Monthly Archives: March 2011

Family values

Tonight’s blog post is brought to you by George Stromboulopolis…

I don’t normally watch his show. It’s a completely uninformed personal choice that dates back to journalism school and having to fall in line with either the Strombo or Gomeshi camp. Seeing as my heart belongs to radio, Jian won out. However, the baby was up late (despite only having a 35 minute nap today. Really! Where does she get the energy? I must stop feeding that child…) and George talks so fast it was hard to turn him off.

George was challenging politicians, and the Canadian voting public, to define “family values.” Go ahead, you tell me what it means. Stumped? So was I. I tried to put it into context of my own little family, and came up with good food, affection, fun and Scrabble, in no particular order. If I had to make it a nice round five, I would throw in free quality childcare.

But none of my family values, with the exception of childcare, are likely to ever make it to the hustings.

There’s the problem with the phrase – it can mean so many things to so many people. But the first party to campaign on a platform to change Sunday to Scrabbleday and circulate recipes in their bi-annual mail-outs will get my vote.

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Let me tell you about my minestrone.

Seven years ago (cripes, has it been that long?) I was living in Halifax above a pizza/tattoo parlour and reading the likes of Plato, Kant, and Homer. You know, for fun. On a particularly cruel Thursday afternoon (okay, I don’t know what day of the week it was), the library walls were closing in and Hegel’s words were becoming indecipherable. On a whim I checked airfares to Montreal, and scored a $60 ticket. That weekend, I was out of there.

I had some friends in Montreal, I crashed on their couch and wandered around the city by foot, climbing Mount Royal and oogling the strip joints on Rue Ste Catherine. I remember some sort of snowboard chute set up on a side street, a crowd gathering, so I wonder if Winter Carnival wasn’t on. Actually, I believe it was, because we also stumbled across an installation exhibit of shovel art. That is, people shovelling snow into various sculptures as a celebration of snowshovelling as part of our inherent Canadian-ess. There was also a cycling exhibit and I tried out a fancy new drive train arm that rode like a regular bike, but each crank arm actually rotated on an ellipse. (I still have friends in Montreal, but I’m afraid my days of impulsive weekends away to La Belle Province are over, at least for a while. Too bad.)

There was also a lot of beer.

But it being February in Montreal, it was effing cold. We found ourselves on the fringe of Montreal’s Little Italy. We stumbled over the threshold of a grocer/cafe, and an unassuming hand-chalked sign invited us to try “La meilleure soupe a Montreal.” We did. It was. Perhaps it was the cold, or perhaps it was truly the best soup in the city – either way, it was truly delicious and just the antidote to the freezing temperatures and two-day binge.

My bowl was half gone before I thought to scribble down the contents, and while I don’t know what seasonings or magic potion the chef unleashed in the kitchen, I can tell you the soup contained the following:

carrots
celery
onion
chick peas
kidney beans
green beans
sweet potato
white potato
tomato
tiny pasta balls
broth

When I got back to Halifax, I transferred those scribbles to my recipe book and the memory lives on.

Minestrone is, by (Wikipedia’s) definition, a soup with no set recipe, full of whatever beans and veggies are in season and on hand. In that respect, my minestrone is a true minestrone. I’ve never duplicated that Montreal cafe’s bowl, but of all the times I’ve thrown the beans and vegetables in a pot and let it simmer for an hour or five, I’ve never been disappointed, either.

I just tried a bowl of today’s batch. I don’t think it’s going to make it to the freezer.

Delish.

Freezer food

Today was a snow day. And as the snow piled up outside…

2-ft drift outside our door. My handy stash of wood is under there somewhere.

The casseroles piled up inside…

Freezer bounty

What you’re looking at (clockwise from left) is spaghetti sauce, spicy sweet potato soup, macaroni and cheese, pea soup, turkey Tetrazzini, lasagna, spicy chicken casserole, tuna casserole, cajun meatloaf, and cod-au-gratin. (Never mind the bananas and candy canes. The canes are leftover from the Christmas Tree, which will tell you how much time I’ve spent at home since Christmas.)

This is where Sylvia spent most of the day:

Sous-chef, literally.

You’ll notice she’s sitting squarely between the stove and the sink, and directly in front of the only bit of counter we have free for a worktop.

Luckily I still managed to prep for a dozen recipes.

Shredded, sliced and diced - how do you like your carrots?

And Sylvia was on hand to help me clean up, too.

Trouble.

So now with the freezer stocked, bring on my back-to-work date! (But not too fast. I still have minestrone, pizza crust, meatballs and apple crisp to make. Not to mention baby snuggles to stock up on and mornings to sleep in.)

Bracing

Know what? I’d take a dry cold over this biting North wind and sleet any day.

Taxes and literature: more in common than you may think

Turns out all those bank statements were not all bank statements. Some of them were tax related. Which is important, because ’tis the Taxing season!

I may be the only person I know who enjoys filing my taxes. Truly. More than just not minding it, I take pleasure from tallying all my gas receipts and matching boxes on my T4 to boxes on UFile. It’s one of the few areas the only area of my life that actually lives up to my organizational ideals. I file all my gas, vehicle and medical receipts throughout the year. When the T4s and T22s start arriving (okay, I get like 3 of them) I add them to my tax folder and as soon as UFile lets me know I can log in and begin preparing my tax return, I get right on it. I am about a month late this year due to my trip to Oil Country. I spent about 45 minutes at it this morning. Another 15 tomorrow to review and I’ll send it in.

Perhaps the reason I most enjoy filing is looking forward to the big ol’ cheque that arrives a couple weeks later. You see, I’m still claiming tuition from the four years I spent at The Most Expensive University In The Most Expensive Province In The Country. That should do me for another couple of years. Try me again in 2015 and see if I still enjoy filing taxes quite so much.

In somewhat related news, I just finished reading The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis. The novel won the 2011 CBC’s Canada Reads programme, and while I continue to be a strong supporter of Ami McKay’s The Birth House, I think the panel chose well this year. The Best Laid Plans is funny, and not as fictitious as it’s Amazon classification may claim.

Jiggity jig

Water? Check.

Heat? Check.

Plowed driveway and shovelled walk? Check and check.

Thanks to neighbours and a brother-in-law, it’s good to be home. I’m still unpacking and working through the pile of mail. Do people actually open bank statements? Also, why did I get 12 bank statements in the six weeks I was away? Maybe that’s an exaggeration. Maybe I should open them to find out.

Either way, it’s good to be home.

Truckin’

Aaaand… that’s as far as I got. Tire chains are heavy, man.