Friday, September 28, 2012

Mac'N'Cheese*

I won't lie - White on Rice Couple's stove top Mac'N'Cheese with chorizo sausage was major comfort for last winter when we needed major comfort.

But we don't always need the major intake of saturated fat without the pay off of loads of healthy nutrients.

Enter the Mac'N'Cheese* I mentioned in my post the other day. Mac and cheese in a squash based sauce. I've pinned the recipe here, if you want to try it yourself. But if you want the benefit of my experience, keep reading!
  • Remember the broth. I forgot, and the flavour was good, but flat. 
  • if you can, use a good sharp cheddar. We pretend to enjoy our bargain brand marble plastic, but it definitely shows it's weakness in these kinds of recipes.
  • that 9x9 dish? It better be a crazy tall dish! I used what I think is a 9x13 dish
  • roast the squash if you hate peeling squash as much as me. Just make sure that you cool it down before scraping out to avoid finger burns. 
  • Don't skimp on the spices
  • Don't taste enough squash on day 1? Just wait for the leftovers!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Shared Secret

My favourite quote from Margaret Atwood's oeuvre is:
When you are in the middle of a story it isn't a story at all, but only a confusion; a dark roaring, a blindness, a wreckage of shattered glass and splintered wood; like a house in a whirlwind, or else a boat crushed by the icebergs or swept over the rapids, and all aboard powerless to stop it. It's only afterwards that it becomes anything like a story at all. When you are telling it, to yourself or to someone else.
Margaret Atwood Alias Grace
I can think of about half a dozen critics off the top of my head, and without having touched a scholarly journal in half a year, that would make the comment, or a similar comment, that the protagonist, Grace, tells her story differently to each audience she is offered, so as to reflect the identity they wish her to embody.

I am starting to feel that this world of blogging is much the same. At least for me, I struggle daily with creating posts which take the confusion of my life and reflect back to you what you believe my life to be. It's not always so much of a conscious process, nor does it predominate even my subconscious process, but it certainly plays a role.

I became more aware of what I will call "the blogging facade" when I started being invited to read more private blogs. What I previously viewed with sinister eyes (many a private blog has linked to me in the past, leaving me unable to see what has been said, resulting in nothing more than suspicion of mockery and paranoia), I have now found to be a welcoming, and above all, genuine space -- a sanctuary amidst a technological world which thrives on insignificant details of minutiae (Instagram meal pictures, I'm looking at you....).

As I became more and more aware of this facade, I did see the practical nature of it all. First of all, there is the issue of safety. Details of where exactly we work, when we will be away from home, etc., are not a good idea to share. There are creeps out there. Second of all, we do respect other people's privacy. Whether it's the names of our husbands, our siblings faces, or details about our friends, we try to keep the focus on us, and keep them out of the direct spotlight.

I often wonder how much this third factor comes into play: how much to we keep private to maintain our blog facade? So often we get comfy in our niche and don't move, or only show the best and the brightest. Or, we share our wins and our losses, but not our everyday.

I'm not advocating absolute honesty, oversharing or blog re-direction, but simply asking you, the next time you write a post, think about the parts you aren't adding to your story. What do those details say about you?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Little Red Hen Kind of Day

Some of you may have caught my Twitter tirade on Friday. I was having what I like to call "little red hen day".

Logic dictates that if you give someone a choice of options, and they are not familiar with the work level of each, they will inevitably choose the hardest one. That is not a scientific fact, but a hypothesis proven true time and time again by my husband. My text to him, as I boarded the bus, read:

What do you want for supper? We have mac'n'cheese*, some kind of pork thing, spaghetti, and pizza on the menu. 

His read:
Mac'n'Cheese!

What he missed out was the asterisk which took the meal from KD or one-pot-stove-top-mac'n'cheese to a relatively healthy version involving cottage cheese, whole wheat noodles and squash. Oh, and a whole lotta work.

I scalded my fingers on freshly roasted butternut squash. It spilled all over the counter and onto the floor.

I swore.

I mashed the squash and mixed in the pasta, cheese and milk and poured it into the inevitably too small casserole dish and, of course, stepped in the pile of squash on the floor (it is very aptly named).

Again, I swore.

I shredded some cheddar to top it off, but took off more skin than cheese, and, as I applied pressure to the wound, I stepped on the pile of squash on the floor.

And for the third time I swore.

My husband is a smart man -- considered top of his class, even offered his choice of the top two internships to round out his program -- but even he couldn't navigate these stormy waters. After the second dose of swearing, he came out to see what was wrong, or if he could help, and I bit his head off.

After the last set of swearing, I waited not so patiently in front of the stove, waiting for him to come out to see how things were, getting angrier by the second, muttering under my breath: "whose going to help me make this mac'n'cheese*? Not he? Then who will eat this mac'n'cheese*? Not he!"

It seems the angrier I get, the more of a martyr I make myself. Accept help? But then I can't spend the next three days patting myself on the back for doing it alone, and guilting others for not having helped along the way.

Now the original Little Red Hen wasn't so much the self-promoting martyr, if I remember correctly. However, it has been some time since I gave any fairy tales a read. However, more recently to memory comes the Stinky Cheese Man and his fairly stupid tales, including the Little Red Hen who complains through the entire book that no one will help bake bread... and oh, that she doesn't get to tell her story in this book, too.

I fear the day that my niece (or, even worse, the day my own not-yet-conceived children) realize that more often than not, my martyrdom is akin to the character of parody and not that of the slightly more morally righteous original. I feel, however, that as long as I know the difference and which side of that paradigm I am treading on, I should be able to get along all right.

And maybe, just maybe, it wouldn't hurt to learn to say "yes" when someone does offer to help make the bread meal

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Running takes the snot out of ya!

Friday, at 11:25, I exited our file room and told the nearest person to make note of the time, as that was the moment I felt a cold coming on.

Of course, when one has a lively time on Friday night, and one does not feel so hot on Saturday morning, one needs said person to corroborate: at least some of it is legitimate, not self-induced sickness.

And when Monday night turns into building a big ol' nest of blankets on the couch just to maintain a decent body temperature, and has already depleted half the orange juice purchased just an hour earlier, it's bad news bears.

This week is NOT the week to be sick, for the record. With a new member of our family expected any day now (and no, not springing forth from my loins, if there are any of you out there wondering if that tidbit of news has any relation to my lack of outfit photography), I can't be sick. And this cold spreading through out our department? It appears to be a nasty one.

Advice is rampant
 - Sleep! Do nothing but sleep!
 - Here! Eat these oranges! All these oranges! So many oranges you'll get hives! (Ok, that was totally my own doing)
 - Eat spicy food!
 - Eat comfort food!
 - Take EmergenC
 - Take NeoCitron
 - Take a hot shower!

And of course, I had to be the rebellious type and do the one thing not advised: hit the gym.

I'm starting my third week of my membership to our onsite gym at work. It's not quite as easy as I thought it would be, being right there outside my office door. I don't want to get up early to go, because who wants to get to work early? I don't want to stay late to go, because why stay at work if they're not paying you overtime? But today, I tried something new. I ran on my lunch break. I figured limiting the amount of time I had might help to set my expectations low and not overexert myself.

My coworkers discouraged it (even once I explained I was intending to shower following my work out), fretted over me, and even tried to physically prevent me from going. But I went, with them shouting behind me: "Stop if you feel tired! Stop if you feel dizzy! Stop if you can't breathe"

I took it slow, averaging about 14mph, doing intervals of walking and running. And around the 15 minute mark on the treadmill, as the sweat (which did admittedly creep up much faster than usual) drew the germs out of my body, I felt healthy.

Sure, my face was beat red when I got back to work (it generally is after any work out), and sure I only managed 80% of what healthy-Cara could have done in that time, but it was worth it.

The only thing that felt better than running the cold out of me was the look on people's faces when they asked how my workout was (expecting to respond with an "I told you so"), and I said: "Meh, not bad... only ran 4km" and bounced away with a skip in my step.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Real Recipes made from Real Food

I spent a lot of time on the couch this weekend (one part self-induced, one part self-pity, one part common cold), which meant I watched the first two seasons of Daria and lazed around on Pinterest.

And of course, my hectic weekend schedule meant I just didn't have the time (and by time I mean energy) to make supper. Instead, I contributed by looking up recipes. On Pinterest. Yes, I am the best wife ever.

I'm sure many of you have seen my rants about this in one form or another, but I strongly believe they should have a certain vetting process for recipes on Pinterest.

Sure, a recipe may be a combination of more than one ingredient to make an edible meal. However, if I see one more recipe for "Ranch Dressing Dip" which contains:
1 pkg dried Ranch Dressing seasoning
Sour cream / mayonnaise / yogurt
I may scream.

This was not a recipe for Ranch dressing seasoning (which was my aim), but a recipe for people... too lazy? to look at the back of the package?

I think it's a fair bet to say "if it calls for a 'package' it's not a legitimate recipe"

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Updating an old look

In case you couldn't tell by the coffee tables from last week, I have a thing for the 70s. The best way to decorate a room with a 70s vibe? Use something from the 70s!

Ok, my dad likely built the first of these two bookshelves in the mid to late 60s. I can remember it being brown in the mid 80s, I believe. Then, they were a pale pale blue. Finally, as I was heading off to my very first apartment, my dad built a second bookshelf, and my mother and I decoupaged them, one with the pages from a Shakespeare collection and the other from pages of a dictionary that appears to be the precursor to Urban Dictionary. It was so me. In 2003. (It rhymes so it must be true).

But Cara in 2012? Not so much into the country / shabby chic / whatever you want to call it. In a fit of frustration at not being able to find a spot for the bookshelves that both fit physically, and fit aesthetically, I may have started peeling off the pages, without actually coming up with a plan. You know, because that's how all well decorated tales begin.


Needless to say, it was a mess. After a weekend with my hands fully saturated with chemicals,  and a touch of paint, I've completed one! It's a lot more work than I'd anticipated when I started, but so far I'm loving it! Here's hoping I'll like it for at least another 9 years!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Reasons we're the worst neighbours ever

Anyone that followed my blog a year or two ago can remember the awful neighbours we had in Regina, who shared their music, their fights, their dirty dishwater, and who can forget, their bedbugs with us.

As we crawled into bed last night for a relatively early Saturday night, Scott commented: "I think this is the first time that we've heard our neighbours." Sure enough, there was a faint sound of laughter and an acoustic guitar coming through the wall. "Oh ya, I hear that every Saturday night" I commented, "until 11. Then all will fall silent." With a nod Scott added: "Considerate neighbours." I believe we both drifted off to sleep undeterred by the music and voices.

An early Saturday night always leads to a busy and productive Sunday, so the quiet, considerate neighbours were appreciated. By 1:00, I had finished stripping a second bookshelf and was moving onto sanding them.

It didn't occur to me until the sander started up with a loud whir that a derivative of the whole "if everyone in the room seems normal, you must be the crazy one" might be true here... if everyone else is a great neighbour, maybe we're the terrible ones. After these last two weekends, I just might have to agree.

  • We spent last Sunday re-arranging furniture, moving it from one side to another and back again, until two hours later when we ended up with the first configuration we had tried that day. 
  • We decided to strip our bookshelves on our new, freshly painted balcony (in my defense, there were only two or three itty bitty spots where the colour lifted, and that might not make us bad neighbours as much as bad tenants). 
  • On quite likely one of the last nice summer Sundays of the year, the likes of which enjoyed by many of our senior citizen neighbours who entertain with tea on their balconies, taking in the soft breeze and the chip of birds, we pull out our power tools and let their motors rev and echo between the apartment buildings. 

 Of course, all of these reasons  only account for our behaviour over the last two weeks. There is, naturally, the issue of the remaining rust and oil slick snaking toward the storm drain from my now dead-car (which sat, after its death, in its parking spot for over a month), the screaming toddler who comes to visit, the 11pm nightly smoothie making racket, the 6am alarm clock that gets ignored until 7am... I could go on, but I fear I'm incriminating myself.

So dear neighbours, if you're tired of sawdust falling into your barbecue from the balcony above you, being awakened earlier than your retired life demands, or the mad dashes across the courtyard every weekday morning as I run late for the bus, again, please be kind. Don't report us to the on site management, the leasing agency down the street, or what have you. Instead, for a measly 20% down payment, we will gratefully leave your apartment building in quiet calmness and set up our own workshop in our first single-family dwelling place.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

In the meantime, the inbetween time

First of all, I love the song "I Walked In" by Brougham. Can't Hardly Wait may be my favourite movie from my teenage years and I basically lived with the soundtrack on repeat (that and Whatever It Takes. Shane West is my still my soulmate).

Where was I?

Of course.

I am desperate for a house. I miss getting ready for the day at my antique vanity (but it's too fragile, in my opinion, to move it too often, so it's in "storage" at my parents). I can't wait to be able to have a separate room for guests and for Scott's office. And a garage to store shovels and lawn chairs? I may dream about that at night.

But we're not there yet. We're working towards it, but it's a process. So in the meantime, this in between time? It's about making do. And the best way to be happy with what you've got? Make the most of it!

I set out to rearrange our space, now that my Macbook is replacing my desktop, as I won't be needing a formal desk space. But of course, as things shift around in the apartment, our lack of organization becomes apparent. And as you give everything its own little spot, the lack of character becomes obvious.

So over the next few weeks, I hope to accomplish many small projects on an EXTREME budget. Like less than $50 for an entire apartment.

And to give you an idea of some of the awesome projects I have ahead, this is one of the two end tables I picked up this last weekend for $5.98. Total. Yay! They're a little rough around the edges (literally) but I have a plan!