Thursday, June 1, 2017

Rhubarb, Rhubarb Everywhere

When I was a kid I hated rhubarb.

HATED IT.

Sure, I MIGHT have occasionally enjoyed a fresh deep-crimson stalk dipped in too-much-sugar-to-mention, and I was always hopeful it would change in flavour each time I tried it. But I was always wrong. The fact that we had the leafy plant growing in our yard didn’t encourage me to like it anymore, either. It looked like a weed, and it tasted like sour celery. It would take at least half a pound of sugar to make it barely tolerable.

Barely.

But my mom and dad loved it – LOVED IT – and my little-kid mind took that as a measure of ‘adulthood,’ that it was a ‘grown-up’ food. Every summer my mom would make a pie or two for the family. NOT to disregard my mom’s efforts or baking abilities, but I hated it. I remember the first time I tried it was I was so excited because it LOOKED sweet like a strawberry or cherry pie – my favorites. But the first bite had me puckering and quivering in revulsion. Sure it was sweet, but not THAT sweet, and every summer when my dad would get excited at the prospect of one of mom’s rhubarb pies I, in turn, shrunk in further revulsion and disappointment.

I contemplated mowing down the plant with the lawn mower.

But that adult-only rhubarb as I had come to deem it would follow me around my whole life.

When we were first married, my husband and I visited his uncle's cabin deep in the interior of BC. An old vegetable patch from a previous owner was still there, un-tended, but rhubarb had continued to grow over the years like a weed. Deep in the bush where we were the soil was rich and pure so everything grew bigger and lusher. The rhubarb stalks were almost as tall as me, and the leaves could easily protect me from any rainstorm. My husband saw the potential and I learned (with disgust) that he TOO loved rhubarb pies. We transplanted some and brought it home.

I made it clear, however - I would NOT be making any rhubarb pies. NO WAY.

But I humoured him and nurtured that little plant as best as I could. The novelty of growing it was enough for me. However too much sun and little water on our west-facing balcony of our apartment was too much for the transplanted little plant, and it withered away to nothing.

I wasn’t exactly sad.

I eventually upped my domesticity and started canning, but mostly jams. I found a recipe called Strawberry Jam Spoof and it took – of all things – rhubarb. The recipe also used peach flavoured Jello as the ‘gelling’ agent and the rhubarb as the ‘fruit.' Curious, despite my aversion to rhubarb, I made it and not only did it work, but it tasted great! No taste of icky sour rhubarb to be found!

Life went on and every time rhubarb appeared in my life, I cowered in horror, my salivary glands kicking into overdrive at the thought of the red stalks' sour, bitter bite (I may seem a bit over-dramatic but I REALLY didn't like it). Social functions where desserts were served were always a challenge, and I was always careful. It only took once of getting caught and I learned my lesson – just because a scrumptious looking square has a red fruit filling DOES NOT mean it’s strawberry or cherry or anything else pleasing to my palette (I’m not a fan of raspberries either, but that’s for another time).

Recently I was at a three-day out-of-town archery tournament and my sister and her husband were kind enough to let me stay with them. During those long and exhausting yet fun days my sister kept me well fed. The outdoor temperatures soared up to the 30’s and the heat, along with exercise, nervous tension and long days outside on-the-go worked up an appetite. Every evening when I arrived back at her house I was hungry enough to eat….anything. One night she showed me a pie she had for dessert, and my interest piqued beyond words. Until…..

She pointed out that it was a rhubarb (gag) cherry (yum) organic (?) pie. Now, I’m not against organic things, per se, but when I’m THAT hungry all I want want is sugar, fats, carbs, and everything unhealthy. I asked if there was sugar in it, in light of it being 'organic'. She assured me there was and insisted it was very very good.

The ‘athlete’ I am (not) should have been more open to an organic fruit pie. TRUTH: I’m not that much of an athlete, I have a sweet tooth that has me craving chocolate by 10am every day, and if I had my choice I’d smear REAL butter on everything – especially 2-inch slices of sourdough bread. But I fake it and try to exercise as much as I can, eat as healthy as I can, and avoid bread and real butter as much as I can. As for organics? Well…

So I kept an open mind and gratefully accepted a hearty slice of pie along with a dollop of each vanilla and pistachio ice cream.

My salivary glands shuddered in fearful anticipation. I knew – just KNEW – this wasn’t going to go well. Yes, there was the thought of cherries mixed in with the pie, and at LEAST I had the ice cream to serve as a ‘chaser’ - something to dull the unpalatable rhubarb that was threatening bring me down. But I would be a good house guest. I would be grateful. I would eat it. I would be polite. I would conduct myself in a lady-like manner.

And most of all, I told myself, I would LIKE it.

I took a forkful and readied myself. If need be, I consoled myself, I could inhale the slice as fast as I could before I could taste it. And there was always the ice cream.

I lifted the fork, took a bite, and….

…and chewed….

….and chewed…

And guess what?

I didn’t DIE.

I’m just hungry, I surmised. There’s no possible way I could actually like…

I took a bite of ice cream, then another bite of pie.

And again, I LIKED IT.

Yes, the cherries were saving me from self-induced extinction, but beyond them I could taste the rhubarb, and it was GOOD. I pushed aside the ice cream. I didn’t need it any more. I had more pie. My salivary glands were in heaven. I loved it and fought to lick the plate. What was wrong with me? Was I just so hungry that I couldn’t think straight? Was I just so over-heated I was losing my mind?

Or maybe – just maybe – I was finally becoming a – gasp! – a GROWN UP!

This VEGETABLE often confused as being a fruit had threatened to plague my existence all these 40-something years. Had I been wrong about it along? Had I never truly given it a fair chance? Maybe if I had tried it prepared in different ways I would have liked it sooner...

Before I could go down that never-ending curving road of what 'might have been' and ‘if only’, I stopped and had a pie-induced revelation - no better time than the present to start something new! Maybe I had grown up – my taste buds only, at least! I know they say tastes change as you get older – maybe this was one of those times.

Last year someone gave us part of their rhubarb plant and my husband was ecstatic. He knows I won’t bake with it, but he likes the novelty of having yet another plant to grow in our tiny backyard. But as I watched the leaves unfurl as winter turned to spring, and the stalks grew longer and redder with every day nearing summer, I've been wondering….

Maybe it was time to grow up just a little more…

NOPE.


(PS - pistachio ice cream is best on it’s own)

(PSS - I'm going to 'try' to make Rhubarb Cherry Pie - must ease into these things ya know http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/rhubarb-cherry-pie

Friday, May 12, 2017

A Flash in the Pan

I have a house full of men.

They eat a lot.

And they're messy.

But that's okay.

I try to teach them independence and domesticity as best as I can. I tend to ‘over mother,’ as many would say, but we are all growing and spreading our wings together, which means I’m having to learn to ‘let go’ as well. Part of the growing also means testing what works and what doesn’t work individually and together as a family. What might work one day, might not work the next. We all have our limits, strengths and weaknesses – no one is the same – and when things aren’t working personally and/or in the domestic life-skills department, we try, try again.

So I try to keep my boys on track in the life-skills department as best as I can. Most important lesson: how to make a grilled cheese sandwich. I say that if all else fails in life, you can always make a grilled cheese and survive (don’t forget the ketchup!). So over time they have mastered the basic grilled cheese sandwich of buttered bread and cheese on a frying pan. No big deal. After a few burnt sandwiches, however, they learned the intricacies of minding the stove.

I’m not a gimmicky-type of person, always quick to get the ‘next big thing’ that comes out. I’m kind of old fashioned and sometimes stuck in the bubble I tend to keep myself in. Despite how adventurous I can be sometimes trying something new is a challenge. The good old ‘tried and true’ always feels most comfortable.

But in the spirit of fostering independence and broadening the horizons of my boys, a few years ago I decided to try something new. I know I can’t let my fears and inhibitions hold them back from venturing and adventuring out in this great big world, so I took a deep breath and was bold and brave:

I got a sandwich maker.

The sandwich maker was nothing super high-tech, but despite the simplicity of it I hoped to expand their menu options. This particular kind was an electric little grill that when filled and closed tight can make a little hot-pocket-like sandwich. Sure the boys were masters at making a grilled cheese sandwich with a frying pan, but I figured the gizmo would be a nice change for them. The actual sandwich content possibilities are a little more varied with the concept of a closed grill-like contraption, so I was excited at the notion of my boys trying new things. And the bottom line was no matter what they put in the sandwich they were making it themselves.

It started out fine with just a bit of a test-and-go-process in learning how it worked. It wasn’t a super industrial-strength grill you see in restaurants but it did have a built-in timer/sensor. When the indicator light goes on once it has warmed up, you load it with your yummy to-be-grilled sandwich, close it tight, then remove the gooey cheesy deliciousness when the indicator light says it’s ready. Simple. And ‘simple’ was good to start with given we were modernizing ourselves way from the boring old frying pan.

But then the problems started.

We soon learned that cheese cut any thicker than razor-thin slices was bad. Sure the cheese would melt, but it would also ooze out the sandwich and down the sides and back hinges of the machine. Like ALOT. I know there are far worse tragedies in this world than mis-managed melted cheese, but this truly WAS an atrocity. The challenge to clean, never mind the challenge of getting my men to actually CLEAN the sandwich maker properly was - to put it nicely - a CHALLENGE. No matter how much I fussed and scraped, and no matter how many toothpicks or tines of a fork I used to get into the tiniest of nooks and crannies, none of us could get out all the caked on melted cheese. And it’s not like the maker is something you soak in a sink of hot soapy water, either. Upping how much I nagged my men to clean it wasn't going to help, either. And it's not that I'm an over-picky neat freak, either, but this BAD.

Added to all that misery, the sandwiches were kind of soggy.

But I fought to brush off the disappointment and kept a positive perspective: we were modernizing and experimenting and getting away from the boring old-fashioned.

Eventually the novelty of the sandwich maker wore off and it sat on the counter unused. I know now that denial prevented me from trying to understand WHY it sat there unused, and so for what I excused as 'space reasons' I stored it away in the cupboard.

Time heals all wounds and all that, and the frying pan was getting a workout anyways so all was well in our world.

Until recently while cleaning and re-arranging the cupboards I found the sandwich maker.

The memory of the stress of it all had faded over time

Maybe we weren’t using it right, I reasoned: out came the instruction book.
Maybe it was harder to use than I thought: bring on Google.
Maybe we were putting on too much cheese between the bread: try UBER-razor-thin slices. But that means boring, nearly just-bread sandwiches.

So for two days we tried the machine again, but it was two days of frustration and disappointment…and soggy sandwiches. I'm not about to knock any brand name, nor dismiss sandwich makers entirely, and maybe we were simply using it wrong, but this was just...wrong.

But none of that mattered because right then I realized that the fight was over. The sandwich maker thought it had won – but its’ victory was backfiring on itself.

Because no matter how hi-tech this particular sandwich maker thought it was, at the end of the day it had lost the battle to the frying pan.

Sometimes nothing beats the good old tried ‘n true. Sometimes all the modernizing in the world is not for the best and we have to stick with the basics. I have to keep teaching my kids the basics – keeping them grounded by knowing the root of it all – if they are going to get by. Technology will always change, and yes, there definitely IS a place for some gizmos and modern hi-tech appliances in our lives.

But at the end of the day when all else fails and the gizmos-of-the-day promising to save you from yourself have let you down, go have a crispy, oozy-cheesy grilled cheese...made on a frying pan.

And stick with the old tried 'n true because sometimes anything else is simply….a flash in the pan.




Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Sunday....

....time to count more than just eggs....

As I write this it's early on Easter Sunday. I've been for a walk, my turkey is having a little soak in the sink before finding it's way to the oven, and the Easter Bunny officially arrived at my house for my menfolk this morning.....

...but not for me.


Yes, my men are much older and bigger than I (my youngest just celebrated his 17th birthday this weekend), and no matter how old they get and no matter where they go in this world, the Easter Bunny will always find his way to them. Yes, this time a time of reflection for some - a time of new beginnings, even for the not-so-religious - and with Spring here (sort of - depending on what's happening right outside your window at the exact time you read this), it's a time to remember and celebrate what we have. Time is of the essence, we never know how much of it we have, so why not share a little joy here and there, no matter what the age?

But sometimes the Easter Bunny doesn't find his way to all the mom's out there - mom's are always giving the Easter Bunny a helping hand. Yes, my true gifts are my own little Easter Bunnies asleep in their beds (they'd be mortified if they heard me talking like this - but I don't care), and I'm beyond grateful for what I DO have, but my sweet tooth beckons for a little attention.

But I DID, in fact, get a few treats here and there this week, and my pals at work were beyond good to me....


But then I forgot them at all at work and all this long weekend I had been thinking about them. Given I had exhausted all my - ahem - personal Easter supply at home, I took drastic measures...


Easter candies aside (there's always sales at the stores tomorrow), I have beyond too many blessings to count. I have three men who DO care for me very much year-round and I have friends and family near and far who support and put-up with all my crazy antics. I have a turkey I'm about to put in the oven, and while that's doing it's thing, I'll be heading to the archery range to get a little exercise and fresh air with family and friends.

(photo courtesy of World Archery)

By the time I get home, the turkey will be done, and I'll have all my men, including a dear friend, over for dinner - all of us together at the SAME TIME.

I'm a pretty lucky girl.

So no, I didn't wake up this morning to the Easter Bunny having had stopped by my house for me (maybe he'll come back and clean it while I'm at the archery range), but I got so much more....

So don't count how many Easter Eggs you don't have, count all that you DO have. They are everywhere, all year long, and always appearing when you least expect them. If you look to hard you won't find them all - it's always when you aren't looking, that they suddenly appear.

Easter Blessings to you and your families....

Friday, April 14, 2017

Paint Job

I had been in a rut the last while - I froze. And not just from the not-so-fabulous weather we had been having this last while. Funky health in March, too much going on generally all around, and not taking a step back to sit, think, ponder and evaluate - and just giving myself a bit of a break - overwhelmed me and I froze. My writing along with many other things took a hit. Too many fingers in too many pots? Maybe. Very likely, actually. But I realized I was expecting too much from myself - I was pushing myself beyond what I could handle - and that along with many external forces that were zapping me of all creativity had me knowing I had to stop. My creativity seriously left the building and honestly, I don't think I really wanted it back.

But I was lying to myself. I didn't want it gone, I just needed a break. But inch by inch I'm coming back. I had to change - had to re-asses and re-evaluate what I'm doing, where I'm going, and how I'm gonna get there.

But getting there would have to be on my own terms.

So as I'm slowly coming back - and not to what I once was, but as a newer fresher version of the old writing-me, I had to have a make-over. A paint job. Part of the reason for my frozen state was that I was stale. Yes, I had burned out on so many levels of my writing and my creativity, but I was also very stale. Very outdated. It was time for a change. The old is not totally gone and never forgotten. I'm thankful for what I've had in the past - it's help make me the ME I am now. But I just had to figure that out on my own, first. It's time to move on and keep moving forward, with renewed energy, a bit of a fresh look, and the knowledge that it's okay to give myself a break once in a while. Most of us loves a new set of clothes, rearranging the furniture, new hair or nail polish - a new look. I'm still the same me, but just a slightly different version of ME. I had to acknowledge what got me in a rut in the first place, and reinvent myself a titch and go forward - without fully leaving the old me.

Get it?

Anyways, here is a bit of a new me. We're always evolving - always changing - and this won't be the last change I make. Sometimes less is more - not so bulky and overwhelming. It's up to us to shed what holds us down and get ourselves out of that rut we can sometimes find ourselves in. It's okay to get in that rut, but it's how we get out of it that matters.

And a new coat of a paint can never hurt....

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Weather Talk

March is suddenly/finally here and spring is around the corner.....or so we thought.

It’s been an interesting New Year around the world so far, to say the least, and unfortunately the bad things going on overshadow the good in most conversations. But of the many topics to talk about these days, the weather has been a big one among folks on the West Coast of British Columbia. It’s been an interesting winter both on the Coast and Inland, and it’s leaving folks a bit…disgruntled. Yet of all the topics of all the icky things we could be talking about, the easiest, tamest, most non-controversial but best-for-escaping topic to chat about is the weather.
We can’t control what’s happening in the skies, we can only work with it, and let’s be real – we know whatever is happening at that moment right outside our windows won’t last forever. Snow melts and rain dries. The sun comes and goes leaving us hot or cold depending on the month and how far away/close we are to the burning ball of gas in the sky. Before you know it worry about sunburns and sweaty armpits will replace the angst caused by unexpected snow and ice.

It IS still winter, after all, and many other places DO have more ‘challenging’ weather conditions to deal with. And besides, there are worse things that could be happening – far worse than a few topsy-turvy inclement-weather days.

Not that I’m in denial of what’s going on in the world. But the icky things going on in the world has perspective shining brighter than any sun. Perspective makes Mother Nature’s moods tolerable; frizzy hair, runny noses and chapped skin, manageable. If our only problem where we are is strange weather, then we have it good.

And really, the weather is a safe topic – an easy topic. It’s an escapist topic. “Oh, Weather, what would we do without you? If we didn’t have you, would we talk about?” We love it, hate it, loathe it, wish for it, debate over it, and lose sleep over it. We blame everyone for seemingly ‘unpleasant’ weather – the meteorologists, Mother Nature, the Gods/Spirits/other-world-entities (the list is endless) – for miss-reading and controlling the weather. We blame thy neighbor when he mows his lawn too early, a sure way to jinx the seemingly perfect weather du jour - rain always seems to follow. And for the love of all that is good and pure do NOT step on a spider. Not only is it not nice, but superstitious folks will blame you for bringing on the rain with such an inhumane act.

But actually, maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad idea….

…because lately in these parts where we pay exorbitant amounts to live in ‘supposed’ mild weather, we have had snow – and lots of it. And yes, yes, yes – I know many other places across Canada have it worse. It’s not that we have had more snow than any other place, it’s just that the abnormal amount we have had has been a shock to our systems – our roads, our highways people, our city workers, our furnaces (our utilities companies are happy, at least), our skin, our hair, our creaky joints, our ….everything. Folks had recently started pruning their fruit trees, only to be faced with flash snow-blizzards – very bad for any freshly pruned tree.

But when you are used to a certain way, and the unexpected tosses everything off course, it’s alarming, it’s unsettling, and it throws everything and everyone off kilter. One bad weather day – okay – but more than that? Forget it.

But at the end of the day it’s important to remember that, as with anything, nothing stays the same forever. Like the tide, the weather will change. Before you know it this crazy winter will be a not-too-distant memory. When in a few months we are too busy seeking-out shady spots in the glaring hot summer sun, we’ll sip our iced teas and think back: “Remember that awful winter of 2017? It was something else, I tell ya…”

So be thankful for the weather no matter what it’s doing. It could be so much worse. Because OF all the things we COULD be talking about, at least we’ll always have the weather.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Pink Shirt Day February 22 2017



Today is Pink Shirt Day, a movement started by teen boys who saw a wrong and stood up for what is right. Although a day has been marked for everyone to come together and support the movement – bringing awareness to bullying everywhere, no matter the age – awareness, action, and support has to be year-round. The Pink Shirt movement started with a couple of courageous boys who took action – actions speak louder than words – so remember to show your support and commitment to anti-bullying and wear pink, and think pink, today and all year long.

Visit www.pinkshirtday.ca


Be sure to check this video by Arnold Lim of Victoria News of Pink Shirt Day happenings that took place around BC.

http://www.vicnews.com/news/414554983.html

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Gratitude Gathering

My pal Jo-Ann Carson - author of smart, sexy suspense with a touch of magic - came up with the perfectly fabulous idea to have a Gratitude Gathering – a group of bloggers coming together and share what gratitude means to them and hopefully spread a little positive perspective during these dark and dreary days of winter and while the world feels like a topsy-turvy place. Jo-Ann's concept: 'Bloggers write a post on Gratitude on their own blog, 1-3 things you feel grateful for this month.'

Recognising what you are grateful for can be done at any time - no matter what the season and no matter what is going on in the world. Acknowledging gratitude for what we have and putting a perspective on what we think we don’t have can only lead to happier peace-filled days – sharing what we are grateful for can only spread like a dandelion’s seeds and foster thankful goodwill in others.

On the day I got Jo-Ann’s invite to participate in her Gratitude Gathering, I wasn’t exactly having the best day - never mind the best week. True, we all have bad days – they are inevitable and we are allowed to have them. But on that day where I felt gross, my hair was awful, I hated my wardrobe, I was three days away from payday and there was nothing ‘good’ to eat in the fridge (translation – junk food), the people on the bus were driving me crazy and I was clumsier and klutzier than ever, I scoffed at first at her invite.

How the heck was I supposed to find GRATITUDE given the day, never mind week, I was having? I thought with a snarl.

But…

But her invitation was enough to stop me in my tracks and have me giving myself a whoop upside the head. I always try to practice – note the word PRACTICE – being positive and keep an upbeat outlook on things, but at the end of the day we are human and emotions and truly catastrophically life-altering events are bound to throw our gratitude out the window. It’s important to take stock of what we do have and be thankful – even for the little things.

Here are a few of the things that were bringing me down that I was able to turn around and therefore appreciate:

1. The bus: I’m lucky to be even able to RIDE a bus. It means I have somewhere to go, somewhere to leave, and the money to even do so in the first place. And given I mostly use the bus for going to and from work – WHOAH! That means I have a job! And a paycheque! Being squished on a stinky hot bus can mean so many things if you look at it from a different angle (plus I’m saving money from parking and gas – the list keeps on going!). I’m pretty lucky that I am able to, and have the means to, never mind reason, to ride the bus. Gratitude #1 – check.

2. Feel gross/bad hair/hating wardrobe: I lumped all these together as I realized it was a matter of personal opinion and my own grey mood overshadowing all I should be grateful fo. You ever have days where you are having the WORST HAIR DAY EVER and someone compliments your hair? You’re not having the worse hair day ever – it’s all in your head (not just on top!) I’m fortunate to even have my good health so that I can actually FEEL those gross days – and it only be so because I’m having an ‘off’ day and not because I’m sick or anything. I have clothes on my bad – I’m not without. Truly. I have shampoo AND hair products AND the means to get it cut (never mind even HAVING hair on my head). All those things – feeling gross, bad hair, hating wardrobe – are just insignificant stuff on the surface that can all be remedied with a bath and a good long look in the mirror and in my closets. I have a lot to be thankful for. Gratitude #2 – check.

3. No ‘good’ food in the fridge: well aside from the obvious that I am lucky to even have anything in the fridge at all, maybe remembering to eat the healthy ABUNDANCE of food I do ACTUALLY have would help fend off those days where I feel gross and the clothes I DO have don’t fit right. I am grateful for the food I DO have in my seemingly empty fridge - translation: the fridge isn't really empty. Gratitude #3 - check.

Gratitude check = Reality check = perspective check: Jo-Ann’s invite came at the right time. It was a much-needed exercise to sit down and remember that I truly DO have so much to be grateful for. I am healthy, safe and sound, and loved. I have friends who invite me to share such an exercise with, along with having the ability and freedom to write what I want, when I want. I’ve got it pretty good – those ‘bad’ days are nothing.

Gratitude # 4 – check.

Be sure to check out what other author's are grateful for at Jo-Ann's site - www.lovindanger.wordpress.com