Sunday, June 30, 2013

Back In The Kitchen

If you happened to pop by this little corner of the internet yesterday you know that BF and I just got back from St. John's a couple days ago.  We were there for nearly a week so, as we usually do before we leave home, in the week before we left we used up all our groceries so nothing would go bad.  Of course this also meant a big grocery trip was in order upon our return.

So yesterday morning BF sat with our morning coffees and made our grocery list.  As always, it involved a scene like this:

BF and I like to plan meals for a few days or a week in advance and build our list around that.  Of course we like to try new and different things and sometimes we consult our cookbooks for inspiration.

After all was said and done, groceries gotten, beer and wine glasses full, we settled into our teeny kitchen to make our Saturday supper - Sesame Beef Noodles with Oyster Sauce and Dumplings!

We made the dumplings first.  They were much easier than we expected.  We shredded a packed cup of white cabbage, minced two green onions and a two inch cube of ginger (that was about twice the amount the recipe suggested but we like to live on the wild side) and crushed a couple cloves of garlic.  We mixed it all up in a bowl along with a 3/4 cup of ground pork, about a tablespoon of Japanese soy sauce, a couple teaspoons of mirin and some white pepper.

 Next we doled out spoonfulls of the mixture into wonton wrappers we lay on the palms of our hands.

Using our fingers, we wet the outer edges of the wrappers.  This helps to keep the edges together when you press them into each other to seal them.

And that's it!  They are made!  We put them aside and got ready for the entree.

We sliced the beef thinly and made a simple marinade of a couple tablespoons of soy sauce, a couple teaspoons of sesame oil and a couple teaspoons of sake.  We let it soak for over and hour but you can cut it down to fifteen minutes if you are in a hurry.  Meanwhile, we got the rest of the ingredients ready.

We snapped off the woody ends from a bunch of asparagus and cut the stalks into one inch bits, minced four cloves of garlic and another chunk of ginger, and thinly sliced about half of a large red onion.  We also steamed half a package (about 9 oz) of Chinese egg noodles.

The rest is super quick - on high, we heated some oil in a large skillet and stir fried the asparagus for about a minute, then dumped in the beef and marinade.  We cooked ours for only a minute or so since we like medium to rare beef.  Then we put the asparagus and beef in a bowl and returned the skillet to the stove.

Next we put in the rest of the veggies.

They got fried up until the onions were soft, at which point we added a few tablespoons of beef stock, two more of the sake and a few tablespoons of Oyster Sauce (we just used a bottled sauce).  As soon as it boiled we returned the beef and asparagus and tossed those noodles in as well.

As for the dumplings, we lightly fried them on both sides to gain a bit of colour, then added enough water to just cover the bottom of the pan, and covered it for a few minutes to steam them until the skins were a bit see-through.

YAY!!!  Everything was sooooooo yummy, and we were super excited at the success we achieved in our first ever attempt at homemade dumplings.  This will NOT be the last time - dumpling pros, that'll be us soon!

Till next time friends!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

St. John's 

So BF and I got back from a little vacation in St. John's, Newfoundland a few days ago and are still missing it.  For one, we had great weather there, sunny to the point where we both got a little pink from the sun, something I haven't even considered a possibility in Halifax since "summer" started.

Second, it was just such a great place to spend time in.  The people are amazing, so kind and funny and the most gracious hosts.  The place itself is stunningly beautiful.  The restaurants can rival anything any city ten times its size can offer, as can the shops downtown.  

We arrived in the afternoon and my dear friend D and her baby W met us at the airport and gave us a quick tour before dropping us at our B&B.  We got settled in and right away went strolling downtown.  

We'd made reservations for an amazing restaurant weeks before and didn't have a lot of time, so just hung out in a little park close by, dedicated to the two types of dogs who get their names from this fine province - the Labrador and the Newfoundland.  I feel a particular affinity for the Lab, a breed my family has kept close and dear for years.  

That same park provided this view of Signal Hill:

Soon enough, time came for supper at:

Raymonds has recently been named the best new restaurant in Canada, a big deal when you consider the size of our great nation, but I tell you what - the claims did not set us up for disappointment.  We started with the charcuterie plate which I was too excited about to remember to record.  But then came:

This one was mine - Arctic Char with pureed salsify, roasted veg and a lobster tail garnish.  BF had the duck - confit croquette with roasted veg, carrot puree, quinoa and duck jus.

Oh. My. God.  The service was amazing, the view spectacular, the food unbelievable.  Raymond's is a place you might have to save up for, for a special occasion, but it will not disappoint.

After a truly special meal, we strolled to the legendary George Street to see what we could find for live music.  First we ended up at Fat Cat.  Sadly I can not tell you the names of the performers, but they were fun, plus check out the paintings on the wall.  

After a while we decided to move on to Bridie Molloy's for some more traditional music.

While we were there, we also witnessed part of the game:

Sorry lil bro, maybe next year.

So our first night in Newf was a success.  We got a peek at the gorgeous scenery to come, the amazing food and the music scene on George Street.

We walked back to our B&B by the light of the moon, a day away from being the supposed Super Moon.  

More later friends, so much fun to talk about.....

Till next time!

Friday, June 21, 2013

A Few Of My Favourite Things (The Home Edition)

I've been a slack blogger as of late, but it's not that it's not often on my mind.  I had the idea for this post ages ago and have snapped photos here and there but have been kind of lazy at compiling them I guess.  Sorry folks, and friends from away.  But here I am and here, at last, are some photos, little glimpses of our house and the things and spaces we love.

Our living room is definitely the most finished and coziest part of the house right now.  Before we got our awesome dining room table this was, and mostly still is, the room we spend the most time in.

We have lots of our favourite things hanging out here.
Pine table from Indonesia, a gift from an old friend.  Still has bunny chews all over that I just don't have the heart to paint over.  
Arlo the Robot Lamp

Tunes - you want 'em, we got 'em.

Little Dia de Muertos characters we found in Kenzington Market.
When BF and I go away, we like to collect cool little stones and the such from the places we go.
Tiles I painted to look like a sunset, an abstract painting found abandoned near a friend's elevator, a carved wooden lizard BF brought from Australia, a red beaded candle holder I made ages ago, an WWII artillery shell from Belgium, carved into a beautiful vase, a mosaic jar from my friend S.
Then there is the Green Room / dining room.  You've already seen our lovely table.  Look what else we've added.

Handmade wooden couch BF found at a yard sale for $10!  It doesn't have a cushion, so so far we are just using a lumpy old camping foam and an Indian tapestry to cover it up!
Candle lanterns.
New photo wall in the Green Room, including, at left, a gorgeous photo by D, a housewarming gift. It is of a sunset at the Ferry Beach, in Bayfield, a beach we've grown up on. 
Some flowers from BF.
Levon, just waiting for the next jam session.

The kitchen is a work in progress.  Little bits at a time, a coat of paint here, the removal of icky door handles there.

Is it lame that I am so stoked by our new drawer pulls?
BF and I both like to pick up cookbooks here and there.  If you know of a great Thai one, let me know!
The ever growing S&P collection.
We might not have proper storage in our kitchen right now, but we've got LOVE!
Our bookroom grows constantly too.  Eventually wall shelves will be built, but for now. . . 

This dino used to be my bunny, Indiana's favourite toy.  He now lives with under our palm plants in the book room.
Upstairs, is our ridiculously large bedroom.

It's nice to have so much room!  We put a little relaxing reading nook in the corner:

And my shoes all have their place, off to the side:

This beautiful iron wood carved table was a gift from my folks when I graduated university.  You see the moon immediately of course, but check out the legs - they're little owls!
And no tour of the house would be complete without a peek outside.

Another sunny day!  How lucky are we?!
If I stand beside this hosta, it goes almost to my waist and is, like, close to six feet across.  IS THIS NORMAL?  No seriously, someone give us some advice, they are taking over the yard!
The late blooming lilac tree.
And soon we'll have roses!
Well, ok, that's it for now. I know I skipped a few rooms, but they aren't really very interesting yet, so just hold your horses, I'll be back with more.  I think I'm gonna go sit out in that sunny yard now!

Till next time!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Things Are Getting Graphic

A while back, I posted about reading my first graphic novel, Saga.  I really, really enjoyed it and kind of fell in love with the genre too, so I immediately started looking for others to read, since the second Saga collection doesn't come out for a few more weeks from now.  

The first one I read was Persepolis.

Persepolis is an autobiographical novel about a girl growing up in Iran during the Islamic revolution.  It begins when she is a very young but very observant girl, being raised by modern parents who don't necessarily abide by the rules of political Islam.  She is heavily influenced by her free thinking parents and grandmother, and becomes more and more rebellious.  At a particularly dangerous time in the revolution, Marjane's parents send her to Europe to live in Austria, where she becomes an artist, a girlfriend, a drug dealer, an ex-girlfriend, homeless and eventually desperate to return home, which she does.  The novel continues from there, her return to Iran, her difficulty adjusting to the same old regime, struggles with depression, and her eventual life changes.  

I found this novel hard to get into at first, but when I did, I couldn't put it down and I loved it.  I loved that I learned so much about life in Iran, especially from the point of view of a modern thinking woman, during some very repressive times in that country.  It made me appreciate how easy we have it here in Canada and the struggles that people have every day in other places.

After I finished Persepolis, I didn't know what to read next, so I dug through BF's collection and narrowed it down to From Hell and The Walking Dead.  When I am stuck between book choices, I usually read the first page of each of the short listed ones and choose the one that makes me immediately want to read page two.  I read the first page of The Walking Dead and didn't even bother with the other.  

BF had the first compendium, a collection of the first 48 issues of TWD.  I read its 1088 intensely dramatic and suspense-filled pages in two sunny afternoon sittings in my backyard.  There were times when I was so on the edge of my seat that I could have fallen and injured myself!  I love the show, but the books are so different, so much more powerful, the characters so much farther developed, that I just got sucked right in.  I can only imagine, if I'd been reading it in public, how funny I must have looked at times, eyes bugging out of my head, gasping in shock, biting my lip, laughing out loud, tearing up and every few minutes, exhaling like I'd just run a marathon.  Read it, friends, you won't be sorry.

Well just today, I finished the second compendium, issues 49-96, after another couple of afternoon sittings.  I defy anyone to try getting anything done if you have these books in your lap!

Many of the same characters return, and many new ones are introduced.  Like in the first collection, mad things happen, tensions run high, people die, people save the day and so on.  I read this one just as quickly because the characters, the situations are all very compelling, but I have to say, I thought the first part was better.  Only a couple times did I sit at the edge of my seat, eyebrows raised and teeth chattering.  Many, many characters were introduced in this part, and some seemed superfluous and don't play much of a part in the future; in fact some seem to simply dwindle off, and there are some story lines that seem almost like filler.

Nonetheless, I LOVED this series.  The first compendium came out in 2009, the second in 2012, so I guess from here I either start reading them as issues, or suffer through three or four years of waiting for the next one!  

In the meantime, friends, what should I read next?  Your suggestions are most welcome!  

Till next time!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Weekend Recap

What a weekend we had!  On Friday, BF and I hosted our official housewarming party and boy, was it a good one!  We had some of BF's colleagues over for dinner (roasted butternut squash risotto and pork tenderloin with a fig balsamic reduction, my go-to when I am feeling less than imaginative) and soon after, people started to show up.  

The shoe depot would eventually triple in size!  Hope everyone got the right ones on the way out! ;)

Unfortunately I didn't get many photos of the actual gathering on account of wanting to visit with all of our guests, but I got a few of the early jammers.

Even Levon got in on the act!

And there was a special appearance by Olive, our friends' M&N's little one.

She was the life of the party until she had to take a nap under the table!

It was such a fun night, I think the last people left at about 3am and we managed to get to bed by 4!  Thanks so much to everyone who came!

The next day, for whatever reason, I was up with the sun.  

I was up so much earlier than everyone else that, well.....I just went back to bed, haha.  

We all got up in time for lunch and went out to do a few errands.  The errands eventually yielded probably the biggest game haul in Value Village trip history - BF and I found not one, not two, but THREE different Trivial Pursuit games (all our favourite people are trivia geeks, so I predict some fun games nights in the future), the original Scene It, a drinking trivia game and Clue!  

While we were out, we also picked up a couple awesome chairs for our backyard, a housewarming present courtesy of my Mumsy and Pops. Thanks guys!

This, of course, meant we ended up spending pretty much the rest of the day in the yard.  We brought out the instruments once again. . . 

 . . . and BF made us a delicious late supper of steak and corn on the barbeque, and a yummy salad.

We built a little fire. . . 

. . . and watched the moon rise. . . 

. . . and then, as it does on an early summer evening here in the Maritimes, it got chilly enough for us to head inside, where we brought out the new/old Clue board and gave our rather rusty detective skills a go.

Ahhhhh, weekends.  Is there anything better?

Till next time folks!