Thursday, March 22, 2012

When in Doubt - Sugar

My husband and I recently hosted my sister-in-law and my niece and nephew for a few days over March break. They camped out on an air mattress and the couch for two nights in our one bedroom apartment. I have to say that we've gotten it down to an almost seamless conversion from day to night to day again. I was really happy to have them for a visit but I have to admit to a bit of stress surrounding what to prepare to eat because I knew I had sensitive palates to contend with. The first night S-I-L brought some trout and I made a big baby spinach salad with a tahini-sesame dressing and not everyone ate the spinach salad. Strike one.

Even though I was doing my cleanse diet and I believe one should make food that all people can partake in at a meal I decided to make homemade mac and cheese. I mean, how can one go wrong with all those carbs doused in a cheesy sauce, right? Wrong. My feelings of self-worth plummeted, I jest - sort of, as one plate of food remained virtually untouched. The reason: it was too cheesy! At least there was one ravenous eater who had second helpings. There is a strange rule that the more you try to ensure that everyone loves what you prepare the more chances that you will make mistakes you wouldn't normally make. When I put the mac and cheese under the broiler to brown the top I moved on to frying sprouted tofu for myself and the next thing I knew the smoke alarm was going off and the parmesan-bread crumb topping was black. I picked it off and tasted to see that all was still fine. It was but I have to say that it wasn't the best mac and cheese I'd ever made - I think it has something to do with not tasting it enough because of the cleanse diet. It needed more dijon and salt. So where am I at now? Right, strike two.

I knew it was time to bring in a pinch hitter: sugar. Oh yeah, and peanut butter and his good friend milk chocolate. I decided to make the Salted Peanut Butter Cookies from Orangette's blog. I'd made them before and had confidence in the recipe. I did the trick where you scoop out the cookie dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and stuck them in the freezer so that I had 30+ cookies ready to bake into small batches over the next few weeks. It's a practice in restraint. I baked up the first batch the morning of our guests' last day and offered them at lunch. My confidence in the cookie wavered as I thought of the salt. What if they think it's too salty, too different? Will the youngest think it's weird? I let them know that it is supposed to be a bit salty on purpose and crossed my fingers. My S-I-L, a knowing mother, let my niece try a bite of her cookie to see if she liked it before she got her own. My niece said, "I like it. I don't think it's salty." Then as we were loading up their car I handed over a cookbook for them to borrow and my niece looked up at me and asked, "Is the cookie recipe in there?" Her shoulders and her mouth drooped in the most dramatic way when I said no. Home Run.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

New Places and an Herbal Tea

Today is a gorgeous day in Toronto and is supposed to reach a high of 14C, which is the same temperature that Firenze is supposed to reach. I know this because I keep a few foreign city profiles on my iphone weather app just because they are places I wish I could just be •snap• like that. And boy oh boy do I have itchy feet right now.

But I’m most definitely still here so I’ve been researching what kind of jobs are available and reading up on career reinvention because I feel a different kind of energy (one that doesn’t come from caffeine or sugar since they are verboten for a few more weeks) than I have been feeling. I quit my last job-job in 2010 and have been doing some freelance work that I do from home, which technically is a job but one that has always felt like a temporary one. The thing is, until recently, and lack of work might have something to do with it, I’ve had this urge to do something more.

So I’m researching jobs and seeing what’s out there and since I have itchy feet I can’t resist looking up international opportunities. I’ve learned that I’m not too old to get work/travel visas to at least a couple of countries. I’ve come across house sitting websites (here’s one) and seen postings for long term engagements at houses in the remote hills of an Italian village and others in the south of France. The idea of living rent free, especially in a foreign villa, is very appealing to one who has a tight cash flow and is trying to pay off debt. It makes me happy to just know that these opportunities are out there. It gets the creative juices flowing in a think about alternative routes kind of way – even if I don’t leave Canadian soil for a while.

While I haven’t gone anywhere new and done anything different I am in a new place, a very different place than I was a year ago. I’m feeling, I almost dare not say it, an optimism; the slim edge of confidence has wedged itself into my mind. I know I’ve still got a long way to go but when it comes to personal growth I hope that I never stop traveling.

Tisane for pondering career reinvention and international travel

One doesn't need caffeinated drinks to have a nice hot cuppa to accompany all this pondering and searching. I’ve started quite the collection of herbs, roots, and flowers to keep the taste buds tantalized and the caffeine cravings at bay. Recently I made a particularly tasty one and I wanted to share.


The players:

Dried ginger root

Nettle

Spearmint

Licorice Root

Lavender


Let steep longer than you would a normal tea (8-10 mins) to give the roots more time to infuse the water. Eyeball it, play around with the proportions to your liking, and, most of all, enjoy!