Monday, November 30, 2009

Blast you, rotten thing!

Am I the only one who has a hard time peeling onions? I'm always hearing everyone complaining about garlic. Garlic is such a pain to peel, they say, Try whacking it with your knife! says another, or Here's this handy device I like to use! says kitchen gadget companies. And there's about a hundred different devices and tricks out there just for that tiny little [non]problematic clove. You can even buy them pre-peeled. PRE-PEELED! I'm starting to think it's a conspiracy devised by the cookbook/how-to/chef/food-tv star community. It's a nice go-to topic when they want to feel knowledgeable, intelligent, and maybe when they have nothing better to talk about. But I've never had a problem with garlic. I've never taken a clove of garlic and said to myself, oh great. Here we go. Another 5 minute job just peeling this darn thing. I don't even want to use it anymore because I have to get this stupid peel off.

No. Never.

Onions, however, are the most problematic of all and no one ever talks about it. Just now, I had tears streaming down my face, my nose was running, and the damn onion peel would not come off. I kept slicing it on all sides trying to make a breakthrough, but no. My eyes were blurry before I even got to chopping it. Eventually, I ended up taking off the first two layers of onion. Is there some trick the rest of the world knows about that I don't? I'm starting to wonder...

Friday, November 27, 2009

Christmas gifts: gaming ideas

Guess what I discovered! My hair doesn't look so horrible if I style it in a messy way! I used to do that a while back with a different cut after I accidentally discovered my hair will curl a bit if I make a little effort. So all is not lost!

I also remembered something else that hairdresser was chatting to me about. She was telling me about how she has a Tetris game on her cell phone and that she was a little addicted to it for a while. Well, I was thinking about that, and I realized something. There aren't that many games that are girl-friendly. And by girl-friendly I don't mean the games video game companies felt compelled to produce for the woman/girl market. Games they think are designed "just for us" (like the plethora of losing weight games or how to cook for the DS or Babiez), are actually kind of demeaning. It's such a close-minded view of what girls like and it makes me sad to think that people still seem to believe these are the only things we're interested in. I also figure that people are probably looking for Christmas gifts about now, and I hope this gives you ideas for maybe a less traditional girl gift. We don't all like getting soap and candles either, thankyouverymuch.

And as you've probably figured by now, Idle Husband works in the video game industry. Therefore, in a very short period of time, I think I've learned more about video games than I have in my whole life. I've also played more different types of games than I ever have in my life, so I think I've kinda figured out what I like and that there are game options out there for us gals. So, as a girl that loves intelligent video games, I thought I'd make a list of some of my favourites. I'm going to focus on portable games and computer games. You know, I would have given my left arm to have had a portable gaming system when I was younger (and by younger, I mean 3 years ago). Having one now is really great. It makes boring times (like in an airport or a waiting room) that much better, so don't knock it till you try it.

Playstation Portable (PSP): Nifty little gadget that can access the internet, store music and pictures, and whatever else I haven't realized yet.

The first game I played on this system was Lumines. It's almost like Tetris, only instead of lines, you have to create squares. It can be really frustrating at times, but it's also really addictive. It has a pretty swell dance-type soundtrack which is great if you're into that sort of music. After a while, I played with the sound off. I'm still trying to beat Idle Husband at this, but I think he's officially the master at this game.

Oh, Patapon. I'm still playing this game and it's my third playthrough for Patapon 2 if that tells you anything. Basically, it's a rhythm game. Like Guitar Hero, if you like, only you memorize different rhythms which in turn command the patapons to do something. Walk forward, attack, defend, jump -- that sort of thing. You have to get your timing right, though, you can't just pop the rhythms in at any ol' time, you have to keep it up like playing a song. When we first got this game, I was reluctant to play it. Sure, it was super cute, but I didn't think I'd be able to remember the commands and I just thought I'd suck at it. But one day, IH left it and I was alone and I decided to give it a try. After that, I was hooked (he never did get to finish the game). The basic premise is that you're their god and they're calling you Mighty (who doesn't like that?) and you have to take care of them by taking them hunting and keeping them from harm -- it gets really addictive because of that! One thing, though. I think it's important to play the first version of this before the second (plus it's twice as much fun for you!). Is the second far superior? In my mind it is, but if you play the second without playing the first, I think you'd get too dependent on the Hero patapon and not really use the commands properly. It's a whole lot more engaging if you're mixing it up and getting them to perform many functions in a battle rather than relying solely on your Hero to win it for you or to protect your entire army the whole time. Also, this is one you can't pause halfway through a level which is frustrating sometimes. And I can't do anything else when I'm playing it. I can't listen to music or have a conversation -- nothing. All my concentration has to go to the game otherwise I'll screw up and the patapons will die and then what kind of a horrible leader would I be?

I also enjoyed Loco Roco. It's the cutest game ever! The graphics are cute, the music is cute, everything about it! Basically, you use the keys on the top of the PSP to tilt the screen left or right in order to roll your Loco Roco to the finish line. As you go, you eat fruit that makes you grow larger, but you're not larger as one entity, you're made up of many, so if you get hurt, one of you dies and that's not good. Both 1 & 2 are really fun and not that difficult to pick up. They just released a shorter, kind of 2 1/2 version called Midnight Carnaval, and I find it super hard. In fact, it's so hard and frustrating that once I got to a level I couldn't get through, I just gave up and stopped playing. When it's so hard, it's frustrating, and it stops being fun. So definitely don't get that version unless you enjoy a challenge and know what you're doing.

I was in between cute games when I discovered God of War. Idle Husband had it sitting on his shelf, and I thought, "meh. I'll try this and see how it goes. I need something to play." And then I actually enjoyed it. Yes, it's killing and monsters and typical boy stuff, but there's also little puzzles you have to figure out in order to progress plus there's a really intriguing story, too. The controls were easy for me to pick up (I like fighting games when I can just hit any button and be guaranteed a pretty smooth move) and even though it was 3D, I wasn't in charge of the camera which I really like. I hate having to move the camera and walk and fight and all that other junk. I'm not coordinated enough for it. 3D is hard enough for me as it is.

We just got Little Big Planet for the PSP because we enjoyed it so much on the PS3. It's got a really cute handmade look to it. Some of the levels look like they're made of cardboard or felt and I really like that artistically. You also have the opportunity to design your own levels and dress up your little sackboy however you like. I haven't played this whole game yet, but it runs the same as the PS3. Platform, though 3D, start at one end, end at the other, collect clothes, stickers, whatever for your little sackboy along the way. I stopped playing this for the time being and I'll probably pick it up later. I found the controls a little difficult, moving from foreground to background, and I find it really hard to see what you're doing. It's really zoomed out, probably so you can view the entire level for it's artistic qualities, but it's zoomed out a little too much. Also the loading times are too long or I'm too impatient, either way I don't like staring at a blank loading screen longer than I have to. Otherwise, it's easy to play and cute and they have a really great indie soundtrack that makes it even more entertaining.

Nintendo DS: portable system that opens like a book complete with touchscreen.
Well duh. Of course I'm going to mention Super Mario Brothers. It was one of the only games I'd been playing until IH came along (I can play Super Mario 3 in my sleep). When he first heard how much I loved playing Mario, he immediately (and most generously, since we didn't know each other that well at the time) loaned me his DS so I could play it. I've since played it through, oh, at least 10 times. It's one of those classics that never gets old and this version, to me, is tops because of the graphics and game play. It's easy to pick up, easy to get through, there are interesting new abilities, and you can always return to it and play through the harder areas again to get the star coins or find the secrets. I especially like how it's set up like Mario 3, but it has more options for quick saves, reasons to actually get the star coins, ability to use a stored item, and it saves your progress when you're halfway through a level. Did I mention it's cute, too? Well it is. (Have you figured out that one of the key components to my gaming is that it has to be cute?)

Rhythm Heaven is another fun musical game. It's basically a bunch of minigames, each with a different character, premise, and song. You tap along to the songs making sure to hit the screen on the right beat. It can be very challenging. I really liked this one and so did IH. It's had a bit of a negative effect, though. The songs are so catchy that we're still singing the tunes (some with our own made-up lyrics) even after having finished the game several months ago. They just get stuck in your head so easily! Fair warning!

Yoshi's Island is along the same lines as Super Mario, only you play as Yoshi with a baby version of the Mario gang riding along. This gives you different abilities depending on which character is riding. It's kinda neat in the way it's set up, too, because you view both screens as part of the level. Even though this game features baby versions of the Mario gang, it was in no way a baby version of a game. I found it to be, at times, incredibly difficult. Some levels I had to play through multiple times just to pass them. Also, whenever you get hurt, your baby flies off and starts crying and you have a certain amount of time to get them back on. I have to confess, I couldn't stand the sound of the baby crying the entire time. When you're going through those hard levels, you could lose the baby 50 times (at least it feels like that much), and then the crying thing gets really annoying. That being said, it's still fun to play and definitely worth it.

Obviously, Tetris is also a must-have. The DS version has classic Tetris along with other versions of the same concept. My favourite is Push, where you start in the middle and battle against the computer to push them down into the flames below. Also, if you have a friend with a DS, you can play against each other even if that friend doesn't have Tetris. It's also a good game to play if you're not looking to advance or make progress or maybe if you don't have enough time to finish a level. You can play and feel absolutely no guilt for shutting it down halfway through a game. Good for waiting in line or at the doctor's office. (I should have taken this along the last time I went, but I wasn't expecting them to have removed all the magazines from the waiting room due to H1N1!)

Computer Games: If you have a laptop, these are perfect! And if you don't, they're also perfect!

Zuma is super addictive. I started playing this online for free (just in little tester spurts) and it was fun just playing like that. They've now released a new and improved Zuma which I really like as it's the same concept but with more variety. Basically, what you do is shoot different coloured balls to make groups of 3 or more, thereby elminating them and shortening your line so they don't fall into the waiting mouth. Once you get a certain amount of points, the balls stop coming and you complete the stage by getting rid of all the balls, making sure they still don't slide into the mouth. Simple, right? Well it gets faster and tougher, but it's still really great to play and oddly, I still don't seem to tire of it.

Plants VS Zombies is so. much. fun. We played this one to death (no pun intended)! And it's easy (but not too easy)! Plant sunflowers, make sun, plant plants that shoot, bomb, freeze, or stall the zombies to keep them from coming into your house to eat your brains. There's a lot of strategy that goes into it, though, and you'll want to find the perfect lawn set up to keep the zombies out. It's so much fun when you unlock the endless levels because then you can really shape your lawn into a zombie killing machine! And yes, even though this game has zombies, it's uber cute. Trust me! Once you start, you'll have to finish it -- or at least play until you collect all the plants for your zen garden!

Another one I started out playing online in little free demos was Cubis. Match up the coloured squares to make them disappear. Easy but addictive. I loved the colours and, oddly enough, the sound they make when they disappear or break or dissolve. I like weird sounds. It also has enough modes to keep you interested and some of them can be quite challenging. This was a game I really enjoyed playing while talking on the phone. It kept my hands busy, but didn't interfere with my ability to have a conversation. Perfection!

Well, I hope that makes the world of gaming less intimidating while also giving you some ideas for Christmas gifts. Don't feel like it's only a market for guys and kids! Anyone can play and enjoy these games, you just have to find what's enjoyable for you.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

It tastes better than it looks

This is kind of a terrible picture, I know. My proper camera ran out of batteries, so I made do. Anyway, this was dinner last night. Dinner kept becoming something different as the day went on, it was kind of frustrating! At first, my plan was to try making a breakfast strata because I had some maple turkey sausage in the freezer that had been there forever and I wanted to use it before it got too frosty.

But as I looked at the recipe, I realized I didn't have any cheese and by that time, it was too late to take anything else out. I think this happens to me too much. Since I've switched my focus from making new dessert recipes (my poor poor waist) to making new dinner recipes, I seem to have given up planning. I think it's because dinner ideas lend themselves so well to creativity. I take most dinner recipes as more of a suggestion, a guideline, and then I end up doing whatever I want in the end. I don't measure ingredients, I very rarely have the right poundage of meat, and lately, I rarely have the important ingredients that make the dish that dish -- I don't know how I ended up with absolutely no cheese on the one night I wanted to use it. We don't even eat that much cheese! This is the sort of thing that's been happening. When I have the stuff, I don't know what to make with it, then, as soon as it's gone, I have the perfect recipe for it.

Anyway, back to the rice. I figured I could make stir fried rice with the sausage. Add some soy sauce, wing the other flavours and that should work. There was a moment when I was cooking the sausage, onions, and mushrooms, that I thought maybe I should make some spaghetti instead. This looks like it'd be really good on spaghetti. But, of course, I had the rice sitting there (which I cooked several hours early and cooled) and there was another inner-debate on just saving it and making rice pudding (something else I've been craving lately) until I remembered I'd used chicken stock to cook it. Oh well. I'll make rice pudding some other day when I'm out of rice.

Despite all my change of plans and false starts, I'm really surprised and pleased by how this turned out. I think it's more like a dirty rice, but honestly I felt like it was more of a leftover concoction. Even though I wasn't technically using that many leftovers. I had some egg yolk and milk left from when I baked the christopsomo (it was for the wash over top), and I had some miracle whip (I don't buy mayo. Not because I don't like it. I don't think I've ever tried it, but I grew up with miracle whip and that's what I like and that's what I use for everything) and cayenne pepper mix leftover from when I made some sweet potato fries the night before (that sounds gross, but sweet potato fries and even regular fries taste fantastic dipped in miracle whip. Add some ketchup, and you've really got something!) So maybe it was just a seasoning leftover party. I was a little nervous about the maple sausage and adding seasonings to it, because it was very maple flavoured. You could really taste that distinct flavour. Surprisingly, all of that worked fantastically together.

So, as best as I can remember (the amounts are guesstimates), here's what I threw into it. Obviously, I think it's pretty easy for anyone to just throw together this kind of dish. Keep adding stuff you like (or that you have left in your fridge) and keep tasting it. Tasting is super important! And always stop when you're ahead ; D

Maple Sausage Rice
2 cups cooked rice (cooked with a boullion cube or stock)
1 package maple turkey/chicken sausage, remove the meat from the casing (just slit it down one side with your knife, and then you can peel the casing off really easily)
1 onion, chopped
3 mushrooms, chopped
3 small cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp worcestershire sauce
3/4 cup (more or less) water (just use this to thin out your rice. As it cooks, it tends to get a little pastey and thick which isn't very pleasant eating)
salt/pepper to taste
These ingredients are optional:
2 tsp miracle whip mixed with cayenne pepper (as hot as you like; you could also just use cayenne pepper alone because the heat was a nice addition to the sweet of the sausage, though I really liked the tang of the whip, too)
1 egg yolk mixed with milk (I just wanted to get rid of it, honestly, but it did make the rice a little creamier)
1 chopped tomato (I just wanted to add some colour and a veggie, you could use some other veggie, too)

Cook the sausage until it's nice and crumbly (like ground beef), add in onions and garlic, cook  until the onions are clear. Add in mushrooms. Cook those down a bit. Add seasonings. Add rice, mix all together. Add water as needed. Add the optional ingredients if you like. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Little bits of my yesterday and today


I found at Value Village:

One miniature Christmas tree. Soon to be decorated;

Some slightly used slip on shoes -- which I've been looking for forever (I'm so picky with shoes even though it doesn't look like I am most of the time); and
Two loaf pans for a possible Christmas gift idea.

I bought some shelled nuts for snacking and for crafting (I'll take pictures if I'm successful -- fingers crossed)

I also attempted making Christopsomo (Greek Christmas bread) from the new Martha Stewart Living magazine. I halved the recipe and everything was going fine except I ended up undercooking it. Sadness. It tastes pretty good, though. I would have pictures of it (because it was super pretty), but the rising times were longer than I expected (I should have read all the way through the instructions), so I lost the sun. Then I had to kind of rip it apart, anyway, so I could cook the uncooked bits. Sigh.


I worked on some things I have to put in the mail (that I've been stewing about for ages already)

This one's from 1959!

And I started going through some old Canadian Homes and Gardens magazines looking to tear out a page as a make-shift envelope. Then I found I couldn't put them down. I'm very fascinated with the advertisements and just the general (mis)information!
This one has a section on the perfect fresh look. A handy checklist every woman should follow! For example:
1. Have you had your daily bath or shower?
10. Is your makeup neither overdone, loud, nor carelessly applied?
15. Are your legs and underarms fuzz-free?
17. Can your handbag stand up to inspection? Is it neat, clean, and uncluttered, with makeup neatly contained in its own case?
28. Are your figure and carriage as perfect as dieting, exercise and practice can make them?

If you've been honest with yourself and you have a perfect score every time, then you're a perfectly groomed woman.
There're 31 points on what we should be checking every day! How exciting!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Party in the front

I think I just got the worst haircut I've ever had in my life which is saying a lot because I'm about the least judgemental person when it comes to hair. I've never had a definitive idea of what it should look like and it usually likes doing whatever it wants anyway, so even if I tried to have a style, there's no guarantee my hair is going to allow it. For that reason, I've always been open to pretty much anything. My favourite line after getting it cut? Yeah. Yeah that's good. Whatever. It's lighter so I like it. This time, though, I'm a little more ashamed than I have been with other not-so-hot hairstyles.

My first clue should have been during the cut. As she got into it, I started to panic as I realized she was spending an awful lot of time cutting around at the back of my hair. Cutting the back? You just need to trim the back! Hello? Are you still cutting the back?! I had a brief flash that I was getting prepped for the Kate Gosselin look and my stomach sunk. I tried to steer her back on track and mentioned how thick my hair was and that it's nice when the sides are trimmed in accordance with the angled bob, too. She spent about 5 minutes adjusting that to whatever strange specifications she had in her brain and there you have it. Haircut complete. (The discussion during the haircut wasn't any better. She actually asked if Idle Husband and I were planning on having children any time soon. Ummmm what?!)

At first I thought it was fine. I blamed it's odd appearance on the fact that I desperately needed to wash it (what else is new) and maybe a little flatironing would help (it's helped in the past, afterall). Once I got home and ''styled" it, I realized something. One side is obviously longer than the other. Note the word obviously. Like, if I can spot it, shouldn't the hairdresser have caught that? But when I think of it, she never did measure them out with her hands (as they do).

Secondly, it's misshapen at the top and sides (read: poufy) and in the wrong proportions to my huge head. The resulting effect looks like a version of a mullet. A reverse mullet.

I'm sporting a reverse mullet. Seriously.

I don't know what was so hard about my request. I like that angled bob idea where it's shorter in the back and a bit longer in the front and that's what I described, even using my hands as a guide. Also my hair was already cut like that. I honestly only needed a trim just to freshen it up. So she only had to follow the guidelines already in place...didn't she? Maybe it's because I didn't specifically say trim. I just made the gesture and said the technical words...I really wish I would have said trim...

Well, on the bright side, it snowed on Saturday so now I can wear a touque everywhere at any time and not look as strange as I would if there wasn't a touque on my head.

My new winter hairdo. It's fashionably in season.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Everything's in bloom

We finally got another big dump of snow. I mean, not finally as in we've been dying for this to happen. By finally I mean November is starting to smarten up and be November already. Maybe now I might be able to get in the Christmas spirit a little bit!

And just as the snow happened, my Christmas cactus decided to bloom, too. It has so many buds on it, I have a feeling this bright fuchsia is going to last through December!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I'm still not wearing my winter coat

Through the Front Door

I wanted to play along with a meme I found on Meet Me At Mikes for a while, but I didn't really feel all that inspired at first. When I saw the theme for this week, however, I knew I had the perfect picture for it!

This is our front entrance.  I love how the sun shines into our house. I've put up the mirrors in just the perfect spot! I swear I didn't do that on purpose, though. I love having them there because not only are they pretty, they're also super handy for checking my hair before leaving the house! :D

Monday, November 16, 2009

Last week's not-so-successful baking

#1: Cinnamon sticky buns

Idle Husband is too busy shmoozing at work lately, so I haven't had to make him lunches. It kinda sucks for me because I loved making bread every two weeks. It was one of my favourite activities, plus it gave me a reason to bake and I didn't have to feel at all guilty about it. After we finally finished the last loaf, I figured I had better make some more, but instead of doing two loaves (as the recipe makes), I made cinnamon buns out of one instead. I heard that I could make cinnamon buns using a bread recipe so I decided to try it. They were a semi-success, though they weren't all that flavourful obviously due to using a bread recipe for the dough. I would have loved them so much more if there had been a hint of cinnamon or nutmeg or something in the dough itself. As they were, it felt like I was just eating dry bread with sugar poured over top. Uh...yum?

What else went wrong:
1. I didn't spread on enough filling, and I didn't put it all over the rolled out dough. I left an edge around it for whatever stupid reason. So when I rolled them up and cut them, the two end pieces were just rolled bread dough with no real flavour.
2. I decided to make a sticky topping, but I wasn't sure which pan I was going to use, so I just left the topping in the pot until I got to that step. When I figured out the pan size, it was super hard to get it out of the pot, so it didn't quite cover the bottom of the pan.
3. Once I sliced up my rolls, I figured they would fit really well into a round cake pan. I didn't exactly factor in the extra rising or the wee bit of rising they'd do in the oven. When I was baking them, some of the sticky topping oozed out as the buns oozed out, leaving a bunch of sticky ooze burning up in the bottom of my oven. Good thing I had the foresight to put one of those oven liners in the bottom after my last oven mishap.
4. I also decided to caulk around my kitchen sink while baking the cinnamon buns. What should have taken me exactly 5 minutes to do (plenty of time since I started right when the buns went in), took me the entire 30 minutes of baking time and when I discovered the buns oozing out and burning all over the place, I couldn't do anything because I was covered in caulking. Note: never multitask while baking with a task that's not food friendly.

#2 and 3: The Greek cookies

The first time we went to Greece, we did a lot of touristy stuff along with meeting and visiting with Idle Husband's parents. After staying at his parents, we decided to take a boat over to one of the Greek islands to stay for a couple nights. IH hadn't recalled visiting this island so it was a new experience for him, and well, for me it was a major experience since I'd never been on one of those boats, islands, or been on the sea before. Everything was totally new to us. Before we left his parents, his mother insisted on packing us some homemade cookies and treats for the trip. Big mistake. Here's how the boat ride went for us:

IH: Do you want to come and see the ocean?
me: (with a mouthful of cookies) mmfph?
IH: Do you wanna come outside and see the view?
me: Can't. Eating cookies.
IH: Maybe you want to get some great pictures, there's some islands coming up?
me: (brushing crumbs off my shirt) mmm maybe later? Like, after I finish these cookies?

In my defense, the cookies were friggin' fantastic, and even though I technically didn't have any competition for them since IH had them all his life and said they weren't really his favourites, I felt like I had to eat them immediately. Doing anything on that ship meant leaving them at our seat, and I was pretty damn sure that someone would take them. There were approximately five people in our seating area and I just know they all had their greedy little eyes on them. In fact, all the greek conversations that were going on around me were plots about how they were going to get the cookies away from me, and I really couldn't take that chance just for some stupid pictures of the sea.

Anyway, when we got back to Canada, I fondly remembered the cookies and not so much the sea or the trip to the islands, and we still laugh about that moment, but really what I wanted to have was the cookies again. IH discussed it with his mom, and she sent me two different cookie recipes. It took me a while to realize they were two different recipes since they both had the same title (I can compare letters, ya know). IH explained to me that they're both different, they're just both called cookies. That's it. Just cookies. I guess it's like the whole melon scenario there. They call all melons, melon. And we got into some heated debates over it.

me: but what if your mom sends you to the store to get a melon? How do you know which one to get?
IH: I just know.
me: but there's so many kinds. Like, if I wanted you to get me a melon, I'd be like, get me a honeydew or a cantalope...
IH: oh. Well, they'll say a ripe melon or unripe melon.
me: ripe melon?! Of course you'd want a ripe melon! Duh! How's that supposed to help?
IH: honeydews are unripe melons and cantalopes are ripe melons.
me: WHAT?! Honeydews don't ripen into cantalopes! This is ridiculous logic!

And that's why I've just given them my own names so I can distinguish them easily. The first time I made them, I screwed them both royally. The orange cookies (named from the cup of orange juice in them) called for baking soda and baking powder. I accidentally put in baking soda and baking soda. They ended up having a really strong metallic baking soda taste, but were still edible, just not that good. They definitely weren't the cookies from the trip, but they were ok. The egg cookies (named because there's five eggs in them) seemed ok except when I converted the flour amount to cups, I found it called for -- wait for it -- 7 1/2 cups of flour! That can't be right, I thought, but I attempted it anyway. After about 5 cups of flour, the motor on my mix master was just about ready to explode so I stopped. They sort of had the taste of the boat cookies, but were really dry and tough (duh).

I finally worked up the courage to attempt these two again last week. The orange cookies proved more successful than the first try. This time I decided to press them down a bit with a cup dipped in sugar. That was a good idea. The one problem I have is the full cup of oil. I might try using applesauce instead since I have it just sitting frozen in my freezer anyway and maybe 1/4 cup, if any, of oil. I loved the taste, but I felt guilty-er than I should have.

The egg cookies turned out a little better, though shockingly I don't think I put in enough flour this time. I decided to add it until I could drop them out by the spoonful, but I realized I should have added in more about halfway through dropping them. They were pretty sticky. The result was kind of a flavourless, spongy, dry, cake-like texture. What's worse is they tasted even less like the boat cookies than they did when I packed 5 cups of flour into them. I don't know what to do to save them. It would be nice to have some flavour like nutmeg in them, and I suppose more flour. Other than that, I'm at a loss. I think the most reasonable idea is to make them with IH's mother when we go to Greece for Christmas. I don't know what else to do plus that would make for some excellent awkward bonding time. And lord knows I don't get enough awkward moments in my life as it is.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Idle Vacation

We happen to be a mere 20 minutes from West Edmonton Mall (WEM). The largest mall in North America and the fifth largest mall in the world. It boasts so many attractions like an amusement park, waterpark, zoo creatures, movie theatre, hotel, casino, skating rink, minigolf, and too many stores and restaurants to list. Unfortunately, all of this is lost on me. You see, I'm not really a mall person. I don't get the idea of going to the mall all day, eating there, or generally hanging out there. I like to go to specific stores for specific things, otherwise I feel like I'm wasting time. I'm weird, I know. So for me, WEM is viewed more like a great place to walk in the winter (as it spans 48 city blocks) rather than a shopping/attraction destination. That being said, it's got great window shopping appeal, making walking there a lot more interesting than walking around the average mall.

Sometimes, if we're lucky, we can catch the sea lion trainers going through their routine. We caught practically the entire show one morning as it looked as though they were going through it for some guests. We were the only other ones there! Usually when the show is on, it's so packed and crowded around the tank that it's really hard to see or hear what's going on.

They also have a pair of sloths and some ring tailed lemurs you can watch. If you get there early, you can see them being fed (sorry no picture of the sloth! They were all really hard to capture through the shiny glass. I assure you they were plenty cute, though!).

I also enjoy standing and watching the waves crash over at the waterpark. I'm sure it's a fun place to go during the cold winter months, but I'm not too keen on being swimsuit-clad.

Another great area to check out is T & T Supermarket and the little China Town area they have. It's a really great place to browse around in. You get to see a ton of really interesting food products and packaging (my favourite).

There's also a cute little koi pond in there!

I always have to stop at the Dream Tea House located right next to the supermarket. They have delicious bubble tea. I think I've tried almost all of their exotic flavours, each one better than the last.

I've never been skating on this rink, but it is open to the public. Most days they have minor hockey games (if that's your thing), figure skaters practicing, or youth skating lessons all of which you can watch for free.

I've even seen the rink turned into a wrestling arena. You never know what's going to be happening there!

I can't forget Galaxyland. I'm not a fan of rides, though there are plenty to choose from. There's also a bunch of arcade games you can play for cheap. It's basically like an indoor fair ground.

Finally, the stores I must visit every time I go (if they're open, of course) are Urban Outfitters, H&M and Forever 21 (when I'm with T), and now they've added Anthropologie which has really great decorating ideas.

If you're ever in the area, WEM is an obvious Edmonton must-see destination.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Accidental Collection

I realized the other day that I have collected quite a lot of birds and bird-themed items. I don't really know how it happened, I swear I didn't set about doing it on purpose, but all of a sudden, I started to notice them everywhere in our house.

1. Flying duck plaque I spray painted white; 2. Stork wall hanging with inspirational message; 3. Knee-height ceramic owl (part of a pair I found, but I only bought one -- I used discretion); 4. Brass seagull key hanger I spray painted silver and use to hang my necklaces;

1. One of five beaded bird coasters I got on clearance at Urban Outfitters that I've used as art in the bathroom; 2. Vintage bluebird key holder I use for my measuring spoons; 3. Toucan Sam bowl, part of a four piece cereal bowl set; 4. Vintage woodpecker toothpick holder/grabber;

1. Embroidered saying adorned with birds; 2.Brass rooster coat hook; 3. Embroidered bird hanging (there's four birds in total on it); 4. Wooden owl statue;

1. One of two stained glass hummingbirds; 2. Another embroidered bird hanging; 3. An actual collection of vintage bird statues; 4. Round blue mirror with painted bird I have at my front door;

1. Hummingbird plant stick; 2. Red bird vintage key holder, this one I actually use for keys; 3. Set of six bird glasses I use for pens; 4. Plush kissing birds I bought for Valentine's Day;

1. Crocheted owl pot holder I use as art; 2. One of many vintage bird vases; 3. One of many vintage bird-themed metal tins (don't get me started on my tin obsession); 4. Bird sewn from some of my grandmother's fabric (I got on a kick making these last Christmas).

1. Goose, rooster, and emu ceramic bird hooks; 2. Baby bird painting by T; 3. Vintage bird drinking glass; 4. Owl slippers T made me for Christmas one year.

It's crazy how collections can sneak up on you!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Together again!

I found it! I found my lost earring this morning on my walk! Can you believe it! I just looked up to see T crossing the street, and when I looked down again, there it was! And if you happened to drive by at that precise moment, you would have seen me jumping for joy. Yup! I did a little leap/jig with excitement, so in case you saw that, this is why I was doing it. I'm not really some crazy person jigging it up on the sidewalk every day (though, I do tend to sing along to my mp3 player while walking, so maybe I am that crazy person on the sidewalk). Anyway, I couldn't wait for T to get any closer before I yelled out the great news to her which caused the poor man I'd been following for the last 10 minutes to look back nervously. Sorry! It was too exciting to keep to myself any longer!

You know, I'm not that big a believer in prayer or anything like that, but when I talked to mom last week she said to say a prayer to St. Anthony (it's a catholic thing. Say a prayer to Saint Anthony when you've lost something, and you'll find it again), and as usual, I never said a prayer. As usual, I was like, oh yeah, ok whatever. St. Anthony, yeah yeah. But I'm starting to think this whole St. Anthony thing holds water because I'm pretty sure any time his name is even mentioned I've found what I was looking for shortly after. I mean, how likely was it that I was ever going to find this earring anyway? Pretty slim. I practically gave up on it right then and there when I came home last Tuesday and discovered it missing. It could have come off anywhere. Then I find it, a whole week later, on the one path I always take and it's right there, on the sidewalk, not a scratch on it? Not even kicked in the grass or anything? Just laying there, like, oh hey! there you are! I've been waiting for you! Why didn't I see it on Thursday? I scoured that very sidewalk on Thursday! Today I was just sadly glancing at the ground. Half trying to stop because I thought it was futile. Strange, strange, strange.

Well, whatever magical forces aligned to help me find it, thank goodness for it! Happiest Tuesday walk ever!

Monday, November 9, 2009


Idle Husband's favourite dinner is meatloaf. I try to make it every two weeks not just because he loves it, but also because it's kinda like making one large hamburger so it's extra easy for me. Mom recently brought me the meat grinder attachment for my Kitchen Aid stand mixer, so I was kinda pondering grinding some chicken in it, though I didn't really know what to do with ground chicken. I looked around the 'net, but my mind kept screaming meatloaf, so with no recipe at hand, I thought one up myself.

I had the idea to flavour it like a mini Thanksgiving dinner all in one, but the next time I do it I'll omit the stuffing and cranberries (since I used what I had left from Thanksgiving, so I probably won't buy more of those) and try making it like my traditional meatloaf minus the ketchup (I don't think ketchup and chicken should be together). I'm curious to see how that turns out instead.

Anyway, this has turned into Idle Husband's new favourite thing and the first dinner I've ever made where he's devoured the leftovers (without prodding) -- he ate it cold out of the fridge, had it the next day for lunch, and if we'd still had some left, he probably would have requested it on a sandwich for work. Success!

Cranberry Chicken Meatloaf

4 raw chicken breasts, ground (Since this has such festive flavours, I definitely think ground turkey would work as well.)
1 box prepared Stove Top stuffing (I used turkey cuz that's what I had)
1/4 cup chopped onion
4 chopped mushrooms
1 egg
1 clove garlic, pressed
salt/pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 cup dried cranberries
2 tsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tblsp cranberry sauce (whole berry)

Combine first ten ingredients in a bowl (you can put the cranberries in some hot water to plump them before adding them if you like. Sometimes I do that with dried fruits and sometimes I don't). Mix well. I find it so much easier to use my hands so I can squish everything together. That way I'm sure it's well combined. Press into a loaf pan or shape into a loaf shape. Combine the brown sugar and cranberry sauce. Pour on top of the loaf making sure it's covered.
Bake at 375 until a meat thermometer registers at 165 F (or above). This might have taken 45-60 minutes. I have a digital thermometer that beeps when it gets to the desired temperature so I use that for meat (I don't know how I ever survived without it before). You'll definitely be able to smell it once it gets close to being done. Just make sure it's cooked through, no one wants a raw chicken middle! Serve with more cranberry sauce if desired.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Idle Friday

I'm so lazy today. I don't know why. I don't think this week has been particularly grueling or anything like that, but I just feel like I'm in need of a lazy day. We all get like that at some point in time, don't we? I can't be the odd one out.

So I decided to spend at least a couple hours of my Friday watching movies. I had just pushed play when I realized how great it would be to enjoy some chips and salsa while watching. I've been craving salsa for a little while, plus (word of the day) I had some leftover tortilla wraps in the fridge that I've been thinking about making into chips for two weeks now. Finally, I had a good enough reason to do so. These were easy to make. All I did was spritz them with some cooking spray, grind a little pepper (that one's for Idle Husband) and salt on them, and a sprinkling of garlic powder. Then I cut them in wedges and baked them in the toaster oven for about 10 minutes. I could have rotated the pan or rotated them around halfway through, because some weren't evenly crispy, but 10 minutes was all the time I could bare to spend waiting. Mmm, spicy!

I enjoyed these while watching...Twilight. Gah, I know. I swear to you, I was only watching it to get the jokes about it. It was research, ok?!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Red and White

Idle Husband's first major video game, Dragon Age: Origins, was released yesterday! He had a mini celebration at work and got the afternoon off! He was super excited about it, so we went on a little tour to see it on the shelves of some major stores. I was so proud of the work he did on this project, I had to help him celebrate...but how?

With jello!

Strawberry and cherry striped jello, to be exact. It matches the cover art so well, doncha think?!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

All by myself...don' wanna be...all by myselfffff -- anymore...


These are one of my most favourite pairs of earrings that I ever bought at Value Village for less than $2 and this morning, after my walk, I discovered I'd lost one of them along the way! Part of me wants to go and scour the streets, but another part of me is way too lazy for that. Maybe I'll be able to spot it when I go for my walk on Thursday? Who knows. We walked all over the neighbourhood for a good two hours. It could have fallen off anywhere. Woe is me.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Halloween stragglers

As much as I enjoy drooling over bento boxes, I don't think I'm cut out for that either.

I had this weird idea for Idle Husband's breakfast one night last week while I was drifting off to sleep. I don't know what made me think of this. Sometimes weird ideas just come to me and I can't move on until I try them (one time, I predreamt about drawing a spider with a top hat in a hot air balloon, and then couldn't stop thinking about it, so I had to wake up at 1 a.m. just to make it a reality). Anyway, I concocted these for his breakfast on Halloween morning. I originally envisioned them as being mummies, but when I finished, I realized they could pass for ninjas, too. So whatever works, I guess. They were actually pretty simple to make and not that horribly time consuming. All I did was use a gingerbread man cutter to cut the bread. Then I smeared on some peanut butter and using a vegetable peeler, peeled off thin strips of carrot for the wrapping. That was the time consuming part. I eventually used some scissors to get the carrot rounded properly. The eyes are craisins and the blood is some red jam. The knives (or machetes, if you like) came after I realized I should do something with the left-over bread other than eating it. They weren't in my original dream plan, though.

That's it. I'm officially over Halloween and all foods themed or pumpkin flavoured. Thank goodness. Now I can focus on the whole eating-right-acting-like-an-adult thing again.