Tuesday, April 14, 2015


Along with burning calories, I tend to pick up tidbits of information from the multitude of TV channels at the gym. The other day, Canada AM was interviewing a chef associated with a Toronto Icelandic cultural group who was promoting a festival called "Thorrablot". Thorrablot is a winter festival that originated with the Vikings during which food, that was preserved throughout the winter, is eaten up to make way for the bounty of spring. While I had never heard of it before, and had never eaten any of the Scandinavian "delicacies" they were displaying, it did remind me of a pleasant childhood memory.

After my father passed away, my mother and I were on our own living in Timmins, Ontario. We rented an apartment from an elderly Finnish couple who lived upstairs. While my memory of them is not vivid enough to remember what they looked like, a few things do stand out.

Finnish bead just like Mrs. Latasalo's (photo from Tasteofhome.com)
 Finnish braided bread with a shinny glaze was sometimes sitting on the kitchen counter when I came home from school. My mom would inform me that Mrs. Latasalo (not sure if the spelling is correct) had sent down a homemade loaf of her Finnish style bread. It was soooo good! My mom did not make homemade bread so it was a real treat. I also recall being invited to their apartment on special occasions (perhaps Christmas or Easter) to enjoy a spread of traditional Finnish treats of which I particularly enjoyed the cheese. I'm not sure if was truly from Finland, but it was squeeky, like Swiss but much milder .... delicious!
 I also recall, while living near the Latasalos, being thrilled to get a brand new bicycle from my Mom for my birthday which I kept in a shed in the yard. One day I went to get my bike and discovered that Mr. Latasalo had installed a shiny new bell on it! What a lovely old couple they were.

So ... I'm not sure if any of the food our landlords served was similar to the kind served at "Thorrablot" ..... after watching the video below I doubt that I would have indulged in much of it! It was nice, however, to be reminded of these nice neighbors and their Nordic traditions and kindness.

There's More to Thorrablot than Rotten Shark - Chicago Reader

Entertaining Video Explaining Thorrablot

Friday, April 3, 2015

If it ain't broke....

It's Easter! While we still have a *#^* load of snow, the weather is mild and it is starting to melt. We might not see the grass until the end of May, but at least it's starting to happen.

We are anticipating the arrival of  our son and his "fiance" for the holiday weekend, and of course, I am baking up a storm. (Never used to do that when I was working!) Since Alicia can not tolerate dairy, I always try to look for "dairy free" desserts. I don't need to worry about main dishes because hubby takes care of that. Anyway, I've discovered that sometimes you can find what you're looking for right under your nose! Google will give you all kinds of recipes that are gluten free, dairy free or what ever, but sometimes it pays off to look through your good old recipe books to see if there is one that fits the bill!

My good old, falling apart, Purity cookbook!

My Purity Cookbook came through for me! The regular peanut butter cookies that I've made for years just happen to have no dairy. Who knew! I also found a great recipe for orange cake (that can be made as cupcakes) in the Purity book. I really believe that it is best to try to find a recipe that simply does not have the ingredient that you are allergic to before to try to find one that uses substitutions. Some substitutions are great, but others just don't cut it.

My cupcakes look great, and all's well that end's well .... but it was not without a few frustrations..... batter overflowing, oven getting over heated ...... I guess it's wrong to use the "F" word when making cupcakes .... perhaps not when making chili or beef jerky, but cupcakes deserve a more "feminine" expletive!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Well Traveled, Creative and Whimsical

Suitcase and Heels
Today I was organizing my "bookmarks" and I rediscovered a few sites that I had saved because they were created by people that I know, or friends of / relatives of people that I know. I am in awe of how informative and professional these sites are! They inspire me and I would love to learn more about web design.

Suitcase and Heels 

Suitcase and Heels is a travel site created by Melissa Hogan (in the photo above). Her dad is a friend of ours. She loves traveling and everything to do with traveling and her sight has some great tips for those who are up for an adventure!

Two Stitch Knits

Two Stitch Knits
Two Stitch Knits is a site created by the niece of a friend of mine. While I have never met this young woman, I admire her creativity. She is relatively new to the art of knitting, but has embraced it enthusiastically. Her blog is full of great ideas and inspiration!

Sunshine and Whimsy

I love reading this blog! Sunshine and Whimsy is created by Amanda, the girlfriend of a guy, Tony, who is a FB friend of mine. He is a technician in the IT department at the school where I worked in Beijing. Amanda and Tony are engaged (she is Canadian, a Maritimer and he is Chinese) and she sometimes writes about the cultural differences that come up in their relationship. Also, as the title suggests, a common theme in her blog is living life in a positive upbeat way.

This week she posted a photo (below) that makes her happy. I can see why! It is a sure sign of spring in the "jing"! And it speaks to me as I see that the building in the background is the "middle - high" section of the school where I worked, which brings back fond memories.

I will definitely be checking out Amanda's blog as her wedding with Tony approaches. She has already made arrangements for her "bachelorette" weekend in Hong Kong!
Sunshine and Whimsy

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Coping Strategies

The end of March and this is what greets us when we open our front door! While I have vowed not to dwell on the miserable, depressing, isolating, unrelenting, horrible winter we have had, and apparently continue to have, I deserve at least one rant. It's my party and I'll cry if I want to!
Falling short of playing "The Glad Game", I will attempt to put a positive spin on things and share my coping strategies - NETFLIX! I've read a few good books this winter, signed up for a winter course (which got cancelled) and even embraced the beauty of winter by visiting some ice caves, but my true savior has been Netflix. 
Since the arrival of streaming and PVR-ing, I can't seem to be bothered with viewing something once a week at a specific time. I want it - when I want it - as much as I want - or as little -  and without any annoying commercials! The CRTC has recently forced service providers to offer "pick and pay" type packages so that consumers are not paying for bundles that include programs that they don't want. Our viewing options seem to be looking up. It will be interesting to see where the industry is in a few years.
In the meantime, as I mentioned, my new best friend Netflix has filled many a housebound winter day or evening with viewing pleasure that I will share with you. 

So, here are some recommendations:
  • House of Cards
  • Orange is the New Black
  • The Hour 
  • The Bletchley Circle (same era as The Imitation Game)
  • Call the Midwife
  • Rake (very entertaining)
  • Mr. Selfridge
  • Damages
  • The Fall
  • Kingdom
  • Suits
  • The Good Wife
  • Last Tango in Halifax 
  • Bates Motel (hokey but somewhat entertaining)
  • Scott and Bailey (quite good)
Yes! I have actually spent all that time viewing! Imagine if I had put that time into reading classics, or history ..... how smart would I be? Like my mother used to say .... "Lynn, if you knew your school work as well as you know the words to all the songs on the radio, you'd be an A student." I guess somethings never change!

Personally, I enjoy the British shows. The characters are more realistic without the superficial Hollywood glam ...... plus they have cool accents! If you have the US Netflix, MI5 and Peaky Blinders are both good.

So ..... now, hopefully, as the days grow longer and weather improves I will pursue more worthwhile activities and interests that take me out of the house more often.

Monday, March 16, 2015

One Thing Leads to Another!

Well, we had our "Indian Gourmet" night...... a very delicious evening! While my friend Juliette and I had grand ideas of choreographing a "Bollywood" style dance with jangling waist scarves and all, we made do with some Bollywood music from Songza and a little fun with some henna tattoos. Below, one of our male guests gets tatted up ...... looks like he needed a beer to help with the pain!

I even found a humongous piece of sari-like material at Value Village for a table cloth and added a little elephant from Thailand and a prayer wheel from Nepal (close enough!) for decoration.

Good food, good friends and plenty of refreshments ensured that a good time was had by all. The next day, however, when I was gathering things up, I noticed the beautiful handwriting on some of these little place cards. (I provided the cards for everyone to put the name of their dish on.) These lovely hand written letters seemed to capture the exotic names of the dishes we were serving! I'm still trying to figure out who done it ....... Cinderella(s) where are you?

So, as I said, one thing leads to another. I am now inspired to learn more about creating cool handwriting (for an artistic person, mine is atrocious!). I've posted a tutorial below on this topic and I hope that I will be persistent enough to do the practice required. I doubt that "hand lettering" will become my new art form, I'd just like to be able to create something visually pleasing when required to sign a card, fill out a name tag or post a yard sale sign.

Hand Lettering for beginners - Hey Mimi DIY 

The best tip on this video is to pick a font from your computer (or what ever) then print it out and practice, practice, practice! .... I'm inspired!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Ice Caves

I guess there are a few good things about winter after all ...... I said "a few"! I just spent a lovely day outdoors with some old friends and new at the Midland Ice Caves. With the weather being sunny and mild, snow and ice seem quite beautiful.

Juliette, Diane and Pam at the beginning of the trail.

We began with a long uphill hike through a field. Had the weather been cold and windy, it might have been miserable, but it was very pleasant and I'm sure we burnt at least a few calories!

Onward and forward!

Juliette looking very "sporty" with her Nordic poles! 

Finally we reach the crest of the hill on the other side of the field!

Diane, Pam and Barb on the easy part in the woods.

After a trek through the woods, there they were! Now we know how Sir Edmund Hillary felt when when he reached Mt. Everest! LOL!

Barb navigates the steep hill to the caves.

We made it! Let the exploring begin!

Pam and Lynn

Going back. downhill was much easier!

The end of a great adventure .... well almost - now to Mama George's for a treat!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Indian Gourmet Night

Next weekend we will be hosting our "gourmet club" and the theme is Indian! I have to say that, next to Thai, this is my favorite type of ethnic food. When we were living in Bangladesh I thought we would encounter more "Indian" type flavors (since Bangladesh used to be part of India), but we did not. Even though we were invited to the homes of several "locals", the food did not seem to have the same flavors as what I know, to be "Indian".

Below are some photos from Bangladesh where, markets and spices etc. are similar to India. One of the best (local meals) we had there was at the home of the family in the photo. The gentleman in the middle worked at our school and the others are all part of his family.

Top left - our fellow staff member and his family. The others were taken on a trip to a local market.

So ... to get thinking about Indian food I've done a little research:

India is a big country and each region has its own unique specialties in the food department. When you Google "Indian food" or "Indian recipes" the possibilities are endless! 

It's all about the Spice

Basically, it's the spices that make this mind boggling array of dishes uniquely "Indian". Curry powder, used in many recipes, is actually a mixture of spices: turmeric, chili, fenugreek, cardamon, cumin, coriander, saffron and mace. Garam Masala (masala - means spice mix) is called for in many Indian dishes and is also a blend of spices. Most Indian families blend their own "Garam Masala" so quantities often vary. Garam Masala consists of: cumin, black pepper, cardamon, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. The difference here is the blend of savory (cumin, pepper etc.) and sweet (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg) together. "Tikki" Masala is Garam Masala plus - ginger and mint. So as you can see - it's all about the spice!

Cooking oil and sides

If cooking oil is required, vegetable oil such as sunflower or canola is commonly used. Some recipes may call for "ghee" (we often saw this in stores in Bangladesh or Sri Lanka), Ghee is actually clarified butter. Since many dishes are a mixture of meat and or vegetables in a flavorful sauce they are usually served with rice as a "side" or perhaps naan bread to soak up the juice. Traditionally basamati rice is used.

Chutneys, and pickles are also traditional accompaniments to the Indian dinner table and of course you gotta love samosas!

Popular Dishes

So here is a list of some popular Indian dishes:
  • Butter Chicken
  • Rogan Josh (lamb or beef in a spicy sauce)
  • Vindaloo (a spicy curry dish with either beef or chicken)
  • Tandoori Chicken
  • Malai Kofta (mashed potato balls in a cream sauce)
  • Palak Paneer (spinach and cottage cheese)
  • Chicken Tikki Masala
  • Chole (chick pea curry)
  • Paneer Makhabi (Indian cheese in a tomato sauce)
The list above could be endless! 

If you begin to research Indian cuisine, you will not find a lack of information ..... it can be overwhelming! I've posted a link to three websites below. Tarladalal.com is a popular website featuring contemporary as well as traditional Indian food. Indianfood about.com offers a lot of information about the culture and regions as they pertain to food in India. All Recipes - Indian Food is very user friendly (especially for North Americans) and it even has videos for may of its recipes! If you follow the link below you will find specific categories such as: main dishes, sides, appetizers and desserts ..... too easy!

So put on your "shalwar kameez" (ladies) and your "punjabi"(men) and try out a taste of India!

A typical (middle class) kitchen in Bangladesh. This lady cooked us some delicious potato pancakes!
My grade 7 language arts class all dressed up in their shalwar kameez and punjabis!