Posts Tagged ‘Modern Life’


Spent part of this evening at El Camino’s on Main – where all the hip people are if you’ve been missing them. Subtitled as Central American Streetfood. Packed on a Monday night when decent 2 oz margaritas are 5$. Tapas size portions great for sharing. Awesome music too – if you have great hip retro tastes like me, that is: vintage Bowie, the Knack, The Cars and Blondie. Very cool crowd, but we got good service even without toques, porkpie hats or large colorful spectacles!

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Vegetable soup, foccacia and cowboy cookies

What a week!  High demands at work and at home:  Travel organizing, charity events, social planning, costume making and a hundred small fires to put out. How to recover?  Shopping doesn’t work for me. I get into the kitchen and whip up some soup, bread or sweets.  And today, since it was such a crazy week, I made all three.  

First a double batch of vegetable soup – please admire my awesome Lee Valley kettle! Next, my friend Gillian’s superb foccacia, and finally, these super easy Cowboy Cookies.  I like this recipe because all of the measurements are round :  1 cup of this and 2 cups of that.  Also, it makes lots.  Not the five dozen advertised, but lots.  Even better if you add butterscotch chips instead of chocolate, but today, alas, I had none. 

The recipe suggests these cookies need 8 to 10 minutes in the oven. In my oven they take 12 minutes to achieve perfect doneness.  I use a standard cookie scoop but I suspect “Bonniebelle” makes a smaller cookie, which would account for a shorter cooking time and a higher yield.  Do try not to overbake! 

Outside it is dark and really rainy. Inside we have good food and cats to comfort us.

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My kids have long envied a friend of mine who married into a Chinese Canadian family and enjoys a roast-turkey-and-chow-mein dinner each Christmas. My oldest son is graduating this year and I fear it won’t be long until I get the sad news that he is planning to spend Thanksgiving (or Christmas, or another traditional family holiday) as the guest of some other family with a fetching daughter. So, it now behooves me to up the ante a little.

Bacon is apparently the ‘it’ food these days – at least with young men. I read an anecdote in Maclean’s magazine just prior to Thanksgiving concerning a turkey-farming MP who puts pulpy orange juice and soy sauce into the roasting pan as a gravy starter and covers his turkey breast with slices of bacon for extra flavour and moistness. Without more information that this, I decided to have a go. I would say the bacon was definitely an addition; however, the orange juice/soy sauce burned in the pan and took several soak/scrubs to conquer. I’d stocked up on some gravy mixes anyway (Sorry, I can’t hear your boos and hisses) so no harm done to the dinner.

Strips of bacon keep the turkey moist and add flavour.

We cooked our turkey at the cottage on Saturday, so we could indulge ourselves in cold turkey sandwiches for lunch on Sunday and hot turkey sandwiches for dinner. When the turkey was resting and I was mashing the potatoes – which didn’t get into the picture somehow – I sent Cottager out on a secret mission to the Bayview Szechuan restaurant in the village for a container of chicken chow mein. He was back just as I finished carving the bird.

I don’t fuss with setting a beautiful table when we don’t have guests since my crew is fairly food-centric. It was just nice to have a quiet family meal at the end of a day working out-of-doors at our fall clean-up tasks. The chow mein was a surprisingly nice addition. I believe we have a new tradition. Hopefully one that will keep my boys coming home for Thanksgiving dinner.

Turkey and chow mein with all the trimmings

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A very clean cottage.

I was born in July and that event prevented my family from going to my mother’s  family’s cottage on Kootenay Lake that particular year. I sometimes get the sense they all still hold this against me, a few decades on.  While some of us have missed a year here or there because we were travelling or living overseas, the cottage is always occupied by some configuration of my family throughout each summer. We all simply love it there.

Fifteen years ago, my folks built a home on an old campground nearby, and each spring since they have worn themselves out cleaning up the cottage for whichever family is arriving first. It was a great tradition, but times do change, and this year my sister and I made the long drive, through snowy mountain passes and along pot-holed highways, to do a big spring clean up.

We vacuumed the backs of pictures, emptied out drawers, sorted out superfluous towels and bedding and got into almost every nook and cranny. We also did a bit of weeding in my folks’ flower beds.  It was all very satisfying.

Really nice to have a cozy visit with our parents too – without the distractions of our own dear families. For just a few days, we could stop being full-time moms and just be full-time daughters and sisters again.  Already looking forward to next year.

Principal benefits of a cottage on a lake:  Everything.

Principal negative of a cottage on a lake:  It’s too far away*

*may apply only to this particular cottage

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This story is a tribute – of the half-assed emulation variety – to my favourite humour blog, Hyperbole and a Half. If you haven’t checked it out, you really should. Seriously.  I cry.

My story begins with my decision to finally abandon my Modern Amish life-style. I simply couldn’t juggle my work schedule, the organization of two homes, my growing vacation rental business, French lessons, family and social obligations and keep track of where my shift-working husband and busy teenagers were. Not without some help. I was fraught. 

I was fraught!

So fraught, that I felt as though I was covered in a million little sticky notes. 

I felt exactly like this.

So, I swallowed my pride, and went to the Telus store at the mall to get a new whiz-bang phone. And there a fellow named Rory – and yes, that is his real name because he needs to know – struggled to find the patience deep inside himself to deal with the Luddite sent to test him on that particular morning. I only understood about a quarter of what he said.

A few days later I went to CAYA (or Come As You Are) – the LGBT- friendly Telus store near my office in downtown Vancouver. Luckily, I didn’t have to give a secret handshake or anything. I really could come as I was. Sarah was super patient with me.

The hiccup was that my Littlest Urchin (Lu) also needed a phone, and I thought our best deal would be made if I dragged him into a wealth-sucking three-year plan at the same time that I super-sized my own financial obligation.

So, after using the CAYA folk shamelessly to educate myself on my options, I went back to the mall in the ‘burbs with Lu to make our deal.  And that’s when it happened.  While I was going over the details one last time, Rory pulled out his own phone.

Rory pulls it out

So how’d I do, Hyperbole and a Half?  Did I accurately depict the amazument I felt when Rory the client service representative turned away from me – the client – and gave the gift of his attention to his phone?  Was it an urgent text regarding a catastrophic event or was he . . . he was…. it appeared he was checking Facebook!  He was appsturbating right in front of me!

 What I wanted to say – only I was too gobsmacked – was

“Are you fricking kidding me, Rory?”

Eventually, Rory noticed that I had fallen silent, and he put his phone away. Lu and I left. I went back to the CAYA store where Sarah set me up with an iphone, a Blackberry for Lu, and an Android for the Cottager – Take That Rory!

At CAYA they didn’t know anything about the 79$ mandatory Apple Care plan that was ‘packaged up’ with the ‘free’ iphone Rory was going to sell me, so unfortunately, I had to keep that money. They insisted I accept a free charge mat and a photo finishing bonus of one thousand prints a year for the three years of my contract, too.

 And a final bonus is that a new word is born. I predict this word will be my 15 minutes of fame. My last great word – ‘KLIG’ for Kind of Laughing I Guess – was meant to rout the overstated and sadly overused LOL, but for reasons I will never understand, it did not catch on.

But Appsturbate… now there is a word. I’ve launched it when phones came out at the table during dinner parties on two successive weekends.  It’s effect was immediate. Revolutionary. Time will tell if I become a dinner guest much admired for my wit, or a social outcast known for my inappropriate social behaviour.  

And while I wait to find out, I embark upon a new struggle between my fundamental belief in the basic goodness of old fashioned human interaction and my glee in discovering little gadgets that enable me to indulge my compulsive urge to list things, track what I’ve eaten, and launch sheep.  After all, appsturbation is a perfectly natural thing.

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I love walking into the village along the beach when the tide is out; having evening beach bonfires with my urchins; swimming in the surprisingly warm water in July and August; taking my coffee down in the morning to watch seals cavort or wandering down with a cold beer after an afternoon in the garden. 

These photos are courtesy of my youngest, who is interested in photography – thus the special effects:

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It only LOOKS safe and peaceful.

A long weekend and a great forecast had us heading to the cottage for three nights, where we were joined by some of our city neighbours for barbecues, campfires and lots of laughs. We have an enormous deck on the steep slope behind the cottage where a previous owner had a hot tub, and it seemed like a natural spot for a tent. The three boys opted for the tent, our neighbours happily claimed the bunkroom and it was all good.

On our first night, just before bedtime, Little Urchin (Lu) was feeling a bit queasy, and since a late night, some pop and snacks and a lot of excitement has been known to affect him in profound ways, we made up a bed for him in the living room, handed him an empty ice cream bucket, and were all tucked up in our beds, bunks or tent by around 11 p.m.

At 3:30 a.m., I came wide awake at the sound of something moving between our bedroom window and the tent platform. Since Big Urchin (Bu) is known to sleep walk, I immediately had visions of him crashing down the embankment. So I insisted that Cottager go and have a look. He found his glasses, and a flashlight and his shoes and toiled up the dark trail, reporting back that all was well. Next morning, the kids remarked that an unfinished bag of nacho chips they’d left outside had mysteriously disappeared, and we chalked it up to feckless kids and a happy raccoon.

Next night, and there were three kids in the tent, until Bu appeared to advise us that Lu had tossed his cookies in the “door to Narnia” – their name for the box built to hold the mechanical offshoots of the long-vanished hot tub. So Cottager found his glasses and his flashlight and his shoes, and escorted the over-excited camper down the trail to his waiting trundle bed and bucket, and we all went back to bed.

…Until about an hour later when the phone rang and I answered to hear Bu whispering urgently and only semi -coherently from his cellphone (yes, he got my old one -pay and talk)

“Neighbour’s son was telling me . . .  true story . . . Discovery Channel . . .  attacked by . . . attracted by the vomit on his shirt . . . . hear a noise . . . can we sleep on the floor? . . . please come and get us . . .

So Cottager found his glasses, shoes, flashlight and went back up the trail to rescue the boys, whom he found sitting in the dark, jack-knives at the ready. Meanwhile, I stayed in bed and had a really good laugh. You see, while we sometimes debate and fine-tune our parental roles, Cottager is and will ALWAYS be the go-to guy for situations involving vomit – seeking monsters.

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