Wednesday, September 18, 2013

This Mama's Moving On

I have a number of new endeavors to serve as excuses for letting my blog languish over the summer and I'm sure you could correctly guess a number of them. It's true I've been busy gardening, road tripping, running in sprinklers, blogging and posting for friends and clients, but I've also been organizing Vancouver's only women's bootcamp with free onsite childcare: Mama Fitcamp.

I regret to inform you that I'm putting this blog on official, undetermined hiatus while I focus on keeping fitcamp going strong. You can, however, continue to follow me and my adventures in motherhood at

Friday, June 14, 2013

Edible DIY: Bring on The Veggie Pate

I was a vegetarian for ten years and some of these years I lived in Canada's cultural capital, la belle ville de Montreal. It was here that I first ate at a vegetarian chain restaurant (Le Commensal) and discovered veggie pate. Once I found this salty, vegetable-based spread in grocery stores it became my default meal of choice: veggie pate spread on St. Viateur bagels with slices of tomato and arugula if I could get it. Le Comemensal pate ingredients are all pretty simple: sunflower seeds, onions, carrots, potatoes, salt, lemon juice, and spices. Though not gourmet, they're certainly pronounceable.

After leaving Montreal it was years before I encountered veggie pate again and that's probably a good thing as I'd eaten enough of it not to miss it. That is, until this winter at a Vancouver farmer's market when I came across Pate Pastiche which takes the old familiar recipe and cranks the gourmet-o-meter up a few notches.

Do not pass Pate Pastiche's sample table by !
They refer to theirs "seed and grain pate", it is gluten-free and vegan, and they make several delectable varieties including sunshine tomato, forest mushroom, and market herb. It took me much too long to choose which to take home, but, after sampling all the varieties, I settled on their squash and sage because it is reminiscent of my old university days standby, only smoother and, well, more grown-up - just like me.

Every spring the winter farmer's market closes in my 'hood and they set up for the summer at a more remote location and so, as my pate supply is now a drive away, I've begun making my own. It is remarkably easy and the results have been excellent though not quite as perfected as Pate Pastiche. Below is my current best recipe though I'm on the hunt for variations!

Veggie Pate 
Mine turned out just like this Montreal food stylists.

1/2 cup unsalted, unroasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds

2 garlic cloves

1 large onion
2 potatoes
1 large carrot

1 celery stalk

3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
2 tbsp of olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup soy sauce or Braggs
2 tsp your favorite herbs - basil, oregano, celery seeds, sage, thyme, etc
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350. Grease an 8x8 pan (for thicker bricks) or a 9x13 pan (for thinner slabs).

Grind up the seeds in the food processor with the blade attachment until they are ground but not pasty. Remove and set aside.

Next, blend the garlic and, once finely chopped, replace the blade with the grating disc. You can leave the garlic in the processor. Grate the onion, potatoes, carrot, and celery.

When complete, empty the processor, place all the grated veggies in a bowl, and switch back to the all-purpose blade. Now put the ground seeds and the grated veggies and all other ingredients in the food processor and let it run for a couple minutes until everything is well blended.

Spread the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 60 minutes. Let it cool before loosening the edges with a knife and flipping the pan to remove the pate.

I divided mine into four pieces and froze three.

Excellent served as an appetizer, on sandwiches, or with cheese and crackers.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Excellent Accidents of Parenting

Tree Roots Drawing by Enchanted Crayons
All this living small seems to be paying off. For someone who hasn't really been anywhere in a few years I seem to finally be getting somewhere.

I have nearly entirely eradicated "Oh my God" and the addictive, incorrect use of "like" from my vernacular.

I'm starting to get the hang of meal planning and I'm actually sticking it to it. It's been six successful weeks of grocery shopping only once a week (with the occasional extra milk run) and I figure I'm saving nearly $200 a month!

I won't go so far as to say that I've come to know myself more as the years have passed because I think I was much more of a black and white open book in my youth and I'm glad to say I've only grown in complexity these past few years.

Sometimes it feels I know myself less as I let go of the emotion-based truths I held so dear and my youthful passions are tempered with rationality. It can feel like I'm diluting my dreams but I know I'm only changing them and leaving some behind. This process can be painful and lead me to wonder the local cemetery pondering the brevity of life but I believe it's a necessary part of growth.

I also find that I am less swayed by those who impress me but fail to take to the time to get to know me. I must be growing up. Or at least I'm coming to comfortable terms with being in my thirties. I am learning that there is a great deal of terrain you can cover when you stay home. Roots certainly travel farther when you stay in one place; it's just hard to see them growing underground.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

This Week's Book

All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon & Illustrated by Marla Frazee

The world of this book is just small enough that you can see from one end to the other, you can recognize many of the same people from page to page, and see where you just were from where you now are. It's like streetview on Google Maps for preschoolers! 

My 3 year old and I both enjoy finding familiar details such as the the tandem bikers, the beach ball left at the pond overnight, the family's red truck as the day carries on in the book. There are no protagonists here just people doing what they do. 

I also appreciate how the text is written into the illustrations. The words fill a cloud or bump along the top of the garden. Their appearance even illustrates the meaning of words: the word "up" is raised and the word "down" is lowered. The font is similarly suitable, straightforward and legible yet whimsical in the way it is sometimes level and other times free flowing.

This book reassures both me and my children telling us this world is safe and inviting and exciting and varied and beautiful - exactly the message I want to tell my kids every day about our world. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Evening Rhubarb

Going out to the garden after the kids are in bed feels like a little get-a-way. I only popped out the other night to pick some rhubarb but it felt like a revelation that, not only was it not dark, but it was lovely outside. Everything is so lush right now, growing and leafing out with incredible haste. In a little more than a few short weeks I'll be able to go out barefoot to pick raspberries after bedtime!

Rhubarb, lovely rhubarb.

I often feel regretful about raising my kids in a confined urban setting. We have a front and back yard and a nearby park and we get out often enough, but it's not how I always imagined I'd raise a family. I thought I'd live a little closer to the edge of the grid if not off it entirely. (Have you read Wilderness Mother?) Other days I feel that we can give our kids the perfect balance or urban and rural by getting out of the city often. I'm always looking for ways to make this possible. 

The Clark family took their kids canoeing for 95 days.
Watch their video here and see why I find it inspiring.

I suppose my little green postage stamp urban acreage feels expansive enough in the peaceful after dinner stillness. I froze some of the rhubarb I picked and I made this rhubarb cheesecake with the rest. This recipe is so easy as there's no pre-cooking the rhubarb. I made mine with a graham cracker crust and my kids liked it even though it was made with our city rhubarb.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Does DIY = Domestic Bliss?

I have a can-do attitude and believe that homegrown and homemade are almost always best, but am I a DIY-er? Well, er, I make pizza dough and pie crust from scratch - does that count? I make my own Christmas and birthday cards. I plant a veggie garden and rescue plants from back alleys and demolition sites. I make killer compost. I made my own twine trellis for sweet peas and runner beans. I mend but I do not sew. I own a paper cutter and can wield a glue gun but I most certainly do not do this:

This is what you get when you Google image search "DIY"

I'm creative sometimes, resourceful often, and keen to improve things always, but modge podge is just not a part of my daily vocab. And yet I feel like a do-it-yourselfer at heart. I want DIY my way to modern-day domestic bliss like so many other mama bloggers!

Sometimes I see a blog that knocks my socks off and I think, "Wowza. That's crazy beautiful and inspiring and so lovely." And then other times I see an over-the-top wonderful blog and I think, "How does she do it? She has more kids than me. Can someone please explain before I decide to give up on all my creative endeavors?"

Usually this pit of self despair is followed by a couple days off blogging until I have an uplifting family day full of reaffirming self worth like we did today. We spent the whole day in the nearby fishing village turned tourist hot spot, Steveston. We visited a massive playground at the local community centre, we walked the boardwalk, had a picnic at the beach, watched the kites, threw rocks in the water - an ever popular pastime from which our boys never seem to tire - and then the sun came out and it was back to the playground for round two! To top it off, we didn't spend a penny more than the fuel it cost to drive there - 20 min each way. Today was a prime example easy, breezy domesticity and summer's yet to come! I think I'll put up another twine trellis soon and blog about the it this time.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

ABC, Oakley's Three!

I need a new camera. I threw a birthday party for my newly 3 year old recently and I didn't take a single photo. I already regret it.

If I do say so myself, the party was pretty Pinterist-worthy - for an event held in my proudly "nifty thrifty" home and not involving a professional party planner.

I used for the invitations for the second year in a row. Their free offerings are customizable yet user-friendly.

The party itself was minutely lower key than Oakley's second birthday; 23 people rather than 30. Thank goodness it was sunny and we were able to get out into the backyard at one point. I'm beginning to understand why parents host parties in rented rooms and parks now.

I never knew before having a child with an "o" name just how great it would be for him. O's are everywhere. They're circles and zeros and faces and wheels and bagels, not to mention a well-used vowel. My son notices them all the time so I did an alphabet theme. I hung Lisa DeJohn's alphabet animals cards on twine with clothes pins, stuck ABC stickers all over balloons, put ABC bathtub stickers on our bathroom mirror, planted flowers in our entrance way planters and stuck in  a couple over sized whirligigs for good measure.

I served the essential alphabet pretzels and a plethora of "o" shaped food including pineapple rings, apple chips, rice crackers, olives, carrots, cucumber, and peppers cut in rounds, and Dad's O cookies. We played a couple simple alphabet games and at the end we handed out goody bags with each child's initial on the front and stickers, a bouncy ball, a whirligig, and an ABC book inside. But really, the cute kids  - all 12 of 'em - made the party.

And yes, I admit it. This party - exemplifying my love of typography and words and pattern and food and fun - was a little bit for me. I mean, my son's only three; he loves monster trucks, Lightning McQueen, hockey, Spiderman, tigers, Dora, Diego, AND the letters of the alphabet. I just chose something he likes that I could really get behind! He had a really good time and so did I. Now it all fades into a blurry memory faster than you can say "cheese". Thank goodness Grandma took a couple photos!

I made a fresh orange and olive oil bundt cake; we just called it
"o cake". The glaze made it extra delish but it also absorbed
all the decorative powdered sugar!

Maybe my boy's really getting into toys now that he's 3
or maybe the other parents are all super in touch with
what 3 year old's like, but every gift he received has
been a major hit (including the stomp rocket they're
all crowding around here).

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Desktop Calendars Galore

I've started downloading free desktop calendars every month to pretty up my office, my mobile office. While I do have a desk I often work on my laptop in other rooms of the house. For instance, I'm currently kneeling on my bedroom floor with my laptop on a cushion on my bed!

I love print and color but live in this slowly-getting-less-beige house so I take my fun and pretty wallpaper pattern where I can get it! Here's a few that I've used recently and a few I wish I'd used. I found so many I like for March that I switched halfway through the month! Check the links' corresponding sites for future calendars as the year rolls by.

December 2012 from Love Mae

Rebekka Seale's January calendar

I used this for February and I can't find the source
now that I'm looking for it!

Sasha Endoh Design's March

March envelopes by Alma

March from Gennine's Art Blog

Marimekko' s March theme

Saturday, March 2, 2013

This Week's Books

The Rain Train by Elena de Roo

I seem to have come across a glut of great books lately. Books that look right up my alley at the library but when I get them home and read them to my kids I find myself paraphrasing or rephrasing the text or wishing there was more or less story. Other times as I sift through the shelves at my local branch using my standard critical approach (title, illustrations, amount of text, and subject matter in that order) and I wonder how many of the titles I pick up belong to wonderful stories paired with unappealing illustrations. If that's the case, back to the shelf it goes. I'm only looking for the best and that still amounts to over a dozen books that make it to this week's short list, the ones we sign out and schlep home. The Rain Train is one that I wasn't entirely sold on upon first read (I think the title first sold me on it over the illustrations) but now I just can't seem to cull it and return it I enjoy reading it aloud so much.

The story is a poem with a lot of great lines. And though I don't recall reading the first page in the library, the opening lines really get me: "When the rain fingers drum out a dance on the pane, / When the windows are foggy enough for my name". And the other set of lines that I savour: "And all of the time / Always the same... / The wail of the wind, / the sway of the train, / The strum of the wheels to the beat of the rain".

Every page pairs poetic description with often-rhyming, sometimes alliterative onomatopoeia, my favorite being: "Past lighted houses -- / Clackety-clack. / Out of the city -- / Shackety-shack". (I always find myself whispering the onomatopoeic phrases.)

Now I don't claim to know what a rain train is, but my guess is that it's made-up by a child lying in bed, falling asleep listening to the rain. This train carries him off through the night to dreamland. The passengers are all in pajamas and carry umbrellas and the last page shows a boy asleep in his bed with a train going by outside his window and it reminds me of the late train that I used to hear if I was up late enough when I was young - perfect.

Beach Feet by Kiyomi Konagaya Illustrated by Masamitsu Saito

This is the other book I can't part with at library return time. The story and the perfectly imperfect illustrations just keep me reaching for this one over others at storytime. The entire book is about a few lively moments of a child's day at the beach. The first person narrator is easily distracted, nicely representing the short attention span of a real child.

Emotion, movement, speed, and even temperature are conveyed in the brilliantly messy illustrations of this book. Toes and fingers are shown to be excited, paddling, or wiggling by their numerous outlines as with the hot toes shown above. My favorite drawing is the intentionally imprecise underwater legs (at right); a few scribbles and realistic shimmering water and moving legs are perfectly achieved. Saito doesn't appear to care about colouring in the lines of his own drawings and the oil pastels lend themselves nicely to blurring and smudging. Attractive, effective imperfection is one of the things I like about the art I like - you know how bittersweet chocolate is better than sweet chocolate on its own? A little imperfection goes a long way in terms of poignancy.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Spring in my Step

The snowdrops were one thing but now there's crocuses popping up, buds on the forsythia, and the grass only turns brown for two weeks in the summer so it does indeed look a lot like springtime in my neck of the woods.

First visit to our local park in much too long.

Hiking in Lynn Canyon.

Almost got the hang of it!

All dressed up...

Nothing like flinging sand in the sea

18 months old

On the ferry

A quiet moment in the sun

A-not-so quiet moment in the sun

Saturday, February 2, 2013

It's Coming

At least over here on the central western edge of the continent Spring is beginning to be tangible! Guess what I spotted in our alley?


Thursday, January 31, 2013

TV is Not a Dirty Word

Like many people, I have a conflicted relationship with television. I have a fond memory of my dad climbing on the roof to adjust the antenna when I, waiting for The Friendly Giant to come into view, spotted a bear in the orchard. And I recall being quite excited for Sunday night's Disney hour-long specials such as the memorable Flight of the Navigator. I loved MASH and Monty Python for periods of my teen years and then I went without TV for many years, pretty much the entire run of Seinfeld and the first six years of Survivor. I was busy living large with few possessions and even less income; TV was the last thing on my mind.

It wasn't until I settled in my current city with my now-husband that we got our first TV off craigslist. My parents gave us their old VHS player and we'd rent video tapes from the library. (And yes, I realize just how very out of date that sounds now, eight years later, but imagine how peculiar it will sound to our kids in another eight!)

With those new-to-us technological advances I watched the entire series of Blackadder. It wasn't the first time I'd seen the show but I fell completely in love with the series and still give it top three ranking today. It was around this time that the current TV comeback was picking up momentum thanks to shows like The Wire and Six Feet Under. These programs were proving that shows could be better than movies, offering more in terms of character development and plot lines.

Here is a list of the shows I've watched in the past decade that I enjoyed, loosely organized chronologically.

  • Deadwood
  • Carnivale
  • Life
  • Californication
  • Mad Men
  • Breaking Bad
  • Game of Thrones
  • Sherlock
  • Boardwalk Empire
  • Downton Abbey
  • Wallander
  • The Hour
  • Parade's End
  • Black Mirror

You can see I've been on a BBC kick the last while (Thanks Dad).

Oh, and just for the sake of it: my top three TV shows of all time are Wallander, The Wire, and Blackadder.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

This Week's Book

That's Not a Daffodil by Elizabeth Honey

We have read dozens and dozens of books in the past few months but truly, none have made me smile the way this book does. And so it deserves recommendation, a mighty acorn of approval, if you will.

This sweet book is about a preschool aged boy and his neighbour, a grown-up gardener.

The weeks, months, and seasons are marked by visits from neighbourly Mr. Yilmaz, who brings homegrown produce to Tom's family with each visit. First apples and an unlikely looking daffodil bulb, and at other times carrots, a pumpkin, and lemons. The passing of time is also marked by visiting grandchildren, a weekend at Grandma's and Mr. Yilmaz's absence when he's away in Turkey.

There is a peacefulness about this book. It contains just the right details; the reader is left needing no more than we are given but savouring every encounter.

With the daffodil's growth a trust and friendship also grow between Tom and his neighbour. Mr. Yilmaz's gift turns a skeptical, expectant boy into a clever-metaphor weaving believer. Mr. Yilmaz sits back and lets the magic unfold for Tom, giving the boy an even better gift than a flower: the experience of  discovering something first-hand.

I hope Mr. Yilmaz moves to my block soon!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Excuses, Excuses

I've got a few excuses for not blogging lately. Whether or not they are good excuses I'll leave up to you.

First of all, my longtime friend, sometimes client, and newly certified massage therapist, Dana Smith, has begun publishing her own blog, The Anatomy of Touch, in which she explores the quirky workings of the human body and the benefits of massage and various other roads to wellness. Her website is also hot off the press and these two projects display not only my newly acquired html code-writing skills as well as my editorial consulting skills (much to the detriment of my own blog).

Then it was Christmas - merry and bright and full of family, toys, treats, a little snow, and a week of night terrors. (As soon as I learned to handle them, in other words, to not handle my boy as he was going through it, but to simply standby, they disappeared). And then we all got sick (see previous post for the play by play on that one). So here I am to report, in photographic detail, on these events.

There's not much left of our snowman now but a few arms, buttons, and hair (sticks, rocks, and ivy).

The carousel at the Vancouver Christmas Market was a big hit as were the waffles on a stick.

Bennett's first fishy encounter.

Our annual visit to the aquarium.

Playing with his cousin's new Christmas present.

Grandpa is the best stroller driver: he aims for the icebergs!

An icy day for a bike ride on the Richmond dyke.

Hot baths aplenty.

Midweek in January, Granville Island is essentially a ghost town with buskers.

Third attempt at ice skating and he's only holding one hand!

A rainy day hike in Lynn Valley after which we all came down with terrible colds.