first post!!!

Cooking is my greatest passion in life. Even now as I'm going through a big health kick, I can't even tolerate the thought of eating tasteless junk.  Ever since I can remember I've loved cooking; making cookies, brownies & getting my first cookbooks. It seems like I knew even then that the best thing you could ever do for yourself is learn how to cook. To be able to provide yourself with that basic necessity was and is a comfort.

Today I made a vegetarian lasagna, and it was absolutely delicious! I roasted eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms & garlic with olive oil. I used a bottled sauce since I ran out of tomatoes. It had a thick layer of delicious ricotta mixed with egg, basil and Parmesan. I usually make a far less healthy version with ground sausage or ground beef; tons of cheese and extra sauce, but today I took the healthy route. Even Mark ate two plates full! That's always a good sign!

 I also ran out of aluminum foil, so the edges got extra baked, but it was fine. The cheese was fresh mozzarella that I had bought for my pizzas I had made Saturday night.

 These are our pizza's ready for the oven. The little one is mine; a veggie kinda Greek pizza. I put mushrooms, peppers, onions, olives, feta & mozzarella cheese. Mark's pizza was a BBQ chicken pizza; with sweet BBQ sauce, a grilled chicken breast, red pepper, mushrooms and onion. He really liked his! Oh, and the crust is homemade!
 My pizza, fresh out of the oven! :)
Mark's pizza out of the oven. :) 

Until my next foodie post, 

Our friends Kathy and Kurtis got engaged over the holidays, and while we all said our congrats, their news got kind of mixed in with various Christmas events. As a result, many of us felt like we didn't have a proper opportunity to celebrate them and their news. So, once the holiday chaos was over a bunch of us got to planning a surprise night out in honour of the big journey down the aisle that is going to take place next year.

Despite hearing nothing but amazing praise for Margarita's restaurant in uptown Waterloo, I had never been there. Many of these rave reviews came from the happy couple themselves, so I figured it would be a good place to have dinner before heading to one of the numerous pubs and bars that line King Street in Waterloo.

I was a bit apprehensive about anchoring our party at Margarita's, as I know that seating is limited on busy Saturday nights and we had a party of about 30 people wanting to flood their restaurant and take up all their chairs. I called a week in advance and the staff didn't even question accommodating us - the girl I spoke to on the phone assured me that they would find a way to make it work.

Mango Margarita - word to the wise, these margaritas seemed to get bigger and stronger as the night progressed!

Not only did they take a reservation so large on a busy Saturday night, but they took a staggered reservation, with the bulk of us arriving at 7:30 and the couple of honour arriving at 8:00, so that we could surprise them when they walked in.

We got there around 7:15, because I wanted to make sure that everything was in order for when the guests started to arrive. I fully expected nothing to be set up yet and it would have been reasonable had it not been. I was very pleasantly surprised to see that not only had our tables been set up and sectioned off from the rest of the restaurant, but that they had done it so early (no doubt sacrificing prime dining room seating on a Saturday night).

Guests started to arrive and take their seats, and we realized we were short on chairs. Our waiter was on it, and spent a good deal of the early evening just searching the restaurant for spare chairs (something that was very limited at the time). When not a single chair remained anywhere in and around the general vicinity, he even offered to kneel and allow the stray guest a spot on his knee (this guy was so accommodating that I'm pretty sure he was only half joking). Instead, he managed to find not only another chair but another table, which he moved over to ours so that we would not be so crowded.

The couple of honour arrived around 8:15...I think they were surprised!

Margarita's allowed us to pretty much take over the restaurant on the busiest night of the week and the fact that we had so many people didn't hinder their service one bit. Once everyone was seated, our server immediately started taking drink orders. He was quick, efficient and extremely helpful in determining what us vegetarians could and could not eat. And he kept the drinks coming in a timely manner (absolutely integral in a party setting and unfortunately something many other restaurants are unable to handle in large groups).

Matt and Paul - pinkies up for girlie drinks!

Me and Tracy, waiting for our margarita and virgin daiquiri, respectively and listening to the amazing mariachi band!

Paul and the groom-to-be, with Dos Equis!

Me, the bride-to-be, and the amazing mango margaritas

Alright, let's get on to the most important part of a restaurant review - the food! Because let's face it, in the past I have been known to put up with seriously bad restaurant service if the food is good enough. Margarita's already had points for service, could they deliver with food too?

I'm glad I'm not the only girl that has to drape herself in napkin at restaurants in order to avoid unsightly spills. Which I end up managing to get all over the whitest part of my outfit everytime anyway.

What I am chowing down on up there and what is pictured at the very top of this blog entry is the vegetarian tacos, without cheese. While they have a ton of vegetarian options, the vegan options listed on the menu are admittedly quite limited at Margarita's. However, the server and the kitchen were extremely accommodating in veganizing for me (which for the most part means just removing the cheese and sour cream on the vegetarian selections). However if you are vegetarian, be advised that their rice is cooked in chicken stock and so you should ask to remove that too.

The vegetarian tacos (minus cheese) were amazing. And the guacamole is something I am fairly certain I am going to dream about for days to come. I am terrible at making guacamole - it always has too much or not enough cilantro and ends up a big ol' green mess that sits in the fridge for weeks before finally getting thrown in the composter. As a result, I really, really appreciate a good guac.

And when the time came to say goodbye to our new friends at Margarita's, there was not a single mistake on any one of our many separated bills.

So, thank you Margarita's in Waterloo for helping us celebrate our friends' decision to spend the rest of their lives together and for doing so in such an accommodating, friendly and enthusiastic manner. A special thank you to our server for playing Chair Hunter and for not once rolling his eyes at us (something I can guarantee you that I would have done...repeatedly.) Margarita's, without a doubt, get this This is Vegan: Seal of Approval and I highly recommend it the next time you're celebrating something (especially if it's your birthday - the band's version of Happy Birthday is wonderful!).

4 King Street North
Waterloo, Ontario N2J 2W7
(519) 747-7800

After our amazing dinner we headed across the street to The Duke for far too many pitchers of beer, which in turn resulted in me staying in my pajamas for all of Sunday.

Congrats, my friends!


This is the view from one of my kitchen windows.  We've got about a foot of snow and it's snowing again.  Ella's very disappointed in the snow this year.  It's been so dry and fluffy, we can't make snowmen or even have a snowball fight.  Not that it stops the fun though, Daddy and Ella were out yesterday tobogganing.  Ella has so much fun when Daddy has time to play.

The kids headed out to play again today.  The temperature is beautiful and it is so bright and sunny.  Daddy built Ella the 'Himalayas' in the yard.  Ella love to watch the new Ice Road Truckers and is amazed by the Himalayan mountains.  Ella always wants to see what Lisa is doing.

Tiger came out of the barn for some loving too.  It's great to see how good the barn cats are looking.

Last night the Grandma's, Auntie Elizabeth and I went to see The King's Speech.It was really good.  Much funnier than I thought it would be.
When you make a new friend and she's married the conversation will eventually lead to how she and her husband met. It's a natural question to ask as you get know your new friend better.  Most often the answer to that question is rather mundane and not very romantic.  Rarer still are the stories of love at first sight, and falling head over heels in love.  Our son Nathan and his wife have a pretty cool beginning to their destiny together and being the glory hog that I am, I am not content with just one of those kinds of stories in our family.

So single ladies out there, how cool would it be to tell your friends that you and your future husband met because his mother (me) wrote a blog about her son (Adam) and you plucked up enough courage to write to him to wish him a happy birthday (today) and he wrote back(not very likely because he barely writes me) and it snowballed from there? That would be pretty romantic (or at the very least interesting) right?
So go for it, take the plunge, shoot for the sky, you never know, you just might be the one and what a story you get to tell if you are.

So here's his email address.  Have fun!



Contrary to some people's read my children's opinion, I do not spend all of my time browsing the internet or playing games on my new ipad.   In fact, I sometimes do quite useful things with my time (other than regular housekeeping chores).

I made a quilt for my granddaughter...

a kitchen centre for the grandkids....

a piece of valentine art...

and finally, a little valentine shirt for Lilah...

I confess that I did get all these ideas from browsing the internet.  (I am not the creative genius my friends think I am.)

On a different note, look at what I found at our local op-shop...

for the grand total of one dollar.   Lilah loves it and I am sure Ava will too.

Generally, I know very little about sports. Specifically, I know absolutely nothing about football.

I am a Canadian Girl so I can make my way through a hockey game with very little comprhensive difficulty. I understand power play and offside. This year, I even finally learned what icing actually is (rather than what I think it is) and it only took a few presses of the 'Pause Live-TV' button and several of Paul's hand-mimed diagrams.

But when it comes to football, even the most patient and thorough teachers cannot get me to even slightly grasp any of the concepts. And believe me, they have tried - all two times that I have tried to watch a football game (that would be Superbowl 2009 and Superbowl 2010, respectively). I'm not sure if it's the fact that I just don't get it or that I just don't care (both highly plausible). It could also be because I have the attention span of a peanut. Who knows?

Regardless, I'm in a constant struggle between my lack of interest in anything that even resembles football and my desire to fit in with the rest of North American society each year around this time.

So, when I was picking this week's recipe to try, I stumbled upon this Chili dish from Vegan Planet and thought to myself, "Okay, cool, let's do a chili - because if it's good, I can post about it and suggest that people try it for their Superbowl parties this weekend! The timing is so perfect! I will finally be one of them!"

So I made the chili. And I liked it. And I wrote a post.

And then someone kindly pointed out that Superbowl is actually next weekend and that I am quite possibly the only person on this continent that doesn't know that.

So there you have it. I am a bandwagon Superbowl poser and now the whole world knows it.

Still, if you have a copy of Vegan Planet, give this chili a try. The contrasting sweet (apple juice, cinnamon, brown sugar) and spicy (chili powder, cayenne, hot green chiles) is pretty cool and this uniqueness gives me a reason to make it now and again instead of my all time favourite traditional crockpot chili. It's decent on its own, but is really great with a side of whole grain rice.

I don't normally endorse using fake meats because their nutritional labels terrify me and I usually think them to be unnecessary to the integrity of a vegan meal. If a recipe calls for them, I typically leave them out, or sub-in the more nutritionally sound tempeh. But when I leave the TVP or ground round out of chili, it always feels more like a soup than a chili, and that's no fun.

Since we rarely eat that kind of stuff, it's hardly a crime to toss it into the chilis I make once every few months. It's still vegan and way more heart healthy than a ground meat (and its contribution to a cruelty-free planet goes without saying), so I say go for it. Just this one time.

I couldn't find a digital copy of this recipe, so this one appears to be an exclusive for Vegan Planet owners only. Give it a try, if you've got a copy! And enjoy the Superbowl..........whenever that may be.

Headed to Wychwood tomorrow morning

We are going to be off to market tomorrow.  We have some smoked lake trout but mainly whitefish.  We also have fresh whitefish and two beautiful lake trout fillets.  Not a lot of fresh but we will also have frozen. 
This will be our last market till winter moves on.

Dinner Party

Ella and all her babies had a fancy dinner party last night.  I set the table and she did all the 'cooking'.  Ella loves to have parties.   Her toy storage boxes worked great to help the babies 'sit properly'.  As an FYI, this party takes up nearly all available floor space in our living room.  This really is a one child house  :)

Review: Rusk Go Green Blow Dryer

One of my Christmas presents this year was a Rusk Go Green blow dryer, an exact replica of the one used by my stylist at Hybrid Hair and Detox Spa.

The tag said it was from our dog, Dora. Which is a bit ironic, because there are few things on this planet she hates more than blow dryers. And electric hair clippers. And pretty much any other type of grooming product that requires you to plug it into a wall. Which is why she spends most of her time looking like this:

I love this blow dryer an inappropriate amount and the reasons are many. It could just be the fact that up until Christmas Eve I had been using a blow dryer that was purchased in 1998 and has since developed a series of loose parts that make starting it up sound more like recycling truck than a bathroom appliance. This, combined with the unmistakable smell of burning hair after five minutes of use kind of makes anything made in the last ten years an improvement.

But this dryer is so much more than your average hair appliance!

This dryer gets labeled "green" because it uses 26% less energy than a standard professional blow dryer. I can attest to the fact that this dryer is practically a weapon the way it pumps hot hair (I was not at all expecting it and I think I burned my neck a little the first time). While scalding temperatures aren't exactly great for your hair, it's what us curly-haired girls positively need in order to work through the kinks.

Although it uses far less electricity than an average salon blow dryer, it is incredibly efficient. It takes me half the time to go from soaking-wet to bone-dry when compared to my old blow drying monstrosity. And it does all this all while being relatively quiet (for a blow dryer anyways), a feature that our Dora surely appreciates. Further, the earth-friendly message extends to not only the drying capabilities but the manufacturing itself - all packaging is made with 100% recycled materials and is printed with soy ink and further, Rusk products are not tested on animals.

While I'm playing fast and loose with the vegan theme of this blog by giving this blow dryer the This is Vegan: Seal of Approval I decided to go ahead and introduce you to the newest edition to my post-shower arsenal. While I always have and always will be vegan for the animals first and foremost, my fringe interest in environmental preservation does play a role in many of the lifestyle decisions I make. Sure, the most eco-friendly option would be to let my Curl Flag fly freely after a hair wash, but sometimes a girl needs to pretend nature gave her soft, silky, pin-straight hair. In those instances, a nice middle-ground, low-energy but high-power blow dryer sure does the trick!

Paul - errr, I mean Dora - bought this gift for me at Hybrid, but if you are not in the Waterloo region there seem to be some online options as well.
I don't want to admit how long I've been working on this project!  It's a Jean Greenhowe doll, the one on the cover actually.  I've made a number of her other doll patterns and they worked up quickly, but this one is taking forever!!  I was hoping to have it done for Ella's birthday, but that's not happening.  I'll have to get her done 'enough' and promise to finish it soon.  Once I've given the doll to Ella, then I can work on it any time.

  Right now I'm trying to sneak around.  My book today is a new one.  It's "The Catholic Home: Celebrations and Traditions for Holidays, Feast Days and Every Day".  I've just started it, and it's quite interesting.
Go see what the others are knitting over at Ginny's Yarn Along.

Farm-Girl Fun

Our handy Farmer fixed Ella's skiis and now you should see her go!  Ella and Daddy headed out after lunch and were making laps around the driveway.  It's easier for little people learning if they ski in the tire tracks.  Also seems to encourage her NOT to lift her feet and step (which is what she was trying in the deep snow).

After a while I looked out the window to see what was going on and this is what I saw:

Daddy hooked up the toboggan to the tractor -also note the skating helmet, 'safety first'.  Ella and Daddy had been making laps in the field and having a ball.  Ella was doing her usual and shouting 'faster, faster'.  I can't wait until she's big enough to take on the good rides at the fair.

Needless to say, Ella came in covered in snow and frozen -and complaining about having to come inside  :)

A Rose, One Day...

I don't want romantic love right now.  I'm not even sort of looking for it.  And that's just as well, because it's not coming my way right now, but you know those little 'heart-jump' moments?  Those moments when you bump into some stranger's wedding photos on facebook, and your heart just melts for a moment?  Their day seems so normal, so beautiful, so simple.  Or when you hear someone say "I love you girl", and you dream of the time someone else says it to you with such passion?

Those are the moments that I long to be held, to be cherished, to be led.  For a brief moment, my mind starts calling people and asking them to fly in to be my bridesmaids.  For a second, I see an array of white dresses in a mirror.  Just a glimpse of what might be... one day.

Yet I know I'm held.  I know I'm cherished.  I know I'm led.  By an infinite God, a Saviour who is my bridegroom as I am part of the bride of Christ.

He is good.


I was telling Ian about this video on our way in to town this morning.  I was thinking about it only because the thermometer in the car cut out at minus thirty degrees celsius.  It just wouldn't read anything lower than that.

Ian told me he thought the video was probably doctored in some way so I told him I would show it to him when we got home and he could see for himself and decide.  When we got home later this afternoon, instead of pulling out my laptop and searching for the video, I boiled a kettle of water and took it outside to try it for myself.  Guess what?  It worked and it was pretty darn cool!  I was having so much fun that I almost forgot to save enough hot water for our hot chocolate.  
I would post a video or some pictures of my very own but there was no convincing Ian to come outside and oblige me in taking either pictures or video.

I have ten or so pounds to lose. Clearly, the best way to go about doing this is to eat something deep fried. So there I was, in my kitchen the other night, trying to deep fry tofu.

Obviously, deep frying food is pretty much the worst thing you can do it from a nutritional standpoint. It is also quite hazardous to your physical well-being when the item you decide to throw into the scalding hot oil consists of 90% water. Obviously, I know that oil and water don't mix because even the tiny little elementary school I attended found a way to provide us with science lessons in the seventh grade. However, I apparently didn't realize just how much they don't like each other.

I cranked the oil up to an ungodly temperature, because I thought that that's how it had to be (you can tell how often I fry things) and tossed the tofu in all at once and there it went, sounding like gun shots and spewing scalding oil everywhere.

I proceeded to scream at the top of my lungs and take cover behind our kitchen island as oil popped and spewed all over the stove and countertops. Paul came in and saved the day - even after I kicked him out of the kitchen ten minutes earlier for telling me that the oil was too hot and that I didn't know what the hell I was doing.

My mom and grandma are particularly adept at frying things. Tossing doughs and spring rolls and schnitzels into hot oil without so much as the slightest flinch. It appears to me that the genetic pool has become diluted. Although, I guess that is a good thing, because while I currently need to lose ten or so pounds, continuing to eat like this will make it an even twenty.

Mmmmmm it was so freaking good though.

Recipe found here. I didn't use egg replacer though, as mine had expired long ago without me realizing it. Other than that, I used all the same ingredients (including all of the crossed out items and except for the mushrooms). Another win!

"Spirit of the West"... Tulips

A while ago, I mentioned that I had accepted an invitation to create a quilt on the theme of "Spirit of the West". Well the April 1 deadline feels rather near, so I have been getting my act together.

In the spring in western Washington, tulips are a huge deal - along with other beautiful bulbs. After the long grey winter months, I look forward to these beautiful flowers appearing in the supermarkets and I even have a few that I planted in my garden. So the cheeky "Chew Lip" (that's how I remember English people pronouncing the name of the flower) was the flower that inspired me and seemed to say something about where I live.

After an exhaustive search for a rhododendron flower pattern - which is the state flower of this state - I threw in the towel and purchased a lovely applique pattern by Bee Creative Studio starring tulips. (Oh yes, the Americans pronounce it "Two-Lips," which continues to make me smile even after 45 years of living in this country!)

On the technical side, I took the pattern sheet and had it hugely enlarged. I am so lucky to have an excellent stash of Laura Wasilowski's Artfabrik hand-dyed fabrics to play with. I also found a lovely piece of hand-dyed shocking pink silk satin which I used too. A piece of Judy Roberton's Just Imagination hand dyed fabric crept in as well. I used to be a dyer of cloth, but I'm so relieved that there are some talented people doing that for a living who save me the trouble of that part!

This is a big Phew! to have got this far. I nailed my idea, got the pattern, enlarged it, worked with the fabrics, sewed the background together and fused the leaves and flowers. Now comes the fun part. Next I'll be plying my needle and threads to embellish the flowers and leaves. Maybe all that pink at the bottom of the background can be persuaded to look like miles of tulip fields going off into the distance. Now there's something for me to figure out.

The weeks fly by

Yes, they do, and here we are celebrating the 15 day mark since the last post on this blog.  I'm not sure what that is supposed to mean exactly, except that I've been studying hard and trying to figure out how to work this whole university-at-home thing.  :-)

God has been so faithful to me.  As Compassion (Compassion USA) advocates, my Mum and I put on our first small presentation this past Monday, with the wonderful result of at least 4 children sponsored in the Dominican Republic.  What a blessing!  God is good. 

Because I'm so busy, this blog is mostly dead.  Also, because I'm never exactly sure what to post.  I suppose that's the unfortunate way with un-themed, personal blogs.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter:  InChristsHands  if you for some odd reason miss my postings.  (Not that they have been particularly frequent any time in the past year.  ;-)

God bless,
See you tomorrow......
Our little pumpkin had to have a couple needles yesterday.  We went to the Child Health Clinic in Renfrew and they were wonderful.  I was tired of the fumbling that goes on at the local clinic.  At CHC they only treat children and so are really good with needles.  Ella's a little out of sorts today, in fact she nearly got put to bed for the afternoon.  She opted for quiet time with Grandma. 

  After about an hour she perked up and they headed outside.  It's still rather cold out but at least it's bright and sunny. 
  Ella loves the piles left behind by the snow plow. 

Ella's feeling much better. 

Root Vegetable Chili

Vegetarian Times magazine used to e-mail me recipes what seemed like every day, and I'd compulsively file dozens of them under my "Recipes to Try" folder until there were so many that I could be cooking twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week and still not get them all sampled by the time the sun blows up, or the meteor hits, or the 2012 hysteria actually pans out.

But then, just as suddenly as they started, they stopped appearing in my inbox.

While working through my feelings of rejection I decided to use it as an opportunity to actually try some of the hundreds of recipes that I decided were good enough to be saved.

This chili soup was the very first one that I saved, so I figured it a good place to start.

And, one of the key ingredients is rutabega, which I can't ever remember trying before.

When in the supermarket, I've often glanced in the rutabega's direction, filled with curiosity and a little bit of fear because let's face it, their appearance is kind of freaky. What is this weird thing I am looking at? I would often ask myself.

Strange looking, yes, but a solid source of vitamin C, calcium, folate and fiber and therefore no good reason to not include them in my diet now and again.

They are kind of a bugger to peel, unfortunately.

Nothing my Titan Peeler can't handle, though!

Besides the rutabega, there are a whole host of other veggies: carrots, peppers (bell and jalapeno), potato, garlic, onion. And no chili is complete without beans, and I used my most favourite - white kidney.

It takes a while to cook this, as is true of any good chili.

And the entire time it was cooking I was thinking, "This smells so good, but why do I also feel like I am going to vomit?"

Finally, after an hour on the stove, Paul pointed out that the house smelled like cooked cabbage.

I have had an immature aversion to the smell of cooked cabbage since I was a child and a subsequent social anxiety that after being around cooked cabbage, I myself must smell like cooked cabbage.

The tragedy of it all is that I quite like the taste of cooked cabbage, but the smell of it sends me off gagging in search of a gas mask and wanting to burn my clothes. As such, I very rarely make anything with cabbage, unless it is and stays relatively raw (i.e. quickly stir frying it is okay, boiling it is NOT).

A google search with my shirt pulled up over my nose confirmed that a rutabega is in fact a cabbage. A cross between a cabbage and a turnip, to be exact. Curious, no longer.

The chili itself tasted really good, but I honestly cannot get past the smell of cooked cabbage so I'm afraid this recipe isn't for me. Unless I locate that gas mask I spoke of. But please, if you are able to handle the smell, try this recipe because it is so delicious.

Oh, and it turns out that I am the one responsible for ending things with Vegetarian Times. Months ago, I cancelled an old email address that I thought I no longer used, but it turns out that it was this email address that was getting the VT mail and forwarding it to my new email address. Thus, the recipes are once again flowing and I may just have to take up that 24/7 cooking project I mentioned above.