Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Trader Tuesday: Blue Menu

In Canada, we have a Big Chain Grocery Store where WH and I do most of our big-order grocery shopping. BCGS sells a line of healthy food called President's Choice Blue Menu, and I wanted to take the opportunity today to share some of our favourite items off of it.

1) Butter Chicken: The product line includes a frozen meal and a jar of the sauce in order that you can make your own meal with the same flavours at home. This is a particular favourite of WH, and is far more interesting than the standard frozen lunch.
2. Much like #1 above, the Indian Korma comes in a frozen meal or in a jar of sauce. The only downside of the sauce is that it is dairy-based, so once you've opened the jar, you have to use it all within just a few days. We make big batches of chicken for a week's lunches with this.

3. This apple-berry crumble is amazing. Individual portions that you heat up in the microwave for a couple of minutes make for a really lovely and easy dessert. We have topped this with a scoop of berry sherbet for extra yumminess.

4. Chocolate Ice Cream! How can you go wrong?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Best. Weekend. Ever.

Well, pretty close, anyway.

On Saturday night, WH and I attended an auction and dinner concert for one of the Colourful University choirs. We were attending as guests of the artistic director, in exchange for promising that we would bid on items and help the choir raise some money! And we did! We went home with $100 in gift certificates from a local pub and a really nice basket of gourmet coffee.

But the real excitement came during the live auction. One of the items up for bid was a chance to conduct the choir in concert during their season next year. I have always wanted to do this. So I started bidding. Eventually, it came down to me and another lady pushing the bids up $5 at a time. The drama and tension were high. And I won!! Actually, eventually we called it a tie, and will both get the chance to conduct next year!! I am very excited!!

And then on Sunday, I woke up to find that for the first time since November, I AM NOT IN LAST PLACE IN THE HOCKEY POOL! Given that at one point, I was 45 points behind the second last person, this is indicative of a pretty amazing comeback!

How was YOUR weekend?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Things that make me happy

From www.time.com

(WASHINGTON) — NASA's online contest to name a new room at the international space station went awry. Comedian Stephen Colbert won.

The name "Colbert" beat out NASA's four suggested options in the space agency's effort to have the public help name the addition. The new room will be launched later this year.

NASA's mistake was allowing write-ins. Colbert urged viewers of his Comedy Central show, "The Colbert Report" to write in his name. And they complied, with 230,539 votes. That clobbered Serenity, one of the NASA choices, by more than 40,000 votes. Nearly 1.2 million votes were cast by the time the contest ended Friday.

NASA reserves the right to choose an appropriate name. Agency spokesman John Yembrick said NASA will decide in April, but will give top vote-getters "the most consideration."

I, for one, am hopeful that NASA sees the genuine funniness of the situation, and names the new room as the public has requested. Wonderful.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Book Review

In Praise of Slow by Carl Honore.

This is a very interesting book.

I assumed, on picking it up, that the book was going to be a fairly standard description of all the reasons why it's important to slow down and not worry so much about how quickly things are moving around us, that it would be a 200-pages of lecture on why the way that we live and the world that we've created are bad for our health.

But it's not that. The book doesn't ask the reader to make any unreasonably dramatic shifts in behaviour or attitude; the book simply asks that we think about the things that we do, and embrace opportunities, where they exist, to enjoy those things more completely. And then the book provides examples of the ways that other people and communities have put those thoughts into action, covering such topics as food, work, sex, health and exercise. And it's pretty hard to argue with the underlying theme of the book, which is that if we do a few things just a little bit slower, we might live longer and be happier. Hard to find fault with that, eh?

The book is not an overly technical or difficult read, and in fact, there is real joy in reading Honore's descriptive passages, especially those about Italian food. (DROOOL)

It's been kind of a tough month around here... WH and I have been going full steam with choral commitments for both Orchestral Choir and Chamber Choir this month, and we've had our bathroom renovation, and WH has been travelling, and we have the attempted sale of our house looming, winter won't seem to go away... it's just been very busy and we're both very tired. We suggested to each other that it might be time to find some activity that doesn't have anything to do with anything that we can just enjoy together in relative peace. I think the understanding that we have a choice in that, that we can choose to shut out the craziness around us and take time for ourselves, while a tough lesson, is the strongest message I took from Honore's book.

Wishing for you all some slow moments!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Friday Five: Hopeful Signs

111213My beloved speaks and says to me: “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; for now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away. Song of Solomon 2:10-13

Today's Friday Five from the Songbird at the Revgals asks us to list five signs of hope, on this first day of spring.

1.Little tiny brown birds (my favourite kind) popping up once again in the branches of the hedge outside our dining room window. We have been a little bit lax in keeping the feeder filled through the winter for the chickadees, but it's definitely time to fill 'er up for the new arrivals.

2. The introduction of music for Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter into folders for Church Choir. This means, among other things, "The Lamentations of Jeremiah," Allegri's "Miserere," Mozart's "De Profundis," and the Hallelujah Chorus! AND, new rehearsal processes for Chamber Choir and Orchestral Choir for May concerts!

3. My summer vacation got approved this week... three weeks away in July for a road trip to National Capital City with my husband.

4. Snow melting off the top of the barbecue, which means that soon, RIBS!

5. A great game by Prairie City hockey team last night, badly needed in a very tight playoff race!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Recipe for a Nice Evening

1 Dijon-encrusted rack of lamb (I'm pretty sure that this is what I would cook if I was ever on Hell's Kitchen and had to cook my "signature dish")
1 heaping dish of mashed potatoes
1 bunch of asparagus
1 bottle of nice wine from Washington
2 scoops of chocolate ice cream
2 cuddlesome cats
1 project (hanging curtains)
1 Victor Borge Special

... a pretty nice way to spend the first evening we've had at home together in a long time.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Blogging Update

As in, update about blogging...

I miss it. I'm having a tough time finding time for it these last couple of weeks with the big weekend for Chamber Choir that just passed. (Went GREAT, by the way!) And as a result of the big weekend, we haven't really done anything in the way of grocery shopping, the house has been a mess, we're behind on house projects, and it's taken me 6 days to do 4 loads of laundry.

There are lots of blog posts rolling around in the old noggin'... I hope to find some time for them soon!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Stock Rant #1

Do you have stock rants? You know, on topics you that simply can't let go by without getting your two cents in? Arguments that you've carefully honed over years and years of being disgruntled?

I have several.

Today, I bring you: Chorus's Rant About Young Dancers

Ready? Here we go...

To begin, I started in ballet at the age of four. This was the age when my mother discovered me walking around the house on my toes. Not on my tippy-toes, but on my actual toe-knuckles, as it were. Even the thought of it makes me cringe now. Anyhoo, my mother took me to ballet class and my teacher told me that I was never to walk on my toes like that again, and I never did.

I danced ballet from the time I was four until I was about sixteen. After that, I did two years of modern dance. Intermittently, I dabbled in other things like tap and jazz and whatnot. I stopped dancing when I was 18 just because I was ready to do other things.

So here's what I believe. I believe that dance is one of the best and most powerful ways to teach young children about music, story-telling, creativity, rhythm and movement. I believe that dance makes a person very aware and very familiar with his/her own body. I believe that ballet is the best form of dance for building strength, teaching technique and laying foundations for a dance education. If pressed really hard, I would tell you that I don't believe children should be taking anything but ballet for the first 5 or 6 years of their dance education.

In short, I believe that my dancing had a wonderful and profound effect on my life.

I work on a campus that hosts, two or three times a year, different dance festivals. Our student association building becomes a teeming hive of little ones and their mothers carrying garment bags and makeup kits. (I saw a woman walking through the building the other day, surrounded by little girls, carrying a stuffed horse... I was sorry I was going to have to miss that routine.) These festivals have a wide variety of categories... tap, jazz, hip-hop, musical theatre, ballet, modern, solo, duet, trio, big groups, little groups, etc.

I remember these festivals well. But when I look at them unfolding in front of me now, I see a very different scene than the one that existed when I took part. I see an ocean of little girls who don't look like little girl dancers. They look like tiny imitations of big-girl dancers, with too much makeup on, belly-baring half-tops and hot pants in loud colours. I see choreography that is not designed to show off little girls dancing, but rather to intended to demonstrate how cute it is when 6 year olds act "sexy."

I see very little that is beautiful and even less that is artistic.

Now, granted, these are not my kids. And maybe if they were my kids I would feel all googly-eyed and thrilled about them. But I look around and all I feel is profoundly sad.

I know that dance, and ballet in particular, can be overtly and unapologetically harsh to little girls about their body images and self-esteem. I've seen it. And it's awful. But surely teaching little girls that there is entertainment value in a group of six-year olds slapping their rear-ends, thrusting their hips, and casting "come hither" looks at the audience is no better? It seems to me that Precious has replaced beauty and innocence in the way that little girls dance.

I look around and I ask, "Where is the Degas painting in THIS?"

The Rehearsal, Degas

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Bonding with Mama Cat

So there I was, minding my own business and trying to get ready for work the other morning, when I noticed that Mama Cat was fleeing about the house at top speed in the way that cats do when they're not sure what do about something. (Remind me sometime to tell the story about Baby Cat and the boot.)

Mama Cat would sprint full out for about 20 seconds and then stop and scrabble pathetically at her own rear end and then take off again. When I finally caught her, I discovered, much to my chagrin, that she had... oh... how to say it.... left the litter box before finishing the job.

And because she's a cat, and she and Baby Cat have a combined IQ of about 6.5, and only if they're standing next to each other and there's a good dose of static electricity in the air, all she could think to do about it was run around.

So, keeping a firm hand on her, I grabbed a kleenex and dealt with the problem. And she SCREAMED at me... funnily enough, in a tone that was part "OW OW OW MY BUM OW OW OW" and part "THAT WAS MINE; GIVE IT BACK!"

I did remember, albeit not until some time later, to tell WH that one of her scrabbling stops had taken place on his lap top...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Trader Tuesdays: Our Chili

This is the chili that WH and I make. It's ideal for feeding the two of us lunches over a busy week, or feeding 10 guys picking hockey teams for our pool. It's easy and straightforward and yummy.

1. Brown between 1 and 2 lbs of ground beef. I use lean or extra-lean. I often add salt, pepper and the first dose of chili powder here, but if you wait until the whole chili is assembled, that's ok too. Drain the fat, and add the beef to the slow-cooker.

2. To the slow-cooker, add some quantity of beans. (Make sure to drain liquid from cans first!) We often just use a can of mixed beans, but this last time, I put in a can of kidney beans and a can of chick-peas. I like lots of beans. The older I get, the more I appreciate a good bean. Adding extra beans to this recipe has the added benefit of absorbing liquid to keep the recipe from getting too soupy.

3. Also to the slow-cooker, add:
  • one chopped sweet pepper
  • one cup of frozen corn
  • some sliced mushrooms
4. Add one jar of tomato-based pasta sauce, and a significant quantity of salsa. These are both excellent ways to get other interesting things into the chili, depending on what kind of pasta sauce and what kind of salsa you add!

5. Get serious about seasoning. Salt, pepper, chili powder (don't be shy), and I also add garlic.

Cook in slow cooker for at least 4 or 5 hours; longer is fine. If you have the opportunity, stir and taste for chili-ness.

Note that for this recipe, pretty much any ingredient can be replaced with something else. For example, if you don't eat beef, use ground turkey. Don't like sweet peppers or mushrooms? Zucchini, onions or eggplant. Can't find pasta sauce and/or salsa? Canned tomatoes (with liquid) and some tomato paste work too.

The only things that really need to be present are the beans and the chili powder. Beyond that, do whatever you want!

We top our chili with cheddar cheese, but sour cream is nice too.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Week in Point Form

  • WH is away this week at Big Choral Conference where the corn grows high. Having a good time, and buying music and schmoozing. It is +30C where WH is this week, whereas I could not find our front walk this morning because of a massive dump of snow and subsequent wind. Not. Amused.
  • Chamber Choir has a big concert next Saturday that is being recorded both for a radio broadcast and for a CD project. Lots of work to get last minute details ready for the concert, get last tickets sold, learn those last few notes, and make sure enough volunteers have been secured for front of house.
  • I'm feeling somewhat guilty that I did not shovel the aforementioned buried sidewalk before I left this morning. Poor mailman.
  • I'm currently in the midst of the massive post-renovation clean-up, which requires that every. single. surface. in. the. house. get dusted. Last night was the dining room, including all the knick-knacks on the mantle, and the books in the bookcase, and the intricate nooks and crannies on our dining room table.
  • I think that our hardwood is going to need to be swept (the old fashioned way) and then vacuumed and then swiffered and then mopped before it looks semi-normal again.
  • I think the cats are tired of being dusty.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Many thanks to Mandy at First You Make a Roux for nominating me for the Kreativ Blogger award!

Here are the rules:

List 7 things that you love and then pass the award on to 7 people...tagging them and letting them know they won! You can copy the picture of the award and put it on your sideboard letting the whole wide world know you are KReATIV!

Seven things I love:
1. My new bathroom.
2. Cheese.
3. Fairmont hotels.
4. Going out for a really nice dinner at a fancy restaurant.
5. Staying in and cooking a really nice dinner at home.
6. Walking.
7. Roasted Potatoes.

And in turn, I nominate:
De Koboldorum Rebus
Ramblings of a Covert Canine
Crimson Rambler
Destined to be the Crazy Cat Woman
Tales from the Shoeless Seminarian
I'm Still Me
Mine Unbelief