Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Sweetness



I've been on the receiving end of a lot of sweetness lately. This is my last week of teaching Grade 8 French. We're doing exams this week and once I get them marked and the report card comments done, I'm finished! I came home from the last day of class and my sweet daughter Ashley had a little package ready for me - this card, a magazine, a DVD set of Corner Gas (Canadian comedy) and chocolate! I'm not really retiring - I just do lots of things for short periods of time!
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A good friend, Karen, sent me this decorated candle. I love the music paper and the beaded wire detail. It looks so lovely burning on my kitchen windowsill. Tonight I moved it to the table to enjoy during dinner.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Layers



I was looking at the pictures from our trip to France last June, remembering and dreaming. This stone wall evokes the warmth of sunshine, the smell of rosemary and the sight of the Pont du Gard. It was taken by the parking lot there.

I love the layers and textures in this photo - the varied browns, charcoals and taupes. The hidden places between the stones. Everywhere, when I take the time to look, the world's complexity is beautiful.
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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Tulip Love



A tulip doesn't strive to impress anyone.
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Friday Night Dinner - Raclette




I have always been fascinated by the way people eat in the books I read. When I read the Heidi books as a child I thought the meal she had with her grandfather of boiled potatoes and cheese toasted over the fire was picturesque and delicious. When I discovered that such a meal was called raclette, and was still eaten in France and Switzerland, I wanted to try it.

When we lived in Ecuador, we enjoyed a raclette meal with Sandra and André, she French, and he Swiss. They had the modern version of Heidi's grandfather's toasting fork and fire - an electric appliance with a heating element. What fun! When they left Ecuador, I purchased the appliance from them and brought it back to Canada with me. I've seen them in stores here now.

It's a make your own meal and lots of fun. Relaxing for a Friday night. All the cook has to do is cut up bits of vegetables - mushrooms, red pepper, onion, cooked broccoli, potatoes - anything goes. Everyone chooses what they want to eat and sautés their veggies in individual dishes. Then you can add ham, eggs, cheese and put it under the raclette broiler for a toasty treat. Serve with popovers and pickles, or a green salad.
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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Thursday Night Dinner - Sausage and Pepper Pasta



Sausage and Pepper Pasta

1 lb hot (or mild) Italian turkey sausage
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
4 red or yellow sweet peppers (or a combination)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 - 14 oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup tomato juice
1/4 cup water
1 tsp dried basil
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup sour cream

Cut sausage into bite-sized pieces and brown in hot skillet with vegetable oil. Seed peppers and cut into strips. Add to skillet and continue to cook, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes. Add garlic. Sauté 1-2 minutes longer. Add diced tomatoes, tomato juice, water and seasonings. Simmer over low heat until peppers are tender-crisp and sausage is cooked. Add sour cream just before serving.

Serve over corkscrew pasta, or your favourite shape. I like to use whole-wheat pasta.
Fast, easy and delicious.
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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Wednesday Night Dinner - Dutch Meatball Soup



What's better on a cold winter's night than soup and bread for supper? Hmm. I love soup of all kinds. This one comes together quickly.

Dutch Meatball Soup

3/4 lb extra lean ground beef
1/4 cup fine breadcrumbs
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 T soy sauce

Mix above ingredients together and form into 1 1/2 inch meatballs. Set aside.

In large soup pot, over medium heat, sauté 1 chopped onion in 2 T oil. Add 1 cup diced celery. Sauté until crisp-tender. Add 1/2 head of green cabbage, sliced thinly. Add 4 cups of beef broth (low sodium) and 2 cups of water. Salt to taste, place 1 bay leaf in pot. Simmer vegetables until tender, about 20 minutes. While soup is boiling, add the meatballs, one by one. Simmer another 15 minutes.

Add cooked noodle (egg noodles) if desired.
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Forest Creations



In a quiet corner of the forest, something started to grow. What its purpose is, I don't know. But quietly, steadily, without fanfare, it did what it was supposed to do. And a few weeks ago, I passed by. I was struck by the almost grotesque shape and the colours blending so beautifully. There in the forest was a marvel of creation.

And it made me think about how often I do things that I don't really need to be doing. What was I created to do and be? These are the questions that I have pondered throughout life and especially in the quieter days of mid-winter, a time of dormancy, of being still, of preparing to grow something new.

I love making things. But I can't create anything like this - only God can.
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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Tuesday Dinner



Well, I see that this looks very similar to last night's meal, but it's not, really. It's a sole fillet on roasted carrots and leeks with a yummy garlic/butter/orange sauce. There's a triangle of oven-toasted tortilla with seasonings on it, and steamed broccoli.

The sauce for the fish is one I got off the Food Network - Everyday Italian. Don't be scared by the anchovies. They melt down with the garlic and orange and don't taste fishy at all.

Roasted Carrots and Leeks

6 medium to large carrots, peeled and sliced on the diagonal, about 1/4 inch thick
4 leeks, trimmed and washed thoroughly, cut in half lengthwise and then sliced into 2 inch pieces
3 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 410 degrees. In skillet, heat 1 1/2 Tablespoons of the oil over medium heat. Add the carrots and pan roast until starting to colour on the bottom - about 5 minutes. Turn and let cook another 5 minutes. Remove carrots from pan and turn onto rimmed baking sheet. Place in heated oven to continue cooking. Meanwhile, add remaining olive oil to skillet and sauté leeks until just starting to colour, about 5 minutes. Stir and cook another 5 minutes. Place in oven on same baking sheet as carrots. Bake about 15 minutes more until tender.

Just before serving, cook the sole fillets and sauce.

Citrus Bagna Cauda Sole Fillets

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 Tablespoons butter
4 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
1 tsp orange zest
3 Tablespoons orange juice

sole fillets
olive oil
salt and pepper

Heat oil and butter. Add garlic and anchovies. Cook over medium heat (don't let it brown) until garlic is tender and anchovies are mostly dissolved. Stirring as they cook helps. Add orange juice and zest and heat through.
Meanwhile, in same skillet as you cooked the vegetables, heat another Tablespoon of olive oil and quickly fry the sole fillets - however many you need. Season the sole to taste.

To serve, pile up carrots and leeks, top with a sole fillet and drizzle a generous amount of sauce over top.
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Monday, January 21, 2008

Monday Night Dinner - Easy Baked Chicken



I got home from work at 5:10 and had this on the table at 6:00. Baked Chicken, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Sautéed Vegetable Medley, Green Salad. Nothing fancy but filling and delicious.

Baked Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup melted butter
3/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (or use 1 T dried)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Place chicken in 9 x 11 baking dish. Spread mustard over the tops of the chicken breasts. Drizzle with 1/2 of the melted butter. Combine the breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, parsley and Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle over the chicken breasts. Drizzle with remaining butter. Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes or until done.

Sautéed Vegetable Medley

3 sweet peppers, I used one each of red, yellow and orange, cut into strips
6 medium large mushrooms, sliced
1 cup sugar snap peas, trimmed and cut in half
2 T olive oil
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated Swiss cheese (or whatever you have on hand)

Heat the olive oil in a skillet, add mushrooms, peppers and snap peas. Sauté for about 5 minutes or until just starting to be tender. Add balsamic vinegar and remove from heat. Season to taste. Spoon into oven proof casserole dish, sprinkle with cheese and bake for about 10 minutes at 400 degrees.
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Sunny and Cold



I won't complain about the cold because I am just so happy to see blue skies and sunshine. And it's not that cold - just hovering around the freezing mark, which for Vancouver Island is cold.

And it's my last week of teaching grade 8 French! Although I'm going to miss it, I'm also looking forward to the other things I'm doing - more writing, women's ministry at church, and homekeeping.

I've joined the 5-night dinner challenge at Carrie Sommer's blog. I'm always on the lookout for delicious dinner ideas. Go on over and join in the fun!

The hardest part is going to be remembering to take photos.
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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Tulips



I know it's still the middle of January. I know that winter will linger on for a month or more. But aren't they pretty? They sit on my breakfast table, bright and smiling with the promise of spring.

I'm a believer in not rushing time, in enjoying the moment. It took me a long time to learn that. And I do find beauty and delight in all of the seasons, even the monotone shades of winter. I try to buy seasonal produce - root vegetables and squashes in the winter. Somehow, eating those crunchy strawberries cultivated to travel far seems ridiculous - and they certainly don't taste anything like the juicy sweet ones of summer.

Buying these tulips seems a bit like eating summer strawberries in winter. But I still think they are oh, so pretty.
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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Sweet Pillow



I stitched this together this week - another Winterbella project from Teresa McFayden. It's sitting on a chair in my front hallway, making me smile each time I pass through.
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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Time

 


Winter is the time for comfort.
It is the time for home. (Edith Sitwell)

What are some of your wintertime comforts? Here are a few of mine...

1. sitting with my back to a glowing fire
2. coming in from the cold to a warm home
3. chocolate
4. reading in the evening
5. hand sewing/crocheting with my back to a glowing fire
6. soup - I love the smell, the taste, the creation of it
7. dinnertime with my family
8. tea with anyone
9. admiring the elegance of leafless trees
10. fresh flowers, especially white ones like tulips and freesias
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Monday, January 14, 2008

Hope

I am having so much fun with the Winterbella crafts designed by Teresa McFayden. I don't have time to do all of them right now, but this is one I completed last night. It will sit on a side table in my living room for awhile and can easily be changed or taken apart.



Hope sings, sometimes ever so quietly, at other times with raucous joy. Without hope life is silent and colourless.



Be joyful in hope!
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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Winter's Night



Brew me a cup for a winter's night,
For the wind howls loud and the furies fight;
Spice it with love and stir it with care,
And I'll toast our bright eyes, my sweetheart fair.
(Minna Thomas Antrim)

Today was a day of quiet pleasures - church in the morning, then warming soup for lunch and a long walk in January gray. Helping my daughter with some sewing, puttering around the house and now, a quiet time with cinnamon hot chocolate with my love.
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Friday, January 11, 2008

Winter White

Where we live there's not much white about winter. Just gray skies and dark days of rain. I was reading Angela's post about winter whites over at Cottage Magpie where she talked about her winter whites. That inspired me to look around for my own.



White picture frames with a painted carving above it in our bedroom.



I love our winter bed. One of my favourite places to be is snuggled under a warm duvet with cool air from the open window drifting over my face while I listen to the rain dripping outside.




I like the black and white contrast of our staircase. I painted the handrail black this past summer and I'm so glad I did.



But this is the winter white I'd love to see - the Eiffel Tower with snow on it. This poster is pinned above my computer screen in my office for dreaming.
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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Theme for 2008



I made a small collage last night to hang in my office/studio. The words are my theme for 2008. The more I make collages (and I've only made a few), the more I enjoy them. Time zipped by as I cut, rearranged, pasted and embellished.

I signed up for Teresa McFayden's WinterBella magazine - a new craft project every Monday, Wednesday and Friday of January. This collage is based on the first project. It's so much fun!
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Monday, January 07, 2008

Pretty Bottles



Over the holidays, during my days off school, I created these "à la Anna Corba." I save the bottles from sauces, vinegars and such when they have interesting shapes such as these. One of my favourite things to do with them is to line 3 or 5 of them up on my kitchen windowsill and poke a single flower stem into each one.

These are intended for a friend - I just need to get them into the mail.
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Saturday, January 05, 2008

Home again

 


It was a wonderful getaway. We hiked, mostly in the rain, our waterproof pants and jackets rustling through the woods. I've always had the desire to be able to walk silently through the woods like the First Nations people of old - quiet on mocassined feet. That is not to be.
The woods and beaches are full of evocative aromas - fir and cedar mingle with rotting leaves and black earth. Sea kelp lies in strands on the beach. Driftwood, oceans of it, strewn upon the rocks and sand gives off the breath of sodden wood.
This photo is of one of the bridges over Deception Pass at the north end of Whidbey Island. I like the punch the Coke delivery truck gives.

 


Quiet, intricate beauty in the woods.

School begins on Monday - just another few weeks until I'm done. I have mixed emotions - I love teaching, especially French, but other things call me.
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Happenings Around Here

Not quite two weeks ago there was a baby shower. The mother-to-be is our youngest daughter. Her elder sister and sister-in-law and I ho...