Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Bridge is Required

Knitting has been what others might call a "hobby" of mine for over a decade, though I might call it a "passion," or even an "obsession." Nevertheless, it all falls into the category of things that I do for fun. Not only do I love knitting, I also love thinking about knitting, planning knitting projects, reading about knitting and endlessly searching Ravelry (think facebook for knitting). Sometimes it seems that I love the peripheral knitting activities even more than the act of knitting itself for all the actual knitting that gets accomplished, but saying that would be akin to heresy. I am a believer.

Not only am I a believer, I'm ready to take holy orders; I'm in the process (slow at the moment) of trying to figure out a way to make my living out of knitting. The ultimate goal would be to own my own yarn shop. In the meantime, while I do other non-knitting related things to make a pittance, uh living, I've got ideas for original knitted items that I could sell. I should practice the art, hone my skill, work towards becoming a veritable doyenne of all things knit. I need to knit.

I haven't been knitting much, all things considered. I've been lamenting the fact that I don't have a space dedicated to this - a studio, but lack of space has been a constant in my life for quite a while now. Even though I do believe that your space is very important, I realized this morning that I still feel bad sitting down to knit when there are about a million other things that need to happen that are less fun and therefore must be more important, right? I have a huge mental gap to get over. A bridge is required. I need the expertise of an emotional engineer.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Walking is Free

On Monday I decided to go for a long walk and I ended up in High Park. It was a gorgeous day, the sun was shining, the leaves were yellow on the trees and there were many more on the ground to shuffle through with your feet. Their smell was sweet and earthy. You could hear the soft trickle of a stream through the woods. You could also hear the sound of traffic on Parkside Drive and Bloor Street, but thems the breaks.

While in the park it occurred to me that I had only been in High Park less than a handful of times (not counting trips in for Shakespeare in the Park) since I moved to Toronto in 2002. Then I thought of all the other places I either have not seen or have neglected for a while in this city. When I travel I explore the places I visit on foot; it's educational exercise! A walking pace really lets you take in and learn more about your surroundings. Why should I not apply this to the city that I live in?

After last week's election I may have wanted to move out of this city, but that would have been rash. Instead, why not embrace what this city has to offer? I'm not tied to a desk five days a week at the moment, so there is no reason why I can't arrange my schedule to be out and about enjoying the various neighbourhoods during the day.

Conveniently my gym membership ran out recently and I am faced with the challenge of fitting in fitness free of cost. Walking is free! I like walking and all it has to offer apart from fitness of body. Plus, you can do it in stylish clothing accessorized with hats and scarves. Well, at least until the snow flies - then it becomes an extreme sport.

PS:
I've had this book on the to read list for a while and will start it this week

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Ginger Pear Skillet Cake


I made this cake yesterday in our 10" cast iron skillet. I got the recipe from my Mom but I'm not sure where she got it; a magazine, I think. It has crystalized ginger, ground ginger and grated fresh ginger and yet it is not overpoweringly gingery. Be warned that I love ginger and my opinion may be skewed in favour of that particular rhizome. And this recipe call for molasses too. And I love molasses. As a teen I ate molasses with toast as per the suggestion on the side of the carton. I made one modification though and chose butter over bacon fat to spread on the toast. I even ordered the free recipe booklet by mail that was also offered on the other side of that same carton. That molasses recipe pamphlet took forever to be delivered. Go figure.

This cake also calls for buttermilk which is amazing because I wrote on my list of things to cook this week "bake something with buttermilk." Honestly. All too often have I purchased buttermilk for a particular recipe (like dressing - but c'mon there is only so much buttermilk dressing two people can go through!) and then the other 750 ml go to waste. This is a sin I wish no longer to commit! I've been scouring the stack of cookbooks for recipes that call for buttermilk. I've found a couple and one of them calls for self-rising flour, which I don't keep on hand usually. Next thing you know, I'll be out getting self-rising flour and then scouring...the cycle continues.



Monday, October 18, 2010

A Basket of Pears

Well, it is not "daylight in the swamp" as my dad used to say when he woke us up in the morning; it is too early for that at this time in the year. I awoke at 4:30 and it seemed like sleep would continue to be elusive, so I thought I might as well take advantage and get the day started.

A couple of days ago the lifelong mate and I sat down to crunch some numbers and see what we could do to pull ourselves out of debt. We must adopt a much more frugal lifestyle in order to achieve this, particularly taking into consideration that I am looking at making about a third of what I was previously making. If only we had decided to do the whole get out of debt thing last year, but there is no sense in dwelling on that.

Funnily enough though, since my brain isn't completely addled by my job and the politics of an office, I seem to have more energy that can be put to use making the household run. It is really not surprising that things like finances and household maintenance get neglected when both of you are working your tails off. When you do have time to yourself the last thing you want to do is more bloody paperwork.

I've always been an admirer of people who can live beautiful lives while being sensible and thrifty. They are clever indeed. One of the ways to have a beautiful life is to eat well with the ones that you love and I am looking forward to that challenge because, as you may have guessed, eating out is out. This is where the pears come in.

Yesterday I bought a basket of Ontario pears (not sure of the varietal) and they are, get this, actually ripe! We likely can't eat them all before they turn to mush so I'm going to be making a blue cheese and pear tart as well as a pear and ginger upside down cake. Photos to follow.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Cleaning Lady

When I'm stressed or depressed I easily get derailed from the regular maintenance that a home requires and the resulting clutter adds to the level of stress. It is one of those vicious cycles that I easily get drawn into. Whenever I try to make an effort to pull myself out of it by attempting to accomplish one task I instead see the thousand other things that need to get done in order to achieve perfection. I think those other tasks seem worse. I think: "perhaps I should do that other task now instead of this one that I've already started, and for which I've moved all of the furniture in the living room." I think: "catastrophe is imminent." I get paralyzed by such self-defeating thoughts and usually there are tears.

This almost happened yesterday. Two days ago we had the couch and area rug steam cleaned by a professional. (Despite being "clean" the couch looks disgusting. Never buy an oatmeal-coloured couch, particularly if you wear jeans or drink red wine, or are human.) The rug was hanging to dry over the fire-escape and this I saw as a great opportunity to wash the rug underlay and the living room floor. Fast forward to the part where I have moved one half of the living room into the other and you will see me sitting on the window sill fuming over the fact that the windows are translucent at best and the tracks that the panes run on are filthy and no vacuum attachment is small enough to fit in there. This is a job for soap, water, an old toothbrush and some elbow-grease. I almost ended up in a tearful heap on the bed. I'm happy to say that the living room smells of Murphy's Oil soap - a comforting aroma. Despite this small victory and feeling of accomplishment, I still needed a nap in the early evening to calm my frayed nerves.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Dip and a Dead End


I quit my job recently; my official last day was August 27th. True to form I still had stuff to accomplish on my own time on the weekend. I was, however, never so light feeling on my way to the office as I was on Saturday the 28th; I knew it was over. I walked down residential streets and admired other people's gardens and the way the trees dappled the sunlight on the ground, but I digress.

I had a plan, at least it was the line I gave everyone: "I'm going to just take two weeks to empty my brain, maybe work on an alpaca farm, and then get to work figuring out what is next and start looking for a job." Funny thing about plans... Instead, I've spent the last two weeks with a constant low-grade to slightly more pronounced sense of guilt. I'm not doing enough, not knitting enough, not relaxing enough (yes, I know), not exercising enough, not cleaning the apartment enough, not cooking delicious meals enough. When I went up north to visit my parents, to help them out, I ended up being stressed the entire time about the state of their health. Not much helping went on. There was only one afternoon at the beach. So much for my fortnight of stress free end-of-summer fun.

I've been having stressful dreams, many work related, and a couple of nights I've woken up in the middle of the night. Last night was one such night. So, I got up just shy of 4 am and re-read "The Dip: A little book that teaches you when to quit (and When to Stick)" by Seth Godin.
I had bought the book at Swipe and read it about 3 years ago. Reading it again has given me insight into, or a way of visualizing, the reasons why I had to hand in my resignation letter on August 4th which, by the way, was not easy. Even though I knew I had to do it, I had butterflies in my stomach (or whole body actually - I was shaking) as I typed the letter. But, I marched into into the Head of Production's office and dropped off the envelope. There was no going back. It was such a neat, and scary, feeling to take the course of your life into your own hands in such an irrevocable and definite way. It felt pretty good - it felt like being alive.

So, Godin posits that there are two curves that can describe almost any situation where you are trying to achieve a goal. First, there is "the dip" where the initial learning curve is fun and quick, but then there is the dip where everything gets hard and you have to lean into it to get to the other side where the curve goes up and up towards success - where you are #1. The second curve is "the cul-de-sac," or dead end. The curve looks like the dip initially, but there is no up and up to #1 kind of success. In the cul-de-sac things don't improve.

I think that these two curves both can describe the position that I was in. I was a production manager in television and if I stayed in that position things were not going to change or improve; it was a dead end (for me - no judgements on others). In fact, most other production managing gigs would likely have ever dwindling budgets and schedules to manage. On the other hand, if I wanted to climb the ladder in tv, maybe become a producer and then an executive, then I would have been in the dip. I would have pushed through because the reward at the other end was worth it. The thing is, I knew I didn't want it. I don't love the end product enough, and that is important to me.


I highly recommend Seth Godin's book:

The store where I bought the book is one of my favourites in Toronto:

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The end of "The End of Food"

I think that I've had the book "The End of Food," by Paul Roberts http://www.theendoffood.com/ on the go for probably a year. I've read some of it, read entire other books, started still others, and gone back again since first opening the book. Recently, I decided to just finish the damned thing. I mean, it has been my topic of choice for the past 5 years or so; I should be able to do this.

It is a fact and figures laden look at how the current food system will fail (is failing) as the world's population swells to nearly 10 billion people. It is not a frothy thing. I wish I could make other people read this book, along with others, so they see a more educated, well put together, not to mention sober, argument for why we all need to change the way we eat. My drinking excursions with friends and peers usually degrade into a rant on one of a few topics: 1) bitching about work 2) fantasizing about being a small business owner with a knitting shop 3) Food politics 4) gastronomy.

Earlier this year, January I think, I read "Just Food" by James E. McWilliams and came to the conclusion that it was time to seriously reduce the amount of meat that I consume and, lo and behold, I actually acted on this conclusion. When I say "I" I actually mean my husband and I - two birds, one stone. We were not big meat consumers to begin with, or so I thought, but when at first we tried to only do meat once fortnightly it was a whole heck of a lot tougher than I had imagined. We relaxed the rule to once a week to get used to thoughtfully preparing delicious meals not centered on land animal protein. I may as well mention that I won't do meat alternatives because they are fake processed foods that are emblematic of what is wrong with the current agribusiness food system model.

We were ticking along quite nicely until we went to Morocco in April. Chicken was unavoidable. Chicken couscous, chicken tagine, chicken roasted on a spit - you get the drift. Then we came back to Toronto and work was hectic etc. etc. and now is the time to get motivated go back to thoughtfully preparing meals without meat again. Well, actually just not being lazy about food in general and making sure the cupboards and fridge are stocked is a main priority right now that requires effort. We need to move the last from the "effort" category to "habit" category. My two main weak points are breakfast and lunch. It is hard enough trying to get myself to the office (see previous post - yep still doing the same job), let alone getting breakfast and lunch sorted. End up wasting so much money on less than stellar cuisine at the establishments around work.

I am guilty of constantly craving a juicy hamburger. I had one yesterday. With a chocolate milkshake. The two do not cancel each other out to make a salad, as one person (the hamburger instigator) put it yesterday. But, "We must be the change we wish to see in the world," as Ghandi said. So I soldier on.

I finished the book. So now what? How do I effect change? I'm not satisfied simply by changing my own thought and behaviour patterns with regards to this issue. What is the next step? I'm putting that out into the blogosphere to see what comes back.