Saturday, July 24, 2010

good cooking - 3 recipe successes from this week

I love the bounty of summer - so many fruits and veggies so fresh and inexpensive. Here's what I cooked this week:

Quinoa and Vegetables
(a recipe from the newspaper - I can't remember which newspaper - that I adapted)

1 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cup water
pinch salt
red or yellow bell pepper
red onion
cherry tomatoes
1 cup miniature boconccini cheese balls
1/3 cup olive oil
1 Tbs dijon mustard
oregano (lots)
1 Tbs balsamic vinegar
2 small cloves garlic - minced
salt and pepper

Soak the quinoa for about 15 minutes. Rinse well using a fine strainer. Put the quinoa in a pot with the water and pinch of salt. Cook like rice: bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and leave covered five more minutes then uncover, fluff and allow to cool.

Wash and chop the vegetables. I think I assembled about 3 cups of chopped veg for this. You could sub in whatever you wanted. The recipe called for fresh peas, but ours in the garden aren't ready yet, so I cooked some frozen edamame. Add the veg and the cheese to the cooled quinoa.

Mix up the dressing. Be generous with the oregano. Stir the dressing into the salad. Makes 4 lunch size servings.

Grilled Eggplant with Tomatoes and Feta

This is a riff on a recipe by Martha Rose Shulman from the New York Times that my Dad pointed out to me. Dad, I will cook this for you next time you are over.

1 medium eggplant
6 medium tomatoes
fresh basil leaves
red onion
2 cloves garlic
salt and pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
feta cheese

Chop the tomatoes relatively small, discarding the extra moisture and seeds so you're working with the meaty part of the tomato. Chop in the fresh basil leaves and add garlic and fine chopped red onion to your taste. Season with salt and pepper.

Slice the eggplant 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Brush it lightly with olive oil. Cook it on your barbeque or your George Foreman Grill if you have one. (I used the George Foreman and it was excellent.)

Add the leftover olive oil to the tomato mixture.

When the eggplant is cooked, put it into a bowl and cover it. Allow it to soften for 10 or 15 minutes (if you can stand to wait!) Arrange it on your serving plate or plates and top with the tomatoes then sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese. Makes 2-4 meal-size servings, depending on how big the eggplant is.

Grilled Eggplant and Pepper Salad

This is also Martha Rose Shulman's from the New York Times - thanks again for finding it, Dad!

1 big eggplant
2 or 3 coloured bell peppers (preferably a variety of colours)
1 chili pepper (the recipe asked for a mildly hot one like an anaheim, but I couldn't find any that day, so I used a jalapeno - sparingly)
red onion
fresh garlic
1 fresh lime
a handful of fresh mint leaves
salt and pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

Heat up the barbeque. Poke some holes in the eggplant skin with a fork. Put the eggplant, bell peppers and hot pepper on the grill. Close the cover. Check and turn the veggies every few minutes. Remove them when they are cooked (blackened in parts, soft, fragrant). They will be ready smallest to largest. The grilled eggplant will be magnificent.

Put the grilled veggies into a bowl and cover them to let them soften further. In the meantime, chop up the red onion, mince the garlic, chop the mint leaves. Have a glass of wine.

Remove peels and seeds from both kinds of peppers. Chop medium-fine. Cut up the eggplant into small pieces. I kept the seeds and skin from the eggplant because I think they are very nice. Mix the lime juice, garlic, onions, mint, salt and pepper and oil into the veggies. Let them stand a few minutes. Finish your wine.

This makes a side dish amount for 4 people. I pretty much ate half of it all by myself very easily.

question: what did you cook this week?

mompoet - cooking, eating, appreciating

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

a walk in the woods

Kirsi and I met after work yesterday, and walked up the northeast slope of Burnaby Mountain. There's a trail that runs from Garrow Street in the Glenayre neighbourhood, all the way to the top of the hill. It's wide and well-maintained, also well-used. We saw lots of people walking and on bikes along the way. It's also steep and steeper. The steeper part is called Cardiac Hill. It's about as steep as you want to go without climbing stairs. Kirsi and I applied the low-gear, small-step psyche to this portion of the walk, and made it to the top, talking all the way (which is a good indication that we weren't gasping for air at any time).

The trail cuts along the cliffs at the back of the mountain, and it's heavily treed on both sides, so there aren't spectacular views. It is beautiful though, and nice to have such a green place so close to our homes. We came out near some of the Univer-City homes, and followed the ring road around to the bus stops near the west end of campus, then cut back on a trail that gave us a less steep descent than we would have found on Cardiac. I specifically did not want to go sliding down the hill on my bum!

An hour later, we were back in Glenayre. A woman just heading up the trail told us that a bear had just ambled past her, onto the street below. We were glad we did not meet the bear on the trail.

Kirsi says this is a good walk, even in the rain, because of the shelter given by the trees. On a sunny summer day it was cool and fresh, all the way up.

Now I am picturing a mini sea to sky walk, starting on the Trans Canada Trail below the Barnet Highway, where it follows the shoreline. From there, I could take the Westhill Trail straight up to College Park, from there, a stroll past Westhill Park to Garrow, then up again to the top of the hill. I think it would make a nice 2 hour loop from our house down to the water, up the mountain and home again.

question: does anyone want to join me?

mompoet - climb every mountain

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

pajamas again!

I've just posted photos of the traveling blue flannel pajamas on my pajama blog. Check it out!

question: where have you been in your pajamas?

mompoet - appreciative and admiring

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Theatre Under the Stars - Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Fiona and I went out to see Joseph at TUTS last night. We usually see both TUTS shows every summer. It's a real treat to sit outdoors at Stanley Park and enjoy a musical theatre production put on by a local company of professional and emerging performers. We usually know people in the show too, which makes it even more enjoyable.

We've seen a couple of productions of Andrew Lloyd Weber's Joseph recently. In the fall, Footlight Theatre in Burnaby put on a funny and delicious show at the Michael J Fox Theatre in Burnaby. This company made a successful transition from the more intimate James Cowan Theatre into the grand space of the Fox. Joseph was the perfect choice for this move. The production was splashy and gorgeous. In the spring, we saw Royal City Musical Theatre's production of Joseph at the Massey Theatre in New Westminster. Fiona was in the show, so we saw it a few times, and loved the high energy, non-stop splendour of it. Luxurious sets and fab costumes set off a solid ensemble performance with a jumbo cast.

Both Footlight and RCMT followed the script pretty well to the letter in their productions of Joseph, spicing things up with local and current references where convention dictates. We would have been happy to see something similar at TUTS. Instead we were treated to a total revamp of old "Joe" that was a bit herky-jerky (on purpose I think), and a splendid surprise.

Director Shel Piercy has revamped the traditional Joseph into a new story, with so many twists it's sometimes hard to stay caught up. I just relaxed and enjoyed what I could see. Jacob and the brothers are played by children. There are multiple narrators. The show is set in 1967. The Pharaoh is a woman. There are acrobatics and magic tricks. And that's just for starters.

The show begins with a dejected group of kids trying to put on a show about Joseph's coat. They don't have enough actors to play all of the brothers, and it's almost curfew time. As they ponder whether to stage the Wizard of Oz instead, or to just give up and go home, their rehearsal space is invaded by a group of hippies, who promise not to harm them, and to show them how the story goes. They recruit a 12th brother from the audience (a little girl who was incorporated into the whole show in a simply lovely way) and tell the story. The songs and plot line are the same, but everything else is different. Cultural, historical and political references are spiked through every bit of the narrative, and there are lots of musical theatre in-jokes. Performers literally swing from the rafters in crazy dance routines and the kids and adults all perform together on stage from beginning to end. My favourite part was the funniest rendition of "Canaan Days" that I have ever seen. The production is tight - finishing in 2 hours even with a generous intermission. There's a lot of heart in it, a fine lead performance by Erik Ioannidis and great ensemble work too. All in all, it was a refreshing change and a thoroughly satisfying evening.

If you haven't been to TUTS in recent years, things have changed. All seats are reserved (online, in person at the Malkin Bowl box office or at Tickets Tonight). There's a great barbeque for supper if you need it, other reasonably priced refreshments, wine and beer sales inside the venue, and ample parking nearby if you come by car. When you pay for parking, note that it's free after nine. If you arrive at 7pm, you should be able to park by the miniature railroad and pay $5 for just 2 hours. Once that lot is full, there's one just across the main road beside the RCMP horse stables. Programs are free now, and you can get your photo taken for free also, at a photo tent run by the show's corporate sponsor, TD Bank.

Some things are the same as always: the walk across the garden to the washrooms under the tea pavilion, sea planes and seagulls crossing overhead during the performance, cuddling up under a blanket as the sky darkens during the second act, and the love and energy of the performers and volunteers at Malkin Bowl. It's more than just the play you go for when you enjoy an evening at TUTS.

As we walked back to our car we saw the little girl who had been brought from the audience into the show to be youngest brother, Benjamin. She was dancing around on the lawn outside the venue gates, still wearing her beautiful coloured coat. "You did a great job!" we told her. "Thank you!" she sang, still dancing.

question: have you been to TUTS lately?

mompoet - loving Vancouver

Thursday, July 15, 2010

power pole monday

I walked to work Monday morning. I left at about 7:20 so I could be at work and changed into work clothing by 8:30. About 9 at work, a tree branch feel on my co-worker Diane's car in our parking lot - luckily no damage but it was a scary incident. The wind had started up, as promised by the weather forecast, and things were getting a bit hairy outside. At about 10:30, Alex, who was home for the day, woke up and phoned my office to tell me the electricity was out at home. It was a warm day, and he had a full battery on his macbook, so he was okay. He went out on the bus for a little while, and called me again at 3 to say that the fire road gate at the top of our neighbourhood was open. This gate is used to admit emergency vehicles to our cul de sac neighbourhood, and on the rare occasion that the road to the highway is closed, so the several hundred houses between it and the highway have an alternate access route. Soon after, I got a call from Fiona, home on the bus from a day out, also noticing the fire road open.

I walked home, arriving in the neighbourhood about 5, to note that the fire road was open and lots of drivers were using it. A neighbour confirmed that the road to the highway was, indeed, closed and the power still out. I got to the house to find it warm and bright, but with no electricity. Andy wasn't home yet. He's been working a later shift, and was stuck in rush hour traffic, complicated by a road closure on the highway. Eastbound routes all over were clogged.

I ordered pizza for pickup, and gave Alex some money and my car, with instructions to use the fire road out. In the meantime, I walked down to the highway to have a look. Along the way, I saw lots of neighbours. Everyone was coming home from work and going down to have a look. A lady who lives at the bottom of the hill was outside of her home. She told me the story.

About 9am, the wind blew the top half of a tall tree over on to the electrical lines that run along the highway, snapping multiple wires, breaking the pole and igniting a small grass fire on the hillside. Hydro, Fire and Police attended. Live electrical wires lay across the road that leads in and out of the neighbourhood, to the highway. The police blocked the road off and and opened the fire road as an alternate. Hydro crews worked all day, taking away the debris and bringing in a new power pole and electrical lines. At 5:30, the prediction was that it would take about 3 more hours to restore electricity to our homes. Traffic, which is backed up at 5:30 on a good day, was crawling along one lane, instead of 3, on the highway.

I was headed out to the poetry slam. Andy and the kids decided to go see a movie. We lined up all the flashlights, just in case the power was still out when we got home, then went out. When Andy and the kids got home from the movie around 9:30, the electricity was back on.

Looks like the food in our fridge and freezer is okay. It was a nice warm day, with lots of light, and best of all, nobody was injured when the tree blew over and the wires came down. The next morning, when I walked to work at 7:20, the fire road gate was closed. All is well.

question: did you see the wind?

mompoet - living with respect for tall trees

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Chick-a-Boom at the Van Slam Cover Slam

On Monday night, I featured at the Van Slam Cover Slam. The poets performed poems written by other poets. It turned out to be a night of funny and sweet tribute work. I opened my feature set with this gorgeous poem by Irene Livingston.

question: boom boom boom?

mompoet - bloom

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

ziptrek (the big one)

Back in February, during the Olympics, Andy and I waited five and a half hours in line one drizzly morning to ride the zipline across Robson Square in downtown Vancouver. It was one of the most frightening things I have ever done. It was also a ton of fun. It was also much too short.

When it came time to plan a family vacation this summer, we decided to stay in Whistler for a few days, and to splurge on a proper ziptrek for the whole family. We booked the Eagle tour with Ziptrek Ecotours.

We arrived at base of Whistler, paid for our tour, and signed the waivers. Then we went outside to meet our guides. We had two guides, Drew from Prince George BC, and Jan from the Czech Republic. Both were friendly, helpful and well-prepared to take us on our adventure. At the base of the mountain, they helped us put on our harnesses and helmets so they were comfortable and safely adjusted. After that, we took a short van ride up the gully between Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains, stopping near the top of the Whistler Sliding Centre (where they held the bobsled, luge and skeleton competitions during the Olympics). From there we took a short walk along a trail to the first zip platform.

At this and at each of the subsequent 4 zip lines, one guide went ahead of the rest of the group to prepare the landing platform. The two guides communicated with radios to coordinate the zipping of guests along the cables. It works like this. When it's your turn, you step from the main platform out to a smaller launching area. Your guide temporarily tethers you securely to the platform while he attaches your pulley to the cable, and double-checks the adjustments on your harness. Then it's your turn. You take a few steps down on a stairway to nowhere, and step gently off into the air. Of course, your pulley is hooked up to the cable, so you slide along its incline, accelerating most of the way across the span. Near the end, your pulley connects with a brake mechanism that the second guide has advanced out along the cable, using a rope. When your pulley contacts the brake, it attaches to the brake. The second guide pulls you up to the platform, where you scramble back onto your feet and step back to earth (or in some cases, to a platform a hundred or so feet up a trees, connected to a wooden suspension bridge, connected to another platform). Then the two guides check and re-set things, and send the next ziptrekker across.

The ride along the cable is marvelous. The friction on the cable produces a whining sound that gets higher as you speed up, and lower as you slow down. The view is incredible. You are up as high as the top of the tree canopy, and you see down through the trees to the forest floor and to a rushing river that you traverse with each zip. At the highest, you are several hundred feet in the air. Each zip takes anywhere from half a minutes to a couple of minutes on the longest one. It is beautiful. Although I had a moment of fear over lunch before we set out, I didn't really feel seriously afraid at any time on the tour. It was just too much fun!

Along the way, the guides told us about the forest habitat, and about their company's efforts to help preserve this environment, and to practice and promote sustainable business practices. It was interesting to know about this. Nothing they could tell us, however, matched the impact of seeing these great big trees the way the birds and squirrels see them.

At the end, we shed our harnesses and helmets, thanked our guides and congratulated each other. The tour took about two and a half hours from beginning to end. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

question: have you zipped?

mompoet - flying through the sky, looking treetops in the eye

Tuesday, July 06, 2010


The weather has been dull this summer so far where I live. Lots of grey days and some rain. Instead of shorts and t-shirts, we are wearing jeans and hoodies, and bringing our umbrellas just in case. Despite it all our first-time-ever garden is growing just fine.

Andy built a 6x6 raised bed in the sunniest corner of our back yard. Our friend Allan, who is a landscaper, and builds similar beds for his clients, helped with the construction, and advised Andy what kind of soil to buy. Together, Andy and I chose plants that we thought would do well, and that would provide food that we like. We planted some small plants from the nursery, and some seeds.

Now we have kale, chard, chives, mint, rhubarb and cilantro that can be eaten (and are being eaten). We also have plants busy making zucchini, beans, peas, peppers, broccoli and tomatoes. It looks like the sun is finally going to shine on us, which should give a boost to these latter veggies and fruits, tomatoes being a fruit.

Our biggest worry is the slugs. In the damp, cool weather they are thriving. I pick them off the plants when I find them, and throw them into the grass. We have also set up a couple of beer traps - cups of beer set into the soil. These attract the slugs, then they drown in the beer. Now I have just heard that eggshells are a good deterrent. This morning, I ventured out at 6am to cut some kale, chives and cilantro. Then I cooked these up with eggs and feta cheese, and served them with a tortilla and salsa (yum!) The eggshells will go back out to the garden to start my slug no-go zone.

It feels good to go pick ingredients from the back yard and put them directly into food for my family. We know these are free of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. They are fresher than fresh, and include varieties that aren't found at the grocery. This is good!

question: what does your garden grow?

mompoet - looking forward to making my own salsa when those tomatoes are ready