Monday, December 26, 2011

Gratitude Monday -Just Ducky

We had roasted duck for Christmas Eve Dinner. I poured on pear schnaps near the end of the roasting and it worked out well. For that I am grateful.
I thought pizza would be a good home for the leftovers.
This is duck and portobello mushroom. I used duck fat in the dough and lightly sauteed the mushrooms in the fat before throwing them on the pizza.
I am glad it worked.

It required a counterflavour so I took some of the cranberry sauce I served with the roasted duck and added  chipotle.
It worked and for that I am grateful.
We ate this Christmas Night with Greek salad to start and blueberry pie to end. Mike, after the salad course, said, "It's the perfect meal. Bunny food followed by different kinds of pie."

Friday, December 23, 2011

Photo-Finish Friday --Summer at the End of the World

January 2009 off the south coast of Argentina.
Winter is cold here, but the summer there has a bite to it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

Gratitude Monday --Quiet

A quiet street on a quiet afternoon in a quiet town.

Silence takes a beating these days with everyone busy and believing they must be connected and texting,  talking, or  playing games.
In the constant communication of our too-wired wireless world we no longer hear ourselves think.
I like silence.
I like my own thoughts. Being out of communication when I am away from my hard line phone and computer is comforting, not terrifying.
Quiet is good, and for it I am grateful.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Photo -Finish Friday-- South American Cowboy and Tourist

On an Uruguayan Ranch

Here's a proper Uruguayan gaucho pulling a cowhide.
We spent an afternoon about three years ago on a Uruguayan ranch enjoying the food, wine, beer, atmosphere, show, and various activities.
Riding a cow carpet pulled by a gaucho was one of most fun things I've ever done.
If you look behind the horse you'll see the cowhide carpet and my husband enjoying the ride.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Another Day To Celebrate

Today marks the anniversary of this bit of nonsense back in 2007.

I was near death from heart failure. It is unusual for a woman in her late forties to suffer from this, but unusual is a common way to describe me.
I've recovered nicely.
In fact, I convinced my doctor to let me cut down on beta blockers last spring.
This is good for a variety of reasons including, but not restricted to, I can now get reasonably riled when some entitled driver bristling with self-esteem parks in front of my driveway. I haven't had to have anyone towed yet, but I am looking forward to it.
We like to celebrate Dec. 14.
Regrettably, Mike has been called away to work and will be leaving tonight. The celebration will have to be held some other day. 
This does not matter.
The important thing is the reminder that life can get away from you when you're not looking. It's best to stop and look around and enjoy what you've got.
Oh, and embrace life for what it has to offer. If it scares you, do it.
Mike took this pic of me last January in Egypt with a scorpion on my hat. Once you've given death a right good ass-kicking fear plays much less of a role in life.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Gratitude Monday -- Bread Forgives

The Unnamed Loaf

I made a hybrid loaf of festive bread yesterday.
It turned out reasonably well.
It's a mad mixture of Stollen, Panettone, and Kulich plus I threw in a few other things for good measure, including a wee glug of brandy.
The flours are barley, kamut, and coconut so I followed the instructions for the gluten-free Kulich.
It has almond slices and dried cranberries, cherries, pineapple, papaya, and apricot plus candied lemon, orange, and lime peel.
Although I had a few recipes in front of me it is mostly a creature of my whim.
It is tasty enough and it rose as well as any gluten deprived loaf.
Bread, once one has an idea of the rules, puts up with a lot.
Bread forgives, and for that I am grateful.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Roasted Chicory Root Coffee Substitute

Let's be clear. There is no real substitute for coffee. The best we can hope for is something reasonably similar to adjust to if needed.
Fortunately, chicory root comes close. I rather like it.  I've grown it. I've been roasting it myself for 15 years or so and usually have some around. I hadn't had a cup in a few years, but the other day when I found we still had plenty in stock from my husband's garden it got me thinking about it. Since then I've raided the cupboard a few times until I found I was low on it.
This morning I roasted another batch.
Below is what it looks like as ground, dried chicory root.  It is a very moist root. I've discovered over the years it is best to dehydrate it and then roast it.

If you've more patience than me, you can skip the dehydration step, but you'll have to watch the roasting very closely.

Here's the midway point. I did it at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes. I stirred it every 10 minutes. I cannot recommend using a higher temperature. The root is very finicky. I did it at 375 once. The stuff around the edges gave me a very dark roast.

Done and cooling.

Chicory root can be steeped like tea or made in a coffee maker. I've even made Greek-style coffee with it.
The above is medium roast.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Gratitude Monday -- Jerusalem Artichoke Edition

Stemware was a feature of the gifts for my most recent birthday.  Champagne flutes and liqueur glasses to be be precise. They're wonderful. I appreciate them. But it left me with the problem of where to store them as the cabinets where they should go were full.

Husband suggested the unthinkable: throw something out.

He had a valid point. Most of the cabinets and shelving in the kitchen are devoted to a wide variety of herbs in various forms. Most of these were what he grew in his garden back when he ran a health food store.  Some got sold, portions were used, most were stored and forgotten.
I went through the jars and buckets and found much to be tossed and not without regret. Marshmallow root is a good gluten substitute, I discovered. I also discovered it wasn't for me.
I tossed out old gum weed and sage and horehound and hyssop.  I  could not part with many foundlings including some yarrow and labrador tea and licorice root.
Others were saved, many were tossed, and one treasure was found. We have Jerusalem artichoke both dried and powdered to flour.
I'd forgotten about it. It was still good and I decided it must be put to good use.  A quick hunt around the IntraChoobs told me it could be used as potato starch (one of its nicknames is the Canadian Potato) and up to 1/4 cup could be used in baking.
This stuff works really well. I added it to the gluten-free flour mixture I use for rice bread swapping out the half-cup of potato starch for 1/4 cup each Jerusalem artichoke and potato starch.
It has an earthy, musty, nutty flavour that I found appealing and said loaf didn't fall as much as it commonly does.
I am grateful we have this in the house. I am grateful my husband grew them and I am grateful it goes so well in baking.
Here's a pizza with a crust that included Jerusalem artichoke flour. It's tasty and fluffy and we couldn't taste the musty, nutty, earthy flavour in it at all.

Gluten-free and cow dairy-free.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Photo-Finish Friday -- San Juan Hill

A park on San Juan Hill, Cuba, to commemorate the famous battle of the Spanish-American War.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My Rocky Mountain House Anniversary

The Bighorn Highway in autumn.
Today marks 23 years since I moved to Rocky Mountain House.
I moved here for work. It was a good move as I met my husband here and stayed.
Every place has its faults. We can spend all day complaining about what is wrong, or we can flip it over and tickle its tummy. When we do that we realize something important that we may not have considered earlier.
For all the bad things people can say about where they live it must be noted that we are where we are due to our choices.
I made good choices.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Gratitude Monday -- Feeding Myself

I am thankful that I can cook.
Husband has been away since last Monday morning and that means I've only me to cook for. It also means cleaning up afterward is by only me.
It would be easy to slack off and eat nothing but cereal, or get a pizza, or other such fast food.
But what is the point?I have the skill to prepare food, the food to do it with, and the knowledge that what I cook is considerably better for me than anything I could get commercially prepared.
Commercial food has it's place. I enjoy it on occasion and when it comes to going out to dinner I rarely say no.
But I'd rather make my own and I am grateful that I have this skill.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Photo-Finish Friday--Discarded Tourist Attraction

This is an unfinished obelisk.  A great deal of work was done on it a long time ago.
It was left in the quarry after a flaw was discovered.
It's rose granite, and even incomplete it is magnificent.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Gratitude Monday -- Nature's Perfect Snack

Crunchy. Sweet.
They help me write.
Thank you.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Photo -Finish Friday -- Edfu

Relief carving on the Temple of Horus at Edfu with pussycat.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My Friday Post

Earned me this.

But the credit really goes to my great-uncle.
Said post is here.
Please have a look.
My thanks to Hilary for the honour.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Gratitude Monday --In The Game

The Edmonton Eskimos are on their way to the Western Final.
They beat The Stampeders yesterday to earn the berth.
The Eskimos haven't been in a playoff game in years.
Whatever else happens, I am grateful that
a)they made it to the quarter-final
b)they won the quarter-final
c)the reign of error of former coach Danny Maciocia is over. He's probably a fine human being, but he was in over his head as a CFL coach.

Go Esks!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Photo- Finish Friday -- Remembering In His Own Words

This is my great-uncle's diary. I found it amongst other items belonging to my parents.
I scanned a few pages to give readers an idea of what it was like for an ordinary soldier in the Great War.
I'll let his words form the pictures for you.

Thank you.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

An Eternal Now in the Flow of Time

I found this photo the other day while looking for a different photo. I'd forgotten I had it and was tickled silly to see it again.
It appears to be a wedding photo of  my Aunt Dorothy, seated, and her three sisters.
No year is indicated on it and neither is the event. I'm making an assumption based on clues in the picture.
I decided to share it with you because it is a wonderful picture capturing a happy moment in a life.
In fact, I suggest it is a happy moment in all four lives.
We all need to see those from time to time as reminders that life ebbs and flows. We need reminders of the flows to help us through the ebbs.
This moment is and always will be current because all who were there remember, and any who see it may feel the joy of a moment that while passed, is eternal.
Back row from left Pauline (my mother) Myrtle, and Gladys.

Monday, November 7, 2011

FATE Accompli

Way back in the mid-1960s we had FATE Magazine in the house. It features the paranormal, the odd, the stuff that mainstream won't touch, and I found it fascinating. A few of the stories back then stuck with me to the point I still see a man in a fedora with blazing red eyes from time to time.
The magazine has a few departments including one where readers can submit their stories of ghostly encounters called "My Proof of Survival."
When I was eight or so I decided I'd be published in FATE and had in my mind it likely would be one of the standing columns.
In 2009 I submitted to the magazine, jumped through its hoops, and waited. And waited. And waited some more.
Issues come out bi-monthly making the wait that much longer. Contributors are advised they will not be told beforehand when their story is to run. All I could do was wait for the cheque and my contributor copy.
I'm patient. I know things take time.  I take beta blockers so it takes more than a bit to rile me.
Two years passed. Nothing. I cut my beta blocker dosage.  I contacted the magazine in June 2011, but got no response. I take some responsibility for that as I used the main email with no contact person's name. Those are easy to discard.
I stewed a bit then tried again in October after digging out the name of the editor I'd dealt with originally. I asked were they planning to run it and if not to give me back my rights to it.
Response was quick. My story had run in the July-August 2009.
To their credit they made good quickly. I received the contributor's copy and my cheque last Thursday.
It is regrettable I had to give them a nudge, but it is taken care of and I am grateful.
A goal I set 45 years ago has been met.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Photo-Finish Friday -- Athabasca Glacier

Athabasca Glacier, Columbia Icefields, along the Jasper-Banff Highway.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Like Real Pizza, but Gluten and Dairy Free

Shrimp and 'Shroomie Pizza

I discovered a recipe for gluten-free pizza crust that's so good it may have turned me forever.
It's made from rice flour with tapioca and potato starch and it tastes similar enough to white flour to pass.
It's from Bette Hagman's book More from the Gluten-Free Gourmet (Henry Holt, 1990). The recipe is  actually for lactose and soy free crumpets.
 The instructions for adapting it including spreading the dough on a pizza tin or the like and letting it rise for only 10 minutes. How easy is that?
Hagman has proper pizza crust recipes in a different cookbook, but I don't own it so I went with this one.
The first time I tried it I poured the dough--it's cake batter consistency--into pie plates and make three individual crusts.
It worked well.

Yesterday I decided to try a full-sized crust. This took a bit of thinking as the pizza pan I use has holes in it. It makes for a lovely crust, but batter would pour through. I set down wax paper on it and it worked fine.
It's supposed to be covered as it rises, but I
A) don't have anything large enough
b)couldn't come up with a solution
c)decided to see what would happen if I didn't
It was fine.
What I did:
I baked the crust for 15 minutes, let it cool, and then froze it. I was still debating whether to have pizza or not last night. Freezing it gave me time to think.
Commercial rice flour crusts tend to be smaller than what I made, and they tend to be sweet. Most commercial rice flour goodies be they bagels or crumpets lean to the sweet side and it's kind of off-putting.
This crust wasn't although I have to confess I likely used a bit less sugar than was called for. I'm not into careful measuring.
The point is, it worked well.
I'm gluten intolerant, not celiac, so I have the option of using flours like spelt and rye and kamut in my baking.
I can even have commercial pizza now and again.
But this crust was so good that it may have turned me forever.
For the record, the toppings were mushroom, shrimp, pineapple, onion, and green pepper, and soy cheese making it dairy-free as well.
Husband was so taken with it he thought he may want pizza every night unto eternity.
The crust is good enough to warrant it.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Gratitude Monday -- Halloween Edition

It's Halloween.

I'm grateful for a great deal of things today including the opportunity to post this picture I shot of the moon  and the societal directive to eat candy.
Why fight it?

Happy All Hallows Even everyone.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Photo-Finish Friday -- Life Along the Nile

A typical scene we saw as we floated along the Nile.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Gratitude Monday--Grateful for Monday

It's Monday again. That poor day is the source of myriad complaints throughout this land and others where it marks the start of the work week.
Get over it.
Harsh, maybe, but you are here, awake, reading, and therefore you are alive. Any day you're alive is another day to be enjoyed whether you like it or not. You can choose to complain, whine, moan, and generally live in the dark, or you can see the day for what it is: a chance to enjoy life, even a little thing about it, or change what you don't like.
I say there's something good in every day, even if that good is only the basic fact that I am here and can do something about my circumstances.
At the very least, flip things over. Instead of whining about something find something in your life that you are happy about. Even a simple thing like having a cup of coffee you can call your own.
Seriously, stop whinging and start thanking.
I can complain as well as anyone. In fact, it feels good sometimes. But if it's all you do, then it's all you'll find in your life to do and frankly, it's annoying as hell.
It's Monday, a new day in a new work week, be it literally or psychologically.
Say thanks and get on with it.
Does this sound harsh?
Because sometimes that's what it takes.
Happy Monday. I am grateful that you are here and that you read the above.
And yes, I do see the irony in complaining about complaining and I'm grateful that I do.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Photo-Finish Friday -- The Moon and the Mountainside

The moon in the daytime against the mountainside offers an otherworldly cast to this scene found along the Jasper-Banff Highway.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Who's Feeling Seussesque?

We found this lively character along the Jasper-Banff Highway during our Sunday drive.
By day it's a mountain dryad, probably a yellow one.
It looks like something Seussian which makes me wonder what it gets up to when no one's around.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Gratitude Monday -- Icefields Parkway Edition

Yesterday Mike and I went for a drive north on the Columbia Icefields Parkway (aka the Jasper-Banff Highway) to Jasper. It's about four hours of steady driving, but few drive that highway without stopping.
Being off-season, there was hardly any traffic. This makes it easier to stop for scenic views.
The only wildlife we saw were a few whiskey jacks (gray jays) but that's fine. It's their off-season, too.
We had lunch in Jasper, walked a bit, went to the rock and jade store and came out both richer and poorer, and made our way home.
I am grateful for the day, for being within driving distance of Jasper, of being two hours away from the Banff Park Boundary and the parkway, and I am grateful for the time spent with my husband.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Monday, October 10, 2011

Gratitude Monday -- How It Started

I got the idea for Gratitude Monday after I did this post back in 2007. I'm repeating it here because it's October 10 and Thanksgiving again.

Lopsided Louie, our utility grade turkey, had one leg on one side and part of a wing on the other. It didn't stop him from being tasty. Above, Louie shows off his one good leg before dinner.
 Thinking about this day and how I was behind the Iron Curtain-- briefly and at an airport-- set me on the course for being grateful for what I've got here every Monday.
Let the record show, I don't restrict gratitude to one day a week. I restrict talking about it publicly on my blog to one day a week.
I don't think I noted it in this post, but I am also grateful to have been in an Iron Curtain country though being at an airport isn't even an appetizer.
Without further ado:

It’s Thanksgiving Day in Canada today. I’ve got many things for which to be thankful, roof over my head, safe food and water, friends, love, something to do (writing) that makes me want to get out of bed each day.

Generally, most of us would agree that we’ve got a lot to be grateful for.
For example, if you’re reading this, then you are educated enough to be able to read, you know how to use a computer, and you have access to one right now.
If you can’t think of anything else to be happy about today at least you can chew on those three points with your turkey.

Those points, like so many others, really don’t take a lot of thought to list, merely a slight twist in perspective. So how about a big twist in perspective?

I’m grateful to live in a country where it’s okay to talk to strangers.
Granted, it may not always be safe, but at least you can’t get arrested for it.

That wasn’t the case in Bulgaria. Back in 1983 I was flying between Greece and Italy on the cheapest flight available, Balkan Bulgarian Airlines. The flight was Monday, October 10, and it included an eight-hour layover at the airport in Sofia, Bulgaria.
The in transit area of the airport had seating, washrooms, food, and a free English-language magazine. I still have it some place, I think. The lead story was about the Young Journalists and they came off sounding rather feisty. Another story was about a National who’d been charged in connection with the attempted assassination of the Pope two years earlier.
“A Bulgarian trying to kill the Pope!” scoffed the story. It turned out the magazine was correct to scoff.

Some information I found somewhere in the airport said travelers could take a bus into the city. I considered it, thinking, as a naïve traveler, that if I got lost I could just ask a local how to get back to the airport. I might have to do it by gestures, but it could be done.

But I stayed at the airport. I read, gazed at some mountains (if you add the appropriate vegetation it looks just like the scenery out of Honolulu airport), drank a cup of coffee that held the record as worst cup ever for four stellar years, and marveled at the fact that I was behind the Iron Curtain on Thanksgiving.

I was quite grateful to be Canadian. I was also very grateful to have some different currencies on me as the concession didn’t accept the Drachma.
And I was especially grateful that I stayed at the airport as I found out later that ordinary Bulgarians were not allowed to talk to Internationals.
Had I gone out and gotten lost I might have had quite the adventure.

How about you? What interesting or unusual thing are you thankful for today?

Happy Thanksgiving.
Things have changed so much. The Iron Curtain is gone. So  is the Drachma. Today I am all the more grateful for having had the experience.