Saturday, October 30, 2010

squirmy wormy noodle salad

Recently, I asked a question in my facebook status line: what food scares you? This innocent query drew a healthy bunch of comments, from the earnest "brussels sprouts" to the very creative "snouts and beans" (beans and sauce, with slices of sausage that have nostril holes poked in them). With food, as with most other things, presentation counts.

Something that is normally yummy can be rendered repulsive, by a small change in details, or even a creative name. And vice-versa. When my son was 5 years old, I took him to lunch at a wonton house. The place was crowded, so we shared a table with a Chinese Grandpa, who was sitting by himself. I ordered wonton soup and a plate of chow mein. My son tucked into the chow mein with gusto, but balked at the funny-looking soup. Our table companion noticed this and said to Alex, "You know, those are just Chinese tortellini." Alex took a tentative bite - YUM! Then he slurped down all of the wontons, leaving me the soup broth (he never has been a soup guy.) I thanked the man for his help. He told me that his grandkids are Canadian, and they were convinced to eat wonton soup by the same description.

So when I had to come up with a "hairy, scary and yummy" contribution to our monthly staff potluck lunch this week, I thought about Chinese tortellini. My friend Linda served this once to adults and called it monkey brain stew. But I remembered that my unofficial role in our staff team, when it comes to eating, is vegetable-bringer. You see, I have a nearly pathological fear of potlucks without vegetables. A table groaning with all carbs and protein and desserts makes me run away in fear that even if I eat even a modest selection, I will fall asleep for the rest of the afternoon. I am highly susceptible to the soporific effects of starchy and rich foods, you see. So I always bring vegetables, lots of them, usually a salad, but sometimes something cooked. So I decided to come up with a scary salad.

Colour is (almost) everything when it comes to first impressions, so I went to the veggie store and selected vegetables in Halloween colours:

yellow and orange bell peppers
purple cabbage
red onion

Texture comes second. I know people who can't eat porridge or squash just because of the texture. I dislike mashed potatoes for the same reason, but I do love porridge and squash. Go figure. I decided that a modest proportion of noodles would add the squirmy, wormy texture that I desired in this concoction. I chose the noodles at the top of this list, but you could choose your favourite. Think one part noodles, four parts vegetables, by volume:

fresh Japanese ramen noodles
fresh chow mein noodles
udon noodles
rice stick

You get the idea. You could use fresh or dried, cooked up. The trick is to just barely cook the noodles, because they will soften a bit in the salad.

Finally, the dressing and additions. I'll tell you the basic, then suggest some things you might want to consider, depending on your taste and who will be eating the salad (careful about food allergies, vegetarian commitment, and cultural/religious food restrictions when you bring food to a party).

Basic dressing (with variations):
3 parts canola oil (you could use another kind)
1 part rice wine vinegar (you could use lemon or lime juice, dry wine, sherry, other vinegar)
rooster hot chili sauce to taste (or whatever form of heat you prefer)
soy sauce to taste
a few drops of sesame oil (if nobody is allergic)
chopped fresh ginger
chopped fresh garlic
(you might also add peanut butter or tahini if nobody is allergic)

tofu, chicken, prawns or fish
chopped peanuts
sesame seeds
bean sprouts
scorpions, tarantulas, beetles (oops, I'm getting s-carried away here)

How to make it: Chop and shred the vegetables so they are mostly long and skinny (slaw style). Cook the noodles but not too much. Assemble just enough dressing ingredients in a container with a lid - you'll have to decide how much is just enough to thoroughly moisten all of the salad bits. Toss it together with the veg and noodles. **I like to do this part just before serving, because it tastes best when the flavours are newly combined. You can prepare the veg and the dressing well ahead of time, then toss them together just before you are ready to eat. Add any of the toppings or garnishes that you like to suit your taste, and depending on if it's a side dish or main course.

This salad was devoured at the potluck. I liked it so much that I made it again last night for supper. I was all out of tarantulas, so I served it with sauteed chicken. It is yummy and crunchy, and definitely satisfies a craving for lots of veggies and some chili spice.

question: are you a potluck lover? or do you have secret potluck fears? (or both?)

mompoet - okay with potlucks, as long as I bring vegetables

Thursday, October 28, 2010

hairy scary yummy lunch

The theme for this month's staff potluck was "hairy, scary, tasty finger foods." Here are some of the hairy scary offerings.

  • scary cheesy chili dip with black tortilla chips
  • horrifying hot chicken wings
  • squirmy wormy noodle salad
  • bloody barbeque pork buns
  • chilling cheese and fig platter with bread sticks (aka fingers)
  • creepy pumpkin cheesecake squares with spider web glaze
  • putrid pea soup
  • witch's fingers and bloody eyeball cupcakes
  • (not pictured) baby bat pasta salad and pumpkin muffins with scorpion poop
It was delicious and terrifying!

question: what food scares you?

mompoet - BOOO! (mmm)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

the giant wiener did the trick

I missed hot dog day at work today because I was at a workshop off site. When I got in to the office, the kitchen table ladies were just leaving, with big smiles on their faces. They sold 60 hot dog platters in 30 minutes.

It had to be the giant wiener. I can't think of any other explanation.

question: do you think it was the giant wiener?

mompoet - never underestimate the power of inflatable luncheon meat

safety nerds

On Monday night, my friend Robin and I went to "Documentation Unit Training." The course was offered by the Justice Institute of BC, for Emergency Social Services workers.

We spent a bit more than 3 hours in a room with 15 other emergency social services workers and volunteers, all learning how to correctly review, record and dispatch the paper work generated at a reception centre. (A reception centre is the place that is set up in the case of a major emergency that forces people out of their homes.)

As a part-time duty officer for the City of Burnaby, I'm glad to be getting this training. If there is a forest fire, earthquake, tsunami, river flood, industrial accident, major apartment fire etc., I will be called to help with the reception centre. Now I know I could work in the documentation unit, and get the paperwork mostly right. Throughout the province. There are people like me, trained to respond and set up the stuff that people will need to get through an evacuation. Mostly, it involved getting everyone a place to stay, food to eat and clothing to wear. If needed, it includes helping them re-unite with family members from whom they may have been separated. We also do pet care, in case there are animals evacuated from homes.

These training gatherings are fun and interesting. We hear about the events to which others have been called. There was a volunteer in Monday's course who had responded to the floods on Vancouver Island. The trainer had worked in Kelowna, during the forest fires a couple of summers back. Some have not been called, but remain ready. So far, I have been out on a couple of individual family calls, and have been involved in two very short reception centre activations (just a couple of hours each time, after which residents have been allowed back into their homes).

Emergency workers have file boxes or rolling suitcases filled with forms, manuals, blankets and teddy bears. We use many acronyms that are understood only by us (sometimes). We get excited when we hear sirens. When we see house fires and disasters on the news, we think of the victims, but also the responders. We wear vests and ID tags. If you need us, we will wake up in the middle of the night and give you a cup of coffee and a cookie, and figure out what we can do to make you comfortable and safe while you are out of your house.

We are safety nerds. We are ready and waiting.

question: did you ever have to get out of your house?

mompoet - thankful for safety nerds

Sunday, October 24, 2010

dressing up for halloween

I was downtown yesterday, so I visited Dressew where you can buy everything you could possibly ever need for sewing, and also costumes. Just before Halloween, Dressew is a very busy place. The costume area is expanded, and people line up outside the door of this huge store, to take their turn looking at wigs, costumes, hats and other accessories, as well as all manor of party favours and Halloween decor.

I needed a new wig for my dead Emily Dickinson costume, and also some face paint to achieve the "dead" effect. I got my errands done in just a few minutes, but could not resist browsing the abundance of Halloween finery available. The aisles were packed with shoppers, and the mood was jubilant. Everywhere, people were trying on hats and wigs for one another, holding masks up to their faces and hooting with laughter at their amazing finds.

I was delighted by a huge rack of tails. Just tails. All kinds, your choice. I flinched at a display of open cartons, filled with severed body parts, pale and bloody, each packaged in a meat tray and shrink wrap, neatly labeled with "best before" dates. There are more clown noses, handcuffs, false eyelashes, animal ears and rubber wounds than you can shake a plastic sword at. You can buy fake tattoo sleeves, beards, mustaches, eyebrows and warts.

I walked around the display racks of complete costume packages. These are one-stop solutions for most typical disguise-seekers, easy if not original or of particularly good quality. I was dismayed to see that sexy-cute is still the predominant motif in women's costumes, and scary-gross the predominant one in men's. Just about any woman's costume you can think of is available with a very short skirt and a skimpy top: sexy pilgrim, sexy nun, sexy nurse, even "racy red riding hood," and "poca-hottie" . There are no similar skimpy male costumes to be found. C'mon, where is "macho mailman," "bare-ass batman," or "pinch my gorilla?" If the selection of costumes available for sale is any indication, men what to dress up as menacing or funny (don't get me started on the "Deluxe Fart-O-Meter" costume). Women want to dress up a sexpots.

Over the years, I have mostly made my own costumes, or at least assembled them myself from bits and pieces bought and borrowed. I can remember only one overtly sexy effort, the year I dressed as a bunny for my waitressing job. It wasn't crazy-sexy. I wore a decent pink dance leotard and white opaque tights, bunny ears and tail, and flat shoes. I was hauling trays of lasagna and spaghetti and meatballs to people's tables, after all, and it was a family restaurant.

Other years I have dressed up as a kangaroo, a clown, a nerd, Marcel Marceau, a scary phys. ed. teacher, a pirate, and a tub - that with my friends: the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker - RUB A DUB! This year I will re-use my dead Emily Dickinson outfit for The Open Mic of th' Living Dead. I think it's fun to transform myself into someone else for just a short time. I'd rather it be fun than sexy any day.

This Halloween, I hope to see imagination and a sense of fun in the costumes worn by adults dressing up. I hope I don't see too many princesses who forgot to put their pants on, and I would be tickled to encounter a cowboy in short shorts, just for a change of balance. I hope that I am not confronted by a walking Deluxe Fart-O-Meter!

question: do you dress up for Halloween?

mompoet - trick-or-treat!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

here I am at work, walking around with a giant inflatable wiener hanging around my neck to promote the seniors' hot dog lunch next week

question: what's the silliest thing you did at work this week?

mompoet - this one definitely had all of the ladies giggling

Friday, October 22, 2010

performance anxiety

One of my typical anxious dreams is "I am in a play. It's opening night. I do not know my lines, my blocking, the songs I am supposed to sing, or my choreography." Everyone else has been rehearsing for weeks. I just showed up. I have to go on. I am embarrassed.

The night before last, I had a variation on this one. I dreamed I was at the poetry reading where I am scheduled to feature on Sunday. The cozy bookshop transformed itself in the dream to a large lecture hall at a university. It was a mirror-image inside-outside space, with tiered seats on the outside of the building, facing away from the stage, a door at the top, through which you could pass to the interior of the place, and seats tiered down inside to the stage. I arrived and looked around the venue, and realised there was room for several hundred people, and that I didn't know how I could be seen or heard by the ones who sat outside and the ones who sat inside. The organizers of the show were cheerful about it. "Just walk upstairs and outside, then back inside while you recite your poetry. Keep moving and everyone will see you." About that time, they also asked me to host the show, and to set up the lights and sound equipment in this monstrous inside-outside venue because "we are poets and we don't have any tech people."

So now I'm running around looking for a wireless microphone and trying to figure out a sound board and light panel, and people are showing up and wanting to sign up for the open mic, and I don't have a pen or paper, and they don't either. The organizers have neatly disappeared, and I'm not even sure what time the show is going to begin. Then this hairy guy collars me and tries to convince me that he needs to read his thesis, a three act play, during the open mic because "plays are the purest form of poetry, man."

Luckily, my alarm went off and I woke up.

I know that Sunday's reading at Poetic Justice will be nothing like this. But isn't it interesting how we rehearse for the worst possible scenarios when we dream? I don't often have bad dreams or nightmares. When I do, they are like this.

I also dream about missing trains. In fact, last night I dreamed I was on a train with a little girl. We were on the wrong car to get to our destination and the train wasn't going to stop for anything. So we were walking to the end of each car and climbing out the back window and into the next car along. I was conscious of protecting the child, so I handed her to a passenger in the next car, then climbed out and over to follow her. It wasn't frightening, more like, "Oops, isn't that funny! We need to get to the back of the train. Let's climb through the windows."

question: what do you dream when you are wondering what something will be like?

mompoet - sleeping imagination

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

time has its own way of showing what's important

Twice this week, I have been reminded that time is precious, especially when you give it to someone else. In both cases, I started out tired and cranky about being delayed finishing work and getting out the door. In both cases I learned that the inconvenience is minor, compared to the reward.

By day's end Monday, I couldn't wait to get home. I had awakened at 5am and started work at 7am to finish a project before driving to a 9:30am meeting (Who plans meetings at 9:30 on a Monday?) I had squeezed a dentist appointment into my lunch break and finally found time to eat lunch at 3. By 4:45, I could think of nothing but, "I should have left half an hour ago!"

At the rec centre where I work all of the seniors had gone home and the main office was closed. Only a few people drifted through the lobby past my office doorway, on their way to the library. As I sat at my desk, trying to take care of a few inescapable tasks, and make brief notes of the stuff I needed to tackle the next day, there was a tap at my door.

It was Henry. He's one of our seniors, who comes with his wife to play bridge once a week. He asked me when he could ask the ladies who make the crafts to take something from the display case so he could come back tomorrow and buy it from them. I told him I could get whatever he wants, and hold it for him until he could come back to pay for it. He replied that he had money now. He hadn't known that I could get something for him. Would I possibly get a pair of baby boots out of the case? Of course I would.

We walked down the hall and he waited, while I got the keys and money pouch out of the safe, and unlocked the display case. Henry wanted a tiny pair of blue knit baby boots. I asked him if he was expecting a grandchild. Of course he was. It will be Henry and his wife's first grandchild. I asked him if he knew for sure he needed blue boots and he beamed, yes, for sure. We chatted for a few minutes about his son and daughter in law, who live in Calgary, how excited everyone is for the birth, and Henry and his wife's plans to visit their children and grandson after the birth. He paid me $4. I locked the display case and returned the keys and pouch to the safe and said good-bye and congratulations. I smiled for about half an hour after that, and was not in nearly as much of a rush to finish up and leave.

Today I was wiped out, after a crazy busy day, including a special event for 50 new members and the packing up of everything we need for the next few days from a room that will be under construction for the next few days. Again, I was sitting at my desk, past time to go home, still grabbing a few things that couldn't wait until tomorrow, and getting them done. Again, there was a tap at my door. Nina was there.

Nina is a lovely lady who plays bridge and snooker at the rec centre. When I first met her, she spoke barely any English, or was too shy to speak barely anything, I'm not sure which. Over the 3 years I have known her she has warmed up a bit. She is still very quiet, but with a radiant smile whenever we greet one another in the hallway or the snooker room. This time she spoke, and asked me if I had seen a bag "with vegetables" in the lobby. It seems that she had left her grocery bag in the lobby by accident some time ago, and it had disappeared.

The upper office was closed so I asked her if she had checked at the downstairs desk, where we keep lost and found items. She shrugged, smiled and walked away. I thought to myself, "It's just a bag of vegetables, but that's probably the food that Nina was planning to cook for supper." I got up, locked my office and went downstairs to see if I could help her. I couldn't find her, so I asked at the desk. Nobody had turned in a bag of vegetables. Nobody had seen Nina. I came back upstairs, and there was Nina again, talking to our afternoon janitor, who was helping her look for the vegetables. She suggested that they might have been put away in the staffroom refrigerator.

I asked Nina to come with me, and we walked over to the office. I told her to please wait, I'll look for the vegetables in the office, and if they're not there, we'll check the fridge. Sure enough, there was a bag of vegetables on top of the filing cabinet. (who puts vegetables on the filing cabinet?) "Oh! Nina!" called, "I see a zucchini! broccoli!" The vegetables were hers, of course, and she was visibly relieved. For the first time today I was met with her beaming smile. I wished her a good supper and a nice evening and she left, with her vegetables.

Sometimes, when I'm stuck thinking that I'm swimming upstream, someone comes along who asks me to pause in a way that I just can't decline. I resolve to pay more attention to these situations, and find the gift that comes with them. A delay is okay, and sometimes provides a much needed re-set when I need it.

question: have you stopped to smell the speed bumps lately?

mompoet - still learning

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

more about tomatoes

Last night, I decided to make some soup, to use up about 2 pounds of tomatoes from our garden that were RIPE RIGHT NOW!

I found a very simple recipe in Soup Suppers by Arthur Schwartz. I use this book more for the plum cake recipe than for the soups, but I'll have to cook some more of the soups. They are good.

This recipe is so simple, that I set it up, went upstairs to colour my hair, came downstairs half an hour later and completed the soup. Then I sat in my pajamas and had a delicious cup of tomato soup. Here's my my shorthand, smaller batch version of the recipe.

Chunk up 2 pounds of tomatoes and one small onion. Put them into a pot with about 1/4 tsp of salt. Cover and simmer over low heat. Stir them a couple of times until the liquid starts to come out, then you can leave them covered and simmering for half an hour.

After half an hour, process the tomatoes through a food mill. I happen to have a food mill that Andy's mom used to use to make applesauce. It's different from using a blender or food processor, because it keeps most of the seeds and tomato skin from going into the soup.

The result is a yummy, yummy, pure simple tomato soup. Arthur Schwartz suggests all kinds of herbs, croutons, sour cream, even a bit of butter to garnish the soup. I will leave that up to your imagination. Plain and simple is good too.

question: are you cooking with the bounty of the season?

mompoet - mmmm, soup

Sunday, October 17, 2010


I took most of the remaining tomatoes off of the vines in our garden today. It's dipping to frosty cold at night now, and I thought it's time for them to come inside. I have left just a few cherry tomatoes on the plant on our deck. One vine is clinging to the outside of the patio window, which is not double glass, so poorly insulated. I think this last vine may be able to hold on with the warmth that must surely transfer to it from inside the house.

The rest of the tomatoes are in a bowl on the dining room table (the red ones) and in a shallow pan nearby (the green ones). I am eating lots of tomatoes, and serving them to those in my family who eat tomatoes. They are very good.

The three types of tomatoes that we grew this summer are a cherry tomato variety called "Gardener's Delight," something called "Patio Roma" and some "Manitoba." They are very different in size, shape, flavour and texture. The cherries are my favourite - very juicy and tangy-sweet. The Romas are wonderfully firm and nice for slicing, with good tomatoe-y flavour. The Manitobas are okay. I think I won't grow them again next summer, but will try another kind instead. We chose the Manitobas because they were advertised as early-ripening. They ripened after the Cherries and Romas.

One of my favourite ways to serve fresh tomatoes is to slice them and dress them lightly with a shaken-up mixture of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Tomatoes are best served at room temperature. These tomatoes are wonderful.

In all, I think we harvested over 200 tomatoes this summer. It was nice to eat them as they ripened, so I don't have to preserve a whole bunch all at once. I like them best fresh. I think I will make tomato soup when the green ones ripen.

question: do you say tomato?

mompoet - tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes

delight in the world

On the way to the skytrain station today, the 97 bus was filled with Justin Biebers. I saw three 16 year old Korean Justin Biebers, each one with a beautiful long-haired girlfriend. All 6, Biebers and GFs were wearing metal frame glasses. A 14 year old Justin Bieber sat across from me, also with a pretty girl. At the back of the bus, a 39 year old wanna-Bieber looked slightly uncomfortable in skinny leg jeans and New Balance training shoes. This quasi-Bieber was unaccompanied. At the KY market an octogenarian Justin Bieber got on the bus with two other old guys who looked more like Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street, and an old woman pushing a baby stroller with a bag of cantaloupes in it, instead of a baby. None of the cantaloupes resembled Justin Bieber. When I got off the bus, I noticed that the driver was also Justin Bieber, wearing a transit uniform and fingerless gloves.

This, however was not the source of my delight.

Later in the day, on the way home from the sytrain, there were no Justin Biebers on the C24. Instead, in the front passenger seat of the bus was a Dad, a baby in a front pack, and a very tiny 3 year old girl with white blonde hair. While we waited for the bus to leave, the little girl heard the music playing on the bus radio. She said that she wanted to dance. The very nice driver told her that she could dance, but she was too shy. The very nice driver offered to get off the bus and not watch, so the little girl could dance. He got off the bus and stood outside while she began a crazy, happy little girl dance in the front of the bus. The driver began a crazy, happy bus driver dance out on the sidewalk near the bus. The little girl saw him and laughed. Everyone on the bus was smiling.

When it was time to for the bus to leave the station, the little girl sat down with her Dad. The bus driver chatted with them about where they were going (to visit Grandma in Port Moody). As the bus got underway, the driver asked the little girl if she would like to turn the light on inside the bus. He told her to clap, because that would make the light turn on. She clapped, and the light came on. She clapped again, and the light turned off. The little girl laughed, and played with the bus driver, turning off his light to trick him, and obliging by turning it back on when he asked. We arrived at their bus stop, and the nice driver asked the little girl to push the button to open the door. She pushed the button, and the door opened. The little girl, Dad and baby left the bus. "Good-bye! Have a nice time at Grandma's!" the bus driver called as they left. Everyone on the bus was smiling.

question: did you find a moment of delight today?

mompoet - blessed to find myself in places where delight intersects with everyday life

Saturday, October 16, 2010

tender cookies for a weary heart

For as long as I can remember, I have baked cookies. My very first baking effort was "Brown Sugar Cookies," from a recipe my Mom wrote out on an index card. I was just old enough to read, so 5 or 6 years old. I was not tall enough to work at the kitchen counter, so Mom set up the kitchen step stool. I put the bowl on the seat and the recipe on the top step. Mom lined up the ingredients on the counter, except for the flour, which was stored in "the flour bin" on the kitchen floor. Mom baked all of the family's bread, so we bought the 10kg bags (or whatever the Imperial equivalent was at the time). We were a baking family. I added my cookie baking to Mom's bread making. Soon I learned to bake bread too, and I branched out to cakes, pies and many other treats, causing us to buy even more flour. Cookies have always been my mainstay, though, and I have a few favourites that I rotate.

This recipe has been taken over by Fiona. She's in grade 12, and super busy with school and other activities. Sometimes when I'm heading up to bed around 10 or 11, she's just taking out the mixing bowls and preparing to bake a batch of cookies. I can understand totally what she's doing. Baking cookies is a calming activity. When life's demands are overwhelming, you can take 30 minutes to bake up a batch of sweet, golden treats to share with people you love. It's totally predictable and gratifying, an oasis of warmth and peace in the middle of chaos. Here are the chocolate chip cookies that got me through high school and university, with Fiona's adaptation noted:

Chocolate Chip Cookies

2/3 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour (I use white, Fiona uses whole wheat - both are good)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup chocolate chips

Cream together the butter and sugars. Mix in the eggs and vanilla. Dump the dry ingredients on top, including the chocolate chips, and stir them in, just until fully combined. Don't overmix. Nobody likes tough cookies, and overmixing will toughen them.

Drop the very soft dough by spoonfuls onto a parchment-covered cookie sheet. You can make these big or small. Just leave room for them to spread out as they bake. Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes.

The most important thing about these cookies is to take them out of the oven soon enough. You want them just a bit golden at the edges, indicating that they are done on the bottom, but not golden or brown on top. Catching them in time ensures nice, soft, chewy cookies. Actual baking time will vary depending on the pans you use, and the behaviour of your oven.

Remove the cookies from the pan immediately to a baking rack to cool.

Make 20-48 cookies, depending on the size. The recipe doubles, triples etc. easily if you want to make more. Also, they freeze well, but beware of how delicious they are frozen. You may think there are lots in the freezer, only to find that the cookie monsters in your house have been raiding your supply.

These cookies are so good, honestly, people have asked me to marry and or/or adopt them, just so they could be assured of receiving more cookies. Interestingly, Andy has never like them. They're too sweet for him, and he doesn't like the dark chocolate of chocolate chips. Oh well, I married him anyway.

The other recipe that I have to share with you is one for oatmeal cookies. These are still my specialty. Most oatmeal cookies I have tried are kind of bland, even if they include spices like cinnamon and cloves. This recipe incorporates orange juice and orange peel, which makes them zesty. The recipe is gi-nourmous, so you could cut it in half if you don't want enough to feed an army. They also freeze well.

Orangey Oatmeal Cookies with Apricots and Cranberries

1 cup butter or margarine
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup orange juice (you can use frozen orange juice concentrate, undiluted, for a more vibrant orange flavour)
zest of one orange, chopped or shredded finely
2 cups old fashioned rolled oats (not quick cooking or instant oats)
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup dried apricots, chopped into chunks

Start with a really big mixing bowl or you will wish you had. Cream the butter and sugars. Stir in the eggs, vanilla, orange juice and orange zest. Dump the dry ingredients and fruit on top of the wet mixture then stir in until just combined.

Drop the dough (also very soft) by spoonfuls onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes or until golden around the edges but not brown on top. Transfer to a rack to cool. Makes 1 ton of cookies.

You can play around with the addition of various fruits, nuts, even chocolate chips if you like. Chocolate and orange are quite nice together. I never put chocolate in these, because they are the ones that Andy loves, and I want to make sure that every last one of them is delicious to him. That's why he married me.

Guess what? We have a flour bin at home, 3 actually: one for white flour, one for whole wheat, and one for sugar. We are a baking family.

If you are feeling stressed, try baking some cookies. If you're like Fiona and me, you will definitely feel better for it.

question: do you bake?

mompoet - nourish yourself and those around you, with both food and soothing activity.


Poetic Justice
Sunday October 24
Renaissance Books
43 6th Street New Westminster (close to the Columbia St Skytrain Station)

I have a 30 minute set of poems and Q and A, then there's an open
mic, so bring some of your own work if you would like to read.

There's an espresso bar in the store if you want something to perk
you up. Honestly, my poetry will be better than that pun.

question: what perks you up?

mompoet - picking some poetry for perking

Thursday, October 14, 2010

poems, books, performances

For the past 10 years I have been a contributor to Shoreline Writers' Society's annual chapbook. Our 11th book with be out this December. I hope to contribute an essay about food.

I have also been working on a chapbook of my own, entitled Swirl. It should be ready some time in November, maybe as a birthday present for me to give to my friends.

On October 24, I will be feature poet at Poetic Justice at Renaissance Books Store in New Westminster. It's 4-6pm. I'm planning to recite a couple of slam poems, and some of the quieter kind too. Unfortunately, Swirl and the Shoreline chappy (what we call it before it's named) won't be ready for this day.

On October 31 there's the Open Mic of th' Living Dead Celebrities at Thundering Word. I will be sure to be there. Just have to work up some way for dead Emily Dickinson to break out of her shell. Last year I was Lorenz Hart, and people didn't really get it, but that's okay, I think maybe that's just the way it was for Lorenz Hart.

I have also been dead Marcel Marceau. That went over very well. Poets have this love-hate thing about mimes.

I hope you'll come to Poetic Justice. There's an open mic. I'll be there this Sunday (the 17th) to check it out, being a new series and venue.

question: what's creative where you are?

mompoet - thinking about poems and books and performances

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

homeless shelter

Alex and I went to a volunteer training session for the homeless shelter that our church hosts every November. We're part of a temporary program in which five churches each take one month, from November through March, to house up to 30 guests per night. We serve supper and breakfast and provide a safe, if spartan, place to sleep safely in a warm dry place. Staff from the Hope for Freedom Society supervise overnight, and provide counseling and referrals in an effort to help people get to detox, rehab and supportive housing. This year's program is the final one in a four year cycle. More later about what might happen next.

In the meantime, since even before this temporary church-based program began, people have been working on a permanent shelter. This effort is led by the Tri-Cities Homelessness Task Force, and supported in varying degrees by the three cities: Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody. We have a site and a preliminary plan for a permanent shelter in Coquitlam, near the PoCo border, on some former light industrial land now owned by the City of Coquitlam. Here's some info. Public consultations have been taking place, and citizen submissions are now being made to the City of Coquitlam. At the end of November there will be a formal public hearing and Coquitlam City Council be vote to rezone the land to permit the shelter.

If they are successful, which is likely, then they will have to secure actual funding from the provincial government, then they can select an operator to oversee construction and operation of the new centre. This facility is planned to have a 30 bed emergency shelter (occupancy up to 30 days) and 30 units of transitional housing, in which people may live up to 2 years while they receive the support they need to prepare for independent living in the community.

Last March's Homeless Count found 94 people homeless in the Tri-Cities. This is thought to be fewer than actually live in the area, due to the way the count is done. They are men and women, young and old. Some have addiction problems. Many have mental health issues. Every year, Hope for Freedom has met with great success during the shelter program, establishing relationships with the people who come to the shelters and helping get some of them back indoors permanently. The people in my neighbourhood who are preparing the St. Andrew's shelter for November are looking forward to helping with the hospitality part of this effort.

The permanent shelter will be ready in 3 years at the very best. In the meantime, there's a proposal to put up a temporary facility made from converted shipping containers. Watch the news today. The man who is advocating for this solution will have a sample unit at a media event in Coquitlam. Soon we'll know what will happen in both the short term and the long term for our neighbours who don't have a place to call their own.

How to help:
  • read the info about the permanent shelter and watch for updates in the news
  • support the permanent shelter by emailing your support to the City of Coquitlam (contact info is in the linked info flier)
  • attend the public hearing on November 29 (info also in the flier)
  • volunteer at one of the five churches this winter
  • donate food, clothing, toiletries, money to the temporary shelter program
  • be kind to the homeless people in your community - a friendly greeting, shared sandwich, just a smile - these may not solve their problems, but it will help them and you too, in ways you will not expect
question: who lives at large in your neighbourhood?

mompoet - thinking about ways to help

Monday, October 11, 2010

head full of songs

Life is pummeling me with mostly happy happenings. My days are stampeding by so quickly, and so full challenge and delight, that I have barely found time to think about them, let alone to post my thoughts to my blog. But here I am. Later, I hope to post about tomatoes, homeless shelters, poetry readings and other things of great important. Today I will post about songs.

Since early September, I have been enjoying Fiona's participation in 13 the Musical. The show ran at the Vancouver Fringe Festival, was selected for the Pick of the Fringe award, then had a second run this weekend at the Norman Rothstein Theatre. So now I have seen it 5 times, and I love it more each time. 13 is a musical about a boy who moves from the big city to a small town just in time for his Bar Mitzvah. It's funny and smart and fairly raunchy - like a 13 year old. Last week I told Fiona that I had one of the songs running through my head. She laughed and told me that one of her friends in the show just tweeted that her father was walking around the house, singing the same song.

I also have songs in my head from The Fantasticks, which opened at the Vancouver Playhouse this weekend. Fiona and I saw a preview show the weekend before opening. It is a splendid show with complicated and delightful music, and a delicious mix of absurdist humour and real life wisdom. It's like a treasure chest of delights. I especially enjoyed Jeff Hyslop in his role as The Mute and Christopher Gaze as a dotty old actor, slaughtering Shakespeare. The music was stellar from start to finish, but the high point for me was Steve Maddock as El Gallo and Colin Sheen as Matt singing "I Can See It." That's what's stuck in my head just now.

I hope I may get to see the Fantasticks again before it's over. 13 is all done after a very satisfying run. I'm sure I will be humming tunes from both, for some time.

question: what song is buzzing in your ear today?

mompoet - head full of good things, including some fine songs