Saturday, October 31, 2009

Thai Peanut Noodles

I'm not sure how "Thai" this is. It's my first attempt at cooking with these flavours, which are commonly found in Thai cooking. I adapted this recipe from a few, including one in Nigella Lawson's latest book - Nigella Express. Anyway, this turned out great and I'll be making it again. It'll be especially nice in the summer when I'm avoiding the stove.

2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp peanut butter - I used all natural
Juice of one lime
Few dashes of hot sauce - optional

1 package pre-cooked noodles e.g. chow mein
2 handfuls blanched snow peas*
Half of one red pepper, seeded and cut into short, thin strips
4 green onions, chopped
2 handfuls of bean sprouts, carefully washed

1. Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a large bowl.
2. Add the salad ingredients.
3. Mix well.

Notes for next time:
-Try other vegetables, like maybe blanched green beans
-Top with crushed peanuts or maybe toasted sesame seeds
-Add a little honey to the dressing

*Blanching - immerse in boiling water just until the vegetables colour and strain under a cold running tap

From the vault - Cocoa

I wrote this in October 2008, shortly after we lost our dog.

Cocoa had cancer. I figure it started back in July when she had a weird "virus," and I actually had a feeling then. We had her back and forth to the vet at least 5 times. About two weeks ago she was hardly eating and was quickly and visibly dropping weight. I took her to the vet that Friday and again they sent us home with new medication and new food. They thought she had Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome. Nothing changed by last Tuesday so we told them to do an ultrasound to see if they could see anything inside. They saw that she had some lesions on her liver and thought she might have liver cancer, however, tests for that came back normal on Friday so we still had some hope over the weekend. We were waiting to hear back on some fluid they took from her abdomen, but it still looked like she might have a chance.

Friday morning was her last good little walk down the street. Friday at lunch was the last time she ate. I'd cooked her some ground beef and she ate a little handful. I'm really glad I did that. On Saturday she stopped drinking and was obviously dehydrated. I didn't know what to do, but was still feeling hopeful, and we needed to get her medication in her, so I started giving her Pedialyte with a syringe. I gave her a half a cup every half hour, with her pills disolved in it every 6 hours, and by midnight she was perking up. On Sunday I gave her a jar of watered down babyfood with the syringe over the course of the day and she seemed to enjoy it. She was lifting her head and trying to bite the syringe a bit. She even went for a short walk to take the garbage out with Jason. I realize now that she was probably dying, and maybe I extended it, and maybe I shouldn't have done what I did. Jason feels I made her I more comfortable and gave her another day.

She was bad on Sunday night again, she just kept vomitting and once she actually fell over. But I still had some hope. I was really expecting them to call on Monday and say "it's nothing, we can give her steroids" and she'd come back. But that is not what the vet had to say. On Monday they said the fluid revealed cancer. They figure it was in her bile duct and pancreas.

At first we thought about giving her chemo.They said it would cost $4000-$6000, which would have been the last of our wedding money, but we would have done it, and put the wedding off. We've already spent our honeymoon money. But the vet and oncologist said she had little chance of survival. And that's when we knew we needed to help her go.

I am lost right now. That dog could read my thoughts. She knew exactly what I wanted and I needed her to do at all times. She also gave me a lot of freedom because she was there to protect me. We live in a strange area, and because of her, I felt perfectly safe going for a walk night or sitting in the yard. If we were in the yard together and Jason went in, she would not go in the house, even if he asked her to go in, she would not leave me. I was fine at home alone if Jason went out, and he felt fine leaving us. She'd lay in the downstairs hall and keep her eye on both doors, and I could go to sleep. She watched me constantly. If I got up in the night she'd get up too. I could run down to the laundry room at night with her, or leave the door unlocked while I ran out for something because I knew she'd watch the house.

I think the hardest part for me right now is walking. Sweetie always walked with Jason in front and Cocoa and I behind. We did it this way because Sweetie is just so nervous, she needed Jason to handle her and have us behind her. They also walk a lot faster than Cocoa and I did, we liked to take our time, and Cocoa liked to smell everything. Now I am alone and it feels terrible. Sweetie is doubly nervous now.

Jason and I and the dogs worked like a well-oiled machine. And now a very important part is missing.

The Low Road - Marge Piercey

What can they do
to you? Whatever they want.
They can set you up, they can
bust you, they can break
your fingers, they can
burn your brain with electricity,
blur you with drugs till you
can t walk, can’t remember, they can
take your child, wall up
your lover. They can do anything
you can’t blame them
from doing. How can you stop
them? Alone, you can fight,
you can refuse, you can
take what revenge you can
but they roll over you.

But two people fighting
back to back can cut through
a mob, a snake-dancing file
can break a cordon, an army
can meet an army.

Two people can keep each other
sane, can give support, conviction,
love, massage, hope, sex.
Three people are a delegation,
a committee, a wedge. With four
you can play bridge and start
an organisation. With six
you can rent a whole house,
eat pie for dinner with no
seconds, and hold a fund raising party.
A dozen make a demonstration.
A hundred fill a hall.
A thousand have solidarity and your own newsletter;
ten thousand, power and your own paper;
a hundred thousand, your own media;
ten million, your own country.

It goes on one at a time,
it starts when you care
to act, it starts when you do
it again after they said no,
it starts when you say We
and know who you mean, and each
day you mean one more.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

15 Minute Dinner - Pasta Puttanesca

This dish has been much-discussed throughout it's history. There a few stories about it's origins, one of which is that the name comes from the Italian word for whore - puttana, and it is thought that this dish born in the brothels of Italy, cheaply and quickly prepared by prostitutes between customers. You can read more theories of it's origins here on Wikipedia.

Regardless of where it came from, it's quick and inexpensive pasta dish that can be prepared in a myriad of ways. Read on for my quick take on this delicious dinner. For some thoughts on the ingredients in this meal, check out this post.

2 cups of high-quality short, cooked pasta - I used Vita Sana Cavatoni
1 can of high-quality tuna - packed in olive oil - I used Callipo Solid Light Tuna in Olive Oil
Handful of capers
2 chopped tomatoes
Handful of chopped olives - I used some black and some green
2 big handfuls of washed spinach
1 handful of crumbled goat cheese
1 finely chopped clove of garlic

Cook your pasta, drain it, put it back in the pot, and while it's still good and hot, throw everything in, mix and serve. Yep, that's it! Enjoy!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sewing Challenge

Alison over at has a wonderful blog where she writes about her personal challenge to make everything she can. I greatly admire this approach to life, and I'm going to head in that direction myself. First off, she's inspired me to work through my stack of fabric, which she is doing herself. To begin, I'm going to make a skirt for work and a weekend skirt. I will post my results here.

The art of Yellena James

I just need to say that I am in love with this woman's art:

I was immediately attracted to her drawings, and at first, I thought I'd never seen anything like it, but I have: my own drawings. I've been drawing the same series of shapes for years, and never once considered them to have more potential than for doodling on scrap paper. When we were kids, our uncle would sometimes entertain us by having us draw some random lines on a piece of paper, which he would then turn into the most beautiful designs. I've carried that idea around for along time, and have developed a system of drawing abstract botanical images using the concept of starting from random lines. Now that I see Yellena's work, I am inspired to draw more, and to take some of my "doodles" to a whole new level. When I have some drawings that I'm happy with, I will post them here.

Why we hate to help

I've often wondered about why so many people have an adverse reaction to people, or animals for that matter, who need help. I've been paying attention to people's reactions to the misfortunes of others for a long time. What fascinates me the most is blame. Everyone seems to do it, including me. See, my friend has recently lost her job and her home. While I feel terrible for her, I can admit that I have wondered what she has done wrong to deserve this situation. I think these kinds of thoughts are related to the idea of independence in our culture. We are all supposed to be independent, and never need each other's help. I think this idea is related to consumerism, because, after all, if I'm sharing my stuff, the person I'm sharing with doesn't need to buy any themselves.

I was reading a blog article yesterday, written by a Ukrainian woman, with a unique perspective on the Western notion of independence. I can not find it for the life of me now! I really value what she wrote. Basically, she says that we all need to identify people in our lives who are really there for us and ask for help. I do consider myself a helper, but I have noticed that my offers to help can sometimes be met with suspicion. I think each of us needs to look at what we can offer to the people in our lives, because I don't think the real issue is that people can't ask for help, I think it's that people refuse to give it, and look for reasons to explain why they should not have to help. This goes back to what I was saying above. If a person has does something to somehow "deserve" misfortune, then I'm off the hook for having to help, aren't I?

Overall, I think there needs to be a collective mental shift around the ideas of helping and being helped, and I'm going to look at this in my own life.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Live downtown? Stop grocery shopping! You heard me.

I'm sure this is mainly possible due to where we live, but we've basically stopped grocery shopping. Once a week, when we're together, we pick up pet food and other bigger items, such as a bag of rice and such. I do keep some staples on hand. But as for what we eat every day, we usually decide each day and I pick up the requirements on my way home from work. I pass 3 small grocery stores on my way. Here in Chinatown, fruits and vegetables are ridiculously cheap, and surprisingly, over the last year, I am seeing more organic items in this area.

I think this is approach helping the planet because:
  • we are not using electricity to refrigerate a lot of food in our home,
  • we are supporting local, smaller businesses rather than big corporations,
  • we are walking rather than taking transit or a taxi to pick up food, and,
  • we throw away considerably less spoiled or unwanted food.

I think this approach is helping us because:

  • we eat at home more,
  • we use our own bags every time,
  • we're walking more, and,
  • we are saving money on wasting less food.
If you can, give it a shot. Even if you don't live in an urban area, you might work in one, and perhaps you could pick up your daily foods on your lunch or after work before heading home.

By the way, this morning I woke up at 8:12 and was at my desk at the office by 8:58. Yes, I showered, dressed, and walked to work. Someone remind me why living downtown is a bad idea?

Saturday, October 3, 2009

"Don't be afraid of blouses!"

I stopped in a major department store downtown to shop for some fall basics. As I was approaching the women's wear department I heard an incredibly enthusiastic announcer saying something like this:

Welcome ladies! This afternoon we're going to take a look at mixing pieces you already have in your closet with a few new investment pieces. So join us in the centre aisle in a few moments and we'll get started!

As I approached I saw the announcer. He was decked out in a slim-fitting, light grey suit and had bleached blonde hair. He was just a little wisp of a thing but wow, did he have some energy. He was practically bouncing as he spoke.

I went off and looked at sweaters. I could hear the host with the most chattering on about the importance of feminine details and vests this fall. He wrapped it up and headed into the clothing racks, with a gaggle of ladies behind him, and he proceeded to help them pick things out. I started to head to the dressing room and that's when he spotted me, and yelled:

"Don't be afraid of blouses!"

He took a few steps towards me and I said "I'm not afraid of blouses..." He replied, "I don't see a single blouse in your hand and you need to consider a couple of great blouses for fall! You can take them right from the office and off for a special occasion with friends!" I said "oh...ok...thanks." I don't think I have that many special occasions with friends that require wearing a blouse, but needless to say, I went and picked out a couple of blouses, because at that point, it didn't seem like I had a choice!

I found a couple, and made my way back to the dressing room where Mr. Fashion Angel was waiting outside the door to judge outfits that women were trying on. He said "do you want me to wait to see your blouses? I'm waiting for these other ladies." I answered, "no, it's ok, but thanks." And I hurried in to lock myself into the dressing room.

While he may have been over-bearing, this man sure knows what he's doing. I bet I'm not the only woman with two new blouses hanging in her closet!