm going to bring in my own jug of chocolate milk and set up a taste test for a few people - mostly cafe volunteers but perhaps a few staff members who would be most likely to order hot chocolate at the cafe. I also spent some time thinking up new ideas for the cafe today. For example, I'm planning on serving a Chocolate Covered Cherry Mocha in November and a Candy Cane Latte in December. I might also approach a few missions teams about fundraising things - offer the cafe up for events, maybe have proceed days where everything earned on a certain Sunday goes to a mission, or get people to knit reuseable coffee sleeves and sell them for the teams in the cafe.
Anyway, I started making dinner for Matt at around 3:30 which was a bit of a mistake since Matt was about an hour late coming home from work. Dinner was still good though. It was actually some of the best Mac and Cheese (or rather, rigatoni and cheese) that I've ever made. I had some asiago in the fridge and grated some on top which I think helped. I was a bit worried at first since the white sauce I was making for the cheese sauce wasn't thickening - at all. And even after I added the cheese it wasn't thickening much, however, I had about 1/3 c. cheez whiz left in the fridge so I threw that in and it made a great sauce. For dessert I whipped up a Brandy Apple Crisp with some apples from my in-laws' tree. I soaked the sliced apples in brandy and added cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and a bit of sugar, then I did my usually crisp topping of oats, brown sugar, flour, a touch of salt and melted butter to hold it all together. It was really good and it made the house smell amazing.
Well, now I think I'm going to have a quick bath before bed. I've been aching all day and I'm not sure why but the weather can't be helping. Maybe I'll have more tea and start another Jane Austen novel too... Sounds like a nice way to end a day!

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Lattes Galore

Who would have thought that I would ever find myself in a position where I have too much to write about and not enough time to write it? I've been so busy lately that I've hardly had time to get onto the computer, let alone blog! This week is my marathon week. I've been busy lately, but that will be nothing compared to how I am this week. It started out with our camping trip over the long weekend, which was great, but freezing cold. I had a sleeping bag, two sweaters, two extra blankets, two pairs of socks and a cuddly baby and I was still frozen at night. The weather actually caused the campout to end earlier than it would have otherwise. That was a little sucky, but it was a bit of a blessing to have a day off before we had more stuff going on. So yesterday Matt and I slept in, went to Denny's for breakfast (do not be fooled: it may look like their Southwestern Steak Breakfast Burrito has lots of veggies on it, but it sure doesn't.) and then ran some errands which involved Matt buying a new IPod and me buying a box of cards from HomeSense. Then we grabbed some Starbucks and headed over to Matt's parents' place where I helped my mom-in-law make apple sauce and I was rewarded with a bucket of apples for ourselves. Then we did a quick grocery shopping trip where we ran into a friend of ours who had been gone all summer and Matt hadn't seen him since he got back home. We rushed home for a small dinner (turkey sandwiches on ciabatta), dropped off Gabe with Matt's mom and then Matt and I went to Earl's for a dessert date. I had their Chili Chicken for dessert :) It's just so good! Today I had a bit of scheduling to do in the morning and a few errands to run before I showed up at the church for my first day of making lattes for the staff during their staff meeting. A few of them in particular were quite excited to have someone waiting to take their drink order! It wasn't bad either. I think I made almost 20 drinks and the orders came in staggered enough that I never felt rushed. Oh, and two of the men asked for straight up espresso which I was a bit nervous about since the church's espresso hadn't been very good previously due to a combination of too coarse grinds, too dark blend and too small of a tamper and I hadn't tested the new shots straight up yet but the crema on them was perfect and I'm sure they tasted good. It was also good having a bit of a practice session before the big cafe reopening this Sunday, for which I will be making lattes again. I'm not really worried about keeping up, but this practice time couldn't have hurt. At least now I know where everything is. After I made all the drinks I cleaned the machine and got everything ready for Sunday and I scored a free lunch of leftovers from the staff meeting! Chicken enchiladas! Woot! I got home just in time to meet the guys who were coming to grind out some tree stumps in our yard today. They finished that while I made a couple of appointments and now I am looking up information online about metal coffee tampers. I want to see if I can't get a heavy one and the metal helps with the "polishing" step when you're tamping. Once I'm done that I have presents to figure out for people. I have a friend who just had a baby, some friends who are about to have a baby, friends who are moving into their much-anticipated and long-awaited house soon and friends who have had an anniversary. I foresee much card writing in my future!
It feels good getting things off my to-do list. I was struggling a bit yesterday with shutting off my brain. I kept wanting to start on stuff that I had to do today but I made myself take the day off, and I'm glad for it. Doing the applesauce at my in-law's helped since it made me feel like I was doing something productive but it wasn't stressful at all (save the 4 inch burn up my arm that I got from a pot on the stove). Actually, making the applesauce made me appreciate the cooler weather.
I used to hate Fall. My favorite seasons were either Winter or Summer; I hated those in between seasons where there was some snow but it was melting, or there wasn't quite snow yet but it was still chilly outside. However, recently I've been warming up to the "in-betweens". Fall is a time for chai lattes and Caramel Apple Spices; a time for taking pictures of beautiful hues and for knitting while sitting in front of the fire. As one of my cousins so eloquently posted of Facebook recently, "Wife: I love fall. Husband: What do you love most about it? Wife: Sweaters. Husband: Did you seriously just say that??" I love sweaters myself and that's as good a reason as any to like Fall! Incidentally, I also love sweaters for Christmas time and last year resolved to start a new tradition of buying myself a "Christmas Sweater" every year for Christmas morning. But I digress.
I'm glad I'm beginning to embrace Fall. I think I just got so excited for Christmas that I was impatient for it to snow and to be December. Actually I used to live for major events it seemed like. Everyday I'd look forward to the next holiday, or the next youth event, or the next time I'd get to see my favorite cousin. I gradually got better, kind of, and started living for the weekends when I could drive home and see my boyfriend and spend time with him. Finally I got to where I am today - I'm living for each day. I get excited for big events, sure, but why not get excited for today? What's more fun than making lattes for people, seeing lots of friends and getting my house and life more and more organized? And tomorrow, even though I have nothing planned, in a manner of speaking, I can be excited about playing with my little boy and cooking a nice warm meal for my husband and, well, not having anything planned!
Oh, I wanted to post my plan for the Ministry Fair at my church! On the first Sunday in October the church is having a Ministry Fair to showcase what each ministry does and how it works. I needed a gimmick and couldn't come up with anything satisfactory, but I nailed one yesterday. I'm going to start ordering in a Ugandan coffee from our supplier. It's not FairTrade but in my opinion it's better. I have an issue with FairTrade. In order to get certified for it, you need money. So the poorest of the poor are the ones who can't afford to get certified. And then, when companies like Starbucks say that they are only going to carry FairTrade coffee, it makes the poorest of the poor even poorer because no one wants their coffee anymore. So in a way, it hurts the people who need the most help. This new coffee is brought in through a Christian Reformed group out of Vancouver. They went over to places like Uganda and Rwanda and found those coffee farmers who were the poorest of the poor and offered to vouch for them. So the organization not only agreed to act as brokers for their coffee and to export it to Canada, but they are paying the people fairly and not requiring them to get certification. In the words of my coffee supplier: "It's not certified organic, but it is organic. These people are too poor to afford chemicals." So anyway, I'm going to start carrying this coffee at the church and offering it as a featured brew. The day of the Ministry Fair is the day that I will be premiering it at the church and I'm going to be giving away home-made biscotti with it! Catchy, eh? My booth is going to be crowded!
Well, Gabe is finally awake from his nap and I still haven't found a new metal tamper. Perhaps I had better sign off and get to work!

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Wookie the Chew

Well, I caught a cold. Stupid me. Three days before our camping trip with Auxano and I'm popping cold medicine like candy. My head is killing me, my nose is raw and my 'n's come out as 'b's. Unfortunately I don't exactly have time to just stay in bed. I would have loved to, but Gabe woke up at 7:30 today so I didn't even get a chance to sleep in. After a load of phone calls and figuring details out this morning I finally got out grocery shopping. It was our first trip for more than just essentials in a few weeks so it took a while. Fortunately Gabe is at this really fun stage where he says 'hi!' to everyone who walks by until they say 'hi' back, so he was sufficiently entertained the whole while. I picked up a nice pork loin at the store for tonight's dinner. Very little food is as comforting as pork loin when you have a cold. At very least it smells amazing so it makes me feel better that way. I have to pause to say what a monkey my little boy has been lately. He just climbed on top of his exersaucer from the ground and had both feet off the ground before we noticed. He's been climbing on top of everything lately and he's been getting quite cheeky!
Anyway, at some point today a friend posted a link on Facebook that I thought was worth checking out - and it so was! It was the website for artist James Hance and, more specifically, the link lead to his comic melding of Star Wars and Winnie the Pooh; a series of drawings featuring Wookie the Chew. My goodness they are fantastic! We are going to be ordering some and using them to decorate Gabe's room. They are the ultimate little boy pictures in my opinion. A bit more of description of them will, perhaps, help. James Hance takes some of the original Winnie the Pooh illustrations and modifies them with Star Wars characters. Christopher Robin is dressed like Han Solo and has dark hair, piglet is portrayed by R2-D2 and Eeyore is depicted as a very mopey looking AT-AT. The website is I highly recommend you check it out.
I perfected our menu for our latest camping trip today. It includes my camping staples: perogies, bannock, pie irons, etc. But we will have awesome breakfasts of bacon, eggs, sausages, pancakes and cinnamon buns, and for lunch on the third day we're having tune melt sandwiches with sun dried tomatoes and fire roasted peppers. I am particularly excited for those.
I still have lots to do before we go camping including baking cookies and cinnamon buns, and repacking all the camping gear. I also wanted to brush up on my guitar and learn a few timeless hits for around the campfire. We'll see though :)
Anyway, my husband is watching ski videos and my baby is still awake so I'd best attend to both of those!
Oh, and the pork roast was amazing, coupled with mashed potatoes and steamed cauliflower with cheese sauce!

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)